Tag Archives: stories

Catholicism May Save Me in the End


By McKenzie James

Some of my friends have been worried about me of late.  I appear to be in a depression that is deeper and has gone on longer than I’ve experienced in the past.  It is true that I’m not my usual optimistic self and that anti-depressants are not working their magic.

Part of the explanation is that things in my life really are at a low point right now.  I have financial difficulties, my best friend in the area is very ill, I am going to have to move again, I’ve been robbed, my heart’s been broken, my job is particularly stressful, winter’s here suck and the holidays bring their usual reminder of just how dysfunctional my family really is.  All of these are things I’ve experienced and gotten through before but never in such abundance at the same time.

I remember a colleague telling me years ago that depression is simply anger turned in on oneself.  I never quite understood it before but lately, thinking about what’s taking place in my life right now, I think I finally get it.  I really am angry at myself for the position I find myself in.  Other than my friend’s illness, and the weather, I can’t seem to find anyone, or anything, to blame any of it on other than myself.

I am the one who made the decisions that got me exactly where I am today.  I chose to move back to Weird Town, I chose to accept my current job, I have obviously not handled my finances very well (which is especially embarrassing for someone whose spent a lifetime working in Finance and Accounting), I am the one who didn’t double-check whether or not the garage door was working when the weather changed (thereby allowing my burglars to walk right in), and although my lover did treat me badly I’m the one who let him come back into my life after breaking my heart the first time and gave him the opportunity to do it again.

All this said, I want to assure all my friends and loved ones who have been calling to check in on me, that no matter how bad life gets I’m grateful for each and every one of you and I would never take my own life (which I know is what you are all really worried about even though you don’t come right out and say it).

It’s simple: regardless of how hellish my life here on earth becomes being raised Catholic has left me with such an insurmountable fear of the afterlife that I will gladly suffer here forever rather than move on.  Intellectually I know that once we die we simply return to the earth and our energy disburses, but emotionally Catholicism has left me with a fear of the burning hell fires that I can’t get over.

Every time I think perhaps life is not all it’s cracked up to be I am reminded of the alternative and I’m fighting to stay alive with a willpower few can surpass.  For I know, having been a hellion and rebel most of my life, that I am not likely to find myself lulling around on a bed of clouds playing harp music and eating chocolates.  Oh no, if I’m wrong about my atheism I will find myself in burning fires being prodded with a pitchfork every few moments to remind myself of just how much fun I had in my youth.  So friends, never fear, I’m here for the duration however long that may be and I’ll be fighting to remain here on this good earth with my last dying breath.

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Friends for Life by McKenzie James Part II


(Letter to Eleanor continued)

Well, you’ll know by now that Laura got the part.  Was there ever any question?  How that enormous voice comes out of that tiny girl I’ll never know.  No one hearing her on stage would ever believe there once was a question about whether or not the child would have a normal lung capacity.  That’s one of the things I did right with my life is help out Dottie when she needed help with those babies.  She always thought I was doing her a favor, but you and I know it was the other way around.  I loved mothering those kids.  But they’re all older now and they’ll b e fine on their own.  My work there is done and I rarely see or hear from them now that they’ve been launched into lives of their own.

I know you can’t imagine what it’s even like to be alone every day.  You have Jim and the kids and your house is always bursting at the seams with visitors from all over the world taking advantage of your wonderful hospitality. 

You’ve been a good friend, Eleanor; a lasting friend who has always been there for me.  I thank you for that. I feel badly leaving you this last difficult task to handle for me.

Meredith heard someone knocking on her apartment door.  It must be Carlos, her doorman, because no one else could have gotten by him and up to her floor without being announced.  He knew she was in her apartment so she’d better answer.  She didn’t want him worrying what was wrong and using his key.

Carlos knocked on Ms. Meredith’s door.  He wouldn’t do this for the other tenants, he thought to himself, but Ms. Meredith wasn’t just any tenant.  She treated all of the staff like real people, always asking him about his wife and family, remembering him on holidays and special occasions, not acting as if he was less because of his job.   He had just signed for an international special delivery for her.  The protocol would be to phone and let her know it was there and then leave it on the desk for her to sign for it when she had time to pick it up.  That’s exactly how he’d handle it for anyone else in the building but he thought international special delivery might be really important and Ms. Meredith looked like she needed something to cheer her up when she came in tonight.

“Hello Carlos.  What are you doing up here?”

“Hi Ms. Meredith.  This came in for you just moments ago.  I thought it might be important and I wanted to get it to you.”

“Thanks Carlos.  You know you didn’t have to do that.  I would have gotten it next time I was down.”

“I wanted to.  You’re always good to all of us and I thought you deserved special treatment for a special delivery.”

“Thanks Carlos.  You have a good evening.  Tell Maria I left her some bulbs for the roof garden in the back office.

“Okay, Ms. Meredith.  I’ll let her know.  You have a blessed evening.”

Meredith opened the Express envelope and immediately knew who it was from simply by the beautiful handwriting on the interior envelope.  It was obviously an invitation from Martina and Joaquin.  Martina’s hand writing was exquisite, always had been, even though she’d had no formal education.

Please join us to celebrate the publication

 of Joaquin Aguirre’s first novel:

Evenings in the Vineyard

Saturday, November 13, 2010, 7pm

Aguirre Vineyard

San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina

Inside the invitation was a hand written letter.

Dear Meredith,

You know how upset I was when Joaquin decided to turn over management of the vineyard to Benjamin to spend his time entirely on his creative pursuits.  I was angry at you for a long time for advising him to follow his heart.  I was worried that Benjamin would fail, that Joaquin would fail, and that we’d end up with nothing. Now here it is two years later and both have been successful in their pursuits and none of us have ever been happier.

You must join us for the celebration.  Joaquin listened to you when you told him to do what would feed his soul and the rest would take care of itself.  It’s because of you that he gave himself the time to write the most beautiful and provocative work I have ever read.  (Okay, I admit to being a bit prejudiced.)  It’s a wonderful book.  I know you will love it.  I will let you in on a little secret.  It’s dedicated to you!

So come visit us, my friend.  We love you and can’t wait to celebrate with you.

          Love always,

                   Martina

Meredith had met Martina and Joaquin over ten years ago on a trip to Argentina and they had hit it off immediately.  Two years ago during a visit Joaquin had admitted to her how unhappy he had become.  He told her that the Vineyard, although a part of his family for generations, was not really what made him happy.  They had sat up long after Martina had gone to bed and talked about art and writing and the things that made their hearts swell.  She had told him to feed his soul and the rest would work out.  Thinking about it now, where did she get off telling anyone that?  Had her life worked itself out?

To be continued…


Lulu


The other night when Asher and I were preparing ourselves for sleep, I looked up onto his dark wall and noticed a spider comfortably squatting above one of the picture frames. Turning to Asher, I politely pointed out that there was an intruder in the room.

“I know, and when you’re sleeping he’s going to come and crawl right onto your face” he responded.

I’m not particularly afraid of spiders, a trait which Asher and my father seem to think can be broken with enough grotesque images of flesh mutilating arachnids. However both their attempts to instill this paranoia in me have only proven to me that spiders are about as snobby as cats, and generally like to be left alone. In response to Ashers picturesque night time pillow talk of how spiders were going to slowly scavenge parts of my anatomy, I decided to name the spider Leroy.

I have an unfortunate habit of naming most creatures and inanimate objects in my life, thus creating intense attachment to things that were not meant to last a lifetime. My cactus is named John Wayne, my bike Ted. Now there is Leroy the spider and, of course, the one time a slug came in with the garden collection he was promptly named Gary. When I asked Asher if he had seen Gary the next morning, he looked at me curiously and asked who Gary was.

“The slug that was on the lettuce, I put him on the glass and now he’s not there”.

Asher’s eyes just get bigger and he peers at me in utter disbelief.

”Why did you keep him in the house?”

So it goes, with me collecting friends left and right and Asher shaking his head and cursing under his breath as slugs, spiders, and cacti assort themselves like old drinking partners along our windowsill.

One sunny day, I managed to find myself running meaningless errands in an attempt to avoid the cleaning ladies at the house, and while walking up the curb to the grocery store around the corner I heard a faint and distressing peeping from a baby bird struggling for life. The pavement was hot, and from the perspective of the little creature looked like a barren, flat desert being marauded by large screaming figures and metal boxes on four wheels. I kneeled next to the bird and then looked around for its nest. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but returning it to its home seemed like the best idea. I couldn’t find the nest anywhere, so the next step was to call my best friend, who happens to be a biologist, and an avid nature lover, and therefore would know a lot more than me about what to do next.

“Let it die” she heartwarmingly said.

“I can’t let it die its little and bald and ugly! No one else is going to save it!” I was aghast at the idea that nature had any idea of what it was doing.

“Fine. Then find its nest. Don’t touch it, whatever you do. And if you do touch it, don’t bring the diseases over to me”

Horrified I searched my car for some container I could save the little bird in. Finally I found one, and brought it back safe and sound to my backyard. The cleaning ladies were still at the house and tilted their heads in confusion to see me frantically running around the backyard clutching tufts of grass and twigs before kneeling down to speak to a Tupperware container.

In a state of perpetual anxiety, I decided to go back to the parking lot and find the nest. As I was rolling my bicycle down the driveway, Asher was pulling in. He rolled his window down to smile at me and say hello and in response I waved my arms over my head and shouted

“There is a baby bird in a plastic box in the backyard! Don’t kill it!”

He blinked twice and then just nodded, shaking his head slightly in disbelief. I of course could still not find the nest and when I got home he wrapped me up in arms that love me entirely too much and said

“Baby girl, we can’t keep it and raise it, and it’s dying right now”

“Lulu” I sobbed “her name is Lulu”

“Okay. But we still can’t keep her”

I nodded and turned away while he did the hard part, a small tragedy in the blink of an eye. Later, we buried the Lulu in the backyard, and Asher made sure she had flowers. It is his unending strength and steadiness that guide me, and that he loves me so much is a testament to why I am still here. He kept his arm around my shoulders and squeezed me in tighter as I dropped a small note alongside the little bird that read:

Life is a shipwreck, but we must remember to sing in the lifeboats

                                    -Voltaire-

That night he wrapped me in blankets and watched cartoons with me until we laughed. Leroy was still sitting comfortably on the wall and Asher breathed evenly next to me, I thanked whatever forces were at work that I had the capacity to live, and more so, to clutch his hand when tidal waves overtook me.


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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