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The Wicker Chronicles: Essays, Poetry, Short Fiction
Saturday, 4 June 2005
Window of Opportunity

1.

Laying in the dark on my bed, I listen to the crickets chirruping under the honeysuckle bushes outside my open window. It’s deep summer. No breeze stirs through the window screen, just the sweet warm molasses night. I lay there wondering if this is the time, the correct and appointed time to leave. To leave him.

In my daydreams I always head west, but I embellish it boldly: The Great West. I envision it, the stretching endless roads and neon truck stops, the vast plains lapping up against hard, grey mountains. Go west until I hit the sea, and then I'll stop. Don’t all journeys end or begin at the sea?

But what will I do for money? Or food? Shelter? Will I even be able to pull it off without getting caught? Dragged back to Illinois amidst cops and newspaper reporters and flashing camera bulbs. Him waiting until the cameras had gone, the door finally closed, and then the inevitable tight hand on my shoulder, fingers digging into the tender base of my neck, the air suddenly hard to breathe and…

The lightning bugs whirr and lazily glow like fairy traffic signals on the branches of the honeysuckle. Just a short drop to the ground and I'd be free. The crickets urge me to action, the lightning bugs’ blinking turned urgent, the dark unknown inviting.

A brief window of opportunity.

Remember: I'm twelve. A couple of weeks ago I dared to disagree with him, and then realizing what I’d done I tried to backpedal, fight the current sweeping me toward a familiar conclusion. I’m standing by my bed, him in the doorway looking down on me. Before I can even react he's on top of me, his hot hand on the back of my head grinding my face into the carpet, his body straddled over my back, crushing, heavy, his low harsh voice taunting in my ear, asking me to repeat again what I'd said, mocking. Are you going to say it again? Huh? You going to mouth off to me again? Say it again. What's that? I can't hear you. What? Say it. Yeah, that's what I thought. And then just as quickly he's gone, leaving me there on the carpet. The beige, ordinary, neutral carpet. If I focus on the patch right in front of my nose, I can pretend it's a strange jungle, an alien landscape far away from here. I do that for a while, populating the loops and valleys with a wee, beige people going about their carpet lives undisturbed. Normal. He comes back about five minutes later, I think. Get up off the floor. You're not hurt, get up. You always overreact, you're so stupid. Stop crying. Now go wash up for dinner. You’re keeping us waiting. Now.

Then everything is back to normal, everything is fine, nothing happened, he smoothes over the bumps and cracks in his reality like smoothing icing onto a cake, until everything is gooey and sweet and seamless. Don't disturb the icing. He can have his cake and eat it too. The cake is not for us; his reality is not our reality, our reality isn’t listed on the can, doesn’t exist on the packaging. Everything is fine. Nothing happened. If you hadn't mouthed off, I wouldn't have had to do that. Don't disturb the God Damn icing.

You can't walk on eggshells without them breaking. Walking through the icing leaves tracks. Always. This has consequences. Every unscheduled, unsupervised trail through the icing has consequences. Be sure to wipe the icing off your shoes before you come in, or go out.

I didn't leave. Because it wouldn't have mattered how far I'd run, I'd still be in his world, not my own. Eventually, I'd be returned to him. And that would be unimaginable. Better to stay. Stay and pretend everything was normal, praying and praying every day into a semblance of normality.

Everything. Is. Normal.


2.

I made my own world, in response to his.

He never knew the secret names or found the sacred places, never heard the voices pitched only to my ears or saw the lights meant only for my eyes. He could be power, principality and dominion, could manipulate and charm until night seemed day, day seemed night, but the pure, true things I hid from him were safe.

I tried to restore the spirit to the things he’d crush, give them life again, so that even when he’d grab at them impatiently, pop them like the fragile, colored-glass balls my younger brother and I used to hang on our evergreen-scented plastic Christmas tree, he’d never really steal their essence. Even when he shook me like a sapling in a storm and bellowed until I felt the fragile glass ball inside me break, it was never really me he shattered. I’d say to the wee, beige people in the carpet: Here. Take this quickly. Hide it. I’ll come back for it soon. Or I’d suddenly be a cloud of invisible moths circling his head, dancing and diving, and as he swatted at the insects he could feel but never see I would smile to myself, knowing he could never really catch me. He could never erase what I could remember.

Remember: Under my patchwork quilt, warm and close within the dim amber glow of a failing flashlight, a complete world unfolds between the pages of a worn, thick paperback book. The characters and images enthrall me, and so vivid and real are they in my mind that I forget to be mindful of certain noises. In particular, the tiger-soft padding of footsteps in the hall, the warning creak of a floorboard, the protesting eeeeee-eeep as the clear glass doorknob of my bedroom door slowly turns. As the door shudders open I react instantaneously, switching off the flashlight, flattening myself under the covers, holding my breath and waiting, waiting…

“Are you awake?” my father says.

I don’t answer. I lie still and begin to breathe again, slowly, evenly, although the panic is screaming silently in my head, each hot breath hoarse in my throat. Important to keep calm, calm, if I don’t move he’ll go away, if I don’t answer he’ll leave.

“I know you’re awake, I could see the flashlight through the quilt. You know you’re not supposed to be up this late. I want you to give me your book. Now.”

I turn over slowly onto my back, folding the quilt down over my chest. In the dim moonlight coming through the window blinds, I can just see the dark shadow of him standing in the doorway. He clicks on the overhead light switch, everything leaping into sharp, bright definition as he comes into the room and stands over my bed, right hand outstretched.

“Give me the book. If you waste any more of my time, it’ll be a while before you get it back. Don’t make me come get it.”

His hand is thick but not big, with short fingers and neatly clipped fingernails. It’s an average hand, unassuming, not a hand that would obviously wield power or close a deal on the strength of a handshake. But I’m still a child in this memory, his child, and his hand is an extension of God. His hand always requires an offering.

As I hand him the book, sweaty now in my grasp, it turns in my hand and falls to the carpet at his feet. With horror I watch it fall, knowing that he’ll think I did it on purpose, did it for some reason, any reason. I grab at it quickly, twisting out of the bedcovers to get it, and his fast hard knuckle connects with my right temple in a burst of stars, white magnesium flash pinpricks and I gasp and slide out of the bed onto the book onto the carpet blankets and all in a heap and he starts swearing at the colossal inconvenience and drama caused by me, yet again.

“Shit! God fucking DAMN it!” he growls and slurs, kicking me off his feet and grabbing the book, tearing the cover off in the process. His face is red and tight, his eyes beady and grey, which is strange because normally his eyes are pale blue, I think. When he wears blue shirts, they really show off his eyes. I think about the different blue shirts he has, and how nice he looks in them, and then he finally stomps out, shuts off the light, slams the door. Only then, in the dark, do my emotions catch up with the situation, and I cry silently for my poor book. Silently, because if he hears me he’ll come back, and when he comes he demands an offering to his anger be it book or head or heart.


3.

These “situations” always seem to happen near my bed, or at least in my room. Have you noticed that? Good. I appreciate a reader that’s quick on the uptake.

After a while, all the memories of him run together, become hard to tell apart. Instead of panning for gold, washing the grit and slurry around and around the pan, intent on discerning that bright wink of yellow, I pan for anti-gold, original sin, archetypal Him. The vise-like hands, serpent swift. The grey eyes devoid of reason. The words like hot, honeyed knives.

When I find them, the bits wriggling in the pan, I pin them down so they can’t scurry away. See the tasteful collector’s case, all burnished wood, precise steel clasps, polished glass? Any entomologist would be envious. My specimens are neatly labeled: Latin name, date and location caught, wounds garnered. The black wasp in the bottom left hand corner, abdomen convulsing, stinging and stinging the empty air, remember that? That was the time he picked me up by the neck and carried me over to my bed; easiest way to keep me quiet, he said. And the great water beetle in the center, iridescent mandible jagged and twitching; remember? That was the time he put his hand through the wall outside my bedroom door; good thing he tripped when he lunged at me. Or the glossy centipede with its candy apple red carapace, thrashing on its pin… If I had a scratch or strategically knuckled bruise for every thrashing leg, there still wouldn’t be enough.

These are stubborn bugs of memory. They hum and click in their case, refusing to die like normal insects, and I am forced to be their guardian, their prison warden. Without them, I would have no proof that they ever existed, that they’re real. There are those that don’t believe in them anyway.

Beds are where we’re most vulnerable, where we need to be safe.

When that’s taken away, nowhere is safe.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 10:21 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 1 June 2005
forest

The resolve to be more Christian than Christian didn't work out so well, as that would mean I'd have to be around them all of the time.

That last semester of my first year of college, I had so much going on inside that I felt raw, skinless, all nerves. I had so many questions trying to burst from me that the tiny vent of my mouth got clogged, rendering me silent. Mute. I didn't want to speak anymore. I didn't want to look people in the eye. I stopped attending classes. The presence and expectations of others was unbearable. The normalcy, the sanity of everyday life was driving me insane.

So I went where I could breathe deeply, where I didn't have to speak... I escaped into the forest.

I was all eyes and ears and nose and touch, and the forest was big enough to encompass the craziness, enfolding my exploding brain with wind and creaking trees, green and sap, birds and stream, blossom and sun. I was allowed to begin again, able to scrape the charred rind off of my heart and start fresh. I came to the forest as I was, and it accepted me. I carry the jewel-like memories of that time deep inside me like seed crystals, God crystals. They helped me endure what was to come: doctor, train, near-death and onward down the troubled paths into the future.

There is a stream, deep in the forest, where a bed of purple clams gleam and burble, tan sand runs flecked with pyrite, pebbles tumble, and all are untouched by hungry raccoons or curious humans.

Carpets of pink and red bleeding hearts bloom under the multitude of evergreens and towering maples, as far as I can see in the thick, wet air.

Spiraling ferns and fiddles unfurl up wide trunks of craggy bark, shaggy moss, over the sticky-shimmering paths of land snails twining over limbs. I collect their shells, brown like nuts, like caramel, I keep them in a box with pungent nuggets of hardened pine resin. I will always keep this gold of the forest, secret money for me.

I know where the great tree lies across the creek, like the great tree of the world that fell, and I see the minnows and turtles that hide in its shadow, avoiding the ripples of open water. I see how we all hide in the shadows.

If I crouch down among the ruby-red stalks and peach-colored blossoms of policeman's helmets, I can hear a hundred fuzzy bees, I can see the green metallic beetles finding mates, I can feel the hum and the sun and the click. I am more alive here than anywhere. I am more yours here, O Lord, than anywhere else.

In a bank of stinging nettles I find a bird's nest made of green and brown moss, and a single butterfly's wing, woven and tattered into the downy feathers of the central bowl.

Wild blackberries and salmonberries are my feast, my challenge, I can spy them by their shadows behind sunlit leaves, winnowing between vines or stalking their stalks, in shadow or light. The sweetness is neither too little nor too much, the black tart and the pink musty and mellow. I pity the people who never taste them thus, who never know such simple completeness.

I am rich to bursting in these moments. I am fully present.

Coming back to people was like slipping into a troubled sleep, a busy-dim awareness, like diving into a dark pool and holding my breath, until the time that I could surface again into the light and freedom of the forest.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 June 2005 6:57 PM CDT
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Sunday, 29 May 2005
grace

God does me no disservice
by loving without limits
granting grace
denying distinctions
restoring warp and weave
I am woven into His will
logos and loom, text and textile

God does me no disservice
by saving without second thoughts
completing creation
evolving epiphanies
redeeming penance and prayer
I am drawn into His promise
agape and gift, past and present

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 2:59 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 May 2005 4:42 PM CDT
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Monday, 23 May 2005
belief

He finds me when I am not looking,
the soft footstep at the threshold of my senses

an embrace of apple blossoms humming with bees,
murmuring all languages that have ever been spoken

Oh quickened tongue made of light and earth,
voice of star and root, wave and leaf

He comes to me when I am not seeing,
the honey glow of light from behind the door

Here is the expectant coil of green beneath the snow,
beneath the burn, beneath the stone

Here is warm and sun on skin again after night,
after grief, after sorrow





Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 23 May 2005 4:24 PM CDT
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Monday, 16 May 2005
Lost

I very nearly lost my life toward the end of my first year of college. In some ways, I did lose it that day, and it would be many years before I would find it again.

It was about a month before the end of my second semester, and I had just turned 19. I had chosen to go to a private Christian university, one that many family members had also attended. It was a family thing, and I had been so excited to come and continue that tradition.

I was just coming to terms, and not well, with the undeniable fact that I was gay. I had grown up in a Christian home, so I knew from countless years of Sunday school and youth groups that homosexuals were going to burn in Hell. It's just the way things were. There wasn't any nice way around it.

But I wasn't like any of the gay people I saw on TV, or read about in the newspaper or in magazines. I was Christian, and this just couldn't be happening! I would pray and pray that somehow one morning I'd wake up and everything would be normal. I would fantasize about what it would be like to be straight, to be attracted to girls like all of the other guys, to go on and get married, have kids, etc. But I was me, and those were other people; I just couldn?t quite imagine what it would be like. Not really. I would lie in my bed at night and would whisper "Oh fuck, I'm gay"... What else could I do?

I grew increasingly inward as that first academic year passed. I just couldn't tell anyone else, any of my friends, family... it was just too big. I was too ashamed and scared. If anything, I felt like I was in constant danger of someone discovering my secret. Of someone noticing that I was different, and then figuring out why.

I finally had to talk to somebody about it, or go crazy. I opened up to a trusted professor, the only adult I felt safe with at the time. She was very empathetic and wise, and was a listening ear when that is what I needed most. But she also thought that it would help me if I spoke to the campus counselor. Someone who was a professional and who would be better equipped and trained to offer me advice. I agreed, because I wanted to believe that things were going to be ok. I was desperate for someone to tell me that I?d get through this, that it wasn?t the end of the world.

I visited the campus counselor several times. We talked about my family life, about why I was feeling so down, about how I thought I was gay. After what would be our last session, he proclaimed that he thought my primary problem was that I was depressed, and that he would like to put me on some trial anti-depressants. In his opinion, that would definitely clear matters up. But as he wasn't a medical doctor, he couldn't actually prescribe them to me himself. So he referred me to the campus doctor to fill the prescription.

I walked directly over to the campus doctor's office, energized to finally be doing something constructive about the way I felt. I was nervous, but I was happy too. Here I had worried that people would freak out, that I?d be rejected. But instead, my professor and the campus counselor had both been really kind and helpful. I walked into the doctor?s office distracted, my mind full of all the things that I would do when I felt better. Because I wanted to feel better. I wanted more than anything just to feel normal again.

I was shown to a little room by the receptionist, an older woman, and waited for the doctor. The receptionist had seemed, I don?t know, edgy when I?d said who I was and that I had an appointment. I didn?t think anything of it at the time. When the doctor came in, I shook his hand and we both sat down.

He said that he had received a call from the counselor, and had fit me in right away. He said this in a careful, precise way, each word enunciated very clearly. It?s how people speak when they want to be understood the first time, so they don?t have to repeat themselves. He looked me directly in the eyes and said, "I will only prescribe these anti-depressants to you if you promise me one thing."

"Okay, what's that?" I said.

"That you not come back to this school next semester. This school and community is no place for students like you, with... your problem." He emphasized the words "your problem" as if they were particularly loathsome and he could hardly bring himself to even refer to the "problem" I had. He was obviously referring to the fact that I was a homosexual.

He looked at me with cold, cold eyes, and then he turned and busied himself at a cabinet. He shoved a handful of sample packets at me, enough for a month or so, and a prescription for when those ran out. The economy of his movements, his terse words; he was mechanical and detached.

?Are we understood?? He said.

I was stunned, I didn?t know, didn?t know how to think, what to say.

?Yes,? I replied quietly.

"Good," he said.

He left the room quickly and didn't look back. The receptionist stared at me on the way out, like one would at a circus freak or a car accident. She didn't say goodbye either.

I stepped out into the bright sun. It was a beautiful Spring day, but I didn't feel alive inside anymore. I walked and walked, too numb to think or cry, just replaying in my mind's eye how he and the receptionist had looked at me. How I was disgusting, a human-shaped bag full of dirt masquerading as a Christian, just pretending to be like everyone else. But they had found me out. His words had peeled away what little hope I had, the thin skin that I wore that kept me going.

I walked instinctively to one of my favorite places, a wooded area with railroad tracks running along a raised bed of grey gravel. I walked along the tracks, kicking stones, listening to the quiet, peaceful hum of bees and flies, the click and thrum of grasshoppers. I ambled about a half a mile, until I came to a part of the tracks that passed over a quiet road. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and stood there, feeling the wind and the sun, just being and feeling nothing.

Then the tracks started to vibrate, very quietly. The steel started to sing. It always sang when there was a train coming. You could feel it before you could hear it, soft trenors up through the soles of your shoes, the distant train running swiftly along the tracks. The unusual thing about this section of track though, was that the train comes around a tight bend right before the trestle, so if there's something on the tracks, it can't stop. It can't blow its horn. It can't slow down. It erupts from around the bend, a great bellowing wall of steel, all thunder and muscle. I could smell the creosote and tar from the railroad ties, the rusty tang of the hot steel in the sun, and now I could hear it coming. It was right there, around the bend. I could feel the deep vibrations in the air all around me.

But I just stood there, because nothing mattered anymore. I wasn't human. I was gay. What did it matter?

Then I saw the train, and something inside me snapped. A seal broke and instinct sprinted through me and I ran, RAN without thought, my cells reacting where my mind could not, would not. I don't know how, I don't remember clearly, but suddenly I was in the dust and gravel at the end of the trestle, beside the tracks, when the train thundered by, so loud that it blotted out the entire world. There was only train and thunder and hot, angry wind.

Then as suddenly as it came, it was gone. The steel tracks gently sang, softer and softer, a quickly fading lullaby after the storm. I was still there. Dusty and coughing and scared, but still alive. I looked at where I had been standing, off in the middle of the trestle, and I don't know how I had made it here in time. It didn't seem possible. But I did. Somehow.

At the time, this was small consolation. Now there was no one I could trust. No one was safe. I would never tell anyone else about this, about the doctor, about the anti-depressants, about my... problem. I would wait out these last few weeks of school as if nothing had ever happened, and then I would leave and never return. I would act more normal than the most normal of students. I would be perfect and happy and more Christian than ever before, but inside I was dead.




Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 May 2005 1:23 PM CDT
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Sunday, 10 April 2005
crack

It's 3am.

Her flavor-of-the-week boyfriend runs screaming down the stairs, bellowing, "Crackwhore! You a crackwhore! Whore!"

He slams the front door, pulling on a t-shirt, stumbling down the street laughing and mumbling. He'll be back tomorrow, or not. I've seen this before. All of the neighbors have.

Or the time she called the cops on her 12-year old son for mouthing off to her and knocking over a lamp. She wanted the cops to take him away, take him out of her hair, her greased-back, jet-black mullet. She swaggered out of her apartment, stood there with one hand on her hip and the other pointing, "He no good! He dangerous! You take him away!"

The cops didn't take him away. He's 12. With no former complaints or case history. They said as much. He sped away on his bicycle, fast, faster, fastest, too fast to count the cracks in the sidewalk, transforming absolute details to a comforting grey blur.

She's been arrested for dealing crack. More than once. Police raided the apartment. Splinters of bright wood from the front door all over the front steps. Shiny white cops in black riot gear, like attack beetles thundering up the stairs. I could hear the duck quacking the entire time. Oh yes. They have a white duck. In a cage. I saw it once through their open window, flapping and dropping white feathers. White as blow.

The mother and son also recently acquired a pitbull puppy, female, white with fresh pink lips, jumbly-stumbly as she tumbles down the front steps to pee on the cement.

I haven't heard the duck lately. I haven't seen the son lately either. Every day I hear screaming, muffled shouting, and then silence. Every day. I see lots of different men coming in and out of the building late at night or early in the morning. I see the white, unmarked truck that stops in the street, and the driver who runs a parcel up to whoever is keeping watch.

I see her hurrying down the sidewalk sometimes, white tennis shoes and flowerprint dresses, seemingly incongruent with her tight mullet and severe expression. Well maybe the geometry of my perceptions is fucked up, did I ever think of that? Because as white as the cops, the puppy, the duck, the truck, her shoes, so am I. And she is not.

I only see what I see, but I don't know. Know her. I don't even know her real name. I know what people call her, but that's never the same.







Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 16 May 2005 12:36 PM CDT
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Friday, 4 March 2005
object lesson

I remember sitting with my friend Eugenia under the wide-boughed maple trees, while the other kids played on the jungle gym and the swings. You could smell the cedar chips and dust in the warm air, even over here in the green shade.

The leaves rustled in the light wind overhead, and she asked, "So what's going to happen to all of us? We didn't do anything wrong... did we?"

I didn't really have an answer for her, because I didn't know. But I still said, "It'll be okay. Somehow."

We sat there and listened to the wind and the creaking of the swings, and it was nice, just sitting there together. Comforting. Because we had to go back in eventually, to the adults and the teachers. To the weirdness, and not knowing why it was weird. Of knowing something was going on, and the confusing questions, and no one would explain anything to us. And above all the condescension. Because we were kids. Children.

We didn't understand what was going on when Mr. Carpenter would pay so much attention to Tina. She had strawberry blond hair and blue eyes, and she was taller than most of us. He would linger by her desk when he spoke to the class. She was shy and would blush, look down at the floor or her desk. He would massage her back, her shoulders, her neck, his hands and fingers brown and calloused against her fair skin. He would praise her work in class. And he was always looking at her. Gazing at her. Drinking her up. It made the rest of us feel... Left out. Jealous. Ugly. But it wasn't Tina's fault. She didn't want the attention. We could see her confusion, the embarrassment. His attention was like a heat lamp, you could feel it even with your eyes closed, dry and hot against her face, tightening the atmosphere of the room.

Then there was the incident with the boa constrictor. We had several class pets in different terrariums; an old brown toad that glowered in a corner, a black salamander that buried itself in mud and muck, and a large boa constrictor. At least 5 feet long, it was sinuous and alien and utterly strange. All the boys in the class, myself included, thought it was so, so cool.

Mr. Carpenter, as a reward for some academic achievement, arranged a pizza party for the class. I remember the pizza arriving in boxes, grease from the cheese soaking through the cardboard, and the rich, pungent taste of the red tomato sauce. We ate and ate, gorged ourselves and laughed and made jokes. I think Andrew, the class prankster, tried to feed some cheese to the salamander and the toad, but they weren't cooperative.

But Mr. Carpenter had a surprise for us. He said, "It's not fair that you have a party, and the boa constrictor doesn't get to share. So I brought him a pizza party of his own." With that, he revealed a cardboard box that made noises, scratching and scritching. He opened it, and we crowded around trying to get a closer look. Inside was a white rat with pink eyes, looking up at us and sniffing the air.

Quickly upending the box into the glass terrarium, our teacher watched the rat fall and then freeze, its whiskers extended and eyes wide, its nose quivering as it processed this new environment. Too late. The boa struck so quickly that we couldn't follow its movement, grasping the head of the rat with its mouth and then twisting its coils around the white, furred body, squeezing and squeezing, the rat squeaking once and then silent. Still the squeezing, the tightening, crushing, the ballooning of the rat's rear, and then a burst of bright red and guts as its innards were smeared out onto the inside of the glass, steaming as the snake began to swallow the rat whole.

It happened so quickly. We were all in shock and the some of the girls started crying and the boys were quiet and Andrew was laughing, a nervous high laugh. Cheese and pizza and all forgotten, but that red tomato sauce, dripping from the pizza... and the rusty, pungent smell of blood... I couldn't eat pizza for a long time after that.

Mr. Carpenter laughed it off, taking swift control of the situation, and turned it into a lesson about predators and prey in the natural world. What was the big deal? Over the next couple of days, we watched the lump that was the rat, but now in the long belly of the boa. The blood in the terrarium grew its own white fuzz of mold, and the sated snake wasn't so cool to me anymore.

The tension in the classroom only increased as time went on. Something, something, something was wrong, wrong, wrong. He shouldn't be... looking at her like that. Shouldn't be... touching her that way. But he was just friendly, he was just our teacher, he was just Mr. Carpenter, goofy Mr. Carpenter... wasn't he? He told jokes and he was funny, he made it fun to learn, but... why was he doing these things?

I don't know who, but someone told another teacher. And all of a sudden there was the principal and the school counselor and someone who looked like a doctor maybe, and Mr. Carpenter wasn't there. We were all asked questions and it was scary and they made us feel uncomfortable, like we had done something wrong.

Did he ever touch us? Well, no, not really. Where did he touch you? But he didn't touch us. Did he touch Tina? Well, yes, but he just gave her backrubs. So he touched Tina? Yes, I guess, what do you mean by "touch"? When is touching more than touching? Why are all of you adults acting like we know what you're talking about when you won't explain what you really want to know?

Tina was crying, saying that she didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings and that she was sorry and she'd never do anything again and... And the adults stared and wrote things down on pads of paper and exchanged glances and sometimes they would leave the classroom and then come back. And then the principal told us that everything was alright, Mr. Carpenter was going to be gone for a while, we would get a new substitute teacher, nothing was wrong and there wasn't any reason to tell our parents. Or we could tell our parents if we wanted, but what was to tell? Tell your parents to call the principal if you want to make a fuss, but why make a fuss? There was nothing to make a fuss about. Nothing to make a fuss about. Nothing Nothing Nothing. Your substitute teacher will be fun, just you wait and see. And there will be a field trip, won't that be fun?

So the next day there was a substitute teacher. Then there was a field trip the day after that. We had extra long recess breaks over lunch for a couple of weeks too...

I'm sitting with my friend Eugenia in the shade, smelling the cedar chips and seeing the other kids laughing. I have a grass stain on the side of my jeans, but I don't care. If we don't think about what happened, concentrate on the fun, everything will be okay. Sitting and not talking is comforting and nice. The sky is bright blue and the clouds are moving fast and the wind is warm. If you just concentrate on the fun, everything will be okay again, somehow.






Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 1:37 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 7 March 2005 3:07 PM CST
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Thursday, 3 February 2005
so sweet, so cold

He has wild eyes, yellowed-white rolling around dark pupils, and crusted foam at the corners of his mouth.

This is his corner, his slab of concrete and snow, and he has boxing gloves on, a red one and a black one.

"HEEEEEEEY!" he yells at the people who pass him, avoiding his eyes. He lurches into their path, and they sidestep him with the mindless ease of professional pedestrians.

If he cut off his fingers and rattled them around in a Dunkin Donuts coffee cup, you know, instead of coin change, would you pay more attention?

What, exactly, would it take for you to wake up and actually *notice*?

When he digs in the dumpster behind the Quickmart, you've seen him, he remembers the time last winter when he found three Saltine crackers, and a perfect plum. A Trinity of carbs and a sweet, fat Buddha, filling a tiny void, feed me, feed me his stomach peeps, like a blind baby bird, forever needing, feed me.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Friday, 24 June 2005 11:15 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 19 January 2005
nothing is as it seems

I find her on the roof clutching a thin blanket, shivering slightly, wet auburn hair plastered to the back of her neck. She's staring out over the city, and it's full of all things, but mostly darkness delineated by neon and stars.

"I walked down to the park today, and watched the dogs playing," she says, pulling the blanket closer to her,
"And then I walked up Wicker Park Ave to Damen, and stood under the EL tracks. I watched the pigeons, and the street people. I watched the trains and the cars ebb and flow, the bicycles and skateboards. I watched all their thoughts and dreams go by like smoke. I could pluck them out of the air like feathers, and they were sad and beautiful, delicate and rough. It was too much."

I move to stand with her, put my hand gently on her shoulder, but she pulls away.

"So I flew to the top of the Coyote, and watched the sun set down into a cauldron of fire, pink and crimson and gold. I watched the traffic creep in and out on the expressways, and helicopters flit like gnats above them, looking for the juicy fruit of accidents. I watched a homeless man, the one who always waves half-eaten donuts, get hit by a UPS truck. I watched a young woman run home from work in tears, only to find that her apartment building had moved without leaving a forwarding address. I watched the trees in the park twine and untwine their branches, rocking squirrels to sleep and tenderly embracing birds. Nothing is as it seems. It was too much."

I move towards her again and say, softly, "Amelia, you need to come inside, it's cold out here."

She shakes her head gently and whispers, "Something is going to happen, something is happening, something did happen. I have to be here. I have to see."

I brought her two more thick blankets, some mittens and a scarf. I brought her a mug of hot green tea and honey. She accepted my offerings, and returned to her watching.

Waiting.

Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, 27 February 2005 8:21 PM CST
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Thursday, 16 December 2004
scenes

1.
He says to me: You really had me thinking for a minute there, just maybe this would work; it was nice. The dog is asleep on the couch, but whimpers occasionally; he has an arthritic leg and it pains him. Or maybe he's just lonely.

2.
She IMs: I don't talk about religion or politics. I gave up after the last election because you know what? They'll do anything to get into power, and it doesn't matter anymore how we vote. She says she's on her second pack of cloves. I can smell the cloying smoke through the keyboard.

3.
The tattoo on his back is of an angel, I think, but you can't see the face. We watch Charlie Brown's Christmas Special, and we laugh when the adults "speak": Waah Waaah Wawh Woooh? Waah wahh wah. Because no matter how old you are, the adults still sound like that. The muscles in his back knot and unknot; the angel is pensive, shifting wings and shrouded face.

4.
She walks directly out into oncoming traffic, and never gets hit. Ever. She just knows the pattern. If I were to follow her blindly across the street, I would die in seconds. I was not born knowing this urban rhythm. I don't know the seasons of neon. I can't trace the city lines on my palm.


Posted by blog/wicker_chronicles at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, 27 February 2005 8:24 PM CST
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