Monday, October 19, 2009

Dream Story from the Past

Some people would just enjoy the stability of companionship, job and home, but to her these just caused restlessness. Each day and night she would do the same things. She was tired of dreaming. So tired in fact that her dreams became the one thing she fixated on the most.

She remembered each one vividly, with little care for the reality of them. She could see faces she missed, people she cared about, places she had longed to visit, and things she had always wanted until they disappeared with the light blaring into her eyes from the morning sun. She would wake almost in tears that her life had not been so exciting. She wondered each day, “Why did I put my dreams away? And what should I do to get them back?”

One dream haunted her each night, intertwined in each dream for months. She would be sleeping then be suddenly awakened. Lying on her side, facing his back in bed, her eyes shoot open. She pushes herself up slowly, as not to wake the man. She walks to the window and looks at the view overlooking the city. It’s cold outside, she can see from the frost on the windows and smoke from the chimneys across the skyline. This isn’t what she wants anymore. A deep yearning for change tugs inside of her as she looks back at the man. She knows in that instant that she must go, see, and do the things she longs for. In a few minutes time she assembles a small bag of things: toothbrush, notebooks, pens, picture of her family, money, passport, two shirts, one pair of jeans, underwear, sweatshirt. She leaves behind anything that would resemble him, work, or the apartment. Leaving her purse on the table with her cellular phone and car keys inside, she goes to the phone and dials a taxi service. It is to arrive in a few minutes. With one last look, she scans the apartment. Leaving all her consistency, love, and care behind she walks out the door. With her house key she locks the front door and slides the key under it. Without looking back, she carries her backpack down the three flights of stairs and leaves her apartment. She gets into her taxi and drives away. She doesn’t know where she’s going, but she has enough money to fly someplace and start over. At this point she would usually wake up.

It was obvious to her after the two years they had been living together that she couldn’t live this same life anymore. She rarely talked to him about them together. She didn’t want to push him away, but as it appeared she needed him. She was no longer independent.

Their relationship had begun to wither after the six long years they had been together, prompting her to ask the question, “Will you still love me if I’m gone?”

The sparkle that once filled his eyes was almost extinguished by now, and made his response dull and lifeless. “Sure, don’t be nuts. You already know that.”

That was it. She remembered how silly she once was. Screaming at baseball games, joking around with friends, flirting with men she met in bars. Now all that seemed so distant. With him, she felt stupid to be the tiniest bit impractical. Real life was the main concern. Laundry on Thursdays. Groceries on Wednesdays. Lunch on Saturdays with sisters. All so practical. They never went out anymore, and they were never going to go out.

It was Thursday again, but this Thursday would be different. She packed a bag while he was still at work and put it back in the closet. She wondered if the dream could ever be real. Strolling through the grocery store, she put enough food in the cart for one. Only tonight’s mean was for two, she figured she wouldn’t waste the food if there wouldn’t be anyone there to eat it.

Talking over dinner, she didn’t know what to say. He asked, “How was work?” “Okay.”
“Did you find the film you wanted at the video store?”

“I didn’t go.”

“Are you feeling okay?”

“Just a bit tired, that’s all.” And that was the truth; she was tired. Tired of it all.

He fell asleep late that night to the sound of the television blaring. The colors from the set spilled onto the floor and into their bedroom, keeping her awake and more aware than she had been all day. She gets up from the bed and walks to the living room to give him a kiss on the cheek. Just before she touched him, he woke up with a jump. Her nearness frightened him, but he calmed down and pulled her onto his lap. He hadn’t done that in a while. In fact, he hadn’t looked in her eyes for a while either. As she kissed him, she wondered what she was doing. Could she leave all this behind?

They went to bed, one last time together.

At 2 am she woke up silently. She looked at the back of his head and rolled over to the edge to get up. She looked out the window and said to herself then she slipped on her robe “This is the last time.” She dressed in the bathroom.
Grabbing the bag from the closet, she walked toward the door. Stopping in the kitchen, she looked back to the room. If she left no note, if she took all her identity with her, would he ever find her? How bad would this hurt?

The key locked the door, and, just as it was in her dream, she slipped it under the crack in the door. There was no going back now.

The taxi brought her to the airport. She had no ticket and no place in mind, only money. As she approached the counter, she thought of all the things she wanted to do. It wasn’t too late to do them. The lady behind the counter smiled pleasantly, not knowing what she was about to do. She asked the lady where, out of the United States, she could go for $600, leaving tonight. There were three destinations. Somewhere in Bolivia, she ruled that one out right away. Spanish was never her strong suit and she never really liked the thought of drinking coffee on a hot day. The second was Austria. She had never thought about Austria, but it wasn’t appealing. The final destination was Ireland. Feeling that she could blend in there, she booked the ticket.
She had no idea what she would do there, but living a simple life could be good for her. She wondered if all the things she was giving up would be worth all this. Sitting silently in her window seat next to an elderly man with great wrinkles, she exhaled.

The flight was to stop once in New York for only a few hours, then, she would be flying to another place entirely. The dream that haunted here existence was now shaping her future. No longer would she be watching out the window of a dark apartment, with smoke billowing from the chimneys. The smoke was gone, now. Just the dream remained.

She smiled as she looked over the dreamy countryside, almost caught by the sun. Soon he would wake up and wonder where she was. And she would become one of his dreams.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Walk

It was 6:30 p.m. I didn’t have a ride home. The sun was still blazing high in the sky on a steamy August day. Five miles away, my home sat dormant, waiting for my busy mind to fill the empty halls.

“I could call a cab,” I thought. “I could take the bus.” Both required money, something I didn’t have. “I could call a friend.” I thought of the company of another thinking person, and I knew the conversation would be overwhelming to my occupied mind. Talking was something I didn’t want to do. So I resolved the issue at hand and began to walk.

As I walked steadily toward the park, I realized how free I felt. I had no plans, no homework or deadlines, no dishes to do or laundry to wash, I had nothing to cook. I just had to walk. The park had a pond. Across the water was the reflection of a small municipal theater house. I imagined the plays the local children had put on. How all the children had their mother’s piece together costumes from old bathrobes and tin foil, gadgets and gizmos unused at home. It seemed as though only moments had passed as I finished my first mile. By then I was downtown. The noise was slowly mounting. Car and busses filled the lanes. People were abuzz, watching and listening to bands play in the streets and eating at restaurants with outdoor patios.

As I listened to jazz musicians play “Someone to Watch Over Me,” a homeless woman asked me the time. I’d forgotten what time it was that second mile. I smiled to myself as I wondered what the homeless lady needed to know the time for. She didn’t have a job, appointments to feed the meter, meet her family, attend a concert or eat a special priced meal. She was free from obligation, public standards and social norms. For a second I wanted to be her, but then I put my watch away and it seemed like I was living just like her.

Mile three posed some problems. The bank’s digital clock blazed in my eyesight. I could see as the minutes mounted. I finally passed the bank building turning onto a street that held so many memories. I had walked this street every day for an entire year before I moved. Though the season’s changed, the earth worn apartment buildings had remained the same. Even the sidewalk had the same dangerous crack that I had tripped in many times before, at Fourth Street. I was wiser this time as I went around the busted concrete. I looked back at the city skyline. The buildings seemed happy to see the hot sun go down. It needed a rest from its intensity for the night.

Mile four was the bridge. It held walkers, runners, bikers, and watchers above the rushing Mississippi River. I thought about the river how it sprayed an ocean smell into the air. Even the river collected pieces of time as it rose and fell during the day.

An accordion player carried a tune reminiscent of something heard in a French film. I felt like the bridge had transplanted and suddenly I was a in a foreign place. The people passing me giggled as they whispered in French. A small boy carrying a brown paper sack became a bakery child selling baguettes. All the dogs became refined primped poodles while their owners wore berets and smoked long cigarettes. People meeting on the bridge kissed each other on the cheeks and those leaving waved saying, “Ciao.” I drifted back to the Mississippi as the sound of the accordion stopped and there it was that I began the fifth mile.

A college student I had seen on campus was doing homework on a picnic table. I had only remembered him because he was beautiful. He had lines on his face that would one day make him look like a strong older man. He was tall and muscular. His hair and skin were nearly the same color of tan, which made his bright green eyes illuminate his strong face. Each of his papers laid next to each other under a rock to prevent the wind for sweeping away the study guide or term paper. He looked up at me. I could see he was thinking from his furrowed brow. He was beautiful. I continued to make believe meeting him even as I neared my home. I wondered where he lived, how he arranged his life, if he played sports or an instrument. I thought about what his voice sounded like. But then reality crept in along with the weariness as I began to trudge. (Later this year, I Missed Connection-ed him on Craigslist, sadly with no reply. Then again I saw him downtown while I was with another guy. I couldn’t stop him just then to tell him of my infatuation with his monochromatic hues, lanky muscles, and overall strong appearance. I wish I could’ve. Had I, I would have been very content to say I had talked to the man of my dreams for only a bit.)

My bag seemed like a sack of cement as I dragged it behind me. I could see the corner where my house waited. She was ready for company. I finally looked at my watch. Hours had passed and I had changed, but she had not and she was glad to have had me home once again.

It was amazing that I had a thousand conversations in my head without ever speaking a word. To know that I had gone all this time with no obligation, and just by walking I was made new. I slept peacefully that night, knowing tomorrow had no worries of today.

Sometimes we miss the things in life because of cars, busses, bikes scooters. To walk is such an inconvenience. But I’ve realized, all that I’ve ever wanted out of life comes from taking a deeper look at my surroundings. It’s right there in the trees and the people waiting for the bus. It’s the people reading the paper at a cafĂ©. It’s the bird eating crumbs off the sidewalk. Life is really that simple, as long as you take some time to look.

Friday, October 9, 2009


My alarm wakes me, but my lethargy set in. I lay there for a half hour after pushing snooze for at least an hour. Its one day post fast. I'm starving. One minute until I need to send my final copy to the editor. The article looks good, but I'm nervous. I'm always nervous for edits. I push send with reluctance. Then I realize, the story was a gem. I rarely write stories that matter to me. But after completing the write up, all I can think is, "Don't forget to pick that up next Wednesday."
I know today will be exactly what a day should be: smooth and full.
That's why I decide to make my way over to Butter, a restaurant on Grand and 36th in South Minneapolis. Though I've never been there, some of my friends have decided it can't be good. Butter indicates polysaturated fats. To me it expresses purity and overall breakfasty goodness. I have always been a sucker for the wholeness of natural farm fresh products.
The morning is crisp and I know that the chilly air will soon torture my skin. I park up front. The perks of a scooter are endless, blushed cheeks and all. And as I walk in I realize, this is the neighborhood dive. It's not part of a chain or a strip of stores. It's one coffee shop on the corner of a residential street. This I love. These people frequent this place; they support its location and locality--all the food is made from local organics.
I was focusing on what I would eat this morning since last night it wasn't a possibility. I scanned the menu so when I approached the counter, I'd be ready. The cashier asks, "What can I get for you?" I respond effortlessly, "Biscuits and gravy with one poached egg, please. Oh, and a cup of your French roast." Clear, straightforward, easy. There were no substitutions like, "egg beaters," or subtractions like, "no sausage." And the clarity makes me feel like I'm a regular, even though this is a foreign place to me.
I choose a corner seat behind a man who has obviously camped out there for the day. "Free wi-fi," it says in the window, which makes me realize my disgust for the idea of working during breakfast. For me, the time I take to eat alone while reading City Pages is priceless. I sip at my bitter coffee. The cinnamon-y flavors come out boldly, and I know I have to tame it down. Cream, sugar. Nothing generic like skim or Splenda. I watch the people in the shop sitting, conversing, munching. Over the speakers I can hear The Yellow Submarine album playing. It brings me back to this summer when I nannied. The boys loved this album. And they always sang all the words, sometimes not knowing them. For example, "Hey Bulldog" turned into "Hey Blue Dog." And The yellow submarine sometimes lost its verses. "We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine," could be repeated innumerable times before they'd call it a wrap.
But back to this chilly October day, one person is of particular interest. He's a grown up frat bro. His shirt says, "Balls and Dolls," on the front and the back dons the name, "Dude Bro" with the number 69 just below. Just by wearing this intramural jersey, he is certifiably a douche bag. More evidence concludes it: his bro haircut, '90s torn up jeans, clearly modified body (from protein shakes), and the gym bag. If that isn't enough, he calls up a friend on the phone. "Hey bro, what up?" The conversation drags on, loudly for many minutes. Though he seems to be an annoyance, I like this. I like watching this juxtaposition. A materialized male, with little originality in a place that is clearly not a Starbucks, or Bux as I like to refer to it. It's Minneapolis.
As I page through the City Pages, I land on an article I'd never seen before, "Savage Love." The column is placed next to the strip club ads. "Now there's a way to get an esteedizzle," I think. I figure its a column on relationships, messed up ones with serious problems, so I begin to read. They seem to entertain me. However, all the relationship questions are about homosexual relationships. I find this disappointing. Not that the content is gay, but that this doesn't relate to me. Topics include gay marriage, coming out and transexual dating. Since I'm a virgin (by choice), heterosexual female, I'm disheartened. Relationships columns for me are hard to come by. I close the paper just in time to move it away for my breakfast.
Ah. The gravy goodness. I'm impressed, but I think this takes second place to Sunny Side Up. I shovel it in, taking the time to love this moment. I was rushed before I realized I had plenty of time. There are only things I want to do today. Pack for camping in the northern tundra. Organize my room. Write a blog. Take some time for me and a little more for the big guy.
I leave the restaurant feeling satisfied. The whole experience is enthralling. Now, I have to save up to go someplace new again, alone with bright eyes and an open mind. Nickels and dimes, kids. Nickels and dimes. Unemployment has its perks.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Talking with Feet in My Mouth, Part II

Live music adds a dimension to albums that cannot be felt or experienced through listening at home. So every opportunity I have to go to a concert of my liking, I buy tickets. A few weeks ago, while attending a show I had waited for all summer, I found myself rethinking my character.
As the first band was nearing their set’s end, I began to hear an annoying conversation to the left of me. A short brunette on a date with a short blond man, sipping a pink drink from a Dixie cup, was chatting about last weekend’s events. I had paid for a concert. Instead, I was hearing a Lindsay Lohan version of a Friday night. Many times, I would have ignore this behavior, but being in the front row, I found it rude that I couldn’t hear my band playing. So I turned to the couple with utter disregard for tact and humanity and spoke, “Would you like me to ask them to stop so you can finish your conversation?”
With this, the air left the room. The girl welled up, “I’m so sorry.” Her date went stone face. He was livid. Moments later, I was feeling awful. How could I have treated strangers so badly? I regretted my straightforwardness, regardless of it’s necessity. Resolving myself to an apology, I turned to the couple following the final song. “I’m really sorry I treated you so badly. It was very rude, and I didn’t mean to hurt you.” The girl says, “Oh, its ok. We’re sorry.” However, the boyfriend wasn’t so forgiving, “You were rude.” I responded, “I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.” He responds, “Yeah, well, you were really rude.” The boy’s girlfriend is now trying to quell his energy by saying, “It’s ok,” repeatedly while holding his hands and looking into his eyes. The broken record wasn’t going to stop unless I ended it. “I’ve already apologized twice. I won’t be doing it again.” And with that I turned back to my group. It took another set to feel like lasers weren’t pointed at my head.
I realized, even though it’s a funny story, there’s a right and wrong way to do something. Tact is always the right way.

Talking with Feet in My Mouth, Part I

A long summer had ended, and with that my lease did too. In celebration of the three long years I had lived in this residence, my roommates thought it was appropriate to throw one last hurrah before I left. After the fiesta, complete with enchiladas, salsa and margaritas, the girls invited their beaus over for drinks following our Mexican binge.
They came in slowly, one by one. However, Rozalin, an interim roommate who filled a sublease, invited her boyfriend, along with posse. His stooges, two boys of no consequence, followed right behind him. Patrick was 6’2” with pale complexion and blond hair. But his skin was covered in tattoos. His baggy clothing hung off his sturdy frame, and he spoke with an Ebonic-spattered vocabulary. As it turns out, I’m as Gap as can be. I’ve learned not to judge a thug by his bling.
Being at this party, I found myself obligated to put the guests at ease with conversation. However, this time, I was batting in a strikeout game. I decided to ask some questions. “So Patrick, what does that Chinese character on you arm mean?”
He responds, “Dream.”
After explaining how he had a real Chinese person draw it, I say, “I think people with tattoos in characters should put it in English beneath it, so the rest of us can find it just as meaningful.”
The group doesn’t like this. Strike one. I guess they didn’t hear the sarcasm in my voice. So I sat quietly, hoping someone would come up with a new topic of conversation.
Another roommate called across the room, “Hey Patrick, how’s your mom?” Before this moment, I didn’t know they knew each other, and family adds a whole new dimension. After interviewing my roommate with questions like, “How do you know Patrick?” “We went to grade school together,” and “How do you know his mom,” “She was my softball coach,” I paused. I found something we could all discuss: sexuality.
“Patrick, is your mother a lesbian?” I ask, shrugging my shoulders and speaking in a really sarcastic voice, played up because last time no one knew I was joking. I expected a reply of, “No.” However, the strong man, with black ink flowing through his veins, answered as if I had aired out dirty jockeys from his gym bag, “Yes.” Strike two.
A vacuum sucked the air from the room, and all eyes shoot to me. Mind you, I was using stereotypes, not meaning any harm. With this, questions fly to me, “How did you know that? You’ve never met Patrick before. Why would you ask that question?” I answer, “Sometimes softball players are lesbians,” again shrugging and trying to soften the blow. “Joy, there are a lot of people who like softball.”
I reply, “And they’re called lesbians.” Strike three; I’m out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It begins in Elementary School

Forest Lake Elementary was never a place of grand importance. The principal was an Irish man who dressed as a leprechaun for St. Patrick's Day. The lunch ladies wore hair nets, and often smelled of pepper. And the teachers were beginning to wrinkle. In fact, one teacher in particular, Mrs. Smiley, had lost her smile years ago. Children renamed her "Mrs. Frowney." She remained oblivious to her disposition and the churning hate most children had for her in her second grade class.

I remember most everyone. My memory hasn't faded for a second. And very clearly I recall my first crush.

David Ryan wore sweat pants religiously. He was chubby, but not fat, blond with wavy hair that was buzzed up the sides and back, but remained longer on the top. He had sea blue eyes. His best friend was Lindsay Watson. She happened to be my friend as well, which I thought I could leverage in the future. David was good at sports, kickball and bowling in gym, to name a few. And he was excellent at jumping rope. This is probably where my affinity for him began. He was a great second grade choice.

But I learned early never to proclaim my love to a man in a computer lab. During scheduled events with the Apple 2e's, our teacher, Mrs. Anderson, would let us choose our partners. On this day, we had struggled to be compliant. She then usurped our power of choice and seated us alphabetically. "Perfect," I thought. "I can be with David." He didn't look disappointed as we sat down at the computer next to each other, ready to play Number Munchers. There were plenty of other bad choices, like Travis and Amanda--two blond kids that smelled like dirt and had a film on their skin from their parents' habit of smoking like chimneys. So I reconciled myself to the idea that David had actually liked the idea of being my partner. After all, I didn't have glasses, crooked teeth, yet, or film on my skin.

We began to play. I made myself aware that I wouldn't over compliment him or give his ego too much of a boost. He was my friend first. But as he played, pushing his score to the limit munching factors of 3, I knew I was in love. I turned to him and said, "I like you David." His reaction was priceless. Eyes widening, he shut his mouth and looked at me like I was insane.

He said, "Joy, don't say that. I'm going to tell Miss Anderson on you!"

I hadn't imagined this reaction. So I backpedaled, "I mean I like you like a friend. You know, hanging out on the playground and stuff." Giggling it off awkwardly, as any 8 year old would. But, that didn't smooth anything out. He said, "I'm telling on you! I'm telling right now." I thought he was nuts. But after a few minutes of him being ignored with his arm in the air, I knew I needed to abort the crush immediately.

I pulled his hand down, covered his mouth and looked into his eyes. "David. Don't tell on me. I was wrong. I don't like you."

He jerked away. It was over. David didn't like me, and the year was only half over. Now I had to live with my rejection.

Weeks later I had a new crush, one that I kept as a friend, Ben Plocher.

When I was in college, I visited my hometown. At an ice cream shop, I saw David. He hadn't grown since junior high. He was about 5'6'' and had died his hair black. It wasn't gothic, more emo. However, I recognized his eyes. He had thinned out, but I remembered everything about him. I no longer had to tell him of any residual feelings, but I did want to say hi.

He scooped my ice cream and as I paid, I said, "We went to elementary school together. Do you remember me?"

He looked at me the same way he had years ago. "Yes I do, Joy." And without a smile or any acknowledgment, he turned to the till.

Full Disclosure

I'm trying very hard for this writing to be truthful. So you must know, and I will guarantee, that I am feeling absent as of late. And being left out of society, however (un)bearable it is, has brought me to a thinking place. This blog will be an ongoing story not of a love-sick picture of life. Instead, it will be a raw account of leaving and being left. The whole is a feeling of space in between what may have been good and may have been awful, the current state of how I am now, Seasons without them, and Seasons without me, Joy. But just so they know: Boys, I'm not changing your names.