A Ladle in the Sky

The air is chill, and the moon, half full, is like the bowl of a ladle in the sky. The meal is finished, and all of the dishes are cleared.

“In Florida, it just feels like another day,” Nicole said, as the turkey neared done. I knew what she meant– years don’t take a loss away. Her father isn’t here any longer to enjoy another holiday. Thanksgiving dinner over, her husband Max loaded the dishwasher, while I played with their daughter, Star, not yet two.

The moon is like a ladle in the sky.

“Halloween is something you do. Any holiday is. You didn’t get trick-or-treaters this year because you didn’t ‘do’ Halloween,” my anthropology professor had said, when I told him I hadn’t decorated during the rush of my thesis year.

There’s truth to it– for Thanksgiving this week, we didn’t turn on the parade, and none of us are football fans. There was just the meal, and games of Upwords between the folding of mousse and the casseroling of green beans.

The moon is like a ladle in the sky, and I watch as Star presses her face against the sliding glass door. “Moon? Moon?” she asks.

Nicole opens the door, picks her up. “Maybe I can lift you high enough the touch the moon. Shall we see?”

“Yes!” says Star, and her mother lifts her overhead. She reaches for the moon, like a ladle in the sky.

“I can’t lift high enough,” says Nicole. “But Daddy is taller. Maybe he can lift you high enough to touch the moon,” she continues, as Max joins them. I linger in the doorway, watching.

Max picks Star up, and she giggles, straining to reach that high cold ladle, white and clear now that the clouds have broken.

“I can’t lift you high enough to touch the moon, but you’re high enough to touch the roof!” Max says, turning, and Star smacks the shingles, both hands, as if they were proffered for a high-five.

They file inside, the chill of the night air like an aura around them.

“Say good-bye to the moon,” Nicole tells Star, who choruses, “Bye moon! Bye Moon!” until she hears a dog bark at the other window, and then all is “Doggy?”

We sit down for dessert, scattered about the living room, no table to unite us. There is still a quiet reservedness. Star begs small bits of pie and chocolate mousse, and I am filled with a a feeling I can’t quite name.

No, it doesn’t feel like just another day. Not now. A holiday is something that you do, something that you make. Here among the people I love best, I think to myself that this… this is Thanksgiving.

Shadows in Which to Walk

There are nights when my legs move, and I do not know where they will take me. They have their own minds. Out to the 300ZX parked in the grass, my legs find clutch and brake, send a message up my arm to place a key in the ignition. There is fire- spark and life, my right leg finds the gas.

Then? The street’s end. Then US 41. My legs take me north. Midnight, and I am in Venice. I part ways with the vehicle, parked along Venice avenue, and my legs take me west. It’s still on the beach. Not still like a church is still between Sundays, but still like the places far from cars and far from jobs and far from people. It is still like a place with crabs spooking at my approach. Still like a place that knows the wind because it is windy now.

My legs take me north. Along the beach, along surf I’m almost certain has been sectioned off and owned as if sand can be owned, as if sky can be yours, as if sea turtles know what boundaries are.

This is muscle memory, now. My legs take me west onto a jutting of rocks, and my muscles remember tight tight tight. My muscles remember him tall, towering, remember implications of ownership.

My muscles remember, but my mind will not. I do not want to see his face, filled with scorn for my academics. I do not want to hear his voice, filled with “How long does it take you to have coffee? You drink your coffee and come home. I don’t want you going out for so long!” …I’d been gone two hours for coffee. Two hours for there and back, hellos, goodbyes. Placating, placating, I offered sex. Whore.

It is not muscle memory, my fear. It’s in my bones. “I don’t like you hanging out with them–I don’t like the way they touch you,” looming. “Stop calling so many people. How often do you need to talk to people?” towering. “No, I won’t make you a house key. If you leave though, you have to lock the door behind you.” The yelling when I stayed to talk to a professor after class. The days he drove neighborhoods to find me on my bicycle pedaling homeward. He said this was all because he loved me. He never cocked his fist; he took his six-foot-four and leaned in over me, head stooping, full volume. He backed me into corners, drove me to the floor. Placating, placating. Whore.

My legs stop me where the water licks the stones. Here, here, jelly-like, they fold. Here, here, when I thought I was in love and didn’t know. Here, here, when I didn’t know him, and I offered comfort when she left him. Here. I met him here.

Spark and life. I take it all back. No comfort. No sympathy. I know why she left you, jerk. I know what you did to her. The same as you did to me, sir. If I had known, I’d have pushed you off the rocks, here, here. Drown in your own self-pity.

I stand, and my legs hold me. They carry me back to the car, move it back to my home. Some nights, my legs move, and I don’t know where they will take me. They have their own minds. Some nights, they are smarter than I am.

The Hard Sell

I hate shopping malls. I really do. Call me the anti-girl, and you’d be right. Whenever I set foot in one of these unholy places, I do what any sensible person would do: run for the cover the shop I’m there to visit.

Now, no matter where one parks, the distance between the mall entrance and one’s goal can be described as Route X. Sadly, as I was in no mood to deal with the twisting labyrinth of the shopping mall’s parking lot, with its variable speed limits, oddly placed stop signs, and the new sheriff’s department outpost, I opted to park quickly, and take my chances with a long Route X. Entering by an anchor store, my course took me past the stinking pit of the bath goods store, any number of mid-mall kiosks situated like hurdles, their attendants trying to lure me into a sale with, “hey, you look familiar!” and finally the burnt-espresso horror of our local international coffee giant waystation. All of this to get to the Game Stop, the one beacon of semi-geekdom in a vast sea of plastic popular culture.

But even that shroud of safety was to evaporate: Monday night, 10pm, was the release of the latest title in the Call of Duty line, and I, the lowly gamer grrrl, had forgotten. Silly me, first person shooters trump all other titles. And you know me, always late to the game, I was looking for the recently released Dragon Age: Origins. So last week, I tell you. The store was cramped, the little boys shoving and slavering like a pack of rowdy hyenas. I could not, for the life of me, get the attention of any of the clerks. Too busy answering questions and trying to control the crowd, each would make eye contact, start to speak to me, even, before having to deal with the next brewing crisis. I left, dejected, into the stark weird sterility of my Route X.

The kiosk-keepers were hungry that night. No shopping bag in hand, coming back the same way I had entered, they scented blood, thought easy prey. I passed by the one who had called out to me, “hey, you look familiar!” He stepped up to me, complimented my hat. Floppy leather patchwork, that hat has been my traveling companion for some years now. Disarmed, flattered, I listened.

Fool! He swept me into a conversation, asked my name, shook my hand, and… cringed. It was my nail polish, he said. Chipped black, I could see what he meant—culturally a no-no, but my tattered finger paint was intentional. An affectation, like the floppy hat, the sun dress worn with jeans, and the knee-length fitted jacket. Part of the costume. Part of the image of a gamer-grrrl you could picture at a cigar shop puffing on something hand-rolled in Ybor, sipping coffee, and talking politics. It’s all me, but it isn’t.

“May I show you something,” he said, a statement, leading me by the hand he still grasped. Out came the nail buffer. “This is no ordinary buffer,” he began to work on my thumbnail right away. “I am removing the ridges from your nail, and this part, this is the ordinary part,” he said working it back and forth expertly over my nail. “Now, this is the magic– this is silk!” He flipped the four-sided buffer, and began working that. “You have to promise me you won’t scream when you see this,” he said, with a wink.

When people say something like that to you, do you brace for the worst?

“I promise?” I ventured, leery. The buffer had begun to squeak across my thumb.

“This silk,” he said, “this silk is bringing out your natural oils. This is naturally you. People ask me why this won’t go away, like a French manicure. It is because this isn’t chemicals, this is you.”

“Won’t go away?”

“No, it won’t go away. Two weeks. The nail grows, so this lasts two weeks.”

He pulled the buffer away to reveal– my thumbnail, mirror bright. It shone like silvered glass. I am proud of myself; I did not scream. I almost took off my hat and beat him. My pretty thumbnail, upon which I had worked so hard with toothpick and cotton swab to get just the right amount of chipped distress, was there scintillating in the fluorescent mall lights like a cheap plastic consumable.

The sneers of horror, shock, and disgust warred on my face as he continued his pitch, but I wasn’t listening. Product placed in my hand, I shoved it back, “No thanks.” Route X still loomed.

“I still like your hat, I’ll buy it from you,” he offered. I pulled the crowd closed behind me like a heavy winter coat.

Dragon Age: Origins I found at a Wally-World, and though I hate its corporate corpulence, bless it, and its workers, who understood my quest, every last blessed one, all women, like me, who complained of FPSs.

Four days later, though the game is good, I’ve not stopped twitching. My thumbnail is still shiny, damn him.

The Taste of Words on My Tongue

Words are pretty amazing things, really. Minds are mesas, and words we use to leap the gap. Words are symbols. They mean something other than what they are. They point to things, guiding lights, they are signal flags before a storm, they are open palms proffered, they are traffic signals, green and red. But people have noticed all this before.

What amazes me most about words is their physicality. They are all wavelength. All of them, on page or in air, they are light and sound, and they exist only because we have eyes and ears. The shape of an “a,” the round sounding of an “o,” they are things other than what they mean. The meaning could hang, and you still have a thing: onomatopoeic crash bang boom, the sounding of “um,” a “yum” of the words “luscious plum” on my tongue.

Damn you, poetry, weighty thing. Sitting on my chest for days and suffocating me until I spit you out, pushed from my airways along with the crust of pizza that got lodged next to you, mouth oh’ed from the cough and sonorous sounds coming out, to end in a bit of spittle dripping from my chin.

And these… these are words. Read them aloud. Feel what they do to your mouth, your lips, like a kiss. There are days when words aren’t for conveying, but feeling, rolling them around in your mouth, clacking them against your teeth, tripping them off tongue-tips ’til they hit the air. Gift them to me: I’ll pass them along.