Tuesday, November 14, 2006


In a lonely life, these Words have been my only constant companions.
They have never failed me.
They have never deserted me.
And they have stood between me and a world that would tear, and scrutinize, and cage.

These Walls I’ve built are strong.
They are thick and high.
Not one has ever attempted to scale these peaks.
Not one has even desired to force a way through.

But now, here you Stand.
Before me
You Stand.
And my Words fall short.

You Stand.
And everything else falls,
And my Walls come tumbling down,
And my Words fall short.

And I wonder what happened to my Walls.
I marvel at how you managed to walk through them
As if they didn’t even exist.
And at how, like some impossible apparition,
Here before me
You Stand.

You Stand.
And I see that you have always been here.
When I built these Walls, you were there.
And I mixed your light into the mortar,
And I set your warmth into every stone,
So that now they radiate with an incandescent glow,
And even my bitter tears blaze like precious gems.

You have always been part of them,
These Walls.
You have always been inside them.
In all my life,
In all my deepest longings,
In all my truest and most shining moments,
In all these things,
There were echoes, whispers, of you.

And now here
Before me
You Stand.
You Stand guard outside my Walls
And within them.
And you are my Walls.
And you are strong and wise and good.

And my Words fall short.
And you Stand.
And everything falls,
And my Words fall short,
And my Words fall short.

You Stand.
And everything else Stands around you.
And everything wakes, and grows, and is eternal.
And everything is beginning again, and always was, and will never be the same.

You Stand.
And everything else falls.
And my Words fall short.
And you Stand.

Monday, November 6, 2006

You Look Just Like Bird

“Hey, Denise Richards, how ya doin’ today?”

I turned, flashing a grin, followed by an eye roll. This is Gabe, who insists that I look exactly like Denise Richards. I, in truth, look nothing like Denise Richards, and I happen to find her trashy. But since Gabe cannot manage to remember my real name, no matter the fact that we work together at least six days a week, he continues to refer to me as Denise Richards, and I continue to act as if it is some great joke. One thing about being a waitress—I’m getting really good at hiding my true feelings. Actually, I’ve probably always been good at that….but I’m definitely honing the skill to an even finer point.

“Denise Richards?” Evan shoots his eyebrows up questioningly at this.

“Yeah, doesn’t she look just like Denise Richards?” Gabe explains enthusiastically.

“Ummmm, sure dude.” Evan’s reply does not nearly match Gabe’s enthusiasm. Evan, unlike me, is not a professional true-feelings-hider. He hasn’t had as much practice as I have. But then again, he’s probably never needed to.

“You know who you really do look like, though, is Bird. Doesn’t she look just like Bird?” This comes from Blake and is directed at Ben. Blake and Ben have both been here for a while, longer than I have, and are part of the secret club of survivors.

“Yeah, you do!” Ben responds, as if he has discovered the answer to some long-quested riddle. “You actually look exactly like Bird.”

“Look at her,” Blake continues, “she has the same smile, same big dimples, same blue eyes. The only thing really different is the hair color. Bird was really blond.”

“Who is Bird?” I deliver the question with a perfect combination of wide-eyed confusion and flippant innocence, as if I’ve never heard the name before and am only mildly interested in the resemblance I bear to this mystery person. The truth is I know exactly who Bird is. Her name and her “amazing dimples” are blazoned across my brain in a way that still smarts and stings. And for the record, we do not have the same blue eyes. My eyes are actually not blue-blue. They are a strange combination of blue and green and they shift often from one to the other, which makes their color almost impossible to name or nail down. I happen to really love this quality about my eyes. But no one else ever really looks closely enough to notice. And he certainly never did.


He had come in town that night to take me to dinner and I was full of expectancy. There wasn’t a specific outcome I was expecting. Things had definitely been shaky enough lately for me to know that they could go either way. But he had called, after two weeks of silence, and asked if he could take me to dinner. So that had to mean something. We both knew that we needed to “talk.” So this would be it. We would “talk” and I would finally know where we stood. I was tingly with the anticipation of my relief.

He picked me up and we began the standard debate over where to eat. Not even where to eat, actually, but who would have to choose. Neither of us ever wanted to choose, and we would toss the responsibility back and forth between us. Finally, he caved.

“Let’s go to Ninfa’s,” he said, and my heart gave a tiny flip-flop which I immediately tried to quell. Sometimes I am such a stupid woman. Maybe not so much stupid as typical, and typically, I want to read into everything. We had eaten at Ninfa’s on our first date, so for him to suggest Ninfa’s must be a good sign. It would be the perfect book-end. It could mark our starting over, this time on a better footing.

We drove to Ninfa’s in an awkward silence, punctuated here and there by his forced humor and my forced laughter. All the while I was wondering when and how he would bring it up. He would have to initiate the conversation, I knew that. I could not, and would not try to force him.

We arrived at the restaurant and were greeted by our waitress.

“Hi there, how are y’all tonight?” she asked. “My name is Bird and I’ll be taking care of you. What can I get you to drink?”

He immediately began to banter with her, which was typical. He always gives the waitresses a hard time, even if they’re not pretty blonds with big dimples and even bigger breasts. I tried not to be jealous as Bird brought our drinks and took our orders. I tried not to notice that so far, he had said more to her than to me. Give him time, I told myself, and he’ll get there. He has to get there, because why else would he be here?

As Bird left our table after delivering our food, he finally turned his attention fully on me. Try as I might, I could not resist leaning forward slightly. I could feel the tension mounting. In my head, I was preparing my varied responses to whatever he might have to say. His smile couldn’t have been bigger or his eyes twinklier as he began.

“Isn’t that amazing? Have you ever heard of a name like Bird? I mean, that’s pretty cool isn’t it? Bird!”

I choked down a swallow of water and nodded my head. Clearly, this was not what I had been expecting.

“And those dimples. Those are some amazing dimples. Have you ever seen such big dimples?” He continued in this line for several minutes as I continued to nod stupidly and agree that Bird was indeed an unusual name and that she certainly had large, full, perky dimples.

Every woman will swear to you that she is not the jealous type; in fact, she cannot imagine what jealousy feels like. She will tell you this honestly, and when she says it, she really believes it. This is only because she has learned to lock it tightly and tidily away. But a raging beast of jealousy is still present in some repressed, unfelt part of her, and at that moment mine was snapping and snarling at the bars of its cage. I slammed another iron gate down between my consciousness and that other, wilder, truer part of my heart, then forced a smile and steered the conversation to a more neutral subject.

Over our plates of enchiladas, we made stunted attempts at small talk. The thing is, I have never been any good at small talk. In fact, I hate it. I hate small talk and mind-numbing, soul-killing chit-chat. I would rather go deep, talk about things that matter. Break the surface and dive right in. Anything else seems, to me, a waste of time. Many people find me too intense because of this, but I don’t know any other way to be. This is me.

My patience with the small talk was growing thin, and I was becoming antsy—and angry. This happened frequently when I talked to him. The source of my anger was a mystery to me. I knew that the reaction was not proportional to the situation. It was irrational, this anger that welled when he seemed to be withholding himself from me. I needed to take things to the next level, to at least dip below the surface we had been skimming, and he seemed stubborn in his refusal to wade in. Perhaps if I just opened the way for him, he would take the lead from there.

“So tell me something. Something that makes me go, ‘Wow!’” This is his standard fall-back line, something about him that I both love and hate. I love it, when I feel that he asking this question because he is sincerely interested in what has been going on in my head. And I hate it, when I feel that he is merely requesting me to be more entertaining than I currently am. I’m not sure which I thought he meant this time, but at least it gave me the opening I had been waiting for.

I launched into a story of an encounter I’d had earlier in the week, which I had found inspiring. I told my story with great detail and enthusiasm, but I could feel that he was not engaged. So I tried to delve even further into the meaning I’d found in this random conversation with a man who reminded me of my grandfather, and who shared his faith freely, it seemed, with everyone he chanced to meet.

“It just really inspired me,” I concluded, “to examine my life, the way I’m living it, you know? To try to be really intentional about the way that I live, so that I don’t miss any opportunity or experience.” It had been an important revelation to me, something I’d been thinking on all week, and I expected him to be mildly interested at least. I raised my eyes to his and met silence, a blank gaze.

“Does that make sense?” I persisted. I was starting to feel panicky, the way you might if you jumped off a rope-swing and then realized you had not swung out quite far enough. Like you’d jumped out over the rocks instead of the water and it was all your own fault, because you hadn’t gauged the distance or the depth properly.

He glanced at me, mumbled something both incoherent and noncommittal, and then looked around for Bird to fill his empty glass of tea. It was his eighth glass since we’d sat down.

I fixed my eyes on my plate, forked up a large bite of enchilada and, managing to completely miss my mouth, ended up with gobs of gooey cheese and green sauce dripping and sliding down my chin. There was no way he has missed it, so I immediately tried to laugh it off with a joke about my incredible grace and table manners. I expected him to laugh along with me and let it go. Instead, he looked me straight in the eyes, his first direct contact all evening.

“You know what that is, don’t you? That’s God humbling you for always trying to make everything so much more serious than it really is.”

His words hung in the air for a few crystalline seconds, their echo bouncing through and through the tunnel, the fine, fragile tunnel that was almost completed. The tunnel that I had scratched and scooped and hollowed out beneath the walls, high and thick, that had for so long imprisoned my heart. Then with a rumble and a roar and a final scatter of rubble the tunnel collapsed and my heart was sealed in completely once more.

My mouth snapped shut and I stared, then looked away. It seemed that my words, too, had sealed themselves off completely. I had absolutely nothing to say. I could not utter a single word. As I sat in silence I realized that another beast, darker and more ferocious by far was now leaping against its prison-bars and trying to break free. I could feel my anger, my hurt, my hate simmering and seething below the surface, like a fever in my skin.

I can’t recall that I spoke again through the rest of the meal. As we drove back to my apartment I recoiled as far away from him as possible, cowering against the passenger door with my eyes fixed firmly out the window, fighting off tears. I remember that he asked me once what was wrong, and that I forced the answer up past the rage that rose like bile in my throat.

“Nothing,” I said, and he did not pursue the matter further.

When we reached my apartment he pulled up to the curb and left the motor running, a cue I easily recognized. I pushed the passenger door open and slid down from the high seat. He walked slowly around the front of the truck, his reluctance to face me evident in every move, every gesture, as he drug himself toward me. When he reached me he wrapped one arm awkwardly around my shoulders while I stiffened and stood. He released me quickly and I found that I could not look up into his face. I hated him, not only for his cowardice, but also for mine.

“Well,” he began, “I’ll give you a call. I mean, not tonight. And probably not tomorrow, it’s going to be really busy, but…”

“You know what?” I interrupted, “Don’t. Just….call me whenever, okay?”

He nodded at this, and at the bitter edge to my voice. We both knew that he never could manage to call when he said he would. And we both knew how much I hated that.

He turned to get back in his truck and I turned up the walkway to go inside. The whole way to my door I cursed myself for my impotence; my inability to make him talk to me, to make myself talk to him. I called myself a fool for ever allowing myself to believe in him, and a coward for allowing him to walk away without facing his failure or my wrath. But I did not turn around. I kept my shoulders squared firmly, rigidly from him. As my key turned in the door I could hear his motor as he drove away. It was a haunting, lonely, aching sound, but it was quickly muffled by the thick stone walls that greeted me with such familiar comfort. Not the walls of my home but the other walls, much more fearsome and strong. The walls that had once again swallowed me whole.

Monday, October 2, 2006

All the Nothing That is Left

I am so tired of waiting on you.
Who are you after all?
Who am I to you?
Do you know? Do you care?

I am suspended here, in time, in space
Longing, anticipating,
What for?
For the day you discover you love me?
No. I already know it will never arrive.
For the day when you break my heart?
That day has already come and gone and come and gone and come again.

Now you break my heart daily.
In between the petty and small words that you say
Lie all the chasms and chasms
Of aching, sharp, splitting words that you withhold.

Words that I need,
Words that heal or kill.
It doesn’t matter which way it goes
So long as it shatters this stubborn inertia,
Goes forward, moves back, does something.

Ask me to live without you.
I can!
Beg me to be yours forever.
I will!
But don’t, don’t, please don’t
Abandon me to this crushing oblivion of black uncertainty.

You have left me nothing to cling to
So I cling to all the nothing that is left.
Flinging myself upon it I fall, tumbling,
Into the bottomless abyss of all the words left unsaid.

And this is all that is left,
For me to fall and fall forever
With the darkness growing deeper and heavier
While the light fades hopelessly, inaccessibly, unrelentingly
Further and further away.

And still I wait for you?
And still I wait for you.
You are nothing.
But you are all the nothing I have left.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Heart Wide Shut

I don’t seem to fit.
I am not what you want, he wants, she wants.
Not what they want, we want, I want.

I want so much to be real, to be pure.
Transparent as a stained-glass window,
But broken.

Broken, shattered slivers
Shards that pierce and purify
Scattered and gathered, discarded and hoarded,
Locked up and forgotten, cornered and caged.

Caged by my fear,
By your lack of intuition,
Limited vision
Reluctant decision,

Decision to breathe
To release, to be free
Of the walls that won’t fall.
Too weak to be open and too strong to bend.

Bend till I break
Till I blend, till I bleed
I keep changing my skins
Weaving a shell, thick and calloused
Snugly curl in, cocooned.

Cocooned in my aloneness
Comforted by the familiar terror
Tempting, tantalizing, luring
Lulling me to lose myself
Till I no longer recognize
The unrelenting need.

Need to please, need to be
More than I am.
Not enough,
But too much.
Less than all
Of too many hopes and dreams.

Dreams that haunt
This waking nightmare,
Full of dangerous wonder and reckless beauty
Never to be grasped.
Eyes, tight open
Heart, wide shut.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

You See

You look at me
And you see
Your glance takes me in

First my eyes
Wide and blue-green
Colors shifting, dancing
Corners turned up from my smile
You see my eyes and note their intensity.
Yes, you see my eyes.

You see my mouth next
Rosy-red, lips full
Teeth in neat, polished rows behind them
You catch the shy pink dart of my timid tongue
And observe a freckle on my lip
You see my mouth.

Your observe my hair
Not the blond of the noon-time sun
Nor the black of the midnight sky
But hovering in the magic of the in-between times
Tinged with red like the dusk, sunset, twilight
It falls in waves and swirls
Past my shoulders and down my back
And you reach to brush that one curl
That consistently tumbles out of place
Across my forehead
And I know that you see my hair.

You see my form
My shoulders slim and squared
My arms lean and strong
You linger on my gently curving waist
My flat, smooth stomach
Wide, swaying hips
The full swell of my breasts
You remark on my hands
Small, almost delicate but with stubby fingers
And my short feet
Toenails painted bright red
You see my form.

You have become familiar with the expressions of my face
The dimples that frame my lips in a smile
The lines at the corners of my eyes in anxiety
The deep crease of my forehead in anger
You see my expressions.

You look at me
And you see
Your gaze rakes me over
And you smile
You are pleased.

But you are a stranger to the forces and experiences that have shaped those expressions
You remain unacquainted with the intricacies of my emotions
The excruciating joys, the crushing sorrows that I have known
You completely disregard the works of creativity brought forth by my hands
And you know nothing of the long roads pounded beneath my feet
You don’t spare a thought for the pangs and hungers that stalk inside my stomach
The great cravings for a love, a life, a destiny
You have never even noticed the depth of the heart that beats beneath my breast
Nor have you considered what might make it swell or break
You care not for the weight that is supported by my slight frame
The concern for others that I shoulder myself
The expectations of others that have been foisted against my will
You care nothing for the mind that hides snugly underneath my hair
Or for the carefully cultivated convictions that reside there
You miss the words that pour from my mouth
In an idiosyncratic jumble of wisdom and folly
As their subjects scale peaks and careen into depths
You are uninterested in the way the world appears through my eyes
The compassion that spills forth as I read and share
In the hopes and despairs of those around me.

You look at me and you see
You see my eyes
My smile
My hair
My form.

But you don’t see.
You can’t see.
You won’t see.
You don’t see me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

...And I LOVE Being 25

Historically, I have never been a fan of getting older. Anyone who knows me knows this. Call it nostalgia, call it rebellion, call it whatever, but I always seem to long more for the careless, golden days of my childhood than for the responsibilities and demands of "growing up." It's gotten so bad, actually, that every year since I turned 19, the approach of my birthday has been met with more tears than smiles.

One of the wisest women I know once told me, "Darlin', it's all down-hill after 18. It just gets worse from here." Somehow those words burrowed themselves deep into me, and I couldn't seem to help but look forward to each coming year with more and more apprehension and trepidation.

No more! My 25th birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I am officially a quarter-of-a-century years old!!! I don't know if I've somehow grown to be more wise, or if I just finally got sick of myself and my fear, but this year, I welcomed my birthday and this momentous milestone with open arms.

It's been quite a year for me. I feel that the Lord has led me on a most unpredictable path, often meandering along in an almost aimless fashion, sometimes careening wildly ahead. The path has been anything but straight. Instead I've followed twist, turns, and even several loops that have doubled back on themselves, leading me back to the same place, it seems, that I started from. There has been no steady uphill climb, but rather a series of dips and ascensions....a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. There've been bumps and bruises. Some scars have been healed, and others are just beginning to bleed. But somehow, here at 25, I've stopped and looked around long enough to find myself on a summit and it is undeniable how much higher and farther and better I am now when compared to a year ago. There is a sense of having been led out of the mists and allowed to stand in the full sun, at least for now.

An even wiser man once said to me, "Life is so beautiful. You remember that. It just gets better and better. This life is so beautiful." As I round the corner of a quarter-century, I find that this is my mantra. This is what life and experience have made true for me so far.

A friend asked me to choose the song for my "24." The song that encapsulates the last year of my life. I love and hate these kinds of questions, because invariably if I scramble for an answer that sounds impressive and profound I will get it wrong. But if I give myself the time to steep over it, I will somehow stumble across the answer that is absolutely and irrefutably just right. This time I did. I'm not sure if it's really the song for the end of my 24, or the more the song for the beginning of my 25. All I know, is that right now it is the truth of my soul.

Brand New Day

When all the dark clouds roll away
And the sun begins to shine
I see my freedom from across the way
And it comes right in on time
Well it shines so bright and it gives so much light
And it comes from the sky above
Makes me feel so free makes me feel like me
And lights my life with love

And it seems like and it feels like
And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day

I was lost and double crossed
With my hands behind my back
I was longtime hurt and thrown in the dirt
Shoved out on the railroad track
I've been used, abused and so confused
And I had nowhere to run
But I stood and looked
And my eyes got hooked
On that beautiful morning sun

And it seems like and it feels like
And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day

And the sun shines down all on the ground
Yeah and the grass is oh so green
And my heart is still and I've got the will
And I don't really feel so mean
Here it comes, here it comes
0 here it comes right now
And it comes right in on time
Well it eases me and it pleases me
And it satisfies my mind

And it seems like and it feels like
And it seems like yes it feels like
A brand new day, yeah
A brand new day

-Van Morrison