For every ounce of hurt I have faced, he offered a sea of love and gratitude. I have now paid attention to how our connection shaped me. In its purest sense, I felt awakened, more compassionate, and purely at my truest self.
Does time go by this fast
I am a thing, human – strange,
My body is a thousand waving motions.
A million different particles that shift and work and move.
I undulate – I feel.
I weep, I breathe.
I’m constantly at work, all the tiny pieces of me.
I remember: a computer.
I smell, I dream.
I grow hair without asking to, and make up my own coloring.
I’ve been a tool of breathlessness, I’ve lived in others’ dreams;
But I’m a human, gross, alone –
moving through it all.
Tattooed by life and unexpectant,
amazing and alone, it seems.
What’s a Superhero film? Why do I usually tear them to shreds?
I’m a film brat. I know it. Once in awhile people find it hard to discuss movies with me. Always, something sticks in my craw. I can’t take when people justify films:
“It was good, despite HIM being the director!”
“It was fun, even if it was a bit racist.”
“The plot didn’t make sense, but it was 2 hours away from my reality, so it did its job!”
But…I finally got owned by Superhero movie. By ‘Wonder Woman’. And I didn’t know for days.
The film was high-concept. I may be as detached from superhero movies as one can be, despite a history of loving the newspaper feel and ashy scent of a new comic when I was a child. I’m more nuevo-Russian and Andrey Zvyagintsev than action and USA-superhero adventure. More 8-minute shots of moody lighting than CGI-assisted high kicks and rig-aided jumps.
But inside me there lies a pop-culture heart that would like to love anything; even if I tear it apart internally. I also find Gal Godot easy on the eyes, and I wanted to see ‘Wonder Woman’.
From the start, I kept pushing my brat voice down inside and watched it:
- In ‘Wonder Woman’, everyone had a make-believe accent. I hated it but then in a split second it endeared me to the film. Almost as soon as I was pooh-poohing it, I thought: “This may be ridiculous, but it’s better than fake English accents on superhero planets in galaxies far away in everything else.”
- There was a woman, Diana, who wanted a destiny with no solid reason why. As soon as I rolled my eyes at the fact she would want to fight, I thought of my myself and friends. Why were we trying at this life at all? “Why should we need to be shown what we want? Why can’t we just want? We admire what we don’t understand already, and we work towards it often tirelessly. This is…startlingly true.”
- There was a disconnect between a daughter and mother. Then I thought… “A mother loves you in a way you may not understand, and you, as a daughter, want things she may not understand either.” Fuck…okay. This is making me want to enjoy this movie.
At this point, I’m realizing that I’m so engrained in this culture that I can’t NOT criticize it more than I ever would with a film where any male feels these things.
I’m complicit in a culture where what is normal is what others tell me what I want, tells me what female and familial connection should be, and tells me what an accent would sound like in a fantasy world. That I am even sitting there almost as a trained male gazer, questioning all I know to be true from even my own real-life experiences.
I’m already owned and we haven’t even gotten to the ‘World of Men’.
I giggled at light jokes about the Male Gaze shaping how we fit into their world. What we can and cannot do to fit into society.
I was chuffed when Diana walked into a war discussion with no embarrassment. I wish I could do that in my world; ask the questions I knew were right without fear of being fired or being shunned.
The fight scenes were fun. I found myself wanting to fight like Diana. I enjoyed a superhero who was emotional and honest; it made me want to be the same.
The outfits and the time-period were cool; the plot was straightforward.
There was a non-surprising turn where the “authority figure who you thought was on your side actually is your worst enemy” plot twist. That rang true for me, and maybe there is a universal feel within that one. Best friend betrays you, mother wants to hurt you, father needs to use you.
Anyways, there is much to be said about the details of ‘Wonder Woman’.
I stepped away wanting to see it again. For the music of Tina Guo (a talented cellist I knew from USC who deserves everything coming to her), for the diversity of the fierce Amazons, for the open-hearted hope that probably lies within all of us. For the fierce bad-ass power we may all want within us and our mental power-kicks, especially those of us in fields and worlds we feel marginalized in.
But I also stepped away denouncing a huge part of the film.
“IF THEY TOOK CHRIS PINE OUT, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD.”
I said. “Just take him out! Or let them not hook up! She doesn’t need that. If they even were chaste and loved one another from afar. Just take out the ROMANCE!”
And perhaps that movie could have been great or better without romance. It might have been. Audiences deserve a female-lead blockbuster where the lead doesn’t need romance to advance.
But then a guy from work stood up; younger than me and a USC graduate as well, and said:
“But we’re giving a powerful woman what all the powerful men in superhero movies have been getting forever. A romantic tie. All the superheroes have one, too. If we’re going to be equal, we’re just flipping the script.”
And then I saw it. Steven wasn’t necessary, just like all the women in the majority of the superhero movies that we’ve grown to know that have become our culture. His death was necessary to set off Diana’s quest, just as the majority of women have been in much of our superhero and literary culture. He felt ‘tacked on’ because WOMEN have felt ‘tacked-on’ in our cinematic and popular culture history.
He was charismatic, but expendable. Loveable and necessary. Not given too much of a backstory, because he advanced the narrative of our superhero. Great eyes, but he needs to die. He was the subversive shift that already know – this message that we need the opposite sex to change us and drive our force. We’ve been seeing it forever in almost all our cinematic superhero films.
He was what our female characters have ALREADY been for so long. If it makes us uncomfortable or comfortable, it’s something to investigate within our greater culture. Why do we need the opposite sex to change the direction of our driven journey? Do we need that driven journey?
In any case, superhero movies may not change much. But we have flipped the script. If it feels weird to some, let’s examine. If it feels right, let’s examine that, too.
But I was owned in my analysis of Wonder Woman. This is truly a classic Superhero Film.
One hot summer I went to Dana Hall summer camp something or other.
Lots of Lights-off and Pottery and Indoor Crafts.
With someone playing a guitar in what seemed to me a Music “Pit”: A Tiny Orpheum
or some such;
with handfuls of little girls
just being taught
the chorus to:
You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
I remember it like yesterday.
A girl named Sarah in white pants that got so dirty from throwing clay and the day;
no big Teachers;
little Kate covered in paint;
No AC and smocks still on.
It reverberated on white walls– and some young man
told us what to sing.
And our knees all pointed towards one anothers’; and there was a ceiling fan so high
you couldn’t hear it.
And it was the time for naps, the time of noon, the time Older People slipped away.
It smelled of chalk and paint and heat and a bit of clay from earlier.
And that young guy; he didn’t smile, he just played a chord and
told us about this Song and played it:
was it what he knew? last generation’s Wonderwall?
Another fan purred somewhere;
The amphitheater was small.
We were in a cone
of echo and future
and all we ever had to say
‘You can’t always get
what you want.’
you can’t always get what you want.
YOU CAN’T always get what you WANT.
You can’t ALWAYS get what you want.
you Can’t always get what You Want…
you Can’t always get what you want.
you can’t ever get what you want.
You can’t always get what you want –
But if you try sometimes..
“..we’ve gotta keep moving on
so grateful for the moments..”
i’m stuck like thunder
on an old tape recorder.
all the power; all the purpose gone.
recorded as a rumbling
what are You then
when you’re unaware your might
and just a depression
recorded as background noise
on someone else’s tape of life.
sometimes you reach for a plug and it doesn’t fit the socket
and it’s funny
and getting ready in the mirror is a music video you know you’d look great in!
and you look fly and there are a thousand things that could happen and your body is warm and the nights roll on endlessly…
and you fall in love with your face in the mirror at odd hours when you reach your work hotel! and someone you know is there! and you go! and you meet!
but that was before.
Today was carrying a tv monitor, 500 Moleskins, and 10 devices to a sad meeting room; and being responsible for all.
It was seeing buildings you thought you knew; changed and gutted and now under construction; changing street patterns.
C-level badges were not working (their fault) – but you, you’re the the only one who can right it.
Right their stuff only; they’ll still ignore the things you need from them.
And you want to go back 6 years. 4, even.
but today a drink doesn’t work.
and time? it doesn’t matter.
And all day you, you think a drink
will help you fall
after all this, and rest.
no, it won’t. and it won’t ever.
you can’t feel that ever again, probably.
And then it’s 10pm in your 2nd bath; everything taken care of.
stressed but not overly so.
but you want that intoxication and that swirling dreaminess of liquor; for one sip of it to pass your lips and make the night something of fun or danger or meaning or significance.
and it’s not. and it won’t.
It’s not a night of that; it can’t be.
Your childish whims and drunken fancies and emotional upheaval – they’re gone.
They were nothing but your synapses.
Acamprosate tells you so.
It’s the harsh Christmas morning a cousin proves Santa isn’t real.
And so you take care of your 30 year old skin, and drink water, and sigh because…Yeah, that was.. something.. back then.
And you get on with your life.
And alcohol is gone.
It really is gone.
Not because you want it to be, yet.
Because the meds showed you behind the Curtain.
and there is nothing there.
I remember the day my parents were shot out of Earth’s orbit. My Grandma held my hand. It was cool and wrinkled. Her skin felt like paper. I knew I was supposed to feel proud. I was supposed to raise my jaw and salute and maybe cry a bit.
But I couldn’t.
I’d already cried everything out as they’d packed. They took stupid trinkets and tiny mementos to remember my sister and I by as they crated up our life to get ready to search the huge abyss of space for some semblance of life. To find the Others. To happen upon some place to make a new home.
They were giving up everything for me, for my sister, for our whole race. For humanity.
But still, I was mad. So mad.
I threw empty glass bottles at the dog in our back yard and I screamed into my pillow. I dug deep cuts into my thighs with empty pencils and I tried to curse them. I bent knives in the kitchen sink and spit on my grandmother’s pills when no one was around. I cried into hot showers and wept onto cold shower tiles.
How could they leave us? With papery Grandma and dumb Cera, my little sister, whose crusted eyes in the mornings and bawling nightmares at night made her an emotional oil spill I’d have to clean up. I wanted none of this.
On Launch Day, Grandma held my hand tightly as mom and dad’s shuttle took off. 2258 people on each and every shuttle. I could tell Grandma wanted to break down, but she didn’t. She watched as the white, smoky sky evaporated into the atmosphere and then she took two deep, heavy breaths.
“She’ll find the Others.” She said, more to herself than to us. I watched Cera’s mouth fall open and her watery eyes fill up again and couldn’t help but knock her in the head with the back of my hand as I turned.
“They’re gone,” I snarled. My limbs were lanky and shaky and I hated touching anyone. I let my hair fall over my face and turned around against the crowd and all the anger in me made me feel like my cheeks were glowing hot and then suddenly, I felt like puking.
The Seven — there were seven planets that could hold life or hold potential for us humans when Earth wasn’t an option. We were running out of time. Every week, 2258 of us from every major Port on Earth shuttled out. From 32 different command centers, previously known as the Old Guard Country Centers, adults were given their assignments and then shot deeper and deeper into space to scout The Seven out.
No one had come home. Yet.
Because, everyone said, they must have done it. They’d found it. The Utopia, the paradise we’d been promised for generations. It just took too long to relay the news via our little satellites to tell us back on Earth. They knew where to send us all along, we were told. So we trusted them and stayed on Earth. We grew, we learned, we bred and we traveled. Always looking to the Others.
Earth’s resources dwindled. Lots was underwater and too many species were dying off, and too quickly. Tides were unpredictable, and we all had to move to Continent Centers. Trade was shut off physically. There was no way to navigate the high seas and the hot rivers anymore.
The promise of A Life with the Others was the only thing we were taught. Different languages and hand motions. We studied that damn golden disk from 400 years ago… that Golden Record? We made those every week, now. We learned it all. Speech, gestures. Physics and astronomy. Some learned the Old Books. Some learned Water travel. Others learned Metals. Some learned Medical. Or even how to navigate a huge, engine-less ship, should we ever find ourselves in one and with no one to help us.
My favorite class was how to grow plants under a UV blacklight. My second favorite was how to pull teeth. How to un-train domesticated animals and how to kill a friend: these were the hardest. I always got sick during both lessons.
We were taught the Keys to Life in the galaxy’s Wild West. Our Manifest Destiny was following our parents into that honorable and fateful beyond. I hadn’t spoken in a year. I forgot how my mother smelled. I forgot the songs she sang when I was young. I couldn’t tell you how my father’s face looked. Life was a heavy blur. I almost felt relieved when they left; blasting off into that great unknown. Towards the Others, surely. They did their duty. Had two kids and left Earth to search.
I only had 2 more months in school and our teacher, Ms. Hellmuth, was more of a den-mother to us than any of our parents. She’d be with us until we needed to be shuttled out to search for the Others. Her hair hung in thick, red-gold sheets and I remember watching her thin skin crinkle around her eyes. Papery, like Grandma. Wet-eyed, like Cera.
I sat dead-eyed through lectures about finding The Keys to saving humanity. Wrote papers about how we could live on as our oceans, hot and oppressive, raised themselves inch by inch and destroyed ports and lives. I rolled my eyes and ate lunch far away from everyone. I was always a bit of a loner.
Our parents had been Heroes. We were told they were sent into the Ether and found planets and built homes and worked and worked with Extraterrestrial Life and signed treaties and probably had a little house built for us on some misty red planet far away. Did they, actually? I was mad. And so bottles still broke. And still I cut my thighs and slapped my sister when no one was looking and felt a heat rise in me that no one else could feel. No one could have felt it; not like me and not as deep. No way; no one could have felt that heat and that bottled up pain. No one saw the bleak, bright, no where distance, empty void heat, like me. No one, none.
I didn’t buy it. I couldn’t. I hated everyone and I never believed my parents before they left anyways. I resented my thin, old Grandma for years. I fought everyone in school. My little sister was a watery, boggy mess and I yearned to be angry and shoot things in our old yard and wanted to put my fist through every painting I’d ever seen. There weren’t many around.
Until She came into class. Only weeks before graduation. With a silken sheet of white hair and big eyes that soaked up everything like a sponge. Her skin wasn’t thick or thin. She was older, I could just tell. She lied. Her eyes were deep. She knew Things. She was crisp in ways that could make you pained. I couldn’t understand how She could be so precise. Precise in Being.
She didn’t open her mouth, or speak. She had a name badge that read “Lav”. She was small, but seemed old- maybe wise?, and She talked back to Mrs. Hellmuth. When I finally caught Her gaze, She was calm and it stung.
I have no idea why I blushed. She had lived Up There. I knew it. I felt it.
She knew more than we would have ever know from our thick, dull classrooms. From our heavy grandparents and jingoistic siblings.
She’d been Up There. Her heavy eyes knew the truth. Salvation lay in something closer. Our promises and our futures; lives and families; had all been lost in vain. I saw it right at that moment. When She moved Her hair across her shoulder, and when She caught the edge of my eye.
She was ageless. There was something cruel about her. But she was a guardian or a guide; something my family could never be. And all at once, my empathy and sentiment overwhelmed me.
“I’m Jay. You’re Lav. Hello…” And that’s when it all began.
I haven’t really been meditating.
Or changing much about my exercise.
Or journaling much at all.
But tonight I came home from work and saw my nose in the mirror.
And it looked a lot like my Mother’s.
My nose is something I don’t know;
Can’t describe it; its shape is a mystery to me.
I know how to pose so it looks really cute; but caught off guard, I won’t recognize me.
And I’ve always thought it’s sharklike from some angles.
I thought about a nose job. To maybe make it more like Mom’s –
And why? Well… I still can’t see me.
And then I watched some stupid shows,
And did some laundry, then Lord knows,
All I wanted was a fucking beer
And time and space; for my mind to be clear.
None of that happened.
And then I saw my Mother in some far away place;
Romania and photos,
Lecture halls and campus walls.
Puppies in Texas and grout and tiles.
In Boston, pregnant: maybe she wondered how she got there?
I can’t assume.
I only know in just 5 years,
I’ll be where she was with me,
And how was she ever so ready?
I don’t know if she felt she was at all,
And that’s why I love her most of all,
Because she was; one hundred times and more,
And more, or more.
She’s finally sort of a peer;
A Mother is easy to Love and Fear,
And when you grow you see her as she really is:
She’s Life, and Love, and all Above
And all Below, and all the things you think you’ll never know.
I threw my tantrums and burned my path,
And always I’ll keep coming back,
Because she is the Strongest place,
Softest heart and her family’s face.
With a mind that’s better,
With Patience and a Temper.
How could I ever be mad at my Mother?
She saw some of the World; was it enough?
She had me; I was tough – I sucked, I’m sure, I’m difficult with some parts broken.
But how can, now, I not move on? from pain?
I have a Family, I have Songs – I have Vision now,
And how could I ever be mad at my Mother again?
There is no Mad,
There’s just, “That’s fair.”
And, Always: Love.
Life becomes so many wooden floors.
Slow motion: we’re at the bowling alley
moving far too slow across lacquered lanes;
then, we pace soft, wooden floors with doggie toenails
skittering sweetly across the grain.
Then again – now, wooden baseboards in Malibu,
joining up with poorly-built foundations
where we thought we could build upon.
Our toes were always above those floors,
tracing our tracks
along the longest nights that ever existed; those nights
where we stalk ghosts
through everything boundless.
It was all only just yesterday,
so many years ago.
It’s all in the tips of the fingers you brush,
all these wooden floors, netted by night.
It was a cult of Us, and the witching hour only existed there.
All was transcendental; truth was dark; everything – it never existed.
It was hidden and perfect; clandestine cravings never to be felt again.
Those slow nights: we stretched them on for years.
We pulled them like black taffy, warmed them –
and as they grew thick and stiffer, we pulled them –
stretched them, wanton, between our fingers.
The nights have always belonged to us,
empty mouths and ravenous chests.
werewolves we were,
slowing the dawn and burying stars
and thick spectral desires;
werewolves we were.
we tasted the other side; it won’t let us go –
it comes across in sparks; a fleeting, sleeping twitch.
snow on a park city path.
absolute emptiness in a malibu house.
cold sheets and fireworks in half-time.
floating weightless in an empty midnight pool –
we are haunting us in real-time
x-rays and empty baggies
records skip and skip and skip
and skip and
and we’re howling at a moon
at the bottom of a bottle
cutting it all into silvery lines and moonlit crescents
and we are dancing and screaming and.
we’re werewolves and full and darkest, always, before the dawn.