Sitting on a couch casting shadows with a birthday boy and a best friend. Well, Birthday Boy is a best friend too.
We’ve been here before, on this couch and others. Ten years of taking up a space for just the three of us. In High School, we played computer games in an old attic with little air-conditioning. A few years ago, we had the same couch in a different apartment. I was having a bit of meltdown, Birthday Boy came over and cooked me dinner.
Life splits like a growing tree, but some scenes are trunks instead of branches.
I watched a video of an 11-yr-old crying while she told the camera her dad’s not a criminal. This was hours after her father was arrested by ICE (along with almost 700 other brown-skinned men and women in Mississippi). She was wearing pink.
Late last week there two shootings, one in El Paso, the other in Dayton. In Texas, at least, the shooter said he was aiming for immigrants. He called them an invasion. He shot a lot of people, mostly Latinos. He was white, they weren’t.
I read a review of memoir called ‘When I Was White.” The book’s by Sarah Valentine, an author raised white in a white family, but who had a black father, and was taught from day one by her white mother to detest blackness. The review goes into this idea that since the original sin of slavery, whiteness has defined itself by ‘purity,’ the one-drop rule, etc. Valentine finds herself discovering her blackness and losing her former identity in the process.
I met a man who tiles pools. He’s black, and said he has a partner who handles the marketing.
“Why?” I asked. He struck me as a grade-A businessman.
“Because I’m a big guy. And, you know. Around here, people get worried seeing someone like me knock at their door.”
I did know.
When Cortes crossed the ocean and met the Aztecs, he fancied himself a divine visitor. And over the next three years, he cut up all the brown bodies until there was no-one left to contradict him.
All of us thought there’d be a storm. We heard it on the weather; common gossip on customer’s lips. And for a while it looked like the sky would crack like torn-up asphalt, but in the end the clouds cleared.
Every so often I go back to Greece. Not physically, of course. We got caught in showers coming down Mt. Olympus. They slicked up the ice toward the top and made it run. I wonder if that ice is still up there? The world’s a lot warmer than it used to be.
I walked by our apartment pool and it was full of people sun-bathing. Or drowning the week’s worries under five feet of water. They looked like skinned fishes in a Saturday market. They had pocks on their backs and matted hair. One family had a dog.
I like the sound a storm makes just before it arrives. The whip of air. Frantic quiet.
Older Fags and Younger Fags, Like Legally Young. Daddies. Zeus and Ganymede. Ganymede was a child, Ziggy schooled her. Yeah, You Were There, Michelle retorted, On Mount Olympus. You Were Working the Door. You Carded Ganymede.
I talked to a friend in Denver. She had a couple peanut-butter cups that were laced with TCH. She bought them legal, of course, from a dispensary. I told her what I know about the banking business around pot, how most banks won’t hold the money even where it’s locally legal due to federal criminalization. That means many of the cannabis outlets are holding large sums of cash and have to spend money on electric fences, armed guards, that sort of thing. My friend said that gave her a weird image – kind of scary.
Meanwhile, men and women around the country are still getting locked up for possession.
My roommate has a plot at the community garden. She grows morning glories, mint and rosemary. She took me to the garden a few weeks ago while we were walking to the office. It was a hot day, I watched her water. There were flies buzzing around, a couple coupled beetles, and a bright blue lizard basking in the sun. She picked a cucumber from a plot a neighbor keeps for the community and we went home and soaked it in salt. The slices made the summer heat more bearable. That taste – like dipping your toes in the ocean.
Who’s allowed to share the harvest? I drink beer weekly and get high off it. I watch my neighbors raise vegetables in a garden. There’s nothing so human as putting seeds in deep soil, nurturing life until it grows. And there’s nothing so human as choosing who gets to benefit from that life and who’s life gets locked behind steel bars for picking the wrong plant.
Anthropomorphism is unavoidable, I am finding, in writing about gardening: weeds don’t just grow, they grow with intent, they grow aggressively. Well, they do, as any gardener knows. They sneak in and swarm up when your back is turned.
The power went out while I was talking to a guy who shines shoes. He’d been telling me about his business, about a bounce-back from hardship, and what it takes to get the best sheen out of black leather. Then the room when dark. We were still comfortable, though. We’d already gotten to feel out each other’s souls.
I got a shot in my arm for tetanus, all on account of a cut on my thumb that keeps bleeding. Some of the blood slipped onto my work pants. Ripest red apples in late fall. Seeing that color made me feel like there must be something sweet inside me to paint the world so vivid. It helped me feel better when the needle was looking for my vein.
I’ve been listening to country songs on recommendation. I’ve enjoyed about half of them, but what’s stood out the most is the way they’ve changed the texture of my day. They’re not full of the aggression that sounds out the music that I’m used to. These songs come from walking through small towns in deep mountains, or getting lost on your cousin Mike’s farm. As I was leaving the doctor’s, a track started playing that had Beyonce singing beside the Dixie Chicks. The song was full of drawn out harmony, strained strings, women singing strength through hoarse vocal chords. It felt close to me, old knowledge, a red caboose. It was morning then, just drizzling, and I had no way of knowing that six hours later I’d been sitting in darkness with a shoe shine, but I could have predicted it, because the music was already showing me deep, dark spaces, three fruits on a gnarled tree, a side of our urban landscape that I rarely recognize, but that always walks with me, the red southern clay.
Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend; the coffee came out so hot I burned my mouth on it; that’s one way to wake up; out the window, there was the aftermath of thunderstorms; I thought about lighting striking, trees catching fire, the energy in my blood; one morning to another, daily breaking bonds like ATP; when my taste came back, the roast was a bit too bitter, but mostly good
I caught a two-year old chasing a yellow butterfly outside my apartment. A hallmark card, but without all the saccharine additives. She was barefooted and in a colorful bathing suit. She walked behind the butterfly, more curious than anything, while the bug swept this and that way between blades of grass. Still, it didn’t fly away. It was leading her somewhere. Her parents were in the gazebo, a hundred feet away, not watching their daughter wholly captivated by the yellow-black bug. But when I came by and said “What a pretty butterfly!” the two-year old’s eyes went wide and she wandered closer to her family. Broken spells.
All of us are still dying a little inside, hoping to be bewitched.