Tuesday, December 14, 2004
People think I’m nuts. They think that I am a killer, a badass, and a dangerous woman. They think that I am a boot-stomping, man-chomping rock ’n’ roll sex thug with heavy leather straps on my well-notched bedposts and a line around the block of challengers vying for a ride between my crushing thighs, many of whom won’t survive the encounter.
That’s what I like people to think, anyway. Some actually buy it. My manufactured mythology had begun on stage in San Francisco, and was full-on folklore here in Portland. My band, The Balls, had become a wild success over the past three years, and we packed a downtown club called Dante’s once a week, as well as clubs throughout the west coast from Seattle to San Diego. My sex thuggery is reserved for only one man, however. And though we fuck like we just got out of prison, home life is domestic. I help with the care and feeding of my boyfriend’s young son, cutting off crusts, giving back tickles. I even own an apron.
Despite my disenchanting normality, however, I get to sing for a living, drink free most places, and I get laid regularly. Life is good.
And now it’s Christmas time, so I’m all extra everything with good cheer. December in Portland can be a dreary spectacle. Right around Halloween, a big chilly sog plops its fat ass over the Pacific Northwest and stays parked there until Independence Day. Even in the gray, spitting rain, however, I’m all atwinkle, heading to Hawthorne Boulevard to skip through herds of wet hippies to Christmas shop. And even though I find those pube farmers highly irritating, I am humming “In Excelsis Deo” and in love with the world, so fuck ’em.
Hawthorne is a main thoroughfare in southeast Portland where, on one block, you can buy a latte, Indonesian end tables, pants for your cat, a vinyl corset, or a two-hundred-dollar T-shirt. It’s a great place to find perfect gifts for the loved ones in your life, and I am going to buy the greatest Christmas gift ever.
“The Greatest Gift of All”: I hear my little fourth-grade voice trilling in my memory bank. It was in a school Christmas play and was the first solo I ever took on stage. It was also one of the few times my mom saw me sing in front of a real audience.
“The greatest giiift of aaall . . . it can come from aaany wheeere!” I sang the heck out of it, if memory serves.
My mom had started beading and was taking it very seriously. She was selling pieces on eBay—seriously—so I’m headed to a store called Beads Forever to get her some killer imported beads, maybe some semiprecious stones. I have a vision of getting her a badass assortment and putting them in a cool, funky box. It’s the first Christmas gift I will buy for her in maybe ten years, and it will be perfect.
“Per-fect!” I sing in a fake opera voice.
I see the store ahead through my swishing windshield wipers and, “Fuckyouuu!!” I sing in triumph, to no one, as there is a perfect parking space directly in front of the store. “ Rock-star fucking parking!” I pull up, swoosh my wet car into the spot, throw it into park and my phone rings. The little lit-up window reads “BDLarge.”
“Dad? Hey, Dad.”
“Hi, sweetie.” His voice sounds heavy.
He sighed. Someone must’ve died. My grandmother. Neeny. God, at Christmas we lose Neeny Cat?
“Your mom died last night.”
“Who?” His mom. Neeny. Ninety-four, lost her mind when her husband of sixty-odd years passed.
“Who?” More sighing. Why the fuck is he sighing so much? Should I get out of the car?
“Your ma. Your mom died last night. They don’t know what happened yet sweetie, but . . .”
I’m literally looking into the store where I’m going to get her Christmas gift. Should I still? My hand is on the door, my car is parked . . . rock-star parking and the best gift ever. No. I say no to this. My dad says something about having to call my brothers and will I be okay? He’ll call me back right away. Love you. Bye.
Love you. Bye.
It’s dark and raining but people can still see into the car, and I must look crazy. I grab the steering wheel with both hands and suddenly I’m sobbing, screaming at the gauges. What the fuck to do?
Where do I go, home? I can’t see. I can’t drive. I call my boyfriend at work. “Hi. Can you come get me? My mom is dead and I’m on Hawthorne.”
My first thought. She is gone. Not my first thought. No. Fucking no. I’m thrashing around inside my body. What the fuck do I do? What am I thinking? No. I peel my mind away like a child turning its face from a tablespoon of cough syrup. No. My first thought.
My first? Thank God. Thank God she’s gone. “Thank God she’s gone.”