“Do you want to keep the length?”
‘It’s my third haircut this week. You are my last saving
grace. I don’t give a shit about the length. Just fix it. I trust you.’
But I don’t say all that because somehow my hair has become
this thing that can make me weak and wildly vain and vulnerable. I am obsessing
because it has become this one thing I can cling to that isn’t stained or
stretched or shared, this one thing that is ageless and a blank slate that I
like to leave blank.
She chops and dyes. I surrender.
Knowing the right words to say at the right time. Compounded
by knowing the right questions to ask too, which, though questions, deliver a
statement—a statement of interest, a powerful thing. Executing a delicacy of
phrasing in a hot second when it would’ve forced most to a stuttering pause. [Maybe
the pauses are there, longer than they seem, but I forget each time words
I struggle to volley words at all. I welcome all hundred
distractions and then resent every one. I wish I could just answer the goddamn
phone and let my voice run down the wires.
Took the girls to Mom and Dad’s for pre-Easter activities,
dyeing eggs, making bunny t-shirts. Dad pulled his usual joke, asked who I was,
introduced himself; Mom, stunned I hadn’t seen the new furniture yet.
Meanwhile, I try to shake the weirdness of what’s always hinted at by
normalizing it, by not playing guilty. I was invited and I came and that can
happen as often as they’d like to make it happen. Parker and Avery had so much
fun together. I wish this happened more often. Why do we always cycle through
this awkwardness? Is it me or them?
Four Chambers Press. Phoenix Art Museum. “Breadcrumbs.” Today,
the last hurrah. Can’t believe something finally got published—which sounds as
though it’s been a process of writing and submitting over and over until
something finally caved or clicked. But no, not like that. It’s the kind of
“finally” that looks like a sapped skeleton hand grasping up from settled soil.
Now the bowl that was collecting pens and junk mail and
buttons and pieces fallen off of cheap toys has been washed and polished and
put in my center and wants to be filled over and over with words, ripe.
Church with Parker and we head home. We’re supposed to get together at Mom & Dad’s for the usual family Easter gig. Mom said ‘food will be around 4pm, so come over whenever.’ We get Parker down for a nap and, not long after, a text: “Easter bunny came. It was getting too hot in costume”... Send a message after the nap to see what is happening then and hear back: “Come over. We just sat down to eat. Lots of food. It should still b warm”
Pushing Parker on the swings when an older woman walks up
with a little girl who wants to swing too. She calls herself Grandma, sets her bags
down, lifts the girl into the swing. While this happens, Parker stares and
asks: “Why is her face like that?”
It’s not anything in particular, not a mark or twitch, not
like crutches, an eye patch, a sign on her head allowing me to say, “Oh, she
has _____” leading into a discussion about disabilities. It’s just a face I can’t
explain, guesses I don’t want to make.
I play deaf, saying nothing.
it’s rituals I’m craving:
fingering a soft stick and
reading curls of white like
fuzzy hieroglyphic fortunes
paraphernalia of storage, collection
of decorative boxes, zippered pouches
compartments for things that
grind and crush, melt and impale and
the delicate plastic pockets
thoroughly pinched, sealed
windows into want
the sip before the extra pour
the mitigating pour, resented
the endless thirst
my hands need a rosary
the hamster needs a wheel
He gets home and says, “Get out of here. Go have dinner. And
then get some groceries.”
“Have dinner by myself?”
It takes a bit of obligatory tidying, mental coaxing, but slowly, hesitantly, I make my way out the door.
The girl at the register shares my name. I ask for whatever
is her favorite dish and dessert. Get my iced coffee. Feels like I’m in someone
else’s body. I hear everything, every tile the garbage bin rolls over, the conversation
of the family two booths away, the music hanging softly like an overcast sky
above the buzzing minutiae.
The state fair is a different place when you’re older and
sober and, hell, it’s a different place just during daylight hours. Took the
girls and found ourselves watching Godfrey the cheesy magician, drinking a ‘cranium
freeze’ that tasted like pure sugar and dye. Breezy carousels, small-track pony
rides, boat of toddlers coursing a tiny moat of water. No drunkenness. No gluttonous
turkey legs with a side of deep-friend everything. No coasters that pull a
scream from the bottom of your throat. No teenage vampires. No oversized
blinking Vegas machines lighting up a patch of dust in the lazy desert.
Picked up Miss Sandy to get her to Wal-Mart for a new iPad cord,
her only window to the world. She talked about being really down lately, how
she’s falling apart. She’s having foot surgery next week and will be down for
six weeks, said she’d need me and the girls to come by to see her and spend
time with her, keep her from going crazy. I want to keep her with me and take
her to the Japanese Friendship Garden and watch movies that make her laugh
until she cries, tuck her in, rub her feet in oil.
“How do you do this with two kids? How do
you watch both of them at once? It’s hard enough just keeping track of one,” he
says at the mall playground. And later, when I send him an audio clip of the
three girls screaming for a minute straight (a small snippet), in unison and
taking turns, he says, “Honestly, the fact that you haven’t stabbed yourself
sometimes surprises me.”
In these moments, I feel like I have a
mohawk and leather, smoking barrels on my hips, a heavy sheriff’s badge--
and I puff my cigar and pat his head.
the kids are smacking hand-sized
wooden rakes over boxes of sand,
knocking half the contents out of
these miniature playgrounds.
this sand is not water, these rocks
are not the elements—
but they are, aren’t they?
“kah - ray - sahn - suu
trying to remember the sound
of the drums, pure vibration that
lived in me for months, over this
BANG BANG BANG BANGing
of clunky fists, trying to see
kabuki in the sunset
I say over and over because
the saying is the meditation
raking lips over syllables
arranging sounds like smooth stones
Overheard a woman on the phone at dance class:
"Hi! My warranty expires next month and I had a note on my calendar to
call because I want someone do a system check before then... No, no lights have
come on. I just want a final inspection while it's under warranty."
Heels and a dress. Talking about “Maverick’s wife” and
how her kids “just LOVE Crossfit.”
I cannot fathom
ever having this conversation, or having a note like that on my calendar. What
does that life look like? I bet she doesn't even flinch when someone asks
what's for dinner.
An army of illogical, unreasonable,
reckless, goldfish-brained, fiercely autonomous desperately dependents--which
is to say I am watching three girls, 1, 2, and 3, discovering life in a living
room. They squat and swing and SCREAM simultaneously, feeding off of each
other’s volume, changing tones as their mouths tighten to smile at the
It keeps me young. It makes me
old. In Klimt’s painting, I am the middle Age of Woman, adoring the tiny things,
eyes closed, a gentle tangle of tenderness, rapture. But I feel the sag, the
mourning, the unseen face. I feel the lonely nakedness.
. . .
“The lava of a volcano
Shot up hot from under the sea
One thing leads to another
And you made an island of me”
. . .
“And I could liken you to a lot of things
But I always come around
Cause in the end I'm a sensible girl
I know the fiction of the fix”
. . .
“We are like a wishing well
And a bolt of electricity
But we can still support each other
All we gotta do is avoid each other
Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key
Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key”
She goes to sleep talking about Jesus dying, still reflecting on this at times, unprovoked. She knows how Jesus “got dead” -- the Easter Bunny used his powers to put the holes in Jesus’ hands. She wasn’t sure but--she pauses to consider--yes, that’s what happened.
We pack up the girls and spend a chunk of our Saturday at some Chipotle Fest. Cultivate [commercialism] one fresh ingredient at a time. The drive is long, and the walk between parking lots and the tents feels longer, and was that row of port-a-potties our only option? Shit--sunscreen.
Naked midriffs and halos of flowers resting on long Pantene waves. Crews of boys who look too young to give a shit about any of this. Shouldn’t they be off riding their bikes with someone’s permission?
filler time-killer garbage. i think parker gets her skeptical face from me. i keep catching it in my pictures. obligatory smile pulled to one side below a cheek puffed with doubt. DELETE. i need to keep penny small. i put my hands all over her head & neck & toes all day, blowing her baby hair with my breath before it grows long. it will be over soon. it will be over tomorrow. how was i ever a cat person? and why do i still want a tiny dog? nevermind. i know. i thought the haircut was growing on me. it’s not.
Just take the picture.
All of the fiddling & stalling & rehearsing & whatever my parallel is for waiting for the right light and, later, blaming the light--all of these can be calmed by the simple command [but confront the instruction]:
Just take the picture.
Collect the rules, excuses, expectations, all of the goddamn projections, collect them and shred until they are nothing but confetti & glitter.
Don’t forgive the fever blister. Honor it. Laud the wrinkles and spotlight the stains and revere the rivers of ritual & wear & experience.
On the swing, facing the house, moon tucked just behind the roof so every time she swings back she sees it, and every time she swings forward, it hides.
“Why is he doing that?”
He’s copying her, I say, putting on a goofy voice and saying “hello… hello… hello…” every time she swings back and sees him. She giggles and giggles.
“Hello, Mr. Moon… Or Miss Moon?… Mister Moon.”
Later, she finds not one star to wish on, but two--one for me too.
Parker’s asking every day if we’re going to play with someone. “Can Avery come over to play? Can you text Auntie?” or “When do Freddy and Topher get out of school? Can we go and see them?” And I play it off and sidetrack it and tell myself I’ll get to it and figure something out.
She finally tells me “Call Christy. Just call right now and ask.”
when everything is shabby and stale, dishwater; when your body is a mechanical appliance with a diminutive spark of fuel after each recharge; when you want nothing to touch you but want another body to blanket yours, simultaneously; when your heart is in a vise in an empty room, gripped and anxious, anticipating; when you feel like you’re a heavy sack of carbohydrates and ticking clocks and bad choices
just about then, you’ll be naked and fucking on the hood of a car in the glow of red light
just about then, you’ll forget
We’ve tossed the email back and forth ten times now, tiny edits made each time that are ultimately negligible, just speed bumps on a residential road that’s about to empty onto a freeway; I've already checked my seatbelt 12 times.
My stomach is in knots and I play it cool because we have been over this and over this and over this. This is what should happen, right? It’s the only next step, right? without catering, caving?
She dawdle-nurses for what feels
like the 900th time today and won’t
give in. My hand punches
air above us and I have to shove
that kinetic kick in reverse,
a return-to-sender boomerang
back to my black heart,
and out of my mouth,
and her mouth melts down
into something so sad, melting
my eyes down
into something sorry
I spend the rest of the afternoon
consumed by the thought of my black heart
bursting—the impending infarct,
a silently scheduled arrest
a neurotic shift,
a railroad switch to save me
First movie night with Parker. We list cartoons we’ve told her about or shown clips of. She chooses, definitively, Wizard of Oz. Pride-swell.
She asks a thousand questions, the kind that she need only wait two seconds more and the movie would answer them for her, but we take turns fielding, posturing patience.
Ended the day, just me & her, eating cake pops at a patio table at dusk. Past bedtime, but I promised we would drive by the park and swing on the swings for three minutes. “No, four minutes… No, four seconds,” she says, bargaining.
We get back in the car and she asks if she should lock her door. Yes, I say. She repeats back what I say to her:
“Because I’m your best good nina? The best Parker in the whole world?”
“Then you need to lock up your door.”
“Because you’re the best Mommy too.”