Me: I'm so glad to not be in the hospital, so I'm not constantly having everything poking me, and being tested for everything.
My mother: Good morning. (Pulls out a sleeve of medical supplies) Time to test your blood pressure, blood sugar, pulse, and breathing rate.
Me: Oh, this is still happening.
My mother: This is definitely still happening.
Driving through the town where she grew up, my mother points out houses, forgetting what happened to me in one of them.
An uncomfortable block later, she says "That's the country club where we taught Adam to golf." and points to her left.
"That's a graveyard." I say
"And you parred every hole."
I come from a weird family.
After Some Unscrupulous Relative Links Her To An Article About A Comic Book Store In Texas, My Mother Calls Me At Work
Me: "No, Mom, I'm not getting married now."
Mom: "I just read this article about this comic book store couple in Texas...:"
Me: "That's great. Who do you imagine I'm going to get married to?"
Mom: "What about that nice guy we had lunch with a couple of years ago. I think he was moving to Arizona."
Me: "Well, SHE now lives in California."
Me: "Yes, she lives in California, and is a woman."
Mom: "That's even be--"
Me: "YOU FINISH THAT SENTENCE OLD WOMAN, AND I WILL END YOU."
Mom: "So you're still single, then?"
My mom just texted me "May The Fourth be with you." along with a recipe for Darth Vader cookies.
The "holiday" has officially jumped the left shark.
I almost posted my confusion about how she even knew I was interested in Star Wars because, apparently, I forgot the Return Of The Jedi sleeping bag she bought me, and the millenium falcon she bought me, and all the action figures she bought me, and the collectible Return Of The Jedi glasses we got from what was probably McDonald's, and the fact that the only reason I saw those movies is because she and/or my dad took me to them, and that she knows that I work in a comic book store,
It's like I don't even know me.
During my break from work, I called my mom:
Mom: I was just going to e-mail you, you must have ESP. Ken wants to know what you're doing for National Poetry Month.
Ken (in background): Who is on the phone?
Mom: It's Adam.
Ken: What's he doing for National Poetry Month?
Mom: Why are you hiding?"
Me: It was a joke.
Mom: It was a joke.
Ken: It was a joke?
Mom (to Ken): It was a joke.
(to me): I was just about to e-mail you to ask you what you're doing for National Poetry Month.
Me: Well, now you don't have to.
Regular conversation ensues.
When I hang up the phone, I get a text, letting me know to check my e-mail. The e-mail says "Hey Adam, it's Mom. It was great to hear from you. You must have ESP. Ken would like to know what you're doing for National Poetry Month."
I hope to live for a long time but I never want to get old.
Ok, seriously, what is it with my parents getting married without telling anyone?
I suppose, barring the death of their spouses, that this is the last time one of my parents will have the opportunity to get married (barring their embrace of Mormonism) and then casually drop that fact in conversation after the ceremony is over.
Now that I think about, I suppose my birth parents would each have the opportunity to do this to me. Let's call that another reason why I have no plans to get in touch with them.
I've been doing a bunch of high school poetry shows over the last few months. And, usually, at some point during the workshop, or during the slam, I'll look at all the kids around me and think, I wonder how the kids at my old high school would react. Then I remember the teachers at my public high school.
My geometry teacher, Miss Nichols, was a frumpy fifty-something former nun who would have made an incredible first grade or kindergarten teacher, but was entirely too condescending to deal with bored ninth graders. Every day she would mark the floor-to ceiling blackboard with brightly colored chalk outlines and ask questions that no one would raise their hands to answer. And when she realized that none of us gave a runny shit about what she was trying to teach us, she would grab the flowy part of her mumu, and announce "If you're going to sit and look at the floor, I'm going to sit and teach on the floor." And the rest of the class would be peppered with "Hello?"s every time we failed to respond to her inane questions. In my final report card of the year (I got a D-), she wrote that I would be "best served in a remedial math course." When, the next year, I was moved out of my pre-calculus class to ADVANCED CALCULUS AND TRIGONOMETRY (I got an A-), my mother photocopied both my boarding school report card, and the one that Miss Nichols had wrote the following year, along with a note suggesting Miss Nichols would be "best served in a remedial teaching course."
My Life Science teacher, Mr. Hickey, was an arrogant, gassy sixty-something former scientist. He made alphabetical seating charts, because he hated learning kids' names. Every class, my friend Brian and I would count how many times he yanked his tie, or threw chalk at people. And whenever he made an audible fart, we would chuckle, prompting Mr. Hickey to say "Stone, do you want a detention?" To which I replied "No." To which he replied, "Fine. Stanton, you've got a detention." This same teacher tried to give me a D on an embryology project because I couldn't for the life of me draw an attractive looking graph, chick, or egg. When I pointed out that it was a science class, and not an art class, I received my first detention, which I skipped. When my mother gave a copy of my embryology report (along with Hickey's comments on my artwork) to the principal, my detention was rescinded, and my grade was upped to a B-. The principal hated and feared my mom. As did I.
My French teacher was a nice enough lady, but she didn't teach me anything. I don't even remember her name. Ditto the man who taught history.
But poetry workshops are organized by English teachers, and its my Freshman year english teacher I choose to remember now. Mrs. Wallins was the bland, moderately friendly wasp you'd expect to teach high school English. She liked to drill students on the difference between metaphors and like similes. She favored the kids who read out loud well, and thus I was, for the first semester, one of her favorite students. As long as I didn't question her, we got along fantastically. Our midterm assignment was to write a short fiction piece about Valentine's Day. A week before the assignment was due, she'd gone on a rant about how much she hated second person narration, how she thought it was demeaning to the reader. So, naturally, I wrote my fiction piece in the second person. It wasn't fantastic. It won't change the face of literature, but it was pretty fucken good for a piece of crap high school assignment about love. In her comments, she mentioned that I would have scored much higher had I written the piece in a "more traditional voice." Since I'd made the decision to rile my teacher consciously, my mother refused to back me up.
For National Poetry Month, Mrs. Wallins had organized an open mic in the cafeteria, featuring all the students that would be included in the school lit journal. I had two poems accepted. They were terrible. Awful. Should have been banned from the English language. At the time, though, I was proud of them, and I showed them to one of my friends, Jeff, who wasn't in my class. He turned the poems in to his English teacher, who also submitted them to the lit journal. I was one of the first people to read, so I read my poems to a mixed reaction (the poems sucked, the kids were forced to be there), sat down, and prepared to get a "well done" clap on the back from Mrs. Wallins. Instead I received a whisper in my ear "We need to go to the principal's office. Now."
The battle over who wrote the poems wasn't pretty. Jeff argued that he'd written them. I cried. Parents were called. My mother played the stern, supportive woman who frightened high school principals, and Jeff's mother played the crazed psychopath who knew, KNEW that I'd been out to destroy her son since we started hanging out in fourth grade.
In the end, since neither of copped to the plagiarism, or had any proof that we'd written the poems first, we were both removed from the lit journal. And for the rest of the term, every time I turned in a piece of writing, Mrs. Wallins would ask "Did you write this?"
This year, for national poetry month, I have been asked to run a slam and poetry workshop at my old high school. I will be reading a series of poems in the second person in Mrs. Wallins' honor. I'll tell her how the last time I saw Jeff, I gave him permission to use those poems whenever he wanted (remember, they sucked), and that I recently googled Jeff to find out how his writing career was going. Curiously, when I googled his name and poetry, I didn't find anything. But when I googled his name and "police log", man did I get a bunch of hits. I was initially impressed by his career as a law enforcement agent, until I read a few of the pages and discovered he wasn't so much a police officer as a frequent suspect in a series of low-grade crimes. Apparently, he's gotten really sneaky at the breaking part of his criminal life, but his enterings frequently attract the notice of local police. Maybe I'll start doing a few prison workshops and readings so we can get back in touch.
Ben is on the phone with his mother. Speaking all falling leaves and sunshine. He is planning on spending a weekend on a commune in upstate New York. He wants to get in touch with nature, and spend some quality time with Lisabelle. He does not tell her that he really wants to go because he found an acid connection, and he wants us to do acid together before it starts snowing. And then I hear him say something about Ani Difranco.
“Wait, your mom likes Ani Difranco?” I ask.
“Yes.” He says, then relays my question to his mom.
“Your mom, who likes to wear flannel, and fixes all the appliances in your house when they break, also likes to listen to Ani Difranco? Your mom is such a dyke.”
“My Mom is Not a lesbian.” He says. Then he listens to the phone. “She says she’s a non-practicing bisexual. And she says that if she ever meets you, she’s going to kick your ass.”
“She is sooooo a dyke.”
Ben scowls, and takes the phone out of the room.
I’ve been living with him for two weeks. Nothing’s happened. Everything has happened. I quit my job at the coffeehouse and went back to my old job, waiting tables at Kookaburra Canyon. I got an e-mail from my mother’s boyfriend telling me that she has cancer, and she’s coming to visit me in Boston this weekend to discuss her will and other things I really don’t want to, but know I need to, deal with.
“I’ll go with you.” Ben says. “You never talk about your mom, I’d love to meet her.”
Thus far in my life, my mother has only met three people I’ve dated: Jennifer (who hates my mother because...well, my mom was a total bitch to her at every opportunity), Ryan (though it was before we were dating...he liked her, but he liked everyone), and Elvis (who she instinctively knew was evil, but she actually tried to be supportive as possible until the day I finally got rid of him, which she claims was one of the happier days in her life). Even my really close friends have never liked my mother. She was emotionally abusive to Liam and Riley. She made Saint quiver whenever she came into our house. Earlier this year, when angry at her for something stupid, I toyed with the idea of inviting my previous crush, Dmitri, to spend some time with me at my mother’s house. We were going to claim he was a fifteen year old street kid addicted to crank that I was “taking care of”. It seemed funny at the time.
I don’t know about her meeting Ben. I just don’t think it would be fun for either of them. It would give Ben some new material for his “Letters to My Exes’ Mothers” song, though, since we’re not even dating, I’m still a future ex at this point. I bet he’d do a fantastic impression of her, but she’d also eat him alive. Oh he wouldn’t cry about it, I just imagine, as we left the restaurant, him saying “Jesus, well that explains a lot about you.” Also, I'm not sure how bringing my not boyfriend to a discussion of my inheritance and my responsibilities, in the context of her estate, would go over.
“Don’t worry mom. He hasn’t done speed in…” (whispers in Ben’s ear, Ben whispers back) “ok, technically it hasn’t been that long, but he hasn’t really been a drug addict in months. Plus, he has a job. I know. I know he looks like he’s fourteen. He’s not. He’s twenty two.” (and here Ben would add, “Twenty two, and one month.”) “Yes. Twenty two and one month. No, I haven’t IDed him. Mom, he really is twenty-two. And one month. No, I haven’t been spending loads of money on him. In fact, he’s been reallysupportive of me. No, no we’re not...I'm glad you like my haircut...No, I...Ok, well...it’s not...I should really go to work.”
It’s just too much for me to contemplate. But as fate or luck or whatever higher power you belive in, would have it, my mom and her boyfriend come for their visit while Ben is at the commune buying acid.
The lunch isn’t nearly as awkward as I expect. Turns out, my mother doesn’t havecancer. The cancer was a ploy to get me to meet with them to discuss the will. It sounds awful, but it’s not terribly surprising. When I was living in Arifuckenzona, I went a little over a month without calling or e-mailing them, so my mother called and left a voicemail on my phone, letting me know they were taking a trip down to Florida, and that they’d left their wills on the kitchen counter, so that if their plane crashed.... It’s a cruel game. Avoidance and guilt hop-scotch.
After the meal, they drive me back to Ben’s apartment, where an obese man in a too tight t-shirt is knocking on his door. “Do you live here?” he asks.
And because it’s Ben’s apartment, and his landlord doesn’t know I’ve been staying here, I say “No. I’m just catsitting.”
“Too bad.” He says. “I gotta cut your power.”
Out go the lights, the computer, the refrigerator, the fan. Everything’s off. I feel like it’s my shitty luck infecting Ben’s life.
I take a bus over to Celeste’s apartment, and tell her the story. “I hope it’s not ametaphor, like Ben’s way of saying Here are the keys to my life, you are alwayswelcome, but you have no power. And then I read the little card the NStar guy gave me, and it says they turned the gas off, too, so I thought, hey, if I’m going with the metaphor, it means that he also thinks I’m not gassy.”
“Oh, dude,” Celeste days, taking my hand, “that’s not what it means at all. It means he thinks you're not hot.”
When I was sixteen, I made a bet with my mother. I would not be caught smoking, drinking, or doing drugs between the time the bet was placed, and my twenty-firstbirthday. If I succeeded, she’d buy me my first used car.
Years later, I learned that the actual bet wasn’t that I wouldn’t get caught, but that I wouldn’t do any of those things. But by the time my mother passed this revelation on to me, I was already on my second car, and was in no financial position to reimburse her for the first one.
I have a very competitive nature. Not only was I fixated on winning the bet, but I also gauged my rate of drinking, smoking, and doing drugs against the rates of my friends. I figured, if I was smoking, drinking, and doing drugs less often than my friends, then I wouldn’t get caught, I would win my car, and I would have the satisfaction of being a better person.
While I did have a brief addiction to cigarettes when I was twenty-one, I generally only smoke a cigarette or two every six months, when I’m exceptionally stressed. I drink socially, and until I started spending time with Ben, I had been decidedly antisocial. I’ve also held true to my ideal of drug usage. I don’t pay for them. Ever. This way, I don’t run the risk of becoming addicted to them. I do drugs on a purely peer pressure basis. For the most part, I only smoke pot. And again, not very often. Apart from pot, and a few cups of mushroom tea when I lived in Burlington, Vermont, I’ve only ever done one drug, mescaline. I was sixteen, and my high school roommate (thank you, boarding school education), JBob, had bought some from another student. He’d never done it before, I’d certainly never done it before, so we decided we’d do it together, and invited our friend Matt to hang out with us so that we wouldn’t do anything stupider than the sort of things we usually did when we were together.
About an hour after we took it, we weren’t feeling anything. Neither of us had ever been buzzed from any of the pot we smoked, so we decided that our experiment with mescaline was a failure, and decided we would go into town and watch a movie. As luck would have it, there was a brand new movie out that all three of us (me, JBob, and Matt) wanted to see: Natural Born Killers.
Well, the mescaline kicked in at some point during the movie. I don’t know when. I don’t know what I hallucinated and what was actually in that fucked up movie. All I know is, I haven’t been able to watch the movie since. I also haven’t touched mescaline since.
“Have you ever done speed?” Ben asks. It’s Labor Day, and we’ve just finished an extra large pizza, a bottle of Jack Daniels, two liters of Coke, and four hours of watching the Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston reality show.
“Never.” I say.
“You’ve got to try it.” He says. “I got so much writing done when I was on speed. I mean, it was all terrible, but I used to get sooooo much accomplished. You’d love it. I mean, I’ve always been hyper. My mom used to say I was like a kid on speed, but the truth is I totally was a kid on speed.” Ben kicks his voice up an octave. “Look at my Lego castle. I used 2,458 pieces. The princess sleeps in this room. See the way the drawbridge works…” and he is talking a mile a second, and I am laughing too hard to keep up, because it isn’t that he was a kid on speed when he was a kid, he’s a kid on speed now, just without the actual speed...or the kiddiness.
He talks like this all the way to the bus stop, during the entire trip to his house, and most of the way to the grocery store where we are, for some reason, buying a coffee grinder, lemon juice, lemonade, apples, nectarines, and bananas.
“I haven’t had bananas in ages.” I say, setting him up for a gay joke.
“Why not?” He asks.
“I don’t know. I like them, but I mostly have apples when I’m feeling healthy. Apples are my favorite fruit.”
Ben smiles. “I thought I was your favorite fruit.”
When a cute guy walks by him in the cereal aisle, Ben’s eyes and body follow the cute guy to the left. I push his left shoulder and he turns to the right, toward me. “I wonder if that’s an instinct?” He asks of his newly discovered navigation control.
“I don’t know. But there are other portions of your body I’d like to press to find out what happens.”
He shakes his head. “Booooo.” And then, “Have you ever done opium?”
“No.” I’ve always been leery of opium. All those terrible TV spots tell you that marijuana is a gateway drug, but they never mention which drugs it opens the gate to. Opium, from all the Burroughs I’ve read, is the gateway drug to heroin. And while I have no fear of needles in doctors’ offices, I have no desire to start sticking them into my arm, taint, or spine on a regular basis. Plus, I’ve never been turned on by young Arab boys, or shooting a loved one in the face.
“It’s a really mellow high.” He says. “It’s like the anti-speed. Of course, it makes you really nauseous and shit, but that’s totally okay because when you do opium, you do opium with your friends, and puking is like conversation when everyone’s high.”
“I don’t think vomit is a language I want to speak.”
“You’ll love it.” He says. And on the way back from the grocery store, we stop at a florist, where we buy a dozen dried poppies.
While Ben grinds the poppies in his newly acquired coffee grinder, I check my e-mail. Note from my mom’s boyfriend letting me know that my mother may have cancer, porn spam, invitation to a lesbian wedding, Viagra spam, and an e-mail from Celeste:
Dude, my roommate was going through Craigslist looking for an apartment
for his new girlfriend, when he found this ad. Isn't that your room?
Dmitri is on the phone with the airline. It's snowing. And while the snow looks heavy from inside the house, I know it's not heavy enough to ground him here for one more night. Dmitri is leaving to return to his what passes for normal life. Landlord has offered to drive us to the airport whenever Dmitri's flight leaves.
"Hello?" Dmitri asks, signaling he's finally through the robot barricade and talking to an actual living person over the phone.
I stare at his bags because I think this will make him more comfortable than if I were to stare at him. I hate it when most people look at me while I'm doing something uninteresting. And because I'm neurotic, and Dmitri is neurotic, I just assume he feels the same way, so I stare at his bags, then his shoes, then...his ass?
In the days before wireless phones, my mother used to tangle the fuck out of phone cords during nervous conversation. She always had to be doing something with her hands. Her nervous behavior, and my father's ascent into obesity are just a few reasons I'm glad I'm not biologically related to them. Of course, my birth father was a rapist, so maybe obesity wouldn't be so bad.
Rather than tangle the cord on the phone, Dmitri is playing with his pants. As he giggle something about "So you can't tell me whether or not the plane is leaving?" his pants ride just low enough for me to make out a few inches of crack. I hope this is a signal. The snow will pick up. The pants will come down. We'll soon be making out, and I'll be running my fingers down that crack and...look at the bags, Safey, look at the bags.
He hangs up the phone and repeats the conversation that I just half heard. He's impossibly cute.
Whatever we talk about for the next hour must be fleeting because all I can think of is want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss. Then, it's time to head to the airport. Landlord gets the car running, we grab all of Dmitri's bags, and head to the car. We should be at the airport in...wait, we're headed in the wrong direction. Maybe Landlord is helping me kidnap Dmitri. This idea would intrigue me, except that Landlord is a sixty-something year old guy who likes to go to foreign countries and pick up young boys and do...whatever he does. I don't share well. But we are not on our way to the airport, we are clearly at the T station. I am tempted to say "This isn't the airport", but this week has gone particularly bad in every way except for Dmitri, and I'd rather just spend some time on the T with Dmitri anyway.
want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss Talk about nothing. want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss want to kiss
And we're here. The airport. Dmitri is leaving. The lady behind the counter won't let him bring his bags carry on this time, so he checks them. I want to say how sorry I am that my friends let him down (because I'm used to them letting me down, that's no big deal to me, I let them down just as often). I want to say I wish we'd had more time. I want to kiss him, and follow him to the gate, and on the plane, and back to Chicago. I could move my life to Chicago. Steggy is there. Dmitri is there. I know loads of people in Chicago, why I could...kill myself rather than move again. I'm no longer a satellite in search of a planet. I am a star, and someone will make their orbit around me.
And it's time for him to go, and we shake hands. A handshake. We met because he liked the way I wrote about being a complete whore, and the only physical contact is a handshake? I'm so far off my game, I'm playing patty-cake.
His plane takes him home where his Mutually Exclusive Hookup Partner will soon become his Boyfriend. They'll make forts out of blankets and play video games. I'll be at home playing solitaire.