it’s like this

I’m here.

I’m here, and it’s like this:

Last month I punched one of those talking gas pumps because it wouldn’t shut up. The screen turned orange and displayed an error message. I don’t know how difficult it was to fix. I wasn’t sorry then, and I am still not sorry. Citgo and Gas Station TV can kiss my lumpy white ass.

This morning I went for a walk, and there was a baby robin in the road. So I stopped and googled “what to do if you find a baby bird.” And I read that most birds people find are fledglings and they probably don’t need our help. So I didn’t go back to the house to get gloves and a box and call someone who knows what to do. But this bird was sitting in the road and I didn’t want it to get run over. I took another step towards it and asked it, “Can you move?” And it squawked, and it hopped and flopped into the weeds by the side of the road. Good enough.

I walked away and left it. I’m sure it was terrified. And I thought: maybe some people are like that. Maybe they cross our paths to scare us away from something worse.

Halfway up the hill, a neighbor’s dog came out of the woods to walk with me. She followed me home, and she is still sitting on my back step enjoying the day. On my way into the house, I called her by one of our cat’s nicknames: KittyCake.

We’ve had this cat for four months. It’s been about five months since our old cat (Tiki) died, and this is the first time since then that I haven’t accidentally called someone else’s pet Tiki-Teeks. It felt like a milestone.

KittyCake is not happy about the dog.I don’t know the neighbor’s phone number, and I threw away most of our phone books last summer when our house was overrun with mold. Oh well. The dog is not hurting anyone, and at some point she’ll get hungry and go home.

I’m trying to get together enough people to hold a grief ritual soon. This morning it occurred to me that a grief ritual is like a sculpture with a lot of moving parts. I don’t have much formal training in making sculptures, or in facilitating grief rituals, but that never seems to stop me.

I have not been able to settle down and work in my studio for a good long while. Part of it is that I have come to hate a lot of things about the studio. Another part is that I seem to be undergoing some kind of internal remodeling.

Last year I finally gave up on the studio and started building a new one across the street from my house. It’s almost finished.

Maybe I’ll say more about that someday. For now, it seems like I need to break the silence by chattering.

Hi. I’m here.

slogging through the weeks

The house looks & smells & sounds wrong. There’s water on the floor of the basement.

Night after night, I dream that I’m cleaning out attics and basements. Throwing away mildewed bolts of ornate fabric, broken lawn furniture, jars of bleached pickles, box after box of other people’s tax records. I sleep okay until about 3:30, and then I doze fitfully until I get up at 4:30 or 5.

The contractors show up every weekday at 7 AM. Shortly thereafter, the banging starts. Most days I leave by 7:30. I go to the studio and work on this thing:


The blue stuff is frit, tiny chips of broken glass. The backs of my hands are covered with little scratches.

By Thursday night, I’ve usually hit a wall. My shingles-infested shoulder and arm are sore. Sometimes my eyes stop working properly. Sometimes I go to bed at 8 o’clock.

I spend Fridays alternately sleeping and crying in my studio.

Saturdays and Sundays I get up at 4. I feed the cat and make myself a cup of tea. After I drink the tea and snuggle the cat, I go back to bed and sleep for another couple of hours. It’s the best thing ever. By Monday I feel halfway sane again.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on. One of these days they’ll finish putting the house back together, and life will feel more manageable.

in the attic

When we moved into this house sixteen years ago, I was too depressed to deal with most of the boxes of household stuff. I unpacked the bare necessities and stashed the rest in the attic, where I ignored it for over a decade.

“There’s a reason for that,” says the little virtual E who lives in my head.

“Didn’t we have an ice cream scoop?” Dave kept asking. We did. It was in the attic. I told him he could go up there and get it. He never did. I’m sure he had his reasons too. Eventually I bought him a new ice cream scoop.

But now we’re having all the windows in our house replaced. Two of the windows are in the attic, which is an unfinished room above the garage. And I thought: as long as we’re going to have contractors here and they have to get in the attic, we might as well have them finish that room. So now there’s a dumpster in our driveway, and Dave and I are cleaning out the attic. We toss the boxes out the window onto the lawn; it’s easier than carrying them down the stairs.

One of the boxes broke open when it hit the grass. In it, there was an account I had written of my run-in with the Friendly Neighborhood Child Molester. I wrote it 22 years ago, and it ended up getting published in a magazine. Holy crap!

I brought the magazine inside and sat on the sofa with it. My hands shook as I turned the pages and found my crummy little story. I couldn’t read the whole thing. I put the magazine aside and thought for a while about what to do with it.

Thirteen years ago, I was seeing a therapist who made me tell her that story over and over again. How many times did I recite all the gory details? I lost track. It didn’t help.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said to E, “…and I’m not going to tell you that story.” Every time, she says that I don’t ever have to. I never get tired of hearing that. It helps.

In the end, I burned the magazine in the woodstove. Nobody else gets to know what happened in that vacant lot.