I am still here in Arkansas. I was going to go to French Polynesia yesterday. I wanted to go. I needed to go. But I can’t go. People were getting turned back home as soon as they land in Tahiti. I heard that a plane came from Paris the other day and the passengers never even set foot on Tahitian soil. The plane got flipped around on the runway after landing. 40 hours in the air and yet they got nowhere.
Almost everything I own is on Juniper, including my sun-stroked heart. I came to Arkansas with a small carry-on bag. I wear the same thing almost every day- my black glow-in-the dark constellation t-shirt with grey jeans and mauve keds and a leather jacket with fur trim. My coat is a flagrant hypocrisy, because I have been vegetarian since I was 8. But I kind of like wearing it because it’s warm and when I wear it I think about the people of the Arctic and one of my favorite films, “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.” The coat is not even mine- another woman’s name is sewn into it’s silk lining, so I can pretend to be her when I wear it. It’s like a costume really. My uniform is a costume. Do you know how liberating both a uniform and a costume are? Einstein did- grey suits without socks, and Johnny Cash- all black, and Tom Wolfe- all white, and so on.
So yea, I’m stuck in the south watching the sky swell with snow, waiting for frost-laced angels to fall. When they fall and pile high enough, I’m gonna build snow people that have seashell eyes and a seahorse mouths and I will lick their faces and watch them melt as the temperature rises. To further embrace the ephemeral, you know?
I’m over here dreaming of blue grass and battling my obsessive thoughts or OCD or whatever you want to call it. Obsess. Obsession. Obsessed. MADNESS. Lately, it’s been severe. Some days are lost entirely to it. It’s probably why I haven’t written to you as frequently. And I know I’ve told you about it before, but I like to tell you how it is right now, so that you can know me fully, so that there are no secrets between us, to remind us both that nothing can stop us unless we let it stop us.
I wish you could be inside my head, when I loop, lackluster, around a thought that never mattered to me yesterday and won’t matter to me tomorrow. It’s so peculiar. Sometimes the thoughts annoy me for a while then go away and then come back to haunt me years later. Sometimes I’m even afraid of my own thoughts, I fear that the thought is more powerful than I am and that it will take over my body and create whatever action is needed to make that thought a reality. I find myself avoiding situations and objects and places due to this. Then there are my little rituals. Like if I am walking and I notice that I have stepped two times between the cracks of the sidewalk, then I have to continue stepping two times or a multiple of two between every crack in the sidewalk, for the entire duration of the walk. So in my head numbers are just repeating- “2,2,2,2,2,4,2,2,4,2,2” and the crazy thing is that I can do that and still carry on a conversation with you. It’s like fuzz in the background of my brain.
It makes decision making laborious and creative endeavors endless. Color, a perpetual hiccup- this yellow or that yellow? When I’m editing a film, I could drown for days trying to get the color to flow right. I wonder how fast I could finish a film without the obsessions? I wonder if you would even like what I created without them? Anyway, maybe you can relate and reading this will give you some sort of comfort. All sorts of people supposedly had this thing called “OCD” – Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Martin Luther, Beethoven and Nikola Tesla whose life revolved around the number 3- 33 laps in the pool, 3 times around a block before entering a building, etc. When applied properly, obsession can be used to ones advantage- a welcomed hole that we can get stuck in and eventually push a daisy out of.
When I lived in New York, I was obsessed with Haitian Vodou drumming. I got hooked after I stumbled into a Vodou ceremony in a Brooklyn basement and witnessed the way that the drums called down and spoke to the spirits. The drum is such a powerful thing. It’s this vibration that creates a connection between heaven and earth, then reverberates outwards. It’s this primordial sound, a sound that started in our hearts, then was replicated through bones and stones, and bronze and alligator skins and so on. Anyway, I have no natural rhythm, so I had to practice all the time and take lessons all the time to make anything sound right. My Haitian drum teacher, Frisner, is the only reason I stayed in New York for so long and I was real lost after he died.
Anyway, Mardi Gras is coming up and Louisiana and Haiti both have cultures that rose out of French colonialism and the boundless spirits of Africa and I’ve been reading a lot of Kate Chopin, so I wrote this fiction piece thinking about it all…..
FAIS DO-DO (GO TO SLEEP)
It snowed from midnight to morning. Mrs. Mayflower and Clementine are still awake and shivering when dawn crawls the color of lavender across the sky. They sit on opposite sides of a locked door watching out separate windows as the sun rises all tilted and tangerine. The sun bounces off the snow and slices though the icicles, blinding them, like the gaze of a thousand honey-burnt eyes. Clementine says, “Shore is a purty sunrise.” Mrs. Mayflower squints and shields her face. Everything hurt. She stands up and starts kicking the door with the rhythm of a wood-pecker pecking. In between kicks she says, “Clementine, your swamp lovin ass better let me out of here, right this instance.” Mrs. Mayflower is pickled and red-eyed. Drunk on madness, drunk on the moon, drunk on death. She is still wearing last nights’ purple velvet dress and diamond earrings. Remnants of bygone days when she could fling money at things to make them disappear. Days when she could crawl in bed and let her body be a naked earthquake- again and again and again. Days before the kids, before the gambling and the affairs and the beatings and the debt. Days before the site of Mr. Mayflower squeezed around her neck, making it absolutely impossible to breathe. Clementine shouts back, “Oh Mrs. Mayflower, I can’t be doin’ that. Not afta whatchoos done. That lil’ Fais-do-do downstairs. Itsa massacre, dead bodies and dreams all ova dis house. I’m gonna have to keep yous locked up till dis snow melts and somebody can take your coonass down the bayou or up the bayou, whicheva ways the nearest cage for kriminals be at.” Clementine sits in the hallway on the tigerwood floor next to Mrs. Mayflowers door. She is squeezing her green lucky rabbits’ foot and rocking Mrs. Mayflowers baby, Lala, back and forth. The baby is sleeping as sweet as cane syrup, thanks to the splash of bourbon Clementine put into her bottle. Mrs. Mayflower kicks the door harder. Fists pounding, eyes foaming, tears the size of orange blossoms bursting forth. She feels the way a circus elephant feels- trapped and humiliated in a world that will never understand her true nature. Mrs. Mayflower shouts, “Clementine, I didn’t do anything that didn’t need doing. You’ll see, I’m a saint for what I’ve done.” Clementine shouts back, “Mrs. Mayflower dats between you and God and da judge.” Bang. Mrs. Mayflower kicked again. Clementine prays, “Mé délivré nouzòt di mal,” Bang. “Deliver me from evil.” Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.
II– 24 HOURS EARLIER
It’s Mardi Gras and Mrs. Mayflower is in unusually high spirits as she prepares to host a dinner party for the entire Mayflower family. I mean, she is the spitting image of a champagne bubble- effervescent and rising. Clementine knows something stinks like crawfish as soon as she sees Mrs. Mayflower with that skip in her step. Mrs. Mayflower usually walks around looking like her head is in a noose. More unusual is the fact that Mrs. Mayflower gave Clementine the entire day off and insisted on cooking the meal herself, which nobody in the existence of existence has ever seen her do. It’s baffling to Clementine that Mrs. Mayflower even knows how to strike a flame to that stove.
III- 48 HOURS EARLIER
Mrs. Mayflower is shopping for the dinner party with baby Lala saddled across her hip. Flowers, chicken, garlic, celery, rice, and Tabasco sauce- because some like it hot. She makes one final stop. The clerk hands Mrs. Mayflower her purchase tightly wrapped in a brown parcel and says, “Be real good and careful with this here stuff. Don’t let it get into the wrong hands or nothin. That’s enough to choke all the gators of Louisiana to death.” To which Mrs. Mayflower replies, “Oh well you wouldn’t believe how big the varmint are at my house.”
IV- THIS INSTANT
Mrs. Mayflower is still banging on the bedroom door and Clementine is arousing both God and the Devil with her profusion of prayers. Mrs. Mayflower thinks about the night before and laughs like a hive of hornets is inside her skull and about to fly out of all her sockets. She feels liberated by the scene beneath them, a scene that Clementine is trying hard to unsee. All the way down the spiral staircase, in the dining room that is lit by a crystal chandelier – there are nine adults and three kids dead with their heads plopped face down in bowls of gumbo ya-ya soup. It’s Mr. Mayflower and everyone with Mayflower blood, including the Mayflower kids. Baby Lala was spared because she was born out of Mrs. Mayflowers affair with the gardener, which she had in retaliation to Mr. Mayflowers affair with her best friend.
V- THE FUTURE
Mrs. Mayflower is in jail, but her perfume lingers forever behind the walls of the Mayflower house. A young couple buys the house at a good price due to the murders, but they are haunted by the ghost of the Mayflower family and end up committing suicide to escape the torment. Clementine raises Baby Lala as her own. Lala grows up more Creole than Cajun. She goes to law school because she is obsessed with justice, but later drops out and becomes the best Voodoo priestess Louisiana has ever seen.