Observer

hide-n-seek

“We have our parts to play. Listen. Hidden traits can be revealed.”

The two Seekers began in unison, eyes tightly shut as everyone scrambled in delighted panic. The long-legged Irish sisters took risky spots behind a smaller vehicle, close to Base. The judge’s daughter hid behind her family station wagon. And lastly, the mischievous dark-haired fraternal twins ducked behind bushes in front of another neighbours porch. The Sisters giggled, shushed each other, then had another fit.

“7! 8! 9…” shouted the Seekers.

I debated joining the Sisters, with Base strategically close and an easy run from all directions. But it didn’t feel right. I stopped mid-dash at a cluster of three grouped Birch trees in my front yard. This was the spot.

I wedged myself between two larger ones, ignoring the scrapes on my legs, and crouched low to the ground as leaves crunched under dirty hands. My heart beat furiously, a steady knockknockknock against my chest. I could smell earth and damp. Sweat beads formed on my forehead as I tried to even out my breathing through flared nostrils, sucking in fresh cold air. Eventually, the melodious symphony of crickets and toads replaced the steady thumping from my excited heart. I felt ready.

“…19, 20!! Ready or not, here we come!”

I crouched lower, my head inches from damp ground. Breathing deep, I watched through the Birch trees. I watched as the Seekers mumbled to each other, then parted.

I watched the Hunters.

Seeker Tommy ran towards the Irish Sisters. YOU FOUND US! peals of laughter emitting from them both, as he tagged Katie first. Seeker Julie calculated her steps then gave chase towards Judge’s daughter Cheri and the mischievous brothers, Lee and Jon. The brothers split-up and ran towards Base, but Cheri stood her ground. Julie targeted her supposed easy kill before Cheri, at the last moment, ran away from Base, further down the street. Julie stopped chasing and looked for someone closer and slower, growing desperate.

Seizing my chance, I sprang like a gazelle and ran. Julie gave chase after me but I was too far ahead. I touched the edge of Buick, Base, before she could claim victory.

“Yeaaaaah! Wooooooo!!” I yelled, grinning. “I win! I win! I’m alive!” Everyone laughed. “Okay, let’s go again!”

In the distance voices called. Katie turned and grabbed Caroline’s hand.

“We gotta go now, time for dinner.” The Sisters skipped hand-in-hand towards the silhouettes of their parents standing outside.

“C’mon, let’s play!” said Jon and Julie.

As they started counting, I ran towards my secret spot nestled among the Birches. But this time, I wasn’t as careful. As I stepped onto the wet grass I slipped and twisted my ankle. Grimacing, I looked down and my skinned knee and tender ankle. There was no way I could run to Base.

“11, 12, 13…”

I glanced up at the Birches.

The hardest part was the first branch. After that it was a piece of cake. I quietly crept up, up, up until I was just high enough and out of sight. The dense foliage of other surrounding around the Birches provided plenty of stealthy cover.

“Here we come!”

Julie ran immediately to the Birches, having seen me run there previously. I should have known better, Julie was a good Huntress and I got lazy. High above her, I grinned in amazement as she circled in puzzlement, before running to the cars with Tommy and other neighborhood kids.

“Kids, time to come back!”

“Ah man, 5 more minutes, c’mon!”

“It’s time for dinner, time to come in!”

Tommy and Julie shrugged and ran back home. Other neighborhood kids did as well. I watched them all as they walked/ran back inside with their parents.

When everyone had gone, and the street quiet, I climbed down and returned inside for dinner.

The next morning, I walked over to the Birches. It was the end of summer and the sky looked a bit grey. But how the Birches gleamed against the drab skylines. All three had beautiful white parchment bark, which could be stripped away in long, thin sheets. Three beautiful white trees in the middle of a lush green enclosure. Each standing proud and majestically.

I climbed the tallest one.

Higher than last night, I surveyed the cul-de-sac. I watched families come and and cars whiz past the main road outside the cul-de-sac. Kids yelling in their homes, in the street, in their backyards and driveways. Laughing, crying, talking. Televisions. Stereos. Radios blaring. People shuffling in and out of cars, homes. Band practice, cheer practice, baseball practice, swim lessons, tutoring lessons. Cars driving past the neighborhood. Cars driving through the neighbourhood. Parking, leaving again.

I watched ants trail up one of the branches. The sway and tug and pull of life, as wind tousled my hair and leaves rustled on the ground, around my Birch. I watched everything. My small world view.

When the street lights flickered on, illuminating the dark street and parked cars, I felt peace. I then heard neighbourhood kids playing tag, screaming in delight as they chased one another. The thrill of hunting your prey. The thrill of being caught. The grandiose thrill of being alive.

I climbed down to join.

Motorcycle Trip Down Memory Lane

May 1997. Stockton, California. 

“You have to put the strap through the loop underneath.”

He lifted my chin and moved my hands from the helmet. “See? Just loop it once. Twice. Done.”

“It’s not my fault. I can’t see it in front of me, okay?” I felt pathetic.

He grinned and tugged, the silence deafening as the world muffled. He knocked the top of my head as if checking a gourd.

“You ready?” He towered over me. How tall was he anyway, six foot five? What a giant.

“Yeah. Ready as I’ll ever be.”  I said. “How good are you at riding these?” I could barely hear the sound of my voice.

He jumped on the motorcycle and started it, revving the engine a few times. “REALLY good!” he yelled. “Now get on, stop procrastinating! It’ll be an experience.”

I awkwardly climbed on behind him, shifting my body weight back away from him. It feels weird being in his personal space.  My helmet knocked the back of his and we laughed.

“Okay, I’m going to give you some pointers!” He yelled over the engine. “When I move, you move! When we turn lean with me, don’t lean the other way or straight up. Just go for the ride. Hang on to ME, not the side handles! It’ll be fine, I PROMISE! Ready?”

I nodded. Then realized he couldn’t see my response.

“YES!” I sounded braver than I felt.

He backed down the driveway then took off down the road. I gripped his waist and closed my eyes.

ohshit.ohshit.ohshit.ohshit. we’re gonna fall. this is it…shit.shit.shit.

As we approached the first turn he curved gracefully and I leaned with his body,  as he instructed, and we hugged the turn perfectly. He downshifted at the stop sign and paused to give me a thumbs up.

“THAT WASN”T SO BAD!” I yelled, not sure if he heard me.

Before I knew it, we lurched from the stop sign, as I tightened my grip. As we left my neighborhood he sped up with traffic. There was nothing between myself and the road, just the man in front of me. Delta Sierra Middle School whizzed by. Grapevine Comics and Cards, my first high school job, all familiar places I’ve walked to a million times, were left behind in the dust.

Weaving easily past cars on Pacific, he turned on March Lane and the road opened. We flew by familiar restaurants, coffee shops. The sun felt hot on my shoulders and my back sweaty under the heavy jacket.

We stopped at a light and he gestured towards I-5. I gave his arm a bit of a squeeze in understanding.

We were about to get on the freeway. I was trusting him with my life.

Signaling, he merged. We sped up incredibly quick and I gripped tighter. The wind howled and the engine hummed, drowning out everything. I’ve never felt so exhilarated and petrified in my life. It felt amazing.

We’re flying! WE’RE FLYING!!

Suddenly, the engine sputtered and he signaled to turn off. We drove into a 76 gas station and he turned off the motorcycle.

I hopped off, almost falling onto my butt. My legs were shaking.

“OH MY GOD! THAT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! MY LEGS ARE JELLY!!!”

He raised his visor. “Stop yelling! I can hear you fine!” he said, getting off the bike, removing his helmet.

“Oh. I didn’t even realize! I can’t hear myself. Look! Look at my hands!!!” I raised it to show off.

He nodded and smiled, as he filled the tank. “Yep, that’s the adrenaline. I knew you’d like it.”

“So what the hell happened on the freeway?” I said, scratching my forehead. “Why did the bike sputter like that?”

“Oh. Yeah sorry. I forgot I was almost out of gas. I switched to the reserve tank …”

“Wait what. We almost ran out gas on the freeway. WHAT THE HELL MAN?!” I fumed.

“Yes, yes I know. Sorry. It completely slipped my mind.” He laughed and waved me off. “C’mon we’re fine, don’t look at me like that. Are you going to be pissed the whole time now?”

I sighed. “No. I’m just surprised. Hell, I’m ready to go again!”

“Good.” he said, replacing the gas nozzle. “Get on, let’s go.”

He hopped back on the freeway going back the way we just came, but exiting far on Eight Mile, in the deeper countryside. We headed towards Bear Creek High School as the sun dipped lower in the sky.

The sky reminded me of rainbow sherbet. Orange, yellow, pink … pink and blue. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked. We sped down the countryside, as the engine purred. No traffic just the deep country dotted with new homes. The air felt crisp, the sweet smell of countryside as anyone from Stockton would recognize. It smelled like home. He leaned back enjoying the drive, decreasing his speed. He squeezed my arm and I patted his hand.

Perfect.

After returning home, I dismounted and removed my helmet, a huge grin plastered on my face. He removed his with a look of apprehension.

“Well?” He said.

“Well yourself.” I replied. “That was absolutely amazing and you know it.”

“Told ya. I knew you’d love it. Your hair is sticking up everywhere by the way….”

I laughed. “I don’t care. It was worth it.” I handed him the helmet.

“Thanks Steve.” I said. “I won’t forget it.”

He nodded. “See you tomorrow, Kassie.”

He put on his helmet on and drove away. I watched until he was out of sight before going in.

Perfect.

Country-road

 

In remembrance of Stephen M.

Rest in Peace. 1980-2012. 

It still haunts my dreams, precious…

Image

December 10th, 2010. The day I cut the umbilical cord.

Nine months prior, I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be fun to just …

Later, an idea was conceived. Which grew into a lengthy three page outline, and blossomed into a beautiful white-and-black 88-page thesis.

After nine months I gave birth to  “Mythic Archetypes: Welsh Mythologies in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t perfect, a few things bothered me. There was room for expansion in certain areas, but it was time to let go after I finished!

It’s mine. My own. My precious.

Choosing a topic was a risk. It wasn’t the most popular subject to write about. Why would you want to write about THAT? While other graduate students were debating taking the comprehensive examination or reworking their critical theories about Joyce or F. Scott Fitzgerald, I chose to follow my passion. High fantasy. How could I merge Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings with some Welsh mythological research. What could I do different that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam? Could I defend my thesis? Was this even WORTH exploring??

We grow to love our creations. And hate them. I’ll never forget throwing books/papers on the ground tearfully screaming: “I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH!”

Then a few hours later I’d pick up my papers, rework a few paragraphs, and feel the delicious surge of accomplishment. A seductive thrill raced up and down my spine.

My precious.

All agony is forgotten once you hold your newly created idea. That initial conception you thought oh so many times! The seed has long since sprouted branches and grown into a friggen tree! But now, that tree bears fruit and you can pluck that fruit and share it with people.

My labor of love.

Certain things didn’t completely sit well in the end. A few researched points I’ve discussed which could be reworked and tweaked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your creation is living after all, it has GROWN and evolved. But nitpicking little details can consume you.

So, I let it go. On December 10th 2010. Plus a few extra years.

Now, I’m going back. I’d like to rework some kinks I’ve been wanting to finish.

I’ve wondered about getting chapters published, or re-working the entire thing for a broader reading audience. Am I good enough for it, precious?

I find it strangely comforting going back after a few years and reworking chapters. I’d still like to finish writing my half-finished novel.

But for now I’m visiting with an old friend, whom I love.

My precious…

On Meeting My Teenage Rock Idol

Fresno, California. 1999.

My hands felt cold. I stuck them in my jean pockets in a sad attempt to warm them. How embarrassing. My anxiety must have been obvious; the DJ next to me leaned over and whispered, “Seriously, I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s a total doll.” I smiled and nodded. Of course she is. I knew it. I couldn’t trust my voice. It was bad enough my right knee wouldn’t stop shaking.

The station manager waved us over. I trailed behind the DJ and the three of us climbed, single file, inside the bus. OMIGOD.

I heard a couple of men in mid-conversation. Then I heard HER. “Why the fuck not,  sure,  if that’s what they wanted.” The men paused for a brief second while she spoke, then resumed speaking. I couldn’t quite see over the DJ, but her presence was definitely felt. I resisted the urge to hold my shaking leg.

The station manager and DJ introduced themselves, making small talk. Something made her laugh. The DJ stepped aside and then I saw her sitting on the table bench next to her two band mates.

I stared.

OH. MY. GOD.

I’m standing in front of the Queen. The Queen of Rock. Say something you moron!

“I’m so sorry,” my voice squeaked, breaking like a pre-pubescent boy. “I brought my camera, could I just …  trouble you …”

The smile froze on my face; I could feel the flush from my chest to the tips of my ears. Sweat rolled down my lower back, dripping into my pink tank top. My upper lip trembled.

How embarrassing.

She just smiled and casually flicked her hand towards the group, nonchalantly. “Of course sweetheart,” she said, in a richly decadent Scottish accent.

I didn’t deserve to feel that accent.

“Next to me!” She patted the bench seat on her right. Butch moved down to make room. His eyes were hidden behind thick, black sunglasses. Everyone looked amused.

I squeezed past the manager and DJ and walked over, next to Shirley. Her fiery red hair pulled tight into a ponytail, shining in the overhead light. Raccoon black eyeliner circled her almond-shaped green eyes, contrasting with her alabaster skin. She wore black bracelets, which shifted a bit as she moved. She smelled like vanilla spicy perfume.

She was so punk rock. I’m not worthy. 

“CHEEEESE!” said the DJ.

Click! said the camera.

He wound the canary yellow Kodak box and handed it back to me.

I smiled at her and she gave me a slight squeeze.

“Thanks, Shirley.” I said, as the blushing began to subside, except for the tips of my ears. The moment burned into memory.

She winked. “Enjoy the show.”