Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Selected Entries: December 2004

With all the looking forward I've been doing lately, it seemed to make sense that I should take a moment to look back. In December 2004 I was sixteen years old. As a departure from Deep South State loomed ever nearer, I found myself pondering what George W. Bush's (very recent) reelection meant for my immediate future. Many of my concerns were those of a typical sixteen-year-old boy: homework, family, and the loss of friends from a big move. Others, like war fears and a bizarre amount of death, were a little deeper and shed light on the strange time in which I grew to young manhood.

December 2, 2004

My I.D. List for AP European History is due tomorrow. I’m confident that I’ll complete it with time to spare, but there's so much else! Following that, I have to study for the test, also happening tomorrow. Tomorrow is Friday, praise be to God. Over the weekend I hope to get done a lot of work on my portfolios, otherwise I'll have to take off of school Monday to get them finished on time. I’ve set aside five hours to work tonight on AP European History material. I can't wait until this is over and I can have weekends again!

December 6, 2004

I finished the rough draft of my essay last night, thank God. I don’t know how I managed to squeeze out over four pages about Sweden during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, who I know like nothing about, but I did it.

The final copy is due next Monday. Crap. I'm going to have to stay home from school tomorrow. 

Grand Pa Hick Family is here from Hick State to help take care of Pie while Mom is on her business trip and Dad is working late. For the first time that I can remember in my entire life, I saw him cry today. He's usually so tough, but Grand Ma Hick Family's death cut right through him. It was very disturbing today, watching him sob onto the head of his little dog. He's broken now. 

December 8, 2004

I spoke with Aunt Smugly Superior today. She's afraid there could be a draft soon and told me I should go to college right away after high school. Aunt Smugly Superior is extremely smart (she works at the medical school of Fallen Dynasty University) and is my favorite out of all of Anne’s siblings. I trust her judgement. 

December 13, 2004

Pie is so cute. It's been a little cold here at night, like 40 or 50 degrees, so we have her all wrapped up in stuff and it's amazing how funny it is. She totters around the house (now with a pink jacket over her nightgown), often wearing my mother’s shoes and screaming like a total lunatic at random things. It's pretty great.

Not everything is great, though. In the last week alone Grand Ma Weird Family, Aunt Smugly Superior, and Grand Pa Hick Family have warned me against a coming draft. Today Grand Pa asked me point-blank what I would do if called up to serve. Well, I’m still only sixteen, but if the law about college deferments is changed I could be called up. 

I answered him, “I’ll do whatever I have to do.” Then I clarified what I meant: I will not die for this president and his oil. I will not sacrifice my life and everything that I’ve worked towards, for Iraq. If it were a legitimate war, maybe my decision would be different. As of now, though, the fight isn’t worthy. I can't believe we're even having to worry about this. When September 11th happened, I was thirteen years old. Now my generation is in line to be the next mass casualty of this conflict. If only John Kerry had been elected. President Bush is so stupid, and the people who support him are even dumber. 

December 20, 2004

When it gets so close to Christmas I really miss Native State. It would never, ever snow here, but back there they're getting tons. Dad and I did go Christmas shopping today! It was a Sunday but it didn't feel like it because our school schedule is so short this coming week. 

December 23, 2004

Yesterday was our last day of school until January 5th!! On Tuesday and Wednesday we got out of school at 11:45. Can we just do that all the time? We’ve actually managed to achieve the Christmas feeling, despite being in Deep South State. Fate has played a role as well; today is rather cloudy. Our Christmas tree, sitting on a landslide of presents, lights up our sitting room. A Christmas CD plays from the living room, and we watch Christmas specials on television. I got everyone cool gifts!

December 22nd was Dad’s forty-first birthday. He had to work on his birthday and I worried that he’d be depressed because of everything. He couldn’t find a decent job anywhere so now he's doing odd things because we, you know, have to have money. I worry about him, though. To cheer him on his birthday, I gave him his George W. Bushisms 2005 Calendar early. He liked it and laughed when he opened it, saying that he’d told Mom to buy me the exact same thing. 

December 24, 2004
Christmas Eve 2004

 It really does feel like Christmas! It’s Christmas Eve and it’s actually quite nice. We’re all very excited about “Santa” coming (Thomas still believes in him) [tell me that's not crazy, readers] and we can’t wait for morning. I’ll write more tomorrow. 

December 28, 2004

Great Grand Ma is dead. Mom and I just visited her on Christmas Day, and she really looked awful. She was so gaunt and pale and couldn't move. Her eyes were wide and confused, and she couldn’t speak or recognize anyone. A death is a death, though. Grand Ma, Grand Pa, and now Great Grand Ma all died this year. I wish everyone would stop dying.

December 29, 2004

Something horrible has happened in Asia. The entire Southeast Asian coast, from India to Thailand, has been hit with tsunamis. Apparently the waves were triggered by underwater earthquakes and now over 100,000 people are dead. I can't even imagine that many people. It doesn't even sound real. They were showing video footage of Indian women, crazed by grief, searching through piles of corpses for their children while shrieking. I hate that sound. I hope I never, ever hear it again. 

On the news they were also talking about these two divers. They went out into the ocean just minutes ahead of the tsunamis, having no idea what was coming. They were underwater when the waves struck, and they held onto rocks and coral to survive. When they emerged through the surface of the water, the coast from which they’d come was gone. What must that have been like?

Great Grand Ma's viewing was this afternoon. I’d never seen a dead body before today. It made my head reel to look at it, because it was just so strange. I kept expecting her eyes to pop open. Her funeral is tomorrow and Powell and I have to help carry the coffin. I’m worried that we’ll drop it. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Birthday Cake for a Birthday Pie

Less than two weeks after Thomas graduated from high school, a certain Dingbat I know celebrated a milestone birthday. Pie turned ten years old today.

In the short term, of course, the birthday doesn't mean much. She still wants to marry Niall Horan (of One Direction fame), she's still obsessed with soccer, she still loves Call of Duty--while I still hate that our parents let her play it--and she still thinks playing reckless games of dodge ball in the living room is the best way to spend her time. She still likes to cuddle with me.

But I've noticed little things, here and there, things that have been in the works for a while but have only now captured my attention. Her height, for one. One day she was this hysterical little midget and the next she moseyed on into the kitchen at nearly five feet tall.

"Der-Der," I said as I knelt before her. "You're taller than me now. When I get down on my knees, you're taller than me."

Her growing stature, combined with a face that is transitioning from adorable to pretty, has given me some startling glimpses of the young woman she'll be. And she'll be beautiful. I don't say that because she's my sister, but because it's true. Pie will be a lovely girl. Is it wrong that that gives me secret relief? Life is so much easier for women who have beauty.

Not that she will particularly need that to fall back on, as the transformations of the last year or so have confirmed what we knew all along: Pie is one smart pastry. I've regaled you before with tales of the disarmingly deep issues she was pondering when she was only seven years old. I ought to have known--and, indeed, I did--that the kind of girl who questioned the nature of mortality in second grade was headed for some good things, cognitively speaking, and along with the subtle changes in her physical appearance have come changes in interest.

One Direction still reigns supreme, but the boxes of Hot Wheels have been replaced with stacks of books (including, to my great delight, the first tome in the Harry Potter series), and the bedtime story requests have gotten a little more complicated.

"Tell me about Rome again," she asked the other night.

"That's a pretty broad subject, Pie."

"About the emperor. The one who fed people to the lions and sat in his palace while the city was on fire."

"Ah. That was Nero."

"And what about the Persians? What about them?"

Her perception, always uncanny, has heightened significantly in the last year and a half. This has had some great benefits; the girl who by nine had developed at least a cursory interest in politics now ignores the Tea Party-inspired racism that she used to imbibe as gospel from her father.

There are, though, as you might imagine, drawbacks as well.

"Thomas is drunk, isn't he?" she asked following an argument between my parents and eighteen-year-old brother.

I looked down into her knowing hazel eyes. She loves me. She trusts me. She doesn't think I'd mislead her.

"No, Pie," I lied. "They just had a dispute. That's all."

She won't believe these deceptions for much longer. I'm trying to be the one she can count on. This influences so many of my decisions; the decision I made recently to pursue other professional avenues (you'll get to hear about that one soon) so that I can help Pie and Thomas if need be; the decision to drink wine in front of her frequently so that she can see an adult responsibly consuming alcohol; the decision to remain calm and fair even when I am angry so that she knows every argument doesn't have to turn into a competition for who can strike the lowest blow.

Tonight I was sitting on her bed, stroking her tired head, thinking that her little-girl years were in essence done.

"I think it's really cool that you turned ten today," I informed her.

She snorted.

"Well, I don't."

"It's a bigger deal than you think. Before, when you were five, you still had little-kid time. But three years from now you'll be thirteen. Five years from now you'll be fifteen. Eight years from now you'll be Thomas's age."

Each year a little bit more grown up, each year a little bit more adult.

"In the next few years you'll get to try new things and discover a lot about yourself. It's a really exciting time. I'm happy for you."

And then, for reasons I could but don't much care to identify, my eyes began to well with tears. And because she hadn't seen, and because I didn't want her to, I stood up, pecked her on the head, and turned to leave.

"Goodnight, Pie. I'll tell you about Caesar tomorrow."

"Okay," she mumbled.

And then I said a quick prayer to a God whose existence I've struggled with for years but whom I have to believe, specifically because of Thomas and Pie, is actually there and actually listening. I'm not stupid, you see. I know that no matter what I do, my efforts to protect them can only cover so many bases, and the idea that the gaps I can't fill would be left to chance is too terrifying for me to accept.

Please keep her safe, I begged. Please. 

I left unspoken the corollary He would have to know was there.

Please be real. Please, please be real.

My sister is a small child no longer, but I don't mourn for that. The whole point of my being there now is to give her the tools she'll need to, one day, stand on her own as a well-equipped adult. And it's happening. At the edges of her still-soft face, I can see the outline of that phenomenal young woman almost ready to emerge. I'm not going to try and block the way. It wouldn't be right.

And besides--I can't wait to meet her.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Step Towards Who He Will Be

It was with a disconcerting sense of normalcy that I hopped into a car with my mother, sister, and grandfather on June 9 and trekked to Mountain Town High School to watch Thomas graduate as a member of the Class of 2013.

I was aware, academically, that he had started high school in only 2009. I was aware as well that he was just embarking on his freshman year when I was already in my early twenties. But somehow the fact that it all happened only a few moments ago made the whole thing seem more mundane. Yes, Thomas was graduating high school. But I suppose he hadn't been there long enough for it to surprise me.

There is no denying, however, that a very real part of our mutual lives has ended. For much of the existence of this blog we were ensconced, he at the secondary and I at the university level, within the cocoon of school. As he embarked on the ordinary revelations of teenhood and I experienced a flowering that I now recognize as a (medically improbable) recovery from serious brain illness, we found ourselves together on a road of roughly equivalent adolescence despite the difference in our ages. He was learning how to be a young man and I was learning how to, well, be. We took each other seriously and understood where the other was. I think it's why we got along so well.

But now the extended childhood is over. For me, that means a welcome step into the adulthood I am finally ready to embrace, into a career and a values system that I hope will define the structure of my life for many years to come. For him, it is an open door whose threshold is shrouded in mist. That mist can be an amazing thing. Some people convert it into a rain of diamonds or a hail of amber, the great opening peal of a joyous song. But it can cripple, too. I've seen young men, like Powell, get lost in it and forget that it's eventually meant to dissipate.

Thomas, for now, is at the beginning of his pseudo-boyhood, and the choices that will define him don't all yet need to be made.

As he begins one part of this journey, I can't help but wonder who he'll be when he comes out on the other side.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Yet Again

The creak on the floorboard had to be deliberate. I know how he operates, you see, and he's made an entire career--if you want to call his macabre diversions a "career"--out of slinking into people's lives and upending everything in ways and at times they least expect. Managing to get into a bedroom undetected wouldn't be above him.

I looked up from the nearly full suitcase and swore.

"What? What? What the hell are you doing here?"

The smile Fate gave me in response was surprisingly complacent given that the last time we encountered one another, two years ago, I'd pushed him from a third-story window.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked with infuriating calm. He folded a woolen garment and dropped it into the open trunk. "I'm helping you pack."

I cursed again.

"I should have known you were behind this. I should have known. You're always trying to pull this kind of stuff."

"As always, a pleasure to see you, too," he deadpanned, his English aristocrat's voice going drier than should have been possible. "And it's not as if I tried to orchestrate some grand scheme to keep you in the dark or anything. I mean, really, it's my city. My name is in the title. Did you ever think there was a reason it was called the City of Fate as opposed to say, maybe, the City of Zucchini?"

"You know what, don't," I snapped. "And while we're talking about things that should make sense, how is it that the City of Fate is here but that you have that ridiculous British accent?"

His hands momentarily stopped assaulting my favorite sweater.

"I mean, other than to sound mysterious or something?"

He rolled his eyes and readjusted his professorial paunch.

"You see me as you are conditioned to see me," he lectured. "Which means that the accent is more your doing than mine."

"Sure it is."

My grandmother's humming drifted in from the next room, prompting me to adopt a fierce whisper. "And keep your voice down."

His mouth opened and shut.

"You hurled me from a window fifty feet in the air and I floated off. I promise you, I'm quite capable of ensuring we're not overheard through the door or something equally melodramatic."

"Because you're never melodramatic," I shot, then barreled through before he could reply. "So, what are you here for? Car accident, train crash? Asteroid, maybe?"

"No," he smiled and chomped on an almond bar, which I noted with irritation he'd somehow managed to nick from my grandmother's pantry. "Just a part of your journey, and one I care to observe."

"Like, what, are you taking the train with me?"

"You don't have to see me for me to see you, BB."

"The fact that you just said that makes you creepier than you were before. And that's saying something. Have you morphed into a supernatural peeping tom since I tried to turn you into roadkill?"

"I like to think of myself as more of an engineer," he waxed philosophical. "Or perhaps, I don't know, the HR person of the universe."

"Awesome. Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm only going up for a week."

He grinned in a way that made my stomach sink.


"Look, I'm coming back after five days and staying back, and you just need to accept that," I declared.

"I just need to accept it?" he threw his head of thin grey curls back and had the indecency to laugh. "It's the City of Fate. It's my city. You think I don't know what goes on in it? Or what will go on? You're tied to that place, and, what's more, complicit in the tying. No one made you choose the career path you did."

I glared at him.

"I can find a way around this."

"Like hell you can," he dismissed with a wave of his hand. "Your life will always be inextricably tied with that city, whether you want it to be or not, and the sooner you accept it the better off you'll be."

I crossed my arms over my chest.

"I'm not conceding that."

"You don't have to," he countered with a nod of his head before he strode across the room. "Looking forward to your visit."

Then he propped himself up into the window--"for old time's sake," he noted with a cheerful wiggle of his eyebrows--and was out into the morning sunshine before I could object any further.

I spent the next few days enjoying crab cakes and too much coffee, trying to pretend the encounter in the bedroom hadn't bothered me. But of course it had. And the long train ride up the eastern seaboard was not made any better by the knowledge that each mile of countryside flying by put me a little bit closer to that charlatan's cave.

The sun itself seemed to gloat when I finally stepped off the platform that Monday morning.

"Damn it, New York," I grumbled. "Damn it."