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:




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Us


Over a month later, and I can't recount it with accuracy. Like forgetting a dream as soon as you wake up, then remembering it in the shower days later. You were there, and you were there, and you were there.

There was here. Right here in Kansas City.

Josh and I got married, though we've acted married the entire time we've been together. We met in 2004. I was a year out of high school, and Josh was a year out of college. Jumping from one institution into another. As a teenager I'd been obsessed with a future I couldn't quite imagine. I just knew the present was untenable and the only way forward was to keep my hands busy and maybe move somewhere I could meet the man of my dreams.

And I did.

The dreams weren't the ones anyone told me I should dream. I was working against the dreams I was given. Making up new dreams even before I could be grateful for that wherewithal. That privilege. I'd abandoned the afterlife, and this life became more urgent. Marriage seemed impossible and unimportant. Never in my lifetime, I thought.

And so what?

I moved on. It's hard to spare feeling for institutions that feel nothing for you.

So last summer when marriage became accessible to me for the first time, I wrote against it. Not marriage as something you claim when you're ready, but marriage as something you're finally allowed. Josh and I were in New York on the day the Supreme Court released its decision, which also happened to be Pride. We watched Ian McKellen walk down Christopher Street followed by a small car with his name on it followed by a happy rainbow of everybody else. Josh and I just wanted to cross the street to get to a bakery. We'd been together 11 years at that point. We were having a summer fling with a friend back home. Marriage did not exist on our level. We were above it, in theory, and we were busy testing that theory.

If marriage is just a commitment, we made it a long time ago. We made the only promise we can hope to keep as humans. We promise this life. We're partners on a level that operates against the cold machinery of the universe. We're one and we're separate at the same time. No wonder people in public confuse us for twins. It's not our faces. We don't look alike. But we're knitted together in a way most people never see two men knit.

More than anything else, we gave in and got married because of our one dividing line. I have a history of seizures. Josh has witnessed some of that history. It runs concurrent with our own, and likely will for as long as I live. We decided marriage was a pretty way to stay protected. If anything were to happen to me because of my family curse, Josh would have the legal right to be close when I need him most.

That closeness is love, of course, and we have more than enough. So much love we're sharing it with our boyfriend, Shawn. Another dream we weren't handed. A dream we found. Six months in and every lesson we learned with each other we're learning all over again with him. If you think you have something to say about this, you don't. You're not qualified.

We are.

In spite of mass murder against our community, we continue the work we've done our whole lives. We define ourselves while we can. I write the stories I wish I could have read when I was younger. I make the art I still want to see. We're visible now because we can't afford to be invisible. No wonder I used to try moving objects with my mind. It's the only tool I have to move you.

What I'm saying is look at us while you can.

We're beautiful, and we're here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Get Lucky



I used to whistle "The Ballad of the Wind Fish" from The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening while at work in an art museum. The gallery I worked was large enough to fit a Buddhist temple. An openness that carried and sharpened my whistle. High ceilings. No windows. Few visitors. Only statues that stared wherever I stood and me, whistling to soundtrack the emptiness, soothe the ghosts, glimpse the future. Minutes elongated on that job. I watched the old get older. The paint was dry and had been for centuries. A statue's face was cracked. Time is a vandal. One day I fell asleep walking the marble floor and ran into a fabric covered wall. I could have paced there forever. I walked miles but nowhere. Circled a square room. At best, a dream. A game where the puzzle of the place held an open secret: nothing I make with my own hands will ever end up there. A block away, the art school I attended. One of my former professors caught me working the museum temple and told me something that sounded like the truth, though I still don't know. He said museums are where art goes to die. Still, he sat in the temple for almost an hour and stared into a statue's eyes.

Saying I wasn't prepared for life after graduation isn't true, even if the only preparation I paid any attention was, "Get lucky." Artists came in to talk about the path to success. Less a path and more a lottery. "We got lucky." Four years at school trying (and sometimes not trying) to be the best, but what it's always crumbled down to is this: "Just be the best in front of me right now."

In LA this past weekend my friend drove me up La Brea after dark and told me I've changed a lot since we were in school. "You were kind of a kid, then," she said, which is to imply now I'm not. I'll accept it, but the truth is I'm still making fun of bad dreams.

The darkest nightmare to me is a shipwreck. I snorkeled once in clear waters and could see the entire wing of an airplane 20 feet below me. On the same trip I watched my father climb a rusted out shipwreck and jump off the bow into the same water I'd just seen a barracuda. What possesses us?

My new book, The Three Woes, is out at conferences and festivals right now. You can pre-order it online here: http://threewoes.sporkpress.com/. I read selections from it last Thursday at the Ace Hotel in downtown LA. A small dog barked when I finished, and that's good enough praise for me. I wonder if a dog has ever barked at a painting?

I stood in another museum last Friday. A guard came up and asked me to please carry my backpack at my side like a bag of groceries. The same thing I used to say to strangers at the museum I worked. I would have stayed all day and stared at the walls and never seen anything close to the work I make now. My boyfriend claims there's nothing original anymore, that every fire we light is just the same fire over and over again. Well, he's wrong.

I didn't light those other fires. I lit this one.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Untitled



I'm doing a lot of invisible work (you'll have it on your desk by Wheneversday), meaning I sit and type and my hands are still soft and clean. People say that. Josh says that. It's hard to point at some of my other work as work because it's equally soft. Every once in a while someone will order a pie. The dough is soft. The filling passes soft and arrives at liquid. You hardly notice the work on your hands, and that's fine. Cutting in the butter. Rolling out the dough. All by hand, but really all by forearm and upper arm and back. Push, push, push. It's no one's business and the soreness doesn't last long. Nothing lasts that long, especially the pie.

This time last year I finished writing a small book. This week I'm going through the edits the publisher sent and simultaneously patting myself on the back and covering my mouth because how did I miss that or that or that? I'm reminded a book is like anything else I've ever made. It's mine while I make it, but when I'm done it's someone else's. Let's say when I was 25 I would have had a problem with the passing of ownership, but let's also say when I was 25 I tried cultivating bad habits just to look cool.

And it didn't work.

I held a cigarette like I learned the pose from a cartoon character. I drank bourbon fast. Now I drink bourbon slow if at all. I smoked one cigarette last October because I wanted to keep a cute guy company in the cold. I did what I usually do, what one friend accuses me of doing too well--I pulled out the cute guy's history like I wasn't pulling at all. When I can't do that, when I can't find the thread, I'm at a loss. 2015 was me finding and losing, finding and losing, my own thread. The older I get the less I fear intangibles and so the less pressure I feel to make a scene with my words. I work on a lot all at once, but the stuff I really care about is physical and immediate. I've cycled back around from ideas to objects.

Drawing comes from a different hand than writing, and I've been drawing. This is no indictment of anyone but myself, but I can do a drawing and the same day get the approval of a hundred or so people on the Internet. Wait a month and maybe a thousand people have seen that drawing and approve. Writing takes longer and maybe seven people approve of a story unless that story wins me something, which is to say someone loudly approves of the story and gives you the permission to spend your time reading it. Even a few months ago this would be where I judge you.

Now I get it.

Maybe I should have gotten it earlier, like when I started getting tattoos. People ask what they mean, and I always say something different. Here's the truth time and distance deliver: I got tattoos to give you permission to acknowledge my body, something I neglected for a long time and now can't stand the thought of neglecting ever again. Repeat, the physical, the immediate, the shorthand in the interest of saving time. Typical Taurus.

My hands might be soft, but my fingers are crooked, and deep under the skin of my palms there are points of graphite, unpullable threads, stories I can't dislodge without a knife. The work's not so invisible then, just small and only as long-lived as I might be.

That said, I find new reasons to write. New routines. Coffee, which I never drank until last month, I now make and drink daily. I play records while I try to finish a story for someone who asked nicely. Josh wonders if I can concentrate on telling a story while listening to someone else (Neko Case, currently) tell another story. Good question.

We'll see.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Not Your Future, Mine


I'm now convinced I'll do anything. No switch was flipped. Nothing that instant. More like my sweater snagged on a branch and unraveled me topless. I didn't notice until I was nude. Never in my teens. Never in my 20s. Only a few months into 30, in the woods standing on the end of a dead tree and pissing on fallen leaves, I wondered where I was even though I knew better. I was in Michigan with Josh and two nice, attractive men I met on the Internet. Even if I knew where I was, another question struck—how the hell did I get there?

Being literal, a flight was how I got there. Josh took the aisle because I took the window. I always take the window. If I had a therapist I'd ask what that says about me. Instead, I'll make something up. The short story: I want to see out. I want constant proof the world's limits aren't manmade. The deeper story, the lake, dark and endless, the therapist would ask me to identify when I close my eyes: I want to see what's coming before it arrives.

Two service dogs sat across the aisle. Black labs. They made no noise. No one on the plane needed their help. Someone out of sight and in the future waited for them. I took a nap. When I woke up over Lake Michigan, I looked out but couldn't see the water. Pink clouds erased the descent. Still, I knew the lake was down there, just as I knew Chicago stuck out from one shore and was unseeable from the opposite dunes. I knew from experience. I anticipated. I can't imagine dogs anticipate more than food and love. Maybe the service dogs anticipated a purpose for their training. A need without a face, for now. Josh and I, too, trained or not, hoped for strangers who would embrace us like friends, those two men who invited us somewhere (their place in the city) then nowhere (their cabin in the woods).

Skip the ride into Chicago. Skip the woman with no hair and enough tattoos to make me jealous. Skip going up the wrong escalator out of the station. Skip the brief wait in a community garden. Skip the pie I held as a handmade thank you. Skip all of that. The weather was 70 degrees in November. Chicago was more or less as we left it in 2012, except there was no wind and none of my friends. There was me, and there was Josh, and then, as promised, there was a tall bearded man to collect us.

Where next? I insist on a followable trail of evidence, the physical markers of my life I can use as simple notes for a complex future story. Messages saved. Photos, videos, phone calls. Times and dates. Promises and fantasies. A line exists. I refuse to walk the entirety of that line until I'm off it. Right now, I'm on a train home.

We took a nap in our hosts' bed while they worked downtown. Another blind intimacy. A personless hug. Josh's throat hurt. When he spoke he sounded like Kathleen Turner. My nerves were bad. Worse than I've known them in a while. I worried for two, that's why. I napped and didn't dream. Left all the possibilities out there where they were born. The men's spare apartment. The interaction that started online and now had four bodies instead of a phone. The feeling crawling toward me while I wasn't looking, the feeling that finally caught me with my pants down in the woods. Josh and I have been together almost 12 years. We've observed for so long. We've made a small life of observation. Writing, reading, drawing, making. But now we have to participate, too. We have to touch the world back instead of just letting it touch us.

We have plans. We're getting married. That's just part of it. We'll have the life we want instead of just the life we were given. We'll have that together no matter what else. Blame the train. We flew to Chicago but didn't fly back. We took the long way home. If our plans started anywhere, they started there. We traveled a circuitous route like a witch casting a spell. We threw our hair into the river and circled back a different way than the way we came. We made sure not to cross our own trail or we'd jeopardize everything. We forgot we cast the spell. We forgot we left our home at all until the spell started to work, until anywhere might seem like home just because we were there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walk Too Fast



Josh and I are noticed in our neighborhood for walking. So rare to see people walk just to walk. We're like stray cats who have as many names as there are neighbors. "The Guys." "The Gruesome Twosome." "Hey, Girls!" "Trouble." We have names for the neighbors, too. Mostly the guys. They're on their porches or in their yards or walking their dogs. Sometimes the guys say hello. I swear I'll wink. One of these days I'll wink. All the names we have for these men end in "Boyfriend" or "Daddy." Sorry. We're creative in other areas of our lives.

I sold some drawings. Good for me.

More walking.

We walk fast, and we walk furious. We thought New York was our pace until we went back in June. Still too slow. Snaking between innocent people just to get to the next restaurant, the next summer sale, the next chance to see someone sing with tears in their eyes. Walking like that is dangerous. I ran into scaffolding and kept running. Metal burned my forearm. Looked like a bruise for three seconds until the purple oozed. People kept a distance. The blood became a shield of personal space. Now it's a scar in lieu of a tattoo.

It's time. Nothing's happened to devastate me in a while, but it's time for a new tattoo. You won't see this one unless I show you. And let me be honest, I'll probably show you. It'll be red, simple, and cute like the rectangle on my right forearm. The rectangle gets so much love. The squares get less love than they used to. The deer collects curiosity. Sometimes confusion. From a distance, one guy thought it was a cockroach.

Upstairs was for rent again. A sign appeared in the yard. A number to call. Still, a woman hugging a clipboard and a stack of paper rang the bell and asked in person. I'm not the landlord. I told her what I could, and she told me a few things, too. She told me there was a leak in our basement (there was) and that the electrical needs some work (it does). She'd not seen any of this firsthand. She claimed clairvoyance and descended the porch without a hurry. "Bless you," she said, with all the weight her voice could gather. "All right," I said, where I should have thanked her. I knew when move-in day came she wouldn't be our new neighbor. Ours was the wrong haunted house and she knew it.

Before she left she dressed down my deer tattoo like I dress it down when I notice it in the shower. Not like when people ask about it. Feels both too heavy and too obvious to explain at a party. But here, like the shower, I can be dumb and easy and not have to look you in the eyes.

The deer has been pierced by an arrow, but the deer survives. He chews the laurel of peace. 

"Isn't that the way of the world?" the clairvoyant said. 

Yes. Duh. Of course it is. We walk this planet. We're wounded, yet we're alive. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Lost in Space



There was a space in my summer, and I didn't tell you. And since I didn't tell you from the beginning, I refuse to tell you now, at the end.

Fine.

I'll tell you it was good, it was fun, it was easy, and then it was hard. I'll tell you the rest in a short story one day if I want. You know I'm stubborn. I can hold on. Typical Taurus. But I can also burn up. Typical Taurus on the cusp of Aries. If I keep anything to give you it won't be flames; it'll be ashes.

(Note: find a use for ashes. Keep them, spread them, or? Figure out the "or.")

A couple months ago I told you I traveled. What else? Oh, I was sick in bed for three days at the end of July from swimming in an unclean pool or eating at a pizza buffet or drinking beer from unlabeled bottles or swallowing a single bad shrimp. I don't know which was most guilty, but they were all decisions I made over the course of one day, so really it's me; I'm guilty. And I suffered. Boy, did I suffer. The saltines I didn't finish are in the kitchen cabinet going stale.

What else went stale this summer? Turns out not much. I pulled up a bunch of stories I wrote over the past three years since I sent Mother Ghost to my publisher, stories I wrote when I got stuck in places working on The Three Woes. They're still good. Most of them are still good. Some of them are still good. A few of them are still good. OK, the truth. I'm editing, cutting, killing, writing, and rewriting. Look for the resulting collection whenever I'm good and done with it, all right? Title: Slither Bomb. Publisher: ???

Other stuff I kept alive this summer but only just: basil, two cacti, a weird oregano varietal, jade (barely), and an elephant ear. The leaves on the elephant ear are bigger than my head, neck, and shoulders. The next step is something that sheds. People are convinced Josh and I need a cat. We don't need a cat. We walk at night and say hi to every cat in the neighborhood. We say hi to some men gathered on their porch offering to sell us a beer vending machine. Why aren't people ever convinced Josh and I need men on porches? I'm convinced we need those men more than we need cats. There are so many good cats but only just A Few Good Men.

I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.

Some nights in June and July I couldn't sleep. Not when I was sick. I slept when I was sick. Other nights. You know the nights. The outside screams through your window. Insects, not instruments. The ceiling fan stirs every hair on your body. The movement could be spiders. You convince yourself you're covered in legs. If you breathe, the mouths from which the legs radiate will chew your hot skin cold. Leftover fireworks drag your heart onto a familiar battlefield. If you're lucky the moon has no pull on you. Other celestial bodies tugged at your birth. If you're not lucky, if you're a moon baby, you're thirsty all night, your glass is empty, and the moon's a bottle you can see but never reach. Love, too, keeps your mind moving. Perpetual motion. Pleasant exhaustion after a run. Your legs stop. Your heart runs on fumes.

Those nights.

Somehow that's not horror. No matter what it sounds like. A person can be restless and content at the same time. I explore both territories. August is half in the door, half out. The space in my summer could have held a monument three weeks ago. Now it holds a stone. Easier to keep in my pocket. Easier to throw. I don't do either.

These days I look at the stone and love it for what it is.