I have been hiding. One of the spots I have found is a large tree next to a church I pass on my daily walk. Rooted in the earth mounded above the sidewalk, it’s branches arch over and downward toward the ground, creating a space that is cool and shaded from a reproachful sun.
Over the last several days I have been confronted repeatedly with the ugliness of my own failings. This is not something I have enjoyed, Burns notwithstanding.
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!
(To a Louse, Robert Burns)
I suppose that like me, most of us would prefer not to have such power given us, to see ourselves through others eyes, no? Instead, most of us tend to see others, and indeed our entire world in ego-centric terms.
“Do my friends accessorize my life as they should?”
“Will this person like me if they know who I really am?” “Do the people I want to like me, like the people that I want to like?”
Managing our image can become more real than actually being kind, or mean, or honest. Because what is honesty anyway? It’s just another Instagram filter, right? An effect you can superimpose later.
I try very hard to think that I don’t live my life that way, but sometimes your failings can walk up and slap you in the face, literally. I believe that how we react when that happens is critically important.
We live our lives with a dim, unshakable memory of the sins we’ve committed. At some accessible but not fully conscious level we walk across the green mile of our day, knowing that we owe an uncalculated debt, fearful that someone is keeping track.
So here in my hiding place, I deal with the person I truly am, and I do my best to set things right – which is all any of us can do. And I give utmost thanks for the utterly perfect fallibility of mankind and the certainty it begets that, while I will no doubt continue to visit harm on all who know me, I am no more or less imperfect at being human than anyone else.
So here, in my shady comfort, I will accept the
“giftie gie us” and try to learn, and to grow. And in learning, perhaps I will pay down my debt, as best I am able.
Somebody’s gotta sweep up all the shit that builds up around here. Case in point, this little lovely from earlier today. It was so precious that I had to put it in a little frame with a kitty and yarn…
What kind of fresh hell is this? That one short sentence has been fortified and enriched with enough bullshit to ensure the next generation has an understanding of love with zero basis in reality.
Shocker: loving someone doesn’t come with a special prize, and even if you kidnap them, and keep them in your basement and love them with all your might, they still aren’t gonna deserve you (unless they are truly working out some shitty, shitty karma.)
And what’s this about “deserving you”, like it’s some kind of reward someone gets as a byproduct of your love, you know, if they’re worthy of you. Have you taken a look inside that trunk of broken dishes and smelly socks you’re hauling around your baggage in? You’re not that big a prize! Maybe instead of hypnotizing unwary strangers with your love, you might tidy things up a bit. Run a vacuum.
When I open a package in the mail this week I actually cried. Two beautiful pieces of art, one printed on pearl metallic and the other on Hahnemuelle fine art paper. So gorgeous, it seems a mistake almost that I am the subject. To @buckhead1111, I cannot thank you enough. You talent and kindness touch me deeply! If y'all aren’t following @buckhead1111, you need to start.
The challenge was to list the first lines of your last 20 stories, and having done so, look to see what, if any, patterns you see there. I was tagged by @erikadprice, and have also enjoyed reading the posts or @fakesurprise. As the challenge evolved, Erika wondered how the last lines of the stories would hold up to scrutiny.
So here it is, my half-hearted attempt, with both the first and last lines. I only included stories that I consider (mostly) fiction. I didn’t have 20 stories on my site, so I stopped at 15. Are these the “last” 15 stories I wrote. No, probably not. Sue me.
1. FIRST:Tom Paine blithely considered himself an incredible lover. LAST: For while the presence of joie de vivre does not guarantee love, the presence of love is most surely accompanied by life.
2. FIRST: I am lying in bed and the house is dark.
LAST: I can’t remember the message I so desperately needed to tell them.
3. FIRST:The last generation has mostly withered away, dropped out, been gathered up in ceremonial ritual, and carted away for cremation; or to rot and replenish the soil in cemetery landfills; or to be stacked high in forgotten piles of abandonment.
“And when they fall away, upon the soft wind of death blowing, I will tremble sorrowfully at the loss.”
4. FIRST:The zoo seemed remarkably busy for a Wednesday, Brendan thought; probably due to the weather.
LAST: “And then here I was.”
5. FIRST:“I thought it was just a passing fancy that I was exposed to as a college creative writing student - these half-thought image fragments strung together line after line as if they made sense.”
LAST:He gives me an awkward hug, and an even more awkward peck on the cheek, and then smiling, turns away.
6. FIRST: “Far be it for me to say,” she would bellow, her hands resting on her broad, potato sack hips as if attached there.”
LAST:We looked at each other for another moment, until without thinking, I reached forward and hugged her tightly, burying my face in the soft blue and white cotton fabric of her blouse to hide the tears in my eyes.
7. FIRST:In the end it was just one more stop on the carpool route, not that far out of the way really.
“You’re okay now. I know what to do.”
8. FIRST:“Mommy, mommy look at me!”
LAST:“How long was I in the air?” he asks.
9. FIRST:It was after ten o’clock when Jason finally pulled himself out of bed and made his way down the narrow hallway to the bathroom. LAST:Besides, he really needed to piss.
10. FIRST:The recurrent blare of a car alarm intruded from the street below.
LAST:Maybe when they got home, they could take the purse together to the field behind the house, and place two more bulbs in the autumn earth before the ground got too cold for planting.
11. FIRST:Dora sat in her recliner and stared glassy-eyed at the television.
LAST:“Now grab your purse and let’s go.”
12. FIRST:Children’s voices chanting, taunting, fill the cold night air with eerie spells and omens.
LAST:“Do you swear?” she whispers to the two blue stones, so like her father’s eyes.
13. FIRST: Howard Kessler crossed 5th Avenue and stepped up on the curb, the rest of the Kesslers following behind.
LAST:The light from overhead, contorted through tears, drew stripes of blood red across it.
14. FIRST:The air feels electric against my exposed skin.
LAST: As I drift toward sleep, I think about which pair of shoes I’ll wear to the party.
15.FIRST: Putting the scrub brush back in the sudsy bucket, Cassie sat back on her heels to survey the newly cleaned baseboards in the living room and hallway.
“Yes,” he said gently. “I understand Mommy.”
SUMMATION: I was surprised by how often I open or close a story with dialogue. I like the effect, but it makes me wonder if I’m over-using that. I almost always open a story by jumping randomly into someone’s awareness. Rarely do I set up/describe a place or character in my first sentence. My last sentences usually leave the action hanging, not very often do I tidy up loose ends.
Feel free to comment on any patterns you see. Unlike a certain presidential candidate, I have thick skin (and big hands) :) Anyone is free to join in. But I’ll nominate (only if they feel like playing) @trixclibrarian, @owenabbott, @tooflytorecognize