(C)Lean Up After Yourself - Nine scenes in the film of life / by D.M. Jerman

With the familiar young faces from my brownie troop, I went into my very first old-folks-home. Thru a maze of hallways, I walked into a room and placed the succulent I'd been given onto a long tray, and looked into the face of a woman I had no idea how to talk to. She was much older than even my own grandparents were at the time.

I left. I was pushed back in. I don't remember what we talked about from there. Only the blue light on her face from the single window, and afterward, the feeling as if something had just transpired for which yet I had no understanding.


Mother enters my room. I hear her coming up the steps to reprimand me for something. It's always something. I stand and wait for it. Incense is burning. She thinks I'm smoking pot. She tells my father this so they can gang up on me. Again.


Doing homework when my friends come to the door on a night when I didn't expect them. I grabbed my guitar and we headed for the tracks. We went deep into the pitch black tunnels and followed our echoes back out to the brisk air at the town limits. Kicking at gravel and beer cans and singing songs we'd just made up, and would never sing again.


It was getting late. We were teenagers. We got back to his parents house before they did.

We were on the couch. The only light came from the hallway. In the fever of the night I was desperate to take off my shirt. Desperate to feel his skin against mine. I did. We did.


We stood in the parking garage's open lot a story up along the highway. The rush of cars against the tall buildings and all their lights. For a moment it was just the cold, and our city, and us.


He left. We were friends for a while in college. Just pals. We'd chat over cigarettes and TV. But when, at the end of the semester, I watched him walk down the dorm hallway and out of the south doors I knew I'd never see him again. And I didn't.


Then, deep into my twentieth summer and far away from home, I crept down to the lakefront. Naked, under the sleepaway camp stars, I got into a boat, and paddled silently to the middle of the water, where I stopped to watch the grasp of the arm of the galaxy.


One day, a long time after all this, I got on the train in the city, and suddenly as I looked around me, everyone seemed like a real-life rock star. I'm telling you. Hendrix and PJ Harvey. Nina Simone and some crusty Mick Jagger-type cat. I guess I wondered then who I was supposed to be.