Ma is sad because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead. Ma is sad because the whole world feels dead. Ma is sad because two steps back is never more than one step ahead. Ma is sad because the world is sad. Ma is sad because the world is mad and Mitch McConnell isn’t dead. Ma is sad because she wishes Mitch McConnell were dead. Ma is sad because I am sad, but I don’t wish anyone dead. Ma is sad because I’m sad that she wishes McConnell were dead. Ma is said because decency is dead. Ma is sad because dissent is dead. Ma is sad because she is afraid of the tiny men posing in Ruth’s black robe jumping up and down on her grave. Ma is sad because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead and because the Earth isn’t flat. Ma is sad because she can’t handle what’s in her head and that the Earth was never flat. Ma is sad because of what Susan Saradon said because the world will never be flat as the collar around her neck. Ma is sad because it’s only September.
On Juneteenth, Ma interviews @realDonaldTrump before he heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the first rally of his 2020 reelection campaign. No animals or humans were harmed during this interview. We’re not sure what happened after.
Ma: Mr. “President”, you’re headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a big ass #MAGA rally where there’s also a major spike in Covid-19 hospitalizations. Patients are inundating hospitals and overwhelming the healthcare system. By ‘inundating’ I mean that a lot of sick ass people are swamping the hospitals because they’re very very sick. By “swamping” the hospitals I mean very very sick people are overrunning the concrete building in which sick ass people go to get help. Patients are taxing the local healthcare system and putting nurses and doctors at risk of death. By “taxing” I mean the money that you never pay to the federal government because you’re a fraud and a cheat. By fraud and cheat see @realDonaldTrump. Anyway, wtf do you have to say for yourself?
Ma: Seriously, wtf is your problem?
Ma: Mr. “President”, aren’t you shooting your supporters in the face by holding this rally in an enclosed space for an extended period of time?
Ma: Why is Tulsa, Oklahoma so important to you?
Ma: Are you saying that we shouldn’t test and that would make the pandemic go away?
Ma: Mr. “President”, as of today, there’ve been 121,000+ Covid-19 related deaths in the United States. I’m starting to lose my paint chips. What do you have to say about these deaths and to the rally-goers you’ll put at risk?
Ma: Is the pandemic under control in America?
Ma: I get the impression that you don’t care about the American people or your supporters. In fact, it seems like you want to make love to the stock market. (My daughter laughs and says you don’t know how to make love.) Mr. “President”, do you know how to make love?
Ma: Mr. “President”, I get the impression you don’t like yourself.
Ma: Mr. “President”, what makes you happy?
Ma: Mr. “President”, what do you love most?
Ma: If you could be anything, Mr. “President”, what would you be?
Ma: How will history remember you?
Ma: Mr. “President”, let’s reflect upon the last 3 years. Despite being a total piece of shit, I’m mean, the combined sewage systems of New York City, Philadelphia and Atlanta, what would you say is your greatest accomplishment as “President”?
Ma: What’s your 2nd biggest accomplishment?
Ma: Sorry, Mr. “President”. I couldn’t hear you. Care to repeat your answer?
Ma: Dude, what’s your 2nd biggest accomplishment as “President”?
Ma: Ok, so, your 2nd biggest accomplishment is closing the border and ending flights. Whatever happened to the wall?
Ma: I was a hooker once. Not surprised you gave $19.9 million to improve Hooker’s Point. Do you know “Hooker’s Point”?
Ma: Mr. “President”, I’m tired of your bullshit. I’m tired of your “Presidency”. I’m tired of your license to destroy the lives of working class Americans. It’s been unprecedented and everyday it seems like a new precedent is set. By “precedent” I don’t mean “President.” I, like 30+ million other Americans, are unemployed. I need to feed my kid. I need to feed my self. I need a roof over my head. I need health insurance. I need a surgical mask. Look at me. Not those. Look at me here. Into my eyes. Do you have any regrets?
Ma: Are you fucking serious? That’s it?
Ma: I’m sorry, Mr. “President”. It’s just a pen. I’m a journalist. I write shit. One last chance, any regrets?
Ma and I had a fight last night. She threw me in the brig, but we don’t have a ship and there’s no brig. She threw me in the closet instead. Ma has no human strength left so I took it upon myself to throw myself in the brig. I wanted ma to feel a moment of absolute power and control. This is what lifts her spirits in the age of the coronavirus.
This is (more or less) what happened: Once up on a time in a shitty suburban home on a warm and humid night beneath a half-ass moon a woman named ma poured herself a Trumptini: a toxic cocktail that is one part bleach, one part disinfectant, and rimmed with one Tide Pod (or whatever brand you have around). It was 6:49 PM on April 24th, 2020. The kitchen was apocalyptic. I told ma not to take a sip. Ma said, “You ain’t gonna stop me from drinking this drink. I do what I want when I want.” I reached for the glass. Ma reached for my hand. A scuffle broke out between the squirrels peeping-tomming in the window. Bobo the Mutt barked and licked his butt. “This is my goddamn drink,” ma blurted. “It could save my life.” “It won’t,” I told her. “It will kill you!” “I know,” ma said. “That will save my life.”
I thought about this for a moment. And then another moment. Ma always has things to say that make me think about the things I know and believe to be true. In a way, ma is right, death is a solution to life, but not this time, not today.
“Give me that fucking glass,” I shouted. Ma’s nostrils flared like Secretariat after winning the Kentucky Derby. (I love Kentucky Fried Chicken, but not as much as I love Church’s Chicken.) “Today isn’t the day,” I said. Ma said, “Every day is today. It’s all the same in this fucking pandemic lockdown madness. I gotta’ get out of this mess.” “You can’t,” I said. “Bobo the Mutt and I need you.”
Ma went all harlequin on us. Pantomiming her way through the middle part of our fight with a series middle fingers, fist pumps and ending with the Vulcan Salute. That’s when she spoke: “The President says we can disinfect ourselves from this plague.” I rolled the dice, “He also said he can Make American Great Again. Are you better off now that you were 6 weeks ago? A year ago? 4 years ago?” Ma shook her head. Neither yes. Neither no. She bobbled her head and got up. Glass in hand. Ready to strike anyone who tried to take it from her. “Don’t try and stop me, kid” she said. “I know what I’m doing.” “Fine,” I said. “Enjoy certain death.” “I will,” she said and stormed out of the kitchen.
Two hours later ma returned from the laundry room with the empty glass. It’s the first time she ever washed a load of clothes that didn’t turn out half bad. “Look,” she said taking my hand in her hand. “You’re just a kid, but you’re mine. I’ll never leave you like that, at least not without a proper cocktail glass.”
And that’s what happened last night. Today is a new day. One that I won’t take for granted.
(I apologize for using the word shitty and fucking. My not-so-best friend Diego says I shouldn’t curse or use bad words because it makes me sound immature and unreliable. I told him that it makes me even more reliable and credible because this is how real humans talk in the real world when they feel passionate about something. He told me that I’m not real and that whatever I say is a waste of words. I told him he’s a waste of words and a real and unreal jerk.)
Ma woke up depressed, which means she didn’t wake up at all. Bobo the Mutt and I howled and jumped on the bed. Scared the hell out of her. Her eyes discombobulated when they opened. Some of her hair fell out. She batted the air with catastrophic force and her tongue lit. “You foul-smelling cunctators,” she shouted. “Get me my gun!” I lit the cigarette to shut her up. Bobo the Mutt licked her butt. She uncocked the Glock and slipped it back underneath her pillow. I regretted waking her up.
It’s been 33 days of pure isolation and 36 days since ma lost her full-time gig at the bar she called home. The death toll from the virus surged to 37,086 from 21,418 just 6 days ago. There’s really not much else to do but apply for food stamps and unemployment, but the government websites don’t work, so ma made amends to the gods she called friends. It didn’t work.
“Let’s take a yoga class,” I suggested. Ma looked at me and I looked at her. This lasted for about 60 seconds. “Fine,” she said. “I”ll wear my Lululemons.” Ma doesn’t own Lululemons, but she puts lemons in her sportsbra to make her look more crapulous. I searched for “Joachim’s Hot Yoga For Beginners: Pandemic Edition” on ma’s Facebook.
Joachim is a retired elementary school teacher who has way too much time on his hands. He is self-taught, which means he sucks at yoga, but he looks good in athletic wear, which means he doesn’t wear athletic wear. He doesn’t wear anything at all. He’s a yogi, of sorts, the kind that makes you think about the loneliness he must endure. This is fine for ma. Ma has reached the age where form and function are incongruous like Joachim backlit on his patio teaching yoga to vampires in the nude.
The class elevated ma’s mood and stretched her mind. We did down dog, warrior pose, tree pose, upward facing dog pose, warrior II pose, bound ankle pose, and seated forward fold. We also did camel pose, plank pose, side plank, the other side plank, and planted cactus pose. It was a good workout, but ma didn’t really participate in the physical sense. She just watched Joachim stretch his buns in his invisible Lululemons.
“He’s a hot diddy,” ma said. I couldn’t take the temperature of his nipples, but ma was satisfied. That’s all that mattered. Joachim’s insatiable stretching and encouraging words disappeared the prevalence of sadness in our house. When the class ended, ma gave Joachim a vociferous standing ovation. “What a laniferous body you have,” she shouted. Her overzealous smile lasted a generation after Joachim cut the feed.
“Let’s eat,” ma said. “I’m famished.”
Bobo the Mutt licked his butt. Ma crawled into bed instead. I Googled “how to apply for food assistance” and “when will it end” in multiple languages.
I dare you to find the fimble-famble and post it comments.
Easter is ma’s favorite holiday, but it reminds me of the time we spent huddled together with our Seelie Court in a Port-A-Potty while hiding from the cops after throwing rolls of toilet paper at churchgoers. Easter is also ma’s favorite holiday because it’s the only holiday in recorded human history that celebrates someone who (supposedly) has (or is) risen from the dead. The kitchen table is set. The bacon is burnt. The eggs are too wet, but I don’t care because ma is risen from the bed. Bobo the Mutt howls aimlessly in the backyard because he is a fact of canine history. He is also risen from the dead.
“It’s incredible,” ma says. “Truly remarkable. A man rises from the dead when most men can’t even rise out of bed. Truly, remarkable.” (I never know where to place the comma. Commas are the common enemy.)
“Ma, you rose from the dead,” I say.
“For that mimosa,” she says. “Let’s drink to that!”
We drink to that. We drink to this. Ma giggles. I laugh. I’m not of age, but it doesn’t matter because I’m not real and the cops can’t arrest magic. I’m not part of the official record of human history, anyway. I’m just a fiction unburdened by my own holiday.
“Pour me another one,” she says.
Ma is an insatiable bèbè.
It’s been 7 days since ma lost her job, or was fired, or laid off, or furloughed until better days. It hasn’t been a holiday and we’re still waiting for our Pandemic Impact Payment from the IRS. Ma has been a real hot & cold mess and her hair is falling out or off. I can’t tell if it’s the weave coming undone or her real hair or both. Ma got the chills and the shakes last night. She rattled her teeth and mumbled in Roman Numerals, which sound a lot like regular numbers, but more sophisticated. She kept repeating 21418, 21418, 21418. It was, by far, her best Glenn Close moment ever. I was terrified.
The first thing I do every morning is log onto ma’s busted up laptop from 2006 and visit the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard to see the total confirmed infections and total confirmed deaths in the United States and around the world. Every morning I visit the dashboard and hover the mouse over the county in which we live. Every morning I click on that bright red dot that reveals the total number of confirmed infections and deaths in my county. Our country is all lit. I travel from state to state, city to city, to visit the dead. It’s a morbid Easter Egg Hunt. These red dots are all I have to make some sense out of this catastrophe. Ma doesn’t make much sense. She never did.
This morning I logged on again. Total confirmed deaths in the United States: 21,418. I closed the laptop and took a bit of burnt bacon. Ma looked at me all serious and crusty-eyed because she knows I only like medium rare bacon. “21,418,” she said. I nodded my head. She didn’t waste the last sip of her mimosa before she spoke again. “Real people don’t rise from the dead,” she said. “Not even fairies like you and me.”
Ma broke her smile. Bobo the Mutt went silent. I crossed my legs. The eggs.
On March 13th, 2016, ma got a real job. That’s when she told me that I couldn’t be real. The bottom line: ma didn’t want the new employer to find out that I’m real and that we’re related. Ma didn’t want them to find out that we have opinions about things beyond our socio-economic status. Ma wanted to be part of the real economy. I just wanted ma to feel real.
“Shut that shit down,” ma said. By shit, ma meant my blog. By my blog, ma meant me and every single word and syllable that made me possible.
But, I shut it down. I shut myself down for ma because she is my number one and my number two. I shut that shit down so fast lightning’s got nothing on me. I did it for ma because of everything that she has done for me, which really wasn’t much except for providing a roof over my head, at least for most of my existence. Even when we lived in a Buick, we had roof over our heads. Most of all, I did it for ma because who the hell am I to stand in her way, which is always-always our way. We have always been one through the ups and downs and even the eventhoughs.
On March 13th, 2016, ma walked in on me writing what would be my final blog post. “Girl, I got a real job now with real responsibilities. We can’t be acting all ‘fuck this’ and ‘fuck that.'” “Does this mean you’ll be wearing clothes at work?” I asked. “Of course,” ma said. “Well, probably. Depends.”
I never trust ma for more than 30 seconds, but her new job lasted much longer than I expected. Exactly 4 years to be exact. It was a difficult time for me. I only had the memory of my best friend Bobo the Mutt to keep me occupied at night when I was alone and ma was at work participating in the real economy. Ma stopped drinking. I stopped writing. Ma stopped smoking. I started drinking. Ma stopped being ridiculously cruel and insensitive. I became a ridiculously cruel and insensitive drinker. Ma started reading the newspaper. I stopped reading.
Those were the worst years of my life.
I haven’t grown much in 4 years. I still wear the same red shoes because no matter how hard ma worked she never ever made enough in the real economy to accommodate our real needs, but none of that matters anymore. We can barely afford the Buick over our heads now.
On March 13th, 2020, exactly 4 years after my last blog post, ma lost her job, meaning ma lost her way home after getting laid off because there’s no work left for a women behind a bar in city without tourists in the real economy during a pandemic that no one wants to take responsibility for.
Not even the “President” of The United Sates.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” ma said. She was all serious, head down and hands up. The wounds of the past opened up. Secondhand smoke never smelled so good. I mixed her favorite drink.
“I didn’t think he would be elected,” she said. That’s when she puffed a giant cloud of smoke in my face. I inhaled every molecule of that cloud. Even though ma voted for him (twice), once with her real ID and once with her fake ID, she thought he’d never be real REAL. “Who could have imagined?” ma asked. “I don’t know, but what matters is what matters next,” I said.
That’s when I rolled her up in my favorite blanket, pulled out a ragged copy of our favorite story and read to her.
“That night, and for many nights after, the Velveteen Rabbit slept in the Boy’s bed. At first he found it rather uncomfortable, for the Boy hugged him very tight, and sometimes he rolled over on him, and sometimes he pushed him so far under the pillow that the Rabbit could scarcely breathe. And he missed, too, those long moonlight hours in the nursery, when all the house was silent, and his talks with the Skin Horse. But very soon he grew to like it, for the Boy used to talk to him, and made nice tunnels for him under the bedclothes that he said were like the burrows the real rabbits lived in. And they had splendid games together, in whispers, when Nana had gone away to her supper and left the nightlight burning on the mantelpiece. And when the Boy dropped off to sleep, the Rabbit would snuggle down close under his little warm chin and dream, with the Boy’s hands clasped close round him all night long.”
Ma hasn’t left my bed since that day, but it’s okay. I’ve got her back and a plan to burrow us back from the brink of disaster. I’ve also got her drivers license and access to her vast wardrobe of impeccably questionable taste.
“What is real REAL is what you make of it,” ma said that day in 2016. This time, I won’t give up even if it comes for me.
“The brightest memory fades faster than the dullest ink.” ― Claudia Rankine
Ma says I should be more active. Blog more. Write more. Say things that mean something, especially since it’s 2016. She’s afraid that if I don’t write, things will change for the worse. In other words, she’s afraid she’ll be erased from existence. Get lost to the cosmic dust of Internet obscurity.
[For those of you just tuning in: ma and I aren’t real. We are make believe. Learn more about us here.]
That’s the thing with ma. She’s hard to understand and doesn’t understand this: she’s an invention. A figment of my fictitious imagination powered by a mind that’s flawed and unreliable, yet ma’s as real as the scar on my chin, a chin that doesn’t really exist nonetheless. Ma is the boot in the face of a face that doesn’t exist. And the boot, well, it doesn’t exist either.
“And that’s the thing,” ma says. “You’re too psychological. Things like that shouldn’t concern you. Even the ‘real’ are delusional. Whether you’re real or not, doesn’t really matter any more. What matters is what you got to say even if what you say isn’t tangible or touching.”
I tell ma we’re not real just like our words are not real–and no matter how hard we try to mean something and to make that something become meaningful–our lives don’t matter.
“That’s fucking bullshit,” ma says in her piercingly unreal voice. “Our lives don’t matter. That’s why it’s so goddamn important that you make sure they do matter.”
It’s Sunday. Ma is drinking a warm can of Murphy’s Stout. Its caramel skin coats ma’s imaginary esophagus as I sit across from her studying the scars on her face. These postulates correspond to some truth hidden buried in her face. A kind of magical, twisted intellect informs her inappropriate worldview. Her wig is sad and ageless. Her only face since as far back as I can remember.
“Donald Trump isn’t real REAL,” ma says. “We make him real. We give him the time and space to exist in our culture, our politics, and we grant this to each and every one of us. We give him airtime and air hockey. We give him meaning out of all other possible meanings that could exist in his place. Use that space to create new possibilities.”
In many ways, ma is right even though she is flawed. She’s like the women left in these photographs. (Go ahead, click the link. It helps illustrate what I mean.) Without ma, or her words, even though those words or conjured up in the mind of a menace, at least she (sort of) exists. Occupies a finite space that could be occupied by someone else even more self-serving and maniacal.
“For now,” ma says. “Keep writing even though you feel like you’ve got nothing to say because nothing is something that silence can’t trump.”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams.
Ma and I are sad to announce that Bobo the Mutt is dead, but we are happy to announce that we are writing again even if it’s about dead mutts. Bobo lived a long life, a happy life, despite ma’s insistence that Bobo the Mutt was really a cat and not even a real dog with real dog hair and real dog eyes and all the other parts that make dogs dogs.
That damn thing freaked me out, she said. I always expected him to meow.
Last night, ma gave Bobo the Mutt a eulogy or eulogized Bobo the Mutt. She said things to the guests who had gathered to hear ma make slurs and slur about Bobo the Mutt’s fascinating life as a civil rights activist, hippie and unlicensed therapist. When the eulogy ended, not one of his stuffed animal farm friends and family left the room without a tear or the appearance of a tear drawn on their cheeks. It was a cool evening.
Bobo the Mutt was a cool, cuddly dude and pain in the ass weighing in at 4.5 pounds, which includes the ounces. He was nosey and noisy and loved the hell out of mangoes and mongooses. He’d cut ya’ if you tried to get away with not sharing your watermelon. He was that kind of mutt–all selfish and giving–that was selfish and giving.
He loved his pink elephant and he loved his yellow bunny. He loved his green dinosaur and he loved his shredded sheep. He loved his lion king and he loved his fuzzy bear. He loved to lick. He barked a lot. He’d snort like a pig and we loved him so much. He loved everything, ma said. Especially the things he could eat.
That night when we went to bed, that night was last night, ma tucked me in and sang a lullaby to help me fall asleep. It was one of those lullabies that starts with a low hum coming from the shallow shores of the throat then builds up and gets deeper as the source of the lullaby moves deeper in.
Ma didn’t really sing me a lullaby because she can’t sing and even if she could sing she would never sing me a song or lullaby because she is ma and Bobo is Bobo.
I wish I had the teeth to drag him back from the dead, I said. I wish I had the power to reconstruct every one of his ashes into something solid and real again.
But you can’t, ma said. Because once you become real REAL, you can’t ever come back.
Bobo the Mutt, June 2001 – January 12, 2016.
Unicorns. Not being a unicorn. Zombies. Spanish-language zobmies. Corn. Wheat. I already answered this question last week. What makes me most vulnerable is answering the same damn question again because maybe I’ll screw up and say something different. Say something that will contract what I said before, like yellow. Yellow makes me vulnerable because sometimes it’s a mask for blue. I’m not sure what that means, but you figure it out. Writing makes me vulnerable. Autocorrect makes me vulnerable. Sharks make me vulnerable. What makes me vulnerable in Spanish: chupacabras. They exist in my imagination and that’s the only place that matters because what we think impacts us just as much as what we experience. Like dreams. Like nightmares. Like self-doubt. Like fear.
AD: Why do these things make you vulnerable?
Because it’s Wednesday. Leave me alone. I need a carrot.
AD: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change and why?
I would change my shoes. I would change my tongue. I would change my ears. I would change you. I would change my shoelaces. I would change my teeth. I would change my tears. I would change your tears. I would change the shoes you wear when I tear up. I would change the shoelaces wrapped around your neck. I would not wrap shoelaces around your neck. I’m nice. I would change being nice. I would be mean. I would change the desire to be mean. I wouldn’t change anything because I don’t know who I am. I would change “am”. I would change the reason to change. I would change yellow into blue like Jesus changed water into wine. I would change my banana for a cookie.
AD: What makes you special and why?
My ability to fly.
AD: What are some of the major social, political, cultural and/or artistic issues that are very important to you? Pick one or two of those issues and make me care–why are they so important to you?
WTF! Like I said yesterday, I don’t care about anything unrelated to food. I didn’t really say that yesterday. I care about being normal. The desire to be consolidated into butter, which is like being normal. Being normal isn’t like butter. It’s like a banana peel. When you try to define it, you can’t because it’s just a stupid banana peel. Erase what I just said. The only issue that I care about is ma. Ma is the crazy person that lives in the bedroom next to me. She counts sheep in her sleep. She has an imaginary pet rabbit. She has ideas based off of cereal box characters. She wears short shorts. She doesn’t wear underwear most days. She is over. She eats bacon. She eats Twinkies. She lies. She tells the truth. She doesn’t use soap. She uses my soap. She is fucked. She is a ghost. She is a bananahead. I’m done.
AD: Where are you from/where did you grow up?
Like I said yesterday, I’m from ma. I grew up outside of her. Is this a trick question?
AD: In what ways do you think/feel/believe this place influenced your understanding of yourself and your values?
How can ma not influence you. If I know the ways in which she did, I wouldn’t be talking to you today. Leave me alone.
AD: Are you a unicorn?
Are you an idiot?