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.

In the Cracks of the Sidewalk

Overcast

The weather was nice

His skin golden and ready for more

Never seen him before

Says he’s in my class

Must be sitting behind me

Overcast

Disappointment in the sky

But in the cracks of the sidewalk

Pollen piles up

And a tear in the sky reveals warmth

I am as sad as the sky

Because I didn’t meet his eyes sooner

They were blue enough

To fill the atmosphere

And banish the gloom

So I smile at the pollen

In the cracks of the sidewalk

It doesn’t occur to me

That I didn’t ask his name

Because it’s overcast.

Settling Down

I put the key into the ignition and as it clicks into place, anticipation radiates from my 2005 Buick Century. Cars may or may not like driving. This one, and I know this is true, likes the way the breeze moves against its sides as it cuts through it like the sharpest blade in the knife block. Nobody ever stops feeling thrill, not even my car. But it definitely has seen better times, and it slowly but surely is coming to its end. It doesn’t matter. I love driving my car.
The coffee pot on the counter beside the microwave has a two hour automatic shut off. I live with someone who wakes up exactly one hour and fifty nine minutes before me every morning. Three cabinets on the wall above the coffee pot hold nothing but different brands of the same coffee. For some odd reason, we have too many mugs to fit in the cabinet on the far right yet we put them in there anyway. Two mugs sit on top of the microwave and make small vibration sounds as I cook grits that came from a pocket of recycled paper. Sometimes they don’t vibrate, because sometimes the newly installed bar of light nailed to the underneath of the cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen make strange popping sounds as if it’s settling or melting slightly when the heat from the bagel in the toaster rises. Those times are better. I can just move the toaster. I have nowhere to put the mugs.
I’ve only read 1/3 of the books on the bookshelf in my room but if you’d ask about it I’d say I’ve read them all twice. The closet doors belonging on the frame of the random depth in my room aren’t even there. They lie in the attic where it is too hot for me to bring them down. I never wanted them anyways. I read five articles I haven’t read before about how to find a career or how to chose one or how to make money. Does every college student do that? Am I even a real college student yet? Anyways, I sit in front of my laptop trying to find the answer to a question that never has and never will exist. Nobody can plan your future for you. I think about how I don’t have a defining moment and I don’t know if I should be worried about that. I wake up in this bedroom in the same bed I’ve been sleeping in since grade 3 and I go to work every day. I’ve never been raped or arrested or fired or in love.
Every day, around 5 but sometimes 4 because I work two jobs and one of them gives me more hours, I’m leaving my house. “See you later,” I say to my mother upon leaving and “Hey, dad,” I say to my father upon arriving. She says “drive safe” or “see you later” or “love you” or all three. He always just says “hey, Emmie.” He only comes in the house three times in the afternoon. Once at 5 when he comes home, once between 7 and 7:30 to make dinner, and lastly at 10 to fall asleep on the couch. This is where he is when I come home.
4:57 P.M. is when I step out of car into the heat of summer and walk roughly forty steps to the front door and then another forty to get to the break room where I let out a heavy sigh and punch in at 4:59 P.M.. “Hey, girl!” Most employees say to me. They don’t remember my name. Most don’t want to. Forty steps back to the front of the store. A sheet of paper with times of day written all over. Emily: 5:00-10:30. Break: 7:15-7:30. Register 2.
I follow its orders and log in to Register 2. The first shitty person of the day walks up to me and probably is on the phone and won’t answer my questions or they want another markdown on something that is already marked down or they interrupt me. Same three questions, over and over again, for five hours. “Hi, how are you today?” “Did you find everything okay?” “Would you like to save 10% and apply for our credit card?”
Over and over and over again until we close. The trash gets taken to the back with the security tags I removed from clothing all day. I straighten the shelves whose only purpose is to make people buy things they don’t need. The soda cooler gets filled with drinks. I might help out in a different department. As I take the trash to the back, I’m riding the cart like a child because usually my foot hurts too much to walk or I need something fun. Tanya is on the aisle with the towels and she’s folding the blue ones. We finally go home and I drive down the road, take a right, another right, go straight, take a left, go straight, take a right, take a right, go straight on curved roads, watch out for wild animals trying to cross the road, take a left, take a slight left, take a right, take a left. My dog sniffs my tires. I wash my face and go to bed. I write a bit or read sometimes but most times I go right to bed.
The day comes that I finally quit my job and start doing what I love. Maybe the articles did help. I don’t make a lot of money but I will if I write five novels a month. Two hundred-sixty novels a year. No more settling down. No more normal life. I don’t even care that I’m broke as hell. As long as I am far away from customers and cash registers and that deer in the woods by my house that always stares at me when I come home. I don’t know why but I always felt as though we were alike in some way. Who am I kidding, it’s just a deer. It’s nothing but an animal I almost ran over. I’m too happy and poor now to care. Now I wear a huge puffy coat in December instead of a thin sweater. Both were gifts.