So, You’re Privileged. Now What?

We are a people of offense. We are offended by Donald Trump’s racist and sexist rhetoric. We are offended by Hillary Clinton’s evasion of the law. We are offended by television and music and opinion and weather and laughter and sadness and humanity, in general.

If you are a white American, no doubt you’ve heard the term “white privilege” of late in volumes you might consider ad nauseam. And if you are a white American, and you are living and filled with blood and rely on the presence of oxygen to survive, you’ve no doubt been offended by it. I would wager you are currently offended by it. You are discomfited by it. You don’t like it. You are angry about it.

If that is you, allow me to say this: you should be.

You probably don’t actively hate or even dislike black people. You would probably even say you love black people. You probably have a black friend. You probably thanked a black person for holding the door at the bank for you that one time and meant it. That’s wonderful.

You’ve never owned slaves. You’ve never whipped, lynched, beaten or killed. You’ve probably never called a black person “the n word” or witnessed a black family being asked to leave a restaurant. Wonderful.

You’re not racist. But you are privileged, whether you asked for it or not. It feels like a slur. It feels like an accusation. It feels gross and mean and wrong and offensive. And once you acknowledge it, you can’t be silent about it.

So, let’s talk about white privilege. Let’s get offended for a minute to have a discussion about our privilege and how it affects these black people we don’t consciously hate and possibly even “love”.

White privilege is a social relation granting or exempting white people conditions non-whites are not given access to. From Wikipedia: “…whites in Western societies enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience, as ‘an invisible package of unearned assets’.[1] White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.[2][3]

While white privilege can run a wide gamut, I want to address one facet specifically, and it is this: “These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play and speak freely.”

We are offended by Black Lives Matter. This is evident in the many All Lives Matter retorts. Can I offer an explanation of why that is? It is offensive to us because it makes us feel guilty and afraid and those emotions don’t feel so good. We feel guilty because, in hearing Black Lives Matter, we feel accused of thinking they don’t matter. And if we don’t think they matter, then we are racist. And no one wants to be accused of racism. We feel afraid because, in hearing Black Lives Matter, we think our “mattering” is being threatened. We feel like we are being forced to sacrifice something. To give something that is and has always been ours. That we are being asked to give some of our privilege away.

Here’s my challenge: give it away. Give it. All. Away.

Let me tell you something about “mattering”. There is an infinite supply of “mattering”. It’s not ONLY Black Lives Matter. It’s not Black Lives Matter Above All Others. Black people are not running around trying to snatch up all the earth’s “mattering”. “Mattering” is not a limited number of Pokemon and no one is going to catch ’em all. Black Lives Matter means hear me. See me. Value me. Remember that I was once legally consider three-fifths of a human being in this very country. Protect me. Humanize me. Let me live and move and buy and work and play and speak freely like you. Don’t fear me. Don’t call me a thug. Don’t call me an animal. Don’t villainize me.

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Think of Michael Brown as your son. Think of Trayvon Martin as your son. Think of Alton Sterling as your dad. Think of Philando Castile as your dad. Think of Sandra Bland as your sister. Do it for a minute because that is what the black community does everyday. As white Americans, we don’t carry the generational impacts of slavery. We have not carried the dehumanization of segregation or being ripped from our families and sold or being used for breeding like an animal. We have not had to come together as a race. We don’t find much identity in our race as white people because we don’t have to. We are the norm. We are the standard. We are the definition. Nude means white skin. Flesh-toned means white skin. When Tom Brady makes a great pass, a young white kid talks about how great he is and how much he loves football. When LeBron James dunks on someone, a young black kid sees him and thinks Look at what he’s become. He’s the son of a single mother and he’s become great. Maybe I could be great. What happens to one impacts all. What was possible for one becomes possible for all. What is felt by one is felt by all. That is something we don’t understand as white Americans. That Trayvon was the son of over 40 million Americans. Philando was the father of over 40 million Americans. Sandra was the sister of over 40 million Americans. And the absence of that kind of grief is privilege.

I’m not asking you to not be offended when you see Black Lives Matter or the term white privilege. White privilege is offensive to its core. Get offended. Get uncomfortable. Get mad. Hate it. Because it’s real. It’s the history of white America. Now, take a minute, take a deep breath (or twenty), and channel into change. Channel those ugly feelings into something that promotes equality. White privilege is our past, but we can give our children a different future.

I am learning as I type. I have always considered myself to be a friend to black people. An ally. But through listening and watching and getting uncomfortable, I’ve realized that I haven’t been an ally at all. I’ve been cold and a lover of stereotypes and offended and so wrapped in my own America that the mention of an alternative America has filled me with anger and the disregard of the feelings and experiences of over 40 million Americans. So, I listen. I watch. I read. I learn. And to other whites, I speak.

So, you’re privileged. I’m privileged. We’re privileged. Now what. Here are some things that I have been doing in my quest to learn that I’ve found helpful:

  1. Follow black people on social media. Black authors, black news sites, black figures, black authorities, black activists. Black. People. Read what they write. Listen to their audio recordings. Listen. Read. Watch. Don’t speak. Just listen. Suggestions: A.C. Thomas, @acthomaswrites on Twitter. She is a young, black author that recently made history in a massive 13-way publishing house battle for her book THE HATE U GIVE, a Black Lives Matter-inspired Young Adult novel. The movies rights have been sold and Amandla Stenberg is slated to play the main character. She is vocal against injustices of all kinds and is a genuinely great person. Also on Twitter, @BlackGirlNerds shares poignant and insightful thoughts, as well as a healthy heap of comic, graphic novel, and general “nerd” info. Jason Chestnut, though white, speaks openly about white privilege and other social issues. He is on Twitter as @crazypastor.
  2. Change your speech. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45. The heart takes a while, but even though it’s tough, you can put a reign on your tongue. Don’t make jokes at the expense of black people (or other cultures/races/sexualities, for that matter). Don’t call black protesters animals. Don’t say sarcastically, “Oh, that’s right. We owe them” or roll your eyes any time you hear/say “reparations” (okay, okay, eye-rolling isn’t technically speech but it sure communicates effectively!). Stop saying All Lives Matter. We know this. Say things that bring life. Say things that exalt. Say things that build. If you feel you can’t, say nothing until you can.
  3. Hunger for justice. For the police. For black America. Keep in mind that illegally carrying a firearm does not constitute death. Keep in mind that having a prior criminal record does not warrant death. Keep in mind that an officer of the law is accountable as we are. When a black man is killed, feel. Don’t justify. Don’t rationalize. Feel. Cry. Pray. In every situation, whatever justice is, hunger for that. Cry out for that. And while you wait for it, feel. Cry. Pray. Love.
  4. Keep your critique of black culture and its “problems” to yourself. You know how your siblings used to (maybe still) drive you insane and you’d call them names/lock them in closets/duct tape them to chairs (no? Just me?)? But then the second someone outside of the family attacks your sibling, verbally or otherwise, your blood boils with a fiery rage and you rise up in defense like a praised Roman soldier in a chariot of fire to lay waste to the fool that would dare insult your blood? Okay. So. Consider the black community that, as I have mentioned, identifies as a unit. Let’s think of the black community as a household. A family. A family has their struggles within the household, right? A family can have rogue cousins and mouthy uncles and a son or daughter with a drug problem, right? The family is aware of the issues in the house. Grandmama Betty knows Uncle Bill is an alcoholic. Cousin Agatha knows her niece April has a gambling problem. They know. They not okay with it. They can’t control their relatives, but they are aware and they love them and they are doing what they can to help them. Now, imagine if Rando Neighbor Guy comes into Grandmama Betty’s household and starts rattling off their problems. Rando Neighbor Guy doesn’t know them. He doesn’t know their history. He’s never invited them to dinner. He’s never been to their kids’ soccer games. But Rando Neighbor Guy comes in and lists their family issues and what they need to do to rectify the situations. What do you think the response will be? I can tell you if it were me, Rando Neighbor Guy would suddenly grow a tail, which would be immediately thrust between his legs as he ran from my home in shame. In the wake of these killings, I’ve read/heard/seen a lot of “What about black-on-black crime?” and “Blacks need to address the violence in their own communities first.” What about black-on-black crime? Beside the fact that that has literally not one thing to do with a non-black officer killing a black man, you can’t help what you have no understanding of. Before we pull a Rando Neighbor Guy, let’s know people. Let’s learn their history. Let’s literally invite them to dinner. Let’s go to their kids’ games. Let’s invite them to ours. Let’s foster real, human relationships. And let’s keep our critiques to ourselves. Better still, let’s stop critiquing.
  5. Don’t let racism slide. I’m not saying we should become language police and put a muzzle on the world (although…). I’m also not saying it won’t possibly be a little awkward. What I am saying is in our changing our speech, maybe we can influence others to do the same. If you have a friend or relative that refers to other races with slurs, tell them you don’t like it. You don’t have to be a turd about it. Just a simple, “Hey, man. I don’t like that term” will do. If the offender gives you a hard time, you can just say, “I’d rather you not use the term around me.” And if they still want to fight, you may have to get real and stand your ground. “Don’t say that to me or I’m going to have to excuse myself.” Don’t argue. Don’t belittle. Don’t insult or raise your voice or stoop low. Be kind, be gentle, be firm, and in all things, to all people, show respect and love.

 

I also came across this article today and found it helpful.

That’s it. Privilege is real. Real people feel lesser. Let’s stop letting offense reign. Let’s stop defending ourselves. Let’s learn. Let’s let people speak. Let’s listen.

 

 

 

I Mother, Therefore I am

Or perhaps more appropriate: I am, therefore I mother.

 

I’ll be perfectly honest. I haven’t showered in a few days. *Most* of my clothes are clean, but I’ll just take a good minute to bless the Lord for making dry shampoo (can I get a witness because you know I can). I barely know what year it is, let alone the month, and god bless me if I can ever remember the numerical date. It is one of life’s miracles that I just learned Mother’s Day was coming up, and that is solely because a calendar-wielding mom posted about it on my Internet mommy board (and blessings upon you, Al Gore, for creating the Internet. So many blessings to be blessed today!).

But, since we’re here and I have no intention of wasting precious nap time quiet on showering, let’s talk about moms.

In practical living, I became a mom in the spring of 2011. That’s when I started cataloging another creature’s poops and losing sleep over the functionality of my nipples (how and why is that a thing, Jesus) and beaming with pride knowing that I’d kept a tiny human alive for another day.

In other ways, I became a mom in the spring of 2009 when we lost our first baby. Practically, my mothering extended only as far as some nausea, horrific breast tenderness, and awesomely bad bloating. That practical intro to motherhood was rather short lived, and I didn’t dare call myself a mother, though some very kind people took great care to remind me of what I was. Not practically, maybe, but I had the heart of a mother.

It’s not an easy thing, mothering, yet we are compelled to do it. Now, when I say mothering, I don’t mean to summon the image of the fabled beautiful and singsong-voiced angel woman we beat ourselves up for not being. I don’t refer to the fairy princess flower lady who bathes her children in sunbeams and never says bad words and is only and always bursting with star-shiney joy at every sound, sight, and smell her progeny emits. She’s wonderful and happy and peaceful and doesn’t exist (not that moms aren’t happy-stay with me).

When I say mothering, I mean this: motherhood is a battle of the soul, every emotion willing itself above the rest, until you are somehow drained and full, empty and overflowing, in turmoil and in peace.

With that said, I absolutely became a mother in the spring of 2009, though I had nothing–or no one–to present to the world.

And here in the spring of 2016 (wait-it’s 2016, right?), I have three children that love to make their presence known, while three more speak only in whispers between my husband and I.

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Motherhood, as I’ve known it to be in these short years, is less about the practical (though I am beat over the head with the practical on an hourly basis) and more about that internal battle. I am empty. I am full. I am afraid. I am at rest. I am content. I want more. It is a heartache that is both ugly and beautiful, pain and joy mingled. It is wanting more and wanting less and a desperate clinging to what you have right now.

So, this Mother’s Day–if I remember by the time Sunday rolls around–I will salute the mothers that have come before me and have retained a measure of sanity as their children aged. I will raise a fist in solidarity for the mothers currently feeling that pull of laughter and tears in that mingling of pain and joy. And I will say a prayer for the mothers that will come after me, that they will be gracious with themselves and with each other, and that joy will always triumph over pain.

 

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning.

 

Virginia June and the Creative: Chapter 3

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*This is chapter 3 of the MIB/Stephanie Messa original short story, Virginia June and the Creative.*       

 

         In the early days of the Receding, whenever plagued with the nuisance of remembering, the Creative would work according to his namesake. He would create. In his isolation, he created, and the work of his hands, the work of his heart, came to life before him and before one another. Together the creations would join, then, each evening and put on shows for their engineer. They were unique in character and quality, but as extensions of his heart, tied. Similar. They were, regardless of form and function, pieces of his heart dancing and composing outside of his body, and he was satisfied.

 

         Over time, though, the Creative found fault in not remembering. A certain strain presented itself in being so isolated; he was empty. Refusing to remember, shunning community, he was without substance, a well gone dry.

 

        What had he expected in coming to this wilderness? Isolation and not remembering had been his precise goal and this woodland fortress was the X to mark his sought-after treasure. Why, then, was he surprised to wake with the jarring depth of nothing within him now? Had he thought he’d continue creating in such conditions? Well, yes, he had. Quiet and solitude. Was that not the ideal environment for creatives?

 

         The truth was that the Creative had created very little since the Receding, and where he was once satisfied in the inherent qualities of the creations he’d brought along with him, he was now losing interest. Quickly. But, not only that. The Creative had ceased going outside to greet the sun. Food lost its taste. He drank water only when his body cried out for it. His voice grew hoarse with disuse. His eyes seemed to have no regard for color. Everything was gray.

 

         “You have looked better, Creative,” Virginia June teased. “Shall we assemble?” She asked, gesturing to the companions around her. “Our legs grow restless. Call us forward; speak our names and let us dance!”

 

         Where none could rouse a laugh, Virginia June could at least extract a smile from him. “I think not, mine. I am tired and I do not see well. It would be a waste.”

 

         At the sound of the word waste, a crystalline pop was heard from somewhere behind Virginia June. It was like the crash of a shattered chalice–the popping of a glass balloon.

 

         Whatever it was, it was enough to force the slumped Creative from his chair in a frantic sprint toward the source of the sound. He began carefully sliding the inanimate creations to and fro, lifting gingerly to examine each one for signs of distress, but as each one turned up safe, his cautious movements became more and more frenzied, and he was there again.

 

         In a recessed corner of his mind, the Creative saw the Bazaar. He heard the silent shock of the onlookers. He felt a lifeless Virginia June in his hand.

 

         Had he killed her?

 

         In the confines of his wilderness retreat, the Creative howled. “No!” He roared and Virginia June jumped in something not unlike fear. He looked to her, caution in her eyes, pain in his own. She’d been calling his name as he daydreamed.

 

         “Creative,” she said firmly and for the third time. “Look.”

 

         Virginia June stepped to the side and he found the source of the crash. The popped glass balloon.

 

         Crossroads Blue–his first creation. And he was gone.

 

         Popped balloon, indeed. The Creative felt as though his lungs had popped within his chest and all of the vital oxygen hissed from the gaping hole where his heart had once been. Crossroads Blue was not his greatest piece. He was not precisely beautiful as accepted standards of beauty dictated. There was nothing so uncommon about his form to distinguish him from the creations of other creatives, but Crossroads Blue was old. He was first. He was what made the Creative a creator.

 

         Not glass, exactly, and neither crystal, Crossroads Blue was something sharp and translucent. He was both reflective and clear, mirror and lens piece. He was how a young Creative viewed himself and viewed the world, and now Crossroads Blue was dead.

 

         Shattered, to be exact. The Creative ran his fingers through the debris with deliberate force until the tips resembled a porcupine’s back above human digits. Beads of blood decorated the table.

 

         The other creations were sleeping; he had not called them. Virginia June was crying.

 

         “He cannot come back from that,” she discerned. The Creative grimaced.

 

         “No,” he whispered. “He cannot.”

 

         Had he killed him? He couldn’t bear the thought and didn’t have to for long before another commotion arose. On the opposite side of the workbench, a sigh bounced off the backs of several creations, and a soft thump on wood echoed in the room.

 

         “Creations! Come!” He cried, and each one awoke from their slumber. “Who is unwell?” He knew. As averse as he was to feeling, he felt it. One creation was dead and another was sick.

 

         “Here I am,” a small voice called. The newly awakened creations, still stretching their unused limbs, turned to the left and right looking for the owner of the dove-like whisper.

 

         There she was; he knew her voice like he knew his own. Aria Wholenote lay limp but still breathing among some of the more forgotten creations toward the back of the assembly. Each labored wheeze of her little frame, even in its distress, was a perfect harmonic accompaniment, an airy descant above the melody of the room.

 

         “Aria Wholenote! Can you rise?” The Creative asked with an ounce of that old enemy hope in his voice.

 

         She coughed and even that was beautiful. “I…” Aria grunted as she attempted to lift her head, but shook with a violence palpable, and quickly fell back flat. “I cannot, Creative.”

 

         He turned away to shelter her from the fear in his face. That was what he told himself, anyhow, for he could not acknowledge the shame rising from his stomach and climbing his neck like a red-hot ivy. That shame was just as great as his fear. If not greater.

 

         “Creative,” Virginia June called. “Look at her. Look at them. They are not well.” He did not turn, but the breath caught in his throat. “Look!” She cried.

 

         Slowly, the Creative turned to his workbench and beheld the work of his hands, the work of his heart. The pieces of his heart that lived outside of his body. They were wilting in front of him and he could not stop it.

 

         “You know what you must do,” Virginia June said, seeing the hesitation in his eyes. “We must go back.”

 

         “I cannot, Virginia June. You know this.”

 

         “They are ill, Creative,” she pleaded, but with an even tone, for she was quite level-headed, even multifaceted as she was.

 

         “I will not, Virginia June,” he answered, and shuddered at the iciness of his tone. When had he begun to speak to her this way? He’d not meant to be unkind. Afterall, his only wish was to keep her safe.
         The Creative took a deep breath and steadied himself. “I will not go back to the Bazaar Mondial, Virginia June, and neither will you.”

Diary of a Mad Baby Woman

*The following is an excerpt from the journal of 21-month-old Kitty. Yes. She is both genius and sassmistress.*

 

Dear Diary,

Prepare yourself for a shock.

So, here I am, minding my own baby business, systematically dismantling the brand-freaking-new roll of toilet paper and stuffing it into the toilet (Like, hi. That’s where toilet paper is supposed to go.), when mom walks in and is all, “KITTY! THAT’S A NO NO!”

Oh, look. Mom’s yelling about no no‘s. Must be Tuesday.

I’m like, “Actually, it’s yes yes.” It’s toilet paper and this is a toilet. What am I missing?

Then she’s all grunty and weird and, like, stomping around, fishing the soggy mound of TOILET paper out of the TOILET. And I’m like, “Ew, mom. You’re the one digging in the toilet water and I’m getting yelled at. That makes sense.” #babysarcasm

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So, that was a buzzkill, but then a lightbulb goes off in my baby brain. GYM CHALK! While mom’s playing in the poop water, I decide to exercise my independence by getting my own snack because I’m a grown ay-ess-ess baby. I go over to the shelf where dad makes a huge mess with his gym chalk (like, I’m a B A B Y and I’m less messy than you) and break off a sizable chunk for my tasting pleasure.

I like chalk. Sue me. Sike. Don’t. My parents are homeless. They act like it, anyway.

Anyway, I’m eating this chalk and mom comes out of the bathroom all wet and red-faced and you will never guess what she says…

“KITTY! THAT’S A NO NO!”

Could I maybe get a list of these many and various no no’s? Do you think it’s possible you’re being a little liberal with the assigning of no no‘s? Because I swear the list grows daily. I can’t feed the dogs Goldfish. Lord knows I can’t eat their food. And now, apparently, I can’t eat chalk. Like, my baby body, my baby choice.

At this point, I’m angry. I’ll admit it. And I’m not particularly pleased with myself, but yeah, maybe I did intentionally reach into my diaper and do a little “finger painting”, but I had to send a message. But then, Bear reminds me of why I wish I was an only child and is all, “MOOOOOOMMM! Kitty put poop on the wall!”

Naturally, I hit him in the face. #shrugs

Speaking of, what’s the deal with not being allowed to hit my brothers?

  1. They’re the worst and 100% need to be hit. Like, I truly believe it is an actual, physical and emotional need for them and quite possibly the only thing that could possibly save them from their worst-ness.
  2. I am both younger and smaller (although, not by much–sucks to be you, Bear) and yet I’m treated like the terrorist. Even Monkey runs screaming from me (he’s FIVE, btw) like I’m Osama bin Baby. TIME TO BABY UP, GUYS.
  3. I chase after them with a baseball bat ONE TIME and suddenly I’m not allowed access to anything larger than an orange or heavier than a washcloth. Like, maybe instead of taking away ALL OF MY FREEDOMS, teach your sons to grow a pair. (Tbh, I don’t know what that means, but mom said it to dad one time and he got so mad, so I feel like it’s appropriately insulting.)

 

Anyway, I was super angry, as you can imagine, but I took a nap (mostly to get away from mom because she’s a psycho). When I woke up, I forgot why I was mad at her and screamed until she agreed to carry me around with her as she completed her set goals for the day. Which, btw, was taking Buzzfeed quizzes and testing Snapchat filters. What a hard life. #eyeroll

Ps: Mom, if you’re reading this, jk jk. Love you so much.

You Smell Bad: A Categorization of Odors

At any given moment, I can pick a guaranteed minimum of five smells, generally foul, from my person. Nine times out of ten, the foul smells are not of my own doing, but of a smaller creature in my company. It’s bad enough that the fruit of my womb are responsible for such nasal assaults, and even worse, still, that they find a way to rub them all over my body. To survive, however, we must let go of the things we cannot change.

Click to the link to read the rest of my guest post for my friends at Birth + Baby!

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Virginia June and the Creative: Chapter 2

*This is chapter 2 of the Mom in Black/Stephanie Messa original short story Virginia June and the Creative. In case you missed it, read chapter 1 here.

Chapter 2

 

        Clutched to his breast, Virginia June began to squirm. She loved to be near him; she was him, but she could not breathe held so tightly. And if she could not breathe, she could not live.

 

“Let me be, Creative, please,” she requested playfully, but with assertion. He smiled to himself at her determination. Virginia June was resolved in most things and it pleased him.

 

        “My apologies, dear,” he said as he released his creation, setting her gently on the workbench before them. “Let us walk and think, then, Virginia June. Let us see if we may find a new facet of you today.”

 

        This delighted the tiny creation and, though she remained quite the doll, she took on the essence of a new tulip, pink and swelling under the rays that warmed a mountain meadow. The doll danced to a chorus that played from an unidentified source. The tulip danced to a breeze upon the meadow though they remained indoors. The creative closed his eyes and heard the sound of strings effortlessly plucked while the sun upon that mountain meadow warmed his cheek. Behind closed lids, he saw gold. He was taken to the Bazaar Mondial.

 

        The Creative had loved the Bazaar with its sights and sounds, never void of feeling. Vendors lined the rows displaying their wares, their creations, themselves, and the Creative had a home among them. A family. They were creatives of their own right–similar, but uniquely not, and though he may not have known them each by name, he knew them. Their hearts. Their souls. They were Creatives, each of them, and he knew what that meant.

 

        For years, the Creative had been a fixture of the Bazaar Mondial, displaying the creations of his that he’d made just for the patrons. He knew them as well. Though a creative, he took great pleasure in losing himself in the creations of the other vendors, and it gave him the mind of a patron. They could be read easy enough, and when they could be read, the Creative could give them what they wanted.

 

        And that is what he did.

 

        That is not to say the Creative did not put heart into what he made for the patrons. No. He loved those creations, for they were a part of him, but only a small part. Could the patrons of the Bazaar Mondial love all of him? Was there a place for the rest of the Creative? He hoped, and that is what he regretted the most.

 

        Favored by his small group of returning patrons, the Creative hoped. With hope and with all of him, he created, and that is when Virginia June took shape. He tinkered and toiled, longer than he ever had, in his apartment above the Bazaar until the day the lifeless shape became living. She was all of him and yet uniquely her own as she awakened in front of him that spring afternoon. Doll and flower, song and script, blonde and sable. Virginia June.

 

        “Hello, mine,” he had whispered.

 

        “Creative,” she whispered in return and bowed. “May we go into the Bazaar Mondial?” She wanted to be seen, to be among the vendors and patrons, the creations. Her eagerness warmed him from somewhere behind his chest.

 

        “I suppose we may,” he beamed. “Come. Let us go into the Bazaar.”

 

        The gold on the other side of closed lids vanished as he remembered the day he took her outside. His eyes shot open so violently that it startled Virginia June as she swayed and sang on the workbench before him.

 

        “I’m sorry, Creative. Have I misstepped?” She asked with shame. The downcast look in her eye was a blade to his heart and he winced and withdrew as if wounded. The Bazaar had hurt her; he could not do the same. That was the whole point of the Receeding.

 

        “My dear, my creation, mine. No, no. It is not you. I was only remembering and it was a mistake,” he answered and laughed to himself. “It will not happen again if I have anything to say about it.”

 

        Virginia June laughed. “Creative, remembering is not a mistake. It is fearing the memory that is a mistake,” she postulated as she resumed her display.

 

        “Perhaps, little one. Perhaps,” he sighed and could not help but go back there in his mind.

 

        It was a golden afternoon the day he placed her on his cart for all of the Bazaar to see. He formed their praise in his mind, anticipating the accolades they would lay at her feet, and indirectly, his own. How could they say anything but? He wondered to himself as she unfolded before them. Look at her, he thought. She is everything. And to him, she was, but the Bazaar Mondial did not see her than any more than the doll she occasionally resembled.

 

        Patrons trickled by his cart and gave a casual glance to his doll. They offered uninterested smiles, not for Virginia June, but out of tenured respect for the Creative. After the first party of unaffected patrons, the Creative waved a dismissive hand. Uncultured lot, he said to himself. Never mind them.

 

        But as the next groups came by, one after one, and none stopped to look at her–really look at her, the Creative sank. A cloud–real or only of his soul, he couldn’t tell–sailed over the Bazaar and gray settled over his heart. In a panicked frenzy, he grabbed Virginia June, not realizing the tightness of his grasp, and ran to another vendor. Surely another creative would see her.

 

        “Creative,” she gasped in a hoarse whisper, “I can’t breathe!” He could not hear her. His mind was on finding affirmation.

 

        In his hysteria, the other vendors could not understand him, nor did they try to. They had creations and patrons of their own, and while they respected the Creative, his behavior was erratic and strange. Off putting, to say the least. One laid a gruff hand on his shoulder.

 

        “Please, you’re driving patrons away, Creative. Go back to your cart and I promise I will come by later to view your creation. I understand it is important to you, but you must leave me,” he said. But the Creative was not comforted.

 

        With each dismissal, the Creative became more unhinged. She was everything! How could they not see? In the midst of the Bazaar Mondial, the words he’d meant only for himself came bursting forth like an opened dam. “Look at her!” His cry bounced from colorful cart to colorful cart. All of the Bazaar froze and look they did. The courtyard of the Bazaar was filled with gasps and it was only then that the Creative realized how tight his grasp on Virginia June had been.

 

        He’d followed the stare of their wide eyes down to his hand where a pale Virginia June lay slack. Fear stopped his heart. Had he killed her? And then anger revived it. No. If anyone killed her, it was them. Shame and fury overwhelmed the Creative and he made to charge the watching patrons and vendors alike until he remembered her. How had he forgotten about her again? The Creative dropped to his knees in the center of the Bazaar and cried out.

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        “Mine! My Virginia June? Do you live?” He released his hold and laid her on the cold stone. “Do you live?” He cried and the patrons and vendors slowly left him to weep alone.

 

        “Creative,” she whispered as she stirred slightly. “Creative, I…”

 

        Before she could speak another word, he cradled her and ran. He had nearly lost her and it was the Bazaar Mondial’s fault. The gray and unkind cloud descended lower until it was all about him as he ran. Once at his cart, she tried again to speak but he would not allow it.

 

        “No, mine. No. You must rest. I will see you safe.”

 

        “Creative, it is the way of it,” she whispered against his instructions. He didn’t understand but did not want her to clarify. He wanted her quiet and still, whole and safe. Afterall, she was his everything.

 

        “Shh. No more. Rest until we are safe,” he ordered.

 

        The Creative had not returned since.
        It is the way of it, she had said. How is the way of what? He often thought, but never wanted to ask. They should never speak of it. She should never have to remember. She was wrong; remembering was a mistake.

Grownups in Public

I went to dinner in a new city-a real city-and couldn’t make words come out of my face hole.

I am supremely out of my element here: new and BIG city, essentially on my own, and attending a writer’s workshop. Never mind the fact that it took nearly two hours to get to the hotel when we were but THREE BLOCKS FROM IT AT ALL TIMES (Villanova parade, blocked streets, it was a dark time-I don’t want to talk about it). Never mind all that. I have to be a grownup with other grownups in public. They don’t know me, I don’t know them, and I don’t know how I’m going to make it.

Listen. I’m not a baby. Okay. I’m kind of a baby, but, like, a moderately skilled baby. Once upon a time, I had a job and conversed with grownups. Once upon a time, I was a grownup. The issue now is that I’m older, but weirder, and all too aware of the MANY AND VARIOUS things that could and likely WILL go wrong.

Who am I going to sit with? What am I going to say to the literary agent? What if I talk too loud or laugh too long? What if I make one too many alcohol related jokes to the point that it gets weird? Because, let’s be real, those things are 100% going to happen.

This city is grande and loud and I am one (relatively) small person-woman-with a very big dream. Can I make it happen? Can I be one among the other grownups in public?

Of course I can. I said it myself. I am one woman with a very big dream. I have been a grownup and I can do it again. The best thing about me is me, and I will likely laugh too long and talk too loud, but I will be me.

Even if that me is the girl in the red dress that talked really freaking loud. I mean, there are worse things, right?!

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Right. The worse thing would be not going at all. The worse thing would be dreaming and never doing.

So, here I sit in a large and loud city all on my own and just a bit nervous about being a grownup in public. I couldn’t say for sure, but I’d have to guess it’s markedly better than sitting in a quiet and familiar chair and having a dream in secret.

Fingers crossed I don’t accidentally spit on anyone or tell an unsavory baby poop story. (Which is to say any poop story.)