Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fear of Fatherless

I used to think nothing could top my fear of dying. On most nights after I've tucked myself in, I lie awake staring at the shapes on my ceiling, or sometimes I stare into darkness, not being able to differentiate open eyes from closed. Either way, I'm imagining nothingness. Emptiness. Loss of purpose. Loss of presence. Loss of memory. Loss of soul. Loss of thought. What comes after? What if there's nothing? But I can't recall a "before." Reasoning. Rationalizing. Questioning my religion. Terrified. For years, these nightly thoughts shook me to near-tears. Until recently. The fear of my end got bumped down to the second slot. What about my father's? What will I do when... I try not to think about it. But I know one day, he'll have to leave me, and knowing that hurts.

Growing up, all of my closest friends had fathers. Dads. Whether I met them or not, heard fond memories of them or not, the male parents were all there. Between picking us up from school, granting permission for sleepovers and pissing us off daily, they were as normal a part of life as sunlight and breath. 

But each year that we grew older, the fathers were plucked from lives one by one like the petals of a daisy. They became pinned pictures to mirrors and refrigerator doors. Centerpieces for obituaries and church fans. Facebook pictures and In Memoriam statuses. Willingly discarded memories and afterthoughts. Even some who were ghosts from the get-go. 

And there's my dad. Here is my dad. My devoted father, whom I love and know loves me, a fixture in my daily goings on. 

The one who I can count on to tell me I'm holding the camera at the wrong angle. "You're making the subject look too short. You have to crouch," he always says. And other times, the one who takes my portfolio and pulls up my website on his iPhone to show his coworkers and friends the "wicked" photos I took last. 

The one who complains about how little sleep he gets, but stays up into the night hunched over in front of his computer editing photos he took eons ago, that people will probably never see, squinting into the glow of the monitor. The one I hear grumbling about the pain in his eyes, head and heels, but still tells me to call him when I'm out 'til 3 am in Brooklyn on New Year's because he knows I have a slim chance of snagging a cab back to Queens. 

The one who faithfully goes out into the cold to get Chinese food from Kim's even though I nag him about how terrible it is for him. The one who cooks banana fritters, boiled okra, ground beef and chicken soup sometimes when he feels like it, but insists I come watch my mother cook in the kitchen so that I can help out when she's tired instead of just waiting to be fed. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

TV Tragedy Equals Tears. Real Life Equals Blank Stares.

I always found it interesting how much people care for the fictionally wounded on the big screen and shed tears when an actor dies, but when a life is in jeopardy in real life, in real time, nobody knows how to do anything but stand still. I never thought I'd witness that first hand, staring incredulously at onlookers watching a scene straight out of a daytime dramedy. All they needed was the popcorn. 

A convulsing individual is laying right there on the ground on the Broadway Junction Station platform and everyone's standing around watching -- some shocked, some amazed -- wondering what happens next. Folks that just got off the Manhattan bound J train stare at the person on the ground (I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman), then at each other, their faces all reading: "So... who's gonna move?" 

But the reality is that if anyone moves, they'll miss out on the action. The drama. As if there's a scripted ending prepped and packaged for the moment. An older guy carrying three disheveled boxes of pizza (who admittedly looks slightly off his rocker) is yelling "Police! Police!" as he makes his way down the steep stairs. The down escalator is too packed with stubborn people who probably wouldn't be willing to move to the right and let him pass. He's moving relatively slowly, but it's as swiftly as he can go without tripping. "Police! Police!" he continues yelling, unanswered. Everyone watches him go. You can see the scrunching faces of the people on the up escalator. They're wondering why this crazy old geezer is making all this noise. Wondering why he's the only one yelling so angrily. But nobody really moves or inquires about it. 

I rush past him down the stairs because I realize that really nobody's moving at all, and I can get to the bottom of the stairs faster than he can. When I get to the bottom, there are no blue jackets and badges in sight. A usual Friday night at B-Junc usually promises cops crawling all over the premises, searching for trouble in East New York. But tonight no one is here. I frantically scan the crowd for them, looking past the turnstiles where if I go outside to look, I'd have to pay another $2.50 to go back in. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Love, Hurt, Release: A Short Story From Nowhere

I'm still practicing:

Love, Hurt, Release.

Laura's usual spot was occupied today. The booth directly by the door allowing her to slip out just as quickly and quietly as she crept in was currently filled with a couple and their teething toddler, but the waitress had a better option available for her. "Right this way, Ms. Banks," Bethanny offered. "I think you'll like this spot just as much." Bethanny always waited her table. She was perky, flashing warm grins as she took orders from customers about a tenth as joyful as she was. With a polite smile, she followed her cheery waitress across the old diner -- without admiring the sweeping walls lined with portraits, records and autographed napkins of ritzy clientele per usual -- to a roomy, corner booth. The early afternoon sun bathed the toffee brown leather seats, warming the spot where she sat. She removed her scarf and coat and tossed them on the other side of the marble table. 

"Ooh, I love your jacket!" Bethanny squealed. Laura didn't, but it was the only one she managed to grab while scurrying out of the apartment last weekend. "Thanks. Me too," she lied behind shaded eyes. "Can I have my usual? And a water with two lemons for right now?" 

Bethanny whisked away to put in an order of shrimp Caesar salad with avocados and a side of curly fries. Laura was desperate for some comfort food. More comfort than food. She propped her elbows up on the table and cradled her face with her hands. Sigh. A tear started to form in the corner of her eye, but she quickly pulled a napkin from the dispenser to dab at the droplet threatening to fall. She winced in pain. Still sore. The waitress plopped the icy cup of water on the table top. Laura jumped in surprise, scrambling to readjust her sunglasses and hide the damp napkin from view. "Um… here's your water," she began, noticing the black smears on the crumpled napkin. "Are you o--" 

"Thanks, Bethanny." Laura cut her off, flashing a strained smile. "May I have a straw?" The waitress knew something was up. She wasn't typically this withdrawn, but she nodded obediently, pulled a straw from her apron, set it down and hesitantly backed away to tend to another table. 

Laura knew Bethanny meant well, but now wasn't the time for show and tell. Enough crap was on her mind. Where am I going to go next?  Who can I tell? Should I tell? Is any of this even worth the worry? The throbbing under her right eye answered her last question. Her pain was real and the worry was valid. She wasn't scared, though. It was anger that hovered over her head like a storm cloud waiting to burst. Today was Thursday and she could still feel the white hot anger from Saturday night stinging her face, burning at her. "That bitch..." she mumbled under her breath. 


"Can I get a T?" 

Pat Sajak's voice trickled in from the other room. 

"You've got three T's for $1500!"

Laura listened absentmindedly as she sat in front of her vanity, plucking hairpins one by one from her wrapped tresses. 

"Vanna, please reveal the letters from the Prize Puzzle." 

Vanna White sashayed across the floor and touched each screen of the puzzle with gentle, manicured hands. Her draping tinsel gown seemed to help her glide from one side of the screen to the other. 

A laugh escaped Laura's lips as she shook her hair and watched it fall neatly to her shoulders. "Vanna don't have nothin' on me," she told her reflection. Tonight, she had every intent on wowing her coworkers at the company party, but she needed to wow Stephen first. He'd been real crabby towards her lately, and she hoped tonight would change all that. His anticipated reaction played in the back of her mind like a silent film as she delicately applied her makeup.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Yes, I Plan to be Selfish With 2014.

Live. Be. Write. Go. Laugh. Live. See. Smile. Write. Then live again.

That's the rolling agenda for this new year. This 2014 that I'm trying my damnedest not to plan from top to bottom. Because c'mon, we all know that when we swear by resolutions and make sweeping promises to change, things don't always go as planned. I'm not trying to chastise the "New Year, New Me" crew, trust me. I'm learning to just go with the flow with things and let life unfold organically. It's just better that way. Organic. For me at least. And I'm the most important part of this equation.

I've learned that this year. Well, last year now. Just let life happen, and be present to record it as it does. Go with it. Make it work. My happiness was controlled by so many agents. So many hands were in the pot, trying to give order to a life that I haven't even experienced to the fullest yet. And I'll admit, some of that was my doing. I'm a compulsive planner, to-do list writer and write-my-goals-as-I-go-er. Which is fine, because I believe power lies in the pen. But beauty lies in unpredictability. There were so many spin offs to my script, so many life stories I wrote that I didn't plan to. New characters got included. Different genres. I'm at point E, and I didn't even realize when or even if I left point A. My experiences have been all over the place, and for that I'm thankful. Eventually, it'll all make for one hell of a story.