Thursday, March 29, 2007

No words

I don't have any words today. I see lovely, glowing comments on my posts, and no words bubble up to equal those shining things.

I don't have any words this week. Strange things have been afoot around my workplace: lurching stomachs, family tragedies, a full leg cast. The sound of clashing metal brought a few of us to the windows that face the street. A semi had cut a corner too close, smashing into one parked car that shoved into another. Cars and crooked semi lounging uselessly below our office windows. With resigned looks at each other we shrug, only to be expected this week.

I don't have any words tonight. Mr. Billy gallantly giving up his chair before the computer so I could work on the book, and nothing. I look at the page and want to vomit. Not words. Dinner maybe, then lunch, then old cans and boots and dust bunnies and a disheveled cat. But no words, no words.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It could be Tom Waits

Blogger apologies: my old laptop went tits-up again, so I am far behind in my posting and in reading yours. It's not because I don't love you, whatever those other bloggers might say.

Mr. Billy and I are snug into bed; it's already well past my bedtime, and I'm reeling from a beer and two glasses of wine downed at a friend's book party at City Lights (yes, I'm a cheap date).

My head settles in to sleep, street sounds drifting in through the window. There's a party going down in the neighborhood, but I'm working it into my dreams, people laughing and talking, cars passing by, it's all good, already looping dreamishly, but then someone brings out a guitar.

I groan. "Someone out there with a guitar and a mouth," I say to Mr. Billy. He's still awake, I can tell from the quiet breaths, controlled shifting under the covers.

We turn over, in opposite directions, burrowing into the pillows. The song follows, stealing into my consciousness.

"Hey," I lift my head, "I know that song. It's the Heart of Saturday Night."

"Hunh?" Maybe Mr. Billy wasn't as wakeful as I'd thought.

"Tom Waits song." It was that Waitsian couplet that tipped me off, Tell me is the crack of the poolballs, neon buzzin?/Telephone's ringin'; it's your second cousin, I'm listening now for the next stanza.

"Maybe it is Tom Waits."

I start to laugh, but stop right away. It's plausible. Tom Waits used to live in this neighborhood. His favorite café is just down the street.

I'm sitting up in bed now, straining to hear. It doesn't really sound like him, but sound distorts traveling across a street, through window glass. It could be Tom Waits. I get up and put on my glasses, moving from window to window. The party's in the house that's obscured by a blossoming tree. I can't tell.

Mr. Billy's up now, too. He's opening the kitchen window and putting his head out. I'm out on the back lanai.

"It's a woman singing now."

We get back into bed.

"It could have been him."

We turn over, in opposite directions, punching at the pillows. We're quiet for a moment.

"What if it is him?" I say, then close my mouth. We should go to sleep.

They're singing up a storm at that party.

Mr. Billy gets up, and starts getting dressed.

"I'll call you if it's him," he says, heading out the door. I love Mr. Billy.

He's back in ten minutes.


"A bunch of hippies. And a cellist."

Maybe it's the Kronos Quartet, I think. They live in this neighborhood.

I don't say anything.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Not a fire this time

I'm sautéeing vegetables for dinner, standing in the kitchen, Mr. Billy & I talking - about what is lost now, but Mr. Billy was mid-sentence - when a heavy metal scrape and crunch break in from outside. It's just a step to the window, and I see a black SUV. The driver's standing so hard on the gas it leans forward on its shocks, the wheels' friction holding it back a fraction of a second before letting go with a long screech, and it disappears down the street.

I don't see the other vehicle at first; it's a white mini-van up on the curb, less than four feet from the corner of our building. Mr. Billy slides open the window.

"Are you okay?" he calls.

Already neighbors are gathering. I'm ready to call the cops, but I see a cell phone flip open down there on the street.

"My cousin was killed by a hit and run," I say. It's the first thing that pops into my head.

Mr. Billy's already on his way down the stairs. I stay long enough to make sure the stove is off, and follow him out into the spitting rain.

The driver of the white mini-van is hysterical, her mouth wide open, wailing behind the steering wheel. Her door is open, and she has one foot out on the runner board. She doesn't appear to be hurt.

Several people are standing around, leaning into the car to talk to her, lighting up cigarettes, talking. One of them is talking to Mr. Billy, looking familiar.

"Hey, look who lives here," says Mr. Billy.

It's N., an old acquaintance of ours; he moved into the house across the street six months ago and we didn't know until just now. He hugs me and we laugh. I look over at the hysterical woman and my laughter tails off. She isn't slowing down, waves and waves of loud sobs, mouth stretched wide like a jack o'lantern.

"You got the license?" Mr. Billy is saying, and I'm impressed, someone managed to get the plate number that fast, but that isn't it. One of the neighbors is holding something in his hand.

Not the number, the actual license plate.

"Yeah," he says, laughing, "it broke off when he hit her. I saw it land in the street."

"Fuck YEAH," says someone else.

I imagine the driver's sick feeling when he realizes his plate's gone. It feels good. I have revenge in mind right now, crowing at his stupidity, oh, he'll get his tonight.

The hysterical woman is still howling. I lean in, ask her if she wants to come inside where it's warm, but she shakes her head, still sobbing, thrashing at the tears with her fists. She doesn't seem to speak much English.

"I tried to speak Chinese with her," says N., "but I think she only speaks Cantonese."

The hysterical woman's phone starts to chime. She opens it, holds it to her head, howls into it. Finally the howls turn into words, but she hasn't calmed down. She closes the phone and settles back into her sobs, rocking slightly in her seat.

"She lives right up the street," says a woman. She and the man with her live a few blocks away; they were driving home when they saw the accident, and they tried to chase the black SUV, but it pulled away too quickly.

Everyone goes quiet, and we look at the driver of the white mini-van.

"She's hysterical."

"Maybe we should call back, get an ambulance here."

"An ambulance will come anyway, won't it?"

"No, she said she didn't want an ambulance."

"I'm calling."

I introduce myself to the couple who tried to chase the SUV. We shake hands. We look at the mini-van driver. I crouch down next to her. I'm trying to figure out how to ask her if she needs anything, a blanket, a drink of water. She shakes her head, rocking, crying.

"How long before the cops get here, do you think?"

"Man, is she okay?"

"She's, it's the shock, you know? It's a shock."

"Yeah, I guess so."

Finally, a police cruiser rolls quietly toward us.

"Police," I say to the woman, pointing.

"Thank you," she says, then opens her mouth to howl some more.

The cop speaks Cantonese. Another car pulls up. We tell what we saw, what we heard. They run the plate. None of us saw the driver of the other car, none of us can describe him. Or her. I tell one of the cops where to find us if they need anything else, and we go inside where it's warm and dry.

I'm finishing dinner, and Mr. Billy looks out the window.

"Her husband's there," he says, "they're hugging."