Category Archives: Essays

At least I try to be brief

Please Don’t Judge Me for This Later

Is this what happens? They just keep dying.

She wasn’t even twenty-one. She was still trying to find the kind of eye makeup she liked.
First responders isn’t who’s on call, it’s the who’s sober call.
She was so young. She can’t be dead. Not again. She was making bad choices in life.
Goddammit. I talked to her about alcohol. Not that I could have done anything. That poor town.

Is this what we let happen? We just keep letting these accidents happen? Again and again. You forget which cake you made for which funeral. They come in threes don’t they. It means they have one more.

And the people there are still sticking it out. What has to happen to get really angry? When do you say, no, I’m done living? What has to happen? One more fisherman dies because he doesn’t know how to swim? One more girl drinks herself to death on the beach? I guess it’s good you guys are so bad at giving your daughters protection, because with all the kids you’re losing, you’ll need to make a lot more one way or another.

So what she shouldn’t have been dating who she was dating? So what she made trouble and hung with the wrong kimono-wearing crowd?

She died and she didn’t make the news. Why would she? She wasn’t anyone special. She was another native girl from the villages. She didn’t get out. She wasn’t stupid behind those eyes. She was a slow kind of alive. I didn’t really even know her. I knew her enough to say hi at the airport. Enough to say hello. Enough to keep her secrets. Goddammit. So what? She was brought into this world to get taken advantage of by older guys? Then left without an education or tools, with the liquor bottles open on the counter. And we let it happen again? That’s it. I’m done I’m so done.

She wasn’t old enough, she wasn’t old enough to fall in love with things, to have a passion to learn that you can be passionate about something.

She didn’t know that could happen yet. She was too young still, to learn about herself, to do anything other than pay attention if she had to pass her classes with c’s.

I remember that age, when everything is terrible and you think you’ll never find a passion, or something to get excited about. But she was so even. So calm. Maybe it’s that calm that people who are drinkers get who haven’t gotten drunk yet that early in the day.

I can tell you her father was a drinker. I can tell you she’s a victim of her society. I can tell you she’d seen it happen and knew it was a possibility. I can also tell you how experimental she was with the way she looked, how she carried herself with a solidness you don’t often see in young women. And then I run out of things to say. Because I didn’t take the time to know her better, she was too young. And I was too old, and too nervous about myself.

And like most of the people, you accept and you keep going, not changing, just acknowledging that’s what happened.

Do I donate to her go fund me page, so her family can pay funeral costs?

What do I tell my friend, the first responder? Do I tell her I’m sorry? And what do the people I know tell me? They’re sorry. Geez, a lot of people you met in Alaska die. Then they wonder how long they have to talk about it before they can change the subject.

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Assume You’re Wrong

I wrote to my father today in a letter I’ll never send.

I have lots of thoughts Dad, but you know, the one that keep coming up is that, it’s kind of your fault.

You and my roommate are very smart people, but you both have a tendency to dismiss people out of hand which is not only snotty and superior, but also a cause of real harm.

When someone says they’re voting for Trump, you say he’s nuts, and turn them away with a brush of the back of your hand. You don’t say, “How come?” Then explain yourself. You assume you’re right, but you only get away with that because you’re educated.

I’m coming to realize I’m alone in always thinking I have something to learn, which means, sometimes, I get to hear someone else’s reasons before I say I’m right. And If I’m sure of something, I have proof and lots of evidence – which you both have. But I share it. I say here’s what I think, and why. Then leave it up to them to decide. I don’t tell them they’re stupid, or what to think. I present what I know and how I feel and leave it at that. If they’re a good enough person, who I can argue a point with, who won’t take it personally, then I’ll argue the point. Try to see it from how they see it.

When my old roommate comes across racism, she doesn’t get upset, she says, “lets talk about it.” Which I love. That’s how you build understanding – through calm smiles.

But I don’t know. Maybe this is naïve. Maybe this only works because I know so few people, so many of whom have so little power. And I like to hear people’s stories. Maybe that’s why I can get away with it. Maybe I’m being self-righteous. Anger and business and busyness are taking the place of community. The eff it, I don’t care, it won’t matter to me, at least I can be contrary if I choose this one – that’s what happens.

We don’t know what democracy means, because everyone smart assumes we learned it the same way they did.

Maybe my friends are right. Maybe I’m an over-explainer. You don’t think you have to explain yourself. You don’t give a why. You know you’re right, and how could no one else understand what you just learned five minutes ago.

I’m starting to think that the swath of insecure, quiet, shy people have nothing wrong with them. Nothing to be fixed. No necessary, mandatory self-confidence lessons. Because they take the time to understand, under the assumption they’re always wrong.

Love

I Still Want to Be Cool

I wrote this on the back of a scrap piece of paper at work yesterday

It somehow seems cooler to have gone through tough grit in your past. Why can’t I accept who I was, how I was raised? I used to think I was the most boring thing in the world, because everyone lived that way. Everyone was always going to perpetually fear being stuck in the middle their whole lives, never really excelling.

I want to have bad stuff happen so I can have a past. But that’s a bit rude to the people who actually did. I think about it too much. I think I just want attention. I passively want attention. I also want to be funny without being a smartass. It will never be.

The things I’ve gone through are unique to me. I can only write about me. What I’ve gone through, who I’ve become. My oddities.

I remember our Spanish teacher would ask us questions – we’d go around the room. We’d have to answer in Spanish. He asked, once, is your family normal, most would answer yes, then he’d ask follow-ups and it turns out, no, they’re not normal at all. I think he was trying to get us to think about what normal means. Instead I left feeling like we’re all weird, but I’m the weirdest. He asked me. I said no. We’re not normal. He moved on.

That doesn’t mean the pain I’ve suffered isn’t true, or my experiences any less valuable to myself, just that they’re not cool “going through something” and just like the kids from the slums, I’ve been through crap I thought was normal, that anyone else would have thought was a horror.

First Time Feeling Adult

I remember the first time I felt like an adult. I was reading Call of the Wild. I didn’t have to look up the big words, I already knew what they meant. I read most of the book standing up near the tall bookshelves in the back, in study hall, in eighth grade. Now that I think of it, that was the last time I took a study hall. I felt like resting would be a discredit to my father who put himself in debt to put me through good, private schools. But, in part because of those schools, I could understand the sentences as a whole, that included words like imperious and intolerable and imperative. That feeling of understanding makes me feel like I belong.

I was so happy I belonged. I started using those words in my speech, my everyday speech. I was told I sounded like I was trying to be smart. Now I’m ashamed; ashamed when I make other people feel inferior. I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to be smarter. Because I don’t think I’m smarter. It had the effect of telling someone they have a strange smile. You won’t ever see their laughter again. Unless they’re stronger than I am. And have that magical ability to not care.

My Week (7/6)

A few paragraphs on what I can’t get out of my mind in early July.

You don’t want me. You want a woman who’ll tell you you’re the greatest. I won’t lie to you. You want a flouncy, thin beauty with a button nose and that kind of history. You can’t handle my mess. And I can tell you what you can handle, because I’m stronger than you are, and you don’t argue with me. Find someone with lovely eye sparkles who knows how to put on subtle. Talk to her about her blushing secrets and tampons. You can’t brush with complexity. And you still suck at grammar.

We treat these people who care like wild flowers we want to press inside novels with hardback covers we’ll pretend to our friends we’ve read. That’s how rare these strange creatures are in our lives of you can’t shock me anymore. We’ve seen it all. You cannot offend us. We have no scruples. Until you hit a nerve, because they’re so well hidden. You show us a gif of a woman’s legs breaking backwards and that’s it. We lose it. But we’re invisible so it doesn’t matter that we don’t care.

Folk music is about people. There’s isn’t a pop fault veneer. It says this is the way it is. This is the way these people lived. And you’ll love them for it. It says I know the person you’re singing about, I’ve met her, she is me. There’s no glancing over pain. The pain is there with the beauty and the winter and the gloom. They’re always simple songs, it’s like I don’t need mixing to show you how I feel. The songs are clear. They open themselves up with a guitar and a story, and say sit down for a minute, and I’ll tell you about me. These are the people who are barely getting by saying, I’m gonna live with music. And I won’t die with nothing. And that’ll be just the way it is. These are the songs you need not to get through the bad times, but to get through the good.

The switch in my brain just swotched and now I know I’m talking too much.

There’s nothing left of me now. All gone and empty. They took it all. I can feel where the thoughts used to be.

Crying Loops

Sometimes, hormones mess with my brain. There’s no other way to put it. I can qualify it if you want. I can say: it’s not my fault, it only happens to some women, it shouldn’t impede my cognitive capabilities, you shouldn’t judge me on this one thing, it’s not just me. But. It. Happens.
So I’m listening to the radio, and the woman gives a heads up message that the next song, “Creep” by Radiohead, was banned by the BBC for being too depressing. I, of course, relate to the song. I’m already a bit teary, not, oh look a baby sniffling, but sniffly. I start singing along, “I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”
The words hit. Boom. Then I’m thinking about the last time I heard the song. I remember I was sitting by myself in my dorm room back at school listening to Radiohead for the first time, looking for something that would mean something to me, feeling all alone, unheard, and understood by no one. So I’m thinking of that, driving down a pretty busy street in rush hour. And I start crying and singing. I’m wiping my eyes, singing along with wobbly gasps, and navigating traffic. We stop at a light and I look to my right. Oh look, it’s a police officer. I’m worrying he’s going to pull me over, and I’ll hit a car while I’m trying to pull over, then I’ll have to get another job to pay for my broken car, and I’ll still be crying. So I’m frantically trying to wipe my eyes and at the same time roll up the windows so he can’t hear my shrieking. But, I went right on past. No problems.
And that made me cry, because I thought maybe he needed to fill his policeman quota, but he didn’t want to pull over a crying girl after a day’s worth of work, so now he’s having a bad day because I’m having a sad day. Then Thom finished his sadness hole, and I drove back home, flicking radio stations every minute so that I didn’t get too attached to a song with too much memory.

To My Sister:

You have what you want right now. You’re married. By some miracle you seem to still like your husband – the bigger miracle being he still likes you. You are getting a degree doing what you want to do. You like where you live, you like the groups you have. Be depressed. Because you have everything you want and it’s not enough. Go for it. Embrace the dark, head-in-oven holes of despair. Think of sunshine as absence of the moon. Dream of sleep, and hope that sleeping lasts forever.
But, for the love of God, stop pretending you’re happy. You’re not; I can hear it in your voice. It’s fine. I like you better angry and caustic. You’re more fun to talk to. Let loose that vitriol so confined, that pure disgust of everything, it makes me laugh. It makes me love you for more than just our common mother and father. I won’t call you a type. I won’t compare to you an actress on that show I like that sort of reminds me of you. You are you. I know the you when you’re not covering, furiously sewing that deceptive quilt of “I’m okay.” You have greatness, right there.
God, be depressed, but do it like you used to do everything else. Flare it up. Shout it, scream at it, in its totality. Say, “I’m so depressed I can’t think of a reason to get out of bed today.” Say, “it can’t be that hard to hold my bladder for that long.” Complain with your whole soul. Be sad. Let yourself be sad. Stop trying to make yourself better. There’s nothing wrong with you that’s not wrong with all the women in the family, (you know exactly what I’m talking about, that sharp lack of compassion for failure, accepting that we know we can destroy anyone we know with just a couple sentences) we’re all horrible people. Cuddle with it. Know it.
Stop telling me how good, fine, and well, you are. Tell me instead of how miserable you are. Tell me how the universe will never know you. Tell me how you’re scared to be forgotten after you die. Tell me all the awful things you hate about gossips, then tell me all about the horrible people in your office. Be brave with your hatred. Be brave with your depression. Yell at me so I know you can still feel. Please? It’s so much more fun to have someone to be funny-honest, cutting mean. Frank conversations on death and sugar skulls make me smile. You make me smile better when you let yourself be. Turn off the flashlight, and smile in the soul-eating, teenage lack-of-future, this can never get better, Miyazaki black goop of our minds.