Learning to the song of the beeps
Leaning against the padded gym wall, I gasped for breath. My lungs burned. My legs felt wobbly. And I was going into shock.
Out on the floor, some of the other kids were still running in synchrony with the beeps emanating from the portable stereo. It was assessment week in gym class. Today’s test? Run the marked lane and cross the line before the beep. Then turn around and run back before the next beep. And again. And again. If you failed to keep up with the quickening beeps, you had to leave the course and your time was marked.
Gym class was one of those things that could only be endured. Why it should be part of my curriculum, I couldn’t fathom, although I’ve oft suspected that some parts of school were implemented purely to torture the students. As far as I was concerned, ping-pong and written tests were the only pleasant aspects of the class.
Yet at the announcement of this upcoming test, I took an unusual interest in the event. It was something that was scored. Therefore I wanted to do well. Obviously, I would do well. No half-measures for me, no apathetic dragging of my feet. Determination would win the day. I’d run until the cassette tape quit.
Still panting, I slid down the wall to the gymnasium floor. Something had gone horribly wrong. I struggled to work it out as my heart worked double time to supply my brain with oxygen. Then I had it:
I gave it my all, but it wasn’t good enough.
At sixteen years old, I was slapped with the realization that the adage I’d lived by all my life, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” wasn’t actually true. My world had been turned upside down.
Naturally good at all things school, I was used to success. I loved learning. I relished every academic challenge and persevered through the toughest of them to “win.” I was also artistic, musical, and creative. What couldn’t I do?
Run to the cadence of gym class beeps, apparently.
A day later, the shock was wearing off and I was laughing with my friend. “You thought you could just decide to ace the test?” I was embarrassed to admit that I had. I hadn’t considered that there was a physical dimension that might eclipse my will.
And truly, I hadn’t considered that there could be something I wasn’t good at. Oh, but it felt good to laugh at my folly!
As funny as it sounds, that day in gym class changed my life. It opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not good at everything. I began to notice and accept my shortcomings, and even admit them out loud.
But do you know what else is funny? I didn’t realize until after college that I could actually learn to do better at things I’m not naturally good at. Not easily or quickly, and maybe not to the point of greatness, but it's possible to improve.
I now see what was obvious to the rest of the world: I probably would have done better in the gym assessment if I had trained for it!
I wonder what I’ll learn next?
“Is life a mystery,
which so many want to sort?”
I once asked this question
and the reply was a retort:
“Woman, is it your mind that you have lost?
Time is of essence
Don’t waste on such a quest
Don’t squander what cannot be retrieved
Go on, don’t think of rest
There is no mystery
and, there is no puzzle
Life is a river
and each day a new bank
a new discovery
Sometimes, it’s pristine sand
Sometimes, dirt and water you can’t tell apart
But what you see each day
is not the same as last
Flow – the purpose of a river
Flow – the purpose of life
The very effort to stop the flow
can bring a flood
and spell doom
So, don’t stop to solve the mystery
Instead, just flow
And discover what life has to show.”
~ ©nehasri/Neha Srivastava
P.S. ~ This poem was published in 2016 in The Ibis Head Review. Usually I would write a new piece for all Prose challenges but I believe this is one of the biggest lessons I've learned in life. Most often we get caught in the web of life or stuck in situations which require us to simply go with the flow. Time is not just a great healer, it is also a great puzzle-solver. Sometimes what time shows us is way beyond our imagination.
#ProseChallenge #CotW66 #itslit #getlit
Chasing the Dream
I gave it a go, a moment ago, as it was almost so, within my reach…
But it ran in a way, as if to sway, from near to away, with lessons to teach.
As we rolled down the mountain and climbed towards the beach,
I shouted out my promise: “My pact I won’t breach…”
I chased her through alleys, past some trash bins,
Then came to a T, on needles and pins…
I looked both ways, then straight out to the sea,
Fearing that she’d drowned - - drowned ’cause of me…
Then suddenly she jumped out from our childhood tree,
Looking tired and breathless while taking a knee…
She spread open her arms and welcomed me in,
She asked for a hug with an upside-down grin.
As I wiped off a tear she said, “lend me your ear,”
Breathlessly whispering, “you have nothing to fear.”
She said, “some things in life are simply not meant to be…”
As she let me down gently with this ultimate plea…
“You fought for me with gusto and unparalleled fire,
But all partnerships, love, must eventually expire…”
“You tried and succeeded in never dropping the ball,
But in the end it is I, who will cause us to fall…”
“You protected me throughout this turbulent stream,
Now let me take this one - - this one, for our team.”
And then she made love to me in an absence of time,
In a position of free verse unhindered by rhyme.
Within all my predictions, I never did see…
That at the end of the night, my dream, could leave, me.
Copyright © 1986-2017
All Rights Reserved
life pounded in sharp needle spikes
mistakes I’ve made colored my soul
wrong choices tarnished who I was
wrong influences dug trenches into my psyche
crooked paths veered off course
married too young before I knew who I could be
misguided career choices without a compass
advice I didn’t follow, heading wrong way
pulled up my socks and started fresh
faced the truth and reversed footprints
released creativity and blended tints
kindness to all – sweet words rebounded
erased prejudice – we’re all the same
took a chance – threw dart into wind
wrote that book before I knew how
painted that canvas with story of my life
tried new things and honed my path
opened soul allowing new joy inside
new beginnings and new pleasures
let worry fly into the breezes of change
opened up to life and tested the future
embraced journeys exploring new trails
expanded my knowledge, explored my world
painted in new light with dawning colors
swelled with love and burst with understanding
Who I now am
soft but strong enough to face challenges
open mind and heart overflowing
creative but willing to learn and expand
giving and nurturing to those that I love
inclusive in my feeling for people of this world
grateful to Prose Community for opening up
life to possibilities and hearts to understanding.
My Dog Teddy
I was an unusual kid - keeping very much to myself inside a world designed by a dark imagination - held in check by a morbid fear of everything.
A child born without siblings who may have aided in the buffering of my parents’ violent and deeply disturbing relationship.
I did have a dog, though. His name was Teddy. Teddy was a terrier mix with soft brown eyes and a wiry, cream, scruffy coat. He was always at the foot of my bed when I woke of a morning, and we played together for hours every day after school.
I fucking loved that dog.
On that Saturday morning, as my parents started into their usual weekend argument regime, I leashed Teddy to take him for a walk before punches were thrown and the Police got called again.
We lived in a semi-urban environment about an hour west of Sydney - an area growing fast due to development, helping to provide low-cost housing for families struggling to survive the city’s property market boom.
Teddy and I had been walking for about 10 minutes when I caught sight of Gary Boil and his two Chinese flunkies.They were in the park and seemed to be attempting to uproot a seesaw.
I lowered my head and quickened my pace, all the while praying for the power of invisibility.
Frozen to the spot, I stared at the ground, I could hear them run towards us.
“Look fellas, even his dog is a homo,” Gary sneered.
At this very moment, I was wishing Teddy was either a German Shepherd or a Pit Bull - anything other than a dumb and friendly mongrel that was gazing playfully at my tormentors.
Gary Boil began backing me into a tree with a prodding finger rammed into my chest, all the while questioning this 9-year-old boy’s sexuality.
I looked up for the very first time to witness him staring into me with hate filled eyes, his face flushed red and a strand of spit nestled in the corner of his grim mouth.
“Don’t look at me, homo,” he snorted, as he slapped my face with an open hand.
Something inside me broke. I let go of Teddy’s leash and raised both hands to Gary’s throat. I began to choke him.
I then sunk a knee into his gut, which caused him to double over.
Interesting enough, Yin and Yang seemed surprised and happy to allow this turnaround to continue.
With Gary at my mercy, I put him in a headlock and began to pound his head against the tree.
It was then I heard the squealing of tires and a yelp followed by a horrible, pathetic whimper.
Turning my body around, I faced the road with Gary Boil’s head still pinned in my arms. My dog was laying motionless inches away from the front wheel of the stopped car. I threw off Boil and ran towards Teddy.
Dropping to the road, I rested Teddy’s head gently in my lap while searching desperately for any sign of life.
There was none to be found. My dog had slipped away.
The driver, overcome by grief and guilt, knelt down beside me.
“I’m so sorry kid,” he said.
“He just ran out.....I couldn't stop in time.
“I don't know what to say, mate.
“Please accept this.” He held out a twenty dollar note.
I looked into his eyes, tears streaming down my face, and he handed me another twenty.
The driver nervously backed into his car and drove away.
Gary Boil threw a rock that hit me in the back as he and his henchman skulked off down the street.
“Boo-hoo, homo,” he taunted in farewell.
It didn’t matter.
I looked at the forty dollars in my hand and then at my dead dog, Teddy.
Something else inside me broke that day. The one last strain of attachment in my life had just been severed, and my tears had given way to numbness and a void. .
I carried Teddy’s body home and into the garage to administer some much needed repairs.
Patching him up was relatively easy. I washed the blood off his coat, and, as luck would have it, I found a can of beige spray paint for the bits I couldn’t repair. Admiring my handiwork, I carried him back out onto the streets.
Waiting between parked cars, I chose my moment carefully.
As a speeding vehicle approached, I launched Teddy onto the open road.
My technique improved as the day progressed. Feigning grief and manufacturing tears -getting it down like a pro.
I cleared $250 in five hours. Each time Teddy got hit, I would take him home, repair him, and then return to my gruesome enterprise.
It was only after my fifth run that the motorist smelled a rat.
“Kid.....this dog has stitches for eyes.”
He handed me ten dollars anyway, and I didn’t argue.
It was time to call it quits.
I buried Teddy under the hammock in the back yard with his favorite chew toy and twenty dollars.
I loved that fucking dog.
I will admit I have my quirks - and you may very well question my morality - but to my credit, I haven’t owned a dog since Teddy.
My Dad and I
we don't really get along much
and sometimes, its hard
trying to talk to him
when he's mad at me
and I'm mad at him.
We can get angry together--
at the Black Community,
at the wickedness of the world,
but nothing is resolved
when we're mad at each other
Mom told me
that I should be honest,
and maybe that hate that
dug itself deep inside of my heart
will fade away with
a few simple words.
"Dad, I love you."
"But sometimes you can be too honest."
"Sometimes you can be too condescending."
"And you won't care."
"And I'll just continue to hate myself."
"Then you get mad when I don't speak up."
Dad, I love you.
But the things you say at times;
they make me want to--
("Drink bleach. Hurt myself.")
Cry a lot.
Because your words are gospel to me.
Your guidance is driving me insane.
I think that
we could fix each other
if we talked more
if we opened up
Maybe you'd be more pleased
not to see
the relaxed look
on my face.
Maybe I'll be happier
knowing that my relaxed face
is a smile
I discovered myself at 6. Like an object I tripped over, I wasn't expecting it. I thought i already knew myself: Girl, Brown, Last born of three, My name and age and school, the colors I liked, the games I played...etc.
Despite that, I met myself at 6. On a swing. In a desolated playground as I waited on someone to come pick me up from school. I had watched my friends disappear in pairs and one by one as their parents came to fetch them. So here i swung on the swing after school, by myself, in the silence that took me by surprise. I was alone, yet I was not scared. There was no one and nothing to distract me from my soul, and I could hear it.
With this unknown but freeing feeling in me, I swung as I looked up at the pale grey sky, I found it beautiful. I sang a song that i made, with lyrics I wished I remembered and I was me; no age, no label.
My mother picked me up shortly, I put my hand into hers while in a trans. The following days I realized with so much vividity the colors I liked, the songs I enjoyed, the food that made my tummy hum :). I saw flashes of a dreamed and awaiting future (as i do now). I saw the ants no longer squashing them, I watched the butterflies without trying to trap them. I had realized in that moment that every single thing on earth had a purpose that only it could fulfill. Including me.
I learnt that I was unique, thus irreplaceable, thus important. And so was everyone and everything else.
a Broken Ring,
Like Spread Thighs;
Cottage Cheese For Seasoning.
That Should Have Been
Seven Seasons Dead.
In This Room
I Have Been Held
For the Murders of you
I Thought a Friend
& the Mob Who
Trying For my Head.
Just me you See
With a Canned Good
the Misery I With Stood
2 To the Chest
& One Beside the Eye.
the 45 Caliber Kind.
to Drain & Die
On This Kitchen Floor
Was Not What I Was Made For.
If I Was to Die
It Was to Be In Battle Sweet
or Between the Legs
of a Lady Riding High.
Both Foul & Deep.
Luring me With Sex & Song
to the Valley of Sleep;
I Went For a Bottle of Beer
& Surprise Who Should I Meet
But 3 Long Shadows
Waiting There For me.
Down I Was InDeed,
Blood Red Agony,
Not a Breath to Breathe,
Pain Bright Dizzying.
Laying There Wondering
If This Was the End For me,
the Vest Had Not Held
& Crimson Was Blossoming.
They Left to Check & See,
To Get the Stuff to Dismantle me.
In the Tub to Bleed
& Then the Cutting;
Not For me
As I Slipped Ravioli In a Sock.
I Came to Crush your Skull
my Lovely Little Girl.
Then the Man
Who Came to Gut me Like a Pig
& Then the 2
to Help Move.
It Was Such a Gristly Scene,
Had to Be Burning.
I Will Never Forget
Those Broken Things
As the Kerosene Burned Bright,
Every day, every second we are getting closer to our deaths. Whether it be tomorrow, or in a hundred years, I want to make an impact on the future generations. I want to make an impact on the whole world.
Though I've only lived 13 years in this world, I have learned so much from all of the little experiences and memories I've made.
And one of them, the most important and crucial life lesson that I will keep until the end of my life, is to live and not to be alive. Just being alive is the stereotypical person today. Sitting at a computer drowning in youtube.
But actually living is impacting the others around you innovatively. Changing other's future and changing the present. Creating a new world of possibilities.
That's what is called living.
I have already lost my grandfather, and when I heard that my music teacher's daughter had cancer, I was heart stricken. We die so quickly. Suddenly. It disrupts our lives, but then it goes back to normal. There's still a hole in your heart. A dull vibrating ache. I know she's okay now. She's alive. But I still can't help but feel uncomfortable.
It makes all the bad thoughts jump into my head.
What if I die tomorrow? What if I get cancer? What if someone murders me?
But I know that I'm not scared of death.
I'm scared of not living.
I'm scared of being tortured into oblivion, knowing that I will simply be gone. There will be nothing left to remember me by except for that lonely computer down the hall that I typed for hours on.
I want to make someone happy. I want to forge a dream for someone. I want to change someone's life.
And although this wasn't a huge experience, it still impacted my life in indescribable ways. Ever since moving, ever since I realized my childhood was going to end in five more years, ever since I realized that death is real, I learned that I needed to start living. I needed to have my handprint of change on this world.
And I won't stop until I know that I've made someone's life the best it could be.
What Life has Taught Me
Life has taught me this:
When you are born, you are given a blank canvas and a pallet with assorted paints on it. It is up to you to paint a picture. This will be your legacy.
You will look around and notice that some people have lots of paints on their pallets to choose from. And still others have larger or smaller canvases. Do not be discouraged that you have fewer colors, and do not mock those who have fewer colors then you. These paints that you have been given, have been specially chosen for you. As to the canvases, some painters shall be able to paint more, others less. Paint as long as you have room on your canvas. Make it your own.
This is your task: paint your picture in one go. You do not have a second chance, and mistakes will happen along the way. Do not fret about these blemishes on your canvas. If you work them into your painting, it will ultimately become more beautiful for it. If you dwell on the mistakes, you will make more...
It is also important that your painting be partially inspired by other pictures. (It is impossible to paint with out first seeing what a good painting is.) But remember to make the painting your own. Perfect duplicates of a painting make for a dull gallery.
Be forewarned, some who have gone before you have failed in there endeavors. They wasted the paint they have been given by smearing it in grotesque and terrible images. Some painters will even dare to destroy the canvases of others before ultimately destroying their own. Be wary of these people. Their influence is detrimental to the painting of your canvas.
Again, do not despair with the colors you have been given, or have not been given. Use what you have, and make your painting yours.
Never become discouraged. And remember this: once you decide to step away from your canvas, declaring it finished, it will become finished. Be wary of the temptation to give up on your painting when it is hard. A half painted canvas is only a half painted canvas. A good painting will be painted to the full extent the canvas has to offer.
Now go! use your paint, use your canvas. Live your life.