It is funny how the little things slip away from us without our noticing. I heard a classmate talk about his weighing the pros and cons of becoming an account. “It seems a very logical choice.” He paused. “When did I stop wanting to become an astronaut?” He asked and we did not know how to answer except to chuckle softly, but it was no joke. My small cousin questioned me with a ‘knock, knock’ joke the other day and I could not recall how I was supposed to respond. When did I forget such a simple thing. A simple, almost intrinsic part of human life. To make a small joke, to dream to touch the heavens. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” When did cynical, sarcastic, or caustic comments become the only jokes I know and when the pragmatic became my life’s motive? I simply did not notice.
Some days ago friends and I, never mind which ones I cannot seem to remember, were wandering up and down the curved and crooked isles of a local bookstore. I do not recall the express purpose of our venture and I seriously doubt we needed one, but there we were. This bookstore is named after someone; I would assume it is the proprietor’s surname in order to give it an affable sort of feel which is odd because surname be damed! this establishment has the least amiable employees to every grace the literary inclined crowd. I am not sure if they all share the last name and the discourtesy is genetic or if they hire based on the characteristics, but alas it bears mentioning that it is universal within this small, tightly packed place if you are wearing a name tag. It is funny in an odd sort of way that librarians are often older, cantankerous souls who wear their glasses far to low on their noses while bookstore owners are supposed to be full of sage wisdom, are males with patchy tufts of curly hair that stick out garishly from their heads. We have such absurd notions of people.
And in this bookstore on this day there was a grey haired man and his son. The son was a man with two, fine children of his own: a boy near ten and a girl a few years shy of double digits. The boy was determined to find his sister a book until his father kindly reminded him that he too was allowed a book of his very own if you do not include all the hands that held it before the boy slide it across the counter to the clerk. I was on one side of a bookcase when I heard them. I was looking at books on European history and they just a few feet away, a few feet of leaves, and centuries, and bindings, were looking at American military history. Specifically Vietnam.
They were discussing the war and the older man’s first hand experience with it. They wandered out of the history section and I must tell you I followed them. I had been reading much about our less successful wars as of late and wanted to know. The man used a raciest term in reference to the war. I was shocked that after all this time, in the most liberal of towns that I heard these words in public with nary a hushed tone. Maybe that was his right or maybe he was just truly resentful or maybe he would never use that words to describe someone an American of Vietnamese descent. And then, there under the Virginia Woolf tomes the grandfather told his son,” Well, you really do not have to buy it.” “Oh come one, it is not everyday that you find a book you dad is mentioned in.” I let them drift away from me then, their voices muffled by distance and paper. What was he mentioned for I pondered. Would he show the grandchildren that book with pride? With a clear conscience? It is interesting, the notions we carry.
June 18th, 2017
I went to a friend’s favorite breakfast spot yesterday for the simple reason that I was going to prove him wrong. I successfully did as my favorite breakfast place is most assuredly superior. It was worth a try though because at this good, but not outstanding breakfast venue I saw a strange and lovely thing. As my friend and I come into the rather tight waiting area I caught sight of a man at the counter eating his pancakes at an odd angle. We shuffled uncomfortably; we tried not to jostle fellow breakfasters as they silently eyed the few available chairs to the waitlist. I then spied a clipboard where names of those waiting appeared to be written. My friend and I dithered or you could say argued in a sound that resides just above a whisper as to whether or not we were supposed to wait for an employee to greet us and ask for our names or if, with the sun beating down on our backs as it came in from the big, front windows and our seats given up to an elderly couple that had just arrived, we should take the initiative on this one. Now I would describe myself as a shy and retiring sort of person when I am placed in new situations, or around strangers, or really anyone whom I have not sworn some sort of blood oath with. As you can imagine this narrows it down to a rather small number. The point is that as I moved I saw what made the man at the counter sit the way he was. There beside him eating pancakes off his plate with earmuffs on in the middle of June was a delicate, precious young girl. I realized she was exactly who I wanted to be: loved, daring, and eating pancakes. 45 minutes later the closest I would come was covered in maple syrup that erupted when the bus boy cleaning the table next to us dropped his load of dishes.
I used to have this list, a compilation of things I hated. Not just some mindless list of seafood, earwigs, or asthma, but a serious, thought out list of things in life that truly irked me. Things, happenstance, or situations I found to be disquieting. It included among others, the following.
-I hate that I grew up in a country at war, but besides the occasional viewing of a political pundit on the television shouting advice, I did not feel many ramifications.
-I hate that forgiveness could fix everything, but no one is willing to see the solution.
– I hate when people say “but deep down he is a nice guy.” If it takes deep down you are not good, you are just weak.
And yesterday it dawned on me that maybe only monsters or Sith Lords keep a documented list of things they fear or despise. This struck me while I was watching some of my friends take a bow. They stood on a stage and clasped hands to take a bow. That is when I saw it, he very subtly turned towards her and winked. Such a wink, small and kind and encouraging, what a gesture of love. This was her first performance with a starring role and she was nervous and not entirely satisfied. I witnessed this simple gesture and realized how wonderful it is to watch two people you love be in love with each other.
Then all of a sudden a slew of things I had happened upon in the last month that I loved were so much more important that all those “profound” things I have hated. I got to spend a period of a day watching my older cousins be parents to their children. Good parents; loving, disciplining parents. What a thing to see, to watch them develop a skill entirely out of love.
Recently I got to push one of my little cousins on the swings. I tried to teach the four year old how to propel herself. “Out and in. Out and in.” She repeated this on the swing next to me not understanding the concept of the lean while I rose and fell, my hair hanging mid air enveloping me and then falling away. I convinced her to call me Swingin Sal, which was darling and completely contrived.
Lastly, a week or so ago we learned that a dear pal was accepted into the Peace Corps so we shall have to go without him at Christmases, weekend trips, and in the Hawaiian shirt aisle of the local thrift shop for over two years. My first thought was how much I was going to miss him. How dearly I was going to miss the sounds of our other friends’s laughs when it is he that makes them jovial. As I obtained my new perspective on lists it came to dawn on me that I could just as easily be glad to know the distinct sounds of those laughs. To be able to hear them and think that those laughs are so specialized to Colin’s inane jokes. Jokes that are going to be so underappreciated to people who do not speak his language. Jokes that are going to be so missed.
How do you even say the word suicide to someone? As a Christian, how do I say it? How do I tell me friends that some days I just want to open myself up and drain out all my blood to see if that would make me feel lighter, to lift this seemingly unbearable weight. If I could just snip all my heart strings would it still remain there hanging limp in my chest or would it abate? I could not even put into words that sometimes I am in such sorrow that I do not want to simply “be” anymore. Hope is such a dangerous thing to run out of. What lies beyond hope is bleak and desolate and so lonely it causes an actual ache. A gnawing that tells you it will go away if you do.
Someone once told me that he wants to leave a paper trail so what when he dies people can tell stories, or point to credit card statements and see his legacy. A legacy of buying coffee for friends, or charity donations, and money spent on gas so he can go visit his grandmother. And I think if I left now my legacy would fade so fast and it would not a legacy make. I would leave behind pain, resentment, and gross incompletion.
A friend of mine lost a dear loved one recently, a physical and spiritual giant in his community. This man filled so much space. My friend, in as near a perfect analogy as I can must, compared his life and the community’ loss to that of a felled tree. This tree will not be a staple of its forest any longer. His offspring and the trees around him have lost a source of shade and the forest will just never be the same. And I do not know if my friend knows this, but trees do so much more than just provide shade for one another. They also will warn each other about dangers and even supply nutrients to injured fellow arbors. So when that tree is gone a legacy is left. We truly are standing on the shoulders of giants I suppose. But I am not tree, or very giving and sometimes this is all much more difficult than I had imagined. My friend also said that her giant that passed away, Ike was the local mole patrol. He knew all about them so he took care of the rodents when they rose up from the ground. Ike had been loving his neighbors in this capacity for decades. So shortly after his death when all the moles began to pop up in people’s lawn no one was annoyed or irked they all just were reminded and rejoiced in the life and legacy of their friend, mole patrol, and giant Ike. And I suppose for now those moles are alive, and so am I.
I sat in a basement today and watched friends take down circus decorations from a surprise party we threw a month ago. A friend spoke in a Scottish brogue and we discussed social justice and science fiction and whether or not I like social justice’s role in science fiction. And somewhere in London someone is laying on a sidewalk bleeding to death.
I sat in a village green today on a wooden bench surrounded by hard bound fairy tales, philosophy, and Theodore Roosevelt. I could not see his face on the bench next to me was turning a rubik’s cube at a maddening pace. Cube in hand spinning in a well practiced motion. My friend was off somewhere buying olive oil. Two women in different shades of green jackets, one meant for fashion the other functionality, pass each other in the lush grass. They shared words I could not hear about something the fashionable jacket’s dog did. I could hear gentle, but different laughs ripple out from beneath coated nylon and gabardine. And somewhere across the country a friend is plastered to her car seat in an accident.
Today I sat on a couch and listened to a friend tell me about the play he is in. He is blonde and American and maybe 5’5. The character is plays in the production is a tall, red headed, Scottish-Canadian so bound to be very convincing. The play is supposed to be serious, and melancholic, but also smart, darkly comedic, and existential. “Maybe they all die in the end as they fight their way into Normandy? The author left it intentionally ambiguously.” So maybe they bleed out on a Norman beach, I can only hope they left a forwarding address.
Seattle Reign versus Sky Blue:
It is amazing how much takes place during the national anthem at a soccer match. Some woman I cannot see bellows out the patriotic tune as the sound system creates a doppler like effect as if this singer was moving father and farther away from me. As if around the time the rockets gave off their red glare the sound guys felt as if that was really quite enough, we had gotten all we needed to hear of that song. We do know how it all ends they think as they delicately turn the singer’s microphone down.
Somewhere among the C notes people begin to shuffle their feet, first to get comfortable and then because they wonder if they should have not folded their hands behind their backs. Or should they have gallantly placed their hand over their heart and not have it hang down by their side limp and lacking a purpose. But maybe I do not feel that patriotic today. Or maybe my elbows hurt or I don’t like the tune, or I do not enjoy the antiquated song about men who were not fighting for others, but fighting for their rights and opinions alone. Or maybe I am just cynical.
And then a bird sails overhead, curving, shadow casting on the pitch. Heads jerk abruptly back watching; tracking the seagulls’ circular arch over us. We hear a gasp from someone in the back and to the left. The man behind me yawns, long and deep. As long as the average 7 second long yawn can be. The sun is bright in our eyes on this side of the stadium, people use their free hand to slide sunglasses over their eyes. Then I hear concessions rustle. And I wonder where our tradition of hot dogs on the fourth of July came from. I contemplate hurtling over the barrier and charging onto the field for no real reason other than that is what came into my mind. But then realize I am not fit enough to hurtle over anything, much less run. The woman next to me scratches her neck and then I scratch mine. I look back up at the birds trying to not make it obvious that I have stopped listening to the song. They soar above, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
And then the song ends with a muffle on the speaker. People clear the field. We sit down and try to get comfortable on our benches. And suddenly nobody cares about patriotism anymore, or about the important questions, or how so much can happen in such a short amount of time. Yet, I know I have missed so much. So much meaningless, elegant, observable life.
Gonna ease myself into this so here is an older one Originally written November 8th
I have this feeling that when I wake up tomorrow I will live in a world changed. For good or for ill or for indifference. No matter who I voted for or who is right or wrong or who I think is right or wrong, it will be different. And then again maybe it will be only slightly changed or so we can hope. Like a parallel world running so closely to ours. Because Star Wars movies are going to continue to come out, and Buzzfeed will continue to make gif lists about Friends every 15 minutes, and people are still going to point telescopes at the stars and wonder, and the Cubs will have won a world series this century, and I am still gonna wonder why everyone spoke English in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and people are going to keep adapting Jane Austen stories, and I will go to trivia on Tuesday nights and the true color of that dress may still elude us, and I am still going to believe it is the people not the system that are inherently flawed.
So, I am going to awake in a world that is still broken and the state of the union, the numbers in the Senate or House of Representatives or even who occupies the seat of president will not alter that. My work here has very little to do with what I draw a line to on my ballot. My goal here is to make my small portion of the world a little better. And people have thrown God around a lot in discussion of political beliefs this election, as every before in America. Whether in regards to how could I, as a Christian vote one way or another or in my own notions of God’s power. But I am not being asked to believe in God when I vote. I am asked to believe in people, which my God, is so much harder.