Standing in the checkout line
The electric hum of florescent lights
Over my head like some kind of manufactured halo.
I don’t believe in God,
But I wish I knew what heaven is.
Because fluffy white clouds and harp music
Sounds as perfect as a half-rotten apple
Buried in the produce drawer of my fridge.
And if I got sent there
I think I’d be begging for something else.
A way out.
A way back.
A way down.
The steady beep of the register scanner is the sound of my focus on life support.
I imagine heaven is a library
So epic that there are no walls,
Just 300 foot tall bookshelves as far as the eye can see.
Jam-packed with every tome, volume, and scrap
Ever created, but where I read everything
On an e-reader because when it comes to books,
I love the smell, but hate the weight.
I imagine that in heaven,
No knowledge is restricted and all of it is sacred.
That facts are not strained through
The coffee filter of faith.
I’m loading my purchases on to the conveyer belt
Like I’m loading my hopes and dreams in to storage boxes.
Tucked away in the back most corner of my mind
To make room for the shiny new set
That surfaced the day I pushed another life in to the world.
His eyes are the color of an April sky when rain is on the horizon,
And his moods are an unstable amalgamation
Of joyful curiosity and explosive reactions.
I’m forking over cash like I’m spending time and effort
To make sure he has all the opportunities I squandered
In the hopes that he doesn’t throw them back in my face
The way I did to my mother.
I’m taking on full shopping bags
Like I’m taking on responsibilities.
Like a sinking ship takes on water,
I’m a cup full of thoughts and musings and I’m pouring myself out
On to the concrete of reality.
I’m putting my opinions and ideas on the line
And bolstering my defenses with integrity.
Fighting to stitch this patchwork quilt of
Inspirations and facts
Dreams and reality.
Because I can’t imagine a child’s future
As anything less than limitless
Any more than I can imagine
Heaven without a library.
I am a tree.
I zero-in on the screen in front of me.
Trying to balance on unsteady feet,
I’m trying to stand on a tight rope of debits and credits
deadlines and due dates.
And they told me this would help.
Focus, breathe, center, balance.
But I can’t balance,
Because I am not a tree.
Because even while my body wobbles
Like some house of cards built on shifting sand
I know that nature is not as peaceful
As the lady on my TV says it is.
Because I know that even if my toes
Could turn in to roots and find purchase in the soil,
The tectonic plates of this turbulent life
We adults call “the real world”
Will eventually shift and physics will inevitably pull me over.
I am not a tree.
Because the truth is I’m not all that in touch with nature.
Because my heart is made of circuit boards
And my skin is a touch-screen,
Showing you the story of my life in high-definition.
I am not a tree.
Because I don’t know what it is to be impassive
Against turbulent rains and winds.
All I know is how to get thrown from branch to puddle.
Soaked through and ripped to shreds
Till all that’s left is the skeleton of what I used to be.
I am not a tree.
Because the thing I love most about the world
Is the part that only exists in digital.
Pixelated memories and dreams in text.
Short-hand love letters and irrevocable, irreplaceable
Sentiments of love, hate, joy, sadness, loss and life.
I can’t stop thinking because my world doesn’t stop expanding.
Images and sounds on the panoramic display of life.
I can’t reach for the sky the way the woman demands
Because her calm, soothing tone is like some
Fake, manufactured past-time that makes me think
She can’t be real or she must be in delusion
Because there is no serenity anymore.
I am not a tree.
And I want to scream it at her as she balances so smoothly she must be made of air.
A cellophane sculpture full of empty promises
And manufactured dreams of a “simple life”.
I am not a tree.
My veins are wires and my organs are data.
My thoughts are limited only by the bandwidth of sleep.
I am digital.
I am ever-changing.
I am shapeless.
I am timeless.
I am not a tree.
“If God had a name, what would it be?”
“Eeeee! I LOVE this song!” The squeal that left the tiny, white haired girl’s lips was high pitched and excited, and followed by her jumping out of her chair behind her desk and climbing up on top of it, feet braced shoulder width apart as her hips began to gyrate in slow circles and her knees bounced, causing the long lengths of her pigtails to sway around her in an odd manner.
Standing a few feet away and looking slightly vexed by this change of activity stood Gabriel, so very dapper in his three piece suit with his long auburn hair pulled back in to a ponytail. “I know,” he answered dryly, but it was clear she wasn’t listening to him.
Dancing in a circle, papers and parchments went slipping off the edges of the desk, the baby pink Hello Kitty coffee mug filled with pens and quills from various ages getting knocked over, sending the items scattering around the floor as a pair of ankle sock covered feet carried her over the desk, dancing her around. Her legs were bare and Gabriel could see the little grey and pink polka-dot panties she wore under the soft pink t shirt that hung to mid-thigh on her, “University of Heaven” printed across her gently bouncing breasts.
“Do you know why I love this song, Gay-bee-bay-bee?” she crooned from atop the desk as she shimmied to the left… then the right… leaving Gabriel to watch in silence as all the organizing he’d done not long prior was completely ruined.
“Why is that?” he asked, trying to keep the strain and annoyance out of his voice.
“Because it’s about ME!” she squealed, moments before taking up the bridge of the song. “And yeah… yeah… God is great! And yeah… yeah… God is good… SING IT GAY-BEE!”
“Please don’t call me Gay-bee.”
Sigh. “What if God was one of us,” Gabriel piped in in a slightly monotone voice, watching his boss as she jumped off the desk with an excited squeal and bounced across the room to the huge bed piled with more stuffed animals than should ever be allowed. She scooped up massive gray teddy bear so big he couldn’t really see her around it, just her slender arms and legs as she danced and bounced on the bed, sending the stuffed toys flying everywhere. “Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home…”
“MORE FEELING!” came the squeal from the bed, moments before Gabriel was deftly dodging a large purple unicorn that came flying at him from the mound on the bed.
Groan. “If God had a face, what would it look like?”
“MINE!” another squeal as his small, white haired creator lept off the bed to grab a round baby blue hairbrush and thrust it in to his hand.
“And would you wanna see, if seeing meant that you would have to believe in things like heaven? And Jesus and the saints?”
She took over at that, grabbing her own hair brush, this one white with pink glittery sparkles all over it. “And yeah! Yeah! God is GREAT! And yeah! Yeah! God is good! Yeah yeah yeah! SING WITH ME GAY-BEE!”
Buckling to the pressure, Gabriel gripped the hair brush in his hand and fell to his knees dramatically, lifting his eyes to look at her as hands gestured to her as he sang and she danced around him, both singing in unison. “What if GOD was one of us?! Just a SLOB like one of us?! Just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way hooooome?!”
The song continued on with Gabriel looking like an over-zealous banker at a rock concert, his ponytail swirling around as he sang and the sixteen year old looking young woman dancing around him as they grooved out.
“Nobody calling on the phone… cept maybe the Pope in Rome…”
The song tapered off to its end and just as it did, snow white pig tails whipped around a petite body as she spun and spun and ran right in to… a body. Squeaking and stumbling back with a giggle, she looked up at a slightly disgruntled young man with liberty spiked hair, currently dyed an obnoxiously bright shade of blue, several piercings, and one long, uneven line of mascara from the middle of his lower right eyelid to halfway down his cheek. “Really, Mom?”
For My Daughter,
You haven’t been born yet, and though I pray things will be different by the time you eventually do join the world, I felt the need to prepare you. Prepare you for the world you will be coming in to. There are rules, you see, but there’s no real user manual for life, so I’m going to do you a favor and spell out some of the rules of being a woman in today’s society.
Be kind, but not too kind or you’ll be labeled a doormat. Be independent but not too independent because you need a man to keep your life in order. Be smart, but not too smart because brains never got any woman anywhere. Have opinions but never speak them aloud if men are involved in them. Silently celebrate any achievement a woman makes, but don’t let anything with a penis see you do it. Love God and study His book, but make sure you forget all those pesky misogynistic rules and stories. Education is important, but it’s not as important as the way you look.
Wear pumps because they make your butt look great, but never complain about discomfort or difficulties with them. When you buy a bra, make sure it gives your breasts some extra cleavage, even if you don’t need it; men love it and if you want them to pay attention to you, it’s necessary. Don’t expect them to look you in the eye, that’s unfair and you wouldn’t display your breasts so prominently if you didn’t want them to look, would you?
We can change our hair color and you should adjust depending on the opinions you want people to have of you. Redheads are wild and passionate, but bitchy and sneaky. Blondes are fun and perky and popular, but dumb and slutty. Brunettes are smart and grounded, but have no imagination and are too serious. Every girl with black hair has some amount of Latin, Asian, or Native American blood in her. Those all have stereotypes you’ll be expected to live up to as well, so do your research before you pick which one applies. Make sure you dress to show off your body, but too much or you’ll be objectified. You’ll always be objectified by someone… make sure you hate it but never say that out loud. Be thin but not too skinny or you’re a twig and no man wants a woman who doesn’t have any curves. Be curvy but not too curvy or you’re lazy.
Know enough about cars to be able to know what you need when you go to the garage so you don’t get taken advantage of, but never let the men around you know what you’re doing. Be interested in technology but never expect to be taken seriously when discussing it. Keep up on sports, but do it in heels, pantyhose, and a pushup bra or you’re gay. Love men and everything about them no matter how awful it may be, or you’ll have to burn your bra, never shave again, and you’ll have to get used to the term “dyke”. Believe in yourself as a woman and remember all those women who fought for the freedoms and rights you have, but never say anything about it out loud or you’ll be called militant and every man you meet will insist that you are what’s wrong with the world today.
Don’t have sex too soon in a relationship, no matter how much you both want it, or you’re a slut. But don’t hold out too long either, or you’re a frigid ice queen who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Learn how to give head because if you ever screw that up, he’ll probably never call you back, but if you do really well, every guy in town will suddenly take an interest in you. Never use pregnancy, illness, or anything else as a reason for justifying the way you are or you’ll be accused of setting a double standard. Want equality but be happy when you don’t get it because you don’t want to be accused of complaining all the time.
Take yourself seriously, but never expect others to do the same. Support a woman’s right to her own body, or you’ll be called archaic and not a real woman, but hate abortion or you’ll be labeled a baby killer regardless of whether or not you’ve had one yourself.
And remember, all women are: bitches, whores, sluts, cunts, dumb, silly, militant, housekeepers, baby sitters, baby makers, cooks, drama queens, weak, flirts, victims, sex objects, and home wreckers.
Love and sympathy,
Your slut, bitch, whore, cunt, dumb, silly, militant Mother.
He’s a walking contradiction
A study in opposition
He’s Bill Gates with a mohawk
And Gene Simmons in a Sunday suit.
He’s a Harley Davidson with training wheels
And a Mercedes Benz with discount tires.
He’s a computer geek with a mean throwing arm
And a quarterback reading Shakespeare on the sidelines.
He’s everything and nothing
Life and death.
He’s happiness and despair
Comedy and tragedy.
He is all
He is one.
He’s my clean little secret,
My private public lover.
He’s my most comforting nightmare
My most terrifying dream.
He’s my past and my future,
My fantasy and my reality.
He’s my knight in blood stained armor,
My paladin without a god to serve.
He’s my man of steel with silken hands
And my angel with devil’s horns.
He’s a lover marching in to battle
And a warrior wielding flowers.
He’ll love me and leave me
Tie me up and let me go.
He’ll lift me up and let me fall
Give and deny.
Love and hate.
Stay and leave.
Pray and curse.
He’s everything I am
And everything I’m not.
He’s love on the rocks.
He’s always and never.
He’s here and there.
He’s my own.
He’s my muse.
Hands, slender and long-nailed with ghastly white skin reached out for the terrified face of the man whose words had sealed its fate. His eyes were wide with terror, and his mouth opened in a silent scream as those deathly hands gripped his face and held tight, not allowing him to move from his place in the high backed leather chair he graced as if it were a throne. Holding him still, the wild eyed creature climbed up on to the wooden surface of the desk as bony fingers slid back, wrapping around the sides of his neck, finding their way in to the hair there that seemed to thin rapidly with every passing second.
As items fell from the desk, scattered to the floor like so many forgotten pieces of refuse. Papers fluttered through the air as bare feet kicked them aside and the hunkered form continued its predatory climb up, across, and onto the creature’s prey. Stringy hair a mixture of white and black and stained with something that resembled old blood hung in to those wide, intense eyes as the hollow-cheeked abomination crouched there on the desk. “Look at me,” the voice was a hiss, too reptilian to be human but too clear to be animal, and jagged nails dragged across the man’s face.
Blood gathered rapidly at the surface of his skin before beginning to run down his cheeks, pooling in the place where the nightmare’s hands pressed to his skin. His blue eyes continued to stare off in to the distance, not focusing. He wouldn’t… No, couldn’tfocus. It would seal his doom, he knew it. An angry sound left the creature, as if air were rapidly escaping between its pointed teeth and the stench of death flowed over his face. “Look. At. Me!” the voice insisted again, and he felt his head being squeezed in warning, as if it were going to be crushed like a pimple.
Still he resisted, but when the abnormally, inhumanly strong hands shook him hard, making him feel like a rag doll despite being rigid with terror, his fight fled from him. “Look at me!” He looked. His blue eyes met those rage-filled ones and he was aware for only a second that the creature had one. Pale, thin lips stretched over jagged, dangerous teeth in a cruel smile and a sound that rumbled like a hiss and a growl in the back of the creature’s throat sent terrified chills down his spine. “You broke your word,” the creature whispered in that deathly voice as it leaned in closer. He could feel the moisture of its breath now, could hear the promise of violence in every uttered syllable.
Nails dug in to the skin beneath the hair on his neck, blood gathered around the puncture wounds and began to drip from there, sliding down and staining the collar of his once clean white button-up shirt. “You broke your word and now you have to pay. Now you have to suffer like I suffered.” Little more than a terrified whimper left him at those words, and the creature let slip what could be assumed was a laugh but was too malicious to hold any mirth at all. “You smell like fear. Are you afraid? Yes? Good. Let me show you what happens to betrayers.”
Hissing again, the creature stood on the man’s desk, spindly legs unfolding until it stood straight, simultaneously lifting him bodily from his chair until he hung from the creature’s grip, his toes nearly a foot from the floor. Two easy steps carried the monster to the edge of the desk before it jumped down and dragged him, still holding his bleeding head in its hands, to the tall mirror on the far wall. Thrust before it, the creature stood behind him, peering over his shoulder and grinning a feral, murderous grin. His reflection was pale, and growing steadily more so, his eyes were wild and terrified, his hair was thinning and growing out, his teeth were rotting and breaking until his gums were black and the teeth themselves were jagged and terrifying. He seemed to be growing thinner and thinner as the creature watched, the human in its hands rapidly seeming to mimic its looks.
As he watched in horror, his mouth opened to let loose…
A wretched scream left Dr. Jacob Ryan’s throat as he arched and writhed, fighting against the restraints that held him down to the bed. The saddened green eyes of his once-colleague looked down at him while a male orderly delivered another tranquilizer shot to his thigh. As he began to calm, he murmured incoherently and Rebecca Mardsen waved the orderly away. “You can go,” she said quietly. She wanted to be alone with her newest patient.
When the door to the cell-like room closed behind him, Rebecca leaned down to lift one of his eyelids, looking at his dilated pupil for a moment before shaking her head and standing. Looking down at the file in her hand, she frowned. The last file Jacob had begun had been on himself and it contained a paper he’d begun working on just days before falling ill. The title ‘Contagious Psychosis’ was typed neatly across the top of the paper in bold font.
Shaking her head, she turned to leave the room as she began to read, and just before she cleared the door, she heard an odd sound from behind her. The malicious half-hissed laugh sent a chill down her spine, but when she turned to look back at him, Jacob’s form was still and the sound was still echoing through the room. Frowning, she stepped in to the hall and pulled the door shut firmly, trying to shake the feeling left behind in the silence after the laugh stopped abruptly.
I’m always forgetting something. So much so that the feeling people sometimes talk about, where they feel as if they’ve left something behind or turned on or open or closed or running or canceled has become such a common place sensation for me that I pretty much just ignore it. I know we get those feelings for a reason, but with the alarming frequency that I forget… well… everything, I’ve just learned to not pay attention to it. But I can’t do that today. I can’t ignore it or push it aside, and I certainly cannot forget anything.
Why? Because today is a big day. Today is a momentous occasion. Today is so stressful I’m pretty sure I’ve lost ten pounds from the worry. Today is Thanksgiving. Today is the first holiday celebration I will be hosting in my new home, and the entire family will be here. And I cannot afford to forget, so I made lists.
I’ve got them coming out of my ears, these lists, with their names and dates and amounts and costs and stores and letters and ink and graphite. They’re seeping out of my pores and I feel like they’ve become more a part of me than my forgetful nature. I’ve got them tucked in pockets, shoved in day planners, typed up on smart phones and emails, taped to cabinets and posted to the fridge. I’m drowning in a sea of little paper slips and strips and I’m bleeding ink of many colors because I keep losing and forgetting my pens, so I have to replace them.
But today is different. Today I’ve remembered everything. I remembered the turkey, green beans, the stuffing, the apple pie, the pumpkin pie, the sweet potatoes, the corn, the gravy, the rolls, the cider, the tea, the coffee (to keep me awake), and the butter. I even remembered the decorations: table-cloth, cloth napkins, silverware, china, wreathes of autumn leaves and gourds and dried pumpkins. The wine is chilling for the after-dinner toast, the entire house smells of food and autumn, and there’s music filling the air, occasionally punctuated by the sound of banging pots and pans or a yelp of pain because I forgot to wear an oven mitt.
My guests are arriving and I’m so proud of myself. I remember to wash the flour off my hands before I go to greet them at the door, and I remember to smile even though I feel like screaming at them that they are too many, too loud, and too soon. They’re asking if I need help or if there is something they can do, and even though I want to scream “yes!”, I remember that the polite thing to do is say no and wave them off after handing them a glass of tea and telling them everything will be ready soon.
I remember to do a double-count of heads to be sure that I remembered to set a place for everyone. I remember to don my apron before returning to work in the kitchen, even though I keep forgetting to breathe. I remember that my husband’s parents are coming and that I’m terrified of what his mother will think if everything isn’t just right. I remember that his father is allergic to nuts and decide that it’s a good idea I didn’t have time to make that pecan pie my cousin requested.
But even though I’m sure I remembered everything, even though all my lists have been checked twice and my pen is out of ink from all the strike-throughs and check-marks I made to say things were done or taken care of, I feel like I’m forgetting something. I’m mulling it over and wracking my brain as I set the table and prepare to call everyone to dinner, to display my prowess over the kitchen utensils and grocery store carts and silver polish. I begin to panic as I can’t shake the feeling that something incredibly, crucially important has flown from my mind and can ruin my big day.
I remember what my husband’s arms feel like as he pulls me in to the office and closes the door, insisting that I keep forgetting to breathe. I remember that my hands are shaking and there are tears in my eyes which could be disastrous because this morning I remembered to put on mascara and eyeliner, but didn’t remember the water-proof kind. I remember how much he loves me as he strokes my hair and insists I take a minute to myself. I remember that he’s been so proud of me and so worried this week as all I’ve done is go, go, go. I remember the scent of his cologne as he guides my head to rest against his chest and tells me he loves me.
I remember what calm is. And then I remember something else…
I remember I forgot to set the timer on the oven. I remember the smell of overcooked poultry and stuffing that’s turning black at the edges. I remember panic. I remember how fast my legs can carry me. I remember that it’s impossible to run on wood floors in stocking feet when you’re in a hurry. I remember what pain is as I throw open the oven and try to grab the pain without a mitt (again). I remember laughter… inexplicable, sudden, raucous laughter as I finally pull the turkey, with its slightly tough meat and too-crisp, too-dark skin out and place it on the counter.
I remember what relief is as I realize that the day is decidedly ruined, but at least it’s over. I remember that I’ve been bottling every ounce of stress and worry and panic up inside of me for weeks. I remember that despite all my lists and all my preparation, I’m only human. I remember that because I screwed this up, there probably wont be any more holidays at our house.
I remember what today is all about. I remember that I’m thankful. I remember that a world of expectations have just been erased because I burnt the turkey.