Friday, December 29, 2017

going home


My eyes are glued to the flickering needle on the speedometer.

65mph.

A freezing current numbs my skin and rushes through my hair. I’ve lost the feeling in my fingers, but for the past hour I’ve been clutching the blanket drawn tightly around my shoulders. Shadows flit across my lap, and headlights silhouette the hazy figures of trees that line the sides of the highway. I was scanning the woods for deer earlier, but the car was flying too fast for my eyes to catch anything. The girl next to me, in the driver's seat, squints into an SUV's taillights. She keeps muttering under her breath about how she hates driving at night, how she has to get up in the morning to start looking for a new job, and that guy better get off our tail because if he dares to take a bite out of her prized, inherited mustang, if he so much as grazes the bumper, why, she'll—

I plug in my earphones and lean back toward my window again, tilting my gaze up to the stars and breathing in the frigid air. Excitement shivers down my spine because I know as each mile passes, I'm getting closer. Closer to home. Closer to the sunsets over the water, closer to the bare earth between my toes, closer to the paddleboard beneath my fingers and knees, closer to my childhood friends, closer to standing around the bonfire roasting marshmallows, closer to my mom hugging me all the time, closer to my dad calling me princess. The girl next to me raves about how she always wanted to get away from her home, but in the breaks to catch her breath, I notice how her eyes hungrily scan the road signs. How when she sees our city in white block letters her lips curve into a smile, if only for a moment. I know our lives are different, but I still ask her if she's missed her family. She takes a deep breath, her hands tighten on the steering wheel, and then she nods, brows knitted together, gaze locked on the road. Shakily, she tells of the fights she had with her parents before she left. How she stalked out the door and into the car and left, just like that. How her sister called crying afterwards. How she stayed angry for so long. Left hand on the steering wheel, her right fumbles through her purse and then withdraws rolling a cigarette between her fingers. She lifts it to the wheel, and I wonder if she'll light it, but she doesn't.

"This," she says, a red glow illuminating her skin as the car slows to a stop. She twists to the side to face me, waving the cigarette in front of my eyes. "This is what they were so mad about. I started it because everyone else was doing it. You know, the cool kids. I got addicted. Every single day, multiple times a day. It was an unhealthy crutch. And I was young. And I didn't want to ask for help." She crushes it between her thumb and forefinger and deposits the remains into a pocket in her purse. She does that thing I’ve seen people do before, where she steels her eyes and wipes her face clean of emotion. Her expression is a blank slate. But she's clutching the wheel in a death grip.

The light turns green, and she's facing the road again. The mustang slides cleanly back into motion. I ask her why there are still packs of cigarettes in her purse, and her mouth sets in a grim line.

"I don't know," she mutters. "It's hard to dispose of something you've clung to for so many years, even if all it's ever done is hurt you. And then I feel that if I throw it all away, something will happen and I'll need it. To smoke the pain away. Because that's how I've always managed when life gets rough. Pathetic, isn't it?" She takes a deep breath and runs a hand through her hair. "But I've finally stopped. I've gone months without it now. I'm gonna throw it all away before I get home, and then I'll be able to tell my parents it's behind me. And I'll be able to move on with my life. Now that I've graduated college, that I’ve got my degree, which really is quite a shocker, I'll be able to get a real job. One I actually like. A better life, too. Maybe I'll even get married or something. Can you see me as a wife? A mother?" She laughs, like it's a joke.

"Yeah," I respond, my voice quiet. "I can. I think you'd be great at it."

She bites her lip, glancing at me doubtingly. "Is that sarcasm?"

"No, I really mean it."

"Oh." She smiles and shrugs. "Maybe one day."

Moments later, we pull up to a gas station because the gas level gauge arrow is hovering directly above E. The girl in the driver's seat zips up her leather jacket and steps out of the car, cradling her purse, and marches towards the nearest trash can. I watch her take out the cigarettes and stare at them for a few moments, and then, hands visibly trembling, she dumps them all. She walks back and gives me a firm nod, stopping at the pump to pay before inserting the nozzle into the gas tank. She does it all with a straight face. Though she's still shaking, she's once again a blank slate.

When she climbs back into her seat, she leans forward against the wheel, eyes screwed shut. I reach across and take her hand. She gives mine a tight squeeze, and she doesn't let go. We sit there for several minutes in silence, until she takes a shuddering breath and sits back up again, releasing my hand and wiping at her eyes. And suddenly, the girl in the driver's seat doesn't look so much like a girl anymore. She looks like an adult who has overcome some great internal struggle. Because she is, and she has.

"Okay," she whispers. "I'm ready to go home."

"Me too," I say, and I pull the blanket up over my mouth, over my nose. I breathe it in, and the scent of my college dorm room lingers in the fabric. A reminder of what I've left behind.

The mustang pulls out of the gas station, and we're back on the highway. I unplug my earbuds from my phone and play all my friend's favorite songs. Her face brightens more and more as each mile passes, and then it's midnight and we're singing at the top of our lungs with all the windows down, and though it's freezing I don't really feel it anymore, and suddenly I know it's all going to be okay.

We're going home now, to start the next chapter of our lives.

tbh I don’t really know what this is. I wrote it kind of late at night earlier this week and it just came out of nowhere and it’s not edited too great and it really is another rollercoaster of mine and now I’m posting it?? but psh whatever, here you go :)

Monday, December 25, 2017

merry christmas

"merry christmas," says the man passing by on the street, with an amiable tip of his hat. 
"merry christmas," says the woman greeting me at the church, with a smile brighter than the sun.
"merry christmas," says the boy handing me my coffee, his eyes alight with joy.
"merry christmas," says the girl behind the store counter, laughter in her voice.

 "merry christmas," i tell them all
                                                   until my tongue is 
                                 tired 
                                          of saying it.

but still i tell them because 
                                                                         christmas is a time for giving, right?
                                                   not giving presents,
                                              but giving love.
it doesn't cost anything but                                                       
                                                                          maybe some pride                         
                                                          and differences set aside
                                                             because we are all human,
and we all could use
                                                  a little more love,
                                                       and we all could give
                                                 a little more love.



wow there were so many memories made and there was so much love and joy in my house today, and I almost didn’t see it coming with the stress of exams and life beforehand. it was amazing. it is amazing. Merry Christmas you guys :)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

remember


Today, 10:03 PM
hi
hey there
what’s up?
nm just wanna talk
k
about what?
idk
u pick
ok hmm
10:05 PM
oh ik
remember that night last summer we went down to the river and dangled our feet in the water and talked about the stars?
oh yeah 
i forgot about that lol
yeah me too, i just remembered this morning
i remember you told me you like stars because they’re always there even when you can’t see them
remember that?
yeah
k
so
you know how we only see them when it's darkest outside?
yeah lol
people are kinda like that i think
whoa haha ur getting deep again aren’t u
sorry it’s been on my mind today
do you wanna hear about it or no?
ofc i do
go for it
haha ok lemme type it up
brace yourself
oh boy ok
10:09 PM
so this is my idea . . . as long as everyone is doing just great then they blend in with everyone else, cause that’s how everything’s supposed to be right? but then when someone is not ok, people notice. unless like they're rly good at hiding it, but even then people find out eventually. and you know stars shine brightest when they’re dying. the difference is that people are people and not stars and they bruise and they bleed and they break and it's not pretty. but it still attracts attention right? whether or not the person wants it. and the people who notice have to choose how to react, whether they’re going to reach out to the hurting person and help them back up (like people are supposed to do) or whether they’re going to bruise and bleed and break the person more (like people are NOT supposed to do). it is then that more stars become visible because people realize that they are not alone because the hurting people will be reached by people who have gone thru the same pain, people who can relate. and tho it is still dark outside, more and more stars will appear and they will shine because people will come out of the dark when they realize they are not alone. and suddenly the night is set on fire with broken people helping each other heal and light spilling thru all the cracks no one could see before
and yeah i know it is not pretty when people fall down but wow is it something when they help each other back up
you know?
11:12 PM
sry had to finish some hw
u there?
mhm
k
what u said about ppl and stars? wow. i never thought about it like that
ppl hide it when they're not ok cuz everyone wants to blend in
and no one wants to ask for help right
yeah
cuz everyone wears masks but in reality we’re all messed up the same
cuz we’re all human
but there is still beauty in our brokenness isn't there? thru the healing
yeah
and Jesus makes it all possible 
right
11:19 PM
and you know it all goes back to what you said last summer
how stars are always there even when you can’t see them
people are all broken even if you can’t see it 
because we live in a broken world
tru
11:37 PM
u have me looking at the stars rn lol
i am too haha
too bad we’re not sitting by the river dangling our feet in the water
it’d be fun to relive that 
lol yeah its too cold tho
our feet would freeze off
orrr
 they'd just be stuck in blocks of ice
well thank you for that lovely image
haha ur welcome
11:46 PM
what are you doing?
looking at stars still
and thinking
about?
idk
how tired i am lol
haha go to bed then
it’s late
12:01 AM
you better be sleeping
i'm sleeping
nope
it’s not that kind of tired, is it?
12:15 AM
i remember when you were little it took you forever to learn how to tie your shoes
and your parents stopped tying them for you cause they wanted you to figure it out
so every morning at the bus stop
you would show up with your old sneakers with the soles peeling off and the faded marker on the sides and the shoelaces untied and splayed across the sidewalk 
with your bedhead and that goofy grin
remember?
12:57 AM
yeah
i remember u
rolling ur eyes
kneeling down on the sidewalk in ur jeans and oversized t shirt
and ur own old sneakers with the soles peeling off and the faded marker on the sides
only ur shoelaces were always double knotted
and u would tie my shoes for me
every day
double knotted em too
hah
hahaha yep
u still double knot them don't u
ofc i do
lol
oh i have another one
remember that time we bathed the neighbors’ dogs in my front yard to earn money so we could go to the fall festival
and one of the bigger dogs broke his leash and bowled me over
you were laughing so hard you didn’t catch him when he charged past you 
so then we had to chase the dog all over the neighborhood, barefoot and muddy and soaking wet, and when we caught him we had to bathe him all over again
and then we had a water fight with the hose and got soap in our eyes and afterward we had to clean up the giant mess we made
but it was worth it
we earned enough to go to the festival too
hahahaha yeah i remember that
u ruined that swimsuit didn't u
yeah we couldn’t get the mud stains out
mom scrubbed it for like an hour
but it was an old one anyway
lol yeah
remember that time we went to the department store at like 11pm
it was to get stuff last minute for your little sisters bday party 
and barely anyone was there 
and we were dancing down the aisles to the rock music they had playing softly
well actually at first it was just me, you were like no way but i was having so much fun and they were playing songs you knew
so we were both dancing down the aisles, laughing and swinging our baskets of birthday supplies
waving awkwardly to the security cameras
and in checkout i was humming to the music and you were struggling to keep a straight face
and the employees were laughing
hahhaha yes 
then we jammed out in the car the ride back
yep
the employees looked so tired
i think we rly cheered them up
yeah i think so too
i'm still kinda embarrassed but it was worth it
lol yep
and then all the study sessions in your living room
with textbooks and papers spread out all over the floor, munching on your mom’s cookies and drilling each other for hours on vocab terms and latin endings and historical figures 
and physics homework oh man
ah physics 
i don't miss that
yeah me neither 
remember how we would always get distracted so easily
we would end up laughing about everything and nothing 
your mom would walk in with her arms crossed trying not to smile
“what on that study guide is so funny?"
hah yeah
and biology dissections
u were so grossed out by everything
oh yeah
i’ve rly never been interested in inspecting the inside of a sheep's brain
or the inside of a frog
or the inside of anything for that matter
no thanks
lol 
ur such a girl
whatever
but hey you were the one who couldn’t tie your shoes for forever
that says something
good point
mmhm
good times
yeah
i wish we could go back
we didn't have a lot to worry about then
no we didn’t
but i wouldn’t go back even if i could
why not
i would rather keep moving forward in life than backward i guess
that’s how you grow
we’ve both grown a lot 
yeah but if i could change some things that have happened i would
i would change a lot
ofc
me too
but we wouldn’t be where we are now if those things hadn’t happened
God works thru the rough stuff 
it’s just natural to get tunnel vision and to think the darkness will last forever
but it doesn’t
but what if it does
what if i never stop feeling like this
what if this feeling always keeps coming back
idk if it's worth the pain
it’s worth it, i promise you
you will be sad again and you will be in pain again, yes
but
you will also laugh and you will also smile and you will also be happy again
there will be moments where you will be happier than you have ever been
like the day you graduate
like your first kiss 
like an exchange of golden bands and “i do”
like little people who resemble you running around your home
chubby fingers clinging to your shirt
like when you go to all those places on the map on your bedroom wall
remember we sat on your bed that one day and you told me about all the adventures you want to have, all the place you want to go, all the things you want to do
like when dreams become reality
like all the lives you have left to touch and to be touched by
and so much more you can’t even imagine because you are young and you have so much life ahead of you and yes there will be pain but in the end it will be worth it
1:20 AM
our God is so good and the plans he has in store for us we have no idea
don’t you want to see it happen
don’t you want to keep moving forward?
1:38 AM
yeah i do
its just rly hard sometimes u know
i get that tunnel vision like u said and i just don't want to be alive
sometimes i feel like i want to move forward but like my feet are stuck and they won't move 
no matter how hard i try
every day feels the same and i'm tired
i want it to end
i want to move forward into all that happy stuff like u said
but it feels like i can't and i never will
tbh i don't deserve all that either
it’s not about whether or not you deserve it
it’s about how much you are loved by the creator of the universe
and what he plans for you nothing in this world can stand against
stay alive because it’s worth it
stay alive because your life is not your own, it’s in the hands of someone greater who is going to use it to accomplish amazing things you can’t even begin to dream of
and if you are in a period of waiting then that is important and he will use that too
this is a season and it will not last forever
you’ll see
just hold on
please
u don't understand how hard it is
to hold on
maybe i don't
but i do understand that it’s worth it and nothing worth doing is easy
i understand that you’re worth it
i understand how hard you have fought and i’m so proud of you for how far you’ve already come
i want to be there when you reach all that happy stuff
i want to see you the day you realize it’s worth it
2:05 AM
still looking at the stars?
yeah its a rly clear night
i love it a lot
i know you do
2:36 AM
hey you know what
what
if you ever need a little reason to hold on
if you love the stars so much
make it that
make it what? looking at the stars?
yeah 
every night
will you do that for me?
ok
sure
k
maybe this summer we can do it again
sit by the river with our feet dangling in the water
and we can look at the stars together and talk about them
yeah that sounds nice
let's do that
k don’t let me forget
i won't
the screen is rly blurry and my eyes are burning i think i’ll go to bed now
lol ok 
me too
don’t forget to tell the stars goodnight
haha k
just did
:) good 
gnight, praying for you
get some sleep tonight k? you little night owl
lol ok i'll try
u too
gnight

Saturday, December 9, 2017

early morning


Coffee on your breath, 
on your breath, sunlight in your eyes, 
heavy eyelids, 
tired smile. 

It’s early morning, 
early morning, the time you always arise, 
arise with purpose, 
driven purpose. 

Must start the day, 
the day, before the young ones awake, 
awake with quick steps, 
wide-eyed. 

Unload the dishes, 
the dishes, and start breakfast, 
prepare what each little one eats 
with love. 

Feet bare against cold tile, 
cold tile, soundlessly you pace it, 
tresses tangled and tousled, 
shoulders curled forward. 

Lift your head, 
head high, straighten your shoulders, 
open windows, 
breathe it in. 

Youthful voices, 
voices, echoing through your home, 
they rush into the kitchen, 
children rush into your arms. 

Coffee on your breath, 
on your breath, sunlight in your eyes, 
heavy eyelids, 
tired smile.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

hands | eyes

It is obvious I am my father’s daughter. 

Incredibly thick, dark hair. Olive skin. Strong arms. Full brows. Tall stature. The signature smirk. I walk with my father’s confidence, and I was born with my father’s intensity. I have a glare people can’t tolerate for long. Except for him, of course, which probably contributes to the reality that we’re constantly on each other’s nerves.


Then there is my mother: 5'3 and blonde, thin brows and slender arms, soft smile and fair complexion, a voice quiet, smooth, and sweet as honey. My father and I are fire and embers. My mother is ocean and sunbeams. At least, that’s how I view it. I see her reflected in my sister, though Brooklyn’s hair is as dark as mine; she has my mother’s kindness. I’ve searched for it within myself but never found it. When I look in the mirror, my reflection seems to always be angry.

So it’s surprising to me when my mother, having been bedridden for days with an illness that runs deeper than the surface, leans against me and whispers that it inspires her to recognize pieces of herself in me. That when she looks at me it awakens a spark inside of her. Which doesn’t make sense, really, she says, because she's felt too often lately that she’s drowning. We are sitting crosslegged on her twin bed, my arm draped around her frail shoulders, our backs propped against the wall. I ask her what she sees in me that reminds her so much of herself, considering all the ways I resemble my father. A smile graces her lips, a real one, the kind I haven’t seen in awhile. It makes my heart speed up a little. She reaches across my lap and takes my hand into her own. 

“You have my hands,” she says. “See?”

And I do. I slide my arm back from around her shoulders and align my hands together with hers, and I see that my hands are identical to my mother’s. I see that we both have fingers wilting with exhaustion, the same creases in our palms, calluses, short nails because the tasks we share file them for us. They are the same size, and I think that maybe I finally recognize a piece of her tenderness within me. In my hands. I would’ve never noticed that on my own.

“And my eyes,” she adds, gently brushing my hair out of the way and tucking it behind my ears.

“Oh, I knew that. But it’s not as interesting. I wish I had Dad’s blue eyes, honestly. Brown is a boring color. Especially on me.” I shrug and then quickly add, “No offense.”

Mom laughs. A tired laugh, but a laugh all the same. I capture the moment and tuck it somewhere deep inside of me. There’s so much strength in her ability to laugh despite the pain, and I admire her for it.

“Brown eyes appear boring until you love someone with them,” she tells me. "When I look into your eyes, I see an outpour of golden brown. Radiating warmth. Your eyes are not boring, love. Your eyes are caramel sunlight a person could bask in forever.”

“I never see that when I look in the mirror,” I mutter.

“A mirror is just glass, Sylvia. It can’t take in that kind of beauty.” She tips her head to the side, studying me like only she does. “But I can.”

“Okay,” I say. I look back at her, and I think I understand. The way her eyes sparkle in defiance of the dark circles beneath them. Warmth. Radiance. An outpour.

And then I ask her how she’s been sleeping, and she deflates.

“Fine,” she tells me, but that old emptiness I’ve seen too many times before floods back into her face.

Hollow. Aching. Draining.

Someone with so much remaining life ahead of them shouldn’t be this tired.

I wrap both arms around her and pull her close, bury my face into her unkempt hair, squeeze my eyes shut, whisper I love you in hopes that it’s louder than the noise in her head.

Monday, November 6, 2017

for the ones with scrapbooks in their minds


times passes me by and i always miss people and moments and things more than i probably should
i miss faces and hands and voices and breathing air for the first time in a state i’d never been before 
and it hurts, sometimes
to think that i can’t go back to an exact moment
breathe it in, hold it close, savor it for all that it’s worth
but i think if i were to do that
i would never let go

flashbacks stir up a heavy feeling that swells in the back of my throat
a cry, an overflow, bottled up so tight, but i don’t know how to release it
i forget how to breathe for a moment

the tip of my nail brushes against the transparent surface
so close
i can almost hear her, caught mid-sentence
his laughter
frozen
gone
held captive beneath my fingertips, drifting inside my head, but i can’t go back

tracing the outline of a photo with my eyes, 
remembering, remembering 

do you ever dive so deep into your head, lay it out like a scrapbook, turn the pages back, one at a time, play it out like an old song on repeat
over 
and over
and over again?

u n w i n d
u n r a v e l

you get lost again
and again
and again

how do you tell a person? how do you tell a person how much you miss them? how do you explain to a person the unraveling feeling? how do you explain to a person how much you miss their voice? without sounding strange?

how do you explain to a person
all the time you spend
finger hovering above the screen
breath caught in throat
chest swelling
eyes roving
over just one moment
mind stuck on replay

how do you tell them
because it seems i always either say too much or too little
or nothing at all

i miss running in the rain
flying through the air on a rope swing, back to back, spinning underneath the night sky
car karaoke, hands fumbling to switch the songs, singing at the top of our lungs
lying on the hardwood floor at 1am, gasping for breaths between laughter
inside jokes that didn't even make sense, but wow we had the time of our lives

candid shots that make me smile and cringe and laugh and cry but whatever

i’m sprawled out on my bedroom floor
a g a i n
flipping through photos and gingerly turning the pages of the scrapbook in my mind, poring over every word, every image, every single moment, and just
i miss i miss i miss
a lot

but you,
the other one with the scrapbook in your mind,
you know what?

no, we can’t go back

but

think of all the memories we have yet to make

think of all the moments we have yet to live in — new moments, new memories, and maybe we’ll go back too. maybe we’ll revisit. maybe we’ll sit in the same chairs and go soaring on the same swings and laugh again on the same hardwood floors

and we’ll have more pages to turn
and we’ll have more stories to tell
and we can all stop missing each other

finally

Monday, October 30, 2017

backspacing

She always finds herself backspacing.
There are so many questions. She opens her mouth to respond but has no answers. 
Not for herself. Sometimes for others. But never for herself. 
She stands alone on the dock, watching the river beneath her feet. The wind enfolds her, pulls at her hair, leaves her shivering and rubbing her arms in the cold. She likes it. The air biting into her skin makes her feel alive. 
She ran.
Away. 
Here.
To hit the pause button on life. Just for an hour or so, of course. It only works for so long. 
She tells herself she needs some time in a beautiful place — to clear her mind. Before she breaks. Now she is here and she doesn’t know where to start. Her brain is
Loud
But
She can’t decipher it.
How do you clear what you don’t understand?
//    / 
    / / 
/     ///
             ///
//
        /   /
         What is she feeling? Where are the words? 
                    What is the swelling in her chest? What is the static in her brain?
                                          What are the blanks? What does she keep trying to erase?
                                                                                                                                       Backspace?
Head spinning.
Teeth chattering.
Fingers numb.
So are her toes.
Questions,
Churning.
Restless hands, 
Tugging at her long sleeves.
// ///
       /     //
//                /
Inhale.
Exhale.
Cold slams against the back of her throat.
Burning, tasting pale, white fire.
She’s coming
Undone.
///// / / 
  /   /             //
 / /
                             /
/   /      //
She’s here
But
She’s not here.

Distant,
Floating,
Drifting, 
Slipping,
Holding on,
Letting go.
All her pieces 
Are
Scattering.
Where? In the wind? In herself?
Time slips between the spaces in her fingers.
Everything slips between the spaces in her fingers.
But there are spaces in her head too,
Spaces she keeps trying to delete.
She just wants to
Backspace,
Wipe away
Her flaws.
Why? How?
Opened eyes.
Closed eyes.
Opened eyes again. 
Turning in circles,
Feet dancing across wooden planks.
A song playing in her head,
But she can’t remember the words.
////   ///  /
                  //  /                   /
                //
    //         /   /              /
It’s okay. 
She doesn’t need them.
She doesn’t need to
Remember
Anything
Right now.
Her heart is in her head, in her lungs, in her feet. 
Her thoughts are in her veins, and everything is in her eyes.
It’s all connected, somehow.
She’ll never untangle all these knots. Maybe she doesn’t need to. 
Maybe it’s okay that she is
Just the way
She is.
© stars and stories. Design by FCD.