Friday, March 9, 2007

Points for Comprehension

• I met my other, biological, parents when I was 26. They are the parents who appear in this book, named Mom and Dad.
• Abe is the child of biological Dad Dick Grossman, a millionaire

Autobiography One: In Which It Is the Real World and the Events Are Those Which Actually Happened

Born and given up for adoption and adopted

by a nice Jewish couple from suburban Massachusetts with a big house. My new Mom, though, was suicidally depressed and tried to kill herself 7 times while I was a child, she threw herself downstairs and took too many pills and Dad and brother Jeff and I were making a poignant tableau in mental hospital canteens, our sandwiches abandoned as containing mental illness, and we stared through the floor

Mom killed herself successfully when I was 13, in her celery Pinto hatchback parked in the drug store parking lot where she had had her prescription re-filled and

the man who pounded on the car window gingerly to wake the lady up, and I decided this was not my history

the while wrote stories in which some fox/horse/dog ran away and found liberty, shantih, realities at angles to the bad one here, they were magical excursions then I disappeared and I would wander in the forest having faith that I could find a path that led into another realm in which I never found my house again

I would go without food and

I would sleep in cold mud and

like a warrior, but got back in time for supper and defeated, and

ever the “lone wolf,” where the word “wolf” a flattery like a hard candy that lasted in one’s mouth as the dishevelled little girls ride the school bus alone

and oh, bullied at school, so the alone enforced. And brother Jeff and I had a rift when I was eight and never spoke to each other again. I had the basement and my father had the ground floor, Jeff was on the second floor. Jeff and I would pass my father on our way somewhere and he would say “Hey, hey, hey” like Fat Albert as we passed not looking up, Dad sighed into our silent wake and

Jeff was smoking a lot of dope then and had that Farrah Fawcett poster on his wall is all I really know.

And I remember then that posters were important, you could go to the poster store and flip through the posters which were hung like doors, stiff upright pages that you turned on a kind of a hinge, and shop among the fantasies that other people had, then at home they used to sag on their tacks and grow cheap-looking overnight and you would sit and look at what became of your poster of whatever celebrity or tiger cub or movie in the dark and it was emblematic of what had not been provided to you in this world, it was

unfortunate, and Dad had a heart attack when I was fifteen, he claims I never went to the hospital, that’s what really hurt. But I remember standing there beside his hospital bed and he was telling us when he would come home. Really no one ever came home from the hospital, they never really came home and the smell of hospital was something as familiar as a baby blanket crushed to your nose

and I had totalled his car while he was in the hospital, and I got arrested for shoplifting, my trite cry-for-attention things that weren’t cries for attention, they were all you got, that was all you got was that fugitive feeling of excitement when you stole, you couldn’t even steal anything that mattered but the feeling of stealing that would last for a couple of days, like a good book
Dad was always well-meaning, was that cute Dad figure who made dumb Dad jokes, you would say to him “You’re driving me crazy,” and he’d happily retort “Take the bus!” and used to sing “The Ants Go Marching One by One” and that was what America, I think, meant to people of his kind.

But when it went to shit he had not a thing to say, he was as silent as an egg, gnawed up inside that life had not been what he had every right to expect he was a Jewish engineer, with the government job and married, faithful to his wife and he provided and he learned as an adult to be anti-racist, to consider the other guy’s point of view and to appreciate the right of the Chinese to choose a Communist government because they had problems in our relative affluence we could not hope to understand and he was the nice guy

but when it went to shit

and we were kids and unforgiving

brother Jeff and I never spoke.

When I was thirty one I was doing an office job, the office phone rang. And I was called across the room to it, told by the deputy head it was my brother Jeff. I knew that my father had died.

Then I took the phone and said hi, Jeff.

I went there, Florida my father retired where we were having the funeral and I was the only one who wanted to view the body and I stood alone with my father’s corpse in a big room cheaply carpeted, with small windows like the windows you have in suburban basements, so it was meager underwatery grey light and touched his frozen brow and, cold as water, I got down on my knees and cried from a conditioned reflex triggered when a loved parent dies.
Jeff took the ashes of my father. They were in a black plastic box. It was sealed with wax, and the crematory form was Scotch taped to one side. The name and address of the body were typed in the blanks and in the box, the ashes were in a thick clear plastic bag, with the finest ash smeared more like a liquid yet it rose in the air

when Jeff and I sprinkled it in Chesapeake Bay one Christmas Day. There was a Mexican family laughing coming down to the shore as we walked up from the shore: when they saw us they all stopped talking.

Then we drove back to the city with the radio playing

The Biological Automobile

• ABE: So, you bummed about leaving Clark?

ME: Well…

ABE: Yeah, I’m leaving a lot of shit behind. I guess we’ll look back on that time in Boulder as one of those golden times.

The mountains pass around the car, the sun holds still. Abe has a fluffy toy attached to his rear-view mirror, but I’m too fucked up to notice what it is. I try to let the heat pacify me. At last I cross my arms.

ME: We had to leave.

ABE: It’s just sadness. There’s no other word for it.

ME: Sadness. Luckily it’s a 24-hour flu emotion.

ABE: It’s not anthrax. It feels like anthrax…

• We saw the Weapon of Mass Destruction on the way to Santa Fe. It was far off on a salmon-pink mountainside, glinting. A series of barbed wire fences gave scale. We pulled over and got out of the VW bus to stare and were aware of the desert then as if we’d touched it. The sun shone along like weightless breeze.

We didn’t know what to say about the Weapon, except that when we’d been through the last time, it had not been there.

Abe said, harking back to an earlier conversation: “But what I don’t get is where the scientists get the saccharine molecules to synthesise. Cause all I see is a lot of grass and rocks. I don’t see any saccharine molecules.”

We both looked at the Weapon, precise on the mountain shoulder. I didn’t bug Abe about avoiding the frightening issue, although it upset me and made me feel alone.

Love D

My cell phone rang. It was Hamid.

The fact that it was Hamid made me realise Clark Kent was being uptight, I was just playing the diva, my need all waned. It’s easy to get things out of proportion. Love is not really this bad, I realised, and turned from my bachelor as glorious Hamid said

“Doll. I was thinking about you in your leather mini-skirt today, your legs, and a sparrow came and lighted on my knee – this was outdoors – and I realised the day was under your sign so I made tracks for the executive florist, where they fax volcano flowers to rich homosexuals, but they wouldn’t take my credit card because it made the thing put out a piece of paper saying I was Declined and they were morbidly observant. So I’m cast into the darkness where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth and went next door to the pet shop where I bought a lizard.”

“No.” I looked at Clark. “You mean a salamander.”

“What’s the difference? Do they have paws?”

“I don't know.”

“This had paws. It was the size of an iguana, but frillier, and pawed. They wanted to sell me a cat-carrier for it, but I, I do not want to create the appearance of owning cats, or bearing cats from place to place. So I put my lizard in a fish food carton with a starter pack of flies and I went out, and bang, there was the Museum of Natural History.”

“There it was.”

“Well, it’s there. So I went in to see the dinosaurs: you know I am the slave of motif. And two security guards asked to look inside the box. What happened next?

“The lizard ran away.”

“Like lightning. Pow! Pow! I took to my heels. And fleeing made them think that the lizard was a terrorist act and every man jack screamed and stared death in the face. I was quite to blame. And I... by this time it’s night. I think I’ve got the time scheme out.”

“You have... maybe.”

“I rounded a corner, running running and I stopped and then I saw a child pouring red paint into a mudpuddle. And I realised it was you.”

Then he stopped dead and I was hearing his sombre breath.

We went on a long time quiet. I groped for the sheet behind me, getting my bearings. Soon we were breathing in step.

I could hear New York City in his background. Hamid would be sitting in the open window of his Lower East Side apartment, holding the cordless phone in both hands, hunched over it solicitously as if it were wounded – as if listening for the heartbeat of a beloved phone. I imagined the night skyline behind him altered post-Sept 11; the traffic hushed, an intrusive smell of carrion. Ghosts phosphorescent in the upper air.

“Are you all right, there? Are you –?”

“Oh! the usual,” Hamid sniffed. “Homelessness, dispossession, and death.”

“Meaning that you need money?”

“No, I have fucking bags of money. Cartons.”

“Oh, well. So what’s going on?”

There was a long long pause. Clark turned and squinted at me suspiciously. I said, “I’ll have to go soon – Clark’s –”

“No! You’re with a man?” Hamid said, indignant.

Then Hamid and I laughed, laughed and laughed. I couldn’t say... why I couldn’t say, no, no one will ever know what we felt, because we didn’t know, weren’t paying any attention to our feelings, just laughing energetically without normal mirth.

So, we finally stopped.

I said, “But tell me. Whatever, just tell me.”

“I’m coming to see you. I’m wanted by the FBI.”

“Oh, good. Come and see me.”

“Pick me up in Las Vegas,” he said wistfully, as if he wasn’t really leaving New York.

I felt desperate at once. “If only you were wanted by the FBI,” I said.

“Oh, but I am,” he said encouragingly. “You’ll see, it will be a marvellous surprise. I’ll be there in Vegas, they’ll corner us and there will be a bloody mini-war, we’ll die in a fireball.”

“There you go,” I said.

“There you go,” said Hamid. “And I will go, doll. No good-byes.”

I hung up the phone: Clark was lying with his back to me. I lay down with my back to him, very sad.

I fell asleep and dreamed of a pleasant apocalypse.

Custodians & Giants

I met my imaginary friend, Hamid al Hakim, in London when I was 13. The year was 1976: the bicentennial. That’s many years before I would make it to London in reality.

The day I am pretending to have met Hamid, I had escaped from my parents’ supervision to roam Bloomsbury, happier and happier as night fell. I found my dear imaginary friend in a cul de sac, standing with his chin tipped up, all alone. He stared at the lane of dappled sky above, where the small clouds moved like living beings. Hamid was wearing a sheik outfit, complete with head-dress, and holding a large silver tray of baclava.

Coquettishly arrayed under cellophane, the cakes were pretty in a way I then thought French. Hamid’s robe was short enough to show his neat socks. The shoes were loafers, and visibly expensive – Hamid used to buy everything from Harrod’s, even groceries, in those days, to save bother.

When he saw me, Hamid smiled wolfishly. Then we were friends forevermore.

Points for Comprehension

• I invited Clark to come with me to LA, knowing he wouldn’t. He agonised over his foregone conclusion. Finally, I had to say it on his behalf. We were sitting in his Honda, in a Scenic View parking lot, the greasy styrofoam boxes from our Noodle Express meals crowding our feet, and we cried unhappily, holding hands, like child friends unwillingly parted by a parent’s move.

• The Integral is the god hydraulics pumping us feared things.

Love C: a version of this scene takes place in a parallel universe dispensed by a vending machine

I’m lying on a log raft beside a giant salamander. A ladykiller in its glossy hide, the beast lounges. It grooms itself fussily, making the raft lurch. Stars go out overhead, the salamander smiles and coughs.

I am a giant beaver, sodden with glue. Everything has stuck to me. I am miserable – clotted, glaucous, stinking. I didn’t even want to be the beaver in this scene.

Around in the parochial bath-warm dirty little sea float hundreds of beds from Clark’s store, all soiled.

We have gone to Video Morass for a video, but only wandered staring at the racks for two hours, depressed, before returning home. Twin tubs of ice cream sit on either side of the raft, empty, each with its smudged spoon. It’s Philandering Walrus, a Ben & Jerry’s flavour so extreme it includes absinthe, child prostitutes, and enriched uranium.

The moon is scuffed plastic. The sky sags, stinking of damp. Although I have run away several times, I only get to other regions of the same degrading scene. Clark runs away, too, but we are always on the raft, it’s night, the light strained, the stale beds rock. Not a breath of wind and

I’m ready to tear my throat out just to make Clark feel bad –

If I can only forget about the salamander utterly, we’ll be freed. I’ll blink and he’ll be a man: I’ll be a tanned girl. We’ll wake in a new meadow, smelling like youth. The flowers will bounce with the weight of bees, the frail grass will vanish and reappear in the sun’s glare. This is how it was meant to be. But I can’t, I can’t forget, I have my own needs and I need them and I didn’t even ask to be the beaver in this scene) when my cellphone rang.

It was Hamid.