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.
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.
The term “feminist.”
It does not mean I don’t want a boy or girl to open doors for me.
Please hold my hand.
And walk me home.
It does not mean I won’t do the dishes
and the laundry
And feed us.
Which is why
You should too, occasionally
It does not mean that I won’t shave my arm pits
or wax my hairy bits.
It does mean that I’d like you to earn the privilege to comment
on such things.
Which brings me to:
Put a ring on it.
In feminist terms:
Communicate your intentions.
What you want.
How long you want it for.
What your expectations are.
and this is important,
Listen while she tells you her intentions
And her expectations.
Here is the big one:
If I stand
in a teeny bikini
with every inch
of my god given beauty
I shall not fear
that any person
will lay a finger on me.
Keep your laws to yourself, too.
That I reside in
Divinely and unequivocally.
Not as a man
Not as woman
As a person.
And a writer.
A creative thinker, activist, and problem solver.
A mother, a daughter, a lover.
Above and below
and in between
all of those lines.
Not boxed in by them.
Abused by them.
*These, of course, are only my personal opinions and I don’t claim to speak for all people.
#LikeAGirl <– CLICK for Video
Genetics are dumb luck as far as I’m concerned. Throughout history, whether you were born into the working class or the aristocracy was your fate. These days, we live in a world where you can change your stars. That is, if you were born in a first world country, and you are provided education. I could’ve been born a girl in Pakistan or I could’ve been born a boy in Western Africa. I got lucky, though. I won the gene pool lottery.
My mother and father are the winged unicorn of married couples. They have been married over forty years, they still love each other, and they still like each other. They sing show tunes and “I Got You, Babe,” there’s a video of that that I will never post – you’re welcome. My father supports my mother in all of her endeavors. He shows me the same respect. He supported me through soccer and water polo and cheerleading, expecting me to do my best in each of them. My brother never cut me any slack. No one ever let me win and when I won, no one was surprised.
My paternal grandmother was a golf pro. Even after she won a fight with breast cancer, after a full mastectomy, she returned to the game, as a pro. If that isn’t tough, I don’t know what is. My maternal grandmother had four kids, an airline pilot husband who was off flying most of the time, and was a league tennis champ. These women were stylish and clever and strong, like a girl, so why isn’t that how the phrase is applied?
Only once in my house did I hear the phrase, “like a girl”. My neighbor and I were putting on our rollerblades. I had wrist guards and he didn’t. “Do you want to use these?” I asked. “No,” he shrugged, “you need them. You skate like a girl.” Later that day when my mom was about to take him home, I shut that boys fingers in the car door. We were about eight years old and I played it off like it was an accident. I’m not sure that he even correlated the two incidents, he was quite literally crushed. I cannot honestly say I didn’t feel a sense of victory in hurting him physically, for the way he had hurt my young and developing physicalness. I’m sure if I did something like that today I would be called a “psycho bitch.” And would you agree?
I bet you would. I was a child, and of course what I did was wrong. Even then I felt bad and apologized profusely. But here’s my problem. You don’t poke a lion and expect to walk away unscathed. You don’t insult a man and expect there won’t be repercussions. So why can you tell a girl that she’s doing something “like a girl” and not expect her to prove to you exactly what that means?
YES, I AM A GIRL. I am able bodied and smart, and I will retaliate against your sexism in one way or another. My brother and my father taught me to. My mother and my grandmothers told me that skating faster than him was enough, and not to rub it in. But I disagree.
I want to change the stars. I want young boys and girls to know that they can do and be anything without gender factoring in as a limitation on that. I want to speak my mind, and I want to do it proudly, like a girl. So tell me, why doesn’t “run like a girl” mean win the goddamn race?