Imaginary Friends, Pt. V – The Birds and the Bullets

My neighbor shot me in the back three times with a BB gun when I was about eight years old. I was standing on the corner of our front lawn with Hitler’s wet dream and the strange chick from a few houses down. We were using our imaginations, probably playing some version of what the Midwest kids called, “house.”

The first shot hurt badly and I remember continuing whatever make-believe I was in the midst of. After the second shot, which hit me directly in the same place as the first, I began to imagine there must be a bird pecking at my back. I have no idea what brought this imagery to mind. Perhaps it was the simple fact that I’d never experienced this kind of pain before or that I’d just finished watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds with my mother and a bullet was the furthest thing from my young mind. I still didn’t move or tell my friends what was happening, though by the third shot that hit, again, in the same spot, they could see the discomfort on my face. They asked what was wrong as I began to cry. I bolted inside, seeking my parents.

“My back, my back,” I was shouting in between sobs and trying to reach the wound, twisting my dominant right arm behind my back, unsuccessfully.

Both my mother and father were telling me to calm down as they sat me on their bedroom floor and lifted up my shirt to investigate. I began retelling the situation and it didn’t take more than five seconds before my dad quickly stood up, muttering angry f-bombs as he stormed out into the warm, summer air.

“Rick! Where are you going,” my mother yelled after him. My dad didn’t stop, but responded, “Call the police! This motherfucker shot her with a BB gun!” By “this motherfucker,” he meant the neighbor boy across the street that we’ll call David because, well, that was his name.

By the time my mother had dialed 9-1-1, my dad was already pounding on David’s parent’s front door, demanding, audibly from our home, “Open the fuckin’ door you son of a bitch before I break it down.” He could be seen pacing from the door to the living room window while continually shouting his demands. Obviously, the parents weren’t home and there was no way David had the balls to open that door.

I am uncertain how my dad was so certain that it was the juvenile delinquent neighbor or that he knew it was a BB gun I had been shot with. David must have made his character evident prior to shooting me and my dad was an army brat, after all.

All of us were relieved that the police showed up before my dad got his wish and got inside. It may very well had been my dad in handcuffs in the back of the cop car instead of David had my dad broken down the door. I recall my dad even saying, “I have no idea what I was gonna do if they’d opened the door.” My dad wanted blood that day and that may be one of the more telling moments in my young life where I could see how much my dad loved me and how far he was willing to go to protect me.

The three BB gun bullets broke the skin, but thankfully, because it was from far range, they did not penetrate. I don’t even have a physical scar. My parents didn’t press charges, but David was required to personally apologize for his actions in front of the police and my parents. When questioned on the reasoning behind his actions, his response was, “Because I wanted to see what would happen if I shot a living thing.” My brother became friends with my attacker some time after the incident, which didn’t last long as David was later arrested and sent to juvenile hall for beating up a handicapped kid.

This is the part where I’m supposed to talk about how it made me feel that my brother would befriend the person who had shot his sister. Like shit. The end.

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Imaginary Friends, Pt. IV – Sara

When I was about ten years old, I had little girl, big dreams of one day modeling. One of the only girls near my age in the neighborhood who lived a few houses down from my parent’s told me that there’s no way I could ever model with all of the cuts, bruises, and scars I had all over my slender, tanned legs. She was blonde haired, blue-eyed, taller and skinnier than I – basically had the kind of looks my mother would deem Hitler’s wet dream. Mama had jokes.

This girl, who we’ll call Sara, and I spent quite a lot of time together but none of that time ever went by without her telling me how she was better than me in some way or how much of a crush she had on my brother. *rolls eyes* She already had an agent and if I wanted even a slim chance at modeling, I’d have to strive for unblemished, shaven legs like hers. She would remind me of this while running her manicured hand up and down her pale, smooth leg, even insisting I touch them once or twice. I don’t even think I was shaving yet.

“Uh huh, okay Sara,” I would repeat and nod my head, often trying to change the subject but nonetheless, feeling poorly about the many bicycle and skateboarding accidents that were visible upon my inferior limbs.

After my mother took me to a local modeling agency and I was told I was too short for anything aside from catalog, I decided dancing was more up my ally anyway and those slender legs were no more! From there, I became a cheerleader and practiced both for six years. To this day, I have scars from some of the more severe accidents I had as a child, playing outdoors, I have curves and strong muscles in places I never would have known existed had I not become a dancer, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about any of it. Okay, that’s not true, but my thigh cellulite is irrelevant to this story.

I have no idea what became of Sara – the only thing I know is that she became a mother at a very young age, but we had lost touch by then. I recall my mother often asking why I hung out with her. She probably smelled the bad news from five houses down whereas I know I smelled it but I just wanted to hang out with someone aside from the strange chick three houses down or Memo, Tebo, and Julie at that point.

Learnt Behaviors and Moral Codes

When my mother taught me the “golden rule,” which was very early on in my childhood, perhaps before I could even speak, I wish I had realized that it didn’t mean that just because you treat someone the way you wish to be treated, reciprocity would necessarily occur. However, that’s the way I took it and I ran with it and now, about twenty-some odd years later, I’m realizing that the golden rule is simply a way of saying take the high road – an ethical guide on how to conduct one’s character because the truth is most of those people will not treat you with the same mutual respect you may be showing him/her and those people will not share the same passions and fervor that you exhibit in their lives. I wish my mama were around so that I could ask her if she was aware of this reality when teaching her children this Universal moral code.

Witnessing my mother enact the golden rule and in turn, put everyone else before her began at a very young age and a very impressionable one, at that. This continued until her final days on this Earth when her greatest worry, even though every organ in her body was slowly, painfully malfunctioning and her independent mobility ceased to exist and when the machine connected to her body was serving as the much needed oxygen to her cancer ridden lungs – even then – her single greatest worry was still her children.

This is going to be hard,” She managed to utter through semi-chapped lips to my brother and I one afternoon. Her entire life, the short fifty-six years of it, was conducted selflessly. And this was the paradigm in which I seamlessly learned how to follow.

Imagine my awry sense of self worth four years later whilst sitting in my therapist’s office, wondering why I cannot stop caring about people who make it more than clear, through their actions or lack thereof, that they really don’t care about me. Cognitively, I get it – I understand that a person who is always “busy” typically means that he or she just doesn’t have time for me because let’s keep it real folks, we make time for the people and things that we want to make time for. So, like I said, on an intellectual level, I am fully aware.

Emotionally, however, not so easy breezy – I find myself saying or thinking things like, “But I care for this person” or “But he’s family” or “Maybe if I just make myself a little less available, she’ll understand” or “Everyone deserves a second chance” and so forth and so on. And so begins this tug of war between my head and my heart, which reminds me of a quote a dear friend of mine text me once, saying that it reminded her of me and it definitely hit home:

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A couple of years ago, I was in a hotel room with my brother during a road trip to Lake Tahoe. We were in a discussion about being selfish versus being selfless and he curtly looked at me and said, “You should try being more selfish, Linds.” This is something my brother has never had a problem with and I could never understand where he learned this type of behavior that was in stark contrast to my own.

My therapist pointed out to me during a Saturday afternoon session, shortly after our sibling road trip, that selfless means exactly that – self less with great emphasis on the less portion. It was one of those ah-ha moments!

I was always under the impression that being selfless was wholly a good thing, a healthy thing when, in fact, it meant I was more concerned with everyone else’s needs prior to my own. This was a dangerous line to walk. Over the next couple of years, I often would recall this conversation with my brother wondering if he wasn’t on to something. The problem, however, is that my learnt behavior of selflessness is basically innate so here I am, still in therapy, still trying to unlearn selflessness.

In Memory of My Buddy, Ali Dellevas

Take me,” I often find myself bargaining loudly in my head every time someone dear to my heart has untimely, unfairly been taken from this world by that ugly six-letter-word: cancer. And I say “every time” because it, unfortunately, has been quite a few times and one, in my opinion, was one too many.

The bargaining swiftly turns into unequivocal anger, then some degree of shock, then back to the bargaining, “Take me this time, instead, you bastard,” anthropomorphizing the disease as if it bares ears that can hear my useless plea, a heart that can fathom compassion and the control to alter the circumstances, to take me instead of the good ones it seems to never spare.

Yesterday morning was no different.

Ali died this morning, dude,” our close, mutual friend, Amanda uttered over the telephone line from thousands of miles away.

No, no, no, no, no…” was all I could repeat as my knees hit the ground, the tears began and I curled into a ball. I may have said this before but it’s interesting that “no” is probably the first word many of us learn as wee ones and the first word that escapes our mouths when being informed of the devastating loss of a loved one.

As babies, we say “no” because we hear it so often and it is often associated with conditions in which we find contrary to what our simple minds desire in that moment.

But I don’t wanna go to bed.

I want to put the small object in my mouth.

I want to play with the crystal glassware left on the coffee table.

And it’s really no different as an adult. Our vocabulary has hopefully expanded into a book’s worth of words but “no” is still the go-to because once again, we are presented with a reality out of our control and for lack of better terms, unpleasant. We only wish it involved our sleep patterns, small, material objects or expensive drink-ware.

I’m not ashamed to admit that there were certainly a few emphasized “fucks” thrown in between my “no’s.” My buddy, as we so often lovingly referred to one another, had a potty mouth of her own. If I didn’t angrily shout my favorite f-word a few times, I would probably have disappointed her. On August 21st of 2012, she accurately tagged me on Facebook in this funny e-card.

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Infectious was Ali’s laugh. It was the kind of laugh that engaged, that was easily recognizable in a room full of people and when you heard it you couldn’t help but smile or even laugh with her, even if you had no idea what was so funny. I heard that laugh today, in my head, as I despondently walked to lunch and with every reason not to be smiling, I smiled. I like to think that it’s her way of letting us all know that she’s okay, that she’s in a better place as the adage goes; A place free of suffering and pain where she can laugh, carefree. Furthermore, I like to think she’s sharing that wonderful charisma of hers with my beautiful mama and they’re keeping each other good company wherever it is that we may go after this life.

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Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 6.48.23 PMShe had an enchanting smile to go along with that compelling laugh, an inspiring, positive outlook no matter the obstacle thrown her way and enough compassion to ignite a fire in even the most merciless heart. Her love for family, friends, Channing Tatum and the usage of the word “heffa” were strikingly evident. Her very presence alone was electrifying. If Ali was in the room you best believe it was happily known.

Those who know me well know that the two years I spent in New York City were unfortunately the two most dismal years I have experienced in my thirty years of existence. Aside from the onslaught of homesickness and relationship woes, I lost both of my parents within four months of one another to lung cancer. My mama was my best friend. I wasn’t much for socializing to say the least and everything frequently appeared glum, miserable from my perspective. On the outside, I may have been smiling but on the inside, I was the lead star in my own personal hell and New York City happened to be the hopeless setting.

My mama always reiterated that if we don’t have hope, we don’t have anything. I would say that my train rides home to Brooklyn with Ali and my hour lunches with her at “Fuck and Spoon” as Ali and I so aptly called it for its outrageous prices were lifesaving. Here was this beautiful, young vibrant spitfire of a woman, unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, still cracking jokes, still laughing that delightful laugh, still fighting, still loving life. If that couldn’t whip shit into perspective for me, I’m not sure what could have. She was the very definition of hope.

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There are several quotes about surrounding oneself with positive people, ridding one’s life of toxicity and so forth and whenever I would come across these, I would do an inventory of the people I keep around me. Ali was always at the top of the list of those who enriched my life with their contagiously optimistic attitude, of those whom I wished to keep near and dear for their uplifting contribution to my existence.

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As I continue to write with a heavy, broken heart, I just keep thinking, “I’m not doing her justice. This isn’t good enough.” I’ve been at quite the loss for words the past couple of days but I sincerely have given this my best. If the untimely loss of Ali has taught us one thing, let it be that time is an illusion. There is no such thing. Right now – that is the only thing that is real and right now, we must be strong and fearless and do the things that excite our soul, that breathe life into our veins and make the right now a better place for others just as Ali made each and every one of our right nows a better place.

Her family and closest friends will continue to be in my thoughts and in my prayers. No parent should ever have to bury his or her child and for all of our sakes, I hope that one day when we go to the paradise where Ali has gone, it will all make perfect sense. In the meantime, fuck cancer.

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I’ll never forget you, my buddy. Rest in peace. Seahorses foreva.

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#FuckCancer

The after work, evening commute in New York City is even more drab and dreary than the morning one and going it alone can quickly turn into a frustrating, elbow-rubbing, unpleasant smelling, anxiety-inducing experience; one where vying for a place to rest ones ass can go from an awkward “after you,” “no, after you” to the shorter equivalent of a 100 yard dash competition. And then of course, one might weigh the pros and cons of the empty seat – Is it a middle seat or a side seat? Is it by the exit or in the middle of the train, furthest from mass transportation freedom as possible?

On one hand, you can rest your tush whilst having the sleepiest stranger to your right dozing off on your shoulder or the asshole to your left practicing his latest spreading techniques (in case you do not know what this is, feel free to click on the link above) and on the other hand, you can stand but you better move the hell out of the way approximately thirty seconds before each stop because the elderly woman sitting in front of you just has to inch her way to the exit doors in order to be first off the train.

What has the ability to brighten this five-day commute and ease the disadvantages of riding the New York City subway between the hours of five and eight p.m. is having a riding buddy. I was fortunate enough to have that during my time on the east coast. This woman was not only a riding buddy but a Brooklyn bred, Italiana firecracker with a mouth of a sailor and a heart of gold. Her name is Ali. We worked together at a fashion jewelry company on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan’s midtown district and we both happened to take the same subway line back to Brooklyn.

I’m uncertain of whether or not Ali knows just how much her presence and friendship meant to me and still does today but the purpose of this blog is to not only express that appreciation but to ask you, my readers, for your help this holiday season. Ali has been battling a rare form of stage three ovarian cancer for three years and is presently in the hospital fighting pneumonia with other severe health complications brought on by this horrific disease.  Doctors are currently at a loss as far as further treatment.

I’ll never forget the night this despairing news came to fruition, when my fun-loving, exceptionally strong, spirited and young friend was diagnosed just months after my best friend, my mama, passed away from stage four metastatic lung cancer.  Ali and I immediately formed a common bond if we hadn’t already had several and despite her own, personal struggles, she continued to be an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on but more importantly someone who “got it,” and on those seemingly long ass commutes home, her presence was life saving. Her sense of humor never ceased to exist and her contagious laugh, everlasting.

I couldn’t possibly place my gratitude into the proper words; I can only hope that I provided Ali with some amount of solace in return. I will do my best to help her and her family in any way that I possibly can and right now, that means reaching their goal of $20,000 via the link http://www.gofundme.com/letusrallyforali

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Please take a brief moment to click on the link and read her heartbreaking story. Every little bit truly helps and this is one story that deserves a happy ending. Ali recently wrote via her Facebook that she is “overwhelmed by all the love and support from everyone,” that it truly astonished her. To that I respond, and I know so many will agree, I am not surprised one bit by the outpouring of support. If she remotely touched others’ lives in the way that she managed to touch mine, it is not surprising in the least bit.

Seahorses forever!  Love you, buddy. #FUCKCANCER

Twinsies 4 the day!
My Buddy, Ali, and I