Fishes

I have always felt that humans were like the sea-

the unfathomable girth of their chests

as they inhale the decadence of their families,

the expansive ripples in their eyes

like the tides washing over their moral sense,

polluted in plastic

the sea bass trying to breathe through polythene,

coral reefs around the groin

something beautiful made from something dying,

the curve below his back

small shores under the cold water,

the littered hair across her stomach

swimming in the shells, slumbering snails.

Then there is the Atlantis

and I have never heard of anything more intriguing.

Within the ventricles of their bodies

the canopy of creatures writhing in water

collapse into the sudden darkness, the sudden stillness

shaped from the void of memory.

Caving into the unknown unmastered, untrodden

those submarines try to fish for something new.

We are contaminated from the convenience of our lifestyles.

We are sorrowed in the actions of our reflections.

I am forced familial, there is no family.

Us, we must look beautiful for the people swimming on our surface.

Photo: @Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved


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Old Photographs

Ha

Knockoff Doll

Old Photographs

Trapped beneath a curtain
of crepuscular remembrances,
an eerie sensation – looking
back on old photographs.
A black and white specter
of a life I no longer recognize,
touched with shades of gray.
Vacant eyes staring back
at me from an inaccessible
realm. A world long forgotten.
Wrangled images – a lamentable
parenthesis of my existence.
Ephemeral emotions overwhelm,
then enact acedia.
A deep breath exhales. I wipe
my memories clean. Then,
once more remove all
evidence of my past life.
Box closed.
Drawer shut.
Life continues …

Photo Credit: H o l l y. Flickr via Compfight cc


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Fishes

Ha

Knockoff Doll

Ha

“Ha
I ate”
I
said
to
Ana
“Ha
today you did
tomorrow
will be
different
just
you
wait
and see”

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What Do You Mean There is no Such Thing as Half Jewish?

What do you mean there is no such thing as half Jewish?

This was my question when I saw Alyssa Pinsker’s article in The Forward on February 8th. My first thought, as I started reading it, was but I’m half Jewish!

I can relate to so many things that Pinsker described. I too grew up saying “nothing” when people asked me what religion I was. I attended public school in Toronto, right across the street from the Catholic school; and I’d hazard a guess that no one ever asked any of them what religion they were!


On my father’s side, I am sure. His father was a Baptist Minister. But my mother’s? I had been told by my father that she was Jewish.

So, I understood that I was half Baptist, half Jewish.

I know what you are going to say, because it’s the same thing that everyone says. That if my mother was Jewish, then I am Jewish. That’s that.

My mother was physically and emotionally abusive throughout my childhood. And she lied about basically everything. She may have told my Father that she was Jewish, but she told other people that she was a Hungarian Princess. So, as an adult, I intentionally rejected anything and everything that had to do with her.

And besides, my issue has always been the “if.”

Not only was I not raised Jewish, but as I child I didn’t even know that my mother was (or may have been) Jewish. She never said anything to me about it. Nor did I know that ‘being’ Jewish was ‘passed on’ by the mother. I found all of this out as a young adult.

So, for the sake of this being my story, told from my perspective, based on my life experience, let’s approach this from the premise that I am indeed half Jewish.

My mother’s living relatives in Holland maintain they are (that she was) Catholic.

But I was never baptized Catholic. In fact, the story that I heard from my father, who had heard it from my mother, is that she and her sister were placed in a Convent as young girls in Holland during the war; to protect them from the Germans. So that no one would know that they were Jewish. My maternal half-brother (who was 17 years older than I) was adamant that our mother didn’t have him circumcised because she didn’t want anyone to know that he was Jewish. (TMI?)

Unfortunately for me, my mother was a pathological liar. She divorced my father when I was a baby; and was secretive and abusive my entire life. Her standard answer to anything I asked, if she didn’t lie about it, was “none of your business.” Not once did she ever discuss anything about her life with me. Nothing truthful, anyway. Nor with anyone else, as far as I could tell.

Secrets, Lies and Denial

One Christmas, (because, of course we celebrated Christmas,) when I was about 8 years old, we ate frozen fish and chips for dinner. The yellow-boxed no name kind, that always tasted a little freezer burned.

However, when my mom received a call from her sister in Holland that evening, she told a story of the most glorious Christmas Dinner! With roasts of turkey, beef, and pork, and all the fixings. That we had thirty people over. The lies continued during their entire conversation, each more elaborate than the next. My 8-year-old-self wondered where I was during this wonderful dinner, and why I hadn’t had any turkey.

Why wouldn’t she have said it was just the two of us? When she hung up the phone and walked back into the living room, I was still sitting on the couch with my plate. I very innocently I asked, “Why did you lie?”

She ran toward me and slapped me hard across my face. She pointed her finger in front of my nose and hissed as she spoke, “Watch your goddam mouth, you stupid little brat!”

At the time I couldn’t understand. As an adult I know enough to accept that she was mentally ill. But as a child, her abuse was regular and frightening, and I had no way to make sense of it.

It was these lies and constant abuse while I was growing up, that as an adult, meant I wanted nothing to do with anything that had anything to do with my mother. Including whether she may or not have been Jewish. Why should I care?

I wasn’t raised Jewish. I wasn’t raised as anything. Except with lies, it seemed. Now, my parents and brother are dead. And I am married, with three little kids. So, again, why should I care?

I care because of my children. It would be nice to be able to give them clear truthful answers in terms of their heritage, so they don’t have to deal with the same unanswered questions that I do.

A few years ago, I decided to look into what it means to be Jewish. It’s always been in the back of my mind, that seed having been planted so long ago. And because, quite frankly, I didn’t know anything about being Jewish. I didn’t even understand what keeping kosher meant until recently.

All I had were stories from my Dad, my brother, and my mother’s family, and none of them meshed. Hence my desire to spit in a cup. Having no one to turn to, I turned to a DNA test. And thanks to 23 and Me, I know that 56% of my ancestry is Askenazi.

I no longer have to wonder the ‘if.’ I have the DNA to prove it. 56 percent. Undeniably Jewish.

According to google, my people have made “many important contributions to philosophy, scholarship, literature, art, music and science.” And that the Askenazi Jews originate from the Jews who settled along the Rhine River in Western Germany and in Northern France.

Do I book my Birthright trip now? Of course not! I’m too old!

Will my children be able to experience Birthright when they are old enough? I hope so.

Finally, I have some answers. I still have a lot of questions, but at least I have some answers for my children. For my part, I would have to say yes, there is such a thing as half Jewish. I am half Jewish.

Well, according to my DNA, I am actually a little more than half!

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Tucking In

Knockoff Doll

I’m in a corner of your mind. To mock,
undress, to use unkind. Not about me
much at all. Just recognize a knock-
off Barbie doll. A pink plastic beauty,
can I replace? I have that kind of fuck
me face. Not angular enough to be
name brand. Small town dime store bargain, a buck
you had on hand. Inadequately
long, limbs with dents, so hollow, cheap— careless
fingertip accidents. You’ve had the best.
You couldn’t know how soon my shamefulness
would show. Impulse purchase, you should suppress.
Defective lesson in cut rate design
you designate a corner in your mind.

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Perhaps

Perhaps she would drop a few ice cubes into her glass of wine, staying for a bit after picking up her grandson, my son, from basketball practice. I’d stop whatever I was doing – prepping dinner, or helping my daughter with homework – and we’d chat for a moment, her and I, as adults now. I try to imagine what this would be like; in my mind I’d never be rushed, like I often am at the witching hour. When my mom stops by I’d pause, I’d look into her blue eyes and talk to her, and she would listen, and I would too. We’d sit at the small breakfast table, or out back while the sun started to descend and before night set in, and we’d talk. She’d tell me about what she was planning to make my Dad for dinner; she’d have some meat thawing on the counter, something she took out first thing in the morning from the freezer in the garage. She’d tell me about the news with my sisters and the other grandchildren. She’d ask if I went to church last Sunday. I wonder what I’d say; I wonder if I would be going to church, or if I wouldn’t be, and what version of the truth I would tell her.

But she doesn’t stop in, because I don’t live anywhere near my parents. In fact, where I live, not many people just stop by. I don’t know if that was something particular to where I grew up, or to the era when I grew up; nowadays everything is planned, organized, texted, RSVP’d. I can’t imagine my mother with an iPhone. But perhaps she’d figure it out.

There’s another reason why she doesn’t stop in; because she doesn’t live, anymore. Her heart stopped beating long ago, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop having imaginary conversations with her. How do I put on makeup, Mom? What should I say to the boy who asked me to the dance? How do I get my brother to stop fighting with Dad? Where should I go to college, Mom? Will you visit me there? Should I go abroad for a year, or not? I’m not getting married in a church, Mom, are you okay with that? I’m pregnant Mom, what do I do now? Yes, we will baptize the children, but not in a church. We are doing it our own way. Will you still come? Was nursing terrible for you, my breasts are bleeding, what do I do? How do I get this baby to stop crying, Mom?

I desperately want to talk to her, to ask her questions, to listen to her replies, to watch her clank the ice cubes around in her watered down wine. But the thirteen-year-old girl she left behind didn’t know how to converse as an adult. Would I have figured out how to do that with her? That moment, the one when she slipped from this earth and I no longer had a living mother, is frozen in time, and I want the reel to keep playing.

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Tucking In

WANTED

I want you in my life more than what you are
But I don’t know what that’ll look like
It’s as though I’m surrounded by the
finest of china and rarest of art but must keep an arm’s distance.
I don’t know
I just don’t…but I do know
I want to know you
Yeah. I’m clear about that
I want to know you in every possible way.

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Rebel Yell

Wordsmiths, our thoughts will become fingerprints that will fly
on sound waves, generation after generation
Words, the ones so artfully placed will swiftly carry the culpable away
We are bound to the exploration of human truth, the tempest of rolling angst
Wordsmiths, fashion your eternal robes of literature with precious metal
Protect the solitary voice inside that chants melodious notes,
Sentences forming an electric whirl, threatening to breech the levees of
accepted behavior
Wavering, a quiet ping, thumping beats, the orchestra plays, destroying the hierarchy of wealth and privilege
Wordsmiths, you are the fruit of every story told
You are the villain
You are the thief
You are the hero
Wordsmiths, you are the Che of this linguistic revolution,
the ones that will make it out alive, because you have silenced the mad
Write it down
Write it down
Write it down wordsmiths before the truth slips away

 

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#InStarbucksWhileBlack

Enough.

Just enough.

Last week’s news of two African American men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks for the heinous crime of waiting for friends is bringing race, bias, and #BlackLivesMatter to a sickening new low.

If you haven’t heard the story, this is what happened. A zealous Starbucks manager called Philadelphia police about two Black men waiting for friends at a Starbucks as she perceived them as a threat. One of the young men asked for the key code to the restroom and was told he had to purchase something first. Witnesses say other patrons were given the restroom code without making purchases.

Starbucks, which touts its coffee shop as a place for people to gather, had become an avatar for the Philadelphia area’s gentrification. Enough so that the two black men became victims of “out-of-place” policing, whereby people who don’t appear to fit into the area, were perceived by the Starbucks manager as a threat.

Six Philadelphia police officers responded to the call (overkill on the number of responders) and asked the two men to leave with no reason given. After three refusals, the men were handcuffed and arrested for trespassing. The two men were released nine hours (a full work day) later after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office decided they had not broken any laws.

I think I would have gone crazy sitting in a jail cell waiting for an outcome when I KNEW I hadn’t committed a crime. But here’s the rub. I ooze White Privilege looking at my appearance and this would NEVER have happened to me. I have no qualms that the restroom code would have been offered to me, without ordering first, and no questions asked.

It is beyond enough.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson has ordered “unconscious bias,” whatever this means, training for store managers. Johnson has apologized for, in his words, reprehensible circumstances leading to the arrest.

But is this enough?

Racial profiling training has not made a dent in the systemic societal bias Americans cannot seem to overcome. Even after high profile cases of Trayvon Martin, Eric Harris, and Walter Scott, slayings of unarmed black men showcase a culture of police violence.

Clearly, racial profiling and bias are not only limited to local police departments. The Starbucks incident has magnified one of the inherent reasons that #BlackLivesMatter came into existence.

Race and bias training will not change the fact, as Americans, that we have chosen to discriminate against people who do not look like our vision of a homogeneous white society.

This same racial bias is not limited to African Americans. It’s shared among Muslim American, Mexican American, Native American, and an unconscionable number of other nonwhite communities.

Minority majority cities are on an upward trend, especially in urban areas. My prediction is that the tilting point for a decrease in racial discrimination will begin to occur as the White population becomes the minority. Well, indulge me in hoping that a day comes in the future, regardless of the reason, that mothers do not have to educate their minority children on blending in, and that a different set of rules applies to them with police interactions.

This will be enough.

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LET’S GIVE DRUG DEALERS THE DEATH PENALTY

HAPPY WOMEN’S HERSTORY MONTH!

The First Time I Saw My Baby Sleeping

A Beautiful Crashing

You are right, like always.
I will not take one other step without said approval.

I only want to be on your road but look and see –
you haven’t invited me – so I float and scamper

saying this and that, trying to get your attention,
and the attention of the good and somber trees,

of war-time gravestones – sit up and look at me!
Look how hard I am trying not to be a casualty.

It’s always been easy for me. Easy to ruin, lock lips
with bones and fade away – shoplifting sex, burying hatchets.

Easy to be the hurricane, not the stripped sail, the rotten meat,
the ruined life. I fly like chaos because I look like a beautiful

crashing. It’s safely landing which confounds my little brain.
It’s love shared in a calm manner that makes my skin crawl

with the ants I imported just for these occasions.
They keep their stingers out, always on defense.

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Am I a Stuck Up Little Bitch?

I just learned I have a reputation as a recluse – a reputation I hate. It’s true, I’m easily intimidated by colleagues and acquaintances who are younger, stronger, braver, more outgoing, better educated and better looking than me. When I feel demoralized – whether it’s real or imagined – I often take refuge in my safe place: the Dave-Zone.

When I’m in the Dave-Zone, I isolate myself deep in the shadows of my mind to commiserate with three of my closest and most loyal friends – my thoughts, my fears, and my anxieties. They bring me comfort. At the same time, however, it seems my Dave-Zone freedoms unexpectedly morph me into an entirely different person– especially to those on the outside. Apparently, I become a stuck up little bitch.


A stuck up little bitch? Seriously? I’m an entertaining guy. I’m comfortable on stage. I have a good sense of humor. I make people laugh. I’m not a stuck up little bitch.

Am I?

A few years ago, when I was between jobs, I drove for Uber, the popular ride-sharing service. It was one of the most entertaining gigs I’ve ever held. An endless supply of addicts, drunks, pimps, call girls, college students, DJ’s, journalists, doctors, attorneys, priests, old ladies, and the guy next door sat either shotgun or in the rear seat behind me. I was privy to mindless muttering, endless expressions of ‘heeeeeyy!’, hookup negotiations, drug deals, sales pitches, arguments, life stories, secret confessions, and political strategies. Most trips were thirty minutes or less.

During each ride, it was easy to be entertaining, outgoing and funny. Because I didn’t have time to invest my trust, faith, and soul into my passengers, it was easy to stay above the depths of the Dave-Zone. I became a master at telling the same old stories, I became well-versed with petty conversation, and I remained well-guarded by keeping my Dave-Zone thoughts, fears, and anxieties in check. After all, my passengers were nothing more than fleeting strangers – far from regular acquaintances. Zero personal investment was the strategy to my sanity.

Prior to my Uber adventure, I traveled full-time for work. Every week, I would hop a flight to Somewhere, USA to train doctors and their staff how to use their new software. Because I traveled 45 weeks out of the year, my favorite airline classified me a first-rate frequent flier and awarded me top-tier status: Double-Dipped-Gold, Platinum-Plated, Diamond-Encrusted. My prestige guaranteed me a Frist Class seat on every flight. Although most folks seated in First Class were high-level professionals. I frivolously chatted my best shallow babble to everyone who would listen. I’ve met CEO’s, scientists, engineers, elected officials, celebrities, and other high-ranking individuals. Because I kept the conversation light and superficial, I easily avoided the depths of the Dave-Zone.

Once I arrived at my client, I would present complicated material on stage to audiences of one to audiences of a hundred or more. I was slick, measured and scripted and admired for my efforts. Women flirted with me, winked at me, gave me their number, and even followed me to my hotel. While I felt a sense of giddiness, I was also extremely intimidated. After all, woman made me nervous, too. At the end of the day, I engaged in my usual hubbub. However, if the conversation spiraled out of my control, intimidation set in. In most cases, before long, I was off to the next client and avoided the Dave-Zone.

Today, I work in a tiny cubicle in crowded office – literally sitting inches away from my colleagues. It’s torture. At first, it was easy to be entertaining, outgoing and funny. After a few months, however, I earned the reputation as a recluse – a stuck-up little bitch. After all, I hate forced fun. I hate putting phony effort into business relationships. Why bother? Everyone is younger, stronger, braver, more outgoing, better educated and better looking than me. Because the days of superficial conversation are long gone, it’s easier to ignore everyone and hide in the vault of the Dave-Zone. I admit, I crave satisfying work relationships, but at the same time, it’s easier to push everyone away with my stuck-up little bitch attitude. It’s funny, if I think about it: I’m more comfortable on stage facing hundreds of strangers than sitting in a crowded office surrounded by people I work with every day.

Am I a recluse? Am I a stuck up little bitch? Yep, I sure am; but not on purpose.

For me, it’s easier to hide in the Dave-Zone than avoid the intimidation of others – whether that intimidation is real or imagined. Perhaps I should see a therapist; I’m sure a professional could help me work on my stuck up little bitch persona. Meanwhile, I plan to start my very own self-help group: Recluse-Anonymous. Yeah, I am certain future members would understand the Dave-Zone perfectly.

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A Beautiful Crashing

Maybe It Wasn’t My Fault

Falling Out

Will I stop disappearing if I get Botox, or whiten my teeth, or thicken my thinning hair with extensions?

Will I stop disappearing if I highlight under my eyes or draw in my eyebrows? What if I strap on tights, a push-up bra and high heels?

Will I stop disappearing if I appear fuckable? If I ignore my breasts that prefer to hang loose, or my feet that beg to spread like wings rather than squeeze into a point?

What if I let my belly out of the closet – and tuck my shirt into my jeans with a trucker style belt and walk with my gut hanging out like a man?

I’ve succumb to the pressure from my youth, my mother, society – but ultimately I am the master of my own destiny – or so that is what one of the Human’s of New Yorker’s proclaims to me as I lose myself in the shiny light of social media.

My beloved New York – that dares to be raw and honest.

My beloved New York – that feels as though it’s tumbling away from my grasp like tumbleweeds in a ghost town.

My beloved New York – that I run after in my imagination – trying in desperation to grab back at all those old feelings.

But I must stop the chasing and start accepting that nothing is what it is, or was, or what it should be, or what I even imagine.

It is what I make of it. The boldness to love my bigness, to walk with it with pride – back straight, breasts flying, belly out, and my mind free of all that shit that clouds it all day long – not allowing me to think about what I really want to think about – and delve into my being in a way that extends beyond my physical self.

I hate waiting in the waiting area anywhere – the pick-up line at my daughter’s school or at her dance classes – because ultimately that waiting area of women turns into a conversation about weight – about food and diet and exercising. And I fucking hate hearing it every fucking time. I wonder what other conversations are hiding beneath our obsession over packaging.

What would happen if we unwrapped the bow and paper and sliced open the box? What would fall out? What desire? What function? What pleasure? And what would happen if women who adore push up bras and pointy shoes merged with those who didn’t – and talked together about things on the mind rather than stand apart in judgment about things on the body.

I long to be naked. I long to reappear.

 

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Learning to Thrive

Fake It Until You Kill Yourself

Great Game Changer

To My Temporary Friend

In the sultry ambiance, I visited the virginity in your soul,
the curves- I adored, I felt through the tangible fathom of an inch below my skin, I tasted through the flourishing tactility from my scathing tongue,
I had never felt so legitimate until I saw your naked skin peeling into mine and the nonsensical validity I searched for in the crevices of my friends, fluctuated into a single
living being that formed a definitive shape of a girl I could call in the middle of the night.

When we both seeped our heads into the frenzy of social frequencies
and took inconsequential selfies of the sky and of our eyebrows
I felt the familiar need, for the first time in my life, to let you know that I had never felt like this before
but even as my drying mouth was moving, I could see the wrinkles form in the youths of our friendship.

In the nudity of our pictures, when you lay on my unkempt bed and skinny dipped into the swamps of my burdening brain,
we joint lungs in celebration of small rebellions, we fattened into the acceptance that comes
with a formless love, we expanded and collaged, and my chest had never felt heavier from the
dead weight of something so precious waiting to be lost
I remember when we cut each other’s wrists just to see our naked blood bleed and from my
blurry vision, marred through the uncanny insincerity of teenage adrenaline, it was all so beautiful
the tears I shed blocked the conspicuous image of my braided hair forming a rope around your neck.

I learnt to loathe through you,
my incessant vocabulary founded a vacant nursery in your brain,
I whispered to you in your language,
but when you left the dearth of my room, I talked once again like I had just made love to my
lover
and I think I forgot to tell you that you made me feel loved
in the way my lover did not.

I am sorry if I strangle you like I strangled the others-
my roses look more beautiful between the pages of an old book, I have never had the patience to water them and keep them alive.

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Scar Tissue

I cringe every time Dad touches her. He compulsively straightens the Blue Jays pin my brother attached to her favorite blouse, the yellow one I bought her in the States last summer. He rearranges her crossed hands, over then under, then back over again. Her fingers are chalky and stiff and I imagine them cracking and breaking off, Monty Python style. Her signature bob isn’t styled the way she did it every morning; today it’s brushed back off her face making her seem manly and slightly confused. I notice a few silver grey roots, which haven’t been allowed to appear for decades. Don’t they include dye jobs in their astronomical fee? She would have hated this. All of it. If I had insisted on a closed casket as she wanted then Dad wouldn’t be nervously touching her, last touches. But I couldn’t do that to him. Once the dead are gone, it is all about the people left behind.

I’m impressed that Jennings Funeral Home is at standing room only, but I already knew she touched a lot of people. Mum wouldn’t care about attendance numbers. She always said “The British don’t have funerals; don’t ever put me on display!” All the things she loathed are happening today: the gaudy flower arrangements; the gossipy Vincent Price undertaker who keeps track of who has had work done and who hasn’t; the minister who struggled to remember her name and probably doesn’t know she was Catholic anyways. I’ve failed her once again. The guilt suddenly consumes me and I struggle to keep down the scalding Tim’s Earl Grey I grabbed on the way over. I am proud that I stopped myself from blurting to the perky coffee lady that no, I would not be having a great day. Or maybe mum would have finally let me have one misstep, a rude drive-thru outburst warranted by the gravity of the occasion? I’ll never know.


I notice one of Jennings’ dark suits is finally closing the lid as Mom’s twin starts his reading. Uncle Frank struggles for words, gasping and hiccupping like a little boy, a bubble of spit appearing as he rushes to get to the last sentence. I should step in and save him but I’m numb, mildly annoyed that he can’t hold it together for her. Trapped in the front “VIP” row with Dad and Mom’s three sisters, I can’t avoid the train wreck that is her brother. I’m glad that Mom can’t see what is happening at the podium, and then I realize she can’t see anything anymore, lid open or closed. I zone out and reflexively start to count eyeglasses, a habit perfected in lectures over the years. I guess eye surgery and contact lenses must have come down in price as my quick scan of the crowd comes out at 10 with glasses and 34 without. I make a mental “note to self” to look into lasik eye surgery again.

*********

Dad nudges my knee with his. My turn. Uncle Frank has finally retreated to his seat, a blithering mess. My partner leans forward from the row behind and pats my shoulder in support.

“You can do this, Susan. She’d be very proud.”

He loved her so much I was almost jealous. Maybe more than my brother and I did? He didn’t experience the early years, the lean years, the sky-high expectations and crushing guilt when I always fell short. His memories of her will include fun scotch tasting nights, holiday parties, generous gifts and trips south. I push the bitterness back down, plant my feet behind the podium and put on my teacher face. I am not Uncle Frank. I have three degrees, I am a successful (ish) published author and I laid the old me to rest long ago when I moved west. I killed off that chubby, wallflower with the half-Coke-bottle glasses and one good eye. Reinvented myself, started over. So how does that girl rise again from the ashes whenever I fly “home”?

My tribute is brief, highlighting Mom’s culinary talents and professional accomplishments. I add in a few quips to lighten the mood, like the time she was banned from life drawing class for pointing and giggling and the way she carried on intense one-sided conversations with her SUV.

“Come on old girl, you can do it, just 30 more clicks to the gas station!”

I’m rewarded with nervous twitters from the old guard and a few belly laughs from the cousins who got together for a cold one before the service. My mind wanders again, a product of my unique ability to zone out while public speaking. I catch the eye of Principal Dodds, Doddering Dodders, a friend of my parents. One of those Benjamin Button types who is born looking old, except he never grew younger. Dodds lectured my entire sixth grade class on breasts when he noticed the boys snapping my bra at recess.

“Breasts are not for fun, breasts have a purpose. They are to feed with, like a mamma cow.”

There is no recognition from Dodds. I assume he is unaware of the mental scars that remain from that day. I notice Mom’s former friend and secretary, the woman who filed a grievance when Mom chastised her for returning to work stoned after morning break. Feeling guilty, here to make amends, or just curious? Pointless now.

*********

I am unsuccessfully trying to conjure up a tear for my last anecdote when I notice his chestnut cowlick out of the corner of my eye. He sits half hidden in the shadows, beside the door onto the parking lot. Strategy in case he needs to make a quick exit? I don’t recall seeing him in the receiving line before the service. Tribute complete, knees suddenly gelatinous, I scurry to my seat. It comes over me in a wave. The smell of his stale cigarette breath. How my scalp burned as he yanked my ponytail back and forth, in and out.

“Shut up Susie, you know you asked for this.”

I close my eyes but can’t erase the image of camouflage painter pants puddled around his high tops. I ghost-feel the pinch of my unicorn bracelet embedded in my wrist as he held me in place.

“No one will believe you if you tell. And who could ever love you if they knew what you just did?”

I can still hear the wall phone ringing upstairs, in Mom’s kitchen, all those years ago. The clock ticking in the background as he zipped himself up and ran out the backdoor. An eighteen year old could not be seen with a thirteen year old. I know that I was able to rise and shuffle to the phone, desperate to feel like nothing had changed. It was the neighbour calling to say our dog was loose again. Funny the details that stick with you. The scab now peeled off the last three years of therapy. Does he know that I’m Susan now, Dr. Susan to my students? That I had the mole removed from my chin and I always keep my hair cropped close? Is he noticing how I’ve changed?

*********

Dad takes my hand to lead me up and out of the funeral home. I notice that the service has ended. People are standing, some sobbing, others solemn and stoic. The lilies are being gathered to take to the cemetery; their overwhelming scent fills my nostrils. My partner is chatting with old bald high school friends, barely recognizable with their plaid dad shirts and beer bellies. Our VIP row is lead cattle-style, to the right, towards the parking lot exit and the waiting limos. I escape left, hoping mom would understand. I never told her about cowlick. The guilt would have killed her.



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What Do You Mean There is no Such Thing as Half Jewish?

Perhaps

Maybe It Wasn’t My Fault

LET’S GIVE DRUG DEALERS THE DEATH PENALTY

Well, let’s not. Because actually we can’t.

I am not outspoken about all things Trump. Everything is so ridiculous to me that my only thoughts are about guessing when the nightmare will end. All of you people who have ever made fun of government policy wonks—don’t you wish they were in charge again?

A few thoughts on this very blustery statement.

Case law, through years of cases related to capital punishment argued before The Supreme Court (48 as of 2016), has narrowed and specifically defined when and how capital punishment can be applied. Capital punishment, or the death penalty, may only be sentenced for capital crimes. These crimes are defined as espionage, treason, and death resulting from aircraft hijacking.


HOWEVER. Capital crimes consist of the offense of murder. such as murder committed during a drug-related drive-by shooting, murder during a kidnapping, murder for hire, and genocide.

Simply stated, capital punishment is primarily sentenced for murder.

Not drug dealers. The misguided, speak-before-thinking, President does not understand, nor seek legal counsel, on the rule of law, case law, or the Constitution. Trump’s thinking is that drug dealers can kill people therefore they should get the death penalty (paraphrased).

Flawed logic.

If this logic was true, then DUI manslaughter offenders should get the death penalty because they kill people. If a surgeon made a fatal error during a procedure, the surgeon killed someone and the death penalty would apply. If a domestic violence victim kills his or her’s abuser, they should be sentenced with capital punishment.

State and Federal courts are so backlogged with cases now, can you imagine the log-jam when courts are tasked with redefining how capital punishment is applied?

It’s absurd.

And so is the notion of sentencing drug dealers with capital punishment.

More Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016 than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War—the result of the U.S.’s opioid epidemic, according to Vox.com. I do not profess to know the answer to the very complex and horrific opioid addiction epidemic, although I imagine that the answer lies somewhere within a partnership of physicians, rehabilitation programs vs. incarceration, Big Pharma, and every other stakeholder in this uphill battle.

But this I do know. Empty threats made by the President of the United States, made in public or on Twitter, made specifically for the purpose of attention-grabbing attempts to change the news cycle away from him and an adult film star, well…

…talk to your lawyers. Being his own counsel and firing everyone in his way worked so well for President Nixon. History will tell how well it works for you.

Sources:
Wikipedia List of United States Supreme Court decisions on capital punishment.
Death penalty offenses. ProCon.org.

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#InStarbucksWhileBlack

HAPPY WOMEN’S HERSTORY MONTH!

The First Time I Saw My Baby Sleeping

The Train Station in Chihuahua

The old men sit on the square. Watch the comings and goings in the morning air, their cigars lit they smoke, cough, spit. It is a fluid morning like any other, the train arrives and leaves after the usual commotion people crowd on, rowdy muscle types hang on the outside as the train pulls from the station. Men in black suits gather on benches overseeing the square, occupants in their corner of the world. The oldest one, Miguel, his wife just died. He curses the young boys hanging off the side of the train, fools all, he says, fools all. Today quiet, he stares up through the tips of the poplars.

Hey, papa Torres, his arm extended calls over the train whistle, dos senoritas, he points to two young American tourists at the edge of the park—one sits on her suitcase, the other paces smoking a cigarette long and slender. She’s blond and wears sandals, the other darkened chestnut hair rests her head down between her arms, her legs spread. “Miguel go talk to the two American beauties, ask them where their father is, ask them if they are married.” Miguel’s eyes lower from the trees tops, he grunts a reply arching his back further, resting in the gravity of the earth. He nods, resigned.

This brethren approaches the two senoritas, tips his hat and asks the question with a respectful smile, Senoritas, where are the two lucky men you travel with today? Now, these ladies in Mexico are used to this question from the first leg of their vacation. The older sister forgot it was only 1980—she wanted to roll time into a magical future devoid of sexism. She raises her hot head, looks at the man, his light frame burdened in the black suit, she recognizes as wool. Her dress is Indian Chintz with no bra, her luggage disappeared into the morass of the Mexico City airport and she only can say, Buenos Diaz, which is most likely the wrong one because it’s before noon. There is no way she wants an attempted conversation. So her second words are No padre. She lowers her head, she has told him the truth as promised to herself, she has no father.

The man shuffles back to the other old men sitting in the square. Her sister returns, What did he want? The usual, where is our father. The train is seven hours late, it is not her dream vacation in their second class non-air conditioned car, packed with workers. She learns her way through a country she swears she’ll never return to. But in this life she’s far too young to make such pronouncements.

Miguel too, missing his wife, is making decisions staring into space. The young senoritas wait, the old men watch, their eyes coveted into some communication no one understands between the sexes. Miguel, of course, barely looks at the two women, he’s short for this world in the long time honored tradition of men who die soon after their wife’s passage. He understands about the souls of men and women. Things young women—senoritas—cannot fathom until they grow old.

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Dare Devil

I came to you, always
wishing for your love
approval
I rode winds, flying over time
just to be by your side
wishing for more time
love
I still crumble knowing that you are gone
wishing for how it used to be
home

 

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Maybe It Wasn’t My Fault

Lacey could tell something was off. “What’s wrong, Mom?”

“Nothing, Honey. But we need to talk – all of us.” Her mother meant all of “the girls” She looked at her three daughters warily. “Something’s happened, and I don’t know how to tell you.”

“What happened? Are grandma and grandpa okay?” she asked.

“Yes, dear. They’re fine. It’s about your father.”

“What about him?” Lacey didn’t want to hear it; she hadn’t spoken to the man in years.

“He was arrested.”

To say Lacey was shocked was an understatement. She never thought she would see the day her father would be caught.

“For what?” Lacey’s little sister asked with tears in her eyes that threatened to fall and lips that began to quiver.

“He assaulted his girlfriend,” Lacey’s mother replied, disgusted. She made the word “girl” sound insulting.
Insulting to the man and the woman he played with.

Lacey knew what her father was capable of. She had seen what he could do. Felt it when she was only seven years old. When he was drunk. When he had nothing better to do. At first, Lacey thought she was just being punished. But she kept being punished – over and over again. She would accidentally spill water on the floor or wash the dishes incorrectly. And he punished her for it. “It’s my fault,” she thought. She believed she deserved to be punished.


After a while, a long while, a lot of whiles, she thought it might not be her fault. “Maybe – maybe it’s his.” By the time she realized she was being abused, she was ready to keep it a secret.

Lacey didn’t mind enduring the pain by herself if it meant that her sisters and mother didn’t have to. She held on to that personal pain until she was 14. Then, one night, her mother came home from work early. The house was full of yelling.

He held Lacey against a wall, his hands around her neck. Breathless, unable to fight back, Lacey looked like she was going to die. As her head banged against the wall, he forced her to look directly into his eyes. His cold, loveless eyes.
“You are so fucking worthless, you know that?” He yelled. “You know that?!” He screamed, tightening his hold on her neck.

“Y-yes” Lacey cried, choking back tears. She kicked her feet with all her strength, but it did nothing. All she could think about was how hard these bruises will be to cover up. How sad her mother would be if she knew her kind, loving husband hurt their oldest daughter this way.

“Stop it!” her mother cried out. Lacey’s father dropped her and babbling something, an explanation of sorts, a meaningless jumble of reasons and ramblings. Lacey’s mother refused to listen and grabbed her daughter from her husband’s hands.

“M-mom. I-I’m sorry” she utters hoarsely, hugging her mom, struggling to walk.

“Lacey, you have nothing to be sorry for,” she says to her daughter for the millionth time. This time that she says it, it holds so much more meaning. She woke up the other girls. They all left their home that night. They never returned.

Lacey has tried to put that night to bed. She’s tried to tuck that part of her life away, behind a dresser or in a closet or in the backyard where the garbage cans stink outside. But she can still smell the man and the fear. The smell is in her brain, on her skin. It’s suffocating her.

Lacey never wanted to see her father again, but she couldn’t stop the fixation that overwhelmed her – the fascination of his crime. She wanted justice, if not for her, then for the world. She researched everything. She fell into the screen of her laptop pounding the keys to the closed doors of her fear.

Where did he get sent to? Linked In. Logged in. Located.
What did he look like now? Mugshot
.
Police reports, court dates, lawyers and judges and daily dockets. She wanted to be the first to know how long he would spend in prison, but she never got that far. Daddy was released from jail after only 3 ½ months of detainment – “lack of evidence.”

The photographs of the victim body and bruised, the witnesses that saw him beat his girlfriend, the admission of guilt were not enough – “charges dropped.”

“What did the court want for enough?” Lacey thought. She was not angry. She was numb.

Lacey did not go to the courthouse when her father was released, but her mother and sisters went. When her father saw two of his daughters, he burst into tears. He was so happy to see them; he hugged and kissed them both.
“Where’s Lacey?”

__________________________________________

He called her cell phone that Friday night – around midnight. She answered wearily, barely uttering the word, “Hello.”

“Hi sweetheart” her father’s voice made her cringe. The term of endearment made her want to vomit.

He apologized for everything he’d ever done. He said he was “so sorry.” The elongated “so” seemed insincere. She had waited a long time for one, but, now, it didn’t matter to her at all. No number of apologies would matter to her. Nothing he said could make up for the pain she endured for so long. In her mind, the “so” seemed never-ending.

Her mother and sisters were quick to forgive him.

She refused to.

She only hoped they would understand why. How terrified she was of him — of the smell of alcohol on his tongue, the look of his eyes when he was angry, instilled in her mind. She wanted them to understand how hard she struggled – fighting him — in bed – every night – and the nightmares that followed her for years. She wished they could understand how hard it was to trust anyone, anytime, anywhere, anymore.

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What Do You Mean There is no Such Thing as Half Jewish?

A Beautiful Crashing

Tucking In

We stood on the hillside, the early July sun warm, the notes of Danny Boy on the bagpipes lingered in the blue air.  It was not like other funerals–no lowering the casket on a winch, no Astroturf around a large grave.  Three small holes had been prepared.

Daddy had died in January, Mom in April, and Rod thirty-five years ago.  In 1975, our Uncle Sam had offered my hollow parents a place for Rod in his family plot. A temporary plan since he had spots enough only for his own family, but a place to put Rod since Mom and Dad hadn’t thought to acquire a cemetery plot. All of our relatives on my mother’s side lay under flat white marble stones: great-grandfather and great-grandmother, our grandparents, Uncle Jimmy killed at Anzio, Uncle Charlie, the baby who didn’t live past three. In the spring, mom and I would go with her clippers and whiskbroom, trimming the ivy tendrils, brushing away pine needles and acorns. Mom had planted hyacinth bulbs that bloomed, fragrant, each spring. I liked taking care of the graves—sort of a WASPY Day of the Dead habit. Each December, we’d lay evergreens on every tombstone, except for Jimmy’s. His fiancé, Aunt Joan, laid a juniper spray on his every year, an echo of love and loss that still makes me shiver a little. After his death, she had married his Princeton roommate. She remained my mother’s good friend, was devoted to my grandparents, arranged he flowers for my wedding. And she loved my mother’s favorite brother, who died on the first day of the push towards Rome. Jimmy is buried in Italy, the plot number noted in Mom’s calendar in her careful print. Someday, I will go and lay a wreath there.


The other night my sister asked if I remembered Rod’s burial, the silver casket.  I don’t.  I have other bits and pieces from the days following his accident, from the funeral, but not that.

She asked, “Do you remember that Dad had just lost it, that Mom finally had to say, “We’re going, John. We are going,” and basically had to rip him away?

“No,” I answered.  I didn’t. But I think maybe I do remember, her brief prompt calling up images.

“There isn’t enough room for your father to be buried next to your brother in our plot,” our oldest cousin had reminded us kindly when Daddy died.  So, we left Daddy’s ashes with the undertaker until we could make a plan. And when Mom died, unexpectedly, three months later, we asked Chadwick—her undertaker, different from Dad’s undertaker—to exhume Rod and cremate him, too, so the three could be together, not in the lovely Church of the Redeemer Courtyard, but in Eagles Mere.  Neither my sister nor I live in Bryn Mawr anymore. Eagles Mere is home—for her, year round; for us, in the summer, but it is the place that calls us, our home. They would be close to us there; we could begin new grave tending.

So, we brought them all home for what Virginia, our minister, had explained would be a tucking in, like tucking a child into bed for the night—less final than a burial, more everyday, cozy.  Virginia is the granddaughter of the Bishop who married our parents; her father was great pals with Mom’s brother; they are as Eagles Mere as we are.  She, herself, loved our Mom, knew that “Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden,” was one of Mom’s favorite introductions to the passing the peace at 8:00 a.m. Communion.  Having someone who loved our mom made her death—now three months long—both better and more final. This was the real end.  We had had a proper service in the Redeemer for both of them, more formal affairs, a few days after they died, precisely three months apart. They were the standard Episcopalian funerals with O God our help in ages past resounding from the organ, homilies offered by people who did not really know our parents. For Daddy, members of St. Anthony Hall, his fraternity at Penn, processed from the back of the church, each laying a sprig of hemlock on the box that held his ashes. I was the last one, having joined the fraternity, myself, to please my Dad. Lee had spoken at Daddy’s service and I at Mommy’s. There had been tea sandwiches and devilled eggs in the Parish House, Mom presiding Queen-like and frail at Daddy’s reception; my sister and me, a little shell-shocked by the fast loss of both parents, receiving guests as graciously as we had been taught to do at Mom’s service in April.

In the 80’s Lee and Seth and I bought cemetery plots from Bud Watts, the town clerk, whose home stood at the end of the driveway at Self-Help. Now, it is Seth’s and my retirement cottage, the view of the back of Mom’s house appealing. We had plenty of room in our adjoining plots on the side of the hill, looking down. I read somewhere that cemeteries are often on hillsides to offer the dead a view. Years ago, at the summer theatre program my husband and I ran in Eagles Mere, we had brought the kids to this cemetery to help them visualize Act III in Our Town. They wandered about, some intrigued by names and inscriptions, a few weirded out by being in a graveyard at dusk. Wilder’s words float back to me,

“Yes, an awful lot of sorrow has sort of quieted down up here. People just wild with grief have brought their relatives up to this hill. We all know how it is … and then time … and sunny days … and rainy days. .. ‘n snow … We’re all gladthey’re in a beautiful place and we’re coming up here ourselves when our fit’s over. Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars … everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have beentelling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”

Death is for the living. We need to say goodbye, to punctuate the ending. So, each grandchild helped to tuck in Mom and Dad and Rod, dropping dirt and stones and twigs softly, a gentler ending, the edges smoother, more a laying down of three matching boxes into the spaces that had been prepared for them. It must have been Gary or one of his kids who dug the holes. Rod in between Mom and Dad, as it should be. As it was.   Lee and I didn’t talk about where to put them; it was understood. She will lie, eventually, next to Dad, and I to Mom, and we won’t be there to criticize if our children make a different call. There’s a certain autonomy survivors enjoy.

Virginia, our minister, offered some closing prayers, and then we melted away. The memorial service for Mom would be later that afternoon in our summer church, a loving, not quite raucous, but not too solemn, goodbye.

 
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What Do You Mean There is no Such Thing as Half Jewish?

Perhaps

Scar Tissue

Solution

I tell her
“not today”

I tell her
“watch me eat”

She chuckles
“sure you will
feel free to
try”

I breathe
deeply

She’s exhausting
to fight
she knows it

Sometimes
letting her
have her way
is
the
easiest
solution
to my problems

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Learning to Thrive

In July 2014, in Okinawa, Japan, I got pregnant with our second boy. Fresh off a miscarriage and two months before we were due to move eastward across the Pacific, this little one was anything but planned.

I know the trend today is to say ‘We are pregnant’, emphasizing the marriage and the father’s role, which I think is important. But this pregnancy became increasingly more mine, and mine alone. The day before we left Japan, I threw up 23 times in the hotel toilet while my husband and toddler went to sell our remaining car. The trip from Naha to Honolulu took 27 hours (also the length of my first labor) and I spent most of the time in and out of the tiny closet bathroom in the airplane that I knew couldn’t muffle my sickness. Even if it had, my face and the smell was sure to tip anyone off.


My first pregnancy had been hard, I hadn’t gained weight by 6 months and was never sure I would keep any meal down, but this pregnancy was a whole different level. By the time we got to our hotel in Honolulu I was losing at least one meal a day, and was, physically and emotionally, totally unequipped for the relocating process which included new phones, new cars, and unfortunately for me, a healthcare provider switch which because of errors on both sides, took several months.

I ended up not seeing a doctor until I was almost 6 months along and by then I had lost almost 10 pounds.

There is something deep inside us all that convinces us that our circumstances are tied to how we behave, and this is felt most viscerally when it is directly physical. The combination of a miscarriage followed shortly by this pregnancy, where I felt that my baby was struggling every day to stay alive while my body fought against him, created such a storm.

I was raised to be a woman, in every conservative sense of the word. I was taught that women were women when they dressed modestly didn’t question things (especially not things that men said), and when something good happened in our lives we would always say we were blessed, and we would double down on doing the right things.

I imagine this is a bad recipe for dealing with any type of personal adversity, but when I was dealing with a situation where my physical body had already not sustained life, and now continued to actively oppose it, it was worse than a hardship. And when a healthy dose of Midwestern self-sufficiency and a ‘just get through it’ mentality was added to that, it was a disaster. I was afraid to ask for help because I didn’t know where to go, I was afraid no one would take me seriously and that they would just tell me that I needed to toughen up (a couple doctors did end up telling me that anyway), and I thought maybe, after all, I was just weak.

Now, looking back, there were many things I should have done. I should have insisted for IVs, I should have gone to the ER even if I wasn’t approved for doctors, I should have done more research and found the diagnosis of hyperemesis gravidarum more quickly since it appeared that no one else would find it for me.

There were many reasons I didn’t fight harder for myself and my baby. One of them was simply that I was disoriented. I was in a new place, a different country, with a toddler who stopped sleeping for weeks when the jet lag hit. I was dehydrated constantly, dizzy and tired, and my husband was overwhelmed starting a new job.

But always in the back of my mind was something I had read during my last pregnancy, on one of those rabbit trails online that you take when you are exhausted and overwhelmed. It was an extremely conservative, illogical belief that if you have morning sickness, it is because you must not want your baby.

I had grown up with many of these beliefs all around me. And in the back of my mind, on my worst days, this would shudder there, like the nausea that never left. I had been read book after book growing up about a woman’s place; in the home, under her husband, with children around her, and here was the worst part of it: I had never wanted it. I had wanted a family, probably, but I wanted a career and freedom and maybe my secret wish for freedom was now punishing my little baby, as big now as the newly flowering avocados on our new tree in our new yard. Maybe, deep inside, my 12 year old contrarian mind had connected to my uterus, and those thoughts had physically changed my body.

I knew it wasn’t true. But when you are taught something your whole life it is hard to release, especially on the days when you haven’t eaten at all, when you wake up that morning and run to the bathroom to throw up before you have even had a drink of water, and when you are trying to buy your first house in a crowded and competitive market while throwing up in the bathrooms behind the realtor’s back.

And then one Wednesday I started spotting, the same way that my miscarriage had started. I called my husband sobbing, and afterwards he said he felt ‘immediately sick’, and a bitter part of me wondered what freedom it must have been like to have those moments before. I had forgotten what it meant to feel good.

It took us 2 hours to find a doctor to do an ultrasound, and he found the heartbeat immediately.

Somehow this little boy whom my body hated was just fine, and as I saw him wiggling vigorously on the little black screen, I hated my body for hating him; this little boy who was fighting valiantly to stay alive. But he was there, and he was fine, despite me, despite my tortured mind.

Despite me, he was born full term, extremely skinny but absolutely healthy. Despite me, he does not seem to have any neurological issues like have been documented in some hyperemesis gravidarum cases. Despite me, he is far more active than his older brother ever was, and far happier too.

Some days when I slip, when I think it matters that I have it all together and correct, when I think that my worth is determined by what I do, I look at my little boy, and I remember. I remember things aren’t always about me, or my background. And that despite either my old beliefs that I can’t quite root out, or even when my body actively fights on the wrong side, things can still be sustained.

And more than that, they can grow, they can develop, and they can live.

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What Do You Mean There is no Such Thing as Half Jewish?

Falling Out

Scar Tissue

Tears

I thought when you lost your job
you would need me more
but your weakness
divided us; your travels stopped
those visits ceased to exist.

I think too much
of how your body on mine
was a missing puzzle piece
you could not throw away.

One afternoon or one lifetime
what matters most
is the bullshit I ate
and spit it out
as poetry.

It is all fine now.
No grudges.
No criminals to arrest.
No long lost lies
about the necklace you never bought
or the book you never read.

Rumi comes once in a lifetime
you create the illusion
of being the great one
the only one
to claim to know my soul

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Those Three Words

Those three words

Are an insurrection and a

Judgment upon their hypocrisy

Syllables and sounds of

A personal revolution

That I once thought

You could say too often

But now know

When looking at you

That I can’t say enough

Because in your eyes

They become

Life’s only best hope

The breath of the sun

And the smile of the

Moon and the stars

Upon us as we escape

Giggling hand in hand

Into eternity

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Blind Ambition

If Tina wasn’t so damn hard, I probably wouldn’t be doing this, but even a dog gets tired of being kicked after a while. In a year and a half, I’ll be eighteen anyway, so cutting out early’s no big whoop.

Wonder if she even knows I’m gone. The manager at Tim Horton’s gives her one Friday off a month and she “never wastes it on sobriety.” That’s what Uncle Steve says, and that’s when Tina tells him to Eff-Off. Says it that way if she thinks I’m in hearing distance. Of all the things she could do to behave like a mother, and she picks that one. As if a kid my age doesn’t know the stupid eff-in’ f-word.

But all that’s behind me now. Once we’re parked at Truro Raceway, I’ll be gone before anyone even knows I was there—out to the Trans Canada with my thumb up, bound for Halifax. Somebody’ll know where the auditions are. So You Think You Can Dance. They better pick me. If they do, it’s good-bye forever to Prince Edward Island and that hag that calls herself my mother.


Sitting here on the trailer floor talking up to you, I can say anything. Your big horse eyes are blinking at me while you chew, and that “huff” you make now and then is like you even agree with me. Nobody else listens like this, so I don’t mind you dropping bits of hay in my hair.

Paige says you’ve got a longer name, but she just calls you Gus. Happy to ride with you, Gus. Paige is pretty much my best friend, but she doesn’t know the half of what goes on with Tina and me. It’s her parents hauling us.

My mother’s jealous because I’m beautiful. Everybody says I am. They notice my hair first. It’s kinda like yours: slick and shiny with reds and golds bouncing off when the light hits it. Once I heard someone say it’s like mahogany. That’s a really expensive wood. I’ve Googled pictures and think it’s true, but I’d have to see the actual thing to know for sure.

My skin is extra smooth for a high school kid. Not one pimple. Eyes the color of those jade ornaments in the gift shops, except a little darker. Tina says the shade changes with my mood or what I’m wearing. I check it in the mirror a few times a day.

Did you know people’s eyes stay the same size all their lives? Mine are big, so I must have been all eyes when I came out. To hear Tina tell it, the rest of me was pretty big, too. But she was only my age then, with no one to tell her what to expect. She burst blood vessels in both eyes screaming to push me out, I was that big—or she was that scared.

Uncle Steve says I’ve got “a body that won’t quit.” I don’t mind him saying that, but when he outs with it around Tina, she gives him the eye and reminds him he’s her damn brother. He’s good to me, though, so what’s the harm in him saying what anyone else on the street will tell me to my face?

Tina won’t give Steve a break. She’ll waggle her rooty, orange head at him and say, “Don’t even think about puttin’ yer filthy paws on my Angel!” Then they’ll start shouting at each other—usually ‘til Tina throws something or tries to whack him. Steve’ll get her in a choke hold from behind ‘til she calms down or fakes him out by going slack until he relaxes. That’s when she’ll whip around and spit before he even thinks to duck. It usually ends with him stomping out the back-porch door calling her all kinds of gutter names and muttering about the house being his and something like, “I’m tryin’ to help yus, and all you do is spit in my face.”

There’s no figuring those two out but, whether she likes it or not, he’s all the family we’ve got.

People say I look like her when she was my age, but I can’t see it. She didn’t save any pictures. Says she can’t stand to think about that time—meaning when she was pregnant—let alone keep photos. And how does that make me feel?

My height and eye color actually come from Uncle Steve, although his eyes are too squinty to be what you’d call nice. Tina’s are a sort of dishwater grey. “Used up” is what Steve calls her when they fight—which is often and usually over me.

“A man would never believe you’re only thirty-two,” he’ll say. That’s hard for her to take, but it’s true. Paige’s mother is way older than Tina and still keeps herself good: Doesn’t smoke, has white teeth, nice hair. No roots.

Uncle Steve wants me to move in with him and Aunt Connie. Says he can do better by me because he has a whole lot more money than what selling Tim Horton’s coffee and making beds at the Tidy Rest Motel can pay. It really rubs Tina the wrong way that he’s made good and she hasn’t. Started at the bottom and worked his way up to car dealer. Tina doesn’t even have a car. Lost her license a couple years ago and had to sell it to pay the $1,200 drunk driving fine.

Steve has all the cars he wants. Plus ads on TV. He’s a household name in Charlottetown—all over the Island, really. I see cars passing on the road or in the parking lots with his name in silver screwed to the trunk lids: “Steve Bradshaw Pontiac-Buick.” It’s really the only family thing I have to be proud of, so I don’t mind if people mistake, sometimes, that I’m Steve’s daughter. Not like it matters. Tina will never tell me who my father is.


Steve’s why I’m here today. He offered me a summer job at the dealership when school’s out next month, but Tina said no—said way more than that, but you get the drift. Said she’s got me a stupid job at Tim Horton’s again. Like I want to pull on a scratchy smock every day and spend the summer serving Iced Capps to kids I go to school with. Under her watchful eff-ing eye.

Uncle Steve says I’d be good for business. “All you have to do is sit there at a little desk in the showroom looking pretty and answering phones,” he says. I’d be able to wear nice clothes—skirts and sundresses and pretty sandals. “The prettier, the better,” Steve says.

I jumped at it, but Tina cursed and roared when I told her and said I have to tell him no. That’s when I put two and two together about the auditions and Paige’s parents heading over to the race track with you.

I left Tina flaked out on the couch last night and snuck me and my backpack through the fence near the barns at the Charlottetown Driving Park. Found “MacKenzie Racing Stables” on the side of this trailer. Hid up there in the gooseneck under the horse blankets and coolers, waiting for them to load you up and drive us away this morning. Glad I didn’t spook you when I climbed down here. Must look like I slept in a barn, though. I’ll find the Ladies once we get to the race track and fix myself up before I hoof it out to the road. I’ll show that hateful bitch—won’t waste my looks like she did.

Me and Cory—he’s my boyfriend—we’ve been learning from the dancers on TV and got our moves down pat. We showed them off at a couple of school dances and cleared the floor both times. Everyone made a big circle around us when we were done and said, “You should be on So You Think You Can Dance!” I’m going to be. Cory’s not so keen, but I’ve been watching out for the closest auditions, and they’re in Halifax today.

Someday I will dance on Broadway, or in Las Vegas, or LA. Or I’ll marry a star or someone who makes a lot of money. It’s not like Cory and me are promised to each other or anything. We get up to a few things sometimes when we’re alone, but nothing too serious. I’m still a virgin—and I’m only telling you this: Cory’ll likely switch to guys someday, but that’s alright with me. He’s fun, and he keeps the jerks away.

If I wanted to get married and have kids, I could—in two seconds. Either one of the guys on Uncle Steve’s lot would take me just for the asking—except I wouldn’t ask. Too old. And creepy, too, the way they whistle and cluck every time I walk by on my way home from school. Like they’ve been waiting. I’ve seen Uncle Steve watching from behind the plate glass window of his office. He thinks it’s funny.

Steve’s pretty good to me all the same. He and Aunt Connie always give me Christmas presents—nice clothes that all the girls are wearing, not some cheap thing from Wal-Mart like Tina buys. Once they even took me to Florida on March Break. Tina put up such a fuss. She did NOT want me to go. Told me they were spoiling me and that I shouldn’t let Steve get that close. I was only fourteen, but I told her, “To Hell with you!” and went anyway.

That was the first time he tried something. Said he couldn’t resist, with this body in that bikini. I stopped his hand pretty good but, still, all that week whenever Connie wasn’t looking he’d sneak up behind and snap my suit top or pull out the bottom. “Pretty nice view down there,” he’d whisper—once almost in front of Connie and their two little girls. I didn’t say anything to Tina when I got home. Wouldn’t give her the satisfaction. But I said no thanks last March when they invited me again.

I don’t worry about working with Uncle Steve or those other two dorks at the car dealership, though. I’m used to men going all gaga over me, and I can handle it. Well, how about that? Didn’t realize we’re stopped. Is this Truro already? Truck doors slamming. Jump up and get out of here—Shit! There’s Mr. MacKenzie at the side door, jaw hanging to his knees.

“Jay-zus-Mary-and-Joseph!” He’s blinking hard. Over his shoulder, he says, “Clair! Clair, come see this.”

Where the eff’s my pack? Gus is straining back on his tether, rocking the trailer. “Easy, Gus!” I say—too loud, which only makes it worse.

Mr. MacKenzie piles in, pushing me into the corner. He takes the horse by the halter. I can tell he’s trying to keep his voice calm for Gus: “Get out of here,” he says. “Right now.”

“But—”

He’s between me and the door. I’m still fishing for my pack. Gus is rolling his eyes and blowing through his nose.

MacKenzie says, “Get. The hell. Awayfrommyhorse.” and the way he says it makes anything possible, so I squeeze past him empty handed and stumble onto the turf. Backpack or not, I mean to get away from here as fast as I can.

Someone grabs my arm and whips me around. I’m looking right into the face of Paige’s mother.

“Angel! What are you doing here?”

“Long story,” I say, taking my arm back. “Needed a ride. Thanks—sorry about Gus. Bye!” and I cut out of there. Only a few steps and she’s dragging on the back of my jacket.

“Hold on a minute, Angel.”

She’s using her “mother voice”—that’s what Paige calls it.

“You’re not trying to run away from home, are you?”

Damn. I turn around to face her.

“What’s this all about?” she says.

“It’s nothing, Mrs. MacKenzie. I’m heading for Halifax, so I hitched a ride in your trailer. Gus was okay the whole way over from P.E.I. He just got scared at last.”

She’s got me by both shoulders with her warm mother hands, staring at me with an open look that says I can tell her anything, and I almost want to—but I can’t take the chance on being that soft.

“Gus will be fine, Angel. It’s you I’m worried about.”

When was the last time Tina said she was worried about me? Never; that’s when. I reach up to brush something from my cheek. Chaff, maybe; eyes watering from the bright sunlight after the dim trailer, perhaps. That’s when Mrs. MacKenzie gathers me in and, for some reason, I collapse against her.

“It’s gonna be okay, Angel,” she says, stroking my hair all the way from the top of my head to between my shoulder blades, over and over, and I can’t believe I’m sobbing. My own mother can’t make me cry; how can Paige’s mother do that? I pull back.

“Had a fight with your mom, eh?”

I should be heading out to the highway if I want to make the auditions starting this afternoon, but my feet won’t move. Anyway, my back pack’s still in the trailer, and I can’t show up in front of a bunch of famous TV people with hay sticking out of my hair and smelling like a horse. Mrs. MacKenzie puts an arm around my shoulder and steers me toward the truck.

“What say we sit inside for a while?”

Mr. MacKenzie leads Gus away and disappears, then comes back with another fellow and, together, they unload the sulky from the roof of the trailer while his wife tries to start a therapy session with me inside the truck.

She’s saying, “Why don’t you stay around here today, and we’ll give you a ride back home tonight?” I take a look into the back of the crew cab. There’s a blanket on the floor, a needlepoint cushion on the seat that says, “Horse Lovers are Stable People,” and I can’t help but think how good it would feel to stretch out with my head on that pillow and drift off to nowhere.

She says, “My little sister went to high school with your mom. They were in home room together for a couple of years until…”

“Yeah, I know. Till she got pregnant with me,” I say, picking at a chip in the polish on my thumbnail.

“She was nice, you know. Shy. Pretty like you.”

“Yeah,” I say. “That’s what I hear.”

“I’m sure Paige tells you all kinds of stories about how Kevin and I are tough on her—like your mom is on you.”

“Not like my mom.”

Mrs. MacKenzie turns in her seat to face me. “It’s not easy being a parent,” she says. “Especially a single one, like Tina. You know she only wants the best for you.”

“And what do you know?” I say, suddenly and supremely pissed off. “All she ever does is tear me down—Uncle Steve wants me to work for him: A nice job, in a nice place, with nice clothes. But she wants to keep me under her nose. Like she doesn’t trust me not to go out and do the exact same thing she did at my age! I’m not that stupid. I’ve got brains to go with my looks. I can do something with my life. But she keeps trying to stop me!”

“What are you trying to do with your life today?” she asks like some damn school teacher.

“So You Think You Can Dance!” I say, but it’s silly-sounding the way it comes out. “I can dance, you know. I can dance that good.”

Mrs. MacKenzie says nothing.

“Even if you take me home today, my next chance, I’ll be gone so fast you won’t see the flash,” I say.

She just sits there blinking at me, something like Gus.

“Wants the best for me. Yeah right!” I say.

Finally, Mrs. MacKenzie says quietly, “You may not see it now, Angel, but you still need your mom.”

“Oh, come ON!” I say. “Like a flower needs the eff-in’ rain?”

She reaches over to fiddle with an end of my hair. “You need to finish school, Angel. Then try out for the show. Until then, you need someone to support you—keep a roof over your head.”

“Uncle Steve’s offered lots of times to take me off her hands,” I say, meaning I don’t need that battle axe for a minute, but Mrs. MacKenzie twists it.

“Have you ever thought, maybe, your mother needs you?” she says.

“Where do you think Tina Bradshaw would be if she didn’t have you to stay sober for, keep a house for, hold down a job for?”

“Oh, seriously!” I say. Seriously. I hadn’t thought of it like that.

“At least let me call her, let her know you’re OK.”

I find Tina’s number on my cell phone and hand it to her. She climbs out of the truck and turns her back while she makes the call.

“Tina? It’s Clair MacKenzie—A bit of a surprise, yes.” She begins scuffing the grass with her toe. “I’m at Truro Raceway and Angel’s with—Yep. Truro.” I see her nodding and hear her making little starts at speaking, then waiting for Tina to finish whatever tirade she’s on. As Mrs. MacKenzie circles close to the open door, I catch Tina’s high witchy voice saying, “…keep on going!”

Good enough. I jump out of the truck and make for the trailer. I’ll show that bitch! Mrs. MacKenzie’s right behind me, grabbing onto the back of my jacket as I fish around for my pack. “Ti—Tina…you don’t mean that,” she’s saying.

I’m tossing blankets and coolers this way and that, raking for the damn bag.

“Wait!” Paige’s mom says, taking my arm; then into the phone, “Hold on, Tina.” She searches my face with her eyes. “Your mother’s angry, Angel. She doesn’t mean what she’s saying.”

Into the phone, she says, “Take some time to cool off, Tina. We’ll bring Angel home tonight after the races.” A sound from the other end. “Sometime around seven or eight, likely.” Another sound. “Don’t mention it,” says Mrs. MacKenzie, and she hands me the phone.

I say, “She meant it, you know.”

Now Mrs. MacKenzie looks like it’s her who wants to cry. Instead, she reaches up and strokes my hair the way that was so nice before. “Angel, she wants you to come home.”

“Sure.”

“She’ll be waiting for you; you’ll see.”

“Like that’s something to look forward to.”

The way Mrs. MacKenzie slumps her shoulders, I almost feel sorry for her. She’s caught in the middle, trying to make peace where there never will be any.

“Look,” she says. “I need to help Kevin hitch Gus for his warm up. Why don’t you climb into the truck and get some rest?”

That little pillow sure looks soft.

“For a bit,” I say. “But I likely won’t be here when you come back.” I’ll be dancing a solo in Halifax.

Paige’s mom makes a sad smile and says, “I hope you will be here, Angel, but that’s up to you.”

“Yeah.” I open the door and crawl in.

Next thing I know, the truck is swaying gently, and Gus is clomping onto the trailer. A few more thumps, rocks and bangs and Mr. MacKenzie’s sliding into the driver’s seat.

“Well, little girl, lucky for you we’re going home with a $3,000 purse, or I’d blame you for putting my horse off his race, and you’d be walking across the Confederation Bridge.”

I’m so fuzzy with sleep all I can get out is some kind of grunt. Slept through my chance at the Big Break. Don’t know whether to be pissed or just smooth my hair and root around in my pack for some lip gloss.
Mrs. MacKenzie climbs in her side and hands me a carton of steaming French fries. While I stuff them in, she says, “I stopped by earlier, but you were dead to the world, so I figured you needed the rest more than the food.” The way she reaches out her hand, I think of Tina always grinning and snatching fries from me when I bring them home. But Clair just pats my knee. “Glad you stayed,” she says and turns to buckle in. “Your mom will be, too.”

Whatever.

So, when they drop me off, Tina’s hunched over the kitchen table with a cigarette burning down to her fingers, head in her hands, faded roots showing about half an inch through the part in her hair. Behind her, Uncle Steve is stretched out on the living room couch, head thrown back, mouth wide open. When Tina hears me come in, she stands, scraping the metal chair legs on the floor. She lifts her shoulders, and it’s as if she’s going to open her arms to me like you see in those pictures of the Madonna. That’s not likely, though, because the table’s in the way. Instead, she crushes her cigarette into the dried ketchup and gravy on the plate in front of her and gives me her usual bitchy stare.

“So ya decided to come back,” she says. Her eyes seem watery and red.

“Not by choice.”

Steve begins to stir.

“I heard what you told Clair,” I say.

We watch Steve sit up, register what’s happening and jump to his feet.

“You’re back!” He’s coming at us like he actually is going to hug me, but Tina steps out from behind the table and stops him.

“Leave this to me, Steven,” she says.

He rears back and gives her a look like he doesn’t understand.

“Get outta my house and let me talk to my daughter,” she says.

Uncle Steve looks from her to me, runs a hand through his hair and stumbles out the back door, leaving the two of us eyeing each other.
I mimic her angry shriek: “Tell her to keep going!”

Tina crosses her arms in front, settles her weight onto one hip, keeps her voice even. “That’s not what I said,” she tells me. “What I said was, I wished you could keep going.”

“Oh. Like there’s a difference,” I say, still dangling my pack from one hand. I could turn around yet and walk out that door.

Tina doesn’t answer. She takes a seat at her end of the table and indicates for me to do the same. I do because even if I decide to leave again, I’ll probably stay long enough to pack a few more things.
With one hand, Tina slips a Du Maurier from its foil nest beside her plate and says, as she puts it to her mouth, “Before your grandmother died, she told me she married your grandfather for two reasons: one, because she was pregnant with your Uncle Steve; two, because she needed to get away from her father.”

She lets that, and the cigarette hang while she flicks the trigger of her lighter. Now I have to watch her suck and draw ‘til her cheeks cave in and the end of that cancer stick is good and red before she turns to me.

“When I was younger than you—fourteen or fifteen—there was this dog,” she says. “Belonged to the old guy down the road.”

She takes a drag, taps the cigarette against her plate.

“Butch,” she says, eyes sliding into a far-away look. “He was black and white with a lucky white tip on his tail.” She’s almost breaking into a smile. “I remember how soft his coat was: wavy, not curly. Shiny and nice.”

She takes another drag and blows the smoke out the side of her mouth.

“In those days, there was always somebody at me: Your grandfather—you can thank God he didn’t live to see you grow—the two boys who got around with your Uncle Steve; and, your good old uncle himself.”
She waits for a reaction to that “Uncle Steve” remark, but I don’t give her one.

“I was like you: better looking than the other girls. Fair game, I guess is how the boys saw me. While we waited for the bus, or when we were walking to or from, they would make grabs at my tits, or my arse or my crotch, like I was some kind of dumb animal they could tease however they wanted.”

Those idiots on the car lot come to mind, but I don’t say a word.

“I didn’t know how to stop them—and Big Brother Steve? He helped them. Like I was this pretty little piece of something he owned, and he was happy for his friends to have a go at it. Sometimes on the walk home, the boys would drag me into one of the fields along the road where we couldn’t be seen and try to get their hands down my pants or up my shirt. They used to have contests to see who’d get my bra off before I could stop them.”

Uncle Steve playing with the back of my bikini.

“Then Butch started meeting Steve and me at the end of the lane in the mornings and following us to the school bus. I used to pet him, and he’d trot along beside me the whole way. After a while, he started showing up when the bus let us off in the afternoon. He’d always come straight to me. I loved that dog,” she says. Her face never goes that soft for me. “He loved me.” That comes out like she’s surprised.

“Eventually,” she says, “Butch got so he’d bark and snarl when the boys tried their stuff, so they took to kicking at him, trying to make him go away. But Butch would stick with me. I can see still see him, white paws bouncing off the dirt, barking, hunching down, growling at those boys…For a while, he kept them away.”

With the cigarette between her yellowed fingers, she rubs the heel of her hand along her forehead and back over her hair. Now she takes another drag and blows the smoke high, toward the ceiling.

“One Saturday, they were all crowded into Steve’s bedroom. The music was loud, but I could hear their voices, low, through the wall. They were planning to fix Butch for good. They meant to catch him one day after the bus let us off. Steve was to grab him from behind; Lloyd was to force a potato sack over his head; Roy was to wrap a piece of bailer twine around his belly and tie the sack up tight. Then, they were going to put him in another sack with stones, tie it up and toss him into the old pond at the back of one of the fields near the bus stop. No one knew how deep that pond was, but we’d heard that whatever went into that black water never came out.”

She pauses here to balance her cigarette on the edge of the plate and rub her palms along the tops of her thighs. She looks to me before she continues.

“That Monday, Butch met Steve and me at the end of the driveway, wagging his tail and looking for pats on the head. But I said Go home, Butch. Of course, he didn’t know what I meant and walked along beside me like always. Steve said nothing, just watched.

“I turned to face the dog, pointed to where he came from and said, Go home, Butch! He sat and cocked his head, like he was asking what I was talking about. So, I found a stick and threw it in his direction. Go home, Butch! I said again, but he ran after the stick, took it in his mouth and brought it back to me. I threw it again—straight at him this time. It caught him in the hip, and he looked at me with hurt feelings, then picked it up again and returned it. Godddamnit, Butch, Go HOME! I roared. By now, Steve was rocking back on his heels laughing.

“I picked up a stone and threw it. Clipped Butch in the head and he whimpered, shied to the side and sat there looking at me. Before he could come toward me again, I shouted as loud as I could: Go home! Go home! I picked up another rock and threw it. Got him in the chest. Finally, Butch went away with his head and tail hanging.

“He turned around to look at me once. I said again, Go-home-you-stupid-goddamn-mutt! and started a run at him, punching the air. All the while, I could hear Steve snickering.”

Tina leans back in her chair, picks up a fresh cigarette and lights it with the burned-down butt of the other. “Hardest thing I ever did,” she says, propping an elbow against herself, with the new cigarette cocked to the side. Maybe her eyes are welling up, or maybe it’s the smoke.

I’m slouched in the chair, arms folded across my chest, well aware of the pack on the floor beside me. I was within reach of my dream in Halifax but Clair MacKenzie convinced me to come back to this hag, where all she’s got for me is some shit about a mutt I never even knew.
“What are you telling me this for?” and I can’t possibly fit into my voice the contempt I feel right now.

Tina brings the trembling cigarette to her lips one more time. I know she can feel me waiting.

Finally, she lifts her watery damn eyes to mine: “Every time I look at you these days, Angel,” she says, “all I see is that Eff-in’ dog.”

END

Photo: @Julie Anderson All RIGHTS RESERVED



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Fake It Until You Kill Yourself

This isn’t a poem or a blog post.
This isn’t a satirical article or a cry for help.
It’s just a simple question.

“What will be the price you pay for complacency?

To what end will you run me rampant and into the ground, head first kicking and screaming?
How far will you stretch yourself to only prove to yourself that you’re completely miserable?
When will you stop hiding in the shadows because you’re too afraid to fail?
Do you go to a job every day that you cannot stomach? I Do.

Why do we subject ourselves to live like this?

We have bought into a dream that was sold to us when we were children. The dream was; go to school, go to college, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, have children and pretend to actually be happy when your depressed, because you’ve suddenly realized that you’re not doing what you love to do, or what you are meant to do and now there’s a slight chance that it’s too late to act on your dreams. And if you can’t fake happy the way your neighbors can then wash a Xanax down with a bottle of $7.99 chardonnay.

The word ‘menial’ no longer holds definition, as it now has become a part of me. I am menial. I am low level, tedious and bored. I pick and choose my job for the year in nomadic fashion knowing I won’t be there past 16 months if I’m lucky.

This isn’t freedom like the freedom I felt when I was sixteen on the corner with a cigarette in hand and pocket lint in the other. Some people will say, “You’re an adult, and this is life, deal with it!.” but they are wrong. I know life. I know pain, I know suffering, and I know that there has to be a better way to wake up.

I ask myself, what do I stay alive for? Right now I’m not sure. Don’t fret; I’m not going anywhere, I’m just thinking out loud.

My wife and I recently decided that we want to move Austin Texas from Buffalo New York. The two of us have never been there, but have heard great things. We’re giving ourselves one year from April 1st, 2018 to save up every penny and then we’re gone; Texas bound.

I cannot explain the sudden pull to the Lone Star State, but the attraction is real, and it is sexy. I know that I need change, a do-over. I’ve long despised New York State and promised myself when I was a kid that I wouldn’t die here, and I need to keep my word to my younger self; it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t. I don’t want to spit in the face of my chance to be happy.

I fear waking up in 20 years or so and completely regretting my life. I know that I will always be happy with my wife Andrea, but I can’t see going on much more like this.

I know that I want to write for a living, but I’ve become too obsessed with my day jobs that I’ve lost sight of the one true passion of mine, and that is being published. Nothing puts a smile on my face like seeing my words in print and day in and day out I neglect my writing because I’m playing with the depression in my mind.

I don’t even know what this post it supposed to do for me.
I haven’t submitted here in months.
It’s almost as if I have nothing left to say.
It’s almost as if I’m giving up on myself because it’s easier to give into complacency than perseverance.

Why do we torture ourselves?
Am I the only one who hates life because a better life is out there and I’m too scared to go for it?
I can’t fake it anymore.
Why do you fake it?
Do you do it for your kids or your significant other?
Some folks are okay with, “just making it work.” I can’t be okay with it.

I’m sitting on about 170,000 words of memoir, non-fiction and profile work and the megabytes and gigabytes that are stored, collecting dust while my chances of achieving my dream are growing slim.

I am the biggest hypocrite and phony that I know.
I have all the words and tools to make it and I sit here crying.
I remember writing these same words 6 years ago and I’m still writing these same words today.

The price that I’m paying for complacency right now is knowing that I’m absolutely sad because at this very moment while I’m typing these words into my laptop, someone in the world who wasn’t scared to fail just stole my spot in life.

And I’m still here crying writing about my common past that I’m even sick of hearing and writing about.
My mother has since moved on since her falling out from the family and she doing fine.
My father as long forgot about me, moved on and is mostly doing fine.
But here I am, growing older and still crying.

The price I’m paying for complacency is dying in front of my laptop screen.

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