First section of my first novel.
February 3, 2010
Musings often travel in and out of the recesses of my mind. There are always nouns, colors, and whiffs of chocolate floating amongst the stench of shitty diapers, checks bouncing and the incessant ringing of yet another bill collector. Why is it that when I sit down to journal there are a multitude of thoughts that string together to frame concrete sentences? When I sit down to write the next Great American novel, the nouns jam into the small escape hatch, the valve from whence thoughts become words on the page.
There is something about the intense need to release all those words and thoughts down on the computer screen that revives me, puts meaning back into the chaos of the inner library that I call memories. But the bottle neck refuses to release. The high that comes from the ability to make a gasp, a scream, or a soulful moan escape from the elusive public is dangling from the tip of my proverbial pen, refusing to politely become 0's and 1's in the small cage that rests on the kitchen table collecting dust.
The reason I write is so that the rough edges soften around the real world. So that when people read my writing they assume it is fiction and ask fewer questions. This has backfired recently, when my dad asked me whether I had lost all hope. He had just finished reading my first and only published poem and granted it was slightly on the gruesome side. There was a raw passion, the words floated out of my head and on to the paper faster than I could type. Before I realized what I was doing the whole thing was submitted, accepted and published. In print even, not just on the internet which now a day’s anyone who can hit enter can make that claim.
Last year when I gave into the urge to go back to college, I met the most extraordinary people. There were professors and students and these people actually thought they wrote things that other people wanted to read. I envied them from day one. Then after about two classes, the best author among them was explaining why his story was the worst thing ever given birth to, I gave in. I showed them some of my work. The ones that were written in a flurry of black and blue sprawled across white. The silence almost killed me. They all sat with this look like they couldn’t believe someone could actually count that string of words as something worth keeping, that there was a human that wouldn’t go into convulsions from the inanity of it.
Then, fifteen people started to clamor to be heard. The din that filled the room was deafening. They tripped over each other to express an interest in the scribbles. They wanted to know from where and when and why and how. There were suggestions to improve but no full out blatant errors. The work was worthy of their time, they liked it. Even the professor found merit in it. There was something, a sigh, that could be heard over the din that echoed from deep within me. The torture that I had endured over the placement of each noun, each letter, and each punctuation had paid off. The beads of blood that had escaped from beneath the clenched fingers created hearts on the paper instead of garish streaks. Then the next day yet another paper was due and yet another success.
February 5, 2010
There are days that I wish that I was never a mother. Sometimes in the back of my head there are thoughts that escape and come screaming into the forefront of my brain. The glimpses of the used to be or could have been The woe be gone days of single life. Mornings began at 1 … pm that is. 11pm is when you leave the house to go out … not to run to the store for formula. The screams that fill the house are of pleasure not mewing children. The new toy that you just bought came from Bob’s XXX not Toy’s R Us. The little extra money in the bank goes to this week’s choice of shoes in your size not diapers in her size. Lost dreams of Europe and Africa, searching for artifacts at an archaeological dig in the scorching heat, instead of slowly brushing sand delicately away from thousand year old clay pots, you are flushing sand out of three year old eyes. Backpacking across the middle of France and discovering the secluded gems of the pastoral countryside instead of exploring the joys of hiking to the nearest restroom and still not making it before the urine escapes and spreads across the last pair of clean underwear and the only shirt you brought with you. Oh the joys of motherhood.
As a history major there are glimpses into the past, the pull of the archaic lifestyle of long lost civilizations. Motherhood has its own unique glimpses, mostly of the boogers that were hidden under the edge of the table weeks ago and the banana that was discarded in the backpack forsaken for the Milky Way bar. There are of course the joys that come with this life. There are silences and moments of peace. When they are sleep at the end of a monstrous day and there is finally time to draw a full deep breath. You can grab a stiff drink and a good book. Take the first sip, open to the first page and stop. Listen to the screeching that is emitting from the upstairs hallway indicating that one if not both of the children are again awake and at full implosion mode. The drink is abandoned and the page lost. Deep breathe in, out, in. Up the stairs with a preceding warning of impending death to any living soul still awake when you arrive. The scurry of little feet resounds loudly down the stairwell. You arrive at the top of the steps greeted once again by silence.
You return to the living room to once again page through the unread book and clink the melting ice cubes. Again the silence is shattered by the blood curdling scream of the youngest child. You continue to hold the paperback. A little tighter this time, with the hope that the children will just murder each other quietly and that the blood will not be too hard to scrub out of the carpet.
You begin to read the letters strung together on the page. Never even able to finish a complete sentence before you are summoned upstairs to separate the children who are at this point physically connected by the youngest child’s teeth being imbedded in the older child’s forearm.
After assessing that there is at this time no blood which in turn means no stitches, you return to the book and the drink. This time is different though, there is no more screaming, no more pitter patter, there is just blissful silence. Settling down into the warmth of the worn sofa cushions, the book is once again opened to the first page and the drink is once again raised to the waiting lips. Perfection lasts a full five pages before the eyelids droop and the drink tilts. Another night spent comfortably sprawled on the not so comfortable sofa.
Never enough time to write. There is of course plenty of time for sputum to gush from every orifice of every child in the household. After years of teaching the concept of sharing, they have finally decided to take me up on it. There is no time for me to visit the doctor though and barely time for me to lay in bed long enough to actually close my eyes nonetheless actually sleep But at the end of the day there is a comforting thought, a new idea, an oddity in my life.
The children have taken to calling him Step dad, and in return they have become Stepdaughter. There is something about it that should cause me grief, should cause me to shudder at the thought of yet another person in my life to need me, use me, and spit me back out. Only instead there is a tug at the corners of my lips, ever so slightly turning them upwards, struggling across territory not recently traveled. The little screams of delight as two twinkling pairs of eyes met older, wiser ones. A gut wrenching commotion in the depths of my mind as the three rush off to find some new form of excitement. Torn between the thoughts of the as of yet to return to the fold oldest child and the simple giggle that has long ago been lost. So much to balance, who gets to receive and who gets to dish out. Which is more important and how strong is the bond? Time heals all they say but I would like to know who they are so that I can ask how long it takes and what is healed. Does healed mean that the gaping wound is stitched together again into something similar to the original or does it mean that instead new skin and bone grow into the gap and there is nothing left that resembles the original? Who has these answers and when can I speak to them? I have been told by others that God knows all and that he shows the way. But again I ask who knows how to decipher the signs and don’t they also say that sometimes the answer is no answer at all. Then where am I? Where does that leave me?
February 25, 2010
Again the all encompassing, overwhelming feeling of absolute frustration seeps into the crevices of my mind. The last relationship that I was in I was the bottom of the family totem pole. The Man of the House was at the top, demanding and informing me of how the world revolved and what my role in the whole mess was. The Darling Children were next, not my biological offspring of course but his. The Other Girls were next and they were at least my DNA, the cuteness factor resided here simply because these two belonged to everyone. Just above me resided My Girls, these were the expendable ones, the ones that got left out of all the decisions and forgotten about regularly. Then way at the bottom was the pancake that resembled my former self.
Growing up I watched my mom try to do the right thing. Try to teach us how to stand up for ourselves and how to not need anyone. This last one took me in though. I didn’t need him at first then I needed his help then I needed his support then I needed. And by the end I needed to leave. The hopelessness in which I spent all day everyday was too much. The morning consisted of how to get through the day and the night consisted of how to get through the morning. The cycle was deep and entrenched and engraved in my life. There was always someone who needed something that only I could accomplish correctly. My list grew and grew and grew. Till I did everything, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, doctor appointments, school field trips. There was a never ending supply of requirements that I could not meet. Then at the end of the whole thing I threw my hands into the air and finally said, “I give”. Someone else has to do it. And no else did. So the dishes sat and the laundry piled up and the whole family pointed their finger at me and asked what gave me the right. When I replied that I needed something for me there was silence. That silence is golden. The look in the eyes and the dread in their hearts that someone else might have to step in and do something was absolutely beautiful. I relished in it for a complete two seconds before the clamoring became so loud that I could no longer hear myself think. At that moment I did something I never thought I would have enough gall to do, I left. I grabbed the keys, left my toothbrush, and ran. The proverbial no looking back scenario. First on foot then, I circled back around for the car and I drove. So far that I reached the next town and the house that had been a beacon to me for the last several months and into the new existence that I now call life. Into Step dad.
The day that I met Step dad, there was a rush of air so strong that I gasped. After years of holding my breath, my lungs sucked in hard and screamed a recoil. What should have sent relief through every cell of my body instead sent electricity bouncing from electron to electron.
Saturday mornings are blissfully slow. The ebb and flow of regulars as they drift in and out marks time like the slow steady rhythm of the sea. Each tiny wave ushered in through the door dispersing across the threshold into the dinning rooms, teetering for a moment then meandering past the register and gliding out the exit door. Perched behind the glass counter top, Ann orders the waitresses checks. The front door opens and more faces breezes past. A rustling behind her alerts her to another customer ready to pay their bill. As she turns, her stomach clenches. Josh *****? That face has been burned into the recesses of her mind for over 20 years.
Ann fidgets with her dress.
“Ann? Wow! Ann ****? It has been a long time.”
The bill and credit card hang precariously in the air.
Her fumbles for the proffered items, nearly knocking them to the counter. She quickly glances at the name on the card. Her heart skips several beats. Josh *****. After 20 years, here he stands calmly acting as if no time has passed.
“Tip on the card?” Pause. “Do you need to add a tip to the card?”
“Umm? Re, did you leave a tip on the table?”
Ann turns in a daze and her eyes come to rest on a woman standing protectively close to Josh. The mist begins to clear around the edges of her vision, Re comes into focus. Renee Smith, also a twenty year old memory, this one slightly softer around the edges and not quite so vibrant as Josh.
“No, sorry. Should I run back?”
“Nope. I got it.” his attentions turns back to Ann. “Can you add $3?”
The final shimmers fading from the edges of her vision, Ann pushes the numbers into the credit card machine. The beeping and buzzing returns her completely back to the task at hand.
“Here you go. Sign here.” she rips the receipt in the middle and offers the duplicate copy to Josh. “It was great to see you again.”
The rest of the shift passes much quicker than a normal Saturday. Ann rushes home and tumbles head first into the rest of her day.
As the last child is tucked into bed and the night wraps around her, Ann turns to her homework. After rereading the same word for the sixth time, Ann flips on the computer and logs into ***. She pretends to be checking her messages and the news feed of her friends. There is no one in the chat room that holds her attention this evening. She gives in and searches his name. There it is at the top of the list. Josh *****. The picture does not do him justice. It is one obviously recent and obviously after a rough night. But nonetheless Ann's heart still beats slightly askew. He is so … 12 years old and gorgeous and popular and so not into her. She can't make the silly butterflies in her belly go away. The memories of English class, Josh in front of her, reaching back for her under the desk, … shivers still after all these years. Closing her eyes for a moment to reclaim her thirty something demeanor, she takes a deep breath in. Opening her eyes, her fingers betray her mind and direct the mouse to the “Friend request” button. Before her mind can scream “No!” she clicks the button and fate is set in motion. In rapid succession, Ann clicks out of the screen and turns off the computer, as if they will stop the friend request from being sent.
With pajamas on, she settles on the couch in a naïve attempt at refocusing her mind. Two movies later, her mind is still replaying seventh grade English class over and over. Giving up on any guise of patience, she logs back into the computer and brings up ***. There it is. Right there on the top of the screen.
Josh ***** has accepted your friend request.
There is something about her, something that both softens me and drives me to be stronger. When she sits at that computer she seems to molt. The severe look melts from her face and the deep lines around her eyes become smudged. A frustration arises in me where a relief should reside. The fact that an inanimate object can do for her what I can not, agitates me. She empties herself to those keys, allows them to release her pent up aggression. I’m right here and not a word.
I brush away a strand of her chestnut hair that has escaped to tickle her nose, she smiles up at me. The first real one I have received in awhile. It has been stressful around her lately. The Almighty One, as we refer to him as, has been on his best behavior. Normally people would take this as a sign that things are improving but history has taught us to hold our breath and wait. The explosion came yesterday. The phone call came at work. She looked horrified at first then anger set in. We have an agreement that her conversations are overheard. He has a tendency to say one thing one time and then change it a little later to suit his needs. This time is no different. She walked into the office. The conversation was brief but obviously disturbing nonetheless.
Later when we got home she broke down. The tears came in rapid fire bursts that shredded my heart. What could I have done already. We had only been home a couple of minutes and work seemed to go fine. I went down the list of possibilities and nothing jumped out at me. Then the dam broke and the flood gates opened. Out came the most hateful words.
He wants half the money. Half of $2000 by Wednesday or else he will sue her for all of it. $27,000 and some change. There is no way that we can come up with that kind of money not by Wednesday, not by the summer, not this year. That is more then we bring home in a month, combined. How do we pay the bills? Where is the food coming from? How do I get the money together to secure a lawyer to fight him? Is there anything else that I can do to get her through this? Then an even worse thought enters. What if she no longer wants to fight? What if this is the last straw and she decides to go home to him? Where does that leave me? I have invested so much into these past couple of months. The children have even grown on me. Their pitter patter down the hall a much needed diversion from the frustrations of a long stretch of reality. The silence would be deafening.
He won’t divorce her. This wouldn’t be a problem for the bachelor in me but a couple of months ago she caught me off guard and I proposed to her. She was as shocked as I was. In a momentary lapse of sanity though the whole lot of it sounded like a good idea. The moment was prime, I guess you would say. Chick flick in the background, empty wine bottle on the table, sans children on date night, the emotions came tumbling out before my rationale could slam the brakes on. That is not something you can take back either. No matter how unstable you were at the time, the next morning you can't blame that one on too much wine and expect to remain in a happy, healthy relationship. So here we sit, engaged and mostly happy about it. A significant amount of the stress that surrounds the whole marriage idea is the preconceived notions we both walked into this with. Marriage is not something that either one of us was exactly jumping at. Me for my reasons. All women are cheating, money grubbing whores. Her for hers. Most men just want, want, want and never give back. Leaving is easier if there are no legal ties.
My greatest fear is that I am not good enough. There are so many reasons for her not to stay here. I have no money, no house, no car, hell no driver’s license. My life is in shambles and the vultures have already picked my carcass clean years ago. This body that stands before her is not even whole. How could that attract anyone for the long haul? An unfinished canvas at best. There are other reasons to run. I work at my family’s business. Who would consider that a long term goal? I live in a house that my parent’s own. Not something to write home about. Then of course there are my other families, the ones that the county collects money for every week, money that pays for new cars and nice houses when all she has is an old house and an old car and me.
There is precious little to stay for but day after day she is here. She has other options. Her parents have made it clear that she is welcome there. The car is in her name. The children are hers alone. But every morning when I wake up she is there, the most perfect gift. I try and remember to draw her close, breathe her in, to hold that moment in my heart for when she leaves, because she will leave, and that moment may be the only thing I have left to remember her. Nothing good ever stays for long. They realize what they could have, they see a complete person, someone bigger and better than anything I could ever accomplish.
She has this goal to become a professor. The first part is almost done. Two more classes and she has a BA. That is years ahead of me. Master’s programs dance in her head at night. I can see the eyelids working over the papers and professors and colleagues that flit through her future. The ones who are much better suited to her intelligence level then me. People who can carry on hours long conversations about the birth of a republic so many years ago. I’m lucky if I can remember the names of the people that came in and out of the office yesterday, people thousands of years ago are a mish mash of unpronounceable syllables.