last column

I think it might sound more ‘normal’ to say that I am not good at goodbyes, but who am I kidding? I’ve never been the most normal person in the world and in all honesty I am actually quite good at saying goodbye. I’ve said goodbye probably a million times in my life and have developed a talent for it. I’ve had lots of practice and practice makes perfect They say and yet I sit here trying to fill this empty page with a goodbye for Brandon and am having an unusually hard time.

I moved to Brandon four years ago today. I remember it well because it snowed the day after we moved into the yellow house up on the hill. I woke up, looked out my window and saw that Spring had been dusted with Winter’s ashes.

I had lived here for two years before Alex came into the picture. I held the position of world’s dorkiest clerk at Aubuchon’s and he came in to buy a snow shovel. It was February and he was getting ready to start at the police academy. He came to Brandon that weekend to get a feel for the town and it had snowed the night before. I don’t remember seeing him but he ‘set his cap’ on me right there, right then, in spite of all my dorkiness. It took six months and a hurricane to finally get us together. The town split down its middle, buildings were rearranged, streams burst their bounds and removed the ground beneath our feet and he and I stood there at the edge of the mess and exchanged looks and thoughts and even a few words. I remember seeing the kindness deep in his sparkling dark eyes as he told me how much he enjoyed talking with the towns people who had come out to view the damage. My skirt was dip-dyed by muddy sewage and I clomped along the broken side walk in oversized rubber boots, my crazy hair tied back in a bandana, and he decided he was going to ask me out on a date.

Four months later we got married under a full moon. It was deep in December and snowing again, the ground cracked and groaned under my feet as I walked out of the chapel as Mrs. Gaylor. The next day we came back to Brandon and I moved from the yellow house up on the hill to the white house in the heart of town. We returned to our jobs Monday morning, the cop and his waitress, and I bought coffee for the regulars at the diner, holding my own sort of wedding reception with any one who cared to be a part of it. It was perfect.

We brought our first baby home to Brandon in the middle of a blistering heat wave and received our parental ‘baptism by fire’ within the walls of our cozy apartment. Our little bear has learned to love this town as much as I have, enjoying leisurely strolls downtown on Sunday afternoons, wandering in and out of the shops where the people have come to know us by name. I’ve eaten more pastry than can be good for any human being and decorated our home with little things I’ve collected on our walks. I will miss Sunday afternoons. And the people. And the pastry.

I fell in love with a man who had fallen for the Sea long before he met me, and that’s where we are moving this weekend – to the ocean, the coast of Maine. ¬†I am excited about this new chapter in our lives, but it hasn’t quite started yet and I am lingering on the last page of this part of the story. A part that you have been a prominent character in, dear reader! I’ve met some of the kindest, most original and wonderful people here in Brandon who have been so willing to reach into my own life and swirl the waters. I can only hope that I’ll be leaving a generous smudge or two here and there when I leave.

I’m generally pretty good at goodbyes, but this one is stumping me. Perhaps I’d better just say thank you and leave it at that. Thank you for coming in and teasing me at the hardware store, for tipping me generously when I was your waitress. Thank you for remembering my name and drinking coffee at my impromptu wedding reception. Thank you for waving at us when we walk down town and for stopping me and telling me that you enjoyed my last column. Brandon – you’ve been great and will not be forgotten. I am honored to be have been a part of your story even for a little while. Take care!

So there. the story of a good day

Bad bad bad bad bad Day.

Can’t get out of my way.

Can’t say the right thing.

Can’t do the right thing.

I might just throw rotten eggs at the mirror.

Don’t you just hate those days when it’s like,

“Ok – CAN I JUST TAKE MY ICE CREAM AND GO HOME NOW?”

Written out in capital letters all over your forehead?

And people ask you and you laugh and say,

“No, it’s ok. REALLY.”

I guess. Through gritted teeth.

I’m not sure why the sun disagrees with me so much

but it does and it works because today –

I am against it.

So there.

And I trod home and curse up every stair and then repent as the key turns in the lock

and I’m safe

And he hugs me and tells me that I don’t have to save the world after all.

And we eat pancakes with butter and syrup and I turn off that

god-awful calorie counting ‘pal’ I am so addicted to

and he eats the chocolate chunks out of my ice cream.

And I realize I can’t be everything to every one and fix everything and be superman

all at once

and suddenly, I feel as though it’s been sort of a good day all the same.

training the eyes

“I have decided,” she said, “to write about love on my arms.”

“I will write Love,” she said, “for every time I have spoken Hate,

“And every time I have spoken Wrong.

“For every scar. For every mark I’ve made, I’ll write Love.”

She said.

“Until I get it.

“Until I look at myself and see Hope

“and Love – until I see it where it isn’t written.

“Another month, ” she said,

“Another month and people will ask me Why I’ve Done It

“And I’ll say that I’ve Done It because It Needed Doing.

“Who’s going to write it if I Won’t?

“Who’s going to believe it if I Don’t?

“Look, eyes, and see Love. All Over.

“Thick, black Love like permanent ink.

“Believe it.”

She said.

final assignment: Why I Stay

I’ve been dreading it for 13 lessons, the final assignment and exam of The Creative Writing Workshop, and I had no idea what it was going to be except that other students posted their final ‘exams’ in the forums and they were all lengthy, well-worded short fiction stories having to do with a man named David in tears. Oh my.

Have I ever said how bad I am with fiction?

Nevertheless, I pressed through the course and did every little bit of extra ‘stuff’ I could find in order to delay the inevitable. And then I waiting. And fretted. And moaned to my dear husband. And finally, clicked the “Start Assignment” button on my class screen.

“Using all the elements you have studied, write a 1,000 plus word short story in which one of three themes is the base:

1)David sat down on the side of the road and began to cry

2) I was asked the most peculiar question last Wednesday

3) A woman who won’t leave her house due to an extreme phobia of dogs

Be as creative as you wish. Pay attention to dialog, plot, character development and setting. Final piece should have no errors, please proofread and edit carefully.”

I must say that this course has greatly improved my opinion of fiction. *Gasp* It’s been incredibly good for me to be forced to write things I would never choose, and to be forced to write them well – or at least try. Although it ground a little hard at first, I have enjoyed writing made-up dialog between sisters who haven’t spoken in seven years, or describing the short jog of a man on an early spring morning, or understanding the character of a woman who never leaves her house because she is afraid of being bitten.

So here it is, after weeks of teeth-wearing anxiety ūüėČ My Short Story…

 

 

***I still dream of teeth, yellow, pointed teeth sharpened into daggers, shining wet rows in dark red mouths, and they say I am crazy. This is the third reason why I decided to stay. 

My world consists of one bedroom, a kitchen, bathroom and a smallish sort of parlor where I do my deep-relaxation breathing in the evening. Everything is on one floor, connected by door-less doorways (I had the doors removed the winter I decided to stay) and short, picture-less halls (Why is it that no one thinks it strange that we frame dead images and use them as decoration?) but I like it. I know where everything is at all times. I don’t remember what color the house is outside, or what kind of landscaping clutters up the yard, nor do I care. My house is the last one you pass before you reach the dead end of the road, the one pre-teen boys come and stand in front of each Halloween, eggs held tight in trembling hands, taunting each other to throw the first one and earn their manhood. I watch them from behind my curtain, silently agonizing, always wishing they wouldn’t make the youngest, scrawniest of the group go first – he looks so petrified. But that’s the way it goes. The scrawny ones go first. Always. That’s the first reason why I decided to stay. ¬†

I live here by myself. 

My name is Meg and I am, strangely enough, not as old as everyone says. I look in the mirror and see, not an old person, but a quiet one with smooth, pale skin and eyes that have always been too dark – ¬†like small, perfectly round holes. My hair is black and straight and long and usually tied up in a bun on the back of my neck. I don’t think I am very tall, I fit in the house well and the sheets cover my feet, nor am I too short to reach things resting on the edge of the top shelf in the kitchen. The person staring back at me in the mornings is very clean and very calm. This is the second reason why I decided to stay – I like things to be orderly and calm. Noise distracts me. People disturb me. I don’t like how the world moves so fast, rushing over the calm, slow ones like me and the scrawny, young ones like the boy with the egg, tearing us apart with its teeth.

The third reason, as I mentioned before, are the dreams. I dream about teeth and the gaping wounds they cause. Foaming fangs, and the blocky ivory-colored ones you find in old cow skulls, and the smooth thin ones old people can no longer use – they all invade my sleep and my memory, and they say I am crazy. But I’m not. I’m just very quiet and calm and that’s what I remember best. The teeth.¬†

Every Tuesday someone brings me food. I’ve forgotten his name, but I think it was something like Henry or Frank. Sometimes I think about it and try to remember, but it doesn’t really matter. He comes and brings big bags full of vegetables and eggs and some milk or fruit and Captain Crunch cereal in its orange cardboard box. I like the peanut butter kind.¬†

“Hey Meg.” He says, and smiles too loudly. His name is Charles. Charlie. I look away. I don’t like him, I don’t like his smile and I suddenly remember why I have forgotten his name. He doesn’t fit in my house with his long limbs and messy hair, dark like mine, and gleaming teeth in two perfect rows. His boots are leaving crumbs of outside on my floor with every step. I think when he leaves I will forget him again.¬†

“How’s it going? You keeping well in here? Sure enough, it’s a lovely day out, you should get some sun!” He sets the bags down on the kitchen floor with a bang and eyes me from his squatting position, his knees askew as if he hadn’t a place to fold them properly, neatly. “You’re looking mighty thin, there, Meg. You eating enough? You need some more eggs or something?” He stands back up and stares at me. His checkered shirt is unbuttoned at the neck and his jeans have large, worn spots at the knees. The hems are frayed around his brown boots.¬†

“No.” I said, quietly, calmly. If there was a fourth reason for staying in here, it would be Charles and people like him. Every one out there is like him. Either loud or smiling or scrawny or pushy or mean and they’re all obsessed with the sun. And they all have teeth, and dogs with fangs that bite and leave bloody wounds. I think I will stay here.¬†

“You sure? Cuz I could get you some more eggs. I know this real nice farm, the people on the other side of town with the round barn, remember?” He waits for me to act as though I do.¬†

“No.”¬†

“Yeah, well, anyway, they just got another batch of little hens that are laying up a storm! I could get you all the eggs you want, we could run those chicks dry…” He must think this is funny because he bursts into a disorderly laugh and then wipes his eyes. His brown face seems young and wrinkled at the same time. He moves so fast. He goes from calm to hysterics to calm again in a matter of minutes. ¬†I don’t understand him. He is quiet now and looks around. “You want me to open these curtains for you? It really is a nice day out, I think you’d like the sun…”¬†

“No.” I keep the curtains closed for a reason. There are windows in the bedroom, sky lights, and that is all the sun I need. I wish he would leave. The air feels crowded and upset around him.¬†

“Ok. Well then. If you ever want to go see those chickens, you just let me know, I’ll take you to get your eggs if you want… if you ever want, you know? I told them about you and they’d love to meet you…” He makes long movements through the hall to the front door as he talks. I stay standing in the kitchen, I don’t like being near the door when it opens. I wait until it closes, and then a moment longer to hear the lock slide into place from the outside before I come out of the kitchen. I walk over to the bathroom and look in the mirror.¬†

“I look thin.” I think. Dark eyes. Black hair. White skin. Quiet. Calm. Clean. Thin.

Another week passes as they usually do. I clean and read and eat and paint, watch the sun in the skylight in the afternoons and breathe in the evenings, at night I dream and then it’s Tuesday again.¬†

“Hey Sis!” It’s that noisy man again, he appears suddenly in the hallway and I can never remember his name. Doug. Robert. John. He smells warm and damp, it must be raining outside and he is carrying wet bags of groceries, they’re dripping over every inch of the kitchen floor. Cucumbers, milk, apples, peanut butter Captain Crunch cereal, and eggs. I start to unpack the bags and see that the carton of eggs has been re-labeled, there is a white sticker with a name and address on the top,

“McNoughton Farm
1436 Merried Lane

Oakwood, Ohio”¬†

The name seems familiar, I reach out to touch it, but it seems dirty and not quite right so I stop. Charlie watches me read it. 

“McNoughton. Remember? That’s mom and dad’s place, with the round barn – remember we used to play in it? They just got the new hens I was telling you about last week?” It all seems so real, as if I could remember it if it were, but I am not sure. I think I would rather stay here than remember.¬†

“No.”¬†

“Ok. Yep. Well I gotta run, ok? Try and get some sun now, you hear?”

Sun obsessed. And the dreams say that¬†I’m¬†crazy.***

 

homework, in five or seven syllables

Lesson 9 – Poetic Form

I had to choose between writing a traditional English sonnet, or three haiku poems. For me, this was like choosing between having one of my legs cut off, or getting a strawberry ice cream cone; Easy -peasy.

I love haiku in the same way I love Twitter- it causes you to be brief and succinct. There is a challenge to contain your words and force them into saying something BIG in a short way, or something LONG in a brief way, or something POWERFUL in a subtle way. I also appreciate that they are measured by syllables, meter and ideas rather than rhyme. I hate rhyming, not sure why, but there it is. I had a lot of fun coming up with these and have been counting my syllables all day…..


So unprepared for
How loving you was going
To make me lovely



Beautiful Spring Sun,
Like sweet kisses on my skin,
Reminds me of you.



I plan on wearing
Gaudy Costume Jewelry
To your funeral.



It is beautiful,
Is is not? Every time she
Lights up when he smiles?



Bullfrog songs at night,
Ever loud and lovely, yet
Chasing sleep away.



Keep making faces
Like that and the world just might
Let you be alone!



Why do we worry
When the sun still faces us
With a free, brave smile?

And There You Have It;
Homework Haiku Poetry.
The End.

			

this lovely curse of lowercase; my fat, artsy voice

i just looked at the stats for my site- never a very encouraging thing to do on a monday night when my hair is threatening to eat my head and my stomach is threatening to eat its way out of my body *and* my homework is threatening to eat its way through the paper its written on, just to escape being turned it. lots of threats. lots of eating going on. not a whole awful lot of anything else. i have determined never to mind the numbers; i write because i must, and if you read it- you read it and i am thrilled. never spend time writing for the person who doesn’t read- it sounds like something my class instructor would say. and no, she isn’t the one who prompted me to so blatantly break the laws of capitalization, i’m just feeling rather lowercase tonight. you know what i mean, don’t you? ever have a day, or time in the day, when everything is lowercase, all the words go together right but none of them is willing to stand out and be capitalized? it’s days like this when i find *one* song and play it over and over again until words appear right once again. tonight the song is the haunting and melancholic new tune by taylor swift and the civil wars, a lullaby i can’t get out of my head- just like the lowercases.

along with counting how many people click on the each of these blog pages, the stats processor also keeps track of how people find the blog, what they typed into their search bar that made google think my blog was the right answer. usually there are searches like, ‘washboard storms’, ‘washboards’, ‘julia child quote’ – all things that actually make sense, but tonight, listed among the searches, was this gem,

‘fat, artsy people’.

Really? (whoa, i came out of lowercase for a moment.)

someone really typed that into a search bar – and found me? interesting. very interesting.

tonight the lesson in the creative writing workshop was on ‘finding your voice’. the assignments included writing out a strong memory from your childhood that might have influenced your ‘writing voice’ (hence the homework doing its acidic work on the page just to the left of this computer), and creating an ‘i believe’ list that gives some clues as to your ‘writing personality and style’. ah so. perhaps my voice is that of a fat, artsy sort of person. maybe i have a fat, artsy writing style and google knows more about it that i do. maybe that’s what i am missing. i haven’t found my fat, artsy voice. maybe i am trying to sound too skinny…..

and now, just for you, my ‘i believe list’. you can decide for yourself what kind of voice i have, its weight and personality type.

i believe

i believe that words are beautiful and should be treated as such

i believe that A.A.Milne was a true literary genius and utterly perfect in style. utterly

i believe that sometimes, a run-on sentence is *exactly* what is needed

i believe that writing on oneself should be considered a legitimate literary form

i believe in writing things that might set paper – or brains – on fire

i believe that you shouldn’t beat people in the face with floral descriptions of everyday objects

i believe that, should i ever happen to run into Charles Dickens on the street, we will become fast, close friends

i believe that the first trick to writing well is simply seeing well. see what you write. write what you see.

 i believe in detail Рthe single detail that could end up changing the world for someone

i believe in names – good ones

i believe fantasy will never, ever, ever, be able to compete with reality for interest, depth, perspective, inspiration, or wealth of material to work from

i believe that juxtaposition is most interesting

what do you believe? about writing, fat, art, voices – do you believe the voices you hear and what they say about fat artists?

please, do share with the class….

and i’ve included that sad song, just in case you have a day without capital letters in the near future….

i expect

Someday it’s going to come.

It’s going to come.

We’ve had our time of tears,

we’ve come to love the marks our bands have made upon our wrists,

but it’s close to being over,

this bondage.

This fearful song we’ve sung over and over again like it was the chorus of life itself-

it’s almost played out.

I hear the final notes being wept over in the back row seats.

Can you feel it?

Don’t your feet ache to move and dig naked toes into free soil?

The ghosts and skeletons are enjoying their last hour of haunting.

The chains are getting heavy and limp as link by link their strength melts away-

It cannot last for long now, we are in the final moments of our captivity.

Soon you can leave.

Your arms will miss the weight at first,

Your legs will tremble and your feet will be bewildered by the choices-

right or left

back or forth

north or south.

Your eyes will sting in the light and your lungs will burn with every new breath you take.

It will be a fearsome thing, but you’ll get through it.

I know because that is how it was for me

when it came.

When that first shackle broke and fell and startled me awake with its noise.

I felt afraid and empty and naked.

But that’s the last thing to go, that angry empty feeling,

The final sign that what you’ve been waiting for all this time has really come.

I expect

Someday you’ll be writing a random poem about the marks on your wrist where bondage used to be.

Someday you will bathe in the sun instead of turning from it.

Someday you will dance instead of shuffle.

It’s going to come.

Hang on.

just me life

The Question is- Why do they make husband clothes so much more comfortable than wife clothes? Honestly though, I’ve grown up with three brothers and every time I put on comfortable looking brother clothes they always wound up feeling- awkward. They gave me the appearance of ‘absolutely oddity’, I looked as if I was trying to be a younger brother myself. But husband clothes? I slip on a husband sweatshirt and I immediately feel at home. His masculine scent rests on the fabric and I can almost feel his arms around me, I swear that his warmth lingers there long after he has worn it. The same thing goes for husband t-shirts, well worn, well loved, sized for comfort- why in the world hasn’t anyone figured out how to my MY clothes that wonderful? Really? Don’t speak to me of progress until I have a drawer filled with wife clothes that have the same effect as my husband’s.

When I was little, my brothers and I were terribly afraid of monsters. What five year old isn’t? ¬†Monsters in the closet, under the bed, behind the door just waiting for that moment when Mom slipped out of the room for the night. My mom, for her peace and ours, developed “Monster Spray”, a mysterious liquid which had the power to literally dissolve any monsters in the immediate area. I love how she never tried to talk us out of our fear, or act as though it was a ‘normal childhood stage’ to be terrified at bedtime- she simply took us seriously and came up with a solution that worked. Years later she told me what was in her fabulous concoction- tap water and few drops of her own perfume. A few sprays in the air with “Monster Spray” and her protective, ‘everything’s going to be ok’ scent dwelt in the room until we fell peacefully asleep. I remember she gave me an old pillow case that had been hers and when I placed my head on it each night I felt loved and safe and for years, after dozens of washings it *still* smelled like Mom. Monster Spray kept us safe long after our toddler fears had been dissolved and we found ourselves homeless, or living with near strangers, or in our first new home after the divorce which had formed a number of monsters of its own. Whenever any of us were sick, or sad or worried, we always wanted to wear Mom’s sweater, or sleep on her pillow (much to her chagrin sometimes, since her perfume was able to banish monsters and fear but had little strength against the flu virus!!) Mom pillows got me through a great many distresses when I was younger.

Husband pillows are what’s going to get me through the next four months. Alex has started his turn on night shifts this week which leaves me to get along as I can, sleeping alone. How did I do it for so many years before I married him? We’ve only been married for a month and yet I can’t begin to imagine how I lived my life the day before we said , “I Do.” How did I make it through those few courtship months of having to say good-bye to him when he turned to go to his home and left me to mine? The first night of the new schedule was difficult, I will admit. I am afraid of the dark, and I find that being alone gives me a horrendous case of The Willies- our heating system makes the most demonic sounding clicks and squeaks in the bowels of this old house. I’m sure that in time I will grow up, buck up and be a big girl about the whole thing. Last night wasn’t so bad, every time I roused up I thought of him out there on the lonely roads and felt so near him as I lay there with his pillow, smelling his loving, ‘babe-we-got-this’ scent, as if we were the only two people awake on earth, looking at the same moon, comforted by knowing that in a few hours I’d feel him crawl in next to me- truly the happiest moment of the day. My pillow would not have produced such a feeling, this mix of longing and satisfaction, feeling so close to someone and yet painfully too far away.

So many things I didn’t know, so many things I didn’t understand before I met this man. I didn’t really get ‘happiness’ before I was drenched in the joy his smile brings to my heart. I didn’t really understand ’empty’ until I looked at the other half of the bed before going to sleep without him. Human comfort was just an idea I had before I began this new life with Comfort by my side. How is it that love makes the basic things of life so distinct and vibrant, as if my world before Alex was drawn in the dulled colors of that hour just before dawn and now everything appears in the Light of Day- bright, alive, blinding.

The wind sweeps along big flakes of snow in the freezing world outside my window, and my husband sleeps behind the closed door down the hall. I am warm and at peace in this moment- right now- I understand contentment.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? ¬†Husband Life is much nicer than Just Me Life.

 

to write love

I am going to write “LOVE” on my arms in thick, black, permanent marker letters.

I am going to wear short sleeve shirts so that they can see the letters scrawled out where my scars used to be.

I want that sad, skinny girl to see it. I want that overweight, loud girl to see it. I want that young man cloaked in black to see it. I want that middle-aged woman with the tired, dark eye-liner to look, and see it. I want the man with the guilty face and the little girl with “SEXY” written across the seat of her hot pink pants to see my arms, covered in LOVE. I want them to know that Love is real. Hope is real. I am living proof.

Have you any idea how many people swarm around you on a daily basis with words branded on them: WORTHLESS. CHEAP. OLD. HOT. MISPLACED. RICH. ODDBALL. POOR. UGLY. LOST. FAT. CLOWN. ARTSY. DORK. HIPPIE. JOCK. HARD. PUNK. CRIMINAL. SMART. ANGRY. STUPID. Invisible tags, unseen labels- sometimes given by other people, sometimes etched by their own doing, but everybody’s got one or three. We all realize this, we all know it happens, sometimes the brand is embroidered on a shirt, or pierced through a body part, or stained on the skin as a tattoo, or worst of all, just silently, secretly held in the heart.

What would happen if I decided to choose my own brand, my own word, my own label? And then, what would happen if I decided to make it utterly and blatantly visible to all who see me- written on my arm? I hid my arms once- what if I were to forget all evasive tendencies and be bold about it?

What would happen if I chose LOVE for my word? I choose LOVE. I choose to accept it, I choose to give it, I choose to show it, I promise to live it. Can I do that? Is that allowed?

I am loved; I am covered in Love, all around me, underneath me, up above me, through and through me, soaked in Love. It’s not a Love that will not fail or fade, either. God Himself has set His love on me and it’s something that the world needs to see- because it saved my life, it rescued me.

LOVE. This is my New Year’s Resolution. A little early, I know, but it’s on my heart now so I might as well get it sorted out and set to the page. And when the marker wears off, I want the world to look at me and still see LOVE written clearly and boldly and loudly.

“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life…..” Psalm 63

What will you write?

** To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization that aims to help people struggling with depression, suicide, self-harm and addiction. Hope is Real. Rescue is Possible. Love is the Movement. Check it out…. To Write Love on Her Arms