Friday, December 18, 2015

Symptoms

She shot him.
She shot him dead.
She wasn't even subtle about it. Not even a little bit! There was no precision to her tactics, no planning. It wasn't like one of those crime shows where the cops desperately tried to figure out her motives or where she was or anything of that nature.
She shot him in the middle of the streets in broad daylight with several bystanders.
And truthfully? She loved it.

She never considered herself a violent individual. In fact, she prided herself on the fact that her friends would call her a joy to be around. Someone who always knew how to cheer them up. Someone who always knew how to keep a cool head. Someone responsible. Someone loving.

Someone who was probably the last person they expected to take a human life.
Hell, even SHE was surprised that she found herself in such a situation.

She moved to the city to better her chances in her career. After all, the city was so full of opportunity and so romanticized on every story she had seen from the time she was a child, she was convinced that she, too, could change the world by basking in its presence. And initially, it was enjoyable, but the everyday grind began to wear into her.

It wasn't the job. It wasn't even her living conditions. It was the commute.

Every day, she found herself under the scrutinizing eyes of hundreds. And while the stereotype always seemed to go that women were harsh and more likely to judge other women, she realized the lie in such a statement. It wasn't the women that she had to worry about, it was the men.

The men with their leering gazes. The men with their objectifying words. The men who would tell her that she was ugly, hideous and unfuckable for telling them to leave her alone. The men who would follow her for blocks and force her into a public building for safety. The men who made her question if her outfit was 'too revealing' even if it was a modest length of her favorite skirt.

Every day she was on display, even if she didn't want to be. And all of this just to walk to work.
Every day. Every single day.

She asked the police for help who did nothing, and even some of them laughed. Asked her to take it as a compliment being the 'pretty young woman' that she was.

Compliment? Feeling like a piece of meat readily available for consumption was a compliment?

She felt helpless. She felt angry.

And it was around that time to take out her anger that she thought it was wise to start taking classes for shooting. She became damn good at it too, hitting the bullseye dead on and barely missing her mark in as little as a month.

She was praised for being a natural marksman.

She had faces fresh in her mind to help her with that on her way to the range.

Not too long after that she decided to buy a gun for herself.

After all, she was living by herself in the city, making her way home at terrible times at some nights. It was better to be safe than sorry.

And knowing that power was at her side, she had nothing to fear walking down those streets. She readily told her offenders to fuck themselves. Readily held her middle finger high. Readily turned to the men following her and asked with a fire in her eyes if they had a problem with her, to which they would be taken aback and scurry away, murmuring under their breaths.

Assholes.

And it continued as such until she walked with her head held high, shoulders squared, and ready to face the day wearing whatever she damn well pleased and paying attention to no one.

But one day, one of her offenders wouldn't take her lack of acknowledgement as an answer to his disgusting words.

He followed her for blocks and shouted obscenities to her the entire way until she turned around and yelled, "Do you have a fucking problem?!"

To which usually worked in some kind of capacity, but this time she was shoved back and called an ugly bitch.

And that shove was enough for her to reach into her bag, pull out her gun and shoot him.

She felt a rush when the look of shock washed over the guy's face. He tried to grab her again despite the bleeding hole in his chest, and she shot again. She only had to shoot twice because training had paid off.

She heard the screams around her, that felt like background noise to what was going on in her own head. The guy fell to the ground. The life draining from his eyes, his blood spilling on the concrete below.

She felt the smallest tinge of remorse because she knew this guy was a symptom of a much larger problem. It was his fault for his actions, but at the same time he was a product of a much larger problem at hand. He wasn't the disease. He wasn't the core. He wasn't the root.

But like anyone who faced any sort of symptom - be it a crippling headache or a nagging cough - it felt good to be relieved of the symptom, even for a moment.

And the blissful rush that came from relieving said symptom.

She basked in the glory of that relief up until the cops apprehended her.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Coming Home

Sometimes when someone has their back pressed against a wall, their true nature comes out. Whether that nature is an anxious one or something akin to a hero, it's always an interesting thing to see. I think this always happens when an uncomfortable question is unexpectedly shot our way. Answer with grace or stumble. Go with the flow or be taken over.
He couldn't meet my eyes for a moment. Shame? Remorse? Self-loathing? Who's to say, but after a few huffing sighs he said, "I was broke. You deserve better than that."
I deserve better than an arbitrary number printed on a piece of paper that we regard with high importance? Did you put said object above yourself? Above stepping up and doing the right thing?
Even if he hadn't stayed with my mother - which would have been disastrous - he could have stayed in my life in some way. And in the very least, helped my mother through the arduous nine month task of pregnancy.
But no. Because you were broke.
My mother was broke too. Despite this, she got us out of the welfare system. She moved back in with her parents so I wouldn't be entrusted to strangers. She came home after work, certainly exhausted, but she never made me feel like we were broke a day in our lives. We were broke, but we ate well. We were broke, but I always managed joyful Christmases and birthdays. We were broke, but the love I received far outweighed any dollar that I've ever made.
It was in that moment that I could understand my mother's bitterness after all those years. When he was brought up, she became passionate about the injustices he commit against her, her voice would raise and her My own body stiff, brows narrowed, nostrils slightly flared. No wonder mom was bitter all those years.
You were broke.
Broke.
I was fatherless. My mother was alone. But you were broke.
Money can't buy the experience of fatherhood. So, in that regard, he was broke of his own doing. Parenthood can be one of the richest experiences of one's life if they choose to go that route - or so I've heard.
You may very well have been monetarily broke, but more than that you were fucking lazy. Because what you did was easy, but what my mother did and continues to do is much more difficult.
At that point, I couldn't even feel anything. No anger, no sorrow. It hardly seemed worth it.
Of course, I still stayed pleasant throughout the duration of our trip and when I finally made it home, I ignored his calls more and more until they stopped altogether. There was nothing I had left to say to him.
But when I returned back home, the first thing I did was call my mom.
"How was your trip?"
"It was good," I said quietly before I told her what he told me. Being broke and all.
"He told me the same thing. At least he's consistent," she sighed.
I was quiet for a while before I said, "You know, thank you for being my mom."
And mom always has a modest reply, "I'm glad to be your mom."
"I know."
And really, I'm glad that things turned out the way they did. I wouldn't want it any other way.
"I love you, mom."
"I love you, too."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Away We Go...

Upon returning home, we somehow made it a point to talk to one another at least once a week if nothing else. I always felt like I had to say more so than he did. I was in school, school was filled with interesting things that I could expound on for hours. Because that's what school teaches one to do, so I would.
When I realized I had gone on too long about one thing or another, he never had anything to say. Always about how he was 'trying to get back in to school' - which he had been for twenty-something years - or the self-deprecating answer about how boring he was.
In a way, he was really good at making me feel bad for him. After all, he lived alone and had no one. But at the same time he put himself there in the first place. He may not have been a father to me, but from the way Sherilynn talked, they had been together for a long enough period of time that he had a second chance. It seems she was trying to make it work more than he was. She even encouraged him to go to couples' therapy with her, which they did. But it ultimately did nothing. And just as he did with me and my mom, Sherilynn and Karlee were no different.
One day, a few weeks before spring semester ended, he mentioned how he was thinking about going to DC to see his sister - my aunt. Oddly enough, I never considered Thomas a father, but I considered his sister my aunt. Perhaps because I saw her more when he had visitation rights. During his legally alotted time, he would take me to her place anyway. Her memory left a fond impression.
I had never been to DC before, and I wanted to see her after all this time. 
After little thought, I decided to go the following month. It would just be him and I in my VW Beetle, road tripping our way from Florida to DC. I thought that perhaps we could find something to talk about on the way. We managed to talk for an hour or two when we were on the phone. How bad could 13 hours be?
The answer? Bad.
We had nothing to really fill that time with, and his awkwardness became grating after a while, what with the sprinkles of 'how much I'd grown' or 'smart' or 'pretty' or anything else that had no real depth to it.
By the time we ended up in DC, I was more than happy to find some meaningful conversation with my aunt - once the shock of how much older I was wore off.
Her and I are more alike than I am to him. Because of that, I sometimes like to pretend that I'm the product child as part of a trial experiment to see if two women could create life without any need for a man, and of course since this is scandalous to the general public, Thomas was just a fall man in being my aunt's closest genetic relative.
That's what I like to believe.
I could easily find myself happily having a relationship with her, but not with him.
Of course, that didn't happen either despite giving my contact information to her.
But one thing that I managed to ask during the trip - the most lucrative thing - tired of the beast of burden glaring over my shoulder:
"So... why did you leave me and mom?"

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Ever-Present White Elephant

During our interaction, I felt there was always a white elephant in the room - a monster of a thing - that demanded attention that neither of us could bother to give it, though we were ever aware of its presence.
From the way our social interactions stuttered, to the way that I could never quite stop fidgeting. I consider myself an individual with high energy, but never to the point of fidgeting - a sort of anxious hand wringing, nervous laughter at nothing in particular. But I wasn't alone in it.
From a purely objective standpoint, despite the stumbling nature of our conversation, it was nice to see where my other half came from. Living with my mother my entire life, I knew we were similar in personality- both of us bubbly individuals with a similar sense of humor - and I knew from her viewpoint what I got from him - some of his expressions and mannerisms, according to her - though I was never able to really view that myself.
Because he was this absent individual, I wanted nothing to do with anything that came from him, but with that childish conviction set aside I was able to see it.
I still didn't like it.
Thomas lived in a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in a seeming perpetual state of youthfulness that could only come from one with a college education who never advanced past that point. He never graduated. He never had any further schooling. Never changed his major to have any higher schooling. He stayed rooted to one spot like a portrait in time. From the looks of the picture in his room I didn't change in his eyes either.
We went to pick up food from Publix, and even in the line he made a comment about me to the cashier about me being his 'little girl'. The cashier's raised brow masked exactly how I felt on the inside, combined with my own feelings of revolt.
Still, it was nice to talk to him because where my parents are more conservative leaning, he was as liberal as me. Talking about my viewpoints without any rebuttal is a nice feeling. To be understood, even if on a semi-superficial level.
But there was also something boring about talking to him. He was great for my ego, and I think everyone needs that to some degree. However, everything came with that drawling 'wow' and how 'pretty' and 'smart' I was.
But to him, that's all I was - some kind of doll that he crafted a frame for, then took the credit when the artist swooped in to breathe life. The artist that would swoop in to quickly say, "What about the life brimming over in her eyes? What about her hands that work toward her dreams? What about the the perfect scars that shows that she has lived?"
And sitting there, listening to my ego being stroked made me long for home.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Repeating the Past

I waited with the little girl that was my half sister - because I had one of those. She was eleven and just like any other girl at that age, not quite on the verge of puberty, still holding on to childish tendencies she showed me her mess of a room - a tornado of pink chaos. Dolls, toys, bits from toys, all mangled and dashed together on the floor combined and recombined seemingly to never be torn apart.
I wondered what her mind was like for her to live like this? What chaos happened in her home life? Though when I peaked in her mother's room briefly to go to the bathroom, it was the same way. I wondered if one day they might drown in those things.
Among the wreckage, she showed me something that her "Grandma Barbara" - Thomas's mother - gave her, though I can't remember what. Something too fancy to be valued by a girl her age.
I had these sentiments because I remember the same sort of gift from the same woman once in my life.
A bath set on a silver tray lined with bath bombs shaped to look exactly like pearls, soaps crafted to look like roses, paper wrapping them with pictures of English cottages.
I read the words 'toilet soap' on one of the wrapped bars and at an age similar to this girl before me - I dropped it in the toilet. Similar to the 'I miss you' cards, I had no attachment.
Soon, an old car pulled up and there he stood just as I remembered him: well over six feet tall with dark brown eyes with matching skin and hair that he constantly straightened. He was thin which gave the illusion he was even taller than he actually was - something that I took from him.
He didn't emphatically hug me in the way that Sherilynn did, but he stared at me in awe. The last I saw him face to face I was eleven. Now, I stood before him with no barriers between us. I made the journey myself. There were no more binding legal contracts. I stood free.
"Wow," was all he could say upon seeing my face.
I looked on awkwardly, my mouth screwing into something that wasn't quite a smile nor a frown. A graceless smirk. The closest I came to matching his awe and enthusiasm. He gave me a very slow hug which I stiffened at, but slowly obliged.
Sherilynn was much more overjoyed than the two of us combined. She eagerly grabbed her camera and took pictures of the three of us.
The father and the two daughters that he couldn't bother to bring up. Though one of us he tried more than the other.
We didn't stay long at that place, long enough for pictures to be taken before deciding that there was catching up to be done. I thanked Sherilynn for her hospitality and my half sister - Karlee.
Sherilynn gave me her information and said that we should stay in touch for her daughter's sake, for her daughter to have a sister. I smiled and said my line was always free.
I sent one email a few weeks later. I never heard anything back, I never received any calls.
Thomas gave me his address before hopping into his car and I hopped into mine.
Soon, we were on the way to his apartment for us to talk, and given the chaos from earlier that day, I rather looked forward to it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Outsider

The drive down A1A is always beautiful. It's a leisure drive with an endless stretch of ocean on the side that goes as far as the eye can see. Thankfully, if anyone else is on the road, they're doing the same thing you are - glancing just slightly to the side - so no one is rushing to get anywhere. I wasn't an exception.
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, but the destination felt like something to be desired.
I decided to do this, didn't I? I wanted to go, right?
But what if he didn't even live at the last address I had?
I cranked The Beatles louder on my stereo and opened the sun roof.
What if it's weird? What are you even going to say?
It was a hot day and the air wasn't working right, so I needed to at least get somewhere.
Or at least a drink of water.
When I arrived at the address given, an older man with dark skin stared at me oddly, but not menacingly. I guess I was a sight to see. Slightly sweaty from the Florida heat, tank top and shorts with a giant afro puff on top of my head.
I asked if Thomas lived there because of the address given.
He still looked at me oddly and said no.
My eyes fell to the ground and I tried to mask my disappointment. A half hour drive along the coast wasn't a terrible journey. I would get to see it on the way back.
But before I could turn away, he said, "But Sherilynn lives here. You can talk to her. Come on in."
Sherilynn is the mother of my birth father's second daughter. I found out about her when I was 11 on another random journey I took to see him. I wouldn't have found out about her otherwise.
So now I was ushered into a house filled with people I never met who stared at me and called me 'Thomas's daughter'. It felt weird - those words - but I gave an awkward, polite wave and people stared at me in disbelief.
I was the estranged 'daughter'. The first one.
I know that he had several photos of me from when I was a baby, but nothing past that point. In his mind - and probably the minds of those who had never seen me - I was still that small. Or not much older. Definitely not twenty-two.
Or maybe they were just hard pressed to believe I existed. Maybe I became a legend of sorts because when they looked at me as if I was some mythical creature. That story that you hear over and over again, but you don't believe you'll ever see anything like that in real life. Until you do. I was the legend.
Soon, I was embraced by this woman that I never met with her daughter - my half-sister, now eleven - close behind.
"I always wanted to meet you so much!" She cried out, "But he never gave me anything about you. It's like he wanted to keep us separate."
And I believed it.
"I'll call him over."
And with those words, I felt that familiar discomfort bubble up again.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Back to the Beginning

"You created me, so don't you wanna see me?" - Marceline's Song

From the time I was younger, the most I ever heard from my birth father was an 'I miss you' card sent through the mail. It always came certified and I always had to sign for it. The card always had a $20 bill in it, which at the time was more than my seven year old brain knew what to do with.
When the mail person asked me for my signature there was always some sense of dread. Thinking about it to this day even unearths those old feelings that I buried. Could I say that it was resentment?
Perhaps to some degree.
But I couldn't say that my mother and I ever lived a bad life in his absence. We were probably better for it.
Even if that meant that she had to work hard during the day while I stayed at home with my grandparents.
At that time, he would come by on the weekends. I don't remember feeling particularly happy about the visits, nor did I dread them. I just always thought they were out of place.
I knew this man was my father, but it just felt weird. It always did.
He wasn't there when I said my first words. He wasn't there when I took my first steps. He wasn't there when I started school... and then one day he just appeared when I was four and a couple weekends I had to go see him.
Shortly after, my mother married the first man whom I ever called 'dad' and came to raise me. We moved away meaning the man who I only saw a couple weekends a month (whom I was on a first name basis with) disappeared from whence he came only to become sappy, empty Hallmark phrases on manufactured cards.
I asked my mom at seven why he never came to see me if he sent periodic 'I miss you' cards and she didn't have a good answer. She always said she didn't know.
How could she?
I felt like it had something to do with the months of unpaid child support that I heard mentioned - that thankfully, we didn't need - or the fact that I couldn't change my last name when my mother got married. Something about that always set a bitterness in me.
Every time a card came in the mail, my mother and I would have a long conversation about him. I always asked why he didn't want to see me. She didn't know. She asked if I wanted to see him. I didn't.
And that was usually that, though sometimes in those conversations my mother would mention, "He always said he wanted to tell his side of the story when you were old enough."
By the time I became a teenager, those cards came less and less. When I was eighteen, they stopped coming altogether.
And for a while I forgot about him. At least until I was about to start school at a state university. Around the same time, my parents moved to a town that was thirty minutes away from where I knew he was living. I decided for that summer to stay with my parents in their new home while waiting for my lease to kick in.

I also decided on a sunny day towards the end of May to find out the unknown side of the story myself.

Filled with determination, I tied my afro off my neck with a bandana, grabbed a couple of snacks and hopped into my VW Beetle before taking off down scenic A1A.

It was time to give the other side a fair shake.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Beauty of Nature

(Today's block.)

The last fading of light in the distance always rendered the sky in a beautiful way. The blueness of the mid day sky giving way to brilliant lavenders, rosy hues of pink, a blended indigo...
Gorgeous.
I took in the sunset with a sigh, really reveling in the beauty of it all. The fog that accumulated making the trees and mountains in the distance seem a haze of shadows that blended so perfectly I couldn't tell where the scenery ended and where the sky began.
The only thing that held any kind of clarity to it was the marsh in front of me where some pond scum floated in clumps. Vaguely, I wondered what it could be. Algae? Plankton? Did marshes have plankton? It seemed beautiful in its own way too.
I savored the day because I didn't know how many more I would be able to really feel like this. The fading, brilliant colors, the warm, thick humid air on my face...
Most of the time life was a rush of moments and so often it feels like we're stuck in our own head that we miss them. We forget to take a moment to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. We forget to really look, really be aware of all that surrounds us. All the beauty, all of mother nature in her majesty and wisdom.
I gently knelt to feel the grass that peaked out of the marsh. It was slightly damp to touch and a water bug rustled from beneath a patch of it, jumping further away from my reach.
These small things, we take them so much for granted, and really, I didn't know how much longer I would be able to be given such a gift. Such pleasure.
I marveled at all of this as I dumped the body in the water.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Passion

Navigating the world since leaving school has been a constant battle of trying to shave off square edges to fit into a round hole. Is that what it means to grow up? Is that what deems us adults? Is throwing away everything for the sake of fitting in and meeting a certain requirement what we're supposed to do? By that definition, growing up feels impossible.
The jobs I've accepted as a means to an end have said the same thing about me, but from different mouths. Recently, I think one of the girls - very close to my age - commented in a jovial way, "There's just something about you." And others have said something along those lines to me as well, for better or for worse.
Special snowflake? Hardly. But that 'something' - whatever it is - feels like it may as well be a mark that everyone can see and attempt to shave into something more suitable. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down, after all.
That's what is feels like.
On a very positive note, the most successful people have always had certain personality types or there was just 'something' about them. Some kind of passion, some kind of drive, some kind of aura, but it's never an easy journey.
I mentioned this swirl of thoughts to my boyfriend - growing pains, square pegs, round holes and the like - and he said, "You are just so unabashedly yourself, and that scares and intimidates a lot of people."
And as he said this I thought, "Why are we so afraid of ourselves?"
For myself, I am passionate. I am one of those passionate people that errs on the side of scary. My voice raises and it's mistaken for another emotion. I've heard so many times, "Why are you so angry?" But I'm not angry. My passion flows, my passion drives, and my passion creates.
If not for passion, why are we even alive?
If I am passionate and the world around me attempts to curb that passion, what does that say about the world?
What does that say about ourselves for accepting it?
I, for one, refuse.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Ramen Counter

A few days ago after getting my hair done, I found myself at the ramen counter drinking a beer at two in the afternoon. It wasn't something I usually did, but when one can afford small luxuries, one takes full advantage. Plus, it was amazing that our small town had a ramen shop in the first place! I had only been there one other time and thoroughly enjoyed it, so though I would repeat the process.
Last time I went, it was relatively quiet since it was late enough that lunch had past, but still too early for dinner. But this time, it was me and another gentleman. 
I couldn't help but glance at him out of the corner of my eye over a sip of beer because he was also black. There's always that sort of silent acknowledgment as if to say, 'I'm black, you're black, let's collectively enjoy our blackness'.
And it could have ended there, but we were both alone and found ourselves in a nice conversation. He told me he was an attorney, I told him I was between jobs but I was finding a lot more time for writing because it was something that I loved.
He confessed to me that before going to law school that he liked writing as well. Poetry. But life sneaks up and gets in the way, so he stopped.
Always excited to meet a fellow writer my eyes popped and I leaned over and said, "You should write! We need your voice more than ever in times like these."
He looked stunned by this, and I know my passion can be disarming, but in that moment it felt like the most important thing to say.
We need you. We need your craft. We need your voice.
Because art is something that gets tossed carelessly aside in the pursuit of the American dream. Even when achieving what we think we should, some still end up unhappy. I think it's because art, no matter what it is, gives us life.
He seemed doubtful. He echoed what the voices of self-doubt in my own head say on a bad day, 'I can't' or 'It's been so long', or some other drabble to stop the keys from clacking under my fingertips or still the pencil in my hand from coming into contact with paper. 
We are our own worst enemy, but I like to think that our voices and encouragement can give each other the inspiration and life we need to move ahead.
"You can do it! I believe in you!" I said cheerfully.
And I don't know if he's writing or not - thought I very much hope he is - but I hope I inspired him. He at least gave me a recommendation at a job I had my eye on so I'd like to think I did something worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Eye of the Beholder

(Today's exercise.)

And though there is so much in the world to be angry about, when I come home and look to him I see nothing but beauty. 
Long lashes under perfectly arched, dark brows...
Olive skin...
Almost always he has a five o'clock shadow. He's gotten lazy about it recently and tried to trim it into some kind of organization, but I've never minded how it has looked. Because there's nothing on him that I would change.
From the slope of his nose to his full lips.
He is perfect.
I've taken recently to trying to take different angles of him with my phone, but he's always in a state of self-consciousness. He rolls his eyes, bemused by my antics but somehow manages to turn away just in the nick of time with a sigh, leaving me with the memory of the shape of his jaw, or his long hand covering the side of his face.
If anyone found the pictures, they might almost be seen as artistic in their own strange way.
I've always tried to catch him unexpectedly, but he has the damnedest sixth sense and always catches on turning away. Sometimes, he's smiling through his fingers seeming very pleased with himself and other times it's a deep frown, but he's never asked me to stop and it's almost like our game.
"Can't I just take one photo of you?"
"You've taken many photos of me."
"You know what I mean!" I stood on our couch with my phone in hand, "If you let me take one good one, I'll never ask again!"
"Yes you will. You're insatiable," he teased.
I smirked, "Just one?"
He sighed, "Just one."
I smiled with glee before pointing the camera at him. He stared up at me, but at the very last minute he looked down.
"You're such a butt!" I squealed as I looked in the viewfinder, but I wasn't disappointed at what I saw. Between the lighting and the tilt of his head, I thought it was a good photo.
"I know," he grinned even though he seemed guilty as he pulled me down beside him.
"This doesn't count, you know," I gave a mock pout.
He looked contemplative as he wrapped an arm around me, "Then I guess you're going to have to keep trying until we both get it right."

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Miracle of Light

(AN: I'm still getting a feel for starting up again, and while I love keeping with a series, it also stresses me out. So, for the sake of newness, until I'm inspired again I'm putting the zombie story on hold. I love it, but I wrote it on the fly with no real purpose in mind. I'll do my best not to make that mistake in the future. So here's something else. A series of exercises from Write World. I hope you still enjoy my exercises! Here's today's.)

I always loved the intricacy of stained glass windows. With the sunlight streaming at just the right angle, the light was beautiful and bright through the otherwise dreary cathedral that my mother dragged me to every Sunday. She always got something out of it, and because I wanted to make her happy - despite not being the most religious person - I went without a fight. Rows of people standing, singing; rows of people sitting, then kneeling. Regardless of how many times I went, I could never get the moves right and I always found myself peaking around when everyone bowed their heads.
Sharp, pressed suits, lovely dresses...
Mine was something plain in coming from a poorer family and never nearly as fancy as the people that surrounded me. But it made my mother happy, so I wore the thing. It was sort of a faded cornflower blue with a modest neckline that fell just below my knees. I would never wear it otherwise, but I wouldn't tell her that.
Stand up, sing, sit down, kneel, more weird hand motions. Something in Latin.
I had to suppress the heavy sigh that threatened to heave out of my lungs, but focusing on those windows always made something in my brain awaken. Bright, eye-catching blues and sharp reds spiraling outward like a lotus flower...
I hated the service, but I always looked forward to those windows which I was thankful were placed near the front. I only had to shift my eyes to the side of the person speaking and zone out, letting the colors take me over.
When it ended - which never felt soon enough, but always came in good timing - mother would turn and ask, "What did you get out of the service?"
In which I would smile and say, "The light is miraculous."
And my mother seemed to accept that vague answer, nodding as we made our way out.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Falcon

(This is completely unrelated to the zombie story. This is something from my life.)

After dinner, my boyfriend and I decided to go for a nice walk around the neighborhood as the sun was setting because we had not done so in a while. He didn't have band practice and I got out of work much earlier in the day, so after dinner it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Hand in hand we strolled down the road, passing by the house that usually has four basset hounds running up to a fence to greet us. One tried to peak at us as long as it possible could before we disappeared out of sight leaving me with a glimpse of its sad, little eyes.
A little further down, he gently took my shoulders and turned me to a large tree. He loves nature, and brings me back to center by helping me appreciate the moment and that which surrounds me. So I thought maybe he would point out the beauty of it. Instead, he pointed to a large falcon who rubbed its beak upon a branch and sharply looked at us. For a moment I wondered what it thought.
And I always thought it would be weird to be an animal. Technically we are, but I mean under the watchful eye of nature. I find myself stopping to watch birds and squirrels. When I had them as a child, I would watch my pets. Sometimes I wondered if any of these things watched me, or even if I was interesting enough to watch in the first place.
The falcon tilted its head and rubbed its beak. We squatted in the middle of the road to get a better view. And then I thought, it must be a little daunting. Two apes that were casually passing, stopping to watch a bird even though it wasn't really doing anything particularly interesting. I wondered what it would be like for a moment to have a much larger creature watching me. To be under its scrutinizing gaze. Would it regard me with wonder? With curiosity? With amazement at my existence?

And then the falcon pooped.

My boyfriend and I exchanged glanced at this, and then we shared a laugh. Because of course nature didn't care that we were there. Nature stops for no one.
We stood, rejoined our hands and continued on our way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

War Paint

I drove until I felt tired not really knowing where I was going, nor with any destination in mind except the vaguely general direction of 'west'. 'West' became synonymous with safety because there had been no news reports of anything happening that way.

We managed to drive at least to some desolate area that had lighting. A cheap looking motel greeted us. There were no people.

There were twelve units altogether all in a horizontal line. The doors which may have been a vibrant green at one point faded to something dirty and ugly. Though curious enough, one of them had a tie on the knob.

We knocked at that one and the door swung open. We readied our weapons to prepare for the worst, but it wouldn't come. There was one queen sized bed, unmade and a small coffee machine that looked clean. There were clothes strewn around the bedroom and a couple of abandoned suitcases. No blood. It was hard to say what happened, but whoever was there made a speedy getaway like everyone else apparently.

I snickered to myself at the thought of two lovers, naked, driving in some aimless direction. Or running.

Riley and I broke into the office to get a key. It may have been the end of civilization, but I refused to sleep on someone else's used sheets. Ew.

So we found a fresh room and took extra coffee from the other one and whatever other toiletries and toilet paper we could find. Extra towels, just in case. Never know when a towel could come in handy.

We showered and slept in shifts so nothing could take us by surprise.

Since leaving town, it was a surprisingly peaceful night. Unsettling so.

When I woke in the wee hours of the morning, Riley turned and said, "I'll sleep in the car. We should get a move on. No telling how long we'll be alone."

He totally wasn't wrong.

"Okay, let me have some coffee and put on my make up," I pulled out a bag of my own where I stuffed what remaining toiletries made sense at the time as well as some make up. Mostly make up.

Riley scoffed at me, "No men around and you still have to put on make up?"

I gazed over my shoulder and my eyebrows shot up in surprise before narrowing deeply.

"What? Don't act like you're mad because you're a typical girl."

Having make up was the one consistency I had in my life from the time I started 7th grade. Some could argue that was too young, but whatever. It gave me time to perfect it. And soon I became way better at it than everyone else. The internet totally helped, by the way. (I mean, seriously. What did people do before it existed?)

I even got some haters along the way, but whatever.

The make up became my war paint. Lips painted close to the color of the skin I'm proud to call my own, or red like the passion and drive I carried in my being.  Cat eyes so sharp they could slay, and in their own way they did. Many, many times. Cheeks pink and shining with my youth and shimmer so bright, no one dare dull my sparkle.

But there was always an art to it, a precision that I couldn't help but appreciate. I mean, it was something that was way older than me so it was around for a reason, right? Status, power, and sometimes in time of war. And yes, to attract men, but that was seriously the smallest part of it.

Putting on make up felt like a ritual , and rituals gave power and made one stronger. After a while, it didn't feel like 'just make up'. It felt like power, and no one likes giving up power.

I found myself standing up and closing the distance between us, "And what makes you think anything about what I'm doing is for anyone other than me?"

I stared at Riley with a challenging look in my eyes until he said, "Whoa, I didn't mean to offend."

I held up my lipstick, rouge in color, "You see this?"

Riley glanced to the lipstick as a look of confusion crossed his face.

"Pharaohs have worn this and so have queens. This may have turned guys to us, but it has also brought them down to their knees," My brows - totally groomed to perfection - deepened their crease and Riley looked surprised as I said in a low tone, "I wear this because I like to remind myself how fucking powerful I am, just like them. And just like these queens, yesterday I've killed. And I don't put it past myself to be an isolated incidence. This isn't just for beauty, this is for war."

I turned to the mirror in pointed silence as I began applying everything.

Riley made coffee for me that morning.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Levels of Grief

Time doesn't stop.

When you see that special someone across the room that's tunnel vision. Tunnel vision can make it feel like time stops - that nothing else matters - but it only focuses your attention elsewhere. Time doesn't stop when your own heart does. It only feels like it. However, time does slow down in a life or death situation. Time slows because you realize in that very instance how precious the lingering seconds are that you or that person have left.

I guess I screamed when I saw Lex and then tears ran down my face. I don't remember this. Riley told me later.

"It's going to be okay, you'll be okay," I said it over and over again. I remember that. I remember saying it like a mantra or a prayer, the words repeated in quickened cadence offering comfort until they sounded strange and soon lost meaning. Still, I said them anyway as I grabbed the first aid kit from the back.

I always hoped the hard, blue box with the red cross on it would be used for its sterilizing pads, maybe a bandage or two, but this? My shaky hands grasped at the sterilizing fluid, as I tried to look over what kind of gauze to use, but I only succeeding in dropping what was in my hands. Lex reached out with his good arm and stilled me.

"Amy..."

I shook my head, "We can fix this," I insisted, "We can make this okay."

Lex was shaking his head but I wouldn't let him speak. I insisted louder. I yelled it, screamed it. Maybe I prayed it. Maybe I was willing it into existence. He was going to be fine.

But he shook me and said in a louder voice, "Amy!"

I stopped as he kept a firm hold on my arm and just stared at me with a piteous expression. I couldn't blame him. I was crying. The tears were like a torrential onslaught and I gasped in their wake, struggling to catch my breath, struggling to talk, so powerful was my grief.

His grip was so hard it almost hurt, but I didn't care. I finally gulped and said in a tiny voice, "Please don't die."

"If I don't die, I'll become like one of them."

I shook my head, "It can't happen this way. This isn't the way that it was supposed to work."

"Life never quite goes according to plan, Ames," He reached into the back for one of our guns, a much smaller one and staggered out of the truck with shaky breaths. I followed him to steady him, and he thrust it into my hands, "Shoot me."

I stared at him blankly and swallowed hard before I spoke again, angry, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"This is what we've been training for," he yelled at me, then groaned from the wound, "If you can't do it, I will, but you have to get used to this."

He wasn't wrong, but I was desperate and clinging to the last family member - the last sense of home - that I had.

I felt myself trembling as I stared at the gun. The very sight of the shining metal made me sick. I looked between it and Lex. His blood dripped to the ground and I watched the puddle for a moment before shaking my head, "Maybe it won't happen to you. Maybe you're different! You're tough! You fought them off, didn't you?! Why can't you fight this off?"

"Amy..."

"No!" I insisted in a louder voice to drown his out, "You managed to get me front row tickets to a sold out concert for my sixteenth birthday..."

"Amy..."

"You fucking made every single bulls-eye when we practiced shooting!"

"Amy...."

He looked at me like he pitied me as I clutched the gun, shaking my head, "You're braver than I am. You're so much braver. You can take this whole fucking thing down. I'm not you. I'm not as brave as you! Look at me!" I spread my arms and looked down my body to prove a point before meeting his eyes. He was blurred through my tears, "I can't do this without you."

Lex took a deep breath and clapped his good hand to my shoulder. He looked into my eyes, and wiped my tears with his good hand as he said, "Everything you've done up to this point has been your own doing."

I stilled at his touch, continuing to stare at him hopefully.

"You're stronger because of yourself. You're a better shooter because you wanted that for yourself."

I shook my head at everything he said, but he squeezed my shoulder hard and said, "You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. You've already made it this far, and you'll make it even farther."

I pressed my lips together to stop my shaking breaths.

"I believe in you, but for your sake, you have to believe in yourself."

I stared at the ground, unmoving.

"Okay?"

I nodded very slowly, "Okay."

He let the rag fall and walked away from me, nodding. He was cueing me. He was ready.

The wound, thought bloody, looked strange and I could swear the same eyes I saw on the zombie - that weird, green, glassy stare - was starting to stare back at me.

I wasn't ready.

But I inhaled sharply and pointed forward, pulling the trigger in one fell swoop.

He fell immediately.

I threw up.

Riley rushed to my side and put an arm around me. I guess he was looking to comfort me, but I shoved him off.

I was sad and angry. I didn't want to be touched. I wanted my mom. I wanted Lex. I wanted to feel safe. And none of those were guaranteed, evidenced by the corpse laying a few feet away.

I swallowed thickly and reached into the back of the truck, grabbing a container of gasoline. We should have saved it for gas, but logic wasn't my strongest point in that moment. I uncapped it and dumped it over Lex's body, making a long line away from him and the truck.

Riley followed me in silence until I thought we were far enough away. I grabbed a book of matches from my pocket and struck one, tossing it to the line and watching it ignite immediately.

He stared between the burning pile and me with caution, looking like he wanted to say something, but couldn't. And really, what could anyone say in a situation like that? If I were me watching me, I would have been doing the same thing.

After we stood there - I don't know how long - I looked at him and said, "I didn't want to do that twice. That's why," glancing in the direction of the smoldering remains. I heaved a sigh as I began making my way to the truck.

I felt exhausted. Every foot step felt heavy, but I somehow put one in front of the other until I stopped at the driver's side and opened the door. Riley still stood, watching me with an expression that was somewhere between dumbfounded and cautious. Or maybe he was afraid. Past me would have been afraid of this me.

This me looked rough. This me suffered. This me had the bloodstains and the smell of gas and ash to prove it.

"Are you coming or what?" I called out.

Riley hurried to the passenger's side, getting into the car.

Once seated and buckled in, I reached to the pocket in the door where Lex kept his cigarettes.

"Filthy habit," he would always tell me before he lit one, bringing it to his lips, "Never start."

I felt my hand close around the plastic-wrapped box. Pulling my hand up, I glanced at the packaging. Malboro Reds. The manliest of cigarettes.

I rolled down the window and lit one up with some difficulty. I realized it was because my hands had been shaking. I inhaled deeply before exhaling out the window.

It was terrible, but it made me feel calmer.

"You want me to drive?" Riley asked.

I shook my head, "No," I took another long drag, though it almost felt like too much and I could feel my throat attempting to spasm in a cough, but I stopped it and blew the smoke out the window again. I cleared my throat and leaned against the seat with a heavy sigh.

I closed my eyes for a moment and I could feel a small, though bitter smile cross my lips, "Sorry, did you want one?"

Riley glanced between the package and my eyes, "Nah, I'm good."

I gave a lazy shrug and sighed before sitting up straight, and finally turning the keys that had been left in the ignition, "It's a filthy habit anyway," I said quietly before I put the truck in park and finally started our journey out of town.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Checking in

Hey guys,

I don't know where to start considering it's been well over a year since I last updated this thing. I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who's ever taken time to check out this little project that I've toyed around with. I also want to especially say thank you to the people who have been brave enough to approach me about how much they liked it.
I'm astounded that even after stopping, something has been memorable enough to stay with some of you. On my end, I feel humbled. I don't always like my writing but apparently some of you do, and that's great! Amazing, even!
In saying that, I feel like I've cheated you out of some conclusions to these stories. It's almost like finding out your favorite show is canceled on a cliffhanger. Or at least canceled when there could have been an amazing season 2 (looking at you, Fox). But also, in some ways I feel like I've been cheating myself.
With my 28th birthday upon me very soon, it's taken me this long to realize how much I've always loved writing and always will! Writing is my art and I'm excited to share it with you. I hope some day that maybe it could even pay the bills!
But it all starts with step one, and that involves more writing. So, I'm back! And I hope you guys continue along this path with me. More updates to come :)

Love,

-Kira

(P.S. You guys are awesome. Don't let anyone make you think otherwise.)