“Your Starbucks Cup is Not a Name Tag” and other findings among my penance served in the world of serving

Mostly I write a lot of junk poetry. It’s sort of my daily thing to clear head space. For the past three days though, and really since I poured it all out in the last blog, I’ve felt none too poetical, instead turning the introspective gaze to more solid wondering having to do with what it is to be a young woman in this time in history and all the other trailing ribbons of whatever that means. To help me along in these thoughts has been my spirit guide, Lena Dunham.

Lena Dunham, star and writer of HBO hit Girls, wrote a book called, “Not that Kind of Girl.” Asked to describe this book to a co-worker in 5-words, I gave the smart ass reply, “Not that Kind of Girl,” but in a way it also fits what Lena’s work is all about. I started reading it (and I stopped my daily writing…coincidence?) on the 17th and finished it on the 21st. The book feels like a pleasant coffee date with your BFF: the caffeine consumption allowing you both to open up more than usual, making casual confessions of things you never thought another person would (or would want to) hear. But as you talk, you find catharsis and an understanding of your history in relation to your whole self that’s thrilling, but also a little sad. After your friend goes home, you feel a little depressed and prone to cry at stupid inspirational videos on Facebook that you had no intention on clicking on, but find yourself committing to. It’s like that.

It’s like, on my dates with Lena, I found she was giving the kind of advice I’d only come to give myself after a shattering amount of heartbreak. She went through the crisis for me, and came out the other side with self-deprecating quips I recognize all too well. My favorite and uncomfortably familiar chapter was her “Girls and Jerks.” Lena and I have a painful insanity to throw our lot in with men who fall into this spectrum. So much so that it’s a wonder her (and my) chapter on “girl crushes” is so short.

Women of our age range owe it to themselves to read her confessions in NTKOG, but I want to include a sample of the work as well that hit me hard with self-identification of where I have been for the past couple of years. Here’s to hoping this falls under the fair use of copyright.

She writes: “It wasn’t just that these crushes made the days pass quicker or satisfied some raging summer lust. On some deeper level, they made it all feel less adult. I’d been thrust into a world of obligations and responsibilities, budgets and scrutiny. My creative process had gone from being largely solitary to being witnessed by dozens of “adults” who I was sure were waiting to shout This, this is the reason we don’t hire 25 yr old girls! Romance was the best way I knew to forget my obligations, to obliterate the self and pretend to be someone else”

There’s not a lot else I know to say about the book. It wasn’t the best writing I’ve ever read, but it spoke to me. Sometimes that’s enough.

I’m trying to transition more gently in my blogs, but my topics are most times unrelated and so you may have to just accept the hard breaks in consciousness until I learn to think and write in better ways. Like just now…I had a yellow jacket land on my notebook. I patiently waited on him to leave and then I took a drink from my coffee, startled myself on a large piece of ice unexpectedly coming up the straw, and spit it all over my pants front in compensation. Only a couple of students saw it, so all is well.

Another hard break….and it’s a real hard break. Luther Masingill. If you live in Chattanooga, you are probably well acquainted with his name and legacy. Our whole town is mourning the passing of the 92-year old radio legend, who worked 72 years on-air in Chattanooga for the same station, on-air during both Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

I have an opinion and (surprise) it may not be the most popular. I respect Luther for his work and dedication to the field of communications and to the town of Chattanooga. I enjoyed hearing him describe the latest lost pet. I am touched by all the wonderful stories of his kindness to others from his role as a mentor and even stories of him paying for college tuition of several.

Personally, Luther wasn’t very kind to me. Granted, I encountered him briefly each week and always after a day of work at the radio station as he came into the grocery store where I worked. I say this not to besmirch a legacy, and I’m sure many will find my words petty, but I say them just with a reminders than being kind to those in the service industry is also a measure of character. It’s easy to be a personality on air and kind to those in so-called respectable positions, but taking time and effort to be caring to someone at society’s ground level is something more. I don’t really fault Luther for not being who I expected or respecting some chunky teen behind a cash register. I just wish that I didn’t have these memories of someone who is essentially beloved by all. I’m posting this on the date before Luther’s memorial service at Engel Stadium. By all means, I encourage all to go and hear the wonderful things that will be said about Luther. Many people I respect in turn respect Luther and his legacy, and my words are in no way designed to change the tide of opinion on him or his work. It’s a blanket generalization on our fumblings at human interaction, and we all know how well generalizations work.

Now that my name is on every Luther-lover’s head hunting list, I want to continue to talk about what the serving/food service industry means to me. As before mentioned, I’m leaving this industry, hopefully permanently or at least long-term, for the second time in my life.
I first left retail and barista work in 2009. Straight out of college, I got an assistant editor position at a weekly newspaper and worked there, had weekends off, the whole deal, for two years. I returned to server life when I was laid off and have been there since. Friday is my last shift as a server, and my feelings are mixed to say the least.

Mispy has graciously weathered the storm with me as I passively lament my freedom this week. His innocent comment that maybe I could return to barista work in January or later if ends weren’t meeting between teaching jobs, set off a firestorm in my brain that culminated in me curled on his bed, crying about missing my barista co-horts and stressing irrationally about how I would fill my weekends away from the cafe, while simultaneously wondering aloud how much I enjoy helping a student get proper synonym usage. Bless him for knowing that it’s sometimes best to just pat a girl on the back in the midst of conflicted brain clashes

Here I am reveling in my wingspan as I get positively beside myself explaining the Industrial Revolution to a student. All the while, I’m looking longingly at the automatic espresso machines and wondering if I can justify $8/hr for my time dedication in lieu of a weekend or off days of any kind. And why?

Well, it all comes back to the debate raised earlier by me (mainly as a sort of punch line): “Can Nihilists ever really experience job satisfaction?” Sure, there are varying levels of Nihilism, but it all seems to come around the belief that nothing we do has much, to any, effect on our surroundings, future course of events, or people’s fates. I subscribe, wearily (is there any other way?) that things are going to be what they are. People are going to do what they do, and my effect is minimal. I teach a student a concept, and maybe they take it further than the classroom. They use it to get to college, they get a job, the world turns, and nothing much shifts. We all still end up at the Cemetery Gates. It’s not so bleak unless you make it a central precept of existence, and even then there are concessions around it so you don’t end up offing yourself. So where’s the satisfaction in any of it? Why work if there’s no reason other than to keep the machine on and churning out the same copy of its inner cogs design?

Well, I think, for my part, the job satisfaction has always come not from the paycheck that usually just allows enough funds for you to continue working and living. Neither does it come from the job itself of delivering caffeine or education or whatever to your customers, patrons, etc. The satisfaction is what I got from my barista work that makes it hard to leave. It’s the beautiful, casually loving, camaraderie and shared experience of melodrama and human condition that interactions with co-workers (and less frequently) with customers/patrons/students. It applies to every job. For me, my angst at leaving the absolute tripe I have experience in serving, comes from a similar leaving of the laughter and connections and experience of living among the real and flawed and beautiful people I’ve had privilege to work with in my three years there.

I’ve introduced a co-worker to feminism from the basic definition and worked on building a foundation of knowledge there. I’ve shared relationship woe with every sympathetic ear in the building. I’ve had romantic relationships with these people. I’ve formed best friendships with some. I’ve ribbed an employee until they have become an inside joke that even they are fond of. And yes, I’ve learned that many customers consider their cup to be a nametag of some kind whose alternate spelling thereupon will shake the ego in such a way that they can’t help spelling aloud to the poised Sharpie, “B-A-I-L-E-Y.” They’ve all produced a strange shared life within our team. And I’ll miss this. I guess that’s enough of a reason to do any job, even write a blog…just hoping for a shared experience, a social interaction that delivers an imagined impression of meaning. That’s the satisfaction of a job well done. Even if it’s all a beautiful meaningless mess of paint on some abstract unknowable canvas.

In parting I want to toss out the ideas for what you will be seeing here in the next month as I prepare to participate in National Novel Writing Month (National Blog Writing Month as well).I am debating between posting a thread on Facebook to ask for 30 topics for the thirty days in November and write on one of these thirty each day. Or I thought I could ask for a topic each day via Facebook and the first person to comment or message would be the one whose topic I would write about. Both are designed to be more interactive with my audience, thus continuing this shared experience I desire from my blog space. The third option is I just shower you all with the junk poetry and novel writing scraps…1,666 words of that each day. How’s about ya’ll leave me some feedback on this so that we don’t all suffer with some rhyme about caffeine consumption or lack thereof.

-Anna R Kotopple

This blog is dedicated lovingly to my fellow baristas of past, present, and perhaps future. Once a barista, forever a barista.

Let’s Be Clear: Leggings Are Not Pants

This is going to be interpreted as a rant and a fuss-fest, whether I want it to or not. The topics on the table are: student willfulness, education uselessness, societal rule-mongering triteness, and the phenomena of Ex Re-flux. They’ve all reached a critical mass kind of status, and that translates to a call to the public forum to see what everyone else might be thinking or if I’m alone in my malice. If you were wondering; still ill. Always.

1st order of business is just a common educator complaint. My students resist learning like cats fight against a bath. These students are paying for the privilege to actively resist the learning atmosphere. These students are laying down 1,000 of dollars to text through class, talk about weekend plans instead of complete their work, answer questions wrong purposefully in hopes of a quick answer to fill out their worksheet instead of putting effort into learning information, and then curse at their teacher for “refusing to help them.”

I suppose I could sympathize with these special students if the subject was one only necessary for college bureaucracy palm grease, but this is remedial reading I’m teaching here. Take a minute to digest the fact that your reading level is on a 9th grade (or below) level. Is that something you’re prepared to go through life as your claim and arsenal extent? It’s partly a problem of youth, I believe. Thinking you can achieve your aims with less than amazing skills is an arrogance we all get into. Then you turn 26, and realize your “skills” and even your education doesn’t entitle you to a job or any special treatment. And you realize…you’ve got to be the best, better than hundreds of others, and on a daily basis or you will not have a job (not even touching on meaningful or enjoyable work) because someone more hungry will replace you. Another result of an overpopulated planet. Global competitiveness. Smart is not smart enough.

And that’s the segway to education uselessness in current society. Maybe I’ve doubted it once or twice in some dating scenarios I have found myself in (and there was that one phase in junior high), but overall I’ve never had a doubt that I possess the ability to be intelligent. Indeed, I enjoy the sensation of being smart(ass), therefore seeking out apples both low hanging and further upon the tree of available knowledge.

I’ve been a student/scholar for my life’s entirety. I was fortunate enough to have my undergraduate degree in Journalism/Communications paid for by a history of adequacy and good behavior in high school. I was again fortunate to have had a “career” in my field for two short years before the changing face of media continued its progression to render print media obsolete, and I found myself laid off at 22, bills to pay and not a single opportunity forthcoming save the fall back of my high school part-time safety net of barista work. Even now, I thank myself for learning a technical skill that would pay the bills when my education wasn’t profitable (still waiting, by the way). So I returned to school, playing the straight and narrow again and clearing the hoops of necessity to earn my Master’s degree in education. Still young, I was optimistic. At 24, with a degree and a Master’s, and every semester on this shadowy mysterious entity called “The Dean’s List,” I though surely, finding a job, making a place for myself in society, and clicking that manacle of the American Dream around my ankle would finally be possible.

I was, and still am, the fool.

At 26 (almost 27), I am working in a temporary position as a tutor: all terms designed to deny that I have earned what it takes to be called a teacher, and to emphasize my replaceable status to those I give my time to. My current three jobs do not provide me any kind of healthcare or benefits, and paying rent has become an anxiety inducing event even with making the switch to buying groceries at the dollar store and a charming mart called United Grocery Outlet that specializes in unwanted products from name brand grocers, much of which is expired yet still edible. (What can I say? Anna’s got to eat.) Others certainly have it worse than me, of course. But I never thought I was going to have to live this way after spending so many years sweating and sacrificing to be educated.

So for all intents and purposes, it would seem that my education (although I greatly treasure the knowledge earned) is useless in helping me to be an indepdent, productive member of the so-called society. Does that mean I can finally turn in my resignation? I’ve changed my clothes, my hair, my habits, and beyond all for the sake of being the kind of person they want to hire to teach others and earn a living the process. Playing by the rules has got me no more standing, respect or gain than a upper middle class high school graduate. So can I finally resign and play by a differetn set of rules? Will I get any further on a socital anarchist blend? Within and without a society and a country. All I know is that it’s come to a point where something new must be tried. I’ve quit my stable technical work as a barista, perhaps mainly on an illusion of higher self-worth than realisitc, and freed up that time to strategically freefall into opportunities that arise to make use of my brain, and hopefully put up with less shit than I have done simply to have the illusion of security.

I say this not to whine so much as inform of life beyond Facebook “everything is awesome” facade. I’m not trying to say, poor pitiful me here. I’m just saying, for someone who’s supposedly done everything right, the way they asked me to, how worrisome it must be fore those making supposed “wrong decisions.” Then again, maybe they are better off. I guess, I’ll soon see.

I hope the new title of my overall blog is coming more into focus for you.

While I’m harping on society’s attempted usefulness, let’s address some of its trite acts to fumble at control. These days there are rules for our rules, which leads to contradictory and maddening “thought” processes. Cafeteria at school offers $0.99 refills when you buy one of their cups for $3.00. Savvy. But bring in your own cup and not only are you charged full price, but you are told you have to use their Styrofoam Earth-hatred cups because of “health reasons.”****Logic fail. And it’s rules like these that I have to pass on to my students as well. Further educating and perpetuating an acceptance of madness and adherence to policy and procedure rather than free, rational thought. Granted, some people need the guidance that rules bring: see Darwin Award Winners. But some of it is just power play, and reinforcement of authority or monetary ties.

The other more mundane news, whose only real worth in mentioning is life irony, is that there’s been another bout of Ex Re-Flux. The universe has determined I’m going to have to interact with every Ex in some form of fashion this month. Two have contacted me on their own volition via Facebook to subtly (not really) indicate interest. (By the way, an ambiguous Facebook relationship status is not license to move in on a gal.) Another Ex came seeking help in my classroom today. And who knows what others will resurface in the small town shuffle, rising like corpses you’d though were good and buried. Well…not that dramatic, but in the spirit of Halloween…there it is. It’s also of interest to recall how many people I actually have dated. I wonder if its the same way a serial killer feels about their body count…counting up Ex’s that is…um…yeah, we should probably move on to another line of thinking.

To complete this blog of self-righteous sword waving anger, I address the teaser title…Leggings are Not Pants (clearly). I feel like I must bring this up every time the weather cools. As fellow friend and blogger said, “Leggings are nice because there’s a chance that a girl with a nice ass can wear these and everyone wins.” But mostly, because some are bound to make us suffer, leggings are a sadist’s creative thought incarnate. Stretching a cat face or hypno-pattern across your backside is bold. And with no skirt or dress to cover your junk that is wearing all that unforgiving spandex, well, be prepared for stares. All shapes and sizes are beautiful, but spandex is a monster who takes away the mystery of “what lies beneath.” Think it out. Act accordingly. That’s all the educational insight I have on tap for now. ++++

-Anna RK

*****Saying this, I know that one of my subscribers has ties to this cafeteria and its management. I mean no disrespect by illuminating a policy I find less than intelligent. Please don’t unsubscribe. ;)

++++Like and/or subscribe to help me investigate the next topic for blogging: can nihilists ever really find job satisfaction?

Go Home, You’re Drunk: Book Review on “The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey.”

I’m an avid reader. But I think a lot of people say that. What I mean by saying I’m an avid reader is that I read about one 200-500 page book every two weeks. This, like anything else, can cause a brain burn out of sorts, creating times where I just don’t feel like reading anything at all for awhile and/or feel like I need a real page turner to break up the moderately interesting fiction I may be working through. I try to alleviate this tendency by alternating my reads between fiction and non-fiction work.

All this is to say that the last two books I have read, left me flat on drawing enjoyment or intelligence out of their pages.

I got pretty much what I expected to get out of reading Dean Koontz’s latest publication, “Innocence” (2013). I soldiered through about 100 pages of the work to find each chapter irritating me more and more with the “…this character looked around a corner and you won’t believe what happens next” kind of writing style that I thought was only painfully apparent in the Internet journalism world. When it was reveled that the co-protagonist’s father was killed by poisoned honey from his hobby in beekeeping, I knew it was time to move on.

And so I took a chance on a non-fiction selection of travel essays by Lawrence Osborne called “The Wet and the Dry: A Drinker’s Journey.” I selected this work from the BloggingforBooks Web site (and received the book free of charge for anyone who is wondering) because I enjoy learning about the history of items I encounter in my every day, and I am fascinated with drug culture and its history. Alcohol isn’t exactly what people would bring to mind when they consider “Drugs,” but it is of the same mind-altering family, although more socially acceptable than relatives like marijuana or absinthe.

I was expecting a history of alcohol and drinking in the US as well as worldwide. The description that led me to believe this was thus: “Drinking alcohol: a beloved tradition, a dangerous addiction, even a “sickness of the soul”…IN his wide-ranging travels, Lawrence Osborne–a veritable connoisseur himself—has witnessed opposing views on alcohol across cultures worldwide, compelling him to wonder: is drinking alcohol a sign of civilization and sanity, or the very reverse? Where do societies fall on the spectrum between indulgence and restraint?”

What I got instead from this work was a rambling sort of narrative from someone who enjoys drinking and telling stories about how, when, and where he drinks. It was like meeting a businessman in a bar who wanted to chat you up with all the impressive places he’s had drinks. I was drinking my soda water and mouthing to myself, “…and I care…why?”

Perhaps someone who is more into drink and more of a interest in Middle Eastern culture will enjoy this read more. For me, the work felt waterlogged. The author inserts himself in such an indirect way that I can’t even be bothered to wonder about his personality and if it’s an interesting one or not. There’s no character to follow here. I did enjoy the facts about certain alcohol production methods, drink concoctions, and little factoids. Yet, these were so few and far between that my interest wasn’t held enough to stick with the work.

Bottom line: If you are looking to hear an account of what it’s like to go from wet (drinking like a fish) to dry (stone cold sober), best do your own research, make some memories, and skip this read.

Wanna win something?

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Disarm by Erica Tuggle

Disarm

by Erica Tuggle

Giveaway ends November 01, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

In honor of my favorite month, I’d like you to enter my GoodReads giveaway to recieve a copy of my first book, Disarm. Happy Reading!

Dearest Peter: A Letter from Wendy Darling to her darling Pan

I love love love metaphors, and metaphors that incorporate fables, mythos or already beloved characters is a bonus. And so I originally wrote this as a writing exercise/what-if situation. It grew wings and flew away from me a little bit, but I wanted to share.

Dearest Peter,

Your Wendy Darling here, waiting patiently at the windowsill again on another sleepless night. Still bewitched by your shadow, although even he hasn’t been around to amuse me lately as summer moons shine bright and then give way to the autumn chill that creeps in a little bit more each day. I tick them off on a calendar on the nursery wall, and cannot believe I’ve still got another month before the real chill settles in.

Tell me Pan, do you really mean it when you say you’ll never grow up? Do you believe it like you believe in pixie dust? I guess that works because it has given you wings of a sort after all. But why, Peter, why don’t you want to grow old with me? Is being a lost boy ringleader such a nom de plume that it bests disillusionment?

Do you remember when we sat by the lake? We shared reality for that instance at least. You took my hand and made such promises. I want to believe in your dreams, Pete, but you’ve never asked me mine. Wendy Darling had so many dreams other than a boy in tights at her bedside, and these dreams didn’t fly away when my feet left the ground to follow you. We make great friends but now you’re asking me to be a mother to your brood. I don’t know that skill. I never learned it somehow.

I see dark clouds on the horizon, the blackest, heaviest clouds I’ve ever seen. Can any ship, even a flying one, get through clouds such as these? What lies ahead troubles me and scares me, because I cannot predict where you will be, nor even my own whereabouts. Especially when you disappear to Neverland for days on end, and I’m left to wonder if perhaps you were only a product of wild imaginings.

You’ve been fighting Hook for so long. This man has left such scars on you. I’m amazed you can laugh at all, facing him so incessantly as you do. My heart is a pixie in a jar because I can see you flying away from me and I’ve forgotten how to rise against the air myself. Where did the magic go? There was a time you’d have reached for my hand and shown me how. I wanted to stay with you in Neverland, but the children back home need me. Besides, we both know Hook is not my pirate to fight; no enemy to me. Take care, Pan, he will kill you if he gets half a chance.

Oh Peter, I’m just not sure what to say when we meet again (And meet we shall, because the world has proven itself to be a small one after all). Will you even know me after I’ve aged and you’ve retained such nubile young grace? John and Michael and all the other boys are no comfort to me. I’m still holding on to the fantasy you promised.

Thirty seems awful far away and yet it’s no further than any of the other stars I see across this night sky. When I’m a tri-decade, will you roost awhile and entertain notions of sleeping a full night and waking with me in the same bed? What do married folk do anyway? Mother and father never could give me illustration on such matters. The term quality time seems cluttered and obtuse. I can’t seem to hold a clunky idea like it too long in these lily white hands. Will we fly like we used to or only have someone there to reminisce the sensation being aloft gave us each in our turn? Or would our union only produce little Pans that will quietly go into dark Neverland and not return again? Youth swallows some whole.

Dearest Peter, these are things Wendy Darling wants to know. But I’m used to your absence by now, and know I’ll perhaps never know that much of you. Just know, it does not decrease your mythos for me. But, I think too, perhaps it is time for one of us to grow up.

Love always,

Wendy

(Thoughts? Comments? Please do share.)

Just My Typo is one writers can laugh at while looking over their own manuscripts

Just My Typo: From “Sinning with the Choir” to “The Untied States” Compiled by Drummond Moir

I decided to read this little book as a break from a massive tomb on evolution that I’m slogging through. This delightful piece of brain candy was what I needed to break up the pain my mind was feeling from trying to process natural selection repercussions that are generally quite bleak.

Just My Typo: From “Sinning with the Choir” to “The Untied States” is a collection of English misses and gaffes compiled by long-time editor Drummond Moir. Since most of these mistakes printed in the book are headlines, titles, and other short instances, this book only took me about a day and a half to read.

This book contains errors that will delight English majors and really hit home with my fellow journalists. In every chapter, there are featured typos called “When Typesetters Lose it” that hit home with those of us in print that sometimes substitute a random non-sensical letter block for words we intend to fill in later. Forgetting to go back and actually replace logical speech for “asdfjkl;” causes laughable errors as showcased by this feature in every chapter.

The book highlights typos in every field, displaying them in such a way that makes for a fun exercise to spot the error in each block of text. The chapters include typos in literature, media, historical and political significance, abroad, food related, legal, and typos that have actually cost a pretty penny to rectify. One such example is a real doozy, that occurred in 1962 when a missed hyphen resulted in NASA’s Mariner 1 being sent into the ocean rather than its intended destination of Venus. Ouch.

One other particularly enjoyable chapter is “Autocorrect Dysphoria: The Future of the Typo.” We are all aware of how autocorrect can completely change what we mean to say with its supposedly well-meaning suggestions. This chapter provides some real laugh out loud instances of this relatively new phenomenon in English troubles. Fair warning, most of the errors here and in the rest of the book are amusing to those with only the most refined sense of potty humor. For example, the most common of all typos seems to be the missing ‘l” from “public” that instantly turns any sentence it contains into something of quite a different meaning. The Autocorrect chapter is followed by the charming chapter on typos from children. These two chapters alone make for a good excuse to pick this book up.

There may not be a lot of substance to this book, but it is amusing and provided a much appreciated laugh in every chapter as well as a reminder to all readers and writers to be conscientious in their proofing.

I received “Just My Typo” by Drummond Moir as a complimentary review copy from the Web site Blogging for Books. All opinions and statements in the review above are my own.

Once and Never Again

I’m posting a short-story I’m reconfiguring to release with my re-release of Disarm. I wrote this sucker 7 years ago with the original Disarm manuscript. It is written from the antagonists point of view and it has never seen the light of day besides the time I used it in workshop for a creative writing class. I’m posting so I’ll have it somewhere to spur me to finish tweaking it. It means a lot to me and so I get frustrated with it, and think…maybe just let it return to the box for another 7 years. So here is half of it. Hopefully the other half will be typed and semi-polished by the month’s end.

Once and Never Again
by Jarrett Nathaniel Mahers

The impact of the goon’s knuckle against my lip, my teeth and even a sliver of my tongue brings forth the strong, bitter taste of crowded blood welling in my mouth. Shock sends the majority of the blood down my throat, making for a nasty meal for my rumbling stomach. The remainder spews from my mouth in a lovely fountain display. They’re not pleased as it has put blood literally on their hands and clothes. Yet, before all this registered in my chemically assisted brain’s awareness, I felt the bliss of finally getting what I deserved.
These punches, and this beating from these two hired nobodies, is what I want. It’s debatable if it’s what I need. This difference has been the hardest lesson for me to grasp. It’s hard to admit that your blind want has to be let go. My happiness is not important in comparison to the cost for which it comes. I will not have her experience the terrible ache of loss like I did. Her soul is too precious to crush. She pulled me from the darkness. I won’t let her fall into its abyss, just because I feel sorry for my reckless self.
I don’t blame anyone but myself for what has happened. No one deserves these punches more than I. Besides, I learn best when the weight falls on my head like it has now. I make my decisions for myself, and I don’t want others’ futures tied in with the process. I see that what I am to do will hurt both parties less in the end. If a relationship never forms, it can never be killed.
True, my philosophy wavers in application to Eleanor. She could guess, but it’s true she’d dissolve all my work. She could destroy the philosophy, my livable existence, herself, and my everything if only I lapse for a moment. She’ll think I’m selfish perhaps, afterward, but it’s for us I make my choice.
Soon, unconsciouses will overtake me, because they will keep hitting me. Somehow their non-existent persona is leaking out in even the most primal of acts. They will beat me until they’ve had their fill of physical revenge, but I still won’t pay. I lay here without caring, feeling this small bliss. I deserve every ounce of pain for what I am doing to the girl I really care for: the sweet, strong Lenore. I will suffer through hell and more for what I’ve done to her and continue to do even now. I can except that, the punishment, but I can’t stop the direction I’m headed. These junkie goons and dealers will come to kill me soon, because I refuse to pay for my disease. I choose the cowards route of assisted suicide. I only beg from her alone with a plea of forgiveness, but not with remorse.

See the devil may do as the devil may care. He loves none sweeter as sweeter the dare. Her mouth the mischief he doth seek. Her heart the captive of which he speaks. So not all ye lovers in love with the sound. Your world be shattered with nary a note of one Cupid’s arrow under your coat. “Cupid De Locke” -The Smashing Pumpkins

The first time I encountered Elenore was the fourth grade. She probably doesn’t remember our first meeting though. At the time, and for six years after, I didn’t imagine there was anything to that nameless girl I med that rain sodden elementary school day.
It was my first year at the local elementary school as my family had moved from somewhere inconsequential to here. It had been a good year for me, and I fit in well at the school. In one of the final weeks of that school year it was a rare recess period that I found myself opting out of kickball with my friends to simply walk the blacktop alone. At my age, it was a bold move I assure you.
I soon tired of being ad rebel and rounded the side of the building to head back towards the classroom early when I heard great little sobs coming from the fifth-graders spring garden. I hopped the low gate and followed the sounds of the feminine choked voice muttering and sniffling. Behind the row marked for peanuts the in shadows of the failing corn stalks, a girl in a red jumper and a ridiculous polka-dot shirt knelt with a lark cradled in her shaking fingers. She looked up at my approach, but it was doubtful she could really see me through all those tears.
“Please don’t tell on me,” she whispered as thought whomever she feared was near.
My ten-year-old brain wanted to do exactly this. I wanted to run to the nearest authority figure and inform them of this crazy girl in the garden, stroking a half-dead bird with her stubby little fingers. Yet, her words stayed me.
“Why not?”
I was a horrible little punk at ten. Still am.
“I’ve been taking care of it all week. If you tell, they’ll make me stop, and it will die.” She finished with a touch more drama than the situation required.
“We all die,” I said. “Do you want it to be in pain?
“No.” She shook her head furiously, her tears watering the okra plants to her right. “I know he’ll get better. I know he can.”
She had conviction at eight years old. Astounding when I think back on it. She ran her smallest finger down the bird’s back. It only opened and closed its eyes in a slow, painful sort of way.
“I’ll do it,” I offered.
She was quiet, still stroking the lark.
“It’s not going to get better,” I added cheerfully.
She nodded.
“You’re right. We’ll do it together,” she resolved.
I knelt in front of her and we both put a finger around the birds neck. She was no longer crying, and as we applied pressure to the bird’s soft, warm surface and it began to squirm, she clenched her jaw and willed herself to break the bone.
I felt it give under my finger and the bird only struggled for a minute longer until it grew still. I stuck around long enough to watch her dig a hole for it and put a dandelion on top of its still body before she covered it up. We parted ways without another word spoken between us.
She moved across town to live with her grandparents after that school year. Her parents said they needed a break from being parents, a six year break to be exact, until Eleanore’s grandmother died and she was shipped back to her folks. I can’t say I thought about her after that day in the garden and I didn’t learn all about her uprooted home life until after we met again the summer before my senior year of high school.

Ooh and every time that I”m with you I’m alive. Ooh and every time I think of you there’s a light. And I felt it too. “The Boy” -The Smashing Pumpkins

My friend Stephen invited me to join him, his girlfriend and fa few other friends to the Cloak’s Fine Dagger to see the local buzz worthy band, HomeWrecker. Simply to humor Stephen, I agreed. He had been my next door neighbor since I’d moved here in the fourth grade, and we became as thick as thieves at the end of junior year of high school.
That was when my former best friend and brother, Trent, Began his move on campus for his first year of college. I saw him rarely from then on as he grew up and away. My only objection to Stephen’s presence has been and continues to be his girlfriend. She is fiendish. I was always glad to be single in comparison to his fate.
At any rate, the CD was packed the night of the show. We arrived just as the moshpit began its formation and I motioned Stephen towards it. I was overruled as Cleo caught his wrist and begged him to wait with her until her other friends arrived. I rolled my eyes as he shrugged. Alone, I pushed through the bodies and to the front of the stage as the music started. I had come to hear music in its live form, complete with the ritual beating of the moshpit. Stephen was on his own with the leech.
The show as a rough one, no doubt, and it got rougher with each number they screamed out at us, but I was having a hell of time. I was completely in my element. I had attended my brother’s band shows since middle school. No crowd got too overwhelming for me. I looked from the stage mid-show to those are me, pressed tightly into me, limbs everywhere and felt my adrenaline kick was still going strong. I laughed aloud at simply being alive. Yet, I cut it off short as I felt something clutch my leg. Looking down, I saw a girl had fallen and was using my leg to pull herself back up. She pulled herself up to my elbow level and grimaced as the pushing continued.
She was being pressed on every side like we all were, but she simply didn’t have the physique for it. The guys in the front row were too rough, and weren’t thinking about who got hit as they moved. The girl had a fierce look in her eyes thought as she flung her arms out and pressed to stay upright. But I saw behind those eyes a glimmer of fear. IT was the most attractive thing I’d ever seen. The whole crowd shifted and she began to fall again with a little annunciation of alarm.
Had it been another day, and I been in a different mood, I could have been looking another way, let her fall, and missed all of this. That, I think, is the strangest part of my action. I care little for other people, but something about her made me reach out and halt her fall. Pulling her upright, and linking arms with her I yelled: “Stand your ground, little sister.”
Having saved her from another fall, I could have let her go, but I felt responsible for her somehow. The music continued and still I held her close to my side. And she didn’t seem to mind. When the show ended, and the majority of the sound that the music had been occupying, was free, I suddenly felt very conscious of this stranger latched on to me. I let her go and moved quickly to the exit. She said something muted to my ringing ears, and I waved nervously as I felt those black eyes on me, sifting through my soul and picking out the little faults there. I couldn’t get away quick enough. I had unintentionally picked a commitment, and that wasn’t something I wanted.
Outside, the chilly air brought a bit of comfort to my racing heart. I chastised myself mentally. I had been rude, running out on her, but we really had no connection, I justified. I’d done more than most by just holding her up. Girls in the moshpit, what did you expect? I shook my head.
I pulled a Camel from my pocket and patted my pants for my lighter, but with no success. More than likely it had been claimed by the mostpit. What a bummer, I thought glumly. I looked down the wall I leaned on for a fellow smoker to answer the call and there she was again, flicking a lighter to her own cigarette’s end. I started at her a moment, feeling such a fool. But what the hell. I saw nothing more to do, but give in to karma’s roundabout way of kicking me in the ass.
“Got a light?” I said over her shoulder.
She turned and choked on a puff of smoke. I could have killed myself for being involved in this cliché. The awkwardness was mildly unbearable.
“Sure,” she said, sparking the almost empty lighter multiple times until the flint struck. She cupped the flame towards my cigarette’s end.
In the streetlight, she looked vastly different to me. I have always hated my weakness of smoking and couldn’t stand it when one of my friends finally kicked the habit, but that day and always, she made cigarette’s look like a wonderful, harmless extension of herself.
She pulled the smoke in and a fiery cigarette end lit up those eyes again. They were brown, like mine, but with dark pits that had no defined color. I can hardly tear away from them even now. They’re not beautiful or anything. They just hold such a sadness that I don’t understand.
She was thin and pale, but the cold air, the concert and the nicotine gave a healthy, red glowing tint to her cheeks. She had freckles. Her hair was such a dark brown I had mistaken it for black. But yes, now I saw it was just a chestnut sort of color. She was really quite ordinary looking. Yet, this is all really superfluous description. Describing her is like trying to put fantastic into a bottle. I certainly don’t know how, and it shouldn’t be done anyway.
“Jarret Nathan Mahar,” I said as hr eyes ran over me as well.
I felt my first name would be insufficient, and that while I was telling her my last name, I might as well get the middle one out of the way too.
“Lenore.”
I hope I didn’t make a face when she said that, but I didn’t like that name. Elenore has class and character while Lenore is quite dreary. Elenore has a tendency to over dramatize things and so Lenore fits her, but Elenore is her true name. I’ve never been able to call her Lenore.
“Short for anything?” I asked.
“Yeah. Elenore. But call me Lenore,” she said, all punk intimidation, but then smiled out of the corner of her mouth and started to say something, but then Stephen came up into the middle of the scene with the Siren holding his hand.
Elenore know Stephen from his abysmal girlfriend and they pursued that topic in introductions and following small talk. She wasn’t a quiet sort of girl, but I found I didn’t mind. As she talked, it gave me an excuse to look at her, her familiar face, and try to remember where we’d met. As we finished our cigarettes and flicked them into the street, the memory of the girl with the bird resurfaced from nowhere. That girl that had been trapped in my memory so long was now released to join her updated self. The awkwardness increased tenfold as I thought she might remember this past version of me and the upper hand would be completely lost.
“Jarrett, are you going with us?”
I was brought back. Elenore looked at her cigarette end without interest and then crushed it on her boot heel. If she remembered me, then she must have been very good at concealing her facial expressions. She was good at this game, I’m sure. I was better.
“No. Trent and I have to make our 1a.m. House of Waffles date.”
Trent’s wonderful timing displayed itself as his car squealed to a stop across the street and I waved farewell to the group, and ran to it, already breathless, from cigarette inhalation or Elenore, who knows?
I got in hastily and accidentally shut my jacked in the door. I reopened the door with a curse, freed it and shut the door again, sinking back into the seat. Trent was looking at me with that shit-eating grin of his. He’s only a couple of years older than me, but acts like he understands everything, including me, perfectly. He knows a lot, but my plans will always surprise him. They surprise me at times.
“What?’
He put the car in drive and shrugged with a smile. We had ordered our waffles and were waiting for our food when he spoke.
“So, who is she?” he said, not remotely hiding his grin behind the orange juice.
I hated him seeing through me. I had been unable to think of anything but Lenore since I’d left her side. She was a mystery kaleidoscope I couldn’t see through; a puzzle I must solve.
“Lenore, she says.” I admitted.
“Is she hot?” he said, dousing the eggs that had just been laid before him with hot sauce.
Trent had a full ride to the local college, but he hadn’t yet wised up on girls, and indeed anything that remotely was useful for daily life. He’s much better these days. Dad’s death changed him for the better. I believe I took it the worst of the two of us. I didn’t go goth or start wearing spikes and dog collars, but I was pretty emo and definitely not who I was before.
Trent spread the sauce in a uniform coat over the eggs and began eating them.
“Don’t fall in love, Jarrett. It’s just an excuse to hurt and be hurt.”
He is hilarious when he tries to preach to me with song lyrics.
“Which folk singer did you rip that off from?” I asked.
“Bright Eyes,” he admitted with another shrug.
“Aw man,” I pushed my plate away. “That Oberst makes me nauseated with his angst. Don’t you have any GWAR words of wisdom on love?”
That was a contradiction if there ever was one.
“GWAR? Now, I’m nauseated,” he said and be laughed a bit so that Elenore was able to fade completely from my mind for the night.
The next morning though, her nagging presence was back and I called Stephen to ask him to give her my number.
“Right on it, man,” he said and I could feel his smile over the phone.
I didn’t care if I sounded smitten. I didn’t care that I wasn’t waiting two days to call or whatever the bullshit rule was. I felt an invisible clock ticking over us and just wanted to get to know her soon. She was on me like the pull of gravity. I never thought we’d be here, with hurt and betrayal in the ranks where love and trust once here. I certainly didn’t mean to. Life just happened to us, I guess. I admit, Oberst had some of that stuff right.

Who am I to need you now? To ask you why, to tell you no, to deserve your love and sympathy. You were never meant to belong to me. And you may go, but I know you won’t leave, too many years built into memories. Your life is not your own. “Crestfallen” -Smashing Pumpkins

I remember when I started letting go of Eleanor. When I made the conscious decision not to let her know I loved her. My father died in July, a few months after graduation and my long life that was college to start, so maybe I should have been grateful for the coincidence. He was gone so suddenly, but that’s a stupid cliché as well, because that’s how death always is. I surely don’t want mine to stretch out any longer than it already has.
The night he died, I had just had dinner with Eleanor and Trent and was already a bit miffed. The pair of them had sided against me in telling me I needed to nail down my major. It seems such a trivial thing to be angry about now, but I hated having no direction and then further being called out on it by two of my best friends.
“Would it kill you to be on my side for once, Trent?” I said, slamming the door behind me as we entered the house.
“She was right, Jarrett. You’re going to have to make a decision eventually, and then live with it. You’re afraid of consequences and you always have been. I’ve held your fucking hand since you were born, so don’t say I’m not on your side.”
“Oh right, I forgot. You honestly just say whatever suits you, Trent. You’re hardly ever home during breaks from school. This is like the first time we’ve really talked in a month, man. Yeah, you’re really holding my hand while you’re out with your friends like always. I’m sure.”
“My silly friends? You’re the silly one Jar-head. I know what this is about. You’re just angry you can’t afford dorm life and have to live at home this year.”
I was, but it was really shitty of him to bring that up. We were in my parents bedroom at this point.
“You can…” I stopped short in yelling whatever was next.
Anna, our mother, had raised her head from the bed where she’d been lying face down. Trent went to her side inquiring, but her tear stained cheeks told the story. My father’s name on her lips. I knew something terrible had happened to him. Our mother never cried and now great wails were shaking her entire body while Trent held her together.
He looked at me with venom as if it were my doing and then broke into tiny sobs of his own while he stroked her hair. I skipped grief and got stuck on anger. It was the first time my father had really let me down. The first time he wasn’t there when I needed him. You were supposed to grow old, Father. Barely out of your forties and doomed with a soft heart that just couldn’t take the pressure.
That was the worst summer of my life.
I pushed through the anger and encountered bone crushing grief. I had foolishly tried to suppress it and it was blotting me out in turn. It brought its buddies Blame, Hate, Self-Loating and a Depression most severe. I love drugs, but the more I took the worse I felt, so I eventually pushed away anti-depressants too.
I’d met Eleanor that previous summer and we had bonded instantly from that concert we met at. She was a mixture of a twin sister, a girlfriend, a best friend and none of the above. She wouldn’t let my sorry ass be as we went through death together. After I eventually heard the detailed news of my father’s death from my distraught mother, I called her.
“Elenore.”
“Jarrett…did I leave something in the car?”
“Elenore,” I said again, my voice a flat sound that I didn’t even recognize.
“What’s wrong?”
“My dad…he’s had a heart attack. He’s dead.”
“Come over.”
Her parents lived about a fifteen minute bike from my house, but the ride had barely begun when I was at her door. She was standing in its frame, her father silhouetted in the background.
“Talk to him and then come back in here,” he said, staring me down.
“He’s staying over.”
“Like hell he is girl. No pothead is stepping foot in this house. You talk to him and then come back in here.”
He pushed her out the door and shut it. I waited nervously at the bottom of the steps. She seemed to think for a moment.
“Hold up a minute. Be right back,” she said.
She opened the door, went in and closed it. I sat on the bottom step, wanting just to leave and deal with this on my own as I usually did with things. I heard yelling and slamming coming from within the house. She appeared a minute later with her backpack on, a sleeping bag under one arm, and a foldout tent under the other.
“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get out of this shithole.”
There was a campground near our houses, and she rented a campsite for us for the night. We slept in the tent she pitched herself. She cooked hotdogs and played The Smashing Pumpkins all night on her cd player.
We only had one sleeping bag and she insisted she didn’t care that I had it, but I didn’t care about much of anything but not being alone. So that was the first night I slept with her in my arms like a life-sized stuffed animal. We have slept together like that most nights since we moved into the same apartment complex.
Nights that she’s not at the apartment, I can only manage a few hours of sleep. I broke down in her arms many times during those months after his death, and she was with me every moment to offer endless devotion to restoring me to whatever normal I could manage.
Trent filled his life post-dad-death with a full calendar of social events, drinking, and lots of smokes. He was no longer my immature older brother, but he was no longer my happy friend as he’d once been. It became hard to laugh around him, because we shared the weight and being together was a reminder of our burden to continue to do so. He didn’t have time to be sad anymore with his life full of college kid drama. It took me well past that summer and up until mid-March to rebuild my own life.
My father had been my closest relationship tie, and the loss of the tie ripped me out of reality. I decided that I would never get so close to another again. The pain of severing a relationship was too great for me. This was a rule without exception and so sadly the one who helped me through it all was pushed away constantly. Every time she showed emotion towards me, I acted like I didn’t notice. I felt, but I never showed it. It seems easier this way.
I am in love with Elenore in ways I can’t even describe, but I was going to break her heart irreparably if I let her know anything of my thoughts. To lose her from my life completely over a petty boyfriend vs girlfriend melodrama was not an option for me. I wanted to keep her forever.
You see Ellie? I love you too much to do that to you. I have hurt too much already and I can’t take it again. I made the decision that we would never be that couple. Sure, we gave up things, but I think we got a lot more in return. I hope she will understand. I know she didn’t that day at the circus. One year after my father’s death, when the decision to be a semi-sociopath was still new, I hurt her physically. It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever done. And I hate myself for it.

All you have to do is run away, and steal yourself from me. Become a mystery to gaze into. You’re so cruel in all you do, but still I believe. I believe in you. “Behold! The Nightmare.”-The Smashing Pumpkins

I can’t say for sure that Elenore remembered the date’s heavy history. She simply wanted to go to the circus, and I didn’t want to be alone that night. If I was alone, I knew I might be tempted to pick at the raw scab in healing that was my metaphorical heart.
We sat on the hard benches of the budget circus while a scattered cornfield of popcorn and gummy mazy of half-eaten candied apples made dirty love under our feet. She had gotten a green snow cone which we shared. She kept sticking out her absurdly vividly colored tongue when I threw popcorn kernels at her. She helped me relax and almost forget. We were not being quiet, but the circus crod was slim on a Sunday, and we only earned a few hell gazes from mothers of squirming toddlers.
The acts were unremarkable. The only one that held my attention at all was the archer shooting an apple off his trusting wife’s head. I found it intriguing because I knew I could never put my life so wholly in another’s hands. It was a simple wrist bob and shed face certain death. She smiled: seemingly unaware. I don’t think any human should have that much control over another’s existence. It’s that thought that terrifies me and makes me reprimand Elenore when she leans too heavily on me. So, I can’t say I really liked the act, but it wasn’t bad.
Elenore was fascinated by the clowns. Whenever those mockeries of human plights came falling, stumbling, or swaggering out, her face lit up with unrivaled joy. They took her to a place where the world couldn’t touch her. I envied that simple ecstasy.
“Why don’t we join the circus, Jarrett?” She said, putting the snowcone straw under my mouth again as the clowns finished up.
“I’m too grizzly a fucker for the circus.”
She giggled and pulled my absurdly long hair to her. It rivaled the lion’s manes to be sure.
“You crazy metal kid. Don’t you think it’ll be fun? Just run away and be carnies for awhile?”
I lifted my eyebrows.
“Possibly…” I conceded. “What would our talent be?”
The final act was wrapping up around this time, and she twined her arm with mine as we waited for the lower bleachers to clear.
“You’re a master bullshitter. Maybe you could be the ringleader,” she jabbed as we made our way down the steps.
“You’re losing your touch, Ellie. Pray tell what would you do?”
“I’d be a trained poodle,” she said simply.
I just shook my head. Her logic was baffling. I think if I had to join her silly circus tirade, I’d be one of those stupid fucking clowns she fancies. When you’re a clown, everyone laughs at your misfortune, and that’s common place for me. It’s your job to make misery funny, and I think I could handle that. It would also be nice to make Elenore smile. A challenging, but satisfying job, I think.
We got in the care and she drove me to my house. The boxes were by the front door. I was finally moving out of that house and into the apartment complex where I live now, the one next to her. I suddenly felt very agitated like I had at dinner with her earlier that night. The school year at the new college without my father and still no major was wearing on me.
“You ever think we’re wasting our time?”
“High school certainly seems proof of our time wasting capability. You mean us in particular?” She asked.
I appreciated her taking my philosophical questions seriously. Trent blew these kinds of questions off. She listened. I pulled a cigarette out and after a few puffs, handed it to her.
“You see these lions and tigers in those circus cages and that’s the only way we’ll ever see them.”
She nodded, smoking in her beautiful way. I was tempted to watch, but I had a point to make.
“I wonder what they’d be if they were out in another town, another cage, or another field? Would they be more of a lion or still that sad bit of spoiled meat jumping through another ring of fire?”
She didn’t answer as she handed the cigarette off. I was ruining her night. I wanted to wallow in misery for awhile, and while she usually stopped me early on, she wasn’t holding me back tonight.
“I’m never going to get out of this town,” I finished, looking away angrily.
There was a pause before she said, very quietly.
“Maybe this town needs you.”
I turned on her. Her hand was in mine and I had begun to squeeze it tightly.
“Well, I don’t need it or anyone here.”
She didn’t understand she had to stay away from me. She was angry now though. Her terrible quiet anger where she said just the right words to hurt.
“I’m with you because I want to be, idiot. I don’t NEED you or that bullshit,” she said clearly, pulling her hand from mine.
Something snapped in me. I was wanting a safe distance from her but not abandonment. That…I couldn’t handle. I couldn’t be left alone again. She knew that. How could she say that? She reached for me or I for her, because my head was spinning and I’m not sure. It was probably she who reached to comfort me. She always does that after she realizes she’s said something awful. I felt my nails dig into her skin of her tiny hand, drawing blood as I tossed it away from me.
“You wouldn’t have said it if you didn’t mean it,” I spat at her downcast eyes.
I got out of the car and ran to the door, angry tears springing to my eyes. I lay against the front door panting and seething. I could see her dark figure in the car still, hunched over the wheel. I pulled at my hair and went back to the window. She wouldn’t look up. Ashamed of me. The worst punishment possible.
“It’s the first anniversary of my dad’s death, Elenore. I’ll call you in a few days when I cool down.”
I should have apologized. Later, I’d look at her hand and see those two ghost-like scares I left. I didn’t deserve her to come back to me. I never said sorry. But then again, neither did she.

To be continued…(hopefully!)