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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TIB 7

This I Believes are due before class Friday.

15 comments:

  1. I don’t even really remember why I decided we shouldn’t speak anymore. It’s kind of a blur now. I’m not quite sure if I blocked it out because I couldn’t handle the confusion anymore or if time has just faded the once perfect image I had of our flawed relationship. 8 years old doesn’t seem too long ago does it? It’s just 11 years? All I remember now was being angry and uncomfortable. I just remember the instinctual feeling of: “No this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. This isn’t what you are supposed to be in my life. I don’t need you. “
    As I’ve grown older it’s becoming harder and harder to accept the accuracy of that gut feeling. I’m in a world where concrete factual information drives purpose and decision making. Facts are what provide me with answers now. I don’t just feel the correct answer on a test, I know it. Fact Check Done. . Seeing connections between the facts I learn is how I now spend my time. You and me, what happened, that is one thing I can’t quite remember how to connect though, nor do I think I want to. I just remember the feelings. However, I catch tiny glimpses of the facts everyday. Little reminders of our connection that still scare me.
    As the highlights in my hair grow out I see the dark, almost black roots. I see my large alert brown doe eyes that have golden flecks in them when the sun dances across my face. I hold my pencil funny. I have the same “thinking face”. My nails peel. I hate peas. We drive the same way. I’m emotional. I love this city. I still on occasion even catch myself humming Shania Twain music.
    At this time in my life, when I’m beginning to define myself as an adult, it’s challenging when one of the adults that made me is out of the picture. Nevertheless, it has allowed me to realize something important. I believe I will determine my own place in this world. I’m not a perfect combination of her egg and your sperm. Half her. Half You. I’m 100 percent me. I’ll go as far as I can push myself, I won’t settle for the past standards.

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  2. The first time I’m told “make yourself at home,” I ignore it. The host is being nice, but he means “make yourself at someone else’s home,” and I do not do the things I would in my own home. The second time, I do not forget I am an intruder. I simply decide not to care. I will open doors and explore because I feel like it—no matter whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

    As a child, I was eager to please. Not a risk-taker or a defier, I did as I was told. My teachers consistently used the phrase “a joy to have in class.” I was the child my parents’ friends and my friends’ parents wished they had. In addition to being polite, intelligent, and pretty, I was obedient; my biggest rebellions were watching TV before finishing my homework or staying up late chatting my friends on the family computer—hardly the stuff of Lifetime movies.

    Naturally inquisitive and studious, I excelled in school, getting straight As until my senior year of high school, and I would have continued if Calculus 2 and first love had not been, for me, mutually exclusive concepts. I had had crushes before—my best friend’s brother, the boy next to me in Spanish—and I had dated—two boys, both bad kissers, one more spectacularly than the other—but love was new. Her name was Hannah, and she was the first major way my life had diverged from the expectations of me.

    Inevitably, we did not stay together. In retrospect it is obvious. We made too many wrong turns, finding ourselves spit out of our relationship different people. I never wanted to settle down at eighteen anyway—those are the people I made fun of, always, and my parents’ marriage had taught me the folly of rushing in. Still, I would rather be the sort of person who makes mistakes in the pursuit of love. Breaking rules gets me hurt, but I believe it may also lead me to potential future happiness.

    I believe that sometimes the wrong thing is the right thing to do.

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  3. Let me glorify it a little. I always do. I’ll just skip the boring parts; keep in mind, my idea of a great weekend may be a little different than yours.

    Thursday. (Thursday is my favorite day of the week, so I count it as the weekend.) Stevie, dye your hair purple. Are you crazy? I would never do that. Plus, I’m trying to do homework. Stevie, let’s dye your hair purple. Okay. The hours following consisted of Wal-Mart and dying the bathroom sink purple and GUYS! I’M THE ONLY ONE WITH PURPLE HAIR! THEY’LL KNOW IT WAS ME! Now I have purple hair. And ears… and scalp. Good story though.

    Friday. Hey Dad…yeah I’m on the interstate now…okay see you in a few hours. (Loud music and three hours of driving ensued.) The grandparents are in from England, and oh, they’re a funny couple. You just wish you had a Nanny and Pa. Dinner in downtown K-town. Everyone was asleep, so I snuck back into the apartment at 3 a.m. Jimmy wouldn’t let me off the phone until he knew I was safe indoors.

    Saturday. Ahh, I can’t believe I’m sick again. And my leg hurts… here we go. Breakfast at the funny restaurant around the corner. Finally we all get to go home, back to the smells and the sounds of the farm, back to the place I love so much. I picked daffodils on the hill with Mom and Nanny up by where the old house burnt down. I wonder if Mom misses her mom… why did I say that, I know she does. I do. We made a birthday cake in the shape of a mountain bike for Dad and the whole family sat down for a wonderfully prepared meal.

    Sunday. Mom never wants to ride; it’s odd how when your pleasure becomes your work, it loses its charm. Today was special though, she was ready to get away from the in-laws, I think. Somehow I convinced most everyone to go on a bike ride, too! It took a little convincing, but I’m glad I did. Dad tried to do a wheelie, but he wiped out. What the hell, I’m skipping class tomorrow. This is just too great. So I stayed up till 12:30 helping Joseph write his paper.

    I believe in purple hair and long drives and late nights and daffodils and bike wrecks and papers. I believe in… well, life.

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    1. I love the purple hair, by the way! Also, I love that your grandparents are English. It made me think of the first time I ever encountered an English person, which totally shocked me (I have no idea why I was so thrilled). I can totally relate with the bike wreck thing, too. I still have a few scars on my knees from my childhood. I would wear a helmet, but no knee or shoulder-pads, I was too cool for those. In hindsight, I probably should have played it a little safer. I always enjoy reading your essays! :)

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  4. Six years before the farm changed hands, my father and I pulled ourselves up and over the tar-black fence at the back of our property and dropped down into the ragged pasture that lay beyond. He offered to catch me as I balanced on the top most plank, but I declined. I was, by then, too old to rely on the strength and security of my father’s open arms. I jumped, landed unluckily on a walnut hidden by overlong, weather woven grass, and stumbled forward a few feet before I regained my balance.

    Though I remember little of the walk it took to get there, I imagine myself following the cloven hoof prints of 200 head of cattle, matching foot to hoof with each step down the cracked cow paths that still wind through the Richardsons’ fields. I see myself trying to skip stones on the surface of a thick green pond, see Danny dive into the water after a frog. He would have been small then, just a puppy, overeager and uncoordinated, no hint of the cancer that would grow in his liver and take him from us years later.

    I imagine crawling up a hill too steep for just feet, feeling the wind tug at the child’s backpack I had stuffed with Sunny Delight and Nutty Bars an hour before departure – these were our provisions, and would be rationed strictly so there was enough for the way back.

    I see myself with cheeks whipped into a hectic glow by both the winds of the approaching storm and the exertion of summiting what was not so much a large hill as a small mountain. I know without knowing, that my father, who completed the New York Marathon when I was too young to understand what that meant, was waiting for me at the top, perhaps offering words of encouragement from a headstone repurposed into a resting place of a different kind.

    I think I remember the child’s grave marker wedged between two larger slabs of limestone worn smooth by too many years of exposure on the knob. Like the rest in the ramshackle cemetery, these were grouped around a mid-height tree – not quite as long dead at its charges – its limbs gnarled by the elements that had robbed the headstones of their voices. Differentiated from its neighbors only by readable inscription and a pair of dates too close together for comfort, the nameless child’s stone said, “You have your grandfather’s eyes.” And I remember hearing this, an eerily auditory experience elicited by rock, and thinking the message was directed at me – an intruder – and wondering if they, whoever they were, were right.

    I’ve tried to find that cemetery more than once since that day, but each trip has been largely unsuccessful. Sidetracked by mosquito bitten friends and mislead by false memories and creek beds alike, each time I’ve tried to rediscover the way there, I’ve ended up climbing back over the fence into my back yard, always disappointed. I’ve started to wonder if the whole thing even happened.

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  5. It must be that all old places smell the same. Like worn wood, still aging, damp with humidity and the torrential rain of the afternoon. Books yellowed by page-turning fingers and many years gone by. Furniture that has withstood the test of time and is somehow, miraculously, still standing despite the threadbare appearance of the upholstery. It’s not unpleasant. It’s not my favorite. It’s not exactly what I would call musty. It smells like history.

    But it smells like something else too. It’s the smell of a farmhouse, resting at the top of a hill, occupied by no one except for sometimes when the tall fields of grass need mowing, the remaining horse needs feeding, some barbed fence needs fixing, some sort of odd job needs to be done somewhere on the farm. It smells like the old shed furnished with a miniature TV, antennae akimbo, mismatched chairs and a door in the ground leading to the creepiest, rat-dropping laden cellar I’ve ever descended into.

    That smell is distinctly nostalgia.

    It brings back memories of a place of wilderness exploration, walking carefully through the cricks, hopping recklessly from rock to slippery rock through the cricks, and falling in the cricks. Spending hours hiking through the forest for no reason, or searching for treasures just beneath the surface of the earth or looking for toads and deer tracks and little fish in the water. Keeping track of the over-excited dog, intermittently following in our wake and bounding off to roll in this mud or that manure. Jumping over treacherously wide mud puddles, wearing my grungiest jeans, hair catching in the sharp twigs on tight trails. Looking for bones or dead bodies or evidence of some sort of grisly murder scene because I guess we were a little bit morbid.

    And that one spot, in the middle of the trail that leads to the old barn that houses the horse with the Grim Reaper on her side. In that one spot, the sun speckles cast light on this mesmerizing assembly of butterflies, their wings flapping lazily in the warmth.

    It brings back memories of a place that I truly miss and a friendship that has fallen into a state of natural deterioration. A friendship I still value nonetheless.

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  6. In my version, the former-emperor-turned-retiring-monk receives a gift from his royal god-daughter who worries sick about his failing health. Determined to pamper her pious god-father, she sends him a cup meant to keep facial hair safe on a porcelain edge, shielded from sweet vapors. In my version, he treasures his mustache cup until the end of his prayer-filled days.

    In my version, the king’s former cook must choose between death at the gallows and an experiment that includes one cup of mercury chloride and one hairball from the stomach of a black-and-white goat. After seven long hours of violent vomiting, hemorrhaging from the ears and nose, and begging to be hanged, the former-cook-now-criminal dies. The king orders the goat’s owner burned to death.

    In this version, a man victimized by a case of Alopecia Areata Barbae studies the hair of prisoners: petty thieves, perpetrators of minor digressions from civic obedience, pick-pockets. When the man with no facial hair receives 10 mustache cups as an offering, his son, Frank, forges his signature and dispatches a thank-you note to the Odd Fellows chapter in Philadelphia.

    In the version I like to tell, pairs of mated snails vibrate “Out of milk” and “Wish you were here.” Skin tightens, antennae bend gracefully, messages travel over wool-covered floors. At times, the pairs glow pink. A scent of burning roses fills the spring air.

    Then there is the meatrain: falling softly over chickens and hogs before burning in greasy spurts in city laboratories. The smell of rancid mutton-suet penetrates curious throats. Sliced thin and treated for twenty-four hours in a solution of common salt, the meatrain loses some of its dignity but never its magic.

    In my version, magic endures.

    I believe in telling lies, gently.

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  7. (an assigned prayer)

    If it please god, let there be no more suit-wearing men who call on other men to drive points home, stage dinner parties, or let go,

    let there be no men who issue commands even after they ask you to tell them a story about what you love and what you hope to be able to love more, some day,

    let there be no well-exercised men who live in suburban houses where women in uniformed black
    prepare and serve food for them,

    let there be no men who speak of profit and gain when someone asks about the home of once-upon-a-time-girls-now-still-girls-but-now-with-small-babies,

    let there be no men who look down from tall offices, an engraved staff the measure of distance between them and us.

    Instead, let there be men who wear stale trousers and ask for the same booth—the red-leather one in the right corner—their permanent spot a measure of love,

    let there be men who tell you they picnicked with their 94-year-old mothers, then forget they’ve told you and tell you again,

    let there be men whose socks don’t match their pants, whose shoes look like they pinch their toes, whose sympathies fly with passenger pigeons.

    I believe in men who listen and, at times, weep: I need more of them.

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    1. I loved hearing you read this the other evening. I think we get wrapped up in the formalities of life. We try to look as sharp as we can and work for that paycheck, so we often forget the small things that truly make us happy. I adore this.

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  8. In the evening, I would wrench open the screen door and race out the door with just about as much finesse a six-year-old can muster. My grandmother would just smile and shake her head at me as I climbed up on the porch swing and crawled up on her lap. And then we would wait.

    The golden threaded sunlight would weave its way through the trees in the backyard. There weren’t so many trees that it would obscure the view, just enough to shade the porch on sweltering summer days.

    Each day we did this. What was it you ask? It was simply searching. We searched the sky for something, anything at all really. Sometimes we found ominous clouds and other times we found a flock of birds. But most of the time we found color.

    After all, everything is made of color. Especially the sky. We would find ourselves watching it tell a series of tales each day. Dozens, no hundreds of colors would unfold all in a matter of minutes, all coming together as one. Cerulean smiled upon us and I liked that the sky stretched endlessly.

    In my mind, it was an ocean. I hadn’t seen the ocean before but my grandmother would tell me about it. All that water...it stretched so far, that no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t see to the other side. I liked that. An ocean of cerulean.

    Cerulean used to be my favorite color. Gradually, however, I grew tired of explaining.

    “It’s the blue that happens right after the sunset and before the nighttime!” I would say, frustrated that no one understood. Didn’t they ever watch the sunset on their porch swing?

    I believe in porch swings. I believe in oceans of skies that are infinite and I believe in sunsets. Most of all, I believe in the color cerulean.

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  9. The pitter-patter of rain against my window. A flash of light in the sky. I believe in thunderstorms, even on crappy days. It’s days like the other day that humble me and remind me that there is something bigger and more powerful than me. I am happy that I can recognize that, even if it takes a tornado warning to make me finally make that connection.

    I don’t often sit down and think, but when I do, it’s usually on my porch swing back home, looking over the vast mountainside. I don’t know if there is a god, but I do know that if there were one, the thunderstorm would be one of their greatest shows of power. They provoke thought. I can sit there and mumble off to the storm. It responds with thunder.

    I always end up going through the same thought-cycle. I’m upset about a relationship or a lost soccer game—it doesn’t matter. They still listen, and I suppose that’s the best part about them. Even though storms have claimed several things of mine over the years (my soccer ball, first iPhone, and my favorite pair of sneakers), I have grown to love them, still. That was my favorite soccer ball. It was washed away, much like my anger after I realize that I’m not the only person on Earth that is hearing this thunder, seeing this lightning, and feeling this rain on my skin.

    I also believe that thunderstorms are nature’s matchmaker. They bring you closer. I remember being on a hike with my first real crush in high school, around June. Everything was sunny, when all of a sudden, a loud boom resonates around the mountains. We knew what was going to happen. The torrential downpour commenced. In that moment, we shared the most romantic, passionate kiss I have ever had. It was very Disney, as much as I hate to admit it. After about 30 seconds, you would have thought we jumped in a swimming pool. It was pretty amazing. Except for the drive back home. That was pretty cold and miserable. I had a cold the next day.

    Even though that relationship is long gone, I still thank the clouds for that amazing day. I will remember that for the rest of my life. I will always be reminded of moments like that when I see and hear a thunderstorm. They take away things and they bring new things. That’s why I believe in thunderstorms.

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  10. Yesterday I was talking to these little girls who thought I was grown-up, you know, like and ADULT. What’s that about? Don’t they realize that I am about ten years old too? I mean, I STILL use the term “grown-up.” No- because they call Hanna and me “ladies”- a title reserved for only the most mature of the human race- the Queen of England or Oprah Winfrey. Dammit- I could have sworn I was just a kid about a week ago. That’s right- I was reading picture books and petting my puppy, maybe eating a few popsicles- firecrackers are the best. But no, my puppy has grown into a very old and very high-maintenance family member. I am reading textbooks and grown-up novels now, but at least I still eat popsicles.
    I believe that I will never fully outgrow my childhood. I want to go back sometimes- to those easy days of Harry Potter books and neighborhood water fights and I am fairly certain that I never once touched a pair of shoes for whole summers. I can’t actually be a real person with a bank account now. That’s ridiculous. Who would trust me with a bank account? No more Sharon, Lois, and Bram? Just a dorm room and a computer and a microwave? Well that’s to be expected I guess, but I still miss my dog.
    My sister does not remember very much of those early, barefoot years, but sometimes they are they only things I remember with any clarity. The sound of my dad’s shuffling footfall in the hall, the special smell of my mom’s lotion and hairspray, the damp scratch of the grass in April, Amanda’s tubs of borrowed Baby Sitters’ Club books, the rosaries we tried to pray at night, our childish voices stumbling over the well-worn words: “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee…”
    I am such a different person now. The memories almost belong to someone else- like maybe I read them in a book a long time ago, but no, I can still close my eyes and I am back- barefoot and tiny, I can feel the damp April grass on my legs.

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  12. I believe the 8-hour sleep is a myth.
    February, you have simply not allowed for many, if any well-rested nights. But I must trust that you did this on purpose.

    My eyes have not been heavier, nor my legs more restless.
    But I’ve never been more awake either. My nights have stretched longer than I ever thought possible. I’ve spent these midnight hours prying my eyes open, stretching them, rubbing them so I can remain in dialogue; in dialogue with books, with essays, with myself, with you. If I could have asked for anything this last month, it would not be for more hours in the day, but the ability to eradicate whatever it is biologically that forces us to temporarily become dormant.

    At some point I will find myself powerless to sleep. The siren call of the pillow is impossible to ignore. My body follows, but my mind does not. I’ve always been inflicted with vivid dreams that flow like epics, with countless episodes slurred together to make momentary sense in my own head. I would be hard to part with my dreams, that much is true. I have come to love those cyclic journeys through my drafty unconsciousness. But lately I wish I had some superhuman capability.

    I hate that I’m blissfully unaware of how exhausted I am when I’m with you. Now it just sneaks up on me. I refuse to seek out the faces of clocks for fear that they might break this spell. This meticulous checker of time is subdued. I woke up a few days ago as if I had only dozed off momentarily. I could’ve sworn we were still perched on our elbows, talking about past mistakes and hiking trips. I thought it was just a lull in the conversation; one I may have taken to formulate a thought. But there I was maybe 5, 6 hours later only to find that sleep had taken me before it had taken you. For the first time I had fallen asleep first. I was feeling particularly defeated, my long held record smashed. But moments later you stirred, assuring me that you were not offended by this human proclivity, that nothing was lost. And it was as if nothing happened. As much as I hated it, I had to admit that I should just learn to coexist with sleep, rather than fight it. After all, this really is the best way to wake up.

    I believe that battles with sleep are never truly won.

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  13. i answered the phone even though i did not recognize the number. it started with 606, so at least i knew it was not that guy tom whose recorded voice pisses me off every single time i answer it. no, tom, i do not own a home. that number starts with 360.
    i answered, but it took me a few seconds to figure out who was actually calling me. ever since that fateful fourth day of owning my phone, the day that i dropped it and shattered the screen, the speaker has not quite worked right. finally i got it to switch itself over to the speaker phone mode – i am sure anyone in close proximity was incredibly happy to become privy to my conversation after this point.
    i answered the phone, and the first thing i noticed was the accent. well, hello there southeast kentucky. it has been a while.
    i answered a call from my little brother.

    one and a half years. the distance between us in age. but the distance that was put between us after i left home, after he dropped out of high school, after years of arguments and fights and hateful words – that distance was so much more. i had not had a conversation with my own brother in years. hell, i went for over a year not speaking to him, even when we were in the same room.

    i answered the phone and answered a question about social security cards. random, i know, but i had lost mine a long time ago and knew the protocol for getting it replaced (which reminds me, i need to do that again…).
    he called his big sister because he knew she could give him some wisdom.
    i wonder what he thought of that two minute phone conversation.

    i answered the phone, we talked, and then we said goodbyes. he told me he loved me. i said it back.

    i had not told my brother that i loved him for more than a year and a half. for a while, i was not even sure that i did anymore.
    but i do. i love my brother.
    why did i go so long without telling him?

    i told my brother i loved him. and he loves me.

    i believe in siblings. i believe that siblings hurt can lose each other, but still go back to being brother and sister. with a single phone conversation.

    i believe in my brother.

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