Roadside Assistance

It was the summer after my freshman year of college when I decided that I wasn’t going back. I hadn’t performed particularly poorly, though I wasn’t anyone’s star pupil, either. Being that what it was, I hadn’t decided to drop out because of my grades. I was definitely still on a fairly safe trajectory to a degree. No, being from a small town I was in the first generation of my family to head off to college, my brother being the first to do such a thing. I know what you’re thinking. No, I didn’t drop out because I realized that he was out-shining me, either. He was almost ten years older than I was, so he’d long-since graduated and had returned home to get a position as a local elementary school teacher. I think that might have been part of the reason I decided college wasn’t for me, the returning home bit. I didn’t want to return home, and up to that point my only exposure to college-graduates was at the local schools. Given my propensity for rash and poor decision making I decided I couldn’t live that life and called up my then-boyfriend, Eric. The conversation, though lost to me through time, went something along the lines of “Let’s run off together!” and was completely fool-hardy. Of course, Eric was tickled pink. He’d been scared the whole year I was at college that I’d find me some fraternity boy and leave him. Eric’s parents didn’t have the money to ship him off to college, and the thought of taking out loans is shameful to most home-grown folks like us. That’s really neither here nor there, though.

Eric had a beat-up pickup truck that ran mostly on hope, with some gasoline for good measure. It had holes rusted in the floorboard and a paint job fit to scare the stripe off a skunk. When he’d managed to buy it – scraping together cash from odd jobs – we’d both nearly cried. It was the best damn vehicle either of us had ever seen. This is all to say, I was feeling a little dubious about the whole “running away” thing, given that five miles out of town the hood on that pickup popped up like it was possessed by the devil himself and sent Eric swerving off into a shallow ditch. I don’t think I made any noise at all while he got out of the truck to fix it. The ride was unbearably silent after that. I’d learned very quickly in our relationship that when Eric took a fit I didn’t want to do anything to attract attention to myself. So I sat quiet as a church mouse on the front seat of that death machine and didn’t even think about it.

We were probably about three miles from the state line in the middle of a whoppin’ forest when the engine overheated and we were left stranded on the side of the road. We’d come prepared for just such an event, though. We had a tent and some bed rolls stuffed in our backpacks, since we’d already been planning on camping out for the greater part of the rest of our lives. Eric pulled out his compass, figurin’ where the truck was so we’d be able to find our way back to it in the morning. He’d already decided which way we were going into the woods, I just followed. It hadn’t been too awfully late when we’d broken down, but we just kept walking until the sun was starting to set. I gathered my courage and adopted a real sweet tone, like y’do when you’re approachin’ a wild critter, “You think we might ought’ta start beddin’ down?” Eric turned around and looked at me and there was something dark in those eyes, something haunted. I swallowed up my fear and just nodded real slow like and we kept walking.

It was prob’ly close to midnight when I finally gave out. I couldn’t walk anymore and I was too tired to try talking to Eric again, so I just popped a squat on a tree stump. It was like I’d set the boy on fire he whipped around so fast. He was running right for me, his features all twisted up and scared. I started to stand up when I felt something push me back down. It was a gentle kind of nudge more than a push, followed by somebody whisperin’ in my ear. I’ve not got a inklin’ of what it was they said t’me, but I was damn near in a state of bliss and I sat right back down. Eric’s face started to get all fuzzy and disappear like I was movin’ further and further away from him. Then I felt him grab my arm. I started to ask him how in the hell he’d gotten to me so fast, when he was so far away a second ago, but then I saw his face again and this time I was scared. It looked like he’d gotten into a fight with a pair of scissors and lost. There were criss-crossing scratches all over him, covering him from head to toe. His clothes were all bloodied and cut up and one of his eyelids was closed in a way I didn’t like. I started howlin’ rather than helpin’, which just set him off and he whopped me real smartly across the mouth. I think that’s what did it for him, sealed his fate right then. I blinked and then he was on the ground fightin’ some specter I couldn’t see. All I could see was what it was doin’ to him. It had him pinned to the ground and was rippin’ him to smithereens. I’m ashamed to say what I felt watchin’ that was relief, then I dozed off right back on my stump.

I woke up close to dinner time, with the midday sun beating down on my noggin’. It didn’t take me long to remember what had happened, given my lip had swelled to about three times its usual size. I took quick stock of my surroundings: I had both backpacks with the contents seemingly untouched, a loaf of homemade bread I hadn’t ever laid eyes on before, and a compass laid out real pretty next to it all. I decided it was best not to look a gift horse in the mouth and I tore into the bread. It was some of the most heavenly stuff I’d ever eaten. I wrote a quick thank you note in the dirt and repacked one backpack to have all the things in it I’d need. Then I set out back towards the truck, prayin’ I’d be able to get it started so I could get home. It wasn’t until I’d gotten to the truck that I started wondering where Eric had gone off to. Or I s’pose I was thinkin’ about where he’d likely been drug off to. If he’d ever make it back to the truck. Then I felt a real soft push in the direction of the truck door and I knew without thinkin’ that I’d never see that boy again. I nodded my understanding and clambered in.

silent blisscompass


Happy Birthday

I licked the marshmallow fluff off my fingers. “You know this is rather unconventional.” I said, grabbing the mixing bowl from the counter. “I know, but I’d so much rather have fudge for my birthday than cake. Besides, it’ll just be us so I don’t see any problems with it.”

I rolled my eyes, “I told you we could invite people over. You insisted we just stay in and watch movies on Netflix. That was not my idea and you don’t get to pin it on me.”

She laughed, “I know that, silly. I hate cake anyway, so I’m not sure what we’re even arguing about.”

I shrugged, “I’m just making sure we all remember whose idea this was.”

“Well, next year I’ll let you throw me a huge dinner party. But this year isn’t special enough for that kind of thing.”

“What? This is so a very special year. You’ve been able to drink legally for a whole year.”

She stuck her tongue out, “Yes and it’s been horribly exciting, but hardly worth celebrating.”

I decided it was best not to argue anymore and focused on making the fudge she had requested. She was horribly infuriating, she would never let me be romantic or do anything charming for her. She was always so against me doing anything really nice for her. Some days I didn’t mind that she wasn’t a romantic, but other days I just wanted to be her prince charming.

That’s when I heard the knock at the door. Max, I told you to come tomorrow. Not today you idiot! “I’ll get it, you focus on making your fudge perfect.” She shrugged and continued working while I answered the door. “Hello birthday girl! I brought you a ton of squash.” Karen looked up in surprise, “Hey Max. I have to admit I’m a little surprised to see you here.”

“How could I miss my favorite girl’s birthday? I know, I know. You told Robbie over here not to have anyone over but I just couldn’t resist bringing you one of your favorite dishes.”

“Max, you really shouldn’t have. But I really do appreciate it.” Karen moved in for a hug and laughed, “I hope you don’t mind fudge, because we didn’t make any cake.”

Max just laughed and walked over to where our little food project was almost finished. I was furious. I cannot believe he had the audacity to come over here when I told him not to. It’s not like I wasn’t very clear with my instructions! I wasn’t mad with Max so much as I was mad that my plans were ruined. He would undoubtedly discover the pie in the back of the fridge I was saving for tomorrow’s surprise party. And he would undoubtedly eat it. Then I would be without pie and in a real bind. Not to mention I was horrified by the thought he might blurt out what we were doing tomorrow. He wasn’t very good at subtleties.

When I finally regained my composure I realized that I might not have anything to worry about. “Y’know, I always wanted to be a vet when I grew up. Now look at me, I’m twenty-two and I’m what my parents refer to as a starving artist.” Karen laughed, “Though I can’t imagine I’ll starve with all this food in the apartment.” As long as she’s the one leading the conversation maybe it will be fine. 

After an overly long evening listening to Max and Karen banter about any number of topics I mentioned that it was perhaps time for Max to go home. “Well, I can’t go home before midnight! It’s rude to duck out on a person’s birthday. I won’t have it.”

“Max, don’t be silly. You’ll be too tired to drive home at midnight.” Karen said, still laughing.

“I am not and will not. I’m sticking with you two for a while yet.” Max said, stomping his foot down with finality.

I rolled my eyes but let it drop, after all it was Karen’s birthday and I decided if she was having fun my plans didn’t need to be focused upon.

Containing Her Emotions

I am a very emotional person. I feel all of my emotions with such force they can sometimes prove to be a little overwhelming. I think that’s one of the reasons my mother made me feel ashamed of my emotions when I was younger. She would yell at me for crying, as if yelling would make the hurt go away. All my mother did was make me feel ashamed about having emotions. That just produced an even more stressed out child and led to many more tears. Which led to more tears because of how ashamed I felt for having emotions. It was a cycle of hurt that I still haven’t fully escaped from.

I think one of the reasons my mother was so opposed to my emotional responses to things is because emotions, particularly the emotions that are manifested in tears, are associated with femininity (and by association, weakness). I’ve really never been sure that my parents didn’t just want me to grow up as a boy. They forced me into sports, encouraged rough-housing, and at times when I was particularly vulnerable the response I got was basically “Man Up.”

All of this socialization that encouraged me to have a tough skin didn’t actually make me any tougher, it just destroyed my psyche. My self-confidence received a bullet to the brain and I felt isolated from the world. Since I wasn’t supposed to express my feelings I couldn’t connect with anyone. I didn’t feel safe letting anyone know what was wrong. I tried to learn how to force a smile all the time because that’s what they wanted from me. It didn’t matter what I was going through on the inside as long as I forced a smile. Not to smile was weak and I always felt like shit when I finally broke down and cried. How could I be so pathetic?

It is only now as I enter into adulthood that I’m seeing that it’s O.K. for me to get in touch with my emotions. I guess in that way I can kind of relate to Elsa (the main villain-turned-good-guy in the movie Frozen). Her parents taught her to fear a part of her, in this case the power to shoot ice from her hands and make snow happen. By trying to contain it, instead of trying to understand it, she lost control. In a similar fashion I lost control of my emotions. I’m still terrified of feeling angry because I don’t know how to deal with that emotion. Similarly I don’t know what to do when I’m feeling very sad. Or when I’m stressed out. I haven’t even begun to understand my emotions and because of that they control me.

I didn’t want to write this blog post. (I got really sad writing it!) But I put the word bold in the title and I feel like I need to own up to that expectation I set for myself. I don’t want to be the girl that has to hide behind a smile anymore. I want to face my demons head-on.  You know what? The tears never bothered me anyway.


She Dreams in Color

There has always been a disconnect for me when people begin talking about dreams. I’ve never really been very well connected to the kinds of dreams we have when we are sleeping. Those dreams come and go like whispers from my mind. They have never been mine to keep, just little borrowed moments. It never bothered me when I was younger, not remembering what my dreams were. Until I began to associate dreaming with creativity.

How could I be the creative person I’ve always yearned to be if I could not remember my dreams? There were all these inspirational moments I felt I could never capture because I couldn’t garner the inspiration that you were supposed to get from dreaming. All the creative people, they always talked about dreams so grand and alluring that I wanted to live inside those dreams. I could never share my own because there was nothing to share. Where could the creativity come from if not from when I was asleep? Could I ever create anything at all?

As I’ve gotten older I sometimes remember fragments of my dreams, but not because they were so fantastical it was impossible for me to forget them. No, I always remember these dreams because they are so very close to my reality that I get them confused. In my mind’s eye I see things I could’ve sworn I already did still left undone. The dreams I have are so far from creative that the show my mind puts on at night would bore you to tears. There are no dragons, superheroes, or even castles. Just me in my everyday.

Perhaps I save my creativity for during my waking hours. I flex my creative muscles while I sit around and day dream during a long car ride. When I make up a story in the shower as I get ready. When I need to escape the real world and just take a break. I’ve always come up with grand stories but they’ve always been grounded in reality. I imagine that’s why I enjoy reading fiction so much, because I’ve never been able to fabricate my own universe. I can work within the confines of one already there but I have never been able to create a world for my own purposes. And that’s ok. The creative force within me was suited for a world already there and I’m ok with that. There’s only so much room for new worlds, anyway. I’d much rather just use ours.

If only a third of me were me…

How fanciful it is to imagine that two-thirds of me would no longer be me. But if not me what would they be? Perhaps I’d be part cat. They are smart and calculating. They are pretty and clean. They are lean, mean killing machines. They lay about all day and bask in the glow of the sun and then stay up all night to go for a run. Yet, I do not think that I would be a very good cat. I desire too much attention and I need to be around people too often to do well as a cat. 

ImageWhat then? Well, perhaps I could be part penguin. They are royal and fun. They are limited in that they are flightless birds, yet they live free from this realization. They do not envy those that were destined to live a different life. How humble it is that they live this way. It is freeing to only be troubled by the cold. To live in a world of whites and blues, free from all the other hues. Then again, I never much liked the cold. I prefer to hide beneath my blanket with some hot chocolate and a good book. I don’t imagine penguins have much patience for reading so I suppose I could never quite live the life of the Emperor.

ImageSuppose I were part anglerfish, the masters of deception. I’d trick my prey into being tasty little confections. I’d swim among the beautiful deeps of the bluest oceans and watch the little fish as they passed me by. I’d be the fiercest mermaid that ever lived and no prey would live to tell the tale. But it must get lonely in the deep, swimming all alone. I’d get so bored I’d give up and keep the fishies as my pets. That would not a good hunter make, so this cue I simply must take.

ImageI simply can’t decide who could possibly share my hide. Good thing for me it’s not to be as there’s already others inside of me. For I alone am not just me, but the bacteria that take care of me. They’re on my skin and in my gut and without them I’d be in a rut. The germs, they love me so and I’d certainly hate to see them go. I absolutely can’t evict them, guess it’ll stay just us then.