My father passed away from cancer on May 26th, 2010 somewhere around 7am, the hospital called me at around 7:10am to tell me. It was super sunny and bright outside in New York. I still remember that. It’s now going to be four years later and the mantra of “it’ll get better” that was repeated to me consistently throughout the first year continues to bang around in my head even though the truth is, it doesn’t get better. You don’t get over it, you just learn to tolerate it.
No one tells you that. It’s just a rush to make you feel better, but no one talks about the hole that doesn’t go away. I still tend to avert my eyes from a dad playing, hugging, kissing his daughter, without realizing I’m doing it. I avoid looking at pictures of him except on days to be acknowledged. I still get a heavy weight and edginess on my entire psyche in the weeks before the anniversary of his passing. Even four years later, I tend to forget he’s gone when the Mets lose a game and I want to gloat. Sometimes, I think I’m going crazy when I can hear him right before I go to sleep and then I’m awake again, wide awake.
There’s a faint panic and then a dull acknowledgement that should I get married, he won’t be there, nor will he ever see any future children. There’s a shocking and fear-filled acknowledgement of my mother’s mortality and of my own. There’s still a dull anger, a dull grief, a dull “oh there it is” when you think you’re doing all right. There’s that. I’m not saying it to be depressing or to bum people out but it’s a truth. It’s my truth.
And I’m no one special. This occurs to millions upon millions of people and for the most part, no one talks about it. Rosie O’Donnell said a bit back that when you lose a parent, you’re a part of a club. It’s not a club anyone talks about and there’s no meetings and cookies and punch, but it’s there. One of the first things my old friends decided to talk about, unprompted, at his funeral was about their own fathers’ passings and how they dealt with it. It’s just how it goes.
It’s important for people to know it’s a tolerable, yet bizarre feeling, the grief. You just accept it, knock back a shot and jump on the mechanical bull or into the pool or whatever the hell strikes you as a good time. So we’re counting down to four years in eleven days and it will suck but then it’ll get better. I usually hate the philosophical and feel good shit but this tweet struck me as especially true:
I do believe it. Good and beauty is around us and even bad things like grief can be good because it still means you’re alive. It’s all real and pure. Your strength is in every step you take even with that sometimes brutal pain, lack of closure, bitter anger and so on. It’s okay to feel it but you also have to go forward. And so I will do that.
For this prompt:
Okay, but let’s be clear. The tears weren’t the reason why Rosa sunk her teeth into her boyfriend’s neck, or why she bludgeoned him to death with an angel table statue. The blood red tears- actually, the blood, it was blood- didn’t cause anything. The virus did. The tears were a result of the virus, and the attack was a result of the virus.
Just to be clear.
The illness that had overtaken their Queens community was swift and sudden. People dropping like flies, parents rushing their children to the hospitals, body bags being rolled out of apartments one by one like on a conveyor belt.
Will had figured out before Rosa had that something was terribly wrong. He would, he was the doctor of the two. Rosa was ordered to call out from her hostess job at that restaurant that had just opened and that was a good job, she was sure her boss wouldn’t be pleased but she called out anyway.
Will asked her if she was okay going home and she had said yes. Sure, there were people being a bit hysterical and looking sickly but this was New York, everyone was a bit hysterical and always looking sickly. They paid out of their ass for this experience.
A homeless woman had grabbed her arm as she tried to get on the train after talking to Will, begging for help and Rosa had shoved a five at her, blinking as the woman hacked and coughed on her hand as she took the money. Rosa quickly applied the hand sanitizer and carried on since Will was so insistent she got home.
And so here she was. Alone.
She sat locked in the apartment, watching television and eating. She avoided the news channels because they bummed her out, so a marathon of cable shows it was. Some pot here, some liquor there, it was that boring. Will called every so often, sounding more and more flustered. Finally, he said he was on his way home, not to worry, it was all going to be okay.
Rosa coughed once, twice, sniffing hard and gasping as a sharp prickling went up her nose suddenly. She blinked rapidly, feeling her eyes tear up and why the fuck would she have allergies in the winter? She coughed again, tasting a copper on a tongue and blinking as red filled her vision, catching with a gasp the red drops that fell on her fingers. She breathed hard, trying to stop the prickling feeling, it was starting to hurt.
Will came home about two hours after his last call, talking about how horrible everything was, there were physical attacks happening now. He was so happy to see Rosa, and quickly pulled her to him in a tight hug of someone who was truly and utterly grateful to be home and safe.
She hugged him tight, stifling her breathing. He had thought the redness of her eyes was because she had been crying, the redness of her lips from the cherry bowl on the arm of the couch.
Rosa inhaled deeply, her ears ringing as he continued to murmur words of comfort in her ear. She was so, so hungry. It was making her angry. Her fingers curled into his shoulders, holding him tight against her. Then, she bared her teeth.
For this prompt:
The knocking started at the age of five. Natalie thought it was her mommy, then her dog Bucks being silly but it continued and one day, she suddenly realized that the knocking sound was coming from the mirror.
It was her, right down to her white shorts with the peanut butter stains and the messy ponytail of dark brown hair and the scar on her chin from when she fell as a toddler. Mirror Natalie had grinned when she looked and waved, so being five, she waved back, seeing another friend. Mirror Natalie became a playmate when she was left to her own devices as her mommy and daddy entertained business associates and friends every Friday and Saturday night. They had decided soon after her birth that children were too much work so Natalie had Bucks, her dolls and her reflection.
At ten, Bucks died. Fell right down and died and her mother dryly joked that the dog was so stupid, he must’ve become frightened by his own reflection. Natalie could’ve sworn she saw Bucks’ tale wagging behind Mirror Natalie’s bed a few days later.
Natalie suspected she might be going mad around the age of thirteen and Mirror Natalie still moved about in the mirror. She could never hear her but Mirror Natalie continued to speak at her. Sometimes the pantomiming worked, most of the time it didn’t. She chose not to tell anyone, she was sure her mother would send her to the mental ward her aunt Sonia was at.
At seventeen, Natalie got her first boyfriend and realized her Mirror was now able to travel, showing up in her boyfriend’s bedroom mirror after they’ve had sex for the first time. She was startled but even more so when Mirror Natalie’s head tilted slightly, never breaking her stare as she smiled at Natalie. Mirror Natalie wore a dark red lipstick she wasn’t, her eyes a near-black to her green.
Natalie stops staring at her reflection for long periods.
Her aunt Sonia sits at the Gladesdale Mental Ward, staring right ahead, her gaze blank. Her mother said Sonia died on her eighteenth birthday, they had found her on the floor of her bedroom, croaking hoarsely but never speaking again. Natalie begins to cover the mirrors.
On her eighteenth birthday, Natalie’s boyfriend takes her to the movies because there are no mirrors there. When she goes home, she keeps her head down as she brushes her teeth even as her reflection knocks and knocks. Her shriek when the mirror cracks echoes in the empty house.
The blanket over her full-length mirror blows as she changes, even though the window is closed. There is a sharp knock and she turns, screaming at the sight of her reflection, just an inch from her. She stumbles back as her reflection shoves her hard and instead of hitting the mirror, she goes right through it.
Natalie’s new home is cold and silent, too silent. Bucks barks at her but no sound comes out. She bangs on the mirror but no sound echoes, not as she screams for her mother as she walks into her old room and collects her hair straightener, not as she bangs when her reflection watches television with her old friends.
Natalie starts to think all hope is lost, that no one will never see her. That is, until her reflection meets her gaze while applying her lipstick, and to Natalie’s horror, she winks.
Every Saturday, he insists they go there. They go, she walking and he on the bike he’s still adjusting to. They go and wait, the two of them. They wait until the air gets too windy or too cold or it gets too dark or he gets too hungry to hold out.
For a year, they wait. She knows better but she waits for him, and she waits for him to realize the truth.
Their mother, mama, mommy, had kissed his forehead and her cheek one day and said she’d “be right back” and she had left them with a fridge full of food and drinks. That was a year ago.
And so they wait. She waits because he wants to wait and they wait for the red Dodge Neon to drive up the path to pick them up and cars pass, many of them red, but none stop for them. But he is still hopeful and he wants to wait like they did every Saturday when mother, mama, mommy would come from work.
One day, he turns to her as she puts her shoes on for the wait and says “let’s go to the park instead.”
So, today I got a full-face waxing done.
Let me backtrack. I went to a salon to get my eyebrows and upper lip (yes, it’s needed) waxed as I do regularly. The lady waxer informed me I was “really hairy.” My first reaction upon being told that was to think, “now, bitch.” Yes, I am hairy, that’s why I wax. But the wolfman hairy? I don’t think so. To be honest, I am pretty stable in the amount of hair I have. I shave and wax, and I could give two shits about the hair on my arms. All normal, willing body alterations by myself, and I was perfectly fine with that and my hair. Until today.
Immediately, I began to feel insecure, listening silently as she showed me all the places where I was extra hairy. My jaw, chin, forehead, cheeks- all places I was pretty sure there was little to no visible hair. She pointed out every imperfection and I found myself agreeing to the thirty dollar charge for the full-face waxing in an almost zombie-like state. She stepped outside for a moment for what I assumed was to get the wax but I could hear her speaking to someone, and I could hear, “she needs a lot of work.”
In addition to being in pain over the waxing, I was now also paying for the sting of a stranger’s completely honest opinion of me. Well, if I was paying thirty bucks when I went in expecting to pay ten, I was sure getting my money’s worth.
Eyebrows and lip, no problem. Aside from one patch underneath my left brow, those waxes don’t even hurt anymore. After all, I had been doing this since I’ve been sixteen. The lady began to wax my face in strips- a small-scale version of the waxing scene in The 40 Year-OId Virgin, if you will- and I found myself starting to tear up from both the surprising pain and the pure shame of being such a mess physically that this woman had to tell me. I lay on my back, eyes closed out of shame of both being imperfect and unwilling to allow this stranger to see me cry. I don’t do crying in public.
When the lady was done, she told me to look in the mirror and when I did, I was stunned by what I saw. My entire face, red as a tomato from irritation and the fact that I had just been stripped of hair and I’m sure skin and my dignity and possibly what was left of my self-esteem. I didn’t see much of a difference physically other than the eyebrows but the waxer had smiled and nodded and through the tears I was desperately trying to stop, I had mimicked her, keeping my smile wide as I said, “it’s good!”
I kept my head down as I walked to the register and paid and made my way to my car, partially out of shame and partially because, hello, I looked as red as the kool-aid man. The sting of embarrassment over not being up to par has kept until now, hours later. I actually found myself staring at myself in my bathroom mirror- something I try to avoid doing- pointing out every single flaw, those I could change, and those I couldn’t. I don’t hold ill will toward the waxer- she appeared to genuinely think she had done good and looked proud of her work, her little skinning of a tomato. Yet, the one question that keeps running through my head, even now, is “is that how everyone sees me?”
Can they see every flaw and are they judging me? Do I really need a lot of work? As insecure as I am, I had been feeling relatively okay with myself for about a month after deciding on New Year’s Eve that 2014 was going to be a new attitude and new outlook for me and today has seriously plummeted me back to square one.
The complete honesty of “she needs a lot of work” stung far worse than I thought it would. Almost as much as the torture waxing of my entire face. Almost.
Still red as a tomato and a-lot-of-work shamed to sit by myself in the dark, six hours later. It’s not a good feeling. I thought I had been doing so well.
Listen to: Sweater Weather, Alleyways, W.D.Y.W.F.M.?
Listen to: The Mother We Share, By the Throat, Recover
Listen to: Caterpillar, Speed of Dark, Home
Listen to: Dance Apocalyptic, Givin Em What They Love, We Were Rock & Roll
Listen to: Evil Eye, Brief Encounters, Love Illumination
Listen to: The entire album, but especially Heavy Hands, Blank Maps, Holland
Listen to: The entire album, but especially: Exodus, Double Bubble Trouble, Bad Girls, Y.A.L.A, Only 1 U and MATANGI.
Listen to: Every fucking song on this album. But go on and pay close attention to: Do I Wanna Know?, One for the Road, Fireside, Knee Socks, I Wanna Be Yours
(All titles lead to Spotify links, go listen!)