But when she shortened her name…it was then she realized why it was long.
The girl who shot bottle rockets. February 16, 2016
I used to live in a tiny flat in Sherman Hill district. It had marble floors. The marble floors had a fancy name that I can’t recall anymore, but they were cold in the morning when I’d step out of bed. Or, rather, when I’d stretch my bare feet across them like some strange hairless cat out of the couch, because I slept on a fold-out davenport that my mom had reupholstered in tapestry scraps upon her visit. The studio had a bed. A murphy bed to be exact. He lived in the closet and remained as such because he was brass and large and would crush a single girl like me in one solid blow. So, he got the closet, my clothes got the bedroom, and I got the living room. This didn’t frustrate me. It came with the territory, much like my dresses always remaining half-zipped up the back.
My studio was on the corner of the building. Top floor, back right corner, so it had a little extra space the building manager said–though I was pretty sure the extra space was occupied by a large brass bed. The window faced a brick wall. A brick wall to another old building that created a kind of alley between us, though it was so small nothing could occupy it. The birds couldn’t even find it. Not even on a clear day. But, on a clear day, if I cranked my head just right to the left, I could see a patch of blue.
It was on this sill that I perched. I loomed. I thought. I wrote. I cried. I pondered. And, on special nights, I shot bottle rockets. I made fireworks explode.
My love of bottle rockets was inherited. I’m pretty sure it’s a gene passed down from my father. That really is the only logical explanation. Or, to be fair, maybe it was a nostalgia-driven passion passed down from over 20 (at that time) 4th of Julys spent traveling across state lines to fill the car with explosives large and small, stinky and loud, to orchestrate into my family’s very intricate fireworks display that would pack the whole neighborhood into our yard, (as well as the neighboring farmers, my father’s entire church congregation (well, those that didn’t disapprove, and maybe a couple that did), and total strangers passing by on the highway that couldn’t quite figure out why such a grand display was occurring in the middle of gravel roads). It was in my genes.
And, it was a grand way to milk time. I say milk it, because I certainly wasn’t spending it. It was dark in the voided building space. Pitch black actually. The bottle rocket shot with grandeur and a brilliant kite tail of light…ricocheting off 200 year old bricks and mortar and filling the empty with brilliance. And the sound!!!! That GLORIOUS sound…ZIP, POP, SHZOOOOOOOO…along with squeals from a jubilant sill… It was my own space, my own secret void, and I filled it with the most unpredictable of mediums. LIGHT. FIRE. SOUND. EXPLOSION. It was no longer dark. It was no longer quiet. And, no one else knew. It was mine.
I am wrestling with the girl who shot bottle rockets. Every single day now. I used to preserve her, carefully, like fireflies in a jar: careful to screw the lid on extra tight for this one, so the boom of the fireworks didn’t rustle the surface. Until, of course, in one grand gesture I would unleash her, and the sound would crumble all that happened to be around her. But, now, we struggle. We push, we tear, we scratch, we draw blood. Because, I no longer have a pantry, and I don’t want to preserve any longer.
How do I honor the girl who shot bottle rockets without letting her get in my way? She has become my worst advocate. She judges. She calls me a hypocrite. She says I’m boring. But the crazy thing is is, I fear losing her so much that I allow that fear to prevent me from eating toast. Let me explain. Toast is boring. Toasters are extra boring. Talking about toasters is the most boring. But then, talking about toasters while sharing a slice of toast is the epitome of being dead. The thing is is, I fucking LOVE toast! It’s SO good! But, I won’t eat it, I won’t talk about it, and I certainly would NEVER use a toaster because the idea of it somehow makes me feel like I’ve given up my gypsy life–I’ve traded in my bottle rockets. Might as well buy an umbrella and a mini van and study up on weather patterns and appliances because that’s going to be my life!
So how do I, is it possible to, eat my toast and love it too? Is it possible that the girl who shoots bottle rockets is preventing me from growing into my full potential because of her carefully preserved ways? Have I outgrown her? How do I live knowing she’s no longer carefully jarred for a cold winter day (or more accurately for the day when my life gets just a little too real or too grown-up)? This girl, this miraculous, spur of the moment girl who is always late, decked out in leisure suit pants that somehow make sense, that eats peanut butter by the spoonful, sings old jazz tunes to her dwarf rabbit, has no concept of time or of limits, who prefers to be alone, to be single, to be independent… Am I losing me by eating toast? By, God forbid, obeying a watch, or, harder yet, am I losing me by falling in love? Not a fickle, shallow, sexual infatuation, with a person who will never actually get to the girl who shoots bottle rockets mind you, but a real, big, truthful, Godly love?
I cherish the Holly Golightly and Amelie inside me so much, so how do the Frida, the Thoreau, and the Bridget Jones survive? Or maybe that’s it, isn’t it. Maybe they don’t. Maybe the girl who shot bottle rockets I’ve held onto my whole life, that seems to destroy anything that tries to bend her, that arrives anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours late, that makes you think you’re important, but never really incorporates you into her mad schemes, maybe she is nothing but an excuse. Maybe the struggle that I was told I would fight ’til the day I die, the struggle of an artist versus the world, maybe that struggle was a hydrocodonic suggestion to quick fix make me be able to stomach the world, when, in actuality, it is my job as an artist to adapt and grow and stop hiding my bottle rockets in small, black, voided spaces in empty alleys.
Maybe after 37 years, it’s finally time to buy a watch.
…and perhaps even…a toaster.
Lights on January 4, 2016
I’m going to smear my mascara down your cheek
And forget to correct my lipstick.
I might speak too long and too hard and too much.
No, I might. I will.
I’m going to wear my glasses so you can see my scars and sleep with the light on.
I’m going to pull it back…the curtain, the mask, the nightgown, my hair, –the veil and I wonder where you’ll run to.
I’m going to scream too loud and without warning and without intent and not going to tell you why.
I’m going to run.
I’m going to push.
And ask and ask and ask.
I’m going to cry.
And my cheeks are going to streak and my eyes are going to crinkle and my soul is going to spill…
And my legs will not be shaved and my soul will not be clean and my breath will not be crisp and my wingspan will be shallow…my voice will rasp.
And I wonder w h a t you will see.
W h a t
Will you try to mend my stockings?
Quiet my howl?
Console my shiver?
Or w i l l you just breathe.
W i l l you breathe?
…and when you think about what will set you free-
I hope it includes me.
I always imagined him bathed in light.
Faceless, nameless, I only knew his heart, only felt is soul pulsing forward with mine.
I imagined him as light, not in light, but as light itself.
A beacon: strong, warm, and pulsing with life.
I saw him in the morning when I would awaken–beside me…and I knew he held my heart, held it careful and safe because he cherished it.
I felt him encircle me at night when the wind blew colder and my feet couldn’t find comfort from their icy loneliness and he comforted my chill.
He told me I could close my eyes, that he was near and I had no reason to hide. He told me I was life.
I imagined him as light itself.
Light that was unending, unfaltering. The kind of light you swarm to. The kind of light that is not of this world. It is just too beautiful.
I imagined him as light…
But what I didn’t know, is that when he sleeps, the soft breaths and deep slumber don’t dim him.
He still radiates.
His light, it only flames.
The sun and I have a new relationship.
We’ve never gotten along before and I’ve always prayed for rain.
But now her beauty gets me.
And now I rely on her.
She’s the only one that never fails to get me up and never stops trying to touch me.
I can’t hide from her touch, from her glory.
And now I don’t want to.
Sometimes we put down what’s in our hand to chase the only thing that knows us.
Sometimes it klinks when it falls and we feel our heart slide below the stick shift that we can’t get into gear.
…because we know we shouldn’t be chasing. Again.
Maybe the chasing is the same as running.
…Maybe it’s the same as treading water.
…maybe it’s not.
But at least I dropped what was in my hand.