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And After You
I will tell my story not because it is interesting, but because I feel like it needs to be told. Not that my life is uninteresting, maybe just…plain. As a whole. But I feel that there are certain pieces of my life that, if untold, I would stir in my grave if not a single soul knew. Knew what? What is there to know? People go through their whole lives reading and learning and listening and yet still so many do not know. Maybe by their own fault or by God’s fault, if there is a God, He sure has an odd way of loving all the little children and forgiving the sinners and bringing the pure up, up, up. Up like the way I felt when she pressed her lips into a smile, up like the clouds we watched paint pictures in the sky, up like my heart after that first kiss, a hot air balloon, float, float, whizz. But nothing can defy gravity forever, not hot air balloons or ecstatic hearts or summer clouds. They will all eventually fall like the rain in April when my umbrella broke so she danced in the puddles with those yellow rubber boots and mud stained her pants leaving her spotted like a…oh words! If I knew an infinite amount of words I would still never be able to describe her being. She was not a spotted cheetah because she moved too slow; she liked the feeling of watching things pass her by, as if her standstill motion would make time STOP I asked her the thing she loved most about England and she said the stop signs with the vibrant red and capital letters STOP like a demand STOP like her plea’s when I wanted to leave this town, this state, this country, flip burgers in a diner and drink thick milkshakes without the whip cream and drown in the sun and my thoughts and yellow stained books with dog-eared pages. But she wouldn’t understand this, she couldn’t understand this, like those stubborn math problems she worried so much about, my worry wart, such a disgusting name to describe a girl, my worry angel rather my worry dove, chewing on the tip of her pencil until little eraser bits peppered those precious lips. There were so many things she would never understand, filthy creatures coiled inside my soul. Or am I soulless? Am I heartless? Am I the Ferris Wheel when the ride broke down and she cried soft, salty tears because we had taken the bus and the ferry just for the cotton candy and the Ferris Wheel but the cotton candy stuck to our fingers and the Ferris Wheel was broken.
I am up, I am down, I am the Ferris Wheel that worked and took her to the very top, showing her the world as she closed her eyes and whispered “This moment…” But she never finished her sentence and sometimes I wake in a cold sweat wondering the end. This moment where I sip my coffee and watch the rain and think of her spotted jeans. This moment when my cereal turns soggy and the traffic is slow and each day goes by in a continuous motion of soggy cereal and blinking lights and unfinished novels. Little girls that ring the bell with cookies in their wagons asking for money. But I can’t give them anything. I cant.give.anyone.anything. This moment where pot-bellied publicists and big-selling authors shake my hand with feverish grins.
-How does it feel to be a famous author?
When the room is full and people clap and I can see the shiny cover of my novel with the bolded letters And After You I feel fine, I feel great, I feel like running through the streets in my bare feet until my souls turn black but when I go back to that lonely, lonely apartment and close my eyes all I can see are those bolded letters And After You…And After You…And After You… And it seems false, fake, faux, like her, like me, like I’ve done something with my life just because everyone else in the world believes it. But when she see’s me on television in my grey tweed suit she doesn’t seen an author, she see’s a liar, and that’s what I am, because there was nothing after her. My novel was constructed of lies, late nights and faded memories. When I came to New York, its’ constant motion- the taxi’s and the people and the restaurants that were open all night with signs in their doors WINGS $10- unimpressed me. I wanted to be in that standstill motion with her eating peanut butter sandwiches and drinking soda and going to bed at a reasonable hour. I was too proud, too ashamed, to admit I had nothing to offer to New York and New York had nothing to offer me.
The foolishness of chasing a dream when my reality was so much better. She was my reality, my night, my day, my grey pencil smudges, old art hung in museums that no one understands, overturned sheets and dust specks in the morning light when her soft yawns made a perfect O….Oh, like this. This is how it feels. She showed me the world through her cotton sheets and chipped nails and immeasurable heart.
To strangers as we passed them by
-How are you?
Sometimes her politeness could be suffocating but she wasn’t asking to be polite she was asking because she cared.
-You shouldn’t do that.
I told her one day.
Her innocent eyes connected with mine. Blue meeting green. Winter colliding with Spring. Curs’ed my frozen heart!
-Talk to strangers.
When she asked why, I couldn’t think of an answer so I never brought it up again.
I showed her the world through my words. Sometimes my words were good. They would make her kiss the tip of my nose and pat my head but she was not being condescending, no, she was just being her. Sometimes my words hurt. She would pull that ragged suitcase from under the bed while she yelled and packed, yelled and packed, but she never, ever left. Sometimes my words were incomprehensible, and I often wonder if she wakes in the middle of the night trying to make sense of it all like how I try to make sense of that unfinished sentence. If she knew, if she knew. Perhaps she doesn’t want to know. Perhaps her broken heart carried her to Peru or Paris where she felt inclined to drift aimlessly along the Riviera or make love to French men with her pride still intact. Ah, mon amour, je t’aime, ma vie, m’espore, mon amie, all these if’s rack my brain until it is too noisy to sleep. To have her sleep beside me drowning in those bubblegum kisses and cherry blossom scent making love over and over as if it were our very first time. How I remember that first time her breasts, her hips, her auburn hair curtaining my face until her air was my air, her body my body. I was her and she was me and everything in that moment fell into place. She cried like she cried with the Ferris Wheel and the dead dog we found on the side of the road. She cried like she cried at her father’s funeral, her eighteen- year-old-self all curls and legs
-It’s not fair, it’s not fair
When I packed my brown duffel with T-shirts, one hundred dollars and everything I had ever written.
-It’s not fair, it’s not fair.
As I wretched her off of me and left her just a figure in my rear view mirror.
Ah the irony! How I wake up in my worn pajamas thinking it’s not fair in the back of the movie theatre drinking cherry soda it’s not fair walking in Upper Manhattan watching my footprints make a trail in the snow it’s not fair, it’s not fair because it’s not like Hansel and Gretel I will never find my way back home.
Of course there were other women. Pretty girls with ribbons in their hair that filled my apartment with flowers and read my novels and put their nightgowns by my bedside. There were whores with too much makeup that batted their thick eyelashes and had hooks for eyebrows and told me things I already knew. But nothing filled the void. All of these feminine creatures with their creamy skin and soft voices left me even emptier than before. Left me staring at the ceiling perfectly and uselessly trying to recreate her voice. Oh confused reader! Though you are wondering the reason for my parting I have no reason at all! No simple answer to satisfy your hungry souls! The psychologist might say it was because my mother never loved me but I think I was just tired. All my life people had been going in and out like a broken diner door and for once I wanted to be the one to leave. I wanted to be the one to walk away. Oh darling, try to understand! My entire being consists of scrapbook memories of you. Hoping to see your face in every store window, catch a glimpse of those ripped sneakers on the library floor.
There was one time I mistook a russet-skin beauty in a record store, casually skimming over the Beatles. A tap of the shoulder just to discover it was a figment of my imagination. Binding fate! If not for my adolescent decisions, my boy-child yearnings. I would go back to England when the air is crisp on my knee’s, begging, but I know she would not take me back. Is that all there is to know in this wretched life? Once broken, never mended. Another early morning, another sunrise, but wait, what is this? An envelope? A letter? My beloved’s clean handwriting with the title There are so many things I want to say… All the things I could say! But precede! I will not let my tears stain your words. They all blend together, poetry in my mind. It’s been awhile… It’s been a thousand lives! Forgetting you is an impossibility… Forgetting you is a sin! You broke my heart, but… But! But! What is this? An envelope. A letter. A second chance.