Thursday, January 29, 2004

have they moved Burlington?

My mother and I have eaten too much chocolate (the crisper drawer in the refrigerator is stuffed to the brim, no lie) and we are getting loopy in the living room. I'm on her computer checking my web mail every three or four minutes for News From Home, and she's on my computer playing Spider Solitaire. I'd left a game open and gotten up to do something, she saw it and sat down, and we've been here like this for. oh, I dunno, four or five hours now. It's a good thing I'm not compulsive, she says.

I don't know where to start. There's my last night in SF, how beautiful and sad and intense it was; being with my friends in the small, Chinese-red Rite Spot Cafe listening to Mark Growden push sex out through his accordion and drinking sparkling water because I wanted to stay sharp, stay present, stay awake as long as I could. One by one as my friends left they would motion me to follow them outside and I would snag my coat and go out to receive things: spools of yarn one friend's departing roommate had left in a closet; a lunch bag with a candy bar, a black votive candle, and a bar of lemon verbena soap; my first Growden CD.

One unexpected and welcome gift was ArchitectX's, and it was a list of things for me to remember while I was gone. I won't share it all, other than the line "I cannot fail." I cried for the third time that day, and he gave me his handkerchief. How many men his age actually carry two cloth handkerchiefs? I went back inside and Growden was singing "Fuck Boy" to Snufkina, who I thought was turning a little red where her collar rode low on her back; she was wearing her furry hat with the ears and he was growling "kitty ears" at her between verses. She and Spark were giggling together and I was happy, sitting behind them, watching the candles burn down. And occasionally snaking forward to filch one of the foil-wrapped chocolate Hanukkah coins Spark had laid out on the table between them.

I've lived in San Francisco for almost thirteen years now, but it has never felt as much like home as it did at that moment.

The flight to Detroit occurred much the same way all my trips do, in a state of suspended lunacy. I usually stay up all night before I fly, packing. This time I was packed in advance, so instead I wrote that weird long entry about light and skin flakes. Then I repacked, just for what the hell, and took a cab through the rain and darkness to the BART station. By the time I got through the supervised strip-tease they call Security (I was giggling madly as the man next to me and I put our belts back on together) I was totally punchy and feeling no pain.

Coming down to O'Hare, I suddenly had an idea of what it must feel like to be native to California, or some other temperate clime. Looking at the neat white squares and circles and oblongs, I couldn't figure out what I was seeing. Remember that I generally visit my folks in the summer or fall; I haven't seen so much snow in at least four years. Longer. Holy Toledo, I thought--and please don't ask why I've been cursing like the Boy Wonder lately, I'm not sure either--that's snow! And those black sticking-up things, those are trees! Wow!

Being here is like living outside of time. All day I've sat in a heavily heated apartment. Everywhere I look there's a box with a sleeping cat in it. At 5:30 this morning I woke up to my father lighting a cigarette in the dining nook (can't smoke in the bedroom, where all the oxygen machines and tanks lurk) and we sat looking out at the snow, talking about the Sumerians and how to make a rubber stamp out of an eraser. Now my mother and I sit up late and crack each other up. The smallest cat moves from lap to lap, complaining because we squirm around too much.

I have with me some of the things I was given--the soap, the CD, a jar of homemade body scrub. The candy bar is of course a memory. And things I was lent--a handkerchief, a book on Kabbalah (yes, interested party, I did end up bringing one of your books with me.) And I think of how good it is to have friends that are family.

You may be a moron, Mom and I joke to each other as I read her the instructions for printing out a coupon from a site touting a new kind of cigarette ("Make sure your printer is on. Make sure there is paper in your printer,") but we will still sell you our cigarettes. I can't explain why this is funny, except that we still laugh about an incident where I essentially made Mom stick a York peppermint patty up her nose the wrong way on an airplane about fifteen years ago. It absolutely does not translate. It is the language she and I have had since I was small enough to ride in a Snugli and puke quietly down her back in the Petites department at Marshall Field's. Thirty-some years of my dad watching indulgently as we gasp for air and try to psych the other one out into laughing again.

It's also good to have family who are friends. I'm glad I got old enough to appreciate that.