Saturday, January 31, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
But I see you every day, Sweetie.
I see you when I open the front door, and there is your infamous black cowboy hat hanging from the stair post, waiting. And when I miss you so much I think I will fall apart at the seams, I put it to my face and inhale deeply, and then squash it down on my head and go about my day wearing it.
I see you when I open the garage door and your huge and gleaming truck greets me, and I am not fooled by the sheeting, I know she is not quiet under there; she dreams of fall and tearing up the interstate and eating Fords. She dreams of starry nights when we lie together in the bed, whispering in the dark.
I hear you when I start up my car and the GPS system so helpfully inquires, "Where to?" I hear you when "Just a Country Boy," comes on the radio.
But, mostly, Sweetie, I see you when I close my eyes and we are on the lake and the storm is coming up. And we have brought the boat into the sheltered cove and lie in the sweltering heat inside the tarp and I am trying to help you study for the promotion board and you are distracting me.
It rains all night long and in the grey morning light we go out into the deep blue center of the lake. We are grubby and greasy but we don't care. You cut the motor and the wind rocks us back and forth on the water and you tease me about them opening the damn every morning but I ignore you because I know this works and I know so well how to handle you that it drives you nuts. And we eat bologna sandwiches for breakfast.
I close my eyes and we are at the camp grounds in Indiana and it's sweltering hot, but the trees shade us all around and you insist upon emptying the entire bottle of lighter fluid on the camp fire and we have sausages and Cheesits to eat because we just randomly threw stuff into the shopping cart earlier.
And your crazy friend from high school shows up later that night with four girls and no cheeseburger and you whisper to me that you owe me big. (And by the way, I have yet to cash in on that debt. I'm saving them all up. And don't tell me there's an expiration date to them, because there isn't!)
I close my eyes and I hear the door open and the dogs scramble to their feet, throw themselves off the bed and I hear your voice shout out, "Woman!" and then, in a smaller voice, "Sweetie?" I put down my book and find you at the bottom of the stairs, and I don't wait to get to the last step, I jump from the third step and you catch me in your arms and you smell so comforting, of sun and dust and engine oil.
And that's what I'll dream about tonight, Sweetie; of the next time you'll catch me in your arms.
I have never been fluent in all the languages of women. At first I was oblivious to them, lost in my own inner world of books and imagination, following all those haunting paths in my mind. If I played, I played with the boys, fiercely and with no self consciousness, or in groups.
Slowly I became aware that the other girls were speaking a language that I not realized I needed to learn. This was about the time I started developing hips, to my complete disgust, and could no longer run unimpeded. The other girls had catch phrases, their language was peppered with interesting colorful things, they roamed around in small groups, flicking their hair, shining in the sun. They laughed a lot.
I felt ungainly, I felt that my tongue was forever glued to the top of my mouth. I felt torn; should I be interested in what interested them? Was I snob if I was not; was I forever destined to be a late bloomer? It was fine back in first grade, when my gentle teacher sent me off to repeat that grade in a larger school, with the book, "Leo the Late Bloomer," clutched close to my chest.
And there I did learn to read, but also to run off shouting to the deserted tire jungle gym with Noah, a boy with intriguingly long hair and an imagination that rivaled my own. And the jungle gym became a dragon and we would ride around in the belly of the beast without fear.
In my first and only year in a public high school, I was even more lost than before. I imagined that the entire building was a space station and when the bell rang at three in the afternoon, all that bustle was the space station preparing to deploy to far off star systems, everyone suiting up and focused on their mission.
By then I had given up blooming at all, I was destined it seemed forever to be lost in space. The other girls by now had formed tight, ever shifting bonds of friendship that appeared to have multiple layers. If I attempted to step into them, I felt the ground always shifting under my feet.
Did she mean what she said? Why was she looking at me as though for a response? What one should I give? I was not good at being empathetic, I thought in clear terms, black and white, my mouth either uttered forth the bald truth or nothing at all; mostly nothing. This did me no favors.
I remember lying awake in the night at summer camps, hearing the whispered confessions of other girls in the cozy companionship of the dark. Sleepless, I lay awake, strangely mute. I'm certain now that this inability to speak is the result of my sexual abuse.
It came over me last week at the dentist; I sat there mute in the seat, unable to question the dentists discussing my case. I knew it must have been something powerful because I was thirty one years old and I couldn't speak. When I did speak, at last, it was as though I were finally breaking through the surface of dense water; my voice came out as though I were gasping for air.
And this makes sense to me now because the abuse began when I was three, just when language was beginning. When this feeling comes over me now, it comes over me with a feeling of desperate danger; as though if I were to make a noise, the terrible unknown would come washing up over me and my survival depended upon crouching down, motionless, like a rabbit under a hedge.
Of course this didn't save me, but the instinct toward it has never fully left. It made navigating the pitfalls of puberty even more treacherous than usual. I home schooled for two and a half years after my freshman year. For two winters I was blissfully on my own; I made up weather charts in watercolor, I spent hours in my room typing up long, long fantasies on the electric typewriter that gave me such a headache. I took my dog Samwise out with me into the winter cold to walk the deserted and ice rimed roads, beside the listening woods.
For my senior year, I decided I wanted to actually graduate; I was beginning to worry about my future, looming at me suddenly over the horizon. My parents and I choose a private Christian school and I did well academically. I made straight As, even in my dreaded speech class. Even though anxiety ate away at my stomach so terribly that sometimes I had to stand outside on the cold front steps, forcing myself to gag down an apple so I would have something in my system.
I lasted only half a year. One night I lay quietly on my bed and told my father in a quiet voice that I wasn't going to go to that school anymore and if they made me go, I would sit in the library and not move and they could come and yell at me all they wanted to.
And they did yell, those teachers, I have a vivid memory of the speech teacher shouting at me for ten minutes straight; I don't remember what he said, I remember his face red and distorted, his open mouth gleaming and the utter silence around me as the rest of the class sat with lowered head and pretended not to hear.
When I left, one of the teachers said something to my parents that I've never forgotten. She said, "The other girls made gestures of friendship to her, but she never responded."
And I thought, almost with desperation, When? When had this happened, and what had it looked like? Why was it that I had never seen it? I knew she must be telling the truth and what disturbed me so much was that I hadn't even had a hint of them. It was then that I knew my isolation from the ways of women was complete. Not only could I not speak the language, I couldn't even recognize it as words.
I'm still trying to unravel these mysteries, still trying to harness and recognize the sound of my own voice. In written word, I am fluent and powerful, confident. But in individual interactions, I still flounder.
My boss stood by my desk and vented for almost an hour. "I'm telling you these things because I guess I want advice," she finally said desperately. And I clutched at this rope as though drowning; I had sat listening, my bewilderment growing, as she went on and on.
I still question myself; is this what I wish to say? Is this my own voice, or the voice of those around me? What is it that I wish to create or to cause with my voice? And I write this out because I have a sneaking suspicion; I suspect that every woman has wondered about her voice, what she was saying, if she would ever be understood and even in the midst of friends and close society, felt alone.
Maybe the divine secret is merely that we are not alone with our insecurities and accumulated damages. Maybe the divine secret is that we all have our own language and each one is powerful and beautiful. And so I choose to write mine out loud.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I also tend to put off writing until the last moment and then, twenty minutes before work suddenly feel the need to write right now.
Daily I wage war against Excel. Yesterday, Excel won the battle. But tomorrow is another day and I won't give up until I have subjugated the system. My coworker shook her head once when I told her this; she has a great deal more experience in it than I; I often ask her for help. "You could study that program for years and never know everything it's capable of doing," she said, her tone of voice resigned and respectful.
Privately, I have come to terms with the fact that now is the time for me to resort to one of those cheerful yellow manuals that so shameless identify their target audience as "dummies."
Sometimes I feel as though I were drowning in time. It is similar to that feeling of driving west for the first time, through the night. It was election night, four years ago. My brother and I left my parent's home in the sleepy little hamlet town in the evening, my Honda full to the gills with my few material possessions.
We stopped for gas at a General store deep in Vermont. It was fully night by then and cold. The clapboard houses that lined the narrow street were stony and blank faced, looking down their gabled windows at us. I stood next to the antique gas pumps, my hands in my pockets and shivered.
What on earth was I doing? I wondered. How could I be doing this, leaving everything I had known, fallen victim to the American instinct to migrate toward the California coast? And how could it be that at twenty six years old, my most valuable possession was a cardboard box with Japanese characters on the side, filled with unused wedding invitations and yellowed e-mails in broken English?
By the time we were nearing Chicago, Bush had won the election and we were exhausted. We had underestimated how much money for gas we would need and were eager to reach our destination, so we didn't stop much.
My brother pulled over at a rest stop in some deserted stretch of highway and slept for a few hours, once. We stopped in Ohio, I think. I remember this mostly because I saw all the little foil packages of pork rind on the display stand; but this could have been a dream.
I took the wheel while driving through Wyoming, figuring that I could do no damage on those long, empty roads. I passed trucker after trucker, decked out in garish yellow lights, the chrome reflecting my headlights back into my eyes.
We cruised into our destination on our last tank of gas and no money to spare. For over a month, I slept on the floor, on couch cushions, the pillow I had brought from home scrunched under my head. I couldn't find work anywhere.
The land all around me was flat, bare and brown; the mountains rising up all along the western horizon snow covered and almost forbidding. The hundreds of new houses all huddled together in little herds like sheep, with fences round them; windows staring into windows and doorsteps running down into side yards, as though scared of wolves and with not even a nod to the dramatic and stark beauty all around them.
Somewhere along the journey it struck me how solidly landlocked I now was and it almost caused a feeling of panic somewhere deep inside me, a quickened heartbeat, as though I were being smothered. I felt the weight of Canada bearing down, the hundreds and hundreds of square miles of solid rock surrounding me.
It took me by surprise, I hadn't even lived near the ocean. We were just near enough to drive up there once or twice a summer and clamber over the spray washed rocks, look for sand dollars and watch the taffy machine pulling and stretching the colorful candy in the display window.
As I move through my days now, that same feeling of being smothered, of the pressure of rock, comes over me from time to time. This time though, I am weighed down by all the days and months I must continue to pass through. I try not to lift my head much and look at this wider vista; I try to keep my head down and focus on one foot after another, but I feel the looming pressure of all that time regardless.
I remember a phrase my father used to use, sometime in mid March. Usually the growing strength of the sun would trigger it, and as the snows piled up higher and higher, yellow grey and ice packed around the drive way, he would stare cheerfully out at the blue sky.
"Winter's back is broken," he would say. (Ever the optimist, he would also sit sunbathing on the front lawn in March, out of the wind. What can I say; the long, damp and bitter cold winters of New England make the watching and waiting for spring into somewhat of a quirky and deeply personal religion for its inhabitants.) "Winter can do its worst, but it's on its way out," he would say.
I'll have to practise saying this more.
Monday, January 26, 2009
If I thought it were within my power to call down
the half remembered rites of ancient convictions
the urgent scrambling of the psyche against inherent helplessness
those fragile, blood smeared rituals
trembling in the face of a life so much larger than conception allows-
I would do so, Darling, I would do so.
If I could hang about your person small tokens of protection
little bags of bones, coins, crumbling constructions of fear
hardly held at bay, I would, Darling- I would leave
scrips coiled in your clothing and concoctions in your inner pockets.
But I can't and I don't know them, Darling
these things weren't ever in the possession of my maternal line-
my mind, trained and bounded by the clean
unwavering assumptions of a modern education
won't allow me the small comforts of sorcery.
Instead, I'll offer up all the desperation in supplication silently
to a God I will never understand but was never able to abandon
and weave about you verses pulled from belief and childhood.
This alone must serve to protect us both;
there are, I suppose, worse things to invoke than
the mercy of a holy Mystery.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
There is a lovely routine to my days. It is a quiet and sleepy routine. At a certain point in the afternoon, I know that Keith will call me. When he calls me, he is walking under the sky full of stars, stars that look just like those at home (I asked) and it is cold, but he refuses to wear a coat, or a long sleeved shirt under his uniform jacket, because later on it will get too hot.
Then, a few hours later he will call again and then, before I go to bed, I send him a text and he calls me right before I fall asleep.
I love this routine. To know that I will receive not one, but two or three calls from him in a twenty four hour period is a luxury and I know it full well. It wasn't always like this during this deployment and it won't be like this in the near future, but while it can be, I soak it up.
A few days ago Keith called as usual. I no longer remember what we talked about. I remember it was a somewhat goofy conversation. He said as usual that he would call me in a little while. I rang off and went about my tasks.
Time went on and I didn't hear from him. I started to wonder a little, in the back of my mind, but I don't entertain the ghosts. They are always there, but I don't listen to them as long as I have the strength to resist and after half a year, I've gotten a lot stronger than I was.
So when he did call back, it wasn't with any kind of intense relief that I answered the phone, I did so in my usual manner but my husband was not at all as usual. In the space between one phone call and the next, he had come under attack. Just like that.
He couldn't talk long. I was left holding the phone, sitting at the kitchen table, wondering what to do with myself.
Now, if he were home and had, say, gotten into a car accident, first of all, he would have called me right away. And upon hearing this news, I would have had a start of anxiety and adrenalin, but I would also have had a purpose. I would have gone to pick him up or or to go with him to the hospital, just to be sure he was ok.
I would leave work. I would call my family and say, "Keith's been in an accident, but he's fine..." and I was say how it happened, because Keith would describe it to me in detail, with more profanity than proper nouns. And there would be all those sounds of dismay.
Then later that night, I would snuggle up to my husband in bed and let myself think, for just a moment, how it could have turned out differently. But it didn't and I'll wake up in the morning by the sound of the alarm going off at four forty five and Keith rolling over on top of me to shut the thing off and kissing me in that slow and lazy manner.
But he didn't get into a car accident. He's not home. He's in a foreign country and he took mortar fire. And there was nothing for me to do. That's what got to me the worst; the absolute nothing with which to respond. I tried writing; I couldn't. I tried reading; I couldn't. I felt like going around and around in the kitchen in little circles, like a hamster in a cage.
Eventually he was able to call back and simply talking to him again made my world go back almost to normal. Except for the realization that the conversation I'd had with him before could have been the last time I'd ever spoken to him. And I couldn't even remember what I'd said.
Here's the thing; over all this time, the jagged edges of fear and urgency had worn down; I had achieved balance. I think this is healthy; it must be. Without that, how can a person carry on? And one must carry on. Otherwise the dogs are not fed and the bills are not paid, otherwise when Keith calls I am depressed and anxious and then he is in turn worried and anxious and that means that not only is he deployed and responsible for a dangerous, on going classified mission, but also that he has me constantly on the back of his mind, constantly wondering how I am doing, if I'm going to be strong enough to make it through this and how helpless he is to do anything for me and it would eat away at him like acid.
But how can I balance sanity with the constant knowledge that this time, this conversation, might be the last one I ever have with my husband? And I tell myself all kinds of things. I tell myself every time I sent him off to work on post, it could have been the last time; that's life. There's no guarantees. Life has to go on.
I tell myself that the war is officially over in Iraq. That the number of casualties have dropped dramatically. That the odds are incredibly in his favor. That people have been through far worse. I think of the women who waited through World World II, hearing the broadcasts of cities taken and retaken, of war ships sinking; all those foreign places now of intimate significance to them, a personal inner landscape. And all the while waiting for either a letter, or a knock on the door.
This is all true. It is all true and yet I relinquished my husband to a land like a twisted chess game, where falling on the wrong square results in death or dismemberment. And there are no rules to it. It's chance.
Despite this, Keith goes on about his duties in an orderly and responsible manner, focused. Because it doesn't matter what is happening all around him, it doesn't matter what the numbers say, what the odds are. He will do what he is there to do regardless.
Fear will do me no favors either. I must greet fear as though a passing acquaintance; with a brief nod and then pass on. "I knew him once," I will say to myself. "He wasn't pleasant, but he taught me not to take life for granted. I should remember to send him a Christmas card this year..."
And then I'll go back to the business at hand and to being grateful for each and every time I hear my husband's voice over the phone.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I went to the dentist this morning. I went, as usual, with dread. The last time I went to the dentist it was to have five tooth extractions. It did not go well. One knows it is not going well when one hears the dentist begin to swear under his breath and hear the tremor of dismay in his assistant's voice.
At my request I was inhaling laughing gas and as high as I was on this, I was not above horror. Apparently, as is not uncommon, my wisdom teeth had grown down into the jaw and the dentist was having a hard time getting them out. When I say having a hard time, I mean his forehead was beading up with sweat. I could feel him slicing through the gums, I could feel the bits of tooth shatter, I could taste the bitterness of bone and blood.
He gave up after the second one, several hours later. He explained to me that I would have to have an oral surgeon do the rest of the extractions and then left. I stood, groggy and unsure and another dentist in the office saw me. A look of horror, pity and anger shot across his face.
"Somebody clean her up!" he shot out. Apparently, I looked like some sort of dental nightmare. To this day I wonder what my face looked like.
I was cleaned up and then sat through the consult about insurance with a very snotty lady. I was having a very hard time thinking. Then I went to Walgreens to pick up my prescriptions and waited, mouth full of gauze, in a welter of pain, for the prescription to be filled.
At home I leaned over the sink while long strings of blood came trailing out my mouth, wracked with pain and sobbing from the feeling of sheer helplessness. I was afraid to swallow the pain pill, what if it got stuck in one of the two gaping holes I now had far back in my mouth, and that I could hear make loud, squelching noises any time I moved my jaw? I was afraid to put the rolled up gauze that I had into the holes and press down, as the assistant had instructed me to do, wouldn't that be excruciatingly painful?
The next few days passed with me lying carefully on my left side, measuring each moment in terms of how the pain was peaking. The vicodin did nothing for me, I took it with Ibuprofen and waited for the pain medication to sink in. It was as though I could feel the chemicals released in a slow wash over my system, could feel it blanket the pain the way oil quiets a high sea.
I went back over the next couple weeks, as the pain was not receding and I was worried that it was infected. Also, all along the right side of my jaw and the right side of my tongue I experienced a burning, numbing sensation and it wasn't going away either.
It turned out they hadn't given me antibiotics in the first place. And because of the pain, I was unable to even open my mouth wide enough for anyone to look into the sockets and I never saw a dentist, or the dentist that had done the surgery. They said he was on vacation. When I came in there, people looked away; they hastily wrote out new prescriptions for drugs and sent me on my way.
Finally, I was recommended to an oral surgeon. When I called, the receptionist was extremely irritable over the phone and told me angrily that the surgeon didn't take on cases already begun by another dentist, I would have to go back to the original office for follow through. I carefully, in my now slurred and deliberate voice, explained to her the situation. Then she got angry again, but not at me.
"Can you come down right now?" she demanded, and despite the vicodin, I did. I drove down into the city and they had one of those rotating x-ray machines that the previous office hadn't. I was quickly x-rayed and consulted with and then the oral surgeon came in and was able to inspect the damage without hurting me.
He explained that I had been through a brutal surgery (his own words) and that I had experienced nerve damage to my right jaw which would take months to heal properly. There was no infection. He gave me a little squirty thing to rinse out the sockets.
For weeks afterwards my pleasures in life were luke warm salty water and Ibuprofen. I was also very found of pudding and spaghettio's. I went back to work and answered my phones with a accent as though I were drooling. I developed a habit of walking around with my right hand against my jaw, as though I were constantly appalled at something.
I never went back. The company was Comfort Dental; I highly do not recommend them.
However, this time around it was incredibly different. The dental assistant was very kind, especially when it became clear very quickly that I was utterly terrified. He found a sizable piece of tooth that had been left in the socket and got it out. I was thoroughly x-rayed and then the dentist came over.
There was much hushed consultation. I could hear the restrained excitement and alarm that my dental history caused in them. There was a lot of large words exchanged that I couldn't understand and that sounded dire.
"That all sounds so terrifying," I interjected, from my reclining position. There is something about being at the dentist that makes me regress into childhood; perhaps the disposable bib or the feeling of helplessness.
The dentist immediately wheeled herself over to where I could see her. I liked her at once, she had a kind and straightforward gaze and offered me her hand to shake.
"It's not," she assured me.
So now I have clean and polished teeth, a consult with an oral surgeon and another with a nerve specialist and kind and competent people over seeing my teeth reconstruction and I feel so incredibly grateful for it.
And the chili turned out much better this time around, I think I'm getting the hang of it. Now I need a new recipe for the crockpot. Any ideas?
Monday, January 19, 2009
At the beginning of this month, we were married half a year; at the end of deployment, I will have been a married woman for a year and a month. I tell myself that this is actually a good thing, because I get two years of being a newly wed, the year when he was gone and the year when he is here. I tell myself that this is what I choose when I choose to marry him a month before he deployed.
And it is true; it was my choice. Just like it was my choice each time to take his call when he was at NTC, just like it was my choice to wait all day in a state of suspended animation and then to dress in a state of unearthly calm, and then drive down through the balmy twilight as though I were trailing behind me all the expectations and plans I had had for my life, as though the long trip and the wind whipped them all free so that I arrived at his door with nothing but my self.
I knew that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that my ignorance of the military life, of deployments, of the language, of the expectations and the customs, the honor and the sacrifice, my ignorance of it all made it at once easier and inevitably excruciating in the future.
When I was a young girl, prone to weaving flowers in my hair to wear to church on Sundays and spending long hours in my room with the dormer windows and white washed, sloping ceiling, I imagined that marriage was a safe and secure harbor, an identity to cover the ragged shreds of self that otherwise I wore and a purpose all at once.
But of course, it is not. Marriage is like opening the flood gates to life, it's to be a house with all the windows wide open to the storm.
"What do you want to do?" he asked me quietly that day, as we sat at the counter in the Country Clerk's office. All around us was the quiet bustle of municipal business being put to order, our clerk busy typing up the documents, pretending not to listen.
He leaned toward me, his whole face a question. We could take the documents and marry anywhere we wanted, somewhere meaningful to us, (our clerk had mentioned several scenic spots) any time in the next two weeks, and then mail them in to be officially recorded. Or we could get married there.
I looked at him, wondering what he was thinking. The moment was full of unsaid things but in the silence of it, my thoughts settled down into a certain clarity, one that transcended the setting, the time; in that moment, everything was quiet.
"I just want to marry you," I said, and the moment broke, his face filled with light; he looked away and nodded. The background intruded, the sounds of children, the hushed voices, the light falling across the dull grey carpet through the wide, glass windows.
He accepted the documents from the clerk and stood, I caught him as he lurched, he had strained his ankle only a day ago, an ankle he had already broken twice in the course of his service and of course he refused to take pain medication and still spent long, hot hours supervising the loading of the rail cars in preparation for deployment.
We sat down in the lobby and looked, almost shyly at the document, to be sure we knew the instructions and where to sign. He signed first, authoritatively, without hesitation. Intent, I wrote out my married name for the first time, concentrating on the new loops, biting my lip.
Then we looked up and at each other, joy like light spreading over our faces.
"Hello Mrs. Indiana," he said with a triumphant grin.
"Hello," I replied, suddenly deliciously shy.
"You're stuck with me now...Ha!" he teased, his blue eyes all dancing with little lights.
That night when I welcomed him for the first time to our bed as my husband, I was caught completely unaware by the holiness of that moment.
I had had over a decade to come to terms with the loss of my virginity to a man who had lied to me, manipulated and humiliated me. I had had ten years to try and come up with a new identity, one that did not hold my virginity as the holy grail of self worth, one that did not relegate me to the bin of second hand goods, out of the package and pawed over, forever marked down.
It had been drilled into my head that the Will of God was like Dante's vision of hell, only in opposite; there were concentric circles of God's will, the highest will, the one that we can meet only through perfect obedience, and then other wills, the ones that He comes up with after we have disobeyed, forever fallen from the first vision of Godliness.
It took me years before I realized how cramped was my understanding of God's ability to redeem. It took me years before I realized the perfect freedom of redemption, of God's utter lack of fear, His utter confidence in His ability to transform our every flawed and bitter human experience into something not just equal to, but greater than our own vision. His creative work wasn't done in six days; He goes on flawlessly creating in every moment of our lives, unflinchingly and with joy.
I like to think back to all those years I didn't know my husband, but still just as much mine, those years my husband threw himself off the rocky ledge into the swimming hole on those humid Indiana nights, how he laughed and drank and lived with all the courage and passion that he holds in his heart. And I think of those years pushing through the mud and snows of Germany that forged him into the man that he is now, with complete confidence in his own strength and knowing without illusion his own weaknesses.
We have said more than once to each other a wish that we had met earlier. But I think the meeting happened at its perfect time. There's no use in longing for things that are impossible. Besides, what is real and true is so much more satisfying in the end.
Even if he is right now in Iraq, in a metal box, sleeping soundly before his next shift and all the pressures and expectations he must meet with. And me, here alone in our house, with the girls and the morning sun and the dust and the quietness of waiting. Despite this, I wouldn't have any other man; I wouldn't have any other life.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Every once in a while, Keith needs pictures to reassure him that things continue on as always here in the Indiana household. I need this as well but for a different reason; it provides excellent motivation to finally take that cat toy down from the bedroom into the study, where the cat resides and in similar manner, return all kinds of flotsom and jetsome to their appropriate places. Otherwise my discarded work badge might stay forever erroneously enshrined on the jewelry armoire, for example.
I would join in with the random picture link up over at 4 Little Men and Girly Twins but I had no digital camera last January. Instead, I put up one of the pictures I took for Keith today, one that makes the entire house look neat and therefore is definitely a keeper. And yes, down in the left hand corner is a picture of Staff Sergeant Indiana pretending to shoot me with the drill gun.
Most of the knicknacks displayed are courtsey of his mom, who is a dear heart, even though her taste in decorating and mine do not exactly mesh well. However, when I moved in with Staff Sergeant Indiana it was only months before he deployed and there was no way I was going to add to the stress by attempting a make over at that time. Furthermore, I knew I wasn't going to redecorate when he was deployed, only to have him come home to a house he couldn't recognize and had no imput in.
Consequently, I live in a house with a great deal more ceramic teddy bears than I would ever personally choose. And the fact of the matter is, I have grown to like them. This is adaptation at its best. Half a year ago if anyone had hinted that one day, in the not far future, I would be listening to country music on a daily basis, eating on John Deere table mats and sleeping in a bed that had a shot gun wedged into the frame, I would have simply died laughing.
However, now I don't know what I would do without these things. I always did love country boys, it comes of the dairy farm in upstate New York that was in my father's family for three generations and where I was brought home and placed, bundled in a blanket, in the middle of the rag rug so all my full grown and gangly legged uncles could lie down and solemnly and in wonder watch this new member of the family. Not to mention the moonshine that has been brewed on my mother's side...
Every summer we would drive back up to visit my grandparents and my best friend and as soon as I could smell the cow manure, I knew I was home and would inhale deeply this welcoming aroma. Then we would have a week or two of picking raspberries, getting dizzy on the tire swing, and playing in the creek with Laura, who had the palest skin and most beautiful red hair ever known, and a log cabin that her parents had made with their own hands.
The girls had no idea why today all this going to and fro was necessary, but they were more than happy to go up and down the stairs, tripping mommy up and generally getting underfoot all day long. There are certain places in the house that each of them have laid claim to and they will race there whenever we go near them.
One of these places is the downstairs coffee table. No sooner do I get all settled down on the couch to watch a movie than do the girls begin their dance of doggy domination. Lynn claims her spot and proceeds to snarl: "I reign! I serve the Mommy head from this Sacred Center at her feet! Come closer and I will tear your liver out through your very nostrils!"
Abby always seems to be taken by surprise at this. "Damnit, what are you getting all wrought up about?" she replies. "Well, damnit, I can be loud! I can engage! I'm brave! Wait...you're not letting me near the mom...what's up with that? Now it's on!"
At this point I have missed key opening scenes due to all this noise and annoyed, convince Lynn to stand down so Abby can leap into the breach and on to her place on the couch. There is much loud exchanges while this is happening:
Abby: Ha hahahahah...hey, that's not fair! Mo-ooom!
Lynn: Infidel! Scoundrel....what? Oh...yes, Mommy head, I obey...
I reassure Lynn that she is my girl and I don't know what I would do without her and her unfailing devotion and then I assure Abby that I love her too and to get her eighty pounds plus off my lap so mommy can breathe, and then, finally we can all settle down to watch the movie.
Until the next time...
Friday, January 16, 2009
(Note to self: failure in cooking very possibily due to combing it with writing. Consider attempting separately. Convene in a week to review findings. Bring donuts.)
Yes, I dusted off the ol' crock pot and decided to give it a go. Why not? I have lots of time on my hands and it seems embarrassing that my Sims know how to cook better than I do. And yes, therein lies the imaginary half of my domestic pursuits.
I have set up my computer in the kitchen, at the dining table. This was my next and final phase to manage winter depression; the return to my Sim families of yore. I have put this off to the bitter end because I knew, I knew, once I set it up it would swallow me whole, eat entire days at a time and I was both afraid of this and counting on it.
But this morning I knew the time had come, so I started my computer up. I haven't used it since I lived in my apartment in the city, early last summer. As soon as I did, I remembered my music files and some unexpected rap music I had enjoyed, courtesy of my younger brother. Also, old files wherein I talk to my best friend about this really unsuitable crush I was developing on a military man, a tank commander no less, and how adorable he is.
I don't recommend cooking chili; it fills the entire house with a delicious smell, but is not ready for hours, resulting, in my case, in a continued snacking. My chili turned out too watery and I put in too many pepper flakes but it was quite edible, so I think I will keep on experimenting.
Meanwhile, my Sims can cook entire roasts of turkey and stuffed trout.
and I to catch a fish-
then let this airy trap be flung
and like a gossamer trophy fall
upon your shoulders, that graced with sun,
each morning pale presented to me,
evidence in flesh of your reality,
that I have kissed most extravagantly-
to remind me of it.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
"...then dahnce with me," she says in her low and husky voice.
(When I look back at this year, I will no doubt think of it as the Year of Watching Movies, among other things.)
Keith called in the middle of this and when I explained that Abby was half in my lap in her avid pursuit of my cheesy nachos, he paused.
"Cheesy nachos?" he asked in a small, small voice. "You're eating... cheesy nachos?"
If he were using that voice and were with me, I would give him cheesy nachos along with many, many kisses, which is the point of him using it. But it's just torture when he uses it over the phone like that.
He has finished the set up of the mission and is now in the daily grind of simply overseeing it. He stays awake the entire shift, while his men take turns sleeping. I close my eyes and I can see him, sitting hunched up at a little table, a manual in front of him. It is inches thick, and a piece of scrap paper lies beside it, where he has been working out the math problems.
His legs are folded up under him, his shoulders hunched forward in concentration. He is holding in his hand a pen, one of the two pens that he always carries around in his sleeve.
"...because, hon," he explained one day last summer, "some one's always gonna ask me for one and I'll never see it again."
I used to wash his uniforms with the pens still in them; more than once it happened, before I learned to look everywhere. I had to throw away several tee shirts; the dryer is still streaked with ink.
By the time he got to page 16 he already knew how to fix something and was showing his men how to do it and cashing in on favors to get a weight bench down at his work station for his men to use on the off time.
Despite this, he longs to be back in his tank, roughing it and pushing the perimeter forward. He wishes to fall asleep with the rumble of the turbine engine under his head, the stars above, and to roll out with very big guns.
I wouldn't want him any other way, but it seems no sooner do I get used to a certain way of things, no sooner do I get settled into a mindset, "This is the way it will for the next seven months; I can do this, this is not so bad," than it changes up and I must rearrange my own internal support system.
"I been thinkin' about our road trip," Keith said to me this evening, his voice carefree in that moment.
We plan to go visit his family in Indiana and mine in New England during block leave. I think about this often as well, about the joy of pulling out, the tent and ATV behind us, just the two of us, on a journey of our own.
We'll be able to stop whenever we want, rough it and go trail riding, or stay in a plush hotel, which ever we feel like. We'll stop for coffee and argue about the radio station and watch America go by. I've always wanted to go on a road trip and this would be the first time.
Both of us feel that the days are flying by and it is true, they seem to be. Already January is half over, where did the days go? I count the months down as though doing penance, each month has a feel all its own.
I know very soon it will be February and February will pass by quickly, it being so short. And March will be filled with late winter snow and the sunlight growing heavy and spring alive in the tree branches and the running water. And April will smell like lilacs and look like daffodils and I'll keep the windows open, even when I feel the chill.
May will be a riot of green running down the southern backs of hills and it will turn into the heat of summer and June will be mowing the lawn and putting my hair up off the back of my neck and putting potted plants out along the back deck. July will be breathless with heat and anticipation and August will be nothing more than a welter that will slowly melt away like chocolate left in the car.
The nights will be hot and each day will be one day closer to seeing him and then there will be that moment when I must see him come in, but won't be able to go to him, and must instead stand and wait for the ceremony to be over. I don't know how I will manage that, but I've managed everything else so far, so I know I will.
Despite this knowledge, the knowledge of how quickly it will all pass by, sometimes as I drive to work I look up to the ridge of mountains standing up sharp and immediate all along the western horizon. The feeling comes over me that we must still be up there, skimming along through the pines, our shadows racing along beside us in the clear, cool mountain air, up so high it seems the whole world is laid out in green folds before us. And if I could just find my way back up all those winding dirt roads and high along the ridges where the trails twist and turn in the cool pine shadows, I might still hear echoes of our voices.
This morning as I sat at my desk, I remembered the first time working with my father. He was an installer for a family owned window treatment business and they were swamped with work. I helped my father out and then got hired on full time.
I started working up stairs with the other women, mostly older; hard talking, hard laughing women who had lived in the city all their life, descendants of the French Canadians who had come down to work the mills.
The mills were empty now, or turned into office and retail space, but I enjoyed sitting on the large, cluttered receiving table during their smoke breaks, listening to their tales of recalcitrant husbands, craft fairs and adult children while the cigarette smoke wreathed the air above their permed heads.
It wasn't long, though, before I was working downstairs with my father, as he was also the upholsterer and they were swamped with work. I started with the easiest step and worked my way up; one morning I came down the stairs to see the cording arranged in a dollar sign. This was my father's way of hinting at the pay increase I would get if I could manage this step of the process; not many people could.
The cellar space was huge, one half closed off. A row of windows looked out over the sluggish river that seemed to erode the foundation of the building on a daily basis; the whole building tilted toward the muddy water.
There was a wide door that could be swung open, revealing the verdant green of the river bank and letting in some much needed fresh air. There was a radio high up in one corner under a heap of grey sawdust, put up high in hopes of better reception. We got radio channels from Boston, I heard Coldplay's "Yellow" and David Gray's "Forgive Me." I was listening to that radio on 9/11; when the second tower went down, I laid down my nail gun and wept.
I worked down there for hours, learning my way around a nail gun and the saws. When the boss wasn't around, I'd slip my feet out of my Birkenstocks and worked barefoot. If I wore shoes at the end of any day there were at least three or four staples sunk deep into the soles and I'd pry them out with my fingernails. With bare feet, I walked delicately, feeling for the screws, staples and slivers of wood before putting my weight down.
My boss caught me once and sighed.
"Just know that if you cut your foot, you're not getting any worker's comp."
"It's a deal," I said simply.
The boss was a large man of German descent and whose service in the Navy had marked him indelibly. When he got mad, he roared, his face looking something like a squashed tomato. His wife was the designer, a thin, sharp faced woman who tried to look younger than she was and came down fluttering swatches of fabric to ask my father's opinion on a project. I tried and mostly succeeded in avoiding them both.
My father taught me how to upholster the cornices, how to feel the edges with the palm of my hand, how to hide the stitches, how to place the fabric to show the pattern to the best advantage. He taught me that to get a crisp and elegant look along the edge, I had to be brave and slice the fabric almost to the face, believing that the cord would hide the cut.
Soon I was moved permanently down there, since I wasn't making much progress on the industrial sewing machines that went about ninety miles an hour and always seemed about to eat my fingers off. I was producing cornices with as much speed and elegance as my father, my rows of staples even and seamless. If there were two or three in a batch, I could make each one identical to the others, a difficult thing to do with the thin, silk fabrics that pulled so easily.
Determined to learn the whole process, I devised a way of getting the eight by four feet pieces of plywood up on the saw using my toe as leverage and throwing the whole strength of my back into tilting it up and on. From that point on, I didn't need the help of any of the men and could plan, build and upholster the entire cornice, start to finish.
I would arrive at quarter to six and fill the biggest mug I could find with coffee. The project manager always kept real cream on hand and I poured it in lavishly, until my coffee was the silky color of almonds. Then I would descend into the damp cold of the cellar, down the winding wooden back stairs, flipping the lights on as I went.
My tools would be just as I had left them, my work place neatly swept and my work laid out for me, to pick up where I had left off. I would put my mug of coffee down and look around me with deep satisfaction; I was a crafts person.
My work sold for hundreds of dollars and were all over the area, I had done the cornices in the lobby of the famous Prudential Tower in downtown Boston. The fabric for those had been silk striped in wide bands of gold and silver and with no cording at the bottom edge, the most difficult style to do, as there is no way to hide an error.
Often the entire building would be working for weeks on a huge project, hundreds of window treatments for new retirement homes going up around the Boston area. When it was almost complete, my father would load up the work van and I would drive with him down into the city, my window rolled down so the extra long rods could hang out.
My father is a crazy driver, it was quite common for him to have a sandwich in one hand, his cell phone in his other and to drive with his knee or the palm of his hand. We would listen to the radio blaring loud, classical music.
On those install trips, we worked fourteen, fifteen hour days. Often the other workmen would be finishing up their projects as well, carpet layers and painters would look up and look again, startled to see a girl with messy dark hair walking in with an six foot cornice balanced on her shoulder, a tool belt around her dusty jeans.
We worked late into the evening, the building deserted and eerie. As soon as the other workers left, I would kick my shoes off and leave pale footprints on the windowsills as I screwed in brackets, the screws in my mouth, my shoulders aching.
Then we would climb into the now empty van and drive downtown, dusty and sweaty, to eat dinner on the boss. I would run my fingers through my hair and retie it as neatly as I could. We ate very well, I distinctly remember a dinner at Legal Seafood, all the lights and the quiet voices and the tantalizing smell of the food.
Then we would drive back up into the deep woods of New England, the wind rushing by the open windows, exhausted and lost in thought and listening to the evening program of WGBR. In between the adagio for strings and the piano concertos would be the advertisements for the Boston Pops and for Neena's Lighting showroom, her accented and elegant voice as much a part of my childhood culture as Macmillan/McGraw textbooks and apple picking in the fall.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Cue instantaneous flashback to R&R. I'm sitting on the lawn chair in the garage, lost in reverie and bundled up against the cold, Keith's coat thrown over my knees. There is the smoky smell of the kerosene heater and the little clanks and clatter of Keith at work nearby.
Keith has one of his CDs playing and this song comes on; I look up to see him coming toward me with a hopeful smile, in his eyes an invitation, his hand outstretched. I take it and he helps me get up gingerly from the chair, my back stiff with pain. But he takes me gently in his arms and we dance slowly around the space between the truck and the ATV, his head against mine.
And he sings softly to me the lyrics "...now I know the woman that you are..." and I sing back "...I don't care what consequence it brings, I've been a fool for lesser things..." And the song ends and we hold each other and he kisses me and I stand perfectly still, eyes closed and abandoned; wishing for that exact moment in time to be eternal.
(I love you so much, Sweetie! Thank you for giving me such beautiful memories to keep. I can't wait for you to come back and we can make more!)
When I was living in New England, the first job that I was proud of was to be the afternoon teacher's aid at a very small private preschool called Happy Valley Day School. This was a small, grey painted clapboard building lost in the little hills. There was a back field and a long, green lawn and woods all around, with towering hemlocks that sheltered the snow far into spring.
I loved this job; for an entire afternoon it was my joy to preside over a small and wild tribe of young children. One snowy afternoon I took them up to the crest of the hill, where the woods began and where the south facing slope caught the best of the light. Here, already the snow had melted and the ground was warm and dry; down in the field the snow still lay in glistening, white heaps that hurt the eye.
The children played in and out of the trees, lost in their own world, their high, clear voices carrying far in the clean air and the wind rushed through the heavy bows of the evergreens with a sound like the ocean. I lay back on the tangled ground and closed my eyes, feeling the sun sink into my bones.
I gathered them up later, to return for a mid afternoon snack and a quiet nap and they went leaping ahead like gazelles, sending the snow flying up, shouting out their glad joy like the wild things that they were. The sun caught on golden curls and knitted and soaked mittens. I followed behind them and wanted that moment to last forever.
They always wanted me to tell stories and I would tell them of the Princess and the Glass Mountain or The Good Servant; fairy tales untouched by Disney's softening influence, still vibrant with the ragged edges of good and evil and alive with all the twists and wild fancies of human imagination.
Their faces would watch me, rapt, absorbing every motion, as I stood, now become the beautiful princess with no heart, at the edge of the cliff, the sea raging at the foot, holding out her golden ring between two fingers and then dropping it. And it would fall, a tumbling spark of light, to disappear into the surf below.
"Find me my ring by dawn tomorrow, and you can have my hand in marriage," she says, the wind whipping her silken skirts, sending them billowing out over the edge.
And their collective breaths would come out with a little sigh and they would squirm a little closer, grouped about me on the grass, some hanging off my shoulders; they knew she lied. But they also knew that all the fish of the sea would come to the Good Servant's aid, because they owed him a debt to repay.
And they would stay still to hear the end of the story, when the Good Servant returns triumphant, throwing open the doors to the Great Hall, his worn boot heels ringing on the polished floor, to stride up to his beloved and heartless princess, to humble and exalt her both by his unforeseen victory and to bring about the inevitable happy ending.
(I always loved fairie tales, can you tell?)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
This was right about the time that I was in the Mall. Yes, I entered the hallowed halls of American consumerism and was overwhelmed. I stuck to my literary and went straight to Hallmark, hoping to find stuff for Keith's Valentine care package.
That was a little rough. I thought I was prepared and it wasn't like I was completely run over by the holiday advertisements. I'm not sure what it was. I felt slightly bedraggled and a little lost, is the best way to explain it. I kept getting teary eyed for no good reason and I would have to blink frantically.
Maybe it was because the store itself seemed bedraggled, most of it was Christmas stuff on half price, most of the shelves were empty. It wasn't the soothing experience that I wanted it to be, I wanted to be enveloped in the warm, nougat-y heart of needless nick knacks and well wishes, not to be depressed by what I assume are signs of a terrible economy.
Finally I found something that I liked and escaped. Safe in my car, I sent my husband another text and headed off to...Walmart. The salesclerk at Hallmark gave me a tip about finding confetti there. I found pink confetti, heart shaped post it notes, a John Deere calender, ATV and Diesel truck magazines and facial scrub.
But still no call or text from Keith, which is not like him. Finally, he called as I was driving home.
"So," he said, his voice warm with tender humor, "...you missed me a little, huh?"
I laughed. "You picked up on that, did you?"
"Yeah, kinda....you little kitten. How's your day been?"
(It turned out the internet connection at his FOB had temporarily gone down, by the time he could check his e-mail, he had four e-mails from me, something which thrilled him to no end.)
I was happy to tell him all about it, but he eventually pried out of me what I'd bought for him; the man does ruin all his surprises.
The dogs have rediscovered an old past time; digging for treasures in Bean's litter box. I know Abby; she wants to be good, she longs to be good, but life throws so many tempting obstacles her way, like the intriguing smell of the large, covered grey box.
"Just a little sniff," she tells herself. "Just to check to make sure everything is A-OK with that creature I'm not suppose to eat. I mean, you never know; it could be plotting dasterdly deeds and since I can't ever manage to get near it's butt, this is the next best thing...Mom will never know...and anyway, I'm doing it for her."
But what Abby forgets is that she is covered in glossy black fur and the grey cat litter shows up all along her muzzle like a neon "guilty" sign. So when she comes trotting out, looking all innocent and onto the next thing ("What are those neighbors doing? Unloading groceries! That is not acceptable...!") she is shocked and dismayed, downright hurt, to receive a scolding instead of the praise she was expecting.
I have since wedged the little box into a position where Bean has access, but the dogs do not. Oh well, it's just a matter of time before they find something else to get into.
It's that time of the month and it hit me like a sixteen wheeler. I actually left work two hours after I got there, due to the horrible nausea. The cramps must have been agravating my back injury, because I felt the pain all down my legs and into my ankles.
It was so liberating to think, "I'm done. I'm going to go home and take care of myself. I don't have to force myself to go on like this." Which is what I normally do, and what got my back into such bad shape. I have to drill into my head sometimes that it's OK to let go. I've discovered in the past year or so that so much of my self value lies in what I can shoulder through like the stoic Yankee that I am; I always want myself to pull myself up, heartly, by the bootstrings.
However, today I took a sick day. On the way home, I bought Motrin and rented movies and then changed into my PJs as soon as I got home. I have been watching them all day. I did notice though, that today at five thirty the sky was a deep and velvety blue, instead of the pitch black that I remember from earlier. Well, I have one more movie to watch and some chips and salsa with my name on it...
Friday, January 9, 2009
"That I am," I replied, "and I'll get right on that e-mail for you, Staff Sergeant Indiana."
He likes to know how my day went, even when it's the same, boring stuff over and over again; so here's how my day went.
My day started at 12:05 am, which was the last time I looked at the clock but not by any means the time at which I went to sleep. I have decided it's official; I've morphed into a Creature of the Night, I might as well go with it. I just need to pick up a few Goth pieces to spice up my wardrobe and I'm there.
The next thing of note that happened was my hearing and ignoring a phone call at 8:30 am because I didn't recognize the number. I rolled over and nearly into the very large black lab that likes to sleep hunched up around my pillow, which made Abby think that mom was getting up, which is a very exciting event in the household.
Mom was not getting up, she stuffed her pillow over her head to avoid lavish demonstrations of doggy love and to send the message to abort all calls for waking. With a humph of disappointment, Abby thumped her large self back down on the bed to wait it out. She could be patient; she knew the time would come.
Two minutes later the phone rang again and I had to respect the unknown person's persistence, I picked it up with a feeling of misgiving.
Indeed; I was suppose to be at work at that very hour. My coworker is a very nice girl and told me not to bother coming in until 10:30. Consequently, at ten of ten, I rolled my groggy self out of bed and the girls leaped for joy. There was much wiggling of doggy butt and alertness of tail.
I made the bed. I always make the bed and I do so because spending...oh, let's not say, shall we?...on bedding is rather motivating when it comes to making it. Damn it, I'm not letting that money go to waste; I will have the throw pillows arranged just so and the sheets will be straight.
I went downstairs. This may seem simple, but not when two waist high dogs are hurtling themselves down on either side of you, heedless of their bodily safely, or mine, for that matter. I released the wild things into the back yard.
I considered coffee, but I had left myself no room for inessentials. I went up stairs to perfect my daily toilet; which really means I brushed my teeth, I put on cold cream, I considered the mouth wash, but dismissed it, mouth wash being one of those products where I think the pain and discomfort far outweigh the benefits. Like curling irons.
I dressed in the exact same outfit I had worn the day before, on my day off. No one at work would know and everything was perfectly clean and already color coordinated. I had decided to wear this at 9:36 am, when I told myself I really should get up now, and I replied no, not when there is a handy outfit nearby and my hair still slightly damp from my shower the night before. (My hair is so long now and so thick that it can stay wet for a full 12 hours or longer, depending on weather conditions.)
Then I stood at the foot of the stairs and lectured the girls. "Do not chew on anything." They tilted their heads at me, there was some half hearted tail wagging. "I mean it," I reiterated.
Lynn lifted her ears inquisitively, Abby looked out the window, wondering where that damn squirrel had got to and what she would do when she got her teeth on that little piece of infuriating fur and if it went into the sacred space of the Back Yard one more time, why, she's show that...
"Abigail, I mean you," I said, meaning business. "No chewing."
"Right," thought Abigail. "And I really must chew more on that intriguing display of edibles placed so conveniently at the foot my Sleeping Place."
"Especially not the flower arrangement my dad made."
"Oh look! A shadow moved outside! It moved!"
I stepped into my Mary Jane flats and went out the door, coat-less, with fifteen minutes to get to work. I instantly regretted not having a coat, the temperature had dropped twenty degrees overnight and the sky loomed only a few yards above the roof line, ragged and grey; already a few flakes of snow drifted down past my chilly nose.
I attempted to open the garage door, but it choose to ignore my first few attempts, as usual, before allowing me in. This is, I think, the garage's way of saying accusingly, "We know you are not Keith. We know." (Why the garage is a plural entity, I don't know. It just is. Perhaps because in the Indiana household, the garage holds as much weight as Royalty.)
I drove the speed limit all the way to work, because Darling, I always drive the speed limit. Or even under, sometimes. And why do I do this? I do this because my loving husband put my car on his insurance, thereby saving us money, but increasing his premium by an unthinkable amount.
That accident, by the way, wasn't my fault, the roads were icy and that other thing, that was just a fender bender. And all my speeding tickets were years ago, when I was young and heedless. Now I am wiser. And slower. So slow I get passed by Grannie Marguerite on her way to the quilting social, her grey and coiffed head barely above the wheel. In fact, she honks at me and rolls her eyes as she goes by.
I arrive at work and am nervous because I have messed up my schedule already. However, I brave my boss's office for the good coffee. All the department heads are grouped together there, for the daily morning meeting. This is the one time in their day when they pretend to be friendly; the rest of the day is spent in their respect offices, arranging skirmishes, choosing battlefields and trying out new weapons.
"Good Morning, Team," I say cheerfully, waving my white flag wildly (I am a neutral country; I am the office Switzerland; don't shoot!) and escape unscathed with my caffeine.
I start the day out right by transferring a call straight to the Big Cheese without warning her who it is and what it's about, and right in the middle of the meeting. I feel the waves of annoyance washing out into my humble work space. I hide behind my computer and pretend to work and resolve to be more firm on the phone. (I will not transfer you, I will ask your name and business, I will ignore your officious tone of voice, is my mantra.)
I proceed to sort through the daily heaps of on line applicants. At first, I did exactly as my coworker instructed me to do; to type their name, cut and past a pre written note and send it off. However, the message is as gushy as Auntie Gertrude without giving any essential details, which leads to my then receiving extremely excited, hopeful and yet slightly confused replies back like this:
"I am so glad you would love to meet me in person! I would love to come in and meet with...whoever sent me that e-mail, if only I knew the address... But I'm so happy you liked my resume and I look forward to learning more about your community...like your phone number would be great."
I felt bad sending such a mixed message, especially as our group interviews are booked into next month. So, being the free thinker that I am, I deviated from policy and started sending my own message depending upon their resume and cover letter. I even *gasp* deleted some without answering, because why even get their hopes up? It just seems cruel.
I then went on to do other exciting things like input data. This is a project I was put on after the Big Cheese pulled me off another project, one that the department head had called me at home about in the morning, so she could claim me first. (Are there too many italics in this blog, do you think? Be honest.)
Yes, the Department Heads are like children in the back seat, claiming the things that go by just as they see them. (Did you ever do this as I child? My younger brothers and I did, it was awesome family bonding time. Dad even pitched in; he added things like, "Don't make me pull this car over!")
In the middle of this mess my cell rang its sweet, sweet tune. I tossed the cordless office phone to my coworker, whose fate it is to work in the bowels of the office space, rearranging endless personnel files under the relentless glare of the fluorescent lights. I got to escape to the cool and quiet lobby space and talk to Staff Sergeant Indiana.
Soon he had to go, because he's a very busy guy over there, but not before it was reestablished that I'm his sexy kitten and he loves me very much. (I love you, Sweetie!!! You're my Darling Staff Sergeant!!!)
Ok, enough embarrassingly public sweet talk. (I love you!!! I told the sky to stop snowing, but I'm not sure it listened...) Ok, really enough. And I had better speed up the pace of my day, because this really is becoming a long, long blog.
I was forced to do a tour of the community for a potential move-in. I have never done one before. It was horrible. End of story. The evening receptionist came in a half hour early, I knelt and kissed her feet; OK, I didn't, but I was really, really glad she came early and I escaped out into the snowy afternoon.
I drove home with my shoulders up around my ears, a chronic condition due to stress at the office. Opening the door, I was greeted by two effusive girls who thought that maybe mommy would never, never come home again!
After they had transferred a sufficient amount of doggy hairs over my clothes, I sent them out into the snow covered back yard, knowing this meant dirt all over the wood floors and the delicate aroma of eau de soggy dog for the rest of the evening. There was nothing for it. They think the toilets are large, elegantly crafted drinking bowls; it would never occur to them to use them for anything else.
I popped in a bowl of left over skillet dinner I had made last night. (Sante Fe Chicken; not bad and priced Walmart-style.) Then I watched "Mansfield Park" because there's nothing like the uptight English in restrictive undergarments to pick up a girl's spirits at the end of a stressful day.
I finished off my skillet dinner with chips and dip, brewed a pot of tea (it was green tea with orange, and jasmine essences-it smells vaguely like cake batter; yes, little bro, that very same tea we drank when you suffered, friendless, in my apartment last spring. Memories...)
I finished off the entire pot and then I sat down to write this. (Note to self: reconsider diet. Poss. less tea.) I did manage to drink a glass of OJ, which is, after all, one of the Foods-for-Life.
And there it is; a day in the life of me. I'll do the same thing tomorrow, but I'll put that in an e-mail for Keith, I won't make the rest of you suffer through twice.
Cheerio, my faithful, nameless lurkers and regular readers!
(Btw, Sweetie, check your in-box.)
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I would place my feet carefully in the dark, along the oil stained concrete floor, avoiding the arms of angular and mysterious mechanical equipment. I would follow down the narrow back space, past the walk in deep freeze with its ominous steel door, thick and covered with a sheen of ice.
Back further into almost complete dark and then up a step into the store room beyond, where the ceiling lowered down so far even I had to walk bent over, where discarded toilets made the space seem tainted and then out, out through square, wooden door.
Beyond the door lay a small, level green lawn, bordered by trees at one edge and facing a set of stone steps set roughly into the steep hill. The sunlight would be sweet and strong and the silence heavy. Poised like a bird for flight, I would wait, listening to the silence, for any small sound beyond it.
I could hear the distant conversation of two Bible School students, so far away their voices were like faint music, and the rustling of a small creature in the woods, the clank of mechanical work going on in the shop beyond the short, steep hill. Nothing else.
I would dart across the lawn, my feet fearless on the grass, across the rim of the hill and into the copse of woods beyond. I would flit up through the trees, around the red painted Carriage house with its clean, white trim. Before me the garden, with its traitorous open space and the clothes lines, draped with linens lightly lifting in the summer air, pale pinks, buttercup yellow and pinstripe blue.
When I was a child, there were cookies kept in the pantry down the long, narrow back hall and a little door into the cooler into which the sweating, cold jars of fresh milk were passed. There were deep drawers in the kitchen, one for sugar, one for raw oats, one for flour. There was a vast basement with long, angled corridors, dusty and cobwebbed, where the shelves held the jeweled colors of canned vegetables.
There was a secret passage up into the attic and there were window seats up there and discarded books. I sat curled up there for hours, reading an ancient etiquette book, learning how to curtesy, how to recieve calling cards and how to assemble a warddrobe. The sun fell in long shafts through the window panes, turning all the floating dust motes to glittering gold and faint I could hear voices from outside, from three stories down.
I would go out into the sweet evening air, my feet calloused and trustworthy on the roughly paved roads, back home to where dinner waited; I would shake the milk and the cream into a froth and drink it in one long, thirsty swallow.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Despite this, I somehow have the feeling that I will be eighty eight years old and tottering down the hall at the retirement center, toothlessly grumbling to myself because Barbara Ann has a corner room facing south.
And all the while, Barbara Ann is on the phone to her long suffering daughter complaining about the noise from her next door neighbor, who is deaf as a post and watches reruns of "Survivor" very loudly late into the night and secretly envies me the fact that I'm on the first floor and on a quiet hallway.
One of my favorite ladies moved downstairs, to the secure unit, because she was wandering away so often. She wandered because she couldn't remember that her husband of more than sixty years had died last summer.
We used to see her tottering around from time to time, frail and gaunt, peering around corners. "Have you seen my husband?" she would ask, in tones of anxious tenderness. "I just don't know where that man has gone to!"
We used to try redirecting her with statements like, "Isn't he at work, my dear?"
"Oh no!" she would protest, gently but firmly. "He retired from the Navy years ago. No, he's around here somewhere..."
"Well, I'm sure he'll be right back," I used to say. "Wouldn't you like a cup of coffee in your room while you wait? If I see him, I'll tell him you're looking for him."
"Oh, would you?" she would ask in utmost relief.
Every once in a while a look of complete desolation would wash over her face; she would stare about her in horror and then the expression would pass away, leaving emptiness behind.
One night we had to take turns sitting with her. It was in the empty dining room, and it was late. The only sound was of the heater purring away. The electric lights glinted off all the silverware and coffee cups.
She sat with a bowl of Frosted Flakes in front of her, eating them without milk, a few at a time. Every once in a while she would look up.
"These are delicious," she would say, in surprise. "I must pick up a box of these the next time I go out."
After another few minutes of peaceful silence, she would remark, "Aren't those flowers so fresh and pretty to look at?"
I looked at the flowers in the vase, they were wilted and browning at the edges. Her hands, as she picked at the cereal, were almost transparent with age, the bones and all the red and blue veins showed through the translucent skin. Her face beneath the unruly shock of brittle white hair was gaunt with age, the eyes staring out, red shot.
But her expression was peaceful, and when she looked about her, she saw fresh flowers and something she would pick up later for the boys to eat for breakfast. She was a salesclerk at a dress shop and had to look nice for the customers. Her youngest was soon to graduate from college, the other had enlisted in the Army; she was terribly proud of them both.
And her husband was waiting for her at home, safely retired and still dressing neatly because one can't throw off the habits of twenty years of Naval service just like that. She would get him a sweater for Christmas, as she always did.
"I do think a sweater makes a very good Christmas present," she told me, gracious, dignified, and dying.
There was no one waiting for her at home, one son was estranged from her and the other had died long before her husband did. She did not go home that night; she went downstairs where they could keep her from going out into the bitter cold trying to look for her car so she could drive home and prevent her husband from worrying himself sick.
In the month or so that followed, she would try again and again to ring him up. She would give the nurse her old number in South Carolina, every digit of it perfectly remembered, and urge her to try and get a hold of him.
"My phone is just not working," she would say, leaning against the door post. "I know I'm being a pest, but if I could just reach him...he doesn't know where I am. I never planned on staying here, you know. I can't stay the night. I just can't reach him..."
As I write this, tears are streaming down my face and I know that, at last, I am releasing the grief that I've been carrying around with me since surrendering Keith back to the desert. And it's not just the loss of his physical presence, it's the way that the distance and the circumstances make reaching him so hard. It's the loss of the easy intimacy that comes with living together.
Well, now I have had my cry and Keith called right in the middle of it and his warm and loving voice was just so...perfect. And tomorrow is my day off so I can wake in a leisurely manner and do some cleaning and go out on a few errands, do some much needed grocery shopping.
Maybe it will be a sunny day and maybe I will appreciate what I have while I have it. If I can manage to do this, then maybe when I'm eighty eight years old I'll be sitting in my rocker in the sun, drowsy and dreaming of everything life gave me.
upon this playful breeze now carried
through the listening dark, shadowed thick,
and the fitful fall and leap of errant bug,
past sleeping fields unruly,
past patient plots of well trimmed grass,
over rippled water's silver sheen, over
deep blue lakes left slumbering
and whirled in graceful eddies round
street lamps, lighted windows and restful streets.
Caught up suddenly in stronger currents,
the little kiss is sucked out to sea and
made puppet of the rougher weather.
Over endless glittering peaks and
jade green hollows, those endless
uncharted fathoms it follows,
ever closer until rising up out of the water
the distant and foreign coast is reached.
Faster now, the desert winds cold and
bitter escort this kiss past rutted
roads and rubble, mortar marks
and empty, blasted trucks. Until
finally to your door arrived,
floating light and gossamer,
well blessed by night's sweet breath
carried close all those distances
from home and in innocent relief
at the last to alight upon
your dear and dusty face.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
1. Link to the person that tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
4. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
5. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website.
6. Let your tagger know when your entry is up.
Hmmm......random things about me.
1. I am have two baby teeth that never fell out, because there aren't the adult molars underneath them, making me a freak of dental nature. Also, because of this, the Tooth Fairy owes me some loose change.
2. I have saved every single one of the My Little Ponies that I played with for hours on end as a child. I had them arranged in family clans and the drama of their lives rivaled that of any daytime soap opera any day.
3. Right now, on my bedside table there is a little wooden statuette of a peaceful looking girl reading a book, my copy of the snapfish book I made, the nasty alarm clock, The Stranger (now used to cover the glow from the horrible green numbers on said clock) and a quiet and contemplative picture of my husband and I from this summer. Also, a hair tie and my spare glasses.
On my husband's bedside table, there is a half empty Gatorade bottle, a pistol and resting on top of the matching massive lamp, his Budweiser cap.
4. I am afraid of fish.
5. The last thing I ate was a large bowl of Fruit Loops. It did not agree with me; I don't recommend eating Fruit Loops after 9pm.
6. I still count on my fingers.
Ok, I tag:
Lala over at What? Mermaids?
Abbie over at Satisfy My Soul
T over at The Quest for T
.becca. at Lovely Yellow Ribbons
Kristen at Me and My Soldier
Have at it, if you wish! :)
I choose Camus. At first I liked him; he had that deceptively simple language and unmistakably male voice that reminds me of Hemingway (and again, here I must say that I haven't read a great deal of his, and I vividly remember hating "The Old Man and the Sea" when forced to read it in school-that poor old man! But I love his Islands in the Sun, I love his descriptions of the young boys, of the food and most of all, of that alcoholic drink that his character is always mixing.)
In anycase, soon I was extremely disliking The Stranger, mostly because he goes on to whine about the fact that he was found guilty because he didn't cry at his mother's funeral. Actually, he was guilty because he shot a man, and as far as I can see, he shot the man because in a single moment he realized he had a choice, to shoot or not to shoot, and he wanted to shoot, so he went back and did so. And all that blather about the sun in his eyes and the heat, while excellent descriptive writing, is no excuse.
But who am I to say? And perhaps the reason that it made me feel so intensely is the reason it's considered such great literature. Maybe it's better in its native language; maybe JLC has read it in French?
Wha ha! I have figured out linking! And now I'm embarrassed because it was ridiculously easy.
I have been thinking a lot about .becca.'s Would You Rather? Tuesday question, and after much deliberation, I think I would prefer to have a magnetic head to being forced at threat of a slap, to preface everything I said with, "Tuck it in." After all, a magnetic head might come in handy finding loose change, scissors, that sort of thing and the worst that I can imagine happening to me is that my head would become stuck at an awkward angle to my car door before I could wrench it loose.
And, in case you can't tell already, I am still not sleeping. I lay awake last night, my head dizzy and swimming with exhaustion, and still unable to sleep.
"You need a warm, hairy back to snuggle up to," said a dear old lady and good friend of mine, yesterday, and it was so unexpected that I burst out laughing.
Last night I was caught in the irresitible tractor beam of the double yellow arch and ordered a Big Mac. The smell of the fries then tortured me the entire rest of the way home, where I inhaled everything. I hope this does not become a habit.
This morning I looked through the sliding glass doors to the deck, and saw the snow had melted off the chair and foot stool waiting there, both of them caught in the sun.
It's a whole different thing, waiting for summer and deployment's end at the same time. Now if only I can stay alert enough at work. One more day, one more day...
Sunday, January 4, 2009
In the morning, I found myself paralized by the crisis of wearing brown socks and a black shirt. My clothing is divided into two worlds; the brown and creams and the black, white and grays. They come complete, each with their own flats, heels, and coats, and most importantly; they do not mix.
What could I do?? Change my shirt? But then, I'd have to change the entire outfit...or the socks! But I had no black socks clean. I stood there, brown socks in hand; stuck in a moment, as U2 has sung.
I had to take myself firmly in hand. "Jenny," I told myself, "no one cares if you pair one neutral tone with another. Your entire warddrobe is in neutral tones. You could mix and match every single thing in there and come away with a perfectly acceptable outfit. Get dressed already.
(I ended up changing the entire outfit, by the way. I wore black stockings.)
I sat at my desk, lost amid the heaping piles of addressed envelopes, unaddressed envelopes and sticky labels and thought, my god, surely it can't be only four thirty. At that point, I was eight and a half hours into my eleven hour day and there simply isn't enough coffee in the world to compensate. If I had hiccuped, I would have hiccuped stamps.
My dinner was an entire box of bagel bites pizza, a chocolate Popsicle and the last chocolate in the box. No doubt this will contribute to some rockin' dreams later on. The bagel bites were left over from Keith's spontaneous shopping expedition; he didn't have enough time to eat them all.
It snowed yesterday night, I drove to work in about five inches of snow. As I pulled out of the small street we live on, I vividly remembered doing the same thing a few weeks ago, with Keith.
Only that time he had pulled up on the emergency break, which sent my car swinging free in a flying arc across the hard packed snow. I had screamed out loud in sheer terror, and ended on a note of pure outrage when I saw his hand on the brake.
But it was too late, my reaction made it only more tempting and he did it once more before I snatched his beloved cap off his head and dangled it outside the open window, which reduced him to begging and laughing both. I gave him back his cap after he promised, but I also made him keep his hands in sight...just in case.
He has long ago reached his FOB, where he found to his extreme displeasure that he was put back on the classified mission. This is actually a compliment and I'm incredibly proud of him, but he tends to think of it as an around the clock pain in the ass. However, lately when he calls he sounds focused and satisfied.
He took the snapfish book with him and told me that it stands proudly on a little table and that everyone who sees it asks how I managed to do it. I finished putting together the one for our first Christmas and it should arrive sometime this week. I'll send it to him in a care package. I hope it turns out as good as the first one.
"I have my note pad with me," my husband told me proudly, yesterday. "I made it my mission today to write you a letter; you little kitten."
He's going to send it with the Rock Star game and guitar that he bought recently, for fifteen dollars.
"Play the game, hon, but don't play so much you get really good at it," he cautioned me. "Because then when I get home, you'll be great and I'll suck and, you know me, I have to win. So that wouldn't work out too well." I could hear the grin in his voice and it made me laugh. I promised him I would play only occasionally.
He does have a guitar in his study, but I have never heard him play it.
I'm not sleeping lately. I stay perpetually awake, alert, words winging around in my head like a noisy flock of crows. And not even very important words; just an endless cycle of idle thoughts.
I found that marvelous little gadget, the "Feedjit." I have realized that my blog is not actually in some small and dusty corner, but a slow but steady stream of visitors pass through, sometimes from odd places.
Like, the two people so far who arrived directly from a site called Zsa Zsa Gabor. Fancy that. I expect these visitors did not find exactly what they were searching for!
Also, someone who was googling "microwave beeps 09" landed directly on my site. This makes me curious. Why would a person google that particular subject? Did they receive a microwave as a Christmas present, and in the excitement of the moment, throw the instructions away with the gift wrap? Did they by any chance get a defective microwave, one that is mute, perhaps, or maybe one that beeps maniacally away at all hours of the day?
In any case, I wish them luck on their google journeys! The Web is a weird and mysterious place; I hope they don't get too lost.
I keep waiting to see a hit from Iraq. I recently sent my husband a link to my blog. He didn't read it actively until R&R, when he came upon a half written blog I was working on and got, to use his own works, "hooked and glued" to it.
He doesn't have a lot of time now, so when I told him I had sent him the link, he replied with innocent delight, "Goody!" Ha! My husband; the big, bad, tobacco chewing, swearing, taking care of business NCO said "Goody."
I'll never have a better compliment.