Monday, July 18, 2011
Actually I Just Changed The Names
My name is Amelia Cake. And the thing about me is I don’t understand a lot of what is going on. I spend an awful lot of time confused. Terribly confused. And I don’t know what is true, I don’t own a microscope, my sister does, but I don’t. Me, I don’t know if I ever got the full story of myself, or my behaviors, or my gumptions, or my size, or anything really. But, the thing is, something happened. My name is Amelia Cake and I have to tell you something. Sadly, most of it is true. But, some of it is fake. Some of it is left out, or changed into shiny coins from Canada, or Vermont. And then some of it is hanging in loose ends from my ceiling.
For example, my name is not actually Amelia Cake. It’s something else. Something very early eighties. Something ordinary. Catholic. Of green gables. But, I’m not going to tell you my real name. Because, when it comes to my story, and my name, and the numbers that stack me up, it’s best not to worry about things like real, or speaking, or image. Just let yourself go kind of soft. And help me figure it out.
My name is Amelia Cake and I am writing to you from behind a closed door, somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts. I have a lamp, and a bed. And I wish to be independently successful someday, long after I am dead and cold. I wish to tie everything together with string. My name is Amelia Cake and I am having one of my good days. I want to tell you something quickly. Before I get confused and furious about what is true, and what is dropped like a diamond down a well.
First, some context.
I was born three pounds, seven ounces, on a cold February afternoon. And I don’t know why, but for most of my beginning the only thing I wore over my purple, asthmatic body, were thin cheese cloth looking nightgowns. Not exactly the rape victim kind of nightgown, but more along the lines of a neglected, only child who talks to herself kind of nightgown. But, now, twenty-zillion years later, I’ve been to hell, obviously, and back, and back, and Tuesday, and river, river, cry, cry. And the flames have eaten the fine linens, and stupid lace collars. And I don’t really care anyway. Because I’m much too big for nightgowns.
My name is Amelia Cake. And you can’t trust me. To put it simply, I am sad. I have green eyes, and I am looking at the wall next to my sheets. It is so hard to go on.
I guess the story starts the day I accidentally lost my mother. She’s been bulimic for three decades or so. But, she doesn’t understand, she thinks she has cancer. I was sixteen that morning that everything stopped. But, I don’t like the way sixteen sounds. I want you to hear six, ten at the most. A tender age. An unfinished age. And I was so small, if you had seen me you wouldn’t think I was a day over Velcro shoes. And if you had heard me cry you would have thought I was an owl, you would have picked me up. I still wore nightgowns, and my voice was even smaller than my body. I was pale, and good, I had braces, and a boy friend that I was scared to touch. I had long hair and good grades. I didn’t eat much. I was a good girl. My name was Amelia Cake. Grown ups liked me.
And we, mother and I; lived in a castle. Well, it wasn’t a castle, it was an apartment that looked just like a castle. I used to call it the golden age, before I was a writer. Mom was healthy looking for like four years in a row. She managed a job downtown. She had her teeth fixed. She had a lover that wasn’t already married and could be with us during the day, and act as that token male super hero thing, I think. He bought ice cream. And wasn’t embarrassed to play twister. And we lived in a castle. Nightgowns came out of the faucets. We had tea parties, and grammar schools, and bath tubs, and vacations, plush carpets, radiators, cable, and pussycats. We ate our meals on the fire escape, but we were usually too happy to be hungry. I was a budding actress, and she wore high heels to work. And the flowers were purple, that shimmering, sandy shade of purple that’s in things like Texas dirt, or maybe that dead brother’s head stone, and possibly grandmother’s wedding dress, and that’s it. The flowers were purple, and giant, and one of the neighbors had planted them all over the courtyard. And I think they were called four o’ clocks, because they slept during the day, and then bloomed in the evening for a couple of hours. And then that was it. I was small, and there were certain things I had to count on so I wouldn’t go crazy. My mother would come home every day, before it was dark, while the purple flowers and the stove top stuffing’s were still louder than the street lights. And then that was it. The two of us all alone at the top of three winding staircases. No doctors, no screaming, no fathers.
And then one day strange men were cleaning asbestos out of the basement. And mice crawled up through the pipes. And it was never the same. They slowly, over the course of a year, took everything. I swear those mice were evil. I choose to blame the mice. I hate them. I want to cut them up in little pieces. I want them to suffer before they die. Sometimes I still have nightmares that they’re crawling all over me. A thousand bony, beady eyed creatures; all breathing into one puss bubbled hour. Pulsating, and writhing, and throbbing like a bed of maggots in the Chicago heat. They cover me. I’m wearing a nightgown made of half dead mice. And there’s nothing I can do.
I remember the first time I saw one. It was in the morning, I reached for a box of cheerios, and there he was, staring at me all empty like, like an undiagnosed second cousin, soaring through the air, tumbling through liters of diet coke, and jars of peanut butter, and chips of paint, onto my bare feet. I screamed like a whistle in a story book. My throat opened as though it was going to be closed for repairs, and needed to stock up on oxygen and blood. I felt like Neil Armstrong, or King Lear, or Ani Difranco. But, my voice couldn’t kill it, or trap it, or stop it. It was bigger than me. It was a tiny mountain, and it galloped like a folk song into the home- of my home- of my mold- of my demon- and rapture- dropped- on the head of my penny- off the kitchen- up the stairs- on thanksgiving day- with the window open- and the fingers bleeding. That mouse was a piece of smoke on my face. It’s hard to describe, but I swear. It shut me up and got me scared I’ll tell you that. I didn’t eat the Cheerios. I wasn’t hungry. And I don’t really think I’ve been hungry since. Milk gives me a rash by the way.
Call me by my full name please, Amelia Matilda Cake. I’m not finished. I have cramps in my legs.
The three older half sisters took turns flying in from the East Coast to set traps and plan a funeral. Our mother supposedly had a terminal disease that she wasn’t going to fight. She was dyeing. She was ending her life. And she needed her four daughters to come help her shop for coffins. She wanted our opinion on the flowers. And the music. She was curious as to who wanted which pieces of furniture. There was a lot of furniture in the castle. Furniture suspended in time. Dark, priceless, gaudy, pillars of antiquity. As soon as her fingers started to swell, she took off the gold and the diamonds and presented rings to each of us. Rings that had always been on her fingers. Her cracked, dry, paper thin digits. Her flawlessly manicured horse colored tips. I don’t think a child ever forgets the contours of her mother’s hands. The face kind of narrows into the museum hallways of loved ones we keep on high security in the corner of our minds. But, the hands stay close to our pen, to our ink, to the down stage side of our trying trying cheeks.
We met with a lawyer at a coffee shop. Something had to be done with Amelia Cake. My mom said I could just stay in the castle. I could get my driver’s license early, and have the car, and the apartment, someone would pay for it, or I could get a job. Just kind of support myself. I didn’t have to go to college in three years. I didn’t ever have to go to school again. I could be famous in six months. Win an Oscar as she breathed her final breath. Thank you so much. What an honor. First of all I couldn’t have done any of this without my psychotic mother who never should have had children in the first place, I know she’s watching the awards right now, she’s with me to the end, her support knows no bounds, too bad she can’t remember my name through the morphine and the Adavan. Thanks mom. Thanks dad. Thanks the Academy of motion pictures. You guys are the best.
I remember the lawyer was very pretty. I liked her. She was eating the biggest mountain of corn beef on rye I had ever seen. I didn’t understand how she was doing it, how was she opening her mouth so wide, and didn’t she need to be alone with that? I was picking at my muffin and listening, but I knew it was worthless. I knew there was no way this corn beef lady could make me an “emancipated minor“. I knew I couldn’t go and live at her house either. I didn’t know where I was going to live. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me.
One thing was for sure. Mom was definitely leaving. She was hemorrhaging, loosing way too much blood. She was retching up bile and dark pieces of her liver. She was weak, she couldn’t make it to the bathroom. She was loosing her breath and her mind every time she stood up. We lined up the pills; morning, noon, evening, bedtime. We used that bottle of morphine that was always in the kitchen next to the vitamins, I don’t know how it got there, it was there years before the disease and the hospice. I think she brought it back from one of her trips to Mexico. And then there were also these boxes of pills that came all the way from New York, for years. I think this was the most elaborate, selfish, cruel suicide ever attempted in the history of girls and castles. Her eyes just rolled to the back of her head and stayed there for days. Her skull became soft and deformed from lying there motionless. Her tongue started to rot and mold, I could smell it from down the street. She weighed about eighty pounds. I was afraid to touch her. I thought I would kill her if I touched her. But wasn’t that the point? Didn’t she promise to die quickly? See, before she lost the ability to speak, she showed me where she kept a loaded gun. She explained to me that she was involved with a police officer who was married and had a child. (She was over the moon ape shit obsessed with him, I knew he was a bastard). She explained to me that she liked to have a loaded gun smiling back at her on the nightstand while they were making love. And one day because he was just the nicest man in the world, he gave her one of his guns. Like as a present. A naughty little surprise. And this was very convenient because the disease was going to get really bad, and she would need to be put out of her misery. And I was going to have to shoot her like a good little girl. And it would be ok because she was going to die anyway. So I wouldn’t be in trouble, I wouldn’t get kicked out of school. I wouldn’t go to hell. And nobody would blame me either, She would write a suicide note and I would put the gun in her hand. And I would be so happy to have the castle all to myself and live happily ever after.
There was one night when I woke up because someone was screaming. And I thought oh my god that stupid gun. Somebody did something with that gun. And now I have to mop up her brains and re-paint the walls. But when I got to the bathroom I was just in time to see her naked body come crashing to the cold tiled floor. There was a sister there too. She saw it. But, she was already old. She had glasses. And on the way down, our mother’s face met the porcelain sink of course, not that they hadn’t already talked and cried together at the block party, at the Irish beer garden on Western Ave. I’m telling you, there are so many lies, but, it’s all true. Anyway, two of her teeth rolled out of her head and shattered to the ground. We watched.
I don’t remember what came after that. And I always remember. I hope I went back to sleep. I hope I didn’t sneak mayonnaise out of the jar.
But, she was alive. Barely hanging on to something none of us will ever know. She didn’t kill herself that night. She wanted me to kill her I’m sure, but I was a rebellious teenager, and there was just no way I was going to do anything she wanted me to. It was bad enough I had to sweep dead mice out the back door every morning. Every day a mouse died and every day she went further and further away. She stared into cups of water and had lengthy conversations with her miss carried children. She read letters to her stillborn son. She went on anthropological digs in the rainforest. She insisted on smoking her menthol cigarettes, except she was always lighting the wrong end, and then falling asleep with three-foot flames in front of her face. But, probably the most hurtful thing was that she wouldn’t shut up about her lover’s daughter. She had erased my name; Amelia Cake-- from her memory, as well as all three of my sisters, but she was very concerned about Christina I think her name was. That seven year old little cunt. Poor thing, mom was just so concerned about how that sweet girl was holding up during all this. I’m really a nice person, but if there’s any justice in the world that little bitch grew up to be fat, ugly, homeless, and dead.
My name is Amelia Cake and I write letters from the edge of my bed.
Well, there were friendly faces everywhere, lots of priests, and nuns, and therapists, and people from the office, ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands. All coming to say goodbye and talk to me about the final stages of death. The community shepherds actually brought bread and wine, and gave us all communion, right there, in front of rotting tongues and buckets of vomit. The friends and neighbors all brought loads of groceries that I couldn’t eat. I just couldn’t do it. It was too much, too high, to foreign. We never ate taco salads. Gross. Please don’t make me. I had to throw it away. I didn’t want to loose weight, I didn’t want to look like my mother. I just wanted to maintain. I just wanted simple things, just crackers and bananas. And I wanted to eat it alone. I wanted to be alone in my room. These people were nice, I liked it when they hugged me. But, I knew eventually somebody would just take my mom away. I knew this couldn’t go on forever. I knew my sisters had to go back to their families. I sensed that it was taking too long for mom cake to kick it. I knew things weren’t going the way we planned, just the two of us, mom and I. Too many people were involved. And I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. It was out of control.
And one day two ladies dressed all in black showed up at the door. They were enormous, they were larger than life. They had huge black boots, and thick padded black vests, and baggy black pants, and greasy pony tails. I recognized them, they were the people who came to put my cats to sleep a few years back, and now they were coming to get rid of the mice. And then they asked for her, they said her name, they said MerryWeather Cake, they said we’re looking for a MerryWeather Cake. And I know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers, I know you’re not supposed to let them in your house. I know I should have used that gun on them. I should have shot them about ten times in the heart, claim temporary insanity, claim self of one to none, claim all my riches, and all my bonnets, throw mom over my shoulder, and run like hell into the streets, crazy with love and rage, all the way to Mexico. Mexico was nice, we went there once, we danced on the roof of our hotel as the sun set, it was nice.
But, I didn’t. I just pointed down the hall to her bedroom. I was at the dentist loosing my virginity in that moment, I couldn’t feel my body, I couldn’t talk. Something was keeping me very still, plastered inside my own skin. I couldn’t even cry. I heard them talking about how she was eighty pounds soaking wet, how it would be no problem getting her down the stairs. I wanted to tell them that she was actually seventy-five pounds at this point, and I could do it, I could carry her, let me do it. But, nothing came out, nothing anybody could hear anyway. Maybe the whales. For all I know I wasn’t even there, and none of it ever happened.
When the three of them came out of the bedroom I was appalled at the sight of my mother. Someone had dressed her in clothes that were obviously way too big. And someone had also put make-up on her, she hadn’t worn make-up in years, but she was still beautiful. She looked terrible. And she didn’t say goodbye. They carried her away in this weird chair, they walked right in front of me, or the ghost of me, something. It was all too quiet and simple. I watched her spiral down the winding stairs until she was completely out of sight. And as I locked the door behind me I felt something pressing into my chest. Something was sitting on me and suffocating me, I don’t know if it was an elephant, or a monster, or an unborn child, but it pressed into me, it crushed me. It made me small forever. It’s still sitting on my shoulders and pecking at my pencils. It won’t go away. It’s heavy and sad. It rhymes with pain, but it’s not pain at all, it’s simply something I have to tell you.
My name is Amelia Cake. I’ll be back. I have a lot to say today. Always tired, but having a good day today.