Friday, December 18, 2009
Oliver woke not to the sound of a stirring, but to the sound of his own excitement; like a tiny rubber ball bouncing off the walls of his brain. Looking across his room he could see his sister Claudia’s face faintly illuminated by the grey morning light now seeping through the window. She slept peacefully- in way that made him jealous and pity her all at once. The sun had just begun to rise behind a ceiling of grey clouds and the millions of snow flakes slowly falling from the sky.
Oliver lay still for a moment, knowing that it was too early to wake up. But soon his conscience began to salivate at all the excitement, the possibility, and the bounty that lay upstairs- patiently biding it’s time in the warmth of a wool stocking and in the cool shade of a tree.
Oh, the waiting!
Oliver’s head began to swirl with curiosity and agony. Again he looked to Claudia, asleep in the bed adjacent, hoping that perhaps she too felt the same way! And that they could spring free from their chambers and make a break for the fireplace together! But, no such luck would fall upon him; Claudia slept away like she always did, possibly dreaming of horses, Jujubes, and dolls.
A minute passed. Then two… Three minutes passed! Oliver couldn’t wait any longer. He sprung from his bed in his favorite skeleton pajamas and raced to the bedroom door, peeking out the crack: clear!
Expertly avoiding all the creaky wooden boards he’d memorized, Oliver snuck down the hall where, as silent as a black cat, he made his way upstairs. At the top he could see that the dining room table was set for breakfast. Snow flakes fell upward towards the sky as they passed through concave sides of empty wine glasses on the table by the window. Outside he could see green pine trees lazily drooping downwards; exhausted by the weight of the snow piled precariously high upon each branch big and small, like icing.
Suddenly (out of the corner of his little eye) he caught a movement which startled him. Across the living room black sooty dust slowly floated down from the chimney into the fire pit. Terrified and excited at once, Oliver froze (eyes fixed) as he briefly witnessed the sole of a boot shake swiftly and ascend out of view (without a sound)! Racing over to the mantle, Oliver saw nothing more; so boots, no red coat, and no Santa. Turning around he would notice the shiny boxes wrapped with ribbons under the tree; new exciting evidence which rekindled his belief and raised his spirits once more.
Heart racing, Oliver would run down the upstairs hall towards the master bedroom and crack open the door with the same care and stealth as he’d done downstairs.
Peeking into the room he could hear the taps running in the wash closet where his Grandmother was bathing. Beyond, he could see his grandfather sitting upright in bed (hair standing on end- one pale hairy leg stretched out, up over the covers) scribbling on a crossword puzzle. Oliver would meet his Grandfathers smiling grey-blue eyes as if expecting him.
“Well? Oliver, let’s see what Santa brought you!?!”
Shrieking with joy Oliver ran down the hall once again; his flat feet pounding on the wooden floors waking Claudia below.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The streets of Bombay were warm. The breeze was hot and salty, and it ruffled the fabric of his shirt in a way that felt like the world was softly breathing on him. He could see the silhouettes of various naval ships floating in the bay with their guns pointed to the sky. Two Destroyers and an Aircraft Carrier faithfully defending the port with their gaunt presence alone. He could see the sun buried in the permanent haze that lay atop Bombay’s sky, slowly sinking. The palm trees overhead reminded him that he was far from home; a feeling he’d feared for months while traveling through India. But now, in his last day or so, began to appreciate.
The thought of leaving this strange place weighed heavy on his mind, as he knew that in three days time he’d return to America and everything he left behind in search of something else. It was as if these last days were the celebration of the end of a bloodline; a tragic passing of a person he’d come to know, empathize with, and criticize for it’s cowardness- and the cold and uncertain birth of a new person, returning home with new perspectives, plans, and concerns.
His life as he knew it would turn from the wondrous, curious, romantic, and fantastical to a life of competitive struggle in every capacity of his needs and wants. He’d leave behind the unknown and all the possibilities of reinvention (which he had come to a shaky truce with) and return to a place where everyone he knew had expectations and preconceptions of his former self.
In the shadow of his inevitable restoration to American life, he decided to surrender his thoughts of what was to come: to the sights, smells, and tastes he’d only be able to enjoy for just a few days more.
He watched the sun dip into the Indian Ocean’s horizon one last time. He listened to the motors and voices on the street and the prayers sung from the minarets at sundown. He watched the street dogs do their thing. He watched the mustached taxi drivers chatting away as they leaned over the green roofs of their yellow cars- sharing cigarettes and stories in their foreign version of English. He imagined they were gossiping like construction workers do on lunch break in American cities. He imagined that they all lived in the comfort of a faith so deep that it offset their material shortcomings; a faith that Americans would simply never understand or appreciate; not just because of our lack of it in general but that it required a community’s devotion to actualize as an individual.
That night he dreamt of falling in love with the most beautiful woman in the world- strolling through the markets of Bombay; he imagined himself letting go of all the anxiety that comes with the plastic pressures to accumulate wealth and gain acceptance into a consumer culture; he imagined a type of freedom that was surprisingly easy to picture but hard to describe and even harder to practice.
In 2038 he would tell his daughter several stories of his youth over dinner at a restaurant; in particular his travels to India over dinner prior to her own adventure. He and his wife would regale their traveling stories to her. Again he could not accurately describe how it felt to leave.
Recounting incidents of friendship, hilarity, recklessness, triumphs, defeats, and the beautiful things they'd seen; they found tears in there eyes- the kind that were the result of a nostalgic longing for their own youth, the passage of time, and scary thought of their daughter Rebecca waving goodbye at the gate the next day.
After that dinner, Rebecca would tell her father over a cigarette on the street that she had not seen his face light up like it did that night since she was a little girl. He would swallow hard knowing that it had been much longer than that. But it wasn’t until the next day at the airport that it came to him: he would hug Rebecca and whisper in her ear that the freedom he left behind in Bombay nearly 30 years prior was mainly that of expectation; the freedom to decide and accept that what you have is already the world, and that although it could grow bigger or smaller, it would not mean anything, any different.
Rebecca in tears would look him in the eye, holding his hand tight, and tell him she loved him.
Friday, March 13, 2009
You’re young and beautiful. You smile with rehearsed enthusiasm and well practiced gaiety.
You are 22 years old.
Everyone in the room is at least 7 years your senior. The bar full of grey suits is your infinity pool. Breathing heavy (fumes of juniper, lime, and quinine), they’ll watch without blinking as you splash around; eagerly waiting their turn to have you swim though their waters.
You show them your back stroke.
Throughout the evening you pose naturally for your newest friend: the Facebook paparazzi. Its photographers are anywhere and anyone: unknowingly covering your story. You like the idea of a publicly private kind of fame.
You’ll review the rushes tonight before bed.
Making your way to the bar to refresh your glass, you slip through the eyes of several men waiting to talk to you. Blowing by them quickly, they bend over to retain eye contact like a dandy lion to a moving car on the side of a highway; a Porsche you hope. They return to their conversations just as quickly as you pass. Fishing for your wallet in your purse, you get nervous; your BlackBerry isn't where you left it.
Suddenly, you become very, very anxious.