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J. set up a tent in the yard for Sukkot and I went out to catch the breeze and the moon. The tent roof is mesh (open to the sky is the requirement) and lying on my back I saw planes going back and forth.

My father had a longstanding research project around using phase cancellation to reduce noise from jet engines. That’s what I’d tell people who asked what he did: he works on making airplanes quieter. The air force base was on the other side of town but you still saw jets arcing in formation; the cumbrous A-10 Warthog was the only one I knew by sight. Military equipment was always on the test. You were expected to know (from where?) what an Uzi was.

A few weeks ago R. and I both got our earlobes pierced—her second set, my first. It hurt less than I expected, less for sure than facial laser treatment. It was the same shop on Telegraph where I first went with Lauren in 1998, and it seemed not to have changed at all, though it must have been darker and smokier once upon a time. They used a needle, very clean, and sold us a bottle of potassium sorbate solution; every night before bed, R. calls out, Mum, it’s time to do our ears, and we go swab them. I guess it’s working. My little titanium-and-turquoise studs remain peacefully in place.

Often this comes after an hour or two of anime, which has gotten easier ever since R. got old enough to read subtitles without effort. We’ve been through K-On!, Fruits Basket, Little Witch Academia, Girls & Panzer, Full Metal Alchemist (both versions), A Place Farther Than the Universe, and might try The Ancient Magus’ Bride next. We do have fun.

Sorrow, a pool in the heart that animals come to drink from.

Learned the word “pelmet” from Eimear McBride tonight. At the end of the day novels are still novels because of house words.

“music for flat on the couch thinking about embodiment”

Imogen Ave, Los Angeles CA, July 2021
Photograph by N. Zeltzer

People smile at me more, men and women both. A subtle new sense of gentleness, indulgence. My native clumsiness is accounted for; guys are quick to help when I can’t get the napkins out of the napkin dispenser.

When I get compliments on outfits or accessories I think of them as complimenting the taste of friends whose castoffs I’m wearing—which is quite a nice feeling all round. I also feel relieved to have a mask covering what I think of as the uglier parts of my face: this though I know it’s not really the same domain, and “Am I ugly?” is not a question decidable within this formal system anyhow.

History is what hurts

This creaky machine is now old enough to have chronicled things that happened 20 years ago, and if anyone wanted to see what some kid thought at the time, as if there weren’t already enough of that, they would find it easy digging. Let’s twist that dial: anthrax and Cipro, Osama Yo Mama, draft-dodging fantasies, the National Geographic photo of the Afghan girl with green eyes. That winter in Iowa I bought a Quran at Prairie Lights and read it cover to cover, which is the last thing you should ever do with a holy book. Nothing ever disappears from the archive; everything’s still waiting its chance to get out and make trouble.

Woke up to damp on the ground and the rain chain full of water, the beginning of fall. Hopeful! I was asked about heat and smoke and I said not yet this summer, not along our patch of coast. It’s all temporary reprieves now but who’s going to turn them down?

Off work for my birthday, crossed the bridge into the city, gray bay, mist shroud, patch of pale sun on Russian Hill. J. stopped in the Sunset to buy a student clarinet for R. from an old guy in a warren row house. She saw the mezuzah and wished him a happy new year. He said, the clarinet is a Jewish instrument, I have a klezmer background, I come from Romania.

I thought for the day I might expect to write a summa about transition to life as a woman, but a happy outcome of that transition may be decreased interest in writing summae.

Gardens, pastel walls, gilt lions.

But then again. It’s the easiest thing in the world to distrust joy, all the more if you’re the sort of person who thinks of herself as hard to fool.

When Sojun used to walk around the meditation hall correcting people’s postures, he would put his hand on my shoulder to urge it downward; and I literally didn’t know how to drop my shoulder. It was a clumsy piece of armor, perpetually bunched up against a coming blow.

My cello teacher said the same thing about my inability to relax my bow arm.

If the body is a motel where the spirit puts up between wanderings, then there’s no question of loving it; a motel is either tolerated or intolerable. You expect running water, soap and towels, an Internet connection: enough to get by. It’s not as if it was made for you.

Why you would insist on something as dangerous and onerous as designating yourself a different class of human, why you would change your name, your grammar, your private chemistry, knowing you could never justify any of it when the proud man’s contumely comes knocking: I think it’s only for that scarcely imaginable hope, the possibility of a body that would not be a motel, but instead a place where the spirit might be coaxed to finally open its bags, lay out its little stash of memorabilia and call itself home.

<= 2021.04.26