Tuesday, September 29, 2015

another beginning...

Lately I've just had the energy for beginnings...Like this one...

She hadn't noticed when the ticking started. It followed a slow evolution from a few rapid blinks to acts of facial distortion she didn't want to be seen performing in public. There were the eyebrow ticks, which consisted of an exaggerated raising and lowering of one eyebrow, quickly and several times in a row. This often led to a double eyebrow dance, haphazardly timed and frenzied. There was one that was a rabbit's face, consisting of movements of her upper lip and nose. There were sound ticks, the pulling of air between her top teeth and bottom lip, the clicking of her tongue at the back of her throat. They could embarrassing, to be sure, and that was what was so damnable about them. When the impulse took her, wherever she happened to be, she had to comply. If she fought it, the impulse grew to a clutching need within her, like thirst. The satiation of the need was not as pleasant as one would expect, but more of a release of pressure. The act of distorting her facial muscles felt both like the expression of anxiety, and the tamping of it. Exciting movies sometimes drove her into such a fit of ticking that her partner would have difficulty hearing the dialogue, and would have to pause the film until she reigned it in.

 She had told people about the ticking, humorous stories about being caught in the act, mostly. She wanted folks to know that she was okay with it, which in fact, she was. But she also wanted to reassure them that she knew it was happening, and that it wasn't an indication of any sort of deeper mental imbalance. Anxiety, sure, but she wasn't like an unmedicated person, like a crazy person. That, in truth, was her deeper fear, that beneath the seemingly innocent facial contortions she enjoyed there lay a deeply troubled aspect of herself she was unaware of. What if there was a part of herself that was a raving lunatic, and she saw glimpses of her but was unaware of her influence? She cringed to think it, and immediately took a moment to cringe good and hard, forcing her facial muscles to bunch up tightly before succumbing to the release of relaxing them.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

cat love. true love.

The first few sentences are so important. Aren’t they? But sometimes the hardest part of telling something is starting it. So perhaps I’ve lost you already, beginning this way. But I will forge ahead, regardless. Even if I am speaking it to silence, typing to the cloud, confessing to thin air.

I dated her for two reasons. One, I was too lazy to end it once it had begun, and two, I fell in love with her cat. He was a great ginger boy, soft and slow and sweet. His breath was the pit of hell, but his purr was a chorus of angels. The first night I met him he got into my lap, tipped his head back to rest  it on my breast and looked up into my eyes. I could barely contain myself. When we said goodnight, I asked her when I could see her again, forcing myself not to look over her shoulder at him, laying there on the rug like a sweet plump loaf. She said, How about this weekend? I said, I can’t wait.

The relationship was fine. We laughed a fair amount and had a few interesting conversations. She was easy going, and the sex was nice. But it was the cat I thought of when we were apart. His chirps and meows are what made me smile to myself in unguarded moments. I even had a few dreams about him, one in which he showed up at my door standing on his hinders and dragging a little suitcase on wheels was particularly joyful.

She told me that she wanted to break up one evening as we sat on her couch. I held the cat tighter and asked what she meant by that, exactly. I don’t want to see you anymore, she said. I looked down at the cat, and my heart broke. I looked up at her, my face etched with sorrow, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I asked for another chance. She said no.

I’m not proud of what comes next. I’m not proud, but I’m not sorry either. I waited almost two weeks. I cried and hugged pillows and spoke to the cat, hoping that his heart somehow heard my heart. I told him to wait for me, I told him that we would be together again.

On the following Thursday at 11:30 in the morning, I went to her apartment. In the basement I let myself into her storage unit. There I found his carrier, and the spare key, which was tucked away in the front pocket of a suitcase for lock outs and girlfriends. I went upstairs with my heart pounding, both terrified at being caught and thrilled to be reunited with my love. I stood on her landing and listened. Hearing nothing, I gave one tentative knock. He meowed in response, right on the other side of the door. He’d been waiting.

She called me of course, frantic, asking if I had been in her apartment and stolen her cat. No, I said, I’d been dumped, I wasn’t a lunatic. What kind of person steals a cat? I covered the mouthpiece of the phone and the cat and I laughed a little, softly. I winked at him. She asked if I could help her find him, if she could see me. I said no. She had dumped me and I was healing and seeing her would undo all of the work I’d done. And I hung up the phone.

We stayed in all weekend. We laughed and talked and watched movies late. We napped in the daytime. Sometimes in bed, once or twice on the floor. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I love you, I said. I love you too, the cat said. And it was true. True love.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I just found out from someone who had tried to write to me in response to my last post, that if you 'reply' to the email, it goes to some unknown junk box. Just fyi if you have sent replies to posts.

the words she chooses

This place she is in is familiar. It is a dark place. There is no kindness.  In it,  she is bad.
she is…
selfish/delusional/self absorbed
childish/immature/a spoiled brat
broken/unlovable/deeply flawed
She knows these are old old echoes. But sometimes, when they’re all she can hear, she fears that they are old echoes of truth. She doesn’t hear them all the time. But when she is bad, when you are angry at her, she waits for you to turn to her, and say these things. She waits, trembling, to hear you say “what was I thinking? You sure fooled me. I thought you were worth my time, worthy of my love. You are...selfish..delusional…”
Sometimes, when she is bad, she punishes herself. She collapses inward and says all of the worst things. She tells you an edited truth, because it’s not bad enough that she says these things to herself. She is also ashamed of it. She is weak, you see. Sometimes she cannot stand up for herself against her mother's echoing in her head.
She has forgiven her mother. But she still does her abusing for her. She used to be able to stop her mother sometimes. When she would get started, and it would be bad, she could speak over her mother and take her voice and say all of the things. And then sometimes her mother would stop it. She would listen to her say all of her worst things and watch her prostrate herself under the unbearable weight of it all, and her mother would have pity on her.  Softening toward her and attempts to comfort her made her dizzy with rage. Her throat would constrict and her body would shake and one time she screamed at her mother. Only once, and it terrified them both. After that she would cut herself a little. To let the rage out, to bring numbness. And in between times she wouldn’t feel much. Depression was the safest place to wait in between.
But She has worked so hard to heal these parts of herself. And most of the time, she can say she is not bad.
She is…
self searching/self aware/healing
whole/well/lovable and loving
These are new words. And they must be shouted with intent to take up all of the space that the echoes filled. But more and more, these are the words she chooses to say to herself. Even when she is angry, and feels ashamed. Even when she is so afraid that you will see her struggling. She is always trying. Even on the days when she is too tired and she succumbs to the darkness. Especially then, she is trying her best to love herself.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

oh, brother.

There came a point when Mallory knew she could no longer bear her brother. This realization struck her quite suddenly, rather than dawning on her over time the way these sorts of things usually occur to people. And once she realized it, it was as if a long curtain had been slowly drawn back on a lifetime of evidence that her brother would, one day, alienate everyone around him.

Kit had always been a great purveyor of unsolicited advice. He doled it out indiscriminately, and while he was most often telling his family how to do the things he felt they should be doing, he also gave advice to strangers. Anyone unfortunate enough to be in conversational range while in the company of a child, anyone of retirement age, young pimply clerks in stores, even, on occasion, couples who were arguing in public. He had an uncanny ability to zone in on people who would actually listen. Many looked trapped and uncomfortable, some impatient and annoyed, but only one in ten would cut him off and be done with it.

 The siblings had just come from visiting their father, who was, to use his words 'languishing in a prison for the elderly'. He was bored and angry and pointedly ignored them on their visits unless they brought him the gift of tiny dried sardines from chinatown. These treats created a little aroma cloud of salt and fish, through which he would stare out at them with his clear blue eyes and tell them stories of his life they had never heard before. This act of sharing on his part stirred sensations of tender appreciation and bitterness in Mallory. As children, he had been a non-presence. A shadow in their home. He was quiet and seemed always to wear grey and if he was there or not didn't make much difference but for the sweet tendrils of pipe smoke in the air when he was.

Their mother had died a mere 4 months after a cancer diagnosis which she chose not to treat. "It's all warfare and fighting," she said to them wearily, "and I don't intend to drag this out." And that was all there was to it. Their father was an attentive caregiver, tender and present. This extended to Kit and Mallory, too. Gentle, empty words of comfort and eye contact and actual inquiries about their lives. Kit devoured the attention, only to realize that his father quickly lost interest, and stared through him, lost in thought. Mallory had been angry at him in those months. How dare he take solid form and try to change their entire dynamic. She gave him nothing, preferring to remain the invisible daughter she had always been. She waited for him to disappear again. She hadn't expected dementia, though, which had made him both more present and more elusive than he'd ever been to her.  The great escape, she thought bitterly, Now you see him, now you don't.

Kit and Mallory sat side by side, bumping along through the city. Each deep in thought as they tended to be after a visit. Kit broke the silence, "What she needs is more structure" he said, leaning away from his sister and touching the arm of a young and harried mother who was negotiating with a weeping toddler. Mallory dropped her head and thought 'oh, shut up, Kit, shut up, shut up...' This mantra never worked. The woman turned her large doe eyes to Kit, and he proceeded to engage her in a patient and well practiced diatribe of his theories on child rearing and discipline. Mallory had seen this before, and largely ignored it. In the past she'd shaken her head and sighed indulgently, but it suddenly felt so unkind, intrusive, and obnoxious that it was all she could do not to slap the back of his head to quiet him. The young mother nodded and listened until she had an opportunity to say,  "You must be a wonderful Dad. How many children do you have?"  He smiled gently and replied, "I wouldn't bring a child into this word for love or money. They're all doomed to drought and famine and chaos. It's entirely irresponsible." Cue stunned parent. Cue asshole brother's broadened smile.

It hadn't always been this way. Mallory suspected that due to years of fatherly neglect Kit was simply trying to be seen. Wanting to be relevant and valued.  There had been a time when peace and comradery reigned. They had agreed on most things and felt like a team, a dynamic duo. That all ended when he launched a non stop campaign of telling her what to do. In camaraderie's place sprung howling arguments and occasional violence. "For God's sake Mallory, your teeth will all rot out if you don't brush longer than a minute!" This when they were 9 and Kit had gotten his first cavity filled. "You'd better keep up with your personal hygiene," he whispered gravely, "or dogs may attack you." This when she started her period, which he shouldn't even have been aware of, never mind giving her advice on. "Mallory, if you keep standing that way you'll be a hunchback by the time we're in high school." These small criticisms eventually grew into more constructive advice which Mallory never took. She would indulge him with a "thank you, Kit" or a "go to hell, Kit", and be done with it.

Mallory followed Kit off of the bus, the silent toddler and her now weeping mother behind them. "You're an asshole, you know." Kit turned to her, stunned "Where the hell did that come from, Mal?" "That woman!" Mallory knew she sounded shrill and hated it but couldn't seem to stop. "It's cruel! You lure people into thinking that you're safe and you're kind and you give a shit, and then you cut them down!" He stared at he for a beat before responding with a gruff "Jesus, Mal." Kit turned and started walking, shaking his head, furious at her.  They strode on like speed walkers, waves of anger shimmering between them. Her heart pounded in her chest as she waited. Waited for more, for something. They came to a crosswalk and stopped, two more beating hearts in the throng of midday pedestrian traffic. "People are idiots, Mal." He said levelly, and gestured around them, "They can't think for themselves and they need help. I just help people, okay? That's Not being an asshole. It's being a samaritan for Christs's sake." "Oh my God, Kit." She threw her head back in exasperation and looked up past the buildings at their backdrop of blue sky with high clouds racing past. She took a breathe and continued more gently "You don't have all the answers, okay? You don't know these people, you don't know who they are or what they think and feel. You just meddle! And quite honestly I think that you like making people feel bad. Your brand of advice always comes with the tag line 'you're fucking up'." "Because they Are, Mal!" "How the hell do you know that Kit?" She fired back. "How do you not know it?" he leaned into her face, "You're so self centered, Mal. You don't help anyone but yourself". The light changed and they were horses out of the gate, muttering to themselves as they continued their arguments privately. Mallory's anger suddenly waned and left her suddenly sad and very tired.  She slowed her pace as Kit marched on, disappearing into the sea of people he thought he had a right to advise.

Friday, June 12, 2015


She had no idea where it came from. She only knew that before, there was nothing, and now, there was something. It frightened her at first, seeming to fill the room with it's colors, and it's smell. New and strange and previously unseen and unsmelt. How did it happen so quickly? She had heard some commotion while she was resting, some conversation and the roar of the machine. She was used to these sounds however, and slept through. There was no audible clue that this was coming. It was silent. It seemed, in fact, to absorb sound. When He walked through the room, the thing ate the sound that He previously made when walking. Now she would not know if He was sneaking up behind her. She stepped tentatively on to it. It was soft, and thick. She smelled it's strange smell and then smelled the place where she had stepped, making sure that her own scent was now on it. She put her cheek to it and rubbed, three quick cheeks on each side and a few with her chin for good measure. So far so good, and now this section smelled familiar. She crouched down, and slowly lay on it, and it felt wonderful. Caressing and warm and when she stretched and rolled it felt like it was petting her. She took a nap. When she woke, all was as it had been. Nothing in the room had changed and she was glad, because she liked things to stay the same. Her person stopped to pet her head and asked "How do you like the new rug, little bit?". She didn't answer of course because her person was very dim witted and hadn't learned to speak properly. And she would certainly not deign to learn the language her person spoke. He was laying on it too, and they looked at each other and agreed that play and chase would be so much better with traction.

We got a new Rug! The cats love it.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I don't have a lot of time or energy to write today, but because I skipped the last three days, here is a quick ABC story.
The first sentence will start with the letter A, the second B and so on throughout the alphabet.

Amelia wandered down the garden path, lulled by birdsong and the smell of wild roses. Breezes tousled the tall grass and bluebells at her feet and set the tree leaves above her head to dances both joyful and solemn. Clouds skittered and gathered, promising a turn in the weather. "Don't forget your slicker" she could hear Nanny calling as she ran out the door that morning. Eventually she would have to admit that she had ignored Nanny in her desire to get out of doors. For now, though, she would revel in her freedom, and the wind, the clouds and leaves and wildflowers. Groups of tiny mushroom rings sprung up here and there as she entered the woods. How magical they looked, like faerie rings! Incandescent in their perfect pearly whiteness against the lush grass. Jumping toads leapt out ahead of her on the path, and she bent again and again to touch their rough backs. Killdear beckoned her with feigned broken wings, luring her away from their fledgling nests. Late afternoon crept on, and she began to wend her way home, tired and happy. Mostly, she thought of the supper that would await her. New potatoes and roast beef and a pudding. Oven hot and served beside the fire in the kitchen, Nanny fussing over her grass stains and snarled hair. Peering over the hill top, she could just make out the roofline and felt a thrill of anticipation. Quickening her walk to a run, she flew through the field of Queen Anne's Lace and evening primrose. Racing now to beat the rain as the sky turned suddenly dark, and the wind blew cold and strong. She let out a shrill cry of glee and shock as the first drops hit her, freezing and forceful in the wind. The gate just before her, she turned her face to the sky for one brief moment before a bolt of lightening sent her scurrying for the kitchen door. Up the stairs by twos and with a bang she was inside. "Vexation!", shouted Nanny, as Amelia stood grinning as a puddle of water formed around her on the stone floor. "Wet as a polliwog!" Cried cook. "Your mother will have my hide for the state of you", grumbled Nanny. "Zest those limes, will you", she asked cook over her shoulder as she bustled Amelia out of the kitchen and toward the stairs.

Eh. X is always such a bother. If she'd broken her arm I could've added x-ray.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A little more about Sister

Sister woke, grumpy and suspicious. Birds filled the air with song, a sprinkler ran in the neighbor's yard, and her parents quiet conversation filtered up from the veranda through the soft green of willow branches. She wanted to go back to sleep, but as she turned her head on the too warm pillow, she felt an unfamiliar sensation of short hairs bristling against the pillowcase, her scalp strangely sensitive. Her eyes narrowed as she reached back and touched the little scrubby patch of red hair, easily the size of a strawberry. "Brother" she growled.

The day before had been Brother's 7th birthday. Sister wanted nothing to do with it. First because he was a nuisance every single day, and more importantly because his birth had usurped her 'only child' status and demoted her, simply and suddenly, to Sister. Mother had enlisted her to set the table. Paper plates with garish pirates on them, hunched over treasure chests and leering past eye patches and parrots. Sister felt annoyed by the repetition of the pattern, thinking they could at least have had different pirates with different booty on the cups and napkins and hats. She climbed onto a chair to push the large plastic treasure chest into the middle of the table, and heard Mother call to her "be careful of the wood, dear!". Sister glared at the kitchen door and hated her mother and decided to mar the mahogany before the day was done. "Stupid party" she whispered, and it felt good to say it aloud.

 The treasure chest was just like the one at the dentist's office, which held the constant disappointment of new toothbrushes and travel sized toothpaste. Only this one had a false bottom, and just the top third of it was filled. Chocolate coins and eye patches and cheap plastic hooks with a little black cup sleeve to hide your actual hand in. She wanted to put something terrible in the chest. Cat poop, maybe. Or worcestershire sauce. As she considered how to go about this Father walked through the room. As usual, his voice entered first and left last, as he was in the habit of announcing the names of whomever was present and then speaking at them as he walked in order to avoid being stopped in conversation. "Sister! Look at my tall girl, being Mother's helper today!", the final words fading as he disappeared down the hall to his study. Sister hated him, and she knew he would be drunk by 2:00, and that he would start to act inappropriately toward Mother by 3:00. She knew that Mother would blush and laugh and have to 'take care of it', at which point Father would nap until his observed cocktail hour of 4:30. She felt sick with embarrassment and it hadn't even happened yet. So she pushed it down, down, as far as she could. Because it was a new day she was able to push it almost all the way to her knees.

The doorbell chimed it's eight soothing notes promptly at 11:00 AM, and heralded a tight group of children, carpooled and awkward in short pants and stiff dresses and little bow ties. Within an hour the house was filled with them. And by the time the cake was rolled out they were a tumbling, screaming, disheveled herd of little wild things. Sister could barely tolerate it. Post cake the sugar high would reach its peak. She tried to escape as she had all day and was once again stopped short by Mother. "Please, darling, I need you to help with gifts! Once they're opened you must keep the card with the package so Brother can write his thank you's". Sister seethed. Her ears turned red and she huffed and snorted through her nose like a little ginger bull, ready to gore the nearest living thing. "Of course, Mother." She smiled with her face and shoved the anger down but it only went as far as her throat. It had been a trying day.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

an un prompted exercise

The small shop felt humid and far too hot after the brisk chill of the world outside. Sister ducked her head as she passed the owner, avoiding pleasantries because they were all just lies, really. She made her way directly to the greeting cards. She hated buying birthday cards. Hated their philosophising on age, their degradation of it, their over the top cheeriness. She wanted a card that was unsentimental, and succinct. 'You happen to be my Father, and you were born on this day, which is nice....because I (am supposed to) love you'. What she truly wanted was to forgo the card altogether. To simply push the words 'happy birthday' and 'I love you' through her clenched teeth but she knew this would somehow be unacceptable and the entire thing made her furious. Reluctantly, she chose a card with a watercolored figure in mid leap. She hated it.

She shouldered her way into the wind, pushing back stubbornly as it bullied her in the direction of home. In the force and frustration of it, she found herself arguing with her mother. About the clothes she was wearing. The length of her hair. That time in high school when she had slapped her in public for sassing back. One small round pearl of anger sat in her chest, wrapped in the word Mother. It was not alone. She was also angry at her father. At her younger brother. At the cat she loved, who loved everyone else best. She was unaware of the fact that her anger consumed her. That it hung in the air around her like the scent of perfume and was the reason she was alone. If you asked her whether she was angry, she would likely say 'Of course I get angry, but so does everyone. Right? Doesn't everyone? You can't live an entire life without feeling angry at people.' And the little pearls in her chest would roll softly against one another, wrapped in the words Mother Father Brother Cat.

She arrived with a gust of wind and the whirl of autumn leaves. They snuck in around her ankles, eddying in the corner of the foyer. "Look at those leaves! You're just like that little pigpen boy from those Charles Brown cartoons!" Mother laughed as she rushed toward her, arms outstretched as if to push her right back out again. Sister held her breath, closed her eyes a moment and swallowed the impulse to slap her. When she opened them she sing songed "Mother! I'll take them with me when I leave, I promise! Let me take off my coat and kiss Father hello". She led Mother from the foyer lightly, as if she were leading her in a waltz. Straight into the den together, and a twirl at the end to achieve the quiet laugh from Mother, and the booming one from Father. 'Sister!' he rang out "Sister is here!" over his shoulder and into the kitchen like a cry to arms. Brother sauntered into the room, grinning wide and followed by his exceedingly petite and monochromatic wife. Ever in shades of ecru, bisque, camel, fawn, and wheat, Jane was still 'new' to the family. With her pale hair and pale eyes and pale skin she stood in stark contrast to the family's bright hair and blue eyes and their affinity for shades of coral, turquoise, and lime green. Bearable enough, Sister thought, in spite of the tiny pearl of anger wrapped in 'Jane' within her.

Supper was perfection. Mother outdid herself, and all of Father's favorites lay on the heavy mahogany table at which they ate every meal. The room was filled with delicious aromas, the silver gleamed brightly, the red wine shone deep and warm in cut crystal glasses. There were bone china plates and linen napkins and the soft glow of candlelight. Sister felt smothered by it all. She heard a million slights in the course of the evening, and they set her teeth on edge. Her family's judgement rang clearest in the questions they badgered her with. "How is your work coming along?" "Have you met anyone nice?" "Do you have any plans for the holidays, or can we count on you for skiing in Vale?" And so she judged them in return, Mother's aging neck and empty laugher. Father's red nose and false charm. Brother's cocky swagger and his loathsome habit of blinking more often than could possibly be necessary. Jane's demure invisibility. Sister guarded herself thus against the world at large. A glance from a stranger on the street would send her into a fit, and she responded by silently abusing the person for the next several blocks. She never considered that anyone looked at her kindly.

Sister stood before the unopened bag of powdered sugar and the sifter, barely containing the scream that was building in her. Mother took her by the shoulders and turned her around. "Dear, your dress." she chided, slipping an apron over her head. She kissed her on the cheek, lightly, the suggestion of a kiss that left only the impression of warmth behind. 'Typical, typical' Sister hissed in her head. She turned back to the cake, and after filling the sifter began to tap it in time with her heartbeat, watching the arsenic fall like tiny pearls.

I didn't intend for Sister to poison her family. It was going to be a tale about who we are on the inside and how it projects onto the world around us. But there you go. Also, if you haven't read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived In The Castle, it's an excellent read. Also, spoiler alert. Oh, and I never got to the cat. But I think Sister would poison it, too.


I haven't written since 2013. But I promised myself that from within this beautiful new creative space, I would begin writing again. So here I am. Uncertain, but willing. I'll be using the book 642 Things to Write About to help me get started again. I plan to write a little (most) every day, and I think it will help to have some prompts.

Here goes...Write for 10 minutes about what is running through a husband -to-be's head while waiting for his wife-to-be to walk down the aisle.

Oh my god. So many of my exes are here. Why did I invite so many exes? So many of her exes are here! Why did she invite so many of her exes? I wonder if anyone will object. Who would object? Certainly none of mine. They probably pity her. They have no idea who I am now! Who do they think they are pitying her? She's lucky to have me! I'm lucky! Stupid blind luck and here I am, about to marry the best person I've ever known. Why is this taking so long? God, I'm so nervous. Hi, Aunt Berty, yes I see you there, waggling your fingers at me. Hi. What color are her nails? They look lethal. Wonder if Uncle Mort felt like this on their wedding day? Look how they turned out. 61 years of matrimonial nagging, berating, and occasional shouting matches. And that was at family gatherings! Poor cousin Maybelline. No wonder she's a spinster. Always coming to these family things with her friend Dixie, year in and year out....oh. Huh. I wonder if Sarah knows? I'll have to ask her later. Later! Later she'll be my wife! God, I'm lucky. Stupid, blind luck. The wedding March! Her mean sister Charlotte! Oh. Sarah.

Hm. Well. It is what it is, and I'm dedicated to posting what I write. So. Until tomorrow.