Bodie Lighthouse, Kill Devil Hills, Mayberry, Rodanthe and Woodfin Valley.
Originally published November thirteenth, ‘fifteen.
Bodie Lighthouse, Kill Devil Hills, Mayberry, Rodanthe and Woodfin Valley.
Originally published November thirteenth, ‘fifteen.
The trouble with going to sleep unhappy with yourself is that you wake up that way. Only it’s worse, because while you were sleeping all those negative feelings you had magically intensified exponentially so that when you wake the next morning you have maybe two hundredths of a second to revel in the glory of the sunlight and the comfort of your bed before your brain switches from automatic to manual.
And when that switch takes place… some days, nothing good can come of that.
On this particular morning, I woke at ten after seven. By fifteen after I was feeling despicable, and the feeling wouldn’t be shaken no matter how many times I tossed and turned or how much more deeply I buried my head to snuggle under the covers.
So then I tried to distract myself by watching recorded shows. Ones that had been camping out for months, waiting for me to remember that I actually liked them. I watched Three Rivers. Why I liked that one, I do not know. I watched NCIS: Los Angeles. That one I love. I watched the last two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. These made me cry. Both of them. So much for distraction.
By this time it’s eleven or so. My head’s started to hurt. I figured maybe if I eat that might help so I all but hobbled downstairs to the kitchen (on days like this, mental anguish begins to take on a physical form, and all my joints hurt, especially my knees and ankles) to pour a giant bowl of Cheerios.
I camped out on the sofa and flipped through a dozen channels. First I settled on football. While last night, I might have succeeded, momentarily, in shrugging off despair with the glee of anticipating a fast-approaching football season, this morning football could not pacify me. So then I switched to What Not to Wear because I think Stacy and Clinton are cool. This morning, however, they annoyed me. So then I switched to Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader. No luck there either.
By this time I was crying again. I figured sitting at home’s not helping, and I have errands to run — money to deposit, bills to pay, vehicular registrations and inspections to make current, a vehicle to wash. responsibility. So I went back upstairs to change. I managed to quell the tears while doing this. but then, as I got my hair wet — because fine, curly hair never does well the day after — the tears came again. the more I stop and start this crying, the more despairing the tears are. I remembered I’d left my comb in my father’s car the night before. So it’s back downstairs to my parent’s bathroom, still crying. Somewhere between the landing and the doorway to their bedroom, the crying morphed into full-on wailing and misery.
Which morphed into wrath seconds after I’ve entered their room.
And by this time, by this time I might as well have been hunched in a ball in a corner.
Wrath terrifies me. Whatever strength I think I might have dissipates rapidly in her presence.
Tears that were once huge rivers became quiet streams that are more reluctant to flow, and I was chanting no, much like my then nineteen-month-old niece and nephew do when they’re crying and miserable. No. No. No. Scared. Because I never think I’m going to get through it when I’m in the throes of wrath.
But somehow I do.
And I’m grateful for this.
I rounded the corner, passed their closet, padded into their bathroom, still chanting. I rummaged through my mother’s cosmetics drawer for a comb and sat on the commode to slowly, slowly, run the comb through the tangles. Five minutes or so of this, and I was better.
Drained but better.
The trouble is, I didn’t indulge wrath.
Usually it’s better if I let her play for a bit. harder to handle. harder to live through. But better in the long run. Usually, afterward, I’m tired but nice. I won’t smile at you, but I won’t tear your head off, either.
I’ve got those errands to run, and on this day I wasn’t so sure of my strength so I shoved her back.
Somewhere between the time I left the house and the time I came home, I got ugly with cranky and snarly. So much so that by the time I got to the last errand, I was at the I’m-gonna-tear-your-head-off-just-for-looking-at-me stage.
When I was twenty-five my family went to Austin for the Fighting Irish versus the longhorns football game. A handful of my older brother’s friends met up with us. I’d been having a conversation with one of them — I’m a pretty sarcastic girl, and those who know me are amused by this as they should be because I mean it in good fun, but those who don’t aren’t so much. This one didn’t know me. All of the sudden he comes out with God, you’re bitter. I don’t even remember what I’d said that prompted him to say this, except that whatever I’d said, I hadn’t meant for it to be so sarcastic that it offended.
Flash forward. I thought of this conversation today. Of this friend of my brother’s.
Today, I was a prime example of bitter hag. Ugly with it.
This is what happens when I don’t give into wrath.
I bitched at an employee — an elderly woman who works in the floral department (What a lovely job that must be. Really. Happy and thoughtful) — for not washing her hands after using the restroom before returning to work. I snarled at the library staff because printing a single sheet of paper is more of an inconvenience and challenge than I think it ought to be. God forbid I should consider that they don’t have to offer such a service. I don’t have a printer hooked up to my mac. My mother’s printer, at the time, was not communicating with her computer, and my father’s computer was off limits so I had to borrow someone else’s. That it doesn’t work like I want it to do so was, apparently, a criminal offense.
The best example? I stopped by a courthouse, after having finally succeeded in enlisting the help of a reference librarian to get the damned proof of insurance card I needed so that I could get my registration updated, and had been walking, rather intently (in other words, in a don’t-fucking-talk-to-me fashion), when a woman had the audacity to smile at me and ask if I worked there.
What? (Said in the same fashion as I had used when walking.)
Do you work here? (She was walking toward me, still smiling, still being friendly. Curious. In need of help.)
I was wearing a T-shirt promoting a Grand Junction, Colorado brewery, capris and flip-flops. I looked like death. No. (Said in a what-the-hell-would-make-you-ask-such-a-stupid-question tone of voice.)
Now she’s not so friendly. Now she’s taken aback, and a hell of a lot smarter than she’d been a second before. she proceeded to tell me that the building was locked, that I couldn’t get in, that I was rude…etc., etc., etc.
The moment I heard that I can’t get in, I turned and headed back to my car. So while’s she’s telling me that I’m rude…
I could hear this boy’s voice in my head, just as I could while at the library. See his face just as clearly today as I’d seen it a dozen years before. God, you’re bitter.
Earlier that day I’d found a picture of me as a first-grade student. In it I’m sitting there with my hands in my lap, my arms pressed to my sides, my shoulders slightly drawn up. I’m grinning. beautifully.
I wish I could be that girl again. I wish I could channel her and infuse my present personality with a bit of the cute and funny my mother said I was back then.
I don’t understand why I have to hurt so much. I don’t understand how I could hurt others knowing how much the hurting sucks ass.
Originally published September first, ‘ten.
So I’ve been trying for two decades to write a book. A love story. The cheesy shit most chicks write because, well, that’s what most chicks read. And underneath all the sarcasm and crassness and occasional tomboyishness, I happen to be a sucker for that cheesy shit.
I am soft. I blame this on my father. My mother says I’m just like him. When I was younger and having trouble making friends, my father would often suggest to me that I emulate my mother. Oh, how easy my world would be if that were possible. Every time he said that, my heart would break a little because I could never be like her. Always, always, I was told of how I should be… by my parents, my peers, my educators and employers. I am a four-letter word.
Anyway, at the time this post was written, the past few days I’d been tanking… badly. This particular day I woke up, and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep all day. It was a good day for it, after all. Rainy and gloomy. But I had bills to pay and whatnot …
And Five Hundred Days of Summer came out in wide release that day. I’d been waiting for this movie for months. I’d thought I might see it a dozen times. It is just that good. The best movie to come out that year.
So I went to work to collect my check and get a cup of hot cocoa because that always makes me feel better, and then I went to the banks to transfer money so that I could pay those bills, and then I went back to work to get a jug of water because while hot chocolate makes me feel better mentally, physically it makes me hot — yes, I know — and jittery. And then I went to the movie.
There’s a scene in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character’s sister is telling him that maybe when he looks back on his relationship, he should look not only on what was good about it but also on what was bad about it.
Do people really think this doesn’t happen?
One of the guys I’d dated – the one I’d liked the most — suggested, basically, that I’d colored my memories with emotion and that made those memories different for me than for him.
Okay. Fine. I can see how one might think that. It makes sense.
I can remember that he emailed me on St. Patrick’s Day. That I hadn’t been looking. I’d gotten up at ten or so, played spades on the computer for a while and gone to work. That it was a glorious day, the first glorious day we’d had in some time. That work went well for a change, that a group of coworkers and I went to Friday’s afterward and chatted and drank for an hour or so. That I took the long way home. That I’d checked my email accounts (all three of them, the last of which was one I’d not checked in several weeks), and there in the last, sent that day, was his letter.
Yall, it was a damned fine letter. I’ve a thing for guys who can communicate well.
I remember telling him, later, of this coincidence. He told me that he’d considered writing me the week before but had decided against it. I’d asked him if he had written me on the tenth and I’d replied on the seventeenth, if he would’ve replied to my email. He’d said no.
After a fight with the clothes in my closet because I could no longer fit in most of them, I showed up at his apartment and he’d had a lone, long-stem rose waiting for me. Because I’d been late, he’d said. That was the first time I’d ever gotten flowers from a guy who was not a relative, and it couldn’t have been a better occasion.
That the first time he kissed me was horrible, so much so that I worried over it for hours afterward. That the second time was awesome, so much so that I was wound up for hours afterward.
I remember him taking me to first Friday at the Blue Star Art Complex in the King William’s District of San Antonio. I’d never been. He led me up a narrow flight of stairs, my hand in his. I asked where we were going. An elderly woman on her way down looked at me, smiled, pointed and said, Up. Indeed. I was going up. It was marvelous. I don’t think I’ve been that happy since.
Bolting from his apartment because I didn’t want to, couldn’t let him see me cry. I made it to the Phillips Sixty-Six gas station across the street to the attendant who sold me a carton of Marlboro Lights and a Bic lighter to halfway between the station’s door and the driver’s side of my truck before I broke. Right there on the concrete hunched next to the rocks that were the station’s shell for all the world to see. I ended up cruising Loop 1604 — twice – chain-smoking and crying until I couldn’t anymore. I don’t think I’ve been that miserable since.
I remember the way he’d smile at me. The way he said my name when he was happy with me. The way he said it when he wasn’t. The way he smelled. To this day, yall. If I catch a whiff of Ralph Lauren’s Romance for Men, I am flooded by sadness and longing.
I remember everything. Everything. And that is how it should be.
A friend of mine asked me a few days before I’d originally posted this why I’d not finished my book. I’d told her that I can’t pretend everybody gets to have happy. That it makes me sad to try to write it. And then I saw this movie and was reminded of how much I love fate and coincidence and how much I should believe in them. I remembered how much I used to do so and that I missed doing that.
I’d made myself focus more on the bad things about love. I’d let it become a four-letter word.
Originally published July thirty-first, ‘nine.
My favorite sweatshirt is one I purchased twelve years ago at Aggie Outfitters at the mall in College Station. At the time I’d originally written this post, it was too big for me, which was one of the reasons I love it. It falls to the middle of my thigh, and the sleeves are long enough that my hands are hidden by the fabric. And it’s hooded. I can get lost in this sweatshirt.
I ain’t that scarred when I’m covered up (Beth Hart — Leave the Light on).
It’s thick, good, strong, warm cotton. Wearing it is like being wrapped up in a thick, flannel blanket.
But the best thing is the giant 12 imprinted on the front in worn white numbers, trimmed in gold. Big, bold blocks of Twelfth Man.
I wear it when my soul is at its weakest.
I was walking the streets of Cardiff at three in the morning, back to the hotel after a quest to find a debit machine so I could get the cash I needed to pay the cab fare for transit from the hotel to the airport. The hotel had an ATM in the lobby, and I’d expected to get money there, but there was some festival going on while I was in Cardiff… something comparable to Mardi Gras… and the tenants had emptied the hotel’s ATM in the night. So I set out… alone.
Like any other city, the streets of Cardiff at three a.m. look nothing like the streets at three p.m. I marveled at the city’s ability to clean up the excessive debris from a drunken night of debauchery in such a short time. If one were to be on those streets at ten a.m., all evidence of the previous night’s party would have been swept up and tossed in the garbage. But on this night, as I was walking, I think there easily might have been two hundred plastic cups broken and crushed on the concrete in front of one bar. I passed a lot of bars.
At three a.m., just like at three p.m., a lot of people are milling about, but the early morning’s crowd is dressed dramatically different than the afternoon’s, and instead of anticipating the fine time to come as the afternoon’s crowd does the early morning’s bunch are coming down from the high of having that fine time.
And there’s me, who’s been up for maybe ninety minutes, who’s exhausted from a mediocre vacation and a mild depressive episode. I was shoving my way back to the surface. At least, I was trying to do so. I’d had a good day’s rest and was bound for the airport, for family, for home, so I was a little better.
But better is a fragile thing.
There’s me in my comfort clothes, making my way through the crowds as quickly, as unobtrusively as possible. I was a little scared, so I didn’t look at anyone directly. I tried not to call too much attention to myself.
But there’s that giant, white twelve, and quite a few noticed it.
No one said anything. Not until I was a couple of blocks away from the hotel, just around the corner. And I thought Almost there, almost there. I was reveling in the knowledge that I’d made it unharmed.
Three men walk by me. After they’d passed, one of them called out, Hey, twelve! You’re not a number! You’re a female!
I’d considered saying something when I heard another say, And ugly!
Mentally everything stopped. In my head, I just stood there, frozen, shocked, humiliated, hurt and horrified that my day had begun this way. In my head, I cried. I could almost feel the breath freeze in my lungs and my heart stop, just for a second.
But outside, I appeared as though I was unfazed. There wasn’t a hitch in my step that betrayed me. Not a shift in my posture so that my shoulders seemed slumped. I kept walking.
It’s not normally a shocking sentiment. I’ve heard this more times, so many more times than I care to recall. It’s not new. It’s not something I’ve not told myself more times than I’ve heard it, in hopes that hearing it would hurt less.
It’s that I’d not heard it in a while. That I liked my face well enough when I got dressed that morning. That it’d been said by someone on the other side of the world.
It’s that the sentiment is now universal.
And the sweatshirt, the thing that once provided some small bit of solace, is now tainted by the taunts of three men I met on the streets of Cardiff at three in the morning, and every time I look at it, I’ll think of them, of that day, of that ugliness.
Originally published August thirty-first, ‘nine.
So the day before originally writing this, I went on a miserable date at the Houston Zoo, and it started sprinkling. I yelled at the heavens to do more than that — we hadn’t seen rain in what felt like ages. I bargained with God, and yeah I know that I shouldn’t do that, but I did it anyway. I said that if He would let it rain, really rain, I’d go to church for the next four Sundays.
It really rained. Not as long as I would’ve liked, but a deal’s a deal.
I’m not so fond of my church so I went to a different one. On this particular day, it was a better one. I’m kind of the mind that all church is the same… boring.
But that day’s Mass seemed to be tailored for me. It was about the sheep who stray from the Shepherd.
When I was a little girl and my family would take vacations to the other parts of the country the moment we’d checked in and unloaded our baggage into our hotel rooms I’d take off. I’m not sure I’d tell my folks where I was going, just that I was. It would never be too far, but I was young enough that it must’ve worried them a little bit. I’ve a habit of wandering off. Still do.
They left me in a gallery in Santa Fe once. I’d found a print I liked. It wasn’t a great print, but something about it appealed to me. It was of a girl standing in a field holding a candle with one hand cupped around the flame to keep the wind from extinguishing it. The colors were sort of muted — not pastel, just softer, like everything had been cast in shadow. There were mountains and a house and a sunset in the distance. Not an exemplary print by any means. But for some reason my interest had been so captured that I’d knelt on the floor in front of it and gawked. My parents and my brothers called to me a number of times that they were leaving. I’d call back, like I was getting ready to get going, but I wouldn’t move. Could only sit there. And sit I did, for a very long time.
Finally I got up, and they were gone.
So used to wandering on my own was I, though, that I thought nothing of it. I was quite confident that they’d realize they’d left me and would come back for me.
I’m not sure how long it took them to come to that realization. I vaguely remember chatting with the gallery owner while scoping out the rest of the pictures she’d had on display.
My mom came in and got me. She thanked the owner for the trouble. We went on about our vacation.
A week or so later my parents got a package in the mail. I stood with my mother at the kitchen table in the breakfast room, looking over her shoulder as she unfurled the roll of prints that they’d purchased at that gallery. And there, amidst the pictures my parents had chosen, was the print I’d admired. The woman had included it at no charge because she’d enjoyed watching me study it. I’d been eleven or so at the time. I remember being in awe of the woman’s generosity. People didn’t normally do nice things for me then.
I’m still in awe of that generosity, actually. I still have the print.
The point of that diatribe is this: if a sheep’s got a habit of wandering, isn’t the Shepherd somewhat responsible for keeping an eye on the sheep and making sure she doesn’t get lost?
I feel so lost right now. I’ve felt that way for decades, and the older I get the more lost I become.
One of my friends had a song, Come on Get Higher, by Matt Nathanson on her blog. It’s kind of country. I’m not so much a fan of country music, but every now and then some song will strike a chord. This one’s got something in it about Make you believe; make you forget.
Oh, how I wish I could.
I almost cried during Mass twice the day I wrote this. I couldn’t sing because the lyrics kept choking me up. And the singing’s my favorite part of Mass.
I make it a point not to cry in public. I used to do it all the time as a child when I was in school. And then I learned to hide.
We sang The Prayer of St. Francis: Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope where there is darkness only light and where there's sadness ever joy And, later, The Gift of Finest Wheat: You satisfy the hungry heart And as I wrote this... The Fray's Vienna: There's really no way to reach me Depeche Mode's Blasphemous Rumors: But I think that God's got a sick sense of humor and when I die, I expect to find Him laughing Train's When I Look to the Sky: When I feel like there's no one that will ever know me there you are to show me Keane's Somewhere Only We Know: Simple thing, where have you gone I'm getting old, and I need something to rely on so tell me when you're gonna let me in I'm getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin Indigo Girls' Closer to Fine: Darkness has a hunger that's insatiable and lightness has a call that's hard to hear I wrapped my fear around me like a blanket And Rachel Yamagata's Elephants: All I want is to just forget you
I am destined to remember, and the memories make me wary. How’m I supposed to find my way back when I’ve wandered off so far? How could He have let me wander off that much? Why does it feel like no one’s there?
Originally published July twentieth, ‘nine.
I managed to go through high school and college, studying English, without ever having to read any of Jane Austen’s or Charlotte Bronte’s works.
Can you imagine this? I’m certain there are dozens of other classical authors revered by educators of all sorts which are considered to be necessary to the literary world, which they would be appalled to know I’d not read.
Do you know what made me want to read Pride and Prejudice? The trailer for the Knightley/MacFayden version of the tale. Actually, a particular quote from the film, spoken by Mr. Darcy to Ms. Bennett after having professed, to his chagrin, his interest in marriage to her. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?
I love this line. I love how it cuts. I love how the word choice — the sharpness of the K and the X and the CT sounds, the bite of it, the hiss of the soft C and the S and even the F — contributes to the sentiment expressed. There’s such disdain there. Such frustration, not just in that sentiment, nor its language, but in the delivery of it, as well. It’s a fantastic line. Marvelous, really. And it, more than any other, sums up Mr. Darcy quite well.
I hunted up that bit of script while at work one day, so eager was I to see the film, to know the story. I printed out the page or two of dialogue I’d found, and, after work, taken it in to Macaroni Grill with me to study while I had dinner.
Actually, I did more than study it. I took my red and blue crayons and diagrammed the whole of those sentences — Darcy’s in blue, Bennett’s in red — on the butcher paper that covered my table’s cloth.
This version of the film interested me enough that I purchased a cheap Barnes and Noble classics version of P and P and read it, painstakingly and begrudgingly for the most part, cover to cover.
While I can concede that Ms. Austen can construct some fantastic prose, her propensity for girlish, frivolous detail is pretty annoying.
I am not a fan.
And then the cinematic world introduced me to Becoming Jane a couple of years later.
And oh, how my heart broke for her.
Every time I’ve watched this movie I’ve stood firmly in the knowledge that she was right to refuse Mr. Wisley, and she was right to turn back, to go home rather than run away with Mr. Lefroy. But the first few times I watched her departures from him, first from his uncle’s residence and later on the morning of her elopement after she’d discovered the letter from his family, I bawled. Quietly, of course, but still …
And every time, I’ve been gung ho against the notion that she should marry Wisley because he is, as her father had said, a booby.
It must be age. My birthday, at the time I’d written this post, was less than twelve weeks away, and I was abhorring that particular milestone. It was far, far too close to forty for my comfort. It has to be age. There’s no other reason for it. But on that particular morning, as I watched the story unfold, I began to think Wisley wasn’t so bad. Wealthy, tall, decent voice …
Oh, god. I think I’m going to be sick. This shift in my opinion of him is not good at all. It wasn’t THAT long ago that I was mocking his character.
I hate watching this movie. It crushes my spirit every time. And yet, I feel compelled to torment myself with it. So typical of a woman, right?
I’m blaming this on Jane Eyre.
I saw the trailer for it a couple of weeks before having written this post, and it got me thinking about these women, factual or fictional, who are deprived of lives of love and passion.
I’ve not read Jane Eyre. I was tempted to watch the BBC production of it a while back but talked myself out of it. Probably because Mr. Rochester sounds like an idiot.
Do you think that because I am poor, obscure, plain and little that I am soulless and heartless?
If there were a line that could convince me to see this film that would be it, but it doesn’t compel me nearly as well as Mr. Darcy’s line did. Mostly because it’s spoken to Mr. Rochester, and I just told you what I think of him.
My father says I’m a whole lot more sentimental than I let on, than I am comfortable with, and this is true to an extent. But sentiment hasn’t ever really done me much good so I see no point in showing off that bit of my character.
The point of all this is that I feel sorry for these women, these Janes who live so much of their lives without the thing they most desire for themselves.
I read Wikipedia’s synopsis of Jane Eyre, and I know she gets her guy in the end — after Mr. Rochester’s wife burns the house down and kills herself and blinds her husband and whatnot. This would be the other reason why I can’t bring myself to read it … way too much tragedy for my tastes.
Oh. Crap. Maybe you’ve not read it.
Every time I saw the trailer for this film it would bring to mind memories of Becoming Jane, which of course would have me itching to watch it again.
And every time I watch it I go to sleep sad and sentimental.
Bronte, by the way, married and became pregnant but died before giving birth. She was thirty-nine. Austen received a proposal from a wealthy but pathetic man which she accepted, then refused the following day. She never married. She died at forty-two.
And here, these two women wrote all these stories that are so well-loved by so many though I cannot say that I am one of that many, but still … I can respect others’ appreciation for their works … at least they’ve left the world these.
I have given nothing but a couple of chapters to my friends because unlike these women, I cannot seem to find the courage to write about love when I find it so lacking in my own life.
And this is how I shall end my day.
Originally published January twelfth, ‘eleven.
The first three are of Savannah, the fourth of Charleston, and the last of Coligny Beach at Hilton Head.
Originally published October seventh, ‘fourteen.
Treat an essay like a mathematical equation and less like a blank canvas upon which you’ve to heap five hundred empty words. It’s simple, really.
You need approximately twenty-five sentences. The length of those sentences, of course, will vary based on what needs to be said, and this number is assuming you don’t have to include quotations.
Twenty-five sentences divided into five paragraphs supporting a sharp, succinct thesis statement.
For example, you are assigned the subject of cinematic villains.
The best villain in film is Darth Vader because he craves adventure and excitement instead of peace and stability, he is mastered by his emotions rather than being the master of them, and he is an intimidating and ruthless leader.
Thesis statement (The best villain in film is Darth Vader) with three reasons (craves adventure and excitement, mastered by his emotions and poor leadership skills) supporting it.
Five paragraphs: Introduction, Topic A, Topic B, Topic C and Conclusion.
INTRODUCTION. Five sentences. Start broad. The only place for bullshit is in your introduction and conclusion. ONE: For decades the cinematic industry has entertained us with tales of blah blah blah. TWO: In film we have seen the exploits and evil of psychopaths like Dr. Hannibal Lecter and the Joker. THREE: We’ve also seen the likes of criminal masterminds and mobsters and blah blah blah such as this dude and that dude. FOUR: But none have been so memorable as the Sith lord imagined by George Lucas in the Star Wars saga. FIVE: The best villain in film is Darth Vader because he blah blah blah.
TOPIC A: One reason why Darth Vader is so awful is because he seeks to please himself through grand adventures and thrilling escapades.
And then you give three solid examples to support this. You’ve got MANY films of horrible decision making from which to choose: he’s a child who boasts about how awesome he is at constructing things (his droids, his podracer); instead of listening to Obi-wan and Qui-Gon Jinn he goes and marries Queen Amidala; he has delusions of grandeur which the emperor encourages…
One sentence for each of those examples. And you don’t need to quote anything unless your professor/teacher insists that you do so. If the prof says you have to have quotes, then you should use at least one for each example.
TOPIC B: His penchant for seeking to fulfill his own desires is one way his emotions so often control his actions. He also does… Find three other ways his emotions get the better of him… like when he kills Obi-Wan or slaughters a village upon learning of his mother’s death.
TOPIC C: He taunts those who should revere him with his power and prowess rather than leading them. If an officer or a stormtrooper does not do as he’s told, Vader simply holds up a thumb and forefinger and chokes that man to death. Blah blah blah.
CONCLUSION: Regurgitation of thesis statement. Four more sentences of bullshit going from the specific to the general.
And you’re done.
The only font you use is Times New Roman. Ten or twelve point –preferably twelve, unless the prof says otherwise. Single-side it. Double-space it. Left-align it. The tab key is not your friend; if you want an indentation for the first line, there’s a way to format your paragraphs so that it automatically does this. Be verbs (AM, IS, ARE, WAS, WERE, BE, BEING, BEEN), adverbs (those things that end in -LY) and prepositional phrases are not your friends, either. They are WEAK words, and do not belong in an essay. Use them sparingly. Do not rely solely on spellcheck for editing. And, most important, your professor is not stupid; don’t try to outsmart him. You can’t.
Originally published September twenty-second, ‘thirteen.
Quite some time ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, that same institution to which I’d run in the months following the demise of a relationship with the only man who’s ever really mattered to me (he mattered too much, which terrified me, and I didn’t matter enough, which I knew… and so the thing was doomed to fail), the cessation of my employment at Borders (turns out I’d had the sense to jump ship before the thing sank), and the months prior to the death of my older brother.
To this day, I want to weep with the gratitude that I had that place to turn — I made wonderful friends there and learned from some of the most incredible professors I’ve had the privilege to know.
I’d not been blessed to know Wendy Barker — not until four years ago. She’d been invited to speak at the small college here in town, to read her poetry.
I’d been tasked with writing an article advancing the event. I sent her questions; she sent me answers. At that time I’d not read her work; I was struck by her poem Color Analysis:
Swatches of fabric held to my face I am a “Summer,” am told I mustn’t wear winter, clear, sharp colors of gems: rubies, sapphires, emeralds Nothing too strong, definite I am semi-precious: amethyst, aquamarine, colors of sky. I am probably an air sign Think of breezes, says my color counselor I am told to have nothing to do with the press of bright yellow, liquid greens that rush the landscape in April and May. Autumn would overwhelm me. To what season, then, am I linked apparently forever, floating rootless on pale air? Am I simply to sway here on wisps of gray pale cloud, a little gasp of pink
As I read, I was overwhelmed by the thought that I am a winter.
I am winter who longs for summer, for the warmth the heat and the light the brightness, the airiness, the softness of the pinks and the pale yellows the sweetness of baby blue the joy and the fun and the peaceful easy the long and lazy sunny day I am winter clothed in sapphire Cold and stark and barren frigid and chilling and dark I am winded. Crisp and sharp bold and brutal, bleak and depressing I am howling and blustering, wounded and haunted. Ruby red from the rage and the weeping. Bitter and broken emerald green from the envy How could anyone want to be winter?
Originally published February twenty-sixth, ‘sixteen.
Sixteen years ago, while hiding out in academia recovering from three dramatic events that occurred within a twelve month period, the greatest of which was the death of my older brother, I took a creative nonfiction writing course in which we were to write responses to the stories we read.
One story was Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I strongly suggest you read if you’ve not already done so.
This is what came from that.
I see myself as both villain and victim.
My apartment, and I’ve lost count as to how many of them in which I have lived, is lined with boxes of various sizes and misplaced furniture. I do not know if I move because the villain knows the victim is getting too close to knowing herself and insists that this not be the case. Or because the victim is too afraid of what and who she is. Or because she struggles to be free of the villain’s constraints and thinks, foolishly, if she moves, she will be rid of them.
I take them both with me — the villain and the victim.
The only thing I do here in this cell, with its pricey kitchen appliances, garden-style tub and Berber carpet, this cell I have stuffed with pieces from Restoration Hardware and Storehouse Furniture — I do not know who chooses the pieces, whether it’s the villain or victim attempting to make my prison seem more livable — the only thing I do here is sleep.
I am like the butterfly — or moth — nailed to a wall. For awhile I was innocent, carefree, happy, beautiful. Then at the age of eight I became aware that I was not beautiful because my peers were kind enough to point out my many physical short-comings. I became aware that I was fragile, clumsy, easily scarred both mentally and physically. I learned that my body was not made like everyone else’s and being different, however unintentional, was wrong.
Eventually I learned not to wonder at the differences. I learned to hide them as best I could. I learned what things I should like and what things I shouldn’t. That even if one has all of the things that are “cool”, she is not necessarily so.
Nabokov wrote: “Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.” Why is it, upon reading this sentence, curiosity immediately seems wrong? Then, I think about it further and realize it isn’t wrong at all. It’s fabulous, really. My mother jokes that the first words I learned weren’t “Mama” or “Dada”, but “What would happen if…?”
To this day, I wonder.
I wonder what it would be like to be better. To be some character in one of my idol’s romance novels, like Margo, whose perfectly sculpted physique hides an amazing amount of insecurity, or Laura, whose femininity hides an amazing amount of strength, or Kate, whose abrasive persona hides an amazing amount of femininity. I have reread the tales of these three women numerous times, not because I see myself in any of the characters but because I like them the best and because, just for a second, I can escape the monotony and ugliness of my own colorless world.
But I am not myself when I read. I am a ghost, a shadow, a voyeur of some contrived reality.
I am only myself when I write. But the villain only lets me see so much of me at once. Or is it the victim that does?
You describe Lolita as a “small, vulgar, poetic, and defiant, orphaned heroine.” I read that and thought, briefly, you might be describing me. I can’t be certain, because, of course, I am not certain of who I am, but there are times I would use most of those words to describe me. I am small. Not physically, really. I am nearly 5’8, which is fairly tall for a woman. But I am* the smallest person in my family — the shortest, the lightest — and so I feel small. Few people in this world could doubt the vulgarity of my tongue and actions. I have done things in my life I feel an immense hatred towards myself for doing, the most vulgar of which is having given in to the constraints of society’s whims and, thus, losing myself. I like to think of myself as poetic though I wonder if this is true. Defiant? Sometimes I am certain I can be. Orphaned? I would say yes to this as well, though my parents still inhabit this Earth, still claim me as their own. But the world has rejected me, and I have rejected myself. So I am no heroine.
Manna identified Nassrin as a “contradiction of terms”. I am a contradiction, too, but only because I do not know who I am, and, thus, my identity changes, as do my moods, on a daily basis. You describe Nassrin as a Cheshire cat. And so am I.
You say a person becomes a villain because he or she never wonders, never is curious about anything but himself. That is another reason why I say I am a villain. Because I can be selfish. Because my curiosity can be quite limited to things that concern me and only me. I do not wonder why the world turns so much as why mine turns in such an ugly way. I have to remind myself to ask my friends how their worlds turn after having vented for many minutes as to how mine does.
You write: “They invaded all private spaces and tried to shape every gesture, to force us to become one of them, and that in itself was another form of execution.” I feel, much of the time that I died many years ago. That my body clings to this Earth simply because it is stronger than my soul. I died because I forgot what it was to be myself. Because I chose to value others’ definitions of me as opposed to my own. I was talking to my mother about this book earlier. Asked her to pick one word to define me that encompassed every aspect of my personality. Her word was “effervescent”, because when I’m in a good mood, I’m bubbly. When I’m in a bad one, I’m still bubbly, but the bottle is corked and bound to explode. I told her that I didn’t know if I could choose one word that sufficiently described me because I don’t know me. She reminded me that a counselor I’d seen in the seventh grade had said I knew myself. Maybe I did then. Maybe. But somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten. Somewhere along the way, my soul grew weary and eventually slept.
You say, often, throughout the second part of the book that you felt irrelevant. I have felt irrelevant since I was eight years old. Nothing, nothing I do seems to matter. Nothing inspires me to feel that my life is worthwhile. For decades I have struggled to find some reason for my being here. Always trying, always reaching. Always falling short, always failing. How does one cope with this?
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” — Nietzsche. I fought monsters as a child: my peers, who thought I was worthless and told me so at every opportunity, that the world would be better off without me in it; my teachers, who had no idea how to reach me and, sometimes, gave up, recommending that I be placed in special education classes. Had I not been so intelligent, had my parents not had so much faith in me, those few teachers would have gotten their way, and I would never have graduated from high school, never gotten a college degree, never had the opportunity to consider going to graduate school. I would have found a way to let my body sleep with my soul a long time ago. But I forced myself to go to school every day and fought them. I was not so careful, though, in protecting myself from becoming one, for I am as judgmental, as shallow as my peers were, and bitter, too.
Now I see myself as an irrelevant, monstrous, villainous victim.
Perhaps the only reason my body survives is because somewhere, in some cell, there is this notion that eventually, my soul will wake and rejoice. But as I grow older I become more resolved to my former peers’ insistence that I am, in fact, worthless.
I take these thoughts home, to my cell, each night.
And the only way I sleep is by taking two Tylenol PM tablets.
*At the time this was written, this was true. Now? Definitely not.
I was thirty-one when I wrote this. I am forty-seven now. I wish I could say I felt differently about life but the only difference between that version of myself and this one is that my cell is now a room in my parents’ house because solitary confinement was killing me.
Originally published August fourteenth, ‘sixteen.