Ramadan Diaries, Day Nine

Edward Ruscha, Bowl, from Domestic Tranquility series. 1974. Museum of Modern Art.

Generalized A.M. fatigue, though I am still able to corral my concentration and work. My brain, aware of the caffeine and calories it simply isn’t getting, foments independent declarations. There are blaring but empty threats of non-cooperation. The mind and the will form an uneasy détente with each other. Occasionally there is a reluctant truce. I whinny passed their squabbles, beyond the bursts of raised white flags, and bring a small project to completion.

My inbox still looks like a conflict zone. Reply, reply, reply. “I am sorry…” “Hi, apologies for…” “Thanks for waiting…”

I go to the Apple store with a phone problem that turns out to be unproblematic. But wouldn’t this be a good opportunity to get the battery replaced? It’s currently operating at only 85%. That’s gonna give you a lot less mileage than a newer one. I take the bait knowingly, like a death-conscious fish. One-and-a-half hours, fifty-four dollars, and an in-store “celebrity sighting” later, I have my phone back.

(In the days to come, no improvement in function is detected.)

I am reading bell hooks’ essay “Kentucky is My Fate.”

When I left my native place for the first time, I brought with me two artifacts from home that were emblematic of my growing up life, braided tobacco leaves and the crazy quilt Baba, mama’s mother, had given me when I was a young girl. These two totems were to remind me always of where I come from and who I am at my core. They stand between me and the madness that exile makes, the brokenheartedness. They are present in my new life to shield me from death, to remind me that I can always return home. Each year of my life as I went home to visit it was a rite of passage to reassure myself that I still belonged, that I had not become so changed that I could not come home again. My visits home almost always left me torn: I wanted to stay but I needed to leave, to be endlessly running away from home.

The madness that exile makes. I don’t have a story like this one of a young hooks taking amulets with her to Stanford. I am an anti-hoarder to a fault, unable or unwilling to hold on to objects after so many moves, so many dislocations, so many displacements. To remind me that I can always return home. I can’t relate to this either.

I am beginning to use the word exile more consciously, and defend it on technical grounds. I don’t know to what home I would return.

I like the essay for different reasons, though, and send it to a friend from Kentucky.

Later, on Flatbush Avenue, I will tell a friend freshly back from visiting Taiwan after 19 years that we are allochthonous species, forever disjunct from our autochthonous cousins, no matter how much we love them or resemble their soil. Uprooted plants buried in a different earth, exogenous everywhere and perhaps remaining that way always. “Please forgive all these ecological analogies, I can’t help it, but honestly I think they work.” He is too jet-lagged to say much.

But I rarely get rid of handmade things. I do like the idea of a physical, non-monetary inheritance, an object in lineage.

In capoeira, or more accurately, in candomblé, an amulet worn around the neck or torso is called a patuá. Its origin lies with the Mandinga tribe, who carried necklaces with inscriptions from the Qur’an inside the pendants. In candomblé houses and terreiros in Bahia, the mãesdesanto or priestesses still possess these transatlantic necklaces, now shamanic in effect when flicked open to reveal the tiny scripture inside. They will show these pendants to you wordlessly, speaking only with knowing eyes.

I lose weight rapidly. Shutting one’s mouth for 18 hours a day can do that, though I didn’t realize how quickly it can happen.

A one-hour yoga class in the morning.

Before dinner I’ll do a 10-minute skill practice drill, followed by a quick series of deadlifts, overhead presses, and side planks. I decide against a full strength training session. I didn’t get up early enough to hydrate.

Cat vomit.

Then a targeted digital advertisement that has bypassed my blockers. (Wait, how did my ad blockers get disabled?)

If your indoor cat vomits, do this.

For iftār I meet N. and M. at a Nepalese restaurant in Manhattan. We trade stories of recent despairs and triumphs.

Afterward we go to Van Leeuwen’s for ice cream.

I tell them a vegan joke. “One guy says, ‘Hey, let’s go out for vegan ice cream!’ His friend goes, ‘Why do you always have to bring up the fact that you’re vegan?’ So the next time the guy says, ‘Hey, let’s go out for ice cream.’ His friend goes, ‘Dude, I thought you were vegan!”

Back home I listen to an “Alpha Wave ~ Brain Power ~ Concentration Music” playlist on YouTube and read past midnight.