Monday, April 30, 2007

Dear everyone,

April is over, and we are now 1/3 of the way through the year. I worry that I value milestones so much that I keep dividing my world into ever-smaller parts, and that eventually I'll be stopping to evaluate every three seconds. Maybe I should just let things happen without pausing to check if I've reacted to them correctly, if I've gotten what I needed from them, and given them what they needed, too.

The greatest part of April was easily my boat, and I spent some of the most pleasant hours of my year so far sitting cross-legged on the floor, ponytailed and in old ripped jeans and singing along with the stereo, stabbing myself in the hands and frequently failing. But still building something. Thanks for the inspiration, MOHAI; I'm glad we finally met.

Also great was that Julie came back to town for about twelve seconds, that Nick started making beer, and that West Coast Paul finally moved to Seattle, which he's been halfway planning to do for the entire ten years I've known him.

I have been so well behaved for most of the last four months, working away at improving everything like an industrious little furry creature and not being even a little bit trampy. (Which is less of a decision and more of my attention being stubbornly focused in a largely unrequited direction and refusing to listen to reason, but it's still probably good for me.) Boys in Seattle have been so, so funny lately, thinking that I won't notice that we're ending half of our thumb wrestling matches holding hands. It's like they all spontaneously decided that this is the new way to go wooing. I'm still not sure if I like it. You're very funny and cute and I like your hair, boys of Seattle, but if you don't watch it I'll have to reinstitute the no touching rule, and none of us want that.

Today I'm pretty sure I was followed halfway home by a robin holding a bug in its beak. For blocks and blocks it would fly to the tree just ahead of me and then, once I reached that tree, fly to the next one. Most peculiar behavior; I don't know why these things happen to me. Perhaps I am Snow White in disguise. Or maybe I look like a bug. Hard to say, really.

And tomorrow is May Day, the one day of the year that you are practically required to skip at least a little bit and smile at strangers even though you don't like their pants. I'll be out of work all day going to doctors and dentists, being prodded from head to toe and lectured about my dissolute lifestyle, but also smiling at strangers all over town. I like you best in spring because it's the one time of year that I can count on you to be ridiculously enthusiastic about anything, so that when I run in your door and shout, "Do a somersault!" or "Let's go pick blackberries!" or "Holy shit, dumptrucks are so awesome!" you're right there with me. If you want to leave flowers or communist propaganda on my doorstep, you can go right ahead. You'd have to ring my doorbell and run away, but if I catch you I get to kiss you. That's how these things go on May Day.

In the spring I want to kiss you like I was made of cotton candy, soft and sweet and disappearing in the rain.

I don't have any plans right now. Things happen so quickly these days that it's tough to keep on top of it all, which is probably better for me because it also doesn't give me much time to overthink anything. I'll be in New York at the end of the month, and other than that we're just going to have a good time. I have that sidewalk feeling, like when you know someone is walking behind you but you can't see them yet. Something is going to happen.

With any luck, we'll be ready for it when it gets here.


Sunday, April 29, 2007

If you were keeping a list of the reasons that it is frequently excellent to be a samantha, you'd have to put near the top of that list the fact that at any given time you could find yourself at a table full of pretty boys and girls, most of whom you could smooch if you felt like it. (And, if you're being a samantha, well, smooching is pretty much at the top of the list of your favorite things to do, so it's great that the option is there.) And while you're sitting at this table full of pretty folks who are making you laugh so hard you feel more intoxicated than you already are, because of the hilarity, you could learn that such a thing as pterodactyl porn exists. And then your life might pretty much be complete.

(Dear people who are turned on by pterodactyls, I'm sort of in love with you. Please don't ever call me, because I'm also kind of completely squicked out by you.)

If you were continuing said list, you could add to it the fact that after said post brunch discussion, a samantha could wander through a pretty spring afternoon towards her cozy apartment, pleasantly buzzed on beer and laughing, while her usually murderous portable music player only makes a couple of jabs at her soft spots. And when she got there, to said cozy apartment, she could return a phone call and have a nice conversation with a great ex whatever. (Dear my ex whatevers, thanks for being largely an excellent group of dudes.) And a samantha could carry on this conversation sitting on her balcony looking at the boats on the lake with a full evening of napping and reading and boat making ahead of her.

These are all good reasons to be a samantha, if you're thinking about trying it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I found the old man at the bus stop today when I got there, humming softly to himself. He patted my leg when I sat down, his standard greeting, and smiled weakly at me. His eyes looked cloudier than they ever have before, and I realized with a sudden tightening of my chest that left no room for breathing that someday my accidental prophet will simply be gone.

He stopped humming and asked, not looking at me, "Red, are you married?" I shook my head, and he turned and caught my gaze. "I was married for over fifty years. Can you imagine that? Lost her a couple of years ago. Meanest woman I've ever met." I smiled at him. "I don't believe that for a second." He scoffed. "Don't believe it? I'm too old to be making up stories, Red. A person can love anything if he wants to badly enough, and I loved that woman harder than I ever loved anything else. Didn't make her any less mean, or less perfect. World's funny that way."

My chest tightened again, eyes burning with sudden unshed tears. I do not deserve these kind of confidences, but I took his hand in mine, shocked as always by its softness. His other hand took hold of my chin and tilted it up to face him. "I'll be seeing her soon enough, but I want you to promise me you'll love someone that hard someday. It's what makes it all worthwhile." His eyes narrowed, catching sight of my tears, and he squeezed my hand. "Child, what's all this about?" I leaned sideways, resting my head on his shoulder. He smelled of old books and sweat, and I could feel the warmth of his shoulder through my hair. "I think that you are a very, very great man."

He squeezed my hand again, chuckled dustily. "Now girl, there's no need for all of that. No need at all."

We sat there silently save for his humming in the few minutes left before the bus pulled up, and as he stepped up through the doors he turned and winked. It was only then that I was able to breathe again.

(Old Man 1, Old Man 2, Old Man 3.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You know, things that are poisonous are also often brightly colored, as a warning or as a lure. Depending on if you're a risk-taking sort of species. I could be a poisonous sort of girlbutterfly, so when you find me and pin my wings to your foam display, try not to get any of my scales on your fingertips. That's how I get into your blood.

When the winds were right in the deserts of 1950's Nevada the government told people living in those little four-second towns to head out to their front yards and watch their skies bloom with radiation. They even wore little badges to measure the number of those cranky subatomic particles that floated on the breezes to settle into their skin. All those times that all those people rested the backs of their legs on the sun-warmed bumpers of their cars to watch their science kiss the atmosphere came back to haunt them, later. When their cells finally mustered up their own energy and revolted.

It's only that something happened when you looked at me with an eyebrow raised, and my bones filled with neon.

But I've only got this one hammer.
And a body only holds enough iron to make one nail. So there isn't a whole lot I could build for you, but I could tie together your wounds with yellow embroidery thread. If you wanted. There isn't any shame in a few stitches.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ok, so here's what we're going to do: we're going to give ourselves cowboy names. I'll be Stillwater Jim and you can be Fencepost Joe. Then we're going to sit around and trade back and forth that story about how we grew up best friends, but you became the sheriff and I became the outlaw. Or the other way around. Or both. And maybe about that one time we were herding in the badlands and we ran out of food and water, so we had to bleed the horses. Or cows. Or both. And then we found a horned skull in a gully and used it to dig for water, which is what really saved us.

Once or twice a year, we'll get in a shootout over who actually owns that skull, even though it's hanging above the bar in the only saloon in town.

Monday, April 23, 2007

On the jetway, we're listening to Bob Seger. Inside the plane it's the New Radicals. I wonder whatever happened to Gregg Alexander.

Mountains still confuse me a little, since where I grew up is practically concave, and Utah's crags and unforgiving facades are a little intimidating. I wonder who arrived here and though, man, this place is homey. Let's settle down. All of the buildings here are brown. Farther down the road, I find myself involved in a conversation with three men from Toronto about the pros and cons of visiting Arizona solely to stand on a corner in Winslow. I worry a little that I am turning into my mother, who has done that very thing.

I like how the billboards here tell you how long it'll take to get anywhere. "Moab's only 4 hours away!" Utah knows that you don't have anything better to do than drive.

If there were snow and I was so inclined (and knew how to ski), I could ski into and then back out of this hotel. This feels decadent, but also a little dangerous.

Utah seems to be full of the sort of people who won't notice at all if I watch them for just a little bit too long. I'm pretty sure that I spend much too much time alone, but the alternative is even worse. Samanthas come in particularly breakable types of glass, and you've already smashed so much when I wasn't looking.

I made a playlist for this trip of every song I could think of that had whistling in it. Whenever I get fits of lonelycolduntouchable I just walk around listening to people whistling in my ear and looking at all of the new scenery. It's turned out to be an excellent way of viewing this particular world.

Because I am the lamest girl in the entire universe, I've actually got altitude sickness, here at around 7,000 feet. If this is what being in the mountains is like, I think I will stay in the lowlands.

The obvious solution is to ignore the altitude sickness and go drinking in town. This place is empty in the off-season, but you have to become a 'member' to drink anywhere. Eventually I go back to the hotel and hang out in my giant jacuzzi tub reading a book about Seattle.

The people of Park City are ridiculously attractive, like a toothpaste commercial, all big bright smiles and shiny hair. I think it's because they're all skiers; all of that fresh air and exercise and little booze and irony. I'm sort of in love with them, and not just because I've been waking up on empty often lately. Everyone's so friendly, and I want to squeeze them. I don't think they'd mind.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ok, I should be getting ready to go to the airport, but I was just reading about the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search, a project trying to find the stuff that might be dark matter (weakly interacting massive particles) in the bottom of a mine shaft in Minnesota. What they've got is a great big icebox shielded with layers and layers of polyethylene and lead. Which is not the part that's got me all worked up.

See, lead generates its own radiation, and any atomic movement at all could interfere with gathering a WIMP signal, so the lead that they use? Is made out of a 2,000 year old Roman shipwreck, because the radioactive leftovers in ancient lead have had time to decay.

Ancient Roman lead is what's helping the physicists do modern particle science. Things just don't get any more perfect than that.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Yesterday, sitting at the dock downwind of a very nice but unfortunately fragrant homeless man, I realized that a lot of the imaginary conversations I have in my head with people are more like letters. More epistolary paragraphs than the regular taking turns of sitting across a table. I think,

Hey you,
I was just sitting here and that Neutral Milk Hotel album came on, and I thought of that time at the coffee shop where everyone was talking about Halloween costumes. They asked us what we were going to be, remember, and I looked at you and said, "A hyacinth girl" and you looked at me and said, "The king of carrot flowers" and everyone looked at both of us and said, "Oh, so you're going to be total fucking nerds, then." But we knew who had it right.
love, me

And I think back to myself that they're answering,

Hey you,
That was the day I had to sit on you until you promised not to get the phrase, "If you lived here you'd be home by now" tattooed along your collarbone. Because it was on a fencepost by those new apartments down at the beach. I have a skipping record sort of feeling sometimes these days, like I've listened to my own guitar solo so many times that the needle just can't get there again. I'm thinking of turning my fingers into paper birds.
love, me

Or I think to myself that I'm saying,

Hi, you,
The lyric "you kept me guessing and your distance" makes me think of you with a breath-losing kind of feeling, like that time in the first grade where I lost my handhold on the monkey bars and landed on my back. It's starting to be how I feel whenever I think about you. I'm short of breath a lot lately, and I can't decide if the feeling is better than nothing. Quitting you is like quitting smoking, and my lungs are so empty these days.
love, me

And in my head they say back,

Hi, you,
Didn't anyone ever tell you that if you keep looking at me with your Stubborn Face you're going to stick like that? I have Things to think of before it's time to think of you, so it's time you learned how to deal with it more and complain less. It's probably better for you if you don't always get what you want.
love, me

Or I'll have a conversation with a stranger that goes,

Hey there,
I like how, when you stop to see if I need another drink, you rest your thumb and forefinger on the bar. You do it each and every time, and I like to think it's some sort of signal. I have a little crush shaped like a cocktail glass on you. We must never speak.
love, me

And in my head the stranger answers,

Hey there,
Speaking would break everything. When I touch my thumb and forefinger to the bar, that how I say 'let's run away to Acapulco' and when you look at it and smile that's how you agree. It's our secret.
love, me

It's not what it looks like in my head all the time, mind, but I think that when I'm having pretend conversations a significant portion of them go like this. Perhaps it's no surprise that I correspond so much, since that seems to be how I think.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Seattle, I am watching you, and you are so, so funny. You're doing a lot of dancing when no one's looking, sure--and sometimes when maybe they are, too--but you're also falling in love for 45 seconds with passersby and smiling at strangers and humming a little song while tying your shoes and making little rocket noises walking down the streets. You're just generally having a pretty good time, it seems.

I love it when you get like this, like a thirteen year old girl that's just had her braces off and can't stop sparkling. It makes me want to carve you lucky three leaf clovers out of flower buds and sit with you on the front steps of somewhere, eating beef jerky and listening to all of your stories. I'm not always there with you, yet (it still often feels like I'm living in a Lucksmiths song, and I'll give you a dollar if you can guess which one), but I will be.

(PS, I am branching out. Want a postcard from Utah? Email me an address.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Caroline and I played hooky today so we could skip town and head out to Mount Vernon to see the tulips. While we were there, we stopped at a cidery and talked to the cider man, who was in the middle of bottling a new batch, and drank some of the fresh from the barrel cider. (Which I bought. Come over and drink cider!) We wandered through the blooms and took pictures and had lunch and got a little lost and thought seriously about buying a great big truck and tried on clothes and talked about boys and family and jobs and friends and boys. During the week is the best time to go to the tulip festival because there aren't so many people there, so when you're quiet you can hear the bees buzzing inside the flowers. When it's very still, the whole field vibrates. It was amazing.

Friends who will drive off with you in the middle of the week to go look at flowers are great friends to have. I really needed this little trip.

Other things:

One of the greatest parts of being a girl is wearing skirts shorter than your jacket. It's like a secret. (Boys can do this too, it's just a different type of secret.)
I am going to make a mixtape entitled Songs to Build a Ship To. It will include ample dance breaks, which are an essential part of making boats.
My neighbors are all either having major breakups or doing performance art. Anyway, there's a lot of shouting in my building lately.
Everywhere I go lately I've been seeing dead birds. This concerns me since, as we all know, dead birds mean that the mine shaft has been compromised.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Alright, the next couple of seasons are here in enough force to have given me a sunburn through my wool sweater, sitting on the patio at Linda's with Josh and Joe post-brunch today. (And to have possibly given Josh heatstroke.)

If y'all need some sunscreen from here on out, it's probably in my purse, right next to the eyepatch and 3-D glasses. Let's not come down with any preventable cancers, kids.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On the morning of the day that they became strangers, she had left him a note taped to the bathroom mirror. It said, "Hello you. If you don't have any other plans today, I taped that show about people that have been picked up by tornadoes and put back down somewhere else. Please don't move the bag of apples and the plastic army men off of the turntable--I have plans for them later. That unicorn in the living room is friendly; it just wanted to come in out of the rain. Please drink some milk, because I am worried about your bones, and I will see you for dinner tonight. Heart, me."

As she walked down the stairs she accidentally kicked herself in the ankle, leaving a little divot in the soft flesh right above the bone. And then at dinner something disconnected behind his eyes and what had been suddenly wasn't anymore.

It's the memory of that last note that thrums all of the nerves that make her skin cringe. She remembers deliberately getting lost in the woods behind her house as a child, picking her way across the roots of trees and turning the other way at every path until she was well and truly disconnected from her bearings. Only it turned out that lost wasn't where she wanted to be and when they found her cradled at the bottom of an oak the next day she looked up at them sheepishly and burst into tears. The thought of that last note makes her feel foolish in that same swollen eight-years-old way.

A break in the traffic brings a quiet that settles over her like dust on a wallowing sparrow. With a lack of other options she sits as still as she can, hoping that the stillness will seep through to her bones.

(Relatedly: a boy and a girl, a boy.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

I have perhaps been spending a little too much time sitting on the dock in the coldly falling mist, looking for the moment when everything softens in the rain. A little too much time completely believing everything everyone tells me, just for fun; too much time thinking about fingerprints and freckles. Too much time doing everything because I can't quite figure out what I actually want to be doing.

I am in a rut, I think. On the other side of that, however, is the fact that the first song my usually homicidal portable music device played this morning was "Yellow Taxi" by Tra la la and it was so exactly perfect that I'm not sure I'll ever need to listen to any other song ever again. And I spent a relatively significant portion of last night thumb wrestling. So there's that, too.

Utah, I am coming to your house in just over a week. Let's become Mormons and get married and wear funny underpants and learn to ski.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Conversations in my head and out of it work pretty much the same, most times. I pause, not for effect, but because I know that if you could finish my sentence you would, and when you don't it causes everything to come crashing down for a moment. Makes my ears ring. It works the same way when you do, too, but the ringing is sweeter, not quite so rusty.

Life should be a series of "wait, don't go" moments, but it mostly isn't.

I've got holes in largely inarticulable spots, frankly empty places, everything nibbled by moths in other layers than these ones here. Like how we knew the atom was the smallest thing ever until we broke it open and all of these other smaller bits spilled out. Inside my chest it feels a little like hyperventilating, lately, like not filling out my skin because I keep leaking out through those holes, like the 'drink me' label on the bottle that would make me bigger is written in Linear A and I've never even been to Crete. Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily, because what is is just fine, even when I'm distracted by and fascinated with what is not. And just like Brandon said, there is too such a thing as a long cut, and a reason for it. I could get to where you're going eventually. If I wanted to.

It's just that I'm pretty sure that everything is either funny or sad and, assuming I can't have it both ways, would rather stop to consider the sad and live and live and live the funny, knowing full well that often enough there's no difference between the two anyway and that's what makes the whole operation so entirely beautiful. And life and I are in love like Bonnie and Clyde, and we'll probably go down in a hail of metaphorical bullets, but not without taking you with us first. If we want to.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My spring weekend was a total rock and roll weekend--dancing, drinking, bar banter, squirrels, a man dance, brunch, champagne, frantic crazy talk, a cupcake that coaxed my stitches out, running into so many people I haven't seen in a long time, streakers, arm wrestling, thumb wrestling, a couple rounds of the mouth replacement trick, a newly-developed fascination with the backs of stop signs, a leisurely walk around my neighborhood, a lot of whiskey, discussion of quantum relationship mechanics ("Why are you single? You have a really nice ass!" "I know, but this is happening [explanation]..." "Oh, and that ass doesn't cancel that out?" "Guess not." "Huh."), laughing and laughing and laughing, reading and daydreaming at the micro park, and a narrow escape from a goose bent on stealing my soul.

I don't need to have adventures, really, since I sort of am an adventure. And you are all a bunch of pretty, pretty easter baskets.

In my head, the whole thing was scored by the All Girl Summer Fun Band. It would have made for a tolerable scene in a low budget teen movie, probably, if we'd had some people rolling down hills or playing with a beach ball or something. And less whiskey. And now it is time for coaches to turn back into pumpkins and for samanthas to not talk to anyone for about two days in order to recover. Having a great time, wish you were here.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Hi there. If you need me, I intend to be completely giving into this first round of spring fever while the sunshine lasts: wearing skirts, drinking, skipping, talking to squirrels, trying to eat without biting my stitches, kissing pretty boys and girls, chatting with old men, and in all other ways behaving in a charmingly undefinable and largely irresponsible manner. There could be some dirty jokes and a handful of ass shaking thrown in there too. It will be excellent.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Today I had an appointment with a facial surgeon to remove a lump of scar tissue from the inside of my bottom lip. It was a gift from my ex stepfather, who never learned that violence wasn't the answer, and it's been there for half my life. Over the years it has grown its own blood vessels, become as much a part of my face as my nose.

For a long time I thought catharsis was the answer, that the only way to get better was to tell all of my stories. I felt like I had to explain the gauntlet in order to be sure that I had made it through to the other side alive. But most of those stories I've never figured out how to articulate; I spent so many years lying and hiding in an attempt to keep my family, however messy, together, that I've never really figured out the words. I dug a hole in the corner of my brain and buried it all there. It was the only way to make it through.

But as I get farther away from it all, telling doesn't really matter so much. I don't think I need to get all of the pieces out to get better; I think that doctors sometimes leave bullets and shards of glass in their patients because they can heal around them. I have fought hard to be who and where I am today, fought against the trailer park and the drugs and the hitting and the terror and the abandonment and betrayal by the people who by all rights should have been on my side. Fought through circumstances that ruined many of my friends, fought to get to be this girl all the time. To never have to hide again.

Today the man numbed my mouth and took a scalpel to the last obvious remnant of that past, and with a bright gush of blood and a couple of stitches it was gone.

Life doesn't really come down on the side of girls like me; it never gets to be easy. But the anger gets harder to hold on to, especially as I realize that I don't really want to hold on to it. Every day I feel less and less like I need to talk my way to better. I think it's because I'm starting to believe that I am better already. That I'm doing just fine.

Monday, April 02, 2007

He could say that he had misinterpreted the situation.

It was only that something broke when he realized that she really meant it each time she said "Bless you" when he sneezed--that she really was worried that his heart might stop. And though he reviewed each moment, adding new weight to every memory until it became too heavy to carry, he never did manage to build a house out of those thoughts. Which was too bad, really, because what had actually happened would have shone like mica in the grey of everything he had built up around it, and he could have made a little hut visible from space. But something broke, is all, and he just couldn't decide if it was good or bad, or if he even cared to fix it. Sometimes broken was just as poetic as whole.

There was a spot along the road that he drove past most days where once he had pulled over and tried to save an unlucky dog. It was the only time he could honestly say that he had spontaneously tried to help any sort of creature in trouble, and it had gone badly. He knew that he had seen the thing twitch as he motored swiftly past, and wracked with the conviction that he couldn't just keep going this time he pulled over. The dog's lack of a visible injury heartened him, for a moment, so that he foolishly believed that it was just napping there on the side of the road; that it was whining softly in happiness rather than pain and fear. He gathered it up into the crook of his elbows and stood in the sun trying to remember where the nearest vet was when the thing suddenly stiffened and died. He nearly dropped it, revolted to find himself cuddling a corpse, but instead carried it off the shoulder of the road and into the dirt a little ways away. Anger flared along his cheekbones as he realized that there was no blood on his hands to prove the encounter, that not one spot remained on his shirt to validate his momentary kindness.

Driving down that stretch of road, he squinted his eyes against the sun and found himself suddenly homesick for the hollow of her throat.