At the Water’s Edge

Ana walked through the revolving door out into the busy street. She was still in her hospital gown, and some people in the lobby stared as she walked out. She didn’t notice.

She paused just outside the door. The sun was bright and beating down on her head but the air was cool. The combination left her perfectly comfortable in her scant covering.

She looked up one way of the street and down the other, watching the people going by in each direction. They were choosing where to take themselves, to one way or the other. Now that she was out, she could choose, too.

She turned to walk up the street. Eventually, probably soon, someone would realize she was gone, and then word would be given to find her. But she still had some minutes to walk freely. She would give herself a full, glorious five minutes of complete freedom before she thought of what was to come next.

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Guest Writing

A couple of weeks ago, Milton, from Plane, invited me to make a guest post on his blog as part of an assignment for a class he’s taking. I immediately and happily accepted. I was flattered that a fellow writer would want my words on his page, and I was excited to respond to the topic he gave me, which is one of the most personal and dearest things to me: my journey with music.

So, a big “thank you” to Milton for this cool opportunity.

Head over to Plane to read my post,  “Of Love and Music: A Relationship with The Smashing Pumpkins.”

In the Gathering Gloom: In which she and he meet

(Listen as you read for a fuller experience.)

He craned his long, white neck around the trunk of a tree. His wiry fingers curled around a branch and held him as he leaned forward, sniffing the air for any lingering of her perfume. Nothing.

His lips narrowed in frustration as he peered as far as he could into the darkness in all directions. Even with his keen sight, all he could see were the twisting branches and fallen leaves intertwining with the cold mist.

After a long moment standing still and hearing nothing, he softly crept forward, winding his way through the tall, leaf-less trees, stopping here and there to again sniff, peer, and listen. Time and energy were no barriers to him. He would find her.

*******

She wound her way through the tall, leaf-less trees, stopping here and there to unstick her long coat from the rocks and twigs that tore at the fabric as she walked steadily through the forest. She had left before sunrise and had reached the forest before any light could show her leaving. It was now hours since then, and she welcomed the covering darkness of the dense forest.

She was hungry and thirsty and tired, but she had no thought of stopping, not yet. She had managed to bring one small bag of stolen food and water. If all went well, it would be enough, but she couldn’t use up what she had too soon. She would find him, kill him, and then she would have no more need, but it might still be some time before she did. He was clever and old, and he had done this many times. She was clever too, but she did not have his experience, and, she admitted to herself, probably lacked his patience. She had to be careful.

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Thirty-Three: In which a song helps me deal with time

My birthday was this month and, honestly, I wasn’t very happy about it. It’s to no avail, of course, but I find myself continually resisting my birthdays, more and more each year.

I have never liked getting older, not even when I was young. I didn’t eagerly await turning 16 so I could drive, or 18 so I could be of age, or 21 so I could drink legally in the U.S. (although I was a little excited to turn 25 so I could rent a car).

If it were up to me, I would have stayed 10 forever, when the first signs of puberty started me thinking about age and time. Since then, the reality of our inability to stop time from rushing, rushing by has been hard for me to deal with. This may be arrogant or foolish, but it’s not OK with me that there is a force beyond my control, a force I cannot fight with nor overcome, that determines some of the most basic things about me – how I feel, what I look like, how my brain works.

So birthdays have always been hard for me, and each year they get harder. Each year there is more time to look back on with the sober understanding that I am completely responsible for it. Each year the answers to the questions of Was this year what I wanted it to be? What am I doing with my life? Am I any closer to who I want to be? become graver.

Of course, this thinking isn’t unique. I imagine most adults ask these types of questions during birthdays or at the New Year. They are not easy questions to ask and are even harder to answer.

That is why, with time against me, I resentfully face this 33rd year that did not ask me for permission to arrive.

33.

As I write this just now, I realize 33 is one of my favorite numbers. And I am cheered by this! I had more to say about how getting older makes me sad, how there are things I regret from the last year. But I’m 33! Maybe this year won’t be so bad if I get to be one of my favorite numbers during it.

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Demons: In which they take on new forms

I walk into the room and turn on The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me”. I reach for a bottle of wine. I put on Bordeaux-red lipstick and re-apply eyeliner. I change my clothes so my skin can catch any breeze that floats in through the open window.

But I stay down with my demons, Matt Berninger sings.
I stay down with my demons.

What are my demons these days?

Uncertainty about what my next steps should be, and whether I should take them driving through the streets of Guatemala City or walking down the streets of Chicago.

Unsure, often forced, and sometimes deliberately-veiled talks to God (Has he sent a response? I don’t always listen for one.)

Actively smoothing out the pebbles and boulders from my closest friendship.

Climbing every day the mountain of mental and emotional health. Some days I only stumble; other days I fall all the way to the dark ravine below.

And yet, what kind of “demons” are these? If these are all that haunt my steps, can I not easily turn to face them? If these are the troubles that knock at my door, can I not safely let them in?

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I Can Change: In which I’m inspired by Brandon Flowers’ enthusiasm

As I write this post, Brandon Flowers’ new album, The Desired Effect, has been out for about a month. I had been waiting for this album since it was announced in February. Like a lot of fans, I took notice of The Killers (the band of which Flowers is the leader singer) when their single Somebody Told Me hit radio in 2004. I was immediately hooked on the song and liked it unequivocally.

Unequivocally perhaps, but silently. One of my best friends at the time (see Lost in Zooropa) was as obsessed with music as I was, and we both prided ourselves in having really good taste. Although we didn’t always see eye to eye on specifics, we did agree that the other had a good ear and trusted each other’s musical judgment.

But with Somebody Told Me, and its album Hot Fuss, I felt hesitant. The Killers’ sound was different from what was being heard in alternative rock at the time and, while I liked their first singles, I was unsure of how they would hold up to the critics, including this friend, Doug. I thought he would ridicule their synth, ‘80s sound. There was an emotional element in the music that took me back to junior high in Miami that I knew he just wouldn’t get. And so, as I listened to Somebody Told Me on repeat and reveled in the swell of All These Things That I’ve Done, I kept silent about my new discovery.

Fast forward to a few months later. Doug and I were talking, as usual, about music, discussing new bands we were listening to. He mentioned this new, up-and-coming band, The Killers. Had I heard them? I should really give them a listen because they’re one of the best bands to come out in a long time and they’re going places musically that no one else is going. I really should check them out.

I was…surprised, yes. But mostly I was mad, at myself. Here I had been listening to this band for months already, and Doug was taking all the credit for discovering it first. I didn’t say much beyond, “OK. I’ll look them up,” because there really wasn’t much to say. I was just angry with myself at the missed opportunity of being the one to have introduced Doug to The Killers (who would become one of the best bands of the 2000s and one of Doug’s all-time favorite bands), and I was angry at the pattern this revealed.

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