they pay to kiss your feet

since there's no one else around, we let our hair grow long and forget all we used to know. then our skin gets thicker from living out in the snow.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

and on the fourth try, you live.

When I was 15, I choked on a grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s while my mom drove me and my new boyfriend home from a movie. To this day, I can’t watch a toddler eat without thinking it’s going to kill them. I think this says a lot about what is wrong with me.

After the choking incident, my mom panicked almost every time we had dinner. Things would be going along just fine, salad course finished, onto the soup, and we’d hear this deep, guttural throat clearing coming from tiny, delicate her. Then she’d do it again. And again, springing from her chair in the kitchen to the living room where she could hack her brains out in privacy. There was never really anything stuck in her throat. But when you see your daughter almost die because of a mishandled bite, it stays with you.

So does the fact that it is entirely possible to give yourself the Heimlich maneuver without the back of a chair to hurl yourself onto. You just need the very real fear that death is near, and a hell of as self-inflicted sucker punch to the gut. If you are good at this, whatever is lodged will go flying from that place in your throat you never want to be clogged to the deep, dark crevices of your mom’s purse on the floor of the car. And then you will take a deep breath, collect yourself and collect the piece of chicken - turning it over, inspecting it. Bonding with the very thing that almost killed you. Taking it inside when you get home to show your dad. Telling him about how it was sort of stuck and you thought the smart thing would be to drink the iced tea in the consul to help it find its way from throat to stomach. Only immediately, you realized how stupid that was when this breathing-hole-shaped piece of chicken covered in honey mustard sauce just lodges, locking itself into place. You’ll tell him how you began to panic. How, unable to breathe, you forgot the universal sign for choking and instead resorted to flailing you arms. Your mom, who had been talking to your new boyfriend, realized what was happening and started screaming, “she’s choking, she’s choking.” He’ll hear about how she pulled the car over and you unlocked the door to get out. You had, at that point, not been breathing for maybe 20 seconds. It felt like 20 minutes. But standing on the side of the road didn’t work, so you got back into the car and worked very hard to expel the sandwich. It took four tries. But on the fourth, your mom’s panic subsided and you could breathe again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

the funny thing about life is that the more things change, the more things really do stay the same.

whoever said that was smart.

there are constants like the things we carry.
the baggage.
the shit.
the bunched up sweater in the bottom of our suitcase.

the one with the new-this-winter moth hole.
the one you will not throw away because it is the perfect shade of orange.
the one that you will self-consciously wear because of the hole that's small enough to ignore
but large enough to be gaping.

like the cut on your leg last month when that wine glass somehow shattered inside your hand.

and the place in the wall with the dent
that needed patching in the morning.

there's a pile of luggage in the entryway.
and the zippers are breaking
spilling things that were hidden
into the space

Monday, August 27, 2012

come closer.

there's life inside this cup
for the first time in years.
but it feels like
an immigrant
creeping slowly through the
breathing in the sounds of the
assimilating first by dress
then by stature
and finally
by language and citizenship.
signing papers on a permanent line
that means stay
or go
but do as you wish.
(here is the problem)
it's at my mouth, this life
it is suddenly at my lips
so close to my tongue
i can taste it.
but my tongue is just the gatekeeper
the drawbridge that let's you in
or keeps you out
with barbed wire words
and pointed fingers.
i yell at the cup.
fuck you for suddenly
pouring life out
and into
fuck you, cup.
come closer. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

this is way out of my comfort zone.

A stranger just sat down at my table at the coffee shop. He is eating some sort of cherry dessert. It’s 8:36 a.m. I am afraid to look at him to see if I know him. Should I? This is the neighborhood where I run into people that I know. He has a backpack with him and a laptop just like mine. It’s open and now it feels like we are dueling. Dueling laptops. His name is Garret. They just called it from the coffee bar. I wonder what kind of drink he ordered. It’s a small one. Half the size of mine. I wonder if he thinks it’s odd that he is sitting at a table with a stranger. This is way out of my comfort zone. There were other tables with extra seats. But I was the one sitting at a table for six. So maybe I asked for this? He is bald with nice glasses. He reminds me a little of my ex-husband. I feel like my typing is shaking the table. I am wearing headphones so that we don’t have to talk. I wonder if he is a writer, too. He’s probably working on finishing the best manuscript to ever exist. And I am sitting here typing about how he is eating a cherry scone at 8 a.m. He seems too thin to be able to eat that sort of thing for breakfast. I’m having a medium Americano topped with steamed soy with one and a half pumps of hazelnut. I wish it had two pumps. It’s not sweet enough. It tastes too much like coffee. Garret is now reading something intently and biting his fingernails. That’s the same way I read things intently. Maybe I am supposed to talk to him. What if he is the person who leads me to my next big thing. Maybe he is an editor from a publishing house just waiting to discover the surprising writer plucked from a very hot summer in the Midwest. I’ve noticed that we sit the same way. Holding our necks with our watch hands until we want to type something. He also likes to touch his mouth a lot. That’s how I get mouth zits. I wonder if he struggles with that, too. I wonder if he has any idea that I am writing about him. Typing what I see out of the corner of my eye. He is wearing plaid and an orange watch. I have orange sunglasses with me in my purse. Yesterday, I was reading something about how you never know why someone came into your life and then left it. But you also never know who is going to come into your life. Every day is a new opportunity to meet new people and to do new things. Garret is driving this point home even though I will never open my mouth and speak to him. I like the feeling of being in the city. Surrounded with people I don’t know. And some that I do. I know a guy at the coffee bar. He gave me a hug and told me that he is having foot issues but otherwise, his running is going great. A man in the corner owns a company I once interviewed with. He waved at me when I got here and I smiled, trying to remember where I knew him from. When they called his name for his coffee, I realized how I know him and also that I should have smiled bigger when he waved – and maybe even waved back or said, “hello.” I’m very bad at that. A few minutes later a photographer I know walked in. Asked how I was. I said great. He said, “That deserves a high-five.” And so we high-fived at 8 in the morning. It feels good to know people. I wonder if I should know Garret. My camera man is here. Did I tell you I was waiting on a camera man? That’s because he’s not really a camera man. He’s my co-worker who is good with a video camera and he’s getting ready to sit down at my table for six. I wonder if he thinks I know Garret? I whisper to him that I don’t know this person at the table and so the joke I needed to tell him in private will have to wait. I’m afraid to talk to strangers.

Monday, August 06, 2012

not eating.

When I was 15, I decided that the one thing I was going to control in my life was what I did, or did not, put in my stomach.

For three years, I withered away. It happened slowly at first but then very suddenly. Sort of the way you fall in love or asleep. One day I was a healthy-looking teenager and the next I was a 35-pounds-lighter holocaust victim.  

There was this moment when I realized my mattress was hurting me. I had just finished eating my only meal of the day – a bag of microwaved healthy choice popcorn and a handful of red hots. I was lying in my bed on my back making sure I could feel all of the bones as much as I could the day before – tracing them with my finger. I say “the” bones because at this point they didn’t really feel like they were mine. They were just bones. And they were an annoyance to my ultimate weight loss goal because they couldn’t lose weight. Also, my mattress was hurting them.

I stood up and was dizzy. I looked at myself in the mirror. I took off all of my clothes and stood on the scale. I weighed 85 pounds. I am (and was) 5 feet 7 inches. You do the math. I was a bag of bones held together by what few muscles were left. I was saggy, colorless skin, I was patchy hair, I was a straight-A student who was very good at wearing loose-fitting clothes and fooling people. I was the girl who sat at the lunch table and pretended to eat. I chewed up pretzels and then spit them into my hand when no one was looking. I worried the salt had too many calories.

I was dying.

I decided to go get a bagel.

I think that bagel saved my life.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

nine words.

i have nothing to say. but i'm still here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

looking for the storm.

your feet were bare the first time she swept you up into her arms of grit and grace and ran you quickly down to the basement.
it wasn't raining yet, but you could hear the sirens through the open garage door. the one that attached to the basement. the one that meant your basement wasn't actually all the way underground. the one your dad stood in, looking for the storm.
you sat on the brown lofa - a remnant from them before they were parents - and waited.
the wailing of the sirens got louder.
she tuned the radio to local AM and you heard something about a touchdown near lee's summit. it was headed toward you, they said.
you were cold and there were no blankets. everything you needed was in your bedroom. your comfort quilt. your dolls. your books and music.
"it's green out here," he said from the driveway.
"oh my god! look at the hail!" - you tried to ignore.
but your stomach turned sleep into knots
and she paced in the corner in a panic.
"get back in here," she yelled.
he yelled back, "no way. come look at this."
she didn't go.
there was this chasm that night between them.
her trying to keep him safe. him trying to find the eye of the storm. almost asking it to strike. yelling at the sky, "we're here! give us a show!"
the rain moved through washing down the street - the gutters flooding - pushing winter's guts up and out.
it was the first rain of the spring.
it cleansed him.
but you were never the same.