And then You Fall All Over Again

•January 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It suddenly makes sense.

Those words he said used to hurt.

Then you realize he was right, and you were attempting to live in a fairy tale.

You realize that it’s not that you’ve changed, it’s that you finally get it.

You thank everyone in heaven for giving you the man who would love you enough to wait for your to understand.

And you look at him, and you smile.

Alignment

•September 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

You hardly notice the change.

Then one day, all the pieces seem to have fallen into place.

You fit together now in a way you never have.

The questions you had have been answered.

The new questions are much less daunting than the originals.

The jagged edges, the rough uncertainties no longer pinch and book.

You have finally, blissfully, fallen into alignment.

There are Moments

•March 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

When I look at you and can’t believe that I’ve finally found you.

When you smile, and my heart leaps into my throat.

When you hold me as I sleep, and I can’t imagine being happy anywhere else.

When we’re holed up inside, and I can forget entirely that there’s anything outside of my apartment.

When I watch another couple, and I feel so blessed that we’re not them.

When I hear you laugh, and I know why you’re laughing and no one else in the room does.

When you give me exactly what I need.

When I believe that you love me as much as I love you.

Introduction to a Story I Won’t Tell

•February 26, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The day my family shattered, I ate barbecued chicken, iceberg lettuce with carrots, some warmed up rolls and cherry clafoutis for dessert.  I remember the meal in great detail. I remember the brownish-red of the chicken, the slightly limp texture of the lettuce, the crunch of the carrots. I can feel the custard taste of the French dessert.  I can also taste the metal of the fork as I purposely scraped it against my teeth, can feel the cold of the icy Coke as it passed my lips.  I remember each of these details, because I spent most of the meal staring at my plate, concentrating as best I could on the food, rather than on any of the chaos that went on around me. 

My family has always specialized in denial. I thought I had escaped that particular fate of genetic predisposition, but that day, I realized I had it as badly as anyone else.  I craved safety and simplicity. I longed for a family that did not throw glassware at each other during dinner, families that limited their use of the f word to yelling at refs during the Super Bowl.  As I sipped my Coke and avoided eye contact, I realized just how much comfort I found in denial.

They yelled, they screamed, and I sat there. I sat there and ignored it all.  A braver me would have stood up and joined in the arguing, but the quiet, scared Helen just stuffed her face and waited for it all to be over. 

The yelling always stopped.  The argument would end. My parents and I would leave my grandmother’s house, slamming the door behind us. My parents would dissect the argument in intimate detail on the ten minute car ride home and for the next two or three weeks, depending on the contents of the argument. If it were my mother’s weight (only a problem in the eyes of my grandmother), or my uncle’s violent outbursts, or my grandmother’s drinking, well, there was a different standard for how long we would have to spend apart, stewing. 

But this time was different. This time my mother was sharing a secret she had carried around inside for over forty years, a secret she knew that my grandmother probably had always been aware of, somewhere inside. There was no way that two or three weeks would be enough to heal the wounds.

The day my family shattered, I sat quietly and ate barbecued chicken.

Dream a Little Dream

•February 23, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In the end, her scarf floated away, and she thought, well, isn’t it an old African folktale that if your scarf floats away, you should follow your life in that direction. 

She stood, watching as her beautiful scarf floated away, and thought, “I don’t see a clear direction, but now I miss my scarf.”

Exquisite Pain

•December 11, 2007 • Leave a Comment

At five in the morning, it came to her that she is experiencing exquisite pain. Wrapped snuggly in his arms, the little spoon to his larger, outer spoon, she knows that he will soon leave the bed, and she won’t see him again for four days.

It is an exquisite pain to love someone and to be loved in return only to know that you aren’t each other’s fully yet.

She is in a better situation than others she’s heard of, those who never share a bed until they marry, those who never know the joy of waking up beside each other on a Sunday morning.

But it is still a biting, true pain. She sleeps better with him in the bed.  She works better during the day when she knows he’ll be there.

It is an exquisite pain to have to give him up each week, and she knows she’s not the only woman to have ever felt this way.  She has joined a sorority of women with aching hearts.

Condensed

•December 9, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In the process of trying to tell the story of a certain period of my mother’s life, I’ve written a novel, edited it twice and am now simply re-writing it, referring every once in a while to the most recent draft.  The previous versions had a lot of filler, because I wanted to say that I had written ten pages or fifty or a hundred, and re-reading the text, I can see that it is lacking in quality, thought overflowing with quantity.

So, the newest version, the brand-new re-written, not just edited, version, feels thick, like condensed milk or canned tomato soup. It’s rich and strong, but it moves at a slow pace.  When not re-writing existing text, when creating brand new words, I find that I can do no more than a paragraph, half a page, never more than two pages in a single sitting.  Having been writing this book, off and on, for the past four years, I feel okay with this slow pace. I do not need to move quickly. I do not need to hurry through. I have no set deadline. I have only the distant goal of getting it published in mind.

If I try to tell myself I can write five pages a week or that I’ll finish in 100 days, I end up ignoring the book altogether and, simply, not writing for days on end. Nearly two years out of school, I have rebelled against deadlines.  Hand me a deadline, and I will simply refuse to do the work. So, setting my own deadlines proves meaningless.

I am writing condensed text. I am making my best effort to tell a story and not simply transcribe true events. The real story would hurt too many people. Some family members would balk at having their own lives bared before an audience. So, I make an effort to tell a story, to change the order of facts, to make it a book, and not just a diary.

The twenty-eight pages, of a possibly eventual two hundred, consist of some of my best ever writing. So, condensed seems to be working for me.