small notes from today - then long post about K.
Me reading in bed with aching knees and toes. My Moomintroll comes up and asks: "Mama, could you turn me into a quail?" Nothing could be easier - I have a magic handbag.
Guy playing "Somewhere over the rainbow" on the saw today at cafe. Also playing a song called "Ants in the Pantry" on an electric banjo. A wonderful moment.
Reading: Imperialism essay (Good!) Cooppan essay (very good)! 6 lemony snickets: (orgasmic! did someone say something about ludic pleasure?) George and Martha (not as good as I rememberd them being). Various syd hoffs. Exam questions made up for pv mailed out. R. listened to me reading the passage from Freuchen about the giviak. Next movienight will have a really GREAT dinner. snort.
Playing chess with Jo's kid. Not sure how to handle that. Explained a little but she is touchy as hell. At some point quit waffling and just pinned her king brutally. How to teach it? I only know 3 things about chess: How to win in 4 moves against a 5 year old. Get some pieces unblocked and in middle of board. If confused, make equal sacrifices until situation becomes easier to assess. Maybe I could teach her those last 2 principles and get her to check out a book on it all.
Feet and knees did not start in until about 6pm. I took to my bed of sloth. It must be about to rain. Is this winter going to be hard? I am a bit unnerved.
Also, was nearly driven to tears by snotty comments of guest lecturer in last night's class. "Someday, when some of you become scholars, as I hope you do, maybe pursuing your PhDs..." Um. Or "“how many of you are familiar with Cavafy? Oh good I get to introduce you to a wonderful poet.” IN HELL. Tried desperately to listen to any possible information while overlooking the pomposity and condescension. But I am not a saint. I was pissed as hell. Holy mother of god, if I ever sound like that when getting excited about some book.... I pictured myself going "You've just GOT to read it. Don't worry it's short and easy to read (AND IN BIG TYPE AND SMALL WORDS, YOU IMPLIED MORON)" That's not what I mean but it probably comes off pretty badly.
Thoughts about Kirsten are still cooking. The crux of it is: Why am I not in touch with her? Examining this makes me pretty uncomfortable.
The skanky idiot she married.. lacing her into her corset in the church bathroom with a sad and despairing heart... ceremoniously dubbed godmother to baby named partly after me... the frantic phone calls from army bases all over the place... The horriblest phone call when skanky idiot had been sent to the 7-11 to buy diapers and milk with last 10 dollars but came back with only comic books... the frequent even more horriblest phone calls with baby in hospital with asthma, pneumonia, husband refusing not to smoke in house and then not visiting the hospital... skankboy knocking up 17 year old high school girl resulting in my namesake's mystery half sister. Who I just noticed in cursory research is not on skankboy's family tree.
Me on the other end of the phone foolishly and repeatedly over years saying "come live with me and I will help support the 2 of you the best I can". (A la plain layne, cassie and david). It was not to be. Kirsten left skankboy for his best friend who seemed like a bit of a step up, or at least possibly smarter and richer, which I hoped was good. She still seemed to be working at wendys and the "Newboy might help me to to college" sounded good, but never happened -- instead somehow "newboy persuades me to work at Wendys" was the reality. (Again, me with the financial aid forms and the applications and the tentative offer of financial help from my lame part time library jobs).
A few years later a horrible thing happened - she lost custody of her daughter to skankboy's parents. The part of the story that I heard: Kid at doctor for routine checkup. Question asked about bruise on forehead. "She fell down the stairs - on some particular date". Doctor decides that date is a lie and this is a warning flag for child abuse case. Kirsten bruises easily and oddly to the point where even in high school I was convinced that she had some odd disease -- very thin pale skin and bruising like that old comic book one shot zine, "Bruisey", and her hair oddly thin and brittle. Later there was some complication of some autoimmune disorder, thyroid gone wild, and a lot of steroids and a certain level of disability. But here with the welfare-level pediatrician who somehow she is still having to go to despite New Boyfriend's programmer job, somehow this all results in her losing custody to the grandparents, who had always hated her guts and could afford lawyers. I get these phone calls and finally one asking me for a character reference letter - by this time I haven't seen her in many years and live thousands of miles away. Yet I am the only person she's got to give her a char. reference other than her boss at Wendys.
Please keep in mind this amazing brilliant woman - reader of everything - fabulous teenage poet who could have become a good poet with time - entertaining and witty writer - warmhearted and oddly able to adapt in a superficial way to any situation - Now utterly screwed, in terrible poverty. I call her brilliant because she could learn anything - she was deeply curious.
Anyway, she loses custody of her daughter to repugnant and deeply stupid religious fanatics in rural Texas - Only allowed certain visiting hours - Must take bus for 3 hours to get to daughter and then there is not time to take bus back to her place so they have to just walk around in the suburban streets for a while. THen the lonely bus ride home to New Boyfriend, who by the way around this time I find out is a serious collector of guns. The gun thing freaks me out (sorry, addlepated, it was the context). She said if she would have not lived with New Boyfriend, the accused child abuser in this odd case, she could have had partial custody - but she could not figure out how to move out.
This story felt so fishy on so many levels. I did not think I was getting the whole truth.
Later marrying New Boyfriend. Job, custody, bus situation still pathetic, but now there is health insurance. At some point she got a used car. Thyroid problems dealt with to some degree. The books she gives her daughter - even Narnia - burned as the work of Satan, as are any locking diaries, as are photos. Hope my b-day and xmas presents made it through - sometimes I got a thank you note.
Various pleas for money as she and New Husband somehow in horrible debt and about to be evicted. I know there is some kind of lying going on and at this point, there is no friendship anymore - the ghost of one that I am loyal to. We talk maybe once a year.
Then - here is the horrible finale - I get a giant barrage of phone calls at work in 2000 in which information is slowly and delicately revealed to me. Day 1: She wants to leave New Husband. He is paranoid and abusive. Could he be bugging her computer? [Yes, easily since its unix and he's root]. How can she leave him? Later in Day 1. She has an online boyfriend met on some irc channel whose nature I won't say but it has to do with mental illness. She wants to leave Husband for New Boy. Day 2. She is leaving New Husband ASAP taking the car and the 400 bucks she can draw out of his bank account that day. Driving to pacific northwest state to pick up the online boyfriend and bring him back and marry him. Later in Day 2: She calls from Laredo. She has run out of money. Can I wire money? Situation desperate. Husband crazy and threatening to kill her. I waffle and tell her to ask her family. More phone calls. I poke around on net a little and turn up some disturbing things! The Husband starts emailing me in a pretty scary way. He thinks - obviously she has LET him think - she is on her way to come stay with me. He threatens lawyers, says he has the police on her tail for taking their car, etc.
THEN - it gets worse - She confesses to me that the New Boy is underage. She is on her way to transport a mynah across staid lions. Her crazy, suicidal Jailbait is going to drop out of high school, run away from home, go back to texas with her and they get married. He has no money either. Can they stay at my place? I freak. I try to talk her out of the whole thing. Then I get pissed. I promise to send money but then lose it. I said something like "WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME? I know your family sucks but... Am I really the RICHEST PERSON YOU KNOW? How is that possible?" Terrible silence from her end. I want a fugitive from the law of 2 states in my house with jailbait, schizophrenic, suicidal boyfriend, and gun nut soon to be ex-husband, in my own home with my baby there? No. Not coming to visit, not staying in my house, no, nunca, nada. She asked for 500 but I wire her 300 bucks just so she can get the hell out of Laredo. More emails from her husband, alternately desperate and nasty vs. reasonable-sounding and levelheaded. I trust no one.
Vague rumors and one wedding announcement later.... one more request for money which I refused as gently as I could this time...
I think of how she watched her mother die... violent alcoholic father.. i think her half-brother and his friends gang raped her when she was like 12... Yes, I was the richest person she knew, back in high school, with my parents married, my own bedroom in nice house, food always there, raised to assume I was going to college. I worked every day after school in a scungy job, and my life was going to hell and my parents barely speaking to me except to scream obscenities or to remind me that I was their daughter only in the eyes of the law, but still, no one beating me up, and guaranteed food and shelter.
But here is my real feeling. I have reacted in typical middle class fashion (or at this point I think we need to say upper middle class) and shut the door in her face. I think in some way, I shut the door on our friendship when she gave up on the custody battle. Then, again, I begged her to take the kid and skip town - come live with me no matter how poor we are, I, like my dad did, could pull a family out of poverty. But no.
When m.m. and I had no money I knew how to live dirt cheap - not as skilled as joshua norton's mom as I never mastered getting food stamps! - but I could cook actual nice food for 25 bucks a week (rice, beans, cornmeal, damaged vegetables) and knew how to talk electric and phone people into keeping services on even when the bills weren't being paid. (Call them, promise to send a token amount, even 10 bucks, and send it with more promises. Renegotiate those promises every month.) We have no credit cards. Strip. Sell stuff. Scavenge everything possible. Steal all medicine, tampax, cheese, and toilet paper. Forge monthly bus passes on color copiers. m.m. would screw all my careful stealing and scrimping and cooking by suddenly deciding that to be happy, she needed to blow a bunch of money on something utterly stupid like thai food, movies, plane tickets, or giant pieces of furniture. She was the one with the job so I could not stop her. Without my het privilege (which for Kirsten was a het nightmare) I would probably still be stealing toilet paper from my temp office worker bathrooms.
But now in this relative wealth, I don't call Kirsten. It's easier for me to be a hypocrite liberal and give some money to charity. It's hard to be involved in the actual difficulties of a friend's life when the friend is making stupid or dangerous decisions. I fear hemorrhaging money away to a lying disloyal friend - but have no compunction about bleeding it slowly away to double lattes, nice groceries, and all the books I can cram into me and jhk's house. I have no faith in Kirsten anymore anyway. But I feel like I should have that faith in some way and also I should be helping her. My gradual betrayal of her - and hers of me - feels worse than my failed marriage.
This all being part of my process of examining self. I often don't feel that what I post here is particularly honest. It might even be more dishonest than otherwise because I can write competently and sway emotion. Often I feel like a manipulator and an impostor. Even in framing this story as my own self-analysis, I think it is unfair to Kirsten -- as if the horrible events of her life are only important because I learned or am learning something from them? That would be particularly repugnant of me.
I am not sure why I am writing this but the whole thing often haunts me. I used tell it to my ex husband and his answer was usually that she was obviously a jerk and I should forget her. This is not possible for me -- shades of Severian, my favorite super sexist science fiction hero. If I put together certain details and consider them, I appear in a fairly decent light. Other details, I'm an asshole and a hypocrite. This grieves me very much.
The only thing that comforts me is that I know this and admit to it. I am the enemy of self-righteous certainty.