Friday, July 31, 2009

At the beginning of "The Crack-Up," Fitzgerald talks about how it's always the blows from outside that we remember and blame for our holes, when really it's the blows from inside, the tiny bad decisions and the wrong turns hitting with their soft fists, that do the most damage. The blows that, when we stop to notice them, are really the reasons we're all riddled with cracks.

When we finally paused and noticed all of those little breezes blowing through our skin we cast about, hurriedly trying to fill them in with whatever was at hand. Blue skies and green grass and ice cream, bourbon and high fives and jokes that weren't even all that funny. Fresh asparagus and running fast, slivers of stained glass and sheets of wax paper. All of that just served as wedges, shrill crowbars, pulling us more and more apart until you could see through us from space. Just riddled with holes, all of our goodness leaking out over the sidewalk, mingling in the drains to feed the fish. The only options left were to shatter or to cut new skins out of new cloth.

Those were bright smiles, though, then, bright smiles and brilliant laughter.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Franz Reichelt was a tailor who invented an overcoat parachute. No one seems to know if he tested it alone before he brought it to the public, hopping off of fences and rooftops to drift slowly down and land with a satisfied thump on his own two feet. What we do know is that one day he jumped off the Eiffel Tower, confident in the integrity of his garment, and plummeted 60 meters to leave a measurable dent in the turf at the bottom. The whole thing was caught on video, the seconds of falling and the dust cloud raised by that final thump, and just before he jumps you can see him hesitating, looking at the ground, wondering if leaping was in fact the best idea.

And then he jumped anyway.

I think that we'll soon enough run out of ground to bury ourselves under, that we're going to get wider and wider and not like the thought of the dead laying under our feet. And then we'll only have space and water left. In the deepening shadows of most early evenings I want to settle my eyes in the half-moon shadows under you cheekbones and ask for your preference but I can't quite manage. I'm not yet sure exactly why.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I got lost in Siena last year, which isn't notable in itself because I got lost everywhere in Italy, constantly, every time I raised my eyes from my map. In Siena I got tired of walking along what I thought was the bus route and carelessly entered the first bus that stopped, figuring that the town wasn't big enough to get too badly lost. Because a thing I never quite manage is learning from my mistakes.

The bus trundled through part of the town and past what turned out to be the bus stop, but I thought that there would be a later stop and stayed seated while everyone else left. And then the bus, empty except for me, picked up speed again and careened through a network of empty dirt roads and past tumbled-down houses. A painted wooden sign advertised fresh milk at the end of the lane, but across the whole landscape the only things moving were my bus and the cloud shadows. No cows or sheep, or people, or birds. The breeze paused and I knew that just past the windows the world had gone completely silent. Had I been able to cobble together enough Italian to say "please stop the bus and let me out" I might have stayed there forever. Those hills have room for even a girl with hurricanes for hands.

But instead I stayed on the bus, which punctured a tire and limped slowly back into town. I knew where to exit this time, and did, ready to climb to the very top of the museum and lean far out into the wind. Later that night, walking across damp cobblestones with my pink umbrella, a serenade from a bunch of old tweedy men following me down the streets, the part of me that had stuck longing for the land outside thumped back in where it belonged. But it brought back with it a little of that quiet, a little of that startling beauty.

It was in Siena that I finally believed that what was broken could some day be fixed, if I could only manage to get lost in the right places.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The weather this week is promising to be the sort of thing that I fled to the Pacific Northwest to get away from, and man do I hate it when people complain about the weather but I hate being purposelessly hot and sweaty even more. In any case, I mostly intend to be very, very grumpy and disheveled and dehydrated until the sky stops being insane.

I prefer my heat metaphorical and emotional, not actual. There's no chance for movement when all I can manage is laying in front of the fan, picking at the carpet and collecting debris.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Most of the time I walk too slowly, spend too much time looking up and sometimes around. There's always so much that I want to cram in to my eyes. This sounds like it would be an endearing quality, but you find yourself frequently exasperated, wishing that I would match my pace to yours instead of to everything else. I won't, although sometimes I might pretend to, risking skinned knees in an effort to both walk faster and stare hard all around. That frustration is always a sign. Not the biggest, or the worst, but still a sign.

And so I don't go hiking, because I can't understand the need to walk past so much just to look at the end, not when along the way is all full of new things. Because I have never yet met a hiking partner who will explain to me exactly why the destination looms larger than the stroll. I always think of that old Life photo of Nabokov and Vera, elderly, in the woods with their twin butterfly nets. Two synesthetes capturing something beautiful and pinning down the world, together.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I got sick again, after a beautiful day on an island drinking what turned out to be way too much, so I've spent the last week or so buried under another mountain of headcold, grumpy and drowning in phlegm. I've been sick for a significant portion of the year so far, in one way or another, and it's starting to take a toll. I'm getting paranoid. Next thing you know, I'll start taking vitamins or something.

Last night I was on the balcony of an apartment I shouldn't have been at when I leaned over to light a cigarette I shouldn't have been smoking and burned off half of the eyelashes on my left eye. Which should teach me some sort of lesson about both strange boys and smoking.

Friday, July 17, 2009

When I was younger I had a pogo stick, a birthday present, probably, or maybe Christmas. It was red and shiny, and I never was big enough to make it pogo. That certainly never stopped me from trying, of course, so for months I spent hours, bare feet black from the pavement, hopping on to the pedals of my pogo stick and immediately careening face first toward the ground. I lost more toenails during my fight with that pogo stick than ever again since in my extremely clumsy life.

The pogo stick was eventually abandoned in the shed for more amiable pursuits: hanging lizards from my earlobes, and reading in the jacaranda tree, and sticking purple wild petunia flowers in my hair. I found it a few years later, rusted through with holes, the mechanism all oxidized and so even more difficult to budge. I remember looking at it, unsure of what it even was, before I recalled all those steaming afternoons and tossed it casually back in the box I was rooting through.

The truth is, if it had been a book about pogo sticks, I would probably still have it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For a while I kept a list of the things you left on my doorstep. A compass and a kitten and three headless birds, a book about fish, a cracked watch, two candy canes, a treasure map of Atlantis, and an old copy of Newsweek. I was looking for patterns, I guess, like watching snow on an old motel television screen and waiting for shapes to form. Better to try and find constellations in my own freckles than meaning between the fingers of someone else.

And then I considered, for a time, the weight of my self inside the eyes of everyone else, lingering inside of a vitreous humor and swirling darkly at the close of an eyelid. So I made a list of rings and ripples, of velocity and weight and echoes and dresses, of how much light is reflected by a smile versus a frown. Realizing even then that our influence is only real if someone else realizes that it's there.

I've been thinking about the ice in Greenland, and how there turned out to be all these tunnels underneath that are helping the melting ice slide further and faster into the sea, all of these empty places we didn't even know about undermining a structure already under attack from all the other sides. We can make videos of that, but we can't stop it from happening.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Philip II of Macedon ruled from 382-336 BC, and during that time some folks in a land called Phocis made all of their neighbors mad by farming the sacred field of Delphi. Feeling sure that they couldn't survive for long, all of the Phocensians decided to build a pile and die together in one giant human sacrifice. Just before the men joined the women and children on the pyre they mounted one final attack on their enemies, and won. Which is why Phocensian Despair is the sort of victory where the victor snatches it from the jaws of defeat. Which is probably the reason that no one ever hears of it.

Yesterday I sat at the bar alone, reading an article for class, woozy and sleepy from another impending head cold and feeling the same color as the gray drizzly sky. Someone paused next to me, a girl with flowers in her hair, who smiled and offered me the bouquet of daisies and snapdragons in her hand.
And that's all, really. Just a friendly stranger on a quiet evening, brightening things up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I am slowly moving into a rhythm with school, figuring out how to work time for reading into my already busy schedule. I've got a routine down that involves going to the coffee shop for the first round of reading and then to the bar for the second, because getting within three feet of my couch means naptime. Mostly, I just have to keep reminding myself that the time I am spending studying I would otherwise generally be spending wasting time in my apartment, so it's actually not using up a whole lot of valuable minutes.

This will all change once I am taking two classes instead of just one, I guarantee.

When I was an undergrad I was working nearly full time as well, in a physically demanding retail job, and on top of my more than full time schedule of classes holding up a long distance relationship. (And staying up until 3 watching my friends play the guitar and light things on fire, because college.) I was a lot less exhausted then than I am now, which is really just a long-winded way of saying, oh, aging.

Mostly it's just nice to feel engaged with something again, to be using the thinking parts of my brain instead of the feeling ones. I'm exhausted, but pretty happy. We're writing some stories to base our movie off of, parts of which I might post here, and I'm also going to maybe make a book with a drawing sort of friend of all the things I imagine against my will. Finally, life is starting to move again at the speed I have been waiting for.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I have been thinking about taste memories.

On Thursday night I was having a bbq in a suburb with the family of one of my good friends. The yard was filled with laughing kids and parents and siblings and friends, a haze of hamburger-scented smoke drifted over all of us, and it was still warm enough to not need a sweater over my dress. I stopped moving for a moment and watched, happy, and just then someone handed me a slice of homemade antelope sausage. The rich taste of antelope will be forever connected to that friendly bbq.

Saturday morning I woke up after only a few hours of sleep, mouth lined with cigarettes and whiskey and being awake too late talking, all of which tasted exactly like falling in love during the summer of 2001.

This morning, thanks to an unfortunate number of rituals falling through, I drank the instant coffee I have stashed in my desk. It tasted like China, like waking up in the hotel in Suzhou after days and days of being wiped out by heat and smog and fighting and walking and bad food and feeling homesick and convinced that the whole trip was a terrible idea.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Have I told you that I'm writing a movie? An old friend who's a film maker asked me to write a movie with him, some goofy mumblecore something based on a few things I've written here. Hilariously, it has sort of turned into a horror movie, which is definitely something I know less about than most things, since I've never seen a horror movie all the way through. Of course, I've also never written a movie before, either. This is probably going to be a terrific fiasco.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

When I knew him he was surefooted and lean, confident that the ground would always be there to meet the bottoms of his feet. He remembered people, considered them, stored up their details in the lines of his skin to be pulled out and repeated back, unexpectedly. Just so you knew he was listening.

I remember one night, not too long before the end but prior to when everything got all broken and bad and medical, sitting on an empty lifeguard stand, drinking something warm and sweet, shoulders heavy with youth. I think he knew what was coming, and regretted it, that one misstep years before that would cost him all the rest. I knew only that the world hung too heavy on all of us, that we were being handed visions and secrets that we were unprepared for and would never really recover from. We sat there silent and watched the sun melt on to the horizon, kicking up a breeze and washing the water gold, looking suddenly hazy and tired and more like a winter sun than a summer one.

I left his ashes on the Arno last year, but sometimes even now through a break in a crowd I'll catch a glimpse of a tall strong back, a flash of a confident smile, and remember.