13 is Porn

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I couldn’t breathe for the longest time, struggling with this tiny TV mounted on the wall of my mom’s apartment in Makiki, and this janky remote, my vibrator still sitting back home.

Then, this (next) dream.

Nothing happened until the very end, when I turned to leave. That’s when he stood up, “Remember me? Hi, Carol. It’s been awhile. Say you remember me.”

I looked up at him, vaguely familiar. One memory stirred, the one where we left a lasting impression, Monmouth, New Jersey. We’d been lovers once, but he couldn’t give up his addiction, so I left and he let me go.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

I dared myself to touch his chest, his right shoulder — the shoulder he injured playing football in high school, or maybe sliding home. He dared himself to kiss me, making us miss the hot spot, because she was watching. She was our friend and she was scared right now. He missed me, don’t worry darling, it’s alright, you can have him back, I’m just passing through.

I left and he let me go. I think he called out my name once, as I passed through the terminal toward the exit. Only, I went too far, vaguely waiting for him to catch up, and found myself on the football field of our alma mater.

I spent the next 15 minutes trying to get back, but woke up instead.

There goes my dramatic entrance.

 

Too Far Away

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Everything is distance. Love, salvation, companionship, In ‘n Out Burger, that cherry pie in North Bend a friend posted sending me back in time.

I took this picture at “the beach” in Edmonds when my son was around two, three years old, I was 10 times bigger than I am now, and all I thought about was the love that eluded me, and whether my son would find enough of his own — all important issues at the time, now with the confidence of hindsight, a bittersweet memory.

So much has changed, yet in many ways, nothing at all. I’m still sitting here by the shore of this beach in the screen of my mind … most nights … staring out into the distance as if love waited for me just over the horizon, waiting for love to wash up.

What kind of love? It changes, depending on situations, the people who drift in and out of my life at any passing moment. It’s no longer the romantic love Hollywood stokes for ratings (a remake of “Beauty & The Beast” is coming out, hooray), or I’ve read about in books like Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” or even Stephen King’s horror stories.

Mostly, as I enter the twilight of my life, it’s a vague pain in the center of my gut for a home that may not even exist except in New Age books about the afterlife and soul groups. Every so often, I experience moments of pure bliss, which convinces me soul groups, spirit guides, and my original home beyond here really do exist.

A few friends — one or two, really — will wander into my life to ask how I’m doing. I don’t know how to answer; I never do. Do I scare them off, tell them my deepest, darkest thoughts, the ones that keep me up at night? Or do they just want a “Reader’s Digest” condensed version of what everybody else in polite society talks about? My son’s doing well in school, he broke his finger playing soccer, hoping to make tryouts, husband’s finished with his last BCG treatment, I just made twice-baked potatoes for the first time and only forgot the milk.

What does it mean when I feel the pain of other people so acutely that it almost feels as if I’m going through the same turmoil? Am I in love again? an empath? multiple personality? figment of their imagination? a fucking ghost in the machine? The older I get, the less I know for sure.

I feel responsible for a lot of the pain a lot of people I know are going through, whether I’m directly or indirectly to blame. I can’t bear to see anyone, even someone who’s dissed me in the past, in pain, stuck in an emotional pit and agonizing mental purgatory. I’ve been there, that’s why, and that’s no place for anyone, not even an asshole arrogant douchebag.

Then, there is the matter of my own personal pain, a minor matter. I may read a lot more into the reactions or lack thereof of others, I don’t know. But I’ve had to distance myself from a few “friends” lately, because I’ve sensed they no longer want to hear about the drama we once shared together as allies. I keep it cordial; I just don’t elaborate on any more info than necessary. Yeah, my son’s doing good with his new cast, the doctor takes it off on Feb. 23. Arm’s length, as the wife of a pastor used to say. They don’t ask, I don’t tell.

I fucking hate that. Eventually, I will tell. It’s just in my nature, to let it out rather than have whatever it is eat away at me. Perhaps that’s why I became a writer, perhaps it will go into that novel I’m working on (am I working on a novel?), I can’t help myself. Sure beats the alternative.

I’m not going anywhere in particular with this. This started out as a poem, maybe, and then turned into a rambling diary entry prompted by the new “Beauty & The Beast” trailer, a note to add more to the “Origami” novel in progress about “Mulan’s” effect on me, a sixth sense about a guy I know whose wife left him two years ago, and killing time before I can safely go to bed and not trigger heartburn.

Burying the lead confession time: Late last night, instead of logging off, I did a familiar Google search of that ex-wife, stared at her beaming face with her beaming husband, and fought off the worst heartburn of my life. And I’m not talking about Rolaids.

Some of it’s empathic stuff. The rest is firsthand experience with this captivating, powerful, all-encompassing woman who I let take over my life. She’s everything I wished I could be: beautiful, sexy, popular, intelligent, ambitious, respected, commanding, intimidating, loved by all the right people. She does everything right. She grabs happiness by the fistful, doesn’t think twice about the cost, and goes for broke to fulfill her dreams.

All her dreams seem to be coming true, at least from this humble vantage point — my urchin face pressed against the window, scraping by on the occasional compliments of strangers, $3 an article, my husband’s allowance, 10 cents a dance. I gave up my dreams 26 years ago. At least, I think I had dreams.

I can’t remember them now.

I stared at her impossibly beautiful, beaming face and wondered how she could get away with whatever she wanted, leaving so much wreckage behind without a backward glance, and then be rewarded with the kind of love and attention and prestige that us mere mortals could only dream about.

She used to put her face an inch away from mine and project the most humiliating things to me in front of an audience, always an audience. She made me feel so small, so ugly and insignificant, exacerbating the sense of failure I always carried around with me. Standing next to her, I simply didn’t exist, I wasn’t important.

She has the best of everything. She had the love of some of the best people, good people, and threw them away for better. And GOT IT.

I don’t get it.

Meanwhile, I’m typing on my computer keyboard in a blog nobody will read.

Life’s not only strange, but terribly unfair.

Let him go

She’’s gone away like the words that we say
She’’s gone like the day you first heard her name
She’’s gone like that day she said she’’d love you just the same….” -Julie C., “Precious Love”

I’m stuck on her fairy tale, the one she built from the ground up when no one was looking. I was looking. How can I stop? When everyone is fighting for this precious love, she sits pretty picking her suitors apart, one for the clandestine meetings behind the nightclub, another to suit her ego, the front, the hag. So many broken bones, false promises, the veneer of forever, when I can’t even hold onto to the one who got away.

Every other night I stare at her ever-changing Facebook profile, feeling small and ugly, shooting blanks. Tonight, I finger myself to strangers on a moving screen, pretending I used to be them together before she cut a raw deal. I will say his name, dirty and cheap.

Why can’t I let him go the way she did? He doesn’t care. Oh Carol he doesn’t want your words, or your precious love.

night owls (things said in a cocktail dream)

Roses

“Feelings aren’t facts.”

“Let’s run away together.”

I watch this girl pound on closed doors, locked too presumably, as Stevie Wonder’s greatest hits play in the background on a record player in someone’s backyard. Are there windows? She can’t tell, but she knows there are others inside rocking themselves into a stupor, or strumming until their working class fingers bleed. She knows, she knows of the need rising up from beneath her, this cajun spirit shaking the rafters, dying to be told, to tell.

Why won’t they let me in? This round little girl tries again until her own fingers bleed. She can feel their half-hearted cries, gentle hugs in a surprising windswept storm, held firm between self-recrimination and forever, even though she can’t touch what they see as real as Godzilla, the unicorn in the trees, the memories of the dead, that boy who loved her once on Juniper Street before—

With music and words, she will replay their stories until her own is finished in the guiding born of sun. Her own a jumbled one, waking up reluctantly from another dream, where she cleans up messes strangers leave behind. Before it’s time to go, she stows away grandmother’s jade, a TV Guide from 1972, the nice German lady’s old bottle of spices, rosemary and thyme, a book of tone poems.

If you love me, I shall turn into the Wicked Witch of the West, a Whore of Babylon, Sylvia Plath on an orgasmic bender, rip my shawl, tear my cunt up into my sagging chest, eat the gorge, spill your aging seed, rub the scent over the carpet burn I keep to myself, a rape survivor dressed in her mother’s fuck-me heels and fairweather barkeep tights. For I do not know how to love in the light of day, warming my back, shuddering my virgin skin, a reciprocal waltz of equals, a fairy tale romance come to life, Cinderella and Snow White, livid in white, acceptable in His sight. You said this, and then I respond with that, you see how this works don’t you?

So, I leave this round little girl bleeding in the wings. The faucet’s on and the oven’s off, and they’ve left another mess.

Tapping out

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Why do I keep taking life for granted? Because I’m living?

My son broke his right pinky playing in a soccer tournament last week Sunday. His team didn’t even win. But they have a chance to make it to the semi-finals this Sunday, only, my son won’t be playing.

He’s in a cast for the remainder of the five weeks until a few days before high school tryouts, which has been his main goal in life. The physician’s assistant who checked him out yesterday cleared him to play in this soccer tournament, but cautioned again raising his heart rate so much that he starts swelling and sweating up in his cast.

In the end, my son decided against that risk, opting out of any physical activity until Feb. 23rd, when the same physician’s assistant will remove the cast and see what she will see. The PA on James’ case was fairly confident that he’ll heal up his growth plate chip by then.

In the meantime, since life goes on and the world doesn’t give a damn, he’s had to back out of this soccer tournament, the indoor soccer we already paid for, the Unified Team Sports basketball attached to his high school and Special Olympics, as well as the requirements of his band class.

I’m not even thinking about the shower or bath he’s yet to take, the pain in the ass of doing homework using only three fingers of his dominant right hand, and making sure the area doesn’t get too tight or wet in general (we live in the Northwest).

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We go along in life as if we have all the time in the world and our every plan will come to pass — until the shit hits the fan, and then we helplessly watch all those well-laid plans fall apart. The rest of the world continues on unaffected until someone in it gets hit too. That’s just how we’ve been wired, I guess.

I’m convinced these incidents are designed to force us to take stock, put more importance on quality, substance, love over the trivial. We keep forgetting, getting swept up by man-made pomp and circumstance, the unbelievable aggrandizing of the most mundane drone work (bills, appointments, jobs, the everyday struggles interfering with joy), all this trivial shit, that we’re completely flummoxed when these opportunities are taken away from us.

You’d think I’d learn from my son’s asthma attacks not to take life lightly, not to fall back into drone mode, not to make costly assumptions. But no, here we go again, him missing out on a ton of fantastic opportunities he’s worked so hard for.

The difference this time around, I think, is that my attitude’s a little more laid back. It’s not life and death to me that he participates at all costs.

His Premier soccer coach asked if there was any chance James could still play this Sunday. Technically, he could. He’s been cleared. We could jury rig some foam or bubble wrap — his dad is the ultimate MacGyver — and call it good. The team really needs him, as it’s been suffering from a short roster all fall season, plus two of his other strong forwards are out on injuries for several weeks too.

James wouldn’t have it, any of it. He also seems fine with his decision to give his arm a break (no pun intended). I kind of admire him for his resolve.

He admitted that it hurt a little to give up the indoor soccer, because for once they opened up the rules to allow any high schooler of any age to play, and he would get to play with all these older kids he’s looked up to, including his neighbor friend who first taught him how to play like a badass.

It also hurt to miss out on the first scrimmage of the Unified Basketball Team representing his high school Thursday night, even though he attended in uniform and cheered his teammates out on the court the loudest.

But, perspective right.

He’s alive. He’s getting over this weird flu/cold. He’s happy. He’s able to do well in school despite his cast. He’s currently binge-watching “The Flash” on NetFlix, and tonight, we’re going to see the premiere of “A Dog’s Purpose.”

This cast isn’t forever. When it finally does come off and he’s fully healed, he can attack soccer, basketball, band, and whatever else he’s had to put off 100 percent as always — with renewed zest and gratitude.

Not everyone can. I need to remember that.

Stars

He never said hi. Fourteen years later, I now realize it’s because he didn’t know how, not because he saw through me (maybe he did anyway).

He hid behind her, behind his music, his anchors, his safe place, the very things that sustained him in a very terrible, lonely existence. Like that man searching for an oasis in a desert, he searched in the wrong direction from the start.

I read snippets of his letters to other people, people who mattered a great deal to him: his wife, his father, the two driving forces in his life — for better or worse. He called her the “best thing to happen” to him. He called his father a goddamned socialist who never loved him.

They both abandoned him at different times, making it clear he was the problem, he was their burden to bear. All I saw were stars in his eyes when he would lift his head up from whatever they forced on him, or when he escaped into the brilliant light of his music.

The night we met since their split, I wondered which person would show up: the hidden figure, or someone more like me. His sister and I waited at a P.F. Chang’s in the mall to help him with his Christmas shopping two years ago, after his world collapsed for a second time.

He suddenly appeared in mid-conversation, as if he’d only stepped away for a bathroom break. “… You schooled me,” he smiled. I couldn’t breathe. Then, he quietly opened up about the years that had taken parts of him away, the years with the best thing that ever happened to him.

Physically, we still remained awkward, even though I’d poured out my heart to him in online letters and once, over the phone. He didn’t know how to be, and I was afraid of scaring him away.

But when he hugged me goodbye, and hello, and goodbye again, I met him for the first time, this bright, shining beacon of expectation and experience.

It’s not an apology. But it’s close enough.