June 26, 2015

finding paris

why i read it: because my senior english teacher wrote it.

what i liked: sometimes i think people do things only because they're afraid of not doing them (p. 32).

my sister is not in le reception. she is not in front of le central lobby bar. she is not at le theater or les toilettes she is not lined up on the fake french cobblestones under the fake french streetlamp waiting to beat the breakfast rush at le buffet, observing the fake night sky that's painted on the fake french ceiling.

"where the fuck are you?" i mean to keep this in my head, not shout it out, but that's exactly what i do. 

one of the guys at le reception leans over the counter and asks if we need something.

"looking for my sister," i say trying to keep my voice even while my pulse zips race-car fast. i describe her to him.

"what's her name?" he asks. actually what he says is, "what eez her name, mademoiselle?" which i think eez taking zee whole thing too far (p. 69).

we used to live in l.a. everything was near the water, more or less.

were we happy there?

sometimes.

like the day paris and i wandered this flea market in venice and i found tiny tim on a table next to a pile of coach knockoffs and she found this red leather wallet with a plastic strip of pictures of people we didn't know. at home later, she cut their faces out with a small, pointy silver scissors so she could use them in her art: a middle-aged man in a suit and tie; an old lady wearing a white wool hat with a pom-pom on top; two kids--a boy and a girl--standing on the edge of the ocean. which i thought looked weird. 

but we were laughing, and she pasted the lady with the pom-pom onto the upper branches of this tree she'd drawn with charcoal pencils and i dusted off tiny tim's bony clavicle, and it was one of the moments you have with the people you love where you don't need to explain how you are. they just know.

if that was happy, then we were.

but so what? (pp. 99-100).

what sucked: nothing, really. i marked some pages that had struck a chord or whatever at the time of reading that didn't strike it so well upon review. that's really all i've got.

having said all that: it's the first of her novels i've finished. well-developed characters; well-developed plot. a quick read. i've picked up a number of books since the start of the year; this is the only one so far that has inspired me to read it cover to cover. i liked it, and i'm not just saying that because she was my teacher.

June 18, 2015

about the boys

so one of my friends shared a link on facebook to a quiz, which southern man should be your husband

my result was kenny chesney.

no. thank. you.

she joked that he'd never really settled down, maybe he was waiting for me.

he can keep waiting, i said.

another of her friends got matthew mcconaughey. another said that she wasn't taking the quiz, but that she wanted a bathed matthew as a result. my friend agreed: no stank ass! 

i said i wasn't a fan of matthew mcconaughey at all (the only films i've liked of his were a time to kill, we are marshall and the lincoln lawyer), but that i'd take his stank ass over chesney any day.

she wanted to know of whom exactly i am a fan. that it might be fun talking about men who intrigue me. she's thinking i like smart, well-read, spontaneous dudes.

i started to put up some pictures of celebrities i found attractive... because that's a welcome time suck, rounding up snapshots of sexy men. who wouldn't wanna do that?

it's just that i've done that before. once upon a time i had a nice lil montage of ten very fine men. i must've deleted it. because in the end, that sort of feels, well, juvenile.

i was gonna tell you about characters i've favored from the stories i've seen and the books i've read. but i've kind of already done that, too.

so that leaves me with real life. of course, my experiences with the opposite sex leave oh, so much to be desired, and maybe it's laughable that i'm discussing this considering, but fuck it...

the first boy i liked had thick, shiny, dark brown hair, really pretty, dark brown eyes and a gap between his front teeth. he also had an older brother who was really good looking. so i knew when this boy got older, he would be, too. what i remember liking about him, aside from the hair and eyes and the goofy, gap-toothed grin was that he was funny, and i just knew he was gonna be that guy that everybody liked. i was five.

the second one to leave an impression was one of the boys on the high school swim team. he was blonde and blue-eyed and very well-built (this is one of the best perks of being on swim team, yall... you get to ogle the human form. and swimmers... they generally have really good form) and tall, so much taller than me. of course, he was a senior, and i was a very small freshman; he treated me like a child.

the third was also a swimmer whom i met my freshman year. he did not have a good form. he was short and kind of stocky. but he had pretty brown eyes and a goofy smile and he could be funny.

next is the musician. every girl's bound to fall for one in her life, right? this one was short. half an inch shorter than me, actually. he had really long, black, curly hair and dark, dark brown eyes. he knew he was handsome. just like that kid i knew in elementary school and the swimmers from high school. he was an incredibly gifted guitarist and pianist. oh, my god, that boy could play. brilliantly. he was also really, really clever. sometimes he could be really kind.

then there's the boy from san antonio. i met him on st. patrick's day thirteen years ago. he was tall, average build, curly brown hair, beautiful green eyes. he worked as an electrical engineer. he often dressed in khakis and button-downs, which i didn't like overly much, and he had abysmal taste in music and film, which, oddly enough, i did like. he's the first guy who'd managed to surprise me and on numerous occasions. he's the first one who made me feel comfortable with a man. i was twenty-eight. can you imagine going on almost three decades and not feeling capable of having a conversation with a guy, of being alone with one for more than five minutes? i'd begun to think it wasn't possible. i'd also begun to think all that talk about physical chemistry, of which i'd only seen or read in stories, was complete and utter bullshit. i liked that he showed me it wasn't. i liked that when i felt like a fat, ugly hag because i couldn't fit into any of my size two clothes anymore, he gave me lone, long-stem rose but said it was because i was late. i liked that he made me cds of that unusual music he favored (murder city devils and trail of the dead), with bizarre, collage covers he'd created. i liked that when he held me i felt safe. that he thought i was gorgeous. i liked a lot of things. he was weird and brilliant and clever, which is like me, but he wasn't like me. he could be really sweet. i liked that i could see a future with him. i liked the future i saw. that stupid line from jerry maguire? that incredibly, pathetically cheesy  you had me at hello? i met this boy on a dating website;  his profile wasn't visible to me (he'd said he'd just signed up that day to write me, and i'd believed him), so all i had to go on was the words he'd written. and he'd written them very well. so that having a gal at hello bit can actually work.

the next guy was from seven years ago. he was the best looking of the bunch. pale, pale blonde hair, beautiful, beautiful olive-brown eyes. he kind of reminded me of puck from a midsummer night's dream: impish. when i knew him, he was working for his father's home construction business. very sociable. very stunning. he beat me at scrabble, which my parents loved.

the last one was a soldier boy, a medic i knew very briefly. he had huge dimples in his cheeks, long eyelashes framing lovely blue eyes. a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm. he was short and stocky. i loved talking with him. he was fun. also, he could kiss really, really well.

so... what makes a man attractive to me? he doesn't have to be hot. i'd prefer it if he's not actually. the musician and the boy from seven years ago? i was intimidated by their physiques. i don't want to be intimidated by a guy; i've had enough of intimidation in my life. i don't think i'm all that, physically; i don't expect him to be. but there are things about my face and frame that i like; there should be some feature of his that can impress me... one thing that is remarkable. there's all kinds of intelligence; i value affability over intellect. charismatic and clever gets me every time. funny and friendly and fun. i want to laugh; i haven't done nearly as much of that as i'd like. i want to feel playful and beautiful and good, and i know that a lot of that's on me to feel that way, but it's an easier thing to accomplish when you're around people who inspire you to make the effort, who help you to see that you are capable of those things.

i was raised by the finest man i know. i grew up with two of the coolest guys i know. i want to find a guy who makes me think as good of him as i think of them.

as for that there quiz, i'll take blake shelton, thank you. that boy cracks me up.

June 11, 2015

thankful thursday / the good in my day: may

watching  bambam's t-ball game. the family picnic in the park. the drive home from baker street one evening: i managed to time it just right so that the sun was right above the tree tops and the sky was blushed and golden and the clouds were a dusty lavender; i had the windows down and the music up (the cult's she sells sanctuary); i love coming home at this time of day because the neighborhood's so green and peaceful. the note i got in the mail. the parking spot i got right in front of baker street. june. crystal. catherine. kristie. yucatan taco stand. the scavenger hunt with jenn and shazam. bambam. jason's deli's chicken noodle soup and chocolate frozen yogurt. joseph, jenn, rob and katie. asshole. the judge. in a three hour, GODAWFUL thunderstorm (worst i've ever heard) that seemed to park its punk ass over my lil part of southeast texas for the WHOLE of those three hours, the power only went out once, and for less than a minute. in the next night's storm, which was shorter but sounded nastier than the one before with a helluva lot more lightning, the power never went off once. the house didn't flood. king-sized beds. the longhorn. fried chicken. green beans. mama. daddy. steffey. nights and weekends off. rediclinics. heb. melissa. sur la table.


June 3, 2015

days like these

there's an elderly man who volunteers as a crossing guard at one of the schools here in the area. he's in his eighties, i believe, and has terminal cancer. he won't live past the summer.

the staff at the school are throwing him a retirement party tomorrow.

i know about this because a woman called the office today wanting to give us information that we might publish in the paper.

it was a busy day today. i didn't have time to chat, so i gave her my usual spiel: send me the information, and i'll forward it to our editorial team. when she asked what kind of information, i told her as much as she'd care to share, but if it's for an event, i need to know when and where it takes place and the best person to call.

this is when she got my attention. this is when she told me about the man.

and when i got off the phone with her, i cried. thank god the office was empty.

now it may be this man's lead a full life, one with much love and laughter in it. but the storyteller in me can also imagine a bleaker, lonelier, emptier alternative: that he's just some old guy, a crossing guard and not that many people would notice his absence; how beautiful it is that these people are celebrating his life this way.

when i got home, i fixed dinner--a bowl of oatmeal with probably too much milk and butter--and read some of joy preble's latest, finding paris (which i'm liking, by the way. yall should read it). and then i took a shower, put some comfy clothes on and went outside for a bit to admire all the green.

it hasn't rained here in two or three days. everything is beautiful. and it was sunset, my favorite time of day.

there's a spot in the plot of land across from our house where nothing grows because i've parked my car there much too often. a long, long time ago, in addition to that spot were two strips where nothing grew because my older parked his car there.

my mom and dad were out with friends tonight. the same friends who happened upon me looking miserable, sitting on those barren strips of land a few days after my brother had died. i remember that. i remember the expressions on their faces when they saw me. i remember wondering how it must've looked to them, rounding the corner to our house and seeing me there on the grass with my legs drawn up and my arms tight around them, my chin resting on my knees. i remember hating that the grass would grow back. that so many signs of his having been here would be gone and so soon.

i stood on the driveway tonight, reveling in the glory of the last light of day, loving the way the world felt in that moment--the peace, the beauty, the quiet... the way the sun glows through the trees, gold against black... the way the air feels. i swear it changes at sunset. it's softer somehow.

but also wishing that my internal landscape was as content as my surroundings seemed to be--not all the time... not even half the time, just enough to make the bleaker days like these more bearable. wishing that the grass would grow over the spot where i'd too often parked my car because i hadn't really parked it there for weeks. wishing that it hadn't grown over those strips where he parked his.

i came back in and read some more.

and thought of saturday when i'd run into preble at the bookstore. my father had pulled me over to some table where someone he knew from way back when was having a book signing. he wanted me to meet her.

i've given up on writing for the moment. i don't entertain delusions of publication right now. i don't want to meet other people who have found some success in the field.

like i don't want to go to weddings and baby showers. i'll be the first to buy you a gift because i'm happy for you and shopping for those kinds of things brings me joy. but being there, surrounded by women who have walked down that aisle themselves or have plans of doing so... i don't want to mix with them. nor do i want to mingle with women who are growing round with the life they've made.

i ran into preble at the bookstore. and she asked me how i was. and i told her that i'd gotten my job back at the paper and i'm writing some for them, which is taking some getting used to because i'm rusty and don't have much confidence at the moment. that i'd been seeing a guy who'd said and done some ugly things to me.

when i told her the worst of what he'd said, she reacted the same way i'd reacted when i'd first heard it, the way most of my friends have, the way any woman should, really. and i'd told her that it wasn't so much that he'd said it, it was that i hadn't thought much of myself in my adolescence and hearing how ugly i am from someone who supposedly cares for me is hard to shrug off, given that.

and this woman who'd taught me senior english way back when, she said she'd just been thinking that i was gorgeous. god love her.

sunday, my mother and i went to a visitation; one of her friends had recently lost her husband.

on our way out, we ran into a handful of people we knew; a woman and her daughter and a couple. the woman had worked as the nurse at my junior high school. i'd probably gone to her office too much back then, faking physical sickness to get out of school and away from those who hurt me mentally. the woman was talking to someone else, so i struck up a conversation with the daughter and told her how much i appreciated how well her mother had cared for me. because i'd felt that she had cared. and i always like it when people pay compliments about my parents to me. it makes me proud of them. i'd thought the daughter might like to know i thought well of her mother.

the couple looked on as i did this. the man started joking about how i'd gone to see the nurse a lot and how it must be nice to go through life that way.

i wasn't amused. and it damned sure wasn't the time or place for ridicule. it ruined that moment for me. and instead of ignoring him and reiterating the compliment to the daughter, as i should've done, i put my defenses up and got louder and tried to act like i was amused. i'm never good at that, though. i can't act. i don't have that skill.

his daughter and i had gone to school together. her treatment of me over a decade was much like his had been in that moment, in every moment i run into him.

i wish i could encounter more people like joy preble in the world and fewer like that man.

this evening i thought of how hard it was for me to find ten people who would write for me for my blog last month for something that was a pretty big deal to me. i know people, so many people who, if they said i need ten people, they'd have help in ten seconds.

i am not one of them.

i can't help but think that my life is like that bleaker, lonelier, emptier version of the story i'd imagined for that crossing guard. that not that many people would notice my absence.

i'm trying really hard not to feel that way. i know. i know it's not true. but there're far too many people like that man from sunday's service in my world.

my mother's constantly marveling that i can't let go of things.

it would be easier if they could let go of me. i try. and someone's always there to remind me.

June 2, 2015

different kinds of courage

bravery, pluck, pluckiness, valor, fearlessness, intrepidity, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness, grit, true grit, hardihood, heroism, gallantry; guts, spunk, moxie, cojones, balls.

these are all synonyms for courage.

i've seen a number of photos on facebook and twitter today of soldiers in uniform paired with the words this is what real courage looks like in response, i suppose, to caitlyn jenner on the cover of vanity fair.

those last two synonyms... i can well imagine the jokes and taunts rolling around in some people's noggins.

i'm disgusted by the things i've heard and seen in the past twenty-four hours where caitlyn jenner is concerned.

i'm repulsed by the gross disrespect and indecency of humankind.

that's an olympian yall are bashing. a gold medalist. someone who held a world record for four years. someone who's been trapped inside a body that's felt wrong for a lifetime.

but let's not be concerned with any of that, shall we? let's focus instead on how much of a freak caitlyn jenner has become. google the name, and you're given twenty-three million, five hundred thousand results in three tenths of a second.

let's be incensed at her definition of courage. because choosing to be the person you feel you are, becoming the best possible version of yourself doesn't take any kind of courage at all.

the good in my day

i read in a magazine or on a website or something... somewhere... about how one should write down the most beautiful thing about the day. and that looking at this list will help a person see her life differently, more positively.


dinner. melissa. sunset. tristin. caterine. my brother and my nephew singing along to a squirrel nut zippers' song about a raccoon. resting. booker. sondra. double dave's. this video. samantha. caterine. melissa. aubrey. del friscoe's red velvet belgian waffles. strawberries. poached eggs and english muffins.

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