i'm the one on the left
the cute one
with accidental tussled hair
and petulant cigarette
and a hand that plays.
you're the one on the right
the cute one
with accidental tussled hair
and petulant elbow
clothing undone softly
eyes for the inside
and a chest that sweats.
i've often wondered what brought us together
our bodies thrown together
like two plates of glass
squeezed into the same frame
even though by exteriors
we could be judged as very different
our coupling an anomaly
a juxtaposition only for narrative effect
a man and his man
a boy and his wife
the double protector card
in a deep deck of cards
signifying the long circle of strength
generating an understanding
of the depth of kindness.
sometimes i think of us like this
looking for paradises
so perfect they might be made up.
because i'm next to you
they know you read
and write me
and write to me
and sing for me
the songs i've written
and you draw and smile
and kiss me while looking
and know why art is made
when a person looks at another
and imagines him-and-you.
and because you're right there
they know i take action
and develop a surprisingly violent brawn so
i can use it
i can use it for you
i can use it with you
bare my physical might
for the man that inspires it
and that i can fight
but i kiss you eyes shut
and don't take anything wrong
and don't worry about man or woman names
because i'm just me,
i know we're two different pictures
if you look at us like that.
i see it differently:
two pieces can be a whole
if there is a story to tell.
there are so many things to write about. but i need to write about my dad.
(mom, i write about you all the time).
first, from his newspaper, from a going-away article (my parents are finalizing a move to the east coast. they are leaving ohio.):
More than any sports media figure in the city, Paul was instrumental in breaking down the barriers of high school sports coverage for girls' teams. The type of coverage enjoyed today was unheard of in the 1970s. Smith began covering events when girls' sports were club events not sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association. He later pushed for an All-City Team that honored the best girl athletes in the city.
His volunteer activities saw him help start the Greater Lima Youth Club for junior high and high school soccer players, since they had no place to play in Lima in the early 1980s. In 1982, he was named the YMCA Great Lakes Regional Volunteer of the Year. Paul and Sue would later volunteer at a city soup kitchen, as Lima Central Catholic band boosters and for the Equestrian Therapy Program.
i am so very proud of my parents for their decision to radically alter their lives, in pursuit of their own, selfish happiness. but reading the above segment made me particularly proud of my father. i've always touted the above topics (and one they missed, their current involvement in PFLAG), but seeing it outside of me, in another person's words, made it appear different.
for the longest time, and for all the time that i lived with my parents, i never fully understood my father. he had had the same job at the newspaper, as a sports reporter, since i was born. i could never recall him using his physical stature to intimidate another person, especially other men. he never seemed to act like the other men in our neighborhood, with their loud, beery talk and their mysterious emotional detachment from all things to do with child-raising. in short, as a feisty adolescent with delusions of grandeur, i had mistaken his subtle self-confidence and wordless sense of right for haplessness. how foolish we are when we are young; it is one of my defining characteristics that my parents never played out traditional gender roles (and never bothering with the rheteric criticizing them, either), instead choosing to be strong individuals.
i can recall many years of the two of us unable to communicate in what i thought was a meaningful way (meaning 'on my terms'). it was only after i'd moved to new york, with its cacophony of communication, that i learned to listen to other peoples' terms for saying something, and not force them to say it in ways i wanted it to be said. in fact, it was here that i became fascinated by the infinite structure of speaking, sometimes by the purely physical, sometimes the physical-verbal, but mostly by the limitless tapestry of verbal color required to communicate with the pakistani deli guy for coffee, the polish contractor for your job, the uptight professor for a design studio, the stressed-out employer, the stressed-out coworkers, the people who sold you tokens and metrocards, the people who yell at you for taking their cab (oops), the cab driver, and the people on trains or in bars and at clubs and in gyms and on streets who want to talk to you for whatever reason they can. through all this, i realized my father had never stopped trying to communicate with me in his way. and i so love him for that.
and communicating again, because, as i said, there are so many things to write about: another gift from dad. a continuing boundless energy to write; writing serially about events that are almost-the-same, but having the sophistication to recognize that the events are always subtly different each time; always doggedly seeking the back-story, the essence of why things happened in a thread of life that is very much like other lives.
i can also remember puzzlement at why my parents would go from curious soccer parents (my 1st grade) to the people who founded and ran a huge city-wide soccer club for kids (5th grade) because none of the schools had it as part of their athletics. growing up with it around me, i never gave it any thought. i always oversimplified their motivations, and believed that they simply saw a need, and then they fulfilled it because they were obviously the most responsible and organized people in the county. but this does begin not scratch the surface of the tedious hours, days, and years spent organizing a thousand kids on dozens of teams, pulling together huge fundraisers, running concession stands (yes the organizers did this too), getting t-shirts printed, getting flyers printed, refereeing games, coaching games, and taking more than anyone's fair share of bullshit from stupid-angry parents, coaches, and fans.
why my parents did all this, why my father did all this, only came to me on saturday. true, it's been stewing for a month, since i began playing another european team sport, but it's only fair to say that it all gelled saturday. i was in the emergency room near my house. i'd taken two rough hits during a game, and had been sidelined. as everyone was packing up and most of them leaving, i took a quick trip to the bathroom, which confirmed that i might require a visit to the ER. my organs needed scanning, probing, and chemical testing to determine that they were okay. two guys i'd barely spoken to drove me to the ER, and they stayed all afternoon, even as the rest of the team was at the eagle, drinking the free keg with the opposing team. needless to say, i was annoyed: annoyed at missing the afternoon, annoyed at imposing on two teammates, annoyed that my small body was not doing what i imagined it could do when i dreamed about scoring over and over in a game. after several hours, and a CAT scan, i was returned to the insipid, curtained-off area that was designated as mine. my muddy rugby kit was in my bed with me, the bed in which i had been rolled to and from the 4th floor for my CAT scan, and i felt like nothing less than a bored invalid, with a case of dizziness (from being hit in the head really hard) and a creeping sense of loneliness. life can put us in such strange places, and so quickly.
then a new nurse came in (shift change). her little chinese accented voice: "your tim is here". i don't know anyone named tim. i said so. she said "no TEEM, TEAM." what do you mean, i said. "there are a bunch of guys out there, i will send them in one at a time".
my team. she'd said it like 'my building' or 'my boyfriend'. it belonged to the inner me. it was attached to me. it was my-team.
i sat there stunned as she scurried away. first thought: why would they come here?. my eyes tried to focus on the emergency room medical staff rushing by, but my eyes refused to cooperate and i had to settle on a blurred image of the pastel curtain partially drawn around my bed. before the first rugger came in, i began to cry a little, because i realized there was such a beautifully simple reason to be there: they had come because they cared about their little mate, and knew how i'd feel seeing them.
and so it occurred to me that my dad had given this gift not just once, but for years, over and over, in as many ways he could think of. he advocated equal coverage for women's sports under a sports editor who was hostile to the idea, without ever sounding like an activist. he knew what sports (and its siamese twin, the sports story) meant to him growing up, and he wanted/wants nothing but to bring that joy to all kids. he organized the soccer club, open to all ages and areas, because he could, because he knew the excitement and benefits of children being on a team in a sport that requires close teamwork.
he'd wanted, and wants, to do all these things, and give all these quietly magnificent gifts: it will make us all feel like a million bucks.
there was a moment
in the mirror at the restaurant, after a particularly intense practice, and i had so many aches already, such as sore backs of hands and ouched wrists and aching shoulder and bruised nose and i looked in the mirror, in the bathroom, and saw a spot on my face, and thought to myself is that blood or barbeque sauce?
we'd all finished practice. this was the middle part, but it's how i will start telling it. the team was muddy, as we always are, or we had just arrived after a long journey, ready to find our bunks and get some rest. we were all milling in the house-cavern, in the endless millwork, around each other, through our own bed areas, sometimes over our own bed areas in stair-drawers. we were filtering through a long, wide, and in some areas tall, intricate cabinet-space where each of us had a bed among a storage eddy that encompassed all three dimensions. there were closets, drawers, desks in drawers, desks like drawers in other desks, hidden lights, hidden ladders, places to hang, slide, shuttle, display, and hinge almost any possession one had. there were doors between spaces, but no absolute closure, which was fine: the team likes to be together. yet it was impossible to tell if we were in a house at all, or a large network of cabinets, not unlike the ones i designed for the last two or three projects i actually designed, about two years ago. the millwork was warm, like quarter-sawn cherry three months after the finish has set.
when i was little, i would occasionally bury myself in my parents' closet, next to the empty shirt and shoe boxes mom would save to wrap gifts in, and slide the sliding door shut, which was difficult because there was no handle on the inside of the door. closing the door would turn off the closet light, and i would sit in a close, warm, quiet space, amongst a myriad of long and soft hanging clothes. no one would find or touch me there, except the clothes, and i could think in the soundless dark. after a time, the crack between the two sliding doors became visible, because light, sound, and air from my parents' bedroom would seep through. at this point the effect was ruined and i would be forced to leave.
sometimes it was the closet in me and my brother's room, identical to our parents' closet, except the clothes weren't as long, and we had a toybox and a lot of hard plastic star wars toys to avoid breaking.
i live in new york city now, and there is no such thing as a soundless dark.
it was a very simple dream, not unlike many others i've had. except these cabinets i had never seen before, and they had literally become space, the place we inhabit. all my previous work had self-completed itself in my dream, without me putting it on paper first.
at the beginning of the dream i was wandering frantically through the space, up, down, and around it, discovering a project i'd never seen but was clearly something i'd designed, intricate and impossible in its conception and explanation. yet it was derived from an impulse that i've always had, and like any good design it amplified that impulse so it was visible; namely, to live among the things that inspire me (my books, my old clothes, my music, and a bunch of drawings) in such a way that i was always uncovering them, in this jewel-box cabinet-game called my house.
and with the team, too.
suddenly, and just returned from a delicious trip to london, i am completely bitter at life for not providing me with a boyfriend at this very convenient moment. and so i shaved my head.
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.