And Paint My Breasts Blue

March 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

Hieronymus BoschI’m not going to Florida after all. Not now, anyway. Charles isn’t certain how long his job will last. I’m both relieved and disappointed. I like feeling that I still have my city, even if I don’t know how to afford it, but I miss the idea of escape, of being in another quieter place for a long time. I miss the prospect of living with my dear, delightful husband again. I’m very tired of loneliness and simply seeing more people more often doesn’t cut it. Social life is work. I like domestic codependence with a man, which I was having on weekends this winter with Philip. That’s not all good nor is it easy but it comes to me naturally, just like some people are talented at jiving strangers out of fortunes.

I can’t go into the reasons why Philip will be relatively inaccessible for the foreseeable future, except to say that it’s not under his control, and if I don’t like the extent to which he’s responded to the situation, I have to admit it’s entirely in character and most people would say good character.

My view is more nuanced, which is a nuanced way of saying selfish. Let’s face it: I respect his choice,  and my rage is like a wall of fire. Except that I’m not charred and dead, and the furniture looks untouched, so I guess it isn’t really. That was the image that came to mind though, yellow flame 20 feet high, no wider than a bedsheet, what any demon worth her salt could throw out with a flick of a taloned hand if she were pissed. And then shrug if the humans got upset, saying, “What do you expect? I’m a demon.”

I can tell you one thing: writing supernatural fiction isn’t nearly as cathartic as reading it. Too much lowly human labor, too much, “You have to write even if you don’t feel like it, bitch,” (said to self), and most of all the curse of all writers of a certain age: the awareness that no matter how well crafted a story may be, what illusions it can create in the target brains, words are still lifeless.

We know it; you don’t.

Humans have a hard time believing anything is lifeless. I read a story in New Scientist about money’s wily power. People who have had  their hands burned in boiling water report their pain lessened if they’re handed a few bills. The lonely feel less so. Those asked to make sentences out of ‘money’ words (‘salary’, ‘pay’, etc), rather than out of neutral words, reveal in a follow up, difficult puzzle-game more reluctance to ask for help, even though they’re allowed to, and more reluctance to offer it to others when asked.

Not that this should surprise anyone. We all understand the movie images of criminals rolling in their leaf-pile of cash, laughing or kissing in wild good humor as the green notes flutter, and the subsequent scenes where they get suspicious and proceed to kill each other. The classic end for such a story is all the people dead, knives sprouting from chests, brains splattered against the wall—and on the bed, the pile of money untouched by blood, waiting in deceptive stillness for its next victims.

It’s hard not to be interested in what stories are going to come from this economic swoon. Crimes, heroism, religious conversions, and everyone’s favorite: the next great invention, produced by those creative geniuses previously shacked to remunerative work. But my natural curiosity has been quelled somewhat by what I’ve been reading lately about threats entirely likely and infinitely more dire than the last 6 months (not climate change or suitcase nukes). I won’t inflict them on you, at least not until tomorrow or next week.

I’m taking comfort from the idea that if Charles’s company goes under, he’ll visit me a lot more often. I can visit him too—in the nudist colony where he’ll share a doublewide with his brother. He says the middle-aged and old ladies shave their crotches there, just like young women do nowadays. I’ll feel like a savage. Maybe I can figure out how to grow it to my knees. And paint my breasts blue.


I have never walked down Fifth Avenue alone without thinking of money.

~Anthony Trollope





Hobo: Any change? Anything you got to give?

Suit: I wish I had something to give, but pretty soon, I’m going to be like you.

Hobo: My man, you cannot be this awesome.

–Bleecker & Lafayette



The faces in New York remind me of people who played a game and lost.

~Murray Kempton 


No one as yet had approached the management of New York in a proper spirit; that is to say, regarding it as the shiftless outcome of squalid barbarism and reckless extravagance. No one is likely to do so, because reflections on the long narrow pig-trough are construed as malevolent attacks against the spirit and majesty of the American people, and lead to angry comparisons.

~Rudyard Kipling 


In New York it’s not whether you win or lose–it’s how you lay the blame.

~Fran Lebowitz


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