Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My So-Called Life

If I were to create my life from scratch, including every little detail I’ve ever fabricated, starting from now, this would be it.

I will graduate from BYU-Idaho with my Bachelor’s in English: Creative Writing in April 2010. My mother and grandmother, I am told, will come to my graduation for sure. They will stay at the Best Western or the Inn by Applebee’s for a few nights. My mother will jump up and down, grab my face, and kiss my cheek, saying how I am her only child to graduate. And I will introduce them both to some of the greatest people I know. We will eat at Café Rio or Macaroni Grille in Idaho Falls.

I will stay with Brittany for three weeks—one in Utah, and two in Rexburg—while I prepare for the British Literary Tour. I go to France, Ireland, Great Britain, and Wales and fly home, to Austin, from Salt Lake City.

By this time, I will have a job lined up for me to come home to, hopefully using some of what I’ve learned in the past five years. I will work in downtown Austin at one of the high rise buildings. It will be a professional sort of job, and I will dress professionally every day—in Anthropologie. After a month or two, I will buy a car. And I will begrudgingly attend the Austin Institute of Religion.

Within a year or so of working at this place, I will take cake decorating courses, become a Daughter of the American Revolution, have a flat stomach, get my scuba diving license, learn how to rock climb and play the harmonica, join a band, read books on eastern religions, prepare for the GRE, and work towards Italian citizenship.

Then, I will go to Boston University and get my MFA in creative writing. While I’m at BU, I develop a great camaraderie with those in the same program. One of whom is a muscular man with thick, wavy, brownish-blonde hair and brown eyes; he wears plaid button-ups, scarves, braided-leather shoes, and pea coats. We will talk about Thoreau, Faulkner, and Plath, about Sting and the history of the Bee Gee’s, and about pop-culture of the 1980’s. We’ll listen to Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper, and Bob Dylan. We’ll make each other laugh. He won’t act like an emotional girl, or play any games with me, and he’ll actually like me. We like watching artistic and foreign films—edited, of course—and making/eating our own trail mix.

One day, we’ll take a walk in a snow-covered park. I’ll be in heels from Anthropologie, and my hair will be really long by now—I’m like 26 or 27. He’s like 28 or 29 and 6’3”. He’ll carry me over the icy parts and move my hair out of my face with his fingertips.

I decide to take a weekend trip to New York City. By this time we’re both graduated, and Dream Man is a professor at NYU. He buys me an affordable, Tiffany cushion-cut engagement ring and proposes on a bench in Central Park. We get married in the Manhattan temple and have our reception in his parents’ backyard in Rochester.

He’s making millions by now, and I decide to open up a cake café—people eat cake while reading from my favorite novels. We live in a small, downtown apartment, like the one Meg Ryan lives in, in You’ve Got Mail. I have it decorated with Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, and I refinish old furniture from Goodwill and the D.I. I accent with real white Dasies and Spray Roses.

We decide to start our family. I’m like 30 now. But we don’t want to raise our kids in the city, so we move to New Jersey or Connecticut or Upstate New York. We drive eco-friendly cars. We have a small house, like the cute little ones in Rexburg and downtown Salt Lake and downtown Austin, and about 4 acres. We own three horses, two chickens, a potty-trained pot belly pig that we let live indoors, two cows, and two caged doves. We have four kids—three boys and one girl. I have a small square foot garden and plant basil, parsley, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, squash, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and lavender. We have an apple tree, a cherry tree, and an orange tree. I cook Vegan food, and bake purely organic cakes.

My husband plays guitar, and I play the harmonica, the violin, the cello, the piano, the six-string, and the harp. We sing songs like the Von Trap family. I play in the community orchestra. I teach my kids six weeks at a time, and the next six weeks they attend private school. We take road trips through the American and church history sites. Once a year, we visit my family in Austin. For major holidays, we do service projects as a family. At Christmas, all gifts are from Santa Claus, wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Each person maybe gets five gifts. The rest of our time and money goes toward helping needy families. We do Christmas Jars and make gingerbread houses. I read my children Truman Capote’s Christmas Memory. For Easter, I hot glue moss and fake feathered birds to baskets. We decorate a small Easter tree. My boys don’t watch televised sports or obnoxious cartoons. They shovel dirt and play soccer and listen to good music and ask girls on dates when they’re sixteen. They all get jobs. My daughter knows how to sew and bake and cook and quilt and paint and play instruments, and she has long legs and dances.

My children get married to people just as amazing as they are. My husband and I retire and read books. We’re both published writers and edit each others’ work. I paint and get my art into a gallery. My husband and I travel through Europe. We serve missions in Romania, Russia, Italy, Japan, French Canada, Brazil, and San Francisco.

I die in my sleep one day when I’m 88. My husband follows suit a week later.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Whipped Cream

From the three degree weather, I walked into the Ridge apartment with Lauren and Russell.

"We've got cake, ice cream, hot chocolate; do you guys want anything?" I dont remember his name. He talked like a cartoon character. He was the birthday boy.

"I'll take some hot chocolate," I said to him and smiled. He grabbed a styrofoam cup and ran the hot tap water, periodically checking the temperature with his fingers; he put two scoops of cocoa into the cup, stirred, and handed it to Lauren. He didn't go to make another.

"Oh, I'll make my own, I guess," I whispered to myself. And I made my own hot chocolate.

I didn't know anyone there. Boys--who were aged somewhere between twenty-one to twenty-seven--ricocheted a tennis ball off of the ledge above the kitchen; they threw the tennis ball to each other; they aimed the tennis ball at others' faces. Once, the ball missed my own face by about two feet.

"Do you guys want whipped cream for your hot chocolate?" The birthday boy looked at Lauren first, then me.

"Oh, no thank you," Lauren said sweetly. I think she wore fake eyelashes. The boy looked at me, his jaw crunched and his bottom lip covered his top.

"No thanks, I'm good," I said, and I sipped my semi-warm, diluted cocoa.

"You sure?" He shrugged and outstretched his arm towards me. I smiled.

"Yeah, I'm sure," I said nodding, taking another sip.

"I think you should have some whipped cream."

"Fine, I'll try the whipped cream," I sighed loudly. Nobody laughed. The boy walked to the fridge.

"You sure you don't want any whipped cream?" Oh my gosh.

"Yeah, I really don't want any whipped cream," I said sternly. I looked at Russell. His eyebrows furrowed and he quickly began watching the boys playing with their tennis ball.

Friday, December 4, 2009


“What is it like to be so beautiful, yet so alone?” My friend Matt asked me this as we sat at my kitchen table to design the EAS Halloween Reading poster together. I was looking for a legible, spooky font.

I looked up from the drop down menu to see Matt’s face. His blue eyes didn’t smile; he was serious. “Um…” I hesitated. I looked back down at the laptop, watching the curser move with my finger. “Well…” I looked up at Matt again. “Honestly?” He nodded quickly with his mouth closed into a tiny smirk. “It sucks!” I clenched my fists and pressed them to the table. I swallowed the lump in the bottom of my throat, and Matt rubbed my shoulder to comfort me. I realized then how consumed I was by this emotion.

My mom says things like: “You are going to make an incredible wife and mother... You have such talents to share with your family... You’ll find someone someday that will be crazy about you.” I think, no I won’t. I can’t see it. My mom was beautiful. My mom was talented. Look what she got. “All of your blessings say that you will get married, that your husband is being prepared for you.”

“I don’t think I believe them,” I say. Maybe all of those blessings apply to my life after death. But there have been times when I believed my mom, when I believed my blessings.

Last February, Jordan said he’d talked himself into everything—into marrying me. I forced this from him during a phone call on my birthday at three in the morning, and I cried in short breaths like a child when we hung up. Now it’s October, and I see him at the Reading Center through a long string of glass windows every time I come to work. He’s a business major, I think, why would he work there? When I got my job at the Writing Center in January, he was the first I told, even before my mother. It’s become my sanctuary. When I am not in class or at home, I am at the Center. I come here to write—this is my space. I come here to talk to the friends that I share my greatest fears with—they are my friends. His wife has applied to work here twice since I’ve been here. I can’t imagine sharing essays like these with my ex-boyfriend’s wife. He smiles at me when he clocks in at the computer, and I think things like, we decided to name our first boy Dominic, and you were the first man I ever loved. I met Graham a week after Jordan and I broke up.

In June, I told Graham to stop calling me from Alberta if he felt obligated to. So, he did stop, and I never understood why. Coming back to school this semester, I was addicted to the idea that Graham and I finally lived in the same city. I’d walk through the Crossroads cafeteria and hope he’d be sitting at a round table somewhere; he’d see me and ask me to come eat with him. I’d imagine him bringing a Political Science paper to the Writing Center and requesting me to be his tutor. Or I’d think maybe, since I live with his step-sister by coincidence, he would have a good enough excuse to come over without being obvious. Maybe he’d leave me a note on my hippie bike—that’s what he used to call it. Maybe he’d ask me to go with him to Music Outlet or play him one of the new songs I’ve learned on my Jasmine acoustic.

After about a month of disillusionment, I asked him to come over to talk. He only agreed to come over when I told him over Facebook chat that I needed this to move on. We sat about three feet apart on the couch. I shoved my body against the stained armrest and watched my own fingers pick at the torn knee of my jeans. “You’re going to pick those so much you won’t be able to wear them on campus anymore,” he joked. I sighed a laugh and told him I still loved him. I took the brown hair tie from my wrist and weaved it through my fingers. “I dunno, Aly,” he said, “I just wasn’t happy.” He grabbed my hand from my lap, and I took a deep breath to suppress showing what I felt. He told me he would never want to “rekindle an old flame,” and I smiled to prove to him that I was okay. We hugged goodbye.

When I see attractive men on campus, I think I bet you’re a jerk. Because I remember how Jordan had to talk himself into loving me and how Graham lost interest after four months. I remember the time when I dated an attractive salesman in Texas for a week, and after asking him what his intentions were he said that, basically, all he wanted was someone to kiss while watching Casino Royale on a big screen. I remember the time my dad told me he’d be in the parking lot at 1:00 p.m. on early release day, and he didn’t show up until 7:00 p.m. When I see attractive men on campus, I get this contracting feeling in the back of my throat, like a gag. I feel my upper lip turn, and I clench my molars together. I don’t know if I’ll be able to trust any of you again, I think. When I see a couple—even a married one—hugging in a hallway or kissing goodbye, I think, I wonder how long that will last. And I walk faster with my head up and my shoulders back. I’ll be one of those amazing, single women like Sheri Dew or Barbara Thompson, I tell myself. I’ll write books. I’ll get my MFA and teach. I’ll travel; I’ll sing; I’ll paint.

The truth is there is nothing I want more than the love of a man. That’s all I’ve wanted from the time I turned 16 and could date. I want to get my simple B.A. in English and start my family with a man who will ask me to explain the symbolism in my collages. I want him to remember that I like dark chocolate over milk, and that I can’t stand it when the toilet paper is facing up. I want a thousand small pieces from what I’ve had in my past relationships to combine into one person—a person I don’t even know how to define.

I think a lot of what I do want I’ve picked up from the movies. Still, when the movie is over, I think, Now what happens? Does Meg Ryan move back to Baltimore after she finally meets Tom Hanks at the top of the Empire State Building? Do they try long distance for a few months, and one day, Tom decides he’s been talking himself into everything? Does he decide she’s not worth calling anymore? I’m afraid that what I want is a lie, an elaborate fabrication, something the media or my own imagination have told me to believe.

All of my siblings are married, and the favored topic, when I am there or not, is my dating life. One time, during a family gathering, this was brought up again. My sister-in-law Lindsay related her stories. She told us that when she met my brother, she saw so much of her dad in him.
“You know,” she said, her tiny hand pointed towards me, with her palm up, “they say that you marry your dad.” She smiled at me, and I felt something inside of me drop. “Aly, you’ll probably marry someone just like Chuck.” I looked at her, trying to smile, and I excused myself from the room. I don’t want someone like my father. That’s all I am sure of, and it makes dating scary.

I remember New Years this year; Jordan flew from Puyallup, Washington to my home in Austin, Texas and stayed for five days. We had waited to exchange Christmas gifts so we could open them together. He told me earlier that he wanted to learn the guitar, so I printed every Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and John Mayer guitar tab that I could find from the internet. I alphabetized them in a book and collaged the outsides of it to say Jordan’s Book of Guitar Tabs and Chords. I wrapped it in gold paper. I glued a Reese’s to the top—his favorite candy. He bought me a scarf and had it wrapped in the bag it came in. I smiled to be polite and later on, couldn’t help but think of the Christmas my dad bought my mom a toilet seat cover from Home Depot. The farther I get from my relationship with Jordan, the more similarities I see between him and my own father.

This semester, an old roommate introduced me to Adam. He’s an illustration major, and he wears four leather bracelets on his right wrist. I asked him if he had a story for them, or if he just wore them to look cool. He spent the next fifteen minutes talking about a week-long pioneer trek in Nauvoo and a little girl in Guatemala. Adam has shown an amount of depth and sensitivity that I look for. After dating a week, he invited me to spend Thanksgiving with him and his sister in Portland. I thought that’s something you did with someone you were serious with—I felt trapped. One night before the holiday, as Adam and I sat on the cold leather seats of his car, I told him I didn’t want to date him anymore. Now, I wonder if I threw something away that I shouldn’t have. I wonder if I threw someone away who will ask me to explain the symbolism in my collages or who will remember I love dark chocolate over milk. Maybe what I want is perfection.

And here I am, buying my own 3-dollar ticket to watch 500 Days of Summer at the cheap theater on a Friday or Saturday night. Some nights I’ll make fat-free popcorn and write rhetorical essays about deductive and inductive arguments for class. Other nights I’ll go to bed at 9:30 p.m. without being tired, texting my mom about how I want to go home or how I need her to tell me she loves me. I’ll be one of those amazing, single women like Sheri Dew or Barbara Thompson, I tell myself, because until I find what I want, I will be alone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Autumn Leaves

When I was seventeen, I was left to stay home with my dad for four months against my will. My mom was in Florida assisting my grandmother with a knee surgery. I would have gone with her if I didn’t have school.

One night, on the ride home from my four-hour work shift at Pier 1, I told my dad that I loved seeing the autumn leaves on the ground.

“You know, when I was about six or seven,” he started, and I turned my head to watch his face become illuminated with the headlights of passing cars. I thought to myself, I have never heard a story from Pop’s childhood, and he talked about using the gutter leaves as a roof for the war bunker he and his brother imagined in the sewer. I wanted to ask him to tell me more.

What was your mother like; did you cry when she died? Why don’t you ever talk to Uncle John; why have I only met him once? What else would you imagine when you were little? I will remember that car ride as long as I have a memory. It was the only time I ever felt like my dad could feel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hills Like These

Fiesole is a small, clandestine town that rests on a hill just outside of Florence, Italy. The pocketbook tourist guide that I bought from a Barnes and Noble suggested I visit Fiesole for its fine cuisine and intimacy. My friend Josh and I decided to go.

My pocketbook guide also suggested we take the number 7 bus from Piazza Dalmazia, in Florence, to Piazza Mino, in Fiesole. The trip was an estimated 20 minutes, at most.

“I say we take the train,” Josh said.

“What?” I looked up from the little guide book. “Why?”

“Aly, I’ve done it before. The scenery is amazing.” I was done with all of my class assignments for the week; I had time to explore. Besides, I trusted Josh. He was two years older than I and spoke fluent Italian and Spanish. I was in good hands.

“Okay!” I exclaimed, and we walked the ¾ mile to the Piazza della Stazione from our little apartments on Via dei Magazzini.

The train took us through grape vineyards and terracotta-roofed homes, all resting on the slanted hillsides. It was dusk, and the orange sun streamed through long clouds. The hills, I thought, were too large to be called hills, yet too small to be called mountains; some were dotted with basil-colored trees and others were blanketed with tan brush. Italian cypress seemed to poke the underbellies of purple-pink clouds, and I told Josh we will be neighbors someday in these hills.

After about 40 minutes in the cabin, Josh and I exited in Caldine. There were no other people at the stop besides a small child and, I assume, his grandmother. They boarded the train and left Josh and me to ourselves.

“Okay, my friend, now we just need to find a bus to take us up.” Josh said. By this time, the air was blue and cold. I shivered in my red, nylon sundress and sequined sandals.

Minutes later, we found the bus stop, and discovered the routes had stopped running for the night. We looked at the map plastered to a bench and began walking up the long Via Fontelucente. The road would lead us directly into Fiesole’s main piazza; it ran uphill the entire way, wrapping the mountainside. There were no sidewalks, and Josh and I walked in brown Cypress needles that collected at the edges of the road. Every few moments a Euro sports coupe would zip towards us—we’d both fake a scream, and Josh would protect me by trading me places to walk closer to traffic. The arches of my feet rubbed raw against my shoes. My mouth felt full of cotton. It was around 9:30 p.m. and it had been about six hours since I had eaten.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Josh turned his body toward the view, walking backwards, and spread his arms to hug the scenery. I turned my neck to glance, then found myself stopped to face the view.

I’d seen large hills before, probably in southern California or northern Utah, but I’d never seen them like these with vineyards draped over the sides. I’d never seen them with a deep purple backdrop, or with tall stucco houses lit with orange light. I’d never seen hills like these, and now I was standing in the middle of them, breathing their vapor, dirtying my feet with their residue. I breathed deep with my eyes closed, turned back around, and continued my walk to Fiesole.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where is Home?

Throughout my childhood, I lived and breathed Italian. Every Christmas, my mother rolled deli meats, placed them on platters as big as snow saucers, toppled them over with peppers, olives, water mozzarella, and called it antipasto. In the summer she’d mash boiled potatoes to a cream, knead them with flour and eggs, shape them into little dumplings, and call them gnocchi. I was a true Italian, I thought. My mother’s vocabulary and cooking expertise confirmed that for me at an early age.

My first day in Florence felt like I was coming home. Every man I saw with a hooked nose, olive skin, and crocodile Gucci boots looked like a brother of mine, an uncle, someone from an old brown photograph my mother had tucked in her closet. The old women’s bodies I saw were like my grandmother’s—soggy necks, abundant chests, hunched backs and wobbly walks. Was this home? My flat forehead and almond eyes suggested that it could have been, but my American citizenship and months of Berlitz language training suggested otherwise.

One particular night, I took the four hour Trenitalia from Rome to Florence. The seats were dark blue, and I felt their rough, fabric balls through my nylon dress. Blisters lined the arches of my feet, and my ankles were sore from walking the cobblestone without a map. A low murmur of others’ voices in the cabin sang to me as I watched the warm orange lights from the buildings pass the windows like glowing tadpoles. I held my tired head up with the palm of my hand. My hollow stomach snarled at me, and my eyes burned each time I closed them longer than a blink. I propped my legs up on the stained seat cushions facing me, my Rome-dipped shoes touching the fabric balls. I fell asleep.

Che schivo!” I cracked my stiff eyes and looked up to see a tiny man wearing a dark blue conductor hat just above me. He pointed to my feet, waved his hands in my face, then pointed to my feet again. His fast Italian words filtered into my brain, and I squinted my eyes, trying to understand every word. How disgusting, he said. Dirty American, he said. I quickly removed my feet from the seat in front of me. Scanning the cabin to see what kind of attention this was drawing, I saw a woman with long brown hair from the next seat down stretching her neck around to watch. She spoke to the small man, nodding her head. She looked at me straight-lipped and waved her hands when she spoke.

Me despiace!” I looked at the man and apologized, but he continued to yell. “Me despiace!” I apologized again, with all of the energy I could collect in that exhausted moment. I thought of Grandpa Tony—he would be so ashamed of me right now. The small, angry man handed me a pink slip with €7.50 written on the line at the bottom. I couldn’t decipher the entirety of the little yellow paper, but I understood that they were asking for the remainder of my trip money.

“Fee to clean.” The man pointed to the yellow carbon copy like he was practicing Morse Code in mid-air. “Che schivo.” He snatched the shaking money from my hands. I’ve wronged the people, I thought.

Throughout my entire stay in Italy, I had tried so hard to be accepted by these people—I imitated native speakers when asking for a cone of chocolate or pistachio gelato, I wore fancy sun dresses from Dillard’s and Khol’s instead of tropical tourist shirts and khaki shorts, and I even purchased a paintbrush from a local artisan to make my brushstrokes look more Italian. I tried so hard to be accepted by these people who I knew I was a product of—their blood ran in mine. But to them, I was just a dirty American.

I stayed awake, with my feet planted on the floor, the rest of the ride to Florence.

Now, when my mom pronounces Riccotta the way she always has, I correct her. When she calls my dad a stoonad, I tell her that I asked a native what it meant, and he didn’t know. When she says that’s how the real Italians do it, I ask her how she knows. The truth is I can never be a native Italian—the people will always know; I will always know. What I am is found within some paradigm of Italy and Ellis Island, New York. Somewhere, between those two places, I belong. Somewhere, between those two places, is home.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Taco Party

I reluctantly walked a block in the cold to attend a Taco Party on a Wednesday night. I automatically assumed the company would be superficial, the food would be greasy, and the experience would not really be worth replacing the bag of popcorn and homework that I had planned. Nevertheless, I knew that I needed to try something new.

One of the guys I met at the party had some self-given name like Folge or Grunk. He wore a light brown shirt with deer antlers on it, orange boots, and wranglers. He asked me where I was from. Texas, I said. He served his mission in Houston and—judging from the look on his face—I think he assumed this would make us insta-friends, even though I’m from Austin, which is a good four hours away, and I’ve only been to Houston twice.

“What year in school are you?” He asked ordinary questions.

“I graduate next semester.” He smiled big and scooted to the edge of the couch, closer towards me.

“Will you be my sugar mama?” He practically shouted. Are you kidding me? I thought to myself.

“Um,” I looked at him with, what felt like, a disgusted expression, “No.”

“Why not?” he asked genuinely confused, throwing his hands up into the air.

“Well, because I expect a man to take care of me. Sorry.” My forehead wrinkled up in honesty.

He continued to plead with me for about two minutes, and I didn’t know whether or not I should keep pretending to smile. I am done with this, I thought. My mouth quivered with confusion, I averted my eyes from his, and walked home by myself about ten minutes later.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Walking Alone

I walked alone today, in my royal blue flats and a borrowed brown jacket. Stepping on wet leaves, I headed home down W. 2nd S.—with my eyes closed, and my face and my neck turned up to the grey sky. Carla Bruni sang Quelqu-un m’a dit one time after the other to me, through the earphones I bought last summer. She understands this beauty I feel. I passed the football field and ran my fingers along the chain-link fence, watching them vibrate.

The French song plays in 500 Days of Summer when Zooey is in the passenger seat, wearing a light blue shirt. Her bangs are dark and in her face. She laughs, but the music plays over it. I will go see that movie tonight.

I pushed the little white button on the crosswalk, saw my breath in the air, and waited for the lights to change. I remembered a dream I had the night before. I wore the spandex pants and grey school sweatshirt I often sleep in. I’m not sure exactly where I was, but someone I once loved was there, talking to me. He was tall, and I strained my neck to look at him. He told me he loved me for all the right reasons. He told me he always meant it. I looked at him confused, but said nothing. The light changed, and as I crossed the street, I watched a man with a beanie riding his bike in the park.

This morning when I woke up and walked alone to class in my royal blue flats and a borrowed brown jacket, I saw the tall person from my dream, the one I once loved. I’m sure he saw me, but crossed the street plugged into his iPod, and never looked. It hurts, and you’d like to feel miserable about this, but you can still make your day a good one.

On W. 2nd S., I stopped to take a picture of the yellow tree I love with dark brown branches that sits across the street. I took a cold breath, pulled my earphones from my ears, and walked up the driveway of the light-blue house on the corner.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Only Grandparent

I hadn’t called my grandmother since last summer when my mom told me to thank her for the donation that she made towards my tuition. When I called then, she expressed to me how grateful she was to hear from me, how she never heard from my mother’s other four children, and how I remind her of grandpa with my talent for still life paintings. The only other times I’ve called my grandmother have been to wish her happy birthdays in October—and that’s about how frequently we talk.

I was hesitant to tap the little green call button on my iPhone. How would the conversation begin? Am I allowed to say things like what’s up or how’s it goin’ to my grandmother? I called my mom earlier to tell her that I thought it would be more of a service to interview Grandma than it would be for me to interview a complete stranger—she is my only living grandparent, and I am the only grandchild who writes. My mother agreed, and told me during our next phone call that Grandma was expecting my call. Would she know that I would be interviewing her, writing in her voice? I sat myself down on the stained couch in my college living room, grabbed my grey, 5-subject spiral and pen, and gently hinted my finger on the iPhone touch screen.

“Hello?” Her New York accent was just as thick as I remembered; it’s the same accent my brothers imitate during the holidays when she visits. I could picture her sitting in her blue recliner, the small chain of her pink-framed glasses dangling on either side of her neck, holding the cordless phone to her ear. I thought of Lipton Soup with Acini De Pepe and White Shoulders perfume. I thought of her little pink villa in Florida, and how she lives there alone.

“Hi, Grandma,” I smiled big enough for her to hear through the phone.

“Hello my baby. How is school?” I replied with my usual. It’s great; I’m really busy all of the time; I spend twelve hours a day on campus; I share a room with three people; and the house is old. “You datin’ anyone yet?” I replied with my usual. No. “What the heck is wrong with these people? My granddaughter’s meetin’ wimps out dere in Idaho. You’re gorgeous and-and-and talented—just a gem, Aly. You’ll meet some schmuck someday.”

“But Grandma,” I laughed, rocking my entire body forward, “that’s exactly what I don’t want to do is meet some schmuck.” For some reason, hearing my grandmother’s slang words and ideas on dating is refreshing and takes me by surprise. I remember now that there are places in the world besides Rexburg; I am made up of more than this.

She told me about how she just had dinner last week with her old bishop: Bishop Montgomery. Apparently he has a gorgeous son in the Air Force and a daughter at BYU-Idaho that I should befriend. “Didn’t your mother tell you?” No, she didn’t. “You gotta be kiddin’ me. I’m gonna clobber her. I can’t believe she didn’t tell you. You just wait til I get her. I’m gonna pull her hair outta her head.” I laughed loud again. I hadn’t laughed like this in a while. “Oh, I guess that’s okay. She’s got more problems than hair on her head, that woman.”

I propped my legs up onto the couch and pulled a pillow from the ground to place in my lap. I set my notebook on top and drew swirls on the lined paper with my purple pen.

“You know,” she began. I expected her to recommend I meet with the Montgomery brother or tell me what the Swami said about me in her last Tarot reading. “My friend fell down, and she looks like a raccoon.” I laughed. Okay, change of subject, I guess.

“What? She fell down?”

Grandma chuckled, I think, at her raccoon simile. “Yeah, I’m not kiddin’ you. Annie was walkin’down tha steps at tha community centa and fell down. Now she’s walkin’ around with a black eye, for God’s sake.” She continued. “You know, we got March of the Widows over here with all these women. The only men here are the old bitties that are about to croak, God bless ‘em. They look at me like they wanna date me—are they kiddin’? Whadu I wanna be with an old man for?” Grandma is eighty-six. I laughed again, and I tried to scribble down all of her classic lines as fast as she talked. This is my mother’s mom, and though I don’t talk to her much, I feel deeply connected. She raised the most influential person in my life, and because of that, I am connected.

The conversation about our current lives lasted an hour. “Well thank you for calling, baby.” I felt adrenaline as I remembered that I hadn’t interviewed her yet—that was the main purpose of this call. I wouldn’t have thought to call without the assignment. I am a crappy grandchild, I thought.

“Grandma?” I asked before she could hang up. “Mom told you about how I need to interview you for a class, right?”

“Oh yeah, yeah.”

“Is that okay if I ask you some questions? Do you have time?”

“Of course.”

“I was thinking about the deli?”

“The deli? Whaddaya wanna know about it?”

And my grandmother told me about her little deli in Nanuet, NY. We talked for another hour.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Deli

I interviewed my eighty-six-year-old grandmother about an interesting time in her life. The following essay is written in her voice:

The Deli

I’m sorry we hadda sell it. Grandpa was so happy workin’ in it. But I got sick. My pneumonia came back because I’d work up a sweat from runnin’ around all day. Then I’d go into our cooler-freeza to get things, and I’d get tha chills. I told him not to sell it, but Grandpa says to me, if I lose you, Jean, what’s tha deli to me? So, we sold our Hobbies deli to a family of five.

Whadda you wanna know about it? It was around 1977. Grandpa and I were in our 50’s with no kids anymore—they were all outta tha house by then. It was tough work, man. We’d be in there workin’ from seven a.m. to nine p.m. Some nights, especially if it was snowin’, we’d sleep on tha couch bed in tha back. We had everythin’ we needed in there. We had each other, and we’s were doin’ what we loved.

People came to tha deli because they were crazy about tha food—what can I say? One time a man came in, and he complained to me about there bein’ too much roast beef in his sandwich—do you believe it? I made two roast beefs a day, and of course I used them up in those sandwiches; I wasn’t gonna skimp nobody. His was the only complaint I ever got. It was a pretty good complaint to have, if you ask me.

It smelled like roast beef and garlic all tha time in there. We had an eight-foot salad bar that was always loaded with potato salad, chicken salad, veal and peppers—tha works, okay? I’d cook up a storm and make 250 meatballs a day. Our floor was brown, and we had three aisles of canned foods and other things for people to purchase. There were no seats. This wasn’t a restaurant—are you kidding me? Grandpa and I would nevah have been able to do that on our own. People just came in, got what they wanted, and then they’d leave.

The entire place was immaculate. Tha health inspector came in once and all he could say about tha place was that our bathroom door didn’t close fast enough. I says to him, oh, was that all you could find? I’m pleased.

We had a reputation, boy. One time my mom was comin’ in from the airport, and she told tha cab drivah Hobbie’s Deli, downtown Nanuet. It was on the other side of tha Hudson. Tha cabbie says to her, I eat there all of tha time. She says you’re kiddin’ me, my daughter and son-in-law own that place. He told her he loved it—especially tha sausage and peppa sandwich. There was also a trucker man that would plan his route around our meatball sandwich. What can I tell you? Italians know what’s good.

We’d specially order tha bread for those sandwiches from the Italian bakery down tha street. Sometimes tha sandwiches would go so fast, we’d have to make two trips to tha place in a day. Our sandwiches were magnificent, sure, but our trays were somethin' else. Grandpa made 'em look just fabulous—gorgeous, even. You wouldn’t believe them. He was such an artist, and he’d fold tha Boars Head cold cuts just so. It was tha happiest I’d seen him. He gained weight workin’ there—he was always a skinny mini otherwise. He ate so much pasta and meatballs; he had his fill, boy. I have a picture of him standin’ behind tha deli counter, smilin’. He was always smilin’, Mr. Happy Tooth.

I never liked to eat tha food like Grandpa did. There was so much of it all of tha time; I’d be sick just thinkin’ of eating it. So you know what I’d do? I’d go to tha nearby diner to have an omelet. Tha people workin’ there would say to me, Jean, with all that great food you got over there, you’re eatin’ an omelet? Those people looked at me like I had bugs crawlin’ outta my ears.

We had some experiences in that place. We’d cooked for tha mental institution in Orangeburg, New York, a number of times for Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving—you name it. They ordered h’orderves and cold cut trays from us. Any time we went inside with our trays and bins to set up, we’d pass tha patients runnin’ around or sittin’ on tha floor. One time in particular, I was in tha kitchen puttin’ tha h’orderves into the oven, and I sees this guy come in. He starts runnin’ around tha table hootin’ and hollerin’ like an owl, takin’ his clothes off. I says to myself, if he comes near me, I’m gonna hit him over tha head with a pot. He didn’t ever come near me, and I just minded my business. I’m tellin’ you, tha things I saw.

Another time, a woman with red hair came into tha deli and said she was a waitress and wanted a caterin’ job. I told her I was caterin’ a colored wedding, and she could help. I was out settin’ things up, runnin’ back and forth, makin’ sure everything was just so. I found her in tha kitchen takin’ shots like don’t ask, with tha men who were mixin’ tha drinks. They thought it was hilarious. Of course she couldn’t help with tha trays after that; she could hardly stand up straight. We were sittin’ in tha van afterwards, and she says to me, boy I had a really great time; that was a beautiful wedding. I told her yeah, that’s tha last time you’re workin’ for me. I was no dummy.

We catered for tha homeless children once. It was tha nun’s 25th anniversary and about 200 people were there. We had so much food left over; I let tha Reverend Mother keep it for tha kids. She says to me Jean, God has to bless you; the children will be eatin’ for a whole week with what you gave me.

So I got sick from tha cooler-freezah, but God spared, and my pneumonia went away. I was blessed; what can I say? No matta how happy Grandpa was makin’ those trays and washin’ our windows, he still sold tha place. I was it for him. He woulda gone crazy without me.

It was a lotta work, that deli. But man, was it a hoot. And that’s it. What else you wanna know?

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Tree

I lived there in the summer. There was a tree close to the foundation of my neighbor's red-brick home. If I wanted to, I could walk across a small, black driveway to get to its trunk, but I never did. I only watched the tree from my upstairs window; it wasn't mine.

The branches gnarled like a wise, aged hand and stretched to my window. At night, the shadows of its form would play on my ceiling, and I'd watch it from my bed those times my friend would call from Canada.

When the sun baked my old, brown carpet and dust trickled through the sunlight, I would struggle for a clean breath. I'd open both of my windows--they didn't have screens--and I'd reach from the sill to touch the leaves. I'd examine their waxy coating, their veins, their jagged outline. I'd drink the clean air and sometimes smell the leaves' damp chlorophyll when it rained.

When songs by Joshua Radin or Rosie Thomas played too long for me to feel the words, I'd sit by the window in my wooden chair, prop my feet up on the sill, and listen to the leaves rub together in the wind. The tree was whispering things to me, I'm sure of it, but my thoughts were never pristine enough to hear what was said--I was always emptying myself onto it.

I could never bring myself to pluck a leaf. The leaves weren't mine. The tree belonged to my neighbor, and it sat close to the foundation of the red-brick home. When the Fall came, I was the one to leave it.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I woke up to the first snowfall of the semester, but the weather isn't the only thing that's changed.

I have found myself smiling at strangers passing by in the MC or on the sidewalk, when before I'd walk with somewhat of a cloudy eye, focused on my destination and nothing inbetween. A roommate of mine told me that a text message I sent made her day, and I want to understand her. A girl in my creative writing class opened up to me to the point of tears. I felt so much love for her and so much sorrow for what I'd thought of her before. A stout girl offered the scripture in class, and I studied her chapped lips and empathized with her. I got excited about an assignment given: to interview an elderly person about a specific moment in their life and write about it, providing a small record for that person and their family. A really great guy that I know ate lunch with me today and had me listen to about eight of his favorite classical songs, and I felt his enthusiasm.

I've decided that after graduation, in April, I'm going to serve a mission. There was something about Elder Perry's talk during General Conference on Sunday, and all of the talks following, that really echoed that message. I never wanted to go; in fact, I was positive I would never go.

It's amazing to me that changes like these can take place overnight. But the snow has brought this with it, and I am content.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Too Late

When my dad, Charles, was on a business trip, I slept in the master bedroom with my mother. She cries when she tells me about an earlier time when she was in love with a man named Paul.

She met Paul when she was twenty-two and working at American Can Company. Every day she drove an hour-and-a-half in her yellow Plymouth Duster, from Wappinger Falls to Greenwich, Connecticut, where she worked as the executive secretary. Paul was a lawyer.

He asked her to help put together an office party. She says she wasn’t attracted to him at first, but from the way she's painted, I picture him as a young George Peppard—handsome, always dressed up in business suits, his light-brown hair parted to one side. She tells me he was quiet-natured, French-Canadian, a vegetarian, and spoke through a cracked tooth—a mark from playing football at Brandice University. My mother says he had a gorgeous body, and she could kiss him for hours. I told her I thought that was disgusting. Aly, when you love someone..., she says.

I'd never seen her kiss my dad.

I have a black-and-white photograph of my mother at age twenty-two; I hang and re-hang it each time I switch college apartments. It was taken of her before she met my dad. I think I like it because it proves that she once had a time when her future was untouched and happy. In it, she has black-brown hair past her waist and is carrying a breakfast tray. Her high cheekbones synch in her thin face; she tells me that she’d cure her hunger with cigarettes and an occasional PB&J on an unsalted Matzo cracker.

From listening to her stories, I've developed this image of my mother in a red, 1960's Volkswagen with her bare feet on the dashboard of the passenger seat. Paul is in the driver's seat, and the car is parked at the beach. The Moody Blues—their favorite group—is singing everyone is looking for the answer/well look again/come on my friend/love will find them in the end. Her hair falls from both sides of her head in long braids, and she's wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, Daisy Dukes, large circle-framed sunglasses, and a straw hat that she keeps from blowing away by holding it to the top of her head. It's a hot day and all of the windows of the car are rolled down. Paul has said something, and my mother has the same smile and look on her face as she does in that old black-and-white photo.

I imagine her at lunch with Paul. My mother hovers over her half-eaten turkey sandwich. “What age group should we keep the party in?” She holds her pen between her then smooth and un-aged fingers, scribbling on a white, rectangle napkin.
“How about ages twenty to thirty-two?” Paul’s body is angled over the table, towards her.
“Are you crazy?” She looks up from her napkin and raises her eyebrows. “That’s so old.”
“You think thirty-two is old?” He smiles, “I’m thirty-two.”
I imagine her looking back down at her napkin.

When my mother was a child—somewhere between five and eight—she would walk through the halls of her house in Yorktown Heights, with a black veil draped over her head, singing Catholic hymns. She would say her Hail Mary, her Our Father, and The Act of Contrition nights and mornings, and I suspect many times in between. I wanted to be a nun from the time I was a little girl, she says. She tells me that she pratically has lived like a nun since she married my dad; he hasn’t touched her in twenty-three years. Her pale-pink rosary beads still hang in her Tiffany jewelry box, and she lets me take them out to try them on, because she knows I honor them. Bury me with those beads, Aly, she says, even though she has been a pious Mormon for thirty-something years. And I will bury her with them; they are a part of her.

I imagine the lunch conversation somehow transitioning.
“You’ve been married?” Paul was surprised; she was only twenty-two. I imagine him leaning in closer to the lunch table, his eyes fastened to her.
“Yeah, but it was annulled by the Catholic Church after two-and-a-half years.” My mother married a man named Bob when she was eighteen.
“Have you ever been married?” She asked Paul.
“Never,” he leaned back, “I don’t believe in marriage.”

She and Paul shopped for the party together; she had never shopped with a man—not even her father or Bob. Paul juggled oranges for her in the produce section, and they laughed when she said she had been “fishing for fish.” He made fun of her for being from Wappinger Falls—a funny name, he said—for smoking, and for eating meat. I stayed a vegetarian for two years because of Paul, she tells me. I told her once, around age fifteen, while shuffling through a salad bar line, that I liked banana chips. "Paul loved banana chips," she said. Even after thirty-something years, she's remembered.

At Paul’s beach house in Stamford, Connecticut, during the party, he asked her to dance. When we moved together, Aly, it felt like we were one. I get chills when my mother tells me this. I feel something for her and Paul—maybe anxiety, maybe pain, maybe frustration.

I wish I could’ve seen her with him. I wish Paul could have been my father. Sunday night dinners might’ve been different; we might have had family vacations or family reunions. My mother would have wanted to grocery shop with him, and they would’ve decided on what style couches to buy together, without a fight. Paul would have hung the mirrors and pictures up on the walls for my mother without her asking. He would have known that she wouldn’t like a five-dollar Poncho from the Mexican border for Christmas. He would have set up a good retirement fund for her; he would have taken her to Italy like she’s always wished. He would have taken her to the hospital when she was hemorrhaging during her pregnancy with the twins. Paul never would have locked her up in her room for a day to discipline her; he wouldn’t have told her to just cool it Honey and drag her by her arm. He wouldn’t have ignored me as a child or said that my paintings were just interesting. Paul would have been different. I love Paul. I love my dreams about Paul being my father. I love him for giving my mother what he did.

My mother dated Paul for two years. They were both members of the 1970’s Servants of Awareness cult, and smoked pot to channel their Christ consciousness in love, mercy, gratitude, and satisfaction. I was constantly in search of truth, she tells me. And to me, it feels like she was free back then.

“If I moved in with you, Paul, Dad would be down here with a shotgun.” My mother wanted to marry Paul after their two years of dating. She wanted purity and family with the man she loved.
“I just don’t believe in marriage, Barbara.” Paul wrote away to the Servants of Awareness leaders, asking if they thought marriage was necessary. The leaders replied with a no.
“You’re going to let me go?” My mother cried. Paul cried. “You’re so stupid, Paul. You’re so stupid.” And they broke up in an underground garage parking lot at American Can Company.

The next day, my mother met my dad in an elevator, and he invited her to have dinner with him at a Steak ‘N Stein in Wappinger Falls. She ate two bites of steak—her first time in two years—and she says it made her sick.

Four months later, two hours before my parents were married, Paul called my mother. "I'm coming to get you, Barbara. Are you married yet? Are you married?” My mother said it's too late, got drunk on tequila shots, and married my dad.

The idea of Paul follows both my mother and me. I wonder if he regrets what happened, or if he knows that her smile has changed. I wonder if he would have saved her from her life. I wonder if Paul tells his children about a time when he was in love with a woman named Barbara.

My mother cries when she tells me these things, and I touch her shoulder. The next morning my dad, Charles, will pull into the driveway.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Write Too

He knows where I work, where I spend all of my time between classes. I am always available, always accessible, and that's not fair. I envision him walking in, like he could not waste another day or minute. He places his hands on the front desk and, in rapid breaths, asks if I am here. He sees me before the receptionist can answer. I am sitting alone at one of the tables, copying quotes into my notebook--the ones that endear me, from Tammy Williams' "I Write" essay.

His neck is straight; his light blue eyes are serious. He's sure this time; this is deliberate. I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. He walks over slowly; his face is hot from running in the cold, outside air. I write to quell the pain. His dark-brown hair is stiff and swooshed like I remember. I write to remember. He is wearing his blue robot shirt with grey jeans. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. Did he even have grey jeans? I write to forget. I don't remember.

He reaches the table where I am writing--alone. I haven't noticed him yet, I haven't seen who it is, but I hear his breath. I recognize his breath. I feel the cold air on his clothes, and I sense someone tall standing beside the table. I write to forget. I write to forget. I write to forget. I look up. My heart pounds in my throat. But...I thought you were done with me, my face says. Blood creeps up to my cheeks; it is pounding in my head and in my ears and in my throat. I feel stinging, prickling blood in my arms and legs. Is this real? No. His expression is real; he means this. "I made a mistake," he'll say, and I will cry, because he is damn right he made a mistake.

I write as though I am whispering into the ear of someone I love. I will jump to him. I will hold his face in my hands. I will whisper into his ear: you have a good heart. And I will wait for something different to find me.

I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


One night when my dad was on a business trip, I slept in the master bedroom with my mother. We were both excited to be alone--just the two of us. Pillow to pillow, she told me about a time when she was in love with a man named Paul.

She met him when she was twenty-two and working at American Can Company in Connecticut. From the way she's painted, I picture him as a young George Peppard, always dressed up in business suits, his hair parted to one side. He was built, and she could kiss him for hours. I told her I thought that was disgusting. "Aly, when you love someone..." I'd never seen her kiss my dad.

I told her once that I liked banana chips. "Paul liked banana chips," she said. Even after thirty-something years, she's remembered.

I have a black and white photograph of her at age twenty-two; I hang and re-hang it each time I switch college apartments. I think because it proves that she once had a happy time. In it, she has black-brown hair past her waist and is carrying a breakfast tray. Her face is smooth and white, and her high cheekbones synch in her thin cheeks. Her body looks flawless—she tells me that she'd cure her hunger with cigarettes and an occasional PB&J on an unsalted Matzo cracker.

From listening to her stories, I've developed this image of my mother in a yellow, 1960's Volvo with her bare feet on the dashboard of the passenger seat. Paul is in the driver's seat, and the car is parked at the beach. Her hair falls from both sides of her head in long braids, and she's wearing a blue and white striped shirt, Daisy Dukes, large circle framed sunglasses, and a straw hat that she keeps from blowing away by holding it to the top of her head. It's a hot day and all of the windows of the car are rolled down. Paul has said something, and my mother has the same smile and look on her face as she does in that old black and white photo, before she met my dad.

Two hours before my parents were married, Paul called my mother. "Are you married yet? Are you married? I'm coming to get you." My mother said yes it's too late, got drunk on tequila shots, and married my dad.

She cries when she tells me this, as we lie pillow to pillow. I cry too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Jamel is a small man with rough, brown skin and a charcoaled five o'clock shadow. His long curly hair is dark at the roots, but graduates to a warm yellow at the tips. I'd guess he's in his late forties. I studied abroad in Italy two years ago. I told him once, and we compared the language and culture there to the language and culture of his home, Crete. You are a beautiful woman. He tells me in his thick mediterranean accent. You get it from your beautiful mather. He also cuts and styles my mother's hair once every three months.

I think if I saw Jamel on the street somewhere and he told me I was a beautiful woman, I'd probably walk a little faster and pretend to be on my cell phone with a very important person who could rescue me if needed. But in this setting--the Toni and Guy hair salon setting--Jamel is okay. Just below his white rolled up sleeves are a pair of poised and accurate hands. I watch as he angles his scissors at my hair to sculpt precise layers.

The last time Jamel cut my hair, I was at home for the summer--what is called home for me. Home is a place where the television mumbles in the background of every conversation, where people who once were friends to me are not anymore, where I have three brothers and three sisters-in-law that I see maybe once in those seven weeks out of the entire year, and where I feel as though I have no purpose. To me, this haircut was me making up for those things, taking care of myself.

Jamel sat me down and began to ask me the same questions as always, the answers to which he had been told each visit before since the time I was eighteen. I sold a painting yesterday. I said. Oh, you paint?! I didn't know that. He said. Yes, Jamel, I paint, and I've told you this before. It was okay though. Jamel is okay.

I remember most things Jamel tells me. I remember that Jamel is Greek. I remember that he has had the same exact hair style for the past four years. I remember that he is great friends with Adolf, the colorist, and they go boating on the weekends in the Texas summer heat. I remember that he drinks, he does not have a wife, and does not ever want one. I remember that he owns a house in the Mediterranean.

You know. He said, pausing from straightening some strands to look at me. God loves you. You do the right things, and he will bless you. I never knew Jamel knew God. For a small moment at Toni and Guy, I felt at home.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The New Cafeteria

This place reminds me of the Lakeline Mall food court back home in Texas. High ceilings, a cold metal decor, food trays, and a hum of echoing voices that could probably put me to sleep if I were a child. Strangers stand in line spewing out their rehearsed order to the workers behind the counters--one small turkey sandwich please, extra olives. Eye contact is optional, smiles are trite and often not entirely sincere. This is the new cafeteria.

For me, it's a factory--come in, get your work done, and leave as quickly as possible. I am suffocated by the eyes of a hundred others. She's here every day. They must think. She never eats anything but salads. They tell their friends. She's beautiful but alone. I hope some of the people that I see frequent the cafeteria consider coming over to talk.

Any time I think of hopes like these, I am reminded of the scene in Amelie toward the end when she is in the kitchen making dinner for herself. She imagines the man she loves coming up the stairs to her apartment, opening the door, and brushing his hand through the beads she has dangling from her door frame. In reality, she hears the ticking of the beads, but looks to find it is just her cat gliding by. Moments later, she hears the doorbell, and it is her love.

I am sitting towards the back of the cafeteria where a lesser percentage of the people can watch me stuff my face. I poke at a stubborn piece of lettuce that does not want to fold in half to a size more suitable for my mouth. I hear a group of 20-something-year-old men howl their Chewbaca impressions to see who could be most accurate. I am happy this is the caliber I have to choose from. Man, did you hear that burp. They say. That burger tasted like a cow pie. They must think. That girl's hot and I now will be as obnoxious as possible. They snort out some laughter and pat each other's backs.

I throw away my styrofoam plate at the big rectangle trash can, stack my tray on top with the rest, and exit the least populated route to avoid eye contact and smiles.

I hope. But its always just the cat.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I attend college in a place where there is sometimes no cable, where shops are within walking distance, where I can cool down in the shade, where I learn from conversation and writing, where friends come over unannounced because they want to, where I live with people who must interact. When I come home I am reluctantly plugged into a stale opposite.

The temperature will not drop below 90 in the summer, making long bikerides (they are long because places are stretched so far apart) a last resort. Even in the shade, I am suffocated by hot air and sweat. I am convinced that even a small amount of this tepid heat would leave me dead on some neighborhood sidewalk, so I stay inside.

The house is two-story and air-conditioned. Four out of its six rooms are empty or used for storage. When one of the three people who live here come home from a day of work, the television is flipped on--usually to a news report, a trashy housewives reality show, or a cooking demonstration. After hours of shows, the voices on every channel seem the same. I know our television like I would know a relative--if I really knew one to begin with. Here, it is my stimulation--sad. It's strange how people can physically be brought together by such a device, yet pushed so far apart at the same time. I feel so distant from those around me.

I try to please myself with endless amounts of fresh strawberries, blueberries, nectarines, walnuts, ice cream--things I can't regularly buy on my school budget. I have new clothes and hair. I force myself to workout daily, I paint still lifes, I read books--activities which require only one person. I am alone.

When I am plugged into this life, I yearn for an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual connection somewhere else.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm ready to go back to Rexburg.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I've been sitting in the same spot on the couch for about four and a half hours. At one point, I realized my gut was hanging out, and my ponytail was smooshed to the side of my head. My neck is hot, and my mind can't focus. But I watch the letters appear on my laptop screen as I type and type and type and type.

Victoria is sitting across the living room with her hair pushed into her face "like her eyes are wearing a mustache" (says Brittany), while laughing at me in her Spongebob decrescendo. Periodically, she looks up from her laptop screen to make a funny face at me.

Brittany just left, after about four I-can't-take-this-anymore's, to get a Sno Cone with Mark.

Amy is calm, taking small bites into her little six-inch Subway sandwich. Her long hair is neatly braided, resting around her neck and down the front of her torso. She smiles and hums the songs that Victoria makes up in her insanity. This is because she does not have finals this week.

Victoria rolls from the couch onto the floor singing "pa-pa-pa poker face pa-pa poker face."

We are going insane.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Unorganized, Unprocessed, Unrefined

It's 12:09 a.m., but I have to write because I feel it, and I haven't felt it in a few weeks.

I'm sitting on my bed with a pillow on my lap, my laptop on top of that. It's hot in here. I would sleep with only a top sheet, but here I just have a thick brown comforter. Ironically enough, I'm wearing pants and socks to bed tonight. Yes, pants and socks. Don't ask why.

Here, the silence of my room is almost haunting, mostly because I am left to think to myself and partly because there are four people up here--it should be noisy.

Tonight I went to the gym--which I have been doing quite often lately--with the intention of reading some Ben Johnson poetry while eliptical-ing. I eliptical-ed, but was so distracted from the poetry. I've realized that trying to do something else while reading poetry is actually very counter-productive. There's no way to get a good amount of insight from a poem, when you're busy thinking about other things, like your heart rate and how many calories you've burned so far and what your reps per minute is and oh that guy's kind of cute and oh hey there is Jordan again with his girlfriend and I wonder if someone is using the abductors right now and there's that awkward patron that wants to date me. These thoughts, plus the sporadic reading from On My Small Daughter, plus the new Jason Reeves song I just bought, turned up to the third to last bar on my sound gage, leads to much more confused thinking than should be had at the gym. Isn't exercise supposed clear your mind? But I feel like when I'm at the BYU-I gym, I need to distract myself as much as possible. I need to drown myself in noise and get the heck out as fast as I can, because it's a meat market in there. Right now, I choose to be a vegan, thank you. Needless to say, reading Ben Johnson didn't go over well.

Today Victoria and I drove to the corn fields. They're corn fields, right? We drove for an hour, turned off the car, turned off the music, and I could hear the blood in my ears. (I wonder what silence is like without the blood in my ears--I hope someday I can know that.) It felt good to be in between the green earth and blue sky and nothing else. I am so small and cannot be in control of anything.

My hair is drying. I love taking showers at night.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


So, I've been doing this new thing--when I'm in a class I despise and I do not want to pay attention--where I write down songs lyrics to a good song I know and randomly mix the words into my own poetry. Here's one of the results from A Clean Getaway, by Maria Taylor:

Of no day, no door, no getaway.
I fear to love a someone met with no name.
I made a home of hung pictures; it looked just like a smile.
Except it wasn't in my own face.
I didn't know.
At the bar they know, tough voice made by my friends--hard.
They were laughing and I? Losing.
I miss every single great heart.

No! Could you just getaway?
I see across it.
And there:
Like the yard, a park, my grass.
Clean. I had made clean.
Finally, I made the place.
Except it felt there were no he.
Had I made just like I met? Waiting for it? No.
It felt like what I was: I
And you?
I just miss.

That's all.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Notes to self:
-To hurt is to instruct. - Benjamin Franklin
-Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. - George Washington
And We don't know where we're going. But we'll get nowhere if we've forgotten where we've been. - Maria Taylor

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thoughts in L.A.

We just rolled in from L.A. today--roughly a 14 hour drive. We left last night around 9:30/1030 p.m., L.A. time. My days have been morphing into one another. I can't even remember if today is Wednesday or Thursday.

I drove some of the way--four hours, maybe five--and it felt good, almost empowering. I felt like I was getting away from, or perhaps arriving to, some destination I had in mind, as fast as possible (85mph). Matt and Karli were asleep most of the time I drove, and not to say anything against their company, the loneliness of the moment or the intimacy between the road and me was endearing.

I got away this weekend, for a few hours at least. Maybe it wasn't in the ocean or the marinas, or in the Jasmine bushes, but in a fast drive on an abandoned road. The rest of the time I spent thinking.

We had a picnic on Sunday at Sunset beach and I looked for shells--rolling up my pant legs just high enough to welcome the foam of the incoming wave to my knees. I didn't find any whole shells. Only pieces. I even prayed that Heavenly Father would help me find just one whole shell; that's really the only thing I asked for on the trip (besides overall safety). It was that important to me. Maybe my intentions were greedy and that's why I only found pieces. Either that or I just don't deserve to have my prayers answered right now. I understood. So, I accepted the pieces I was given and almost linked them to my own fragmented nature right now. Whole people attract whole things, right? They are still beautiful, white shell pieces (that I accidentally left in Matt's car).

After the beach, Matt drove me to my old house: 2923 E. Featherhill Dr. It was dark by this time. We drove up the hill by the monastery and in the lighting, or lack thereof, I mistook it for the hill that Justin lost control of his skateboard and skinned himself on. Because I wasn't exactly sure where I was, I didn't know exactly where to look for my house. When I saw it, I wasn't sure if it was the one or not. We passed it and I had Matt drive by it again. Yes, it was that house. We had come up the back way. The hill we passed with the monastery was the one I rode down to get to Nohl Canyon Elementary every morning. The house has changed so much since my childhood. It was blue, not brown and the beautiful white sycamore tree, that I loved to sit under and pick at its' shedding, was gone. I had learned to ride my bicycle under that tree. I couldn't even see the front yard or front door, it was so highly vegetated. The thorn bushes that lined the walkway--the ones I pushed Jessica Johnson into when she pushed me to my limit--they were gone, too. There was blue cobblestone lining everything and when I took a picture with the flash on, some paranoid owner--some millionaire stranger, the man who took away my beautiful sycamore--came out and flashed his porch light at us. I wanted to cry, maybe? Or not. I don't know exactly what emotion it was, but it felt like the balloon that was my childhood--the beautiful, red balloon delicately tied to my wrist the way my father used to tie with his big fingers--was popped by this detached human figure I did not even know.

I missed my mother. I missed my cute, rambunctious brothers with their bowl cuts and skateboards. I missed Jessica Johnson, who lived next door, and eating tuna fish sandwiches with pickle slices (instead of celery like my mom always made) by her pool side. I missed spying on passersby from her tree house in the backyard. I missed swinging by the rope attached to the maroon oleander bushes. I missed my mom's homemade rolls. I missed when she'd braid my long, chlorine-green hair after a shower. I missed falling asleep with the news on and my head in her lap. I missed the big, red and white striped umbrella. What has happened to my childhood? Where did it go? Why do I never talk to my siblings anymore? Why does it feel like we are opposites and they've married people who cannot relate to this background or our traditions? Why can't we all just live on Featherhill? Just us. Sixteen years ago.

That's what it felt like. And I texted my mother to tell her I'd seen the house. She didn't reply.

I realized, while I was in California, that every time I saw the maroon Oleander, I thought of my mother and her soft, curly brown hair--not how it is now, but how it was then. And I remembered her young face. How when I was young and would fall asleep on her lap, I'd look up at it--up her nose, up at her eyes that would blink fast when she wanted to maker her point quickly and nervously, up at her mouth, moving in a funny upside down way. When I see those bushes, I think of her confidence--or maybe the confidence I put in her back then, before I realized all mankind is flawed. She was my world, a goddess, perfect. Everything she was, I wanted to be (and I am, for the most part, I see it now). I remember her silver/black teardrop earrings. I remember her smell. But I can't recall it on command. When I smell it, I know. Those bushes brought her to me for a moment, and I know I will cry at them when she is gone forever.

So, we went back to Matt's where he felt warm and at home, and I longed for my own family dynamic that no longer exists. I was cold and uncomfortable. Though his mother was accommodating and such a sweetheart, the crepes/waffles/fresh towels felt like a burlap sack on my naked body.

The next day we went to Balboa Island. We drove up the opposite way we'd come in my childhood and I recognized nothing at first. No feelings came back and for a moment it felt as though my childhood was a hoax. Like a staged event that happens one time only, in one place, with only a handful of people who might remember and know the same things I do and as time goes on, the props change, I am removed, the cast is new, and the set belongs to someone else. Balboa is not mine anymore. I can't claim it. What it is now is some other child's. In me, it is a memory. That's it. A breath of air, a cloud of smoke, a black fly in a room full of dark chairs. It will never come back. Never. And one day, my brain will die. What happens to Balboa then?

We ate Balboa bars. I remembered them better. And bigger. And slow. I remembered the one time we hired a pontoon boat and had a picnic in the bay with grapes and macaroni salad. Uncle John was there. Or was it Uncle Angelo? Maybe we went more than once.

We went to the Ruby's on the Pier. There were so many Mexicans and I thought to myself, "I had no idea ghetto, rapping Mexicans liked to fish." Then Matt said something like, "They are fishing to stay alive." Huh. These fish are their lifeline? Perhaps. Since when did Orange County become so poverty stricken? Did it begin with us? Were we the first to crumble and the rest followed? It's like when I ask myself sometimes if the reason why everyone likes an underground indie song is because of me? Because I shared it with so many people? Arrogant, I know. Naive, I know. But don't those things have to begin somewhere?

The next day we went to the Getty museum. I saw a real life Van Gogh, but it didn't hit me. Still hasn't. I almost think to myself: why is that such a big deal? Yeah, I love art. Yeah, Van Gogh is amazing. But he's just a person. He's dead. God's art is the only living art and I take it for granted every day. God's art is what we draw from. His art IS our art. I can paint a landscape, but that only shows a fragment of the creative ability of God. He actually made the landscape. I am a speck of sand. Not worthy of any compliment. My art is never mine. It is God's. Van Gogh's art is God's.

I don't know if it is because I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful artwork, if I was being cynical, or if I was just out of tune, but I was not impressed as much by this artwork as I have been in the past. I can just picture Van Gogh up in the spirit world saying something like, "What the heck are you guys gawking at? That piece isn't even finished. It's a piece of crap. Wait til you see what's up here." I actually pictured that while I looked at his Irises.

After that day, we began our drive, and I felt free for a few hours.

Friday, May 15, 2009


The first time I ever lied was when I sat on the kitchen counter in our brown California house. The "Thou shalt not lie" lesson was fresh in my mind, so I think it might've been a Sunday and my white stockings were tipped off with black, pattened-leather shoes. I swung them, alternating, up and down over the edge of the counter and watched her. My mom was preparing dinner--probably her onion, celery boiled chicken that she'd put in a rice casserole. She was so beautiful in her outdated, mint green dress, with shoulder pads and a pencil skirt bottom. I looked at her and wondered if she'd recognize a lie from me. I knew she trusted me; I was an "angel," she said. I looked out the window, in an attempt to conjure up an original: something other than the popular "you have a spider in your hair" or "Jared hit me" phrases. Aha! I got it.

"Mom?" I innocently questioned, looking up into her olive face.

"What, my baby?" She whispered with a grunt as she pulled the chicken from the broth, placing it into a bowled strainer.

"I..." I hesitated. Did I want to do this? My first lie ever? Would God forgive me? Of course, I just need to repent right after. Okay, I wanted this. "I see a mouse by the wall outside!" I yelled and pointed. My mother hated mice. I remember one time we saw a swarm of them on Indiana Jones and she climbed up onto the couch, screaming and running in place. This time there was no change in her expression. I let the lie sit, waiting for a reaction.

I shuffled my body on the counter top. I stared out the window to avoid eye contact with her. I glanced at her beautiful dress, then back outside. A pot made a clank from the cabinets below and my eyes shifted to the noise. My mother looked up at me and smiled. I felt a ball of air lodged in my throat.

"Mom?" I innocently inquired again.
"What, sweetheart?" She came over to where I sat, hugged my immature frame, and looked into my eyes.
"I just lied. There's no mouse. I'm sorry."
"I know, baby." She smoothed the grain of my side ponytail and returned to the chicken. She knew.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Four times, tonight in seminar, I was on the verge of tears.

In essence: "Words, no matter whether they are vocalized and made into sounds or remain unspoken as thoughts, can cast an almost hypnotic spell upon you. You easily lose yourself in them, become hypnotized into implicitly believing that when you have attached a word to something, you know what it is. The fact is: You don't know what it is. You have only covered up the mystery with a label. Everything, a bird, a tree, even a simple stone, and certainly a human being, is ultimately unknowable. This is because it has unfathomable depth. All we can perceive, experience, think about, is the surface layer of reality, less than the tip of an iceberg."

I don't know the words behind my feelings, but I will tell you what touched me:

1. The answer to this question: What is my spiritual priority?
2. The answer to this question: What am I?
3. This question: Is love the answer to breaking down barriers? Don't you need to break down barriers before you love?
4. I want to see the Redwoods. But I wonder, if I saw them, would I know them?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Park

I rode my bike to the park and scanned for an open spot of yellow, unshaded grass--one free from the couple on the plaid blanket, the mother trying to keep her two girls still long enough to snap a picture, the roommate quietly reading with an apple in hand. I wanted space of my own. I expected this to be a challenge, considering it was a sunny Saturday in Rexburg, but there were only sprinkles of people and I found space: toward the back edge of the park by the covered picnic tables and the little shelter overgrown with ivy. It was a warm spot and dried mud broke through the grass. With a ringing clunk, I placed my bike on its side--the back wheel still spinning--and draped my sheet over twigs and little flecks of last fall's brown leaves. I thought about how long it had been since I'd sat by myself in such fresh air.

There's something about being alone that is fresh, too. I breathed in till the air filled my body, took off my sunglasses, and laid on my stomach, propping myself up with my elbows. I fished in my bag for The Art of the Personal Essay, bent the entire book backwards on the page I was to begin with, and read. (I always bend my books backwards. This could explain why I have so many with ruined spines and missing pages, but I can't read any other way. I tried once when I borrowed a book from a friend, but it destroyed the story. All I could think about the entire week was how much will power it took me to forego book-bending.)

I read one essay, watched another couple go by on a black tandum bike, watched a newly-dating couple (you can always tell) toss a frisbee back and forth, watched a dad run while pushing his daughter in her stroller, and decided I was cold. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud--not a thin, cheese cloth cloud, but a heavy one, with grey in the middle. I counted about 4 minutes until it passed and the time between the end of that cloud and the beginning of another was small. I calculated: the time spent laying on my sheet would entail much less sunshine than anticipated and much more heavy-cloud-with-grey-in-the-middle interception. I accepted this as a Rexburg fopaux, and continued to lay chilled on the cold, dried mud, with only a sheet separating the two of us.

I thought about how I was cold and hungry, how I didn't want to begin reading my assigned literature from the Dark Ages, even though I signed up for the class. I put my book down and called my mother. No answer. I formed my backpack into a pillow, clearing all valuables from potential harm, placed my head in its center, and closed my eyes in the direction of the sun--desperately drinking in what it had to offer (when it did have something to offer). This trip to the park was to clear my head. I didn't know where to begin. I wished the sun would suck it from my eyes, through my pores, dry up the thoughts that repressed me.

After an hour of lying on the chilled earth, I stood to regulate the bloodflow through my legs and to my brain, sliding my arms through the looping straps of my backpack. I dizzily groped for my handlebars, managed to snatch them, and mounted. I rode the opposite way I came to avoid the eyes of those who occupied the other temporarily-sunny spots and to ride in the direction of Pita Pit, where'd I'd buy myself lunch. And that was my trip to the park.

P.S. I am lucky to have such great friends. Especially this one in particular, who is male and lives in Calgary, who makes me laugh every day on the phone, who can't get enough of my blogs, and attends comic conventions on the weekends. But seriously, I'm lucky.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


I am liberated. I have moved on.

Dearest Summer,
I cannot wait for you to come into my life. I love your sunshine and warmth. I love walking to class with the wind in my hair, oversized Urban Outfitters sunglasses resting on my nose. Oh, and the sandals: my rhinestone sandals, my red strappy sandals, my Bandolino's, have all been hiding in my closet for far, far too long. I love turning brown in the sun, cooling off in the Snake, skinny dipping at Beaver Dick when the rest of the town is in bed kicking their comforters off their legs. I want to ride my Cranbrook Cruiser with the old-fashioned bike bell; I want to feel the strong wind throw back the hair I meticulously put in its place minutes before and hairsprayed for no reason. I want to climb the homeless man's tree at the Nature Park and feed my loaf of bread to the Mallards--to watch them honk and fight, I would sacrifice afternoon PB&Js. The only thing that could make you better--stretch you to celestial heights--would be fireflies at dusk. Think about it.
I love you.
Yours in 2009,

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Surgeon - Creative Non-Fiction

That night I prayed to God I would die in my sleep. Eyes exhausted from tears, I fell to my pillow. I dreamed I was inside someone’s home: An illicit surgeon cut open my abdomen to operate on one of my pumping, bleeding parts. Next thing I knew I was sewn up. I feared my sutures splitting open like a torn shirt and my insides greasily sliding from the small incision onto the carpet floor. I woke the next morning, frustrated by my unanswered prayer, still sensing the residue of my disturbing dream.

* * *

Before Jeff and I started dating, I was locked in, what I thought, an impenetrable physical and emotional bubble. I avoided any sort of contact, emotional or physical, without a sense of trust. That was what was so extraordinary about the fact that I could touch Jeff ’s arm like it was an extension of my own, like he was a brother or a parent, like we shared blood. He was familiar in so many ways, and he felt like home. “I feel this in my heart,” I’d say, “Do you?” I see now that his “yeah” answer was a pacifying lie. I let my sutures pop and split, and my guts now lay on the floor beneath him. I thought I was safe, but he was an illicit surgeon. He didn’t know what he was doing. So, in those four months I was intimately exposed to a stranger I thought I was safe with.

I should have known better. But Jeff cradled me from the beginning, rocked me, and told me he would keep me safe. It was everything I’d read about in books and seen in the Audrey Hepburn movies. He was the first one to call. He was the first to grab my hand, so I was sure he wanted to touch me. He kissed me first; he was my first kiss. He was the first to mention that word, the loaded word we’re all terrified to say. I loved him back. When he came to visit in Austin for a week, we sat on a mountain overlooking the lake. It was here he was the first to say unofficially that he’d marry me.

Sometimes when we’d talk over the phone, I’d scrounge for words. He said he loved my silent moments, but I am not just silence. As we became more intimate, he learned the things I wasn’t saying.

I don’t ever fold the clothes I put in my drawers. His were folded, methodically organized, and fit neatly in his drawers without forceful shoves. I opened myself wider: I have twelve dollars in my bank account and owe 450 dollars to the school bookstore. In jest, he said paying off my loans was a burden. I sensed his seriousness. I let myself spill: If I don’t know the answer to something, I’ll make one up to protect my pride. He could pinpoint the moment I’d do this. “Did you make that up?” he’d accuse me with a chortle; speaking in the same tones you’d address a child. I became less and less unspoken: I got a D on my close reading in American Lit, and I’m supposed to be an English major. Write outlines and study harder. I was unlocked: I cry often. He never cries.

Jeff knew the secrets I never let anyone else know. Though it was liberating to reveal myself to someone so completely, I failed to realize the danger in it.

The morning of my birthday, before brushing my teeth or getting up from bed, I texted him to apologize for crying over the phone the night before, and ended my message with I love you so much. His typical immediate response did not come. In an English class, Jeff ’s unresponsiveness overshadowed any discussion which may have been going on about Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds.” I ate lunch by myself, placing my phone on the tray where I could watch its activity, where I could look for the little blue envelope. The entire day, he did not respond.

That cold night, I lay isolated in my room, on my side, covered by my dark brown comforter and checkerboard heating blanket. My phone was sandwiched between my ear the pale pink pillow beneath. Because of Jeff ’s winter internship with Disneyworld and the month and a half of having to corresponding with him over the phone this way, I developed this nightly ritual. “Hey Jeff, are you okay? I feel like something is different.”


My bed parallel with the only window in the room, I fiddled with the strings of my blinds, repeatedly clicking the knob against the sill. I was reminded of the last time I asked him this question, a little over a month before. The question led to a two-hour discussion and a three-day break, so he could “figure things out” and “have some space” while he did. During that small break, I had torturously prepared myself for the end. To my relief, he called on a Wednesday with the decision he had made to make me his forever. From then on I gave myself to him with complete confidence. I had solid ground to walk on. I had finally found my husband. My body cringed as I waited for his reply this time; I was anxious to hear it, but mostly terrified.

“Huh…” was the response. “So what’d you do today?”

I stopped clicking. “…Are you serious, Jeff? Don’t change the subject.” I faked a chuckle and turned onto my back. I thought about how I had just spent 368 dollars to go visit him in Disneyworld six days prior, how he talked to me then about what we’d name our children.

He allowed a long pause before sighing a dawdling sigh, and replied gently, “I’ve been feeling differently.”

I clutched the phone with my right hand and sat up on my bed, my back resting on the wall behind me. “About us? About marriage? What?”

“About everything. I’ve been having doubts again.” There was a gap in his speech and I waited, my grip on the phone became slippery with sweat. My ear cartilage grew sore from the pressure of the earpiece. “Honestly, I’ve had them the entire time. I was planning on going to the temple this Saturday to pray about it.”

“You already went. I thought you got your answer then.” I needed his final answer now. It was as though I had been dangling over a cliff for days. I needed gravity, clarity, something solid.

“I think I might have been talking myself into everything.” Did he talk himself into loving me? Into loving my silent moments? Into visiting me in Austin and meeting my entire family? Into calling me every night? Were all of his calls obligatory? What about the e-mails? And the letter he mailed me telling me he would never be able to find anyone better or more beautiful? I never needed to talk myself into loving him. This was betrayal.

“ Jeff, if you’ve been having doubts this entire time and have been talking yourself into everything, don’t you think you’ve received your answer?” I didn’t want to wait until Saturday for him to get his answer, I needed it now. I deserved it now. I couldn’t dangle from this cliff any longer.


“Yeah,” he said with a sigh. Yeah. Not I don’t want this to be my answer, or I love you, or I can’t picture my life without you in it. A sharp zing shot from my neck into my ears, and my insides pulsated with shock. But this was not an Audrey Hepburn movie.

“So, is that it?” I moved the mouthpiece of the phone up toward my forehead, keeping my ear on the earpiece. I was angry and hurt. He didn’t deserve to hear me cry.

“Can I just say two things before we hang up?” He went on, but all I really listened to was the blood thumping in my ears.

“ Jeff, I never had any doubts about how I felt about you. I don’t ever want you to talk to me again.” I nodded my head. In that nod, I talked myself into the rightness of what I had just said. I knew I’d cave if he talked to me again; I knew I’d give him a second chance and I deserved better. “Don’t call me. Don’t text me.” As much as I wanted to deny it, I had felt this coming.

“Okay.” His voice was soft now. Okay.

“Have a good life, Jeff.”

Not waiting for a goodbye, I snapped my cell phone shut and threw it onto my bed. My breath grew heavy and uncontrolled. What had just happened? Why? My entire life had been planned out for the next three years—I’d finish school and live in Rexburg until he graduated, I’d go with him on his internships and make him turkey sandwiches without pickles for him to take to work, I’d have a boy named Dominic, I’d fold his clothes for him—I swore to him I’d fold them. That life crumbled in an instant. I had to make new plans. With the thought of that, my face warped into the ugly cry I haven’t cried since childhood, mouth draped open into a tunneling frown and brow crumpled into my head. I thought about my weekend in Florida —flashbacks of sharing a bowl of Cheerios, laughter, lying on a hammock at the manmade beach of the Polynesian. The joke was on me. I had been on a vast red stage for four months, dancing my heart out for him in a ridiculous costume, twirling and lobbing my awkward body. I sang to him, I shouted to him from the stage, thinking he was with me doing the same. But, mid-turn, I discovered him missing. I felt humiliated in the deepest sense. The illicit surgeon scoffed and laughed at the secrets on the floor—the ones I didn’t choose to have. I ardently wished to disappear from the surgeon, from Jeff.

That night I prayed to God I would die in my sleep.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Today in my creative writing class a 28 year old guy named Golden, who is a sci-fi loyalist, got up and announced a D&D tournament coming up. I might go.

The Nordic had that delicious tapioca, mandarin orange, pineapple salad I love at the salad bar today.

I finally discovered what is going on in my head.

Friday I watched Amelie, a foreign French film, while drinking a ginger beer and eating popcorn, and I think I've discovered what beauty really is. Life is just an endless rehearsal of a show that will never play and Without you today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's.

Saturday I ate Thai, watched a rendition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Dr. Heiddeger's Experiment and Young Goodman Brown at the Black Box Theatre, and danced some emotions out at the banana house.

I burn my Biscotti candle frequently even though candles aren't allowed here. I don't freaking care.

I ran today and it felt like my mind could breath deeply for the first time in weeks. Uh, I love that feeling.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Tonight for dinner I had:
cherry flavored Jello
a bowl of mixed veggies
a cup of chicken broth
a PB&J Rollup on a whole grain tortilla
a bag of popcorn
fat free sugar free chocolate pudding

But besides that. I'd like to get away for a little bit. I am applying for multiple oversees internships. There's this art college in Florence called Santa Reparata that I'd love to lick envelopes for or make afternoon cappuccino runs for. I thought about applying to some programs in Africa, but all the applications looked really shady and I'm guessing they might be recruiting poachers-- I don't really want to spend the rest of my life in some African prison.

I used to think it was so silly when I'd see people on TV who wish they could go somewhere else in the world to make a difference--like those extremists on American Idol who quit their waitressing jobs and leave their babies with their parents to go to Hollywood for a week and make a new life. What could they possibly do there in a week's time that would change the world/their life? Now though, I almost kind of understand them.

Sometimes in high school I'd go to a dance or a concert where the air in the crowd was so unbareably humid, it was almost too difficult to breathe. Throughout the event, I'd stand on my tiptoes and cock my head back just to get a breath of cooler, thinner air. Thats what its like here, now, in Rexburg. I feel like the air is so stale and clouded. If I could, I'd stand tiptoed. Get me out. Somehow. Somewhere. And maybe I could make a difference.

I'm invisioning Orange County for a little while. Maybe I'll go burn down a model home and some rich family will let me stay with them for the next five years and I'll magically look like Mischa Barton. Anyways, back to life and the powerpoint I've been putting off for a week and a half...

Monday, March 2, 2009

God Knew

I have seen the Lord's hand in my life the past few days. In a work seminar on Thursday we talked about pain--how to grow from it, how it's healthy, how we should experience it and not try to hide from it. At the moment, this information wasn't relevant at all to my situation, but I needed it a few hours from then. God knew that. Every testimony born, every lesson taught, and every hug given in church yesterday was for me. My family, roommates, co-workers, and friends have inundated me with love and I can't help but see how blessed I truly am. I've become stronger. And I am happy. God knew this would happen.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I will ingrain this in myself:

"What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one....Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning...As Benjamin Franklin said, 'Those things that hurt, instruct.' It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems." Most of us are not so wise. Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree attempt to avoid problems. We procrastinate, hoping that they will go away. We ignore them, forget them, pretend they do not exist. We even take drugs to assist us in ignoring them, so that by deadening ourselves to the pain we can forget the problems that cause the pain....

"This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness. Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health. Some of us will go to quite extraordinary lengths to avoid our problems and the suffering they cause, proceeding far afield from all that is clearly good and sensible in order to try to find an easy way out, building the most elaborate fantasies in which to live, sometimes to the total exclusion of reality. In the succinctly elegant words of Carl Jung, 'Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.'

"But the substitute itself ultimately becomes more painful than the legitimate suffering it was designed to avoid....And without healing, the human spirit begins to shrivel.

"Therefore let us inculcate in ourselves and in our children the means of achieving mental and spiritual health. By this I mean let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved. I have stated that discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life's problems. It will be come clear that these tools are techniques of suffering, means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process. When we teach ourselves and our children discipline, we are teaching them and ourselves how to suffer and also how to grow."

-The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D.

And life will go on...