notes on exile no.2: monsters



Previous: Notes on exile no.1

We joked about finding my next ex-husband, my plans to build a gay bohemian estate in Truro, and Scooby-Doo. It was a good weekend.

A joke’s emphasis is its edge. The inevitability of a relationship’s ending before it’s beginning, and my can-do, if-I-build-it-they-will-come attitude are simultaneously predictive and retrospective, emphasizing the futility of dreaming. Cynicism is hilarious. Scooby-Doo is just funny.

But explaining a joke steals its magic.

The men I look at never look back.

Sylvan texted: The Hermit time was productive. I’ve always been a dude on the edge of the village, who people find when they need me, so I questioned his tense. The Hermit time is. Always. Non-negotiable.

But exile feels pretentious.

Which is why I want to build a gay bohemian estate in Truro. It will be a destination.

I’m at my best when I play hostess. I need things to do.

Is the center really breaking down? What does it mean to be in the world? I can broadcast globally from my kitchen table. Ain’t this (or that) the world?

I’m happier here than in any city. I like this scale, walking everywhere.

But I want to make something, new and small, powerful, without, as Kath suggests, paperwork.

I’m going to resist, if only for a moment, the idea I need to do anything.

I’m fifty-fucking-years old. I’ve paid my dues.

The lighthouse keeper asked, Were you a party of five?

In the middle of nowhere, we didn’t anticipate the question.

A while ago, a confused man wandered through, looking for four friends, he added before turning back.

The sun ticked toward the horizon as we silently entered the trail leading to the moors.

In October 1939, scared Provincetown children began reporting a monster. It was big, some said seven-feet tall, and fearsome, dressed fully in black. No one believed it until an adult was accosted at twilight. Then rumor spread of the devil arriving, something they named Black Flash.

Clouds broke at the horizon as we walked away from the lighthouse, toward the fire road and home. Is there a name for a color that’s all-at-once green, pink and gold?

We took selfies, photos of each other and twilight, promising tags on social media. Philip and I have known each other sixteen years. I met Meg in March, and Chris two days before. I’d introduced Meg to Philip and Chris that afternoon.

Bathed in green-pink-gold I was happier than I remember. It was Labor Day.

Paranormal folklorists perpetuated a myth that the Black Flash terrorized Provincetown for a period of six years. But the Black Flash’s mischief unfolded over a single month. He disappeared without official comment, but it’s believed he was a prank played by a group of teenage boys.

Since at least 1850 the US government has seen Provincetown as being of strategic military importance. During the Civil War, fearing a Confederate blockade of the harbor, the War Department built two earthwork batteries on it. They never saw action, leading the town to name them Fort Useless and Fort Ridiculous

In August 1939, as a fourteen-year old girl, my mother took a photograph of a Nazi U-Boat from the town pier with her Brownie camera. World War Two began two weeks later.

I know why young people created monsters in the fall of 1939.

A lighthouse keeper, a confused man in the moors, and the Black Flash are essential elements of a Scooby-Doo episode.

When you’re young no one tells you that heartbreak is about you, and not about the object of your affection. Heartbreak unlocks your innate brokenness. It makes you acknowledge everything you need, and forces you to see you’re incomplete. If you’re lucky, you learn other people can’t fill these gaps, and you start to do the work of becoming more fully your best self. But, over time, as we inure ourselves to the youth’s painful drama, grief doesn’t leave us. Even over the longest life we never complete the project of wholeness. We always need more. And we recognize the value of other people, but in a different way than we first thought.

But sometimes we get stuck. Which creates a different set of monsters.

About studio work, Chuck Close has been quoted as saying, Inspiration is for amateurs—the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will—through work—bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art idea.’

I am attempting to show up, to look at undreamt possibility.

But, too often, still, I avert my eyes.

Next: notes on exile no.3


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