Hosting

HOSTING
Sarah Glady
Issue No. 13 – September 2016

I am from the city that drives. I am from the city that called to the motor city to the windy city, and pulled the Midwest into the desert to try again to find health to escape the wars born on the east coast to come to the border, the other one, the one not lined by lakes. I am from the city that was planted and paved, was comforting, was an invasive species, was like the mulberry trees and the casseroles we stole from Michigan, from Illinois.

***

I am from the city ground upon centuries of farmer-survivors in the heat and then built up and out on Midwestern hospitality. We went west we moved out and we took our cars with us and based our hospitality around driving to the ones we love, waiting on the engines and the machines to bring us our partners and sisters, waiting to host and survive.

***

I am from the city that drives, and so I listen to the radio. I’m not from the Midwest and so I listen instead of talk, or I try, and I listen and there’s this show that’s on most weekday morning has a segment where the hosts surprise a cheater. The hosts get a call from a fiancé or a wife or a boyfriend who is past worried and can only see anger, betrayal. They make that person wait in silence and they call their partner, tell them they’ve won it all and ask to whom they want to send their free flowers or chocolate or vacation. The person on the other line always hesitates—sighs deeply—then goes for it and sends it to their new lover, to their boss, to their teacher, to their other girlfriend. They ask to sign it with their real name, their fake name, with an ILOVEU or a SORRY FOR THOSE TEST RESULTS. They never make it through their call before their partner jumps in, vindicated, screaming, and crying. The accused and guilty always screams back, denies it, and then says exactly why the accuser drove them to cheating—why they deserve it. It’s the highest rated show in every state it plays. Millions and millions start their weeks, their work amid these screams and sobs. The hosts laugh. The hosts are from the coast on the west with water. I am hurt by their reception.

***

Last week it was a teacher catching a movie attendant who was in love with a blogger. I listened while I bought the ingredients to bake for my friends, for the ones uprooting. We drive to new places in the sunset of their time in the city. We try donuts. We try diners.

***

I have to drive everywhere. I drive to work to family to friends to cities to bars to libraries to empty lots where I can think or tune out or drink a coke to the sorrow of the abandoned on the radio. I will soon drive north, back to the Midwest. I am driving to the store now to buy the things to make care packages for my friends. I want them to be welcomed home to their new states—I worry no one will welcome them. I worry they will forget me, the one with the open door in the desert.

***

But my worry is excess. I’ve been trying to cut back this year. I want to cut back on the pain I cause, on the pain I feel, on the damage my engines put into the sky. I’m sick of being an invasive species. Mi casa es su casa es la tierra es una puerta abierta. I scroll through my phone every day looking for ways to simplify. To reach my quickly drifting friends by foot or bike or bus. They are far from me and going to be farther still. I want to be with them but I would need to use the car with the radio with the partners breaking across the radio waves.

***

I live just enough away that I can’t walk anywhere. I have to pay others to take me there or take me home or cash in favors with friends to pick me up or drive and stay away from the wine or the shot glasses or the other badges of being twenty-six. When I can afford it, I always pay others. Their cars have different radio. Have only love songs or classic rock or yelling male comedians.

***

The hosts on the radio are sad sometimes. Sometimes they talk about their dead mothers, about their stillborn children. It is a glimpse of their homes, from their voices invading our valley spaces.

***

In March, it was a game and fish warden crying at a mechanic yelling about a co-ed. They took everything from each other and cracked it to the marrow on the air.

***

My cat cannot hear the radio. She plays host to my friends, to ticks. She is a host like the trees outside my window being choked by vines and the sun. She is breaking her body, pouring out her blood for the little ones.

***

I buy wine for others I pour out myself I get broken sometimes others host me and take and take.

***

The cab driver in February took too much from me. I was coming home, drunk, from a wedding. A hotel full of hospitality majors grown up to bring wine to trust fund babies and new money and the rest and she was a childhood friend. She put me at the singles table. I hadn’t been single when she invited me, but she put me there anyway. I tried to talk to the east coast think-tank violin player.

***

The old money got drunker and the smart and sweet violinist left to speak to old ivy friends on the patio. I tried to talk to the bride, I talked to a couple my parents’ know, (It’s so sweet watching you kids grow up. I know we all cherish seeing the beautiful and great and successful people you’ve all become). The old money got drunk, tried to dip me to the band’s version of Sinatra. Slides his hand between my legs. I move it and leave the dance floor. The friends of my parents watch me, don’t stop it, but find me, (Sarah, good for you, you’re always so sassy. I tell my daughters to always protect their goodness too). The consultant tells me about his helicopters, asks me if I ever wanted designer things, old money things. Tells me that the ivy crowd isn’t there for me. He touches my leg and gets a phone call.

***

This is not my home. This is my old city, but not my home. I leave and cry a little. Text my friends. My phone is too full for the driver app. I ask the valet to call me a ride. He’s blasting the radio.

***

It’s an unmarked car with no meter. I try to ask about the company and the valet tells me it’s the restaurant’s preferred brand. My heart is too full.

***

The driver is friendly, asks me about the wedding, tells me about his wife who left him for another man. Turns up the jazz on the radio. Asks me if I’m single. I tell him about the old money, tell him about an ex-boyfriend, tell him that things ended okay and that we will probably stay close, (Oh, I see girl. You still love him. That’s a tough place to be, carrying someone who doesn’t want you in your heart). I pour out too much he is not the Midwest not the Sonora not the desert kind that is strong, no he is a breaker.

***

I stop talking to the cab driver. I cry a little again. I trace my arms, my hip bones and know that I will have small and faint bruises from itching at the spots where I was trying to pull away from the consultant and his helicopter hands and his helicopter promises. We get to my place. The driver tells me it’s $80.00. I tell him it’s usually $11.00. He calls someone, put him on speakerphone. I argue back, making sure he knows I heard everything on the other line. I text my friends, hoping for company. I’m a little too far away and it’s a little too late in the evening. My cat welcomes me home, licks my eyebrows.

***

It’s not February now. My people are leaving and things move forward and home will be worn and flooded up and reshaped by the monsoons that are coming. I am harder, better, faster, stronger. Rested. Working on my own ledgers and meters and healing the muscles holding my ribs together and holding the other people closer. There’s less radio time for me now. Those hosts are gone. Now I can pick my music, put lighter frames in my headphones for my mornings. Now I can pretend everyone in my city is faithful, is satisfied. I can pretend their doors are all unlocked and that I have keys to the safer places and that they will always come into my living room onto my porch, into my kitchen. I try walking farther and almost can make it to my friends’ houses and bars before the force of the desert starts to predict summer. I still live in the city that drives.

***

Some of them are leaving soon. I’m trying to soak up every detail of their faces while I wait for work. I’m in a different car, the one with footprints on the ceiling and the seat covers that don’t quite stay on but smell like the rugs in my grandma’s car or like the rags in my grandpa’s woodshop and worktable. It is fast and it is mine and I leave it littered around town some nights. I don’t have to hear the broken in the morning. I get up and move my body to music and prepare for their trips, try to make them know they are welcomed, loved, missed. I abandon the car when the moon is out, pick it up when the sun is at its peak. This night I do not prepare to leave it. I am whittling down things in my life, trying to narrow to the important. I look at my money and I look at my apartment and I need to conserve. Money does not mean a better place for friends. Friends come in the heat, in the leanness.

***

Tonight I cut my car. I call for a driver, this time I know the company, know how much money, know who to burn if the driver tries to cheat me or hurt me. I check the box of “no music—no radio.”

***

Her name is Blessing, but not really, or it is, but not in those letters, and I won’t try to remember her real name. She looks my age but calls me hon and I sit in the front seat. Asks me where I’m going, (drinks with friends to celebrate—they’re leaving, I’ve got an interview, it’s Wednesday, we’re all a little in love in the nostalgic way). I ask her if she’s a wine person and she tells me she doesn’t drink but she tried beer once when she first got married, but it tasted like bile to her thirteen year old mouth. I ask again and she repeats the same age the same years and I understand that her homes and open doors have been different from mine.

***

She does like smoking, well, not weed, not anything harsher, only shisha. We pass Mijana’s Buffet and we both point and ask at the same time if the other has been there, smoked there, seen the belly dancers. I want her to be my friend. I want her to come meet my friends. She is funny and her laugh actually rings like crystal plates clinking. I ask if she ever needs a hookah partner. She ignores my question and says, “Yeah, no I never drink. Plus, it is so hard with the kids, you know. It used to be easier with my boyfriend, but his mother told him we couldn’t get married because I’m not Catholic, because I’m a Muslim.” Her boyfriend lived with her and her two children for two years, he didn’t pay rent, but he took her out once every other month or so and he tried to give her another baby so they’d have a reason to get married and be together forever, which would have been fine with her jobs, but his mother said no and she couldn’t get pregnant.

***

Blessing tells me her husband may have poisoned her womb. She tells me she ran away from him when she was 21, after they had two children and she had been with him for five years in three countries. She tells me she is Russian, but that she also lived in Sweden and that her parents traded her for financial security and told her she’d be safe with her educated and driven 56 year old husband. Blessing tells me it’s a blessing that she learned English as a child in Russia. She’s trilingual. I’ve put her so high up on my hero pedestal that I start sliding down from the climb. Blessing lets me go into the night. I rate her high on my phone. I see that she’s almost always not in this side of town. I think about her when I drive by the buffet and hookah dive by my house the next day long after the break-up show. I think about what I would cook for her. I wonder who she knows in Michigan.

***

But before the morning, there is another driver to bring me back. I am sad when he picks me up, but he doesn’t ask and ignores my boxes in the message and blasts Kid Rock. He moved here with his wife from Vegas, and he finally learned his lesson about not giving those kids by the university rides for beer runs (They’re always gonna leave their cardboard case boxes.) He likes young folks though, he’s always been one for parties, and it hasn’t stopped into retirement. He tells me he likes downtown Scottsdale, but prefers Mill (fewer cougars, you know?), and says he feels like there’s a place there for him even among the sophomores trying to be hotter than their STDs. Tells me at twenty-six I might be too old to really taste what he’s getting at. His daughter is close to my age, married for five years, has three beautiful children two of whom just met their favorite godparent, met the family priest. He asks me if I’m at least having fun, you know getting to live in such a cheap sunny place. After he drops me off, I wonder about his marriage. I hesitate, and then give him a mediocre rating on my phone. I doubt they have people over to their home. I doubt their families came from the great lakes. They do not understand the city that drives, they have chosen a misshapen way to fit into the welcome sign.

***

Before that, before he’s picking me up, I was away from infidelity and was surrounded by the glow of a Tuesday and we all had wine and bread and oils at the place by their work. I spoke a little too loudly about my feelings about the head of their company and they all whipped around to see if anyone more important and higher paid was near enough to place them with me. There isn’t. We all finish our wine and hold each others’ glances and joke with the idea of going out dancing, a last hurrah, or diminish into the west, and remain unchanged. Tonight, I have no bruises on my shoulders from old money consultants. I have no poison in my gut from a policed and required marriage. I can host them all in my city, beyond the door of my home, beyond my wallet. There is no one to report to the radio host, no one who can call about me. I am a good and faithful servant. I have no clear idea of who I’m fighting or why. I have no reason to leave the people around this table. I have no job waiting in the morning. I am twenty-six and have no reason to not go dancing. I want to welcome the moon and the drivers and the survivors and my family and I will welcome them forever.


Sarah Glady writes, teaches, hikes, and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She holds an M.A. in literature from Arizona State University. Her recent work can be found in or is forthcoming from Parcel, PANK and Knee-Jerk.





Content © 2013-16 Buffalo Almanack.
Illustrations by John Gummere. Site powered by Wordpress and the Melville theme.
Please address all inquires and concerns to Maxine Vande Vaarst and Katie Morrison, editors.
Thank you for your patronage.