First World Problems

Not a whole lot of space
to write today—
at a Mexican restaurant
penning on Keno cards again.
First, praise the Mexican’s for
cost-free chips and salsa, among
many other wonderful things,
like good looks and hard work

Second,
“I just got out of prison,” the man
across the aisle says to our waiter
“How much would it cost to get
rice and beans?”
I notice he’s drinking water, does
not order soda or beer, just a
Chimichanga. I want to say something
like “You’ve been through enough,
I’ll buy your rice and beans”
But I do not.

He’s got a girlfriend who sits
across from him in a hairbun and jean
cut-offs, poking at her phone, sullen.
They look like we do sometimes,
a couple with not much to say,
even just out of prison.
I send little smiles his way and
I even cry but that’s all on me
As usual, I am invisible

My food comes first which I regret
I sit and wait for his to come…
He of piss-orange prison juice and
white slips of bread made for toddlers,
fed to men

Gosh it takes forever waiting on
that Chimichanga
I drool at my plate of
enchiladas but I do
not take a bite

When finally it comes
we lift our forks to our
mouths and my tongue gets
burnt, food still hot even after
waiting five minutes

I figure if the mouth of the man
got burnt too, he’s probably just
thanking the Gods for food
that’s so hot

Tears catch on my plate as I
contemplate Mexican’s and prisoners
and what my next step will be now that
I’ve got a full belly

See I am no different from him

20 Reasons I Write

It’s cathartic

I love books and reading

My hand has a mind of its own

I want to express myself

I want someone to know that I have been there too

Letters are pretty and clean

I want to be an artist in some form

I am one voice of a generation

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

I want my kids to know me better someday

I want kids someday and I want everyone to know it

I feel liberated when I say it out loud, whatever “it” may be

I feel that I have a valuable story to tell

I feel that my story is unique

I want to tell my Dad’s story

I feel that my Dad’s story is unique

I want to thank my grandmother, in writing

I want to take a snapshot of a place in time, and lock it inside the binds of a book forever

I want to challenge myself, it’s fun

I want to make somebody smile

A Writer With a Deadline

Things are getting messy. They are falling apart so that they can be arranged together again in a newer, better way. Most of you think I am talking about my boyfriend. I’m not. I am talking about writing.

It is painful. Oh is it painful. Not this, not pecking away at the black keyboard, not talking to you like I am talking to a friend. Not talking about writing, that is the easy part. I could talk til’ I’m blue in the face, and finally, I am. I am meeting with other writers over coffee, I am emailing them and asking them questions, I am reeling over my work, I am supporting other writers and applying for scholarships for writer’s workshops in places like Big Sur, California.

But also, it is a quiet time. It is a time when I am sitting on the back porch, summertime scorched, iced-tea’d up and happy as a clam but I am all inside of my mind. I am only inside of my mind. My hair is greasy and I do not care, for once. My boyfriend asks me if I want a cold beer. He knows I never do but I’d told him to keep on asking cause I find it amusing. But all I am thinking of is words. My words. I almost do not hear him. Like a builder building his house, I am thinking over my material. Will this page work, or is this log rotted? Is there a workable structure to my story? How will it hold up? Will it stand? On it’s own two feet?

I am devouring favorite selected memoirs and books on writing like ice cube crunchers crunch ice from a glass on a hot day. I listen to everything and anything writing; podcasts, NPR, Ted Talks. I dissect their wisdom for hours. I am snapped back to the present, if only momentarily, when my boyfriend asks “Wanna beer?” again. “No, no thank you,” I tell him. “Sorry, I’m kind of out of it. In a good way though, in a good way. I’m single-minded right now.”

He says he understands and is proud of me.

I think it a good sign that I will brew a pot of coffee, pour it into a mug, and before I can finish the mug I have finished a page or a chapter. Just a security blanket– that coffee. In the kitchen there is a sink full of dishes. “I’m going to be ignoring some things,” I’d warned Steve. “Like you,” I joked, “and maybe some chores.”

I need to shower. I don’t want to. Could derail me. Don’t have time.

I wake up these days like there is a fire in the house. Alert. I only expect this to last for a couple of days though. This is the beginning. This is the beginning of being a writer with a deadline. I’d be lucky if this wild enthusiasm kept up. I could maybe Get There if it did.

Steve suggested I buy a printer. “Genius! Genius!” I told him and rushed down to Bi-Mart. As it was I was paying 10 cents a copy and the gas and time it took to go to the library. Now I can print off a chapter, sit down to edit at the dining room table–full, cold coffee by my side–then jump back onto the computer to make the changes. All in one night. And I can do that several times again.

I have three weeks. I have three weeks and then I pass off my full manuscript to an editor I’d contacted, on a whim, several weeks ago. I get the feeling he’s kind of a big deal. He might even be reading this right now. Gosh I hope not, cause I’m just talking, I’m not really writing…..am I?

Other than hope, I am armed with a sturdy oak writing desk that was here when I moved in. It sat, sadly, in the open, unused office space under a pile of instruction manuals and green twist-ties. It was covered in dust. I asked Steve about the desk. He told me it was his old roommates desk who likened himself a writer but mainly drank a lot and chased women. He said he’d had to drag that damn heavy thing in here would love to see it finally be put to use. “Oh, I’ll use it,” I assured him.

There is a pleasant nautical-style chandelier light hanging above my head, a window that looks out into the front yard providing at least some natural light, a solid wooden floor, and a grand bookcase taking up an entire wall where Steve and I both store our personal collections–him: Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens and many others; me: Janet Fitch, Lidia Yuknavitch, Mary Karr, Barbara Kingsolver, Augusten Burroughs, some of Steve’s Kerouac, and many others.

Aside from the cold mugs of coffee, writing inspiration (ie books), and the desk; I’ve got about 525 sheets of blank computer paper–a whole drawer in the desk dedicated to it–a jade plant, a jar of water for drinking, a small clay vase filled with one unsharpened pencil, two sharpies, several ink pens, and a pair of scissors; tonnnns of written work, most of it printed out, self-edited, and needing to be stitched into my memoir, eight copies of The SUN, a new, cheap, Canon printer, jumbo-sized assorted color paper clips: pink, baby blue, red; a stapler with turquoise staples, and one or two unmentionables.

I sit and write on a hard wooden stool. Steve will often drag the soft, blanketed love seat into the office to watch movies at night but I just drag it back out during the day cause I can’t write all splayed out on my back like that, else sinking down into the cushions. Yep, I am a writer now. With a deadline. I am talking to other writer’s and I am asking them “How does it feel to be a writer with a deadline versus a writer without one?” I am hoping they will tell me it’s much more painful to be a writer with a deadline. But that there is pleasure on the other side of that pain. Surely, surely there is pleasure.

Art and Writing

The job of an artist isn’t to prove people wrong, though that is sometimes how it feels. On a bad day, an artist walks, writes, and creates with the unshakable feeling that somebody, somewhere, is out there just waiting to take a big shit right on top of her. She drives home from work plotting a story she will write when she gets home. In her mind a banner parades, “I DARE you to underestimate ME!!” She thinks, “These are negative thoughts and I shouldn’t be thinking them. Who is underestimating me, exactly? It could only be myself.”

Writing, unlike acting, or painting, is an essential and most pure expression of the soul. Writing can’t hide a forgotten line with the wave of an actresses flashy dress. And it begs more intellect than an abstract painting does. Writing, it seems, is a direct reflection of ones intellect and philosophies. A writer’s thoughts and assessments of the world at large is transcribed neatly onto the page with no room to hide. A good autobiographical writer cannot hide her truest feelings. Memoirists are like strippers if anything; revealing, little by little, the unique curvature of our very own minds.

If writing weren’t such a simple act, I’d find it a far too complicated thing to continue on doing. I write because all I need is a paper and a pen to do it, I can do it alone, and when I’ve finished I can just run and hide instead of stand waiting for awkwardly for an applause. Writing is a subtle yet powerful art. And although all art it is painful at times (the vulnerability, the fear of rejection), writing is my preferred art. I love writing like I love men. And that shit is Whole. Fucking. Heartedly.

The deeper you love something, the more you fear losing it, and the more vulnerable you become.  I think that vulnerability must be the flip side of love. Having said that, the fact that I’m walking around scared shitless lately must only be an indication that I’m doing something right–that I have something of true value to lose, and that I’m putting myself “out there”.

The Way of a Woman

Once, early on in our
relationship I shared a
hotel room with my man
three of his buddies

There were two beds so
Steve and I got one, two
buddies shared the other,
and one fellow slept
on the floor

Steve didn’t hardly touch
me at all that night
He was like that, respectful
(not of me but of his friends)

In the morning, I tip-toed
out the door into a Portland springtime
and in my royal purple longcoat
I skipped down the road for coffee
and maybe some roll-your-own cigarettes

I stopped to put a rose in my hair

I found a place for coffee and, with the help
of a cardboard holder, brought cups back
for Steve and each of his friends
Also, I placed a blossom into the
tic-tac sized hole where you
drank from

I offered it to them, feeling a little crazy
and one of Steve’s friends told me:
Oh, you’re that kind of girl,
a compliment no doubt that
made me blush but I couldn’t
make a peep out of shyness
and in my head the words
were screaming:
I’m not a girl, I’m a woman!

but I didn’t say anything
then cause I didn’t want to
share em off

Be Somebody Someday

I put out my cigarette on the tread of my car tire and stuck the butt in the ashtray. I felt like I had a little bit more direction now. This whole not-sure-where-I’m-going-or-what-I’m-doing thing, this was normal. This was my Saturn return. Which meant, it would end.

I guess I thought since I’d already gone through all of this same shit when I left college, that things would go smoothly from there. I thought that life could only drag me through so much shit, through so many “bad matches”. I’d been through enough crap in my childhood to last a lifetime. The tarot reader had even said so. Other than the poor decision to start smoking again, I had been going to yoga class, reading books like One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and Be Here Now, and I was working diligently at my job as a youth counselor. I took bubble baths and swam laps at the Y. Life was supposed to be peaceful by now.  It wasn’t. Luckily, I was pro-active. I didn’t just float along. I wouldn’t just float along.

As I pulled my car away from the curb, I thought about a time in my hometown when I was hanging with some buddies at a skate park. Actually it was a business park, but people skated there. A lot of homeless people hung around there too. I was dragging on a cigarette and staring shyly at my childhood crush, who sat across from me, his skateboard leaning against a concrete wall. A woman in clothing that might have actually been a vibrant color previously, but was now just a rainbow of dirt, waltzed by with her long-haired companion, who was carrying an unmistakable paperbag forty ounce beer, I noticed.

“Hey!” She hollered at me, pointing, “You’re gonna be somebody someday!”

She said those words with such conviction, that even though I should know better than to think this woman was some guardian angel or fortune teller, rather than some drunk just spouting shit, I still like to think that maybe she was on to something. I find myself remembering this day. And then taking another step in the right direction. I’m gonna be somebody. I mean we’re all somebody, but somehow, I knew exactly what that lady was talking about.

Womanbody

I want to be a mother. Want to harness life inside of my own body. Want to validate and make use of this healthy hearty womanbody that I have. See I always thought I’d have that baby by now. But I’ve discarded two lives by the ingestion of two pills taken two hours apart. Two men and women weeped and then ate ice cream afterwards two bloody times. I let go of two children on the floors of two different college town apartments no longer than two months into two separate pregnancies. I wasn’t yet twenty-two. Judge me, go ahead. I don’t care. I did what I had to do. What I had the right to do. But that was  way back then.

I want to do it right this time. And that’s OK. I can want that, can’t I? To do it right? My secret shames me. Or tries to. All the women ask me more more more about what I see, what I want. But the men turn their cheeks, their torsos, go silent, don’t know what to say. Most of em anyway. One of my friends though, he told me: I want the baby as I stifled a surprised laugh. The baby. I said I’d get back to him on that. Told him thanks, bra.

I’ve been on my own since fourteen, or seventeen depending on which angle. Point is, I’ve been on my own. I’ve packed and moved thirteen different times. I’ve hosted garage sales with a smiling beaming face all the while featuring the discarded stuff of lovers going their separate ways. I’ve patted the back of men I’ve dumped. I’ve sucked the dick of men I love, but never of men I didn’t. I’ve found my own truths through self-therapy, self-medicating, self-forgiving and self-love. I’ve had sex a million gazillion times and I’m still wandering through life unattached, not pregnant, working at a menial job, going to parties, “living it up”, paying rent, extending my youth. But I want to be a mother. Unapologetically.

I like to think I manage quite well our twenty-something household by cooking meals, watering plants, fluffing guests pillows before they arrive, and subtly controlling everything and everyone—including two twenty-something male roommates (one of whom is my boyfriend) who love to drink and debate and hoot and holler but will maneuver this way and that way to avoid my emotional pull and to please me in many a unique manner. But the men must know what I want. They must know I want a baby. We don’t go there. Sooner or later though, we must. Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to prove that I can handle a baby, like a kid would try to prove that he can handle a puppy. Thing is, I probably can’t. What I mean is: learning curve. What I mean is: everything changes. What I mean is: there really aren’t words for becoming a mother.

I dreamed last night that I was. That I was a mother. I was the mother of a small little girl, chubby faced and brunette. She had a smile. Oh she had a smile and we smiled all above and around her. Then there was this moment. This moment where I wanted to go to the other room, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t go in the other room, because I had to stay with Her at all times. It was bliss meeting burden, being a mother. I want to be a mother. Make use of this healthy hearty womanbody that I have. Make up for lost time; for lost bodies.