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Not me, her

In 1987, I found myself trying to write about a high school girlfriend that had been molested by her father when she was a child. I was 19 years old, struggling to find my way through a screenwriting assignment about delivering character. The idea was to describe messy young love between two Sid and Nancy want-to-be's. But that failed, as I could not stomach oversimplifying her complicated past, events that shaped her life as a 16 year old with a mohawk, a smart mouth, a lingering stare. I understood that I had to start at the very beginning.

No one wanted to hear the story. When it was my turn to read in class, it even came to be that some of the other students asked to stand in the hallway before they heard another description of what happened in that lonely little house in the middle of nowhere. I was trying, and failing, and trying again to get things right, to explain how this happened, how it could happen to this girl, how this man found his way to acts of selfishness and d…

the life of pigeons


She cries. I hold her, ask her questions. She clings to my neck, tears hot against my neck. Twisting her fingers in my shirt, she does not stop. It goes on for some time. It is always for the same reason. I know why. I want to be ignorant. For just once, I wish it was because of something that happened on the playground. Just once because something broke, or spilled, or was lost.

Well, she did lose something. Something she never had.


Leaving the kindergarden I look out the window. There, spraypainted on an aluminum covered passageway is the word "CTAPT" (start). It has been there for as long as I have been bringing E here. A message in a bottle. A nudge. A suggestion. An order. 

Like most graffiti, I suspect it is read and misunderstood, or read and ignored. It has an exclamation mark, like those signs that say DISCOUNT! or SALE! All caps, in letters almost three feet tall. The children can see it every day from the playground. Maybe it was meant for them, not me or any adults.


People here do not smile very much. Every day in the street I see the same expressions. I find myself acting the same sometimes, then catch myself. There should be a snap in my stride, especially now that the streets are dry from snow and ice. I strut, walk fast, weave in and out of the shufflers. I have been walking this way since I was a boy. Sometimes the other kids asked me where I was going, and why so fast. I would stop, spin towards them with a flourish, raise my eyebrows and say, "I don't know, but I'm gonna get there before YOU do."


The day to day comings and goings are a constant struggle. We have been here more than four years now. Sometimes it feels like all we experience is some version of pigeons fighting over a scrap of bread. And the crows are just waiting to swoop in and steal it from the winner.


There is light. There is laughter. There are moments of romance and joy. There are mornings when I wake up next to the kindest, sweetest, funniest woman I have ever known. The sight of her naked back while she sleeps makes me feel peaceful like nothing else in the world. There is love here, amidst the grit and the danger, between the cracks in the sidewalk, in the tight grip of my daughter's hand, in a bowl of pasta in our tiny kitchen, in the middle of the night when the moon looks pregnant.

Comments

F'ing brilliant! PERIOD.
"FING BRILLIANT. PERIOD.
"I don't know, but I'm gonna get there before YOU do." - there's so much hope in that

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