This is what Gladys thought as she waited to do her act. (Her thoughts have been translated into standard sentence form in order to make them more comprehensible to non-Gladys entities.)
Life is so strange and I don’t know why we don’t say this more often instead of comments about the weather. Not that we have to be emotional about it; it can be casual. “Hey how are ya? Boy life is some weird shit.” “Weird enough for ya?” “It might get weirder tomorrow.” “Okay well I’ll be sure to bring an umbrella.” And then we’ll both make that laugh you make when you are speaking out of your own asshole through a smile.
I do a good job at it – living I mean, sometimes. Sometimes when I succeed at basic human interactions I feel the need to reward myself. I let myself eat two soft-baked oatmeal squares instead of one, compulsively, then maybe three: I can’t stop because I need something in my mouth to plug the awesome rush of pleasure I feel at having fooled the outside world once again. They think I’m normal. They think I’m –
When I hand the DMV employee my license that proves I exist; when I say, “Thank you” when someone holds the door open for me; when I say “How much does a haircut cost at this establishment?” and weigh the number against what I know of the world and nod and accept the coming transaction and later press the right buttons on the card machine to take my invisible money. When I do these things without pulling my lips over my gums or asking strangers for reactions to the latest natural disaster or hopping up and down with this excess of passion I feel at unusual moments I’ve done it; I’m safe; I’ve kept up the ruse for just another day another dollar.
Some days I feel less tied to this body then others. Sometimes I feel like I might fly off, fly right into someone else or a window or a plastic chair. But they don’t know that. And they don’t know how long I stared at my shit this morning, with a kind of pride in its odor, before flushing it down the hole in the ground with a cup full of water. Ubania is different. But I guess I could get used to it because you can get used to anything – why do we even have running shoes, for example? In Apocalypto the Mayan people (were they Mayan?) did all the running without shoes on. I think.
But that was what they were used to because there wasn’t any asphalt back then, or it was still tucked under the ground somewhere, waiting to be invented by a man from Kansas. Waiting to be discovered. As if asphalt were under the earth all along; as if asphalt were the natural state of things and nowadays with the sprawl it is finally conquering the grass and soil and water that once ran rampant over it like whoever killed all the Mayans ran rampant on them. Or were the Mayans the ones who just left? They just left. They just got up and quit the game. Well, somebody did, anyway. People quit the game all the time. Just this second someone is.
Sometimes I catch myself making a face, a face that says, I am having a thought; I am having a feeling; I am utterly confused by how unlikely language is, or how impossibly plastic it is that there are people who know just how to start and operate a community college, for example, because it is a tradition that has been handed down. If you tried to start a community college from scratch it would be a disaster.
It might also be a miracle, going ahead without the instructions, but miracles are disasters; they disturb the order, like children do. And the fact that there is a handbook, that there are people who devote their lives to being specialists in starting community colleges is a testament, ultimately, to the great bee hive we have made of humanity, and a sign no less impressive than the great cathedrals, really.
Sometimes I catch myself making that face, is my point, and I have to snap out of it and put on one of the normal faces before someone asks me What’s going on in there partner?
We know how to start a community college much better than we know how to raise children, I mean universally, or on average, I’d say.
Sometimes God gets into my throat and tries to come out through my eyes. Sometimes the baby inside me eats everything and wants more as it divides, doubles 1 2 4 8, dividing me and my self (now that I’ve reconciled with my self after the shadow Waldorf incident), and now I am 2 – not equal parts, not halves like with John, but 2 all the same, and she-he in the belly has and will always have more of my self than I will ever again, the self in me dwindles as the belly grows, and the child will carrying that part of my self, skin my self’s knees, lose my self’s teeth, drag my self in the dirt saying relax Mom only dorks wear helmets.
I see motherhood in an instant. I mean that I will have to be prepared for all of it at once, and I cannot imagine how I will have the energy and strength and wisdom to be all things to a toddler and a teenager and a post-millennial twentysome who lives in my basement all NOW, at the same time. But that is the calling; that is all the apples in the seed. Because after all it only took a second to begin, it only took a touch, his hit mine and pow shazam off to the great babyrace.
In that second that is my impending maternity is all of my son’s life; yes, he will be a son, even I can feel that, I don’t need Jude to interpret my dream after all.
Oh I want a pickle.
Please God stay in my throat and let me hear you when I speak to my son. Please give me the right things to say when the tubes come out of his sickly little arms like they did in the dream when he asks me the hard questions about life like “Mommy, did you remember to close the garage door?”
The trouble is I’ve closed the garage door so many times, God, that when I drive away, in that moment of quotidian self-doubt two blocks from home, I try to remember if I closed it, try to visualize, but that day’s memory is crowded in on by so many other identical days’ memories – the garage door closing in snow in rain in sun in dark winter months when I go to the store before the light comes out that I don’t know. The door might be wide open and I personally don’t mind but John doesn’t want to have to buy a new TV, I know, if it happens again, not that he gets a vote anymore on whether I put the door up or down.
So the chemicals will be dripping into Albert’s blood to kill him, because his name is Albert and he will die, and all I will be able to say is “I don’t know honey. Memory’s not a real thing. Memory is just a thing Mommy made up one day when she was trying to explain to you what it means to think you must be the same person every time you wake up or breathe.”
There’s a bird in my throat now.
Or there will be, a bird, a hummingbird, without your stillness, God, without your patience of silence, who else could be wise enough to give us no answers never answers not a shred of a clue of an answer, and I will say instead these things to my child, to my poor motherless child who will grow up idealizing his in absentia father, bastard, this weirdness will flutter out of my mouth at 60 beats a second – no, it must be more than that – sweet sugar water my heart beats and so much for wisdom.
One time I went walking and the sky was two blues and there were trees with leaves but rain had made the summer cool for a stolen evening and I saw a cop car with its blues flashing. It came up behind a car far down the block where I was walking and the two cars stayed there, both partially eclipsing each other’s radical lights, and the blue with a white sticker center, the blue I thought I would die when I got there, I thought that was it. It had been a good day, a day to point up to the sky and wag your finger like a football player and this seemed the end, I was ready. But I passed the cars and saw the blue dancing seizure from behind me now sprayed onto the trunk of a tree and a metal street sign a riot and I heard in my head
The children eat tin but their stomachs will be iron.
Here you can’t walk at night because someone might blow up too close to you before you can spot them and run in the other direction.
“Ladies and gentleman, may I present the woman who loves and hates at the same time!”
Gladys stepped onto the stage. A picture of John descended, dangled on some fishing line. The crowd hushed.
Gladys looked at John’s image. And she loved him.
Gladys looked at John’s image. And she hated him.
She didn’t chicken out; she didn’t alternate these two things. She performed them both deeply and with commitment, and she performed them at exactly the same time, at all times, because to her marriage too was only one instant, all of it at once, and she was in it, she was in it.
It was a big hit, the act.