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Posts Tagged ‘insomniapated’

 
|| May 4, 2012 || 4:19 am || Comments (6) ||

Hello there, you—

So I set a fire.

That’s what you do in middle Missouri, it seems. You make a careful pile somewhere out in the back forty (‘back forty’ in this instance means ‘the pavers stacked together with military exactitude until a burn ring was formed there’) and when you can stand it no longer, you burn that pile. You’re supposed to have a burn permit. That’s what my father told me the last time I was here, anyway.

And because there was a sizable pile of thick honeysuckle vines, newspaper, and potentially-funky boxes (potentially funky because I’d gotten them out of a man’s warehouse and said warehouse was neither clean nor orderly nor without pests-slash-vermin), because I have a healthy sense of don’t-give-a-fuck, I did it without an official burn permit*. Probably it had something to do with the full moon, as well, don’t you think? A full moon and some sketchy, shifty-looking sort of clouds beg a fire.

See, one thing I’ve always been good at is arranging a pile of things so that they are combustion-friendly. I’ve never had any trouble, overmuch, getting a blaze to form up where there was none before.  I can make the kind of fire that melts your face if you dare turn toward it and I can make the kind of fire that you can cook a meal by and I can make the kind of fire that burns low and steady and, for the most part, is still there waiting to be stirred up the next morning when you rise, head beer-fuzzy and mouth dull with the aftertaste of marshmallows blazed to a non-sticky crisp over and over again.

I took myself and my black Bic up to the deck and leaned across the railing as the thing caught good, flames pushing back night, spinning and falling and tumbling into and over themselves. Flames! You are so rowdy! How can man not love you, you remarkable things? Fire, you are triumph itself!

The smoke was dense and sweet, and because I sometimes have an overactive imagination I wondered if some great mystery would be revealed to me if I stood in the middle of it as it billowed past.

Honeysuckle smoke is a new one on me, let me tell you. It was a happy accident borne of my father’s diligence. Because of the radiation he is taking into his brain and his chest, he is limited in what his body will allow him to do anymore. Even when the cancer had him near-dead, he was still able to do just about damn near anything he wanted. It infuriates him in his low, quiet way that the thing that is making him well (supposedly. all it’s really doing is prolonging his life, and nobody has any illusions about this bit of business, even though we don’t talk about it with him) is stripping him of his no-holds-barred go at life. He tries to do physically demanding things and, aggravated, resigns himself to the sofa with his Kindle, reading book after book set in Africa. When he tires even of reading he boots up his iPad and watches videos of African men dancing, shouting, celebrating, fierce. He is quiet and reverent as he does so.

I have no earthly idea why, in his cancer-soaked retirement, Africa calls to him, but it does. I hope he will treat himself and go there when he gets his strength back from the chemo and the radiation and the forced-march cadence of Being A Cancer Patient.

So yeah, diligence: He can only do one or two things on the days that he can can stay vertical for very long, and those things are usually very manly things like scrambling around a roof or hauling brick. He won’t quit and I don’t tell him to.

His energy was sorely lacking last week and so he attacked the overgrown honeysuckle ferociously and without prejudice. Out of his frustration, then, grew my full-moon discovery that a honeysuckle fire gives off a gently sweet smoke.  It is so strange, sometimes, how we make our way toward knowledge.

I do part of my work on the internets. The internets are a swamp of distraction (maybe you know this already). HOWEVER! This evening I found myself watching a video wherein Ms. Natalie Portman and Mr. Johnny Depp were signing –yes, S-I-G-N-ing, not S-I-N-G-ing—along to a song by one Sir Paul McCartney, the Most Ancient High Beatleperson. I was captivated by the complete dissimilarities between said Ms. and Mr., by the swooping and precise way in which she executed the American Sign Language to convey the words to this song versus the very grandiose and looser way that he undertook the same task.

Though I was leaning heavily toward making Ms. Portman my favorite in that instance, it was Mr. Depp (with woefully puffy face and sternly exhausted countenance, poor Johnny) who won out and it was because he made me take more careful notice of the way that the word ‘valentine’ was executed.

And here, now, three hours past the sweetness of honeysuckle smoke , as I pen this in order to get it in the post in a handful of hours, I find it intensely interesting to note that the sign for ‘valentine’ looks for all the world as if a bomb were being detonated just before tracing the heart.

Over and over my heart has been detonated. I guess this is how I’d assure a complete stranger such as yourself that I’ve had a good life thus far, an intensely satisfying life. In matters of faith, of art, of love, of politics, of travel and taking meals and having conversations, my heart has been detonated. Some explosions have been messier than others, of course.

But you know that: You have a heart, too.

I hope this finds you well, warm, and happy.

Blessings,
Jett

*oooh, Rebel Rebel, we’re afraid-a yoooou, making a FIRE in a RING after a two-day RAIN. Risk taker!

pee ess….not long ago I found a box full of vintage writing papers for a dollar. A DOLLAR! Such a great find.

 
|| January 6, 2012 || 2:22 am || Comments (10) ||

“You aren’t so strong, you know.”

My head dipped; I was grinning and I didn’t want him to see. Sometimes my amusement was just for me and to explain it was worse than trying to justify it and God knew I hadn’t needed justification for a fucking thing since about the age of three.

I crossed my ankles primly; I waited for the grin to dissipate because I didn’t want him to hear it in my voice when I told him what I needed to tell him. He was a white boy –technically a muddy blend of Irish-Italian, like me– but the local Kings had taken to him when he was small, at a time when hearing himself referred to as cholito swelled his bony chest with pride. His coloring and build let him pass as Rican, but his swagger was all Guappo and of course, I loved it….until it was aimed at me.

“You don’t get to tell me who I am, Tony. Not ever.”

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

The first time he saw me I had bows on the backs of my socks. It was at my cousin Nita’s birthday party and he told my cousin Jonno that I would love him one day. I was visiting Chicago, being made over by the extended family because I was full of yes sirs and no ma’ams and drawl-tinged smarts. I was leggy and blonde with peach-bronze skin, completely unaware of the males that would have eagerly dipped into me if I had only given them the merest indication of want.

There was a wall of fully street Italian cousins between me and any summer romances, with me suspecting as much; it was the same with my towheaded Delta cousins, so I knew the routine. Some of the Chicago boys’ friends had started sniffing around me that visit and been promised beatings if so much as an “I think you’re pretty” tumbled off their tongues. Anthony had not been warned because he was accepted as family, and as such was an acknowledged part of the Wall of Cockblock. Jonno had laughed when Tony predicted I’d love him.

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

The first time he slid into me some five years later, he whispered into my ear his early want of me, his dreams over the years where I would sit in a dim room unmoving and say just one word –his name– while my eyes, big in their sockets, stayed fixed on his.

Frustrated, he knew I’d be back.

“Anthony,” I said in return, and my whole body exhaled into him, grasping, trying to push us further into one another, “yours.” It was all I had and all Tony needed. He put his hands flat on my ribcage and rocked the cries out of me, murmuring the whole time, the murmurs words of devotion because we were young and that’s all we knew. When you’re young you have not learned the power of filth yet so desire alone is potent and overcoming enough.

He wasn’t my first, but his was the first lover’s shirt I’d slipped across my back and stirred awake wearing, alone in the bed and drunk on the chafing of my vulva and the bitten spots on the inside of my lip. I delighted the first time I found the bruises that the dig of his hipbones had left on the meat of my inner thighs. I wanted his signature all over me in any fashion I could garner it. That he would never be so reckless as to mark me intentionally made those painful purple blooms prized possessions.

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

“I’m staying.”

“What?”

“I’m staying. Nita is joining the Corps and I can have her room; I just have to convince my Mother that it’s a good idea. That shouldn’t be so hard; my aunt and uncle love having me here and they’ll help.”

“No fucking way.”

“Yes!” Now I smiled.

“No,” he winced, “no, what I mean is that there is no fucking way you stay here when you can go back down South and be safe.”

“What?”

“Jett. If you stay here then it will eventually get around that you’re my girl. If it gets around that you’re my girl then there are a lot of things that can and will happen, fuck! You have to go home. I’ll come see you.”

That would never happen. Everything in me told me it would never happen. You didn’t run with the people that Tony ran with and just pop in and out of town on a whim. You held down your x amount of square blocks and only ran across town or across country at the express direction of key individuals.

“Leave them, Tony. Leave  them so you can be with me.”

“I will. It takes time, but I will, I swear.”

He was dead before my Christmas break that year. I still have the taste of him on my tongue if I think about him at long enough a stretch, all these years and all these loves later.

Instead of doing something that makes sense for a person of a writerly  persuasion and, oh, writing a bunch of things about the massive changes in my life over the last four months, I’m gonna catch you up to right now (because, oh trust me, right now is a Pretty Big Fucking Deal overall) with a timeline done in an annoying ‘100 things about me’ style.

Here we go!

1) My estranged father called me from Nashville in mid-July telling me he’d be there the next day.

2) I spent the whole of that day Losing My Shit before deciding, all zen-like, that I’m happy with who I am and screw anybody who didn’t think I was enough, even if they were the lender of half my genetic material.

3) That visit went well. Remarkably well.

4) In August, through twisty-turny strangeness, my job came to an end.

5) Both my boss and I cried, admitted we didn’t understand why this was  happening, but that it was supposed to happen.

6) He made the transition from paycheck every week to no paycheck every week pretty comfortable for me, all in all.

7) That first day I was out of work, Maxim texted me one word: “FREEDOM!!!”

8 ) I began to set my sights on writing and making art as a means to, you know, feed the people that live in my house.

9) I just so happened to win a full pass to the Summit of Awesome put on yearly by Hello Craft.

10) It was held in Baltimore.

11) I had about twenty-five bucks in my checking account when I won the pass.

12) My father was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable lung cancer.

13) I knew the whole ‘reunited comfortably’ thing would have a catch.

14) Oh Universe, you’re sofa king cute.

15) Through a timely combination of some small miracles and some people’s generosity, I got to go to Maryland.

16) I got to sit down with a couple of really savvy, really influential people and pick their brains.

15) I came back motivated as fuck.

16) So far,  so good, but I’m not where I need to be by a long shot.

17) I’m getting my ducks in a row and hanging out my ‘official’ shingle soon.

18) Until then, I’d like to announce that I am your girl if you need a writer or editor. Plus some other things. I’m good at lots of things, I swear. Just ask me.

19) OH MY GOD, HIRE ME.

20) My father decided that chemo was a no-go for him and that he’d like to try the homeopathic/naturopathic route toward ridding himself of cancer.

21) His oncologist pissed him off by pushing-pushing-pushing him to start chemo yesterday.

22) He told his oncologist to never contact him again.

23) My sisters immediately called me to shriek and to rally me toward Bossing my father.

24) I opted to tell them to mind their own business and to support the man’s right to live OR die how he saw fit.

25) I’m not The Boss of that man. Nobody is, really.

26) Everyone decided to make nice and let our father go about this cancer business in his own way.

27) Fancypants herbs and complex teas, it is!

28) Life rocked on for a minute or two.

29) I worked on BlogWorld Expo’s Virtual Ticket in the fall. It was a cool gig.

30) In case you do indeed want to HIRE ME, HIRE ME NOW, I have swell references from that whole deal.

31) My Etsy businesses, Pretty Gritty Things and 256 Eclectica, started gaining steam.

32) Commission work! Steady sales! I may not have to panic about money after all, right?

33) My father came down and brought a trailer full of tools and materials.

34) We collected even MORE materials, salvaged from various sources.

35) We went down to Butch Anthony’s farm on Poorhouse Road to build a shack for the 2012 Doo-Nanny.

36) It’s most of the way finished. I still have to put some siding boards on, but I can’t wait for you to see it.

37) I have an art shack at the Doo! It’s gonna be called Story House. I have some ideas on how to finish it out.

38) Scout had her gall bladder out. Goodbye, carefully-saved Christmas funds. Hello, Scout’s comfort.

39) Life is never dull. NEVER dull.

40) There was some peace. There was a little bit of quiet.

41) My father wanted all us girls to go to Missouri for Thanksgiving.

42) Most of us did.

43) I spent the first Thanksgiving ever since we were married away from Maxim.

44) I did not like it, but it was a necessary evil.

45) He got all sorts of cool stuff done around the house in my and the children’s absences.

46) Hmmmm, I may have to consider this leaving-on-Thanksgiving thing again.

47) The visit was AMAZING.

48) I learned that I have two cousins that are published authors and one great-grandaddy who was a bootlegger.

49) (I fucking well KNEW we had one of those in the family somewhere!)

50) Missouri roads are swoopy and well-maintained and just basically fun to drive.

51) I got a ticket on the way home.

52) I won a scratch-off for one-quarter of the ticket’s value on a bathroom stop shortly thereafter, so there’s that.

53) I unpacked, slept a couple of nights and then re-packed.

54) I went with three really amazing writerly people to my Delta homeland.

55) As I predicted to myself, there were ghosts waiting for me there.

56) ….but there were stirrings, too.

57) And laughter. Holy Ghost and the Father also, what laughter.

58) My soul got shook. I won’t speak for anyone else’s.

59) (but theirs did too, der)

60) My brain was set to ‘fog’ for a week upon my return….but not in a necessarily bad way, see?

61) I decorated the Christmas tree.

62) My father called.

63) He talked of going out west for a few weeks.

64) Two weeks prior he’d said firmly, “No more road trips for me. I smoke more and I don’t stay as rigidly to my program when I’m away from home.”

65) I understood.

66) ….so when he talked of going to Nevada for a month or so, something started to not feel right.

67) Other things he said also tripped wires on my insides.

68) I asked pointed questions back to back.

69) He had no time to dance around them nor wriggle out from under them.

70) “Do what you want,” I said, “but I’m going to respectfully insist that you get the second scan you promised us girls before you get on the road.”

71) He was going to drive out there, you see; never mind his waning health or the potential for things to take a turn for the sudden worse.

72) He got the scan.

73) I saw it.

74) It is the sort of thing that makes you go, ‘Fuuuuuuuhhhhhhck.’

75) Impressive yet terrifying, I guess is the apt decscriptor?

76) He told me not to come.

77) “Not time,” he said, promising to tell me when it was indeed ‘time’.

78) Psh. Yeah, right.

79) Likewise, he told my sisters not to come.

80) Fuck what that fool says: I’m grown and I do what I want.

81) My whole family came in for Christmas.

82) It was a grand time, what with my parents and all the kids there.

83) For the first time in twenty-five years, I didn’t bake a single Christmas cookie.

84) My heart was seized.

85) I tried and tried and tried to bootstrap some Christmas spirit.

86) Didn’t happen.

87) No, you don’t understand the profundity of this: I am an ay-number-one Christmas dork.

88) Christmas Day was beautiful and peaceful and rich.

89) My aunt called, Don’t wait to come. Come now.

90) I met my baby sister in St. Louis a week ago.

91) We went out and got shitfaced.

92) Dear Tony the Hotel Shuttle Driver, Thanks so much for your patience and understanding and also stopping at Schnuck’s so that two drunk girls could shop for breakfasty foodstuffs. Love, Jett

93) The next day my Uncle Ron fetched us from the big city.

94) My father cried upon seeing us.

95) That was only the third time I’ve ever seen him cry in my whole life.

96) He patted me for the first half-hour we were here.

97) He started chemo.

98) We are caring for him in whatever manner we can, in any which way he will allow .

99) He’s starting to feel terrible physically.

100) We are in this Cancer Bubble, my father, my sister, and me.

And that’s the last four months in as brief a fashion as I know how to convey them. Now you’re up to speed. Now I can start writing here about all these things. Lord knows I’ve been writing everydamnwhere else about them.

 
|| September 16, 2011 || 1:25 am || Comments (17) ||

I am from Break Something: A heart, a bone, a liver
I am from bound and determined and from get the job done and from we don’t do fail
I’m from one hand easy on the wheel and one hand tapping on the outside of the car door to keep time

I am from give me a break and don’t be a chump and brook no bullying

I am from poor white trash and hayseed nobility and every penny earned. I’m from new, sweaty money: Fortunes carefully stacked in the age of transistors only to be toppled over and made into toothpicks for robber barons.

I am from “GOD! GOD BLESS AMERICA! Goodbye Italy. Goodbye Scotland and Ireland and Germany. We are taking you to America in little pieces under petticoats and in the heels of shoes, in songs and saucepots and ceremony!” I am from boys that lost their lives too soon and women who buried them. I am from toting the flag home and remembering, never forgetting, sending another on to do what needs to be done. I am from standing the gap and saluting. I am from Devil Dogs and all those American conflicts as far back as anybody can count. I am from veins that are stripes and eyes that are stars and I would not want it any other way.

I am from whiskeyed kisses and stories told by the creek bank and oh my God there can’t possibly be this much simple happy in all of the Cosmos.

I am from Red Rover, Red Rover, you can come on over but you’re gonna have to break my wrist to to take me back with you.

I am from always knowing God, even before anyone told me about Him. I am from a reverse-apostate mother and a father who unblinkingly disbelieved it. All of it. Then he changed his mind, but I didn’t care anymore. I am from the far, far opposite of not-caring.

(speaking of the far opposite of not-caring:) I am from Mike B. and Keith and Jeff and Tony and Brooks and Jeffrey and Lee and Michael and a better Michael and Joseph and Ron and Stefan and Maynard and Richard and Gabriel. I am not from Tommy, though I once gave him credit for that; it was an illusion.

I am from “Look it up in the dictionary, Elizabeth.” I am from sitting in a movie theater thirteen times to watch Star Wars with the man who gave geekery a good and sexy name. I am from hands on the hips, purse on the lips, ‘why-can’t-you-just’.

I am from mean collarbones and bare knuckles and nearly bleeding to death and self-dressing catastrophic wounds. I am from hospital beds that masquerade as graves and people that miraculously pull themselves out of them.

I am from Memaw putting a hot brick in a towel and nestling my feet against it, four cousins wiggling and giggling beside me underneath quilts that our mommas helped piece. The wind whips icy and howls and I am not from it nor for it nor desirous of it. I am from Memaw’s quilts themselves, gifts from loving and careful hands of women who all both spanked and doted on me when the one or the other was needed.

I am from catch-and-release lightning bugs, from the skins of cicadas.

I am from smiles, from wisecracking, from limb-tangling tacklehugs and peach juice dribbling down, down, down, into fertile and storied soil. I am from the bare toes that wiggle into that soil, and beatific faces that stretch, eyes closed and appreciative, toward the sun.

I am from Love sprouted in a borrowed car and the hallefuckinglujah chorus.

 
|| May 28, 2011 || 12:47 am || Comments (0) ||

Good ole Tootie, serving up the lulz: “Bonnnnng. Bonnnnnng. Bonnnnng.”

Hi there, Precious Muffinassedly Ones.

Look. I always suffer sleep deprivation, we all know that.  Insomnia always dances around my periphery, making nyah-nyah faces and crowing about its power over me. My typical M.O. is to cheerily flip it the bird and go along my merry way. Everybody’s got their thing, you know? Insomnia is mine, no big deal. I’d rather do this than have to deal with a shit-ton of other things I can name. So I wake up earlier (or more) or stay up later or lie in bed telling God a litany of things I have no right or business to worry about, which is my version of counting sheep….I tick off  the world’s troubles and ask God to take them away. So what?

But oh man, right now I’m the midst of one of the most vicious cycles I have had in a while. It started just before the Japan mess (two days, I think?) and has been feverishly groping me like a slovenly old pervert. INSOMNIA DOES NOT GROPE SEXILY, MUFFINASSES. It has clumsy fingers and smells bad, pleh.

Tonight I was on Twitter and it was atypically bitchy and edgy and angry and I was all ‘I hate this‘ and then I started being obstreperous to make myself feel better (sometimes I behave badly just to feel a little alive, you know?).  But then I remembered that I get super-stoked about giving presents and so now here we are.

Leave me a comment about anything, tell me about your day, give me a story or a link; complain about something or be sad about something or make up a dirty limerick. That’s your entry for a drawring I will do in a couple days for a magical thing called a TACKY PACK™ that I used to give away on the regular back before I moved the old voyeurnal over here. The TACKY PACK™ is essentially a melange of great goodness and übercool radness. I don’t have to suck any corporate dick to bring it to you, and there is no ulterior motive save for the fact that I’m getting my jollies by giving a (many-partsed, multi-faceted) gift to somebody. There used to be a page devoted to telling you how great the TACKY PACK™ is in all its random iterations, but it’s long gone. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it and know that present-giving is one of my strengths. I think it’s the one meant to balance my propensity toward addictive behaviors, but I can’t say that with complete surety. What I can say with a great degree of confidence is this: Tweeting about this to your followers won’t get you an extra entry, but it would be a cool thing to do.

UPDATE, 11:10 p, CST: Post amended to add this video, which delights me.

 

Sometimes life is clumsy with us, and completely artless.

Two weekends ago, I bought a pack of cigarettes. I was in Georgia to have eight stingy hours with Samuel, to try and avoid words like ‘combat’ and ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘deployment’ while doing so. It’s weird, yeah, hearing me talk about avoidance? It’s weird to me, anyway.

turning blue
:: turning blue ::

We had the eight hours after the Turning Blue ceremony where Samuel’s father pinned an infantry cord on the newest member of our family to become active duty military. It was an especially poignant ceremony because it happened at the very place where Sam’s father had gone to basic,  jump school and part of Ranger school. Couple this with the fact that it also fell on Veteran’s Day, well….of course the patriotic Southerin belle in me was all a-swoon and falling over. Certain things about me are grossly predictable and sappy; I’m okay with that.

infantry cord
:: sam’s father pins his infantry cord ::

Sam is a smoker now, and a dipper. This is despite my protestations, despite my reminders of how hard he nudged me toward quitting (what I saw as) my paltry four-stick-a-day habit. One time, five years ago and in an attempt to entice me toward quitting, Maxim said to me, “You’re going to feel like a supreme jackass when one of the kids starts smoking.” Maxim’s always been a quiet prophet, and wise. He is scary on the rare occasions when he admonishes me, because he does it with gentle love or wry humor. What is a person with a warrior bent supposed to do with that?

I do indeed feel like a jackass. Maxim was absolutely right, as always. How can I be annoyed with his loving rightness?

Cue us riding down the road, Sam and Mathias in the back seat, headed back to our chalet for the remainder of the eight hours after a trip to IHOP. The boy spent his entire time in bootcamp fantasizing about pancakes, bacon, french fries; he had asked for IHOP in October on the weekend of his thirty-six hour pass, too. At a grocery store stop he bought a pack of cigarettes and a large can of snuff despite my warnings that the outcome might not be a great one. Besides, you’ve been without all this time, why start back now? Of course he assured me, this new man-person who is now six-three or thereabouts, it’s fine, Mother, I’ve got this. Oh for all the lost nickels that could be paid out on each time I have reassured people around me after this same fashion.

(It’s hard to navigate where to be a mother and where to be a woman who respects the fact that her son is grown and should be left to his decisions without a degree of unsolicited cautionary language (um, nagging?). My mouth and my brain, they pull at one another, while another part of me entirely stands aside to observe and thinks, ‘Myyyy, what a queer state of affairs this one is.’)

Okay, yes, riding down the road: We had begun to slow for a red light when suddenly the rear driver’s-side door swung open and Sam vomited explosively all over the pavement. Maxim quickly but easily navigated to the nearest parking lot –it belonged to a mechanic’s shop– where Sam finished hurling. I ordered Mathias out of our car and over to Nana’s, which had been following behind us. I could predict what lay in store for us if he smelled or saw or heard puking for thirty more seconds.

Sam mostly missed the car. What got on the door was on the molded vinyl portion of it and not the upholstered section that would have held stubbornly to the stench. His arm was extended out the door, fingers still laced in the door’s latch, and was covered in ick. “Don’t move!” I ordered.

“Don’t worry.” he offered back weakly. Too much nicotine too fast and Jack was a sick manboy: None of us had seen Sam put in a huge dip before leaving the grocery store parking lot. The grocery store where, as fate would have it, we’d bought paper towels and a case of water. I pulled some of both out of the trunk and went to work washing the kid and the car as best I could, with him apologizing the whole time.

All I could think about as I was matter-of-factly correcting the situation was this time when he was three and sick, so sick, that I spent a seemingly endless four days and nights cleaning him up, patting and comforting him and singing to him and wishing it off of him and onto myself. He is grown and he has spent the last sixteen weeks learning part of what he needs to be a man and I am still his mother and he still needs me and oh Universe, you with your fucked-up little sense of humor in showing us what we need to be shown when we need to be shown it…. In trying not to laugh, I looked down at the pavement and promptly grimaced. There were undigested french fries there, nearly whole, because Sam had not yet learned to eat slowly and enjoy his food again.

When I got Mathias back into the car and settled, I climbed into the front, where Maxim and I snuck sideways glances at one another and foolgrinned, laughing silently with the unspoken ‘I told you so!’ hanging quietly in the air between us. It was enough that we both acknowledged it; it didn’t beg to be said.

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

I had already spent much of that weekend in Georgia waiting,  tracing the roof of my mouth with the tip of my seized tongue and wondering where to put all these emotions inside of me, unsure of what to vent or how to catalog those that went unreleased in some fashion. Fucking was out of the question, as the walls and floors of the chalet carried every little nuance of sound, so I’d bought that pack of cigarettes.

We sneaked outside, me and Samuel and my sister, to smoke together and talk. Sam was so full of stories. They just poured out of him one on top of the other and most were hilarious but some plucked at the taut strings of worry and dread and panic I could feel humming inside of me. My face, for once, did not betray me. Then we were at an Italian restaurant that night, laughing, sharing off one another’s plates, watching the time carefully so as to have Sam back at the ordered hour to prepare for the next day’s graduation. There were an even dozen of us around the table, oblivious to our surroundings, when this really gorgeous woman stopped on her way out. She looked to be in her sixties, and was one of those effortlessly elegant creatures that you might track across the room with your eyes, wondering where she got that magic and if she might share it with you.

She inquired after any Veterans that might be at the table and then thanked the four of us that were. Then she extended her hand toward Sam, thanking him and telling him she appreciated him. He rose, taking her hand, thanking in return and ma’aming and she just kept expressing appreciation and my napkin is big but holy Christ there is so much happening in me and oh shit can I please get to the restroom before I burst into this high maddening wail in front of hell and half of Georgia?

And so I excused myself to go collect myself; I patted my face daintily with a paper towel soaked in cold water just like my mother showed me when she was endeavoring to teach me the combined arts of being a Genteel Southerin Laydeh and a Proper Military Wife and Mother.

Then we found ourselves leaving –just Maxim and Sam and me– the polite little city of Columbus to take Sam back to post for the evening. We dropped him off and he acted skittish, seeming unsure for the first time since all this leaving us began; Sam fiddled with his belongings, moving from Maxim to me and back again (twice. thrice!) for hugs and murmurs of support, surrounded by dozens of other young men doing something similar with their loved ones. We broke from one another and Samuel walked back toward the Company area, a lone figure moving hastily between other young men walking, relaxed, in pairs and teams of three or four. I thought then how, when I looked up the meaning of Sam’s name after he was born, that I was filled with chagrin at finding the words ‘wandering cub’. I got back into the car and for the first time in sixteen weeks I lost my shit good and proper, the kind of shit-losing where there are sounds coming out of you that you don’t recognize because you don’t (or haven’t really ever) employed them  in your life. I wailed the entire thirty minutes back to Uchee Creek, and upon discovering the rest of the family was still out for ice cream, I asked Maxim to go inside and gave myself the liberty of fifteen minutes more of it.

Nobody tells you about this sort of moment when you become a mother because there are no words for it and maybe, just maybe, it would be a deal-breaker.

soldier
:: soldier ::

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

On graduation day, we navigated the back roads and back gates of Fort Benning, throwing the post into a drastically different light. All we had seen to date was Sand Hill, (“Where men are made!”) which is dusty and brown and utilitarian for the most part. On main post I saw the vibrant military community I was accustomed to. I pointed out features of it to Mathias, who has no working history with the military whatsoever, having been born long after his grandfathers retired and his father and I had served.

About halfway to the National Infantry Museum, where graduation ceremonies were to be held, there was what can be best described as a lurch in my abdomen and then all hell kind of started breaking loose down there.

“You have to get me to a bathroom FAST, Maxim.” Cue mayhem and shenanigans. The road that the GPS wanted us to turn down was obstructed with a concrete barrier, which tacked an additional ten or so minutes onto our journey. Of course when we got to our destination the parking lot proved to be massive and slap full. Hell, the walk from the lot to the museum’s entrance alone was nearly the length of a football field.  There were a couple of ‘events’ between the time we entered the parking lot and the time I got to the bathroom; they were epic enough that upon my emergence twenty minutes later, Maxim stood waiting for me, grim-faced.

“Did you happen to bring a bottle of water?”

“I wasn’t really concerned with anyone’s hydration,” I hissed,  “I was focusing all my energy on not shitting myself.”

“I’m not asking for me, jackass.” With that he extended his closed fist toward me, turned it palm upward, then unfurled his fingers. There sitting in his palm was his emergency Xanax, glowing with the light of Heaven itself. In fact, I’m certain that tiny little angels were dancing all around it, singing angelic blessing over the hand that was so giving in the moment of a suffering woman’s need.

It was then that I realized that I must be scaring the piss out of my husband what with my keening snotfest and my uproarious bowels, because he does not come off with the Xanax EVER. The reason for this is twofold. One is because he has horrible panic attacks in the neighborhood of once a year and never knows when one might hit, so he keeps one lone Xanax on his person in reserve for that instance. Two is because his wife is a non-practicing junkie who would likely eat someone’s liver for its pharmaceutical content if she were strung out far enough, so why take unnecessary chances with the wagon hitting a rut and her taking a bad bounce off of it?

I scooped up that little coral-colored football quick-smart and dry swallowed it. Within thirty minutes, around the time the ceremony started, I had shaken hands with my mellow and promised it a pitcher of margaritas later if it would hang around long enough for me to get some good shots of the ceremonies.

the men of bravo company
:: the men of bravo company ::

They were, of course, stirring and beautiful.

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

I was standing in the kitchen later that night, whipping up some supper. The kids were headed to a football game later, but right then Sam was hovering around the edges of my activities, talking. Sam was looking forward to this brief time at home a great deal; he had a mess of support and love showered on him via the post while he was in basic training. He would endeavor to see as many of these people as he could for the two days he was here.

“Mom, I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt.”

I turned toward him. “Okay, shoot.”

“Well, when I was gone, I missed Scout most of all. I was SO stoked to get her letters.” I immediately thought of when they were small and how Sam, just a baby himself, was so excited to have a baby in the house. His first expectation every morning, even before he’d eaten, was to settle in on the sofa and ‘hold’ a tiny, birdlike Scout while she took a bottle. I was still breastfeeding then, but expressed milk just for this purpose, because he looked so forward to being near his sister and taking part in her care.

sibs
:: sibs ::

“That doesn’t hurt my feelings, Samuel. That’s one of the best things you could ever tell me. I won’t be around forever and I’ve always wanted the three of you to be close so that you’ll be involved in one another’s lives and look out for each other when I’m gone.”  He folded me into his arms then, kissing the top of my head the way he has ever since he shot up past six feet tall.

Sam then headed off to the other side of the house in search of Maxim and I turned back to the stove, finishing up the chicken enchiladas he’d requested as his first home-cooked meal in four months. I dropped my head and said quietly, half prayer and half admonition, “Just come home safe to us, Samuel. Go have your adventures and come home intact, inside and out.”