Candles for Alice

This is an actual dream I had that woke me up at 3:23am on May 12, 2017.

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I was visiting my coach back in high school and all of his younger students in his old classroom. One of the students asked my coach, “have you shown her the ‘Brigette’ room yet?” And I joked saying “what is it, like a shrine to me? Is that where I receive all my racing power?” And they chuckled kind of awkwardly, but Coach gave one of the kids a pass so they could walk me to this room.

And the room ends up being what looks like a women’s restroom with an obscenely small door that you have to crawl through, kind of like in Alice in Wonderland, fit for a child and not adults. So they unlock the room and they say go right in. And I crawl through the door, but when I enter the room it’s actually a huge art gallery type room filled with the most stunning arrangement of giant wildflowers, built from all sorts of objects. The flowers tower above your heads and they’re predominantly soft yellows and pinks and oranges, it’s beautiful. (Again similar to Alice in Wonderland). Honestly, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I immediately start tearing up a bit because I think wow, did Coach really make this for me because I used to bring him wildflowers everyday? But somehow I know this can’t be the case, it can’t just be for me. Then I move towards the outer wall of the room and this wall is lined with various paintings of the same smiling little girl in different dancing poses at different ages of her life (none above the age of four, from what it looks like) and done in different artistic styles. Underneath the paintings there are also half-melted, lavender-purple candles of different shapes and sizes.

This is when one of the students comes up to me and says “The ‘Brigette Room’ thing is just a joke about the flowers. This whole exhibit was actually built for this little girl by her parents and loved ones. You see, she was dying of cancer and so her parents lit a candle over her bed and let it burn through the night, telling their daughter that it would keep the nightmares and cancer at bay. They did this every night for the little girl, praying that their words would be more than just comfort, but would actually come true. It lasted four months before the cancer took her. Her name was Alice. She just wasn’t strong enough.”

Now, I’m actually crying quiet tears. “She loved to dance,” the kid continues to tell me, “and she was looking forward to seeing ‘La La Land’ but she never got the chance.” He points to the large movie poster toward the end of the line of paintings. “The school did a fundraiser on the movie’s release night to raise money for the parents. Money can’t bring back their child… but at least it can ease their financial burden for hospital bills and funeral arrangements. Part of that money went into building all of this.”

The student left me after that and I just continued to cry and gaze at the art around me until I woke up.

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A Head Start to Heaven

There are a few things you need to know before we start: (1) it was winter, (2) I was worried about the smell, and (3) I am 99% sure that he was already dead. However, before you start throwing out accusations of murder, let me try to explain.

The average American household has 2-3 pets: those typically being a dog, a couple of cats, and maybe some fish. It varies. My home, however, typically has 4-5 pets… at one time. We tend to fly through animals faster than a slaughterhouse flies through beef, pardon the morbid expression. My mother would argue that the plethora of animals is due to four pleading children (five, if you count my father) with puppy dog eyes and coordinated repetitions of “Oh mommy, please!” However, I know that the true fault rests on my mother alone and her lack of a backbone. You could have said no, mom. You could have said no.

Throughout the greater part of our childhood, my siblings and I have had three core animals. Jasmine and Mocha make up the first two out of that three. They were a couple of primadonna, shorthaired Chihuahuas that belonged to my older brother. Like any typical masculine preteen, my brother asked for a rough and tough pup to take with him on boyish adventures and to teach how to fetch and draw the attention of pretty girls. Instead, as fate would have it, he ended up with two pocket-sized pooches who shivered constantly, peed on visiting company, and learned only one command throughout their 12 and 13-year life spans. This unimpressive trick was a stern “a su cama,” Spanish for “to their bed,” followed by obedient puppies scurrying into their kennel. Despite their incompetence, however, my brother loved those prissy dogs unconditionally and unashamedly.

Then there was Tiger. She was a mangy tabby cat that my dad picked up at a garage sale and then gave to me a few days before my ninth birthday. I originally named her Tiger for her gray-striped fur and my lack of creativity, but as she aged she took on this name with pride and built her entire reputation around it. She became infamous in my neighborhood for murdering and displaying defenseless woodland animals in our front yard and chasing away dogs, big and small, that ventured too close to her territory. Even now, towards the upper end of her nine lives, she continues to prowl the streets with a chunk of flesh missing from her left ear as if to say, “You should have seen the other guy.”

Apart from these three, we have also housed countless other animals throughout the years; some we adopted, some we fostered, and some we are not entirely sure where they came from, they just sort of appeared. There was Purty Bird, a cockatiel that enjoyed biting fingers that lingered too close to the cage and whistling along to the Andy Griffith Show theme song; and there was also Baby Bird the blue jay, that was nearly Tiger’s lunch, but instead luckily became a fond family member of ours for two weeks until we released him back into the wild (our backyard). We also had a nameless rabbit that stayed with us only long enough to traumatize my younger sister and leave a lasting barnyard feces smell in her room. To this day, I am still convinced that the rabbit was of the same lineage as the white rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), but I have yet to prove it. For a while we had a 55 gallon, freshwater fish tank in our basement full of guppies, goldfish, shrimp, and lake turtles until we ended up with an oscar fish, named Oscar (rightfully so), who ate all our fish food and all our fish.  Evolution was on the side of the turtles, however, who survived due to their shell alone and not for lack of trying on Oscar’s part. Aside from these spotlight few, though, we have also housed four stray dogs, six nearly-roadkill box turtles, one friendly tarantula, a handful of snakes (quite literally), and countless cats and kittens.

This story begins, however, in the late fall of 2011 —also known as “The Year of the Hamster” to my family— when my pushover of a mother agreed to let my sister care for the school’s dwarf hamster. While I was having an uneventful sophomore year of high school, my little sister was going through a much more significant phase of her life that involved career choices and class pets. This, of course, was the fourth grade.

One temperate Thursday afternoon, my sister burst through our front door and announced to her startled audience, “I’m gonna be a vet!”

My father, remote in hand but lounge chair now swiveled in the direction of his youngest, was the first to speak. “Funny,” he said, “I never took you to be a military man.”

She did not hear him, or perhaps she did not get the joke, and simply continued with her well-rehearsed speech. “Mrs. Brooklyn brought in a hamster today, and we named him ‘Mr. Hamster’—that was my idea— and we got to learn all about taking care of him and feeding him and washing him and then at the end of the day,” she paused here to take a deep breath, “Mrs. Brooklyn asked me if I wanted to be the class veterinarian! That means I get to be the number one person responsible for Mr. Hamster! Isn’t that awesome?”

“That’s fantastic, sweetie,” my mother said before my father could offer another snide remark. She gave my sister an encouraging smile as her hands busied themselves with the task of sorting through the pile of mail that lay upon the dining room table.

“I know, right? And because I’m the veterinarian, that means that I get to take Mr. Hamster home every weekend, since, you know, there isn’t any school on the weekends. That’s okay, right?”

At the sound of this, my father arched an eyebrow. Meanwhile, my mother let out a big sigh that translated to, we really don’t need another mouth to feed, but her voice spoke differently. “Of course, honey. We can set up a table by the window and place the cage up there, how’s that sound?”

“That’s perfect! Thanks, mom!”

And so began a month-long period in which every Friday afternoon my sister would step off her mustard limousine toting a lunchbox-sized, aluminum cage and a slender duffle bag with MR. HAMSTER sharpied across the front. Each morning she would dutifully clean out the cage while the hamster rolled about in his little, teal mobile home, and each night we would be lulled to sleep by the sound of that nocturnal beastie upping his mileage on the squeaky hamster wheel.

Such was our routine; that is, until the evening of my high school’s winter formal. The theme of the dance was “Snow Ball” which was clever enough, but quickly backfired on the dance committee when most of the posters around the school were changed to “no Balls.” However, despite the committee’s inability to predict the graffiti talent of immature high schoolers, they still received prophetic credit when the morning of the dance the first snowfall of the season dusted the ground. Winter had arrived and we celebrated it with G-rated pop music, non-alcoholic fruit punch, and repetitive three-step dance moves we learned in gym class the week before.

When midnight rolled around, we finally ceased from our fist-pumping mosh pits and save-room- for-Jesus slow dances. My older brother and I retreated to his car and then made the fifteen minute drive back to our house. The biting night air hurried us from the driveway and into our home where we were welcomed by the hush of a sleeping household. My brother removed his shoes, tossed them against the door, and rubbed his eyes as he made his way to the closest bathroom to begin his evening routine. Simultaneously, I made my way to the kitchen, removed a bowl from the cabinet, and absentmindedly fixed myself a late-night bowl of cereal. As my spoon broke the surface of my hybrid concoction of Cheerios and Rice Chex, I became aware of the weight of noiselessness that sat upon our home. It was irregular, it was eerie, and I pondered the strangeness of the silence as my teeth made contact with another absorbent Chex.

“No squeaking!” The epiphany hit me with my fourth spoonful of soggy cereal and I rushed to the side of the cage to confirm my suspicions. Sure enough, the wheel was muted by the lack of stimulation. Without the legs of a hamster, it lay motionless contemplating the purpose of its existence. Curiosity pressed me to investigate further. I gingerly tapped on the rungs of the cage, hoping to incite movement beneath the wood chips, but nothing stirred. I tapped harder this time. Still nothing. Undiscouraged, I opened the cage and reached my hand in to push about the bedding in hopes of waking the dwarf from his deep slumber. The end of my finger eventually encountered the golden ball of fluff that identified as Mr. Hamster, but the tiny thing did not react in any way. I jerked my hand back with a sickening realization.

“Hey, I think the hamster’s dead,” I announced to my brother as he exited the bathroom and reentered the living room.

“Oh yeah?” he asked. He peeked his head into the opening of the cage and shrugged indifferently.

“What do you think should we do?”

“Well, I am going to bed,” he said. “You can do whatever you like.”

“But he’s dead, we have to do something!”

“So bury it.”

“The ground is frozen and it’s almost one in the morning, we can’t bury him.”

“So leave it there for Mom to deal with,” the agitation was becoming apparent in his voice.

“Won’t it smell, though?”

“Listen, I don’t give a damn what you do with the rat! I am going to bed.” And with that being his final word on the subject, he stormed past me and down the stairs to his room.

“Great,” I murmured. The decision of what to do with the body rested on my shoulders. A normal kid would have done as my brother did and simply gone to bed, leaving the problem for the earliest riser. A smart kid might have wrapped the hamster in a box and stuck him in the freezer until arranging a funeral and burial place. I, however, was neither a normal kid nor a smart kid; and therefore, at the time, I saw nothing wrong with the obscure idea that popped into my head in my sleep-deprived state.

With the solemnity of an undertaker, I removed a handful of tissues from the nearest box and proceeded with my plan. I spread two tissues out on the table like a blanket, and used two more to pick up Mr. Hamster from his bedding. Then, with careful precision, I placed the hamster on the tabled tissues and wrapped him up tight so that not a single strand of fur was showing. I lifted the mummified creature off the table, carried him gently to our back door and out onto the balcony, and then paused to allow him the dignity of the moment.

“Well, little guy, I guess this is it,” I said. I paused to compose a heartfelt eulogy for Mr. Hamster, but then chuckled at the absurdity of it all. I finally settled with, “I hope you had a good hamster life and uh, I guess, you’ll be missed by my sister and her class and whatever. Adios.”

And with that, I arched my right arm back and thrust it forward with all my might. The blanketed hamster flew from my hands up into the night sky, and inevitably down into the dead leaves that carpeted the floor of the woods just beyond our back deck. The task was complete. I walked back inside, washed my hands, and retired to my bed all the while praising my clever idea and job well done.

I woke up the next morning with no recollection of the events that transpired the night before and lounged into the kitchen with a clear conscience. That memory repression lasted a blissful five minutes, but disappeared when my sister spoke up from the living room, “Um, guys? I think the hamster is missing.” Everything came flooding back.

“Seriously, guys,” my sister continued, “he’s not in here anywhere? Did he get out or something?”

This sparked my mom’s interest now and she gravitated toward the cage to search for the missing hamster. I, on the other hand, was trying to produce an excuse for what happened, but was only producing sweat at the time.

“Your hamster is dead,” my brother said as he sauntered across the room.

“What?” This question came from my sister and mother simultaneously.

It was my turn to speak up. “Okay, um, don’t get mad. So I came home last night and your hamster was dead and I kind of threw him off the balcony.”

“You did what?” my mother shouted.

“No way, you really threw him off the back porch? That’s awesome.” My brother was laughing now, but my mother and sister could not find any humor in the situation. I felt the need to explain more.

“Listen, I’m sorry. The hamster was dead, it was late at night, the ground was too frozen to bury him, I thought he would get smelly, and I didn’t know what to do so—”

“So you threw him off the balcony?” my sister exploded.

I paused for a minute trying to find the right words to console my sister and keep back the tears that were filling up her eyes.

“I… I was just trying to give him a head start to heaven.”

A Feminist is Born

Being a woman is hard. Nobody would ever contradict that statement. Even if you take away all the physical factors — pregnancy, periods, menopause, greater body fat percentages —  you’re still left with a plethora of psychological factors that we deal with on a daily basis.

Today was yet another trying day for me in the world of men. I was once again (yes, this has happened multiple times) faced with the accusation that because I was 21 years of age and a virgin I must be asexual. I was so furious that the only thing I could say, before running away to my apartment, was “are you fucking kidding me?” [I left him with that dumbfounded expression that men typically receive when they can’t for the life of them figure why us overly-emotional women are upset.] And so, as I laid there in bed, waiting for the tears to come, letting doom sink in and self-pity surround me— I immediately sat back up to a sitting position and grabbed a pen and paper. This is what I wrote:

I will not cry for this. I will not give in to the sorrow that has taken so many before me. I am strong, and instead I will rise. I will be strong for every woman who has ever been ostracized for her prudence. I will be strong for every woman who has ever been victimized by unfair judgement. I will be strong for every woman who has let a man make her feel inferior, worthless, and/or inept. Call me what you will, but remember that I will never again be susceptible to your words. From here on out, I listen only to the positive affirmations that stem from my own self-perception. I am not pretty, I am courageous. I am not beautiful, I am glorious. I am not sexy, I am wise, compassionate, capable, resilient, resourceful, and self-reliant. I define myself, nobody else has that power. I will not simply endure man’s world; I will transform it to suit my own agendas.

IT WILL NOT HURT ME AGAIN.

I should be doing stuff but I’m not

What a fabulous title, am I right? What a fan-fucking-tabulous title, “I should be doing stuff but I’m not.” Because it’s true, I have a shit-load (yes, that is an accurate measurement) of stuff to be doing right now, but instead I am on here sharing my sorrows with the world wide web. Here’s the problem, guys: I DON’T WANT TO DO IT. ANY OF IT. I’M DONE. Please, please, please don’t ask me to do anymore because I truly don’t think I can. I work so hard; I run 50-55 miles a week, I am in 16 credit hours of class, and I do the equivalent of class hours in homework every night. I’m just exhausted, I am burnt out on life right now. All I want, all I dream about, is a pause-button. I just want to stop the world for a few measly moments to myself. Why doesn’t everybody just take a pause, while I go take a year or two vacation.

I’ll run off to a secluded beach somewhere warm and sunny. I’ll rise and set with the sun, without the need to set an alarm. I’ll take my time preparing and enjoying my meals and i’ll never be without a date; my breakfasts with the sunrise, my dinners with the sunsets, and my lunches spent with the sea. I’d keep fresh flowers in vases throughout my home and in the gardens outside, so that there was always a pleasant smell to the place. The rest of my time would be spent however I please, without any agenda. I’ll catch up on all the novels I’ve been longing to read. I’ll finally have the time to perfect my piano skills, and maybe finally complete a full piece. I might take a long walk, just me and the sand beneath my toes. I’d eventually take the time to learn to paint and use my new-found skills to capture the beauty of the sunsets and the ocean waves. And when I finally tired of my seclusion, if I ever tired from it at all, I would then return to my life and un-pause the world.

I just don’t see how the things that I am actively engaged in at this moment can be any use to me at all? The life I want is the one described above, and no amount of running, or studying, or working, can directly get me that life. The issue, the root cause that is the root cause of everything troublesome in this world, is money. In order to have that life, I need money. Money for the house, money for the food, money for the flowers, money for the books, money for the piano, money for the comfort of not needing a job. And the only way I can get the money for those things which I love, is by giving up those things that I love and replacing them with running, studying, and working. It’s a cruel joke, is it not?

People Aren’t Meant to be Kept

missing piece

It was supposed to be sweet, and in a sense it was sweet. She smiled instantly at the thought, but that quickly faded into a bittersweet resentment. The conversation went something like this:

Her: “One year ’til I graduate and then three more years of graduate school… ugh.”

Him: “But then you can hang out with me as much as you want!”

Her: “Yeah provided you don’t leave me before then.”

Him: “Why would I leave you?”

Her: “School, job, women, travel, opportunity, life? Anything could happen in four years.”

Him: “Nah, I gotta keep you.”

Her: “People aren’t meant to be kept”

Him: “You are.”

She didn’t know how to respond. She knew he was only meaning to be kind—to subtly demonstrate his love, a tenderness that she had sensed growing within him for some time now—but everything just felt wrong. Something inside her wanted to scream at him, “No! No, I am not one to be kept!” Because she wasn’t like everyone else, everyone who spent life aimlessly looking for another to belong to. She didn’t want to belong to anyone, she wasn’t anyone’s missing piece, she was a whole piece of her own, complete within herself. Why could no one see this? Why did everyone look at her as if she was just another mindless, love-seeking babe; someone who’s thoughts ran ’round the clock constantly pondering when she would find the man of her dreams and marry? As if marriage is all there was to life, as if spouse was the only title worth carrying! It’s absurd! There’s so much more to life, she thought, so much more to me!

But perhaps what infuriated her more was the fact that she thought that he could have been right for her. She thought that he understood her spirit; that he would be the one to run wildly beside her, rather than try to pin her down. But it turns out he was like everyone else; just another face of society trying to tell her that she can’t be free, another authority screaming “Integrate!”She knew his kind very well; the ones who lure you back into the cage, promising to leave with you, but then lunging to lock the door while you let your guard down. Well I won’t be trapped by any of society’s norms, she decided.

And so she finally responded,”I am not one to be caught or kept, and I cannot ever be expected to stay or return on command; that isn’t me and it never will be. And I will never apologize for this fact, I hope you understand.” Then, true to word, she left and she did not intend to return.

Send Me On My Way

leaving

Given all the time I have to ponder throughout the day, I do a lot of thinking about things that make me me. I’ve decided that I know why I avoid commitment like the plague. Now, I’m not just talking about commitment as in the marital sense, though that is definitely included; no, I mean commitment in every sense. For some reason I absolutely hate the idea of long-term investment, no matter what that investment might be. I would never buy a permanent home, or purchase a fancy car, or say “I do,” or really even buy any item that costs more than a hundred or so dollars. I mean, I can barely maintain a friendship any longer than four or five years! And it’s not because I don’t want these things, believe I do. I, like every normal being, have spent hours designing my dream home; the big, open windows and the little coffee table that sits in the library facing the sunrise. I’ve spent many a daydream romanticizing about my perfect husband, honeymoon, dream ring, and dress. And don’t get me started on my perfect set of wheels… But the thing is, as great as these things are, I don’t see myself ever actually investing in one.

I think the reason is that somewhere, deep down, I have an overwhelming belief that everything comes to an end. No matter how great something is, things get broken, people leave, and life changes. So if this is true, why bother holding on to it in the first place? Why buy a fancy electronic if a new model will come out the next year? Why buy a brand-new vehicle if I’ll most likely scratch it, wreck it, or sell it in a few years? Marriages end in divorce, kids grow up and leave, friends move on, relatives die, people get fired, I mean it sounds pessimistic but it’s the truth! But I don’t see it as a bad thing; to me, this realization couldn’t be more liberating. The fact that nothing is permanent means that neither am I. If things break and people leave and times changes, than so can I. I can break and I can leave and I can change. I don’t have to be the same person I was a year ago, not even a day ago. I don’t have to live in the same place my entire life or work at the same job!

Truth is… I don’t want these commitments because I don’t want to be responsible for them when they do end. I don’t want to be the one left picking up the broken pieces, I don’t want to be the one who’s left behind… So I do the leaving. It hurts less this way.

Stir Crazy

You know those times where you just feel like your body is aching, not from exhaustion but from lack of use. I JUST WANT TO LEAVE! I want to run out the door, hop in the car, and run away! Far away! Anywhere! Seriously, anywhere at all. I just can’t stay here anymore. I can’t live this life. A life of alarm clocks and planners and schedules; a life of responsibility and direction. I want to get lost. I want to be homeless and penniless and free! I want to wake up with the sun and fall asleep under the stars. I want to wander and wonder and discover; discover the world and discover myself. I don’t need to know where I’m going, I don’t want to know where I’m going, I just want to get going! But I’m scared. Not scared that I won’t be able to do it or scared of falling hard out there on my own. I’m scared that I’ll have to come back. I’m scared that I will have to return someday because I wasn’t properly prepared. I JUST HATE HOW OUR WORLD IS MADE. I hate that they make it so hard for people to be free and to be happy. Why is it wrong not to want a five-bedroom home with a white picket fence? Why is it wrong not to want to get married and have children? Why am I strange because I don’t want a job or money or welfare or a home or a family or a community or a routine? I just want experience. I want to live before I die. I’m scared that I won’t.

This is a tester blog to see if I can keep up with it and if I enjoy it. What you will read in this blog are my collected works. These may include life ponderings, rants, favorite quotes, and (most often) short stories. Enjoy.