Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This is to my great Dane.  To my almond joy, my brown boy.  My peach, my lust, my wonder.  This is for everything that I gained, heady, titillating, exaggerated as it was in my youth, uncontrollable; and for everything I am poised, barely balanced, to lose.  The horror.

This is for us, two sun-eyed, star-crossed lovers.  We saw this country, untamed and wild; we saw our lives, splayed before us, entwined softly, the strings touching, flitting as they looped, caught and fell back to one-another again and again.  The knot seemed impossibly tight, the yarn, our minds, thoughts, frayed, the fibers nearly indistinguishable.  Les deux enfants, we wandered together, perpetually paired, down jutting banks, through tight sea grasses.  We walked right up to the edge and saw magenta waves in the salty waters; we climbed peaks, scrambling over rocks, our skin ragged, dirty as our breathless banter.  We ate like princes though we were paupers, glinting plates set before glowing eyes, smiles, and the cheapest bottle of wine... Yes we would like some bread please, and also some cake.

This is for you, my best friend.  I ache, weighted limbs, heavy heart, in this ocean of bed; my apologies lost in the tides of blankets, unused, drowning me, oh downy reminders of a better heat source!  I want to play.  What games we had!  Let us romp through fields again, bright bocci balls in hand.  Let us wrestle (let me win!) and run between trees, taking pictures, brilliant shadows, sweet candies, a mere taste of our two years.

But what are words? Futile devices.  Something is lost in translation; the fissure between thought and expression is infinite, leaving only cuss words and bitter remarks on our tongues as we swallow (how repulsive, how crude!), ringing in our ears as the fights fade.  Better to leave with the love.  Take it with you, pack it, one hundred suitcases full, the most precious gem, priceless pearl.  Hide it, tuck it away. polished, to admire occasionally, a reflection, rosy in the gleaming surface.  You see two faces, beaming, rays.

This is all for you to recall, my cherub, my moon, in dim dreams, elongated alleyways of potent impressions.  Not this script, sightless signs, but these images, what happened, delicately imprinted on your beautiful brain.  This is for us to remember what once was, and perhaps, world willing, what will be once more.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Martine and her Mind: the ubiquitous battle part deux

My distraction and utter inability to write conclusively directs me towards smaller stories.

Once there walked a girl.  She moved strangely from world to world.  She never stopped but always looked; she looked for a life she read in a book.  And in her haste, her fleeting, sudden tastes, perhaps she missed her chance.  And as she weaves, wandering through trees and dropping leaves from her eyes warm water leaks.  For the division between knowledge and action is infinite.

It is conceivable that in my desperation to find employment, my judgement became clouded.  As I walk back from my latest interview, I ponder the convoluted situation, thinking of what misguided motivations could have possibly culminated in the past three hours.

Suffice it to say that my time as a temp was killing me slowly, so I grabbed my life preserver and bailed from that sinking ship into the roiling, frigid waters of unemployment. The fruit of athletic loins, I navigated the murderous tides patiently, ebbing and flowing, surfing the swells that threatened to sink me, until finally, on a warming Friday morning I crawled ashore and rested, for a mere moment, on the sunny banks of opportunity; one precious interview! However unseemly the situation, I arose rested and ready, shaking a shadow of doubt from my freshly laundered clothing.  Today I can do anything.

As it turns out, the job, which I was hired for upon entry, demanded exactly that, anything, everything... and I did it, all of it.  I met my employer with a smile and mildly averted eyes; I felt uncomfortable, in the beginning, looking at his small, strapped body, straining in his wheelchair towards my desperately willing eyes.  He had severe Cerebral Palsy.  I held water to his mouth and typed as he dictated emails, to this mother, friends, distant relatives.  I laughed as he made nearly inaudible jokes about my qualifications; he should have asked for a certified nurse, a MALE nurse.  I did not flinch when I held a portable, red plastic urinal to his groin for five minutes as he talked to spoiling himself.  The ensuing cleanse would, unsurprisingly, be my responsibility.  (Insert thoughts of suicide here).  Nor did I utter a sound when he asked me, again leering, to hold his medicinal marijuana pipe to his mouth and light it as he drooled on my knuckles and I stood hunched in a plume of potent smoke.  (Insert socio-political caricature here).  Not one, but two bowl packs.  His inadvertent incoherence then considerably heightened, my tasks became nearly impossible.  Two absurd hours later I spouted some delirious excuse and sped out the door, slightly inebriated and completely humiliated.

Deep in colorful thought, I walk into a coffee shop and slump over a double, non-fat latte.  I wait for my lover.  We eat a pastry.  I call into my new job and quit, not a day after my recruitment, apologizing and explaining lamely that another, more suitable option arose.  I will work eight hours a week as a teacher.

The sky darkens and foam licks my toes, mocking, deceptively light as my foundation gives way to urgent, salient, steely waves, selfish in their mighty endeavors.

On Monday I teach.  I have one student.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Martine and the Monsters: the ubiquitous battle part one

It is necessary to say that I have struggled; normally the words come freely, from my fingertips to the keypad and then, conveniently and in a manner I will never understand, they appear before eyes on a backlit screen with the decisive click of a button.

Perhaps this struggle is indicative of the difficulty I have found in the transition from my New-England life, quaint, full of colored leaves and clean, bright air, to my metropolitan life of trains and clouds and the inexorable scent of urine.  It has not been easy... but then, I suppose, that is what I was hoping for.

We arrived in San Francisco with sticky, pimpled skin - our dried sweat a chilly film.  We walked with our bags and pillows and red eyes to an apartment and opened the door to a friend.  We washed, drank some wine and went to bed.  In the morning we woke to mist and a vast expanse of rooftops, our minds barely grasping the notion of permanence.  We walked through the streets, our clothes absorbing the swollen air, pregnant with water.  Around us there was ponderous life.

We have been walking for months now; it is more familiar, we no longer need maps.  I live in the East bay with two girls and the sunshine; he lives in the city proper with four people and two dogs and one bathroom - I rarely stay there.  During the week I set my alarm for twenty-to-six, shower, dress and walk to the BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit.  Someone should change the name.  The screeching, stinking rail-cars are rapid only in the slowest sense of the word) by seven-twenty-seven.  I ride the rapid transit under the bay, all of its viscous, shifting weight, and into the city, Embarcadero, road of the riots.  There I change over to the metro, up and down escalators, tickets spitting; the N train takes me to the edge of Golden Gate Park.  I stay in Sunset for eight hours a day at any vacated desk answering phones and responding  to emails for a popular .org list I never knew was based in SF, where the king Craig lives.  Sometimes, if I am very lucky, I get sent to the attic to re-arrange the fifty-pound files, boxes and boxes of them; lifting and adjusting at the command of my surly, compact boss.  More often, I am sent to the basement to battle the mail machine.  This maniacal, diabolical contraption of groaning, churning metal and plastic is the embodiment of all things hated.  Banished to the underworld, I spend dim hours ripping paper from the jaws of this monster, disguised devil, jabbing, smashing, sweating, begging, pleading in my cemented inferno.  Eventually I win, however lowly my tactics, the last envelope sealed and stamped a crimson forty-four.  But at the high price of my sanity; I spend the remaining day muttering, my eyes twitching.  I return home, back to my wonderfully small room at seven-thirty.  I eat dinner and fall asleep in bed watching Netflix streaming as BART grinds by on the lifted, cement tracks and the world outside disappears into ink.  I lay behind closed curtains only to drool dreamlessly and repeat.  I pass my days in near solitude, my ears wrapped in headphones, my vision facing inwards, I see the details.

I have friends here.  Activities are endless; I accelerate (the meaning of which, I learned from a favorite math teacher, encompasses both increasing and decreasing in speed, as well as a change in direction). I am wide-eyed, a kid staring through a kaleidoscope; the colors revolving, the patterns adapting.  The burritos are delicious, juicy, and so are the mangos.  Art is everywhere.  It is as if I am exactly where I want to be but that place does not exist; the screws are coming loose and a wall is falling - something is missing, or out of place.  Perhaps I am.

The transition has been awkward, like I am trying on different outfits in a dressing room with a curtain that does not close; as strangers walk by the gap widens with the disturbed air and they can see in to my half-naked silhouette, gauche, vulnerable.  It is as if I am meeting my family but they are foreign; I greet them with an embrace, a soft kiss on one cheek, and pull away as they advance (of course!) once more in that uncomfortable, nearly forgotten attempt at the second cheek.  My encounter with this city, this era of my life, is the lingering, consistent awkwardness of the second kiss.  Le deuxiem bisou.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Hint of Bitter

We drove straight through Nevada.  Drove through the heavy air, into the night and the cooler ozone that descends form the Sierras, from their mighty height.  We slept in a discounted room, the last room available - available and discounted because the air conditioner was broken.  We opened a window.  Cleaving a crack in our seclusion and security, we opened ourselves to the slightest possibility of theft, of intrusion, of death; a psychotic finish to our stay in this strange hotel, in this wild world.  My mind has wandered down darker allies.  

In the morning we woke to the smells of a drab, yet complimentary, breakfast.  We smuggled some fruit and stole into the young sun.  Exhilarated by the proximity of our final resting stop and our last tent pitch, last Quaker breakfast bar, last gas station, last day of sweating and driving and sweating and sleeping, we directed ourselves towards Yosemite and powered forward, the perspiration already forming on our brows, our backs.  But Jobeena is not well.

As we climbed the first grade, our white knight tired.  She sputtered and coughed.  She tripped and could not catch her breath.  She started flashing, crying out, begging us to stop.  So we pulled off, our place of rest not yet out of sight.  Triple A came to our rescue, engines roaring, dark and strong driver smiling deceptively; the garages were full, there were no flatbed trucks for our four-wheel drive, it would be a week's wait.  Drop her into third and push through it the man says.  He knows best; we give him our bag of quarters for his thoughts.

So we go.  Slowly through those mountain passes, Jobeena whimpered and hissed, her breaks smoking.  She smelled of burning rubber and fatigue.  We were filled with apprehension and frustration; on our tongues there rested a hint of bitterness.  We will drive straight to San Francisco, the city and the impenetrable fog. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Machines Give

This all happened before.  Before, on the third day of our trip, after the bike rode away, but before everything else, we took a detour.  We drove out to the Canadian shores of Lake Eerie.  It was hot that day, and, due to the strikingly thin girl with the alarmingly loud nasal tones sleeping beneath me in the spindly hostel bed,  we had risen early giving us many hours of sunlight to enjoy.  Our drive as short that day, and the heat, combined with the proximity of a great lake, pushed us towards the water.

We drove through cows and corn and potatoes.  We drove in the heat alongside a lake that never appeared.  We began to doubt our navigational skills.  We were going to forsake our nautical dreams for the more attainable iced cream and air conditioning when, alas, there appeared a house on stilts, sitting between the reeds and its neighbors on a watery lane.  Intriguing.  Where are their cars I wondered; they are so far from civilization they must need transportation for food, for beer, for the TVs on which to watch the hockey game.  Or perhaps not - their yards a shining, turquoise sea devoid of the sticky salt and the bone-numbing chill.  The sand was white, the trees smooth and shady.  The beach stretched lazily out before us.  We hurriedly parked.  We changed behind open car doors and wrapped towels.  We ran over the scalding shore and dove into the blue.

The lake was eerie in a way; from a distance the waves were perfect, they were colored powder and as clear as plastic.  Once underneath, however, my open eyes could not see the hands stretched in front of me, only a strange, intangible murk.  But it was warm and so utterly swimmable.

It is polluted, my uncle informed me later that night as we sat on a stone and screen porch munching delicious, Detroit pizza.  Lake Eerie, we learned to our utter dismay, used to be the most polluted great lake (perhaps the explanation behind the unnaturally-Mediterranean hues, I muse).  Hopefully the status has changed with more stringent environmental laws.

My aunt and uncle are socialists.  They are brilliant in a way I cannot fully understand, as I do not lend myself to the laborious study of such heady political theorists.  I prefer Sophocles and his plays.  Their house is beautiful.  It is tactful and honest and breathes intelligence.  It is full of art and books and wonderful, wooden and wool furniture.

As we drive into the opaque Nevadan air, I vaguely wonder that my aunt and uncle would say about this gambling land.  It is polluted on so many levels and no laws will change that.  Only we can hope to change ourselves.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Three Bikes

We used to have three bikes.  One was the victim of thievery in Chicago.  We were bringing it to a friend, a friend now bikeless in San Francisco.

The remaining two bikes are strapped to the car; one on top, quivering in the wind, and one on the back, the tires slowly revolving.  Every couple of minutes I look up through the sky roof (with a tinge of apprehension... where would I be without it?) and see the solitary bike moving through the open air, free of confinement, hurtling without reservation towards its final destination.  Now with a hint of jealousy... I have always wished to fly.  Since I was a small girl with golden ringlets my body has yearned for flight, for that liberating weightlessness.  One could go anywhere, do anything, if only granted the gift of aerial navigation.  The ultimate adventure.

We are harrowing downhill.  The temperature is steadily rising.  I am envisioning myself floating, suspended in nothingness, suspended in space, euphoria, the closest a human can come to full-bodied, physical aviation - I am an astronaut.

"You can't be an astronaut," he shouts with laughter.

"And why not?" I am peeved by his immediate rejection.

"You have to be really smart to be an astronaut.

Not only am I peeved, I am insulted.

"I mean you have to be a genius... and in really good shape.  You don't like exercise or mathematics."

"I could," I retort lamely.  "I'll marry into it.  My future husband, being the elderly head of NASA, surely will not deprive his stunning, seraphic wife (moooooiii) the thing she desires most."

We disagree.  We are sweating.  The thermometer on the dashboard reads 103  degrees Fahrenheit.  Sometime between lashing the bikes to the car and my becoming a space cadet, our beautiful Jobeena dragged us into the desert.  We are surrounded by sand dunes.  The dunes wave lazily in the heat that rises, undulating.  I lean forward to unstick myself from the worn fur that covers the seats; it clings to me.  I look around and there is nothing; only blackened stone on blackened hills.  The earth is scorched by the sun here.

We both sport miniature American flags tied around our heads to keep the sweat from dripping into our eyes and spoiling our vision.  The flags were a gift from his mother, now 3,000 miles away.  We stop at a lone gas station for iced, carbonated beverages.  The cashier asks what in the hell we are doing out here.  Looking around at the cratered ground, stale and baked, I shrug.

We are a little closer to our star; we can feel its might, its warmth, its chaos.
We are explorers, I say.
Adventure is out there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


We drove for miles. We drove through the yellow stones and the acrid smell of sulfur. We drove through blackened, burned wood and steaming pools. We sat in traffic in the middle of the forest.  We drove into the Tetons, to the southern gate, turned around and drove back through them again. We drove by fields and signs pointing to fields.  We drove by pristine pools. We drove until our asses were aching and our feet were sweating in their separate compartments.

We slept by a lake that night. The crystal and cerulean water murmured in the dark; the high peaks hushed.  Someone walked into our campsite in the blackness; the man was not well. He spoke of a lost son to no one and directed his rogue torch into our tent. We sat fearful and rigid, illuminated.  He approached; we held our breath shallow in our fluttering chests. He stood within our reach as we prayed, despite our doubts, that we were out of his. I contemplated the repercussions of screaming.  I considered running and shaking those sleeping so close to me out of their reveries and into the murderous reality of the night.  That night there was no moon and my path would have been a blind one.  But the horrific scene forming before me was dispelled by the sound of retreating footsteps; the crisp notes of a zipper; the whisper of nylon on nylon... the heavy breath of slumber.  Perhaps it had been a specter, stepping briefly between the living on its solitary and secret path.

Or perhaps, he said lying back down, it was a human, tangible like you or I, in the midst of a lively dream.

We did not stay to find out.

In the dewy morning hours we biked along the toes of the mountains.  We biked beside sagebrush and deer, their sable, silent eyes following us.  We biked over a wooden bridge, the ridges humming beneath our tires.  The creek below was rocky; the rocks were rounded and the streams flowed seamlessly through them.  We biked until we found a ranch, tucked between towering pinnacles, then we turned around and biked back through it all again.  We biked until our asses were sore and our armpits were sweaty in the growing heat of the day.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Big Sky

Jobeena's windshield is cracked. It is a travesty. Our beautiful, strong, seemingly invincible vehicle of liberation is hurt.  The transformation from injured to lame can be swift, an imperceptible shift, and this knowledge worries me.  So, after slight, hurried deliberation, duct tape is applied (the man-made, accessible miracle), the wound bandaged, and we go forth.

But all is not well... into big sky country, land of meth addicts and early-morning saloon goers and cowboys and miles or nothing.  Headed north towards the glaciers we see signs of ire.  Some cosmic collision threatens to envelope us.  The gods are crazy; enraged, perhaps at the idleness of humans.  Between bible readings and chamber music, the radio speaks of fifty mile-per-hour winds, golf ball-sized hail, tornados; it offers advice: get off the roads, into, or, at the very least beside, a large, secure structure.  The level-headed male to my right turns the dial and the voice goes silent.  He looks at me and his eyes, in turn, silence me, my forming hysteria.  I have a proclivity towards irrationality.

As we drive into Glacier National Park it is hailing, only marbles.  They tap on our roof and clink on the glass, noises reminiscent of tumblers that, with their seductively smooth, cool liquors, produce a bodily state antithetical to the current tenor of our wandering coterie - my mind wanders.  The campgrounds, much to my chagrin, are full; we are not the only people who travel long distances to stay in breathtakingly pristine spaces in July.  Another powwow ensues and we retreat back along the mountain passes, angry and depressed, reverted to a pubescent demeanor through our own oversight, being denied something we wanted but did not make the necessary effort to attain.  Again my mind wanders: at twenty-three, I am still a child.

The car is silent once more.  The sky is clearing and the foliage twinkles, water clinging to the heavy leaves winks at us.  It is all a joke.

That night we camp, cramped between humming, fuming RVs, in a KOA.