HE GOT A GIFT
"Fey, it is Christmas today."
I turned on the torn wrapper I had laid on the floor and glanced into the tired eyes of my brother. He sat on the bare floor with his legs crossed. His ten-year-old body looked like a beaten-down forty-year-old's. I am sure I looked worse than he did.
I looked around and noticed that it was still dark. Several other people were clustered around, some asleep, others sitting and staring into space. The putrid scent of alcohol and cigarettes clung to the air like a leech, refusing to come off.
“Why are you awake?” I asked, returning my gaze to my brother.
“Because it is Christmas.”
He remained silent, obviously lacking an answer to my obvious question. His inability to answer must have upset him, because the next thing I saw was tears in his eyes.
I climbed to a sitting position and looked at him worriedly.
“What is wrong?”
He refused to answer, instead giving the tears permission to fall. I stayed there, glued to the floor, staring at the only family member I have in the entire world.
“Okay, okay,” I said, trying to pacify him. “Merry Christmas.”
He turned to me and smiled. I smiled back in return.
“Today will be different," he said. “It is Christmas.”
We had spent the last ten Christmases together, and it had never been different, so I wondered what he thought was going to be different about the day. It wasn’t until later, when his body was laid down into the cold ground, that I realized just how different that Christmas was.
Finally, he was free. He got a gift.
“Merry Christmas,” I whispered, trying in vain to hold back the tears.
I grin impishly up at my brothers, who wear the same half-smirk like a birth mark similar to the ones we all share on our neck. I have that smirk too of course, and bite at my cheek to satiate it. It feels too.. robotic how similar I've noticed we can be. Maybe it is from years of denying my own family, but it seems so painfully obvious just alike we are. I let myself smile at the brief thought, forcing my eyes to the two men on the vintage seats my mother insisted we buy.
"Matching sweaters?" Aaron asks with a chuckle, holding his up to his chest. I chose the green pleating to match his eyes. Tom beside him holds it at arms width like it's a drooling child.
"Do we have to... wear these?" He asks skeptically. I roll my eyes, knowing he finds an appreciation in the fabric from how he runs his thumbs over the lapels.
"Hell yeah we do. If you don't, you'll make grandma sad."
Tom perks up, ever the obedient first born. "She got us these?"
"No. But she'll think it's cute as peaches if we all wear them!" I grin mockingly back.
"Thanks, Rose." Aaron cuts in genially, shrugging it on happily over his plain black shirt.
I nod, glancing to my dog in a much smaller matching sweater to their own. My mom joins us on the turquoise couch, her coffee hot and reminding me of an airport from its quality. I don't need to suppress a gag at how familiar it's become now, noting how she's still in her pyjamas but will switch to her own ugly sweater- purple, mine blue- within the hour. Its so familiar watching how she tucks her feet beneath her, my dog finding purchase on her thighs.
Unfamiliar is having my brothers home for Christmas.
They are spread across the country, and we text sometimes but we very rarely see them in person. And it's special just having them, me and my mom all under one roof again. For once getting along among the rubble of a broken home. I imagine my father standing idle in an awful green robe, a camera in hand to capture the moment. But I do not linger.
We don't have traditions. We used to- the extended family would gather for dinner with my grandma in her basement suite and then head upstairs to join my aunt's family for gifts and games. But my grandma is too old to cook despite how much she tries, and my aunt's kids don't much care for us nowadays, off in their own worlds.
But I do notice the small things- how Tom seldom wears the pocket watch I got him last Christmas in every photo of him all spiffied up in his law suit.
How when touring Aaron's apartment for the first time, he had a painting from when I was eighteen proudly hung on the wall.
And I know they'll treasure these stupid sweaters, too. They'll sit on top of their folded clothes, as though it's an everyday item, never shoved to the back. They will open their closets and glimpse it and remember how much their little sister loves them. That is a tradition I shall uphold- their remembrance of my care and adoration.
Tom returns a moment later clad in his brown pattern in time for breakfast, and I don't say anything. I know my brothers like I know myself, and poking the bear with the proverbial ugly Christmas sweater gift would embarrass him. I lean familiarly into my dog that has scooted himself between my lower back and the chair backing, and watch as my brothers tuck into their food my mother has made: pancakes, veggie bacon and eggs- tradition, only when we are all together- and cheers my Mimosa to theirs, the filtering of classics filling our conversation about what's new in their exciting lives. I do not cut in about myself, rather quipping insults a sister is to do, and absorb my mothers happiness at the tableau to sustain me another year.
I do not have traditions in the sense of those family dinners flushed with laughter, and shredding of reflective paper we would shoot at each other's heads in a game borne of family anymore. We do not make caves out of snow mounds my brothers would cozy up with me inside and tell me stories, either. I do not come, nor do I go. I am stagnantly here- the sibling left behind as everyone grows and disperses. But I have familiarity. And that is family. That is Christmas.
I know you.
I am you.
I know your pain.
I know how you hold your tears back because you don't want her to know how much her abuse actually hurts.
I know how you've put up so many walls, how that empty, numb feeling has taken a firm hold on your very soul.
I know that you are scared. You want to leave. Escape. Die.
I know you've tried more times than you'll be proud of in the future. You dread coming home. You dread seeing her.
Never knowing her mood, always guessing and wondering, will today be a good day? Eventually, her blows will stop. Eventually, the bruises will fade, and the physical hurt will heal.
One day you will feel safe. And beautiful. And wanted. And loved. You will be told you are worth the air you breathe and the life you live. You will find a god that comforts you, and you will start to heal.
I know you are scared. You live in this perpetual state of fear and hatred and stress and confusion as to why and what you did to deserve the hate you've been given from birth.
It isn't your fault. Know that. You should've been protected. From him. From her. From all of them. All the hurt. But you weren't, we, weren't.
I'm sorry, little one.
You aren't going to hear that for a long, long time, but I'm sorry we had to survive for this long, barely hanging on to sanity and life. I'm sorry we don't get to truly live until so much further down the road. I promise it will end, not anytime soon, but it will come to an end. You will see the light, and you will take that golden chance at freedom and love and support.
The fear hasn't gone away yet, but we will work on it. Together, and we will heal from all the pain we've had drilled into our heads and all the hate we know.
What’s Wrong With Cerulean, Anyway?
Iris was the daughter of the gods, Thaumas of the blue sea and Thaumas' ocean-nymph wife, Electra. She chose as her mission, color, because the sky was black and, of all the emergencies the other gods addressed, she felt the dark sky was the most critical.
She tried to paint the sky, jumping so high that when she came back down, she had left a streak in that dark night, a multicolored band--an arc of variegated ribbon.
Thus she became known as the goddess of the rainbow.
But even a thousand rainbows could not prevent the black from bleeding through. So she jumped so high that she found a green star in the night and pushed it to the world. But the sky turned green, which made all of the lush gardens invisible. She jumped again, so high, that she found a red star in the night and pushed it together with the green star.
"Oh, no," she lamented, for the sky was yellow, and when she jumped along it the streaks of her rainbows were only brown. "A yellow sky just won't do, nor will brown rainbows!" she complained. She jumped yet again, so high, and was able to locate a blue star and tether it, pulling it into the star that was the combined red and green.
The sky became bright, blinding white. She made another arc, but the colors of its rainbow were completely overwhelmed by the brightness of the white. "Who wants to live their lives with eyes closed?" she grumbled.
She had an idea. She looked about the blinding landscape and removed everything brown she could see. She removed the bark of the trees, the stink from the shit, and the mush from all mushrooms. The sky darkened somewhat, but was now gray.
She looked about the bland, dull, muted landscape and removed everything red she could see. She ate all of the apples, picked all of the roses, and coagulated any blood there was into dark scabs. She looked up at the sky and saw it was cerulean. "Almost," she huffed.
She wondered about the green now. She wondered about removing the chlorophyll from the grass, the emeralds from the black shale and from ladies, and the hate from envy. But surely if she removed all the green, she calculated, she would be left with only a pure blue, which would wash out the blue in her rainbow, making each look like two--one of red, orange, yellow, and green, and another of indigo and violet.
"That not the way I will have my rainbows," she said. "Cerulean will have to do."
And she rested, for she saw that it was good.
MORAL OF THE STORY: If you live by the color wheel, don't look for complements when you're searching for rainbows.
Narcissistic Phrase Grenade
There is a phrase that narcissists like to say to a victim of their constant psych-abuse that, like everything else the narc does and says after the initial lovebombing phase is over, is meant to set the victim off, to elicit from the victim a delectable effulgence of anger and angst from which the demon inside of the narcissist can slurp up its hellish narcissistic nourishment.
This phrase is not only repeated in real life by real-life narcs, but it also appears in the depiction of an obvious narcissist in the novel/memoir THIS BOY'S LIFE by Tobias Wolff. In that account, the author recounts how, in his boyhood, his divorced mother was lovebombed and then psych-abused by a textbook middling-to-lower functioning narcissist, and the bulk of the story relates the terrible years when the author himself had suffered from having this terrible narc for a stepfather. But, sure enough, just like I myself had experienced in my own nighmarish marriage to a communal narcissist, this character of the stepfather narc in this book drops this phrase on a victim just at the right moment to set the victim off and drive the victim into vociferous anger, to the smirking delight of the stepfather narc, of course. And it is the same damn phrase that ”my narc” would drop on me every once in a few years at just the right strategically diabolical moment in an argument.
The phrase of which I speak is this: “IT'S A MOOT POINT.”
Be advised: Narcs LOVE this phrase. They LOVE to drop this phrase on a victim at exactly the right, rare moment at which a (codependent) victim actually and finally raises up their hackles, girds up their loins, and forcibly calls out the narc on some particularly narcky, abusive behavior that the narc has been caught doing by the victim. The codependent will have made his or her insistent point, they will have been strenuously logical in nailing down the narc to some particular at-last-realized abuse, assiduously detailed in points of objective fact in nailing down the narc--but then the narc will evince that haughty, narcky tone of theirs, and they will toss out this little verbal grenade at just the right moment, right at the codependent’s reddening face:
"It's a moot point,” the narc will say. Casually, of course.
And the codependent who has not hit rock bottom and had their ultra-nasty, paranormalish, penultimate epiphany of what he or she has been tolerating and facilitating out of this demon-possessed fleshbag of a spouse or
“lover” for so many years, that pre-epiphanal codependent will take the bait, he or she will jump on that grenade, and it will blow up and he or she will wax ballistic and begin arguing ever more vociferously with the narc, and that little grenade of a phrase will have blown up inside the codependent's guts once again, all over again.
And the demon inside that narc just calmly slurps it AAAAAAAAALLL up, the angst, the anger, the attention, the blown-up guts, the whole miasmatic tormented loosh of it all that is gushing and hemorrhaging out of the codependent. The narc will have it all in that moment. The cake, and the eating of it thereof.
Beware of that phrase around a narc.
“It's a moot point.”
Beware of it. They will use it. If you are a codependent primary supply of a narc, they WILL use it on you at some point. Do not let it set you off. Like everything, everything, everything else with a narc, it is best to ignore it, give it no attention whatsoever. You cannot wrestle with a pig, because you only get dirty and the pig only just loves it. Walk away. The narc will wither up and die and go find some other codependent victim, if you just give it zero attention, zero reaction, zero emotion.
Go. Gray. Rock. No matter what they do: Give them nothing. No emotions for emotional vampires. Cut them off. Look at it this way: They may have got the better of you a thousand times, but once you FINALLY know what they are, now that you KNOW ("When you know, GO!”) then you get to go collect the ultimate prize of a lifetime that no narcissist can ever win: At least you are not them; you are not stuck like this, as they hopelessly are.
I sit back and stare as the empty bottle rotates around in a circular motion. With every revolution, the sound of glass on wood creating a trance like vibration takes me into a faraway state of mind. Although this doesn't last long, I take in every damn second and try to forget what's occurred over the last 48 hours. Two legs on the ground and two legs suspended in the air, I lean back in this old rickety chair to try and get an eye level glimpse into the now at rest empty vessel. Peering in, I see nothing, I see an empty void that was once full of promise and courage. Hmm, seems all too familiar. My hands gripping the table as I balance this mental act seem to slip, leaving only a dusty outline of what once was. Stability. My back to the floor and face to the ceiling, I was realizing this was it. The screams the violence and lives taken way before their time the money made and the time spent all for what? I knew this wouldn't last, but also couldn't break free of the life of deceit and power. With nowhere to run and only the clothes on my back, I slowly put my ear to the floor, hearing the sounds of footsteps racing up the stairs. I frantically reach for my pistol but quickly give up, this was a new unwelcoming feeling as I've fought my way out of many battles, but this felt different. I've always listened to my inner feelings, and yet this is what my gut told me. I still want to live. Eyes closed and heart steady, I wait for my demise. SMASH!!! The old frail door flew off its hinges and a burst of lights flooded the dark grungy atmosphere. I hear muffles of yelling, but my mind holds quiet. I don't move. With my eyes held tightly shut in darkness, a warm red glow starts to flood my pinched inner sockets like a warm sunny day at the beach. I was absolutely mortified of this day coming and now that it has I feel a sense of clarity and level handedness like a weight being lifted off my crumbling shoulders. As the days turn to nights and my feelings of being alone now sit content in my body. Being in isolation has never been foreign to me. Throughout my criminal career you are taught through harsh reality's that being alone is what keeps you alive and look I'm still alive. Days turn to months, and hatred turns to compassion. Although, no matter how much you try to reconcile the past, it will never leave you. The only thing you can do is hope to change the future. Looking down at the concrete floor in my new dwelling, I hear the cold metal door slowly squeak open. Back facing the door, I feel the all too familiar cold sensation of metal grasping my wrists. The feeling never goes away. I knew the next steps of this process can drag on for what seems to be an eternity. Dressed like my formal self in a lavish three-piece suit felt like going back in time, although who I was then isn't who I'm now. Looking to my left and to my right, my ever so confident advisors give me looks of promise and hope for a second chance. The opportunity to be free rushes in my mind, as this was the goal from the beginning. Lastly, I look around the room at all the broken faces looking back at me, only to find myself in a state of questioning everything. The thought of possibly being free floods my mind, but so does the thought of being in a state of mental prison for the rest of my life. Making those already suffering have to relive the nightmare and torment again hit me like a ton of bricks. Enough fighting the pain of guilt. I know I can't go back in time and right my wrongs, however the outcome of this journey is all in my hands I thought. I slowly stood up with the feeling of the guard's hand on my shoulder, I proceeded to repeat over and over... Guilty your honor. I change my plea from innocent to guilty. It was silent in the room, and so was my struggle for physical freedom.
As with most any woman, I doubt I was the one she would have chosen to be reeled in by. She did not see me from across some crowded room and feel a magnetic pull, or get struck by a lightning bolt. Rather we were thrown together by happy accident, or maybe not so much an accident. Let me explain.
You see, I caught her.
In all the wide world, and in all of the deep oceans upon it, she and I were brought together by destiny; she happening upon an irresistible morsel during her northward migration, I with pole in hand upon a secluded, vacation shoreline.
I pulled her from the water with a mere 40lb. test, proving that we were meant to be, as she was easily heavy enough to break the line’s tenuous hold if so inclined. I carried her onto the beach, lying her gently down in the white sand where I brushed the dark hair away from her wild, frightened eyes whilst simultaneously removing the hook with the tenderest of fingers, not wanting to scar the sensuous beauty of her lips.
She resigned herself then, giving in to my manliness, giving herself over as I whispered sweet nothings and stroked her with gentle fingers while she gasped, her lungs straining at the unfamiliar air. I rolled her onto her side, allowing the seawater an escape. Her body spasmed as the dark water lurched from her lungs, staining the sand. With her eyes away my fingers felt for and found the knife in my belt. I raised it above her, pummeling the shafted end fatally into the back of her head, but the first blow did not take, and a merciful second was unfortunately required.
Her body stiff and still I picked carried her through the deep sand to the station on the pier where I could test her weight, and get a souvenir photo. Surely she was some kind of island record. And beside the station was a taxidermist, where the sexier half of her would be forever shellacked to a wood plaque for hanging above the mantle at home.
Oh, Pooky-Bear was not going to be happy with this trophy.
I sat at the edge of a clock for three hours. Watching the time tick slowly by. The blinking of my eyes never ceasing but somehow, I see everything with no clicks of slide changes. I'm sorry that I don't have enough to give my poetry what it needs to live, to breathe, to love, to exist. I'm sorry that I pull my words up from my core out of my lips with only a weak thread that might snap, I'm sorry I have to force every word, I'm sorry that it doesn't come natural, I'm sorry that I don't actually write I just force my thoughts into words and shove them out of my mouth. Stumbling and alone and afraid. I'm sorry that I do not have enough words harnessed from the dictionary to speak of things that need to be spoken about.
I dearly apologise that my poems are not flowers that spring from ink that I fill the pages with.
The clock hands are still ticking. I'm writing an apology to my poems, to my writing, to my blank half-started pages, to my countless untouched notebooks and that goddamn urge to buy more. An apology for the fact that I cannot control my words enough to say what flits around my throat, never truly escaping. Never truly gripped by both my hands and pinned to the page like butterfly wings.
No, not pressed flowers but jagged shards of things that you will not notice until you slip and find your hands slick with red from the words that stick into your chest. Unfitting things that do not make sense together, all stuck messily with pink glue, like a young child hastily doing a jigsaw. Shoving piece into piece over and over and ov— until all the pieces look like one colour and nothing really looks right anymore. So yes, I am sorry to my stories but honestly they all look the same to me now, never first person, always a breakthrough, always somehow ending better than the start, always striving to be like that song that gives you goosebumps.
And never, ever, coming close.
I will take a break from ridiculing my poems to watch the clock hands move again. Focus on the movement. On the rise and the fall. The circling pattern that captures my attention. The rise and fall of your chest. The feeling of your breath on my skin as you pull me away from the clock. Whispering that my thoughts need to slow, focus not on external but the internal, focus on my own chest rising and falling.
So I do, for a while, I focus on my breathing, on the rhythm of life and all things green. I notice the patterns in the seasons and in the tiles of your mothers kitchen floor. But most of all, I notice the constant ticking of the clock. Of how every home has some way to measure that ticking and how everyone lives their lives by it. How can I not sit still and get lost in the ticking, how can I not think about my writing but stay unmoving. I've become addicted to counting hours, watching the seconds fills my stomach with fear. Dreading how fast I can lose track of the time. I have so little time. These ideas for writing in my head are so much bigger than myself. The half-started notebooks leak blood, my hands are covered from all the ideas I pinned to the page in vain, nothing but a crime scene. And I have fled the sirens to sit at the edge of a clock. A dictionary in hand and tears to wash the blood away. Fighting this urge to lose myself in the ticking once more, finding that rhythm in everything I do. In the sound of my typing, my pen scribbling on rough paper, in my chewing and talking and breathing. In my heartbeat.
From now on, I will take that ticking, harness it and use it for myself. Not as a reminder of how fast time moves, but as a reminder that everything I do matters.
The bad things take up time— just like the good.
But the thing with the ticking of time is that it's always moving forward, the hands of a clock never sit still to dwell on the past.
I will jump off the side and land on the ever moving hands that whisk me towards my future.
Oh, the mirror
Such an innocuous thing
A piece of glass that reflects what's in front of it
Do I look good? I can't tell...
Do I look bad? I don't like what I see...
I see flaws!
Where did that blotch come from?
Why am I so round all of a sudden?
This thing must be warped!
Perfect, a pimple. Aren't I too old for such things??
I see what I am today
I see what I used to be
My, how the body changes!
I see where I'm headed
God! the crows feet...
Reflections of the physical, past, present and future
My but life takes a toll...
Damn thing is a time machine
Unyielding in its honesty
A truth teller to a fault
Please lie to me, I won't mind!
Now it's mocking...
I should just walk away...
Remove myself from its gaze
But there it is
And there I am
All in this sheet of glass
That makes me see, well, me.