Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Until summer comes back to me.

I hate the cold.

I need sun and summer and warmth

like I need oxygen pulsing through my bloodstream.

I want to take a road trip.

To climb up into the cab of some country boy’s truck

and have him drive me far away from here.

I want to wear big, dark sunglasses

and hang my feet out the window

while he sings along with Tom Petty

well it started out down a dirty road

and backs out of the drive way.

To stop at the first gas station we see,

fill up the tank and buy

a pack of Marlboro Menthols and a case of Busch Light,

a bag of gummy worms and a cold Diet Coke.

I want to crank the music up real loud

and settle down into the seat,

using one of his old t-shirts balled up against his thigh

as a pillow for my head to rest on.

To close my eyes so I can’t see the haystacks and oak trees

flying by, a blur as he speeds us away

along a back road to somewhere else.

I want him to call out choices that all lead us to the coast

wanna turn left or turn right?

as he calls his momma, too,

we won’t be back for supper with the family on Sunday, Ma.

To dig around on the floorboard and find an dirty ball cap,

take pictures of myself wearing it, reflections in the side mirror,

and pictures of him grinning at me through the rear view.

I want to crawl into the driver’s seat when he pulls over for a bathroom break,

and try to drive the truck myself as he laughs and reminds me

remember the last time you tried to drive a stick shift?

To steal a quick kiss, slide back into my seat, and take off again,

driving until we see sand instead of red clay

and waves instead of tobacco fields.

I want to park behind a dune, grab a beer,

tumble out into the salty air,

and stretch on my tiptoes, toward a pink and purple sky.

To grab his hand without saying a thing,

and walk barefoot toward my favorite reminder in the world

of how small I am compared to the big picture.

I want the water to wash over my feet

as it tries to sink me into the sand and pull me out into oblivion.

To take a few steps back and sit in between his legs,

falling back into his arms and neck,

watching the sun fall behind the ocean

like all the couples in the movies do.

I want to ruin the movie moment and make it mine instead, cursing quietly

shit, the camera’s still in the truck

then laugh together as he rubs my arm and we create a memory all our own.

To nod off just like that, napping in the sand,

until the tide creeps over our toes

and wakes us before a beach ranger can.

I want us to head for the boardwalk, stomachs growling,

searching for crab legs and shrimp so fresh they were caught that morning.

To eat dinner on a dock, talking about what rebels we are,

just up and leaving everybody behind like that.

I want to go back to the truck, and pile our blankets up in the bed,

too exhausted to do anything but sleep.

To drift off listening to the sea’s steady roar and his quiet sleep snores,

tucked away behind the dune and under the stars

and everything is perfect.

This is what I want when winter comes along

and summer dreams flood my mind

when I cannot sleep.

A boy and a truck and the ocean

and a road trip to somewhere else,

until summer comes back to me,

and home will be good enough again.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What it's all about.

There was a time when Christmas Eve was the biggest night of the year for me.

It began with the preparations. I would spend weeks making a wish list for Santa, deciding exactly what toys I wanted to ask for, finding the perfect balance between need and greed. I would write him long letters, asking how Mrs. Claus had been, wanting to know if elves really made all the toys, begging for the secret to how he made it around the entire world in one night. My sister and I would brainstorm ideas for all the perfect snacks to leave out for Santa. (We figured he probably got sick of milk and cookies, so we chose treats like Doritos and Diet Coke, both staples in our household.)

Christmas Eve would finally arrive, bringing along far-away family members and delicious food and more presents than a little girl like me could ever think to ask for. Everyone sat around, eating and talking and joking and laughing. There was an excitement in the air that even a child could recognize, and it wasn’t just about the gifts. Christmas Eve meant being surrounded by people who loved me. It meant that these people I cared about were all truly happy, at least for that one night.

The best part of Christmas Eve came at the end of the night. Everyone would start drifting off to bed, and my little sister and I were sent to our rooms with warnings about Santa not coming if we didn’t fall asleep right away. We would head down the hall and begin preparing the Christmas Eve fort.

Every Christmas Eve, my sister and I would construct a tent made from bedsheets in one of our rooms. We took great care to make it as big and comfy as possible. We made blanket pallets inside the tent, and crammed it full of pillows and stuffed animals. We snuck in snacks and drinks from the kitchen. We brought books to read and cards to play. I always brought my portable cassette player with my favorite tape (and the only tape I owned), Backstreet Boys. It was such a big process that we were usually exhausted by the time we finished our fort. My sister would fall asleep pretty soon thereafter, while I would lie as still as possible, trying to listen for reindeer hooves and sleigh bells.

In the morning, we would wake up and rush to the Christmas tree, screaming with delight over the things Santa brought. It never failed to send me into shock, the fact that he actually snuck past me and surprised us with everything we wanted. Santa always responded to our letters with one of his own, informing us that Mrs. Claus was doing fine and the reindeer sent their love. We felt extra proud when we saw the Dorito crumbs left behind on his plate, knowing that we were a little more clever than all the other children who left him such predictable snacks as milk and cookies.

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than Christmas.

Years later, I am laying in my bed, writing this and reminiscing. And it’s a little bit sad. My sister and I are much too big now to fit in a Christmas Eve fort. I no longer make a Christmas wish list because money is tight and, truly, I have everything I need. There are no Doritos sitting out, Santa came to our tree while I was in the shower, and my mom is already snoring in her bed, resting up for the visit with all the relatives tomorrow. I just finished wrapping gifts, and technically, it’s no longer even Christmas Eve. Things have changed, things are still changing, and it all feels so different now.

And yet.

My sister already made me open one gift, a pair of silly socks with an inside joke attached, because she’s never, ever been good at keeping presents secret for long. My mom has been stressing all day about meal preparations and having a clean house, but it’s almost comforting, or at least expected, because she always gets like this when visitors are coming. And the aunts and uncles just got into town, and tomorrow, we will still sit down to the Christmas feast, eating and talking and joking and laughing.

Some things never change.

I look back at how things used to be, and there is a hint of sadness. But it's a sweet one. It reminds me to look for the innocent, pure joy that this season brings. It reminds me to savor every bit of what has been placed on my plate, because it all changes so quickly.

I am reminded of just how precious this life is.

Christmas Eve is different now, yes. I grew up. And almost everything in my life has changed in some way.

But that feeling? The excitement of being surrounded by everyone who loves me? The joy of seeing smiles on the faces of the people I care for the most? That feeling stays the same. No matter what changes, I will always recognize the love that comes with the Christmas season. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

Merry Christmas, yall. Much love. So much love.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All the bad boys sip bourbon.

Bukowski was such a bad boy.

They called him ugly and dumb and it made him mean.

He became rough around the edges so young, and that’s how all bad boys start out.

The way his family lived off of almost nothing

and the way his daddy hit him

and the way his momma looked away.

These are the things that fueled his wordfire.

This is the stuff bad boys and writing legends are made of.

“all you need to get by

is the ultimate grace

that makes you want to weep

but instead

you grin.”

In different universe,

another time and place,

where I enjoy big cities and the years don’t matter,

we would have a secret love affair.

Bukowski and I.

“We are here to drink beer.

We are here to kill war.

We are here to laugh at the odds

and live our lives so well

that Death will tremble to take us.”

We are sitting at opposite ends of some hole-in-the-wall bar

where drinks are cheap because the air is so dirty

and no matter how drunk you become

you cannot forget where you are.

(I’d never be caught in a place like this now,

but these are the sixties

and I’m dreaming

and I’m a different kind of girl back then.)

Billie Holiday is telling me I’d better go now,

and when I look towards the door,

I spot him.

His face is scarred and his eyes are dark

and I cannot look away.

He scowls at me and I just stare.

“What matters is

how well you walk through the fire.”

Here is a man who has something to offer me.

Words. Stories.

Things I need to know.

I buy him a drink.


because the word feels old and wise from my young mouth.

And I don’t know what he drinks,

but all the bad boys sip bourbon, right?

the dark is empty; most of our heroes have been wrong.”

He will probably write me off.

I’m too young and green

and can’t possibly keep up a decent conversation

with someone who has eyes

that know so much.

But I bring bourbon.

“one more drink and the desire to fuck something,

a desire to be loved for the lie

and the trick

and a face without a face;

and nothing had a better chance

to be beautiful.”

We don’t say anything.

We just drink.

Turns out he does like bourbon.

Turns out I don’t.

He orders another round

and a beer for me.

He asks me if I like art.

Art’s not my thing.

Words are my thing.

But they aren’t art.

They are children.

Each time I read or speak or write,

the words flow.

They are created with passion,

born and molded into my vision.

My babies.

He orders another round

and a beer for me.

some human beings are delicate things.

some human beings are delicious and wondrous things.

if you want to piss on the sun go ahead

but leave them alone.”

He speaks just as he writes.

All caps.

I could feel stupid, inferior, naive.

But instead,

I am sucked into the disgust and the passion.

His words come at me like bold type,

slanted to the left and slurred by the bourbon.

“the difference in the factories was

we all felt our pain


We dance.

I didn’t think he would.

But he’s drunk and so am I.

And we have no rhythm.

We are writers.

But we dance anyway.

Trust in me, says Etta.

And dreams can be built on kisses,

according to Louis and Ella.

We dance.

we were on the


we were in the

god damned moon,

we had it”

He leaves me on the dance floor,

pays the bartender.

No words are spoken,

it is understood.

I follow him to the door.

We walk through the dark and dirty streets.

The walk begins to feel uncomfortable

and I start talking to fill the silence.

I tell him about my schooling

and how my family is more dysfunctional than most

and how the last boy broke my heart and ruined me for all future love

and I describe in detail the weird dream I had last night

that made no sense to me.

He smiles only at the last part.

“there is a look in the

eye: they have been

taken they have been

fooled. I don’t know quite what to

do for


We arrive at his small apartment.

He lives alone.

I ask if he ever gets lonely.

You should get a dog, I say.

I don’t even always remember to feed myself, he says.

No way I could take care of an animal.

He kisses me.

You sure don’t waste any time, I say after.

He kisses me again.

Probably trying to shut me up.

It works.

“those ears those

arms those

elbows those eyes

looking the fondness and

the waiting I have been

held I have been


We laugh the entire time.

In short bursts,

we laugh.

In long, convulsing moments where we must stop to catch our breaths,

we laugh.

Between the breathing, we laugh.

“it was deep


it was light


it was high

it got so near

to insanity

we laughed so


After, and still drunk, we speak more.

He tells me about his books

and his dead wife

and how his family is much more dysfunctional than most.

“what was wrong was never


and what was right never


We discover our birthdays are a day (and several years) apart.

I tell him that must mean something. It has to, right?

He laughs again.

He asks me to stay.

No. I cannot stay.

It’s been a dream or it’s been real life

and I am not sure which

but I must go now.

“the miracle is the shortest time.

you know

it was very good

it was

better than


Bukowski was such a bad boy.

I am no different.

The places I have lived

and the things I have seen

and the ways I’ve been treated

and the way I long for the bad boys of the past.

These are the things that fuel my wordfire.

This is the stuff bad girls and writing legends are made of.

“I remember when

your eyes

said love



as these walls

so quietly


All quotations belong to the bad boy himself.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bailey, darling.

You have the chubbiest cheeks I’ve never kissed.

You have the silliest squealing laughter I’ve never truly heard.

You have the biggest, most beautiful eyes I’ve never seen face to face.

Your grandfather would’ve adored the way you find wonder in every single thing. A fuzzy leaf. A siren passing by. A cat’s underbelly.

You run barefoot outside, and you’re scared of an ant but you will let caterpillars crawl all over you. I was so much like you are at that age.

You are so smart. So unbelievably smart. Colors, you know them. Numbers, you got it. Letters. Songs. Animals. Sounds. Places. You are so tiny and you know so many things and I have never met you but I still beam with pride.

It is better this way.

Your dad lost himself so long ago. Devastating, because it means I no longer know him and I will never know you.

It is better this way because you have blossomed and maybe he would’ve stalled that. Without him, she is able to be the best mother for you.

You are the best thing he ever helped to create, and maybe the best thing he could ever do for you was to walk away.

You will never know me. But your mother shares your special moments and I am forever grateful. I will always love you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"I'm impossible to forget, but I'm hard to remember." -Claire (Elizabethtown)

You might know a girl like her. Maybe you don’t, though. Because girls like her come walking through your life about as often as a white Christmas down here.

You say she drinks a little too heavy.

Talks a little too rough.

Laughs a little too loud.

Flirts a little too much.

Dances a little too offbeat.

She is not the prettiest one. She is not the funniest one. She is not the smartest one. She is not the richest one. Yet, you can’t help but stare. Something about her makes you feel uneasy, and you can’t put your finger on it. But it’s something to do with the fact that you thought of her last night, and even though she can make your face burn with embarrassment just watching her antics, the thought of her stirred something inside of you. You pictured her and smiled.

Sometimes, she slips right out of your mind when she’s not around. You might forget to call her to come out with the group. You might not remember to remind her about that big party next weekend. You might promise to call and talk awhile, but something else will come up and she will fade from mind like a distant memory.

She will notice. She won’t say anything, but she will notice. It’s not that she doesn’t care. She does. She wants to be remembered just as much as the next person. She just knows better. She knows she isn’t the kind of girl that stays on your mind and consumes you. She’s different.

When she is around, you feel a bit caught off guard but also, you feel special. She looks you straight in the eye. And it’s a little uncomfortable, but only because no one else has ever seen inside of you before. Not like she does. The worst of you and the best of you. She really sees you and either loves you because of it or in spite of it.

In a glance, she can look and see that the insult you just threw out at an old friend is really just a cover up, your defense against getting hurt again.

In a moment, she can look and see that the all the bragging you’re doing is only to hide the insecurity you feel at being surrounded by all these people looking up to you.

In a second, she can look and see that, even though those arms are crossed and you’re staring off into space, you’re hearing every word they’re all saying around you. And she knows you’re building up a wall to protect yourself.

She can look and see. All of it. Straight through. And she knows because she is wise. She’s been you. And you. And you. Her sixth sense is understanding. She’s been through the ringer and lived to understand why people are the ways they are.

So she sees you. And loves you anyway.

And she might slip your mind for awhile. But she’s okay with that because she knows it’s not forever.

A moment will come. When the return insult hits too hard or the bragging fails or the wall falls down and you’re standing alone and vulnerable, you will remember her. And you will wish she was there.

You won’t know why because you really don’t know her at all. You will think about her and realize that she is a perfect stranger, even if you’ve spent all the time in the world together. She knows so much about you. You probably told her your childhood stories and your biggest fears and your dreams for the future at some point, and you have no idea why you did that because you don’t know anything about her, really.

That’s how she prefers it. She already knows why she is here. Her purpose. To make you feel special. To make you feel important. She wants you to know that you do matter. And it’s hard to make someone feel that way about themselves if they know too much. So she sees you and knows you and puts you on top of the world for a moment with a single glance, and you don’t even know she does it, until you need it again and she isn’t there.

She drinks a little too heavy.

Talks a little too rough.

Laughs a little too loud.

Flirts a little too much.

Dances a little too offbeat.

She does it all so that you will look at her instead of looking inside of her. So that she can see you. So that you will remember her later, when it really matters.

She isn’t the kind of girl to disrupt your life for awhile and leave. The kind you think you love but forget about down the line.

She is a shooting star, flying through your life and making you feel significant in this big world.

She is a life force, a breath of fresh air when your lungs want to give out.

At your worst, you will need uplifting. You will need to smile.

And then, you will see her.

You will remember how she made you feel.

And you will know you matter.

She sees souls. She knows people. She will touch you. In this way, she is making herself immortal. She will live on as long as you do because she may be hard to remember but she is impossible to forget.