There is a house.

There is a house.

There is a house, and it is out in the woods, or up in the hills, or beside a lake, or alone in a sprawling valley. It is late morning, it is early afternoon, it’s late at night and the stars are out.

There is a house, and I know this is a dream because I know that it is somehow mine. Nothing when I am awake ever belongs to me, but this house is mine, and this is a dream. This should make it a good dream, but it is all a trick, it is an illusion.

I am running up the stairs, in the house, and they change direction, or orientation, or the light falls on them differently, when it is there, and when it is not, the dark swallows them up behind me. I run up the stairs as they disappear behind me, falling away like dominoes. I don’t see them, I don’t turn around, they make no sound, but I feel them pulling away, almost still beneath the backs of my heels. I run up the stairs; there are so many stairs. I am dreaming, and so I do not count the stairs, like I always do when I am awake, and so I know it is a dream.

He is there with me, or he was, until he wasn’t any longer. The house is mine, and it is in my dream, but still, nothing can stay; the stairs, the walls keep moving around. We are in bed together at first, every time, tangled in warm sheets, without a care in the world. He is smiling down at me, stroking my hair, he is happy to see me, and so I know this is a dream. The more I realize none of it is real, the more it unravels, the way that dreams do.

He says something he seems to find funny, but it is harsh or cruel; there is a tapping at the window; there is a knocking at the door. I know who it is, I don’t know their name, but I know who it is. It is the same person it always is, face changing like a shape-shifter; I know it is someone better, someone more beautiful, more compelling, more talented and vibrant, stronger and worthy than me; it is someone lovable. When you have never been good enough, there are an infinite number of better someones out there. That will never be me, because I am none of these things, so of course he is gone, if he was ever there with me at all. He is walking up the stairs, he is walking down the stairs, all those stairs, wherever they go, I can hear his voice, but where did he go? No, he is gone; he doesn’t speak to me, not anymore. The rooms keep moving, the walls fall away; I do not know where he went, I will never know, I only know I’ve been left behind.

There are no stairs, there are no walls, there is no bed. There was never a house. There was only ever me, the same in waking as I was as the nightmare always closes: only ever me, alone in the dark.

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How do I work this?

I had a thing, for a good portion of my years in school, all the way up through high school — likely influenced at least somewhat by my godfather, a highly sought after architect of, at that time, the richest homeowners in the country — about occasionally but obsessively designing my own imaginary house. Thinking back now, I’m not entirely sure where the desire to do so came from: I loved my childhood house. (And I do mean I loved it; I was fiercely devoted to it in a way I’ve never felt about any other place I’ve lived, observed and lived within it with deep affection and attachment for as long as I could remember, photographed it obsessively once I knew we’d be moving out after 17 years living there.)

doors

Doors (Carmel Valley, 19 April 2004). When I say I documented my childhood house obsessively, before we left (June 2004), I mean it sincerely. There was a light that lived in that house, which I did my best to capture — my father imparted to me the importance of the meaning of photography, which is “to paint with light” — but have never encountered anywhere else I’ve visited or lived. I’m always looking for it, but I have never found it again. I don’t imagine I ever will. The only place it still lives is in a few achingly earnest photographs I took when I was 17 and mourning.

Maybe it was just one more way of exercising my visual thinking acuity, or just another doodling outlet or outlet for my little Lego-loving ass… Maybe it was just a little girl who’d never known what it was like to have money trying to imagine a world where you get to create your own living space, the way they entice you to do in home style magazines and those early demo computers in hardware stores: the way rich people do. It definitely is to blame for my long-lasting and bizarrely fierce dedication to the use of graphing paper. To this day, any time I move, I still create a scale model of the room I’ll be moving into, complete with loose pieces representing every piece of furniture, and plot it all out before I actually lift any boxes or hammer any nails in.

This past weekend, the landlord has been (finally) doing some sorely needed renovations on the main bathroom in our apartment, which meant all three of us needed to find somewhere else to shower for a few days, while the paint and new caulking dried. Thanks to a very fortunate bit of timing, another tenant in the building, who’d lived in one of the upstairs units, to the east side of the building, just moved out at the end of January; we were able to wheedle the landlord’s permission to leave the back door to the place open for a few days, so we could make use of the shower up there, in the now vacant unit. I’ve lived in this building for over four years now, but I’d never once ventured upstairs, or even into another one of the six or seven other units, until now. (The fact that I’m honestly not sure — still! — whether there are six or seven besides ours probably makes that fairly embarrassingly clear.)

Walking into that apartment for the first time the other day, I was a bit floored, and suddenly wished, in a way I hadn’t done in many long years, that I could afford to live on my own. It reminded me of a game I once played with a childhood friend, where we’d run across the street from our neighborhood to the freshly built houses across the street — as San Diego expanded wildly in all directions and overbuilt itself into a sprawling suburban, traffic-ridden hell arguably worse than the bits of LA everyone bitches about the most — let ourselves into one of the three furnished model units the realtors always seemed to leave unlocked, and play dream house in them. But this, now, was somehow even better: this apartment here is, for the time being, blissfully empty. It’s a truly blank canvas.

It’s smaller overall, with fewer rooms — meant for one tenant (at most two), whereas we’re able to fit three into ours fairly well — and the bathroom itself, our point for having access to it now, is certainly smaller than ours. (No dedicated parking space either, so far as I know.) But… hardwood floors! Be still my heart. An A/C unit in the living room! Fewer rooms means they’re all at least somewhat larger, too, particularly the kitchen. Though the first thing I swooned at, even before the flooring, was the large picture windows facing out onto the main street. Sure, the bedroom is the closest to the street, but I sleep like the dead, so what do I care about road noise? Those windows are heavenly. There’s a ceiling fan in the bathroom, and their window isn’t painted shut! The air flow is divine. Then, of course, I turn to my right, and discover the walk-in closet, with its own window, and die a little inside. And, of course, fall a bit hopelessly in love with the whole thing.

It’s arguably a sillier fantasy now than it was when I was a little girl; pretending this great empty space is something I can furnish and arrange to my liking. At the rate I’m going, I’ll die never having had the luxury of living alone, let alone owning (or even renting) any property just for myself. Even considering it seems absurd. Still, for the first time since childhood, I know at least one little corner of my mind will be laying graphing paper gridding over those rooms in my mind, imagining what I could make of that fresh, open space, in that fantasy world that will never be, where it’s mine to do with whatever I want. Is it better or worse to be dreaming a little about a space that’s not only not entirely made up, for once, but that’s just a short trip up the stairs from where you already are? I’m honestly not sure.

Same as it ever was, same as it ever was…

 

via Daily Prompt: Permit

So goodnight, dear void.

I shut this blog down some months ago, and I wasn’t sure when, or even if, I would ever revisit it. I wrote a good amount in it, for a while, but I wasn’t yet ready to confront myself fully within it. I know this because, inevitably, any time I posted anything, I was gripped eventually, if not almost immediately, by an insane desire to scrub the entirety of it, and possibly myself right along with it, from the earth. I could, and did, write honestly, but in a way that was the biggest problem. I could write these things about myself with a clear mind in the moments of initial expression, but then merely sitting back and being faced with myself as I am, once the words were down, even in bits and pieces, seemed somehow unbearable.

I’m more accepting of myself now. And I do believe I’m at least marginally less a ridiculous asshole than I was the last time I wrote here. I am at least more comfortable now with the fact that no one will likely ever read, nor care, about a single word left here but me.

Truth is: I’m the most impassioned pragmatist you’ll ever know; my fiercely guarded heart is more readily hijacked by hope than my deeply cynical ass will ever permit you to know.

Last year, that absolute bitch of a year, once it became obvious that my only really regular reader had completely disengaged, and that I was, in effect, writing to just one more empty room, I decided it was time to close up shop. It was all just a bit too on-the-nose emblematic of what the year had already cost me, and I did not need any more reminders. I’ve already got plenty of disparate Notepad documents languishing on my hard drive, full of ever-growing strands of thoughts to peck away at, if I really feel that strong an urge to loose another echo down the chamber; doing so in yet another pseudo-public space struck me as rather redundant, if not pathetic. I’m no stranger to talking to myself, after all; no true loner ever is. What use was one more anonymous, lonely space in which to do so? I had grown too disillusioned with it, by that time, to continue sincerely.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m opening this thing back up for, even now, while we’re being honest (and I suppose that would have to be the royal We; there’s no one else here left to address). It may be a decision — now that my mental health is much stronger, and I have far fewer fucks remaining to give — driven entirely by ambivalence. I do miss the community of a space, like an old (much different) blog of mine once had, but which has also since mostly died (yet is another space I seem bound to stubbornly keep alive). Who knows? Perhaps I’m just too old for blogging in this particular platform. I had hoped for more, and even had a bit, for a little while, until I didn’t.

We shall see. For now, I’ve only restored a fraction of the original content that once lived here; either pieces that actually did result in some small form of interaction at the time, or that I might have been somewhat proud of then, even if I’m not at all sure whether I can call myself proud of any of them any longer. The whole thing may disappear again, perhaps permanently, mere months from now; then again, it may not. My patience with its apparent pointlessness remains, for the time being, open, albeit limited. I’m hardly a writer, but then again, if the notion of constructing even the barest memoirs sometime in my future is ever meant to be realized, I imagine I will have to become far more accepting of the yawning futility of this space, first.

恋の予感

BW05

Pretty mountain. (West Hollywood)

I was running late, from my other job I was pretending I didn’t have — or rather, lying about it being somewhere else, mentally berating myself over both things, simultaneously. He was running late, too, though I have no idea from what — I was too nervous to ask. I remember wishing I could’ve dressed more nicely, without being sure whether the occasion even called for it, but having no time between to do so, not that I would’ve known what to wear, anyway. I didn’t know how to look nice, really; I wasn’t used to caring. I might have even had my (then longer) hair tied back, lazy as ever, because I wasn’t in the habit of caring about how it looked, either, but I can’t recall for certain. Fuck, do I hope I didn’t.

I do remember, hilariously, that I pointedly hadn’t shaved my legs, not so much because I believed there was any potential for anything to happen (I didn’t dare be that optimistic), but more a ridiculous little inside joke between me and Bonnie Hunt, who I do not know and will never read this, by way of Return to Me. The only thing I had on to potentially look more presentable than I typically did was my boots — fashionable and covered with buckles, but far better for walking than they appear — otherwise all I could do was put on a vaguely nice outfit, despair at my skin as I did (and still do) every day, hope for the best, and head out the door. This was what I’d come here for, I was finally ready to say: I am ready for things to happen to me. I am ready to make things happen. Back down in my hometown, I couldn’t; too much despair and anger tethered me too closely to the ground. But now, at last, I could. As the late poet John Berryman said, “We must travel in the direction of our fear.”

While I was still in the car, looking for parking in an unfamiliar neighborhood, he chanced sending me an unmistakably, albeit gently, flirty text message, and I finally felt I could chance some real optimism about the whole endeavor. I’d been too busy for the past week or so being extremely, silently pissed at myself for having any interest in the first place; I was new, this was stupid, I can endlessly punish myself for feeling things, no matter how innocuous, etc. It was already the second thing — after asking me to meet him in the first place — that he’d been brave enough to risk; that I’d wanted to do myself, but had been too afraid to. My pulse quickened a bit, and I finally found a spot.*

As I approached him on the street, where he stood in casual silhouette waiting outside his apartment, I realized: yes, this was a date. We both wanted it to be, and this seemed to hang in the air between us the closer I got, and so it was. And from there, we walked. Winter was approaching, and it was already dark out; streaks of reflected neon light from shops lining the boulevard shimmered up from the asphalt, as cars hissed sleekly through them. There was still a slight mist of the earlier, weak drizzling rain hanging in the air like a moist kiss.

I wish I could retrace our steps exactly — I have a vague idea of the paths we wandered, but I was still new to the city, and not very well acquainted with the area yet; the streets didn’t mean anything to me then. Our strides matched each other perfectly, which he noticed, and commented on, sounding pleased.

My heart remained simultaneously in my throat somewhere all night, while I also felt surprisingly calm and at ease. I rarely ever feel at home with people, and almost never do so immediately. It felt a bit like being mildly high, or some other form of chemical imbalance in the brain. He was easy to talk to, with a slightly shy smile, as though he wasn’t sure he wanted me to see beyond his moodier way of presenting himself outwardly. He watched me carefully all night, while I deftly avoided eye contact, not yet used to feeling okay about looking anyone right in the eye, after having been trained out of it for so long. Later on, sharing a milkshake, he watched me again, more closely still, playing with my hands across the table; I watched his fingers caressing mine, instead. At one point I did chance a look up, and there was such an open look of sweetness on his face, it shocked me, warmed me to my toes. I didn’t look away that time.

It was late when he walked me back to my car, holding my hand, sharing jokes as we traversed the mostly empty streets. Standing by my car, lingering, I gave him an opening, surprising myself, and he wrapped an arm around me and pulled me into him. It was a hell of a first kiss — though I didn’t tell him then, not for a little while, that that’s what it had been. I was afraid he’d think of me as childish or pathetic, given my age, or worse: it might break the spell that seemed to have taken hold of me, and cover me back up with the veil that had always made me as invisible and unwanted as I’d always appeared to be. I was visible now; I wanted to be seen.

And so I was. I melted right into him, and forgot about everything else. It went on for several minutes, and genuinely made me weak in the knees; I sort of fell into the front seat of my car after we said good night. But I remember, too, how I could feel his knees trembling against my thighs, and how wonderfully endearing that felt, how awed I was by even the concept of having any sort of power over anyone to inspire such a reaction, let alone facing the reality of it pressed warmly up against me. *I’d gotten a parking ticket; something I could not afford to deal with then, and which should’ve both terrified me and pissed me off, and yet in that moment, and for hours afterward, even, I genuinely could not care even slightly about it. It had flown out of my head, along with just about everything else.

I even missed seeing a pothole on yet another unfamiliar street, on my way home, just before merging onto the late, near-empty 101 North (and later overshot my freeway exit, too). My car had already been making a lot of cranky noise about the slowly degrading control arm in its undercarriage, but following this it made even angrier noises related to this particular oversight for years afterward, though I never told him. Slightly damaging my car driving home from that first date in such a haze of wonder and lust and smitten energy remained a funny reminder of that night to me alone, even once I’d finally gotten it repaired, only just earlier this year. My mother would’ve understood, but my father never could have.

There was some great expression in me that had been waiting to be brought out, or is still forming even now, or perhaps there are yet many of them in me still, big and small ones, coming out all the time, while others lie in wait. I do know that I wouldn’t feel this about myself at all if not for the spigot opening that night, and his uncanny ability to continue to open me up beyond that intial spark, and help me to face all the things I’ve found there — good and bad, silly and sad, beautiful and ugly.

This was all only 10 days after we met; 10 days further on, and he’d be wrapped around me from behind in my car, in a seemingly impossible position, the physics of which I still can’t fully explain, gently stroking his fingers along the top of my breasts, just above the line of the tiny red dress I’d deliberately worn to the holiday party, working his hand under it to my bare skin while a cop car sat just 50 feet ahead of us. Fuck, was I in trouble.

But I knew that before then. I knew it out on those streets, when I realized as we struck out together in the night that I would’ve walked anywhere.

Like a place your sight can knock on

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Walking to work this morning, I came upon the body of a little black cat who’d been hit by a car and left to die in the street. He wasn’t a tiny baby anymore, but he was still small, likely no more than 10 weeks old. I immediately teared up, and not just because I have a black cat of my own, now living with my mother. I love all kitties, especially the neighborhood strays I always make friends with, and he just looked so small and alone.

After I finished store opening duties, I called the pet shop just around the corner from my shop, and they offered a kitten box and some towels to me gratis, which was very kind. I walked back over with them, knelt down, gently picked him up, wrapped him in the towels, and placed him in the box. All the while, more people just continued to drive and walk by, just as before, clearly not giving a shit. I was crying while I did it, but I couldn’t help it. Fortunately, a dear friend was messaging with me a bit during all this, which helped me do what I knew I needed and wanted to do.

I tried calling Animal Control, but their line just constantly redirects you to nowhere (not an exaggeration; it’s an endless loop), and the more I thought about it, the more sure I was I didn’t want to deal with them, anyway. He wasn’t a diseased bird, or a big possum or raccoon, he was just a little kitten. They wouldn’t be able to pick him up for 24 hours anyway, and that was not okay with me. I kept a watchful eye on his box in the back room at work until I left for the night; I came home, my roommates and I grabbed some water to soften the ground and a gardening spade, and by the light of one of their cell phones, spent a half hour digging a little grave for him out behind our building, just under my bedroom windows. It’s a rarely trafficked space, and though I can’t have cats in our building, I liked the idea of him coming home to rest with me, in some way. He was left out alone in the street for hours, but here, he would be tenderly bundled and safe.

When I turned him over to place him in the ground, there was a little bloom of blood where his head had been resting before, the site of his only (sadly fatal) injury. When I saw his tiny little paws just barely peeking out from the towels, I started to cry quite hard, some tears spilling down onto him, though in the quiet way I always try to, in my knee-jerk attempts to always hide it. We filled in the hole, and packed it down carefully so it would dry nicely tomorrow, I laid out some red sunflowers I’d gotten earlier, and said a few words. I said I was sorry I couldn’t do more for him, and that even if nobody else had, I loved him. (And then cried a lot more, salting the damp, newly turned earth a little. But I couldn’t help that, either.) He deserved better, but I did what I could.

Rest easy, little one.

 

A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

— “Black Cat” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Crystal

Why, oh why, did she have to sing that song?

Turns out you can hold a surprising amount of contrasting emotions inside at one time, and I sometimes forget this, buttoned up little wallpaper me, until I find myself somehow, simultaneously: glad to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while; happy for and proud of one of them continuing to move on and do great things, even if I’m spectacting on it from further and further away; startled to hear a certain familiar song, and usually one with more positive connotations, but which now only brings to mind all the things you finally sort of believed you had are all gone; so overwhelmed by the sadness it brought with it this time, which you were not prepared for, even if you had been braced for the song selection, which you decidedly were not…

Which inevitably means you are: sitting on a dark and lushly decorated back patio, in lovely flickering candlelight, during the best time of the year, surrounded by good things and with good people nearby, one even making you laugh as she always does, legitimately blinking back actual goddamn tears, reminding yourself that no one can see this dammit, don’t be stupid, you can’t let them see, just blend back into the wallpaper, while staring fixedly at a flickering bulb above the back door, at once wondering whether it was a purposefully ambient choice to go with the spooky décor, or simply is about to burn out, just like you, and thinking all throughout this, in a kind of crazed mantra, “This must be rock bottom; it has to be rock bottom; right?; if it’s not it can’t go much deeper; I don’t think I can handle it; just let this be rock bottom, and let me be done with it.”

Maybe another of those friends was right, talking out back, after: maybe the Dodgers win the Series and it rights something wrong in the universe. I don’t give a shit about baseball, but any form of reset, no matter how superstitious, anything at all, would do. Just, please, no more. I am so tired.

Through the crystal-like and clear water fountain
Drove me like a magnet
To the sea
To the sea

To the sea…

 

It can be lonely next to you

The power of memory to edit can be a strange thing. It’s understandable — our brains are constantly reshuffling what we can recall from where, the older we get, so it’s the essentials that tend to stick. Mine is stronger, particularly visually, than average, but even so, the mundane moments between the highlights are as unlikely to stick with me as they are for anyone else.

I find myself wondering lately: How did I do it? In the beginning, the early parts, how did I manage what seems to have become so challenging now? Did it hurt? Was it confusing? Was it so much quieter? It must have been, and yet…

How did the time pass, and where was my head then? My emotional state then, how maddening could it have been for me? How anxious, how habitual, how manageable? Was it easier because there were fewer expectations, because I had no idea what would happen? Not that I have any better idea what might happen now, but how was it I could accept that so much more easily then? Did I? Or have I just forgotten those struggles in order to make room for what I’m wrestling with now? How did those days, those nights feel? How much have I edited out, for brevity? There must have been more of them then, and yet…

I wish I could call her up — younger me — and ask her: What are you thinking right now? How are you feeling? How are you doing it? (You don’t even know what it is you’re doing, do you? It just seems like that now, because now is not then.) (Younger me, probably, were this possible: “What the fuck are you even talking about?”) Hang in there; watch yourself. You will get careless, difficult, complacent. You will find new ways to create problems you don’t have to. You will end up stuck only because you walled off your best options with fear. Take it easy. Don’t get so ahead of yourself. Don’t confuse hopes with plans, which can be a trap. Be open, which is not the same thing as hovering over the precipice of holes you’ve already dug. The latter only means you’ll end up working so hard to control your future you’ll run headlong into a brick wall of your own making. You don’t like to be wrong, and you don’t like to be afraid, but in order to be prepared for whatever comes next, you have to allow yourself to be both. Whatever feels so insurmountable to you now — and it must be something; probably several somethings, everything is so new and scary and impossible to predict — will pass, to the point you can’t even recall it now. Can you even imagine? You got through it, you learned from it, you made yourself more. You are stronger than you realize, and yet…

Thinking back, so many of the best things, the best moments, the best experiences — you know the ones I mean — were never planned or expected. (Remember how your heart raced, how suddenly everything seemed so open ahead of you? It was because you allowed yourself to give up control, to be afraid, to move past it, to step into the unknown, to not pretend you had any idea what might happen. That’s where the magic was. That was brave. Stop, breathe, wait, look around: you can surprise yourself again.) Often they completely surprised me, snuck up on me, occurred despite things seeming unlikely or hopeless or somehow otherwise dire. The surprise in them was a bigger part of what made them great — made them memorable — than I think I have allowed myself to remember.

The revisionist in my head likes to look back and claim she knew what she was doing, she had a plan, she laid out all the pieces in order that That happened, and This was wonderful, and There was where we ended up. She’s also a liar, of course. I didn’t plan any of it. I couldn’t have; no one can. The illusion of control over one’s life is not confined to the present. I can tell myself that hopes being realized and plans coming to fruition were one and the same, though they were in fact nothing of the kind. My hopes only came true when I let them linger quietly and stayed open, did not impose plans upon them at all. They came true almost in spite of me. They were most fruitful when I got out of their way.

glance

This photo of me, which I took by mistake — I’m clearly not paying attention; I thought the lens was facing the other way — is one of the rare ones of myself that I love. (Candids are almost always my favorite photos, of anyone.) I want to look that lovely all the time, and yet apparently I probably do, or so I’ve been told; I look so hard the rest of the time, pick every little thing apart, until I can’t even see it. But there it is, right there: and it was a mistake. It, and the moment I captured within it, is vivid and worth keeping almost entirely for that reason. It’s okay. Just get out of the way. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Do it anyway.

I want to allow the world to surprise me more. I want to surprise myself again. I will.

Just have the courage to open up to yourself
Then we can be free, yes
I wanna be free…