Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recollections on the Eve of my Birth

When I was young
Anticipation clawed open my sleep
twisted turned me
out.
The anniversary of my first breathe
an occasion calling for
new shoes. The dress is also new
for Easter is so close
it does not warrant two,
but it is fine because
I am alive,
and this day is mine, mine,
mine.

See my hands, my feet connected
my mind holds it all.
It all is me,
and we shall celebrate
not you but me.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A short One

I would just like to take a moment to reflect that life goes on.

Take a moment.

Yep, it's still happening. That's pretty cool and scary and strange and fantastic and I'm more excited than I can express to just keep on keeping on.

So here's to amazing friends, and family, and strangers who I will be friends with someday, and strangers I'll never be friends with.

Here's to life going on and on and on even after we are done.

Really interesting things happened yesterday, and are happening now, and they will happen in the future. Experience as many of those things as you can because you only get so much time to be here, a part of life.

I'm going to wrap this up because I'm ready to go out and do some of those things.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weaponizing Silence

“You are beautiful,” he said.

That sentence never failed to unnerve her. It stirred something she didn’t quite like. That part was dark, and deep, and she didn’t understand it or the things it made her feel when it stirred. Not understanding, she decided not to trust it, but he had said those words and now she couldn’t avoid that part of herself.

And what was she supposed to say in return? Telling a man he was beautiful seemed vaguely insulting, unless he was gay. Seeing as how they lay tangled together she doubted his sexual preferences ran towards men.

“Thanks.” Weak answer. Maybe she could sleep now and escape the awkwardness of this moment.

“You have beautiful skin.”

Now that she knew what to do with. She took care of her skin, not out of some vain desire for beauty but because if she didn’t it itched. It itched so badly that she would wake in the night, bed sheets bloody from scratching her legs while she slept.

“I use a lot of lotion,” upon reflection, also probably a weak answer. Well damn him if he didn’t like it. She was unprepared. She didn’t rightly know how she had got to this moment, this conversation, this man. Oh she remembered clearly the events of the evening, the individual words, but she didn’t understand how the sum of what she remembered equaled this moment. This was certainly not how she had planned this night to end. So damn him for knowing what to say.

Had he planned this?

No, not possible. This had come to pass mostly by accident and, she had to admit, because her mouth tended to say words before her brain had time to think of the consequences.

How much of my life would not have happened, or happened differently, if I could just think before I speak? A good chunk of it, she decided. Well she didn’t, and it had.

She wished she could sleep in her own bed. She could wake without all of this stress and complication. Life could continue as it had before, easy and sometime frustrating, but mostly easy. This, however, was going to be hard and messy, no pun intended. She did giggle at it though, just a bit.

I should just be a nun, she thought, nuns seem to have wonderfully uncomplicated lives. Of course being a nun requires a belief in Christ, which she lacked. She supposed nun-hood was out then.

He turned on his back and looked at the ceiling. She felt she should say something, but could think of nothing but “shit” which seemed both unromantic and inappropriate.

“Your little girls are really cute, but their eyes are blue and yours are brown. Isn’t that odd?”

He continued to look at the ceiling. “My wife has blue eyes.”

Perhaps “shit” would be appropriate now?

She wondered what subject would be safe. She wondered why she cared. Once you stepped up and accepted the role of home wrecker why should any subject be taboo? After all, if the Christians have it right, you’re already going to hell. Why not enjoy the trip?

“Want to get breakfast tomorrow?”

He continued to stare at the ceiling.

“Or is that too public?”

He rolled over and glared at her. “My wife’s blue eyes are pretty sharp, so ya it’s too public.”

For years she had been babysitting his kids, making fruit salads for picnics in his backyard, and helping his wife quilt but now he couldn’t be seen with her? This she knew exactly what to do with. This emotion was familiar, known, and so to be trusted. She could argue. She could scream, but her mother had taught her well. The best way to break a man was quietly and thoroughly.

She removed his arm from her abdomen and swung her legs out over the cold, bare floor. Swiftly she shifted his pants, a blanket, the garish maroon condom wrapper, to reveal at last the faded yellow cotton underwear she had thrown on before leaving her house. If she had planned this she would have chosen the lacy black French cuts that matched her bra.

“You’ve got to be kidding.” He sat up. “You’re really pissed? Really?”

She looked at him over her shoulder as she snapped her bra. She doesn’t say a word. Her mother had told her men could always imagine more spite and viciousness than you could. Their minds, she had been told, were capable of frustrating them more so than you ever could. If you could use silence effectively you could do more damage than all the screaming in the world.

Silence was her atomic bomb. His confidence was her Hiroshima.

“You are going to blow it. You’re going to ruin my life.” His voice climbed an octave and gained decibels. “She’ll leave me and take the kids.”

All she had left were her shoes. She began to put them on. The kids, she thought, now he thinks of his children and his wife, her best friend. How like a man not to realize what she stood to lose by this.

Silence, she thought, is my laser guided missile. Say goodbye to your manhood.

“Did she tell you to do this?”

She raised just one eyebrow. It was enough.

“She did. Oh God. She told you to follow me to the bar. She wanted you to seduce me.” These are not questions. She watches the man she once called friend slowly crumble into himself. His shoulders fell and he rests his head in his hands, feet braced against the floor.

“The kids. The house. Oh, God everything.” His shoulders shake and he sobs with each sentence.

Now for the killing blow.

Her jacket on, her hand on the open door, she stares at him until he looked up into her eyes. She shook her head and laughed, just a little laugh. It was enough.
-
Yes, she thinks as she drives home, I am beautiful. Beautiful like a village silent and emptied by Ebola. Beautiful like a street lights glare on a Tommy gun. Beautiful like a mushroom cloud obscuring the horizon. Yes, I am beautiful.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Ending!

It has been so long since I have actually finished a short story, I had almost forgotten how. If you were to crack open my hard drive you would find the beginnings, and middles, of dozens of short stories. Oh, I can start a story. I can even imagine that glorious peek of emotion and plot that is the climax, but the end? The end is hard.

The end of a short story is like that last half mile in a run. You've done all the hard parts, and really that's what counts isn't it? So you justify walking that last half mile, and you forget about all those stories with no endings.

But not today! Today a short story got an ending and a fairy got her wings. Or something like that. I'm so excited about the whole thing that I just thought I would share.

Hurray for an ending!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Memory/ Post 2 for Today

It amazes me how hard the human mind can hold onto an idea. In dreams you see it fleshed out in Dali like abstraction. Upon waking it flashes across your thoughts like a brush fire. In moments of monotony it flashes down your spine like the shiver after a shot of whiskey. You can turn from it, but like your shadow it is always there. The memory, like a green green apple, is sweet and painfully bitter. You begin to wonder how it would taste in a pie.

In the moments of the memories making the smell, the taste, the feel is so all consuming it seems impossible that it could fail to permeate all other sensations from there on out. Yet, as time intrudes between the now and the past, the sensations become memory and lo! the flesh feels the scalding of bath water. The ears hear the chatter of others. The mouth tastes the bitter sting of coffee.

And there it is again, the memory. Screaming newborns are less persistent.

Seeking to reason with the memory you say, "Ok, fine! You get ten minutes and then I have to think about something else. Ten minutes. Go!"

The memory plays out like a poorly cast vignette, all the wrong bits emphasized, all sense of greater meaning lost. And then, of course, memory refuses to abide by its bargain and ten minutes comes and goes and yet the memory clings.

Oh, and your traitor mind delights in dreaming fantasy after fantasy built on that memory. Some of them are sweet and tempting. Some could make the most devout Catholic pale with the imagined shame and guilt and perhaps just a bit of martyrdom, for dramatic purposes only. And then there is that pie...

You start to think about Thinner, and how your memory would taste if it were baked into a pie. Would it be red or thick brown? Would it taste of decay or be sickeningly sweet? Would it be flaky or mealy? Not knowing any Gypsy's, who would deliver it? But that's just silly. That is not how memories, or pies, work.

Maybe you should just follow the train of thought that ends with you on a beach, drinking a margarita, reading a book, wanted in five countries for a stings of international robberies. You only turned to crime because you had to run away, and a girl has to eat you know. You'd be famous, because of course you would be good at being a thief, but you would leave little owl statues instead of foxes. Now, should Pitt or Clooney walk up the beach and purpose another heist?

Which is as crazy as the pie.

It is a wonder we can think of anything at all for all the memories rattling around our skulls.

The Dream

I dreamed...

I stood alone on a beach. Above me the sky churned with thunder and rolled with pitch black, rain laden clouds. Lightning flashed and lit the beach like day and showed me waves. The waves towered over me and pounded their fury on the sand. The sounds of their crashing filled my ears and salt was all I could taste. I looked on the sea and knew terror.

A voice said, but not aloud, "The time for fear has passed."

I looked on the sea again and saw the hand of nature. I saw the moving of the Earth. I knew the sea had been crashing since before my parents parents had been born, and would continue after my children's children had passed from this world.

I heard the words of the Prophet," Even as he is for your growth so he is for your pruning."

I saw the hand of the moon in the tides and knew that if there is waxing, so there must be waning. If there is a time of fullness, so there must be a time of the sickle and full darkness.

Then I heard the words of the Bene Gesserit, "Fear is the mind killer."

I knew fear then to be the bodies desire for life, but I also saw it could be the minds aversion of change. I knew I did not wish to stagnate.

I heard a voice sing, "Leave all your loving behind."

I knew then that love could compliment, but it could not complete. While the soul can be enriched in love, it can not be made whole. Wholeness must be accomplished solely or love is shallow and but a shadow.

All the while my mind had been listening, my hands had been busy removing first my shoes, then my shirt and pants, and though I stood naked before the wind and the waves I was not cold. And though I stood alone upon the beach I knew not loneliness.

I raised my head and dove wide eyed into the heart of the rushing waves.

When I awoke, my fear was gone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation that is making you feel like your grip on reality has finally dissolved? The kind of conversation where the other parties responses seem to have no relation to your words. The kind of conversation where you have to look around you to make sure that you have not been transported to another dimension.

Your attention is snagged, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course. What's up?" You expect a query about the weather, or a recipe, or weekend plans.

What follows is a question, so loosely grounded in reality that it is hard to think. Your brain furiously tries to follow paths of logic that lead from the everyday to this obscure topic. You run through your actions, your words, your intentions desperately reaching for any connection:

If I were a comic book villain, then this would make some sense... If I were a spy, documenting this persons life, playing on their fears and paranoia, then this would make sense... If I needed a kidney and was planning on drugging this person at said event, then this would make sense...

Eventually you are left with only two options:

If I were insane, then this would make sense... If the person asking me this question were insane, then this would make sense...

You then spend the rest of the conversation trying to tug yourself back to the sweet shores of sanity. If the conversation lasts long enough it begins to make sense. You begin to think maybe you are the one who is loosing touch. Maybe the other person is the one being rational.

At this point the only solution is a hasty, "I have to pee. My hamster has swallowed a golf ball. Good God, my leg is on fire. Got to go. Great talking to you. Have a great day. Bye!"

You can not win an argument against paranoid, narcissistic, insanity. It simply is not possible.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Aloud

If you were lucky and your parents weren't complete schmucks, you got read to as a child. I loved being read to. I remember begging my mother for just one more chapter, just one more story. Somewhere between childhood and high school I caught an episode of Dawson's Creek. I never followed the show, but in this one episode two of the main characters were relaxing on a boat. They were unwinding by reading aloud to each other. I remember thinking, "Sweet, I can get read to as an adult." I figured that if I could make it through the awkward years between childhood and adulthood I would once again get to engage in one of my favorite pastimes.

In college I majored in English Literature and I thought the time had finally come when I could kick back and let someone else do the hard work while my imagination had all the fun. I was doomed to disappointment. Occasionally a professor would read a poem, but only rarely. The closest I got was in a novel class taught by a man who had an unhealthy interest in Herman Melville. He would read aloud those passages that make it next to impossible to read Moby Dick. We also got treated to energetic readings of passages from Germinal and Anna Karenina. Not exactly what I had in mind. Although it might be something to keep in mind when trying to put small children to sleep.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like not getting read aloud to was something that was keeping me up at night. It was just added to the list of adulthood disappointments. Recently I've had to amend that list.

It turns out that NPI, National Public radio International, and the New Yorker both have podcasts dedicated to reading short stories written by adults, intended for adults, read aloud by adults, and presumably downloaded by adults! Leonard Nimoy has read for them! Spock read me a story about a cantankerous old man! Spock! This discovery has been an unexpected, and greatly appreciated little joy.

Recently I've been trying to focus more on the little joys of life that brighten my day. It's healthier than focusing on the downer, depressing parts of life. So here's to the little things. Have a good Tuesday and go download a short story.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday

It's Monday again. Monday, one day before the new This American Life, five work days until sleeping in, three days before my mountain of homework is due, and it snowed yesterday...
On the plus side the change of address forms which have consumed my free moments between calls are finally finished. Seeing as how I sit across from my boss, and this is a cubicle farm, and my job is mind-numbing, I tend to heard the majority of conversations he has. This being the case, I know that some new busy work is in the process of being forced upon me. I am not happy about this development.

I also get to look forward to an evening of Wal-Mart shopping. Stew and chicken noodle soup for dinner this week. I am now looking forward to dinner.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Amazing Drive to Work

I religiously download the This American Life podcast every Tuesday morning. I leave early, for where ever I am going, so I that I can have an hour in the car to listen to the podcast. This mornings podcast was amazing. The podcast this week was about a man who was wrongly convicted and who spent 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The concept of our justice system making a mistake is not a foreign one. It was the grace, the courage, and the wisdom with which an eighteen year old kid grows into an adult and handles being imprisoned for a murder he did not commit which moved me to tears in a YMCA parking lot.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that our lives, which seem so all consuming, are dwarfed by the power of the human spirit and that spirit does not need a large, or public stage to do amazing things.