when in Guam
My teenager is having a wonderful time in California. He calls and we talk for a few minutes, or he talks and I listen; we're doing so many things, Mom! We fished in the ocean and camped on the Northern shores and visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and ate at Yu Lee's (at Hyde and Jackson).
Why did you ever leave San Francisco when it's such a cool place to live, Mom?
As I'm trying not to sigh.
The other two boys are clamoring and climbing all over me. I start to write in my book-journal and then they interrupt. "Mom, guess what? Guess what. Look at me." I stop writing and look at them. Their hands are so warm on my skin, almost too warm. "There's this firecracker you can buy? That explodes underwater. Underwater!"
I nod, solemnly, and they scamper away again, caught up in some new diversion or mischief.
...and then I don't know where my thoughts were. I had at least one, I know I did.
The phone rings.
Where's your post? Melonie wants to know. Write something.
me: Yes, but what?Melonie sighs.
Melonie: I don't know. You've got so many secrets you never tell; write something disclosing.
me: Hey. I had a dream about Guam last night. I dreamed I was trying to get to California by plane and ended up on a boat to Guam instead.
...Is that disclosing enough?
me: I can't write.
Melonie: Why not?
me: Because I'm really bothered that Guam is a U.S. territory but the citizens don't vote. It makes me think of our founding fathers and what the ideals they founded this country upon. Well, first, religious freedom, but then the Puritans crushed everyone who wasn't Puritan, so I mean besides that. The aggressive stance against taxation without representation. If the people in Guam have to pay U.S. taxes, but can't vote, then we've become the very force we once grappled against. And if I'm a U.S. citizen in a U.S. territory, if I end up on a boat to Guam, not that I'm going to, but if I did, I want to have my rights.
Melonie: I'm pretty sure that you do.
me: Look it up.
Then she reads to me from this page about the rights of the people of Guam, the Guamanians:
Guam receives large transfer payments from the US Federal Treasury ($143 million in 1997) into which Guamanians pay no income or excise taxes; under the provisions of a special law of Congress, the Guam Treasury, rather than the US Treasury, receives federal income taxes paid by military and civilian Federal employees stationed in Guam (2001 est.)
"So now I'm going to hang up so you can write."
"I can't write."
"Whatever you write, I'm sure it will be beautiful."
"Oh, ha," I say wearily, and we hang up.
It's even hotter today than it was last week, or at Cedar Point even. I turn up the air conditioning and stay inside the house, working with a frown and thinking. I don't know what to tell my son when he asks why I left San Francisco. I don't know what to write when my thoughts are so preoccupied elsewhere. I spent the last weekend as quietly and meekly as a nearly-drowned kitten, curled up under an afghan and waking now and then when my four year old would sit on my chest and ask his big brother, "Isn't she cute?"
I was talking to a childhood friend on the phone Saturday afternoon and I accidentally transposed the friend's first two names, at which point my friend yelped indignantly("Hey! I know your middle name. I can't believe you forgot mine!").
"Don't get pissy," I said, stung. I've been horizontal and half-dead all day. Get off my back. But I didn't say that. It sounded as self-pitying as it felt. My friend is supremely happy right now and I'm not about to admit I'm having a health setback at the moment. No one needs to hear about that. I'm sure it's tiring, even. Same old, same old.
Sometimes my words --anything I could say, anything I can't -- still just feel completely inadequate and wrong, like a pair of mismatched shoes.
This would be one of those times.