Thursday, March 21, 2013


He hated Amarath. 

Rumor was, his mother pulled off the side of the road, squat down and bore him while the car was still kicking up late August dust. Then pulled away before the dust had fully settled, leaving him red and squalling in a ditch. 

Facts were, he was found pink and naked and newborn by a passerby, then raised collectively by Amarath. The town passed him around it's citizenry out of obligation, but not with care. He stayed in one house until he'd outlived his usefulness, or become too expensive, or too mouthy. He walked out of his last host home on the day of his eighteenth birthday and stood in the the road, both middle fingers extended high in the air. 

"Fuck you, Amarath!", he yelled to the town. He stood there for a moment, half expecting women to wail and men to curse him, or bolts of lightening to come down from God Himself and strike him dead. Instead, he was met with the persistent silence that proved what he had known since the day of his birth - no one cares. 

Apathy and poverty proved stronger than resentment, and he took a room at the boarding house in the middle of town. He paid fifteen dollars a week for a shared bathroom, breakfast, and a metal framed bed in an eight by ten room. His fellow boarders were primarily transient; they stayed only long enough to earn the money to leave. Folks didn't come through Amarath and think, 'Now this is someplace I'd like to settle down.' It happens sometimes, if a man's car breaks down and he never gets around to getting it fixed, or a woman falls in love with the sheriff (he is a foxy fellow), or a baby is dumped in a ditch by the side of the road.

There are some holes too deep to dig yourself out of. 

He wasn't sure what brought the woman to Amarath. He stood in the hall and banged on the door to the bathroom and when the door swung open, instead of Bob Jenkins - who stunk up the bathroom with his cabbage shits and general lack of hygeine - it was the woman. Her hair was wet and stuck to her face, and she smelled like soap and steam and sex. He sucked the air in through his mouth, trying to swallow it, to swallow her, gulping her down as she pushed past him. 

"Do you believe in God?", she asked one night, much later. They lay on his bed, blowing smoke in the air and trying not to look at each other.

He hadn't given it much thought. He spent the summer of his tenth year living with Jonas Nabb's family, and they were devout Church of Christ. They went to church every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and Wednesday nights, too. Sometimes, Jonas would skip Wednesday nights and spend two hours in the barn instead. He'd come out red and sweating and rubbing his crotch, then he'd tithe extra on Sunday. 

"Nah," he said, "I don't suppose I do."

"But what about when you die?", she raised herself up on her elbow and looked him in the face. "Don't you believe in Heaven?"

He blew out a stream of smoke and stared at the ceiling.

"What about Hell?", she sounded nervous now.

"Yes," he said, "Yes, Hell is real and I know its name."

She started to laugh, but choked it back. She traced a finger along his chest and down his belly. "Well, what's its name?", she teased. 

In his head, he was on top of her with his hands around her throat, her face purple. He squeezed and squeezed until her eyes bulged and her tongue swelled between her teeth, until her legs stopped kicking and her nails stopped scratching. 

In the bed, he exhaled slowly and turned his gaze to her and said, softly, "Amarath".

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

There Is Something Wrong With My Eyes

There is something wrong with my eyes. Everything seems blurry, like I've forgotten to rub the sleep out of them, or I've left my contacts in too long, or I'm battling ragweed. Except I did rub it out, and I don't wear contacts (at least, not anymore), and I don't have allergies. 

Allergies. I used to cluck my tongue at my husband when he'd start rubbing his nose in April and sneezing in May and walking around with watery eyes until October. Good God, I'd say, can't you take a pill or something? 

I keep my pills in one of those plastic cases, on my nightstand. It has letters for the days of the week across the lids, one row for morning, one for evening. The mornings are so full that the lids no longer close. I laughed when my doctor first suggested it. Those are for old people! I said. I think I can keep a few pills straight! I said. The alarm goes off at 9 a.m., and again at 6 p.m. It's one of those high pitched, intermittent buzzes, but in my head it screams, Take your damned pills! Take your damned pills! My daughter always comes in after the alarm goes off to make sure I've taken the pills, and taken the right ones. Like I can't figure it out. 

You mess up one time and all of a sudden, people think you're a fool. 

I spent years bent over the desks of children, making sense of the numbers they'd scrawled on the papers in front of them. Picture it in your head! I'd say, but most of them couldn't see it the way I did. Most of them didn't see the numbers stretch out on a coil, wrapping around each other, spinning and dancing in space. Math was like music for me, I could positively hear equations being solved! I tried to teach those children, and my own, but too often got nothing but blank stares in return. 

My children still look at me like that, sometimes. Sometimes I will catch them staring with furrowed brows and sad smiles.  What was that, Mom? My son said to me this morning, wearing that face. I'd said nothing, and told him so. He squeezed my hand and kissed my forehead and left the room. 

What the hell was that all about? 

When I first started taking all those pills, I drove myself to and from the doctor. Then one Sunday after church, they all cornered me in the living room and accused me of keeping information from them. I hadn't not told them anything, as far as I could remember. But they didn't let me go alone after that. Then there was the business with the car. I've always been an excellent driver, anyone would tell you that. But the girls were worried, and I guess didn't want me busted by the fuzz for driving while hopped up on pills. I've never been arrested, and it sounds like something everyone should do once, but I kind of understood. Plus, that was right around the time I was getting tired, and who doesn't want to be chaffeured around like Miss Daisy, or Beyonce? 

Now they have a nurse come to me, which is just fine. She comes in and calls me Mrs., and rubs my feet with lotion, and refills my box of pills. It's quite fancy, actually. One time, my husband paid for a woman to come and give me a massage at our house. She brought a fold up table and warm blankets and even a CD of what sounded like whales, or Taylor Swift. I don't remember exactly. I was a little nervous at first, because she did it in the living room, and the oversized photo of my children when they were just little ones was staring at me from the mantle. They hadn't seen me naked since they were about that age, and here I was having some strange woman rub me down in the middle of the house. It's not like we were having sex or anything, but still. It was kind of weird. 

About two minutes into the massage, I totally forgot about the picture, and the fact that I was naked in my living room at noon on a Tuesday, not having sex. I melted under her hands, under the warm blanket, the sound of Taylor/whale songs in my ears. When she was done, I pointed to a check on the table, stumbled the seventeen steps to my bedroom, and slept for the next twelve hours. 

The home nurse isn't quite that good, but she rubs my feet and hums, which is nice.

I haven't told her about my eyes, either. 

I gave up contacts long ago, when they started scratching my eyeballs like sandpaper. You have very dry eyes, the doctor said. A thirty dollar copay for Mr. Smart Guy to tell me what I knew before I left the house. So I started wearing the glasses again; wore them until they started hurting behind my ears and I had to wear them perched on the tip of my nose, arms pointing straight up. You look like a bird, my husband said. I showed him a bird, the one located between my index and ring fingers.

I wore them to watch my favorite television programs and read my books, even when I started forgetting what was happening on the shows, and reading the same page two or three times. I wore them until there was nothing left to see, then I sat them on my nightstand next to the pill box. 

When I noticed somethng was wrong with my eyes, I put them back on. Nothing changed, so I took them back off. I got nose to nose with myself in a hand mirror and looked for a long time at my eyeballs. 

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but I am telling you - I looked for an awfully long time, and all I saw were the tired eyes of an old woman. 

And I am tired. I am tired of doctors and sad smiles and foot rubs and I am tired of that damned pill box. So I won't tell them that there is something wrong with my eyes, because I am too tired to do anything about it. 

I think I'll just close them for awhile, instead.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Most Random Post Ever.

A friend of mine posted this movie on Facebook with a 'remember this?' and, usually, I don't, but this time I did. 
Pot roast was my culinary Waterloo. Was, until I found this recipe - 

The idea of cold oatmeal, or overnight oats, repels me. Like, I find it morally repugnant. 

I decided to give it a try, and turns out, I love it. Chia seeds are crack. I disgust myself.

I am reading Epic Mom, a book by my friends MOV and Marianne. I'm reading it sitting in the car line, and it makes sitting in the cold car while Henry throws shit at the back of my head much more bearable. I'm going to review it, which will be the first time I have ever reviewed anything.No one has ever asked, which kind of pisses me off, now that I think of it! So, thanks MOV and Marianne!

I am going to be more honest than I want to be here: Julia drives me nuts. She is just so intense and winter is hard on her, and me. She needs to get out and run around and she isn't getting that. Katie's play is in the last week of rehearsals, and we have school projects due and she's nervous, and Henry pees on everything, and poor Julie is just floundering. She really needs more of my attention and patience, and I need to remember that she is just a little kid. She is the easiest of the three and I get so exasperated, and I feel awful. I will change that. 

Also, March owns my ass.

I don't think there is a day on the calendar when something isn't going on. I am behind on doctor's appointments and pictures and oh, everything. I finally made an appointment for the piano to be tuned since we bought it (three years ago), and the grandfather clock to be serviced (every 5 years, we've had it 12 and never done it). 

I bought some clothes because, again with the painful honesty, I was embarrassed. I gained some weight over the winter and nothing fit.  I was wearing a lot of sweatpants and sweatshirts. Ratty looking shit from Target (clearance, $3.99), not lululemon.

The weather is going to be nice next week, eliminating my last excuse for not running all winter, and most fall. I don't think I've run even once since November. I am scared to death of that first go, but my life is so much better when I'm running, even a little.

I am not writing, I am tired. I told a friend that I was sitting at the literary equivilant of the Woolworth counter. Later, I realized I meant Schwab's where Lana Turner was discovered, not the site of a civil rights protest in Greensboro, NC. I am not comparing my writing to the fight for racial justice. My bad. 

I always feel like there is so much to do.

Shutup Roxy needs a bath. The last time I cut her nails, she got away before I could get one paw, and now I can't remember which one I missed. She turns thirteen this month, and she is such a jerky dog, but she's mine and I love her. My mom got a puppy, because she is crazy. It makes me want one a little, too. Like I feel when learning a friend is pregnant - for just a minute I want one too, and then I remember what huge pains in the ass puppies and babies are. They just suck the life out of you, in a good way. I will be content with my kids who poop in a toilet and my old, fat dog who pees outside. 

Our pillow top mattress was shit, just horrible. I was sleeping in a hole. Mattresses are ridiculously expensive, so Sean cut the pillow top off and we bought a foam topper for $159 at Costco. Next to the $14 air popper, it may be the best money we've ever spent. Take that, mattress people!

I am restless. I want to get out and dig in the dirt and stop wearing coats and pull out the flip flops. I want to wash everything and throw things away and do something new. I feel a deep need to spiff shit up. I'm thinking about something new for SFC, and I'm going to ask my friend JRose what she thinks. 

Out with the old, in with the new. It seems to be a thing, this March.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Talk to Me, Goose.

People keep dying, and it's getting on my nerves. Not people I know, but people who are known by people I know. Sometimes, it's removed one or two more times; close enough that I hear about it, but not so much that I am upset enough that it affects me longer than a few minutes. I'm sorry. Do you want to get some lunch? It's like Six Degrees of the Grim Reaper. 

It's kind of depressing. 

And I think what really annoys me is the coopting of tragedy that seems to go on, especially on social media sites. Please pray for my aunt's neighbor, she is very ill and needs your good thoughts! I'm not sure what her name is, but I know if you just pray for "Susie's Aunt's Neighbor", God will hear you! I'm guilty of this, I admit it. I pass along stories of horrible things that happen to people I don't really know. I'm saying, this is horrible! But I'm thinking, thank God it isn't me. It's like the telling is a talisman against the Boogeyman who is constantly circling, his stinking breath fogging up our windows, his dog shitting in our yard. 

Hug your babies tight tonight! They warn us. As if the death of a stranger makes us love our children more, or take our good fortune for granted less. 

What do we take for granted? 

There is an elderly gentleman at church, who comes alone each Sunday. He shuffles in to the coffee room after the mass, his shoulders stooped and one hand shoved in his pocket. Everyone is cordial, everyone is always cordial, but you can see the slight shift in bodies when he walks in. People suddenly need to use the bathroom, or see someone about something, somewhere. Because he's going to talk - a lot. He might start by pronouncing some great truth in Latin, followed by an awkward silence while everyone tries desperately to remember their one semester of high school Latin. Then he translates, and everyone nods knowingly, as if we have any idea where this is going. 

Then he starts in. It may be a story about his time in the Army, or his years spent as a traveling salesman, or as an educator. And while his audience tries desperately to come up with a subtle and polite escape, they miss the story. They take it for granted. Because here's the deal - This is the coolest guy you'll ever meet. 

He is old and bent and ignored and taken for granted because he appears so terrifically ordinary

I remarked to a friend recently that I thought she lived a very different life inside her head. She wasn't sure if I was being sarcastic, or insulting, or complimentary. The truth is, she is a very ordinary, intensely interesting person. Not everyone is out there making movies and writing policy and curing cancer. But the guy driving the truck is no less complicated, his life no less rich, than the guy exploring the jungles of South America. 

OK, the explorer might be a little more interesting. The point is, everyone has a story. This is what we take for granted, from the people we meet every day, to the man in the church basement, to the people in our own families. 

And the tragedy is when we lose them, never having heard their story. Our lives are littered with unassuming people, content in simplicity, taking for granted their own importance. Go, find one of them now, and ask them to tell you a story.