Snow

Roseanne’s office was always cold.

When I had first started going to her for counseling she would apologize and frequently rub her hands up and down her arms as if to make sure I was aware that she was suffering as well and to not blame her for the frigid climate. I had assured her that I didn’t mind the cold. This was, in fact, true. If the office was cold then I had a perfect excuse to keep my jacket on and enjoy the false sense of security it gave me to have it wrapped around my shoulders. My survivalist brain also registered that it would be easier to make a hasty retreat if I didn’t have to search for a jacket hung somewhere on an obscure hook. I allowed that a jacket could be sacrificed if a situation required it but I rather liked the jacket–a leather one with the Led Zeppelin Icarus painted on the back–and I decided that I would put it in as little sacrificial danger as possible.

After a year of seeing her for therapy, the temperature in Roseanne’s office continued to hover around “Arctic” though her performance had changed from apologies and arm-rubbing to complaints and eye-rolling.

“I don’t know how many times I have to tell the super to raise the heat in this building,” she snarled as she pulled a sweater from her closet.

I didn’t know either so I remained silent.

“With how much I pay them in rent it’s the least that they could do. And I’ve told them that I’ve had clients complain about how cold it is.”

I shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

Roseanne’s face convulsed between a series of dirty looks as she tried to decided if I was being obstinately contrary in expressing an opinion which disagreed with hers, or if I was being ridiculously polite and protecting the sensibilities of an inept superintendent.

“How can you not mind?” she finally challenged me.

I would have done some eye-rolling of my own except that this would have indicated what I was thinking and I had long since decided that I wasn’t going to let Roseanne know what was really going in my head. Mind you, this wasn’t a personal reflection of Roseanne, though her personality was in perfect harmony with the temperature of her office, but rather a rule in general when it came to counselors. I had seen several over the years and after a disastrous experience with my first counselor I realized that no amount of psychological training could prepare another creature to wade through the fucked up kettle of fish that swam in my head.

“I’m only in here for forty-five minutes,” I told her which was both a deliberate barb in regard to what was supposed to be an hour long session, and a satisfactory answer to her question which revealed nothing. I adjusted my jacket and leaned back into the couch.

Roseanne drew the line of unprofessional between dirty looks and talking about financials so she gave a dismissive sniff and opened up the folder which contained all of the secrets I had let her discover about my person.

“Let’s see, Kat, where did we leave off last week?” she murmured looking through her notes.

I cringed inwardly as I always did when she used my nickname. This was another common characteristic I had found in counselors in that they always ask what your friends and family called you and then used that name profusely. It helped them to create the illusion that they are friends listening to your problems because they care rather than uninterested third parties whose time you have bought. When it came down to it counseling is really just prostitution without the STDs.

“I don’t remember,” I told her.

“Well, then what happened this week?” she asked completely oblivious to my lack of enthusiasm.

“My former brother-in-law, Ronald, called my mother and said that he found some things of mine that my ex didn’t burn and was going to drop them off,” I offered.

“What was it he found?” Roseanne asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a tote of some old toys that my grandmother made me get out of her basement when she was cleaning. They probably survived because my ex most likely thought that they were my niece’s old toys. When Ron heard that I was moving he also offered to bring up some of the kitchen and bathroom stuff that I had bought. But I’d rather he not bring that all,” I added.

“Why not? If you bought those things then they belong to you,” she told me.

“They don’t matter. I told you about the night that I left and all I cared about taking with me was Kira, and my old “Wonder Woman” comics if I could, and that’s how I still feel. The rest were things. Things don’t matter.”

Things are expensive though,” she insisted. “Those things can help you as you move into your own little nest.”

I wrinkled my nose before I could stop myself. If there was one thing that I was not building it was a “little nest”. Nests are for newlyweds and adorable birds just out of college. The least that you could accuse a feline such as me of building would be a den, though a dungeon would probably be closer to the mark in my particular case.

“I’ll either make do without them or I will buy them myself when I can afford them,” I replied as soon as my nose had returned to smoother state.

“That’s absurd. There’s no taint of your former marriage on your kitchen things,” Roseanne said.

“There is if my ex has peed in them.”

“What?” To Roseanne’s credit she processed this declaration with little more than a slight cocking of the head.

“I’m pretty sure that my ex has peed in my Kitchen-Aid by now,” I said.

Actually, for all for all of his flaws, my ex appreciated fine mixing equipment almost as much as I did and I was confident that my Kitchen-Aid had not been molested, however Roseanne had called me “absurd” so I felt the need to live up to that accusation.

And she had also come dangerously close to uncovering a truth so it was serendipitous that my conventional method of diversion was to say something inane. I’ve become so excellent at this skill that it’s a reflex rather than a reaction now. In much the way that a leg kicks up when it encounters a strike to the knee, my inanity kicks up when it encounters a strike to my brain.

I sat waiting for Roseanne’s response. I hoped that it would be another dirty look since I was creating a mental catalog of all of her annoyed facial tics. She would be a brilliant curmudgeon in a future novel.

Roseanne gave me a deadpan expression. “Then wash it before you use it,” she said.

I was so delighted by this spontaneous drollery that I almost considered taking off my jacket for the rest of the session.

Instead I told her about the time that my ex left me at a rest stop as punishment for telling him to get off at the wrong exit, because sharing a horrible experience with a counselor is akin to leaving an extra five bucks on the motel nightstand.

As was the case whenever I told her a tale of my recent former life, Roseanne listened raptly making up for my monotonous intonation with her own grimaces and colorful commentary.

“He is a horrible!” “What a jerk!” “Are you sure that he did not have some sort of mental deficiency? Because no adult male should behave like that!”

She was never so pleased with herself as when she implied that my ex suffered some sort of malignant mental malady and she, through her astute listening and brilliant deduction had diagnosed him without even a personal consultation. I let her enjoy the moment because I was still amused by her remark about washing the Kitchen-Aid, but I found myself experiencing the empty feeling that comes when a hilarious joke is no longer funny.

Despite my glaringly obvious contempt for counseling, I had entered therapy with genuine intentions of talking about my problems and attempting “to get better”–if there even existed such a state for someone like me–only had I planned on doing this is the most clinical and sterile manner possible, without the messy display of emotion that usually erupts from one’s eyes and nose during a counseling session. I expected this to be a challenge, after all I had been through some very traumatic experience, however I as shared each of the mauvais quart d’heure which were to blame for my sorry state I realized that it was quite simple to keep my emotions in check, namely because I was not feeling any. Initially I thought that it was because I was so loathe to reveal emotion in front of other people that my brain wouldn’t even attempt to access them knowing that I wouldn’t indulge the feelings anyway, but I found that even in the lone safety of my bedroom I could not feel anything. I replayed my most painful memories over and over and I could not even muster a sniffle. I squished up my face and hyperventilated and rapidly blinked my eyes but I could not convince myself to cry. To be honest I didn’t truly want to cry but I felt like I should want to cry, and furthermore I would like the option to be able to cry if the notion should strike me, but it was impossible. All of my tears were gone, or washed away, or dried up leaving behind less salty residue than it would take to thaw an icy patch of sidewalk.

If my lack of emotion wasn’t puzzling enough already I was surprised to find that their absence did not seem to bother Roseanne in the least. Even my rudimentary knowledge of psychology told me that this was likely a problem, and I anticipated a lecture from her about dealing with my feelings, but much like my tears, castigation remained absent. I wondered about her lack of concern regarding my phlegmatic state but I finally decided that she was simply grateful for a client who wasn’t constantly plucking at the requisite box of tissues which all counselors keep within arm’s length. I would have cancelled any further appointments with her at that point but by then she was comfortable enough with me to drop her professional manners and so thoroughly verbally thrashing my ex-husband that I decided to continue therapy for the entertainment alone.

But as I sat on Roseanne’s couch that day, idly twisting the chenille tassel of a of the chintz pillow between my trembling fingers and recounting the details of the trip that will forever make me averse to visiting Florida, I decided that I had had enough of this game. It had been gratifying to hear someone regard my ex with the venom that I could no longer muster, but this mock therapy was not helping me to feel any better about myself, in fact I felt worse than I had a year before. While the pain and anger I’d felt then had been unpleasant at least there had been something inside me, some kind of fire in my belly to make me live if for no other reason than to spite the ex who had assured me that he had been too instrumental in making me who I was to live without him. Now I felt nothing. I felt nothing, and I wanted nothing and I was, indeed, nothing. If I’d had any emotions I probably would have been terrified at that moment but instead there was only the tiniest of twinges like a candle being snuffed out with a pinch.

If Roseanne had asked what I was thinking at that moment I would have answered her from my broken soul for once. Instead she made an errant scribble in the folder containing my married name written in black Sharpie marker and looked up. “Well I guess that will do for today.”

I looked at the clock.

4:40.

“Same time next week?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah, that’s fine.” I gave her the check for my $20 copay and left the office.

On the day of my appointment the following week it began to snow. There was a healthy two inches on the ground by the afternoon–a veritable blizzard by southern New Jersey standards, so I wasn’t surprised when Roseanne called me cancel my appointment.

“What day do you want to come in instead?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have my calender with me so I’ll call you back and reschedule,” I replied.

Of course I never did.

snow, woman

Photo by Mike Wood

Letting Go

I’ve had an epiphantic weekend.

(I know that’s not a word but it should be.)

For example, I sometimes feel like the Past is unfairly vilified. There are so many memes spouting to “not let your past define you” and “you can’t look forward if you’re still looking back” and “blah blah fucking blah blah”. While I don’t deny that these sentiments are in fact correct, I feel like sometimes we can’t go forward until we do look back and see how much that past defined us. It just sucks because it’s never a simple analysis with an obvious answer and the time that we take to get the message into our thick heads is indeed time taken away from the move forward. And it just sometimes happens that the moment when our eyes are blurry from a combination of sweat and tears, when we blink furiously and only see the bottom of the toilet for a brief moment until the sweaty tears drop from our chin and shatter the water surface in jagged circles, that we see the clearest.

At about 3 am last Sunday I began throwing up more violently than I had thrown up in years. I initially chalked it up to food poisoning but even as I heard myself reciting that reason the next morning when I called my office manager to explain why I wouldn’t be in work I knew that bad food wasn’t to blame. I was to blame. Myself and my psychotic need to not only do everything myself but to do it and understand it perfectly…to stand in the middle of a furiously rushing river, holding on to broken tree branch because fuck you river, I am not finished analyzing what is on the bank right there yet.

On the most basic level I was overexhausted from staying awake at all hours due to frustration over this migration. While I managed to do the migration, I did it without fully understanding the internet protocol and how it actually worked. Do I really need to know the ins and outs of IPS? Probably not because I sure as hell am never doing a migration again, but it still pissed me off that I had to just accept that something worked the way that it did because that’s how it does. (And in a related note I was really fucking pissed that I couldn’t get the feed to work for blogger reader. I think I might have fixed it but I won’t know until I publish this.)

humans fuck up, letting go

I bitched about memes and then made one. GO HYPOCRITICAL ME!

On the deeper level though, I realized that the reason I was so stressed about having this site be perfect is because *deep breath* I’m insecure about my writing. All writers are insecure, and I’ve even admitted as much before, but I didn’t realize just how much until I had made myself sick over it. It was on my third day of lying on the couch in a fevered and dehydrated state was that it dawned on me that I was putting a shit-ton of work into my site because I felt like my writing alone wasn’t good enough to stand on its own. I felt like I needed a massive platform to tempt an agent into trying to market my novels and that my Alexa rating would be the thing to sell me instead of my ability. I know now that I can’t think like that anymore. I’m sure that I’m still making grave webmaster errors but I have to accept that they don’t matter.

This entry is so disjointed since you’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with that spew in the beginning about the past and analysis and shit, but what else I realized is that I have made a lot of mistakes in my life and, much like my irrational need to understand the mechanics of internet protocol, I’ve spent time analyzing those mistakes to ensure that I don’t repeat them and have wasted attention where it’s not needed. They were just mistakes. I’m not going to make them again because I’m not a moron. I do stand by my statement that you should learn from your past but sometimes you just do stupid shit and there isn’t any deeper meaning other than you’re a human and we fuck up.

And on another note there is some random shit that happens for no other reason than shitty things sometimes happen to good people.

I’m never going to be one to accept things at face value–it’s just not who I am–but I’m trying to entertain the possibility that the answers might not be complicated, that sometimes understanding comes with letting go.

But He Will Be Missed

“It’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.”

I’ve said the words so many times this past week they’ve become a reflex and I wonder if I really mean them, if I ever meant them.

No, I did. And I do. But I’ve come to realized that a tiny voice in my mind has started to add, “But he will be missed.”

My uncle was a good person who never intentionally hurt anyone. Unfortunately he made some poor choices in his life that hurt himself, and I don’t think he ever realized how much it did hurt us to see him struggle. It irked the shit out of me to see him make huge strides toward a better life only to blow it all on another bad choice. In recent years he had finally showed consistent progress but I think I’d been subconsciously concentrating on what he had done that made me angry when he got sick because it’s easier to be mad than sad.

My uncle’s battle with End Stage Liver Disease ended last Monday.

It’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least until my bitch of a brain betrays me as it often does, and the memories came floating through.

Memories of my uncle making me pancakes when I was in elementary school and then me telling him that he couldn’t move away because who would make them for me when he left.
Of taking my grandmother and me to dinner at the restaurant in Virginia where he got his first job as a chef.
Of introducing me to “Interview with a Vampire”.
Of watching UFC matches at P.J. Whelihan’s and drinking Smithwick’s which I had never had before.
Of taking the injured gosling I had saved to the wildlife rescue because I couldn’t miss work to take it there. (He named it Matilda because she/he had a broken leg and “tilted”.)
Of going to see the Flyers.
Of watching my brother and him ride the roller coasters at Great Adventure.
Of him whispering that I looked beautiful as he passed me on his way to the podium to read at my wedding.

I tried to ignore them all, but grief is the piper who insists on being paid.

So it’s okay. He had been suffering a long time.

But he will be missed.

The Butterfly

I try to keep my October posts all for my Halloween-palooza, however my brain was locked up and every time I tried to write any of the posts that I had outlined, they sounded like shit. The reason for this lockdown? It’s because my brain had been hijacked by what I’m now going to call an RLF, which stands for Rude Little Fuck. An RLF is a story that I don’t want to think about, don’t want to write about and don’t even have fucking time to write about, but will just not go away until I write it. And the really irritating thing? It’s never a happy story about The Adventures of Happy Puppy Cuppy Cake and Cherry Merry Muffin, it’s always some downer shit that I could really do without having bouncing in my brain space. There’s nothing to be done for it though, so here it is, and y’know what? As soon as I wrote it, I was able to blast out a typically brilliant(?) and inane Kat post for later.

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The Butterfly

As my husband brooded silently, ignoring my attempts at conversation save for the occasional icy glare, it occurred to me that this must be how a condemned man feels as he is strapped into the electric chair. Your stomach drops and you start to feel dizzy. Your hands go cold and become slick with sweat. The nubs of your bitten fingernails press into your palms, and your breath becomes more rapid and shallow. It’s no wonder that the dizziness becomes worse to the point that you feel as though your head is floating above your shoulders. A silent, nervous giggle struggles in your throat as you imagine your head as a balloon, rising and floating away. The cold glance of the executioner silences you, and sadly you realize that you could never float away for as light as your head feels, your heart is like lead, keeping you firmly tethered to your fate.

You know it’s coming. You know that at any moment the switch will flip and electricity will rip through your body, your teeth will clench and sparks will explode behind your eyes. It’s coming and there’s no stopping it. Pleading, explaining, cajoling, none of them will save you. The wait become overwhelming, the panic rises like vomit in your throat, the terror shatters your nerves and you finally want to scream, “Just get it the fuck over with!”

I couldn’t figure out why he was so angry with me. We had been having so much fun at the comic convention and I couldn’t understand what had happened. I had been admiring the work of an aspiring comic artist when I felt his fingers dig into the soft flesh of my upper arm and jerk me around. The pain radiated up to my shoulder but what startled me the most was the fury in my husband’s black eyes.

“We are leaving,” he snarled at me.
I felt my head shrinking down, attempting to disappear into my shoulders. “But why? We…we didn’t even finish Artists Alley yet.”
Mark released my arm with a shove. “Fine! Finish!”
I didn’t move.
“Go!” he made a dismissive motion with his hand.
“You don’t want to come, too?” I asked meekly. “You always like to look at the sketches.”
He gave me a disgusted look. “No. I’ll sit here and wait.” Mark dropped onto a bench, crossed his arms over his lean chest and began glaring at the floor.

I didn’t want to go back to Artist Alley anymore, but I knew if I didn’t it would make Mark even angrier. Instead I walked away slowly and kept glancing behind me to see if Mark had changed his mind. When I rounded a corner and was out of Mark’s sight, I pulled my phone out of my bag and began to text my friend, Jerry.

Jerry was a fellow comic nerd and had met us at the convention. He had gone off to do his own thing when Mark and I started in Artist Alley, but I had to let him know that we were leaving.
“Something came up and we gotta go,” I texted him. “Sorry to leave so soon.”
Jerry immediately texted back. “Are you still in Artist Alley? I’m in the next aisle over. Be there in 30 seconds.”
I was in the middle of texting Jerry back when he appeared in front of me.
“Mark’s not feeling so well, so we’re going to head out,” I told him.
“Oh that sucks,” Jerry frowned. “Where is he?”
I gestured around the corner. “Sitting on a bench resting.”
Jerry glanced around the corner. “Oh I see him.” And before I could stop him, Jerry was en route to Mark.

Mark had his elbow resting on the arm of the bench and his head leaning laying on it. He appeared to be sleeping and I was reluctant to wake him.
“He didn’t sleep well last night and he has a headache,” I told Jerry.
Mark opened his eyes at the sound of my voice. I had hoped that the rest had cured him of his anger but his eyes were still hard and cold when they fell on me.
“Jerry wanted to say goodbye,” I mumbled.
“It was nice to meet you,” Jerry smiled warmly and held his hand out to shake Mark’s.
“Yeah. You, too,” Mark grunted. He stood up and dutifully shook Jerry’s hand.
“I guess I’ll see you on the comic forum later, Kate!” he waved at me.
“I’m sure you will!” I replied with false cheer. Mark had already started to stalk away. I threw a quick smile and wave back to Jerry and scurried to catch up.

During the two hour drive from Baltimore back to Philadelphia I did my best to fill the silence with meaningless talk about the comics and vendors we had seen. Mark would occasionally reply with a “yeah” or a nod, but never looked at me.
“Mark,” I finally started quietly, “please tell me what’s wrong.”
He regarded me with the same expression as when he had stepped in a pile of dog crap and then shook his head and turned his attention back to the road.
“I just don’t understand what I did. I’m sorry,” my voice was laced with the hurt I always felt whenever he looked at me like that.
Mark clenched his jaw and shook his head again. “You really don’t know anything, do you?”
“Not if you don’t tell me,” I said timidly.
He didn’t deem to give me a response and I resigned myself to the frigid silence for the rest of the drive home.

Mark jumped out of the car as soon as we parked in the driveway and stalked up to the front door without waiting for me. I gathered up the few bags from the convention and followed him inside.

“Mark,” I tried again as I followed him to the room that was his bedroom before we were married. He stopped and turned so quickly that I nearly walked into him.
“Just leave me alone right now,” he said jerking the bedroom door open.
I felt my eyes tingle with the threat of tears. “Do…do you…?” My tongue felt too thick to form words.
Mark gave that look again. The same face that had once beamed and promised to love me forever when I accepted his marriage proposal was twisted into a mask of revolution, something that resembled pure hatred burned in his eyes. It was almost a relief when he slammed the bedroom door in my face.

I sniffled hard to try and keep the tears from coming but a few managed to seep from my eyes. I went into the bathroom and reached for the tissues. As I did I noticed the marks on my arm from where Mark had grabbed me. I looked in the huge bathroom mirror that spanned the length of the double sink and lifted the short sleeve of my shirt to examine my arm. There was a row of four black circles like the segmented body of a caterpillar where the tips of Mark’s fingers had dug into my bicep. I pulled my sleeve down and covered the bruises as best I could. My father-in-law was home and I didn’t want him to see.

Mark slept in his old bedroom that night. This was not very unusual because he had taken to sleeping in there more and more over the previous five months as he seemed to become angry with me more and more often. At first I had tried to convince him of the old adage of “never go to bed angry”, but it wasn’t long before I realized that “let sleeping dog lie” applied to him better.

It was early morning when I rolled onto my bruised arm and the resulting stab of pain woke me up. I had worn a long sleeve shirt to sleep and had to roll it up to examine the bruise. The bruise had spread through the night. There was a black line where Mark’s fingers had dug into my skin but now purple was fanning out on either side like wings.

“Butterfly,” I mumbled tracing the injured skin.

I heard my dog growl softly in her crate to let me know that she was awake. I hated having my dog sleep in a crate but Mark insisted. I crouched down and opened the latch to open her crate, and was nearly knocked over as my dog bounded out and jumped to lick my face. I kissed the top of her soft, furry head.

“We’re going to get out of here,” I whispered to her. “Mumma just has to get a few more things in order and then we’re never coming back here again.”

And though it took five more months, I did get us out of there. I took one suitcase of clothing and two of my dog’s favorite toys, and left the rest behind. I had wanted to take more so that I didn’t have to completely start over, but when it came down to it, possessions could be replaced, but my life could not.

purple biutterfy, just when the caterpiller thought that the world was over

 

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Okay, so in closing, you may not know this but October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness month, but it’s also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Very quickly I’m going to give you the basic three things about domestic abuse to be aware of: 1-If you know someone who is being abused, don’t judge them for not leaving immediately. It’s not easy on any level including a financial level and an emotional one. 2-If you are being abused, get the fuck away from the asshole! I just admitted that it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, and you cannot afford to stay. There is help out there. 3-If you are an abuser, then do not think for a minute that you are safe. You are a fucking bully and you know what they say about bullies–there’s always a bigger one around the corner. Prepare to meet yours someday. You won’t like it.

Sleep well, M.C.A.

I’ve felt off for the past five days that not even a kickass Cinco de Mayo with my dear, awesome girl, Jewels, could remedy.  I know what my problem is though, and unfortunately one of the curses of being a writer is that writing is sometimes the only thing that gives us solace.  I guess I could write this all out and keep it to myself, but there would not be stores filled with thousands of books if writers were content to form words for themselves.  It’s another curse of being a writer.

For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the man in this story as my “father”, though the fact that he was briefly married to my mother and donated a bit of his DNA to create me hardly qualifies him for the title.  “Stepbitch” is my stepmother, but not even for simplicity’s sake will I call her “mother”, unless it’s followed by “fucker”.

***

I had always hated when I had to stay the weekend at my father’s, but there was a period when I was about seven that I particularly hated it.  During that time my father and stepbitch had, I guess, “reconnected” with my aunt Karen and her current husband, and every Saturday, they would drag me, my sister and my toddler brother to her apartment where we would be quarantined with her obnoxious four-year-old son, Ian, in a small bedroom while the adults would drink in the dining room.  We would get there after dinner and stay until at least two in the morning.  One time I fell asleep on the living room floor and woke to find my father and stepbitch sleeping on the couch and the sun filtering through the blinds.  I remember that I was somewhat fascinated because I didn’t know that adults had slumber parties.

My aunt would greet us at the door, beer already in hand, and smile her blinding white smile.  There was something that I didn’t like about my aunt Karen.  Every once in a while her perpetual brilliant smile would fall from her face and I would see something cold and reptilian in her black eyes.  I couldn’t explain exactly what I saw, but I instinctively knew that this was not someone to be trusted.

“You’re some lucky kids, getting to stay up so late!” she would tell us as she closed the bedroom door with a decisive click.

I didn’t feel lucky at all.  And that’s what I hated the most: that the adults tried to make it sound like they were doing us a favour.  I had suspected that this wasn’t the case before, but it was confirmed one time when I wandered from the confines of my cousin’s bedroom and into the dining room where the adults were gathered around laughing loudly.

“What’s wrong, Kat?” stepbitch immediately asked in annoyance.

“Nothing.  I just wanted to come out here and visit.”

“Well, it’s adult time right now.  Go back in the bedroom and play.”

I glanced around the table.  Any traces of laughter were gone from the four adult faces.  My gaze fell on my aunt, and again I sensed danger in those black basilisk eyes.  The hackles raised on the back of my neck, and for some stupid reason I looked up to my father for protection.  As usual, he did not even bother to return my gaze, so I retreated back to the bedroom in silence.

Sometimes my aunt’s husbands two sons, Tim and Shawn, would be visiting, and then the tiny bedroom would be even more cramped.  Ironically I liked my step-cousins better than Ian who was my blood-cousin.  Tim was the same age as I and he hated our situation as much as I did.  I felt an especial kinship to Tim because one time, the adults called the two of us from the bedroom because they wanted to see who was taller.  I was already self-conscious about my height so to have it the subject of scrutiny made me want to hunch down.  The adults couldn’t tell by looking at us side by side who was taller, so my aunt’s husband grabbed me and spun me around.  I was instantly filled with terror at a man putting his hands on me, but panicked tears filled my eyes as I realized that he was pressing my back against Tim’s.  I started to shake as I realized that my butt was touching his butt, but I clenched my teeth and forced myself to stand as still as possible, telling myself that it would be over soon.  When the adults finally released us, I noticed that there were tears in Tim’s eyes as well.  We walked back to the bedroom in silence, but a look of understanding passed between us before he opened the bedroom door, and when my sister asked me why I was crying I just told her that I hated daddy.  It wasn’t a lie.

On one particular occasion Tim had brought a cassette player and a stack of tapes with him.  I was thoroughly impressed because I had only recently discovered the world of cassette tapes and was just starting to collect them myself.  Tim pulled one of tapes from it’s case.
“This one’s cool,” he told me as he put the tape into the player and pushed play.

“KICK IT!” suddenly blared from the speakers.

I listened in rapt silence to the first two stanzas, but my the third chorus I was screaming, “You gotta fight!  For your right!  To paaaaaar-tay!”

I insisted that Tim play the song again, and then again, and by the third listen I was screaming the entire song, though the chorus remained the highlight.  The other kids joined in, and soon we were all screaming and laughing.  While I did enjoy screaming just for screaming’s sake, there was some tiny part of me that knew that I was being noisy because I wanted to get the attention of the adults and make my anger known.  Stepbitch did eventually burst through the door and explode at us to shut up, but for once her wrath didn’t matter.  Disappointing my father didn’t matter.  For one brief moment, I wasn’t powerless and I had made my voice heard.

Decades later I still think of that night at my aunt’s whenever I hear “(You Gotta) Fight for You Right (To Party).  It was, in fact, the only memory that I could easily recall of those visits to my aunt’s.  It wasn’t until Adam Yauch died, and I was consumed by this, frankly absurd, feeling of grief over his death, that I realized the gift that Adam’s song gave to me.  All of these years I could have been plagued with only horrible memories of my aunt’s apartment, but instead the song and that one evening were the only things that I would spring to mind.  I’ve realized that in some warped way that I’ve felt as though Adam Yauch created that song specifically to save me that night.  He provided the protection that I so desperately wanted before I was able to defend myself.  Adams’ passing has made me feel like I lost the older brother that I’d always thought would keep me safe, one that lead by example and told me that it was okay to not be happy with the behaviour of adults.

Thank you, and sleep well, brother-I-never-knew.  You helped your “little sister” more than you could ever know.

(Many thanks to my friend Emmet at The Momus Report, for finding this.)

(Also, no comments necessary.  Sometimes there’s just nothing to say.  I’ll be back tomorrow, stronger and kicking ass harder.  Because I’m a rockstar.)

Nope. Like All My Short Stories, I’ve Not A Clue What to Title This

For those of ya’all who are new up in here, I occasionally get the urge to write something “serious”.

I know, I know.

This is not what you signed up for when you jumped on the crazy train that is Kat O’ Nine Tales, but the good news is that I don’t do it often, and I always give a warning right up front so you can get your ticket punched and leap from the car before I begin.  Don’t worry, I’ll loop right around and pick you up on the trip back to what-the-fuckery in the next post.  In the mean time, here’s some juice boxes and a few comic books to keep you busy until I get back.  Keep an eye on your little sister, and don’t talk to strangers.

So, background for this bit.  I started it way back in the beginning of February when I’d just started packing for The Move–hence the “home” theme–but never got around to finishing it.  I might have left this story in the pot since I moved up the projected finish date for my book, but then my hand was hurting like a bitch on Thursday night and I decided to use the pain to finish–hence the length.  I’m gonna blame it on the paaaaaain, yeah yeaaaaah…

*ahem*

Off we go then.

UPDATE: I finally named my “child” and it’s “Borne in Armor”.
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At sunset the ocean turned the colour of fire and blood, a morbid reflection of the battle which had just ended.

The knight stepped out onto the sand, the wet ground immediately sagging under the weight of heavy armour, and then she dropped to her knees.

“I’m so tired,” she murmured, her voice barely loud enough to carry above the crash of waves.  She removed her helm and let her chin fall on her breastplate.

“It was a long battle, my lady,” her elderly squire moved to retrieve the helm from where it had fallen from his lady’s fingers, “and an even longer war.  But your enemy’s host has finally been crushed. You will be able to rest now.”

A clash of metal interrupted him as a pair of swords crossed over a prize looted from one of many corpses littering the field.

The squire turned back to his lady and shuttered as the victor ended his opponent’s life in a flash of sliver and a spurt of crimson.

“Let us leave this place, my lady. Let us go home.”

The knight pulled the metal gauntlets from her hands and then dropped forward so that her fingers clawed into the sand.

“Home? And where would home be, dear squire?”

“The land of your birth of course, my lady.”

The knight laughed bitterly as her head continued to hang low.

“The land of my birth? Surely you do not mean that place many leagues from here, where the hills doze in sleepy emerald waves with blankets of tiny purple flowers? Where cherry trees blossom and perfume the air so richly that you can taste their sweetness? Where Autumn mists creep through the Beechnut tree forest like leashes of silver foxes?”

She raised her head to look at the squire with grey eyes that were as hard and cold as her armour.

“Surely you do not mean that place.”

The squire scoured his mind for the correct answer to his lady’s peculiar speech.

“I do not understand, my lady,” he was finally forced to admit.

The knight stood up, “Assist me in removing the rest of my suit.”

“My lady that is unwise.  There may yet be enemies lurking at hand.”

“I am your knight and you will assist me,” her flinty eyes sliced into the squire.

“Yes, my lady,” he said quietly and began unfastening the knight’s breastplate.  He was loathe to place it on the damp sand yet did not have a choice.

“Do remember the first time that you helped me don this armour?” the knight asked as another piece of fitted metal fell to the sand.

“I remember, my lady.  You were fourteen, barely flowered, when you insisted that you would not become a spoil of war, that you would take your fate into your own hands and fight your family’s enemy.  And so your father humoured you, and gave you this armour, never expecting that you actively use it.”

A note of pride entered the squire’s voice as he continued his work, “How could any of us have known the conqueror that you would become?  How you would crush your enemies at every turn, destroy them in battle, and slaughter all who dared engage you.

He examined the gorget in his hands, “Truly my lady thrived in this armour.”

His eyes pleaded as he looked up, “And I would once again advise that my lady continue to wear it for her protection.”

“Counsel which was not requested of you, squire.  Continue your work,” the knight looked out into the ocean, “I would do this final task unburdened.”

A strange chill ran through the squire and his hands remained still, “My lady?”

The knight continued to stare at the burning water, “You claim that your lady thrived in this armour.  You are mistaken.  Your lady died in this armour.  And became something else.”

She turned to face him again, teeth clenched in anger, “I commanded you to continue your work.”

The squire slowly raised his hands, but then moved with deft, efficient motions until the knight’s entire suit lay in a pile on the sand and she stood before him wearing only a thin shift stained with sweat and blood.

“Is the land of my birth truly my home, squire?” she asked softly.

The ocean breeze combed through the lady’s long red hair and the squire was reminded of the little girl who would weave flowers into her braids.

“Yes, my lady,” the squire’s voice was heavy with urgency, “Yes, always.”

She smiled sadly, “Then I am to remain here.”

“There,” she said gesturing to the smoking battlefield with a bare arm, “That is the land of my birth, squire.”

The squire looked onto the field.  The remains of those who had fallen in sacrifice of his lady’s victory were being carted away for proper burial, but the bodies of the enemy would remain to rot and feed whatever carrion would find them.

“There is no home to be found there, dear squire,” she finished and turned back to the rolling waves.

“And now you understand why I needed to be free of my false armour,” the lady began walking toward the surf.

The squire felt the tide of panic rise as he realized his lady’s purpose.

“No!  My lady!  Do not do this!”

She did not respond but continued to the water.

“My lady, please!”

Her feet had just met the water’s edge when she paused a moment but did not turn.  The ocean foamed around her and up the shore from her back like the long lacy wedding veil the lady might have worn in a different life.  And then she was gone beneath the waves.

Tears were running freely down the old man’s wrinkled cheeks as the last gasp of sunlight was swallowed by the horizon.  He could not choke back his sobs at the bitter irony that, while he did understand his lady’s need to rid herself of her armour, she would have drown quicker had she kept it on.

red ocean sunset