Me, Myself, and My OBGYN

​The FIRST challenge was knowing where to park and how to get there. I sure as heck didn’t know, but I was sure that Google would.
Despite my initial confidence, at a point, Google Maps became rather clueless (as it persistently insisted on routing me over toward the emergency deck — unnecessary), so I tossed my phone aside and used my human brain to figure things out instead.
Moments later, I victoriously emerged from my car on the second floor of the physician’s plaza. At this juncture, I was presented with challenge number two: discovering where exactly my new OBGYN was. I located a posted directory a little ways inside of the building and it proved useful. I inhaled deeply, held the breath, and then took an elevator straight up to the third floor, exhaling with relief when the door finally reopened.
Inside of the “OBGYN hub”, I checked in at a desk, handed my ID over, presented my health insurance card, and filled out a bunch of forms. The forms reminded me of my name, old age, strange-to-read “divorced” status, and various family member’s health ailments.
“Check each box that applies” is how section after section read, and the pesky and invasive questionnaires existing within these sections nudged me to cough up intimate details about myself — things like whether or not I:
  • was sexually active (um no, and excuse YOU!),
  • had suicidal thoughts (that is none of your business), and
  • wanted a colonoscopy today (why the FUCK did I agree to do this?!). In addition to not checking this ridiculous box, I wrote “I do not want this” right alongside it.
And why did I agree to do this? 
***
For years (not just weeks or months), coworkers and friends had been badgering to me to “go get my annual.” They spoke of lumps in the breasts and cancers lurking inside of vaginas and told me horror stories about people they knew or had read about who had died from such terrible things.
Eventually, I grew sick of the attention. I scheduled the damn appointment and then emailed these female friends and coworkers, announcing the big event. “Are you HAPPY now?!” I wanted to yell through caps lock. But I didn’t. Because I understood their badgering was coming from a very good and kind place.

And why was I so averse to the idea of “getting my annual”, anyways?

Because of the first annual I ever got. I was 18. Chris and I had just gotten married, and everyone on the planet was urging me to get on birth control.
So I visited an OBGYN (which, btw, is simply pronounced ob-gyn —why do people bother SPELLING IT OUT aloud when they can just say “obgyn”?) and, after explaining to the nurse that my (now ex)husband Christopher and I would soon be traveling to Ukraine to teach English, the nurse urgently stuffed handfuls of birth control samples into my bag. So many handfuls that I wouldn’t need a refill for at least a year. I felt dirty… and nauseous. I was, at this time, a virgin, and the idea of having sex (or lots of it, as her many handfuls seemed to imply) was immensely uncomfortable to me. So, understandably, I hated having a bulk amount of these scandalous pills in my bag (and very much hated taking them for a solid three years before I decided to reclaim my personality, emotional stability, and physical health).
Moving on…
Our Ukraine plans never panned out (because life is fantastically mysterious), and a year later, I needed a refill. I was now 19, just about to turn 20.
And no one in my life had ever told me, WARNED ME, about what happened next, AFTER the free year’s supply of BCPs fall into your purse… about the complete and utter shittiness of taking all of your clothes off and then getting jabbed in your you-know-what with a COLD metal DEVICE by a stranger in white. W.T.H.
And when that happened, right out of the blue on a stupid Wednesday morning, I felt totally victimized. So I promised myself, I will never, ever subject you to this again.
***
But six years later (aka this morning), there I was, sitting in another doctor’s office and waiting for that terrible, dreaded jab. And I’ve gotta say — KNOWING about it was almost worse than “going in blind” six years ago, because now, in addition to the horror of experiencing it, I also got to anticipate it. Yay.
I had begrudgingly provided a urine sample and then carefully stepped over a blue fruit loop on the floor (probably belonging to another woman’s screaming toddler) moments before being called into the back.
And there in the back, I had fully expected to be shuffled into one of those basic examination rooms, but instead, I was led into the doctor’s office. Like, the one with plants and pictures of family members and graduation plaques and tiny, monogrammed things.
And because being seated in an office office seemed far too serious and intimate for the routine “thing” that I forecasted should be happening, I was more than a little alarmed.
 
What the heck did they find in that urine sample? I wondered, imagining the vagina cancer monster stewing gleefully in some secret place within me. “Or are they going to interrogate me for skipping some of the questions I REALLY didn’t like? Dang it, I should have just answered them!” 
“Hi hi hiiiiiiiiiiiiii,” a voice sang out suddenly. The sound of the doctor had entered the room before she did; I turned to face the doorway, which she had already, magically, passed through.
“I hope being in here isn’t freaking you out,” she continued quickly, her long, red hair swaying in an attempt to keep up with her swift strides. “Most patients are like, ‘UH OH! What did I do to end up in here?!'” And here, she laughed easily, comfortably seating herself on the other side of the desk and then looking directly across it at me.
“I was a little worried,” I admitted, laughing nervously.
“Ahhhh, I just like to get to know ya before you’re undressed!” she explained, grinning.
Her spirit was completely disarming, and I immediately trusted her.
We discussed me for a while — my occupation, artistic pursuits, and holistic healing methods (as well as the incident from six years before). She solemnly swore that today’s experience would be totally different.
And again, I trusted her — her goodness of heart and her good intentions — but I still didn’t believe that it wouldn’t totally suck.
***
Soon afterwards, she escorted me over to the basic examination room I had been hoping for and complimented my leather jacket along the way. I thanked her and then realized that she’d also said something right afterwards about undressing and me putting on a thin, blue gown, but I’d somehow missed the gist of it, strangely caught up in the mental history of my jacket.
“Sorry — what all am I taking off again?” I asked quietly.
“Everything but your socks!” she answered, smiling and exiting the room.
I sighed, disrobing quickly and then tossing my garments onto a nearby armchair. I fiddled with the blue paper gown and couldn’t quite figure it out. It was far too roomy — and blue, like the ocean! I looked up from the patient’s table I was now sitting on and saw a Coastal Whatever magazine lying on a nearby table. It featured a lovely beach scene on the front.
At least they try to make you feel relaxed, I thought glumly, keeping my hands folded neatly in my lap.
I stared down at my peach-colored turtle socks. It feels strange — removing everything BUT the socks, I realized. Should I take them off, too? I hesitated, trying to imagine it. No… THAT would be even WEIRDER, I firmly decided.
I bounced my legs back and forth, suddenly remembering that, unlike most women, I didn’t shave them. She’ll think what she thinks — I don’t even care, I sighed. I just want to do this so it’s done. Besides — my legs LOVE not being shaved, I added, smiling to myself encouragingly. I was happy to realize that unshaven legs were no longer an anxiety trigger of mine. Score!
When my doc re-entered the room, she brought an assistant with her. Great, I mused. An audience of two instead of one. This helps things. 
obgyn meme
pc: Google Images
I won’t go into detail on what happened next, because it wasn’t at all pleasant, but the doctor’s incessant, buoyant small talk was a wonderful distraction. Among other things, we discussed tattoos, the Spanish language, and Ecuador together.
“I actually had to bribe myself to come here,” I admitted. “Right after arranging this appointment, I scheduled an upcoming tattoo session as an ‘incentive’, or reward, for getting through this ordeal.” She and her assistant were both tickled.
At the end of the process, procedure, whatever, she started talking about next time. 
How cute, I thought to myself. She thinks there will be a next time!
“You did so good today — you should get a sticker!” she raved. “No, wait — not a sticker… a TATTOO!” she corrected herself, laughing heartily.
***
I called Charlie immediately following the event.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“I’m soooooooooo glad it’s over,” I breathed. “The doctor was really nice, though, and she definitely helped make things less weird. I liked her so much, in fact, that I might go back again in three years!” I smiled.
I texted a friend as well: “I finally went! Will find out within a week or so if I’m dying.”
And then, fully clothed and gratefully returning to my normal abnormal car and life, I shook off my lingering anxiety with every step forward and thought to myself, isn’t the sky so blue and beautiful today? 
Still here,
Aun Aqui

Trying to Remember

Yesterday, I overheard a co-worker utter the word snow and immediately perked up in my cube.

“Hey — snow — are we supposed to get it?” I asked, already teeming with excitement.

“Yep!” she replied. “Tomorrow!”

 

I allowed myself to feel thrilled, but not overly so — it is, after all, early December in Birmingham, Alabama, and the last time we got a mentionable amount of snow was in mid-January THREE years ago. Nevertheless, I sent my hopeful intention out into the universe and then went about my business.

 

When I woke up at 6:25 this AM, I was absolutely amazed and delighted to see a light amount of snow spiraling delicately to the ground. My best friend Charlie scrambled some celebratory eggs and fried some festive hash browns, and then I sadly bid him and the pups goodbye. 

 

When I began driving to work, I was startled to realize how quickly the snowfall was gaining momentum. My entire windshield became so thoroughly clouded that I had to pull over, roll my window down, and then get back on the road with my head precariously sticking out of the window in order to navigate at all.

 

Seconds later, I felt my phone vibrate three times and dared to hope that I knew what it was. I paused at a light, checked my messages, and sure enough, I was right: work had been cancelled!

 

“Thank GOODNESS,” I texted my boss. “I was about to DIE out on these roads.”

 

So instead of working, I have spent the whole day relaxing — playing outside with my German Shepherds, re-potting a few plants indoors, and remotely completing two college finals: one for my Spanish class, and another for my creative writing class (my third short story).

 

IMG_20171208_085909_366
me and mama (aka Tycho/Taco/Rough)

 

I’m sharing the story I just submitted to my professor below, but I would like to preface the story with this disclaimer: I grew up with a sick brother and took the backseat because of it. I’m not at all bitter. In the fictionalized recollection below, I’m simply attempting to navigate, process, and imagine what life might have looked and felt like back then for an almost-four year old.

 

So here it is… my third short story this year.

 

Trying to Remember 

by Jace Yarbrough

 

The time will pass so quickly, Rosie,” she whispers in my ear. I’m not yet four years old, so I may or may not understand or believe her, but she is mother; she smells wonderful, looks beautiful, and around this time, I call her a beauty dance, which doesn’t make sense.  

“Lucy, we’ve gotta go,” he says; tall, broad-shouldered, and with a thin and dark mustache hovering above his upper lip. He locks eyes with me and our hazy blues swirl together. Dad.  

“Love you, kid,” he says gruffly. I don’t understand it then, but he’s sad, not angry.  

Then the two of them exit through the same front door we all passed through together not even an hour ago. I turn around; my Aunt Debbie is smiling at me – she’s got shoulder-length brown hair, kind eyes, and a mischievous crinkle in her smile. “Come here, sweet Amber Rose! Time to have some FUN!”  

*** 

Way back then, my brother was sickly. Not cough or throw up sickly – more like tubes and surgeries and bone marrow transplants sickly.  

He had something wrong with his head, they said.  

“It’s not strong, like yours,” Grammy had explained months before, caressing his bald head fondly. I looked at the clear tube coming out of his nose and the other one sticking out from his bare chest. He certainly didn’t look strong. 

“You’re the well kitty, and he’s the sick kitty,” is how she explained it another time when we were visiting her quaint little shack in Clearwater, Florida. I had been a swimming mermaid in her backyard kiddie pool while Bob had been sitting still on a lawn chair, watching.  

But what usually made me the maddest was going to Miami Subs. Grammy couldn’t drive, so we’d walk up to the stop sign down the street and then catch a bus the rest of the way there. Once inside, Bobby would order a steaming basket of divine-looking and salty-smelling mozzarella sticks, but I could only get French fries.  

“He’s got pickier taste buds than you, girly whirlie,” Grammy would remind me gently. 

As an adult, I realize now that the price difference was probably a dollar or less.  

*** 

Back in South Carolina, I’d run up and down the hallways of the hospital… always trying to sneak peeks into other children’s rooms. Most of them looked like Bob: skinny, scared, and sad. I just wanted someone to have fun with. 

When we moved into the Ronald McDonald house down in Georgia, things were a little more fun. There was a big bathtub near our bedroom, and Grammy, who had suddenly become a long-term visitor from Florida, would fill it up with tons of soapy, hot water and then sit on the tile floor outside of the bath tub while I splashed merrily inside of it. She’d even bring out a couple of teacups and we’d have tea parties together. I don’t remember there being cookies, but I hope there were. So I’ll choose to remember there being cookies. And mozzarella sticks.  

The tea parties continued to occur for a few good weeks until Bobby took a turn for the worse.  

*** 

One bad day, the doctor said some things that mom and dad really didn’t like. Mom started crying and dad looked mad. The mean doctor said something about weakened immune systems and six months left and give him a good Christmas

I liked Christmas. sniffled loudly and rubbed my nose against the back of my hand. My mom looked over at me. Stared. Sighed.  

Soon, mom, dad and I were piled up in the family’s yellow station wagon and driving up from North Augusta, South Carolina to Toledo, Ohio, where I was FINALLY going to have some fun. 

When I try to remember what it looked like outside of the car’s window, I can see Spanish moss hanging off of the trees like the skeletons of old scarvesI can feel us flying up roads where even Taco Bell signs were plated in gold, and I can also recall strange leaves – – gold, copper and gray, like jewelry mixed with ash — littering the ground everywhere. 

There were pieces of tire by the treesand bags caught up high in the trees. There were fallen trees, standing trees, leaves on the ground, and leaves on the trees…  

And they made me remember something pastor said at church once, back when I used to go; that the leaves that fall to the ground return to the soil to nourish the tree so that it can create the next batch of leaves, like cookies. And at the age of four, I already liked cookies.  

And then he went on to say that the tree will repeat this cycle over and over and over again. Until it falls.  

But for the majority of our car ride, I mostly remember an endless blur of trees and powerlines, as well as the oddly distinct smell of cold water. 

*** 

Debbie was fun. Lots of fun. 

For starters, she didn’t make me go to church, and she let me eat food my mother wouldn’t (like chicken nuggets at McDonald’s and tuna straight out of a can). She had a grandson named Kyle who was only a few years older than me, and he was equal parts tormentor and best friend. I can’t remember the exact kinds of games we played together – could have been video games, pool parties, or rounds of hide-and-seek — but I have a good feeling when I think about him… like, I know that we had fun. Looking back on it, he didn’t appear to have tubes or stitches, which probably made having fun a lot easier. 

Debbie claims that I was easy to take care of. “Except for when you had you’d have one of your famous sit downs in a store,” she clarified. Back in South Carolina, I would cry until I couldn’t breathe if someone crossed me… but in Ohio, the apparent equivalent of doing that was collapsing onto the floor of a store and staking out for as long as a person would let me.  

I remember feeling a sense of belonging with Debbie and Kyle and the others… I was learning a new side of the family, and falling very deeply in love with them. 

But then I was at the pool one summer afternoon – tip-toeing across hot pavement and dipping my toes into chilly water — when I looked up and saw mom and dad.  

They looked so happy. I was so confused.  

“Oh Rose…” My mother sobbed, bending over and scooping me up.  

Looking back over her shoulder, I watched the bouncing pool disappear with each step she took, and I felt very, very sad, just like a cancer patient.  

*** 

“You sure this is a good time for her to return?” Debbie asked quietly. 

“Oh yes, Bobby has stabilized so much,” my mother breathed, smiling.  

Debbie drummed her fingers on the sides of her glass, nodded four times. I had seated myself right beside Debbie and found myself staring up at her. She looked down at me, smiled… but the smile was strained. 

“And you haven’t given any more thought to what I mentioned a few weeks ago?” Debbie continued. “In that letter I sent you?” 

My dad cleared his throat. “We want to take her home now, Deb,” he said. 

*** 

And that was that. Cold arms hoisted me back into the station wagon. Nearly a year had passed, and it hadn’t changed at all.  

I sat in the backseat alone. Mom and dad’s murmurs reached me sometimes, but mostly, I played with my Etch-a-Sketch (a gift from Debbie). I missed her eyes, the sweet drawl in her voice, and the way she’d hold me in her lap while we watched Disney movies together.  

Outside of the window, steam was rising off of hot, stained asphalt. 

After many hours had passed and old signs came into view, I began to remember life here… life before Debbie. 

The memory of giant pickles in red and white cardboard boxes and orange-dusted French fries that never lasted long, disappearing from our fingertips while the middle schoolers played ball. 

A fair had come through town once. In my mind, the air still smelled like sugar as someone deep fried funnel cakes for the church school kids.

I remembered that there had been a stream by our house, deep out in the woods. Tadpoles lived in it. I used to check in on them whenever I could, and whenever I saw them, I wondered if they’d really turn into something completely different someday, like Grammy said they would. They looked fine and happy the way they were. Why change? I thought.  

And I recalled, with great joy, that the gas station just outside of our suburb had green alien lollipops. I reallliked those. I’m not sure what kind of candy Bob usually got. Was Bob still in the hospital? Wasn’t he my brother?  

*** 

The car stopped suddenly in a strange driveway.  

My parents exited the car first, and then dad tugged my door open.  

“Welcome home, baby girl!” he sang out.  

“Home?” I asked.  

Grammy and Bobby were standing out on the front porch of a house I didn’t recognize. Bobby was still bald and just as skinny-looking, but from the corner of his lips, a smile had begun to spread. 

In a slow, monotone voice that I also didn’t recognize, he struggled to say: “Hiiiiiisiiiister.” 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

$9.99

 

The magical, disappearing, reappearing scarf

Five weeks ago, I was picking up some guacamole at Whole Foods after leaving my evening writing class. Since I was already there, I figured I’d also grab a 12-ounce Mocha Maca Rebbl drink for the next morning (it’s my current beverage of choice, although LIVE Kombuchas are still my absolute favorite — two years straight now!).

From point A (the produce section) to point B (the grandiose beverage case that’s parallel to the deli), I passed through Whole Body, an area of the store that features vitamins, soaps, bath salts, deodorants, hats, scarves, and other seasonal clothing items. One scarf in particular drew my attention; I followed its beckoning, felt it with my hands, snuck a peek at the price tag, and then left it with a sigh. Out of my league. 

The following week (while getting groceries), I passed by Whole Body again. I craned my neck to see if the scarf was still there — it was. A sense of relief flooded me. I continued walking.

And then several days LATER, after another creative writing class and an evening hankering for guac, I walked right up to the scarf, took it in my arms, and confirmed what I already knew to be true: I was in love.

But the price tag hadn’t changed.

 

So I returned my scarf to its temporary location and scurried over to a nearby team member who was working the floor.

“Heyyyyyyy!” I greeted him. “Sooooo do you know if any super secret clothing sales,” and here, I wiggled my fingers at him, “are coming up soon?”

 

He wiggled his fingers back at me and squinted his eyes. “Yessssssssss they ARE!”

 

In a week, I discovered! Just a week!

 

“WONDERFUL! Then I’ll just go hide that scarf over there…” I laughed, walking away with a wave.

 

“What scarf?”

 

“Oh, the black one over there, outlined with copper — I was just kidding, though,” I hurried to say.

 

He shrugged. “It’s yours,” he said, walking over to it. “What’s your name?”

 

“Jace…”

 

“Alright, Jace! We’ll hold it for you until the sale date rolls around.”

 

 

 

Charlie picked the scarf up for me a week later (we discovered that the sale was actually taking place two weeks later, but I just couldn’t bear waiting any longer; the opportunity cost was, I decided, worth having it now).

 

And I’ll never forget the day we debuted ourselves to the world. I was training a new hire at one of my credit union’s local branches when Charlie walked in with it hanging delicately on his arm. Within seconds, it was hugging my neck.
“Have you seen my magical scarf?” I greeted co-workers.

 

“What makes it magical?” they asked.

 

“I can feel that it’s magical… and just look at it.” 

 

I wore it for a week, and every day, it felt magical. We went together like burritos and guacamole. Until it disappeared.

 

***

I remember the day. Friday.

 

I was heading to work in green corduroy pants, and on my way out the door, I paused by the hat-jacket-and-scarf rack.

 

“I… guess I should wear my green scarf today,” I sighed, realizing that I shouldn’t do my usual thing of obsessing over a new item and wearing only it when other things might match whatever I’m donning more closely.

 

So I put on the green scarf. No need to foreshadow here… I’ll just come right out and say it: Bad, BAD decision.

 

When I woke up on Saturday and reached for my scarf, it was gone. And when I say gone, I mean GONE.

 

I checked the laundry room, the closet, cupboards, glove boxes, and drawers… I searched, in vain, underneath dusty beds, short tables, and shadowy kitchen sinks… and I even called some of my usual spots (Urban Standard, Whole Foods, and Bargain Hunt, because I’d been there a few days before)… but it was nowhere to be found.

 

“Will you please see if it’s underneath the deck?” I asked Charlie on Sunday, thinking that maybe the one of the shepherds had drug it outside and stashed it away. But it wasn’t there, either. I didn’t want it to be destroyed, of course, but when he gave his report, I was completely devastated… because not knowing where it was was even worse than not having it around.

 

Gone, gone, gone. I dreamt about it, during the day and at night, and the question of where the hell it went and was has remained infuriatingly – and devastatingly – unanswered.

 

***

 

And I just knew that I couldn’t live without it. It was Bruce-colored… black and copper, effortless… simple and sentimental.

So I had Charlie track down the name of the company who had made the scarf and then I perused their wares online. I couldn’t find anything similar, which triggered a spike in my sense of alarm.

But on the website, I was able to locate an email address for these producers (Gypsy and Lolo), so I sent them a message with a subject line that read: “I miss my scarf!

 

In the body of my email, I explained the scenario — falling in love with the scarf, denying said love on two occasions, and then surrendering myself to it on the third… I proceeded to detail the loveliness of the scarf, the wonderful resemblance it bore to my late German Shepherd (the truest love of my life), and then I clicked send, feeling iffy on whether or not I’d hear back from a human being but at least relieved that I’d truly exhausted all of my resources.

“I honestly think that someone broke into the house, took the scarf, and left… just to drive me crazy,” I murmured to Charlie that evening.
“That is insane,” he whispered back at me, squeezing my shoulder gently as we continued watching Cheers.

 

***

And then one morning, something amazing arrived. An email.

 

When you look back on your e-life (aka your electronic life), certain text messages, emails, and phone calls stand out firmly in your mind — the ones you couldn’t wait to get, right? Contact from people you were just DYING to hear from…

 

Well this email stands out in my mind as one of “those.”

 

I opened the message quickly, skimming the email at first and then going back to fully read it (and reread it). In short, the office manager believed that they had an identical scarf in stock.

 

I called her on my lunch break.

 

“Hi — this is Jace! We’ve been emailing?”

 

“Yes, Jace! Hi! Yeah, the scarf… I think we have that one here. It’s got black stitching all throughout the scarf and a khaki color along the edges, right?”

 

“Right, black and copper… very simple, but very stunning?”

 

“Yep. That’s our Amber Scarf. I can get it out to you today.”

I gave her my card information right over the phone — yes, I paid for the same scarf twice, and because of #truelove, I did not even CARE — and then a package from California arrived in the mail just three days later, which was yesterday evening.

Charlie and I were leaving the house around 6 PM, en route to Lowes to save a few plants from the “final breath” rack (you know… the discounted, sickly-looking ones that they’re all too ready to throw away). I popped the mailbox open on our way to the car, feeling undeniably hopeful but not TOO much, and was thrilled and startled to discover a small brown package nestled inside.

 

Inside of the car, I opened it.

 

“Even if it isn’t THE one, I will still love it,” I assured Charlie (and myself), the crackly sound of plastic and paper rustling against each other filling the car.

 

But when I gently pulled the lavender-colored paper aside, I finally found it. My scarf. 

 

IMG_20171125_090354_391

 

Today, I’m wearing it on the couch at Red Cat. Charlie, who is sitting beside me, is working on his novel – Legend of Bruce (which you and I both cannot WAIT to read) – while I’m enjoying recounting the story of my scarf over pumpkin spice coffee and Gouda grits. We picked up some Japanese persimmons at the farmer’s market on our way in here (as well as some Pink Lady apples and a bottle of fancy caramel bourbon sheep’s milk sauce — sounds weird, but doesn’t TASTE weird!) and we’ll be making a few stops on the way home, including a trip to the antiques store on 5th where I hope to find a few more good-sized pots. One of my plants (whose name is Bucket) is sitting inside of a literal sand bucket right now, and he is not pleased.

 

Later on today, I will continue playing my new video game, Hue, while wearing this scarf… shortly thereafter, I will eat dinner (apples with caramel sauce and a thick slice of homemade bread that Charlie baked at 6:00 this morning) while wearing this scarf… before 9:00, I will take a shower while wearing my scarf, go to sleep while wearing my scarf, and someday, I will die a death while wearing my scarf and be cremated with it still on. Because frankly, I fucking REFUSE to lose it. Again. 

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

$9.99

My eleven-minute beer bash

They’d given me a free pass to the beer garden, and after perusing the entire outdoor market, I decided that it was time to use it.

My friend and I approached the beer garden’s entrance where two men stood conversing.

I greeted both of them, showed one of them my little orange entry card, and then watched him shake his head.

 

“You’ll prrrrrobably want to wait until 2:30 to use that,” he said, indicating the card. “This session is ending in eleven minutes, and if you wait until we set-up again, you’ll have a whole hundred and twenty minutes to enjoy the garden.”

 

eleven
“Eleven” from Stranger Things. PC: Google Images

 

My friend nodded her agreement. I also considered the man’s advice, and although it was sensible, I didn’t want to wait another 41 minutes before entering the garden — I’d been volunteering (first) and then exploring (second) all morning, and the odd November heat was making me tired. I also hadn’t eaten anything all day, and I also missed my German Shepherds and had a few story critiques and Spanish assignments to catch up on.

 

“I think I can do it in 11 minutes,” I said, firmly presenting my pass.

 

His eyes widened. “Whew… alright lady. What kind of beer do you like?” he asked, wanting to point me in the right direction, I guess.

 

“I like wine,” I answered simply.

 

He and my friend laughed.

 

She turned to speak with me again, but he interrupted her, grabbing my shoulders. “YOU’VE GOT TEN MORE MINUTES! GO!”

***

When I was first given the pass to the beer garden, I immediately thought of current friends (and old friends) who might enjoy it more than I would; one was stuck at work, another one would be hard to get the card to, and the third one was an out-of-touch dummy stupid-o storm.

Then, it occurred to me: I can enjoy the beer garden! I’m an adult! I don’t really like beer, or at least I don’t think I do, but this’ll be a good opportunity to broaden my horizons… to find out for sure.

 

So after being pushed into the garden, I took a few seconds to assess my surroundings: lots of people, loud people; the pungent scent of alcohol; little plastic tables littered about the small enclosure with unopened bags of chips on them, and booths with happy beer vendors stationed just behind them.

I nodded and turned to the left, planning on making a full circle.

 

The first beer I tried was cranberry-flavored. I actually really liked it!

The second one was some pale-ale, grapefruit-and-citrus-notes, yadda yadda yahhhh, and I did NOT like it. I discreetly emptied my glass beside a tree.

The third one was unremarkable, and I did not like it.

The fourth one was supposed to taste like a bloody mary, which obviously meant something to the girl who poured it for me, but I thought that it tasted like cold tomato soup and that it was completely unsuitable without a grilled cheese served alongside it.

I offered it to the ground.

The fifth drink purported to mimic a cream soda, but it was SO totally unlike a cream soda. What is WRONG with these people? I thought to myself. Their interpretation and description of flavor is so ODD!

So I went back to the first man who had poured the cranberry juice (aka good beer) and asked for more of it. Numero seis.

And then I left.

 

I was the first person to leave the garden and made a beeline for my friend, feeling a little giddy and a little sick to my stomach. I had probably consumed the equivalent of ONE glass of beer in ten minutes’ time. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon.

On the bus back to the parking lot, she leaned over and asked me how I was feeling.

“Oh, just fine!” I assured her. “And I’ve already got a plan in place — if things take a turn for the worse and I need to vomit, I’ve got my purse unzipped,” I smiled, gently patting the bag.

 

***

 

Conclusion: I prefer wine. 

 

Before the beer garden, I spent the majority of my time exploring Natalie’s booth, Natalie being a cool, middle-aged Jewish gal from Huntsville. She makes glass artwork — pendants, earrings, sun catchers (are those a thing?), treasure dishes, etc. — and I’m a repeat customer.

I purchased two of her creations this year: a pink dragon pendant (for me, a symbol of female strength) and an interesting pendant-necklace that the artist had handpicked for me.

“I really think you’ll like this one,” she said, approaching me. It featured a symbol representing the word truth on a radiant pink background.

“It’s perfect,” I said. “A, I just reconciled myself to the color pink recently, and B, I’ve just discovered a way to keep the bad side of my imagination in check. It’s like, on a routine basis, I’ll imagine something awful, or just unpleasant, happening, and I’ll waste soooooo much time on the idea,” I sighed. “But the other day, while I was right in the middle of one of these reverse-fantasies, a word hit me out of nowhere: Fiction.” I paused. “And right then, the reverie ended. I’ve been employing the power word ever since, and it’s working. It’s helping.”

It’s like the agnostic equivalent of saying get thee behind me Satan, I laughed to myself only.

 

I’m wearing both pendants today, and I intend on wearing them for a while. When you discover something new and you know that you need to really hold onto it, it’s good to keep little reminders close to you… sometimes, even hovering right above your heart.

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Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

 

The stories we write…

“I want to kill myself,” she admits. We all nod our understanding, or look at our desks, or tug on our coat sleeves.

“I want to kill him,” another says, chuckling. We don’t know who she’s referring to, but we laugh a little.

“I wish my dad spent more time with me,” a young man whispers. “When I was growing up, I mean,” he adds, a bit louder.

“I just wish I could get a grip on my OCD,” a brunette grumbles, fidgeting.

“I wish she was dating me instead of a complete asshole,” he says, arms crossed. I notice his foot tapping mutely against the carpet.

“I hate my mom,” a boy to my right spits. “It’s her fault he killed himself.”

***

Tuesday night therapy sessions — that’s how I’ve come to look at my creative writing class.

We all come prepared with stories we’ve written — fiction. Fiction we’ve painstakingly crafted, letting inspiration blaze ahead of us so that we could scurry along behind it with an extinguisher, seeking to show readers things instead of tell them; striving to make readers empathize with the narrator, the villain, the main characters… to fall in love with them, even.

So we choose a lens; a narrator. Ourselves, often — other times, a friend or a family member or an unnamed god.

Then we settle on a frame of mind; a perspective. We drop thoughts like breadcrumbs, and then use action to move things along… we give our characters words, using these words to portray their personalities and to trigger reactions in other characters, and then we insert more thoughts, more depth, more soul. We create and resolve conflict — but in doing so, we carefully decide what to make perfectly clear and what to leave maddeningly ambiguous.

And we secretly weave ourselves, our souls, into our stories — we bare them openly, we star right in them, and then we call them fiction.

***

“It’s just annoying,” my favorite one says. “She’s totally in love with him, I get that, but all she ever talks about is how great he is… well what ISN’T great about him?” she demands, exasperated. “What are his flaws? What ANNOYS her about him? Who is she apart from him? I know NOTHING about her, OTHER than she’s head over heels for this guy…”

 

I nod over at her, wide-eyed. Damn. It felt just like a slap on the wrist, but a good one… the kind of jolt I needed.

That was one story.

 

“I think it’s unfair,” a soft voice offered, looking at a boy who had authored another story. “You talk about how the kid daydreams about his dad, ‘the crap father in a suit’, but what about the dad? What’s he thinking and feeling? I bet he’s probably daydreaming about the kid.”

 

Everyone awwwwwwed. “Write that in, maybe,” the boy who had been speaking continued. “Show us the dad’s struggle… give us the full picture.”

That was another story.

 

“When she’s on her way to the lake, you mention her hair in a tight fish braid, with just a few wisps blowing around,” I began, staring at my fingers, the desk a blur behind them. “But when she slips under the ice, you describe her hair as flowing freely in the water…”

I paused. “That’s so beautiful. That tells me that death was freeing for her — accidental, supposedly, but freeing. Why?” I looked up at her, the dead girl. “Why was she unhappy? Why did she hate herself?”

That was a third.

 

And here’s a fourth:

“I love how the setting conjured such strong feelings and memories in you,” the professor said, looking at me. “I particularly like the line that read:

‘A scale suspended from a wooden plank in the ceiling whispered my mother’s words back to me: You shall be weighed and found wanting.'”

***

There are different ways of doing therapy; you can eat it up, shop it out, talk with a friend or a counselor, or simply work your grief into a story. You can call it truth or you can label it fiction; either way, observing and feeling your grief through the eyes and heart of another character lends a unique perspective…

You begin to realize how capable the character is of getting through it, growing stronger, and making their situation better… and sometimes, if you think about it long enough AND you let the truth of it really sink in, that same hope, courage, and awareness translates over to your own situation.

 

I was crying softly late this afternoon, walking through an antiques store in search of a pedestal. Two of my plants have been sitting on a shared shoebox, their low height poising them just short of the sunlight. I wanted to improve their situation.

But I wasn’t crying for them. I was crying for myself. I felt terribly sad, and terribly lonely in that sadness.

So I focused on the things I saw; I imagined them in my house, or in friends’ houses. I wondered who had owned these things before, and whether or not they were happy with themselves or the things.

I found the right pedestal, but more importantly, I found a nice surprise for my best friend — one that was high up, just a little out of my reach. Spotting it completely turned my day around.

I located an employee with my eyes, an old man, and made my way over to him to ask for help. He was happy to oblige.

As we walked back toward the out-of-reach object together, he turned to look at me. “You always come in here with the nicest smile,” he said, smiling himself.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied, returning the smile.

He patted me on the back, grandfather-like. “You’ve got a pretty smile, and you’re a gorgeous girl… really, you are… just keep on smiling.”

***

This is what depression feels like. This is the color, the tone, the texture of it.

20171102_173246

 

Our journal assignment for Tuesday night’s class: Observe a body of water.

 

My journal entry: Reflections 

 

I smile, you smile. I frown, you frown.
I feel kind of hazy, and you look really hazy.
It’s hard to tell if we’re actually feeling the same, or if one of us is lacking in authenticity.
When the sun is shining and the air is still, you’re so complacent. It’s nice for a while, but you grow bored with it.
So the wind picks up, and the sun goes down.
Your temperature declines with it… and sometimes, nature throws a fit for you. Just for you. But then the people leave, and you crave them; you crave every kind of chaos. So the fit ends, and the people return, and their children throw stones at you, for you.
When they throw stones at me, it hurts; and when they throw stones at you, I know it hurts, because your color darkens, and your substance becomes complicated… you’re like a spasm of water and rock and dirt and stone. It’s okay; I’m a mess, too.
But you’re always so smooth when I touch you. Never jagged, not ever, though you can be cold as hell.
And you look so small when you’re so far away… but up close, I just can’t seem to see anything else.

Still here,

Aun Aqui

Otoño: a short story by Jace Yarbrough (for her creative writing class)

I remember a windy day.

Leaves crunched noisily underneath your worn sneakers; I amused myself then, imagining that they felt honored to die for you. Or were fallen leaves already dead? No matter. I walked beside you — beautiful, living, animated you — and kept stealing glances over at the red stubble on your face and the sea-green dreaminess of your eyes. If I could cast a spell and freeze you, for just a minute or an hour, I would spend all of that time staring at you — memorizing every freckle and wrinkle, each of your pupils and all of your pores.

You were leading us to a creek we’d visited before. I knew we were getting close now, because I could recognize the downward slope of the trail; there was something about it. A sort of tug or pull to it. Traffic sounds were almost able to follow us here, but they ended at a point several yards away from the water where they would wait patiently for me.

As these sounds begrudgingly retreated from us, I began to realize how squeaky my own sneakers were. What an annoying sound! I decided that the leaves here tolerated my presence only because it included yours.

And here, right here, I tripped right over a rock that had wedged itself halfway into the ground. I was able to catch my balance by grabbing onto the thing closest to me: you.

“Heyyyyy… you alright?” you asked, the smoky texture of your voice slicing through mid-November coolness and lighting a flame somewhere near my ribcage. The warmth of it heated the top layer of my abdomen, and the sudden rise in temperature made me feel like passing out or vomiting. I wished that I had a ginger ale.

“Oh, yeah!” I laughed, letting my arm linger on your right shoulder. Totally cliché, right? But I did it anyways.

I dropped my arm slowly, and you intercepted its fall, smoothly taking my hand in yours. So smoothly… so easily! It’s like, I knew you hadn’t been thinking about doing it or waiting for an opportunity… you just did it. Just like that.

Why did I always have to overthink these things? Imagine being brave about us without mustering any real guts? Always waiting for the right second, the perfect moment, an impossibly well-timed opportunity… 

I waited too long. I can’t help but hate myself for it, because the smallest thing — pressing my lips against yours, leaning my head on your shoulder, or just kicking my left foot into the back of yours — could have changed the timing of things… could have changed everything. 

***

When the creek came into view, you released my hand and crouched down near the edge of the water, where you dipped your fingers into it.

I knelt down beside you, letting my knees touch the ground and feeling the wetness of the soil soak through my faded denim jeans.

“I hope we’ll find some good ones today,” I said.

“Oh yeah… I’m sure we will.” So confident. So sure.

You lowered your head closer to the water and gazed at it with a ridiculous intensity, like you were some kind of anesthesiologist or chemist who needed their measurements to be very, very precise.

I huddled closer to you as you drew closer to the bed of the creek. Your fingers were already gone, and I watched your hands and wrists follow them underneath the water and could tell when they were touching sand; I knew this because the creek’s glassy surface became turbulent and murky as a cloud of debris bloomed. You’re definitely the type to cause a commotion. Gorgeous, brilliant, and constantly producing — always creating and changing and tinkering away. I often wonder if you’ll ever settle down… with yourself, with life, or with somebody.

The muscles in your forearms tensed suddenly, which told me that you’d just collected your first samples. I stared briefly at those forearms, straining to see the muscles and tendons and blood and bones underneath them, and I sighed without meaning to.

I don’t think you noticed. In a flash, your hands were breaking through the water. As you slowly unclenched each of your long and slender fingers, you grinned and inclined towards me so that we could inspect these specimens together.

***

“Oooooooh… I looooove this one,” I cooed, touching a reddish stone with my fingertip.

“That is a good one!” you agreed. “Go ahead and set it to the side.”

I reached into my back pocket, pulled out a plastic bag, and deposited the stone into it.
We perused the rest and found nothing remarkable. You took your time flinging each stone back into the water, watching the SPLASH, the pulsating ripples, and the tiny waves composing them. You took your time with your processes; you could never just set a ball in motion and then walk away from it, because you had to see and understand the impact of your actions. I wish you had walked away sometimes. I really do.

But you repeated your experiment another six times; reaching into the cool water, scooping up handfuls of slippery rocks, and then presenting them to me for review. We found three other beauties out there: a mossy-green, diamond-shaped stone; an opaque, black stone; and my favorite: an iridescent purple stone with the most interesting grooves and ridges. It was hard to classify the exact shape of it; it definitely wasn’t shapeless… it was just odd.

“What do you think turned this one purple?” I asked, clenching it in my hand a few times, so that I could get a good feel of the shape of it, and then bringing it closer to my eyes.

“Jesus,” you answered straightaway, with a tone of conviction.

We both laughed. My mother despised you for your atheism, which is, I guess, ironic, since Christians shouldn’t really despise anything… including people.

I heard a loud popping sound.

“What the fuck was that?” I whispered, startling.

“Hmmm… probably just somebody out hunting,” you answered, slowly and calmly. “It is, after all, the season for killing lovely little forest animals in the false names of necessity and manhood,” you continued irritably. “Primitive jackasses.”

I was glad you were a vegetarian; that was, at least, one thing my mother could appreciate about you. She kept five dogs on three acres and couldn’t see the difference between them and a pig, cow or chicken. I kept two German Shepherds myself and completely agreed with her.

“Ugh,” I breathed out in agreement with you, beginning to disarm myself.

“Anyways,” you continued brightly, looking over at me, “we’ll wrap some hemp around this purple one later and make a necklace for you,” you smiled.

I grinned back at you. “Yayyyyyyy! But what about you?” I asked. “Which one of these do you like most?”

You didn’t even bother to look before answering. “Any of them. They’re all equally lovely. I’ll take whichever one you think suits me best.”

I peeked into the bag and considered the characteristics and subtleties of each of them: mossy green – natural, organic, possessing strong intuition and an intrinsic goodness; mineral red — aged, altered, and either tarnished or seasoned; opaque black — classic, pure, dark, whole, mysterious…

Just then, a buck — a gorgeous, majestic, and strapping buck — came bolting towards us from the other side of the creek; he leapt into the water, barreled through it, and then emerged on the other side, passing us in a flash. There were splashes, and waves, and ripples galore, much more of them than any of your discarded stones had caused, and I just knew that you would be tickled by it.

“HOLY CRAAAAAAP,” I exclaimed, as another POP sounded. “Did you see him? Oh my gosh — how COOL was THAT! He looked so STRONG — did you see how fas–”

I turned to look at you, and when I saw that you were looking at me with positive alarm, my voice disappeared.

I noticed the panic in your eyes first and the little red specks on your neck second and then the big, dark red blot about an inch below your collarbone, which was growing wider with each heartbeat, third and then I looked up at your wide and terrified eyes again. Fourth.

“No…” I whispered. “No… Clyde. no —– CLYDE!”

Two men came rushing towards us; I could hear them – their heavy footsteps and low voices that sounded angry and afraid — but I couldn’t make out a thing they said, because I was too busy holding you against me… whispering in your ear, and crying in your ear, and screaming NO, and scream-crying no, and thinking this must be a dream, this can’t be real, what are the chances, this can’t be real, no WAY is this really happening while your sticky cotton t-shirt soiled more and faster and stuck desperately to mine.

***

It smells like fall again.

Like cool, spicy, bittersweet decay. Leaves cover the street like carpet while the shadows and light behave strangely around each other. The wind rustles the leaves, animates the trees, and carries the scent of fresh ground coffee toward me.

I also caught, or thought I caught, your scent just now — salty, musky, and cinnamon-like… familiar. You smell like “home”, like “safe”, like “that one”. You also smell like “the creek” and “that deer” and that pain” a striking pain that looks and feels like a general, visceral, oozing and searing achiness.

It always feels like the spirits are out this time of year.

An opaque black stone is tied around my neck and, like the ticking of a clock, it knocks lightly against my chest bone with each careful step I take forward.

As the wind blows the leaves around, I watch them tumble forward; are they racing? Are they fleeing? Are they delighted by the ghostly chill in the air or perturbed at being disturbed? They’re just too lovely to be sad, or scared, or dead; too stubble-red and ocean-green and too oddly-shaped and wonderful to ever leave, to ever not be here.

Even as I’m trying hard to sidestep these crackly, colorful leaves, I’m realizing that avoiding all of them is impossible, because they are everywhere and when they inevitably crunch underneath my tired feet, in small groups of two or three, I like to imagine them leaving with the spirits, and following yours, and the final noise that each one of them makes sounds just like a wish: “I am going to find you again.”

Like you, I don’t believe in a god, so while I don’t know where you went or where the leaves are going or where I will be heading after all of this, I do believe that I will also find you again, simply because I want to believe that I will, and in a way, I have to believe that I will, or absolutely everything will just fall apart. So I’m waiting. And waiting. Always waiting, waiting, waiting…

Too long. I know I’ve waited too long.

The coffee smells equal parts bitter and sweet; my cup of it tastes like creek water and ashes.

Oh, I used to love the fall. 

 

 

Note from the author: I edited this story at a cafe this morning but actually drafted it three weeks ago, before the big epiphany

Isn’t it interesting to see how processing and coping with grief requires all kinds of activities, trains of thought, and exertion — physical, mental, and emotional? Isn’t it intriguing — how grief can MANIFEST itself using a full range of emotions, WRITE itself into fictitious stories, and expertly WEAVE its way into the strangest dreams?

 

 

Aun Aqui

 

Like my blog? Read my book!

I self-published my first novel in August 2017 — a delightful tale called “Jinx the Rabbit.” Whether you’re 5 years old or 500 years young, I feel sure you’ll enjoy it. Purchase the book by clicking below and then I’ll ship your signed copy to you within two business days! (Or, if you’d prefer to order the book on Amazon, you can easily do so by visiting the website and searching “Jinx the Rabbit”!)

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“The Living Dead”: Faking Death and Forgetting Dreams

In the past month, I’ve attended (3) book slash poetry readings, and each of them held my interest (for different reasons).

The first reading took place in a performance arts center; the poet dressed and delivered with a distinctly dramatic aesthetic, and despite the exaggerative flair, her work really was moving.

After sharing a few selections, she opened the floor to questions. I didn’t think I’d have a question, but suddenly, my hand was in the air.

“Yes?” she asked, nodding at me, a dimly lit figure in the wide audience.

“Do you ever dream of poems and then wake up unable to remember them?” I asked. As a musician, this has happened to me before (with songs), and it is always depressing (and frustrating!).

A few people chuckled at the question. She took a long while to discourse on the idea, thoroughly drawing out her reply… but I think that her ultimate answer was no, not really.

***

At poetry reading number two, an old white man shared pieces from his collection — a series of poems dating back to when he was a kid, earning money for college at a local bakery.

I enjoyed listening to him, and when he finished reading and asked if anyone had any questions, I did. Just one. 

“Do you still dream of the bakery?” I asked. For him, the bakery had been a terrible (but interesting) place. I assumed that he had dreamt of working there while working there (don’t we all?) and felt sure that, a solid forty-to-fifty years later, his mind was still so seared by the memory of it that the fucked-up bakery somehow wove itself into his subconscious.

“Sometimes,” he answered quietly.

 

I wonder if he wakes up feeling exhausted from those dreams, I thought.

***

At the one and only book reading I attended, a woman read an excerpt from her novel — a terrifying scene describing a narrator who had just found themselves trapped in a zoo where a gunman was on the loose.

“What would you do here, at this juncture?” she asked the audience. “How would you react?”

No one said anything.

“Pretend you’re dead,” I offered, shrugging. “Fall down and pretend you’ve been shot.”

She shook her head. “No one’s ever suggested that!” she laughed.

 

Really? I thought. I could remember thinking, even as a child, that if a crazy person ever approached me, I would act crazier; that if a robber ever demanded my money, I’d comply with their request and act like I even admired their courage and audacity; and that if somebody ever came at me with the intent to kill, I’d simply act like I was already dead. 

And all of this in an effort to stay alive. Isn’t that interesting?

***

We do lots of things we don’t like in order to stay alive; we work long hours, pay boring bills, change out the tires on our cars and try to adhere to some kind of diet (whether that means going vegan or gluten-free, eating only pickles for an entire week, or smoking one packet of cigarettes a day instead of five).

But why do we do it? What makes life so WORTH it?

Why do I put forth such an effort to sustain this odd existence? I asked myself in the car late this afternoon, driving straight from work to a volunteer event. I mean really — I work so that I can afford a house and food and clothes and buy coffees and burritos sometimes and the BEST times are when I travel and go on adventures but all of this is really just experience… in a word, it’s experience.

I want to experience delicious tastes, and great views, and warm kisses on my lips and a strong hand holding mine… I want to feel the sun on my skin and the wind all around me and I want to hold my big, fat German Shepherd in my arms, just like a baby, and never have to say goodbye to her…

And then what? Because the Shepherd’s going to die, and I’m going to die, too. So is it – life – really just all of this on a loop “forever” — forever, until I die?

 

Pretend, for just a few seconds, that the universe isn’t infinite — that it’s massive, enormous, but has an edge to it. What’s there, at the edge?

 

Now, consider this: Our lives feel infinite, don’t they? We all seem to believe that we’re just somehow not going to die, despite the clear evidence surrounding us… but there is an edge to our lives. A bolded line that we meet and… step over? An end that we arrive at and then… cross over? Maybe. I don’t know. Try to imagine it: You take your last breath (you will someday) and then…? What the fuck happens next? 

 

Some people believe in a heaven of sorts, and my theory is that they like to think that “this” (eating, drinking, and being merry with pets and friends and family) will go on forever. I believe that it’s a comforting thought for them to have — a trusted coping mechanism. And I guess that a never-ending this sounds nice to some people, but to me, the mere idea of it is depressing… because this ISN’T enough! This on repeat, on an infinite loop, still wouldn’t be enough!

 

I feel like we should be hoping for and dreaming of and striving for something massive, excellent, incredible, phenomenal, BRILLIANT, magical… but I don’t know what the hell it is. Do you? Do you have any guesses at all? I’d really love to know.

 

landscape__31_by_sylar113-d7m8a3n
photo credit: somebody named “Skylar” — I suppose that endless space travel with other life forms (who we call “aliens”) would be nice (interesting, adventurous), but again, that’s assuming that the universe is infinite… and I just can’t fathom a universe without an edge.

 

Playing dead and dreaming of life,

Aun Aqui

TWO YEARS to get over you: MY BEST WEDNESDAY EVER

It’s hard to put today’s epiphany into words, but I’ll try very hard to do so, because of how moving and staggering it was.
For the last two years, I’ve carried a burden so heavy and so massive that it’s completely overshadowed me. Burdens are supposed to be external, aren’t they? Something tangible, entirely outside of you, that you pick up, shrug onto your shoulder, and then tote around with you… grunting and sweating and aching all the way. 
This one was different. It felt like a chunk of my heart had disconnected from the rest, shriveled up, withered away, and died. Instead of losing weight, it somehow gained it — and then it magically appeared on the outside, on the ground, right there in front of me. 
When I reached down to pick it up, I discovered that it was too big to fit into my hand, so I tried to cup it with both hands and found that those weren’t wide enough for it, either.
So I grabbed a bag, dropped that piece of my heart down into it, and then threw it over my shoulder.
And that the little dead heart followed me around everywhere… to work, and to school… into cafes and cities and dreams. I showered with it on, slept with it on top of me, and drove around with it beside me. It was, genuinely, a constant companion — this cold, hard, and non-responsive but oddly treasured thing. I identified with it too strongly to part with it.
Until today.
I was uninterestingly driving back to work after spending my lunch break at the library (where I picked up a few items — most notably among them, the third book in the Ender’s Game series and a DVD copy of Office Space). As I meandered into the left turning lane, my eye spotted something small and orangey-brown rolling around on my car’s floorboard.
At the light, I bent down to pick it up: it was an orange-and-ginger scented lip balm. I furrowed my eyebrows, trying to place when I’d gotten it and why.
I realized that I’d purchased the tube of organic chap stick years ago, before we split up; do I like ginger-scented or ginger-flavored things? Heck no. But he did. I’d bought it for him. I wore it because he liked the smell of it, and the taste of it on my lips.
I grimaced. How many times, and in how many ways, had I compromised my authenticity to please him?
And why do I still miss him? I asked myself for the seven billionth time. I was sick of missing him — truly, so sick of it! Isn’t it awful, feeling something you don’t want to feel and finding yourself dreadfully unable to figure out how to stop feeling it?
“You don’t miss him,” an unusual voice answered my question. “You miss a statue. A memory.”
The statement jolted me. Like, REALLY jolted me.
A statue? I repeated.
A sudden wind carried the burden right out of my driver’s seat window. I flinched, startled to no longer feel it there. I always felt it there.
You mean… something inanimate? Not alive?
The light turned green.
…something fixed; permanent; closed — something that can’t change and that WON’T change? 
The car behind me edged slowly forward.
“Yes,” the voice murmured. “You love your memories of the person, and the picture of them that you keep in your mind… one of who they were then. But they’re gone, Jace. That person is, essentially, as dead as your brother, as your dog, and as Rose… irretrievably gone.”
I pressed my foot onto the gas, knowing that the dead part of my heart was, right then, crumpling to ashes on the concrete behind me, fading fast, forever.
***
I don’t know why on earth it suddenly made sense today, of all days. A Wednesday! A dose of reasoning and a healing salve just apparated, appearing right out of thin air. And not a moment too soon. 
I’ve been losing my time grieving a strange loss; the loss of someone who is still alive. And it’s hard to exhaust that kind of grief, you know? To really get rid of it… because there’s always this secret bed of kindling called hope — this hidden, eternal, dancing flame named desire.
I was stuck in love and had to feel – over and over again – the terrible frostbite of love unrequited — the rejection, the heartache, the nausea, the devastation, and the end-of-the-worldliness of it all. What was I to do with it, this love? Seal it up and store it in the freezer — hope for an opportunity to defrost it later? 
Nope. I couldn’t even do that — freeze it, file it away, or bury it underground. Instead, I carried it with me everywhere… like a burden.
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But here’s what I realized today (in my heart, finally, instead of in my head, where nothing seems to stick): The person I loved has evolved and transformed and morphed and changed a hundred times over without me standing by, seeing or hearing or feeling any of these changes. And because of that disconnect, the person who is still alive — working, living, laughing, breathing, and eating — is a complete stranger to me. I do NOT know them and really can’t love them, because how can you love somebody you don’t know?
And guess what? I’ve changed a hundred times over, too — drastically, radically. So I’m a stranger to them as well.
So what we’ve really got here is two strangers. Are they in love? Of course not. This was realization number one. Number two (believe it or not) hit me even harder: These strangers — do they have anything in common? Could they possibly re-learn each other, fall in love again someday?
The answer is – I’m happy to say – no.
We don’t speak anymore, but there are things that I know, and here, I’ll address the person directly: My lifestyle is so different from yours. My morals, and standards, and hobbies, and goals, and dreams… they are the exact opposite of yours. We aren’t riding the same wavelength anymore, or tuning into the same station at all. I find myself feeling more centered and authentic and strong every single day as I challenge myself to develop personally and professionally and to confront the sadness, strangeness, and loneliness within myself, and when I hear other people talk about you, they say that you play video games and watch movies now. That’s all I hear, but hopefully, you’re doing more than that… like playing the piano, writing insane guitar riffs, or thinking about going back to school. Because while you aren’t the love of my life anymore, you’re still talented as hell, and it would be a hell of a shame to waste it. 
Regardless, you’re finding your own happiness, and I’m discovering mine. It’s a powerful thing to experience. It’s an adventure! And climbing this mountain solo… talking myself out of suicide and navigating a divorce and figuring out who I was and am and want to be… well, I don’t think anything else could have bolstered my self-esteem more. I did it! I made it! Without you. I didn’t know that I could do such great things without you… and I honestly never thought that I could be as happy (let alone happier) without you. But I am. I’m getting there now… right now. 
I threw away the lip balm today. I asked myself, what about the cards? The cards that contain your handwriting and say the sweet things that I like to replay every now and then? I threw those away, too. I don’t need them anymore. It’s exhilarating… it’s strange! I stumbled across a childhood memento of yours two months ago — a stuffed ranger cat; something you gave to me seven years ago as a token of your enduring love —
and when I asked myself, should I text you about it? Ask if you still want it or if I can donate it? I answered no. I’ll let my best friend drop it off at your work instead.
And that’s how I know. I’m not trying to find a reason to read your words, hear your voice, or have your attention anymore. I don’t need you to like me, or miss me, or be proud of me, or think about me. I’m free of you. I am finally, finally free of you. The anger is gone, the grief is dying down, and the past is graciously creaking its wide-open door closed. Peace. The past and the present have finally made peace.
And for the first time in two years, I notice myself thinking: I feel ready for love — new love, not old love — to enter my life now… now, or SOMEDAY! Maybe AFTER I’ve enjoyed this #singlelife for a little bit longer…
I’m over you. Who knew it would ever actually happen? And on a WEDNESDAY… 
Still here,
Aun Aqui

TWELVE BUCKS?! That’s TOO MUCH, Bob!

I have nothing very interesting to write about this evening, but since my beloved grandmother has asked that I please not “let her down”, I will post a short update.

Today, I attended a conference for trainers up here in Seattle. I really enjoyed listening to the keynote speaker at 8:30, the same person’s mid-morning talk, and then a few other afternoon sessions led by different speakers (where we discussed how to onboard new employees, keep them engaged during training, and adapt to the changing paces and media content of classes).

 

After the conference, I followed Google Maps to a nearby vintage clothing store: Bon Voyage.

I stepped inside and was immediately taken by the ambiance of the store. I leafed through an intimately small collection of racks, each of them featuring all kinds of treasures, and selected a few items to try on. Of the four, one fit perfectly: a black and copper dress with a fun (and cool) fringed hemline.

 

“Ohhhhhhh, I just loooooooove that dress,” an employee raved as I neared the checkout register.

“Thank you!” I smiled at her. “I love daleks — you know, in Doctor Who? — and the copper ones are my favorite, and THIS dress is black and copper,” I explained, realizing, halfway through my reply, that her compliment didn’t really necessitate an explanation.

 

“Ahhhhh, yes,” she murmured kindly, quickly stepping past me.

 

The other girl who rung me up (and who I assume owns the store) was also very kind, and she was also very excited.

“My mom just flew in from Norway!” she cheered, lifting her shoulders up to her ears and cracking a grin. “And I’m charging you $14 for this dress instead of $16, because four people tried it on today, and you’re the one it fit,” she said.

“Oh wow — thank you so much!” I gushed, surprised.

 

At that moment in time, I may or may not have knelt down and noticed slash purchased something cute within the glass display case that I knew my best friend who may or may not read this blog post would like. 

 

“Ahhhhhh — yesssssss… I was JUST crushing on this thing a few minutes ago,” the store owner may or may not have said, sighing as she may or may not have unlocked the cabinet and reached her arm inside of it. 

***

After quietly exiting the store, I went on the hunt (as only a vegetarian can) for dinner, meandering down the dimly-lit streets by Elliott Bay and carefully side-stepping an upturned cardboard plate, a packet of condoms, forty seven crushed cigarettes and the absolute loveliest red and orange and yellow leaves. The leaves, at least, were nice to look at. A fall wind had been sweeping up and down the streets all day long — tickling my neck, blowing through my hair, and playing with the plastic bag in my hand — and as it continued carrying on into the evening, it just felt extra magical.

As I walked, I noticed tents everywhere — erected behind buildings, tucked into alleys, and even located right off of the highway. I saw a woman lean out of one of them and ask a man to light her cigarette; I looked away.

The streets smelled like weed, urine, and – sometimes – laundry detergent. I stepped across them quickly.

***

As far as dinner was concerned, I wasn’t very hungry; I’d had Indian food for lunch and it had been so tasty that I’d eaten nearly half of the portion they’d given me. It had also been a bit pricier than I’d expected, so I wanted to offset its costs with a cheap dinner.

 

I’ll just duck into a grocery store and grab a few things, I decided.

 

I asked Google Maps where I could find a grocery store, crossing my fingers that a Whole Foods would be nearby, but the closest place was not a Whole Foods. It was, however, becoming much darker outside than I was comfortable with, so I went with it anyways.

 

When I stepped into the store, it appeared to be a mom-and-pop-shop type of deal… disorderly, offering a myriad of things, and with a distinctly homey feel to it.

Let’s see… cheap and easy…

After approximately seven minutes of perusing, I decided to purchase the following:

  • a 16-ounce bottle of Smart Water,
  • a 12-ounce bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer Zero,
  • a .75-ounce wedge of cheese (three-bite-sized), and
  • a 15-ounce jar of chunky, mild salsa.

 

This should be like eight bucks, I estimated (as none of the items were marked with a price tag).

“11.57,” the cashier announced.

Fuckin hell, I thought to myself, handing the man my Discover card.

“Can do Visa instead, yes?”

“Sure,” I replied. You’ve already jacked your prices up like mad, but if me swiping a Visa card will get you a little more interchange income, I’m happy to do it.

 

So I lugged my light, brown paper bag back to the hotel and stepped into an elevator. A woman joined me, and as I waited for us to arrive to the 11th floor, I noticed a Whole Foods shopping bag in her right hand.

“Hey — how far away was Whole Foods?” I asked her, nodding towards the bag.

“About a fifteen minute walk!” she smiled.

.

I exited the elevator, swiped a card to unlock the door to my room, shed my cool kid, red denim pants onto the floor and then began my merry little feast.

 

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Getting to know Salsa… I can understand why s/he was so pricey now: SALSA CAN TALK!

 

Sidebar: IN ALL FAIRNESS, the cost of living is higher in Seattle than it is in Bham, making $11.57 not THAT big of a deal. I just like to rant, is all. 🙂

 

Goodnight,

Aun Aqui

Still here