Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Drugstore

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I went to the CVS this morning to get some lotion and cat treats, and the place was surrounded by cops.  I pulled in and cruised through and saw the gang of my CVS—the employees—sitting on a cinder block wall, smoking, eating pastries.  I rolled down my window and asked, “What’s goin’ on?”

The manager said, “A little robbery."

I gasped in my brain.  “I want to shop here but I can’t!”

The four of those employees sitting there in the early morning light, in the hazy cloud of their cigarette smoke, almost spontaneously and in sync lowered their hands that held the cigarettes.

 “We want you to shop here,” their chorus called out, “but we know that you don’t have a choice!”

“I’m goin’ to Walgreen’s!”

*

I drove across the street feeling totally bad for everything that could have happened at the CVS.  These were my people and I saw them most days.  And then there I was at Walgreen’s, buying what I wanted anyway.  The most cheerful and tallest and oldest and baldest check-out clerk waited on me that day.  There was something about him that brought out the honesty in me.  “The CVS got robbed,” I said. “That’s why I’m here and not over there.”

“We’ve gotten robbed before,” he said, looking around like a tall Bob Newhart. “Guys come in here with sawed-off shotguns up their sleeves.  Basically, they want the pharmacy.”

I stood there, not exactly in my Sunday best, but held together.  I wondered if this old bald man was the same one who used to sell me liquor on the other side of the store.  That man had a bad case of psoriasis on his scalp, and this person does not.  I get the twinge that I should have been paying better attention.  My face makes the machinations of emotion, but my heart is slow.

“Well, I hope you have a good day,” I say as I tip-toe out of the store.

*

You go home and Lanacane yourself.  The ants have been thick this summer.  You often take your languishing body to the back porch, whether it is morning or night.  You sit out there in uncomfortable chairs, getting bit by ants, because you want your body to get used to it. 

There have been some birthdays lately that have made some people older, but these people are the same to you, so you didn't give presents.  You could be looking at an iceberg with fangs in the ocean, still hoping for a good sail.  You wish you were an animal sometimes so a whip would be in order, but since no whips or chains or harnesses are allowed anymore, you step onto the patio to give the ants their due.





Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Nights


In the middle of the night, when the house is dark and the fans are humming—the AC, the humidifier, the noisemaker—your youngest, Leo, comes up next to you in bed.  You have earplugs in and a t-shirt over your face to block any noise or light from the outside world.  The weight of Leo’s body against you is what jiggles you awake; you slip out one earplug and uncover your face so you can make kissy-kiss sounds.  You put your right open palm up so Leo can nuzzle his face into it; he’s been doing this since he was a kitten, all parts of your body turned into his missing real mother’s belly.  His deep purrs thrum into your hand and for a few moments, he relaxes.

“Mama,” he says.

“Yes baby,” you whisper, so as not to wake up anybody else.

“I’ve been having a hard summer,” Leo says, his nose smashed into your palm.

“What’s the matter?” you ask.

“Well, for as long as I’ve lived here, I’ve been the baby, and it just seems like pulling your heart around in the wagon is taking up more time than it should.”

You know exactly what he’s talking about: the heart that you have not been able to detach yourself from, beating now warmly and softly next to the bed, swaddled in the wagon, still connected to your belly button with a sinewy fiber that you take care to wash every morning and every night, patting it dry.  You heart has gained color in her ventricles and no one would know anymore that she’d been broken.
 
Leo has been walking in slow circles next to your head as you have whispered these explanations.  Soon he is curled against your head, deep into his kitten sleep.  You have lost track of your earplug for that ear, but Leo works instead.  You leave your t-shirt off your face just in case anybody else wants to have a conversation in the next couple of hours.

*

Leo is gone when you realize you are awake again.  Your heart is stirring in the wagon. You take a tiny peek and can tell from the light coming from the windows that night is over, but day isn’t really here yet.  You close your eyes for a moment before your eldest, Sara, starts break-dancing with a Q-tip on her side of the bed.  “Sara, what are you doing?” you ask.

She is so deep into her glory-dance of the morning, she can’t respond.  You watch her somersaulting until the rising light brings your middle child into the bedroom as well.  She is the quietest by far and simply wants to sit between the shoes you wore yesterday so she can smell your feet, undisturbed for at least a minute.

“Hi Lucy,” you say, leaning far over and off the bed in hopes of scratching her neck, but she is shy and pulls farther away. “Mother, I too have an issue,” Lucy meeps with her black eyes.

“Yes, my sweet,” you say, pulling back too.  This is your gentlest one.

“I feel that it’s been very noisy around here lately.”

You curl up under your sheets and comforter, your eyes open, only natural light coming from the windows.  Lucy has never understood the Fourth of July or monsoons, her mother’s sobbing, a loud TV, or the telephone ringing too much.  She is not your brave vacuum girl, and the buzz saws being used in your neighborhood to cut down the trees from the storms have been deafening.  Plus, somebody got a new dog.

She has a hard time explaining all of this to you, especially with Sara break-dancing on the bed, Leo racing himself up and down the hallways, and your heart flopping around in the wagon.  You do the best you can at a time like this, which is to get up.  You put your clothes on, find the Q-tip and throw it away.  You put your hair up and take care of these children.  You open your house up, the front door and picture window, to a pleasantly cool July morning in Arizona.


You mix up a glass of power-drink and pour it over your heart.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Old Rule of the House




You have never really liked parties, those held in your honor or those held for others.  You grew up in a large family, the youngest child by far, and you could often be found reading in the closet where the sleeping bags were stored, or playing with a broken piece of jewelry in your treehouse.

But your parents liked to attend parties, just the regular barbecue, and your parents would have parties too sometimes in the yard and house.  Usually this meant that your mother would assign each of your four older siblings fifteen minutes apiece of playing with you, again and again.

This was an old rule of the house and had been happening since you’d been born, but when parties came along, sometimes the older kids would get tired of treating you like a baby.  “C’mon Katie, get on my handlebars,” your middle sister said one time.  “I’ll take you for a ride.” 

You knew that this was not particularly kosher because first, Mom hadn’t approved it.  Second, you had never ridden on handlebars before.  However, looking around at the party going on in the yard and house and wishing to get away with your sister, you climbed right up there and fastened your butt to the bike.

“Here we go!” your sister said.  Maybe she was twelve.  You cruised down the driveway in front of your house, made a fine and exciting right turn at the corner, and then your sister decided to turn into the gravel alley that would bring you back to the house from behind.

She was pedaling so fast and made her decision so late and didn’t realize how the bike might react to the gravel, especially with a four-year-old on the handlebars. It was getting dark; you didn’t see anything coming either.

You don’t really remember hitting the rocks with your face first.  You were not one to complain.  You were up and brushing your blood off your face and knees when your sister patted you down for broken bones, then walked with you in one hand and the bike in the other back around the block to the front of the house so no one from the party would see you like this.

“Mom, somethin’ happened to Katie,” your sister said, handing you over, going back out to the backyard before she could get shot.

You were quickly hauled off in your graveled knees and elbows and the missing skin on your face and nose; your mother needed to bathe you immediately.  It was a soda-bath with nothing but your mom’s arm and a soft washcloth.  You remember sitting naked in that bath, your mother washing you, when suddenly one of the party guests came into the bathroom too.

“Oh my God!  What happened to her!?” the party guest cried.

You had been relaxing in the bathtub, your shy little personality percolating, but then your mother struck up a conversation with this person.  Your whole story was told and it lasted too long.  The water got cold and you ended up crying, not because of your injuries, just for the inconsideration. 




Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Real Goodbye


It's been difficult this past month after your surprising no-show.
We weren't getting along very well before that happened.
I was still happy enough.

I have tried to demonize you
so that my heart and mind can move forward.  
I lost track of myself in the sex and absence and alcohol, the ideas
of why you would want to be so close to me
in the first place.

I try to turn my mind and eyes towards others now,
still having no idea why you made the decision you did.
I still wake up in the night and in the mornings.

I breathe to come closer to calm.  
My anger is still high.

I understand that you fell out of love with me,
I heard the slow withdrawals of I love yous, pleases and thanks.  
Still I shake my head because you could have just told me.  

You called at the last minute.

I smoked my first cigarette in twenty years with my mom.
If that makes you feel bad, it should.  
You told me you were a nomad.
You were right about yourself.

I miss you and the halfway relationship we had,
you gone and me working.  
I remember your saying that you are always the one
who gets broken up with--women leave you—
as if it's always the woman’s fault.  

You make it too difficult to stay.

I didn't feel like the girl anymore.  
I didn't have a problem with that.

I painted your toenails the last time I saw you.  

.