Nameless

It was cold on the train. But I knew cold. Cold was a friend to a girl like me. An orphan with dirty hair and legs so long my petticoat showed. And your petticoat never showed. Never. Indecent the women with lace gloves called me as they walked through the orphanage –and I grew older as new babies came each day and went away into loving arms, never to remember the boxy rooms that stank of fever and looked out over fields of nameless graves.

The train jerked and the book in the only bag I had ever owned fell to the floor. All eyes were on me. It was a new book, with pictures that were colored in red and blue. A book they all knew instantly I must have stolen. But oh! I wanted a book, what good was it to read without words?

Just then a man with spectacles and a grey wooley beard began walking near me as the boy to my right stood up and took my hand

“There you are! Come on, Mother will want you to help her dress the girls.”

I nodded, playing along as he pushed the book back into my faded grey-thin bag.

When the door to the compartment closed he let go of my hand, waving away my words before I even decided what it was I wanted to say.

 “I know, I know- you’re welcome. And I’m Jim, by the way, James- if you want what Gramps calls particulars- James Dandy.”

When I didn’t say anything he went on.

“You ever heard of us Dandy’s?”

I shook my head, attempting to cover two holes on my stained dress by crossing my arms- making sure that my hand with the one glove I owned was showing.

“I’m sorry I stole your book,” I said in a whisper as the boy turned, “but when you set it down and kept kicking at it I figured you didn’t want it and–”

“It’s okay,” he said, turning back to reveal dimples that made my twelve year old knees bend. “I have ever so many books back home, I leave ’em on trains all the time. You stopping at Yorktown? Hmmm, thought so- what’s your name anyway?”

I froze. It was shameful to admit that I had never actually been named anything, but been called girl for so long it was the only title I was ever really allowed to own. For orphans owned few things.

It was at that precise moment, when names like Cecilia and Josephina were flying through my brain that a tall looking gentlemen with snow white hair- holding a long gold chain attached to a delicious watch- rapped on the glass window of the compartment ahead and the boy left as quickly as he had appeared; shooting me a wink as I stood staring at the empty hallway, listening to light laughter and the tinkling of glass hit glass in the first class car beyond.

On my way back to my seat I knew I had alot to think about. But first things first, I needed a name.

Whirlwind

 

Summer sunlight at my back, childhood behind me

And all there is – is you

Waiting for me on a blind date, waiting to set me free

For so long I have been blue

Hold me

Kiss me

Touch me

Mold me

Make me yours, give up everything

This is forever, fly on broken wings

And all there is- is you

I’ve held out- promised to be true

As long as All there is-is you

Take me

I’m yours

Calling out your name

On fire, tired of being tamed

Nails digging into darkness

As we become one

This is more than just a passing fun

Forever is a long way away

But not when I’m with you

I scream

You stay

Together is the only way

 

Make me gold, silver…can’t go back to blue

And all though the night- all there is- is you

Show me what I’m living for

And

You always do

Reincarnation

The sun is like a lemon here. Bursting with yellow zest, and flinging sunshine straight into your eyes. The sky is azul, Spanish blue- and the ground reminds me of the old west, cracked and parched mountain soil mixed with desert sand. A breeze comes in from the ocean and I rest my eyes on a couple near the beach, wearing sunblock and silk. Mansions are as commonplace here as horses once were. My skin feels fresh, warm from the sunlight – as if I am straight from the drip dry cycle. There is a house, with an overhanging roof that has too many shingles- the gables are straight and all the bricks meet. It is called Silvershine, a funny word, named for the way the light hits the ocean water, sending crystal flecks across the long bay windows. I scan the windows for the old woman I expect to see, but there is no one and when I finally reach the front door I realize nothing is as I remember and when I turn the doorknob I realize I am the old woman.

Only, I’ve found a way to never be old again.

I have already forgotten what year it is, what year it is supposed to be. All I know is that I could believe I dreamt I was sixty nine- for today my hair is flaming red with no hint of the cold, sharp grey it had been only yesterday. When I was twenty six the first time I looked for every flaw- pinching and pulling myself for hours with tweezers, creams- hoping to erase the faint smile lines around my mouth, the stray chicken pox scar at my temple or the remembered scar of my horseback riding days. Now, I only see cream- smooth skin that I had forgotten. It is like touching a stranger’s face and as I gaze into my almost innocent green eyes I feel beautiful for the first time- wondering if this is how I always looked. A young man comes in just as look over my shoulder. He is dark and brooding- his eyes downcast so that perfect, paintbrush thick eyelashes cast shadows over his angular cheekbones. When he sees me, the suitcase he is holding falls from his hand.

“What are you doing here- I-” he cuts the sentence off midsentence as he runs to me for an embrace. I hold him for a moment- not able to stop myself from drinking in the scent of his spicy cologne, the taut strength of his arms. And then I remember why I am here. As soon as he pulls away to look in my eyes I plunge in the knife. I feel the shock, the horror and as his eyes meet mine I feel like a monster.

 And then I remember the accident that will happen tomorrow- the accident planned by him and his lover, the accident that will leave me in a coma for forty-three years- awaking in a different century- where medicine that should have let me die- saves me to wake up a tragic old lady.

As he falls backward, I pull the blade away, kneeling to whisper something into his ear. And then I walk out of the perfect front door. Out of the house he tried to kill me for, the house I went back to- after he had lived his life with her and been buried side by side in the family crypt.

I walk out, wondering if I hadn’t brought the knife- if I had smiled and kissed and caressed- would he do it? Would he let me get into the car again, knowing the brakes wouldn’t let me stop at the turn on the cliff? But I couldn’t take that chance. That was why I had asked to be sent back one day earlier. This time.

Tomorrow I would be on a plane and a young doctor would try to explain to me the new theory of time re-animation, something scientists are now just thinking about. I will shake my head and try to look doubtful as I search the newspaper for the obituary of a young man. The young doctor will go on, explaining the theory of relativity, Murphy’s Law and all other things that will be reinvented forty years from now. But I will smile and nod before he finally gives up trying to explain anything to someone as naïve as a young woman with girlish green eyes and wavy red hair. And then eventually we will speak about the man in the paper.

“It’s so sad, he was so young,” the doctor will say. And I will smile in my twenty six year old way and toss my twenty six year old hair. And tell him what I told my husband right before he died.

“Who knows, maybe next time will be different… if you believe in second chances.”

The Uninvited~ published in the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Anthology 2009

I checked my lipstick in the mirror and smoothed my black dress. You always knew what color to wear to a funeral, but no one ever taught you what to feel. Women trailed in and out of the church’s ladies room as it got closer and closer for the ceremony to start. I watched as a young girl of about eighteen stood at the sink next to me, her angelic brown eyes were red with tears and two crooked black mascara lines ran down her porcelain cheeks. It was silly, I know, but I felt guilty for not crying- wondering if it was impolite to not at least carry around a token crumpled tissue in my hand and smear my eye shadow a bit, just to blend in. As I grabbed a few Kleenex I remembered that I didn’t know the man in the coffin, had never met him, and when I reminded myself why- I stopped feeling guilty. The girl was staring at me now, on impulse, I dabbed at my eyes and she smiled because somehow that made me a comrade.

“I’m Kara. God, they say the funeral is the hardest but somehow I think it’ll be going home afterwards, knowing he’s not there.”

I leaned one hand on the sink as I shifted uncomfortably in my heels and nodded gravely, feeling like a spy whose cover might be blown. Kara went on.

“So, how did you know my Dad? Were you one of his medical students?”

I froze. Splashing a tiny bit of water on my face to stall for time, I suddenly wondered if it was a sin to lie at a funeral. Then I remembered it was a sin to lie at all.

Oh, well, I was never one for church.

“No,” I said, “But he had a hand in my birth.”

I struggled not to smirk at my own cleverness in the innuendo, but as I suspected it sailed right over Kara’s head.

“Oh! Well, Dad delivered so many babies… I suppose half the people here were brought into the world by him.”

 Maybe, in more ways than you know, honey- I thought bitterly, as I struggled to think of something to say.

Right. I’ve read so much about him in the paper. He was very…accomplished.”

She looked away as an older woman, heavyset in a garish too tight black and gold dress, beckoned to her with a fistful of white roses from the doorway.

“Well, it was nice meeting you but I better get out there. I think it’s starting.”

She waited for a response but I was sick of pretending. I forced a weak smile in her direction as she sailed through the door and for the first time since I got there, when I looked in the mirror I didn’t have to fake tears.

 

I didn’t sit through the ceremony. I had planned too, but as the lights dimmed, a projection flickered on the white screen, set over the altar. In just fifteen minutes, I watched a Wedding Day, the birth of two children and snippets of the kind of silly home video scenes that make up the hum-drum moments we call life. My eyes scanned the first row for Kara, and I recognized the long brown hair tied with a simple black ribbon instantly, the tilt of her head towards who I could only assume was her sister and mother. When her silhouette turned, her eyes locked mine for one moment, but I was already standing, excusing myself as I passed knee over knee, accidentally kicking a Bible that someone had sat on the floor. Back in character, I wiped away a nonexistent tear as a kaleidoscope of faces watched me walk out of the room.

 

The church was one of those quaint New England models where the cemetery started in the front lawn and curved to take up the valley behind it. I strolled briskly up the hill, crossing my arms to shield myself from the cold morning air as I scooted around the maze of in-laid tombstones. Although, I may not believe in church, I was still superstitious enough to avoid stepping on gravestones. The sky was paper-white and drops of water splashed my nose from the bare limbs of the overhead Oak trees, relics from that dawn’s lazy rain.

 

There was a white tent pitched at the site for the grave side service. I stared into the open ground where the casket would soon lie. The tombstone was simple. His name, birth and death followed by three words. Husband, Brother, Father.

 

I took out a folded, nearly grey, piece of paper and smoothed its wrinkled edges with shaky hands. I had planned to read it after everyone had left, just me and him, but this was better. After all, I reminded myself, he had never been around when he was alive, so what was the difference?

 

 

 

I read the letter aloud and by the time I got to the end, I had to force myself to lower my voice. What’s the point? I asked loudly to a crow in a nearby tree. He can’t hear me anyway.

 

I remembered reading somewhere that birds were supposedly lucky in graveyards, that the families of those who had passed believed, if they chose, some souls could come back as birds, watching their funerals play out before deciding to go back wherever it is one goes. It didn’t seem lucky to me.

 

But just in case, I threw the note into the open grave, my glaring brown eyes nearly mirroring the crow’s black ones.

“This is for you,” I said. I wanted to yell, scream, though only whispers escaped my lips.

“This will be the only thing to read to pass the time, so read it slow… and remember who wrote it, that way you can’t pretend I don’t exist anymore.”

 

I just stood there, a million things to say and nothing.

 

The Church bell rang, sending birds into the sky, flying back to wherever it is they fly.

I turned to watch the pall bearers in the distance. A gaggle of floating hands under a shiny box.

 

 

 

I kept my eyes down as I walked past the casket, but couldn’t help but glance up as I noticed Kara watch me pass her. I looked back and once again our eyes locked, her mouth opened as if to speak yet she was silenced by the tug of her mother’s arm. White roses fell from her open hand.

 

I walked down through a small inlet of newer graves, noting messages of love and more fresh flowers. One marked only as Daughter caught my eye, and I found myself wondering if he would have come to my funeral if it had been the other way around. Suddenly, I didn’t want to know.

 

 I waited in the distance, staring at statues of milk white maidens around the frozen Madonna. Caught forever in one lost moment. Eyes shut. Just like everyone else here.

 

I had the hot desire to tell Kara and everyone else there who I was, stealing their last moments with him for myself. After all, they had everything else.

 

As I walked up the gravel path,  beyond the turf, I watched another funeral procession start as visitors began trailing in. Just before I made it past the church, I watched a woman lift a small child out of a car seat.

“Where’s Dad-dy?” she asked as her mother wiped her face, “Where’s Dad-dy?”

 

I had been asking myself that question my whole life.

 

 

Whether hers was alive and well away from her or someplace else entirely didn’t make the answer any easier. I glanced back at the pall bearers on the hill and watched them disperse, still wondering if I should go back and talk to Kara.

 

Where’s daddy? I thought, repeating the little girl’s words. Where’s daddy?

 

I glanced at the ground and noticed the small, crumpled form of a crow, it’s eyes open towards the sky.

Looking upwards, I answered her question.

 

I  don’t know, honey, I still don’t know.

Make Believe

It was dark and the bed, though usually hard, felt soft and inviting. I slipped my legs under the long white sheets and felt my toes curl against the cold cleanness. The monitors at the side and edge of the bed blinked like tiny green and red eyes in the semi- darkness and I glanced nervously to door that was cracked, watching the bright bouncing light under it to make sure it wasn’t truly night- but only nap time.

 It wasn’t quiet. Not like at home. There was a busy-ness, a soft rhythm of murmurs and scurrying that told you people all around you were needing things. I pretended the IV that was attached to my hand was ivy and that I was trapped in a high tower, awaiting escape from a runaway hero. But the moment I got too caught up in the story, my arm pulled at the needle pumping blood into my veins and I felt a sharp stab that brought me back into reality.

 In a few moments the nurse would come and I could go play. Not outside, that was too dangerous, but in the playroom. The minutes ticked by slowly from the clock high on the wall. I always hated that clock. The roman numerals at the sides were too faded to be seen and the way the others caught the light made me think of the Cheshire Cat, eyes always ticking. Once in a while I could pretend the clock was a brilliant moon and the chipped blue tile far beneath it was an ocean. Yet, somehow the medicine they gave me always made the moon turn back to the Cheshire and once again I was Alice, afraid and alone looking to be big when I was small and small when I was big.

 The Nurse came in. Finally, I thought. I talked endlessly though knew she didn’t listen.

It didn’t matter. When she left I pulled out a pair of shiny black mary janes from beneath the bed and looked for the frilly party dress I had secretly stashed in the closet. In the playroom I wanted to be Shirley Temple today.

 After dressing, I crossed the room to look in the mirror. My face fell. My round brown eyes and dark lashes sat under a head that was bald and empty. I touched the top of my scalp as if it was not my own, feeling for hairs. There weren’t any. Angry now, I tore apart the closet, looking for the wigs my Grandmother had bought me for when we went out in public. Aha! I found just the one, a short, curly concoction, the color of honey, that made me feel even more Shirley-ish.  Now I was a person.

I swung open the door with a clash as if I was going for a night on the town, but closed it carefully- making sure no one knew the little treasures stashed within.

 The playroom was the third room in the hallway just past the cafeteria. I passed endless rows of families in chairs, parents looking worried and stricken. But I pretended not to see them. Today I was someone else.

 I opened the playroom expecting lots of children to be there, there usually was. New ones, old ones. But today it was empty. I flagged down a Nurse as if she were a waitress, asking if she had seen a little girl named Sarah. She was an especially good friend of mine, as we both liked pretending. The Nurse looked scared, almost horrified when I asked her, though, I don’t know why- she knew who I meant. She said she would come back later and have someone talk to me about that. I shook my head, already dissolved into a game of fairy tales as I ran back into my lonely playroom.

 I decided I’d pretend it was filled with children, and I was their entertainment. I laughed and sang, telling the little kiddies not to be sad, but happy. Before long, I imagined a room of laughing children. I could almost see the shadows on the walls. I swore I heard the squeals.

 A man interrupted my daydream when he knocked on the door and poked in his head.

“Yes?” I called, looking at him as if he were trespassing in a lady’s boudoir.

“Oh, I’m sorry dear- I was looking for the Children’s Illness Center, is this it?”

“No, this is the playroom.” I huffed testily.

He scratched his head as he stifled a chuckle. “What I mean is- is this the right floor?”

I stared at my fingers, angry that moments ago I had a shiny bright horn in them and now I could barely imagine a whistle.

“No! It’s not the right floor, now go away!” I said, nearly yelling.

And he did, giving me a shocked look.

 He didn’t ruin my day, however, and in a few more minutes I was back to the laughing children, being Shirley Temple or Alice as I sat under my clock that was really a moon and rowed against my tiled ocean. I felt tired and something hurt in a place I wasn’t sure what to call, but I pretended it was only because I had been a princess the day before nearly eaten by a dragon and that was bound to make something hurt.

 A Nurse came in a while later and asked how I was feeling.

“Fine!” I said loudly, lying. She smiled.

“You look fine too. Just fine.”

 And then we all went back to pretending, because make-believe was what we did best.

Teacher’s Pet- Excerpt from my Short Story Work

 

The air was stale and hot as Julie breathed in and she was beginning to feel claustrophobic.

She could hear the murmur of voices in the room beside her and she imagined bursting out of the closet door and walking straight out into the hall as if nothing had happened. There would be talk, yes- but there was always talk. She wondered if she was even the first student to have hidden in Mr. Jameson’s closet.

It didn’t matter though. Since he had her, there had been no one else. She was sure of that.

She leaned back into a row of coats that lined the closet’s wall and inhaled the scent of his cologne. His signature scent. She knew it by now, it was everywhere. On her clothes, her hair, her dorm room apartment.

Almost like a set of footprints trailing from the scene of a crime.

She wasn’t like this, really she wasn’t she told herself the first night he had kissed her. She even debated going straight to the Dean, but even if she had told the truth- she couldn’t have lied to herself. She liked that kiss, had wanted it- almost as much as she had wanted the valedictorian ribbon three years ago when she graduated from high school. Or the academic scholarship she won last year in chemistry. 

And she wanted him.

She knew it was silly to think he would actually leave his wife for her, but then again she had always gotten what she wanted in life- as long as she worked hard enough for it.

She nearly sneezed when she kicked some mothballs up from the floor but she caught her nose just in time. Her eyes were watering now and she took out a silver compact from the side of her ironed slacks. She wasn’t really pretty, she knew that. She was plain- with hair that was neither curly nor straight and a nose that was definitely crooked. Perhaps that was what made her affair with Mr. Jameson even more exciting. No one would suspect her, the dowdy looking Science major to have a secret relationship with a man like him.

She shut the compact with a click and studied the engraving on top. To my girl From MJ. He always called her that- and she suspected it was for affection as much as secrecy. No names.

 

 Never any names.

 

She put an ear to the door, a student whose voice she recognized as Jim was still complaining about his midterm grade. Get out, she pleaded silently, wiping the sweat from her brow. She was roasting.

Finally she heard the door shut. She knew the drill, wait ten seconds before opening the door. She had counted to six when she heard the door open again. She didn’t recognize this voice.

 

It was a woman and she was angry.

His wife.

Julie leaned her ear closer to the door and listened to the muffled voices, less muffled now that the woman was yelling.

“So, I guess you thought I wouldn’t find out. Is she one of your students?”

Silence.

“Yes. She’s a grad student.”

Julie’s heart skipped a beat. This was it. At last. And wasn’t that was just like him, lying to make her seem older. To protect her.

“And you’re in love with her I suppose- is that it?”

More mumbled words.

“I suppose you thought I’d kill you if I ever find out. But the truth is I don’t care enough to kill you.”

Something chimed in the background and made Julie think of a watch alarm. What time was it anyway? It had to be past ten, his last class had ended over an hour ago.

“How did you find out?”

“­———– called this morning.  We had quite an interesting chat.”

Julie was missing more words. Who had called, she wondered.

Something made of glass broke across the door of the closet and Julie’s ears buzzed at the noise, missing the last few words between them.

 

Finally the door slammed.

This time Julie didn’t wait and she flung open the door with smug excitement. She crossed the room and flung her arms around his neck.

“I knew you would do it, but now- so soon.”

She kissed his lips, as he stood frozen- staring at the door.

“Julie-”

“And that part about me being a grad student- ha! That was inspired!” she said laughing.

“Julie-”

“Oh, I know- I should go. No one knows I’m here and we shouldn’t be seen together. Not yet.”

“Julie!”

This time the tone of his voice was unmistakable and Julie turned, whipping her thin brown hair around her shoulders.

“What is it?” she asked, reaching to lay her hands on his chest.

But he stopped her.

“Julie, I wasn’t lying about the grad student.”

Her hands fell to her sides.

“What? What do you mean?”

But she knew. Of course she knew. She didn’t get straight A’s her whole life not to know what he meant.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you. Or anyone.  I never expected…”

Julie’s face was suddenly cold though her cheeks were flaming red.

“I suppose she’s beautiful. Isn’t she?” she said in a tone that he mistook for pitiful.

He reached to lay his hands on her shoulders, as one might do to a daughter.

“You’re beautiful too- in your own special way.”

She didn’t let him go on. Her mind reeled. This wasn’t happening. He was handsome. Accomplished.

Hers.  She had done everything right. Her mind ticked like a broken clock.

“Don’t patronize me. If I was beautiful then you would have chosen me.”

Her eyes flashed as she stumbled, she saw the watch on the desk next to a pair of scissors and a stack of papers.  She walked towards them. Her term paper lay face up on the table- with a bright red B written across the top. She looked at him, her head snapping sharply like a broken branch.

“I couldn’t go against my ethics and give you an “A”, Julie. There’d be talk.”

“Talk?” she said, her head ached and she reached over to flick off the light that burned her pupils.

 “Yes, in fact, you better go. After all, no one knows you’re here and perhaps that’s for the best.”

“Why would I go?” She asked as he turned his back to her. She looked down at the desk- the watch, the scissors- her term paper.

No one knew she was there, she thought as she walked towards him slowly.

And she always got an A.

Prose for the man I never knew

 

I never met my father.

There. I said it even though you may not have heard me. You know it’s strange, I have friends who were given up for adoption or whose parents left in the middle of the night and not one of them is as angry as me. Maybe that’s called self control though I’m sure if it is I wouldn’t recognize it. 

What does it mean to belong to someone? To be theirs. I often think of this when I stare at my son. He is mine. I made him. When someone tells me he is beautiful I smile as if he is art that I created. I couldn’t imagine not loving him. And then I think about my father. This stranger that thinks no more of me then fingerprints left on a piece of paper.

Where is he? How could he have just left and never looked back. I suppose its the looking back part that hurts the most. I look back when I throw away gum.

If I was a son would he have stayed.

I think about it, you kow. I think about meeting him in a living room or a park and hugging him. Even though I hate him so much I think about hugging him. But I know I could never hug him. It would be like a gift, and you give those to people you actually like or have met outside of a few seconds at the beginning of the trip to the uterus.

Last night I dreamed I asked him if I could hit him. That if he was actually sorry he’d let me hit him. Then maybe we could start to be equal. That pain could be the first memory he has of me too.

I look like him. When I was nine I taped his picture to the bathroom mirror and touched my teeth. His teeth. The same. When I’m mad I think I inherit his coldness, the ability to pretend I don’t care- but that only leads me to wonder if he actually does care because for me, aloofness has always been an act of self-preservation.

Every birthday I wonder if he remembers and I wonder if this year will be the year we meet. But I know one thing- I don’t want to be the one that calls him. That asks to meet. I think he owes me at least that.

I’m twenty-four and all I know is that if he doesn’t call before I’m thirty then time is up. I want to meet him while at least part of still looks like the child I once was. I don’t know if that even makes any sense, but to me it does. Maybe you know what I mean. I want to meet him before my heart closes up completely while I still can see myself at sixteen. At eighteen. At twenty. Because every day I remember more of my son at two or ten months and less of myself as just me.

We always will feel like a kid inside, but we won’t always be one. And I sometimes wonder when the day will come when the mom at the corner table who I talk to for one minute and calls me a nice young kid behind my back will be me and that’s the day that maybe I will be able to forgive my father.

But not today.

What does it mean to be in love?

Everyone has an opinion about love. Especially about love at first sight. I hear the same thing all the time- “there is no such thing as love at first sight just lust at first sight”- is this true? Maybe. What makes a good marriage anyway, in a world where instant gratification is sold in the form of sex, credit cards and little self control how do two people decide to stick out the hard times when someone else may be right around the corner?

I started thinking about love while fast forwarding through yet another installment of reality tv. You know the kind, The Bachelor, The Matchmaker, The Cougar…perhaps we are drawn to these shows like people once attended train wrecks-sometimes you can’t just not watch. It was perhaps ten minutes in when yet  another 20 something man or woman appeared to explain how they do not need marriage or love to complete their independent life. It was then that something occured to me- it seemed as if in this day and age people are starting to become pre-conditioned to not want marriage. Is love changing or is it just how we feel about it?

It seems as if the ‘me, me, me factor’ has overhwelmed the last couple of generations, leaving many teens and college grads in the dust when it comes to the family values that many baby boomers were brought up with.  C’mon, you know what I mean- the ‘honey, I’m home’ factor that once put couples in marriage counseling and retreats is now turning into the ‘generation X’ crisis of  seperate bank accounts equals seperate vacations and sometimes eventually seperate bedrooms. It seems as if we’re perpetuating a generation of commitment phobes- people who are more concerned with having ‘love’ as an extra curricular activity rather than a life companion. We’ve come to instill a sense of what we need to get done before we get married as if we need the last hurrah before prison. People are often shocked when I tell them I am twenty four and married with a baby- when twenty years ago they would have smiled. Why is it that we seem forced to choose between career, marriage and kids these days. What does it really mean to have it all?

As for me, I believe in marriage- but not just for joint checking accounts or the propogation of the species- I just happen to be a hopeless romantic. I believe in soul mates, in love at first sight and do not disturb signs even after kids. Even Ph.D’s after kids.

You know, it’s funny- my grandmother always told me she was glad I was practical when it came to dating. She said she was glad she would never get a call at two in the morning announcing I had eloped to las Vegas or married a felon. But on August 19, 2006 I may have proved her wrong. I called her at nine a.m. on my 22nd birthday to tell her that my boyfriend of just over 28 days had asked me to marry him and I said yes. To her credit she didn’t have a heart attack. But she did drop the phone.

That was nearly three years ago and my husband and I are going strong. We were married almost six months to the day we met- yes, you heard me right- just six months. And although it sounds cliche, the moment I saw my husband I just knew. Romance novels aside, it was a click- a feeling of complete ease and comfort. I will never recommend that anyone do what I did, but I will also never be able to dismiss the strange connection that my husband and I have always shared. For some, when you know YOU KNOW.

But my family wasn’t so convinced, in fact, it wasn’t until this past Easter that my grandmother finally accepted that the decision I made to get married young, while an impulsive one, wasn’t a mistake. For a long time my grandmother asked me why I got married- why I couldn’t have waited or just been happy as boyfriend and girlfriend. Simply put, I could only tell her that I was in love- that for me that meant rings and promises. Days before I got married she asked me over and over to define love. 

So what is love? Did you know that according to a national high school study that over 80% of high school seniors couldn’t define love as being anything more than a ‘feeling’. And if you agree then perhaps there’s something to the idea that when love passes as all feelings do than we either head to divorce court or live  unhappily ever after. I, for one, believe that love is many things. I believe it is a decision, a commitment, a way of life- a sharing, if you will- of your life, your body, your needs and your dreams.

My husband and I joke that maybe we shouldn’t tell our son how quickly we got married- lest, we might be inviting some hypocrisy if we get a 2 am phone call from him in twenty-two years. In the end, I think honesty will prevail. Love is ultimately a matter of what you believe- for some love isn’t I do, or whirlwind romance or even forever- but one thing’s for sure… whatever our needs we all want to fall in love. Why? Because no matter how long or short it lasts we live more when we are in love  than we do in one day of loneliness. There’s a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Mirror Has Two Faces that perhaps says it best…

“It may last only a moment, an hour, an afternoon but it gives us memories that we cherish to last a lifetime. Let’s face it, we all want to fall in love. Why? Because no matter how it ends, while it lasts it feels fucking great.”

When does artistic license go too far?

The Chronicles of Narnia. Harry Potter. Lord of the Rings. Sherlock Holmes.

Chances are you read one or all of these. Did you believe they were real, that the characters might even affect the world as you know it? Probably not, but what about a book that was more plausible- with maybe even a few facts about Thomas Jefferson thrown in for good measure and an author whose sole advertising gimmick was to see how many copies he could sell before the jig was up?

Not sure what I’m talking about?

Let’s rewind.

I’ve always been drawn to movies that are a bit whimsical. My husband calls these the movies that would never ever happen in real life.  ( I thought that was all movies!) But I like what I like. Right now, I am watching National Treasure and don’t even feel a little bit uneasy that most of what the movie’s plot is based on could never happen. Among some of my favorites are Goonies, oldies but goodies like the Abbot and Costello movies and pretty much every movie Doris Day or Cary Grant ever did.

Now back to books. I write alot like how I am- I still like to peruse and explore material that was popular when I was ten or eleven. I like ghost stories on a rainy night, I like an old fashioned romance in a historical who-dun-it, I even like the occasional mermaid, sealie or banshee.  And no, I don’t write for kids. I like to play with subjects that all of us always wished existed and put a spin on them.

But there is something I don’t like. I can’t explain it but like Winston Churchill said about art- “I can’t define the good and the bad, but I know it when I see it.” And I hate concepts like th Da Vinci Code and a certain Nora Roberts novel I just finished that includes Celtic gods as main characters. I don’t like this. I just happen to feel that artistic license shouldn’t extend to people and concepts that in the hierarchy of the world are considered precious and sacred. And it just doesn’t have to do with God, because no matter what you believe  some things just shouldn’t be open for interpretation.

Right about now some of you are probably shaking your heads so let me clarify… Remember James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces? Shortly after Frey’s appearance on Oprah his books were exposed as a fraud. Now, I might be old fashioned but I still like to have my non-fiction books contain a good deal less, well fiction- then say Snow White. And I think that once the lines are blurred with artistic license then all books end up being fiction.

But let’s get back to my original point- when is artistic license okay when it involves books that are honest when it comes to classifying themselves as fiction or fantasy from the get-go? I suppose my bone to pick is with books exactly like th Da Vinci Code that leave people believing that they might actually cross over into history. I don’t think people would be too happy about a book that came out leading people to believe the Holocaust didn’t happen or one that rewrote parts of the Civil War or the Trail of Tears.

People these days are just too plain ignorant when it comes to history. The statistics are staggering when it comes to middle school children’s comprehension of American history. Most kids and even adults can’t keep history straight and even though most readers and writers don’t believe that is their problem I propose that we try to at least call a spade a spade when it comes to dealing with historical non-fiction.

For me, I will continue writing about things that could probably never happen but that’s why I write fiction.

 

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-Rachel Draker

Odds and Ends is my blog about making it as a writer, a new mom, a cancer survivor and a twenty something year old… my way

Rules, Rules, Rules…

I don’t like to read books about how to write. For a brief moment after attending a recent conference I was almost convinced otherwise. I bought three or four books recommended by people in lofty places and as soon as my son went down for his afternoon nap I began reading. And reading. And reading.

And then I stopped.

You see, I hate rules. “Don’t do this at the beginning of a book. Don’t do this at the end. You have to map out your story like this.” I hate that.

I know that a good amount of getting a book published has to do with formatting but I like to get away with as much as I can. People always want to tell you that AFTER you get famous you can break the rules, but the great ones BECAME famous because they broke the rules first! And I think that most of these books that claim to “teach” or “refine” your writing actually hurts you. So put them down, trust me, put them down and take this challenge. After I put away my how- to books I started picking up my high school reading list. Yes, you heard me right- my HIGH SCHOOL  reading  list and I started reading. Alot of the books considered youth nowadays are actually among the most well crafted and classically well known stories. Among my favorites are Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Treasure Island, Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights, A Christmas Carol and my favorite of all favorites- Anne of Green Gables.

It amazes me that most of these fantastically written books are crammed into the kids’ section in the bookstore; when most kids, tweens and even teens don’t want to read anything beyond Twilight. After I started re-reading these old favorites I actually found that I stopped worrying about what editors and agents wanted to publish and started worrying about what I wanted to write. All of these books break the rules in some way. Tom Sawyer is full of too many accents, stereotypes, simplistic storylines and underage characters- BUT IT WORKS!

One of my favorites in the Anne of Green Gables series is Anne’s House of Dreams- a books that consists mostly of HUGE chunks of dialogue. Character soliloquies make up three fourths of the book’s plot and there is little to no break for scenery description- but again- IT WORKS! In fact, the reader is so involved with the storyline you don’t notice its oddities until you reach the end.

So, that’s my challenge- besides reading the contemporary greats in your own genre- read the classics that got kids reading and that adults still reach for. I don’t play by rules. I never write a first draft and I never decide the ending until I write it. But there is one rule that I like it… I’ve often heard the quote “Write the book you want to read” but I’d like to tweak that just a bit and I say, “Read the book you want to write and then write it better.”

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Question or Comment?

Email me at RachelDraker@gmail.com

And look for excerpts of my work in upcoming blogs- love it or hate it- it’s me.