September 26, 2015 § Leave a comment
On Thanksgiving morning, my mother makes mimosas. She says it’s to help create the holiday spirit.
“The holiday spirit? I thought that was Christmas.”
“Don’t be difficult.”
She’s pouring herself another while slicking the turkey with oil and butter. It’s a skill, really, one she’s improved over time. One hand holds the champagne bottle vertical while the oil brush moves horizontal, bathing the dead, headless bird in a dressing that’s all fat. I remind myself to pull the skin off later.
“Well, drink up.”
My mother stands apart from my friends’ mothers, even if she tries to blend in with a Toyota Camry and a bob haircut and a seasonally appropriate wreath on the door. She can’t hide the thick inner-city Boston accent that rings clear in every Stahp-N-Shop grocery aisle and booms in every town hall meeting about higher property taxes. “I’m sorry,” she’ll say from the back, nails beating against the school desks that serve as seats. “But I might as well pay a thousand dollahs on aih fahes and send my kids to Gehmany for school.”
When I was fifteen, I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix with a boy who tried to shove his tongue down my throat. My mother rolled her eyes as I brushed my teeth. “Being a prude won’t be fun, fahever, sweethawht.”
She’ll say something similar on days like this, when she shoves a glass of champagne or wine in my hand and I sip it slowly as she moves on to glass number two and then three. She raises her eyebrows at me now from beside the sink. “Well, you must be a blahst at pahties.”
“It’s 10:30 in the morning.”
“And it’s Thanksgiving. Be grateful and drink up.”
She’s a good cook, though. As the amount of champagne decreases the smells of buttered rolls and rosemary stuffing and glazed carrots drift from the kitchen. She sings Alanis Morissette and my sister and I wait in the dining room. My father sneezes on the couch while he watches the game. He’s allergic to rosemary.
“Allergies are for pansies,” my mother will say every year as she sets the stuffing on the table.
My father will say nothing.
This is the routine. My mother wobbles her way to her seat; my father sneezes; my sister and I pass around first the turkey and then the mashed potatoes and next the rolls. My father will tell my mother it’s delicious before he takes his first bite, and my sister or I will bring out the bottle from beside the stove. My mother will make a speech about how being a housewife is the same thing as being a slave, and no one will say anything, and then she’ll sit back in her chair with her glass and tell my father to do the dishes.
Somewhere my relatives are gathered without us. There is more space for everyone, and less leftovers. My grandmother does not need to add the board to the dining room table to make it longer.
My mother refills her glass.
“We should say what we’re thankful for.” It’s my sister. She’s young and hopeful, maybe fourteen. My mother and father look up, and I return to my food. It’s the best my mother’s ever done. The turkey is moist, the potatoes are lump-free, the carrots don’t crunch but aren’t too soft. It’s perfect. I start refilling my plate.
“I’m thankful I’m getting good grades this year,” my sister persists. She looks at my father.
“Well, I’m thankful for another great year at the firm, I suppose.” He doesn’t meet my mother’s eyes. She’s staring him down from the opposite end of the table, eyes as glazed as the carrots. Wax is drying in a pool around the candles. My mother’s eyes shift to me.
I watch the wax slide off and harden.
“I’m thankful for the food,” I say. “It’s great, really great.”
“And I,” my mother says, raising her glass in a toast, “am glad we weren’t invited to a goddamn boring fool event at my mothah’s house.”
April 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
We’re sitting on the couch, but not the way we used to. He’s pushed himself deep into the corner, and I’ve wrapped myself in the blanket, the blanket he took a Polaroid of after our first date, a Polaroid he showed me with a sheepish smile a few weeks later. That evening it was brown and fuzzy and warm and we buried ourselves beneath it, feeling sleepy and hopeful from that dry red wine he had bought, and when his hands found my lower back, and then my stomach, that alarm bell just beneath my skin was surprisingly silent, there wasn’t even a slight ring, and so I pulled him in too close and pushed his hands in too deep because I couldn’t believe my luck, I couldn’t believe these hands that didn’t make me want to run away, and so I grabbed them, begged them not to leave.
His hands are tucked inside his sweater now. He shuffles in his corner, struggling to be comfortable. I sit still in our blanket. It hangs limp over the couch’s edge.
“It’s that I love you, but not the way I should. I hate to say it.”
He hates to say it. I believe him.
“Sometimes I feel more like…like it’s a paternal love. It makes me uncomfortable.”
Paternal love. Paternal love? I move slightly and like a scared animal he pushes back hard against his corner, but finds there’s no where else to go. He sinks deep in the cushions. “Maybe it’s the age difference,” he says, but they feel like silly words, words he threw out to cover his fear, and now they hang awkwardly between us.
“Because of the way I’ve been?”
“Maybe. It scares me when you’re…vulnerable. I feel like I have to…have to…”
Take care of me, I think. Wrap your arms around me and let your hands lie across my chest, and make me feel like I can stay there, for as long as I want, as long as I need. Be the person I can tell the things I never tell. Be my person.
“I can’t. I just can’t.”
He just can’t. I believe him again, far away from me on this small couch, looking into my eyes in such a tragic way it could shatter my heart, but I can’t let it. Because he can’t let it. Because he just can’t.
August 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
I thought you’d say goodbye.
I just thought you would, assumed you would, in the way, I guess, Hume, was it Hume?, said we expect to see the sun rise, day after day after day, because we saw it set, once, or twice, and expect, without proof, without sound evidence, without any deductive reasoning at all, that it will come round again.
Hume had no respect for hope.
I thought, assumed, hoped that every hand graze met another, that every side glance saw a quiet smile, that every sunset viewing from the roof of your old elementary school ending in making love.
That every hello became a goodbye.
You fooled me well, Hume would have been proud, because all my other expectations really did become reality, because we really did make love in orange light with soot-stained backs as day became night. But then night did not become day again.
Still air, a black sheet, and one glistening star.
I sat there like a fool waiting for the sun.
January 1, 2013 § Leave a comment
At 9:16 AM, men in suits and women in suits were holding coffee and fiddling with Blackberries and standing at a metro stop in Virginia. A man with very little white hair rocked back and forth on his heels swinging his suitcase and coughed, and when he coughed one black boy wearing red sneakers rubbed his nose and pulled at his earphones, and a woman glanced over at him with dead eyes and the metal rails buzzed.
At 9:17, a man was struck by a train. I suppose time stopped for a moment, there would have been gasps, most likely, but all that the newspapers say is that a man was struck by a train. People would have to reroute, said the cool voice of a lady that reverberated off the sooty marble walls, the orange and blue lines would be temporarily closed. Blue and orange lines delayed. And so all the people who were alive at 9:16 AM and were still alive at 9:20 AM walked up the escalator and back through the turnstiles and into the sunlight and tossed out their coffees in receptacles. And the dead man lay in the tracks, crushed and disfigured and broken besides discarded potato chips bags and cigarette butts.
I stand far back from train ledges. When London tells me to mind the gap, I listen. I stand far back and try not to think about that scene from Ghost where the man was pushed and instead make my face impassive, bored, lifeless, because that is the norm among my fellow commuters and I always like to blend. To blend, you stand in the crowd at the metro, you tap your shoe and use sideways glances and bite into your muffin and fight your way through doors that seemed to be closing the second they open. To break from the crowd, to jump, to disrupt the morning commute, to die publicly and unashamedly, that is not to blend. That is to stand out. That is to be deviant. The odd one out.
But at that point, I suppose, it doesn’t matter if you’ve made yourself the outcast. Because you’re already dead.
I have two Uncle Steves. One we call Crazy Steve, but a lovable crazy, a fun kind of guy who taught me the best place to hide in hide and go seek is in the shower. The other we call Scary Steve. His hair looks like a shaggy poodle slicked in oil and he doesn’t blink but licks his lips a lot. He has dragon tattoos and used to be a heroin addict and now just eats a lot of Cocoa Krispies instead of shooting up. My mother said he started frying his brain because he saw his friend get decapitated by a train while they were fooling around on the tracks.
“Saw his head come clean off,” she told me while crossing the street in Boston. “You don’t unsee that.”
I’m standing waiting for the train, and I’m blending. I’ve got my purse and my knee is jiggling and I play with my hair and let my eyes bore into the DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE sign. I am a 20 year old white female at a good college and I’m alive in that my heart beats, but my mind buzzes like the metal rails. I am wearing headphones that blast the same song with the same beat in my ears and they buzz. I have stories like Crazy Steve, I could turn to the white haired man next to me and tell him that the best place in the world to hide during hide and go seek is behind the shower curtain, laying down in the tub and staring at flecks of soap and grime and mold and feeling your heart beat with the anticipation of being found. But I don’t. He rocks on his heels and coughs and I listen to my same song because that is what we are supposed to do. And the metal rails buzz.
And I see a man wearing a brown suit push through the crowd, so that it all breaks, all the standing and staring and coughing and side glancing. Because everyone is looking now, really looking, at this one man with a brown suit. And the newspapers won’t tell you this, they’ll just say he was a man, but he was a man who wore a trench coat and tilted glasses and shiny shoes and he never took his gaze off that train, not for a second. And he might have had a wife and children and a bachelor’s degree and a childhood home in Missouri, I don’t know, but he jumped, and the train barreled onwards as it does, and the man’s head went all the way round. And the people stared and it was as if shards of glass hung in the air.
I am rerouted that day. Just as quickly as the glass breaks, it is reformed, and the people are filing out like a well-trained army to the buses, and maybe they shake their heads, but then they are sitting on buses and staring. And it makes me think that maybe the man is a martyr, not just a man who died at 9:17 AM by being crushed to death by the Vienna train, but a man who died because he would not blend. And I know it’s silly, because it’s probably because of a chemical imbalance or because he lost his job, but I like to think the man died for a cause, that he sacrificed his life, took the leap, for the people who never leap, not once, not at all. Not intentionally, perhaps, not setting out to be a martyr, but a martyr nonetheless. I see him suspended in air, just as the train inches closer, and I think that at some point, I will be crushed by the train, and so will all the people still alive at 9:20 AM on a particular day in August. We will die of heart attacks or murder or choking on peanut butter, and in all of these ways the train will creep up on us, it will crush us without us having the chance to stand our ground and see it bearing down on us with that inescapable roar. But the man who leapt from the platform at the Foggy Bottom platform in Washington, DC on an August morning experienced what so few of us will: the chance to stare death in the face, to say, come get me, and take me whole.
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.
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.
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.