Saturday, October 12, 2013

Billie~A Piece of Oral Herstory

I met Billie one foggy afternoon two years ago. It was a Sunday and I know that for a fact because Billie only comes into the teashop on Sundays; always at 2:00.  She gets out her four dollars and her frequent flyer card, as I wash my hands and begin to prepare her bowl of premium matcha. She requests the same bowl; the one that "sufficiently holds the heat."
Billie is a different sort.  A misfit. She's the single, tiny piece of washed sea glass in a beach of a million granules of sand. She did not want to be photographed.

tpg: Thanks for sitting with me, Billie. I hope I can honor you in a way most deserving of the person that you are. Let's begin by you telling me a bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? What were your interests?

Billie:  (rubbing her eyes and looking everywhere except at me) I grew up in Massachusetts and then in Hawaii, which was interesting to say the least. I always preferred Boston, you know, it was the 1950's and 60's and so on and so forth. Segregation, good old-fashioned lynching's were a hot topic and of course, I wasn't going down south, no way no how.

tpg: What was interesting about Hawaii?

Billie: I mean it was horrific at times because I wasn't Hawaiian or Samoan!!! (She's shouting) I was a "toe-head" for god's sake!!

tpg: Did you have trouble making friends?

Billie: I didn't need friends. I preferred books. Mother always bought me books. I read the entire Bible, THE KING JAMES VERSION, (shouting) by the time I was 11 years old!

tpg: Wow! And you were an only child, right?

Billie:  Yes, I was. My parents were a bit eccentric. I was most likely a mistake. Well, I shouldn't say mistake, but certainly a surprise! (laughter)

tpg:  Were you closer to one than the other?

Billie:  I found them both excruciatingly high functioning. In later years, after mother had long passed, I ended up caring for my father and during that time, we became somewhat close, though his dementia grew horns every now and then.

tpg: Would you consider either of them role models for you?

Billie: I think not! Aunt Margaret was who I went to for advice, direction and books.  Additional books. She and Yosko.

tpg: Yosko?

Billie: Yosko hailed from Tokyo and knew how to cook like nobody's business. I had my first bowl of matcha in her studio and I loved her dumplings. I need to buy some cut flowers when I go to the farmer's market for my English's the only place I can find fresh ones, well, except Grove Market... and put them on her grave. Maybe I can get some ribbon at Beverly's.
I think they're having a sale.

tpg: Are you a coupon-cutter like my mom was?

Billie: Well, not really. I suppose I could be. But I sure can look a good deal in the face!

tpg: So, I'm gonna take a sudden turn and ask you about your dis-ease.

Billie: HA! It's a pain in the you know what because while most people can cry, I cannot. So instead, I have this enormous amount of rage that's like two burnt holes in a blanket. You're gonna read about me one day on the front page...Woman beats the crap out of domestic abuser because she can't feel sad about it.

tpg: So what's the medical term for what you have?  I've watched you put liquid in your eyes for almost 2 years now.

Billie:  I have kertoconjuctivitis sicca...Which basically means, I have no tears. DRY EYES! The doctors that I deal with don't seem to be worth a half a cent. I keep trying to find one that knows what the hell is going on!!

tpg: Gonna take another turn and ask you, do you ever feel lonely?

Billie: Do you?

tpg: Touché! Not often. But I guess I'm fortunate to have a partner and many friends in my life. I like how you turned my question on me!

Billie:  (laughing) I don't mind being alone. I'm used to it. I've lived in my apartment for 44 years. They do need to update the plumbing and fix the water pressure, but Pauline, the daughter of my slum lord, is easily agitated. Specifically, I walk on eggshells around her. 

tpg: Do you kill her with kindness?

Billie: I'd like to just kill her. Then I suppose you'd read about it in the headlines of the morning paper, but yes. (gathering her worn leather purse and reusable shopping bag)
tpg: You seem as if you're getting ready to go. Just a few more questions...

Billie: I have a lot to accomplish today. I need to steam my vegetables and press my shirts. I should sweep and air out the rugs and so on and so forth. 

tpg: I know you work at the library. Do you go in early tomorrow? 

Billie: It's a 6-day work week. They, the powers that be, want me to take some time off. I have too many weeks of vacation days to count. Hell, they probably wish I'd retire.

tpg: How old are you, Billie?

Billie: No comment. (laughing)

tpg: Fair enough. Thanks for this. See you next Sunday.


1 comment:

  1. I liked this!! She sounds like quite a character!