The Artist Up Above

This leaf

No kind of pine could ever

perform the somersaults

this leaf can as it sticks it’s landing

in the half brown grass.

 

Somebody, somewhere,

swirled His paintbrush

in the warm tones on His palette

and held it to the Earth,

dropping the paint on the summer leaf.

This little piece of a delicate scene

became adored by people who build skyscrapers,

operate cars, and throw waste to the Earth’s core.

Yet every year, that same Somebody

keeps on dipping His brush to the palette

and creating the leaf that stands out among the others.

1901

Louise could hear the murmurs through her bedroom door. It did not faze her. She continued to play with the dolls in her dollhouse. Her dollhouse was a three story with a spiral staircase, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom, and a play room. Lace curtains hung on the windows and miniature works of art were framed beside them. Most of the wallpaper was made of gold and all the furniture hand carved. A doll with blonde hair tied in a low pony tail and green eyes that wore a pink blouse with a high collar and a long white skirt was clenched tight in Louise’s hand as she walked up the staircase.

Often times, Louise grew bored of her dollhouse and left her room to investigate her home. She left her doll sitting in a comfy blue chair in the living room of it’s house and stood up to approach the door. As she turned the knob and pushed it open, the murmuring stopped. In front of her door was the hallway. It stretched in two directions: one straight ahead and one to the left. Both hallways had chandeliers hanging on the center that were lit, but not much light seemed to come from them. Tapestries decorated the walls, gorgeous imported runner rugs lined both halls. Portraits of people that looked similar to Louise hung beside the tapestries in carved frames. Louise usually explored the hallway straight ahead, but this time, she decided to learn what was behind the door at the end of the hallway on the left.

Louise stepped out of her room and shut the door behind her as something might assume it had permission to enter her bedroom and touch her toys. She straightened her long white dress and started down the left hall, peering into each room she passed. Most were empty, nothing but black could be seen behind half open doors. A few held dim light and a piece of furniture or a toy in the center. Louise never entered the black rooms, fearing what might really be in there. She once entered a dimly lit room and found that there was nothing but the item. If she picked it up, nothing happened. If she tried to create shadow puppets in the light, nothing happened. Not even a sound could be made if she stomped her black flats with the white bows against the floorboards. Nothing seemed to be able to exist in a room like this.

A bright light could be seen from under the door of the room at the end of the hall. Cautiously, Louise walked up to the door and got down on her knees to peek underneath. None of the doors in the house were shut except for this one. All she could see were different colors, yellow and pink and white, all blending together and moving throughout the air. Louise stood up and quickly opened the door, shutting it behind her. She could see more colors now. Blue and red and green were all twirling around the other colors, flying above her head. Louise laughed and chased the colors as they chased her back.

She soon noticed another door on the other side of the room. It was not attached to a wall, as there were no walls or even a ceiling in this room. Louise approached it, walking around the entire door that could somehow stand on it’s own. She was not sure if it had been there before, but when she turned in the direction she came from, the first door was gone. Maybe she was turned around, she thought, but this could not be as the door she came in from was a white door and this new door was a light pink door. As the colors continued to dance in streams above her head, Louise opened the new door and stepped inside.

The walls had carved images of birds and flowers along the edges and were painted a light shade of pink. Her dollhouse sat at the foot of her bed which had two wooden end tables on either side. A small cup of tea that Louise had forgot to finish drinking sat on one table. Her white sheets with pink flowers were still in a mess from the night before. She straightened her sheets and sat down on the floor to play with her dollhouse. She could hear the murmurs from the other side of her door. It did not faze her.

Poetic Things

Who decided that the image of drinking coffee and reading a book was so poetic? It’s certainly not my idea of being poetic or even artistic in the slightest. It is overrated at this point. Do you know what happens when you drink coffee every day and one day you do not? You suffer from what is known as a caffeine crash. Your brain feels like it may tear through your skull at any given moment. It feels impossible to even move your first foot out of bed. What’s so poetic about that? And what of the book? You might take a picture of your coffee and the book beside it is probably a classic like Hamlet or something. As soon as you finish editing the photo and posting it to Instagram, you put your phone down, and then what? You’re switching Hamlet for the Cosmopolitan newsletter on Snapchat. Maybe you leave the book out and pretend to read it, either way you’re not getting anything done.

Tell me, don’t you think there’s something poetic about the photographs of a calendar? Every photo is so different yet in the end the come together to represent the same thing. What about routine? People across the world wake up every day. eat breakfast, drink coffee in a non-poetic way, go to work, and do the same exact things they did the last time they were there. They wash their face and brush their teeth the same way they did last night. They kiss their spouse goodnight or clutch their favorite stuffed animal until they fall into deep sleep.

Have you ever looked into a still room? Be it old or new. The whole scene is so quiet. It absorbs absolutely nothing and gives off absolutely nothing. A crooked piece of furniture here, a dusty book there. How about a moving room? Nobody has to be inside. The lightbulbs scream with electricity on their own. The air conditioning blows the curtains back and forth. Music pours softly from a small radio. Bed unmade, clothes strewn across the floor. Tell me, what could possibly exist in these situations that is not poetic? From the overflowing hamper to the stain on the carpet, every single detain screams a word or a sentence or an entire collection of poetry. Why is it that the world is full of things so poetic it could bring tears to an author’s eyes, yet everyone just wants to write about how damn poetic a book and coffee is?

New Year

As I walk into the doors of my part-time job, I see many recognizable faces. I see my boss, Christine, who’s chatting with a customer. I see Linda, trying to figure out which shoe goes in which box. I see that woman in charge of security who never acknowledges my existence when I pass her. I’ve been at my job for five months now. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. I just keep on clocking in, doing my work, and going home.

Tomorrow, a brand new school year will start. Everyone will be awake before dawn. Students will be yawning during first period. Teachers will be handing out new textbooks. I used to be the one that was awake before dawn, yawning, and saying I want to go back to bed. Recently, I find myself, diploma in hand, staring at the mirror and wondering, “What will it be like without me?” Will it play out as every year does? The volleyball team will win a few games but never go to the championships, as opposed to the basketball team which will take the gold. There won’t be more than ten students at homecoming or prom. The ones that do go will pick out a table far in the corner and sit down to chat all night. I’ll probably never understand why anybody wants to go to a dance to do the exact opposite. There might be a couple new faces in the halls and there will probably be a few missing. The girl who’s only friend was a senior now walks to class alone.

Do I have it all wrong? Maybe the volleyball team will go to the championships and win like they did five years ago. Maybe more people will go to prom. I just can’t seem to stop myself from wondering what I’m missing. Here I am, the valedictorian of my graduating class, working in retail while the juvenile halls forget the soles of my shoes that strode across them. Here I am, ringing up a floral top and a long black skirt, while the gossip whispered by tenth graders is left unheard by my ears. Here I am, convincing a woman this purse is a great brand for reasons X, Y, and Z, while someone else’s car kicks up the gravel of the student parking lot.

Tomorrow will be the first morning that I don’t find myself tearing into a new pack of pens that will probably be lost in a week. It will be the first morning that I don’t step out of my Buick and see all the high schoolers walking to class. I won’t see that tall kid with the orange hair that always said hello and called me “Miss Emily” which in return I’d scold him and say, “I’m not old enough to be called ‘Miss,'” although I always secretly liked feeling authoritative. Soon enough the school dances will come around and I will not be there to decorate the gymnasium with tacky streamers and dollar store table clothes. I won’t look around to see the middle schoolers hanging plastic stars above the doorway nor the one girl who’d ditch her star-hanging friends to create the cutesy table centerpieces. Instead, I’ll be at my not first but second job, folding t-shirts and trying to sell more handbags.

Soon enough, the soles of younger shoes will meet the halls I once walked through. New students will receive the bone-shaking lectures of our principal a few times throughout the year. Nobody will be taking the headmaster seriously, and they never will. A new teacher will make the yearbook and a new graduating class will be featured in its pages. I might stop by one day to visit my favorite English teacher and the faces I don’t recognize will be trying to piece together who I am and why I am there. The faces I do know will wonder why I ever came back. They all will be trying to remember the answers to their tests or cheating off their neighbor’s paper. I’ll keep on selling handbags.

Hair Clip

We grew up together. Our relationship was basically pretending to know each other without really knowing anything about each other. I met her in the fourth grade. We were best friends in the beginning. We played with a basketball during recess on her first day. Standing on the sideline of the basketball court, we passed a basketball back and forth. I guess I wasn’t really paying close enough attention, or maybe her toss was a bit too hard, but my pinky finger on the right hand got jammed that day. It must not have been too bad, though, because it healed correctly without me even doing anything to it. You know, sometimes my memory doesn’t serve me correctly. I might have done something to fix it. After all, I do remember carrying a broomstick to school as a crutch when I pretended to twist my ankle. I remember that because I left the broomstick at school and my parents made me sweep the floor with a feather duster.

Apparently she had a lisp. I can’t recall ever noticing she had a lisp, but everyone always tells me they heard it. Now, I do remember when she would talk in this pitch that we called her “baby voice.” It was sort of like the pitch you’d talk in if you were talking to your dog, but we put this spin on it to make it sound more babyish. I don’t know a better way to describe it. We were kids and kids do weird things like that.

We didn’t really start to drift as friends until middle school. We had assigned seats at lunch because everyone got too rowdy and it upset the lunch lady. She sat with a group of girls in the grade above us and instantly hit it off with them. I don’t really know about her life during middle school. We didn’t talk at all, or if we did, it usually wasn’t about her. We did have a reconnection in the eighth grade. Whether or not that was because everyone else hated us, I don’t know. I revealed my deepest secret to her that year and she told me it was okay and she would always be my best friend no matter who I had a crush on.

She started wearing glasses with black frames and a gray jacket with black leather on the front in ninth grade. I think she started smoking weed that year. I only know because I asked her that summer if she’d ever tried it and I told her I had wanted to know what it was like. Maybe even try it for myself. I never did, and I still haven’t. “I only smoke it when I’m stressed. I keep some in my room all the time,” she said. I don’t know if that was true. I always felt she kept a part of that from me. She made friends with people that year that I’d never meet. She made friends with college kids or college dropouts. I don’t know what happened to her the next two years. She went to a lot of parties and talked about them in school. I heard the same stories over and over again as she told anyone that would listen. “This kid showed up and was doing donuts in her yard! People were jumping over the fire!” She’d say. She always smiled really big when she talked about the parties. She always said she hated alcohol and had no tolerance for it. Something else had to have been in her system those nights. Maybe it was weed. Maybe she just felt alive.

She never caught me up on her life. During senior year, we both took Calculus. It was a small school and we were the only two in the class. She poured her heart out to the teacher and I almost every day. One of those days was the first day I’d seen her cry. She had been talking to her boyfriend or ex-boyfriend outside and her eyes were wet before she even came into the classroom. Every time she rambled about her feelings to me it felt like a new hole opened in my heart. Where had I been all this time? I was never there to help her through any of it. I was never there to keep her on the right path. I was never there at 2:00 A.M. for her to tell me the things she never told anyone and I was never there to give her advice. I was never really there for her at all. Here I was, growing up with a girl I didn’t know anything about. Every day that she poured her heart out, every day that she told me things in private, they never could add up to the time that I already missed.

At the very end of the year, during the senior luncheon and graduation rehearsal, we sat next to each other and didn’t say anything. I never really understood what was going on that day. She tried to tell me what happened, something about her boyfriend, but she spoke quickly and not clearly. Her eyes seemed to be permanently looking at the floor. I didn’t know if she’d be able to smile for a week. She even disappeared for twenty minutes that day and our teacher sent me to find her. I found her outside standing by her boyfriends car, talking to him while he sat in the driver’s seat. She was crying so much and trying so hard to make it go away. She was always really strong, even in that moment of weakness.

She took her hair clip out of her hair that day and attached it to the strap on my purse. I reminded her it was there before she left, but she never got it back. That brown faux suede purse with the brown fringe is hanging on the hook on my bedroom door with the little black hair clip still attached. Two of the teeth on the clip are broken off. One on either side. Maybe that’s why she took it out of her hair. Maybe that’s why I’d never really know her. Maybe that hair clip is the reason she bottled everything up inside. Maybe it’s the reason she didn’t keep things bottled up.

Video Games

Something about the way he sat in front of the television day in and day out turned her stomach. Her little boy, nine years old, hadn’t spent more than three hours away from his games when you don’t include sleep. If he slept. He was so good at turning down the volume to just the right notch that his mother couldn’t hear the heads of bad guys being blown off or the constant cursing of the protagonist. Sometimes, though, she would stand in the doorway when he accidentally left it cracked and peak in at his game. Everything about it terrified her. His character, whom she could not see as the game was in first person, used a shotgun and spat swears every other word. Her little boy, on the floor, controller in hand, repeating them. “I’m gonna blow your mother fucking head off!” He’d whisper at the TV. What could she do? She tried to take his games away. He always found the place she hid them and took them back when she wasn’t around.

On his twelvth birthday, Daddy bought him four video games along with a new gaming system. It wasn’t the one that he wanted. “What the hell, Dad? I told you I wanted an XBox 1, not a damn PlayStation 4!”

“Don’t use those words,” he tells his son, who doesn’t listen. Everything mom and dad say goes in one ear and out the other. There’s no point scolding him anymore. No amount of trips to the psychologist or the guidance counselor will work. “He’ll grow out of it,” Mom tries to console her husband. “It’s just a phase.” She knows what has always been going on behind their son’s door, and what always will, but she keeps her hope. He storms upstairs to his room and hooks up his new system anyways. The old system stopped working two days ago, and he was starting to feel withdrawal. His hands shook when he went to bed at night and he experienced anxiety over every little thing. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t want anyone to know.

Christmas day, four years later, he locks himself in his room. His wireless controller has died five times. He plugs it in until it’s charged but he never stops playing. Nobody even knows what he’s playing anymore. “Honey,” his mother hesitates to try and speak to him. “We’re leaving your gift in front of your door. We think you’ll really love it. Goodnight.”

Most of the time his parents pretend to walk away so they can see his face again. This time they didn’t. He still waits until sometime around 3:00 A.M. the next day to open his door. A shoebox sized gift wrapped in blue paper with smiling snowmen on it sits in front of him. He looks around, picks it up, and shuts his door. He doesn’t expect to find what it’s contents are. An instructional packet, a small black earpiece, an adjustable headband, some strange circular pads with wires connected to them, and a long rectangular bar with cushion on one side all sit in the box. He picks up the instructional packet and thumbs though it, half reading the whole thing. By 6:00 A.M. he has it all set up. At 9:00 A.M. he is playing his video games while eating breakfast with his parents. There is no screen in front of him, except for the black bar across his eyes. “So, you like your gift?” Dad asks. “We figured it would be fun to have at lunch when you go back to school,” His son says nothing. He quickly eats his eggs and returns to his room. The next morning, his mother pours salt on his cereal. He doesn’t notice and scarfs it down. He even drinks all the milk.

It isn’t a holiday and a holiday neither has come or will come. Not because the calendar says so, but because he has been lying in bed in three days straight and they didn’t know until now. It wasn’t unusual for him to skip breakfast and dinner as they always kept snacks in the house and assumed he’d eat when he was hungry. He didn’t this time. But the starvation didn’t cause his death. He never even felt the tightness in his chest. His mother blames herself for convincing her husband to buy him that game and all the games before it. Her husband is relieved. They no longer carry the burden that was their son.