Over twenty minutes I made a series of one and two minute phone calls between several relatives, back and forth, many I hardly knew or had not seen for decades ... handling things. At some point I even heard Uncle Paul laugh, except sounding pleased. I end up incidentally with a correct number. I had tried to call earlier but the house has no land line.
"Are you okay ... "
"Are you okay?"
"Everything is wonderful."
"When you first joined I had a hysterectomy," she says. "I was asked how I had managed with such ... problems. I felt I had ruined everyone's life."
Actually I have been in over my head but then didn't care anymore. She mentions a book, but calls it a novel. "I'll probably never read it." She pauses sometimes, so that I wonder if she is still there.
"It was not written to be read," I reply. "I don't care how good the writing is, Mom. No one is going to keep me from writing non-fiction -- first, and then -- and anyway it is a novelette .. and then ... I mean, YOU taught me that."
"I was devastated ... "
"Mom ..." I tell her, trying to explain ... aloneness. "We were heavyweights."
(tenth grocery aisle)
I overhear a woman talking to someone, maybe an older woman. I continue stocking cans, crouched down, while I'm supposed to be keeping the aisles tidy and caught up.
“He comes to the restaurant, for breakfast mostly,” she says. “I think when he wants to eat alone.”
I think Dawn seemed to love Grace more because Grace was her only surviving child; she had all her love to give, in a situation where she had little support. The mothers of Grace's playmates had become her friends, because Grace was popular, a talker, a good, non-fiction storyteller, except for the things she could have no idea of. I guess back then it was like Grace was shining with light. A feminine “tomboy.” She knew for certain she would need me as a teenager, same as she had needed Tierra, our older brother. Flower must not have gotten much attention, technically, but it didn't matter because Grace and I were also raised by her parents, Dawn and Ray, same as I was raised in the meantime by Grace. I remember our parents having lots of friends, but upon the death of Tierra ... I think it bothered him, but it wasn't her fought, and he was a Marine by choice. He spent lots of time deployed to Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, remnants of World War II and later Korea and Vietnam, during her first two pregnancies. His father, my grandfather, barely missed Korea; Ray, my father, barely missed Vietnam. My other Grandpa, Grandpa Castro, went to Korea during the Korean war. My mother's sister, Dawn's sister, Elana Castro something ... is now an international nurse. Flower married an Iraq-war soldier. Grace remains the saint she's always been, popular with everyone, as saints usually are.
“The cook likes him,” the woman continues. “Can barely see or hear and only sees him through the window across the aisle between the bar and the kitchen.”
Their cart moves slightly.
In my peripheral, her mother, maybe, maybe grandmother, bends to inspect and feel some cans on my side of the aisle.
“It still has those backless stools running up to the register,” someone says softly.
“His posture is straight usually,” the younger woman continues, a waitress at the restaurant around the corner from the apartment where I live. “He seems to love her food,” she says. “Goes there when he has time to eat. We call him, the bachelor.”
Someone laughs soft and auto, like the sound of heavy velvet.
“But I think she likes him because of the way he'll hold his head sometimes, like a boy with a bald head,” the younger woman says softly with a laugh. “Anyway, the cook thinks he's blonde.”
I write this as my roommate plays Risk with his middle daughter, maybe seven, on the floor in the living room. The board is a huge global map, incredibly up to date and realistic. As she takes a card she must place her troop figurine onto the word the card says. There are other rules to the game, but that's basically what she's doing, same as her father, as he plays the “imaginary players,” slowly ruling the globe.
I have to write it now because it is the moment when I learned how literature becomes oral history. He has them on the weekends. Usually I'm out, hanging with friends, studying, something. The plans were canceled when I got arrested in the park everyone calls “drum circle.” The waitresses at the restaurant call it by its actual name, but none of the four streets surrounding it are that name. I stood in the middle of the circle of concrete, surrounded by the grass, boulders, and square of sidewalks, waiting for Brick, a friend from Rustic. Standing amidst tall, nineteen twenties deco, the chess tables just inside the the west sidewalk, I traded a guy two cigarettes for use of his cellphone, so as to try and call Brick. When I gave the guy his phone back, I turned to give a guy waiting at the light in a black Acura, a cigarette, because he asked. After finishing smoking with the homeless guy with a cell phone, I stepped back into the main circle of the park, and am arrested full on.
All the cops have to say is, “You're awfully calm for someone in so much trouble.”