I don’t like you.
July 27, 2005
“I don’t like you,” is something I don’t want to hear. Not at all. Not anywhere. I want people to like me. One of my students doesn’t like me! Calls and complains. I am shocked! Students usually like me. I’m easy going, funny, cool and don’t give tests. What more could you want? But the student, I realize, has a right to her own opinion. She doesn’t have to like me. I can try harder to be a good teacher, and I do, but I don’t have to unravel.
Yesterday, my assistant gives her two week notice. She’s moving on. I get an email from the chair that a student doesn’t like me or the way I teach, and I found out I have lost one fall class. Then we are going out for margaritas. I tell everyone there that I am going to commit Japanese ritual suicide. They glare at me; they try to laugh, but they don’t think I am funny. There are twenty of us at the restaurant. We order huge margaritas and get very loud. At midnight, when we get home, there are several kids at the house. They are awake and noisy. Pizza leftovers everywhere. It’s Bea’s birthday so at midnight, we light up the candles, eat the cake, sing loudly, while one sleeps on the floor.
I sleep restlessly and wake after five hours sleep to run ten miles. As I run, I realize that the sky likes me very much. The palm trees too. By the last mile, I am as nearly normal as I ever get.
July 22, 2005
I like terms of endearment. Because you don’t have to use them if you want someone. Because they might just mean, You wrap the pages of my mind around you more times a day than you can imagine. Becuase it might mean something. Not love exactly. Darling. Sweetheart. All speaking their own language. Because a term of endearment carries no suitcases, no weight. It is a butterfly wing language. Yet, like silk it enfolds you. And you know that someone smiles when they think of you. Maybe laughs. Which would be okay. I have special names for my children, and when I call them, they know they are mine. Sometimes the day is rotten. Today for example I was robbed. Not that it made the day bad. But I had indulgently gone into Body Shop and bought lotion. I never buy anything there, but I did and I walked out and someone robbed the bag from me while I sat outside the store for a moment. And my daughter said, “Don’t worry, crazy Mama,” and we went home and had cherries and sliced up some raw tuna, ate our sashimi with chopsticks and that was the end of that. So, you, be kind to yourself, darling, sweetheart, sweet Papa, crazy Mama.
July 20, 2005
When you think of “damage”, you usually think permanent. Me too. But for myself, I embrace my own permanent damage. Think. A perfectly undamaged person would have endured nothing, had all happiness poured into the cup of their life and in exchange they have nothing to give. I have met such people, so suffocated with everything they could wish, that all they could see was themselves. Contentment is one thing. An untroubled life another. Contentment should be earned to give character. This is the dilemma for the parent with a hard life. What to give. What to withhold. No one loved me until I was twenty. Then someone said, “I love you.” That was a cue to take my shirt off. I learned to be okay just writing, dreaming and being alive. But my children, I try to give enormous happiness, lives of fetching (school, work) and wandering (dreaming, hanging out). This life of fetching and wandering will hopefully make them thriving active energetic people, not damaged people. But I am never sure what I am doing. I know people who had it all, and years of therapy can’t get them to think beyond their own nose. I tell my children straight to their undamaged faces and laughing eyes, “Be awake! Be aware! Around you life is happening.” And I have to hope that’s enough.
July 13, 2005
At first, blouses were to cover up. Quick and close and buttoned and never undone except alone and then I could hardly bear my own skin without a blouse. Then underwear, later bras. The blouse buttoned to the chin. Later emerging butterfly like, much older. College. The blouse became loose and friendly and half unbuttoned with a t-shirt underneath, and the wind would pick up the blouse a bit and let it flutter, a sail, a signal. Boys and blouses and off they come. Down come the sails, out come the oars and you’re going for shore pretty quickly and all the stories they tell seem to not be enough for what it’s like to stand unbloused and have a boy be so grateful he can barely breathe and he stands at attention like a sailor and you never want to dress again and you never see yourself bloused or unbloused the same because you always hear that rush of breath intaken and exhaled. Now, much older, I can strip off a blouse and stand quietly by the closet mirror. There will be no exhale after all, but it’s okay, my skin juiced and coursing with that dream, that memory that once I took your breath away.
July 11, 2005
A panel last night at Skylight and the bookstore full of people. All these great writers crowded in a single place. We were talking about marketing women’s books and how they don’t get called literature. The place buzzed, vibrations of literary desire. Afterward Electric Lotus and the sky very pale, almost green and we wondered about that. The wine there wasn’t good, but the Indian food had a certain way of sneaking up on you and I sat by Janet Fitch and thought about White Oleander and all that success and yet, she had a sort of molten core about her, a hum as though she were eating electricity every minute. Talked more later at the Dresden and I wondered about that sky which had disappeared into black by the time I descended into Santa Monica to collect teenagers who said they would have seen more of the Fabulous Four if they hadn’t been making out during the movie. The car was all Eighties music on the Sepulveda Pass where the flow of traffic is like lava, unrelenting at every time of day, people going somewhere very important if only you knew.
July 10, 2005
I thought as a child that if no part of my body was being beaten or had been beaten recently enough to still have bruises, that was all good. And if I was being beaten that was an experience too. I think now that every experience stretches the soul like a cloud stetched very thin in the atmosphere, and it’s what you do next that matters. The best thing to do is to make it up. To not read any self help books and not listen to too many experts but instead to run sit swim until you find the inside volcano that is you and then you can always go there and sit and warm your hands. Yesterday I was at a party. There was a man there who loved me. I loved him too but it was different. If we’d met in another time and place. That sort of thing. I came home and the house was still. I read a book and slept like a wave slogging against the beach, the ocean always pulling backwards.
July 8, 2005
At the lake, the coots were sky high with beauty and the baby coots followed them. Not beautiful like the deer who followed us or the wild turkey who ate out of my daughter’s hands and talked in a sort of trilling turkey talk that sounded like music. But beautiful as tiny things are beautiful against blue green water. The baby coots following them, talking to their mothers all the while. When we dove in, the mother coots wrapped their wings close and I could hear the sky. The water seemed like a blanket. I swam across the lake twice. At the middle I could see the lake inside the sky and the sky inside the lake. The water confused everything, plus I’d had a few glasses of wine. There was no reason to hurry. The coots were with their mother and there was more wine in the cabin. Waiting there in the bottle, not going anywhere at all. Soft white filmy waste from the trees filtered down through the afternoon sunlight. After that the sky was ready for anything and so was I. My daughter ran into the lake with her clothes on. Its voice too loud for her, the call too strong and wet. We could have stayed in the lake till nightfall. The lake was everything.
Veering toward the edges
July 5, 2005
Drowning in sleep on Catalina all 4th of July weekend, the sky a blur. We exercise voraciously when we wake, kayaking and hiking and then sink into wine, beer, buffalo milk, the island specialty, some unreal concoction. And then I sleep and read The Book of Illusions and sky and sea blur together all haze and facts drowning. Maybe the Egyptians had it right and facts should be written down on payrus, then hidden. Maybe the sea and sky are more real than anything your banker could tell you. Maybe books are the inside of the world. The smell of fires fills the air. There is punishment for too much pleasure. There will be more wine later and more sleep. The ocean is the edge of the world. There used to be fire beyond it for sinners, but in this century, who knows where the edge really is and where sin and pleasure mix and meet?