Friday, December 17, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
She sat on a Bosu ball, feet an inch or so off the ground, and I waited for her to topple over. But it never came to that. The instructor’s balance and poise were on the mark and as she moved the ball to the side and unrolled her mat, signaling for the class to stretch out in the downward-facing-dog pose, it reminded me of why I signed up for this yoga class in the first place. I walked like a rhinoceros in an antique show room and at five feet, three inches tall, and 175 pounds, I couldn’t even walk with confidence.
One of my girlfriends, Ana, told me that yoga would make me more graceful and also help me lose that “unattractive belly pooch”. I had struggled with my weight since middle school. I was never fat, but there always seemed to be a little more of me throughout my abdomen than I would like to see.
Ana, on the other hand, did yoga every other morning before work. She also ate a high protein, low carb diet. She was also dating the cliché tall, dark, and handsome man who brought her flowers each time he showed up on her doorstep to take her out to a fancy, expensive restaurant. Ana lived the life that every woman supposedly dreamed of.
“Kate.” She would say my name like a statement, and continue talking without waiting for me to answer. “Kate, you should really come to yoga with me. I really think it would do a lot for your self confidence”. Sometimes I wondered if ditching our friendship would do a lot for my self-confidence. Ana was in the row of yoga mats in front of me, her perfect butt pointed straight up in the air in the downward-facing-dog position. She might’ve looked even more perfect than the instructor. When I was in this position, I felt my rolls push against each other.
I watched Ana move to child’s pose, knees and elbows together on the mat with her head resting on her forearms. Her straight blonde hair tumbled over her head and onto the floor, like threads of yellow silk flowing from the loom. I struggled to move seamlessly into this pose like her, but fell to my knees instead. I laughed to myself, thinking of how my last relationship failed because I refused to do that. No, it wasn’t just that. He was an alcoholic and I gained ten pounds over the five months that we dated. It hadn’t exactly been a recipe for success. I’m twenty-five, I thought. It’s time to stop screwing around with these losers. I smiled again at my mental pun on “screwing”.
“Okay ladies, stand up, breathe in and then stretch your arms up to the ceiling as you draw in a big breath. As you breathe out, slowly bring your arms back to your sides. Again.” The instructor’s soothing voice broke through my mental image of a parade of losers marching through my life. Ana’s lean arms moved up and down, slowly and gracefully, almost mirroring those of the instructor, and I was sure her lungs were expanding and contracting in perfect rhythm. I caught myself taking short breaths, in and out, while my chubby arms flapped up and down. I can’t even breathe when someone tells me to, I thought.
“That’s your problem, Kate. Always doing what other people tell you.” My mind wandered, remembering how Ana said that to me at least once a week, especially in regards to my job at the accounting firm. My boss was constantly asking me to take on extra tasks and help him on bigger projects. I took it to mean he felt like he could rely on me; Ana believed I was a push over. We had argued about it just the day before.
“Just because I try to be agreeable with my boss and get my work done does not mean I’m a doormat, okay? I have limits you know.” I tried for a counter-argument.
“Limits?” Her eyes would grow wide. “That’s not what your last boyfriend told me…”
She always made me out to be the slut, and half the time whatever was said wasn’t even true. One thing I’ve learned from dating jerks is that jerks like to brag.
“On your mats, please!” I came out of my reverie, just in time to notice that the rest of the class was sitting on their mat while I was still standing, arms over my head. I felt warmth radiate from my cheeks and knew that my pale skin must be scarlet. I sat on my mat quickly.
“Very good ladies, think of this as a makeover for both your body and your mind!” the instructor smiled at her encouragement.
I could do that. I had always liked makeover shows on TV. I guess they were a guilty pleasure of mine. It didn’t matter how plain a girl was; She always looked like a movie star by the end. Even the big girls that they had on the show came out looking like they had lost ten to thirty pounds, just by wearing the right clothes. Sometimes I wished that I could go on one of those shows. Then maybe I’d find myself a guy who didn’t hibernate in bars from Thursday to Sunday morning; or maybe even one who knew how to make a girl feel special.
“KATE, will you please just pay attention?”
Ana’s shriek pulled the e-brake on my daydream and jolted me into the realization that all the other women had somehow dislocated their hips and had their feet behind their heads. “Kate, you need to keep up. Don’t make me regret inviting you.”
“Ana,” I stood up as I said her name, like a statement, “I love you, but I’m out.” I left my yoga mat behind, walked to the back of the room where my coat hung on a peg, and left. As I got into my car, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go, but I felt like I just needed a pair of cute jeans.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Molly walked to school every morning, her long brown hair plaited with red ribbon. She was well liked by her classmates, but quiet. Not the shy kind of quiet; she was just a gentle creature. Her walk to school was her own every morning, until she got to them.
“They” were the man in the Caddy and the woman in the VW. They parked side-by-side in the wooded lot next to the nature trail each morning to take a walk before driving to the office. At least, that’s where Molly assumed that they went. She didn’t know many people who hiked in collared shirts and pleated pants and , though they looked fairly young, maybe in their late twenties, they dressed like professionals. But they never walked together. Caddy man would get out of his car first, shoot a smile of recognition in VW woman’s direction, and then walk briskly into the cover of trees. VW woman would watch him leave, making sure to wait until he was out of site before entering the woods herself.
Molly witnessed this exquisite dance of avoidance and desire every morning on her way to school, and each morning she added a new chapter to the elaborate tale of their unacknowledged love that she had created in her mind. Last week she imagined that VW woman shed her business attire each evening and created masterpiece paintings rivaling those of Monet in her one-bedroom studio apartment. She dreamed that Caddy man worked at her favorite coffee shop on the weekends and every Saturday morning VW woman stopped by to order a non-fat latte and catch a smile from Caddy man while he steamed some milk behind the barista bar.
On this day, Molly imagined artist VW woman and barista Caddy man again, but this time when Caddy man finished making her latte, he wrote his phone number on VW woman’s cup. Molly giggled to herself, picturing what it would be like to be in love. She knew that there must be more to it than the eighth grade version of it that she witnessed daily. A boy with an acne-scarred face would awkwardly ask a girl to go to the upcoming dance with him and the girl would try not to burst into laughter when the boy’s voice hit multiple falsetto notes as he stammered through his question. The girl would always say yes, not wanting to go alone, and then her friends would giggle uncontrollably anytime they caught her and her date even walking in the same hallway together.
There were a bunch of claims due the next day so Chris was stuck working late at the insurance firm. It was nights like these where he had to continuously remind himself that he was lucky to have a well-paying job at the age of twenty-seven during these difficult economic times. Besides, he knew that she was probably working late that night, too. There was a girl who worked for the same firm as Chris; just on a different floor, and he thought she was gorgeous. She was about the same age as him, had shoulder-length blonde hair and luminous green eyes, almond-shaped; with the longest eyelashes that Chris had ever seen. Sometimes he caught himself wondering if she even wore make up.
Chris lived for the nights when he would be walking through the parking lot to his car at the same time that she was walking to hers. He wondered if she would think that his old-school Cadillac was cool and vintage, or just an expression of him holding onto his youthful college days. He wondered if she would listen to his classic rock CDs that he kept in the glove compartment, or if she would insist on listening to a country station on the radio. Chris did a lot of wondering about her, but never any talking. He saw her almost every evening in the parking lot, in addition to seeing her every weekday morning at the nature trail near their office, but he had never spoken a word to her.
Molly left school that afternoon feeling particularly frustrated. There was a dance that Friday and two different boys had already asked her best friend, Kayla. Sometimes she wondered if boys would ask her to dances if her hair had bouncy curls like Kayla’s. Walking home with Kayla that afternoon didn’t do much to lift her spirits, either.
“So, I just don’t know which one I should go with, Danny or Brian! What do you think?” Kayla asked Molly.
“Well, which one do you like?”
“Hmmm… Well, Danny is cuter, but Brian has a pool! Maybe if I go with him, he’ll let us go swimming next summer!”
The next morning, Molly left a few minutes early for school. She had some questions for Mr. Burns, her pre-algebra teacher, before the class took their test that day. She hoped that she wouldn’t pass the wooded lot before Caddy man and VW woman arrived. As the lot came into view, she was surprised to see the Caddy parked in its usual spot with its owner pacing in front of the passenger side door. As she got closer she could see frown lines marring the young man’s face and he was tugging at his sandy blonde hair. Molly, feeling uncharacteristically outgoing that morning, called out to him; he seemed truly distraught.
“Hey there!” she yelled.
“Oh… Hi.” He seemed startled upon learning that someone else was around.
“Um, are you okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. Don’t worry about me, get to school.”
“Are you waiting for… for her?” Molly winced as she asked, realizing that even she felt weird as she came to terms with how often she did watch the pair.
“Uh, I don’t know what you mean….” The man looked around uncomfortably, trying to find something to focus his attention on. Failing, he asked, “Do you know her?”
“Not personally, no. But I see you two every morning when I walk to school. I always thought she looked like a nice girl. Do you like her?” Molly knew she might be late for school, but she finally had the chance to see her imaginary love story come to life and she just couldn’t walk away now.
“Well, I don’t actually know her….”
Molly knew the answer to her next question, but decided to play dumb. “Wait, you mean you’ve never even said hi to her? You guys walk the same trail every day!”
“I know… It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’ve never really had a way with talking to girls. Been like that ever since I was young. One time I was at a party in ninth grade at my friend’s house and the girl that I had a crush on was there too. I can’t believe I’m telling you this, but I was so nervous that I couldn’t even be in the same room as her. I spent the entire evening talking to my friend’s parents in the basement.”
“No way!” Molly giggled. “Sorry, but that’s kind of dumb.”
“Oh yeah?” The man frowned, but quickly changed it to a smile. “Are you some kind of dating expert?” He asked with a know-it-all ring to his voice.
The question was a painful reminder of every unacknowledged desire in Molly’s heart, and she was surprised to feel her eyes burn with the threat of tears. She looked away quickly as she bitterly answered, “No.”
“Hey, come on, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset. What’s your name?”
“Molly,” she muttered.
“Molly. I’m Chris, it’s nice to meet you. Listen Molly, I didn’t mean to make you upset. It’s probably a good thing you don’t know much about dating at your age. Actually, it’s a great thing. You have plenty of time for all that junk. Just be a kid for now because it goes by too quickly and before you know it, you’ll be working at some boring job that you absolutely hate and too scared to talk to a girl who you think is the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen. Well, maybe you won’t know much about that last part. But you get what I mean, right?”
Molly managed a weak smile. “Yeah, I get it. Nice to meet you, Chris. I’m going to be late for school. But talk to her. I think she’d like that. See you around.”
Chris smiled, his eyes filling with warmth. “Thanks, I’ll see what I can do. Have a good day at school.”
The next morning was Friday, the day of the dance, and Molly still didn’t have a date. But after everything that Chris had said the day before, it didn’t seem like such a big deal to her. The day before she had learned that a bunch of her other friends didn’t have dates either and that Kayla was really the only one going. The burden of being dateless suddenly felt a lot lighter.
She left for school, headed in the direction of the wooded lot, hoping to catch a glimpse of Chris and VW woman. Maybe Chris had gotten her name the day before and she wouldn’t have to be VW woman anymore. The lot came into sight, and Molly was excited to see both cars parked in their usual spots. She got closer just in time to see Chris and the woman enter the trail, together, hand-in-hand. She was also just in time for Chris to look back, smile at Molly, and wink in her direction.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
To my surprise, maybe even to my relief, Eli didn’t speak. This relief was temporary, however, because Eli didn’t just stare at me; he started to laugh. And it was not the type of laugh that you could call “fun” or “jolly”, or even just “awkward”. Eli cackled. The pitch of his voice stabbed at my eardrums and his old lungs wheezed and snorted with the physical exertion. His eyes moistened and his nose dripped snot onto the ground as a tint of burgundy softened his dark, ashy face. And then, to my absolute horror, Eli’s frail body closed the fifteen feet between us in what seemed like two long strides and his bone-thin fingers closed around my forearm.
“Come with me,” he whispered. His hot, stale breath turned my stomach as I followed, him leading me by the arm. I contemplated running, but my curiosity was burning and I figured there was little that Eli could do to threaten me. I was no body builder, but at 5’10” and 210 pounds I was no lightweight either.
He brought me around to the back of the corner store where there were even more dead bushes along the wall and a small garden fenced in with chicken wire off to the side. Soft, crimson tomatoes lay amongst brown leaves, many with their seeds spewing forth over the dust.
“Lost m’ pocketknife,” Eli mumbled. “Start lookin’, son.”
It took me a minute to realize what he had said. I was missing work to help a sick old man look for a pocketknife. As I poked around the bushes near the corner of the store, I began dreaming up excuses for missing work without even calling out.
“Know what yer problem is, kid?”
Eli’s quiet muttering startled me and I stood up too quickly, pulling my hand from a bush and allowing a sharp twig to scrape a shallow gash the length of my forearm. The sting distracted me for a moment as I grabbed my arm with my other hand, but then remembered that Eli had asked me a question. Well, more like accused me of having a problem.
“N-no, w-w-w-what?” I stuttered.
“I dun’ jus’ mean you. This whole town’s got a problem. With me.”
“Nah man, you’re cool. I think it’s just that, you know, no one really knows you.”
“Exactly”. With that, Eli moved to the other side of the house, still looking for his pocketknife. I saw my chance. The second train hadn’t come yet. I could still make it to work. So… I ran. I ran the last quarter of a mile to the train station, caught the second train, and made it to work only thirty minutes late. I tried to tell myself that I ran because I felt stupid missing work to look for an old knife. But really, I’m not sure why I ran.
The next morning I dreaded walking by the corner store. I contemplated calling in sick, practiced my hacking cough and fake sneezes while getting dressed, or leaving early and walking a different route to the train. But I knew I would see Eli eventually and I figured that maybe I could get away with just walking fast with my head down.
I took a deep breath as the corner store came into my line of vision. I stepped up my pace, not quite to speed walking levels, but definitely enough that I could potentially break a sweat on a warm day. I lined myself up in the direction of the train and prepared to look down as soon as I came within site of Eli’s stool. But as I took each step, expecting to see the stool with every passing stride, I realized that it wasn’t there. Eli wasn’t there. For the first morning since I started taking the train five years ago when I got my job, Eli wasn’t there. I walked around the store, into the backyard where I had stood with Eli just a day earlier. Everything was the same, except maybe there was a couple missing tomatoes that the birds had gotten to. I walked around to the other side, the side that Eli had retreated to when I brought up the fact that no one really knew him here. He wasn’t there either. I walked around to the front of the store to discover that the lights were off and the door was locked. But the two old rocking chairs that Eli’s parents had supposedly sat in on warm summer evenings were still posted up on the front porch and I sat down in one to think.
I wasn’t sure what to think about this situation. Should I call the cops? Should I gather a search party? But who would even come? I had said it myself, no one really knew Eli. Tired, I shifted in my seat to lay my head back. But in doing so, I felt something hard dig into my thigh. I jumped up, causing the chair to rock violently back and forth, thumping the wooden deck and echoing through the open air.
There, in the seat of the rocking chair, lay a small pocketknife with a sleek black handle. It was closed, but that handle was definitely pointed enough to cause some serious discomfort on my backside. I picked it up and slid it through my fingers. It was so smooth, and the handle was surprisingly flat, not bulky like other knives were. It almost pained me to picture Eli picking his teeth with such a beautiful knife. I had to smile as I caught myself thinking that this knife, with its smooth shape and flat design, could potentially fit very comfortable in someone’s shoe.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
This is a short story that I've been writing for my creative writing class. It came from a prompt that my professor gave us in class. Therefore, it's pretty weird and random, but I figured why not? But this isn't the whole story. I thought I'd post a little at a time because 1) it's pretty long and I know for me, if something is really long, I probably won't read it and 2) I haven't finished it yet.... oops, don't tell my professor since it's due tomorrow! :) As of right now, it's "Untitled", but enjoy and stay tuned for the rest to come. Hopefully that will be tomorrow!
I passed by him every morning on my walk to the train station. There wasn’t much need for a car in my two-square-mile town with the train tracks running right through. I knew for sure that this man didn’t have a car either, but that was probably the only trait we had in common. He was a tall beanpole of a man, black like the night when the moon is eclipsed, with white hairs marring his chin and cheeks like bristles on a kitchen scrubber. His straw hat hid his eyes, but his smile was kind, even with the missing and decaying teeth. Aside from the clothes on his back and the hat on his head, his only possessions seemed to be a scratched-up wooden stool that I always saw him sitting on with his back leaned up against the corner store, and a small pocket knife that he used to clean the few teeth he still had.
This man had lived in my town for as long as I could remember, since I was a kid even. I knew his name was Eli, but everything else I knew came from rumors. No one knew where Eli had been before he had wandered into this town many years ago.
He was a famous florist from New York City, until his shop fell on hard times and he walked all the way out here after it closed.
He was an African prince until his reign came to an end at the hand of Russian communists.
His mother used to own the corner store and he was born in the back room and never left.
But my favorite Eli story had always been the one where Eli used to work for the government as a secret agent. In my ten-year-old mind, I imagined him in a black suit with all of his teeth, carrying a gun in a hip holster with a knife concealed in his shoe. Now in my late twenties, my adult imagination struggled to see Eli as anything but homeless, and possibly slightly crazy, though I had never actually talked to him. I had a friend who spoke to Eli once. His name was Dan and he tried to give him a five-dollar bill, assuming that Eli was as destitute as he looked. But Eli cocked his head back, giving Dan a small glimpse of his elusive eyes. One looked like glass, Dan told me later. So Dan stood there, hand outstretched holding five dollars, and Eli just stared at him with a coy smile on his face, not saying anything, but just laughed quietly to himself and went back to cleaning his teeth, leaving Dan to walk away, baffled.
I had often contemplated making this exact same move, but after Dan’s experience, I kept my cash to myself. But I still couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to approach Eli, to actually have a moment to talk to him. On that day, however, it looked like I might finally get my chance.
I saw Eli’s stool in its usual spot, a monument to the mysterious man, but Eli wasn’t sitting on it. Instead, he was pacing in the dust around it, his nose as low to the ground as his rickety spine would allow. Ignoring the fact that I would probably miss my train and have to catch the next one, making me at least twenty minutes late for work, I allowed my curiosity to triumph against my better judgment and cautiously made my way towards the stooped old man. Eli had moved to peeking between the branches of the dried-up bushes next to the store when I yelled to him.
“Excuse me sir, are you okay?” If he heard me, he pretended not to, and continued digging in the bushes, though his arms were covered in scratches from the dry twigs. “Hey, are you looking for something?” I asked again. This time his head snapped back, and I felt frozen in his line of vision. It was the first time I had ever seen both of his eyes. Dan was right, I thought. The left one does look like glass. This thought only increased my discomfort as I waited for him to speak.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Marley walked the beach with her father, skipping behind him in his footprints, her five-year-old feet barely filling the space between his heel and arch. Her blonde curls, the same ones that he had once possessed, tickled her cheeks as the autumn wind wrapped itself around the pair. She and her daddy always spent Saturdays together. As a stay-at-home mom, her mother liked a few hours to herself on the weekends. So Saturday morning belonged to Marley and Dad. But this Saturday was different. Her daddy didn’t chase her to where the icy waves lapped at her toes, or help her find seashells alone the shoreline. He walked a few paces ahead of her, hands in his pockets and head pointed towards the sand, while his daughter trailed behind.
“Daddy, did you see all those shells by that rock? There was a purple one there! Can I go look at it?”
Her father stumbled as the girl’s voice broke his silence. “Huh? Sure, honey, let’s take a look,” he murmured as he redirected his path to follow his daughter. He memorized every capricious movement, from the bouncing of her locks to the spry steps of her tiny feet, like a gazelle running through the Serengeti. He would miss her when he left.
They reached her destination and Marley promptly collapsed to her knees in the damp sand, forgetful of her denim pants. It’s a short drive home, thought her father, and I’ll just put the heat on in the car so she doesn’t catch cold. “Daddy, look!” Marley squealed as she thrust a handful of sand and bits of shell towards her father.
“That’s beautiful, baby,” he crooned. He wondered how much she understood of him returning to Iraq. Both he and her mother had given her the news over dinner one night, only after cooking her favorite meal of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese with ketchup. She knew that Daddy was leaving for a long time to do his job, but he would come home to be with her again. The last time he went, she had been nine months old and, though there was little explanation to give her then, he had missed her first steps. He wondered what he would miss this time.
“Daddy,” Marley’s voice contained a note of concern as she wiped her sandy hands on her moist jeans. “Daddy, when you leave, who will take me to the beach?” Her father sighed, but quickly created a small smile.
“Baby girl, I’m sure your mom would love to take you. And when I get back, it’ll be summer time and we can go every week. You’ll even be able to go swimming.” Marley thought this over for a minute, but suddenly her eyes grew wide.
“But Daddy… what happens if you don’t come back?”
Kids, he thought. They always seem to know more than you. He looked at the girl, his only child, small and helpless, and knew why he had to go back. But he had not been ready for this question and all he could do right now was be her father, not her soldier. So he scooped his baby up, just like he had done on the day she was born, and held her tight while he still could.