Tuesday, November 18, 2008

no (part 9)

judgment. we all make judgment calls. we all quietly judge. because, whether we want to believe it or not, these judgment calls are what get us through life. it all boils down to judgment. and we will be amazed by the things we're willing to do to protect ourselves from the bad judgment calls we will make. even as this cursor blinks away at me.

it's our hands first. when we realize we've made some disastrous mistake, our hands are the first to react. be it flight or fight, our hands will clench. we'll try to push away the problem with our hands. and we only hope, whatever the problem may be, it is smaller than our hands. me, i have small, trembling hands; from an accident, in a pool.

and when our hands can't protect us from our bad judgment calls, we rely on our heads. when our hands can't stop what's happening, we rely on our heads to fix it. to change it. to make it easier to swallow. we change the parameters, we hypnotize ourselves, we reprimand ourselves; all in effort to ensure we never make a bad judgment call again. we blame our judgment when bad things we can't control happen to us. and that is how we protect ourselves.

we protect ourselves by protecting our loved ones. we put our faces to the corners. we hyper-sensitize everything. we put our backs to the walls, and judge with severity and intensity. we lose sight of everything but protecting ourselves from the bad judgment calls we will make. we cry when we know no one's listening. we half-heartedly convince ourselves there was nothing we could do. not because this is how we feel; simply because this is how we should feel. instead, though, we chalk it up to bad judgment and try to laugh it to nothing. we try to make it so small we can't allow ourselves to feel it. we try to make it so small we can fight it off with our small, trembling hands.

i stood in the intersection, in the rain, a bag full of broken glass at my feet and pickles rolling around me. i stood in the intersection, defeated. i stood there trying to figure out how i would juggle the 5 other plastic bags in my small, trembling hands, collect myself, and pick up the mess at my feet. i felt myself start to well up inside. i felt the tears starting to hold residency behind my eyes. and all i could think, as i came closer and closer to crying, was, "i was really excited for those pickles." i was frustrated. i was tired. i was standing in the street, in the rain, cars driving around me, with pickles rolling around at my feet. twenty to thirty mini pickles rolling around before me. and i wasn't sure if i was about to laugh or cry. or both. it wasn't the pickles. it wasn't the mess. i made a bad judgment call and my hands were too small. it was my god damn hands. too small to hold it all together. too small to push away. too small to do anything but tremble under pressure.

i must have stood there for at least an entire minute, just staring down at all the tiny little pickles. then i heard a woman at the nearby bus stop call out to me. "sometimes you just have to walk away."

"yeah. sometimes i think i'm invincible." i said back to her. "and then it surprises me when i realize i'm not." she chuckled. and i took her advice. i left my mess there in the street, and walked away.

half a block later, two girls pulled up and told me to get in. "we saw what happened back there. it's raining. you have a lot of groceries. you shouldn't have to walk." so, i got in and they drove me the four blocks home. i sat in the backseat, next to a child's car-seat full of home made blueberry muffins. i wanted one so bad. i was so hungry.

i made a bad judgment call. i made a bad judgment call and something bad happened. i was trying to root for the underdog, and i got bit. and my hands were too small. and my words meant nothing. and i woke up hypnotized. simply hypnotized. sometimes i think i'm invincible. and then it surprises me when i'm not. it kills me when i'm not. and so, sometimes you just have to walk away. i made a bad judgment call, but it doesn't mean it was my fault. it doesn't mean i had any control over it.

we will be amazed by the things we are willing to do to protect ourselves when something bad happens.


i had been in portland for less than two weeks, still lost in the break-up that broke my heart. but now lost amongst foreign faces, in this strange new city, in the coldest winter i'd ever experienced. we'd just been bowling. i hate bowling now. i hate it.

he was one of four people i knew in town. he'd just returned to the area from an assignment with the air force. he was so nice and welcoming and sincere. and a dead-ringer for patrick dempsey. he was someone i was glad to have met.

he called me at around midnight, crying. the guy he'd been very loosely seeing had told him the relationship he so wanted wasn't going to happen. he was heart-broken. and it was late. but if there was anyone i could sympathize with at that moment, in the wake of my own break-up, it was him. i opened a bottle of wine and waited by the door.

had i known he was already drunk, i wouldn't have invited him over or opened that bottle of wine. that bottle of wine was the last i had before alcohol changed for me. the last i had before life changed for me. this night would become my centrifuge. this endless spinning vessel. despite his intoxication, i poured two glasses. then two more. until the bottle was empty. we talked. we played scrabble. i didn't know what to say. i felt so horrible for him. for what he was going through. for what we were going through. and then i kissed him. i kissed him. i started it. i started it all.

we ended up in my bed, making out. not for long, however, before i realized how stupid it was. this was not how i wanted to start my life in a new city: being the drunken rebound for one of my very few friends. i suggested we stop, which seemed to go unheard. so i repeated myself more firmly, louder. but he didn't stop. instead he pulled my pants off. i was shocked by his brazen disregard. i told him to stop. but he didn't. he didn't stop. he never stopped. it never stopped. i found myself lost in the word, as i repeated it over and over again, so numbly. no. no. he was bigger and my hands were too small. i fell away from myself, except the overwhelming constant thought: i did this. i did this.

when it was finally over, he kissed my forehead, rolled over and went to sleep. in my bed. in my bed. like it was nothing. like it didn't matter at all. a kiss on the forehead as though to console. to construe some good intention. to compensate for the life now left behind.

even now, i wonder if he knew. even now, i wonder if he knows he gave me hiv. i wonder if he cares. but i always cut myself off. i can't think about too long, or else i lose it. i lose myself. my bones go limp and my heart sinks into my stomach and hatred is all i feel. and so suddenly my anger just permeates. through every pore and word and whisper.

i made a bad judgment call. i fucking hate bowling.

Friday, November 7, 2008

truth be told (part 8)

i woke up exhausted. and hungover. we'd stayed out late drinking in old town siem reap. and then handing out boxes of food to kids who, common sense would dictate, were up way past their bedtimes. of course, much like the surrounding jungles, night predation is the most successful. who better to hand out money and food than drunken tourists. i smiled at their guile.

we had an early start to a long day, neither of which i was feeling under the haze of two pitchers of margaritas and countless singhas. i even pretended to sleep through the alarm, hoping monique and robert would follow suit. i assumed success when the alarm was silenced and no one arose. but ten minutes later robert got up to pee and monique gave me a look. i ceded.

we took a tuk-tuk on what was called an impossible untertaking for such a journey. it was about twenty miles of mostly dirt road, deep into the jungle, far away from the creature comforts culled in the corridors and concrete of the city. we passed through three or four villages that i can only assume are typical of the country; no plumbing, no pavement, no electricity. these were different, though. they were nothing like the ghettoes of poipet. they were soft places full of smiling faces. they were communities, through and through, like nothing we've ever experienced in america. kids ran along the road with their dogs, waving wildly as we passed. teenage boys and their dads worked the fields. mothers tended to their kids and streetside stalls. it seemed neither daunting nor depressing, merely primitive. primitive, but inviting. there were moments i caught the other two staring off somewhat enviously. it looked so simple, so warm, so devoid of the stupid plight we pillage through each day. and all the children waved wildly, smiling big. we smiled big and waved wildly. simply and sincerely.

we arrived to a tiny enclave of stalls bordering a dirt parking lot. per usual, we were bombarded by children and women forcing merchandise upon us. declining never got any easier or less heart-breaking. especially with the kids. it never gets easier. even when you find yourself growing accustomed to it; that's when you catch yourself writing it off as something that merely happens. that's when you catch yourself turning a blind eye to the poverty. it's amazing the things, that over time, you'll convince yourself are okay.

we found the trail that would lead us through the thick, thick jungle and up the mountain to remnants of a remote temple now buried under overgrowth, erosion, and river. all along the 2-mile trail were signs warning us to stay on the marked path, as the countryside is now littered with landmines. and while i took this seriously, i questioned how many landmines could possibly be scattered throughout such a large country.

truth be told, approximately one thousand five hundred eighty cambodians are killed every year from these mines. and many more are left as dismembered reminders of our own heartlessness. and while i would never consider myself a great historian, i was confident we'd never fought a war in or with cambodia. so how could we be responsible for all these disasters? evidently, after vietnam, pilots and soldiers were encouraged to get ridof any leftover landmines, as they flew home over cambodia and laos. that's right. over 60,000 deaths in one of the poorest nations in the world, for the sake of lightening our loads. we did this. we did this. for no reason at all. 60,000 men, women and children who have hard enough lives already. i'm sure for the sake of saving fuel, saving time. 60,000 unnecessary, unprovoked deaths. and those are only the mines that have gone off since.

it was a somber and almost silent climb. i thought about the life laid out before me. the life laying in my wake. the lives i'd never known. was i ungrateful? was i too mired in my own past to succeed in my future? in less than two weeks i would be returning home to a fiance. to someone i wasn't convinced i ought to be with at all, let alone marrying. and all the while, i was still stuck in a relationship that had been extinct for over two years. a relationship i didn't know how to let go. how do you let go of love? at a certain point it's no longer healthy to hold onto it. and i had been holding on for so long. holding on hope. holding my breath.

without exxagerration, i can say there wasn't a day since we'd broken up that i hadn't hoped he'd come sauntering through the door. sauntering back to me. not a single day. no matter who i was seeing or how in love i thought i was. no matter where i went, how far away he seemed, no matter whatever i was going through. not a single day. i'd gotten engaged to someone i hardly knew, not out of love, but as a means to extinguish him. as a way to extinguish the hope that we would come walking back in. and yet, there i was thousand of miles from anything, hoping he'd be waiting atop that mountain for me. it was just like any other day. no matter the new circumstances i'd created or fallen into.

i climbed that hillside, in silence, a million miles from anything. lost somewhere between the heartaches of poverty and loneliness. a paradox that made me feel like a fraud; a selfish liar. and no one knew. no one knew what i had done. and i had no idea how to redeem myself.

i woke up exhausted.