Thursday, May 3, 2012

Losing Plato

The hollowed-out smell of bleach wafted up from the floors, stretching to the ceiling like cleansing ghosts. In between the walls was a thick silence that lacked the sound of the yip-yap barking of Plato’s usual greeting. He lay coiled in a pile of bones and sucked-in flesh, his skin taut and eyes red, the sun shining through the open window like a spotlight on his frail body.

The harshness of the bleach burned my nose and throat and made my eyes itch. His copper-penny­ eyes followed me as I sanitized my small apartment, the smell of Clorox replacing the scent of Jasmine, waiting for death to strangle the air.

“Parvo,” the vet said five days prior, and I was confused at first, because it sounded like nothing more than a game children play. “Is there a cure?” I’d asked hopefully, but he’d looked at me with sympathy, and I knew the answer. As I left the vet’s, the sky had opened up and cried for Plato.

I finished mopping and sat down on the too-clean floor, Indian-style. Plato’s ribcage protruded from his body, a scallop-edged accordion inside his torso. I ran my fingers against his chest, his breath shallow beneath my fingertips. He let me cry, watching with sympathetic eyes, as if I were the one with the sickness and he the caretaker.

 I reached over, picked him up gently, and sat him on my lap. His fur was soft, his body pliant. His eyes—brown, deep, and soulful—searched mine, looking for answers, for comfort, for permission.

I nodded as he licked my palm for the last time.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mother says...

Mother says that when I start talking I never know when to stop. Sometimes it takes five or six licks of the belt to get me to shut up, the imprints of the buckle making intricate patterns on my skin, lacey welts that look like spider webs. I wish the spider would spin its silk around her and suck her dry, a wingless fly.

Mother says children should be seen and not heard, and sometimes I don't see her for days, not until another uncle comes by to pay a visit, or pay for a visit, if she's feeling nice. Mother says I look just like Daddy, but he looks a lot like the man in all the picture frames at CVS. Sometimes I pretend he's an officer, knocking on the door. "Ma'am, can you come to the door please? I need to ask you a few questions about your daughter." I hear the wind-chime sounds of his handcuffs clink-clinking on his belt, and for just a moment, I feel secure.

Mother says don’t talk back, but then she asks me a question, like do I still love her, would I still love her if she cut off my tongue and fed it to the cat? She asks me while I'm eating breakfast: bacon, toast, and eggs. I press the food to the roof of my mouth, real hard, so I know my tongue is still there. It tastes like the iron bars of a bird cage. She smiles, her cheeks stained with the knuckle-love her men gave. "Don’t worry, I'm just kidding. There'd be too much blood."

Mother says I wet the bed, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes I sleep in the closet, sometimes I sleep in the shed, if I can sleep at all, from the loud bang bang bang on the wall. It's cold out there. My teeth rattle, chattering, make noise and tattling, telling where I am. When she finds me, Mother says, I'm no good. I have to go, she can't take this anymore. I'm just another mouth to feed, another warning to heed, she should have listened before. "I should have done it, the dirty deed. I should have told the doctor to shut you up while you were still a fetus, a tiny seed."  When I start talking, I never know when to stop. That's what Mother says. 

This is my first Friday flash in probably two years. It's the result of a writing prompt from Imaginative Writing by Janet Burroway. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9-11

[You can read my 9-11 tribute essay here]

Nine years can be many things to many people. It can be a lifetime, or it can be the blink of an eye. It can be a marriage, or earning a PhD. It can be a childhood, or the length of survival of a terminal illness. It can be nine years of time that heals, or a span of time punctuated with loss and sadness.

Today is different things for different people. Some people will choose to honor today, to honor the fallen by remembering, by mourning, by celebrating life. Other people will choose to move on, to live, by doing the things they do every day, but with just a little more emphasis and sadness in hopes of getting past the pain and heartache that this anniversary brings.

For me, there is something choked up and tangled inside of me every time I think about that Tuesday. It is something that is still pulsating, and twisting, unable to fathom the amount of pain and loss. I only knew one person who died on 9/11 and I knew him through proxy. The brother of a friend who wasn’t really a friend so much as an acquaintance that I’d lost touch with. But even so, I think about him; I think about the niece named for him that he’ll never know.

Then I think about the friend who was killed by a driver who was high and made a wrong turn. I think about my Uncle Donn, who died after being married for less than a year. I think about my grandfather and my friend Randy and about the people my friends have lost.

And amidst all that loss, I feel love and joy and hope. I don’t feel the sadness and the depression and the unparalleled pain, I just feel grateful. I feel like life is beautiful and colorful and worth living, without shame or hate or guilt or apologies.

The only way to really remember and mourn those who pass before us is to keep living our lives the best that we can. Remember how fragile the threads of life are. Tell people how you feel, try new things, go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

I know it’s a cliche to say that we should live as if it is our last day, but we SHOULD live as if it is our last day. That is how we can pay our respects and honor our loved ones, our heroes and our angels. It’s the only way and if you aren’t doing that, then you’re doing yourself and their memories a great disservice.

The only thing that validates dying is to keep on living.

**I realize of course that some people choose to look past the hype this day has brought. Sometimes numbing ourselves is necessary. Many say it's been long enough. Others rally at the drop of a hat for anything 9/11 related. I think it is important to remember events that change us, so I remember with my words.**