Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 28 (Elizabeth Willis)

Meteoric Flowers
Willis, Elizabeth
Meteoric Flowers

Purchased at Talking Leaves Books.

I was writing yesterday about my arrival and Quito in the summer of 1994 and the evenings I spent alone in the volunteer apartment, first having dinner with Norma, the cook, then reading Spanish and watching random movies on VHS in the evening. I smoked like a chimney back then, and I really paid no one who didn't like it any mind. I smoked where I wanted and when. I had a certain obnoxiousness about me.

I am trying to remember the apartment. It was on the second or third floor of a building about a quarter of a mile down the road from the center where some of us worked. The others, myself included, worked in downtown Quito and we began our days with a forty-five minute bus ride to the other center.

It was a large apartment, as I recall. Actually, now that I think about it, it was two apartments. Several of the volunteers lived in an apartment one floor below. Our apartment was larger because it had a living and dining room, while the other was only sleeping quarters.

I remember making a video to send back to the states for my friend S's bachelor party. If I recall correctly, I structured the whole thing using lyrics to one of his songs. I had one person after another say a word to the song, quick-cutting from one to the next. The grand finale was of me sitting on the couch wishing him a happy marriage with a pair of naked men waltzing behind me in the background.

When I saw him again later he said, in a a slightly admonishing tone, "Thanks for the naked men -- my mom really loved that," in a slightly admonishing tone. I didn't realize that by bachelor party he meant that his mother, in-laws, fiance, etc.,  would be in attendance.

One night we were all sitting at the long tables in the dining room playing a card game. I think it was hearts. Or spades. One of the other volunteers, who later became my roommate back in NYC, was not a good card player. He was the kind of card player that bewildered more experienced card players because he just didn't understand how to play card games. He barely understood the rules, did not understand strategy, had no desire to win, and thus would throw out one puzzling card after the next. Everyone at the table made jokes about his playing, and he started to take it personally.

It was something I said that broke the camels back, as it were. I don't recall what it was, probably something sarcastic. He flung his cards into the air and screamed that he didn't give a shit about the goddamn card game and that I could go fuck myself. It was a shocking conclusion to an otherwise friendly game of cards. And neither was this the last time I was at the receiving end of such a tirade. I tried to teach him to play chess and one night some comment I made sent the chess board flying across the room.

Why I thought being roommates would be a good idea is a question for the ages.

More on Ecuador tomorrow....

from Meteoric Flowers

(Note: this poem seems to be the last one I read in the collection, as the cover flap was still pressed between pages 42-43, thus...)

Pictures Connected By A Slight Feston of Ribbons

When the ship is in danger, a bell can be a most familiar sound. Traveling by coach or the disastrous locomotive refinements of wind. Of important motionless conversation, the mouth's wicked noise, an internal sensation of ten and of apparent fever, an alcove of Lear. To voluntarily dissolve before a lesser lens, to bark and blither till the end in drunkenness, or as a cottage trembles above the snow with a surprise like joy.

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