I tried to give up eating meat twice in high school. It always seemed like something I would give up, even though in high school who I thought I was was always shifting. Some things solidified early, and I always cried for hurt horses in war movies, ignoring their fallen riders. I couldn’t watch The Never Ending story because of poor Artex, sinking in the sand because he couldn’t think of a happy memory. I would have gladly sacrificed gangly Atrayou with his fast eyes and shrill voice.
In college I finally gave it up completely after watching a video in an ethics course called “Meet Your Meat.” In a room full of people I cried on the communal desk tops as cows throats were slashed and pigs were chased with metal poles. Pigs can’t lie or steal. Maybe they do sit in the sun and fail to contribute to consumerism or choosing the next president, but that just makes them more likable and innocent.
After years of trying in vain to get up meat I went home and threw a plastic wrapped pound of ground chuck into the garbage. Spaghetti with meat sauce used to be my favorite, but now I can look a cow right in the soulful black eyes. Suddenly it was easy not to eat meat. I’m not sure it was just the movie, maybe the timing. Meat stopped seeming like something to eat and more like a thing. It doesn’t repulse me, but it’s not edible.
I drew a cat face in orange flavored chapstick once, at four or five, carefully outlining whiskers and a triangular nose in the upstairs bathroom with pink curtains. Really, nothing about the bathroom was red, but we all called it “the red bathroom” until we painted it yellow when I was much older. Now we call it “the big bathroom.”
I was disappointed with the finish product, determining orange had been the wrong color choice, too subtle and transparent, but it did smell nice. Private disappointment doesn’t last long at four or five, and I forgot about the face paint and went on to something else.
Sitting on the front porch with my mother and her friends later that evening, Lydia, the southern, pretty one with blond hair grabbed my head in her hands and said, “what’s on your face?” It took me a moment to remember drawing the nose and thin stripes of whiskers. It suddenly seemed very silly to say it was an effort to draw a cat face. I hadn’t done a good job, after all. More than anything I didn’t want to say what I had tried to do. Stammering and prickling with heat I said I’d been playing… It’s my first memory of humiliation.
Other than Ringo, Paul was always my least favorite Beatle. Which is to say, I still loved him like a boyfriend, father-figure and god-like-being at fifteen. Just, compared to John and George, he seemed a little square and self-involved in a reasonable way.
There was also something about Linda Eastman McCartney, stepping into the scene late in the game, having already been married and a civilian and photographer, which I wanted to be, that rubbed me the wrong way.
But I always loved the McCartney album, the inset photos of Heather and Martha the sheepdog, a cat in a field, baby Mary stuffed into Paul’s jacket. They didn’t look edgy, just freckled and happy, a world of four, which I guess they were at that point.
Now that I’m grown I hope it was as ideal as it looks—shirtless children running barefoot and dogs without leashes. For me, those family photographs might be heaven.
My parents bought the house where my mother still lives in the early seventies. When I was born I shared a room with my older brother. The curtains were navy with red trains and the wall paper, I know now, had confederate shields—though I can’t imagine where you even got wall paper like that in 1977 when he was born. My crib was between two windows.
When I got older they moved me across the hall, where the curtains where filmy and pale yellow and my bed had drawers beneath it the perfect size for our neighbor, Mikey.
I left the yellow room for the pink room next door, the guest room that doubled as my grandmother’s when she came to stay. It seemed so pristine and careful, like an etiquette book, until I moved in and put stickers on mirrors and posters on doors and didn’t like it anymore. The pink wall paper sprang maze-like up to the ceiling.
My mother refurnished the attic for me when I was a little older. I had a dream the doors to the eaves sprang open and never slept up there again. In the end, I moved back to where I came from—my brother’s room, painting over his black teenage angst with forget-me-not-blue and stringing up beads and Beatles posters. Looking back, I should have realized I would like moving so much.
Someone gave us a huge vase of roses when my grandmother died. Some where a pale silver-purple that made the petals look thick like velvet, and others were yellow and white. My mom and I shared my grandmother’s room while she made “arrangements” and split up the furniture with her older brother and I moved the roses next to my side of the bed.
Even when they wilted and grew head-heavy and dark, I would stare at their tutu-like ruffles of petals and think of cakes and thin scarves, tulle, old-fashioned bathing caps and parasols. When the petals began to drop I ripped them all from the stems and put them in an abalone dish my grandmother had used for stray jewelry she hadn’t put properly away. Grandmothers have things like that.
Really, there was and is no negative association I can come up with regarding roses—despite the obvious.
My grandmother loved birds. She kept an old-fashioned metal trash can—like the one Oscar the Grouch lived in—filled with sunflower seeds: deep black like little beetles with slick shells. She used a coffee can to measure out allotments each day. When we visited I helped my mother count feeders. Some where pieces of two-by-four sliced and strung up, others were mini huts with thatched roofs. In the middle of the yard there was a mini plantation house on a pole—at least, I think there was. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what was there, and what I wished for.
I got fired from a job as an insurance underwriter at 22. I still don’t know what I was supposed to be doing, so it doesn’t surprise me now I was fired…but at the time it seemed unexpected. I walked from the east side to the west through Central Park. The sky was blue and there were bright yellow leaves on the gallery.
When I got to 9th Avenue I sat in a friend’s living room and cried while her small daughter offered me a honey bear jar as a condolence. ”You can borrow some money, if you need to,” she told me.
How do people get adult lives? Real ones, with long term addresses and money they say they can loan you? Does anyone say what they do and believe they’ll be doing it another year? Decide to get a loan or a husband and know they’ll still like it next fall?