Torn to Pieces

"Assimilate My Purse," Maximumrocknroll, October 2008

Sometimes people ask me if it's the pain that wakes me up, no it's my brain but then here I am with my shoulders the place between my shoulders all of it like my back except burning and there's no comfortable position I keep switching but not finding I guess I should get up and take a shower just to soothe my muscles but this time my brain isn't on I want to stay in that place I don't want to get in the shower and then get up I mean get up and then get into the shower which means I've already gotten up and then I'm up I don't want to be up. And in all this pain. This is after feldenkrais. Maybe here the exhaustion is helping me fight the pain or making it worse but then eventually I fall back asleep and when I get up I'm already sad because I can't bring my computer to Baltimore, I mean I can't bring it because it makes my bag too heavy and actually it will hurt too much just to take it out of the case but mostly what I want to do there is to write, to write right in the moment but instead I'm already sad.

Before I started my book tour, my mother offered to pay for a hotel in DC -- I said I don't need a hotel, I'll find somewhere to stay. But then I thought about it, and realized that by the time I reached DC I would've already stayed in who knows how many houses and apartments with other people and by then it would be nice to be alone, so I said okay, and then my mother called the hotel where I stayed when I visited my father before he died, and she called me back and said oh, I just can't afford it. Which is her classic behavior -- to offer me something I don't necessarily want, but then once I want it then there she is, ready to let me down. And then she acts totally powerless, like she'd like to find me a different place but she doesn't even know where to start -- this is part of her pattern, I said whatever, I'll find somewhere to stay, but then she did actually find somewhere else so now I'm in DC, staying in this hotel, which is spacious but cold -- the windows face walls of other windows and the thing I like the least is that they start so high up on the wall that you barely realize you're seeing out unless you stand right there and stare at corporate bodies in corporate rooms. No, the thing I like the least is the mold problem, invisible but you can smell it in the air. But there's a kitchen, and that's the most important thing -- I'm by myself and I'm not sure if I like it. I mean at someone else's apartment I wouldn't be able to relax in the same way, to totally let go which isn't really relaxing but collapse and collapse is what I need right now but it feels awful.

Awful is going with my mother to visit my grandmother Rose in Baltimore, this is because Rose keeps falling and then she has to go to the hospital for two months so she says she'd be too stressed out to see me unless my mother comes too, another game is what I'm thinking. I mean maybe she does need someone there, but it doesn't need to be my mother. But she says it needs to be my mother, there isn't another option so then here I am in this hotel room, already sad that I can't bring my computer -- I haven't eaten anything and my mother’s on the phone in a panic because we can't leave after 3:30 p.m. or it will be too dark for her to drive, even though we already said that if it was after 3:30 Then we’d take the train, she's saying we can't go it's too late we can't go. I say we already decided we would take the train, right? Right, she says, we'll take the train, but then she doesn't want to meet me at the hotel even though here I can have someone bring my bags right to the cab and then someone right from the cab to the train but she says she'll carry my bags I say you said that last time but then they were too heavy. How heavy are they, she says. They're not that heavy this time, I'm not bringing anything heavy, but here at the hotel someone can carry them into the cab. Then she wants to know what time we're leaving.

I say listen, I already told you that I'm in a horrible amount of pain today I mean I'm having a problem with my back -- this is the worst I've felt on the whole tour, I can hardly do anything at all -- I can't even imagine how I'm going to do anything. And then we're arguing again, even though I've already told her I need to eat before figuring out the rest of the plans, even though she keeps offering things like groceries but then she can't get groceries because she doesn't know how to find what I want or how to get from the Whole Foods that's directly across the street from her apartment to where I'm staying, extra pots to use in the kitchen but then there's so much going on, there's so much going on and I thought you were coming in next week I forgot you were coming in today. Do you see what I'm saying? She’s always letting me down and I always know that but it always overwhelms me anyway. Eventually she decides she will come to the hotel and I'm thinking I'm going to have to hug her, I mean I don't have to hug her but I will hug her and what will that be like? It's in the lobby, and I feel my face in a grimace and I wonder what other people see. She says you're hair looks different -- is it longer? That color -- I haven't seen you in that color -- it's different -- a solid, orange. I'm guessing different means worse, but she likes my sweater and then she says oh your skin looks amazing, it really does.

A lot of people think my skin looks amazing, some people say skin is the outermost sign of health so maybe I have some sort of health or maybe it's just skin. On the train, my mother wants to make sure I don't tell Rose anything about her or how much the train costs -- then she'll think I have all this money. I say it's only 25 dollars, what are you talking about? I know, my mother says, but the Marc train -- I know, I say -- it's eight dollars, but what difference does it make?

My mother says Rose is always bringing up stories from when you're five or six. Actually she's already told me this five or six or seven times, something either me or Allison said when we were kids about how my mother couldn't stand Rose and the truth is that it's obviously something Allison said because when we were that age I wanted everything to be perfect, that's how I related to the horror that was going on I was powerless and I wanted to make it okay. But anyway here my mother is bringing up this ridiculous story again and she says sometimes I think Rose is paranoid. I say you sound paranoid. And: why don't you just tell her to shut up?

Shut up. That's something they used to say when I was growing up. Then it was something I used to say. It's not something I say now, is it?

Why don't you just say: is that all you remember?

My mother laughs, maybe we’re connecting. When we get to Baltimore, the doors on our side of the car don't open even though they haven't warned us. We have to walk to the front and my mother’s stuck trying to get my bag past everyone who's getting on the train and I'm worried the train will leave so I'm standing in the door and this conductor comes over and starts yelling: why are you holding up my train? Listen, I say, my mother is stuck on the train, no one made an announcement that we had to go to the front and the conductor says: why are you holding up my train? We’re both yelling and then maybe he remembers some de-escalation training so he lowers his voice and I lower mine and someone says he's just trying to help her and there's my mother and the conductor says you can't do that, you can't hold up the train, the train could start and you’d end up on the tracks.

Why did I get so upset is what I'm thinking. And: I can't believe I said: my mother. Couldn't I have said someone is stuck on the train. Someone. My mother. I can't believe I said that. Validation in the form of an emergency. And: I can just imagine -- the train starts and there I am on the tracks torn to pieces so that my mother doesn't end up in Wilmington, torn to pieces for my mother I mean could there be anything more tragic?