Rey Rey’s Repetition

SPOILERS. Attention, my good human, this has spoilers!!

The scene in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” where Rey gets slurped into Jedi island’s dark pit and spit up into a cave is what is known as the most defining, self-shattering oh-shit moment for a character. Or rather, it’s a focal point of every three-dimensional character. And as real life characters, we’re all familiar with it because we’ve either experienced it or we dread the experience of it, and do what we can to tiptoe around it. It’s when you reach that cockroach-shelled, lowly low place and come face to face with all your selves.

Rey pulls herself from a pool of water and onto a rocky platform and is faced with an image—her own reflection. Except there are many different Reys. Hundreds of her. She snaps her finger, and an entire army of her snaps her fingers. It seems like the snap’s echo will continue for forever. But Rey is convinced there isn’t a forever, she later tells Kylo, when their souls are paired together, before they touch hands. She believes she can see the end (or the beginning) of her reflection. She does see an end. And at the end of her reflections, there’s a frozen wall. She wants to see her parents. Behind the wall, there’s a hazy movement of what looks like two people that morph into one. When the image comes into focus, we see what Rey sees; it’s another version of herself. Not her parents. Not the answers she seeks.

Rey describes this experience as the most “alone” she has ever felt. As someone who plunged herself into the darkness for answers, one can understand the draw of sharing this with Kylo. He himself is as severed as she is, and there is comfort in that. His face has a jagged slit down the middle. They are both coming to terms with themselves, their power, and the balance they possess if they can focus their energies.

About a month ago, I saw this piece of art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts called “Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism,” by American artist Josiah McElheny. It reminds me of the repetitive Rey effect. On first glance, it’s a glass case with four objects—a decanter, a vase, a box, and a bottle. But then if you look past each object in the mirrors behind it, you’re presented with a seemingly endless arsenal of decanters, vases, boxes, and bottles.

Along with the main photo, these are a few pictures that I took myself:

Endlessly Repeating 2.jpg

Endlessly Repeating 3.jpg

The piece attempts to embody the “capitalist notion that all objects are eternally repeatable, that everything can be remanufactured endlessly without regard to era, geography, or culture.”

I was enamored with and haunted by this concept. The visual effect is trance-like. There’s a satisfying hum about it. The roundness of the objects, the shininess. The endlessness. But the longer you look at it, the more you want to find a beginning or end to it. It becomes exhausting. Because there isn’t exactly one.

This can be said about ideas too, that nothing is ever truly original, which many people in the history of the world have discovered and have said in different ways.

We could spend a longer time talking about capitalism here (and we could even get personal about the tight Disney grasp on creation and production), but I will keep this short for the purposes of this review. I know enough about a product to say even after all its updates and versions, it is still another version of the last one, an endless, unoriginal cycle.

It sounds kind of hollow when you pit the never-ending manufacture of objects next to self-awareness and understanding. It is that very repetition of looking, staring directly at your own production of images and never around it, when things begin to feel so isolating.

Ironically, Kylo and Rey need each other at this point in time, to see outside and around themselves. They’re so immersed in their own selves that by only by connecting with someone as conflicted can they separate the pieces.

Rey longs to know her past. Kylo wants to destroy his. When he finally tells her the truth about her parents, he comes from this place of destruction. “They were nobodies” who sold her into nothingness. And Rey is back in the pit again, staring into all her reflections, scraping at the frozen wall for her parents, but is faced with another copy of herself. This is where Kylo tries to make himself her savior. Like he’s the only one who knows that she’s someone outside these copies of copies.

Ironically though again, Kylo frees Rey when he calls her a nobody.

One of the biggest takeaways for me: be wary of the person who tells you to destroy your past, or cut yourself off from it (as Luke does initially), especially if it’s a painful one filled with lessons for your present and future selves.

When Rey can accept that she’s a “nobody,” that nobodies can align together for something outside their own reflections, she can become the somebody she has been all along.

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Turtleneck

wrapped in a turtleneck
voicebox cover
a phone screen that won’t break
my last one shattered
picture shards
that’s what I really am,
was, now I’m a suburban
dog mom
the bags I carry her shit
in are transparent
what am I doing looking all
see-through
in the middle of a warm
winter that doesn’t know itself?
you look lovely in a turtleneck
is not what I want to hear
from anyone who doesn’t know
where I’m from, what my living
room floor looked like
with glistening presents
purchased by strangers.
my throat is sealed up tight.
I try to belong here
underneath a seizure
of Christmas lights.

Bath water

I take more baths than I ever did
even with a lack of rubber ducks,
practice breast strokes, homemade rain.

Now, when I breathe into porcelain skin
of a full tub, quiet currents take me.

This is the closest I come to clean slate.

To notice my two fleshy peaks rise
and fall, is to know my own body,

I listen to what’s submerged, to water
slipping down drains that belch
low croaks between lily pads of soap.

It’s a subtle sound of swallowing
a lost song, of dead poets whispering.

I’ve ignored poets for most of my life
because I couldn’t bear to face their sense,
but I sensed them, especially in old libraries.

Did you know if you press your ears to walls,
you can hear pipes clearing their throats?

The gurgle in my ears is intergalactic.

No one will ever find this place on a map,
and it’s a crying, hell, it’s a sobbing shame
because the fizzle of salt is good for your skins.

My toes look ancient under these dim lights,
and the curtain has a pattern of tight curls
that look like a doodle of a loose brain.
I could have drawn that, I start to think,
see, and there’s that pesky “I” again.

When does the self become so persistent?

What if when I go low, beneath the bath’s bowels,
I reach the highest heights I’ll ever know?

That’s enough indulgence for one day.

When I pull the stopper, a miniature tornado
surges between my legs, and time begins to drain.

In loving memory of my grandmother, DA BOSS

Scan 6

My dad calls me while I’m in the middle of a sketch. I’m drawing a bird with a top hat. It’s just a bird that I wanted to be a little more entertaining. Entertaining to no one in particular. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never figure out the elusive audience question. I keep drawing.

“Can you bring your grandmother a blanket?” my dad asks over the phone.

“A blanket?”

“Yes, a blanket,” he says.

“It’s no problem,” I say. “Hey, you holding up okay?”

“Don’t even get me started,” he laughs, and then it’s silent. I think the line goes dead, until he clears his throat and tells me goodbye.

I took off work the day after I found out my grandmother was dying from pancreatic cancer. I visited her but managed to say few words. It’s hard to see a busy body restless in a hospital bed. My grandmother, was a caretaker for her children and her children’s children — my siblings and cousins — at various points of our lives.

I shade the bird’s top hat, trying not to lean into the dark parts and smear the drawing with my fists. My coonhound, Maya, sleeps on the ground next to my feet. She kicks her legs, and I place my hand on her side, calming her in her eventful dreams. Getting a puppy a few months ago came in handy. After visiting my grandmother in the hospital, Maya curled up next to me in bed while I rolled myself into layers and blankets like a packed piece of sushi.

My grandmother scared me growing up. I thought we annoyed her. She  signed strict notes as “DA BOSS” and left them on the furniture. “SHOES OFF IN THE HOUSE.” “DON’T TOUCH THIS BUTTON.” “CASSEROLE IN FRIDGE.” She used to leave these notes in her absence when she went to bingo. She wanted to give us a lot of time with our grandfather, who had an unearthly amount of patience with children.

We’d be hunched over a TV dinner tray, polishing off a triple-decker turkey sandwich and watching All That or CatDog when she’d return. The first thing she did when she walked into the house would be to heat up some soup or lay out a bowl of fruit for everyone.

She was not a notoriously warm woman. Very critical at times. She complained about our clothing, spending habits, tattoos, loudness, long hair that got all over the carpet. She hated the sound of me picking my fingers and told me so.

She showed her affection in nonverbal ways. Food and things to remember her by. Like her spirit lies in the golden candlestick holders that belonged to her mother. It took me a while to understand. She wore practicality like armor. She helped my sister open her first checking account. She introduced me to her gynecologist.

Don’t get me started on her meatballs. The secret ingredient was veal, which bothered me a little because of the baby cow thing, but I cared more about having a relationship with my grandmother than eating ethically.

We ate on trays in her living room and watched black and white films together or Nickelodeon. And yes, you could eat food off her immaculate floor. Her home was always warm, and there were blankets that smelled like her folded in a basket next to the couch. Pictures of Italians lined the walls. The Sicilian side of the family had dark skin and were frowning in their photos. My grandmother was a young bride with a round face and a modern tea length length dress. This was my favorite picture on the wall. She looked like a glass doll. This is why everyone called her “Dolly.” Her real name was Santa. Yes, like Santa Claus.

After my grandfather’s passing, my grandmother and I grew closer. She texted me a lot. She still sent me coupons and birthday cards, even when they were for other people. When I visited her we’d watch Family Feud together. She thought Steve Harvey was a great host.

Sometimes she texted me late at night because she had a hard time sleeping. It must have been hard sleeping in a home without the man who lived with her for 63 years. They slept in separate rooms. Not because they grew distant from each other, but because my grandfather’s snores rattled the walls.

I walk into her hospital room, and she’s ordering tilapia off a menu. She’s wearing her glasses on the edge of her nose. Her hair is matted in the back, and she’s sitting up in bed. Her color is good. Her cheeks are sunken and pink. She wants mashed potatoes. She asks if they have any gravy, the brown kind. She asks for tea. She reminds the person on the phone that she has ice cream in the freezer my dad got her (Ben and Jerry’s vanilla) that she’s saving for later.

In between our conversation a nurse joins us. She has thick bangs and big eyes. She bows low like a well-trained dog, and all I can see are her bangs. She talks really slow to my grandmother.

“Santa. Would. You. Like. Me. To. Raise. This. Table? she asks. The nurse raises her arms as if to show that she is not full of sudden movements.

Another nurse comes in. She’s thin and fidgety. Her hair is tied into a fishtail braid.

“If you’re giving me another one of those pills, I don’t want it. They make me gassy,” my grandmother tells her.

The nurse laughs when my grandmother refuses the Ensure shake on her tray, which she says tastes like chalk and asks for her ice cream instead. Then fishtail nurse helps her to the bathroom. She compliments my grandmother’s cane, which has butterflies on it. My grandmother closes the back of her gown, embarrassed. I’ve never seen this much of her skin before.

I show my grandmother a post on Facebook that my sister Cassie wrote. My grandmother begins to cry when she reads the post. It says that my grandparents practically raised her and that it was a hard thing to do. My grandmother says, “Yeah we raised her like she was our own kid,” and she sniffs loudly.

My dad appears in the doorway. His work jeans are stained and torn at the knees. He’s wearing a Cubs hat that’s not all the way on his head. He looks worried. He brushes his eyebrows the wrong way and stares off into the distance. He seems happy to see me with his mom. He puts a hand on my shoulder.

“How are you doing, Bear?” he asks me.

My dad sinks into the chair opposite of my grandmother. We’re all silent for a while until my dad recounts the story about how his mother made him get a vasectomy after my brother was born.

“Ma grabbed me by the ear and took me to ‘Dr. Snip Snip.'” My dad sucks in his spit, making the sound of snipping. He uses his fingers like they’re scissors, slicing the air.

“Yeah the doctor who performed the surgery asked me if I had played a lot of sports growing up. Because there was a lot of damaged tissue. They had to dig it all out,” he laughs.

“Dad, no offense, but I’m not interested in hearing more about your vasectomy,” I say.

My grandmother chimes in. “I remember your grandfather’s vasectomy. He was so worried that his thing no longer worked,” she smiles devilishly. “It worked just fine when we tested it out. He gave me the ‘twinkle eyes,’ and I knew we were good to go.”

My stomach hurts. No one ever cares about being appropriate in my family.

I show my grandmother the magazine I put together. She is proud. So is my dad. He asks if he could keep the magazine. I’ve lost track of the amount of these things I’ve helped put together, and this is the first time I’ve shown anyone in my family my work.

I suddenly want to show them all the things. I show them a picture of the bird drawing. I show them pictures of my dog. They respect that I’m taking care of something. It’s not a kid, but it’s just as good, they both assure me. It surprises me how accepting they are. I’m not sure why I think my family won’t accept me.

My grandmother asks me, “Is there anything you can’t do?”

I want to ask my grandmother questions. Little does she know I’ve put together a little Q&A for her. It’s hiding on a sheet of paper in the magazine I brought. I write Q&As for work all the time. Company profiles. Chats with the president of such and such company. Sometimes I’m lazy and ask the same questions instead of coming up with new ones.

“Hey Grandma, can I ask you questions about your life?” I’m afraid of her reaction. She is mostly a private person.

“I don’t see why the hell not. I’m gonna be dead soon anyway,” she tells me.

Q: What made you most happy?

A: Being married to your grandfather. His support, love, passion, understanding, and humor made my life full and happy. There wasn’t a selfish bone in his body.

Q: When you get down on yourself or are in a funk, what do you do or tell yourself to make yourself feel better?

A: I tell myself to be strong. Face whatever.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

A: No regrets. Though, I do wish I would have been better with money. But then again, your grandfather and I enjoyed ourselves.

Q: If you could have told your parents anything while you growing up, what would it be?

A: I would tell them to be more understanding and supportive of me.

You have to remember my mother was very young when she had me. She was unhappy when she moved from some little hick town in Sicily and came to the U.S.

My grandfather had been in the U.S. for 12 years before he sent for his family. My grandfather was very mean to my mom. She couldn’t wait to get out of the house, and she rushed into a marriage with my father. My father was a cold man. I can’t remember many times when my parents weren’t arguing. Always arguing. My father couldn’t handle my mother. She had a nervous breakdown at one point. She was very sick. She wasn’t the nicest to me either. She stabbed me with a fork, even bit me once. She got better with age, though, and we eventually became closer.

I used to watch my sister, who was 12 years younger than I was. I was like a parent to her, practically raised her. I almost hated her for it. At 17 years old, I had to take my kid sister with me on dates with your grandfather. But he was understanding. On Saturdays he would wait patiently for me to clean the entire house, and then we’d go out.

Q: What did you like to do for fun growing up?
A: I played on a volleyball team for two years. And then I loved roller skating. I went two to three times a week. That was therapy to me.

I liked to travel. I worked at a travel agency and had a great time doing it. My favorite place I visited was Aruba. I liked the entertainment, the live shows. The gowns, dancing, and music.

I met my friend Lari on a plane going to Mexico. We had a blast. I was thin and blonde then.

This one guy came up to me and said, “Hey Seniorita, I want to show you a good time.”

I told him I had someone waiting for me back home. I told him no thank you.

He said: “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

I told him: “No, YOU don’t know what you’re missing.”

I used to love going out with your grandfather. I was happy no matter where we went.

I didn’t like our trip to St. Louis though. We got really bad sunburn, and there were snakes in the water. It was terrible.

Q: What were your hopes and dreams as a child?

A: That’s hard. I think for a while I wanted to conquer my inferiority complex. I thought I was inferior because of my disability. I lost my hearing in my ear when I was three years old. I was in the hospital for a month with a really bad kidney infection. The doctors thought that was the cause of the hearing loss. My parents treated me like I was stupid. I was a loner.

I started going to a school for the mute, deaf, and dumb. I spent one class a day learning how to read lips, which I didn’t take seriously because I was embarrassed. There were really smart students at my school, though. This one chick was completely deaf, and she was a truly gifted ballerina. She used a phonograph to feel the beat.

I didn’t know how bad my hearing was. I didn’t get a hearing aid until I was in my 60s. My kids begged me for years to get one. Finally, I did. The one I have now is an amazing piece of technology. My otolaryngologist did great work.

Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?

A: Stubborn, private, and strong.

Q: What advice do you have for me and other young people growing up during such dark times?

A: I feel so bad for you guys. What a mess. So much anger right now.

Life is not fruit. Take a piece of it anyway. See if you can salvage it, make it better. Also limit who is in your life. Keep the people you know who care close to you. For the most part people like to gossip about each other. This always bored me. That’s why I didn’t hang downstairs with the rest of the folks in the bingo area. That’s all they like to do –talk about people who aren’t there.

Q: What brings you comfort?

A: When things are going good with the family. That was the same with your grandfather. He always worried about the family. When something went wrong, someone got hurt, he wished it happened to him instead. When Steven got sick, it crushed him. He was the softie, I was the bitch. He loved his grandkids. Being with them was his favorite. I’m glad my grandkids loved me even though I was a bitch.

“Grandma, the world needs bitches.”

Q: Are you worried about anything right now?

A: Not too much. I was worried about my credit card, but nothing is happening with it. It just drops off. And then I’m worried about the pain from the cancer. I mean I’ve gotten through plenty of surgeries (my kids don’t even know about half the surgeries I’ve had) but this is different. I hope I can hack it.

Q: What about after you die? Are you worried about that?

A: Well, I’m trying to pray, but it hasn’t been working. All throughout my life, I had faith without practicing any religion. I tried going to church with your grandfather for a while, but I disagreed with so many things. I felt like a hypocrite all the time too. Your grandfather respected my choice not to go. He always told me that I made up for it in strong values and a good heart.

I don’t know if my grandmother made her peace with God, but I know she’s at peace.

“I’m ready to be with your grandfather. I am 86. My mother was 84 when she died. My grandmother was 94.”

 

 

 

The loudest way to survive

So you didn’t get the knobby
shoulders you needed.
That’s a lot of us,
and I sympathize with relativity.
But let me let you
lean in on my secret:

my big-mouthery is
my own, but it’s also
cavewoman survival.

I did what I could
with sticks and stones.
But tried my best not
to break any bones
because I recognized
their malnourishment.

Children who have been
pushed down rivers
in baskets please
cry, cry, cry
as loud as you can.

Your cries will give way
to words, which you will use
as an armor of testament,
of existence, of proclamation
that you belong here,
that we’ve not yet
occupied Mars.

Don’t press so much on
the bruises, which
are designed or not
designed, depending
on how you look at it,
to fascinate and distract
you from what tickles
your insides and makes
you sneeze at the flower
raised in front of your face.

And if you can see it
don’t pluck the petals
just yet. Love me nots
are not yet in your equation.

This is your cliche to own.
These are your metaphors
to mix and match.

So lasso love.

Sling what you
did not receive.

When you pull it
from the earth,
rock it back and forth.

Then put it back
in the river you
remember floating
down so clearly.

Feed what will cleanse you.

What we saw of Regina from Chicago Theater’s ‘cheap seats’

Cheap seats or not,  what a soul-wrenching show I would like to rewind over and over.

I was an hour early in picking up Alexa, a big deal because I’m always bumbling into her life at least 10 minutes late. We petted her dog Bubba and had a drink with her boyfriend and his dad. They sat on benches on the porch, and I stood and paced until the beer kicked in. We talked about photography, social media uh-ohs, bumblebees, bee stings, and the shifty neighbors across the street. Alexa wore a choker and a long double necklace. She had a single braid in her hair. I was sporting a long skirt with suns and moons, sandals, and a jean jacket. We looked mighty fine this Friday evening. The boys, who were buzzing and enjoying the warm weather, asked if we were excited for our concert, and we shrugged.

It was bumper to bumper traffic to the city like always; good thing we had the extra time, I kept gloating to Alexa. We listened to a few Regina Spektor songs along the way as well as this one by Lorde that reminds me of our friendship. I couldn’t find the song with the one line about friends sleeping in the same bed, which reminds me of when Alexa and I had sleepovers on Friday nights at her house. I joked, “We weren’t kids; we were kind of young adults in college,” to which she said “Yeah, but we were making up for lost time.”

Sometimes I feel like I have to hide my unfiltered, gushing affection for Alexa. First, it tends to put her on the spot. It’s like I’m constantly pointing out that she has whiskers or elephant tusks on her face, and they’re indeed beautiful. That and it oftentimes comes off as alienating to others on the outside. But it’s a wee bit hard not to share this particular kind of love. The older people get, the less time we have for others, and the more scratchy layers we throw on, which can get in the way of enjoying a person. With us, we’ve been throwing off layers left and right. We could walk around in winter in tank tops if we had to. Our friendship has muddled past the deepest defenses and insecurities. I’m beyond blessed for this rarity, and I hope that others can find and work on a relationship like this because it looks good on everyone.

As we continued to inch forward in traffic, Alexa shared with me some of her comments on some writing I asked her to take a look at. She ran out of printer paper, so she printed out my story and poem on fancy stationary. The paper was thick and worn-looking and depicted a turtle wading in water between some reeds. She read her comments aloud. I was grateful for the suggestions she had for this story I’ve been sweating over. She wanted a little more reflection on the narrator’s walk home and thought I should add more detail about a particular prop by reusing it in another spot. It was a pretty thoughtful comment. She gets darn comfortable in a scene. A fellow writer and one of the best readers I know.

She had to pee and apologized about her bladder profusely, and I pounced on the first exit off the expressway. I told her to stop apologizing for something her body couldn’t control. We both apologize a lot for lame things. It was Alexa’s turn this week.

We parked in a garage on Kedzie. Only 12 dollars for the night (what a freaking snag). We walked the few blocks to the theater, using our phones’ GPS because we are two dopey deer that wandered a little too far from the suburbs.

Alexa and I joined the line wrapped around state street. It was a diverse crowd, and there were a lot more dudes than we both imagined. Everyone looked squeaky clean and dressed for the occasion. Two older women stood in front of us. They both wore comfortable shoes, short haircuts, and small silver hoops. They giggled and talked into each other’s shoulders. The woman directly in front of me had drooping blue eyes that hung onto every word coming out from the woman standing in front of Alexa. I was projecting when I said, “That’s us in the future,” but I didn’t care.

A man in a tattered flannel asked Alexa if she had any money to spare, and she rifled into her purse for a dollar to give to him. She said, “Who cares what he spends it on,” as if openly confronted.

It was colder than it was earlier, and I shivered in my jean jacket. A man carrying takeout and walking in the opposite direction of the line stopped next to me on the sidewalk. He asked me, “Excuse me, Miss, but do fries go with that shake?” I looked at the man closer, incredulously. He casually waited while I came up with an answer. I think I was most offended  about the polite commonplaceness of the comment. I mean if you’re going to harass someone, at least have some goddamn originality. I awkwardly pointed to the burger joint right behind the man, and said I bet they had some good shakes in there if he needed one. Alexa had a different take, probably the more accurate one. She said, “Excuse me, but you can’t talk to her like that.” After he scurried away, she told me I had to be more assertive, and I felt like I had failed her and all of womanhood. But if the shoe were on my foot, I would have bitched out the man as well, so I knew where she was coming from.

Finally it was time for Regina. Alexa and I found our seats in the balcony. On the stage was a single light resting on a glossy piano. We snapped photos and double fisted our drinks. One beer and a cocktail. Not the best idea for a show without an intermission. Alexa and I swapped drinks because her Jack and Coke was a little too strong. I couldn’t even taste the Jack, and insisted she take my margarita.

Regina took the stage, and Alexa and I perked up in our seats. From where we sat, she looked like a tiny mime in her lacy black top, black flats, and black skinny jeans with holes exposing her knees. Undone wavy hair sat along her neckline. Her black clothes blended into the black stage, but her small, white face glowed under all the lights. She introduced herself to Chicago in a mousey voice then got comfortable in a large leather chair at the piano. What came soaring out of the piano and her mouth was the opposite of the initial perceived smallness.

Regina started off a little rushed. Her first two songs were effortless, but some of their usual longer notes blended together. By the third song though, she sank her hands into the bellowing elongated notes. Her voice clung to the rollercoaster chords. She has a signature playfulness that feels like you’re watching someone walk across a tightrope or you’re on a beach batting around an inflatable ball. I felt like a ball bouncing around in my seat between Alexa and this other woman. At one point, I told this woman that the current performance was “my version of football,” and she laughed.

Then Regina played some of her more moving, stomach-churners. She sang an entire power ballad in Russian, which she dedicated to an elderly friend of hers who used to visit her backstage every time she came to Chicago. This friend recently passed away. Regina is an artist who is completely engrained in her homeland. You feel her ebbing and longing when she speaks in her native language. I felt myself leaning into an understanding without a translation that Regina herself said we could “Google” if wanted. No translation necessary for me, thanks. I believe you.

She also sang Après Moi, which is in English and Russian. And it’s one of my favorites. I like militancy of the song and the way she seems to toggle back and forth between voices. It’s as if there are two people singing in this song, answering each other, building each other up. “I must go on standing,” is a takeaway line of this song, and you feel the full force of it.

Regina also said a few things that really stuck with me, as I’m sure others. Two of my favorite lines were: “This theater is so fancy. I feel like I want to swear in it … Fuck fuck fucking fuck.” And then there was the speech she made right before her more politically charged songs. She discussed what it was like to come to America as a refugee and her beginning journey as “a hungry, dirty artist sleeping on people’s couches.” She mourned our current political situation, but ended hopefully by saying, “Here’s to better days and better people to represent us.” Her song “Trapper and the Furrier” was menacing and relevant. Regina hunched over the piano all creature-like and banged on the keys, “What a strange world we live in,” she said. “Those who don’t have lose, those who got get given more, more, more, more.” MORE was the emphasis here. “More” was the word that hit the listener in the stomach like a dead-on punch. Perfect targeting.

A drummer and cellist also played on stage. They were equally moving, graceful, and effective, but complemented Regina in a way that reminded everyone that she is an ethereal one woman circus.

Regina kept giving, and the crowd extended its arms and ate her up, as they tend to do in the face of pure musical love and talent. Some people screamed, “We love you,” and she acknowledged each and every clear interruption. I payed attention to Alexa’s reactions. She wiped a tear away during the deeply sorrowful song “Blue Lips,” which explains that “blue is the most human color.” I choked back tears during two of her new babies, “Bleeding Heart” and “Tornadoland.” Lately, I have felt myself in a whirlwind of internal criticism and rejection. My thoughts have been racing so much faster than my words, and I feel like a slave trying to keep up. Excuse my analogy, but sometimes it feels like artistic constipation. So much force, with so little output. All anyone wants to be is heard in the form they’re most comfortable with. Regina established this with eloquence.

“Bleeding Heart” was a saving song, a reminder to be yourself. The light show soared around the crowd, singling people out. Lights moved around in tune with the song and landed on individuals who laughed and blushed at the song’s important reminder.

She was so damn charming. At one point, she forgot the words to one of her songs, and someone had to shout them to her. She stood up a few times and swayed like her body was a Styrofoam noodle. Alexa appreciated that she was an “awkward mover,” and I agreed.

The encore was long, but her show was far from over. We clapped until our hands stung. Finally, she skipped back onto stage. She sang four more songs after the encore. Her voice hit her self-made spectrum of light, torpedoing notes and heavy, low, bellowing notes. At some points, I just couldn’t believe her humanity, and at others, I felt like she knew me on a soul to soul basis.

When Regina said, “I really do believe in friendship, love, and art…” I looked at Alexa and said, “Huh. So do we.”

Library trippin’

Those trips to the library on Sunday. Oh, ah, yes. I always come prepared with a list. Jump onto one of those old clunky computers and scroll through the online portal. Most of the ones I want are either at another location or are checked out. 5 copies of “Hillbilly Elegy” gone. Jeeze. Share with me, ya book hogs.

Yes, I know Kindles and Amazon exist, but I prefer to get lost, you know? I’m not one of those people who dims the lights and masturbates to my favorite Smell of Old Books candle; I have limitations, and I’d like to think I’m a sentimentalist for the right reasons. But I do like books that have I trek for and find myself. Tis a noble quest in my opinion.

This haul was not pre-established whatsoever. These are things I ran into, and here you will find my justifications:

  • “Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules,” edited and introduced by David Sedaris. This was my audiobook selection. I drive an hour to and from work every day, so I find it helpful to pop in a good read to prevent me from causing a rage-induced collision on Touhy Ave. I prefer things that make me laugh. I’ve been through all of David Sedaris’ books, which are especially funny in audiobook format because he reads his own material, and therefore knows exactly how to hit the high humor notes. This compilation is not Sedaris’ work, but they are some of his favorite writers who he deems to be essential to the short story canon. I am not an absolutist, but I trust his judgement that all of them will be good.
  • “Little Labors” poetry by Rivka Galchen. Saw this in the new poetry section. No real reason why I picked it up. Maybe because the cover was orange? I don’t know. From what I found out about Rivka is she’s from Canada, and she won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. I’ve never heard of this award, but it sounds legit enough.
  • “The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing” by Danell Jones. I wanted Virginia Woolf’s “Flush,” but I settled for a text that was written with her in mind. You know, it’s amazing that the library owns text after text of literary criticism for some folks, but not all of the texts that these folks actually wrote. Like Jesus, if you are going to have 40 books about Virginia Woolf, you should probably also house every single book she ever wrote. Just saying. I miss being in a writing group, so writing group exercises inspired by the dark lady sounds good to me.
  • “The Happiness Effect: How Social Media is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost” by Donna Freitas. I saw this on my way to the checkout counter. Seems relevant. And I’ve been spending way too much time on social media and feeling sorry for myself and the world while doing so, so I thought I’d read a book about why I might be so compelled to do so. I’ve already read the first chapter, and I’m already comforted by it. Social media is changing the cultural landscape as we speak, and it’s happening so fast that people don’t necessarily know how to process. In the meantime we’re building our usual weird human norms around it–what we can and cannot say, how much stock we put into our image, etc.
  • “Writing from Within: A Guide to Creativity and Life Story Writing” by Bernard Selling. Creative nonfiction is my jam, but lately, I’ve been feeling this constant distancing. And also my psychotic, helicopter parent of an internal critic won’t let me say anything. I need some written reassurance that I can write about things that hurt. It gives plenty of tips and encouragement that I’m looking for right now.
  • “People I want to Punch in the Throat” by Jen Mann. This was one of those judge-a-book-by-its-cover finds. I started cackling in the 800s the second my brain registered the title. Like who says that? A man standing a few feet away from me quietly scooted over to the next aisle. I just had to have this book. What a title. And it hasn’t disappointed me. Such a sassafras of writer. I sat down for about an hour to read this book. I tried not to disturb the girl sitting at the table in front of me who was doing her chemistry homework or something. I don’t know if it was chemistry; I saw a lot of numbers and my eyes glazed over. She had red hair and spaces between her teeth, which I could see every time she stopped working on her equations to smile while reading a text on her phone underneath the table.

Welp, there you have it. Another Sunday in the books. It’s kind of sad really, the sight of me waddling up to the checkout line with a teetering pile of books. I will fully read maybe two of them. It’s 2017, and I have good intentions.

Good intentions lead to late fees. The second I stepped up to check out my books, the squirrely man behind the counter told me there was a hold on my account because I owed them 28 dollars and I had lost a book. I told the woman at the other counter that I knew for sure that I had returned Margaret Atwood’s “True Stories,” though I could imagine myself stealing the book because I liked it so much and footing the “lost item” fee of 5 dollars. The woman looked a little too relieved when I told her I’d go check the shelves myself for the book, and sure enough I found it.

I told the squirrely, shy guy behind the counter that I would be better this time. I would bring my books back when they are due, I assured him. I’m sure he could care less about this information.

Mangoes

Last week I ate a mango like an apple, forgoing the cutlery. The juice dripped down my chin and stuck between my fingers. I had no shame about the loud squelching and appreciated the fleshy eroticism of it. Why not? It was a Friday afternoon, and there were three people working who sit on the opposite side of the office from me. No one walked in on the carnal act, and I don’t think I would be so devastated if they did. Point is it was the most delicious mango I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

And it was a steal too. Got a box of mangoes last week from Valli for 7 bucks. Say what? Did you know that mangoes are super heroes? They are cancer preventers, immune system boosters, cholesterol-lowering wildebeests, just to name a few of the street cred names they’ve obtained. They are also good for your eyes, skin, digestive tracts. Sweet deal.

Hey, did you also know the plural form of mango is both “mangoes” and “mangos”? Either or is fine as long as you’re consistent. English will never make up its mind. I’m going with “mangoes.” Why the hell not?

Today I started my morning with mangoes in cottage cheese with a piece of toast. I ate this while I finally did my taxes. I think I might go to the library and feed my brain with something packed with nutrients and life-enhancers. Gonna go feed my brain some mangoes.

 

Go home, you’re getting crazy

“Go home, you’re getting crazy.”

Oh, my sweet motorcycle riding, cat loving co-worker,
what if I’ve been there for as long as I’ve lived?

I don’t know what the other side looks like.
Probably just as crazy, huh?

Everything feels like the apocalypse.

I know. I know. The word is as loaded as a baked potato.

Just imagine flames and feelings that aren’t yet in the registry.

I see people begging or asking for donations on Higgins Road
on my way home from work.

There’s no rotation. It’s always a new person. I scrounge my car.

Here, take it.
This is everything on me.

No, keep the lollipop.
I don’t need any more sweets.

I always look the person deep in the eyes until mine burn.