Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Personal Essay, Prose, Writing Life

Bars and Blue Sky

Dostoyevsky said, “Life is life everywhere.” I don’t remember where or when he said it, but his mind was on human suffering in Siberia.

Bars and blue are the view from my office window. I live in a dirty, dying town in the inland desert of Southern California. We call it an empire. My neighborhood is ghetto-lite, but still rough enough to have warranted bars on all the doors and windows since 1985.

Here in the SoCal inland desert empire, it is green and, in the winter, the temperature rarely dips below forty degrees. The snow, in Siberia, is like bars I’m sure, but unlike these in my window, inescapable. Blue sky, like life, is blue sky everywhere though and we have at least these two things in common which, as I stand in the sun, un-barred, I’m sure is much more comfort to me on blue days wishing for the shocking sanctity of suffering and snow than it is to them on days that are nothing but sanctity, suffering, and snow

-M..

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Photography, Writing Life

Two Ouija Boards Under the Bed

Photo Prompt: What game are you playing in life? Learn the rules. Win the game.

Some people have monsters under their beds. Some people have shoes and extra blankets. Some people have porn. Some very lucky people have money. I have two Ouija boards—one made by my best friend—the beautiful one, board and friend—and one made by Hasbro—the glow-in-the-dark one, the one covered in dust and almost crushed by my ancient, broke-down box spring.

This is the game I am playing with life. I talk to spirits constantly. I’m sure they all put the Michelle-specific ear plugs in long ago. I have nightmares that are backwards prophecies. Life seems to be moving without me touching it—though really I must be touching it. I’m so white, I glow in the dark. The best parts of me were made by love.

Once, I wondered if sleeping with two Ouija boards under my bed was the reason I have nightmares every night, but then I realized only I can give them that power, and I only would give them that power if I moved them elsewhere in fear. I left them where they were and although I still have nightmares, I am winning this game.

-M.

Creative Nonfiction, Family, Memoir, Photography

The House Born Around Us

That my address happened to end up in my crotch in this my first attempt at arty photography is sheer Universal genius.

I was not born here. The house was born around my family when we moved to this city when I was four—the best part of all that happened when my parents got divorced.

Right after the divorce, my sister, mother, and I lived with my great aunt and uncle for a while and wore Goodwill clothes. Somehow, in less than a year, my mother was able to afford this house. Maybe it was all the money we saved wearing those Goodwill clothes that had that smell—the other people’s houses smell that must have dishearten my mother as we were between houses and, I know, humiliated my older sister who was sure she was really born royal and this town was all too bottom of the barrel for her. The smell seemed exotic to me and had a whisper to it, something like the ghosts of all the children who ate and played and sweat in these clothes before me.

My family continues to eat, play, and sweat in this house thirty-seven years later. It is now filled with our own ghostly whispers and we are sure to haunt it until the Big One knocks it down. It has been good to us and if all it cost was wearing good will on our backs for a year, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.

-M.

Art, Writing Life

Drawing a Joyful Noise

I got out my colored pencils today and made a holy mess! It is an illustration (sort of) for a short essay I wrote earlier entitled, “In All Fairness, Salmon Is Disgusting.” You see it now, right?

Drawing/painting is one of my absolute favorite things in life and the one thing at which I am righteously bad and totally at peace with that fact. I am legally blind and supremely ungifted at visual art, so, for me, art-making is the equivalent of a tone deaf person “making a joyful noise.”

Hopefully you’ll be seeing more of my (sort of) illustrations on this blog. Making bad art joyfully is one of the most freeing things any artist who hopes to joyfully make good art can do. I need this in my life. I need the freedom. Perfectionism has had me so pent up for so long, I need to remind myself it’s OK not to be gold all the time and it’s OK not to be gold right out in public where everyone can see it.

So here I am… Not gold… but just about every other color of the rainbow.

-M.

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir

In All Fairness, Salmon Is Disgusting

My housemate had a thing for crazy bitches. In all fairness, I was good friends with his first crazy bitch. I knew her before I knew him. She was the one who invited me to live with them as a way to lower my rent. In all fairness to me, I didn’t know what a crazy bitch she was until a little more than a year after I moved in there and their relationship went south. When she moved out, she stole my bed—actually stole my bed. I wasn’t exaggerating when I called her a crazy bitch.

The girl he brought in after her was crazy in a quieter way. By quieter, I mean passive aggressive. Crazy passive. Crazy aggressive. She hated me from the start. I tried with her, but, in all fairness to us both, the feeling was pretty much mutual.

She was jealous of me and my relationship with my housemate, which was dumb. There was no attraction between us at all. But then, in all fairness, I don’t like my men having good friendships with women either and there is no telling if I would have handled that good friend woman living in the house any better than she did.

I had my shower curtain hanging in the bathroom. It was pretty. It was cream and pale blue and green. The hooks were brass. One morning, not long after the second crazy bitch moved in, I came out into the kitchen to find my shower curtain neatly folded on the kitchen table, hooks placed in an orderly pile on top, untangled. She had hung her own shower curtain—a lacy, diamond patterned thing with copper hooks—and mine was old news. She never said a word to me about it.

In all fairness, I never said a word about it to her either. I just picked up my curtain and placed it back in my moving boxes that were still not entirely unpacked even though I had lived there almost two years.

I am a good cook and my housemate said so. I’m sure she resented that. She made a spaghetti sauce once that he said, in so many words, was marginal. I took him aside and told him that probably hurt her feelings. I was still sort of not hating her at that point. He said he wasn’t going to tell her it was great when it wasn’t. I remember being disappointed in him for that.

But he raved about my cooking and, in light of the spaghetti sauce incident, I can see how that might have gotten under her skin. It made her cook more so she could be the one to occupy the kitchen instead of me. It made her try harder.

Once, she spent an eternity cooking salmon. Fancy fancy. She really worked at it and I give her credit for that.

Now, I can’t stand fish. I find it vile in every possible way. I got sick once gorging on fried shrimp as a kid and haven’t been able to stand a swimmy creature anywhere near my taste buds ever since. But I feel, in this respect, I am depriving myself. I think there is a whole culinary world I am missing out on—something other people seem to enjoy so very much.

“It tastes just like the ocean,” they say, and are in fits of delight.

“It tastes just like the ocean,” they say, and I think, “Barf. Who wants to eat the ocean?”

But on this day, when this crazy bitch cooked salmon and did such a fancy job of it, I was in one of those moods where I was feeling deprived of that highbrow culinary world, so I decided to give it a try. I resolved to eat it. I resolved to like it. I resolved to be the kind of person who eats and likes salmon and I looked forward to raving about her skills and maybe making up a little ground with her there.

As soon as the salmon hit my tongue, I gagged and spat it out. I couldn’t help it. It was a reflex. My whole body spasmed as if I had just tried to feed it a fish-smelling arsenic patty. It was a visceral, “No!”

My nose ran, my eyes teared up, and, with the soggy bite of salmon in the napkin and the napkin over my flushed face, I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry. It’s not you. It’s the fish. I’m sure it’s perfect. I just… the fish. I’m so sorry.” And I ran off into the bathroom, sick and guilty. I tried my damndest not to be offensive, but, in all fairness, if I were her, I might have been offended. I think she was, and, I also think, at that very moment, she began to calculate.

Because get this:

A month or so later, she made a big deal about making a pasta salad for the house. Oh the effort she put into it! Oh her own kudos she sang! Oh the raves she raved about this famous dish of hers!

And when she was done, it looked delicious—cavatappi in a mayonnaise based sauce with all kinds of crunchy vegetables. I loomed over the bowl, ready to dig in, when she mentioned, offhand of course, that she was so glad to have found the right kind of crab to go in it.

Bitch.

I told her then that I couldn’t eat it because of the fish. She said something like, “Gee, really?” She had not forgotten the salmon incident. She had not forgiven the salmon incident.

I hope her petty revenge tasted like fish.

-M.

Love Poems, Poetry

East West Passage

We touched cheeks
East met west we sweat
Ans sweatily rolled
Against each other side
To side our shoulders
Arms dewy hands taut
Fingers turned our hips
Forward now belly to
Belly sex to sex our
Mouths open we found
Our peaceful
Passages in the dark

-M.