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Saturday, April 22, 2006

small injuries

"I don't think it was right to leave them there." Oskar shuffled from one foot to the other.

"Huh? What are you talking about?" Ignoring him, I continued ripping my tshirt into strips. In my first two attempts I had torn in the wrong direction, against the grain I guess, and hence they were almost useless. But now I was ripping the right way and they tore easily... nice and straight, along the whole length of the fabric. It was satisfying to get it right.

"Mummy wouldn't have put them there. She took them off just before she'd go to bed, it was the last thing she'd do. It wasn't right to have put 'em in that wee dish." he continued.

I really didn't have a clue what he was talking about. He was clearly agitated and was rocking from foot to foot, like a schoolchild waiting to be given permission to leave for the toilet. "Look" I said, whilst continuing to tear strips, "I don't know what the fuck you are talking about. Any chance that you are going to tell me? Or are you just going to continue spouting cryptic shit?

He looked at me, stunned, as if I were a spotlight, then turned violently and ran towards the house. "What the....? Oskarrrr... where the fuck are you going!!!?" I forgot myself as I watched him pull at the door. "Oskarrrr....!!!!" He pulled at the door, then he was in.

---

"Listen cuntstable that's all I can remember. He was my fucking brother alright? My stupid fuck brother."

Constable Arsehole didn't like that, and proceeded to twisted my arm back between my shoulderblades, taking it almost clean out of the socket.

"Okay, okay, I'll try." I said, and with the release of his grip it all came flooding back to me, in a putrid wave of memory.

"As I said, he pulled at the door, then he was in... or maybe the door came off its hinges, and then he was in. It happened so quickly. Anyway yeah it was one or the other... and he was in the house. Yeah. Well. Well, well... the house exploded then. No, not exploded as such, cos it was already on fire. But when Oskar went in it just went Kaboom!! in an explosion of orange. Flames. My stupid fuck brother. I don't know why he went back. I guess he always was a Mummy's Boy, to his downfall. To his downfall."

The memory subsided and the pain returned, and I remembered why I'd been ripping my shirt. Two of my fingers: Ring and Pinky, were still in the house.

[for info: here is my first one]

Friday, April 21, 2006

First Meeting

The meeting was a bit of a unique experience.
The first time we met lasted three full days, we haven't seen eachother since.
I would like to have this turn into something bigger instead of being so recollective, but I am not sure where to start the expansion.

In the car is where I choose to think of you now.
It’s a great opportunity to sit in comfort and quiet and flip through our memories.
That’s not to say that you don’t come to mind at any other time.
I do dream of you occasionally, in a clown suit or as yourself.
I’ll think of you as I make my way through my hallway on the weekend and wonder if you’re smiling at that moment, wonder what you’re doing.
I see us sitting by the river after wandering about the theatre.
I hear your voice as you reach down to pet the little dog that came up to our table, its master chuckling and smiling.
I remember us speaking of condoms and school and our laughter mixing.
I think of your leather jacket, how it smelled and felt when your arms were around me in a hug, when you went home after my last cigarette before returning to my apartment.
I remember the talking elevator and I think of how no elevator ride has been quite as fun.
I think of the revolving door, the parking meter, the quick run up to the washroom and the blue couches.
I remember you brushing my hair, my attempt to stay awake for at least a few more hours.
I think of us across the table from each other, eating Italian, the candle wobbling precariously on the edge, the metal handrail I peered through to watch passers by.
Your voice remains, gentle, joyful, warm, asking questions.
The smell of breakfast after walking blocks and blocks, the elation of having you near me for blocks and blocks.
Spotting you in the crowd, the instant hug, the courteousness of your actions, how excited I was, like a child, to finally get to spend time with you.
How I screwed up the passenger side door.
I think of driving with you, us laughing at anything, singing to Van Halen, you swearing at traffic, my eyes taking in storefronts and houses and sidewalks as we flew by them.
I think of how wonderful it will be to one day have you in the passenger seat of my car, in my life, in my world, of how I’ll notice changes in you, of what you will see in me.
I think of our voices joining in once again to ‘Walking in Memphis’ and my fingers on your neck and your smile lighting me up.
I miss you.
Although you’re not far.
Although I can reach for you and you for me whenever the need arises.
Although I have these memories to keep me company.
I miss you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ripples (Other selves inspiration)

Imagine for a moment without incredulity, without judgment or prejudice. Take a deep breath, close your eyes if you will, and put your skepticism to one side. Listen to what i propose.
Our world that we know and touch, where we exist, where you now sit listening to me, is just one in a million reflections of the same world with slight ripples and distortions. Each world began as one whole, but from that fraction in time of its conception it split as each ripple changed infinitesimally.
A change as slight as the breeze shifting in a different direction; a baby newly born waited an extra minute to cry; a woman breathing in her lover's breath a moment longer.
All these lives, joined from their existence and yet all differing from each other.
They overlap and entwine each other, often mirroring events throughout them all, using experiences and reflecting infinite possibilities and outcomes across all the worlds. A spectrum of life, filling every inch of dimentional void and still expanding, always fitting, never bursting.
Occasionally the walls between the worlds become thin and stretched, reality for one world might lend itself to another.
Ever experienced a dobbleganger? Or stopped a stranger in a supermarket convinced that you knew them only to find them staring at you blankly? Ever had someone ask you if you have a twin sister? Twin brother? Must be an older sibling with a close resemblance then even though you proclaim you are an only child? They look at you with that same incredulous look you are giving me now. Because they know what they've seen, and your answer doesn't fit. So they disbelieve you, much like you are to me now.
Breathe.
Close your eyes.
Listen.
The easiest way to see between these worlds is to look at the light. We all share the light given by the sun. Different conditions affect how we use it. Shadows moving across a window at night are brighter shadows of a different world. Shadows that scare us, are things that are scaring a different us somewhere else. But the most magical way to see is by watching strong sunlight stream through a window or door, or a beam of light through trees in a forest. The floating golden specks that play on the light, those are other people, wandering in other worlds, touching the light with their other fingers, their hair, their breath.
Other you's.
Other me's.
Some happy, sad.
Some good, evil.
Everything.
And you know that feeling when you shiver all over and people call it 'someone stepped over my grave'? That's not someone stepping over it. That's you dying and sinking into it in another life.
So now open your eyes and disbelieve me.
But go away and make your little ripples in this world count.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Four in one . . .

In the back of his mind he couldn't help thinking about her legs. Great legs.

He'd always been a leg man. His favourite body part. On women, that is. No breasts for him. Not that he had anything against breasts – soft, warm. They were okay, but legs . . . Now that's where a man's fantasy could really run wild. Long, slinky, smooth – lips and tongue caressing ankle, inner curves of the calf to inner knee to inner thigh to . . . Stop! He really had to get a grip. He was helping her change the tire, for godsakes. For all he knew, she had a six foot five, linebacker of a boyfriend ready to crack his cranium on the nearest light pole.

"That should do it. Just make sure you get to a garage as soon as possible. The spare's just temporary. It'll probably feel a little bumpy, but should do the job till you get home. You want me to follow you out of here? It's not the best part of town. I mean, I live here and all, but these few blocks - it's not the safest place for someone like . . . , well, for women on their own."

"Yeah, it is kind of scuzzy," no attempt at pretence.

"So how'd you end up here? Wrong turn? Get lost or something?"

Flicking back her ponytail, she turned to face him. "Not really. You really want to know? It's kind of stupid. But my friend said LA's a town of freeways. No one goes anywhere except by freeway. She just came back from visiting her family in Oregon and she says LA's abnormal. She said no one even knows the different neighbourhoods here – unless they happen to live there. So we thought a good way to find out what's around us would be to go places by city streets. Who knew I'd get a flat?"

"So, you're slumming."

Red-faced, she blurted, "No, no. Just the opposite. I wanted to see for myself what's around. I mean, I met you didn't I?"

He wondered if that was an invitation. He took a breath, "Well, now that you’re here, you want to go for a coffee? That is unless you have a boyfriend waiting or something."

"No, I really have to get going."

Figures, he thought. Oh well, my intentions were dubious, at best.

She got in her car, long legs giving a tantalizing last tease, and turned on the ignition.

He called out, "I can still follow you out to the freeway entrance if you'd like."

She turned to look at him, a slow smile forming at the corners of her mouth, "You know what? I changed my mind."

The four: body part, dubious intentions, slumming, changed mind

I've changed my mind!

Her severely distended belly precedes her into the office, where she sets down her bag imperiously. She rings the bell to summon the receptionist who is a very distant three feet away from her.
“"Yoooo hooo,"” she calls out waving a manicured hand.

He enters meekly, sits in a chair in the corner, and proceeds to make himself invisible.

“"Can I help you ma’'am?”" the young receptionist asks, smiling to disguise the hint of an edge in her voice.

“"Yes. Well. I’ve changed my mind,”" says the woman with a dismissive gesture.

“"Beg your pardon?"” perplexed, the receptionist looks at the woman, trying to understand her meaning. She changed her mind about wanting service? About the color of her manicured nails? About?

“"You heard me! I’'ve changed my mind,"” she repeated drumming red lacquered fingernails on the countertop and dropping her eyes meaningfully to her huge abdomen.

The receptionist’'s jaw dropped and mouth gaping open she manages to collect herself long enough to say “"just a sec"” before running out to get Dottie, the matronly head nurse who could handle anything.

Meanwhile, the lady shifted her considerable bulk onto her other hip and sighed irritably.
Dottie appeared behind the counter, the receptionist in the background plainly listening; not even bothering to pretend not to be eavesdropping.

“"How can I help you dear?"” Dottie asked amiably, her shiny gray hair tucked into a graceful braid.

“"I already told her,”" she waves a ringed finger imperiously in the direction of the receptionist. “"I'’ve changed my mind.”"

Dottie laughed heartily. “"Yes, I’'m sure dear,”" she said, still chuckling.

“"No, really. I don'’t see what'’s so funny. I want to see Dr. Cabrera. Right now!”" She goes so far as to stomp one high-heeled foot on the ground.

“"Okay dear, just a sec,”" Dottie chuckles and shakes her head as her silent-soled white shoes carry her back to the Doctor.

The woman sighs. Her face shows the strain of the last 8.5 months. Despite her carefully applied makeup she looks tired, strained. Her ankles and feet are swelling out of her fashionable heels, her waist has disappeared and her roots are showing.

Dottie returns to open the door for the woman.
“"Come on back. Dr. Cabrera will see you now. Let me just check your vitals first.”" Dottie leads her back at a slow pace suited for waddling.

“"Can'’t we just skip all that? I'’ve changed my mind and that’'s all there is to it!”"
“"I’'m afraid not dear. Let’'s see how much you are weighing now.”" Dottie points at the digital scale and the woman stands on it with an air of resignation.
“"189, okay. Let’'s check your blood pressure.”"
Dottie leads her into the examining room where she fastens the cuff on her arm and pumps.
“"120 over 90. A little high, we’ll mention that to the doctor. And your temperature."” Dottie keeps up a stream of comforting chatter while she notes everything on the woman’'s chart and gets her ready for the Doctor.

The woman sighs as she examines her feet, dangling from the examination table. She thinks about all the times she’'s been in this same room, all the many bodies she has dragged in here: her slim self torn between fear and trepidation on the table. Her growing bulk. Her questions about bladders and heartburn and vomit. She thinks about all the dreams she has dreamt on the examination table while staring at the silly stickers on the ceiling invoking nurseries everywhere.

Dr. Cabrera enters, her long dark ponytail swaying as she turns to close the door behind her. She smiles kindly at the woman on the examining table.
“"So, what'’s going on? What can I do for you today?”"

“"I changed my mind Dr. Cabrera."”

“"I’'m not sure I understand what you mean."” the Doctor crosses her legs and looks patiently at the woman in distress.

“"I can'’t do this. I'’ve changed my mind. I don’'t want to do this!”" Her voice is rising in pitch and volume as she talks. Her eyes are starting to look suspiciously shiny.

“"What can't you do?”"

“"This. This whole thing,"” she pokes her belly angrily. “"I can’'t paint the nursery yellow and I can'’t pick out toys that won’'t be choking hazards, and I can'’t stay in a boring marriage for its sake and I can’'t give up my life and I can’'t wipe butts and I just can’'t. I can'’t give a shit everytime it smiles or gets a new tooth or goes down the slide. I can’'t! I changed my mind! I don'’t know what the hell I was thinking!”" She is starting to cry now. She wrings her hands and talks on as mascara dark tears stream down her cheeks. “"Just undo it. It’'s my body. I changed my mind. Take it out. Take it. I can'’t!”"

Dr. Cabrera hands her the box of Kleenex and rubs her shoulder. "“You'’re doing a great job already and you’'re almost done.”"

”"No! I don’'t want it!”"


Two days later you were born.

"So, these were my friends..."

Joe, Reese and I all grew up in the little town of Brownstein. We were like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, we all stuck together through think and thin. The three of us were at each other’s side from the beginning. People may say that three is a crowd, but we complimented each other so well that we didn’t even notice the odd number. There was never an odd man out or woman for that matter. We just included the other two no matter what the occasion.

My first memories include the two of them and I think I can say the same is said for them. We’ve been through a lot together, parents divorcing, girlfriends and boyfriends coming and going, marriages, births. I guess you can say we’ve seen it all in our thirty-five or so years. Each one of us moved our families away for one reason or other over time, but we all found our way back to Brownstein again. Even though our lives were different now, we still tried to get our families together once a week, whether it was for popcorn and a movie, a bar-b-q or a round of board games.

I would lay down my life for any of them, or I guess you can say I would have until two months ago. Before this point all of our children, ranging from the age of fourteen to three, got along splendidly and even became the best of friends, just as our little group had. My wife Chrissie and I loved Joe and Reese’s kids as our own. We would baby sit them when they were younger and we still carted them around with our two children, Russ and Sam. Between the three of us, we ended up having five children, three boys and two girls.

Several weeks ago, Russ came to me with a serious problem. He said that one of his friends who he wanted to keep anonymous had a problem. He wanted to help his friend but wasn’t sure how. I instantly thought of our little threesome and how I would have done anything to help one of them and still would. I also figured that being fourteen, how serious could the problem really be? That’s where I went wrong. Kids aren’t as innocent today as they were when I grew up. Kids didn’t ride their bikes to the liquor store to buy lollipops and ice cream anymore, they rode their bikes to the liquor store with a fake id to try and buy liquor.

The only problem was, Russ wouldn’t tell which friend had a problem or even the actual problem. It’s hard as a parent to play guessing games to try and help your child. My wife and I try to do the best we can as parents, but everyone falls a little short at times. I believe this was not one of the times that we fell short, but some in our small town of Brownstein, including my friends from birth believe we did. There is only so much parents can do to help their children and after that, it’s up to the children to learn from their choices.

Then came the night that would change all of our lives forever. Russ and a couple of friends, including Joe’s son Michael, who also happened to be fourteen, decided they were all going to go to the movies. They were to meet a few kids from school, one of them old enough to drive. Russ asked me if they could just get a ride home with Pat, the friend with the driver’s license and car. I had met Pat many times and he seemed responsible enough. I worked with his father and heard only glowing stories about him, I figured that it was safe enough. No harm in that. So I drove them over to the movies and agreed that they could just get a ride home when the movie let out at a quarter after ten. It was Saturday night and I figured they could stay out a little later than their 10 o’clock curfew.

As I dropped them off, I gave both Russ and Michael a quick hug to their embarrassment and slipped each a ten spot just in case one of their friends didn’t have enough for the movie and candy. Like I said, I treated Joe and Reese’s kids as if they were my own. I told them to have fun but to make sure that they stayed out of trouble and were courteous to adults and people around them in the theater.

That was the last time I saw Michael, or at least alive and breathing. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked back in the past two months and thanked God that I hugged him as if he was my own. Apparently Pat, the kid who was old enough to drive, the one that seemed responsible from all the stories I heard from his father was the kid that my son referred to when he said that one of his friends had a problem.

I’ve taught my kids right and wrong, not to talk to strangers, to look both ways, not to get into a strange car and not to get into a car with someone who shouldn’t be behind the wheel. Russ told me a few weeks after the accident that he didn’t know that Pat was high or that Pat shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel and I believed him. I not only believed him because I wanted to, I believed him because I know my son and know that he would have made the right decision if given the option.

A few weeks after the funeral, I tried to get our families together as we had so many times before to try and heal the pain we were all feeling from the loss of Michael. They blame me. Hell, they blame my whole family for what happened. I was not there that faithful night that Pat Naklas decided to drive our children home high as a kite and ran his old Buick into a tree. But, I was the parent that dropped the boys off at the movies and approved of their choice of a ride home. I feel as if I lost one of my children and will always hold a place in my heart for Michael. It turns out Joe can’t even be in the same room with me without bursting into tears and he now looks at me as if he wished I had died in that car accident instead of his son. As for Reese, I guess her family agrees with Joe and will not even return my phone calls.

That one night changed all of our lives forever, including our friendship. So, these were my friends for life…or so I thought.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

restaurant

Restaurants that come to mind:

The Bob's Big Boy (are there any of those left?) where we always took my grandma for Mother's Day.  I'd order a shake, chocolate, and it would come in a tall metal goblet.  That was always so special, because of the metal cup.  My grandma - you can take the girl off the farm, but...  She'd decline to order a beverage and then take the lemons from my parents' iced teas and squeeze them into her water.  Add a couple of sugar packets and voila - lemonade.  I'd bury my nose in the BBB comic book they always offered.

Another Bob's Big Boy, in college.  My friend Kathie and I were always broke, always hungry.  A day or two before payday we'd break down and "float" a check there (it was one of the few places in this college town that would take checks) and gorge ourselves with hamburgers and afterwards - a hot fudge sundae cake.  Oh, God.  Those were so good.  Kathie would sigh and moan and say, "Food orgasm!" and I'd laugh every time because it was the best thing in the world and I was with my best friend and all was good.

After I was married, Bill and I would go to this old fogey restaurant every few weeks.  It was smoke-filled, and the booths all had vinyl upholstery that squeaked as you slid across it.  Bill would order chicken-fried steak and I don't remember what I ordered but it was surely fatty and bland and served with limp, canned green beans on the side.  The "diet plate" was from the seventies and consisted of cottage cheese and canned peaches.  The whole place was like stepping into the past and I'd watch the old people, so glad that unlike them, I had been lucky enough to be born young.

Now we often frequent a family-style buffet.  The food is awful but there's lots of it.  We go because the kids love it and so it's festive.  They love picking out exactly what they want and I love how I'm so often surprised by their choices.  "You like fish?" I'll say to my daughter, seeing her plate loaded with plain, pale, flaccid-looking fish fillets that I would never touch.  And my son - he loves ribs.  I had never even had ribs until a year ago.  My kids demonstrate by their choices that they are entire people, apart from me, with their own preferences.  And I feel bad saying this, but I feel pretty at this restaurant because it does tend to draw the... obese.  I feel thin and I imagine people thinking as I walk by on my way to the buffet, "How does she stay so slim while eating so much?"  But I don't eat that much.  I take a lot, put a lot of different dishes on my plate, and then after a bite or two of each I am reminded once again that no, it still isn't good.  But then I get two desserts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rededicating

SL has done such a great job in making this place a pretty place to be! He's inspired me to get more involved in this project; I got it started and then sort of drifted away and I apologize for that.

I resolve to post here more frequently, and also to comment on others' postings. I was just in the process of doing that when the Blogger comments stopped working for me. Grr...

But I started by going back through and finding any posts that had never been commented on; if we all just took a few minutes to do this we'd soon all have lots of good feedback on our prompt exercises. Let's get some energy going here!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Father's Hands

I stare at the hands.

My father's hands are just now beginning to show his age, slight wrinkles appearing, but they remain strong. They are permanently tanned after years of foreign holidays and a few months backpacking round Europe when he was a young man. The palms are near-smooth and a healthy pink. The fingernails perfect and well cared for.

On the middle finger of his right hand is a callous, formed over years of using a pen. My father writes - in a way - for a living and refuses to use a typewriter.

The skin whitens on his fingers as they wrap the thick leather belt around themselves.

I hold out my own, little hand, balled into a fist. Quickly and sharply he brings the tough leather down across my knuckles, once, twice, three times. Each time I try to take my hand away, but his strong hands are quicker.

Tears well up in the corner of my eyes but I don't take them away from my father's hands. He lets the belt unravel, drops it on the bed. His hands reach out for me, the fingers splayed and I flinch back. The expected slap doesn't come. Instead the fingers wipe away my tears and I feel the surprising softness of his skin.

His hands pull me to him and I go willingly, accepting the hug.

"You won't do it again, will you?"

"No dad, I'm sorry."

He hugs me tight and the childish anger and hatred I felt just moments ago dissolves into the strong love I have for my father - and his cruel and loving hands.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Bar - With/Without

He took a stool at the bar and ordered a whiskey sour. He sank it in a single gulp, ordered another and told the barman to keep them coming.

As he lit a cigarette a woman on the next stool leaned over and spoke to him. He took another cigarette from the crumpled pack and handed it over, offering a light. She took it, drawing the smoke into her lungs.

The barman returned with his whiskey sour and the man told him to get whatever the girl was having and stick it on his tab. She asked for a martini and thanked him. He shrugged, muttering under his breath.

The woman smiled.

---------------------

"Whiskey sour," said the man.
"Coming right up."
"Another, and keep 'em coming."
"May I have one of those?" asked the woman on the next stool.
"Sure. Light?"
"Another whiskey sour, sir."
"Thanks. Give the lady whatever she wants. On me."
"Martini. Dry. Thank you."
"Pretty lady deserves a drink," he shrugged.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cooking

For years after my father’s death my mother refused to set foot in the kitchen. Hers was not an act born of grief or mourning, not an act of silent loss. It was a celebration. She would never have to listen to his complaints, sit through his tirades while he chewed with his mouth open. She was free from the slavery of hours in the kitchen, alone with her resentments and her anger and disillusion. She was done with cooking.

So, as a healthy, hungry, teenager who had the need to eat more than just yogurt or cheese and crackers, I took up the culinary arts at home.

When I say my mother stayed out of the kitchen I mean it literally. No pausing to see if I needed help. No advice, no guidance, no comment. In the early days I ate a lot of eggs. I’d learned to make those as a kid. I would meticulously chop the onion into tiny pieces, add some peppers, some tomato, a little ham. My dad always praised me for chopping up vegetables so evenly and carefully, a habit that is still with me today. I would carefully warm the skillet, sautéing olive oil to the point of fragrance (I would have said till it smells good), before adding the gently beaten eggs. I would cook for two those days and my mom would usually eat.

I progressed to experiments in microwave cooking and the smell of red meat nuking still makes me gag. Not good. No flavor, no texture, no color, just brown stinkiness. But, I would not resort to eating microwave meals. I would not give up!

Still, no comment from my mother. She was just happy not to cook. She was just glad not to gaze upon the inside of a pot.

I learned to make rice, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine. We don’t make rice in steamers like many Americans do, we make it in large iron pots and we add flavoring to it. It took me forever to get it right: not too mushy, not too sticky, not too undercooked. But, I finally did it. I sat down with the rice and beans I just made and I felt accomplishment and satisfaction at what I’d created. I devoured that meal.

To this day rice and beans marks momentous occasions: the first time a woman came over for dinner, first time we had friends over at a new apartment, before I had more than 1 pot and 1 pan to my name I was making rice and beans. I’ve improvised ingredients depending on where I’ve lived but there is always a sense of satisfaction whenever I make my most comforting of meals.

Bit by bit I built my repertoire, progressing on to roasts, curries, white sauces.

I am not a chef of any kind. I don’t want to be. But I am a good cook, and more importantly, I enjoy it. I am not an angry cook, a tight thin lipped cook, a crying into the sauce cook. Cooking brings me joy; feeding friends and family is a blessing.

Now, when people praise my cooking and my mom is around, she takes the credit for teaching me. And in a way she did. I learned from her example, learned how to cook and how not to live.