Anonymous asked: It's about money. Sorry if it doesn't make sense hah... More power than the king/ Washington is one/ till our last breath exhaled/ we are as loyal as they come./ Fueling riots and revolutions/ sparking chaos and wars/ we say we fight for freedom and rights/ but in the end we are greedy for more./ "in god we trust"/ is the scapegoat be believe/ violence, sex and drugs/ the devil is who we please./ ...I want to add more but I don't know where to go. And I don't know if this is good or not
Sorry this took me so long to respond to. I dig it. I loved the last few lines especially.. “In God we trust, is the scapegoat we believe. violence, sex and drugs, the devil is who we please.” It’s true. Also, don’t worry if it is “good” or not. Don’t write to please others. Write for yourself first. Other people will like what you wrote if you are honest with yourself first. Feel free to share more with me if you want.
Anonymous asked: Hi! I noted you like to write and you're really good at it! I was wondering if you'd be willing to give me feed back on my poem?
Thank you! Of course, I’d love to.
Concealed behind a boulder
I hide from the world’s judgmental stare.
I peeked around the jagged edge
and ran my hand along its grainy surface.
Afraid of what awaited me behind the boulder
I collapsed into the red dirt
digging my nails deep
as if I held the ground together.
That’s where I belonged
if not on top of the earth
maybe, underneath it.
Where silence would be my only friend.
I closed my eyes, blocking out the world
like blinds draped over a window
stopping any light from coming into my view.
I thought of my mother’s words
“I’m here if you need me.”
I saw my father, fighting to say the right thing.
He kept quiet.
I know what he wanted to ask.
“Why won’t you talk to me?”
I am alone within a family.
Lost even with directions.
One look at me, and you’ll see a smile.
Two looks, you will see the lie.
So, I lifted myself up from the dirt
pushing away from the boulder
and stepped out into the open
to face the other side.
All that stared back was my reflection
off a standing mirror
revealing my one and only enemy,
How I Remembered To Be Free
The format is inspired by the Joyce Carol Oates story, “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again”
1. The guy (myself) lies on his back on the floor of an empty apartment. His hands are folded together on his stomach, rising and falling with each relaxed breath he takes through his nose. He’s not tired, his eyes are not even closed, in fact they are moving in circles trying to follow the ceiling fan blades as they move above him like the planes propeller that he has to board in a few hours. He pulls his eyes off of the entrancing fan and looks to his right. He runs his hand against the coarse carpet and stops it over an indent left by a couch leg.
2. The guy is sitting on a brown leather couch with a girl (Riley) resting her head on his shoulder. Her blonde hairs droop down his sleeve with her arm across his stomach like a seatbelt. The TV in front of them is off, they just got back from dinner; it was over candlelight. Riley yawns and seems to burrow into his shoulder. “Are you liking it here?” Without answering he looks around his new, small box shaped home. The only furniture he has was what they were sitting on. The walls stared back at him, empty. The fridge in the kitchen hummed a little too loud. “I’m glad you came out here, with me,” she said with her eyes closing.
3. The next day, the guy shuts the apartment door behind him and struggles to lock it. After pulling the door as hard as he can towards him, the key finally turns. He buttons up his jacket and turns to see that it had snowed last night. He could count on one hand how many times he had seen snow. He knew he had to get used to this if he was going to live in Chicago. His face was already burnt ruby from the wind as he walked to his frozen car.
4. Riley smiles as she walks down one section of stone steps and waves to the guy waiting in his car. She stops to talk to a group of people. The guy looks behind him frantically as cars blur past him blaring their horns. He watches her finally come down the last tier of steps and pass a marble statue of a lion. His eyes stop at the statue letting her escape from his sight. Against the grey sky the lion seems alive. It’s mane curves around its neck and drapes down like the lining of a kings robe. He could almost picture its shoulder blades protruding out from its beige fur as it stalks a gazelle.
“Sorry I’m late, I had to talk to my design teacher after class.” He didn’t even realize she was in the car. She takes off her gloves and moves one of the air vents blasting heat, towards her.
What a beautiful statue.
1. The guy stands at an average height. He’s thin but not scrawny. His elbows are spread across his kitchen counter with a partially chewed pencil between his fingers. His dark hair hangs over his eyes; he has to push strands aside every few minutes as he looks down at a blank piece of drawing paper. He starts to sketch the lion statue. He hasn’t drawn anything in years. As soon as he drags the pencil along the paper he starts to smile, his heart quickens and his hand becomes warm holding the pencil tighter, than looser. When he starts to do the shading his tongue peeks out from his lips like a groundhog coming out from its home. He draws all night.
2. Riley, is about 5’5 with petite features. Her long blonde hair looks tangled and unkempt, “that’s the style,” is one of her favorite phrases to say. When she wants her way she bats her green eyes caked in black mascara and waits for me to come running to her side. “What do you think of this?” She raised a pair of shredded pants up for me to see. They looked as if a piranha was living in the pockets. “I’m like, the next Adeline André.” Except she mispronounced her name like a teacher does on the first day of class when taking attendance.
3. Riley’s father, my boss, who is as spoiled as his daughter. He is the type to wear a white sweater with khaki shorts. You could smear off his drawn on politician smile with a used up eraser. If there was ever such a thing as a money tree he owns one. Riley, was just another signature on a check tucked away in one of his many bank accounts.
“You’re going with my daughter to Chicago, right?” His bulging eyes looked at me from across his desk.
I wanted to say I was going to break up with his daughter and quit this job, but instead I said, “yes.”
1. I sat outside of the art institute on the stairs looking at the lion statue. It was spring now. The cool breeze caressed my face and pushed up the paper on my lap. I smiled and grabbed the pencil in my pocket I carried everywhere. I was putting the finishing touches on my final draft of my drawing. “Hey,” Riley’s voice stopped the pencil in my hand as if she shot it dead. She came and sat down next to me not even looking at the drawing in my lap. She never even noticed it the entire time I had been working on it. “I give up.”
“What do you mean, you give up?” I closed my notebook.
“I just quit, I’m going back home.”
“You dropped out?” I turned my body and faced her on the step.
“I would’ve failed if I didn’t.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“You can’t quit, Riley…think of the money your dad…”
“I don’t care, this isn’t for me anymore. I already told my dad we’re coming back.”
“What did he say?”
“He’s going to buy our plane tickets.” She looked up towards the sun and leaned back onto her elbows.
I turned back to face the stoic lion staring out into the street and said nothing.
2. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Riley blew a kiss to me before shutting the car door and walked into the airport. The sun was just about extinguished for the night. Instead of driving back to the empty apartment, I was pulled towards the city lights as if I had just entered their orbit. I parked in the first spot I saw as soon as I passed the sparkling light bulbs of Navy Pier. I started to walk with my notebook against my waist. Where I was going didn’t matter, I was following my own feet. Downtown was always busy, it reminded me of a human version of a beehive. The smell of car exhaust and greasy food was somehow enticing to me. It was proof of life in the midst of this glass kingdom towering above me. I don’t know how long I walked for, but I found myself back on the steps of the Art Institute below the lion. Three ground lights shown on its face creating shadows along the entire statue’s body. I got up and sat below it on the cold concrete and opened my notebook placing it onto my lap.
“Hey man, do you know when the design office is open?”
I looked behind me and saw a bony looking guy with a cigarette between his lips and his hands in his pockets. He was looking down at me then to my drawing.
“Sorry, I don’t go here.”
“Damn, well you should.” He nodded at my notebook and took the cigarette out of his mouth. “That’s better than a lot of people in my class.”
“Really? Well, thank you.”
“Honestly, sign up for a class or something.” He said while blowing out smoke and walked away.
I looked back up at the lion statue, and for the first time, I felt free.
IV. A New Start, Again
1. The guy took his hand away from the indent in the carpet like it had just bitten him and sat up. He got up and went to his suitcase and found the boarding pass in the front. He took that same pencil he had in his pocket and pressed the lead tip against the boarding pass and started to draw. He drew all night.
I reached across my desk and opened the blinds of my bedroom window. This was always the first thing I would do in the morning. I relaxed in my computer chair and just stared out the small frame. My eyes were still filled with sleep; even the outside world seemed to still be asleep. No disgruntled voices from the apartment across the hall, and no high pitched cooing from the three pigeons that lived on the balcony, nothing at all. I yawned and stretched out my arms in front of me and cracked my knuckles. The quiet was short lived when my phone started to buzz on the desk.
“Allison,” I smirked when I saw my ex-girlfriends name highlighted on the screen. For months after I broke up with her, she would call me every morning and leave me a voicemail. I sat there sliding my phone across the desk pretending it was a car spinning out of control, waiting for the voicemail to come through. I decided I was going to listen to this one since I had been ignoring the last few she had left me. As soon as my phone chimed like a church bell letting people know the sermon was about to start, I rested the phone against my ear, and listened, waiting to hear a voice as if I was one of those people going to the sermon.
“Hey, Luke.” Allison’s voice sounded tired like she just woke up. “I don’t know why I’m still doing this to myself.” She sighed and sniffled. I pictured her sitting cross-legged on her bed looking at herself in the mirror directly in front of her. I saw her fidgeting with her long blonde hair between her fingers like she always did. “I miss you so much…” more sniffling, “Lukey, please answer, me.” I imagined her pretty blue eyes swelling with tears and staining her cheeks like a raindrop does to a window. “I just want to hear you, again.” She sobbed, “I don’t know what I did.”
“What did she do?” I thought, and lifted my legs up onto my desk and reclined back in the chair switching the phone to my other ear. I knew I shouldn’t want her to be crying over me like this. No one should cry over a past relationship, at least that’s what I thought.
“You said you loved me…” She tried to compose herself, “Why did you tell me that?” She almost sounded drunk with each word slurring into the next.
I just said, “I love you” because she said it to me first. I thought that’s how relationships were supposed to be.
“Three years, Luke!” Her voice pressed against my ear, “Three fucking years! Was I a waste of time to you?”
She wasn’t a waste of time, was she? I laid the phone on the desk as her voice continued to spill over the edge. A memory of when we were together pushed itself into my mind.
“God, I love Arizona sunsets.” Allison rested her head against my shoulder as we stood in the middle of a walking trail in my neighborhood. I robotically wrapped my arm around her and let it hang over her shoulder like a dead vine. I watched the sky blister with red, as the suns burn slowly vanquished for the night. She slid her hand around my waist and I felt her look up to me waiting for a kiss. I kept my eyes fixated on the suns final show. Her lips brushed against my neck. I shut my eyes fighting off the urge to push her away. Acting as if I was bet to kiss her, I brought my lips onto hers. I didn’t know why I felt like I did. I looked into her eyes and felt a smile form on my face that probably looked like a shitty artist scribbled it on. Strands of her blonde hair fell into her eyes. She was beautiful, and I felt, nothing. “What a fake,” I thought as I kissed her forehead.
“Please, Lukey. Please call me back, just talk to me… I love you.” Her voicemail ended with a click and without hesitating, I deleted the message.
“You did feel something,” I dropped my head onto the desk and stared at my toes that were digging into the carpet as another memory came drifting into my mind like an unwanted bum begging outside of a restaurant.
“Fucking, whore. Fucking cheat on me?” I slammed my car door shut, hoping to destroy the vehicle. I stomped up the stone driveway to Allison’s house. My eyes felt like they were shooting out steam like busted pipes. My fists clenched by my sides. Her dad wasn’t home, I was glad. She was clueless about a message I received from a random number saying they saw Allison holding hands with another guy last night. I let out some sort of sick sound that was a laugh. The window next to the door vibrated violently with each time I pounded my fists into the door. “Open the God damn door!”
“Wh…” Allison opened the door, which in this case was like opening a cage to a hungry lion.
“Shut up,” I pointed my finger in her face. She flinched and her eyes swelled with tears as she backed up.
“I said shut up!” I slammed the door behind me, rattling the entire house as if an earthquake just occurred. “Where were you last night?”
“I…I was with friends like I told you.” Her voice shook, as did her hand she used to brush back her hair.
I clenched my fists even tighter embracing the red fire flowing throughout my body that felt so good.
“Luke, what’s wrong? This is not you.” She was all the way against a wall.
“With friends, huh?” I laughed, “You must think I’m an idiot.” I came inches from her face and put both of my hands against the wall trapping her there.
“Yes, with friends. What’re you talking about?”
“I knew you were a fucking slut,” I slammed one of my hands on the wall next to her head. She squeezed her eyes shut and tears came rolling down her cheeks when she did.
“Luke, calm down. I don’t know what is…”
“Do you just hold hands with all of your guy friends? Is that it?” I felt my heart jump against my chest when I said that. “Is that it? Or do you suck their dicks too!” I slammed my hand against the wall again.
She looked up at me confused, “What are you talking about? Is this about Roy?”
“Is that your fuck buddy?”
She tried to push me and turned her head away, “you are insane!”
“Answer me!” I pressed her shoulders against the wall keeping her there like a bug stuck in a spider’s web.
She slowly moved her head back to face me and through clenched teeth she said, “Roy is gay, and yes we hold hands.”
The fire raging inside of me was instantly cooled and I felt the pit of my stomach drop into my legs. “He’s gay?”
“Yes…” She pushed me and ran towards her room. She turned back and faced me with her eyes streaked black from her mascara, “Leave!”
I heard the crash of her door shutting and with my hands still against the wall I leaned my head there too. “He’s gay.” I said again to myself. I remembered her telling me that before. I smirked, and walked out of her house without even trying to apologize for what I had just put her through. I thought that this was going to be my way out. That was also the first time I had ever felt that angry and that scared me. Not the fact of how angry I was, but the fact that it felt natural for me to act like that.
I gasped for a breath as I leaned back in my chair again, I grabbed a handful of my hair with both of my hands, “What is wrong with you?” Another message came buzzing through on my phone. I unclenched my head and saw it was a text from my mom saying, “Hey, Luke. Hope all is well in Arizona. If you see your father tell him I need that money he owes me, now. Miss you.” I picked up the phone to text her back and stared at the blinking line that waited for me to write a message. “I’ll tell him,” I finally typed. I felt like I was always in the middle with my parents as if I was a piece of trash slowly being compacted until I would disintegrate into the air, maybe that’s where I belonged. I don’t think they even knew they were putting me in that position, either. I shut my eyes and dropped my phone to the ground as another memory stung my mind.
I was in California and 14 years old acting like photographer of a violent war in my own house, capturing everything I saw and heard. I was upstairs in my room when I heard my parents come back home from a work dinner for my dad. They were already beginning another battle. So, I snuck out of my room and crawled to the railing that overlooked our living room downstairs. I made myself as flat as possible when I saw both my mom and dad come storming out into my view as if I was in the balcony seats of a theatre and they were the actors.
My dad was unbuttoning his white collard shirt as if it were on fire as he paced back and fourth with his shoes clicking against the wood floor. He rubbed the stubble on his chin and pressed his lips together. “You are an embarrassment,” he shrugged his broad shoulders and raised his dark eyebrows as if he was stating the obvious.
My petite mom sat on the edge of the couch with a stunned look on her thin pretty face. She placed her purse next to her with her hazel eyes opened wide, “What did I do, now?”
“Do you even take what I do seriously?” He shook his head, “I don’t think you do, Donna.”
“Of course I do.” She folded her legs on the couch and started to dig for something in her purse.
“How could I believe you?” He threw his arms up in the air, “all you did tonight was rot in a chair. You didn’t speak to anyone of my friends, you just sat there wasting everyone’s time, including mine.”
She stopped searching her purse but didn’t look up to my dad. “What do you want from me?”
“I want you to care, to make me feel loved. You are just so cold.”
My mom took her hand out of her purse with her head starting to bob up and down as she cried.
I gripped onto one of the rods of the railing with all of my strength.
“Look at you. I’m done feeling guilty about the past.” My dad started to walk out of my view.
“I hate you,” my mom mumbled between sobs.
“What did you say?” My dad came sprinting back into the room and put his forehead forcefully against my moms. “What did you say?” He snarled. “Say it again,” he pushed harder.
“You’re hurting me,” my mom cried.
“What did you say?” he grabbed onto my moms small arms.
“I HATE YOU!” My mom let out a scream that came from her soul, “I HATE YOU!” She smacked him and shoved him off of her as she ran out of the room.
“You hate me?” My dad grabbed her purse and threw it against the wall sending items flying everywhere. He picked up the couch and flipped it as if it were made of only foam. He tore down pictures and stomped them on the ground, “you hate me?” He destroyed the entire room like a human tornado. He was gasping for air when he walked over to the back window and pushed back the blinds. He was repeating something under his quick breaths.
I watched, blinking and holding on to the railing for my life. Since it was dark outside I could see his reflection in the glass door from the kitchen light shining behind him, his shirt was ripped, and his eyes were tiny creases and black like a sharks. He leaned his head against the glass and rammed it against the door. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.” He repeated with each tired breath. I stood up now, but kept watching my father break into pieces. I watched him as he fell to the ground, sobbing. I turned away and walked back into my room as if I saw nothing at all.
I opened my eyes and stared at my own reflection on my glass phone screen by my feet. My eyes were thin and black in the screen like his. “You’re him,” I cringed at my thought. For the first time in a long time, I cried. With tears still in my eyes I dialed Allison’s number. I needed her to know how truly sorry I was, and I needed to show myself, that I could be different.
Listening For God
I felt like God existed, but it was like He was always peeking around a curtain briefly before shielding himself from me all the time. I was pissed and started to wonder if there even was a God.
“What have I done to you?” I was walking alone with a bag of clothes, down a dimly lit street in my neighborhood the first time I ran up to God’s door wanting to smash it down and face Him. “What the hell do you want from me?” I stopped in the middle of the street and looked straight up with my arms held out by my side. A memory of watching my dad speak to hundreds of people in church popped in my head, I remembered what he had said, “God is love, and I promise you all today, that He loves you.” A mix of spit and venom came spewing out of my mouth, “Fuck!” My voice bounced off houses and came creeping back to me, empty. I turned around and could barely see my house where my dad was with some office whore. He was going to be moving to Texas with her, while my mom drove off hopeful to start fresh in Illinois. The whole time while I helped my mom pack she would stop taping boxes and look at me like I was sick, and pleaded, “You should come with me, I don’t want you here alone.” I stopped responding after the fifth time, and just shook my head. Weeks earlier we were what people would call a “happy Christian family.” That title was quickly replaced as if we were only trading in a used car. The family and values I thought I knew turned out to be a cheap paint job that flaked off exposing the cracked, faded real color underneath. I was only 18 and didn’t give a damn anymore.
Until, I received a random email from an old family friend, and pastor in Texas, Mark Kane. He asked me to join him and a small group to go to Honduras. I agreed, hoping to get my face-to-face meeting with God. Plus I was tired; I was always tired of what seemed like a never-ending tug of war battle between what I wanted to believe about life and what I was experiencing. I wanted to live a life with purpose but I felt like if I tried I would just end up betraying myself.
“What the hell are you doing?” I fumbled with a pack of cigarettes in my pants pocket and looked up at the Honduras sky specked with stars as if they were tiny white particles on a blank chalkboard. I lit the cigarette and watched the smoke drift into the air, creating the only cloud for miles. I slouched down on a bench outside of our hotel and propped my head up so I was looking at nothing but space. “God is in control.” I thought of the four words I was always told, and turned on my side to spit out the stale taste of tobacco. Who was in control anyway? God? Me? Whoever it was, both of us were fucking it up or seemed a little indecisive about things. “Are You in control?” My eyes moved slowly, from side to side, searching the sky like a security camera combing over a vacant lot. Beside some distant whines from cars and a few foreign voices, everything was quiet. I was having a private meeting with the stars. Something I had never had before. I remember thinking if God was in control, then he must’ve had the gas pedal slammed to the floor as we approached a cement wall.
“There’s nothing like a clear night sky, huh? They’re not the same back home.”
I sat up on the bench and turned to see Pastor Mark with his hands in his sweat pant pockets. “Not really,” I put out the cigarette as I blew out the last bit of smoke.
Mark’s grey hair looked like it wanted to escape from his own head. He looked like a mad scientist who had just returned to civilization after months of research. I sort of laughed when I saw him because I’d only seen him dressed nicely. He joined me on the bench. “Can’t sleep either?”
“I never really sleep to good.” I raised my eyes back to the stars briefly before pulling them away from their entrancing hold, and faced Mark.
“Yeah, me neither. Especially the day before you go deep into the jungle for three weeks.” He laughed his deep throaty laugh and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“So, what can I expect to see tomorrow?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” He covered his mouth as he yawned. “If this village is anything like the other ones we have visited, then…” He shook his head slightly and looked at the ground. “We’ll have our work cut out for us no matter what.” He ran both of his hands through his hair smoothing the wild mess on his head. “They need water and we’re going to give it to them. God will show us what He wants us to see, ya know?”
I wondered what it meant for God to show me everything? Would there be some sort of Holy experience when that happened? I mean, I am able to see with my own eyes, and wherever they look, that’s what I’m seeing, right? I wanted to ask Mark what that meant, but he was already getting up.
“I’m glad you came out here with us, Rye.” He laid his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Try and get some rest.” He yawned again, and headed back towards the hotel.
“Goodnight.” I just sat there for a while longer before stretching out my arms above my head as if I was being pulled into the sky to join the stars. Then I followed Mark back into the Americanized hotel and just lay in my bed staring at the dark ceiling. “What do You want me to see?” I listened to a baby whimpering in the room next to mine, the echo from a car alarm a few blocks away, and the continuous buzzing of the Marriot sign just outside the window. I already knew I would be seeing mass poverty and hungry kids with sad faces, and I knew I would probably be a changed person for a month or so afterward. It’s the same boring story with almost every American who does something like this. I didn’t want that. I wanted more, I needed more, but what else was there?
The next morning our small group of six men crammed into a rusted van to begin our five hour drive deep into the jungles of Honduras to our destination of, “La Union,” that was the title we had given the village. I was buried in the back row with all of the luggage since I was the smallest. I leaned my head against the window and watched as the noise of civilization was replaced with wild looking trees. The concrete buildings that surrounded us were now massive hills wrapped in thick green plants like moss-covered boulders. A few hours into the drive the paved road was replaced with a dirt path that could barely contain our van that bobbed from side to side like a boxer during a fight. I noticed locals walking down the road with bags so big and cumbersome that it looked like they could carry another human strapped to their backs. Others lugged wooden carts behind them stuffed with bananas. Their faces were all the same, filled with determination as they climbed. I could almost feel their heart pounding against their chest like a prisoner wanting freedom. They were all racing against the heat of the day. Then, as if we had reached a new section of Honduras, the people walking beside us faded like a shadow during the sunset, leaving only our van with the tangled green vines drooping above us creating the jungles version of a tunnel. My ears popped from how high we now were. The van bulldozed its way through thick branches until it finally stopped.
“We’re here, Gentlemen.” Mark laughed from the front seat and looked back at us with wide eyes. “It’s time to hike.” He shifted back around in his seat, “Ah, Gustavo.” He opened his door and waved to a short man wearing khaki shorts and a dirty white shirt walking towards us with three other men that were shirtless and were carrying machetes.
“Senor Mark,” Gustavo flashed a bright smile and hugged Mark when he got out. I guessed he was our translator. As they continued to talk, I stepped out of the van and into what seemed like an alien planet. My feet sunk into the damp, black mud. I grabbed my bag and clasped it around my waist. I kept my eyes on the three men with the machetes. They stood watching us, smirking as we slipped and stumbled like we were toddlers learning to walk for the first time. Once we gathered all of our supplies, Gustavo pointed up a steep incline that was blanketed in trees. The three men then slashed a trail for us with their blades where Gustavo had pointed. They were cutting machines, their arms spinning like airplane propellers hacking plants into confetti. We followed behind them, gasping for air.
Once we were on top of the hill there was the village schoolhouse that was painted turquoise. The roof was just a slate of metal with a piece that hung over the edge covering a long picnic table on a slab of concrete. Inside, they had set up cots for us to sleep along the cracked walls, this was now our home. There was only a pair of scared looking older women with sad brown eyes there to greet us. They both nodded nervously as we passed.
Mark raised one hand in the air to get our attention when we were unpacking our things. “Ok, guys. We’re going to hike up to the leader of the village’s house. Gustavo…” he laid his hand on Gustavo’s shoulder next to him, “has informed me that Mi…” Mark looked at Gustavo for the information before remembering the name, “Miguel is very sick and does not have much longer to live. But, he’s awake and is aware that we are here. He wants to meet us. This is why we are here, guys. He’s dying from the water…” Mark kept on talking, but I couldn’t help but notice some drawings flapping in the breeze above each cot. Above my cot was a picture of a flower with seven brightly colored pedals; it was like a rainbow flower. On the right hand corner of the page was the sun and scribbled on the bottom was the name of the artist, Emilia. For a moment, I thought I was looking at a real flower swaying in the wind. I couldn’t help but smile. I then realized Mark was saying a prayer.
“…use us, Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” everyone repeated except me.
As we hiked our way through more jungle to Miguel’s house I thought of the last words of Mark’s prayer, use us, Lord. “How could you use me?” I wondered to myself. I then started to think of the flower drawing, and I pictured the bright flowers sprouting on the side of the path. I imagined with each step I took, another one of those flowers would reach out from the dirt and shine onto anyone that passed. In my head, I made them indestructible, so not even a machete could destroy them. I heard Gustavo up ahead explaining to us that each villager’s house was scattered throughout and that Miguel’s was the closest to the school. The flowers disappeared in my mind as we pushed our way forward, with the three machete wielders slicing the way for us. We came to a clearing with a small cube shaped stone structure with a tin roof.
“That can’t be the house.” I was the last in line to see. In front of the house was a tiny, crumbling well with a plastic hose coming out of it. There were three mangy looking dogs running around barking along with a few chickens scooting out of our way.
“Hola!” Gustavo yelled as we approached the shack. A lady walked out smiling and talking fast in Spanish. She held her arms open towards us as if she was going to give us one big hug. She didn’t look like the other two women I saw, her eyes were not filled with sadness, but with joy. She had on a normal t-shirt with jeans and was missing a few teeth. Clinging on the side of her leg was a little girl with the biggest brown eyes. The little girl smiled at us revealing her dimples and skipped away from her mom briefly, before returning to her for safety. She stuffed her tiny hands into her front pockets of her overalls that had pink flowers covering them. Her mom was dusting off the little girls blue undershirt and fixing her hair into pigtails as she talked and talked in Spanish. The little girl just smiled and looked at each one of us as her mom fixed her up. Gustavo finally turned around and introduced us to the both of them.
“Guys, this is Rosa,” he motioned toward the lady, “and her daughter, Emilia.”
“Hola!” Emilia shouted at us and hid behind her mom’s leg once more. Rosa motioned for us to come into their home. I wasn’t sure how we would even fit, but we did. As soon as I walked in, the smell hit me and seemed to stick inside my nose like wet paint to a wall. The smell was sickness kept fresh by the stagnant air like some sort of incubator. There were pots hanging from the ceiling along with a hammock. Miguel was stuffed in the corner on a pad on the floor covered with blankets. He moaned and raised his hand at Gustavo. Flies buzzed around us like miniature vultures, waiting for Miguel to die. Gustavo and Mark knelt down next to him. I needed to get fresh air along with the other guys. I noticed Emilia watch us, so I motioned for her to come out too. She just gripped onto her mom’s leg tighter. Once I was out of the shack I sat on a boulder that was a few feet away from the house. Emilia then peeked her head out from the door and saw me. I waved to her again. I wanted to try and let her know that I liked her drawing. Plus, no child needs to be so close to death. This time she came wandering over and rocked back and fourth on her feet in front of me.
“Hola, Emilia. Me llamo, Rye.” I probably sounded like a fool to her.
She giggled, “Hola, Rrrye.”
“Your drawing.” I started to pantomime me drawing on my hand with a finger and pointed at her. She stared at me smiling and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Flores,” I remembered the word for flowers.
Her eyes lit up. She ran over to my right and picked up two skinny twigs. She handed one to me and sat down.
“Gahhh!” A pain filled groan came from the shack. Emilia turned to face her home and then back to me. “Gahhh!” Another shriek from Miguel escaped from the shacks mouth.
“Emilia, flores flores.” With the twig she had given me I started to draw the flower in the dirt that she had unknowingly drawn for me back at the schoolhouse. She watched as I drew.
“Ahhh!” Miguel screamed out once more. I looked up and saw Mark in the doorway with his palm facing me, telling me to keep her out with me. Emilia started to turn around, again.
“Emilia, mirar.” I was hoping that meant look. She looked back up at me and to my drawing. She then started to sketch her own flower next to mine. I got up and sat next to her on the ground. I wanted so bad to just put my hands over her ears to shield her from hearing her dad’s cries. He continued to wail out for mercy. I didn’t know what else to do so as I drew I started making funny noises and made her laugh each time her dad started to yell. It seemed like days until he finally stopped. When he did stop we had both drawn about 20 of those flowers in the dirt. I was drenched in sweat like I had been sitting in a sauna. Emilia kept on drawing flowers while humming.
“Is he O.K.?” I saw Mark and Gustavo headed towards me.
“This happens daily, I guess. He’s ok. You did good, Rye” Mark probably noticed the sweat dripping down my face. Gustavo knelt down next to Emilia and started to talk with her. I couldn’t understand anything they were saying, but she looked at me while she talked.
“Si, Dios.” Gustavo finished responding to her then looked at me and smiled his bright smile. “She said that you must be from God, because no one else likes to draw flowers with her.” Emilia wrapped her arms around my waist and ran back to her mom’s side. Gustavo patted me on the back as he walked passed me, “ready to head back?”
“Yeah,” I looked at the garden Emilia and I drew with its imperfect lines and lack of clear color, and I smiled. My life, and all of our lives, was just like that garden, no clear definition but it was drawn from love and from a place of common suffering. I shut my eyes to say my first true prayer, and only two words came out, “I’m listening.”
“You need to do this.” My knuckles turned white as I squeezed the top of the steering wheel like I was ringing out a wet rag. I was shocked I had made it this far. I took a deep breath and leaned my head back against the car seat. I listened to the rain tap against the windshield as if each drop was telling me to get out. Without moving my head I looked out the driver side window, and saw my dad’s house for the first time. The house itself blended with the grey sky as if it was molded from the clouds. I couldn’t picture my dad mowing the lawn, painting, or doing anything he used to do at our house. I shut my eyes and pictured him the way I did when I was a child.
Growing up, I would’ve done anything to be like him. Every morning before he left for work, he came into my room.
“Love you, bud. See you after school.” He tried to whisper, but his voice was raspy and would cause me to wake up. It was the type of voice a construction worker should have. I would roll over and open my eyes forming a tiny crease so I could see the back of his blue work shirt as he sneaked out. Even after he left his spicy cologne lingered throughout my room. It was comforting to me, like the aroma of a homemade meal.
Every Thursday after school I would hurry home to see him in the driveway with a basketball ready to play. I knew he would be there waiting for me since it was the only day he got off work early. Before I even made it to the driveway he was dribbling. His enormous hands, stained from hours of working with dirt, would swallow the bright orange skin of the ball.
“D’ up, Jack. Only ten seconds left.” With a big breath he faked the crowd’s roar and turned our small patch of driveway into an arena filled with thousands of screaming fans. I would jump on his back and hold onto his shoulders as if I was hanging off the edge of a cliff. The ten seconds that were left always turned into a few hours.
When I was thirteen, our game turned into a 3 on 1 match with my friends and I versus him, he would battle all of us off him as if he was King Kong swatting at airplanes. Until, one day as I was walking home I saw that the driveway was empty, the ball was in the front yard where I had left it, and his work truck wasn’t there either.
“Your dad chickening out?” One of my friends said as we walked onto the empty driveway.
“He probably had to work late today.” I picked up the ball and started to dribble.
Ever since that day he continued to drain out of my life like water from a strainer, leaving me to wonder, why?
I was sixteen the last time I saw him. I was sitting on the couch watching TV with my mom asleep next to me; strands of her blonde hair were settled across her face. She was still in her turquoise scrubs from the hospital. I was looking out the window next to the TV. It was impossible to sleep on our couch at night since we lived on the corner of a street, so any car that turned, their headlights would make the entire living room glow like aliens were landing in the front yard. As I was watching, a pair of lights shone through the window. I could already tell it was my dad, and I think my mom could too. I felt her body stiffen next to me as she woke up. I saw the car screech to a stop in the driveway. I watched as two bulky shadows walked towards the house. One shadow was basically carrying the other one. Our front door was then pushed open, and I saw my dad leaning on his work friend, Dave.
“Hey Cath, Eric has had a little too much.” Dave let the door close behind him. The smell of beer came rolling through the house like a morning fog.
“Damn it Eric, again?” My mom said standing behind the kitchen counter rubbing her eyes trying to wake up.
Dave guided my dad into a chair and moved his arm off from around his shoulder. My dad’s head slammed onto the table like a hammer hitting a nail and he passed out groaning. Dave looked up at my mom and mouthed the word, “sorry” as he walked out the door. The next day my mom had found a wrinkled piece of paper on the table, it was a note that said:
For years I had no idea where my dad went. I don’t think my mom knew either. I remember sitting in movies with my friends, waiting for the credits-to roll so I could read every single name. To them we were just playing a game, making fun of all the weird names we saw. But for me I was always looking for his. I guess I wanted to think that he left because he became important. I wanted him to have a reason.
I opened my eyes and unclenched my hands from around the steering wheel. This was my chance to hear that reason. When I got out of my car it was no longer raining, it was misting. I looked up at his house like I was looking at a tidal wave about to crash down on top of me. The walk to his front door seemed more like a crawl through sand. The closer I got the louder my questions became.
What if he really doesn’t want to see me? What do I even say? What will he say? Is he going to be drunk?
“Jack, come in. It’s open.”
I opened the rusted, screeching door, which sounded like a dying bird. I was greeted with the stale smell of cigarettes. “Dad?” His floor was a beer can cemetery. I shuffled across to the kitchen and saw him hunched over the stove stirring something. Part of me wanted to go and hug him and another part of me wanted beat his face in. I didn’t know what to say or do. “Are you, cooking?”
He tapped the spoon against the sides of a pot and turned to face me. An unlit cigarette dangled between his red lips as he smirked. His once perfect jet-black hair was now ashy and disheveled.
“You still like noodles, right?” He lit his cigarette and sat down at the kitchen table.
“Um. Yeah, I do.” Five years without seeing each other and that’s the first thing he asks.
“Good, good. Not too often you come around here. Honestly, I’m surprised you even came. You got a lot taller.” He drew in the smoke with a quick breath and looked at me as if he was looking at an abstract painting.
“Well, it’s been five years. I figured it was time.” I cleared my throat nervously and sat across from him. “I wanted to talk face-to face for a change.” His eyes shifted away from mine. It used to be like looking into a mirror. Now, I felt like I was sitting with a complete stranger, an intruder even.
“Ok, I’m listening.” He squinted out the window beside the table. It looked like he wanted to escape through it.
The urge to reach across and punch him came again. “I just want to know,” I held my stare hoping my eyes were burning him. “Why?”
He lifted the cigarette to his lips and held it between them. “Why, what?”
I sighed, “Why’d you…” I dropped my head into my hands wanting to tear my hair out. I raised my eyes to see he was still looking out the window. I just wanted him to look at me. “Why’d you leave Mom and me?” As soon as those words left my lips I felt more climbing up my throat as if I was about to be sick. “What the hell happened to you?”
“Jack…” He snickered and smashed the cigarette in the blackened ashtray on the table. “That was five years ago, come on. Is this really what you want to talk about?”
“I was sixteen.” I felt my chest tighten like the final knot when tying a shoe. “And you just left, disappearing from my life. You’re lucky I even talk to you now, you’re lucky I’m even here at all!” I slammed my fist onto the table causing the ashtray to jump. “Do you even give a shit?”
He got up from his seat and went back to the stove. “Why haven’t you brought this up before?”
“Are you serious? How could I? If anything you should’ve brought it up.”
“I thought everything was ok by now,” he said while stirring with his back towards me.
“We haven’t seen each other in five fucking years. Sure, we speak on the phone now and then, but, when we do, every word is a struggle.” I realized I was standing. “Is that what you want?”
“You’re a grown man now.” He took the pot off of the stove and set it on the side counter.
“I thought what we have is the best it could ever be.” He still had his back towards me with his hands on the counter.
“It’s not.” I took a few steps closer to him, and put my hand on his shoulder. “Will you look at me?” He turned to face me. “If I thought that, then would I be here, right now? I thought maybe, you would snap out of whatever the hell is wrong with you if you saw me.” I stared into his glazed blue eyes hoping to see a ripple of life. “Looks like I was wrong.” I started to walk to the front door, kicking beer cans out of my way.
“You wouldn’t understand.” He said right before my hand reached the handle.
I turned back towards him. “I wouldn’t understand, what?”
He crossed his arms on his chest and dropped his eyes. “I was scared.”
“When your mom got hired by the hospital she was always busy, and you were going into high school, I got scared.” He was shaking his head as he lifted his eyes, checking if I was still there. “I didn’t want to be alone.”
“You weren’t alone. As busy as mom was she was always there for me.” I walked back into the kitchen crunching a can underneath my foot. “And she was always waiting for you.” I pointed my finger in his face. “You weren’t lonely, you just quit.” My finger became blurry in front of me.
He took a quick step towards me and swiped my hand down like it was a pestering fly. “I did not quit!” His finger was in my face now. “There are two sides to every story.”
“What’s your story? How’d you fill that gaping hole of loneliness?” I rolled my hands into fists by my side. Years ago he would’ve towered over me. Now, we stood eye to eye.
His face flushed red and he pressed his finger into my chest. “I don’t need to tell you a damn thing.”
“Don’t you fucking touch me.”
He took a few steps back and opened his mouth as if to say something, but nothing came.
“You quit. You wanted a new life. You became bored, didn’t you?”
“So what if I did want a new life, Jack. Is that what you want me to say? I told you I was scared.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Why are we even doing this to ourselves?” He lit another cigarette.
“I don’t know.” I realized that the person I once knew was gone, and that I had gotten my answer. He really did leave because he was scared. Not of losing his wife, or me, but of losing himself, and he still hadn’t found what he was looking for.
“I’ll see you later.” I took one last look at the person I never want to become, and I tried to picture the man I once wanted to be. I started to back up towards the door.
“Yup,” was all he said through the cloud of smoke hanging around his face.
I walked out of the house and into the pouring rain. I stopped before getting into my car and looked back one more time. For some reason, I expected to see him standing there holding a basketball with a smile on his face. Of course he wasn’t. Only, this time I understood why.