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 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.
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.
Once upon a time, Yellow met Blue. Yellow was high and his face was blue, probably because of all the smoke in his chest. Blue thought, this is cool. Yellow can hold his breath for a long time while smiling and dancing with a broom. Clowns are never blue. The room was always smokey. Jumbo jets the size of parked cars flew overhead.
This one day, the day Yellow and Blue were in Blue’s red car, Blue asked Yellow what’s new. Nothing new, said Yellow, the look on his face was bearish. Blue hardly believed Yellow because Blue knew things about the world–like statistics and math. Science never lies like religion lies, he thought (or thinks). Yellow was full of God and shit.
Silence is like math. It’s invisible but reveals the universe. How things work and don’t work. How we travel from point A to point B in this or that amount of time. The calorie(s) of a black bean.
Blue: Are you sure?
Yellow: I’m sure.
Then one day in the month of Halloween, because this month is when those (or these) things happen, Blue took Yellow to the zoo in his red car. It was filled with caged pants and shirts, the zoo, not the car. Sofas and pillows.Things used like books that were never and will never be read. These animals were not like the animals in any zoo or the wild. They didn’t consume oxygen or protein. They were like stars: permanent, but not really.
Binary Stars: binary stars are locked in an eternal dance; or a dance that ends when one star crashes into another under the direct influence of gravity; sometimes gravity overwhelms and destroys the things we love the most, like strawberry ice cream and primary colors.
In the parking lot, which was really metered street parking, these two colors, Yellow & Blue, began to phase, or fizz, beneath the bearded sky. This was before the invention of moustaches. Blue looked around Yellow’s eyes and began to notice green and orange, brown and magenta, aquamarine and a billion shades of unidentifiable colors, busting out like broken, abstract lines. Blue recognized the color of radiation on Yellow’s face–a sort of unsubstantiated substance born out of bad weather.
Yellow: Now, I have a reason to live.
Blue: You do. You did.
The car ride home was not a ride. It no longer mattered that the sky was blue because it was just what they could see when they were looking for blue–perceptual shifts are the province of aliens. The car was not blue. Yellow was not Blue. They were not blue. The car was not a car. It was a bike made out of recycled car parts.
Blue: Just breathe.
Yellow: I always do.
Yellow staring out the window.
Color theory states that all colors posses a particular meaning that are somehow fixed and immutable like iron or the Word, but those meanings can be repossessed and renamed by psychology, or men who wear pants to the beach. Math can’t govern the universe like emotions can.
The guy on the beach was reading a book. He looked like Yellow. The tarpon hunted a school of fish, their silvery backs breaching the surface marked a kill–the exact moment of death. The guy on the beach was reading a book that looked blue. The boys in the water photographed the tarpon breaching the surface. The moon was always the moon even though it looked like a sugar cookie. The guy on the beach was reading a book that looked blue, but it wasn’t a book. It was not Blue.
The flip flops were waiting for something else to wear.
Yellow: Do you remember the moon?
Blue: I hate fire to the core.
Finally, before the beach, before the red car parked in a metered world, before the night with the dancing broom, Yellow and Blue met a man wearing blue jeans and a white coat. He stood next to a window. He said things in two languages–each word a vibration, each language a new color spectrum. It sounded like God, Blue said. It did, Yellow said.
There was a pie chart and everything was color-coded.
**Note on the Emission Spectrum: “The emission spectrum of a chemical element or chemical compound is the spectrum of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted due to an atom or molecule making a transition from a high energy state to a lower energy state. The energy of the emitted photon is equal to the energy difference between the two states. There are many possible electron transitions for each atom, and each transition has a specific energy difference. This collection of different transitions, leading to different radiated wavelengths, make up an emission spectrum. Each element’s emission spectrum is unique. Therefore, spectroscopy can be used to identify the elements in matter of unknown composition. Similarly, the emission spectra of molecules can be used in chemical analysis of substances.”
Almost Dorothy: What makes you most vulnerable? List at least 5 things that make you feel vulnerable in English and one in Spanish (or any other language other than English or Inglish). If you are one of those ‘guys’ who says, ‘I’m not vulnerable’, you’re a lying sack of shit. It is true, dumb ass. Answer the fucking question.
Love. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Falling on a loved one. Falling. Cucarachas. Ma.
Almost Dorothy: Why do these things make you vulnerable? Be real, bitch.
Because it makes me hungry. Because it makes me feel like fried chicken. Because it’s like going to church with the devil. Because it’s like having crabs the size of Missouri. Because falling hurts. Because falling is hard. Because love is falling hard. Because love is hard like falling is hard like walls are hard like wood floors are hard like concrete is hard but it wasn’t hard to begin with. It all starts out soft, pliable, almost magical. Like fried chicken. It’s like ma. Like the woman who watches my back with a knife. Like the woman who cooks like a goddamn blind woman in a junk yard. It’s like losing your skin, love. Like peeling onions, but nothing like pickles.
Almost Dorothy: Are you weak or strong when you are vulnerable?
I’m always a weakling and that’s what makes me powerful. Like a bullet without a gun or a gun without a bullet, it’s what it is that makes it powerful. Not what it does.
Almost Dorothy: If you could one thing about yourself (or your elf), what would you change and why?
I would change my underwear more often. I would change the need to change. I would change less often. I would change nothing. I would change the things I’ve changed. I would never ask for change. I hate change. I would change hate. I would wear a hat more often to hid the changes. I would change the hat I wore to the funeral that I never went to. I would have gone to the funeral with or without a hat. I would love you more or less with or without a hat. I would go hatless though a thunderstorm if I knew how to change the past. The past, I hate. I hate the past and the changes that led to wind.
Almost Dorothy: Biggest failure in life?
Not building an animal farm out of real animals.
Almost Dorothy: Are you worthy of love & belonging?
Ma says I ain’t worthy of anything but she’s on crack and fried chicken. I don’t listen to ma cause I know how I feel and I feel I am worthy of love and belonging no matter what that bat says. She’s not a baseball bat, but she hits like one. The other day I went to the mall. It was full of things I couldn’t buy because I forgot my purse or wallet or whatever it is kids are supposed to carry these days. I knew I was worthy of things–of everything–but I just couldn’t buy them, so I stole them and now they belong to me. Don’t tell ma cause she’ll call the cops and cuss me out. That’s how things go between us. That’s what makes us family. That’s what makes us stick together. Makes us belong to one another. Which makes us belong to no one because if they’re gone there’s no one left to belong to. But, then again, I guess the desire to want to belong is belonging whether or not you’re longing to belong. It’s like a sing-a-long without a singing partner. You can still sing-a-long to a song without a partner and feel like you’re part of something. Part of a song. Yes, I’m worthy of love and belonging–and new shoes.