The greatest man I have ever known raised me to be a dreamer. He taught me to ask not what my country could do for me, but to strive to do good for all mankind, including questioning authority, indignity, and every day bullies. He showed me the power of my voice and the sanctity of silence. He instilled in me the toughness I would need for life’s many trials, and made certain I would be present and feel all the feels. He let me see him cry when tears were all he could muster. He dances when the music moves him, without a shred of thought to whether anyone is watching. He raised me to know my own strength and to nurture it, but to understand that love is a better weapon against any enemy. He taught me to sing when I’m scared, because the sharks can smell fear. I still whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m afraid, and I still run to him. I’m lucky enough to have had my dad in my corner every step of the way. He is a champion of the underdog, a true humanitarian. He uses the force. He believes that good will always defeat evil, and I believe him. If that was the one gift he had given me, that would have been enough, but my life has been showered with his wisdoms and those of so many righteous wordsmiths before him. Today, I celebrate his birth with a magnitude of respect, gratitude, love and light. Shine on you crazy diamond, here’s to Chapter 63.
She closed the last plantation shutter and looked down at the room key in her hand. Pale blue, a long diamond with wide font, “Room C” in white, attached to a real key on a keyring. Just as soon as she dropped the key into the pocket of her loose fitting Levi’s her hand drew to her mouth. She bit her finger nervously.
Her eyes fell upon the car seat, and drifted to the bed, still made by someones else’s deft hands. A lone toy sat next to the TV remote. There were trucks and blocks strewn across the floor. The kitchen was clean apart from a trash bin in the sink and two pots on a chair. Within the silence she heard the magnitude of sound that his tiny hands had made with the lids.
Her finger traced the edge of the small kitchen table. She poured a glass of wine and sighed. Only four clementines left and the whole day to get through tomorrow. She knew an extra bushel had been in order.
“If I have a daughter one day,
I hope she is a million other things
I hope when her feet
Hit the ground in the morning,
The earth vibrates
Announcing her presence.
I hope she treats others
With dignity and respect.
I hope they treat her the same.
I hope she refuses to back down
When someone challenges her beliefs.
I hope she knows
The impact of hard work
And the importance of rest.
I hope she cares more
About what’s in her head
Than what’s on it.
I hope she knows how it feels
To love extraordinarily
And to be loved right back.
I hope she is passionate.
I hope she is kind.
When she meets these expectations,
Beauty will shine
From every pore in her body
And every word that falls from her lips.”
i don’t know who wrote this, but I couldn’t write it better.
She came in barefoot and looking for Barefoot wine.
I was at the counter paying for my fifth of Knob Creek.
“I want this discount,” she said to the clerk. “The one that’s good on Tuesdays.”
“But ma’am today is not Tuesday.”
“Do I look like someone who don’t know what day it is?” she asked, hand on hip, daring anyone to say yes.
I shook my head no.
“I want the discount, anyway.”
And she got it.
It has been such a very long time since I posted here with any sort of consistency. I would like to try to remedy that, and first, I thought I would shed some light as to why I’ve been busy.
Don’t call it a comeback.
Things I did today:
- I woke up at 6am with a 13-month-old child who is cutting his molars. (god help us both).
- I baked my first homemade pumpkin pie, from scratch, and the crust was slightly overdone but the pie is perfect.
- I toasted fresh pumpkin seeds.
- I made pumpkin purée for my little love. He ate all of two bites before a tantrum that ended the meal.
- I nursed my wild, curious, oh-so-swift son after he climbed to the top of his stroller and promptly tipped it over onto his face earning his first black eye.
- I ate all of the previously mentioned pumpkin seeds.
Things I did not do today:
- I did not cry.
- I did not eat the entire pie.
And for that I will call today a win.
Happy Fall! 🎃🍂🍁🌾
1. You can give yourself away entirely and still be yourself entirely.
2. Women have infinite strength and patience.
3. Hormones play a brilliant and sadistic role in the function of human females, and test the strength and patience of their partners.
4. No matter how destroyed your body feels or looks, it can restore itself.
5. Consistent lack of sleep turns the human brain into a vast land of perplexity.
6. Sugar is sometimes the problem, and sometimes the solution.
7. Song can be stronger than pain.
8. Wine and a salt bath can make all the screaming and back pain dissolve.
9. It takes less energy to forgive and breathe than to hold on to anger or pain.
10. The harder life gets, the better the rewards feel.
Here’s to 2016. Let it be full of peace and love.
I was a late bloomer. Still all eyes and ears and braces well into eighth grade. By the time I got to high school I’d at least lost the metal mouth, but my chest size and height had yet to catch up. It took the rest of those four years for me to grow into the five feet and seven inches that I stand at today. But it took freshman year of college and the late night mac and cheese with real butter and Steak and Shake runs with all kinds of animal fats that my hippie mother just never cooked for me, in order for my full size C-cups to show up. With them came all kinds of positive (read negative) attention from all sorts of boys and girls and men.
It was an interesting introspective developing an ample chest as an eighteen year old. I had spent years in a tight little athletic body, and I knew what it was like for boys to look at me. But now, there were boys and men who didn’t just look, they stared like they had x-ray vision, or hoped they might develop it if they looked hard enough. This ogling has never really stopped, and it hasn’t mattered whether I choose to wear a low-cut tank top or a turtleneck – the boobs are there, so they stare.
Then, I got pregnant. My C’s went to D’s and the stares were ever there, more than ever maybe, because now even my friends were paying attention. My belly grew and grew, and grew some more. Finally, my chest was no longer the focus of attention. I liked that. It felt good to walk through the turnpike rest stop and not just have old men and acne covered teenagers staring south of my face, but to have children and women too staring at my big round belly. There was an almost fully formed person in there! So yeah, go ahead and stare.
Then, I had the baby, and then, I made milk. My breasts reached their personal best. Bigger than before and fully functional as food for my child. It makes him grow. Which makes me so proud. It is the most useful thing my chest has ever done, and that’s only competing with getting a guys rocks off or getting me out of golfing. (I could never relearn my swing once they got in the way.)
Now, my breasts are out there for people to see. And isn’t that what they always wanted? But it isn’t in a “show us your boobs,” Mardi Gras, kind of way. Not even in an “I’m breast feeding loud and proud” kind of way. Just in a regular, “I need to feed my kid, you might see some chest slip out from behind his head or this blanket,” kind of way. And it turns out, it’s not what they always wanted. It turns out, people are offended by that.
I’m talking to you shameless oglers of breasts, the lot of you. Why is it all, show us what you got, baby, until they become breasts feeding a baby, and then you are insulted by the sight of them?
You know what, don’t answer that. My baby already has a readily formed response. So here’s that, and your fair warning. As long as I’ve had them, you’ve stared at my boobs while they have been adequately concealed. For the next year or so (God willing) they will be a lot less concealed. I feel like I’ve earned that much for all the ogling over the years and for the fact that I’m sustainably, naturally, lovingly, and selflessly feeding my child. If you don’t feel that way, again, this photo of Jack says it sufficiently.
Just to be painstakingly clear, I am not comfortable with anyone staring at me, or anyone, especially not in a non-consenting sexual capacity. In case your mother forgot to tell you, staring is rude. This is simply a comment on how staring openly at young girls is more acceptable in our society than at a mother nursing her child.
My birthday week begins today. Seven days out of 365 that I am consciously aware of my life advancing in time. It’s extra acute this year with the knowledge that roughly eight weeks from now time will move faster than I have ever experienced before.
I’ll be 32 years old this week and 32 weeks pregnant. A small delight for a person who revels in the coincidence of the numbers we find around us, such as myself. Not that I find meaning behind such numerical happenstance, but I do contend there is contentment to find in the sheer synchronicity of numbers lining up. This week points big to 32 – a number and age I had never guessed would have any large significance. And yet…there it is.
This is the first year I haven’t cared to celebrate in any grand or social way. I suppose that has something to do with the mens XL t-shirts and boxers which are my outfit of choice. And that the pregnancy hormones, apart from the tears, seem to insist I smell like the hippy I am, regarless of how hard I try to mask it. There is also this revelatory fact that it’s no longer just my life. I have this other life camping out inside me that deserves acknowledgement as well.
This brings me to a kind of consideration that leaves numbers behind. It begs for the measurement of time to disband, because this little life isn’t even here yet, and I already ache for endless time for it. And me. But we can’t, at least I can’t, even think of life without quantifying it. Will I still be here when you’re 32, little person? Will you still need me? It’ll be when I’m 64.
so happy birthday to me.
THINGS I WONDER ABOUT:
1. Are people super rude because they are miserable and they think that making perfect strangers miserable too will gratify or satisfy them momentarily? Specifically, people who are rude to those in the service industry. Does it make them feel better about themselves? Because they certainly aren’t getting better service for themselves, so who are they actually trying to make more miserable?
2. When a pregnant woman has her baby, is it like that feeling of finally prying the strawberry seed from your back teeth in that place your tongue can’t reach? (but multiplied exponentially)
3. Black holes. Worm holes. Parallel universes.
4. Deja vu. What is really happening there?
5. Why did Florida get rid of emissions testing for cars?
6. Why wouldn’t a caged bird sing?
7. Who made baby girls need pink everything and baby boys need baby blue? And who institutionalized it to the point of no return?
8. Why are people more passionate about the Kardashians lives than human rights, or child labor, or polar bears, or human sex trafficking, or their own lives?
9. Did people stop wearing suits and hats because they got lazy, or did people get lazy because they stopped wearing suits and hats?
10. People. Not to be too existential on a Monday, but what are they all doing here?
If you feel like you need things to wonder about….see Interstellar. #mindfuck
In Toni Morrison’s new book, God Bless the Child, she rips the rawness from humanity like roots from the ground and plants it on the page for you to explore. I recommend it, and the extremes of empathy that come with it. What I took from it primarily, was a practice that was carried out each Saturday morning around the breakfast table. Each member of the family was made to answer two questions. 1. What have you learned that is true (and how do you know)? And 2. What problem do you have?
I like this very much. And since I have been in need of a prompt, and I don’t have enough people around my own dinner table yet to contribute to such a discussion, this one’s for you.
What have you learned that is true (and how do you know)?
Men and women are fundamentally different. I know because of the havoc that is wreaked when one of the gender’s expectations are not met. And how different those expectations can be. I’m generalizing here, or shall we say genderalizing, where the woman is more sensitive and the man is more practical, while she is thoughtful and multi-tasking, he is steady and diligent. She expects flowers and kisses, he expects dinner and Sports Center. She wants conversation about all of the aspects of both of their days, he wants a few good hours of not solving anyone’s problems. She really needs intimacy, he really needs a good night’s sleep. She’s soft, he’s rough. In the best relationships these are all the beginnings of compromises that we learn to make for each other, to complement each other. In the worst, well, we all know how that goes. Inevitably, it doesn’t matter that he’s stinky and forgetful and crass, or that she’s bitchy and demanding and emotional, what matters is finding the places where the love fits in between all of that diversity, and holding on for dear life, or love, to that.
What problem do you have?
Pregnancy. Not the baby part of it, that’s magic. The hormone bit, though, is a nightmare. It has changed me in ways I never expected, which makes coping with them all the more difficult. (I’m noting this theme of better managing my expectations.) The problem is a two-parter.
1. Extreme allergies, including but not limited to: wheat, cheese, sugar, heat, citrus, spices. (I live in Miami – those last three are borderline sick and twisted) These new allergies have tested my patience and general will to be awake and go on living my life – a baby is a miraculous consolation prize, don’t get me wrong, but nine months is an awful long time to go without a bagel and cream cheese or spaghetti and pecorino, or donuts, especially when I want to eat so many donuts and get fat and bake in the sun. This was the time I was supposed to be allowed to be fat in a bathing suit, but I can’t go out in the sun. It’s a first world problem, I get that. But that’s the world I live in, and it is a problem.
2. I am so sensitive now. Or rather, I have always been sensitive, but I used to be able to put a cork in it, take time and think about what I really felt, and then express it in an appropriate manner, like aging a fine wine. I was civilized, I think. Now, it’s like my emotions are stuck in a P. Diddy video and at the slightest injustice I’m popping bottles and spraying emotional backlash all over everyone within range, shouting, crying, uncontrollably. I can see what I’m doing as if from afar and I wonder who that psychopath is and why she can’t reel it in, but I can’t reach her to help. And I have never been a crier. I used to read fiction, endlessly, but now it all seems too sad. I write less and think so much more. I worry and brood and that’s never been me. So, trying to get to know this new me and make peace with her ways, after thirty years of trying to get used to the old me and barely getting a handle on her ways, is a problem.
Feel free to comment with help.
P.S. I’m sorry for my long lapse of no blogging, please forgive me this rambling return.
The love of my mother has no prejudice.
The love of my mother is not blind.
The love of my mother has no bounds.
The love of my mother is always kind.
The love of my mother never pauses.
The love of my mother simply searches,
for ways to make you feel better inside.
The love of my mother is relentless,
whether you are a new friend or old.
The love of my mother rings in her laughter.
The love of my mother is bold.
The love of my mother is intense,
like the Miami sun that she adores.
The love of my mother is refreshing,
like the Atlantic that to her heart calls.
The love of my mother is inspiring,
like the divinities that she knows.
The love of my mother sparkles,
through her eyes and smile, she glows.
The love of my mother will never extinguish.
Though, the love of my mother I have tried.
The love of my mother knows no limits.
The love of my mother is always on my side.
Happy Birthday Mama!!!
Thank you for teaching me how to live a life full of love.
Surprising is the sentiment that sisterhood brings
To a life once thought to be full.
It turns out that the sister-less are, after all
Without a love most pure and wonderful.
A sister-in-law, to be clearer just here,
Is an especially delightful kind.
Born from the love of the love of her life
And the blind puppy love that began mine;
Matured through the freedom to laugh and to cry
At said love, both with him and without.
But it doesn’t stop there, no one is safe
For she knows my family inside and out.
This gift and small curse she bears gracefully
Though perhaps I’ve been sort of short-sighted.
Maybe sisters aren’t always so perky and fun,
Pretty, witty, clever and open-minded.
I do know Jen though, with her warm eager eyes,
Inquisitive and mischievous smile.
She’s been the best sister I could possibly have
Invariably, through life’s greatest trials.
I hope to be as strong, sweet and patient as her,
For all of the rest of my days.
So with eternal love, humility and gratitude
I wish her the best of birthdays.
I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.
in the skin of the grapes
I thought I touched you.
do not take from me your laughter.
when your laughter enters
it opens for me all
the doors of life.
in the spring, love.
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for.
deny me bread, air,
but never your laughter
for I would die.
on waking, your mouth,
come from your dream,
gave me the taste of earth,
of the depths of your life,
and i received your kiss
from the sea that surrounds us.
Hide me in your arms
just for this night.
Let the wind rush
crowned with foam,
let it call to me and seek me
galloping in the shadow,
while I, sunk
beneath your big eyes,
just for this night
shall rest, my love.
in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume’s silent step
But wait for me,
keep for me your sweetness.
we shall always be, you and I,
alone upon the earth
to begin life.
with you I become again
the earth that you are:
I know again how I am born.
you came to my kisses with the fire
of an unchained meteor
you melted in my blood
all thirst ends in our embrace.
pure, with the purity we created
You were a little leaf
that trembled on my chest.
Life’s wind put you there.
offers us the sky,
but the dark earth
is our name
Bring your substance deep down to me,
let your existence cut across me
inheritance of smoke.
a surge of water with remnants of the sea
strikes the silences that wait for you
Advance in sweetness
That is why you are endless
She sat staring at the cars driving by on the busy thoroughfare in front of the café, diagnosing what makes pretty people so mean. She’d been a hostess at the theater’s café for the 52 days since it had been open, and she could write a thesis on all the theater-going Miamians that she had come to encounter. It was a complicated trifecta of events: 1. a limited number of seats serving cooked-to-order food, 2. a fixed theater time to which no one could be late, and 3. no reservations. During the blissful moments when she sat outside and enjoyed her cappuccino each night after the show started, she outlined the thesis in her head.
Part One: Bling
The more the bling the meaner the women. This is especially true the older they are or the prettier.
A pretty young woman with more diamonds than fat content is likely to tell you how bad you are at your job, how horrible the establishment – that she’s been in for about 45 seconds – is run, and how dumb you specifically are. Make her wait for some avocado toast and a glass of malbec and you’d better steer clear, she’s looking to take people down hard and dirty.
Next, are the over-seventies. The men are quiet and polite most of the time. They look at you with the sad eyes carrying a lifetime of resignation. Those eyes paired with a blinged-out bluehair, that’s a code red. Abort. Once you engage, it’s going to be a lengthy, degrading conversation that will make you want to walk into on-coming traffic.
Part Two: Bachelors
This is a grey area. You might get a nice guy who will happily settle for drinks at the bar. You might get a quiet type who evaluates the scene on his own and politely smiles as he leaves. More often than not though, they will be unable to understand why you can’t pull a table out of your back pocket for them, or a burger, or a Ferrari. The entitlement is startlingly limitless.
Part Three: Stragglers
These people knowingly show up 15-30 minutes before the show, appalled that you don’t have something they can “grab.” When handed a glass of water, one straggler once said, “Well, fit it up all the way at least, I’m thirsty for crying out loud.” Because clearly, her thirst and untimeliness, are your fault, so just be gracious, this is America.
Part four, she thinks, relishing the last sip of her cappuccino, wherein I move to Paris and am perfectly, carelessly rude right back.
Drifting on a warm breeze
in the sea of my mind
sails full of love songs
white clouds in sunshine
Starry eyes adorn the night
hopeful hearts will whisper
gentle movement, water lapping
golden moons shine forever
I see me. In a little black dress. I’m walking. I reach the side of the pool and I don’t hesitate to dive in.
All sorts of people are swimming in black-tie apparel. Everyone is under the water. Twirling and swirling like dancers on a ballroom floor. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to breathe. I swim past them to the deepest part of the deep end.
I wait for him. Breathless.
It’s not easy being a human, flawed and insatiable as we are. Even when we know an action will cause our own detriment, we continue to pursue or perform such activity, time and time again. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This is the human condition: the thin line of insanity that we walk, hoping for change, or hoping for the same, but mostly just insane for hoping. Yet hope is what makes us most human. Hope brings us closer to one another, perhaps hope tears some of us apart, but hope is what makes the insane person, and hope is why we create art.
In The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt draws upon every fallible bit of humanity, letting us explore through a collection of characters as real as the insanity they portray, exactly what it is to be human. Taking place in Amsterdam, Park Avenue, Las Vegas and the Village, the plot follows a Renaissance painting of a little goldfinch with a chain around it’s ankle. We are pulled through this seamlessly written novel by our earlobe, knowing full well that it is simply the human condition which carries Theo along. He grows into a man through the pages, while we stay hopeful that he might just do it differently this time. It is the set of characters that Theo meets along the way, however, which have me calling this my favorite book of 2014. Boris, the Russian, and Hobie, the antique furniture connoisseur/repair man, are equally alluring in their juxtaposition of darkness and light. Why Theo treats each of them the way that he does, defines the agony that it is to be human.
Ms. Tartt has created a place that I long to visit, the way that I long to tell the me of a decade ago how to make better choices. There is no visiting Theo in Park Avenue as he mourns the death of his mother though, just as there is no way to revisit the me of the past. It is the cross we bear, the knowledge that the choice may come again, along with the wonder of whether we’ll have the strength to decide not to cross the line of insanity this time, or whether to leap right across it – again.
I recommend you read this book, because it is a shot of life. Strong and hard to swallow, but there is a sweet aftertaste and I do think you’ll feel better afterwards. As Tartt so aptly puts it, “Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair.” We are a tragic lot, us humans, but there is always hope.
Here are 12 women who didn’t. And succeeded because of their convictions.
We got in his old pick-up truck and he started the ignition. The vinyl seat was like ice beneath me, but he had lit something within me. Jack was rugged and charming, he had the swagger of an athlete from birth, and that voice, like the trucks engine, making me both nervous and excited.
He wasn’t driving away and I followed his gaze to a delivery truck on my right. It was open, unmanned, and full of beer. I raised my eyebrows daring him to say what was on his mind, but before words intruded he was out and running. I had never seen someone act so impulsively, simply crack the mold of good behavior like the thin bits of ice on the pavement beneath his boots. I had spent my high school career visualizing myself raising raucous disturbances, but was always brought out of them by a sympathetic teacher wondering if I needed a pass to the restroom or to the nurse. I never needed a pass, what I needed was a radical.
Jack’s face was bold and excited, almost terrified but completely cool as he hustled back to his truck with a twelve-pack of imports tucked under his arm. He stepped on the gas and I laughed. I inherited the laugh from my mother. As a child I’d watch it rip into the room and turn every head, scared certain that I could never live up to it. It just made Jack drive straight through the sunset pulling out all the stars.
The sister stands to the side, she sighs. Four weeks to the day since her divorce was final. Six months since she walked out the door. Her sister’s engagement doesn’t make her miss her ex-husband, not a thing could induce such emotions, but it does make her feel her aloneness.
There is a thing in this culture, a big stark white elephant in the room or the park or the engagement party, about a woman alone. She doesn’t have a date, so something must be wrong with her. Is she a lesbian? The relatives begin to ask. The complicated affairs which ended her marriage are too convoluted to share with Aunt Ida, so she asks her nephew if his daughter is of another persuasion. Because how could a pretty, smart, seemingly sane girl, be alone? She feels, and the rest of the party would be lying if they disagreed, that there is something wrong with her.
A single man is a bachelor. He’s playing the field, taking his time, finding the right choice. A single woman is waiting, idle while the universe decides when the right man should come along. As if she has nothing to do with the matter when it’s right, however, everything to do with it when it’s wrong. Some wrong choice that she made, or series of choices, that left her flawed, flippant, or scorned.
She sighs again and finishes her champagne. Fuck you Aunt Ida, she thinks, walking away. Nothing is wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with alone.
I wish for:
2. New life.
5. A winning football team. (Go Gators! Let this be your year Dolphins.)
6. Spiritual peace.
7. Restful souls.
8. Intellectual excitement
9. Bountiful harvests.
10. Simple pleasures.
17. Delicious flavors.
18. All the right stuff.
Happy 2015. Make it count.
Across the sand
calm, clear, teal
farther and farther
wraps around skin
his presence lingers
Have you ever wanted to punch someone? Not in that – the person talking too loudly on their cell phone next to you in an otherwise quiet, slow moving-line deserves a quick back hand to the mouth – kind of way. I mean, for reasons that are clearly written in the code of human decency, someone is asking to get knocked around. A guy, for example, has pushed his way into a group of girls, and you actually feel it would be a disservice to the world and all of the humanity resting upon it if this person is allowed to say even one more syllable.
By now, your hand is twitching and while you’ve been keeping it still with a glass of bourbon, it’s down to just rocks and they’re giving away your frustration. Your girlfriend gives you a sideways glance and you’re pretty certain she’s surprised that you’ve let this Heineken-fueled tool stay on his feet for as long as you have. He has been asked politely to leave by two of the girls in the group, and the poor dear with his unwanted arm draped over her shoulder has become a slouched shadow. The third attempt is about to get loud. So, you put the glass down.
“Do me a favor, guy,” I say, and yeah I probably have my hand in his face by then, just so he knows his last chance had passed. “Listen to the ladies, and walk the fuck away.”
Next thing I know, I’m outside looking in. The room is no longer a space occupied by people, it is the being. Drinks float out of their glasses and into the air at a rate that appears to defy the natural laws of gravitation pull. Everyone jumps up at once but none of that is any concern to me because this puffed up short-guy actually chest pumped me and now all I want, with a raw, aching desire, is to be sure that my fist meets his face with the proper torque and accuracy.
The manager’s voice is somewhere in the background shouting orders at waiters who take light-years to appear and when they do, they act with no more strength than that of children. A table is knocked over and wood cracks and splits. The fluidity of the room moves people around like waves crashing.
I can hear my name coming from someone very, very far away. The only thought I process is that someone is holding my right hand back and if I want to swing on this guy it’s going to be a left cross. But in order to do that, I’d have to release the grip that I have on his neck, which is the only solid thing left in the room at that exact time. I finally shake my hand free and land a punch, right around the time the five waiters seem to restrain the flailing fool.
I walk away. I go through a door and down some stairs and find myself at another bar. My hand isn’t twitching anymore, which I only really notice because of the throbbing emitting from it. I move my jaw from side to side and discern I didn’t take any hits. I clench and unclench my fist and determine that the torque, velocity and force were all accurate. My left hand still has a lingering feeling of holding on to something far too tightly.
I ask for a glass of water. My girlfriend is walking towards me trying to suppress a smile, something that she is lousy at. I am certain that if I had a similar disposition, the talk of the bar upstairs wouldn’t be about the douchebag who was asking for it, but the maniac who was just plain giddy to hit someone. I keep that thought, and all the rest, to myself. And for a while, I’m their hero.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the ground floor of an old house
Had been converted into a piano bar, filled by many a louse.
Music and banter wound its way up the spiral staircase,
Melodies curled around a lady giving a sailor good chase.
Somewhere down some lane children slept in their beds
Visions of iPhone 6’s danced in their sweet heads
The avenue that divided the old house and the shore
Punctuated the season with lit palm trees and whores.
Headlights bound down A1A, his father’s Tesla he’d borrowed
High school sweethearts high on speed and dreams of the morrow
To the stars her eyes lifted through the open moon roof
It was then she saw a sled guided by many a hoof.
Slapping her beau frantically, she finally found her words,
“I saw Santa! That was Santa!” She said face towards
The sky, searching for more of what she had seen.
“That’s cute, Babe,” he said, and patted her knee.
“But,” she began, and knew it was useless.
I must’ve been seeing things, she resolved, quite hopeless
Back inside, the sailor was back at the bar
His date sipped champagne, flirting all the more.
The piano player banged out his version of Jingle Bell Rock,
A couple with more gumption than talent sang amuck.
No one heard the clatter that came from above,
Each patron was numbed by booze, lust or love.
They missed the sound of a sleigh landing with a crash.
Just one disbeliever had seen the flash
Too easily swayed was she from the magic,
“Can you believe it,” Santa huffed to his boys, “it’s just tragic.”
“Kids used to make it more difficult for us to fly about,”
“No one believes anymore, the stress is giving me the gout.”
At the piano the carolers had moved on to shots of whiskey,
Their song choices had slid from Christmas-themed to Bowie.
A third shot for his efforts sat atop the black polished grand.
As they counted down the Space Oddity, Santa’s bottom did land
On the floor of the chimney, soot splattered and rose
Landing softly on a couple necking, dotting her panty hose.
He brushed himself off and surveyed the room
More naughty than nice he suspected, still he pulled
Two presents from his sack, for the blokes behind the bar.
He couldn’t blame them for the rest, it was their house, after all
And while he happened to be in such an establishment,
He couldn’t resist the idea of just one little nip.
“Can you hear me, Major Tom” consumed the air;
Santa put back the shot that had been waiting there.
“Delicious,” he announced, his belly jiggling before him,
“George Dickel, good taste, maybe they are nice the lot of ‘em.”
With that he was off, more houses to tend to.
The singing finally ended, which brought their attention to
The empty glass sitting pretty right where they’d left it.
“Who took the third shot?!” lead carol singer called, indignant,
That someone would touch what was rightfully another’s
Unbeknownst to the lot, it’d been the ultimate gift-giver’s
Fair hand who had taken that nip of their bourbon
Santa took his seat, the reindeer launched the sleigh into mornin’.
Back in the Tesla’s she beamed, as she heard clear as day light,
“Merry Christmas to all, And to all a good night!”
Sam walked down the long green entryway to her grandmother’s door gazing at the new orchids blooming in the courtyard. Her eyes wandered up into the mango tree and she wondered when the fruit would start to weigh heavy on the branches. The year before they had come in April, unseasonably early, almost two months before they should have. Global warming, Sam thought. The flavor of fresh off the tree mangos danced in her head teasing her tongue. She regretted skipping dinner the night before.
When she reached the front door Sam took a moment to straighten out her shirt and smooth down her dirty hair. She could smell that her grandmother had a fresh coat of paint put on the house since she had been there the week before and remembered hearing something about how old Rose’s handyman was getting.
A woman’s voice drifted smoothly through the afternoon heat when Sam opened the door, “At laaaast, my lo-o-o-ove has come along.” Sam smiled at the sound of her old friend Etta James.
Sam looked toward her grandfather’s office. It was empty. Hi, Grandpa, she thought, her eyes lingering on his study, I miss you. He had always played jazz while he worked. Colonel Sommerset had retired from the military years before, but never actually stopped working a day in his life. Everyone in Sam’s family had their addictions, at least his was profitable.
Sam had spent endless hours of her childhood lying on the yellow shag carpet in front of his desk, sifting through his records, playing them as she pleased. The variations of melodies that the trumpet hummed, the soul searching trills of the saxophone, the attention that keeping time with the symbols had required.
The Colonel would look up from his work and Sam would drop whatever else held her attention to stare up at him, fascinated by everything that he was.
“Where’d you get those eyes, Child?” her Grandpa asked.
“I don’t know,” Sam beamed.
“Come give your Grandpa some sugar,” he said and she was up in his lap in an instant. “There’s something about those eyes, Little Girl,” he said balancing her on his knee.
In a family of southern women with light hair and light eyes Sam’s dark features shone brighter than an orchid in the Everglades. Sam could say exactly what was on her mind with those eyes, without ever opening her mouth. The Colonel told her once that before Sam could speak, her eyes did the talking.
They had truly enjoyed the comfort of each other’s company, and hearing the trumpet softly blow reminded Sam of all the questions she had longed to ask about a time that she had missed, but hadn’t, for fear of disturbing her grandfather’s work. She scratched her stomach and it was like the ugly, old carpet, along with the questions she’d never asked, somehow still itched.
Sam wandered into the kitchen and saw Rose poised over the stove stirring a big pot and moving her shoulders to the melody of the saxophone. The smell of her grandma’s vegetable soup hit Sam’s nostrils and saliva gathered on the sides of her tongue.
The music was so loud that Rose hadn’t heard her granddaughter come in. Watching her, and knowing that she was all alone in that big, old house, hurt Sam’s heart. She knew how much her Grandma must miss him. Sam closed her eyes and Etta sang her into the fantasy of a memory.
She saw her grandparents dancing in an old jazz club. The women’s bright dresses were full. Their skirts swished back and forth, a variety of colors and flowers dancing together to the music. The men wore uniforms and smoked Lucky Strikes.
The tall, curvy woman standing at the old fashioned microphone had on bright red lipstick to match the flowers on her otherwise white dress. The spotlight touched her and her skin was like cocoa with thick cream. Her voice was nothing but soul. She was beautiful.
The song ended and the dance partners drifted off the floor. The smoke swirled around itself the way Van Gogh painted the sky.
“There she is,” Rose gushed. Sam opened her eyes out of the smoky night club and saw her Grandma’s pretty eyes twinkling at her. The music had been lowered to a comfortable volume.
“Hi,” Sam wrapped her arms around Rose. “There is no one softer in the world to hug, Grandma.”
“Hello there, Sunshine,” Rose said holding Sam at arms length, “Look at you in black on a Sunday afternoon,” she tisked.
Katherine Rose Tempelton Sommerset only wore black on two occasions: to a funeral or to a black tie affair, and she would wear navy or white to either if she could get away with it.
Sam smiled humbly knowing that Rose had commented on the black clothes she wore because it would have been unkind to comment on the black circles under her eyes. I have to remember to leave some concealer at Jake’s, Sam thought.
“Oh, Samantha!” Rose exclaimed seeing the lilies Sam had placed on the table. She walked to them and stuck her face right into the arrangement and took a deep breath. “How sweet!” she exclaimed and turned to Sam with a smile like cherry preserves. “Honey, they are beautiful. What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful grandbaby?” She came back for more hugs and kisses.
“Sorry, I’m so late,” Sam said and they sat down at the kitchen table, “Chrissie kidnapped me last night for girl’s night.”
“Oh, you know I don’t mind. I’ve just been bouncing around all morning getting things done here and there.” With this she was up and off to the refrigerator. “I have juice, tea, lemonade, milk, and water,” she paused, “Is it too early to share a beer?”
“Yes,” Sam barked, “I’ll have punch. Please.”
“So, tell me about Chrissie. What’s she up to these days?” Rose asked taking out glass pitchers of orange juice and iced tea. “What was that man’s name that she was seeing?” She placed the pitcher of lemonade on the counter then turned to Sam and put her hand on her hip. “Karma?” she wondered aloud, “Clover? Something like that, right?”
“Dharma,” Sam said laughing, knowing her intentions. “And I liked him, but they broke up.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” Rose said. She winked at her granddaughter pleased that Sam had laughed at her joke and then turned back to the punch. Having been married to a republican for more than fifty years; Rose could hardly help making fun of hippies, even if her own daughter had married one.
“Yeah and she dated a jackass after that.”
“Well, that isn’t very nice.”
“Neither was he.”
“Is she still with him?”
“Good,” Rose said firmly. Aside from her joking she was a smart woman who had a heart big enough to defend the basic human rights of any person.
Sam watched her grandma mix the juice, lemonade and iced tea. No matter how many times she had sat right there and watched her grandma make her punch Sam still had never been able to get the portions right when she made it herself.
“What would I do without you, Grandma?” Sam wondered aloud.
Rose turned sharply and looked right at Sam. “You would get along just fine.”
“Maybe,” Sam smiled. Rose set the punch down in front of her, “but no one can make your punch.”
“You know who can?” Rose asked as she returned to the stove to stir the soup.
“It took him a long time, but I think he’s the only one who likes it more than you do.” Rose poured herself a cup of coffee, and sat back down. “So, where did you girls go last night?”
“Monty’s,” Sam said, “I’m still recovering.”
“Well, you just need a bowl of grandma’s vegetable soup!” Rose was up again in an instant gathering bowls, spoons, napkins, stirring the soup, and fishing for crackers. Sam was exhausted just watching her. “Did Annabelle go?”
“Is she still sick?” Rose asked in that grandmotherly way that feigned ignorance.
“She’s not sick, Grandma,” Sam searched for words, “she’s….gone.”
“For some reason she has it in her head that we’re suddenly all out to get her and Chrissie refuses to talk about it like it’s just going to go away. Dee is the only one who Annabelle will even communicate with, but all she tells her are these angry delusions that she has formed. It’s like the Annabelle that we know and love is gone.”
“It sounds like she needs some time to herself.”
“No,” Sam said sharply, “Sorry, but I don’t think that is the case. Mental illness usually manifests in people in their early twenties. I’m afraid leaving her alone is exactly the wrong thing to do, but I’m the only one who seems to feel that way.”
“What do her parents think?”
“Nothing, at all. They’re in denial. They didn’t even meet my eyes when I went to talk to them. They think I’ve turned against their daughter, but I have no reason to! Just like she has no reason to have turned against me,” Sam’s voice trailed off.
“There’s not much you can do to change some peoples minds. You know, I was at the club the other day and this ignorant man…” Rose started on but Sam couldn’t listen.
It infuriated her the casual way people spoke about a person that she loved so much. Sam knew Annabelle inside and out, and knew that this wasn’t her friend. A switch had been flipped inside Annabelle’s head and Sam wanted to flip it back but no one would help her find it. Everyone seemed uncomfortable even looking.
She looked down into her papaya colored punch wishing it were a crystal ball. She wanted to see when she would get her friend back. Or when people would start admitting there was a bigger problem at play, at last.