The question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The answer: “A poet.”
You get up, you breathe in, you drink your coffee, you work, you breathe out, you drink your coffee, you drink your coffee, you work, you work, you breathe in, you breathe out, you work, you go to bed.
The question: “Do people still read poetry these days?”
More questions: “What do you want to be when you grow up? You’re already grown up, so what do you want to be? What are you? Who are you?”
Some answers imperatives: “Choose a career path, choose wisely, make some a lot of money.”
The answer: “No one reads poetry these days.”
“No one reads poetry these days unless it’s scribbled on dirty walls in public restrooms, girl”, says the poet and pours himself another glass of wine from the box. “I should know”
“No one reads poetry these days unless they’re dead drunk and their life has just started unraveling like a badly knitted sweater”, says the poet and pours himself another glass of whiskey from the bottle. “Also, this is exactly when most people start writing poetry” It seems that he should know.
“No one reads poetry these days unless it’s referenced in an obscure pop song, honey”, says the poet and takes another sip from his bottle of dark beer. “And in the end, all they remember is the cute singer.”
You get up, you breathe in, you get dressed, you take an aspirin, you work, you breathe in, you breathe in, you breathe, you drink your coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, you work, you breathe out, you breathe out, you take an aspirin, you work, coffee, work, coffee, bed.
You still read poetry: on dirty walls in public restrooms, on stickers stuck to sign posts, in old books, in new books, in your own books, in borrowed books, on postcards, in magazines; you still read poetry. You still write poetry: in letters, in your notebook, in your head. In your head, in your head, in your head (where’s my notebook?).
The question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Another question: “Do you want to grow up?”
The answer imperative: “Make some a lot of money (and then spend it and then make more money so you can spend more money and then – ).”
Answers: “You still read poetry. Poets still write poetry. Some many people still read and write poetry. You can still be a poet.”
“Choose any career path, girl – as long as you continue writing, you’re probably a poet anyways”, says the poet and pours himself another cup of black coffee. “Trust me, I should know.”
So. New Year’s. Really? Already?
Okay then. New Year’s. New resolutions, of course.
Not because everyone talks about their own resolutions. Not because I feel like I have to come up with something inspirational (but if I did, wouldn’t it be great?).
Simply because, let’s face the obvious: there’s always room for improvement.
Am I the best version of myself? I doubt that. Am I getting close? Closer at least? Who knows. Honestly, I don’t think so. There are a lot of things I’d like to do that I haven’t done, a lot of things I’d like to be that I’m not (yet), there are ways in which I’d like to behave given certain situations and I don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that I don’t like the person that I am right now (most days, I think she’s quite alright – despite the occasional bad hair day, the overly emotional fit from time to time and other lovely quirks I prefer to hide until the third date at least). But still. Maybe I can do better. Be nicer. Be more aware of what’s really important.
As an (almost) teacher, here’s one of my (very original) catch phrases: that was great but I believe you can do even better! Hell yeah! I’m going to earn myself some new gold stars in 2014 – who else is on board?
So where were we? Resolutions, right.
***So here are a few thoughts***
Don’t change for someone else. Although you may very well change because of someone else. Or simply because of yourself. Of course.
Something to remember: everyone’s very different and the fact that you’re dealing with something in a certain way doesn’t mean everyone else does – we should all try to be aware of this and respect it. We’re all little individuals – this is why life gets exhausting sometimes but it’s also what keeps it interesting and exciting and lovely. Think about it.
Sometimes, you just need to rest.
It’s not always someone else’s fault (… sh** … I don’t really like this one, but oh well).
It’s not always your fault either (now it gets complicated).
Maybe this year it’s time to learn this one: not forcing something that just isn’t meant to be but also not letting chances slip by – is there ever a way to tell these two apart?
Music. There’s no way around it. And maybe there’ll be time to improve your guitar playing skills and write a few more of these silly songs. And maybe there’ll be someone to play them to. Maybe.
It’s all very scattered, mind you. I know. But whose thoughts aren’t, really? It’s mostly a mess if you ask me. It’ll be a mess in 2014 as well, that’s something I’m sure of, but maybe it’ll be a little shinier and maybe it’ll be the first step towards something like an actual arrangement system.
You’re not supposed to laugh at this, I was trying to be serious. Okay, whatever. One last resolution: don’t take yourself too seriously – you should use every opportunity to laugh you can get, even if it means laughing at yourself.
***Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve and a marvelous 2014!***
It’s a Wednesday night and I’m in my sweatpants, drinking wine as I’m writing this.
I’d actually planned to go to this after-work-thing to be a little less anti-social with my colleagues but it was cancelled last-minute – thank God! Now I can be anti-social while pretending I’m not: sorry you guys, I would have loved to go out, too bad it’s not happening (did this sound too sarcastic you think?).
Now I’m officially free to do all the fun stuff I would have preferred to do all along and I don’t even have to feel bad about it: wear comfy clothes, eat in front of the TV, listen to any music I like, blog. Cause that’s fun, right?
Or am I getting lame these days? Is this what I should be doing? Shouldn’t I be out partying after all? Meeting interesting people and stuff? Is this why I’m slowly but steadily approaching my mid-twenties, still half (or three-quarters) in school, half (or one quarter) working, single, home alone tonight? Am I missing something? Was my mother right (and what’s her most important advice again – why can’t I remember this)? What am I doing with my life anyways?
Oh dear, is this it now – a quarter-life crisis?
No, I’m not helplessly neurotic – just a tad bit. Here are a couple more of my most recent thoughts on being (almost) 25.
Vocation or occupation or something else entirely?
Six-year-old me wanted to be a writer when she grows up. And seven-year-old-me, too. Eight-year-old me wanted to become a vet until she found out that they don’t just get to pet the animals all day long and decided to stick with writing after all. Now I’ve almost finished grad school, on the best way to become a teacher. What would six-/seven-/eight-year-old me say? Would they kick my stupid grown-up (and maybe too reasonable) butt? What do I really want? Do I even know?
Of course, being a teacher doesn’t mean I have to give up writing; I could always write on the side (like I’m doing now) – that is, if I have enough nerve and time. Or I could become bitter and cynical and just keep telling my future students about the novel I was writing and eventually going to publish, without ever actually writing anything. And then, 24-year-old me thinks, just because we make a certain decision at one point in our life, it doesn’t mean we can’t make another decision some other time.
I think, if six-/seven-/eight-year-old me made a fuss about it, I would probably turn to them and say: do you remember how one year all you ate for breakfast was Coco Puffs and then one day, you decided you wanted to try out Froot Loops because they looked really good? This is kind of like that, too. There would be a brief moment of silence and I would nod wisely and finally agree with myself. Hopefully.
Also .. what about love?
As my Mom loves to (accidentally?) point out whenever my sister brings her husband and two boys over for lunch on Sundays: I’m still single. While people around me seem to be procreating like rabbits (boy, it must have been a very cold winter last year and what’s with this biological clock everyone’s talking about?), I am a rock, I am an island. I’m going to tell you this much, though: it’s not because I just can’t let go of my precious freedom. I do believe in love – the heart-wrenching, earth-shattering kind; this incredible love that you can feel to the tip of your fingers. I’ve felt it. And then it left me.
Maybe it was just a preview, though. Maybe it didn’t mean what I thought it did. Whenever this silly feeling deep in my gut rears its ugly head and wants to tell me to get real, because life’s not a movie or a fairy tale, that there’s no such thing as fate and that, by the way, Santa Clause doesn’t really exist, I decide not to listen to closely. It’s not that I’m a hopeless optimist/romantic – I’ve just decided that if
everything turns to shit life gets rough, nodding your head and mumbling I’ve known it all along doesn’t help you, either. You might as well have a little hope – even if it’s all you’ve got.
So much for my latest random thoughts. You may or may not want to call this a quarter-life crisis; probalby it’s just an almost boring reflection on life the way people like Socrates already did it way back in good old Greece (in the golden days, when they weren’t bankrupt or so much as knew about the concept of bankruptcy yet). And anyways, what’s in a name, as Juliet would say. No matter the label, it still feels the same.
I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I haven’t written much in a while, it’s hard to stop or filter what comes out as soon as I sit down –
it’s like written vomit; it’s like
Long story short: here’s another piece I wrote and actually it was meant to belong to the other two story drafts but maybe it doesn’t after all. And maybe there’s something missing to tie them together, I’m not sure yet. Anywho, I wanted to post it anyways because sometimes it helps to put something out unfiltered to get things in order.
Neurons & Electro Chemicals
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit and splattered into my face, sticky and foul. I. Love. You.
Most nights after I came home from work I turned the TV on and my thoughts off – 58 civilians die in a terrorist attack try our Tuesday special it’s delicious you’re gonna need a bigger boat all new next week on ABC frankly dear I don’t give a damn – most nights everything eventually blurred together into a cloud of sounds; white noise.
I felt the weight of three beers pulling me down and had trouble standing up straight. I stared at him for about a minute, then opened and closed my mouth a couple of times without saying something like an actual word. Sometimes too many thoughts shot through my brain at the same time; an explosion of neurons and electro chemicals that made my nervous system even more nervous and entirely inoperable: I basically turned into a half-wit in a matter of seconds.
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit, sputtered into my ear, sticky and moist. I. Love. You.
Whenever I worked late I just had dinner in front of the TV: a glass of beer and a candy bar. It was usually the time when I started wondering whether it might be time to clean the apartment again. Mostly, however, the soothing buzz of daily news and commercials put me to sleep before I could even get up and clean up the remains of the night before (an empty glass; a candy wrapper) . That’s why it always made me laugh how much money some people were willing to spend on their nightwear. As if anyone except for your cat and the lady at the cash register would ever see it. I usually fell asleep with my clothes on and no one minded since I didn’t have a cat.
Of course there were a million things I could have easily said. Things that had been said before; things that never sounded quite right because there was nothing to say that sounded quite right in the first place. Things I’d read in books and seen in movies (just that I was lacking empirical evidence, but that usually didn’t bother me; usually, I made something up – but now: just neurons and electro chemicals).
I could have tried the obvious: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, I swear. I just don’t wanna ruin our friendship, it’s not you, I promise. Or something less friendly, maybe some of the generic bullshit. I guess I’m just not the relationship type. I’m not ready for something like this. Blahblahblah. I had an entire conversation with him in my head and that’s where it stayed: in my head. The thought alone made me want to cry or punch something.
There were a million other things I needed to tell him but couldn’t. Because often the things you need to say the most are the things that just won’t come out. I already gave my heart to someone else. Someone who, in fact, broke my heart what feels like a second ago because that’s how life plays you sometimes. I’m busy holding my shit together I can’t handle someone else’s. Would it be okay to throw up right now? I didn’t know if I should hug or slap him.
I ended up not saying anything all the way to the train station. He might have said something but I didn’t hear it. I only heard myself think; neurons and electro chemicals. After a while I heard blood rushing through my veins. And car engines. I heard my heart break. I might have heard his heart break in between.
Of all the words running through my head, I chose the only two that felt genuine enough at the end of the night: Good night. I watched him get on the train, watched the door close behind him. I watched the train drive off and disappear. I tried calling a friend but she didn’t answer; it was almost 2 in the morning so I wasn’t surprised. I just took a deep breath instead and threw up right in front of the tracks, then I slowly walked home.
I turned on the TV; I wanted to turn his words off. After 3 hours and 4 episodes of Law & Order I finally fell asleep.
What’s been going on this weekend: It’s incredibly hot. I got a fan! I died my hair (which isn’t nearly as spectacular as it sounds because it doesn’t mean “Hey, I have blue hair now!”, but more something like “Hey, I just died my hair!” – “Really?” – “Yeah, it’s darker now, what do you think?” – “Really?”) and I also just started writing different parts of a longer story I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Okay, this is a weird preface, but here comes the story!
After seven hours on two different planes the city welcomed me with a six hour time difference, the funny smell of a bunch of people who’d been in the same clothes for too long and five different but equally long lines at customs.
I spent about an hour watching the same “welcome-to-America” commercial on a large screen above the official’s booth over and over until it was finally my turn. I was half-expecting him to quiz me on it – he surely could have; I would have aced it, hands down.
Instead, the guy simply looked at my German passport, took my German finger prints and told me that he’d been to Oktoberfest about 11 years ago. He loved the German beer. Of course, everyone does – or so I’ve been told. He was still daydreaming about it whenever he had a Miller lite, quite understandably. I smiled politely which, apparently, was good enough for him; then I left him to his beer-filled memories. There’s nothing better than having your entire cultural heritage reduced to one single stereotype. You travel a lot lighter.
When I stepped outside it was already dark. The fireworks would probably start any minute now and I doubted that I would be able to see anything at all standing just outside of Logan. I quickly got into a cab and gladly paid the heavily overpriced fare when it stopped in front of the hostel just 20 minutes later. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be stuck in traffic or just stuck in front of a barrier for a lot longer this late on a day like this, but even the roads were free on the 4th of July. Go figure.
I quickly got my key and dragged my luggage up to the third floor to be able to at least catch a glimpse of the fireworks above the city. I took some blurry pictures for my mom and enjoyed the warm evening breeze. There’s something about having the ocean right at your fingertips; at the tip of your toes. I took a deep breath because that’s what people always do in books and movies when they want to hold on to that one moment; really live (whatever that means). I’m not sure why, but it does help. Maybe it’s because of all the oxygen that’s suddenly pumped through your system – a sudden and brief high of O2; O2 and fumes.
For quite a while after the fireworks I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. I watched a couple of innings of a Red Sox game rerun in the community room and would have killed for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who in the hostel I would have needed to threaten in particular so I decided that the next morning wasn’t too many hours away and that I might as well wait and be civil about it.
I texted Michael to let him know that I’d made it safe and sound. That summer, I fell for this city and for him. Sometimes I wonder whether two summers later the same city was what made it all fall apart. And then I think it probably wasn’t the city. I’m not exactly sure what made me fall for him, but I’m sure he’s loved me for all the wrong reasons; he’s been in love with someone that wasn’t really me and, which may have been worse, never wanted to be.
When he finally did see me (behind all the things he’s imagined me to be), he was so full of disappointment, that there was no room for anything else anymore; let alone something like love. This city, really, never had anything to do with it. It was just the one thing that remained; a road sign that remained and kept me aware of everything that didn’t.
It’s easy to get worked up about love, even if you’re not sure that that’s what it is; it’s easy to get worked up about something you’ve lost, even if you’ve never really had it.
Inspired by the weather and today’s Daily Prompt.
Pt I: the status quo (aka: is it time to build an arch yet?)
Jack’s been occupying my iPod for about two weeks now. For some reason, his lyrics and his ukulele are the only things that keep my spirits (relatively) high as I constantly keep my head as low as possible, trying to duck out of the rain and into the hood of my rain jacket.
The entire May’s been a huge fraud in terms of the weather. If you ask me, this year’s May wouldn’t even pass for a third-rate April any other year – but of course, no one asks me; in the end, I just have to put up with it and mutter to myself in discontent.
In a crazy attempt to be less cynical and more optimistic in general, I’ve also been trying to adopt Jack’s attitude: The world has its ways to quite us down, the world has its ways, to quiet us down comes the rain, down comes our spirits again; but down comes the strength, to lift us up and then… Sounds good, doesn’t it? Naturally, in theory this is much easier than in practice.
Pt II – a very short short story, (kind of) based on real events, I swear! (aka it’s definitely time to build an arch now, jeez …)
Are you gonna dress up? She asked; I think, it’s too cold. I thought about it for a second, imagining myself wedged into a way too tight black dress, freezing my ass off, and my spirits made a loud clattering noise as they hit the floor. I probably won’t, I said.
Not only had winter apparently decided to stop by for a surprise visit in late May, the entire afternoon had been nothing but a blurry drizzle – although a look into the sky did promise a change in weather soon: it looked like the evening might well end in a sudden downpour, followed by thunder and lightning. It was definitely the best time for an outside activity (especially, when it’s not suitable to show up in your hiking gear but to make matters worse, you’re supposed to look nice).
We met at the foot of the bridge; both bundled up in (roughly estimated) fifty layers of clothing, each armed with an additional raincoat and umbrella. We might have looked like the Morton Salt twins – if we’d been more chipper.
We made our way to the rest of the group: they’d already sat down at one of the tables that were set out under a huge gazebo-like tent. We ordered two glasses of beer and two huge entrees (vegetarian, because I am and, thankfully she’s great and doesn’t mind) – might as well treat ourselves, we thought.
Just like most of the restaurants of the area, they brought half the things we ordered sprinkled with diced, fried bacon on top (or a similar extra-vegetarian treat). The beer was good, though, so we ordered a second round, hoping the rain would eventually stop.
It never did, of course.
Pt III – some pictures instead of more words (aka I’m gonna shut up about the rain now, promise).
Is it Christmas time yet? That’s not possible, it’s only May – yet: I feel rather festive today; like a Who decorating the Christmas tree, a happy Who-ray on the tip of their tongue! Well, it may not be Christmas but it might as well be because I was just nominated for the Liebster Award, my first blogging award! This calls for another Who-ray!
The Liebster Award is an unofficial award that is passed through the blogging community from blogger to blogger – there is no overseeing authority, no prize money or anything official really; it’s pure blog(ger) love, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. So thank you very much for nominating me Realiction boy!
I also love how the title of this award is half German (those of you who read my last post can guess why: I’m German as well and most days I’ll happily admit it). I’d say the rough translation of it would be Favorite or Dearest Award – and that’s pretty lovely, right? It may not be what we’re generally famous for, but believe it or not (behind the beer and the weird ch-sounds): we Germans are some lovely folks.
Without further ado, though – here are the rules for the Liebster Award:
1. List 11 random facts about you.
2. Answer the questions that were asked of you (by the blogger that nominated you).
3. Nominate 11 other blogs for the Liebster Blog Award and link to their blogs.
4. Notify the bloggers of their award.
5. Ask the award winners 11 questions to answer once they accept the award.
11 Random Facts
1. I have a cactus named Earl. I named it Earl because when I got it, it sort of looked like Earl from the 90ies children’s show “Dinosaurs”: round and chubby. Ever since I got it though, it weirdly changed its appearance and now looks more like a Medusa: it has many heads/arms/legs/whatever. I never renamed it just because I don’t want to own a cactus named Medusa.
2. I don’t own a car. I have a driver’s license and every now and then I’ll drive one for some random reason but I usually get around by bike/bus/on my two feet for two reasons: I can’t afford a car just yet and living in a city, I don’t really need one at the moment.
3. I think eating in company makes the food taste better.
4. I love chocolate, especially when it comes in the shape of a chocolaty chocolate chip cookie. Who doesn’t? That’s what you may think. But seriously: I LOVE CHOCOLATE.
5. I will surely judge your taste in music – if you judge mine. If everyone’s being nice and civil, we’re cool and I won’t even snort when you play that freakin’ Rihanna song that annoys the hell out of me. Promise.
6. I hate when Ingrid boards that plane without Humphrey at the end of Casablanca. And I think Louis is probably way cooler than his uniform makes him look like.
7. I love the sea. Actually, I love all kinds of water: lakes, rivers, even ponds – but most of all I love the sea.
8. There’s a scar on my right hand from when I burnt myself on our downstairs neighbor’s oven when I was four.
9. In my opinion, The Little Mermaid is one of the worst Disney movies ever (a girl that gives up her voice to be with a guy she’s never talked to? Come on. That’s not even subtle, that’s just lame).
10. For a while I couldn’t fall asleep between twelve and one because of witching hour (obviously) – I just spent an hour being afraid.
11. I collect pig-related things: I have a few stuffed animals, a watering pot, even an ice cream spoon. But I’m not weird or anything.
The Liebster Q & A
1. What’s the worst nightmare you’ve had?
I went through a phase where I constantly dreamt of being murdered. All the dreams of that episode were pretty frightening – the one with the scream killer trying to stab me is probably the winner, though.
2. What time of the day do you prefer to write?
3. Ebooks or Paperbacks?
Paperbacks, hands down. Because you can mark sentences, scribble notes in the margins, and they smell really nice.
4. Do you follow the news and current affairs closely?
I try. I just got a couple of news apps for my smart phone – that’s pretty handy.
5. Keyboard or Pen and Paper?
6. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I booked a very spur-of-the-moment-flight to London last summer to visit a friend for just two days. I also had a friend do my hair dreadlock style in high school and kept it for a day. Does any of this count?
7. What is one movie you can watch throughout a single day over and over again?
A Day at the Races, a Marx Brother’s classic. And also While You Were Sleeping, just because.
8. When it’s raining, would you run through it or stand and enjoy it?
I would choose the golden middle and walk. Or pull a Fred Astaire and start singing.
9. Do you cook?
I enjoy cooking a lot but I only cook if it’s not just me eating in the end.
10. How many drafts are stuck in creative procrastination on your blog?
I don’t even know. If I start counting now, there’s a good chance I’ll be falling asleep in the process.
11. Has blogging made you a better person somehow?
How do you define “a better person”? It’s made me write more therefore I’m complaining less about not writing enough. I’m sure my environment appreciates that.
11 Questions For My Nominees
1. What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
2. Why do you write?
3. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
4. Poetry or prose?
5. If you could have coffee with any person, dead or alive, famous or next-door-neighbor, who would you choose and why?
6. Favorite sports team?
7. What’s your comfort food?
8. Job or vocation?
9. Do you (mostly) write in your native language?
10. What’s the last movie you’ve seen and did you like it?
11. What inspires you?
1. Linamay – a lovely blog that deserves a lot more attention because it’s serious in a funny way. Or funny in a serious way. Either way, it’s really nice!
2. FairyBearConfessions – the second blog I ever followed on wordpress; and still really wonderful!
3. Penguin Hugging – Photography I really enjoy.
4. A Flock of Crows – Inspiring writing.
5. What If It All Means Something – some nice poetry & prose; funny too.
6. Prairie Muffin Manifesto – a blog on food and love – basically all the important things in life.
7. Mirror Muses – Musings.
8. Nathanguitars – poetry, typewriter-style.
9. Bullets & Dreams – A seriously funny lady.
10. Reelsoundtrack Blog – music & movies, because they go together like peanut butter and jelly.
11. Kana’s Chronicles – one of my very favorite blogs, that’s all.
I haven’t made changes to the previous two parts I posted yet – nevertheless: here comes the final one. Yes, yes – the point is still to get someone’s opinion but it occured to me (last night, right before falling asleep; best time for revelations of all sorts) that I wanted to share the entire
story draft piece with you before making any changes. And then the changes will come, big time. Or whatever. Enough rambling for a Monday morning, though. Time for some prose (okay, there’s some poetry hiding as well; sorry…not).
Part III: Count what’s left.
Emma traced each letter with her index finger as if she wrote them, once more. What she really wanted though: erase them, with the slow rub of her finger tip. Or edit them. Of all the books she’s edited in her life, this was the one she desperately needed to re-write.
She leaned back in her chair, staring at the letters in front of her: each one stiff as dead body (unchangeable). She blinked once: they twitched (maybe?). She blinked a second time: they were as motionless as ever (dead still).
She was overcome by the sudden urge to rip out every single page. She wanted to rip out page by page and crumple the paper. Or tear it to shreds. Burn everything. She pulled the secret lighter out of her secret cigarette pack. The flame went on, off. On, off, on, off. She put it back, closed the pack. She pulled it out again (on, off, on, off). This would leave her, once more, with nothing. Then again: after spending all these hours reading; hours full of words she didn’t understand. She hated them. They meant nothing. So really, she was left with nothing already. After a little while (on, off, on, off) the lighter ran out of gas: off.
She couldn’t remember the last time words hadn’t been a shelter, comfort, an escape. But now, they had let her down. His words had let her down. She’d thought they would help her. She’d thought if she’d get to know them, she’d know it all. Now, she knew them – by heart. She could recite them like poetry; poetry in a foreign language. Much like when she was little and sang along to Spanish songs (tried to): she never knew what she was singing and she mostly made up words that sounded like something she’d heard before. A faint echo no one would ever correct.
Liam wasn’t the only one with secrets in the house.
Soon after Dave was gone, Emma started smoking – although she had promised to never touch a cigarette again (she’d promised herself and she’d promised Liam and Lucy). She snuck up the stairs from time to time, hid in Dave’s office and blew cigarette smoke rings out the window, like she and Dave had done it out the bathroom window of his parents’ house when they were sixteen. She thought, like then, it went unnoticed. But, of course, it didn’t. Not then, not now.
She hid her cigarette packs where she thought Liam would never find them but he figured out all her hiding places in no time. She had always been lousy when it came to hiding things. He’d always found his and his sisters Christmas presents, long before the 25th.
After a while, he started hiding the cigarettes from her. He knew if he was serious about it, she would never find them again. And she didn’t. She never even got suspicious. She simply thought it was her – scattered and depressed, desperate; desperately trying to hide everything from her son.
And still, Liam knew. He knew about her little cigarette breaks (he knew all about her sadness).
April 5, 2012 – the last entry. He’d scribbled a few words in sloppy handwriting, she could hardly read it: I might never be able to tell you in any other place or at any other time: don’t let me go. Then (in the same, eerily sloppy handwriting) another poem:
it’s all bombs and white flags –
I’ve been on war,
as long as I can remember
it’s all bombs and white flags
I can’t remember anything else
not even how I was shot
an ache in my chest: the bullet
still moving, stretching
a butterfly’s wings within its cocoon
metal that spreads
cold and hard
against my skin
it’s all bombs and white flags –
a battle that’s
making me sick
got me a gun,
a helmet (a deadhead) –
still I know: it’s nothing but a gamble
weighing options, making the right move:
the one that finally breaks your neck
I’m on on on,
I say no no no:
I say: I quit
no more torn bodies, feelings
limp in the mud
out of the protect dig: out!
out to lie down and rest
and breathe and
rest and breathe and
Emma and Liam
She got up, stepped out in the hallway, closed the door behind her. She stood in front of his room. In front of his red door; his screaming red door.
She’s felt it staring at her the last days (or weeks? Or months? Or something that didn’t have a name yet?), screaming red, screaming his name.
(Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam). Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam. Liam.
Tiny stitches. Leaving her full of tiny pinholes.
She wasn’t able to set one foot – one toe, the tip of a toe – in the room, not since she’d found him in there.
She’d found him: a belt around his fragile neck; his body limp, his face pale, almost blue.
There was still a dark spot where she’d vomited on the wooden floor.
She swallowed hard. Her mouth was dry. It was simple after all. How do you make sure no one ever (evereverever, love) leaves you again? Beat them to it. You have to be the first to go.
She pushed the door open and entered. She could still smell him. He was everywhere. She was hurting thinking it was because she’d lost him forever.
Now, she realized that wasn’t it. It wasn’t.
As she stood in the middle of his room, it suddenly struck her: she was hurting because he would never leave (out, out, out).
He would be in his room forever, he would never get out (out, out, out).
I’ll keep it short this time – because the second part of the story is long enough to keep you busy reading for a while anyways. Just one thing:
And here it is:
Part II: Count your blessings.
A strange notion entered Emma’s thoughts; it snuck in, cat-pawed, and curled up beneath her feat. It was funny, almost: no other person had ever been closer to her (he had lived right underneath her heart) and yet, no other person was harder for her to reach now.
She smiled, burst out in giggles, and finally started laughing. She started laughing so hard, she could hardly breathe; so hard, her stomach hurt. She almost forgot about every other part of her body that was hurting, and why (because she wanted him back: back in her house, back underneath her heart; because all he’d wanted was out).
Barbara stood in the kitchen preparing dinner when she heard her daughter. It didn’t really sound like she was crying (and wasn’t she familiar with the sound by now?) – it seemed absurd to think she could be laughing. But maybe?
Emma was still laughing when she heard the knock on the door.
“Emma?” Her mother’s voice sounded worried, even muffled by the thick wooden door between them.
“The door’s open, Mom.” She wiped her eyes and rubbed her stomach.
Her mother quietly put one hand on her shoulder.
“So … “, Barbara hesitated. “What’s in the books?” She squeezed her shoulder just like Emma had squeezed Liam’s (on the first day of school, whenever he had to see the dentist, when he woke up late at night from dreams of cars crashing and the smell of hospitals).
“I don’t know, Mom” was all she said and her mother knew her well enough to leave it at that. After a while Emma noticed a dull pain in her right shoulder; without saying a word she took her mother’s hand and locked fingers with her. Still, the next morning she woke up with a bruise.
She woke up and intuitively reached over to his side of the bed. Instead of finding his hand, though, she found: nothing. She winced, half-asleep. Like a dog that dreams of chasing a rabbit (but she wasn’t the dog, if anything, she was the rabbit).
Eyes still closed, she rolled over to where he used to lie and pulled the comforter over her head. When Liam knocked on the door half an hour later, she pretended to be still asleep.
She never got really excited over her own birthday. She didn’t like to celebrate it – not because she dreaded getting older, she simply didn’t like it.
Once however, she had liked the birthday mornings, at least: when he woke her up whispering happy birthday, his nose against her ear lobe (if she didn’t react then, he even sang; she always pretended to be asleep as long as he would believe it) and just held her hand for a while before they finally got up (happy birthday, babe).
Another half-hour went by and Liam knocked a second time. Finally, she struggled out of bed, empty-handed.
Liam loved birthdays. But even more than that, he loved his little sister, Lucy. She loved, loved, loved birthdays. Especially her mom’s birthday. Because Liam helped her make cupcakes the night before and they got to wake their mom early in the morning (which felt like Christmas; no: better).
The best part for Lucy (and Liam too, although he would never admit it) had nothing to do with any of that, though. It was when Emma acted all surprised (like this wasn’t a little tradition and the best thing that’s ever happened to her; although: it certainly was one of the best things), smile and kiss each of them on the forehead. Having cupcakes for breakfast, of course, wasn’t bad, either.
All of a sudden, Liam started going to church regularly: every Wednesday after dinner and every Sunday after breakfast. Sometimes he simply skipped a meal to go a third or fourth time. Sometimes all he ate was the host at communion.
Emma never questioned his habits. He’d always been different. Special, she’d say.
Once, when he was five or six, he watched her paint her toe nails. He sat at the edge of the bathtub, his short legs dangling in the air.
“Why do you paint your toe nails, Mom?” he asked.
She smiled. “Because I think it looks nice.”
“So why doesn’t Daddy paint his toe nails?” He was good with the questions: he always had one more up his peanut butter covered sleeve.
She smiled again, imagining Dave, her 6 ft. tall, mostly unshaven husband with time square red toe nails. “I don’t know – you go ask him.”
He giggled. “Can you paint mine, Mom?”
She nodded and dropped a dab of color on his pinky toe nail: “What do you think?”
She was sure he’d crinkle his nose (the way he always did when he had to eat something he didn’t like or when he felt like the grown-ups were giving him a runaround) and tell her to remove it again.
He didn’t, though. He continued dangling his legs and said: “All of them, Mom, please.”
So she kept on painting and he walked around with time square red toe nails for a week.
When he was seven or eight, he went through a months-long phase where he wanted to work as a microbiologist by day and as archeologist by night. “As a second mainstay sort of”, he would say, pushing his black-framed glasses up his nose. “One needs to plan ahead.”
Often, he seemed to her like a shrunken version of a middle-aged man – surely, he was a shrunken version of his father.
She wondered whether that’s what he wanted to be. Sometimes she had the feeling that he was trying to fill the hole his father’s absence had torn into their lives (not quite like a gunshot that quickly drills through you, more like a constant strain that eventually makes you bend and break). He was trying to be the man in the house.
Although other times she was sure that he simply missed his Dad (worse than his sister did, she’d been too little, thankfully maybe). Emma knew how he always slept muffled up in one of Dave’s old sweaters (this random green thing with a big moose on the front – he’d gotten it on one of their many trips to Maine). Liam had grabbed it thinking she wouldn’t notice (when she finally threw out most of Dave’s belongings one day, when she finally decided he needed to stop haunting their house).
So when Liam started to attend church – with so much dedication (he still used his dad’s sweater as a blanket; lately, however, he’d also replaced his pillow: he slept with his head rested on the Bible) – she tried to tell herself, once more, it’s because he’s different (no: special).
Deep down, however, she was sure that he was only looking for his father (“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; Matthew 6:9–13, ESV).
First of all: A happy new year to you all! I hope your New Year’s celebrations went well and you didn’t do anything you’ll have to regret the next 12 months – or that at least you don’t remember it. If anyone cares to know: I didn’t and I remember the entire evening perfectly well because I spent it at home with a friend. So judge me. Maybe I’m boring. Maybe I’ve been sick since Christmas and just a little bit boring – all of this, however, is totally beside the point.
So the real deal: here’s the first part to a story (there’s two more, they will follow the next couple of days) I started last year, and somehow haven’t managed to finish just yet.
Not because I lack motivation, or even inspiration (wow, that’s a first!) – maybe I just want to get it right so badly (I mean, obviously, writing something, you always want to get it right – but with some pieces, you just want to get it even righter. At least that’s what this feels like to me).
I just decided to post what I have and hope for some clever posts that may possibly enlighten me! Long story short: Dearest reader, if you have a minute (or two) – feel free to read and comment. Thanks and you’re awesome!
Part I: Count your losses.
She closed the book, placed it on the table and closed her eyes, finally. It was the first time in 24 hours, more or less. That’s what it felt like anyways (although: no; it really felt like 24 days, 24 weeks, 24 of something that didn’t have a name yet).
It was early, merely dawn. The sun wasn’t up yet; it was stumbling across the sky, still half-asleep (that dizzy state right after waking up, when the mind’s still struggling through the scrub of dream and subconsciousness).
She hadn’t slept in days.
She didn’t know what time it was but she didn’t really care either. She’s spent the past hours flipping through pages; running fingers over words.
It was strange to see his words on the thin paper, so delicate, so in order: how could anything he’s left behind be still so delicate, so in order?
His handwriting has always been neat. One day he came home from kindergarten (he was four) with a piece of paper: he’d scribbled his name (Liam) with a crayon for the first time; his eyes were gleaming with excitement and pride. She’d pinned it to the refrigerator that day; it still hung between shopping lists and family pictures.
She took a final look at his diary: twelve years later, each letter still looked carefully drafted, as if it was the first (L).
March 23, 2012 it said in the upper right corner. The next line, starting on the left margin: Liam. L i a m. L I A M. L-I-A-M. L.I.A.M. L. I. am. I am. I am. I am…
Then, he’d copied a poem by one of his favorite writers (John Clarke); some bits were highlighted:
I am: yet what I am none cares or knows.
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys (?),
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.
Don’t marry a musician, they’d said. He’ll break your heart, love, they’d said.
And what is it with these artists anyways? I’ll tell you (never mind she didn’t ask): they lack realism. They’re dreamers – their heads in the clouds. They never think. They feel instead (they’d said it as if it was a bad thing). Really, they do all their thinking with the heart. And what are you going to do, married to a feeler? (In Arabic, Dave would always tell her, a poet is called feeler: they use one word to express both. Or maybe they don’t make a difference at all.)
In the end, she didn’t listen. She didn’t listen and people secretly shook their heads at the wedding until Dave said something funny and they couldn’t help but laugh. She didn’t listen and now she was angry. Not because of all the things they’d said (because they were all true and she’d loved him not despite, but because of all that).
She was angry because of what they failed to say: one day, he will take the car down to the grocery store (like every other day – but not quite, love), get into an accident (maybe because he had his head in the clouds or maybe because of someone else’s head in the clouds).
Then, an hour later he’ll die in the hospital, and it will break your heart (and we’re so sorry, love).
That’s what they should have told her. Maybe then, she wouldn’t have married him. But no: of course, she would have married him; because there was no one else she could have ever married and that was really the problem (we’re so sorry, love).
… to be continued …