Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Reaching Earth


--For Bethany--

“What’s it gonna be tonight—Dirty Harry or The Notebook?”
“I am not watching either of those movies ever again,” I say.
He drops his jaw and stares at me like I just put a gun up to his temple.
“What did you just say?”
“Wes, come on. I’ve watched each one of those movies with you every single week for like two years now. I love you, but I just want to watch something different. Why don’t we go out for a change? Let’s actually do something.”
“What do you mean do something? We always do something. Am I boring you?”
I groan and put my hand up to halt the path this conversation is leading us, “Fine, let’s just watch The Notebook.”
He frowns and shakes his head back and forth, raising his eyebrows, “No, no. Let’s go actually do something,” he mocks, “Because you don’t want to watch either one of my favorite movies of all time ever again. It’s fine, let’s go. Where you wanna go?”
“Wes, seriously, it’s fine. I enjoy watching the same movie every week. It’s fun,” I force a half smile.
“Oh shut up, Jane. I see right through you. Let’s go shopping and try on expensive clothes we don’t need and go get some makeup and then some ice cream that we’ll feel guilty about five minutes later and blame on our innocent boyfriends, because they made us shove it in our mouths—“
“Wes,” I cut him off, “I don’t really understand what you’re doing right now, but it’s kind of bugging me, so quit it.”
“Oh, so I’m bugging you, too? First, I’m boring, now I’m annoying-- what’s next, huh? I’m just a bad boyfriend, aren’t I?”
“Is this a joke? First off, I never called you boring, and I didn’t even call you annoying. You’re putting words in my mouth right now.”
“Gosh, I’m just terrible. I’m boring and annoying which makes me a bad boyfriend and I put words in your mouth. Just terrible.”
“I don’t really know whether to laugh or leave,” I admit.
“You know what, just leave. If you don’t wanna be here then just go home. Cause I don’t want you here anyway.”
Hearing him say he doesn’t want me there almost makes my eyes sting with tears. I was ready to laugh at the situation and compromise with him, but now I really do want to go home.
I press my mouth shut, grabbing my keys. I rev up my car and plug in my phone, playing “Eros” by Ludovico Einaudi.
The high notes of the piano exchange turns while a deep note creeps in and scares them to a soft resonating halt. The high notes regain composure and creep back in, slowly and cautiously, until the deep note scares them again. Finally, the prancing notes take off as the pulse of the deep notes come at a steady pace, three hits at a time. They are at a battle now, fighting for attention, fighting for their turn, fighting for what they want. The deep notes pulse harder now and the high notes whine, longing to win the battle.
One. Two. Three.
One. Two. Three.
One—I scream.
The cracking and crashing all around me drowns out my hearing, my vision blurs, everything smells burnt and dead. My vision blurs to black.

“She’s gotta be okay, she’s gotta be okay, she’s gotta be okay.”
I hear a familiar voice pacing back and forth, revisiting each word with hostility and fear.
I push my eyelids open and my blurry vision clears. I am in a hospital. In a cot. Wes is pacing back and forth with his hands on each side of his head. I hear pulses of notes doing cartwheels in my head and I remember. It was a car crash.
“Oh, baby, oh, baby, you’re awake. Does it hurt? I’m so sorry for everything. I love you, I love you. Oh, God, I love you.”
I open my mouth, and rest my hand on the cot to lift myself up, but I can’t. My body aches and each muscle screams at me to stop. Pain pricks my eyes with tears.
“I love you,” I choke out.
“I’m so sorry for everything I said, I really am. I will never ever get mad at you again, I swear it. I am going to love you until the day I die,” his words start to become distorted as tears run down his cheeks, “I got that phone call and I thought you were dead, Jane. I mean I didn’t know, but what if you had died? I would’ve lived the rest of my life in agony. I probably would’ve killed myself, Jane. I promise, I swear to you, I am going to be the man of your dreams from now on.”
God zooms in from the tips of the universe, past the galaxies, through the solar system, past the planets, and finally, he reaches Earth. He narrows his vision down to this hospital. This cot. And there in that cot, with pain up to the tips of my baby hairs, he nods his head in approval and draws a smile on my face. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tally Trial #2


I know you’ve been going through the last 7 days in distress and anticipation since Tally Trial #1. But you’re going to be disappointed. Or not, depending on how you look at the people in this world.
Well, as I promised, I deliver unto you a Tally Trial #2. The test results are taken from Monday, November 26, 2012.
I kid you not, this Monday, I had no tallies.
Zero.
There was not a single person that came in and teetered on the edge of sanity as my annoyance level crept up to its tippy toes. I think the longest anyone took to even reply to my question was three seconds.
This goes completely against my hypothesis and completely against my last test results. I’m so confused. My only theory is that there’s something fishy about the date November 19. So, here’s what has happened in the past on November 19th that may have caused this aura of turmoil I experienced last Monday.
In 1931, The US and some other countries in the League of Nations decided to give China a hand and get Japan out of Manchuria. In 1944, it was a pretty fierce day on the battlegrounds during World War II. In 1954, the first road toll was used. I suspect this is the biggest factor in the uneasiness and confusion people face on November 19ths.  In 1973 there was a big energy crisis with America and oil and all that jazz. 1994 was a pretty big year for November 19ths. It was the day a school tried to decide what to do when they found out there were 2 dozen child molesters in their area; It was the day an explosion in Mexico killed over 500 people; It was the day the UK Lottery started. Most notably, this was the year I was born. I know it’s kind of cheating to say that, because I wasn’t born on November 19th, but my birthday was so strong that it glazed over the entire year and its turmoil landed on November 19th and that’s what caused all the ridiculousness at the restaurant last Monday.
So there you have it.
November 19th sucks because of China, World War II, road tolls, oil, child molesters, Mexico, the lottery, and my birthday.
I have a feeling you’re going to be living in anticipation until next November 19th

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coffee


Something about that guy. There was something about that guy that made Rosalyn dizzy. It wasn’t his chocolate curls or his pale, smooth skin or his teeth that reflected the sun. It wasn’t any of that. It was this energy, this aura, this magnetic field that he created that stretched out from his skin and barely touched her.
               She talked to him every Monday morning.
               “I’ll have a regular coffee.”
               Levi recognized her face but he didn’t know her name. After so many Monday’s of regular coffee, he felt like he couldn’t ask for her name anymore. He knew her too well to ask something so… so introductory.
               “Here’s your coffee,” he told her.
               She felt this pushing urge to be closer to him, to step fully inside his magnetic field, but she never did. She secretly hoped he would ask her for her name and maybe a date, too. No, that’d be crazy. Not a date. Just a name.
               He handed her the hot coffee and he tried to maneuver his finger to overlap hers when he handed it to her, but it never worked. One time he almost dropped the entire cup of coffee. He wanted to say something, but how can you start up a conversation when you’ve known someone for half a year and don’t even know their name?
               Every Monday before getting out of her car, she’d sigh and breathe in deeply. It’ll be today. I’ll say something special today. Something extra. I’m gonna do it. I will.
               She walked inside, put her hand on the edge of his magnetic field and couldn’t do it. Her head and her heart in unison were screaming at her, “Say something! Anything!” But all that came out was “I’ll have a regular coffee.”
               She wanted to know if they had things in common-- if they both loved the smell of tennis balls, if they both made their beds each morning, if they both loved classical music when studying. She wanted to know if they both hated Tuesday’s, if they both hated people with blonde hair and brown eyebrows, if they both hated wearing socks while they slept.
               He wanted to know where her tickle spot was, he wanted to know if her hair curled up when she got out the shower, he wanted to know which side of the bed she slept on.
               One Monday Rosalyn didn’t show up.
               She put her translucent hand on the edge of the window and stared at him. Stared at Levi.
               Her mouth moved, “If only I would’ve said something. Anything.”
               Cop cars and ambulances whizzed by the coffee shop. A semi driver dozed off and hit a white car head on. She was instantly dead.
               All they had in common was coffee.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tally Trial #1


Being a hostess at a restaurant isn’t that bad. It really isn’t. But there are certain people that make the job really, almost intoxicatingly, hard. Not even hard, really. Just painful.
It was a Monday. Normally Monday’s are what us restaurant-folks call “dead” days, but there was a big football game on with the kind of surround sound that pulsed through your chest, and the rush started to come. I got assigned to be hostess for the night, so I took my stance at the stand and waited.
The first couple came in. They were average looking. I can’t say I remember anything about them besides that they were average. Kind of fat, maybe a little short. And that’s when the pain began.
“Would you like to sit in the dining room or the high top tables tonight?” I smiled at them.
The wife looked at her husband and bit her lip, looking from the dining room to the bar and back to the dining room again. She then looked at her husband, waiting for him to decide.
As they stood in silence, looking around the restaurant like a couple of lost sheep, the front door opened and a family came in. A party of four.
At this point, the woman realized she needed to hurry up and make a decision, so she looked at me and said, “We don’t care.”
She shrugged her shoulders and he raised his eyebrows a bit.
I love people that are versatile. “Okay, then! The high top tables are open seating, so go on back and help yourself!”
She got this horrified look on her face as if I had just drowned a newborn baby and thrown it off a cliff. “We don’t want to sit up there,” she said.
Interesting.
The temptation to say, “Oh, so you do care? Alrighty then,” was heart-throbbingly strong. But I didn’t say it.
I smiled at her like she didn’t just do the most ridiculous thing ever and took her to a table in the dining room.
The couple was out of my way at this point, so my annoyance level dropped back down to normal.
I made my way back up to the host stand to greet the party of four that came in.
“Hi, guys,” I welcomed them.
The mother stared at me with both hands holding her purse and her lips tightened. They did not even acknowledge that I had spoken.
“Would you like to sit in the dining room or the high top tables tonight?” I said my line.
“High top tables! High top tables!” the little boy tugged on his mother’s hand.
“High top tables, I guess,” the mother answered me.
“Okay, then, it’s all open seating back there so just help yourself,” I motioned to the back of the restaurant.
“We don’t want to sit up there,” she grimaced at me.
You’re kidding. Two in a row? I ought to start a tally.
You know what? I will.
I ended up sitting them at a table which they complained about and then insisted that they get moved to a booth.
I made my way back to the stand and started a chart in the corner of the glass. Two tallies.
It was couple after couple, family after family, the occasional lone guy that headed for the bar without even looking at me… but I swear to you, in an hour’s time, I had eleven tallies at the stand. I probably greeted twenty or twenty five parties. That means that about fifty percent of Monday restaurant goers are completely and utterly… I hate to say stupid—or ridiculous or dumb… they’re utterly ill-advised.  I don’t even really like that either. It’s too nice. They’re just rude.
Anyways, after an hour passed and my annoyance level was through the roof, I decided to expand my research trial. I started counting the seconds it took between my line—Would you like to sit in the dining room or the high-top tables tonight?—and their “I don’t care but I really do care” response. The numbers were astounding. The next hour wasn’t as busy, and I only got four tallies down, but I kid you not-- each time, it took them eight seconds to say it, except for one couple. They took twenty-three seconds. And these were serious seconds. I did the whole “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi” thing. And couple number twenty-three was especially entertaining, because a server was stuck behind them trying to get through and by the ten second mark, a woman with a screaming baby in her arms was stuck behind the server trying to get to the bathroom, and by second twenty or so, a family was stuck behind the screaming mother stuck behind the server trying to go home.
Now, eight seconds might not seem like a long time to you, but sit back in your chair right now, close your eyes, and count to eight. Seriously, do it.
That is way too long. You either know where you want to sit or you don’t. And in this case, it’s even worse, because these people take eight seconds to give a crap answer like “I don’t care” and then freak out when I make the decision for them.
People. These. Days.
I don’t care if my results are legitimate or not. Maybe it was just a grumpy Monday crowd.
But, next Monday, I’m doing it again-- Tally Trial #2-- and this time I will be thoroughly prepared. Hypothesis and all. Finally, a chance to use the scientific method in real life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chalk Wars

Every Tuesday, Mrs. Skinker gave her introductions and got out her chunk of stacked papers plopping them on the table. She had blonde hair that tiptoed on her shoulders and her wardrobe consisted of skirts with tights and different colored cardigans. She sorted through her papers until she found the paper that pleased her. She’d pick up her reading glasses, prop them on the tip of her nose and turn around to the chalkboard.
Every Tuesday, she had one paper in her left hand and one hand reaching down for a piece of chalk. Her hand stopped and her lips turned into a pursed frown. She would walk the stretch of the chalkboard, leaning over to find a piece of Godforsaken chalk. There was never a piece of chalk.
She would mutter little profanities under her breath and she’d leave the room. She walked to the room directly across the hallway and repeated her procedure. When she came back to the classroom empty handed, she stared at her students and said, “Well. There’s no chalk.” She’d take off her glasses and stare at her paper. “You can all go home.”

Every Thursday, Mr. Ping gave his introductions and got his chunk of stacked papers plopping them on the table. He had brown hair that he spiked in the front and he always wore black rimmed glasses. His wardrobe consisted of long sleeved button ups with sweater vests. He sorted through his papers until he found the paper that pleased him. He would sit down on the table-- never a chair, always the table—and would begin his lecture.
Every Thursday, he got ten minutes into his lecture, waving his hands around like a composer to a choir when he conveyed an idea that was really noteworthy. He stood up and walked towards the chalkboard. He leaned over and stared at the empty tray that stretched the length of the room. He reached into his jean pocket and out came a piece of chalk. “I took the chalk out of this room the first week. Guarantee you it wouldn’t have shown up again. Stuff is like gold.”

               Ten weeks into classes, Mrs. Skinker ripped her pleasing paper in half and asked the three remaining students in class for a permanent marker.  She wrote a note on the paper and duct taped the note to the table.
               She sat in her office with no papers to grade. She propped her feet up on the desk and cracked open The Takeover. Her students hadn’t turned in a single assignment all semester. The phone rang.
               “Hello?”
               “Yes, Professor Skinker. This is Dean Rivers. I’m afraid I don’t have time for a face-to-face meeting today, but I’d like to talk with you briefly over the phone.”
               “How can I help you?”
               “I’ve noticed that you haven’t submitted any grades for your students this semester, and we are five weeks from finishing things up. Could you please take the time today to submit grades?”
               “Sorry, I have no grades to submit. There’s no chalk in my room.”
               “Excuse me?”
               “Yes, there’s no chalk in my room. I cannot write on the board what my students need to learn, therefore, I cannot assign homework, which in turn would mean there would be no way for me to submit grades.”
               “You’ve gotta be kidding me, Professor. Why have you not brought my attention to this?”
               “It is not my job to supply chalk in the room, sir. Maybe you should address the man responsible for stealing the chalk from the room. Then my students would be turning in homework, and there would be grades to post.”
               “Well, who’s responsible?”
               “A man by the name of Mr. Ping.”
               “Mr. Ping? Can’t you two work this out? You two are the head of this English department. I can’t have you fighting.”
               She took her feet off the desk and leaned forward.
               “I think he needs an intervention.”

               The tenth Thursday of the semester, Mr. Ping came to class with his stacks of papers. He didn’t even bother to scan the tray for chalk. As he straightened his papers on his desk, a gray object caught his eye. He shifted his eyes to the paper and read the words, “Please do not take chalk from this room.” “Please” was underlined three times. He looked up at the students that sat at the edge of their chairs, straining their ears. “That’s funny,” he smiled. “It says ‘Please do not take the chalk from this room.’ They even taped it to the table. Duct taped it. I took the chalk the first day of class. Didn’t know it was pissin’ somebody off.”
               Ping ripped his paper in half, chuckling all the while as he took a red pen and wrote a note, scotch taping it to the table. He even left a little object. “It’s a peace offering,” he thought, “This will win ‘em over.”

               The eleventh week of the semester, Mr. Ping finished up his class, and went to his office. He opened the door and flicked on the lights.
               It felt like Leatherface had popped off every single one of his fingernails with a screwdriver, letting the bloody skin mingle with the oxygen in the air. That’s how badly they scared him.
               “You must be the one that takes the chalk.” His husky voice bellowed.
               “Oh my god!” Mr. Ping caught his breath.
               “Are you or are you not the one that takes the chalk?” Dean Rivers scowled.  
               “Wait a second,” Ping continued, “are you the one who wrote that note and duct taped it to the table?”
               Professor Skinker stepped aside from behind the Dean and said, “No, I am. Are you the one that replied? With this?”
               She held up the white paper with red scribbles; in her other hand, she held up the EXPO marker.
               It read: ‘So sorry, hope this makes it up.’ Sorry was underlined three times.
               Mr. Ping laughed, expectant of them to have a sliver of light-hearted fun. If anything, they scowled even harder.
He said, “Did you get the full joke? You know-- the marker on the chalkboard?”
               “You left a rude note with an EXPO marker on the chalkboard like this is some kind of game? I hate to break it to you, but this is college, Ping. It isn’t some kind of game where you joke around,” Professor Skinker grimaced.
               “Are you kidding me? Why is a little piece of chalk making you two so mad? I don’t even understand how this can be a concern.”
               “Mr. Ping,” Dean Rivers began, “This entire semester, you’ve been stealing the chalk from this room, yes?”
               “Well, I wouldn’t call it stealing. It’s pretty hard to find, so I took it the first day. It’s always a problem.”
               “So, yes, you stole the chalk. Since there was no chalk, Professor Skinker here hasn’t been able to teach her class. Her students have already paid for the class, but there are no grades. Therefore, their current grades are unavailable. I suspect many problems will be coming to me soon from parents and the students themselves regarding their incomplete grades. We can thank you for that.”
               “I don’t understand why this is going on,” his face became hot, “I honestly didn’t mean to cause problems here. I just needed some chalk. Can’t you just go get some chalk from Student Services?”
               “That’s not what this is about, Ping,” Dean Rivers bellowed.
               “Then, what is this about?”
               “Well, it’s about… it’s about… well, chalk! Of course it’s about chalk!”
               “You’re meaning to tell me now that all these ridiculous problems are arising from a little piece of calcium carbonate?”
               “Calcium what?” the Dean narrowed his eyes.
               “Chalk. All these problems are coming from chalk.”
               “Well, yes!”
               Mr. Ping pulled a piece out of his pocket and handed it to the Dean.
               “I quit.”
               Mr. Ping swears he saw Skinker grin.
               “You can’t just quit! It’s the middle of the semester, Ping!” he yelled.
               “I’ll deliver a box of chalk to you for Christmas!” My. Ping waved as he walked down the hallway.
               The Dean turned around to Skinker with his mouth wide open.
               “Good God, why are you smiling?”
               Her face cleared as she looked at him, “What?”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Keep Breathing


                He held the grocery list in his hand. “What the hell is quinoa?”
               “It’s a whole grain, well technically it’s a seed, but it smells like dead ladybugs ‘til you cook it. It’s healthy, baby.”
               He shook his head and sighed at the list in his hand as he folded it into his pocket.
               “Next time, you’re going. And I’m not eating your dead ladybugs.”
               I smiled, “I love you.” He left.

               I sat in the living room flipping through our “Photo Album of Firsts” that Alexander made me a few years ago. A vanilla candle scented my small space.
Our first Halloween. We were the Black Eyed Peas. We smudged dirty black eye shadow around our left eyes and drew P’s on our white T-shirts. We won the contest.
Our first Thanksgiving. He filled his plate with turkey, stuffing, potato casserole, and jello goop that swished around in your mouth. He tried the stuffing and his chewing stopped. He ate everything one bite at a time, trying to slip in bites of the stuffing. He didn’t want to be left with a mound of stuffing for my grandmother to see.  He stared at the pumpkin pie across the table several times.
Our first Christmas. He got down on one knee and told me I was the apple of his eye. I told him he was my best friend. And yes.
My first miscarriage. There were no pictures of that. There was a gap in the photo album. I wouldn’t leave the house. I didn’t even wear makeup. I stayed home and learned how to cook off the television. When he came home, he swaddled me with blankets and told me he loved me. I made him stop and told him dinner was in the microwave. Press start.
My second miscarriage. I stopped cooking.
We stopped trying. Doctor’s suggested adoption. He told me he loved me the same. I told him I couldn’t do the single thing a woman was supposed to be able to do. He still loved me.

“Anybody gonna help me bring all these groceries in?”
He looked like an Olympic grocery bag carrier, six bags on one arm, three on the other. I tiptoed up to him, getting closer and closer to his sweet, piney scent.
“Welcome home, my love.” I whispered with a kiss.
When he laid the bags on the table, a box stumbled onto the counter.
It was a pink and white box, the little pink plus and the little pink minus staring up at me.
“What is this?”
He scratched his forehead and said, “I thought maybe you could just check… to be sure.”
I frowned. “And when that little pink plus sign demands to have your heart and you hand it over and it rips it up into little tiny pieces handing back a,” I take a breath, “a little pink minus sign in return, “
“Just try, Jade” he said, “It won’t change anything if it’s not.”
I went to the bathroom. I sat there rubbing the smooth white surface waiting for the minus sign to slowly dissolve its way to the surface. I screamed. We hugged. I’m pregnant. I touched my stomach.
“Stay alive, baby. Keep breathing.”