Monthly Archives: July 2010

It’ll probably just end up on the side of the road anyway

She said, “This is all ours” and lay on the floor, spreading out her limbs to express her ownership. I lay on top of her, wanting to crawl inside of her, feeling her tremble almost undetectably the way she did before we made love. These are the things I remember at bus stops, in between bites of sandwiches, waiting for the cashier to press a button. We used to drink seasonal beer on the couch; we’d lie every which way, always inventing new comfort positions and teaching each other, getting tangled and giddy. Once she got carried away and spilled her beer on the sofa. She started crying, surprising both of us. Minutes later she was done, and we fell asleep that way. We woke up hours after the sun had set and the small yellow spot on the corner of the couch had dried.

Things I Did On My Sister’s Birthday

Woke up. Fell asleep. Woke up; left my bed.
Ate Golden Grahams—whole milk; beige ceramic
bowl (IKEA); stainless steel teaspoon, blue
hard plastic handle (IKEA)—; undressed.
Showered—Head & Shoulders; Irish Spring soap.
Dried off; blew nose—toilet paper—; applied
deodorant; cleaned my ears—Q-tips—; dressed.
Checked gmail; peed, washed my hands; brushed my teeth.
Checked facebook; checked twitter; read—webcomics.
Started a poem; checked gmail again.
Finished yesterday’s poem. Ate grilled cheese—
Kraft singles; Wonder bread; George Foreman grill—;
called my sister. Finished today’s poem.
Picked up In-N-Out. Ate. Read—comics. Slept.

Jabba’s Palace — San Diego, 2010

Her hair is French braids, not Cinnamon Buns
wrapped warmly around her small elfish ears,
and her snow white skin glistens, a new kind
of hope, exposed to the heat of two suns.

But soon I see beyond her bright breast,
whose curves are lined with serif’d gold,
and the flow of maroon, like a cape from
her waist, and I can’t help but notice the rest:

a belly with rolled yellow flesh that would seem
to be more at home on a Hutt, with bulges that
spill out from the top of her way too small boots.
You’re not the Slave Leia I saw in my dreams!

Leaving Elias’ House (2)

This is an extension of last week’s 500-ish words: Leaving Elias’ House.

“Mom, you ready to go?” She had moved on to thinking about how it had felt to kiss Elias when Daniel interrupted her. “Everything’s all packed.”

Maynard’s grandmother opened her eyes to two men who were unmistakably related to one another and to her late husband. She thought about those science book illustrations from grade school that showed the evolution of man, starting from a tadpole up through a monkey until the guy at the end is wearing a suit, as though the evolution of man ended on Wall Street.

“We were thinking of grabbing some food on our way there. You hungry?” Maynard asked.

She smiled at her grandson, “You’re a sweet boy,” she said.

“Thanks, grandma,” Maynard said. He looked worried the way all the men in her family eventually did.

“You hungry or not, Ma?” Daniel said.

“You’re not as sweet as Maynard,” she said and stood up. “And yes, I’m starved.”

Maynard climbed into the middle of the truck.

“No fast food,” his grandma said as she climbed in after him, sounding as though she were in the middle of a disagreement. “We’re going to sit down to a meal like a goddamned family.”

“We’re going to Goldens,” Daniel said.

The ride was silent.

Maynard thought about riding home with his father after dropping his grandma off at the home. He felt nervous the way he did before a date that he didn’t expect to go well, a mix of dread and inferiority.

Maynard’s father thought about the shelf in the truckbed. He wondered if he should have tied it down himself instead of getting Maynard to do it. He thought about having to go back to the empty house and clean. He stopped thinking about it when it felt like it might make him cry.
Maynard’s grandma thought about the night Daniel had found her flipping through old photos in the basement and crying.

“You can’t dig up old times,” he’d said. “It’ll only make you sad.”

He hadn’t meant it to be mean or tough, he had meant it out of genuine concern for an old woman whom he didn’t expect to live much longer. An old woman he thought should have happy days to tie up her life.

“You never look at them,” she’d said to him. “Your whole life you gather up pictures, but you don’t really look at them again. Not while you can still enjoy them anyway.”

She’d stopped talking, knowing she couldn’t tell him anything, he didn’t hear anything he hadn’t already said. She’d wanted him to leave, to go back upstairs and worry about her where she could cry in peace. Where she could talk to Elias out loud without feeling like a crazy person.

Daniel parked the truck near a window so he could watch the stuff while they ate. There wasn’t much of anything anybody’d want, but it made him
feel better to have something to do during dinner. Something to look at other than his mother off in the space she’d been occupying more than the present tense lately and his son’s face that was always asking him to knock sense into it.

They emptied out of the truck. Daniel noticed how Maynard didn’t lock the door behind him, confirming again something he already knew about his son. Daniel lagged behind, making a show of reopening the passenger side door, locking it, slamming it shut, then pulling on the handle to demonstrate the purpose of locking it. Maynard held the door open for his grandmother and her son.

“Thank you,” she said as though to a stranger.

The smell of the place reminded her of Elias: the butter from the corn, the salt from the fried chicken, the mayo from the coleslaw, all mixed in with the coffee and the ice cream machine that made you feel like you were inside a refrigerator. It actually smelled cold.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The War Wolf

Alexander the Great was born on a day
that was too powerful for most men.
It did Bruce Lee in, inflamed brain or poison;
it almost had Hitler, but missed, the bomb
going off inches from where it was planned;
Jerusalem lay under siege; Chartres, too,
later that century; Stirling Castle
fell after Edward One of England set
his War Wolf on its walls. The Battles of
Ankara and Peachtree Creek; rioting;
hijacked planes; IRA bombs; explosions
on boats; assassinations; major train wrecks.
I learn history from Wikipedia;
there’s no space for “This Day in Comic Books.”

The Morning Commute

Two strange things I saw on the way to work on the morning of Tuesday, July 6, 2011:

  1. An older Asian man, not unlike a Cart Lady, riding a bicycle, only his bulging trash bags, overstuffed with recyclable bottles and cans looted from curbsides, werre strapped down by bungee cords to the rack above his rear wheel, rather than tossed in a stolen shopping cart. I was waiting at a busy intersection (on the Southwest Corridor Bike Path at Whittier/Ruggles Street, for those keeping track), either for a break in the traffic, or for a walk signal so I could make my way across. Another bicyclist waited there with me (She was there first, and had clearly never heard of pressing the “Walk” button, but that’s beside the point). The older Asian man, on his salvaged Mad Max-esque warcycle of five-cent deposits, was heading towards me in the opposite direction. Rather than wait for a break in traffic — and it’s not like he was going very fast with all that weight on his back, so braking shouldn’t have been a problem — the man continued pedaling (slowly) across the street, with a mad smile. Perhaps he reveled in the thrill of near-death; or, maybe he was deranged and suicidal. There seemed to be more cars in the road at that particular moment than there had previously been.

    Even through the cacophony of revved-up engines and the mad blaring horns of morning commuters, I could still make out the strangest sound from the bicyclist. As one car swerved to avoid him, the man, unphased, cried out, “Bwang-CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG.” I’m attempting to spell this phonetically, of course — I’m not very well versed in foreign languages — but it sounded like the stereotypical sound of a Gong from a movie. Literally like the kind of magic Gong that cues the entrance of some kind of ancient mystic or fabled warrior. When the man finally reached my side of the street, he was laughing wildly to himself, and seemed to be completely oblivious to the presence of myself and the other bicyclist, plowing between us and nearly knocking us both over without a moment of hesitation.

    After that, the road was clear of all sign of cars, and we were finally free to cross.

  2. Riding down Massachusetts Avenue — a fairly major road through Boston/Cambridge, for those of you not from the area, and especially busy during commuter hours — I was preparing to turn left and pull into work when I saw a handicapped man in a motorized wheelchair. A man in a motorized wheelchair crawling along with the rest of the traffic in the middle of the road. Cars in front of him, cars behind him; he was fully situated in a lane of traffic.

    But no one seemed to notice or mind. Probably because he had decked his electric wheelchair out with banners and signs celebrating David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s win in the 2010 Homerun Derby the night before. It’s amazing the kind of things that people get away with in this city under the auspices of the Red Sox. They’re like the universal alibi.

So that was my morning. I guess what they say is true — “Tuesday’s coming; did you bring your coat?”

Leaving Elias’ House

His dad stood on the back of the pickup. His sleeves rolled up, his hair matted with sweat, Maynard thought, “This is how I’ll always remember him.” Of course that wasn’t true, the way many things we think aren’t true for long, if they ever were. Maynard will remember his father the way he will look at 63, lying in a hospital bed looking thinner than he had since he’d graduated college. Maynard will see that man in that hospital bed in his own face when the skin begins to sag and gather around the edges of things like a bed slept in. But the day they moved grandma out of her and Pawpaw’s house, he saw his dad standing on the back of PawPaw’s red Ford and thought he looked completed, as though every moment in his dad’s life had been forming the man he was right then and the years to come would only erode and chip at his surface.

Grandma sat on her porch while they moved her things out of the house. She seemed to be remembering each brick that outlined the edge of the porch as though she’d lain them herself. She was moving to the Ever Glades Maturity Center, an awful, ridiculous name, but the nicest they could afford. The Center’s porch–she’d noted–looked like it’d been constructed out of thick plastic meant for the siding of a house or a playground for accident prone kids. She’d have to share the space with God knows how many others. It’d be a main attraction, a thing to do rather than the rest stop between her garden and her home. Maynard banged out of the side door with her bedside table, using the feet of the thing to force the screen door open. She moved from the bench to the concrete floor of the porch. The burn of the hot concrete through her cotton dress–she’d begun wearing big, shapeless cotton dresses after Elias died–reminded her of sitting by the pool as a kid, her mother’s voice from inside the house asking what flavor of popsicle everyone wanted. She reached her hand over the edge of the porch as if to touch the water, closed her eyes and felt the sun on her skin, focusing on the bead of sweat making its way down her back.

“What’s grandma doing?” Maynard asked his father. They leaned against the truck like some black and white photo.

Maynard’s father used his sleeve to catch the sweat before it reached his eyes. “What do you mean? She’s just sitting there.”

“Yeah, but I mean, what’s she doing with her hand?” Maynard knew he should let it drop, but he felt like he and his dad were on even planes right then, doing the same amount of work, both watching the end of something they had thought would always exist.

“Well, she sure ain’t bringing that old dining table out to the side of the street, so maybe we should get on it.”

Maynard nodded, kept himself from saying, “Yes, sir.”

They didn’t say much the rest of the afternoon, even when Maynard broke a vase and cut his finger. He stuck the finger in his mouth and tore a piece of his shirt off to tie around it when the bleeding didn’t stop. All the bathroom stuff had already been packed and moved out. The house had been rented out, and they had asked if some of the old furniture could be left in the house for their use. They were recent college grads who couldn’t afford things like the island in the kitchen or queen-sized bed in the master bedroom. Maynard’s father was hesitant to rent the house that he grew up in to kids not much younger than his son, who he didn’t seem to trust, but Maynard had convinced him it’d be cheaper to store the old furniture in the house rather than in a storage unit. Throwing it away hadn’t been an option.

They sidestepped the old woman, still pretending to run her hands through the cold blue water. Her upper lip was beaded with sweat and her hairline clung to her skin, but she didn’t seem to notice. Maynard set his glass of water next to her, just in case. After he walked away, she stuck her fingers in it and ran them over her face.

I’m working on a lot of things right now, specifically a collection of stories, so if something feels unfinished, it probably is. Don’t judge me. See you next week!