Cry For Help

It’s time to admit, I’m not above a cry for help.

cry for help

At least that’s what I’ve realize about myself now after several friends have said to me,

“Enough with the sad Facebook statuses!”

Or,

“Enough with the Philly bashing!” (Followed with concerned eyes and shoulder rub)

Or,

“We’ve been following your depressing Facebook status updates…” (awkward pause)

When did I become the emo girl??

Now, being sick for two weeks does NOT usually breed contentment. However, enough is enough.

Pity is not my color.

No really, I’m far too fabulous for that.

And on a serious note, I was VERY inspired for an attitude readjustment by this fabulous woman, Lizzie Velasquez

So it’s been decided. No more pity party for me. Yes, I miss New Orleans. Yes, no other city can be New Orleans. Yes, I wish I were there right now. But, I came North for a very important reason: to study to be a rabbi. And not only am I blessed to be able to attend a prestigious rabbinical school but it also happens to be in the same city as my parents and friends and in driving distance to my sister and brother-in-law and nephew and niece.

Also, my fiance moved to Philadelphia so that we could pursue our careers and support each other.

I am. so. incredibly. lucky.

Okokokokokokokokok…big personal revelation moment, counting my blessings, blah blah blah Why Do You Care?

 

Well, because, I’ve decided to dedicate more writing space to finding my heart and happiness in Philadelphia. Which means more blog posts! More fun! More self-deprecating humor! More family stories! Less sad!

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Hello From Heartbreak

How do you make lemons out of lemonade? 

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Last February I made my way North from New Orleans to brave the cold to interview for rabbinical school. After the interview and the grueling Hebrew exams (which destroyed my confidence and made me wonder, “Did I learn ANYTHING growing up Jewish?), I met up with my old friend Jess in Center City. We ate lunch and discussed the possibility of my moving back to Philadelphia.

As a college student I loved to spend time in Center City. But as I walked around on that cold, sunless February day, I had only one thought that kept repeating in my mind,

“I don’t want to live here.” 

But here we are. It’s 2014 and I’m sitting here in Mt. Airy Philadelphia. I haven’t written anything of substance since Valentine’s Day of 2013 (see two posts below) for several reasons. 

I could give you a comprehensive list of excuses reasons why I haven’t written in this blog for practically an entire year, but it all boils down to one large one:

1. Leaving New Orleans has felt like my insides have been gutted. 

Pain makes great art, it’s true, however I was so sick and tired of hearing my own voice crying about how miserable I was to leave. And if I was sick of hearing myself, how would everyone else feel? 

So I kept it to myself as best I could and confided with close friends about how heart-broken I felt. I’m sure most people could tell that I was homesick, but up until now I made a point of not telling too many people. I didn’t think others would understand.It’s a rare thing to fall in love with a city. Not many people know the feeling. I was too hurt to open myself to the criticism that comes from those who are fine living Wherever, USA. 

But you know what? It’s f-ing January. JANUARY. And I still hate living here.

It’s really not Philadelphia’s fault. I just don’t belong here. 

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There’s another reason I haven’t written or spoken about this. I have many reasons to be grateful that I’m back in Philadelphia. My family and my closest friends are here. I love what I’m studying in rabbinical school. I’m a part of a Jewish community now that nourishes me spiritually and intellectually. I wouldn’t want to study anywhere else. 

Yet still, with all the positives, my soul is lonely. I miss the streets that would vibrate with the sensations of New Orleans. I miss the brightly painted homes. I miss the attitude of laissez les bons temps rouler. I miss the way people spoke to each other in line at the grocery. I miss the art that circled around me at every moment. I miss the Mississippi river. I miss the sound of the streetcar rambling past me. I miss the Oak trees down Carrollton. I miss eccentricity. I miss the lizards that would run past my windowsill. I miss hearing the local commercials. I miss watching Saints coverage. I miss the bakery near my house. I miss being able to go to a coffee shop at 8 p.m. I miss the dog park. I miss the Mardi Gras Indians. I miss the warmth of the seasons. I miss the local produce. I miss the slang. I miss everything. Everything.   

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When I lived in New Orleans, I felt like I was a part of something. All of us, we all loved New Orleans, and we all belonged to her. It was up to us to take care of her and shelter her from the outsiders who didn’t understand why the city which care forgot could and would and indeed thrived. 

I’m trying really hard. I’m taking my lemons, peeling the bright yellow skin, pursing my lips against the sour, and squeezing what I can. Every now and again there is sugar. Steven, my fiance, my lifeline. Shabbat dinners with our close friends. My beautiful baby niece. My baby nephew calling “Aunt Nini”. I’ve been told it can take a long time to become adjusted. But I don’t know if I want to adjust. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to lose it. I’m holding on to what I found in New Orleans. To the person I became because of New Orleans.

Six years feels like a prison sentence. 

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Hey Benny Boy…

Vickie M. Feldman 2003

Vickie M. Feldman 2003

I’ll be seeing you soon…

It’s Valentine’s Day.

You’re in luck, little ones, because I have a warm and loving story to tell you in honor of this day.

And like all good stories, this one is about my father.

Deniro

I have had a few Valentines in my life. I had a boyfriend in college who bought me three dozen roses and gave each dozen to me on campus at different points in the day.

I had a different boyfriend who once bought me the baby pink stilettos I was oogling in the store and then thought that meant he could spend all Valentine’s Day getting high with his high school Bro’s as a reward.

I’ve had all kinds of Valentine’s Day experiences, some romantic, some disappointing, some filled with friends, and others filled with empty candy wrappers littering the couch. In all 26 years of my life there’s only been two constants for me when it comes to guys and Valentine’s Day.

1. Valentine’s Day will come every year.

2. My father will do nothing about it.

Valentine’s Day comes and goes, my friends, and not a word each year from the first and only man in my life.

Now, I never knew that there was a tradition of fathers celebrating Valentine’s Day with their daughters- because, hello? my dad didn’t- until I started to see other girls receive heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and balloons in college.

“Where did you get those candies?” I would ask.

“Oh, my dad”, they would reply. “I’m such a loser that I only receive Valentine’s Day gifts from my father.” Giggle.

To which, in my head I would think, “Am I SUCH A LOSER that I don’t even get Valentine’s Day shit from MY DAD?”

My dad is not interested in Valentine’s Day. He’s not even interested in Birthdays. So much so that he doesn’t even sign his own damn name in the card.

Once I asked my mom, “Hey Mom, how come Dad never signs his own name in my Birthday cards?”

Do you want to know what she said?

“He doesn’t sign the card because I don’t let him. If he signed the card he would ruin it by writing something annoying like,

‘Happy Birthday. Stop watching so much tv.’ “

And you know what, she’s right.

To better illustrate who he is, let me share a lesson about love and responsibility I learned directly from my father.

As you may have read before, I spent an inordinate amount  of my childhood at Atlantic City. During the hours my mother spent at the casinos, my father would take me around the mall across the boardwalk from Caesar’s Palace. If you go to this mall today, Pier Shops, you will discover stores selling luxury items, a gourmet candy shop, and other such novelty items for the rich and bored. However, when I was a kid, this mall was filled with stores catering to the exact opposite clientele.

This is NOT what it looked like when I was a kid

This is NOT what it looked like when I was a kid

I remember there was a dollar store, a McDonalds, a Rainbow (or some other store selling slutty teenage clothes for under $10 a pop) and a rundown arcade. My father, because he loved me, would take me through the mall and let me play arcade games and eat Happy Meals until it was time to return to the hotel to meet Momma.

We almost always stayed in Caesar’s, which was directly in front of this mall. In order to walk into the mall you would have to climb a ramp that was set at an angle large enough to warrant concern from the average casino goer, i.e. out of shape person.

This was no problem for me and Daddy, except for the one time it was.

One time, Dad and I went to The Pier Shop to kill some time. It was dead Winter. Cold. It had been snowing the entire day. After spending time at the child casino arcade, Dad and I zipped up our down jackets and walked outside. The snow had not only gathered significantly since we had entered the mall, but as the night was approaching, the whole boardwalk had frozen over. Standing before us and Caesar’s Palace was a sheet of ice descending at a cautionary angle. Immediately I stuck out my nine year-old hand and said, “Hold my hand, Daddy.”

To which my father replied, “No.”

“No?”

“NO.”

“Janine…”, He reasoned, “If I hold your hand, then we both have a greater chance of falling than if we don’t hold hands.”

And then he descended the ramp…without me.

That’s my father. He’s a loving man. Loving enough to spend hours with me at the decrepit mall of Atlantic City, but too practical to hold my hand as we slid down an ice ramp from hell.

So one year I decided, enough is enough. He’s not getting away with this slacking dad routine ANYMORE. This time, it’s my Birthday,goddamnit, and I have a father, goddamnit, and yeah, maybe I was single that year and bitter, but I WAS GETTING FLOWERS FOR F’SAKE AND THEY WERE COMING FROM HIM.

I called him from Jackson, MS, a place which, of course, he helped me drive cross country to move to, but let’s overlook that piece of irony so I can focus on how I’ve been mistreated all my life.

“Daddy, you’re always telling me I don’t need a boyfriend, because I have you, right?”

“Yeah”

“Well, my Birthday is coming. And I don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Yeah”

“So…I was thinking…you should send me flowers.”

Long pause.

“No. I don’t think so.”

I couldn’t believe it…NO?!? Really? His own miserable, single, homesick daughter? How could he say “NO”?

So I did the next best thing. I called my mom.

“MOM”

“Hi Sweetie.”

“MOM, Dad refuses to get me flowers for my Birthday.”

“Ah. Sounds like your father.”

She was no help. But I wasn’t giving up that easily. Oh, no. I called him EVERY DAY until my Birthday to remind him to send me flowers.

My Birthday comes. No flowers.

An unknown number shows up on my phone and leaves a voice mail. This is what it said,

“Hi…(pause) Janine… This is Mike, from (enter florist name here), yeah…uh… there seems to have been a mess up with an order of flowers that was supposed to arrive today for you. Your father ordered a bouquet to be sent to your house, however we messed up the order and they were unable to arrive today. So, I’m sorry for the mishap, and I hope you have a wonderful Birthday.”

 

So, naturally, I called my father.

“Dad. I just got the strangest message from a florist about flowers…”

“Yeah,” my father says.

“Yeah, what happened??”

He answers, “THIS GUY messes up my order…calls me up and says the flowers won’t be there until tomorrow…apologizes and wants to reimburse me.”

“Ok…”

“Yeah, so I tell him, “NO. I don’t want the flowers late. NOT ONLY are you going to reimburse me, but you’re going TO CALL MY DAUGHTER AND APOLOGIZE AND EXPLAIN TO HER WHY THOSE FLOWERS DIDN’T ARRIVE TODAY.”

Copy_of_WallStreet2

“So you’re telling me you made this guy call me to apologize?”

“Yeah, you believe this guy? Messed up the order.”

“So, I’m not getting flowers?…”

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Poor Mike. Mike had to call me up and apologize for messing up an order, my dad got his money back, and I got squat.

Why I couldn’t have received the flowers a day late, I don’t know. Probably the same reason my father still, TO THIS DAY, thinks he was correct in refusing to hold my hand as I slid down the ramp in Atlantic City.

I’ll never understand the way he thinks, no one does. But, I have to say, he has definitely given me a lot of great stories to write.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad. There are no flowers heading your way.

My Practical Valentine

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Celebrating the Super Bowl Is Messing with My Mardi Gras Mojo…

 

Writer Brett Will Taylor on WWNO said it better than anyone else, including moi. So I’m just going to let him share it with you fine folks.

See the original or to hear Brett read over the air: WWNO Celebrating Super Bowl XLVII

(Emphasis mine, because I can!)

 

To paraphrase Dr. John, such a weekend!

From the Westbank to New Orleans to Slidell, Carnival officially kicked into high gear these past few days as 19 krewes rolled, celebrating everything from lions and dogs, to Wookies and Greek gods… even Mona Lisa & Moon Pies.

But, now it stops. For nine days. Because the Super Bowl is coming to town. I’d rather have Santa Claus.

Still, I’m going to be a team player and make sure I look all nice and gentlemanly for the Ravens and 49ers. For the next week, I’ll sit up straight. Tuck my shirt in.  Might even wear socks.

Admit it. You’ll do the same thing. Why? Because we’re all in love with the City of New Orleans. And when the one you love asks you to look nice in front of 120,000 strangers, you do it. No matter the inconvenience.

Besides, there are a few reasons to celebrate Super Bowl XLVII. I count three.

First, it’s a party. Oh sure, we’re not officially invited, but when has that stopped us? If you live in New Orleans, you’re automatically invited to any party, anywhere, any time. It’s just the way we roll. And what’s a NOLA party without a fest? Super Bowl Boulevard is a four-day festival that features 49 bands, 12 parades, and 54 dishes of food. I don’t know about you, but I’ll celebrate any Thursday that let’s me hang out by the river while eating a Po’ Boy, drinking an Abita and listening to Amanda Shaw.

Second, this party is NOT for Atlanta. Super Bowl XLVII isn’t easy for New Orleans. But it would have been hell on Earth if the Falcons were playing. Fortunately, dat won’t happen. Once again, the gods have shown their supreme wisdom and reminded us that, when it comes to football, the Saints have Super Bowl rings. And the Falcons? Well, I guess they have, what? Onion rings?

Finally, let me suggest that there is even reason to celebrate the fact that Roger Goodell is coming to town. I know, I know. We was robbed. Free Sean Payton — before the season, not after it. But hear me out. Think about it. For one entire week, every time a plate of food is put down in front of him, the good Commissioner has to wonder if there isn’t some, shall we say, lagniappe, in his étouffe. Perhaps, as a local restaurant owner suggested to The New York Times, Goodell will bring a taster. If we’re really lucky, that taster will be… from Atlanta.

 

So good, and so true.

 

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Gone To See That Mardi Gras

It’s parade day in New Orleans. The sun is out and it’s about 75 degrees outside. From my window I heard a horn playing. It’s going to be a magical day.

Tonight I have services for Shabbat AS fdm.snfl ewkbf:ewkjbf :ebnf: bwef

So, I won’t be able to see Krewe of Cork, Krewe of Oshun, or Krewe of Cleopatra.

Oh, but I’ll be back tomorrow St. Charles. You know I will.

mardigras_coverage_banner

I think there’s a bear mauling a Mardi Gras Indian in this photograph. That’s different.

 

Sunday is Krewe of Barkus, which you are correct to assume is an all canine krewe. I’ve wanted to see it in the past, and this year I’m making it happen.

I would bring Fitz, but he would most likely lose his little freaking mind with all the dogs around on leashes. We would never be allowed back.

In honor of the first weekend of parades, here is a list of my favorite things about Mardi Gras

Sound of Music style…

 

These are a few of my favorite Mardi Gras things

1. The Rolling Elvi

2. King Cake, obvi

king-cake3

3. 610 stompers

Ordinary Men. Extraordinary Moves. New Orlean’s one and only all-male dance crew.

4. Beads in the oak trees

(c)2009 Sharon Keating

(c)2009 Sharon Keating

5. Dressing up

lindseyand me

6. Dressing up as Marilyn Monroe and catching the Marilyn coconut from Zulu

me as marilyn

7. Seeing everyone else dressed up

 

Happy Carnival, y’all.

King Cake’s Birthday, an Unauthorized List of Happiness

Didja know? This Sunday is January 6.

And while maybe January 6 is no big deal for most of the world (in other words, you’re boring Chicago), in NEW ORLEANS January 6 is King’s Day.

What happens on King’s Day?

king-cake3

All the bakeries in town open their french doors and the glorious smell of King Cake cascades into the air filling the streets of New Orleans with light and love and happiness and sugar. I like to call it King Cake’s Birthday. It’s also a signal that Mardi Gras is on it’s pretty little way.

flanders

snnfff. I’m excited.

(Btw, I just noticed that Flanders’ yellow skin, green shirt, and purple curtains are all Mardi Gras colors. Coincidence?)

So, in honor of King Cake’s Birthday!!!!!!! I’m going to give you my current list of why New Orleans is the only city that matters you should come visit me in New Orleans. This list is in no particular order, nor should it be considered official because I’m writing today under a self-induced hysterical sugar high.

Last night I went to a stellar author talk and book reading at Octavia Books. Emily Epstein Landau was in town for the American Historian Association Conference and came to talk about her book, Spectacular Wickedness, a study of race and sex politics in Storyville, New Orleans. I have always been fascinated by the history of Storyville, especially Bellocq’s Storyville photographs. There’s so much I still want to learn about this historic area in New Orleans, and my wonderful artist neighbor Nikki offered to take me on a tour (hopefully Tuesday?). Hurray! Until then, check out her work on Etsy.

A few weeks ago, I heard about The Goodnight Show with John Calhoun. I had been wanting to visit the New Orleans Healing Center since it opened and when I found out The Goodnight Show was playing at Cafe Istanbul, I was interested. When I found out that he would have Meschiya Lake on his show, I was sold.

Even though after two hours my butt was numb, the show was well worth the $10. Not only was there a bar serving “Goodnight Show Cocktails” of bourbon and soda, but there was a lot packed into the show. First, Dwight Henry, star of Beasts of the Southern Wild and owner of The Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Cafe, came on and spoke. He explained that he was reluctant to leave his bakery and so he refused several times to be in the movie. Director Benh Zeitlin literally had to convince him that he was the only one for the role. Then Meschiya Lake, who I usually hear sign jazz songs, came on and sang a couple of her own love ballads. Her vocals were breathtaking. I could tell how nervous she was when John Calhoun interviewed her, I’m assuming she’s much more comfortable on stage signing then talking because when she’s singing she’s a goddess. She did tell a funny story about how when she was 9 years old she sang a Patsy Cline song and won an adult competition in a South Dakota steakhouse’s talent show. Then she toasted to her mom for bringing a 9 year old to a steakhouse bar competition.

And then she told us about the time she ran away to join the circus.

God, I love me some Meschiya Lake.

What was unique about the Goodnight Show is that it’s a Johnny Carson style talk show but dedicated to New Orleans. Just from the first show I added to my New Orleans cultural knowledge. There were stories about buttermilk bisquits and Grow Dat youth farming in New Orleans, Meschiya Lake sang some damn good ballads, and standup comedian Leon Blanda turned out to actually pretty funny.

The other night I took Sumner to his Christmas present: a night at W.I.N.O.

You would have thought the guy walked into Disney World.

But instead of riding teacups you put a credit card into a wine machine and it pumps out wine, like so…

I’m not a wine connoisseur, and by that I mean I know absolutely nothing about wine except that I like it red. Sumner is much more in touch with his inner Bacchcus. So he was able to go around and choose wines from all different parts of the globe and we drank and made merry and I ate lots of olive tapenade while he was in his happy place.

I do what I can for the people I love.

A few days later Sumner took me to the Audubon Zoo. Not only are there ELEPHANTS (I will ride an elephant one day, goddamnit), but there is a Cajun Swamp exhibit that rocks my Yankee socks off.

I want one!

Sumner doesn’t quite understand my obsession with alligators. But seriously, look at them! Look at them!

It wants to eat you. I think it’s hilarious because alligators are terrifying (at least for me) but they are SO stupid. It’s like finding out the bully in your class you’ve been scared of is so dumb that not only can you run away from him but he doesn’t know how to walk without stumbling over his large feet. It’s ridiculous.

Also, I ran up Monkey Hill for the first time. I kept looking for the monkeys. Turns out there are no monkeys on Monkey Hill. You are the monkey.

Very clever, Audubon. Very clever…

The kids on the hill were NOT impressed with my Monkey Hill climbing skills. While I was looking around and asking Sumner, “But, where are the monkeys?” a few kids were waiting at the top of the hill saying “Hurry uppp. We want to race.” Sorry, kids. Mommy isn’t really agile anymore for rope spider webs, and if I had known I was going to have to climb up a rope bridge walk and then walk down one step at a time trying not to break my ankle I would have stayed on the ground. Sumner had to lift me up over the rope to get me down and I lost my shoe as all the adults waiting on the other side of Monkey Hill watched.

Gah.

And that’s the end of the list- for now. Today is Friday and tomorrow I take the trip up to Jackson to see some friends, drink some Irish beer at my favorite pub, and hear some low down dirty Blues music. I am very excited.

So, when are you coming visit?

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How To Be A Better Runner, or A Celebration of One Thing I Am Terrible At

I’m bad at running. Like, really bad. So bad in fact I’m too embarrassed to run at the gym. At the gym I’m forced to run on a treadmill which means I can’t escape the people who can see me running, poorly. At least on the street I can run away from people or, more likely, they can walk away from me as I lean over, panting, praying I won’t vomit on the Carrollton street mansion’s perfectly manicured lawn.

Everyone tells me, “No one is watching you. Get over it.” Well, I cant. I am watching myself. And if I was walking by someone whose face resembled a boiled lobster heaving on the side of the road I would wonder why that person hated himself so much to inflict such unnecessary pain.

Lobster-cartoon

I grew up hating running. I would mark with fear how many days were left until the dreaded “mile test” for gym class. Every year my gym teacher would stand on the outdoor track holding popsicle sticks as lap markers encouraging us to run a mile in under 12 minutes. In eighth grade there was this one smug kid, Jason, who would propel his long, lean legs around the track, circling me and my other friends at least twice as we walked each lap. There were the other girls who had experience in running, or at least had parents who acknowledged that there was a thing called “sports” that existed, and I envied how prepared they were. Namely, they had ponytails, running shoes, and sports bras.

I on the other hand wore street shoes, not even running sneakers to gym, because what did I know? Also, I didn’t own a sports bra and the concept of different bras for different occasions didn’t occur to me (I blame my mother and older sister, thank you very much). It’s also worth mentioning that I had frizzy hair that jutted out in a Roseanne Roseannadanna style earning me the nickname “Mushroom Head”. Imagine all of that, 13 year old Gilda running without a sports bra in street shoes, and you can begin to understand where my hatred of running emerged.

It was this

nola-woman-running

vs.

gilda_rosanna_rect

Skip ahead to New Orleans 2012 when I decided I wasn’t the same 13 year old girl anymore and smug punks like Jason are now the guys asking me for my number. I was an adult! I was able to move across country and establish a life for myself on my own, I could do anything! I owned a sports bra! I had Usher on my I-pod!

There are so many things I’m legitimately good at. Like public speaking. Making new friends. Color by number.

 

color by number

All great things. I so desperately wanted running to be on that list.

But it’s not. I’m just not good at it friends. I’m slow. I get tired after 6 minutes and have to take a serious walking break by 12. I make running ugly.

So naturally, today I went for a run.

And after 2 minutes (2!) I had to catch my breath. Full of shame, I continued walking just to keep moving. And then it occurred to me. Who the fuck cares? I was outside on the levee, the final rays of  sunlight playing across the Mississippi River. I wasn’t ready to go home. So I started running again. And then I had to stop. And then I started again.

I did that for another half an hour until it was too dark to see. As I walked back to my car I started thinking about how as an adult I have an aversion to doing something I have no talent in doing. Like math. But there are several things I’m not good at that I still really like to do, like singing or team sports, that when I do join friends for karaoke or kickball league, I have a terrific time.  So I’ve decided to start doing more things I’m terrible at. I’m going to try to no longer avoid situations that might cause me humiliation.

Maybe then those dreams when I sign up to sing in the high school talent show and I forget all the words will finally go away.

 

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reoccuring dream

Usually it starts with me surrounded by my family. This sickening feeling in my brain churns as I start to imagine if it’s possible. Could I have ever killed her? Was it me?

I try within the dream to think back in time. Where were we last? I see her straight, dirty blonde hair parted in the middle. She’s standing in jeans and an Abercrombie sweater. She’s nineteen.

It’s impossible. I realize, I wasn’t there.

She’s been dead for sometime now, at least a half a year or maybe it’s several years. But the judge wants me to testify. He wants me to stand in front of the jury and look them all in the face while I try to explain why I’m here and she’s buried outside our hometown.

Were we fighting? Did I hit her over the head?

It’s impossible, I say, looking at my father. I never would have hurt her. How can I explain to them that it wasn’t even an accident. I wasn’t even there! I scream.

She fell. Inside the bathroom of her college apartment. The shower running, the curtain half pulled back in anticipation for her to enter.  The steam rises as water stings sharply against the white, plastic tub. She is slumped down, her back against the sink cabinet. Her left hand gripping the sink’s lip. Jaw slack with vomit.

I usually wake up here, cold from sweat and clinging to the sheets. It’s true, I think in that moment between, I killed her. It’s my fault, I think.  I wipe my hair that sticks to my face. It takes a few moments until I can understand my surroundings.

I am in bed. I am alone. I was not there. I am innocent.

When Brooke died she was nineteen. I was a freshman in college living several hours away from her. Although we had fallen out from the passionate and often tumultuous friendship we once shared as children, we were not strangers. It had only been a couple of weeks prior to her death when we last spoke. I remember the thrill of seeing she had called me. We hardly spoke outside of the cul-de-sac connecting our homes.  I called her back immediately and she asked if I were planning to go home for Fall break. Temple didn’t have a Fall break, and after she chided me for having to stay in class while she went home, she said she would see me at Thanksgiving. Before we got off the phone I told her to tell her brother, with whom I shared a birthday, “Happy Birthday”. She laughed.

She died the day before our Birthday. Brain aneurysm. It tasted metallic in my mouth. Aneurysm. I had never heard of it before. I had to look it up on wikipedia. Brain aneurysm. A cerebrovascular disorder in which weakness in the wall of a cerebral artery or vein causes a localized dilation or ballooning of the blood vessel. For months afterward I would lay in bed imagining this hot, red balloon swelling inside her brain, filling with blood, until POP and then the lights would go out.

I dream about Brooke’s death infrequently. It will be a sunny morning in April and I’ll wake up to then realize she had been there. Usually she’s sick or she’s strange, standing in the background, possessing an undead quality.Othertimes I show up at her house and she’s there and I ask her where the hell she’s been. She usually replies that she had gotten sick. She had to go away.

But the worst is the trial dream. I’m always defending myself, afraid I will go to jail and terrified I actually committed her murder. Even after I’m awake, and the dark shadows which cling to the crevices of sleep have drifted away, she still lingers there with me. Nineteen. She watches me from underneath her headache, a red balloon swelling inside, wondering when I’ll admit the truth.

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