by Jane Gilday
Heidi listens with mischief in her heart. She listened like that as I described the strange sense of having a whole new sex growing–or blossoming–between my balls and my ass. She said “Janey, that’s the Taints Region cause it tain’t one nor the other.”
Wise guy alpine cowgirl.
But I don’t know how any of it works. Not one minute, grain or word of it. Maybe you do so I’ll pass along some selected moments, like a Hallmark Kodak cavalcade, only honest, meaning this: how real can any love be that’s been sold for all occasions at $1.99 a pop fourteen-and-one half-billion times a day forever? This is love for taints and tin ears, you damn civilians.
The first time I listened deep to Horses I lay flatback on an indian bedspread in a Manchester attic. Above me the sheetrock ceiling vanished, giving way to a vault of deep blue that was heard not seen, and children began to sing those hymns you knew before some man put the fear of god in you. I smelled seawater, bird dung, and henna and knew it was all temple stuff, like playing the outfield forever. I was completely sexually aroused without any sense of body or mind, all motionless. It was taint sex, as has been rumored of the Texas that was Truly Texas, before being replaced with a body double. It was part of an Egyptian Mexico.
The wolves were everywhere. They all had the last name of Wolf, guns in glove compartments or purses, vans full of serious stolen military technology. They were beyond arrest. If I made up a song in the afternoon, they would be singing it that night as I heeled into the drag bar. Any curiosity I exhibited toward any subject, no matter how far-fetched, would be answered with wonderful onion-layered jokes.
One day I thought “Does anyone in the phone book have the last name of Queen?” Picking up the Hartford directory, I located one–and only one–such listing:
Queen, Cleo ……………………….321 Niles Street. 297-6666
I dialed. A voice of indeterminate age, race or gender answered. “Janey Janey Janey, won’t ya come along with me?…Janey Janey Whoo!, Janey Janey.” I swear on the bible this really happened.
I left town the next week, moving to a telephone booth on an unmarked industrial access road near the refinery district of Maytree. They called me as soon as I was all settled in. I gave up trying to hide, and went to a midtown Manhattan address, as they instructed. I expected to be found floating in the Hudson. Instead they told me to learn how to dance and gave me a blouse and a little book called ‘it ain’t what you think’. I began to feel like a beautician or just look like one.
Walking back to The Port Authority Terminal, I passed Andy Warhol, just leaning in a doorway. Amazed, I shouted “hi Andy.” He just pointed to a nameplate on his denim jacket, the kind of nameplate that people wear at those business-card-swap networking power breakfasts they hold for the damned. Moving closer, I could make out a name on the badge. It read ‘Theresa’.
Feeling foolish and hick, I mumbled “sorry, Theresa.” She said “just call me Sis” and said I seemed kinda tainty for a boy but not to worry about it.
I went down to the Upland Empire, the totally-liberated zone in the high appalachians that neither Confederacy nor Union could ever invade, defeat or even engage in combat. Any army that managed to reach the entrance gaps was met with sudden typhoon-force winds and grapefruit-sized hail, although the skies far above the mountain tops kept on shining blue and clear.
The only way in, then and now, is through those gaps, and to enter you gotta wear a nametag. Uniforms are forbidden.
Winding high and higher above Kingsport, I ended up at the Carter Family Reunion, playing mandolin behind two fiddlers–both named Charlie–along with Edith Gilliam on guitar, her 78-year-old fingers nimble as a catamount on highground. All night folks danced barefoot on the lawn, right in front of us as we played. The powers-that-be don’t publicize any of this cause it terrifies them and the locals just figure that anyone who does show up is some sort of kin. We played until the only light was the milky way above the dark mountains and high lonesome wind.
The next day, self-consciousness overtook me. I dressed so different than anyone else there. My hair was so long and my clothes so ragged. My small boobs showed through my ‘felix the cat’ t-shirt. My cheeks reddened furiously, as I thought “they probably all think i’m crazy–and what would they think if they’d seen me last night in the motel room, wearing my long black gauzy nightgown?”
At that exact, precise, moment Dewanna leaned over towards me, winked, and whispered conspiratorially. “Person’lly, I tain’t never met anyone who tain’t a little crazy, have you? Ya know what my favorite song is? It’s that ol’ Long Black Veil–it’s really purty. And didn’t that ol’ Milky Way shine sooooo purty last night?”
It sure had, but you had to look up to see it, and the lowlanders rarely look up, being so grounded and wary of taints.
All these are true, really true, events in my life, and I still don’t understand any of it or try to.
I’m still feeling like a flower, like a taint–and I’m still singing and Heidi still teases about my lower regions.
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Jane Gilday is an artist, poet and musician who lives in Pennsylvania. Her artist statement: “jane gilday is 8 years old and likes to color”
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