Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The New Year

What I'm Listening to: Speed of Sound (Coldplay) The New Year is a very frightening prospect. Behind all the fireworks, sparkling cider, and light shows is the underlying idea of self-improvement. When you think about it, almost everybody has a New Year's resolution of some sort. And if you ask someone and he or she has none, well, he must be pretty darn perfect. Every year, we compose a list of qualities we secretly know we can never attain. The resolutions last six months or so, tops. And then we fall back into our old ways and pretend like we never even tried. Then the New Year rolls around again and the cycle repeats itself. I wish I could say there's an easy way to avoid this--there's not. It happens to me every year. I'm just glad I serve a God who doesn't require perfection, whether by resolutions or acts of goodness.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The ACT and Surgery

What I'm Listening to: Heaven Forbid (The Fray) After finishing a quiz today, I sat silently at my desk and compared standardized tests and surgery. I found an impressive amount of similarities: Both require that you not drink or eat. Most people find both quite stressful (there's often pain involved, too). Everyone eagerly--or worriedly, in some cases--anticipates the results. Both involve a treeful of paperwork. There's a lot of chance associated with both--the surgery depends on the skill of the doctor and the ACT or SAT depends on the random assortment of questions. But the most significant similarity is the make-it-or-break-it stakes. As you may or may not have figured out, I'm preparing to take a standardized test (the ACT, to be exact). My nerves are more or less fried, so thankfully After the Crash has already been penned. I would just like to point out that this, part eight, is the highly anticipated finale of After the Crash (which means I have to find a new piece of work to publish...) Well, here it is: Liberation My wet lashes flutter. I wonder idly if it's from the snow. And then I remember it's been weeks since I've merely breathed fresh air--let alone been in the snow. I used to be able to count on one hand the times I've cried. Now I need two. I sweep a finger under my eye and the tear comes away clear and unclouded. It's been weeks since I've worn makeup. I might stop altogether. It's kind of nice, not checking for mascara stains. "This is the day you're released," the kitten-clothed scrubs lady says, adjusting my awkward clavicle cast and helping me sit up. "It still hurts," I say in confusion. She tells me it will for a while, sweetie. But I will get better. She sets the clothes I wore the day of the crash on the bed, washed and unstained. I stand up on my own for the first time in weeks and slip out of the horrible hospital gown. It slithers slowly the floor and lands in a blue-and-white heap. The checkered white floor chills my bare feet and I shiver, quickly climbing into my clothes. I am wearing a white T-shirt, a black sweatshirt, and pants. For the snow, I presume. I throw back the curtain on the right and make my way to the bathroom. The sweatshirt hangs loosely on my impossibly smaller-than-usual frame. I'm betting IVs don't include Death by Chocolate. But wouldn't that be ironic? I take off my sweatshirt and knot it around my waist. It clicks distantly in my mind that I'm going to have to walk out of the hospital barefoot. I turn on the icicle-emitting spigot and splash my face with a frigid wake-up call. I then attempt to brush my teeth without a toothbrush. I am ready. My feet pat softly down the clouded-sky hallway. I throw back my curtain and my hand hesitates at the one on the left. Slowly, slowly I pull it back. There is confusion in his eyes. Then comprehension. Then ecstasy. Only then do I notice the elevated cast next to me. The pain on his face that he is so heroically hiding. "I knew you'd come," he whispers, his teeth set in a concealed grimace. Somehow, strangely, I did too. At first I didn't want it, but now it's...different. "I don't--can't--leave you," I say, looking like the sorry state that I am. He grins some more, and then scrawls an address to my new life on a Pepto-Bismol colored pad. And then I do the inevitable. I walk away. David doesn't--can't--know what he's done for me. At least not yet. Several passerbys glance austerely at my bare feet and I stifle a grin. If they'd been through all that I've been through, the last thing they'd be thinking of would be bare feet. But here I am, unshod, and it's snowing again. I am healing, but I'm not well. I am like a manuscript. What was written is written and there's no going back. But I'm open to reading. At least, by people I risk enough to let into my heart. Like David. The cry for a taxi freezes on my white, cloudy breath as I screech to a halt. I fly back, back to the curtain. Somehow I'm going to have to fake sick for a while.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Walking Home

What I'm Listening to: Different Names for the Same Thing (Death Cab for Cutie) Being sixteen and not having your own car is practically murder. Especially when you have a license. I am one of those many unfortunate, carless teenage souls. I draw the line when it comes to riding the bus, though. Parents, if they choose not to invest in their teenagers in this area, should be obligated to drive them to school to save them from the horrors of the bus. The only problem with that is my parents are both frequently late and forgetful. After half an hour of waiting outside the high school in sub-freezing temperatures, I called my mom and told her I was walking home. She met me after I had walked about a mile and apologized for losing track of time. Shivering and shaking, I massaged my frozen legs and nodded. Despite the cold, I have to admit the walk was pretty nice. Maybe it was my feeling of independence; maybe it was my suddenly slowed pace. But either way, it felt good to get outside and breathe the crisp, cool Washington air. If it weren't so cold, maybe I'd walk home from school once in awhile. And now the long-awaited seventh installment of After the Crash: Bronze I am horrified to realize I have drifted off...again. "David!" I croak. "David's in surgery," a voice says from behind the curtain. "Who are you?" "Just the nurse," he replies. A man-nurse? What else is new? I purse my lips together and ask politely what surgery he is having. He tells me David fell out of his bed last night and broke his leg again, and a few bones in his wrist. My eyes open wide. I ask him if he will be all right. He tells me oh, yes. It will just take a while, is all. I let a breath out hesitantly. I am beginning to get a strange sense of déjà vu. I outlined my eyes in a black pencil and stepped into a knee-length boring black dress. I examined my face in the mirror and sighed. Why in the world did I put on eyeliner today? The streaks only added to my sense of melancholy. I let down my hair that I had tied into a bun. The less people that saw my miserable state, the better. My boots were somewhere under the piles of clothes and junk food, but I had no idea where. Somewhat reluctantly, I settled for a simple pair of black flats. A fluid, single note stirred the blood in my veins. The doorbell. I smoothed my skirt and stood up, letting several shirts and shoes fall to the floor. "Coming," I called emotionlessly. The girl at the door had flaxen hair and a blank expression. "You must be the boss," I said almost kindly. "Oh. I guess he told you about me." "Vaguely," I admitted, and shook her cold, lifeless hand. She led me to her car--a white Lexus--and I climbed in. The journey was spent in perfect silence. I stared out the window, watching the cars and pedestrians, thinking they had it so much luckier than I. The girl and I stood next to each other, next to the gaping hole in the ground and the caramel-colored box with a nameplate of bronze. His name. The color I had only so recently associated with his hair, never to grow again. "How did this happen?" I heard myself say in barely a whisper. The boss said someone came into the firm with a gun and shot whoever was in sight. She could never have done anything. She was lucky they got him--and not her. I don't think she understood me. I knew the fundamentals. But why? How? I had not idea. I gazed at his normally tan face, his bloodless lips, his shut brown eyes. He was beautiful even in death. I reached out a hand and touched him softly on the lips only I--and I presumed his manager--had known. They were cold and stiff with fatality. I shuddered and drew away my hand. Forever how I would remember him: cold, lifeless, and dead. Not the vitality and bronze I had come to love.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A New Kind of Ready

What I'm Listening to: Clocks (Coldplay) As the beginning chords of "New Year" sounded, I sleepily rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom adjacent to my bedroom. I turned on my shower and climbed in once it was warm enough. After massaging shampoo and conditioner into my hair, I rinsed my hair, scrunched it and put on makeup. I then blow-dried my bangs and straightened them. The last step was to grab my watch, purse and backpack from my room. Suddenly, I glanced at my bedside table and stared in horror.
The alarm clock proudly declared 11:59!
I thought I had been running a little late, but I was actually ready seven hours early. Which left me the dilemma of what to do with my hair. I couldn't exactly sleep on it wet, because everyone knows doing that makes it flattened on one side and lumpy on the other. But nobody sacrifices seven hours of sleep for a good hair day either. Fatigue won out and I ended up arriving at school with hair slightly less attractive than when I fixed it. Nevertheless, life carried on as usual and I was no worse for the wear. And now for part six of After the Crash... Echo Tracks It wasn't very unusual for him to call. So why was my stomach filled with a sickened sense of dread? The small cell phone at my side beeped incessantly, waiting for me to answer it. "Hello?" I said, my voice cracking. I recognized his voice at once. Only, it wasn't a voice he'd ever used with me. It was the hesitant, sorrowful voice of a boy about to break up with his girl. In this case, moi. "Hi, baby," I said, already choking. He told me it was all political, really. Had he told me he had a new job?--that's why he never seemed to be here anymore. His boss was a girl who was in love with him, and if he dated her, he would get a promotion. Of course he still loved me. Of course he wanted to be with me. Of course he would stay with me--the relationship with his blond, sexy superior was merely for political reasons. Somehow I managed to hold back the bile. I told him okay, that I wasn't that interested. He hung up and I ran through the list of possible ailments: Blind Deaf Stupid My eyes filled with broken, angry tears. I tore through the house, heaving glass and timber alike to the floor. Through my blurred vision, I made my way to the front door. Silently, I stood there, looking at his many Echo tracks. Imagining where he stood last. How he looked when he kissed me...for the last time. Sitting on the porch and looking at the pearls and diamonds he'd always promised to get for me would never be the same. I could never honestly enjoy a night under the stars ever again. I was devastated. Broken. Used. I broke down on the steps and cried, listening vainly for his pleasant, husky voice. Telling me he was sorry. He never liked that Blond anyway. He didn't really need the job. But no. I was left in dreadful, breathtaking silence.