Little Does He Know
Everything depends on what I do with this blade. I could sink it into the skin and let it all end, here and now. But a tiger is always replaced by a lion. Or should I let a murderer live? I can’t just let him walk away with what he has done, but then again, I am just a barber, doing my job. I am not a murderer.
My hand passes over his chin. It is clean, soft and healthy. I plunge the sharp blade into the basin on the shelf. The warm soap, foaming at my wrist. He gets up and walks over to the counter.
“How much do I owe you”, he asks.
“No charge, Sir”, I reply. I will not take money, gained through service to butchery from this man. My pockets shall remain clean. I shall not shake his hand nor smile at my work. My duty is done.
He smiles and walks towards the door. Opening it, he lets a clawing, musty breeze into the shop. Warm saliva bubbles up my throat and I feel my breath catch deep within. He was so close and I let him go. The door swings shut and I am alone.
My Brother’s Keeper
“It’s getting hot. Let me drive you guys.” My mom called from her home office.
“You know, I could always drive… the library is not that far…” I had to try.
“Nope. It’s only a permit. Besides, you know you can’t drive with your brother in the car.”
Crap. It’s only two weeks until my driver’s license appointment.
“Okay," I sigh loudly "We’re hoofin’ it. No big deal.”
“Wear hats and take water bottles. Text me when you get there. Keep an eye on your brother.” She pleaded, peeking her head out of her office doorway.
Like I wouldn’t. It’s all I ever do: keep an eye on The Oblivious One. My mom clings to worry like a talisman. As if letting it slip from her hands meant inviting “something bad” to happen.
“Okay, Safety Sue…” I mumbled under my breath, walking away.
“I heard that.”
Wow. How did she even hear that? Her hearing is as stellar as ever.
“Love you, Mom.”
“Bye Momma!” My little brother called out in his annoying Texan twang as we left. His voice had changed recently, but it still cracked in strange places when he spoke. Freaking hilarious when it did. And when is he going to stop calling her “Momma”, like a baby? Gross.
Dear God, please tell me I was not that awkward when I was that age.
We walked out of our planned community and onto the main road. Four lanes and a center turning lane. I wished I were driving instead.
I heard the honking ahead of us before I could see what was happening. The danger soon came into view. A white, flatbed work-type truck was driving erratically and too fast. Weaving into oncoming traffic, traveling in our direction.
SHIT. No time.No time.No time.
I looked at my brother, walking slowly—always so damn slow! Fumbling with his water bottle lid. Not even paying attention to his surroundings as usual! Can he not hear the commotion?! I felt instant annoyance and gripping fear.
Unless the truck suddenly did something completing unexpected and even possibly defied physics, it was going to hit us. Immediately. I thought about Trig class. Yeah. I didn’t need any fancy calculations right now to tell me we were about to get crushed.
No time.No time. We’re about to die RIGHT NOW.
I grabbed my little brother by the scruff of his t-shirt and by the back waist of his jeans. I hefted his thin body roughly over the guardrail on our right, swearing at myself for skipping the bench press lately. He let out a strangled, mixed cry of surprise and anger. His cry quickly morphed into noises of pain as he landed, tumbling violently down a slight embankment.
Tuck and roll, bro. Protect your face and head. We’ll worry about the rest later.
I heard the truck’s engine nearing as I remembered that hurdles were not my event. Turns out, they’re even harder to pull off from a standing position. I didn’t clear it. My left foot caught on the guardrail. I tensed up, not knowing which impact to expect first: the ground or the speeding truck.
I know a lot of people say their lives flash before their eyes when they are in mortal danger. That wasn’t the case for me. Besides rapid-fire associations having to do with the immediate situation at hand, all my memories were of my little brother:
Feeding him as a baby.
Helping him take his first wobbly steps.
Cutting food in half and giving him the smaller piece.
Pushing him on the swings at the park.
Me taking his Legos.
Him taking my Naruto books.
My jealousy of how he could pick up any instrument and play it skillfully.
The two of us sneaking candy into the movie theater.
Laughing at stupid videos together on family road trips.
All I knew at that moment was that I could not let anything happen to him. I didn’t even think of myself for once. I thought of the worry in my mom’s eyes this morning before we left. I thought of how I’d rather die than have to tell her I had lost my little brother.
I tumbled hard as the sound of twisting metal and splintering wood took residence in my ears alongside the pounding whoosh of my rapid pulse. I had come to rest in a patch of fading bluebonnets, hurting, but alive. My little brother was now sitting up, rubbing his bloody elbow and taking inventory of the damage to his knee. He looked around for his glasses that had been knocked off during his fall. I hurt all over, but I’d take a look at my injuries later. I helped my brother to his feet. People were now gathering around the accident scene on the hillside just above us, trying to help the trapped driver, and calling for EMS.
“Whoa… Momma’s gonna freak OUT, right?”
I paused, wondering if there was any way we could NOT tell her. Negative.
“You bet your ass she will. You have no idea.”
Nowhere to move
No escape in sight.
A crack in the wood
No glimmer of light.
No motion or sound
No laughter or sighs.
No bending my knee
No tears in my eyes .
The loud moan from a dry mouth.
They noticed a shoelace hanging out.
The burial stopped and with no mistake.
The groundsman lived by a narrow escape.
paranoid and naked
then the grass
firm beneath my feet
seems to become unsteady
he's sure to look for me
every man i see
looks a little bit like him
but i promise i wont die
im not going out like this
but then again im tired
and woth him i'd have a place to stay
but i have to stay strong
and focus on getting away
because though i'd have a bed
i'd have a hard time sleeping
scared of the knife
and he's scared of the secrets i'd be keeping
so off i go into
the woods paranoid and naked
and hopefully find a town
and find a police station
but if i dont
cuz i know i wont
i can say that i tried
if it kills me
Eye of the Needle vs Humps
No problem for the unhumped
My humps explain
My difficulties getting through
The hump I carry for each sin
The hump I profit for my avarice
The humps grown in disloyalties
Lick the end of Clotho's thread with a forked tongue
Still creates a taper for threading her spindle
While Lachesis salivates
The eye of the needle accommodates
But only so far as Atropos' decision
And my fate matures
The shape of destiny is a landscape
Of humps on the horizon in stark relief
To the sunset we all ride off into, through contracting needles' eyes
Iris-out and fade-to-black
There's always room for fluid hope
When leaving the humps behind
There's a girl who would dream of sitting on a cloud
So she could look down and watch the world pass by.
Because the voices around her were deafeningly loud
And it would be quiet alone in the sky.
And the girl got her wish and looked down at the earth,
And in the absence of sound, her head began to pound
Without any tethers, she questioned her worth.
So she screamed just to hear another sound.
And her cry became the thunder,
And her tears fell down as rain,
And they threatened to pull her under
Unless she'd live again.
And so she had no choice but to let herself fall,
Back to the noise and work and pain
Because alone in her storm with no one to call,
She could only hope to get lost in the rain.
Just being friendly
The players in this story will be given fictional names, as this is a true account of my twenties. I'm not protecting the innocent, because as you'll see, they didn't deserve it.
James was 10 years my senior and a man's man, because had he been a woman's man, he might have known better. Because how could a man so much older than I -make such a dangerous mistake, if he had an inkling of a woman's fears?
I still wonder at it.
We moved far up North. He was beckoned by a "head hunter" who I'll call Mark. Mark decided to befriend us. Being new to the area, he reasoned, he could show us around so that it would be more hospitable to us. He was a friendly guy.
It didn't strike me as strange that a recruiter would strike up a friendship beyond professionalism. I was young and inexperienced in the professional world though. In retrospect, it was pretty weird.
It seemed like James and Mark spent a lot of time together, drinking and hanging out. I was a homebody, always kind of had been.
It was with a lot of gusto that Mark would try his damnedest to get me to join their frat boy style frolics. I was uninterested.
It was with tremendous prodding one snowy, winter night that finally I agreed to go. They had already been drinking at Mark's - for a while- by the sounds of it.
I was placed on speaker phone.
"I don't have chains on my tires. I don't feel comfortable driving in this."
"Mark is sober, he'll pick you up."
I sighed, out of excuses and got dressed.
During the night, Mark told a story, intended to be humorous. I didn't laugh.
He shared he had been on a date with a girl who had passed out in the cab they shared. She wasn't able to consent.
This was meant to be seen as "cheeky", I guess.
I was quietly horrified.
The night progressed, at my annoyance and growing trepidation- with both men drinking and I, constantly declining. But it was only James who really seemed out of it after a while.
"Drink! Drink! Drink!" They pressured.
I watched Mark like a hawk as he poured my one, single shot of vodka. I coughed as I swallowed and declined more.
I conversed with Mark for a short time, trying to be normal until we could leave. It wasn't long before I noticed that James had left. I found him on the front porch. Head in hands.
"James? Are you okay?" My heart pounded with concern. He looked confused. Mark and I managed to, between us, pull his large frame to the couch to lie down comfortably. Mark assured me that James was just very, very drunk.
I can't remember what we talked about. I just remember requesting every 10 minutes that we be taken home. Mark declined. I was overreacting. James was fine. "We" were having fun.
Mark got up abruptly and came back with something in his palm.
"Oh hey! I want you to try this!"
"What is it?" My heart jumped -in a bad way.
"Trust me, it's good stuff. It'll be fun."
I saw it now, pressed between his thumb and forefinger. A little. Black. Pill. It looked dangerous and he wouldn't tell me what it was. I froze.
I remember the way his face changed from a smile, to intense frustration as he tried to shove the pill into my mouth. I clenched my teeth. He tried again and I doubled down and met his eyes with my own. He drew away. I'll never forget his face.
He didn't argue when I demanded he helped me get James to the car to take us home.
The next day, James admitted to taking one of those black pills. I shook my head.
I never spent time with Mark again, nor was I asked to. Had I been a little older, I would have demanded we report him to the police and would have stood my ground.
James remained friends with him a short time after and I'm certain he never confronted him. For such a big man, he was a coward. But this is one of only many reasons I lost feelings of affection for him.
I'm no longer bitter, because I kept myself safe that night, and that was what was most important. I don't remember Mark's last name. My only regret is not holding him accountable. I wonder how many young, sweet girls trusted this man? It hurts my heart to think about it.
How to Escape Doom or Not (Inspired by multiple dreams)
Dark molars falling out of my mouth? Have I lost something precious, and it was time to move on? There’s a strange hand touching mine. I don’t what hand that it is or why it is approaching me. I have to run to escape a barrage of words from an anti-depressant, over-the-counter drug induced person sleeping next to me who related unrelated events, telling stories of what could’ve been but never should’ve happened. I have to escape a barrage of bullets because unkind times are following me everywhere and every things that falls in every place I go is a scare. I wake up sweating from a night’s half-baked sleep wondering where I am when I am faced by a reality that doesn’t fit me, and I try to change the fit but it doesn’t work because life isn’t a shop where fits are fitted. So, I run adapting to what the faithful tell me to adapt to because if I can’t change then I adapt. I feel like everyone is setting me in a trap trying to unravel my vulnerabilities. Their smiles are missiles, their gazes are blames, and their eyes’ avoidance is their guilt and my shame. So, I know that tomorrow I will reach for the unattainable, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve done it before. I know some people say that I can’t have it because I’m not cut out for it and it’s not the man who fits the cloth but the cloth that fits the man. But I know someone who is willing to sign the contract that I am so willing to escape. I tell myself not to sign, but my idle hand is moving inevitably toward the deal with Mephistopheles look-alike, smirk on the outside, brimstone on the inside, both of us wishing things had never come to be. I search for the exit, there’s light at the end of my sleep. I wake and I never escape.
The sting on her face, the bruises on her legs, the tears in her eyes, the rage in her heart.
"Never again!!" she shouts to an empty room.
The flowers, the hand to lift her off the floor, the tears in his eyes, the apology and promise that, "it'll never happen again".
The vicious cycle begins, once again.
This time a black eye, glass shards in her hands, a lump forming on the back of the head, and heart screaming to be heard--to be set free.
The lies are told to neighbors, friends, family and onlookers. "No, I just broke a dish"; "I just hit my head"; "I just fell down the stairs"; "I can be so clumsy."
But how do you lie to a 3 year-old? A little one standing at the door, clutching his teddy bear to his chest while listening to mommy's screams, daddy's shouts, and watching his daddy turn into the monsters, like on tv?
What kind of lie can hide the truth? No more lies!
Suitcases packed, secret bank account emptied, plane tickets bought with cash, new adventure on the horizon. Little boy hand in mama's bruised one. Big brown eyes searching deep grey ones. No questions asked, just ready for Never Again!
Narrow Escapes: Proving Mother Fuckers Wrong
Human life can be described as a series of narrow escapes. From the first seconds of conception, the sperm that survived the biological and anatomical gauntlet to fertilize the ovum experienced multiple narrow escapes. In its journey, to the fallopian tubes, that single haploid cell had to outlast the mother's natural defenses while using every ounce of energy contained within its tadpole-like tail to complete it's soul purpose, to begin the biochemical chain reaction that will result in a brand-new human being. The narrow escapes continue at fertilization as cells divide, the uterus quickens, and other natural processes play out. The end of this process is yet another narrow escape as the infant experiences its skull being compressed so that it can passthrough the birth canal and be expelled into the bright world through a 10 centimeter opening. The mother faces her own narrow escape as giving birth could lead to catastrophic hemorrhaging, potential organ failure, and a level of physical stress on multiple biological processes which could lead to death. Life is full of narrow escapes, but not all of them feel like the climax one expects to experience during a James Bond or Indiana Jones movie, some are slow burns where years may pass before we know if the escape was made. My narrow escape could be considered a slow burn to its conclusion.
I came into the world after experiencing alcohol, illicit drug, and nicotine exposure. I appeared to be a healthy newborn possessing all ten fingers and toes, a strong heart beat, and lungs which wailed in fear and anger as I entered the world. The narrow escape had begun while in the womb, but on August 1, 1974, no one know about this escape. The theory is that my very pregnant mom (smoking 2 packs a day because she had to give up the other drugs she so enjoyed) experienced a nearly fatal spike in blood pressure which caused little fetus Shallowgenepool to suffer brain damage. It wasn't until my grandparents asked why I wasn't walking at 2 years of age that my first-time, drug addled, parents had a clue something was wrong. A few appointments and tests with specialists provided a diagnosis, cerebral palsy.
Along with the diagnosis my parents were given a less than sunny prognosis. The neurologist explained that I suffered significant damage to the left motor control area of my brain and it was likely that I would never walk, experience cognitive delays, and pretty much be a life-long burden. My parents took the news with a, "Fuck that and fuck you" attitude. It was then that I made the most important narrow escape of my life because my parents could have accepted the prognosis and treated me like a fragile antique vase allowing me to never challenge myself, but they didn't. Instead, they worked to help me walk. Along the way the helped me learn how to challenge myself, avoid self-pity (though I am human), and to experience the unique joy that comes with proving mother fuckers wrong. At a follow up appointment with the same neurologist almost a year later, I walked in the door. I narrowly escaped the possibility of life in a wheel chair because my parents didn't accept the doctor's hopeless outlook and they took it upon themselves to make sure I would walk. give up and they made it their mission to to shove some success up the doctor's ass. They did this mostly out of love, but I think they also wanted to prove the doctor wrong. I was too young to remember that appointment, but to this day my mom has a Cheshire Cat grin on her face when she tells the story.
The narrow escapes continued through childhood because the effects of the cerebral palsy required bracing along with intensive occupational and physical therapy. In order to promote continued muscle and bone growth in my right leg, I had to wear a Forest Gump style leg brace on my right foot. This was accompanied by the most butt ugly old man shoes you could imagine. I was also left with about 40% use of my right hand and arm. The weakness caused my right wrist to hang limply from an arm that stayed in a partially bent position, neither of which could be hidden from cruel eyes.
In the Darwinian, survival of the fittest jungle that is an elementary school playground I was treated like a wounded zebra surrounded by a pride of hungry lions. Since there was no hiding my physical differences, I was immediately targeted by the bully packs that roamed the jungle gyms and swings. In order to keep my head out of the toilet, I needed to figure out a way to make frequent narrow escapes. It was here that I proved another part of the neurologist's prognosis wrong. I wasn't cognitively delayed (not much anyway) and I was blessed with an Irish Catholic, alcoholic, drug addict wit along with a touch of bad attitude. So, I used the only strength I had. I weaponized my sense of humor. Instead of beating on me, the bullies were entertained by my sense of humor. For those bullies who lacked a sense of humor, I would insult them in a way where their dim brains vaguely understood they were being insulted, but they didn't understand how. This confusion stunned the IQ deprived bully just long enough for me to make a hobbling get away.
The narrow escapes continued through elementary school and well into adulthood. I had to make narrow escapes from stereotypes, discrimination, and the feeling that I would always be seen as damaged goods. The thing that saw me through these tight spots was I never let the diagnosis define me. Instead, I made sure it refined me. Being disabled shaped and refined me into an empathetic, caring, and somewhat functioning human being who still loves to prove mother fuckers wrong.