Tuesday, October 3, 2017
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.