Thursday was awful. At 7:30, Jack went off to work reminding me that he was rehearsing with Alastair and wouldn’t be home ’til after 8 p.m. The baby looked at me with an expression that said he was expecting yet another fantastically interesting day. And the next 12 hours opened up in front of me like a black hole. I had no little missions — no shoes to take to the shoemaker, no photos to take to the lab, no reason to go to Costco or the post office, no poems to polish or chapters to rewrite. What was I doing with my life? I was irretrievably out of touch with my gifts. I consumed, but had nothing to give back to the world but frivolous links.
In the past when I’ve faced days like this I’ve taken comfort in the routines of the workplace — you show up early, you take a little extra pleasure in wasting time with your coworkers, you have drinks later with friends. On the whole you can gently turn the day around without ever really facing the darkness inside. But there were no distractions that day. Peek-a-boo didn’t help. Taking the Peanut to the grocery store killed about 20 minutes. And compounding all this was the fear that I was truly depressed and that the Nut would inherit my misery. Bad Mommy.
I was both relieved and more unhappy than ever when I tried to explain all this to Jack at the end of the day, as he seemed to think I was complaining that staying home all day and raising my son wasn’t privilege enough for me. It was difficult but he eventually understood. I am a writer, not a talker, I guess.
Friday, like a good suburban mom, I woke up, said Fuck it, put Jackson in the Volvo, and went shopping. I bought little clothes from the sale rack at Baby Gap. I bought myself a pair of low-rider jeans. I bought a lipstick at Aveda. I felt like a Montecito housewife (minus the fake tits, blonde hair, and Cadillac SUV).
As I was walking up State toward the car (Jackson was incredibly patient through all of this, I might add, but he was ready for lunch), I walked past this kid who was sitting on a planter with a little pile of blue books next to him. “Poetry books, five dollars,” he said to me — do I walk like a poetry reader? — in a relaxed, non-pushy, but basically hopeful way. So I turned the stroller around and went back. He was a nice-looking kid with dark hair and two hoops piercing each side of his lower lip. The book was self-published. He had taken out a loan to pay for the printing. It had a blurb on the back from an assistant professor of urban studies at Westmont, our local Christian college. I have a weakness for cute alternative-looking Christians, so I didn’t even read more than the table of contents when I decided to give him five bucks and take a book. Who knows, there might be some gems in here, I thought. Plus I wanted to support that kind of initiative and commitment.
Well, the poetry’s full of despair and splinters and smoke and shards and smashing and clutter, and on the whole reads like something a young man smitten with poetry and his own tangled feelings would write. Which makes him no different from me, I guess, except that he still needs to learn to put that pretty smile of his into words.
I Know A Man
As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking,–John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.