I’m sitting in a cheap Chinese (Schezuan) restaurant in my ugly rich suburb. Drinking a Rob Roy, a type of Manhattan but made with Scotch. I seem to remember that you drank Rob Roys so I ordered one. Sometimes Manhattans are too sweet, and not just because of the fake red maraschino cherry.
No, now I remember you liked Stingers. Scotch with white Creme de menthe. I should have ordered that. It sounds delicious, the slightly bitter strong and dulling taste of Scotch and then the sharp sweet peppermint of the Creme de menthe, like getting zapped with a wintery forest, maybe that’s why they call it a stinger. A froth of freshness in the mouth. The headache comes later.
The waiter doesn’t remember me though I used to come here so often with you long ago. Manhattans then were $4.00 now they’re $4.50. Unbelievable. You can’t even get a cheap glass of wine for under nine dollars in this town. But here things stay cheap, slightly stale, slightly lackadaisical, slightly dingy but customers keep coming.
There is a fish tank along the wall opposite my table. There was a bloated white fish sitting in the bottom of the fish tank. Just sitting there, not moving. Or maybe it was dead. Hard to tell. It had scarlet markings on its forehead, or is it a snout, a bill, a muzzle? What is a fish head? It sat at the bottom of the tank for a long while then it moved slowly up to the top and just stayed there motionless, there was no where to go. I drank my drink and felt it already going to my head because I hadn’t eaten anything yet.
Earlier I walked to the restaurant from the bus stop after getting off from work, but it was too early and it was closed. I walked to the hardware store to kill time and looked at the flower and fruit and vegetable seeds displayed at the front. I saw a pack of moon flowers and read the description: “… large white flower heads growing profusely on thick lush vines…. plant them near the house to smell the intoxicating fragrance at dusk…..” I grabbed a few packs. What magic, white flowers blooming in the night! Then I grabbed a few packs of heavenly blue morning glory seeds though I have half a dozen at home from a decade ago…… I then put everything back knowing I wouldn’t plant any of it.
Walked to the restaurant. Very windy and grey and chilly, would be nice except for the wind. Harsh cruel wind. Made your bones and skin cold, blew you across the street, even made the light poles sway.
I followed a very tall heavy set woman with long strawberry blonde hair into the restaurant. She was dressed all in black and though I only saw her from the back she looked lonely.
She was already seated when I walked in. She was middle-aged and very masculine looking. She looked tired. Had on a crinkly white blouse of some acrylic fabric. Accepted the free tea and asked for Sweet and Low, ordered the Princess Chicken and sat looking at her I Phone. She might have been pretty if she was thinner, happier, richer, better dressed, not so sad and lonely looking…
I sipped my Rob Roy wishing there was some music playing in the background. Noticed the dingy blue/turquoise carpet. The black swivel chairs like in an office from the 50’s, the bottoms all dingy, dirty, dusty or maybe just old. The dull red black roses in the bud vases.
Ordered egg roll and hot Princess Shrimp. I love egg rolls. I wanted to eat about a dozen. Slathered with hot mustard mixed with sweet and sour sauce. The egg roll was hot and not too crispy and not too brown. There was lots of cabbage densely packed into the roll with a little bit of pork and onion and seasoning.
I looked at the fish tank and suddenly there were several large white fish swimming in there all with various scarlet markings. But the fish tank was so small, and they looked uncomfortable, it was suffocating to watch them…
An old man came in with a cane all in navy blue and in a baseball cap and seated himself in the back and was never seen or heard from again. The three of us sat there silently chewing our Princess chicken and Princess Shrimp with the fat chunks of white onion still crispy and all covered in a thick (but tasty) brown sauce.
Other diners started to file in. An old couple with white shocks of hair who sat there side by side not saying a word to each other. They didn’t seem happy. Then their friends came, another old couple, and suddenly they all got animated with talking and laughing and staring at their I Phone photos.
A quartet came in. Also white haired, in jogging suits and tennis shoes. One of them looked like Jerry Springer but older, whiter. At one point they all joined hands and said grace.
My bill came and it was $12.00. I left a good tip and walked home in the wind. The sun came out and then I felt a few drops of rain. I forgot my umbrella. The rain stopped, the wind got stronger. The sun came out and then disappeared again. It got windier. Then it started raining again then stopped.
There were a lot of cars everywhere. No matter how pretty or even ugly the day is all I see are cars, because every day there are more and more cars. I am obsessed with cars, I know that. But they are ugly and noisy and they fill the landscape with so much metal and tires and rubber and hardness it’s hard to see anything at all anymore. You have to look up at the sky, the only quiet and empty space.
The gardening trucks are everywhere too. The leaf blowing teams. One crew starts then stops and a few houses down another team starts and stops and on and on again all through April May June July August and September and even October and November. There is never any gardening peace anymore.
Found a bottle of old pain killers, the ones from after my operation, years ago, and took a few. The pain in my bones was so bad I thought I would pass out. I think I could get used to these. Sleep comes easily and lasts and dreams come quickly and last. I dreamt of a very old person with very shiny hair. That was it. Idiotic and senseless but it seemed important at the time.
Was so tired after work yesterday I had lunch, took a very hot bath (the house is freezing cold again) and went to bed, took a sleeping pill and started to feel that delicious slow passing out dreamy hazy feeling when suddenly I heard the next door neighbor’s gardeners and their disgusting mower and their leaf blowers again. There is not much grass, hardly any leaves but those idiots were walking up and down the driveway with those demon blowers and I wanted to get up naked from my bed and strangle every one of them. Three neighbors down use the same gardeners and the noise was so loud and nerve-wracking even the sleeping pills didn’t drown it out. I wanted to take their leaf blowers and ram it down every orifice they had and teach them a lesson about ruining spring…and fall and summers for ever more again..but I just tried to go back to sleep….
I knew there would be trouble when I went out in February and noticed a huge crack in the bird bath and realized there would be no birds drinking and bathing and singing in the garden anymore— I should have covered it but I leave the bird bath out even in winter because the birds need water then too.
There are gardeners in the park across the street mowing the grass. The mowers are so loud I can hear them behind two sets of closed windows and doors. Will it ever be quiet again? No.
There is a constant sound of leaf blowers and mowers and screeching cars in my ears. Nothing now makes it go away. It’s not all in my head. Well actually it is in my head and my ears and my skin and my bones. I am one mass of rattled frazzled nerves.
Oh to be in the world of scythes and rakes and gentle quiet lawns again! Or goats and sheep who just eat the grass naturally,….. To have for once the peace that prevailed in towns like in Agee’s “A Death in a Family”, when you could hear the hissing of the garden hoses after dinnertime, the fathers all coming out after work and watering the grass quietly…. gently, when people came out and spread their blankets out on the lawns and watched the stars together… there were still stars then…
My viburnums are dying. My roses are dying. My serviceberries are dying. Maybe I should have pruned them. But some gardens grow and grow without pruning. Like the one in “Les Miserables” where the lead character and his daughter escape to, near that convent in Paris. I want my garden to be like that, overgrown, wild, huge and dark, and unknown to all but me and the birds.
I saw a duck in the plant’s parking lot the other day, looking lost and disoriented. I watched it and wanted to go away with it somewhere. It found a puddle of water on the sidewalk, drank and flew away.
I saw a hawk last week, thought it was an eagle but don’t think there are eagles here. I see one now and then early in the morning. I fear for the little birds who are its prey. You see a hawk in the middle of a suburb and it is weird but then squirrels and even birds seem weird. How can they live here? They all fly away at most human sounds and always take off when the noisy gardeners come.
My new neighbors next door are keeping a lot of lights on at night and my back yard is illuminated like a parking lot. My trees are a weird yellow orange blue color at night from their lights. I feel sorry for my trees and my shrubs and my grass and my flowers and everything in my garden having to be in that horrid light. They all look frightened and I seem to feel them wincing with pain, with horror with frazzled plant nerves. Nothing and no one sleeps anymore in the dark. Last night I woke up to the neon glare and I wanted to bash out their lights with a baseball bat. They’re new neighbors. Maybe I should talk to them.
This morning I saw that hawk again, about 5:30 a.m. while walking around the garden with my coffee. It was sitting on top of a tree by the convent. I got a little scared it was so huge and it was so early in the morning. I thought it might mistake me for a rabbit or a squirrel and fly at me and gouge out my eyes and eat me. I ran into the house spilling the hot coffee all over myself in fright.
Today I saw it again sitting on top of the fence behind the schools trash bin. I had to look twice because it was so huge but mostly so still. Like a statue. It looked like a huge pigeon, or a penguin. Like some weird statue a kid might make in those fake pottery classes. It was perched sideways. It was a speckled color. It looked fierce, like it was going to eat up the whole world. I wish it would. I kept watching it because it was so still it was unnerving. What was it waiting for? It was searching out its prey, waiting and watching. It had all the time in the world. There is all the time in the world when you are stalking your prey. Then the garbage truck came and scared it away.
Just overnight everything got very green. All the trees are in bud. The willow’s hair is a golden Chartreuse. The rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom suddenly and I have no idea how that happened. The forsythia this year has a deep gold tinge. My grass has not been cut yet. Lawn mower broken, can’t pay a gardener. Too much money they charge for ten minute’s work. And they are loud and reckless –all the birds fly away when they come.
J’s parents are sick again. I hate it that his parents are sick. They are two of the prettiest parents I ever knew. I thought they were going to live forever, be pretty and fashionable, and drink Rob Roys and Manhattans and red wine forever. Dance forever. Have bridge parties with chicken tettrazini forever. I thought we would play tennis doubles again sometime in Charlevoix in our white tennis skirts and shoes, the sun shining down on us forever.
I’m beginning to hate April. May is not much better. April is cold and windy and rainy and today there was tiny hail in the morning falling on all the daffodils. But in May a lot of people die. It is so gorgeous sometime in May with the tulips and the lilacs. The lilacs! Is there anywhere a scent more sublime than lilacs? Lilies of the Valley maybe. Hyacinths…..
E sent me her diaries to read and I am afraid to say they were boring. I just read Franz Kafka’s diaries. I had no idea what he was talking about 99% of the time. I got angry reading them. I got depressed reading them. I got bored reading them. Mentally ill people are only interesting up to a point. Their self-analysis gets so tedious. If only once he had described a dinner he ate; I don’t think he ate. Most critics say he was brilliant so I must read “The Castle” and see.
I tried to fix the bird bath. I am tired of buying new things when something breaks. I am so inept. People like me shouldn’t own houses. The man at the hardware store gave me two kinds of products. One a kind of putty for the large crack. And a silicon tube of something or other for the finer cracks. I cleaned out the bird bath and then dried it and then rolled around the putty material like they said and pressed it into the cracks. Then I took out the silicon tube and snipped the nozzle to the right shape etc. Squeezing out the stuff hurt my hands, the tube was made of hard inflexible material. You need big strong hands to get it out. It was hard to get it into the cracks too. The cracks were too fine. I used it anyway and kept putting more and more into the cracks. There was silicon all over my hands. It didn’t say you had to wear gloves so I didn’t. I let the birdbath cure for 24 hours. The next day I filled it with water and watched as it all leaked out. What a disappointment. I did the putty and silicon thing again until my hands ached. The birdbath is still curing. Now I know why handymen charge so much money.
My hands are full of silicon I think. I washed them several times with soap and water but the pores seem closed and I feel poisoned. There was a spider crawling on my comforter last night while I was in bed reading and I killed it by smothering it with some damp tissue paper. I never saw a spider on my bedclothes before. I wonder if I have been bitten by spiders and if that is why my bones all hurt and I feel like I am going insane.
I have a temporary bird bath. It is one of my good round cake pans. I placed it on top of the old pedestal and there is room for only one bird. It works. The birds found it and every now and then a big fat robin sits there like an old lady in the bathtub and splashes about. It is funny because it is a cake pan. I have baked many cakes in that pan and I think of that bird sitting in the birdbath/oven baking like a cake. Tiny little birds also come and gingerly sit at the top and dip their little beaks in and drink, but I miss the old bird bath and having dozens of birds bathe and sing.
I can’t seem to fix anything, nor can I find anyone to fix anything for me. They are all too busy or when they are not busy they come and I pay but they never fix anything right.
I want to go outside into the garden but the wind is getting fiercer and everything is being whipped to pieces. I sit here again with a blanket over me. Only hot baths feel good.
There is a bowl of mandarins in the kitchen. They are sweet as honey and if I eat one I can pretend I am in Tangier or Morocco when Paul Bowles and Allen Ginsburg and Burroughs all lived there in the 50’s and 60’s. They weren’t very happy though, and played a lot of Russian Roulette, but they were all very interesting and I liked reading about them.
After that Chinese lunch I am still hungry. I should have had another egg roll. Maybe another drink. Maybe two drinks. I feel like going to sleep and waking up some other year, in another spring.
The one thing I remember that is still good in the morning is hearing a very loud (but pleasant loud) song of a tiny bird with a white and black cap, a chickadee I think. It sits in my dead European Mountain Ash that oddly still has a small live branch with two twigs sprouting from the sides like horns, and it sings, bleating out its song like a bird-goat creature. I see it open its beak, but then the beak disappears and as I look closer the sound is coming out of the little throat that has expanded and gotten bigger and wider until it is a black hole and it is the only bird song in the morning, the few simple notes loud, clear, and triumphant like the horn at Easter service. And it feels like the whole world is being swallowed up by the bird and I want to go there, I just want to be swallowed up by the little chickadee– because inside that bird is another quiet, gentle, and more beautiful spring.