The Release

The Easter bunny was not as gripping as Santa Claus for me, nonetheless, as a child, we still decorated Easter eggs and our parents hid them as we searched anxiously throughout grandma’s yard for them. Whoever found the most was the “winner,” though winner of what, I’m unsure, aside from a warrant to boast. And I really loved boiled eggs – still do, though not as much as I did as a child. I especially loved when grandma would devil them up, er, make deviled eggs – I wonder why they are called deviled?

My dear mother was born on Good Friday, my aunt, brother, and mother’s birthdays have all fallen on Easter at some point in history and I am far from religious. Today, I do not celebrate this holiday. When you’re a kid, you’re more concerned with whether or not the Easter bunny is going to bring you a basket full of crap that’s going to “rot your teeth out” as the elders would quip. As an adult, you come to realize how deeply religious this holiday is and I’m just not one of those people that you’ll find sitting in a pew one Sunday out of the entire year.

I do miss the family gatherings, however, and there’s nothing like a holiday to make me realize just how much I miss them. I’d give anything to dye some eggs and whip up a home cooked Easter dinner with my mother right about now. It’s a beautiful, sunny Spring day in Los Angeles and the sounds of gathering families are plenty while the scents of their fruitful meals they’ll sit down to soon waft through the air.

Holidays just remind me of how I lost my family, gained one, and then lost that one, too. Dramatic sounding, I know, but it’s the truth and I kind of hate admitting how lonely I can be on days like today. I hate how speaking the truth can sometimes sound like I’m looking for sympathy when really I’m just looking for a release. And what good is the writing if I can’t release the truth and unload the weight that has burdened me for so long for shoving it deep down inside?

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Sentience

My mother used to gush about how well beer went with chocolate and I agreed, so every time I enjoy a nice amber ale and there’s chocolate nearby, I have to indulge. It’s the little things like this that make me feel closer to her. I wish I could have introduced her to how good chocolate is with wine, though – especially dark chocolate with red wine!

The last gift she ever gave me was a set of decorative, pewter measuring spoons with etched hearts all over them. Every time I reach for those hanging in my kitchen, I taste the familiarity of the bittersweet memory. I had just moved to Brooklyn and she mailed them to me the way we used to mail each other during my college years. When I retrieved the large, white business envelope from my mailbox on that drab, New York winter day, I could see and feel the awkwardness of its shape – it certainly wasn’t just a greeting card inside there. Little did I know that was the last time I’d ever receive mail from my mother.

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She loved having her hair brushed or played with, so every time someone brushes or plays with my hair, I feel a pang of guilt for each time I denied my mother that simple, temporary joy. I’d give anything to feel her hair between my fingers, to run a brush through the length of her locks.

Whenever I’m at the beach, I look down in pursuit of the smooth, colorful sea glass my mother collected and loved so much. I recall her joyful smile while lounging in the sand and soaking up the sun one morning on a beach in Malibu, her ability to enjoy the silence that was so opposite of my inability. I wish she were around to teach me how she did it and to tell me what she enjoyed most about it.

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It is all about the little things and there’s nothing like losing the most important person in your life to make you realize this. If she were still alive, would snail mail mean as much to me? Would I still deny brushing her hair whenever she’d ask? Would chocolate be just another snack and would I even look for sea glass when perusing coastal lands? The truth is the little things have always meant a lot to me even before losing her but their meaning is so much deeper now, so much more sentient.

If Only They Knew it was also My Birthday – Loneliness and Defying Conformity

Their knowing looks caught my eye a couple of times as I savored mediocre, overpriced seafood, washing it down with agua con gas, what they call sparkling water in South America. Their faces spoke volumes of pity amidst the dim ambience and lively holiday chatter from nearby tables. If only they knew it was also my birthday, I thought to myself between reluctant bites of yucca con queso and poor excuses for sushi.

It was Christmas Day in Cusco, Peru and I had made reservations at a “fancy” restaurant in the city center. I had just arrived in Peru that morning and I was traveling solo for a week. There was a table of four, two older couples sitting diagonal from my small two-person table situated against the wall adjacent the picturesque window overlooking the Plaza de Armas. What they had obviously noticed was that my two-person table was serving one that evening and what they hadn’t noticed was that I, too, was studying and wondering about them – how did the couples meet? Are they locals? Do they always go out to eat for Christmas?

I was lonely. I’m not going to lie. And the shitty food didn’t help – I would later be chastised by a local for even stepping foot inside this particular tourist driven eating establishment. Had I known it catered to foreigners, I would have certainly opted for something else. Had the table of older couples asked me to join them out of sheer pity, I just might have!

It wasn’t the first time I had felt such a way at a restaurant whilst dining alone but it was the first time it was a holiday and my birthday whilst dining solo. A month after deciding to divorce David, I was on a business/leisure weekend trip to San Francisco where I had made reservations at a French restaurant located in Chinatown of all places. The food was actually really fantastic but the waiter who took forever to approach my table because she admittedly assumed I was waiting for someone made my loneliness the giant elephant in the restaurant. If only she knew I was going through a divorce! I ate half my meal before flagging her down to box it up so I could take it back to my lonely hotel room – at least there I could be lonely without an audience.

Doing things alone have always been a part of my life and more often than not, a comfortable and sometimes desired act – going to the movies happens to be one of my favorite unaccompanied past times. I recall having a conversation with my mother years ago while enjoying breakfast at one of my favorite mid-city Los Angeles cafés. When I told her what I was doing, she replied with slight dismay, stating, “I don’t know how you do that!”

It may have more to do with doing things that make me uncomfortable until I’m comfortable with them or it may have to do with enjoying the solitude of my own company versus the draining camaraderie that sometimes comes with others’ presence. I have a hunch it has a lot to do with doing the thing that society tells people, like the San Franciscan waitress and the old couples, is strange and/or pitiful. I find there to be a liberating factor in defying conformity, no matter how strange, pitiful, or lonely I might appear or feel.

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My face was half an inch from a gentleman’s armpit as two Italian nationals used me as their subway pole and the entire car sang “Three little Birds” by Bob Marley. We were on the red line from North Hollywood to Pershing Square, the starting point for Saturday’s Women’s March in Los Angeles and we were packed in like sardines, reminiscent of my New York City commuter days during rush hour.

It’s moments like this I wish I was taller,” I commented to my friend who began singing Skee-Lo’s one hit wonder as the unusually tall man behind her chuckled. Bob Marley turned into “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and a young man standing near the doors began feeling faint. Strangers all around him started fanning him with their makeshift signs, offering him water, and making certain of his wellbeing.

When we finally reached Pershing Square and the peaceful crowd exited the train, this man escaped onto the less crowded platform, making his way to a bench where he could breathe a little deeper. My friend and I approached him to ensure that he wasn’t alone and that he didn’t need anything. His friend arrived shortly thereafter.

Upon exiting the subway, we were greeted by a large chunk of the Los Angeles population – 750,000 strong, we marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles chanting, “My body, my choice” while the men responded, “Her body, her choice!” Creative signs and costumes abound from a colorful drawing of the vagina with the words, “GET vagucated” to “Make the White House black again” to simpler and more to the point signage including one of my favorites: “EQUALITY is better than great!” I have never been more proud to be an Angeleno or a woman than I was this past Saturday. The positive energy and motivation was palpable and it instilled in me the kind of hope that I needed after the last couple of months of this tumultuous, political climate.

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My friend and I walked a mile each way to and from the subway that day. We stood on the train platform for an hour and a half before cozying up really close to perfect strangers, and we trudged through an excessively muddy lawn in Grand Park along with thousands of other human beings that day. We conversed with eighty-year-old Herb from New York and his wife who used to actively work for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) during the civil rights movement. She felt very passionate about defending what she fought so hard for decades ago.

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The following day, I called Paul Ryan’s office to profess my opposition to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) only to be met with an automated “this mailbox is full” message and I proudly donated to the ACLU. This is only the beginning and just as Bob wrote so many years ago, “Rise up this mornin’ / Smiled with the risin’ sun… / Don’t worry about a thing / ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright…”

If you want to call Paul Ryan’s office and declare your opinion regarding ACA, call either (202) 225-3031 or (202) 225-0600 or if you’d like to donate to the ACLU, please click on the link below.

https://action.aclu.org/secure/make-tax-deductible-gift-aclu-foundation-0

And I’d like to leave you with this performance that took place at Washington D.C.’s women’s march organized and written by Los Angeles based artist, MILCK. #icantkeepquiet

http://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2017/01/23/511186649/a-flash-mob-choir-at-the-womens-march-turned-this-unknown-song-into-an-anthem

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.