Fissure

marriage-break-upThe line advances slowly
Jagged and artificial
As black as grim night
Unending pitch dark
She toes the line
Tiptoe thin, fragile
Spun like spiderwebs
Silken in their mean
And she dances lean
Poetic in her moves
Razor-thin and sharp
Careful not to fall
While the chasm deepens
Between warring emotions
Churning deep inside
The moment he left
Sudden and incomplete
Leaving her hollow
Like the advancing dark
As she lets herself fall
Eyes closed against it all
Swallowed in night.

Sam

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Tracing Scars

every-scar1It is late evening and we sit together on the couch — she fresh from the bath and in her footie pajamas, me in my voluminous robe. She climbs into my lap and I notice the heavy lids that presage a sleep so deep no one will be able to awaken her for hours, but for now she is just a snuggle bunny. In these times, in this late evening haze, her actions are mysterious, as if she is a small prophet foretelling the future, and I study her intently, this girl who shares my genes but who is still as unique as the oncoming night. Tonight she sits on my lap, and she traces my scars.

When I was 7 years old, in my elementary school playground, I was chasing Kareema Perkins around the perimeter when I somehow got my left hand caught in one of the barbs on the fence. It ripped a chunk of skin out of the back of that hand, and others told me I sounded like a girl with my high-pitched screams. Amazingly enough, no stitches were necessary, but it left a thick scar that has faded noticeably in time.

At 11 years of age I received another blemish while at the Laurel Lake Camp for the summer. Tony Wentz had brought a knife to camp against the rules and would whittle every night. It was so cool to watch him create shapes out of tree limbs and branches. I was so jealous, so one evening after dinner while the counselors were in a meeting, I asked Tony to borrow his knife. It was going well, too, until a particularly knotty piece of branch. I ended up slicing halfway through my left thumb, which did require several stitches and also left a scar. That one was devastating because I wasn’t able to get my swimming certificate due to the stitches.

Just this past week I have added to my laundry list of scars. My job requires me to work quickly and sometimes my hands get caught on fixtures while stocking food, or I get a paper cut when folding boxes. While these mishaps don’t amount to much individually, they do add up to having several scars on my hands and knuckles by week’s end.

But I had forgotten about each and every one, my memory designed to shade out those moments and focus on ones that had lasting emotional effects instead. Yet my daughter, in her hazy half-asleep trance, always zeroes in on each and every one when she is on my lap, and she does the same now.

Her little hands trace my scars one after the other in a kind of ritual, a dance that she seems to know by heart, and each touch reminds me. Every tracing motion brings back vivid memories I thought had been buried forever. And each time she finds a new one she exclaims, “Daddy’s boo boo,” mystified that there aren’t only the ones she remembers. But just like a homing beacon the next time she will remember the ones from yesterday and add them to her list and litany.

And it lulls her to sleep more often than not, tracing my scars, drawing those connections that were severed, and bringing us closer together. I will miss it when she isn’t so fascinated by them, and by the closeness they bring us.

Sam

The 3 Days Conundrum

Winner-120x2403 days until National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I have absolutely no idea what my novel is going to be about. Okay, I will edit that statement. I have way too many ideas of what I think my novel should be about, and none of them are strong enough in my mind to drive the other ones out. Not quite the way to begin a month-long project of love, eh? Here are some of my ideas…

  • A space odyssey (but not set in 2001)
  • A romance (because I’ve never written one before)
  • A classic mystery
  • A period piece
  • A supernatural tale
  • A fake memoir
  • A horror story
  • A modern mystery

The truly depressing thing about having so many ideas is that each one has already begun to weave itself a web inside of my mind and I’m already making a lot of connections. And I know what you’re going to say. I should just write a classic mystery supernatural romance horror story that has elements of modern mystery, that is set in space, and I would write it if I felt I could. But I’m one of those writers trained in pretty much sticking with one genre. I have no problem having elements of other genres in my stories and novels, but putting everything but the kitchen sink into this one will just make it cluttered. Yeah, I have a problem.

There’s good news too, though. I know that in the end whichever one I pick I will be able to write fluently about. It’s always the choosing in the first place that’s hardest, that and a title. Luckily I use a working title until I’m nearly done, as I do with everything I write, so I’m not pigeonholing myself into a corner I will desperately want to claw myself out of. I think I read somewhere that the average number of times an author changes his/her working title before settling on a final one is 13 times. So I just keep one working title throughout, and then I take a month just to finalize an actual title at the end. Or sometimes longer than a month. Titles are hard.

I can’t wait until Friday so I can get started, but I know this year it will be tougher than last year. You see, last year all I had to write each day during November was my NaNo book, while this year I’m maintaining blogs, which will carve time out of my schedule, but I can’t imagine not writing my daily blog entries. It’s really good for me to just get my thoughts out here, and thank you for always listening. Er, reading. 3 days until I start my new novel! I can’t wait.

Sam

Still

Dr_ Dre ft_ Snoop Dogg - Still D_R_E“Still rock my khakis with a cuff and a crease. Still got love for the streets, repping 213. Still the beat bangs. Still doing my thang. Since I left, ain’t too much changed. Still.” – Dr. Dre, Still D.R.E.

Still (adjective): remaining in place or at rest; motionless; stationary.

When was the last time you stood still, without moving, just stood there thinking whatever thoughts were in your head but not acting on them, just stood there listening to the silence, or the noise, or whatever else was going on around you? It feels good to do that every once in a while, but it gets harder and harder to do in this rapid-paced world in which we live every day of our lives. Even if you don’t live in a major city like Tokyo or Mexico City, it’s difficult to pause the world and its influence long enough to reflect.

And yet, reflection is the most important part of life, thinking about what we do before we do it, while we’re doing it, and after we do it, instead of flitting from one thing to the next with no chance to think about our reasoning or motivation for them. While I was studying possible questions for a job interview a few weeks ago it hit me: it’s tough to figure out, to define, and to verbalize my motivations. I know on a deep level why I do what I do, what my strengths and weaknesses are in a general sense, but how do I bring that up to the surface? Continue reading “Still”

I Did What? My Sordid Job History, Volume 8

mr-gatti-s-pizza
“The buffet. This is where I win all my money back!”

In late summer of 1999 I was on the phone with the lovely people from McDonald’s, telling them the size of shirt I needed, and they were promising me three brand new shirts for my first day working there on the following Monday. Keep in mind I hadn’t really accepted the job at that point, but it was their sign that they were pushing hard to sign me to a long term deal. I felt like Dikembe Mutombo when the Sixers offered him big money to play basketball for them, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play for the Sixers. McDonald’s wasn’t quite the job I wanted to have on my resume as a 21-year old man who had no designs on working fast food for the rest of his life.

Luckily for me that same day I had an interview with Mr. Gatti’s, a buffet pizza chain with several franchise locations in the Tennessee area. It was my last chance to get out of O’Charley’s, where my hours had dwindled precipitously as the summer tumbled head over heels into autumn. Because I was the only one working, I needed a place that could give me hours and a chance to move up so I could make even more money over the long haul, and I somehow didn’t think McDonald’s was that place. But I was so desperate to get out of O’Charley’s that I was seriously considering it. And then Gatti’s happened.

Funny enough, my first wife and I had just visited the establishment on Kingston Pike for lunch one day and saw the employment sign. I had filled out an application right then and there (back in the time where all applications were still in paper format), but had nearly forgotten about it by the time I received the call from McDonald’s about the shirts. Not less than half an hour later I got a call from Mr. Gatti’s, I went in for the perfunctory interview, and the rest is history. I was happy to call McDonald’s back and let them know they could give those nice new shirts to someone else who wore size XL. Continue reading “I Did What? My Sordid Job History, Volume 8”

Looking For a Father

This trip was special because I was with my dad.

I know many others have had it a lot worse than I did growing up. Sure, I lived in a poor part of Southwest Philadelphia, in a row home where I could hear the neighbors whisper if I focused just a little bit. There were drive-bys only a few blocks over, and I realize now just how dangerous the area was back then. But at the time I didn’t think about any of that, and I also honestly didn’t think about the children starving in Ethiopia either, even though my mom always talked about shipping my leftover vegetables there. I didn’t even think about the crack house on the end of the block where Old Leroy would sell his wares, but more often than not just use them himself. We were always warned to stay away from Old Leroy. Instead, what I wondered about more often than anything else was where my father was.

At first it was just like any other family at that time, I guess. It was before the 50+% divorce rate, so if anyone in our school came from a “broken” home it was a huge topic of gossip, but single mother households were on a precipitous rise with more and more women having children out of wedlock. The church frowned on that, and I knew all about it because both of my parents were heavy into the church, my father being a preacher, and my mother a church leader. And at the start our little nuclear family seemed to be just that — containing a nucleus of both parents around which we kids hovered.

Things started to drift into fragments, though, because my dad didn’t have a “home” church. Instead, he was (and is) one of those itinerant preachers who was constantly traveling from church to church, often outside of the city of my birth, and often for long swaths of time. He was also heavily involved in prison ministry so he would be in the jails talking to inmates when he wasn’t doing extensive church tours. That of course left little to no time to continue being a part of the nucleus that helped to keep the family going, and it was obviously very difficult on my mother and on myself and my sister as well.

An old friend of mine from high school sent me a Facebook message a few months ago in which he told me that a man with the last name of McManus had preached an amazing sermon at his church on Saturday, and he asked me if I knew him. Instead of answering his question, I said, “That’s my dad.” Continue reading “Looking For a Father”