You never write, you never call

Maggie called again today. She sounded a little blue or depressed, and she asked, “How come you never write any more, you never call?”

There are many things I don’t understand about humans and about women, but — didn’t we break up? In her last letter, which was a post card, she said:

I think we’ll be better friends if we’re living apart. I also want to say that I will always love you.

Your friend, Maggie

You tell me — doesn’t that read as goodbye? That's how I took it. "We’ll always have Paris." "Here's looking at you, kid." The End.

Margaret is a friend. I don’t have many friends and I’m glad she’s one, but she's not my girlfriend any more. She’s never going to be my flatmate or wife, so I won’t be writing or calling much, sorry.

Three years ago, I moved to San Francisco, far from friends and family, because the distance is comfortable and I am, at heart, a distant person. Since then I’ve written one letter (a post card, actually)  to Bruno, my best friend from childhood. He hasn’t answered. He’s a distant person, too.

Nobody else has heard much from me, except Maggie, while I was pursuing her romantically and inviting her to live here. We’re friends, she says, and that’s great, but my friends know that I moved a thousand miles away, and I’m not good at keeping in touch.

Margaret should understand all this, better than most people. We lived in Seattle when we dated and lived together, but after I moved to San Francisco, she moved away, too — to a tiny town in Eastern Washington, where she knew nobody. She likes distance, too.

And now she asks, “How come you never write any more, you never call?”

What would I say in a letter? Should I try talking her into changing her mind and moving to San Francisco? I’m not doing that. I don’t do pressure or pleading. She should do what she wants to do. Everyone should do what they want to do.

And I hate calling anyone. I’ve always hated the phone. Talking to people is hard enough, but I’m simply rubbish at talking to people without any visual queues, without seeing facial expressions.

I don’t even have a phone. I use an automated messaging system, dialing in and pushing a few buttons to check messages from my phone at work. Calling someone back costs a quarter at a phone booth. Calling long distance — like calling Maggie today — takes lots of quarters.

Still, when Maggie left a message, I returned her call. The same day, even. By my standards, that’s making an effort.

♦ ♦ ♦

My mother will be at San Francisco Airport tomorrow night, and then she’ll come back with me and stay at my flophouse hotel, where I’ve gotten her the best room they have.

As I was pre-paying for it, Mr Patel said, “If she is staying for four days she might as well stay for the week. The weekly rate is the same price as four nights at the nightly rate.” I asked him not to mention that to my mother.

I love my mom, glad she’s coming, and I’m extra glad she’s staying here at my hotel, instead of way out in the ‘burbs like the last time she visited. We won’t be riding BART to and from Walnut Creek every day.

But for the next four days I won’t be in charge of my own life. I’ll be getting up at a set time to have breakfast with Mom, and then going to work. Yeah, I don't have any paid vacation and I can’t afford days off, so Mom will be on her own eight hours a day. She gets alone time, but I don't.

We’ll have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together each day, and I’ll spend each evening with her. There will be only work-time and Mom-time, until bedtime — my only time alone.

I’m frankly a little on edge about it. I love my momma, like I said, and she loves me — but she doesn't approve of my life, my choices, me being in San Francisco ... I don't think she approves of me, and she’s never shy about expressing her disapproval.

So here comes four days with no alone-time, and lots of Mom-time instead. In a word, yikes.

♦ ♦ ♦

The zine Alley Cat came today, and man-o-man, it was just what I needed. There I was being all serious, having the blues, wondering about Maggie and worrying about my mom, and here’s Alley Cat — a zine all about vomit.

I laughed out loud through my ‘Mexican’ TV dinner that should’ve been a San Francisco burrito. Thought I was gonna spew beans out my nostrils, I was laughing so hard at Lee’s story of upchucking at the movies. Also awesome: the male body-builder who developed breasts from taking steroids, and the photo of a naked woman throwing up.

When I was in second grade, barf and poop and snot and other bodily secretions were funny, and funny is still funny. Like they say in the car commercials, your mileage may vary, but if you have a juvenile sense of humor like me, send one lousy dollar to LEE REIHERZER, ████████ █████ ███, OSHKOSH WI 54901. Put a booger on the bill and see if he notices.

♦ ♦ ♦

Included with the zine was a nice letter from Lee, and some kind words for my zine. Out of false modesty, I won’t print the nice part, but then he shows his but:

But. I wish that when you tell us that you sat down to read a book, you’d let us know what you’re reading. I know it’s a minor gripe, but to obsessive bibliophiles like myself it’s important, damnit. (I’m truly manic about this sort of shit, so take my grousing with a grain of salt. I’ve been known to rent movies that I’ve seen in the theater and hated, just so I could catch all the titles on the books lying around in the background.)

That’s obsessive, all right. Jeez, Lee, I don’t want you breaking in to my apartment to see what’s on my bookshelf, so I’ll come clean.

The book was Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote. The Audrey Hepburn movie was all schmaltz and made me cry, so I bought the book, which has almost no schmaltz at all, but it’s better — way better than the movie. I liked the book so much I kept it.

When I relocated from Seattle to San Francisco, I got rid of almost everything I owned. Now I’m trying to be the opposite of a packrat, keeping only the essentials of life. As a rule, I do not hang on to books, zines, letters, shirts, or knickknacks, unless I’m getting a lot of use and re-use out of them. Sentimental value doesn’t cut the French’s, cuz my closet is too small and I travel light. Before moving, I owned about a thousand books. Today I count 27, including the dictionary.

That was my fourth re-read of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is why it didn’t occur to me to write a book review. In the future I’ll take Lee’s gripe to heart, and mention what I’m reading when I’m reading. Unless I forget.

From Pathetic Life #3
Monday, August 15, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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  1. Captain HampocketsMay 28, 2021 at 7:32 AM

    Aw yeah, the next few diary entries are gonna be fun, if I correctly recall this Mom visit...

  2. I'm retyping it now, and oh, man.


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