- The Hours
- The Safety of Objects
- Me, You, and Everyone We Know
- Crouching Tiger
- Life of David Gale
- American History X
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert
- Bend It Like Beckham
- Schindler’s List
- Boys Don’t Cry
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Sunshine Cleaners
- Air conditioner
- Bathing suits. Ugh.
- Outside happy hours
- Open windows
- Longer days
- Cold beer
- Fresher fruits and vegetables
- Better moods
- Warm mornings
- Off and mosquito bites
- Open windows
- Green sheen on cars
- Ceiling fan
- Lawn mower
- Cool mornings
- Warm afternoons
- Temperature changes
- Burning eyes
- Robin redbreast
- Filling bird feeders
I want a voice that is confident and kind. I want a voice that only speaks when it’s necessary. A voice that doesn’t feel the need to constantly be heard. I want a voice that can, when necessary, speak with conviction. I want a voice that is melodious. Encouraging when needed. Soothing when helpful. A voice that people want to hear.
This is what I’ve got: a terrible, awful, grating, pleading, bossy, whiny voice. I have traded in my silent childhood for a loud as fuck adulthood and it embarrasses me every day. Opinions about everything. God, so many opinions. It is so wearing to have an opinion about everything. If I don’t have one, I’ll create one with a moment’s notice. When I grow up, I will reserve judgment. I’ll be known for exactly that. “Well, I’m not sure what to tell you, but Ann said…and she NEVER has an opinion, so I’d listen to her.” Once every four years or so, I’ll offer an opinion. Other than that, I’ll just listen.
Also, I say mean things sometimes. Acerbic things. Guess when I say them. You’ll never guess. This is so unique. When I feel like shit about myself, I say shit things to other people. I say things that are unequivocally not okay to say. I don’t mean to, but I have to feed the self hate somehow.
To avoid total self-degradation, which is so pitiful, isn’t it?: I can say good things. If you feel badly about yourself, I can tell you a million reasons why you’re wonderful. And I will mean them. This is both a bad and good thing: when you’re struggling, I can help you talk through things and maybe help you come up with some solutions. Okay, I will give you solutions. You know, the ones that I think are the right ones. I will yell at myself over and over while we talk, though, and tell myself to listen. Listen.
My voice, regardless of circumstances, has the pleading, tinny sound of an annoying child. An eight year old who thinks she knows everything. An eight year old with greasy hair and a sticky mouth who is bony and knobby and never looks clean, even when her skin is still soft from the bathtub. Maybe that’s just it. That’s the girl I am. The girl who is never clean like the other girls. I am not the girl who is pink and soft and rounded at the corners. Buffed with a suede cloth. The girl with soft hair pulled back with a headband. The girl with small gold hoops in her ears. The girl who doesn’t sidle up to the circle of pointy elbows. Don’t ever make fun of the girl who hangs out on the edges of the grown up circle while the other kids are playing kick the can or brushing out their Barbies’ hair. It is so tempting to make fun of her. She is so gross. She is needy and an absolute pest. A pebble in your shoe, a strand of hair in your mouth. But she is begging, absolutely dying for your attention. She would do anything, absolutely anything for you to notice her. Put your hand on her greasy head. Smile at her. Tell her she has such a pretty smile. She is dying, just dying a thousand small deaths in her heart every day, dying for you to notice her. And if you smile at her and put your hand around her neck or place the back of your hand against her cheek and tell her that she is a nice girl or a smart one, you will have given her words to play over and over and over in her head. When she can’t sleep at night because she is alone and afraid, she will play your words. Over and over and over. You will become her hero. Quickly. She will think about you all the time. She will wonder what kind of sofa you have, what soap you use, what your hand looks like with a fork in it. She will go downstairs and get a fork from the drawer and hold it in her hand and look at it, tilting her head and wondering if her hand looks anything like yours does when it holds a fork. She will slip the fork under her pillow, like a piece of wedding cake after the reception, and she will pray that she learns how to hold the fork just like you do while she sleeps. She will wonder if you sleep on your back like her. She will think that maybe you sleep on your side, like all normal people. She wants to be like the normal people. She wants to be like you. She will begin sleeping on her side. It will be uncomfortable and hard to fall asleep, but she will persist. When she sees you, she will be very shy. She will not want to steal your breath or annoy you in the slightest. She will be painfully self-aware. It will hurt to be around her. Her skin will be fly paper, picking up lint and sand and dust. Her skin will be sandpaper. Coarse and ugly. She will stand motionless, arms held out from her sides so the sandpaper doesn’t rub and scratch and annoy you. You will look at her and wonder why she looks so stiff. She looks like she has a painful sunburn. She will worry that you think she is ugly. She will know she is ugly. She won’t speak so that she doesn’t say anything stupid. She knows she is stupid. She will worry that you notice that her hair is greasy. All of the other little girls have fluffy hair. Her hair splits into furrows, white scalp shining, hair follicles dotted like blackheads across her scalp. She may as well take off her pants and sit down on the floor with her legs open. She will look at you and her plain old nondescript blue eyes will hold you tighter than you have ever been held. Her eyes will turn in their sockets. You are the sun. She will rotate around you. You will not know it, but she will be scanning your every move, memorizing you so that she can remember you when you realize that she’s an irritant. When you shake the pebble out of your shoe. She knows you’ll leave, but even after you’ve left, she will hold you tighter than you could know.
I loved all my dolls. Not barbie dolls. Dollbabies. Babies that cried, babies that walked. I had a baby who sat in a walker. I pushed her away and then she did a u-turn and wheeled back to me, arms up, saying, “Whee! That was fun, Mama.” She had two blond ponytails.
My favorite toy was an Alvin and the Chipmunks tour van. A big red plastic van. Carboard inserts slid out of one side of the van and became the stage, which was propped on plastic yellow sawhorses. I chewed the sawhorses, so the stage never rested evenly. Dave was a big doll, barbie-size, and he had a director’s chair and a megaphone. He was molded entirely from plastic, blond hair and green sweater included. Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were also molded from plastic. Alvin had a yellow plastic microphone. He was the singer. Theodore was the drummer and had a yellow plastic drum set, and Simon had a plastic keyboard. The interior of the van was a tour bus with a sofa and a kitchen, molded from red plastic. Dave drove the bus. I didn’t really play with the toy, but I did enjoy sitting on the floor looking at it.
Driving in the Morning After Fitful Sleep
My small town went to the
drycleaners’ over night
while I was sleepless in a
This morning, the trees are greener.
This is a fact. Backlit by morning light:
leaves flutter over the sun’s white face
like bouquets of shaven lime peels. The
world is surreal without sleep. Everywhere
trees are greener. They green greenier.
Roofs cut sharp silhouettes
out of the line of blue sky, like
razor blades scoring tissue paper.
Big dogs grin toothier, tongues
lolling the lollingest lolls
past toothy tooths. The dogs
wear the grinningest grins.
Green hills roll rollier, rounded round
and rolling green. Sun shines. Its
light the whitest you’ve ever seen.
White, white, whitiest sunlight ever you’ve
seen. This town is a collection of cardboard
houses and paperbag stores, a town assembled
on plywood set on two sawhorses
while I didn’t sleep last night. Shoebox packages
done up with strings. Birds flying
above, cracking wings.
This morning’s blue sky is pretty and brilliant.
A brillier sky! Prillier, prilliest
blue sky. Flat clouds, cluds, slide
calm and wipe the face of
the prilliest sky with a whitiest white.
Neighborhoods built from boxes are shaking,
backlit by the prilliest blue.
A cardboard tree without a shadow
is propped at the bottom of
the hilliest hill.
Lots and lots of work to do.
When I was a child, my father dragged us to showcase homes on the weekends. I don’t know why. These were houses for millionaires, and we weren’t even hundredaires. It’s sad looking back, so emblematic of the life he wanted. The life he thought he deserved and a life that I think he was delusional enough to believe he would have one day. The houses were extravagant and opulent and, I know now, gross in their excessiveness. They sprang up from dirt lots, clouds of dust rising at the heels of voyeurs. I can’t remember if I was young enough and silly enough to believe that living in a house like this was possible, but I remember falling in love with a bedroom. It was a small room, and the color white appeared nowhere. You could hide against the colors and never be found. The walls, ceiling, floor, and bedding were a saturated cranberry. The furniture was dark cherry. A single sleigh bed was caddy corner, and silk drapes hung from the ceiling and draped over the headboard and footboard. Pillows were piled on the bed, and the linens were rich and expensive. Even as a child, I knew this was not normal people bedding. This was rich people bedding. It was fluffy and heavy and the fabrics had texture. The duvet cover had the weight of grand drapes. I knew that I could live in this room with piles of books and nothing else. No company. No friends. No family. Books, sheets, and pillows. Not one other thing.