Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Returning

The gears groan beneath my weight, shaking off rust from the months of my absence.  I worry for a moment - am I too out of shape for this? - but the bike propels easily with a kick, as I follow my Dad down Rebecca Ave, the first leg of our 4 mile trek to The Waterfront for breakfast and our various Thanksgiving preparations.  I was expecting a crummy holiday but it’s turned out to be an enjoyable one.  I’ve spent the past couple days exploring the abandoned buildings, proudly showing my Dad my photographs in between each expedition.  Even the mayor’s wife, Giselle Fetterman, greeted me warmly on Braddock Avenue my first day back in town. 
“I knew you missed that ruin porn!” she laughed as I showed her my work for the day.  I grinned and chimed “Yup!”, then she gave me a new pair of snow pants from the “Free Store” that’s been installed in an old railroad storage pod while I’ve been away.
And god it’s been awhile that I’ve been away.  House number 420 by the convent has been torn down.  That disappointed me, I wanted to explore it again, but it’s just another part of the deal, living in a ghost town, and I’ve long since grown accustom to that.  You never know what will be left when you come home again.  My Dad jokes someday our house will stand in the middle of a field, and I can start a farm then.  He’s probably right.  The house next door has been abandoned since we moved in, and 7 out of 16 on the block are either marked as condemned or well on their way to that fate.    But the demolition trucks have yet to grace our block, so I have the leisure to patiently wait for the boards on house number 1131 to rot enough for me to break in and record what time and neglect has done.  Maybe next visit it will be ready for me. 
The week continues on.  My Dad and I shoot pool one night at me favorite bar in town – the only bar in town – Puhala, across from the steel mill.  [W] interviews me for a piece she’s writing on the year in Braddock, and Wednesday I spend mostly on the freight train tracks.
 I’m sitting by the kitchen window Thanksgiving day, tagging the mornings photographs, when [C] walks in the front door.  My Dad and I are both surprised, but pleasantly so.  We’re both fond of [C], especially after the year we’ve been through together.   We fill each other in on the past few months, over cups of coffee and the smell of turkey in the oven.  The house on Mills was trashed again, we need to turn it over to more capable hands this time.  The cat sitter never showed but [C] took care of that.  “Hero of the day!” I shout at that new information, my Dad smiles and raises his glass.  Then I tell [C] about moving to Troy and my job at the Brown Bag.  By the afternoon [C]’s telling me about a trip to Rainbow Gathering, when my sister arrives.  We all chat for a minute, then the three of us take off to explore the buildings, leaving Dad to cook.  I’m thankful for the company.  Urban exploration can be a lonely hobby, pondering the decaying wreckage of abandoned lives, and they cheer me up, pointing out things in my favorite buildings that I never noticed before.  Like “Super Nintendo!”, which [C] exclaims excitedly, holding a grey box out in front of him for me to see.  [K] crawls from the window of one abandoned building into the next.  “Never thought of that…” I say to myself, then follow her hesitantly, nervously staring at the broken glass and alley below my muddy boots, two stories down.  Our adventures are broken by shrimp and cocktail sauce, veggies and dip.  The questions from Dad about our findings, cause he’s too old for this, or so he says, but he’s been fascinated by the strange hobby since I can remember.  [K] deposits a pair of shoes in the living room,  a token from the burn-out at the corner of the block, before we move on again.
By 4 o’clock its dinner time and [C] and I left [K] with Dad while we went to check on the Mills house before [C] had to go to his own family.  We’re quiet, the two of us in his car going back to Rebecca Avenue.  We’ve been quiet since we found heroine needles in a drawer on the second floor.
“It’s a shame.” He says finally, breaking the silence, with a strange tone to his voice that I’ve never heard him use before.  I feel guilty for a moment, suddenly realizing that [C] cared for the house as much as I did.  I had got so absorbed in my own worries over it that I forgot how hard he worked too.
I sigh, sadly “It’s disrespect…”  We had worked so hard for that house once.  It had been over our heads from the get go, perhaps we always knew that, but we tried none the less. 
“Yeah…” he agrees. “but it was bound to happen.  I mean, Occupiers…”  I nod my head solemly.  Our camp fell apart due to drug addicts causing drama, thwarting political progress and reeking chaos in general.  It got to the point that you’d think you knew someone real well, maybe been on a couple protests together and debated the possibility of a true Marxist community on a mild afternoon, or spent an evening trading guitar songs, but the next thing you know they’re stealing out of the kitchen tent to get their smack for the night and Night Watch is out with their headlamps on trying to catch the bastard who up until the night before was a fellow revolutionary in this crazy dream of a movement, and somebody else is writing up the outline for the politically proper way to address the incident in General Assembly that night so that all of camp can have a discussion, with every voice heard.  All over a can of beans.   Drug addicts.  It’s amazing the damage they can cause in the simplest ways.  If it had been 9 and a half months ago, I would have fought him on the comment.  I would have insisted in the revolution, argued with resolute faith in night watch, that all they needed was time to catch every addict and clean up our camp, bargained that we just need time to survive this winter, man, cause united we’ll never be defeated, but it’s not 9 and a half months ago anymore.  I’ve learned a lot and I know he’s right.  To have a perfect society you need to trust, but not everyone is worth trusting.  That’s where we went wrong, but there’s no use in talking about it anymore.  We both know now and that’s hard enough.
“I’ll tell Gisele.” I say softly, not looking forward to it.  She trusted me with the house too, and I know it’s not my fault, but it feels like it is. 
“Okay.”  He says, then after a moment adds, “Can you believe it’s been over a year now?”
“I mean with Occupy and everything.”
“I know, Braddock too.”
“[W] said she looks back and it feels like a dream.  Like, it was so random, so crazy, it could only be a dream sequence, but it really did happen, ya know?”
[C] chuckles, “Yeah.  And we never even got that donkey!”
“Hey we had the goat.”  We both start to giggle at that, lightening up finally.  That damn goat.  “I swear to god it cursed me.”  I groan.  “I’m never taking an animal from Louis again.  All I wanted was a pound of cheese and he gives me a fucking goat.”  It’s a bitter memory in its own way, it died and I rashly quit my job to care for it and the house, but I can’t help laughing now.  That day I went to the butcher for a pound of cheese and came back with a baby goat.
“Performed any enemas since then?” He asks teasingly.  He’s referring to one of my desperate attempts to save the goats life.
“SHUSHH.”  I say, but can’t stop laughing now. I catch my breath then shout “Well fuck, I am never performing an enema again!”
“You mean, on a goat, in the back yard.” He adds.
“Yeah.” I laugh.  “never like that…. Remember the cat fish?”
“The ‘sorry we’re drunk again, don’t look in the freezer.’ Blood covered note on the kitchen table cat fish?”
“Yeah, that one.” I say, turning to him with a shit eating grin.
“Remember leaving the Lawn Mower Man?”
“Oh jesus I was scared as hell!”
“I can’t believe he never woke up….”
“Me too…”  We’re going down the cobblestone alley to Rebecca Avenue then, in a minute it will be time to go home and he’ll continue on his way to Monroeville.  Maybe he’ll stop in the house first for a minute, maybe not.  I’m not sure what to say anymore.  It’s been such a year. Suddenly, something [W] said during our interview pops into my mind.   “[W] asked what I learned from the year, or got out of it, like it was some sort of experience or something.”  I stammer quickly.  “Like I chose to move here and wanted this all to happen.”   [C] gives me a questioning look.  “Well… I don’t know.” I say doubtfully, forgetting where I was going with mentioning it in the first place.
“And…?” he asks.
“I said I learned something, but I don’t know what it is yet….. What do you think?”
“I think I learned how to perform a goat enema.”  He says, and I could be mad but I can’t help but laugh instead.  Maybe it was all never meant to make any sense.  Some things are just too ridiculous.  I don’t remember what we talked about next, as [C] parked the car and we walked up to the house.  I don’t remember what my Dad and sister said as we entered the house, or what [C] said to them as he got ready to leave, but I remember us in the kitchen, like so many times earlier that year.
“See ya Hug-a-bear.” I say, referring to our neighbor’s nickname for [C].
“Bye Zoo lady.” He says back.  We both grin and chuckle one last time, then he slips out the door.
Hell, I think to myself, maybe this year was worth it after all.  I lost a lot; pets, friends, things - I even lost myself – and I’m still not sure what I gained in return, if anything at all.  My adoptive mom would argue I learned a hard lesson in trust, and will be even tougher than before from now on.  In a conversation with [R] over the latter incidents we agreed that they needed to happen in order for me to be able to see other things better and make the changes I needed.  Most people I know say I survived it, and that’s all that is important, but somehow in that moment watching my sister whose relationship with me has been irrevocably broken and my father who put all his dreams in this town but left me to build them, busy themselves over the final preparations of Thanksgiving dinner, I couldn’t help but feel like it was worth it after all.  There was no rhyme or reason to the feeling, no logic whatsoever, and if you asked me why I couldn’t tell you.  It was just a feeling, warm and gold, soothing for a moment the wounds this year left behind.  Everything forgotten except for the nicknames and wine glasses that were somehow salvaged, stunned like a child tumbling out the seat of their first roller coaster ride. 
My Dad’s cat curls up in my lap, with a commanding “Meow” to pet her.  [K] sets down her guitar and joins us in the kitchen.  Then my Dad proudly takes out his turkey and sets it on the table, with mashed potatoes at either side.
“Happy Thanks giving everyone!” He chimes.
Today, it was worth it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On (Technically) Saturday

Lettuce, tomato, onion, four pickles, set aside, repeat.  Lettuce, tomato, onion.  Lettuce, onion, pickle.  Grab the bacon, ‘scuse me I’m behind ya.  Hey! I need an egg on that.  I need an egg.  YO I NEED AN EGG.  Here comes the buns, then the burgers.  Cheese, mayo, ketchup, mustard.  Close it, now wrap it.  ORDER UP.  Repeat.  I try to ignore the clock ever since I noticed it hanging in the lobby.  I don’t know why I have the urge to count down the minutes, it’s not like I get any relief when my shift ends at 4am.  I know all it means is that I’ll go back home to my loneliness and boredom.  Maybe write a little or read, hug Brooklyn and have a beer.  I look forward to work every week.  It’s the only chance I get to get outside my head for a bit, focus on something else.  Yet there I am, counting down the minutes with every lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, which is what we call The Works at The Brown Bag, by the way.
By time I get home I always feel sick.  It’s a pit of my stomach kind of nausea.  I don’t know if its smelling the food without eating all night, or stress from having to be alone again, or maybe I’m just kinda tired and it’s my body’s way of saying fuck you.  Hell if I know, but it’s always there, making it hard to eat, hard to sleep, hard to focus on anything really.  Tonight I sit in my car for a minute and force down some cold pizza that Barry at the Tavern gave me before my shift, then I slip inside and turn on my light.  Its 5:23am now, and I’ve settled in with my computer.  I’m half way through my first beer, sitting cross legged on my futon in my underwear.  Brooklyn is passed out on the body pillow that he claimed for himself the day I got it.  I hear Ziva say something upstairs, the mice beneath the heat vent, Duchess whimper on the porch, my clock ticking, ticking away.  Just like the one on the wall at The Brown Bag.  Counting down the minutes to what I don’t know anymore.  Maybe sleep, maybe tomorrow.  Or maybe just SOMETHING.  Something that I don’t know, something that I need, something that will change this mundane routine of loneliness, self-pity and the wounds I never licked from all those yesterdays.  
There is no lack of things to do.  My room desperately needs cleaning and I never fully unpacked.  My instruments are in the corner waiting to be played.  I’m half way through a Charles De Lint novel and in the middle of three writing projects.  Yet I’m stuck on the bed helplessly staring at the walls, whispering to them of my sorrows, listening to the clock, counting still.  The sun begins to rise.  Black silhouettes of bare trees emerge out my window before a teal colored sky, making my white curtain glow.  I smoke one more cigarette and finish my second beer, then curl up deep inside my sleeping bag.  When I sleep I dream of strange lands and people I’ve never met before, or maybe they were traveling acquaintances once who I have long since forgot.  A man in a space ship takes me away.  In Africa an owl attacks me, suspended on a rope in the middle of a cavern, I kill it and we float to the ground together.  The man takes me to more far away lands.  Athens, Egypt, home, space.  I have a kangaroo and take it back with me.  It walks on a lease beside Brooklyn, with boxing gloves.  I dream of a friend I have, he won’t speak to me.  I sit on the floor before him, “Tell me what you’re thinking.” I beg.  There’s only our silence.  Then I wake up with the Kangaroo still in my head. 
I think it’s the morning still at first, the house is silent.  Brooklyn has pushed my door open and is nowhere in sight.  I call to him and he returns good naturedly.  After a quick puppy snuggle I reach for my phone and see that it’s nearly three.  8 hours to work, a new count down has begun.  I finish off the pizza Barry from the Tavern gave me and play guitar for awhile, but I haven’t been able to write a new song since I’ve moved here, so I get frustrated quickly.  At sunset I go to the swing sets and listen to music, watching the sky turn from orange to pink, violet then indigo.  It’s cold, and I forgot my stupid raccoon hat, but I don’t go home till well past dark.  I stay there, swinging away, only pausing to light a smoke every now and then, while my cheeks and ears burn with the wind, but I don’t notice that.  I’m lost in a daydream, somewhere far away.  Somewhere where I’m confident and laughing, and I don’t feel alone anymore.  I cross my fingers and call it December, then hop off the swings and slowly walk home, hands stuffed in my pockets against the cold. 
When I get home there’s still nobody but the dogs, so I hug Brooklyn close to my chest and settle back into my novel, flipping the pages above his head, lost in somebody else’s day dream now.  8:30pm, 2 and a half hours to my shift, I walk Brook one last time then head over to the Tavern again. 
I’m expecting a crowd at the Tavern, it’s Saturday night, so I’m surprised when I find the parking lot to be empty.  It’s a good thing for me though, I don’t like crowds.  For a minute I think maybe nobody’s there, but then I see Barry at the bar, and Amanda bartending, she’s my favorite.  They greet me warmly as they always do, and for the first time all day I start to smile too.  That’s the thing about the Tavern, you can’t help but feel good there, at least, I can’t.  Barry starts to talk about last night again and Amanda plays me at pool.  She beats me twice but I don’t mind cause she’s so happy about it and I just like to play really.  By 10:41pm, we’re smoking a cigarette and I need to start heading to work.  19 minutes to my shift.  Amanda runs to the cashier and returns with a Tupperware of potato soup.
“Here,” she says.  “there’s cheddar and bacon and stuff in it.”  Everyone in the Tavern has been saving my ass feeding me and Brooklyn since I ran out of food last week.  I don’t know how to thank her enough, or  tell her what I really feel, about how the Tavern is the first place to feel like home in so long, and how it’s the best part of my day.  How I wish I could give the world to everyone there, but I’m just a poor kid and really, they kinda give the world to me.  How I don’t understand why they’re so kind to me, and how much it means, especially right now.  But she doesn’t know the full story of how and why I’m here, nobody here does, so I can’t explain to her how much it means.  All I can say is “Thank you, thank you so much.” Then run to my car and drive back down the hill from where I came, one right turn on Fourth Street, straight on to The Brown Bag.
Lettuce, tomato, onion, four pickles. Repeat.

On Sailing Ships

The halyards on the flag pole outside the Tavern sound like a ship’s mast when I close my eyes, smoking a cigarette.  I remember when I used to do that every winter as a little girl.  The sailing season would seem so far away in December, I’d have to close my eyes every time I saw a flag pole just to feel like I was in the yards again.  Sometimes I’d get fancy, and pretend the taxi cabs tires on the pavement, flying down Lexington Avenue, were waves against a hull.  People’s shouts became gulls cries, foots steps around me were luffing sails.  But there always had to be the halyards first, because nothing else in the world can match that sound.  My father told me once, it sounds like loneliness, but I think it sounds like home.
Or at least I did back then. 
Before I knew what a home was, only that I’d never had one, and I put all my faith in sailing ships to take me to where I belonged.  I didn’t see how they possibly couldn’t back then.  Sailing was everything.     I drew doodles of my father’s boat, The Sparrow, during all my classes at school.  I would practice splicing rope when I couldn’t sleep at night, which was often, and would braid my hair with green and red bands for port and starboard.  I wrote songs and poems about the sea in my veins and watched both Wind and Master and Commander religiously.  Looking back now, I realize that it wasn’t a mere obsession or compulsion, but a desperate necessity.   I had to make everything about sailing because I was wrong, it wasn’t everything, it was the only thing I had.  Instead of seeing the cramped dark apartment around me and a disheveled little kid with bruises on her skin, I saw myself with the wind in my hair hurtling farther and farther away from shore, my Dad’s brave little sailor girl.   The dreams pushed me onward, every day and every night, until the season would begin again.
It’s amazing how life changes.  I got a job in the yards when I was 17 and did really good working myself toward SUNY Maritime Academy until I got raped for the first time on Columbus day in 2008 by some asshole from my last high school.  It was the same story you always hear.  We had a bit to drink, I thought he was my friend.  And nothing could fix me afterwards, not even sailing, so I had to move to Connecticut and leave it all behind.  After everything I had been through, that really broke me.  The last time I sailed my Sparrow was about two weeks after that.  My Father made a careless call and we almost lost her in a nor’easter.  He gave me full ownership that night but she’s been sitting in a boatyard ever since.  
I swore I’d never do that when I was a kid.
I swore I’d never, ever, forget The Sparrow, that I’d kick anybody’s ass who tried to stop me from sailing her, that I would starve and be homeless if that’s what it took to keep her afloat.  I got to be starved and homeless plenty after that fall, but I never got to do it for The Sparrow.  It was not romantic or for a cause, it was just the cards life dealt me, and I think that’s what I didn’t understand when I was a kid.  Though I had been homeless on and off throughout my teenage years, I thought when grown-ups were homeless they must be doing it for something, because once you turned 18 and your parents or child services couldn’t tell you what to do anymore, you were free.  Or maybe I just couldn’t accept that I was already a grown up, and what I was living through was just practice for what was to come.
I didn’t have to choose that life.  There was a point when a family took me in, and I had a real home and loving parents.  For the first time in my life, I even got my own room, with my own bed, and a door I was allowed to close whenever I wanted.  I could have stayed.  I could have gone to Norwalk Community College and made friends and left the rest behind.  I could have even continued sailing The Sparrow, maybe.  But I never thought about that.  Though I no longer had to dream away living in hell, there was a pain in my heart from everything that happened to me that even the hope for next sailing season couldn’t take away.  I couldn’t see that I finally had everything I needed, all I felt was pain, so I did the one thing all that bouncing around with child services taught me to do, I ran away.
I thought I’d come back to The Sparrow.  That’s how I reasoned that it would be okay.  But then again, I also thought I could just come home whenever I wanted to.  I didn’t realize you could get stuck places back then, or that life would move on without me.  I was a cocky 19 year old who thought I’d lived so much that nothing could possibly hurt me anymore, I’d already lived through it all anyway.  I stepped back out onto the road, past the magical 18th birthday, without the slightest thought that I could possibly fail.  But then again, I never thought I could leave my Sparrow, too.  
I started out good.  For the first 6 months I was in New York City working for Grassroots Campaigns raising money for the ASPCA, that’s how I got into activism.  I met Joe Wilson there and left with him for San Diego in August of 2010.  I was 20 years old.  When we first got out there I got in good with a captain at a new sailing school and he let me race with them once a week.  I was ecstatic, my dream had come true.  I was finally a racer, learning the skills I needed to fix The Sparrow and take her around the world.  But then Joe went crazy, ranting about aliens and the end of the world, and we had to break up, and the pain came back even worse than before, because this time I was all alone on what felt like the other side of the world.  I had a great job and great friends but I threw it all away one day.  I ran away again and I haven’t raced since.  
The years following that are a strange delirium of the road.  I bounce around a lot and I drink too much.  I tried killing myself for awhile, but they just put me in a hospital, and gave me a lot of drugs, and told me I’m not allowed to do that anymore.  So I kept on moving, never staying in one town for long.  They didn’t say Im not allowed to do that.  I’ve collected a repertoire of memories that make great stories in the bar: Running from Federalis in Mexico, Breaking into abandoned buildings in a ghost town, playing guitar on the streets of cities all across this country.  I tell them like a novel, a tale of adventure.  I am the narrator, not the main character.  I am a story, not a girl.  Though Im not sure why I tell them at all.
But I never tell them about sailing.  I don’t remember how.  I told myself I know nothing of leeward and windward long ago.  I call line rope, and cleats horns, and I never make the mistake of confusing right with starboard in casual conversation anymore.  I am not a sailor, that is for TV.  And my copies of Wind and Master and Commander collect dust in the bottom of my unpacked moving boxes where they belong. 

People ask me where I’m from and I’m not sure what to say anymore.  Sometimes I tell them the road, or just shrug and say “a lot of places.”  Sometimes I tell them Queens, cause that’s the simplest answer, but I barely lived there for a year.  Most of the time I try not to think about my life, but it’s hard because I’m all alone now and I’ve lost almost everything I used to own, and there is no hope for next season to dream it all away.  But I can stand outside the Tavern in this new town I’ve found myself and secretly remember.  I can still close my eyes for a moment, and that flag pole becomes Sparrow’s mast, the fallen leaves my luffing sails, the click clack of the pool table inside is a burst of spray across the bow, and I’m just a girl who believes in sailing ships again.

NY 6557 CE

Friday, November 2, 2012

On Pool, Kennedy's Tavern and Halloween

I lean over the green in my medieval corset, plastic sword tapping against the rail, my feathered hat drooping just low enough on my forehead that I can still take my aim.  Johnny is cheering me on over the mouth of a Bud set before his lips.  I take a deep breath, clack-clack, whir, plunk.  The que gracefully rolls across the green while the two disappears in the corner pocket.  I straighten up, then strut around the table with one hand tracing the rail, my new sued pirate heels I got at Goodwill today clicking slowly on the bar room floor, a smirk on my face.  I line up my next shot, then sink the five.  On my third shot I miss.
“Atta-girl.” Says somebody in the crowd.  I politely smile at the people watching the game, then take a swig of my Yuengling before stepping outside for a cigarette.  As I pass the table on my way out Boomer, the bartender, is chalking his stick.  I know I’ve pretty much already lost, but I don’t mind.  I just love to play.
“So why’re you so good?”  Asks Barry, joining me for a smoke.  At least I think his name is Barry, it could be Hogan or John or Mike for all I know.  It’s only my second day around and I’m still getting names right.
“Boomer’s kicking my ass.” I reply quickly.  He raises an eyebrow at me.
“The boys say you can shoot.”  He says.  I shrug and take another drag off my cigarette.
“My momma’s an alcoholic.  She thought it would be okay to drink around me and my sister when we were kids, long as it was in a pool hall.   That way we’d be learning something at least.”  I pause and stare down my cigarette.  I’ve made a point to not talk about my past since I came to town.  It’s been a few weeks since anybody’s been able to pin me down with a question.  “I don’t know, it got something productive done at least, I love to shoot.”
“So you were one of those, grew up in the bar.” He says smiling, looking off across the parking lot.  And the way he says it, I smile too.  It’s not so much a statement of fact or worse, pity, but more like he just said welcome home.  I start to relax and lean against the glass.    
“I like it here.”  I say, slurring a little bit, getting lost in my thoughts, the alcohol and memories he just brought up making me suddenly sentimental.
“We like you.”  He says.
“I don’t stick around anywhere for long.” I say, “But I’m glad I finally found you guys.”
“Well, stick around here for a bit, will ya?”  He asks genuinely.  I look at him and smile, the drunken pirate queen.
“Sure.” Is all I say, then I look back at the game through the window behind us.  Boomer is cleaning up the table.  He only has one ball left before he can sink the 8.  He glances at me then nods.  I crush my cigarette out, I’m up.
After two more turns I’ve lost.  Everyone is sympathetic.  “Aw what happened hunny?” Says Joan. “Boomer beat you again?  Don’t let him do that.”  
I laugh good naturedly, “Hell it’s ok, I’ll get better.”  Somebody raises their glass to toast to that and I return the gesture, emptying a quarter of my beer in one gulp.  It’s an older crowd in Kennedy’s Tavern, most of the folk are 40+, a handful of early 30 year olds.  I’m definitely the kid in the bunch.  But I like it that way.  I don’t connect with people my age to good anyway.  They all have inside jokes and make media references that I don’t understand.  I get awkward and weird and shy around other 20 some odd year olds.  They make me insecure.  But I like older folk.  They don’t care about saying the right thing and who said what last week.  Older folk got good wisdom, and I think they respect me, even though the Tavern crew thought I was 12 when I walked in the night before in my raccoon beanie with ears.
“Can we help you?” the bartended who I now know as Boomer had said to me rather gruffly over crossed arms.
“Yeah. “ I said trying to act tough.  “A beer.”  He studied my ID for awhile then started to joke with the patrons about it.  I gathered that they were all regulars.
“Holy shit she is 22!” Somebody exclaimed from the other side of the bar.
“I’ll be damned.”
“Hell Boomer, give the girl a beer!”
I immediately like them.
Now here I am, it’s Halloween night and the party’s pretty much broken up.  It’s just me and the regulars from the night before now, sitting almost in the same seats too.  I’m starting to wonder if they do this every night.  They’re laughing and talking about everyone who was here: the DJ that kept calling me and Joan Pirate Queen and Goddess, the rowdy couple on the dance floor.  I’ve got a big plate of food in front of me and am nursing my last beer of the night.
“You told me you live on slim jims and noodles last night, you remember that?” Asks Barry.
“Yeah.” I say with a mouthful of bread. “Cause I do.”
“You can’t be doing that.”  He says.  I sigh.  Everyone who gets to know me is always on my case about my living habits: My old clothes, my shitty diet, my aversion to sleep and all things calm and normal.  Basically, the symptoms of growing up as a runaway.
“Yeah, I know.”  I say exasperated.  “But don’t worry I’m making good use of your munchies right now.”
He smiles, “Yeah, I can see that.”
The night then winds to an end.  Everyone claps me on the shoulder on my way out.  “Welcome to the bunch.”  says Hogan, or was his name Mike?, “You’re a good new addition.”  Then I feel my cheeks warm with emotion again.  It’s the first place I’ve found since I moved here where I really feel like I belong.  I slowly, carefully, made my way home, two left turns and up the hill.  I let the dogs in my room and didn’t even care about the fleas.  They both laid their heads on my chest, happily grunting and sighing before falling asleep.  Then, for the first time in weeks, I fell asleep before dawn, too.
There are two things (and only two things) that have remained true no matter where I end up, no matter how dark or wonderful that place has been, no matter what side of the country or hidden in what ghetto: there has always been first, swing sets, the story for which I will save for another chapter, and second, there is always a pool table.  
And I thank my lucky stars for that, at least.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

On Mornings

Hi, my name’s Miranda and I’ll be your depressed girl in the nameless café for the day.  I have purple hair and I smell like beer and cigarettes.  I look like I haven’t slept all night because I haven’t.  There’s scars all across my arms.  I talk to the staff so quietly they can barely hear me, and I never pick my head up.  I’m indecisive, I order a pumpkin spice latte but I wanted eggnog.  I order a sausage egg and cheese but I’m not hungry at all.  I clutch my coffee cup to my chest and shuffle my feet when I walk across the lobby, ignoring the jovial conversation about me, and pick the table farthest away, in the corner by the window.  I’m wearing furry Valentine’s Day pajama pants with a bright orange Aztec print alpaca sweater.  Bra?  What bra?  Who mentioned a bra?  Everyone stares at me but I never look back.  I just sit in the corner with my purple head down and sip on my coffee like every minute hurts, because this morning every minute does.  I’m lost in a thought, a memory, a regret, somewhere far away.  I blame it on California today.  Last night was Pittsburgh’s fault.  Yesterday New York.  I am no more an addition to the café atmosphere than a shadow that slipped in under the crack in the bell clad door.  I am an empty space.  I am the air from a different climate.  I am a mystery.  I am an idea the patron’s will ponder for the rest of their day, while they make copies in the printer room, while they chat business with their clients, while they pick up their kids from school.  I’ll be on their mind.
But me?  I’ll just stay on that thought, far away, like a leech.  I won’t let go, I can’t.    It grows into me, with me, getting all tangled up in my veins, making itself my breath and heartbeat.  It’s taking over, cell by cell, then dispelling my bits and pieces across space and time, like rain falling on the places I’ve been.  I’ll stay there all day, while I drive back home with the second half of my uneaten sausage egg and cheese, smoke my cigarettes, play with the dogs, read my books.  Until somebody calls my name, beckoning me to reality, or something real enough happens that I forget, for a moment, from where I came.  I’ll be there, on that thought, waiting, secretly wishing on my what ifs and maybes, safely tucked away, watching life unfold around me at a distance.  Far enough away, I tell myself, to not touch anything, not even breathe on it, to not fuck anything up today.
I sip my coffee.  I read a book I picked up off the corner stand.  I eat half my sandwich, then I leave, silently, with my coffee cup clutched to my chest.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Back Stories

Tonight I drink wine and write.  It’s been a goddamn long time.  I never became a horse cabbie.  In fact, I didn’t stay in New York very long after that at all.  Maybe a few days, maybe a week, its all a blur, as it always is in my life.  I got a job that Saturday, or at least I think it was that Saturday, bartending at my favorite pool hall, the one I grew up in while my mother drank, when I was  13.  They paid me $260 for the night.  I slept all day then the following night I met up with an old sailing friend on his cruise outside South Street Seaport.  It was good to be on the water again, that magic sound of halyards soothes a soul like mine.  And it had been far too long.  I hadn’t been sailing since San Diego, really.  It was just what I needed.  We got to talking about the years that had passed and the hard times we’ve seen.  Last time he saw me I was 18 with pink hair, on the warpath.  He said “I was worried about you kid, I’m glad we got in touch.”
“You were right to be.”  I muttered darkly, into the New York Harbor’s brisk night air.  We’re silent together by the helm.  He glances at me nervously.  I try to put the thoughts in a row, put in chronological order the massive list of horrors I’ve been through since then and now.  Every little thing he worried about had happened and he knows, I’m sure by the way he focuses on the compass and shifts his weight from one foot to the other.  I know his skill, I know he doesn’t need to be watching the compass like that, but he stands with his eyes glued, away from me.
“What happened?”  He finally says, in an almost whisper, finally looking at me again.
So I tell him as best as I can.  Our conversation is interrupted by giddy patrons, enthralled to be on a boat.  I welcome the breaks, embrace the chance to talk about something besides my shitty life, to talk with perfect strangers about a love for the ocean that they’ll never understand.  The night goes on as such, dark memories and sea stories, intertwined like the wind and the waves about us.  After I finish my tale I’ve decided I can’t stand another minute living with my biological mother.   By 1am I’ve hit the road with him to New Rochelle.    I was probably having a flashback but I didn’t care, I just needed to GO. 
                By morning I set out for Norwalk to have my car repaired and spend some more time with Kat and Ed.  There was some complications at the mechanic and by 11am I needed to turn to a specialist.  Ed called me his daughter over the phone on the porch while we’re figuring it out.  A part of me I thought was dead burst to life at the sound of the word and I almost burst into tears right there, but I’m too much of a coward for emotions like that in a normal setting, so instead I just stared down my cigarette smiling and silent.  Later I called [JW].
“Ed called me his daughter over the phone today!” I reported.
I could hear her giggle and breathe into the phone, probably hurrying down 86th street to the train on one of her missions.  I could almost feel her smile radiate through the receiver. “Yay!” she said.
                A week went by, my car stayed in the shop, or rather “shops”.  It took a few before we got to the bottom of my problems.   By Saturday everyone was starting to get impatient with me, I was supposed to only be around for a few days.  Even the puppy sitters needed a break, Brooklyn had a panic attack all night long and nobody got any sleep.  I agreed to take him Sunday and stay in the dog park where we’d be out of the way.  I figured that night I’d crash with my little brother, [DS] or something.  I slept most of the day on a picnic bench.  I hadn’t slept the night before and I don’t remember why, but it was probably something along the lines of playing for tips in the subway or hanging out in the pool hall.  Brooklyn dutifully sat by my side, refusing to move, even for other dogs.  A part of me swelled with pride.  I still got my team at least, I thought.  Me and Brooklyn still have each other.  I had cried that morning to my father on the phone.  Confused and scared because suddenly I was homeless again.  He asked me where I wanted to go, then offered to pay for me to start a life in Troy, NY.  I need to take a moment to you here and explain to you Troy:
                I have a friend, [R], I’ve mentioned him sometimes.  He’s my best friend in the whole world, and I’ve been shamelessly following him since I was 12 years old.  He moved up to Troy for college when I just got back from being a pirate impersonator in New Hampshire and I was in a mess with this older dude in Connecticut which is a story way to long for this chapter.
He stayed in Troy.  I hit the road and went to war with the world.  I made it back home to NYC from California in September of 2011.  I lost almost everything but my cat, a few bags and boxes of clothing and diaries, and one guitar.  And I had completely and totally traumatized myself.  I was a broken girl.  I visited [R] in Troy for the first time that month.  That week I stayed with him was the best thing that had happened to me in years.  I wrote everything down cause I didn’t want to forget what it felt like to feel okay again.  I promised to come back.  But the next month of my life, things started to spiral out of control.  There was a mess with these houses in a ghost town ten miles outside Pittsburgh.  My Dad and sister needed someone to go down there to watch them.  They said at first it would just be three days to three weeks, but that was a lie.  I was down there for a long time and I got my hands in a lot of things, most of them political.  Most of it was scary and lonely.  Most of it I dreamed away thinking about being back in Troy.  That’s the important part, I guess.  I began photographing the abandoned buildings, my desperate cry out to the world “See where I am, the beauty and tragedy!  See this town!  See that I’m all alone.” My Dad visited sometimes.  My sister showed up eventually but she got real sick and things got worse from there.  I lost the houses and all my pets.  I ended up with a guy called the Lawn Mower Man and his two boys who were homeless like me.  But the boys turned out to be crack heads and I freaked out over everything that had happened up until that point.  I biked to Maryland and back with no gear, then I hitched a ride to NYC, leaving everything, including Brooklyn and Sabina, behind.  That’s when I ended up in Troy for the second time, on the Fourth of July.
                The second time I got to Troy I was an absolutely a wreck.  I had slashed both my arms open and had nothing but a backpack and my favorite guitar.  I wrote about it awhile ago because that’s when I ended up in the hospital.    I also wrote about afterwards too.  But I didn’t cover how Troy was the reason I got out of the hospital.  Cause I had a plan, and that was to get better and move to Troy, where things would be normal and I’d finally get the chance to be okay again. 
So that morning I found out I could go to Troy whenever I wanted.  It filled my thoughts throughout that sleepy day but I didn’t tell [R] until the next week, cause that night things got weird again. [DS], my little brother, hadn’t picked up his phone and mine died so I followed a man who told me he had a guitar like mine in his house.  He kidnapped me for 6 hours until I escaped and slept in a park with Brooklyn before screaming for help at a dog walker, who took me home to Kat and Ed.  I lost the whole next week.  I forgot what it felt like to be a victim again and just slept.  I slept it all away, punctuated by small meals and cigarettes.  I don’t remember a lot after that, but I ended up with [DS] and his band.  The night I was kidnapped he had a hundred person search party looking for me, and like Ed calling me daughter, it woke a part of me that I thought I’d never feel again, the emotions for true family.  So I stuck with him and his band.  Over the next 8 days he and his band and me spent a time together that I will never forget.  We call it in our history 8 days of mayhem.  And in the end, I recorded some of my music, took a deep breath and drove to where I’ve been trying to go for so long, Troy.
                My first morning I woke up in my Jeep next to Brooklyn’s ass.  It was cold and I had shit to do.  By evening I had clothes, a job and a room with a nice young couple, [Dan] and [Willie].  Over the course of the following week I furnished my room, played an open mic set in Connecticut, pursued a second job and began working my first job.   [Dan] and [Willie] had their 2nd kid and  I met a lot of their family.   I began calling a new place home.
                So here I am.  I’m not sure where life is taking me.  I miss San Diego, I miss the road, I miss the applause over my guitar, I miss my cat who I’ll never see again.  But I’m doing something I’ve never done before.  I’m attempting a normal life, working hard, writing, and drinking wine.
And that’s the back story since I last wrote.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Productivity, or something similar to it

I had visited every horse carriage stable in the city by 10am.  It was a mixed feat of walking boots and curiosity.  I didn’t land a job, as I had daydreamed when I hatched this plan in my head yesterday after talking to a carriage driver, but I did get acquire a slip of paper with instructions on getting my carriage license.  So I decided I’m becoming a horse cabbie.  Hell, worse things have happened, and at least I get to wear a sweet top hat.  As long as I pass the free course, of course.  I swung by the ASPCA on my way home and picked up a volunteer application.  By 11:30 I was back in the apartment with nothing left to do until 4 when I have work, which brings me to productivity.  I’ve found the amazing thing about having a dog is I can do absolutely nothing for hours and still feel productive, as long as I did nothing with my dog.  Take Monday for example.  I got stuck in Connecticut because of some DMV troubles and unfortunately ran out of money for puppy day care, so I got stuck with Brooklyn for the day.  Technically, I sat on a picnic bench for 7 hours and drew on my knees.   But because I sat on a picnic bench for 7 hours drawing on my knees AND watched Brooklyn, I felt like the day was some sort of enormous success.  And then there’s today.  I got A LOT done this morning, but since 11:30 I’ve done nothing but watch soap operas (for god knows what reason) and a Merlin marathon on the SyFy channel.  However, because I did this periodically giving Brooklyn treats and talking to him about every bizarre thought that ran through my head over the course of the day, so I feel kinda, sorta, productive.   And that’s all I’ve got to say about that, now I have some Merlin to get back too….

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


On second thought, let me not publish that and tell you the briefer more appropriate version:

Things got really weird after I tried to kill myself.  The doctors said it was due to a month and a half long flash back I was suffering from without knowing it, but all I know is I went off the deep end for a little while there.  After I got back from the hospital Occupig died and my sister kicked me and my surviving animals out of the house.  She said we weren’t conducive to her recovery, whatever that means.  We sought refuge in the house on Mills Avenue with no utilities for a little while, until Tom Braddich and his partner in crime Ben found us in miserly conditions after helping me clean out a neighbor’s house that burned down across the street.  Tom took me and Brooklyn to the house where they were staying, the Lawn Mower Man’s residence, and it wasn’t a week later I moved in, taking Charlie and Sabina on one more long haul down the freight train tracks.  Almost a week went by, I started settling in and found new friends to play guitar for, but pretty soon the boys and lawn mower man got into a fight and I freaked out and biked to Maryland without telling anyone where I was going.  I got back 5 days later exhausted and strained, but I took some nice pictures at least.  About five days after that I freaked out again, started cutting thin lines into the flesh on my forearm and hitched a ride for New York City.  I made about $500 there playing my guitar in the subways and pretending to be a rock star.  I spent a lot of time talking to strangers on Coney Island, cutting myself and drinking copious amounts of wine.  By the end of the week I had a pickup installed in my guitar, my first amp and a new journal.  At 3am on July 4th I was drinking a bottle of wine and got the idea in my head to cut my arm over a glass.  I went to deep and severed an artery by accident, or at least I thought it was by accident.  I freaked out and went into a tailspin.  I’m not exactly sure what happened but I ended up hitch hiking to Troy, NY to see [R], the only person I trusted to help me fix the ever loving mess that I created of myself and my life.  A cabbie picked me up and took me as far as Putnam, I paid him in guitar case change.  I made it the rest of the way in two rides and had the smoothest hitch hiking experience of my life, but the details of that are for another tale.  By time I made it to Troy I was a mess, not to mention completely broken and out of my mind.  [R] and his friends practically baby sat me for a week, kept away from sharp objects and open windows, until I reluctantly agreed it was time to get some help.  From there I hopped a ride back to Queens where a family friend collected me and brought me to a hospital.  I was there for 26 days.  The experience some day will be written down, there were certainly some interesting moments and I made some new friends, but for now it is a series of rants that I don’t have the time to sort through. (And yes if you were on this blog last week, they are cringe worthy.)  In any event, my Dad picked me up from Glen Cove hospital in early August and we made our way back to Braddock.  I started to feel like things were looking up.  While I was in the hospital I made a plan to start living a normal life, so in Quincy, PA we stopped to look at a Jeep for me.  Up until that point I did not really know how to drive, but me and my Dad figured I’d learn on the way.  We bought the car and for the next two days I slowly followed behind my Dad on route 30, blindly into the mountains.  I was terrified.  But we survived, and I learned how to drive.  Back in Braddock is when things started to get weird again.  While I was gone Tom and Ben stole everything from me, my clothes, my laptop, my odds and ends that I had left.  They’d gotten into crack and were the center of an unfolding town drama.  I stayed out of it as best as I could.  That was the first sign of trouble.  The next thing I found out was that Sabina, my cat, had disappeared while I was gone and everyone was lying to me about it.  I was heartbroken.  Apparently Mr. Kevin had decided that cats should be free and let her loose.  I then discovered that Brooklyn had fleas and somebody had tried to shave him.  It wasn’t long after that that Mr. Kevin began changing.  He started getting controlling and putting me down.  He started screaming at me one day while my sister was present and it triggered her into a psychotic break.  I spent the next 48 hours taking care of her.  When she came to she suggested that I move back into the Rebecca avenue house since my own still didn’t have utilities and Mr. Kevin’s was becoming increasingly sketchy.  He had begun following me through town, and making passes at me in front of our neighbors.  But I declined.  She’s still unstable and I wasn’t ready to get into that kind of situation.  Then one morning I woke up and Charlie, my dove, was gone too.  There was no longer a safe place for me and Brooklyn to go, and everything was gone.  It was time move on.

“Your bird’s gone.”  Mr. Kevin said casually, smoking a cigarette, when I walked out on the front porch.
“What?” I looked up at his cage and he was indeed gone.  Panic immediately began to seize my chest.
“You left the cage door open, something got him in the backyard, there’s feathers everywhere.”
“No, I closed the cage door.  You always open it.”
“Would I lie to you!?  What reason do I have to lie to you?
“Mr. Kevin…”
“Go find your damn bird!”  Frantically I searched the backyard but he was nowhere to be found.  This was the final straw.  I snuck out of the house later that afternoon and did the only thing left to do when all else fails, I called my mom.  We came up with a plan for me to return to New York.  I wasn’t sure if Mr. Kevin would just let me leave, so we agreed I would pack up my belongings while he was sleeping that night.  A little after that [C] called and we met at Tortilla Flat.  I explained the scenario to him as briefly as I could.
“Woa.”  He said exhaling a breath of smoke.
“I know dude.  I fucked up, I should have stayed here, I’m so sorry.”
“Hey it’s okay, your back now!”
“Yeah.  And I’m not giving up on this house.  Even if I’m in New York, I mean that.”
“I know.  Can I hop a ride?”
“Hell yeah.”  We spent the rest of the day talking about the good old days of Tortilla Flat, when everyone was involved and the dream was fresh.  Before things got scary and difficult.  I tied up all my loose ends.  I got the lawn cut and explained to the neighbors when I’d be back.  I called my adoptive parents and let them know I was coming home.  In the evening I took my sister down to Puhala’s the only bar in town one last time for a round of pool.  I told her I was leaving and she took it well.  Mr. Kevin tracked me down there.  Drunk, he slammed the screen door open and started commenting on our game.  He tried to get me to walk him home.  I turned my back and made my shot without a word. 
“Will you be okay?” [K] asked.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it.” I said, hoping she couldn’t see how scared I really was.  We finished our game and slowly walked home, reflecting on the year and saying our goodbyes.  About half way Mr. Kevin began calling me.  I ignored those calls, too.  When I got back to the house I locked myself in my room and pickup the next time he called.
“Get down stairs!”
“Why?”  I gingerly asked.  I was shaking.
“Do I need and explanation, GIRL.”  I began to stammer no, but then he hung up.  I tiptoed across the room and popped open the beer I’d been saving all day, hoping it would give me the strength I needed.  I silently packed my things, jumping at every creak in the house, terrified Mr. Kevin would wake up at any moment.  Things had changed so much since I had first come to Braddock.  From a chilly isolation to the rush of activism, family hardship and my own eventual loss of control.  Everything happened so fast and changed so drastically, I felt like I was still a few months ago, trying to catch up.  Fear and pain erupted in my chest as I dumped what little belongings I had left in plastic bins.  I lost almost everything, even myself.  I wanted to blame somebody or something, pin it on a scapegoat and scream, but I was too afraid to make a noise and there was really nothing I could blame but my own shitty luck and myself.  By midnight everything was ready to go and [C] met me downstairs as planned.  He pulled my car up front and I quietly unlocked the gate. 
“Ready?” He asked.  I took a deep steadying breath and looked back at the house one last time.  Did I fail to adjust, or was it just never meant to be?  Not now at least, at this point in my life.  Not the way things panned out, the choices I made and the circumstances that presented themselves.
“Yeah.” I sighed in surrender, and slipped Brooklyn’s lease into his hand. “Here we go again...”


Friday, August 31, 2012

On About Home

                I was born and raised (though mostly by myself) in New York City, but I call a small coastal town in Connecticut home.  I had a friend from there at my second high school, the boarding one where I got sent when I had no where else  to live, and she always told me "Go to Norwalk." after I admitted to her that I was living on the subways during those winter weekends.  I usually laughed at her.  But when I turned 18 and got myself kicked out on purpose, thinking it would be fun to be homeless in New York City full time (I didn't think most things through back then, I still don't), I ended up breaking down pretty quick and going to Norwalk.  Actually, it turned out she was right on everything she said about Norwalk and I ended up staying there for awhile.  Her parents did what raising (and housebreaking) they could manage to squeeze into my final teenage years and I even finished high school.  It's the closest thing I've ever had to a real family and a home, so one day I just decided their my family and this is my home, or maybe they decided that for me long before I realized.  I'll never figure it out.
                Anyway, I made it back home again.  It was a more stressful endeavor than it usually is to get here.  I drove for the first time, and I’m not a steady enough driver to navigate my way out of New York City by myself, which unfortunately meant my biological mom was in the passenger seat.  Not only did this mean that I was riding her into the belly of the beast (imagine an alcoholic who honestly does not believe she abused her children for years going to the town of her child's adoptive parents) but it also meant Brooklyn constantly trying to scramble into my lap on I-95, because she demanded that he come too.  But I made it.  I dropped her off at the train station as soon as we hit town and, alternatively, Brooklyn at doggie day care down the street.  (My pseudo parents run a kitten rescue and adoption operation out of the down stairs bathroom and after a certain incident during Brooklyn's puppyhood when I had a little A.D.D. moment and he destroyed the porch, he's not allowed over anymore.  We kinda deserve it.)
                So here I am, after a long car ride and 4 hour odyssey in the DMV, finally in the land of kittens, coffee and homemade chocolates.  The one place where all I'm expected to do is relax and recuperate before I'm off to my battles again.  The one place where every thing is under - and remains under - control.  I watch Kat stitch the pants of her new renaissance garb outfit, a mermaid creature this year.  I watch Futurama with Ed.  The hours are broken with cigarettes on the porch – and even though I’ve recently quit for the most part – I partake, easing back into quiet conversations and the breeze from the open windows, making up voices for the cats.   As always when I return home, I have my fresh raw wounds that I gingerly tend.  Memories of Sabina painfully linger in the fur of the other cats and corners of the house.  I wake in my old room in a panic, for a moment I forgot she’s gone.  For a moment I thought it was her and me in the old room again, the room where she spent her Kittendom.  I cried a bit the first day and Kat consoled me.  I tell her I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that it was never supposed to happen, or not knowing what did happen in the end.  It happening while I was far away, locked behind doors, and there was nothing I could do to save her.  That nobody survived Braddock but me and Brooklyn in the end.  Out of all the fucked up things I’ve been through, I didn’t think it was possible for anything to hurt this bad anymore.  It’s been three weeks but it still feels like it just happened.  Kat says it might never hurt less, but I’ll stop thinking about it at least.  I tell her I think this may never go away, I admit to how I barely sleep anymore.  In the morning, after waking up before them both for the first time in years, Kat suggests maybe, if it’s this bad, I should consider another cat at least.  I fight back the tears and shake my head “No”.  Not yet.  And for the first time since it’s happened she’s somebody who understands, who knows me and what we went through.  Sabina was my only family since the day I left home to the moment she disappeared.  Most of the time, besides my guitar, she was all I had, the only reason I slept at night and the only reason I woke up, too.  But as always with the wounds I bear after being far away from home, fighting battles against the world, for months too long, I soldier on.  Only one memory  I came home with has ever hurt this bad before, and I survived that, so I sip the coffee and relax as best as I can, walk up the street and take Brooklyn for a walk from the day care to sooth my nerves whenever I need it.  I breath deep, finally free of the degrading relationship I’m trapped in with my biological mom.  The family friends come over.  I immerse myself in all the new stories I missed while I was away.  New cats and housing adventures.  New heroes and villains, in our own mythology.  Everything here is easy, everything is the way it should be.  The place I’ve grown and finally, after 18 years of hardship, first learned to be myself.  The place I found where I really just want to be.  Sometimes I feel like my life is one giant game of tag and I’m just trying to make it to that one lamp post that’s “safe”.  I’m home.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On Breakfast

On Breakfast

I had a long talk with [W] last night about Occupig's death. I was sitting on the kitchen table nervously smoking my cigarettes when she came in. It was late and I wanted to spend the night on Rebbcca Avenue, but felt guilty because I left Sabina and Brooklyn at The Tortilla Flat House. I felt like Occupig died because I was in the hospital while my Dad and [C] were watching her, and then that heat wave struck and I wasn't strong enough to make the journey down the freight tracks in time. Not to mention it was all because I tried to off myself.

"I just know if I was there, I could have done something atleast." I patiently explained to her. We got to talking about the goat's death and I came to the same conclusion. "I didn't know the rasp he had that day was that serious. Puppies and kittens get coughs like that all the time and its just a bug, so that morning I yelled Fuck, I don't know what to do, I fed you! Shutup! cause I'd been up all night feeding him everytime he cried thinking that was what he wanted. I mean, thats what Louis told me to do when it cries. But then that moment I realized he was dieing. How awful is that? I yelled fuck at a dieing baby goat."

"Dude, you didn't know."

"I guess. But it just feels like neglegence on both accounts. I neglected them. I didn't know, but I should have. I think that's neglect."

[W] suggested that if I really honestly believe I neglected them, than I shouldn't take in another animal until I have less on my mind, or both the houses sorted out atleast. Reluctantly I accepted the challenge, then [W] went to bed. A little after that I walked to the corner and got a forty, chatted with the bartender, then went home. The doctors weren't kidding about alcohol making me sick for awhile. I got past the neck, played a song, and went to bed.

Which brings me to today and breakfast. I'm walking to D's Pizza market for milk when Lawn Mower Guy calls out to me from his gated porch and invites me in to smoke with the boys. I'm more than pleased by the invitation. Lawn Mower Guy is a funny dude. His front porch is a jungle, complete with a turtle pond and three elderly (and rather large) dogs. The backyard is full of lawn mowers. I dont know his actual name, everyone just refers to him as Lawn Mower Guy, it's just another one of those wierd Braddock things. You accept it eventually and move on. One day I was walking down the block and he was up on top of his roof screaming about 2012 and the end of the world, in a t-shirt in the snow. I'll never forget that. He also told me once that he gets a partial boner eveytime I walk by, I'll never forget that either - but for completely different reasons. He's a good dude though. His boys mow my lawn for me and he lent me a brace when I broke my hand and Brookyln ate the one the doctors gave me, after my cast. And of course, he supplements my morning coffee treck with a bowl of greens.

I hang out in his living room listening to a story about a dog for a couple hits before thanking him, and excusing myself to continue on my way. It's gonna be a long day and as much as I'd like to hang around, I've got 15 minutes to play guitar and drain a pot of coffee before lacing up my boots and embarking on my adventures. My boss [WD] is already on his way to pick me up, Occupig needs a burial, Brooklyn needs to go out, all the cats need to be fed, Tortilla Flat has a laundry list of things to be fixed and cleaned, the yard is a rainforest and I promised my next door neighbors kids that I'd fix their bikes. Basically, I have shit to do.

When [WD] arrives I have Occupig's body in a Family Dollar bag and my protest scarf around my face, though the smell coming through it is still making my eyes water.

"Holy hell." He says casually, looking up from his phone.

"Dude I got a guinea pig body in a bag and it's been stewing." I say, then add as an after thought, "You don't wanna go inside."

"I can see that."

"Aw fuck what do I do... what do I do...." I begin to pace around the back porch trying to figure out where to put the body until I get back, but nothing is coming to mind besides leaving her there, which i dont want to do. [WD] takes a step back and watches me from the edge of the porch shaking his head. "Fuck!" I yell.

"Why didn't you do something sooner?" He asks, waving a hand in front of his face. All I seem to be succesfully doing is spread the scent around.

"I was walking Brooklyn and had a bunch of shit to do this morning."

"No, I mean like when it died sooner." Its a good question. [R] and my mom told me to go home and take care of it when I told them what happened, but I didnt want to do it alone, so instead I brooded over it, bought a beer and played guitar. In case it's not obvious yet, that's my general solution for almost anything, which I think is kinda punk rock, but as for this moment it unfortunately has left me here, pacing around with a two day old body in front of my new boss. Im thankful, however, that in the 3 long weeks I've been working with [WD], I've already acheived that level of familiarity that makes it impossible for me to shock him anymore. One rescue mission into the hollow, refugeeing from my sister in a house with no utilities and a trip to the hospital took care of that shockingly fast. No pun intended.

"Kid, we need to go." He says, exasperated.

"Okay, okay. Im gonna just... leave it here." Defeated, I put the bag down behind a chair where [C] wont see it and head towards the car, [WD] shooing me along the path.

The rest of the day goes by quickly. We scout houses and he trains me in using the county webpage. I continue reasearching properties until 6pm, then make my journey down the freight tracks. I don't see [C] on the porch at first when I get home. I'm lost in thought, making my way through the tall grass of the yard that will remain wild for one more day, considering the moralities of lower income real estate.

"Hey." He greets me, looking up from a book and breaking my stream of internal chatter. "It smells kinda funny in there."

"Oh fuck, Occupig." I duck behind the chair he's sitting in and retrieve the plastic bag. He watches me hike back out to the yard and place it in the brush beside the tool shed. "Sorry girl," I whisper, stepping back. "I really liked you." Then I return to the porch and flop into one of the chairs. We have no shovel so I have to wait another day to dig a proper grave.

"I was wondering where that was coming from."

"Im sorry... It's been such a day, I totally forgot."

"And yesterday?"

"Didn't wanna miss out on Zombiepig, just in case ya know."

"Gotcha." He puts his book down and lights a cigarette. "but I don't think the outbreak has left Florida yet."

"Yeah..." I laugh. An article about a naked Florida man chewing another guys face off came out on facebook a few days ago and the punch lines have yet to get old. Not to mention all of Pittsburgh is obsessed with zombies anyway. We're quiet for a moment, [C] drags on his smoke and I go back to reflecting on my day. "Damn it." I finally say.


"I never got around to breakfast."

"It happens."