Are You There? I’m Here (for Lyn Hejinian)

Writer’s Note: This fictional non-fiction story is a collage and co-creation inspired by many people and art projects. The title is a reference to a line in Lyn Hejinian’s book The Language of Inquiry (page 388).  I first heard this at a reading May, 31 200o. She was reading from her book and saw me in the audience and stopped mid sentence to say, “It’s you, Hi!” She did not know it was my birthday, and gave me the greatest gift that day, seeing me.  She did this years before when she accepted me into my first official creative writing class at UCB.  I am eternally grateful to Lyn for witnessing and encouraging my artistry and showing me by example how to witness beauty in others.  This story is inspired by the amazing Cari Campbell, her lovely brother and the gift Chris Cobb gave us via his art installation  “There is Nothing Wrong In this Whole Wide World” (temporary art installion at Adobe Bookstore in San Francisco, CA, 2004).  At the end of the story you will find more about the art exhibit.  Many thanks to artists’ Derek Powazek,  Heather Champ and Superhero Journal who made their images available via a creative commons copyright licence  or by permission.  

Are you there? I’m here

Image by Heather Champ * http://www.hchamp.com

Her brother was visiting. They were both excited. Everything was exciting. From sitting on the couch chatting to walking to the corner store getting organic groceries. These were things they could only do in San Francisco.

When they were younger they lived near the city and their mom fed them wonder bread and all kinds of processed stuff. She tells him how her mom is finally starting to understand what it means that she lives in a vegetarian household. Now every recipe is one that can easily be substituted with tofu.  The news of his wife’s pregnancy is still new, but surely mom and dad will develop some lovely fixating habits around that.

The first day, she picked him up from the airport. This was both their hometown in many ways, so the pick up from the airport was easy-smeasy. They hung out all day together alone before coming to her house where her roommate was having a burrito in the living room and soon, her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s housemate would come over. She cracked out the special bottle of wine she was saving for one of those special occasions. This was surely one of them! She was going to whip them all up some delicious food for this good time.

collectables: heartcake by cc

He woke up early as was expected.  He was still on Minnesota time.  His sister had gone to sleep at her girlfriend’s house, leaving him her bed. Most of the housemates were away, but one was there, so he was trying to be quiet. He turned on the light though because his sister’s room was one of those San Francisco specials where the window faces a light well.  He had to go to the bathroom, but by the time he got to the door, he found it quite difficult to open the door. Maybe his sister was protective and locked him in? He started to read the books in his sister’s room. She was always a little kooky, but Christian Living and The History of Shorts were new peaks. He had read all of the History of Atari when he really needed to go. He tried the door again. Still no budge. Was he really locked in? Should he call her? Maybe she was on the way home and he could wait it out a little.

He started to go through the yoga book but just thinking about the poses made him have to pee, so it seemed best just to close his eyes, lie down and breathe. If he fell asleep would he only be dreaming about pee?  It would be so strange if he was locked in. Not only did that not make sense, it is out of character for his sister too! Up until a few years ago, he used to pronounce chamomile tea chamomile instead of chamomile. Breathing, he started to remember about the dream he had.

 you are amazing make art

How odd. He is on 16th street near Valencia and there is a bookstore. It feels familiar, though he has never been there. A golden cat simultaneously leaps over his feet and meows. He looks down to catch a glimpse. His right hand — which has swayed in reaction, covers his view.  All the books are arranged by the colors of the spines. Look for magic when you open your eyes. The mysterious fortune from last week’s take-out has to come to life and he wants so very much to jump up and down. There is a sofa in the middle of the bookstore so he sits down next to a young woman who is knitting a scarf. His sister had told him that knitting was the newest trend, like yoga. The scarf the woman knits takes after the blue section — patches of dark blue to midnight blue to electric blue to neon blue to light blue to teal blue to sea blue to blue blue blue everywhere.  Across from him he sees one of those books. It hangs off the shelf (attached by a string) and is asking for him and only him to come to it, at that very second. He does. It is an email list. Not sure for what, but it must be to the one who colored the room so his eyes could have magic. He is smiling and astonished.

He calls his sister on her cell phone.

Are you there? I’m here.

His hand reaches for the knob of the door. If he pretends it is not locked, it may not be. As he pulls, the door opens as his sister comes in.  I thought you locked me in and I have to go pee.  She smiles at him and without any hesitation, the doors in this house get jammed sometimes, they just need a little nudge.

Green

Spectrum

http://www.flickr.com/photos/heather/1555432/

                       There Is Nothing Wrong With the Whole Wide World                      * Art Installation by Chris Cobb * Photos by Derek Powazek (red-orange, green), Heather Champ (close up with sign) and Superhero Designs (blue)

Related: Both this story and the art installation was originally created in 2004. The incident did happen, but there was a creative non fiction filter applied to it. You can imagine for which parts.

Curious to learn more about Chris Cobb’s magical installation?
Interview by McSweeney’s
Video by KQED Spark
NPR Audio Interview

Rainbow of Books : A FLICKR Stream of more books by color!

To Lyn Hejinian: You are amazing. Thank you for the inspiration, then and now. May you be dance in the arms of love and delight.

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