What am I missing? Generally nothing but I don’t believe it so I go outside every day to check.
I trace my finger along the cream wall without gloves. I never wear gloves. Focus on the way the cracks fade into the pink of the painted flower from the mural on seventh street. Paint the slums. Or the run of the black spray paint and other stains left by time, like water leaked out the pipes and mixed with their tag. I wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t see mold often but color drips from internal leakage and weathering, or the times someone peeled it with their fingernail. Or the times the plaster just broke off. I see a lot of breaks in foundation. Cracks. I watch walls for minutes as I walk through the town. I’m always looking at cracks and the changes in texture. Like fissures. Like they are tributaries. I trace my fingers over them. This is when we could touch things. It was my favorite thing to do–touch things.
They are all so bright–teal, green, chartreuse, yellow, carnation, orange, clementine, blue, azure, sapphire, white, eggshell. Painted like slums. They paint slums all the time. I name the colors to keep my brain sharp. Green: verdure. Red: carnise. It actually kind of works that simply. The shades of red have many names. I prefer to name them accurately. It’s a nice trick too; little boxes of adjectives. Blood-red. Crimson. People feel more alive in color. Florid. I touch the light verdant siding of a house with the cardboard box full of diapers in front. There are lawn decorations crowding the stoop: a windmill, a leprechaun, some kind of gnome, a plastic plant. In the window a fat woman with red hair and big red lips sits and holds a sign that says “God Bless This Mess.” Irish.
I like to feel things even if they’re sharp and cold like frost on a metal pipe with white letters, it says “BET.” This is near the fence to someone’s backyard. I care nothing about how they feel about me. I take a picture of it. I am always stopping in front of someone’s house to write a thought down or change the song. If people looked out the window, they’d think I was unusual, maybe hallucinating, creepy. Some people have seen me case things and they call me dexterous and stealthy and know to stay away from me. That’s why I am keeping the journal now: to keep track. Of the several sides of it. I want to be portrayed matter of factly and precise as I always was. Stern. I want only facts. When they read it, I want them to describe both my motives and my findings with complete tip top rightness.
I never wear gloves and I carry my clear cup with the sky blue rubber wrapped around it for my palm to stay cool while I sip hot beverages. Though, I could use the shock of a burn to wake up most times. Everywhere I go, I bring the cup and say please. After everything, I say please and also thank you. This is the most southern thing about me besides how long it takes me to finish a sentence. G e n e r a l l y I c a n t a k e m y t i m e. We call that drawl. Northern men are stunned by it. Like fishing hook. When they turn on me, they say it’s the most affectatious thing about me but I would say that’s my politeness. Watching girls get slapped across their faces for not calling their mother ma’am doesn’t make obedience innate, it makes it probable you’ll repeat the behavior for a lifetime even if you don’t see any more little girls get slapped for not saying ma’am.
I need some reason to be here, out in the world; skeptical but full of energy so I plant stops along the way. I know the baristas at every coffee shop within a one mile radius, not by name but by sight. How they wear their eyeliner (cat wings or “regular”) or how they wear their hat (yes or no and for winter or pleasure) or their tattoos (elbows, arms, shoulders, calves, and what detail of work and if there is color and if I actually like the tattoo or just think they are brave for sitting for that one and if I think they are cute enough to compliment). Wedding rings. I smile. I use exact change. I tip everyone double what the person in front of me tipped. I squint when I’m pretending to think so no one talks to me. I take up the smallest amount of space in corners. If I can’t see the rings, I know they are married by how they shyly turn around, not squarely, not young and seeing my youth, become coy. Like they could reverse time. I am older than I look. I want to say this matter of factly to them but don’t want to engage either. I would use the word slimy out loud to describe the way their lips peel from their teeth when we accidentally meet eyes but I always cough. Take the high road. A loud cough into my sleeve so I can naturally turn and if I don’t turn around again, it’s because I’ve coughed and was forced to change direction. This is when we could still cough in public as a deflection method. I have a way of avoiding people that invites them to look further at me, yes, ok. I have no reason to linger in this store except I am cold and waiting to be less cold.
I touch three dogs today.
Suddenly, I am stopped in an apartment complex, at the edge of the parking lot. These moments can be frightening but I have tools. I have no recollection of stopping and I see children in a distance staring at me so I know I was speaking out loud. In the middle of my path, there is a large stone in front of my feet. This is a good diversion. Rubbing it beneath my sneaker, I appear to be engrossed in this activity. Almost as if that was the point. The sensation of the rolling loosens my hip and I become enthralled in this activity for several more moments because it is such an acrobatic movement. Losing sight of the children and all purpose, I begin to talk out loud freely again. I should note I am also very high on drugs. I have forgotten why I stopped and noticed how dirty my sneakers were but also my hands are brittle and feel like they may snap. This takes precedence though I am alarmed by the tightness of my hips. I catch myself saying “that will be more of a problem later but your hands are a problem now” out loud and then I am awoken by the sound of someone clapping behind me. The children. I consider taking the stone for my altar but ultimately walk away, not kicking it either. It is set there for a reason: anyone feeling scathed or unsafe could pick it up, use it as a weapon. I see these things in my head sometimes. I look behind me towards the direction of the clap to see three families watching me now. The parents are out. I don’t live here. I am a stranger. A small boy on his bike, steadying it with just his torso balance and long legs, holds my attention. He moves the bike back and forth without using his hands. The whites of his eyes shine from here.
It is anyone’s guess what I said to the rock as I mumbled that whole time and truly only they have any idea how long I stood there. My pace quickens but not by much. Pulling a straw out of my pocket, I laugh out loud. Begin to gnaw on it like its jerky. Like its edible. I gnash it. The dentist told me to stop this but self soothing is an insidious mechanism. They see this as well: the jerking movements, me pulling the spit covered straw out and twisting it in my hands as I begin to walk away. So unusual. This is when you could touch things still and put them in your mouth. Still unusual but not disgusting. They see me kick the rock into the bushes suddenly. I continue back towards my house. The little boy squints from a distance. Squinting denotes a range of emotions so you have to pay attention to body language. I can’t hear him but I can imagine it. When they suck their teeth like that, it’s because they thought of it. phh. That’s the peacock. The movement of the rock to the bushes alerted him the rock still existed and where it could be found again safely nestled out of sight from everyone but him
december 13 xxxx