Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 Words: A Reminder

Have you ever read a beautiful piece? I did a notable piece, once. I remember my eyes tearing up before my mind had even time to wonder why. My body was working through the imagery before any literary analysis could be made. Because I didn't need the literary analysis to know it was poetry--poetry in motion, poetry flying overhead like a hummingbird. Just like the hummingbird Doyle spoke about in his piece--admirable jewels with tiny hearts racing at ten beats per second.

I tack "Joyas Voladoras" to my cork board in the office, as a reminder of my own heart and the weight it carries every day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

School Days

I imagine old schoolhouses had graffiti, too. It was probably less of a battle for students to etch their names into the worn wood, though. Then again, all I know about those schoolhouses is what I’ve seen in episodes of Little House on the Prairie. I remember feigning disinterest in the show, but if I was sick and skipping school, I would spend my mornings wrapped in a blanket, with a bowl of oatmeal in my lap and watch the filler-marathons some television stations would broadcast before noon.

There is one old schoolhouse that sits in a park back at home. Heritage Park has many relocated, historical buildings from around the county; even a train. I love that place. It comforts me to know that those “old days” settings aren’t just full of anomalies placed by Hollywood. The park has a schoolhouse, an old doctor’s house and a small shop. It’s nice to know, too, that Laura Ingalls Wilder could not have lied about everything.

I’m focused in class—really I am. There is no real wood to be found in this classroom. These modern classrooms are all carpeted with strong, cemented walls. In fact, this “schoolhouse” holds several classrooms, unlike its historical predecessors. However, the light from the window is wide-open and distracting me just as the large windows of those old structures would have; the rays from the sun are illuminating my notes and the desk in front of me. It’s empty. The back of the chair has Eric’s name etched into it—whoever he is. The words “love” and “fuck” are also etched into the chair so deeply, no paint will reverse the passion and determination it took one or two students to leave their mark.

In elementary school, we learn how to draw pictures on our desks and on the walls when there is a void throughout the academic day—or if clay and “learning” blocks cease to be as entertaining. I don’t know who we learn it from, or who started the trend, but perhaps our urge to scribble on the walls at home fuels our want to destroy public property everywhere. We’re elementarily impulsive at that age, after all. In middle school, those ahead of the social curve are already leaving slurs and phone numbers in the stalls. Where we learn the hate so soon, I’ll never know. You don’t learn psychology and anthropology when you’re a 13-year-old in public school. And those elementary doodles we left on our desks cover more of the desks and trail into our notes we are surely taking in class. In high school, students get creative. While some are still leaving phone numbers and expletives, my favorite piece of vandalism was from a theatre-kid who wrote an entire Shakespearian sonnet in permanent marker across one large wall in the girls’ bathroom. In college, I’m still surprised to see the infantile graffiti. I wouldn’t be as surprised, if our tuition money went to good use, and the clever decided to be thematic in their destructive relief. Perhaps paint and pastels could cover the bathroom walls of the fine arts’ facilities. Perhaps we could use more sonnets on the bathroom walls of the liberal arts hall. Maybe it would be best if all of those complicated formulas from chemistry were written somewhere in the science building for freshmen who take regular trips to the bathroom just to get out of two-hour lectures.

In class today we are flipping through issues of The Sun magazine. In “Hector Isn’t the Problem” John Taylor Gatto asserts that academia is too regulated. What started on the Prairie as a means for learning and thriving has become an institutionalized religion for government—a way to standardize what we learn and divide who we know. I suppose that is right. I’ve seen education from the teachers’ perspectives and the students’. We are filling longer days with less information, but we’re learning something. Perhaps, just like those Prairie kids that learned to read and write just so they could get by are not that much different from us. They fought on the playground and debated in the classroom. What we do learn we carry with us, too. For some, it is art and graffiti, for others, it may be sonnets.

I just find it funny that college students can still get excited whenever they see sharpeners on the backs of large crayon boxes. There’s one in the desk beside me right now. They didn’t have crayons or crayon sharpeners back in the day. But I bet those kids grew up to be young adults still fascinated with the toys they had during their school days, too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm Happy

I think back to one year ago, when things were darker, but I managed. I told myself so many times that "I will get through this, and I will improve." But like any resolution, it went unresolved. I am a stickler for self-improvement, but mine seemed to be a slow, painful process. There is something truly liberating, however, in the conversation that preceded the end of the year.

The same thoughts that kept me up for hours for the past few years were released from their cage. I felt something--the pressure softly lifting from my chest. I could breathe.

"So, I'm not crazy?" I asked.
"Of course not," she said. She was a very friendly woman, and I owe her a great deal.

And then I was left on my own, to think again--to consider the possibility that I'm not crazy, but I can't suppress everything. I need to feel, and I'll never be okay until I give myself time to feel. It's ironic, how sensitive I can be and how unwilling to be embarrassed by those emotions I claim to be, and yet how much I held back. And now, here I am dealing with all of the things I put off for so long, and it feels nice. Even through the tears, I feel free--free to feel it all and free to make a change for myself. Why did I allow myself to hold back so much pain?

I'm just one step closer to saying I am 100-percent happy.

Monday, January 14, 2013

She Is a Ghost

Halloween was over, but November 1 was haunting. For three years I slept with a skeleton, just down the hall, whose features were familiar yet cold. I remember when flesh and blood hinted at a femininity I would later discover in myself. I remember when her voice was soothing and not forced. That skeleton sat idly by where I last left her as I made my way to school. The sugar-hype was fresh in my peers' systems, and I was just trying to survive the chaotic hallways and overdose of academia--then I saw him. He was short, awkward and lost. He was my brother.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"I'm stalking you," he said with a glare; then my father turned and announced I was being checked-out early. What had I done?
"Your mother is in the hospital and I don't think she's going to make it," my father said.

My brother immediately reacted as I expected. When she was stronger--when she was more than the immobile tribute to motherhood just down the hall--she was the comforting soul that held him from infancy to these last few moments of childhood he would ever experience. For me, she was a friend, a fan, a force to be reckoned with and the only one to whom I would ever call "Mamma." I pleaded with God and squeezed my father's hand.

We made it to the hospital, and I was more observant there than I ever wished to be. The hallways at school were a different atmosphere; in the hospital, comas were not sugar-induced. The doctor pulled my father aside. Grey's Anatomy had prepared me for this. Her bones had ceased to lie as they once did. My younger brother--my sweet, innocent, baby brother--who screamed with delight 12 hours before--screamed at the top of his lungs when my father had to look us in the eye and tell us our mother was gone.

"Do you want to see her?" my aunt asked.

An odd question, I thought. Do I want to see my dead mother's body? No. But she would not have been much different from the skeleton I once knew, had I chosen to look.

We spent many nights filling the void on the right side of the bed for my father, and I spent many mornings holding him while he cried on the bathroom floor. His faith was shaken, and he was more fragile and afraid than I had ever known him to be. My rock--my protector--had weathered beneath the waves.

Six years later, I still remember her voice and the way she laughed. She lost so much of herself when she was diagnosed. There's a sense of pride and a terrible gut feeling I get whenever I am reminded of her. I love singing just as she did. I aspire to write full-time just as she had. And when I look in the mirror, my stomach churns. There she is, Mamma, staring back at me every day. She is a ghost that never leaves, and a haunting I'll never mind.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


You feel like somebody, even when you aren't.

That's how I started hating her. It is terrible to admit, but honesty is my policy these days--whatever the cost. She always had a way of making her friends seem important. We rose together through vulnerable ages and vulnerable times--a group of us spent hours together in and out of the hallways of our academic youth. I marked her as my equal, as someone with the same values and sympathies. But as my disdain for vanity grew, her vanity flourished. I never saw it coming.

She betrayed me in the most gradually painful way possible. Her eyes deceived me, and her words were passively cross. At one time, I could recall every detail of her being, from the color of her eyes to every piece of her wardrobe I wish I possessed. We laughed together and loved together. We began to feel as though she could do no wrong. She was the lamb in the pack of wolves with whom we were all too enamored to eat. I spent hours confiding in her everything I felt, and she seemed to have felt it, too. But her agreeable nature betrayed her much as she would later us.

When I noticed her first real flaw, I was stunned. We forget that the ones we love can hurt us, no matter how much we think them incapable. It is an obsession of mine to observe people. Our flaws may make us who we are, but her flaws were devastating. She worried about the first impressions, but never about the effort needed after introductions became too formal. “Deceptively caring,” is the best way to describe her; she longed for others to believe she was caring more than she longed to care. Until that moment, I believed I had a friend to validate my disenchanted thoughts on the world and humanity; until another side cross-examined the situation. What I hadn’t realized, until that moment, was that was her way out of any conversation: If she agreed with what someone said, it was much easier to seem like she was fitting in than being someone with a personality.

Her moral fiber was weak and easily twisted and knotted by the entanglement of arguments and threaded manipulations spouted by those around her. When I realized she was nothing more than a pawn, I realized something even more sinister about her: She never intended to be anything more than a pawn. She enjoys the consequences of being agreeable more than the exerted energy required to formulate one’s own philosophies and determinations. She had us fooled because she played the game well, but she’ll never do more than play the game. Life is “Candy Land” when she doesn’t have to do much to get by. She wasn’t a thorn in my side, aggressively reminding me she was there. If anything, she was a thorny vine slowly choking me, depriving me of air and proper thought, with small needles carefully piercing my flesh to reveal the bright red and cold blood beneath my flushed complexion. I have always been cold to the touch--a byproduct of observing people. Her hold on me caused the viscosity of my blood to thicken. Its presence remained long enough to stain my skin. And I mistakenly carried her with me instead of rid myself of her sooner. I did exactly what others in her life had done. She refused to make her own decisions and rather hoped for the best in the decisions of those around her.

She could have become something worse, had she found the wrong crowd; I don’t think she would have minded, either. If she can blend-in, she is nearly invincible from attack.

Eventually, I played with her lack of personal stance. I rolled her dice and moved her further along the board without her permission. I was something more than “caddy;” I was vile. I manipulated whatever I said to see her reaction--to see how deep the hole, her words dug, could get. She did not care if she slunk further beneath the soil, and eventually it was amusing to not just me anymore.

Social media struck her like a chord; a place to be someone different. The fa├žade she carried with her was now superimposed, publicly online. She "followed" and "added" everyone she had ever seen to her rosters, even if the person she knew was merely in passing. She knew almost nothing about them, but she could control what they learned about her. She spent hours editing her photos and meticulously updating her "followers" on her day-to-day business. There were things about the “old her” that I missed, but I knew I would never get back; we watched from our own screens as she transformed herself and became obsessed with herself. She forgot she was only human. She was more worried about her autobiography than what people truly saw. She had limitations, but when she signed online, she was limitless. She was somebody--somebody who did not blend-in. She felt like somebody, even though she wasn’t. She was nothing more than some person with blood that ran as thin as water.

I am not bitter, and that is not I seeking validation in strangers connected by cables and invisible fibers. That is me exercising honesty. But it would be dishonest to say I am not still astonished. I play the role of a cynical being well, but a few manage to fool me. My wounds haven't healed just yet.