Thursday, August 9, 2012

Struggling to forgive NY

Sometimes I struggle.  I'm struggling today.  I haven't written in a while and thought this might be a good time to let some of the struggle out.  Someone once told me forgiveness is day to day.  That we wake up and ask, can I forgive today?  Today, I struggle forgiving.  I have always loved the city of New York.  I would go a few times a year to visit my grandmother who was so proud of the city.  Marian the librarian. 
Marian is closest to the sign. 
She had stories of struggles her family faced during the depression.  She talked about going to rallies during the sixties.  She talked about fighting for books in the public school she worked, where she was nicknamed Ole Iron Balls.  The city, where she raised her family, my mother and aunts.  Where she sat in waiting rooms while my grandfather received treatment for cancer.  Where she roller-skated down the docks on the river.  Where she showed me places she used to work, where famous people lived, where the best shopping deals were, were the best food was, where the best exhibits were, where movies were filmed.  She marveled at the changes of the city, at the changes in her neighborhood, at the culture and creativity.  She took me to see shows, modern art at the Whitney, the MOMA, museums, a snowstorm indoors at a Polish circus, musicals, drama, architecture, statues...window exhibits.  We would peek our heads in so we could see architecture or amazing show pieces inside buildings.  She would speak gently and firmly to people.  No one could resist the grandma.  She would put her arm in front of me at cross walks to "save my life" and prevent me from walking into the street as I would be looking at everything else in the city and not the street signs.  (Even when I was looking at street signs, she would still put her arm out)  She waived her finger back and forth at her computer and told it to be nice to her.  She worked on the NY Times crossword puzzle everyday.  She sometimes let me help...asking me questions she already knew the answers to.  She volunteered at the English speaking union.  She encouraged me to never stop learning, to continue to challenge myself, to keep going, to struggle, and to achieve, to recognize and enjoy the things the city had to offer, to enjoy the things life had to offer....just to enjoy.  Some days, it's easier to recognize she died in the city she lived and it was quick and painless. Some days, I cannot forgive the city with the cold steel and lack of pedestrian laws.  It's been months, but my struggle to forgive NY is a battle.  Because I felt I had to say goodbye to the city as well as to her. My feelings of forgiveness are intertwined with saying goodbye and recognizing that sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes, I can hear her voice in my head, giving me advice or telling me what to do.  I realize I have been extremely lucky to have her in my life and the city in my life for this long, but it still feels hard.  Sometimes, there is value in putting words to thoughts.  So, maybe this will help my healing process.  I miss her.  Everyday.  It's getting easier, but there are some days that are just harder than others. 

Monday, August 8, 2011


The red brick house held the memories.  She smiled as she traced her finger over the picture of her old house.  The bats, the mice, the rat snake under the porch, Winter Wonderland, the long driveway that seemed never ending, the tire swing, the secret passageways, the stone wall, the big red tractor, the climbing tree, the corn fields, the spring house.  Her last memories of her family, faded.  Memories of leaving, to meet for the drop and swap.  The red volvo in the parking lot...or not.  The barbed wire fence that sliced her knee.  The woods with endless treasures, ducking and dodging in bright colors to avoid hunters who paid no attention to trespassing signs.  The hermit crab who went missing and was never found.  The three legged cat who kept the house safe, leaving reminders of her actions with mice and birds on the doorstep.  Creating go carts out of plastic piping and racing down the hill in front of the house with reckless abandonment.  Sword fights against villains and trying to steal keys from alligators who would lock her in jail.  The brick house seemed slightly less advantageous in the pictures than in the memories.  The newly painted trim did not capture the memories of impromptu adventures and treasures.  Instead, the facade seemed to reflect the sentiments of the family.  Arguments echoing up from the vents late at night.  Empty promises and empty mailboxes especially on birthdays.  Hidden by a new coat of paint or a new story, empty excuses.  The picture did not reflect rainbow cats or paper trees, but told only a small version of the story.  She turned the photograph over, slowly, imagining more images on the other side.  The glossy white reminded her of her innocence while living there.  The dreams of leaving the small town and changing the world.  Somehow, through a maze of corn, wheat, trees, bugs, hallways, buses, and ever changing schedules it seemed possible.  She smiled and put the picture of her old brick house away, hoping the current residents enjoy the house as much as she did, still wondering if the lost hermit crab found a small space and is an invisible tenant of the old house. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


The night was quiet. The moon shone down, dusting them with innocence.  For a moment, she forgot she would be leaving this town in a few months.  Instead, she quieted her breath and smiled while she listened for footsteps.  She had played this game before.  So many years later, the game had not changed.  It was something she could rely on.  The rules were the same.  Just her body had changed. Somehow she felt monstrous in her small hiding place, trying to remain inconspicuous as he tried to find them.  She took a deep breath, gazing at her surroundings.  The open field looked different at night, like a sea, waves blowing in the wind.  The dew had already settled on the grass and twinkled in the moonlight.  The stars spanned overhead, overlooking the escapade and winking with amusement.  She would miss this.  Suddenly, she saw movement in the shadows.  Far away, people ran in the darkness and hid beneath a tree.  She realized this would be one of her last nights without responsibilities.  She let the moment wash over her.  Then, she heard the twig snap.  She glanced to her right and saw a flashlight.  She jumped from her place and made a dash for a tree, surprised at the speed of her reactions.  She heard the footsteps behind her.  Her breath became ragged.  Her feet moved on their own underneath her, taking long strides.  She was surprised at her agility.  Until, she began to run downhill on the wet grass.   Suddenly, her feet were sliding out from underneath her.  Her body slid down the hill, covered in grass and dirt.  She lay on her back, gazing up at the night sky, gasping, panting for breath, and laughing at her fall.  She had lost, she had been found.  As she caught her breath, she looked at her friends and their surroundings, appreciating they had a moment to feel like kids again. 

Friday, July 22, 2011


The train whistle blew.  It made the platform shake.  The hot air made my shirt cling to my back.  Everything felt sticky.  My hands were sweating as I thought about the long trip ahead.  I held my ticket, twisting it in my hands.  I didn't want to think about losing it.  My sister looked at me with a discouraging look..."don't lose it again."  I looked down, then up at her with false defiance. "just hold on to your own ticket."  I looked at my mother's hand.  She gave me a hug goodbye and I drank in her smell.  At that age, a month seemed like eternity.  She promised to write.  I blinked back tears.  My sister took my hand and we boarded the train.  We found seats next to each other and while she made sure to create a barrier so I did not pester her too much, she patted me on the shoulder.  "we'll be back soon and we'll have lots of stories to tell."  Even when I annoyed the hell out of her, she made sure to comfort me.  We each pulled out our books and settled in for the long ride checking my ticket in the back of the book to make sure my trip did not end early.

Friday, July 15, 2011


She wondered what it was like, to grow up believing in something more than dirt and air.  It had been years since all icons had been outlawed.   They said the images gave people too much hope.  She laughed.  Hope.  She remembered the last time she felt something remotely close.  She was in line with her father for a piece of bread.  Her father held her hand and told her not to let go.  The crowd submerged them in arms, legs, bodies.  She had held tight until the alarm sounded.  Then the bodies moved in a panic.  They moved in herds towards the shelters, pulling like tides in opposite directions.  She had been knocked over and trampled by feet, no one bothered to look down.  The sea of bodies and colors parted and a hand reached from the sky for her.  Blood had trickled into her eyes, burning, blurring her vision.  She closed them and leaned against the stranger.  She awoke in a shelter, surrounded by strangers, without her father, no idea who had helped her.  She glanced at the remaining, fading scars on her arms.  She picked up a handful of dirt, slowly letting it trickle through her fingertips.  This is what she knew.  She tried to clear her head of useless thoughts of stories she heard in whispers on the wind. She glanced at her hand and remembered the tight grip she had lost.  Cursing the dirt for her watering eyes, she started her day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The small room grew in capacity as more passersby trickled in.  She sat in the corner, watching, throwing her head back in laughter at her friend’s jokes, scanning familiar faces and unfamiliar strangers.  She breathed in, feeling the humid air stick to her lungs, smelling stale cigarettes and cheap perfume.  She glanced up.  Across the room, he stood, sipping his drink and swirling the ice to cool the liquor.  His face was dressed in shadows, half-hidden, smiling, and bobbing his head to the beat of the music.  He glanced up.  Their eyes met across the room.  Reassurance passed over the girl’s face.  The music did not slow down, people did not stop talking, and the world did not pause.  Yet, something had changed.  Slowly, over the course of hours, they worked their way closer, pulled, drawn to each other through the sea of faces.  They found themselves back to back.  Almost touching, the air became muggy, attaching their clothes to their bodies, clinging on…to what? She turned to face him.  Smiles in her eyes, trying to pretend her stomach was not churning with anticipation.  He choked down some liquor blaming the strong drink for coming so close.  He turned towards her and without glancing up, walked quickly past ignoring the pain in his chest as passed her, pretending not to notice her half open lips pursed and ready to speak.   It’s better this way, he thought to himself as he quickly moved away from her drawing presence and swiftly moved towards the door.  She watched him leave, heart pulling her towards him, but finding herself planted, grounded to her spot.  It’s better this way, she thought to herself as she blinked back memories behind the fa├žade of a long drink.  The small room began to empty.  The thick air became lighter and stopped clinging to her as his body used to.  Her friend grabbed her arm as they left, but her heart pulled for something that was no longer there. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011


She flipped through the pages of the worn text, holding the passages close to her face and smelling the musty book.  It made it sound so easy.  plastering photographs of monuments and museums, sentence after sentence sculpting scenes and raving about restaurants.   The girl sighed deeply, exasperated by the elaborate images described before her.  "one day," she said quietly to herself, her eyes scanning the pages and drinking the images into her memories, storing the information, planning.  She closed the pages of the book, carefully, so as not to fold  facts perching the book promptly on the table so as not to hesitate. This had become her ritual.   To escape into the pages, faded and full of future plans until her eyes tired from her travels.