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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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11.21.04, midnight between saturday and sunday

10 years ago, I was 12 in a 17-year-old girl's body, living in San Diego. I went to church every Sunday. I was that weird girl who wore old lady clothes and typed letters in the school library's typewriter room every noon to my best friend, who daydreamed about killing her mom and fucking the jaysus out of the Devil.

9 years ago, I was visiting Seattle; I had just graduated from high school. Of that trip, I remember: cold midnights reading Vogue issues from the 80s, the trip through fog to Victoria Island, the piss-and-incense smell of Pike Place Market. All that month and the next one, I couldn't sleep; I was waiting for a life awake to commence.

8 years ago, I was living in Berkeley with the belongings flown from San Diego: one suitcase, an electric typewriter, and a box full of books. I drank a lot of coffee and smoked clove cigarettes, which I never really smoked. I puffed them, and sometimes they burned, unsmoked, to butts between my fingers cuz I'd forget them. That summer, my mother slapped me for being cheeky and I almost left the house that night.

7 years ago, I was lying on the living room floor while my roommate bemusedly quizzed me. Only an hour before, I had gulped down my first beer in the presence of two long-haired witches and then biked, crowing at my first wobbly moon, to my first parentfree house, where my first kiss had occurred that September. The next morning I had my first hangover. Later that month, a wily-fingered lady broke my hymen; it was an unpleasant experience. A year of many firsts and lies.

6 years ago, I was heartbroken; let's just aver that not all kisses are benign. Before that, I had a brief funny romance with a physicist, sublet a small room in a tiny narrow flat where I lived with two beautiful ladies, romanced often, and bobbed my hair. By December's end, I'd learn to breathe with a chest full of glass, move to an attic downstreet from school, tutor at a local elementary school, and work at an academic publishing house, a-ok after the hearing laboratory where, as a lab rat, I'd often fall asleep in a dark tiny booth to lullabies of blips and bleeps.

5 years ago, I was facilitating a class, withdrawn from school, and dreading the departure of Lars, German environmental activist, roommate, and friend-for-life. The activist/ethnic studies student I dated never drank and, until he did drink (and plentily), believed me rather debauched. By then I wrote a little, met the elegant and witty Niva, and missed Cassandra, who had snuck out one midnight cuz she liked her goings loose and spontaneous; what else to expect from a gap-toothed queer ex-soldier from the South? Smelly Mel, her replacement, hailed from Whiskeytown Lake; she was mysterious and mournful. A strange year . . . but by its end I knew: each year would only be as strange, as wondrous.

4 years ago, I was obsessed with holocaust narratives and fairy tales. Bush had just been "elected". That year was moody; I was expecting the worst. Cassandra had died, dear friends graduated and gone, and I still could not decide what I wanted to do in life. Consequently, I idled long mornings at a greasy spoon downtown, ruminating on history and the news over eggs, easy. I read some poco, feminist, and race theory, began this journal on a whim, tutored at San Quentin, visited New Orleans, and met Captain Grammar, with whom I walked many miles. I was rarely vexed about money; I worked at the Press and squatted due to a dispute with my slumlord.

3 years ago, I was editing a short digital film for my Transnational Cinema class, writing a short story, and researching the last chapter of my thesis, which my adviser recommended that I submit for publication. That summer, I had wandered Paris, Berlin, and San Sebastian; abroad my future beckoned. But the attic was no longer home. Smelly Mel had moved out, eviction loomed, and I was lonely around Captain Grammar. At night, I could hear my roommate, who snorted coke and speed almost daily, weeping. The integrity of the once-known world was crumbling, surely, violently; the news was dreaded.

2 years ago, I was growing to love Jimmy in so many ways, through stories, nightly wanderings, round and round the lake. What a creature, lust! What a creature, him! With him I saw, finally, the birdness of a bird. But before I heard Jimmy's first story, that year had been quite a rollercoaster. Less up-and-up than screaming, lurching, dropping down and down too quick to keep my breath in its cage. The first loop down: unemployment; each dime counted, past feasts recalled too fondly. But I discovered that I was wiser than I thought and sidestepped, laughing wryly, the advances of a former heartbreaker. Then after the landlord shut off the electricity and raccoons moved into the attic, I left to roam the Bay Area, edit a huckster's magazine, and live a lovely spell on a hill around which the Muni wound, hissing silver snake. Then I moved into a tiny room in downtown Oakland, bade adieu to Captain Grammar, crashed my bike while drunk (dumb, dumb, dumb), endured poison oak, and attended a Halloween party that proved fatal to my solitude.

1 year ago, I was drinking cognac for my dad, surrounded by Irish expatriates. Although Jimmy sat beside me, I ached for Niva and Smelly Mel, recently departed for other cities. By then my hair had grown long: I had moved near the Port, quit the magazine, brewed espresso for tips, shelved books for a man driven cuckoo by history, visited New York, got into two anthologies, and waited tables at the New World, a restaurant run by vegan Vietnamese cult members who shamelessly overwork kitchen staff. Later on that night of cognac and ocean, a soprana walked alone down a street singing opera.

Today I am writing this entry. Jimmy is dead-asleep. I can hear him snoring. When he sighs, I wonder what he dreams about. The factory next door is finally quiet. I am hunting a dress or a suit for a wedding celebration in two weeks. Earlier this year I identified many birds, drank a lot, made new friends, visited San Diego, quit the New World, lost my glasses at the beach, finally graduated (!), eloped(!!), was disowned(!!!), visited Toronto, painted houses, went to Yosemite for the reunion of a family I am getting to know, received copies of the anthologies, hit a car, was hired thrice, and had an art show.

Tomorrow? Jimmy and I will wander Golden Gate Park, to explore and bird-watch.




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