I spent my life married to an assortment of alcoholics, musicians and mental patients who made interesting, but unreliable mates. Clearly, I wasn’t getting younger and like the Fifth Element in the science fiction movie of the same name, I was great at rescuing people but lousy when it came to love. What else could there be, I asked, when I had exhausted relationships that provided me with neither income property, nor my own syndicated newspaper column, let alone a sense of peace and pulchritude?
Painting the Walls
I moved back to my apartment after a period of its being sublet. But the place required painting. I asked around. Anyhow I got lucky, a man who knew his flat from semi-gloss and everything in between. At first I thought my walls, closets, and bathroom would only need a fresh coat of white. For years, everything had been white. But then my painter handed me color sample books: “Roadster Yellow, Norman Shaw Goldspar, Navajo White, Jacobean Lace,” colors to open up a skylight in any ceiling; “Split Pea, Old Claret, Cinnamon Slate, Pumpkin Pie,” I wanted to taste each one; climbed up the side of my closet in “Blue Hydrangea,” encased in a cloud of “Harbor Fog,” and peeked around doors wearing nothing but “Seville Scarlet.” Toward the end of the afternoon when the painter had almost given me up for lost, I named my three colors for the ceiling, trim, and walls.
I’m the kind of driver everyone cuts in front of; I see this as my gift to traffic, an assurance that no matter how backed up the cars along the freeway, I can guarantee a hole in front of my Toyota that someone can slip through. Let’s not say I’m a bad driver; instead, let’s say I’m someone who listened carefully to her first driving instructor about always leaving at least three car lengths between my car and the one in front of me. Obviously, I don’t like getting close. Which is what I thought about when I entered Walmart to get lightbulbs and a few other household items, necessary as I put my house back together following a three-year absence.
Prying a shopping cart loose, I saw row after row of red heart-shaped balloons spawning everywhere over my head, a cruel joke, reminding me about the approach of Valentine’s Day and that I had just left someone I loved. But as I wheeled my cart down the aisle, I was comforted in knowing that I could shop for the same identical items here that my love placed in his cart every weekend: pizza hot pockets, cans of biscuits; there was something reassuring in seeing those same brands winking at me from behind their freezer doors. And for the first time, I was grateful to Walmart.
Apple Store iPhone Fix
Lady Liberty sat in a wheelchair at the corner of High Street and MacArthur wearing a pair of tennis shoes that stuck out beneath her green robe and sunglasses. Passing her in my car, she waved a sign reminding me about taxes. I was going to the Apple Genius Bar to talk to some knowledgeable person about my new iPhone. Of course, I should’ve been thinking about tax season, gathering receipts filed into separate envelopes, cabbages waiting to be hoed into one row.
In the meantime, on the way to the Apple Store I’m streaming music from my iPhone on my car’s audio system. Since I’ve moved back from Louisiana, I’ve needed to create a buffer, can’t bear to listen to local radio stations, count egrets as I reenter the Bay Area, wrap a bubble of myself around myself. Right now I’m driving to the Apple Store because this new phone doesn’t seem to work with the Blue Tooth system of my Camry. I can listen to music, but I can’t make or receive calls. Basically, I’m looking for an excuse to return the damn thing. I’ve got two weeks. I’m glad to see that the jade plants are in full bloom. Pink push-pins.
Buying a Bed
I realized it was over the evening you returned from rescuing your brother. You had driven several hundred miles to his daughter’s house. She had vowed to take care of her poor old dad who had been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, but it turned out she mostly was interested in getting Power of Attorney over his bank accounts. We talked on the phone as you made your way there and back. In the middle of the night, you stopped at McDonalds for coffee and kept driving. Your brother had returned home, but was very sick. I knew I could not help take care of him. I asked for how long he would be staying with us, which is when I heard the big snap. “What the fuck. You let me take care of that. I’ve been close to my brother for years. Any woman who comes between me and that relationship can leave right now.” You repeated yourself for the next ten minutes with generous helpings of fuck thrown my way.
I’d already known that I took second place to your daughter. For the first several years, our time together was continually dictated by her comings and goings and while as a parent, I understood how the needs of our children come first, I couldn’t reconcile how our needs as a couple seemed secondary. For me, the love that two people generate is the engine that holds a family together. Maybe you never had that. Maybe you never knew. I’m not sure how this happened.
The walls are painted. Ceilings are a creamy Navajo White, walls Guilford Green, and the trim, California Chamois. There’s a new light in my room. Next week, I will think about buying a bed.
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It would be great to hear from you! Who is my dedicated reader in Tempe, Arizona? Also Tucson. Judi, is that you in Mohegan Lake? And what about those dedicated readers in Monroe, Louisiana who continue to look at my blog. Baton Rouge? New Orleans? Nancy? Oakland, give a shout, will ya? New York, let me know what you are thinking. It would be great to hear from the readers of this blog.
- Review of my poetry collection “Two Places” by Nina Serrano of Estuary Press.