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01.28.03, midnight tween tues. & weds.

This is a sketch. This isn't real life (yet), even as you teeter somewhere between Tuesday and Wednesday: your father calls. He says, You should work at a law office. You parry until Mel suddenly appears, her face shadowed by hair, next to the car where you sit, parked in Berkeley, waiting for J. to get out Kinko's. She's waving flyers to her show. You think, "I must get rid of this cell phone." Disconnect. Certain conversations become too easy to develop on a cell phone.

Mel is both flesh and phantom, you muse as your father admonishes. She is from your former life, only a few blocks away, in the attic now boarded up by your former slumlord. Have the raccoons nested, now that you are gone? Or, needing your (cat) food, have departed, looking for more advantageous households?

Here's an inventory of things adjusted: The dinners, rushed, elaborate, celebratory, sullen. The arguments, the acts of subterfuge and minor destruction enacted. The parties held there, in celebration of birthdays, departures, simply you and her, the joy of being young in a youthful city. (This was, of course, before you had to acquire jobs. To Become an Adult and get Real Jobs to Pay Those Bills. Then you began to note the presence of older people.) The last time anyone returned, it was to recover magazines and a bronze Schwinn, just in time for a birthday party in Oakland. The occupants had long vacated it, leaving it a shell. Not even animated by a ghost, except in memory, images of Mel or Lars or even Atossa, captured in photographs tossed hurriedly into a black box.

No more escapades. No more affairs. No more mischief to made with willing boys, willing bodies, the city unfolding, seemingly willing. (And as this inventory grows, you realize: everything is subject to change. Stamp it in red: STC.) Now There Is the Rest of Your Life.

And that is fine. You just want to tell your father, I'm okay. You don't need a job at a law firm. I'm no longer a ne'er-do-well.

You will find a Real Job That Will Pay Those Bills, something where you can still be creative and smart.

But this is a sketch. One sketch among other sketches. To be possibly lived. Possibly understood as viable, of course, dependent upon privileges of education and class, by this ne'er-do-well, if she chose. If she chose to take this path. If she chose. If she wanted to be smart the way her parents wanted her to be smart. In a safe way. The way proven by t.v., pundits, etc, which are proven, themselves, by ads, grant money, studies funded by grant money, people who need certain facts proven.

Make a choice. This moment is critical. You are living, you see, in a state of emergency. In a State whose interests are not your own, but of people and institutions more powerful than your itty-bitty body. Your itty-bitty fists. Your ittty-bitty dreams. So. What choices can/should/will you make? This is what you are thinking, when Mel appears, waving flyers next to a car parked in Berkeley, pre-speech, both flesh and phantom.


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