It is a very expensive hobby. I currently possess everything you could need to bake anything your greedy little sweet tooth could grasp for. Everything; and the basics alone add up. But I hoard them, without a plan or a recipe, “just in case.” I finally understand my mother’s obsession with fabrics and yarn, her speechless disappointment as I curbed her enthusiastic discoveries with “but what would you DO with it?” This was never the point. It was never about a pattern, just as it’s never been about a recipe or an occasion. It’s simply the euphoric, obsessive collection of tools for our “trade.” It’s more than the necessity of flour to make a cake or a few feet of cotton to patch a quilt, it’s about the matte finish and crinkle of the paper bag it all comes in, the weight and feel of the sugar box between your hands, the mesmerizing, microscopic rhythm of threads bound.
© Jennifer Chaussee
Eagle Eye…Or something like that
Kristen and I sit on the lawn outside of Olsen Hall, at the end of Fall quarter. Waiting for our final, we talk shit about the people who walk by the sidewalk, who walk by in our memories. People we had class with months ago, whose blunders we have not forgotten. Our teeth gnash and no one is safe. Posers in the coffee line, nauseating couples canoodling in the sunny grass, professors we’ve had and hated, stupid shit our parents did and tried to pass off as normal. This is how we bond. On occasion we go too far and I back peddle, “at least he was nice,” I mumble obligatorily, splitting blades of grass in thinner strips. She wrinkles her nose and makes a disagreeable grunt; I catch wind of my own odorous optimism as something awkward settles down on us. “But his shit was hell of kitsch” I add to save the moment. The tower strikes and I have to pee before the test so I hoist myself up and whack the grass from my bottom impatiently, walking towards the side doors, surveying things with a sneer. I wince my eyes up real tight, to keep the sun out.
© Jennifer Chaussee
Of Art, for Artificial
The free-est people I ever met barely passed their classes in college- some dropped out. One of the most compassionate men out of that group was an angry Palestinian protestor who drank all day and sold pot. One girl was an artist who made lampshades out of torn nylons stained in coffee. She was the most selfish person I knew and she did exactly what she wanted and just enough of what she needed to do to get by.
NASA-bound engineers, who had blue prints for the car-boat-plane sketched out on cardboard, shroomed in the gingko trees of the arboretum. We sat all day at cafes doing nothing, talking about nothing, cooking chard and roots till 6 am and refusing meat but guzzling forties and chain smoking Camel lights. Brilliantly they fell in love with the wrong people. We all did. Manic-depressives who assumed all the knowledge of the bitter world, flaming blind optimists who claimed none but knew everything and used it for manipulation. None of these people were ever artists. I kept thinking they were all too free to be artists. They had no form through which they synthesized life, no creation that bound their objective. They were just down, everything they made was already made, and nothing they painted or sculpted was original. It came from materials already processed by others- the art already done. They were not the artists but the muses. And what fantastic muses they were.
So you can imagine the artists that flocked. The ones looking to prove their theories, to dig for meaning in folk songs completely void of anything other than breath and beauty. Those were the ones making meaning from the fun, the fools. They were artists, sucking out the pith from every tiny movement as if on purpose. They came, they projected, they left empty handed and disappointed. They left for San Francisco, suddenly, no plans.
© Jennifer Chaussee
Ramblings on Chaos
Life and its many interpreted meanings is a cluster of disorder. All things are chaos. The wind is chaos, love is chaos, war and peace are different ends on the same spectrum of chaos. To some this may be bad news but it should be embraced; natural uncertainty and the occasional disarray are freedoms. Where there is mistake there is also innovation and not so much the solution itself but the process of discovering the solution. There is epiphany just underneath.
The alternative: too much order, brings steel rigidity and predictability. Everything can be stuck. It’s not fluid, not human. It’s mechanical. People fear this. They write books like 1984, that tell us the world is bound to sell out to technology. To order. But chaos will always win. That’s why all books, including 1984, need adversity. Total mechanicalisation is impossible because the spirit will inevitably seek to break the cycle. Life is a human project and the soul inevitably arises in a human project. It seeks rebellion from whatever stifles it. This is why it is so important to teach our children about their souls, to be familiar with our own, to have a good relationship with our own and to allow and nurture the discovery and growth of other souls. With this comes awakening and revolt and change, or simply impact. We have an ever fluctuating system of submission and uprise, of trend and renaissance.
© Jennifer Chaussee
Randall and the Red Clay
When I was fifteen years old my parents found out that I’d made out with a guy with a Mohawk one Friday night at the drive-ins. They didn’t talk to me for a month and it really pissed me off because I’d finally done something of my own accord and they’d still managed to weasel their way into it.
He didn’t just have a mohawk, he had a Slayer tattoo that had been scratched into his arm one night when he passed out drunk on a friend’s couch. That kinda thing was a big deal. If my parents had asked, they would have known this. He had tight white pants and a ripped Guns N’ Roses t-shirt and I was afraid of him because he was 22 and lived in Orangevale next to the nightclub my parents always told me I wasn’t allowed to be seen in. But he was jovial and had a baby face; deep set Italian eyes that seemed to have no idea what they were capable of. He was still just a child but I was practically a fetus so the fact that he’d been clean for five months and wanted something to do with me was endearing. My friends all wanted him but he wanted me so I let him kiss me in the back seat of Nicole’s 4Runner as the lights of highway 50 flashed across our faces and the Flaming Lips drowned out our ears. I mean I was wearing a polo shirt for god’s sake.
My parents didn’t find any of that other stuff out, he had a mohawk and he’d never been over for dinner and we made out and that’s all that mattered. The betrayal, they called it.
But it was my secret, damnit. It had nothing to do with them.
Irony: My dad said, “You’re acting like my fucking wife! You’re my kid not my wife!” But this was a few years later during the divorce. This was a different betrayal.
It was the loss of control that really got to them and even though I was desperately afraid of getting in trouble, it felt good to know I was capable of doing some things against their will. Of course the quiet ones are always the ones who are looking for trouble. Even they told me that. It took me longer to find it but when I did I was good at calculating. I was good at that psychological drama bullshit.
I ignored the mohawk’s phone calls for a few weeks and rejected his three Myspace friend requests. But I told my friends I really liked him because I knew they talked to him. I sent him a message saying I didn’t check Myspace very often. I sent him a picture.
He called when I was in the car with my mom. He said my name and then I hung up. What a rush.
“Was that him?” she asked.
“…yeah.” and I sighed and looked out the window, feigning shame. What could be done? Someone was falling all over me.
“You gave him your number?”
I was a B average student with a need to please and a suburban fetish for closet porn. They put girls like me in body bags every day. We’re in the paper giving blowjobs at the mall. We’re in the chat rooms making up measurements and tragedies. Of course we’re giving our phone numbers to anyone who wants to know.
“You can’t date him; it’d break your dad’s heart”
But I can fix him.
A few days later he showed up at my house unannounced when my dad was in the study talking on the phone with a client. It was the first time I’d lied to my dad when I told him I was going on a run, frantically digging through the bottom draw for my one pair of short running shorts.
Across from the house, behind the elementary school, there was a field of dirt that turned to red clay every fall when the rain came. The sun reflected through the clouds and intensified the color of the clay field, slick and painted in maroon nail polish. I acted put off that he’d shown up.
“You can’t do this ever again.” I pouted.
He laughed and grabbed my hand from my jacket pocket, ignoring my mood.
I got to thinking maybe he’d fix me.
I wanted to show him that boys come to my house unannounced all the time, that I always lie to my parents and do what I want, so we made out on a big rock in the middle of the field, the grooves digging into my shoulders and my hips as he pinned my body against his. He took off his leather jacket and wrapped it around my waist to pull me closer to him and it happened too fast to remember the taste of his mouth. The hills towered around us knowingly, threatening to tell on me. I hated for it to happen this way but actually I’d always wanted it to happen this way.
So it did. He was under my shirt and in my hair and up my thighs and I couldn’t stop shaking. It happened just the way they had said it had for them. Things have a way of doing that- of just happening when you let them. It was pretty spectacular.
The sharp air was pushing on my lungs and it was hard to exhale. When he came I imagined I was holding him hostage.
Of course, I ran away. There was this hill towering up behind us and I just ran for it. My house was over there and I went running for it. I could hardly believe what I was doing but I was really having a good time doing it. My wobbling legs were slipping on the red earth underfoot.
“HEY!” he screamed after me. I wanted him to chase me, to hold me down in the red clay and drink something up from inside of me. I wanted violence. But he didn’t run after me, he just sat on the rock and screamed at me a few times and something in his voice was threatening and angry like maybe there was a part to the game I’d forgotten about and this made me run faster. I made it to the soccer field and ran hard to shake off the red clay from my sneakers, crimson evidence left behind in the slick green blades.
I felt like a badass.
When I got to the house I was out of breath and panicked. I was covered in the heady smell of his dirty hair and his tongue was squirming in my stomach. He was dripping out of me. I stood in the driveway and let it happen.
When I walked back inside the house was hot and quiet and everything was already beginning to erase itself.
Anyway, that’s how it all started.
© Jennifer Chaussee