ESSAYS & SHORT FICTION
“It is only now when I see you that I realize, you have patched through my life in waves.”
In sixth grade I was beat up everyday after-school from January to June because I woke up over the Christmas holidays of 1994 with boobs and they never went away.
It started the day I graciously held the door open for Timmy, an 11 year-old jerkface, who was the human nexus point for all preteen aggression as was evidenced through his uniform of L.A Raiders cap and Air Diamond Turf II sneakers. Timmy was mean, loud and always started the fight. He was shorter than me, but fast and wiry which made my already dormant reflexes look that much more asleep. Regardless of his ill reputation, I remained steady in my kind gesture and held the door open for him anyway.
“It’s ok. Go ahead.” I motioned for him to walk through the wide metal doors but my intention to briefly befriend this callus L.A Raiders fan was met with angry confusion. Not only did Timmy refuse to walk through the path I had so unselfishly laid out for him, Timmy pinned me to the door, clamped his hand around my neck and spat out the hurtful, but honest, statement, “Your boobs are like tennis balls!”
My first thought was, I don’t understand. My second thought was, that’s probably true.
The next thought was slightly more disconcerting. I intuitively knew that his Jean- Claude Van Dame move, which was witnessed by an audience of pre-pubescent stakeholders, was going to change everything.
And it did.
That was the moment I became target, and the rest of the class followed suit. For six months my body transformation caused a ferocious controversy among the sixth grade. My boobs were the topic of discussion at most lunch tables daily from 12:00 to 12:45. My boobs were the destination point for every launched dodge-ball, soccer-ball, and basketball during recess and gym. Kids, who once shared their grape juice with me, suddenly ran out of straws. Even the skipping rope turned it’s weaved and hypocritical back on me, extending its medusa reach to whip me in the chest. During this time Timmy grew from mean bully to chief commandant of the movement and gained a massive following.
It was at this peak that he developed the habit of following me home after-school. He waited for me post bell ringing frenzy at the only exit of our school-yard and would begin his taunting upon first glance of my terrified face. Timmy kicked my ass all the way home – literally – until we would reach my corner, and he would disappear west towards his place.
Sometimes I would hover in position, frantically rubbing my ass, watching him walk away. I imagined him shedding his tough skin to make room for the innocence that would embrace him as he walked though his front doors into safety. Most of the time I would simultaneously turn away from him and part east into the safety harbour of my own home.
I never told anyone that he followed me. That was a time when the word follow was creepy. Eighteen years later the word has a new lease on life. Follow means opportunity. I wish I had been able to unfollow Timmy, but I wasn’t a strong enough kid. Instead I just developed a healthy shield of self-deprecation that saved me from his malicious sting and has stuck by my side ever since.
As luck would have it, I saw Timmy at a bar last week. He walked over to talk to me with the intention of reminiscing over our early years. Mid-conversation he pulled out his phone and added me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
My chance to unfollow Timmy reared its spiteful head.
But what did I do instead? I bought him a drink.
“Instigator!” I looked down to see the pudgy fingers of Mrs. X dig their way into my lanky arm as she pulled me away from the fight.
“I’m not!” I yelled back, having never encountered the label before in my brief 9 year-old life, yet imagined the worst based strictly on its phonetics. It started with an IN and ended with a TOR which meant that it was not good. Mrs. X was the proprietor of a face that didn’t belong in an elementary school. We both had blue eyes, but hers were the wrong kind. Beady and stale, they glared their way into mine, along with her frothing grey lips that pumped out the words, “You make a mess of people!” into my petrified face. Her fat stomach was a never-ending rhythm of billowing disgust that permanently spilled over her cheap polyblend skirt.
I could feel the fire of embarrassment run into my cheeks with the thick coating of tears that formed heavy in my eyes. I ran inside to embrace the shady confines of our school gym and hid behind the ropes that no one ever climbed to sit it out until the bell rang.
Morphing from a shy, sensitive tween into an enraged avenger, I quickly returned home post school trauma to engulf myself in the ‘I’ section of my father’s massive dictionary. Dragging it to the corner of his den, I covered myself in his unwashed blanket and skimmed my fingers along the leather bound alphabet. Obviously, this was behavior was uncustomary in my house. Specifically for me.
“What are you doing?” My father tapped me on the head.
“Just looking up a word.”
He opened the mouth of my blanket cave and pulled the book out of my hands. “Oh, yeah. Let me see that. What word?”
There is a certain fear that only parents can implant in their children. It’s the fear to never to anything wrong all of the time. The circumstances of how my father found me, 3:15pm, blanket covered, dictionary in hand, with guilty all over my face, didn’t bode well for my situation. But I knew I wasn’t what she called me, whatever it was, so I took my chances and blurted it out hoping that it wasn’t anything really bad.
“What? Who called you that?”
“What did you do?” A typical question from a teacher who also posed as a parent. I proceeded to state my case of being wrongfully accused of meddling to my patient father, who flipped through the thin pages in search of my new title. He read it out loud.
“Instigator: Someone who deliberately foments trouble.” He looked at me. “Is that an apt description of you?”
“Then defend yourself.” He covered me back up with the blanket, let out a huge fart on my head and turned on the news. Up all night plotting my revenge, I returned to the schoolyard the next day with a recess mission. Mrs. X, dressed in a tacky flower print with beige stockings bunched around her ankles, paced back and forth between the hopscotch squares of the Grade 4 playground. My heart raced uncontrollably with my father’s inspiring words, “defend yourself” echoing in my head. I walked up behind Mrs. X and waited for her to turn around, but when she did the only words I could think of were, “Fuck you.”
I didn’t scream my retort, like I had intended. The “Fuck You” dripped its way out of my mouth landing between the squares of 4 and 5, and it changed my life.
From then on, I was a little “Fuck You” machine. At school, I said it any chance I could, to any kid who crossed my path. The “Fuck You” consumed me. I spent full class hours day dreaming about saying the “Fuck You” it in the most arbitrary places: to my grandmother at Christmas dinner, to my babysitter after she tucked me into bed, to my sister when she asked to borrow my hair brush.
This new found linguistic freedom quickly became a problem my teachers felt they had to deal with. Shortly after the initial incident, I was called into the principal’s office for an intervention.
Mrs. X, and her smug face, sat next to me.
“She doesn’t stop saying it,” she told the principal, who looked me dead in the eye and said, “Christina, what the fuck?”
“Excuse me?” The froth of Mrs. X mouth overflowed into a waterfall of spit that was summoned by the principal’s casual reaction. “Punish her!” She yelled.
“Christina, do you know why you are saying this all the time?”
“It feels good.”
“Do you know that it’s hurtful?”
“Should I tell your father?”
“Please no. Oh god, please no.”
“Will you stop saying it?”
“Yes. Yes. I really will.”
I walked out of her office, and closed the door behind me to trap the frustrating screams of Mrs. X, who was denied her satisfaction.
I saw the principal in the hallway later that day as I gathered my school bag from my mint green locker. She winked at me, and kept on walking without a second glance. I smiled.
Things have been a lot harder for me since then.
I recently filled out a questionnaire which asked me what my four worst fears were. In order to not sound like a complete and pathetic douche, I dropped being alone forever from number one to number four and replaced, one, two and three with death, being buried alive, and being wrongfully accused, consecutively.
When I returned the questionnaire to the assistant she glanced at my answers, and rolled her eyes before placing it back in my file. I wondered which one of my answers merited such a dismissive response. Was it the admittance of my fantastical fear of accidently falling into a coma then waking up alive locked inside a coffin and buried six feet underground in an unmarked grave? Or was it my futile attempt to underrate loneliness from one to four in what was supposed to be an honest questionnaire?
I hate being judged.
“I have a very fulfilling life,” I said to her before returning to my pink brocade waiting room chair. As expected, she didn’t look up.
Two hours (and 6 issues of Psychology Today) later, a balding, grey, elderly doctor called my name as he put his best effort into waddling down the hall. Cane in hand, he asked me THE question.
“How are you?” Doctor’s should not be allowed to ask this question, unless you are sitting on the cold wax paper of the examination table. Otherwise, in any other circumstance, it just seems wrong given the context.
“I’ve had better days,” was the only response I could think of that didn’t betray how I was really feeling inside. He motioned to have a seat and pulled out his stethoscope.
“So what can I do for you today?”
“I think I’m depressed.”
“And what makes you think you are depressed?”
“I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t stop crying, I stare into space for hours, I don’t feel like having sex, I feel hopeless and empty inside, I fantasize about dying, I wonder if anyone would miss me, I can’t bring myself to get out of bed in the morning.”
“That’s a long list.”
“It’s a long life.”
He looked at me disapprovingly. “How old are you?”
It was a weighted question coming from an old man. A lifetime existed between his now and mine. He was born at the end of a war. He lived through the splendour of the 1950’s, the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and the recession of the 1970’s and 1980’s. He existed through a time when touch screens were science fiction and libraries had index cards.
“You’re young. You’re beautiful. What’s there to be depressed about?” As if those were the only two things needed in life to secure happiness: Youth and Aesthetics.
“I was hoping that we might have some sort of exchange in which you would ask me a poignant question and I would then discover why I am feeling like this.”
He sighed and returned to his desk. “I’ll write you a prescription.”
“Really? That’s it?”
“Okay…Do you believe that you can communicate with aliens?”
“Ha! No.” I giggled immaturely then caught myself when I realized the humour was not reciprocated.
“Do you have schizophrenic episodes where you believe that you are Imelda Marcos, Socrates or Allen Ginsberg?”
“Umm. No?” I sensed the trajectory of this conversation.
“Do you have a good family?”
“Yes.” I responded, humbled.
“Do you have a job?”
“And you can put food on the table?”
“Well what more do you want then?” Well…what more did I want then?
“So you’re saying that you can’t impart any wisdom that might inspire a revelation in my thought pattern?”
“Like ‘live everyday as if it’s your last?”
“Do you really think that is appropriate for this scenario?”
“Look, do you want the prescription or not? I have twenty-five patients to see today, many of whom suffer from more serious problems than mere existential angst. If you’re bipolar or hallucinating, I can help, if you’re looking for inspirations watch the Oprah. Is she still on?”
“No it’s cancelled. You drive a hard bargain.”
“I’ve been doing this for fifty-five years. Do you want the prescription or not?”
For a second I contemplate indulging in the pink pill fantasy that would wrap my days in happiness. But I know better. Its minuscule size stood contradictory to its power. I didn’t want drugs. I just wanted to embrace a simple life, but one beyond his idea of the three-fold - food, shelter, love. My simple life was when I would seize my wildest dreams of success and wealth in order to live a free existence. Vanitas.
Dr.R didn’t understand this concept. It was too vain. I was too young. And my time was up.
The smell of used textbooks and carpenter’s glue will always remind me of my first feelings of carnal lust. Repairing art and science textbooks at the boy’s high school where my father taught was my first summer job. I worked monotonously from 9 to 1 to the soundtrack of Metallica’s Black album waiting impatiently for the ringing bell which signaled the end of summer school and the beginning of my lustful liaisons. It was August, I was fifteen, and I had never wanted someone so bad. Monday to Friday at 1:00pm I would stand in the doorway to the main hall with an invented purpose for my solicitous gaze and random presence. He always turned the corner at 1:12, centered within his brood of grunge compatriots. White Sonic Youth t-shirt and black Doc Marten clad, he would acknowledge me and my invented purpose with a shy smile and a soft hello. The pull was magnetic. His eyes - deep set. His head - shaved on each side. My breath - winded. My teenage life - over. It was raining on the last day of summer school. The day he turned the corner alone, and stood at my door with a purpose not invented. He asked me if I was hungry.
I had a Chili Dog. He had a Michigan. We shared a poutine and we didn’t talk. When I would lift my eyes he would avert his, and so on and so on until our gaze met and melted into our embryonic teenage fantasies. Post junk food foreplay he walked me back to work holding my hand.
August afternoons were eerie and silent. The 1:00pm evacuation of students and staff left the hallways echoing and the offices desolate, as they would remain, still and untouched until morning. No one saw us come back in. We walked down the long hall together, holding wet hands and cringing at the sound of my squeaking red Cons against the linoleum floor. The sound reverberated down the corridor.
“I want to show you something,” he leaned in to whisper in my ear once we had reached the stairwell.
“Sure.” I smiled.
He pulled my hand softly around the corner and I followed him down the stairs to the basement. He lead me down a dark unfamiliar hall, through the locker room, past the boy’s washroom and into a narrow entranceway. Except for the sound of his breath and the pounding of my heart we were blanketed in still silence whose only match was the soothing grey darkness of the basement weight room.
He picked me up and gently pushed me against the wall so that my back fell on cold metal. The sexual knowledge I had amassed thus far within my catholic, chaste and pure existence was limited to the trailer for Cocktail, preceding my VHS copy of Dirty Dancing. I knew that if a man picked you up you had to wrap your legs around him. I did just that and he kissed me, as ferociously and fearlessly as any 15 year old could muster. My memory of that afternoon, soaked in rain, making out in the basement weight room seems to expand the older I get. The reality of it was that it was just a moment. A defining moment, which could only be preserved through the permafrost of hindsight. He didn’t want me to be his girlfriend. But he couldn’t help himself to the feast.
He walked me back upstairs to my glue and textbooks and kissed me again before leaving. “I’ll see you in September,” he smiled and left. Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon and my summer crush escaped through the back door. When September creeped in, I retuned to school to learn that he had been expelled for academic failure.
I never heard from him again, and had erased him from my memory until recently when through no volition of my own I found myself pushed up against a cold metal wall. Then I looked him up on Facebook in search of algorithms and meaning. He is a doctor living in Oregon. He has two young daughters, and a beautiful wife. He has a black lab named Lady, and a special affection for shiny red sports cars. His pictures indicate that he has a house in the country that he visits every so often and he has traveled the world. An expulsion from school led him to a picture perfect life of ecstasy.
I did well in school. I also still live here, not far from where my premature lustful liaisons took place. I have no husband, and no kids. I have no car or dog. I don’t own property and I haven’t travelled much.
But somehow, through destiny or just plain old bad choices, I am still an object of sexual deception.
It was the wait that killed me. Knowing that I would be in the line-up until the end. The relentless test of how much embarrassment I could withstand before crumbling. The pattern of everyone’s name being called before mine.
I was a permanent fixture in the duo of the remaining two.
I was always picked last for dodge ball.
“Comon guys,” I would complain, impatiently shifting my feet from one L.A Gear sneaker to the next, rolling my eyes after each selection was made.
“But we want to win, Christina,” my classmates would say apologetically.
I couldn’t blame them. But the candid reaction never lessened the pungent sting of their greed. The ten or so minutes of public pain orchestrated by the “Captain” was usually followed by an hour of physical activity in which I was the outlet for all teenage frustration. Predicting the outcome, my excuses to not participate in gym class became boundless. Coach, I have my period. Coach, I have a stomach ache. Coach, I’m sugar crashing. Coach, I’m pregnant. Coach, I can’t see. Coach, I coming out of a heroin induced coma.
“Where’s your note?”
The perennial question matched by my despondent answer.
“I don’t have one”.
“Then quit your whining and get in the game, Stimpson.”
What is most discouraging was that I wasn’t whining. I genuinely didn’t want to play because I knew the effort was futile. I didn’t enjoy the game so why try? Just to be part of the crowd? It was too competitive for me, and I refused to abide by any rules that I didn’t make up myself.
Somehow dating feels the same.
Like there is a divine Captain assembling the best team for the big game day, and we are all just waiting to be selected. Everybody still wants to win, and nobody wants to be the last man standing, but there aren’t enough good players to go around.
I guess I’m still experiencing the repercussions of my gym class greed. The only difference is that in the dating world greed is masked as pheromones, and dodge ball is a lot more merciful.
My sister is way to god damn nice. It’s as if while in my mother’s warm womb my sister vacuumed all the kindness out of her so that when it came time for me to be conceived the only traits left on the personality shelf were sarcasm and self-deprecation. I’ve made due, but it hasn’t been easy. My family dynamics have me filed under PRICK, Jerkface while my sister basks in the golden glory of PERSON, Good.
The third party interactions between me, my sister and X in public usually end up making everyone involved upset in some way. I hardly have to open my mouth for this to happen. I say please, thank you, okay, combien?, but comparatively my efforts fall short of the mark that she sets so high with her daily joie de vivre. Admittedly my push is meager. It’s actually not even enough to compete. But I can’t live with this type of disparity in my life, so I venture to call her up to talk about it. The presence of this phone call has me in a state of total anxiousness. My sister and I hardly converse. For the 5 minutes that we do converse once a month it is usually spent discussing the parents and our mutual dissatisfaction with the monarchy. Thankfully, one of the greater qualities of being PRICK, Jerkface is selfishness, so I am willing to put the awkwardness of asking my sister a personal question aside in order to obtain a satisfying answer.
“Who died?” My family’s natural response for any unsolicited phone call.
I mull over the possibility of how a dead baby joke could fit into this situation, but then I realize it would be a joke wasted. She’s too nice. Nice people don’t respond well to dead baby jokes.
“No one died. How come you are such a nice good hearted person?”
“What? What did Daddy say?”
“Nothing. How come you care so much and it’s easy for you to contribute positively to society?”
“I don’t understand the context.”
“The context is the world, and the question is how you fit into it.”
“Oh. I guess I care because that is what you’re supposed to do. I’m just following the rules.”
“The Jesus rules?”
“That’s not funny.”
“Do you think I’m a good person?”
“Do you want to think about it?”
“No. You’re all right. You’re not a bad person. You’re just too meh about everything.”
“Oh yeah totally. Are we done here?”
Somehow the result of that conversation had the opposite effect of satisfying. According to my sister not only does my status as PRICK, Jerkface remain intact, I now belong to the Meh Society. I hang up the phone feeling like I’ve been wrongfully convicted. The crime: not caring about anything.
Inside I feel like Bob Barker giving away that car. How come my outsides don’t show it? I care, and I do a bunch of things that require good heartedness. I pay my taxes. I bought a poppy. If you’re a street kid that looks like Harmony Korine, I’ll even give you $20. Would doing it with a smile make all the difference in how I am perceived by the good hearted kids? I don’t want to be like her, but I also don’t want to be the opposite of her. Somewhere in the middle between murder and Mazel Tov?
She’s right. I am too Meh about everything. I’m in Meh-gatory.
Well, at least I know my whole neighborhood is down here with me.
I watched Jane Eyre last night and it disgusted me.
I quickly came to the conclusion that (A) vulnerability in the hands of the wrong person can be like poison, and (B) I am way weaker than I thought I was.
How can that be? I’ve done plenty of things in my life that require emotional strength. And I succeeded at them. I’ve quit jobs, dumped guys, fought with friends, held heads over toilets, woken up on the bathroom floor, watched parents cry, walked out on someone, walked in on someone, been rejected, gambled, gained weight, lost weight, went to funerals, went to weddings, analyzed hundreds of potentially harmful emotional situations and gave sound advice on all of them. Life should be aces high for me. And it was, until last night when someone showed me who’s boss. Jane, who will only ever exist bound within hardcover or pressed into celluloid, had her way with me and pervaded my thoughts through a sleepless night. I awoke confident in my assessment that I am emotionally strong. But disappointed in the reality that I can easily be bought out if you have the right currency.
The coles notes story of Jane goes like this:
Orphaned, she is taken to live with her bitch aunt who hates the shit out of her. Her cousin tries to stab her everyday and the local priest pretty much tells her to her face that she is the devil. After that incident she is sent to a boarding school where Nuns beat her senseless, she becomes a slave to chores and her only friend dies in her arms of tuberculosis. This series of unfortunate events, including the curse of never having felt loved, all occurs at a tender young age. Eventually Jane finds herself working for this rich dude who owns a castle. He’s an asshole at first, but Jane is witty and at this point pretty much has nothing to lose so she quickly becomes his brazen match and subsequently the object of his awkward affection. Initially she plays hard to get, but then after a while she totally gets into it and agrees to be his wife. Then of course, as all good dramas unfold, tragedy ensues. Jane finds out that the Castle Dude actually keeps his first wife locked up in a closet, but it’s cool, because she is crazy anyway. So obviously the wedding is off, and Jane is fuckin pissed. The Castle Dude feels pretty bad about the mix up and begs for Jane’s forgiveness explaining that it’s all a complicated mess.
But Jane wants no part of it. Jane is done.
Jane is done? I wouldn’t be. I would totally give this guy a chance if he had a believable explanation. And this is where my existential crisis begins because I realize that Jane - who has never felt the warm hand of love - has standards and I - who has only ever felt loved - don’t. I measure through characteristics.
My must haves usually are as follows: Must have beard, must have creative interests (art, music, film, literature, design, writing, woodworking, mechanics, etc.), must drink coffee, must be able to dress himself, must love Christmas. Although Castle Dude does have a beard to which Jane is probably very attracted to, it doesn’t really matter because Jane only has one must have. Must be able to maintain self-respect. She can’t do that with Castle Dude, so she is done.
Running through my rolodex of must haves, I seem to be missing that index card on self-respect. I’m pretty sure I had it at one time. I just don’t know where I put it. I know I didn’t give it away, and I couldn’t have lost it.
I must have sold it to anyone who had the right currency.
That is why Jane is stronger than me, and I am weaker than Jane. And I will never mix Neo Citran and Charlotte Bronte ever again.
Positive thinker I am not. Negative thought producer and worst-case scenario perpetuator, I am. Negativity is a thriving industry in my life. My whole support system is comprised of worriers who think on contingency, covering the bases of every situation making sure to take all the fun out of spontaneity. My friends are worriers. My parents are both worriers. I have eight aunts and three uncles who are all worriers. Even my cat has a nervous twitch. Worry was always my world. Who would bet positive thinking against those odds? I never stood a chance at being the carefree rubber. I was always going to be the analytical glue trying to scrape off sticky cynicism.
I have one positive friend, and she is like an alien to me. When both of us look at a white sheet of paper I see the end of the world and she sees Easter. She recently told me that I have no vision. I’m a negative person, so this wasn’t news to me. I responded by saying, “that’s the problem, let’s do lunch.” Two hours later, over white tablecloths and fine crystal, I asked her how positivity works and if I could become a member. Her answer was simple.
“You have to believe in a universe system where everything evens out.”
“That’s it?” I replied.
“Pretty much,” she said, shoving the last bite of porterhouse steak in her mouth.
Leave it to the positive person to think of the simplest solution while I get stuck with the check.
I thought I already did believe in a universe system where everything evens out. In my universe system, karma follows you through life grading all your choices, and kicking your ass. Have I been following the wrong one? Her universe system was Buddhist and forgiving. It was the belief that all human experience is collapsed from highs and lows into a lateral median where neither our most precious moments nor our darkest hours protrude. Three point five billion wrongs make seven billion rights?
It’s the platform I needed to leave a world that had imparted to me that positivity was presumptuous and impolite. Positivity anticipates that happiness, health, success and true love are to be expected. Who was I to believe that those gifts were rightfully mine? It seemed safe to always expect the worst, so that I could be prepared when it happened. I tried to preserve myself from hurt, but in doing so, I invited the possibility of it, and made sure to look for it in every situation.
As it’s my choice to let disappointment fester, or not, I choose to reject my inherited genes so that I can rebuild new ones for the future. That’s it. I am rewiring my brain to trust that positivity can also be safe, and that good really can exist. Perhaps even potentially for me.
It’s just that I’m scared to say it out loud.
I’m looking for tangible metrics on how important I am in this world, and I think the answer is in Jimmy Stewart.
My odd family has only one tradition, and it comes in the form of a 120-minute black and white film that you may have heard of. It’s called It’s a Wonderful Life. Christmases at my house, although similar to everyone else’s plentiful picture of tree-lined gifts and billowing stockings, erred slightly on the impatient side. After dinner, my sister and I would form a functional assembly line so that we could rip through gifts before 8pm and win the race to the television. The movie started at that time, and we had to prepare our questions.
The object of my family’s Christmas game was for each member to draft a list of tricky questions about the film that we would use to out smart each other on how Jimmy Stewart realized he was important in this world. Paper and pencils in hand, my mother squinting at the screen refusing to wear her glasses, my father smirking childishly, scribbling his answers, my sister, getting frustrated with the commercials, and the increasing volume that seemed to go up a notch when my mother would say, “Shhhh, I can’t hear.” Me, the youngest, searching for tangible metrics on how our importance is measured in life. My questions were always too philosophical to win, but I think I understood the premise more than any of them. You only see how important you are when you cease to exist.
As much as we insulate our lives to prioritize the scarcity of time, our lives are not contained. Our lives bleed, absorbed by those that we meet, most people we know, and everyone that we love. As much as we might feel the exchange from visible to invisible, our voices never cease to be heard by those who are listening. Those who have absorbed your life.
I’m a sucker for tradition. My only direct question in the Christmas game each year asked where Jimmy had placed his daughter’s rose petals when pretending to glue them back on to the flower. The answer, which everyone always got right, was in his pocket. LuLu’s petals, were the only tangible metric of his journey through seeing what his life would have been like without him.
Out of my sister and I, I was the only one who ever brought an outsider into the Christmas game. My boyfriends, paper and pencil in hand, trying desperately to outsmart my father, trying genuinely to be accepted by my odd family, trying - without fail- to show me that some metrics will never be tangible. And that having faith in yourself, and in the footprint you’ve made in the process, will last past your existence and be fused into the memories of those who you have passed through.
I totally live in a dreamland where I think all my ideas are amazing and I can’t understand why I don’t have a team of personal assistants on my tail plying me with coffee and doing my banking.
Somehow when the components of life were being dealt out, I ended up with all the “make shit happen” genes. It’s a perplexing situation for a relatively apathetic person. I don’t care much about a lot of things, so why do I have a drive to make those things that I don’t care much about a lot better? I fall prey to ambition and feed my want worm with visions of a softly billowing future.
The biggest insult anyone ever told me was that I was insatiable. That’s worse than everything. It means that no matter how much I accomplish, I’ll never be satisfied. I’m designed to always want and never attain. If I am insatiable, it’s definitely fucking my shit up and it’s forcing me to question the participation I have taken in my life.
Could I have had a better time if I had stopped seeking a better time? Is it possible that by constantly soliciting fulfilment we seek ourselves out of a perfectly fine existence? Maybe all we are supposed to do is breathe, and nothing else - buy a hammock, watch the sunset and become lifeaholics.
I’ve tied my happiness to action, and it has yet to serve me well. The future is in passivity. The future is in not worrying about the future.
Maybe that will ease the embarrassment of knowing that I was once my best self, but it still wasn’t enough to win the fight.
My ego is huge. And not in the trivial sense where I think I’m better than everyone. That’s just stupid. I mean in the sense that when a blow hits my ego, the hurt spreads all over. It doesn’t remain in the ego bit of my brain, it infects the whole body, mind and soul bit of my life. I was never able to contend with “you win some you lose some”. I need to win all and never lose any, in the most non-competitive non-jerk like way possible. To lose even one, pervades hurt throughout my existence.
What a shameful way to live. At least that’s what my mother says. My mother who always served herself last.
I grew up thinking that parents didn’t work in the summer. My mother, a talented designer, gave up her career in fashion to care for my sister and I when my sister was first born. My father was a teacher at a prestigious private school, who no doubt had his summers off, as most teachers do. Years later when I fell for a university professor, I was schooled on the importance of having the summer’s off to think. The explanation made sense, although I don’t ever remember my father doing any thinking. Not that thinking has a particular face. He did a lot of teetering with things, sleeping in the backyard on his hammock and fighting with my mother. Those were his main summer pastimes. Perhaps the thinking came in between those tasks.
My father was a silent man of a serious nature. Even when I was young I sensed his annoyance with having two kids screaming in his ear all summer. Not his idea of a dream life. He would retreat into the basement den and surround himself with books. Delve into the worlds of Dostoevsky, Fitzgerald and Dickens. There always seemed to be more books in his den each day. I would scan my hand across the titles, feeling their cracked spines of importance, wishing that I could just soak in all the knowledge of the work just by touching it.
I still feel that way. And I wonder why someone hasn’t invented a method to upload into our brains all the great works of literature, lessons on art, and mechanics. When I say this to my mother she winces, “everything so easy” is always her frustrated answer, which is usually soon followed by, “nobody wants to work anymore.”
She’s right. Would you want to work at something if you knew the learning process could be ripped and uploaded for free within thirty seconds? Does learning still carry it’s romantic notion? Pouring over books in the Harvard library, with an adorable cashmere sweater and pearls? I haven’t purchased a CD in 10 years. How can I be expected to read 864 pages of Anna Karenina without a significant fanfare? I want a marching band and cheerleaders welcoming me when I finish it up. To me, that’s a win. To my mother, that need is a loss.
I get it. Something’s in life are still safeguarded to remain archaic. Learning your first words, pedaling a bike for the first time, feeling your first minor heartbreak, dealing with your last major heartbreak, the joy of making someone laugh.
Perhaps the most archaic of all is finding your self-worth. Without significant fanfare, subtly and alone. To this, my mother would approve.
Just for the record I haven’t taken LSD more than 6 times and I’m not on any psychotropic drugs, but I am about to make a confession that should only be vocalized within reach of a licensed therapist. If I’m lucky, sometimes I can see faces in objects.
I don’t mean like Jesus’ face in an omelet. That’s just ridiculous. I mean outlines of faces contained within a thing in a place. I fully realize that unless my name starts with F and I somehow seem to be stuck on a long three-part journey through Middle Earth with a bunch of marginal dudes trying desperately to keep a Ring safe, that these sightings might not be the healthiest. But in any case, I’ve had a fuckload of them.
I’ve seen Serge Gainsbourg in a plaster wall. I’ve seen my ex-boyfriend in Italian marble tile. I’ve seen an old wise man in the wood grain of a floor. And I remember each one perfectly. Yet, every time I returned wanting simply to look at the thing in the place, I was never able to see the thing in it’s organic state again. I was only ever able to see the face contained within it. My perspective narrowed into a singular view that transcended the things purpose.
Unhealthy situations find the best culprits in parameters. Once we’ve decided on the parameters of how a situation fits into our life, the delicate risk of redefining them becomes scary. It’s overwhelming to accept the alternative perspective, even when you know it’s the right thing to do to find the better you.
When I first saw the statue of David, I stood with it for 2 hours. The soft British voice of the oral guide recounted that in every immense cold rectangular slab of marble, Michelangelo saw a sculpture that needed to be set free. If I had chosen to chip away at those faces, their parameters would have changed. The faces would have been restored to their organic state - to just the thing in the place - and the faces would have been set free.
Goodbye Serge Gainsbourg. Goodbye my Italian marble tile ex- boyfriend. I’m chipping away at your defined parameters. The expected outlines that seemed to be set in stone. You no longer deserve to be stuck on account of me wanting the comfort of knowing that you are there. I’ve enjoyed your company but now you need to be set free.
Much to the astonishment of everyone I have ever met, I am embracing a new found devotion to romance movies. The cheesier the better. Harry and Sally and You Had Me at Hello, sit front row and centre with me and my new found obsession.
This addiction is largely out of character for my cynical self. Half of my brain is saying “what the fuck is wrong with you,” while the other half - the impressionable, ingénue, Scarlet O’Hara half - couldn’t be happier. Mazel tov! Aguri! And pass the champagne because we’re thirsty.
Does it matter if it stems from my growing apathy towards what life is selling, or if I am actually turning over a new leaf? Whatever the motivation for this fresh faced hobby, I’m seeing it through. I’m looking for clues on how to sustain a sweet life in fantasy land, and I think I’ve found my ticket. Good things can happen in Candyland. Women feel good about their decisions and the men, well, they look great.
Why would you actually prefer to live in the ghetto of realism when you can own on the inspirational streets of fantasy? Why would anyone ever not want to believe that 100 fresh roses could show up at your door “just because”. Or that a bathtub full of warm water and essential oils (or cash) awaits you upon return from your shitty job?
A blank canvas of hope in 120 minutes or less. I’ll buy it. It’s the positive side of the equation. I’m peering over the white picket fence from negativity and I like what I see. Characters never complain of boredom in the movies. You’ll never hear, “I dunno by the time I get home from work, change, eat and take a shower, it will be too late to meet up,” a line that permeates most lives. In Candyland people make shit happen, and in such a short time, en plus.
As a die hard romantic who rarely lets it show, I’m putting an end to my days in contempt. But soft through yonder window breaks without hope or agenda and just because it’s Christmas I’m just a girl standing in front of a guy asking him to love her as you wish, and I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees outside…Welcome.