|I need better sleep meds.|
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
[The second in a series of postings devoted to “my brain on” --http://tinyurl.com/48grpxs--in the interest of advancing neuroscience]
Jamie heads south June 2 to take care of Peyote, his art professor’s geriatric bull terrier. I wonder if I consented to this scheme as a way to dodge Jamie’s push to locate his father, the I've told him was a sperm bank [ http://tinyurl.com/4e3u2sf]. The father who now wants to meet my the son he sired. [http://tinyurl.com/4yckhbl]
So this will be my first solo summer break in 20 years [I include pregnancy]. Even with research and writing, summer break has always been like a vista of fun possibilities; now it’s a flat horizon. I’m no good at the run-up to good-byes. And we have:
--the looming presence of Jamie’s Lazarus-like Absent Father.
--the new man, Richard [http://tinyurl.com/44gvtf3] whom I’ll see in a couple weekends. We email frequently but the last time I sort of understood dating [are we even “dating”?] protocols was in the late 1980s. I called Richard impulsively a few nights ago when Jamie was out and Richard didn’t sound delighted, delight having been the intended effect.
--Parenthetical Man [http://tinyurl.com/464l9ua] in brackets for the nonce.
But I’ve worked to be present for my son, and it’s been mostly good times since the semester ended with the large exception of a few days ago when Dr. Phil came between us.
Jamie sent me an email from his attic bedroom with the subject heading: ‘Would you consent to this?”
In the body was a link with the following text pasted in:
“Upcoming show: Want to Confront Your Absent Parent?
Did your mother or father abandon you as a child? Did your absent parent start a new family and leave you behind? Are you angry with your absent parent and want answers to your many questions?
If you want Dr. Phil's help to confront your absent parent, please tell us your story. But ONLY if you're willing to appear on the show.”
I replied: “I’m in the kitchen. You can come down and confront me here. I’m just taking the roasted, rosemary-lemon-gremolata chicken out of the oven.”
He shot back: “TAKE ME SERIOUSLY!!!”
I replied: “i do. come downstairs. we’ll talk.”
We had a scene best left in the shadows. We did achieve a détente of sorts. I asked for time to figure out how we—I asked that we do this together—pursue his father. He said okay. So we’re both charged with thinking about it and coming up with a plan by August 1, when he comes home for a few weeks before returning to university. I said: “enjoy this summer and access to Kirk’s studio and your art. I'll come visit. Then we’ll take this on together.”
All sounds real good, huh? except that I have to unknot the 19 year-old sperm bank lie .
After Jamie went out, I called Miriam and told her the situation.
“Dr. Phil’s producers take suggestions for future shows, you know. ”
I hung up on her.
She texted me: “I’m so Derry. Was trying force lavatory.”
That’s early-model iPhone for: “I’m so sorry. Was trying for levity.” I’m fluent in iPhone.
That night I dreamt I was a guest on Dr. Phil’s show. I’ve never actually watched Dr. Phil’s show so the dream was some surreal amalgam born out of my modest exposure to contemporary television culture and the swamp that is my subconscious.
Dr. Phil was skewering me. He kept pointing his index finger in my face but I couldn’t hear the words because the audience was clapping. Then he said, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” and the cameras cut to Paul Shaffer at the keyboards and Lady Gaga at the mike, wearing that meat dress and singing a cover of The Clash’s “Train in Vain.”
I woke up with a strangled scream. I came downstairs, and sat in the kitchen drinking room-temperature ginger ale for a while: my version of incanting “there’s no place like home” after an exceptionally bad nightmare.
Posted by JF at 6:03 PM
Saturday, May 21, 2011
|Irish goddesses travel|
with wolfhounds. I
understand the impulse.
“My mind is fine.”
How often does the person at the other end of the phone line, pleasantries dispensed with, offer that unsolicited assertion? How does one respond?
“That’s great to hear. Good news. Cheers.”
“No, listen. It’s important you understand. Please, do not be misled by the sound of my voice. The quiverings, the fugitive slurs and stutters. My hands too have whims I can’t control. My mind is fine but my tongue, my hands—things don’t obey as they once did.”
“That must be hard---“
“It is.” With fluid King’s English, he’d spoken his previous sentences, but he stuttered—stuttered hard—getting out the single-syllabled “is,” the confirmation of his damaged being. It pained me, and so I swallowed the rest of my sentence, which he’d interrupted: “[That must be hard] for a man like you who likes to be obeyed.”
“I’m sorry for what you’ve suffered: I am. I’d never, even in moments of fevered bitterness, have wished such a fate on you. Boils and the gout, yes, they crossed my mind several times, but nothing like a stroke. I am sorry. But let’s get this transaction completed. Don’t put me though the trouble and expense of litigation, or the ugliness of threatening to tell your wife.”
“You’ll have your payments. I’m working with my solicitor, and, by summer’s end, the college trust fund will be established. I’ll forward you his name and information; he’s prepared to draft a cheque mid-June for the university year Jamie’s completing, the one you’ve paid for.”
“Thank you. That will alleviate a great deal of my financial pressures, Geoff.” The PU’s first name is Geoffrey. After Chaucer.
I felt, what? Relief? Closure? I don’t buy the concept of “closure.” Beckett was right when he said: “You’re on earth; there’s no cure for that.” But I experienced the mixed emotions that arise when one reaches a destination, like finishing a long, long novel, one whose characters and voices have taken up residence in your skull. I get to the last page, and I know I’ve accomplished something. I find the proper location for the book on the shelf—by period, by author’s last name. But I get melancholy, too, putting the book on the shelf. That’s what I felt now. I had not expected melancholy to attend the final PU payments. But the melancholy would pass, I figured; the payment’s the thing. I shook it off.
Then Geoff continued.
“Long overdue. It’s what you’re owed. And I have your print. I don’t seek your gratitude. But I want…don’t you see…I want something more. I want to…. be of more… more meaningful… of more use to Jamie than merely an anonymous benefactor, a Magwich.”
The absurdity of the PU’s comparing his St. John's Wood self to Dickens’s coarse ex-con Magwich threw me off the scent of the word “use.” But only for a few seconds.
“Use?” I said. “I don’t get your meaning here. Use, as in: utility? I can assure you, there’s real utility in a university education, even an American one.”
This book wasn’t finished. I could hear it in his stammerings—both the involuntary and the merely hesitant ones that were characteristic of his pre-stroke elocutions—arriving, in a slight time delay, to me from London. I heard threat, and when faced with the options of flight or fight, my auto-default posture has long been: fight. Fight trumps all, and that includes taking a time out to premeditate a response.
“I’m afraid that beyond the financial, the only other use you can be to my son now, Geoff, is as a medical data base, a set of boxes to check or leave blank. Family history of stroke? Check. Dyspepsia—what we over here call heartburn? Check, if memory serves. Hypertension, colo-rectal cancer, gall bladder, glaucoma—anything else my son needs to know about the paternal half of his genetic makeup? That would be useful. Money and genetic information. Beyond that, you can be of no use. You’re two decades late for that.”
Words flew like the knives of the mustachioed knife-thrower I’d seen as a girl in the annual fireman’s carnival down in the clay dirt lot next the bicycle seat factory where my oldest brother worked after high school graduation. But mine were meant to hit the human target.
My iPhone exhaled sadness. “Maud. The old fiery Maud. Give me a hearing. Please.”
Dirty pool that, calling me Maud. Maud’s not my name, of course. It’s what Geoff rechristened me when we met. He’d opened the door that raw, British late-February late morning, to his unsigned, by-appointment-only gallery, and as I was extending my hand to introduce myself, he put his index finger under his chin, cocked his head, and said: “My god, but you’re Maud Gonne. You’ve heard that before, no?” He looked at me with an appraiser’s eye. “I’ve never seen anything like it. You. Are. Maud Gonne. Your people should have named you Maud.”
“My people call people like you ‘daft,’” I’d replied in a stage-Irish brogue, having taken “your people” to mean Irish(-Americans) generally, and not my particular tribe (MPT) of people up there near the Canadian border, managing the Bowl-O-Rama and harboring a small graveyard of Camaro’s on cinder blocks in the backyard. MPT could hardy be expected to have named me after the Irish poet W.B. Yeats’ passionate, political, exasperating, beautiful muse with the great hair. The name Maud Gonne just wouldn’t have rung a bell with them, you know? I filed the Maud Gonne facsimile metaphor in the “Compliment” drawer and tossed the condescending “your people” in the waste basket.
I extended my hand a second time and introduced myself in the well-tempered, full-sentences-always-please, Other New England voice that would eventually pass, in American academic circles, anyway, for well bred. From that moment forward until acrimony and pregnancy did us part, he called me “Maud.”
So resurrecting Maud at this particular juncture was akin to emailing those sorrowful, mildly embarrassing poems I’d lobbed at him during my pregnancy: a low, manipulative blow.
Dead air sat between us until I got my bearings. Then I said: “I’m hearing.”
“I’d like to meet Jamie.”
“I’m not hearing.”
“No. And don’t even think about searching him out on the Internet. Like a predator.”
“He’s 18 now. What if he wants to meet me? I won’t believe you if you tell me he’s never expressed curiosity, longing. I don’t know what you’ve told him--"
PU does not know I told my son he came from a spermbank [[http://tinyurl.com/44zqhm7]
“--Because you’ve never asked. This is a death bed conversion. I don’t mean you are literally on your death bed.”
“I may as well be.”
“Then get that paperwork signed. And Jamie’s 19 now, by the way.”
“The paperwork’s fine, and you’ll receive all I’ve promised, even were I to die today. However, I’m asking you…ah, but… this comes as a shock. It must. You raised him alone. All I’ll ask is that you consider letting me meet him. You’ll know what would be best. For him. You regard my wanting to meet him as the pathetic yearnings of Lear on the heath, smelling his mortality. Perhaps so. Old certainties have passed away. But please. Consider it purely in light of Jamie. Whether knowing his father would strengthen his sense of self and offer him completeness, closure.”
I let the word “closure” pass, though I wondered if, in his recovery, the PU had been watching the Oprah show with Ludmilla, his health care worker. The man who fathered my child would have scorned notions like “my issues” and “getting closure.”
The thing is, our son doesn’t scorn notions like “my issues” and “finding closure.”
The thing is, our son is looking for his father—and in all the wrong places [http://tinyurl.com/4zknj9f]—so that he might find closure to his father issues.
“I’ll consider it,” I said. Then hit the red disconnect button.
I needed phone closure.
Posted by JF at 11:18 AM
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Until recently, I would have agreed with Eugenides. Blogging my such-as-it-is life has proved way more interesting than actually living it [motherhood and its challenges notwithstanding]. But over the past 14 days, life has outpaced blog. How to recount it all without causing pernicious word bloat in my readers?
Serially! Like the masters: Hardy, Eliot, Dickens [and for the record, Dickens' labyrinthine plots are not a product of his having been "paid by the word," no matter how many Hemingway-hugging, foolish and smug undergraduates have persuaded themselves otherwise].
So here's the first update, and I am not saving the best for last. I haven't had that many bests lately; this baby's coming first.
I'll hold off until the next post to detail the infuriating details of the conversation I had with Pater Unfamilias, my son's biological father [http://tinyurl.com/44zqhm7], whom, as I have compulsively confessed here, my 19 year old son still believes to have been an anonymous sperm donor [http://tinyurl.com/4e3u2sf]. I will just say that PU is prepared to make good on his fiduciary obligations, but is trying add a few "visitation stipulations," having shared with me that he and his wife lost their child. "Well, you can't have mine," I shot back, while secreting enough territorial pheromones to cause strangers within a three-mile radius of my house to commit random acts of aggression.
Lest you think me monstrous, Pater and Pru "lost" their child in the sense of having "misplaced or alienated through overbearing or generally bad parenting," and not "lost" in the euphemistic sense of having "experienced the death of." If the latter, they still couldn't have mine, but my tone would have been kinder, gentler. Of those negotiations: more later. Meanwhile....
Parenthetical Man [http://tinyurl.com/464l9ua] stood me up on Mother's Day. Okay, maybe it wasn't technically a stood-up because he called, but I was already sipping my third mimosa at the table he'd reserved for us for brunch at Le Zie in Chelsea [ditto: of that, more later].
I decided to redeem the day by walking over the the Rubin Museum of Art. It was Mother's Day and Jamie wasn't arriving in the city until Monday; I was alone; I was schnockered from the mimosas.
The schnockered detail is important. If sober, I would not have headed to a museum of Tibetan and Nepalese and Indian art because I profoundly don't get Tibetan, Etc art. All those arms and elephant heads, strange faces, vertiginous details. Under the influence, though, a visit to the Rubin felt bold, devil-may-care impulsive. Never mind that I was wearing three and a half inch heels. The heels detail is also important.
I passed pretty quickly, albeit wobbly, over a bunch of Ganesh-y works then came to Dakinis and tantric-type powerhouse women, with necklaces and jeweled headbands, and standing on bodies of men, and all awash in flaming oranges and reds. I thought: where have these role models been all my life??
I was riveted. I felt the earth move under my feet.
Then I felt, through my sheer black blouse, the touch of male fingertips on my right arm.
"Beautiful," I heard a voice say.
For some reason, I didn't pull away but turned slowly to find a rather tall, salt and pepper haired man, in a great but not-too-starchy Brooks Brothers striped shirt, handsome in a way I can't describe but that probably begins with the smile, the tilt of a head, handsome enough to make me blush.
I looked at the painting. "She is," I said and looked back at him.
He was not looking at the painting. He was looking at me. One might say, "gazing at me," without hyperbole. He said: "She conquers men. Who are happy to be conquered. Look at the man under her foot."
"Quite a balancing act, though. Real women can't stand like that. I couldn't, anyway, " I said.
"I doubt that's true. I imagine you could do it right now." He possessed to power to smile and form words at the same time.
"You think?" He stepped back from me and the painting, looked back and forth between us, and said, "I'm certain."
I scrutinized the orange goddess and took a deep breath. I stood next to the painting, facing the man. I assumed the Orange Himalayan Goddess pose.
Whereupon I tipped over and fell down, hard, on my ass.
The man, Richard is his name, quickly lifted me up, worry --and it must be said, bemusement--etched on his face. Before he could ask, I said: "I'm fine. Just a little humiliation. Nothing fatal."
"No, no, humiliation. I love that you just did that even though it was a little...well, completely, unexpected. And in those shoes. Sure you're alright?"
"Fine, really. I just need five or six years of tantric yoga classes before I try the One Legged Stand on Man pose again."
"The pose is entirely achievable with bare feet, the proper jewelry, and a real man beneath you."
Over a large plate of pasta and a side of broccoli rabe and a lot of cappuccino, I later explained to Richard--to whom I told my real name, and not my Mary Gordon default [http://tinyurl.com/473jvwx]--how I came to be in the Rubin in heels and infused with mediocre champagne; that is, about Parenthetical Man's untimely date cancellation.
"Do you give all the men in your life punctuation nicknames?"
Thinking that "all the men in your life" could legitmately mean "the one man vaguely in your life," I said, "I do. Indeed, I do."
"Dub me, then. And I want a punctuation mark you haven't given someone else. A unique one." Mercifully, he didn't say, "totally unique."
I wound a few strands of linguine on my fork, and chewed thoughtfully for a couple minutes.
"Exclamation Point Man."
Back in his apartment in one of those newish taller Chelsea buildings with big windows, we were sipping perseco and I asked, "What would you dub me? It doesn't have to be punctuation. In fact, please--no punctuation."
We were sitting on the couch, one of those Roche Bobois colorful cushion affairs. He reached over and slowly removed first one, then the other, of my shoes.
"Barefoot stand on man goddess."
Posted by JF at 10:17 AM
Thursday, May 5, 2011
|Tell me if you spot one;|
they're on the endangered list.
To those of us who grade literature papers by the pound, anapostrophia--the death of the apostrophe--is no news flash. I mention it merely to seize the opportunity to coin a word. I aspire to introduce one new word into the dictionary--and I'm not talking Urban Dictionary--before The End.
But my students may be besting me, This round of grading has yielded four (4) newly-coined compound words of students' invention:
I'm mad about the first two--"eachother" and "apartfrom"--because they are, and this is a term of my own invention, "oxymoronic compound words." Think about it. "Each" and "other" denote separation, as do "apart" and "from" but here they're conjoined in a way that's poetic. If they appeared in student poetry, I'd be ecstatic. In papers on Dickens, they're merely errors, and thus mine for the poaching.
When I just typed that list out, I experienced an eerie feeling, that somehow these student-invented words were like a cuneiform of my present circumstances, even though that observation probably meets one of the DSM's criteria for "delusional disorder." But I've been doing a lot of grading lately and I have a PhD in the over-reading of words on the page. A little fatigue-related delusion's allowed now and then.
Nonetheless, I'll be glad when Saturday's over, and I put behind me this upcoming interaction with the baldhead that is my son's father.
Posted by JF at 7:39 PM
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
| I can't be the only person |
who's ever done this
Like I need either.
Yesterday, I went out with some colleagues for a late lunch to celebrate this, the last week of classes. I--it must be said--drank to excess. Was there really such a thing, once upon a time, as a three-martini lunch? Mine were pomegranate martinis because I try to get my antioxidants whereever I can.
I was deposited at my home by my ethnomusicologist friend, who had a Tuvan throat singers CD playing in the car. I tried to sing along but I had some trouble catching the melody. I'm concerned now that she thinks I was ridiculing her music. I wasn't. I'm just sort of provincial about music: Tom Waits is as out-there as I get.
I took 3 tylenol, fell asleep and woke up at 9 PM. While brewing a pot of strong tea, I checked my email and found one from the Provost: I'd missed my 3:30 meeting to discuss my quadrennial review [http://tinyurl.com/4azqrde]. Ohgodohgodohgodohgod. I'm tenured so it'd more or less take a felony to get myself axed but still. I haven't been too productive the last quadren. It's just bad form to miss a meeting with your boss.
Maybe I still had the antioxidized vodka in my bloodstream, because what I did in a state of adreneline fear seemed clever at the time but now seems actionable. I went into my "Time and Date" window, turned back the date [to May 2], and then sent the Provost's secretary [with Provost cc'd] an email requesting that we reschedule our meeting as "personal matters" had arisen. My university's been having problems with our email system lately, so I hope it will appear that my email had simply gotten lost in space.
That's the most high tech lie I've ever committed. It does not fit neatly into the Three Kinds of Lies http://tinyurl.com/4573bgu] rubric that has always been my Catholic schoolgirl guide to lies. I'm feeling queasy about this one.
And I won't be talking today to my son's father which might be just as well. This morning I got an email from my him, Pater Unfamilias, in which he reprinted the haiku I have previously referred to as Obstetric Haiku [http://tinyurl.com/44zqhm7]. That was another lie. I mean, I did send him one final poem and it was a haiku I penned at the onset of my labor pains that led to the birth of his son. But "Obstetric Haiku" was not the actual title; that was me being snarky and trying to work the word "obstetric" into the sentence.
The real title was: "After which, we can never go back."
After which, we can never go back
Staggering past sleep,
wounds. Now words become fingers,
eyes. Hello. Goodbye.
He sent it to me with the simple sentence: "I would like to go back." I haven't replied.
Because even in our high tech world, you can never turn back the hands of time.
Posted by JF at 8:58 AM
Sunday, May 1, 2011
|I've just never been that into|
[Miss Havisham, for the record, is my hands-down favorite Dickens's character, and I can claim the distinction of having read every Dickens's novel twice, and a couple I've read three to five times. After Miss H gets jilted at the altar, she stops the clocks in her house, stays in her wedding dress for 40+ years and watches cobwebs gather on the rotting wedding cake].
I thought the Grace Kelly dress was fine although I associate bridal costumery with bleating sheep being tricked out for the sacrifice. Admittedly I have a sheep cathexis: http://tinyurl.com/3ngfzxf. [ I also like words like "cathexis" that kick ass in Scrabble]. His Royal Early-onset-male-pattern-baldness Will got to strut the peacock in a fetching red ensemble, which I suggested to Jamie as next year's Art Dept. Halloween costume [http://tinyurl.com/4qccwc2. Jamie, btw, bears an uncanny resemblance to Will. And to his father, who bears no resemblance to anyone in the royal family. I can't account for such things: I read Darwin, not Mendel.
But here's the thing. Watching the nuptials at dawn, it slammed me, and why this never occurred to me before, I cannot say. And here it is: Jamie is entitled to dual citizenship. Dual citizenship is an extraordinary privilege, and surely advantageous. And why in the name of Miss Havisham have I been so passive about claiming his rights? all these years, these weeks, waiting for Biological Dad, the Pater Unfamilias [http://tinyurl.com/44zqhm7] to do right, to sort his post-stroke self out and make good on tuition, on my payout art work?
I'd received an email from him Thursday, asking that we Skype this Wednesday. I initially replied, "okay." But it's not okay. None of it's okay. Our son thinks his father's a sperm bank donor who whacked off into a petri dish for extra cash [http://tinyurl.com/4zknj9f]. Skype isn't good enough. I want phone.
So I emailed him back, this Bio Father, this man who jilted me me at the Rossetti at the Tate [http://tinyurl.com/44zqhm7]. I said he must call me. I said he better be prepared with to write a cheque [that's British for check] for Jamie's university tuition. And to pony up a Rossetti sketch of sufficiently appraised value to buy me a large and sunny one bedroom on the upper west side of Manhattan. And that I had 17 years worth of emails in which he'd annually affirmed his commitment to the aforementioned debts, and that even if those emails had no legal standing --tho I was working with a Manhattan lawyer [not technically true but I might do so] to determine if they did--that I had something better: his wife's email address at her foundation [http://tinyurl.com/4yezh9r] and her phone number. All I had to do was hit the "forward" button.
Then I attached a picture of Jamie, a picture in which he's a ringer for the PU.
A picture that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean with the filename: "too bad your son thinks you're a jerk off.jpeg."
Posted by JF at 10:05 PM