Under the Sheen of Perfection — By Jennifer Shipp
Guanajuato Mexico North America

Under the Sheen of Perfection — By Jennifer Shipp

The disorganization is hard to fathom. The lack of hygiene, hard to accept. The lack of consideration, painful to behold. But is there any other way? Apparently not.

It could be some time until all of the things arrive. The things that I need to make all of this look and seem like perfection.

It could be some time until notable progress is made. Notable. NOTABLE…what does this mean?

The trash. The half-eaten chicken carcasses in what will become my living room. The lack of respect. The lack of consideration. The lack of love. The animal-like humanity. The relationships between us and the people who are working all around us every day of the week.


5 floors + a 6th floor terrace, 10 bathrooms & 5 kitchens, and 12 to 20 workers who come 6 days a week from sunrise to 9:00 or 10:00 PM at night, managed in Spanish

…It means—until we can move into fourth floor. Until John and I have a home.

Until the workers leave.

The mess right now is NOTABLE.

It’s gross, pervasive, and NOTABLE.

But I reached an end today. Maybe it was only emotional. There are still plenty of things to do, but…not so many that I can finish most of them in one day. Not all of them will be finished in that one day. No. But I can finish ONE project in ONE day. And the number of projects is comprehensible. The end is in sight.

On Thursday, we could get a TV for Lydian’s apartment. We need three TV’s actually. Or maybe four.

A lot of TV’s…

So many.

What’s big?

What’s small?

What’s a lot?

What’s not so much?

What matters?

What doesn’t… is a mix…

A big question mark. BIG not small.


But to who? And why? Most people don’t even matter to themselves do they? But I say that they matter to me. How does that work?

Maybe it doesn’t.

I worry about the money.


I worry that it will all go away. And it might.

I worry that my decisions will cause the money (God help us… THE MONEY!!!) to go away. And then (God help us), we will be destitute.

$          $          $          $          $

I hear Lydian moving around upstairs in her apartment.

She’s okay.

John is next to me. He’s quiet with magnets that I put all over his body to help him relax. He’s resting.

I care about these things:



…but I confuse their survival and their ability to survive with $$$$$.

$ = Survival (or at least maybe the ability to thrive?)

I seem to have forgotten what I’m doing. I started with the desire to do something. It was specific. But after all this time…I’ve ended with nothing but the desire for this process to end. The hammering. The scraping. The workers pulling at John. The neighbors clawing at us, wanting what we have. The flooding. The lack of lights. Sleeping on the floor. Cold showers. The angry, envious people who seem to be everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I’ve held the thought, the idea of this thing I wanted to do (not so long ago) in my head. I’ve suspended it. I’ve let it go. I’ve given up on it. I’ve denied that I ever had it. I’ve lost hope.

I’ve done all of these things quietly, just to cope with watching this idea take shape in fits and spasms, like an epileptic seizure. I’m angry with the idea (what’s left of it). It convulses violently and I worry about it. I hate it. It’s best not to think, I think. It’s best to just keep working. Move. Carry what needs to be carried. Build whatever I can build. I push on this thing. I organize the pieces as they fall. I spend my days cleaning up all the lack of care and consideration as quickly as possible, before I notice it there. And then I sleep fitfully until the pieces start to fall again.

The people around us get angry about random things for their own entertainment. They point their anger at the white people because it’s easy.

These people are better at destruction than creation. They’re better at tearing other people down than at building themselves up. But I know I’m creating something. I know because destructive people line up to take a shot at it. I suppose this is the penance. These are my dues.

Truisms help and I feel strong for a moment.

But then, I feel scared again.

And then, I can’t remember what I was doing.

I can’t remember why I was doing it.

It’s a wish…

If only I could remember.

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