Saturday, October 29, 2016

Split Screens

A security guard stared at a bank of split-screened, black and white monitors. He yawned. This was the worst job he'd ever taken, twenty-four floors of hallways, and elevators, only occasionally occupied by people. He yawned again.

He propped his feet up onto the desktop and pretended it mattered the way he usually did. He listened intently as he opened a Sprite. Snap-pop, fizz, a relief from the soundless screens.

Then, a movement on the screen took his attention, another relief. A woman, only her back view at first, but it was a woman who walked onto elevator two. Great. Something was alive in this building.

He knew he shouldn't but he selected the screen and refocused the camera as she stopped, turned, and looked up at the floor numbers above her. He zoomed in and wished for the millionth time it was all in color. His life, a black and white 50s documentary on the content of hallways and elevators. Dry. She was framed beautifully in the screen, eyes, hair, mouth, and cleavage. Thank God for push-up bras. That cleavage was perfect. He zoomed into them for a moment, then backed out until her eyes came into the picture, then her hair just barely fit the screen.

Most people, he thought, took photos from too great a distance. The beauty was in the details.

Then, the woman adjusted her bra. Priceless. He thought that maybe he shouldn't be watching and yet he continued. What she didn't know couldn't hurt him. He almost laughed but stayed silent, feeling like she might somehow hear. Nasty. He could feel it, the nastiness. She deserved this, dressed the way she was. Wasn't that like a woman? To dress that way and then claim to be all innocent when something happened to her. He zoomed out quickly, but as he watched her with that one hand down into her bra and the other supporting the large firm breast, he breathed, moaned really, out loud. She looked up as if caught.

It was funny how many times events on a screen lined movements up with what was happening in his monitor room. It wasn't the first time. This woman was new. The coincidences were not. Life was funny that way, he thought.

Then, she used a compact mirror to put on a fresh coat of lipstick, slowly, deliberately. She rubbed her teeth to get a bit of lipstick off them. Even that seemed like a seduction. Nasty.

Time seemed to slow way down. He didn't even wonder if the elevator was moving, why she hadn't walked off of it by now and onto the next screen. He was mesmerized. What color was her hair? Blonde? Red? He wondered if it was natural. He couldn't tell anyway.

The woman lifted her skirt and adjusted strappy underwear underneath. She needn't have bothered. She was perfect. He was in agony. He groaned again.

At that - another coincidence, he wondered? - she looked directly into the camera lens. She smiled. He shivered at the odds. Those cameras were well camouflaged. He couldn't even see them when he was in an elevator looking for them. And yet. He stared at her. She stared back, then stuck out her tongue.

He leaned back in his chair, unable to look away. She blew a kiss. It landed. Then, she opened her mouth in a smile that widened into a rictus grin. Her face split vertically and snap-pop, fizz. He could hear the sound of it right in his ears. And then there were two.

But two of what, exactly?

Thank you for listening, jules

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Paddling Across the Sky

At night, I worry about different things than during the day. In daylight, I'm busy processing the myriad errands I have to run, dog walking, groceries, volunteering, and yes, still picking Nick up from events since sophomores aren't allowed parking permits at school.

I like the dog walking. Today was a doozy. The water was rising in the river and overflowing its banks into the dog park. For some reason, bubbles of air and water were blowing all around the edge of the new lake that had seeped inside the fence. It was fascinating.

As I stood there, watching, Teddy ran over, pounced on some bubbles, and started barking at the strangeness of it all. In the meantime, water pooled up over my shoes and I only noticed when my socks suddenly got wet and cold. 'Insidious' was the word that came to mind. The quiet lake grew while dogs frolicked in the pooling water, but then it was spilling over the walkway into the park as I finally decided to bring Teddy home. The park is circled with a lake, but really it's a crescent of river that was cut off as the switchback shortened itself during an old flood and straightened the flow of the river.

I love that.

There are two of these crescents within a few miles of each other, shallow remnants of the river. But they refill and gain strange currents when the river floods.

Our Pacific Northwest rivers are newer and much more susceptible to change than rivers in the East or Midwest. Newer mountains, newer rivers, more change, more unpredictablility.

But that river crept up on me, bubbling cheerfully in one place and threatening to rise to my knees in another.

I never did paddle during a flood. I told Mike once that I wanted to, but he said there would be a strength of current that we might not be able navigate and it was too dangerous. I just wanted to paddle over fields and across roads. You know, the whole valley fills up sometimes and everyone has to evacuate, horses, cows, and even the zebra. But since that time years ago when I said that to Mike about paddling high water, I've seen what floodwater can do. Three hundred year old trees can be uprooted and rolled downstream to be deposited in the middle of a field with a pile of other trees where an eddy formed during a flood. I've seen houses sitting off kilter from their foundations when the swift water took the dirt out from under them. I've seen a highway turned into a weir where flow poured over its length and boiled the far side of the asphalt away. Flood season is a wonder where I live.

But rarely do I actually worry about the floods themselves. I might worry about Nick's social life, his compassion, Mike's heart or tendency to offer too much help, plastic production, climate change. Yes, I worry about each of the plastic containers that my vegetables seem to need these days. I wonder what ocean they will turn up in next. I wonder if I can wean myself off them and back to the flimsy plastic produce bags I used to put my vegetables into before. And am I doing enough to avert climate change? Is anyone? Is it too late to avert the flood of change?

When I wake in the middle of the night, I worry about the effects of humanity on the Earth and the Earth's revenge. Can we survive without all the species we've evicted from the planet? We may not know until climate change and the rafts of plastic overtakes us.

Yes, I'd rather be mindlessly paddling across the flooded sky, navigating fields and roads filled with water, even if the currents are swift. I may need to yet if the water keeps rising. I may end up with oceanfront property and might have to paddle the currents anywhere I go.

Thank you for listening, jules

Monday, October 3, 2016

Why I Write

Do you want to know why I write?

Because nobody listens any more. People used to tell stories from the front porch swing on a Saturday night after chores were done. I know because I listened to them, family stories. Not all of them were completely true. Great great grandpa Pete was never in the Civil War, but that rifle came from someone in our family who was. And he might have been ready to get married again and great aunt Kate broke it up, but maybe she had cause after all the years watching him be abusive to his wife, her mother. Who wants to see a repeat of that kind of misery? That wasn't part of the G-rated stories that were told at grandma's house when I was a kid. Grandma knew how to tell a story, but she left out the gory bits. I'm kind of grateful for that. My other grandma told stories in her kitchen, but she never told the most important ones like how her parents, her sister, and her fiance died all in the same year, so I could never figure out why she'd start crying when she told me at the end of a story, how much she loved me. I used to live for these stories, but I knew when there were holes in them. There were always holes.

Now, it's different though. I have stories to tell. I'm always trying to tell some story or another, sad ones, redeeming ones, funny ones. But these days, people interrupt and you can't get two lines into the preamble of a good story before the conversation has run downstream into the next beginning of a story and someone else is carrying it away.

We  run so swiftly in this current of time that people don't really listen to each other any more. Not really. They're too busy to slow it down and listen. It drives me crazy. I have one friend who asks a question and never lets me get to the end of a sentence before she interrupts me.Most other people only get two or three lines down the road. You have to be the queen of one liners to tell a good story in this environment.

Mike listens to me. He does. This morning, I told him a story about when I was fourteen and he listened all the way through to the end. It was a doozy, the first time I was ever felt up by a boy. Too bad I can't tell you too. It was a good story too, with irony, multiple levels of irony, and a punch line that couldn't be beat.

Now, you want to hear about this story, don't you. Who doesn't want to hear the story of the first time a girl gets felt up?

Am I going to go down this road? It isn't a nice story. Oh no, it is not. There are some people who would go down if I told this story, people who are still alive, people who would be so confused because their denial is so deep. No, honey, I can't tell you this story.

I can just tell you that between the years of thirteen and twenty six, I'd have trouble telling you the truth about myself. I hate thinking about it. I was a lost child. I suffered. I dated rude people and had lousy friends. Oh thankfully, I had a few lovely friends, but too many of them were in it for the control one person can have over another. It took me years and a lot of good luck to form the relationships I have now. I am an incredibly lucky woman.

So, the question is whether I'm going to begin to tell you about those years.

I could write it as fiction and Oprah might be all over it. There's abuse. There's abandonment and loss. There is alcohol, lots of alcohol. There are a few bright friendships, but mostly controlling and demeaning ones. And then there is some amazing kind of luck and the main character escapes and get better at choosing the people around her. And in the end, there is love, true love. And some time in a psychologist's couch.

Oh, I can hear you begging for a story like that. I can.

But how can I tell a story like this, one that would be so incredibly incriminating?

You know, I can't watch Game of Thrones. I just can't. The reason I can't watch it is because it makes me squirm with all the truth and evil in it. I just might start telling you some true fiction.

Fancy that?

Thank you for listening, jules