Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2002
.this whole damn thing is nothing more than a dream
Ann Mortensen, author of this pomo experiment-in-progress
last saved on November 19th, 2002
I dreamed about you and your oxygenated, rapid speaking after we talked.† I thought you were in my room, and you were quiet, and you were touching me, your smooth, young hand warm on my arm.† I tried to believe this meant you would be near me some day.
Usually, though, my hallucinations are about the people Iíve lost.
I used to dream about the ordinary red head touching me.† That was after she stopped talking to me the first time.† That was five years ago.† She said she was trying not to tempt me, trying not to ruin my life.† Monogamy is important, after all.† One plus one equals two, says the Bible.† Doves come in pairs.† Hyenas come in pairs.† Everyone is a duo, and so every time the ordinary read head stops talking to me, every time she stops trying to tempt me flesh-weak self, I begin to dream about her, her seeing fingers in my hair, her biting teeth purpling my lips.† Pain is concrete to me, evidence of a world beyond the fluidity of words. †Bruising has color.† After kissing, my mouth feels chapped. My veins retain current. †My wrists stay sore.
Milan Kundera interrupts me and I look at him. His hair is perfect-white.
ď...the heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more
real and truthful they become...Ē
But I've been doubting the physical world, lately. Iíve felt skeptical as time becomes memory, and memory becomes dream, and so...
I say, nodding toward theory
...we are, and we arenít, existing and fading and shifting always. But we try to hang on to some thing immutable because we are fools filled with desire.
In front of me on my purple bed is a bowl full of objects, things I collect from the streets and the trails I walk on, small, physical dream shards, juju bits that keep me safe from unreality, reminders of moments from what might have been my real past, but is now really a fictionalized memory.
Or someone elseís fictionalized memory.
I donít always know the difference between me and someone else.†† I often become other people when I write, and there can be a lot of blurring. †For instance, right now Iím a sex sick man with tits on the brain.
Wait a few moments, and Iím a girl who wants to talk about the speed of the decaying universe with her swaggering lips.
A few moments later and Iím an ameba who wants to slip to the floor and never move again.
See how fickle I am?† Perhaps I should control myself, but I know I canít because of the above mentioned erasure thing, not to mention the eternal problem of unfixed identities.
You are not who you think you are from one moment to the next.
Out of my juju bowl, which, at this moment, is physical and round, I take a piece of blue shell from Baja, from the Sea of Cortez. ††Iíve been there twice this year.† I remember it as beautiful.† It is the desert and the ocean all at once.† It is salty and cool and full of fish.† Cardůn cacti cover the hills where dark men wait to mug me or rape me.
Out of my juju bowl, I take a broken piece of blue glass from my depressed exís childhood home, a Utah prairie house full of old, broken things, including my ex and her mother.† But thatís her, isnít it, and not me. ††I like the blue of the glass, though.† I hold it up to my eye and look at it in the light.† It breaks in prisms around me. For a moment, I think I can hear the rainbow light moving.
Out of my juju bowl, I take the last crystal ball from my childhood chandelier.† I taste it with my tongue because I am that way.
Of course I then have to think of your probably perfect 28-year-old globe breasts with their scars like anchors.† Iíve never seen your breasts, but this is how you describe their post-surgical healing.† We only know each other by our words and telephone voices. †We only imagine the fascinating Frankenstein stitching of our broken bodies.† We only hope for soft lips, and absolute confession, and powerful, scratching fingernails. †This is what happens when you meet people on-line.† And when we hang up, when we log off, we become dreams.† I dream your stories on the screen.† I dream your voice made of giggling. †I dream you telling me you take my words to bed with you and sweat.
Yes, Iím pretty sure youíve been a dream.
But the large, dark font doesnít help.† You are still only black marks on a page.† Slippery signifiers I keep trying to hold still.† Bits and bytes on the LCD display.† One click and you and your breast scars disappear.† After weeks without your black words, I know for sure Iíve dreamt you.† Youíve become blue mist to me.
And if dreams arenít real, if mist evaporates, if blue is only waves of watery light, then what have we had?
Milan Kundera interrupts me again because he is that way.
ď...a life which disappears once and for all, which does not return, is like a shadow, without weight, dead in advance, and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime, its horror, sublimity, and beauty mean nothing...Ē
If only youíd been a woman, Milan, because your words are sexy. Maybe you were a woman. One can never tell. Memories shift. Genders Shift. The blue shift of the disappearing universe makes me a little dizzy.
And you, scarred girl, since you have disappeared, since the codes of romantic purging rituals demand that your words and photos become ashes at the bottom of my almost romantic fireplace, we will end up having had nothing, no matter how many times our cells burned hot for each otherís steamy throated selves. But wasn't something there? There and fading all at once, a blue heady mist coming in and out of our ears? We are the kinds who like to invent, though. No, wait.† Thatís me.† Iím the one who invents.† I'm the one with the unfixed identity issues. Youíre solidly alive in a world of data and numbers.† You invent real computer solutions to real computer problems.† You find answers in bits and bytes.
To me, words and flesh and answers are always a dream moving sideways.
My childhood seems like a dream.† I slept through most of it, thank God.
In 1974, the year you were born, there was a chandelier in my bedroom.† I stared at it for hours.† I unhooked some of the crystal prisms, held them close to my eye, and then up to the light.
My parents bought that house after Watergate.† I was 10.† I was a quiet child and picked on, and I didnít care about Watergate. †I cared about horses (theoretically) even though they bucked me off.† I cared about sex (theoretically) in that I cared about Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. †I cared about Robert A. Heinlein because I was a science fiction geek, and a fat girl.† Already I had had 10 years of never fitting in making me cower and squint, my mouth becoming a frown even then.† You were about to understand blue-collar bitterness, you told me.† You were about to learn how to handle the bastards of the universe.† Or at least you would learn this later when men, all men, started wanting to touch you.
I already had many glimpses of yuppie bitterness by then, but I never learned how to handle that or the bastards.
I admire your abilities, your snap and verbal thrust. I wanted to breathe this in.
But then again, maybe none of this really happened anyway. We know how memories are.
Still, Iím mostly sure the clean, short-skirt girls at school would hold the bathroom door shut so I couldnít get out, so I would have to listen to them talk about my thighs and their boyfriends.† And Iím pretty sure I couldnít climb the tree all my friends were sitting in that one day, and so I didnít get to see the naked photos, and so I didnít learn about naked desire for another decade.† And Iím almost sure that 1974 ranch house in the rich part of the Phoenix desert was full of shells.† The previous home owner had collected them in old, pink boxes.† Or maybe they were in brown boxes. I put the larger shells up to my ears and heard air.†† Iím almost convinced their curving spirals filled my room.† I stroked their smoothness with fingers, tasted them with lips, putting the ocean in my mouth.
I was a strange child.
You said only odd things could endure you.†
Jeanette Winterson interrupts me, and I look at her, and I feel what seems to be a deep longing for her thin, British lips.
ď...itís the clichťs that cause the trouble.
A precise emotion seeks a precise expression...Ē
Maybe with some of us itís our desire to avoid the clichťs that kills us.
Iíve always liked to taste smooth objects, and smooth skin, with my lips, and if this is a clichť, my lack of originality will fade into white soon enough. I still like to look through clear crystals. They hide nothing. They contain everything. They are a reminder of the possible real past. I touch the glass and know, for a moment, that something in the 70ís happened, and not just on television.† I hold my remaining chandelier ball up to the light, and when I see the ceiling upside down, when I put the cool glass to my lips, I think of tube socks.† I think of playground humiliation, those clean girls putting sand in my underwear when I was 7.† I think of the music from The Exorcist, and the amusing trauma of bell bottom jeans, and the way you might have tasted in my mouth, and thatís the moment I know youíve really disappeared.† Then I wish for what I shouldnít, that you hadnít gotten me to talk to you.† You and your digital smile and your sky torching words and my ridiculous desire to believe in it all make me feel like I am 10 again, 7 again, 3 again, and instead of tasting you, I taste regret.
But regret is an indicator something real could have happened. Isn't it?
I thought I had tasted enough regret last winter.† It still feels sticky and orange on my tongue.† Or maybe I just dreamed this too.† Maybe the shock of my infidelities, and my depressed ex and her heated, country jealousies, and the ordinary read headís married crying and silence, and the one-night encounters with drunken women who could only ever offer me a beer and a shot, and all their vacillating need, and my desire to melt into the snows of the Wasatch was yet another damn dream.
But, hell, I like hallucinations.† I crave altered states.† I'll create any kind of pain just for the illusion of living. I am, as it says on my office door, a masochistic hedonist after all.
Lee Ann Mortensen, MFA
Hours TTH 1-3PM
Out of my juju bowl, I take a word on a torn piece of paper.
I am dark.† You said you were dark.† I like the dark, I told you.† I like the dark, you said.
In 1996 I was backpacking alone in Cayonlands in February.
This is a leap, but I will continue.
The red desert night was cold, and the stars were so clear it seemed I had invented them.† The dark canyon walls were massive and black to the east, and I thought I might suffocate under them.† I thought I might begin to scream.† But I didnít.† I should have, though.† No one would have heard me.† It would have been cathartic. †It would have been cleansing.† But I was afraid.† What if coyotes or men in jeeps heard me?† What if no one heard me? And, so, no catharsis.
Or maybe this is someone elseís story.† Perhaps I read it in a travel magazine.† I mean, travel magazines are filled with adventure and useful wisdom, arenít they?† We can certainly learn a thing or two from travel magazines.
In 1974 my room was filled with shells, and no giggling, red-headed magazine or dreamy dark woman will convince me otherwise.
In 1974, shells leaked out of my windows, cutting open the screens.† They crunched and tinked as I walked to the bathroom at night, afraid of the spiders because they like the dark most.
When I was 10, I stared up at a spider on the ceiling above my bed. ††††††The spider was dark, and it clung to the wood, and I waited for it to fall onto my stomach or into the shells, but it didnít.† Still, I couldnít move.† I often couldnít move as a child.† Fears paralyzed me. A shy, frog-voiced, sensitive, Mormon-guilt-ridden, queer, fat girl has to fight too much to move, so can you blame me? No, and I am bitter about it all, and so the lies of the universe about progress and glittery stars donít belong in this pseudo-narrative.
But in Baja, they told me spiders and the darkness were our friends.† In darkness, the desert comes alive.† In darkness, things come out that bite and laugh.
At night, in the darkness, I like to laugh and dance.
Once I danced in a cage at a bar and stripped my electricity-blue shirt off, and someone put a dollar in my bra, and I laughed and laughed because I was dancing with a stranger's dollar in my bra, and I was imagining myself dancing with a stranger's dollar in my bra, imagining the image of it's green crinkles sticking out of my respectable cleavage, but the tickle of the bill, the wild, capitalistic nastiness of it, made me want more, much more, and this surprised me.
Or was that something I saw at Hooters?† But they donít have dancing or cages, do they?
You said there was more, much more to you if I was interested.† Who wouldnít bite and laugh wantingly at this?
In Baja, I always wanted more, and wanted to bring it home with me. There was a small, dark, black beach along the Pacific, and I saved sand from it in a Ziplockģ Baggie.† I walked along this beach daily, surf hitting cold into my ankles, and I wanted more sun, and I wanted more salt in my nostrils. I would walk with my switchblade because the men there leer at big, desiring girls in fuchsia bras. †Sometimes, when I felt a little brave, when I didnít worry about the surprise of painful life in the water, I would walk toward the surf, the sun heavy above me.† I would dive into a wave and swallow salt, breathe it in and out of my nose because I am that way. Sand and broken shells stuck to all the creases of my body.† Sometimes grains of it still come out of me when I shower.† I save these bits in an envelope because I can squeeze them between my fingertips whenever I want to.
Out of my juju bowl I take the notes of a song.† They float in to the air and make me want to dance.
I never danced as a child.† I was contained.† I couldnít move.
But I already told you this.
What is utopia but a way of being able to fully forget so we can move again?
There.† Iíve made an important thematic statement.† I promised myself I wouldnít make a thematic statement.† But I lied.† I often lie.† Lying is what I do.† I tell stories, after all.† The black marks on this page are me, and I am them, so what is there to truthfully thematize about when all the world is a shifting mess?
Still, when Iím inside my house, I pretend I am not made of signifiers as I wait for your phone call.† Every minute it could be the real you on the other end worrying about the environment, or telling me my words make you tremble.† Every minute it could be someone equally real trying to sell me a time-share condo in the Yakima valley of Washington.† Every minute it could be a wrong number, a credit card salesman, or a friend wondering why I never answer the phone.† I dream and wait for your phone call, my house filling with sand, dark, black grains crunching under my feet when I go to the bathroom.† Sand rises, pushes out of my window screens, and falls in piles outside.† The neighbors begin to wonder.† But they donít say anything.† If nothing else, they are polite.
Copyright © Lee Ann Mortensen 2002