A Piece of My Past

Last night I learned of the passing of Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, and The Wildabouts. The news didn’t sink in right away. If anything, in these days of technology and instant media coverage, I worried about this being a hoax or a mistake. But soon we learned the truth; Scott had passed away in his sleep.

I was instantly saddened by the loss of a creative life but also the loss of a part of my childhood. You see, I was a teenage in the midst of the 90’s and as most teenagers do, I found myself in the music that radiated through the radio. We sat by the speakers of our boom boxes and stereos with a cassette tape cued up so we could quickly begin recording our favorite songs. So many songs with the missing first few seconds due to our fingers not being fast enough to punch record when we heard the song we had been waiting anxiously to catch. Then, slowly, CDs made their way into our hands and we played them relentlessly on our skiddish, chunky CD players that we handled with extreme care to avoid any skipping.

His death is an instant reminder that, while my teenage years will always be a part of me and who I am, the past is stretching farther and farther from me. It’s now a distant memory to be retrieved and reminisced about when a part of it dies. My teenage years wearing flannel mixed with sunflowers and listening to alternative rock on KROQ is fading and only comes to mind when I hold a memorial for another piece that has passed away.

So in honor of Scott and STP and my angsty, teenage self, I’ll listen to his sultry voice and remember all the times I sang with him. I’ll remember the all lyrics that felt personal to me then and still have an impact on me today. I’ll uncover those dusty memories and hang the pictures in my mind once again as if they are fresh and new. I’ll live like I was 14 again and I’ll try not to dwell on the fact that in a day or two all of these pieces will again fade into the storage deep in my heart and mind to be forgotten again until another part dies and we are forced to hold another wake for our past.

Pressure Point

Tightly gripped,
pressing hard,
the tension feels ready to break.
Can it get much worse?

[Yes] But of course![Always]

Now that you mentioned it
here you go
a little more to strain
your mind
break your frame
severe your heart from your

Soul.

Steam begins to RISE
and the earth falls

a

w

a

y

but the pressure
(P R E S S U R E)
never fades.

Hold on,
it gets better!

[So I’m told]

But what if, just
maybe…
Instead I need to let go?
To release this burden,
pressing around my heart.

To free me…

Okidata

I stood limply, my hand resting against the cabinet that housed our servers and router along with other cables and cords all mixed and matched to make a roadwork of electric veins running along the floor.

An ink cartridge shuttled across the green bar paper, leaving behind a trail of numbers, customer names, and totals. The tape running from one side of the printer to the other shifted rhythmically as the shuttle pulled along the black stream of ink.

It was soothing to stand there, my body still except for the faint movement involved with breathing. I was lucky that was an involuntary body function or I may have completely forgotten to breathe. In the room next to me I could hear his voice as he explained to her the details.

The service would be held after the weekend. His son was planning the details. So far the family knew as did most of the county due to the paper printing the whole fucking mess.

I closed my eyes and listened to the scuttle of the printer as it spit out the report for that morning’s receivings. Such a small detail in the much larger scheme of life; a few pages with black ink organized into rows of information to be read, recorded and filed away, never to be thought of again.

The side of the conversation I could hear had turned into monosyllabic sounds in response to the person on the other end. It made sense, there wasn’t really a lot to talk about when suicide is involved. Just the details of the where, when, how and with what can be really discussed. After that the conversation becomes a silence so deep your bones echo it back through your body as you wonder to yourself the last question: why?

But instead of asking out loud, you keep that one to yourself. You do it a little out of respect for the dead and more so for those still left behind to pick up the shattered pieces of a broken life. But you ponder this question in the silence that follows the news that someone you knew, maybe someone you loved, took their own life.

Why did they do it? Was their life so bad that they saw death as the only way out? Why would they do this to their family and children? Why did it have to end this way?

Why?

The Okidata printer stopped and the report flopped over the edge into the basket below, pooling into a folded stack of figures and data. I bent over to pick it up and slowly pursued the front page but could see only a blur of black in between green and white lines with perforated edges framing it.

None of it made sense. The numbers, the collected data, the reasons, the grief. It all swirled together into a cloudy mess of anger and worry and sorrow.

Why? Why would there always be one question left unanswered?

Why did it have to end this way?

A Mess

It rings, tirelessly.
I know what it means.
Another day, another thought
another endless procession of meaningless
chatter! chatter!

My thoughts swirl and swim
cloudy and partially formed.
They crowd and bump into each other
causing a massive jam-up of
synapses.

The Good float through and mix with
The Bad,
a sullen murkiness muddles the view

(on look! A list to-do has mangled with my future Dreams
tangled together so I don’t know if I need to buy eggs
or
a House with a garden!) and I’m blinded by the

Confusion.

If only I could have one thought at a time,
one worry before another forms.
If only I could control and maintain my concepts
of Grief and Love in

[separate spaces]

then I could go on with my day.

Don’t Turn Off The Lights!

The stairwell rings from the constant dip-dip of a leak somewhere within. The stained metal walls echo each bump and scrape as we shuffle down into the dark abyss. Rust paints the walls in drawn streak like vomit drying from giants standing overhead.We’ve stepped into a deep steel chamber of stairs leading down, down with no bottom in sight.

Creaking beneath our feet, the stairs stumble long, turning after every 10th step, taking us deeper and deeper. We pass a slit cut into the tainted steel walls every other floor and light shines in to illuminate the grimy rails that hug each turn.

My father is ahead of me, holding my small hand. I must be about seven years old based on how his warm, dry hand envelopes mine. Our footsteps sound dull and flat in this rusted tin-canĀ  as we march steadily forward, down towards a funeral for a friend.

No one speaks and I feel as if I should try to comfort my father. His brown coat hangs limply on his worn figure as he marches on, leading me with his head hanging low. I try to speak but can’t find my voice, can’t drum up the vocals needed to make words.

I know why we are here, to mourn the death of a friend. But who the friend was or how we know them eludes me. The metallic clanging of the many feet trodding along the whisper thin, scrap metal stairs ring low in my head. A soft hum of mourning embraces my mind and heart.

As we reach the bottom of the stairwell, a stack of cardboard boxes await us, each filled with soda cans. Shiftily we search for any watching eyes as the people in line before us snatch up a box and duck beneath a low hanging doorway. Into another dim room with dust clouds floating through the thin sliver of light afforded by the slightly shuttered window behind us, each person in the funeral procession dips into the inky blackness and disappears.

I told tight to my father’s hand, uncertain of the dark room ahead but not necessarily afraid. Just grief stricken. I feel the feelings of loss tighten around my heart, squeezing inside my chest. Panic rises as I feel like I can’t breath, like all my happiness is being pressed from my soul and I begin to weep.

My father turns and I see nothing but aching sadness in his eyes. He slowly presses his long, pale finger against this lip and motions for me to be quiet. Then, as silently as a ghost walking through the memories of their living days, my father lets go of my hand and stoops to pick up his box of dusty, old soda cans.

My tears roll in silence as I watch his stooped back slip into the well of darkness ahead. Shuffling feet against the metal and the soft banging of hands using the railing for support circle around me as my tears fall, in sync with the leaking stream from above.

I reach forward, my sobs bubbling from my small body, and grab an old, dilapidated box of cans. They bounce against each other, tiny and thin, making small clacking noses as I step forward.

Looking up, my tears blurring my eyes and a stinging inside my nose burns as I try to hold back my sadness, I realize the inky well ahead of me is grief. The physical manifestation of sadness.

This room, these stairs, this place is what sorrow would be if it took form.

And I can’t get out.

Jinxed

In the early dawn light, just before the sky began to fade from inky blackness into the azure hue of morning, she felt his arm snake around her waist and pull her into his warmth. She sighed her happiness into the silent still air around their bed as he bent into her shape and together they dozed.

With a kitten’s purr, she shifted her shoulders to fit against his chest and let their contentment settle around them.

The alarm wasn’t due to ring for another 30 minutes but she knew she wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep now. With his breath against her skin and their legs tangled together, she felt herself slowly drift awake as the world outside slowly shifted from its own drowsy state of motionlessness.

She loved this time of the morning. When the breezes in the trees outside rustled the leaves with a gentle hand and the deep breaths of the sleepers ever-so slightly disturbed the silence. When everyone else remained asleep but, with her eyes closed, she was awake and thoughtful.

Drawing the cool sheet up against her chin, she lay there still, listening to his breath draw in and out, wondering if he was dreaming and what of. If he saw worlds of color and odd dancing figures or if his dreams were more realistic.

She felt him move slightly and smiled as he bent to kiss the back of her neck.

“Morning,” he said in his sleepy voice.

His deep, vocal bass rolled against her shoulders and her skin prickled excitedly. Hearing him first thing in the morning was one of the things she adored most, both for being the first to be greeted by him but also for the sleepy, thick pitch when he was just rousing from sleep. She smiled and greeted him in return.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked.

“Not really, just resting I guess.”

“Anything on your mind in particular? Or are you just being selfish and hogging the blankets all to yourself again?”

Snorting quietly, she adjusted the excess of fabric she never realized had gathered on her side. With the blankets rearranged and their bodies resting in the warmth of the cocoon they built, they both settled for a bit, trying to lengthen the early morning in the hopes of pushing away the day ahead.

But he was right, there was something on her mind. A question he had asked recently, one that would change their futures. She hadn’t answered but he hadn’t pried. He was giving her space and time.

She didn’t need it. She already had an answer. And a suggestion.

“Hun,” she started in a whisper. “About the other night…”

“Yeah?”

“Well, you know my answer is yes.”

Without a glance, she felt his smile beam across his face, like a child on Christmas morning. His arms squeezed against her in a tight embrace and he kissed her shoulder. Biting her lip, she continued.

“But I was thinking, what if we used my mother’s ring? You know, the one she passed on to me.”

Before she could continue the shifting of the pillow case beneath his head rustled as he shook his head in response.

“Nope. We’ll go out and pick out a ring. A fresh start, something new.”

She bit her lip. It would be nice to have her own but she was practical, logical. There was a perfectly fine ring not being worn just waiting for someone to use it. It seemed wasteful.

His body was still and she knew he was gauging her hesitation. He cleared his throat.

“I just think you could use a ring that’s uniquely yours to start this off right. Doesn’t need to be fancy but something that’s your and only yours. Besides, we don’t want to jinx us before we actually say ‘I Do’.”

Chuckling she responded, “I never knew you to be the superstitious type. What’s with this ‘jinx’ business?”

Glancing over her shoulder, she could see just edge of his face, enough to notice the smile had faded. Furrowing her brows together she turned to him.

“Well, it’s just that…” he began with hesitation. “I think it’s a good idea we start fresh and not with something from a past that isn’t what we want for our future.”

A deep breath collected in her chest. She knew what he meant. Pain circled through her heart as her pulse quickened and tears sprang to her eyes.

She knew exactly what he was alluding to.

Not long after they started dating, a deep rift tore open within her family and the ring she now had in her possession had not been worn for some time. It was simple and gold with bands twining around each other, housing a diamond at it’s core. It had become a symbol of so many feelings, both good and bad. Her childhood had been beautiful and filled with great memories. But the dissolving of her parents’ marriage had cast a shadow over the lovely diamonds and the tightly wound circle, symbolizing eternity together, a bond never broken.

The little girl in her still held onto the ring, wishing to wear it as her mother had in the heyday of their marriage when together they were a family, whole and solid. But the woman now laying here, agreeing to her own future with a man she loved dearly, saw the ring as a broken promise.

He was right, the ring would jinx it. Why carry on a past into their future that neither of them wished for?

Rolling into his arms to face him completely, she saw the grief lined in his face. But it didn’t reach his eyes. There she saw the love he gave her unconditionally. The light of future plans they had together, or dreams and wishes she wanted to make come true with him. Together they had weathered the storm and found they were stronger together than apart. While she watched and suffered along with her parents, he stood by her side, held her hand and let her cry in peace.

Smiling through her tears, she nodded and he nodded back. His smile was gentle and comforting as he reached down to wipe away her sorrows. She took a deep, cleansing breath.

“No more talk about that ring, ok?” he said reassuringly. “We’ll figure it out.”

And together they settled into the quiet morning, their arms encircling each other tightly.

Missing Sunglasses

My sunglasses were missing. I couldn’t recall the last time I saw them or when I’d worn them recently. But I suddenly found myself needing them that morning and realized they were not where they should have been.

Standing in my room with my blouse on but untucked and my work trousers unbuttoned around my waist, I scanned the surfaces around me, hoping to spot them staring back at me with a look of disapproval at my state of undress and my room’s lack of organization.

My nightstand stood by my unmade bed, a book I was trying to finish reading resting on top of it in front of my alarm clock. A lamp my friendsĀ  decorated for me as a house warming gift when I moved in stood behind my book, surrounded by a thin layer of dust. But no sunglasses were waiting for me there.

A tall beaten bookshelf stood snugly in the corner of my room across from my bed. It had been my grandmother’s and I vowed to never let it be donated or sold. My grandmother, much like myself, had been an avid reader and her bookshelf was always full to the brim with literature and poetry, books of all shapes and sizes. As a young child I loved it; the smell of the pages and the piles of reading a delight to snoop through on warm summer evenings when I stayed with her. She would sneak in books for me along the bottom shelf and, like a game of hide and seek, I’d thumb through the stacks to find my hidden treasure. Finding it, the only children’s literature among the rows of fiction and classic stories, I’d scurry to her side where she waited in her arm chair, her knitting in her hands and yarn rolling about her feet. I’d wave the book at her, beaming proudly and she’d reach out to me into her lap and read from my find.

I scanned the ground, a smile on my face as I let the memory of my grandmother fade, and noted that a day of picking up the laundry and organizing my project folders might do me some good. After a steady glance around, ,y littered floor showed no signs of relinquishing my hidden glasses so I knelt down and began to search.

My hand scraped along the carpet, wincing as my skin brushed against the fibers. I unearthed a long lost book, a few dollar bills, a hair-tie and some mismatched socks probably considered long gone and lost in the dryer. But no glasses.

After spending a small chunk of time in a fruitless search of my room for the carelessly misplaced glasses that I desperately needed this particular morning, I realized I was getting frustrated. Soon the tears welled up and I could feel the hot pressure of anger ballooning behind my eyes. I stifled the streams as I pushed and piled things around my room in a hurried whirlwind of motions. I was now running late and the fact that I knew my sunglasses to be close by but could not find them was about to drive me mad.

Absolutely mad.

Soon the pressure released with a small choked sob from the back of my throat and a streak of warmth ran down my cheek. Now I was crying? Over sunglasses?

But I knew it had little to do with my glasses and that I was searching for something else, something lost that I knew could never be found.

Suddenly I reached down and grasped a handful of clothing and tossed them behind me. I reached again and again, pulling up everything I could get my hands on and throwing them around in frustration. I was flinging more than just clothing. Curses and words of resentment flew through the air to pile on top of the useless items I had laying around. I sniffled and sobbed, grabbing at anything within reach and throwing them about, making what was already a mess even bigger.

The morning slowly passed around my flurry of anger and after awhile I found myself spent. My face was slick with sadness and my hair was sticking to the ruins of my makeup, a blonde streak of color tangled with in my view here or there. My back rested against the edge of my bed and my shoulders hung limply as I slowed my breathing and tried to stem the flow from my nose.

She was gone and there was nothing I could do or say to make it better. Trust had been broken, threads snipped and memories sullied.My family would never be the same.

My head was heavy and throbbed. I could barely breathe through my nose and as I lifted my eyes to survey the damage, a headache echoed through my skull. And there they were, sitting at the mouth of my handbag, glaring back at me with disdain and a hoity look of aloofness. My glasses had been there all along.

Standing gently, tears quietly dropping now that my tantrum was over, I reached for my cell phone and dialed the office. Sherry answered and expressed concern at my congested tone. I told her I was ill and needed a day off. She cooed and told me to drink tea and rest up, her honest concern for my health making my tears flow again.

Like a child, I wiped at my eyes with the edge of my silk sleeve, leaving a stained trail of grief and half applied mascara along my arm. I agreed to take care of myself and hung up. The phone leaped from my hand and made a dull smack as it landed in a soft pile of laundry at my feet.

Slinking to my bed, my unbuttoned slacks fell away and I pulled off my blouse in a single motion. Reaching down into the fray on my floor, I grabbed a pair of worn sweatpants and a tee-shirt from my varsity days. In a fluid motion, I dressed myself and then rolled into bed, pulling up my comforter till I was huddled deep beneath its folds.

And there, under the comfort and warmth of my bed, I cried myself to sleep.