Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tool of Choice



It’s shortly after sunrise and I’m in my front yard, under the pine tree, raking together a medium-sized mound of pigeon droppings.  My pajama bottoms are rolled up and I’m wearing a pair of wedge sandals that I found by the front door.  Already this morning I’ve made the mistake of throwing some organic fertilizer down near the base of this tree and leaving the hose to trickle on it because I was trying to be a good farmer, so not only have the pigeon droppings—reminiscent of bottlecap candies from my youth, lime and rootbeer—dampened and released their odors, but fresh cow-smell fills up my senses like a thousand splendid dungs. 

My nose remembers a barnyard with the funk of fresh chicken poop, except this is rehydrated pigeon poop, but it might as well be the same thing.  The urine of stray cats also gets reactivated as the little stream of garden-hose water trickles down a small slope; my eyes sting for a bit.  The whole scene—the very early morning, the dry air, the fresh manure, the shade tree, the barn cats, the silence except for my raking—brings me back forty years to my childhood summers in North Dakota, when my family would drive from Minnesota to stay on farms with our cousins and aunts and uncles. When I was maybe ten and nobody else but me wanted to go anymore, I never minded being sent there, or anywhere, alone on the Greyhound.
When all data is gathered, a wet pile of poop is going to weigh a lot more than the same dry pile, so finally I move the hose from the pine tree to another plant and continue raking, shoveling damp poop into the Hefty bag, raking, shoveling damp poop into the Hefty bag, a thousand splendid bottlecaps gone wrong.
*
It’s not yet 7 a.m. and—done with the milkin’—I am already sitting on the back patio, coffee in recently washed hand, reading and research materials spread before me so as not to waste time while I soak my feet in yet another representative of the filth on my land: the old cat litter box that I never completely cleaned out, but still use sometimes for home pedicures.  The water in it now, from my backyard hose, is warm enough to melt some of the leftover cat litter into gray swirls.  I’m sure other leftovers are also melting and swirling, but I don’t care.  My feet are already polluted this morning, and disfigured enough (I would say) to require a good soaking in an old cat litter box before getting to be soaked elsewhere.

It’s not my feet’s fault.  It’s just that they didn’t get reined in enough the last time we went to the salon…and neither did my eyebrows, and neither did a couple other things.  It definitely felt like everything was going the way a pedicure and "other treatments like that" should go—good feelings at the appropriate times, bad feelings at the appropriate times—but you’re always so swollen afterwards that you can never tell if the job is truly a good one until you get home, or even the next day.  

I went through all of these procedures to please Ares, of course; he came calling again last week.  But by the time I realized my eyebrows had not been properly trimmed, Ares was already here and it was too late.  By the time I realized everything else, it was I who could no longer hold back and finally voiced what I’m certain was Ares’ thought first, “Oh my God, look at my big toe, it looks like there’s a bunion on it!”, while we breakfasted on icky Nutella toast and coffee outside on this very patio.

Of course I knew it wasn’t really a bunion, but Ares took me seriously and made a face.

Why I didn’t stop the madness immediately and take care of what, obviously, the salon technician had missed on her first swipe through still escapes me.  I was young and in love and Ares was here; that’s my only excuse. 

But this morning, my feet soaked and my calluses whitish, I have the pleasure of raising a newly-purchased, never-used, recently-assembled pedicure tool to the ball of my left thumb-toe and actually shaving off pieces of flesh, like you would cheese with a one-piece-at-a-time grater.

I do this and wonder, When I paid extra to have my calluses removed, did she somehow not notice this one?  Did I only pay to have my calluses massaged?  I don’t know why she’d want to ignore this one anyway; it shaves down nicely, uniformly.  You’d think she would’ve closed right in on this puppy; I would have, if that was my line of work.  I couldn’t have helped myself.

But even more fascinating to me is that I had been so comfortable with Ares—even unguarded at times—that I had knowingly sported this callous, and I didn’t care.

I cared more about Ares. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Ecology of Lace



Class Assignment: Choose one particular place where you can regularly spend some time in the service of science.  Observe the place in detail, taking notes on all interactions, being as objective as possible.  Limit the timeframe, but write freely.  Please use headings and beheadings so that your work is easy to follow.

One Student’s Response:

Chosen Place:  My brain the last ten days

Questionable overheard comments and observed behaviors of phantom male houseguest number five billion and nine: 

1. refers to girls as being “old enough”
2. mentions watching Victoria’s Secret model shows more than once
3. twice refers back to places as “where the pretty waitress was” and “where that salesgirl was such a sweetheart”
4. loves to walk hand in hand, but sometimes kisses a little too long
5. likes big boobs, which are missing on my body (but he still loves my body?)
6. high-up in the military
7. porn sites
8. dresses only in black
9. says “Yes, but” too much (too contradictory)
10. complains early on: “You run around too much.  You don’t sit still.” 
11. gets frustrated easily, especially when driving.

The Night He Kept Rubbing Me The Wrong Way (like when I asked if he wanted some tuna salad and he said yes, so I started makin’ it and he said “Not Now!”…translation problem…but he kept after me the whole time about running around.  I had to tell him a couple times: “Hey, the house doesn’t run itself. You’re a guest here and what you see is me bein’ host, lover, and maid.”)

He seemed so demanding that night, and I couldn’t take it, so I broke out in tears and went to sit on the patio.  He came out eventually.  I told him he needed to get off my back…back off.  I already have enough pressure.  He apologized, but advised me, “You should have told me earlier.  Then we wouldn’t have this problem now.”

The next day we sleep in and do nothing but talk. I tell him I have lost some confidence in him.   I make a homemade pasta dinner for us that night, and we go to bed.

He Tells Me A Few Things That Shock Me, but later…after I register negative or even unimpressed reactions…he makes the excuse, “I ask you these things only because I want to test you.  I want to see how far you will go outside your comfort zone.”  After hearing this a couple times, I say, “Ya know, I’m not a government project.  I’m a person.  If you want to know what I think, ask me directly.  Don’t set me up in order to measure my reaction.”  This part really pissed me off.  

*****Then, Last Night:
Come home, doing his laundry.  Sitting out on the patio to visit.  I get up once to go inside to check the laundry and he says (again, as he has in the past), “Don’t run away from an important topic!”  But it’s never that I’m “running away”; it’s that I’m doing something else (like this time, his laundry).  

One thing leads to another and I ask if he has control issues.  Another thing leads to the next and I ask him if he’s ever considered that he might be an addict.  

*****Fine Point: He responds, “I am sitting here telling you that you just deeply insulted me, and you are sitting there just looking at me, like it means nothing to you.  It doesn’t matter to you that you insulted me!?”

Me: “I didn’t mean to insult you.  I just asked you a question.  I didn’t say you were an addict.  I was just asking if you thought you might be.”

Tired of excavational talk, I excuse myself from the conversation and go to bed.

*****This Morning:

Nice repeat of last night’s themes. 
Cold airport goodbye.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nipples of Knowledge



There are only two bills left that I have to pay by mail: my second mortgage, and then more money to my second mortgage.  This bank likes to drain me the slow way; they won’t lower my interest rate, but they’ll take principal payments…but only if I mail them.  You would think they’d just hook a siphon up to my account, or electrodes to my nipples, and then give me two startling electronic notices that go zzzzzt “we got your first payment” and zzzzzt “we got that second payment you like to make…right in our P.O. box. Feels good.”

The bank that holds my primary mortgage (and the second one, and apparently the imaginary third one called “principal” that I like to throw all my extra cash at) is, I think, run by men.  I started to get the idea that all banking institutions must be run by men when I was on the phone with a representative from my Credit Union last year and he informed me that I was now an “enhanced member”.

“Pardon me?” I said.

“I said that, like, since you’re an enhanced member, you get unlimited transfers.”

“An enhanced member?  When did I become that?

“Cuz you’ve had your money with us for like twenty years.”

I wondered why he didn’t say “your tiny money”.  I remember driving as fast as I could across Phoenix one day in 2004, trying to get to the only Credit Union branch I knew of—tucked into the bowels of Arizona State University’s campus, well beneath the Nipple of Knowledge that dominates the library’s lawn, a public art project gone wrong—deep down under the desert floor where there are bathrooms that don’t get cleaned as often and arcade games that don’t get played.  This was before my awesome cell phone skills developed, not that the Credit Union had a phone back then, but there was a pay phone around the corner next to a janitor’s closet, and I’d heard it ring before.

I was trying to prevent a $1500 mortgage payment check from clearing because a nice divorce attorney had told me that I didn’t have to pay my husband’s bills anymore.

I wish I had figured that out a couple years earlier.

It was too late for that check that time, and all the technology in the world couldn’t protect me from what a real person was capable of doing anyway.  What a fool I was to get back into my car, sweat standing in puddles on my face, smiling the smile of a woman who thought that a stopped check would save her.

I know a lot better now.