It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can do no other, it will writhe before you in ecstasy. –Franz Kafka, Zürau Aphorisms
Everywhere I turn lately, it seems I’m getting a message about silence. Even the comedians Marc Maron and Garry Shandling talked about it on Maron’s podcast—the beauty and significance of it, the desperate need for it, both onstage and in real life. Something is drawing me to notice these references. Maybe it’s because The Painting Studio in San Francisco was holding its 7-day spring intensive the week that I started writing this. After painting for a few days, the silence is palpable. Thoughts may pass through, like the 36 Teresita bus that comes rumbling past the studio several times an hour—odd how the inner silence can flourish in less than ideal urban conditions—but they gain no purchase. Image and color are your only tools, “all ye know and all ye need to know,” like Keats’s truth/beauty.
It’s not that silence is empty. In silence is everything. What silence silences is the mind, that chattery, self-interested, superficial retainer of life’s minutiae. The mind comes in mighty handy when you need to remember something, like how to get home from the store, but it is limited. It is limited in exactly the ways that it would need not to be limited for it to understand what goes on beyond itself.
The mind will chatter on, but it has no power if you (i.e., the mind itself) aren’t afraid that it is all you have, that the chattering and worrying and faux planning (as if there truly is a thing called “tomorrow”) is all that supports and proves its existence. I worried a lot about death at an early age, when my brother died and I couldn’t understand how he could be under the ground—forever. I would lie in bed trying to imagine forever… better than focusing on under the ground, I suppose… this long and this long and then still dead. It was like trying to hold my breath indefinitely, the mind was not up to the task of imagining such a thing. Even if death didn’t enter your life as a child, you put the same expectation and fear of the future on the unimaginable changes that would have to occur for you to become what they called an adult. I worried that I would stop getting toys as presents, unable to imagine not wanting them. In the 3rd or 4th grade, I saw that my older cousin had to read Time magazine for his 6th grade class. I couldn’t imagine being asked to comprehend anything so complex. Adulthood seemed to me like a never-ending series of requirements, disappointments, and “pills to swallow,” because I had no way to imagine being other than who I was.
And that’s what I think the fear of death is in adults. We can’t imagine not having the mind, personality, and characteristics that we have now… we can only imagine having (No More)Time magazine to somehow comprehend… receiving “gifts” we don’t want, longing for and holding on to the life we know, rejecting the new reality because only the old reality is familiar or even credible. Religious people convince themselves that we will somehow remain “ourselves”: veritable children playing with our toys and reading our Beginning Reader books instead of complicated magazine texts requiring an ability to comprehend beyond our present state of semi-literacy.
In my analogy of the misapprehensions of children imagining adulthood, at least as children we have models for the coming transformation—our parents and other adults who claim to have once been “our age,” though we can’t imagine them as children; even photographs of them looking much like us aren’t compelling evidence, because it isn’t quite believable—the alchemy of growth, like metal into gold, yeah, right: How could there have been a world without my mother as herself (i.e., as my mother) in it? So the algebra of “child is to adult as life is to death” seems to break down, because the irreligious adult has no model for what comes “later,” not even photographs. There is no believable future that can be accommodated by our childish adult minds. We think we know all the possibilities: placed in the ground, or burned up and scattered, or existing (if you can call that “existence”!) as ashes in a jar on somebody’s end table. Our limited minds lead us, as our limited child minds once did, to fearful projections based on unrealities and unknowables. This throbbing litany of fears is the mind acting on itself, trying to escape itself, out-think itself, imagine itself as no longer existing technically but still somehow self-aware. Even if you reject the traditional promise of heaven or the threat of hell, the “spiritual” promise is an equivalent bargain in which you still expect to be yourself in some theoretical state—sacrificing the body if only you can retain your sense of identity. I happen to have experienced the level above the personal for a few brief moments (though even referring to “levels” and “above” or “beyond” is misleading), and it’s not as if I can come tripping down the mountain with stone tablets that explain everything in 10 simple bullet points, it’s more of an evanescent memory of a certainty—perhaps the only true certainty I have ever experienced—that not being me is not a contradiction or an impossibility.
So I do believe that silence is the irreducible core of our existence, but it’s not as if I myself forgo the silence-fillers of eating, drinking, listening, watching, reading, thinking. Sometimes, when weather permits, I’ll sit out on the back porch and watch the birds, but I’m not sure that qualifies as silence either, because it’s like watching the Discovery channel: There’s still content. But it’s just more detritus of the mind to worry about what one is or isn’t doing to fulfill some assumed criteria, as if the mind can bargain with the depths (God/etc.), “I’ll sit still for 30 minutes a day,” “I’ll stop eating meat,” “I’ll only read spiritual books.” You can’t get there from here. You can’t create or mimic it, or punish yourself for thinking, faking, avoiding. “You” are the vehicle, not the fuel, the origin, or the destination. (The painting is one of my first, from 1979 or ‘80.)
Bird Bath and Beyond
At last, I am enveloped and enriched by the green, green flames of leaves that I sorely missed all winter. It’s funny how you change in ways you could never have predicted. By the time I left home at 17, I hated the color green, partly because of its ubiquitousness in the environment (the U.P. was green way before it was fashionable) and partly because it was my father’s go-to color for painting everything around the house, including the lawn furniture we built in the basement and sold in the front yard to people in (hardly ever) passing cars. Now it feels as if, without the color green, I would only be half alive.
There are new kids on the block, birds of and of not a feather—a red-headed woodpecker looking like a painted image—a bird-shaped Mondrian, perhaps—and the usual suspects, the little yellow finches, bright-red cardinals, iridescent pigeons, dull-brown (but lifelong loyal, they say) mourning doves, blue-blue jays, and those little brown and striped sweeties that are still (to me) UFOs—along with a couple of chipmunks that run like the wind when my shadow darkens the glass in the back door. The neighborhood crows finally figured out that the lawn at 4216 4th St. is paved with gold (and dried corn), so they come strutting across the grass or dive bombing like F-18s, scaring off all the other critters.
Indoors, my pampered darlings, Brutus and Luther, live their lives of Riley, barely moving except to find a more comfortable position on the “family bed” (armchair + oversized ottoman). Brutie’s favorite thing lately, and I don’t know what he gets out of it, is picking up one of my old slip-on shoes that I leave by the front door and lugging it all the way across the living room and the kitchen and up the stairs, where he dumps it and then ignores it until I bring it back downstairs and he retrieves it again. Tag team Sisyphus?
By the way, I’ve come up with a U.P. version of the famous line after which he was named: Eh tu, Bruté? or Brute, you tu, eh? (Words are fun.)
The weather is odd, as always. Between one day and the next, the temp can go from 90 degrees to 40. I suppose it has something to do with the Great Lake that borders our flank. Right now (well, “now” when I started writing this—I’m always at least a month behind in my weather observations) we’re in a very small window during which, speaking of which, I get to keep my windows open rather than spending money on either heated or cooled air. Would that this would last. Have I told you that Menominee is in a “banana belt”? And yet, No, we have no bananas. It’s probably the safest place on earth, from both Old Man Weather and Young Man Terrorist… at least until those Canadians start getting uppity. One of my favorite novelists is Steve Hamilton, who writes about the way-UP north by Lake Superior and the Canadian border. But he makes me feel lacking in UP-ness. Down here with the faux bananas, we’re neither fish nor fowl nor “Soo” denizens nor Wisconsinites, whom we resemble most closely as fans of the g.d. G.B. Packers. The small talk that figures into any medical visit or restaurant meal usually starts with, “Are you going to watch the game?” or “Did you watch the game?” or possibly even, “Are you watching the game right now?” No one ever has to specify which game they’re talking about, because there’s only the one. When I was a lass, the Milwaukee Braves were my dad’s and my team, despite being even farther away than Green Bay. I still remember many of the players’ names: Hank Aaron (of course), Eddie Matthews, Warren Spahn… OK, not that many. If I’ve told you this before, you can skip ahead. One of my favorite childhood memories was going to an actual Braves game when I was about 10. (I swear, age 10 was perhaps the best year of my life, at least until about 40, when I realized that life was actually getting better; that 30-year in-between span was hellish.) I think it was just Mom, Dad and I who went to the game, because my sisters were very young. Dad was still in the navigable phase of his MS. I was amazed when we entered the stands and everything on the field was so brightly colored! I’d only seen baseball (or anything else) on our black-and-white TV. The green was so green, the red was so red, you get the picture. I don’t remember the game itself, or even who won, but I cherished the baseball bat-shaped pen-and-pencil set Mom bought me from one of the vendors. Of all the sports I played as a kid (in the driveway, in the road, at the Grant School field), I loved baseball the most (I’m quite sure we used real baseballs, not softballs). In junior high, PE was usually the near-nadir of my school day (actual nadir was trying not to vomit in 1st period)—unendurable gymnastics; nausea-inducing dodge ball (not strictly psychological as when I was in class; the continuous running made me sick), awkward and uncoordinated folk dancing, embarrassing (1) and scary (2) swimming (1: trooping past the PE boys in my bathing suit; 2: getting cannonballed on by a klutzy girl while trying to hold my breath underwater)—odd that I joined GAA, the Girls’ Athletic Association, in the 9th grade, but that was for fun, not a way for our dyke gym teacher to humiliate the likes of me—am I still in the same sentence? BUT… the only really wonderful day or days of the year in PE were in the spring when it was nice enough to be outside and we would play actual baseball games. The other times I got to play were in the summer when there were group picnics in Henes Park, usually sponsored by the VFW or similar militaristic organizations. I learned a few things about myself at those picnics: 1: One of the guys manning the food tables (hot dogs! Nehi pop! Heaven!) asked me my name and then disingenuously replied, “Oh, are you Skip’s daughter?” He was trying to catch me in a lie, which I really resented. My dad’s name was Bill. Uncle Skip didn’t belong to the VFWhatever. I guess I hold a grudge longer than even the meanest crow, because I’ve always hated being accused of lying or being tricked in any way. 2: I also discovered that I was very good at avoidance: In a game in which each kid had a balloon tied to the back of their ankle and had to try to pop the other kids’ balloons without getting their own popped, I won. I just instinctively knew how to make myself small or functionally invisible and to never turn my back on anyone. Huh. Funny how those traits get revealed at such a young age.
Ah, where was I? I thought I was talking about birds. Or trees. Well, I have one more thing to say about baseball. I couldn’t possibly care less about watching other people play it, but I deeply miss playing it myself. I saw on Facebook that one of my sister’s granddaughters (who’s 10, not coincidentally) loves, well, softball. That brought it all back and caused me great pangs of… is it nostalgia, or just missing something I can no longer do? Or are they the same? I definitely don’t want to go back there, I would just love to play like that again. Another “sport” (unorganized) that I truly miss is ice-skating… from the same era, when they flooded the field at Grant School and my sisters and I would skate in the evenings. I thought I hated winter (turns out… not so much), but I loved skating and was good at it. (It’s weird to remember how I used to love being physical.)
The “nostalgia,” or whatever it is, continues. It’s all about age 10, 5th grade. I looked forward to the town librarian’s coming to our school once a week; I read lots of library books, but my favorites were the Hardy Boys. Once, I helped the librarian by alphabetizing the check-out cards, and (more shades of the future to come) she was astonished that I had made no mistakes. I must have been the first among dozens or hundreds of previous speller-attempters to get it right. I was not impressed myself, since, you know, I had known the alphabet for some years already. But it stuck in my mind, 1, because I was and am vain about my felicity with language (and desirous of praise from authority figures), and 2, because it was such a perfect prefigurement (it’s a word) of my adult vocation. I love spotting the seeds of what I was to become, and I urge anyone who hasn’t yet figured that out for themselves to look back to childhood and see what really thrilled them. (Contrary to expectation, I didn’t become a professional athlete, but after 9th grade my path veered sharply into the language arts and philosophy, and away from everything requiring a body with moving parts.)
And now I am led, inexorably, to the memory—skipping a few years to 12th grade—of my lifelong attachment to my English teacher, Ruth, who did more for my self-esteem in a scant 9-1/2 months than I ever would have dreamed possible. In one of life’s cruelest lessons, I had to learn the hard way that being a protégé is stage-specific; you can’t have the same relationship with your mentor when you hit your 40s as you did when you were 17 and she was barely older than you at 29. (Likewise, my male 5th grade teacher, whom I adored for similar reasons, was 25 to my 10.) That teenage infatuation, to which I clung and later attempted to transfer to other female teacher-guru types, was obviously a maladaptation, but does anyone get through life without a maladaptation or two? I’ve ceased getting down on myself for my unmet infant needs. They’re still there—aren’t everybody’s?—but I accept the fact of them. In that sense, I’m no longer avoiding getting my infantile balloon stomped on (see above picnic; game; early life lesson), I’m just dragging the spent plastic around—popped by life, there’s no avoiding that—like dirty, ripped pant cuffs, aware of the time that’s gone by and the struggles that have taken up so much of it. Why begrudge myself the years of illusion, confusion, exclusion, intrusion, reclusion, and failed relationship hoo-hah that took up the vast majority of my mid-life? Now that I’m nearing the end-life, I feel like Judy Collins reflecting on the both, the many, the all sides now, just in time, right on target for my demographic boomer cohort. For all my vaunted contrarianism, I’ve marched right along with my contemporaries, going through each life stage more or less in lockstep, though ‘twas lockstep that I freely entered into. I regret nothing, as they say. Well, of course I regret un peu, but I did it all in good faith, how else could it have been? I only now see the ridiculousness of thinking that one can be someone other than oneself, that one can choose in a broader sense than just “I choose pie” or the like. My life feels whole, I have inclusion to add to the list. Does that mean I have finally gotten too big for my britches—oh snap, I have, but that’s not what I meant—as I claim to now embrace the whole of my life, even the pain that took place a mere 2 blocks away in an upstairs bedroom, or in a cedar grove across town, or in a college town beyond my UP boundaries, or in that delightful Shangri-la, San Francisco?
But what did my point start out to be? Well, on one of my recent trolls up and down the intertubes, looking for proof of Ruth’s continued existence, I discovered the opposite, her death. Nothing too specific, just an asterisk by her name in documents from Calgary, her lifetime home after Menominee. After confessing to me in a letter that I was “always [her] favorite [student],” I foolishly tried for more—when what more could I have asked for?—and got nada back in return. I tried humor (“You have a delightful sense of humor!” she wrote on the first paper I wrote for her), honesty, apology, the first 2 or 3 issues of the mary’zine, but I could not extract another bite past the whole enchilada she had already generously given me before disappearing from my life forever… leaving behind the 40-year-old going on 17, looking for a reprise of the closest-to-fulfillment-of-infantile-need I have ever experienced*, a need that is more intransigent than the desire for alcohol, sugar, or glory. I could call myself(ishness) merely greedy, but it was a perfectly understandable desire to repeat perfection once achieved but tragically undefined and ill understood at the time. Who can be blamed for wanting such a thing? I have now learned the true delayed life lesson of the popped balloon, the burst, irretrievable delusion of infancy, the poof of the certainty of my ability to avoid.
*Not true, actually. I achieved the ultimate in that department with my ex-therapist J… an even better example of the impossibility of continuing self-centered bliss in the unconditional positive regard of an older (well, 6-months-older in this case) mother surrogate. I’ve cycled through my allotment of mothers and mother substitutes, only to be left to my own maternal devices in my own behalf. Je regrette un peu, but again, that’s a balloon that will never lose its fill of air because it lives in the belly of my own beastly breast and breath. (I should have been a 19th century lady poet.)
My cat Luther is a wuss. A wimp. His brother Brutus antagonizes him, and he just takes it. He waits to eat until Brutus is finished, even though there are two bowls of food, and he follows me around and makes the French doors rattle when I shut myself in my bedroom. He’s a big baby full of needs that can never be fulfilled. I know how he feels, but it’s frustrating to be on the other end of that. Anyway, I have to take him to the vet every 5 or 6 weeks to get an allergy shot. We don’t know what he’s allergic to, but he scratches his chin and the skin around his eyes bloody. It’s never been a pleasant experience, but now it’s starting to resemble the apocalypse.
At the vet’s, we always have to wait past the appointment time to get into the exam room. There are no apologies, no “It’ll just be a few more minutes,” just the interminable passing of time, like No Exit for animal lovers. The waiting room gradually fills up with cats and dogs—the cats in their carriers, the dogs strutting about, straining at their leashes to get at one another and the cats. This last time, we waited for at least 35 minutes. It was torture for both of us, because we were intruded upon by a huge panting, stinky dog. This dog, named Kitty (how clever), insisted on being up on the bench about 2 feet from me, and she continually strained at her leash in my direction. I understand why people love dogs—I do—but they certainly have an entitled attitude. Most dog owners will intuit from my leaning as far away as possible that I’m not interested in being slobbered on, but this woman was a little light in the vigilance department. She would tug on the leash and castigate him casually just before he was about to get at me, keeping me in a constant state of tension. Every now and then Kitty would get down off the bench and walk past Luther’s carrier, sneezing on it, raking the side of it with her toenails, oblivious to Luther’s hissing through the air holes.
The bench where Kitty clamored and cavorted was quickly covered with puddles of drool (which her owner laughed merrily to see), which made me wonder what dried animal residue I was sitting on and whether they ever cleaned the bench. I finally got up and stood by the door because I couldn’t take it anymore. It was somewhat reminiscent of my visit to the dentist a few days before, when every muscle in my body strained to guard against the possibility of the drill’s hitting a sensitive spot. (I was not pampered with Valium or nitrous this time.) Even though there was no pain per se, there was a lot of noise from the drill, water spattering my face and glasses, and the suck stick doing its sucking and sticking, usually when it no longer mattered because I had already swallowed. Every muscle was wound as tight as anything, and though I tried to relax, my whole body would constrict again immediately with the sheer physical unpleasantness of it all.
Back to the vet…. I was relieved when we finally got into the exam room, but I knew there was going to be trouble when I started to unsnap the things on the side of the carrier to open it up and Luther hissed at me—a first. Fortunately, the vet and the assistant are good sports, but as soon as they took the top off the carrier, Luther went ballistic. He lashed out, he hissed and yowled, he practically launched himself out of the carrier at the assistant. (The vet knew to stay out of reach.) Luther fought for all he was worth, got covered with a towel and quickly stabbed in the butt, but he wasn’t going down without a fight. They tried to put the top back on the carrier, but he was still lashing and slashing and trying to get out. The assistant tried to get his attention down at the far side of the carrier while the vet struggled to get the door back on. We were all sweating by the time it was over, and the vet suggested I give him pills next time.
Then we had to go back in the waiting room until someone came out with the paperwork and the pills, but at least “Kitty” was gone and there were no further outbursts from Luther. We got home, and all was copacetic except for his eyes following me with suspicion whenever I came near him. I had a mad fantasy during the whole thing in which I imagined going wild myself—in the dentist chair or on the bench next to the stinky dog—starting to thrash and lash and hiss like crazy…. Needing to be covered with a towel and having one or more professionals try to keep their hands away from my sharp claws (if I had sharp claws). Maybe someday, when I forget who I am and lose my need for approval and don’t know why I’m being made to sit still and get shots or endure other indignities, I’ll fight like a wild thing and scare the bejesus out of everyone around me.
update on the folks
Recently, the sisters and brother-in-law and I had a rare Friday evening of no TV, just desultory conversation, no pressure, nothing of importance, but several fits of laughter among the womenfolk. I love making my sisters laugh. (Why is it always described as “making” someone laugh? Sounds kind of coercive.) So much silliness… Somehow the question arises: Do snakes have tails? They’re all tail. Well, they have a head, they must also have a tail. Then I mime throwing a snake up in the air and slapping it down on the back of my other hand, then peeking at it. “Call it,” I say. “Heads or tails?” We decide that the tail (or head) is going to be hanging down, so it’s a pretty easy call to make. I become enamored of myself doing this mime—in my opinion it’s way better than pretending to be stuck in a glass box. Barb says it’s like a Gary Larson cartoon… but his snakes tend to wear old lady glasses and have serious expressions on their faces. (Do snakes have faces?) (Why are we talking about this?)
While we burst into laughter over our silly word plays, the manfolk sits in his recliner like a stump, not appreciating our funny bones (do snakes have bones?), or possibly envious of our bond(s). This is us at our best, when no one’s giving a long-winded status report and no one else is parsing the goings-on. Just batting the conversational ball around (do snakes have balls?). Nothing serious, like I said, just whatever comes up….
… K’s work in the yard… A guy from the Eagle-Herald photographed her building a stone wall, and her picture appeared on the front page of the paper.
… Cars need washing. I calculate that I haven’t washed my Jeep (I mean, taken it through the car wash) since September ’09. The simplest things evade me sometimes. Before I had someone to clean my house, it would take me 6 months to spend 5 minutes cleaning the refrigerator. My mantra lately is “I do what I have to do,” but guess who’s deciding what “has” to be done? I feel like a mythic hero(ine) when I take out the garbage and fill the dishwasher and get the dirty laundry out of the way before my niece comes over to clean. Add to that the enormous task of carrying heavy bags of bird seed out to the back yard and filling the feeders. A semi-retired homeowner’s work is never done.
… A retelling of the whole plot of the season finale of “The Mentalist,” which I haven’t seen because… (another mantra) “I don’t have a TV.”
… Garage sale purchases… who made a haul, who didn’t find anything. It’s a lot like gambling. But the rich don’t put out much of any value because (I suppose) they’re keeping it, and the poor don’t because they don’t have anything of value. Baby clothes and double strollers seem to be big this year. Has there been a mini baby boom? But Menominee’s population has gone down to below 9,000, so I guess as soon as they’re born they start planning their escape. Few of us move back. Shore Drive with its 20 or so sales, too far to walk up each long driveway. I’d go with if they didn’t start at 7 a.m.
But I’d rather not have used stuff anyway. I’ve always been like that, even when I had no money. I want(ed) new books, new clothes, new toys. My sisters got my leftovers. I always forget that, so I’ll describe a rust-colored skirt and blouse outfit that I hated, or a gray felt poodle skirt that I sort of liked, and K will say, “Yeah, those got handed down to me.” They had to play with my handed-down dollhouse and listen to my 45 rpm records: Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Association. We each bring up memories, but rarely do we all remember the same things. One of us is always saying, “I didn’t know that!” “I don’t remember that!” I secretly suspect that my sisters’ memories are so bad—or their child gullibility so extreme—that they’re passing off imagined or joking comments as gospel: like our grandfather telling them that he was in the circus when he was a kid. Grandfathers say things like that, but does that make them true? A lot of things they bring up happened after I left for college at 17, put my family in my rear view, and drove away.
… What colors were the walls, who had a twin or full-size bed? Who dried the dishes while Dad washed, and who got in trouble when Mom found out he was teaching us to take two wet dishes at a time and dry the top of one and the bottom of the other, then switch. Men are forever inventing new ways of escaping household drudgery, much to the chagrin of their control freak wives. One of the things that prevent men from taking over their share of the household duties is the woman’s fear of the man’s lack of “doing it right.” (“Easier to do it myself,” which is fine with the guy.) Way to go, guys! I will add this seemingly anti-feminist proviso, though: Women who want their men to do their share of housework and baby diapering tend to be strangely reluctant to do the “man” things like getting the car repaired or climbing up on the roof to fix the antenna. I’ve never seen this addressed (by women). Although I hate the argument that men and women should have fixed gender roles, I do have sympathy for the guys whose wives don’t want to cook or sew but don’t want to do the other stuff either. Of course I mean the women who don’t work outside the home.
Why do I care? One of the beauties of same-sex relationships is that each partner gravitates to doing what they mind the least. Not that there are no “male-female”-type divisions of labor, but there’s still freedom to, say, prefer to cook over doing the dishes, or rake leaves rather than vacuum. You make it up as you go along.
But again: Why do I care? I have to do it all, except for what I can get other people to do for money. It’s not that I feel I’m above doing dirty tasks—remember that garbage gathering and that dish(washer) washing—I’d just rather look at words on paper than do even the slightest form of physical labor. And I’m helping the e-con-o-my!
… Gossip about my nephew’s ex-wife’s second divorce, so satisfying to he who went through the trauma of her manipulations and criminal behaviors, such as forging his name on checks that were intended for him. He was a saint, supposedly, and she was a lying, cheating bitch. And the other nephew’s ex makes him drive to her town to “babysit”! The mothers of sons have a unique perspective on these things.
We’re still playing Friday nights by ear, Barb and I waiting to be invited over. I whip myself into a lather over my brother-in-law’s apparent dislike of having us around. (After previously whipping myself into a lather over his never letting K come with us without him.) He refuses to go with us to Schussler’s for K’s birthday dinner. I don’t want to go back to their house afterward but do anyway, because that’s what we do. MP is out on the deck, still seemingly avoiding us. After a while he comes in and plops down in his recliner next to me, and I deliberately don’t look at him or say anything to him for maybe half an hour. I don’t think anyone notices, but I could be wrong. The TV stays off, a minor miracle. At one point K mentions what they do when they get up in the morning at the ungodly hour of 4 or 5 a.m.—they kneel on the couch together and watch the birds through the picture window. Something about this image melts me right out of my mood, and I turn to MP and say how sweet that is. And from that moment on, we talk to each other like normal human beings and I realize how much I like him when he’s not being a dick (or when I’m not trying to out-dick him). This misunderstanding—or whatever it is—that has made us cut down on family time seems necessary but kind of sad. I’m still glad when just Barb and I go out on a Friday night to a decent restaurant and then watch a movie at her house and don’t have to strain to make small talk with the 200-pound gorilla in the room whose moods are so unpredictable. Hopefully this will all get straightened out in due time. Sometimes I wish I had just played along for the past 7 years and never spoken my mind and never riled anyone (the gorilla) up.
Sodden thought: Maybe I’m the gorilla. MAYBE I’M THE FUCKING GORILLA.