I like being in the RR Freudian chair & reading really loudly, hoping the rich, old women on the street can hear through the window panes. I can certainly hear their sweaty summer-heat high heels against the pavement so it’s only fair. I like that there’s a half-gargoyle, half-eagle out the window just to remind me that I have entered into a sci-fi America for the time being. I like that the Freudian chair is pre-owned and has wrinkles in its leather face and arms like an old soul, or a grandmother you photograph in black and white. I like a specific space where it’s just the right temperature for my feet to be bare, and it has enough room for my mug of tea, assorted papers, and notebook of quotes along with my large hips and gluttonous thighs.
Earlier today I had a hankering for Barnes & Noble, their stock has been down lately and my mind was fantasizing about devouring their entire poetry shelf – most of which are poets who cost $20,000 per appearance, per day. (By stock, I mean stock market, my dad is an avid amateur stock man and so I hear about it daily. This is how life gets when you’re seventy-five). These aren’t your sideline poets, your starving artists, or the artists you find writing at their kitchen table after the kids have gone to bed by the florescent light of the ceiling fan – B&N only carries the best of the best, or the poets who’ve “made it.”
I was recommended Belly Song by Etheridge Knight and so I was secretly hoping for its rotted yellow cover, but no such luck. So, I whipped out my handy dandy list of books I’ve been wanting to read (it’s over one-thousand books because I’m a crazy person) and scraped through until I found The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
All throughout high school and college I’ve been read the first vignette of the novel also titled, “The House on Mango Street” which unravels the entire story in a few paragraphs, obviously less detail, and just a snack of what you get with the novel. I’ve always loved the story of Esperanza who is unhappy with her bruised fruit of a red house on Mango Street and keeps dreaming about the house she will own alone, without having to marry, or get pregnant, or beaten, or paid for by someone she doesn’t particularly love.
She says about one of the women who wind-up stuck on Mango:
She looked out the window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow.
It’s heart-warming, the first story, the understanding of a girl around eleven that this is not her forever, that the wishes at the end of the book over a baby funeral will come to fruition. (So many uses of fruit in this post, I must be hungry, even one of my teens just told me, “you’re just fruit” when he read the label on my Naked Juice).
I think a lot of the reasons I love this book go far beyond, Sandra Cisneros perfect pitch and voice.
I think a lot of it was the setting I was reading in. Because Cisneros’ book deals so much with the setting of the house on Mango Street, it was so important to me to be able to read it somewhere I was completely comfortable. I often like to read books in the opposite places of where a character is so I can fully immerse myself into that environment in my head and leave all the leather, window blinds, and buzzing of laptops behind.
The hard-wood floors from the 1920’s, the pool of water dimpling when the wind blows on the roof of the antique shop next door, the Freudian chair – my favorite part. In the Loft, when I’m alone and Rob is gone on vacation to Hemingway’s House in Florida (can you tell I’m totally jealous), I like to read loudly. I like to read in the voices of Janice Eidus and Dorianne Laux. I like to sound like a woman old enough to have whiskers on her chin, and her legs crossed under a blanket while she reads in her sun room. It starts softly, until I’m trying to out blow the air conditioning unit, and make sure the middle-aged man next door can squat against his own door and listen. It’s almost like a Friends episode where nothing happens, but one of them is reading a book and the other, on the other side of the door, across the hall, is sitting on their bare kitchen floor, back against the door, spine slumped and listening.
My best friend and I talked for three hours yesterday. She had recently put up on twitter I need to say less and listen more. I’m sure someone famous said this at one point or another, but in talking with her yesterday, I was cackling over her stories about being a possible Shepherd (time to buy the Jesus sandal’s and God’s version of a pitch fork) and about embarrassing herself completely in an interview to be a cow milker. (She’s living in New Zealand if this seems completely foreign to people in the City). I often find myself either jealous of friends, or that my friends are intruding on my particular territory and trying to make it their own. I’ll have arguments in my mind about people just doing what they’re good at, and almost always I share these with Sars (aka best friend). I point out who is getting on my nerves, answering all her pertinent questions about the person, dishing the dirty news on them. It’s filthy and trashy especially when Grandma’s all over the world are telling young girls, the only thing you ever have is your reputation. But rarely ever, do I just, listen. I’m a talker. I date boys who strictly listen, throwing in swift commentary every once in a while. I like animals who are silent but deadly with mice, and the occasionally purring sesh. Then, on the other hand, I’m a lonely bird. I rarely keep up with friendships that survive long lengths of time when one or the other can be silent, and breathing. When you’re there, I talk, when you’re not, I read alone.
And now today, while I’m on a dysfunctional loop of speaking on my blog, and in trying to tie all of this together, I want to say that reading can be both listening, and talking. People road-tripping all over the nation are listening to Harry Potter on tape with all the British accents, wishing they were staring up at an intricate clock tower in London. People are sitting on porches, rocking, with a cracked spine paperback in their painted fingers. Women are ignoring the small holes crabs make in the sand around their feet as they dig deeper into the ground to miss the retreating wave, and the women are digging further into the murder plot, the romance plot, the literary award-winning storyline. Middle-aged men, with heads leaned against doorknobs are listening to twenty-three year-olds read The House on Mango Street across the hall, only stopping to pee in between ever few chapters.
We are all having conversations with each other about the world. I am talking to Esperanza as she plays in the garden with the rusting cars, and learns about the aggressive flirting of older men. I am listening to Sally sing her bruises away against the fence in the ending chapters.
I’m listening, I hear you, keep humming, if that’s all you can do for right now.