“It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace…I wish I had a river I could skate away on…” (Joni Mitchell. River. Blue album)
There is finally some peace outside my window. I wish I had some internal peace to match it. The screamer and attacker of passers-by was hauled off mid tantrum. They will be back. This happens occasionally: the screamer and shouter goes too far and they get hauled into the back of an ambulance by the cops. They are then away from anything between a night and a few weeks. They then return to scream outside my window. “Oh I wish I had a river to skate away on!” Joni is singing softly over my speakers. If I could only save one album, if only one piece of musical art could survive from the 20th century, it would be Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. We have sat down together wailing the words, “I’m so hard to handle. I’m selfish and I’m bad” into the bottom of a bottle, or the depths of a pillow. Joni doesn’t know it, but she is my friend.
She gives me good advice about skating down rivers. Joni cackles knowingly about some guy choosing a chick who desires mundane comforts like ‘coffee perculators’ and ‘dishwashers’, over her gloriously free, artistic self. We both just wanted someone to love us, to be that special person for. As far as I am aware Joni came close, but no cigar. I failed miserably too. I am too in love with the Muse to bother throwing myself at the altar of heartbreak hotel. I am too tired for that. Too old. Besides…I ran out of time. There is no sweetheart in skates and mittens who would ever want to join me on the frozen water. Not now. Not after everything. Not after all the failure, all the suffering, all the internal wars that I have fought, and not to mention the outside wars that have often left me shaking in the corner, hoping for just one more day…and one more day….and one more day after that.
Where is that river? I think I can still teach these old feet a few old tricks. I used to know how to fly. I have been devoting my time to writing for journals and competitions. I have a long list of submissions that I am waiting for an answer on. I put together an entire book of poetry. I’ve written short stories and essays and creative non fiction. I have put my back to the plough and pushed for all I am worth. Which, in the end of things, let’s face it, is not very much at all.
I think I am lonely sometimes. I don’t know how quite to characterize the sensation of emptiness. I love my son more than life itself. He is generous with his time and attention. We watch tv together, we play games. He cooks…I eat. I have my darling Ruthie, who more than tolerates me on a regular basis. I wish she was five minutes round the corner and I could haul my travel mug of tea over to her and bother her by sitting on her couch and distracting her with tales from the gutter. There are empty spaces left by people who were vital to me and who now are gone. Most of the time I do not talk of them, nor look into that hole too intently. If I did, I would fall in and never be able to claw my way out again. Last night I peered into that pit and almost was not able to climb out of it. I don’t tend to cry. I don’t tend to look at old photos or think about what should have been. It is not that I don’t think about it every single day, but more that it makes me too desperately upset. Perhaps it is not loneliness, for the time I spend alone, I do not mind the peace of my own company. Perhaps it is loss, which feels something like the same thing, but not quite. Loneliness can be eased. Loss is forever.
It is silent outside. There is peace out there. I wish I had some internal peace and quietude. I live with that nagging voice that tells me I failed. It tells me I did all the wrong things. It berates me for both my actions and my lack of them. It never leaves me to sit in peace. Adding on the outside horror to the inside- my-head noise makes me nervous. Every time the person who lives outside my window screams up at me that they are going to kill me. Calls me a bitch. Screams that they are going to firebomb my house. Screams and screams and fucks and fights….every single night after damn night they are there I lose a little more of my peace. I have terrible PTSD. I cope with it. I live with it. It is part of me. I can only cope with it as long as I have a measure of quietude in which to still its insistent voice. I can only tell it that it is overreacting if I am actually safe. I am not safe. I am never safe. I am under fucking siege.
This person has friends. They harass me when I am trying to leave my house. They fight outside and scream and shout. They seem to think that no one can hear their yelling and their screeching. They scream insults and slurs. This is a bunch of bad bad white people with hatred in their hearts. Being outside and destitute has not made them understand or feel empathy for the suffering of others, no. It has not taught them that we are all the same. It has not even shown them that privilege is real. Instead these people blame everyone around them. They attack elderly Asian woman, yell slurs at people of color and behave in a way that the police now know the sound of my voice. There are some instances where I literally fear for people. There are times when I have feared for myself. I don’t want to be told that this person ‘probably wont do anything, that they are all words and no action.’ I want my peace back .No one expects silence in the city. No one minds homeless people merely sleeping and living outside. It is the constant threats, screaming yelling, vast amounts of trash, and then culminating in actually attacking me that I mind. I have had enough of it. I can’t afford to move, I can’t move at all. So I have to just tolerate it. I love this City. I love this State. I am so grateful for my house and the time with my son. I just wish that I was not forced to live with this person torturing this part of the block and refusing to move on, or go into a shelter and just stop screaming all night and all day long.
I have a list of things I am meant to be working on. Piles of writing, both artistic and journalistic. I was recently published at https://theautoethnographer.com/surviving-rape-and-abuse-in-an-international-marriage/ . This was a huge honor. I am hoping to continue to improve. It means everything to me to actually succeed as a writer, and make a success out of my art and craft. I miss writing nice things for my blog as regularly as I used to, but my time and inspiration is mostly eaten up trying to make a success out of my writing career. I have to at least try. Perhaps that lack of peace can be used as fuel for writing, but mostly I am just tired and tearful nowadays. I had to shut down my Patreon for practical reasons, which was also kinda sad.
I wish everyone out there some peace as we head into the most challenging part of the year. Loss, loneliness, sadness, aging: all of that sad stuff is worse at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most of all, most selfishly of all, I wish some peace for myself. I have to do something that means I can stay with my son. He is all I have left. I wish I had a river…how I wish I had a river….