Secrets Part 2
October 12, 1999
San Francisco

Everyone wrote a short piece around a secret, without revealing what that secret was. We then took a line or two from each piece. Each person wrote from the first word in the chosen line, to the second word, filing in words so that it made some kind of poetic sense, then passed the papers. We continued this process, stuffing words in between the words of the original line, letting it blossom out into something larger.

1a) It'll resurface in mahogany, billowing through bass lines under neon, always on; it encircles from footsteps in the street, as daylight approaches. Most of the mementos have vanished, stashed somewhere, among dens of sidewalk scavengers, histories accumulated and dispersed; but their sounds, in sidewalks, in stirs of distant listless morning, somehow stray from their source, in chorus, and celebrate.

b)It'll be days before we see those planks resurface. They fell into the cheese dip on Saturday night and it's already Tuesday -- planks planted like candles in frosting stand, but dropped in dip they quickly sink to the bottom. The bowl had been left on the mahogany sideboard and became sadder each day. In the afternoon we sit and smoke on the couch in a stupor and watch the billowing willows. We crave nothing more than cheese dip, but we are afraid. All at once, Evan charges through like a knight on fire, chanting strange lines from the Gita in his infamous bass, which he inevitably gets wrong. "Time," says his guru, "not truth." "Language," decrees his aging guru, "not lines…" In a psychedelic escape he imagines himself sinking into a large jacuzzi full of warmed cheese whiz, chanting "Om", falling under.

2a)I put these songs on a blank tape with your initials on it.

b)I demanded that King Hank put on his ruby slippers so that we could use these damn records we got for Christmas that year. "Dance! Dance!" we told Hank. He looked sad and scowled, "but I don't like these songs. They don't groove like M'Shell Ndgeocello, they don't rap like Mos Def, nope they're putting on such a Eurotrash techno rap soul acid funk folk jazz feel on the unholy sad blank silence of soundlessness! Some holiday," he grumbled. "Pass the scotch tape, so I can smite you fervently upon each your pretty pates with a heated metal rod." To which we wanted to reply, "Your mother," but only got as far as "Your..."

3a)Blood colors my face purple when anyone mentions anything…

b)Blood smeared on the baby bottle on the floor in the corner of the room, the toy colors brightened, to my chagrin, though pasta stuck to my face. The light in the room had developed into a particularly greasy shade of purple. And I cleaned the innards off the outside of the fridge. I was collecting fingernails when Spencer walked into the room. "Junior's been up to his tricks again, huh?" I sighed. If there is anyone I can talk to about this, it's Junior, but he'll never start the conversation the right way, like he thinks it's funny but it's not funny, it's not funny and I'm going out of my mind about it and there's something about the word "trick" that hurts me. Last time he mentioned not just murder and mayhem, but prostitution! Prostitution, dammit! That's what kills me. I can't trust that kid with anything.

a)In third grade, there was a desk in the corner of the room that our teacher liked to call the "Isolation Desk". I was placed there only once, for a crime I don't remember committing. Talking in class, maybe. Maybe Mark, who sat next to me, got me in trouble again. Whatever it was, I knew at the time as I know yet today: I certainly didn't belong at the isolation desk. And however angry I was, at age eight, sitting at a desk in the corner of the room while the other kids made a giant rainbow out of magazine clippings, certainly inspired the action I was to take that day.

Five years later, I am sitting with my friends, reminiscing about childhood in a particularly eighth-grade fashion (teeming with "remember when's"). "Remember when Mark liked Bessie?" said my good friend Rachel. "Yeah" responded everyone. "That was pretty funny," said Rachel. "Yeah," repeated everyone, smiling. What went unsaid was the actual humor in the situation: the two biggest nerds in the school, with third-grade crushes on each other. Pretty funny. Yeah. I wasn't smiling. And so I told them my secret, and how bad I felt about it. The secret turned out to be funnier than the lie it inspired, and I ended up feeling worse. I still feel bad. But the isolation desk can do terrible things to the mind of a third-grade girl, a girl with a special gift for imitating handwriting and enough anger to use it.

b)Instead of bologna, she dumped her school lunch in favor of vegetarianism, having only reached the third period, which was Area Studies: Eastern Africa. Anya was relatively sure this demonstration of her commitment to end world hunger would raise her grade, but there stood the fact that Ms. Taylor had the social conscience of a gumball, a gumball that was shedding its sugar in the mouth of some eight year old yearning for seclusion, languishing like a potted plant, pining away on some madman's desk; true also that tuna fish is only quasi-vegetarian, that REAL vegetarians think twice about leather, whether the high school they're in issues letterman jackets or just T-shirts for Phys Ed. The isolation desk was the final frontier, the teacher's last resort, and as she stomped over she felt a murderous certainty that this was her place, doomed or divine, in the corner.

5.a) The Netherlands mid-life crisis black mini skirt. Not supposed to tell Mom (mine). Abstract condominium home. Secret getaway. Pinched lips with liner. Princess Borghese's chocolate spatula. Click of heels on parquet pattern. Someone supposed to be a foster parent ends up not holding me. Supermarket consumer, slit up the leather leg. Coordinating shoe fetish. Drawer of candy. Big phone bills. Abandoned your adult daughter. The weird noises in the other room came earlier, that was something different, yet related.

b)The paratroopers descended upon the Netherlands, like the plague of biblical locusts. Watching from beneath a veil of tree branches, Hans knew he would never see his own mid-life. Hell, at this point, birth was negotiable. Stuck midway through the second trimester of his mother's 14th pregnancy, he worried about dropping like a chicken egg if the fighting got too rugged, a crisis he could prepare for only by donning a black placenta and taking a large lungful of amniotic fluid. Then he pinched his head at the top of the canopy of flesh and felt a rushing around him. The waters burst and soaked his mother's polka dot miniskirt. But if this was some kind of ending or beginning, it was not from lack of effort that Hans wound up where he did, since nothing quite like this ever happened before, he wasn't supposed to have any stories for his grandkids. He wasn't even supposed to have any grandkids to tell them to.

Blood colors my face purple when anyone mentions anything about the way it might have possibly happened to or around her because of the way it makes me feel when they talk about it like blood is purple in it like I don't know what's around any corner above near behind any door when it is my fault and is two minutes before seven at night and great earths is shaking about the time when we said things not loudly enough by the standard of the daytime but too much A-flat for the late afternoon cloudiness for people like us who forget extra layers because we don’t care for or about goosebumps or other wind chill factors even when we are loincloth native speakers.

7.a)I understand perfection is more than good posture when the photo is taken.

b)I never exactly kept it a secret from you, but I kept just enough hidden so that you'd never quite understand me. I thought you'd hate that part of me that wanted to stay separate; for me it was simply safety, my only shot at perfection. But safety can be dangerous; it is true that the less that's granted the more "experimental" we become. But I'd rather that, than fall into the monotonous rut of falling into you, thinking it was, you were, we were good as a one night stand but not as a relationship. I knew I needed more than to practice my posture, I knew that was all we were good for: practice. And that finally when I discovered that love was love and the rest is surface, the matter was shallow as a photo.