Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Addict and Me: Part II

I had made the decision to go visit my friend.  The flight was booked, room reserved, rental car ordered.  When I faced my true intentions, my feelings and desires, I felt doomed.  There was no way this was going to work out in my favor.  I tried to work through scenarios of what could happen:

  1. We would meet at the airport with passionate kisses and be locked in a frantic naked mambo for days.  Not likely.   Our moony love phase had passed.  We had worked out that we weren’t each other’s paths, that we couldn’t have a romance.  Maybe. 

  2. I would see him face to face and realize that he was a total loser and wonder what I had been thinking and spend the whole time trying to politely get away from him and the whole situation.  Possible, but then I would know the lay of the land, as it were, and that would be a good thing.  And I had my own hotel room and rental car and could escape, if necessary.

  3. He would see me and reject me and I would spend the whole time in my room in tears.  That would suck, but, once again, I would gain knowledge and, hopefully, be able to move forward in my life.

  4. I would try to seduce him and be rebuffed and feel like crap.  I would be the total loser in that scenario.

  5. He would be indifferent to me and I would spend the whole vacation secretly longing for him without being able to express my desire and leave frustrated.  Hmmm.  Possible.

            Thus began my descent into crazy world.  I thought that I was doing the right thing for myself.  I wanted to see this guy.  I wanted something.  It seemed that to go see him would settle things one way or another.  I had put myself in the position of being in love with someone and desperately wanting that love in return.  I didn’t know how to make this happen.  After his “public” relapse, he had been rather incommunicado, focusing on his sobriety and new job.   I was unsure of what was going on with him.  I realized that I had desire that might not be met and matched.  Plus, I didn’t know what I was going to wear.  I went on several clothes shopping outings.  I had a vision of myself as something, but everything I tried on made me feel inadequate.  I was trying to hard to be young, sexy, or at least cute and somewhat desirable.  I broke down in dressing rooms.  I felt panicky.  I cried.  Nothing looked right.  Who was I?  I wanted to be me, I thought, but some more idealized version.  I felt that I had only a little time to create the stunning woman I wanted to be.  Or the woman he wanted me to be.   Or the woman he couldn’t possibly resist.  It was too much to ask.  I was completely outside of myself, my true self.  I was trying to make myself up to be a magazine girl.  I picked out a new cologne:  Euphoria.  I liked that it was amber-y and exotic, but not too exotic.  It seemed to be blown into every magazine I picked up.  Couldn’t I be that?  Couldn’t I be every pretty airbrushed glossy girl?

I felt unbalanced.  I felt crazy.  How had this happened?  I thought I knew who I was.  I thought I was OK with myself, but this situation unhinged me.  I had expressed my physical attraction to him months earlier (we had seen each other in online photographs), but what had he told me?  About all I knew was that he liked that I had red hair.  I also knew that his previous love interest was a younger, petite Asian.  I was a tall, older, white Midwest farm girl.  I had no confidence in my appearance.  We were also planning a hiking trip in the Rocky Mountains—more anxiety.  Was I in shape?  Could I handle the altitude?  I had a month to prepare.  I began biking 13 miles a day.  I read up on altitude sickness.  Water Water Water.  OK, I could do that.  I’m not much for hydration, but if it kept me from dizzy spells and passing out, it could be worth it.  I got my legs waxed for the first time and a pedicure.  I know.  For hiking.  I wanted to be a super sexy hiking chick, I don’t know.  I wanted to be everything.  It felt good to get a pedicure.  Getting my feet groomed and massaged was very sensual.  I liked my toenails being crimson and shiny.  The waxing was easy.  My clinician said I was a natural.  It seemed better than shaving.  I was going overboard, but I justified it by saying it made me feel good.  I felt more womanly.  I felt different.  I hadn’t had sex in ages.  I felt I needed bolstering up in my feminine charms.  Even if the man I was going to meet couldn’t have cared less about nail polish and smooth legs and hairstyles and shoe styles, I still felt the need to go through this to try and steady some insecure girl part of myself.

The night before my flight, I was even a bit more of a wreck.  I had to pack.  I had to get it together.  There were several phone calls and what I heard from him was that he didn’t know what to wear either.  He finally said, “I don’t care what you think of me,” and I laughed with relief.  We were in the same boat.  We both wanted to impress each other.  We both were unsure of how all this was going to go.  I relaxed.  We had spent so much time getting to know each other from the inside though hours and hours of phone calls and IMs, what difference would our outsides make?

I woke up the next morning happy and excited.  I hadn’t felt like this in years.  I was going to meet a dear friend.  The day was sunny and fresh, as though dawning after a thunderstorm.  A little sunflower smiled through the cracks of the airport parking lot, I smiled back.  I checked myself in the big mirrors of the airport bathroom.  I looked cute.  A little heavy on the makeup for 9 AM, but it would fade.  I was wearing a somewhat see-through Autumnal patterned blouse with a black lace camisole underneath; a simple black rayon knit just-above-the-knee length skirt and my blessedly comfortable soft black Mary Jane’s.  I felt I was a good mix of sexy and girlish.  On the flight, I felt that I was running towards him.  I’m coming.  I’m coming.  I’ll soon be there.

The airport was huge.  I called his cell phone as soon as I landed, but I had a long way to go before I saw him.  I was run/walking as fast as I could, bumping along with my wheeled carry-on trailing.  I saw him before he saw me.  I was coming up the stairway from the transit trains, and I saw him.  Hundreds of people all around, and there he stood in a metaphorical shaft of light, so perfectly the man I loved.  Cupid rained arrows down on me.  “I’m in trouble,” I sighed inside myself.  I knew I wanted him and I didn’t know what he wanted.  Not at all.

We smiled at each other and exchanged an awkward hug.  We had a bit of time to wait for the bus.  So, there we sat in the airport, two people who had talked and talked so openly about so many things over months and months and we were suddenly shy with each other.  He let me take his big warm hands; interlace his long lovely fingers with mine.  I wanted to kiss them.  I wanted to kiss him.  I wanted to jump all over him.  I wanted to lick his face.  I felt like a puppy all wiggly with “Love me! Love me! Love me! Because I can’t help but love you!”  I could feel his heart thumping, but he was stiff and pulling back from me.  He looked scared.  This was a bumpy start.

I still drank him in:  slim and pale and boyish and just a smidgen taller than me.  He was wearing a beige linen suit coat, a white button-down shirt with a thin blue and black art deco style tie, black jeans, and buff suede shoes.  He hadn’t slept well.  He hadn’t eaten breakfast.  He needed a smoke.  I wanted an Italian Soda.  We couldn’t find any.  I settled for a $5 bottle of water (must remember:  Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!) and we went outside.  He had a crumbly chocolate vending donut in his pocket; he offered me half.  It was hilarious.  Two pastry chefs meet and eat crappy stale donuts.  I laughed.  Oh god.  I couldn’t help but be joyful.  I couldn’t help but beam at him.  The voice that I had learned to love came in this amazing vibrantly nervous boy/man animated package.  I could feel the warmth of his skin radiating.  I wanted to brush the small stubble of his chin.  I wanted to inhale him.  I was fascinated.  I completely forgot about my appearance.  We got on the bus and he let me drape my arm on his thigh.  He rested, a little uneasily, his head on my shoulder.  All my focus was on him, and, then, on the beautiful blue brown grays of the snow-capped front range of the Rocky Mountains which were getting closer and closer as our bus rolled forward.

Monday, June 27, 2011

my little girl

my little girl stays in the country,
in a house so far away
that no one ever goes there,

my little girl has a new dress for Easter,
don’t she,
though hardly nothing in the closets,
someday someday.

sister said there will soon be plenty:
lots of pretty lace and ruching
not to wrinkle, hanging,

my little girl will need boxes,
for all the jewelry
and for tampons she won’t know
how to use
will she.

my little girl has dragged her sleeve
in the mayo, already,
trying to get to the pie
on the table we set
in the sunshine,
didn’t we.

my little girl would rather watch the cows
the green pastures to sundown, slowly,
then listen to me tell her how,
the hands of the clock move one way

Little Boy

Mother tows you
down the sidewalk
you drag slowly
in her hand.

A stick!  A stick!
Must stop for it!
Oh, how lovely!
You trail it along,
head bent to its ticking,
clicking over each crack:
this this this
Mother Son Stick.

At the coffee shop
you get a cookie,
walk with it so
very carefully.
Big Brown
Peanut Butter
on a turquoise plate.
Your glasses are difficult,
black and hard,
the cookie wants to slide off
the shiny plate,
the door is huge,
the latch is up up up.
Can glasses stay put
can hand hold cookie open door?

I love you so much
in your concentration,
your balancing act
of desire for the cookie,
and to do what’s right:
not break anything
not lose anything
to be grown up.
I want to help you,
but I think you might
misread my smile
as mockery.
I’m grown up,
my glasses,
thin and umber,
scooch down my nose
towards my yellow book,
my difficult reading:
The Myth of Freedom.
I love you.
I can’t help it.
And, I can’t help you.
You make it out the door
in your own eyes
and mine.

On the patio of the café
you spy a Radio Flyer
red in the sun.
The stick, a cookie
and now this.
You pick the black crusty
handle up & look around
for approval.
Is it OK?  Can I take this?
Is it mine?
Where is mother?
You look at me,
(Simon says . . . .)
but I am all green light;
books and cares
dropped from my
reading glass eyes.
I will say yes,
but you don’t know this.
(Simon’s a trickster, isn’t he? isn’t he?)
The world is your little red wagon:
Grab hold and go.

But already there is fear
inside you,
the widening divide
of loss,
of others,
of judgement:
I’m not your Mother.
I don’t know what’s best.
You drop the handle
and run
and hold onto her dress.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Art Fair

 Buckingham Fountain
(Chicago, Illinois)
Watercolor by JoAnne Hauser Warren 

I went to an Art Fair today and I was immediately taken with the above print of a watercolor, which first caught my eye in a pack of 4x6 note cards.  The artist had larger prints, but the paper had not been kind to the printing process and the detail of the yellow cascade of water was lost.  So, I bought the pack of note cards and scanned this one. 
I felt it had the feel of a vintage travel poster and also reminded me of this painting by Mr. Whistler:
 Nocturne in Black and Gold
The Falling Rocket
James Abbott McNeill Whistler  
American painter  
c. 1872-77
I'm sharing another purchase, which, once again, was only available in note card size.
This is the confluence of the Yahara River and Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin.
I love the mirroring and the sepia tone and the wide open fogged-in space in the center where the shore just evaporates.
Yahara Monona
Sepia Photograph
Don Mendenhall

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a plunging stone

Though I scrubbed my feet
with myrtle and mint,
I did not make it to Chicago.

The caterpillars
of Black Swallowtails
work the rue,
and I,
I watch.

I watch as the day
Coltrane-rolls into afternoon;
Miles in jodhpurs, perhaps,
a white oxford shirt
half untucked,
leaning in on a single bright note—
a gooseneck lamp bent
over a desk of
whiskers and polka-
dots and moonbeams
through years
of eventides.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Addict and Me: Part One

If I think of him as an addict, then it becomes clearer and I can let it go; I can let him go, a little bit more, a little bit more . . . .

The first time I experienced him having a relapse, I saw it coming.  I saw it coming from miles and weeks away.  I am, occasionally, a very regular keeper of a journal.  I was mulling over his issues in my journal (OK, obsessing), and I wrote:  He is going to drink. If I was writing in my journal that he was going to drink, how much stronger was it in his mind?   I didn’t even know all that much about alcoholism, but I could see his issues colliding and compounding and the easy answer was there.  A straw cropped up and the camel’s back broke. A hurtful email arrived.  He got it on a Friday night and shared it with me over the phone, and I spent the whole weekend fretting about it.  I did.  What did this have to do with me?  I worried.  I hoped he was talking to his sponsor, I hoped he was talking to someone.  He sure wasn’t talking to me.  And there I was, waiting by the phone.  Frustrated with myself, but doing it anyway.  Damn it.  The positive for me was that I wrote a poem.  I decided that if I was going to sit and wait for a phone call that I might as well write something.  And I did.  And I liked it.  A lot.  It was Bird in a Box.  I think now that it might be a crap name for my blog, but at the time I was really enamored with the poem.  I made something out of frustration.  I made something in spite of being frustrated.

OK, so he didn’t call me all weekend.  I knew he was in trouble.  He sent me a brief message late Friday or early Saturday morning that he wanted to talk, but he never called, messaged, nothing after that.

He called me Monday night.  He seemed a little odd, not the warm soul I knew, but someone more petty, more paranoid.  He was living with family members.  When they came home, all hell broke loose.  Our phone call was interrupted.  He called me back later to confess that he had been busted drinking in a house where there was zero-tolerance.  It was surreal.  I was on the phone with someone I felt I knew well, yet had never met, and suddenly felt I didn’t know at all.  I knew that a relapse was a possibility, but from 1,000 miles away, it felt like, well, 1,000 miles away.  He could have kept it from me.  He could have been drinking all along.  How would I have known? 

What I did know was my reaction.  I saw myself being sucked into this drama; spending whole weekends, lifetimes, waiting and worrying.  And for what?  I knew why we weren’t together:  his addiction would eat me alive.  I couldn’t help but be sucked into that vortex, because that was my nature, that was my idea of love.  And it would do me no good.  I gave it a couple days of thought and then told him straight up:  We can’t be together because your drinking problem would swallow me whole.  I was shaking, but I had the courage to speak my mind.  It felt good. 

It’s three years on, now, and I’m still trying to make the break.  I don’t know why it is so hard.  I didn’t let go, for one thing.  I didn’t step away from that vortex.  I kept hanging on, hoping for something.  A year later I went to visit him.  We had made a little break from each other after the public relapse (private ones had occurred prior).  He re-committed himself to AA and staying sober and stopped talking to me.  After a year and a half of regular contact, it hurt.  I tried to bargain with God.  “We can be friends!”  “I know how to do this.”  “I’m not going to get sucked in.  I know my boundaries, how to stay safe.”  But, no dice: I got to live in my own life, and he, in his.  But my life was in turmoil.  In the space of two years, my long-term boyfriend left me, my mother died (my father had passed two years prior), both my dogs died and I was on the edge of losing my job.  I felt as though everything was flowing out and away from me.

In a therapy session, I had a vision of flying over mountains and feeling wonderfully free.
On a moonlit walk, it occurred to me that I could fly and go see him in the mountains.
I could just ask.  What would be the harm in asking?  I wanted some kind of comfort in my life.  I felt so lonely and abandoned.  I had made this friend and shared all sorts of deep confidences with him.  Couldn’t I just go see him once?
I thought I was following The Four Agreements:  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.  I sent out my request: Dear _____, Can I come see you?

Ah, but what did I really want?  My mind was muddled.

He called me.  After a few months of silence, I heard his voice.  He was amenable to me coming to visit.  He sounded excited.  There were details.  He wasn’t sure where he was going to be living, but he had a new job and things were going well.  We could work it out.  We could have fun.  I felt my heart as I got off the phone.  I was excited.  I had forgotten the way his voice made me feel.  Oh, dear.  I was in trouble.  I didn’t just want to go see a friend and get a hug and a “there, there.”  I felt my heart saying, “boom shaka laka.” I wanted Love.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bird in a Box

In the locker room
Where God cannot see,
In the dark corner,
Tube-socked and tank-topped,
Curled on the wooden slats
Pressed against the drab,
The cool of green tiles,
I’m shooting up longing.
I’m sucking in long
Sweet pulls of desire.
Nobody knows this.
Nobody knows me.
Even God cannot see
God God God

I close my eyes,
Expecting a harpsichord
Or the thin brass tines
Of a music box painfully
Grinding out Mozart:
Pling dah dah ding tra ling.
An emerald and citrine
Crusted wren will pop
Stiffly unfolding up
Spinning mechanically
Stretching in measures:
One wing two wing
Back into the box.
Clapped shut.

Instead, I’m caught in a luminous diorama,
Painted brightly with thick washes of gouache.
The deliberate notes of a samisen are plucked
And drop soft as pollen,
Sweet as plum blossoms
Slowly unfolding.
In the melancholic stretching silences
Snow melts, rills fill, sap traces upwards.
Flurries of pink crab apple petals
Scrunch together on scabby
Blackened forked sticks,
Poking the blue cornflower sky.

A white crane kimonoed woman,
A pale spirea abloom,
And pulls from her silken sandalwood folds
A warm peach,
Offering it to me across the stream.
Barely blushing,
It opens in my hand so easily.
A cockatiel rises from its center,
Pale olive and sulfur dusted
He lights on a naked branch above me.

“He knows your secret name.
Call him to you
And he will sing it.”

But I fear his sharp beak,
His strange snail-curled tongue.
His scimitar claws
Will bloody me.
He will tattoo his name on my lips.
I cannot hold out my hand
As he chips closer,
Questioning in rising tones,
In little hops
Down the branch:


Sunday, June 5, 2011

it's not that I don't love you

I’m in my parent’s bedroom
the house is on fire
the phone is ringing
I know it’s you
but cannot answer
not now not now
it’s not that I don’t want to
it’s not that I don’t love you
but the house is on fire
and I have to get out
and I’ve forgotten how
the door is latched,
it’s latched and I’m paralyzed,
forgetting how things work
how to open doors
how to free myself.

once I fell into a strange
seizure on my mother’s side of the bed
she came to wake me
but I couldn’t move
I spoke, but my words were gibberish,
a glossolalia from the other side,
the place of peeling birches
and red roots
that dragged along the mossy banks.
she was terrified
and I was trying to tell her that I
was ok
I’m ok, Mom.  I’m ok.
she said that my eyes were open
but rolled back to whites.

my brother is outside
he’s telling me to lift the latch
a bit incredulously,
Duh, lift the latch.
mockingly, but scared for me, too.
you’re doing it wrong:
Lift the Latch.

and there it is
that rusty hook
how many times did I shift this
dark crook out of its eye
just unthinkingly
a mere finger flip
to get to the back porch
swinging the screen door out
to the trumpeter vine
to the garden
to sit with a small bowl
of new strawberries
that I had easily lifted
from their sand.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Carte Blanche

Carte Blanche

December and white roses~~by the armful they come.
Pale pleated heads; one word and they fall,
laid on pillows lithely blushed pink,
soft petals fragrant like freesia or lilies.
I am calling your name,
longing for your snowy lawn,
the crisp collar undone,
the cuff that holds your hand
gently grazes the luster of my brow.
Slipping silk down my cheek.
you breathe lotus and peony
with undertones of amber,
sweetmeats and halwa
from the street stalls of Constantinople.

But we are ghosts at sunset,
blue-veined gauze, fragile and easily torn;
floating fading promises tumbled to the ruins,
the old wood and boulders of Sope Creek,
crashing to the Chattahoochee
rimmed with hoarfrost,
but still flowing turbid & broad.
And there we loose our souls,
let go the bouquet of osmanthus
and spider mums that spin and splay
to ever darker gray eddies and disappear
in distant mists.