Thursday, August 13, 2009

It’s supposed to free the human heart. That’s what they say. Everyone has secrets, sometimes silly, sometimes terrifying, but they never rest easy. They leech out into the soul. And you can write them down, and share them with the world, and you are cleansed. That’s what they say.

I have secrets, some silly, some terrifying. I compose the postcards in my mind, choosing my words like a poet, each carrying its perfect weight. I imagine the images, the ransom-note letters, but I do not cut up magazines or produce paste. The secrets stay where they are.

Shame is the stickiest glue.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Red Flags

Despite—or perhaps due to—my education and experience, I did not want to believe. On the days you asked, “Do you think I’m mentally ill?” I tempered my answer, ignored the flags, stroked your ego.

Flag: all the times you laughed wildly at nothing at all, then denied laughing when I wondered what was so funny.

Flag: all the times you gave me the silent treatment, eventually admitting that you were mad about something that happened six months ago and wasn’t really a big deal.

Flag: all the times you sexually harassed my roommate after being repeatedly asked to leave him alone, then told him to toughen up, plus, all the other men you sexually harassed.

Flag: all the times you reported that everyone hated you, even though everyone said they liked you, and all the people you couldn’t get along with, even though they were your friends.

Maybe I’m not a subtle person. Because it took a banner: your forty-five minute audio file explaining why I was a racist, classist, evil, oppressive bitch who never said I was proud of you, and why you never wanted me to talk to you again, because our seventeen-year friendship had run its course.

For the record: I’ve always been proud of you. I know I said it many times. And for the record: yes, I’m sorry to say, I think you’re mentally ill. I wish I could have said it before.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Edge of Town

Eleventh Street makes a T where it hits KL Avenue, and foamy green retention ponds bask on all three sides. They’re real vigorous, verdant, vital little wetlands, throbbing with life. Colonies of cattails grow erect near the shore. The water beckons with banks of water lilies, their petals spread open wide to the sky.

A blue heron might stand sentry at the far end of the biggest pond, where a cast of ten thousand frogs performs dinner theater every night. At dusk, knobby brown groundhogs sprout like peanuts from the grass. Turtles crawl up from the pond too. They all have yellow racing stripes up their head and neck, and they come in all sizes: some like your fist, some like serving dishes. Some like serving dishes in more ways than one, because they try to cross the street. They’re flattened, the texture of their shells cracked like ancient leather. The little claws never look dead. They’d grab the end of a stick if you poked them.

I saw the driver of a boxy white van stop in time for one big turtle. The passenger jumped out, stood still in the first moment she looked down at the ponderous reptile in its sodden velvet mantle of algae. Then she slipped her fingers underneath and, with arms outstretched, carried the turtle to the other side of Eleventh Street, where it had urgent business: a busy day of eating, mating, and vegetating by the water’s edge as it collected the sun’s energy like an auspicious tessalating solar panel.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


She descends from the attic room like the Prague Golem: encrusted with clay, prepared to defend her domain from blasphemers.

On landings and shelves, floors and counters, at attention on every horizontal surface of the big house, her own golems stand sentry. Serpentine vases, delicate pots, improbable jars, and the most extraordinary, ambitious vessels of stoneware and earthenware guard the mantels and lintels. She drags herself through a labyrinth of exquisite pottery, a city of Seussian sensibility and Lilliputian proportion.

“I don’t have anything,” she tells the telephone, and listens for only a moment before arguing, “It’s not good enough to show. I don’t have any gallery quality pieces right now.”

From her phone, in the mailbox, over email, the demands weave a stifling blanket. Requests for artwork form the warp; demands for payment, the woof. “I don’t sell anything that doesn’t represent the best of my artistic talent.” On her way back to the atelier stairs, her heels catch on the handle of a tall urn, its workmanship rivaling the greatest of the Ming artisans. It wobbles, steadies. She twists her mouth at it, at its thousand siblings, offensive to her eyes. “Piece of crap,” she mutters, and returns to the workshop to try again.