Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

What chapter is this now in my accursed novel?


The phone call made Maureen homesick. She knew if she went home now, though, she'd never get back out. Twenty-five or not, they would find a way to keep her there, either through guilt or tears, or some kind of de facto imprisonment. She couldn't go home without money, that was certain. Maureen wasn't even sure if home was the right expression anymore. Seven years was a long time. She felt very detached from the whole experience. Who still lived in their small hometown at 25? Someone who was never going to leave. People who had married their high school sweethearts and had a few children by now. Most of Maureen's friends were gone, and the ones that had stayed had very different lives than Mo did. She felt a chasm. But she also need a touchstone right now. She walked to a bus stop with her back pack and headed back to the bus terminal, where she charted her path home.

Maureen sat in a booth inside the daytime empiness of a nightclub reading the newspaper and absent-mindedly reaching for french fries or a bite of her reuben. She glanced u at the row of clocks on the wall. Greenwich, Dublin, and local time: 3:30.
That it was 10:30 in Dublin suddenly made her anxious. Children were already well asleep, their parents preparing themselves for bed, making mental shifts, contemplating tomorrow's work, while they grapsed for the last waking minutes of their own.

Since it was Friday, no doubt many of them were at the movies or out dancing. Others were sitting in pubs just as she was now, bitching about their spouses, the boss, the lousy interminable week at work. Seven hours and a continent away, the day was ending and her own day was now slipping away even faster.

She sat back and looked around at this bar, where she had spent so many Friday and Saturday nights during summers and breaks, listening to music, stalking young men she had become fascinated with, sitting just as she was now, her back to the brick wall, legs stretched out over the brown paded seat, with one foot crossed over the other.
Here at home--The Land That Time Forgot--she had already run into some old acquaintances who offered no threat of exposing this clandestine visit. Across the bar, she noticed a hippie boy, with straight dark hair, thick eyebrows, and purple tie-dye who danced loosely with fluidity that few men ever managed. Her best friend, Karen, had been fascinated with him for several years before, herself, becoming a stepford girlfriend whose boyfriend had sickening pet names for her. Before she had cultivated three cases full of cosmetics, was on a first-name basis with the staff of the Body Shoppe, Mo remembered them standing together in below-zero ice storms protesting military interventions and wondering why no one ever started wars in June. Mo had nicknamed her Habib, Peace Bandit, because she would jump out of the passenger seat of Maureen's car with a small desk stapler, tacking peace signs to telephone poles in suburban neighborhoods.

Karen had moved back in with her parents, into the familiar house of her childhood. Mo had visited her once since then. In her mid-twenties, Karen lived in the same bedroom she had grown up in. Not even a move so far as the basement or the attic, with the same stuffed animals, the same posters of her teen idols on the wall. Like everything else in her hometown, stasis was the basis for Karen's life.

Sitting in the bar, Maureen watched the door, wondering if anyone she knew would come in. Stasis felt ok today. Unlike some of her old friends, Maureen felt she had been allowed to grow up but to come back and visit her old life. It was like growing older without outgrowing your first grade desk and chair, just slipping right into your smock and diving into the fingerpaints. Things should feel a little smaller, even if the smell of the chalk and crayons and the acid-based paper decomposing the phoenetics out the books all transport you to your first kiss under the monkey bars. The room makes you remember, until you sit down and realize that it's the teacher's chair that fits you now. But this afternoon, at 10:30 p.m. in Dublin, Maureen had assimilated comfortably back into that small school room.

Mo tried to remind herself that this was not just a routine visit home for Spring Break. No one knew she was here. Not Karen or her parents or her high school history teacher. She was on her way somewhere else. The grey-blue tables bolted to the brick facade had not changed in ten years. There were television as either end of the bar, with the sound off, showing baseball and soccer games. The tvs gave you something to look at besides the alarming front pages of newspapers or pink highlight-stained textbooks, less threatening than a lunch or dinner companion whose eyes force you to ask questions--or answer them. Eyes that force you to be present when you'd really rather not. Alone now, Maureen realized it was the luxury of absense she was enjoying so much about her excursion. There was no mother or father or Karen or Clark to be present for. Only herself.

Reggae music plays in the background, causing Maureen to smile. She remembered Clark's impression of Ebeneezer Scrooge being visited by Bob Marley instead of his old business partner Jacob. Get dee spirit, Mon.

It's this place--the grey tables and the ghosts of gathered friends where we don't worry about what will become of us nor do we lament what we've become, just giggle over absurd notions and stare at field goals, wondering what people are doing at Midnight in Dublin.

Maureen hopped on a city bus around town, one of only two routes, which would take her around most of the town. She wanted to soak up some more remnants of home before her bus shipped out later that night. As she passed her house, it felt strange not to get off and run into the front door, declaring herself home to Mom and Dad. She felt guilty as she saw the bricked in front porch. She could see her mother making dinner through the front picture window. Her father was leaned back in the recliner reading the paper. She slid down in the seat and sighed, hoping not to be noticed. The dog was chained up in the front yard, kicking up dirt and barking to a fellow traveler trapped on a leash jogging down a side street. It would be too easy to get off the bus and the next corner and trudge home, returning to her room which had been preserved as a shrine to her childhood. She and Karen could pick up as if the last seven years of their lives never happened. No Clark. No college degree. No domestic violence shelters or videos of detainees in China to block out in the middle of the night. Innocent and snug in her adolescent room, with a job her father would help her get, dreaming of other lives that she had gotten a glimpse of and never got around to living.

Maureen shivered, trying to slough off this vision. The bus continued on past the junior high and high school complexes, down was passed for the town's sorry mainstreet. It couldn't compare to the bookstores and used clothing shops of campus town. The new mall had a Gap and a Sam Goody and seven movie theatres, bringing them up to the 1980s.

Once when Maureen had been home for Spring Break, she had called up the local YWCA to find out what was going on in the area. The YW on campus ran the rape crisis center, and Maureen had been one of the first volunteers involved in setting up a women's resource center there. At home, the YWCA ran fitness programs for children and seniors. The history of the YW was that it was not always socially accepted for women to exercise and participate in sports, and so even the most seemingly innocuous events or course offerings could be traced to its feminist roots.

The hometown Y saw it somewhat differently. When Maureen called to asked about Women's History Month events, she started to wonder if she had forgotten how to speak intelligible English.

"Do we have what?"

"Women's History Month Events."

"Women's what?"

Was this swahili? Had she gone into an ecstatic trance, suddenly speaking a new tongue? The women on the other end sounded too young to have a serious hearing problem. Maureen tried one more time, more slowly. "Women's History Month. March. Do you have any events?"

"No, I'm afraid not" the woman finally said, gingerly.

Maureen hung up and went into the bathroom. Her mother was at the grocery store, her father still at work. Was it even possible for Maureen to have come from this place? Had she been dropped here by aliens? She fished around in the drawer for a pair of scissors. She pulled out strands of hair, cutting as close to her head as possible. I am not from here. I don't want to look like anyone from here, she recited as she cut. She heard the front door open as the last strand fell into the sink. Maureen locked the door and took out her father's electric razor, shaving down the stubble to matching lengths. She swept all of the hair out of the sink, rinsed it out, and stepped, bald, to face her unsuspecting mother.

Maureen pulled a Twinkie out her backpack surreptitiously, trying not to be noticed eating, which was in clear violation of city ordinances according to several signs along the top of the bus. As Maureen ate the Twinkie, pushing it up quietly out of its wrapper, Maureen's thighs started to burst the puny screws and slats of her kindergartern chairs, her paint colored smock burst open revealing grown up clothes and she started to float up out of the city bus seat. She hoped no one would notice, and vowed to step carefully, not crushing cars or small children, as she, the fifty-foot woman, tried to tiptoe quietly out of town.

The city bus turned the corner and Maureen saw her next Greyhound waiting in front of the terminal. She got off and went inside for her ticket and rushed quickly into normal sized seats that fit her grown up body. She looked out the window and waved goodbye as she looked at her home town one more time.

Maureen rolled over and looked at the clock. She was groggy from the pain of her cramps. Meanwhile, Clark blithely got ready for work, gathering papers together and humming something Maureen couldn’t make out. As she tried to soothe her sore abdomen, she wished Clark would feel his own testicles expand and contract, feeling every single sperm as it was forced out, the way her left ovary released its egg in a red wash. She wanted him to feel blood run from his groin drop by drop like the Chinese water torture coming from between her own legs.

Aspirin did no good on the first day. She was exhausted and woozy. There was no way she would be able to go door to door and ask for money for a cause today. She had several hours yet before she would have to call in. Tuesday was Clark’s early day. She was thankful that he would at least be out of the house by 8:30.

Clark came by and brushed his hand over her head. “What are you doing awake so early? Get up to see me off this morning?”

Maureen glared at him, but when her gaze failed to ignite his zipper to flames, she shuffled out of bed and into the bathroom with a grunt. A tiny spot on the sheet clued Clark in to the situation. He said a quick goodbye and muttered something to Maureen about behaving herself and not picking a fight with any cops today. She grunted at him from the other room as the bedroom door closed behind him.

Maureen walked down the sidewalk quickly. She passed a small storefront with a pink neon light: Psychic. A woman called out to her from inside the doorway. "Would you like a tarot reading young woman? Where you going?"

Maureen turned around and walked back to the doorway to see her mystical barker. A tall woman, Maureen guessed in her late 30s, with dark hair and a simple long, red skirt and white blouse. Maureen smiled at her. "How much?"

"Twenty-five dollars."

Maureen turned around to leave The woman stepped forward. "One card. Five dollars."
Maureen hesitated. "Nah."

"Come here. I'll give you one card anyway. You look like a nice girl."
The woman sat down at a small table and shuffled a round deck of cards. She set them down and asked Maureen to select a card. She set down a card.

"Ten of wands. Reversed. You're running away from people. From the ecstasy that comes from losing yourself and being part of a group."

For three nights. the tarot card floated in front of her closed eyes. Ten of wands. Dancing unafraid. Wild celebration and childhood. What we lose when we become adults, when we become aware of ourselves as clumsy and naked and awkward. The knowledge of apples and fig leaves. This is what we lose when we become aware of convention and standing out, not realizing that if we are all free, then we don't stand out for being free. Then we stand out for being stiff, for being frozen like monuments. We forget how to giggle and how to dance and how to move our hips and sway, until our hips beomce stiff and rigid and frozen into place and the slightest movement hurts. We forget how to speak outloud. We open our mouths and nothing comes out, the squeak of a rusted wheel or a baby bird (re)learning how to chirp for the first time. Squeaky hips and squeaky lips and dances and words unable to come out and be free. Dance and celebrate and remember your body and remember your dreams ad remember yourselves. Feel the sun turn orange on your back and dance into the night and into the dawn and just dance and dance and dance. Beath the drum and wave your arms and sway. Forget yourself naked and wild and forget the dark. Get your tan in the moonlight.

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