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Posts Tagged ‘an awesome waste of potential’

Let’s try a little something. It may come up boon and it may come up bust-ass, but I’m always willing to try something new. So are most of you, you fetching little adventurers. As far as I know, I’ve never asked this question, and may never ask it again:

What do YOU want me to write about? What sorts of things would you like me to voodoo out of my pen?

I’m not stuck for topics or stories, but I’m curious to know what you, as my audience, would like to knock over in my brain so that it seeps everywhere. Excluded are those of you that would just simply like to knock me IN my brain. To you special folk I would say: Take a number, champ, and I hope you brought a stool, because the line is hella long.

Hey, here’s some music. Get up and boogie around the room. Shake your troubles loose, mighty Muffinass. Roots rock is our salvation, I’m convinced.

Well, roots rock and Jesus. Haaaallyloo!

 
|| October 11, 2011 || 12:06 am || Comments (18) ||

Orange wasn’t always my favorite color; I think at one time blue was. Most of my adult life, though, the distinction of favorite has been assigned to orange.

One time a mess of us were out drinking and I found myself alone at the table with The Prime Minister. “So,” he said to me, “if you were a crayon, what color would you be?”

“Orange.”

“Why orange?”

“Because orange is vibrant and beautiful and draws the eye. It’s unique, but think about it: You can pair any color with it and the combination doesn’t look bad. It can stand alongside anything and work with it. It can stand alone and be even more striking.”

The Prime Minister looked alarmed. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, Jett.”

His reaction surprised me. What was so sad about it? I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it. I’ve never asked him to explain and I don’t know why –me with my annoyingly incessant questioning of every last thing– I haven’t needed that explanation.

Today Mathias said to me, “Hey mom….I’d like to show you a video that I found touching.” I’m so astounded by the person he is. He’s twelve and he is near-about six feet tall and he has this newly-minted manvoice in which he uses words like ‘touching’ to describe emotional states and not what he’d like to be doing to girls. It’s wholly incredible.

Well of course I found it touching, too.

I’m orange, through and through. I’m not going to be grey for anyone, and fuck any silly people that think I could even possibly do such a thing. Not only am I not going to be grey so that someone else won’t be freaked out, I plan on infusing the world with as much vibrancy as I can possibly muster.

I’m unafraid. You be unafraid, too. Go on and be pink or vermilion or blue or green. Not only that: Draw the color up and out in everything and everyone you possibly can. Life is very, very short, despite our longest and hardest days that seem to be unending.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My friend Keith wandered; I understood this, I am a wanderer too. He thought big thinks and he poured them out to me in letter after letter and then e-mail after e-mail. For each of all my unending questions, he had twenty. He was mild and brilliantly dry-humored and regal and kind. He was the guy who brought peace with him into a room, but he was not ever at peace himself. He was okay with this, in his way.

Keith was closeted the whole of his life, and now he is gone, and we –his friends– speak freely of his secrets because in the big scheme of things his orientation and even his illness didn’t matter. I just wish he had known that, had felt it in his middle and rested easy in the love that so many people carried for him, rather than worrying about currying scorn for who he caressed or kissed or bedded. He lived with our friend Stephen for a while, and Stephen tells me of how Keith would scramble, would put a dozen feet between him and anyone in the room if he chanced to get a cut, a scrape; he never let a drop of blood hit the ground.

He built easels that were every bit as artistic as the paintings he created atop them. He started doing this out of necessity: Who the fuck can wag a seven-foot easel from one coast to the other on their back? Eventually he settled back in Memphis into a nice little –if slightly ramshackle– midtown Victorian. These are some of my best memories of us, the ones in that house. One easel he built out of good cherry and I was blown away at the craftsmanship of it, all hand-rubbed and gleaming. He wanted me to take it, I refused. It was too grand. It was too perfect. He was a narrow-assed, mostly-broke artist. He needed the coin it would bring.

Of course I wish I had taken it. He was right; he could have built another. And another and another and another until the virus took over, shifting to syndrome, turning mean and taking his motor control, his lucid thought.

I just wish that I’d known that the last beer we were having together was the last beer were were having together. I would’ve made it last longer. I would’ve ordered us another round. I would have played one more game of Galaga with him in Young Avenue Deli. I would have leaned my head against that broad, bony shoulder one more again and told him another on-the-spot story. He turned my stories into paintings sometimes. Rich ladies in Memphis have my stories hanging on their walls and I miss my friend because forty is not at all an appropriate age for a man’s dying.

BKP, 1971-2011

Six days ago you wrote,

“Was it something I said?”

Six minutes ago I wrote,

“No, it’s because you have an iPhone, you douche.

“Okay, unkidding: Send me your [most recent] number. I’ll dial it. I can tell you about the time my brain cracked and the time that I wondered if it would just go on and split the rest of the way through (the fissure was dangerously close to making itself a jagged, glittering break that calls raw marble to mind) and leave me in its wake. Sometimes I self-loathingly blame this state affairs on myself and my complete finesse in/natural gifting toward matters of addiction when I was but a wee sprite. Other times I’m like,
‘SonofaBITCH, I been telling people that I’m crazy all these years and come to find out, it looks SO much different than my limited capacity for imagination.’

“Yet. I’m mostly word-stuck when it comes to describing it. And it makes me angry, because there was a definite lack of planning on my part. I mean, shit, it just doesn’t occur to one to have a contingency plan for that time when s/he takes a little foray into the cray-cray. Thing is, well, in the last few days I realize that it was merely lapping at my toes, washing into my instep a little. And thinking on that, I am just in horrified awe: ‘Imagine that you were swept into its undertow. Just dwell on that little bit of possibility for two shakes.’ Ohhh, all those people whose insides are begging for just ten exhausted minutes on the shore, and here I still have my legs under me.

“As always, I am far luckier than I have a right to be.

“About one week(ish) prior to said break: ‘This is how this week feels.’

“This week I had one perfect day. That’s a start.

“I miss you in that strange way we have of doing so, you ‘n me. I want to be sorry for my silences, but that wouldn’t make sense, because the silences are a definite part of who I need to be and I’m not so sure that I want to apologize for myself any damn more. Or maybe I’m just not old enough –not quite yet!– to be sorry for losing time. I probably never will be. I still hold to the opinion I had mostly formed up by the time I was about five or so: Regrets are really fucking stupid.”

Six seconds ago I realized that I should have appended all of that with this:

“That’s part of the reason I have three, four tops: They’re easy to keep track of and at least they’re usually polite enough to take turns riding on my shoulders.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I don’t wanna be laid down / No I don’t wanna die knowing / That I spent so much time when I was young / Just trying to be the winner

So I wanna make it clear now / I wanna make it known / That I don’t care about any of that shit no more

// The Belle Brigade, ‘Losers’

I have an elaborate plan and I am not even kidding about this shit. What’s that? You say that you’re dying to take part in it? Well edge in closer, buddy, and I’ll preach a little.

ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE:
Acquire the following items:
+handful of small bills
+some safety glasses
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE: Please make every attempt to acquire these things legally. It would be stupid as shit to get arrested for swiping plastic glasses and/or five bucks in ones, der.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO:
Place these items into your handbag or backpack or poncho or whatever the hell thing it is you use to wag stuff around from Point Ay to Point Bee or Point Cee or Point Eleventyseven.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO: If you're one of those progressive-type brainwashed feminist laydehs, you can just put the glasses in your car and your money in your pocket; GO WOMYN-SISTERS, GO.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE:
Go to thrift stores.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE: Can substitute 'yard sales' for 'thrift stores'.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR:
Buy all the cheap a) plates and b) tinkly glassware you can afford.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR: No one piece of tableware can cost more than twenty-five cents.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE:
Drive to middle of nowhere.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE: 'Middle of nowhere' should be the sort of middle of nowhere that one might mistake as a possible hidey-spot for the handiwork of serial killers or moonshiners.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX:
Get out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX: Dude. REALLY? You REALLY need instructions for this part? If that's the case, just abandon the plan now and go your ass back home.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN:
Look around. Find a tree with a broad trunk that has about sixteen feet of clear terrain outwards in all directions.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Don't overthink that shit, friend. Let your instincts guide you. Flow in the force, Luke.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Get previously-mentioned cheap plates and tinkly glassware out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Make several trips if you have to and ZOMG BE CAREFUL WITH ALL THAT BREAKABLE SHIT!!1!]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Carrying your tableware, walk to within eight feet –or thereabouts– of the tree you got a visual on a few seconds prior.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT: Don't trip.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE:
Place the breakable shit(!!1!) gently on the ground at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE: You can get all fancy if you'd like and spread it out all around you just a little....just make sure it's within easy bend-and-reach distance.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN:
You should’ve donned the safety glasses back at the car before loading your hands up with cheap punch cups and ugly-ass ironstone. If you didn’t, go back and do it, GAHHH.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN: Don't argue with me. Put on the safety glasses. They make you less of a badass, but if you were to lose an eye you'd have to waste a significant portion of your time in the future explaining to people how that perfectly usable eye got away from you, which will make you look like even LESS of a badass. Plus also it would up your dumbass quotient significantly. Then someone could legitimately call you 'candyass dummy' instead of just 'candyass' and nobody wants all that nonsense, now do they?]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN:
Get in touch with your inner maniac. Tell him to meet you up top in a couple seconds.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN: Be sure you're stout enough to wrangle the maniac back down into his usual spot when the time comes.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE:
Pick up one of the items at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE: Bend at the knees, sugar. Bending at the waist should only be done in the privacy of your bedroom when donning stilettos and wanting to appear completely slutty as part of strippery and/or role-playing funs.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN:
Let loose the hue and cry of your soul by way of your pitching arm and hurl the item in your hand at the trunk of that tree you so masterfully chose.
(ed note: you awesome decider, you!)
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN: Screaming like a crazed banshee just prior to and during the throw improves aim and also heightens the overall experience for everyone involved. It hypes up the room, so to speak, and the show gets more epic by degrees.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN:
Repeat until all tableware is vaporized against that trunk.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN: This is not a silly little endeavor, no-no-no. Oh man, you are a treasure to future civilizations. Some archeologist-dude is going to dig these bits and shards up out of the loam and sense in his very bones that some sort of ritual happened at the dig site long, long ago.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN:
Calm yourself. Smooth your dress, finger-comb your hair. Leave this place…..that is, the physical one. Hopefully the mental/emotional location that turned you into a plate-flinging motherfucker is already in your rear view and you are no longer suffering the chastisement of your peace.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN: Go forth, child, with feather-light heart; be stoked like a mother at the knowledge that your fury burned bright and loud but nobody got hurt and everyone is poison-free, to boot.]

This fifteen-part-plan is henceforward known as a Plate Party. I think I’ll be throwing myself one real soon. A couple of other people have already said they’ll join me.

 
|| September 27, 2010 || 8:55 pm || Comments (10) ||

I was maybe eight, which would have made Fred six. We sat on the high bar stools that tucked under the counter on the pass-through dividing the kitchen and the dining room.  We were in the middle of autumn, one that was apparently tired because it had broken suddenly the week prior and dipped us into temperatures that hinted sharply at winter. In the deep shadows of dawn we had pulled our winter corduroys out of the back of the closets, excitedly exchanged cowboy boots (Fred’s) and Chucks (mine) for the tall zipper boots that were standards in our winter wardrobes. It had taken a week of begging, but Mother let us have them, finally.

Do you remember what Finally felt like when you were a kid? Like this:
Finally.
Oh my God, finally.
It was inevitable, but finally!
Finally, finally it happened!
Finally, woo-wooooo, finallyfinally!
Finally was always linked to anticipation when you were small. Now that you and I are big, finally is nearly always linked to something  more cynical altogether.

Grits. We ate grits and toast and link sausages that morning (I have always liked mine buttered and salted and just this side of thin;  Fred prefers hers like wet cement, a dainty teaspoon of sugar sprinkled across them after the butter is stirred in). Fred had this sweet face, this round cherubic thing slathered with goodwill and innocence and wind-bitten apple cheeks. Always smiling, always teasing a laugh from you, always never sad, always the earnest and good one.  That face had amazing green eyes that I coveted; in our family blues are a dime a dozen.

As she ate, dipping her little head forward, her heavy-long hair curtained. Its silky whiteness was held at bay by her shoulders; the barrettes that were wrestled into that hair’s thickness daily were never quite a match for it.

We ate mostly in silence, because neither of us have been especially inclined toward being morning people and we both require introspection and a slow emergence to consciousness to begin the day.  As the bowls were cleared of grits and our heads were cleared of fog, we began to come alive. Eventually, when plates were rinsed and we had spun around atop the barstools infinity times, we faced one another, talking and laughing. The sun was coming up over the pond that was framed in the bay window behind my sister, setting the silhouette of her small body on fire, making her white-blond tresses this neon thing.

And then, because we were kids and we were tomboyish and we were bored as fuck waiting for our mother’s hot rollers to bring her hairset to fruition, we began whacking one another with the heels of our yet-to-be-donned new boots. No shoe-wearing in the house, see? Boots in hands. Boots swung  like hammers  at another one’s person.  Torso,  off limits. No face! That one was a given. Legs it is! We come from sturdy stock, strong legs that can bear a goodly blow! Empty boots, psh, cakewalk.

Thwack. giggle
Thwaaaack. good one!
…and so on.

When I dealt the blow that elicited the peace-rending shriek, I was jerked abruptly from deep and unselfconscious mirth. I’d never heard a scream like that in my life, and Oh My God, I am responsible for that noise she made, for the rolling across the dining room rug, for the tomato-red face rendered goblinesque with pain, for the racking screamsobbing that Fred –epitome of all that is tough and emotion-stuffing in girldom–  exhibited as she clutched her knee in agony.

My mother came flying from across the house, head part-rollered, wearing only her stockings and a blue brassiere. Whenever I saw her half-exposed like this, she looked miles taller than six feet to me, Boadicea come to fuck up the day of any fool with designs on breaching the peace and sanctity of her realm. When she was able to cut through the flailing and the scary hysterics (one of those moments that took –tops– twelve seconds but felt like twelve hours), she raised up my sister’s pant leg to get a look at the damage.

I was fixed to my stool, feeling swimmy-headed, overlarge sockets about to release my eyes to roll out and about on their merry way. Had I broken her kneecap? I had hardly tapped her on that swing, but how could that possibly be believable in light of what was transpiring, this great agony being expressed?

The hem of her cords’ leg cleared her knee and a fat scorpion promptly fell to the rug. Fred began shrieking at a higher pitch then. Mother grabbed up one of my stray boots, gave it one pop, then squinted at it closely before she launched herself toward the telephone.

The scorpion had sought the refuge of the house for warmth, nestling happily down into a never-disturbed dark fold of pant just around the knee area. When I hit my sister next to its resting spot, it startled and struck, the first of an agonizing series of strikes. The rest occurred when the scorpion found itself both panicked and trapped by my sister’s fluttering, grasping hands.

Harmless fun had turned into horror when I’d startled the unseen, predatory thing that my sister carried blithely next to her skin.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Normally I have a pretty thick skin, but I have my share of scorpions that get startled and dig in, striking over and over. It’s because of this that I try to be mindful of the fact that others do, as well. I value being forthright and I value being kind and I’m of the pretty staunch belief that the two don’t have to be exclusive of one another.

Lately my scorpions have been activated sort of en masse, both haphazardly and maliciously. I am inadvertently clutching them to me and, agitated, they are dealing me strike after strike. I’m writhing as quietly as I possibly can and I don’t have a whole lot to give right now in the way of an empathetic gesture to those who need it. The very healthy ‘I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks’ attitude I usually carry has recently morphed itself into just plain ole ‘I don’t give a DAMN’,  which everybody knows is code for ‘Fuck you, World’.

And that’s so very frustrating, because I’ve worked crazy-hard these last several years to drop my dukes and just be, to spread my arms in the easy stance of someone who is ready to welcome, to embrace.

And yeah, to be embraced in return.

 
|| July 25, 2010 || 12:18 am || Comments (2) ||

Confessions about this video:

! I would like, in the case of my demise,  this played on a loop somewhere in the funeral home. Yes, you read me right….fuck that typical gooey, sentimental photo montage of things like the Bad Shmullet Phase and The First Oreo To Have Obliterated Itself Against My Facemeat. Oh, and the visit to that unfortunate town where someone took those unfortunate photos in that unfortunate hotel. Whoops!

It’d be like I was Rickrolling everyone who showed up, but with the Sesame Street cast.

!! Bonus on the above if my demise (most probably untimely) was somehow alcohol-related, me being sent home to Jesus with tequila on my breath and this song on my lips. This has to be a winner as a drunksong. I mean, COME ON!

When I find I can’t remember
What comes after
“A” and before “C,”

Doesn’t that scream, ‘Welcome to my big drunk-drunkety drunkation of drunktacity. Please be seated and witness the gol-danged show, bitches!’ to you too?

!!! In the second verse, I always sing ‘big’ and ‘bad’ instead of ‘big’ and ‘bird’ because I maybe believe you have to speak your place into this world and then step into it. I gotta get back to you on this one.

!!!! I should be more careful about looking too hard at these lyrics. Some of them are somewhat creepy if you take even a moment to consider them:

Letter B, letter B, letter B, letter B.
My mother whispers “B” words,
Letter B.

Letter B, letter B, letter B, letter B.
My mother whispers “B” words,
Letter B.

In fact, upon further review, the third line to the second verse (‘Ball’ and ‘bat’ and ‘battery’)  looks like a masochist’s wet dream.

!!!!! Big Bird really gives me the heebs, sweet Muffinasses. Maybe that’s a wee part of the reason that I won’t sing ‘big’ and ‘bird’ . Well, that and just the act of singing ‘big’ and ‘bad’ (but not like that….when you sing it, you have to be all ‘big and bad’, one solid phrase) makes you feel a little more big and bad than you did before. Lord knows I’m all about empowerment.

 
|| July 20, 2010 || 12:06 am || Comments (13) ||

It is nineteen-eighty-something. I am sitting easy in tenth-grade English, my insides more sullen than my exterior portrays. This is rare for me; I seem to have a direct feed from my heart to my face, so that my expression nearly always announces the storm or still in my chest. At this point in my life, I am unaware what a handicap this is.

In fact, I’m acutely unaware of that aspect of myself until much later on down the line.

Ms. Reid hands out stacks of journals, four of us dispersing them into random hands and the other fourteen shuffling, trading, passing until each speckled composition book finds the owner of the contents seated between its covers. It is a ritual that we never planned on, this haphazard retrieval of words, and it happens every school day for four years. How many degrees of separation do our words find themselves subject to until they are returned to us? How many people lay hands or eyes on them before they come home?

In Ms. Reid’s class there is potential for eighteen pairs to do so, and in truth Mrs. Reid can be counted twice because she will lay both hands and eyes on them before dutifully returning them to their respective owners each day.

I am compelled to go against the grain, to not be what anybody expects on any given day. This is not to say that I am difficult as a rule, but there are indeed times when I am wildly driven to dig in my heels for no other purpose than –by the force of my will– to dent the space I am occupying.

This is a Tuesday and this is one of those times.

“Okay,” Ms. Reid says. She barely reached her old lectern so she had her husband make her a new one. Smaller ones weren’t imposing enough, she explained to me via letter later on when I was a continent away, they were too childlike and flimsy looking.  Thus she found it necessary to commission Charles for the building of a petite yet monstrous podium. Even then she had to wear three-inch pumps to make it mostly convincing.

“No freewriting today.”

(I once received swooning, gushy words for the lyrics to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Swooning, gushy words written in a perfect, windswept hand –in case you are unaware– are approximately fourteen-hundred times better than the same rendered in a messy, ink-smudged fashion.  Really, the only time that those sorts of words should be messy is when they are whispered sloppily, ardently, into a panting lover’s ear.

To this day I have not confessed my bold-faced plagiarism of righteous classic rock. How can I? Mrs. Reid was so in love with that notebook page. Besides, I’m holding both the story and the apology in reserve for when they ask me to speak at her funeral someday. HOPEFULLY AN UN-SOON SOMEDAY.)

“Today I want you to tell me a Truth.”  We all know what she means, except for the twins. Not those twins, the wry and funny girls I count as two of the best friends I will ever know….the other set. It consists of the alien and indecipherable George and Geoff.

Their brains are on a higher plane, and it is one where basic English is basic gobbledygook and everything has to be spoon-fed to them. Granted, George is worse-off than Geoff in this department: He requires three times the explaining, so that even his brother will grow exasperated with him, berating him in their heavy, clipped personal tongue. They will go on, in all their stilted oddness, to audition for MTV. They will create art that can be considered frightening when viewed in the context of the knowledge I carry about their early years. They will never fully learn the give any kind of shit about the language of this plane.

I purse my lips. I am Contrary Personified.  I look at the blank page, defying it to speak to the place where my hard consonants keep watch at the door. I AM NOT SOME CHEAP, MONKEY-DANCING, PENCILGEEK SHILL. And I don’t know where I stand on Truths, because glomming onto one of them too hard will fuck your day up at some point in your life. This is what I think I know, even at sixteen. This is what I will continue to maybe-know later on, too.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

We stand ringing the truth, our mouths expectant. Everyone has an opinion on it.

“That can’t possibly be the truth! The truth is shorter than that, and it makes grunting noises when it walks.”

“I know this is the truth, because my aunt showed it to me when I stayed with her the summer before last.”

“I’ve never seen a Truth that looked like that.”

“Let’s let it loose and see what happens.”

“I say we vote on whether or not this is the truth.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible,” I say, “Truth is different to everyone. We could all stand here describing it all day long, extensive interviews could be conducted by The Powers That Be and at the end of the day they’ll have eighteen differing versions lined up. We will have gotten nowhere.”

They all turn on me, varying degrees of savage showing on their faces. A couple are clenching their fists, ready to let them fly should I let that statement stand. The truth can’t be nothing.

The truth is always something. Wait, isn’t it?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Impertinently and carefully, I use exactly one line to say

There are no truths, only experiences.

and wait there quietly with my journal open on my desk for a respectable amount of time before dropping it into the basket on Ms. Reid’s desk. She passes it back to me the next day, and in red felt-tip ink she has penned her curt displeasure, ‘Then you should have written about an experience.‘ There is a fat red circle at the top of the page, because fat red circles are the scholarly hallmark of assholey teenage behavior.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Two years after the fat red circle I am called forward in front of some two-hundred(ish) students. Intermingled with them are faculty and parents. Out of those two-hundred –all of them about to graduate– I have been selected to receive the Senior prose writing award. It is printed on stiff vellum and has an eagle, our school mascot, embossed at the top. It is unexpected, this certificate, and I am pleased to have received it. However, lyrics to ‘Stairway To Heaven’ notwithstanding, I am unsurprised.

I receive two other awards related to academics, these I expect. I am about as indifferent to them as I could possibly be.

The fourth time my name is called, my brows fly up in a startle. I’ve been given the Senior government award. I am stunned.

After the ceremony, Mr. Lee finds my mother.

“I’ll tell you, Mrs. Superior, Jett wadn’t always my most driven student. Hell, she wadn’t always my most  awake one. When she was awake and involved, she lit a fire under those other kids, and she stirred some terrific discussions, kept things rolling.  There are  a few reasons why I gave your daughter this award, but the two most distinct ones are that she never was afraid to speak her piece, and she never was afraid of hearing somebody’s else’s, either. Ma’am, she was not the most accomplished of my students, but I can assure you that she is the most promising of all of them.” I think my mother treasures his words more than any other thing she’s ever heard about me in her life. I feel like she has never been more thrilled with me than she is in this moment.

Twenty-one impossible years later, on a stifling July day, I will find out I was right. I will find Mr. Lee’s words written on a piece of paper and clipped carefully to the government  award, which I gifted to my mother the night I won it. I will marvel that she thought to write them down where I would surely be able to find them one day.

It will set a blaze of fierce warmth and self-confidence in my belly.