Tuesday, November 3, 2009

on the milk carton

Since I moved into my new apartment I feel more closely connected with the city and simultaneously more distant from everyone I care about. My perch overlooks a moderately busy intersection in the heart of the town, on a street that separates the south side neighborhood convenience stores and scrawled tagging from the north side Lexi and Prii. Theo loves the new place. He sits at the window, a small hairy gargoyle - or is that redundant? - fixated on what occurs below, judging nothing, observing everything. I can't escape the fear that someone will see me lick the ice cream bowl or dig my finger in my ear. I can't escape the immaterial presence of The Townspeople driving by to the kitty-corner doughnut store and The Regular Dude in the lifted truck, or as the Professor used to call them, The Jetski People. Maybe I should give up all that flouncy NPR shit. I was this close to figuring out the Puzzler. I can't help the self-consciousness. I just like letting light in through the blinds.

I used to be a bootstrap libertarian. What do you mean, your mom went to jail last night? What do you mean, your dad has seven other kids from different mothers and you swear you will kill him if you ever see him again? What do you mean, you represent red and you'll die killing skreezies if you have to? Let's read some Holocaust memoirs, children. The older I get, the more sensitive I become. I doubt I can keep my countenance and discuss aloud Wiesel's account of the hanging of the small child in the concentration camps. I lost the ability to distance myself from it. I wake myself sobbing when I dream of it. The only thing that still makes me wonder how much control I have is that the moment I asked for compassion and humility, I began the four worst fucking years of my life, and I came out of it with a completely different mind. What, then, can I say I know with confidence?

It was a morning alone, my first Saturday in my new place. The Kenyan coffee was on the stove. The stock market news was on the radio. The cat was on the windowsill. Serenely I walked from the shower, nude, damp, drying my hair with a towel, into the brilliant sunshine. The trucks drove by trailing the jetskis up to the lake. The radio bleated miserably. The cat's yellow gaze never wavered. And an eleven year old boy sitting in the corner doughnut shop with his brothers met my eyes as I realized my nakedness was fully revealed through the open blinds. He squinted. Then grinned. Then pointed. And I jumped into the closet. But there was no covering what had been uncovered. There was no way it could be denied. I had become the naked woman.

There is no grade worth the destruction of your character by dishonesty. Your bootless honor student tears mean nothing to me. Did you know that I conceal everything I have become from my family? Did you know that I once was a two-timing whore? Did you know that even recognizing these things, and making efforts to change, and changing, I am still much less than I strive to be? Where the hell do I get off? Jetskis are fucking fun.

Despite everything, I'm still a naked woman visible from the doughnut shop window as you tear up some apple fritters and papery milk from a fist-sized carton with your brothers when you are eleven years old. There will always be a first pair of breasts. There will always be a doughnut. There will always be Saturdays in summer. Or maybe they will none of them ever happen again. Maybe they never happened at all. I will watch and find out.

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