Monday, July 26, 2010


Cry with me. Don't fight it, don't wipe the tears from under your bottom lashes and squint with a smile.
It's okay, really. Those big shiny drops are beautiful too.
I'm not in the habit of lazing about in the midst of a big sloppy pity party, and I never will be. Embracing the melancholy is separate from falling victim to it. I want to step forward into the dandelion-scented breeze with no regrets, but it would be with a heavy heart if I went about the nasty business of tucking the best memories into tidy little compartments labeled "Open In Case of Emergency."
I miss this. I'll miss everything, always. And there's an edge to the loss that will never dull.
But this is not a crime. It diminishes none of the good.
Remember, but do not dwell. I've not seen my last butterfly just yet.

Beneath the shade of kiwi-tinted leaves, we'll walk together. The air will crackle with possibilities left unopened, and the anticipation will seem to overtake us. The sky darkens, we know we'll finally have rain. The clouds break apart savagely and we are drenched. Teal and green, blue and cerulean. Melding, twisting, seeping into one another with deliberate helplessness.

The end is just a door to another hallway, different and a little scary, but lit with the same eternal light. Open your eyes and breathe it in.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Meaning of Life

Okay, what is the meaning of all of this?

Are we allowed to ask?
I'm not sure that finding out is really the point. I've come to the temporary conclusion that life is meant to be a balanced series of missteps and victories, pains and joys, so that we never become so comfortable as to actually discover an answer.
And what would be a suitable solution anyway?
That the goal of life is to continue its messy organic legacy by procreating and making more carbon copies of ourselves? That the only important thing anyone ever does is making someone else happy? That every person must save at least one baby seal to get into heaven?
I think the resolution to this eternal search for depth that every human seems to seek in one degree or another is pretty glaringly obvious.

The meaning of life is, quite simply....
Everything that life is composed of-beautiful music, heartbreaking rejection, sweet potato pie, that smell after a good thunderstorm, pancreatic cancer, frat parties, Buddhist monks, yellow roses, belly button lint, true love-is the answer.
What else could it be? Trying to simmer out all the complications and find a quantifiable label for existence is like taking the orange powder off a Cheeto; all you'd be left with is a bland, tasteless shell.
Also, I'd like to meet a person with the time to ponder this extensively. If all your time is spent wrestling with your significance in the universe, you're not really living, are you? :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I went to the doctor today. I scrunched up my toes inside my ballet flats while I sat in the waiting room. It smelled like raspberry jelly and hand sanitizer. My shoes bit into my heels. I should really stop wearing uncomfortable shoes just cause they look pretty. But beauty is pain.
Ain’t that the truth.
I waited and waited and waited. I hate being alone in my own head. I relish crawling over vivid memories, and beat myself over the head with botched personal relationships. Oh, God. How could I have been so naïve. I’ll just slip off into Regretland and savor the tangy flavor of self-loathing. I hear they have great snow globe-filled gift shops and merry-go-rounds there.
Then I remember why I am here, and the grim rehashings vanish. Oh, that’s right. I’m getting my test results back today.
Idiot nurse. Her voice sounds like a chipped harmonica, and there are Slurpee stains on her scrubs. I guess I hate people a little more than they deserve.
I got up and slumped my way into the examining room she was motioning to with her sallow, liver-spotted arm. I glared at her and the smile melted right off her face. Ruined another day. Score.
Dr. Mancuso entered the room, but not before I’d had time to develop goosebumps all over my arms and legs from the cold pleather mutant sofa they make you sit on. He smiled warmly, then gave up all pretense and began his oh-so-merciful speech.
I think this must be lesson number one in Patient Doctor School: how to break bad news to a terrified patient with flawless bedside manner. But I’m not a terrified patient. I pray that his news will be bad, so that I can run out and start accruing pity points. Nothing gets you free lattés and promotions more that a candid announcement of a terminal disease.
So the lines around his mouth crinkle slowly, and his eyes lower at all the right moments as he tells me in slow motion that I have less than 3 months to live.
I hate this part.
I have to pretend to grieve.
When all is said and done and I am on the way back to my apartment in a cab stinking of mid-life crises and cigarettes, I feel relief. Most people don’t realize that being given this sort of death sentence is the best thing that could possibly happen to someone. I waited too long to see a doctor, and now I’m doomed. No way out but to seize the day. I’ll live out the Bucket List. I think I’d like to be Morgan Freeman.
I am barely 18 years old. My parents are the type of laissez-faire buddy people that always let me have my way. This made me lose interest in normal teenage rebellion pretty quickly. So I barely drank. Never smoked anything but weed. Ah, ecstasy. Maybe you’ll be the first thing on my to-do list. I’ve never been in love. Never had sex either. It’s tragic.
I am not cynical. Or jaded. I’m idealistic to a fault, and I believe everything and everyone has the potential to be good. But I just happen to hate everyone I meet. Seems to me like a cruel coincidence.
People in general are amazingly flawed works of art. Just none of the ones I’ve met. Which reminds me: how does someone who’s spent their life pushing people away go about doing all the things they were too chicken to attempt when they thought they had time? Well alone, of course. Skydiving, surfing, swimming with the sharks….mmm-mmm. Definitely not. I’m an indoor girl. My last-chance paradise is going to consist of a philosophy. If there was ever a time to do the opposite of what I’ve always done, it’s now.
Sooo…I’ll love everyone. And “love” everyone too…good thing I can’t get pregnant with a disease eating away at my insides. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious. Come over here and touch me, I’m soft inside, just like you. I won’t hurt you.
What do you do when the ground disappears from beneath your feet?

The One That Got Away (also known as Travis McFadden)

I’m screaming on the inside, I can’t wait to show you the truth, my mouth keeps opening and closing and I’m hissing all over the place but no whispers escape. I dream of you, I breathe you, you’re all I can ever seem to think about.
All that “life is so beautiful” crap we’re fed from an early age is bullshit. Life is what you make it, and if you lose the capacity to believe in hope, that slimy slippery bitch of an intangible impossibility, then it’s all over.
It’s not over for me. I wish it were. That stinging you get in your nose right before a tear squeezes out, that warning pinch, I’m so tired of it. I don’t feel like spilling my guts anymore, I just want to be happy. I want to get in a car with nacho crumbs in the passenger seat and just curl my toes down on the gas…swerve into the night and never come back until I can breathe again.
So. He let me crawl into his bed a few weeks ago. I could smell the strong drugstore shampoo he loves so much, and when the stubble on his chin brushed across my collarbone, I had trouble breathing. Does it matter that his mother is sleeping next door? No, not to me, I could die here and fall into heaven with a smile on my face. I never thought he’d say yes to me…all those months of his stubborn refusals had finally crushed my promises to myself of never relenting. But here I was, rolling around on those crumpled cotton sheets, Spider Man logos underneath my half-naked self, a reminder of how ridiculous this all was. I didn’t care anymore, about wanting it to be perfect; I couldn’t remember how I had pictured it during all those years of crying at the end of every stupid date movie that I went to alone. There was pain, but it was fading now. I didn’t feel cheap, or different even. I felt honored.
I wasn’t his first, far from it. He was a professional in the high school circuit, except it’d been a little while since his senior year. He went to college in Maryland now, and I missed seeing him around. He was down here in Phoenix for the summer, and I prayed he’d find some reason to stay. I knew I could never be that reason, the anchor keeping him here in the glaring sun away from all those panting college girls. I had become that girl, the one in the situation your mother warned you about, with a boy who only wanted one thing, but I wanted it more than he did. He had hesitated when he first felt my legs tangle with his in the dark. I was, after all, his best friend’s little sister. He pushed my bangs away from my face and asked if I really wanted to do this. I blinked in the dark and nodded, breathing heavy onto his bare chest. I was so tired of being handled with kid gloves by boys who didn’t know what to touch and girls who had daddy issues and something to prove. I had dreamt about him for so long that I no longer cared about sanity. And he smelled so good. I shouldn’t have? was good. It was life-affirming. I want more. And you know what? So does he.
It was not a scene from any book that I’ve ever read, or any fantasy movie or low budget porn. It was messy. It continues to be messy, since we have to sneak around. But…something tells me I should hang on. It’s more than sex now. Sometimes we just lie in the dark and talk about anything at all, and last night he said he loved me. He means it, right? I can’t decide if I care anymore. I’m living in the moment now, like I always talked about. I haven’t slept in my own bed in a little while. I don’t want September to come. It will mean a return to reality, a brutal end to my unthinkably rash decisions. And also the end of…him. It’s difficult to describe. It isn’t love, or a fling, because I know how to pick that shit apart in a minute. I think it’s borderline obsession. But the best part is that he feels it too. We barely even have sex anymore. He says he wants to know everything there is to know about me, and he tells me all these things that you wouldn’t tell your best friend without making them swear on your mother not to tell. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose him. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt. I love waking up because it means opening my eyes to his face, hair plastered to his forehead and arm draped across my waist. I didn’t know I could be this happy.
And just like that it was over. He didn’t leave me, his parents didn’t cart him off to military school, but one night, while I was out getting a light bulb to replace the one we broke by tipping over my mom’s antique stained glass lamp, he had a major seizure and died. In my bed. Alone. I can’t imagine how scared he must have been, or the last thing he thought before he couldn’t think anymore. I would give anything to have been there to save him, or at least to have held him so he didn’t have to lay there shaking and afraid.
I am writing this as a sort of an explanation. This is not a suicide note. It’s more of a going-away present, only in reverse. I am leaving. I am taking my shitty Ford Pinto, and I’m gonna drive until I get away from his memory. It’s not a very mature way to cope, but then, nothing we ever did together was very rational either. He’d be proud of me. And I cannot forget. All I can do is run.


There was no wind. The ocean lay calm and still, waves at rest, a silent tomb. I could not understand where all the people had gone. I was alone, completely alone, and the silence threatened to swallow me whole. No one would even hear me scream.
I snapped awake, panting, and twisted in my sweaty sheets. I felt like a living cliché. All those corny horror movies, the repetitive nightmares, and now I had become one. I didn’t want to leave my bed. There was no point. I was tired, but that was fine. I didn’t mind the sensation of being underwater, all my senses dulled by lethargy. I just couldn’t stand the idea of doing it all again. I have a mind numbing job at a major advertising firm. It didn’t used to be so unbearable. I used to have a crush on Delilah, the girl in the corner office. I think she’s in line for head of draft copy. We used to flirt when we passed each other on the way to the bathroom. Now she won’t even look at me. See, a few weeks ago, there was a glitch in the computer system. People were getting the wrong emails, memos were being sent to single people; it was a real mess. In the midst of all this chaos, my computer basically word-vomited all over the rest of the office. My hard-drive took the liberty of sending out a mass message to all my coworkers, containing the blog I write at work. Yes, I am a slacker. Now Janet knows I think she’s a slut, even without a booze-filled Christmas party. Ted is fully aware of my lengthy musings on the pathetic state of his combover. See, I was a nice person, once upon a time. But the corporation, or just the routine that is my life, has made me the asshole I am today. Or maybe I can blame it on my mom’s habit of forcing me to watch Lawrence Welk with her as a child. Either way, these days, I am a Grade-A piece of shit. I can’t even justify it to myself. And now that the whole office has been made aware, I get more dirty looks each day than Nicole Ritchie at a weight-loss convention.
Today I am contemplating how long it will take before someone finally suggests that I be relieved of my duties. I don’t need the money. I am planning on getting hit by a bus soon anyway. Or moving to a third world country where I will be the richest man there with barely enough cash to buy a Happy Meal over here.
My biting sarcasm and caustic wit seems lost on all the people I have met in the last decade. They seem oblivious to my genius and omniscient wisdom. I’ve sometimes wondered if I think too highly of myself. Then I discard that ridiculous thought as a product of a society created to keep me down.
I am having trouble deciding what to do with my weekend. Since it’s been over four years since my last girlfriend, a poet laureate from New Jersey, I’m practically gay anyway, so I figured I might buy a few argyle sweaters and get a cat. There’s a huge box of powdered donuts waiting for me in my kitchen, and a marathon of Will and Grace on Lifetime. I’m getting rather excited to go home. Maybe I’ll tell my boss I’m having splitting pains in my ass and clock out early. God life is beautiful, ain’t it?

It's the End of the World as We Know It...And I Feel Fine

Eyes slide lazily open, contracting disdainfully
But meeting with no illumination.
Gray filters in through the open window
A charming orphan’s blanket of sorrow.
The floor is covered in ash, the scent of smoke
Dominates the feeble vanilla Glade plug-in.
Fingers trace the outline of the nightstand
Coyly, anticipating the bottom of the earth to fall.
Tremulous cries ring out in the streets.
Carnage holds sway, transforming the picture window
Into a hideous scene of apocalypse.
The shallow glimmers of pale sun
Streaming down from the sky in billowy rivulets
Closely resemble a thunderstorm of steamy smoke on fire.
She can’t remember how it began
Nor predict how it will end
But this gruesome mockery of a rainy day
Prevented the gasp echoing in her lungs
From escaping into the atmosphere.
It had ended
And where were her enlightened ideas now?


Today I ran away from the day old ramen noodles sitting next to my bed.
I went to the one place I knew they’d never find me.
I left my sneakers in my beat up Mustang and walked over the cracked sun-baked sidewalk
And laid down under the tree with beer bottles hanging from its branches
I felt bare and unprotected.
But it was nice there, solitary, in the silence,
With not even my thoughts to buzz my peace away.
Here, I can finally remember what it is to be a single part.
Sometimes I’ll hear people complaining that their lives are too chaotic, that people expect too much of them, that no one understands what its like to be them. But when I lie here, watching the cicadas buzz in the trees, I remember the remarkable feeling I had for the first time when I was seven and happy.
I was sitting on my orange and red shag carpet, twirling the fibers between my fingers, when suddenly this immense feeling of insignificance washed over me. Not that sense of being tiny in relation to the rest of the universe, but the realization that we are all souls, billions of them, pulsating at once. We all cry and cope and love, and every life is its own…but what if I hadn’t been given possession of this fate? I knew, with no idea how to explain it to anyone, that any pain or despair I ever felt was, indeed, my own, but came to seem small when I considered that I could have been born as anyone else, anywhere else, with any other life, and that it was only by chance that I felt the way I did, in my circumstances. It was as though I was a single grain of rice in a vast cooker, and it was simple luck that I was where and who I was. Whenever this randomly occurred to me, I felt strangely connected to every other consciousness in the world.
Its natural to be self absorbed. Humanity is vain. But we are all laced together. We are all the same, and incredibly different. I am alone, here on my broken glass and cigarette covered haven, but I am also in good company, with six billion other hearts beating to exactly the same rhythm as mine. The pain I feel today could be theirs tomorrow, and their joy mine. Interconnected and ever-changing.
I have come to accept that feeling apart from everyone else is part of my condition. I am not better, just a little more obsessed with being aware of that elusive deeper meaning. To be in such an ordinary situation and to explode with that kind of epiphany is to me what we all hope for, whether we know it or not.

The Trial

There was a kind of conscious ignorance about the way she thrust her face into the autumn sunlight, willing her mouth to spread wide and grim, smiling, denying, revealing two perfect rows of determinedly straight and shiny teeth. She knew. She had to know. We all observed her with a helpless rage, a fervor of prejudice rare in these such civilized times. She defied our sensibilities and continued to live on when we could not. I look back on how we treated her, and the blindness with which we saw her, with shame and regret, but also incredulity. The evil that exists in the most mundane of hiding places, shimmying into the darkest corners of every place of privilege, will never cease to bewilder me. The suburbs had become our own personal Salem witch trial, a reminder of the insidious violence which exists in all adolescent hearts.
Her name was Karen Schumacher. She was nothing. In the hallways of Stromberg High, she represented the forgotten niche, the outcast, the sub defective, but mostly the rotting wallflower. She was not a slut, or a punk, or a Goth, or a jock, or any other neat little label that we could identify and ignore. We were far too sophisticated to actively harass her; too moral and high-minded. It was what we didn’t do-we refused to acknowledge or sympathize with her in any way. She roamed around as if in a trance, greasy blonde hair combed neatly down the center and pulled into an unassuming ponytail at the nape of her neck. Her shapeless turtlenecks and obviously homemade sweaters allowed us to forget her gender; the shabby khakis she always wore blotted her out yet more. She didn’t dare approach us or make eye contact, and for that we granted her a modicum of peace. Then she made a mistake.
On a muggy Thursday afternoon, Karen was just leaving the Seven-Eleven across from the school. She’d made a nifty slush cocktail of the cherry Coke and blue raspberry flavors, and was just about to take her first glorious sip when she heard an ominous howl coming from behind the store. A chill ran down from her tongue to her toes. She needed to get home, fast. Her feet started shuffling hesitantly forward when a tall figure blocked the light from the pavement she’d been gazing at so intently. She looked up and saw Vincent, her lab partner. His sympathetic green eyes shifted nervously around the empty parking lot. He was one of the crossover acts, the not-quite-so-populars who could still fraternize easily with the gleeful plastic enemy. He took pity on her, and even complimented her a few times a month. Her heartbeat fluttered faster, but this time out of a different, sweeter tasting fear.
“Hey, Vincent.”
“What you doing, Karen?
“Just going home.”
“Oh yeah? Lemme give you a ride. I know it’s far.”
He smiled and she lost logic.
“Really? Thanks Vincent, really.” Smiling awkwardly, disbelieving.
They made their way across the painted blacktop, turning at the corner of the building to go behind to where the Dumpster was kept, putrid fumes rising hellishly into the afternoon light. Vincent opened the passenger door for her and then hopped agilely into the driver’s seat. Too scared to speak, afraid of humiliating herself, Karen perched quietly at the edge of her seat, staring at her savagely bitten fingernails. When she remembered to look up, they were pulling into a construction site near the business section of town. Surprised, she dared to stare imploringly into his soft eyes, and for a moment thought she saw romance and hope and all the necessary ingredients to redeem her torture chamber of a life. Then his pupils narrowed and the doors clicked into locked position.
Later she would tell her steady string of therapists that this moment was blurred in her memory, too awful to remain in sharp focus. But that was a lie. Never would she escape the sound his fingernails made ripping into her ratty cardigan, or the static growl of the fly of his jeans unzipping. The smell of his choke-inducing cologne, the sensation of being trapped and betrayed, the indescribable pain of losing her innocence and her illusions about humanity all in one angry, forceful shove. They could tell her to forgive herself all they wanted. She knew in her head that it hadn’t been her fault, and that nothing anyone else did could make her a bad person. But in her heart-that was entirely different. This one act defined every moment of the rest of her life; it tinted the view from her eyes with a black veil of mistrust. How had she been so stupid as to think he actually liked her? This indulgence had cost her everything.
I can’t tell you what we did to her. It’s not too late for the authorities to dig up old ghosts and punish us for our misdeeds. But when it reached the ears of the rest of us what had happened that afternoon, a queer alteration took place in our hearts. We saw this crime as being singularly hers. I think I can speak for us all when I say that, at least for a moment, we felt a certain degree of sympathy. But almost immediately, this mercy was replaced by contempt. It’s remarkable how twisted the mind of a high school student can become in the face of an event that stands in opposition to their established universe. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe her. We all knew Vincent wasn’t above putting it in anything on two legs. We just couldn’t excuse her ungrateful reaction to the matter. Karen had never learned her proper place. But I think she did that year.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


So, I believe in second chances. Not the ones you read about in wistful novels with touching revelations on the meaning of life. No, I believe in the kind of second chance that you can only find after realizing that the best part of our worst mistakes is the scars they leave behind.
Nothing is more beautiful than seeing something bright in a bottomless pit filled to the brim with woe. Anyone can appreciate the joy inherent in a golden/pink/purple/periwinkle sunset, and possibly even tear up a little, but it takes real strength of spirit to look at a dead carrier pigeon and see the frailty of life personified-or pigeonfied, as the case may be.
So this, my friends, is to be a record of seeking out the lovely bits in the dark corners of the universe. Read on, brave traveler. To be continued.