Objects in the rear view mirror are always slightly distorted, closer than they seem, smaller, larger: different. The mirror of time changes everything. It knocks off the edges, it sharpens the corners, it blurs and it reflects back through a filter of love, or hatred, affection or destruction of emotion. The rear view mirror is a wrecking ball of reality, everything is subjective, everything changes, nothing is True or Real. Truth disappears in the passing of time, away from the perfect pin prick moment of clarity, the ineffable “now”, the holy grail of absolutism. Right and wrong. Black or white. Here or there. Said or unsaid. A word can cause a war, a death, a life, a merging of fortunes, an alliance or a broken record spinning around uselessly coming back to that jarring jump, not finding the groove to carry on playing a tune that is true to how it should be. Altered. Smeared. Missing a chunk of the full picture, the untainted track: missing that which I have searched for so many years, and so many miles. I have searched for this missing piece for aeons, hunting here and there for that chunk of the record, so I can glue back in place the reality of what was, and move on to what will be.
My age provides invisibility. Whereas before men would react to me only as a sexual being, riff of of my attractiveness to them, now they respond to me as a person. It is not always nice. They want to cut you down to size, to reduce you to the role they want you to play. I was never beautiful. I was never stunning. I was never even pretty. What I was, was cool. Men, women, they wanted to fuck me, wanted to possess me for what they saw in the moment as attractiveness. What they were responding to is that mirror, that shard that reflects back at them, that spark of life that would not give up. I was empty. Hollow. A straw woman. Giving this of myself or that, for money or for kicks, for affection less than for reward. I filled that hollow with motherhood and pure love. I filled that hollow with responsibility and pure cold vicious desire to survive that which tried to kill me. Twisted steel soul cage around a beating bleeding heart that I wore on my sleeve for everyone to peck at or pick off, or squeeze the life out of until I found myself standing on ___ St with tears in my eyes, not from sadness, but anger and frustration. There is only so much anyone can take.
I walked out alone today. I turned onto ____St. “Whatchooneed?” A thin face peered out from a tent and looked at me sizing me up. “Chiva,” I replied softly. He shook his head. Wrong vendor. He pointed me towards the guy with the goat, the manteca, the butter for the dry bones. I took it as a message from the universe, and turned back, away from the open air market, away from death and the end and destruction of everything I have sought to build. I turned away and went back inside. People sing about the turning away, the walking off, the heading for the number 9 train and getting five hundred miles away from home. I walked a thousand miles away from myself in a moment, and a thousand miles back in another. I walked through the door, up the stairs, I made myself smile at people and exchange pleasantries. The blood was seeping down my hand, my nails had dug into my palm so hard I had made myself bleed. I bled over my Woodstock shirt, angrily realizing that it’s pale yellow and pink and blue tie dye was now marred with claret. I was not the first time I had gone out to score and come back covered in blood. It might have been the first time I went to cop and forced myself to turn back.
Lighting a thin ugly joint of amnesia haze, wishing it would live up to it’s name, and realizing that I was asking too much at the same time, standing in the car park blowing the smoke out towards the afternoon Californian air, figuring this was better than nothing, and all the Butter-Sellers had to offer was mechanical fentanyl and certain death, rather than a clipper ship ride to ancient China and a possibility of survival, cursing the damn war on drugs that is killing innocent people, the lovers and the freedom fighters, the sensitive and the creatives, I walked up stoned and sad, flopped down on the bed, and let the Boy hug me.
He patted me on the head. “Can’t we get through this, Ma?”
“Dunno, kiddo. Maybe.” I suppose both of us will take maybe. Maybe I can take more abuse, maybe I can take more disappointment, maybe I can take longer in the shelter, maybe I can make money from writing, maybe I can pay for life, buy my way out of this mess, Maybe maybe. Maybe I can roll my sleeve up and still turn it down. Maybe vanity will lose against the better angels of my discontent. Maybe.
At least I did and tried rather than sat in a cell wondering if anyone I loved was going to survive Mr Charming and his piggish abuses. At least I lived and loved and rode the roads, and told bank managers to fuck off. Calling today, after being told this credit union accepted undocumented people and City ID to open a bank account, then being told that no SS number, no account. If you have a SS number, you ain’t undocumented, the stupid motherfuckers with their sneer and their shiny shoes that I hope get marred with hepatitis excrement on Geary or Post. At least I loved, and fought and played and sang. At least I am not a curtain draw-er, at least I stare at life full in the face and tell it I see the abuses it has wrought on the people it seeks to destroy at the expense of others who thrive. This inequality will not go unnoted. This unfairness will not go unchallenged. I will look at every face of every woman who has been beaten and gouged in the name of ‘rough sex’, I will look at the murder victims, the bodies, the victims of the war against women, against those who don’t fit the prescribed privileged mold. I will look and I will document, and I will scream and I will tell. I will shout it out until someone hears me. We are all screwed unless we care.
The poor are trapped under red tape and thoughtless rules. Give a family a subsidy for free housing for a year, then refuse to cosign or guarantee rent, and insist that family is able to pay for themselves. If any of us could pay for ourselves here at the shelter, we would not be in the damn shelter. We are not here for fun, not for shits and giggles. We are here because we cannot pay. We are here because we have no credit score, no ability to do this without assistance. In the end, it is all excuses to not pay out the subsidy. It is excuses not to help and to make people give up, or kill themselves, or defeat themselves, or get mad and get thrown out. It is a way of not helping while saying, whilst lying that they fucking tried. They don’t try to do anything except break the broken further.
“We don’t have to apply” said the housing worker, slyly. “We can just forget applying”. Her tongue slithered between her lips like a lizard or snake. Burrough’s weasel face appeared in my mind’s eye, “Not so quick, young grasshopper. You know her game.” That is the trick, to know their games and win. To absorb the hatred and the lack of respect and care and persevere, but does it always have to be so difficult, does it always have to be so hard? Does it always have to be so negative?
The negativity is in the air in San Francisco. As we walked up Polk Street a man was shouting to the air, all of a sudden he stopped by a city utilities box, encased in steel, painted green, with a Freida Khalo-esque woman’s face painted onto the side of it with flowers and vines entwining the urban ugliness. She captures him, and he stops dead in his tracks and moves towards the painted lady, making the small cooing noises usually reserved for wild animals. He is pure psychotic predator. “You said you loved me!” he screamed at her acrylic face. “You lied! You said you loved me! You promised!” He was wailing now, distraught and bent towards the sky, leaning backwards into his anger. “You hate me! You hate…me? I hate YOU!? I hate YOU! You said you loved me.” He is holding the green large metal box close to his body, jerking and thrusting into it’s planes of reality and painted beauty and ugly coldness. He turns suddenly cold. “Bitch! Bitch!” Now he is punching the box, shaking it, smashing his fists against her crude features and the painted nature and the pulse of the city that runs through the box, fuelling the street lights and the other sparks that make this urban hole in humanity run faster and brighter. I grab the boy by the arm, and we take an unwanted right onto the next block, giving him a wide berth. A security guard lumbers into view, shakes her head, and then turns back again towards her post by the hotel or the bank, or wherever she had come out of to see what the commotion was.
The city is running on anger and terror, and everyone is desperate, everyone is dying, nothing is safe, nothing is accepted, everything is ok and nothing is alright at the same time. People living, people dying, dogs barking at nothing, babies crying. The faces are all covered and the hands are kept to themselves unless it is to push to punch or shoot or hit or take. Everything is messed up. Nothing is right any more. The west coast is on fire. The smoke is in the air and it makes my eyes water, but the tears are not from sadness or laughter but from frustration.
I look out my window to see a man wrapped in a blanket but wearing no pants and no shoes, a spike in his hand and nothingness in his eyes. Manteca. Butter on the bones.
Nothing to do but walk away.