March 3, 1996
Long time no hear from down around these parts. Me, displaced bandit that I am, turning into a grace of a downhome goodwife. The pressures of southern life. In response to your question, 'What's it like?' I could say, in the spirit of Austin writing, 'Look at me, I live in a shack!' But that would be untrue. I live in a lemon-yellow three-room house with all the discomforts of being in the flightpath. Eighner's shack on Avenue B, Winik's around the corner - I gotta go see if they're really true or texas talltales written for the hell of it. Or maybe I do live in a shack and just don't know it.
You've asked if I, like Molly Ivins (bighaired liberal lives in the hills), sleep outside to protest camping laws. Ha ha. Why should I do that while I've got a chance? (Poor Lars, when he gets evicted next time, we're gonna read a real movershaker kind of homeless tome. "On the Road" times two or "Lizbeth gets sick of me and finds somebody with a spare bedroom.')
And Marion, she married a gay guy ON PURPOSE. Not just any gay guy but an unemployed dying one. Why? Because he had an eye for wallpaper? When will these writers ever learn. Passion comes in great quantities for free. Like a blues song played for tips on 6th street:
The sky is crying
See the tears rolling down the street
Maybe Molly will write a column about it. Me, I'm at my best when I'm dependent. Think of all the letters I wrote during my summer vacation. Meanwhile, my ass and hair got bigger and brassier with each additional word. All those workout dreams we talked about went out the window as I tried to answer your most frequently asked questions to my satisfaction.
Setting myself up, you say. Well if you'd been here this winter, you might change your tune. It rained the other day and I had to pinch myself each time I wished for it to stop. Some pains are good for you. The fact of it is through all the texas sunshine this fall and winter I can clearly recall weeks of nonstop drizzle in DC. That sort of thing never leaves you. I know, memories don't get the flowers growing, but at least we didn't have to mow the lawn.
Rick and I sat on a blanket in the backyard last summer drinking a six-pack of Shiner, watching the planes fly overhead. This was before I knew I was deaf and somehow it felt too much like being homeless, so I went back inside, dejected and refusing Rick's honey-what's-wrong kisses. Only you would know what I mean, A, to be outside of outside. I'm not excusing all those silly self-indulgent poems I foisted upon you one by one through the fall. I'm talking about being virtually not there sometimes, and A, your replies are threaded with this particular theme.
I never get used to the shadow cast by the planes leaving town midday. I might be writing -- even a letter to you, A -- reminded of your get-up-and-goneness by a jet engine roar. For a moment, the place goes apocalypse dark. And even though I know it's unlikely, a piece of me kisses my ass goodbye with every 747. Then I check myself for clues of dying.
Remember walking around the Monaco harbor waiting for the sun to set? We were queerly philosophical that night, saying things like, "boy, after a day like this I don't have to do one more thing. I could die in peace." Well, A, I don't feel like I could go gentle anymore. There's always some new happiness that seems to peer at me from around the next corner.
Rick says, 'why don't you tell me these things?' and I'm thinking all the whining and worrying that goes on in my head would not be the gum that holds our marriage in place. Rather the silence and the taking each other home no matter what the silence means. And home is where the computer glows, the books are double shelved, and no one gives a damn about the dishes. You won't see us in Southern Living, A.
All that rail-riding you and I used to do. From the day we met in that dump of a pension in Athens. You got suckered by the British guy in Piraeus, too, didn't you? But we were sisters for a few weeks, sitting on corners and platforms waiting for buses and trains to take us anywhere but there. And even being together, we didn't like the way it kept us tied. The last night we spent in Harlem, laughing at that South African's self-concept. You said, 'You look black to me, kid.' Then you took off with him and left me jazzed up on the corner.
So what did you expect when you asked, "Why Texas?" I thought I'd be restless, but I'm not. There's always something to fight for; one beer goes flat, we open another. Keep me in mind while you're out there looking for someplace to be. Write soon, I'll still be here.
"...But no, I was out for stars:
I would not come in.
I meant not even if asked,
And I hadn't been."
- Robert Frost, excerpt from "Come In"
Copyright © Deborah Kilgore
...a poem in this room by Lisa Brown...
My Good Name
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Created 1996/3/21. Updated last on 2000/7/17.