Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Curses



It's October now, and it's hot enough in Kansas City during the day for shorts but cool enough at night for a sweater. Feels like every time I've been to Los Angeles and left my friend's apartment after dark, although I've never packed a sweater on any trip there and always regret it. I can't drop the image of LA as a desert, even if it technically isn't. Maybe it's the longest beach I've ever seen. Just t-shirt shops and places to eat all the way to Vegas.

Vegas. Fuck. All roads end somewhere tragic. If we thought we'd escaped cultural calamity and lived in an age of small, personal tragedies, we were wrong. Whatever poison the South has sucked on since forever has spread like the hot and angry climate. It's not enough to worry about getting rear-ended in the parking lot. You have to worry about being shot at the concert. Not hunted down for some intimate vendetta. You're not even a character in his story. You could be anyone to a man and his guns. It doesn't matter. The point to him is you're no one. He has no love for the personal. You're a number. You live a life he doesn't fully control until he does. Until he takes it.

Once, my husband and I were walking to the library. A man in a red truck tracked us down the main road there, passing us a few times to yell at us. We met at a long light in a busy area. People were there is what I'm saying. We were witnessed. The man yelled more from his window. He was drunk. I stared at him as he abused us. I won't write what he said. It's too boring, a cartoon of cruelty. If I wrote it, you might think, "People don't really act like that." But they do. I looked at him like he was throwing a tantrum, like he was a baby who could be waited out. Cold, patient. He wound down but never stopped. The light turned and so did he, finally off our path. Some women leaving a store behind us apologized. That they didn't do anything in the moment is something I couldn't forgive then but understand with potency now. We were all waiting, hoping he didn't have a gun. That day, he didn't. Or that day, he wouldn't. I'll never know. You can never know.

A defensive prayer: Never. No.

And then we continued walking to the library. From the deadly to the mundane. I decided then, as I decide over and over, that I'm going to scrape out whatever's left in the shell. I have love, and I have loved. I live in a house full of books. I have friends to celebrate. I make art that surprises me as I make it. And now, after two years of drawing, I'm not just making art; I'm selling it. Small indulgences find me out. Pleasures from careless childhood. Video games, paying someone else to cut my hair, a desire to wear pretty rings. Last night, a local jewelry maker sent me a message about three new opals they'd cut. Each one striking in its way. I picked the third one. Dark and streaky. Bloody with cracks of fire. I showed Josh and Shawn. They were both born in summer. They would have picked the first opal, the brightest one, the white one with green flashes and delicate veins. You could call it optimistic if you lean that way, if you believe every object in this universe has character, even a stone.

But I picked the opal that reminds me of a curse because I believe in generational strife, a suffering that links our bloody past to our bloody present. A curse that burns, but not a curse that can't be understood. Hot days can end in cool nights. And like a stone set into a ring, I have to believe that one day soon, in the right hands, our curses can be contained.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Almond Skin



My floor is soft. The fresh snow of cat hair. Some weeks I sweep every day. Other weeks I don't sweep at all. I think, No one's coming over because I'm fine with no one coming over. Josh and Shawn are either at home or at work. I'm always home, and sometimes home is work. The cat sits in the window and sleeps. The hardest work he does is beg for attention, the default work we all do no matter what other jobs we have.

My dog is the color of an almond skin. He eats food I didn't know dogs would eat--broccoli, carrots, apples. Almonds, too. I gave him an almond earlier when I was knitting on the couch. I'm finished knitting, but the almond is still there next to him, a small mirror of his own golden coat. They are like two horses in a field of winter nothing. This one closer. That one farther away, a smooth abstraction in the distance.

My dog is saving his almond for later. He'll eat it when he feels it's under threat of being stolen. No one in this house would steal his almond, but he doesn't know that. He doesn't know there's a large bag of almonds in the kitchen where this almond, his almond, came from. And he doesn't know he's lucky to be alive, that after he was adopted, his mother and siblings were torn apart by a larger dog. His only brother now is the cat who sometimes hisses at him and sometimes grooms him. Here, we are all as good to each other as we can be.

My drawings are in a box Josh gave me. I add a new drawing to the box once or twice a week. Each one takes a day to imagine and another day to draw. Eight of them will fit on the clothesline in the dining room. When I'm feeling colorless, I'll hang a few drawings on the line. I'm surprised by them, that I made them. Those are mine, I think. Shawn says they come from me naturally. Only I could make them. I like to think he's right. How could they not be me? And still, I stand there, proud and confused to see what I've done, to measure the distances I've travelled to get my own attention.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

40th and Bell



Brushing my teeth today and I see a perfect hole cut from the middle of a leaf in our bathroom. The leaf is part of a vining plant a friend gave us four years ago. I brush my teeth too hard, and the spit comes out pink. I look at the hole in the leaf again. I thought I was seeing the white floor through it, but what's really there instead of a hole is a dot of paint from when the landlord fixed the moldy ceiling a couple weeks ago. The dot is clean. Beneath the leaf, the tile is not.

Shawn moved in last month, but not all the way. He's here. His cat and dog are here. His clothes are here. The antique tea cart he insists we'll grow to love is still and unused in his small, dark apartment a few blocks away. So are the two haunted portraits of a married man and woman that will go in his new bedroom, our spare room, the place that's changed more than any other since we moved in almost a decade ago. It's been a studio where I knitted dinosaurs, made skull candles, cast spells to stave off seizures, emptied out completely and turned into a summer bedroom for my oldest friend, home to a snake, and then turned back into a quiet studio for Josh to draw people with impossible hair. Now, we keep the door closed so the cat and dog can't get in and the plans we have for it can't get out.

I didn't think it would actually happen. Even when I agreed to it, it seemed like the kind of promise you make to hang out with a friend you ran into at the grocery. You want to believe it means something that you ran into each other. That it means you should see each other again and soon. But then you never do. It was enough to see them on accident but not enough to see them on purpose. Shawn would move in someday, when everything else was perfect, when it made sense, when we were all so comfortable it seemed inevitable. I should have known better.

Ask an astrologer about Taureans and change.

At the beginning of May, I went to Seattle to visit my brother and mother. We did edibles and drove two hours to the coast. "This may be the only time I get to see the Pacific Ocean," my mother said. My brother and I had seen that water before. I never doubted I'd see it again. When I think of luxuries, I count those certainties among the richest.

I'm still drawing and writing, though sometimes the dog sits on my lap while I do it. His breath smells like an open can of sardines. The cat screams at the other cat in the upstairs unit through the vents. They will never meet. Shawn runs hot, so the snake sees him as an opportunity for expansion, tapping the glass with her nose whenever he's near. Josh adapted quickly and peacefully. He isn't bothered by the people he loves, his changed home, the floors that never stay clean, the elusive quiet, the strange scents and their animal sources. He loved them immediately, and I loved them eventually, the doubts that moved in and have become luxurious certainties.

Monday, March 6, 2017

This Is Real



I dream whenever I fall asleep. Josh dreams once a week. And Shawn dreams so hard he can't tell whether he's awake or not. Sometimes he'll look confused and ask Josh and me if this is real. "This" being the world around him.

When we're all together, I ask myself the same question. "Is this real?" In January, we hit a year. Josh and I have already been together almost 13 years, and Shawn has never been serious with anyone the way he's serious with us. At first, he worried we'd wake up and leave him. That it might be too much for us. Those fears still have echoes. Sometimes he'll be short with me out of nowhere and finally admit it's because I cheated on him in a dream. The other night at two in the morning, he called me in his sleep to ask if the pies had been delivered. He continued to ask until I said, "Yes, the pies are here."

"All right," he said. "Goodnight."

Of course, there were no pies. There are only ever pies if I make them, and in Shawn's dream, I'd made the pies but had forgotten to bring them to an important pie contest. In other words, his dream was real enough for him to believe he was awake.

I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't depend on accurately reading reality. It's the only thing keeping me hopeful in a violently ignorant time, and I imagine it's why Shawn, Josh, and I spend at least an hour catching each other up on world events every night.

Even in a two-person relationship, there's worry over maintaining the thread. There can be stress in that maintenance. Some spiders eat their web each day and rebuild it overnight to keep it strong. We try to examine our pieces and put them back together often. There's a reason I've been playing with LEGOs again for the first time since I was a kid. There's a reason Josh has been eating sugar cereal and watching old cartoons on weekend mornings. There's a reason Shawn reintroduced himself to his orisha, Ochun, a couple weeks ago in a Santeria ritual by the river, a ritual that required him to smoke an old cigar that made him ill for three days. The future can be guessed at but can't be seen straight on. For all the talk of facing what's coming, we need to look back to acknowledge what's already changed. And what hasn't. We can do the long work of trying to better the world and at the same time embrace old comforts where we find them, where they'll have us.

Right now, we have each other. I wrote this relationship over and over in short stories before we even met Shawn. My friend, Roxane, has asked, "Why three people?" and I never have a good answer. Maybe I don't know yet. Maybe I just know it works.

Soon, we'll all be living in the same place together. Josh and I are getting rid of unnecessary junk, and Shawn has acclimated more and more to sleeping in our house. Last week he was taking a nap on the couch while Josh and I worked on projects in other rooms. We heard the front door open. Shawn had walked barefoot out onto the porch in his sleep. He stopped and stared into the dark, staying on the porch with us beside him, a warm spot on a cold night. Stronger together, and even in his sleep not asking the question he's asked so many times before, only knowing the truth of it somewhere beyond whatever dream made him leave our house in the first place. We would find him.

This is real.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hold Up

Hi xTx,

I'm sorry you haven't written in so long, too. But don't worry about it! But also...don't let it happen again. But seriously, no problem!

Remember when you did that naked bike ride? So long ago, now, but not long enough ago that I'll ever forget it. I ride an exercise bike (clothed, surprise, surprise) at home, and sometimes my legs are sore after that. Give your legs a break and the soreness will go away and muscles will appear. I've seen it happen. But even so, I don't run much. I hate running. R is right.

You're talking about that other running, though. That running yourself ragged type of running. Usually for other people. It's OK to stop for a minute, a day, a week, a month, a year, the rest of your life. You've earned it.

Thanksgiving happened in three parts: dinner at a friend's mom's, another dinner at Josh's dad's, and then a brunch at Josh's mom's. Thanksgiving is Josh's favorite, so I haven't been back to Kentucky for it in 13 years. Our family tradition then was to go down to church and box meals and drive them to people who needed them. I remember a woman who was so grateful one year she gave my brother and me all she had, which was a couple of dimes.

T.F.P is walking, not running. I work on it, then I work on some drawings (I have another show in February!), then I do some work for the UFO reporter who sends me interviews to transcribe. The most recent one involved a stone doorway to another universe. OoOoOoOo. Spooky stuff, but the spookiest part was the guy who walked through the doorway and visited another universe and then decided to come back to Earth because he loved his wife so much. Uh, all right, guy, all right.

The year was terrible in big, planetary ways, but it was great in small, Casey ways. I turned 31, which meant I could finally post that Aimee Mann song on my birthday. My second little book came out. Josh and I got married, which you know because YOU WERE THERE! We met Shawn, fell in love, and are still in love, thanks. Oh, and remember in September when Josh and I came to L.A. and we saw Beyoncé with you and R in concert from the front row. Beyoncé! And she gave R a wave of recognition!?

Last night, Josh and I took a foggy Christmas Eve walk through a neighborhood of beautiful houses and understated light displays. My glasses were wet and visibility was low. Behind me, I heard the bright sound of chains. Loose dogs. Two full-grown but playful golden retrievers. They ran between our legs the way people who swim in shallow tropical waters are sometimes surprised by dolphins. And they kept running, away from us, keeping pace with each other like they knew where they were going.

Maybe next year can be like that for you. If you have to run, run like you know where you're going.

Love and miss you, too.

-Casey

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Other Coast



Last week, I went to LA for the fifth time, a place where I had no history for nearly 30 years but for which I now have a quick but unpredictable sympathy. Some of my friends have ended up there. Some of them have already come and gone. Another is deleting the Midwest from her system with each flight over the desert. For myself, I don't know about all that. I don't know about second homes. A long time ago I made my body my only home. I'm never not at home, except when I have a seizure, when I black out and my body jerks like it's cursed, but who knows where I go? Maybe I rest somewhere deeper and quieter. A dog under the bed during a storm. Even when I sleep I'm active. I always dream. Joan of Arc had visions some historians attribute to epilepsy. I have no such visions during a seizure. I just go.

I haven't had a seizure since January. I've been to LA twice since then.

Near the ocean, I hear a drone, the soundtrack to time travel. My friend suggests a past life as a sailor. I think more like a shipwreck. The sibling to a car abandoned in the desert. Josh and I ride to Venice Beach on our last day and are fooled by the breeze into neglecting sunscreen. Later on the plane home we turn pink in the dark. Our cooked bodies instead reading raw. We do what we can not to rewind into our basic parts, but then two nights earlier on the freeway after the Beyoncé concert our driver avoids another driver and we slide across lanes toward a concrete wall. Our unbuckled friend flies sideways into our other friend. We don't meet the wall like in Venice the knife thrown low across the boardwalk by a stranger doesn't meet our legs. But we glimpse the usually invisible thread, the thinnest thread there is.

A gull pulls out what's good from a washed up skate, the cousin to a stingray, the shark flattened into a triangle with an eel's tail. Josh stands back so his shoes stay dry. I pick up empty shells for Shawn. His history is Santeria and his present is squirming between a future with us and that original history. He's a quick collector slow to jettison the unnecessary. We part with a little liquor in the yard if we spill a sip while laughing. A sign of upset spirits. Even ghosts could use a drink. Other belongings are more solid, more permanent. A placemat Josh and I drew on during our six month anniversary dinner with Shawn is kept safe under a bell jar in Shawn's apartment. We joke he's saving these pieces so he can cast spells on us. The truth is he doesn't need charged ingredients to make us love him.

Out to dinner before the concert, our friend, Roxane, orders a cocktail with Hendrick's, but the bar only serves California spirits. Whatever comes out tastes good, but can't be replicated. No one remembers what's in it. Some actors you've seen on TV are with us. We talk about tattoos and weddings and the Industry with a capital I. I hug someone I've met several times but who's never needed to remember my name. The restaurant is new but the circumstances are familiar. I email a friend that some days I'm content to be at the table, but others I want to be the reason people are at the table.

That night, I'm content. Most nights, I'm content. Today, I write to keep the drink in the glass, to feed the ghosts without getting them drunk. Tonight, Shawn comes over to do laundry. Tonight, Josh tells us about a comic he received in the mail. Tonight, I make dinner and ignore the invisible thread. I sit down and follow the other threads, the ones I can see.

And I thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Twister



I know one day I'll swallow this wedding ring. I tried smoking a few years ago to calm the fidgeting, to ease the eating, to excuse myself to be alone. Now I'm never truly alone, as the ring reminds me and excites me, a thin band I place between my lips when I draw, write, read emails to which I say I'll respond but never do. Why?

Anne Boyer talks about publishing as ego-making and writing as ego-depleting. Two forces in rotation. The rise and the fall. The rise and the fall. It's hard to get going when you're feeling good. Some people liked my recent book, The Three Woes, and even more than that, I liked The Three Woes, which has prevented me from writing almost anything new since it was published.

Instead, I drew.

And now my art is being shown in a gallery downtown. At the opening, I read from The Three Woes, some of which inspired my drawings. Other moments in the art are taken from life. There's one of Josh, Shawn, and me. Simple but colorful. We're admiring each other. It's the image The Pitch used when they ran this great review of the show. Scroll down, scroll down. Yes, there. More ego-making. I haven't drawn much since the show went up, and now, near the end of the high, the removal and maybe sale of (some of) the art, I want to draw again but also finish writing a nearly there short story collection and a far from formed novel. The dip. The distance. Not that I'm feeling bad. I'm just feeling normal again. Less up there and more down here.

And so instead of smoking or snacking or staring out the window like a cat, I'm chewing on my wedding ring and feeling antsy to make more work.

(Oh, fine. I'm still snacking. One of our wedding gifts from a good friend was a subscription to a monthly snack service. Currently, I'm unable to stop with these honey hard candies.)

Elsewhere, I'm still high. Josh and I are doing great together, like you'd expect if you know us. We've been seeing Shawn for about eight months now. I told you this last time, but some of you didn't get it. In fact, that drawing of the three of us has been misinterpreted as what would happen if Josh and I combined to become one person. A visualization of our marriage. But no. That third man is Shawn, and we love him, and like I said last time, if you have your doubts, they're your doubts. They're not mine. I'm sure. Josh is sure. Shawn is sure. We're all sure, and we're all that matters.

Other things I love right now:

-Gilbert Hernandez's "Heartbreak Soup" and "Palomar" stories from Love and Rockets.
-Josh finally having a phone that works.
-Playing and beating old Pokemon (Yellow) and new-ish Pokemon (X).
-xTx writing again.
-My mom, the Storm Chaser, running out the door where she works to take this picture of a funnel cloud yesterday: