Saturday, March 22, 2014

dimple

I regret not washing my hair this morning. The police photo is probably going to be on the front page of every tabloid and online in multiple iterations. Comparisons will probably be made with that Nick Nolte booking picture. My face will forever appear in every "ten worst celebrity booking photos" line-up. There's no telling what my make-up looks like by now. I wonder if I ask nicely, will they let me just pop into a toilet and freshen up a bit? Probably not. And asking might earn me a response I won't like. My annual income is probably 500 times the salary these men and women earn. There's bound to be resentment.

This police car stinks. The predominant smell is urine - old urine. Maybe the drunk people pee in the car without even realizing that they're doing it. Or maybe people just get scared. I'm so stressed that I couldn't produce pee right now if the cop held a gun to my head. The cage bars separating this space from the front seat look really sturdy. I wonder how many times someone has beat their head against those bars. I could do that right now. But knowing my luck, someone would take a picture of me with their camera phone.

I'd like to know what the hell they're doing out there. The longer it takes for us to get down to the police station, the more likely the paparazzi will be waiting when I come out. I wonder if it's too late at night to arrange a decoy. A few minutes ago, an officer opened the front door and sat down in the driver's seat. He asked me a couple of questions and I answered them, thinking that doing so might speed up the process and get us moving towards the police station. Then it dawned on me that they had read me my rights upstairs when they first arrested me. Everything I was saying could be used against me. I told the officer that I didn't want to say anything else until I spoke with my attorney. He turned and looked at me with total disgust. Then he got back out of the car and slammed the door.

WHY WHY WHY did I agree to do this little errand for Simon? I should have said no. But there's something about that smile and those sparkling blue eyes and that damned dimple. He can make me do things. I had no idea I was doing anything illegal, but I did ask him why he needed me to do it. Why couldn't he go? He said he didn't want to be seen going into Jack Johnson's office because of the lawsuit. That actually made sense to me at the time. And now, here I sit, in this stinky squad car, waiting for the slowest police officers in the fucking universe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

aries

Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, behold! Thousands of years can pass without a moment as amazing as the one you are about to experience. Feast your eyes on the colorful and ever-changing magnificence of the one and only Aries of Bolodo. Once seen, a life is never the same. Songs will be written and sung. Pages will be written and read again and again. Dreams will be ever populated by the Aries,  bringing smiles to sleeping faces. You will ask yourself if you are dreaming now, for such a sight will strike you as impossible. Be steady. No sudden movements lest they be your last. Danger accompanies the Aries. Even one Ary can kill several men without any effort. But they will tolerate us if we remain calm.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

eaters

Over the water, a sound traveled that was both unfamiliar and odd. When the sound started, every camper's head turned in that direction, pausing from whatever had been, a moment ago, occupying the thoughts and hands of  the now attentive listeners. Then one by one they each went back to what they had been doing. Except Nonesuch. He knew what was coming. He stared in the direction of the sound a full two minutes longer than the others. Then he looked at each of the other campers, one at a time, thinking to himself that he would probably be the only survivor and would never see these men again. With as little movement as possible, he poured the water from his canteen into the dirt behind him. Then he stood up, muttered to the others that he was going to get water and slipped away from camp.

Nonesuch stepped into the cool of the forest and looked back. Nobody was watching him. He eased around a tree and took up a rifle, which he placed up in the nearest tree. Then he dropped on to the ground and crawled to the back of the closest tent, pulled out his knife and cut a slot in the back. He peeked through, then reached his hand in and came back with a sleeping bag. Another grab earned him his bag and one final reach got him a box of rifle shells. He crawled back into the trees. Quickly, he packed the goods and slipped the bag onto his back. Then he was running, hoping to put as much distance between himself and the camp before the misery arrived.

By the time the first scream reached his ears, he was on the far side of the river. Then he ran south along the river towards the waterfall, knowing that he might have to jump. If the Eaters sniffed out a missing man, they would start looking for him. His only chance was to get some distance, then some water behind him. It didn't feel like his time to die, but maybe it never did for anyone. How would he know?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

shiny things

The thing that convinced me that we were at an end was when I thought about sending him the lyrics to Send in the Clowns, to make a point, you know ... to say how sad and ridiculous we had become. But it hit me that he wouldn't get the reference. He wasn't literary. He didn't follow theatre. Those were worlds he didn't feel drawn to in any way.

So you left him then?

No. I lingered. I stayed almost a decade more. It was convenient. Oh, I scold myself now. Maybe if I had left sooner, I might have met someone wonderful. Actually, I did meet someone wonderful - several someones. But I couldn't let him go. No, I lingered.

When did you actually leave then? Or did you?

He left me. Isn't that hilarious? He grew weary of me complaining about how unhappy I was and he left me. It's actually the nicest gift he ever gave me!

When was that?

1983. One would think I would have snapped up a new beau then. But with the hideous hair of those years, I couldn't compete. Women wore these high-rise wings of hair on their foreheads and I think they functioned like the bright feathers of a male bird. Men were drawn to them. I couldn't bring myself to wear ridiculous hair, so I suffered by comparison.

Men didn't want you?

Oh, they did. But only after they talked to me. Men always find me attractive after they've spoken with me for a while. I can always tell when the switch has happened. Their eyes change and they lean in a little. But my problem is that by the time they realize they're interested, I'm so angry that I push them away. Their slow awareness of who I am bores me. I need a man whose smart enough to figure it out immediately. And there aren't that many around like that. No, men are like little children. They like shiny things.

So you've been alone all these years? There was no one else?

Well, there was George. But I try not to think about him. He was the sweetest man and I treated him terribly. He scared me so. He had this ability ... he was French. I don't know why I said that. Being French had nothing to do with it. Ha! He had this ability to do things just as you were wishing he would. He was so in tune, you know? Not just with me. Everyone. It was uncanny. And scary. Every time he did it, I would be mean to him because it scared me. But we still had some very wonderful trips and we even lived together for a bit.

In France?

No. We were in Montreal.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

pores

I never said you couldn't go.

Well, you implied it. You totally fucking implied it. Your facial expression. Your body language. Every pore on your body pushed out a NO.

Now you're just being crazy. Pores don't have a language.

Yours do. Your pores get involved in every conversation we have. They sell that pore shrinking shit specifically for people like you, to shut you down, to give other people the chance to breathe.

So go, then.

Oh, nooooo.

Go and have a wonderful time.

Ohhhh no. You're not getting me that way. That's mother guilt right there. You SAY for me to go, but there's punishment waiting for me somewhere down the road.

For God's sake, Jimmy, just GO.

I'll go. But I am warning you. If you punish me later, I will not stand for that shit. I will not stand for that shit.

I'll try to keep my pores under control.

Fine. You do that.

Good-bye.

I'm gonna kiss you good-bye. Try to pretend you like it.

He kisses her on the cheek. She smiles. He goes out the door, slowly, looking back at her several times. She picks up the telephone.

Hello? Yeah, it's June. Ask Bo how long it would take to move all of Jimmy's things out to the curb and can he do it right now. No, no furniture. Just clothes, shoes, some sports stuff and knick-knacks. I'll need boxes.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

cheap joe

After I graduated from college in 1983, I eventually found work as a counselor in a community based mental health outpatient facility in rural south Georgia. I stayed there until after my marriage and the birth of my son in 1987. My time at the center was a mixture of increased knowledge and understanding about mental health, psychotropic medication and the interaction between socio-economic status and the availability of quality medical care.

There are so many stories from this time in my life. But the one that stands out the most is about an alcoholic farmer who, in his mid-sixties, found himself court-ordered to attend the drug & alcohol group I co-led with my boss. I'll call him Joe, to protect his privacy. Joe joined us because he had received one too many DUIs. It was our ritual to welcome new members by giving them the opportunity to tell us why they were there. This was Joe's explanation:

"I am NOT an alcoholic and I do NOT have a drinking problem. I'm here because I'm cheap. When I bought my new Cadillac, the dealer showed me several optional packages for my new car. One of them optional packages included an automatic dimmer for my headlights. That was pretty fancy. A sensor would pick up on the fact that a car was headed towards you and it would automatically dim your lights if you had your brights on. I liked it, but I didn't want to spend the extra $600 on the package that had that in it.

"On my 65th birthday, I was driving home from a party my friends threw for me. A state patrol officer was driving towards me and I failed to dim my lights. He turned around and pulled me over. I reckon he smelled a little alcohol on me and he gave me a sobriety test and that's why I'm here. I was driving just fine, but I didn't dim my lights, which could have happened to anyone, any time. If I hadn't been cheap, I woulda bought that package with the automatic dimmer and I wouldn't be here today."

I had a copy of the police report from that night, so I asked him, "Joe, didn't you fall out of your car on to the pavement when the patrolman instructed you to exit the vehicle?"

Joe looked startled, but quickly recovered. He said, "That was because the cuff of my pants got tangled on the brake pedal. I was just fine."

The group was a seasoned bunch, at all different stages of recovery. There was a long silence as I let them absorb the story and think it through. I knew they would do the work for me. Bo was one of the guys who had been there the longest. He had killed his own three year old son in a DUI crash into a ditch. He was an extremely depressed man, but he was sober. He finally said, "That's bullshit and you know it."

Joe said, "Naw, I don't know it. I've been driving since I was old enough to reach the pedals on my Daddy's tractor. I've been drinking since I was in high school. I ain't never had problems before and I don't have a problem now. You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Another pause, then we heard from Sue Ellen, who was addicted to cocaine. Her Daddy had been the county's district attorney for years and years and had spoiled Sue Ellen rotten. After a lifetime of getting everything she wanted, she found herself strung out and in jail. Sue Ellen was our best dressed group member. She leaned in and tapped her cigarette ash into the ashtray and casually asked, "Was this your first DUI? 'Cause they usually don't send you to this group on a first DUI."

Joe looked at me. He knew I knew, so there was no sense in telling a lie. "No, it was my fourth. But I wasn't drunk the other times neither."

This time, the group was silent, all looking at him. Sometimes silence tells the speaker he is full of shit.

Joe did eventually admit that he MIGHT have a problem. But that was months down the road. Recovery is an ugly and unpredictable thing. And it is never over.

The question for me - and for you - is this: What is our drug of choice? Alcohol? Crack? Food? Inactivity? Sex? Purses? What is it that we can't stop doing that causes us to lead a less than full life? And will we, like Joe, spend lots of energy on trying convince ourselves - and others - that we really don't have a problem? What lies will tell ourselves about the cuff of our pants? What will we rationalize by saying we were too cheap? How will we convince ourselves that we are JUST FINE?

Yep. Recovery is an ugly and unpredictable thing. And it is never over.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

we still burn

heart beat
blood rush
visions of love

these things you cannot see in me
and so you smile and talk
never knowing, until I tell you,
what you're doing to me

you freeze
you stutter
you forget your own name
and I see your response

we are still teenagers in love
decades later, we still burn

vanilla world

My life has been filled with experiences that would cause many people to faint from the shock of what they were seeing. My worldview is painted by interaction with alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless people, mentally ill people, immigrants, sexual deviants, criminals of every description and people who have secret lives. To say that I have been changed by exposure to the wide variety of people and environments is an understatement.

In 1991, I started interviewing people who lived on the margins of society. At the beginning, I asked all the wrong questions. My questions were driven by my own personal sense of horror that I, too, might be vulnerable enough to end up on the streets or drawn into behavior that was "bad". My fear guaranteed that people would hold their darkest secrets away from me and give me just a glimpse into their world. At the end of a day of interviewing, I would return to the safety of my vanilla world and collapse into my comfy chair, secure behind my deadbolts and my location in a "safe" neighborhood.

Over the years, I lost some of my horror, though I maintained a healthy dose of fear - just enough to ensure that I made smart decisions when it came to my own personal safety. The obvious criminals are easy to avoid. It's the sociopaths that are hard to spot. (They look and act so normal!) Instead of asking the question, "how did you end up here?", which was a question motivated by my own fear, I learned to ask, "what is your fondest dream?" And people tell me their stories and secrets. Occasionally, someone shares something with me that shocks them more than it does me. Getting a glimpse into the deepest recesses of a person is to be altered forever. You can't touch someone - soul to soul - and walk away the same person you were before it happened. So, I bear the imprint of hundreds of people. And I am richer for it.

But I write this not to discuss the more shocking bits of my years of interviews. Instead, I share my absolute dismay that there are so many people who are clueless about the wider world. They live their entire lives in vanilla world, with their only exposure to darkness being occasional glimpses on national news broadcasts or magazine articles. But I've even watched them turn away from those. "I don't want to see that." Instead, they turn their attention back to their own vanilla world, where things are boring and safe. I watch them in amazement, realizing that unless they have something very shocking happen in their lives, that they will die without ever seeing color. Their lives are beige and always will be.

The most shocking aspect of vanilla world is the conviction its residents have that every person is the master of his or her own fate. They truly believe that anyone experiencing difficulty can rise above it if only they strengthen their determination. They, mostly born into comfort, refuse to consider that they may be a direct cause of the discomfort of many others. And if they can mix religion into the recipe, they can convince themselves that God means for them to live a life apart from the disturbing realities of life outside vanilla world.

Lest anyone think I'm discussing only rich white people, let me state for the record that I see people of all races, religions and socio-economic levels living in vanilla world. I use the word 'living', but I really mean 'existing'. Because I honestly now believe that unless you have some color - some experiences that shock you and pull you out of your vanilla world - you aren't living.

Allowing color in doesn't mean you have to go to the extremes that I have gone. No. In fact, you can add color simply by admitting that you live in vanilla world. Do you? If you're not sure, then you probably do.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

luke 1 haiku

Doubt – questioning – faith
                Each is a part of the whole
                                All is possible

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

song of myself: one

My fingers are long and slender.
They were made to play the piano, the guitar, your heart strings.
I pluck you. You pluck me.
There has always been much plucking.
And forever shall there be.