Written the day after Christmas ie about a month ago
26 Dec 2013
As usual I do not know where to start but I do have some idea or inspiration or compulsion or something to remark at least that this year’s Christmas day was one of the most grueling of my life even though–and I mean this emphatically and truly and truly emphatically–it was one of the nicest Christmas days to unfold in my house in quite some time. Which is to say one occurred and it was one in which we all gave each other however much room we needed to tend to the noises in each of our heads while also making it clear or clear enough that company was to be had if one wanted any.
Or at least that is how it looked to me. It may have occurred in an entirely different way for my housemates but their stories I have only heard bits and pieces of. Despite this low-stress atmosphere I only lasted for ten hours of consciousness before I threw in the towel and decided to reboot which took another ten hours and had me up at dawn instead of noon and so this might be the Quarterly Circadian Rhythm Shift.
I know I am not the only one whose voices were being noisy yesterday but I do count myself fortunate in that mine have quieted down to the point that I could almost say that we have quiet civil conversations instead of the shouting matches we used to have with their screaming liarliarliar at me and my screaming shutupshutupshutupshutup at them and neither of us managing to get our points across to the other in any useful way at all. Both sorts of exchanges bite off big chunks of what I always hope will be productive days and turn them into little spasms of almost no practical use from anyone else’s point of view but at least with the conversational method we stand some chance of reaching an agreement we are all comfortable enough with to let the organism get some sleep.
The lady sitting near the ATM yesterday seemed to be having much greater difficulties with her voices than I was with mine. Unless she was on the phone but I did not want to lean over intrusively to see if indeed there was not one that I could see. As I walked away I wondered what would have happened if I had asked her who was bugging her and trying to take Samantha away while she was reading to her but I did not really have it in me to talk to someone else’s voices so I took the Billy Don’t Be a Hero way out and walked around the block continuing to find no stores open and beginning to wonder if macaroni and cheese were really going to be Christmas dinner (they didn’t have to be but I fell asleep before the dinner being cooked was fully cooked and so they were what I ate. Sort of. My stomach rebelled halfway through for no apparent reason and so today I am eating everything in sight now that there are things to see and to eat that it knows it can handle).
I could say a little more about my day yesterday but I only have a couple of vignettes: in the first one Mission Street is quite nearly dead that is nobody is out there who has anyplace else to be and I am thinking this is not quite right or this is new or something. I am not sure of this though I mean I did see several people passed out on the sidewalk who must not have lasted their whole days either so it was surely desolate but whether I have seen non-desolate Christmas days on Mission Street I cannot say for sure without asking around first. So I might get back to you all with that. Two Mission Street Gift Shops were open and at each one a family was looking over the bicycles but there were no other customers in sight. My guess is they opened because they have done business on this holiday in the past but maybe they too had nothing better to do.
In the second I am talking to the housemate who speaks in ellipses because what else can you do and we are throwing out phrases to the effect that on this holiday you are damned if you do have family and damned if you don’t. Nearly every one of my close friends has a home to go to for the holidays of their choice and the rest of the year does not bother me so much but the way in which family spirits all of them away at one time for at least twenty-four hours and up to two weeks in some cases creates a kind of pre-determined and very local interpersonal drought whose menace is maddeningly self-fulfilling in that no matter what happened last year and how consciously I plan to keep it from happening this year this year is never anything like last year and so whatever precautions I take turn out to be completely orthogonal to the actual problems that arise.
But so my elliptical comment was something to the effect of all that but sounding more like “mmggppphhh…family…” and then considering how reports from family holidays usually turn out, I reckoned maybe I was not the unlucky one in my version of things.
· · · · ·
There is a story in this picture although I cannot say that I know what it is. I would hazard a guess that there are at least eight stories in this picture and probably more than that since in my own experience the stories I even tell myself about this or that thing we all lived through change depending on which one of me is narrating and even each of us change it around at least a little every time through and this is one reason why I cannot stop writing although not so many know this about me but that is a slightly different writing problem that I also have but am trying to work on and that is all I will say about it right now. Suppose though that each of these stories however many there are in this picture or were since not all of them are still here to unfold themselves suppose each were worth ten thousand words then that would be some piles and piles of stories just to go through once much less fifty times or sixty times or seventy times or more.
Here is what I think I know about it or maybe I should say here is some combination of things I have heard and the things I think I may not have heard but maybe glimpsed waiting silently and not even patiently and not even resigned but maybe only on the bare energy of having once or twice come to mind but there where there is not enough time even to get to all the stories that can be told and so those that cannot will bide but not their time so much as their will to remain through every iteration that cannot stop and wait for them.
The year is 1940something. I do not know which 40something but I am guessing there is still a war on only maybe not for much longer. Each kid has one toy: Santa’s gift perhaps if Santa was a part of this scene which I also cannot say for certain. There may have been other presents but those would have been things like fruit in the stockings and maybe boxes of underwear from an aunt or uncle or maybe aunts and uncles did not gift children with underwear until the fifties I do not know the precise origin of this gently dystopian unless you were the one who had to say thank you for the socks in which case it was not so gently dystopian of an American tale.
In any case money is short this year and the presents homemade in some cases and make-do in others. I am not sure which are which except for the little wheelbarrow which is still around somewhere and was crafted by hand and necessity if I have the story right which I cannot claim actually to have but the wheelbarrow looks sturdy from here so its continued coherence seems credible to me.
There are more facts I suppose that I could mention: facts like I do not know if this family was farming yet or if that happened later on after they moved north a little ways which I know they have not done yet. I do not know what sends them northward (slightly) nor how they decided where to go but they will move to a rural town in the Pacific Northwest of the US. They are already in the Pacific Northwest, which is why they will not be going far when they do go, but whether this house is in the country or a small town or a medium sized town I am not sure except that the area is certainly not a small town now. But you know, addresses being what they are, a person can live in a city without, you know, living in the city. So this house could be almost anywhere within maybe a hundred square miles or so and parts of it would have been more densely inhabited and others less so.
None of that makes much very clear does it. I will guess though that at the time nobody else in the US knew where the Pacific Northwest was, really. By the time I was nine or ten, which was much more than nine or ten years later than this, the east coast still had no clue about anyplace that was west of the Mississippi except possibly for Los Angeles and stories about the Yukon. And the Wild West wherever that was but it was not so much a place one could go although it may have been once but I would bet it was always already a scene that one carried around everywhere and maybe romanticized depending on the quality of one’s seats: much easier to do from far away.
There is a lot of space in between Los Angeles and the Yukon. Whole civilizations had already been decimated and were trying already to rebuild from almost nothing and people of all sorts were living in those spaces and doing things that might be forgotten by now except for those things that will not be forgotten until memory itself gives out and who knows when that will be.
I will confess: I do not know why I am writing about this picture or that is I could trace easily enough the chain of events on the outside and associations on the inside (to whatever extent those exist distinct from one another which extent I do not believe in all that much really) that led me to think I wanted to write about it but what to say next escapes me. This is an unreconcilable picture precisely because it contains more stories than it can actually hold. It whispers half-formed hints much like that strange and sweet mix of Douglas Fir and clover-fed manure rushing up and wrapping me in promises of comfort and escape there in that rocky driveway for just a moment before the always nameless always inarticulate apprehension arose telling me to keep to myself and away from everyone who might be even a little bigger than I was.
It was a feeling that like any other feeling never asked its rights before it arrived and never listened to reason although certainly it could be temporarily injunctioned at the behest of shame. But only temporarily and at a price that I would wager few would be willing to pay if they realized just how high it was or how long its memory of credits owed.
I do know that for me the greater destructive potential lies in deliberate not-knowing than it does in anything that I could possibly become aware of at this point and one thing this picture says to me is that I do not know the half of it.