personal

But I Have an Excuse…

The following are my excuses for why I’ve got nothing this week:

I was busy.
It was Easter weekend and family was in town.
The quarter system is actively trying to kill me slowly.
I have a lot of stuff to get done at work.
I do more commuting than a lot of Davis students.
I was busy.
I couldn’t write because I wasn’t feeling it. It wouldn’t be honest.
My cats ate my inspiration.
I’m so tired.
I had to make time to think about maybe possibly going to the gym.
UC Davis Memes have been dank af recently and it’s important to keep up.
Someone disagreed with me online and I needed to correct them.
Look, I don’t watch as much Netflix as some people okay?
Did I mention that I was just so busy this week?!
And look, when it comes down to it, committing to things is just so haaaarrrd-uh!

***

Yes. I was busy this week.

I’m 20 years old. At one time in recent history and in a lot of places still, it’s crazy that I haven’t settled down with someone and started popping out children and being busy 24/7 dealing with that.

Instead, I have the insane privilege to attend an esteemed university, decide what I want to do in life, work in a good job with great coworkers, and be busy in the ways that move my life forward in a direction that I actually want it to go. And I’m two years into adulthood already. Frankly, I should be busy, not just sitting on my butt all the time.

The reality is that life is busy. And it’s not going to stop being busy – not if I actually want to be a helpful, productive member of society. I want to teach and if I have any hope of being a good teacher, I’m going to have to embrace a certain level of busyness by grading and going the extra mile to care for my students.

Of course I believe in setting limits because one’s entire existence cannot be working. But my point is just that to live and breathe and do anything worthwhile makes your life busy. Working and earning make you busy. Spending time with friends makes you busy. Being a person of faith and actually trying to figure out what that means for life makes you busy.

So if I want to write, if I want to stay committed to this 52 weeks of material thing, then I have to view writing as important enough to make me busy. That’s a decision, not a feeling. And so I’m deciding it.

And now, after sitting here at Temple Coffee for the last thirty minutes – procrastinating on stuff I really have to get done – I have something: an excessive, probably annoying spurt of noise that reflects on my feelings about busyness.

I thought of sharing one of the poems that I wrote for class as a writing exercise. But then I got scared, because they are so rough. Frankly, I’m pretty sure you’d rather hear me rant, which says a lot about the quality of poem I crank out in 15 minutes.

So is this an isolated event, or the first of many blunders to come, a return to my familiar habits?

The truth is, even though I missed my deadline this week, I don’t feel like this particular missed-deadline was a failure. Because I have actually written a lot this week, but to share it now would be to force this little caterpillar out of his cocoon before he’s ready. He’d be all embarrassed, because he’s still in his awkward phase. He’s not quite a butterfly yet. He’s almost there, but his wings are still growing in  and they’d be all short and stubby if I made him present himself now. And I don’t want to do that to do that to him. In two weeks, he’ll be ready to fly.

And yes, I’m trying to cut down on my perfectionism. But this time, I’m telling you, it’ll be worth it.

So, sorry for having nothing. Sorry to myself, more, because I’m pretty sure you don’t care whether I do this or not. And that’s okay. Your lives are busy, too, and paying attention to some random chick’s rough fictional ramblings might not be an important use of your time.

I’ve got no good excuse. But at least this time, I think it’s okay, and not a sign of things to come.

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poetry, Uncategorized

Gravity

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And yet
they say objects tug ever closer to one another at every moment. In this case – then –
are we truly at a state of rest if we stand in shuddering suspension
as every particle screams for our attention?
Scientists may snub their noses at me. But
I prefer to think of gravity in this way:
as a perpetual state of falling. Not
up or down – but
falling closer.

they say that as two galaxies
orbit one another – fall towards one another –
they sweep themselves up into a descending dance
they twirl each other closer until
arms graze and catapult
the stars of the fringes – stars like the sun –
into The Great Beyond
but they never learn
they only spin
faster and closer
until one consumes the other
(but which is “eater” and which is
“eaten,” no astronomer could tell) and so

star systems splinter and dark holes meld and celestial bodies
collide in cosmic destruction. I heard that one shard
shot through space at speeds exceeding sound and
killed a spacewalker. And this – they say –
is our fate: for we are locked in a danse macabre,
perpetually falling closer to each other – closer to

Finis.

fiction

Napoleon

10:17 a.m. Almost twenty minutes late, but I don’t bother to speed. Mom will just have to deal with it.

If I thought you were on time, I would make more of an effort to get to our old house by 10:00. But I know that you’re not. I’ll pull up in the driveway and the only car there will be Mom’s Bug. Then, if Mom’s not sitting out on the porch tapping her foot, I’ll sit in the car and wait another ten minutes for you to pull up in your rusted pickup. Then we’ll knock and she’ll open the door and make some comment about how we’re “never on time.”

I mean, you do you still have the pickup, don’t you? You never were one to spend more money than you had to, but I suppose it could have broken beyond repair by now. Or maybe Amy got sick of you never being able to drive her and her friends places and you finally caved.

But probably not.

Still driving under the speed limit, I turn onto East Gabriel St. First house on the block, and I do a double take.

Gray. Steely, modern gray like my apartment. Not the chipping yellow I remember. It doesn’t match all the cute colorful houses on the block anymore. Some young, sexy real estate agent probably told Mom she should paint it, or maybe she just took it upon herself. Either way, I hate it.

Mom opens the front door before I even turn the car off. I roll my eyes. I can already tell she’s in a particularly testy mood this morning.

“Good morning,”  I mumble as I walk up the steps.

“Morning, Laura” she replies. She asks “how are you?” because she’s supposed to and I answer “good” because I’m supposed.

We walk in together. She mutters something under her breath about my tardiness that I don’t bother to listen to because I’m too busy looking around like a confused tourist. She’s repainted the inside of the house, too, this dull cream color. We stop in the kitchen where she’s replaced the old tile countertops with granite. That probably cost her a lot. It looks like she’s either sold or packed quite a bit of the furniture as well because the place feels empty.

“Well, since your brother’s not here yet, I guess I’ll wait to go run errands,” Mom huffs.

“Why’d you repaint the house?” I blurt out.

“No one’s going to want to buy a yellow house like that,” she snaps. “It was a disgusting color anyway. Why your father…” she trails off.

“Well, I’m gonna start going through my stuff.” I say. “You didn’t sell all my stuff while I was gone, did you, Mom?” I try to say it playfully.

“I’m getting rid of anything you don’t take” she’s looking down at her phone, at the clock I’m pretty sure. I glance at my phone, too. 10:24. I hope you get here soon…

I walk up the stairs. She replaced the railing, too. Whatever. She’s selling the house. She can do what she wants. That railing was pretty rickety… it probably needed… why’d she get a white one, though? It doesn’t work with the stupid cream walls.

I half expect that my old room’s going to be completely cleared out. But when I open the door, it doesn’t look like Mom has touched a thing yet. I glance at the window and feel an irrepressible urge to sneak out the window like I did when I was a kid and get out of this room and this house. But I don’t.

It’s the same quilt on the bed, the same walls, the same lamp, the same… everything. Frozen, untouched, and I wonder vaguely if Mom has even set foot in here since I moved to California.

And yet somehow… I feel an unshakeable sense of discomfort. It’s like I’m intruding, like I’m snooping around in a stranger’s home.

Reluctantly, I start to look through the drawers. Why Mom was so insistent that we both come here and get our stuff, I have no idea. I mean, we both got most of it when we moved out. But I find a few things when I open up the closet. Shirts I can’t pull off anymore, snow gear I don’t need anymore. Above my desk hangs a little ornate cross painting. I take it off the wall to look at it more closely.

I haven’t painted or been to church in a long time.

“You think Jesus will forgive you for being gone so long?” I whirl around and I can’t keep a smile off my face when I see your massive, burly form in the doorframe. “Because I’m not sure I do.”

“Drew!” I rush over to you. You give me a slightly bone-crushing hug.

“How are you, Laura?” You ask, tapping me on the head playfully.

“I’m doing well,” I reply. “How are you?”

Your beard’s quite a bit longer than it was last Christmas. Scruffier, too. “Good, good,” you answer. “How’s the fancy new job?”

But before I start talking, we hear Mom holler to us to come downstairs. You roll your eyes and we take our time walking back to the kitchen.

“So I’m listing the house tomorrow for $249,000,” Mom announces irritably. “I’m headed out now to run some errands. Take what you want. I’m done hoarding all your junk. Anything you don’t take goes to the Goodwill. I’ll text you if I have time to get dinner but I might have to go into the office later.”

She slams the door. I hear her car sputter for a moment, hear her muffled cursing, and hear the car drive away.

“Love you, too, Mom!” you chuckle darkly. I don’t respond. “Well, anyway,” you clap your hands together, “I got a surprise for you.” you say excitedly, trying and failing to keep a devious smile off your lips.

“Okay… should I be scared?”

“You gotta sit on the back porch.” It looks like Mom already got rid of the chairs on the back porch so we bring out two of the worn-out white kitchen chairs and a side table from the living room. You go back to your truck and come back with a brown paper bag.

“I figured… our last time back at this place, this would be as good a time as any…”

I look at you curiously and watch you pull two brandy glasses. Suddenly, I know exactly what you’re about to do and I instantly start laughing. “No… you… you didn’t –”

You beam at me triumphantly, pulling out a wax-sealed bottle of Marie Duffau Napoleon.

“Wow. How much did you have to drop for that, Drew?” I ask.

“Don’t ask such questions.” You take a swiss army knife out of your pocket and remove the wax seal with astonishing ease. Brandy always was your favorite and you pour us both a generous glass full.

I give you a smirk. You know I hate Brandy. For a brief moment back then, I thought I had tricked you into thinking I enjoyed it, that I could tolerate dark alcohol. I wanted you to think I was as tough as your friends. It was just you and me at home and you convinced me to go steal Mom and Dad’s expensive Napoleon out of the cabinet. They hadn’t bought it, I’m sure of it. It was probably a gift from one of Mom’s rich friends. It had sat and sat in our cabinet collecting dust. I kept saying that you could do it yourself, why should I do it for you?

“Laura, I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for you,” you kept insisting in true Ferris Bueller fashion.

You called me “lame” when I protested and the last thing any 15 year-old wants to be told by her cool 17 year-old brother is that she’s lame. So I did it.

It was the first scratching-the-surface-of-rebellious thing I ever did. And you were so proud of me for doing it and so proud of yourself for getting me to do it that instead of taking the bottle to your friends as I assumed you would, you said that I “should reap the rewards.” So we drank from our parents’ cheap wine glasses and “played adult” and mocked them.

“God, I got so sick that night…” I recall as I swish the brandy around.

“Oh I remember. And you only drank one glass,” you laugh mockingly.

“You know, I haven’t actually tried brandy since that night,” I confess. “I don’t drink much, really, aside from wine. There’s good wine in California.”

You snicker. “God, you’re turning into Mom.”

And I don’t know why, but my heart beats a bit faster when you make that joke. I oblige you with a grin that feels uncomfortable on my lips, but you don’t seem to notice.

“You know,” you change the subject, “this house could easily go for 35 to 45,000 more than she’s listing it at.”

“Really?”

“Oh yeah. This area?” You take another sip of your brandy. “I wish you’d visit more often, Laura. We all miss you.” This time, you put down your glass and actually look at me and I feel a distinct desire too look anywhere but into your eyes. So I glance back down at the dark liquid.

“Who’s ‘we all’?” I force a chuckle. “Just you, probably.”

To my surprise, you don’t respond. You take another swig of brandy.

“Maybe you, Amy and – well, you and Amy anyway –” I remark, “can fly out to Oakland for Thanksgiving or something.”

You roll your eyes affectionately. “Hey, you’re the one with the money and the fancy-ass job. You’re the one who can afford plane tickets and shit.”

“It’s really hard for me to get out of work.”

“Sure it is,” you give me a half-hearted smile. I really wish you would stop doing that. “I get it, though. I’d take sunny-ass California over this place any day.”

“Oakland really isn’t that sunny, Drew. It’s kinda cold and foggy all the time.”

“Hey, you do not get to complain about the cold,” you counter.

“How’s Amy doing, anyway?” I ask. “I miss her. She’ll be… what? 14 this year?”

You don’t answer me. Ever so quietly, you stare off into the backyard as though it were the endless horizon. Mom hasn’t torn the fences out yet. They’re pretty rotted, though.

“Did she… uh… like her Christmas gift?” I continue.

“Yeah, she loved it.” I notice you absentmindedly fidgeting at the ring on your finger as though it’s too tight. You stop and pour yourself another glass.

“We really fucked things up, didn’t we, Laura?” You say it so suddenly it takes me off guard. I tense up. But you’re still not looking at me. “You were smart to stay out of that commitment shit, Laura. Damn smart.”

“Well, I always was the smarter one,” I joke nervously. You snicker and choke on your brandy but give a shrug.

“It’s true, though,” you reply. “And you know it is.”

You take another swig, still staring off at that same imprecise spot in the backyard. “You did it, Laura. You knew what you wanted and you got the hell out of this shithole.”

I look down at my own glass of Napoleon and swish it around a bit, trying to convince myself to take a sip. Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember it.

“I hope Amy is like you,” you blurt out. “I hope when she’s older, she knows what she wants and gets the hell out.”

“Oh, don’t say that,” I answer quickly, a bit of sweat tickling my brow. Brandy always could get you to say things you’d regret. But I can’t seem to find any more to say to you.

“It’s fine,” you’re still not quite meeting my eyes and I’m glad that you aren’t. “If Amy turns out half as cool as you, then I’ll know there’s a God. Cause it sure wouldn’t be anything I did and it sure as hell wouldn’t be anything her mom did.”

I hear my phone buzz and seize the opportunity to check it.

“It’s from Mom.”

“Let me guess,” you sound almost entirely humorless this time. “She can’t grab dinner because she has ‘stuff at the office’? On a Saturday?”

“Laura. Working late tonight. Will not be home later. Don’t forget your stuff. xo Mom.

You take another swig, snickering darkly. “What do you say we drive the three hours to Burlington? And you actually stick around for a couple days? I’ll show you around, you can see Amy?”

Once again, I feel myself tensing. I can’t pinpoint why. “I… Drew, I have to work on Monday and I’m flying out tonight…”

“Oh bullshit,” you burst out. “You can do some stuff out of the office if you have to, and can you even tell me the last time you took a day off? And I know paying for a flight cancellation isn’t a big deal for miss big shot ‘Supply Chain Analyst,’ whatever the hell that even is.”

You’re right. I know you’re right. And I don’t know why didn’t tell you, but I actually budgeted to take Monday off, just in case I wound up getting held up for some reason. But all the same…

“Okay,” I hear myself say. You beam so brightly, I feel bad for my reluctance. “But I’m driving.”

“That’s fair. Now, are you gonna drink that or am I gonna have to down it for you?”

I look down at my glass, Finally, I take a sip. I choke and laugh. “Yup. Just as disgusting as I remember.”

*Inspired by the music of Bear’s Den, especially “Napoleon” and “New Jerusalem.” 

poetry

Highway Flowers

A flower’s destiny depends upon
where the sower scatters seeds. There are
those flowers which live in gardens

and spring up to be watered and
tended and bought and sold as they
make plain spaces lovely again.

White lilies bloom on the steps
in a church. Their petals wil bandage
the grieving, fractured hearts

A sign in a storefront reads, “Roses,
sweet roses for sweeter lovers.” Several roses
sell. Some sit and wait until they wilt.

Some flowers spring up in the fields
where once all flowers lived, and they thrive
for the spring and die in the summer.

But the highway flowers landed in
crevices where they pray for a quiet life
among pavement and shaking earth.

When the sower tossed his seeds along
the path, I wonder if he knew about these cracks
where poppies somehow bloom.

I wonder if he ever visits the highway
flowers, if he waters them and cares for them
the way he gardens the lilies of the field

Are flowers born in fissures dressed
in royal splendor? Are they so marvelous as
the vineyard’s mighty branches?

The rain drizzles down on them as
each car passes, as the flowers grow just
out of grasp of a rogue tire’s tyranny

The rain drizzles down and washes
the grease off their petals, trickles through
cracks to their roots. I wonder if perhaps

a highway, too, can be a garden.

poetry

An Afternoon at the Zoo

Look, children!
Look, look here!

Come and see exhibit A!
See that great beast go!
See it, children?
Watch it raise a mighty squawk
and stalk away as its
blood boils in its brain
Our research shows
that many of these beasts
are easily agitated
by sun or rain
or food or time
or others of their kind
or anything, it seems
They seem to find
homeostasis
quite a challenge.

See that flat black box?
That little black box they
hold as tight as their young
in their slender paws?
Our research shows
they use it capture and
tamper with their own memories.
This little black box is
how they communicate
the way they organize their flocks
the way they interact with
the vast number of their kind
(I know, children. Our researchers
don’t quite understand it, either.)

See them press
their naked faces in at us?
Watch as they point and stare
and make strange sounds
as they look through glass and bars.
Our research shows
they get some kind of
primitive pleasure watching us.
But chemicals fill their minds
not just from watching us:
they love to watch each other.
They watch each other
live and thrive and venture.
Watch each other
unravel and decay. They cheer
for success as they cheer for
failure in equal measure.
Often, we’ve found, they enjoy
the lives of others far more than
they enjoy their own.

See those molting ones,
with two paws clasped together?
It’s how they show affection.
Our research has yet
to comprehend their mating patterns.
Some mate for life, it seems
Others simply live together
in a shelter but never clasp
their paws together after
time goes by. They seem to care
nothing to leave or improve.

And see here, how they must
keep walking keep walking…
keep walking…
They never stop walking, not even
when they stop to peer at us.
Watch, young ones,
see that beast walking by itself?
Our research shows
the beast is often by itself.
They live in many colonies,
many flocks, many packs
all at once. But somehow,
they seldom find a family.
Our research shows
that man is rather

a lonely beast.

essay

Lily and James: the True Hogwarts Ghosts

Theyre dead listening to echoes of them wont bring them back (Rowling, 243). In J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter of the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry insists that echoes cannot raise his parents back to life. And yet, throughout Prisoner of Azkaban, echoes of Harrys parents seem to constantly call them back into existence. Far from simply being bodies in the earth, the imagined versions of James and Lily which Harry conjures out of his imagination serve as dynamic forces which not only haunt the novel, but provide a kind of posthumous parenting.” Harry constructs idealized images of James and Lily who provide protection and comfort respectively. He conjures their ghostly echoes into existence and gives them space to parent him by acting in their likenesses and in a final climax to this, he recreates his own traumatic childhood in a moment which works but ultimately fails to redeem their tragic deaths.

Harry creates an image of his father as a great protector out of his imagination and limited memory, even when evidence arises to the contrary. When Harry unsuccessfully produces a Patronus to protect him from the dementors in training, he, for the first time, recalls his father yelling, Lily, take Harry and go! Its him! Go! Run! Ill hold him off (Rowling, 240) in James final moments. Traumatic though Harrys past is, it is key in shaping his idealization of James: Harrys only memory of his father is James effort to protect Harry and Lily and he views his father as courageous and inspiring. He also draws this image out of the knowledge that James once saved Snapes life (Rowling, 285). But Snape complicates Harrys heroic understanding of the event and asks if Harry has been imagining some act of glorious heroism (Rowling, 285). Based on the way in which Harry bit his lip when Snape asks this, it would imply that Harry did have a certain valiant image of how his father came to save Snape. But even after Snapes explanation of James less-than-heroic act, Harry continues to view his father in his particular conjured image. He even implies it when he yells at Snape and accuses him of being blinded by the fact that James and his friends MADE A FOOL OF [SNAPE] AT SCHOOL ” (Rowling, 361). Harry possesses a certain lack of sympathy for Snape in this, ignoring the circumstances of which Snape previously made him aware. At later points of the series, Rowling continues to complicate the readers, and Harrys understanding of James Potter. But in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry allows his imagination and incredibly limited memory to shape his view of his father, even when Snape combats this. Harry holds tight to a vision, to his imagined father rather than tickling the possibility of James less-than-saintly youth.

Though Lily proves the more elusive and mysterious of the two parents in this particular novel, this only solidifies her ghostliness and Harry conjures an idealized image of her as well, imagining her as a force of comfort. Harry conjures her most tangibly in his encounters with the dementors and her voice haunts him thereafter. Rowling describes how Harry dozed fitfully, sinking into dreams full of clammy, rotted hands and petrified pleading, jerking awake to dwell again on his mothers voice (Rowling, 184). Lily exists as a sourceless voice which likens her to a ghost or banshee figure; but this moment paints her as an oddly comforting one, connected to home and safety. The word dwell seems an intriguing choice. Not only does his mothers voice wake Harry from nightmares, removing him from the immediate terror of dementors, but the word dwell is connected to a sense of home. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dwell as both to linger over (a thing) in action or thought and also to abide or continue for a time, in a place, state, or condition (OED). Lilys screams, though in one sense, distressing, still offer a strange kind of comfort, characteristic of stereotypical motherhood. Rowling indicates that Harry half wanted to hear his parents again (Rowling, 243) and in his moment of greatest peril when the dementors are about to Kiss him, he hears Lily screaming in his ears She was going to be the last thing he ever heard (Rowling, 384). Harry finds a kind of comfort in what he believes is his final moment when the ghost of his mother is with him. Despite the pain which he associates with his mothers screams, Harrys encounters with the dementors provide him a space to imagine Lily and conjure her into existence, imagining his mother as the idyllic force of safety in his life. She exists as mother and comforter for him, even without a domineering presence in the novel.

The conjured images of Harrys parents function as more than just ideals: they parent him as they inspire his actions and in the case of his father, Harry acts heroically under James influence. His imaginary James gives him resolve in moments of distress. But even beyond this, Harrys vision of James inspires his decision to have mercy on Pettigrew (Rowling, 376). He follows what he believes his father would have wanted and this instills in Harry a capacity for and desire to protect those around him. Even when he seems to have little sympathy for Pettigrew, explaining that he doesnt reckon my dad wouldve wanted his best friends to become killers – just for [Pettigrew] (Rowling, 376), his actions are still in an effort to protect protect Lupin and Sirius from having Pettigrews death upon their consciences. Also, his memory of James’ sacrifice for Harry and Lily translates into a sense of duty and desire to protect within Harry. When Harry first hears his mothers screams, He wanted to help whoever it was (Rowling, 84) and whenhe hears her the second time, He needed to help her She was going to die She was going to be murdered. (Rowling, 179). Just as James spent his final moments protecting Harry and Lily, when Harry hears his mother, his instinct is to save her. The idea of James is deeply ingrained within Harry and it motivates his capacity for heroism. Even in death, the ghost of James haunts Harrys psyche and pushes him to act as protector.

Though far more subtle in her parenting of Harry than James, Lilys spirit seems flicker into existence once more in the novels conclusion, hinting that her comforting nature is present in Harry. Though various characters insist that Harry is just like his father, Dumbledore suggests that Harry looks like James [e]xcept for the eyes you have your mothers eyes (Rowling, 427). Though Harrys outward appearance is that of James, in his eyes the part of the body which most indicates interior expression and is said to provide a window to the soul Harry is most like his mother. The importance of Harrys likeness to Lily strengthens throughout the series but in Prison of Azkaban, the reader receives a clue into Harrys character of kindness. The character of James comes into question with Snapes description of James as a bully and exceedingly arrogant (Rowling, 284). But in contrast, Harrys dreamy vision of his comforting mother is never challenged. The conjured version of Lily remains undisputed all the way to the end of the novel and is even affirmed in Dumbledores praising statement that Harry has his mothers eyes. Though a less prominent parent figure than James, Lilys manifestation stretches beyond just her ghostly screaming and seems to be embedded in Harry.

Lily and James supernatural influence comes to full fruition in the climax of the novel when Harry produces a full Patronus, literally conjuring a physical apparition of his father. Rowling describes the Patronus as a bright, silver stag whose hooves made no mark on the soft ground and vanished as Harry reached out to touch it (Rowling, 412) and the stag was his fathers animal form (424). The Patronus bears significant likeness to a kind of ghost or apparition, though benevolent in nature. Harrys task in producing this apparition requires that he conjure something out of his memory and in doing so, he brings something that has passed something that is now over and dead up into the present. A Patronus, then, is a memory which blurs the line between present and past, just in the way that a ghost is a deceased person who blurs the line between living and dead. Out of his memory and imagination, Harry physically recreates a vision of his father, the protector.

Using this physical apparition, Harry inadvertently attempts but fails to redeem his traumatic childhood. In his moment of greatest peril, the spirits of James and Lily enter spaces eerily parallel to their horrid murders: because of the dementors, Harrys mother was screaming in his ears (Rowling, 384) as she once did before her death and the Patronus a figure of James – steps into the roll of protector. The final scene imagines a scenario in which James successfully defeats Voldemort and saves Harry and Lily. And in an instant, this vision of possibility, this most tangible of manifestations of the parents, is ripped away and Harry is left, once again, needing to imagine them and allow their memories to protect and comfort him. The Patronus ultimately vanishes (Rowling, 412) and Lilys screams are audible only in the presence of dementors. Harry returns to his previous state an orphan and the lone survivor of a terrible event. Lily and James, after their moment of presence, return to their previous rolls as parents who haunt Harry as spirits, flickering in and out of his consciousness. Harry is forced to take on the responsibility to parent himself by generating his own imagined versions of Lily and James and in this final climax, these visions seem to teeter on the boundary between imagination and reality. But ultimately, for all his recreation of the event, Harry cannot protect his mother or father, even with a full Patronus.

Though Lily and James are at no point physically present in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harryimagined visions of them haunt the novel and even seem to parent him. Though Harry fails to redeem his traumatic childhood and can never fully regenerate his parents, the echoes of his parents continue to provide Harry with comfort and protection. Even posthumously, the ideas the parents seem to come to Harrys aid, even if only in Harrys imagination. Tragic though their deaths are, James and Lily are never fully absent from Harrys life. Harry, and the reader, can take comfort in Dumbledores question of whether the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? (Rowling, 427).

video

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Sometimes, I like the class assignments I’m given. Sometimes, I like to try new things. Sometimes, I like to explore a different form of creative expression than I’m used to. Sometimes, I make myself sad somewhat by accident and this was one of those times. But I did enjoy making this video a lot, mostly thanks to my two wonderful actors. Shoutout to Mackenzie Emi and Johnny Klyver for being troopers and taking all my uncoordinated direction.

*I do not own the footage between 1:52 and 2:07. This is for a school project only. No copyright infringement intended. Original footage can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhM7lcHSM-U

*Also I just realized I accidentally said that I wrote this song at the end of the video. It’s pretty famous so I figured it would be obvious but this is a cover of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys.

personal

10 Lessons from a Senior Care Facility

  1. There is no such thing as “TMI.”
  2. Complaining and grumbling about problems does not solve them.
  3. There are a lot of people in this world that know a hell of a lot more about life than I do.
  4. Cranberry juice mixed with Sprite looks exactly like a rosé.
  5. You cannot assume you know anything about a person’s thoughts or beliefs based on their age.
  6. “Working with old people” should not be treated as some great service to society. At least in food service (I am not extending this point to care, which is a significantly more difficult job), it’s just like working with anyone else except with a greater percentage of patient customers.
  7. Wash. Your. Damn. Hands. (Because having the CDC step in at your facility right around Christmas is actually the worst thing ever.)
  8. Listening can be the greatest expression of love.
  9. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel appreciated.
  10. Caring and loving every person takes work and thought but it’s worth it.

I only worked at Eskaton Senior Care for a year and a half, and yet, it feels as though it was such a big part of my life. I am excited for a new opportunity but I find my departure from this job to be much more bittersweet than I had imagined. There are a lot more lessons that I could have listed as I feel that working there genuinely impacted me as a person. Some would be hilarious and some would be incredibly sad. But for now, I just want to use this space to thank all of my coworkers, the good and the bad, the longstanding and the week-longs; Eskaton as a cooperation and the level of care they provide for their residents and their employees; and most importantly, the residents that I worked with. Your kindness, patience, funny stories, and support are things that I cherish so much.

There are not many things that I have found myself “missing” in life. Typically, I leave and move forward into a new experience without much anxiety about it. But from the bottom of my heart, I will miss all of you. Your sweet smiles, your kind words, your stories of wars and traveling and loves that stand the test of time. I wish the best for all of you.

fiction

Men of Honor

We used to laugh and say that it was impossible to imagine Danny as an old man.

We laughed and called him “reckless.” Laughed and said he was “begging for death.” Laughed and called him “bachelor,” “the infinite youth.” The boy who was at once with every woman and never with a single one. Surely, gray would never pepper the scraggly blond head of my brother Danny.

Back then, back in our Oxford days, all of our lives were so very quiet. We marched slowly, calmly, and quietly towards business or law or Parliament. Danny enjoyed making a little noise along the road. He liked to rattle our bones a bit, push us a bit. But looking back at it now, it wasn’t really “noise.” Danny’s version of “the quiet life” just happened to look a little bit different from the rest of ours.

It was quiet to him, I think. But I suppose all lives begin so quiet. Our lives certainly did. As little boys, we played quietly in the creeks and listened to our mother yell at us. And though we looked exactly alike, somehow, Danny had a different sort of aura about him. An aura that demanded leadership and incited a sense of adventure in everyone he interacted with.

The first and loudest noise – though I didn’t realize then that it was noise – came from Dr. Kent. Danny and I were in his history class together. Dr. Kent was not the only one old man to contribute to the growing sea of noise, but his voice occupied the most space in our imaginations. So charismatically, he told us stories of the great warriors of old, of the adventure that is war, of the honor and glory that could be ours if we enlisted.

“You, young men,” he proclaimed, “have a chance that I do not. You have a chance to be men of honor.”

We sat, quiet, as we listened to our professor preach. Loudly, his lips bled bombastic stories of glory and honor and God and king and country. Quietly, we absorbed his fatherly “wisdom” and drank his words like fine wine. Dr. Kent’s words enthralled Danny the most out of any of us and they seemed to bring out something buried inside him, some secret desperation to be more than “the reckless boy.” Perhaps in battle, he could be dashing youth and man of honor.

“Enlist, Charlie,” he said to me. “We’ll do it together. We’ll fight together at the front for the glory of England.”

Quietly, I followed him. I always followed him my brother, good Danny. I thought war was our  time, our chance to shed winded youth and become a men of honor. And surely, if Danny believed the war righteous, we could trust him.

There was, even back then, something inside of me. Something I could not verbalize, that I could not admit to Danny and certainly could not admit to myself. I assured myself it was not fear… It couldn’t be fear… for “men of honor have the hearts of lions,” “men of honor have no fear.” And how I wanted to be a man of honor, so I stifled the feeling and I listened to Dr. Kent and the rest of the bearded old men.

“Men of honor die with honor, for even to die,” they all told us, “would be an awfully big adventure.”

When we told our father that we planned to enlist, he gave a curt nod, perhaps the greatest honor he had ever given Danny and me.

“I would expect nothing less from my sons,” he said, sounding strangely pleased with himself. “My boys will be men of honor.”

Danny spoke so many words sometimes that he began to sound quite like Dr. Kent. But I always listened intently. Soon, more voices joined Dr. Kent’s. “Fight for England! Be men of honor!”

And quietly, we followed. Followed old men who we assumed knew best, followed the officers we assumed were lion-hearted. Followed our families, our country, all the way to the front and down into trenches. But it seemed strange that the people we followed did not join us there.

Quiet indeed were all the uniform boys. Quiet indeed were we “men of honor.”

I no longer remember what “quiet” sounds like.

***

It always seemed so dark in the trenches, even in daylight. The civilians liked to call us “brave” and yet it seemed such an odd way to describe us when we spent so much time hiding in trenches, like little rats scavenging in the sewers of London.

I looked down at my boots which were a few inches deep in the mud and manure and I missed sewers.

A loud CRASH pierced my moment of quiet.

“GAAAAAS!!!” We heard the shriek and instinctively fumbled as quickly as we could for our gas masks.

Don’t panic. I thought to myself. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Stop and get down. Stop and get down. Stop and – CRASH!!!

Something fell and crashed down near us and I couldn’t tell what. I never knew what. I didn’t care what.

Shriek – commands – Danny, I think. That shriek sounded familiar. But I had to put it out of my thoughts while I scrambled.

Stop and get down. Stop and get down.

I found the rest of our unit. I found guns. And I aimed and I fired and I think I hit someone and I think it was someone that I was supposed to hit. I think. But I don’t know for sure.

I heard German shrieks, too. I only knew they were German because I heard one of them shouting in German. It sounded like German. But the sound of my own breath was so loud that I couldn’t say anything for sure. I never felt safe in masks. I feared I would suffocate. I feared the mustard gas would seep through some imperceptible crack in my mask and put its claws down my throat and into my lungs and there would be no escaping.

I chose to not think of my brother. That seemed to be the primary objective at the front: stop. get down. shoot. don’t think. Thinking is too much. If we thought for even a moment the noise of our own thoughts might drown us.

Suddenly, I saw a figure come scrambling around the corner, but I would never have known it was Danny if he hadn’t been shrieking. I could not see his face or his body behind the man dragging him, I could only hear his shrieks.

“Danny!” I cried out. But there was no reply as a few of our men forced his compromised face into a mask. I wanted to run to him but someone was holding me back. I couldn’t say who. We all looked the same in those damn masks.

I don’t remember that night very well, at least, not that night in particular. I remember flashes. I remember crashing and shrieking and seeing a boy without a leg or an arm that I think was a friend but I couldn’t tell at the time. It was a friend, I found out later. But there were many nights like that and they soon became indistinguishable from one another.

I met Danny later in the hospital ward. I looked into his boil-covered face as he coughed and spat and moaned.

“You’re going to be okay, Danny,” I said over and over and over. Even without the boils, as I looked in his now finely-etched face, I knew I would never have recognized him as Danny. How he looked so like an old man. Gray had begun to invade his blond hair, what was left of it. I wondered if I looked like that.

The officers told me I had to return to the front. Danny was asleep when I left and the nurses told me that he needed to rest and I’d see him once he recovered. They assured me that he would recover and I’d see him again. And I was naive and I trusted them. So I quietly marched back to the front.

***

I suppose I am lucky for ever seeing the other side of the trenches. That’s how I’m supposed to feel, at least.

It seems so odd the way that no one else can hear the noise. No one except my fellow servicemen. The civilians were grateful for the end of the war. I know it did wear heavily upon them all, too. But I look into their eyes and I find that there is something inside them that I can no longer discern, a quality of civilians that alienates me from them.

It seems strange to me. The way I can hear things that they cannot.

For a time, I assumed it was me. But I realize now that it was never I who could not understand. It was them, in their naivety. In their sweet, sickening naivety. They, who had sent us off for God knows why. And at night, as I sleep, in each cannon, each gunshot, each shell that explodes, I hear Danny’s youthful voice.

“Enlist, Charlie!” “Let’s enlist, Charlie!” “For the glory of England, Charlie!”

I will not describe it. I will not describe what it is to see him each night, to hear his voice, to watch –

There are nights when I see him and I awake and I shake and –

You see, for all the strife that exists in this world, no one can understand. Certainly not a professor or an officer. Only the boys who marched so quietly to the front at the command of our noisy superiors, and when we do see one another, if ever, the last subject any of us ever want to speak of is the front. Because our lives are noisy enough. We can’t speak of –

We still hear the guns ring in our ears and we still hear our bastard officers and professors and parents and families yelling at us to “BE MEN OF HONOR.”

I saw Dr. Kent one day in London, a few years after the war had ended. He asked me how I was. I said I was all right. He asked me how Danny was.

“Dead,” I said.

I rather liked the way he looked as if someone had punched him. “I am so sorry.” I did not reply. He looked up to the sky and away from my eyes and said in a disgustingly dignified sort of way “Danny… Danny died a man of honor.”

My vision of Dr. Kent was momentarily obscured with red as every lecture he had ever given rushed back into my consciousness, as I thought of his rhetoric which had pushed my brother and I and all the young boys to the brink of hell. How we had respected them, those wretched men who sent their own sons to die. My pulse suddenly roared across my ears so noisily. My heart raced and I felt blood rush to the tips of my fingers and my hands felt they might explode in irritation if I did not slap him. I imagined myself tackling him to the ground and disfiguring his facial bones and screaming at him to “fight like a man of honor” –

But instead, I nodded and I politely continued the conversation with my fists balled tight. We spoke of nothing, really. I refused to speak of anything of substance. I bid him “goodbye” and was about to leave, but I suddenly heard a chillingly familiar crash off in the distance.

No, not the crash of shells. Not the crash of shells… it’s not real it’s not real… the war is over the war is over it’s not real… the London street fills with noise it’s not real it’s not real the war is over remember the war something falls out of the sky “GAAAAAAS” shriek click BOOM “MASKS ON” where is my mask where is my mask I reach for it it’s not there where is my “CHARLIE GET UP CHARLIE” arms grabbing me I claw at them you won’t take me you won’t where’s my gun where’s my mask CRASH “STOP GET DOWN” so much noise where is Danny where is there he is he’s not wearing a mask DANNY MASK ON MASK ON he can’t hear me he needs to hear me where’s my mask “GAAAAAAS” “DANNY” click BOOM  –

***

Each night I lay my head down and I shake. There are nights when I lie awake and I cover my ears and it doesn’t help. There are nights when I lie awake and I curse the names of the old men like Dr. Kent and my father who betrayed their sons.

And there are still darker nights when I wonder if Danny was perhaps the lucky one.

He is free… free of them… free of noise… free of shells and gas and crashing… Danny lives a quiet life. How I long for that… long for quieter –

poetry

To Lore and Elias

you added your names
to ever rotting woods, to
trees ripped from their roots

among the other
little sharpie headstones and
permanent mistakes

I sometimes wonder
if you walk in waking dreams
or nightmares endured

do you live in the
weary mind of the other
as lover or lesson?

I like to think you
found a way to wander back
to this little forest

look back at your names
together and smile at your
sweet naivety

I like to think you’re
sitting in some other booth
on some other day

and carving your names
in everlasting stones that
never turn to sand

but if you did fall
out of love like shooting stars
I hope you look up

every now and then
up to the dark satin skies
where you used to live

look up into the
black heavenly past and find
a touch of silver

reconnect the dots
and count the constellations
you forgot and say

if nothing else we
remember, let’s remember
that we learned.

lore and elias.jpg

*Inspired by the graffiti in Woodstock’s Pizza. To Lore and Elias, I hope you guys made it.