Memoir is pain. Its keyboard spreads open in darkness, naked, and alone. Each key a needle. My fingertips tap, tap, tap, drawing blood, and with each tap a tiny tear forms, squeezed to the surface, pooling in the corners of my eyes. Green eyes that once were blue, afraid to look at my face in a mirror when I was a teen. Then it overflows, the pain, those hot tears drip down my cheeks, one by one, falling like whispers in the dark from old lovers. Men I hardly knew, who never knew me but thought thery did, and some women, and one who knew me, whom I loved. The memory roaring like a river, water splaying on ragged rocks, tossing and churning under wet sheets of ice. I am hot then cold. Too cold to write. I shiver and sometimes shudder at the thought of tap, tap, tapping those keys with my raw fingertips. I go to the keyboard anyway, the way I approached my life, with guarded enthusiasm. Maybe someday, I will find me in those tears emptied on blank pages, and not be alone. Utterly and completely, alone.
A hero lives in the heart of every American. No one raised and educated in this country was ever taught to be complacent or incompassionate. Standing up for your neighbors or others less fortunate is the norm. Even those we don’t agree with have always been given deference and respect. Injustice incites us to action. We abhor laziness almost as much as greed and cruelty. We resent someone telling us how we should live. We reserve our opinion until provoked and speak our minds on subjects and issue that matter, that affect our livelihood, property, and families. We believed and still believe in the American dream of life, liberty, and the ability in a free enterprise system to pursue those things that make us happy. We value our freedom and would defend any threat to our way of life. Why then, have we allowed our elected officials to sell their loyalty to the highest bidder. The top 1% will dictate to the rest of us how we should live. They will destroy our planet for profit. Milk it’s resources and deprive our children of any legacy worth having. They are already changing the education system to create an technilogical labor force, eliminating creative subjects that stimulate thought and encourage free thinkers. It won’t be long before they move to limit free speech, control the media, and censor Internet communications. It’s a revolution America, a coup you never saw coming because the enemy did not come rolling in with bombs and guns blazing. They came from within and changed your system be free your very eyes, and you were blinded to it because they appealed to your sense of decency and confused the issues with abortion and welfare reform and other rhetoric whenever someone brought to your attention that you and your families may, at their whim, be in need of public assistance. You sold out for those comforts you convinced yourself or in reality let them convince you that you can’t live without. Wake up America. Realize that the political party is owned by someone else. Find an independent and vote for change. Retake control of our country before it’s too late.
For those looking for a good movie this weekend, I highly recommend Woman in Gold. Hellen Mirren was brilliant as usual, another academy award winning portrayal no doubt, and in a rare dramatic role, Ryan Reynolds was magnificent. The script writing and directing was choreographed to perfection. Flashbacks of Nazi Infested Austria were seamlessly sewn into each scene at precisely the right moment and the shots were a juxtaposition of interesting and interrelated depictions cleverly done to tell a highly charged emotional story without editorial or sapphic flare. Audiences applauded at the end and sat through the credits. Bring tissue as there are a lot of tender moments that catch even the stoic critic off guard. Bravo!
He read so much at the end, that books became his life. He devoured them. They consumed him. Sometimes two to three novels a day. Some say he learned magic and just disappeared. Others said it was a book on mysticism and he rose up into the heavens under an Arabian moon. Perhaps he finally learned to fly and flew away into the night sky. No one knows for certain. When the night nurse went to check on him and pulled back the curtain by his bed, he was gone. One book lay open to a story he had been particularly fond; Icarus and the Sun. I will miss him.
Discrimination is not so much seen but felt these days, like the claminess of the mist from the ocean waves lapping at the shore that settles almost imperceptibly on your skin while walking in winter before the first light tickles the sand beneath your feet. You become numb, detached, and distant. You don’t shiver. You ache. It attaches to you unaware of its existence until you realize that your head is bowed when you walk. You are staring down. You never look into their eyes but at their feet. They’re wearing sandals while you are naked, exposed, and vulnerable. They avoided you, and you them. Why are they afraid?
It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful and good we humans can be to each other. Mrs. J. is retired. She is a buxom African-American woman with a broad smile who works part time in a charter school as an assistant librarian. She loves Jesus and children and her husband of forty years and it shows. Her husband wants her to quit. She smiles and winks when she says it. She sizes you up with her cinnamon eyes but her smile never shrinks.
Mrs. J. is the only adult monitor for 200 students in the lunch hall. The student hordes are mostly minorities, black and Hispanic, and a few white faces, red hair, and freckles sprinkled around the room. It is 56 degrees and colder by the twenty-foot high windows that line one wall. Some of the children are wearing coats, some sit with hats and hoods pulled over their heads. Others, the majority, are in short sleeves and sneakers. All are shivering, but sit eight to a large round table happily conversing with their classmates, and eating their lunch.
One little first-grade boy stares looking engimatically out the windows at the stark white landscape that used to be his playground. He’s slightly autistic, says Mrs. J. holding out her arms when she says it and the little boy gets up and gives her a hug. She reminds him he’s precious and to eat his lunch and he sits back in his chair and fumbles with his sandwich studying it as though it is some complicated math problem then takes a bite and stares back up at Mrs. J. Good boy, she says and walks away. She doesn’t get far. Three other children are standing in front of her path all trying to give her a hug at the same time. She knows each by name and talks with them about their problems that each has whispered in her ear.
The lower grades had come in first, the kinder kids, First and Second graders, all wiggles and grins, and she hops from table to table swapping hugs and smiles, wiping tears and pretending to scold a child moving out of his chair or talking too loud. When it is nearly time for them to line up she gets up on the stage and shouts for them to get up. They jump out of their chairs. Mrs. J. Begins to sing and wave her hands over her head and shakes her booty. The children twirl and dance and sing around their tables. They are no longer shivering or complaining about the cold when they sit back down. Their smiles are bigger. When it is time, Mrs. J. blows a whistle she keeps around her thick neck and points to each table. The children line up against the outer walls. She goes around and taps some on the head and everyone sits down, leans against the wall and waits for their teacher to come and march them back to class.
The third and fourth grades come, more reserved but just as noisy, and the hugs begin again. Groups of children gather around Mrs. J. waiting their turn for a hug. Again she knows their names and their stories. There are no secrets between them. There is movement at one of the tables that seems out of place. She works her way toward one Hispanic boy in a red jacket. She steps around the milk he spilled onto the floor by his chair. She says something to him and he gets up and follows her to the side where two large plastic barrels sit in front a table with piles of red rags and a bucket of steaming soapy water. He cleans up the table and when he comes back she hands him another milk and tells him to go back and finish his lunch. He stands looking down at the floor. His eyes are wet and she gives him a hug and tells him it’s alright, she understands. He gives her a hug back and obeys. He has an anger problem she says but he’s a gentle boy, a real sweet-heart. Some of these kids had a rough home life. They need a little more understanding when they get to school. I hope he gets it under control before high school. She shakes her head and her voice trails off as though she’s afraid to imagine his future; some angry teenaged boy wearing an orange jumpsuit and sitting in detention in a juvenile facility for throwing his milk at another boy, or knife as the case may be. Two other boys raise their hands and ask if they can help. She dips a rag in warm soapy water, wrings it out and hands it to them. Two girls ask to help too and she does the same. She hands them a damp rag and they begin washing tables. When the weather is nice and they can go outside to play after lunch for recess, I let them go to the front of the line if they help me, she explains. They cannot go out today. It’s too cold. I guess they got into the habit. Mrs. J. is modest but profoundly proud of her children. Jesus has touched them for me she claims. Do you think one adult with a whistle could handle 200 children unless He intervened?
From 11:00 a.m. to 1:30p.m. children have come and gone, carried lunch boxes, or trays laden with pizza, apples or orange slices, and a carton of milk to the twenty four round tables. When through they tossed the remains into barrels, and laughed and talked with their neighbors, and swapped smiles with Mrs. J. Some were fortunate to receive one of her famous hugs. Others gladly shook her hand as they were leaving shouting: thank you ma’am, while she returned their greetings with a hearty shake and a: thank you, sir or ma’am in return.
The seventh and eighth graders shuffle in. They can be a little more trying, she says her smile wans just a little. They make me earn it, she says then blows her whistle and points her finger at one boy trying to spin a chair on one leg. He waves and puts it back in place beside a table. Some are taller than she, at 5’6″ in her hiking boots, particularly the boys, and some of the girls are fully developed, and sport highlights in their hair, acrylic nails, and mock designer boots, or jackets. Others are in pig tails and jeans. They eat more quietly but try and sneak out when they are finished. Mrs. J. stops two girls, one white, one black walking toward the exit with a purpose. They try and make up some excuse. No pass, no go. She sends them back to their seats. Two boys try to go around her. She blocks the door. One tries to keep her talking while the other sneaks by. The camera caught him, she says loud enough for the escapee to hear. When Monday comes he’ll pay the piper. The errant boy wanders back.
Several boys are pushing and shoving each other in a corner. Mrs. J. approaches them. She steps between two of the taller and more agressive. Your little mama won’t want to hear why you went to detention, she says looking up at the taller of the boys. He laughs and says, she ain’t but four feet. I know, that’s why I called her your little mama. He laughs and backs away. She holds out her arms and he steps back in to hug her. When the bell rings and the last students leave the lunch hall, she looks up and closes her eyes as though in prayer. It’s time to go home, she says. Her day is through, but her life is just beginning
Dark Places like Sharp Objects are Gillian Flynn’s portraits of flawed realistic characters rising above their frailty to overcome obstacles that propel these stories to dramatic yet predictable conclusions. Flynn weaves domestic settings and mundane dialog into an intricate plot by threading her stories with vivid details and back story that nearly overwhelms the reader so that by the time the reader feels she knows how the characters would react, she is hit with the dramatic conclusion. Well done, Flynn. I recommend these novels to anyone who likes a good read before bedtime. Be prepared for a bout of insomnia without any reprieve until the last page is turned.