Another year, almost gone…

This has been such a strange year. It started in exile and is ending among loved ones. It’s been a year of major change (but then again, what year isn’t?) and lots of learning about myself.

Some lessons I’ve learned this year:

1. It’s okay to let go of things that don’t suit me anymore.

I think most people tend to hang onto things long after they’ve served their purpose. I feel like there’s probably some kind of evolutionary reason we do this, but I’m not a sociologist or psychologist, so I have no idea. I just know that it’s freeing to finally get rid of things–whether physical objects, old goals that no longer work, or even relationships that are failing.

2. Taking care of myself first is a good thing.

This is still something I’m learning how to navigate, but I do no one any good if I’m tired and/or sick all the time. Eating better, exercising, and better self-care are definitely goals for the New Year.

3. It’s never too late to change course.

If something isn’t making you happy, it’s okay to admit that maybe you’re on the wrong path. No experience is wasted, and there’s no point in sticking something out to prove something to people who don’t really care. The only person I have to prove anything to is myself.

4. I love the paranormal, but ghost hunting is actually really boring.

90% of ghost hunting is just sitting around in a dark location, waiting for something to happen. 9% of ghost hunting is listening back to all the audio you took of the night. And 1% of ghost hunting is stuff happening. It ain’t like the shows, I’ll tell you that.

5. I wish I could be out as asexual in all areas of my life, but it doesn’t feel possible.

I’ve come a long way this year in being more true to myself, but it’s a sad part of being queer that not everyone understands or is accepting. This has been an important lesson for me this year, and I hope that someday I’ll feel more comfortable being out.

And so, I end this year on a high note. I’m home, I’m loved, and I’m striving to do better. What are some things you learned about yourself this year?

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Post-Election Thoughts

I love you. You’re beautiful and worthy and I love you.

This will continue to be a safe space for you. Even if the world is burning outside the window, you can come here and I will make room for you, whoever you are.

Hate is not the answer.

Anger is good. It gets things done. But don’t let it turn you bitter.

I love you. You are beautiful and worthy.

There is so much work to be done. I’m doing what I can. I hope you are, too.

Love is the answer. Always.

Bold Moves October 2016

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Okay, this doesn’t really have much to do with this post except that he’s an astronaut and obviously made some bold moves in his life. (Photo by Lisa)

Several years ago, I stumbled upon a blog post written by Kelton Wright that describes a challenge called Bold Moves October. I highly recommend checking out Kelton’s other writing (she’s amazing), but since it’s October, I’m going to talk about BMO.

You can find the details of the challenge at the link above, but basically it’s 31 days of taking chances that you otherwise wouldn’t be bold enough to. Ask the guy out! Send your manuscript to your dream agent (if it’s ready)! Look into a new job if you’re not happy with the one you have!

Anything you can think of that would ordinarily scare you too much to do it… Take the risk and try.

I’ve been trying to make a list of bold moves for myself this month. I’m sure I’ll think of more as the month goes on but so far, I have:

  • Find more social events to go to
  • Make that scary phone call I’ve been putting off
  • Put myself out there some more instead of just sitting home

What are some bold moves you’re thinking about?

The Dreaming

Dusty cardboard boxes loomed over me in the attic of my late grandparents’ house. With a sigh I grabbed the nearest one and opened it. I hoped for treasure and instead found moth-eaten, ancient-looking nightgowns. A growl rumbled in my throat.

This was useless. How did my mom ever expect me to find anything up here?

I kicked the box down the steps.

“Watch it!” Mom’s good-natured voice, tinged with amusement, called up from below. “You nearly decapitated me.”

“At least then I wouldn’t have to go through this shit,” I muttered under my breath.

I trudged the length of the attic, nudging box after box with my foot. They probably all had stupid things in them. My grandma couldn’t even pack away her clothes right. Everything else was probably ruined, too.

Dust motes danced in the weak stream of sunlight coming from the small window at the far end of the room. The dust tickled my nose and I sneezed. Wiping my nose on the back of my arm, I moved closer to the window.

The outer pane of glass was cracked. The spiderwebbed pattern broke my view of the yard into little slivers that almost made a complete picture. My baby brother played in the yard with my dad. All the work left to us women, as usual for my family.

Anger coursed through me and I kicked the nearest box as hard as I could. Jewelry skittered across the floor from the newly split cardboard. Shiny fake jewels and cheap gold caught the dim light and gleamed. A pale silver ring rolled out and stopped at my feet. I crouched down and touched it.

I woke up in a pool of sweat, my mind sluggish, my skin hot and taut. My sheets were bunched around me and I shivered. I pushed back the covers and tried to stand, but my legs gave out. With a crash, I fell to the floor. Mom came running in.

“Oh, baby.” She held my arm and helped me back into bed. “Just lie down and rest.”

“Bathroom,” I gasped. She helped me to the bathroom. My legs shook violently from the effort and I shivered uncontrollably in the cold air. Mom changed my sheets while I did my business.

When I was done, I looked at myself in the mirror. Greasy hair plastered to my skin. Dark circles under my eyes. Haggard and sickly. I brought my hand up to push my hair back. The ring was on my pinky finger.

I didn’t remember putting the ring on. The last thing I remembered was touching it, and then I woke up at home.

I pulled the ring off and left it on the counter. After washing my hands, Mom helped me stagger back to bed where I fell into a deep sleep.

My head was clear the next time I woke up. And I wasn’t soaked and shivering, which was an improvement. I sat up and swung my feet to the floor. Taking a deep breath, I tested my weight. They felt solid under me and I made it to the bathroom on my own this time.

The ring still sat on the counter where I left it. I didn’t touch it. Something was off about that thing.

Mom came in with a breakfast tray. Scrambled eggs and ginger ale. Yum.

She helped me get comfortable and sat on the edge of my bed while I ate.

“How are you feeling, sweetie?”

“Better,” I said. Raising the fork to my mouth was tiring. “Tired. How long have I been sick?”

“Only a few days. Probably that bug that’s been going around.” She smoothed my hair back and smiled. Memories of the ring flashed in my mind. I wasn’t sure I believed her. “Just keep resting and you’ll be better in no time.” By the time I was done eating, I was ready to go back to sleep.

I dreamed about a room. Dark. Walls with peeling paint. A small, barred window with missing glass. A single chair sitting in the middle. The chair had a metal frame and a ripped vinyl cushion. I didn’t want to go near it.

A man entered the room. I didn’t know how because there were no doors, but one minute he wasn’t there, and then… he was.

I wasn’t even sure that “man” was the right description for him. He felt male, but he was more smudgy black smoke than man.

“I want my property back,” he said.

This is just a dream, I thought.

“Is it?” he asked. I was confused. Maybe I’d said that out loud?

Yes, I thought, careful this time not to say it out loud.

“If you say so,” he said. “Give me the ring.”

Or what, I thought.

He didn’t answer. Instead, spiders swarmed out of a crack in the corner of the room. My skin crawled just looking at them.

Maybe that’s where he came from, I thought before my blood ran cold. I hated spiders. My heart raced, sending shards of ice through my veins.

I woke up in pain but my first thought was: How am I going to get that ring into my dream?

The ring sat on the counter, pale silver against the dark countertop. I was afraid to touch it, but I wouldn’t have been able to say why. It seemed to have a life of its own and I was quite looking forward to being rid of it. If only I could figure out how. I slipped it into a small velvet bag without touching it and put it in my pocket.

Like other moments in my life when I was faced with a problem I couldn’t solve on my own, I went to the library. I was on the tail end of whatever this sickness was, but I needed to figure this problem out. Mom agreed to let me go if I promised to take it easy and call her the first moment I started feeling tired.

I holed up in the fairy tale section, scouring the books for stories about magic rings and dreams. After a couple hours, my eyes burned and my hands were dry and I was no closer to finding a solution. It was no use. I slammed the book shut and pushed it away from me. I propped my head up, hands pressed to my eyes.

A shadow loomed over me.

“Do you need some help?” His voice was smudged smoke and creeping things that crawl from dark corners. I didn’t need to look at him to know him.

Staring at the table, I reached deep into my pocket and pulled out the velvet bag. I held it out to the side and then it was gone.

“You have no idea what you possessed and gave to me so freely.” Faint laughter met my ears.

When I turned my head to say something to him, I was alone except for a sinking feeling that I’d done something very wrong.


Originally published on burntheboxdown.wordpress.com for the prompt “a stolen ring, a fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.”

Cinderella, At the Ball

Light seeps in around the edges of the door. Not enough to see by, but enough to know it’s daytime and I should stop sleeping now.

I pick at the hole near the baseboard of the closet. Insulation pokes out and makes my hands itch, but I ignore it. I focus on making the hole bigger.

My plan to escape the closet came after hearing mice in the walls, scrabbling around as I tried to sleep. If they can move around in the walls, maybe I can, too.

The only problem is working without making noise. As the wall rips away in my hands, the hole grows, but so does my fear of discovery. They can’t know. They can’t find out.

The jingling of keys forces me to the front of the closet. It must be time to eat. Or maybe it’s time to go to the bathroom. I can’t always keep the schedule straight.

Bright light hurts my eyes and I duck my head down until they adjust. She’s standing in front of me, blocking some of the light. Well, one of them, at least. I can never tell them apart. I think they like it that way.

She thrusts some paper into my hands. No, not paper. An envelope. I open my mouth to ask about it, but she turns and leaves. She doesn’t shut the door again, so I take it as an invitation to leave the closet.

The envelope is heavy in my hands. Who knew paper could weigh so much.

I slit it open with my fingernail and ease the contents out. Frilly pinks and whites surround elegant handwriting.

You are cordially invited to the Branson’s for Emily’s Sixteenth Birthday Masquerade
Saturday, October 31
7pm
Please wear a mask

A masquerade! My heart leaps at the thought of fancy masks, feathers, and ballgowns. I can’t let the twins know about it. They’d never let me go. I burn the invitation.

I count down the days until the ball. Back in the dark of the closet, I have to fight to pay attention, counting meals and bathroom trips. I can’t miss the party.

The hole in the wall is almost me-sized. The pieces are stacked in the back corner of the closet, as far from the door as possible. The ladies haven’t seemed to notice.

I wish I knew why they kept me in here. I wish I could tell them apart. Every time I thought I had a connection with one of them, the other would show up and confuse me again. All I wanted was to get out of this closet.

Saturday comes. Dinner is served. The ladies settle in downstairs for the evening. The soft blare of the tv reaches my ears, muffled through so many walls and doors.

The hole in the wall is big enough. I’m amazed the ladies haven’t caught me. The thought disappears once I wiggle into the space and find my way outside. I had to break another hole in the outer wall, but freedom is worth any price.

I don’t have a dress. Only the rags the ladies saw fit to allow me to wear. I run into the woods near our house. Their house, I remind myself. It was never mine.

Leaves crunch under my feet. Twigs snag my clothes and snap. I fashion a mask from sapling twigs, pliable and strong, and leaves stolen from trees. Acorns adorn the sides where jewels and feathers should be.

I am ready.

People at the party give me a wide berth. I want to dance, but no one crosses the gap between them and me. This makes me want to flip tables over, but I don’t because that would make me a bad guest. I want nothing more than to stay here.

I eat the food and stalk the edges of the crowd. No one speaks to me, but everyone watches me from the corners of their eyes.

A mirror reflects my image as I make my rounds around the room. A waif of a girl stares back at me. Dingy clothes, matted hair, a mask made of the wilds. I don’t recognize myself.

Grabbing the nearest heavy object, a crystal vase with real roses in it, I smash the mirror. The crash satisfies the beast inside me.

The music stops. Everyone stares at me, the wild girl with feral ways and bared teeth. I growl at them. They take a collective step back.

The ladies glide through the crowd, confident and calm. Without a word, they grasp my arms and guide me home. Not to the closet, though. I’ve become too good at escaping for that.

I don’t know what lies in store for me at our home. Their home. It was never mine.


Originally posted at https://burntheboxdown.wordpress.com/ for the story prompt “identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked closet.”

 

Ocean’s Pull

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Photo by Lisa

Nothing’s been the same since Pa left us last year. He got up early one morning, said he was going for some cigarettes, and he never came back. Ma said he left us for that bimbo secretary of his, but I know different.

He left us for the sea.

And now the same waves crest and crash in my soul. I’ve been trying to ignore it for Ma’s sake. She needs me. But the pull is strong and I can’t resist anymore.

It’s a wonder Pa lasted out as long as he did. I’m not as strong as him.

So tonight, when the moon is high and the night is deep, I’ll pack my things, kiss Ma’s sleeping forehead, and leave. She’ll understand. She’s got to.