I’ve mostly been embarrassed by my looks, I never outgrew the gawky teens years. The fluke modeling career, false impressions people make about you. I downplayed it for half my life, hid in a corner for the benefit of others. There no longer is the need to pretend play that part. As I embark on a more satisfying, terrifying career, I jump. Headfirst. I thought I had to compartmentalize, distance myself from the past, to find the way to my future. I was wrong. I am a serious writer. I write the dark, so I can live in the light. Those who know me, know I’m not so serious at all. I’m eccentric sure, tend to trip up a lot. I’m done pretending, to be something I’m not. I won’t apologize for the life I got. Karma’s a bitch anyway, she bites back hard, when you need taking down a notch. I am, just like you. Only, slightly different. Empathic, I hope. But, sorry I am not. No, sorry is for sissy’s. I’m done with the phrase. I’ve plum worn it out. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, that’s not even close to the sum of its parts. One story belongs exclusively, to you. So I say, go, get on with the living with zero regret.
We talk about it. Yeah, we do. In my house, we talk about a lot. The mundane living stuff, movies, books, music, groceries, even the weather. And, death. We talk about that, too. Well, I do most of the talking. The persistent, detective’s daughter, ever annoying and inquisitive. The fervent need to know what comes next, how it should look, the driving force. The uncomfortable, inevitable last chapter. Well, you know. So yeah, we talk about the awfully, uncomfortable details. My most important person and me. The one that birthed me, gave me a life, the one that does the grunt work. Grinding up the gizzards for the holidays, the not so fun chores, traditions I rebuke. She watched as I make mistake after mistake, stuck on repeat. She told me to get up, brush it off, only to fall flat. Do it all over again. She did that, supported the triumphs and tears. So, I talk now. A lot. And I ask, one more time. Needing to get the ending right. She doesn’t want a confining box, that I’m sure. Never been boxed in before, why start now? Ashes are to be sprinkled, here and there. I know the exact, precision spots, the ideal time of day and year. I will do that, for her. I can do that, without being asked. Moral responsibility tells me so. She has her playlist composed, with all the familiar songs. The old favorites, classics that spanned a lifetime of happy, memories and intimate moments defined by a song. Per instruction, I’m to play them loud. To dance, sing and try to be happy. Celebrate this one life, no pity party necessary.
Chalk it up to morbid curiosity, the incessant need to know. I want the same, more or less. I’m spelling it out for you, now. No fuss, no muss. A quick mass to cover the bases. Ashes catch a ride on a spring, almost summer breeze, somersaults in mid-air without form, the spirit lives in the ether, light and easy. My playlist is a work in progress. I choose the songs carefully, with attention to detail. I’ve rocked out in stadiums, danced hot, sticky and sopping wet with delirious abandon, listened quietly to headphones, alone in the dark. Sitting by an open window legs perched on a sill, trying to get some relief from the overbearing, city heat. Feeling alive and independent. I revel in the silence and red stained lip from a half empty glass of Pinot Noir. The solitary me moment, the lone candle casts shadows upon the wall. I am moved to tears by a melody. A dance party. Yes, that’s exactly what I want. With happy colors and a lifetime’s intimately compiled playlist. A million, orange paper lanterns illuminate the night sky. A muffled, bass undertone lifts me up. Yes, that’s how heavenly it shall be. The maudlin, well-meaning, over thinker in me, has high hopes and glorified dreams.
Rummaging through junk, I rediscover hidden treasure. Time and distance put fresh perspective into meaning. An antique chest of drawers once belonged to my grandfather. It had secret compartments and a pullout desk, to store his important things. His rubber coin purse that gobbled up change, never to be seen again. Papers, letters and pencils filled the now empty spots. I was sure they were awfully important. I thought that chest of drawers was thrown out when he died, along with the rest of his belongings. I was ten, didn’t think twice, grown-ups dealt with grown-up stuff. Imagine my surprise, when I found that chest in the attic, in plain sight. Must have past it a thousand times. My heart was overjoyed with happy. I could see his gold tooth grin, horn rimmed glasses, smiling down on me. He was a gentleman giant, 6 foot something, wore dress slacks, lace up shoes and button down cardigans. I had to crick my neck to look up at him, the silver head of hair a frame of reference. Who knew I would grow up, try a gazillion different things, live a million lives, only to come home again. Who knew, I didn’t. I took it as a sign; I’m superstitious like that. Despite the endless questions, relentless worry, I might be in the right place, right time. Signals, lost moments are funny things, they come out of nowhere and disappear back into the land of lost dreams. Gotta hold tight, to conviction. I tried hard to force the who, what, how or where I’m supposed to be. Too hard, I suppose. The best pieces might need some light dusting, bit of polish, little elbow grease. Inside solid, cherry red oak new opportunity lies waiting. Love, and an old wooden desk are the structured, knotty pine memories that tell the stories.
I have arrived, at the supposed highway, halfway mark of life. That’s a median guess based on statistics, there are no guarantees. I have learned a few lessons along the way. I am no more special, prettier, richer, smarter than most. Sure, I was granted a great big superficial life for a brief moment, filled with stuff, lots and lots of stuff. All disposable. Today, it sits in a closet waiting for someone fabulous I suppose, gathering dust. I prefer to dress down these days. Forced to live a smaller, more manageable existence where vacuuming the rafters, doing the heavy lifting and hard physical work counts. Choosing life and the 180 shift to survive, most days I move painstakingly slow. A work in progress, pig-headed acceptance with small town life comes in time variants. Life-long friends who never care about my mood, whether it’s fluorescent red, shady purple, mellow yellow or tequila blue help stay the course. Kindred spirits up for the walk. Have I been lucky? Damn straight. Have I been unlucky? That too. Fate can be a greedy, sarcastic bitch. Yes, some would some say I’ve been unlucky. Yes, but maybe so have you. They can’t see or feel the colors I’ve seen. The places I travel, without ever leaving home. There is nothing special, redeeming about me or you, or them. I welcome the day I am set free from this imperfect mind, body, left with only purity and lightness of soul. And the love. The infinite, crystalized, clear water well of love abundant, shared, given freely and received. To know love intimately, is to recognize special. I am special, after all. The halfway point overflows. The unconditional love of a four-legged, blind in one eye, loyal, sweet, funny, kind, compassionate creature teaches me. Everyday, and any season. No matter who or what has come and gone, no matter rich or poor, no matter which path I’m on. As long as I take the walk, even when not up for it, makes all the difference. Because quite frankly, she is the coolest, most special thing about me.
Happy Halloween, kids. One night when stereotypes don’t matter. Imagination and creativity run wild. Safety and sweets.
My friend always says, “can’t go backwards, only forward.” It’s super annoying. Duh, I know that. I don’t want to go back, but sure as hell would like to head south. Too busy for a staycation, I’d settle for a long week-end. Six, seven days for optimum unwind and relax. Meet me in Miami debauchery, cafe con leche, black beans and rice, hit the old haunts, sea salt brittle in your hair. Not a care in the world, the sun sets the mood. A free wheeling, bicycle peddling, meandering, waste the day with zero guilt. A young guy I know packed his bags, sold his belongings and headed to Hawaii. I asked, “what are you going to do?” “Live off the land, yoga, not sure,” he replied. “I’ll figure it out when I get there.” Ouch. I felt a pang of jealousy and hint of regret in the pit of my stomach. Ah, to be young and wise again. With nothing to do, nowhere to be. Meet me in Miami? Not so I might relive the past, but so I can be reminded. How good it felt. No obligations, no worries, no lists, no regret. Baggage left behind a closed door.
Yesterday was not a good day. No, in fact It was a very, very bad one. Crap, we all have them. Not exactly like mine. My bad day started out fine, until out of nowhere, it wasn’t. Frenzied, panicked, the emotional turmoil requires a great deal of work. They tell me ride it out, it will be fine. It won’t. My mother sits across watching, as my eye droops, I sob hysterically, my face contorts, reason jets out the window. Her face frozen with patience, sorrow and exhaustion shows me the way back. After an hour, the very bad subsides. I am wrecked. I tell her I am fine, which I am not but what the hell. It’s a small lie, a white one. Her heart has been broken too many times. She leaves, drives around the block, only to return. She has not done that before, I wonder did she see something menacing as I went missing? Clawing my way back to the here and now. A task, a physical task helps. I rake, working the body to exhaustion quelling the incessant noise. I work until numb. That helps. I spend too much time trying to be the person I was. Wasted energy. I must let her die. She was beautiful, loud, said all the inappropriate things, flawed and messy. She was free. She was me. I loved her, anyway. She is gone, but I celebrate the best parts of her. Even the experts aren’t experts on the bad days. They have no finite conclusion, no magic pill, tangible task to offer. Baffled by the mysterious workings of the mind. I’m leaving this muddled brain to science. That is my contribution to her and me. And all those that came before, and come after.
Today is better. I get out, and walk. Nature’s changing scenery reminds me, all is temporary. Billy Joel’s, “you catholic girls start much too late. Sooner or later it comes down to fate,” takes me to a happy place. Childhood memories, skipping, twirling and tacky plaid uniforms. The crisp air, biting wind off the angry water is good for the soul. Watching my pooch run leaps and bounds, ears at attention, I lose myself in her joy. I feel a smile coming on, in spite of it all. I’d dance in the oddly vacant parking lot, no one’s around. I better not. I must behave. Oh fuk it, I shake my booty just a little, shimmy my shoulders, press unlock and hop in the car. I hit repeat, singing loud and off-key, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun.” Only the Good Die Young. I’m lucky. How many of us die and live to talk about it.
A year in the making, decades of prose, essays, blogging, writing, re-writing and working the craft. My debut fiction novel (a love story, go figure) is almost here. This close. I can’t wait to properly introduce you to Harrison. She rocks. THE VAST LANDSCAPE rocks and rolls. So I’ve been humbly told.
The traffic light turned red. This time, I could not avoid the person standing at the corner. In his spot night after night. I pulled over in a knee-jerk, impulsive instant. I looked at the once handsome man, hiding beneath the desperation and guilt of unlucky circumstance. I noticed the man with razor-sharp blue eyes, scraggly gray beard and sorrow stamped across his crinkled forehead. He immediately looked down when I approached him. His shame would not greet mine. I saw a man who’d been beaten. He wore only a ripped plaid shirt and stank ridden, dirty blue jeans. It was Autumn, not quite freezing but cold enough to bite. I saw a man without a coat, so I gave him mine. It wasn’t anything fancy, picked it up at the Salvation Army. Cargo, military grade. I like my coats to have weight, buy men’s most of the time. He hesitated, I placed the jacket delicately on the cold pavement. I noticed he wore weathered combat boots without laces or socks. I took off my cowboy boots, removed my Wal-Mart heavy woolen socks and set them on top of the coat. I didn’t mind. I didn’t mind at all. I’d come this far, figured I’d give him my jeans too. They were big and baggy, I don’t like my clothes tight. He was more embarrassed than I. Mortified that I stood half-naked in my boy shorts Gap underwear. He stepped in front of me, instinctively shielding the googly eye glares of ignorance, the tooting horns as they drove by. I didn’t mind being exposed. I had a warm car to climb into waiting curbside. Passersby noticed me, 6′ foot almost naked, they didn’t bother to notice him. I saw him. I couldn’t help but see him. We are not so different, he and I. Someone noticed me once. Yes, they sure did. I did not mind at all.