In a bakery in Berkeley constructing a personal zine, typewriter working, cutting board in front of me, colored pens, and a table with red and white tablecloth. Drawing pads for paper zines. There are reference books for zine making too, but the thoughts of creating are maudlin.
Evidenced further by the phone call from my sister saying the dentist will be coming to my mother’s nursing home within the hour, I tell my sister that I am in Berkeley beginning a zine.
It would be embarrassing for me to leave at this point, not to mention the ride back. The fact too that I doubt even with me there, she’ll allow them to inflict her with pain, although her teeth are abscessed. I know it makes no sense not taking more pain to get rid of the pain at hand. It’s 4:10PM.
I’ve been here for two hours. I felt guilty so I have already called back to say that I would try to make it. They haven’t called back. I realize they are doing me a favor. My sister wished they had known given incident-after-incident that she will not allow anyone to help her even for things that aren’t painful and even explaining that she hears you but then forgets what you said and what the doctor said. It circulates until you give up. The doctors have refused to run tests, etc. It was amazing that they were able to put screws in her hip when she had fallen and broken it. I am worried about her slow demise but I am also willing to abandon her potential need for me to attempt a zine on my day off.
I need to change the subject. There are 11 of us in the room. Some are cutting pictures from books, some are writing with pens, some are talking. One is drinking from a cup. One is drawing. One already constructed a zine, a book about the crazy on Seinfeld getting money. The crafter did it with stamp letters and apparently drew a perfect portrait of Kramer. Turns out it was a stamp. There are stamps too of skateboards, a stamp of Saturn, candies, date stamps for a day months ago. There is a compilation of a woman with a rifle and a line of children. This is Darsh’s first zine of the day.
A man comes into the bakery from the back door. He wants a cranberry bar. He is told the bakery is closed. He says he just wants a cranberry bar. He gets one and someone else wants one. The transactions are completed. The music is still playing. The singer is Waxahachie, a bit like Ani DiFranco, who I listened to while on the road to and from Seattle. Then the music stops. Isabel’s drawn a woman in a long dress with the sun behind her.
I am afraid to ask the others what they are doing in case I might disturb them. They mention someone older than most of them who is outside and it is asked if that person was invited. “No,” Isabel said, “I thought this wouldn’t interest her. This is something kids would do.”
I still have no idea how to construct a zine. I’ve done books, but I have this aversion to borrowing others’ images, photocopying them from books. My books have either been photo books or poetry books.
The woman in front of me constructs a hexaflexagon and gives it to me. I almost break it. There is a method for opening and closing it. She shows me. I still don’t get it. I am in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do you know what that feels like to be in a place where you don’t belong day-after-day? Even my passions are work. Things I love to do are so difficult that I end up becoming distracted with them, moving on to the next, never being very good at anything and always seeming to end on a sour note. Imagine everything ending on a sour note.
I fan through a Flash Art magazine issue. On the cover is a picture of Kai Althoff performing “Frausus.” The issue is May-June 2002, Vol. XXXIV.
I am getting the feeling that a girl, the hexaflexagon, is getting creeped out by me. I am just writing but she’s stopped being productive and looks over at me like I am a spy or that I am not doing what I am supposed to, but I am trapped here feeling that if I left now I would have been found out for not having anything to say. I am an observer. I do not participate. I do not make things. I just circulate in my mind in an unproductive state of maudlin feelings, about being frozen in my own time and no one else’s.
Can you imagine publishing these feelings of loneliness and of absolutely no relevance?
The typewriter keeps typing. Someone is making progress. There is a young girl about twenty with perfect posture, who works magically on a book sewing the pages with twine. She doesn’t think about me except as a favorable spirit. I don’t sense uncertainty from her, perhaps because she has a plan and carries it through. I heard somewhere, by an insane man, that if you judge others you remain suspended in space. You exact a curse against yourself. The young girl and her boyfriend are leaving. I guess because as he said, he doesn’t know how to draw and in the manner I might assert in a manner that implies it is a discipline.
Before me is a woman who slipped in the room and who I barely looked at for fear of intruding. She drops her blank-paged book in front of me and begins writing. She’s handsome and lean. She gets herself a pastry and continues writing. She is wearing a tank top and has hair under her arms. It appears she is taking the same methodological journey that I am. First, doing research that at least, for me, seemed overwhelming in the minute. The music is somber and melancholic, women’s voices like traveling along the highways and byways.
One of the primary coop-erators comes in and says: “Did she leave because she couldn’t handle the zine thing? It’s just writing your thoughts.”
I ask him, “Is that what it is?”
He shrugs like I am being critical, but you see he was validating me; why would I be critical?
I am thinking of continuing.
An older woman, who is what I am in terms of age, gets an explanation for the man, who may have thought I was being critical. She walks around in slow, careful steps trying to find her way in the quagmire of uncertainty, at least it is for me.
Isabel’s sister comes in and fairly quickly begins her typing.
The older woman has gotten a pastry. Don’t we always reward ourselves before we sit down to work?
Isabel says, “They show their boobs and then get a necklace.” I turn my head and look at her. The older woman takes a seat in an effort to learn what seems so foreign. She gives a sweet smile to Isabel, who says the book the older woman has is one of her favorites.
The music in the background is banjo and female singing. It is telling of a time and place. I am not putting anything together but negativity.
“I don’t know what I want to write about,” Isabel’s sister says.
I don’t know what I want to write about either.
One man plans to interview people about what they have in their pockets.
The older woman has since left. I assume because of the commitment. The man who is interested in pockets has returned from a dinner break. He is on his computer, I guess, drafting a document, perhaps for his zine. Then he is gone. I guess the commitment got to him too. He had a big next step, except that I later saw him toward the window talking to a girl on her computer, who didn’t seem to be participating. She was cute and he looked at me like I know why he might be asking her questions. She was attractive. Perhaps this was his way of being able to talk to her.
As I explained to Isabel’s mother and Grandmother about a book I was reading that the fetish is an object one can handle or worship that is enough distanced from the person infatuated. I was talking about Wilhelm Stekel’s book, Sexual Aberrations. Anyway, as I look toward him, his eyes meet mine and we are on opposite sides of the room and it seems to confirm what I was thinking, yet I would be curious to know what he was thinking, his motivations for talking to her. Of late, I have been trying to sit next to women in cafes or public places, who I want to talk to. Otherwise, there is simply no real way to strike up a conversation. When you are closer to them, you can find something to say, when something happens.
I look away from him trying to leave him to his privacy. It would be rude of me, or at least hypocritical since I am basically doing the same thing. I am looking for intimacy and love. I am looking for someone with whom I can go off into the world that I want, which is warm and deeply fulfilling. Instead, as I have indicated, I am lonely here and I feel so many others can see and feel that. It is a weakness that I inhabit.
I comment on the woman across from me, the lean one with hair under her arms. She seems to have prepared for her appearance. I am looking at her book full of ink drawings. It turns out she is re-engaging a project she abandoned. It is about a man she knows who is incorporating acorns in chocolate. I tell her she should use the finished product as a commercial for him and she raises her eyebrows but is silent, like that was the idea she had. She says a few words that confirm this and I contemplate the application as the drawing method of making advertising. I see the associative infomercials that employ a dry erase board and a man who talks while he draws, but of course the event was previously drawn and filmed. His voice is later dubbed because it is now sped up to keep people interested.
I want to tell the truth, but I am afraid of the implications. Maybe others feel this way. What do I want to say on a given day except to say how stressed I am and how I don’t think that I can last another year at my job. My separated shoulder hurts and I continuously wake when I am sleeping and I am never rested. I have canker sores in my mouth from where the dentist poked me when she was cleaning. My lip is sore, where I bit my lip a number of days ago.
The woman across from me says she is writing a comment about her friend who is using acorn flour in chocolate.
I make contact with Isabel, who is certainly running the show. She types while paying attention to her sister, who is talking and also typing, and who earlier said that she didn’t know what she wanted to write about. Isabel meets my eyes even before I have looked. There’s that telekinetic communication that seems especially perked between genders. She doesn’t’ condemn me, but smiles warmly.
The point I want to make is that I feel uncomfortable having barely a purpose, trying to push myself to complete the task at hand, which is about trying to listen to other peoples’ lives.
I don’t have one of my own.
One woman talks about her house being on the fault line to the other’s comment about houses that shimmy, this is the woman, who wonders about me.
Typing makes no statement unless read. By the conversation of Isabel’s sister, she appears to be onto something.
The one who wonders – Flexahexagon – is busy on a greater construct. Perhaps one that will describe her story, where every petal will prove flexible in making sense. I told her it would be like a Sylvia Plath poem, but I don’t think she heard me. She looked at me with glassy eyes.
“Does someone have the triangle stickers?”
Two are talking about a Portland trip, both for weddings, different weddings.
I end up talking to someone whose name I forget, a critical theorist, who thinks about permission in a sexual sense.
Isabel did zines with her mother, her grandmother sitting next to me said. Her grandmother is wearing a long-sleeved red blouse drawing with colored pencils and tape that she removes. Her picture is made of complex lines of orange, red, and green. Once she peeled the tape it took on a magical form.
Isabel’s mother is the daughter of the woman sitting next to me – Judy, who they call ‘Day.’
I talk to Isabel’s grandmother about divorce and children, who I don’t have. The music changes from a live pianist to more female voices. Isabel’s mother talks about having just helped her sister move.
One man eats his pizza, moving back and forth like a harmonica over his open mouth. The wondering woman is behind the bakery case in her glasses and sucking on her loopy pop looking over the scene. I guess, although I am not telekinetic, that she is seeing and feeling.
Isabel’s grandmother, a calligrapher for LA County, is making me feel better about myself.
When I asked if I could publish the picture I took of The Wonderer, she said no.
Meanwhile, it would appear that she’s right about us, we who have thoughts of our own, and maybe like me I need to get out of myself. Still, she represents a type of person, an enemy, someone who quashed my ability to tell the truth, apparently not, no matter how hideous.
What are we all here to say? Are we here to be critical of others, to see and quash the ugly truth in ourselves?
“Within the soft heart lies
Colorless thorns — blunt in perception:
Dull or pointed thru trees — clouds —
Where the air is thin where color is
The Hexaflexagon said she never finishes anything, where doing so was problematic. I watch her draw flowers and they seem complete, as you know anything drawn need not have a beginning or an end.
It is merely asking for permission when you assume the answer is no. – Mario Savioni