This is for all the lonely, broken people

“Her name was like an echo of an ache in her.”  Patrick Rothfuss, The Slow Regard of Silent Things

Some texts are memorable by a single, sublime sentence: “Call me Ishmael.” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “Gregor Samsa awoke one day to find himself an enormous vermin.”

Rothfuss’ Auri story reads like a long prose poem, so lovely for the logophile in its wonderland of creative and created words (I looked them up) and specificity in naming things.

On to Book 2 of The Kingskiller Chronicle, a place I have enjoyed inhabiting almost as much as living in Middle Earth 40 years ago. Feels as good to wend my way through the words of this world as it was to learn to speak Elvish. 

However, Rothfuss’ little side venture tale of one of the mysterious waif characters in the main plot appeals more to the poet in me than the entire lengthy two-volume story appeals to the fantasy-adventurer. And this from a Game of Thrones fan. 

A short but delicately sensual read, I recommend the novella–an echo of an ache itself–to all the beautiful broken people the author addresses through it.


In Gratitude…#Nanowrimo completed: 23 days, a novel

Seems befitting that on this weekend of gratitude, I conclude this huge though not impossible endeavor with the following:

While reintegrating to my life by inches, loving the smallest favors first like the grip of a long handled toothbrush or the pleasure of a private shit and shower, my own bed with more than two inches of mattress and a box spring in the quiet of my home, ragged as it was and is, snuggled inside the lefthand loop of a cul de sac; then appreciating bigger things like the love of a family that has been loving me–hard–more than I let myself feel, all this time. 

My family, blood and adopted, came through for me in a way that shocked me, even though it could not have been more predictable. They wrote, visited, and watched; they stood by and pitched in. They witnessed helplessly as I crumbled and paid enormous sums to secure my freedom, cried for me in my grief but did not pity me nor make themselves the heroes; they took care of me. 

JM stepped up for me and suffered like the brave and strong he never knew he was, taking up the mantle where I had dropped it. He came through for all of us, doing whatever he had to, and he proved to himself he was strong, something he needed to know but couldn’t since he had never needed to before. That was my job–ensuring that no one needed to be strong. I coddled them as organizer, unifier  and fixer. Now they took up the reins and showed themselves worthy of the task. And I received.

The Missing Art Gene

Her reading skills caught up with the other students by the end of second grade, and I was fully indoctrinated in the volunteer life. I first volunteered as the room mom for her classroom admittedly to watch over her–hover. Unwittingly, I also signed up to be the art teacher for her class, though I thought I was signing up to teach about the art masters via books in a program titled, Meet the Masters. Turns out I signed up for is a program where an art teacher came five times a year to teach parents how to teach an art lesson. 

When I found out during the orientation meeting that it was me doing and teaching art to second graders, I freaked out.  Approaching the parent volunteer presiding over the orientation for all of the art volunteers, I uncomfortably sought my release: “Excuse me, but I thought this was something else. I am not an artist. I cannot do art, but I can help out in some other way.” She, a no-nonsense, thin, long-haired blond, small-framed woman only a few years my junior donning serious glasses and a South African accent replied gently but firmly, “Well, you certainly can do better than a 7 year old no matter how bad you think you are. Just try it. If you really can’t do it, we will replace you.” She pinned me. What other excuse or protest could I make? However, I consoled myself with the silent sulky retort,  “I damn well sure can do worse than a 7 year old. Just watch me” as I grabbed my instruction sheets and left.

It turns out the workshops were therapeutic–an hour of focused forms and colors–even if I had to shame-facedly compare my art to the parents who clearly had art backgrounds or natural talent. Some were artists by trade or passion. My art was better, by a hair, than most of the 7 year olds, though some were clearly far more talented.

On Becoming a Lawyer…

Had I been able to choose what I did, which cases I would take, I might have loved the practice of law much more. There is a vast ocean of practice areas open to an attorney to use his or her honed skills of critical reasoning and legal knowledge from court room performer/litigator to public sector or non-profit donor to pure researcher/writer mole. I would have loved to have remained that last one. 

When I first started earning money in law, I was a law clerk attending law school. At the first law office to hire me, I performed menial tasks like putting files together and collating large swaths of information for big cases into color coordinated indexes. My first case to organize was a personal injury case involving a young man, a big electric company worker, who fell into a transformer encasement and got electrocuted losing a foot, a hand and his penis. 

The medical records, depositions of experts and parties, as well as the research was an enormous mass of paper that needed parsing, indexing and cross-referencing. That was my first job, and it was terribly trying as I only knew lovely painful struggles with the word before that as a literature student. This was dry, boring and taxing for the medical and legal terminology so foreign to me. Moreover, procedure is so much of the law. Knowing procedures that change daily everywhere from office to office, inside an office, among the various court clerk’s offices, courtrooms, and other attorney’s offices is an ongoing re-training: one of the reasons the practice of law is a practice. There is no way to ever get it nailed once and for all.

The Moonies

After meeting other friendly youths, I somehow found myself enticed and then enclosed by the friendly conversation about spirituality and God. They spoke of all Gods being one, and led me to a classroom where an older man, maybe in his 30s, taught a class of one, me, the evidence supporting the coming of Christ by an infallible timeline. 

I sat for a good ten or fifteen minutes until the sudden thought struck through the morass of sweet, thick confusion my mind became, like drowning in syrup: “Holy shit, I think I am being indoctrinated.” 

Then a panic swept over me. How was I to leave this uncomfortable scene without a complete bolting for the door. “Could I just get up and walk out while he spoke?” I did not think I could. These people were not rude, but clearly they were trying to enfold me. 

I did manage finally to politely but insistently–and it took insistence–tell them I needed to leave. They were followers of Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Unification Church, informally his followers known as Moonies. One of my lonely teen claims to fame is having been kidnapped–almost–by the Moonies on my 17th birthday.

credit: Wikipedia

Hollywood and Vine

The acid days

But before Fred was Randy and the first frozen yogurt store. Randy and I laughed and played well together, so naturally we partied together after work. One time we tripped all night on Hollywood Boulevard. We rode a bus there from work in Century City, swallowing the tiny tabs on the way, but then got separated after de-busing. I don’t recall much of the night other than walking up and down a strip between Hollywood and Vine and the three blocks north and south from Vine, back and forth, stopping each time I came to the open doors to this plush hotel with a sprawling carpet of captivating geometric design, loud and colorful squares and diamonds in endless interchange and contiguity, looming hugely before me in my psychedelic state so as to paralyze my feet and mind into staring just long enough to prick my consciousness that I was being obvious. It seems that I was often in that state throughout my youth: trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy, working hard to blend into the safety of anonymity, working my incognito frame of drug or fantasy addled mind behind a shield of placid indifference that an indecipherably bland, disinterested face shows in the ordinary wading through human streams of passing feet, chests and faces. 

Cut Flowers

He was out of his mind stoned when he lured me into his bed after pounding drums at ear splitting decibels in his dark, stuffy room for way too long for anyone’s interest but his own or another drummer’s, not mine, and I don’t even know how good he played. It hurt, I bled, and it was over. He seemed proud and then disinterested. It didn’t last long–the act– nor the relationship and I felt like shit about the whole unlovely experience.

“I don’t understand. Why did you let yourself go there?”

I was 14, homeless in my heart, thoughtless and living some dream I doodled on a piece of paper during math class. I was dis-embodied, my life sidling the edge to the left and my body flanking the right. What does a 14 year old know about the rest of your life and sweet-tongued, scrupleless scumbags? I wanted to grow up and be in love. 


Christine drifted away somehow. Our friendship was brief, maybe just 8th grade–and not all of it. But I remember regarding her with pleasure, feeling the oily warmth in deeply inhaling a thick smokey waft of spicy jasmine incense while listening to something folky on the stereo, putting me in that dreamy edge of sleep and fantasy. Christine distilled the essence of lavender and lovely. 

I was tentative with her, wanting to be her friend too much, not for my loneliness so much as the urge to be near her, in her presence. The incandescent beauty marked by imperfection and perfection in angles; perfect white squares for teeth and the violet of her eyes were like the sheen of sweat on the lean definition, muscles of a lover’s back, sleek liquid–inviting. She made me feel pelvic warmth without sexuality. 

My induction in sexual knowledge was yet to come though the advancement toward it was steaming with chance, sensation, hint, samplings, and, by the end of my days as Christine’s friend, shrapnel. Remnants of longing stayed with me, accumulating in my chest, and by 14, I was full blossom cloistered in my own dreams and sadness. 

I wrote, read, sang and listened to music. Those were the black and gray years, darkened rooms, smoke, incense and fusion rock, endless albums of continuous synthesized pianos and riffing guitars and basses over long trilled scales across the length of the taut strings of the instrumentals and strands that united a heavily rocked out adolescent of the 70s. I felt. The teeming moody years hammocked me.

The elementary years

I recall the Stet box in fourth grade. Mr. Duhamel, who tortured Danny Stetner, the behavior problem in class, exiled him to a space at the back of the class behind the rest of us who sat at our desks dully and learned. He was sent there so often, Mr. Duhamel called that space of random books and classroom storage, the Stet box, til one spring day, Danny Stetner got up during class, hopped over the barrier to his box and jumped out of the ground level open windows and ran home–I presume. 

Mr. Duhamel left sometime during that year and we had Mr. Ebert who had a red face with a severe acne condition. His face got redder and his voice cracked when he raised it each time the students ran roughshod over him, which was daily. 

I only now wonder whether Mr. Duhamel was too much of a child abuser even for back then when corporal punishment was not outlawed yet and kids could still get a boxed ear or a blackboard eraser thrown at them in class. A far cry from the classroom of today where trigger issues and micro aggressions have entered the vocabulary of students and educators alike on college campuses, cramping the style and free speech of educators with censored words and ideas. Don’t teach about rape crimes in a criminal law class–craziness like that. 

Day 4

What I knew about me back then, at our separation, was that I was good with kids, a nurturer, and had ambitions.  Driven, determined, stubborn and tenacious, I was good at school. From my mother I learned that I needed to have the last word. I knew that I was an avid reader and got lost in books and fantasy, that I conquered books even as they slayed me. Dictionary in hand, I painfuly trudged through The Hobbit in sixth grade, just like the burglar himself wearily and anxiously trudged through Middle Earth. That same year, Edgar Allen Poe taught me that I loved stories and had a vivid imagination, thanks to my haughty pompous pet-procuring teacher who read the class Poe stories each day for a week.

I knew I loved words and writing and was a good speller. I knew that I had an eye for boys at a young age; a sixth grade kissing birthday party spinning the bottle and playing post office taught me so.  Stealing my first kiss on the soft lips of John Hoffner, a boy I mysteriously found attractively full lipped and soft cheeked, I was inducted into the secret rites of the heart as harp, strings, tones and eternal whisperings from the beginning of time. Who could articulate why some boy looked good in 6th grade? The world of boys and kissing was enrapturing.

I knew that I had a fighter feminist spirit. While I did not march or take up any banners, I grew up with an entitlement to equality branded on my will, an adopted militancy that girls should not be mere slaves to men the way my mother was to my father. At 12, I asked in earnest self-righteous anger, why my mother put up with his abuse: nasty, virulent words and waiting on him hand and foot. Her bemused response that I would understand when I was older did not assuage the anger.

I knew that I was loyal and believed in monogamy then. I also knew that I did not believe I owned “feminine,” me who spent high school in coveralls and construction boots, choosing my clothes as protest and comfort. I have been often labeled earthy, and I was with a man who adored chic.

When we met, I was carrying 15 pounds too many even for my 5 feet and 8 inches, which allowed me more leeway than my shorter sisters. However, most of that weight was lost by the time we separated, the result of over a decade of conscientious health and fitness. I gave up smoking and started working out, dancing in college, then aerobicizing when that came into vogue in the early 80s, after which I took up running, tennis and eventually soccer. I was active and hard bodied at the time of our separation–lean, firm and tall.

So when I first sat in a therapist’s chair and declared I had problems with my femininity–something I dreamed or believed at the time, not even knowing what that meant but suspecting it had some critical role in JM’s lack of desire for me—and the therapist, an older guy probably in his late 50’s (I was 28), said, “No you don’t. Just look at you. You’re wearing a skirt and a nice blouse…” I didn’t really hear the rest because I became incensed. How dare he tell me what I was or was not! I left and never returned.