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The Continued Pursuit of Happiness


A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend shopping with a friend.  Before that, if anyone had asked, I would have said there was zero chance of finding this man in a store unless it was a tackle shop or Home Depot, and I certainly never would have pictured me along for the ride.  However, the man needed one of life’s necessities, at least one of a middle-aged man’s necessities: The Recliner.  Yes we were shopping for a new recliner and flannel sheets. I believe I gave the man sheet-envy talking about my new flannel sheets (see earlier BLOG post “Comfort and Joy” https://freethetwins.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/comfort-joy/).

I have known almost since the first day we met that this is a man with very simple needs.  All this particular man seems to need to be happy is a comfortable chair, a comfortable bed, a big screen TV and enough hot water to provide him with a long, warm shower after work each night.  Just four simple things are all that is needed to make him perfectly content with life.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since our shopping trip.  My list of what it takes to make me happy and content in life is quite a bit longer.  I keep wondering if the key to my own happiness lies somewhere in this simple tale.

Most middle -aged men I meet seem to be content whether they have a woman in their life or not.   They have their jobs, their hobbies, add a strong cup of coffee in the morning and they’re good to go.  For instance, nothing would change in this particular man’s life if he didn’t know me.  He would sit in his same comfy chair, watch his same television programs, go to his same job, and sleep comfortably and content in his new flannel sheets.

Women, on the other hand, are searching for someone to share life with.  For the women I know, myself included, it’s about who you’re with not so much what you’re doing.  Perhaps it’s because women are raised to be nurturers and spend a great deal of their adult lives taking care of others and making other people’s lives – children, spouses, parents — more comfortable.  Even if we’re not married a large portion of our self-identity is often derived from who we choose to nurture.

Most of us have been used to taking care of the kids and the shopping and the house cleaning and the dry cleaner and the laundry and had little time left for developing hobbies.  When we had free time we spent it catching up with a good friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, sharing experiences and learning from each other.  For instance, my friend’s joy was derived from his new chair, while mine came from sharing time with him.

Now that the kids are grown and many of us live alone again perhaps we should take this opportunity to learn from men how to relax and be content alone. Maybe we should learn to put ourselves first, find a hobby that brings us joy, and stop being concerned about how the rest of the world is doing.  We may find it makes us happier, but will it make the world a better place?


Original Sin


What a common scene, two people on a park bench in the middle of the night demanding perfection and facing the inevitable truth that it does not exist. I am broken from your knife in my back and you are screaming for me to let you in. One more fight, another head bent in despair. How many other couples reach into unlit caverns to try and make sense of this pain. Humanity is comprised of masses desperate to be unique, mortals looking for eternity in someone else’s arms.

You sit there alternately asking and demanding forgiveness, bringing up my lighter crimes that I have allowed you to own as perspective to what you have done. I have never seen you desperate before, but I still cannot breathe from this. I expected this cruelty from everyone else and it is shattering me to realize you are common. I want to tell you, shake you so you feel me; I am no one to ask forgiveness from. I am not holy. I am not perfect. A reel of my transgressions against you plays in my mind and I wonder if silent lies are all that holds us together. I wish I could be on a cross with the high-minded claim that my blood will save you but it won’t. It is not a blessing and mixed with dirt creates nothing but mud. A snake in our Garden of Eden has exposed us.

Listen to me; listen closely so that you understand. I am afraid of what you can do, of what you are doing to me. I am on fire with what you have done. How desperately I want to cling to my vision of martyrdom, isolate this event so that you are culpable and I am the gracefully wounded. But I cannot. How many nights have you already betrayed me? How many more nights I have already betrayed you.

This is dirty business, falling in love, and it’s going to eat me alive. I do not own a single hair on you and on days like today, I hate you for it. You have mistaken apathy for freedom and I have granted you permission to bear my silence. What if this is doomed? I have spent hours agonizing over the potential of losing you and my solitude is causing you to lose me. What if this is the mistake that erodes and one day you come home to your house being exactly as you left it with one room missing? Will you miss me? Swear your house is haunted because my footsteps will remain on your carpet? Hang figures of me on the wall as protection? My fear is not that I am made up of skin and bones and that you can indeed penetrate me, my fear is that you will overtake and then forget me.

That I cannot speak these words aloud to you seems a sin you will not bear.  But what would you have me do? This is not an anonymous cloister that I can simply regurgitate all the demons swirling in my head. I cannot look at your face while I spout venom and confession is a simplistic art form at best. We are simply two people who have done the ordinary and fallen in love. Nothing unique, we are daily. If we crucify ourselves it will not matter, and men in dresses will not quote these letters I write to you. These letters are sin not scripture. I am forgiving you, not for your transgression but for your humanity. Consider my confession, then- tonight when you fall next to me remember I can leave you too.

I want to cling to my grief, to the ‘how could you’ and the accusations of not loving me enough. But in the face of this I realize I am tiny, of little importance. Days go by from the fifteen seconds it took for you wound me. Slowly hours crawl through me and I am steps closer to being in the ground. I do not have time for grief and I can no longer wait to be saved. At this moment I realize that my imperfection is mine to own and I will grow, from grief to grace. You will not make me afraid and in return I will give you opportunity to face your weakness and slay it. We are both criminals aghast at being robbed. So you have hurt me, done what I have been so afraid of and I am still living. I made you a god and am now charged with forgiving you, and I will. Night after night I will peel this off of me and hand you the blood until I am new again. Finally I realize that love is a filthy verb and requires more blood, spit and tears than it does pink bows and champagne glasses. It is an action not a faith. You will hurt me again and I need from you the courage to admit you are flawed and broken. I will give you my dark corners and come down from this holy altar I built for myself. Be careful with this, with me. We are just two people in the end, just like all the other except that I love you and you, I must believe, love me.

I will breathe this onto you, I love you I love you I love you.


In Session


Lewis taps his fingers rhythmically against the paperclip. He always has something in his hand to tap against. I picked him from the long list of other therapist profiles because he looks so… Southern California. The therapist website in itself was weird, looking like a dating site with pictures and small quips about the counselors, their educational backgrounds and particular therapy styles. Lewis’ profile was different, the way most profiles that catch your eye are. He didn’t write the profile as if he were talking to you, rather it read like a Curriculum Vitae of a potential research professor.

I really like Lewis. Lewis really likes himself, which we seem to have been trained to despise but in Lewis it glows outwardly, inspiring people around him to like themselves as well. Which makes sense as to why he is a successful therapist with an office in a high rise building in downtown, the view of the harbor glittering sunshine back in. His office is mild, clean, with an outdated laptop humming away in the left hand corner of his desk.

I started therapy because the depression had gotten to the point of destruction. I found myself in my kitchen one night, in an apartment that was too big for me, crouching like some crazed beast on the cold linoleum floor holding a knife and screaming through thick, clotted tears. I wrote words down that night that were so angry I cannot read them on the page, it does not look like my writing. The next day I could not get out of bed, because the only motivation I could find for removing myself from my bed was to jump off the roof and I could not do that to my mother. I didn’t understand before this, that depression could cripple you. Grab your mind and suffocate it slowly, a boa constrictor that takes over every aspect of your life, your mind, until you are a victim to it as if a stranger were squatting like a little black lizard where your heart should have resided.

Lewis titles these episodes as my ‘earthquakes’. He says this triumphantly. Lewis loves metaphors and his own cleverness, mainly the latter.

“It’s like an earthquake! You don’t know where its coming from or how long its going to be. And then afterwards you have little aftershocks, don’t you?!”

He sits back, a self-satisfied smile still floating over his lips. I look at him from across the desk. I sit in a deep leather seat, with a pillow on my back because otherwise I’m too small and my feet don’t reach the floor.  In Lewis’ office, I always make sense. I love it there, when the words tumble out of my mouth like tiny pebbles being thrown around by white water, Lewis just leans back until I am done and then carefully reconstructs what I have said, following the tangled strings of emotions until he has clean lines laying before us. Unlike anyone else in my life, Lewis presents me with cool, linear logic that doesn’t condescend. He never angers at my reactions, in fact for the most part Lewis treats every single one of my emotions, outbursts, tears, and laughter as the most singularly important thing that has ever happened in the world. He seems truly excited and enthralled by the fact that I, indeed, exist.

Today, I am explaining to Lewis about my self-sabotaging in relationships. Not only romantic ones but friendships as well. He leans back in his chair and looks at me through his spectacles while I take him through the claustrophobic vines that I attempt to machete through when explaining how I feel to people. Therapy is an odd art form, we attempt each session to place into neat categories every memory, touch, and influence we have had throughout our lives.

“Why is it concerning you now that you do this?” Lewis asks. He pretends it is an innocent question but Lewis is a very deliberate person. He explained to me that he is the most important person in his own life, and as such his time is invaluable. He does not spend it circumventing what he really wants to know. When he told me this, I asked him if he ever worried about offending people and having them not like him. He looked slightly confused when I asked him this.

“Not like me because I am asking an honest question? Well they sound like someone with something bad to hide and, I don’t want to know those people anyway”.  Lewis lives his life with a close-knit circle of people he loves around him whom he will do anything for, and the rest of the world he treats as if they were in an interview for the last available slot to be his friend; politely and with extreme discretion.

“I’m concerned because I don’t want to sabotage anything this time. I can’t lose him, and I like my friends and I’m tired of feeling as if the only way I’ll be happy is if I am completely independent of everyone. Like my safety net is figuring out a way that I will be completely okay if any particular person is no longer in my life”.

Lewis doesn’t say anything at first, just looks at me as my body clenches and tenses. Expelling this darkness in this neat rectangular office is the most exhausting thing I have ever done. It is a chain weighing 10,000 pounds that I have wrapped around me, longer and longer, for years. Slowly we are tracing back the knots and the kinks, figuring out what I have done in order to undo it and free me, pound by pound. Sighing inwardly, Lewis sits his small frame back up in the black chair and says

“No. You are not alone, you are not independent, you are not unattached. And it is not an admirable quality to be those things. I haven’t cooked a meal in 20 years because my wife is an incredible cook, if she were to leave me I would have no idea how to cook for myself. But I don’t refuse to revel in her cooking, I take it in, I bask in it”

At this point Lewis is leaning back in his chair, arms stretched out and an almost monk like expression of peaceful bliss extends on his face.

“You have to allow people to love you. You have to just, take it all in, enjoy it, swim in it. When people want to do nice things for you, you must nod your head in agreement and say ‘yes, do nice things for me!’. Otherwise life is miserable and short. And why wouldn’t they want to do nice things for you, why wouldn’t they want to love you? You must expect people to treat you as if you were the most important person in your life because you are.”

I laugh. Lewis is not joking but I can’t help but laugh, the idea is so freeing. I am still in shock when people love me the way my friends and family do. That demonic little presence in my head has slowly convinced me it is all false, Lewis’ main job is to tell me that I am fine, that I will be fine, and that no one has the capacity to hurt me anymore than I allow myself to react by being hurt.

The hour ends, and Lewis stands and smiles at me. Therapy is precise, within a set time frame, the way situational comedies always resolve themselves within a half hour.

“Next week, same time?” he asks as he opens the door for me. I nod as I walk out the door and back down the stairs, preparing myself to re enter a world that overwhelms me, a world that never seems to resolve itself no matter how many hours tick by. I look over my shoulder and Lewis smiles and waves goodbye, until next weeks session.


An Ode to my Mother


An Ode to my Mother

When I was 8 years old, my mother, older sister, and I, rode bicycles to my soccer game. When we were about to cross the huge highway separating us from the soccer fields, a semi truck blew through the red light and came within inches of hitting me on my pink and white bike. The force of the air as the driver drove by knocked me off my bicycle and scraped up my knees and elbows, right in front of my mother’s eyes. I don’t remember that game, but I remember my mothers lap as she cradled me close to her. She didn’t say a word, but that day I learned the meaning of the word ‘treasured’, I remember her arms around me, the way her thin skin barely wrapped her collarbone where my face was pressed.

When I was 11, my father was gone again on one of his endless business trips, and my mom showed my sister and I the movie “Los Desaparecidos”, and explained to us how she had lost her older brother to forces beyond her control, how a part of her soul had been ripped out in his brutal disappearance and murder. I learned the reason of her almost endless sadness, and her eternal pride in her family and her country. She instilled in me the same pride, the same defensiveness. I am, without a doubt, my mothers’ daughter.

When I was 15, my sister left me to save herself, and us. I watched helplessly as my parents hearts were ripped out of their chests and floated away. It was my mother who stood back up, demanded reparation, made me realize that forgiveness follows heartache, that life is messy, that you must always accept people for exactly who they are. My mother demonstrated to me the power of love, and her incredible capacity for it, and forgiveness.  For what seemed like an eternity, what had always been my source of safety, security, and identity seemed to have crashed and burned. It was my mother who took me by the hand and told me “We are what we think, with our thoughts we create the world”.  Love is only love when you are willing to take someone with all the darkness, with all the eternal flaws, and adore them anyway.

When I was in college, my mother sent me care packages and letters, and would buy me groceries and take me to dinner. She listened to me sob when I missed home, and did not berate me when I forgot to call because I finally didn’t. In her Valentines card to me she wrote to me that she loved me, her sweet butterfly, for being able to see the beauty of life down to the last teardrop. It remains to this day my favorite line anyone has ever written me.

Today, my mother holds my family together still. It is my mother who plans vacations, Christmas, Three Kings, and Thanksgiving. My mother remembers birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. It is my mother who puts dinner on the table, who listens when I am crying, who knows me well enough to know when I need to be left alone, who reminds me that I am good. My mother is strong enough to take the blame from me and my sister whenever anything goes wrong, she has taken the burden of our anger, weathered the storms of my father, understands my sisters needs, my loneliness. It is my mom who transplanted from her homeland years ago and has flourished and thrived in her new home as well. I wish I could explain to her the beauty of her every movement, of how I wish every day that I could be a little more like her. I watch as she pours herself into her work and her family.

When things go wrong, when I am sick, when jobs seem scarce and relationships too frightening to endure, it is my mother who brings me soup, tells me money is fleeting anyway and will always come back, and who iterates time and again that grace and compassion are the backbone of my life. Her strength, resilience, laughter, joy, and small reminders to never drink and drive, and always call home, give us the foundation from which we are able to build our lives. From the day I was born onward, it is my mother who has never stopped believing in me, loving me, and who through her own example of existence has shown me the true meaning of being a lady.

Someday I will have a daughter, a small baby girl who will run too fast and too far, who will climb up the wrong side of the slide, who will break her arm and smash her teeth, who will come home with bruises and sawdust in her hair. She will have her heart broken, will leave me for her life to begin, and if I am lucky, I will be able to give her the same home and the same heart that my mother has bestowed upon me.


Childhood Dreams


When I was six we moved to the small town that I grew up in, and I began first grade at the local elementary school. My dad was starting at the local college as a professor (or in my world, as a professional paperclip chain maker) and we lived in a large rambling house about four blocks from campus, and about eight blocks from my elementary school. Our landlord was this cantankerous old man who told amazing stories, so I never left the poor man alone. He’d been a WWII vet and looked older than my grandpa, which in my world meant he had lived forever. He couldn’t have been that old since he’s in his 90’s now and still kicking, but at six years of age he seemed to me to be the oldest and wisest person I knew. He moved slow and his skin cut in and out like tree bark as he wove stories about planes, enemies, and most importantly: Ninjas. He was the one who started my fascination with ninjas (looking back I realized he had completely made this story up because he was old and it was amusing), and from the ages of 6 to about 8 my main ambition in life was to become a ninja. Even when I was little, I was insanely curious about everything so when I started to get interested in things I would drag my mother to the library and look up every known fact about whatever it was that I was thinking about for that nanosecond. I dressed up like a ninja for Halloween for about three years in a row, my father was ecstatic and encouraged this growth by also incorporating adventure stories, Indiana Jones obsessions, and karate movies.

Then, in May, my grandmother came to visit. The house being so close to the school, I usually walked with my sister and the three friends that lived around the block from me, but they all had after school activities and normally my mom was the one who picked me up. It was about a week after my grandma had come into town, my dad was gone on a business trip, and it was actually starting to be sunny outside. School had just gotten out and I was so excited to get home because a) I had passed the highest reading level my teacher had which meant I could start reading my own books instead of those little one sentence books she made me read, and mainly because b) now I got to be a ninja. My teacher had said I could not pretend to karate kick the boys at school because my version of pretend was to have them pretend it didn’t hurt, and that wasn’t allowed. I ran around the outside of the school to get to the front because the door to the outside was closer, and I’d already gotten in trouble way too many times for running in the hallways (and about six bloody noses from falling down, the custodian and the nurse were well acquainted with me). I got to the front of the school where normally my mother was waiting for me, only today she wasn’t there. I sat down on the bench to wait, and after what I felt was an appropriate amount of grace period for her to show up with my grandma (read: 15 seconds) I got back up and decided that since I was definitely entering the superior ninja level, I could make it home just fine on my own and started walking. The crossing guard was the custodian who knew exactly who I was and high fived me for making it through the day with minimal injuries, and after I got past that busy street I began to meander my way to the house. I did somersaults, hid behind trees, and narrated how I was fighting off attacking forces the entire walk back. I bounded up our porch, and slammed my face into the door that was supposed to open and be unlocked and wasn’t, my face ricocheted off the door with a loud thud and I could feel my cheek protesting at what was sure to be yet another bruise. The door was not supposed to be locked, and the knob should have turned. This was odd, my mom hadn’t been at school, which meant she had to be at home. I ran to the back of the house to try the other door, thinking maybe she was in the backyard or doing laundry or in the kitchen with my grandma. Nothing. I knocked on all the windows and rang my doorbell eight trillion times, and no one answered. Starting to panic slightly, I decided that she had probably just shown up at the school and so I bolted back towards the school. When I got there, the crossing guard was gone and the place looked empty. I had taken a lot longer than intended ninja-ing my way home. I ran back and forth between the school and my house desperately looking for my mom, even ran to the university to see if I could find someone in my dad’s building who would let me call home, and didn’t find anyone. By this time, it had been about an two and a half hours, I was exhausted from running all over the place and terrified that I would never find my mom again and that I would have to fend for myself, even beginning to doubt my kung-fu bad ass levels when it came to actually making food and sleeping without my teddy bear and my dad in the next room in case I got nightmares. Walking down the street I started bawling, each breath getting more and more hysterical and my face red and sweaty from running, starting to bruise from face planting into a heavy oak door, and now soaked in the psychotic tears of a six year old. Then all of a sudden, I heard my name and looked up to see my mom in an equally hysterical state running towards me, and I have never felt such extreme relief. She just picked me up and carried this sobbing, crazed looking, non-ninja little girl back to the car. I didn’t stop crying for about an hour, not so much because I was so scared about being lost, but because when push had come to shove, I most certainly had not proven to be ninja material and was completely devastated. When my mother finally calmed me down enough to explain to her why exactly her baby girl had been missing for almost three hours, and where I had been, the devastating words slowly sputtered out:

“Mo-mo-mommy! I can’t-can’t-can’t be a ninja!”


Anniversary


Anniversario

He left her a year ago, walked out of her office into the summer heat and drifted away, each step permanently bruising the cement. She never thought she would see him again, after a brief, cursory hug she sat back down in her chair and looked at her screen pretending with all her might that he meant nothing.

A year ago he walked into his house, into his ordered life with his neat, square fence, and prepared for the vacation he had been intending to savor for so long. But this girl had slipped into the crevices of his mind and she demanded all of him to be happy, he sensed her requiring every small piece of his being, every dark corner that only he was master of; she needed it all before being satiated and for some unknown reason, he had to satiate her. She was younger, impetuous, filled with a strong desire for him that he hadn’t felt in years. Absent-mindedly he wiped his hands on his leg before realizing her thighs had been left in the intricate mappings of his fingertips. He shuddered at the thought of someone else touching her, tasting her, swiftly cutting out the image of any other person creating the moans that he so viciously burned out of her. He would never admit this to her, never confess to his overwhelming need to have her only ever love him, need him, to consume her world the way she had consumed his. While he walked away a thick coating of fear trickled into his throat, if she did not love him he would disappear.

On her part, she tried in vain to forget him, convinced he did not care for her and cried in silent agony at falling for yet another human who could not consume her with the same vengeance she met every single moment of life with. She exhausted herself in the pool that night, each time she hit the wall and pushed back into cool blue wishing she would look up and see his face. He is not the type to surprise, not the type to need her so desperately that he cannot stay away. She loves this about him as well. Walking home in the thick heat to her small apartment her legs can barely pick up and carry her but her mind is far, far away. He smells stronger than the chlorine. Her organized chaos taunts her as she turns the key to her tiny apartment with too much furniture, arranged like pieces of six different puzzles. That night, away from everyone, she breaks and whatever small piece of her heart he left in her chest so that blood could still pump falls to her toes. She screams at her walls, her windows, rips down the pictures and paintings she has haphazardly put on the walls so that she would become attached to something. Left alone in this tornado she realized she was dying.

They are in love, that sickening sticky mess. Humans are piles of goop and muscles, growing bones long enough to stand up next to someone so that when they fall apart again there are arms to disappear into. She feels her skin stretch away from her breastbone towards him, forming a thin invisible line. The glue that holds the world together, and he knows that without it he will wither and die. But every mile that he drives away from her she senses herself breaking down, falling apart. Her existence is his memory of her, snippets of waists and nipples.

Together now, they celebrate the anniversary of this abandonment quietly, without flowers or cards used to mark occasions of lovers coming together, and every day she wakes up yearning for him more and more. He lies next to her every night, and yet she feels the sinking desperation to hold onto any part of him she can, mediocrity is her worst enemy, her worst nightmare. She remembers all too clearly how her heart cut out of her chest on that hot August afternoon, that horrible day he left her. She is afraid of becoming ordinary, of their love becoming daily, of becoming forgettable again. He loves her more and more, for the way she believes that omens are told through the moon, for her obsessions that change weekly, dictating the entire vacuum of her attention. He is unyieldingly proud of her, she has the courage and spirit he has emulated his whole life. She loves his ordered, careful ways. Not a single part of her understands them and it consumes a grand majority of her time to remember to put the glasses away in the right order, the place to leave the sponge, and how to lock the front door.

They live together and still cannot believe it. The darker memories gnaw at both of them in different ways, bittersweet reminders are left all over the house, a house she does not feel a part of. These memories cut at her, making her wish the skeleton made up some part of the human heart because maybe then bone could stop that cold knife of past loves from piercing. She is too young to realize how much of him she owns, youth clouds the mirror and makes it impossible to understand that other people hurt and fall in love with the same fascination. . Without realizing it they have become the lovers so many stories were written about, people so utterly smitten they have banished the cold thought of life after each other.

They mark the anniversary of this love by remembering that day, a day so hot the wind was too sticky with sweat to move.  The bitter memory of him leaving remains, like a cut on the side of her mouth that splits open every time she smiles. Her heart seizes with the thought of him one day walking away forever. Love, like life, is not to be savored because it lasts forever. It is its inevitable end that feeds the fire, makes hands grasp hips, and tongues slip over unfamiliar teeth. They love each other with voraciousness, all too aware of the pain of losing the other, and celebrate the dark side of that coin to remind themselves that for at least one more night, both get to fall asleep listening to the breathing of someone they secretly swear they can never live without.


In the name of freedom


Jake is 25 years old now. When he was 18 he was my senior prom date, and for years before that he was my friend. I don’t know how many years we were friends, but I know that it took 5 years for Jake to change from the boy I knew and loved to this stranger sitting across from me now.

Jake is in the army. He was sent home on leave after he lost his mind and tried to kill another soldier in the motor pool. When I ask him why he just shrugs and says

“The guy was pissing me off”

Jake spits a lot now. When I was 16, Jake and I skipped our 4th period class and he taught me how to spit while we dangled our legs off the side of the football stadium. He doesn’t spit like that anymore, now he says he’s asserting his dominance. I think it’s a joke but Jake doesn’t laugh anymore, so I’m not sure.

He’s built like a wall, and his jaw muscles ripple because he keeps them clenched so much. He has a black tattoo, poorly drawn and sinister, cutting into his right bicep and cursive poetry on his left. Jake used to have blue eyes but they are so cold that they look black now, and his beautiful blonde hair is falling out. Jake hates that he is losing his hair, blames it on the Kevlar and hats he’s always wearing, but we all quietly know it’s not that.  He was sent to what he calls “the head doctor” and diagnosed as being hyper cognizant, anxious, and aggressive, all in that order. He was asked to go see a therapist but refused because he wants to be a pilot someday, and “they don’t let you fly fucking planes if you’ve been to a fucking head doctor”. Jake gets angry when he says this, narrows his eyes and says. “Can’t be a fucking pilot anyhow, cause I’m god damn color blind”

Jake doesn’t know how to have a conversation anymore. He can’t seem to stop talking about things that have happened, gets angry when he realizes he has given away too much, and then angrier when he understands that he’s making people uncomfortable.

When we went to the prom together, Jake drove his moms fancy new car and made sure his tuxedo matched my dress. My high school boyfriend broke up with me three months prior, and I didn’t want to go to the dance. Jake got me the biggest corsage he could find, and when the last slow song came on he grabbed my hand and dragged me to the front of the whole school and waltzed with me just like we had at my 15th birthday party. Afterwards, we drove the car back to his parent’s farm, grabbed his dad’s truck, and in all our fancy gear went driving through the mud, Jake telling me jokes till I almost peed in my prom dress. Jake never turned away when I was sad, I couldn’t have loved him more.

Jake was stationed in Iraq for a year. He was 20 when he joined the army, a family tradition. I didn’t want him to go and, being 20 and in college, thought I knew everything. I didn’t say goodbye when he left and lost touch with him. My life continued and so did his. While stationed in the Middle East, Jake patrolled with his unit looking for explosives, and manned the machine gun that was mounted to the top of the patrol vehicle. He killed human beings before he was legally allowed to drown the pain in the U.S. His anxiety got so bad when he was stationed there that Jake developed full-blown alcoholism. He doesn’t drink in a bar and then go to meetings. Jake drinks while holding an M16. He has to drink if he goes out with people now because otherwise when he is in large crowds his eyes wont stop scanning and sometimes the sensation of being about to be killed makes him black out.

“I guess something in me broke” he says “Cause I just lose my fucking mind now. Every week like fucking clockwork I lose my fucking mind”

The other boys in Jake’s unit don’t blink an eye, they know him as Private Lewis and when Jake has his mental breakdowns they leave him alone in a room to scream and claw at himself till he gets too tired and falls asleep. If it takes too long they’ll wrestle him down and drink whisky with him till he passes out. Jake has also developed an alter ego, a personality that takes over when the pressure, anxiety, and horror of his daily life become too much and he can no longer just be. Jake doesn’t remember becoming this other person, but knows it happens more and more often. He won’t take medication because “there ain’t no shit beer can’t cure”.

Jake plans to leave the army in three years, and go to college. If he could, he would become a pilot, although on his scholarly days he dreams of a PhD. I smile when he says this, seeing a glimpse of the brilliant, sweet, blonde boy that was my friend, my protector, and my ally. Then, those dark eyes narrow as he swigs the last of his drink

“Some days though, I think I could just fucking kill people for the rest of my life”.


Letters to Asher (A Series)


asher

His name should not be capitalized. Not out of lack of respect, admiration, or love. Capitalizing a noun gives the assumption that it is tied to something concrete, or understood. He is none of these things.

Heaven has either decided to curse me or the fates have an extraordinarily cruel sense of humor. I have dreamt of him, tasted him for years, reached between my legs to feel that prohibitive moisture rise forward at the sensation of him being near me and yet, he lies next to me in this white bed and my hands seem to tremble in fear of their own desire. I attempt, over and over again, to explain to him how I feel. As if this simple naive art will be enough to enthrall and overwhelm him just for some measure of time. He’s never shown any form of terror to me, yet he has so much of mine. Those cold, breatheless nights when I wake up feeling that my life has ended, I am resentful of the fact that his hand calms me down.

If I were to leave him (or more likely, him me) would I have shaped him? Carved any small piece of him in a new way? I’m afraid of walking somewhere and not leaving any discernible trace, even though I may have lost my soul among those footsteps.

It was Borges, in his interminably frustrating wisdom that said “To fall in love is to create a religion with a fallible God”. I am raising my legs as temples to him and rewriting every book I own so they will sing his praises, and just like every other God ever imagined, he is above the clamor and the rude interruptions to his existence. But I would rather dedicate my life to the blinding slavery of faith to him than to exist as a cynic without him.

Matilda 


Strange Sensation


STRANGE SENSATION

I have a strange sensation that I’m going to die today. Some sort of a natural disaster is going to take my life, and it’s not going to be singular or important in any fashion. I think I’m not only going to die, but I’m going to be one of those numbers people read about in the newspaper. You know, ‘today a city bus overturned on I-405, killing fifteen people and injuring several more’. My family will be devastated, as will my friends. People who knew me will pretend they were better friends than we actually ever were and I won’t be around to be disdainful. In a few years most people (other than my family) will feel slight twinges of sadness when they think of me but they won’t feel me in them.

How depressing is that? It’s horrible. I don’t know why I feel that I’m going to die today. It’s a perfectly normal Wednesday, it might be singular in that its one of those perfect, beautiful fall days where the sun is out and the leaves are changing colors. Other than that, there are hundreds of Wednesdays just like today.

Except, of course, this premonition of being on the precipice of my own mortality. Facing my own mediocrity down is hard enough as is, I don’t need imminent death to make me realize how utterly insignificant I am. I get it, Universe, I really do. I am alone in a huge city. This man that I am in love with, just like all the other men except that he is himself. This man is hundreds of miles away, just a sort of quiet distant voice at the end of a telephone. In the face of this feeling, I am supposed to say no. No I am doing the right thing having moved away from him, grappling with an overwhelming loneliness, a sensation of despair that seems to tinge everything I do. Peels me raw so that I have to find again the callousness that marked me for the last six years. But all of this is more important than being in love. Love is superfluous at best. People claim it is what makes life worthwhile but looking around at them I notice that most people live their lives in search of a few fleeting moments of perfection, and fill in the rest with inanity. We exist in this vacuous continuum of spinning our wheels and shouting out how important we are.

If I die today, if the earth opens up and swallows me whole, I will miss a lot of things. I will miss the feeling of safety I get when I’m laying on the couch in my parents house and my dad puts a blanket over me and brings me ice cream while we watch criminal movies. I will miss talking to my mom while we take walks at 7 in the morning, telling this woman my secrets because I know she loves me more than her own life, a love I have yet to understand. I will miss laughing with my sister until we are both crying. I will miss running with Ella, drinking with Amy and rating women in bars. I will miss the smell of a car heater when you are driving on a really cold night and the way hot chocolate curls up into your nose. I will miss the anonymity of existence. I will miss his sweet smile when he is about to fall asleep, when he forgets to wear the armor of daily life and he is just listening to me read him old poetry about hellish punishments.

I will miss my legs burning after I have been running for too long, excusing me from feeling imperfect because look; I have exercised until it hurts. I will miss the edge in his voice, the impatience in his look. The way nothing is ever good enough, the quiet comparisons in his head between his life now and his life then. I will miss the utter sadness that I get when I hear his hesitation, because I want so badly to not feel that in someone. I will miss saying goodbye to my grandma in the airport, crying together because neither of us knows if we will see each other ever again. I will miss the taste of coffee in the morning when no one is around and I don’t have to worry about my face being puffy or my legs not being shaved. I will miss hearing the pride in my dads voice when I tell him about my accomplishments, miss the feeling of being completely loved.

I will regret not having had children. I will regret not telling him that I would do anything for him, I would leave this program and finish closer to him, I would transfer to anywhere if he asked it. I will regret not telling Aaron that I loved him so much, that I wanted him to be my husband, and that when I realized that he would never live up to being the man I needed him to be my heart broke into ten million pieces because even I couldn’t love him enough to do that for him. I will regret not telling my sister that I forgave her, that I hoped she forgave me. I will regret not having told my parents how much I loved them, how much they inspired me to live my life with grace and compassion. I will regret not being honest with him, not telling him when he was pushing too much, being too cruel. I will regret not having found someone who saw me, loved me, wanted a life with me.

I will regret never having tried to become a writer. I will regret not calling Kathryn more, or emailing Annette back. I will regret not having gotten together with Maggie more often. I will regret the million and one times I sat in front of my mirror, sobbing until I couldn’t breathe, wishing against everything that I could take a knife and cut off my pieces of my body, I wish I could take back all those moments and revel in the incredible beauty of my limbs. I will regret the times I faked an orgasm instead of just admitting I wasn’t enjoying the night and asking the man to leave. I will regret the instances when I said “I love you” when I didn’t really mean it, just to appease the ego of an idiotic boy. More than that I will regret the times I didn’t say ‘I love you” when my whole heart was screaming it and my world needed to be ripped open by it but I held back because I was convinced that behaving that intensely would be ‘too much’ for the other person.

I will regret ever having felt that my intensity was something to apologize for. I will regret having toned myself down, explained away emotions, rationalized tears in silence, let myself get swept away by the bullshit rhetoric of a man who has lost the capacity to feel.

But, truth be told, I have felt this all before, on other days in other ways, and most likely the day will end and I will still be among the living.  Thankfully, joyfully, among the living and I will have time to tell the ones I love what I need them to hear and time to not repeat those errors that I feel have lessened my soul.

~Matilda~ 



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