Blind Mob Daddy. by Monah Li

12 05 2014

“I lika de puusee”, Armando grins and shuts the door to the van from the inside.
“I know”, I say and hesitate for a moment, but what the hell, I don’t care how he takes it, so I go on “That’s going to be on your tombstone if you don’t watch it”
He laughs and says that Pussy-thing again, this time with his hand dangerously close to what he talks about.
His swollen feet are shoved into old man’s slippers, his glasses so thick I can’t tell how blind he really is. He’s definitely on his way to get his tombstone soon and he knows it. Three years on dialysis, three times a week and not even on the kidney-list, he’s just about maxed out his days on the machine. My mother’s late husband died after three years dialysis. A body can only take so much.
Juvenile diabetes is a bitch, nobody’s fault. But it is slightly reassuring that the Meth he sells is not the cause of such physical destruction. Armando is only 38 years old.
The motor is running in place, filling the van with hot air and mixes with the piss-stink from his pores, especially sharp cause it’s a no-dialysis day.
“I like it” he begs again. “You no like sex?”
“I don’t. I just really don’t. It’s not just you. I never liked it” I lie, trying to stay calm. It’s the same conversation every time I come see him.

What the hell am I doing with a love-struck, horny almost-corpse inside an overheated van? Until six weeks ago, if anybody had predicted this, I would have laughed. No way. No fucking way, I would have said.
I took my first newcomer chip In June 1987 and besides a few problems with painkillers when my back went out, my recovery was flawless. Everything happened as it should. After a nightmare detox from Heroin, Methadone and Meth Amphetamines, I got my shit together and worked my ass off to make up for the decade – my twenties – I wasted with drugs, a gay ex-prisoner, but still con/ hustler/pimp with violent tendencies. I fled from him by first moving out and throwing myself into med-school and then when this wasn’t enough of a distance, I visited my mother who had never returned home to Vienna, even after her Stanford Fellowship in Psychiatry was long over, even though I was only 15 years old.
We hadn’t seen each other for ten years. I needed a mom; she needed a daughter, so when it came time to return to University, my mother had an idea.
“You’re never going to be a good doctor anyway, why don’t you stay and go to fashion school here? Isn’t this what you always wanted?”
It was. I stayed. She paid the school two years in advance and helped me move in with the two lesbians I had met at Club Lingerie in Hollywood. I made it to school less then ten times. The couple taught me how to shoot speed and that was that. Instead of a graduation, my mother had to bail me out of Sybil Brand and put me on a plane back to Vienna.
“Let your father deal with this” she hissed and I sobbed.
My father didn’t deal with it, but I did.
Four years clean and sober, I was married with a baby on the way and an exploding fashion career. Success and respect, motherhood and praise, not to mention an almost celebrity status and so much money, the $600.000 my accountant stashed away for herself, would have never been noticed, had she not been so sloppy and forgotten to remove the fax to payroll before locking up for the day.
But even this turned out to be a fall up. Creative director of a huge mall-company wasn’t anything to get high over. With my new boyfriend, a charming but moody bad-boy – I have to admit, sometimes I would have liked a drink. Or better yet, listening to him going on about the hardship of a girlfriend with a stupid fashion job, I often wished that he had a drink to chill out.
Of course, I lost that job, even though the boss made a few hundred people move to LA from San Francisco because he couldn’t get me to move up there. Quite possibly, me trying to direct a few hundred resentful people was a dumb idea and doomed from the start, but that was no reason to drink. I fight best on my back. Defeat brings out the beast in me and besides, with hardly any non-AA friends left, peer pressure and the idea of not being part of the herd, was terrifying enough to stay clean.
So when I first started to have my own thoughts about AA and my more and more unfriendly relationship, I did what I always do:
When in doubt, dig in and step it up.
For the next five years, I drove every day of the week from my job in Downtown to Santa Monica to be part of Pacific Group. Home was my house by Eagle Rock and bad boys house in Mount Washington on alternating days. My daughter too lived with never unpacked bags, one day with me, one day with her dad and no matter how tired she was, she had to sit through meetings with me, or what good would a drunk mother be anyway? Digging in even more, I made sure the relationship I should have left or better yet, never picked up 13 years ago, turned into an even unhappier marriage. When in doubt…..
There is something to be said about a proper dress-code and the enforcement of manners and respect – years of sitting behind butt-cracks and comparing my tasteful self with half naked strippers and fat guys in wife beaters or bare chested and sweaty at 3rd and Gardner and the Tropical, while reminding myself to not take rude rock stars and the dynamics of High school-like cliques too personal was tiresome and painful.
So now, fierce handshakes from people in real clothes displaying fake or real good manners was a relieve. It made the hours I spent inside my car and even the cult-adjacent rituals one had to undergo to please Glancy at least tolerable.

Until it wasn’t anymore. At a Thanks giving party at my only non-AA friend’s house, I had two hits of pot from a pipe being passed around. Driving home so stoned I couldn’t figure on if my lights were on or not and giggling about it, I was happy in a way I’d never been.
The meeting I attended after that was my last one and I knew it. Listening to the 60+ speaker going on about the slut she used to be when she was still drinking, I promised myself that I never had to listen to another speaker again, never drive for hours to fucking Santa Monica or thank Glancy for my sobriety.

Instead I used those hours to learn belly dance and screen writing. Losing a few hundred friends in a day was not as painful as feared. Facebook, still fun and exciting picked up some of the slack and the rest filled up quickly too. New friends, old friends, most of them in-control drinkers or recovered druggies tired of AA, made more then up for the loss and even when my marriage finally crashed, I had already a whole new group of new friends, ready to wipe my tears and listen with a bottle of wine. I had parties to go to, belly dance rehearsals and so many match.com dates, I never had time to worry about AA. Honestly, I did not miss it at all.

In college during the day to become a drug-and alcohol counselor and still designing clothes, I lived for my nights alone. Bundled up on the balcony, I chain-smoked, drank red wine and wrote my own screenplay, usually until 3 or 4 AM. If I was tired, I didn’t feel it, the excitement of a literary agent and an indie-company that had optioned my screenplay, I added another thing to keep me busy: My own store in a seedy part of Echo Park.
I was on top of the world. For a few months. But then, one by one, it all collapsed. First the financing for the movie fell through, after another complete rewrite to create a main role for the financier’s son, my halfmyage lover decided he needed the picket-fence and the babies after all, then the book was turned down by publisher after publisher for reasons my agent could not grasp, my stepfather died and shortly after, my favorite uncle. My new store’s location was almost but not yet there and suddenly, I was out of money and out of time.

But naturally, I hadn’t left AA quietly like a lady. Badmouthing it loudly (as well as my now ex husband), I felt guilty and was too proud to go back when the hangovers became unbearable. As the mountain of triumph I had laughed from the top slowly collapsed, the endless crying jags started and all I wanted was sleep. But I couldn’t turn to the place that had been my family for 23 years.
The last string broke when my literary agent informed me that she would be ok, should I decide to leave her.

Tired and dejected, I was working on a new collection of way too complicated designs – lack of confidence, compelled me to overload my clean shapes with detail and more detail until my dresses became impossible to sew and looked like misguided Holiday ornamnets, I befriended a cooler then possible stylist/photographer couple. One night, shooting late into the morning, every design flaw glared at me with glee. I was done and over, who would buy that crap and who did I think I was? A has-been deluded idiot, a moron who could have been a doctor and a soon-to-be old lady pushing a shopping cart. I was tired.
“Do you want a bump?” The more then attractive photographer asked.
“A what” I said.
“A bump” he repeated, “Speed”
“You mean drugs? No way. You don’t look like you do drugs”
Those people not only didn’t display tweaker-looks at all; they lived in a beautiful house, had white teeth and dressed in a style that went beyond hipster-cool. If this is how speed looks today,
how bad could it be?
I accepted, but didn’t do it then. I needed a good night’s sleep, so I wrapped it up and took it home.

The next day I called and requested an emergency appointment with my botox doctor. While he left the room, I emptied his medial waste container – unlocked – and stuffed my purse with all the used syringes I could grab, .
People who can afford botox can’t have AIDS, they don’t, don’t they? Right. Go for it.
I rushed home. For the first time after 26 years, a spoon was not just a spoon. It’s true that you never forget how to ride a bike or how to shoot drugs. But those needles were tiny. It took me an hour to finally hit a vein and then the whole thing was a complete letdown.
No euphoria, just an uptight and seasick feeling that forced me back to bed. It must not have been enough? But the more I did, the worse I felt. Soon it was gone, my depression and fatigue still not lifted an inch. Instead of seeing that this wasn’t working, I needed more. When in doubt…..
I nagged my friend until he gave in and introduced me to his connection.
Armando’s buddies checked me out in the parking lot of Mac’s liquor store. I passed and was allowed to drive Armando home. I didn’t realize what blindness means until he tried to direct me to his building and asked me what street we were on.
“Check it out yourself”
I snapped next to a street sign I couldn’t decipher myself as my vision had turned every light into seasonally appropriate, but annoying and confusing Xmas trees. I didn’t remember blurry vision, but last time I shot Meth I was 26 years younger, with perfect vision.
“Me blind” he said “Cannot see name”

That’s when I looked at the smelly bundle of misery in the passenger seat of the mini cooper I would soon lose. This dude was not only blind, but a pitiful mess. Nevertheless, he started right away:
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No!” I said proudly, either not getting where this was going or getting it, fully knowing I would need him to like me soon enough.
That’s how I became the sex-dream of a blind familia mobster at an age where normal people think about retirement and grand children. I was 55, but for Armando I might as well been 20, who knows how they described me to him?

Even though I graduated with all A’s from the drug-and alcohol program, and even though I knew every danger and side effect in detail and therefore believed that my knowledge would protect me from actually getting any of it, I was dead wrong. I picked up every single side effect one can possibly get from Meth.
Even the voices.
Bugs? Oh Yes.
Convinced I had scabies, I landed in the Psych ward of USC where I listened to a grown-up man scream for his life.
“Bugs! Bugs! Bugs!” all night long. The beds so close together, whatever bugs came in could mate and replicate in a hospital orgy. It took 36 hours for a doctor to see me and to decide that I didn’t belong there.

Back home I went through the scabies-ritual again, for the third time. Boiling and drying my expensive Lingerie to shreds, I threw out all my cosmetics and make-up and covered myself from head to toe into a prescription-only pesticide. My liver was in heaven. 24 hours later, the new condo cleaner then clean, everything washed and sprayed, I stepped into the shower. When that crap came off me, I screamed in terror. I swear I could see the mites. The fact that they are microscopically small didn’t face me. I saw them.
But an hour later, they were back. I must have forgotten a microscopic spot somewhere.
My doctor would not prescribe another round of pesticide without seeing me. Broke and out of insurance, he offered to see me for free. My only friend who still took my calls, offered to bring food and gas-money. She drove up and opened her window just enough to drop a bag with groceries from her double gloved hands. Her head stuck out of a black extra sturdy trash bags, tied tightly at the wrists, her face behind a trashbag hood.
“Sorry” she mumbled “I looked scabies up online, they’re a bitch to get rid off and so easy to catch. I love you”
She was out of here before I picked up the bag.
I took my doctor less then a minute to know that what I had was surely strange, but in no way scabies.
What a relieve!!!!
But, since it had to be something that gave me sores all over and had aged me 15 years in less then 5 months, I got back online. A few hours later, there it was, how coukld I not have seen that? Mold! Fungus! Yeast!
Less then 8 months after I stole those syringes, I looked so bad that my friends waited for that one call, the one that would have happened, I’m sure: “Monah is dead”
The rehab I was placed in by Writers In Treatment was in Inland Empire and the most boring experience ever. But what gave me goose bumps and still sometimes does was it’s name: Thinking of the tackiest, most wrong name for the rehab in my movie – I was telling the story of my long ago past and since I was not in rehab, I had to make one up – I came up with Sunrise Ranch. How wrong is that name? How typical rehabby and phony? How perfectly right?
The name of the rehab I shook the Meth demon off was that same name.

But right now, I don’t have bugs. Not yet.
I’m in the parking space behind Armando’s building, in a white van that gives me the creeps.

He steps on the gas and pretends to throw the van into gear. Outside, the teenage neighbor’s kids watch and smirk. He stirs the steering wheel to the right, then back to straight.
“A little bit” he is relentless “Only touching, a leetle, please”
Now his hand is where he wants it. I see the tied up plastic piece in his fist and it looks big. Alright. I count to five.
“That’s enough, I’m a good catholic girl, I told you I don’t do this unless with my husband. Plus, I’m on my period. Remember what that means. You don’t want to piss a women on the rag off. I’m sure your wife taught you, didn’t she?”
“Is okay. Period not bad, no problem” he assures me and drops the baggie with Meth into my hand.
“No money, is a leetle something for you” He shoves my two twenties back to me and pulls two syringes, foil wrapped and very visible in full daylight from his pocket.
“Now da pussie, please Monah. I looove you” he means it and I feel bad for him.
“I love you, Is more then pussie.”
“I have a husband, I’m sorry. It would be better if you took my money”
“No money. I love you”
Stubborn bastard. But finally he lets go of the syringes. The boys outside watch. They know what this is about, most likely they use too. Everybody here in this building, not gentrified like the rest of Silverlake, is on Meth.
Suddenly, looking up from securing his goods in my purse, my face crashes into his kiss ready blue lips.
“What the, what are you doing?”
Before I can stop myself, I hit him. It’s a reflex, faster then my thoughts, I can’t help it.
Bad move. His buddies who checked me out the first time before he would see me and are never far away, would scare the shit out of me, alone at night. Armed and serious, this is their boss, blind and sick or strong and powerful. Familia. I wish I had that.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” I stammer, but his sheepish face tells me that I don’t need to go overboard with remorse; in fact, this is the first time I recognize something that could be respect. Removing his hand from my crotch, my voice returns to a stern and confident rhythm.
“I didn’t mean to do that. I get weird on my period, I told you. You should have listened to me. I gotta go. Thank you”
Finally outside, I promise myself for the 42th time.
“Never again. This was the last time I got in the van. I’m gonna quit. I have to. I will after this.”





Sick a la Americana, Part Two

23 10 2012

I can’t wait to get out of here to call everybody.

“ I’m not anorexic!!!! No, it’s not anorexia that has fucked me up.”

The reception area is empty.  What, when did it turn after five?

At three or so, I handed my insurance card through the window. When a human hand picked it up at the other side, I was shocked. Not about the five-inch plate glass between us – grumpy cancer patients with nothing to lose could cause security risks, I suppose, but that there was a hand, a real looking hand with a human attached that can speak!

During the last three weeks I have placed roughly 70 calls to this office. But an automated menu hangs up every time before I finish my message, no matter how fast I hop on the beep and rush through my line.

So I planned another strategy:  What if I don’t call at all anymore? Somebody has got to notice the sudden lack of frantic attempts to get through, miss being wanted and end up calling me!

Why not?

I was aware of a could-be glitch in my otherwise clever plan: the likelihood that my surgeon’s answering service was not programmed to act like a typical guy was a possibility, but I had to at least give it a try.

Well, nobody called.

That’s when it finally hit me: There’s no reasoning with an app.

A cyber-office is just not human, period.

I’m stubborn in matters that don’t matter at all.  Give me resistance or ignore me and I will fight, even if I don’t care for the price I win – once it is mine, you can have it. This challenge however, was the first one I remember that I could have sat out without a dent to my pride.

Was it not for several “Sowhatsupwiththeresultsofthebiopsy?” nags day after day, I’d have left it at losing to an app for cash strapped and awkward surgeons.

But naturally, the first time an ex-man called the very same number, the doctor himself picked up.  At the very first try.

Now I’m inside the elevator I don’t remember I called and stare at the buttons. There are three parking levels, three! Why can’t I ever write this shit down? It even says so on the ticket!

Damn, the ticket I should have had validated.

I cannot deal with this right now.  But since I can’t locate it, nor figure out where to look for my wallet, it’s just as well that I didn’t validate.

A yellow-haired lady cased in piggy-pink stretch-velvet fills every cubic inch inside her parking booth and is resting her eyes over a brand new US-Weekly. A spit bubble wobbles in the left corner of her lower lip. It bursts when I brake in front of a wimpy stick of brightly painted plastic, down in clear barricade mood. One of her lilac eyelids opens slowly and waits. She smirks and points to a slit in a box, very much next to my face.

“See that? That’s where the ticket goes. Thank You.”

“A ticket? I don’t have one, I mean, I might have had it but now I can’t find it, I think.” I say and hope I sound sweet.

With both eyes open now, her blue-pink-silver shaded nails – if you can call something twice as long as the hand it belongs to nails – draw my eyes to a sign spelling it out:

“Lost Ticket Pays Max – 28$” it says in English and Spanish.

“Cash or Credit.” She yawns.

I look in my purse, under the seats and tap my pockets, appropriately frantic.

“Can’t find my wallet either, I’m sorry”

She rolls her eyes. “ Pull over there, you’re blocking traffic.”

“Traffic?”

My car is the only vehicle in the whole building.

“I said pull over there. Or pay. Whatever”, she barks, as if this was her own business. “I’m having to need to call the supervisor. She’s out for lunch and she ain’t going to be back here today.”

That stick blocking my way, is no match for my German engine. There won’t even be a scratch. The speed with which she shoots up and rolls out of her container takes me by surprise, but that’s a sight already in my back view mirror.

‘Chill. That’s why your boss has insurance’, I think.

I step on it, around the corner onto Hollywood Way and even though there is no reason, I speed up once I hit Riverside.  A yellow light ahead turns red. I argue with myself and calculate for a moment. But since I’m usually a good person, I stop.

My hands-free microphone is tangled up in knots. No matter if I roll it up with care or throw it as it is inside the glove compartment, that’s how it looks when I taake it out. How it ties itself is one of those miracles nobody will ever be able to explain.  But without my glasses, I won’t be making that call, I can’t tell what’s my phone or my ancient Chanel compact.

I will never get used to not seeing everything I want to with perfect 20/20 vision or with not beeing young anymore, no, not without my contacts.

They’ve worked for years. But after this storm last year, when electricity was restored after four days, either my eyes or my contacts started to act up.   Even fresh out of the package, they were spiked with thorns – on better days, they made me think of sand-schnitzels. After a few hours in a bar or party, the first thing to do, was peel them from my stoner-red eyeballs. They were suddenly useless. And expensive: I wasted two two-week-supplies every day.  My eye-doctor in Santa Monica – the sight-god of Southern California’s aging visual-art A-Listers – wondered if I ate them. Hahaha, that was funny. But two days later I found another year’s supply of lenses in my mailbox.

This is just one of the reasons my credit card statements don’t make it out of the envelope. No, I never throw them out! No way! I keep them in a folder for later – in a clutter-free box of folders. Two years and never-missed-a-meeting in an anonymous program for people like me – people who look at money as a drug that always runs out – was not for nothing!

Always a sucker for public shaming I had an open mind and was prepared for a percentage of crazies. Even when everybody who shared sounded like a sales-pitch for  “The Secret”. Even when none of this added up – and, oh really, The Secret? Ouch.

However,  by the time we held hands I was sold. Twenty years of other ‘rooms’ fell off me like my jeans from last year. This was the real thing. I was in and cool with everything. Nothing could keep me from those weekend retreats in a rented two-story buiding , hidden in a monastery by Santa Barbara.

When I wasn’t rolling on the floor in giggles or tears, I power-walked through the lush gardens to the meditation park.

I clearly  had finally reached the root and the answer to all my problems.  Sometime during childhood, I must have entered into a fucked-up agreement. Part boarding-school guilt, part romantic sainthood, mixed with early hippie- dogma and with  what I picked up at home, I had chained myself to a screwed up mindset of deprived poverty, regardless of how much I was paid for my ideas.  Those things alone guarantee depression and constant anger, but I spread this believe out to every inch of my life. Money was only the visible tip of an incomprehensible chaos inside me.

Always late, time had long ago turned into my enemy. Never enough, always running out, yet not able to enjoy a free minute, I had not the faintest idea what comfort was supposed to feel like. Massages made me impatient, a TV was for couch-potatoes and forget doing nothing!

Suddenly I saw another connection:   my  bulimia –  behind me for more then a year then –  even its utter wastefulness, was  proof of my never ending productivity. Since I somehow didn’t deserve to take time out and read Vogue, I mean, not without something to show for,  I made sure that I had plenty to show.  Empty boxes and crumpled bags, dirty dishes and collapsed shopping bags justified wasted time somewhat, but the toilet bowl full with vomit, myself empty again provided a feeling of accomplishment I had not yet replaced with anything equally effective.

So I related and connected with everyone, even the reallly crazy Urban Campers –  the few who snagged a scholarship for the retreat – the New-Age priests and the competitive over-spenders that had of course hoarded all the good magazines while we others were at dinner. Leaving  only AAA-Westward and lame golf-magazines to harvest for our vision boards, they all left the retreat with wall-sized and intricate visions, but I forgave them.

Even when the wedding to my long-term sweetheart fell on a Friday,  day one of another retreat, I arrived at the ceremony with my own car, packed and anxious to leave as soon we were declared man and woman – hey, whatever one puts in the path of recovery will be removed anyway….

I can’t find my glasses  without my glasses.  Of course, those ones, carelessly stuck in my bag are not the ones I need. They are at home. After I capitulated the battle with my contacts, I went in to get glasses to really see with. But being able to focus wasn’t pretty. Noticing chewed-up nails, unnecessarily magnified, I returned them to the stylish box they came in and set my Word-program to Times 16 and up.

If only that was possible with seams and other details I need to see for my work.  Even if it’s all about delegating, the way my eyes are acting crazy, I’m gonna be way more confidant once I’ve met a blind fashion designer.

Damn! One minute at a red light is enough to scramble the simplest plan.  My mother is right. I must see to it that I get properly medicated for this ADD thing. Everybody else has it!  I bet I could up- (wo)man-ship everybody with the quantity of my distractedness and that’s without getting into the quality of it.

The light jumps to green. I’ve missed my chance to prepare for this. I haven’t even dialed a number with my glasses still on. I pull over to the curb, detangle the cord and start over. But suddenly, it hits me:

What was I thinking? This stupid line about anorexia is just the opening act, but then what?

I have to keep this to myself! At least for now.

Because if I tell friends or my family what the doctor just told me, the people pleaser in me will also hope – at least a little bit –  that I don’t have to take that back. I know myself by now. I can’t stand the idea that even one single thought  about me could be that I cried wolf or worse, that I enjoyed the pity and attention.  Oh yes, somebody will think it.  I will always wonder and search faces and hearts. The way I turn everything over until I find an unkind idea about me in others, I will surely discover plenty. So what if I end up not dying, after all? That’s easy: I will look like a pathetic attention-hogger.

This conflict will encourage those crazy out-of-control fucker cells to spread out, if they haven’t already. What if they start to rush? Empowered by my desire to be right,  Cancer will know that I would rather die soon  then be looked at as a liar.  It will spawn and nest with new energy!

I hit END on the call.

I can’t take a chance with this now, because I do want to live, I have to. Until this, until cancer, my life was the best it had ever been, exciting, beautiful and even at times comfortably peaceful and sweet.

What the bleep do we know about cancer?





Sick a la Americana

31 08 2012

Sick a la Americana – Drop your Health Insurance, float and sink…

“Ms. S, we both know this will a difficult conversation.“

The doctor’s face is narrow like the blade of a knife; it could easily fit through the slats of a baby-crib.

Huh? Why is my mind on baby-cribs? Anything to escape, hahaha.

 He shakes a tea-tree-oil toothpick from a plastic box – I got a least five of those in my glove compartment.  They always look like a good idea in the checkout line at Nature Mart.

“ I understand why you’ve avoided the calls from my office. But believe it or not, as hard it is for you to hear what I have to tell you, it is also difficult for me to say.”

A black Brillo-Pad sticks out from the top of this long head, the sides shaved close – this man does not have a woman in his life.

“What a handsome husband I got! All that thick hair? Just like a 20 year old. It’s so true, thick hair, it is a sign of, uhm, of, virility, it sure is! But, honey, I know you have your own style, a style like nobody else and in no way am I trying to change anything, but, I made us an appointment with my hair guy, yes, Billy for tomorrow. I can’t wait to take you home after….”

Who talks like that? His wife, would he have one, if. Hmm.

“ This is the part of working in the medical field I could do without. Not the long hours, not the humbling fact that since Penicillin nothing really new has come down the pipeline, so to speak, nope.”

He trails off. His large fingers diddle nervously with a corner of the folder he holds, snap, snap, snap. The way he sucks his toothpick echoes inside the dead silence of the closet-sized examination booth. According to the nurse I’m supposed to sit on the rolled out paper on the table, but I’ve taken the only chair in here instead.

Did you know how uncomfortable your exam-table is to sit on? How it feels to be the patient? No? Well, now you do.

 

The paper crackles under him.

There’s no spot for your ass. But keep trying.

He puts the folder on top of an overflowing instrument stand, stumbles through a stack of lab-results and finally pulls a shiny page with two rows of vivid photographs of my Esophagus. This thing has caused me to lose 20 pounds, my sanity – a 72-hour Psych-hold at UCLA attests clearly to this, as well as constant crying and a total loss of confidence – put an end to feeling pretty for the first time in my life and wiped out my hard earned ability to have fun.

Fun with boys, fun with men, a few girls and still enough room for serious work, I dumped salon blow-dried, caramel highlights, age-appropriate shirts and a stale march into middle age for a dive into light headed, silly worlds I was way too serious to enjoy the first time around. In short skirts and high heels, bangs and wild black hair, I dancing and laughed from a party to this bar, that dive to a ghetto club, and finished the nights in somebody’s arms.

“I love my work. But this? One would think it gets easier,” the doctor studies my sunken face he’s seen only three times. “ No. It gets worse.”

You should have seen me last year! My cheeks and my skin were plump and full. Not saggy and grey, tight from panic and pain.

His starched striped shirt is totally crooked, two buttonholes wrong, and those ugly tasseled loafers – why any man thinks they are attractive is beyond me – have seen shinier days.

He points to the pictures he took while I was out.

Brown and black blisters interrupt the vivid spectrum of a whole rainbow inside me – witnessed by a camera, not bigger then the top of a match.

“It’s not so bad with old patients, but a young and beautiful woman in the prime of her life? That’s when I always I ask myself: Why did you chose this?”

I’m far from beautiful and any prime, but I still dress as if it mattered and smear my eyelids with black powder, my lips all beige and sometimes I can pull it off.

“I know how hard you work to be so thin.” A woman I hardly know laughed.

“Come on, you can’t fool a vain chick like me!”

Try cancer, bitch.

 

There was a time just before I discovered how to throw up, after I gained 60 pounds coming off Meth, I investigated parasites and how to get one.

 

“I removed three of those growth. Yes, I told you they were most likely pre-cancerous cells, papillomas, not very dangerous or aggressive, even if not detected early. But the biopsies show a different story. Now it is a matter of how far it has spread”

He scribbles orders for scans, labs and ultra-sounds, more tests, an all you can eat orgy of medical questions and hopefully, answers.

I always knew I would get this. Since I was eight, since that summer between third and fourth grade and then during every day of the bulimia-years. Every day it was right here, my worst fear and terror of this. It never left. Everything else changed since my last lonely feast more then five years ago, everything but this.

 

At eight, I know nothing about bulimia.

I am 22 years away from the first purge and its tremendous surge of power.

I know things an eight year old shouldn’t know. Sometimes I eat and eat and eat until my stomach screams, but making myself throw up? No way! I am horrified of barfing, so much so, I’m obsessed with how I would make it to the bathroom in time if I got sick in class, or in the car, or inside a store…wherever, losing control like that, I can’t imagine anything more humiliating. Throwing up is right there on the top of all my fears, even before dogs and the disgusting guy, sleeping in our house at times.

My grandparents reside in one of the plushy elegant apartments provided for doctors and people like my grandfather. He runs the pharmacy, a part of a huge City Of Illness complex, complete with parks and swans, a church, huge trees, a flower-stand, knick-knack shops and countless hospitals.

I’m in one of them, recovering from a one-inch scar – for a whole week! Imagine this. I’ve picked up two of my husbands after a hernia-operation, the same day.

They have labs too, with real animals.

We get to pick one guinea pig each and are crazy about them. But soon enough – they are quite boring – we fight at first over whose turn it is to clean the cage. So, the cage just stinks, another week goes by and even feeding them gets too much.

One of us forgets to shut the door of what is more like an outhouse then a nice place for guinea pigs to live in. They are on their own. Free to roam, shit and gnaw wherever they want – and to multiply.

One morning before school, I try to count them. Eighteen? They all look the same and they run, so who knows?

After school there’s a note on the bathroom mirror, perfectly taped on all four sides.

“Until you learn how to care for your pets you do not deserve to have them. I took them back to the lab. But if for any reason, I missed one or two, I expect you to call immediately. This mess up here is disgusting.”

Care for your pets. Those things aren’t pets, not like the baby-bunnies we get to raise once a year. I never forget to feed them. I love each one, even when they grow big and mean – which is when they switch from pet to dinner.

The size of my scar, “as small as possible and low enough, it will never show! So small she can wear bikinis and not feel embarrassed…” is extremely important to my grandfather. Why? I have no idea. I’m too young to understand that my body is my currency to negotiate a husband, part of the dowry or so.

He was in Siberia for eight years, before PTST was a word. His sudden rages, brightly flagged landmines, are easy enough to avoid. But when he explodes, it’s a tremendously hilarious and pitiful spectacle.

But here in the hospital, my grandfather is a respected and feared “Herr Doctor”. Rooms hush when he enters and people kiss his ass when we walk in the park.

That’s why I am in a room with only two beds. Everybody else is sick in long halls, beds lined up like the in the dorm of the Catholic Boarding School, my sister and me just were kicked out from. I don’t know why. But it’s not good.

My roommate is an ageless nun with nothing to do.

She asks me about my life and hangs on every word, mesmerized, as if there was nobody else in the whole world. Curios and awestruck, she urges me to go into details, no matter what I serve; homemade fantasy tales or more and more about the chaos at home, the man my mother wants to marry but never will because he hates us, things I know I shouldn’t tell and don’t quite understand. But dumping secret after secret, they suddenly start to make sense. I get that the things I don’t want to do are dangerous, that I’m not just a wussy girl, not brave enough like boys would be and that climbing rocks in beach sandals with a rope around my waist tied to my dad’s wrist is just stupid.

On the 5th or 6th day, even I am bored of myself. I turn to the only comic book – Donald Duck and his obnoxious smart-ass nephews – that I still have. I found it somewhere and so far it hasn’t been discovered and replaced with the library-card I always lose.

I’m only on page seven, when the nun asks what’s wrong.

“ Sister Adrian, I don’t have anything more to tell you.”

“ No! You’ve got to remember something! I have nothing else to entertain me, so you better not run out of things to say.”

“Why don’t you read?” I have never seen my mother without a book. We have no TV. But doing nothing? That’s not allowed.

Propped up in a sitting position day and night, she never gets up or moves at all. I’m surprised to see that she has a hand. It is horribly bony and crawls out from under the covers towards a tattered fat book all the way back on the metal nightstand. Getting a grip with those trembling skinny fingers takes forever. I stare at how she goes this way and that way and finally, using her other hand too, lifts it up – only to drop it right away.

“It’s the only book we are allowed to have. It’s not even mine. But it wouldn’t matter because,” her lips curl into a tiny smile. “Can you keep a secret?”

“Dohhh!”

“I never learned how to read.”

“No.” I sit up way too fast. The pain shoots stings and darts from under the fat bandage.

“Everybody can read.”

“No. Not everybody can read. Many other sisters can’t read”

“Not fair, Sister Adrian!” I drink some apple-juice from my sippy-cup. “I always say ‘Warning’ when I make something up. You just forgot the rules.”

“I swear it’s true. Our school was far away and difficult to get to. Most days my parents needed me on the farm, so it was just as well.”

She leans back and closes her eyes.

“What? Wow. Now it’s your turn to tell! You know everything and I know nothing about you. Where do you live? How old are you? Where are your parents?”

The only visitors, a black clad nun without a face and the hospital priest have come twice, but they just there, not saying a word. My grandmother brought flowers and chocolate. The next day, the box was still sitting there, untouched. I ate all of them before dinner.

“There is nothing much to tell.  The Order took us in when mom got sick. I’ve been there all my life.”

She looks tired. I should leave her alone. But I’ve read that comic book so many times; I know what’s inside every bubble.

“What’s an Order? What do you do there?”

She sighs and takes a really long breath. Finally, she talks, but why so slow?

“ It’s like the school you went to. I work in the kitchen and clean. The other sisters teach. I really wanted to be a teacher.”

“You would be such a good teacher. I wish I had you and not Sister Hildegard.”

“I wish I could teach too.”

Wow! I see her at the black board and suddenly, school is fun.

“When can you?”

She grabs a napkin and starts to cough into it.

“When?”

“ I was learning letters and numbers and then I got too sick to eat. That’s all”.

The napkin does not help. Tightly pressed to her face, she hacks out a hard cough that comes on faster and faster. Wait, there’s no time to breathe in between! She’s got to breathe, everyone knows that.

“Sister Adrian?”

With one hand up, she shakes her head, no.

That’s when I see the blood. It seeps out from under the napkin.

“Evi gets this all the time, this girl in my class, she gets really bad nosebleeds.  I was so scared the first time, but I’m not anymore. Just hold your head backwards, it will stop, I promise you. ”

But Evi never coughs like this. Oh shit. It’s everywhere! On her sleeves and on the covers, it spills and gurgles and sounds like when they come with the huge grey hoses and suck our sewage into that filthy truck.

I jump off the hospital bed – the first time since the surgery.

“ I’ll get somebody to come. Don’t worry”

Hitting every red button in the room on my way out, I bite my cheek to keep from freaking out. I make my eyes go lazy and the blood disappears, I know I would be stuck there, glued to the floor if I looked at it again.

The vast hall outside is silent and creepy like the church I had to go to in school or when there’s not enough snow to ski.

“Help! Sister Adrian is bleeding!”

The cold tiles under my naked feet feel so good.

I hop from door to door, banging on each one and scream, “Help, Blood, Help”

“What are you doing out here?” a nurse-voice from behind echoes off the walls.

“Come here! Quick!”

A white coat flies into our room, followed by another man, a few blue nurses and the priest.

It’s all so far away. I can’t run anymore. It hurts like nothing ever before. I want to lie down on the cool floor. It smells fresh and clean, just washed.

But I am the only one Sister Adrian knows in here. With one shoulder against the wall, I set one foot in front of the other, trying not to move anything else, and suddenly I remember the thing I can do when he beats me.

Hurt is a dark red square. I can force the red back into the corners. Inside the white space in the middle, I feel nothing. Until now, I wasn’t perfect at it. The right upper corner wouldn’t budge. Ugly red, like old blood sticks to it, but now I concentrate so hard, I squeeze it out, all of it. My square space is now all white.

The curtains around Sister Adrian’s bed are tightly drawn. Urgent commands, clipped and sharp mix with clangs of metal against glass over a monotonous whispered carpet of I don’t know what.

“Sister Adrian is a very, very ill lady. She got her last rites and will die soon, so don’t you bug her, you hear me!” My grandmother sits on the side of my bed. The curtain is still shut.

During my last day in the hospital, she nods a few times, twinkling her eyes to say,

“A story please!”

She is right; I still have more to tell.

The morning I go home, the artist surgeon checks his work and smiles.

“Nobody will ever know that your appendix is gone. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but you never know, it could have been irritated when you had that bad belly-ache.”

I had that because he hit me so hard and kicked me in the stomach. But what can the doctor do? Nothing. I lied about where it really hurt. I picked that up when a girl in the dorm had her appendix taken out. She was gone for a long time and this is all I wanted, to be away from him. Maybe this time he will not come back from Lebanon or somewhere, like he said.

“It’s good to have it out, it has no purpose to be there and you don’t want to be on a cruise or in a strange country when it goes bad. You’ll be fine now.”

Maybe. I hope so. I hope they have a war and need him there. He’s so stupid anyway, he’ll step on a mine and blow himself to pieces, or maybe, his parachute doesn’t open, or they catch him and torture him! He always brags about it, how they cry and beg for mercy. This asshole laughs about it. I hate it when he makes me listen to how exactly what he does to make them “sing”, I hope they do all this to him and cut his ugly thing off and feed it to the hungry dogs…..

By the time I’m back, he is not only castrated, but has no tongue, no hands – each finger sliced off slowly, just one last toe that’s just about to go.

This makes me happy and with a big smile, I bound through our door to say good-bye.

Her bed is stripped. Empty tubes hang from the post and only one big upside- down bottle is still up there.

Knotted at both ends, rolled up into a fresh white sheet, Sister Adrian resembles a sad Caramel. I have no idea why I always roll them in my hands until they get long and skinny just like her, before I unwrap and eat them.

“If the tumors have not eaten through the 3rd wall of the Esophagus, you are out of the danger-zone. But this cancer is aggressive, very aggressive. It loves to spread.  I’m very concerned about two elevated tumor markers.”

I pick the heavy photography paper from the folder and stare.

Life is so bright. Perfectly arranged in Kodak-Chrome True Rainbow hues. The purest intricate interior designs I’ve ever seen are right here, right there inside my mortal body.

Without the cancer, I would have never known this.

But for what is all this beauty and wasted colors that will never attract a mate nor delight a bank-lobby, hell, not even generate cash? How very uneconomical. I mean, for functionality, wouldn’t grey do, no?

Wait. Is this Abundance?

 

I’ve shoved truckloads of money, time and hope into every piggy-bank slit of well-oiled knowers; pontificating on abundance, effortless wealth, and smug happiness.

“ It is all so simple and easy to get to, but for one little snag:  You have to be ready! Ready to receive.”

Well, fuck me. I’ve been ready all my life. I still am.

 

Hicks, Hayes, Tolles, Secrets, Bleeps, Steps, Keyes, Yoga this, TM that, mindfulness, wise-sages-in-the-woods, Primal Screams, Gestalt, vision- boards, hello? I’m ready.

“It’s all right here in the flow, in front of you, all around you! Here! Here, not there, Stupid!”

Every endeavor makes clear I’m that dumb frog they always use as example:

Starving to death, surrounded by abundance it can’t see, it waits in vain for the one shape and color of the fly it is programmed to recognize as food.

Because that poor fuck frog is not enlightened!

Like me.

But I’m not only dumb but also irritated as hell and so over all this crap.

“It looks smooth. But if it has spread to the liver and the pancreas?” the doctor says with his eyes in my charts, “You have a family and there are things to sort out and consider. That’s why you need to know ”,

He looks up and for a second our eyes meet.

“ It goes without saying that I hope I am wrong. But you need to be prepared. You might not celebrate another birthday, Miss S. “

I looked it all up when Christopher Hitchens died from it. Less then 15 % of patients with this kind of cancer are alive for another year.

Whatever the tests will show, one thing is clear: this is my new demarcation line.  Until now I had May first, 2007-When-I-Got-Free-From-Bulimia and before that, it was When-I-had-My-Daughter.

For the rest of my life – a few months or 30 years – I’ll have   EverythingBefore-Cancer.





  Belly Dance…

13 05 2012

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Why I haven’t posted new stories lately:

28 11 2011

Dear Readers!

I want to thank you from my heart, my mind , my soul and every other part of me!

Your interest, your comments and your readership (now over 6700! since March when I started this) have made me realize that you want and need to read and talk about the all-too secret issues of Eating Disorders, specially, bulimia (which is not easy to write and read about, due the considerable “gross-factor”), love-and sex-addiction, obsession and, most important, that it is possible to recover from it all.

My own way of recovery is like a patchwork carpet of  therapy, self-help books, 12-steps, all kinds of Spirituality I scraped together along the way, but specially what I learned in my Kabballah-Lessons (which I do not participate in anymore), FRIENDS!!!!!!!! and the miracle of Belly Dancing, that taught me how to love and respect my body in every size – we all know that our bodies change in size and shape and ability – and, did I mention, friends????

My confidence grew with every blog and with every reader and two month ago, I managed to get an incredibly competent, confident and super-cool  literary agent, who will, no doubt, get my memoir “Beauty and the Feast – A Hollywood Memoir of Binging, Purging and Healing” into the hands of the right Publishing House,  into bookstores and public awareness.

She even came up with that new title, that is so less stuffy then my working-title of “Showrooms of Perfections”.

But since this book is now shopped around, I cannot write about it anymore.

I will start again, with parts that are not in the book – my first proposal consisted of 76 (!) chapters, so there is a lot more to say and write about. I’ve been also very busy with the re-write of my screen play “Fashion Slaves” and the with the little boutique I opened up two months ago.

I still study belly-dance about five times a week (there are a few Holiday performances / Showcases coming up on December 10th and 11th) and I love my friends, dates and social life that I am extremely grateful for.

With all this, my blog had to take a step back, but I promise, I’ll get back to it – I really miss it! – very soon.

Happy Holidays to All!

Cheers,

Monah Li

 





A very honest and emotional interview….

28 11 2011

Monah Li to Host Show on Indie1031.com Tomorrow, Nov. 27th – LA …
We had a great time last week sitting down with design icon and author Monah Li . We shot a video blog of the designer (currently being edited) in her chic new …
www.lafashionweek.com/…/monah-li-to-host-show-on-indie1




Occupy AM 640

30 10 2011

OCCUPIED LA

 

I admit it: I listen to John and Ken. Yes them. The two white dudes on AM 640, who holler about illegal immigrants, LAUSD, State-workers, taxes and whathaveyou. Angry white men with wives and kids, middleclass, in their 40ies. Most of the time, I listen to KCRW, but some afternoons, I need my Jon and Ken fix. Because I want to know what the “Other Side” thinks, how they justify their reactionary, conservative and men-ways of perceiving the going -ons in our world.

But that’s not all: I sometimes actually like them. I enjoy their often-righteous anger and their sometimes-reasonable reasoning. Sometimes they are just so right. And when they really laugh about something bizarre, like the Octo-mom or Schwarzenegger, their laughs are infectious and they make me laugh too. Sometimes it’s a guilty laugh, because they are just so, well just so right about things one should not laugh about and certainly nobody laughs like them on the all-serious left-wing stations that can get a little bit dour and boring. Lately, specially when I was on my match.com-dating rampage I met a lot of guys who listen to them too; with the same feelings of slight guilt, but hell, when they’re right, they’re right.

 

Today, I went to the tent-city of “Occupy-LA”. I meant to go days ago, but I just opened my new store, then I had a fashion show, then I came down with the flu and it looked like I was going to miss this event. I was still slightly sick today, but when I heard that Jon and Ken were planning to visit the site, I took a handful of Advils and drove down there with Lisa Derrick from Firedoglake.com with $91 worth of peanut butter jars, pounds of bananas, apples, 35 loafs of bread and jars of applesauce.

The sight of the tents, the smell and the look of the diversity of people living there, took me back to a déjà-vu I did not expect at all: I felt like I was back in Vienna, 1976, the end of the summer, as a very young teenager. The only difference was that, here in LA, it was warm and sunny, but back in Vienna in September and October of 1976, it was starting to be bitterly cold. The City of Vienna had opened up a long abandoned meat factory and slaughterhouse for the summer as a cultural playground for bands, theater, dance, reading and parties. Thousands of people gathered through he warm summer nights and for many, like me, it was the first time to be free, to watch the bands we had listened to on the only radio station that played this kind of music for one hour a day, to enjoy our kind of culture, not our parent’s. The place was called “Arena” and when September came around, the buildings were supposed to be bulldozered and destroyed to make room for a shopping center.

A few of us decided to stay, to occupy the Arena and demand to keep it as a cultural center for the emerging punk=rock and cultural scene we had enjoyed all summer. The few turned into hundreds and more and more until the place was filled with people unwilling to leave. I was one of them. Even though I went back to school in September, I made sure to return there every afternoon, every evening and soon enough, a whole new city bloomed inside the historic slaughterhouse. It was my first experience with police-brutality, hunger, cold nights in sleeping bags and growing solidarity with my fellow occupants.

Just like Occupy LA, the mix of people was – well, mixed. A lot of druggies, crazies, the usual super-left wing idealists, trying to turn this event into their own agenda; from “Free Palestine” to God knows what, that had little to do what this was about: the cry for a place for just us, free from supervision and control, free from the usually expensive concert events and any kind of suppressions of our emerging creativity. But most of us were just kids, still in school, artists with a need for a space to work and to live.

My grandmother baked cakes for my sister and me to take there and other parents and grandparents, a lot of celebrities and journalists joined in and after two months of heated discussions on TV and in Newspapers, the place was ours. We had our very own cultural space and only because we did not allow the sometimes brutal and aggressive police force, the threat of cold and no food to run back into the safety of our parent’s houses.

Today, after Lisa and me delivered the much needed nourishment, Jon and Ken from “The stimulating” Radio station AM 640 showed up. Surrounded by stone faced security goons with visible weapons under their impeccable suits, their eyes hidden by sunglasses, they slowly made their way deeper into the center of the occupied tent city.

“The conservative pigs from the Rightwing Radio station are here” was soon followed by a howl of “We are the 99%”, “We are the 99%”, a hostile chorus that did not allow for any kind of meaningful conversation and turned the event into a cacophony of screams and burning rage.

“We can see your weapons, pigs”, a toothless man behind me raged, trying to make his way to Jon, who, with his headphones on, sweat running down his face, tried to find a place in the crowd that would leave him enough room to breathe.

“Shut up, please, you are making us all look stupid”, I hissed, while I tried to capture as much as possible with my iphone camera, “They are trying to listen and they have a huge audience”, I pleaded with another angry occupier. Eventually, some of the smarter people in the crowd realized too, that this was a chance to get across what “Occupy LA” is about. I was able to film a few conversations that were articulate and expressed what this is about.

Ken (or Jon?) interviewed a young single mom, half her face covered with a black scarf, with her four months old baby strapped to her chest. Another couple told about how they were screwed out of their home by a Bank of America scheme. Story after story emerged of people who had lost their jobs, their homes, their cars and their savings by unscrupulous banks and greedy criminals who will probably never see the inside of a jail cell where they surely belong.

All this was interrupted by “Commercial Breaks”, where Ken (or Jon) read their bizarre “You have a house, a car, a family, but your rotting teeth and gums and your horrible breath….” And “…. come and get your free eye-exam for the first 90 callers…..when you mention Jon and Ken….”

I never knew that they really read this stuff live. What a surprise. I always thought that this stuff was pre-recorded, but no, it isn’t.








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