Lucy Frank grew up, she looked down and saw she had long, slender
fingers like her mother. These fingers looked good doing anythingholding
cigarettes, playing the piano, pinching people she disliked. Her
mother had sex and social Darwinism on the brain. She believed
that human beings leave their houses with a deep, subconscious
desire to see someone in particular and choose their outings without
entirely knowing why. When Lucys mother ran away to Germany
and married a bartender there named Mickey, Lucy knew she must
always be on guard against her own subconscious, and with her
new solitude began her new life of arrivingat restaurants
and bars and shops, always with a puckered look about her, trying
to conceive of who it might be she wanted to meet among those
dour faces so poised to fade away. She remembers them now only
as blurred panoramas announcing the peripheral quality of her
life, like a view from a parade float, baring only flecks of peach
and white and brown. But Lucy Frank never met those people shed
been thinking about meeting because theyd never existed.
lived on top of a plastics factory in Brooklyn with a guy named
Gary, who happened to live there too and didnt mind sharing
the roof. Gary had a tent and some expensive sheepskins. Hed
lived in the desert before he got committed. He looked like hell.
Each glimpse of him assured Lucy of her own, comparatively blissful
want to show you something," he said the first day they met,
when Lucy was fresh from the woods and wearing a sleeping bag
she had made into a suit. Gary could break free from a straight-jacket
in under a minute. He blushed as Lucy tied the jacket around him,
binding himself to himself. They both knew the feeling of being
very close to ones own body; theyd been poor and homeless
for quite some time. "Oh me," Lucy would say mockingly
those times when she felt most lonely, most ridiculous, clutching
herself in her arms, which she could wrap all the way around her
back, fingers touching, as though raising a shell. When Gary grunted
and groaned out of his restraints that first time for Lucy, she
fancied him the incredible hulk, a gargantuan green Gary, busting
from the straight jacket of America, and the image made her smile,
and she had an idea.
this man off the streets and out of your
houses! Your money can show Bellevue that you still care about
the art of escape!" Lucy had a loud, self-assured voice,
and she held her suitcase outstretched to the street crowd, her
ear turned towards their charity plopping like raindrops on corrugated
liked Gary all right, but she understood that he was not someone
she was supposed to know. She had known hundreds like Gary. Thousands.
And most of them were crazy. Most of them were dead.
Hi hi! Hi-ya! How are you?
fine. And you?
was careful about how much regret a person could take. She never
let herself soak too long in her own disappointment. Better to
think in platitudes, she thought. She enjoyed her platitudes.
And she believed that strangers enjoyed her platitudes too.
are you today, sir?
fine. Thanks for asking.
welcome, motherfucker! It was her favorite swear word so she yelled
itdown the street, off the roof, under the bridge. It made
strangers turn red and scurry away, like lobsters whose pincers
have been tied.
Lucy walked (and she was good at walking), she was sensitive to
the personality of each crowdthe ethos, the inspiration
behind the pedestrian momentum. She jogged with the type A groups,
the Mr. Suit-and-Tie and Ms. Insensible Shoes. She despaired with
the hopelessly lost, she grew frantic with the afternoon shoppers,
and she whistled alongside those persons wandering thoughtfully
without eyes, lost in the inefficiency of the mind.
yet her favorite crowds were simply seizures of presence, meant
to watch from the sidelinesChinese peasants, city workers,
buskers with beards, and short people wearing sandwich boards,
all throwing themselves towards some unknowable destination that
wouldnt brake for cars or physics. Lucy Frank loved them
desperately because she had no choice. She believed there were
two types of people in the world: those who like to look and those
who like to be looked at. She was gorged on it, drowsy, with nothing
else to sustain her life, looking all day long because it was
all she knew how to do, her heart so full with what it didnt
was in one of her favorite haunts, sprawled on a table, that she
found the ad, circled in blue ink, waiting for her:
Mobil Home Not a joke its FREE No Trick
1960 Buddy Mobil Home 10x50 with newer
roof no leaks. Trailer in very good
for age. Great hunters or weekend cabin.
at 785 E. Arnold Lake Rd., Harrison, MI.
get it, its yours.
way is Michigan?" Lucy asked Gary on the roof. He opened
his eyes wide, revealing blood-shot, red-rimmed baby blues. She
couldnt help but draw back a little.
said Gary suspiciously.
mind," said Lucy.
you were a city girl now," said Gary as he chewed on a stick
hed plucked from the tree that scraped the roof.
staying in the city."
the roof, Lucy had rented, for six dollars a month in the woods,
a waterless, heatless shack that looked like a grazing parallelogram.
With needle and thread, shed converted her sleeping bag
into a full-body sleeping suit which had recently become her only
outfit. It had a hole in the crotch. Wearing blankets was not
uncommon behavior for Lucy. She was a closet materialist, dreaming
of comforters and afghans and electric blankets caressing her
in the night. The thought of warm, downy fabric touching her skin
brought a lump to her throat that wouldnt budge for fear
of crying and dowsing her cheeks in ice. Once, when Gary got close
enough to hear, he heard her mumbling, More material. I want muslin,
terrycloth, I want velour by the motherfuckinbolt.
she needed this mobile home. It had her name on itthe ad
had been there for her, in the exact spot where she waited for
things to happen. A mobile home goes wherever you want it to.
She would never have to live in the country again. Lord knows
she couldnt. The trees and streams and bucolic space were
worth nothing to her. She might as well be dead living among nature:
there were no people there, no crowds, and her poverty shown unambiguously,
the sorrow and useless pain of it, like a blow to the headwith
a delicate vase. No, she would take this house and move it to
New York. She would throw parties. She would meet people.
how long have we known each other?" said Gary.
looked at her bare wrist in the dark. "A week?"
right," he said. "And youre still wearing a sleeping
bag. Spring is upon us like a lamb, my dear."
am not your dear."
settled in for the night, a good twenty feet from Gary, who was
eating a series of small sticks. Tomorrow she would set off for
her home, her lost home, now found. "Oh, me," she said,
prone on her tarp, hugging herself in the darkness. Life really
was okay, she thought, looking at the stars. Things can still
happen. Things can still add up. How long had it been since she
went crazy in 77," Gary said for no good reason, in
a wistful voice. "It was a night like this. I was with a
woman then, too"
are not with me"
I was holding her in my arms, and she passed out and I was completely
sober. I looked into her face and realized I loved her more than
my own life."
up!" Lucy turned on her side and covered her ears, but she
could still hear him through her fingers.
in her sleeping face, I also saw the words of Buckminster Fuller
rise from her nose, curl out of her nostrils like smoke, and I
could feel them, taste them, smell them as though they were perfume.
Stable form of collapse, he said. This was my relationship with
this woman, this stable form of collapse, and it described my
entire life, the whole fucking universe"
is the plural of chaos? I wanted to know. She ODed in my
arms. What is the plural of chaos? Chaoses? Chaoi? Can there be
more than one? And yet thats what it felt like, this dead
woman in my lap, as though someone had drawn a circle around her,
head to foot, conveying her into the multiple chaoses that surround
our bodies at every moment."
hated when people talked seriously about abstractions. If she
couldnt see it, it didnt exist. And yet, for all her
literal mindedness, she wasnt very practical. She pulled
the soft vinyl over her face and hummed to block out the sound
of Garys high-pitched nasally voice. Never assume that quiet
people are normal or well-adjusted, she thought. You will always
then, I havent fantasized. I have nothing to fantasize about,"
he continued without being heard, like a prayer in an elevated
place, to no one and nothing but the empty space.
* * *
does Pennsylvania end and the rest of the country begin?"
Lucy asked the only pedestrian on a dirt road in Pennsylvania
Dutch Country. She could still make people laugh. Even the Amish.
afraid youre not going to get anywhere fast around here,"
he said shyly. He was older, probably married, and not given to
speaking with women he was not married to. Transgression colored
how the hell did I get here?" she asked him, groaning at
the sight of the cornfields, burning yellow in the distance, the
dogs promenading the cows, and he, the only Amish man shed
ever known, already walking away. She could have at least stumbled
upon the Mennonites. Theyll talk to you as long as they
dont have to look at you.
had been four days and Lucy was still in Pennsylvania. Her sleeping
bag was giving her a rash and the bastards whod picked her
up in Philadelphia had dropped her smack in the middle of Amish
me," she said to herself, toe-etching a square in the dirt.
"Soon every road will be my home."
Frank knew that mobile homes were a product of the American Dream.
They were conceived in the belief that if Americans dont
like where they are, they should be able to leave as conveniently
and as hassle-free as possible. Mobile homes offer peripatetic
Americans the opportunity to chase their dreams while still maintaining
the stuff they need to feel comfortable, to feel American. The
difficult truth is that mobile homes are not easy to transport.
They work on the same principle as above-ground pools. When moved,
theyre heavy and uncouth, and they leave a wet shadow on
the ground, a mark of ecological harassment.
had to get out of her sleeping bag. Eventually she came across
a barn and an Amish womans drying laundry stretched over
a log in the backyard. Of course. The outfit consisted of a long,
black dress and stockings. It mustve been years since Lucy
had worn a dress, and she put it on with strange exhilaration.
It had a high collar that scratched and a head piece. She looked
like a voluptuous ninja.
for a long time among stretches of crops and road, wearing a dress
two sizes too small, Lucy walked without crowds, without chaos.
All was silent and still as the sun slipped by, and she nearly
fell asleep walking, her own body a wheel barrow. The ad for the
mobile home was still on the rooftop in Brooklyn, but that didnt
matter; shed immediately committed the address to memory.
"Harrison, Michigan," she said aloud, to keep herself
awake. "Michigan Harrison." It sounded like a mans
name. She pictured a burly carpenter, bulging forearms, a red
face. "Hello, Michigan," she would say in her forward
way. "What a state youre in!"
* * *
into Ohio, Lucy got the hiccups. Nobody knows where hiccups come
from, a fact which disturbed Lucy each time they came on, bringing
to attention her lack of control over her subconscious, or whatever
it was that made hiccups. Each time she got them, she remembered
the man whod had hiccups for 23 years and then killed himself,
and she always speculated the same with hers, Maybe this is it.
Maybe this time theyre here to stay.
was a blur, and as soon as she crossed the state line into Michigan,
her hiccups were gone.
states round on the ends and high in the middle?" her
mother had said years ago.
Ohio," replied Lucy, unimpressed.
came from her childhood, this notion of home.
Arnold Lake Road. Harrison, Michigan.
Frank was thirty-one years old.
motorist dropped her within seven miles of her destination, and
she walked the rest. She was exhausted and yet jumpy, a rucksack
full with a filthy sleeping bag slung over her shoulder.
a mule I am, she thought.
was a town-sized hunting community, with a lake and a library
and even a YMCA. Walking down Arnold Lake Road was like walking
through an English garden. She couldnt see more than a few
yards ahead, and at each bend a ramshackle old house would burst
forth into view and then quickly disappear in a game of residential
white trash peek-a-boo.
East Arnold Lake Road, Harrison, Michigan rose from the ground
before her as geysers surge from the earth, a palace of aluminum
and plywood in light green, with a few scraggly bushes in front
and a TV antennae on top. Dusk played with the windows, giving
them the illusion of flickering, shrouding the mobile home in
a silver glimmer.
so beautiful," said Lucy aloud. "So very perfect for
me. So so perfect for me." She almost dropped to her knees,
but when she pictured herself doing so, she resisted, sprinted
up to the house with its flickering windows and flung open the
unlocked door with a might she didnt know she had left.
you!" she gasped.
is me, isnt it? I suppose Im disappointed too,"
said Gary, perched on the floor with a can of beans and a television.
She wanted to cry.
stood, pushed his big knuckles into his back pocket and withdrew
the ad Lucy had supplied for him
the big print," said Gary, pointing at the ad with his index
finger, which was missing a joint. "It says, Come get
it, its yours. Land of the free. Home of the brave.
I have as much right to this house as anyone."
too. Nice dress, by the way. Its good to see you out of
that godawful sleeping bag, even if you look like you should be
did you get here so quickly?" Lucy asked, faltering for her
words. She leaned against the wall in the kitchen and slid until
her butt hit the floor.
winked. "I got wings." He was completely serious.
Lucy had never felt the terrible, depraved burden of an entire
lifetime spent in stalemate, she certainly did now. And Garys
nonchalance with the whole situation only made it worse. She realized
she wanted him to care that she had never had a friend, or a house,
or a job, or a dog, or a garden, or a cup of spiced tea, but he
didnt care, and he never would, because he was, quite openly
and unabashedly, insane.
left the ad on the roof for me on purpose," he said, his
lower lip tucked over his upper lip like an ape.
not!" Lucy shrieked.
at you, you trust yourself so much, you think youve never
given anyone the opportunity to pull one over on you, and look
where you are, missy!" He still had the ad and was waving
it around before him, mock gracefully, with his pinkies extended.
Lucy jumped to her feet in one quick motion and dove for the ad
like a bull at a red cape, throwing herself entirely at him, and
would have been a fight to the death, because Gary simply lay
there, letting Lucy clobber him with her fists and spit. She even
picked up the little television set and held it high, ready to
slam it down on Garys face, when she heard again what hed
said: "You left the ad for me on purpose." He was repeating
it over and over, like a parent talking to a child, in a voice
meant to pacify with its frailty.
she have left it knowingly?
Frank crawled from Gary and sat with her legs crossed, her head
laid in her lap. She had always believed that bravery and strength
are in what you dont do, what you give up in lieu of something
that might or might not be, while no one knows how nearly you
cracked. Lucy felt a tiny spasm in her chest and realized she
had the hiccups again, and she twisted her hair around her slender
fingers slowly, meditatively, looking around the small kitchen
and living room. So this is Michigan. She opened her eyes wide
and shut them. She didnt care.
was smacking his jaws. Hed fallen asleep under attack. Then
snoring commenced and the wind whistled through his nose. Lucy
could close her eyes but she could not close her ears. This? She
thought. This? She felt herself growing tired under his cacophonic
sleep noises. This, she thought finally. At a certain point in
our lives we are ready to listen to what we were never ready to
listen to before. And Lucy Frank fell asleep.