Building Blocks

I rode a bicycle when I was younger. It was a Huffy, and I remember struggling to get it out of the box. I remember my uncle helping me set it up so that it looked like a real bike, and putting me upright on it. I remember sitting on the seat and imagining I was James Dean. Then I slid up the kickstand and I pushed off from the curb.

I crashed to the ground within seconds, skinning my knees. But my uncle didn’t give up on me, even though I was crying and determined not to get back on the bike. He told me he knew I could do it, and fifteen falls later, and a few other skinned body parts aching, he was proven right. I rode that bike like a champion and I never looked back.

During those fifteen falls I was cursing him though. I didn’t know why he was so adamant that I needed to learn it. I hated that I couldn’t just do something else. But the feeling of satisfaction I got from mastering the art of bike riding was well worth all the pain and all the bad thoughts along the way. 

Now, nearly 30 years later, I think back on that moment, when I finally conquered the two-wheeled behemoth, as the time when I realized failing was essential to success. I realized that there is no better feeling than getting over some obstacle I think will always be in my way. Because obstacles move, and they become building blocks along the way to something more.



These words are not mine
Even though they pass my lips
Like sparkling lemon water
Making me thirst for more
The undulating rhythms
Of living language thrive
They constantly vibrate
But I study them from afar
These turns of phrase
This quickening of terms
Shaking me to my core
They say such sweet things
But I don’t quite get them all
Though I give them their space
So they can breathe without me
This page filling with ink
Bleeding in blacks and blues
Spreading in all directions
And I can’t always follow
As they leave me in their wake
These reminiscent shadows
Of the words I used to know
When they belonged to me
Before I set them free.


“When a friendship ends, people don’t always give it the same amount of thought that they do relationships. With an ex-boyfriend, there are discussions of bad timing or different expectations. But most of the time, friendships end in a different way — slowly, and without declaration. Usually people don’t really notice until a friend has been gone for a while and then they just say they grew apart, or their lives became too different.” ~Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls).

235571-oI’ve given it a lot of thought, this idea of endings. Obviously every relationship has a beginning. These starts are generally demarcated by introductions or shared initial moments. They are definite. Sometimes only one person remembers the exact particulars, and sometimes neither one does, but you do remember when you weren’t friends. Then something shifted.

But endings — well, they do tend to be gradual among friends. At least that’s what I’ve noticed. One friend can’t make a lunch date on a Tuesday. Two weeks later the other one is too busy to take a phone call. Before you know it so much time has gone by since you even texted each other that now it would seem a bit awkward to text out of the blue. So it stretches on. Then when you’re relaying a story to someone else later, a memory of the two of you, you realize it’s all in the past tense. The entire relationship. That it has all been in the past for quite some time.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all friendships are created equally. That’s just the nature of the beast. Some friends are meant to be transitory, to fill a void in your life at a particular time when you need someone there, then they’re gone. Sometimes you’re that friend for someone else. Most times you both know it, but you go with it because it’s beneficial for everyone involved. Those can be very sweet friendships. But other friends seem like they’re in it for the long haul, so what happens to derail them?

It’s honestly a combination of a few things, in my opinion. A good friend needs to be 1) a good listener, 2) able to be empathetic, and 3) there in times of need. And it needs to be reciprocal. You can’t expect these 3 things from someone else and not be willing and able to give them in return. It’s this last part that I think dooms so many friendships because they end up being lopsided. One person gives and gives, the other takes and takes, and there’s never any time for reciprocity.

Beware when you’re the friend who is always there for others because you’ll get that label and it will stick with you. When others befriend you it will be because they need something from you, because they know you’ll be a good friend to them. And you will, because you’re the giving type of person. But eventually you will need something, and others won’t be there, because they don’t know how. Because you’ve allowed them to be takers for so long that they don’t even know where to begin when it comes to giving.

See, it’s those friendships that are reciprocal, the one when both friends give and take equally, that last for a long time.

I’m not saying it’s your fault you’re such a good friend, but usually those kinds of friendships end when you stress the point, when you need them and they’re not there for you. It can be devastating when the realization hits that your entire support system is built on yourself as the sole support. It’s true that we need others in order to be stable, healthy human beings. No one is exempt from that.

So they disappear, or you are the one who vanishes, stuck in the cycle that can’t possibly sustain itself. See, it’s those friendships that are reciprocal, the ones when both friends give and take equally, that last for a long time. Those are the easy ones, where both friends ask how the other is doing more than just dropping more drama on each other. It’s so much easier to be there for each other than to simply expect the other friend to always be there for you, and not expect the same in return.

When a friendship ends someone is left holding the torch. Either it’s you, or it’s the person on the receiving end of your ambivalence. Everybody needs friends, people you can lean on when the going gets rough, but who are also just there for you when you need to share good news, or you need a piece of advice. We all need a pick-me-up in the middle of a particularly difficult day, an ear that will always listen to us, yet someone objective enough to always tell us the truth, even if we might not want to hear it.

When a friendship ends there is a fracture in the system of our lives, whether we know it or not. I often think of those who have disappeared, those who used to wander these halls with me but who have now moved on to new halls in new buildings in their lives. And I don’t blame them. It takes two. They just weren’t ready to be that second person. They weren’t equipped to be that two-way street. And it’s okay. I need people in my life who are.


flashfictioncartoon-300x300Back in 1998 I was writing… a lot. And most of what I wrote back then was short fiction. It was a renaissance of sorts because I hadn’t really planned on it. In fact, for the past year before that I was writing a lot of poetry snippets. Not real poems, mind you, just bits and pieces, lines here and there that came to me. Suddenly, though, those lines transformed into snatches of conversation. Those words became characters who spoke to me, forcing me to set them in motion and see what happened.

Before this challenge I could probably count on two hands the number of short stories I’d written over the past year. That was probably because of many factors, not the least of which was the maintenance of my blogs. I guess I forgot that writing short fiction could be a part of anything else I decided to write. But I’m proud to say that if this is my second renaissance it is a fruitful one. I’ve fallen in love once more with short fiction during this challenge.

Only three more stories to go. Here are the rules of the Flash Fiction Challenge…

  1. Each entry has to follow a set prompt
  2. Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
  3. Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge

“Something old, something new, something borrowed,” Thalia said, counting on her fingers and feigning confusion.

“…and something pink,” laughed Celie, fluffing her hair in front of the gilt-edged mirror.

“It’s something blue, silly,” Thalia corrected before giggling. She couldn’t help herself.

“What. Ever,” said Celie, fingering the chiffon fringe of the ivory gown on the rack in front of her.

“Although pink would certainly be more interesting in a wedding,” added Thalia, grinning. “Imagine pink bow ties on the groomsmen, pink shoes on the ring bearer, pink highlights in the groom’s hair.”

“If the groom has pink highlights, I’m going to say that couple is not staying together,” Celie said, letting the gown slip through her fingers and moving on to the next one.

There were miles of gowns at the Wedding Wearhouse, rack after rack of white, off white, off off white, and other pale shades of dresses. On first glance they appeared ghost-like in the massive space of the Wearhouse, as if twenty thousand headless brides awaited their grooms in shameless expectation, pressed together like cattle at milking time.

Celie was bored, and she wasn’t even a bridesmaid. She wasn’t the maid of honor either, even though she was Thalia’s best friend, and had held the title since grade school. But it didn’t phase her because 1) Thalia wasn’t even getting married, and 2) she didn’t believe in weddings. They were only at the Wearhouse because her friend wanted to jumpstart the proposal she was certain was just around the corner.

But Celie knew that Brett was never going to propose, at least not anytime soon. He was the kind of guy who talked a good game but never got off his ass long enough to do anything he said he would. In fact, if looks could be believed, he had gone backward instead of forward when it came to commitment. More often than not he did things without even telling Thalia, and she let him. Celie knew if that was her she would have dumped him ages ago, but Thalia was a bit of a pushover.

And a bit of a romantic, the hopeless variety.

“A guy can be into pink and not be gay,” said Thalia, holding up a strapless gown against her size zero figure with her eyebrows raised.

“Uh, yeah, and my father watches Barney every night before bed,” huffed Celie, flopping onto a nearby chair as if exhausted.

“There are worse things to watch than a big purple dinosaur,” Thalia said, tossing the gown into her shopping cart full of things to try on.

“Like your weight, so you can fit into that dress,” said Celie, smiling.

“Well, probably not this dress,” Thalia replied, eyeing the others in the cart.

“You’re worse than those bridezillas on ‘Say Yes to the Dress,'” laughed Celie, rolling her eyes.

“I just want things to be perfect,” said Thalia, sighing. The sound was more pitiful than anything else to Celie’s ears.

“And you’re absolutely certain Brett is going to propose?” Celie asked tentatively.

“I’m a million percent certain Brett is going to propose, silly,” Thalia said, her tone final.

“Well then, I would go with strapless,” said Celie. “You’ve definitely got the shoulders for it. It could be your something new.”

“Your something new can’t be the dress!” gasped Thalia.

“I don’t see why not,” Celie argued. “It’s new, isn’t it?”

“No, no,” maintained Thalia. “Your dress is above all of that stuff. It can’t be used for anything other than the most special thing on the most special day.”

“I thought the most special thing was getting married,” said Celie, laughing.

“Grrrrr, you get me so agitated,” Thalia said, but she was laughing too.

While Celie knew that Brett wasn’t ever going to strap on a pair and make an honest woman out of Thalia, she also knew the fiction was the only thing keeping her friend from being depressed. It was a fragile string to pull, so Celie knew she had to avoid pulling it at all costs. She had already voiced her concerns, but short of yelling them at Thalia there was really nothing else she could do but be supportive.

“You can get a new bra for the day,” Celie said with a straight face. “It can be one of those strapless ones that makes your boobs look like they’re floating. Like Princess Jasmine’s from Aladdin.”

“Like Princess Jasmine’s magical floating boobs from the kids’ movie Aladdin?” repeated Thalia, dissolving in giggles. “I’m sure that’s exactly how the director intended it. I’m sure he spent a lot of time wondering how her cartoon boobs were going to be supported.”

“Hey, it was before Pixar,” Celie argued. “They had to do something to keep the movie interesting.”

“You’re crazy, C,” said Thalia. “I hope you know that.”

“Seriously, though,” said Celie, her smile muted a tad bit. “It doesn’t even matter what you get, what’s going to be your something new, because when you find the right guy, and he’s standing there in front of you, you’ll feel new yourself.”

“Wow, I never thought I’d hear something so romantic out of your mouth,” Thalia gushed, leaning down to hug her friend. “You sure you don’t want to be my maid of honor?”

“You’re going to make me regret my caring side,” laughed Celie, blushing. “I’ll think about it. You gotta get engaged first though, then some back and ask me again.”

“You’d better believe it,” said Thalia. “You know, you’d look great in taffeta.”

“Yeah, I’m out of here,” Celie said, rising from the chair.

“And we’re back to the way things are supposed to be,” Thalia laughed, pushing her cart in the direction of the fitting rooms, Celie trailing a few steps behind.

And for the first time ever, she hoped she was wrong. Because if Brett broke Thalia’s heart she knew it would break hers too.


As Big As Bill Cosby

The Cosby Show

When I was a kid I wanted to be famous. I wanted the whole wide world to know my name, and not just for fifteen minutes either. I would look on TV and see stars like Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld and I wanted that. People used to tell me all the time that I was funny, so in my mind it wasn’t that much of a stretch to be my heroes. Those two guys were the height of funny, and I would practice my “set” for anyone who would listen. One day, I said, I was going to be on TV. People would know my name.

And I was on TV too. When I was in 7th grade I was on the Disney Channel telling a prepared joke. It was for one of their “in between shows” segments where they used to have real kids tell real jokes. I can’t remember what it was called, but I was fascinated when I walked into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and saw all of the cameras. I guess I had never really thought of the fact that in order to be on television you would have to be in front of cameras.

They gave me a joke well ahead of time. It was on a piece of paper, but they said I would have to read it off the teleprompter when my turn came, so that it seemed natural and so that I was definitely facing the cameras then. They showed me the teleprompter, which was a fancy TV screen beneath the camera that was facing me, and I watched in fascination as the words magically appeared on the screen.

seinfeld_on_stage1-667x368Then I had to wait around because there were kids from other schools there to do the same thing I was about to do. I didn’t pay attention to them, though, because I knew I was the “star” of the show. I knew my joke was better than theirs, that people would remember me most of all. I was delusional, but aren’t all kids? It was finally my turn, I read off the teleprompter, and the screen went dark. It was over.

Was I going to be as big as Bill Cosby? Was I going to be as funny as Jerry Seinfeld? Were people going to start calling up my mother and asking if I was available to star in their new shows? It all flashed across my mind’s eye on the way back to school after it was all over. The Disney Channel folks said I had done a great job, that I could tune in that next Friday to see myself on TV.

I set the VCR to tape my magic moment. I was giddy all week, telling everyone I knew that I was going to be as big as Bill Cosby. They cheered me on like my own support group, and I dreamed of signing a big TV contract in the near future. My joke had been funny, hadn’t it? My performance of it had been electric, hadn’t it? I chewed my fingernails down to the quick with anticipation.

Then Friday came, the show was copied, and I got home from school ready to see my magic moment. I fast-forwarded through the real show, and then there I was, but it wasn’t like I thought it was going to be. I looked wooden, like a deer in the headlights, and you could tell I wasn’t looking into the camera, that my gaze was underneath. As a result the joke fell flat, even though it was followed by a laugh track. Then it was over.

It hit me in a rush. I wasn’t going to be as big as Bill Cosby after all. I wasn’t going to be the second coming of Jerry Seinfeld. I was going to have that one moment on TV, the not even fifteen minutes of fame that accompanied it, and that was it. Maybe someday there would be more appearances, if I was lucky, but the odds were they would be as small as the one I just had. That was the sound of the air escaping the balloon, the sound of my dreams shifting to accommodate the encroaching shadow of reality.

I realize now that it was okay. That it was never my fate to be a TV star. I may still be destined to be famous, but only time will tell. For now, though, I’m still glad I had that initial experience, because for a moment in time I was on TV. And back then that mattered a lot.


These Ghosts Remain

“If I walk down this hallway tonight, it’s too quiet. So I pad through the dark, and call you on the phone. Push your old numbers, and let your house ring ’til I wake your ghost.” ~Kristin Hersh

ghost1I often feel like a ghost, living my invisible life, performing my invisible tasks, under the watchful eye of no one. I often feel like I haunt the places I used to go, the people I used to know, and the person I used to be. Because, you see, I’m no where near as solid as I pretend to be, my substance ephemeral and shimmery like the vampires in Twilight when I’m exposed to the light of day.

These lifetimes can swallow us whole if we let them, spitting out our bones when they’re through with us, when we are no longer palatable. I’ve lost at least three of those lifetimes. They are back there in the distance, but they haunt me even now. They sneak up on me when I least expect them, reminding me that I’ve died more than once, that I’m profoundly different now, a specter of who I used to be.

And I can’t help but think that my ghost finding yours out in the ether was no accident. I can’t help but wonder if our translucent souls found each other out of either desperation or sheer force of will. Whatever the reason, I have to thank whoever guides the souls once they’ve passed over from their own lifetime, once they’re left to fend for themselves when we move along.

I met you in this lifetime, in an airport, in the middle of a crowd of others who have been reincarnated after their own deaths, who have all at one time or another been someone else, somewhere else. If not for those lifetimes, if not for that time before this, they would not have been in that airport at that moment, to witness our second meeting. If not for those lifetimes you may not have even been there, smiling tentatively when you looked into my eyes for what we thought was the first time.

But we know better now. We know that ghosts pass in the night, in the daylight, in the harsh twilight that separates flesh from soul and knits it back together again. We know that heaven is just another lifetime where we can make up for our past mistakes, or where we can let them linger, forcing us into submission once more before moving on again. And hell is an excuse to pretend this lifetime is all we have.

Yet your ghost reminds me that everything is not the same, that while we have moved on we still live with the exhalations of our former selves. They still breathe through our lungs when we let them, continuing to exist in our dreams and nightmares, dominating our subconscious, pressing it into submission. These ghosts remain in between the silences, reminding us of what used to be, of what might have been, and of what we moved through on our way here.

These ghosts remain in the shadows, in the corners of our lives, but this is not their lifetime. This is ours.


Silent ScreamĀ 

My mother might be surprised to know that I was an angry child. She might be surprised because while I was a bit hard to handle I was still respectful (most of the time) and nice to others  (a fair bit of the time). 

Besides, I was mostly quiet around others so it was probably easy to see me as a well-adjusted child. I wasn’t. And it had nothing to do with my mother. It was all about me and the world I had created for myself in my brain. In that world I was a slug, a tiny, insignificant, disgusting slug who was unworthy of everything. 

Sure, I could dress up nicely, smile for the cameras, and even say the right things. But that is precisely why someone should have realized my anger, if they were paying attention to me, that is. Saying and doing all the right things at all the right times just doesn’t jive with anyone, not a living, breathing human being anyway . 

Everyone has moments, and everyone explodes sometimes. I did too. I just kept that private as well. I would scream into my pillow. I would slam my hand over my mouth and muffle my epithets that way as well. Sometimes I would even hit something that couldn’t hit back. All in the privacy of my bedroom, or when no one else was around. 

Even then I cared about appearances, what people felt about me, above all. It didn’t matter how angry I was, I would never let them see me mad. Of course I know now how detrimental that was, and after a lot of therapy and some intense soul searching I realize that being mad is not the end of the world. 

If someone is going to judge me for having feelings so be it, but bottling them up helps absolutely no one. It definitely doesn’t help me. I think back to all those times I punched my pillow, to all the times I screamed silently into the dark. I think back and I shake my head, but if I hadn’t gone through all of that I would never be here now. 

And I bet on reflection that my mother won’t at all be surprised by this admission. I’ve never been as good at hiding my emotions as I think I am.



A great WordPress.com site


19 | Australia

Cozy Corner

A Writer's Journey

Whose Wine Is It Anyway?

Exploring life, love, lifting, and (almost) literally everything else, frequently aided by laughter and libations

The Ninth Life

Yesterday I Was. Today I Am. Tomorrow I Shall Be...

Sara Furlong

Strategic freelance writer specializing in online content, articles, web copy, & SEO.


Personal blog, interracial relationships, dating, author, BWWM,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,139 other followers

%d bloggers like this: