Tuesday, February 23, 2010


When Ivor comes over, he asks for Brittany. When Skyler and Hugh come over, they ask for Victoria. The people who come over and ask for me are generally those I ask to come, or my visiting teachers, who come because they have to report back to coordinators.

I’m sitting on my bed, beneath the brown quilt my mother and I tied two summers ago. I’m on my computer, checking Facebook for a new wall post or a new message, and I leave the internet window open as I write this, just in case someone wants to send an instant message. After I wash my face or run downstairs to change a load of laundry, I check my phone for a new text message or missed call.

Yesterday I had two missed calls and three text messages after class—it was my mother.

There’s something about this semester that feels utterly alone. I come home from early classes to make my bed and re-do my hair, then sit for a while and stare at the light brown knobs on my white dresser. Or I pick up my guitar and play the same song I’ve been playing for the past two months. Or I glaze over the necklaces I've collected through recent years and the ones my mother bought from Anthropologie last Christmas--one made with creme-colored ribbon and tiny glass balls, another with thick, navy-blue stones. They hang in long strands from the hooks I bought with my employee discount at Pier1. At least I have beautiful things, I think.

I have siblings—four of them. The last time I heard from Michelle was last week—she wrote on my Facebook wall and said, xoxoxoxox.... Miss you much!!! My news feed showed that she wrote the same thing on all of my siblings’ walls. “You should really give your sister a call to let her know what’s going on with your life,” my mom says. Yeah, I think, but if she really wanted to know what was going on with my life, she’d call instead of use the internet to send me virtual hugs and kisses. The last time I talked to Nathan, I called him for decision-making advice about my mission. The last time we talked on the phone before that, was a year ago. Jared never calls. And two weeks ago, Justin asked my mom if I would babysit Josh--while he goes to Florence on a complimentary business trip this April--instead of going on the British Literary Tour. "You know, Aly," my mom continues, "these relationships are two-way." But for some reason, I feel like, because I'm younger and unmarried and far away, they should be a little more concerned.

When my mom complains about ticket pricing for flying me to and from school, Justin says, “I didn’t tell her to go to that freaking school. I told her to go to UTSA,” which is an hour and a half away from home. It's not like I'm competent enough to choose my own school. When my sister’s husband trash-talked BYU-I as we drove down an Arizona highway one Thanksgiving break, she turned to me from the front seat, smiled through her lipstick, and said, “Oh, Gordon, she’s just having fun up there, huh.” Yeah, I thought, and my chest thumped hard, I don’t write 10 page single-spaced analyses on Germany’s economic and cultural progression, or stay up all night to paint acrylic color charts for Color and Design, or research Tess of the d’Ubervilles’ feminist criticism on JSTOR for six hours at a time. I just twiddle my thumbs with my mouth open and drool on myself all day. I've done that for the past four years. Sometimes I feel like my siblings understand absolutely nothing about me, yet I am sealed to them forever.

There have been times when they’ve tried. Like the times Michelle bought me pink Hello Kitty pencils and strawberry lip-gloss from the Orange County Main Place Mall, when I was six or seven. Or the times when Jared picked me up from Cedar Valley Middle School every day in his black Nissan truck, booming Eminem through his subwoofer. Or when Justin bought me a silver dolphin necklace in fifth grade that I’ve worn twice, which now lays tarnished in a ceramic cup on a book shelf back home.

Nathan tried during my Senior year of high school. With the money I made scooping ice cream, I bought two tickets to see The Shins play downtown at Stubbs. My mother suggested Nathan take me, and he did. It took us two hours to drive the usual-thirty-minute drive because of rush hour traffic and a rainstorm. We made it to Stubbs ten minutes after six, and because of the rain, the show was cancelled. Nathan looked at me with black-brown eyes and a one-sided frown.

“What should we do now, Aly?” I remember he wore a grey Old Navy shirt, which was darkly spotted with rain, and a white visor that dripped.

“Run through those puddles?” I turned my head to look across the street at an empty parking lot, bordered by vine-covered canals, and I pointed. Nathan smiled with his speckled, white teeth, and I remembered the gap in them before his braces. I nodded my head. “I really want to.”

That night, we ran through rain puddles and gulped long breaths of humid, summer air. We ate at The Spaghetti Factory, took pictures beneath the Frost bank tower, and delivered two Big Macs to a homeless man. The Early November played beneath the squeak-swish of the windshield wipers the entire way home, and Nathan let me rewind that one great guitar riff each time it would end.

I used to let myself ugly-cry in front of Nathan, but he’s married now, and I guess that means no more rained out concerts or long road trips through Arizona. I used to try on Michelle’s earrings and shoes, but she lives in another state, closer to her husband’s family. Justin used to ask me questions about volleyball and violin and art, but now questions the value of my education. Jared used to tease me when we'd play a jungle-themed memory game, but now he has two daughters and a son—all under five—to tease.

When I check my e-mail, my Facebook, my phone, I wonder where my siblings are. I wonder if they’re busy at all or always. I wonder if they’re missing anything. I wonder if they know they have a little sister somewhere in the world who feels alone. At least I have beautiful things, like necklaces.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What I Think of When I Close My Eyes

I want to breathe in cold mountain air.
I want to see a hummingbird.
I want to run across a plain of dry grass grown up to my waste.
I want to feel the wind blow my hair from the back of my neck.
I want to stand on rocky cliffs that overlook crashing white waves and close my eyes.
I want to ride in a hot air balloon over evergreen covered mountains.
I want to drive through warm countryside with the windows down, without smelling exhaust or oil or sulfur, just trees.
I want to lie down in the snow without getting my pants wet or shivering.
I want to stand on a beach in white flannel pants and large sunglasses, smelling the sandy wind and feeling my skin scrunch in the heat of the sun.
I want to finger paint, sitting crisscrossed on the floor with a scarf tied in my hair.
I want to meditate to cello music.
I want to ride my blue cruiser bike down a long hill.
I want to scrape my knees on choral.
I want to taste a honeysuckle flower.
I want to smell the Redwoods.
I want to climb outside of the second story window to sit on the snow that’s collected on the roof.
I want to ride a horse across some part of the desert, like they do in Westerns.
I want to watch the shadows of the earth change on a road trip.
I want to dance in circles on dusty dirt, in my bare feet.
I want to hear shells rolling on the ocean floor.
I want more moments where I don’t think about my 10 page research paper on The Picture of Dorian Gray or my depleted bank account.
I want more moments where I feel God.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Reminder

Saturday night, while planning a Relief Society lesson for the next morning, my body aches intensified to the point of distraction. I was coming down with something and decided to take a break for some ibuprofen.

I felt the chill from the lower part of the house with each step I took down the stairs and coughed to relieve the tickles from my chest. I reached the living room with old green couches and heard voices from the kitchen. As I approached, I expected the ordinary—one or more of my eleven roommates with maybe a few of their friends visiting.

When I looked towards the back of the kitchen, I recognized him immediately sitting in one of our black-backed wooden chairs at the kitchen table. I felt something beneath my ribs, something like my heart rolling over or kicking. He hadn’t seen me yet, and I continued walking to the glassed-cupboard to my left, the old carpeted kitchen floor thumping each time I stepped with my heels. My fingers tingled from what felt like an electric shock that came with the sight of him. He was so familiar; I knew where the creases of his face lay better than the girl he was visiting did. My right hand shook uncontrollably when I grabbed for my purple botanical mug. And when I went to the sink for tap water, I studied the increasing water level in my cup.

Rounding the refrigerator to get to the pantry, I had to face him, and our eyes met.“Oh, hey,” I said with a half-smile. And I got some satisfaction from knowing that he knew what my real smiles looked like. “How’s it going?”

“Hey, Aly,” he said. I wished he would leave.

When we first started dating a year ago, the girls across the hall, the ones he was such good friends with, told me in secret how he was “really into it this time” and “so happy.” I remember the first time he came over to watch Amelie with me and sat so far away on our tan couch. I remember the green, pocketed coat that he wore the night he told me he liked me and wanted to date. We stood outside my apartment door on the third floor, and all I could do was quickly nod my head and offer a closed-lip smile.

I remember the night he invited me over to an apartment to watch The Breakfast Club, and when I sat close to him, he grabbed my legs and draped them sideways over his.

I remember how every time he’d tell me he thought I was beautiful or that he was happy, his blue eyes would blink slowly, and I’d feel his truth.

I remember the blue robot shirt he wore as we stood on the chip isle at Broulim’s, when he told me he loved me and immediately called it a Freudian slip. I remember hoping he meant it.

I remember when he danced with me in the kitchen over conference weekend and dipped me after I bit into a hot dog. I choked, and we laughed. I remember when he dipped his tortilla chips in sour cream.

I remember when we laid close on his plaid couch, and the sun streamed through the blinds hitting the wall in stripes, and he told me he loved me. His arm was under my neck; I looked at him like I didn’t believe him; “Not with a big L yet, a little l,” he said. I knew I loved him back, and I was so safe.

He'd carry me when I asked him to.

I remember when the Rexburg fields were tan and dead from winter, and everything looked gold. The sun was out, and his friend Miranda took pictures of us walking down the railroad tracks, standing on the SEED building, and kissing in front of the railroad crossing sign. I remember Miranda saying to him, “Man, your kids are going to be gorgeous.” And for a minute, I let myself imagine. I never got to see those photos.

I remember when he let me touch the stubble under his chin and above his top lip. I remember when I’d grab his sides and he’d cringe and laugh. I remember when he used my acrylic paints to color a cartoon picture of me that he drew. I remember when we saw Bedtime Stories at the cheap theater, and he repeated Adam Sandler’s “For free?” line days after. I remember that my hand felt small in his. I remember seeing him parked in the Hart parking lot at the end of the walkway, waiting for me in the snow. He’d get out to hug me, before I got in. I remember walking in the cold, trying to jam both of our hands into his green jacket pocket.

I remember the night before we both had to leave for the semester. He laid under the dashboard of his old Chevy sedan, while I laid on the front seat-bench, because we both couldn’t fit there, and we talked until 3:00 in the morning. When he dropped me off at my apartment, I watched him from my third floor window. He smiled up at me as he walked in the snow to his car and got in. I waved to him as he drove away. I was confident we’d last through the summer.

I swallowed my ibuprofen in the pantry and waited for my hands to stop shaking. I said nothing when I quickly rounded the refrigerator to get back to my room, where I played a song on guitar and choked at the chorus.