Sunday, June 29, 1997

Journal entry, post-op


6/29 Sun. I’ve been in Oakland with Neil since Friday when he was released from Highland after his surgery. Funny, on an impulse, I’d packed my bag that morning, somehow knowing I was to leave, when the phone rang, Neil asking me to care for him—out of the blue. I was not consciously expecting it, but I was nearly frantic with a desire to be with him.

Driving down to Oakland in his car alone was one of the hardest things I’ve attempted since the accident. I couldn’t put the car in reverse nor crank the wheel. I had no upper body strength where they sliced my right pectoral to insert the valve. And my left side was still useless.

Ortho put my arm in a sling, a brace on my wrist. Highland is a trauma center where the addicts, the homeless and those suffering from the fallout of violent crime land to either recuperate, or die. So different from Kaiser. Neil was lucky, a whole cadre of doctors rebuilt his face from the jaw up. But recovery is akin to reliving the pain of the accident. How much more pain can he endure? Not enough Vicodan to last until Thursday. I enjoy caring for him but too many visitors wears us both out. Friends and old girlfriends call—I can tell by the tone of his voice!

Today I fed him mashed yams thinned with broth, introducing food for the first time in 10 days. Ten days into the nightmare… I told him our lives are irrevocably altered, We can’t go back to who we were. Ever. We are like Siamese twins, joined at the psyche. Where does one of us end and the other begin?

Last night he felt too frisky for his own good, serenading me with his broken mouth, jabbering up a storm till all hours. Tonight he’s paying dearly for that excess. Deep exhaustion and pain. I check for fever, worried we’ve introduced too many new foods today. Smoothies too. But I also worry about his nutrition. He needs to knit bones.

Alison wanted me to stay at her house tonight, she’d stay with Neil. But I didn’t want to go. She’s afraid I’ll get burnt out. I appreciate her concern, but I sense a darkness, an irritation—territorial? Something doesn’t quite ring true. Determined, I fight to stay. I’m almost irrational with fear of leaving him—as if my very presence was keeping him alive.

Adele Foley took me shopping for healthy foods—a grueling 2 hour excursion. Shopping at Lucky’s is almost more than I can bear. I slipped on a lettuce leaf, and it took all I could muster to keep from falling, but the pain was so intense I nearly fell anyway.

I now have trouble reading fine print on the labels.( Do I have a concussion too? I took a good bang on my right temple. Neil’s elbow, I think. Reading’s hard in general, I can’t seem to make sense of the words. They either float about, or collectively lose their meaning. My cognitive skills rearranged.) Adele is my eyes. I am determined to get the best nutritional food possible for Neil. B vitamins, connective tissue, healing—all my previous study of biology and nutrition comes into play.

Everything in the 20th century seems to exhaust me: lights, noise, color, chrome, a riot of details all demanding my attention until I’m reeling....

Journal entry, 6/29 continued…


6/29 continued....this was stuff I couldn't bear to revisit, let alone, render it readable, so it stays here, stet.

Neil was worried about the expenses. I repeated back to him what he told me Easter Monday morning, “I’ll take care of you, you’ll never want for anything.” It becomes like a marriage vow. For better or for worse, I will take care of you—to the best of my ability, I will do whatever it takes, Neil. Know that. We live on my meager savings.

Tonight there was the benefit party for Neil at Kate O’Brien’s. Gary Mullan called to say it was a smashing event—that Neil should run for office! I only hope they raised enough for the July rent. (I asked the gods for $1500 to pay the bills; I secured $1000 from Verona.) We eventually got around $800. (Then there’s August rent to consider.) A severe blow: Neil won’t be in the play. Gary Mullan’s stepping in. They delayed the play another week. Maybe Neil will be able to step in during the 2nd half of the run. Daily his speech improves as the swelling goes down. His house is a mess. Daily I take on some little chore, clean one small section. I still can’t raise my left arm.

I had to move the car for street cleaning, a painful experience since I can’t turn the wheel when it’s parked. Though my strength is returning, my upper body is still weak from the surgery. I took the bandage off today, the dressing covering pustules. Here I was nagging Neil to take a bath and I was smelling my own rotted bandage. Old blood and carbolic acid. Today I showed Neil how to lean back in the tub so I could wash his hair… but then I got stuck in the tub and needed his help to get out, no H2O for buoyancy. It struck me that moment how dependent we are on each other to complete simple tasks to survive. A small metaphor encapsulating the larger metaphor. Each of us is alone, crippled without the other.

Both of us, independent souls to the extreme (we’ll gladly cut off our noses to spite our faces), forced to give in, to accept and work with the other. He rejected my offer to wash his hair, scrub his back, but had me comb and dry his hair, clean the blood out of his nose with q-tips. I had to remove my own bandage, it was supposed to come off yesterday and he wouldn’t do it. “Who’d take you to Emergency?” I was pretty annoyed he wouldn’t help me, so I did it myself. Asshole! A good thing too, it was infected. So much for interdependence.

I helped him remove his forehead bandage. Then I realize he’s not an asshole, he’s just frightened, I’m the stronger one. When it comes to pain, women always are. We drove downtown, our first outing together, to do some banking. It took the two of us just to drive the car. Neil put the car in reverse and cranked the wheel for me (he couldn’t still see very well…) and I managed the clutch, gas and brakes, though my left knee’s still pretty unstable. He buys me a latte, but I can’t handle coffee yet. Still too adrenalined out. Still shaking from exertion. I need a nap.

Our days unfold into a pattern: he nags me to eat (I have trouble eating), to rest more, to slow down. I nag him to eat (an easy task), keep track of his medicines, massage him. It helps the pain. He’s a good patient, not demanding as Alison warned. Nor was he “pushing me around.” Why was she warning me? They haven’t spoken to each other since a spat on Friday. He said, “She’s just jealous. She had the chance.” She doesn’t know what my relationship with Neil is. (Neither do I.) His comment about jealousy brought it all back home: the unasked: are we having a relationship? All the mixed messages. This is not the time to press for an answer.

Ironically, for his birthday, I’d offered an afternoon at the Calistoga Spa, a massage, and salmon dinner, but he was being evasive and turned it down and took up Verona’s offer for lunch instead. (Boy, did we all pay dearly for that decision. Some karma!) I was really hurt, for he was pulling back (again). And look at what happened… I teased him because he turned down my offer, so now I’m feeding and massaging him for weeks on end, instead of giving him a simple afternoon’s straightforward gift of my time and energy. Then I wind up living here on an ongoing basis. Ironic.

He has no clue he’s getting the best of my attention. I like the person who I’m becoming around him, having to take care of him. If he wasn’t injured, it would be a very different thing. A part of me is tempted to lay it on the table, tell him he’s stumbling, the so-called dance we began at Easter is faltering to a standstill. That he needs to come to some resolution: either he wants me or he doesn’t. This ambivalence is poisonous. But then I try to be considerate, and think this is no time to lay down ultimatums. Later, when he’s on his feet…

Last night we talked about trust and betrayal—when to cut someone off, our tolerance levels… I told him my limits, but I envy his clarity at being able to say to someone: this is a warning… Meanwhile, I’ve not warned him of his own trespasses, but I am keeping score of slights. Like the time he made a date with me to go to the SF Film Fest, but then stayed with some woman in Gualala, leaving me hanging in the lurch. I was really upset, ready to cut him loose. But then we saw each other again… and again—and nothing’s any clearer. I’m tempted to cut my losses again. But somehow we work through it.

6/30 From my dreams I always knew I’d be living with Neil, but not like this… fixing a pureed dinner of carrots and chicken. (I make chicken soup from scratch to bring my grandmother back into the room). He loves my chicken soup, it reminds him of his mother’s. I have to strain it for he still can’t swallow well. A lump of food or a bone would spell disaster.

Friday, June 27, 1997

Elemental Portraits


Here's a link to our debut performance in 1997. I was in a car accident on June 18th, so I never had my debut. A punctured lung precluded my participation at the events on June 28 and 29. We did perform a preview at the Friedman Center on Mother's Day. It was hotter than Hades. And it was a luncheon. Nothing like the clatter of silverware during a performance.

Wednesday, June 25, 1997

Joournal entry, viewing the car


6/25 Sinéad takes me to Highland Hospital (more like Calcutta without the sacred cows than the Highlands of Scotland) where they moved Neil to operate on his face. So depressing after Kaiser. He looks better every day. Just to be near him, I massage his feet. He sticks his toe into my boob. Feeling a bit better are we?

Yesterday we went to the wrecked car and took our things out, and to banish ghosts. (Blood over the car and my book of Scottish kings we were reading from when it happened. The other day, he drilled me on the dates of the kings, our first attempt at reclaiming our lives.

I couldn’t remember very much, I worry about his concussion, his spinal fluid’s quit leaking. In my Famine book, a list of Scottish kings on Kaiser memo paper—something he’d written down to wile away the hours. I nearly cried when I found it. I took his jacket home and washed the blood from it.

The car was in worse shape than I expected. I noted the bent steering wheel, the broken windshield and the missing rear-view mirror where Neil’s face made impact, the driver’s seat shoved forward from my body. The right fender utterly crushed, the doors buckled (they wouldn’t open after the accident—we had to crawl out the window). The engine dropped down like it was designed to do.)

After leaving Neil (who goes into surgery at 7 AM tomorrow), Sinéad and I went out for sushi in San Anselmo. Things are still pretty foggy. The baby’s pelvis was crushed by Myle’s truck, an accident while we were in LA with Barney O’Reilly, Jr. Dave was in an accident too. Dave takes me back to Verona’s for I ache so much I’m weeping, and I can’t stand the noise of the TV at Sinead’s. I have no reserves left whatsoever. I resort to a Percodan to relieve the pain. Weep uncontrollably in the hot tub.

It hurts to sit up and write. I’m still at Verona’s, dependent on Vicki and Sinéad. Vicki took me home to get clothes, pillows and videos on Fri. She had a Dr.’s appt. in Santa Rosa. I was exhausted from the ride north and the heat. I dozed in the car, in suspended time. The trees, and parking garage seems so surreal.

I visited my chiropractor. He said it looked pretty bad, my back was swollen too. Didn’t want to do anything for a while. Vro’s to come home today. I’ve been tending Herman who’s not so chipper, with a crushed lumbar vertebra.

I begin my mornings with Ibuprofen and a hot tub. My left knee and right ribcage hurt the most—especially my right kidney, where Niel’s knee caught me square on (which probably saved his life, keeping him from going through the window, though my lung was punctured in the process). I can barely walk or breathe. (Vicki and I check Herman into Novato Community Hospital for observation.) I’m afraid to be alone, and so push myself too much: I break out into adrenaline sweats and can’t stop shaking.

I can barely handle clothes on my body, more than half of it is bruised, mainly my left side. Huge hot hematomas on my thigh and upper arm. Feels like I broke something in my left hand. I can only sleep on my back (carefully), and every move is excruciating. Getting into and out of bed is an expedition. The hot tub is my only salvation.

I’m worried about scar tissue forming in my muscles and lung, so I try to do some exercise in the pool every day. Can’t use my left arm yet. My lung is bothering me. I miss two paid performances I was supposed to do with Kirk Whipple in Santa Rosa. I sound like a bellows, breathless, wheezy. No way I could read poems out loud—even sitting down. Peggy Maddock’s husband tells me it takes 6 months or more. I’m beginning to believe him.

6/26/ Alison called to say Neil came through the post-op fine, though it took longer than expected. I begin to weep. My stomach’s been in knots since 7 AM. I said a mantra for him over and over.

Sunday, June 22, 1997

Journal entry, back at Kaiser


6/22 Yesterday I went into the emergency room and I wound up spending the night in the hospital after two visits to ER for a collapsed lung. A nightmare of a day and a night. I knew the nurses and lab technicians by name by the time I got out of there.

After hours of fiascoes, being shunted around from ER triage nurse to Outpatient Clinic where the doctor went out to lunch during my appointment, and the receptionist told me to do the same, I flipped, with what little lung power I had, I began screaming obscenities, and hobbled back to ER nearly collapsing from pain and a lack of oxygen.

Back at ER, I was finally seen to, only after throwing a tantrum and weeping hysterically. The triage nurse I’d seen earlier, came to my rescue and said “Admit this woman.” After hours of waiting for ex-rays, the surgeon said, “Congratulations, you seem to know your body.”

Fuck You! How come no one listens to me here? I said I had internal bleeding when I was admitted, and again when they released me. I said something is terribly wrong: “When I turn my head to the left, I begin to lose consciousness.” Arrogant bastards can’t handle the concept of the patient self-diagnosing.

(I know plenty about medicine. They released Herman with a “strained back.” I was standing there when the doctor read the ex-ray; saw the cracked lumbar vertebra myself. Granted, I was wandering in and out of everyone’s examining rooms like a zombie, fighting to stay conscious, but I wasn’t about to lose sight of my “patients” for I was the one administering first aid, getting everyone out of the car, etc., before help came.

I watched them flush Verona’s eye cuts, stitch them up. I Insisted the doctor stitch up the gash on Neil’s nose, a three corner tear needing 8 stitches. They were more worried about the fractures in his skull, and rightly so, but meanwhile, I knew his face needed attention too. Since I was a patient, they couldn’t very well throw me out. There was no one to take me home. I was already released, but I couldn’t stand to be separated from them. Safety in numbers?

I gave the ambulance drivers hell too when they tried to separate us—especially when they were going to send Neil and Herman to Novato Community Hospital. I screamed legalities, Hippocratic oaths, saying that by law, Kaiser had to admit us all. Fuck the system. Neil’s life was endangered.

A mouthy, feisty patient from hell, I even unstrapped my head restraint to go fight them off, when they made to move Neil, but they assured me we would all go to Kaiser. (Was that really me?) Then I had to insist they take us via Novato, a ride down Lucas Valley Road would’ve killed us off for sure.

The ambulance didn’t have good shocks. Lord knows where I found the strength and resolve to stay on top of it like that. Everyone else had long since succumbed to their individual pain and retreated from ordinary consciousness. I was the consciousness of the group. Somebody had to be in charge.)

Puncturing the lung is an extraordinary pain. I’ve got a Heinlich valve in my lung, but it took a surgeon three attempts to insert it through my chest wall; I was screaming in agony. My chest wall is tough and thick, he couldn’t get between my ribs. I made him go through the procedure beforehand, explaining my body was not like other women’s: more muscle mass, denser bones, but he didn’t listen.

They wanted to release me from ER, when I was in such great pain I couldn’t even move. I was fighting off shock to the best of my ability. The doctor wouldn’t check me into the hospital, but kept me for observation. I was afraid of hemorrhaging, of dying the hall.

I call Neil on the house phone and begin weeping. He said, “Not to move, help is on its way. I’m sending the yoginis.” What’s a yogini? I wondered. The nurse said, “You have two visitors.” I said “I don’t know you,” to the two women from Neil’s ashram who handed me a coral rose. “From Neil,” they said. “A rose from the Gurumayi’s visit.”

I wasn’t sure who the Gurumayi was, but this wasn’t the time to ask as I was barely conscious and had to fight to get a pain killer. I can’t believe doctors would deny me pain medicine at a time like this! After the doctor bungled the insertion twice, trying to slip it between my ribs and poke it into the lung without having gone deep enough to make an incision into my lung. Barbaric! He had to slice me some more. I was traumatized, clinically speaking.

I told them I could handle Percodan but because it’s a controlled substance they didn’t want to give it to me. “It requires special paperwork,” the doctor said. So? Demerol’s out. As are most of the IV pain killers: I had projectile vomiting after knee surgery. Vicodan also makes me vomit, I can’t handle Tylenol. Codeine surely wasn’t going to work.

The pain was so great, I could hardly figure out how to breathe, let alone vomit. Each breath, the tube rubbed the pleural lining. More ex-rays. The tube, like a tiny coiled snake sleeping beneath my collarbone, the shadowed half-moon of the collapsed lung, like an eclipse.

The yoginis (tiny poodle-haired Jane Bark from the Isle of Barra, and a giantess with coal black hair named Laura—kindly, compassionate faces) wheeled me down the endless corridors to the hospital and into Neil’s room. I thought they were angels. I was in the hands of friends I didn’t even know, having to let go, too weak to stay in control.

(Looking back, I’m surprised by my incredible reserves of strength, rage, and functionality under extreme duress. I always knew I was strong, but not that strong! Superhuman strength and will was required of me again and again. Conversely, the physical pain was quick sapping my strength, my will to survive, weakening by the minute. I was letting go…)

Neil played some chants, we meditated as pain spasmed through my body. A steady stream of tears slipped down my face, I could only take in the tiniest sips of air. He said, “You’re in the best of hands now, you’re right where you need to be. With me.”

Maybe it was the Percodan, I was hallucinating, but I swear I had a transcendental experience: energy running up my spine. I had the thought as the energy radiated into a branched pattern up my spine, that the so-called “candelabra” etched in a sand dune in Nazca is really a map of the kundalini’s path. Earlier, as we meditated, the faces of gods drifted before me beginning with the Aztec gods ending with a pantheon of Hindu gods and I don’t even know their names.

Another image I’ve had was of the dream fragments sliding into place from last June. So, some of it was also to prepare me for this accident. I’d already told Neil he was to help me through a trying time when I was very frightened. (In one dream we were married, though, and I had fear… but the image was that he took me through and out of my fear—which was connected to him. This isn’t that dream, but it’s connected. Like a dress rehearsal.)

I’m released from the hospital after three long days and nights. I’m so weak, I mostly sleep. My pulse drops so low: 113/58, but they don’t seem worried. My fever breaks the 3rd night. They remove the valve next morning. Take more ex-rays. The lung puncture has sealed. It’s staying inflated. I’ll have a scar on my chest, like a knife wound. Everything hurts. They took Neil down to Oakland yesterday. I feel so desperately lost without him. Afraid to let him out of my sight.

Saturday, June 21, 1997

Journal entry, Solstice


6/21 Hard to believe this is the Solstice, we are so broken of body and psyche, that time itself has become meaningless. Verona’s clock continues to chime every quarter hour, dividing the tedium of 24 hours into four more meaningless segments, the bells are not on daylight savings time. Twelve bells at eleven, and one forlorn bell at midnight.

I don’t want to remember my dreams anymore, too much distress and gore. I’ve become obsessive about details as if they comprised the underpinnings of life. Writing is difficult, but I fear I’ll go mad soon if I don’t write. Concentration is an effort of sheer will. I’m still on adrenaline overload. My body suffering from the ultimate fight-or-flight experience.

(My lung is gurgling, I’m bleeding internally, and now, spontaneous sweats and fevers). I make an appointment with Kaiser. I reason, if I die while waiting, they’ll find my symptoms written in my journal. I’m really scared for I know I’m broken inside. Why wouldn’t the doctor listen to me? I’m becoming too tired to fight.

Thursday, June 19, 1997

Journal entry, Kaiser Hospital


6/19            Kaiser Hospital, Terra Linda. While Alison read to Neil from the book I got him for his birthday on Ulster, I burst into tears, like my previous outburst this morning, it was too much having to take care of Herman at home. I can’t breathe, have to pull myself up the stairs. 

Patrick called and I began to sob, clutching Neil’s pants to my chest, the odor of detergent suggesting the flowered meadows we might not have ever seen again. All I could think of was how close to death he had come, my waking vision of my wailing over his prone body was not so not far off the mark. 

As Alison read, I wept uncontrollably, couldn’t stop. She held me in her arms as she had held Neil earlier. Said “It’s OK, Let it all out. It’s post-traumatic stress syndrome.” I couldn’t shake the vision of how I was covered in his blood. “The red blood of a son of Ulster,” he said, raising my hand to his poor, swollen lips, attempting a gallant kiss from that poor broken mouth. I wept as I kissed his fingers in return, from the shock they were still mottled purple, little yellow islands of fat. Am I Lady MacBeth haunted by blood?

When I could do no more at the scene of the accident, I lay down at his feet right in the middle of the roadbed, and waited for the ambulance to arrive, afraid to take my eyes off him, for fear he’d lose consciousness and die. I remember the blueness of sky broken by eucalyptus leaves, thinking how the patterns of light the most important thing in the world. If I just focused on them hard enough, then he’d live. 


Many images: had I lain at his feet before, covered in his blood, in some battlefield in a past life? I’ve plenty of present life dejá vú, but rarely a past life “memory.” Not sure I even believe. The imagery of slaughter.


Wednesday, June 18, 1997

Still Your Birthday, After the Accident


Here it is, still your birthday, half-way through the nightmare, and I am still bathed in your blood, covering my thighs like rusted armor. Would you think it strange if I buried my head in your clothes, while you swam in Demerol, your face shattered like a teacup or a mirror—seven years bad luck for all of us? During that tedious ride to the hospital, I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, I focused on a spot on the ceiling of the ambulance. I tried to reach you, breathing in the light, but you were so deep in pain, consciousness was an effort—small moans and gasps, our only link. In the waiting room Alison sits by me as I slide in and out. Brings me hospital tea, we groan, what we’d do for a real cup of tea—even at a time like this! The small mercies of ritual sustains us. We study catscans, count the cracks in the fragile bone china surrounding your eyes, fragmented handles against the shadowed brain, as if counting facts would avert tragedy. Níl eagla gaothe, have no fear of the high winds…

I would drink the pain from the hollows of your skull if I could. I would raise up that chalice, offer communion, if I thought it could heal the breaks. I would smooth the seismic fractures with my body as sacrifice to the gods of the faultline, travel the coastline of your body home to the land of your birth on this 44th year of your life, if I could turn back the hands of time. For I’d dreamed the fragments of this day into being: I was helpless to avert it. My imagination gone wild seeing you lying there in the road, knowing that if you lay down, death would surely find you. What use is this dreaming? But when the time came, I was a warrior at the ready: I kneeled in front of you, becoming your bolster, so that you might breathe. Kept you conscious so that I might have a reason for living.

My heart beats broken wings against the ribcage, I cannot breathe, my lung has lost inspiration for the taste of air, but I struggle to write for fear I’ll go mad. The dozen roses I bought for your birthday, abandoned on the piano, become a bouquet for the wounded. I remove a single rose, for even numbered flowers are unlucky, they are for the dead. And on this day of your birth, you still breathe. Rusty salutations rise from my lips. Each labored breath brings me closer to the sun. Rose petals bleed on the doorstep. Still you breathe, I sob uncontrollably into your clothes. Coins jingling in your pockets like the bells of reprieve.

18 June, 1997 Novato

A POEM FOR NEIL O’NEILL’S BIRTHDAY

A POEM FOR NEIL O’NEILL’S BIRTHDAY

1. Dear Niáll, a chara,
For this day, roses will bloom,
pearls will swoon with nacreous intentions
and the solstice sun will linger
a little longer on the horizon
moving towards its zenith—
twinned night’s short breath in your ear.
And the sons of Uísna will once again walk
with Déirdre in their midst
for Niáll of the Nine Hostages,
and Niáll GlubDubh, your namesake,
the champions are with us still.

Níl eagla gaothe, have no fear of high winds…
For in the mirrored existence of creation
all things are repeated—from cells to souls,
of grace approaching paradise at the speed of light.
No terra nullis, but the birth of consciousness.
If love is a drowning in flood waters
then let me be the flood. Let me be the offshore winds…
I am come of Ireland’s rocky shore to find you.
You, a descendent of high kings,
were in a hurry to be born in time for tea,
it seems, circled Braveheart’s monument in utero,
but a traffic jam in Paisley returned you home,
and you arrived blue in the face,
tasting freedom in your first breath of air
in a bedroom on High Street, in Johnstone, Scotland,
your auntie Cathy holding you skyward for approval.
And all the roads rose up with you,
the wind was always at your back
to bear you to the hollows of this final shore.

Guncuíreach tú chupa tharís le slaínte agus sonas.
May your cup be always be overbrimming
this day and all the days of your lives
with the grace that is held deep within,
not in reserve, but in abundance.
Drink deep from it,
let it intoxicate you
forever. 

JUNE 18, 1997

Journal entry, Neil's Birthday


6/18 Neil arrives late at Verona’s. I’m miffed at him for turning down my invite and accepting hers. What does that tell me? Herman tells me Neil wants poems for his birthday. I scribble something. He greets them but it’s quite some time before he says hello to me (but I am writing!).

They pour champagne, I try to put away my negative feelings and foreboding. I desperately want to put a stop on this day, stop time. I don’t want it to go forward. I’m uneasy in my skin. I don’t want to go to lunch with them. I’m the party-pooper, antisocial as hell.

Bad dreams this morning. The maja veil is over my mind: I can’t recall enough to know what it’s all about. I remember thinking that something really traumatic needed happen to bind us to each other. I stared idly at Neil’s picture when a vision came into my head. Something about an accident. Neil laying in the middle of the road. I chalk it up to aggression, I’m a bit pissed at him. Then felt guilty.

We drink a toast and get into their car. It was just broadsided in a hit-and-run. The fender squeaks. Neil hesitates, “Shall we go in my car?” he asks. Verona says, “No, no. Don’t be silly. It’s your birthday. I’ll drive.” Neil and I crawl into the back seat. I reach for my safety belt, it’s not all there. Neither is Neil’s. I figure, “Oh well!”

We thaw and begin to flirt. The champagne’s gone straight to my head. It’s like it was Easter—the tension's rising. It’s still there! I’m elated. We test each other on British kings, We know more that Verona, and she’s English!

Sunday, June 1, 1997

Journal, Gemini June


6/1 Met Neil at the TCI Awards ceremony with Verona and Herman. Chaotic. Neil got some TV coverage. I’ve no idea if the cameras were rolling when I read a poem, but it was live TV. I had an audience, even if only the others in the studio. Neil played a few tunes with a band wearing my green silk smoking jacket. It looked pretty good on camera from the waist up—as long as you didn’t see his tatty shorts. Some woman recognized Neil from last week’s Open Mike show, complimented him on his music. (She was all over him, I felt disgusted—I reacted by distancing myself from him). So it pays to get one’s face out there. A musician, Rich, said he recognized me from a party at Dennis Perón’s… in ’92? I tell him about the Dutch photographer, Jan Bogaerts, and how we met Brownie Mary. A big teddybear of a man, a bouncer hanging with the gayboys but yearns to be with a woman, or harbors chivalrous notions of love. “I know you!” we said simultaneously. In this life? or a past one? The depth, the stepping into, the kenning. Ah, the pan-global Celtic tribe.

We went over to Dylan’s Pub where I was introduced to Titch as “A fabulous poetess…” I’ll have to break him of the -ess part. We played ping-pong. N & V were quite good (he plays tennis too), but I was a disaster area. I kept smacking the ball to kingdom come. “Look at that shark fin come up when she plays,” he said, “a healthy, competitive streak.” 

Neil was due at another party but Herman convinced him to come to Novato for a midnight swim and spend the night (it didn’t take much convincing), but the hot tub was cold. A sultry, steamy night. I made a bed on the floor and we slept in bathing suits, snuggling despite the heat, talking into the wee hours about his family, his first lover in the U.S., and how she betrayed him sleeping with an exlover. “You don’t do that to a Celtic man,” he explained, as if it explained anything. Neither of us could sleep. We never got any farther than Melissa’s neuroses—his mind was racing so—I gave him a massage. He moaned with sheer joy, asked me to do his feet again. Talk about being starved, when was the last time this man was touched by a woman? As my hair brushed his feet, I thought of Mary Magdelene’s hair—how Catholic men want the whore-Madonna. Which was I to be at that moment, chaste in my bathing suit, swaying at the feet of my future lover… who is afraid to make love to me?

6/2 I’ve got AV book looming over my head, editing paste up. I’m days behind, can’t seem to catch up—I’m distracted by Neil, but have nothing much to report. At Verona’s the other night, we slept on the living room floor, he drew a map of Scotland—his home town in relation to Paisley and Glasgow—on my naked back, his fingers tracing the firths, the islands—and the map began to blur from the hard pressure of cities, the feathery touch of inlets and rivers—the lover’s touch upon my back, but then, he pulled away—reluctantly, it seemed. What is wrong? He gathers my hand to his heart as we sleep, spoon-style, pulls me back into his arms as we each turn in tandem (like slowly orchestrated beached whales). One time his hand rested possessively on my hip—not a platonic gesture. I was certainly close enough to notice a hard-on, but I never detected one. Mornings he gathers me into his arms so completely, I feel I’ve come home, while in the night, his embraces are filled with reserve. It feels so natural for us to sleep together, and ironically, that’s a more intimate gesture than fucking—though neither of us sleeps too deeply, preoccupied with the newness of it, the potential. On the other hand, we’re never really been in a setting conducive to lovemaking: drunk at 4 AM in the back of my truck, mid-afternoon in the orchard with the tenants peeking on, in the middle of Verona’s living room floor, the odor of skunk clogging our nostrils.

Verona, Neil and I went over to the pool next morning and meditated until we were sunburned. Neil’s voice, so pure as he sang skyward the Vedic chants…jai ram… I recognize a few words: namaste, bodhisatva, mantra, om… Covering all bases, he threw in some Irish and Latin for good measure. Beannacht loive. Et cum spiri tu tuo. I felt like I was attached to the sky via a thread from the top of my head. I focused on love without attachment, on healing his heart and mine, the grief we’ve both suffered. As I floated in the pool I could hear his voice speaking inside me, our hearts beating in unison, sometimes in syncopation. A pulse in my womb like the clicking of an insect, was it a pulse or did my womb resonate with his heartbeat? So odd to hear the pulses aligning. I did not tell him his voice was inside my head for I do not know if it was real. Already my life has changed because of him (and his’ through mine?). The change could be seen as disruptive, we’re both attached to our own little rituals of living alone. This requires adjustment and negotiation for we’re always on the edge of survival. I know he is affected by me as I am by him, but he’s too busy holding onto memories, hurts. “My last great summer in California…” has become his mantra and he’s greedy for experiences to fill that nostalgia and I’m but one more memory. He’s a social butterfly; I’m not. His world is vast by comparison. He eventually does find the time for me, but I feel overwhelmed by the thought of his leaving in September.

We went out to breakfast, I’d misplaced my wallet, the morning’s grace undone. I’m frantic. He asks why. I confess to him my fear was a dichotomy: a fear of letting go and a fear of holding on. He says, “Everything you need is already inside of you.” And I thought how this man steadies me like no other ever could, for I am the skittish horse. Many’s the time when he’s pulled me into his arms and I’ve transformed, settled down. “Ach, look at how she’s settling in the noi!” he’d say.

6/9 Mon. Bolinas. A horrifically busy week, pasting up the AV book, meetings, preparing for Verona’s 6Oth birthday party, picking up food, chairs, cleaning Herman’s place (filthy) on Fri. I was quite grumpy for I had to work non-stop at breakneck speed to get everything ready for Saturday. I was still working when guests arrived, I found it hard to relax. Neil showed up at 5 PM, I felt a little distant for he hadn’t phoned in over a week, but as the evening wore on, we inevitably were drawn together like magnets. I try not to come so close, but I think neither of us can help it—like poor moths tricked by an artificial moon, plunging into the flame. Verona got quite drunk, wailing over her dead husband on the beach at sunset. As Neil sang and strummed, we took turns holding her. The evening was quite lovely. Crepuscular blue. Venus on the horizon. The party continued on back at the cabin till midnight with singing and storytelling. A jaunt to Smiley’s to see who’s playing, we danced a bit, then headed back to Herman’s cabin.

Neil was more than willing to spend the night (as I knew he would) but it was quite some time before he reached for me. I felt abandoned, thinking I was definitely going to bail, but by morning something shifted, and we were once again in each others arms, within the circle of love. A cozy morning. Herman and Verona returned early to Novato. It was late afternoon before we ventured into town for the Sun-Day festival, which was nearly over. It’s been a long time since I was last in Bolinas: merchants and locals asking where I’ve been, made me realize I too, was part of the landscape. Neil and Patrick hit it off as I knew they would, talking about Buddhism and the Tibetan Book of the Dead—I talked about my experiences with the dead, and the experiences with blue and green light. I usually keep quiet about this stuff, but it seemed OK. The said words like: enlightenment, astral projection. Neil and I keep learning about each other through our interactions with others. Yesterday he said, “I think Patrick fancies you.” I got quite upset because we’re just good friends. He backed down. Neil picks up on nuances, like that creep at the Nicasio bar. Usually I sidestep that riffraff. Like that guy Steve, at Smiley’s who asked me to take him home—I was shocked, I’ve known him for years, never giving him any encouragement! Must be something in the air.

Neil could be waffling, ready to bail, but I won’t let him be complacent. We went to RCA beach at sunset, and the personal stories began to surface: first sexual encounters, early relationships, wounds and battle scars. I asked, “How old were you when you lost your virginity?” He said, “That’s rather personal!” and laughed. He was 16, in London, it was something to get over with—not a great experience. We were in full confessional mode. Over dinner I told him about Herman’s approaching me, and how devastated and betrayed I felt. Neil raised the issue of incest, he saw it as a serious breech of trust. Yes. He kept probing and I realized my deep anger toward Herman is a direct result of that breech of trust. He was a father-figure, I was in mourning for the lost father. I was sad to be the one who shattered Neil’s picture of Herman. He said, “It’s karma.” He marvels at their libido: both interested in sex in their 60’s and 70’s! While Verona’s looking at other men, Herman sniffs around too, I don’t think either scores, but it’s not from lack of trying. Neil said “She fancies me too. It’s merely the flesh!” I wondered about the state of Neil’s libido.

I felt shy as he prepared for bed, it was as if he were a complete stranger, so I told him. He sad, “That’s because you’ve revealed something of yourself to me.” He crawled into bed next to me—it was different. Not late party flophouse crashing. This was more formal, a deliberate arrangement, I felt like Ryan’s daughter on her wedding night. We chose to lie next to each other. (There was another bed, the one we slept on last night.) He asked for a massage, and we slept naked in each other’s arms. A conscious choice, but still no sex. He nibbled on my neck, I shrieked and shuddered deliciously, the erotic pulse, like electricity. He said “I could feel that too.” When I asked him where his erogenous zones were, he said, “Dead.” (A warning!) But that didn’t stop us from touching the whole night long—holding, snuggling, cuddling takes on a whole new dimension when one is naked. Inexorably we are moving towards sex—though he still resists, I don’t force the issue. All in good time. For the relationship has deepened considerably in just 24 hours.

In the morning he exclaimed how long it’s been since he felt the loveliness of a woman’s naked back against his, and gave me a long massage, made me tea and toast. I was the bed sluggard. He massages me again (I think he just wants to explore my body), telling me about meditation and the chakras, touching them, then my 3rd eye, opening it just like that and I was gone—following him to the purple light, finding the stillness, the connection as he meditated beside me. Is his meditation the reason he holds back from a sexual relationship? Compatibility? I am truly open, perhaps for the first time in my life. Every day he surprises me, our perception of the other continues to grow. We agreed that there were no accidents, that we’re supposed to be together (at least for now) because we have some real work to do. I told him one of my roles was to be a sounding board, that he needed an observer to explore all realms of possibility. I keep getting snippets of dejá vús—not significant unto themselves, merely gateposts. He’s still curious about my dream of him, and I wouldn’t tell him. I said, “I didn’t want to force, or rush it. It has to evolve naturally. He let it go , but is anxious as to the nature of the information I’m withholding. But if he’s afraid to be my lover, how will he feel when I tell him he’s to be my husband? And of course, he could change the future, the outcome, by refusing to do anything—refusing to grow and stretch. In which case, we’ll be condemned to repeat this scenario in the next lifetime, or the next—until we get it right. I don’t want to scare him off. Last night, without meaning to, I said “I love you,” it just slipped out. He stumbled, but kept on talking, not sure if he’d heard, or imagined it. I had to laugh because he’s always saying revealing things to me under his breath. We are undressing each other emotionally, physically and spiritually. How erotic!

Today I slipped into the shower with him and we stood naked before each other—no blankets to hide behind. I scrubbed his back: he wanted more, more. I did his legs and chest, feeling a bit shy. He was less modest with me, more thorough, inspecting me with a practiced eye, liking what he saw. My breasts pointing at him—a dare to touch them as he bent to scrub my thighs and calves. I can’t say he rose to the challenge, but he definitely got a buzz. Here I was, standing naked before an O’Neill, reenacting an age-old story; our ancestors having done this before. As I put on cream, he watched my every move in such open admiration, I was glad to have breasts. He put his hands on my shoulders, leaned over and bit my neck again. I made him bite the other side for balance and he said it affected him too.

“Uncircumcised,” I blurted out of context, as we tried to get the boat engine to work. We ran through his lines; a defrocked Protestant. My grandmother would roll over in her grave! “A cuddle for a cup of tea?” he asked. Silly. But we do spend a lot of time in each other’s arms. He marveled how we’re so much alike. “Chatterboxes. It’s amazing we can stand each other, let alone spends days together.” He comments that my face is so Irish, saying his eyesight is so bad, that I’m probably much prettier that he thinks I am. I’m surprised, for I didn’t think he thought of me as pretty. He’s beginning to thaw, though at the car his kiss was closed-mouthed. I demanded another, he laughed knowingly and kissed me again before driving home. I stay another night in that bed, breathing in his scent.

6/13 Friday. Today I told Neil that I dreamt of him (and two other men) a year ago today (six months before I actually met him.) I told him about Paul Evans but hesitated over the details of Waldo Rojas—because we were lovers just like in the dream, and I didn’t want to give that away. Besides, they were both my lovers simultaneously changing back and forth within the dream. And though a year’s space of time separates them, I don’t like mixing my lovers. The phone rang and it was Waldo! (after a year of silence). His English has improved, he made me work so hard translating for him in Rotterdam. I spoke in stilted Spanish, he spoke in broken English. My first phone call from Paris…! Wow! And he never received most of my letters. Crossed communications. Were the fates playing tricks on us? If Waldo and I had more contact (and if he wasn’t married), would I have melded with Neil? I feel like saying, “Neil, do you want me or not, for another man is still in love with me after a year of not seeing me. Waldo’s off to Chile June 27, and will return mid-August. His letter kept falling off the bolster, demanding my attention, I merely shoved it behind the photos on the wall, thinking I have no photo of Waldo there with Neil and Paul. Since my relationship with Paul is platonic, he’s the one staring out at me each night, watching over me as I sleep. These past days I’ve had calls from the three most important men in my life, all three of which, I didn’t even know a year ago, except in the dream.

Neil still wants to know what the dreams are about, when I reminded him it was a year ago we “met” in dreams. This much I told him: Something would happen (I don’t know what) and I would be terribly afraid, and he would lead me out… I didn’t tell him what the fear was about… He’s too bogged down in his worries and depressed to be subjected to the dream ravings of an imperfect clairvoyant. How to tell someone who still talks about not having a spouse—that we’re just “great pals,” and the implied statement: “you’re not the one,” to tell him that in the dreams we’re two-years married and my fear was of the marriage itself—that I thought we’d made a big mistake, I was without hope, but I HAD to trust him, had to come back to him—there was only our naked selves to face. It wasn’t about feeling trapped in a marriage per se, but about truly committing myself to the man in a deeper way I’ve never experienced before. I was truly frightened. This was life and death.

Waldo kept pleading, “Speak English to me!” It wasn’t my Spanish failing me, but the improbability of him calling me, on this, of all days! Dear Waldo! He was obviously as affected by meeting me as I was with him. So, why these three men? What is the gift? I was offered three choices, it’s as if I was given the opportunity to sample the virtues of each man sequentially: Waldo, Paul, Neil. My year and a day will end tomorrow. Perhaps it’s time to reveal more of the dream to Neil, he’s asked three times now. I’d better make sure he’s sitting down. He’ll probably shit bricks if I tell him. Yet, he too put the call out to the universe—and got me—but he chooses to look at gift horses in the mouth…

I had given Neil little talking to earlier this afternoon saying, “You’re responsible for your own happiness (or suffering, as the case may be), because the material he’s fighting predates his father’s death. He also asked me to bolster him up to help him to get a job, clipping want ads, making sure he was getting his résumé out, etc. He got a nibble for satellite disc sales; he and Gary Mullan took their résumés to 12 restaurants, then worked on a monologue of Bobby Kennedy. He tells me he is grateful to me for the attention and care I’ve given him, but is afraid of becoming dependent on me and others, and so, gets depressed instead. I said, “It’s obvious you need a little push and support. If I thought this was going to be a lifelong problem, I’d have second thoughts about it—I can’t fix things. (Is it a life-long problem?) I warned him my time and energy was limited, I was happy to share some of it with him, but it can be used up! “Careful how you use me. The energy I give you, I take from my art.” I also told him any time he wanted me to stop sending him ads, say but the word… As long as it feels balanced, I’m OK—he pours energy into me too. So far, it’s not an unequal exchange.

We talked in-depth about meditation and spirituality. He reads snippets from a yoga journal, a realm I know nothing of—eastern spiritual philosophy—I’m resistant, due to all the crazy cults. But I’m not resistant to him (he walks past my defenses), I realize how important this is to him, he wants to share this world with me. Finding the center, the stillness within. Kundalini, and a word I don’t know: shaktipat? energy transference, he suspected it would happen between us (a warning?) and to not be surprised or startled by it. Yes, we both sense there’s something more between us than meets the eye. He sees it in the spiritual arena, I feel it in the emotional realm. I wished for a man who can meet me on all fronts, it looks like my wish was granted. I asked for someone who had his retirement together, who spoke English, who was attractive on the physical, spiritual, intellectual , emotional levels… If this is what it takes, I will open up to it. But he’s also a bit out of control at this time (he’s a mess!), there is cause for alarm, he is a soul in transition. I have a hard time comprehending his living in debt, on credit cards, manipulating money. The whole thing makes me uneasy, I must admit. Big red flags, bells and whistles: a possible financial and emotional gamble, a risk. Be careful.

6/18 Neil arrives late at Verona’s. I’m miffed at him for turning down my invite and accepting hers. What does that tell me? Herman tells me Neil wants poems for his birthday. I scribble something. He greets them but it’s quite some time before he says hello to me (but I am writing!).They pour champagne, I try to put away my negative feelings and foreboding. I desperately want to put a stop on this day, stop time. I don’t want it to go forward. I’m uneasy in my skin. I don’t want to go to lunch with them. I’m the party-pooper, antisocial as hell. Bad dreams this morning. The maja veil is over my mind: I can’t recall enough to know what it’s all about. I remember thinking that something really traumatic needed happen to bind us to each other. I stared idly at Neil’s picture when a vision came into my head. Something about an accident. Neil laying in the middle of the road. I chalk it up to aggression, I’m a bit pissed at him. Then felt guilty.

We drink a toast and get into their car. It was just broadsided in a hit-and-run. The fender squeaks. Neil hesitates, “Shall we go in my car?” he asks. Verona says, “No, no. Don’t be silly. It’s your birthday. I’ll drive.” Neil and I crawl into the back seat. I reach for my safety belt, it’s not all there. Neither is Neil’s. I figure, “Oh well!” We thaw and begin to flirt. The champagne’s gone straight to my head. It’s like it was Easter—the sexual tension rising. It’s still there! I’m elated. We test each other on British kings, We know more that Verona, and she’s English!

(And then, the car accident in West Marin, that pivotable moment when your life changes completely.)