The subtle underside, as of an oblong dying fish, scales that rarely see the light (the image comes after the experience), but now in its turning, in its not quite being able to stay swimming straight, you can see the scales underneath, a white sickly color: this is how I feel when I cross the line to Berkeley. A college-feeling, depressing and a little sour.
From the window of my small front room (which will be my study) I can see lights in the hills. Is it Berkeley or is it Oakland? And then, flashing by, BART. In the summer I imagine the view will be obscured because now it is only partial through a bare-branched tree.
The hills are green from all the rain. Last night it was confirmed that already the rain this year has been 397% of normal.
In the last 5 years I have lived in 5 different cities. First I moved from San Francisco to Tel Aviv (after meeting Wendy), then from Tel Aviv to London (to be closer to Wendy), from London to Newcastle (to live with Wendy), from Newcastle to San Francisco (where Wendy followed me eight months later). And now I am living in Oakland (alone).
I heard, on the radio today while crossing the bridge, an interview with Edna Gurewisch. She was the wife of David Gurewisch, the doctor and closest friend of Eleanor Roosevelt during the last fifteen years of her life. The interviewer tried to get Edna to admit jealousy, to say, yes, my husband and Mrs. Roosevelt were having a romantic relationship, but she remained even-keeled, unruffled, and repeated that they were just friends.
I just moved but I’m feeling old things rather than new.
Alison talked to me while putting up her shades, while cleaning her kitchen table, while doing payroll for her employees. When she finally looked up to see me, it was time for her to go to yoga.
Last weekend Peggy wanted to break up with me; this weekend she wants to “have fun.”
Whether or not to get pregnant has been the single most important question in my life for a good 3 years now.
Listening intently to Naomi Wolf on NPR speaking about the misconceptions of motherhood, on how difficult it is to remain independent, on how un-geared for pregnancy and childbirth American society really is I wondered, Will I be strong enough to do this on my own? The risk seemed enormous, almost insurmountable.
Sometimes there is a train whistle, a deep “hooing” sound, that makes me feel safe. Sometimes the train whistle reminds me of the train that ran along the Tyne, our river in England. Wendy and I would hear it before we saw it and then for a good while after the train passed.
Every day I check to see exactly where and when the sun comes in my windows. This is a terrible feeling. I only do this because I am hoping this apartment will get more direct light than it probably ever will.
At the corner of Guerrero and 20th, I thought, Wouldn’t it be strange to run into Julie Clarke, Wendy’s friend from Newcastle who recently moved to San Francisco. And then, lo and behold, there she was in Modern Times book store. Putting my thumb and forefinger to my forehead, “I beamed myself here,” I told her. Indeed, it was as if I had zoomed in on her and transported her or myself to that spot.
I screwed the table legs on so tight I ripped one of the brackets out of the wood.
The upstairs neighbor rang my bell (like the bell on my bicycle when I was a child, it makes a b-rrrrrrrr----iiing sound). She wanted to borrow a rolling pin and some flour. “All I have is a French rolling pin,” I told her. And asked her what she was making. “Baked Brie,” she said. “I didn’t expect to need flour.” I asked her about her apartment, was it laid out better than mine? Did it also have a fireplace? She said it was “less efficient,” which reassured me. When I handed her the rolling pin I told her it had been my grandmother’s but I don’t think she heard me.
In a couple of days I will see Wendy after not seeing her for nine months. Every time I think about her, I get nauseous.
I am troubled by the fact that Peggy and I don’t seem to be in love. Sometimes I feel like I could be in love with her, but I cancel out those feelings because they’re not returned. Then I can’t tell what I feel. She sometimes seems “dull.”
Yesterday, using a circular saw, I tore down the last remnants of the cabin I had put up in the backyard of my old apartment. I had built this cabin to make more room for Wendy (when she arrived from England) and because it had always been a childhood dream. I thought, “This is dangerous,” as I held the rotting two-by-four under my knee and used both hands to maneuver the saw. I completed the task in 40 minutes. Probably it should have taken two hours. I felt strong and capable doing this job by myself. But then, like a sickening wind, I had that same “alone” feeling. I thought, it’s great that I’m so strong. It’s like I’m a frontierswoman. Then I thought, No one will ever know, when I die, how much I did in my life, how brave and strong I have been? And then I thought and this is the thought I’ve been having again and again lately: Why is it I am always doing everything by myself?
When I wake up suddenly, from the dog whining, say, for one reason or another, I feel this dense vibration in my head, not unlike the withdrawal symptoms I suffered so intensely last year after stopping my sleeping pills. It’s as if my brain has hardened onto the sides of my skull and an electric motor is churning in the middle.
Returning to Oakland on Bart today I saw my house against the graying sky and beyond it, the even slate of the bay and thought that my house could see the water, even if I couldn’t.
Wendy lives four tenths of a mile from here I clocked it the day I moved in. I tell myself I moved to Oakland to have a garden and enough room for a child.
I was too tired to masturbate so I just fell asleep with my hand in my hair.
Peggy is easy to talk to: she listens and she understands. “I understand,” she says. “Right. Right. I understand.” I find this very reassuring even if I don’t know whether or not I love her.
Alison has nicknames for all my girlfriends. She refers to Wendy as Wensleydale. Peggy, whose last name is Rasmussen, she calls, Pegaleens Ragamuffin.
Just before teaching my graduate writing class this week, I heard a man on the radio who was a neighbor and friend of Robert Frost. They asked the man if he knew the poet when he wrote “Stopping by Woods on A Snowy Evening.” “Yes I did,” the man said in this very dry New England oak tree kind of tone. “Well here is Mr. Frost reading that poem,” the interviewer said. And then a crackly Robert Frost began: “Whose woods these are I think I know . . “Yep, that’s him,” the man said.
I told my old therapist, Madeline Danovich, to read Kindred Souls in hopes she would recognize our relationship in the doctor’s relationship to Eleanor Roosevelt.
Taking Ella to puppy school this week, I had that same feeling, that soreness inside. She shit and then peed in the middle of the lesson on loose-leash walking. The nice gay couple with the Viszla named Buddha helped clean up the poop and Kiara’s mom cleaned up the pee. Everyone was in a couple or with their kids except me.
At 42, my chances of pregnancy are 7%.
I understand how just understanding that an experience is an experience has a certain solid and warm feeling.
“Don’t tell me the status of my gum pockets this time,” I snapped at the dental hygienist today as she handed me my headphones. “I’ve got my music and I’m fine,” I said. “I have no desire to know.”
Dr. Harrison, my dentist, told me the story of a patient of his who found a dog she called Mr. Winkle. Apparently, she was offered 2 million dollars for the rights to Mr. Winkle who now has a whole line of clothes named after him. I have to admit to having looked Mr. Winkle up on the Internet. Mr. Winkle is pretty cute, I have to say. Why couldn’t I have thought of that?
As a freshman in high school I failed an essay test on “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The teacher, who was a friend of my mother’s -- my mother was also a teacher -- called me up to her desk after class. “What were you thinking?” she said, handing me back my F. She had handwritten and xeroxed the poem on the test. I had misread the last lines and had thought the poem ended not “miles to go before I sleep” but “mules to go before I sleep.” I had written an entire analysis on the significance of the jackass to an evening of snow.
I love to pee in the bathtub. Sometimes I think it’s a holy act. It reminds me of those people -- I can’t remember where they’re from -- who lived to be 130 by drinking their own piss.
I have a pillow named Huggy. Wendy used to beat Huggy up. I took this as a major affront. I even talked about it in therapy. Madeline Danovich said probably Wendy was jealous. “Jealous of Huggy?” Peggy respects Huggy and likes “the outfit” I dress him in a white embroidered Irish linen pillow case. “I see Huggy’s in his special suit,” Peggy said last night as she handed him to me when we got into bed.
I’m not sure if it matters whether I write or don’t write.
My mother said, in this very sober tone, “Don’t think children give you immortality, Gab. Nothing gives you immortality.”
. . . then I was on a pogo stick. Martha, my ex-girlfriend, and a little girl in gingham were watching me. After a few springs upwards I realized that by using my extraordinary powers of concentration, I could actually sustain the height and possibly I woke up before I knew for sure fly.
I see, looking back, I have been preoccupied with two things: fear of my mother’s death and having a baby. And actually, it’s been more than three years as I previously thought. I think it’s been about five.
On Sunday morning Peggy told me, out of the blue, she’s not sure this relationship is working out for her. At least it was out of the blue to me. When I said this, that it was out of the blue, she was quiet.
Did we have a good month?
Did we get closer?
Have you been thinking of breaking up all month long?
How long have you been thinking of breaking up?
The last few days.
So what do you want to do?
I think I may not be ready for a relationship.
How will you know?
I don’t know.
But you think you may want to break up?
This is the fourth time this has happened with Peggy.
I told Peggy that she wants the ball in her court and her court alone. “You want to be the gatekeeper.” “I understand,” she said. “I know what you mean.”
Peggy says even though it was a better month she still often feels that there’s a part of her that she’s keeping out of the relationship. I imagine her sitting down to dinner with me and removing her head.
Racing to answer my cell phone this morning who knows why I tripped over the board that keeps Ella out of the bedroom, caught myself from falling, but scraped the side of my foot pretty badly. I missed the call.
The man from BLAZE fireplace had been the one who called. He’s coming to change the location of the thermal disc and move it closer to the fire so that it will more quickly sense the heat and the blower will go on sooner.
When I left the house on Tuesday my sweet peas were almost 4 feet tall, clinging to the chain link fence with their curlicues, the flowers edging out of stiff green buds. I could see a rusty red in one of them, in another a blue.
Last Christmas even though we had been broken up for two years and three months -- I bought Wendy sweet pea seeds and a tiny vase two inches high.
Finally, after much deliberation, I inseminated again last Tuesday at 10 am and 11pm and Wednesday at 11am. Now, once again, I’m waiting to see if I’m pregnant.
The brown around my nipples seems puffy but my breasts are not unusually sore.
Looking at the scrape on my foot, the blood staining the side of my slippers, I thought, imagine surviving a plane crash, how cut up you would be.
When I told Peggy I thought it was controlling of her to do what she’s done, she got mad. She never gets mad. She always understands. You have some nerve getting mad, I said, and hung up the phone.
This is the dirtiest, ugliest, nastiest breakup I’ve ever gone through, I shouted at her when she called back. Even if we get back together, I said, hoping against hope, I’m not sure it’s a good thing to have such violent conversations.
I am reading The Lover with my Profound in Fiction class. It’s got a kind of removal that’s quite painful. The last novel I chose for the class was The Strangerand the one before that wasThe Reader. I find it strange that I am choosing books with main characters who are removed as examples of “the Profound.” I suppose this feels painful and not so removed to me.
I read The Stranger for the first time in an Existentialism class I took from my mother. It is one of her favorite books.
Jocelyn tells me she’s infatuated with this experimental filmmaker she’s just met, Connor. “He’s got a long braid and carries a woman’s purse. He’s such a girl,” she said. She’s not sure if she wants to be with a man.
This morning, for some reason, I woke up thinking of Dirk, the Belgian man I had a love affair with one summer, the summer after my grandmother died, while I was in Besancon, France. I wouldn’t let him penetrate me, but one night we lay in the shadow of a cypress tree on the hillside behind the apartment where I was staying. The moon was so bright we had to hide in the shadow. I felt his hard cock under his pants. It was long and hard and up against his stomach. He rubbed himself against me and even though I wanted to feel him I was still in mourning over my grandmother’s death and couldn’t imagine letting anyone in.
Jed, my therapist, asks me why I feel adrift with him, do I want to feel closer? I don’t really want to, I say, but I miss the fact that we’re not. He suggests I come a second time this week. I agree.
I am afraid my mother will die and for the first few years of the baby’s life I will be grieving.
A friend writes me: I did however have a good dream about your sailboat being saved by an alien being, a tiny water creature--sperm reference, I suppose. Tom Cruise was your shipmate; he was asleep. After the alien talked to you telepathically, it turned everything that had been green, including the sailboat itself, to red--for the heck of it, as far as I could or can tell. The red was definitely pleasing, but I wondered if anyone would remember that it wasn't always so...
There is an ordinary flat gray stone where my love for Peggy had been. I am afraid our fighting has killed the baby.
Two men, a black man and a red-headed kid, Marcus and Cory, are working on my plumbing. For a week now they have been digging up the pipes around the house. Last month my shit bubbled up from the drain in my driveway in big lumps with streams of wet toilet paper and clumped down the street. When I called the landlady, she asked me if it happens every time I flush the toilet. “It happens often enough!” I said. “I can’t live with my shit coming up unexpectedly all the time!”
I dreamed a kind of cinema verite slash western in which Sam, my student, was the hero. There’s Sam in a red shirt walking up a dusty path in the middle of some corral. There’s Sam on a horse climbing a hill. “So that’s you?” I said to him. “Yup, it’s me,” he said. We were watching the film together. Then I saw him from the side and thought his face was distorted, his nose snub and bent to one side. The more I looked at him, the more “defective” he became. Later in the dream, I was masturbating by holding one of my hands in the other so as to imitate the touch of another’s hand. I was afraid to come because I’ve read that uterine contractions can unseat the tiny embryo as it’s trying to implant. I decided in the dream I would not come, that I would hold back, but then, by accident, it seemed like it happened anyway.
The embryo, if there is an embryo, would be making its way down from the fallopian tubes into the uterus today as it’s the 4th day after my 4th insemination.
On Wednesday, when I went to water the sweet peas, there were no sweet peas. In fact, there was no trace of there ever having been sweet peas. It seemed like a bad dream. One day sweet peas. The next day none. I stood in the middle of my “lawn,” a short, dry prickly burr-patch and cried.
“The whole reason I moved to Oakland in the first place was to have a garden where I could grow sweet peas!” I told my mother. She said, “Have you ever seen The Unbearable Lightness of Being?” This might seem like a non sequitur, but in the last few years my mother has become a foreign-movie aficionado. She is about to turn seventy-five. “Your story reminds me of that picture. It seems sometimes that being, just being, is so light and so sweet, it’s sad. It’s almost painful. You know what I mean?” I knew what she meant but her voice sounded distant -- familiar, but far away.
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