Monday, November 24, 2008

Picture Frame

When some people are sad, they drink. Or they cry. Or they exercise. Or they argue with their loved ones. Or they find some fairytale to take them away from it all. God knows I've done all of those things, but mostly, I write.

I sometimes wonder if other people's brains work the same way mine does. I don't mean to say that I'm more intelligent or more interesting, because I'm probably not. But my brain is constantly making up stories. My body will be in Pharmacology, but in my mind, I've just met Leonardo DiCaprio and he's telling me how he never realized how wrong Bar Rafaeli was for him until he met me. Or I'm a spy sneaking into a Middle Eastern country with a fake passport and an authentic ability to speak Arabic. Or some other fantasy that is just outside my reach.

I could tell the actual story, all facts and no lies, but that's not the way I see it in my head. I'll start with the truth and add some accessories.

In the way that things should be, we're both in phone booths. Phone booths are best for conversations like these. I am walking home from class in a skirt and sensible shoes, and the sun is shining. I can't stop smiling. You are on your way home from work. It's raining and you're in a black suit with a matching hat. You rush into the booth, shaking out your umbrella. There is an eight hour difference in our days and this is the time that works best for us to speak.

In the real version, I'm curled up with a book in a hot pink chair, sloppily dressed in jeans and a university t-shirt. I'm sure that you're in your room wearing those old track pants, smoking cigarettes, one after another, getting ready for bed. You call me on a whim, because you haven't heard my voice in nearly six months.

Cell phones and casual dress take all the poetry out of this story.

Here is the part that is true:

We each knew that this call would happen someday, but neither of us was looking forward to it. I knew exactly how it would feel, the knife sinking into the heart, all the way to the handle. I knew that it would leave a dull, steady ache in the chest of whomever it rested.

Your voice is thin and faraway on the telephone line as I imagine it traveling from your mouth into the phone lines which rest on the floor of the Atlantic until it reaches New York and connects with the country I call home. Even in that great distance, I can hear you searching for a casual way to tell me, hoping that the words won't shoot from your lips too carelessly. I will myself not to make a sound as your confession reaches my ears. I make a joke, remembering to smile so that the sound of that first tear rolling down my cheek is inaudible.

It hurts too much to speak English, so I switch to a neutral language, one that we each learned as adolescents. I feel that it is only fair for both of us to be at a linguistic disadvantage. It feels safer that way.

I ask if she's pretty and "Not as pretty as me" is your smug reply. My laugh is hollow and insincere as I tell you that I'm glad to see you haven't lost your sense of narcissism.

And just like that, it's over. You've fulfilled the agreement that we had and there's nothing left. You tell me "Bon courage" because "Gros bisous" is too intimate for us now and I wish you the same.

And it's not that I loved you because there wasn't much of my heart left to give but I just wanted to keep everything that we shared in a picture frame so that no one else could touch it and there was always the possibility that we could go back to it someday. From the moment we parted ways, we knew that someone would walk by and carelessly push the frame from that table, causing it to shatter as it fell to the ground.

This is the conte de fee that I promised I would write about you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Not that I'm counting, but...

Things I Am Looking Forward to Doing in Twenty-Five Days:
- Seeing my mommy and my daddy and my brother
- Wearing my new winter coat and reuniting with my orange coat. I gave it a break after wearing it for 6 months straight in France. I think it's about time to bring it back.
- Wasting my days away in my mom's kitchen, trying out the recipes I've been saving all semester
- Spending way too much time with Netflix documentaries
- Staying out late with the people who were eyewitnesses to most of the embarrassing moments in my adolescence
- Sleeping in! (And sleeping in something that is not a twin bed)
- Houses full of relatives, food, crying babies, winter sweaters, running kids, and loud laughter
- Playing piano to my little heart's content

For the first time in my entire life, I won't be going home for Thanksgiving. No staying up until the early morning making pies. No pumpkin pie for breakfast while sitting in my pajamas and watching the Macy's Day Parade. No eating too much turkey and partnering with my seventeen-year-old cousin to try to convince our baby cousin that "big girls take naps", which leads to all of us falling asleep in a full bed until someone comes to wake us up and tell us that they're getting ready to eat pie. I'm excited to have a new, exciting Thanksgiving experience, but I love spending Thanksgiving with my family. I wish I could be in both places at once.

I bought a pumpkin pie at Trader Joe's two nights ago and there are only two slices left. It was really delicious. Sorry, Mom. You've got competition.

Little-known and completely random fact: I have a breakup playlist. It's called "Awesome Breakup". I'm not dating anyone right now, but a girl's got to be ready for whatever life throws at her. Anyway, I update it on a fairly regular basis. However, I've discovered something even better. Consider this a breakup song-and-dance, appropriate for any breakup, dedicated to no man in particular.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


I want to go to Juarez and stand against those who would hurt young women who look exactly like me.

I want to start wishing on stars again.

I want to find a job that I love.

I want to be near my family.

I want to wear more dresses.

I want to be brave enough to say what I think and kind enough to consider the feelings of others.

I want to make the people who matter proud of me.

I want to stop saying "Oh, what the hell..." and getting myself into ridiculous situations, but I can't even imagine the great stories I would lose by doing that.

I want to dance more.

I want to wake up earlier, so that I'm not always rushing.

I want to go places I've never been and do things I've never done.

I want to train my dog.

I want to finish knitting a sweater. Or a blanket. Or anything bigger than a purse.

I want to find a new church.

I want to live in my own big-girl apartment.

I want to waste afternoons climbing trees.

I want to grow a pumpkin.

I want to learn how to give IVs.

I want to live above a bookstore. Or a bakery. Or a hardware store. I'm not all that picky.

I want to eat foods worth eating.

I want to finally learn how to play the guitar. For real, please.

I want to remember what it feels like to believe in magic.

And here is a song that makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pilgrimage to Mraz

I have been to California three times this semester. Driven between Phoenix and Los Angeles six times in the past four months. It's my favorite state and one of my favorite places in the whole world.

For Halloween, I was able to take a last-minute trip to Westwood with my best friend/ex-roommate/wifey to see Jason Mraz and to stay with my two best friends from high school.

This is kind of how it went:

Listening to Jason Mraz for well over six hours, windows down, sunglasses on.

Feeling that the Pacific was near, even though we couldn't see it. Smells of the coastline and gasoline and the foods that I grew up with.

Seeing Nicole's Westwood townhouse for the first time and rushing to get our costumes together.

High school best friends wondering who let us grow up and get so old so quickly.

Amy Winehouse running around Westwood with a vampiress and a toilet.

Seeing high school classmates. Laughter and hugs and ridiculous statements.

Saturday was, without a doubt, the best day of my life. That sounds trite, I know, but it was one of those perfect, laid-back, full-of-adventure days that I wish could last for weeks. Mariam and I decided to hit up Hollywood Boulevard, never dreaming that we would need jackets. It poured and our jeans were soaked to the knees as we rushed over Walk of Fame stars in search of an umbrella.

We finally found one in a corner drugstore, where the owner gave us Halloween candy. We stopped at Cafe Audrey for paninis. We wasted the afternoon at Sephora. And then we went to the concert.

Please let me stop and gush about Jason Mraz. Jason Mraz was the soundtrack to my first San Francisco roadtrip at age sixteen. One of the few CDs I had left in my Jeep after my CD case was stolen during my senior year in high school. He sang me lullabies during my dorm days of college. And I was silly enough not to go to one of his shows in Tempe on an idle Tuesday during my first year of college, because "Oh, he'll go on tour again next year."

That was THREE years ago.

I was fiercely anticipating this concert. Mariam and I fought tooth and nail for two tickets, any two tickets, and ended up with PIT SEATS. We worried that they wouldn't arrive in sufficient time to allow us to drive to California. We crawled across the desert to see this show.

The joy of legitimately having concert tickets and pit wristbands was almost too much to handle.

This is kind of what you would have seen if you had been there:

I think that Jason Mraz is incredibly talented and it was a lovely way to pass an evening in California. I am a girl of too many words but I can't find quite the right one to describe how talented I think Jason Mraz is. It was a beautiful night.

Side note: One of Jason Mraz's opening acts was a British band called Two Spot Gobi who look like a bunch of guys that would hang out with my brother. They are phenomenal. The kind of music I would put on repeat and blast as I drive around during the afternoons at home. They have this very harmonic reggae/folk/ska sound. Also, they don't have keyboards and it doesn't sound empty. I'm sold. I came home and bought all of their music, which is a huge sacrifice, because I never buy music (I am always, always, always illegally downloading music; RIAA's enemy number one right here). But these guys are worth spending money on. Mariam and I got a chance to talk to them after the show and they're great.

Things I've Decided:
- I want to play more music with more strangers.
- It's going to be very difficult to convince me that I want to live anywhere other than California when I grow up.
- If at all possible, when I grow up, I'm going to sell my car.
- California has a much higher percentage of beautiful, friendly, fascinating people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is my first Veteran's Day without my grandpa and something just feels a little bit off. For you, Veteran's Day might conjure up images of military cemeteries and waving flags. This is what Veteran's Day always feels like for me:

Timing my phone call so that it was late enough for chores to be over, but early enough so that he wouldn't be eating what he called dinner and what I called lunch. The phone would ring six, seven, eight times before he would pick up, his voice thick and gravelly, a complication of his stroke.

"Hi Grandpa, thanks for serving."

He would call me sweet, call me a good girl, and ask me about school. That was the most important phone call I would make each year.

I don't know who to call this year, or what I would say, even if I did have someone else to call. So instead, I'll be thankful for every day of freedom, I'll listen to "Proud to Be an American" and cry my eyes out like I always do, and I will give myself liberty to admit how much I miss my grandpa.

To all the men and women in the United States military: Thank you for serving, from the very bottom of my heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008


"Mom, he is instigating!"

Nine years old. I've already raced through the collected works of Twain and Shakespeare, but I'm stuck in the backseat of my mom's Jeep, no air conditioning, zooming past walnut orchards and rice fields, a barricade of pillows between me and my brother. He is poking me with a finger, a hanger, anything he can find. When I scoot further away, he stares at me, making faces, daring me to react.

My mother is pragmatic. "Don't pay him any attention. He'll get bored sooner or later and leave you alone."

I spent my childhood perfecting the art of being aloof. I learned to deflect cruel names aimed at my insecurities with a serene smile and an upturned nose. I would float away into the clouds, thinking about a piece of music or dance choreography.

Oh, I'm good at ignoring.

But you, sir, are instigating. I'm not nine years old anymore, my patience is much shorter, and as much as my mom attempted to raise me to let things go, I don't. I won't. I am full of opinions and while I will not write them on a picketing sign and parade in front of your house, I will not sit idly, silently by as you dare others to disagree.

You scream words like "babykiller", "terrorist". You walk a tightrope of bigotry and hate, convincing yourself that your crusade is righteous. Your anger has nothing to do with who he is and everything to do with the fact that your guys didn’t win. “Pro-life” is a term behind which you cache yourself, spouting outdated statistics and feebly attempting to play on the collective pathos. TWO MILLIONS BABIES A YEAR! you cry. TWO MILLION INNOCENTS! STOP THE BABYKILLERS! Let’s do that, sir. Let’s go after every single politician that has allowed abortion to happen. Every single physician. Every nurse. Every heartless, monstrous woman that has deliberately murdered her unborn child. Let’s put all their names on a list. Ostracize them. Refuse them work, food, shelter. Let's refuse them respect, because that seems to be your favorite game. We will treat each one as if they were beasts, savages. Because the shame and grief that she felt after that terminated pregnancy was simply not enough. She needs you, sir, to remind her of that pain, those tears, the emptiness in the center of her body. She needs you to never allow her to forget the sorrow of that day. Because obviously you know better than she does. You were in that room, cold, exposed, surrounded by strangers. You, sir, were the one who walked in with a life inside of you and walked out hollow and hurting.

I have been there. Three hours in the waiting room at Planned Parenthood, holding my best friend's hand as she waited for the results to a pregnancy test she didn't think she would have to take. I saw those girls, years younger than myself, waltz in and out of the room, asking for contraceptives. I was witness to their hollow eyes and the bodies that others used and threw away. I grew up with these girls, spent my afternoons walking home with them. My heart breaks for each one of them, for the decisions each has made. Abortion is a travesty. I understand that. But without legalized abortion, these young women would be sneaking in back doors, placing their lives in the hands of butchers without medical degrees. How many of them would die of hemorrhages? Infections? How many would be sterile? I know these girls and I know that abortion is not something they take lightly. I will stand with them and for them. It is my responsibility to give grace, not judgment. It is my responsibility to show these girls love, not to force them to follow the rules of a God who they do not claim as their own. Put me on your abortion blacklist too, because for all you know, I’m an accessory to murder in the first degree.

ter-ror-rist = a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities

I'll admit that most of my heroes are radicals. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Teresa. Jesus Christ himself was a radical. These people were crazy. They lived their lives in ways that just didn't make sense. Radicals...what were they thinking? They lived lives that were wholly focused on people other than themselves. They did not really possess anything, giving everything they owned to a greater cause. They were mocked, prosecuted, assassinated. They were radicals.

I've seen terrorism. I've seen it on the news. Less than a day ago, a 13-year-old girl in Iraq became the youngest suicide bomber in this war. Women are kidnapped, raped, and killed in Juarez; drug dealers gain all the power as people are too afraid to leave their houses. Law enforcement officers have begun to refer to street gangs as terrorists. A terrorist is a person who uses fear to manipulate others. By that definition, the United States media is the biggest source of terrorism that I encounter every day. I am told that it is not safe to travel, not safe to drive, not safe to walk by myself, not safe to live by myself, not safe to eat foods that are not organic, not safe to use a cell phone. Terrorism's greatest source of power is that which you hand over by allowing someone else's scare tactics to control your life.

Religion is the ideal cover for terrorism. We've all done it. The Christians, the Muslims, the Jews. Lest we forget, let's talk about some of the mistakes that we as Christians have made. The Crusades. St. Bartholomew's Massacre, which occurred when ten to a hundred thousand French Protestants were killed by French Catholics; I can recite that one for you in French and in English. The Pilgrims bringing smallpox to Plymouth Colony and taking land that rightly belonged to the Native Americans; that's a pretty ingenious start to biological warfare. Around the turn of the 20th century, white Protestants in the South used all sorts of terrorism (lynching, murder, beating, tar-and-feathering) in order to defeat black Christians, Mormons, Jews, and Catholics. And currently, the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda is attempting to replace their country's constitution with the Ten Commandments, which has lead to the slaughter of more than ten thousand people. There are an estimated 2 million missing persons and most children in the country have been kidnapped to work as child soldiers or sex slaves.

Terrorism and terrorists are very real. But the things of which you speak are not terrorism.

You fight the battles of “the real American”. You insinuate that I have no love for my country. I am an American citizen, born and raised on American soil to American parents; you don't get much more American than that, although I understand your concerns. My America might look a little different than what you consider America to be. You have never heard its music, smelled its cooking, been fluent in its bilingual dialect. You fail to realize that both my grandfathers fought for this country, and will continue to fight the demons of bloody pasts until their warriors’ hearts stop beating. You do not know that as the National Anthem played before every Oakland A’s baseball game, my father would lean over and whisper these words into my ear: “We are doing this to celebrate our freedom. In other countries, people are not as free as us. You should be thankful every day for your freedom.” You did not cry my hot, angry tears as I sat in the back of my high school theater, hearing the report that we bombed Baghdad, loving my country even as I disagreed with our actions, and knowing exactly who would go off to fight after we graduated. You have not passed sleepless nights with me as I prayed for the boys I grew up with who are fighting in someone else's war. You have not been awoken by phone calls in the middle of the night. They call just to say hello, just to hear a friendly voice, just to make sure that someone remembers that they are still fighting. I see their faces when they come home. I knew them as little boys with round cheeks and mischievious eyes. I love them and I am thankful for the sacrifices which are so painfully visible. Their eyes are cold now and when we laugh, it's not the same.

You look at my passport and infer that I am a socialist, an expatriate hypnotized by travel in radical foreign nations. If I were a socialist, I would renounce my American citizenship and move to a socialist country. You, sir, have not traveled with me. You have not spent six months in a foreign city, defending your country in a foreign tongue while trying to make foreign friends. You form grandiose plans of leaving the country and moving somewhere else. You speak no language other than English. You desire to move somewhere less liberal, more moral. Good luck, sir, but here’s my warning: they won’t want you. They will judge you based on your illiteracy, your appearance, your belief system. For the first time in your life, you will experience the shame of hearing, “Learn our language or go back where you belong!"

You imply that because I think and vote differently than you, I love the Lord my God less than you do. You say that I am misstaken, unaware of what the Bible states. That is simply false. I have read, and studied, and lived the Word of God. I serve a God who is just and loving and jealous and powerful and holy. I know Him, who He is and who He is not. And for you, sir, I only have one question: How many sinners have you loved today? San Francisco is a city with which I am familiar. When I picture Jesus, it's there that I see him. Walking through the Castro and preaching the Gospel to people you would not lower your eyes to look at. He would spend His nights cradling a heroin addict who shivers, sweats, and vomits in a rehab facility as she tries to get clean for the fourteenth time.

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of who I am the worst." 1 Timothy 1:15

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall is my favorite season

Today, I woke up to a beautiful world. Today gave me goosebumps, even as I was falling asleep in lab. Today was a day for walking in the cool breeze and trying new foods and living in each exquisite moment. Today, I wore a new t-shirt and drank too much coffee and studied for pharmacology. Today was magical.

I wore long sleeves and they weren't enough to keep me from shivering as I walked the neighborhood. In another place, I would spend a night like this wrapped in a blanket on a rooftop or in the bed of a pickup. There would be music and laughter, the two blending to form the diamond sparkle music of the stars. But here, I spent it walking alone and naming the constellations. And I wouldn't have dared be anywhere than there in those fleeting seconds.

Tonight, I'll sleep a full eight hours. I'll get up in the morning to go running. I'll finally find the time to do laundry. I'll go to the grocery store for the first time in over a month. These quotidien chores are novel and rewarding after so many midterms, sleepless nights, road trips, and auditions.

Today, I finally have enough hours in the day.

Thanks, Arizona, for finally turning into autumn. I like you so much more this way.