Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In the Dark, Where the Bell Rings

 Memories are acute and active,
taking over thoughts for slow seconds,
minutes, whole hours of the day.
In no time at all I am back in those spaces,
and I waste my time,
with this imagining thing…

I am in the doorway,
shouting the news,
holding the paper that says,
I am worthy.
“I knew that all along,” you say.

I beam, and turn, to run along the shore,
to unfurl sails across a sea,
and stalk deep into the woods.
And you are with me, each moment,
pushing on the small of my back with your palm,
driving me forward.
With someone like you shacked up in my mind,
I am never afraid.

In time, I feel myself release and open,
allowing your praise to engulf me,
your words to give me meaning.

I should have found meaning in myself.

Because you are intangible.
in every way but memory,
in truth, I do not know you.
I only know, and grasp for,
your illusion.

And now, with each recollection,
and each pondering question,
and each fruitless hope, of reconciliation,
I push myself further and further into the ground.
Into the dark places
where the bell rings anxiously,
hoping for a Savior,
when the light has already been shut out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Proof Through Paper Part 1

I am absolutely, legitimately my father’s daughter. This isn’t a hard fact to understand. And yet, try to prove something like your birthright with a few slips of paper and you’d think it was the most complicated thing in the world.
            Many people, British people, have told me that applying for my British Citizenship is a sweet and simple process. In fact, it’s so easy that I’ve been putting it off for years, figuring that when the right time came and I actually needed to apply for some reason, I would, and the whole matter would be settled. I’ve planned this out for a long time. The day I receive my British passport I will either drive to Santa Monica to the King’s Head Pub, or to Shakespeare’s in San Diego, depending on my whereabouts.
            Because my father never bothered to “Americanize” himself, I have this very blessed opportunity open to me. To become a dual citizen of both the US and the UK is golden status. Ask anyone. I could practically live anywhere I want with this kind of paperwork in my pocket. Thanks to the former, greedy imperialism of the British, and the globalization and overall domineering attitude of our good ol’ U.S. of A., I am looking at top tier of the caste system.
            But only if I can prove it.
            When I finally realized that being a citizen of the European Union was something that I actually really wanted (who doesn’t want to live in Paris or Amsterdam anyway?) I took the initiative to print out the papers and begin. And at first I thought, what the hell’s the big deal? So I have to fill out the application, and mail in some official documents, dig up passports, take photos, pay the stupid fee, and voila!
            Voila is right until I realized my parents have the ability to be real screw-ups sometimes.
Sorry mom, but it’s just true. I hate to rat the girl out. She’s a lovely woman and a real joy, I mean it, but when it comes to getting shit done I think I’d rather watch paint dry.
            The first major issue with my application occurred over the summer when I went down to the County Registrar’s office in San Diego. I stood in line for over an hour, stuck between two screaming babies and a pair of underage teenagers applying for a marriage license, only to get to the front of the line and find out my parents marriage certificate was no where to be found.
“There’s no such file here,” the woman behind the lacquer mahogany desk states. “You’re sure they were married in San Diego?”
            “Yes, I’m sure,” I say impatiently. “They got married in Balboa Park. It poured rain. They had to move the reception into the Prado because the rain wouldn’t stop and people were getting wet. I’m absolutely sure!”
            “Well, maybe the paperwork is somewhere else. Where did you say they live?”
            So yes, fast forward to me at a different appointment in a different line in L.A., waiting for another hour or so, only to pay extra for rush delivery on the certificate because my application was running out of processing time. But at least it was done, or so I thought.
            More speedily than before, the application is sent back a second time. (Apparently this next mistake went unnoticed on the first go-around.) My birth certificate isn’t good enough because it was issued more than three months after my birth. Meaning what? Oh, only that I could very well have been adopted by Mr. Philip Hurn, and that this whole citizenship business is a total scam.
            All right, so now we enter the complete disarray that is Kaiser Medical Hospital in Los Angeles, where, someplace among the stacks and hoards and absolute mountains of paper, lies my birth records. We make a request and wait, for months, for them to peel through the piles.
            Meanwhile, in addition to applying to grad school, I’ve decided to apply to teach English in France. It’s a decision made on a whim, and a very attractive-looking “Plan B.” But to add to the stress, the application is due in five days. That is, five days from the moment I decide to apply. Sure that dual-citizenship will give me an edge and make me a more attractive candidate, I slip into the beginning of my essay that I am both American and British. Gold baby.
            Yesterday morning the phone rings and I miss it because I’m making pancakes for me and my roommate. I notice the 323 (L.A.) area code, and when I check the message I’m completely surprised. A nice, young man named Rashad has called from Kaiser to tell me that he’s found my medical records and would I kindly call him back so he can get them to me as soon as possible. One step closer to the goal, things are finally falling into place.
            Rashad and I have a pleasant chat. He tells me it’s better to come pick up the records than put them in the mail—which I totally believe based on personal experience (another story for another time). Just for kicks I ask Rashad to read me the information on the birth record.
“I want to make sure I’m not adopted,” I joke.
The record is dated June 6, 1986, which is actually two days after my birthday, but I figure good enough. Two days is better than three months.
“Does it have my parents names on there?”
“It says Mother—Sig, um, Sig-rid?” Rashad stumbles on the Scandinavian name. “Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right. And under father?”
“Let’s see,” Rashad pauses again. I picture him squinting his eyes to decipher the handwriting. “Father—a Dr. George Newell.”
“Um,” I laugh. “Well that’s my grandfather,” emphasizing the grand. “What else does it say?”
“Under person to contact in an emergency, she also listed Dr. George Newell.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say, trying not to lose it. “Isn’t my dad on there anywhere?”
“What’s his name?”
“Um. I don’t see him.”
I sigh deeply, a real glottal release. “Well shit.”
Rashad laughs sympathetically.

To be continued...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Frame of Reference

We are born into a unit of time, our own frame of reference and a reality that can later be explained with photographs and art pieces, ticket stubs and currency, literature and empty boxes of Rice Krispie Treats. We see the world in chunks of years, memorize the dates and eras and refer back to our graphs every time we get confused.

Yesterday while swimming laps in the pool I had this feeling. Like, wouldn't it be great to live in the era before Victorian? Just for the heck of it. Why not. Which would be like, 18 something, right? What is that period called again? "Pre"-Victorian? Where's my chart.

How strange to think of how different life could be if it were just another year. If the Redwoods were just young springs. If China didn't multiply itself by half every day. If it were a lot harder to get in a plane, or even a train, or even a boat and cross a far distance and change your reality. Would we be more content if dreams were simply possible in drams and if our lives, for example, were mapped out for us, free of choice?

I could have an arranged marriage, have babies, darn socks, and I wouldn't be waking up day after day thinking, "Paris or New York? Writing or teaching? Episcopalian or Buddhist? Adoption or birth? Black or white?" Things would simply be.

I see women of the past as caged birds trying to find a way out, a path to their dreams.

But what will the women of future time slots think of us? The females of the early millennium.

I hate to say it, but for now we are quite confused. Uncaged, set free, where now shall we roam?