Perpetrator

I’m not what you would consider a heartbreaker.  Not a blonde bombshell, or a busty beauty who thrills the boys in a bikini.  I might pretend to the Grows-On-You kind of beauty that no one really recognizes at first glance but that’s on a good day, after a trip to Sephora.  The short of the story is, there were never scads of suitors beating down my door, and those that did generally didn’t stick around long enough to let me breathe like the fine wine I might have turned into.

That said, I have broken one heart and in spectacular fashion.

I started and stopped this piece a dozen times.  There are probably 3500 total words, but after awhile, I realized that the point was getting lost in the telling.  If you search around this blog enough, you’ll find longer bits of the story.  I know, after today’s effort, that this piece is a work in progress and will come forth in many different incarnations before I’m finished with it.  But the the day’s light is fading, and so is my resolve.  Please look, but with kind eyes, if you don’t mind.

 

I looked in those eyes, those green, glistening gems and saw the truth shimmering there.  I saw the promises he meant, the future that was etched, and the oath that would bind us both together.  Between us, the story flowed.  We matched, scar for scar, twin spirits in the dark, clasping hands. 

“Stay here,” he said.  “Stay here with me Jennifer.  Let me show you what it can be like.” 

With a grand light, he scoured corners, and gently eased open the door.  No screaming rages or sleepless nights stuttered his steps or caused pause.  I was me, and in whole, full force, unedited, explicit, and he gave of himself, the same. 

Horror stories and heathen past, I accepted to hear more.  Bruised and battered, he arranged himself at my feet, laying bare the man too tough for the world. 

I looked in those eyes, those green, glistening eyes and said my goodbyes and turned away.  I turned away from his plain and honest love and handed my ticket to the agent. 

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Temptation

I wanted to be funny today.  To dazzle you with my wit and humour.  Unfortunately, I’m overcome with cravings and had something else entirely on my mind.  So, I decided to forego the  23 Things You Never Want To Hear While Having Sex With Someone, and bypass the The 23 All-Time Best Ways Your Faithful Narrator Has Embarrassed Herself In Public and bring you, instead:

 

The Top 23 Things I Would Eat Right Now If It Weren’t Lent**:

  1. Ricotta filled canoli from San Remo’s Bakery in Kensington, CT
  2. Ricciarelli (Italian almond cookies) from San Remo’s
  3. Chocolate Macarons from Mrs. London’s in Saratoga Springs, NY
  4. My Favorite Fudgy Brownies
  5. Grande Coffee Frappucino Light with No Whip and A Caramel Drizzle from SBUX
  6. A box of Hot Tamales
  7. A box of stale Peeps…the yellow chicks
  8. A pint of premium coffee ice cream
  9. A dozen Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven
  10.   Lemon Poppyseed cake
  11.   Chocolate Chip Banana Nut Bread
  12.   Churros from Veira’s Bakery in Pasco, WA
  13.   Rice Krispy Crack from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory  Seattle, WA
  14.   A Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Caramel coated apple from the RMCF
  15.   Sea-salted caramels from Boehms in Poulsbo, WA
  16.   An entire Toblerone bar (the big one, not the bullshit tiny one they sell at the  movies)
  17.   A King-Size Chunky bar (OR a Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar)
  18.   A half of a carrot cake.
  19.   A quarter of Aunt Kathy’s Easter cheesecake
  20.   Hand-dipped chocolate covered pretzels
  21.   Earl Grey Truffles from Bright’s Candies in Walla Walla, W
  22.   A box of Nabisco Gingersnaps
  23. ½ c. of straight, granulated sugar

 

 

**The reading of this list may induce Diabetic Coma.  Please see your doctor before reading if you have trouble controlling your blood sugar levels.

Simple, But Sometimes Lost

I’m dialing this one in kids.  No flowery prose.  No complete descriptions of feeling.  I’m pretty low today, so talking about simple pleasures was at the bottom of my list.  It’s a simple pleasure lately just getting out of bed without wanting to throw myself down a flight of stairs (which, incidentally, I just did today, and, it sucked).  My head is a pretty bleak place to be, these days, and, while I’m fighting to keep a positive tilt to my chin, sometimes, the shit just piles up and I can’t see above it.  That said, there are things that breathe the life back in, and I’d like to share a few with you, if only to feel this fiber-thin thread of connection with the world outside me.

 

Sand between my toes

 

 

Sunlight between crisp fall leaves,

 

 

A velvet bag full of sea glass

 

A healthy poop….NO.  Even I won’t post a picture.  Sicko.

 

Flowers still wet with dew

 

 

Crisp Macs fresh off the trees

 

 

Mrs. London’s Chocolate Macarons

 

 

The Adirondack mountains in fall’s full turn

 

 

Hudson Valley sunsets with friends

 

 

When they’re all quiet and snuggly


and also,

friends that pick up,

the crackle of a bonfire,

comments on my blog,

and the roar of a rainstorm.

 

Black Sheep

For today’s prompt, I re-tooled an older piece of writing.  I know you might think that’s cheating, but it fits so well, and is the exact answer I have in my heart.  You have my word that it isn’t laziness…but I’ll let you judge for yourself.

 

This prompt stirred in me quite a rueful feeling.  A tribe, itself, is quite a beautiful idea; groups of people, bound together by common goals or ideas, hobbies or interests, jobs or social backgrounds.  It evokes a feeling of fellowship and belonging; a smaller network of support in an otherwise unforgiving whole.  It is commeraderie and help—both joys in terms of my rather Marxist ideals.

As I pieced together my personal definition of a tribe, it became more and more clear to me that though I’d previously contributed to any number of groups that fit this bill, I’d only very few times felt as if I actually BELONGED to any of them.  From the time I was a little girl, I’d always felt my “otherness”; a nagging idea that no matter how hard I tried, I would always be JUST THAT MUCH different than everyone else participating.  Different than social anxiety or paranoia and their ilk, this feeling was more just a knowing that while everyone may be smiling to my face, behind those smiles, they just found me ODD; too odd to fit in, too odd to accept completely, to odd to continue inviting without the buffer of the person who’d originally introduced me.

Over the years I would develop ways to cope with this, and I’ve found that I’ve come full circle.  As a child in elementary and grade school, I’d just let the odd out, not quite understanding that the jeers I was receiving were the result of my own actions and words.  I was only just learning that in order to be a part of my school tribe, I’d have to hide the different way that I looked at and related to the world.  In high school, I’d learned that lesson, and went the road of assimilation, hiding those things TOO well, denying MYSELF in favor of the most popular friends and parties.  In college, I changed again and was struck with a hellish cognitive dissonance, trying desperately to find a middle ground between the two.

It’s only recently, in adulthood, that I’ve reverted back to letting my crazy out of the closet.  Being someone else for so many years took its toll on me, and all the old coping mechanisms began to fall apart.  As a result, I said “To hell with it” and decided that a true self is the best self.  Do not mistake me; this choice did not lead me down a road of blissful social ease.  The only difference now is that instead of children, they are adults who look at me askance, trying to no avail to understand my processes and the jerky way I fail to blend into my surroundings.  “She’s nice enough, and fun” they say, “but sometimes, I just don’t know…she’s just, strange.”

Though used to the sidelong glances and the constant feeling that I’m being judged for my peculiarity, I’ve never become completely accustomed to the feeling of loneliness that it breeds.  I stick up for myself, and I speak my mind in my own queer way.  I embrace my oddity and prefer to define my personality as distinctive, but there is still the longing that overwhelms me sometimes to fit my square peg in everyone else’s round hole.  This conflict is part and parcel of living in my skin.

I’ve encountered many tribes recently (not the least of which is this beautiful Twitter family).  All of them have lent something fulfilling and given me scores of knowledge and new understanding.  From the teachers at the various schools I shuttle between weekly to the girls I train with at the gym, I’ve injected myself into different scenes hoping for a fit; for a place to be entirely myself without needing someone to ‘explain’ that “That’s just how she is.”  The fact remains, however, that I have yet to encounter a community in which I belong completely–sans judgmental smirks and curious looks, or even just the niggling feeling that “there is something strange about that girl….”

So I envy you out there belonging to your gay community, your writers’ tribe, your young, city-living groups and your new parents’ cults.  I envy the ease at which you all participate together and support each other and present a united front towards those not-in-the-know.  It looks warm on the inside and cozy, and maybe someday, I’ll feel comfortable past the front vestibule.  For now though, I’m my own…a tribe of one.

Son Of A Biscuit

On a fall night in September 2006, my younger brother and I were hurtling west in my little plastic Saturn, laughing and listening to Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban over the speakers. We’d been driving for two days, although “we’d” might more aptly be “I’d” as my brother had been forced to admit that he had no idea how to drive a stick at about hour 10 on the first day.  He’d looked at me with a shrug and a smirk when I exited the gas station somewhere outside of Chicago.  “Sorry, “ he’d giggled, palms facing outward at me.  I’d laughed, and shook my head, reclaiming my spot behind the wheel.  He’d spend the rest of the trip, maps in hand, riding shotgun, lighting my cigarettes and making ham sandwiches out of a cooler provided by Mom.

We were on our way to Seattle, WA, and we had to make it in three days.  I had a temp job lined up that started on the 4th day.  The Old Man and I had moved there the previous December, but left my car in NY, so I’d taken a few weeks at the end of the summer to visit home with the intention of driving it back.  It was a last hurrah of sorts for the two of us.  I was embarking on a life across the country, and little brother had just joined the Army.  A vast history stretched behind us just as the whole of the United States stretched ahead.

That night, as the 12th or 13th hour of driving took it’s toll, we spotted a road sign:   Lodging Next Exit 17 Miles.  We were somewhere outside of South Dakota, perhaps flitting through Wyoming, but most likely in southeastern Montana.  I was tired and a bit dazed by the road stripes flashing past, so I made the decision to stop as soon as we came to that exit.

As we chatted and listened to another chapter, I turned on my blinker and moved from the left lane to the right.  I’m not quite sure why.  We were miles from the exit still and hadn’t seen another car on the road for hours.  Not seconds after I’d changed lanes, we passed something that would make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and the adrenaline pump through my body at the narrowness of the miss:

There, in the middle of the left lane, taking up the entire space between the mid-lines and the shoulder, was a gigantic dead moose.  And I’d missed it by that much.  Had I stayed in the left lane, I would have hit it dead on at 85 miles per hour.  It is doubtless that the collision would have caused a major accident—the animal was bigger than my car—and we would have been seriously injured.

We looked at each other in disbelief, hearts pounding at how close we’d come.  And then, I smelled it.  Fumbling a cigarette out of my pack, I inhaled a deep breath in an effort to slow the pace of my heart, and there it was: my entire car smelled like my Grandma Lou.  My Grandma Lou whose couch I sit on everyday when I lay back to watch TV.  My Grandma Lou who used to label everything from food in the freezer to packages of extra socks in her storage spaces.  My Grandma Lou who had been dead for 4 years.

I was born and raised Catholic.  I’ve been through my sacraments.  Got married in the church.  Attend every Ash Wednesday mass because it’s my favorite sermon.  But I can’t say that I believe in one God, The Father, The Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I don’t know that I believe in heaven.  I’m not sure that I believe in hell.  I have issues with religion, and the things it makes people do.  I can’t quite swallow the idea of an all-seeing man sitting up in the clouds keeping a tally of the good and bad things I do.  As far as faith goes, my jury is out.

What I do know, what I DO believe, with certainty, is that my Grandma Lou is out there, and she looks out for me.  She was there that night, and she’s been around a few other times, mostly during near-miss situations.  She rides in on that scent and sticks around only long enough for me to wonder if I’ve really smelled anything at all.  I had no other reason to change lanes that night

Urchin

I got caught

Fighting that girl

Smoking that cigarette

Wearing turquoise eyeliner.

I was nabbed

Peeing behind the dumpster

Running my mouth

And eating the cookies meant for dessert.

I was discovered

Half-naked

Observed

Lighting the fire

And Found

To be hungover.

But for three years, I never paid for a single razor at Walmart.

Rose-Colored Glasses

I can’t tell you much about it.  It never really seemed real, or like MINE.  What I can tell you is that it was perfect and neat, a beautiful showcase, a magazine photo.  Like the rest of the house, it held to a theme, each personal item tucked anonymously away.  At a glance, you’d say idyllic, and I’d have to agree, she did a lovely job.

It was pink.  The kind of pink that Laura Ashley herself couldn’t have wet-dreamed.  Cotton candy pink.  Pepto Bismol pink  Elly the Elephant PINK.  If M.A.C. made a lipstick this color, drag queens everywhere would buy it up faster than Seinfeld’s Elaine finding a warehouse full of Today’s Sponges.  Really fucking pink.

We lived in a split-level house in a small town in Upstate NY that my parents had had built to order.  Somehow, my younger brother had been awarded the slope-ceilinged attic space, (No FAIR!) and, as a consolation prize, I’d been allowed to choose my paint color.  I’ve got nothing to say for myself on this front.  I chose the pink.  I was six years old and had a circular valise full of Barbies and their clothing.  It was the obvious choice.

My mother was the one to go all out.  A four-inch border around the ceiling studded with pink hearts.  Rose-colored bed linens with matching  bedskirt.  Foofy curtains boasting ruffled tie-backs.   Precious Moments dolls and needlepoint samplers.  There was a pair of hand drawn ballerinas hanging over my twin bed.  It was a girl’s bedroom to end all girls’ bedrooms.  We never did anything halfway in my house.  Go big or go home.

It didn’t stay pink forever (though probably longer than you’d guess).  When my great Aunt Peggy died, and I’d begun to cover the cavity causing walls with posters of Jim Morrison (so cool and retro!!), my parents decided that along with her bequeathed bedroom set, I’d get a new coat of paint.  I didn’t get to choose this time, but was satisfied with the eggshell beige and a flowery stencil applied by my mum.

In the beige neé pink room, I started my first journal, blasted Metallica’s “Black” album, spent hours on the phone with friends talking about nothing and learned the finer points of self-love.  I’d have sex in it, but not until the weekend before we’d move out of that house, the summer before my sophomore year of college.  Closed doors were a No-No (except to change) and privacy an endangered species; as well as the tchotchkes, my mother owned every moment had under her roof.

I grew up in that room, but it remains only pink in my memory.  Just pink.  No sentimental attachments or wistful backwards glances.  A snapshot of a place that held me.  Scene notes.  A setting.  A backdrop on a journey toward something more MINE.

The Unbeatable Foe

 

Today’s prompt asked about impossible dreams.  I nearly laughed out loud when I saw it.  I don’t generally dream, you see.  My sleeping mind (an endangered species itself) prefers to waver back and forth between a semi-restful, black unconsciousness, and a terrified state of nightmaring.  You won’t often hear me regaling friends with stories beginning “You will not BELIEVE what I dreamed last night….” I know, I know:  That’s not the nature of the question!!  You’re shouting at me, I can hear from here.  But you’ll hear me out for a moment, Dear Reader, and I’ll sketch a line connecting the two.  I’m the slightest bit neurotic, (you might have guessed), and a little more the pessimist.  My world, whether by my own coloring, or actual events, has always been a beautiful place, BUT studded on every corner with menacing possibilities for violent downfall.  What I’m trying to say, is that there’s always another shoe, hurtling out of the sky, and I just don’t see the point in wearing a helmet.  In my experience, dreams and ambitions have a way of being ALMOST that’s severely stunted the frequency with which I entertain them.

I just can’t seem to get out of my own way.

And so, while I considered skipping this prompt altogether, I found, instead, that I had an answer.  Something that I DO wish with my whole heart.  It’s not material.  It has no professional connotations.  It’s not a pony, or a trip around the world (although, that might fall close second).

It’s a pipe dream of the first order, but sweet?  Oh how sweet it would be:

I want quiet–quiet in my head; a hush when I close my eyes. I want to lay my head down and drop to sleep without the agony of the day’s playback on repeat. I want to feel effortlessly kind, and less a fraud. I want buoyancy in place of the lead weight in my chest which I think must be my heart. I want to sigh in contentment at this day’s end, and, instead of rancid ennui, look to the next with optimism and genuine curiosity. I want pleasing things to feel pleasing, and I want to look at my world with real and unclouded joy.

The Blonde and The Brunette

Note:  I wrote this while listening to the song.  There’s a link in the center.  Personally, I think you need to listen and read at the same time, but I know how some people feel about auto play music, so I’ve given you the choice.  There were many songs I could have chosen, but this was the one I kept coming back to.  

 

The Scene:  Junior year of college.  A rickety second-floor apartment off campus.  9pm.  Two girls, fast friends, laugh and smoke a joint.  They’ve just finished an afternoon of cleaning, have taken turns in the shower and are dressing and putting on makeup for a night Downtown (capital D).  The blonde, the DJ of the duo, places a disc in the changer and clicks forward to THEIR song. 

The brunette lights a Parliament and throws her arms up in the air, rolling her wrists in weaving spirals and her hips and shoulders in opposite directions.  She closes her eyes and feels the build, inhaling deeply on her cigarette, anticipating the leap, the break beat.  The blonde turns the volume up to MAX and starts rolling her hips, joining her friend.  One is all upper body and the other all lower, dark and light, opposite sisters in the candlelight.  Moving slowly, we begin to see the build in their bodies, soft and fluid.  And then, holding, holding, holding and BAM! the beat kicks in, both start bouncing off their calves into full jumps, hands closed now into fists. 

Through the flickers, they dance around each other smiling and totally comfortable.  Exhaling smoke and feeling the pulse of the beat even through the cheap, tinny speakers. 

For four minutes, we can see their lights shining; a deep and pure joy, a bond that will last into NOW which is, then, the unforeseeable future.  This night they’ll laugh and flirt and accept drinks.  They’ll play off of each other and revel in their brash sisterhood.  People will whisper and speculate but they will pay no mind.  They are growing, our girls, closer together with every moment.  In the morning and the weeks and years to come, they will hold each other together, one giving when the other needs to take then switching as the world demands. 

But tonight, now, they are yet girls and not women.  They are shedding the snakeskins of their teenaged ghosts and forming to each other a solid bond, a love, platonic and deep.  For these four minutes we can see the spark between them and cry at the beauty of the moment, a quiet and pure joy bursting out from their waving fingertips and silent smiles. 

As they dance, they let go of yesterday and together thrill toward tomorrow.  Right here, right now, there are these four minutes.  Play the song and we can see these girls, still dancing in the dim light, holding the beat in time…two bookmarks, just starting to turn into a story.

Some Days I Sit And Wish I Was A Kid Again

We stood there, shivering, my brother and I, hopping from one foot to the other in the slushy snow mix, tears seared to our faces in the ten-degree wind.  She flipped the lights out after a minute, so we’d be unseen in the dark by any neighbors chancing to plow their driveways that night.  We huddled together and sat in the corner on the old park bench, and flinched at the sounds of the bolt being driven on the garage door, our last hope at getting back in.  She’d been kind, she’d sneered, and left us with more than we’d come in with. In this respect, I’d fared better than my brother, who was turning blue in his Scooby-Doo Underoos; I’d been allowed the little girls’ undershirt that matched my rosebud panties, but it hid little of the shame, and protected from none of the cold, so we wept.  Two tiny figures in a fucked up snowglobe scene.

When he came home later that week, and I told him all about it, it was the first time I’d hear the words, and the last time I’d be young:  “You’ve got to give her a break, she’s going through a tough time right now….”

It was there, in that instant, that I grew up, that I understood: the only safety I’d know would be that of my own creation.  From that point on, it was my responsibility to maintain the delicate balance of her moods.  To clean just-so and speak just-so and look just-so; limping along after an ever-wavering ideal.

Over the years, I’d bear the brunt of her rages.  They’d burst out of nowhere and manifest in physical furies and verbal harangues.  Each time, he would listen patiently and ask that I extend more grace.  And I would.  The inside of my head was a cruel joke; a jaded, scarred adult with a child’s measureless capacity to forgive.  I took it all inside of me and made it mine.  I strove each day for that perfect dive that created no splash.  Looked in the mirror with her eyes and appraised all the ways I was wanting, inferior.  Who wouldn’t feel rage when faced with the disappointing rag of a girl destined to be a fat and inadequate hook to hang dreams on?

These days, it’s all Old Hat.  I’ve been an adult for so long, that I have trouble remembering the child.  She pokes her head out every so often and giggles, a bubbly release of tension and pressure.  But mostly I apprehend and plan and scrutinize and suffer a vague anxiety for the demise of the whole house of cards.  Still worried that my efforts fall short, that they’ll never earn kind words and love from her lips.  An adult in responsibility and a foolish child for recognition.