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Posts Tagged ‘crass aplomb’

 
|| September 14, 2012 || 3:08 am || Comments (7) ||

I once knew a girl named Laura whose mother wouldn’t let her watch the show ‘Square Pegs’ so I taught her the theme song. Laura used it like a weapon without even realizing it; she drove her mother crazy by singing it incessantly. I’d made sure she had Patty Donahue’s bored, slightly hostile whine down pat before I unleashed Laura on the world.

“If she complains,” I thought to myself one day, “Laura should just point to the poster above her bed.” It depicted a fat blue cartoon bird in the throes of soulful (constipated?) warbling. It was peppered with pregnant, drunken music notes and bore the caption ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.’

In short, I’ve always been this way.

Later on Laura’s mother would figure out we were Without and find subtle ways to feed me and my sister a hefty meal once a week. We got a long afternoon of play on Sundays after church; we were largely unsupervised for hours at a time in the massive playroom over the garage. Laura’s mom always baked us a pile of cookies to snack on warm out of the oven then tucked a foil packet of them into each of our pockets. I made my sister ration them: If we made it home with three apiece, then we’d split one between us per day.

One time my sister gorged the second day and ate all but one herself; I wanted to pound her in half. We couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit, though, and I knew if I whaled on her I would hurt her terribly, so great was my sense of want and loss and frustration with our circumstances. It had nothing at all to do with cookies and everything to do with the dignity of having something more than what we were usually afforded.

I need to send Laura’s mother a thank you letter, I think. I never thought she liked me overmuch. I’ve figured out that liking is irrelevant though, really, as long as you are acting out of care and love.

You don’t have to like someone at all to do that.

 
|| July 20, 2012 || 7:45 pm || Comments (9) ||

Guys with guitars will always get laid; it’s a law of the universe. If you’re not a musician? Easy: Be a passionate lover of music and come equipped with the right song. You’ll always get laid, too.

I first heard Half Moon Run’s ‘Full Circle’ a couple of weeks ago; it was one of those pulled-up-short moments where one minute I’m cruising down the road, hunting a picture or a bargain or some peace, take your pick. These days I’m happy with any one of the three.

Okay, then, back on track: That next minute consists of me being in the parking lot of the janky (but useful!) quarter car wash, scribbling lyrics as hard as I can because KAPOW this song has hit me in the guts and the brains and the past and the heart all at once and I’m immediately sucked in and possessed.

Some people are not moved by music, not at all, and when I hear this admission I feel like I could not be shocked or disturbed more if This Soulless Entity were to grow a third arm out of their forehead. That sounds overwrought and angsty, yeah? Well, it apologetically is. In fact, I’d probably feel more comfortable in the presence of Armed Forehead than in that of This Soulless Entity.

It’s that dramatic. It absolutely is. I stand by the term ‘possessed’.

So this song gets all inside me and it rattles around and I ask Uncle Google about Half Moon Run and their music, specifically ‘Full Circle’. And then, there is this video,

which is just so many ways enchanting and exactly right. The first time I saw it I was taken with the notion of the lead singer’s bottom lip and how I felt like it needed biting. For the record, I felt that way up through the fifth viewing, too. It was the fifth viewing that called up an additional notion that says I’m so voodoo-ed by the video because I’ve spent more than one afternoon rehearsing or listening to others kick some music around and that kind of thing is such a beautiful, intimate space to inhabit (even if there is someone in the band who’s prone to throwing things, and then it takes on a whole different vibe that is no less cool but potentially bloody). When you witness the birth of an amazing song there is this powerful moment that you’re locked into, whether or not that song stays there –in the room or the truckbed or the garage or laying in the bed of the creek it first floated across– with the few or spirals out and thirty ears hear it, a thousand, three-billion.

I imagine that this is one of those songs that, when it started pushing its way past vocal cords and fingertips, made itself known as something singularly great. I bet every hair stood at attention. I know this because I can’t stop singing it in my head or under my breath and it’s not driving me nuts to do so.

In the past week I’ve been enthusiastically pointing ‘Full Circle’ out to anyone who will listen, because I can’t possibly the only one who is knocked the fuck out by it. Also I would like the comfort of knowing that I’m not the only dirty old(er, AHEM) broad out there who’d take a tumble with two-thirds of this band if I weren’t spoken for. And hell, if the other guitar player would comb his hair, I’d be all over that, too.

(pee ess….leave me some knockout music in the comments;  what has you all fixated and squirrelly? doesn’t have to be new, just has to be amazing)

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!

 
|| March 20, 2012 || 1:56 am || Comments (6) ||

We spiraled further and further into it, and that cliché about becoming this groping, twisting, gymnastic Other was played out, right there irrespective of location and eyes not ours. My heart screamed savage and I moved on you, against you, everything about me just yammering ‘moreohmorrrre’; more of  you, more of us, teeth and skin and breath and sinew and grimacing, gloried smiles.

This is to promise, this is to sin, this is to fulfill with the body what the spirit wants to whisper to the spirit of another. This is to joyfully and wantonly and pointedly possess. This is To Fuck. This is to fuck, desire-driven and with no end in sight.

I woke, dream still dwelling on my skin, to find you in my arms. Usually I am buried in yours, loosely strung up, my forehead pressed to you. My nose was buried in your hair and it occurred to me that breathing in your amber warmth was the cause of my dreams and I wanted to wake you, I wanted to ask, “Are your dreams tangled in me, too?” because it felt otherworldly and driven, this sleepy electrifying passion, and I just knew  (knew!) there was some freaky shared consciousness shit going on. I didn’t get a chance to ask, because as my lips hovered over your ear and parted, you stirred, you rolled, you pulled me to you and before I knew it the dreams had sashayed out of the confines of sleep and we were at one another, torrid and sweaty and gleeful.

….and then the falling away,
oh god thank you
no, thank you

Later in the day, then, you’re working over there, plotting schematics. I’m working over here, plotting words.   It was your turn to pick our soundtrack, and you chose Lisa Hannigan; I called it a good choice. After a while, I rise, saying I need a shower. You rise, saying you need a snack. We meet somewhere in the middle –as we often do, in so many respects– and move easily into a hug –as we often do– that turns into a small sway and then into a soft and slow dance there in the mid-morning sun of our living room with its beautiful furniture and tragically ugly carpet. You smell just so you and my lips seek out the place I love so, the one where your shoulder meets your neck and the softness belies the quiet strength that I so admire in you. You carry it so easily.  I brush my mouth across that spot and you shudder. There is a thrill in being able to elicit this in you still, all these years later.

“Your lips are so soft,” you said to me the first time you lifted your mouth from mine, “I knew they would be.”

You are something spiritual to me that cannot be defined. You ushered a sense of peace into my life –the first true peace, I’d say, one that didn’t have a levy against it–  when chaos was like a swarm of bees that I’d been living in the midst of all blasé-like, as if brushing one’s teeth or going to the grocery or collecting a paycheck in the center of an agitated mess of bees was just Another Natural Thing That We Do.

Lets just be real honest: I’ve never had much attachment to this world, or my place in it, even though I go at living out my said place with my teeth and guts and much rowdy laughter. You, though: You make the mortal coil this waltz of a thing, and I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve prayed fervently to God (and selfishly! oh so selfishly.) that he would take me away from it first so that I’d never have to live one single minute without the promise of your hand in mine at the end of a day.

This world, Gabriel. This world is so dead-set against love winning nowadays. Thank you for facing it down with me, for laughing against the savage cry and hue that would try to drown us –the song that we make together– out.

You are so much my hero that my heart can hardly bear the weight of it.

 
|| January 29, 2012 || 1:57 am || Comments (10) ||

So I worked at this plant where I was a supervisor on night shift. As a completely unrelated (and maybe worthless, I’ll leave that to you to decide) aside, I’d like to tell you that –despite aggressive insomnia that started taking over my sleep when I was in the neighborhood of eight or nine– ten months of working the night shift aged me ten years. At least, that’s what it felt like when I slung my safety gear over my shoulder and walked out of that joint for the last time.

Clock in at eleven, clock out at seven. There were three-hundred and fifty personnel on that shift, busted up into different sections, each section with a supervisor. A couple of the more sizable sections had three to four line supervisors, with crews of anywhere from seven to fifteen people for whom they were responsible. Out of those three-fifty, there were approximately eight women. Only one was a section super. Another was a line super. The latter was me.

The plant floor was always loud. It wasn’t only loud; it was dangerous, too, because we were working with caustic chemicals and we climbed things like monkeys and we teetered on the edges of slick, sharp inclines manhandling equipment that was half our bodyweights or more, high up in the air over solid concrete floors. There was machinery everywhere to bounce off of on your way down, if the thought of cracking your melon on some ‘crete wasn’t enough to keep you cautious.

I had a crew of twelve men. There used to be one woman on it, a woman who had been there for years and never been promoted because, well, she wasn’t. She was diminutive and appalling, because she was yippy like a chihuahua and always aggressively demanding respect out of one side of her mouth but then giving blowjobs in the parking lot out of the other. The kind of girl who, for instance, wanted to wrestle like a man but when pinned would intone in babyvoice, “Let me up, don’t hurt me, ’cause I’m just leeeedle!” Females of the world who are like this: Just give us all one big fucking break, would you? Everybody –male and female alike– pretty much wants you to fall in a ditch and stay there.

(I mean, I don’t give a shit if your aim is to have every dick within ten feet of you in your mouth at one time or the other, but don’t go acting like you’re surprised when none of the males those penises are attached to come to you for your philosophical take on matters. There is slut-shaming and there is poor judgment and we’re all adults here and can tell the difference, right?)

So Yippy was on my crew and her first order of business was to be passive-aggressive with me and Give Me Ten Kinds of Shit because I had all my teeth and two brain cells to rub together and oh yeah, tits. Good-looking tits. So HEY, I must be COMPETITION rather than her BOSS, right? It didn’t help that she was madly in love with my buddy Polack Dave and was convinced surely to all of high holy heaven that I was going to fuck Dave the very minute that Yippy (who yes, had been Dave’s mistress at one point) and DAVE’S WIFE turned their backs.

See? See what I was dealing with? I played poker with Polack Dave and Polack Dave’s wife and they fed me at least twice a week. Polack Dave and I high-fived one another on the way in the door every night and flipped one another the bird going out of it every morning. Why on Earth would I want to mess that up?

However, Yippy was inconsolable. Yippy did a good job, but Yippy was lippy and disrespectful and I did all the requisite you-try-to-fuck-my-crew-up-I’ma-fuck-your-day-up dancing and write-ups and finally I said, “You know what, Yippy? I AM HAVING YOU TRANSFERRED TO POLACK DAVE’S SUPERVISOR,” and so I did. She was (prematurely) gleeful.  Said super promptly hid her in a broom closet in the nether reaches of the plant and everybody was pretty gahdang happy for a time.

Then there was the night that a very large fellow named Howard stepped to me.

See, I think that maybe some people made the mistake of thinking that I had Yippy transferred because she was a female. Not so. I had Yippy transferred because she was a gigantic asspain and I just wanted to do my fucking job and get the fuck out of there in a timely manner each day. When I eventually got my crew hipped to my way of doing things, we were done with our line by four-thirty and could catch two hours of nap in the breakroom so that we’d be rested up and ready to find beers at one of the only two bars in town open for breakfasty patrons. If you work the night shift, then eight in the morning is your six at night and so by ten ay emm you’re good and shitfaced if that’s your aim. Sure, it’s in a scummy dive of a bar, but who is there to judge you? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re either the folks carpooling miles away from said establishments or the guy at the end of the bar with his asscheeks imprinted into the stool that he hardly ever leaves. He sees four of you and all four iterations have a different name, get it?

Holy cow, I digress. Anyway:  In order for me to do my job and get out in a timely manner, there has to be a cohesive team working toward the same aim and doing so at least quasi-jovially. Whistle while you work, bitches, and you will ride the clock for almost three hours for free and nobody is going to yell at you for doing so because you! are Union! and you! have done a bang-up job! that exceeds the specifications laid out for you in the super-big and ridiculously detailed company manual! This is because my aim is never to do just enough to get by; my aim is to have some stracked-out results whose worth cannot be contested. Selah! Amen! Nap! Then beers and billiards after!

An event whose progressive steps looked something like this, so as to save us some paragraphs and get us to the action right quick,

1) “Howard, man, I don’t like that. Can you do it the other way, please?”
2) “Hey Howard, could you do your job x way because your fancy new y way is slowing the flow and is less efficient overall and since my part of the line depends on your part of the line, you are slowing me down, as well.”
3) “Howard, I don’t know why you are looking me dead in the eye and purposely slowing both our jobs down but that’s not cool and I need you to cut it out.”
4) “Howard. Cut the shit, man.”

occurred over the course of about an hour and a half. By the time I got to “HOWARD. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH,” Howard had decided he’d had enough, too, and closed the twenty or so feet between us with a haste that, had it been shown earlier, would have saved us all the ensuing trouble and dramatics.

Howard got all the fuck up in my face. He had six inches on my five-ten and Lord knows how many pounds on my one-sixty. We were in full hazmat gear, but our helmets were magically, manically gone, flipped from our heads simultaneously and he was breathing down on me, enraged, bearing in, face literally two inches from mine. Howard began yelling in earnest and the whole ‘I’ll be damned if I’ma let this fool back me down’ aspect of my personality rose up in all its glory. I was on my tiptoes, meeting him where he was at and pushing back emotionally every bit as hard as he was shoving me and suddenly there was Polack Dave jumping lines to get to us, there were three members of my crew begging us to stop and more on the way. Everyone was afraid to touch us, everything so electric and precarious. They were attempting to shout sense over the clanging and banging of machinery but the fog of rage –not to mention our mutual shouting– engulfing us obscured them.

Howard got one warning from me to back up, then one more warning from me to back up then he told me to fuck off bitch and I gave over to fury. I raised the high pressure hot-hose that had been dangling limp in my hand (hastily shut off during Howard’s approach), put the metal key to it that dangled from a loop in my coveralls and kicked the hose on as I took a step back. A high-pressure stream of scalding water surged forward from that industrial hose and I nailed that fucker square in the chest with it. There was less than a foot between us. Howard went down.

I got reamed for this. Never once, though, not one single day of my life, have I ever been sorry for that moment. Sometimes your crazy is the only thing that you can rely on. Hatred is shameful. Fury is gorgeous. The two should never marry. If it is devoid of hate, sometimes your fury is a righteous and perfect thing with inexact but fitting results.

 
|| March 24, 2011 || 6:51 am || Comments (5) ||

The conversation that predicated my sitting down to type this went like:
“I’m unfamiliar with ugly birthdays. What do they look and sound like?”

“Slouching towards the barcalounger, they stumble with uneven steps.  This one calls itself ‘45′.”

“Forty is ambling toward me. It’s a couple weeks away, and I’m smiling at it.
“I don’t even have to get my birthdays drunk anymore, that’s how terrific they are.”

“Forty was actually rather anti-climatic for me.  It just was.  I don’t feel whatever I think it should feel like. ”

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

When I was six and standing near the merry-go-round

(don’t get me started on merry-go-rounds and the criminal lack of them in the modern child’s world. Holy God, modern children are such pussies, Muffinasses. When you treat your children like intensely breakable things, you will wind up with intensely broken adults….you heard it here first)

a little girl named Perry approached me. She was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen; even at six years old I knew that her slightly-vulnerable gorgeousness would beat people senseless before they even realized they’d been struck at all.

“I cain’t come to your party, Jett.”

“How come?”

“Momma says we cain’t buy you a present, so I cain’t come.”

“It’s okay,” the obliviously shitheaded six-year-old me said with an easy shrug, “you don’t have to get me a present. You can just give me money.”

I am quite horrified when I remember that moment. I had no grasp of the notion of poverty, having known only good things and no want in my life at that point. I didn’t know any better, but still: I blame that six-year-old, I judge her harshly.

When I went home and told my mother, she wasn’t angry at or caustic with me. In fact, she was very patient, though matter-of-fact. “You can’t say things like that, Jett. It’s not polite. What Perry meant was that they didn’t have enough money for a gift, and her mother thinks it would be impolite or embarrassing to send her over without one, so she is keeping Perry home.”

I just wanted my beautiful friend there. I had ruined it. I could have just said, “Come be by me on my day; that will make me happy.”

I didn’t know any better, but it doesn’t feel like that excuse fits the hole it is trying to fill.

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

I was the kid with the gigantic parties: My parents buying two fistfuls of wristbands for the amusement park, my parents  building a gigantic bonfire and pulling horses out of the paddock for rides, my parents renting a whole skating rink in Tulsa.

Somehow, it was never obnoxious, though. I think this was because –while I thought they were great and all– I never staked these events for bragging rights. It wasn’t, after all, my money that had made this terrific thing happen, it was my folks’. They weren’t doing it to be ostentatious or showy, either. My parents were doing it because they both loved a good party and were both born with a top-fueled hosting gene and they loved me beyond the scope of anything I could fathom. The parties were fun, but ultimately not what I cared about, I don’t know why. I was grateful to have them, but I don’t remember being garrotted when they wafted away in the mist that was my parents’ marriage.

Imagine my slight shrug as I say this to you: They just weren’t that important to me overall, I don’t know why.

Over the years, I’ve always been happy and delighted to receive birthday calls, cards, thoughts but I have never placed much emphasis on my birthday save for a couple that I viewed as milestones. Twenty-five, thirty: Those were  both important to me somehow. The ones before and after? Not especially so. We all know that guy who heralds his coming birthday for the six weeks leading up to the thing. I am usually the exact inverse of that.

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

I was born, shouting and holding my own head up, on the first of April, nineteen seventy-one. Hospital staff, in keeping with the spirit of the date, told Henry I was a boy. For the first twenty or so minutes of my life, my father had a son. Later that day my extended family gathered around the nursery window, most all of them, clogging up the hallway with their exuberance and their staggering numbers. My first birthday party happened as I stretched and retracted in a hospital bassinet; I was surrounded with unbelievable amounts of love from my first day on the planet.

In truth, I think that’s why I didn’t need a day of acknowledgment or adulation fixed solely on me over the years.  I was told I was special in a myriad of ways every waking day of my life.

Oh my God, what a treasure, you know?

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

This year I am forty and I am doing it differently: I’m throwing myself a party. Forty is a big damn deal, and worthy of celebrating. I’m not having some existential crisis. I’m not wailing at the death rattle of my youth. I am reveling in a life that has been and continues to be a gift. I’ve got it good, I’m excited about that, what’s not to celebrate?

So I’ve asked some friends to surround me and help me do so. Just as if I’d throw a party in facespace and everyone would laugh and enjoy one another and swap stories, so it will be out here in Cyberia. I’ve asked the aforementioned friends to show up to the party. This is how I charged them:  The theme is: write a love letter to me. My definition of ‘love letter’ is pretty broad and kinda loosey-goosey. It goes something like this: When I hear Emmylou Harris sing ‘Red Dirt Girl’ I think she’s written a love letter to me. When I get mail in the mailbox –even junky, tree-killing shit– I think the postal service has written a love letter to me. When I can sleep through a night, my body has written me a love letter. When a picture, a word, a song, a gesture dings a nerve or delights me, it’s a love letter.

I am blessed to have a host of people in my life that will say ‘yes’ when I ask something like this of them, so starting tomorrow, wander over here for a few minutes of every day over the course of the next two weeks. There’ll  be something new in this space each day from stellar people I love. I am very(!) excited(!) at this prospect. “We’ll live like KINGS! Damn hell ass KINGS!”

It takes a fortnight to celebrate good and proper, after all.

 
|| 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.