Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Self, Lately

Lately, I find myself missing the people from my past that I never took the time to get to know. The handsome, popular boys that I ignored in high school, but that I often thought of as I laid awake in the darkness, sleepless my in bed on school nights. Wrapped in my sheets, I orchestrated outlandish situations in my mind that this one and that one was in love with me, but couldn't bring himself to reveal love for a girl who was too tall, with hair too long and too little make up. I would image that somewhere, within walking distance of my own window, they, too laid awake in their mothers' houses, thinking of ways to get my attention, to start a pointless conversation. Perhaps I was foolish--and still am--in thinking they were as self-conscious, as neurotic as I was. They already had the attention, the looks, the allowance that I lacked--and secretly longed for.

Now I wonder, would it be absurd to drop them a line? I'm sorry we never talked more, how are you? To offer my congrats at finding that one is getting married or going to be an uncle? So happy for you... as if I were an old friend. But I am not. Would they instantly long to make a connection, ask me to tell them about my life, day by day since we donned maroon gowns and caps and climbed the stairs of our school for the last time? Or would they take my words, my overdue effort with the rest of the congratulations, conversations and confrontations of the day, and rinse them off with gentle soap in an early evening shower. Again, would they wonder about me? Do they, like me, ever wonder: what is she doing now? Why was she always so cold?

I am foolish to think that such a missed connection could ever be patched back together. Two sets of arms strained to reach behind them, like a driver's blind hands reaching for some object in the back seat--just out of reach. Not with all the passing of time, the states, continents, the pressure, the lovers with names we've never heard that have come and gone.

I am foolish to think that such a missed connection could be addressed when such a thing isn't even allowed with an old love. Someone who knew you, who laid next to you on other sleepless nights when you weren't thinking about boys in your high school class or anyone else for that matter. You cannot contact this person to say, "I'm sorry. You were right. I hope you meet someone. I hope you're happy." All of the things you meant to say when you had the chance but did not, cannot be said now, just to ease your own mind. Just to quell your selfish desires for ultimate "rightness" or "kindness" or some version of karma in reverse.

So I guess it's time to, as Sally from When Harry Met Sally would say, "just let it lie." Except I think this, type this, say this without the scowl on my face that she wore. Instead my face shows an assurance and a small hint of sadness--for a sense of youthfulness lost, for the idea of missed opportunities: for a time when I was a small fish in a pond of 300-or-so others. With fins pressed closely together, we swam through the waters, dodged (or tripped over) the same rocks and obstacles. We mourned our super stars and huddled together to watch those buildings fall. Will I ever belong to such a pack again? Experience such strength in such numbers? A small body surrounded by a sea of faces and personalities, a sea of walls on either side of me. Shelter. Odd, but I suddenly feel overcome with the need to thank them, stop hating them for those four short years we suffered through together.

And I make a mental note to think more highly of them (and myself) the next time, and to watch more closely for the connections that are slipping by me each day and to remember that sometimes it's all right to just miss and miss and miss.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mother Bird

Wandering an empty aisle,
crowded with items, I pause,
spotting a box with a small bird perched,
its eyes fixed on mine. Metal eyes twinkling.
In an instant, I see her there in her living room
scattered with colored glass birds,
rainbows cascading down the walls.

Will we think of her, mother,
Each and every time we see a bird?
Is it on purpose, do you think?
Hand-picked in her youth?
An assurance that she will never be forgotten?

“She is all the beauty I have ever known,” you say,
my face strained before you.
And I nod, understanding, but say nothing in reply.

Mother, you are mine, not your own,
who fades so quickly, so soundlessly (almost)
with the passing of days and the change
of seasons. You are cold, now. Numb, now.
Worried, as I am, of what’s to come.
Of a lull in laughter.
Of a lack of color in a room.

Now we know, after our many years of wondering:
death comes, not in a flash,
not in a moment of quick tragedy.
Death moves quiet and calculated,
lives multiplied, divided, taken away.
We often try to guess and fall short.
God sets the date.

I feel your fear, overwhelmingly.
Of needing an answer but having no one to ask.
Of finding your childhood home empty.
Of running out of time to say many things.
Of having to fly alone.

But, Mother, you have raised your own eggs.
From infancy, we rose sturdy, to float alongside you.


Birds, earth’s beaked angels, take flight
tracing our footsteps—as she will. A bread crumb here,
another there. Then—nothing.
Nothing but falling feathers,
and off in the distance, the sound of flapping wings.