Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 16: Friday 250

We collapsed into the snow out of breath and pulsing from the fight. I moved so that my back was against yours, me facing into the sun and you facing into your own shadow. I had taken off my coat. You were wiping the blood from your lip with your mitten.

"You know," you started, and your voice was shaking, "Mom really does love you more." I didn't say anything. What could I have said? "She tells you everything," you continued. "She doesn't tell me anything. She loves you more."

I wondered if it was love that made mom tell me that dad loved naked women on the computer more than he loved her. I wondered if it was love that made her tell me that thirty eight was too young to be stuck in a family, that she never wanted a second daughter, and that I was an accident.

"I don't want her to tell me everything," I said, but I knew you wouldn't understand. I turned and hugged you around your neck. Your ear was so cold on my cheek. "It doesn't matter, Josie," I said. "I love you more than they ever could."

It was then that the knife slipped and cut the tip of mom's finger off while she was chopping vegetables in the kitchen and dad, who was cutting wood in the shed just to do something with his hands, felt his heart palpitate, shudder, and double its pace. He coughed and it was over.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 12: Short stories

- My mother and her friend have dressed up in over-sized pillowcases, drawn cartoonish faces on them and put clothes low on their legs to appear as if they were really short people with huge heads. They're dancing around for my 6th birthday party and my friends love it. I think about how I'd never seen any of their parents have as much fun.

- I'm looking out my parents' bedroom window and crying for some reason, a washcloth clenched in my hand to stifle any noise I might make. I'm around 8 or 9 years old, but I know that whatever happened shouldn't have been heard by my ears.

- It's the first time I ever got that feeling from a boy - where they touch you and you shake because it's so electric and so delicious. It eventually becomes a warning sign, that when anything has that much voltage it has to be dangerous.

- The door shuts behind me and I can see him crying through the window. I pick up my two garbage bags of clothes and throw them into my car with the rest of my stuff. It isn't until I'm on the highway that I remember to breathe and I let out a sob so loud that I scare myself and almost hit a pole. By 4am I'm three states away.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 9: An excerpt from a short story I'm working on

Through one town, into another, south and south, intrepidly south. South to the end of the road where the water tries to swallow the shore and gnashes its foamy teeth on the jetty. I had to park the car as the road had turned into sand and then water. But I left it running.

"I'm not going to kill you, you know," I said.

"Well, after all these year I still don't know what you're about." We smiled at out joke, but I know you still, after these many more years, don't know what I'm about. I forgive you for that and for not knowing how to break me. It's your only flaw.

"Come on," I urged, and took your hand.

"Out there?" You looked scared. It was the only time I've seen that look in your eyes. Was it the water? The black sky against black waves? The rocks making those odd jagged shadows?

"Don't worry," I laughed. "I'll protect you from the fish."

The spotlight on the dock shining between the masts of the fishing boats slid back and forth across your face as the mast obscured it, then let it through. Now I see you, now I don't. Where are you? There you are. I held your hand tighter and pulled you onto the jetty, stumbling over the cracks between the stones. We moved when the light allowed us, jumping the larger cracks, performing a treacherous dance.

"Slow down!" you shouted at me, but the wind pulled it out of your mouth and your panic was all around us. Then you slipped. I felt you pull at my hand as you fell and let go to save myself. I recovered my balance and turned around. You were bleeding and your pants were ripped. I almost vomited.

"Are you ok?" I asked, after the nausea passed.

"I'm fine. Are you ok? You're as white as a ghost."

"I just don't like seeing you hurt," I said, and I meant I can't believe I let you go.

"Don't freak out. This is far enough," you said with such finality that I knew, of course, it was.

"This is far enough."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 8: 150 words

-Do you remember that date we went on? At the river?
-Yeah...
-You wouldn't jump from the rock you were on to the rock I was on.
-The water was high. I didn't want to die.
-I know. I think that's actually what you said.
-"I don't want to die"?
-Yeah. At the time I thought it was silly but now I think I know what you meant when you said it.
-Oh?
-What you meant to say was, "I don't want to fall and risk you not being there to catch me."
-No, what I meant to say was, "Why do I have to jump over rivers in order to reach you?"
-It doesn't matter anyway.
-Why not?
-Well, I don't see any water here, and you're still too far away for me to touch you.
-Just reach.
-Just jump.
-I don't want to get my feet wet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 7: This is no time to panic. But I'm gonna.

About a month ago I went shopping at H&M for some new duds. I recently lost weight, and let me tell you. I was feeling fine. I was looking for something to commemorate the occasion that would make me feel cute and impish. I found a great dress, black with white letters all over it. They didn't spell anything but they were in this awesome font and I am kind of a font junkie. I grabbed a 10 and an 8 off the wall to try on because I figured I'd fall somewhere in between. The 10 was way too big. The 8 was good, maybe a little loose, but it was the smallest size in that style. I figured it would shrink in the wash and put it in the "definitely gonna buy it" pile and left the fitting room.

While browsing through some cardigans I saw it. The perfect dress was hanging on the wall - a little plaid number with an empire waist, A-line skirt and little cap sleeves. It was adorable and it had pockets, for Pete's sake. Love. I grabbed the one in front off the wall and it was a 2. There's no way I'm going to get my butt into a size 2. So I pulled all of the dresses down and found the largest size. It was a size 6. I was doubtful but I had fit into the 8 and it was a little too big. I was feeling skinny. Hell, I thought. I'm feeling size effing 6 skinny. I actually shook my head up and down with a smirk on my face. This was going to fit me.

I took it into the fitting room and undressed, removing my bra. I am not really well endowed on top so I have this kind of push uppy bra but this dress would not require its assistance. I unzipped the little nothing zipper, the kind that doesn't go all the way up or down the side of the dress but just kind of makes a hole in it, and put it over my head.

I got one arm in and the little sleeve was awfully tight. No big deal, I thought. It will be fine once I get it on. So I stuck my other arm in the arm hole and tried to pull it over my braless boobs.

It wouldn't go. But I am not a quitter. I was determined to get into this dress. I pulled it down and settled it in place over my shoulders and it instantly felt like they were encased in cement. I could not move my arms more than two inches in any direction. And then I realized that the empire waist would not fit over my boobs. Not in one million years. Oh well, I said to myself. I guess I'm not a size six. It was time to give up the dream.

I grabbed the left sleeve with my right hand, as one does to remove one's arm from a frock. Only then did I realize that there was absolutely NO ROOM to maneuver my arm and navigate my elbow out of this thing. The fabric had no give. It was like a straight jacket. No big deal, said my brain. You're a broad shouldered gal and you've been in this situation before. Just pull it straight up over your head. Ok brain. You know what's best. I grabbed the hem of the skirt and tried to pull it up and off my head. If you've ever taken your clothes off this way, you know that at one point your arms are crossed over your head. The fabric was so unforgiving and the sleeves so tight that I couldn't get to that point.

Ok. Ok. I am stuck in this dress. No big deal. Maybe I can wiggle out.

Wiggle wiggle. Nope. Now I was starting to get upset. Maybe even a little panicky.

I am going to have to call someone in here to get me out and oh my gosh they are going to see my boobs and these old lady underwears with the hole on the butt cheek. Oh my gosh oh my gosh. What the hell am I going to do.

Wiggle wiggle. Stretch bend stretch.

Shit. Shit shit shit I am really stuck.


I started to sweat. This dress had a satiny smooth lining. Do you know what happens to satiny smooth fabric when you sweat? It STICKS. The situation went from dire to catastrophic.

I am going to have to rip myself out of this dress and pay for it and explain the whole thing and tell them that I thought I wasn't a FAT ASS and could fit my crazy shoulders into this delicate frock and I HATE YOU YOU STUPID DRESS COME OFF OF ME.

I actually started to whimper. I was in ULTRA PANIC MODE. Thirty minutes had passed. I called The Boy.

"Mike! I'm stuck in a dress at H&M!"
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"I'm really really stuck!"
"So what? Call someone in. I'm sure they've had to pry people out of clothes before."
"No! They'll see my boobs and - STOP LAUGHING."

I don't know what happened next. I sat down in order to regain my composure and stop sweating and I think some kind of primal escape mechanism kicked in. Suddenly I didn't care. I didn't care if I ripped it or if I barged into the store half naked screaming GET ME THE HELL OUT OF HERE. That thing was coming off. I took a deep breath in and yanked the hell out of it. I was almost hoping for it to rip or for my shoulder to dislocate, whichever happened first. Either way I'd be free.

All of the sudden, it came off. It hit the wall opposite me and slid to the floor in a rumpled heap. I stood there, staring at it, for five minutes. I didn't believe I was out of it. I was sure it was in ribbons. How else could I have escaped? I picked it up and couldn't believe it. The dress was FINE. No rip, no tear. No stitch out of place. That diabolical frock just decided to let me go. I put it back on the hanger and boogied out of that dressing room.

I caught sight of myself in one of the full length mirrors. I had been in the dressing room for 45 minutes and had come out with my face red and my hair all messed up, clothes all wrinkled. Every person was staring at me. I pretended like my phone was ringing and pretend answered it, talking to a pretend person on the other end as I hastily made my way to the cashier with the dress that didn't try to eat me, paid for my purchase and left.

This situation was so ridiculous that in recalling it here I have brought those feelings of panic and humiliation back to the surface and now I need a shower and a beer, maybe at the same time.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 1: What a way to begin

Today would be the birthday of John William "Billy" Toulin, were he still alive.

One time he decided that he wanted dreadlocks. My sister and I sat him down and put toothpaste in his hair to make them stick and to help dirty it up a bit. I was 15 I think? And she was 17. It didn't work. This other time he robbed my dad's house for money for heroin, a drug that would take his life. I don't remember feeling any anger when that happened, though. His heart was good and the heroin made him someone else.

I feel like telling the whole story would be a little too hard for me. I feel like not telling any of it would cheat him. He liked attention and I think he'd want to be remembered in some way at some point. I don't remember the day he died so his birthday has served as an anniversary to remember his life and ultimately reflect on his death and what it meant to our town.

Tiverton is tiny. Most people who don't live there only know about it if they've passed through it on their way to Newport. It has three stop lights, two Dunkin' Donuts stores (which is low for New England towns), and an alpaca farm. It has four elementary schools but only one middle school and one high school (700 students) which means eventually every kid knows every other kid. We all knew Billy.

I knew him well because he dated my sister on and off for three years. I won't even get into the countless parties and shenanigans that they let me tag along for because it was always the same: drinking, smoking, suburban kids trying to forget something they didn't even know was there.

Billy was a trouble maker. He wasn't a bad kid, as far as kids go, but he got into trouble. He was from one of the wealthiest families in town and lived in one of the most expensive areas in one of the largest houses. The world was like a giant experiment to him and he was always trying to throw it off, to knock into it hard enough to make it fall off its track. He was frigging good at it too. There were a lot of stories about things he'd done, laws he'd broken, girls he'd loved and left. He was fascinating because he was untouchable and because nothing broke his heart. But he was so good. He'd always go out of his way for a friend and he was one of the people who showed up when you needed him. He was good to my sister (mostly) and good to me, and that was enough.

Eventually they broke up and lost touch. We'd run into him from time to time and we heard through the veins of gossip that keep towns like ours alive that he'd gotten into heroin and was going downhill. My sister contacted him and they became friends again while she tried to get him help. Then he robbed my dad's house.

This is getting painful because we're about at the end. Every time I hear anything about heroin I think about him.

The day he died, my mom called me. I was 18 and living with a boyfriend in another town and hadn't thought about Billy in a year or so.

"Hello?"
"Hey honey. I have some news."
"Who died?"
"...How did you know?"
"Your voice. Who died?"
"Billy. Overdose."
"...Oh. I can't say I'm surprised."
"Are you okay?"
"Let me get back to you on that."

I was numb. Numb numb numb. My boyfriend was no help.

"You haven't seen him in a year. Why are you upset?"

Because he was good, I thought. Because his heart isn't beating anymore and his brain doesn't work and I'll never see him again, and he'll never have a chance to get clean because he's dead. Because he was like a brother for so long. Because he let me tag along. Because he didn't think I was some stupid kid sister and he put up with me being around even though he didn't have to.

I said, "Oh, it's just sad is all."

I can't even think about the wake, funeral, and vigil. People were screaming and sobbing. Over the next few days the story came out about the hours leading to his death, and it was as terrible as any after school movie. Death by cliche.

This will be quick. Just write it.

He shot up too much. His friends noticed and became scared. They didn't want to bring him to the hospital because they were all high on something too and didn't want to get in trouble. They left him at the end of his driveway instead, where his mother found him dead when she went for a morning run.

I can't watch movies with scenes of heroin use. The first one I saw after he died actually made me vomit. I cried for two days.

It kills me that he died alone. I only hope he didn't know that he was dying.

I'll never understand the fear or thought process that made those other kids drive away. But when people in town found out who was in that car there was an unspoken hit put out on them. Billy had some loyal friends. I hear those kids skipped town and never came back. I'm glad for it.

Kids who were on it when Billy died got help and got clean. Awareness spread from his death, and parents started to notice what their children got up to at night and where they went and for once were not afraid to confront them about it. Now it's back to the way it was. None of the kids who are there now even know who Billy was. I hear the drug of choice in town now is crystal meth. Crystal fucking meth. I guess every generation needs its own personal tragedy because the tragedies that came before don't matter in five years. They'll learn from their sorrow.

A lot of kids I went to high school with have died. Nora was in a car accident (not her fault) Jared was too (but his was during a drag race). Thinking about them is a really disconnected feeling for me, like they never existed. I know they did but I didn't know them that well. Billy's death is a bruise the won't heal. You don't know it's there until you touch it and then it hurts like hell.

I don't really know what else to say. Maybe I've made him out to be better than he was. Maybe I didn't make him good enough. I know who he was though, and I'll never forget him.

What a way to kick off NaBloPoMo, no? I promise tomorrow will be less of a downer.