The Chinese party’s over. In my little place anyways.

Look fast!

Now you see it!

Chinesepuz1

Now you don’t!

Chinesepuz1a

Like I’ve said, I don’t keep completed puzzles around. The pleasure’s in the process, not in gazing at it when it’s done. That 500-piecer freebie from the library is titled “China Town Festival.”

It was OK. Neither the highlight of my life nor puzzling world. Overall rating: 3 stars. My notes:

* It was made sucky because the entire puzzle was not represented on the box.

About 1 inch of the puzzle perimeter is absent from the box picture. For a puzzle 14″ x 18,” that’s significant missing acreage. 64 inches to be exact.

Anyone who does puzzles, especially detailed ones, which this is, relies heavily on the box graphic. When the box picture is incomplete — i.e., absent, covered by stickers, scratched up, you lose! You stumble, fumble, guess and second guess through the areas missing.

* Pieces are small. That’s not a hinderance unless your eyesight and/or hands are challenged. That’s a nickel; have a look-see:

Chinesepuz4

Was my first with pieces sized between standard and the super tiny ones of mini-puzzles (which I won’t do). Wasn’t sure how I’d like it but I’m game to try anything once. Verdict: 1-1. Win: They take up less space on my limited-size table. Loss: Tiny details are hard to spot.

* “Fun puzzle but one piece missing — circled on box lid. 2nd window up from the ‘Food Co’ over the Sun Win Food Co. sign. Found it!! Oh joy! Complete as of 1/1/2015”

That was a note inside the box.

That person lies!

There ARE pieces missing! Two, in fact! And one a border piece! Sucks. Any puzzler knows the importance of the border. It sets the foundation for the puzzle. Establish border, then fill.

Can you spot the missing pieces? Okay, I’m making it waaaay easy with close-ups!

Chinesepuz2

Chinesepuz3

So that lying note’s going into the trash, to be replaced by an accurate one. Plus I circled their locations on the box. Because I’m thoughtful and helpful.

Here’s a point. Missing pieces are to be expected when doing puzzles from a public pool, I suppose. Still, it’s irksome. And rude. It’s irksome that people are careless and careless about pieces of puzzles NOT THEIRS. They’re puzzles intended for all. Carelessness in general is profoundly irksome to me.

Head’s-up notes in boxes for future puzzlers are thus much appreciated and in my view necessary. They’re courtesy. Ooops, there I go again. Using the c-word! Courtesy. Courtesy has gone the way of the Edsel. However, I’m guilty of being both courteous and very thoughtful. I’ll have to work on ridding myself of those traits if I hope to become a member of the American culture.

* I’ve oft said I’m an Asian trapped in a Western body. Chinese New Year’s means as much if not more to me as Western New Year’s.

This year Chinese New Year’s falls on Feb. 19. Theirs is by the lunar not Gregorian calendar, you know.

I chose this puzzle in the spirit of Chinese New Year’s and aspired to complete it by the 19th. Which I did. With weeks to spare! I’m now ready to embrace the new year!

So China Town Festival is over. In my little place on the hill behind the library, that is.

Back into the library pool it goes. In keeping with the New Year’s spirit, a special celebratory sendoff seems appropriate so …

Sayonara China Town Festival!

Sayonara China Town Festival!

Paramount apartments. A paramount pain in the ass.

Write about a forbidden activity.
January 30 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

I didn’t know. I really didn’t know. Until rap rap rap on the door.

Open my studio apartment door. The landlord. Short, pudgy, moonfaced. Thinning white hair. Friendly and smiling and affable face sometimes. Other times stern and hard-edged and stubborn.

Guess it’s a necessary look to develop if you’re a longtime landlord. He lives on the property. About 20 units in this building. I’m on the ground floor. Right by the common door and wall of mailboxes.

“Are you burning candles?” he asks. The face appears friendly but the eyes and tone tell another story. There’s that edginess.

“Yes,” I reply.

“Burning candles is forbidden.”

“It’s a tealight for a diffuser.”

The landlord, guesstimated age 63, doesn’t know what a diffuser is. I’m not really surprised. I volunteer to show him on the Internet. To his basement office-apartment we go. He googles diffuser. Many images. I point to one similar to mine. “That’s it.”

diffuser

“I see,” he says.

“The water goes here and a scented oil. There’s no smoke and no residue. It doesn’t get into the carpets or walls.”

It’s already been brought to my attention that incense is not allowed. That was another knock on the door another day several weeks ago. When I was informed that once after I’d burned a cheap stick that no incense is allowed and it is stated in the lease, I immediately put away the incense. Check the lease. Yep, there it is, item 24. Never again struck a match near the tip of a stick. Not a once.

Candles too forbidden. Scented or unscented. Doesn’t matter. Size. Doesn’t matter. This I learned the hard way. Hard as in a hard look on the landlord’s face.

I explain that the diffuser is very safe. That not only does the scent from the heated water leave no trace but the candle itself is tiny and sits below a metal bowl. There is no proximity or risk to a wall. No soot or smoke streaks.

He doesn’t believe me. He isn’t listening. He is stubborn and he is refusing to listen to the facts about diffusers. They will not change his mind.

Burning candles is forbidden.

So, as with the incense, I immediately rectify the situation. I go out and buy LED candles. I loooooove candles and candlelight and soft lighting at night. They are the “girly” part of me. What girly aspects I have. haha. I’m a tomboy. Not a girly-girl. And NO, I do not think all babies are cute! Not by a long shot! Some are downright ugly. I don’t wear googoogaga glasses.

Anywho. Back to the candles. All now LEDs. And diffuser: put away.

Complainers have the edge in the Paramount Apartments, I discover. One day the discussion turns to foods and cooking odors. The landlord tells me that if a tenant complains about a cooking odor from X apartment, he, the landlord, will relay the complaint to X tenant and instruct him/her not to cook that dish again. Because it bothers a tenant.

{Are you fucking kidding?!?}

“What if there’s a vegetarian who dislikes the odor of cooked meat?” I present that to help illustrate just how ridiculous banning cooking a dish is because of one complaining aka “offended” tenant is.

“Actually, we do have a vegetarian in the building. I told him that it was unreasonable to ban tenants from cooking meat. It went overboard.”

Oh. But telling a tenant don’t cook X dish because it bothers a tenant is reasonable? Ohhhhhhhh-kay.

So, to stop the chronic complaints at the pass, I print out a dozen recipes with scents … like chili, ham and split pea soup … spicy curry … anything that could potentially offend a tenant. And I submit them to the landlord for his review and signing off.

I cook but one dish in the entire first month there. And finally get his sign off so I’m safe to make curried cauliflower I’ve been craving for weeks!

The odors in the building and my studio are funky. Characteristic of an old structure. Smells also enter from the outside: The next apartment building and the wide downtown area in which I reside.

The landlord acknowledges this.

To alleviate the odors and cleanse the space and with diffuser and candles and incense all stashed out of sight, I turn to a solution of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. It’s not only a natural non-toxic cleanser but cheap too!

Time to time I go about the studio spraying. It helps enormously. To a point.

I bump into the landlord by the mailboxes. He’s just back from vacation. He wears the friendly face for about 10 seconds. Then it shifts. Not a happy look. He looks tough. Stubborn. Like his mind’s made up. No affability found here. No cheery grin. His expression reminds me of the Cheshire Cat.

“Are you using vinegar in your apartment?”

“Yes. A solution of water and vinegar to cleanse the air. Safe. Non-toxic. It’s a strong smell at first but quickly disappears.”

“Already two residents have complained.”

Here we go again. I’ve lived here for all of 2 months. And it’s been complaint after complaint from a few residents, well, maybe less. Could be only one or two but constantly and chronically complaining.

They don’t like the scent of incense. Gone. The scent of a candle. Gone. Scents they say they detect passing by my door. PASSING. For 2 seconds as they go enter and exit the building!

The landlord’s quite chummy with a number of longtime residents. He has no objectivity. His views are slanted by those friendly relations and mutual loyalties. Not the way I’d manage a building but oh well.

“The vinegar’s bothering a tenant. Find a way to keep the scent in your apartment.”

“Uh, how do I do that? It’s an old building. Cracks and gaps are all around the door and under.”

“I don’t know! Just do it.” He’s pissed.

“Is vinegar forbidden in the lease?”

“No.”

Then I don’t see that he has cause to complain or ban its use. But he does, essentially.

“What do you suggest I use then to cleanse the air of the strange odors?”

“I don’t know.” He’s not even trying to come up with alternatives. Not even trying to work with me or toward a compromise. He’s being, in a real way, a bit of a dickhead actually.

“Is there someone else in the building who’s a neat freak like I am and that I could talk to for cleaning ideas or suggestions?”

“No.” Hard.

“I’ve ordered an air purifier,” I say. I’m buying it on my own dime to rectify the issue and put an end to complaints once and for all.

“It’s on its way now,” I tell him. “Will be here in a couple days. It’s a perfect solution. A win-win. It’ll cleanse the air AND cause absolutely no odors for passersby residents.”

He’s not listening. He doesn’t care. His mind’s made up. I’m a problem. I’m going.

Rap rap rap on the door a day or so later.

“We’re not renewing your lease.” It’s a month-to-month lease. For everyone.

“What?! Why? On what grounds?” I inquire with the calm reasoning intelligent mind of a lawyer. I’m not a lawyer but coulda easily been.

“We’re not renewing your lease.” His only answer. No matter how many times I ask: “On what basis?”

Actually, what he’s doing, I learn later, is grounds for a suit. But I’m not a litigious person — aka a modern American. I certainly don’t want this crap or baggage carried on to the next place.

And I certainly don’t want to live somewhere where I’m not wanted and not heard and not appreciated for every one of my immediate and cooperative responses and actions to EVERY issue that’s been presented.

Moreover I have no desire to remain amid CHRONIC complainers. Constant and chronic. It never ends. They’ve been the toxic energies wafting into my apartment. Like poison gas. Never ends. I’ve been targeted and picked on pretty much from week 2.

Moving is a hassle. Finding a new place to live is work. But I’m really not upset to be leaving. I welcome and embrace the change. My fellow tenants, a small handful of them if that, are not my friends. They’re not even nice. I want out and I’m willing to go and in peace (no lawsuit).

And I do. Now I’m here. Another studio — and a better one — a mere half mile or so from the former digs.

Life is very unfair and experience a hard teacher, even brutal. Learn I did. Before I signed this lease, I asked whether candles are allowed. Rather, forbidden. The landlord checked the lease. Only smoking (tobacco) is forbidden. Moot point and the place became mine free and clear. Of chronic complainers. Of judgmental and unfriendly co-tenants. I’ve lived in a LOT of places in my 57 years and never felt so unwelcomed or unfairly and harshly put upon and pushed out for no reason!

I count my lucky stars that I’m outta the Paramount Apartments. And to celebrate, one of the first things I put in place in my new digs were my candles, loved and missed. And my Japanese incense. Neither now a forbidden activity.

Yet another reason to hurl the heels!

The end of the day
January 29 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

About 10 seconds to get it together. Jump out of business attire — good riddance gray pencil skirt, button-up white blouse, matching gray blazer, hosiery and heels. Heaped on the bed, not even hung up. No time.

Slings herself into her real clothes. Baggy blue sweatpants, faded red T-shirt from a 1978 Van Halen concert and Adidas.

Hurry hurry! Veronica pushes herself. Quickly checks her phone. 6:58. I’m gonnna be laaaaaate! I’m gonna be laaaaate! I can’t be late! I’m gonnna be late!

Dashes out, handbag draped on arm. Slams the door. SHIT! Her car keys! Her phone! Visible through the window right where she’d left ’em! On the table!

Now what?! No hidden key. Landlord’s office closed.

Oh shit! Veronica’s shoulders slump. She’s late for the natural birthing class now! The second to the last class too. Can’t miss this one! It’s her lesbian friend Molly who’s due next month. Veronica’s her birthing coach and sidekick.

Shit! Like a kid at a candy store window, she gazes yearningly at the phone lying there so innocently, nakedly and seductively under the bright kitchen light.

She’s gonna be panicking. She’s gonna kill me! Molly’s already in Freak City with the baby due in a month! Less than a month! Weeks! She’s got practically no one! I’m it. Wondering where I am. Calling …

Phone rings. “… about now.

Defeated, back sliding down the building’s side and seating herself on the soil, Veronica tells herself: Plan B. Plan B. Need a plan B.

It’s a ways away but maybe I can still make it if I run. Jumps up and takes off sprinting the 6 blocks into downtown. Thank god I’m in Adidas instead of those hideous heels! Thank god for small favors!

Hand and wrist twisting high in the air. Where are the freakin’ cabs when ya need one?!?

Up and down main street she gallops, holding tight to her handbag. Just what I don’t need, to lose that on top of everything else gone wrong!

Rounds a corner. Spots a light on top of a cab. A block and a half away and heading west like her. At a stop sign. Fortunately a low-speed street.

Can I make it?! Can I make it?! The question of the night. Deep breath. She bolts. Faster than she’s ever bolted since high school track class! Like 12 years ago!

Run legs run! Run! Eyes riveted on the taxi. Closer closer. Legs and arms pumping and still grasping tight the handbag!

YES!!!! Veronica breathlessly pounds on the passenger side window. Startling the driver out of his seat but he lets her in anyhow.

To the hospital! Hurry! Hurry!

Right away, ma’am. Click. Meter on. Wheels turning. THANK GOD!

Traffic flowing, thank GOD! They hit every green light. Thank GOD! I’m late but I’ll get there! Veronica hops out, throws a $20 bill for a ride costing $7.

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! she pushes. And praise these Adidas! A week old and they’ve already paid for themselves, a costly $100 and way more than Veronica would normally spend on any shoes. She was sick of paying for low-quality Payless. Her track shoes were more than a treat, they symbolized her learning to take better care of herself, learning to regard herself with greater worth than she’d experienced in childhood.

Hurry! Hurry! I’m late! I’m late! I’m coming, Molly! I’m coming! Almost there! Racing thoughts and frantic pacing at the elevator. Pushing the button over and over. Like that’s gonna make it come faster!

Poor Molly, all alone in birthing class. No partner to work with. Three weeks from baby. She needs me there! I need to be there! I can’t coach without tonight’s class! I’m clueless! As clueless as Molly! Not like I’ve ever helped deliver a baby before!

DING!

Leaps into elevator. Molasses rise to the 5th floor. Hurry! Hurry! A year passes before doors open. Veronica rushes down the hallway. Past the nurses’ station. Past the snack machines. Past the natural birthing center. Rounds the corner. I’m coming Molly! Hold on! I’m coming! Okay, I’m here! I’m here! Two more seconds!

Throws herself into room 514, gasping.

A circle of 8 pregnant women and their partners, all men except for one gal as coach for her sibling, on mats on the floor practicing. Welcome, Veronica, smiles the teacher, calmly, peacefully. A natural birthing teacher.

I’m soooooo sorry I’m late! So sorry! Veronica hurriedly looks around. Where’s my friend? Where’s Molly!

You just missed her. Now, breeeeeeeattttttttheeeee. Deeeeeeep breath in, she guides the class in soothing voice.

Missed her?! Whaddya mean missed her?!

She went into labor about 30 minutes ago. She’s down in the delivery room. Now, exxxxxxxxxxxhaaaalllle, sloooooowly …

Veronica glances down at her Adidas. All right, shoes, here we go. Off they sprint to the delivery center and waiting room, where Veronica’s forced to remain. Because hospital staff are already tending to labor in progress.

Finally Veronica’s allowed to see her friend, new babe cradled in her arms. Such a beautiful sight! Tears, hugs, apologies, stories of Molly’s birthing experience and Veronica’s lockout and hurry to get to the hospital exchanged. Molly laughs through her exhaustion the whole tale through.

And what are you gonna name your gorgeous godsend little boy?

Without speaking, Molly gazes at her sweet baby’s face and looks up at her best friend.

And that’s how, at the end of the day, a baby boy came to be known as Adidas.

Venus in Pisces: The Sea of Universal Love

Write about “the sky you were born under.”
(after Joy Harjo)
January 28 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

First, who’s Joy Harjo? Oh, a Mvskoke author, musician and poet. OK.

Write about “the sky you were born under.”

Easy peasy lemon squeezy!

I was born under Venus shining brightly at the top of my chart. Smack on the Midheaven. At 16 degrees Pisces.

To those knowing little to nothing about astrology, picture it like this:
You’re on the peak of a mountain. You can ascend no higher. Nothing above you except sky. You’re surrounded by the heavens. Etheric atmosphere. That’s the Midheaven.

It’s night. Of the many many stars above you, there is one shining directly above you. Brightly. A beacon. A heartbeat in the heavens. It’s your heartbeat. Your guiding light in your lifetime. Like the North Star to the sailors. That is Venus — in Pisces. On the Midheaven. At 16 degrees. The sky I was born under.

Naturally all the rest of our solar system’s planets were in position too when I was lifted out of my biological mother. The sun … moon … Mercury … Mars … Jupiter … Saturn … Uranus … Neptune … Pluto. Assorted astroids too. All the players that comprise an astrological birth chart when we are delivered upon the stage of life.

It’s true that astrology is deeply complicated and profoundly complex. It’s true that astrology is a lifetime study. And that even if you devoted the whole of your life to it, you’ll never ever come to know all that there is to be known.

It’s true that astrology is a great passion of mine and has been since about 1985. Maybe even earlier. I don’t recall when I actually bought my first astrology book — and an excellent one it is! I believe I still have it too in a box of extremely whittled-down books stored in another state.

Funny thing about astrology. I’ve always been into metaphysics. Starting with a tarot deck that I gave to my dad one year for Christmas or his birthday? I was around 11. Looking back, what a silly gift! My dad would’ve had ZERO interest! I’m sure he never even cracked open that deck of cards and the accompanying book. But I sure did!

My metaphysical bent, nee nature, just took off. I dabbled in if not studied to working knowledge many “white arts.” Even very early on, I knew to stay away from black magic. Pretty sure I had at least one distant lifetime in it and knew better this time around.

Of all the metaphysical areas, the one that I didn’t believe in was astrology! Thought it was hogwash. Until I started doing people’s charts. I was blown away!

It made a believer of me. The studies deepened from that point forward. Astrology became me. And I it. It was, it turned out, a perfect harmonizing of my extraordinary intuition and my superb analytical / reasoning / skills and objectivity. Pisces meets Virgo. Pisces sun / Virgo moon. The spirit of a mystic and the heart of a hardworking meticulous scientist / student.

Circling back to Venus on the Midheaven — the apex of a chart — in Pisces. The sky I was born under is actually a Piscean sky. With Venus, Mercury and Sun all in Pisces and all in the 10th house. My soul and spirit are awash in the Neptunian energies. The sea is my Source, the imagination my home.

People with strong Piscean energies are, it’s said, old souls. Because in the circle of astrology, the first of 12 signs is Aries and the last is Pisces. It’s all very complex; I’m simplifying.

Among my many gifts is detachment and if I were presented a client chart with Venus smack on the Midheaven in Pisces, I’d say wow! I would. Any planet on the Midheaven is telling and of special significance. Venus there … it gets no higher than that when it comes to universal compassion, unconditional love. It’s the highest and finest of human nature coupled with the divine.

I’d say, before even examining all the other planetary players and their relationships (again, very complex, astrology is), this person is an artist. A visionary. A seer. And see-r.

This person needs to be in a creative field! The 10th house is career in astrology. This person should have a CAREER in the arts / creative expression. A person with Venus in Pisces on the apex needs to be creatively expressing all the time! Any creative endeavor and endeavors, plural, will do!

Venus in Pisces is refined.

In love, it gets no higher than that. Venus in Pisces is the highest point of development and achievement in love in a lifetime. You can go no higher in universal love vibration. It is Spiritual Love. All are One love. Not just mouthing the words or pretending that we are all one. It IS. No one knows it better or more fully than a Venus in Pisces.

With Mercury and Sun also in Pisces and also in the 10th house (top of the chart), well, there’s no denying that the sky under which I was born is one of extreme sensitivities, creative expression, spirituality, universal energies. Jesus, Buddha, angels, etheric beings, guides, spirits on the other side, the list goes on, they’re all my friends and neighbors!!! — and far more preferable than people on planet Earth!

The sky under which I was born is one of a visionary. A mystic. An addict. Every sign — starting with Aries on to Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Pisces — has its positive and negative qualities and escapism is one of the Piscean potential negatives.

I didn’t come to planet Earth because I love people. I don’t. People suck. They ruin everything. I came here to embody and express and exemplify higher energies than those that characterize the dense and dark energies of this planet and, more specifically, its peoples. My calling, so visible in the sky mapping that is our blueprint — and we each have one for if you were born, you have an astral blueprint! — is that of an artist whose Creative Source is the universe.

And that IS the sky I was born under and shall die under since our astral mappings, aka birth charts, remain with us through our lifetimes, reminding us of our missions, shedding light on our weaknesses and strengths, our hurts and our gifts, our struggles and our achievements, our lessons and our missions. It’s all in there. It’s all visible, to me and to any skilled and capable astrologer.

And by the way, as fun and stimulating and illuminating as it is to read charts of those I know, it’s actually more fun and intriguing to read charts of complete strangers! It’s peering into their closet and traipsing through their psyche — all in the good and highest intent of help and service. It’s an adventure, doing charts of people is!

Yeah, should add that to the description of the sky under which I was born: universal traveler / adventurer! Onward and upward toward the ultimate achievement of being liberated from Earth lifetimes once and for all, never to return!! Now THAT, to me, Venus in Pisces, my sky, is bliss!

a Buick, brothers and buried truth

Write about a used car.
January 27 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

He drives a Buick Century, a 1958, Renaldo does. Rennie to his friends, Renaldo to his father and mother, from Mexico, and his coworkers.

It’s a cool machine, he thinks, while admitting he’s not really into cars. Not like his younger brother, Fernando. Freddie to most, except his mother of deep Mexican traditions and culture. Freddie lives and breathes cars. Most machines in fact.

He’s the proverbial tinkerer in the garage. When he’s older, he’ll face a tough time keeping a wife, his mother thinks. Most wives won’t want a man more married to the machines than her. Especially Mexican women.

It’ll take a special woman to stay with Freddie, his mother thinks. Best would be if his wife has a bunch of bambinos and bambinas. Keep her occupied while Freddie’s tuning a carburetor or greasing an engine or whatever it is he does.

Renaldo, on the other hand, he’ll have no trouble getting a woman. And 10 more to top it. Then another 10 on top of that.

Renaldo couldn’t care less about what’s under the hood. Unless that hood’s in a bra. And the bigger the better though he’s hardly picky. He’ll take ’em any way, shape or size. Even a triple AAA cup. That’s right. Take a moment to consider whose boobs are that size, excluding Twiggy and models who stake their careers on anorexia and seemingly gender reassignment.

No one in Renaldo’s huge family knows. Even if they did know — by hunch, by smell, by a courageous willingness to let the truth in — they push the knowing away. Everyone except Freddie.

Freddie, whose whole life from age of 6 to 66 revolved around all things mechanical … Freddie who spent untold joyful hours with his head beneath hoods and blackened greasy hands twisting bolts and body parts … Freddie who seemed oblivious to about everything else in life except machinery though he did manage to produce 3 kids thanks to the wife’s sexy negligees … Freddie whom neighbors and friends called “Freddie the Freak” BECAUSE of his singleminded obsession … it was Freddie who smelled it on his brother.

Scents instinctual not actual. The same olfactory powers that guide a mother to HER baby among a bunch of babies. The same olfactory powers had by good reporters and excellent detectives to smell the truth even when someone’s telling a bold-faced lie.

“Freddie the Freak” smelled the pedophile in his brother Renaldo. Spoke of it a few times to his wife, who adamantly refused to believe. Tested those same waters with another brother or two and their father. Same responses. Total refusal to believe. Renaldo was too nice. Too charming. Too fun. He loved people.

Sure, he loved the women too much. No one argued that. He loved his smokes too. But he was wasn’t THAT kind of a man. No way. No freakin’ way. So “Freddie the Freak” was alone. Completely alone in the truth. His superior gut knowingness and willingness to see the truth were just two more things, in addition to a passion for mechanics, that set him apart from a family of dozens.

Freddie was sickened by Rennie’s attraction to young girls. When once he pictured the actions, he ended up vomiting violently over the toilet.

“Do you have the flu, honey pie?” came the sweet concern from his wife in the other room.

“Could be,” responded Freddie. How could he tell her. No one believed a single word he said about his brother’s … persuasion.

Over time, it ate away at him. Freddie was an honest man. A good man. A superior provider. Loving — enough — to his wife. Had never raised a hand, not once. Not like most husbands in his Mexican culture. “Macho cabrĂ³n,” he thought privately. Macho assholes. He’d not once felt even a twinge of an impulse to raise a hand to woman, child or another human being.

But what his brother was doing … it sickened him so deeply and it angered him profoundly. Even novena and prayerful beseechings to Our Lady of Guadalupe and regular Sunday worship at church brought no relief.

In time, Freddie began to feel that he was somehow responsible for Renaldo’s action with the young girls. Not directly responsible. Rather, passively responsible. By doing nothing, he was contributing to Renaldo’s continuation of molesting little girls.

He didn’t get there quickly, Freddie. It took time. It took his suffering years in silence. It took too many months, years, of not only KNOWING what his brother was doing but increasingly seeing the signs. It took his family shaming HIM — Freddie — for even suspecting Renaldo could do such an evil thing, never mind even suggesting it aloud.

However, when he got there, he got there.

So it was on that one hot afternoon in 1961 that he offered a sweet deal that he knew his brother couldn’t resist. A used two-toned two-door Buick Century. Spanking-new shiny and pristinely restored by his own hands.

Renaldo jumped on it. Relegated his old man’s jalopy, as he called it, to the junk heap.

Grabbed the keys dangled before him by his brother, leapt into the front seat like a gazelle and tore off like Ayrton Senna, the famous Brazilian race car driver. Destination: All around town and down every road and side road around to show off HIS new wheels!

He tore off! Metal to the pedal! The roar of the engine just about giving him a hard-on! Ohhhhh, the ladies would love him now!! They’d flock to him! And the small ones, well, they’d never know what kinda hot-shot car he drove now. They didn’t care. Oh well. A minor cost of “doing business” with pubescent girls, he shrugged.

The tires spun hot! The engine roared like a gorilla’s mating call in the forest! He was king of the jungle, Renaldo was! He was the man of the hour! God’s gift to, well, everything at that moment!

Fueled by adrenalin and machismo, he pushed that pedal all the way to the floor out on that road. Dolly Road, it was called, ironically, after the wife of some important town big-wig long ago. He watched the speedometer climb … climb in the Buick Century. His old-man’s jalopy never reached half this speed! He felt it in his pants. Right hand on the wheel, the left on the giant bulge in his lap. Jacked up on his ride, he pictured, for more thrill, one of the faces of a lady he’d banged recently. Then he pictured the naked body of a girl.

Sexual desire bit him roughly, erotically, at the gruff of a neck like a mother cat grabbing her wandering kitten. Arousal intensified, he loosened his one-handed hold on the wheel. Tires jacked. Left. Right. Left. Right. Renaldo jumped alert. Grabbed the wheel. Slammed on the brakes.

The brakes that “Freddie the Freak” had designed not to work. The brakes that Freddie had designed to slip completely. To save all little girls from his brother.

* * *

Truth is often imbued with irony. Truth is, Freddie wasn’t the freak. It was his brother. But no one would believe. Not a one. So mangled was he that even his mother, who was more fractured and broken than the son she was forced to bury in the ground, insisted on a closed casket.

His service was attended by many many. Everyone tearfully called the accident a true tragedy. They eulogized Renaldo as a good man. A fun man. A friend to everyone. The life of the party. He died too young. He loved life. Everyone cried rivers at the service and burial.

Except his brother Freddie. Who wept privately in his safest place and sanctuary, his garage. He wept not for his brother being dead but for every child he had violated.

The Buick Century was tossed onto the pile for eventual fate with a metal crusher. As for the little girls, their lives would never be the same. Their experiences and memories could not be and would never be crushed out of existence like that machine.

His head bowed beneath the hoods, Freddie prayed for those victims every day for the rest of his years. He asked their forgiveness for what his brother had done — and for what he himself hadn’t done soon enough to that used Buick Century, two doors and two tone, white and baby girl pink.

shadows: in flow.

Shadows.
January 25 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days.”

Shadows. Not the absence of light but revealing the presence of light unseen.

Shadows. On the wall.

Shadows: suck.

Shadows: People I won’t talk about and experiences I won’t share.

Shadows: Men I’ve known. Men I’ve wished I’d never known.

Shadows: Safety. Ironically.

Shadows: The backdrop that illuminates a bullet fired.

Shadows: Coolness in the sun.

Shadows: The Earth’s cast on the moon, a lunar eclipse.

Shadows: Sensual. Enticing. Seductive. A salve. Where I go to escape life’s cruelties and dangers.

Shadows: Where bad things lurk. Bad people. People who will do you harm and WANT to do you harm. That is the worst of all.

Shadows: Where light tries to reassert itself. Tries to catch your attention. Tries to touch your fingertip. Or take hold of your hand, gently {be gentle!} if you can find trust to reach out and accept that invitation.

Shadows: Of the leaves on the tree where Charlie, the beloved scamp canine of my childhood, lies.

Shadows: In jigsaw puzzles, making challenges of the scenery.

Shadows: The safest place of all because people are bad.

Shadows: A cold cold place where there is no mother. {Just because you are born does not mean you had a mother.}

Shadows: Here I come! when I’m depressed.

Shadows: There I go again, into descent, into isolation of shadows, cold. Yet safe.

Shadows: You’ve been my friend and you’ve been my enemy. You’ve been my nemesis and you’ve been my sole port in a storm.

Shadows: Cast by the brim of a hat on a detective’s head. I endeavor to find out what really happened in the shadows of my childhood.

Shadows: I want to speak of you no more at this moment. I pretend you away for now so I may enjoy and drink in the Arizona sunshine.

“Sorry,” shadows, I’m not letting you clench me tight around the ankles and pull me into your whirlwind dark depths. Not today. Not today. Shadows, go away. Today.

broken heart, broken glass, bye-bye lover boy

Once, in the midst of all the recklessness …

January 24 prompt, “A Writer’s Book of Days”

It’s not every American who gets to experience the back seat of a police car in Japan. Tokyo, to be precise.

It’s not the first time that Shige, my lover at the time, and I have had a massive row. Not the first time that he’s shown up at my traditional 6-mat apartment after a night of drinking and all inflamed. {A 6-mat apartment, for those unfamiliar, refers to the number of tatami mats comprising a room; 6 is traditional and small, maybe a 200-square-foot room if that.}

It’s hard not to fight with Shige when he barges in like he does. And he does time to time. Well, not on weekdays as much after our nights out in Shinjuku. I’m not going to explain the fabulous night culture that Japan can offer and specifically Shinjuku. It’s sufficient to write that it’s nothing like the puritanical American culture. In many many ways, people in Japan have many, many more liberties and freedoms than America’s counterparts. The culture there is so different and foreign to Westerners. I miss it.

Shige plunging into my tiny apartment at 6 a.m. Not the hour that’s problematic. In Tokyo, because many pubs stay open till 5 or 6 a.m., our nocturnal lifestyles are not out of the ordinary at all.

His mood IS the problem. His temper, the problem. At the time, I thought of him as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Never knew which I’d get after a night in Shinjuku.

The super sweet loving sexy long-haired (to his waist) motorcyclist creative artist intelligent interesting unconventional samurai-blooded man.

Or the asshole combative ill-tempered unrestrained and possibly inebriated wild man. He was a wild mustang. With a gorgeous mane of long thick black hair {sexxxxxxy!} coursing in the wind.

Our fights, when we fought — rather, when HE fought and I did my best to calm matters and instill reason, very hard if not impossible to do when someone else is out of control! — were legendary at least to the next-door neighbor. David. Also a gaijin (foreigner). All others in the building of about 8 were Japanese.

Who’s to say what set Shige off that night, just one of many reckless and often alcohol-fueled nights. Whiskey was his demon drink. He could handle sake, beer. But whiskey made him mean.

I don’t remember whether I heard the roar of his motorcycle pulling up announcing trouble on the way. If things got ugly at the pub or our outdoor drinking stand, I’d split and go home by myself; 8 out of 10 times he’d follow, eventually.

This night — rather, early morning — he showed up and wouldn’t leave. I wanted him to leave. I told him to go. He was in a bad way. HE was volatile. Again. The better days of our relationship, and extremely passionate it was, ours was a very, very intense connection, were increasingly behind us. Had he already fucked Kate behind my back by this time? I think he had.

Shige wouldn’t go so I called the cops. Keisatsu in Japanese. Or did I walk over there? Don’t recall. The major police station just happened to be a few blocks away. Remember, this is Japan. They don’t speak English there, not really! My Japanese, though sufficiently proficient for my life (of 10+ years) there, I hadn’t learned words like “intrusion” and “I’d like to file a restraining order.”

Eventually I did get those requests across and a restraining order — all in Japanese with, as I recollect, help from a station officer who knew some English? Restraining orders are not a common procedure in Japan like in America; domestic issues are handled so verrrrrrry differently there and typically do not involve authorities.

But that morning, the keisatsu showed up. I wanted Shige off my “property” and he adamantly refused to leave. Typical.

So, if memory serves, a couple cops arrived, took him aside, spoke to him calmed him down. They were probably more than surprised to come into our combination: a Japanese male and gaijin female. Usually it’s the other way around! Western men with Japanese women are a dime a dozen.

Meanwhile, I stood alone, fuming and determined. I was sick of the battleground that had become our relationship. Fed up. Yes, I’m also now pretty sure that I wanted nothing to do with him anymore after the betrayal of him fucking Kate behind my back. He had no right to bother me any longer, pursue me or even talk to me. It was over. Except in his mind.

I don’t know what was said between the cops and Shige. Doesn’t matter. He calmed down and we both ended up in the back of a patrol car en route to the station. We weren’t arrested or being cited or anything. He’d crossed the line too may times. I meant business now.

On one occasion, he’d shattered the window in my apartment. To smithereens. He’d paid for its replacement but still, not the point. He’d wrecked, torn up, destroyed things he’d given me, in front of me, watching. Things he’d made for me that I loved. He’d pushed and hit me more than once; I’m not gonna go into those details.

Not all responsibility for recklessness goes to him alone. Not by a long shot. I’m not stupid or unaware. I don’t heap blame on others for my actions. Makes me un-Amerian, I know!

I had deep family histories and abuse issues I was working through. I knew it back then as I know it today, some 20 years later. Fortunately, my strong inner awareness and introspective nature serve to keep me learning and moving forward rather than stay stuck in shitty places!

And my relationship with Shige had become one. A shitty place where I no longer wanted to be.

Hence it became that I sat in the back of that Japanese police car, Shige too, en route to the station where I filed the equivalent of a restraining order. (“equivalent,” ha!) Watered-down and atypical though it be, it was what I needed. A line drawn in the sand — or rather, the pavement upon which he parked his motorcycle, sometimes to my excitement and sometimes to my dread — that supported my efforts to move away from him, to keep him away from me.

Soon afterward, I simply moved to another apartment in Tokyo. Just upped and moved. Ultimately that’s always the only way to get out and abusive relationship. (Note: statistically, the most dangerous time for women leaving abusers is when there are signals she’s leaving and ending it once and for all.)

Move. Do it. Go somewhere: else. Do NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT inform the abuser or anyone in your common circles of where you’ve gone. Just up and go. Disappear. BE SMART. DO NOT LEAVE A TRAIL. (I could teach workshops on this, I truly could.) It’s the sole ticket to safety … after being in the midst of recklessness — and violence.