The sliding glass door remains open much of the time, too difficult to contend with, and wind gusts, the same gusts that push the palm fronds around, push spent bouganvillea seeds around like Cottonwood breezes loft dandelion spheres. Today I have thought, several times, each time I go out to put laundry in or fold clothes from the dryer, that I owe a great debt to the tiny spiders who build webs in the corners of mi casita. They anchor their webs, invisible to these eyes, at the top of the base molding and make something of a transparent sail that ties off to each wall. When the light-as-air bouganvillea (or perhaps clematis?) spheres, not quite the dimensions of a ping pong ball, roll in in their star shapes and tumbles, they are caught by the web sails built by the tiny spiders. At last count, there were five of these star balls pyramiding that one corner, just inside the difficult sliding glass door that I seldom close and never approach without smiling.
When working on Irene, I pass back and forth by the stacking seeds and nod at the spiders I can not see as I pass outside to consider what scene comes next. Today all the spiders and seeds whispered “Moses, Moses” and so I spent time with my scarred Chinaman. It’s a draft. Not the kind that fills sails or moves seeds, but a draft, all the same.
I never realized before how difficult it is to write about disfigurement while holding onto beauty. Or how clever very small spiders can be.
The enclosure around my patio, the patio with turquoise green fence and gate on one end too high to see over, also includes a two story stucco wall the color of green olives, a one story stucco wall that is white, and the back wall of mi casita with its iron barred door on steel wheels with a lock and its sliding glass door that opposes every effort to slide for every inch it is slid. I mention this to give readers a sense of where it is that I pace between paragraphs added to Irene’s saga. I have sixteen feet more or less to walk up and down with the olive wall on my right, then my left, alternately going towards the turquoise gate or the one-story white. After a while, I duck back inside through the sliding glass door opening, an opening seldom closed for the reasons mentioned above, and sit again at my chunky table in my chunky chair and add more chunky moments to the threads of moments I have tried to weave around the body of Irene.
For more than two years I have tried to clothe that girl, that woman. She is, no fault of her own, a difficult woman to dress in time and circumstance. I no sooner force her head through a neckline of needs she never asked for and does not like, than she’s stripped them clean off and run naked into the surf. Like any good, or halfway good caretaker should do, I pick up her discards, shake them out, fold them neatly and wait for her dripping return.
While waiting, I pace those sixteen back and forth feet between the green gate and the white wall. Sometimes, as now, I open a bottled cerveza to ease my tattered patience, help me recall a tender fondness of this woman/child/dare-devil/heroine of a time and place as distant from Rosarito, Baja in 2008 as Jupiter is from the moon. It is good, this cerveza. And the paces I take. And, every now and again, the words chunked together begin to hold a little shape.
Chunky table and chunky chairs with roses from Carol and Trevor
I could not cook myself and so I served soup and the table was beautiful. My favorite plate was the square white one with the blue rooster and the green Mexican limes halved and the yellow lemons halved and the red radishes whole. It was a festival unto itself. The soup was as good as expected. The chopped cilantro was pretty in the red bowl; the chopped onions were pretty in theirs. There was great wine, a red, from Joel. There was a great lemon soufflé pie JoAnn brought. Alice and Enrique also brought a red from Gainey Ranch in Santa Ynez. There were wonderful jokes, mostly ethnic: Mexican ones told by Enrique and Jewish ones told by JoAnn and Alice. I don’t know about JoAnn, but Alice is of Jewish ancestry and when she speaks the speak, it is so right on … We all laughed. I told no jokes. Just enjoyed.
Before they all arrived, I used the green handled pocketknife to scratch “Lynn” into the tabletop. Before the evening was gone, my guests had all done the same. One day it will, if I am lucky, be filled with the initials and names of people welcomed to my table.
Today I drove south six miles, or ten, on Blvd. Benito Juarez to the bierriea where the kind and exasperated man let me leave yesterday without paying in full for a tall pot of their soup. The pot cost more than expected at Commercial Mexicana and I hoped the 180 pesos leftover would be enough for the servings requested. It was not. I went to my car and searched every nook and cranny, dumped my purse and my pocketbook, came up with all the nickels and dimes I could find. I was still a dollar short. He waved me off, shaking his head, and I took the pot of bierriea (I am certain I’ve misspelled the name for this wonderful stew) along with the two baggies full of radishes, halved limones, chopped cilantro, finely chopped cebellos, and hot chili sauce. I had five people coming to dinner and didn’t have all the tools to cook a proper meal for them. What kind of crazy loco woman am I, to invite five people to dinner without the means to feed them?
I took the tall pot of soup, the best beef in the best beef broth you could ever want to taste, and put all in my $25,000 red Prius while he shook his head and watched me back out and drive away. “Poor gringa” he must’ve thought. “Poor foolish gringa.”
When I drove south today I did not find the same men working behind the counter. I was sorry not to find them. I wanted him, the one who shook his head at my predicament and counted my change out over and over only to find me short, to know I was true to my word, that I had come back to make it right, even though I am sure he did not understand a word I said. Still, I put 50 pesos in the little box on the counter for propinas. Perhaps one of the others told him about the loco lady in the red car who paid so much but took no soup, no service.
Boulevard Benito Juarez, you change
your name and shape like actors take
a role apart from what they are – the
services of town come down like a
curtain where artisans of iron, wood,
fired clay, makers of doors, jugs,
crucifix, candelabra, hat rack, sconce
ply their industries from your shoulders
made of road dust fine as powder lost
from a Monarch’s yellow wings.
I pass Fox Studios and the Master
and Commander of the Far Seas’
tall ship, hear Mexican guitar chords –
not mandolin, nor fiddle – and all
the nimble fingers of the carpenters
at task, the blacksmiths bending iron
to their will and design, and painters
of bright pots using whites and greens
and blues, yellow-reds, purples on
iguanas, parrots, lilies of the fields.
Where am I in this tableau of creation?
La mujer I came here as, is cloaked
in skirts and shirts easy on old skin,
arms laden with a script edited by tides,
the scrawled workings of sand crabs,
brown hands and pink flames burning.
[After Ted Kooser, Garage Sale, Delights & Shadows]
11 October 2008
Just home from dinner with Alice, Enrique and Joanne. Pescada Livornese and brown rice and a wedge of lettuce with bleu cheese dressing. All good. Joanne brought a pinot grigio [no idea how to spell that one, or Livornese for that matter]. Tomorrow night I am having them here for dinner. I have no idea what I will prepare or if it will be any good. I have chicken thighs and rice and pinto beans, but how to fix them into something edible? HowHowHow?
The moon tonight is better than half, almost three quarters, and Jupiter has wandered off, no longer tethers la luna in place. I think he is in the low southern night, a bright spot there makes me believe he is there. The back is no better for scrubbing the daylights out of one chair today – a chair pinker than I would’ve thought possible. But before that, I waded through about ten pages of story and printed off the newest version, at least that far, and began a list of what or who appears, page by page. I must spend some time everyday with Irene’s saga or I forget where I am and what I have used and what I have not. I could do with a better memory. Ah well.
Frank the handyman came and painted the wheel business on my iron gate to the back patio and drilled holes and put in screws and hung some pictures on the walls: the leopards from Carolyn B. and a Picasso poster borrowed from Alice, and my clock, and another bright abstract at the top of the stairs. He is a riot. In our broken communications, I think he told me that he has had four wives, each in a different state of Mexico, and that he has one child, and that he is going to San Fernando, Pacoima, for tres mes, or three weeks, or is it months . . . Or maybe he said he was leaving in three weeks, or months. I laugh and laugh at how little I understand. Every once in awhile he says Okie Dokie and I say Okie Dokie right back.
10/8/2008 8:32 PM
Carol and Trevor had the casita while I was away and home again now I find all as I left it. Tomorrow I am sure I will find the keys at either Alice’s or Tom’s and then I will be able to access my small patio which is my favorite place to be this time of night. There I can see the sky and trace the power lines that run like uneven spokes in lopsided directions. I can watch the stars move and Jupiter while the moon holds in place. That must be a metaphor for something, but I am too tired to figure out what or who.