My early life is charmed. I’m invulnerable. No such thing as tomorrow. February 1952, I’m six months old, and a childless Air Force lieutenant and his wife receive me at the Catholic infant home in Rock Hill, South Carolina. They love and care for me in their tiny Sumter apartment as best they can. Children want a forever happy story. In time, they learn more, but the worry-free child knows only now.
Mom vacuums the forest green wall-to-wall with her Eureka at the new home we share with Nana and Granddaddy; the secure place to which we’ll return between transfers. I’m four and follow her as she cleans. A sudden shock of pain makes me reel near the open basement door. She’s fired a chunky vacuum cleaner brush hard at my tailbone, and I wail. Why hurt me? What did I do? She later tells me the blow could have paralyzed me, but offers no apology or hug. Her cruel streak sticks with me a life-time. …
My vision today
Transcends that of all before
And still I seek more
I witness colors
You cannot identify
Nor could even name
That you denote only as sound
Enriches my ears
And taste: such richness
Cascades across my palate
Each is alien
And equally elusive
And always will be
Haiku was never my strong-suit. It never had to be. Five syllables, then seven syllables, then five syllables have a Zen quality about it. I would like to tell you I wrote the poem, but I didn’t. Not in the normal sense. What I did was collect the words already suspended in the ether and arrange them in a pattern acceptable to the reader. No pen or paper. Neither a dictionary nor thesaurus. None of the trappings of my previous life held me a vassal to its servitude. I have moved beyond jurisdiction itself. I now dwell between the perceptible; in regions both reclusive and sequestered. I have yet to make the acquaintance of a fellow wayfarer, but I will; for the road here is too vast for solo excursions.
My current condition was not born of conspiracy or chance. There was a reason; I have yet to identify its source. …
We hand over our passports as part of the routine. The customs officer reads the country of origin and watches how I’m already taking my glasses off, from years of hearing that being requested. I watch my husband talk to the officer, I can’t seem to make out the words as my ears are still cloudy from the long flight. I rarely feel completely clear until an hour from landing.
“Do you work?” the officer asks me.
“I am not working but rather helping my husband succeed,” I respond. He gives me a blank stare and sure enough, no immediate follow-up.
“Where is your husband’s office located?”
“Los Angeles. Want me to get more specific?”
“Is he looking for a change of career? And yeah, I assumed it’s in LA County if you’re landing here.” I nod.
“I don’t imagine my husband will be changing careers,” I say, is this appropriate for him to ask me about his career direction? My husband goes paler as it dawns on him where these questions are going. Each one leading from the recent terrorist attacks in Europe pulls away the security blanket from all our borders. I’m standing there answering questions, I’m standing there until he finally tells us:
“Please wait to follow the other officer.”…
When I am twelve, my friends are divided amongst two distinctive groups: those who have been kissed, and those who have not been kissed. Desperately, and against notions of popularity, I long to be amongst those who have not been kissed. My first kiss, a few weeks after my eighth birthday, was a mistake of wordplay. Paul Forilio had taken me behind his family’s large oak tree. He had inquired, “Do you want a French kiss?”
I had stared at him, bewildered, and waited for his Mom to tell us to play where she could see us.
Then, it had dawned on me. Oh, he means a Hershey kiss. “Okay,” I smiled politely, extending my palm for the sweet.
Never did I expect his lips to clamp around mine, or the tongue that knocked against my molars. Horrified, I shoved him backward. Against my parent’s rule of not crossing the street without adult supervision, I ran home, trying to spit out Paul’s French kiss the entire way. When I found Mom, hunched over to plant her tomato garden, I burst into tears. “Mommy, help!” I shrieked, “Paul gave me a French kiss! Not a Hershey one.”
These words that, hence, I’ve laughed about with my mom for years.…
The smell of roasting coffee mixed with the funk of old coffee shop swirled in the air, just underneath the tang of stale cigarette smoke. Classic diner music played overheard as the rubbery seats underneath my ass cried under my shifting, restless weight. With the exception of a few lost souls sitting solo at the bar, coffee cups wrapped intimately around their index fingers and cupped warmly in their palms, we were the only two people in the out of the way truck stop at three in the morning.
I watched her across the laminate tabletop, her eyes fixated on the cup she swirled between her hands. A cigarette rested effortlessly between her cracked lips, it’s pungent plume flowing effortlessly into the depths of her diseased lungs and then back out into the air between us. I never understood smoking, but drastic times call for drastic measures, I thought, as I slid my hand across the table and removed one from the pack for myself.