Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fire

I remember that bonfire we had. It was just some leaves and branches--those odds and ends gathered from around your backyard. I remember we hadn't planned on seeing one another that day, but I wanted to; I am usually the first to cry "clingy."

Your parents irritated you that night. They irritated me. You sat at the table in a huff because of your mom, as usual, and I held your hand hoping to soothe it all away. You looked at me and your eyes grew softer, until you remembered we were not alone.

"What you're saying is I can't burn leaves without setting myself on fire?" you asked sarcastically.

"No..." Your dad always has a way of drifting off just before he is completely pushed over. Like a dog that has been swat at enough times, he's learned to duck his head and get ready for his feet to fly overhead. He may be accustomed to it, but it can't be easy. This time, he wasn't being pushed, so much as he was being outwitted.

"I know you're a grown man--"

"That's right, I'm 24," you interrupted him. "And I can handle a fire."

You've always had a talent for getting your point across without being overtly irate. I admire that. You can still have a sarcastic grin on your face to lighten the mood. When I'm mad, everyone around me knows.

There was a fire in your eye when your mom returned to the table. I rubbed your thumb while your hand was still in mine. I was hoping you would feel my touch. It worked for a little while until she started to speak, and then dinner was over.

Just like that we were outside in the cool air, with a few supplies in hand to make something of the fire we had to create. When the fire was lit it stood at least ten feet tall. I admired the flames for a while, and then we pulled out the marshmallows.

"I can't believe you've never had a s'more before," I said. I'm still in disbelief.

You took a bite and commented at how sweet it was, but enjoyed it. It was another experience we could share.

The embers flew over my head as we poked and prodded at the fire, trying to keep it up as it consumed the leaves. The smell was intoxicating--it smelled like autumns past. You put your arm around me while we stood staring at its magnificence, and I felt safe. We were alone out there, away from your parents, away from most of civilization, away from our problems. We spoke of possible futures--moving here, moving there, playing with our kids. The common denominator was us.

It's always been us; you and I together, burning like a flame--loving and moving together as one.

And as long as we're breathing, we'll continue to burn.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Making It

I walked out of one office only to step into another. While "Office Space" may teach you to loathe saying one has a "case of the Mondays," that's the only way I can think to describe today. And it seems that the arteries of everyone I pass have been injected with enough coffee that when they say it, sympathetically, they are smiling too much to truly understand--even if the lack of sleep is my own fault.

The office is quiet when I first step-in. I sighed a little, given the dullness of the interview. I suppose it was no one's fault but Monday's. I'm really beginning to hate him--such a spiteful thing. Either way, my tongue was still dry and curled from activity. Two steps into the office I thought I had the place to myself, then everyone else began filing into the office. Despite its size it always seems much smaller with people in it than it does after hours when I am all alone. With or without distractions, I never can manage to pay attention for long, though. I multitask, or I don't task at all.

These coworkers of mine--writers, editors and classmates--I see their faces all-too-often, to be perfectly blunt, but I know them by name and we have a connection. Each week it is the same--from any corner of the office I can look at someone else and see their eyes roll back into their head when anything happens. We are all usually thinking the same thing, whatever it is--annoyance or indifference.

There's the one in the corner whose mantra is "age before beauty" in every sense of the phrase, although he believes himself to be both. His flamboyance can be smelled from a mile away, but it is not that that offends. It is the dominance he believes is in his possession, and to which that he tries to assert the most. Anyone who denies him that right will surely suffer the wrath of a tantrum made for a queen. By now we're numb to it. If I could choose one person to trap all of their belongings in Jell-O, it would be him. I spend most of my days watching him sneer--his only reason for staying is to hopefully win an award in the conference coming in the next year. Recognition is his drug. We all have to submit something. I still don't know what I will submit. If he makes it, it will be by his own demand and stubborn determination.

Next to that tormented soul is a calm, collected sort who loves sports... And nothing but sports. He spends most of his time not spent in class working for several media outlets, going to sporting events and then partying with his roommates and friends. He has the college life Asher Roth sung of once, but he manages to be productive. He is at least doing more for himself than many other writers and editors are. Not much can be said for him. He typically keeps to himself, but his corner of the room always manages to laugh more than mine. He has a sneaky way of making offhand comments seem like comedic gems. He has that talented way of knowing how to be sparingly funny, and not demand any attention from anyone. A polar opposite to the aforementioned desk adjacent to his.

Next to him--yawning and coughing uncontrollably--is a manic cat-woman who is addicted to caffeine, as long as it comes in a Full Throttle, and is one of the few to soon be leaving at the end of the semester. We have things in common which mostly consists of music. Until she upgrades to cat calendars and sweaters with whiskers, I have yet to find a reason to worry about her. Her intake of Full Throttles, however, is a different story. "I have to have one a day, or I'll kill everyone," she says all the time. I don't want to tempt fate, but I want to wean her off eventually. Despite the frantic crazy and her bad habit of getting distracted by cats on the internet, she is easily one of the most-liked members of our staff. I wish I had that ability to put everyone at ease.

The next one cannot be described in a few words. If anything, we all pretty much agree this office is all he has south of home. He spends his time mostly here bound to his desk, and has unsettling-ly made a home right at his small desk. He watches videos online and talks too loudly. He laughs really hard and looks around to see if anyone is interested. He snacks on chips like a cow in a field and leaves crumbs everywhere. He's annoying, but he cares more for this publication than anyone I know. We're all dedicated, but he especially so, because he has more riding on this. This is his anchor holding him here. In another life, he might have been Milton Waddams, and has come back to prove himself as more than an arsonist with a soft-spoken obsession for a red stapler. Whatever his origin, his voice made for radio is jolting, as is his laugh. But he cares, and that's more than I can say for others. I have to remind myself to stop being a bad person so I can learn to like him beyond the belligerent tendencies he just never learned to control. We're all belligerent.

But if anything can be said for not being able to take the place out of the girl, three hours from Atlanta cannot separate the next editor from her hometown. We spent most of last year closer than we are now. She blames me, but I blame her. It's a cycle that I'm hardly phased by in the least. We started as assistants together. Even without the water-cooler, we had our water-cooler talks. We related to one another through annoyance and the bustling of the business. Now we sit on separate sides of the room at our "stations" ready to command our ends of the ship.  A large stack of newspapers always sits at the roundtable blocking my view from her. And while I am a dog person, the cat-lady and I have more to say to each other, anyway. It is just how things are. When jobs get harder and more specific, there's little ways to relate to one another, and we fade into the nod or the "hello" as we walk in and out of the room. Even if we managed to get a water-cooler in the room, I doubt it would help. We've asked for a lot of things.

Our boss, the "boss-lady" as we often, jokingly, refer to her as, is scattered--and not in the joking sense. Though I do mean mentally and not literally, the expression about losing one's head applies here. If anyone doubts how amazing science is, take a look at humans' molecular structure and imagine that all day, every day, those poor molecules that created her have to keep our boss from forgetting her head at home every morning. When one's head is made of lead, it's amazing to think that her neck holds up so well. She has proven, though we may still run a student-circuit, that tattoos and a love for Insane Clown Posse will not stop someone from getting hired. Though Recognition Man may have something to say about her being in charge, she still manages to do her job better than he could, and we are used to working with her. It is comfortable and though we may not be well-functioning 24/7 we function enough to get the job done on rough weeks. She talks in circles and makes weird faces, but she knows what it takes in journalism to be. She'll go places, too, as long as she covers up her tattoos.

There is one in the corner who always sits with her face glued to the computer, looking as though she'd rather be somewhere else. Even if she does, we know her, we know that that's just the typical -itis of being a college student. And when she's not doing her job, she just sits on Facebook--another downfall of being the typical college student. She's ditsy and loves the color pink. She's articulate but with the same attitude that shouts about "disrespectful" people who are merely reacting to her rude personality. Street-wise she is clueless, but she manages to make better grades than I can because she can prioritize. She will make it.

One of them no longer has a desk (I claimed it), and in an attempt to keep him in a job when he has to spend an unexpected last semester here, he spends his time--supposedly--working with new writers. He used to be sports, but then we had a huge shift in our editorial staff after one editor was sent to a clinic to work through being overworked. Then he was what I am now. He spends most of his time writing and copy editing, and taking a few breaks on Wednesday nights outside smoking cigarettes. Conversations with him usually involve video games and drinking. He consumes himself with it, and he's happy, so who's to judge? His plans involve moving with his girlfriend to Florida and starting his life there. I get that. When I was considering applying for a job in China, I got flack from everyone, because it was Trey's idea first. But I understand trying to start a life with someone and following them wherever life takes us--because it's no longer just about you or that other person, it's a team effort, whatever life throws at you. I feel sorry for the people who don't understand that.

Next to where he is usually stationed is another editor addicted to the computer, but more than Facebook. Her job description requires it. She's unfiltered, but she knows when to filter out her language. She's articulate and intelligent, and one for debating and stating her opinion outright. It's a trait that could rub some the wrong way, but I find it endearing. Even if she does get in a huff when she's annoyed, she's outwardly just as cynical and opinionated as I am inwardly--something I am working on improving. We have a lot in common and spend a lot of time commenting in our corner of the room like two girls with secrets--even if secrets are never kept quiet for long here. She spends most of her time, not improving our website, watching Disney movies and listening to a plethora of eclectic music. Her playlists are a mile long each and full of the underground and unheard of covers from the unpopular and popular. She's determined, and I'm taking cues from her.

I'm sitting in my usual place next to her, amidst the editors shouting across the office, with my head just barely peeking out over the top of my computer monitor. I spend most of my time here, because nothing gets accomplished in my room. I'm easily distracted here, but all I can manage to write are occasional lit papers there. Here I have people I call family rushing around me, in and out of the office. Our hands are coated in newsprint and our student body is apathetic while we strive to deliver them straight news more reliable than word-of-mouth. We're unpleasant on Wednesdays when we piece the paper together, and we're all just trying to put in the work to prove ourselves in an even more real work force. I was handed a position I would have never before believed I could do--I write, manage, layout and take occasional photographs. I do all of the things I have the ability to do but would have otherwise been too scared to try. I am learning to make something of myself. I still don't know if I can make it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Today I am 22-years old






This weekend was the kick-off to my 22nd birthday. In case you were wondering, that's today, Oct. 8. Most of our newspaper editorial staff got to go to the local theme park (where they also filmed part of "Zombieland"--just saying [that's really the only cool part to it, to be honest]), and got media passes to explore the park for their Halloween theme this year!

The scary stuff was a lot of fun! It was my first time--in awhile--going to something like haunted houses. There were several trails--in the woods, in houses and in cornfield mazes that were full of creatures and people waiting to scare you!


(This cool guy was just hanging around trying not to step on children.)

Quite possibly, though, my favorite part, was getting to see all the animals--and even though it was behind glass, I still got VERY close to a tiger, and I considered taking him home with me. We named him Hobbes.








It was definitely a day to remember. I wish I had taken more pictures of the scarier stuff.




I still can't get over how beautiful that tiger is...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reflection



I had never been to such a fair prior to that Saturday, but I was hardly out of my "comfort zone." Whatever that is. I haven't felt the true comfort of belonging in a long time, but in small instances with certain people that I can truly say complete me and make me feel whole--that worldly whole that moves your entire being and wakes you for another morning on the same earth with the same expectations, low or high.

A mirror ball was hanging in one of the tents; a perfect, spherical shape with square mirrors reflecting the light, the self, in fragmented parts. Flags looked like Rubik's Cubes and I looked like a Minecraft character--or perhaps my current fixation on the game is why my association immediately goes there. We see what we know first. In a mirror, I look at myself in parts: the quality of my skin, the shape of my body, the weight I'd rather lose. I never see the whole picture. My eyes aren't trained to see what others see; perhaps that's why people battle with such self-image distortions. We fight ourselves regularly to finally see what we want to see--or to finally accept what we see. However, in this mirror ball, I'm constructed poorly, and I accept it. Because I know it's not reality. I'm not obtuse blocks poorly crafted. I am someone.

My reflection is my state of being. I can look at the state of my eyes and gauge my exhaustion--but my body experiences the consistency whether it agrees with it or not. I can't see that in this mirror ball. Because here, image is not important--though they are using it to their advantage. The fair is reflective of a state of mind--a state of State. It boasts its pride. It evolves with the times. And it does not falter to opposition. It is the South Georgia Pride where men and women of the LGBTQ community come, not to start disputes, but to join together and spread awareness of the bullying and hurt members of the past have endured. It's a civil rights movement for a different minority--a subculture diversified by the people in it that find peace and community there.

Pictures were hanging on the booth nearest to me and the mirror ball. Pictures of people who had taken their own lives, or lives taken from them, too soon through terrible means. Their images surrounded one small mirror that hung at a standard height--when one were to walk up to it, they would, undeniably, see themselves. The cause the booth represented was the result of one young, homosexual male bullied until he took his own life. What scars could he see when he saw his reflection? What struggles suppressed his sleep? He saw bruises that some could see, but not all--physical and emotional bruises that tore apart his spirit. The picture of the young man was one of a happy youth--he looked strong and determined during his time. But he, too, was disconnected from the self. He did not only see what his oppressors saw, but he pulled himself apart in front of that mirror everyday. His reflection was fragmented. If only he could have seen how beautiful he really was when the pieces were put together.

That Saturday wasn't just for the broken, though, but for those liberated by a time that is moving towards understanding them. It was a time of reflection for how far society has come. And for those fortunate enough, it was time for every person there to stand up, no matter the weight holding them down, and say, "I'm still here, and I'm still whole."