I’LL BE SEEING YOU: A Memoir

The author persuades her aged parents to go into assisted living. She tells them to try it, they can always move back home if they don’t like it.

Self will never. Ever. Especially after the past year.

You set foot in a certain kind of river and you know that as soon as you do, the current will have you.

I’ll Be Seeing You, p. 30

TransGenre: “I dreamt about my sister, dead these many years”

Another of my pieces. This one was published in Hotel Amerika, the TransGenre issue, 2010.

Copyright reverted to me after first publication. I’m not sure how many people read it the first time, which is why I’m re-publishing here. ALL THANKS TO HOTEL AMERIKA for giving this piece a home.

Ghosts

by Marianne Villanueva

I dreamt about my sister, dead these many years. It seemed she was in a place of ghosts. In my dream, I put my face up to hers and kissed her cheek and said, “I’ll always be your sister.” But she turned her face away and closed her eyes. Her cheek was cold.

I said, “Do you want me to take you away, dear? Come, come! Let us go!” But she only looked sad and didn’t speak.

My son was with me but in my dream he was a young boy. I mean, my son at seven, not the way he is now. He was impatient with my sighs and tears and wanted to get away from that place. He was bored.

I gave him a pencil and told him, “Draw!” He took the pencil obediently. He drew. But it seemed to cost him great effort.

Now and then I would peep at what he was drawing: a series of empty rectangles. I asked him, “Why don’t you put people in your drawings? See, here, and here, and here. They’re all around us!”

He looked up and slowly I saw understanding dawn on his face. He filled his drawings with the outlines of people. I understood then that he, too, could see them, these ghosts.

I told my sister: You are under a spell. You should never have gotten married. She nodded, but she didn’t seem to want to do anything about it. Eventually I left, I left my sister there in that cold white house in the middle of a barren plain. The landscape looked like that of a northern country, all bare brown fields as if struck by winter. All white trees.

In the back seat of my car was a white box. It made an angry buzz. I wanted to throw it away but I couldn’t because I knew somehow that there was something in that box that belonged to my sister.

When I got to my own house, after a journey of some distance, I took the box out but now I felt it contained something evil, I wanted to get away from the box but I felt some sense of loyalty, too, because in that box, possibly, were pictures of my sister.

Eventually I forced myself to open it. Inside was a collection of photographs. My sister was in all of them, but around her were people I didn’t recognize. They were on either side of her, staring straight at the camera. My legs felt numb. There was a terrible ache in my chest and my cheeks were cold.

A leaf had turned. A leaf had fallen. It was a Thursday in September, I saw from the calendar on my desk. The 23rd of September.

After Parkland

WILL WE EVER LEARN?

March for Our Lives, March 2108: Courthouse Square, Redwood City, California:

This generation of kids has been through the wringer. How many of them, self wonders, had to start college on zoom?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Two-Thousand Dollar Sock: The Final Story in BIRDS OF A LESSER PARADISE

Self knows what she feels most like writing from the kind of books she chooses to read. There was a year she read only travel books. Travel books by women. Two years ago, she decided to read books written on, or about, islands.

Hard to say what the theme was for her 2020 reading. In the early part, she read a lot of science fiction. Towards the end, she read some great books about American politics: Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, by Larry Tye (Five Stars), and Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy, by Edward Ball.

She stayed up all night reading Megan Mayhew Bergman’s short story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise. (This was a year for really excellent short story collections: Caroline Kim’s The Prince of Mournful Thoughts, and Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory)

In the final story in Bergman’s collection, the main character’s dog has swallowed one of her socks. He’s done this before, the sock always works itself out. But this time, she’s not so lucky and ends up having to take the dog to the vet.

  • I said we’d do anything, but I was worried we couldn’t afford to treat him. I knew his eyes would convince me to mortgage the house, become a one-car family, eat ramen noodles five days a week.

It reminds self of that time when her beagle, Gracie, went into seizures. Self found her one morning, tongue purple and hanging out of her mouth. She rushed her to the vet, and the vet said self would have to take her to a more equipped vet hospital. They would put her in intensive care: $1,500/day. And self decided, right then and there, that she couldn’t afford it. And she cried her heart out in the vet’s office, after calling son in Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (He did not want to put her down). They let her hold Gracie when they gave her the shot. Self was depressed, non-stop crying, for at least a month. That was one of the hardest decisions she’d had to make in her life (Gracie had cancer; new tumors kept popping up, in strange places: in her mouth, under her tail, in her breasts. A new tumor a week, by the end)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Icon

I have no words.

Oyez has a list of landmark cases she argued. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

Fight. Like she fought.

What a warrior.

Anthony Huber, 26, Skateboarder

Grew up in Kenosha, attended Lincoln Middle School.

“He loved skateboarding.” — Tim Kramer, ex-classmate

Became one of two men killed by Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Self is reading an article in the September 5 – 6 issue of wsj. The article, by Chris Kornelis, is about Tony Hawke, skateboarding icon (picture below, she cropped the wsj photo)

In the first reports of the Kenosha shooting, self read that Huber tried to hit Rittenhouse with his skateboard, but was otherwise unarmed. This detail is what fixed the image of Anthony Huber in her mind.

Last year (Self’s doing a lot of sighing over LAST YEAR), self watched an adaptation of Andrea Levy’s Small Island in London’s National Theatre with son, daughter-in-law, and Amy Toland of Miami University Press. After, as the four of us walked towards the Waterloo underground, we passed a skateboarding ramp. It was just before midnight. The skateboarders were out in force. After seeing a play, there is something so mysterious and gripping about the sound of people going up and down a skateboarding ramp — up, down. Up, down. Over and over. The skateboarders’ own private, wordless mantra.

Self remembers finding the sounds almost hypnotic — as expressive, in their own way, as the words she had just been listening to for three hours (It was a long play, she loved every moment)

So there were the four of us, walking. And self remembers being very, very happy in that moment. London is such a great city: who puts a skateboarding ramp next to the National Theatre? Londoners, that’s who!

So she is particularly saddened by the fact that Anthony Huber was a skateboarder. There was no reason for Anthony Huber to go toward the danger of Kyle Rittenhouse. Only something instinctive, maybe a skateboarder’s instinct.

Never forget.

Tony Hawk, 52, Skateboarding Icon (from wsj, Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 5-6, 2020)

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965

March 7, 1965: the March on  Selma

John Lewis, in light coat, on the ground

33376.png

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Thank you for your service, sir.

Melancholy

Perhaps it’s this damn covid-19, but self is feeling mighty melancholy today.

To match her mood, today’s excerpt from Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves is from a section called Finality and Grief:

  • It remains unknown how widespread the sense of finality is and how much it relies on a mental projection into the future. But members of at least some species, after assuring themselves by smell, touch, and revival attempts that a loved one is gone, seem to realize that their relationship has permanently moved from present to past . . . It also reminds us that all emotions are mixed with knowledge — they wouldn’t exist otherwise . . . Life goes on, as it should, but individuals are unique.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Last Short Story in Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory

More of the You that You Already Are

The Situation: The narrator works in a theme park called (self thinks) PresidentLand, and his job is to pretend to be Chester A. Arthur, which as we all know is not as fun as pretending to be FDR or even Jimmy Carter. Anyhoo, the narrator’s sister is also dying of cancer. And he needs to work because that is how he pays for her medical insurance. One day, his mother calls:

Your sister is going into surgery and she is very scared.

And I’m like, You want to get a job? Cause if not, who is going to pay for this surgery?

And she’s like, You know I can’t work on account of my shaky hands.

And I go, I know, Mom. Could you put Ramona on, please?

I wander into the midway and linger by the McKinley Shooting Gallery.

Ramona takes the phone and goes, I wish you were here. Mom is being so crazy.

And I go, I wish I was there too. How are you doing? Mom says you’re scared?


And right there is when self’s heart breaks into a million little pieces.

Self’s Dear Departed Dad said, before he died, I’m scared.

And self’s Dear Departed sister looked at self with such fear, and then she died (She was 34, she got streptococcal pneumonia)

And then self’s DEAREST Sister-in-Law Ying, who was more like self’s sister, got leukemia Stage IV and told self, I’m scared. And then SHE died.

SPOILER ALERT    SPOILER ALERT     SPOILER ALERT

The narrator manages to sneak out of the theme park (first stashing the head of his President, Chester A. Arthur, behind some bushes) and rushes to the hospital and he’s really upset and asks a doctor if his sister’s dead. The doctor says, “No, not dead, no! She’s just comatose.”

Self really feels for this story because when she was a lowly adjunct professor in Foothill Community College, her Dear Departed Sister-in-Law, Ying, was dying in Tel Aviv. And out of a feeling of terrible desperation, self took one week off and gave her class make-up assignments and flew to Tel Aviv. And when she returned to her class, the Dean was extremely extremely irate. And self never did recover her footing after that. Because Ying died. She died a few days after self had returned to teaching. So that was a really bad time. The worst. Also because the Dean cut her no slack. That was so long ago now that self hardly feels any anger at the Dean when she writes this.

Stay tuned.

 

Poetry Monday: “Like the Molave”

Excerpt from Like the Molave

by Rafael Zulueta y da Costa (1915 – 1990)

Note: The molave is a Philippine hardwood, resistant to fire, used frequently in the construction of Philippine churches and dwellings, now extinct in the Islands.


VI

My American friend says:

show me one great Filipino speech to make your people
listen through the centuries;
show me one great Filipino song rich with the soul of your
seven thousand isles;
show me one great Filipino dream, forever sword and
shield —
speech eloquent and simple as our My Country ‘Tis of Thee;
dream age-enduring, sacred as our American democracy!

Friend, our silences are long but we also have our speeches.

Father, with my whole heart, I forgive all.
Believe me, your reverence.

 

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