It had been three years since they heard from me, I had been so afraid to tell them I’d escaped the closet they had unknowingly locked me in. But here they were, searching for me, afraid for me, needing to know I was okay. I was better than okay, I told them. I was finally happy, living my life. When I reconnected with my family, I told them the truth, because that’s what you do for the people you love. They feigned acceptance at first, but then it became clear: their religion proclaimed that my death would have been better news. It’s ten years later: they search no longer, afraid of me, the deadly rainbow in their black and white world. I still love them, but they’re too busy mourning the death of someone who never existed, the shadow in a dark closet. Family unable to see the light.
Category Archives: Memoir
One of the ironies of my life, living in the Pacific Northwest, where the water is iceberg-cold on the hottest days, are the beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, where I nearly met my premature end drowning at the impressionable age of four or five. Despite still harboring an irrational fear of swimming decades later from this unfortunate start, I still pine for the childhood days of half-buried siblings, silicon castles, creosote smelling boardwalks, splashing surf and heavenly cheeseburgers crunchy with windblown sand.
Life can be funny that way.
From memories as a kid, sitting in a small upper-story window overlooking the rougher side of Baltimore City at night, when the bullies and criminals who usually roam there are sleeping. This was an oasis of heaven in an otherwise hellish time of my life, fearing I was too small and sensitive to survive in such a place. I spent every night looking out over that city until I realized how beautiful it was at night, when the people no longer roamed its streets and the real magic of the place could come out and be appreciated. I have been a night owl since.
This is the first of my Six-Word Memoirs, which came from the longer story blogged earlier, “Windows Into the Night“.
Despite how much hope and love you have for the people in your life, sometimes you just need a little closure, even from family.
Your time is up
A window of opportunity
Your silence begets
Five years I gave you
Am I human … or not
Patiently I watched you all
Dig your holes of hypocrisy
You can’t climb out
Traded sharp words
Knives in my back
Now you fear bleeding to death
To remove them
In family love is unconditional
Until you have to explain
Me to your friends
Sharing blood is not done in
Five years waiting for you
To make an effort to
Life continues on
One day you’ll wake to find
You wasted it being
With love to my mom, who has been quietly wonderful, but all too far away. Hugs!! ^.^
This is not about the window I sleep beneath now. That would be too easy. And a little strange, since it opens out onto a courtyard formed when my apartment building grew to wrap the space in a smokers alcove, where voices emanate–sometimes dully, sometimes with great energy. Luckily I can sleep, or not sleep, through the best of it. I can sleep through a brass band tuning up–once I lay my head down.
No, this is about a window overlooking the urban sprawl of one corner of Baltimore City, the scariest place on earth … at least for a shy, skinny 6th to 7th grade kid. For me, life during the day was all about survival. Not so much survival of the fittest … in that town it was more survival of the meanest. If you’ve caught an episode of The Wire on TV you’ll know what I mean. That was my town. No, no … you can keep it.
But then there’s the night. At night even mean people sleep. The city that frightened me became calm for a time, almost beautiful. It’s no wonder I wanted to spend so much of that time awake, appreciating it. Whenever I was caught by my parents sitting up at some odd hour of the night, I could always blame it on my little brother’s monumental snoring and get an apologetic shrug. But he was slightly duller than a brass band tuning up. I knew it was the night calling to me.
Our bedroom was on the second floor–third floor from the rear–of our ancient brick row house, with a window facing out the back. High enough off the ground the oak tree striving to escape the dark alley beneath had yet managed to block the view.
If you’re new to the concept of “row house”, it’s basically a solid block of 100-year old brick structures sandwiched thinly against the sides of other row houses. The 3-story row house we lived in–4 from the back–would have looked precariously thin and have toppled in a light breeze if it ever stood alone, but like a shelf of books it was tightly packed together on a block-wide shelf. The only separation between them was a thick firewall from the foundation to its flat sloping roofline–back when a firewall was a thick layer of fire-resistant cinderblock rather than a paranoid computer program.
Our block sat atop a natural ripple in the geology of the city, a shelf of homes higher than the rest, the row backing up to the other side of the alley, fronts facing away from us, sat several floors below. The forgotten land then rippling up again a few blocks beyond. Atop that next ripple sat a single-story shopping mall, basically a huge parking lot with the edge of a mall to one side, as far as I could see from my little window.
This was my world at night. Expanses of well-lit asphalt in the distance, over rows of invisible black tarpaper roofs and silent shadowy streets. It might easily have been a jungle at night, or a valley between cliffs, if not for the parking lot in the distance, lit like the outfield at a baseball game, waiting for the next home run.
No game ever played there, but I was probably its most avid spectator most nights: the tiniest of things that happened out there becoming small adventures. Cars would randomly traverse the parking lot, for their own reasons. Often these cars would approach from diverse angles and meet someplace in the middle. The occupants would get out and I would revel in my ability to hear the sounds of their voices echoing over the rooftops, uttered by the ant-sized people so far away.
Only now do I realize I was probably witnessing drug deals in the night. I wonder why the police didn’t sit in windows in the middle of the night, they would catch all kinds of perps that way. I could have had a job at that.
Not all of my attention would be taken up by the non-doings of the mall lot. That was more a meditation of sorts.
Often I would spend the time also listening to the AM stations bouncing off the ionosphere from odd distant places, with the sun charging the air in weird angles out past the horizon. Late Saturday nights I would listen to the wacky tunes of the Dr. Demento Show, still a cult favorite on the internet today, decades later. In a few years this would become a hobby, listening to radio waves bouncing from points on the opposite side of the globe, using a shortwave radio I built from a kit; but for now the AM bands on my tiny transistor radio were exciting enough. Radio propagation was a magical thing to me back then.
I have been a companion of the night ever since. We moved from the city of roaming bullies to the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania, barely rescuing me from my first year in high school … a massive building that resembled a penitentiary in my mind. Again I had a third story window to gaze out from, but the view here was a moon-lit field of grass, or my mother’s sleeping vegetable garden, and the shadows playing across shades from the neighbor’s duplex. I had a silly crush on one of the tenants there for a few months, a tiny married woman who playfully joked or played Parcheesi with us on her front porch, with the popping dice in the middle. I learned from her that I would always love women who nurtured their child-like (not childish) spirit throughout their life, and to never quite grow up myself.
My hormones soon pointed me more appropriately toward the pretty girls in high school, also mostly unrequited. But my nights were much the same here, minus the fear of the city ebbing away. A quieter town nestled in the dark valley to the right, tall trees rustling quietly in the night breezes atop the hill to the left, the stars swirling with hopeful abandon above. The quiet of the night needing at least one soul to stay up to appreciate it.
I wonder now if my night vigils today were an acquired habit, or a simply part of my spirit. Was it nature or self-nurture? I imagine I’ll never know, but I can almost feel the air grow quiet in the night, as more people fall off to dreamland. The crosstalk grows silent, my mind becomes clearer, the night more full of possibilities.
I still have my excuses for being up at that time, even without a parent to randomly look in to wonder: I tell people I can’t sleep normally on my own–I don’t want to lay in the dark alone, since I can easily sleep like a “normal” person when I’m in a relationship. There is some truth to this, too. But I know, deep down, if it wasn’t for the cuddles and kisses, I’d be up at night, exploring the magic of the universe, watching life on the planet slowly ebb and flow. I am a friend of the night. I think I shall always be.
Anyone who has happened across my blog, or me, will probably agree that I’m a little … different. Between my many foibles and my affinity for heights, my shy extrovertedness, my artistic geekiness, or that I’m a tall feminine lesbian, I may raise an eyebrow in passing. And yet I consider myself to be a member of “normal” society. I think we all are, in all our glorious uniquenesses.
But there is one thing about me that gets a little more (and thoroughly undeserved) attention than anything else: My hair.
It’s a little long. Okay, it’s a whole lot of long. Nowhere near as long as my paternal grandmother’s, whose DNA I happily blame for this situation, but longer than most people expect to see walking down the sidewalks of Portland. As you can see from this faux-candid picture taken just now at a local Starbucks.
No, that’s not the backside of Cousin It.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the random attention it gets at times. I just wish I wasn’t so damn shy to make the best of it. Thankfully it’s only now and then, and not too creepy. Well … most of the time…
Most of the time it’s downright funny the reactions I get. I feel like I’m part of a social experiment, one devoted to the perceived miracle of long hair. I get called many things, most complimentary, often from a great distance at high volume, sometimes behind my back as if they don’t think I can hear.
Things I’ve heard so far . . .
- Top pick: “How long have you been growing that hair?” (uhm, all my life)
- (Yelled from a block away) “Rapunzel!” ( … eek!)
- “Oh, you’re like Crystal Gayle,” (only taller! and blond! and not as talented!)
- “I bet that takes a long time to wash/comb/brush” (yes, it truly does)
- “Wow, it’s Venus de Milo” (seriously?)
- “Are those extensions” (uhm, why?)
- “Wow, that’s dedication right there…” (it is? oh, yes, of course it is…)
- “That’s the longest hair I’ve EVER seen!” (where have you been?)
- (drunkenly) “I just bet my friend your hair is real. Well, is it?” (go away)
- “It’s lighter/whiter at the top” (that’s 7 years of hair, but thanks so much for pointing that out)
- “Holy crap!/Oh my fucking god!!” (you okay?)
- (from a guy) “You know, I could really get into that . . . ” (no. just … no)
- “Don’t ever cut that hair, girl” (thanks for your support!)
- “You could be that girl, the one on the white horse . . . ” (no, I’m not taking off my clothes for you)
Except for the last one, from a trio of men in a park–who I’m so glad didn’t follow me–most of the comments are very complimentary. Some even funny. I don’t have any tattoos (yet), so I don’t mind that my hair is a good conversation starter … even if it tends to stall after I smile sincerely and say, “thank you!” (and facepaw later when I think of the possible life friendship/soulmate I may have just missed out on).
For someone who has spent most of her life feeling invisible (my secret super power) it’s kind of nice getting a little random attention now and then, even if it is something as useless as hair follicles that grow out of my head–for free! Sometimes I feel a little guilty about this … I mean, people think I’m putting all this work into growing my hair long, when actually I’m just too lazy (and poor) to go get it cut and styled. So I let gravity do it for me.
That and it does feel kind of nice when it brushes against the tops of my calves when I walk. ~hehe~
Not all of the reactions I get are positive. This seems to be a universal fact of life as a human being: No matter what you do in life that makes you happy, there will always be someone to come along and try to take that away from you. Maybe it’s jealousy, or they don’t feel you’re worthy (which usually means they don’t think they deserve it, so why should you), or they’re just mean hateful assholes.
I met one of them today, in fact. I was walking down the street (actually I was on the sidewalk, a pedestrian can get killed on these streets) minding my own business, when a woman drives by in her car, slows down in the middle of traffic to yell out her window at me,
“Give your hair to a cancer patient!”
Now I totally agree that this would be a very sweet thing to do for someone in need, and there are quite a few people who would benefit from it. But when is it okay for you to make that decision for someone else? I mean I have a couple of very functional kidneys, a healthy liver, corneas like an eagle, a happily pumping heart and various appendages that would benefit quite a few people right now. I imagine you have a few of these things, too. But I’m not about to scream at everyone I see on the street to donate these things; nor am I lining up to have myself chopped into little bits either.
Perhaps she thinks hair has a lesser value than organs. Well, not to ME! It’s all part of my body; part of what makes me ME. This is not really up for discussion. My hair is a part of me. When unknown men (or women) ask if they can touch it, that’s not terribly different than asking a total stranger if you can touch their breast. Get to know me first, show me that I can trust you (and I know you wash your hands), then maybe we’ll see.
All this went through my mind (again) as this woman’s command echoed across traffic. I was about to let it go, knowing there is really no point in arguing with an idiot. But another part of me thought, maybe this woman has never had anyone tell her this was inappropriate behavior before. So … I quite childishly yelled back, “mind your own business!” and walked on.
Darned if she didn’t turn the corner, park her car across the street, get out and yell at me further, “It IS my business! God talked to me and told me so! Bitch!”
Oh, well. There you have it. This woman speaks for God. And God thinks I’m a bitch. And if she says so, then it must be true! I guess I’ve been told. ~giggle~
Crackpottery aside, I only wish instead of my initial response I had said what (of course) came to me 23 minutes later, when it was too late (not that it would have mattered at all). In response to “give your hair to a cancer patient!” I should have come back with, “sell your car and give the money to the homeless!”
Seems like a reasonable response to me.