Archive for October, 2011

Dear Suzie (I)

October 18, 2011

(photo courtesy of TC)

You cross the room with your arms behind you, feet pointed, torso lowered and nearly parallel to the floor, or else upright and elegant, powerful and twisting, your eyes shut and your mouth smiling that smile full of joy and brightness—your body serving you in dance. It’s a wonder the light shining from inside you doesn’t blind us all. But now and then it does.

Soon another smile takes over you, one of inwardness. Yet it isn’t a smile exactly, this I realize later at other, deeper dance sessions—the face slackens, and at the same time engages all thirty-three muscles tremblingly, revealing (and reveling in) a series of grimaces, ecstasies, and moans, one after another or all at once. A mood face: intimate, open, in the midst of surrender, in the aftermath of conquest. We see the orgasmic in others but sometimes hardly in ourselves. The nakedness in a musician’s performance, for example, is so terrible and keen; even the shyest find release in their fingertips or their lips, and, whether onstage or in an empty rehearsal studio, manage to center themselves in their art—but do they see this, beyond the notes they play? Likewise, dancers expose a portion of their soul during performance; the soul has been knit and knit in preparation, only to be unraveled like ribbon when shared with others. It is good, this unraveling; it is fitting, this unfitting, a daily recurrence in dance, in emotion, in words. But do we see this in ourselves? Do we see what’s been unraveled?

I know now why we have become friends: we are witness to each other’s unravelings.




October 17, 2011

“I want to go home,” my father repeats gently to my mother.


October 16, 2011

“It is not that I avoided the interview,” said Max, as he was known to his friends, “I just lost track of my schedule, and forgot when I was supposed to show. So I kept walking, until I was reoriented in time. This is not exactly how Rings came to be, but it’s one of the stories I like to tell about it.”

That night I counted myself lucky to be considered his friend, even if the friendship was to last a mere five hours. There had been a firm beginning to our acquaintance, when we shook hands earlier in the evening and then sat down to dinner, and a clear conclusion, when we shook hands once more around two a.m., the promise to see each other again implicit in the parting word “Goodbye.”


October 10, 2011

I’m participating in a literary blog relay, where each writer starts a narrative with the last line of the previous piece. This relay explores the theme of transformation. Chapter 1 was written by Christine Zilka, and Chapter 2 by Nova Ren Suma. Below is my Chapter 3, and Nina LaCour will write Chapter 4. We are allowed only 250 words.


This will be the night I fool everyone,” wrote Lu Xun in his final essay. He must have known that in eleven hours’ time he would die from the tuberculosis that had plagued him for the past year, that in the following week wreaths of flowers would overwhelm both his doorstep and the capital square, that his wife would wake to the aroma of chrysanthemums for months after. This essay, found recently in a lost trunk, is testament to his foresight. “I walked through the house,” he wrote, “with my hand tracing the memory of a pleasure: above the ribs, against the breast. How extraordinary that a textured sensation as pleasure can be erased or, as in my case, more accurately, buried. I am already dead, my body informs me, yet I continue on. Writing these essays about dying must be folly, then, for ‘the end’ does not exist, given how we are constantly experiencing determinate beginnings. This is a unique debt to pleasure, for pleasure, whether visible, as a fire in the eyes, or ghostly, as a yearning inside the heart, is the accumulated circumferences of things. I find infinite value in measuring out one’s past and path mathematically; after a medical prognosis of sure death, all one can do is calculate one’s position in life’s time line. Li Ting, a colleague and sometime fortune-teller, taught me this lesson, and indulged me, before the prediction of his own death the week before, one fate: ‘This, too, is life.’ ”


Here’s the full line-up:

  1. Christine Lee Zilka
  2. Nova Ren Suma
  3. wmc
  4. Nina LaCour
  5. Stephanie Brown
  6. Jamey Hatley
  7. Matthew Salesses
  8. Krystn Lee
  9. Bryan Bliss


October 3, 2011

“There’s a saying in Chinese about money,” Mom tells me. “钱不是万能的, 可是没钱是万万不能. Do you understand?”

Dad is laughing at the drama they’ve rented, set in pre–Cultural Revolution China. Two scenes ago, the patriarch in the story was dying. One scene later, he died. I’m not sure when they started watching dramas from China. The picture quality is stunning—startlingly bright primary colors amid all the heads of black hair. It makes me wonder especially whether the look of the characters was re-created from posters that we’re all familiar with, the ones of rosy-cheeked young men and women wearing cloth jackets exposing only their hardiness and none of their sexuality. How is it that fabrications exist?

Mom says: “The Chinese wake up with money on their minds, yes. There’s a saying . . . well, I forget exactly what it is—but it has to do with how we wake up every day thinking of buying seven things: oil, salt, wood, rice, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea. What do you think of buying when you wake up?”

“Coffee, Metrocard, entrance fee for that night’s event.”

“What about lunch? Don’t you eat?”

“Lunch, too.”

Dad laughs again at the television drama. The oldest daughter in the family is threatening the village chief in his office with a sit-in if he doesn’t compensate her for some loss. The father has been dead for a few months now, and the show’s music and color palette are now even livelier.

(Just now I’d written: “The father has been for a few months now.”)

Mom says: “Yesterday we had a fright. We were going to call you, but then the fright turned into relief—yes, we spent four hours in the emergency room, but it all worked out and there was no need to call you just then. He needed to take his medication, that was all.”

I make fun of Dad for walking like an old man. At the same time I realize how good his posture has always been. I think of two photographs of him in his swimming trunks—one with him standing in front of a snowman, another sitting with his legs crossed. His back is ramrod straight in both, and his hair is black, his chest filled out. Tonight I am unnerved by something else: fuzz above his lip. I suppose he’s always shaved, and thus never gave me the time and pleasure to study his mustache, but the truth is that we are a relatively hairless family—the men have never dealt with facial hair and chest hair, and the women have never had to shave their legs—and so seeing his upper lip unshaved, or rather spotted with patches of white, is a shock, and my toes curl from the shock, the way one feels in a moment of vertigo. This toe-curling also occurs when I see that he’s taken out his dentures. I’m resisting these signs of age.

Dad pours himself a dose of liquid Tylenol. I say, “Cheers!” He doesn’t drink for a full minute, because he is laughing too hard.