still cheaper than therapy*

Write my own fairytales.  Act like i know my own fairytales.  Remember how cold it always was upstairs? - remember how everything was always on the porch? - remember how i believed every word and every promise.  I think at the time it was even the truth.  Forgive them for that, liz.  Everybody's doing their best.  You believe that, on the good days.

And it'll never be so simple or so easy, but then, it never was, and will always be.  Illusion of reality, the impermanence of all things, what what.  If i am only one point towards a story of an illusion of reality ... one shouldn't be surprised, to get lost in a hall of mirrors.  Love is real - the love which resides (which begins) in my heart is real.  Start there.


Look, it was one lapse in judgement.  One thing.  And, seeing as how everyone makes mistakes, liz, maybe be a little less harsh: it could be a mistake.  I could call it a mistake, own up to that, acknowledge the oceans of shame and humiliation on my own map, and quit going all here-be-monsters.

But i've crossed the dark space already.  I know which icky things are hiding in the depths; they're as familiar as sunshine, as thoroughly practiced as boiling water.  In retrospect, what i need to do is figure out where i am, and quit forgetting i know how to swim.  I know how to swim; i've been doing this for ages.


It's Machiavellian, nuanced, poses and feints and traps and honestly what the fuck.  That's just fucking creepy.

Not to mention unfair.


put on your own mask first
Sometimes it all seems so far away.  It is all so far away.  But other times i don't notice - or it doesn't matter - or everything is far away, and all times are soon.  Those jewel-toned moments, the imprisoned lightning, will always exist.  (we have always been at war with eastasia.  we have always lived in the castle.  we will always end up here.  the man in black fled across the desert.)  What happens after we die, she asks? but what is after?

tolle talks about the now.  So did Annie.  It is always now.  And now has only the residues of before and only the tiny seeds of next, and we all wade through it, panning for gold ... It has always been so far away, so foreign.  And it is always right there.

I carry it in my heart - your freedoms, your wide-open limitlessness, your dreams.  your Dream.  your closed-up, deep-running shame and prudery.  your ambition.  your confidence.  your stated acceptance, your fear, your optimism and unshakeable belief, your paranoia and conspiracy theories - your total mixed-up-ed-ness and canyony divisions.  Your willingness to work for things, and hard, and angrily; to willfully ignore things, your refusal of help or criticism, your entitlement and privilege.  But you were never a monolith - you were cracked from the very beginning, fault lines and statelines running up and down and crossing, supervolcanoes in waiting.  There were always people to say that everything was going to shit, and that your welcome was hollow, your inherited colonialism arrogant and presumptious: they'd been saying it already for hundreds of years before i was born.

They're right, always.

But they say it everywhere else, too, and in every language.

The way you evolve further, now - where are you going?  The more you change, do you stay the same?  Am i fixed in amber, a relic?  My voice changes, my language changes, people say my words are not the same as your words, and you seem so terrified and angry.  Is it already too late?

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breathe, and let the light fill my lungs, my chest, clean, cold water.  i write in circles and talk about the weather.  You can't see your hand, six inches in front of your face: i remember those days.  bad days, i tell you wut.  They were all in paris, all together, all the expat-Modernists.  have u sen paris?  The other stack of younger ones in new york in the eighties, in the nineties, bits of talent getting tangled and angry in each other.  Vultures, vultures everywhere, and what looks like huge bats.  They must be everywhere now.  echo echo echo


serbia is beautiful
who knew?  the mist rising off the river between the hills - the sunrise, the sunrise!, the little fishing boats and people swimming in the eddies and a great loaded ship going upstream - they must have come through the eiserne Tor in the night. imagine those pale cliffs, at night, and a boat like this.  A tree, a whole tree, in the middle of the well-grown Danube, floating serenely down between the little wavelets.  The mountains in a row, the spine going along into blue ... the old Soviet hotel at the top and i swear on anything i have been here, i have seen all this in a dream, i know this room and its clouds and its windows and i can see Romania ...  Ice cream by the riverbank, obviously.


i pull back, quick like i've burned myself.  kali, paul, legend, carina.  no, this is part of it: finding patterns and so.  the whirling, this is just not done.  this is not real.

next day: name it.  claim it.  understand it.  find the fuzzy edges, the borderlands, and stay away from the precipice - what does that translate to in the map of my head?  it is like a mountain, steep and tempting and treacherous, (but then what isn't full of treachery and the threat of betrayal, these days?) and you see the peak shining burning a star a sun just out of reach and it's breathless and the air is so fine, so bright, and i am scared of heights after all when there's no guardrail, nothing to hold on to, and it can all crumble and collapse into the abyss.  know it, chart it.  the base camp can still be safety, and as much as anyone needs.

breathe, and keep my balance.  if i could keep in my mind that i will never know everything, never be everything, never protect everything, never predict everything.  god is everywhere.  i am not.  this is a hedgehog-big thing which i do not know.

In high school we read Russian poetry and i didn't appreciate it at the time - though the professor did her best, be fair; we were children, reading childish things, and it did stick.  did Akhmatova ever meet Hemingway?  they couldn't have: he wasn't in Paris yet, he was just a boy ... i am reading Chekhov now.


walk in the morning
Safety in numbers, clots of commuters jaywalking across the big street.  We are like birds together, sparrows fleeing.  I am a cipher, a placeholder, carving the space around me with the points of my umbrella ...  I can trace my path back - i can follow it, i can follow it the whole way.  This is invaluable.  look there!  look there.  this is what i have been talking about, the entire time.  the colors, the shades, the

This is what i have been doing.  My footprints stay for a moment on the wet roadway.


Reason #806 i love my neighborhood: nobody has to shave their legs to take the kid to a drag show in the park (especially in the rain).

I know, i'm showing off.


shantih shantih shantih
things i noticed while rereading the waste land, this time around:
i always go back to the waste land.

i could get a lilac tattoo. I fucking hate April.
Sissi is in it? Sissi is in it?
16: bored to death. (i don't mean it, she does.)
europe in 1848 was nuts
30: i never know how much i never know
under the rock, he is afraid of what i am afraid of (obviously)
41 asshole.
I have zero fucking sympathy for Tristram and Isolde. Sorry. I just can't.
Y's French Tarot cards are all different ...
46: i do not believe in arbitrary
the Wheel is in hebrew!
93: this doesn't end well. Ever. Rape, love, suicide, .ever. Revenge.
You keep telling the same story
ophelia, dido, cleo, the hyacinth girl.
118: fuck you. also, god, that's morbid, i love it.
120: i have had this conversation. Those are pearls that were his eyes means it was never supposed to be like this.
137 people have been here since the beginning of people.
168: fuck you i said it's mine
fuck you i said it's mine
III it's all damp corpses innit
but since when does it rhyme?  must be red with wot.
he's so young - it's his, it must be.
242: see what i mean? ooooooh, humans never change.
253: again with the dead girls?
the whole thing is full with being afraid.
memento mori.  (but death is not what i am afraid of)
352 dry hopes.  if there was a martini on the rock
if there was a martini and no rock
if there was only a little gin and no vermouth
an olive, a twig
365 it's the lilac gentleman, off his train.
actually there's no movement, is there, here - the train is gone
390 and only stillness will remain.
425 it's too late. but he knows.
428 soon, my love, soon.  very soon.
431 huckleberry ;)
yes i said yes i will yes.  are you nice?


Sometimes i could barely see for the red and the black. If I had stomped my foot it would have raised a mushroom cloud, rings expanding. I saw 28 Days Later, ages ago, all those new-generation bloodbaths, and was afraid of those zombies (i call them zombies), that move too fast, that are so feral. I think now if one of them had touched me, come near me, it would have disintegrated of covetous want - i outranked them, i surpassed them, they were nothing next to me. I was a tower and a mountain and a vast, sheer cliff, and the cliff was my anger and i was the cliff and i stood on the cliff and the entire rest of the world was tiny, minuscule, ants in a hole compared to the old-world-glacier bulk of my rage. (The effect i am going for is that of being hit in the face with a steel beam, but that you keep consciousness.)

Other times i was sad - and i can't say i don't know why i was sad, i knew why i was sad, it is mind-numbingly obvious why i was sad - but there was no proximate cause, no immediately identifiable trigger, just this sudden tsunami of endless grief.


somewhere along the way i became an optimist
It all comes of following the Dalai Lama on Twitter - or, rather, it doesn't, but the other way round - and now, i see Precious, i see Incendies, i do not know if they are supposed to be full of hope, if i should come out lighter than i went in. I cannot help but question this response. Any version of the old Leonard Cohen Hallelujah is about water long, long gone under the bridge, and diluted to only the vaguest ghost of bitterness, only a memory. That one about Captain Kangaroo and wallpaper, that one is doubly ironic. The first layer of irony, that's a freebie we can all agree on, but the second? Is that normal?

Dalai Lama says we are all the same, but i already knew that. Nice to hear, again, for real; the force is strong with this one, etc.


i see them in my mind's eye, playing over the strings, just like all those years ago, and everything has changed, but nothing has changed, and i remember. please, please god, my head swims ... to put one foot in front of the other, to continue, with this redyelloworange flame, i can't even imagine it, ludicrous. that kind of mask is bullshit, i know, by now, at least i know, but all the same, the 1993 version runs past. It's not what i want, but it is, but it isn't.


I like knowing the provenance of things. I feel better when i know it. Where did this come from, and why is it still here, and how long did it stay at points between? What contributed to its creation? Was there one ultimate seed, or many?


It is having a crisis. I don't know what to say here, how to reclaim it.

I had hoped that when it was finalized, it would also be done, but of course that has turned out to definitely not be the case. Very far from the case. I had hoped i could wrap it all up in a big black box and let it slowly turn to dust in a distant attic corner, but it's not working. I knew this would happen. I said this would happen. I told you. I fucking told you.  And i know what you say about backpacks, but that doesn't make it - that doesn't make it okay, that doesn't make it acceptable for me to continue to behave this way.  For me.

(Please note: there is one of me, and seven billion seperate yous, plus the whole world. Chances are, you're not it.  Chances are, we will never meet.  Chances are, i will never see you again.)

You disappeared, and you have not kept your promise. I don't know if you're happy this way - again, i hope so. The world has seemed bigger since then, and emptier, and more friendly, when i remember.  Full of connection and possibility. I trust people.  Dear god thank you for that.  Anyone could be you.

It has been so long ... i am so much older.  This hasn't been turning to dust at all, i swear it (though anyway i hold it too precious) -

It's okay. You were none of you anything i could keep.

Layer upon layer and how do we find meaning in the world. If i have always known you, if i have always been with you, i have always lost you. It has forever been this way...

You exist. This is the connection. The universe is in chaos, is in change, and as it would be completely egotistical to contain it i have to let it go.  i have to let it go.  i have to let it go.


cheese sandwich
I had a dream that my ex-husband introduced me to his new girlfriend, and his new girlfriend was a sculpted Croatian surfer dude with bleached tips. I did not know which pronoun set to use, which was awkward and embarrassing.


It's so, so gossamer light when it's being laid down. You don't even notice, when it's being laid down, it's just one tiny invisible thread at a time - but i don't even know how far it goes back. It's so light, so delicate, and so fucking binding, i have no idea when it began. When i consider, when i consider x and y and z, i am nearly certain it goes back all the way to the beginning. That first summer, for example, and what he told me about it long afterwards; and the way it sheds light on how i was treated down south, in general - that's not an accident. It wasn't my imagination and i wasn't being overly sensitive and i wasn't crazy - that was the pattern. I rather think it was always there. (That's pretty fucking dark, that is.)

This is going to keep popping up, isn't it, unexpectedly, like this? Less and less often, as i identify more and more pattern, how wide and how deep and how long, and how all-encompassing, like some horrible, corrosive lace laid over an entire decade. I'll just stumble into some raw stub of history and be numb and angry for a week or two. Even now, I know enough to go, Oh, That old thing again. I know that one, i was expecting it.

(I met someone who told me something i had suspected about what now by all rights ought to be ancient history but i that had not known for absolute certain until just that moment. So. You know. I was expecting it. Still. Ow.)

I am also not sure what i can say.

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When reading, Glinda the Witch of the North and Charlotte the Spider have the same voice.

The girl in the apartment upstairs has a new boyfriend. I can tell.

The gifted ficus tree that was so unhappy by the balcony door has perked right back up, now, by comparison. New little leaves are growing, and the old ones are basically all dead and gone, so the crispy winter look has receded. He is still two-thirds naked, the poor thing, but better. I think it was too drafty, before.

I have had at least two unexpected compliments on my manicure. The third either i am imagining or is very subtle and admiring and gradual, but if i asked about it, the asking would destroy everything i have worked so hard to build.

Knitting is like a study of realtime topology - seriously, Mathematican Friends, look into it. You could be massively, cultily famous for inventing an improved left-leaning decrease.


(all the other plants are happy, but not the Ficus benjamina)
Dracena marginata
Calathea rufibarba
purple Echeveria
Phalaenopsis orchid - white, large
Ficus benjamina
jade (small) x8
jade (large)
Schefflera arboricola
Ficus microcarpa
Natal plum
Phalaenopsis orchid- magenta, large
Phalaenopsis orchid- magenta, small


in which i go on vacation and get shingles
We were staying, of course, in a tiny French beach house/condo in the Languedoc, with a lovely little front and back porch, and just enough beds and inflatable mattresses and folding couches to sleep us all: me and E and Y, and Y's uncle and cousin and cousin's ex-boyfriend: it was the uncle's house. And the half of us were upstairs and the ceilings upstairs were quite low, and the ceiling beams were lower, and i was ever so careful to not bump my head on them because they were large and solid and wooden and very low, especially over the stairs. (Ominous.) The ex-boyfriend bumped his head on them just about daily or at least twice in the three and a half days that we were there that i saw, as our space was in front of the stairs, with a very clear view of everyone bumping their heads on the damned ceiling beams. I was luckier, back then.

On the very last morning, cleaning out the little space and packing everything into the little-but-not-so-little rented car (it was a bimmer, with sixteen kilometers on it when we stared, and five and a half thousand kilometers on it when we gave it back later) i was carrying too many things and looking around and as i was rotating my head from looking around to see what was left to be picked up to back forwards to go down the stairs - the ceilings were not so low that one couldn't stand up straight, except for the ceiling beams - i whaled my temple on this old black wood. I thought nothing of it. I whaled my temple; so what? (Please note: mechanical trauma, ding ding ding. gatti 2010, thomas 2004.)

It hurt the whole day. We drove halfway across France. There was a small museum, some wine. (I whaled my temple; so what?)

The next day continued to be headachey and, hmm, it hurt as well around my cheekbone, which was not where I had whaled my head. A bit of being sleepy but it was so sunny and warm driving south to Spain, everyone was a bit sleepy, so we had a nice family nap/quiet read upon arriving at the little vacation hotel to meet Y's friend and his kid. But why did it still hurt? Anyway we hiked up and wandered around the little cobblestoned historic Spanish medieval city and had many tapas as well as beer, being mostly Germans. E ate all the calamari, again. That night it hurt behind my ear, and around the back-end of my jaw, which were also decidedly not where I had whaled my head. I was getting confused because I had had exactly zero concussion symptoms: no nausea, no dizziness, no forgetting of anything (which is obvious to you, dear reader), no confusion. No more sleepiness than anyone else driving south in the sunshine. It couldn't be a concussion, then, right, with nothing? What the hell? Sleep was hard. I was nervous as fuck all.

The next next day it hurt on my jaw, and behind my ear, and across my cheekbone, and above my eyebrow, and across my forehead. Also my temple hurt, still, continuously. It was a weird sort of hurt, for a headache: not throbby, not at all, but perfectly constant, like a distant air horn. Not, also, what i would call debilitating, at that point. We drove and walked to a funny little river not too far away (they'd recommended it at the little vacation hotel) and E dipped her feet in the water playing with the friend's kid, and Y actually went swimming in the mountain stream, but i can only imagine how cold it was because mountain stream? No thank you. The friend's kid had an utter fascination with rocks, and the breaking of them, being of course seven and a boy. And we had a picnic by the little stream and more and more people kept coming (they brought their dogs, too, and the dogs looked so desperately at our picnic) and it was very sunny but we were also rather high up and there was a continuous breeze off the peaks, so it didn't seem particularly hot but one had to keep reapplying suntan lotion all the same. Everyone stopped to pee in the bushes before we said goodbye.

After the picnic we drove back to France again, dropped E off at an aunt's, and took little old me to the Urgences. It was very quiet in the hospital - i think they are mostly set up for skiing accidents, and this was high summer, being a Sunday in the middle of August - and the poor radiologist on duty kept going back and forth to the coffee machine, to the wc, to flirt with the also bored triage nurse - one nurse walked through with a patient in a wheelchair, to get a coffee, and (later) once i was in a proper room i saw one other proper ER patient come in. I felt like a hideous, self-centered, hysterical moron for going to the fucking ER two days after bumping my head. I think they triaged that i was nothing serious and the doctor could finish his card game. I felt better that it was taking so long for the doctor to show up when absolutely nothing else was going on; it couldn't be threatening, it couldn't be anything at all. Moron, but otherwise generally okay. They also figured out right proper quick that Y was of an important family in the town and we could, for example, give them the Austrian insurance card and they'd try and figure out how Austria would pay for it and we could come back tomorrow and they'd tell us what it would cost then. The waiting room had two buzzing flies in it, and an untouched stack of magazines. Three childrens' books were on top of the magazines, for parents to have immediate access. Very kind, very well thought of. The newest magazine - the spines with dates on them were all facing out - was three years old; most were about home decorating.

A nurse brought me to a room, eventually, and took all my vitals. The doctor will be right with you, eventually. The machine showing my vitals was, of course, behind my head so i couldn't see it. I am sure they put it there on purpose so that patients don't freak out. Y was next to me, translating the six signs posted above the sink about proper washing of hands, as well as everything else. The doctor came in and - was confused. Why did i have a fever? My head hurt. I had bumped it, and it hurt in a different place, and the different place was too far away from the bumping place for it to be a migrating bruise, and my ears were perfect, my eyes were fine, i clearly had no concussion, no worries there. The red spot on my forehead, well, this was a migrating bruise. But where was this fever coming from? (All of this, all of this in the ER, was basically entirely in French. The doctor understood English, so i could talk, and i could understand, oh, the majority of what he said. But not all of it. I am lucky to have Y.) The doctor took my temperature again and the fever was higher than it had been twenty minutes ago when the nurse did it. He consulted his Giant French Doctors' Book on the desk in the corner. Two nurses came in and watched Dr. Maison at work; everything was very mysterious. He came back and said, Okay, we'll try something else - stand up, feet together, hands out straight, eyes shut - now don't fall over. Sit down, hands out straight, eyes shut, hold my hands as steady as possible. Shake hands without looking, squeeze as hard as I can, now the other one. I think he was checking for a brain tumor, now. He squeezed my legs, he asked if i had a bladder infection, if this hurt, if this hurt, if this hurt. He would press somewhere, Ca fait mal?, and I kept saying, rien, rien, rien, rien, rien, until he got to behind my jaw and behind my ear, and then i yelped and squirmed away because la, ca fait mal très très très fort. The other side of my head did not hurt. My teeth did not hurt. Eating did not hurt any more than anything else. Why was there this fever? Why was the one side of my head so swollen? I have a history of sinus infections. It hurt behind my ear, behind my jaw. The doctor tried everything and what felt like aeons later decided an infection, mastoiditis, was maybe just starting in the spongy bit of my skull, and that the behind my ear thing had nothing to do with the head bumping from earlier. I felt like less of an idiot.

(I googled it later. Mastoiditis would also have sucked.)

He gave me ten days' worth of antibiotics and three days' worth of paracetamol. I call it three days' worth because of the max dosage on the packaging to avoid the bad parts of liver toxicity. I was on the max dosage of paracetamol for ... several days, after this. With the paracetamol, i could sleep. Kinda. For a little while. Which was a fucking gift of god, let me tell you. French Dr. House said, if it doesn't get better by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, see a doctor again, either come back here (i.e. the ER) or another doctor.

The next day, Monday, i was very hopeful and expecting all the best from the antibiotic, but Y said i looked worse than the day before. I had funny hives on my forehead, inside the red, branching, linear shape. Because i am a genius at explaining to everybody that i am perfectly okay, all the time, no matter what, i decided that they must be brennesseln from when we stopped to pee in the bushes by the little Spanish river - in a line, after all, more or less, and i've never learned to notice what brennesseln look like because it's not poison ivy and anyway it goes away in an hour. Genius, like i said. We walked to a little restaurant in town and saw some friend of the aunt's on the street, and in the restaurant, stopped to chat, all kinds of people. It is a very small town. Monday night, as well as the rest of the time between paracetamols, everything that had ever hurt, hurt. About four a.m on Tuesday morning i decided i had to go back to the doctor because dear god stop the pain. I ate another paracetamol.

We went in the morning to the aunt's GP, twenty minutes' drive out of town, up closer to the skiing. He had me lie down on fresh paper and, wordlessly, and veryvery fast, he appeared with a tiny little sterile vial of something yellow and poured it into my eye and then switched on the brightest light i have ever seen and shined it at me, and then, bless him, turned off the light and rinsed out the yellow with something clear. (Really, certain people are very like tigers.) And that was it: i was diagnosed, he was done, his ex-wife in town (see her, there, that's the friend of the aunt's - it is a very small town) had called him the day before to say i'd be coming and looked funny with those blisters, and he'd diagnosed me before we'd met, only needing the yellow to confirm it, and he was totally right. (Note that i hadn't had the characteristic blisters on the Sunday, so it wasn't at all the ER guy's fault, and props to him for knowing that something, anything, was coming.) The only thing remaining was to somehow communicate to me what i had, because Y did not know how to say "shingles" in English and i had never heard of it in any other language because that is some very specific and in-depth vocabulary. But la varicelle is similar enough and it's a childhood illness and then it restes in les ganglions nerveux and i go, I HAVE SHINGLES? and they all have no idea because nobody else knows what it is en Anglais. I make a spots and scratching gesture, la varicelle, c'est avec les trucs? Et ca reste à l'intérieur? and, yeah, that, yesyes. Fucking hell. Fucking hell. I recover the information that he put something fluorescéine in my eye: no shit, sherlock; that was glowy as anything. I get ten days' worth of two different antivirals, more paracetamol, a topical disinfectant. This three times a day, this two, this as needed, this two, this three, this two. This not in your eye. This in, because of the BLISTER ON MY MOTHERFUCKING CORNEA. I am on more drugs than i have ever been on in my life.

I ate my antivirals and paracetamol and smeared my eye and my face all up and tried to sleep. It didn't work, the trying to sleep. Ever. I could come out and eat, some - Tantine gave me a pair of Dior sunglasses and a Christian Lacroix giant silk scarf, to hide the disfigurement of my head. That was the up side: that and the food. (Tantine takes excellent care of us, always.) E got to watch French cartoons and have all the croque-monsieur she could eat. I hurt, and counted the seconds until i could take more paracetamol. The paracetamol helped, a little.

I tried to meditate, but could not empty myself. I visualized a flame that would draw away the pain but it was too burny and didn't help anyway. I recited the Litany against Fear - after all, my head was in the box, my head was the box, that scene has always stuck with me, except Paul was done in only moments and (as i write this later) he was unmarked afterwards, unlike some people i might mention - and i wasn't scared, i can let the pain pass over me and through me, but letting it pass did not reduce it, because more always came.

An aura healer lady came who was known, in the town, for being able to heal shingles pain, specifically. She put her hands on my shoulders, and near my head, near my eye, and before she was started i couldn't open my eye - it had been swollen shut - and after she was done, i could open it. Things were bright and weird, but i could open it, and it hurt much less, much less, a much bigger difference than the paracetamol, and i could eat, a little bit, and i could sleep. I could sleep and it was such a gift, and the aura healer lady wouldn't take any money, and i am going to send her the most beautiful christmas present EVER because i could sleep, finally, finally. All i had ever wanted in the world was that the pain would either make me pass out, somehow, like one always reads about in war novels and such, or else wane enough that i could sleep, instead of being so - tenacious. So possessive. And this magical French country witch was now my best friend in the entire world.

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