Non é finto.

 

We have two plastic candy canes on our Christmas tree. We have to keep telling Oliver they are fake. “Finto,” I say — in Italian. They are fake. I know they look real and shiny and glossy and good, but they are fake. Don’t eat them. Don’t crush them. Just let your eyes gloss over when they fall upon them. They are nothing more than a mirage.

**

I thought images of families in living rooms laughing were mirages. Until I became one of those people, there on the soft floor, giggling like someone just said the funniest thing in the whole world. Someone did. It was: Look. You’re happy.

**

I share images from my life compulsively. Impulsively. Round the clock. Joyfully. And though I share them with you — I’m really saving them for me. So that when I am walking down the street alone, or sitting on the couch, and I’m tired or sad or angry or confused, that I can look down and see Vivid. Proof. That I am not alone, or sad or angry or confused — well — not really. Momentarily, yes. But not really.

But I am uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable nearly every day, that I play happy. That I play mommy. That I play family. I am constantly uncomfortable in this happy, happy life. Because I thought this was a mirage until I infiltrated it. My old eyes don’t like being fooled and my new eyes seek their old way of seeing, sometimes.

**

This morning, I posted a picture of Oliver. And then another. And I shared an Instagram story, and I watched other people’s images and stories and I reveled in all the **ddamn love. And then I felt a fool — like it’s been going on too long and I should shut it down or shut something out or just stop inviting everyone in — to my mirage.

I disabled my account.

**

Iowa is the place where I first started believing families on soft floors laughed and really meant to. That they wanted to be on those floors to begin with. That not everyone who refurnished their hardwood and reproduced and drove roundish vehicles hated their lives. Some people are genuinely happy in little square-like numbers like four. 

**

When Oliver and Nic are out on the highway, I wait for texts that say they made it safe and that they both love me, and that they’ll be home soon, and that I’ll get to keep this happy picture we have painted.

But I also wait for a phone call. A notice that I don’t get to keep it. This bounty. This feast. This lovely image we created.

If they were both to leave me, I could light this life of mine on fire and finally dance around the flame, again. I could really thrive, high on loss and pain. Wouldn’t that be comfortable. 

**

We are moving in three weeks and I am scared. Can I leave this land and remain who I’ve become? Can I walk across a state line and stay this person?

Who am I? Was it fake? Was Iowa a mirage? Do I get to be happy? Do I get to keep them?

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the magic of children

I remember when my niece was born, that I used to catch my dad holding her on the couch, tears seeping out of the tops of his cheeks. No one could hear him; he didn’t produce sound. He just silently wept, overcome with what he was holding.

**

My friend had a baby and she let me kiss it when it was six days old and I couldn’t believe the privilege. I kept telling everyone. I texted my sister. I texted Nic. “I kissed a fresh new baby,” I told them. I got to get close to something that precious. I held her on my chest for a moment and the sheer rhythm of her breathing calmed my entire body down.

**

Yesterday, we took a walk in the woods. It was late in the afternoon, with a warm winter sun. When we came across our first bridge, I told Oliver that he should look for the trolls that live underneath of them. He grabbed a stick and began hunting, his intensity honestly a little surprising. He was angry at those non-existent trolls, and he was going to get them.

We passed many people while we were out. The weather was mild and people were enjoying the day. In order to downplay his angry stick-wielding, we divulged his task. “He’s hunting trolls,” we told them. “Don’t worry; we’re on this. The trolls won’t be bothering you today.”

Closing a roundabout, we came upon a family we had already seen at the onset. Two children and their parents. I watched the children dart ahead, after they saw us come though a clearing. And then, I heard them. “DON’T YOU DARE STEP ON OUR BRIDGE, CHILD!” They yelled. “GET OFF OF OUR BRIIIIIIDGE!” Oliver ran towards the bridge, desperate to take out his trolls. Then – I saw their arms reach out to grab him. They were fully committed to their act. They did not back down. Oliver ran screaming, back towards us. Their parents called them off task.

I could not believe it. 

I still can’t.

A child’s commitment to a child. A child’s commitment to another child’s fantastic vision.

**

I bought a hardboiled egg-with-eggplant (what?, I know) sandwich today and as I was picking it up, I watched a woman with dark skin and tired, wise, dark, crinkled eyes swipe her hand across the head of a blonde-haired child that wasn’t her child, and wasn’t her grandchild – but was most certainly hers. She didn’t even swipe it fast, for fear that the mother would see. She almost held it there, above his head, crowning his head with her palm, mid-air.

I felt a rush of air on my face, like an angel was swatting me in the face gently. I had to look away fast as I blinked, blurring the tears in my eyes.

**

These damn kids. These damn magic kids. My life feels insanely small now. And insanely big. I am sobbing — trying to understand what happened, and how to make sure none of it ever comes undone.

We are – at our root – every bit as beautiful as all those people crying and swiping heads know us to be. Our children are magic. We were once magic. Go back with me.

 

The Tornados That Brought Us to Hickory Hill

We are in our new house now. Our new house. La nuova casa, I keep telling Oliver, because I almost exclusively speak Italian to Oliver. We left ‘la vecchia casa’ and now we’re in ‘la nuova casa’, I tell him, over and over and over again.

Our new house is not a stand-alone house, and Nic is somewhat bothered by that. People love stand-alone homes — they love property and privacy and their names on things. But I love the division of property. And I privacy only some of the time. I revel in the gain you gain from sharing homes and lives and time with others. I learned this because I kept running from my own home when I was young, so I learned it as a result of some kind of lack, but all it did was GIVE BACK AND GIVE BACK.

A tornado dropped us here. It started in the cells of a man across the street from us — a neighbor that honestly lost his mind — due to drug use, perhaps combined with some other issues. As his behavior spiraled, our lives became intertwined in only the worst of ways. Fear became the most common feeling I had at home. So we started thinking. Maybe we should move? Then we started looking. We talked about Iowa City. How much we would love to live in the same city as Hickory Hill.

When I first moved to Iowa, it was to Iowa City, and it was almost 4 years ago exactly.

I came here to stay with a friend — and much to my surprise, I immediately felt a sense that I was home. (I was only supposed to be here for a couple months; I had plans to head off to another big city and to “figure out how to become a writer.”)

I was staying in Emily and John’s house with their two little boys. Emily was a friend from college. I was living amongst her family — and I kept staring at it, wide-eyed, like a little girl. Here are happy people. In a stand-alone house. With CHILDREN. How weird. I had been apartment-jumping and love-avoiding and I felt as far away from their state of being as I could have. Yet: I liked seeing it. It stirred something up within me. A tiny tornado of curiosity.

Emily lived right near a park that was essentially tons of semi-manicured woods: Hickory Hill.

I started walking every day in Hickory Hill. I filled me in ways I hadn’t been filled since I was a girl. I came from the woods. They have always been where I have found the most peace. Amongst the trees, amongst the green.

Then Nic and I fell in love there.

And I think we all know how that story went. Nic and I GOT MARRIED (in Hickory Hill) AND BOUGHT A HOUSE (forty-five minutes from Iowa City/Hickory Hill) AND HAD A CHILD.

And just like that: my plan to leave Iowa, my plan to stay single and childless — my life plans were obliterated.

(and that’s okay.)

**

Life kept spinning.

That child we had needed a doctor, and Emily had a sister who was a doctor (and a friend), and so we took our little baby to her after he came into the world. She measured him time and again, and calmed my fears when I had them.

And we kept living in Marion,  but visiting Emily and her sister in Iowa City, and taking occasional walks with Oliver and Béla in Hickory Hill.

Then our neighbor erupted and we started thinking it was time to leave our home, and maybe if we were lucky, we could get closer to that park…maybe we could figure out someplace nearby. A twenty-minute drive would be nicer than a forty-five.

Then the sister bought a house. With a mother-in-law apartment in the bottom of it. A home, underneath a home, with a separate entrance and a separate outdoor space, yet tied together with walls. Our ceilings are quite literally their floors. She has two children, too, and so, all together, we have three — Oliver has two brother figures built into the foundation.

And — well, the location could not be better.

Because.

THE BACKYARD IS HICKORY HILL. 

**

We moved in last weekend, and boxes are strewn about still. It looks wild in here.

But this is merely the calm after the storm. This is the calm after all of the storms.


 

if you want to page back through my blog, you can read the blog post I wrote when I first moved here — Iowa 75% Vowels, 100% Awesome  — and the one I wrote when I finally admitted I was in love with Nic — Fuck It; I’m In Love. I have no idea how to link them here bc I am not technologically advanced enough to even link my own blog to my own blog wtf

 

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The Non-Subtlety of God

I am supposed to be busy right doing some very important things. Things like “de-personalizing” the home [for sale purposes], walking Béla (but it’s hot as shit, she doesn’t want to, right?) and editing a piece I wrote that I really need to resuscitate.

But something happened this morning while I was working at Starbucks and I’m just sitting here, thinking about it.

I was leaning out of the drive-thru window, talking to woman in the driver’s seat, when she raised her head to the back, listening to her children speak. The windows were tinted, so I couldn’t see their faces. But her face. All of the sudden, her face sort of tilted to the right and she drew a tiny, hiccuped breath in and, looking shocked, revealed what they had wanted.

“They want to know…   [she paused] ….. if [short pause again] …you know God.”

My chest was leaning against the metal shelf that provides the bridge between the in- and out- of doors, and had my weight not been so properly anchored, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have slipped. It felt like the floor dropped from beneath me. My ears rang with the blatancy and directness of their question.

Do you know God? 

**

I met God when I met Béla and I met him again when I met Nic and again when I met Ollie. I meet him on the street twenty times a day, in the face of every dog I see. I meet him in the eyes of people on the sidewalk, in line at the grocery store. I meet him when my friends bring me into their homes and feed me and love me, like two dear ones did this week alone. I have talked to God a thousand times before bed, and in the middle of the day sometimes, and the night years ago that I asked him to give me a motherfucking sign if I was seriously in danger of dying ((and he did — and I was. I got to the hospital when a good portion of my left lung was already dead and both lungs were filled with blood clots)) So, yeah, I know God. He’s been a total homie and my saving grace and I have found him in the stars and the grass and bugs and flowers and trees.

And those little kids? They knew I knew him. They were just reminding me.

We all do it. We ask people if they know someone when we have a hunch they do.

You know — when you’re like — “Oh, hey — do you know Macy? She lives three streets up and has brown hair and a little beige dog and…”

We’re looking for confirmation, to know that our hunch is right and true.

I’m not looking for confirmation that I know God anymore. I’m done. This life has all been too sweet and too good.

So to the little angels in the backseat today — yes, I know God. Of course I do. He’s right in front of me. He is every last one of you.

Déjà Vu

I have been crying all day.

Like, all day. (The very worst moment was when Oliver looked up at me and saw tears in my eyes and immediately said, in his tiny baby voice: “Sowrry” like he had caused it.)

Because there are a whole bunch of changes upon me and I didn’t really ask for them or want them. And I feel them. And they are coming for me.

But I am comforted by one thing. And that is that I experienced déjà vu — not once — but twice, today. Twice. 

There are some scientific explanations for for the how and the why déjà vu occurs – and I’m not contesting any of them, but I have my own explanation. And that is: that it happens to let me know that I am on the right path.

Like, I’m suddenly experiencing something I have never experienced before — but that I have completely experienced before. When I first realize it, I get really quiet, just for a second. I drop my eyes and put my lips together, and I don’t say a word. It’s in my nature to yell out, “OMG THIS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED!”, but it’s like the shock of knowing what I am in the midst of takes over and silences me all the way through my body. I am silenced, by the magic of life unfolding in front of me.

**

This morning, I was itching to get a move on when my darling neighbor, Ginger, appeared. I haven’t spoken to her in months, I tell you; winter comes along and shuts down the block. So I wanted to ask her things and tell her things and just be with her a bit. Suddenly, Oliver took off and ran around the house. I called for her to join us in the backyard, but she did not hear. I considered grabbing him and heading back up, but I yelled to her louder, instead. She rounded the driveway and joined us. Oliver wanted to ride his tricycle (which means, have me push him while he yells ‘wheee!’) and beg for popsicles and scream unknown combinations of syllables at my face. He was ticked off about everything. But suddenly, he grabbed a bouncy ball and threw it to Ginger. Though she was balancing a tiny poodle in her arms, she reached up with her left hand and PALMED. IT. And so on, and so forth: Oliver and Ginger played a game of catch. (I want to say Ginger is in her 70’s, so palming a ball while balancing a poodle was wildly impressive to me. I suppose it would be at any age, really.)

I was crouching above the cement, staring into the sunlight and smiling when WHOOSH. Ohmygod, this moment is a repeat. This has happened. We’re here now. I’m on the right path. 

**

Hours later, I walked into a room for an interview for a job I didn’t particularly want. Not that the job sounds unappealing – it’s more so the fact that the job isn’t a writing job. (I want to be paid for my writing. It’s not just that I want to be paid for my writing — it’s that I want to be allowed to be writing. And that happens by way of being paid for writing. Because otherwise, you’re just sitting, writing, no paycheck in sight, with bills for food and daycare and house needs and you’re like bitch I have to write it feeds my soul isn’t that enough? and the answer is no.)

So, anyway, I walk into this interview and it is a small, intimate room, and they go to shut the door behind me when two beautiful dogs come bounding up to me. They approach, and sniff me, and one makes a snorting sound. I look down at it, delighted, puzzled — and then the woman on my left speaks. “Thank you. You may go now. That was the interview.”

She was kidding but holy shit how fantastic.

And —

WHOOSH. Ohmygod this moment is a repeat. This has happened. I’m here now. I’m on the right path. 

**

I’m not done crying. And I don’t know if I’ll get offered the job or if I’ll take the job or if we’ll move and where we’ll move and if I’ll ever get paid enough for my writing to cover my car payment, etc, but I’ll be damned, it feels so good to know that I’m on the right path.

 

Fight or Flight.

I FUCKING HATE ADDICTION.

I mean, no one likes it. But I hate it. I don’t blame the addict, but I hate it. I will avoid it – and the person it has affected – at all costs. Why?

Because addiction kills humanity. It just smashes it to smithereens.

It strangles it – and wrangles it – to the ground, and gets high off of the steam that rises.

My first name means Warrior Maiden. I have known this since I was roughly fifteen. It sounded a little cheesy, but also badass, so I committed it to memory. It did feel like me. I loved challenging people and ideas. I loved to fight.

I’m not fifteen. I’m done fighting.

I’m at the point where I’ve started running.

Last night, I ran away from home.

Homes don’t have meaning. Safety has meaning.

  • Are you free to be who you are?
  • Are you comfortable falling asleep?
  • Does your heart beat louder than it should?

You should have checked yes to the top two and no to the last question. If your answers were any other than this, please step out of the line and exit the building. You’re not good here. The air’s not right. You won’t be able to grow.

I’m writing this from the same home I moved into three and half years ago when I reached the shores of Iowa. You can even follow my blog back that far, and read the changes as they were happening. I had run. From a bad situation to a new one, and I was busy learning what that meant and how what it might feel like to again be free. Last night, I grabbed diapers for my baby and a leash for my dog and almost nothing for me – and I drove back here, to Iowa City. There’s a situation across the street from my house that isn’t safe for me. For us.

The neighbor on the other side of us is carrying a gun. I won’t carry a gun. BUT I WILL RUN. 

I will run every time something bad threatens to swallow me. I will never stay put, as long as I don’t feel free. I feel vulnerable, and pissed, and sad, and like I want to walk back home and cross the street and FIGHT. But I’m done. Because this, too, is a fight – the running. It’s a fight for a free and happy life. It’s a fight not against anyone else — but FOR ME. 

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happy birthday, baby.

IMG_6141Two years ago today, Oliver came into the-and-my world. I will never forget the first time I heard him. There was a child wailing in the delivery room, and I heard it as if it were far off in the distance. I did not believe it to be mine. That can’t be mine, right? There must be someone else in here. That shouldn’t be mine. 

**

I was sure I didn’t want a baby. I was sure I didn’t want a dog of my own. I was sure I didn’t want a husband.

Babies cry, and sometimes grow up to hate you. And sometimes get addicted to drugs. Dogs die. No matter how much they love you. And husbands? They treat you like shit. The ones that don’t end up leaving you are the ones you really want to. THIS. Was my worldview.

It’s six a.m. In Iowa. March 25th.

I crawled out of bed a little after five, and went into the living room. It was dark, aside from the yellow glow creeping in from the front porch light. Layers of darkness. You can make out the shape of the lamp, and the shape of the rug, and you can step around the table and over the dog because there are varying degrees of darkness and shade. You can work around them because you can partially see and because your body has learned how to know a space.

I didn’t want things because I couldn’t see around darkness and my body only knew a certain kind of space.

**

I remember the first time I saw Oliver, too. On the screen during the ultrasound. Nic was standing on my right side. And suddenly, there he was. In black and white and up on a screen high in front of me. A baby. My baby. Without any sound, and still filled with fear, my eyes started leaking. I was not crying. Believe me — I have been crying at least once a day every day since I was born. This was not a cry. This was…my body, leaking. Overflowing. In shock. Oh my dear god what have I done? 

**

I have learned a new way to live. A way that sees darkness and acknowledges darkness and knows how to walk through darkness — but that seeks light and gives power to the light and prefers the light. 

There has been so much light these past two years. It’s like there’s a hole in the top of our roof  — where those sun rays that you see sometimes that look like ladders or lines straight to heaven — are coming directly through. Sometimes, I stop and gasp. My life wasn’t supposed to look like this. It wasn’t supposed to feel so good. 

**

I don’t write to Oliver, which…strikes me as odd. I thought I would. I’ve written to him only once, shortly before he was born and it was a tiny little springtime poem.

But, Oliver, my son: thank you. For helping my eyes adjust to the light.