Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes

It starts in my fingertips and my feet. I flex them, crack my ankles, stretch my fingers as far as I can until it hurts a little. It works up to my calves, forearms, knees, elbows, shoulders, hips... In and in until I can feel it beating around frantically behind my ribcage. I can feel it in my teeth, too. I have this fierce need to grind and bite and it's not enough. The feeling won't dissipate until I've DONE something. And then my mind shuffles like a slot machine, desperately trying to find that particular cure.

Pull your hair
Pop bubble wrap
Clean something
Scratch at something
Brush teeth vigorously
Curl up in a ball and pull everything close until it passes

My brain picks one, for no sensible reason, and fixates on it. The idea pulses in my brain, and even if I don't want to do it, the energy in my body won't stop, and my brain tells me it won't ever stop until I give in. It's so easy. Just give in.

Just one hair, I tell myself, and it'll be okay. I'll be able to breathe a little. My fingers search my scalp for the one hair that will satisfy the most - scraggly, coarse, unworthy of my head. I pull at the root. My fingers tell me there were more like it in there. Just two or three more right in that neighborhood. The weird energy kicks up higher. I pull again in the same place. That wasn't it... there are more... My jaw tightens, toes flex, whole body contorts trying to release the ants running through my veins. Nothing nothing nothing works. And while I'm pulling or popping or scrubbing, I hate myself and this weakness. For whole minutes there are two JoBivs, one coaxing the other as though she's pointing a gun menacingly.

JoBiv 1: It's just chemicals, JoBiv. It's not your fault. It's stupid to hate yourself

JoBiv 2: I know it's stupid, and that's even worse. Am I stupid about this by choice? Oh I am a low, low being.

JoBiv 1: You are not. Settle the hell down. Put down the fucking sponge and breathe, fer goddsakes.

JoBiv 2: Well maybe I LIKE being this way, eh? Maybe it gives me a reason to be upset, instead of always wondering why I feel like crap. THIS is why; because I'm out of control.

JoBiv 1: All of that is allowed, Jo Mary. Take a breath.

JoBiv 2: Fuck you! I won't ALLOW anything, goddammit! Allowing means caving in, and I should be stronger than that. It has to be in me to be stronger.

JoBiv 1: Is there a rulebook or something? Where did you even GET this shit?

JoBiv 2: Waaaaaaaah... Oh god, I'm out of control AND I'm a big fucking crybaby! I hate myself!

(The cycle continues)


On a somewhat lighter, but related, note:

The Baby Mama had three hours free today and decided to go grocery shopping. She bought four of everything Gerber sells for Stage 2 babies; i.e. Bananas, Carrots, Sweet Corn with Sweet Potatoes, Apples with Blueberries -- exciting stuff. As I knew she was in a hurry to get the groceries put away and get back to South Boston, I made myself busy putting ice cream sandwiches and frozen blintzes away. After putting most of the other groceries, including the baby food, on shelves and in cabinets, the Baby Mama excused herself to pump before heading out.

Cut to the same kitchen scene, ten minutes later. JoBiv is on her knees in front of the canned food shelves. The baby food has been grouped by type, then arranged in rainbow order, from Carrots to Pears with Prunes.

"Wow. You organized it all."

"Umm... yep."

"Well that will be helpful."

"Yeah, I thought it would be nice to be able to see what's there instead of searching around."

"Definitely. Wow. Umm... thanks, Jo. You didn't have to do that."

Oh, but I DID.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

HEY-ee you've got to hide your love a-way

I woke up today with the astounding realization that I have merely three days to wait before I hear about the fellowship. Not The Fellowship of the Ring, the BPL Children's Writer in Residence fellowship.

I'm trying not to care too much, but my heart actually quakes a bit whenever I think about it. Poor lil heart. It can hardly take it.

And speaking of hearts, our favorite Three-Hearted Fool, Shane Tamika Colligan, has this park named after him in Wellsville, NY. The dedication is on his birthday, July 3rd. In Wellsville. Which is not a bustling metropolis, not easy to get to, no major hotels nearby. I could fly into Buffalo and stay with my favorite David, Doktor Blouin. Or I could go to Rochester and stay with Teenie or my friend Leah and drive down with someone. I could Amtrak, Greyhound, Segway... many options.

Maybe by then I will have used my Masshealth for the powers of Good, gotten myself some therapy, organized my finances just so. Or maybe I'll dig a little hole, per usual, and pretend that none of it is happening.

I'm still feeling like a BIG ASS about Leah and her cancer craziness. A mantra runs through my crowded brain, fairly often, and it goes like this: "Be a better friend. Be a better friend. Be a better friend."

Perhaps it's not sinking in? Why am I so hesitant to throw myself into the loving arms of my St. Bonaventure friends? Why was I so freaked out by the sound of Leah's voice when she called the other week? Why, oh WHY, does a reunion with Shane's friends feel like an impending and terrifying torture?

I know I'm being childish. I'm caught between this sort of defiant, possessive emotion, a kind of "but Shane was MINE" feeling, that keeps me from sharing my memories of him with other friends who knew him. At the same time there's this squishy, ultra-vulnerable, perhaps partially rotted piece of me, this VERY childish part of me, that whimpers something more like, "None of you were here. None of you could help me when I needed it. I won't let you help me now."

My solution, and I admit it's a flawed plan, is to pretend to have a strength that's actually beyond my capabilities. For everything. For my nerves regarding singing, the fellowship, anything having to do with Shane, my family... It goes directly against my self-imposed law that I should be more honest. What's my deal?

Don't answer that.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


While I'm listening to the baby self-soothe (read, cry piteously until I give in and rock her to sleep), let me tell you something:

I did phenomenal things yesterday.

I called Masshealth (I got coverage! YAY!) and some loan consolidation place. I wrapped and sent a prezzie to a certain Chilean prisoner. I went to the mall and bought a much-needed summer cardigan, on super sale, after taking stock of my ratty sweatshirts. I made it back in time to meet Meera at Booksmith, where I bought Fortune's Bones with a gift certificate.

I tell you, I had many adventures.

(Just so you know, the baby actually DID self-soothe, which just proves that I'm the best nanny EVOR.)

So let's give me a round of applause... Okay... no, that's enough... and then let me tell you about choir and how much angst it's giving me.

ANGST, I tell you.

Hmm. I just thought for a long while about how I would phrase any of it, and I don't think I can do it. It should suffice to say that I'm getting some attention for my voice, and I'm riddled with panic because of it, for many reasons.

I can tell you that the absolute highlight of last night's rehearsal was the surprise of about thirty 4th grade orchestra members scrambling around in the music room, readying their instruments, shoving cases to the far side at Tom the Bass's booming insistence, running back and forth excitedly... I wish I could have sat in on their concert. I'm sure it was deliciously terrible.

I can also tell you that I am not looking forward to next week's rehearsal. Actually, I kind of wish the whole season was over already.

Monday, May 23, 2005

JoBiv is the worst friend EVOR

I always tell myself that my many tics and fears don't affect other people much. They mostly have to do with me, what I think of myself, how I try to control what I don't like about myself... They don't all make that much sense, but at least they don't harm other people, right?

But then there's this stupid phone thing. I tell myself that it's okay that I email people back when they leave phone messages, but do I always remember? Of course not. By the time I get to a computer, my time is too short to remember all of the things I need to do. I've written reminders, of course, but those just seem to end up in the washing machine, leaving pulpy little messes where useful information used to be.

I'm trying to tell you that I have been a horrible, terrible, insensitive friend because of my fear of the phone. My friend Leah from St. Bona's called a while ago, left a message even (though I don't remember this), and I didn't get in touch with her. She didn't want to tell me over the phone that she had thyroid cancer. How did I find this out? I answered the phone without screening, for once, because I assumed it was Sarah buzzing to get into the apartment, two minutes after she'd called to say she was at Liquors Foods.

Somehow, through my momentary panic at having been forced into phone contact with a completely unexpected person, I was able to be a friend to Leah, ask her about her experience, find out how she's doing, etc. I somehow conquered my rising self-loathing long enough to say, "JoBiv, this is not about you right now."

And try to tell me that THIS isn't ridiculous; this whole episode made me even more skittish with the phone, instead of steeling my resolve to be better about it. I'm at the point where every time the phone rings, my stomach and my throat tighten at the same time and I feel like if I can relax my throat I might hurl.

I know it won't do any good to hate myself for this, but hate I do.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

This house is clee-ah

"Ah have exorsized the demons. This house is clee-ah." - The midgety lady from Poltergeist

I have been cleaning for the last two days. I couldn't help it, and then I couldn't stop it. Now my skin has little rashes from the bleach and other cleaning supplies, and my fingers hurt from using this crappy scrubbing brush thingy.

But I think it will help. I want to feel like I love my apartment before I leave it. I do love it, that's not all that hard, but I guess I want to feel like I'm worthy of its beauty. Gosh, it's purty.

And yes, I will be leaving it. I've been doing the math (JoBiv? doing math? You sure?) and having smallish panic attacks about my finances, my loans coming due again, my life crumbling around my shoulders because I can't make an effing phone call once in a while... And yes, I have to move to a cheaper place, perhaps with two roomies. Maybe I will be more forgiving if there are two of them.

For the time being, I shall enjoy my little corner of the Shangri-la that is Brookline Massachusetts, and I'll invite my brothers to visit One More Time before I move.

In case you're wondering, they did not remember my birthday. I won't bring that up when I invite them, because I don't want them to come out of guilt. Not really. Well, maybe if it will help.

Gosh my apartment is purty.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Che cosa faccio?

Chi son...

Chi son? Sono un poeta.
Che cosa faccio? Scrivo.
E come vivo? Vivo.

Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.

- "Che gelida manina," Puccini, La Boheme

Oh skin, I do not feel comfortable in you, though you are my own.

Lately I've felt conspicuous in my guise as a nanny. Part of it is my general paranoia that people are always looking at me funny - for a nanosecond too long, with too much curiosity, with a vague look of disapproval or disgust. I know that in most cases I'm imagining it. Regardless of whether I'm making it up, I feel self-conscious with the Lil Pea these days, like someone is going to finger me out in the street and scream, "You are not a nanny! Hand over the child!"

F'rinstance (I know you were waiting for a f'rinstance), yesterday morning I went to a music class with the Pea, the second meeting in an eight-week course. The Baby Mama signed up because she usually has the day off on Wednesday and wanted to do something lovely with her child, and chose this very expensive, somewhat educational class. But Baby Mama had to work yesterday, so I was the replacement killer.

The other four women, moms and nannies alike, and all five children stared me down a bit. The woman who ran the class asked everyone to sit and went around the circle calling out the children's names. She called out the mothers' and nannies' names, too, then came to me with the ol' "And you are?" She knew Lil Pea, but didn't know me. I felt, suddenly, like all the women were comparing me to the Baby Mama, whom they'd met the week before. They were looking at me, a 25 year old seemingly intelligent, pale-skinned, native English speaking nanny?

I'm sure none of them gave me more than a moment's thought, but I still felt this sudden compulsion to explain myself. I didn't, however, because it's actually far easier to never say a damn thing aloud. It does keep me out of trouble.

Cut to choir rehearsal, where we had a social after practice and I got to speak with a few people I've been wanting to meet. While introducing myself to Gene, a tenor and daddy-to-be, I told him I was a nanny. He was interested because he and his wife may have to hire a nanny. He asked if I was originally from the area, and I explained I had come for grad school and have a degree now. That's when that foggy look came into his eyes. The, "wait, I don't get it... and you're a nanny?" look that I often give myself.

And then suddenly several people around me are saying things about how nannying is a noble profession, a difficult one, an undercelebrated one... And I realized, far more than worrying about my own comfort as a nanny, I may have to worry about how others are embarassed by it. It's the equivalent of saying, "I'm a garbage man," or maybe somehow worse, because at least we know what garbage men do all day. People seem to assume that, oh, wow, we have nothing in common, then.

So I find myself desperately saying, "Actually there's a lot of stuff going on in my life... I was freelance writing and might get this fellowship and blah blah blaaaah..." The conversation regains its momentum.

Here's the actual big pointy thorn in my side, though: shouldn't I be old enough to be apathetic about other's opinions? I don't mean that I should be a psychopath or something, but I should at least have a little more confidence in my own decisions and abilities, right?

I decided today that when I tell people what I do, I will actually say, "I take care of an eight-month-old baby girl," instead of saying, "I'm a nanny." Maybe claiming the action of caregiving will remind me that I have the options of other actions, like writing, singing, painting... It's merely a mental exercise, but I wonder if it will make a difference.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sox and sobs

Last night the Sox game went 'til about 1:30am. Maybe it was a little shorter than that. At any rate, I watched most of it, then decided I should at least try to disengage and get some rest so I could be bright and bonny for my Lil Pea and choir rehearsal today.

But it was such a good game... I brushed my teeth, washed my face, tucked myself into bed and found the AM station on my clock radio.

And then, out of nowhere, tears started rolling down my face. And since I was lying on my back, they rolled into my ears, which tickles. I didn't know where the emotion came from, so I just took a deep breath and closed my eyes, trying to divine the answer from my surroundings.

Of course. Obvious. The radio. The sound of the announcers' voices, the background noise of the crowd at the park, the slight buzz of the station badly tuned... There were car trips and late nights when my dad would tune in to some game, even try to get me to watch a game on tv some late night, and all the sounds would automatically put me into a kid coma. I would wake up hours later with my mouth hanging open and dried saliva tracks on my chin. And my dad would smiled at me, smooth my hair, tell me to go to bed...

The tears are a symptom of the mourning I've put myself through with all of the trouble I've had with my father. Once in a while something will remind me of him, the Dad I wanted to keep much longer than I had him. It's exactly the same punch of emotion I get when I hear a laugh like Shane's, or someone offers me a pineapple candy like the stale chewy kind my Grandma Fabrizio always had on hand. And then I have to shake myself and say, "JoBiv, your dad is not dead."

Then why am I haunted by his ghost?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Not only do I LOOK like a monkey...

I smell like one, too! Just for today, though. Because it's my birthy-day. The big two-five. No joke, people, I'm OLD.

I don't know where to start with all of the things I could tell you people out there in the world who might be so unfortunate as to read my rubbish. Lemme break it down to some more conquerable form.


Part 1: Friday

The lovely Miss Meera planned a grand evening for the two of us, and her blog covers the basics. We went to The Encore, a piano bar in the theatre district situated directly below The Roxy. Meera's glorious plan was for the two of us to dress fancy, drink a few cocktails, get a feel for their open mic, and eventually get on stage (if not that evening, the next time around). After three and a half hours of intimidation from the PROFESSIONAL SINGERS who swaggered into the bar after their performances in shows down the street, Meera wrangled the emcee (who ran the open mic by calling on her personal friends to sing) and told her that I would like to sing. That's pretty much the only way to get me on stage, turns out, because I'm the biggest weiner alive when it comes to actually talking to people and signing up for things like this.

So about 45 minutes after Meera pulled the lady aside, after her and her pianist's set break, after most of the professionals had blessedly moved on to other realms, the woman sat down next to me, her Velma wig tickling my shoulder as she leaned in to ask me, "So, do you really wanna sing?"

That's when I started shaking. Even while I heard my voice slipping easily out of me, even as I confidently planned my attack on the last chorus, even while I looked into Meera's serene face, and five minutes after I sat down, I was shaking. I am such a pansy.

Meera, even with mangled lyrics, was much cooler.

In fact, Arnold, the possibly 70+ yr old man with the checkered tweed pants, ridiculously huge and heavy glasses, and baseball cap, sang with utter confidence and joy. Even better, Bill, another older gent with an impressive belly (I think it's an opera belly rather than a beer belly) sang sans mic! He waded through the room a bit as well, singing directly to specifice audience members, blasting out the high notes. And then there was Kelly, a skinny sorority girl type with pointy features and (I think) pointy shoes. She conferenced with Tim, the pianist, for about twenty minutes on and off, in between other people's songs, trying to show him how she wanted to do her song. And then she got up there, and with a kind of irritating boldness, screamed out her lyrics in full Broadway style. I tried to figure out if I found her irritating because she was, in a sense, direct competition to myself and Meera - young and female in a room full of old men and young gay men. The more she sang, the more I realized; nope, she's just f'ing annoying.

I was thinking of what it takes to be a diva. I don't think I actually have that quality that even Arnold had, even with his bad notes and shakey voice. You have to be able to look in the mirror, do one of those fake gun point things, say, "Heeeey good lookin'," and believe yourself.

All this is beside my birthday point: it was a great night, with amazing company, and entertainment beyond our expectations.

Part 2: Saturday

I T'd home from Meera's place Saturday morning with two borrowed DVD's and 6 homemade (but I think legally made) CDs, the latter all gifts from the noticeably lovely Meera. I walked into my apartment, gratefully removed my jazzy shoes at long last, put on my pineapple pants, and put Kung Fu Hustle in the DVD player. H-Bomb seemed a bit confused. We shared a few words about our nights and off she went to lab, leaving me to luxuriate in my apartment alone. When I treat myself, I usually do it with movies, and Kung Fu Hustle was a treat, indeed. Again, I lazily point you to Meera's review, because I agree wholeheartedly with her feelings for it, although I think I still rank Shaolin Soccer a wee bit higher. I mean, there was a lot more spontaneous dancing in Shaolin Soccer. Very West Side Story. Always appreciated.

The second DVD, Baz Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet, was also fantastic in an utterly different sense. R&J is not my favorite Shakespeare play, I should let you know, because I think that rapidly formed love affairs are more acceptable, generally speaking, in comedies. In tragedies you need a bit more evidence of love before your heart can truly feel trespassed upon, and it's just not possible when the lovers meet in Act II. (Not sure if that's accurate, but I think you know what I mean.) Anywho, I mean to say, it was okay for me that Leo and Claire didn't convince me of their undying love, because I don't know if it's possible in Willy's script. So there. Take that, Shakespeare. Booyah.

So yeah, I spent TWO MORE HOURS watching every possible special feature on the DVD. Every. Single. One.

And then Sarah rescued me from my lazy day, making plans to go out to dinner at Audubon Circle, the snooty place across from An Tua Nua near the St. Mary's T stop. Even better, she treated! And there was cake! And a reuben! And Katya and Anne came, as well as a troupe of boys Sarah has somehow befriended. And perhaps I have befriended them, too. Yes. Yes I have. I can't help myself... they play whiffle ball! That's almost as cool as kickball! (Oh, shades of last year's celebrations!)

Part the Third: Sunday

Yes, this does go on forever. I don't know how it happens that I end up spending whole weeks celebrating my birthday. Maybe it's because Meera and I usually hang out separately from other peeps, or maybe my friends pity me deeply for my lonely state due to parent/jobiv strife, or maybe it's because I'm incredibly worthy. (Doubt that last one. Lucky, maybe.)

Sunday morning I met up with Katya's fam for brunch at Zaftigs. Mmmmm.

Let me take a moment. Zaftigs... Ahhhhh.

I'm back now. I'm cool. Moving on. It was a treat to meet Ma and Pa Annabell, and I have to confess that I felt like I had a VIP pass to some exclusive kind of zoo. The Annabell family in action rivals The Encore for entertainment value. If only there had been a Velma wig, they just might have surpassed the piano bar.

I got home from brunch and immediately took on my laundry, and called Sarah to see how she'd gotten on with a certain redhead (not the Big U), and Certain Redhead happened to be in the room when I called. She invited me to ice cream. I explained the laundry issue. I ended up meeting them while my stuff was in the dryers and didn't return home until 11:30pm. How did I end up baking chocolate-stuffed choc. chip cookies instead of doing laundry? Well, really now, if this were a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, I think you'd flip to page 35, too.

Il quarto: oggi

E per oggi, io...

Okay, that is... As for today, I came to the baby's house and found a balloon and a gift bag in the living room, per me. Inside, gel pens, some cute stationery, and a very generous gift certificate to Booksmith. Ahh, they know me well.

Tonight I'll meet Sarah and her entourage for team trivia at some bar called Harry's. FUN!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Towels are parve, right?

My back went out last night because I was laying on my bed with my legs hanging over the edge, something my old physical therapist told me never to do unless I worked out until I had abs like Janet Jackson.

I haven't, by the way. I have no stomach muscles to speak of. And therefore, not only did my back do this weird cracky thing, I also couldn't move because all movement required using my tummy muscles (which I do not have, read above), or using my back muscles (which were non-functional). Stuck, very much like a beetle on its back, I took a moment for contemplation.

First, there was the satisfaction of achieving actual pain. I immediately wanted to call my mother. When we were little we were not allowed to complain to her of any malady unless we could prove it with:

1. paralyzation
2. gushing blood
3. a bone protruding from the skin
4. a fever of 102 or higher
5. vomit so constant that we could not take a breath to tell her about it.

Having achieved number one, I couldn't help but feel a little ecstatic.

And then I thought of how twisted that is, and how it's probably turned me into a bigger hypochondriac, and perhaps my back pain was actually psychosomatic.

Which led me to remembering a visit to my orthopaedic surgeon when I was 17 or so and my back pain flared up. He showed me a few x-rays of my lower back, pointing to this straight line of vertabrae.

"See this? This is not supposed to be straight. It's supposed to be your lower lumbar curve." Okay, I see it. "See this? This is where you were injured. It's healed now. Has been for years now, because there's very little scar tissue left. In other words, your muscles still think you're injured, but you're not."

In other words, he sent me to a psychiatrist because I somehow carried all of my tension in my lower back and shoulders and it was paralyzing me every so often. But it was emotional tension, or a memory of the pain that justified this pain.

And then I wondered, if that's what this is now, this pain, why is it back?

Dumbass. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the car accident that started it all when I was two days away from turning seven years old.

Not to mention the mounting tension from all of my dealings with my parents...

Or the sudden need to constantly tally my life's actions, the friends I've managed to keep, the habits I can't seem to abandon. Turning 25 doesn't actually mean anything, but I get thoughtful like this around my birthday anyway, and the big two-five seems to exacerbate the tallying.

I haven't found any answers. The physical pain, for now, needs my attention more than all of my conspiracy theories about my own brain.

And so I have soaked a towel in water, popped it in the microwave, stuffed it into my jeans a little, and now I shall lay me down while the baby sleeps. But let me ask, is there anything in kosher law about wet towels?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Spring is a season, turns out

I've been thinking about home a lot lately, for obvious reasons if you've been reading (and I don't blame you if you haven't. I'm a little sick of my whining, too), and I haven't been able to get over the weather here.

Here's the thing: Spring is an entire season in Boston.

I know that there are tons of reasons why I'd notice Boston's loveliness right now, and perhaps you'd think my love for the area, and appreciation for its weather, is a bit exaggerated due to the circumstances.

And therefore, I want to tell you something about El Victoir: there's no such thing as Spring there. Not in the traditional sense (which I have found out is the New England sense). Spring in western New York consists of a few rainy days that thaw the ground, crocuses, snow on the crocuses, lilacs, ice storm killing the lilacs, and eventually weeds and leaves popping out on the same day in early June. The actual SPRING part takes place in about three minutes, and then New York gives the rest of Spring a miss and proceeds directly to summer. Hot, muggy, stifling summer.

It is quite simple to compare this to Boston weather, because it has never snowed on my birthday while I've lived in Boston. It may not seem like a huge accomplishment on Mother Nature's part, but to me... ahh, 'tis a gift. And I have never lived in any place that had 50-60 degree weather for more than two consecutive days. Until now.

The currect score:
Boston - 612
Victor - 7

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Prodigal Daughter?

Yet again, the phone proves itself an enemy.

Cripps returned a phone call I had made a couple weeks ago. Saturday night at 11:45. I picked up, thinking, "Well, it's not my parents. It can't be too horrific."

Cripps asked why I had called and before I could tell him he said, "Wait a sec... the Baby lost her bink. Have to go be a daddy for a second."

"Aww," I said. (A sincere "aww." I love Cripps' daddy skills.)

"I'm taking you with me," he says, and I can hear him going up the stairs and creaking the door open. "Hi Beaner... Hi sweetie... here's your bink, honey..."

I could hear her whimpering a little. He cooed and comforted her. I said, "Cripps, you're such a good dad..."

Then she started to really cry. She decided she needed to be held, so I said, "Should we talk tomorrow?"

"Yeah," he said, and Baby added an emphatic "WAH!" He now had her on his shoulder, as her cries were louder and closer. "I'll call you tomorrow."

"Bye Cripps."

"Bye Jojo. Love you."



My book rests on my chin and chest, and the phone jars me into wakefulness. The book somehow flies across the room (and has not yet been found).

"Hey sis." Cripps again.

"Is the Baby asleep?" I ask.

"Yeah, she needed some cuddlin'. She's sleeping now." He says. I'm sure I made an "aww" sound again. "It's unbelievable. It's so cool. I'm her Daddy. I'm the one who knows how to comfort her and make her feel safe."

We talked about this for a while - how I think he and Lois are awesome parents (I don't think parents can hear this enough), and how none of us can really remember what life was like before Baby. Of course, that's not really true. I have a great memory that clings to emotion and ambience as well as facts and phrasing. I remember.

And then we're talking about Dad. I had called to ask his advice on some of the things I wanted to say in the letter I was writing. I don't actually know why I called him. Of the three siblings that seem clued-in about the goings-on at Chez Biv, Cripps is the most... deluded, I suppose. He only has a complaint if someone directly attacks him. Otherwise, things are dandy. I mean, the house could be on fire, and he wouldn't notice or particularly care unless HE went up in flames.

So when I talk to Cripps about things that I deem important, we end up having these circular conversations during which he plays devil's advocate, because this is how he sees life. "Well why not do this instead? You could. There are the following million quatrillion possible paths, and isn't that tiring to think about. Just give up instead. Unless your leg's on fire."

During our conversation Saturday night, he slipped toward his circular tendencies, but then he snapped out of it. He took a side. He took my dad's side, and I completely understood (somewhere deep in my embittered, blackened, defensive heart).

"Why do you have to tell them not to come to Boston? Why can't you let them take you out on the town and buy you groceries and meet your friends?" asked Cripps.

"Cripps, they don't have the money."

"Sure they do."

"They're living on credit..."


"So, credit is not money."


"I feel really sick just thinking about them taking me to some fancy restaurant that will put them $200 further in the hole, not to mention the hotel, other meals, all the crap they'll try to buy me..."

"Why not let them if it makes them happy?"

"Because it's self-destructive!"

"It is not."

"Oh yes, it is! Ultimately it is! Think about Grandma right now... she HAD money. She was set for life! And now she's just lived too long. Now things are tight. Imagine Mom and Dad at 87, Mom and Dad who have never had a nest egg or a retirement plan or a 401k..."

"What, you wouldn't help them out?"

"Will I be able to? Will you? Anyway, that's not the point. It's self-destructive. Dad's ego rests on a few big manly things, like his ability to bring home the bacon. I know it's not particularly affirming for Mom or Dad to tell me that 'it's like everything's free!' when they whip out the mastercard. Mom wouldn't be sucking down two packs a day if she truly felt that their life has a solid foundation right now. I refuse to let them parade around pretending to own the world to try to impress me or inflict their make-believe on me. I'm not fooled, Cripps. I'm disturbed."

"You can say that again. Hahaha..."

"Shutup. And to see any of their monopoly money going toward alcohol... I think I'll lose it. Dad will take us to some fancy place where the drinks are $12 a pop, and I will fucking lose it. In public."

"Why can't you just have a better attitude about this?"

"POOF. There, you've done it. I no longer feel any anxiety. Thanks, Cripps. Wish I'd talked to you about this back in '93..."

"Jojo, c'mon, why can't you just see it as your parents trying to do something nice for you?"

"Because it's never nice for me... it's always tragic and hurtful. I don't like lying to them or participating in their delusional escapades in any way. It just makes me feel nauseous the whole time. And they feel that... I know they feel that. Maybe it hurts them more to see me in person, reacting to them like that."

"Look, Jo..." He tapered off to silence. Was he thinking? Formulating? Sleeping?


"Look, I just feel like... God, you know, he's your father. I can't even imagine the day that Baby makes decisions like these. It hurts me to leave her to go to work each day. I can't even imagine the first sleepover, or college, or Boston... and her telling me not to visit her."

I wanted to answer him somehow. 'Then you'll have to work harder than Dad has.' 'You'll be ready by then, you will have lived through enough arguments and experiences...' 'This isn't about you and Baby, goddammit.'

None of that came out of my mouth, and good thing. I just realized in that moment, yet another moment of swallowing words instead of saying them, that I should never have said any of it. He was the wrong person to tell. There isn't a right person to tell. My brothers would love it if my parents left Le Victoire for a weekend. They would love it if Mom and Pop shined around town saying, "We're going to visit our daughter in Boston! Whoohoo!" They would especially love it if I pulled my weight in Operation Keep Dad Afloat.

But since I don't particularly believe in that mission, they can either carry on buoying with beautiful consistency, or my father can come to Boston so I can pop the bubble entirely, then return to Le Victoire to the two sons who certainly cannot handle a tragedy of such proportions.

I said none of this. I said goodnight.

"Good night Jojo. Love you."


Mother's Day, 7ish

"So I gather that maybe it would be better if we don't come to Boston?" said my poor mother.

"I've been thinking about it a ton..." I said, half-convinced that I might just invite them.

"That's okay, Joey. I know it's a lot of stress," she said.

"You know how much I love you guys, right?" I said, trying to keep my sobs at bay.

"Oh god, of course we do... "

"And I want to see you. We just maybe have to pick another weekend... that's not so close. I dunno."

"Yeah, we'll set a date." Neither of us got out a calendar.



"This is a crappy Mother's Day gift, Mom. I'm sorry," I said.

"Well, mothers are made to take this kind of thing."

Ick. Swallowing words... "Happy Mother's day, Mom. I love you."

"Love you, too, Joey. Get some rest."

Apparently, even my subconscious, or whatever part of me kept me awake all last night, refuses to listen to my mother.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

it might as well be spring

JoBiv: OOh! Smell that?
Meera: Mmmhmm!
JoBiv: (walking briskly toward nearest blossoming tree) Think it's this one?
Meera: *sniff* Nope.
JoBiv: *sniff* Hmm. Maybe that one... (walking to next tree)
Meera: *sniff sniff* (looking confused) Hmm.
JoBiv: *sniff* Nope. Oh well.
Meera: (turns toward front steps of Devotion school) Oh well.
JoBiv: Wait! (skipping down the path to another small blossoming tree)
Meera: Hmm? (following)
JoBiv: *sniff* Ahhhhhhhhh...
Meera: *sniff* Ahhhhhhhhh...
JoBiv: *sniff* Ahhhhhh...
Meera: *sniff sniff* Ahhhhhhh...
JoBiv: *sneeeeef* Ahhh that's good...
Meera: *Sneeef sniff sniff* Mmmmmm.
JoBiv: I wanna keep it forever. *sniffity sniff*
Meera: Let's bring some in to B! *sneeeeef*
JoBiv: Good idea! *sniff*
Meera: (snapping sprig from the branch) *sniff* He's gonna love this!

And B, the kindly gent in the tenor section who made us sit with him to admire the copper-colored light on the trees a few weeks ago, did indeed love his little sprig. And since he's the coolest, he somehow smushed his sprig into the zipper of his fleece vest, the one that's always covered in his dog's hair. He was fairly beaming through half the night...

Until Bach killed our collective will to live, that is. Well, to be more specific, and fair to the woman who sat in and actually taught us more of the Bach than we've ever learned with our director, the smiles stopped when she sat down and our director took over. There was a moment, while this woman led us through or leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeben, when I was struck by the prettiness of it. "Oh wow," thought I, "this piece is melodic!" And I thought of what it would be like to hear our choir finally getting it right if I could properly hear it, if I was sitting, perhaps, on that bench just outside and letting the scent of that one blooming tree wash over me. I would inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and say, "Ahhh, they've finally got it."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

T minus 9 minutes...

I'm at the Coolidge Corner branch of the Brookline Public Library right now, which is a good thing because Kinko's will make no money off of me today, and because it forced me to leave the apartment on this dismal little Wednesday.

It is a frustrating thing because computer sessions have time limits here, and GOOD GOD I ONLY HAVE SEVEN MINUTES LEFT. AHHHH... I don't deal so well with deadlines, as some of you may know, and as this so far meaningless post has evidenced.

Point, JoBiv?


Story? Can I tell it in SIX minutes? Oh god...

A Few Nights Ago:

H-Bomb: So, Johanna, have you thought of what you're going to do in September?
JoBiv: You mean about the apartment?
H: Yeah. I mean, are you planning to stay, or...
JoBiv: Well it depends a lot on the fellowship. If I get it, I'll stay and put an ad up for a new roommate. It's really a question of price. But I have been thinking of finding something cheaper... What about you?
H: Well my friend Annette (not Funicello, I've asked before) wants me to move in with her...
JoBiv: Oh that would be great... for you.
H: Yeah, but she wants to stay in Central Square, and I hate that area. So I'd rather live here and find a new roommate.
JoBiv: Uh HUH.
H: Yep.

Then we both watched a baseball game and ignored the fact that we both just admitted to hating living with each other. Funny?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Lil Pea and me

Lil Pea has been sick for the last week or so. First there were fevers and seriously bad moods, and now she has a rash and a fierce need for snuggling. The Baby Mama diagnosed it as something... some childhood disease that hits kids in the springtime and isn't a big deal.

It struck me again today, this thing I think of when I'm comforting children. Lil Pea didn't want to sit in her high chair or lie on her playmat and roll around, or sit in her saucer thinger. She wanted me to hold her. She would fuss a little, unconvincingly, then bury her face in my neck, easing as I cooed to her and rubbed her back. She would fake a baby dive toward a toy or her bottle, then come right back up for another cuddle, smushing her nose against my shoulder.

As I kissed the curls on her forehead, I felt my body ease. I felt suddenly aware that my body and mind are strong for HER and whatever SHE needs. Finding these strengths in myself is a remarkable thing. On the lowest days, I can at least remember this - that the smallest gestures of my days with this baby are gestures of strength.

And on days when I am on the verge of tears, when I am desperate for some answer to my anxieties, when I need some kind soothing, rocking her, singing to her, stroking her hair and easing her into sleep transforms me. Even on the most exhausting days, soothing her soothes me.

(not) speaking of the elephant in the room...

DannySmacks: Someone has to talk to him. You have to SAY what you're saying to me. He desperately wants to hear it.
JoBiv: That he's out of control? He wants his only daughter to attack him? I don't think so.
DannySmacks: SOMEone has to do it.
JoBiv: Why not you?
DannySmacks: I live here... How can I? I just try to keep him up, y'know? As much as I can.
JoBiv: I can't do it to his face. (Looking to Cripps, who is silent, sitting cross-legged on the floor between us.) Have you said anything?
Cripps: I'm planning on saying something tomorrow. I've got to patch my kitchen ceiling and I think I can get him to help me.
JoBiv: Well what are you gonna say?
Cripps: Oh I'm not gonna have any problems coming up with something to say...
DannySmacks: You missed it...
JoBiv: Missed what?
Cripps: Dad got belligerent one night and started yelling at Lois about how she's a terrible mother to Baby.


JoBiv: Holy shit.



JoBiv: Is Cripps coming to breakfast?
Smacks: Umm... I don't think so.
JoBiv: Where is he?
Smacks: Listen...
(Sound of coughing and gagging from upstairs bathroom)
JoBiv: Poor guy.
Cousin Mixx: I guess Beast Ice doesn't agree with Cripps... Haha...
Smacks: (giving JoBiv a Look...)
JoBiv: So Dad's not going to Jell-o town today, eh?
Smacks: (shaking head)
JoBiv: So they're not gonna talk today...
Smacks: Surprised?
JoBiv: Not really.


Mom: Order whatever you want. What's twenty bucks when you're thousands in debt?
JoBiv: Hmm.
Mom: But anyway, he's really destroyed over the things Grandma has done to him, all this crap she's pulled... and your uncles and aunts aren't helping, of course. He's just in a really low place right now.
JoBiv: Is he seeing someone? Are any of his doctors helping?
Mom: Well yes, as much as they can.


JoBiv: Do they know about the drinking?
Mom: (flustered) Yes they all know about the drinking. What do you think you're going to order? We can split the spring rolls.
JoBiv: Mom... Who do you talk to?
Mom: Oh I have my friends...
JoBiv: But if you need to talk to someone, would you do it? I mean, a psychia-
Mom: Yes, of course I would! I mean, of course! Don't worry about me.
JoBiv: Because you need to just do it. Don't think about who or what else the money should go to, you have to do it for yourself if you need it.
Mom: Joey, I will, don't worry about that.
JoBiv: You better.


Dad: JoMary, JoLovey, you look radiant today...
JoBiv: (noting his watery eyes) Thanks, Dad.
Dad: Where are you going with those fancy shoes?
JoBiv: Out with Teeny.
Dad: With Little Tina H. She's not so little anymore. I remember when she was just two years old, standing on their back deck...
JoBiv: ... blowing raspberries. See ya.
Dad: (spreading freakishly long arms for a hug) Have a good time.
JoBiv: (trying not to flinch, accepting hug, hugging back...) Bye Dad.


JoBiv: So is anyone coming over today?
Mom: Well, Baby's sick, and the other babies usually come on Thursdays anyway, so we just rescheduled.
JoBiv: So you can come to the airport.
Mom: (hesitant) If you want me to.
JoBiv: Of course I want you to.
Mom: I mean... I thought... If you want to speak to your father...
JoBiv: On the way to the airport? God, I couldn't do that to him.
Mom: Okay, okay...
JoBiv: I was thinking, actually, of writing a letter. You know, so I can edit my words. I don't want to say something I can't take back, y'know? I could really hurt him...
Mom: (Sighing loudly) You ready to go?
JoBiv: I was born ready.