On being a big, fat liar.

doughtheliar

Two weeks ago, I went to confession. The line of sinners was surprisingly long; I assume the snowstorm from the previous weekend had kept the faithful at home and away from the church, so everyone was playing catch up. That’s why I was there, at any rate. But there’s something about being in that intimate, sacred setting that always compels me to spill my guts. Maybe it’s a simple effect of being raised Catholic, a kind of Pavlovian reaction to the whole ceremony, but I like to believe it’s more than that, like it’s a sign from the universe that my faith is real and working, and that this kind of spiritual purging is healthy and necessary. Whatever the reason or motivation, when it was finally my turn to enter the confessional and the heavy, cloth curtain swung shut behind me, I dropped to my knees and told the priest everything that had been burdening my soul. I unloaded my emotional baggage, carefully and delicately removing every piece of troublesome ego and holding it up to the light to reveal all the intricacies. I think the popular nomenclature for such an event is “word vomit.” At the end, I was breathless but felt somewhat lighter. I also felt guilty and ashamed, truly humbled.

And the priest laughed. He laughed loud and long and hard.

This may seem like a harsh reaction, but please trust me when I assure you that it was completely warranted. My life, as of late, has turned into quite the melodrama. To protect the innocent I won’t go into details, but if you could me a favor and think of the most ridiculous plot line from a daytime soap opera – that’s my life. That’s how I’ve been living. To hear it out loud, to finally speak about it all, was somewhat amusing. I was on the verge of laughter myself – sometimes we laugh to keep from crying, no? So the priest was in no way a villain. His laughter subsided, and he told me I was certainly in a “sticky situation.” He promised he would pray for me.

The priest promised to pray for me. That’s how dire my situation is.

I hope this anecdote helps illustrate why I haven’t been keeping to the resolutions I made so boldly before the new year started. I’m the worst, I know, but I’m trying.

I hope you are all trying to, no matter the endeavor.

You’ll be hearing more from me soon; I promise.

lying

On knowing you’re alive and here for a reason, and knowing that it’s okay not to know why just yet.

It’s been almost two months since the last time I posted an entry.  I’m ashamed and feeling guilty about it because I always promised myself that writing – and the promotion of my writing – would be a priority, but here I am, placing it upon a burner far in the back, which may not even light, because I have become consumed with work and its corresponding extracurricular activities.  I never thought I would delay a dream for a boring adult responsibility like employment.  I never wanted to become boring or sell out.  The question then becomes why am I doing it?  I think it’s time to completely buck convention and go utterly transcendental.  This summer, I plan to walk the entire eastern coast of the state of New Jersey using the East Coast Greenway.  I was inspired by Thoreau, Emerson and Cheryl Strayed, author of her memoir Wild, which has been turned into a film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like I need to get away to figure myself out.  I became a stranger in the sense that I’ve been letting secondary elements control my emotions and ultimately make my decisions.  As a result, I don’t exactly know what I want or who I am, and feeling lost is an awful and terrible feeling.  I feel like a phony – like an imitation of an imitation – and I worry those I love and admire are getting sick of my narcissistic shenanigans.

I’ve got to get back to my basics; back to writing.

WRITING PROMPT #19: A man comes to believe that he is an emissary of God when he survives a plane crash in which all other passengers are killed.

Brian Johnson was laying upon a gurney, being rushed along the tarmac to the waiting ambulance.  Its back doors were open, and its lights were flashing soundlessly in the frigid crispness of the December evening.  Brian saw the distance to the ambulance shorten as he was gently jostled over the smooth pavement, rocked into a soothing kind of trance.  He was eager to become numb and absent because after all, it had been one hell of a day.  No one wakes up in the morning expecting to be the sole survivor of a plane crash, particularly one that smashes against the ground on the runway of the desired destination, so close to home.

The flight had been en route to Atlantic City, landing at the small airport.  Passengers had been composed of family members traveling to reunite with other family members for the impending holiday.  Brian had been one of the few singletons, and as such, he had been crammed into a row with a family just trying to survive.  Luckily, he had the seat nearest the window.  Beside him was a precious and precocious brunette who was about four years old.  Next to her was a harried-looking mother with an infant cradled in her arms, and beside the mother was the exhausted father who also cradled an infant in his arms; twins.  A small smile twitched Brian’s lips as he observed the family, quiet and tired, not talking to one another, and seemingly blissfully happy to be seated and finally ready to go.  The little girl was bouncing a teddy on her knee, singing some nonsense song Brian had once known but had long forgotten upon leaving the playground so many years ago.

Some time after takeoff, Brian had adorned his ear buds, cranked the volume on his iPod, and fallen asleep.  He was terrified of flying and only boarded planes when there was absolutely no other alternative, so he only survived when he slept through it.  Surviving a flight had taken on a completely different meaning when Brian awoke to terrified screams.  His eyes shot open and he savagely ripped the ear buds from his ears.  Everything was shaking wildly; it was the worst turbulence Brian had ever experienced.  He had only ever seen it in cliched horror films.  He was looking this way and that, but found no answers or comfort, only faces grotesquely contorted into unadulterated terror.  The oxygen mask suddenly fell before his face and Brian knew this was it.  It was all ending and he wasn’t entirely sure how that knowledge made him feel.  He turned to the family beside him, saw the mother and father enclose their infant children, and saw the little girl squeezing the teddy, sobbing.  Without thinking about it, he encircled her in his arms and felt relieved when her tiny hands grabbed onto the fabric of his shirt.

And that was all he remembered.

Brian regained conscious on the ground.  Everything ached and burned, and he only saw things in blurred images.  He could smell smoke but he couldn’t hear anything over the sound of his own breathing.  For an irrational moment, he wondered if he was under water.  His legs and back felt wet, but then there were people standing above him, looking down with shocked faces.  He was trying to tell them that he felt weird, and that he couldn’t hear, but they couldn’t seem to hear either.  They went about their business as if he wasn’t screaming.  He was lifted up and onto the gurney and he was being ushered to the waiting ambulance.

As Brian rolled right along, his head flopped to the side and he saw the sheets, the countless sheets covering the countless, mutilated bodies of his fellow passengers.  One such sheet had a charred teddy bear beside it and Brian knew he should be dead.  He should have died.  But he didn’t, and Brian considered what that might mean.  Maybe he had been spared.  He thought back to late nights spent with his father on their screened-in back porch, where his father smoked like a chimney and pontificated at length about religion and politics and women and family and life and death and everything in between.  He had once told his son that God had a plan for everyone and that everything happened for a reason.  His father claimed that’s what the scientists really meant when they insisted that for every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction.

So the plane had gone down, and Brian was still breathing.  What was God’s plan?  Was Brian supposed to value life in a way he hadn’t?  Because to be frank, he thought he had been living life to the fullest and if there was some part of it he wasn’t quite getting, then Brian thought the Big Man didn’t have to be so dramatic; a little subtlety never hurt anyone.

How to explain the dead little girl and the burned teddy bear.  What was the rationale behind that?  Then again, maybe that was why Brian had been spared, to figure it out.  Maybe Brian was supposed to tell the world about the family beside him and their love to the very end and that protective instinct.  Maybe such a story would inspire others, give them hope, and help Brian from feeling guilty.

But maybe it was just fucking chaos.  Slipping in and out of consciousness, it was hard for Brian to tell.

planecrash

On celebrating being happy.

Another week over, another four pounds lost!  I literally could not be happier right now!  All the denial and all of the grumbling are paying off!  I am not sure where that leaves me in the standings of the competition at work, but honestly, who cares?  I don’t need the money if I lose the weight!  Also, I’ve purchased an Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer, as suggested by the LA Times article, “52 ways to leave your blubber.”  Ideally, the average human being should get up to between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day.  I think I can meet the goal, especially when I start introducing brief intervals of jogging to my walking regimen.

pedometer

This week’s theme seemed to be self-improvement as I found myself at the dentist, too.  It had been the first time I’d been to the dentist in well over a decade.  The sterile smell of the office clashed terribly with the sleek, technologically advanced atmosphere; for a moment, I could have believed I was walking back to a tanning bed rather than a leather chair.  I had a full set of x-rays taken and my teeth were cleaned.  Good news: minimal tartar buildup and only one cavity!  I also can have braces put on that cannot be seen even though I don’t qualify for Invisalign.  Bad news: I have a baby tooth that never fell out so that has to be pulled, and the dentist mentioned removing my wisdom teeth, but wants to wait until I meet with the orthodontist because there is a slight chance that might not be necessary.  All in all, the appointment was not as horrifying or painful as I had imagined.

dentist

I also purchased a car this week!  It is a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible.

photo (2)

It runs great, the heat works, and the inspection is good until May of 2014!  The airbag light started coming on today, but my dad (who has been a mechanic for years and years) does not think it’s anything to worry about.  I hope he’s right; I tend to have bad luck with cars, as previous posts can testify to.  Last night, my family and I – minus my little brother who is at the age where he would rather be with friends than family – celebrated my new car at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!  It is nights like those that help to remind me how blessed I am to be surrounded with love and support, and reignite my desire to be a part of such a loving support system for others.  That sentiment goes hand in hand with the Gospel reading from Mass, which I attended earlier today:

love

My friend Eric and his mom enjoyed my novel!  Eric sent me a message to let me know, which was sweet.

photo (2) photo (1)

I have compiled a list of local booksellers to begin visiting in April, when the weather is warmer and the school year is winding down.  I want to set up book signings and readings and whatnot.  Wish me luck!

Love and be loved.  Love and life are all that matter. ❤

On a happy Thanksgiving.

I sincerely hope that everyone who reads this blog, or at least this post, has a truly wonderful Thanksgiving.  I wish for all that you are surrounded by loved ones with full hearts and full stomachs.  I hope that you are thankful and grateful for all of life’s blessings, including the miracle of life itself.

I am thankful for the miraculous gift of life, and I am thankful that mine has been filled with laughter and love.  I am thankful to be blessed with safety, health and happiness and wish the same for every pair of eyes that reads this (and those that do not, as well). I am thankful for my family, my friends, my colleagues, my wonderfully wacky students, my talent and my opportunities.

I am thankful for my writing talent and ability, and to all those who have and who will support that endeavor.

Everyone, be loved and be thankful every day, but today especially. ♥

On squirrel crossings.

The other day, when I was driving home from Sussex, I saw a squirrel dash across the Garden State Parkway – across five lanes of speeding traffic – to the other side.  He scurried amongst leaves and shrubs safely and smile spread across my face.  I wish I had that kind of daring and tenacity.

Sometimes, in the morning when I am driving to the high school, I scan through the radio stations.  Inevitably, the dial lands on Bible Thumper radio, which features men who sound impossibly old, who gasp out sermons of fire and brimstone, demanding that we all repent.  I like to leave the station on for a minute or two because I like the eeriness that fills the front of my car.  The streets are usually deserted, my dying, dim headlights lighting on nothing but pavement and painted white lines.  The change that lies discarded in one of two cup holders and clangs irritatingly around in the space as I drive is the only other sound.  It is not comforting; it is unsettling, but I enjoy it all the time.  I suppose that makes me weird.

More and more, I am realizing that the more things change, the more they truly do stay the same.  My belief – or faith? – in a common human thread is affirmed on a daily basis.  Human beings may age physically; hair may grey, joints may weaken, and lines may form, but emotionally, they can be as childish and as whimsical and romantic at seventeen as they can be at ninety-seven.  That knowledge, that possibility, gives me hope and makes me smile time and time again.

Lately, I am becoming more and more obsessed with romance.   I worry that this could be dangerous; dangerous to myself, to those around me, and to my writing endeavors.  To make this obsession more of a contagious disease, enjoy the following passages from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Also, please note that I have booked a hotel room for Salem, Massachusetts.  At least I make good on some promises.

 

“’Because,’ he said, ‘I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.  And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land, come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapped; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.  As for you—you’d forget me.’”

 

“’I tell you I must go!’ I retorted, roused to something like passion.  ‘Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you?  Do you think I am an automaton?—a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup?  Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal—as we are!”

On being clean.

I had a really wonderful time with loved ones yesterday at Cheryl’s surprise 50th birthday party.  Cheryl is the mother of my best friend, so I view her as my mother by extension.  She is extremely caring, loyal, honest and strong.  I am blessed to have her in my life and be counted as her loved one.  I am also blessed to have such a large extended family, blood relations notwithstanding.  At the party, I was one of the few people who were not related to Cheryl by either blood or marriage.  I viewed myself as a kind of ambassador, representing my family, and it got me thinking about why it becomes so difficult to mix different groups of friends; I believe it is because different people allow one to show different sides of him or herself.  We love myriads of people.  Hopefully, most of us are surrounded by people who bring out the best in us.  But now and again, we develop toxic relationships and love the people who hurt us and bring out the worst in us.  Some people see that as being weak, and as being taken advantage of.  I prefer to see it as being brave.  To give love unconditionally time and time again no matter how many bruises it inflicts is a beautiful and precious gift that is clearly deserving of being shared with everyone.

Never stop loving.

“Oh Jesus, I’ve fallen. I don’t mind the rain if I meet my Maker; I’ll meet my Maker clean. But Jesus, the truth is I struggle so hard to believe I’ll meet my Maker.  I need my Maker.”

– “Get Me Right,” Dashboard Confessional

“And can you kneel before the King and say, ‘I’m clean, I’m clean’?”

– “White Blank Page,” Mumford & Sons

PROMPT: “He was pretty religious once.”

PIECE: Marilyn was slowly walking from the church.  Her high heels were clicking against the concrete and the sound echoed out into the almost deserted parking lot.  She paused at the curb, fumbling with her tiny purse, looking for her pack of cigarettes and lighter.  Will didn’t like her smoking in the car, so she figured she’d feed the craving before climbing inside.  It was an act of consideration and wisely played, because Will would most likely be incredibly cantankerous – he had waited for Saturday evening mass to end in his car in the dry summer heat without air conditioning.  Marilyn had tried to use the lack of comfort and cool air as an incentive for Will to join her inside the church, aside from the fact that doing so could save his immortal soul and provide his life with some kind of moral center.  Her pleas had fallen on deaf ears; Will was not to be shaken from his lack of faith.  She lit up and took a long drag, exhaling the smoke towards the moving sky.  It looked like a severe, sudden summer storm was on its way.

“Will still sitting in the car, huh?” a familiar voice asked.  Marilyn turned to see her best friend, Hannah.  Hannah was smiling, sunglasses blocking her eyes.

“Yeah,” Marilyn answered.  “I’ve tried everything, dude.  Maybe it’s not that important.  Maybe I should stop pushing my values on him.”  She flicked the ashes from the end of the cigarette, and watched them flutter to the pavement.

“Maybe; you know your relationship better than anyone else, aside from Will, of course.”  Hannah paused.  “He’s lucky to have you, you know?”

Marilyn shrugged.  “He keeps saying that, and I keep trying to tell him that it works both ways.  Sometimes, I think he gets upset because he works down at the masonry center and he thinks it’s nothing glamorous and that I think the same.”  She turned to face Hannah fully.  “Do you think I’m pretentious?  Do I give off that vibe?”

Hannah shook her head.  “Not at all; and Will’s fears and doubts are Will’s fears and doubts.  It’s his baggage that he needs to work through.”

Again, Marilyn only shrugged.  “I know, but I just want to help.”  Hannah was silent beside her, out of clichéd things to say she’d learned from sitcoms with female target audiences.  Marilyn turned to face the parking lot, seeming to look out beyond it all and into the past.  “He was pretty religious once,” Marilyn said.

“Really; Will was religious?”

Nodding, Marilyn said, “Yeah.  He would go to mass every week, confession every two weeks.  Every night before bed, he’d hit his knees and pray.  He had a Bible beside his bed and he’d try to read a little bit of it every day.”

“What happened?” Hannah asked.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Marilyn admitted.  “It’s weird.  He won’t go to church, but he brings me every Sunday and he doesn’t go home.  He waits in the car.  What’s that about?”

“Maybe he’s waiting for a reason to go in,” Hannah offered.

On missing information.

So for being Friday the 13th, today wasn’t half bad.  I spent some awesome time with Jimmy who, unfortunately, is returning to Virginia tomorrow.  I also had lunch with Raina and it was definitely enjoyable, and it was wonderful catching up.  Yes, the only thing that absolutely sucked was getting stuck in traffic on the way home … for HOURS.  My car has no air, so I was incredibly hot, sweaty and cranky from about 4:00PM until 7:10PM; 190 minutes of discomfort – that’s torture.

Also, I was offered the job at the school in Oakland.  It all happened really, really fast.  I assumed I was just meeting with the principal, but then my future supervisor brought me in to meet the superintendent and she asked if I was “interested.”  I told her I was, and she started talking about salary and meeting with HR after the Board of Education meeting on July 30th.  My head was spinning.  To be honest, it still is.  I’m already stressing, striking out somewhere unfamiliar on my own and far from family.  My neck hurts when I think about taking over bills, the possibility of having to commute and being independent.  I’ve told myself for the past two years that this is everything I want, but now I’m terrified.  Was it all just bravado?  Am I really content to be living at home, floating between maternity leaves?  Have I romanticized my loneliness and disappointment into something worthwhile?

I need to sleep.  Or drink heavily.  Basically, I just need to relax.

PROMPT: “You accidentally overhear a conversation between two people you’ve never met. The topic of the conversation shocks and dismays you. Write about these conversations and describe how you respond to the content:

 ■1. A conversation between two stockbrokers

 ■2. A conversation between a priest and a member of his parish

 ■3. A conversation between a woman and the man with whom she’s been cheating on her husband

 

PIECE (#2):  It had been a rough couple of months.  It had been months since I’d been to mass, let alone to confession.  Nothing had changed, everything had remained absurdly shitty, so I thought why not give the Big Man a try.  Maybe everything that could go wrong was going wrong because I’d taken Him out of the equation, so to speak.  I was desperate, and willing to try anything to get back on my feet.  I was broke, unemployed, living in my parents’ house, incredibly lonely and as if that wasn’t enough, my cat had gone missing.  Running my hands over and across my throbbing skull, I knelt in the pew closest to the altar.  I released a tremulous breath and looked up at the Crucified Christ.  His frame was twisted in a grotesque display of pain, and his stone, sorrowful eyes looked up for some relief, some absolution, something.  I was looking to Jesus, Jesus was looking to God and we both looked miserable.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the priest treading carpet quickly.  He was obviously in a rush, a terrible rush, as he made sure his eyes remained downcast, evading even the most remote possibilities of making eye contact.  Intrigued by such odd behavior, – especially for a priest – I discreetly followed his progress from the rectory doors in the front, left corner of the church to the confessional booths in the middle of the back of the church.  I craned my neck, understanding that in the priest’s attempt to not see freed me to stare unashamedly.  I had never been to this particular church before, travelling to find anonymity as well as comfort, and was interested to try and case the place, to figure things out.  I worried the intrigue was over when the priest was just about to enter the confessional and begin his holy duties when the doors to the rectory flew open and a man unfamiliar to me burst onto the scene.

“Ben!” he screamed.  “You can’t keep running from this!”  The man’s shirt was stained with dirt and sweat and un-tucked.  He had run a formidable distance, but still managed to sound fierce in between gasps of air.  The priest, Father Ben as it were, remained silent.

“How can you kneel before the King and claim purity when your hands are stained?  How can you offer absolution to anyone when you are damned?”  I looked from the crazed man to Father Ben and back again, wanting to make sense of the conversation and to fill in the gaps myself.  It was near impossible, especially when Father Ben refused to participate.  As the man screamed, the priest remained perfectly still, more like a statue than a man; more like an imitation than the genuine article.

“Who are you going to confess your sins to?” the man asked.  He was gazing intently at Father Ben.  I don’t think he ever even knew I was there.

In response, Father Ben turned from the both of us and exited the church.

From what I could find out from parishioners and close friends, he never returned.  What’s worse: he never even said goodbye.

On being dumb and holding on.

“You must know life to see decay, but I won’t rot. I won’t rot – not this mind and not this heart. I won’t rot.”

“After the Storm,” Mumford & Sons

 

A parking lot filled with cars but decidedly lacking in people is not the best place for an existential, religious crisis, especially not after having too many drinks and engaging in decidedly trashy behavior.  Every nice girl is allowed one night of debauchery, right?  I wanted to cry and run and hide.  I felt as if all of my desperation was put on display for everyone to see, and it was.  I did not conduct myself as I normally do.  I am ashamed by my embarrassingly public displays of affection with a stranger.  He told me his name, but I couldn’t really hear anything he was saying over the bass; my ears still feel fuzzy.  I wish my recollection of my behavior was fuzzy, but it is painfully clear.

I don’t know what troubles me most; the fact that I became someone else last night, someone who I am far from proud of, or the fact that I made out with a stranger in a bar and still feel unfulfilled and lonely.  I have built romance into an overwhelming, all-consuming absence that needs to be rectified on point of death.  I thought a messy, impromptu make-out session would open my eyes and that it would mean more.  But it doesn’t mean anything, and I am no closer to feeling loved and needed in a unique and singular way than I was yesterday.  If anything, I feel like I’ve taken two giant steps backwards.  I feel gross and disposable and dumb.  There was no point to what I did.  I wasn’t that drunk, so I can’t blame it on the alcohol.  Was I really so lonely?  Did I succumb to everything that I judged and feared for a few moments of – of what?  It wasn’t even enjoyable.  I did it to do it, and to be able to say that I had done it; a notch on the belt, something to cross of the bucket list.

But that’s not me! I love love!  I believe that love is awesome and worth living for and worthy dying for and I believe that love is something sacred and I ignored everything I’ve held dear for so long for what?  I don’t understand, and that scares me.  After all this time, how can I not know myself? How can I be so weak and selfish and irrational?

At least I learned that romance and the physicality of romance are two very separate and distinct aspects – for some, they can be easily severed.  I learned what I don’t want – I do not want to be a serial PDA.  I do not want to be that girl at the bar that strangers take pictures of because she’s being that trashy.  It is definitely better being the lonely-looking girl at the end of the bar than it is to be the one making a spectacle of herself – at least it is for me, anyway – to each his own, I guess.  I am going to hold tight to my belief that love is real and something special is going to happen to me.  I can’t rush it or look for it in dark, desperate places.

PROMPT: “A priest is attacked for being a pedophile.  He is innocent of the crime but guilty of something far worse.”

PIECE: Father Brian sat alone in the rectory in his favorite armchair.  It was worn in all the right spots so that it fit his tired body like a familiar lover.  He knew the analogy was somewhat odd to be thought of by a priest – a man of the cloth, as it were – but at this moment, he didn’t care.  Parishioners and clergymen would think what they wanted, all evidence to the contrary be damned.  Father Brian was well aware there had been whispers and subtle suggestions that he was a pedophile.  The mere thought of it turned his stomach and he wanted to rally against his accusers – blacken eyes, loosen teeth and draw blood.  But Father Brian was a holy man – he was not animalistic or base in nature, and was a sentient being.  He could almost understand how the implications started; after all, he was very affectionate with the altar servers.  He tousled hair, squeezed shoulders, hugged freely, but he only did so to show love and support.  His intentions were honorable.

But, Father Brian sighed deeply, let them think what they want because the truth – the real truth – was worse.  He was not an honorable or holy man.  He was a fraud, a louse and weak, so weak.  He was supposed to be righteous and pure.  He was supposed to be leading the way in salvation.  Instead, he valued the dark places of his soul where he refused the light of the Lord and instead lighted the labyrinthine paths with lascivious desires.  Why, just last night after hearing Saturday night confessions, he had gone out to the bar in civilian clothes.  He hadn’t mentioned his occupation to anyone.  Father Brian – just Brian now; as if it even worked that way – took a seat on a rickety, abused bar stool and ordered a beer.  Then he waited.  For the past couple of weeks or so, Brian kept meeting this beautiful woman.  She found him to be a good listener and they would talk until last call and then Brian would see her home.  It seemed harmless enough, but his overly affectionate behavior towards the altar servers made him nervous.  Was his affection misplaced?  Was he treating the servers like his own children because that’s really what he wanted, a wife and a family?  Did he want it with this woman?  Why hadn’t he told her the truth?

Because last night she had kissed him and he hadn’t stopped her.  He was still a virgin, but was that his choice, or simply because she hadn’t invited him inside?

He was losing his faith – he could feel it shrivelling and crippling away from him.  He wasn’t bothering to cradle it in his arms and nestle it in his arms.  Father Brian was giving up.  The parishioners could sense this, but leveled terrible accusations against him.  This he considered his own fault though, because he was using the servers to mask his feelings.  He was working so hard to be the Light, to exude love and joy that it seemed false and sinister.

What was to become of him?

He threw the tumbler of whiskey he had been nursing against the opposite wall and watched the glass shatter, tears streaming.  It was all very fitting, very fucking fitting.

On loving lyrics.

“And if I only could make a deal with God, I’d get Him to swap our places.”

That lyric is from the song “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush, although Placebo sings the version I more commonly rock out to. I don’t exactly know what it is about the song that makes me listen to it for days on end, but I have a strong suspicion it has a lot to do with that one lyric. It is brief but powerful, and could be applied to a million different lives in a million different ways.

 

What lyric or lyrics do you love?

On rain never ending.

It started raining on my way to church with the family – around 11:00AM – and it hasn’t stopped since.  The wind’s picked up some, and its mournful howl rallies against the windows and rattles the doors.  I don’t mind the rain.  In fact, I happen to enjoy it very much.  Before I die, I want to get caught in the rain somewhere with the man I love.  I want the two of us to be careless and young and living for the moment.  I assume that’s probably a strange goal, but I’m coming to find all my goals are strange.  I’m a strange person, but I embrace it.

I wrote some more of what I hope shapes up to be my second novel.  Please, please, please read and let me know your thoughts.

🙂

The car came to a stop at a red light.  Brian had his window down and the sound of the tires slowly rolling to a standstill on the dampened pavement reminded him of pouring milk over a bowl of Rice Krispies.  The sound was louder than the radio, which Penelope had only turned on to discourage Brian from talking.  He stole a glance at Penelope, his wife, beside him.  Her head was turned away from him – most likely to further discourage him from talking – and all he saw was her red hair.  It had been the first thing he had noticed about her some thirty years ago.  It was just as vibrant as it had been then, and he wondered if Penelope was proud of that fact.  He wondered if he should tell her he noticed, if it would make her smile.  He stayed quiet and his dark eyes moved to take in her entire form, but they soon became focused on her hands carelessly resting on her lap.  They were small and delicate, though not exactly fragile.  A ring denoted each and every finger, aside from her thumbs.  The only other adornment was that wooden beaded bracelet.  “Where’d you get that bracelet?” he asked.
The light turned green.  Brian accelerated accordingly.
Penelope shot him a sharp look, annoyed that he had broken her reverie by talking.  She regarded the bracelet in question.  “My brother gave it to me the day I met you.”  She paused before adding, “I thought it was lucky, so I haven’t taken it off since.”  She laughed but the sound was forced and lacking in any genuine amusement.  Penelope used her left hand to cover her right wrist and the bracelet.  She turned away from Brian again, and he assumed the conversation was over.  Then Penelope asked, “Why?”
“I don’t know,” Brian confessed with a shrug.
“We’ve been together for over three decades and you’ve never asked me about this bracelet, so why the sudden interest?”
“Why have you never told me about it?” Brian asked, trying to be clever.
“You’re impossible,” Penelope growled and that signaled the real end of any and all conversation between the two.  Her face was pinched and ugly because she was so angry.  She was tired of looking out the window and couldn’t stand to look at Brian, so her eyes – much like her hands – fell to her lap.  Penelope moved her hands so they rested flat upon her thighs with palms facing downwards.  The bracelet that incited the clipped conversation that had so upset her became the focus of her gaze.  Her pinched features softened as she allowed her thoughts to drift and recalled a memory.
She had been young – just twenty-years-old – and she had been so excited to go to the boardwalk in Ashton Park.  Penelope and her friends had made plans earlier in the week to fill a cooler with beer, to fill a stereo with batteries and lay in the sun on the sand.  Penelope remembered being up in her small, neat bedroom.  The windows were open and the ceiling fan was rapidly rotating but still, it had been hot; great beach weather.  She had her bathing suit on with some shorts she had made herself by cutting up an old pair of jeans.  She had been maneuvering and modeling in front of the full-length mirror in the near right corner, piling her hair atop her head and then letting it fall.  Penelope had been so self-absorbed that she hadn’t heard her older brother knock on the door frame and it wasn’t until she saw him in the mirror’s reflection that she even knew he was there.  Penelope had spun to face him, and she asked him what he wanted.
“Relax, Penny,” he said with the goofy grin he always wore when he was pleased with himself.  “I just wanted to give you a surprise.”  He had pulled the bracelet from behind his back and slid it onto her right wrist.  He had planned on giving it to Sandy – his current girlfriend – but rumor had it Sandy had already received a bracelet from some other guy on the block – Tommy Cook, maybe.  Penelope smiled ruefully, chiding her brother about just wanting to dump the bracelet.  Her brother feigned taking offense and explained that Penelope was a beautiful girl who deserved beautiful things … like the bracelet.  Penelope didn’t think the bracelet was beautiful at all, and had rolled her eyes and had playfully kicked her brother out of the room.  A horn blasted outside and before she could take the stupid bracelet off, she was on her way to the beach, to the boardwalk, and to Brian.  It had been the perfect day and she missed the feeling of being infinite, of being invincible.  Maybe she still wore the bracelet in hopes it would be a magic talisman of sorts that could keep her young and happy.  Maybe she still wore it to remind herself of better times and to remind herself of why she had fallen in love with Brian so fiercely that day.
So much had changed, been ruined and shattered.  Why didn’t she just take the bracelet off?  She suddenly felt weak and sad, so Penelope tore her eyes from the bracelet and resumed staring out of the passenger side window at the generic scenery passing by.  She sniffed loudly and then leaned forward to raise the volume of the radio.

Ten brutal and silent minutes later, Brian parked the car alongside the curb in front of a trendy restaurant downtown.  It had been a favorite and frequent stop of Brian and Penelope when things had been good – great, even – and they still had dinner there every other week to keep up appearances.  They smiled wide and laughed louder than what felt comfortable.  Brian even held Penelope’s hand and during dinner, they talked without raising voices.  It was a nice break from the usual tension and dramatics and Brian supposed that was the real reason he and Penelope had kept up the charade – they had become so good at pretending that for a couple of hours, they could actually believe that nothing was wrong.
Brian climbed out of the car and headed to cross in front of the car to open Penelope’s door.  He looked at her through the windshield and found she was still not looking at him and was still staring out of the window.  Halfway to the other side of the car, Brian stopped because he heard Melissa’s unmistakable and unapologetic laughter radiating from somewhere behind him.  He turned and saw her beneath a streetlight with friends.  One of the friends, a young man, had slipped his arm around Melissa’s waist.  Brian noted that Melissa did not cringe or subtly slip out of the embrace.  He wouldn’t say she welcomed it, but she definitely had not refused it.  Heat had started to collect in his chest and rise up his neck.  Soon, it would flood his face and his anger would be apparent to everyone, especially Penelope.  Brian had a strong desire to call out to Melissa, to have her come to him and explain herself with her head hanging low and her eyes full of shame.  He also debated marching over there, pulling Melissa free of the guy’s grasp and proclaiming loudly that she was his, and not to be touched.  Both of the options Brian entertained were unrealistic; he and Penelope had decided to keep the affair a secret so their two girls wouldn’t find out.  As a result, divorce was not a viable option and Penelope and Brian had continued as if she hadn’t found out, and as if everything was as it should be.  Sighing heavily, Brian continued to Penelope’s door and opened it.

Dinner was delicious, and the conversation wasn’t entirely terrible.  It slowed and halted, but was not hostile.  Fans stopped by the table to quickly say hello, as did the owner to ask about the family, the new novel and upcoming book tour.  Penelope and Brian smiled and were completely engaged; no one suspected a thing.  When the visiting had ceased and an awkward silence had descended, Penelope excused herself and went to the bathroom.  Brian took the opportunity to dial Melissa’s number on his cell phone.  The phone rang and rang and rang; there was no answer.  He left a voicemail through gritted teeth, indicating he was angry but he nearly pleaded for her to call him back.  He shoved the phone in his pocket before Penelope came back, and the evening continued the same way it had started.

At home that night, Penelope went to her bedroom on the far side of the luxurious house.  Brian knew he wouldn’t see her again until breakfast the next morning, so he wasn’t too discreet about leaving the house.  He walked out the front door and down the long, twisting drive until he reached the sidewalk.  Melissa only lived about two miles away, in an attractive apartment building made of red bricks with wrought-iron railings.  Bruce wanted to walk to clear his mind and to formulate what it was he would say to his lover, his mistress.  Melissa hadn’t reacted as well as Brian had hoped to the idea of keeping things as they were, even though Penelope knew.  He didn’t know what Melissa had expected or what she had wanted to change, but he did know that was part of the problem.
About half-an-hour later, he was standing in front of the front door of her building.  Brian had been about to ring the buzzer, but he stopped and retracted his outstretched hand.  He retreated down two of the three long, wide concrete steps leading up to the door and had half a mind to walk back on home.  He had called Melissa and left a message; wasn’t that enough?  Was he being silly and juvenile?  He couldn’t afford to be so, not at his age and in his line of work.  Brian turned away and was about to descend the last step when the doors opened.  He turned and was surprised to find Melissa, clad in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, walking out.  She wasn’t wearing any shoes and her hair was sloppily pulled back.  A cigarette dangled between her thick, pink lips and he presumed she was reaching into the long pocket of her sweatshirt for her lighter.  When her dark eyes lighted upon Brian, she became impressively still.  It was silent before she called, “Brian?”
He took a few steps closer.  “Hey Melissa,” he breathed.
Seemingly incredulous, her eyes shifted left and right.  Melissa asked, “What the hell are you doing here?”

Read. Comment. Share. ❤