Tuesday, October 30, 2007

things i will not quit.

I will not quit this blog, even when I have nothing riveting to share (which is probably more frequently than less).
I will not quit exercising, even on days when it seems like it is doing NOTHING (like today).
I will not quit writing, and working at writing, and trying to become a writer who writes for a reasonable living.

Some things I am having a hard time quitting.
I am having a hard time quitting being angry at my dad for getting remarried when he did and how he did, even if he is happier now. Maybe that makes me angry too.
I am having a hard time quitting procrastinating studying for the GRE, which I take in 15 days (I've studied, just without any real gusto or regiment. I mean, does anyone actually study for the GRE with gusto?)

I am having a hard time quitting being mad about a lot of things. A friend of mine who I've known since I was eleven, but I don't feel like writing about it at the moment. About my mom dying. I'm not good at being angry unless it happens in an explosive outburst that ends in a few seconds to thirty minutes. After that, the way it feels to be angry is uncomfortable and like I don't have a right to feel it - and so in anger, I try to be calm, collected, happy and/or unaffected. But BEING something and FEELING something is two different experiences that can happen simultaneously, and sometimes they align and other times, they do not align.

Right now, I am having a hard time quitting being in a place of feeling, feeling, feeling everything. Both Feeling and Being so emotional and inside of myself that I can't even articulate events, details or observations properly. How can I quit that? Feeling and Being emotional?

I am having a hard time using my words. Remember what teachers tell you when you are little and having a difficult time expressing what's happening inside of you? Use your words. Use your words. Use your words.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Today is an amazing day outside. Such a fantastic day that I rode my bike to my favorite coffee shop.

I am sitting on the patio. In fact, I come here just to get a chance to sit on this deck and stare at the way the light comes through the banana leaves and also to catch a glimpse of the evergreen wisteria in bloom, which makes an eggplant colored flower that reminds me of dramatic smoky eye makeup on a woman with stunning eyes – the way it is in fashion spreads.

This deck is what makes this my favorite coffee shop (it’s not the coffee, trust me.). There are also bamboo and some succulents around the deck. It’s an odd mix. I love to see the variety that can grow in south Louisiana. –None of it really goes together; a strange mix and match, which is quintessentially southern for me.

A guy next to me is on his computer and seems to not know the etiquette about music – that you listen to it through headphones. That you are not blessing strangers with your incredible music taste when you let your Itunes play aloud through your computer. How can he not know this? Will Emily Post please write a book: re: blackberries, cell phones, text messaging, ipods, etc? Maybe I'll submit something to Wikipedia.

I am obsessed lately with Andrew Bird, particularly with an album called Weather Systems, and more particularly with a song called Lull.

Some of the lyrics: Being alone/it can be quite romantic/Like Jacques Costeau/underneath the Atlantic/A fantastic voyage/to parts unknown/going to depths/where the sun’s never shown/And I fascinate myself/When I'm all alone.

And more: “I’m all for moderation/but sometimes it seems/moderation itself/can be kind of extreme.

Yesterday, I finally began studying for the GRE. Finally. I felt infuriated as I took the diagnostic test, infuriated that a university uses this information to decipher intelligence. When I came to the math part, I wanted to throw my pen in the air and toss my book out of the window. Why not ask if a person can balance a checkbook? Or figure out a grade percentage in case the person should become a T.A.? Things people use math for.

According to my diagnostic, I might make a total of 1070 at this point. It was almost enough to make me decide I’d just forgo studying and take what I could get. 1070’s not bad, right? But my reading comprehension score was pretty terrible, so I thought it could hurt me as potential English/writing MFA…I should comprehend what I read, shouldn’t I?

I won’t go into how I did on the math portion. But, based upon this reading, what can you infer about the author’s test-taking ability in the math portion of the Graduate Record Examination?

a. The author did so well she does not need to study.
b. The author scored below average when measured against other test takers.
c. The author would be happy if she did not have to take the GRE.
d. The author could not comprehend the equations she was reading.

Did anyone understand this post?? Do you comprehend?

Monday, October 22, 2007

documenting change: six.

About, me, the workout queen!

I made a new rule for myself this past weekend. I WILL NOT, during my training sessions, EVER AGAIN say the words, “I can’t do that” in response to the trainer asking me to try out various exercises.

AND, I’ve lost 5 pounds since I started working with a trainer 2 ½ weeks ago! (Technically, I should say, I've lost 6 pounds since I took all this on in July, but it seems to be happening faster now than at first.) Look out thirty-three. Here comes healthy-me.

(Sort of unrelated to anything, but also related to everything - I bought 2 new pairs of shoes on Friday – my very own retail therapy for feeling somber that day, for having had a hard time at the Y that morning and for being not thrilled about the whole novel comment about my story the previous night. One pair, red patent leather. The other, grass green, but not patent leather. Very happy feet, dressed in red cowboy boots today.)

documenting change: five.

First, there is the weather. It is a windy, wintery gray and amazing day in Baton Rouge.

On being and becoming a writer.

A lot of elements are at play right now. Freelancing. I had two articles come out in October in a local publication. One of them reflects very well the kind of “voice” I can see myself using (with some adjustments/tweaks) for freelance work related to traveling, food, art. I have another article out next month, a story about a local food photographer.

I’m learning through this experience – about working with an editor, revisions, fact checking, working with a deadline (I don’t think I could EVER write for a daily.). It’s exciting to see my name in print, which gives me a mere inkling of what it will feel like to see my name next to a work of fiction in print. But, I know with certainty that this is not my medium of choice.
I’m not a feature writer at heart.

I think in addition to fiction, that I could develop my essay writing skills and try to find venues for essay-like features. –I guess this blog is a way of practicing that (as well as being self-directed therapy). Really, the food article (one of the October freelance pieces) was essayish (It was about getting a cooking lesson from my aunt).

I look back sometimes and want to rip entries out of this blog, but I’m forcing myself to keep everything up for now. I’ll edit the blog down to include only my strongest archives when a year has passed. Or maybe six months?

As for the fiction writing, remember my story – the one that I was certain had an ending given over to me by Flannery O’Conner and O’Henry? Well, I started working with a writing group this month. There are three of us now (all fiction writers, though one has just adapted a short story into a screenplay), and hopefully a screenwriter will join us next time. They read my story (which was nerve-wracking to give over to two near strangers who are published), and both felt blown away by the ending, but not in a good way. They thought it was, as one said, “Cruel.” They felt that I’d given the ending over to a minor character in the story, whereas I’d built it up to be an ending that should’ve belonged to the major character – the hero of the story. And I had been so proud of that ending!

Other things they shared. Both liked my writing. One said, “I saw it was 30 pages, and the first thing I do when I see a story that length is approach it from the standpoint of ‘Where will I make cuts?’ but the writing is good, and I couldn’t find anything to cut.” Funny, because helping me cut it down is exactly what I was hoping for. (He did actually find two parts to cut, and they were parts I'd toyed with cutting - so that was nice - to have the same instinct.)

That comment about nothing to cut led to this one – something I had hoped not to hear – “Are you sure this shouldn’t be a novel? It seems like it could be even longer, the characters more developed.” ARG. That’s just not what you want to hear. But I’ll brag too. They both said plain as day that any grad school would be crazy not to take me, that my writing is strong and I’ve got some killer sentences and scenes - which of course ARE things I want to hear (!).

I’ve had a few days to sit on all of this. It felt really good to do that little critique session – to hear from people who are used to reading fiction for how to improve it, and to hear from people who don’t know me/care about me. It felt, not to seem too silly, but it felt downright exciting for me. I also think that what I’m going to do is work toward making that story really work as a story, but if I get into grad school, maybe I’ll use it to develop a novel out of. I had actually already cut out a good deal of material before I sent it to them to read. I’m glad that next time we’ll be discussing one of their stories. I’m looking forward to practicing my own editing/critical skills with fiction.

Other things I’m working on related to writing – well, there is only one, and that is grad school. I am studying for the GRE, which I take on November 14th. I will be completely thrilled when that is over. I am not the best test taker. I’ll also be thrilled when all of the applications are turned in -February 15th. [And I'll be REALLY glad when I get in somewhere and they tell me they want to give me a full stipend. I gotta hope!...]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

documenting change: four.

On my globe-trotting dad.

As I reported, he left Ghana after only two weeks and jetted off to India after a stop in Dubai. My dad is at once practical and impractical. It’s something I love about him, but also something I loathe, depending on the particulars when this quality comes into play. I’ve tried, in story form, to write about characters who embody this contradiction, but I haven’t got it quite right yet – other than to come up with a great line of dialog: “If I’m a poet, I’m a practical poet.” [NO STEALING LANGAUGE, please. That’s MY line. I own it.]

Two weeks into his stay in India, he emailed us to say he might cut his trip short, that he was already tired of traveling. And a week later, he emailed to say he was getting married.

How does one, oceans away, make sense of this all? Days later, (a mere six days after his 70th birthday - and that milestone birthday is of no small significance to his action) he was married. To a woman twenty years younger. Younger than that, even. Married. I’m trying to get over my embarrassment in saying this, because I know in my heart that embarrassment is not really a productive or even reasonable emotion for this situation.

After days of crying more tears than I knew I was capable of, I began laughing about it. Sarcastically telling my friends: I’m a stepdaughter. My stepmother is just old enough to have been my teenage mom. Oh, and she’s not old enough to be any of my sisters’ mom. I’m so happy.

So, what is this really about? My dad is in a new phase of his life. He is beginning anew. And so have I been. That’s fair. He had my mom for forty-three years, and he loved her. My practical poet dad can be quite romantic, quite sensitive. He cries unabashadly during sad movies, and that, without fail, moves me.

But even in trying to accept and respect this change, I am sad. And I am angry. Selfishly, I have not been ready for my life, for my family make-up, to change the way it has. As if I have a choice. You couldn’t normally say that I’m the kind of person who fears change. Now, for the first time in my life, I empathize with people who dread change, even as I am working so hard to embrace the changes I have no control over and to steer changes that I am capable of steering.

This is what I hope more than anything at all – beneath layers of sadness, anger, confusion, fear, feeling insulted and wounded and unprepared, and even embarrassed – this is what I hope. I hope this woman is a good woman. A really good person. I can literally see what that hope looks like in my head – it is like a light, a glow of orange and pink and red – the colors the sunset turns in the dessert. Have you seen a red/pink/orange iridescent sunset transform the sky of southern New Mexico in the wintertime? That is what the hope for a good woman for my good and deserving dad looks like when I shut my eyes and tell myself the truth about what I believe should be, given the reality we're now living in. My mom would want no less for him.

But I’ve got to find a way to be a more forgiving person, so that I can feel happy about that hope, so I can toss those other layers, thick like sweaty woolen blankets, off of me. So that, if indeed she is a good person, I can learn to love and feel grateful for her.

It’s a difficult change to maneuver, easier to resist.

documenting change: three.

Health, fitness, motherhood - on not wanting to be like my mom.

In a previous entry I wrote about my mother’s health. That it was poor. I wrote that there are ways I’d like to emulate her, but her physical health is not one of them.

Right before my sixteenth birthday, in fact, if I remember, it was either Christmas Eve or Christmas night, my mom went to the emergency room. She hadn’t been feeling well. When the doctors saw her, they advised that she needed to have triple bypass surgery right away. If you had seen her, you would never have imagined that her arteries were so clogged that she could potentially keel over of a massive heart attack (which in fact, is exactly how it happened sixteen years later). She was about 5’4, had a small-frame; she had a belly blamed on having birthed four girls, but she was never grossly overweight. She was actually quite petite overall. Of course, now, if you read about it, you’ll find that when women hold weight in their bellies it’s a sign of heart-unhealthiness, not merely motherhood.

When my mom had the bypass surgery, I remember, in my own hormonal adolescence, feeling angry. Why had my mom had me so late in life (at thirty-six, which today is commonplace)? If she had been as young as the other moms, I wouldn’t have been dealing with a sick mother, the potential to loose her, or with a mother two generations removed from me. These things incensed me, even though at the time I couldn’t articulate the rage. Women hold our mothers to a high standard. We expect from them, all the time almost, so very much. We don’t even realize how demanding of them we are.

Here I am, thirty-two, and when I think about kids – which remain a bigger-than-life-size question mark – the only time they seem somewhat imaginable is when I’m 36, 37, 38. And the closer I get to 36, the scarier that notion becomes. I wonder, did my own failed expectations of my mother prevent me from wanting children as strongly as some deeply long for them?

I’ve always been thin. If you looked at me now, you’d never say I look heavy or unhealthy. You’d notice I’ve gained weight in the last four years or so, but you wouldn’t call it fat. After my mother’s death, and after I quit my job, I felt acutely aware of my weight for the first time. It is almost all in my stomach.

In July, I began going to the YMCA. I made myself go every day for a good three weeks, just so that I would not feel so completely alien inside of a gym. First I just got comfortable walking on the elliptical machine. I didn’t want to do anything that required me to use the locker room. I walked in, went to the elliptical, bottle of water in hand, and I-pod turned on, walked for a half hour, and left. Later, slightly less uncomfortable surrounded by who I perceived to be workout fanatics, I started using the weight machines. Finally, in September, just after Labor Day, I took another big (baby) step – I stepped foot in a class and kept going. As of three weeks ago, the fantasy of training for a triathlon vivid in my head, I began working with a trainer.

I’m a fairly confident person, but this is one area of my life that throws me back into youthful shyness and a feeling that I’m not good enough, that I can’t succeed. When we’re doing various exercises, I hear these words come out of my mouth: I can’t do that. Later, these words and the fact that I spoke them, infuriate me.

It’s nerve-wracking to allow a stranger to see a log of every morsel you’ve eaten over three days, to allow a stranger to measure the diameter of your waist, arms, thighs. In fact, it verges on humiliating. But I did. I find myself in a constant state of soreness. Have I really NOT been using all these muscles all this time?

The other day, I asked what was for me a dreaded questions, “Just how out of shape am I compared to other clients you’ve worked with?” The answer. “You’re in the twentieth percentile. Ninetieth percentile being the best fitness.” And whose face flashed into my head? My mother’s. If you look at me, in fact, the trainer actually said so, you’d never ever know I am so unfit. If you had looked at my mother, age fifty-two, you would never ever have imagined what was happening in her body. Even later, recovered from the surgery, at age sixty, there is no way in hell you could have looked at my mother and seen a massive stroke in her near future. And when it happened, I felt quietly angry at her once again.

I can’t fight my genes. There’s heart disease, there’s diabetes. There's some unspoken depression too. But I can certainly work toward prevention. I think about this consciously when I think of these hypothetical maybe-babies, when I think about being a partner to my husband, when I think about me and all the things I want to experience in life, in my tomorrows.

So, I go to work with this trainer, full of UN-confidence that I’m unfamiliar with at this stage in life. And I think something that no mother wants a daughter to think: I will not be like my mother. I will not be like my mother. Friday, as I was leaving, I said, “Do you think I’ll be ready to train for the triathlon in January?” And he said, “Absolutely. I’ve already got your routine planned out,” (which was certainly an exaggeration). But I left feeling better.

My birthday is in January. I’m going to be more fit at thirty-three than I’ve ever been in my life. That is my goal (part therapy, part vanity). And if ever I do have children, they’re not going to have an opportunity to wonder why I didn’t take better care of myself. To be angry that I waited to have them only to blow off my own health - to not make them enough of a priority to be around for as long as they needed me. (That's one of those counterintuitive things, isn't it - that if you invest in yourself, your health and well-being, you're doing something amazing for your kids. That sometimes just showering them with every ounce of you - your time, nurturing, etc. is only a short-term way of loving them.) It’s something I still get angry about - rational or not, and I don’t want to pass it on.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Among the things I love and feel grateful for, here are three: My husband c. My friend e. My dogs.

The day after I learned of marcie’s death, I had a strange moment. A little conversation in my head. It only lasted about a minute tops – probably less, but in those seconds, I felt like marcie was with me, right in my head talking to me. I felt her. I heard my voice in my head, as natural as it sounds in conversation. My voice said these words: “Okay, marcie. You’re right. I give you credit.” She and I could’ve easily been eating dinner together, maybe chatting on the phone. But it was just in my head. And then I heard her, sort of laughing and chastising at once. She said this: “See, I’ve been trying to tell you that forever.” And then that feeling of marcie in me, that feeling like we were together really talking fleeted out of me.

I stopped to think, what was that about? And I realized it was this. I know my husband because of marcie. And in those seconds, she was forcing me to recognize and acknowledge this fact.

The first time I ever saw him, ever knew who he was, beyond a name I’d heard (a nickname – chi ali), I was twenty or twenty-one. My boyfriend was living in another state and we were in the throws of constant ridiculous long-distance arguing. marcie had taken me under her wing. One night we went to a party, and there he was at the center of a group of people – they were clearly captured by what he was saying. Everyone was laughing. And I wondered, WHO is THAT guy who is the life of this party? I watched him that night, looking, to a girl who was too often melancholy, like he was the most fun in the world. It turned out that he was one of the party hosts. People said, “Chi Ali? You don’t know him?” And I thought, “No, but I’d like to.” People told me, pointing to the building that was the backdrop of this outdoor party, “He lives here, in that garage apartment.”

Maybe at that party, maybe at another of the many gatherings that took place there, I wandered to the side of his apartment and found what was a kind of dada garden that the owner had clearly been styling – There were chairs surrounded by Kudzu walls, if I recall, a toilet with an ivy growing out of it? A kudzu courtyard. At one of these parties, I needed to use the restroom, and went to the apartment of Chi Ali. In it, waiting for someone to come out, I remember seeing his signature on a painting that I noticed and liked, beside the painting, an idiosyncratic collection of objects lining a shelf constructed with wood and string. That was it. I was infatuated with this person who was here and not out of town like my boyfriend. This gardener and painter and collector and organizer of minutia.

I recall also, thanks to e., that after that very first party, the first time I noticed him, I went back to marcie and e.’s apartment where I drunkenly and loudly proclaimed, “C. is SO cute. I have a CRUSH on him.” And I remember e. laughing and marcie laughing, but also looking caught off guard. She probably reminded me, “You have a boyfriend,” before she let herself laugh.

After remembering this all, I thought, consciously this time, I would never have been at that party if marcie hadn’t dragged me there. I was a pretty shy girl, intimidated by big crowds of people. And in my melancholy, I was consumed only with the long-distance boyfriend. And then I knew what that fleeting moment with marcie in my head had been, recognition that I encountered c. because of her – credit I’d never before given her.

It left me thinking about many things, the fact that I know, love and am close to e. only because of marcie. I had locked myself out of my apartment and couldn’t get a hold of my landlord, and I called car-less marcie. She said, “I’ll get my roommate to bring me over. We’ll come get you.” Then I heard in the background, “E! I need you to take me over to herpreet’s!” Bossy marcie. And I thought, “Who is this e. chick? They arrived. Marcie, bringing with her a friend who stayed in my life, a friend I love, love, love. A friend marcie herself had grown up with, a sister-friend.

And the dogs. The only pet I ever had growing up was a bird (there were some fish that died, but I had no attachments.). Later I never wanted a cat, a dog, let alone a fish. When we were in college, marcie’s little Chihuahua, Willamina took an astounding liking to me - though I ignored her, never wanted her licking me or in my lap. (Mina much preferred Marcie’s male friends, and she turned her nose up to most of marcie's girlfriends. It was well known what a little bitch she was.) I suppose because I didn't give her attention, she wanted it from me so badly. I used to shove her off when she tried to cuddle up with me on the couch.

One day Marcie, in irritation with my continued rejection of her dog, chastised, "Mina hears your car when it turns the corner of the street, and she sits in the window and waits for you to get here!" Of course, I could not continue to resist a creature so devoted. It was the first time I realized how smart dogs are, how loyal, and that I was capable of perhaps loving an animal not human.

Now I have two dogs of my very own. It always pleased Marcie how I had succumbed to love dogs and how Mina had been the cause. She never failed to tease me about it. “I can’t believe YOU have dogs,” she would laugh. It literally seemed to tickle her.

These are the ways marcie impacted my life. She introduced me to three of my life-loves. c., e. and dogs. I’d like to see her so I could give her credit, say, “Look how you made a difference in my life, how you helped form it.” But I suspect she knows. Finally, now I know. I don’t need to write more about marcie. Everytime I think of her, I’m going to make sure I remember to say, “Thank you.” I’ll keep loving on her, and I’ll have faith that she senses my gratitude.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

a life, on paper

I think I only have a few more things to share about my friend marcie. Just two more entries dedicated to her. After that, she's someone I'll carry in my memory and heart, and she's someone I'll remember and celebrate with others who loved her.

For the past couple of weeks, a group of marcie's friends have been, with the blessing of her husband, working on an obituary for her. We wanted to run it in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, places she lived for some time. It ran today in Baton Rouge.

I looked at obituaries before trying to get some words on paper. I was struck by how many obituaries do not pay tribute to a person's life. They seem instead, to be marked by grief over the loss of a person. There's space and need for grief, but shouldn't an obituary - words on paper - celebrate and, as best as possible, capture who a person was - what a person's life was? I guess an obituary can't necessarily evoke every aspect of a human being, especially a person complex and dynamic. But it ought to at least try.

Here is what we wrote for and about marcie.

Clara Marciela Smith Marks
August 19, 1975 - September 29, 2007

Known to her loved ones as "Marcie," Clara Marciela Smith Marks was the beloved wife of Jeremy, devoted mother of Ezra and loyal friend to many. She was the youngest daughter of Melba and youngest stepdaughter of James Hollingsworth, all of whom survive her.

An artist all her life, she worked in the mediums of photography, jewelry and painting. Living in Cleveland, she coordinated and oversaw a children's art program and had begun graduate studies in the craft of filmmaking. Marcie's Tex-Mex roots and South Louisiana sensibilities echoed in her work and personality.

Passionate, colorful and nurturing, she was a self-possessed woman who loved fiercely and unconditionally. Marcie's smile lit up a room. Her laugh was infectious. Her day-to-day presence, a kind of feline force, was matchless. Her sharp wit, immeasurable sense of fun, artistry and protective nature, at every age, drew in and commanded people.

She was not a woman to succumb to challenges or adversity. She demonstrated her strength in the way she lived, from age 23, with the heartbreaking loss of her sister, Marisa Smith.

Her nurturing qualities manifested more meaningfully when she bore Ezra, who, from infancy, was her spitting image. At every stage, she felt proud, delighted and amazed by him. She expressed this awe when she looked at him and when she spoke of him.

Marcie was equally grateful for Jeremy. When she told of first meeting him at a French Quarter pub where she bartended, you could see in her expression what resembled a schoolgirl crush. It was a story she enjoyed retelling – how he pursued her though at first she tried to write him off. In the telling, her voice revealed that she was charmed both by him and by her own capacity to love this man.

A memorial service was held on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2007, at The Unitarian Church in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Arrangements were made by Tabone-Komorowski Funeral Home, (440) 248-3320. A memorial service will be held in Baton Rouge in December. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Ezra Marks Educational Fund, Account 2736805900, Chase Bank, 5400 Mayfield Road, Lyndhurst, OH 44124.

Mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and artist. Blue-eyed, blonde-headed, robust and feisty energy. Family and friends are grateful to have been marked by Marcie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


So. I feel like I’ve been neglecting my treerockcloud page.

Truthfully, I am still overwhelmed by a lot of emotion over marcie. She died exactly one year, one month and two days after my mom died. I’m sure somewhere in my psyche, my emotions over marcie are compounded by that. One day I had the instinct to email all of my friends and tell them that if they ever committed suicide I would kill them. But it didn’t make much sense.

I remembered something last night. We actually did cross paths in high school. It was right before we were graduating. We had to do a practice run-through for the graduation ceremony in which we lined up alphabetically outside the school, marched into the auditorium like a herd of sheep, then onto the stage where we were seated. I was standing between this guy p.s., who was a friend. I was glad we were next to each other because he was incredibly funny. On the other side of me was marcie. Standing in line during rehearsal, I asked if either of them new the school alma mater (the entire senior class was instructed to learn it for the big day). None of us new it, and we agreed we’d try to learn it. Of course, we did not learn it (other things are more prevalent on your mind when you're graduating high school).

We three sat in the 2nd to last row on the stage. I remember being so happy to be in between these two people. The ceremony was long, and no one wanted to end up next to a dud for two hours. We cut up, invented words to the alma mater while it was being recited, and generally, had a pretty good time. I remember thinking, “god, she is funny. I wish I’d known her better all these years.” I was not, as I had been in 7th grade, afraid of her. This memory flashed back to me last night, and I thought, how could I have forgotten that? It made me irrationally angry at myself.

I’ve been working to get my head screwed on straight. Last night I talked to e. for a good two hours, and it was the best time I’ve had talking to a friend in a long time. Marcie dying, which at moments feels completely unreal, has had the affect on me of wanting to make sure I have every important conversation with every friend I have. There were times marcie and I were really angry at each other. I had thought, recently, that we were going to get around to talking about some of those things. Resolving things that, in our hearts, we were over, but simply needed closure. I keep combing through my memory, wondering which of my friends do I need to sort some things out with, find closure about our past hurts? How do we have those conversations?

So. That’s part of where my head is at the moment.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Over the next few entries, I want to share my friend Marciela – to evoke the essence of her, to convey what she meant in my life, to demonstrate her strength and love as a person.

An image that captures her – one that renders her childlike, fun, spunky and loving. 18/19/20/21/22 years old, pigtails in her blonde hair, riding on a bike with a basket at the front, and in the basket, her Chihuahua, Willamina – the wind blowing back Mina's ears. Mina and Marcie, smiling. I wish I had a photo. (No one had ever heard of Paris Hilton, and lapdogs in your bag was not a phenomenon at the time.)

Three of my favorite things about her -Her laugh that was infectious and child-like in its pureness. It started out somewhere deep in her chest, came out low and would graduate up into her nose to become this high-pitched nasal and throaty giggle. That laugh, matched with amazing blue eyes that made her look as if she had a 200-year-old soul, and maybe she does. The way it felt when Marcie walked through a door - entered a room. She commanded it. You sensed LIFE when she arrived, and depth and fun and sincerity.

Color. I don’t remember marcie without color. She wore grass greens, turquoise blue, poppy orange. She was not a person to cover herself in black. To be blah. Always pulled together. Her make-up just so, a scent she’d selected carefully, jewelry she made. It was important to her to look good. She possessed her body- womanly, full and sexy. She never looked ordinary. She didn’t look like anyone but her. Her taste, her style – drawn out of her by her own keen eye. Not media, celebrity, Gap storefront windows. This remained true through the years.

She was an artist. A photographer, a jewelry maker, a painter. The paintings and jewelry are what I most remember. Recently she’d started grad school, and was learning the craft of filmmaking. Her paintings – bleeding, saturated colors, evocative of heat, spice, passion, blatant honesty. Her, through and through.

Her artistry, her color, these seeped into the way she organized the space she inhabited. Whoever her roommates were, they had to become part of Marcie’s world. It was a lovely and intense and fun world. You felt safe, cradled, in her space. Earthy terracotta and red clay colors on the walls, textiles draped over windows, Frida Kahlo images on the walls and Catholic saint candles. Tex-Mex meets south Louisiana meets an artist. Forever, now, when I see any work by Frida Kahlo, I will be reminded of my friend.

Music always playing as loud as it could go, eminating through concrete walls. In the early days, Sade, Brand New Heavies, Bjork, Bob Marley, Billie Holliday, Stevie Wonder (You’re the only woman/Boogie on Reggae Woman).

How we met - In 7th grade, she sat behind me in English class. She was oblivious to me. When the bell rang at the end of class, I used to rush as fast as I could to my locker. If I wasn’t fast enough, Marcie would get to her locker first (located directly above mine) and slam it open, inevitably knocking her locker door against my head. I was so intimidated by her presence, which even back then was powerful, that I said nothing. Even if she and I had never been friends later in life, I would have remembered her forever because of this. – I feared her. Marcie loved me to tell this story – she would narrow her eyes and pretend she could not remember ever owning a bullying presence. But she did, all her life, and she knew when to make use of it.

How we became friends - We went to high school together and never really crossed paths. Regardless, we were intended to intersect. Our freshman year of college, we began hanging out. What I remember is that it was a mutual love of Madonna that we may have first bonded over. Anyone who loved Madonna was my friend.

Marcie could be counted on to make you realize what an incredibly amazing spring or fall day it was outside, and the next thing you knew, you were skipping class and sitting with her on the parade grounds. She convinced you to recognize, absorb and be part of a beautiful day. I recall making Baskin Robin runs with her. Riding bikes.

Once, sitting in The Bayou, a bar that is no longer, with her and a.t., we decided we were going to pretend we were invisible – not only invisible, but that we could only see and hear each other. (Before arriving, we’d been engrossed in conversation, and we wanted to keep up whatever intense bonding was going on. No disruptions.) We spent the night completely erasing everyone around us as we drank cheap beer, sucked on lollipops and talked. If people we knew approached us, we pretended we could not hear or see them. Lots of strange looks, but we didn’t care at all. We gossiped, people watched. We created a web that was only the three of us. Marcie had a gift for inventing a momentary situation and convincing others to live that moment with her.

Another time, my now husband approached me in The Bayou. Marcie was VERY quick to command, “LEAVE HER ALONE. She has a boyfriend.” Pounce. She shot that down real quick. If Marcie told you to do something, you listened. She was bossy. Bossy. I asked my husband c. who was bossier of the two of us. Without blinking, he said, Marcie. bossy, bossy, bossy.

I also remember how, when that boyfriend of mine and I were going through some rough times, Marcie made sure I didn’t sit alone in my little apartment. She had me coming over to her place, and she kept me fed and with constant company. I remember nights at her place heating up brie and French bread from the grocery store and eating them together. We used to curl up in her big bed -her and Mina and her roommate e. All of us talking, laughing, dishing on boys, being girls. Marcie knew how to comfort her friends. It was not in her not to nurture.

If you saw how she loved Mina, you saw this. A tiny snapshot of Marcie as a mother.

In those days, and really always, Marcie's friends were her family. Last night we gathered at my house, a small collection of her friends. Someone remarked at the people she surrounded herself with - how she needed to be surrounded by a million different facets. She nurtured every one of us in different ways. I guess we all were reflections of this intense and magical and fiercely loyal woman.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

processing loss

I am not her husband and I am not her five year old son and I am not her mother and stepfather who now have to process losing a child to suicide for the second time. And there's a lot of reason not to feel sorry for them, and there are a lot of m.'s friends who might cringe that I include them in this list. And maybe even, watching over, m. herself is cringing. Somehow, I have to include them in the list of grieving people. Even with tremendous, repeated and stunning error, her mom is her mom who never had an instruction manual.

I am, like a lot of people who are crying over her, m.’s friend. And for m. we friends of hers were very much a family. Disjointed and grown apart as many of us are.

In adulthood, m. and I talked infrequently, maybe every six months. We saw each other at least once a year. When my mom died August before last, she sent me a sympathy card. Those sympathy cards coming in the mail, strangely, had seriously comforted me. Maybe in January or February, I called her. It was when I was first able to reach back out to all those friends who had reached out to me.

I had seen her before that in December. My husband and I had a get together at our house, but that Christmas is a haze. Like m.’s, my friendships have been long, and they mean a lot to me. But I had been petrified to see any of my friends that December. I didn’t know if I could talk to them or if I would want to. It turns out, one of my very favorite memories of m. is from that gathering. Someone else had to remind me of it. She declared with no modesty and with great pleasure that she was “the Kevin Bacon of Baton Rouge,” referring to the drinking game that everyone in Hollywood knows Kevin Bacon by 6 degrees of separation.

That January or February when we spoke, it was a two-hour conversation. The only kind you could ever have with m. And most recently, this past August, just before her birthday, my husband and I had been in NY visiting our friend e. (e. and m. grew up together, and for all practical purposes, they were sisters.)

We were at e.’s sister’s house in brooklyn. m. called e. and the phone got passed around. e. talked to m. e.’s sister talked to m. My husband c. talked to m. And I pronounced with great offense, in a very m.-like way (we could be a lot alike at times), “I didn’t get to talk to m!” (m. would have been so utterly thrilled to know my offense, to know I cared that much.) And e. said calmly, “Call her back.” So I did. And then I separated myself from everyone, and I got in a good conversation with her.

We had commented, before e. first answered the phone, m. is going to be so jealous that we’re all here together. m. longed for her friends, constantly. She longed to be around them and for all of them to be around each other as often and more often than possible.

You don’t realize that a person holds a place and presence in your everyday life until you hear they have died, in this case, committed suicide. When I heard it, even though the m. lived a thousand miles away, and even though we spoke and saw one another infrequently, suddenly I sharply felt the void in the place that presence had held itself.

I want to spew a list of memories, of funny things, of reasons she has mattered in my life, ways she impacted me, but it’s not what I can write about in this moment. I’ll get there. She’d be insulted if I didn’t. I can hear her bossing, “You better.”

All I can muster right now is that everytime I see a Frida Kahlo painting, I'll be reminded of m. I had never even realized before that they were connected in my mind.