Posted on June 1st, 2012
The Things I Carry
Inspired by an in-class activity from Andre Dubus III and of course the novel, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
I carry my books, and bottles full of liquid. I carry my netbook and more pens than I need. I carry my wallet which carries my money, license, Id card, insurance cards in case of an emergency.
I’m carrying pills that will supposedly stop a migraine quickly, should that whole procedure start. I’m also carrying packets of medicine that you squeeze under your tongue so it quickly gets into your bloodstream. I heard this is supposed to work quick too. I carry the wonder, the wondering of which one I will take when it starts. I haven’t gotten one since I’ve been handed ways to stop it. I’m trying to keep a limit on how much caffeine I feed to my body; I think it’s helping but I don’t carry enough evidence yet.
I carry with me each and every fucking day the thought that at some unsuspecting moment my vision will be distorted, the nausea will creep up on me and soon my head will throb and I’ll want nothing more than for someone to drill a hole in my head to relieve the pressure.
I carry the hope that it won’t happen today. I hope that I don’t suddenly get dizzy as I throw my car in reverse to leave the parking lot. I hope that I can look at the clock and all the numbers are clear and visible; not all blurred and disappearing before my eyes. I pray to God that I can drive home safely before I’m stranded and in need of assistance. I hope there’s ginger ale in the house when I get home because that’s all I’ll want when this is over.
I carry with me the memories of past migraines and all the pain I’ve suffered. I remember several dates and the things I was supposed to do that day, but I am not carrying a calendar. I don’t carry the memories of the fancy dinner in Boston that was to mark my first ever anniversary. I carry the memories of what I was doing before I died the migraine death for that day. A 3-D movie the previous night; trying to put food down on a table for the customers I was waiting on; sitting in the tutoring center as the whole room started to spin. Even just walking out to the kitchen because pizza had arrived except when I get there the lights hurt my eyes and I can’t see anyone’s faces.
I carry with me the success of having survived one. One. Playing videogames with my mother was quite fun until I couldn’t see her sitting next to me anymore. Being annoyed with the whole thing, but knowing that I didn’t have anywhere to go or anything that needed to be done, I convinced myself I didn’t give a shit and continued killing people on the battle front. The procedure was a mild one, and everything was bearable. I did not get sick and a twenty minute nap made the headache go away.
I carry fear, fear that I’m going to lose another day of my life. Maybe even two days because lately they come in pairs, as if one stint of eight hours worth of vomiting and throbbing head pain wasn’t enough. It’ll be worse too, because you’ll think you’re all better and just at that moment when you try to rise out of bed without the urge to run to the bathroom, the room will flicker, your eyes will play games, and you’ll cry out as the pain comes back loud and clear; and you’re helpless.
I pray that I won’t have to carry these fears forever. Or even carry these pills forever. But I’ll never drop the memories; never lose the pain and the frustration I felt. If it needs to be done, I will carry these pills until the day I die.
Posted on June 1st, 2012
Tighten Your Drawstring
The bell rings.
It’s time for gym class. I don’t understand how anyone could possibly think kids would want to be running around in gym class at seven thirty in the morning. But nonetheless here we are. The boys come in yelling and screaming. Such barbarians. The girls walk in small groups, shuffling their way across the dirty gym floor and enter the girl’s locker room to get changed.
Five minutes pass.
We all arrive at the solid black line that lies along the width of the gym to take attendance. The boys stand in line, with their Nikes and Adidas gym shorts. Some girls are in short shorts, some in baggy sweats, and of course you have the girls rocking the super tight sweats with the muffin top.
Today’s fun activity is going to be soccer. Meg always wears baggy sweatpants to gym because it’s a comfortable way to start the day. I did the same. We were gym buddies. We were friendly towards each other in school, but didn’t know one another once we stepped off the bus in the afternoon. Unfortunately baggy pants are not the best choice for running around, especially when playing soccer.
The teams were divided up; co-ed teams, so that no one had any advantages. The ball was kicked around for a warm up and within the next ten minutes we had a full blown game going. Well, as full-blown as gym class game of soccer can get when most of the girls play dumb and refuse to make contact with the ball. But Meg is something else. She overcomes her baggy sweatpants and plays like a pro. If the women’s league still existed, I would say she would have a future there. She made some of the boys look like fools with her touches, tricks, and moves.
The frustration was clearly building up inside Robbie. Get schooled by a girl in a man’s sport? Please. Robbie had complete control of the ball and charged like a bull, head on towards Meg. With a twinkle in her eye, she stood innocently waiting for his arrival. With exquisite timing she side-steps the tackle and steals the ball from her rival. Robbie face-plants the cold, dirty floor of the gym. He watches from the ground as she trots off, burning the rest of his allies and scoring behind his last line of defense. Not only did Meg steal the ball, she stole the last of his patience and sanity.
I was standing on the side line watching the game. The vice principal walks in and stares for a moment before speaking to our teacher. She needed to see him for a moment. “Keep it up guys; I’ll be back in a few.” Both chaperones are gone; the eyes of protection have been shut out of the room. Meg crosses the ball to the opposite field in hopes of a goal to be scored, but the other striker lacks her skill. Meg stands still; waiting. It’ll come back. What’s Robbie doing? He’s sneaking up behind Meg. What a prankster.
An earth shattering scream echoes off the walls of the gymnasium. My eyes open. Meg stands alone. Screaming. Her baggy sweat pants were her downfall. They sit awkwardly around her ankles; her pale skin exposed for all eyes to see. Robbie had joined up with his friends in laughing, with a broad, devilish grin upon his face. Several of the other girls, including myself, stood mortified. Needless to say drawstrings were tightened. By the time I looked back, Meg had fixed herself, but the damage was done. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she sprinted away, tail between her legs, and took cover in the locker room. The door slams. Another opens. The teacher is back. “What’s going on? Get back to the game guys, lets’ go!” The game continues; Robbie scores. No one says a word about Meg.
I followed her into the locker room. She was huddled up in the corner bawling her eyes out. She saw me come in; I stood uncomfortably before her. “Are you okay?” What a stupid question. She didn’t respond. Stupid questions don’t deserve answers. I wasn’t her best friend so it didn’t feel right for me to go over and be the one to console her with a hug. “I’ll walk with you to the office and we can tell the principal what happened.”
“NO. No school officials need to know about this.” Her eyes were red when she looked up at me. “I don’t want everyone to think I’m lame and a tattle tale. This is just whatever, I’ll get over it.”
That’s when it occurred to me that I had never seen Meg cry before. She was a tough cookie; she had a reputation to keep. She was more popular than me, very smart, and athletic. She wasn’t going to let a little gym incident tear her down. That wouldn’t be like Meg at all. I couldn’t go tell the principal either. I didn’t want to be lame, or un-cool; especially not a tattle tale. The bell rang, signifying the end of the period. She took off in a direction that was not toward our next class.
Meg was absent in math class that day. I didn’t see her at lunch. Her presence was lacking in English during last period. The bus stopped at her house, but she wasn’t aboard to get off. As we were passing her house I saw her standing, hiding, in the window behind a curtain. This pattern continued for the next week. And the week after.
I was at my locker one morning gathering my books when the locker next to mine opened. It hadn’t been opened for two weeks. Meg was back. I looked up at her and saw tears welling in her eyes; her cheeks redder than any rose on Valentine’s Day. That’s when I heard it. Laughter was bouncing around the halls. Robbie and his posse of gangsters were high-fiving. How proud they were for completely humiliating a girl by pantsing her. All because she had a talent. Not a single teacher caught on, either. They heard the taunts but instead of asking what happened, they just ushered the students on to their next class.
The name-calling went on for months after the incident. Meg never reappeared in gym class that year. She became quiet and lonely, and skipped school a lot. It was tough trying to get through English class when all I had to talk to was her empty desk. Towards the end of that school year, I sat with Meg on the bus one afternoon. She didn’t take much to my attempts at making conversation. She seemed depressed. When we got to her stop she told me goodbye. Normally she would see me off with a “see you later.” I watched as she walked down the path to her front door. There was a for-sale sign on the property. It was stamped with a four latter word: SOLD. I felt nothing but shame, and tightened my drawstring.
Posted on June 1st, 2012
Beyond the Wall
I’ve lived in the same house since I was born. The same town, the same street, the same property, the same backyard since 1991. Almost twenty years later, that’s still where I call home. Although I must admit, things look vastly different around here.
If you go down a long black driveway that has two humongous pine trees at the end, you’re coming down my driveway. You’d find a little blue ranch with white shutters, a two car garage, and a quaint little front door that probably had a beehive somewhere nearby. Going in through this door and up the first set of stairs brings you into the kitchen, but keep going- the sliding glass door to the backyard is just beyond there. Upon feeling the fresh air on your cheeks and the thick scent of allergies as you emerge onto the deck, you make your way left to the stairs and venture into the cozy grass; its green blades fluttering in the soft breeze as a butterfly floating in the wind. Tall trees shoot upward all around where you stand, blocking the yard in for complete and utter privacy. There is a house that has property right up against my backyard, but it’s invisible in the lush forests of spring.
The backside of my backyard is a line of trees- thick trees and little bushes overgrown and overflowing the rock wall they sit upon. There is a small wire fence hidden in these trees that you need to use as a step to climb on to get to the rock wall. The rock wall ran the entire length of my backyard, and still does. It was a glorious path to walk upon. The rocks were large and flat, perfect stepping stones to the beginning of an adventure. Even beyond this wall was a tiny trickling stream that tinkled its way along. Across the stream was a somewhat steep hill with its sideways tree branches and overgrown greenery tumbling down the muddy hillside. It was perfect.
This was my sanctuary. After a long day in elementary school, I would retreat to this wilderness in my old worn out sneakers, a pair of pants I didn’t care much about, and a light sweater that already had a hole in it. There was only one spot to get in. The wire fence was bent in such a way that it formed the most perfect step; the branches that fell around it shaped the frame of entry; the giant rock made a plump little stoop to reach into the doorway. Inside this second home of mine was peace and quiet. The only sounds involved the traveling stream and birds flying in and out of trees overhead.
I always made a point to climb one particular tree. It has such ideal branches for stepping and climbing upward. It was strong enough to hold my weight yet wiggled and wavered beneath me just enough to feel dangerous. As nice of a climb as it was, getting down was the exciting part. It involved trusting myself to make the appropriate leap and maintain my balance. It involved trusting the tree to hold me on its loving branch and embrace me so I would not go crashing to the muddy incline and tumble into the dirty stream below. In order to succeed I had to stretch out my short, childish arms so that upon jumping I would be able to grasp this branch; and once I jumped, I swung like Tarzan and wobbled to a halt on the branch below. A pleasant stroll along the gently flowing stream usually concluded my day beyond the wall.
The green flourishing leaves of spring would change to the colors of autumn, browning into a swirl of red and yellow and orange. After spending so much time out in my forest, I invited my older brother to come out and join me. Of course, this only led to some competition… and thus I was off to find a perfect location to create my fort. My first thought was to retreat to my tree that I loved climbing so much. With the right materials it would be perfect because of the way it grew sideways out of the inclined mud hill and leaned over the stream and up. Climbing up the tree would be a great way of escape and a fantastic look out post. Unfortunately my look out post only made my eyes green with envy. There was a giant thorn bush on the muddy incline that apparently had a convenient hole to climb into through the side without getting pricked. It was natural and required no additions to qualify it as a fort. If only I had stopped to see its perfections first…
I immediately decided my tree fort failed; I was to be on the attack instead since I had no place to call home. But of course there was no way to attack either. After creeping along the rock wall and over the mossy covered stone, I stepped gingerly across the stream and decided to move into his fort and occupy with him. There was no way I was going to win anyway, who was I trying to kid?
Once fall had passed, the snowy cold winters led to more excitement and capabilities. Thick sheets of snow began to cover everything, and with puffy snow gear and high boots for protection, the possibilities were endless. The chill of winter left most of the plants dead and lifeless. That included the thorn bush. The smell of fresh cut grass no longer sifted through the air; the crunching of dried autumn leaves changed to crunching of ice and snow. And with my thick clothing I would finally be able to leap over his defenses. Literally. I climbed into my old abandoned tree fort and prepared to make my leap. I was ready to go until I came to my senses and realized it was all together too far away. I then decided to grab the biggest broken tree branch I could find and attack the old fashioned way. Once war had broken out, I was able to climb on top of the evil thorn bush without any fear of getting wounded.
That thorn bush was awesome. It was comfortable with a cushion of snow and the padding of snow gear. I finally came to respect that thorn bush. Or so I thought. The peace that was between my brother and me for the five minutes we laid on top of that bush was gone once he decided to push me over its edge. Of course with my luck I didn’t just fall and get a little muddy or some snow down my back. I got hung up on the thorns. I hear the tear of my puffy pants, and as I hang desperately upside-down from this evil bush, I see a puff of cotton fall and blend with the snow. I find myself staring into the upside-down figure of my brother pointing and laughing at my misfortune. I then see the footprints of his large boots after he has gone and left me hanging, alone, in the cold of my chilly sanctuary. After listening to the silent hum of the winter breeze, I feel an itching in my ear, and after a scratch I find droplets of blood on my glove. I become alarmed; enough so to wiggle myself free and run as fast as I can to the safety of my house.
Years later, after so many changes have happened to my once blue and white house (which is now gray with purple shutters), the appearance of so many other things I used to know has changed. My house is bigger, the colors have changed, the entire appearance of my backyard has been altered since some really tall trees have died and were removed. Now, I could step over that wire fence anywhere I would like; there is no more door way. So many branches and plants are now broken and tattered. The stream is chock full of leaves and is barely noticeable anymore. The tunnel that was created by the plant life over the rock wall is gone. Through some limbs where I knew the door way used to be I could see that old thorn bush, dying and broken, snapped and destroyed. The fort that I saw perfection in was now falling to pieces, and it would probably never be able to go back to the way it used to be. The sad scene leads me to believe that nothing will last forever.
Posted on June 1st, 2012
As I approach the long expanse of grass before me I wonder what will become of me and my comrades. The afternoon sun is fading from the sky as we venture into the building we are told to enter. We talk lightly as we prepare for the battle ahead, outcome: unknown. “Anything can happen tonight,” the captain encourages. The time comes and we exit the building. The field is lit by lights that could blind the angels. The moon has replaced the sun and a large crowd has gathered to watch the fight. After our names have been announced and echoed across the stadium, we take our positions on the field. Our eyes meet the enemy’s and soon the whistle is blown; let the battle begin.
The evening was rough and we were behind almost the entire time. Our forces grew weaker; our actions were slow. The final drive had been driven out of us and time was running out. Another shot was taken and our last line of defense failed again. Knowing there was only moments left, despair filled us all. The enemy celebrated its victory. A whistle shrieked through the air– the end had come. The battle was lost. I fell to my knees and clenched the dewy grass on which I had fallen. Frustration flowed around me as disappointed fans disappeared from their seats. I rose from my battlefield and encouraged my comrades to move on; for that is all we can do in life.