Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Remember the time

I am a kid, and my elbows are dirty because all of me is dirty and all of me is dirty because I am a kid! Right now I am in the sunroom leaning over the back of the couch, my brown joints smudging the white windowsill where they rest. I’m looking out at the backyard, which is where I acquire most of my filth.
The backyard is a memorial to the projects my family had only energy enough to begin. There’s the dog run to whose gate we never bothered to close. We dreamed so big for that dog run! Installed an electric wire along the top to keep the dogs from escaping. Planted a grape vine to weave within its chain links. Built a doghouse to replace our puppies’ quantity of space for quality. But the trees blocked the sun the grape vine needed to survive, and the carpet in the doghouse molded once it rained, and one day I grabbed onto the electric wire for no reason and opened my eyes to two concerned dogs trying to lick me back into consciousness.
There’s the pear tree that never grew pears because we didn’t planted another to pollinate it.
There are the thirsty patches of earth we fertilized only once in May to try to coax the grass that once grew back into existence.
That knot of branches was a rose bush my dad bought my mom for their anniversary. Dog pee is not good for rose bushes.
The sunroom is different. If the backyard is a place to transpose ideas into objects (dog runs, pear trees, roses) then the sunroom is where thoughts haven’t developed fingers enough to count as ideas. They are zygotes of ideas. They are dreams.
I want to tell you what I do in the sunroom, because I have never told anyone:
1) I play Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”. I think I’d like to be a tragic specimen of Americana. I fantasize about the melancholy of feeling close to my trunk.
2) I put on my dad’s oversized earphones and pretend I’m an operator for the Great Western Sugar Company. I tell whoever’s on the line about allowing my children only a deck of cards to play with. I’d wager money on any of them in a hand of gin rummy.
3) I take an egg cup from the kitchen, place it on the windowsill, and pretend I’m a drunk getting loaded at a dive bar. I take deep swigs of the empty egg cup and yell clumsy-tongued, “Hit me another, Skip!”
4) I listen to the “We Are the World” record I plucked from my parents’ collection for its cartoon jacket. It makes me cry.
And so this is why I think of the sunroom. Because when it comes to alumni of those bright afternoons, Michael Jackson was my only surviving companion. Willie Loman drank himself into an early grave. The Great Western Sugar Company went broke in the '80s. And Skip just disappeared. I hope he went back to college. He was so much more than that skeezy windowsill he tended. Oh MJ, whatever you were, you kept me company when I had nothing but the particles of dust caught in sunbeams to stare at. For your companionship, for your moonwalk, for rounding up me, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Dionne Warwick, and so many more in the sunroom to feed those hungry Ethiopians, I am grateful.

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