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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Busy, The Circus Bear

I creep down the stairs and walk right past Charlie.  He's leaning against the refrigerator with a carton of fruit punch in his hand.  Zooted out again and staring into space, he doesn't even realize that I've come in.  I step through the partition that separates the front area from the rest of the basement.

The door to the bathroom doesn't shut all the way.  It just wedges closed in the frame.  Chuck ripped it off its hinges once during an argument.  It's been rehung, but not right.  All the doors are like this.  I usually jam a sock along the seam while I'm in here.  He can still get at me, but at least I'll have a minute to hide my shit.

The cops gave me a phone number the last time Charlie was in jail.  A place to call and get the locks changed before he got released.
"You don't understand," I told the lady I spoke with.  "The lock works fine.  I need somebody to fix the door," I  told her.  "It's busted clean from the wall."
It was stupid to try and explain.  She really couldn't help me.  I dropped the charges anyway.  Charlie came back and made a few repairs.  I cannot keep him out, even if I tried.

I take off my coat and sit on the edge of the bathtub.  I have a box of cheap Franzia and two tall boys in a blue plastic bag.  Five single packages of Sudafed.  Under the sink, there's a little left in last night's bottle, plus two smaller empties.  I have to get rid of these. There's no more room under here for all this garbage.

I pour what's left of the wine into a cup that I keep hidden with the rest of my equipment.  I take a few big gulps.  I wrap the spent bottles in toilet paper so they don't clink together when I place them into the shopping bag.  The sound of glass on the tile makes a slight "bong" that I try to avoid.  I don't want Charlie or anybody else to suspect that I drink this much.  Everything I do is a secret.

I crack open the seal of the bladder bag.  Holding the box between my legs, I fill my cup to the top.  I store the cardboard suitcase in the back of the cabinet and drape a rag over the front.  It makes me feel good to have brand new things, even though this will be gone before the night is over.  But it's new right now, and that's what counts.

I pop twelve or so little red pills from their foil and swallow them.  I take these around the clock when I am between speed and cocaine.  I go to different drug stores to buy them.  I stop at Duane Reade before work and Rite Aid at lunchtime.  I do not measure my intake, but I always like to have enough, somewhere between 80 and 120 pills a day.  They're not expensive if you can find the generic kind. The red ones are the only ones I buy.  All the others are crap.  At least, these get me up and out - until I can cop.

I rip open the corner of an envelope that I find in my backpack.  I load a dozen tabs into it, grinding them up with the heel of my shoe.  I fish around for a straw in the outside pocket of my bag.  I snort the gravel off the lip of the sink.  It makes my nose roar and bleed like a pig, but I need something.

The bathroom is small.  Rusty and I painted the whole thing dark blue, nearly black when he still lived here.  Right over the tile and mirrors.  I thought it would look sharp, like in a magazine.  But we were drunk and it's really just awful.  It feels like I'm inside an eyeball.  Portions are now peeling off in sheets.  It looks like a bear is slashing its way out of a miserable tattoo.  I turn the water on full blast and quietly pop open a beer.  I press several fingers over the hole to disguise the 'pfft' noise.

Charlie has no steady job.  He works day labor - moving furniture, laying blacktop and demolition.  He and his cousins steal and strip cars.  He earns just enough to get high.  PCP is his drug of choice, and it makes him crazy.  He breaks the things I care about when he is dusted, and he's dusted all the time.

If Charlie has money, it goes toward his dope first.  After that, he might get some groceries and only because he is hungry.  A carton of eggs, cheese, a box of instant mashed potatoes.  He prefers soft food because his teeth are loose.  I hear him banging pots around in the kitchen.  I smell margarine burning.  I know I should eat something, but I have no appetite, really.  And when I do, I eat too much.  So I make myself throw up.

I press all the pills through the foil, one after the other.  I dump a handful more Sudafeds into my mouth and scoop the rest into my pants pocket.  I systematically open all the decongestant boxes.  I cram the remaining three sheets of reds into one box and slip them back into my knapsack.  I fold three empty boxes into the fourth and drop them inside the shopping bag with the empty wine bottles.  I like to be neat and organized.

I pee and wash my face.  I take some water up my nose.  I cover the shopping bag with my coat and open the door.

"I'm here, you know," I mention to Charlie's angry shoulders.  He turns around in a daze.
"That's good," he says.  "I wish we had some bread."
"I'll go," I tell him.
I'm already on my way outside.  I head up the block to try and get what I need.  I cross the street and drop my trash into the dumpster behind the Roy Rogers.  I hear the bottles break, and I keep walking.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Reunion!

Of course, I was looking forward to the reunion.  I didn't feel nervous, but I was excited.  Many of these women, I hadn't seen since the day we graduated high school in 1981.  That was 33 years ago, a tremendous bracket of time.  Heck, it's a fully formed adult with some extra left over.  Back then, I don't even think I realized people lived that long.  And if they did, no doubt they were hassling us kids.

"Hey, you bitches," a voice yelled from an open window on Frisby Avenue.  "Get your fat asses off my car!"  I looked up and squinted to locate where exactly the voice was coming from.  All I could make out was a dark shape in an undershirt.  I couldn't tell if it was a man or a lady.
"My ass is not fat!" I hollered back as we ran down the block, laughing and tugging at one another.  We turned the corner and reconvened on some other poor unsuspecting vehicle.

Where are you going to college?
Friends were asking each other this question since right after Christmas vacation. Whenever the inquiry came my way, I was dumbfounded.  Here and there at school, I tried to find out what they were talking about.  I asked around.  I saw girls filling out applications and walking through the halls with booklets.  I had a feeling something big was happening with this continuing education stuff. But I couldn't crack the code.

"So, where are you going in September?"
"No place," I answered.
"Then, what are you gonna do after we graduate?"
"Nothing," I replied.  "Work, I guess."
"Oh, wow!  That sounds exciting."
"Yeah,"  I'm excited."
No, I wasn't.  I was confused.  And I couldn't believe somebody said I had a fat ass. Dumb shit always bothered me the most.

*******

"Mom, what am I gonna do with my life?" I presented this question as I poured sugar onto my Frosted Flakes.
"You mean, besides break my balls?"
"C'mon, be serious," I said.  "By June, we're supposed to know this stuff."

"Get me a cup.  Will ya, kid?"  Big Mare reached for the jar of Maxwell House that she kept on the kitchen counter.  The tea kettle screamed its warning that the water was officially boiled to death.  I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a white ceramic mug that read Virginia is for Lovers.
"Where'd this come from?"  We never went to Virginia.  We didn't go anywhere.
"Not that one," Mom said.  "Your father found that in the garbage.  He wants to give it to Mrs. Gallo."  The Gallos were our next door neighbors.  Their oldest daughter was Virginia.  I could see how my dad thought this coincidence was hilarious.

"So, whadda ya think?" I asked again.  I attempted to engage her in a discussion about my lack of direction so I could rail against any suggestions she might make. All the poor woman wanted was a decent night's sleep and a cup of low-grade instant coffee.
"For Chrissake, think about what?"
"My future!" I cried out, dramatically.  "Don't you even care?"
"How the hell should I know?" she replied.  "Get your ass to school and figure it out."

I grabbed my jacket and book bag.  I paused momentarily in the front hallway.
"Hey, Mom.  Do you think my ass is fat?"
"Who told you that?"  I immediately wished I hadn't said anything.  The look on my mother's face reminded me that she could have easily ripped that shadowy figure from its perch at the window and strangled it - identifying the gender, post mortem.
"Nobody.  Forget it," I said.  But a part of me felt glad that I had gotten her attention.

******

Our Senior class was relatively small, 120 girls or thereabouts.  I would guess that's a pretty manageable group, by industry standards.  But from my limited perspective, St. Raymond's Academy for Girls was the entire universe.  Those four years lasted forever.

I liked being at school.  Of course, I didn't realize it was more than just a place to go when we weren't at the house.  School was supposed to prepare us for a lifetime of decision-making.  I don't think that happened, but it's okay.  It still did something wonderful for me.  It helped me recognize what it means to love my girlfriends.

Love was at St. Raymond's, growing and developing in big and small moments. Happiness shared, optimism and support.  These are good emotions for young women to experience.  Especially when things are crazy at home.  School was a safe place to rest for a while.  And maybe learn a few cool things.  Or not.  At least, you had the option.

When I glance through old snapshots of my teenage friends and myself, we languish together in heaving clumps.  Collecting on sofas and park benches like piles of unaddressed laundry, waiting for someone to come along and wash us.  We appear drained of all physical and mental resources.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I tend to think this was the look we were going for.  Bold, confident, unflappable. But what did we know at seventeen, really?  I personally knew nothing.

I had a boyfriend and an ankle bracelet.  So obviously, I wanted to do things that involved being with my boyfriend and wearing that ankle bracelet.  When people saw me and my ankle bracelet, they automatically knew somebody loved me.  In my opinion, these were game-changing specifics.  Equipped with my male companion and jewelry, plus my unique ability to party and have fun, I was ready for anything.  Except college.  And reality.  And life.  But none of that stopped me. Adventure was out there!

Lots of chicks cried at graduation.  Mascara ran down their faces.  They clung to one another, sobbing.
"What the fuck?  They're never gonna make it," I thought to myself.
Some were brazen.  Others, nonchalant.  I tried these angles but sucked at both.  I wanted to look cool about the entire episode.  Like I didn't care.
"I'm so sick of this place," I complained to my friends.  "I can't wait to be done."
Maybe if I kept saying the words out loud, I might actually be able to understand what it was that I should be doing next.  I thought everybody was watching, and I could swear the whole world had a terrific plan.

In June of 1981, I didn't realize that we girls had become a family.  I didn't cherish this information.  I had no idea there is such lovely value in relationships that are born this way, from familiarity and general exposure.  Think of cousins you're really fond of and don't get to see as often as you'd like.

*******

On Sunday when I woke up, I couldn't wait to be with everyone.  I slipped on my new party dress and jollied into the Bronx for the Big Event.  As I walked across the school parking lot, I saw familiar faces materialize.  I heard voices I recognized immediately.  I didn't realize I had stored these details in my brain somewhere. Suddenly, the particular fine points of our history brought me enormous pleasure. I was overjoyed!

More girls arrived as we stood in the back of the church.  We were inside and outside, waiting for the previous service to wrap up.  I wanted to stare, to examine every inch of them.  But instead, we hugged and kissed, laughing and chatting like it was yesterday.  What an extraordinary occasion.

We sat together in that magnificent church.  Shoulder to shoulder, we took up several pews.  I was grateful for the time to collect my thoughts.  I needed it to regain my footing.  I was anxious and felt a bit scattered.

There in Jesus' presence, I admired the girls of my youth at length.  I glanced at their hands and hair, some colored, straightened and cut differently.  I remembered the way one young lady crossed her legs and how another sounded when she sang.  When a classmate held her head to one side just as I'd recalled, I thought I might cry.
I wondered if I was sad.  I didn't think so.
We've all done so much stuff, I thought.  Yet here we are.  Here we are!
Already, I knew that a part of me didn't want the afternoon to be over so quickly.  I felt happy and hopeful.  But I was gonna need more time.  I wanted us to be together for longer.
Don't be silly, I told myself.  It's a party.  It has to end.  It'll be all right.

At one point during the mass, I brought my feelings to God.
Check us out, Lord.  We're so grown-up!  You have truly blessed our family.
What a really cool prayer.  And what a beautiful day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

High Definition

It's not like I have a choice to host the inexhaustible thoughts that bounce around inside my head.  It's been this way forever.  I must have left the gate open one night and now, they're here all the time.  I suspect a few of the bolder ones hopped the fence or maybe crawled underneath.  And I guess they told their friends that it was okay to come by.  That's how it starts, you know.

It is loud here.  There's color and action and music.  Even when I go to sleep, I can still hear the low murmur and see the party right beyond my eyelids.  But everybody needs to keep the noise down because I have to rest.  Believe it or not, we've reached an understanding.

I don't always dig it this busy, but I've gotta get on with shit.  What am I gonna do… Cry about a rich, full life?  That would make me an asshole.

I remember how it was when I was getting high.  My mind rolled right off the road, and I couldn't think straight again.  Between the speed and the coke, my best ideas didn't know if they were coming or going.  Neither did I.  Compulsion hangs out when everybody else goes home.  It lingers and makes trouble.

Misspent opportunity was just banging around inside my brain, like a box filled with broken lightbulbs.  I poured wine and beer all over it because the crunching sound freaked me out.

*******

I will be thirty soon.  Already, I feel ancient.  The basement that I rent is a shithole. I drag furniture in from the street and decorate things like I am twelve years old.  I have no idea how to be a grown-up.

Rusty doesn't love me anymore, and I'm not sure how I feel about him.  We fight all the time.  He came to New York to be an actor.  He works nights, bartending at the Coyote Grill in Manhattan.  I know he's sleeping with someone else.  It makes me sick inside.  Still, I am pregnant again.  I'm afraid that he will move out and take the TV set with him.  Kirin likes to watch cartoons when he sleeps over, and I have no money to buy the child a new television.  Besides, I hate being by myself.

We have two dogs, Clayton and Bob.  They are both strays.  They're hungry all the time, and they fight over food.  I bring bagels home from work, leftover muffins and cream cheese from meetings in the conference room.  That's their dinner.  Or Rusty may have scraps from the restaurant.  I might even eat part of a hamburger if it looks good.  Late at night, the dogs and I listen for his steps in the alley.  We wait for the door to push open.  Usually, he is drunk but so am I.  Sometimes, he falls asleep on the train and dudes steal his tips.  They cut the money right out of his pockets.  I talk down to my boyfriend like he's an idiot, but I don't want him to leave.

I wash my laundry with a bar of soap in the bathtub.  Sometimes I forget that I left things soaking overnight.  When I'm late for work (which is every morning) and need to take a shower, I drain the water and pile everything to one side.  I step on top of the wet shirts and pants.  It feels weird, like I'm standing in a polluted lake.

I drape my clothing on hangers that I hook over a skinny pipe in the boiler room. It takes two days for jeans to dry this way.  I could use the clothesline that belongs to the couple upstairs - they said it was okay.  But they have a Rottweiler, and he doesn't like Bob.  He chewed through my screen door so they could have it out.  My neighbor gave me twenty bucks to replace the mesh, but I don't know how to fix it. I spent the dough anyway.  Now, I just avoid him and his girlfriend.  It's all right.  I can wear my pants a little damp.  They dry quick once I get outside.

I need groceries, but it'll be dark soon.  I should have cereal and macaroni for when Kirin comes on Friday.  It takes me forever to gather my thoughts and leave the house.  They're pulling the gate down in front of the supermarket when I finally get there.  I pass the store and keep walking until I reach the apartment where I buy my dope.

I smoke crack for the first time that night.  It is incredible.  I hang out with my dealer and his wife for almost three days.  I miscarry while I am there.  I am relieved, but also sad because I have to go home.  When I get there, Rusty is gone. There's $250 on the counter.  I don't need the money for what it's intended, but I'm not gonna give it back.  I buy a small TV from some guy I know.  I never replace that broken screen.  My kid likes to jump through the hole without opening the door.  He is seven.  He thinks its hilarious.

*******

I like to think and write about my recovery.  I feel like it's essential to my own sobriety.  I can't imagine I'll ever grow weary of the phenomenon of getting clean and staying this way.  I want to give back and share what I know.  This feels like a good way.

I'm not just an addict.  Not anymore.
I used to be.  I convinced myself that I had lots of other stuff going on.  So it didn't seem that bad.  I had a place to live, a kid and a job.  But I also had no trouble pushing these interests aside.
To make more room for the drugs.  And the drinking.
That's all there was, really.  Those two things.

Oh, I'm still a junkie.  And a drunk.  I always will be.  These are facts, and I do not sugar-coat them.  But as long as I don't pick up, I'm good.  I have a better chance of managing this busy mind.  I can handle things like normal folks do.  I pray on it. I talk to other addicts.  I try and stay humble.  I do my best to not get in the way.

Some days are a piece of cake.  Some days, I don't even think about it - what I am. I just live my life.  I  need to remind myself where I came from.  I do it on purpose. Otherwise, I'm only one beer away from fucking everything up.

I hope my life is long.  I have lots of cool shit to do.
I'm not just an addict.  Not anymore.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Riding Shotgun

Driving over to visit my Dad, I always get nervous.  I wonder why I feel this way. It's probably just because he's older than I ever imagined he'd be, and I don't want him to be dead when I get there.  As soon as I locate him and establish his aliveness, I immediately feel better.

Frequently, he'll be sitting in the common area with some of the other residents.  I wouldn't say Gene Dall participates enthusiastically in group activities.  He does appear to enjoy himself though, which is very reassuring.

When he sees me, he may uncross his arms to wave.  But otherwise, he doesn't move.  He eyeballs me like a target and waits patiently for me to come over.  He knows I'm there because he's there.  I am his person.  When I think about what that actually means, my heart opens right down the middle.  I don't dwell on this thought often.  It gets in the way of our relationship.

"What's going on, chief?  Anything good?"  I kiss him on top of his head.
"Same crap.  Just taking it easy."  This is his usual claim.
"Come with me.  You need a shave."  This is my usual response.
"Really?"  He rubs at his face, pretending to be shocked.  "I'll do it later," which of course, he will not.
"I don't believe you.  Let's take care of it now.  You look like Rip Van Winkle."
A gentle prompt is all it takes to curb his resistance.

"C'mon," I say.  "I'll keep you company."  I pull at his big webbed hands.  He rocks back and forth to build enough momentum to stand.  If he can't quite manage some lift, I have to let go of his meat fists.  So he can push off the arms of his chair to get up.  He never really gives me any trouble.

Gene Dall's memory is shot, but it's not the end of the world.  There's no reason for him to worry or wonder if he's forgotten anything.  My approach is familiar and all-inclusive.  I try to ask him easy questions.  I do most of the talking, and he listens.  At least, I hope he's listening.  But if he's not, it's no big deal.  I don't judge him.  I try not to scrutinize what he understands.

This afternoon was unseasonably cold, so I'm glad we took our drive yesterday.  I don't like my Dad to be outside when the weather is lousy.  He doesn't mind, but I do.  He is cooperative when it's time to go anywhere.  Like always, I help him with his coat.  He holds onto the long sleeves of his shirt so they don't bunch up when he slides his arms in.  I think that's pretty impressive.  My kids still haven't figured this trick out, and they're convinced they know everything.

We step outside, but he has no idea which vehicle is mine.  It could be any car in this parking lot.  This detail is not important.
"Wait here, champ.  I'll bring it around," I lope across the street and pull the Traverse up to the front door of the Memory Care unit.

"You wanna drive?" I love this question.  It's hilarious.
"Not today," he replies.
"You can if you like," I tease him.  He appreciates that we're just fooling around.
"Why should I?  I taught you everything you know."  He's clever when he wants to be.
"You didn't teach me shit.  I hadda learn how to drive on the streets," I answer freshly.  "From prostitutes.  And not that many own cars," I add.
It's a solid comeback.  My timing is good.
"You don't say," he responds.  He's still with me, which adds to the fun.
"It's true.  Most of them take mass transit."  I'm guessing this could be accurate.
"So, you're a bus driver?" he prompts.
"No, but you're a smartass," I respond.  He chuckles as I reach over his belly to adjust his seatbelt.  I laugh, too.

We talk rough, Gene and I.
I don't want to treat him like a baby.  He's old, but he's still a man.  His reaction to most things suits me just fine.  What's happening right now is all that matters.  I like to communicate this way, simply and without reservation.  Dad is capable of intimacy.  It feels like we are close.

We drive for a little bit, down into Fort Mill.  It's a nice ride on a country road.  We listen to 70's music on the radio.  He sings the entire chorus of You Are The Woman by Firefall.
You are the woman that I've always dreamed of.
I knew it from the start.
I saw your face, and that's the last I've seen of my heart.

We stop at the Krispy Kreme drive-thru, and I order for the both of us.  Gene is pleased with his coffee and donut.  I take a bite of mine and wrap the rest in a napkin.  He's very interested in what I'm doing.
"Are you gonna eat that?" he asks.
"Probably.  You had yours, so back off."  I warn him.

"Who's this singing?" he asks after a while.
"It's John Denver," I tell him.  "You remember what happened to him, right?"
"Not really," he admits.
"He died in a plane crash," I explain.
"No shit," Dad says.  "That's a shame.  He had a great voice."
Picture
I think about John Denver, putting his own plane together in the garage.  Running out of gas and crashing into the mountains.  That must have been fucked up.

I sing Rocky Mountain High a few times, and Dad starts adding the Colorado part. It sounds really nice.  But just when we get it together, the song is over.

"Colorado is beautiful," he mentions thoughtfully, looking out the window.
"How would you know?  We live in North Carolina," I remind him.
"Yeah.  That's what I meant," he says.
Picture

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Letter #9: Winning Friends and Influencing People

June 12, 2014


Mr. David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY  10017


Dear Mr. Sedaris:

The telephone rang yesterday afternoon, and I picked it up in the kitchen.  The receptionist from the beauty parlor where I get my hair cut called to confirm my appointment for Monday.

"Was that Mr. Sedaris?" Rory asked as he passed through the room wearing a cardboard box on his head.

"No, honey," I said.

"What's gonna happen if he calls when you're in New York next week?"

"I guess you'll have to take a message," I suggested.

"I'll be at camp," he reminded me.

"Well then, Dad can probably have lunch with him."

"Okay," the younger boy replied.  He fumbled with the doorknob.

"Can you see in that thing?"

"Not yet," he called in my direction.  "I have to go make some holes."

"Brother, take that box off your head before you fall down the stairs."

"Don't worry," he shouted from the top of the garage steps.  "I know what I'm doing."

This morning in the car, Rory asked me how you and I know each other.

"We don't," I informed him.

"Then why are you bothering him?"

"Do you really think I'm bothering him?"

He didn't say anything.  He just stared out the window.

I considered his question as we drove a little bit further.

"I think it'll be fun once we're friends."

"It's just that you've already got a bunch of friends," Bro said.  "How many more do you need?"

"I don't know," I answered.  "One?"

*******

It's officially Summer for us here on Meadow Bottom Road.  The last day of school was Tuesday. David and I were pleased with the boys' end-of-year test results.  Desmond takes his education very seriously, and his scores are impressive.  Whenever Rory gets his report card, on the other hand, we are always shocked by his fabulous grades. Please note that I have underlined the word shocked for emphasis.  For this child, the learning process seems to be some sort of happy accident.

Rory Malcolm is an unconventional student.  He has yet to offer any indication that he understands what's going on in the classroom, and he's been showing up for school every day since Pre-K.  I don't even think Bro realizes that acknowledging and retaining information is required.  It's almost as if he's been beamed down to Earth from a planet where attention spans are not necessary for survival.

Brother doesn't appear to be even remotely interested in his studies.  If he has a pen, he immediately draws smiley faces on all of his fingers.  He practices magic tricks during morning work.  He gets comic books taken from him regularly.  His interest in math does not extend beyond counting up how many friends he has in one room.  His relationships are very important.

The condition of Rory's homework would suggest that all of his teachers are rageful individuals who long for a paperless society.  When they see paper, they crumple it into angry balls and aim at the children.  With the help of their tears, these kids must smooth out the creases as best they can.  Their little hands get filthy in the process.  No one is allowed to go to the bathroom and wash up.  None of this is their fault.

Over the years, I've had lengthy discussions with all of Rory's instructors.  Each one is more darling than the next.  No one was lovelier than Mrs. Upchurch.  She retired from Elon Park Elementary under mysterious circumstances when my son finished second grade.  I have a hunch I know why she left.  In the last two years, he's been issued much younger, sturdier members of the faculty.  They always seem relieved when he's promoted.

Some boys are verbally expressive and creative.  It's really just a nice way of saying that you're noisy and disruptive.  Brother can be loutish in group settings.  He gets this from me.  We are easily excitable.  I'd imagine that he's a nightmare on field trips.  I know I was.  Recognizing this unfortunate character trait that we share, I will not dare volunteer to chaperone.  And if I were Mrs. Barringer, I would not want either of us on that bus.

This afternoon, the guys and I bumped into Desmond's fifth grade teacher at Target.  My sons' minds are always blown whenever they see their mentors beyond the confines of the school environment.  They struggle to imagine a world where these individuals do things like drive cars and eat food.

"Mom, Mom!  Oh, my God.  It's Mrs. Kiser!"

The big one couldn't get over it. There she was, right behind us on line.  Buying things.  It was an extraordinary sighting.

She and I chatted briefly.  She and her family are heading to the beach for a week. After that, they'll be visiting her mom.  We hugged, and I thanked her for everything she's done for Des.  He is terribly fond of this young lady.  The other night, he graduated with Straight As and Perfect Attendance.

"I loved having Desmond in class," she said.  "I only hope I get Rory next year."

Now, I don't claim to know Mrs. Kiser very well.  Perhaps she was just being nice. Then again, she might be the kind of woman who needs a huge challenge in order to feel truly alive.  There are people like that - Extremists.  We don't know, but we may find out in August.

Brother approached me in the parking lot.  "Mom, are you and Mrs. Kiser friends?"

"Not yet, honey," I told him.

"Well, maybe you should write to her."

Your pal,


Mary Killian

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letter #8: Working Man Blues

June 10, 2014


Mr. David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY  10017


Dear Mr. Sedaris:

They're putting in brand new sidewalks around the corner from my house.  Wait until you see them!  As sidewalks go, these babies have it all - smooth surfaces, nice curbs and slopes for bikes and strollers.  You can tell - the folks in charge of this assignment really thought things through and spared no expense.

Have you ever been to Ballantyne?  It's pretty classy where I live.  When we first moved here, I was intimidated.  I didn't know what to expect.  Everyone looks so healthy, and things are clean and well-kept.  I thought for a minute that I might have to pursue some quickie liposuction just to blend in.  I'd been so busy packing and unpacking all of our stuff.  And nervously eating Cheetos while trying to memorize the unfamiliar TV channels.  I didn't really have enough time to jog or give a shit about my diet before all these friendly neighbors started coming out of the woodwork.

The sidewalk project is taking a very long time.  Construction crews started tearing up the streets back in January.  That's when they repaved the roads and installed deluxe traffic lights.  Upgrades begin at the far end of the high school ballfield and continue beyond a broad intersection that splits into three directions, two of which extend to shopping centers where you can meet friends for lunch and spend money.  The third way leads to an impressive subdivision.  I've only driven through there a few times, but people seem nice.  They wave, and I wave back.  Sometimes, I wave first and then, they do it.  All the waving was hard to get used to in the beginning.  But after three years, it feels quite natural.

Back to the walkway installation.  There's one municipal worker, in particular.  He appears to be about 20 years old.  He wears glasses and sports the modern adaptation of Abraham Lincoln's beard.  Based on the way he carries himself, the facial hair is a deliberate look.  I can't imagine it's a style that deserves to make a comeback.

Honest Abe has been issued the full-sized safety paddle which says SLOW on one side, STOP on the other.  Occasionally, they hand him a rake.  But mostly, he's responsible for that sign.  It's unclear if he understands why he's holding either of these pieces of equipment.  Perhaps the boss keeps texting him instructions, and he is texting back that he's received the details but refuses to read them.  He's on the phone quite a bit.

You've really gotta hand it to this kid.  He may not be passionate about the job, but he sure is chatty with his colleagues, smiling and laughing the day away with other members of the yellow vest gang. I'll be the first one to support the notion that a fun outlook is good for morale. And ordinarily, I'd be delighted to see this young man enjoy himself so thoroughly at the work place.  Except that he's holding a road signal suggesting I behave a certain way while steering a heavy piece of machinery through the streets at varying speeds.  I just think he should care more.

Recently, the Great Emancipator was yucking it up again on duty.  At this point, I am hesitant to suggest this was an isolated incident.  I already know too much about the situation.  I read his sign carefully, which indicated that I should proceed as follows:  SLOW.  I crept along in my big vehicle until I was roughly two inches from striking him.  I felt bad about interrupting his conversation, so I waited while he finished telling his joke.  The heat of my engine caught his attention, jarring him from his revelry.

The Rail-Splitter addressed me with perhaps the hairiest eyeball I've encountered to date.  He looked annoyed that I'd actually followed his directions, as specified by the warning on his stick.

"Can't you read?" he shouted, pointing to the paddle.

"It says SLOW!" I replied, even though he couldn't hear me from inside the car.

He looked up and spun the pole around.  "It says STOP."

"You've gotta be kidding me!" I could see him trying to not  read my lips.

As I drove past, I yelled out the window, "You're a dumbbell!" and kept going.

Since that day whenever I approach the Community House Road exchange, I look for the stupid version of our sixteenth President.  I no longer simply have an opinion with regard to his lack of integrity and piss poor commitment to the community and our country.  Make no mistake - I am judging him.  I didn't say I was proud of myself.

He was on the phone this morning, probably with his mom or an elderly aunt.  I bet the three of them live together in a cramped apartment over by the Family Dollar.  It's gotta be rough, sleeping on a recliner that smells like cat winky.  I don't feel sorry for him anymore that he doesn't have enough money to move out on his own.  It's unlikely he's ever gonna land a girlfriend, not with that attitude.

I can't wait for this project to be finished.  I don't like feeling this way.

Yours truly,


Mary Killian

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sisters

"Mommy, tell us about the time Judy made my breakfast," I begged.  "Please!"
It was a Saturday morning, and we were under the covers in Big Mare's bed.  I guess I was around eight or nine years old.  A prime age for breaking my mothers balls, no doubt.

"What?  There's nothing to tell.  You already know what happened," she said dryly, reaching for the cigarettes on the edge of her nightstand.  "Oh, dammit.  Do me a favor, Judeth.  Run downstairs and get me a book of matches, will you?"
"Okay," my sister said, kicking the blanket aside and crawling over the bottom of my leg.
"Ow!" I hollered, even though it didn't really hurt.  "She did that on purpose!" I grumbled and rubbed the wrong foot.
"Jesus, Mary.  Must you whine?" Big Mare pleaded.
"Promise you won't start without me," Judy said.
"C'mon, Mom.  Please tell us!  I'll be good," I pawed at her freckled arm.
"Make it snappy, then.  And bring me a clean ashtray."

"When you were a baby…" Mom began.
"Like how old?" I asked.
"Maybe ten months, I guess."
"That would make me almost two and a half," Judy added.

"I woke up one morning, and neither of you girls were in your cribs."
"Where were we?" I giggled.
"Are you gonna let me finish or what?" my mother scolded.
"Yes.  Keep going," I pressed her for more details.

"I heard a noise and called to your father - 'Gene!  Wake up.  The children are gone!'  I ran down the hallway.  'Oh God, where are my precious angels?' I started to pray out loud," Big Mare sounded dead serious.
"Then what?" I gasped.
"When I got to the kitchen, I couldn't believe what I saw.  There you were, sitting up in the high chair - smiling and gumming a Kaiser roll," my mother explained.  "Not a tooth in your mouth."
"How'd I get there?" I cried out.
"I wondered the same thing.  Judy just looked up at me and said, 'Mommy, the baby was hungry.  So I made her some breakfast.'"

God, I just love that story.

*******

I think about my sister all the time.  We haven't spoken in years, not since my mom died.  I check Judy's Facebook page every day, even though we are not friends.  I glance briefly at her photo, as if I'm checking this task off a private 'to-do' list.

I replay the things that went wrong in my head.  I scrutinize my behavior and hers, from this angle and that.  Sometimes I feel very angry.  I'm almost certain that she is still furious with me.  I do miss her and my heart breaks.  But as time goes on, it feels different.  She is becoming a shadow.  And that makes me very sad.

I imagine what Judy's life is like now.  I try to understand what she may be going through.  I re-examine my own feelings.  I consider the possibility that she and I may never see each other again.  Then, I put all these thoughts away and get on with my life.  Estrangement is a powerful ache.

There were times when I felt like we were close.  I could have sworn that we would last forever.  I find myself envying what other sisters have.  But we both want something that the other can't provide.  It would take a tremendous amount of courage and energy to change the situation that exists between us.  I don't think we're capable of that right now.  So instead, we have nothing.

I am under no impression that my writing will heal the relationship.  Writing is not magic, although it has brought some wondrous moments my way with each story that I share.  I always choose my words carefully.  I don't ever wish to make things any worse.

I realize that I am free to write about our time together.  I have many beautiful memories that I am eager to explore.  But for some siblings, there is no future. Only these emotional souvenirs from the past.

Judy and I will always be sisters.  It just doesn't mean what I want it to.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Angels are Born Winners!

We have two lucky, lovely Contest Winners!
     Ruth Mulder and Bitsy Callahan.
Congratulations, girls.
The sweetest angels are heading your way.

First girl to contact me gets to pick - Blonde or Brunette.
Both are adorable and unbelievably soft.

I sure do appreciate everyone who's reading and sharing the blog.  Please double-check to make sure you are, indeed, following.  And thank you for your friendship and support.

Here's to a safe and fun Summer!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Angel Contest!

The Angels are packed up and ready to go…  but they're not traveling light!
They're loaded down with warm wishes, goodies and treats.

92 Followers have already been entered into this month's drawing.  Here's how it works… All of the names go into one of Dave's hats, and two lucky winners get selected.  You've seen the size of my dear husband's head.  It's a huge hat, and there's plenty of room for more names!  

Keep in mind that you can't just like this post.  You've gotta become a follower in order to enter the contest.  But don't worry, it's easy.  Under the Angel Contest section on the website, look for Networked Blogs (Like on Facebook).  Click the blue Follow This Blog button.  When the next screen pops up, click Follow to add yourself to the directory for a chance to win one of these heavenly angels from North American Bear Company.

It's exciting to know that High Wire Girl has so many followers!  That really blows my mind.  I'm thrilled and grateful that folks are enjoying the blog.  Your love and support mean a great deal to me.

When we reach 100 followers, I'm planning something extra special.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Letter #7: A Ruffled Mind on a Restless Pillow

June 2, 2014


Mr. David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY  10017


Dear Mr. Sedaris:

I read some tutorials last night on how to become friends with a famous person. There is so much advice on the internet with regard to approaching this task smartly.  So far, I think I'm doing okay.  Plus, I always let my husband read my letters before I drop them into the mailbox.  David tends to temper my zeal with discretion.  I have a lot of zeal.  Maybe, too much.  I think many folks just naturally prefer small doses.  It's easier to digest.

Of course, I don't believe everything I read, but I do find this research quite fascinating.  For example, a self-proclaimed expert in one forum suggests that "most celebrities have a shortage of decent friends to hang out with.  Conversely, they are exposed to an overabundance of scumbags who want things from them and just can't be cool."  Not just an abundance, mind you.  An overabundance, which is so unfortunate.  Is this happening to you?

Elsewhere on the same topic, another resource proposes very strong pseudo-scientific counsel that I agree with wholeheartedly.  "Friendship is a special type of chemistry where you just like cracking jokes and making each other have a good time.  It's not a chance to leach off somebody else for value.  You can't hang out with the person you idolize, but then also bug them for help.  Or stuff."  This is sage advice.

I'm embarrassed.  I had no idea things were this bad.  I bet reading these tutorials can help prevent a great deal of heartache.  I can send you the links, if you like.  It's no problem, really.  You need to protect yourself.

You know what's interesting?  Last year, I dreamt that I had the keys to Kid Rock's waterfront mansion on Lake Fenton in Michigan.  I do not think we were in a romantic relationship, which I'm completely okay with because I do not find him attractive.  Nonetheless every night after work, I let myself into his pad and warmed some leftovers in the microwave - mostly chinese food and pizza.  Then, I'd tidy up the place.  I rinsed the empty Jim Beam bottles and folded all the undershirts and bandanas that were in the dryer.

Kid Rock was never around during my visits.  He must have been on tour.  In my subconscious, I was afraid that he might come home early and ask my opinion about some of his latest dope rhymes.  Because I am largely unfamiliar with his body of work, this dream made me terribly uneasy.  Even though I wasn't awake, I was looking over my shoulder the whole time.

Kid Rock and I, we have so little in common.  Strip clubs have always given me the creeps.  I'm just not that casual.  And I've never lifted a chair in anger.  I think our conversations might be tedious.  Explaining my presence on his property would be stressful, as well.

I do believe that dreams are symbolic.  I bet this one says plenty, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what.  I read somewhere that when you think about cleaning things in your sleep, it implies that you're removing negativity from your life and overcoming major obstacles.  Currently, I don't have any big obstacles in my life, which is wonderful.  But somewhat disappointing, I suppose, as far as analyzing this curious vision.

When I had that dream back in April where you and I were friends, I had a really good feeling about writing to you.  I still do.

Fondly,


Mary Killian