Shattered Record

Fall 1975: Suicide Failure

I couldn’t even kill myself right.

During a summer spent in a fantasy world called theatre camp, I freed the wild, wanton, and want-able boy I’d kept locked inside me. When it was time to return to the torture chamber reality of my small-town junior high school, I knew to survive it I’d have to lock away all the qualities I’d liberated: no more fabulous, shockingly bold homo behavior, no more sex, no more 1930s black and white film, gesticulatory smoking, no more endless cups of coffee all day long, doping and drinking at night, no more of the experimenting with who I could be that had made me celebrity-popular and scandalous in my summer theatre camp world. It was over, and the rigid roles a male was allowed to play were few in Walkersville, Maryland, where I was miscast in every one except target. Not only was I in mourning for the summer me, I was terrified he would leak out and mark me for even worse abuse than the locker slamming and toilet dunking and name calling to which I had regularly been subjected.

This loss of me, this self-hatred of me, this fear of me and for me caused me to descend into what I now recognize as the first episode in what has turned out to be a lifelong journey of dysthymic despairing.

I had a visit this week with a friend who also experiences depressions, and we wondered about the points in our lives where we might have up-ended these patterns we’ve been told have permanently cemented their holds on us, chemically altering our brain functions. How, we wondered, did we come to this?

I was — by all reports — a wonderfully happy, positive child. My mother often shares that of the six children she carried to term, I was the easiest pregnancy and delivery. I was a delightful infant, easy to get to bed (Boy, oh boy, has that ever caused me some trouble, and then some!), slept through the night very young (Man, oh man, and stopped sleeping through the night very young, too), practically potty trained myself, read before I went to school, sang like an angel, and legend has it, stopped crying the day my father died.

Of course I remember none of this and am positive some (much, likely) is the sort of exaggeration and wishful thinking indulged in by those same people who with all good intentions created the fiction my father was a saint. He was no saint. I was no angel. And it seems impossible I ever stopped crying.

But I do remember being happy.

Prior to starting first grade, my world was rural nirvana back a country road, no other houses visible, there with my widowed mom, four sisters who made me feel the fifth of them rather than the second of my one brother who was either absent or locked in his room with his cigarettes, Playboys, and guitar. This was a closed, controlled world inside the boundaries of which I was cherished, encouraged, and allowed. On Sundays, we’d head into Libertytown where we visited St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, after which we’d head to the house of Pop-Pop, Mom-Mom, and Sissie, the parents and sister of my dead father, another disappeared man, like Jesus, about whom I was fed much gospel I later discovered to be as mythological as the legend of my father. The family home — also, confusingly,  called Libertytown — was full of un-used rooms where treasure and imagination, along with Pop-Pop’s stubborn determination not to spend one penny more than he absolutely had to and Sissie’s determination to make a home for all the family, were part of the structure holding the decrepit, already hundred-year-old stone manse together.

It was never meant to be a home. It had been built as an academy in which were schooled wayward boys. When my grandfather bought it, 1917, it was already a hundred years old and the plan was to tear it down and use the stones from which it was built to construct a new home, further back on the acreage. Pop-Pop was Pop-Pop before he became Pop-Pop and decided it was foolish to spend money tearing down a perfectly good building just because someone thought it might soon collapse into the ground. He was right. It’s still standing today although the foundation is now sinking to such a degree that the imminent collapse about which they warned him in 1918 is now visible, the stone structure leaning in on itself. I can barely stand to drive by and see it now, the decrepitude into which it has fallen breaks my heart. It looks, too, untended, uncared for, unloved, and while Pop-Pop (and the rest of us, after he died) might never have invested the money and effort into it we should have, we filled it with love, our passionate, unquestioned devotion to one another wrapping its walls then like weedy ivory and scaffolding surround it now.

It was in the rooms of Libertytown where I had practiced the personalities I would let loose at theatre camp. Sissie had been my father’s most ardent supporter, investing in him an unconditional love and belief, seeing only the Light and Love and the pure soul of him. No matter how inexcusable his behavior in real life, no matter the extent of his drinking, the cruelty to his family, Sissie saw only Saint Joe, who she believed he would be if the world had not been so cruel to him. When he died, she transferred that same belief and devotion to me.

Sissie sent me to theatre camp. In every way. Those weekends I spent with her in Libertytown, wandering among the pieces of lives family members had left behind. We only used six of the seventeen rooms, those neglected others were where all the branches of the family stored their pasts, stacks of books, piles of furniture, wardrobes and trunks full of clothes, all treasures which became sets, props, and costumes for the elaborate worlds I made there. Worlds real to me, to which I retreated with increasing frequency once I was forced outside the safe borders of family into the harsh reality of school and society at large.

I had always tacitly understood that my character play — in particular when I became Dolly or Mame or Carrie Pipperidge — was to be hidden from the disapproval of Pop-Pop and the uncles and my brother because they were those mysterious and slightly defective, less evolved creatures one tolerated but largely ignored: Men. It was a surprise to me when elementary school/real world sensibility turned out to be dictated largely by those same, awful creatures and their inability to imagine, to dress up, to sing, to be kind and warm and cry and hug and love.

The first time I spoke my anguish was late at night, an earlier summer when I told my sister, Peggy, how afraid I was to begin third grade. She was the first person I trusted with my shame. Yes, shame, because somehow, even at seven, I had gotten the message that the problem was mine, me, who I was. I can recall the heat of embarrassment as I wept to her how other kids didn’t like me, the names they called me, the awful tricks played on me behind the backs of the teachers and how I was more hated when I’d told on them, the teachers, too, telling me not to tattle so much. Poor Peggy, though in my memory she is grown, she must only have been fourteen at the time, and had many problems of her own with which she was unequipped to cope. Still, I remember the hurt, the hopelessness born in me when she said, “Well stop acting so much like a girl. You have to be a boy.”

You have to be a boy. In one or another incarnation, that, “You have to be a boy” and its variations, “Stop acting like a girl,” and “Do you have to be so [fill in the blank meaning not male enough or too female]”, was said to me, barked at me, jeered at me from my earliest recall.

But, this “boy” I was supposed to be? I didn’t know how. It wasn’t just that I loved sitting next to, cuddling with, holding hands with my Mom and sisters. It wasn’t just that I loved musicals and hated sports. It wasn’t just that I loved pretending a bath towel was long, luxurious blonde hair. It wasn’t just that I wanted to be Dolly Levi, Mame, and Fanny Brice — really, really wanted to be Fanny Brice! It wasn’t just that I wanted to wear striped pants and shoes with heels. It wasn’t just that I was the best at jump rope and hop scotch. It wasn’t just that I was the smartest in the class and loved reading and studying and learning. It wasn’t just that I’d been caught reading Nancy Drew. It wasn’t just that I’d saved up quarters and sent off in the mail for an Adonis Book from Tiger Beat with shirtless pics of male teen singers and actors. It wasn’t just any one of those apparently damning details, but all of them combined with somehow the way I walked and talked belonging to a girl and not a boy.

What was wrong with me was what made me Charlie.

I didn’t have an option. I couldn’t successfully pretend to be “a boy” like they wanted me to be — and I tried. I really tried. But no matter what I did, I radiated whatever it was that invited the names and the hate and the ostracizing and the shame. My shame: I was this, whatever it was, that everyone saw and no one wanted me to be.

Imagine then, the miracle of theatre camp where, at long last, all the things I could not hide were valued. I was a personality. I could sing. I could act (sort of). I was marked as one who had gifts. I spent those weeks filled with such joy, busy in discovering all the many possibilities of the me’s for which I’d been beaten down and derided. I was part of THE popular crowd. Everyone wanted to be invited into the group of which I was one of the leaders, the deciders. We spent our nights frolicking, debauching, indulging in sybaritic excess and carousing experimentation to a soundtrack of Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and our goddess, our heroine, our idol, Patti Smith.

It was heaven. I was good at it. I starred in shows and scenes during the days and I was the show and made scenes during the nights. It was my introduction to the intemperate, licentious glories of the arts world and the gay world, and the fourteen year old Charlie was as happy as he’d been since he’d been forced out of his safe family-home circle into a world where he hadn’t ever again felt safe. In theatre, I was home again. Safe again. I had sex with every male in the workshop and one drunken night with five members of the basketball team with whom we two male theatre borders were sharing a quad.

Then, I went back to Walkersville.

Returning to an environment where I was a pariah, to a school where a group of popular jock boys who called themselves The Board of Directors put out the word that anyone who talked to me would be blackballed (in the next two years I would have secret-sex with three of those Board of Directors, by the way, which shows you how little dignity or self-respect I had), to a drama program where I was considered troublesome rather than talented, to a school I hated so much I would smoke openly in the bathroom so as to be suspended but, instead, knowing I wanted to be kicked out, the administration told the teachers to pretend not to see me, to a stepfather who hated what I was, who I was, to that world I returned. I tried to make it. I tried to hold on, dreaming I had only a few years left before college where I could again be that miracle of a Charlie I had been all summer.

I tried. Then, I was cast in the high school show. It was Harvey. And I was not Elwood P. Dowd, at which I might have had a fighting chance being decent. Rather, I was cast as the romantic male, Dr. Sanderson, at which I could do nothing but fail miserably. Still, I imagined I could bond with others who wanted to do theatre. These should be my people. I brought my copy of Patti Smith’s iconic album, Horses, and shared it backstage.

It was the day after the show closed when I went backstage to pack up my stuff. I picked up Horses and the album fell in shards from the sleeve, on which had been written, “Fags get shattered.”

I couldn’t tell anyone. I never told anyone. Because, just like the teachers told me not to tattle, just like Peggy told me to stop acting like a girl, just like even Sissie had made it clear I should hide my playacting from the male relatives, whatever had been done to my Patti Smith album was my fault for being me.

The next day, I skipped school. I got into my mother’s Valium. I took them all.

And it wasn’t enough. Not even close. I had failed at that as well. I was found out. Taken to a doctor. He asked a few questions and I claimed not to know why I had done it. He suggested I not do it again. My drama teacher told me I should try harder to fit in. My mom asked me what I wanted and I said the latest Barbra Streisand album which she bought me and said she knew I smoked and maybe I should stop and please don’t do this again.

I didn’t. I also didn’t finish school. I quit as soon as I could. I wandered. Like I had done with the detritus of other lives left behind in Libertytown, I made a life of the junk I found and lucked into along my way — much of which path was dictated by my need to run, always in search of a safe place, a home.

I never really found one. I have been running and trying to alter myself to make others happy for my entire life.

I try to embrace not fitting in. I try to remind myself that the system is rigged, the measurements bogus bullshit, the game afoot.

When might I have made choices, changes to become again that happy Charlie I was before I went out into the world? How might I have fixed this dysthymic pattern? How many times do I (and all the other me’s out there, I know this is hardly a unique experience) have to find my shattered record with its threatening note? Every time I think I have become strong enough to bear it, every time I think the world is changing, someone like the current Republican front-runner comes along and gives legitimacy to the spewers of hate. Again.

It makes me tired. It makes me feel unsafe. It makes me want to run.  Instead, I am giving away all my records. I am keeping nothing of value for them to destroy. I am letting go of as much baggage as I can. I am trying to make my home a safe place in my heart, not dependent on any things or any ones — but sometimes, dear ones, like this long weekend alone, contemplating what next to do with my life as I am once more up-ended, the temptation to connect a hose to the tailpipe and breathe in the exhaust becomes almost an erotic longing.

I’m giving things away, my darlings. What is it that you want as souvenir?

 

WIP: Sepia Fallows, Chapter 2

Okay dears, here is a Chapter 2-ish of one of my WIP, “SEPIA FALLOWS” — for which Chapter 1 was published HERE on May 2Enjoy, or don’t. Sharing because I have promised myself I will KEEP WRITING, and this makes me somewhat accountable. Love to all, happy holiday weekend.

 

SEPIA FALLOWS: Chapter 2: HUGHES

Hughes was unsurprised CW denied having gotten any glimmer from the forsythia.

After all, CW’s default setting was rejection, a much practiced, icy brush-off, the withering, dismissive repudiation of one who’d been too often dismissed or disappointed by others. Hughes recognized this as a cry for love.

Which only irritated CW more.

The Universe had assigned Hughes tougher cases than CW, who had come along nicely in the seven months since he’d arrived, clueless as to what he’d needed. He’d spent his first month at Sepia Fallows locked away in the Algonquin Suite, emerging only for the occasional meal, claiming to be busily editing the seven-hundred-page novel, queries for which he claimed had been ignored by hundreds of agents. Hughes knew this to be untrue. He also knew that while CW did daily open the novel on his laptop, rather than edit, he spent most of the day on Twitter, stalking authors, agents, editors, and publishers, wishing he was a part of that world and yet rarely engaging them in conversation. Hughes knew bringing CW back into the real world from the broken, walled off place inside himself to which he’d retreated would require patience; CW needed time to find peace, to believe again in purpose, to recover from what he called “the last fall.”

Hughes had lived in just such a place himself after Manny had passed.

Passed. No. Not passed. Died. Died a long, tortured, horrifyingly ugly, bloody, piss and shit stained death. One of many. Near the end of that particularly unhappy parade. Which had not made it any easier. By then, Hughes had been so long mourning and grieving, suffering the seemingly endless dirge of keening lamentations that had begun at 4:15a.m. on Saturday, August 15, 1981 when Larry called from Bellevue to tell them Bennett had died. Bennett, 20, fifteen years younger and twenty times more talented than Hughes and already with three Broadway credits to Hughes one-sort-of-Off-Off-Broadway showcase thing. Bennett, refugee from Childersville, population three thousand and change (though, no, never change, terrified of change) in one or another of those southern states where boys like Bennett were hung scarecrow-akimbo on fences, castrated, and declared by the jackbooted good’ol’boy deputies as having somehow drunken-driven themselves into their own crucifixions, bloodying, beating, and brain-bashing themselves in the process; southern magic tricks. Strange Fruit, as Billie had long ago called it. That’s the sort of miracle boys like Bennett got turned into in Childersville; a warning to all the other queers and niggers, or, double-death, like Bennett, queer and nigger both.

Oh Bennett, sweet, sweetly-tenored Bennett of the perfect ass and turnout, who’d escaped to Manhattan, where boys like him spent their magic dancing in the choruses of Broadway musicals and fucking in the back of parked trucks in the Meatpacking district on the way to and from the red entrance door of the Mineshaft. Bennett, who died first among them, his once elaborately celebrated, admired, and envied promiscuity giving them all – those lesser mortals who had not had the good sense to be born as beautiful as Jeff Aquilon nor as unafraid as John Rechy to find love in the kindness of strangers – reason to hope, reason, at last, to be grateful they had not tricked quite as successfully as they’d wished, and perhaps, what had once seemed a burden, a curse – the extra weight, the bad teeth, the small dick, the hairy back – perhaps, such things had saved them.

Of course, that would not turn out be true.

As with all those who are saved, who survive, there is ultimately no reason, no logic. Some of the best were taken and some left behind. As, of course, were some of the worst. But even the most repugnant among the dead were keened after; even the most unlovable deserved and required elegies.

One wanted to become benumbed to it all, the long, long years of requiem, plaint, dirge, but each death was fresh. Surprising. How could this be happening? Why was no one fixing it? Doing anything? Saying anything?

Soon enough, for Hughes and others, sorrow had given way to fury and a rage which kept the living going. Being angry distracted one from feeling survivor guilt and terror; terror not just of the disease but of the thoughts; “Thank god it wasn’t me.” And “What if I’m next?” And, even worse, “I wish it had been me.”

Hughes knew he would always remember the exact date and time of the first call, would be unable to stop hearing Larry’s monotone delivery of the three simple words that had forever changed the world, “Bennett is dead.”

But the rest of the story, its details faded. Hughes, early on, stopped counting, or, rather, never started. He tried fighting his sorrow by channeling his rage into near apoplectic marching and exasperated documentation, marshalled into a manic wartime bunkering down and battling, keeping records so as to be ready to testify and stand up to power, insist on being heard, refuse – this time – to be left out of history, footnoted, erased. But, in time, Hughes realized what he wanted most was to remember none of it. As six years passed and still people were dying, Hughes worked toward a Gaussian blur, an image without those edges that cut and bled and caused the weeping.

Once testing had become available and after he and Manny had navigated through Hughes equivocation of “What possible difference can it make now?” and Manny’s suspicion of “Despite promises of anonymity, doesn’t it seem likely test results are being logged so all the positive fags can be gulag’d?” – both of which stands infuriated the other – Manny and Hughes had tested negative. Twice. Drugs and treatments slowly appeared, slowly improved, but only very slowly, ridiculously so, and only thanks to Larry Kramer and ACT-UP warriors, those who would explode the system they were convinced meant to let them die. It had to be done; the government – headed by Mr. Morning in America two-term president who didn’t even mention the word AIDS until May of 1987, by which time thousands had already died and many hundreds of thousands around the globe had been infected – seemed at best incapable of response, and, at worst, conspiring to perpetuate the plague. Theories hypothesized the virus having been developed by the army in Fort Detrick, Maryland, a few miles from where Hughes aunt, Violet, long estranged from his mother, lived in the dilapidated home Hughes would eventually inherit and come to know as Sepia Fallows; that place where Aunt Violet and his mother, Vivian, had grown up.

Hughes never heard that theory. Hughes stopped following the news. Hughes left that part of the fight to others, those who could still raise their voices in screams of protest, carrying signs, wearing buttons and T-shirts, barricading entrances to government buildings, occupying mayors’ offices, and blocking streets by planting themselves like corpses on the asphalt. No. Hughes – whose only youthful religion had been one of selfishness and cruelty – transformed into a New Age Florence Nightingale: he held hands and emptied bedpans and visited those who had been left alone by friends or family – both biological and chosen – and he practiced a new faith of selflessness and kindness, practicing the tenets of listening, loving – no matter what – and staying quiet so that others might feel heard.

Hughes stopped auditioning when he overheard a casting agent say, “I guess we’ll have to use him. But I’ve been to at least five men’s funerals in the last year who’d’ve been better.”

Hughes wanted to win roles because he was talented, not because all the Bennetts had died. As his mother had predicted when insisting he double-major in college in case “this acting thing doesn’t work out”, his English-slash-Journalism degree was there to fall back on, or – as he’d soon tire of insisting – was there on which to fall back. He started freelance copyediting thanks to David (1950 – 1983) after which, thanks to Peter (1942 – 1985) he was hired to work in-house by Castle & Cormorant.

It was June of 1987 when Manny started with the fevers and chills, swollen lymph nodes, losing weight. His hyper-aware gay-friendly doctor assumed it to be previously undetected HIV but the test was again negative. For a few glorious weeks, it was even decided Manny was exhibiting hysterical-HIV. It took an intern at the emergency room to which Hughes had dragged Manny against his will – he preferred the option of being crazy to discovering he had some new strain of HIV they couldn’t yet identify – to figure out that this latest nosebleed, one that wouldn’t stop, one that Hughes thought would surely exsanguinate his lover, his partner, his husband goddammit, for whom someone was going to do something, was neither a new nightmare of HIV nor hysterical, but, instead, leukemia.

“Oh, thank God!” Manny said. “It’s just cancer.”

All of the unexpectedly early deaths of so many men so ridiculously young had skewed reality to the point that a diagnosis of leukemia was something about which they were excited to hear. Relieved, even. Just cancer. There’s a cure. There’s hope.

Only, for Manny, there wasn’t. His leukemia – acute myelogenous – was a wasting, opportunistic vulture of a disease, and it ate away at Manny, everything about him, until he was nothing but seizures and spasms and shits. Hughes nursed him until the moment he died, a moment Hughes had been through with too many of those men he’d stopped counting since the first, Bennett, and like Bennett and so many of the others, Manny had no biological family left.

And it was so lonely, watching Manny go; unable to reach out to those who’d cut him off. And it was so lonely, after Manny had gone; without him, Hughes felt alone in a way he’d never known, as if life were a book he’d once known well, read again and again, intimately familiar with its stories, but now when he opened its covers, the pages were blanked away, traces of eraser dust and leavings of what once had been, he could no longer see the story clearly, his memories – this man who had fought so hard to forget – were unreliable, it was all pentimento and shadows, impossible to read.

And he knew, he did not have to be this alone. So, after all those years, after all that plague, after Manny left him, after all of that was over and done: Hughes called her.

“Mother. It’s Hughes.”

#####

It was the call Vivian had been waiting for. It was the call Vivian had been terrified would come. But, it was Hughes speaking to her, not Manny, and so, Hughes was okay. Or, okay enough to call. After having cut her off, cut her out for sins she mysteriously committed, wrongs he had refused to explain to her, here we was.

“Mother, are you there?”

Mother, he called her. Had called her since he’d turned twelve and angry, ever angrier as he aged, refusing to say “Momma” – which she‘d been since he could speak. Mother. Was she there? Where was that? This Mother to whom he was speaking, this Vivian she knew herself to be, this woman who had once been Momma and who had suffered her own losses and confronted her own blanked pages; was she there? What could she say – or not say – that was safe? What would keep him talking? What would fill their pages with a story they could both read, together, without the dust of angry editing and tearing away? What level of truth could be told?

“Mother?”

“Hughes. Yes. I’m so – it’s – you’re…-”

“Mother – Momma – I’m sorry.”

Sometimes it’s loud in here . . .

Life in the real world is very loud for me.

I was in my thirties when a therapist convinced me:

  1. Most people did not hear the world in the way I did, and;
  2. Being able to hear the unspoken voices inside of people’s heads and the unsung songs in their hearts and souls was a gift and did not mean I was crazy, and;
  3. Finding a balance between empathetic hearing/listening to others and maintaining spaces of silence for myself would require developing self-protective skills and habits foreign to my previous patterns of behavior as well as a lifelong vigilance about practicing those skills, keeping sacred those spaces and times of silence required to feed, renew, and re-charge my soul.

It isn’t just that I hear, it’s that I listen, understand, and validate, and, too, will often articulate for the speaker things they are afraid to say, serving as translator of the secrets of souls.

A few words about my cosmology are in order. Though I love reading, claim to be a sort-of-writer, I believe words to be poor symbols for the building blocks of reality, blocks I believe are made of Love and Light. There is an irony, I know, that I am having to use words to describe something I think beyond language, but, there it is. Love and Light, which are meant to embrace and encourage and enlighten and nurture. I truly believe that all energy is originally of good intent, and so, no matter how heinous and horrible its results might be in the physical world of linear time in which we live, I have always thought it was my job — the job of every human — to evolve to a state in which we can at least acknowledge the possibility of an original loving intent.

I don’t often discuss this (and I am fully cognizant my ideas are not original to me) because as soon as I do, people start offering up the expected horrifying villains in history, horrible acts in the present, and all the “what if someone did this or that to someone you love”.  Yes. Understood. I’m not saying I’m always successful at finding the Light in the Dark or the Love in the Hate, I’m saying my goal is to try.

Until I can’t.

I offer this cosmological background because the same people who want to argue with me that pure evil exists, that demons walk among us, are also likely to point out to me that I am sometimes very dark of mood, bleak of outlook, buried in my angers and sorrows, and sometimes they will even accuse me of being a hypocrite with my talk of Love and Light when I can dwell in such anger and darkness.

Yes. I am a hypocrite. I own my hypocrisy. And, as I said; I try to find the Love and the Light, until I can’t. I am not a saint. Not a prophet. No Earth Mother or Jesus or Buddha wannabe.

I didn’t ask to hear what people are feeling.

Truth: It is sometimes exhausting to bear witness to others’ pain. It is sometimes exhausting to live in modern times where so often the original good intent is skewed into divisive attack and enmity, hatreds and accusations — so much fear. It is even more exhausting for me (yes, I know, the hubris of that) because I believe the awful behavior is a result of fear warping love into distorted, harmful shapes and actions. I mourn the loss of the love that might have been, the world that might be, if only we operated from love. From light. It is worse for me because I don’t just witness the vitriol, I also see the love behind it, and the might have been.

Which is neither here nor there, except for this: Sometimes the distance between what is and what could be is an abyss the crossing of which gets me very blue. Sad to the point of wanting an end to the noise, an end to hearing, an end to seeing, an end to knowing and feeling. An end. I lose my ability to hope we can recover. Fear infects me too, like a virus, and I am taken down by it, thrust into darkness and deafened to joy by the cacophony of all the ache and despair and distortion coming at me.

And I have learned that those dips into darkness are too much to tolerate for some people who sincerely love me. When I am in the throes of agony and anger, some people who love me need not to witness it.  It took me many years to learn to see the love inside those absences; absences which can feel like abandonment, betrayal, unkindness, lack of caring and support. It was particularly difficult to understand those friends and loved ones who resented my depressions, were angered by them, or, even more aggravating, suggested I just buck up and see the bright side.

Here’s the thing: no one is obligated to share your sorrow (or your joy, or your wins or your losses) and some people simply can’t. There are many reasons: looking at your stuff means they’d have to face their own and they can’t; they love you too much to see you in pain they feel powerless to heal; feeling powerless makes them angry; their belief system requires a strict relationship between cause and effect in order that the world seem safe to them and so if you are sad, you did something to cause it and must undo that; or myriad other clinical explanations for why someone can’t be there for you in a time when you need support, encouragement, a hug, or, just a listen.

And here’s the hard part: That doesn’t make them bad or less loving or wrong. Nope. See, I think I’m entitled to my periods of darkness. They are part of the concatenation of traits that make MiracleCharlie. I have darkness like I have Light and Love; like I have thousand word memos and five thousand word blog entries. Like I have the propensity for bursting into musical theatre tunes for every situation in life. Like I do falling in love with friends. Like I do wanting to fix everything for everyone. I am a heady, saucy, sometimes toxic, sometimes delicious, always evolving brew of many, many qualities and sometimes I am sad.

Some people ignore me when I’m sad. Some do so because they only want to reward my happy and positive thoughts and writing and behavior. Some do so because they think I have brought on my own sadness and deserve it, like a religious punishment for my transgressions and bad choices. Some do so because they fear I might at any moment kill myself and they want to stay a wide space away from what they see as an illness requiring treatment.

I get all that. I’m okay with all that. I spent many years wanting everyone to love me, bending myself into not-really-me shapes to try to make people happy. All the while, I knew they were not happy. Because, you can’t bend yourself into something you are not. No matter how good you are at pretending — and I was damn good — the lack of truth in it is there, and whether the other person recognizes it consciously or not, it exists and will eventually destroy the relationship, or them, or you, or all of the above.

Right now, there is so much pretending and bending and lack of truth in the world, in the elections, in our monetary system, in the social upheaval going on, in reducing so much to US vs THEM, all the labeling and the naming and the hating, and all of that is a distortion of the original impetus of Love and Light, and distortion is loud. So very loud. It demands attention.

Meaning — the effort to quiet all that falseness, all that distortion, so one can hear the Love and the Light at its core, back at its beginning, is exhausting. And so, yes, I get sad. It’s my shut-down and coping mechanism. It takes me out of the world for a while, returns me to quiet, and usually, with time, I come out from under it.

You don’t have to follow me. You don’t have to read me. You don’t have to love me through it. You don’t have to encourage it. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to do anything. I love you because I love you, in the way I love you, to the degree I love you, for as long as I love you.

I’m not asking you to change.

But don’t ask me not to be me either. Because sometimes it gets very loud in here, and your disapproval adds to the noise. And a few years ago I made a decision that I would no longer believe the words “I love you so much” if I didn’t feel and witness the truth behind and inside them. Because I hear what you are not saying, and if you love someone, you love them who they are, not who you need or want them to be so your version of your story can be told. You love their story.

Goodnight.

What is left for Goodbye?

A few years ago when I felt the need to leave a situation which seemed so inauthentic to who I was and wanted to be it was causing me to disappear into an abyss of sorrow, doing so required a lot of letting go I had not expected.

There was a home I’d made, a place I’d made, a community I’d made, a world I’d built; but these were tangled, meshed, intertwined, and knotted with people and places and assumptions and energies which demanded of me daily betrayals of my own soul, truth, and path.

To be clear, there were no villains, no evil people, no ill intent; but there was darkness, shadow, deceit, and delusions which were fed by silence, and there was much fear of repercussion if one disagreed, if one’s song and dance didn’t toe the dictatorial line of the group-hallucination, the prescribed agenda: you would see the emperor’s clothes or be banished, if ordered to, you would drink the Kool-Aid.

I could have stayed in that situation the rest of my life. I wasn’t being hit. There were some moments of happiness. I was in many ways far better off than I will likely ever be again, financially. But it felt wrong in my heart, as does much of the structure of the society in which we live — the acquisitiveness and the cruelty and the self-interest and the judgement of it all. In my heart, that is the measure, and, well, listen to this:

There is too much cruelty in the world. So much, we’ve embedded it into the very shape and structure of society; we measure people by the money they make, award them power according to the size of their checkbook. We limit and label and laugh at anyone who says, “But wait, maybe that model doesn’t work for everyone!” And we allow ourselves to be distracted by our petty arguments and hates and the grabbing and grasping on to what we have, the struggle to be one of the ones who can get what we want, who can have what we want.

I can’t. And I don’t. The Trump-ists are winning, have you noticed? For years I warned and ranted about the whispered, coded hate. For years I tried to explain that Reagan’s silence on AIDS and people who put Palin posters in their yards and my own sister who unfriended me because I explained that voting for Romney was like nailing Matthew Shepard to that fence in Wyoming and for years I have been dismissed, called an hysteric, ignored.

Look. Look. Look at what silence has wrought? The knives are coming out now, full in the open. Just like in high school when I was called “faggot” and thrown against lockers and dunked into toilets, now, the names come out on Twitter and in Republican rallies. Look. Look. Look. It is little different from 1183 and I think, I do, this time — when here I am again, going, needing to change my life, there is so little left for me to let go, what happens when there is nothing and no one left to which and whom to say goodbye?

 

Almost Home(less)

I recently spent a week in New York City. I stayed at a luxury hotel. I went to Broadway shows. I drank twenty-five dollar cocktails and ate in lovely restaurants where the staff encourages upgrading from gratis water to something bottled and aerated.

And I am almost homeless.

Pop-Pop, my paternal grandfather, went every morning to mass at Saint Peter’s Holy Roman Catholic Church to which he gave ten percent of all he earned, he watched Lawrence Welk and the evening news religiously, seldom spoke other than chanting the evening rosary, considered his very rare hissing “son of a snake” a curse requiring confession and penance, and he never had a charge card. He paid for everything with cash and if he didn’t have savings enough for something, he didn’t buy it. He faithfully filled tiny journals with two column lists of every purchase and its price. The once a week trips to the grocery store were followed by his re-writing of the sales slip into these notebooks, where also were entered amounts spent on gas, heating oil, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, doctor visits, medicine, and the not infrequent loans and gifts to relatives who were less frugal than Pop-Pop, which, in the end, turned out to have been almost all of his descendants of which I am considered one of the most flagrantly, hopelessly, failed and profligate. Financially. And, well, in other ways too.

Perhaps I am. Perhaps, not.

When I arrived in New York for my birthday trip,unwilling to spend money on a cab, I lugged my bags on a beautiful walk from Penn Station to the Algonquin. I, like Pop-Pop before me — under very different circumstances in a very different world — have no charge card. My entire trip was an incredibly generous gift from friends, the hotel stay paid in advance, but when I tried to check in I was informed by a desk clerk who was quite rude, increasingly loud and seemingly intent on embarrassing and shaming me, that the Marriott Corporation’s policy required I have a credit card to cover expenses I might incur while staying in their hotel or I would not be allowed to check in to my fully paid for room. I wonder if Pop-Pop was ever reduced to weeping because his lack of a charge card inspired Marriott (or, other corporate) tools to treat him like a criminal, unworthy of the benefits of capitalism, an outlier of society unwelcome in their place of business?

Other patrons in the lobby and employees behind the desk averted their eyes from me and my situation, as if, somehow, my place on the financial grid was contagious; that I didn’t fit the profile the Algonquin/Marriott corporation required to treat me with respect and decency not only left me feeling humiliated and guilty, but it made everyone else in my vicinity uncomfortable. I might as well have been the fellow sitting half a block away, his “I’m down on my luck” cardboard sign asking for change. How had I gotten there and what was I doing, making all those other credit-card-carrying folk have to pretend I wasn’t happening?

I asked myself the same question.

Let me be clear, my life choices were mine. I own this. To the degree that here, where I am, going (or not going), is the result of my own intemperate dissipation and self-indulgent dissolution, so be it. Let me also be clear, I am grateful to those others who have given me kindness and assistance and support of every variety — financial, emotional, spiritual — from which I’ve benefitted. I have been helped and held and housed by some of the best (and some of the worst, but that, not the story today) and my journey has been full of much joy.

Yet, as I sit here suffering stress-induced IBD, spastic colon, and cramping, filling out financial forms with cover letters and references trying to explain why I’ve made so little money in each of the last five years I haven’t had to file taxes; to make clear why the bankruptcy almost two decades ago over less than five thousand dollars seemed the only way out at the time; being asked to justify the life I’m now leading — this semi-off-the-grid, not trying to spend another twenty years working at something to have to lose it all/give it away, uninterested in the having to have a degree/title -play the game -build the brand – spin the spin – just want a way to read, eat a little, go to the gym, take care of my Mom and others, and be left quietly alone world in which I live, I can’t help but feel a bit hopeless. And a lot — a very lot — tired.

And failed. And, did I mention, tired?

I’ve been homeless before. Felt homeless before. I was asked to leave my Mom’s home when I was sixteen. Not without cause. But I knew then, felt then, “I will never have a home again.” It was scary and awful. I lived a lot of places, my favorite being Libertytown, in the home my grandfather had bought and we’d owned for nearly 100 years when by family decision it was sold when just my aunt and I lived there. I was asked by another aunt and uncle to stay with my aunt for that move, my aunt who had NEVER in her sixty-plus years lived anywhere but that house in Libertytown, who had rightly (I think) believed that having spent her entire life taking care of Pop-Pop and Mom-Mom and everyone else (me included) she would get to die there. I knew then, felt then, “My base is gone, this center of who I am won’t be here for me anymore.” And just a few years ago, something not dissimilar but too invasive of another’s privacy a story to tell occurred and again, I was without a home, without a part of me with which I’d long identified.

Stories. We all have stories. Others might have thrived or blossomed from these homeless-nesses. I didn’t. I deliquesced. Again, a choice. I wanted, that last time, to become simpler. To have less to carry with me. To depend less on what the world said ought and should and must be.

A choice. Perhaps, not so wise. And so…here I am. Almost homeless, again.

There is a memoir to be written of my life, but, it seems I won’t be the one writing it, and, truth, everyone’s life deserves a memoir. And everyone’s life, eventually, disappears. When I was still teaching theatre, I would regularly introduce into conversations the names and work of Mary Martin and Ethel Merman and Barbara Cook and Judy Garland, about whom fewer and fewer knew. When they didn’t even know who Barbra Streisand was, my life seemed to lose most of its meaning. And, never, in all my years of teaching, did any of those children have any idea who Joan Didion or Dorothy Parker were.

Last night on Power Player Jeopardy, Mad Men creator, Matthew Weiner, was unable to come up with the “what is the NAACP” when asked what organization Julian Bond had been chairman of from 1998 to 2010.

History fades. Things disappear. We are not remembered. We do not have charge cards and so we are not worthy. We may once have held people up and taken care of others and tended to them and encouraged them and worked in the corporate world and owned our own businesses and saved and earned and played the game, but, when we don’t, or when it’s over, well then, we are no longer entitled to occupy space on the game board.

But dear ones, had I managed to not go bankrupt; to get another job in insurance when that company folded; to stay in one of my abusive, emotionally crippling relationships and maintained financial stability that way; bought fewer books; said yes to men or women I didn’t care for who might have taken care of me; fought instead of surrendered; queried two thousand agents; auditioned more; gone to Jesuit boarding school as a child when the church wanted to send me; taken a few more pills when I was fifteen and tried to off myself; left that New Haven bar with the guy who wanted me to snort coke off his cock in the bathroom; learned to say no; if/then — maybe I’d still have savings or a job or a lover or less despair, and maybe A and B and J and D and P and J and others would have behaved differently, loved me more, judged me less, stood up for me and with me.

So what? The ending is the same. We disappear. We are, at most, relics of lost times and stories on display in a museum for someone to maybe see, maybe understand, maybe not.

This blog is my cardboard sign, I suppose. My “down on my luck, spare some change?” please notice.

But, I recently had a magical week in New York where much of my time was spent with people much better at the game than am I, than I ever was. People whose choices were better, who worked harder and with more acumen at things I might have and perhaps should have done, people who planned better, believed better, loved better; people who would not have started crying at the Algonquin front desk, but, rather, would have stood up (or sat in or something-ed) for themselves.

I also spent time with an illegal Russian immigrant, P, who left his country and home so he wouldn’t be killed for being gay. Who works catering jobs now using a social security number he “rents” and who hopes to make it into a dance company. In the meantime, he turns tricks as a masseur/escort. He’s virtually homeless.

Bad choice: I asked him to marry me to get him citizenship. Here’s how good I am at love: he told me I was too gullible and should go home. Which I did. Although, now, see there, I am almost homeless.

Neither P nor those New York pals who are deservedly successful are my life . It isn’t who I am. And while — as I said — the choices I’ve made were my choices, my responsibility and I own them — I never really fit anywhere on that grid of what is called “success” and during the periods of my life when I seemed part of the upwardly mobile climb, I felt always a fraud and afraid of being found out.

I was always more like P; a visitor, borrowing part of someone else so as to be allowed in, dreaming crazy dreams, waiting to be expelled, found out.

Well, I’m found out now. I am poor. I am almost homeless. And I am not ever going to really have a place on that grid. So, as I have in the past, I will have to find some way to make who I am, how I am, what I am, where I am, work.

Until I don’t. Until, somehow, I find, again, home.

Or, someone gullible asks me to marry him. I, unlike P, would say yes. No doubt he could tell I was a bad risk. Ah life.

Later pals. Need to fill out some more financial forms because, you know, there’s always an Algonquin clerk somewhere eager to sneer at you for not having a charge card.

Goodbye to all that . . . believing and memory and such . . .

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” first line of Joan Didion’s essay, Goodbye To All That, included in Slouching Towards Bethlehem.

didion slouching

This is what my copy looked like before it was lost in the flood after my last move.

I have spent the last thirty minutes or so writing in what I believe to be explicit detail about what I believed — during those thirty minutes — to be the first time I read Ms. Didion’s sentence, when I was just eighteen and had returned to the family home in Libertytown after having failed at running away to California where I’d hated it, where I’d been less than successful at the Bohemian, free-spirited thing — which translated meant being unemployed and camping on someone’s couch and obsessed with a man, Mark, whose sweat smelled sweet, the way I’d always imagined expensive French cologne, a flowery scent he claimed was the result of never having used deodorant or chemicals of any kind on his body, which is one of the two details about him I have kept, the kind of mental, probably semi-fictional talismans I’ve acquired in my vast collection in the museum of my heart’s history devoted to the long line of men I believed I could never have, for whom I never really tried, my youthful Catholic brainwashing having convinced me I was not and would never be in any way, in any area of my life enough,  and, too, I realize now in retrospect and review, that same Catholic guilt forced me to justify what turns out to have been — most often — simple lust by convoluting it into a drama of unrequited love — often embellished with a glissando of tragic elements — not learning until I was well into my forties that many times if one looks with longing at or asks a fellow for access to his dick, it will be happily — even, sometimes, gratefully — granted, my being good enough or anything enough has little to do with it, and seeing beginnings and endings, as in that opening sentence of Ms. Didion’s, is — are? — in many ways the same sort of terribly complicated and ridiculously simple, at once, all together, layered, like memories, and deceptive like memory too, because, having spent thirty minutes writing about that first time I read Ms. Didion’s sentence I realized it was probably not at eighteen, returning home, shamed and afraid and failed and mourning the loss of Mark’s imagined, perfect and unscented dick when I read it, but rather, it had happened years earlier in the same Libertytown house when, a child, I spent most of a friendless summer there with my aunt, my days full of collecting the magazines and books piled everywhere in Libertytown’s twenty-seven hoarder-capacity filled rooms and arranging them in one room I called The Library, during which time I discovered Joan Didion’s columns in the Saturday Evening Post magazine, became obsessed with them — although I doubt very much I understood them — and I remember wanting to write like that but feeling, even then, I would never be able to because I would never know enough words or have the kind of life people who wrote those kinds of words had.

There you go, more than 500 words until the period trying to get to the memory of a beginning and still, not there yet.

That summer, my discovery of Ms. Didion as I hid away in that house where I pretended to be everything and everyone from a librarian to a diva descending a stairway in Hello, Dolly! to a 5th Avenue rich-lady (don’t ask, right now, another story, another time) to — I can’t remember anything else at the moment but even though I have lost the details, I do know there were more, many more I pretended to be — was that the end of something? Or the beginning? Because now, decades later, I think Ms. Didion mistaken. At least in my experience, beginnings and endings are impossible to demarcate. There are commas and em-dashes and parenthetical asides and clauses and every sort of digression and diversion and detour and deflection (give me some sort of award for deflection, because it is a gift, truly a gift) and departures and driftings and — you see what I’m saying — but what I find it hard to locate, to believe, to accept, are (obviously) periods and new paragraphs.

I’m having to move again, darlings. I’ve moved a lot. An exercise in memory follows in this paragraph — feel free to skip it. Birth home: Oak Orchard. I was seventeen months old when Daddy died: Libertytown with Grandparents and Aunt. House re-done with insurance money and we — Mommy and her six fatherless children — returned to Oak Orchard. Stepfather enters picture, I was eleven or twelve: Walkersville. Then, few years later, Woodsboro. Troubled at home, trouble at home, sixteen, to sister on Gas House Pike. No good there, wreck car. Woodsboro return — although I had to beg permission. No good there, quit school, thrown out of house at seventeen, Steve took me in on Third Street. Soon, still seventeen, my own place on Rosemont Avenue (which is less than two miles from where I live now, life). My late teens and twenties are a blur. There was a return (or two or three) to Libertytown. California with friends. New Jersey with a sister and her husband. New Haven with a friend. Libertytown (again). Patrick Street. Madison Street. Carriage Way. Columbine Drive. Carriage Way. Braddock Heights. Funeral Home on Church Street. Here. Now, within the next thirty to sixty days, somewhere yet to be determined.

I guess you could call all of those beginnings and endings if you were so inclined. I am not. So inclined. They are commas in a continuum, although, some are more unto semicolons. Or, colons? I don’t know. When it comes to punctuation and grammar, like Ms. Didion, I play it by ear. Not much for rules. Conventions have never worked for me. (This is a diversion and digression, you see? I don’t want to talk about moving.)

I was talking to a friend yesterday whose daughter was leaving home. The moving on, the moving out, the letting go, it’s hard. Change is hard. Transitions are so difficult. I felt for her pain.

I can’t claim parental experience; but I have had a life of uncle-ing and teaching. When I taught I often had kids who spent more time with me than they did at home. I somehow had a reputation for welcoming those kids (and adults) who didn’t fit easily in the world. Theatre is a great place to find healing, a safe place to experiment and grow into one’s own, unique and amazing soul, embrace possibilities. Many of those so-called “troubled” kids have turned into grown-ups who are much stronger than I ever was (or will be) and sometimes I think, “Hmm, maybe had I had ME when I’d had nowhere to go as a youth, I would have grown into someone capable of taking care of himself.”

Again, another story for another day, the point of this is, sooner or later, with all those kids (and the grown-ups, too) there came a time when they were ready to go.  With each presence and departure, I would change as they changed; my world was made a little smaller with their exit, and yet had been made wider for their having been there.

Now, my life is much quieter, but there are a number of those children — now grown-ups — still actively in my life, which is surprising and brilliantly blessed and blissful for me. They are great successes, and I am still patting myself on the back for all the ways I made a nest for them, gave them space to grow wings, and INSISTED they fly.  Beginnings and endings, all twisted together in lovely ways, but there is no denying that each transition shaped like goodbye also brings with it some rueful, melancholy difficulty and hard time: packing up and watching the going, no matter how right the going, how exciting the going, still, when it is one’s child, one’s fledgling, one’s mentee you are sending away, there is the stab of the knife, to have succeeded so in making the outside world understandable and conquerable enough for them that they have the oomph and courage to leave your bosom and tackle it, and make their own version of it. When I taught, as I watched my VERY SPECIAL ones ready to conquer the world, I almost wanted to KICK myself for making them so strong, when having them around as pals once they grew into themselves was such a joy and comfort.

After decades of teaching (and directing), it became too exhausting to say goodbye over and over.  Endings. Which always came with beginnings. For those leaving. For the new ones who’d arrive looking for a place to be and to grow into themselves.

bedstand may 2016

My bedside table, which I have had with me since I was very young, in my family for more than 100 years. Worth nothing. but its echoes for me are priceless.

I started this entry believing I had first read that Didion sentence when I was eighteen in Libertytown. That was what I was writing about, the experience of recalling the blue cover of the paperback of Slouching Towards Bethlehem which had been bought at Learmont Book Shop, downtown Frederick, owned and operated by two relocated New York gay men who told me what to read and listen to and stayed a safe distance from me because I was so much younger and they were — at that time, I see and understand now — operating in a dangerous limbo of small-town in transition (that word again) — and I was reading that book, so lonely, late night in Libertytown, isolated (before internet, before cellphones, before you could even reliably get the New York Times in Libertytown) sitting in my bed, a bed made by my great, great, grandfather, a bed passed on to me when my aunt died, a bed which I passed on to my niece, Rachel, when I had to move a few evictions ago, and my nightstand was the one I still have, the one three feet from me now, the one I will take with me from here to wherever I go next, which has been in my family for more than one hundred years, its beginning I do not know, its ending a mystery right now except that I suspect when I die, it will be lost — who would want it? I keep it for the aura of memory it has, the table on which I first stacked my own copies of Didion. She is there now, still, in different form because the copy I’d had at eighteen was lost in the flood that happened a few weeks after I moved here, where I am now leaving, this place where I lost the first editions, signed, of my Didion and my Adler, acquired when my life was very different, those editions and that life . . . lost. Ended. Ending?

I am getting confused about why I wrote this. Why I started. Where I started. Began. Or, how to end. Or, should I?

Because I do not believe we can see beginnings and endings, not really, not ever. That Californian, Mark? He became an investment banker. He started using deodorant. And hair gel. Those Saturday Evening Post magazines were sold at auction, the auction that happened when I had to pack up and move away from Libertytown. I gave a copy of Didion’s Play It As It Lays to another in the line of men I believed I could never have, one who later told me he’d known all along I wanted him, who’d said, out loud, “Would you want anyone to think you’d slept with Charlie?” Or so I was told. By someone else with an agenda. So, was that true? I don’t know. I know that his not wanting me helped me decide to run away to New Haven. When Larry Kramer was writing for the New York Native about GRID, before it was AIDS, before I lost what was lost. I had all those New York Natives, too, saved, like someone had saved all those Saturday Evening Post magazines. And, I lost them too, when I had to get out of another place I had lived and ended up leaving behind years of collected periodicals and albums.

Ending? Yes. Beginning. Yes. But, wait, maybe no, to both? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Where was I? The thing is, there are hundreds of books remaining for me to pack and move. Somewhere. And this blog and its sentences, too long, like my life, too long. The commas and the clauses and the wanderings and the removals and the defiances of conventions and the men I believed I could never have who I never had and the men I believed I could never have who I did have and Mark and Pavel and all the others and the lies and the lays and the friends and the fiends and the foes and the fools and the manipulators and the abusers and the people who beat me down and the people who lifted me up and it is all such a long run-on sentence of a life in which I will never write one line as good as a Didion-line and never star in a Broadway show and never have a successful love affair and never have financial security and never feel safe.

I want, I think, The End.

I want.

I think.

The End.

See, it matters where the period goes, I guess.

I roll along; A long eye roll.

Davis, Bette EyeRoll All About EveDarlings, things are a bit complicated at the moment and if I have learned nothing else about myself, I have learned this: When I get stressed, when life comes at me with demands, when my fear and failure triggers get pushed, I write (speak) whiny, angry, pity poor me, blah blah blah bullshit. So, I am staying away from blogging and Twitter until I get things figured out, settled in, and under control again. Pictures will need to do because as I am rolling along, the things some people are doing and saying are causing me to have some seriously long eye rolls, the language symmetry of which amuses me. Happy weekending, dear ones. Send love and light.

 

prosody/metre/cryptography

Poetry May 2016I am lethargic with malaise, three days of fever, ague, restless and uneasy slumbers haunted by paroxysms of hallucinatory phantoms with whom I am interacting. The line between waking/sleeping is blurry. I’m on the nod, like a junkie, but my abused substance is language, or, rather, the shape it gives my reality — a reality which is, at this point, something more like illusion, an occult, clouded, arcane concoction the ins and outs and boundaries and rules and sensibilities of which would make sense to no one but me.

My world, in other words, here in my sick-bed, is one of recondite, abstruse, concealed shape and size and sound and secrets: there are spells and connections and relationships between past and future and fantasy and what I did and who I was and where I am going and messages, the messages the universe is sending by forcing this stillness and silence upon me.

Last night I was made to take this picture (at top of post) of the decoding manuals disguised as poetry stacked on my bedside table. A table that has been in my family for more than 100 years. A table I brought with me from Libertytown. A table on which have sat the sleep-supplies (when sick and well) of my paternal grandparents, my aunt, and now, me. Who will take it next? There is no one for me to pass this on to. There is no one for me to pass this on. There is no one for me to pass this. There is no one for me to pass. There is no one for me to. There is no one for me. There is no one for. There is no one. There is no. There is. There. Here. Ere. Re. E.

Goodnight. (Day.)

 

Exit. Exit. Oh, Exit.

Exit 3 Ways

I will
I think
never
stop be-
-ing sur-
-prised at
the ease
with which
people
can ex-
-it con-
-versa-
-tions with
me.

I had to run so quickly to save my life, like a conflagration, not of flames, but her fury, and I grabbed what was in my path, trying to be sure and certain to take what I would need, what had been mine before her, and in the run and the rush and the firing of her accusations, I left behind my aunt’s fur coat. I lost my aunt’s fur coat. Which I had used as a costume. And prop. In which I would wrap myself when I was sad. And cold. Because it meant so much to my aunt. I could not, could not ever, go back to get it. I had to save my life and in doing so lost parts of it.

I will, I think, never stop being
surprised at the ease with which people
can exit conversations with me.

And so many pictures. But what would I do with them? And then, there, the new place, which I am about to lose, instead of fire, flood. Soon. After. I’d arrived. Water. I woke one night and swung my legs over the side of the bed onto the ground where a river had come. A river in which my pictures and scrapbooks, the ones I’d managed to grab when I’d run, a river in which those were drowned and turned to clumps of glue and ink and paper and made brick of blanks. I have just memories. No proof.

I will, I think, never stop being surprised at the ease with which people can exit conversations with me.

No fur. No proof. So many lost parts of me.

And soon, I need to run again. I have left so much behind.

I wish I had Sissie’s fur coat to wrap myself in, protect me from all that is gone. Which makes sense to no one but me.

Exit. Exit. Oh, exit.

I wonder . . .

I wonder if I will ever stop being surprised by how incredibly thoughtless, self-centered, oblivious, rude, and narcissistic are some people who consider themselves quite bright, quite informed, quite expert at being.

I wonder if I will ever have security and feel safe.

I wonder if I will ever escape the intrusive noise of life.

I wonder if I will ever stop being forced to deal with people who can’t be bothered to give a thought to how their actions might affect others.

I wonder when I will finally have had enough.

Although I know from long and costly experience it is best never to say anything, sometimes the urge to explain to people just how huge a jackhole they are being and have been is almost overwhelming.

I wonder, a lot, how I, myself, got to be so stupid.