Apr 9, 2007

Dorothy Kilgallen, I miss you

How bad news hangs in the air, like the brown and beige air in Los Angeles basin before catalytic converters. Even now. Good news on the other hand, has no color; it just rises and disappears. But even the slightest bad news has a tint and taste, even when you can't describe it, barely remember it. It always lingers, comes out in a dream or a shallow thought about something else.

"What did I see the other day?"

Oh yes, a second story apartment in Oakland, dense and dirty, a hallway the length of a short smile, chocked with 7 years worth of accumulation, a mother and daughter's hang out, the place they're always leaving, promising themselves to move away from, but then there's never enough money, never enough energy to get out, and so they live on. No matter because they've managed, what they've done with their lives, you think and no support at all. These are poets and writers and creative people. Funny people and you sit and watch her, she's quite a beautiful woman, at whatever age she is, but Sicilian by blood and so there's a dark streak there, and then paper over that a life you would not believe, so filled with death and destructiveness. We sit with her and listen to her say that she has had much creative success lately and more on the way, but she has no life. This is everyone's complaint, I suppose, how can you have a life when there's no time to have it. So she is well, and her daughter is well, and everything is fine, and even the apartment is alright, although you wouldn't want to live there because it's too close to Nathaniel West rooms in East Hollywood, where the curtains are ripped and the floorboards are filthy and the old half Persian carpets reak of smoke and a trillion specs of city vomitage. You have a good visit and everything's fine and you can't wait to see her again, but then later it's as though you lost your wallet and something's amiss.

Or else there's off hand comment. Nothing meant. Just an aside. A good friend telling me a therapist's wisdom, which was that 'all relationships end. Why get excited. Get used to it. Whatever relationship you're in it will end. By death if nothing else. Yours or theirs.' I'm not doing it justice. The comment was easy and off hand and a truth not worth exploring because it's so obvious. But you hear that and then you leave and then everything is colored by it. Then later it's that feeling again that you lost something and even St. Anthony can't find it.

The whole culture is bent toward bad news. Like twisting black flowers bending to a nightmare moon. And how we love it, don't we? The more of it the better. Especially when it involves health. The other day the kid told his mom he'd been seeing wavy lines and a black dot in the middle of his vision. She went right for it. Got on the Internet and all the darkest possibilities popped up and in no time at all, the worst was not possible but probable and from there the long slow trudge of living out the worst even before any doctors had been called, before any tests taken. Any mother would react the same way, any good mother.

But there's something else here. You might even say, there's a longing for the worst. In the bottom of the drawer, in the back of the closet that's what there is, secret pleasure in catastrophe. Because then you are released from everyday, then the fear that this is all too good to be true, is justified.

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