Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Post at Jessica Leader's Blog

Jessica Leader has generously offered to donate $1 to the Louisville, Kentucky library for each comment she gets on her blog this week. She asked me to guest post there today. You can see the post and comment here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Murky Middle

She realized today that she very well might be in the middle of her life. Not the mid-life crisis middle--just the middle. One-half. The mid-point. The watershed.

The thought makes her pause. She calculates quickly, numbers flying through her mind.

Could she have already passed it? What if she was already on the other side of the hill? If she already passed it, what had she been doing? Was it something important? What if she had passed her mid-point doing something mundane like laundry? Or filing her nails? Filing her bills? Making spinach ravioli? At what point was she halfway through? Last week? Or last month? She knows that there's no answer here, that no one knows the length of her days, but still. The thought that she's already passed the mid-point stays with her.

If the average life expectancy is 78, she's already there. But maybe she comes from hearty stock. Maybe she's got good long genes in her. Heaven knows, she didn't get good long legs from her genes.

She decides to look up average life expectancy for women now, because 78 seems young still. Lo and behold, Google give her something better: a life expectancy calculator! Answer questions about habits, nutrition, family illnesses, etc, and out pops a number, the number you will reach before you need to start thinking about those pearly gates.

It's too tantalizing. The disclaimer says it only takes about 10 minutes. She can't resist. It's like shaking the magic 8 ball and seeing her future: "Outlook good."

So she answers the questions. No cigarettes, no drinking, good diet, yes exercise, blood pressure low, can't remember HDL levels, sunscreen mostly, sleep not so good, but hey, we all have room for improvement, don't we? On and on, she answers questions, and before she knows it, the test is over, and the number she receives is a number she often saw on her report card in high school. Does one's high school average correlate with life expectancy? Hm. Good thing she was on the honor roll.

She does the math again, and a stupid brand of relief comes over her. She hasn't reached the mid-point yet. Theoretically, of course. She still has years--nearly a decade--to plan something profound to mark that day, but whenever that day comes, she hopes she'll be surrounded by her boys: the Gingerbread Man and the gingerbread boys; family and friends near and far, all laughing and eating, singing and dancing, sure in the knowledge that there is more yet to come.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Transitions

Where does one thing become another? Where does the sea turn into land? Where does the sun separate from the sky? How does the long winter slip away into spring? How does one life turn into two, with child in his mother's arms? How does one life melt away into nothingness?

The sweetness of change turns bitter these days, as the sea has forgotten its bounds, and flat land thinks it should be hill, and things better contained fly free through the air: Pandora's box is opened. In the midst of this, a heart a world away breaks for people who are not one thing or another, for people whose souls were firmly planted in time and place, and who now know not where they stand. Out of their former abundance, only an abundance of loss remains.

Can you come into my house? Can I give you bread and shelter? Can I smooth your hair back, and let you weep? Can I shoulder your burden for just a bit, so you can regain your strength before you return to your dose of sorrow?

If only I could.

I am troubled by your troubles.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Map of Us

This is me.

This is you.

This is where I worked when we met, the downtown shop, all expensive and flowery.

This is you, driving up in your car, and here I am, waiting.

For you.

This is where we ate, our first date, and this is the song that made you pause, grinning at its serendipity.

This is the park we drove to that night, the paths we strolled down, the roses in bloom.

This is you, driving away in your car. This is me, wishing you weren't driving away.

This is my plane ticket, to return to college.

This is the telephone I spent hours on, listening to your voice coming from so very far away.

This is me, home once again. This is you, driving up in your car.

This is the place where you hugged me, hugged me so hard that you gave away your mission: one square ring box in your chest pocket.

This is the park we went to on that first date, but the roses are no longer in bloom. This is you, on your knee. This is me, smiling so hard that I cried.

This is us.

And as long as there is you and there is me, all is right with the world.

Happy anniversary, Gingerbread Man.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Natalee!!

Congratulations, Natalee! A hard-cover copy of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE will be on its way shortly!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Confess

She drives into the city today for a hair appointment, where the girl who dries her hair has a skull and crossbones tattoo with a pink bow just under her ear. Her arms are covered in ink, and her earlobes have stretchers in them. Her lip is pieced, and if she weren't the size of a twelve-year old, she might be scary. Inked-girl does a mean style, though.

She leaves feeling like she looks better than she has in, oh, eight weeks. Since her last appointment. She walks with her head held high, without a hat on, daring the wind that comes whipping off the ocean to mess with her. She crosses the brick street, feeling a yearning that hasn't come in a while: a yearning for her city mouse roots. But there's only a half-hour before she's required Elsewhere. She sighs, tempted by the thought of a hot chocolate at the local coffee shop, but she turns toward the parking garage instead.

On days like this, where the sky is so blue it looks like she could dive in and never come up for air; when the tide is high and ice floes in the estuary look like stepping stones to another life; when a brush with civilization calls out to her until she's nearly breathless with the longing, she wishes, oddly enough, that she had employment of a different kind. Employment that might require that she actually go somewhere on a regular basis, to a place that has a water cooler, people standing around it, and 80s music playing on a tinny radio. Where she would have to put on clothes that match, not just stay in her pjs until a scandalous time of day. Where she could sport her new haircut and it might matter. Where she wouldn't have to face the empty page each day.

It's a dumb thought, she knows, but she can't help wishing for a little less solitude. She pulls out of the parking garage and turns on the radio. Her ears perk to the sound of the Rolling Stones singing on the radio: "You can't always get what you wa-ant. You can't always get what you wa-ant. You can't always get what you wa-ant. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you nee-eed."

She laughs at the irony--a message from Mick--telling her that she would despise a job that required a daily schedule, a commute, W-2 forms, cubicles, even the need to do her hair every day. Blaugh. Even worse than that, she would despise not being able to be with her gingerbread boys. If the truth be told, that is where she is required this afternoon: hanging with gingerbread boy #2 and his fellow first graders during writing time, those small trusting souls who still make their J's backwards.

But on a day like this, with the sky so blue, she wishes she could have it both ways.