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I’d love to feel
Yes I’d give my life
My synapses have been on overtime lately. I’m a whirling dervish of energy and excitement. I’d like to blame it on my giving up gluten and potatoes (I know I know..nothing to live for), but there’s something brewing in the inner regions of my psyche that have been dormant for so long. Truth is I feel so much more me lately. I keep thinking I’m as me as I’ll ever be, but then there’s another layer I had forgotten I locked away in a closet.
I did give up gluten, which has meant more time in the kitchen cooking delicious items. Look at those gluten free pizzas with mushrooms and carmelized onions. So delicious too.
“I get lost in my mind..lost in my mind….lost…I get lost…loooooooooosssssssssst.” Pardon me while I sing along to Head and the Heart singing Lost in My Mind.
I’m also addicted to upcycling and repurposing. My kiddo said this is how all hoarders start out. She may have a point, except I’m not one for things lying about. Except as I glance over at my art table it’s covered in paint, sea glass, canvases and my coffee mug with a naked woman with swinging breasts. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture. Genius.
Maybe physically feel better and it’s rewiring my mental. I haven’t been feeling out of sorts, but lately I feel downright childlike. I have a wonderment and such an appetite for life. Maybe I’m replacing my bread and potatoes hunger for another. A hunger to live as if there is a tomorrow of promise.
Now listen to this song….I think you’ll feel the way I do:
I’d love to feel
Your hand touching mine
And tell me why
I must keep working on
Yes I’d give my life
To lay my head tonight on a bed
Of California stars
There is a fine line between exposing one’s self and showing off an appendix scar. I think I could be guilty of both as I unbuttoned my jeans and showed everyone the four-inch red incision line on my first day back to school. There was a certain sense of pride that I had survived not only surgery, but an infection. Not that I understood the implication of either. I was the only one in my grade missing an organ, and that made me quasi-famous.
I did not lie, but neither did I correct the wild rumors. Someone asked me if my guts exploded and I just held up my hand and told them I couldn’t really talk about it. A girl from another grade said she heard I had died and was brought back to life. I shrugged mysteriously and moved through the lunch line. Suddenly there were new faces at my lunch table and they all wanted to know what it felt like to be sliced open. I didn’t bother mentioning I was asleep.
Having surgery did slow me down. Since they apparently used super glue to close my incision, I was afraid for months it would suddenly open to expose a gaping hole where my appendix had once been. I was afraid to go down the slide, ride my bike or climb on the monkey bars. I begged off jumping off sheds until I was certain I wouldn’t explode on impact.
It was during this hey day as a school celebrity, Dylan began noticing me. He carried my lunch tray to my table. He sat across from me and told me lame jokes. He drug me behind the first grade trailer and asked to see my scar up close. With a finger he gently touched the still tender wound and smiled at me. My knees felt weak and I could barely speak, but I remember making an equally lame joke. He laughed and my heart sang. I sat in the classroom fantasizing about the beautiful flaxen hair children we would make. My near death experience had convinced him what he had been missing.
Apparently, near death experiences aren’t nearly as interesting as a new girl in school. How quickly I fell off my pedestal when the dark haired girl from the Navajo Reservation was suddenly thrust into our classroom. She wore beaded bracelets and pulled her shiny black hair with leather ponytails. She told stories of powwows and her traditional beliefs. My organ pickling in a jar in some hospital was suddenly deemed not as worthy. I watched as Dylan pulled on her ponytail and whatever daydreams of our life together were gone. Apparently shiny new objects attracted him.
Dejected, I found solace with Daniel who had visited me in the hospital and brought me lifesavers. He rode me on his bike and avoided potholes and bumps to keep my remaining organs intact. He held up barbed wire fences so I could crawl under rather than over. He stole heavy gold bracelets from his mother and slide them on my arms. We would sit for hours on the edge of ditches they were building for underground utilities for the new houses being built. Sometimes we would talk about general things or sometimes we would just sit and say nothing. I didn’t know it then, but he understood me.
I came home one evening at my curfew of dusk. It didn’t matter where we were, we just had to be home before dark. As a kid living in the mountains, you didn’t bother arguing with that logic. Just as the sun began to set, the howling of the coyotes and wolves began, and you wanted to be inside. My father was home early from work and I thought this meant he had lost his job. My stomach seized at the thought of living in something smaller than the tin can we called home.
Instead, he announced he had bought us a house. Well, actually a plot of land they would be building a house on. Three bedrooms he said excitedly and we will have two bathrooms. My mind was on overdrive with the possibilities. No more sharing a room with my sister! No more arguing over bathroom time! No more being trapped in a container so foggy with smoke we could barely see out the windows.
The best news, it was close to where we lived so I could still ride my bike to visit Daniel. We would have our own yard and the Arizona equivalent of grass which was a dirty yard with sporadic tufts of weeds. I remember my mother smiling and laughing for the first time in what felt like years. She was happy to get out of the prison van too. A brand new house, not in our wildest dreams did we ever think that was possible. I was already picking out paint colors for my room.
I excitedly told Daniel about the move and he frowned. I wasn’t going to be that far away, but we could no longer just walk across the street to see each other. I would have neighbors and would probably be riding bikes with them. He was angry at me for allowing myself to be moved. As he stormed away in a huff, I stood there on the dirt road feeling confused. How could someone be happy and sad at the same time? My child mind couldn’t wrap itself around that. Why did something have to be taken away in order to gain something else?
I cried myself to sleep that night, not sure if it was out of joy or sadness.
The house was being built and I was miserable. My best friend, Daniel no longer raided his mother’s jewelry box and brought me gifts. He felt I should have control over where I lived, when in fact I had none. I spent my days fawning over Dylan with the white hair and trying to keep up with the uncles who were barely older than I was. I baked with my fake grandmother (she would forever be known as Dorothy as she had stolen my papa away from my granny) and waited until we moved into our house, which now had green exterior walls and a poured concrete foundation.
My parents in their euphoria did not notice their eldest was unhappy. If they did, they simply could not acknowledge anything negative when so many positive things were happening to my family. I, on the other hand, was becoming resentful and angry we were moving yet again and no amount of appendix scar attention could ease my suffering.
Even Dylan became tarnished with my newfound colorless view of life. I would sit at my desk and seethe at his shallowness and the way the girls doted on him. Was I really one of those girls? When he called my name at lunchtime, I pretended to not hear him. Instead, I sat on the football field with a book and retreated into a world that was not mine. I was a festering cauldron of burgeoning female ready to blow at any moment.
There are things that happen in life. You can look back and see them as you did as a child. Worst possible moments of despair and pain, or you can see them for what they really were. Just moments. As you get older, you collect them like seashells in a plastic container and you’re not really sure why you still have them. You keep meaning to throw them out, but you went through all the trouble of collecting them, surely they have some value. They don’t. Because every time you walk on a beach you will see there are more shells. Just like moments. There will be more. Some of them wonderful, a few of them painful.
Arizona has become like that for me. There were things that happened emblazoned in my brain. Things I cannot always find humor in. Every place I’ve moved, they were wrapped in bubble wrap and carried with me. I could look back at Arizona as a place of pain, but it wasn’t. There was the smell of alfalfa, the feel of the sun on my already bronze skin, the millions of stars I miss every time I look in the sky from somewhere else. There was so much good, I refuse to let it be tainted by anything awful that happened.
At the time, I was too young to process how life cycles through these wonderful and miserable moments. I was miserable and made more miserable by events occurring I felt I had no control over. I hated the house and everything it stood for. I hated everyone and every thing. Except my dog, Peppy. He was the one consistent thing in my life.
A fur faced ball of energy who would sit beside me and ponder the hopeless of the world, he was my companion in pain. He understood when my parents were too self absorbed to. He understood when no one around me saw me. When he curled beside me, it was like a hug from someone who loved you despite your unpleasantness.
Then I came home from school and my father was not at work. He was waiting for me at the gate and he put a hand on my shoulder. He led me around the back of the trailer where a mound of dirt was covered with rocks we had found in the dried riverbanks of the Little Colorado River. He explained a farmer had shot Peppy. Probably chasing cattle at night. He had made it home and died on our rickety wooden porch. When dad had come home from work that night, he found him and buried him.
That morning, I had not been greeted by Peppy, and I remember looking around the yard for him. He was off somewhere doing something and I had not given it a second thought. He was always there when I came home from school. But not anymore. I remember standing, looking at that dirt mound, thinking of my Peppy dying alone in the dark on our porch. I wondered if he had lain there, alone and cold, and wondered why I hadn’t come out to comfort him. I had not been there for him when he needed me. It made an already difficult time in my life unbearable. If possible, I retreated further. That unexpended rage had come what fueled me. It was just a matter of time before it was unleashed somewhere, on someone.
My uncle, Russ was four years older than I was. He was cocky and deranged in a future serial killer sort of way. He made his brother, Micha’s life miserable and mine. We hated him, loathed him. There were things, things that I will never speak of. Yet, we were powerless to him. He was bigger and a bully and we cowered in his wake.
One day we were walking along the road up to the graveyard. As morbid as it was, I did find comfort amongst the dead. It was proof I wasn’t alone in losing someone. I walked behind, watching Russ smash bugs beneath his sneakers and toss rocks at the lizards he came upon. When he stopped at a ditch, retrieving a stick and began dragging something from its murky waters, I stopped too.
In horror, I watched him drag a freshly dead dog from the water. Obviously, hit by a car and left to die. He laughed in glee and suggested we autopsy it. I became not myself that day. Everything flashed as if it were happening to someone else. Suddenly, I was standing over Russ who was lying in the road. There was bright red blood spurting from the cut above his eye and I was panting and holding a rock. I felt that rage unraveling from my belly and my body shook with it.
My parents punished me for hitting him. There had been stitches. I have many regrets in my life, but that was not one of them. It wasn’t the act of violence, I would never condone such a thing, but it was my no longer standing there as a bystander to something horrible. I had done something. Maybe not the right thing, but I had done something.
He, of course, would retaliate against me in a hundred ways. He would push me down in a ditch or into a barbed wire fences. I would return with bruises and cuts, but I would never tell on him. He would taunt me, call me names, and invoke the name of Peppy to try to hurt me. However, he never did. Whenever he seemed to get the upper hand, I would remember him that day lying on the road and crying. Big tears of pain, surprise, and the fear in his eyes as I stood looming with that rock. He was no longer a monster to fear, but a weak boy who would grow into an even weaker man.
I suddenly forgot about Daniel and Dylan and the dog grave we were leaving behind. I was ready for a fresh start in a new house and I felt hopeful.
I know the proper thing to do would be to talk about REM here. I am a big fan, but not as rabid as my beloved “D.” Along with the ready for radio tunes REM has released over the years, Michael was prolific in working with other artists. Below are some of my favorite outcomes, and if you’re a REM fan, you’ll appreciate Stipey lending a hand to some great tunes.
I know REM is a band retired, but here’s to Michael Stipe continuing to create.