Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Johnny had only ever wanted one thing in life - freedom. For as long as he could remember he had been imprisoned in a dark cell. Surrounded by bars, he had no hope of ever getting out. He didn't even understand what he had done wrong to be put here in the first place.

He'd tried all the usual means of escape. His arms weren't strong enough to break the bars. He didn't possess the proper tools to dig through the bottom. He'd even tried crying and begging to be let out of his prison, but his keepers rarely responded to his cries, and when they did it was as if they didn't understand what he was saying, as if they spoke a different language.

Time went by at a crawl for Johnny. He couldn't tell exactly how long he had been serving his sentence. It could have been days, weeks, maybe even years.

Time spent alone is no way to live. He had to repeatedly devise new ways to occupy his mind and keep himself busy. First he tried counting the bars surrounding him, but he remembered he didn't know how to count. He tried singing, but he didn't know the words to any songs. He would have drawn pictures or built models, but he wasn't allowed to have those things in this horrid place.

Eventually he took to daydreaming. Looking out from between the bars, he envisioned a day when he would be free to socialize with his friends, Thomas and Stitch. He even tried to use mental powers currently unknown to mankind to teleport these friends from the outside world into his cell, but this too was unsuccessful.

Over time any person can grow accustomed to an unnatural habitat, but there is remedy for a lonely mind. Moment after moment of endless darkness and solitude had just about driven Johnny mad. He imagined that he heard voices when no one was there. He thought he saw furry creatures running around outside his cell, but he could never reach far enough to touch them.

At last, after Johnny had finally given up all hope of being released from his cage, a new and surprising change occurred. Johnny observed that in the near distance not too far from his prison he saw a light. This light, warm and soothing, grew ever larger, bringing with it an intensity of illumination that he had wished for so long to witness. It continued growing until, at length, a shadow appeared in its midst. A dark form was approaching ever closer to where Johnny sat in his desolate cell. Fear grew upon him second after second until he could no longer bear the suspense.

He began to cry, and it was the pitiful sobbing of hopeless fear and loneliness. His captor had arrived for the final punishment and was reaching for him. She lifted him up, but Johnny was too absorbed in his hysterics to recognize the woman - until at last, he caught his breath, willed his eyes to open, looked into her face, and recognized the form of his liberation.

His mother.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


a broad feathered wing
the rain shattering through the air
the call of the earth.
and our blood flows through.

now. become. before the autumn turns to green.
against certainty, upon our first breath.
it is unnatural...this.
and then...

a greater unknowingness, a cold steel.
no room for detours.
the hands are moving
there is a beat
there is a thought
a rock
a hard place
and then...


Drip. Drip. Drip.

Tiny splashes echo in my head like a canyon, bouncing off the painful edges of my brain. It's like I'm swimming out of a dream, but I can't quite make it to the surface.

A new sound adds to the percussion - an electric hum.

These sounds definitely do not belong to my bedroom. Where am I and how did I get here? The last thing I remember was Jake - I think his name was Jake - buying me a White Russian. He'd been eying me from a corner table for the better part of an hour before he finally found a chance to approach me alone. My friends were on the dance floor, but I've never been much of a dancer. This guy seemed nice enough, and God knows I needed a distraction from the breaking off of my last tragic relationship. I had casually taken a few sips of the sweet tonic while Jake inched closer to me at the bar, but I'd gotten uncomfortable at his sudden proximity and excused myself to the bathroom.

Then it all went black.

The dripping and humming in my ears were the next things I became aware of - and this pain in my head, which I realize now is not just contained to my head.  My shoulders burn, my wrists are throbbing, and I'm sure my knee has been slammed against something hard. I have no idea how much time is passed.  Is it still the same night I was at the bar? What the hell happened?

I need to open my eyes, but I'm afraid of what I might see, so I wait. The dripping sound has made me realize that I'm thirsty. I try to swallow, but my mouth feels like it's full of sand. I take as deep a breath as I can stand and slowly exhale, then try to open my eyes. One opens, but the other is swollen shut. I am on my side, lying on cold tiles the color of piss, and based on the smell this seems an accurate description. I look around from my position on the floor. Glancing to my right I see a window, but the only view it provides is three other brick walls. My own apartment building has an identical air shaft, and I know that escaping through the window will only trap me further. The humming must have been the fluorescent light hanging above me, illuminating the shards of a cracked mirror. The fractured light gives my surroundings a jaundiced tinge and flares the ache in my head.

My stomach lurches. I have to sit up, but my hands are bound behind me. Slowly I slide my knees toward my chest, roll into the child position with my forehead on the floor, and lift myself up to kneeling.  Part of me thinks that my yoga teacher would be proud if she saw me do that, and I would laugh if the setting hadn't sobered all of the humor out of me. Every movement hurts worse than the one before, and my confusion is turning into fear. My head reels from the effort. I think I might retch.

Take a few deep breaths, I remind myself. Easier said than done. Closing my eyes I begin to count as the air moves through my lungs. In one, two, three. Out one, two, three. In one, two... a new smell makes itself known through the acrid odor of urine - a smell I can't quite identify, but one that is vaguely familiar.

Out one, two, three.

Iron? Yes, but something more.

In one, two, three.

A flash of memory jumps into my mind. Two summers ago, while hiking with some friends, we found a dead deer in the woods. Most of it's flesh had been eaten by bugs. The eyes were gone. Only the bones and insides remained, and it smelled like a garbage can full of Thanksgiving turkey carcass and fresh diapers combined. The odor of bodily decay is not something easily forgotten.

Now I can almost taste the fear in my mouth, bile and mucus inching their way upward. Very slowly, as if delaying it will make it better, I turn around to see what is behind me in the bathtub. A pool of milky pink liquid fills the tub. At first this doesn't seem so bad, like a small child was mixing soaps, or someone was using the tub to dye fabric. But then I see it, sticking out of the fluid just a little bit. A finger... and down at the end, a toe.

Horror chokes me as the adrenaline takes over control of my body and I kick myself away from the bathtub. Up until now I had been telling myself that I would be OK, I would get out of here, I would go to a hospital and then go home. I'd already been beaten up. The worst I thought could happen next was probably rape. But the discovery of the body in the bathtub brought with it new fears, fears more primal than worries of simple bodily injury.

I have to get out of here, but I'm trapped. The door is probably bolted shut, but I couldn't open it in this physical state anyway, with my hands tied behind my back. A flashing light dances underneath the door from a nearby television. My only hope is to plead with my captor, try to convince him to let me go. I could promise to just leave and not tell the police what I have seen here, if only he won't kill me. At the very least, maybe I can make enough noise to attract some attention from a downstairs neighbor. Carefully I inch myself toward the door and, as much as it hurts, I lie down on my back with my hands still bound behind me. Kicking the door now, I scream at the top of my lungs. I cry and yell, and sob, and scream some more. I call out for someone, anyone, to come and help me. But no one comes, not even my captor. I will have no opportunity to beg my way free.

Collapsing on the floor I am exhausted and beyond all hope of escape. Truly, I am trapped.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Snowed In (poem)

They’re stuck in there
A mind can bear
But bare no more
For what’s in store.

Still no light
A blinding white
No grace or sin
I’m just snowed in.

-Victoria DeAngelis

Snowed In

At 4:30 in the morning it can be difficult to understand what is happening.  Even the lack of a sound at this time of night is enough to set a person's nerves on fire.  So when the fan we run for white noise suddenly whirred to a halt, we shot awake the same as if someone were being murdered in the next room.

The truly frightening part about losing power is that you don't initially know why you lost it.  We got our answer soon enough.  During the dig under the bed for flashlights we heard it - a cracking so loud it was like God ripped open the sky over our house.  But it wasn't thunder in December, and what followed next was not the expected rumbling roar of the air masses bumping into one another as they roll across the county.  It was a slicing and tearing and crashing that most people go their entire lives without hearing - the sound of wizened trees tumbling to their death as they succumb to the powers of ice and snow.

Running to the window we caught the last moments of the fall as the tree grabbed hold of the second string of electrical wires.  Here is where we discovered that, in the moments prior to our waking, the lamppost had cracked in half and was swaying on its cables like a broken arm hanging by a tendon.

Snow alone can be an overtly suffocating thing.  Piles up to the windows, branches weighted and full, cold that permeates the marrow.  But ice is a powerful entity in a clandestine sort of way.  It can seep in where it isn't wanted, expand vulnerabilities, break things apart, and destroy - and that is exactly what it did while we had been sleeping.

The house quickly lost heat as the furnace could no longer run.  We were sure that incident was localized, and we figured to have power again soon.  Yet, as the morning grew on, and the icy snow-mix continued to dump from the sky, we began to worry.

Buried under many blankets next to the tiny hearth, we struggled to keep warm.  The thermostat read 52 degrees Fahrenheit and it was falling.  Our little fireplace was not designed to warm the entire house, and it certainly let us know this fact.  Only two hours after kindling the blaze as high as it would go, the glass door shattered.  Nature loves a good laugh and merely seconds after this fireplace tragedy we heard a now familiar sound as a second tree came crashing down, this time in the backyard, roots and all.  I suppose we were lucky that it fell only a few paces from our garage, and not on top of our cars.

This type of rare situation is when a person learns about how much the human body and mind can withstand.  For five days the ice continued to fall.  For five days we huddled under blankets to keep warm, listened to the transistor radio, and prayed that the pipes wouldn't freeze.  For five days we ate peanut butter sandwiches because it was the only thing we had that didn't require the refrigerator or stove.  For five days trees all around our property and community fell to their deaths, reminding us that we were not alone in our suffering.

And on the fifth night, when the electric company truck arrived at last, we could say without hyperbole that we must now understand how Edison felt when his light finally turned on.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Tuesday, May 12
Why are they all looking at me?  High school girls are the worst.

I pull my hood farther over my head, creating a horse-blinder effect for myself, blocking them out.  I am safely oblivious in my little tunnel...

...until the bell rings, that is, and I have to face the hallway crush.  How fast can I get to my locker, find the right books, and slide into social studies?  I almost succeed, but three steps outside the door to room 804 I see them - embracing for everyone to see.  Angry chords ring in my ears.  I practically have to walk between them to get into the classroom.  I think I should just fall over and die right now, but heartbreak probably follows even to the afterlife, so I don't bother.

Last week that would have been me in his arms, flaunting our love in front of the whole school.  Now she is in my place - a freshman for God's sake!  I can't even pretend that I'm a big enough person to realize that this isn't her fault.

School is almost over, and I know that if I can just make it until the last bell without letting the tears spill out, then I will finally be allowed to suffer with dignity - alone in my bedroom, drowning in the flood of my iPod.

Monday, May 11
Here's a tip:
If your boyfriend gives you a letter in the hallway between classes and tells you not to read it until you get home, listen to him - I know this is good advice, because I didn't do it.

Sitting on the neighbor's porch, waiting for Michael to get off the bus, I slide the carefully folded yellow legal-pad paper out of my pocket.  (Who writes a letter to their girlfriend on yellow legal-pad paper, by the way?)  I figure I have about ten more minutes before the six-year-old babysitting charge from hell gets home from school, and I've been dying to know what is in this letter - one of exactly three letters Gabe has written me in the two years we've been dating.

The first letter had been slipped to me by my friend in math class last year.  It totaled one sentence: "Will you go out with me?"  I don't even know if one sentence can qualify as a letter, but I count it.  The second letter had been written in my yearbook at the end of that same school year - because I made him write something before I would give it to my friends.  It took him two weeks.

"Dear Angel," (short for Angelina). "I'm not sure how to say this to you. Things have been changing a lot lately - you're going to college in the fall, and I don't know what I'm doing yet. I can't seem to figure out what I should be doing in life. I think we need to take a break, so I can be alone and make some decisions."

The explanation continued for a full page, but I don't remember anything after the guillotine of a sentence crashed down.  When Michael's bus arrives I clean my face quickly and prepare to endure several hours of children's TV and tantrums, until I can go home and shed my tears properly.  This is sure to be the worst day of babysitting ever.

Wednesday, May 13
"Are you going to tell him?" Jackie, in science, slips to me on a note.  I shake my head and sink deeper down into my seat.  It wouldn't matter at this point anyway - he's with Chelsea now.  Instead of focusing on the minerals lecture, I dwell on trying to understand how this qualifies as being alone to make some decisions.  He should have just sliced open my chest and poured rock salt inside - it would have hurt less than this.

Friday, May 8
The silence in the car is unbearable, bouncing back and forth in the space between my mother and me like electricity.  My father won't even look at me.  At least my mother is willing to take me to the doctor, so I don't have to go alone.  Her eyes can't decide if they want to be angry or sad.  Nothing I can say will make it better, so I turn up the volume on my music and stare out the rain-streaked window.

I'm scared and no one knows how to comfort me.  I guess I did this to myself.

Thursday, May 14
All morning I've been practicing what I am going to say to him, how I'm going to explain.  Scanning the cafeteria, I see him sitting with her at a corner table.  Our eyes find each other for just one second - a second that feels like eternity and like nothing, both at the same time - then he looks away and puts his hand on hers.

My tree-root legs will not carry me over there, so I send Jackie with my message and find a place to sit alone in the courtyard.  I lose track of how many minute-hour-years pass before he finally joins me on the grass.

Our souls touch in the space between our bodies, and I shiver with the internal recognition.  Neither of us speak, and I want to know what he is thinking.  I wonder how he will react if I can ever get this sock out of my mouth and form the words I need.  Our eyes find each other again and I immediately start to well up, but he does not put his arm around my shoulders in comfort the way I need him to.

I am alone in this.

I suck in some sweet spring air, make myself look at his face again, and utter the first words I've to him since "the letter."

"I'm pregnant."