Haunted

This was written for a school assignment. The parameters of the assignment were as follows:

Descriptive writing about a chapel in a desert.

Descriptions have to include all 5 senses.

Descriptions must be given from three vantage points.

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Haunted

I spied down on the structure bleached white in the full moon’s glow. Peering from my cumulus cloak high above, I drank it in. The searing brightness of the lonely church made me wince, protecting my eyes from the glare. There was no green grass below, no jeweled blooms, only the crusty desert floor surrounding my chapel. Black, silver, white and gray puzzled the monochrome image together before me. The church is merely a simple cube from here. I decide to get closer.

Slowly, I glide down to outside the front door. The desert floor was a lake thousands of years ago. Now parched, the lake silt has baked into dusty scabs. When my feet land on the ground, the desert rind crunches to a fine powder under my slight weight. From above, there was nothing able to prepare me for the slamming wind that was whipping the church. I was caught by surprise. A gust filled my mouth with alkaline dust, leaving the taste of dirty old pennies behind. I would have spit if I could.

I approached the towering doors, fraught with memories. They had been painted a bright turquoise many years before. The wind and silt had worked together to grind most of the color away. A glance at the ground revealed greenish paint specks peppering the dry lake bed. Boards peeking from under the vanishing paint were scraped smooth as glass. The hinges were massive, ornate and rusted. When I trace them with my fingers, my fingers are smeared with the gritty, red powder. I wipe a scarlet stripe on my alabaster-hued gown. Unable to open the hulking doors with my limited strength, I hold my breath, close my eyes and float through to go back to the room where I transformed.

Drifting across the humble, cracked adobe tiled floor, I take a deep breath. I expect to smell the putrid pomade that he always caked on until his hair shined preternaturally. He was allowed vanities. The white oak pews looked exactly the same, no cushions for the pious. I could hear whispers from long ago of us giggling as kids, settling down into our sleeping bags for a church slumber party. I had gotten scared in the night and fallen off the pew. Tangled in my mummy bag, I rolled underneath and saw a naughty word for the first time in my life. Was it still under there? I kneeled down under the bench and searched for it. Sure enough, it was there. Scratched deeply by an unknown delinquent with a pocket knife. With a chuckle, I whispered it. “Dang you!” I remembered how I had blushed down to my elbows and then showed every child the fiendish phrase. It was our secret.

There was no art on the walls; they were just dull, dingy, scuffed, blanched. I had spent years of my life staring at them. Using them as a canvas on which I projected the adventures of my mind. A crucifix on the wall behind the pulpit was the only thing that hung. The church had one focal point, the figure on that cross. It dominated everything. The podium seemed left untouched. I approached it and put my hands on it like he used to. I wondered how many couples had been married here. How many caskets displayed? How many choruses raised up to my heavens? The pulpit pulsed with the power that had possessed him. The cupboard within the pulpit was locked. This would have stopped me before, but now I could reach through the oak panel. I pulled a book out. His bible, engraved with his initials CRH. I leafed through it and the thin pages made a shush sound when they turned. Notes were scribbled on every page. Some pages fell out, and they had all of our names and tally marks next to them.

Reaching through the cabinet again, I fished around and felt something cold. My fingers naturally looped into the eyerings of the scissors. I closed my eyes remembered standing at the pulpit in front of everyone. He grabbed my hair, and I felt the scissors scrape onto my scalp, grasping strands. A long, slow snip rang in my ear as the first lock fell onto the ground. He clipped and clipped until all of my hair was on the floor at my feet.

My visit turned sour; nostalgia followed by nightmare. I breeze through the back door. This door was utilitarian; it didn’t try to seduce people in like the garish front door did. Behind the church was where we kids would fail at playing hide and seek in the flat desert. We could only hide behind the tombstones of our loved ones. The ground crunched into dust at my feet. I counted the chipped, homemade concrete headstones. “Hi, Jim. Hi, Gigi, how have you been gramma?” Finally, I stopped at mine.

Suzi

March 8, 1978 – Nov 8, 1992

Daughter, Sister, Disappointment, Sinner

My annual self-imposed flagellation pilgrimage complete, I rise to go back home. I allow the hot wind to carry me back into the clouds. I rest.

 

 

Marbles

My hand came alive when he grasped it; his touch thrillingly new. Although we had already been friends for a decade, this was only our second date. I raised my tear-stained face to meet his steady gaze. With a heavy sigh, I continued my story, bolstered by his encouraging touch. “I spent my twenties building a business, nurturing a marriage, and everything is gone. I worked more than thirteen hours a day for thirteen years in my career, and I have nothing to show for it. I don’t even think I have my sanity anymore, Ethan. Guess I’ve lost my marbles too.”

Ever since we met in 1999, we had been connected. We were both in committed relationships with other women at the time. Our spark was instant, my heart recognized him at our first glance. Now that our rocky marriages had come to their natural conclusions, the friendship quickly and naturally evolved to romance. Emotional intimacy came easily for us since the beginning, he and I had been unabashedly sharing our deepest and darkest since our very first conversation. He would confide in me about his several deployments, and how he had seen too much in Bosnia and Iraq. I would pour open about the betrayal and chronic abuse that had chiseled me into being.

We were having lunch on the patio at Jack’s Urban Eats, this beautiful April afternoon. I hadn’t planned on crying into my steak salad. Suddenly self-conscious about the tears, I grappled clumsily with one of his garlic fries, making a pungent mess of everything. Ethan remained grounded, looking toward but not at me. His lips began to tremble just slightly in a way now familiar. When he carefully measures his words and prepares to speak with intent, his mouth does the sweetest wobble. He took a deep breath, his chest inflating and slowly deflating.

And then Ethan spoke. “About halfway through my deployment in Iraq, I was going insane. I hadn’t had any leave yet, and the desert was taking its toll. I was stationed in an area near where the Euphrates River had been before it shifted course. It was desert now, but it had been riverbed and marshland long before. Every time it rained, it smelled like fish. The personnel situation was bad as well. I was being harassed by a group of colleagues for months and was losing myself. I was lonely. My depression was drowning me in quicksand. Seeking a minute of peace and quiet, I took a short walk. When I stopped, I took a moment to breathe, and I looked down at my feet.”

When he paused, I said nothing. I was mesmerized by his story. I hated the thought of him being in harm’s way and being mistreated by the people who were supposed to have his back. Leaning back in his patio chair; he started to laugh. His eyes flashed golden hazel. I entertained my recurring fantasy about wanting to go back in time to shield and protect him from the traumas that haunt him.

Continuing on, he said. “There was a marble at my feet. I started to laugh out loud. I thought, ‘well I guess I have one marble left.’ So I picked it up and rolled it between my fingers and then put it in my pocket. From there I kept it in my pocket through the rest of my deployment. Whenever I wanted to feel connected and like I was rooted and sane, I would hold onto my one remaining marble. Five years later, I still carry it.” He looked at me and smiled, his dimples hypnotizing me.

Then he leaned in toward me and said. “I know that we are new at this whole couple thing.” He emphasized ‘couple thing’ with finger quotes in the air. “We are both going through massive transitions in our lives. You told me that you don’t want any big romantic gestures. But, above and before everything, you are one of my best friends. Here.” He reached into his pocket and handed me the clear orb with an emerald green ribbon of color racing through it. It was scuffed, it had been to war and come back a little worn and a little damaged but still good.

In slow motion, I looked at the marble and reached for it. Under the table, our legs were connected in a tangle. He was shaking. I rolled the little, plastic marble between my fingers. Grateful for the gift and humbled by the simplicity; I sat in the intensity of the moment. “I love it. Thank you,” I said. He picked up his sandwich and took a big bite. We sat in an open and comfortable silence for the duration of the meal. I didn’t put the marble down until it was time to go.

Holding the marble was profound. It had a grounded calm to it that I lacked. I felt like I was under a spell and for the first time in a very long time, I felt safe.

It may be worth merely a nickel, but it is my most prized possession. The sphere holds sacred history of a journey. This marble found him in Iraq when he was lost in a war zone. He began to heal, and he gave it to me when I was lost. I didn’t know if our romance was going to last, but I knew that I had a very dear friend. We risked our friendship to be together, but we knew our relationship was worth the risk. We were in it for all the marbles.

All the marbles, even if there is only one marble to share between the two of us.

Demons from the past, literally

I had chronic stomach pain while growing up, and when I complained about it I was told one of three things.  1) You’re faking it, and trying to get attention or 2) You have hidden sin that you need to confess or 3) You’re spiritually weak and have been possessed by demons, again.

This instilled in me the belief that I can will my way out of any physical ailment, if I search my heart and soul for impurities or if I just put my nose back on the grindstone, shut the hell up and be a good girl.

At least seven times in my life (that I can remember) my sinful, troublemaking nature made a “deliverance” necessary.  A “deliverance” is of course a good, old-fashioned, exorcism.  The elders of the church, along with a few others if necessary, anoint your head with olive oil and pray in tongues and lay hands on you while waiting for the Holy Spirits direction on which demons or spirits in particular need to be cast out.

I noticed that with the onset of puberty, hormones and curves that the deliverances became more necessary.  I think it’s because people in transition upset the expectation of the way things should be.  I think puberty made me evil in some way (I was once beaten for having erect nipples, so I was obviously asking for it.)

The funny thing about it is that the demons were believed to have left the body if something came out of you.  Tears were easy, so there was a lot of crying.  It’s easy to cry when you are 12 and there are people touching you and yelling at you in a spirit language and your head is greasy from all of the anointing.  But demons also can come out through a yell, a burp, a cough, sneeze or fart.  I chose to do a lot of coughing because I can’t fart on command.

At every deliverance, they cast out the “Spirit of Jezebel”.  And I remember from my very first one at about eight that she would come in handy.  I remember as I was burping, coughing and crying that I hope she stayed in me.  Because she sounded strong and I knew that I needed strength.

I, of course, am completely now addicted to the Jezebel lingerie line.  And I think my hair is so shiny from all of that olive oil.

I’m pretty sure I’m not Hitler, I might be Stalin…

Here’s what I woke up thinking.  And forgive me,  I haven’t had my coffee yet.  I woke up thinking about positive thinking, and I started to wonder…

People say that you should send good, positive thoughts out to the Universe so that good things can happen.  Does the Universe know the difference between a positive and a negative thought?  Is the Universe capable of those moral or intellectual judgments?  Is there a thought sorter?   I have thought positive thoughts about myself and others, I have lit candles, sent vibes, meditated and done just about anything (short of slaughtering goats and virgins, or slaughtering anything for that matter).

Here’s my fear…  Road Rage.  I have sent really negative thoughts out while driving.  If a positive thought sent out to the Universe can make something happen, then can’t a negative thought do the same?  So, I get cut off while driving and then I wish that driver will get a horrible case of acne on their back, am I manifesting that for them?

I am a much nicer person than I used to be.  And when I was much less nice, I used to be very angry and I would hate and rage and wish all kinds of horrible things on people, even death.  So, have I left a trail of genocide via negative thoughts behind me…

Gosh, I hope not.  I’m glad I’m a lot nicer now.

(And if you are reading this, I’m really sorry about your back acne.)

A Love Letter

To the pair of Anne Klein, hound’s-tooth with black patent-leather trim heels I left behind:

I’ve loved shoes before, but I’ve never tried on a pair that made me feel like you did. You want me to succeed, you know I can go anywhere and make them love me. You want me to be brilliant and beautiful. You want wealthy potential customers to notice me. I was afraid I’d let you down. I tried on your 8.5 sister and she told me about you, my beautiful size 8. When I think about your sweet buckles I want to weep.

I hope you understand why I left you behind, you begged me to take you. You put yourself on sale for me, believe me I noticed. I stepped into you and felt your immediate embrace, it shocked me. So familiar, but new and intense. I walked around in you, fantasizing that you were mine already. You did that alignment thing that perfect heels do. You’ve got skills and I don’t think I’ll truly ever forget you.

Trust me, it’s not you… it’s me. I couldn’t have you. You don’t come alone. I would have wanted you to feel at home. A pair like you needs to be taken care of, and I didn’t want to do this half-assed. I want you to wait for me. If I had you now, I’d be buying new suits and probably a new car to match you. I know you’re ready for me, I’m just not ready for the kind of commitment something as perfect as you really needs.

Wait for me, my sweet. You were too perfect I’ll come for you when I’m ready and I’ll be waxed and pedicured and prepared.

Anxiously,

Feisty

An open letter to Justin Timberlake

Sexy was never gone.

Sexy is not yours to bring back.

I wish that catchy, catchy song would get out of my head…

Love,

Feisty B.

Leggo my ego

So, here are my thoughts and feelings about what humility means to me today. It is simply knowing who I really am today and the willingness to become who the universe wants me to be. Bondage to self, causes obsession and low self-esteem which results in feelings of inadequacy, status-seeking and self-absorption. Humility levels the imaginary ladder of status and worth and we truly know that we are all equal. When I am in my ego, I feel like I constantly have something to prove and when I check my self-will with the divine in me I just have to be and when things either go my way or don’t go my way it’s just life happening and it’s neither a condemnation or affirmation of my self-worth. And then I can step away from the internal drama that I create about the events that happen (which is me feeding my ego) and I can simply focus on the next right action to take.

To the nice man with a cane to whom I gave a dirty look at Kinko’s

I’m sorry; I know it came off as a dirty look. But I was really scared of you on a primal level. You triggered a memory in me. In my peripheral vision I saw a man carrying a stick down low, walking a little too close into my personal space. I was startled. You see, once when I was 16, I was falsely accused of something by an elder in my church. I told the truth and said it wasn’t true. The elder’s wife ordered that my hair be cut off as punishment. My hair was past my elbows and I loved it. It was grabbed and cut off by my father, truly one of the longest and scariest nights of my life. A 16 year old life that had already had many long and scary nights. When your family hurts you, who is left to comfort you?

The elders decided I was also “dead” to the church until I confessed. I was ordered to stand against a wall every week day from 8-5 while my mom was at work in the church office, They put me in view of her desk. She would pointedly not stare at me while she cried and worked. I could feel her telling to give in, I tried to beam psychic messages to her saying I was innocent. 80 hours I stood, not all in a row, but it’s a lot. Just who were they trying to punish? Kids from the church cleaned up after school, they vacuumed around me like I was a lamp. Nobody spoke to me for two weeks, naked without the long hair I’d had my entire life. Every once in a while the pastor of my church would sneak up behind me while holding a PVC Pipe down really low so it was out of my peripheral vision and he would strike me multiple times on the butt and thighs. At least I existed while he was hitting me; I was visible until the sting died down.

I didn’t confess, Jesus doesn’t like it when we lie. Those two weeks started the worst year of my life. It got a little easier, it’s exhausting to keep up that level of creativity in punishment. In the end, I won.

So I’m sorry. I wonder what pain makes you walk with a cane. I wanted to tell you why I flinched it had nothing to do with you, but then it would be weird to have a girl give you a dirty look and then tell you a trauma. It was hard enough to shed a few tears while pointedly not staring at you. I think I also freaked out the cashier.

Best of luck,

One of this planet’s many walking wounded.

Are you happy now?

People pleasing has an evil twin named resentment. I just saw an article about how women are taught to be people pleasers through social conditioning, and men are generally trained to be providers.

My problems with people pleasing and resentment are that I am generally assuming what people want based on my understanding of them-instead of asking them what they want. Then doing this small or grandiose thing for them to make “them” happy. If their reaction is something I didn’t expect, I feel unloved. The reality is that I set the whole situation up. I decided I would do something for them, they didn’t react how I want them to react, I am hurt.

It isn’t bad to help people, but what is it that people really need? To find out, I have to get out of my skin enough to listen and ask, not assume. Not randomly try to buy their love with random gifts or try to backhandedly control them with intent.

Generally, I have to think long and hard at what I do, when I do, and how I do. Lots of times my intentions are pure, but there are other times where I have a lacking that I am trying to fill with a thing or an action, and I am secretly overcompensating.

Compassion: Part 2

I’ve mentioned A&M before in my boots post.  They have one of the most beautiful marriages I’ve ever seen.  And they treasure and delight in each other more than a decade later (and they’re smokin hot).  One of the best things that M ever said to me is, “You’ve got to cradle each other with your words, keep each other safe.” That blew my mind.

I used to be addicted to sarcasm, before I heard M say this to me.  And, sure… I had my sarcastic relapses here and there, I really tried to change.  I feel that sarcasm keeps you on edge.  Keeps you from ever really being able to let your guard down around the ones you love, sarcasm reinforces emotional walls.   You can come close, but not too close.  Sure, it can be “funny” and it was hard to imagine my personality without my cutting wit, sharpened and ready to slice, dice and julienne you at a moments notices.

But I also found that in those silences, where I’m not thinking about what I’m going to say.  That life gets better.  I get to hear who you really are, what you really need, and what is going on with you.  I get to politely disengage from the barbs and find a softer way.  I used to run a networking chapter of all women business owners, and I took a lot of M’s wisdom to that podium.  I taught that it is better to be soft, to trust and to cradle each other with our words.  I feel that helped make me successful, and I feel it helped me really connect and make some good happen in the world.

Thanks, M.  In a sentence you changed my life for the better and I love you.