The Finish Line

Many of my journal entries end up being a meager and futile attempt to capture something profound within a drink-induced haze.  In any case, it happens.  But now is the time to actually put in the work and do something viable with this pen.  Just like we always promised.  Just like we always promise.  Just like we have been trying to do for 25 years.  Have we done anything at all?  Have we achieved it?  And who is the judge?  Who decides if we have succeeded at the task we set out to accomplish?  Is it a publisher?  A devout reader?  Our own complete self, Dear Reader?  Who decides whether or not we have accomplished what we set out to do?  And what exactly did we set out to do?  Our goal was vague.  We never outlined it all in a clear and vivid manner.  It was always some nebulous goal up ahead, some vague red ribbon to cross, for a race we never even thought to define.

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Imprinted onto the Hippocampus

Every single time I was called a Whore

Every single time I was called a Slut

Each time my boyfriend described detailed descriptions to his classmates of my anatomy

Each and every time he punched me and I was too afraid to tell my parents because I knew they’d say ‘We told you so’.  And possibly even worse: ‘You asked for it.’

The punches in the vagina.  Too many times.

And, ‘Just lay back and spread your legs.  Eventually you’ll enjoy it.’

 

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Let it go

I hold on to everything, everybody.  Even those who have hurt me, in an effort to find some answers.  Some closure.  I hold on so tight to the past and the memories, and the positive yet fleeting moments that we may have shared.  Maybe if I let you go, let the chips fall where they will, the rest might fall into place.  Maybe I can finally find a way to let all the rest go as well, and perhaps finally find a tiny slice of peace.

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Special

I was once an apple in a father’s eye.

I was once a girl who smiled because there was no reason not to.

I was once a simple little girl, who loved to sing Christmas jingles.  I hugged cats and liked denim pants and stupid frilly skirts and read books all morning, loved the hum of the heater vents late at night in my bed, and the sound of the theme song from MASH lulling me to sleep from the living room.  I was once a little girl who wanted to learn to play the mandolin and banjo.

I was once an apple in a father’s eye.

I was once a little girl who spent summers in the Delta, sat on my father’s shoulders as we swam in the late summer sun.  I once didn’t think that anything could change.  I was loved, and I loved back.  I once was a little girl who loved to smile and laugh and swim and play and climb trees and read books and play and love and play and play.

I was once an apple in a father’s eye.

Until I wasn’t.

And we were all too busy to play, or laugh, or swim, and the people around me moved on to the next thing.  There were fights to be had, divorces to negotiate, new lovers to love.  And at some point, I forgot that I had even caught the eye of a father in the first place.

I was once an apple in a father’s eye.  For one brief moment in time.  So quick that we all blinked and missed it.  So quick and inconsequential, that the little girl who is still waiting to swim and laugh and play got lost in the undertow.  She’s floating out there, and at this point, I’m the only one who can save her.

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Hello me, it’s me again.

There was a time when I sat on the stone slabs of the common area at DVC, wearing my loose-fitting Ben Davis pants and oversized Thrasher T­shirt, chain­-smoking cigarettes and writing manically in my favorite lined journal- the first of many. I was 20. And I could so clearly see who I would be down the road. Literally. I knew that there was another Erin up ahead, an Erin who had at least partially figured some of The Things out.
I was realistic- I knew 20 year old Erin well enough to know that even 42 year old Erin wouldn’t have it all figured out. 20 year old Erin knew herself enough to know that there would always be unanswered questions, and fortunately she was wise enough to know that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy, and she had read enough of Socrates to understand that she didn’t know what she didn’t know. And so, she knew that it all might be one hell of a ride.
Well, 20 year old Erin, I’m pretty sure I didn’t disappoint you in that regard. You wanted to live in the footsteps of Ginsberg and a mild version of Bukowski. You wanted to travel, and I’m sorry I didn’t give you much of that. But I did give you a dilapidated loft in SOMA, where we watched the fireworks from our rooftop billboard every time Barry Bonds made a home run. Oh, yeah. We got into sports. Sorry, Erin.
We also got into hip hop, which probably doesn’t surprise you, 20 year old Erin, since you criend when Tupac died. But we got into the good shit, like Mos Def, and Del, and the Roots, and everything that Dan the Automator produced.
But I also gave you a fondness for doom metal, which I know you weren’t expecting. And we became a professional belly dancer for 13 years (sexy as hell), which I KNOW you never expected. I know you never expected to leave those oversized T-shirts and Ben Davis pants.
I know, Erin, you’re still sitting there between classes, in the ‘quad’, trying to write an epic poem, and wondering if you’ll reach ‘Howl’ status by the time you’re 25. You won’t, I regret to say, and I’m sorry for that. I let you down in that regard. It’s just harder than we had anticipated. In hindsight, I realize that it doesn’t just take talent and passion, it takes a complete and total dedication. And I’m sorry I didn’t live up to that for us.
But the internet came along. And suddenly everything was just so…easy. Books have gone by the wayside. 20 year old Erin, I miss the days when we sat in bed and watched Looney Toons with a giant bowl of pistachio pudding, 5 packs of Marlboro Reds, a bottle of vodka, and a rotary telephone. Things were simple. We had three channels, we had our record player when we needed a good dose of Fleetwood Mac. We had Descartes, Camus, Bukowski, Hemingway, and endless Clive Barker to cleave onto. Erin, I didn’t expect this inundation of distractions. I know I have let you down.
However, despite all of my faults and failures, I think and hope that you knew that this would be the way. I know you never expected that future Erin to be perfect, because you were as well an imperfect work in progress. All you wanted was to catch up to that woman up ahead on the road, whoever she turned out to be. 20 year old Erin never needed fame, fortune, or a sweet corner office at a cush job. She only wanted to someday see herself self-posessed, surrounded by people who understood her, and most importantly, finding herself simply comfortable in her own skin, and finally knowing exactly who she is.
So, Dear 20 year old Erin, I hope we have achieved what we have set out to do. I still feel the way you do. I didn’t leave this soul on some desolate stretch of highway; it is still here with me. And you are still with me. I have had to put artistry on hiatus at times, because shit bitch, living in the Bay Area is brutal these days (rents are high as fuck, yo!). I have fucked up SO many times, but you knew we would. I have been hurt badly so many times, but you knew we would. You knew exactly what you were in for, and I think we’ve lived up to it, like a motherfucking champ.
I know exactly who you saw down that road, each time you went into a dive bar and wrote for hours in that journal, I remember that person you saw walking ahead of you down that dusty path surrounded by cornrows and Delta levies. You saw me, and you created me, and you knew that we would find our way.
Now it is time for you and I to figure out what the fuck we’re gonna do as an old lady, because that shit is coming up quick. Much quicker than we thought. So you and I best regroup and strategize, because there’s a road ahead that we haven’t mapped out yet, and we’re already grinding our gears toward the inevitable. Let’s hop into Bud’s old Betsy stepside, haul a boat behind our ass, and figure out what the hell we’re gonna create for the rest of this crazy ride.
We’ve done it before, we can do it again. Let’s find the next Erin down the road. I can’t wait to meet her.

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Person

I used to be that girl.  I remember that reality.  That girl who didn’t see herself as a ‘girl’, but just as a person.  A person, a perceived ‘tomboy’ who loved watching skateboard videos and trying to emulate those same tricks down at the local elementary school on my Tommy Guerrero deck.  A person who loved her dirt bike and jumping up and down curbs and stairs, who would listen to Wham or David Lee Roth or Bananarama or Prince or Beastie Boys while cruising around the Lucky parking lot in Concord.

I grew up seeing myself as a ‘person’.  Just another human being who liked skateboarding, Madonna, eating Burger King, learning how to waterski, making mudpies in my grandmother’s backyard, swimming, looking for the best rope swing in the summertime, dancing to Motley Crue and writing OZZY on my knuckles in Junior High, and when my hair was short, I would look in the mirror and think that maybe I looked a bit like Jim Morrison in that one iconic picture.  And that never bothered me.

I grew up seeing myself as a ‘person’.  And it’s only now that I realize that I need to put that in quotations.  Because at some point, I stopped being a ‘person’, and became, in the eyes of the world, a ‘female’.

I grew up seeing myself as a person.  I had male friends.  We respected each other.  They could crash at my house, and nothing went wrong.  We would listen to Slayer and skateboard and ditch class and bum smokes off of eachother, and we were all just a bunch of ‘people’ hanging out.  Maybe I was lucky that those people happened to be my friends at the time.  Or maybe, it didn’t prepare me for the harsh reality that came after.

I don’t know when it happened, when I was no longer a ‘person’, but a ‘girl’, some ‘bitch’, a nothing, a whatever, a throwaway.  It was gradual, and it took me so long to see it.  Yes, my first boyfriend was an asshole, but all of my other male friends made up for it by being extremely awesome and respectful.

But suddenly, around the age of 20, I found myself in situations where men would be hanging out at my house after a night of beers and pool and suddenly they’d whip out their dick and start masturbating.  A neighbor tried to take off my clothes until I kicked him in the gut and told him to get the fuck out.  Strangers started following me home in their cars and I would have to hide in a neighbor’s bushes.

I didn’t understand.  I was still the same person.  It felt as though the world had thrown me for a loop.

I still don’t understand.  I walk into a bar and I perceive myself as just another human being coming in after a long day, looking to relax.  But at 42 years old, I have been told over and over that if they are talking to me, they are just trying to eventually get a fuck out of me.  And I still don’t get it.  I still just see myself as a ‘person’, trying to make their way in this world.  Same as anybody else.

But now, at 42 years old, after looking in perplexity at how others view me, I realize that I have done the same thing.

When I was younger, I would look at the ‘pretty girls’ and internally disrespect them.  I saw them as ‘shallow’ and ‘sluts’.  I thought that I was better because I wasn’t looking for male approval.  I didn’t even realize that I was totally looking for male approval.  Just in a different way.  I wanted to be ‘one of the guys’.  And in that role, I could treat the ‘pretty girls’ as dumb bitches.

I suddenly realized that I had been playing into one of the various roles that we, as women, are assigned- even before we are cognizant of it.  We are consistently relegated to the roles of the Virgin, the Whore, and the Crone.  And when we don’t quite fit into any of those roles, we become the Male Accomplice.  Those women who put other women down, those women try to stay in the good graces of men, forever in fear of falling into one of the other dreaded roles.  What strong woman wants to be relegated to simply be a Virgin, Whore, or Crone?  We want to be complex, we want to be a Person, a complex and unique Person.  So we find the seemingly only way of survival:  join the Men’s team.  It seems to be the only way out.  Play along and insult your fellow women in the hopes that you might someday be seen as a ‘Person’.  The ultimate goal.

I am done with that.  I am finally seeing that each one of us, Virgin, Whore, Crone, Man-pleaser, slut, model, fat chick, skinny bitch, dumb cunt, stupid crazy woman…we are not simply those tiny, ugly titles we put upon ourselves and each other.  We are humans, and I don’t want to be reduced to a one word description anymore.

I have been the Virgin, and I have certainly been the Whore, and I am becoming the Crone.  But I am no longer willing to play a disingenuous and hurtful game in order to simply be a Person.   I want to be a Woman who loves Slayer, who loves sewing, who loves skateboarding, who will support other women, who loves whatever the fuck she wants to love.  I want to be a Woman, a Person, an individual who no longer needs to prove a goddamn thing.

And I am a Person you cannot even begin to describe, so don’t even try.

 

(This is a late night first draft, so please forgive my lack of literary perfection.)

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42

I always promised myself that I’d never have a typical American mid­-life crisis. I swore that I’d never wake up one day at 40 years old and wonder where my life and passion had gone. I spent hours, days and years trying to pay attention to every moment, and not become complacent and just let it all simply slip by.
But here I am.
I will be 42 in exactly 6 days. Yesterday I was 33. The day before that, I was 24. And the day before, I was 15. And every single day, I am also still five years old, awaiting a trip to Disneyland, making mudpies in the backyard of my grandmother’s house, and swimming in the Delta off the back of my dad’s Bayliner boat.
More and more, every day, I feel it all rushing past me. And I watch myself become the person who allows it to rush past- the person I swore I’d never be.
Lately, it seems like every single day brings about fresh new reminders of the swift and inevitable passage of time. I just processed payroll for a girl who was born the same year that I graduated high school. I am no longer young and cute; I am called ma’am, and nobody asks for my ID anymore. I have developed a belly. I am tired all the time, and my voracious appetite for reading books has devolved into me buying books but then putting off reading them because I need to binge-watch another dumb reality TV show.
I am not the Erin that I planned to be.
I mean…not exactly. I still have passion, but there doesn’t seem to be enough time for that. Jobs need to be worked, bills need to be paid. I still love people immensely, but now there is a pervasive underlying fear of abandonment. I still write in order to express myself, but not often enough, and these days, most people dont read beyond a headline on a click-bait article. I find myself regretting the fact that I spent my twenties wearing oversized T-shirts and Ben Davis pants, because we’re shown that the ideal of beauty peaks in your twenties, and you had better capitalize on it then, before it’s too late, unless you have a great surgeon who can make your mouth resemble Jack Nicholson’s version of the joker, but with fewer wrinkles. Because we all know, wrinkles make us irrelevant and no longer viable.
I was supposed to be a succesful poet or poetry teacher by now. I was supposed to have this whole mess of life figured out by now. I was supposed to outgrow my impulsive tendencies to overindulge by now. I was supposed to be paid what I’m worth by now. At the very least, I was supposed to go play at Disneyland a few more times.
But I’m 42. And more and more often, I find myself recalling past events in terms of decades instead of years. I performed at Burning Man 15 years ago. I still feel like that same person. I lost my virginity 28 years ago- I still remember going and eating a blueberry Eggo waffle afterwards, and feeling like it wasn’t that big of a deal. And I still feel like that same person. I used to do backflips into pools, and I still feel like that same person.
I guess I always assumed that if you were passionate enough, you could stay young, and time could stay in that slowed-down place. I assumed that only drab, boring and uninteresting people allowed time to slip by between their fingertips, day after day, until maybe one day they woke up and thought, ‘what the fuck happened?’
But here I am, about to be 42. And I feel like I’m suddenly thrown for a loop. I’ve been here the whole time, but also, not so much.
I am still turning my big wheel upside-down and spinning the wheels with my hands to pretend I’m making ice cream. I am still learning how to ride a skateboard. I am still doing Dead Man’s Drop on the bars at the playground. I am still following cute boys around the mall. I am still listening to New Jack Swing music and practicing the Roger Rabbit and Kid n Play moves. I am still feverishly taking poetry classes, and doing poetry readings, and joining writer’s workshops, and finding endless inspiration from Ginsberg and Hemingway. I am still that 23 year old girl alone, who first moved to Oakland and didn’t know anyone, and who stretched out her bare legs on her couch and listened to the train whistle in the distance, while early Tom Waits songs lilted out of the speakers as she read Camus. I am still that girl. I am still that girl who had dreams and plans and passions and aspirations.
And also, I am not.
And I am struggling with the reality of this. I am a 42 year old lady who is watching her heroes age and die daily. I am a 42 year old person, who is simply tired so too often. I am a 42 year old ‘ma’am’ who doesn’t turn heads so much anymore. I am a 42 year old accomplished accountant who still isn’t ready to be mature once the time card clicks. I am a 42 year old woman who is still so terribly afraid of being a disappointment and disgrace to her parents. I am a 42 year old who has little, scared parts of her that never left her own 14 year old reality. That 14 year old is still in there, and she is scared, and she is angry, and she is rebellious, and she is still trying to just keep her head above water until she figures out how to swim.
I am a 42 year old who is having a stereotypical midlife crisis, and struggling with the fact that I have become the person I swore I’d never be. And I am a 42 year old who doesn’t want to succumb to it, a woman who wants to find her way out.

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