How to keep on? Keep on. Day after day of disappointment leaves a hole in my heart, like the depletion of the ozone layer. Things filter through to me now; hit me hard where I’m the softest, do a lot of damage. I want to hope for the best. Tell me how you do that. Tell me how it is you continue to be unafraid and yet alert to opportunities. Tell me how you still believe in opportunities.
I know all about that “one thing ends, another begins” stuff. I have finally run out of ways to believe that the thing that begins is going to be any better than the thing that’s ending.
To my way of thinking, it plays out like this: Fate closes a door; God throws you in a car, drives fast, opens a window, and pushes you out. Destiny throws you a curve, Jesus flushes a toilet. Fortune eats your lunch, heaven shits upon you. Misty gets a haircut, frogs clog the drain. Pitcher yellow freefall, walnut jumps on planet. Yabba oo-oo huh, gitso anty wahdu. And so it goes. Before you know it, where are you? I mean really, where are you?
What about this: All the flowers in my garden are dead. It looks as if I planted them that way. It’s the season, of course, but if I were to take a picture of them, would anyone know that? Wouldn’t they just see dead flowers? And even if they were to recognize the season, the flowers are still dead. Facts are facts. I know it’s all very natural. That doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it.
Or this: Because I’m a lesbian on my father’s side, stand-offish on my mother’s, I find myself not knowing how to react to all the stamen-pistil talk that accompanies pollination. Bees and their furry bodies take care of this without needing me to get involved. In fact, I’m certain they’d prefer I didn’t.
It comes down to this: If you fall out of step, everyone remembers it forever. However, memory works both ways. You know that they know, but they know that you know. Unless, of course, the person happens to be one of your parents and then they don’t remember that you remember. Or worse, they refuse to even entertain the idea that you could. They think you were too young or that it went over your head. They said it would never happen again and it did. Repeatedly. They said it was a phase; you knew it was forever. They marked you as “different” and decided to keep an eye on you. Or ignore you. Or make up a reality for you that they could live with in their heads. All this because I thought the petticoat was itchy and I didn’t want to play naked Barbies with the little redheaded coquette across the street when I was seven. I had other ideas.
Here’s what I think: If you don’t know where you’re going, drive faster; if you don’t know what you’re saying, talk louder. This strategy doesn’t make anything any easier for you, but it makes everyone else uncomfortable and, given the circumstances, that’s something.
Oakland, California resident Jane McDermott is the 2014 Michael Rubin book award winner for her collection of microfiction Look Busy: One hundred 100-word stories by and for the easily distracted, which was published by 14 Hills in November 2014. Her nonfiction has appeared in anthologies and her fiction can be found in Reunion, The Dallas Review, Red Light Lit, Writing Without Walls, and others. She received an MFA in fiction from San Francisco State University. Learn more at janemcdermott.com.
Bill Wolak has just published his fifteenth book of poetry entitled The Nakedness Defense with Ekstasis Press. Mr. Wolak teaches Creative Writing at William Paterson University in New Jersey.