Four Plus Four is Infinity

23 Jul

I was staying at a high-rise hotel made of glass and smokey blue-grey tones minding my business when a woman with a sporty ponytail started talking to me in the elevator. Her ponytail was the only think sporty about her, but it was very sporty, a perfectly swishy dark blonde tennis ponytail with an easy side-to-side swish and a few fly away strands, messy chic. She was tall and her face was long, high cheekbones and a sharp nose like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Forty fourth floor please, she said as she got on. She had the slightest generic European accent.

I was just about to push that one, I said.

Well, coincidence is the belief of the damned, she said.

I forced a smiled and looked straight ahead at the crack between the elevator doors. Her breath was even if not a bit too loud. I could feel the heat of her eyes on my neck.

You know, she said, forty four is lucky. It equals eight, the symbol for infinity.

Oh, I said. I never thought of that.

Infinity is the fountain of youth.

Hugh, I said.

I watched the numbers blink above the elevator doors as we moved up toward infinity. Slowly, like it would take forever. Like it would take infinity years. My skin started to crawl and goosebumps popped up all over my arms.

The only reason we age, she said, is because we expect ourselves to. We can, in fact, live forever.

Umm cool beans, I said.

She lit a cigarette, which I smelled before I saw. The elevator filled with bitter smoke and when I turned to tell her smoking on an elevator was a bad idea and probably most likely illegal, I found the cigarette cherry was just inches from my face, extended much farther from hers in a long, ivory holder. I started bouncing my knees quickly the way I’d shake my leg if I was sitting down, just watching the numbers, waiting waiting waiting for forty four. 35, 36, 37. High-rise elevators take so long.

Would you like a cigarette? She said.

I don’t…

Ding! The doors opened. I stepped out of the elevator and turned back to smile at her, just to be polite, and watched a cloud of smoke fill the hallway. Then the doors closed again. I searched for her in the smoke cloud, squinted my eyes and waved my hands, but couldn’t see her. The smoke dissipated and she wasn’t there.


Bat Planting Season

21 Feb

I opened my eyes in the dead of winter and everything was green. And pink and orange and lush. A sudden moment of technicolor magic as far and I could see to the south and then, all around. I was on a farm I’d never been on, but the plants were all familiar. I walked up to a patch of zinnias as tall as me, just about ready to burst open, the buds showing colors of flowers to be, and put my face into their foliage. Behind them an epic row of cosmos, sunflowers in all varieties, lettuces, brassicas, marigolds. An old friend walked me to the greenhouse and handed me a box of seeds.

Start any seeds you like, she said.

I looked down at the table covered in seed packets and trays and huge black bat carcasses.

You can plant bats here, she said. We also have moths. You just use their bodies as seeds, like garlic.

A darkness washed over me. I didn’t want to plant insects. Or touch their dead bodies for that matter. I looked at her and she smiled, not creepy but genuine. I touched a bat wing the size of my palm, gingerly with the tip of my finger. It felt stiff but I was afraid it would come to life. No, this would not do.

This darkness would not ruin my moment of beauty.

I turned away and walked back out into the fields, looking around at the rich green rows of plants, the blue of the sky bold against the green, the fluff of a few wisps of clouds. I looked all the way up into the white light of the sun and closed my eyes so that all I could see its reflection against my eyelids.

The wind of her walk

29 Jan

She showed up in my yard, calm and easy as though she was meant to be there, or had always been there. Maybe she had. I always wanted a cat to find me. She looked like a mini Maine Coon, deep grays and browns striped symmetrically around her face and body in long tufts, like a lion. But she was small, a perfect fit for a lap. I saw her in the yard. She saw me. We made eyes and I knew she was there for me, to find me. We walked toward each other.

When she was at my feet, she said, we’re in this together. Follow me.

I followed, watching her fur bounce and flow in the wind of her walk. Everything else fell away. I remembered then that once you put the thing you want out into the world, all you have to do is wait for it to come to you.

The Little Spoon

5 Oct

I heard the scream come out of my mouth. But it was far away, like when you dissociate from your body, which is exactly what was happening. I yanked hard on the shoot to release the parachute. It opened, but I didn’t feel my body slow down. The air on my skin was hot and whipping. I looked down at the ant farm of world below and couldn’t remember how I had made this decision. When you lose presence, even for a moment, all kinds of shit can happen without your consent. The parachute moved in front of me, blocking my view. I touched its thick yellow and white striped body, puffed from the wind, soothing like a pillow. And then, I was on the ground.

None of it hurt, but I felt exhausted. I lay my body down at the edge of the painted orange circle, the spot I was supposed to land on. I felt proud that I landed exactly right. I lay, looking up at the sun, breathing and relieved. The world was quiet. I rolled onto my side and saw a small, black bobcat running towards me, not angry, but as if we knew each other. The cat sniffed my face, then curled itself into my side like the little spoon, and fell asleep.

How the Kippah Falls

27 Aug

I was sitting in a plastic chair, waiting for the rabbi to start class. The chairs were set up in long rows outside the classroom, the Hasids sectioned off to one side. The kippah on my head kept slipping off. I wasn’t used to wearing one. I looked to my right and there he was. River Phoenix. I didn’t ask what he was doing there. Instead, I reached over and touch the skin of his torso, his chest, his shoulders.

I can do this because you’re dead, I said.

He laughed. True, he said.

He turned his back to me and I lifted his shirt and touched his back. His skin was tanned and smooth, just like my girlfriend’s skin. I started telling him the story about how I met his mom on a plane to Palm Springs. He listened without speaking, nodding his head, a smirky smile frozen on his face. I said:

My girlfriend and I were going to visit our friends in Joshua Tree. The plane couldn’t land in Palm Springs because of strong winds, so we had to make an emergency landing outside of L.A. until the winds subsided. We were in a row of three. The woman at the window seat had pulled out a huge Tupperware container full of fresh smelling salad at the start of the flight. I leaned over to my girlfriend and whispered my jealousy about the vegetables. Then, the woman pulled out an even bigger Tupperware with cantaloupe. The smell of sweet fruit and compost, disgusting and delicious. When the plane emergency landed, we all started talking. She said her name was Heart, the letters of the word earth rearranged. We loved her immediately. She told us about her environmental activism and how she was going to Palm Springs for a ten day colonics retreat. Her daughter also lived there. Then she told us about her healing center in Gainsville Florida, called, The River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding. I said, why did you name it after the actor? That’s when she said, I’m his momma. We talked the rest of the stop and into the flight back to Palm Springs. When we landed, we helped her with her bags and wished her well in her colon cleansing experience.

As I told River the story, he nodded, then he leaned over and kissed me. I decided to skip the class with the rabbi and continue to make out with River Phoenix. My kippah fell to the floor. I ignored it.

It’s a Twister It’s a Twister

13 Aug

We were walking along a dirt path somewhere in Thailand, the two of them in front of me, me feeling sour about their growing connection. I was getting left behind, literally. My feet dragging, my head hung low, their laughter and skipping legs leading the way. So I didn’t notice when the sky grew dark and the world became black and white, everything shades of gray, the color draining from our bodies, the trees, the sky.

Look out! Z shouted, pointing behind me.

The twister was small but tight. I’d never seen one so close. As it approached, heading straight toward me, I realized it was smaller than I had thought. Scary, but small. I squatted down, my hands in the gravel. A gray swirl, dusty, smokey, skimmed my back, then flew up into the sky, passing them completely. The didn’t even duck, just watched it, like they already knew what was going to happen.

The Garden Robbery

3 May

They came in the middle of the night with big Maglite flashlights, like the one’s cops use. I heard them talking through the open window. Take all of it, one guy said. The moon was new, so all I could see were the flashlights moving frantically around the garden. Before I could make it outside, they were gone.

They took all the plants. The cucumbers, the chard, the sunflowers, the cosmos, all dug up with nothing but dirt holes left behind. You’d never know which plants were planted where. I had just planted everything that morning. The plants were still babies. Why? Why would someone take my babies?

The next night, they came into the house with knives. Give us all your plants, one guy said, standing above my bed, waking me from a dream of blooming Bachelor Buttons. I have nothing left, I said. He sighed like a teenager, like I really disappointed him this time, and went outside. I heard them rumbling around the garden, but I wasn’t worried about it. What else could they take? There really was nothing left. I fell back asleep and dreamed about eating hot-from-the-sun tomatoes right off the vine.

In the morning, I remembered the thieves. I went to to the garden and found it gone. They took the dirt, the beds, the whole yard. They didn’t even leave holes.

Saved By Bruce Dickinson

14 Apr

The arena was open air and full of people. I don’t like being around swarms of people. Neither of us did. We were walking around town and ended up inside after a few wrong turns. It was a sports game or a concert or some sort of jousting show. We didn’t know. We didn’t care. We just wanted to get out of there. But there was no way to the door through all the people. We realized we’d have to go up.

We tilted our heads back. The sky was blue and we felt warm summer sun on our faces. We have to go up to get out, I said. As I spoke, the ceiling started to close, window by window, little screens sliding toward each other. Where did the windows come from? Fuck. I looked out across the arena. My eyes locked with his and his voice echoed in my head. Come with me, he said. He reached out a hand. We walked toward him, took his hand, and he guided us onto an escalator. I have VIP access, he said.┬áIt wasn’t the first time I met Bruce Dickinson. But it had been a long time. He tends to show up in crisis moments after I’ve been binge listening to my Iron Maiden tapes.

We got to the top of the escalator just before the last window closed. Go out through this one, he said. Lift your bodies. We lifted and floated out the last open window into the blue sky and flew away. Bruce always saves the day.

Summer Freeze

2 Apr

When summer came, we swam in the lake every day. The lake had been frozen over all winter, so frozen that you could drive a car across it. But the only people who actually felt okay driving on a frozen lake were men who liked fishing and hunting.

One summer morning, we arrived at the lake as usual to find it was frozen over again. The sun was shining bright, the temperature in the high seventies. No one seemed surprised, so I acted casual. We kicked off our flip-flops and started bare foot skating, twirling and sliding around. Families with children, grandparents, hipsters, everyone was doing it. My feet didn’t feel cold on the frozen lake, and the the ice was clear and smooth like glass. We could see all the way to the bottom, lake plants, fish, and garbage. I skated like an olympian, spinning fast and jumping high without any effort. People clapped for me. My feet felt light and I was happy for the first time in a long time. I guess the summer freeze was full of magic.

The Finale

29 Mar

The house sat on a hill surrounded by lush, coastal foliage. You could see the ocean from the back deck. An open floor plan let in all the light, the kitchen white and modern like in a magazine. But the house itself was small, a rental for their stint in town away from the city. Being who they were, creative types with an endless stream of flowing ideas, they decided they needed a theater for the people, so they built collapsable risers in their garage.

I went for a visit to get away from the shit cold garbage weather that is the midwest in March, when it’s supposed to be spring but every other day it rain-snows and melts, leaving slushy puddles of mud and exposed garbage piles all over the place. Every year I’m ready to move away until the summer comes, when I then try to convince everyone else to move here because it’s so beautiful. She was giving me a tour of the house. When we got to the garage she said, “you’re really going to like this.”

At first, it was like any other dingy garage, though it was the biggest garage I’d ever seen. She said, “close the door behind you and pull that latch.” I pulled the latch and everything changed. Like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when it goes from black and white to technicolor. Theater lights, blue, red, yellow, green, all lit up around the ceiling. “Now push that button,” she said. I pushed. The metal risers emerged slowly from the back wall, unfolding like an accordion, steady and humming. I found myself sitting at the top at the top as they shifted and unfolded, a carnival ride. “Tada,” she said. “Now we have a theater.” She was smiling so big, like there was nothing left to do in the world. Like she had arrived in her moment, entered into her actual life. I said this a few years ago about my own life. I have arrived. It was after my book got published. And then all the hubbub faded away and I realized I had to write another book if I wanted to stay arrived. I realized I had arrived in a moment, not into the finale of my life. I wanted to tell her. But then I thought, who am I to put a pin in her giant theater bubble. I said, “this is awesome.” She smiled bigger, and I was so happy to be in Santa Barbara.