lament of the privileged class

After everyone goes to bed, I stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open, poking around, seeking solace in its chilled contents. I close the door, open it again, walk back into the living room, put my feet up on the couch. Within moments, I am back in the kitchen, pacing. 

When the revolution comes, I hope that it is me and this stupid refrigerator full of uneaten food that will be among the first held up as examples of ridiculous excess. 

Your mother worked as a secretary, you say? 

Yes.

And later, when she couldn’t find work, she took other jobs - babysitting for other people’s children while her own were home alone? 

Yes. 

And your father stood behind a deli counter, slicing meats all day? 

Yes, until he could no longer stand. 

And what is it that you do? 

Me? 

You. What is it that you do, exactly? 

I go to restaurants, sit at bars, buy expensive cocktails and little bits of food that come arranged on bone white plates. I laugh with my mouth open wide and lament the poor selection of wines by the glass. 

“Not a single bordeaux?” I ask incredulously. “And you call this a wine list?”

That, it seems, is what I do. 

Even with the warm sun, even with the mossy smell of the earth beneath my hands, I feel the futility of it, this morning. Of the hours spent on my knees with my ass in the air, facing the street. The cynics driving by in their cars, honking their horns, making their jokes while I silently curse the people who let their dogs relieve themselves in my garden bed.

My arms are scarred. My fingernails are broken and dirty. My knees ache. 

Some years, you tame the rose bush. Some years, the rose bush tames you. 

My mother drives me back to college after a particularly difficult weekend. The time that we are not fighting, we spend in angry silence. As I gather my things, she spits out in a fierce whisper, “Run back to your friends. Run back and tell them how stupid your mother is, how she doesn’t even understand Schopenhauser.” 

To this day, I am grateful for the singular moment of grace that kept me from shouting back as I slammed the car door: “Try Schopenhauer, Mother. Schopenhauer.”

I sit at my desk, drinking coffee while my family takes over the kitchen. It is hard for me not to go in there, orchestrate, but I resist the impulse, keep my distance. 

I’ll say it: I don’t like the days that I am expected to be happy. That I am expected to feel something. I am uncomfortable with certain rituals. Holidays. I am not at my best. 

I have never understood the appeal of breakfast in bed. It seems to me an invasion of privacy. I think: crumbs, spills. I think: Give me a minute to emerge from this cocoon. 

I know, I know, you’re thinking: what a delight I must be to live with. Indeed. Count yourselves among the lucky ones.

I woke this morning, having started this last night. Woke with it on my mind, with the desire to complete it. To have one thing, this morning, done. I am at odds today. I am thinking about poetry and language and frustration. About love. About gratitude. About grace. About the people I have lost, the things I have lost. Once, I wrote a story in which I enumerated the things that I had lost. From 1 to 17. I called it “Loser.” M. said: It’s a little heavy-handed, don’t you think? 

I am running out of words. So here are some borrowed:

Late Valentine
– Dean Young

We weren’t exactly children again,
too many divorces, too many blood panels,
but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.
Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,
even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke
blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done
ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,
ashy furrows like the folds in the brain
that signal the switchbacks and reversals
of our thought and just as brief.  Your lips
were song, your hair everywhere.
Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little
bother you were then, no more
than a tangerine rind.  Oh unknowable
other, how I loved your smell.

All of it. All of it - this. It’s a little heavy-handed, don’t you think?