November 30, 2009

Monday, Monday

Panic attack on the way to work this morning was no fun. Something's gotta change.

November 27, 2009


After all of my weird obsessing and reading/comparing of, like, 500 cornbread stuffing recipes, it turned out awesome. I was so pleased.

Yesterday I spent my fifth Thanksgiving at Nannette's house. Fifth! How is it possible I've been here so long? This year Jenny and Scott were missing, and there were several people I don't really know there. It just wasn't the same. I mean, our food was lovely. Everyone was in good spirits. But many of the people there didn't feel like MY people, and it made me feel a little sad. The best part by far was spending the morning and afternoon cooking and drinking mimosas with Angie and Nannette and periodically sending and receiving texts of Thanksgiving wishes. I am still wondering about the mystery texter, though.

In the late afternoon hours, someone from a 650 number texted me and said, "Goble, goble, goble!" Goble? I returned the text with, "Hi! Gobble to you, too! I'm sorry, but who is this?" The person responded, "Is this amy?" (Obviously it is not someone who knows me very well.) I texted, "This is Amie! Who's this?" and never heard anything again.

I find that my cell phone book fills up with names of people I don't remember. They come from dates I've gone on--times that I was meeting someone for a drink or coffee and we exchanged cell numbers in case anything happened. Because those times are generally the first and last date, the phone number stays in there and I promptly forget who it is. Last night in my food-induced coma, I sat down and deleted all the numbers I didn't recognize: Daniel, Kevin, Paul, Jon, Jon, etc. It makes it sound like my life is much more exciting than it actually is, I think.

Last night I got home around 10pm, and it was a relief to have quiet. My dreams were vivid and specific, and one of those times when I woke up to realize they weren't true and I burst into tears.

Today I will go back to Nannettes for a leftover dinner. You can bet I'm gonna rock that stuffing's world.

My dear friend Beau and his new wife are in town, and during the next two days I will show them around San Francisco sites, views, and restaurants. (Because more eating is exactly what I will need.)

Yesterday would have been my Papaw's 80th birthday. He loved Thanksgiving and I always loved when his birthday fell on Thanksgiving. I miss him terribly.

It looks like I will only be buying one Christmas present this year, and I'm trying to decide how I feel about that.

I will be 33 soon.

I dreamed you were back.

I just woke up.

November 25, 2009

On annoyances

I just need to gripe for a minute. I loathe the following things:

- People who advertise themselves as once who "don't take life too seriously." I want to yell, "You're a fucking idiot! Pay attention! While you're kicking it on your magic cloud in the sunshine, serious shit's going down! Christ!"

- People who say they want someone who is "drama free" or "with no emotional baggage." Son, you should stay soooooo far away from me' and good luck to you, you unfeeling twit.

- Do people seriously like their stuffing in the bird? Really? Soggy and stuffed up the bird's butt?

There's probably some others, too. That's it for the moment.

November 24, 2009

All this grateful (and ungrateful) business

Several people I know are naming something they're grateful for on Facebook every day until Thanksgiving. Even though these are friends of mine and very lovely people, this practice makes me a little nauseous. Probably because I am cranky and cantankerous and bitter and jaded.


I thought I'd do my own version here. I wanted my version to include a lament about the things I am ungrateful for, too.

Please excuse any sap that may follow, and if you think it will nauseate you too much, you might want to take a rain check on this blog entry.

Things I am grateful for:

- Friends I can call when I’m sitting in my car for hours because I don’t know where to go.

- Little birdie belly feathers.

- Getting a teaching job for the spring semester because I will be much less broke in the months to come.

- My grandparents and my aunt, without whom I would probably be dead, in prison, or on crack. Possibly all three.

- Nannette. For being my friend during the most challenging years of my life thus far, even when it was hard for her, and for talking sense into me on one very dark evening. Without her I would have left San Francisco behind already.

- Cindy. For knowing me almost better than I know myself; for being insane in nearly identical ways to myself (and I say that with love), for listening to me at times when I am nearly incoherent, and for being my first grown up best friend.

- Christopher. For loving me when I was unable to love myself.

- My many friends at work who make each day Monday through Friday more bearable, who put up with me dropping into their offices when I need a break, and without whom I would have taken a bazooka to the joint. Ruben, Shayna, Wendi, Laurie, Tamara, Jodi, John, Peggy, and Diana: I love you to pieces.

- For a free washer and dryer in my building. SCORE!

- For Yan, Patrick, Scott, Brian, Amber & Suzie, Judith, Amber, Shannon, Dave, Kelli, Jenny, Tony, Lauren, and Cyrano for taking me out, getting me drunk, calling me, texting me, sending me sweet packages, going to dinner with me, inviting me to their parties, visiting me in the hospital, and letting me crash at their houses even if I was far away (mentally or physically), drank too much, didn't call back, was doped up on morphine, and/or didn't show up.

- Danita and Nan, for treating me as part of the family no matter what.

- The color green for adorning my walls, pants, shoes, umbrellas, and coats and for cheering me up in the most ridiculous and random ways.

- The funniest, weirdest, and most thoughtful book club in the history of the world.

Things I am not grateful for:

- Several days without antidepressants because I am totally broke.

- Four parking tickets waiting to be paid.

- E. for making up his mind, J.H. for not being in the right mental space at the right time, P. for breaking my heart, and J.T. for what amounted to persistent booty calls.

- A very specific person whom I see five days a week who makes me distinctly unhappy, treats me like I am stupid and incompetent, has unreasonable expectations, seems to always suspect that I have or am about to screw her over, and blames me for what feels like everything.

- C.J.B. for leaving without saying goodbye and re-smashing my heart into itty bitty pieces.

- The raccoon fight club that meets nightly behind my house.

November 23, 2009

"Such sweetness was not meant for me.""

"You never started with me. (You never finished with me.)"

[Go here and listen to "Sabina." My friend Jim wrote it.]

November 22, 2009

Thick-skinned, thin-skinned, pig skin

I admit I'm not particularly cheerful at this time. I'm getting hung up on weird things. For example, my mind won't stop going back to the day I left Richmond.

I was way behind schedule in terms of packing and moving. My landlord was due to come and inspect the apartment soon, and I was still packing. The moving truck was nearly out of room, I still had lots of stuff, and I hadn't even thought about cleaning yet. In my growing panic, I started putting everything in the trash. Things I loved, things I'd used, things that were given to me--all flung over the balcony and carted out to the trash cans in the alley behind the building. I threw out the pizza stone my grandmother gave me! I always wanted a pizza stone!

At the moment I am feeling alone and grief-stricken, and this is where my mind has chosen to focus its angst. Fuck my life.

I turned on the television this evening just to hear some noise, some voices, and caught the tail end of the Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles football game. Now, I could give two shits about this sort of thing to be honest. But I left it on and observed the last five minutes of the game and a bit of the post-game activities.

Philadelphia won after a last-ditch effort touchdown pass thrown by Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted with less than a minute to go. From what I gathered, Jay--a young quarterback--has been struggling lately with many of his passes getting intercepted. After the play ended, Jay took off his helmet dejectedly and walked off the field. Shortly thereafter, the camera showed the Eagles' quarterback, Donovan McNabb, with his arm around around Jay, quietly speaking advice into his ear. This went on for a couple of minutes, and Jay thanked him and they patted each other and went their separate ways. The commentators speculated on the kind of advice an experienced quarterback would give to a relatively new one, and I found myself sobbing with emotion.

Some days it feels like there is not nearly enough good in the world, and I'll grab onto anything I can get. Now I love Donovan McNabb.

I cannot believe I just blogged about football.

November 21, 2009


Tonight I had the second failed movie attempt of my life.

I felt good today. I slept well. I had my morning coffee and listened to "The Star Report" (astronomy news) at 6:37am on the radio. Saturday is my normal sleeping and relaxing day, but this morning I felt restless and yearning to get out of the house. Fortunately, Nannette was game for lunch and a walk, but even that did not completely satisfy me. So I decided to take myself to an 8:50pm movie: "Precious."

As the time to leave approached, I dragged my feet a bit. It was cold outside and my home was warm and cozy. I told myself to stop being ridiculous and got my butt out the door. As I drove toward the Daly City theater, I came close to turning around. Everything suddenly seemed so sad, and my bed seemed safer.

I thought of everyone that I miss intensely, and wanted to cry. A truck with an attached trailer full of cows pulled up next to me on 19th Avenue--seeing chickens and cows in the backs of trucks always breaks my heart. The cows peered out of the narrow slats that served as windows, wide-eyed and anxious. They blinked against the glare of the street lights, and their breath steamed out in puffs. I wanted to turn around again.

I was listening to NPR on the radio, and a portion of Rose Tremain's The Road Home. It was beautiful and sad and careful in its observations of struggle and loneliness and, once again, I wanted to turn around.

I made myself keep going. I was determined to go to a movie tonight.

I parked in the crowded garage full of teenagers laughing and cars honking, so I turned up my radio and closed my eyes to finish listening to the story about Lev the widowed, Russian immigrant trying to make his way in a new world. When the story ended, I thought briefly of starting the car and going home, but I got out of the car and plodded toward the theater.

Standing impatiently in the long line of young couples holding hands, bubble gum-popping adolescents, and kids weaving between and around legs, I shifted my weight from foot to foot and promised myself that I would be so happy I came once I sat in the darkened theater, warm and among fellow humans with their eyes fixed on the screen. When I finally made my way to the front of the line, a bored Vietnamese girl behind the glass flatly informed me that my movie was sold out and the next one was in an hour and a half.

I stood for a few seconds with my mouth open to say something, and then mumbled, "nevermind" and turned to make my way back to the garage. I tried to keep it a secret from myself that I was relieved.

November 18, 2009

November 17, 2009

'"E" is even more than anyone that you adore...'

Once or twice a year, I became incredibly hopeful about my finances. This was when the Power Ball jackpot reached at least 200 million dollars--the prize amount was prominently displayed on the large billboard over the interstate near my house. Similarly hopeful folks began to line up to buy tickets at local gas stations and convenience stores, and the news ran nightly updates about how large the pot had grown.

Though my grandpa devotedly played the lottery in all its forms--not just Power Ball but also Pick 3, Pick 4, and various scratch-offs--I never really played. Every Sunday evening when I spoke to him on the phone he would update me on how he had done in the lottery the previous week. Usually he had a couple of Power Ball number or, on especially lucky weeks, had won $5 on a scratch-off ticket. "I'm still working on that million dollars," he would tell me, "and when I win you'll never have to work again." I would laugh and usually tease him about how he was certainly taking his sweet time winning this million dollars. "One day, hon," he would assure me, "one day." Even though I wasn't a player, I always felt like I had a chance of winning because he was playing on behalf of the family.

In the winter of 2004 when the Power Ball reached 300 million, I broke down and bought a ticket; Chris and I both bought one. I believed firmly that we should each buy our own ticket and that only one per person should be purchased. I felt that one special ticket was much luckier than some bulk amount of tickets. I also liked choosing my numbers myself: specifically ones involving 2's, 4's, and 8's. I felt that I was more likely to win if each number was carefully chosen with intention and meaning, the way one might choose apples for a special pie, or a greeting card with just the right words for the occasion.

Chris and I got our tickets and sat in the living room waiting for the 10:59pm drawing before the nightly news. I had never before been so certain of winning, and in anticipation I mentally and verbally spent my money. "I want to go to Fiji," I gushed, and stay in one of those huts on stilts over the water with a glass table top that I can open and feed the fish." I went on. "I will pay off my credit cards and buy a cockatoo and a jet ski. I'll spend time in Germany and Italy and France, and I'll go to Norway to see a fjord." Chris listened as I rattled off my selfish desires, and then I went on to plan how much money I would give to each of my family members and close friends. Then he cut me off.

"You're telling me you would give out money?" he asked. I was startled out of my reverie.

"Of course," I answered. "My grandpa and I've always planned who to give our money to if we won."

He shook his head is disbelief. "You'd GIVE money away?" he reiterated incredulously.

I was surprised that he was so surprised, "Yes," I answered again. And then something dawned on me. "Wait. You wouldn't?"

"No!" he answered without hesitation. "It would be MY money."

I couldn't hide me shock. "You wouldn't give any money to your mom? or your grandma? or your brother? What about me?" He relented that he would buy gifts for people; he would make sure I had something if I needed it and he would buy our birds golden cages, but that he wouldn't give away any money. It would be his. Period.

I felt a growing sense of alarm rising in me. I kept insisting that it wasn't possible for him to be so selfish with so much money and really? He wouldn't give any to me? I began to reassess the millions of dollars I had mentally allotted for him. He stood firm. He also didn't believe that I would actually go through with giving any money away were I to win.

"But, but," I sputtered, "my grandpa and I ALWAYS talk about who we'd share our money with!"

"I think everybody SAYS they would share their money, because they won't actually win and it doesn't really matter. I'm just being honest."

By this point I was angry.

"Why are you getting so upset?" Chris asked in bewilderment. "It's not like it matters. It's not like we're going to win. You're getting mad at me for something that's not even going to happen!" I insisted it was the principle that was disturbing to me, and that I still couldn't believe he wouldn't share.

This conversation has come back to me many times over the years. Part of me feels like there is at least one moment in every long relationship during which you look at your partner and don't recognize them. Another part of me wonders...was this it? Was this the turning point at which we began a descent into irreconcilability? Could I have stopped it? Should I have pretended to agree with him?

I often wonder if he remembers this conversation, and if he still feels the same way. I wonder if and how aging and wisdom have affected his reflections on us, if at all. I wonder if and how I am described to other people he encounters. Does he blame me? Does he refer to me as batshit crazy? Does he thank his lucky stars I am no longer near? Does he make allowances for us having met so young and for trying to navigate a relationship when we had no idea what we were doing? Does he neglect to mention me at all? Does he regret leaving without saying goodbye? Does he hope he never lays eyes on me again?

November 16, 2009

"I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floor of silent seas."

I worked 40 hours this weekend as part of a video shoot.
I met and got to know amazing women who reminded me why I do what I do.
After working the first half of today--Monday--I came home and collapsed.
I dreamed of Richmond
I dreamed of driving down Broad St. with you, trying to decide which restaurant to go to. Mekong? Casa Grande? Maybe over to Thai Diner?
I dreamed of another Thanksgiving without my grandma and yours, and I woke up and cried.

November 8, 2009

Writing, among other things

A lot of people in and around my life have been dying recently. Yet another person passed this passed week; in addition, someone close to me was in a bad car accident that totaled her car. Hence, I am feeling my mortality distinctly.

Last night N. and I decided we wanted to write up for each other our final wishes and also the names of people who should be contacted if something happened to one of us. It feels depressing and morbid to talk about, but when you live alone far from home I think it is something important to consider. I want to take mine even one step further--I want to give a copy to N. as well as to my mother and father just to insure there is no misunderstanding.

This will freak my mother the fuck out.

In other news, I continue to work on NaNoWriMo, and I've gotten some decent writing done. My book is really starting to take shape, and it's exciting to see. I still can't think of a title. When N. asked me what I was thinking about in the way of a title, I said, "At this point, I have absolutely nothing." She suggested that for at least a working title.

For the remainder of the month, there are a few things I want to do for NaNoWriMo to stretch myself a bit:

1. I want to incorporate some piece of fiction (a conversation, a scenario, whatever) into a memoir piece. So far, I've been unable to do anything but tell things that happened to the best of my ability.

2. I want to write a straight fiction short story. My perception of myself is that I am hideous with fiction. Maybe I should practice.

3. I want to write about events that took place more recently. I have things I want to tell, most notably those involving C., and for some reason I just have not been able to.

I am also thinking I want to work on another postcard secret, but that is really another story all together.

In other news, I will be working for the next 12 days in a row. I am not very happy about it.

November 7, 2009

Horny butt

I've always had a special affection for old men. I think it came largely from having wonderful grandpas--the loved me and cuddled me and played with me and tickled me. For an attention-hungry little girl, this was addictive. I craved their affections: there was nothing like climbing up onto their laps and feeling that I was completely safe.

This preference for old men did not always serve me well.

Growing up in a small town, specifically on Lawman Avenue, you got to know your neighbors. I made it my business to get to know them--or at least to make a nuisance of myself. I picked their flowers, stole the apples off the trees in their yards, ate their candy, played spotlight with their children and grandchildren, and rode my Big Wheel in their driveways. One of these neighbors was Mr. Horner directly across the street from our little white house.

Mr. Horner was the grandfather of my friend Ronnie, who visited frequently and played with me whenever he was in town. Mr. Horner liked to sit out in a lawn chair early in the morning in his carport. Since I was frequently lonely and up early watching Pinwheel on Nickelodeon in the summers before anyone in my house was awake, I would occasionally sneak out of my house and run across the street to visit with him. I liked to think that I provided him with much-desired entertainment. He sat very quietly and didn't say much, so I sang, did cartwheels, and performed Pop Warner cheers in an effort to win him over and make him crack just one smile.

Early one morning, I elected to show him the Pepsi-Cola cheer:

Pepsi-Cola! Pepsi-Cola! Royal Crown!
You gotta hypnotize 'em
Boomerize 'em
Knock 'em down!

He seemed to be impressed, and invited me to come over and sit on his lap. I eagerly ran over and climbed up, and he put an arm around my back. Suddenly I felt strange and began to chatter nervously as he listened. When I paused for a breath he said, "Give me a kiss." I hesitated, but in the end decided a kiss was harmless. As I moved toward his cheek to deliver a peck, he suddenly turned his head and thrust his wet, slimy tongue in my mouth. Horrified, I jumped off his lap and ran home as fast as I could.

I hurled myself through the front door, locked it securely, and closed the living room curtains. My heart thumped in my chest, and I was terrified that if I looked out the window, I would find him up on the porch, trying to get in. After several minutes passed, I moved the heavy gold curtain a few millimeters to the right, and peeked out. He was still sitting in his carport with his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap.

I didn't know what to do. I felt dirty and embarrassed. For some reason it never occured to me to tell my mother or stepfather; instead, I told my friends Christel and Traci. "EWWWW!" they screamed. "He french-kissed you!" I gagged at the thought of his slobbery tongue. Traci squealed, "Mr. Horner is gross! What a horny butt!"

For years afterward, we stood in my front yard and screamed at his house, "Horny butt! Horny butt!" Our mothers were puzzled as to our hatred for him, and gave an amused smile despite themselves whenever we referred to him as "horny butt."

"Do you know what 'horny' means?" my mom asked me.

"Yes," I answered matter-of-factly, "it means he has horns coming out of his butt."

She laughed as said, "You guys should stop bothering him." But we never did. We made prank phone calls to his house, rode our bikes through his yard, and knocked on his doors and windows and quickly ran away.

As an adult looking back, I realize this was my first introduction to grandpas who weren't as wonderful as mine, and this was a bitter realization. Even so, I thought that Mr. Horner was an exception to the kindly grandfather rule, and for the most part maintained my naive belief that men--especially old men--naturally cared about and wanted to protect little girls. I would go on to learn that he was not the only one, that sometimes men wanted to hurt little girls.

November 4, 2009

In memory of smells

AKA: A work in progress

In memory of smells

I was a nervous child.

Early on in life I was of the opinion that I had a certain quota of worrying to reach every day, and if I did not meet it bad things would happen to my family and me. Eventually my anxiety became so overwhelming that I had to develop special rituals to calm me. Many of them involved smelling my fingers.

At first, I would touch things and sniff my fingers out of curiosity: dogs, tree sap, bubblegum stuck in crevices and under tables, pizza rolls, Elmer’s glue. There was so much to smell! I would trail behind my mother at the grocery store, happily touching and smelling everything in sight. I was wide-eyed and shy, and had a rather interesting habit of peering out from behind my mom while gazing at strangers and sniffing my fingers. Soon it wasn’t enough to sniff my fingers, and I began burying my nose into everything I could.

I should clarify that I knew this was weird, and—with the exception of my immediate family—I took great pains to hide my habits from others. This resulted in a great deal of covert smelling and in careful restraint of sniffing during the school day that gave way to an uncontrollable onslaught in the evenings. Once my mother walked in on me crawling around the living room with my nose to the carpet, taking in the virtual smorgasbord of scents. “What in the hell are you doing?” she asked in bewilderment.

“Smelling,” I mumbled, continuing on with my business.

Being fixated on everything that was within a 50 foot radius of my nose, I soon became enamored with what came out of it. I designated a corner of my bedroom as “booger corner,” and used it to carefully catalogue the various fascinating shape and sizes that I produced. I meticulously lined them up in straight rows; each row consisted of an even number of boogers. The symmetry and order appealed to me, and I would rock myself back and forth while admiring the thought and care put into the corner. Not surprisingly, my mother found this habit particularly disgusting, and periodically took a scraper and scrub brush to the walls, conveniently providing me with a fresh canvas on which to recreate my masterpieces.

Soon it became important not only WHAT I smelled, but how many times I smelled it. Even numbers—preferably 2, 4, and 8—were very important. The cat food was not appropriately taken in if I only partook in 7 sniffs. Upon my mom’s entry into the kitchen I gave a quick 8th sniff to the cat’s bowl and sat back on my haunches, pretending to innocently contemplate the butter yellow kitchen wall.

After that, my growing fascination with even numbers (except 6) generalized and then things really got out of control. I would walk from place to place an even number of steps. I tapped things an even number of times. I chanted words and sang songs and bit my fingernails and petted the ferret in multiples of four. On my fingers I counted out the number of letters in various words before I would say them. I liked to imagine that this gave me the appearance of a thoughtful, scholarly girl who chose her words carefully.

(To be continued...)

November 3, 2009

Loving Daniel Webster

After my broken engagement to Jamie Gizzi in kindergarten, I wandered the streets as a single woman for several months, wondering if I would ever love and be loved again. Until the first day of school in first grade, I was convinced I was going to be a spinster for the rest of my days. Then came Daniel Webster.

I’d like to say that it was his charm or personality that first won me over, but truthfully it was his denim jacket. I found the way that he wore it to be incredibly sexy, and I got quivers in the pit of my stomach when he casually slung it on as we got ready for the school bus to come.

One thing I came to appreciate about Daniel was how genuinely nice he was. Most first grade boys were fickle and would turn on you in a moment. Daniel, however, was not like the other boys. He was a good-natured and friendly boy who was nice to everyone. He had wide blue eyes and glasses and a ready smile. At the tender age of 6 I felt like a woman when I looked at him—I wanted things from him that I only partially understood. I wanted to melt.

I would like to say that Daniel and I fell in love. I would like to say that he was as enamored by me as I was of him. We never even held hands. I did, however, chase him around the playground and steal kisses from him whenever possible. I can distinctly remember throwing my arms around him and the feel of my lips on his rosy, all-American boy cheek as he squirmed away from me and tried to run. I wanted his attention intensely, and I was determined to take it by force if he didn’t hand it over willingly.

Daniel was not in my first grade class; he was in the class across the hall. I lived for the moments when I could be near him on the playground, and I pined for him as I sat in Mrs. Nease’s class completing my math worksheets and taking my spelling tests. As my class marched down the hall in gender-segregated lines to the bathroom, I tried to steal glances in Mrs. Scott’s class to get a glimpse of him. My classmates ran into the back of my skinny, dawdling frame and grumbled in irritation.

“Amie, pay attention,” Mrs. Nease would admonish. “There’s nothing for you in that classroom.”

Oh, but there was! The father of my future children was in there! The person with whom I would sit in a rocking chair on the front porch drinking iced sweet tea as our grandchildren played in the yard was IN THAT ROOM! Laying eyes on him was a touchstone in my day.

When Valentine’s Day came around, Daniel gave me a special card. This was not a run of the mill childhood Valentine with Snoopy or Garfield or cartoon hearts on it—this was a real grown-up card purchased at a card store with his name carefully printed in childhood script at the bottom. Inside the card was a sheet of cloth heart stickers. Stickers! Oh! That boy knew the way to my heart.

That afternoon on the way to the school bus, Daniel offered to let me wear his coveted denim jacket. I will never forget the walk up the hill from the school cafeteria (the “bus room”) to the school bus. I relished the warmth of the jacket from his body, and I was the happiest girl in the world. I reluctantly gave it back to him on the bus, hoping that we would be sitting together and could finally start making plans for our life together. Disappointingly, he proceeded to the back of the bus to sit with his friends and I was left to wonder who would be the one to punish our kids when they were bad. Would he be the disciplinarian? Or would I? Did he like spaghetti? Peanut butter toast? I vowed that Daniel Webster would never eat Hamburger Helper as long as he was my husband.

Unfotunately, Valentine’s Day was the climax of our romance and the rest of first grade proceeded uneventfully. I can vividly remember the last day of school and my anguish at having to spend a summer where I wouldn’t see Daniel at all. I watched mournfully as he got off at his stop and gleefully trotted off to begin three months free of school. Slowly the tears started to slide down my cheeks, and by the time I got off the bus I was full-on sobbing. Christel Andy tumbled off the bus after me, and asked me in a concerned, motherly tone why I was crying. I blubbered out my anguish to her; she didn't laugh as I was afraid she might. She patted my arm and assured me that I wouldn’t always feel this way and that we would still have a fun summer.

I trudged home miserably. For weeks I plotted how I could reach him. I looked up his phone number in the telephone book, and twice I worked up the courage to call him. I can still remember his childhood phone number.

One day when I could take it no more, I sat down to write him a letter. I poured all my love into it, certain that after he read it he would rush to my house and whisk me away to live with him and his parents. I carefully wrote his address on the envelope and ran to the big blue mailbox on the corner to drop the letter in before I changed my mind. Oh god, I felt alive! I was aglow with my courage and ran to Christel to tell her what I had just done. I recounted each step up to the mailing of the letter, and when I finished she asked, “Did you put a stamp on it?” My face fell. No. No, I hadn’t. My letter would never reach him.

November 1, 2009

I got my first real six-string.

Today and throughout the month of November I am participating in National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo"). In order to get 50,000 words in 30 days, I figure I need to average around 1650 words per day.

I'm using NaNoWriMo to generate memoir material on as of yet unexplored topics. On occasion I may post bits and pieces here.

It is difficult already, because part of the challenge is not to self-edit--something at which I excel. I'm trying really hard just to let the words flow and not come out like a completed product as I normally would strive for. I am tempted to sit here and explain in detail that parts of my writing that I want to work on, but to be honest, I'm emotionally exhausted. Even just THINKING ABOUT the material on which I'm writing today makes me cry like a baby, and it has worn me out.

Here is a little bit of free-writing that I did as part of my first NaNoWriMo writing. It's unplanned and unstructured. It's more of a collection of memories and impressions than an actual story. But here it is.

* * * * *

Occasionally people will ask questions like, “Where would you go if you could go anywhere?” My head always jumps to the years of approximately 1982-1985. All of my grandparents were there, there were still a lot of bad things I hadn't yet seen, I still believed in Santa Claus, and I still thought I was meant for great things.

On second thought…let’s stick to 1982. Kindergarten in Miss Wilking’s class was a good time for me.

I didn’t know it at the time, because I didn’t know any different, but there was something special about going to my paternal grandparents’ house and being surrounded by my entire family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Everybody ate and talked and argued and smoked and laughed all at once. They were a noisy, rowdy, and occasionally raunchy bunch. My grandpa and uncles told dirty jokes that I didn’t understand and didn’t find funny. My grandmother encouraged us kids to eat more tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers and less chips and cookies. And my cousins and I ran through the house, up the back steps, and across the steep backyard and back again, constantly on the move in case we were missing something. There was a feel of excitement in the air.

Negotiations of who would get to spend the night with whom began early, and we planned and coordinated our strategy like seasoned army generals. Crouching on the front porch, away from the earshot of adults, we organized our attack and planned for the fun that would follow our sleepover victory.

“Let me ask pappy and grandmother first. They’ll say yes. Once they say yes, your dad won’t be able to say no.”

“When we play school, I get to be the teacher.”

“You always get to be the teacher!”

“That’s because I’m the oldest and I know how to write in cursive like a teacher.”

“No you don’t! You don’t write real letters—you just pretend to cross t’s and dot i’s!”

I can remember the smell and the feel of the lush blackberry bushes up on the hill in the back yard like it was just yesterday. I can feel the bars of the swingset on the backs of my knees like I am still hanging upside down from them. I can see the rust patches on the swingset, and feel it jump when I swing too high. I can remember the chalky residue the paint left on my sweaty hands. I can hear my cousins’ shouts, and I can see my family down the hill grilling burgers and drinking beer.

The air is hot and sticky—the humid remnants of a summer day in the mountains of West Virginia—and the fireflies begin to come out at dusk. I can still feel their ticklish legs walking around inside my cupped hands, trying to strike the balance between keeping them securely cloistered away and being careful not to crush them. (Once my stepdad thought he would be clever and he squished the butt of a firefly to get the glow-in-the-dark light out. He put in on my finger like a diamond ring as I stared in horror at what he had done and started to cry.) I can hear the rise of the cricket chirps in the grass as the air begins to cool and the night approaches. I am once again filled with the desire to fill a jar with fireflies and take care of them—my own personal night-light forever and always.