What saves me?

by Tulasi-Priya on Tuesday 31 January 2012

A song once saved my life.

I was 19, pregnant, just kicked out of my house, and renting the spare room in the home of a man I found in the classifieds, a photographer-architect who lived next to Miami International Airport. I had two hundred bucks a month in Social Security benefits from my long-disappeared step-father (who had legally adopted me), but no job. Another man lived in the house, but I never saw him. I had my own shelf in the the fridge we shared, on which sat a jar of peanut butter and a box of Carnation® Instant Breakfast. A girl and her fetus need their protein. At night I tortured myself reading V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In the Attic, and by day I tortured myself by holding a hand mirror under my swelling belly as the stretch marks erupted like cat-scratches.

I had thought that I would get through this episode intact. Abandoned, embittered, maybe wiser, but still me, with a baby. The cat-scratches told me otherwise. I kept the radio on all day long, Top 40 and classics. I made myself a deal: everyday, I would wait to hear The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” The day I didn’t hear it (if I was out it was because I had something to do or someone to be with), I would kill myself. Fortunately it was in heavy rotation.

Two weeks later my mother fetched me home and MTV kept me from killing myself. That is to say, it kept me numb.

Someone asked recently if a book has ever saved me. That’s like asking if a breath has ever saved me. It’s possible, but it’s more like all of them have sustained me. When I was a kid, teachers and my mother said that I “lived in a world of my own.” I didn’t. I lived in, and through, the worlds of others’ words: fairy tales, Heidi, Good News for Modern Man, Catholic lives of the saints, Edgar Allan Poe, Jacqueline Susanna, Anaïs Nin’s erotica, Henry Miller, Be Here Now, The Teachings of Don Juan, among too many too count. I am made of nothing if not words.

Back then, books were a lifeline. Now, most are either entertainment or distraction.

Aside from the Bhagavad-gita, no book saves me. Now, I’ll have to write to be saved.

There comes a time when, as Tom Waits put it, you can just roll your own.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah W January 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Rolling my own . . .

That’s absolutely it, absolutely the right description.


January 31, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I’ve been saved by little/big things like that, too. It’s amazing the bargains we make.

I’ve also been thinking lately that maybe my writing can save me. I suppose I’ll find out soon.


Averil Dean January 31, 2012 at 11:11 pm

This is beautiful, but so heartbreaking. That nearly empty fridge, that haunting song. There’s something so powerful in music that brings the sensations of the moment rushing back. Rocket Man, Oh Daddy, Everything’s Alright (my mother got us hooked on Jesus Christ Superstar–we wore that record out), Starry Starry Night. . . . For me, it was music more than anything that kept me alive, and it was the poems inside the music that I clung to. I see it was the same way for you.

And now . . . Yes. It’s time for us to roll our own. And time for you to be at the other end of the lifeline, handing someone something they need. You have a lot to offer, Tulasi-Priya. And we love you for it.


MacDougalStreetBaby February 1, 2012 at 6:07 am

I can’t get past, “I was 19, pregnant, just kicked out of my house…” I don’t understand how a parent can do this. It just doesn’t compute. We are often asked what is wrong with our society today. For those who are really interested, the answer lies right here.


MacDougalStreetBaby February 1, 2012 at 6:50 am

Just so I’m clear, it’s the being kicked out part I’m referring to.


CJ February 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Haunting and real. I love many of those same titles, those same songs. At 19 found myself in a similar place. That in fact is my WIP. Pregnant foster girl living in her Big Chief notebooks.


anna February 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Wow. This is really, really powerful.
Sometimes when I write about things that happened to me, I just want to reach into the story and grab myself and give myself a big hug.
Maybe that’s what we’re doing, in a way. By writing it we are taking care of the story in a way we couldn’t before.


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