I don’t get my hair cut anymore because I am trying to find out if it will grow and how far it will go. But I used to get it cut regularly and I did it at the same place by the same lady who was my age, and my confidant and friend. A couple of hours every couple of months I would go into this place on the edge of Berkeley and Oakland, and she would wash my hair and massage my head and we would exchange stories. I would tell her about how the latest guy who’d lived in Antarctica for two years wouldn’t talk to me at work anymore because his girlfriend was back in town. Yes, he had a girlfriend, would you believe it! And she would tell me how her boyfriend finally found a place and she would probably move in with him because a homeless guy was trying to sleep in a corner of her house and it was terrible and she needed to get out.
She was cutting hair but she had a Writing degree. I had an English Lit. degree and I was selling running shoes. She had taken a creative writing class with James Franco and he had always sat next to the cutest, tallest blondes and she thought he was actually gay. I was fascinated by her stories about living in L.A. What did she do? Played lots of Texas Hold ‘Em. What was UCLA like? Lots of guys in tank tops.
I’d come back and it had been a couple months too long and my hair was a real mess. “You dyed it yourself, I told you not to do that.” And I know, I’m sorry, I was bored. She would fix it, and tell me to leave it alone, and let the natural color grow in, it’s so beautiful. And I’d say but it’s not, and she’d say but it is. But I’d say it’s fine, and doesn’t grow. And she’d say it’s soft, and feels nice to touch, and so leave it alone. And this time I had been seeing a guy at school but he started getting weird and hanging out with this other girl. And I thought perhaps too he was gay. All of these art school boys are, I think. And she’d say probably, like all of the actors. And she was Jewish and had been reading this book Tevye: The Dairyman and the Railroad Stories. And Tevye was hilarious, and so I read it, and she read The Worst Journey in the World, about an expedition to Antarctica from 1910-1913, because I told her it was the best book I had read since Dandelion Wine. And then we said our goodbyes. And I would see her soon.
And many months passed because I couldn’t afford to get my hair cut, and styled, and I was in school, and selling shoes, and I forgot, and my hair was a mess, and I trimmed it myself, and it was crooked. And I went back with crooked hair and a streak of blue. “What did you do this time?” she asked. “I don’t know, take care of me.” So she did. She washed my hair and massaged my head, and told me about how she loved her boyfriend, and they were living together and it was sweet, and he was growing up, but sometimes she was bored, because they never did anything but watch movies and sit around the house and she felt old. And I said I did too, because every night I did that too, but with my cat and dog. Because this time I had been seeing someone who also had split with his girlfriend, but really he just said that and it was a lie. And she said to be patient. And I said, of course.
My friend at work had thick wavy hair and he had never been to a salon. He asked me where I went and I told him and he went the next day. When he came to the shop his hair was crisp. “She’s pretty” he smiled. And when I went back she said “he’s nice., you should date him.” No, no, that was Antarctica boy’s best friend! I couldn’t date him, haha. There was this line between friends and lovers. And once it was crossed the other was ruined, you know, so I didn’t want to do that, even if we hung out and laughed and got along. And we knew that was true. Like the line between us, the hairdresser and the customer. We were friends in the shop, but it ended there. Because if we became more than perhaps we’d lose that confessional space to talk about all of our troubles with excitement and to listen with care. Instead we could end up like everyone else eyeing their phones and listening with one ear.
The last time I went she told me to leave my hair alone and I said ok. And then I moved away and I haven’t touched it since. I think maybe I will go back in a year, and it will be long, and it will be my natural color, and maybe she will be engaged, or married, and maybe, just imagine this, I’ll have a boyfriend.
Do you ever watch certain movies or shows or read certain books or listen to certain songs
or cook certain foods because you know someone likes them and it’s the closest you’ll
probably ever get to them again?
People automatically, unconsciously censor themselves, from the way they respond to others (I’ll roll my eyes when you’re not looking, you stupid cunt), to the way that they respond to a loved one (of course you look dumb in those skinny jeans but I can’t tell you that please look at my questioning eyes and replace them).
I don’t think it would be healthy for everyone to just blankly tell the truth of how we feel about everything all of the time. But when it comes to our friends, and to the people that we care about here or in the real world, why do we so often censor who we are to appear nicer/sweeter/gentler/saner? Why do we delete posts where we rant about someone who was shitty, and why do we hide the pain that we feel inside and smile to everyone in our real lives?
I am the same person in real life, but I censor by not interacting. The things I say here are the things I feel there but I don’t talk about them to many people. I don’t go up to my classmate and tell her about how hard it is to get up in the morning because I don’t know why I should do it and I don’t know why I’m here and I could move tomorrow and miss no one. That would be weird. She would think whatthefuck and probably not like it. Or maybe she’d spill all her guts and I would think whatthefuck and move away. Because I probably don’t want to hear it. Because I just go there and leave. I am existing on the peripheries and nobody notices, they just imagine I am quiet, or they imagine nothing at all. I don’t know anymore.
I do know that many of you lead double lives. You are smiling and happy and social outside of your phones and in your phones you are spouting confessions. Some of you don’t even do that, you just reblog or tell a joke and in a sense, that is the same as most of our acquaintances on the street because all I see is a facade. Sometimes it’s an entertaining one but it’s still a facade. We censor who we are because we don’t want to look at ourselves and after awhile we can’t even see who that is anymore.
We censor how we speak because we think that talking about peace and happiness is going to make us better, and if we tell something sad then we will manifest it. Well fuck happy. Fuck jokes all of the time. And fuck perpetual smiles. They don’t mean anything, and happiness doesn’t mean anything, if it doesn’t come with a shadow. And if you can’t accept your shadow than you might as well be a ghost.
I’ve only dated one person seriously. Seriously for me means I thought I could marry him, and have his children. I thought I not only could but that it was going to happen. I’d already planned it out in my head. Obviously it didn’t happen. But one thing that I remember about this person is how I felt safe. Watching movies together, eating dinners and sex aside, he made me feel protected. I really wanted and needed that. And when it was gone I think I tried to be tough. I tried to be the man and the woman, and to show that size and temperament aside, I could protect my own ass. But you know, you can’t always; especially if you’re spontaneous sometimes, and you do things without thinking. And maybe that is why I don’t leave the house much these days.
Two years ago, after a night at the bars, a guy asked to use my bathroom. I said ok and when he came out of it he kissed me. And I let him. And he took my pants off and I let him do that. And he spanked me and slapped my face and this isn’t a love story. He left when he was done and I was sore. And my face was swollen and bruised. That same morning I had to fly home for Christmas and when my dad asked what happened to my swollen face I told him it was allergies. And it was weird and I didn’t know really what it was. And I haven’t talked about it since.
It’s hard to feel like I can mean something to someone. I have been with a couple of guys since and they stayed the night but they also were just playing games. I don’t know where my heart is, but it hurts. I don’t know what my body wants, because I want to feel pain but I want it from someone who loves me.
If you cut that in half I’m 15 and I’m reading loads of ghost stories and riding my bike everywhere in a little town. I’m running track and I’ve never kissed a boy.
Five years later I’m in college and I’m kind of a slut and I’m depressed and I go to bars and I sit on the porch and play chess with my friend while smoking cigarette after cigarette.
Five years later I’m in Korea and teaching, and I get really lonely and I go for runs past the factories and to the water that connects to China and is slightly yellow and smells like rotting fish.
Five years later here I am, in school again, and I’m alone again, and I’m smoking again and I’m wondering what is next.
I could hardly look at him. I stalled in my car. I stalled in the bathroom. My glasses were off so he could see my eyes but I couldn’t see the carpet at my feet. Silence. I’m not much into small talk especially when my head is loud. Meticulously observe every billboard to Broadway. We pull up to a bar with a cowboy singing and we drink and we drink and we talk. Now we are talking a lot. “You were a bartender. Make me something special I’ve never had.” I skipped ahead. It’s late now. Gin, cucumber, tonic water, lottery tickets, a swim. He has high arches. I have slender feet. I think he touches me for the first time. The couple leave. Back in the room we are both wet and I already made a mess with my things. He is a perfect gentleman, he helps me out of my suit. It has been a long time and my usual patience is gone. I want to be swallowed up like a shot. I want it to hurt and leave marks so that I know that I was here and it really happened. I want to be in one of his stories.
My first college summer:
In high school my ski team voted me the “hippie chic”. I was a little perturbed by that. Why am I the hippie? I was pretty good. “But you’re like out there.” But I hardly ever smoked pot. “That’s just the way you think.” So I thought, fuck everybody, I want the I don’t know, I can’t think of anything, but the better other awards, one of those. But looking back on it I can see their point. I had instinctively chosen five potential colleges and they were all hippie schools. One in North Carolina. One in Oregon. Two in California and one in Mass. They were every single one of them “granola schools” known for Birkenstocks, and organic cereals and rallies and weird street musicians.
When I was 19 and it was my first summer after my first year of college, I moved to Berkeley. Since I wasn’t accepted to UC Berkeley and I felt like that’s where I would have gone if I’d had a choice, I decided to spend the summer there instead.
I stayed at my friend’s house. Her parents were millionaires and had a place half an hour east of the city in Lafayette. They had a pool, a golden retriever, a grand piano. I played Beethoven for the dad, a ship captain on the bay, and he accepted me into the home, as long as a I played him a song occasionally. My friend spent her days riding her horse. I woke every morning, took the BART into Berkeley, canvassed door to door for ten hours, and took the BART back.
The second day of work my trainer was a Berkeley psych student named Loren. He was Latino-American with a shaved head and small silver glasses and behind them were dark black glowing eyes. His skin was olive and his clothes were tight enough to see his biceps and the curve of his back. When I first entered the room I looked right at him, laughing with a blonde girl. He was wearing a bright yellow shirt and I thought hell this is the bay area, he’s probably gay. But fuck he is hot. And he was. My description doesn’t do him justice. He had a charisma, a charm, an energy.
As the director to the new canvassers he told us our turf and we giggled like idiots on the first day, nervous, running up to make some money. “Hi, we’re with CALPIRG the environmental grassroots agency…did you know that there are ____so on____acres of forest being ___so on” and I wanted to impress him, and look smart so I memorized the page speech in the morning. Other people couldn’t get it down, couldn’t make any money. Didn’t smile enough or know what houses to try first, and they failed and they were fired. Sometimes it was sad. Most of us were college students. My friend Andy from New York with his girlfriend at Berkeley. My friend Ray the DJ. Celene, the blonde with the Cate Blanchett smile, was a sorority girl and law student at Cal. They were just making some money like me. Other people would come in 40, 50 years old, single parents, struggling, unable to keep a job. They immediately felt alienated and they usually had trouble memorizing their lines and they would disappear within the week.
After the first couple of weeks Ray told me to come along to party for the night. That’s when I stopped making it back to Lafayette. I’d miss the Bart. I’d stay at a house. There was a big soccer game and everyone bought forties. I needed a place to stay and Loren told me to come back to his frat. He had a little room in the corner in the basement by the pool tables. It was lit up with black lights and smelled like hookah. We were drunk. Ray was feeling Britta up. (She’s married with a baby now, I saw it on facebook.) Loren and I had sex. It was my second time. Ever. “You make my head spin” I remember him saying that. I remember thinking it was romantic and later telling him I wanted him inside me and thinking ohmigod that sounds creepy and I think he thought so too. But not then, and not at that moment because we were in the middle of having sex and it felt perfectly natural, not at all like the first time in the dorms on a bunk bed under an asbestos ceiling.
The first time was a frat boy too from my anthropology class. Thor (yes Thor) had also been charming and I only after knew that he had a bet to see how many girls he could fuck. And a girlfriend. Sounds really stupid, I know. Why didn’t I find out about that? But I’ve never been good at finding out these details until after the fact. No. I was a freshman and I had been good for eighteen years and I needed to remedy that immediately.
But then with Loren it was different because he was the first one I spotted in the room and I already had an idea of what I wanted. And so I knew what was going to happen. And he missed his soccer game. Fuck. He really wasn’t looking for anything, but I wasn’t sure what he wanted. We started to party more, and we slept together again and this time he would get a worried expression on his face when we were drunk and playing pool. This time it wasn’t ok for the bart to stop running before I could get home. And Ray said, “oh knock it off, we’re all friends” and we were sitting around the hookah and Ray invited me to a party. Not just any party, an X party. Well, I don’t know. The only drug I knew was pot. And alcohol if that counts. I’d had plenty of that in Oregon. But this sounded intimate, a small group, a room, Ray the DJ, and Loren. Loren would be there. So I said yes, and Loren looked worried, but he said ok.
I realized he was the one finding the drugs. Ray was the one who knew what they all were. The red alligator. The white pure MDMA. The green. The blue. I don’t even remember what. One had speed. One had coke. One had acid. We would buy it all from Ray which was fine because we were all making the most money at work, door to door, walking Bernal Heights, talking about the forests. So this first time with the X crew. And two other girls were there. I won’t mention everyone, to many names for a short post. But Britta was there again. And a couple we worked with. They took the X and went to the bedroom. There were about 8 of us left.
We were really really happy, like wow, I didn’t know that I could be happy, ever, (I’ll talk about my childhood another time), I don’t think I had ever felt that before, ha! The thing was I didn’t fucking care. I didn’t care about death, or sadness, or heartbreak or money or anything! We danced, sweating, waving our arms and our hips, and we went barefoot in the park, and later I was sitting on Loren’s lap on the deck and it was probably 3 in the morning and everyone else was rolling around on the carpet listening to Portishead and Massive Attack, and touching each other.
Loren rubbed my back. He kissed my neck and he told me what I had wanted to know and kind of already did but didn’t understand. “I can’t like you.” “But. Why?” I have a way of talking like a little girl. I imagine my eyes were huge, my palms and fingers were spread wide tracing his back and his receding hairline. I was looking into his eyes a lot because not only were both of us staring wide-eyed like children, and my were the pretty and his glasses were off, but also I knew that it was a psychological fact that looking for long periods of time into a lover’s eyes would increase the love and I was determined to do that. So I stared. And so he explained. He told me how his best friend had been having sex with his ex and now he felt “anti-girl” and he couldn’t be with one girl. He hated all girls right now. But hate sounds ridiculous coming from someone rolling on ecstasy.
In the morning we all rallied to go to the gay pride parade. We had upset stomaches. Somebody puked repeatedly. I made it an hour at the parade, with all of the glitter and floats and make-up and colors, ohmigod get me out of this circus and I was so down this had to be the biggest joke life had ever played on me. Exhausted. Hopeless. I boarded the Bart and fell asleep. Landing in Fremont at the end of the wrong line I turned around and went back to Lafayette. My friend gave me a look. She didn’t like these new coworkers. She didn’t like Loren. Her parents thought who is this girl coming in and out, staying here for free? Only her little sister didn’t care. Her little spoiled 16 yr old sister with the slut clothes and the shiny new car. She took me out to smoke pot and said her whole family was a bunch of turds and she was glad I was there and she couldn’t wait to do X too and get out and go to raves and have a blast. And she already did some but not really. I liked her the most because she was the most alive. Her and the dog.
And more time passed, and we did more X and one night I did so much X I think my head exploded. It felt like it flooded with waves and I might die and Loren still was anti-girl but he held me and held my hair back while I vomited on my feet. And he looked like even if he hated all girls that he hoped I wouldn’t die on him. Ray watched us too. Poor Ray. He never had any luck with any of us girls and Britta hated him and wouldn’t go near him after his one heroic attempt to land her on a sofa. Plus he was street and a little older and didn’t read and no one wanted to date him though he was fun to party with and knew how to handle the drugs. (So, tangent, one day he moved to NY with a girl from the internet and they had two babies and one was suffocated on the bed in his sleep and later Ray died. I also saw that on facebook, when I went to leave him a Happy Birthday! (That’s why as much as I complain about Facebook I want everyone I know to be my friend there.))
There is no ending to this story but it’s getting late so I am going to wrap it up. The summer ended and two summers later I returned. There were many stories in between those two summers and it took me awhile to get over Loren because I had decided he was the love of my life. And the first time you decide that you’re in love you believe you might actually know the truth. And I really did think so. (Loren’s married now, I think he’s in Sausalito, working for a hospital? I don’t really know, he’s not on facebook.) But yes two summers later I stayed at a frat. Me! After all of these guys I am in a frat. But it was Cal’ architecture house, and it was very posh. The summers were just deserted rooms and boarders. Two were girls from the all girl’s university and they got me a job at the pool. They ate cheese and crackers for dinner and bleached their hair and reminded me of 50s housewives.
And the first week there my boyfriend came and I decided to break up with him after seeing Eternal Sunshine and he flew away and I was relieved. And then Loren and Britta and Heidi came by, oh and Keyon. All these people you don’t know because I’ve only told you such a compact story, but they were all a part of the old “crew”. The crew doing X, the crew going door to door in San Francisco and Oakland. The crew that drank forties and laughed and had sleepovers. The crew with Celene too, the law student. She’s the one who got me the room in the frat. her boyfriend’s frat. Celene with the beautiful Cate Blanchett smile and white-blonde hair. She was the girl Loren always laughed with, and I hated her. I hated her so much, and envied her so much, until we rolled and she came up to me and said I reminded her of herself, like this bright wild part of herself, like maybe who she would be if she wasn’t the perfect student and the sorority girl and the one guys wanted to get to know first and then date. I thought she was clever. And so she got me this room, and I brought all my art and set it up around this huge old room with stained glass windows overlooking the bay and frat row. She would take me rock climbing and tell me about her professor’s law book and her thesis. And we didn’t roll anymore except one time, and she was very grown up and sophisticated and blonde. (She’s married too and in Colorado according to FB).
This one time exception everyone came over and my friend from Oregon came except she was really from LA and she was very loud and very demanding. And curious about this Loren. And her and Loren went to talk in the sauna and I was like oh well whatever fuck it, and everyone else including myself ran around outside, barefoot in the grass, climbing trees, and we were the crew again for that night, and we were like children, because nothing fucking mattered, and we were happy.
I’d forgotten how nice it was to feel wanted and have someone open doors for you and look you in the eye and ask you questions about yourself and be curious for more and want to kiss you. I don’t think I want to be alone anymore.
I hope you’re having fun in whatever city you are in,
with whoever you’re with doing whatever you’re doing.
I still say your name to myself.
Sometimes I look in the mirror and I feel like a different person from yesterday. I notice a new wrinkle or a new sunspot. My great grandmother had sunspots and my dad has lots of them. When I was little I had tons of freckles and some faded with age and then I just had a few barely perceptible ones and a few moles. But I didn’t think about the spots on my dad’s skin and how I would probably one day have them. And now I’m 30 and there are a few wrinkles and I look in the mirror and if I look hard there are these faint light brown spots, one is owning my cheek, and is only a few months old, and if I look harder there are more on my forehead and cropping up beside my cheekbones and my brows. I thought at first what the hell, make it stop! Then I realized it was a shock because it was as if I was a different person, and change is difficult. But it wasn’t bad. I don’t mind. I don’t need BB cream. I like freckles. And sunspots aren’t terrible. My face is just changing. I guess if I don’t get hit by a bus or get a disease and end up dead I could live to be quite old like the Chinese psychic in New York said, and if that’s the case I could be all spots and wrinkles before I’m cremated and thrown into the mountains. But I think I’d prefer that to the plastic Joan Rivers faces and Dolly Parton floating devices that are replacing graceful old women. I hope all my spots define and reflect who I’ve become and I never shame them.
Goodnight noises everywhere.
I felt annoyed because I thought I heard the landlord upstairs. I thought “shit, why does he annoy me so much?” But it was this ongoing noise, like papers being stacked, or some faint moan, and it made me think he was masturbating. Every morning I could hear him moan and I thought perhaps that is what it was, and it was probably just his tv, but he made me so unnervy just imagining this nondescript homebody, who’s age is anywhere from 40 to 60, jerking himself off and moaning into a napkin.
I thought seriously, I am becoming too keenly aware of every little sound, I’m going to have to move into a tree in the middle of the forest, with no other human contact. There is no other way. But then I thought perhaps the noise wasn’t from upstairs but actually from outside. It sounded papery, and a little like a sigh, yes, but it was definitely outside. Was he out there? Was he prowling?
I have had my share of prowlers. In undergrad the “campus masturbator” jizzed on my front window one night while my roommate and I were just sitting there studying. He came on the window and ran away. Another night someone pooped on our doormat. Another night, in another apartment, a boy I knew who played the accordion came to my window and played a romantic accordion song. I laughed, frowned, and told him to stop drinking and go away.
Anyway, prowlers everywhere, I couldn’t stand to have my new landlord as a prowler. So I went to the front door and cracked it a little. The sound was in the trees, a little like a whooshing, but mostly a rustling. I went outside. It was a deer. No, two deers. I smiled with relief and came back in but my dog was standing there.
She looked up at me, with this look of pure consternation and growled, and huffed and puffed, and barked. And then she barked furiously for five minutes. And then she followed me to my seat, and curled up in a ball, and spat and huffed and growled, just softly, barely audible, under her breath, like a disconcerted boarder. You know how dogs can get.
I guess she knew it wasn’t a human but rather one of the four-legged spindly giants from the forest, and she didn’t like the way I just smiled and ignored it, like it wasn’t a big thing. Oh, it was big! her eyes told me, burrowing into me like I needed to also spit, huff, growl and puff. She scoffed me with disapproving dog mutters, which probably meant whatever, damn and shit, and fuck. I had transferred my discontent on to her and was again peaceful in the silence and the hum of the fridge and the rustling of the leaves. And then I heard a moan.
One boy played soccer best. One boy aced all the tests. One boy touched my silky hair. One boy saw my underwear. One boy stole my school lunch. One boy held my hand a bunch. One boy called me names. One boy taught me games. One boy said he thought I was sweet. One boy kissed my blushing cheek. One boy bit my tongue. One boy ate my gum. Another boy called me chia pet. I never could forget that. And another ran track with me, and rubbed my feet at every meet. One boy had shining eyes, and eventually would tell me lies. Another boy was pretty short, but we made out when I was bored. I kissed one boy though he was gay, I kissed him in a different way. I kissed another boy I brought home, and he cut his Achilles, bled and moaned. I sold my guitar to see one boy, unfortunately that was a fleeting joy. Another boy made mix tapes, and so we drove out to the lakes, and at the lakes we lost our clothes, and later he picked a rose, and after that his uncle came and got us drinks, and talked of fame, and after that he drove me home, and called a girl on my phone. There was a boy from a store, who checked me out when I came through, and gave me things when I was blue. And later on he bought me drugs, and ate me out, and pierced his dick, and played around and couldn’t stick to me. In the end he wanted to be free. So another boy got me high, and we snorted coke all night, and talked of Nietzsche and Marx and Jung, and stayed in separate empty rooms. When morning came I wanted to die, and he decided he would save my life, and I told him to just be my friend, and he left and never came again to me. One boy walked with me each night. I liked him most, he was so bright. He moved to Oakland when I moved east, and he moved to Boston when I moved west. I thought he planned this out in jest. One boy had a hot tattoo, we walked under the full moon. One boy fucked me on a beach, he turned out to be a leach. Two days later I met a boy who worked in a bar and said I was coy, and we went away and came back, and I scraped my arm on his mat. One boy I met when I was low. When I could hardly feel my soul. And months went by and he talked to me, and said sweet things and I felt free. And when we were finally together, he was the one I thought I could weather. But that changed, and more boys came, and left, and never headed west. One boy licked my spoon, one boy trashed my room. One boy almost married me, I’m glad he didn’t what a dweeb. One boy had a giant heart, but was the most torn apart. I guess there were others, here and there. Nobody I’d like to share. That one left, that one too, they all had girlfriends and empty rooms. That one wasn’t ever mine, he just made me feel real fine. They all have names, it doesn’t matter, they all played games, it doesn’t matter to me. We were all waiting for someone to set us free. Someway looking to survive each day. Heartbroken anyway. When that’s the case there’s never a beginning, because every beginning is one long ending.
Clou le Fou
In conjunction with my photography exploring negative space, I have also been writing in that silent time between midnight and 4am, and here I have gathered memories and words from that space between dreams and reality.