Tuesday, July 22, 2014

the girl

i was young and optimistic. i had not yet been hurt by anything too deeply and so i still had the ability to trust and believe. my colleague had, months earlier been to this very place to interview this very girl with no success. she had not just been frozen out, but very quickly felt herself in danger and left (she was sure) with barely her life.

i followed the girl through her world- a labyrinth of poverty in the shape of an endless succession of ramshackle rooms thrown together from other peoples garbage. there were holes to step over, large pieces of rotten plywood to lift, filthy, rotting curtains to brush through. all the while i followed her, she kept laughing and looking back at me over her shoulder to see if i was still keeping pace. 'when can we talk?' i asked her after many minutes had gone by and i was hopelessly lost. 'when we get to the roof, silly!', she answered playfully. i wondered if she was leading me to doom or really taking us to a place she would feel comfortable opening up. we finally reached a room with a tube of sunlight describing itself from the ceiling to the floor in the thick atmosphere of dust motes. she squeezed herself with difficulty behind a thing that looked somewhat like a ladder and started to climb. my claustrophobia clutched and scraped at the inside of my chest. 'i can't follow you that way.' i said offering no other explanation. she stopped and put a little mischievous grin on her mouth, 'i was just kiddin', you can do it this way.'. she then very easily crawled up the front. i felt rattled now. she had tried to scare me and that left me with worry.

when we reached the roof, a wave of relief washed over me. she said many times that she liked me and that i was not like 'the other one'. as i interviewed her i began to lose my objectivity. her words were interlaced with so much hatred for things that were not of her world that i found myself growing angry. soon i was on my feet challenging her every small-minded notion. my voice was growing louder but i had no sense of it because of the injustice i felt in my heart.

i took a breath and saw the anger in her eyes. it was then i remembered where i was and that i had no idea how to get out.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

the whale

i was staying at a spectacular 1930's seaside resort that rested on a massive rock jutting out into the water. my room was beautiful and after a late lunch on the patio i decided to walk and take in the beauty of my surroundings. all the railings on the paths were cast concrete sculpted to look like wood and under foot were native stones carefully matched and laid out by hand. the foliage was mature, canopied the path here and there and felt wild. i looked out onto the sea and felt bathed in blue. the surf was breaking in a crisp, cinematic manner and seabirds punctuated the sky like musical notes. as i watched the surf break, my eye caught a large streak of grey. i looked more closely and realized it was a whale being tossed toward the beach. i felt my heart start to pound as i ran toward the shore. i grabbed at my phone and tried to dial the correct agency but my mind was drawing a blank. as i drew nearer i could see that several strong men had already waded in to help the creature. with great effort they tried to keep her oriented so her blowhole was upright. as a foamy wave retracted we all saw a gaping wound on her head with brain matter falling out in little gelatinous clumps. almost in that same moment we saw her newborn calf struggling in the heaving surf. several of the men swam out and pulled her in. she was crying like any baby. we waited for help. the sadness was a boulder on us all.

oyster man

he lived in a shanty tucked away under the boardwalk on the pier. his skin was the color of browned butter and his hair was dull with dry salt from the sea. he said he ate only from the ocean and did i want to see? i put on my goggles and dove in after him holding my breath as i watched him pry oysters from the creosote impregnated piers. as he chipped away, clouds of marine detritus released into the sea. one by one he placed them into the net bag tied around his waist. we broke the surface for air and then dove to the bottom for urchins. i followed him out of the water and pulled myself onto the boardwalk. he handed his bounty to a man in a kiosk and said when we came back it would all be cooked and delicious. i told him i did not want to eat anything but thanked him for the adventure.


amy and i were sisters and even though she was as chatty as a squirrel, i enjoyed traveling with her. we took a drive for the weekend and stayed at rather snooty hotel just to give ourselves a treat. saturday night we had our usual back and forth about who would set the alarm and amy insisted she would do it or be angry about it (sisters...). i woke up to amy chatting on the phone with one of her girlfriends. her conversation was (as usual) about totally nothing and as i moved into the conscious world i figured she had got up before her alarm and let me sleep in because she knew i was tired. as my eyes focused, i saw that it was 1 p.m. which was past checkout time. i freaked out because we had to be back in town on monday morning and i didn't want to pay for another night we couldn't even use. i started to scramble to pack up my things and pull on my clothes and realized that amy had unpacked EVERYTHING and actually 'decorated' while i was sleeping making it a total easter egg hunt to find my things and pack up. as i rushed around the room finding and shoving my belongings into my bag, i cradled the phone to my ear with my shoulder and tried to talk the front desk out of charging us for another night. they reluctantly agreed but only because the hotel was at capacity and the next guests were at the front desk at that moment. i swore we would be out in five minutes. i was in that horrible state of forced emergency mode from dreamland and everything was still blurry around the edges. amy was talking away the whole time saying she didn't realize the time and just wanted me to rest and didn't the room look pretty at least? i was floored by the amount of stuff she had packed and was just using my arm to sweep our belongings all mixed together into our bags. we were still shoving together our stuff when the houseman arrived to clean our room for the incoming guests. he was clearly annoyed and not softened a bit by my apologies. as we were dragging our bags into the hallway like refugees, two elegant and beautiful gay men approached. they took us in and i could see they thought we looked terribly out of context. 

not tired anymore

i just wanted to go home. i was crabby, demoralized and so tired from work that my bed seemed like the only place i should be. people kept passing me as i headed for my car and saying, 'are you coming?'. i didn't know what they were talking about and assumed i had just been attending to some work emergency when word was being passed around earlier in the day about meeting for drinks when the day was done. as i headed to the parking structure i could see the stream of people making a steady right just before the entrance to the structure. i was walking slower than most because i was carrying a lot of stuff and my arms and legs felt like lead. as i reached the turn off point, one of the people looked at me with a beautiful smile and shining eyes eyes before they walked to the right. in that moment i decided to 'go'. i turned to the right and found myself in a long, dark passageway. i could just make out a light at the far end and it illuminated my path enough that i didn't lose my footing on the uneven ground. my bags were heavy and there was a slight incline making the effort i had to expend to walk it almost unbearable. as i drew closer to the light i could see the color becoming a cool blue. more people passing me and smiling. i thought about turning back but i was 2/3rds there and i really just decided it would be better to get there and find someplace to rest a bit before i went back to my car. as i reached the entrance, the blue intensified and i could make out the massive ragged cavernous opening that let into the space. the ground grew more steep and i had to look down to watch my step as i pressed on.

suddenly i was in the space. it was living, pure, highly oxygenated untouched planet earth. vast expanses of beautiful vistas stretched out before me. i immediately felt energized and became overwhelmed by the beauty. i dropped my bags, fell to my knees and began to cry with total abandon. as people passed me, they touched my shoulder and said, 'i know...' i turned my tear-filled eyes in every direction and everything i saw was more beautiful and breathtaking than i imagined anything could ever be. i stretched out onto the soft, green moss beneath me. i rolled onto my back and looked at the periwinkle sky. pure white altocumulus and cumulus clouds rolled by gently in the sky. after a long while i rolled over on my belly and cradled my head in my arms as i looked past the verdant mountains toward the sea.

i felt whole and peaceful and deeply happy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


she was from the cold war era and wore only grey. as i tried to explain sky, periwinkle, sapphire, cerulean, cyan, slate, indigo, tiffany and all the others i could describe she stared at me as though i was speaking portuguese.

finally i gave up and just said, 'blue'.

she immediately scribbled the word on her clipboard and walked out the door.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

red lasers

something had happened to brad and angie and they were being sent to another dimension with the kids until it all got sorted out. everything was so frantic and time was running out. dogs, diapers, toys, clothes...everything necessary had to be named or it wouldn't go with them. we were all scrambling like crazy. at one point i looked up and and noticed brad's hair was grey and i felt surprised. i said he should just go with it because it suited him. he said they wouldn't let him. pretty soon everything started to be described with red laser lines that seemed to appear from within the house but i was still inside trying to help them. i kept jumping over the scans and angie said, 'shandra, just go, if we don't have it we don't have it' brad was wandering around all slo-mo and i was starting to get pissed at him. i saw him in the yard screwing around with the kids toys. 'dude, they've started scanning. get back inside!' the trouble had started with him anyway and i thought it was shitty that he was the only one not feeling affected by it.

once the dematerialzation began, i had to jump out of the house. i exchanged i love yous with everybody from outside the door as i watched the lasers scan everyone line by line into the other dimension. i was relieved that it didn't seem to hurt. even the dog seemed not to be bothered by it.

when the lasers hit the outside of the house i remembered something inside one of the cars i wanted to toss onto the porch for them. i ran to the car, unzipped one of the bags on the floor and saw two 4 week old perfectly royal blue puppies in the bottom of the bag. 'shit' i said out loud because i knew i would have to be responsible for them now. i left the bag open so they could breathe and decided to drive away in the car once the house was gone since angie and brad wouldn't need it anymore.

i walked to the end of the dock as the house was scanned and transferred line by line. i don't know why i pulled in the boat because none of it really mattered anymore. i grabbed a pile of stuff from the deck and when i tossed it in the cabin, a black extension cord fell overboard. i ran to the rail thinking i could retrieve it only to watch the last moment it was visible as it snaked into the inky depths. i felt worried that i had added one more hazard in the tangle of toxic human detritus filling the sea.