Family Portrait-Older Sister

August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s a girl with long, flowing brown hair, but it’s not shiny or particularly well-kept. If anything, it looks like it’s just been ruthlessly attacked by a brush, forced into frizzy submission. She’s locked herself into the small space that is her room, where the door is always closed and a banana rots on the old wooden desk that once belonged to a dead great-grandmother. And the room is littered with everything, but it never feels messy, only mysterious. There’s a small, chipped china cat underneath a diary, and a green rubber band she’s inked with deep blue triangles resting next to a slip from a fortune cookie that promises peace with a clear mind.

This girl is my older sister, as I’ll probably always picture her, even though she’s now grown-up and settled and living on an opposite coast. As a child, she was strange to me, someone I couldn’t quite pin down. All I knew was that she read books like Crime and Punishment for fun and had skin that almost looked bleached, it was so white. Her jaw was always clenched and she spent most of her life not with me.

Most of the time, at least by my standards, she existed only in that room, a room that became like a treasure trove to my young, imaginative mind. Whenever I thought the coast was clear, I’d hold my breath and ever so carefully pick up each strand of the neon beaded strings that served as her entryway. Every time they clinked my heart stopped, and every moment that passed by without detection it started to pound like crazy. Finally I’d slip through into the lingering smell of incense and dirty laundry and try to find a new something amongst the piles of her existence. It didn’t really matter what; each prize sent the same thrill zapping through my veins. A hair elastic tangled up in that matted, knotty brown hair, a fifth grade project, a perfume bottle with a faded CVS price tag and a small amount of sticky purple liquid. I never stayed long, fearful for my life if I were caught, but every time I slipped back through those swinging beads and stole away to my own room I felt like a secret agent, a member of the FBI, an action movie hero. Because my older sister was the world’ greatest mystery, and I had broken into her headquarters. I had inched a little closer to the door of her mind, the window of her soul.

And if she wasn’t hiding out in that room, my sister was blazing down the hallways or screaming at my mother (who had started the screaming) or walking down a major roadway in the rain without any shoes. She was throwing around all of her prized books or erupting into sobs that sounded so, so, angry, like the most betrayed, misunderstood creature in the world. She was drawing beautiful, beautiful pictures and understanding deep artistic complexities in all the assigned reading for her English classes and not really caring about any of it. She was listening to Spanish music on an old stereo and trying to block out the little sisters that were giggling down the basement, free and happy and not alone.

When she finally went off to college, she did not return. At least, not really. There was the occasional holiday where everyone exchanged pleasantries and acted like they loved each other for who they were. But other than that, we became content with the barrier, the void that separated sister from sister, daughter from parent. She chopped off her hair and majored in art history and started dating girls and never called but sent cards when it was needed. And everyone breathed a sigh of relief that they’d never have to confront whoever she was and moved all of her things around and aired out the room and bought new things from HomeGoods.

My older sister.

Erin.

Liebster Award Nomination Questions!

August 18, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hey people! First of all, I’d like to thank wantoncreation at wantoncreation.wordpress.com for this oh-so-kind nomination. The Liebster Award is given only to new/somewhat new blogs, and I think it’s a great idea to recognize blogging newbies and help bring them into the blogosphere. Wantoncreation has posed 11 questions to the 11 nominated blogs and without further ado, here are my responses!

1. What’s your favorite word in the English language?

This is hard. I know my least favorites-moist (can’t say it without shuddering) and tummy (my tongue just rejects this word. Try saying it and see what your tongue does. It’s weird.) This might be lame, but I really like the word “hippopotamus.” Nothing poetic, it just sounds cool. I have deep respect for whoever initially came up with its spelling.

2. What are you listening to as you write the answer to this question (if not music, what sounds)?

My mother frying bacon, my sister singing a song I don’t recognize in the shower, my dog poking at a jingly toy, my fingers dashing across keys.

3. What was the last thing you ate that you really, really enjoyed?

While out to breakfast with my best friend, I took a bite of her egg, cheese, and avocado sandwich. It had to be the freshest avocado I’ve ever tasted. I’ve jumped on the avocado bandwagon lately. I am seriously eating homemade guacamole every other day.

4. You’re at a job interview, and the interviewer asks you to make them laugh. What do you do or say?

Well, I probably wouldn’t get the job, but I’m sort of known for my love of corny jokes. I think they are way under appreciated (you have to be a little clever to think up some of those punch lines!) So I’d probably use one of my old stand-bys:

There’s a guy and a girl melon, and they’ve been dating for a long time. The guy melon says, We should get married! And the girl melon says, We’re too young! We can’t elope!

Get it? Can’t elope? Cantaloupe? Anyway, I’m sure the interviewer would tell me that there just wasn’t a place for me at the moment, but that they’ll keep me on the list.

5. The world is about to blow up, but you’re being saved, and are allowed to take five things to another planet (aside from the clothes you are currently wearing), where you and only 999 other people will now exist (ignore the bleakness of this question). What do you take?

My baby blanket, my grandmother’s necklace, a good book (who knows what kind of literary material this planet has?), and obviously, a notebook and pen.

6. What’s your favourite drink to consume first thing in the morning?

Herbal tea with honey. This morning I had lemon ginger, but yesterday it was something weird like “orange leaf,” so I like to keep it interesting. I honestly think everybody should start their morning with a good cup of herbal tea. It’s one of those centering activities that has the same effect as a deep breath; you remember you’re strong enough to tackle this day and make it your own.

7. What was the last book to make you cry?

Now, here’s the thing. I’m not really a crier when it comes to books/movies/media. But I do feel strongly in response to a powerful piece of work, and by that I mean I feel like I carry the weight of it for a good amount of time (maybe forever, depending on how moving the piece was!) The last book to really move me was probably The Book Thief. I really did almost cry at the end of that one. Not only because of the subject matter, but also because of how beautifully executed the writing was.

8. What’s the most ridiculous or silliest way you’ve been injured?

Oh, goodness. I’ve never actually broken a bone, even though I’ve had a host of health problems, so this is hard. In sixth grade I was leaning my pencil on my leg under my desk, and when I jumped up to go to lunch it absolutely pierced me. I still have the graphite tip in my thigh! No one even tried to get it out, it was quite the gory sight.

9. What’s your favourite city in the world? Why?

Any cities, all cities. I really mean that. When it comes down to it, for me, cities are the same. You’ll find the same people moving in droves, ignoring traffic signals, jabbering important things on important electronic devices. You’ll find the same littered train stations, the same vibrating feeling in the air that things are happening. There will be different historical sights, different curse words, maybe less litter if you’re in Europe. But the feel is essentially the same. But okay, here are some: Boston (the grittiness, the we-are-who-we-are-and-we-don’t-care-what-you-think pride), Washington, DC (the we’re-changing-the-world-right-here-right-now) and London (so-much-has-happened-here.)

10. What’s the most embarrassing album in your music collection? (Be honest)

I own all three of Demi Lovato’s albums! (Hey, the girl has pipes! And an inspiring story, so I’m not that embarrassed.)

11. To borrow an old line from a Crowded House song, would you rather a mansion in the slums or a caravan in the hills (i.e. a nice house in a not nice area, or a tiny living space but with views)?

Absolutely a caravan in the hills! I don’t need a lot of living space in terms of a place to rest my head, but I need a lot of living space in terms of where I’m doing, you know, my living.

This was a lot of fun! Thanks again wantoncreation! As always, it means a lot that people are listening.

Here We Are

August 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

There are certain places in this world lonelier than others. Certain moments when all the other people and all the bright lights and discount deals and frustrating traffic jams melt away, and then there You are. An alien with an aching soul and a heart that won’t stop thumping and banging and keeping the whole thing going.

These experiences used to be terrifying for me. Truly, truly, terrifying. I felt “reality” and “normal” and “stability” slipping away in an instant, and the more I clung the more I felt like I was grabbing at air, a vanished something that had really been nothing to begin with. And the colors really did blend and all the voices of all the people did join in a horrifying chorus, just like in the movies.

I’d be walking through a closing amusement park filled with fading lights and laughter and feel like all the forgotten half-eaten caramel apples laying by the Tilt-a-Whirl. I’d be standing in my bedroom painted pink and green, my favorite colors when I was however old, with a paper achievement award of some kind taped beside a mirror reflecting just some Person, some undiscovered, extraordinary being with that relentless, ruthless heart. Beating, beating. And everything would seem so ridiculous, so completely non-sensical I could laugh, if I wasn’t so horrified. I’d be sitting at the Thanksgiving table with people with bad hairdos who smelled like spilt gravy and onion dip with too much onion. And when a man who was supposed to be some beloved uncle said pass the potatoes, that’s when it would happen. Glasses clinked and neighbors were discussed and inside my heart everything was crashing.

A doctor called it “anxiety.”

I called it “realizing your existence and being like, holy shit.”

I’m a little calmer about these moments now. That is, “less anxious.” Now I just lay by the ocean in the evening with a group of friends or kick pebbles at my elementary school playground and think, yup, Here I Am. Here We Are.

I suppose the only thing that disturbs me about the whole thing is that I feel like the only one doing the realizing. The rest of us are content enough to do other things, like buy designer jeans or kill ourselves over the stock market. Things that distract from the reality of…reality.

And we, the ones who see, are left to rationalize what everyone else has already bought. To pass the potatoes, and let that be that.

Whoosh, Whoosh

August 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Out beyond my father’s fields, deep in the tangle of overgrown weeds and chipped beer bottles with fading labels, lay an abandoned roller coaster track. Robbie and I used to go there in the afternoons, when school had ended and all we could do was stroll down dusty roads and eat fruit that dripped down our chins. He was a well-built boy, probably around fourteen or fifteen then, and had blonde hair that glowed almost translucent, shining above his head like a halo. I thought his hair was beautiful. The people in town, however, grumbled. They were used to freckles and wrinkled, dark skin, signs of a life lived under a hot, overbearing sun.They were used to evenings that chirped and buzzed, that smelled of whiskey and cigars.

Everyone in town saw Robbie as almost super-human, a jittering, shaking, rattling force that needed to be beaten until it resembled something closer to human submission. If Robbie’s father sent him downtown to buy gum, he came back with map books and a stolen radio. If Robbie was supposed to bring out the bundles of hay to the barn, he’d stack them up instead and jump on top from the roof of the house. Then he’d dig his feet in tight and sway, sway, sway, rocking like a crazed man fixed on reaching some certain unattainable level of feeling, of living. Pieces of straw would rain down on his mutt, Sam, who just slept there lazily in the sun, and Robbie screamed to the hills, to the mountains, to the world.

I had always gotten along with him, ever since grade school. He was nice enough, and I think I might have loved him. We had our little routines. Robbie would nick some fruit from Mr. Jackson’s storefront bins, we’d walk down the dirt road, Robbie would talk about his plans. Robbie always had plans. To build a telescope, to ride a motorcycle, to go on safari in Africa. And I’d listen while he ranted and raved, spit flying from his mouth, fire glowing in his eyes. I ate my fruit and watched flies nestle comfortably on horses too wearisome to fight. I always wiped the sticky dribble from my chin. Robbie just took another bite and let the juices stain his skin.

The railroad track was one of Robbie’s favorite places to go. It was an old metal coaster, rusted and ancient. At least by adolescent standards. It was also probably remarkably dangerous, but this fact never seemed to frighten Robbie. He’d grab on to the rails and race up the big drop, then go running through the twists and turns. Sometimes he dangled off the side. “Can’t you just feel it!” He’d yell down to me below, waiting in the weeds. “I can practically feel the thing whooshing by me! Whoosh, whoosh!” He’d laugh his big, guffawing laugh and try to get me to go up with him, but I always refused. I stood waiting, my hand resting lightly on the metal, feeling it vibrate with Robbie’s life force as he roared across it up above.

Robbie never made it out of that town, though God knows he tried. He was still there when I moved down East to school. His father’s love for cigars had exhausted his lungs and left his body frail and wispy, like a barely-there autumn wind. Robbie, the only son, took over management of the farm while his father laid in the living room to watch bad TV. Somedays I’d see him watching young boys chasing the cattle and leaping from trees. Other days he helped his father hobble around the grounds at a snail’s pace, something that must have practically burned those wild feet of his. Even when he stood perfectly still, all his limbs looked as if they were tingling as he absentmindedly picked at his pockets or overlooked the fields with unseeing eyes. Itching to burst. But now that vibrating energy had changed. It was like the dying motor of a car that never got out of the lot. His father provided some gasping breaths for effect.

In the last few dying days of summer, while I was readying the family truck for my trip down East, I convinced Robbie to walk out to the old roller coaster track. He went wordlessly, his eyes always fixed off to the West, looking at the mountains. His mouth formed words I couldn’t make out in the semi-darkness. When we reached the coaster in all its ruin, Robbie paused next to me in the weeds. I could almost feel the electricity circulating slowly in his veins.

In moments he had scaled to the top, and this time he laid down on the tracks, gripping on tightly to the cold metal. His body was tense, at alert, his breath disturbing that too-still, heavy air. There was the sense of waiting. Waiting for an old run-down carnival gimmick to whisk him away, or crush him to death. Waiting for the rush to creep up and startle him into living.

But there was only the chirping and buzzing of the night and the smell of whiskey and cigars.

Whoosh, whoosh he whispered above me, eyes turned skyward. The metal was cold and the rust stained his hands and the air buzzed with things unseen, unfelt. Whoosh, whoosh.

Creak, Speak

August 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Image

I left it in between thin, spindly twigs reaching out from an old oak. The oak was sturdy and strong and promised to bear my burden with respect and dignity. The thin twigs actually doing the holding, the carrying, looked as if they could snap in the first winter wind. Would snap. 

I paused. The Earth creaked and I decided if that first winter wind decided to whisk it away, that was its doing, and I’d trust it.

It was one of those days when the Earth gets quiet because the sky is a slate of gray and the sun goes away and the world creaks, unsteady, praying light returns, unsure of its purpose without that guiding star. There was no wind, only that thin chill that always makes me shiver more than necessary. So I stood and shivered, my feet caked in leaves that smelled of dust and times forgotten, my hands deep in worn pockets, and the Earth turned and the trees stood strong, unbending, shooting straight up into the gray, towards a sun not there. And I shivered for no good reason, and my burden, that letter stamped with an old 39 cent stamp I had found in an old scrapbook, written in my curlycue writing in bright blue ink, sat wedged in the cradling arms of an old oak.

I thought of moving on, I thought of walking out of those mysterious quiet woods, finding a highway that suggested places to be and reasons to move at all.

The world was incredibly silent.

And then it creaked again.

I sat down amongst the crushed powder of lifeless leaves and shivered like those same leaves must have done on lonely winter nights. I saw them fluttering, fluttering in the first winter wind, fluttering, shaking, with a gray sky above them, stretching on to nowhere. And then down, down, down, down to destiny, to fate, to be nothing but another leaf.

My letter to no one and everyone and myself and a small child in India slept in its oak. It became nothing and everything, melted into all this. But my writing stood bold and clear. The ink shined while the bark dulled.

And all there was at all was the creaking of the Earth, the suggestion that things were yes, still alive, still able to speak. I closed my eyes and listened to my body shake, the Earth shift. Listened to my words in blue ink speak a message that would never be read, but perhaps could never have been said so clearly into the thin air.

Creak, creak went the Earth.

Speak, speak.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for August, 2012 at thesecretmermaid.