Monday, December 17, 2012

Plink.

I was young, then, with a vivid imagination and marked dedication to playing make believe. We walked down the row, scattering rocks and dusting off the silhouettes. I tossed aside a chipped, white stone. Years later I would recognize it as limestone and even develop a certain fondness for it. When all of the iron silhouettes were standing again, we made our way back across the field through the brush.

It was something between a tradition and a routine, lost in the limbo of recurring events. Almost an hour of driving into what seemed like void desert terrain that somehow escaped suburbanization outside of the city. I grabbed a handful of bullets and loaded the rifle. My rifle. A gift my father had given me, a .22 long rifle. I set the rifle down on the table, safety on, and stepped away. We always had fun, but there was a very serious undertone about the whole ordeal. It was unspoken, simply understood. It's fun, but it's not play time. Respect the weapon for what it is.

A weapon.

I'd been raised to be comfortable around guns. There was nothing scary about them. They were simply tools that stayed in a special tool box and the same rules applied to them. You don't run around swinging a hammer around, so you don't run around swinging a gun around.

He always managed to make it a game. The row of farm animal shaped silhouettes across the field from us. He looked down at me as we put on our ear protection.

"What's out there?"

I sighted down my barrel at the rust scarred silhouettes. "Killer chickens, sir."

He thought for a moment, never raising his pistol. "Drop them." He said.

And I pulled the trigger.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yesterday's slice, discounted.

"You know," she continued. "That one thing that your family always has for Thanksgiving. That whenever you don't have it, the whole thing just feels wrong." She went back to eating her burrito bowl and I sat quietly for a moment.

"No." I said. "We don't have anything like that."

We always made the pumpkin pie together. It was just a tradition that started before I was aware of traditions. It was just an absolute of the holidays. It was never Thanksgiving without us getting together one evening and making a pumpkin pie. As a child, I used to love doing it. I felt so grown up. This was something my dad was doing. There were so many things to do, so many ways to help.

Cutting open the pumpkin. Pulling out all the innards. Separating the seeds for later. Cutting the pumpkin. Steaming it. Mashing it. Mixing it.

As I grew older, I learned to hate doing it. My time was too valuable to waste making a pumpkin pie. If it was something my dad wanted to do as a yearly routine, fine. I had no interest slaving over a pie. There were just so many things to do.

Cutting open the pumpkin. Pulling out all the innards. Separating the seeds for later. Cutting the pumpkin. Steaming it. Mashing it. Mixing it.

And then, as I grew even older, I learned to appreciate it. Not routine, tradition. It was comforting. Relaxing. Meditative, even. I could see why my dad enjoyed doing it so much. And, finally, why he wanted to do it together. There were so many things to do.

Cutting open the pumpkin. Pulling out all the innards. Separating the seeds for later. Cutting the pumpkin. Steaming it. Mashing it. Mixing it.

And then, one year, he wasn't there. And I stood, alone, in the kitchen.

Cutting open the pumpkin. Pulling out all the innards. Separating the seeds for later. Cutting the pumpkin. Steaming it. Mashing it. Mixing it.

It didn't come out the way it used to. It was too sweet. Something had gone wrong in my mix. It wasn't the same. Nobody said anything about it at dinner. They smiled and complimented me on making such a wonderful pie. I smiled politely back at them.

And the next year, when he came back, we didn't make pie.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Somewhere in the universe.

"I recognized you from way over there." She said. We traversed the last few steps between us. I could hardly wipe the smile from my face. "Your face got wider," she added. "Whiter?" I asked, suddenly self-conscious. "Wider." She said. We embraced, again. "It's good to see you," she said. "How's it going?" I asked. "Good." She said, releasing me. She smiles again. I return the smile. "How are you?" I'm five years ago.

"I'm great."

As I walked away from the studio, through the abandoned construction site, I thought about it. The tower of the Children's Hospital I'd become so familiar with loomed in the distance. I'm tired of losing friends, especially the ones that really matter. It was the only thought that crossed my mind as I walked home.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Past the butterfly wall.

Spontaneous pneumothorax is a collection of air or gas in the space between the lungs and the chest that "collapses" the lung and prevents it from inflating completely. Spontaneous means there is no traumatic injury to the chest or lung. There are two types of spontaneous pneumothorax: primary and secondary. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax occurs in people without lung disease. It occurs most often in tall, thin, young people.
I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket but I can't answer it. We are in the middle of rehearsal. It is not an uncommon event. We continue to play. The strap of my saxophone cuts into my neck. The nylon is rough against my skin. I look out of place. Everyone else is dressed casually; shorts, shirts, shoes optional. There I stand, a button down shirt and slacks. I'm entitled to dress up a little. It's my birthday.

My phone vibrates again.

I always used to roll my eyes whenever I saw those scenes in movies. The phone call. The bad news. The dramatic reaction. Knees buckling, struggling to stay composed. It just wasn't believable. Surely people wouldn't actually react that way. People could be level headed. Keep themselves together. People are strong, they don't just go straight to pieces.

You can't break people with words.

We stop the song and they discuss whether or not we will play it on Saturday. I check my phone. David has partial collapsed lung, going to ER. A shock runs through my body as I read the words. My chest tightens and my head starts to spin. I feel the words come from my mouth but can't remember thinking about them. My body disconnects from itself. "Oh God," I say. "I need to..." I take a step back. "...I'll be back." I stumble into the front yard and thoughtlessly drop my saxophone onto the sofa on my way out.

For what may be the first time in my entire life, I am honestly afraid.

I feel sick as I listen to the ringing of my phone. As I listen to her explain everything so far. As I sink down against the side of the house, phone clutched to my chest. I am crying, unashamed. People get hospitalized every day. Lots of people. Hundreds. Thousands. But only one of them is my brother. Literally my closest blood relative. I am filled with regret for not being closer to him.

Happy birthday, to me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I wonder, sometimes.

I am standing on the edge of a cliff face. A breeze whips past me as I stare out into the darkness. It's a familiar sight, comforting. The river bends below me. It stretches out, away from me at both ends. The arch of the bridge traverses the river, silhouetted by the house lights and golf course below us. So far away from us. The highway reaches out before us, straight into the hills and disappears on the horizon. It is silent. There are no cars. No planes. No animals. It is just us standing on top of the cliff. As it should be. It's late. A late weeknight. Just a normal Tuesday night to the world. I step away from the edge.

In 5 minutes, I will be 22 years old.

It's a turning point in my life. A fixed checkpoint. I'm only 21 years old, I'm not an actual adult yet. Maybe legally. But I'm still a child. I'm immature, I laugh at fart jokes. I laugh at everything. Why would I take anything seriously? 21 years old and we still have no responsibilities. We can buy alcohol. It's okay to drink until you black out, you're only 21. Nobody expects you to actually do anything. It's a magic age. But at the end of that period, it stops. You cease to be a kid. 22 is the end of the road.

You're unambiguously an adult.

And it's frustrating. I've come a long way since 16. I've come a long way since 18. Hell, I've come a long way since 21. But I don't feel like I've come far enough. I've made so many mistakes. I've wasted so many opportunities. Made friends, lost friends. Had new experiences, forgotten old ones. I feel like I've been coasting. That I'm planning on coasting for longer. I have no idea where to go from here because I have no idea if I am currently where I ought to be.

I'm studying something I find personally unsatisfying. I'm doing research in fields that I'm not especially invested in. I write comics for a newspaper that nobody reads. I'm just frustrated that after 22 years I haven't done anything worthwhile with my life. There's nothing to leave behind. The only thing I've really done that matters is meet people, and people tend to forget these things. I haven't done anything to make the world a better place and it upsets me. We are such brief creatures. I don't even want an exciting life--I just want to know that what I'm doing matters.

In 1 minute, I will be 22 years old.

I am speaking. Rather, words are falling from my mouth as the clock ticks down. The task was to recount my entire life, but I am distracted. Easily. Often. The song plays in the background and they are watching me. I stare into the darkness and hope they can't tell I'm avoiding their gaze. Though I'd like to look down at the Earth from above. My friends. My closest friends, old and new, with me on top of this cliff. I would miss all the places and people I love. I am explaining how the only things that really matter in our lives are the friendships we make. Family is a lifelong obligation, but friendship is a conscious effort. Suddenly, I'm not so worried about getting older. So although I may go, I'll be coming home soon. In 10 seconds, I will be 22 years old. We raise our bottles up, ready to toast. In this moment, everything is brilliant. 'Cause I don't want to live on the Moon.


I am 22 years old. This is the best birthday I've ever had.