Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheating Death - v.1

The Doors

Jim: I feel most alive confronting death, experiencing pain.

Pam: I think you're most alive recognizing beauty, seeing truth. Does death turn you on? You love death?

Jim: Life hurts a lot more. When you die, the pain's over.

I need somebody

to find me

Between the cartoons and the threesomes

Along the lost highway with The Doors

There are explosions in the Vatican

and cheating lies in the hookah bars.

He rests, thirty pounds lighter, driving across open fields

now degraded with autumn.

He said to me on the phone, I need somebody…

I nodded to the Venus following the Moon.

Is everybody in?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I married myself

April 9, 2003

So, it snowed last week Friday.
And iced.
And the streets were fucking ice skating rinks.
I did not drive anywhere.

"The paint's peeling off the streets again and I'll drive and close my eyes in Michigan. And I feel nothing, not brave. It's a hard day for breathing again... The heat is chasing off all of your friends and their scattered bodies part to the shore again. And I feel nothing, not sane. It's a hard day for dreaming again. I'm not going back to the assholes that made me, and the perfect display of random acts of hopelessness...."

I did not go back.
And once again, the weather came through for me. Roads and highways covered with perilous danger. Distraction.

This Friday I drank too much and still thought I could get dolled up for the bar. Go out regardless.
I told him to meet me there.
Got there.
Found a seat.
Had one drink and stumbled out.
Seein’ double, refusing to react to the taps on my shoulder.
"Listen, it's Lola. I’m calling from home. If you get this, don't go to the bar. Come to my place. I’m too drunk. Got too drunk to stay there."

He did get it.
And by then, I was passing out in my bed.
And I guess I talked like a doll.
Chatty Cathy.
"And I see ghosts... This one time in Virginia I saw so many. So many. I had to turn away. I had to go crazy."
"Oh, this album. Hang on, I have to sing." (Bright eyes turned up way too loud.)
And tears.
And then sleep.

He still gets up at 9am. That drives me nuts. Because once your guest is up, you should be, too. And if you aren't, then you can't, and then you can't go back to sleep because they are roaming through your kitchen and will eat you out of house and home because you forgot to shop for food.

When you do wake, they're by your side with a hard on. "I can't fuck, it's that time, it's the bad time of the month, the scary time, and I’m terrified." You know it's an excuse but you say it. Because you really don't want to wake up, you really want to sleep it off and fuck later – later that night, when the sun isn’t out, the lights are dim, and you're drunk again.

And he reads.
And then you wake up again.
And say, "no, let's fuck," because like a boy, your body rouses you from sleep and dreams of nakedness and the slow, wet entry of cock.
And he obliges because he's been hard for three hours now.

"You wanna get food?" he asks.
The last thing you want. What you want is to sleep again. Or to fuck again. But not food. And not the alone time with him in a public place, and not the time it takes to get dressed. It seems too hard on a typical Saturday for you, which is lazy typically and public radio and zoning out while recalling the night before.


You get restless because you're tired, but not tired enough to sleep with him. And you want to do something, alone. So, you start to clean. Pick up the leftover shit. Then, look at the dirty dishes in disgust without the energy to do them. So, you shower. While he still reads. Still sits there. Still lays there. And you don't have the heart to tell him to get the fuck out. And it's not really what you want to say because you like him being around, for company, for fucking, but not for intimacy or boyfriend shit. You are not going steady. You are not obligated to have lunch. Or hold hands.

Then, you crawl under the blankets, dressed, and wet hair. You read and he piles himself next to you. And you listen to public radio while you read Bukowski poems. And you just wish he'd leave because this, this is your solitary routine. But you don't say it. You don’t say it because you're a coward and afraid to hurt his feelings. After all, he cut himself in your kitchen and says he'll be fine with your non-monogamy.

So, you get up. You get up because you had read Bukowski saying he, when dining on one candy bar a day and getting drunk and beat up in the alley, wrote 5 short stories and 20 poems a week. You pause to figure that amount out in your head. 7 days. 5 stories, 20 poems. Ok, I work 5 days a week. I could come up with that number. Fuck. Fuck. I gotta start now. I don't have the guts to quit my job and move and live in slums and fuck up like that. Fuck. I got a long way to go. Fuck. I gotta start something now. So, if I start with old stuff and submit that for a while, then I can catch up.

So you get up and sit there, head in hands, and finally he says, "you're going to write" (because you've turned on your computer), "so I’ll leave." But it's that weak, hesitating kind of "I’ll leave if you say so, but ask me to stay, please.” You kiss him goodbye and thank him for sitting through your drunk bullshit the night before.

You don't write. You can't write for some reason.
So, you start to drink and check emails.

And then it's nighttime.
And you're tired at 6pm.
So, you take a nap until 10pm.
Get up for Saturday Night Live and try to sober up.
What world are you in? Where are you? Tired. Drunk. But can't sleep more.

So, you go out to the bar. But now you feel sober after the nap. After the few drinks that you had when you got up. You feel so sober. And you find a seat at the bar, start writing, and the annoying barman looks over your shoulder and tries to kiss you. You refrain. And keep writing. And it's good. It’s good because you can still read your writing and still make out the reasons you're writing. And you drink for a few hours (daylight savings, bars close early tonight). Then, you get kicked out. "Lola, you know you can stay until the last person leaves, but... We really want to close up." I know. I know. Thanks for letting me stay this late. I know you want to go home.

Walk down the street.

To the Orpheum, where I used to work. Where I only stop in when I haven't had enough for the night and want a last one (a free one) for the road. I knock on the glass door and the door guy says we're closed and I say, I used to work here, is Steve or Alex here? I know the names and he lets me in.

Little Steph is here. God, how I had wanted to talk to her in January. We shared the same pain of abortion but at different times. I had wanted to find a time to tell her, ask her, console, but it never came up. Steve gets me a drink and I go behind the tall velvet curtains (where we hide our after-hours drinking from the cops on the street). Steph comes over to sit with me and the handful of others.

"Oh my god," she says in her college speak with her big, round eyes popping out even more. "So, guess what?!"
"The other Stephanie – remember, my roommate? – is getting married."
No way!
"Yeah. To Javier. He wants a green card and she's in love with him. I’m not sure about it, but whatever... But guess what?"
"I’m gonna marry them!!!"
What do you mean, Steph?
"Well, Stephanie asked me to marry them!!"
And, like, what? You got a license off the web?
"Exactly! I’m an ordained minister!!" (She’s Jewish.)
Wow, cool!
"So, like, this Sunday I’m gonna marry my first couple!"

I’m drunk. I’m kinda drunk. And I’m thinking... well, nothing, but I say....

"Steph… Steph… Steph! Hey, what about... So, who have you married already?"
“No one,” she says.
"So, wanna marry someone tonight?"
“Who?” she asks.
“What?” she smiles, knowing I’m drunk, knowing she’s drunk.
"Will you… marry me to myself?"
“You're crazy.”
"C'mon, Steph. Marry me to myself!!"

I give her my hand.

She says, "Will you, Lola, take you, Lola, to be your lawful wedded self." She giggles drunkenly. "For better or worse. For richer or poorer... I forgot the rest."

"In sickness or in health..." I prompt her.

"In sickness or in health... through pizza or boys.." She adds.

"..or girls!!" I say.

".. or girls… Through shit and bad times, through fat and thin times! ‘Til death do you part? Yes? Or is it ‘I do?’ God, I can't remember." She giggles.

"Yes! I do!... Yes! I do, too!"

"Well, I pronounce you married to yourself!"

I kiss my hand.

I got fucking married to myself. I am married. I am married to the hottest, smartest, sexiest, most amazing woman in the world. And I married her. Good goddamn!

Cindy comes up from around the corner of the theatre. "Hey, you guys wanna go watch the Rocky Horror Show? They aren't getting good turn out tonight."

We go to the theatre with fresh drinks and watch Rocky Horror acted out by obese kids in lingerie.

After our last drinks I say, "I’m gonna go home and honeymoon with my woman!!"

Instead, I’m stalled by a bartender who wants to take me to a manager's party – three floors above my apartment. And I forget...that I just got married. That I should carry her over the threshold, or take her garter off, or fuck her silly. I’m just like a frat boy: a party? Yeah!!!

Good part of the party: I get to see what the penthouse of our apt building looks like. Bad side: the liquor finally hits me and I’m drunk. I have to leave. Stupidly tell a boy to follow me and give my apartment number.

I end up passing out on the bathmat again. Knock Knock. I don't get up. He'll go away.

I’m sorry, but me and my wife are puking. Passing out.

I forget all about it on Sunday.
I wake up. I read Bukowski. I listen to the radio. I do the dishes. I nap.

And then I remember.

I am married.
To myself.
Forever more.
Not a bad bond.
This kind I could like.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The secret conversations I have in my head

When Flickr is uploading and/or I've had sufficient wine.

My neighbor man knocks on my door:

Man: I'm sorry, I really need to sleep tonight. Could you keep the noise down?

Me: [You can't always get what you want - Rolling Stones - is playing in the background] You know those times when you tap tap tap your fucking razor on the wall of your bathroom and it tap tap taps my wall? Well, that's fucking annoying. And, the times when you plug in that fucking amplifying speaker cord into your goddamn computer or whatever and there's that horrible loud zap sound? Or, how about your fucking teenage daughter has parties late and loudly? Or, how about the loud ping ping ping of your goddamn online chat? Or when you come home and jingle jingle jingle your fucking keys? Or, when you always slam your fucking door? Or, how I hear your moan moan moan of fucking? ... Well, I never said a goddamn fucking thing because I remember back when we ran into each other in the bouglangerie and you pretended that you didn't hear my cough cough coughing. I base our relationship on a fooling of secrecy and silence. So, fuck you. You don't hear a goddamn thing tonight.

Like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
I could totally marry someone if we promised to live without open relationship drama and shared a housing situation wherein we each had our own apartments. I could stop by, rub his back while he painted. He could stop by, rub my back as I wrote. We wouldn't have to talk while we were in the same room though. It would be a shared appreciation of physical shared space. Just because I was there, he wouldn't have to talk - or engage me or ask my opinion or ask for my help or even acknowledge my existence. But we'd know we were there for each other.

Does anyone know an easy way to compress an MP3? Because I have a kick ass song I want to post online. Fuck Audacity - it's too complicated.

I really shouldn't have emailed that guy back last night. I was too manic to sound sane.

I dreamed I was pregnant. I know I'm not. I know this bloated belly is just PMS. But I dreamed the Spaniard knocked me up. I sent my sister an email. We started chatting on Skype and I asked her if she wanted it. We swore never to tell the child that I didn't want it. I would have to go into hiding for the 9 months. There would never be any photographs of the pregnancy. I would treat it like a niece or nephew. I would enjoy eating whatever I wanted to and lazying around the house. Childbirth would bring no feelings of regret. .... My cousin had a baby a couple of days ago. My younger cousin. The one I grew up with playing "store" in our grandparents' house. The one I told about cool music and gave mixed tapes to. The one whose brother I drunkenly sucked off in the entryway to my hotel room the night of her wedding (and who won't speak to me now - I fear I've damaged him). She's had a baby. My baby cousin. She doesn't look like she's grown up enough to do so. I can imagine her, when thinking about making the baby, giggling to her husband, shrugging her shoulders, and childishly goofing as she says, "So, whaddaya think about makin' a baby?! Hahahahha!" And then she'd do a little goofy kid dance where she'd kick up her feet a bit and square-dance her elbows out. She's a successful pharmaceutical marketer rep or something. He makes the internet buzz with interactive activity at football games and such. They live in a top floor apartment of a high-rise in Chicago. Their dog is named after a park nearby that sounds like Jackoff. They are not old enough to have a baby. Their baby does not wake my ovaries, but it makes me feel more lost. Am I really missing something? What's wrong with me that I'm not even the slightest interested in this for myself? I'm beginning to think I'm slightly developmentally slow. I mature slowly. I am only now realizing the value of my family. Will I realize the value of making my own too late?

It wasn't nice that Tall Tom didn't invite me to his party tonight.
The reason I brushed him off was for his random insistence that we hang out. I'm not "on-call" for him. He has no idea what's happening to me. He has no idea what good information I could impart to him for his second year. I feel like I'm 15 again and rejected. It's all very silly.

Yeah, that's all the conversations I've had for tonight. Or, at least those that I want to write out.

Shhh don't tell.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Entertainment for today

I am going over 8 years of Cheating Death Once Again and cataloging all my posts. The count on my dashboard says that since 2001 it's been 937 posts. The count I have between half of 2006 and today is 487 posts - including this one. I guess it makes sense.

I haven't stopped to read them, as that's the next phase. But in glancing and not remembering what I wrote three years ago, it looks damn interesting. I made some really quirky titles for my posts. And, as of now, I've yet to come across two of the same. That's encouraging.

I really like this McSweeney's 2006 entry that has nothing to do with cuteness:

And, then, because I need a silly break:

I AM: sitting cross-legged in a horrible chair.
I JUST NOW: poured the last of a bottle of Merlot.
I SAID: nothing to anyone today.
I WANT: to keep the big tits associated with PMS, but not the bloating belly balloon.
I WISH: sometimes when I see a star, sometimes on my birthday, and then whenever the hell I feel like it.
I HATE: nothing really, but sometimes I use the word for emphasis.
I MISS: daily newspapers (for the crossword), Wired magazine, Newsweek.
I FEAR: fear.
I HEAR: way too much on this street: scooters, motorcycles, horns, cars, buses, babies crying, people screaming, and random birds - usually pigeons.
I WONDER: all the time, and it's a great activity.
I REGRET: nothing - still - and that's a great thing.
I AM NOT: a man, but sometimes I feel like I have penis.
I SING: the song of freedom - but only in the shower, and only in my head.
I CRY: when I cut fucking leeks; and then, not enough.
I AM NOT ALWAYS: pretty.
I MADE: dookie this morning.
I WRITE: when inspired, since 1986.
I CONFUSE: memories.
I NEED: sunshine or Vitamin D daily.
I SHOULD: do and be so many things, but I'm not Catholic so I don't care too much.
I START: books and often never finish them.
I FINISH: when I have to.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The bathroom blow job

Written March 1, 2008.
I suppose I didn't post this because of shame. I should have used a condom.
But I'm posting it now because I feel shameless. Because I am Popeye.


I'm at least 25% lesbian. It's true. A soft pair of girl lips and a nice rack resting just below mine. I cave. I should stop trying to tell people I'm not gay. I'm gay and happy and straight and curvy and not well defined at all.

I'll finish the Craigslist story, I promise. (If there's more to what happened weeks ago I promise to tell. If there's not, I'll tell what happened back then [with the Royal Air Force].) But since then, times have been dry. Mojave Desert. India in between and then period-ville. Bad timing and bad backburner boys to choose from. I've been holding out, but I already know that holding out is automatic punishment. I shouldn't wait for people.. despite the prize possession I would offer them (renewed virginity - after a month of not fucking I can be so tight).

So to break the spell, I went out to the club on Wednesday to see Tapes 'N Tapes (from Minneapolis). Chatted it up with the bartender. Ended up with too much Jack and not enough Coke. Kisses, and found films on my digital camera with his face and whispers. He called the next day and I met up with him Friday afternoon. Class in the morning, buy some hand weights - gotta get back in shape!, run them home, eat lunch at 3pm, change clothes, meet bartender boy.

We meet in a café in a neighborhood I'd been in before. I had to get my study visa in this neighborhood. I had an x-ray of my lungs and was given an identity card. We settled into a booth in a nook.

"Boy" was man and he let us make small talk for only so long. He pulled out the bar napkin with drunken scrawl: "Lola-Chicago - I don't want <3 - I want fuck." I remembered this before he reminded me, but this was confirmation. Well, at least it's out on the table now.

He leaned in and rested his steady hand on the back of my head and kissed me. Almost trance-like, I was pulled into his lips and tongue and boldness. Directness is a drug for me.

He pulled away and smiled. He pointed out that he would not blush, but would I? Of course I would. It's not a question of modesty, it's a question of realizing my reality. If I stop and think about it, I see myself from outside and feel on stage. If I keep kissing though, I will have no rouge cheeks. His hand on my bare knee and up under my skirt at the thigh. Do I like what he's doing? Yes. His hand up under my skirt moving my cotton thong apart from my skin. I didn't shave. I want to tell him I'm a bit more hairy than usual because I didn't foresee this. I should start foreseeing more.

"I'm going downstairs. You should follow me."

I hem, haw, read my French-English dictionary, and follow. As I walk across the café, I make my face look like, "Hm, he went to the bathroom. That's actually a good idea. I think I will, too, real quick. La dee da. Nothing to see here."

I head calmly down the stairs and see him washing his hands at the basin. We kiss. He tries one bathroom door but it's locked. He tries the other one and we duck into it. We kiss again, and he pulls my tit up through the low neckline of my shirt. I ask if he has a condom. No. He fingers me inside my panties.

I could just kiss the whole time but I know that time is of the essence and something's going to happen with or without condoms. Bathroom. Short time span. What to do. I unzip him. He leans back against the wall and brings me with him. I kneel. He bends over and reaches into my shirt and bra and oohs at finding my nipple pierced. He's sensitive, he says. He wants to go slower. I could make him cum, he says. I suck his balls while he jacks himself. He gets


And that is the end of what I wrote. I remember he came.

The brain reconfigures memory, reorders events, resets them among other events to form narrative, causality: it creates sense. The mind tells itself stories about what happens to it. So me saying that I did X because of Y rests on thousands of assumptions about who or what I think I am, how I thought of myself then—transmuted into how I think about myself now.

...Any sort of attempt to sort meaning from the past is fraught in thousands on thousands of ways, exponentially splintering. The more you think about it the more it asymptotically approaches impossibility.

This is not to suggest we shouldn’t attempt it. The attempt is glorious, and attempting rewires the brain. It moves the circuitry around, attaching a new conclusion to an action, reconstructing self. In a way, thinking about the self hacks it. [Essay as Hack - Ander Monson]

I have a fleeting idea that I either puked or spit in the toilet. Or, perhaps I simply wiped my mouth with toilet paper and avoided the streak of semen on the floor as I walked out.

He had to leave for work shortly after that. He bought the espressos and called me several times after. I never saw him again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My thanks

Dear Lola,
I just read your blog for the first time in a very long time, and I wanted to give my regards with respect to your father's health. I know this is a very belated, 'out of touch friend' type of email, but I hope everything went okay and that he is doing well, and that you are doing well too. No need to reply if you're busy, just wanted you to know I am here.


I almost had a baby with this man. Well, not almost. Well, not even close. But we could have. And it wouldn't have been a bad decision. I mean, considering his wonderful personality. I'm so happy he has his own family now. He really deserves the best of life.

She would have been a red-haired fiery demon. She would have been six years old now, this month.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Making a mood

The last time I had sex was the 21st of July. It was with the Spaniard. I was drunk and took a cab to his place. I remember drinks, smoking, music, talking, him listening, talking, me trying my hardest to swallow his cock, us in his bed, he trying to go down on me, me pulling him up, begging for his cock.

I saw the Butcher last week. We drank whiskey and I smoked at least a half a pack of cigarettes -- after I'd quit so honorably and so well prior to the trip to the US. We drank wine and ate some and talked. At some point he was talking and my eyes started to lose themselves. His face was resonating louder than the rest of the scene. His face zoomed out at me like a 3-D movie. I went over to his couch and started kissing him. He was too drunk to fuck me and I was too drunk to want to suck him for a long time. He left me in his bed, thinking I'd sleep. I couldn't. I got up and he walked me to a cab.

I am in a strange place now. No sex for almost two months. Cloistered again up in the tower of my apartment. Growing weary of Paris. Growing more fearful and blaise about life. I'm in some between wasteland. Killing time. Seeing the sights I haven't seen yet in Paris. Trying not to spend much money. Feeling fat from sedentary living and my trip to the States. Too shy to make eyes with a cute guy in line at the grocery store - who clearly made moves on me.

And, the Spaniard invites me over tonight. Part of me wants some semblance of romance. Scratch that. Some semblance of respect. The TV Producer has sent an email inquiring about me, ending his note with xxx in bisous. There is no satisfaction there. I have not replied. But the Spaniard has always seemed gracious, friendly, respectful. Example: he tried to go down on me. That counts for something.

See, I have lost mojo again. It's September, the Monday of all months. The wistfulness of summer, the warning of cold, slow days. I feel October around the corner more than I did last year, I think. I'm floating. I'm lost. I'm between before and next. I want someone to hold me. I want the Spaniard to open me up, peel me like an expert culinary artist. I want his hands to feel my obscenely soft skin. I want him to guide my mouth to his hard cock and pet my fine hair in his fingers. I want to be on my hands and knees when he enters first. Or, do I want him pushing my legs open and apart, watching my face as he enters? I am a virgin again.

Tall Tom has called for the past couple of days. And I remember when he scolded me for not moving while he fucked me. A person is not a fish. And every tiny movement of my muscles - face, mouth, legs, cunt - they all move in adoration and relief and hallelujah. He just couldn't see them through his frenzy.

I do not want to be a sad sack tonight. I do not want to cry for mercy. I do not want my eyes to moisten over thinking of meaning that isn't there. I just want to be less of a fuck and more of a freedom.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I only cried once

When I walked out of the Customs and Immigration area, I spotted my sister coming toward me from behind a column. I could have sworn I saw my dad there, and that he'd leaned back behind the column so I wouldn't see the surprise. But, she and I hugged and walked toward the parking area, and he wasn't there. I almost cried from the made-up surprise and my need to hug him.

My sister and I had even planned a good ol' cry-fest, which sent her fiancé looking forward to an evening work event. We made some guacamole, turned on the TV to some modeling show where people get criticized and voted off at the end, and drank some white wine. I needed to cry so badly. We'd half-jokingly planned this night after she'd told me she didn't cry at dad's cancer diagnosis. Even when she'd Skyped me about it, neither one of us did. We processed the news with red eyes. We considered the next steps. We questioned and answered and shared information. We moved forward.. calmly.. toward the exit signs as flight attendants signaled the procedure of crossing our hands over our chests. We went feet first. We took command of the lifeboats - hers in the white and grey hospital, mine in the grey and yellow city. She only cried when she got back to her fiancé, holding it together over the long, sad, free distance of the highway. Now, it was my turn. It was my time to let it out. But the TV moved images and the wine sank feelings. It was nicer to go outside than inside.

After the surgery, on the last day with my parents in the small hometown, I had packed the car, we had lunch and I was waiting for a friend to call so I could swing by on my way to Minneapolis. We waited, with nothing new to say. Dad wondered why the reading chair was pulled so far away from the wall. Mom, curled up on the couch with her legs tucked under her, said it didn't need to be. There wasn't anything much to say. He'd showered. She'd already been to the pharmacy the day before. She and I both had been to the nearby farmers' market - the first test of leaving my father alone in the house. And, we all knew I was leaving. It was kind of a drawn out silence. I always hated those. And their house is always that kind of bored silence. Just waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Dad had gone upstairs for a nap. Finally, I got the message that my friend was free. It was getting late. I ran to the bathroom for a last pee. Ran upstairs and hugged my dad, we'd already talked about my promises to come home in a couple of months, and he was already dozing into a sick man's rest. I wanted to cry but it would have cost too much energy. I jogged down the stairs quietly. Put my arms around my mother's shoulders and smelled her sweet, soft skin. When did her skin start changing into an old lady's? I still couldn't cry. Pulled away from the house and waved out the window for the full block, even after I'd turned the corner. It's just tradition. Wave until you can't see them anymore.

The only time I cried was the day of the surgery.

Another role I'd taken on was the documentarian. The first photo: of my sister's face as she drove us away from the airport, along the US highway to her house in the 'burbs. The photos of my aunts, uncle, grandmother, and parents at dinner. The photos of my parents in the hotel room. As my sister had described it from her living room, "There's no modesty. Mom's changing into her nightgown in front of you. Dad's using the bathroom all night. That's why I asked for two separate rooms the night before surgery. It's just too much, really." I'd already brushed these things off. Maybe it was working in health care (albeit the politics of it, but I still learned how to answer imploring, semi-public questions about "What do I do if [insert 'I find a red rash' or 'my boyfriend forgot a condom' or 'I've got this kind of itch' or 'a friend of mine - ahem - thinks she might be pregnant']?"), but all of this stuff didn't really phase me when I imagined the hospital or the hotel room. It was like we were kids again, staying in some chalet at the base of the Alps. Dad and mom sleep in this bed, we sleep in the other one.

And it was just like that. Dad was already in his pjs when my sister and I arrived to the hotel. (After all, I had to wait out a tornado eating a veggie sandwich at the Subway in Hastings. My sister had to hide in the basement with her dogs and cats. And the traffic was miserable between the Cities and Rochester.) He shoo'ed us out for dinner, which he wasn't allowed to have the night prior to surgery. It was a miserable dark, drab, yellow restaurant on the first floor of the hotel (although I did just now almost type 'in the basement' because it was that miserable). The waitress must have been in her mid-twenties, and she shouted everything. I imagine she did this because most of the customers are elderly, although I could tell by the hush in the place that the customers were just fine of hearing. Maybe she imagined the opposite. Or, maybe she couldn't handle the silence of the sickly and their loved ones. Either way, the place was fucking freezing and I had to run upstairs to get a sweater. The wine was already on the table - a horrible white. My sister and mother sat opposite me and we toasted, a little like strangers, a little like family, a little like a family of strangers really. My mother a beedy-eyed, wrinkled, pink and burnt rust, twitchy mess. (I'm sure my ADD comes from her side. I'm still grateful she refused the doctor's orders to put me on meds when I was a tyke, but I often wonder if she couldn't use their assistance. At least I got my father's genes to balance out the mania.) My sister, god, looking at her, I can see the amazing genes of youth in our blood. We don't age. She more than anyone. No one would know she's close to forty. She's a bit more plump than years ago, well, she's leaning toward fat, but it's still a controlled, Aphrodite, roundness. But her skin! In that dark, yellow haze, she looked angelic, Cherubic, like Rubens' Venus.

We got up at 5am and met our parents at 5:35 at their room. Dad was in his track suit. There's a photo of my sister as we're leaving the hotel lobby. A blurred photo with her eyes wide and tongue kind of sticking out, like we're off on a skiing adventure. I suppose that's really the last time we were all a family together, as opposed to angry or hating each other, or adolescents, or for a funeral, or a quick lunch. The next photo is of my father, facing us, explaining something and moving his hand in a hard, chopping motion, as if trying to show he was still in charge, at 5:35am, without any food in his system, facing a full day of surgery, about to lose a major part of his manly innards. I can't remember what he was saying. I think we were debating crossing outside or using the underground tunnel. The hospital entrance was literally across the street.

They weighed and measured him. He'd lost half an inch from his standard height. He's starting to shrink. God. He was changed into a light blue gown. People always write that, don't they? No one really knows what the hospital light blue gown is unless they've seen it. My sister's right. There's this side of the game and the other side. When you're on the non-cancer side, the cancer side seems very, very far and foreign. But once you've landed into the cancer club, there's a secret understanding. It's not a cool place to be, not a club with discounts or two-for-one cocktails. But everyone in this club does, at least, get you. Yeah, the light blue gowns. Sure. I know what you're talking about.

I took photos as we sat there. My mom and sister looking at their iphone or blackberry. My dad talking to the pretty lady nurses, trying to charm them. (Of all the 20 or so nurses over the 9 days only 2 were men, although almost all the techs who irrigated and aspirated were men.) Then, we walked down the hall. He and the nurse turned the corner, and he almost kept on going, but I stopped him. "Hey, give us a hug." "Yeah, Dad," said my sister, "you gonna leave without a hug good-bye?" He hugged us both, kissed our foreheads, and kissed my mom on the lips.

I can't remember how that first day went for food. At some point, my sister or mom went and got coffee for us. Then, at some point, we left for lunch all together and came back and they'd crossed our names off and written "See Desk." He'd now been assigned a room on the 5th floor and we could go there to wait. He wasn't out of surgery and recovery until 8pm. His face was as puffy as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, tucked up over the hospital blankets. At about 9:30pm I offered to call and order in pizza for delivery. Not much would happen the first night. He was too drugged up and wasn't even moving.

They met me over at the hotel room. My sister's fiance had - in his wonderful wisdom - packed us like 3 bottles of wine. My mom - not one to be without her own - had brought 2 small boxes and a couple of bottles. Strangely, she still followed her routine and stashed the wine boxes under the sink. Alcoholics don't change much - anytime, anywhere, I guess. Even after I told her she didn't have to keep it under there. They still never moved until we packed up and left the hotel.

We toasted, a simple toast, "Yay!"

We ate the unimpressive pizza.

We turned on the TV.

I went to the bathroom and was just completely overcome. He hadn't died in surgery. (I had asked him nicely not to slip off into anesthesia land ne'er to return.) The doctors had said he did well. They'd gotten most of the tumorous cells. He was going to be fine. My sister and I hadn't killed each other. In fact, I loved her more now. My mother hadn't driven me crazy. In fact, I was finding myself pitying her less and accepting her more. Things were going to be fine. But I just couldn't help it. Out of nowhere I was sobbing and I unlocked the bathroom door, walked slowly over to her bed, and curled up next to my mother in a ball. Like a little girl.

She patted me and asked what was wrong.

"I'm sad," I said. I didn't know how else to explain it. I wasn't really sad. I wasn't all that exhausted. I wasn't too terribly overwhelmed. I was actually relieved. But that's not how I could explain it.

"Oh, don't be sad, sweetie." She said he was fine. He'll be fine. Why am I crying. There's no need to cry.

My sister, from the opposite bed, said, "It's okay. She's just got to do it. She's finally letting it out. It's not that she's sad really. She's just got to cry.... You know, mom, the day I left the hospital last time, it took all my energy not to break down in the car on the way home. It took Alex hugging me to let it all come out."

She was still patting me. But it was as if she was stroking a dog. There was no movie-style embrace, where the mother rolls over and engulfs her child, shielding them from the world. She kind of kept on watching TV. I know, it's not all her fault. After all, there were many times before and even at least once during this trip that I told her to stop staring at me. But, maybe, she could have been a bit more gentle or caring.

I asked her if she'd cried yet. Or, had she gotten comfort yet. "Well, Jackey and I talk. And Pamela and I meet for coffee and talk. But..." I can't remember what she said between my sniffling and deciding to stop crying. That was enough. That was good enough. In her explanation though, I'd sensed she didn't really either want to talk about this with us or didn't know how. I sat up. Finished for now. Looked over at my sister. "Thanks for interpreting."


Thinking back on it. If it hadn't been that my mother was in the room. If it hadn't been for some kind of pride. If it hadn't been for her forever thinking that she was more of my mother than my own mother was (although she might be right), I would have gone to my sister's bed to cry. And, I know she would have rolled over, engulfed me, stroked my hair, hugged me hard, and told me it was ok. Or, not said anything. She would have just been there.


inspiration from The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

"I don't know. He said once -- this was when I was engaged to Donald Clellon -- he said that a man ought to be happy in his work before he got married, and maybe it was partly that. He was never happy in his work, you see. I mean, he'd wanted to be a great reporter, somebody like Richard Harding Davis, or Heywood Broun. I don't think he ever understood why he was only -- you know -- only a copy-desk man."

And that did it. They had been holding back tears all evening, all night, but that phrase was too much. Sarah started crying first and Emily got up from the floor to take her in her arms and comfort her, until it was clear that she couldn't comfort anyone because she was crying too. With their mother lying in a coma twenty miles away, they clung together drunkenly and wept for the loss of their father.

La vie en rose

Yes, well.

I'll need to detail it soon or I'll forget everything, but I've also told the story enough times now that I've temporarily grown bored with it.

A few things I haven't told:
I've never loved or appreciated my family as much as I did for those 3 weeks.

I've finally seen their quirks and annoyances as delightful details of personality.

It was hard to see my father in pain for a full night, as my sister and I alternated between sleep and awake in his hospital room.

I think my mother may have taken it to heart when, as she poured her fourth glass of wine in the hotel room, I said "Mama? Please don't drink as much as you did last night 'cuz you fell into the TV and it scared me."

Yes, we all magnify a specific part of our personality under extreme stress. My sister became the project manager (researching whatever procedures or words the doctors said, memorizing the time line, digging more deeply with questions to gain understanding). My mother became the friendly neighbor (to everyone - little kids, old ladies, hotel managers, cashiers at Jimmy John's). And, oddly enough, I was the tough cheerleader... or the parent... or the companion... Dad had to walk every day to encourage circulation to heal. He'd beg out of it sometimes, but I'd bargain or trick or tease or mandate he get up. "C'mon, old man, up we go. Remember, it's not the distance but the frequency. After the walk, we'll see how you feel for a shower!"

Almost every day, minus the day he was high on dilaudid, we'd do some portion of the newspaper crossword puzzle together.

On the 7th day at the hospital, my temperament started to shift. I was growing bored and annoyed. But it was also a celebration that I was feeling irritable, since I'd skipped August's period entirely (due to stress) this was a good sign.

I didn't have sex the entire time while in the States, although I tried.

I had the most vivid and strange dreams, despite still taking the 1/2 Tylenol PM a night and drinking at least one glass of wine.

Dogs and cats are pretty awesome. I hadn't realized I longed for touch so badly.


And so. For now, I'm back in Paris. When I left my parents, my father was successfully showering on his own and had peeled back the bandage on his abdomen, proving that I was right: "Dad, you're freaking out. You do not have a gaping hole from where they took the tube out. The body doesn't work that way. Skin heals. I bet there's a bit of gooey scabbing over, but you are not leaking or oozing or going to squirt all over the floor when you remove your bandage." My mother was dropping everything for my father, which he was recognizing and thanking her in abundance. My sister was losing trust in her fiance after he neglected the dogs for a day and one of them peed on the bed. But, she also found out from a visit to the eye doctor that her retina was detaching. This put her in 3 days of respite (face parallel to the floor with a bubble in the back of her eye), and dependent on the finance. I think they probably had some truthful words shared over that long time.

Everyone's doing just fine, in other words.

Still, I didn't much like going through tragedy so far from my family. And, I've been considering the meaning of 'community' much more. Mine seems to be attached to people, not to places. My people are scattered all over the world. There are some of them congregated into a region though and I might just like to stay there for a while: Midwest, USA. The thought of that idea in the long-term terrifies me, although I'm pretty sure that it's not possible. I'll start to drive my family nuts and they, me. So, I'll consider it a temporary community residence until I find a job.

Thus, for now, I'm searching for a cheap one-way flight back, finding out the costs of shipping books by boat, and checking out the Parisian sights I haven't yet seen.

Oh, and I've been mini-posting over on Tumblr.