Thursday, April 9, 2020

It’s a rainy Thursday and I’ve been trying hard to get back to serious work on my Big Project, but I’ve been procrastinating by doing a little bit of work on a dozen tiny projects. I transcribed about five minutes of an interview. I wrote a couple of emails and answered a couple more. I made a list of things I might want to write about when (and if) my brain ever stops floating and flitting like a gnat and starts, instead, to trot again like a good and sturdy horse.  

Shit. I have been so sad this week. And so angry. And so frustrated. I haven’t wanted to sit down or to stand up. I have a tummy ache and a back ache and a head ache and I feel like I’ve been piped full of cement. Except when I feel like I’m paper thin and drifting away.

Two days ago, as I drove down Los Feliz Boulevard, I saw a woman selling masks from a plastic bag. A little while later, over in Pasadena, a man paced between the cars stopped at the light just off Lake. He held up masks in one gloved hand. This morning, I read a newspaper article about a tenth grader who was helping his mother sell masks so that they could make ends meet. Five dollars at a time. And the ends so far apart.

I’m so fucking fortunate to be in my house, at my desk, trying to come up with something cheerful to say.

Earlier, I wrote a few lines about some things that made me happy this week.

The hot water bottle. The filling of the thing gives me reason to stand alert over the kettle. Constant vigilance is necessary. The water should be hot, but not boiling. When the water is just right, the surface looks a little bit marbled and the kettle breathes deeply, but is nowhere near ready to whistle.

Acrylic Paint. Even the old, slightly sticky tubes I found in the craft cabinet. My husband and I took an online painting class taught by an artist in Albuquerque. Together we contemplated some tangerines piled against a gray background. We were given twenty minutes to see the shape of the tangerines. We dipped our brushes in brown paint and drew rough outlines of the fruit. They weren’t round. Some of them turned out to be square. The one at the bottom was dented as if by a heavy thumb.

Bagels. They arrived warm from the bakery, delivered to our doorstep by a dear neighbor. She and I shouted our greetings and gratitude from a distance and then I called my family and we all stood in the kitchen and my husband cut the bagels with a big, serrated knife and we toasted them and slathered them with cream cheese or vegan butter and ate them standing there together without worrying too much about the spill of sesame seeds.

I am trying to make some sense of things and it feels impossible. 

I remember asking my Dad what it meant to have a hole in your arm where all the money goes and he sat down and carefully told me about Vietnam and heroin and addiction. He explained that I was a "little pitcher" and that my big ears were good listening ears. 

Among all those lost this week, one soul was John Prine. I saw him play last year at the Ford Amphitheater. I arrived early and sat in the empty space, watching while it slowly filled with people. The sky was dark and the air was cool. I got to talking to the people beside me and we got to talking to the guy in front of us and the people behind us and we laughed together like old friends. That's the kind of warmhearted gathering it was. 

I'm really longing to be in the world; to be surrounded by people. 

I didn't buy a mask from any of those people selling them on the street, but I did reach out to give some cash to a very elderly man with a cardboard sign, and, when our fingers -- his gloved and mine bare - grazed, I tried hard not to flinch.

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