We’d wondered about the ghost in the neighborhood for a really long time. Me and my boyfriend had, I just told you about it. Then last night with no warning my boyfriend mentioned that he’d seen him at the Food Pit, up close, in person, a few days before, without telling me.
The Food Pit is the real-life name of the gas station/convenience store in our neighborhood. I guess it’s like the Peach Pit in the original 90210, except a bit more honest. They didn’t serve or sell the stones of fruit at the Peach Pit. The Food Pit sells “food,” and it is a bit of a hole.
I have had a craving for grape bubblegum so fierce I might just go pee on a plastic stick just to prove what I already know: I’m not pregnant. But I’m so psyched out over wanting grape gum I’ve even got him eating like there’s no tomorrow–he’s hysterically pregnant now. Life is cray-cray up in here. And it’s harder to find grape bubblegum than one would think, just to twist the knife.
We were both so happy about the grape gum (and the Lifesavers that the boyfriend got, a really nasty kind that I haven’t learned to get a taste for yet–I’m like a bacterium when it comes to sweets. I can learn to eat about any kind there is if it’s the only thing around, but I do have my preferences), that he forgot to tell me about the Ghost!
The Ghost was standing in front of him in line at the Food Pit. The Ghost is in his mid-forties. There are two wireless speakers attached to the handlebars of his bicycle. And he isn’t a ghost. He is a man, made of meat and bones and skin, not ectoplasm and fear and regret and longing.
“I think he’s a connect,” my boyfriend said.
And it all clicked! Of course. The music, the bike, the slow roll, the night, the reason we’re fascinated with him, the everything. He’s the ice cream man.
He has a reason to be out. He’s just going for a ride. Anyone can stop to talk to him. And they can hear him coming, so they get their money together and then come out of their houses. And the cops don’t have any reason to stop this guy. He’s just sharing the joy of music with the neighborhood. He probably isn’t a big time guy. Maybe he’s just making deliveries for the club, I don’t know.
I have no proof this is what’s up. I don’t know his life. But suspected small fish rolling through the neighborhood is far less interesting than undead spirit riding a ghost trick bike across the earth. I’m still considering this mystery solved.
A little more than a year ago, we moved across the street from Pinkeye Beach. Seriously, it’s beautiful, and it’s smells all wonderful salt and wet and thick on my face, and I love driving on the highway next to the water, and there’s red tail hawk that hunts from the tree across from our kitchen window sometimes, so majestic, and the campfires smell so wonderful (until someone starts smoking something that smells more like plastic and tar and 151), but really, that water will get you sick.
Never mind that the ocean is nature’s toilet. Never mind that there is always a dead sea lion on the beach (that’s why the dogs always start running as soon as they are off leash–they’re looking for that sweet rotting sea lion). Never mind that there are a million other dead things there; that’s why Pinkeye Beach is covered in crows and pigeons. Kick the bulb of the bull whip kelp and a million flies pour out of it like it’s a corpse’s eyeball.
Never mind all that: there are floaters in the water. You see them every time you go there. The treatment plant is right at the end of Sloat Boulevard. That’s grody. Don’t go in there. At least get a hep-B series first.
Our apartment is one floor up, over the garages, and goes through the building, but it isn’t a railroad, I don’t think. My desk is by the dunes side (we’d have to be on the upper floor to have a view of the beach proper). My boyfriend has the street side. At night, when we eat and watch our stories (y’all, I am just now learning how fucking great Prison Break is. I can’t understand how I slept on this shit for so long), and at night, that’s when this magic happens. A ghost rolls under the windows.
For months and months, we didn’t see it, just heard it. It went too fast to be walking, and too slow to be driving, and too quiet to be on a skateboard. So it had to either be a) disembodied, or b) on a bike. The weird thing: always blasting 1980s hiphop, like Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang, Kool Moe Dee, and almost always the same ones, like he had a Time Life collection of Greatest Hits CDs, or an 8-track.
It didn’t help that the ghost was fleet of foot. Every time we heard him, we looked, but ghosts get, well, ghost. He was always gone.
Finally: a man rolled by when we were by the window for no reason on a BMX bike, blasting some LL Cool J. He looked young, but it was from far away. Maybe he got hit by the train? Or a car? Maybe he has a message from the 1980s to share with us? A message of peace and freedom through rapping? I can say that hearing Kool Moe Dee and other old school beats made me happy as hell.
Since we saw him once, we see him often. He very much seems male. He is always alone. He is always with music. We can’t tell if other people can see him or not. I want to know his story, since the ones I write for people and ghosts are certainly wrong.
(This is the song I always want the DJ to play, but I think requesting shit from the DJ is rude. I want the ghost to play it, too, but I think requesting shit from a ghost is pointless and rude.)
So the thing about being in a writing program is it feels like all writing needs to be devoted to making work for my program. I feel less guilty wasting time doing things that make me feel worse about the world than I do about writing here. But reading about how shitty the world is is starting to get to me. I can’t spend time on the internet anymore. It’s just too terrible a place.
All this to say: I’m trying to come back here. It’s better than reading about who hit whom, and who is going to prison for what, and where in the world is on fire, and where in the universe smells the most like farts (spoiler: it’s everywhere. Everywhere smells most like farts).
I am trying to finish my thesis for school (a novel! A novel about a terrible family doing terrible things to each other terribly, but the writing is good, so I got what I came to school for), and another project (a weird, weird sort of semi-autobiography thing, made up of bizarre answers to a questionnaire I stole from a psychologist and an inventory of myself and a gazetteer of the places I’ve lived–needless to say IT’S HOT, SO HOT, AND ALL THE KIDS WILL BE IN THE THEATERS SOON WATCHING A MOVIE BASED ON THE BOOK OF MY LIFE), and I’m trying not to stretch myself so thin I just give up on everything and eat salty snacks. I ate a bag of goldfish crackers yesterday and it was painful to open my eyes this morning. They weren’t crusty or anything, the corneas were just so dry the lids were almost sealed to them, pieces of rubber to glass.
I have no illusions this will last. We shall see.
I was there, at my mother’s house, not at all enjoying my spring break, tending to her after her knee replacement surgery, when I discovered she’d been lying to me to get me up there.
Her cats had tapeworms again. After I had taken them to the vet in January, two months before. This was one of the few things I told her I needed her to do for me to come up there. I just needed her to treat them for fleas consistently so I could be in her house without parasites. She said she would
I felt manipulated. Used.
At this point, I don’t trust her anymore. She’ll do whatever she feels she has to and will say whatever she feels she has to in order to get whatever she wants. My needs, comfort, health and safety don’t matter.
That’s not at all to speak of her cats’ health. I asked a couple of people if I should get them treated again and they told me the same thing: if you treated them two months ago, and they’re sick again, they’ll just keep getting infected. There’s nothing you can do for them.
Unfortunately, I think they’re right.
Then I came back here and tried to get work done. I didn’t get anything done up there. Yes, poor me! I have the privilege of being one of the elite few in the world who can earn an advanced degree full-time. I have no illusions about where I am in the world. This is the top, really. I have clean water, a safe place to lay my head, an automobile–this is great. I do get anxiety, though. I’m behind in my work.
And I churned out a book for a contest just now. I’m proud of it, and proud of myself. It’s good work. Poems. No one would read it except for my boyfriend. They’re too depressing. Everyone said to send them some, but they didn’t really want to read them because they’re too down. I understand; they’re all about death. That’s not something people really want to read.
My habit has been to wait for the muse to come to me and then work off of inspiration, and I didn’t do that this time. I just worked through the time I had allotted. There was only so much time, so that’s the amount of time I had to work on it. It’s still work I’m proud of. This means I can do this always–it’s a new skill for me. I feel like I should have had this sooner (I’ve been writing for twenty years! I should be here by now!), but I’m at where I’m at and it’s here.
I also feel bad today because I set a boundary that was the right thing for me, but I don’t think the other person saw it that way. I can justify and explain and make a case to you, but I don’t have to. I know what was the right thing for me to do. I can’t hurt myself today because that’s what I think other people want and need. I have to put my own oxygen mask on first. Besides, I don’t know what they need! I’ve never been that good at figuring that out. I destroyed my own life and showed up somewhere with a shoebox full of most of the pieces and needed help putting them together. What do I know from life coaching?
Boundaries are tough, y’all. But living without them? Way fucking worse. You can take that to the motherfucking bank.
Dear Fellow Member of Society,
Here we both are, swimming upstream in this. I do not know where you need to spawn. I do not care. That’s not my business. We will both eventually die in the abyss.
I am sorry my arbitrary set of rules and regulations I have created for myself and crystallized my behavior around conflicts with yours.
I realize in the grand scheme of things neither of them matters more than the other. It doesn’t really matter if there’s space for pedestrians in front of you or behind me or if someone’s in the intersection or if someone has eleven items in a line at a checkstand or if you aren’t carpooling or if you don’t cover your mouth or whatever fifty years from now when I’m dead or dying. I won’t care then. But right now I’m caught in minutia because they give me the illusion of control over something, just something, anything, a slippery sense of falling off into the void, and you got in the way. You got in the way of my feeling powerful over loss of ego. Ego is really what I need to lose.
I am sorry if I made you feel less that the amount of respect other human beings deserve. I’m working on it, but sometimes I need to work harder than others. I am sorry if I hurt you.
I’m not sure when my friends and I became the cliché of new Berkeley. But we did.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I had breakfast with Sparrow and Miss DeLoop the other day. Brunch, I guess, since they got eggs and I got carnitas. It was noon. We had planned on eleven, but then Benjamin Franklin et al. got all up in our shit and messed up our morning with some Daylight Savings bullshit. And then we couldn’t reach Zorro Smitty. (Yes, these are my noms de guerre for my friends.) He was off the grid. This shit doesn’t happen in the Age of the Cell; it used to happen all the time when we first met. Remember? When your friend wasn’t home and wasn’t at the spot and for all you knew they were being probed by the Alien Head from 1995? But these days it’s disconcerting. Someone could be trapped under something heavy. Someone could be having a stroke.
Anyways, it turned out that Zorro Smitty had a callback for an audition, so hooray for him–for us all, really! He got the part, too, but we didn’t find that out until later. Zorro Smitty is a star! And I am a star fucker, so I’m keeping my wagon platonically hitched to that boy. I would anyways, but star fucker is so fun to say.
Sparrow is the one with a real job, a real grown up job that had sent her to Europe recently. She’d even gotten to go to a fancy tech party with bands and shit. It turns out traveling to other continents on business isn’t glamorous–this is what everyone has told me–because the time difference fucks your shit up so badly you can’t get right in a day or so for meetings. You don’t have fun. You just try and get your sleep right and feel out of it.
I am the old ass obligatory graduate student of the bunch. I’ve had three real, grown-up jobs in the past. But now, I am the one who regales them with tales out of school. I have two professors who I think might be sorceresses. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a magic throwdown between them one day. I think the one would have a raven as a familiar, the other an iguana. No clear winners as far as I can tell.
(Also, students take note: red light + theremin + animal costume = bad performance art. I’m just saying. That’s right up there with yarn in a tree. That’s art school 101. What, are you going to write “whore” all over yourself with red lipstick and jump up and down in a cheerleader outfit next? Step up your game, people. Maybe then people will want to attend your “happenings” instead of walking by your forlorn sad little venue.)
I got to the restaurant first, then saw Miss DeLoop. She was still covered in body glitter. Her back is doing better, so she was able to do a show for the first time in a long time last night. She’s a trapeze and aerial artist, not a stripper. [Do folks ask you that, Miss DeLoop?] The show was for a birthday party that must have cost as much as a really, really, really fancy wedding. As much as a really, really nice car. With options. I still think spending that much money at one time is like a potlatch, but not the productive kind, the kind where all this shit is amassed and destroyed. You could feed a bunch of little kids. Find someone in anxiety over their cancer payments or something. But I guess you gotta spend money to light money on fire or something.
And then Miss DeLoop dropped a bomb on us.
“And I got humped by a lemur!”
Pics or it didn’t happen.
–She showed me the motherfucking pics. Of a lemur on her shoulders with his little gleaming demon eyes. Sexual demon eyes.
“He crawled up my back, and he liked my fuzzy coat. And his trainer was all, ‘Uh, no Taj. Stop, Taj. Taj. Bad, Taj. No. Taj.”
She said it was scary. I can’t stop laughing even now.
Miss DeLoop, please send me the pic. I think we’d all like to see it.
I imagine it went a lot like this:
So something really awful has been happening in the news lately. Pick whatever story you want as your choice of Awfulness! There are dozens and dozens of them!
And yet again: I can’t do this anymore, y’all. I can’t read the news.
I was looking at the comments on this one news story (because TODAY ONLY, 50% off of masochism–and I just couldn’t resist), and so much of it came down to two things: vengeful, bloodthirsty mobs with torches versus bewildered, mourning sociopaths ready to split semantic hairs.
“KILL IT WITH FIRE!” was the most up voted comment, usually, followed by, “I really, really wish we could…KILL IT WITH FIRE! Watch the red, red flames lick higher and higher and send the soulless down to eternity of brimstone and–FUCK IT BURN IT NOW!”
The other side went something like, “That’s not hurting because I say so. This is my world. You’re my boys and girls. You are all my little babies.”
Also popular: “Everyone SANE and RATIONAL, be careful out there because other soft-bodied bipedal creatures are delicate, unpredictable and not easily controlled. It might tell some sort of authorities if you try to ‘kill’ ‘it’ with ‘fire,’ if you get my drift. You might get on some sort of arsonist registry. Think of your future. And remember: KILL IT WITH FIRE in 2016!”
Goddamn, it’s sick out there. And “out there” is in the hearts of so many people. And there’s nothing I can do but choose to let it infect me.
Or not. So not. I choose not.
No. No more for me. It’s not like I can do anything about these things by just reading about them. I try and make a difference in the lives of the people around me every day. I try to love them well. Ignoring them by pushing my principles or by being an asshole because I’m all upset over this bullshit? No thank you.
I’m just going to watch the video for Space Unicorn repeatedly.