I’ve been invited to participate in a writer’s workshop over the course of the next six weeks, and spent much of my writing day yesterday working on notes for a short story to present and develop during that time. Life as art, gonzo daydreams, all that good stuff is fine and well, but can I actually write a story? Stories are a different beast.
It is foggy out there today. The sky is a milky grey and the air has a damp chill to it. I am not complaining. Some workmen have lashed together some tarps and are optimistically setting about painting the outside of one of the neighboring houses-turned-apartment-buildings. It looks like rain. Everyone apart from these men is hoping for a break in the tinder box dryness. The forecast says it is going to be dry today. The old breaks in my bones tell me otherwise: they are aching. I should probably turn the heat on.
I didn’t hear the foghorn this morning, and when I looked outside I was surprised by the thankful relative silence in the air. Usually this kinda weather elicits an appallingly precisely rhythmic distant blare. The gap between the blasts is just close enough to drive a person to the brink of insanity, but far enough apart to give false hope that perhaps, just maybe, the last damn blast of the horn was the final one. I don’t think I have ever heard the final blast of a foghorn before it is turned off. It seems to go on forever, until it doesn’t, and then it does again. It is a lingering repetitive torture. The foghorn that blows off the Oregon coast in one of the more cliff-edge campgrounds is louder by virtue of proximity. That one can shake a girl right out of her tent. This distant hoot is more of an irritant than an outright attack on the senses.
Still, it remains silent out there, apart from the blare of car alarms, the sirens travelling on their way to fires, heart attacks, car accidents and crimes, the occasional scream of fear, and a last night, horribly, a drunken personal brawl between two men who clearly knew each other well. Recriminations, old wounds, brotherly long held grudges filled the air as they beat each other to a pulp outside of my window. I rolled over, found a cool section of pillow, and went right back to sleep. The sounds of the city are the sounds of San Francisco respirating, breathing it’s chimera vegetable, rock and cyber life out into the foggy air. Silence is death. Right now, apart from the rush of vehicles, it is pretty quiet out there, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.
Where is the man who shouts ‘Cal Fire!’ from his corner spot? Where is the laughter of teenagers, the chatter of gaggles of mature ladies gathering outside for a smoke? Where is the distant echo of my neighbor’s television shows? He is always home. I haven’t smelt him for a while. His cooking smells grotesque, as if he is frying turds in ancient piss. I think he needs to change his frying oil. I have never smelt anything so grotesque that is meant to be headed towards someone’s digestive system. I wonder if he is ok in there. He is awfully quiet. Maybe he has gone to stay with his mother, or is working insane hours. Perhaps he decided to read books and eat salad.
….I keep worrying at the notes for the writing workshop. This could be a great opportunity for me, and don’t want to fuck it up. Who cares if the man next door cooks up toxic waste on his burners? Who cares that I have to stand outside (10 foot from every doorway and window) in what seems like a war zone at 10pm, just to smoke a joint? No one else seems to bother following the rules, but in my situation, I figure I have to try and abide by the rules as much as humanly possible. They do say to live outside the law you gotta be honest.
San Francisco sits quietly waiting for the future. Everyone is pulling for peace, hoping for a happy summer, holding onto the faint possibility that covid is over and there will be no more escalation of outbreaks. I do not know how much more we can all take, and I am deeply suspicious that any of it is entirely natural. It smells like war games to me. It feels like an attack on our right to live tiny quiet lives of small desperations and little aspirations. It looks like a shit storm is blowing in on the wind.
I sit here quietly waiting on the future, though I cannot see one for me. I can never see a future for me. It always looks as if I am driving up to one of those deceptive mountain skimming roads, that appear to be forcing you towards a dead end of rock and rubble, grass and tarmac, and instead shoots you around the base of the mountain, with the steaming bubbling crazy river to your right, and a road that you cannot possibly see the route that it takes until it has flung you round, like a pebble from a slingshot, hurtling you towards the blinding late afternoon light. No, I can never see the path ahead. It always looks like a dead end to me. There is never any light in the tunnel, merely enough tunnel to delay the inevitable headlong crash into the wall that is waiting for me just around the corner.
No. I can never see a future, at least not one that is acceptable. Would it kill anyone to let me and the boy live quiet lives here, building one of those tiny lives that leave no mark, but are full of happiness, nevertheless? Would it hurt to allow us sanctuary? Would it really shift the gears of anyone important if we were simply left be? I don’t think so. But then again, fairness has nothing to do with any of it. The world is not fair. Life is not fair, and railing against the inevitable cruelty of it all is a waste of energy: it is going to do what it is going to do anyhow, even if that is pain, suffering and loss. Loss.
I have lost so much. I poured so much of my life and love into dead end-projects. I buried all of my love into a future that never got to happen. I bled myself dry. And then I wonder why I am so tired? I wonder why I want to sleep and sleep and sleep and cry in the corner of this room in the sweetest little apartment on the Bay. I am such a child. I screw up my fists into tight little infantile balls and pummell the pillow screaming names into its soft mumble depths. I am a gun. I am silenced. I beg to no one, but on my knees never the less.
I never let you see this. I don’t let you see the desperate begging, the hollow feeling. The terror of the inevitable last separation, where I will lose my son as well. The horror of everything I built, and how it got pulled to pieces. The heart rending sadness. The desperation of the fight. The final acceptance that the Hague Convention was going to do what it threatened to do to me and all I could do was hold on and survive it, and try and drag through as much with me as I could.
I don’t let anyone see the pain in my bones. I try not to wince on the phone as I try and get up in this broken body, old before its time, hurting every time I move because some man thrashed the living daylights out of me. Raped me. Crushed me. Twisted me. Destroyed my sinews and bones and muscles. No. I don’t let you see this weakness. And because I don’t let you see it, you presume I am strong. You think I have something to give. You get mistaken and mixed up.
I am not safe.
I will never be safe.
Between the law and my husband who will not divorce me, and who would, I think, do something terrible if he caught up with me, I am not safe.
But still, I get drained dry and drained dry again. To survive all this, to run and live outside for five years just to survive a man who tried to kill me inside and out, my spirit and my body. To have to go to a shelter. To lose so many people I loved – my family. To do all this and then put a smile on my face and be the goofy, sweet, attentive, kind mother that the Boy deserves, is a tall order. I give everything I have, and then some more again. Just how much more I can give? Just how much more can I take?
I need time. I need money. I need help if I am going to not hit that wall at 100 mph and burst into light and nothingness. I need to survive. But how?