Tuesday, November 30, 2004

An Old War

Terrorism. The kinda word that chills right to the bone. Terrorism: "The systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion." Terrorism. Alive in the Middle East, alive in the graffiti threats of street gangs, alive in the homes of battered wives.

Terrorism. Maybe starts as a playground bully. Grows into a Racist or Sexist or religious Extremist. Feeds off of the fear of others. A parasite, thriving on weakness. Terrorists are weak.

It is weak to sacrifice your life and not face the consequences of the evil you've done, the families you've tortured, not look into their tear-streaked cheeks. To murder or brainwash, employ blasphemy and weaponry, and torture innocents in the name of God. It is weak also to throw a brick into an Arab-American's window. To leave a poor tip for a waiter with brown skin and broken English. To judge a religion based on a few idiots. To judge...

Terrorism is Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein of this century. It is also Hitler of the last. It is today's beheadings and yesterday's concentration camps. It is Africans selling their own people into slavery. Plantation foremen raping slaves and then working their offspring. The Old World of the Native Americans robbed when the English settled their New World. It is Cortes' invasion, erasing an entire civilization. The Jewish Pharisees toward Jesus. It is Egyptians over Hebrews until Moses and the Exodus.

Terrorism has always been alive. How do you kill something of Satan? How do you stop evil? How do you keep a healthy spirit when you're surrounded by so much hatred? How do you win the war on terror? A war that is as old as the Serpent.

My Dad Reminded Me Tonight...

It is Thanksgiving weekend and his first time in Kentucky. My dad, the good ol' country boy that he is, is determined to show this 'Yankee' the way Southerners live! The way we work the land! He suits up my then-boyfriend in a flannel jacket and brand new work boots issued by his company. Andy looks at me like, "Please don't make me do this."

"Have a good time, fellas!" I reply, sing-song and devilish.

It is a cold holiday weekend and I am so glad to have evaded hauling wood this year. Sending a fill-in, I curl up on the couch with my mom and talk about this relationship. She is a good listener. I desperately want her to compare my experiences with the ones she had at my age, but she never opens up. Years later, I realize that she never will.

This relationship is doomed, I think. He lives 15 hours away and we are both poor and I don't think he can be trusted. He is very funny. He is very sweet. He writes me poetry. He does not know God. He sings like an angel and plays the piano for me... and I think for many other women. But he writes me beautiful poetry.

My mom asks me how he knows circus tricks. (She and my dad had walked into the room right as he asked me if he could do a handstand on my back.) I tell her of the 'Tumbling' class he took at college. This does not impress her... or me... but it is a shocking new addition to a traditional rural Thanksgiving. My boss at work later tells me that this should have been a big sign.

After Thanksgiving, my brother walks me to my car and tells me that he overheard my mom and dad say that they liked Andy, but couldn't believe that I was dating an effeminate man. So they had noticed. I had not even told them of his tendency to experiment with make-up and lingerie. Hmmmm....

I'm thinking all these things in front of the fireplace, curled up beside my mom who I imagine is thinking of holidays with boyfriends when she was 21. I'm thinking all these things when my dad comes in the back door laughing and I see Andy red-faced and worked. "He broke the ax on his first swing!" my dad roars! A good ol' slap on the back and Andy takes the ribbing well... but he never comes back to our farm.

He is happily married now... but not to me.

And I imagine they have an electric or gas fireplace.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Jazz Dream

As Ella coos from the cd player, Anything Goes as I slide into fantasy. I skip lightly across the kitchen floor, preparing my turkey sandwich as if it were cavier. I grab a can of Coke and twirl around to the counter gracefully, paying careful attention to posture so my body looks lean in my imaginary red evening gown; the jazz releasing my head from my neck, bobbing from shoulder to shoulder, the notes of that saxophone blowing through the diamonds dangling from my lobes. One white-gloved finger brushes my hair back from my forehead as I join the other distinguished guests around the immaculately set dining room table. I wonder which will request a dance, Cheek to Cheek... hoping it will be the blonde next to me. As he reaches for his napkin, his hand brushes mine and even through the glove, I am Too Darn Hot - afraid this passion will melt the ice sculpture centerpiece.

Only when the doorbell rings do I answer in sock feet and turn down the cd player. My landlord does not appreciate Ms. Fitzgerald's serenade, nor my imaginary dinner party - a very ironic Let's Call the Whole Thing Off attitude. I laugh at my daydream and think most people would find this all very strange. I curl up on our beat-up couch in a warm blanket and pop in an old movie, smiling as I imagine that handsome man at the dinner table humming I Get a Kick Out of You.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Telephones Aren't Romantic

There is a difference over the phone... something about his voice that isn't exactly the same. Maybe he's tired. Maybe he had a bad day. Or maybe, he just misses me.

That's the fantasy I live in most. I think that he just can't stand being apart. I think that everywhere he looks, he's reminded of me. My clothes are there - I wonder if he ever walks into the closet and presses his face into one of my sweaters. My books are there - he hates poetry - does he ever pick one up and just give it a try? - just to be closer to me? My pictures are there and I wonder if he ever speaks to me - ever offers up an 'I love you' or 'I miss you' - the kind that's whispered extra-softly, but echoes through his big, empty house.

I see him everywhere here. In this crowded city, I see his blue eyes shining with some sort of mischief. I see his little grin - the one that shows off the dimple - the one that means he's done something or is about to do something that I will more than likely reprimand him for... which is what he wants... and will lead to the biggest, loudest laugh you have ever heard from a man. I hear that laugh, see him bend over and hold his stomach, and can almost feel him embrace me so hard that he picks me up. That's how he laughs. I love how he laughs.

But I miss it all over the phone.

The Love Sage

On the other end of the internet magic - through networks and cable hook-ups and satellites and ports - from his screen to mine in the blink of an eye - my younger brother and I cover 800 miles with a few keyboard pecks. He tells me of his loneliness. I can count the number of people I know here on one hand. He tells me that he wants to find the right girl. I think I am lucky to be in love.

I also think of the countless times I've spent in girl-talk, listening to them ask if there are any good guys left, and wanting to reply "yes, I am related to one". He tells me that he wishes he were buckled in next to a pretty young Christian girl on his way home tomorrow - one that he could bring home for Thanksgiving dinner. I tell him that "pretty" is subjective, "young" will age, and "Christian" is probably a good idea.

He is frustrated. Wants a relationship, wants to be loved, wants to share secrets with someone, wants to hold someone tight, wants to be held tightly by someone... doesn't want much - just love.

He tells me that he wants to find a girl who will believe in what he believes in - I tell him she is waiting and will believe in him, too.

I tell him about the index cards my mother sent me last month. She knew that I was having a hard time adjusting to New York and that I feel as though I have no career direction. One of the index cards shouts such a basic truth that I still balk at its simplicity and my ignorance:


We're on God's time. I tell him to keep his chin up - it'll happen one day - she'll materialize one of these days - and they will love each other...

and God will be pleased with His timing.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Magic of First Kisses

My younger sister tells me she's received her first kiss. This leaves me less petrified than my father, more enthused than my mother, less murderous than my brother, and way more jealous than I should be.

Off the market myself for about 2 years, I am invigorated by her new, giddy feelings. And, as she cannot tell-all to any of the aforementioned members of the family, I am the go-to girl.

I am loving it. Her excitement brings back so many memories. I warn her of roaming hands and give her some great defensive strategies. I warn her of being too available, while avoiding games, which is a tough trick to master. And I warn her of ever going on a date unshowered, unshaved, and unaware. This brings us to the point where I'd like nothing more than to publish every detail of her heart-fluttering new romance, but sworn to secrecy, I cannot. (She is breathing a huge sigh of relief as she reads, while my family begs for more)

But I can talk about my own sordid lip-locking past. It all began at a Halloween party in the eighth grade. I was too mature to go in costume this particular year, (although in hindsight, I'd say some sort of devilish vixen could have bought me more time in the 70 Seconds in Heaven closet).

The Haunted Barn was terrifying and some kind of goblin did touch me, but I was standing too close to too many boys to notice. The Hay Ride was fabulous. I could tell that Karrie Grear was holding hands with somebody under her blanket, and my heart raced for her. Looking from side to side, I saw cold hands attached to cold boys, but none which I particularly wanted to help warm. Rats!

On to the living room for refreshments... and kissing games! The only moments of indoor kissing pleasure that I distinctly remember are these:

- During Spin the Bottle, it only came to me twice: once with a man who is now openly gay and once with a boy whose nickname was "pickle". No matter - I was so scared. I had just crammed down hot chocolate, caramel candies, and Doritos - not a good kissing formula! I did not know if I was supposed to use my tongue, nor how. And although I desperately yearned for a knock-me-off-my-feet "girl you've become a woman" type kiss, (the kind Jessica & Elizabeth Wakefield had been getting in my Sweet Valley Twins books), I was still a little grossed out by the entire process. Lucky for me, neither of these guys were much interested in swapping fluids either. Quick, sweet, brushes of the lips - and unlike my modest sister, I gave my mom every detail as soon as I hopped into the mini-van... She almost lost control.

- During 70 Seconds in Heaven, I was only locked in the closet once: with Camron Faulkner, but there was nothing romantic about this pairing as neither of us wanted to be locked in the closet together! We had been best friends since the womb! This was like brother and sister, and our sick-o friends wanted us to kiss?! Disgusting! So, he stayed on one end of the dark, cramped closet and I stayed up against some boxes on my end. Our so-called friends are counting down the seconds right outside the door, making smoochy sounds and giggling; so, we whisper a plan that when they get to "2", we hug - but not too closely - and when they say "1" and sling open the door, we pull away dramatically and wipe our mouths.

I don't know if that worked, but it was the longest 70 seconds of my life... especially since I'd really looked forward to 70 seconds with someone who would hold me up in his arms and kiss me like I deserved to be kissed - a deep, passionate embrace - locking lips as though the world were falling down around us!

Actually, I've never been kissed like that in a closet.

Maybe I'll suggest that to my sister. After all, at this point of my life, I'm living vicariously through her.

Monday, November 15, 2004

leaving behind

... a country road that curves around fields speckled with green, orange, rust, yellow -- winding its way home -- begging me to follow

... a boyfriend whose mouth lingers around my face, nibbling my neck and ears - full, deep, pink lips murmuring his 'please don't leave me's while kissing the tears off my cheekbones

... a father who says he'll pay for my wedding -- and who desperately wants grandkids

... a mother who thinks my dreams will come true

... a younger brother who still looks up to me, even though i took so much delight in tormenting his growing up years

... a younger sister who steps into my shadow as much as possible

... grandparents who never seem to age

... a pew full of people i know

... food that sticks to my ribs and goes down full -- too much food for too cheap price -- southern fried baked grilled broiled 'take your time stewin' it and take your time eatin' it' food

... everything that feels right -- everything that feels good -- everything that feels Home.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Away from Home

I walk down crowded streets slowly -
weave my way between tourists and vendors and performance artists,
winding down avenue after street after block after
'what?' What am I after?
I am trapped in a 12 mile cage!
lonely like aching heart,
afraid like beating pulse,
homesick like 'why do I keep crying?'

I step onto the curb,
lunging over a litter-filled puddle,
and walk in the shadow of the faceless man in front of me.
He is in a hurry.
They are all in a hurry.
They are always in a big ol' hurry.

I maneuver my way through the throng to the side of a building.
Leaning against it's cold granite frame,
I close my eyes,
pop a Milk-Dud in my mouth,
and hear crickets chirping between the taxi horns.
I stand there until I see the leaves turning red and gold and brown
on the farm that rasied me,
tucked into the greenest rolling fields I've ever seen.
I let everyone pass by me,
peddling and dealing and hustling,
and I shut out the naked cowboy and the new york times and the m.t.a.,
close them down with a blink of an eye to re-focus my heart on home...
a beautiful Kentucky nook that waits for me -
waits for me to remember a slow-paced, easy-does-it,
'you will always be loved, come home',

Monday, November 01, 2004

Toilets - History and Usage - Then til Now

My younger sister is afraid of toilets. This, I find, is a very strange fear. Ever since she was a little girl, she's labeled her first experience with automatic flushers as a "traumatic" one (fearing that she would get sucked down into the great waste beyond).

Personally, I am a fan of these porcelain catch-alls. An automatic flusher is a great luxury! Look how far bathroom technology has come!

I've heard too many stories about my mom and dad not having in-door plumbing... I can't even fathom using the restroom outside! Imagine those wintry, wind whipping February nights! Imagine the cold, hard wood and the splinters! (I mean, who would you trust to pull a splinter from your rump?) I know that if I didn't have indoor plumbing, I would avoid fruit and fiber and when I felt the urge, I would probably hold it as long as possible til I got all cramped up or til I was sure that my bladder was about to explode.

My dad almost died in an outhouse so he, rather than my sister, has a reason to be afraid...

He was around seven years old. It was a nice summer day, after dinner, and Uncle Pete was about to start a little shooting practice. He had tacked his bulls-eye target on the wood before going inside to fetch his gun; meanwhile, my dad had to go. He settled in, his little feet not even reaching the floor. Uncle Pete came back outside, gun in hand, not thinking to check the john again. He cocked his weapon, took careful aim, and fired! (a high shot, luckily)

Dad said the bullet just whizzed right past him, scaring him off the bench seat and onto the floor, scurrying hands and knees and rear in the air, screaming for his young life!

Well, Dad has recovered. And as far as I know, he has embraced the invention of an indoor commode, although we don't talk about matters such as these. (It's not ladylike, lemme tell ya.) But Bobbie Jo? She's a little more dramatic than Dad. So, (and I hate to admit that there's one in my family) her fear has led her to become a Squatter.

Now me, I don't really like the restroom politics of Squatters - mainly referring to them in the realm of public restrooms. Typically, Squatters are a quite selfish sort in the stalls. Since they don't sit, they assume no one sits. Either that, or they think they have special urine - urine that we Sitters are lucky to land on or wipe off. I really really really get annoyed with sloppy Squatters.

Not saying that all Squatters are sloppy, but most. It is rare that a Squatter will:
a.) Lift the seat (Hey! They aren't using it!)
b.) Wipe off the seat (on which they always drip or spray)
No, they leave it for the imaginary toilet fairy - which eventually ends up being a Sitter or a janitor - NEITHER OF WHICH ARE PLEASED!

When I was in college, I saw a wonderful sign that I'd like to share with the Squatters of the world:

If you sprinkle,
when you tinkle,
be a sweetie,
wipe the seatie.

I'd also like to make all aware that the exterior of the gluteus maximus is made of the same skin as the arm, forehead, nape, etc. The... uh... undesirable areas do not touch the seat. Also, many stalls have paper seat covers and for those that don't, the same results can be reached with a couple of long pieces of toilet paper. If you're worried about your rear sitting where my rear sits, there are options besides spraying your urine everywhere - just wanted to clear that up.

Now, I understand that we all have our preferences. Some Squatters may simply just enjoy the sensation of working out those quads as they empty those bladders. Others may worry that at the end of a tough day, if they choose to Sit, they may never get back up. And Squatters of great esteem may not wish for their derriere to share the same porcelain as the more common rumps.

This is what's great about America! Squat if you want! Sit if you want! I just ask to walk into a stall with a urine free seat. Let's keep it in the bowl, ladies. We ask the same of our men, don't we?