I tried to write a book when I was sixteen. I borrowed a sentence from the movie "Fresh Horses" to start the novel. "Someone once told me that the mind has a natural process of letting go." I shit you not. I had a Pee Chee folder and inside those inner sleeve pockets held some of the most amazing malarky ever. I was writing about my tiny hometown and all of the people in it with sixteen year old eyeballs. There was no distance. There was no plan. I had not heard of Philip Lopate or creative non fiction yet but I knew some stories had to be told. I thought I could all "S.E. Hinton" the shit out of my bleak rural high school experience. I thought I could be the one to see everything and filter it through myself like Whitman had told me. I thought I was ready to tell stories.
I became privy to some information that I was not supposed to have. Shelving books in the school library one day I learned that the senior boys were playing a scoring type game of sexual tryst and favors. Each girl in the senior class was rated and then scored upon a set of objectives.
Will Garvey was the biggest bastard that ever walked the halls of my school. First off, he was not cute. He was big, but he was not cute. A shorn head and big muscles and a pimply face and white teeth. He had a very tiny penis from what the girls said and yet, he was desirable among dozens. He was whispering to the other boys near the large wooden Dewey Decimal cabinet. Squatting down like they did at the games, huddling around each other, spreading this crap they called fun.
so, a finger bang is worth 10 points...
dry hump? Oh my God. ok 5.
I strained my ears, stretching through the non-fiction stacks to hear more about this twisted game. I thought about dropping a pile of books and announcing my presence, only to think quickly about how mean these guys were. I was not sure what they would do to me for hearing about their plans. These are the same guys who took Kevin Gentler and stripped him naked and pushed him out onto the stage at opening assembly the first day of school with a baton stuck up his ass.
Now there was no baton butt travesty that I can remember and I don't know a Kevin Gentler. But I sure do know a similar character to Will Garvey and it was not by any random stumbles through a catalogue that made me a Women's Studies minor in college.
The day that I graduated high school I spent swimming in an old quarry in Southeastern Ohio. It was hot that May and the sun kicked us and we fell through the air like bricks. The water was so cold that as soon as you submerged your body it would seize up and goose pimple and stiffen like a board. We would burst upwards like dolphins shouting out like demons when we gasped for air. People were yelling and screaming into the wind. We were madmen for each other. Isn't it strange that things can feel important when we are so young? That anything can be magical if enough children pump their fists and encourage it to be so.
I was with someone who is now dead and we drank from aluminum tallboy beer cans and ate Doritos and never talked about the future. There were more important tasks at hand like jumping off these open pit mine mountains. We needed to do these things that they warned us about. We were still cocooned by the ignorance that time was always going to be this slow. We were unrushed and focused on the immediate. We did not know pain or love or fear yet. We only thought we did.
On the ride home I changed into my white dress for graduation night in the large backseat of someone's father's large sedan. I raised my hips and pulled off my bathing suit and looked into the rearview mirror where I met a set of eyes that I almost forget the exact color of now. I smoothed myself and tamed my wild hair into a ponytail and put on my Birkenstock sandals. The leather backseat was so big and my legs were so tan and I felt just fine. When we got out of the car and I went to meet my family for one of the most important events of my life they told me- I laughed at my sunburned face in the tiny Covergirl compact that I held open in the parking lot.
And I kept laughing even as I walked down the aisle and shook hands with the principal and felt like every single eye in the stadium could see the bright red sunburn across my face. I just kept laughing because everything was funny and not quite real and I had not yet developed the vocabulary to describe the way I was feeling. I only knew that shit was exciting and people were putting hands on my shoulders and pushing me towards the next thing. And everyone was crying and so I felt like that was something I could do and then no one would know that I was so confused. And people cried because everything was changing. The funny thing is that as I stood there in the gloaming I realized that I had no idea how to be me.
And in another year that will have been 20 years ago. I know this because my best friend who was standing with me back then in a white dress also- she has told me this.
She says that we have over a year to become faster thinner smoother versions of the truth. She tells me that it is almost time to go back there again.
To the place that I worship and reject simultaneously.
To the place where my father is now becoming an old man.
To the place where the quarries are closed and the streets are quieter and people still think of me as an oddball.
To the place where there are graves with bones that used to be my friends.
To the sunshine goddamn beautiful green hills.
To the place that made me a writer.
In my memory it is always raining. Cool enough for a slicker but not cold really. It is overcast as we drive towards the next town to my pediatrician's office. We did all of our doctoring at the metropolis of Lancaster, Ohio that was about 20 minutes up the pike as my gran always said. I loved my doctor and have very good memories of him. He was a tall man and in my historical reinvented memory landscape he is German and his hair is so thick and his hands always cold. He was kind and his kindness came out of his mouth and out of his eyes and he was so good and he was a true doctor that cared and appointments were long and the waiting room was calm.
And when he retired when I was about 12 or 13 I hated the new doctor we moved to down the street. She was young and bossy and started to focus on my "weight issues" from her skinny perch of the doctor stool. She was a doctor who ran a holistic practice and all that meant is my mom told her shit about my terrible behavior as I got older and she refereed me to a shrink at some point and that was all kinds of not good. I made up elaborate lies and squinted a lot like I imagined Holden Caulfield would have done. She also put me on a diet in Jr. High. I carried little boxes of diet food to school and all my friends cheered when I started to look thinner.
I carry that with me still. Some of it is not good. Some of it is strangely comforting though. Like the memories of my mother and I going to the doctor when I was sick. We would leave the office and drive the two minutes to the local pharmacy where she would let me lie down in the back of the car and rest while she ran inside to fill the script. She would pick up some lunch for me to take home and make me a "sick bed" on the couch. I would drift in and out of sleep while the world went on all around me. I could hear her in the background and then later my father and the smells from the kitchen and all of the soft pillows felt so good.
We have been in and out of sickness here at our house the last few weeks. Even today I went to my family doctor and dealt with an ear infection that has been flirting with me for weeks. God I wanted a sick bed today. I craved that part of my past that is now so far gone. There is no one really to care for you when you are a grown up so I just took the last Percocet I was hoarding from my major surgery last year and put on Thomas the Tank Engine. I will rock this day somehow.
The good thing about this is that we can now care for others. As adults and parents we have learned from the past or the sweet curve of trial and errror how people want to be treated. It is something I am really pretty good at anymore. I like making people feel good. I try and make my children comfortable when they feel terrible. I try and give comfort and make sick beds that rival the ones my mother made. I try and find the softest blankets and the coolest sheets. There will always be ice pops in my freezer.
I put my head down on their pillows with them and tell them stories of the past. I tell them some day in the future there will be a little tiny memory of right now. This molecular second. I tell them it will encapsulate sounds and smells and the way I look frozen right now. Smiling with red lipstick and blonde hair that shines like a daydream. There will be sunshine or rain and music in the background bubbling up into their consciousness. They smile and frown and suck on their fingers and look at me.
And it blows my mind.
you existed in a time before grief
before my heart had learned to grow so big
Sometimes I will go into my small wooden box of artifacts
the box that holds trinkets of childhood
demons of adolescence
The box that even my husband dare not open
because he secretly fears my middle name is Pandora
The box that holds your obituary
crinkly from repeated folding and unfolding
I will open the crease and read over the tiny words that announced the day you died
That day in the early 90's when The Pixies were probably on the radio
as I drove recklessly around my small town and cried
And just like a classic movie blaring on a small television set somewhere
you come round
and I settle into this familiar ache
this tiny perforation of a girl's life
Today when I was trying to move crap from one folder marked source text to a folder entitled working text that will hopefully one day soon go into a folder entitled shitty first draft- I started thinking about summertime in Athens, Ohio.
I am deeply obsessed with my old college town.
My old hometown.
The place I ran far far away from and came back to and found my ever after.
That part of Southeastern Ohio is mother's milk to me.
I could not forget it ever even if a witch doctor came and stood over me with painted skin and messy drugs and tried to shake it from my soul-to dislodge the memories and skeletons and tiny tears.
It would never happen.
We own a little parcel of land there now.
I think about living there someday again.
On 8 acres with a cave and a stream and boys tall and wild.
The summer is thick and heavy with the hills that nestle the area.
You can't get it out of yr head how pretty the hills are- how rare an occurrence when the summer spreads out on concrete and urban living before yr feet now.
But really the one thing I was thinking about today was the time near the end of college (It may have been the real end- like when we were all living some sort of giant ridiculous substance fueled pretend version of Kicking and Screaming ) that all of us unplugged the really heavy coin operated kiddie ride from the Dollar General store directly across from Jenn's apartment and carried it into the living room at 3 am. In a haze of the most random friends I ever had until social media hit my life recently we plugged it in and rode it all night long like little kids.
I have never laughed more.
I was not afraid of anything and hours later when the strong boys we knew
carried it back to the store-
when the sun was coming up early
early like it did today on this longest day
I sat with some of the friends I have today still
these beautiful friends
and we leaned our backs against the discount store
brick and scratchy
and watched the way the green hills
seduced our eyes
how they charmed some of us
into loving them forever
I miss those hills today.
Deep in the year of 1984 I started my climb towards love.
It was initiated with the small plastic cassette tape I purchased with my own money at Gold Circle department store in Columbus, Ohio.
Holy shit I was no longer a mere child.
During that same Autumn I also bought the "Like a Virgin" album.
I have the distinct recollection of my mother bending down and whispering in my ear
Do you know what that word means she probed?
Yes I hissed
(of course I was not sure. I thought it may have meant a hooker or a prostitute but I would have to refer to my faster more learned friend in the 6th grade for this information.)
We pushed the shopping cart deeper into the music section of the store and I held the money tighter in my hand. My mother told me not to show the cassette to my grandmother who was with us and I am sure she made me sign a doctrine of good faith that stated I would never allow her own father (the southern baptist minister) to know we had a Madonna tape in our home.
I stared at Madonna's boobies all the way home through the cheap thin plastic bag.
I instantaneously wanted a bustier. The car could not drive fast enough to get me to my room where I could be alone with my yellow plastic Sports Walkman.
Now I guess I was like all the others girls and sang La Isla Bonita while I did the dishes
or used my hairbrush as a microphone for Material Girl.
But my heart belonged to the Canadian:
I'm gonna run to you
Suddenly all of the girls and boys in Mrs. Poling's class turned and morphed into tiny adults with mad beating hearts that winter and the Star Wars play on the black asphalt that spring changed like a shift into more footloosesque expression.
I know her love is true But it's so damn easy making love to you
Like a Teutonic plate rubbing against another under the playground, the intense forces shook off some of the innocence we had stuck to us so honestly out there in the county.
we held onto our boom boxes
and walked around imitating some idea of what adulthood must be like
gliding our bodies around like tough love kids
who knew what they wanted
like grown ups
we walked circled rings
imprinted history onto the merry go round
and sang songs that made not a true lick of sense to us yet
but that somehow resonated right through our beating hearts
Oh - once in your life you find someone
Who will turn your world around
Bring you up when you're feelin' down
It was the music that I really cut my true blue romantic heart on and it never went away really.
Years later when I would discover that I was alternative and much deeper than most of the student body at my school and that my musical tastes were governed by skater boys and what I saw on my neighbors MTV 120 minutes program weekly- I realized that my love for Bryan had to be hidden away because ballads and cheesy love songs were not what cool was made of.
I had to be firm with my heart. Only I couldn't. I would listen to the Violent Femmes and The Cure and all the music that I learned to love like a sickness, but I would secretly make myself Memorex tapes of Bryan Adams and think of nothing but tight pants and blond hair and the country of Canada. I would think of the day when I would be loved like that.
Also back in the 80's my dad would take us to The Spaghetti Warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. It was fine dining for me to sit in a bathtub and eat linguine. I loved it. I think what I loved best was the kiddo game room where they had the coolest Estrella Fortune Telling/ Wishing machine just like the one in the movie Big with Tom Hanks. You inserted a quarter and she was all freaky and spooky and the machine would all but shake violently and a small card stock rectangle would be produced as she waved her porcelain hands around. The tiny card often gave you information about the future and lucky numbers and tiny prophesies.
I collected the cards in a small tin box for the remainder of my childhood.
Nothing ever really came true.
I know that the Spaghetti Warehouse has gone downhill since the days of yore- but it still stands. It still cranks out sub par pasta and Peroni's over on the West side of town. You can still sit in a trolley car and eat cheap food and stuff yrself full of garlic bread. I think me and Blaise are gonna drop off Finnian to school one day soon and go visit the game room. It would only be right that the machine still stands there. That I could go inside and stand in front of it. I could ask her things.
I could ask her about my path. I am supposed to be writing this book about this character who is obsessed with the past and memories and people that imprinted upon her and in front of the machine I could ask Estrella if perhaps she may be the person to tell me the truth. To tell me to open up my eyes and see that if I just accept that it may be a lot of me that I am writing about that it will be OK. That the stuck will come unstuck and all around my feet will grow again a narrow trodden way that I will walk.
That I will run.
cause when the feelin's right I'm gonna run all night
My name is Amy Turn Sharp and I love Bryan Adams.
jamming to this song yesterday
It's like when I close my eyes and try to remember when it was in my life that this song blasted from cheap car stereos or from porch parties with boom boxes silver -I always think of her.
We were at a pivotal part of our life-really on the cusp of believing we were grown up.
I think I was hanging out with some bartender who didn't even really like me that flash frozen part of my life in 1997. I was drinking away my tips in an Irish pub best known for brewed beer and 80's dance night -where all the freaks like me could seek shelter from the storm at least two nights a week and fling our arms in the sky.
The bartender was for those fleeting weeks perhaps someone who might save me and turn me into a normal person. He was pleasantly average and attractive. He could make me behave like a girl who made dinner in tiny apartments and didn't go out every single night. A normal girl who loved only one person at a time and had a clear trajectory towards adulthood.
Only he didn't. He just faded away in the outright rude and immature fashion that 23 year old boys do- he just stopped liking me and I faded into the background of a song sung by Dexy's Midnight Runners on a Tuesday night. My shadow flickering across the wood paneled walls never tempted him again and I am sure now that it was because I was intensity wrapped into a parcel that no one could hold for too long.
I was like a firecracker or a hot potato being passed around.
I was dangerous buzzing bee.
Sometimes I wish I could listen to a song from the 90's and just enjoy it.
But I think we are just branded like cattle by the music of our youth.
it's why you see people stare off into space sometimes at cafes
or grannies with wet eyes in the market
or baby boomer's driving convertibles with loud all around
we just can't help it
the music is everywhere
like a tiny melodic line
that leads us straight to the past
to a place we used to know
My Aunt Lee who lived in Florida
with the real name of Leoda
would marinade her steak
for days in some odd concoction of 7-up and spices
and we would grill them in that tiny yard of the trailer park
in Jacksonville, Florida
near the rough beach
we would drive piled in her jalopy
with brown limbs of children everywhere
heads out windows like dogs eating air
and I didn't know that the dirty public beach wasn't paradise
and I didn't know anything about broken families
and my body was strong against the tide
and I was 14 years old and cruel against the world
and it was the last summer I would ever see her
before she wasn't a part of the family anymore
just like that
like the rinsing of the sand off red skin at silver showers in the sun
-amy turn sharp
five minute poem over breakfast of black coffee and toast with thick butter slabs
the boys explore
But sooner than I think- they will be driving those beasts because that is my family!
Did I ever mention that I learned how to drive stick shift on a tractor when I was around the size of Finn or that I had a motorcycle when I was ten?
(Honda Xr80 if yr like minded.)
This one apartment I had in college was tiny and cold.
It was the basement of a house.
Above me lived a slutty Icelandic woman and above her lived a lesbian filmmaker.
The sounds that came from the house were like songs.
I was choosing my days at random then.
Like a spinner.
I had a lot of melancholy in that apartment that year.
I lived on Virgina Woolf and seedy bars.
It's funny because I just didn't know that right around the corner was bliss for me.
I stepped out of that apartment and into adventures like storybooks.
But sometimes when it's cold outside
when I live in houses that have old windows
windows that seem to puff cold air at me
I think about that apartment
or perhaps about that time
And I think of those other women
who breathed in and out in that same space.
And I wonder who they are now.
I have so much space in my mind.
I can't remember anything real.
but I can't forget all the people.
Driving through the Short North just always makes me broody for my friend Keith. Keith and I grew up in cow town together and traversed the Appalachian landscape as teenagers barely surviving.
The winter makes me think of all of the Christmas breaks spent back there with him during our college years. We were much freer then as he had come out and I was desperate to be myself.
We would drink heavily atthe only real pub in town. There are other bars, but they are places that hold their own urban legends of prostitution, racism, and seediness. I didn't know anyone who went to those other bars. I only knew that everyone went to ----.
The place that held such mystery to me until I started going in regularly and found that people when intoxicated, including myself, could be very disappointing and ignorant.
But some of the best times with Keith were when we would just drive around and listen to the best music. We would park our crappy cars somewhere in the woods and talk and laugh our asses off and forget who we were and where it was that we were from.
I can't get through a Thanksgiving without thinking about the time we smoked up and sat somewhere on my parents land until we were so hungry that we had to go back to my house to eat. We walked into my house and my mom was standing there in the small kitchen clutching her chest. She had on a Laura Ashleyesque nightgown and her face was bright red with the huff of asthma. She looked so relieved that we walked in, waving frantically to help her. My father was at work and she couldn't find her asthma inhaler. Keith held her by the elbow and sat her down at the kitchen table and it was all that we could do to hold back the insanity. There was to be no emergency when one is stoned. She motioned us back outside and said the inhaler may be in her car trunk. She said it was in her purse.
This was during the time that my mother was a career mother with a hot little insurance agent job, complete with car phone that was the size of a football and had it's own carrying suitcase. It was also during the time that my mother(god bless her because she is a fashion plate now) but then- oh then- she matched her handbag to her outfit nearly every day.
That night is so frozen in my memory.
Keith and I opening the trunk of my mother's car that has always had personalized vanity plates, and finding a sea of pocketbooks.
Like it could be a scene in a movie.
It was that crazy.
We searched through at least forty patent leather purple purses, yellow canvas satchels, white clutches, and on and on -and my mother is dying in the kitchen and we are in the driveway nearly in tears from the frenzied laughing of the absurdity of our lives.
Keith keeps me from climbing in the trunk and giving up, he slaps me with an orange Dooney and Burke and we find it. It was in a granny bag, brown and boxy, and we ran it inside to her and she was fine moments later and then it was like it always was.
She turned lovely to us- thanked us and made us food and we sat there with magenta eyes and sore stomachs from laughing and she just pressed her beautiful hands down her nightgown and we walked back outside with a one hitter and took back to the life we knew.
But in that frosty November night we both knew it had been heavy.
And we also thought it was a flashing foreshadowing to our adulthood. We were so weird that we people never assumed we were stoned. Just us.
In our crappy car on the gravel road by my house, we pressed the memorex tape back into the pioneer stereo and looked at each other only moments before the snow started falling so hard on the countryside.
We knew that someday years and years later we would think about this night and perhaps all the others and know that even when you are very young and full of shit and there is nothing to define you except the things you don't want- we knew we had made a good choice in walking through the world tethered.
I don't see Keith enough in my grown up life. But he knows I love him. He knows it and when he rolls on the downtown pavement and Jane's addiction randomly comes from the radio and he opens his mouth and all of the years fall off his tongue
Have you seen my wig around?
I feel naked without it
and he knows it like I know it and
all of the misfits of the world's ears burn
It shoots straight into my ears and tunnels to a place that doesn't even exist anymore but I can feel the way it wants me to forget everything else but THEN.
I acknowledge it and hit repeat.
I did drive across the United States one time. It was a very long drive.
I was with Julian Simpson from England and my friend Bryan. We had just been released from our shackles of Presbyterian church camp counselor servitude. It was August and someone that I loved had just died and it seemed like the thing to do. We drove from Chapin, South Carolina to Los Angeles and back home to Cowtown, Ohio. I was just thinking about how I hate to drive nowadays. How I am prone to panic and angst on long journeys in my adulthood. I am not sure when the little screw fell out and took me to a yucky place with driving, but it happened.
Back then I would roll down the windows and my long hair would slap my eyes and I would love it. I drove across Texas all night with Madonna and fast through the Nevada desert with Metallica where the sky hung low and purple. All around me were scenes from movies that had not yet been made and songs unsung. I think looking back- that trip was meant to be escapist for me in theory, but all the way as the tires spun round and round, I thought of how sad I was to go back home to a place that now was missing someone I truly took for granted.
I remember with my back against the sticky seat of the Toyota Corolla cultivating the uncanny mind sweeping thoughts that now take up most of my days- thoughts that it has to be easier for other people to get through this life. That not everyone can think this much and at this intensity all the time. That I was cursed with the internal equivalent of a mosh pit. That I just wanted to stop feeling so much. That the sun was somehow brighter on my face than anyone else in the car and if I opened up my mouth and told you the startling esoteric whispers that hid sneaky in my throat- you would laugh at me because that's what people do around me. They laugh. I think I learned in a startling catechism with myself that summer that I was indeed an artist -and not crazy. Well not crazy enough to do much anything about it.
I heard Metallica today and it did indeed jack my head up for thirty seconds or so as the day spread out before me and the kids were like beyond the fourth wall and I was back there and looking at the me that lives now. I waved at me and she waved back and it was like there was a little peace. And later in my minivan rolling down the main drag of my town I sunk low into my captain's chair and rolled the window down and shook my bob. I shook my hair and told the boys a little story about America.
It took me about 10 song shuffles to find my groove while working out tonight.
I was on the bike and peddling like a wussy until I found some Dylan and then I just snapped into it. "Hurricane" came on and I rolled right back to the early nineties, back into a dark faux wood paneled living room in a jalopy of a house that I shared with several cool girls.
We would sit in slumpy lumpy old chairs that we rescued from the curb and listen to Dylan.
Books would be open and dinner would be cooking and we would be smoking Meigs County gold and the world was pretty darn slow.
I can't even think about that song without fury.
I can't even believe I was so old before I started thinking about social injustice.
I was busy trying to pretend I was reading James Joyce and stalking long haired boys and then I had to realize how wide and deep and awful the world was.
I think I only started paying attention to history well in to my future.
Me and my friend M would sit with our constant Diet Cokes and sing in that junky living room.
We loved the song. We loved to nod to each other like old men during our favorite parts and take long drags of our Parliament Lights in unison.
I think we made silent promises to make the world a little bit better.
And tonight I found that the song makes me pound out on the bike. I rode like a banshee and for one small moment I forgot and sang out loud for a line or two- all breathy and low.
had no idea what kinda shit was about to go down
And the old guy beside me with the running shorts so scant I saw his ass cheek looked me right in the eye and nodded.
Old man nods are my favorite.
My grandfather had a massive stroke and died at the foot of my grandmother 21 years ago today.
I was alerted and pulled from Mrs. Holloway's English classroom.
It was the first time I glanced a face that announced bad news without saying a word.
It was the first time my stomach hit pit sensation directly from the emotional heaviness in the air.
I was shuttled into my parents car and the drive towards my father's hometown was long and all I did was watch the guardrails roll by and listen to my parents emit low sounds of grief.
My fourteen year old self was unsure of the process of mourning if I recall.
I was so sad and unsure of what was happening and all I can remember really is the way the funeral home smelled - like the floral department of a grocery store- and the way my grandmother held her hands together.
She held her hands together so tightly, like the way her 90 year old hands now grip her cane.
She is a tough lady.
Today at the gym I was chatting to my friend Karen and she and I got to discussing love letters. The writing of love letters. She was telling me about her and her husband and how they wrote each other love letters years ago as they had a long distance relationship.
When she told me about it I could see this light pour out of her face and I bathed in it for a second while I peddled on the stationary bike.
Love letters are so powerful and at some point we just stop.
I told her to write her husband one today. I told her I would do the same.
We laughed big laughs that ended the conversation, but it got inside of me and I can't stop thinking about love letters.
When my grandmother got back to her house 21 years ago she took the bundled love letters from her dark brown amoire, they were tied up with string, she took them out and held them tightly in her hands.
She walked up the small hill by her house to the old barrel where she burned her paper trash.
She walked up to the rusty barrel and started a fire with the words of her lover.
She burned them all.
He was gone and the words only lived inside of her heart now.
All of the words burned like tiny phoenix feathers
and floated throughout the backyard of a woman so so sad in Southeastern Ohio
This is what happened 21 years ago today.
I had to ask my friend Michelle the other day if it were true that we tried to break my leg back in Jr. High so we could ride in the car during the local parade in our town instead of marching in our girl scout uniforms. She confirmed this nugget of memory that popped into my head the other day. Yes. Anna and Michelle took turns jumping on my leg and trying to break it because we were older girl scouts and frankly, it was the kiss of death for us.
Luck struck and somehow we were able to get Anna's step dad to drive us in his Bronco and throw candy. We spent most of the ride ducking down to avoid eye contact with anyone on the street.
It makes me think of two things:
I am really mortified that I was so focused on what others thought.
That uniform was kinda cute when I jazzed it up and I liked old Betty, the troop leader a lot.
I learned shit there. I liked it inside the brown paneled church basement every Tuesday. I did.
I also think about Anna's step dad. He was a big part of my preteen and teen years. They lived on a camp as caretakers and it was amazing to go to Anna's house. I grew up in the woods but this was insane. Trails and tents and lodges and it was a wicked good backdrop for the teen years let me tell you.
But Anna's dad was just so good. He was a good and cool and funny man and he had two sons and they both died really young. One of them I loved in the way you love a boy when yr quite young and stupid. Like when you are so hot and cold and playing along with some game the older girls whisper about as they paint their faces in tiled beige school bathrooms.
I think about Anna's step dad and how I would still like to know him now. But I don't know him anymore. He is just sitting in the back of my brain in a room reserved for all of the other people that I just don't know anymore.
And I don't why.
I found this old old photo recently. It is not a very good photograph in execution, but it represents a really fun time. We were so young at a wedding of some friends that we don't even know anymore- but knew them so well then.
We were the only ones left dancing and even the caterers were hanging out late night smoking cigs and drinking highballs, trying to get lucky with the ladies. Our friend Lynne was there and still alive and dressed in purple and being fabulous and I had short dark hair and pretty skinny legs apparently.
The Athens hillside was lush and the Southeastern Ohio sky sprinkled with shooting stars that night and I can still remember sinking into Joe's chest early in the morning and exhaling with such sweet surrender.
It's funny how much a photograph can take you back.
Sometimes I google yr name just hoping
that there will be some sort of obituaries website that might have yr info for me to read.
I get sad thinking that you died before everything was on the Internet.
Before you had a life on the Internet.
You don't exist on the Internet.
I am unable to type to you.
I am unable to see words that might make me cry for a moment.
We all need moments, even years and years later that let us just feel for pretty seconds.
Like how I have to curl my shoulders around my heart about once a year and think of you.
I will always think of you.
I am just certain of this.
title post- American Beauty 1999
I am dreadfully tired of being outside.
It is hot and sticky and buggy and stop shuddering you outdoor folk- I like the outdoors.
I even paused to recognize Thoreau's birthday this week- I just grow weary of the boys demanding I spend all my time in the thick of summer.
I have tried to show them that turning the air on full blast and lounging in the house is fun.
They will have nothing to do with it.
They want to be mostly nude and outside.
I want to be in a cardi and drinking an iced coffee with my feet on wooden floors.
The truth is they play so freely and with such reckless abandon outside.
There is nothing more magical than to watch freedom like that.
In the house there are obstacles and rules and such, yet outside they seem to really hit a stride.
Outside they float and flicker.
Outside the happiness is really easier to see.
I am trying to love it more.
I did as a kid.
A country kid with whole summers spent in a creek.
I was thinking about the summer before middle school and we had a slumber party at my friend M's house. It was a normal garden variety nightmare for her parents involving rotary phones, pop music, and frozen training bras-
but in the early morning we decided to go for a hike.
M showed us a wooded area by her house where we had never ventured before
and it was like we went ape shit the moment we stepped into the tiny forest.
It was all magical and I had just read Bridge to Terabithia
and the world just stopped and these 6 girls played hard all day and made up a whole back story to the place and decided it was their place.
We were in love with the secret spot and play came naturally and imagination soared and nothing was the matter with any of us.
Nothing was wrong.
Nothing felt ridiculous to believe in there.
It was like we checked our insecurities and problems and suspicions of each other at the crisp leafy entrance to a forest that whispered.
To a forest that was dark like in the day.
To a forest that promised we could just be.
You know how things happen when yr young.
A few hours can be ten years and all of the sudden you believe something is real
and it is just so heartbreakingly beautiful that the world stops.
It was like that and we all believed that the summer
would save us from the impending hell of middle school.
But it didn't.
Time marched right on and tore us promptly apart from one another
like some sort of jacked up Stand By Me bullshit.
Some taking their rightful place at the head of the class, some discovering that you define the word slut for yrself in a small town, some smoking cigs in acid washed jean jackets down by the old catholic church, and some just really sad that childhood was pretty much gone.
I think if we had gone there everyday after school that things would have been different somehow for us. If we would have thrown our books across wooden tables and ran to a place where we could just be free then life would not have been so hard. I am not sure. I think it is just the way the world unfolds that middle school girls get surly and stomp and scream and invest more time in the mirror than in play. To turn against each other and let go. I guess there was nothing really that could of kept us in that forest. Perhaps we had not found it in time. But for some weeks in the mid 80's it was as right as rain. It was a place that I can only find in the play of my children now.
I can see it wash across their faces like a flush of red from the hot long day.
title post- Bridge to Terabithia 2007