Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I protect my heart
I don’t let people in
At least not too deep,
So nothing can begin

I’m the quiet girl
Who always shies away
Who stays in the background
With nothing to say?

Then you came along
And you seemed so safe
You wanted commitment
I gave you my faith

I let myself trust you
I believed what you said
I opened my heart
But it was all in my head

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"When I Am Dead, My Dearest..." ("Song" parody)

When I am dead, my dearest
Will you even know?
Would it even matter,
To my funeral would you go?

When I am dead, my dearest
I'll be old and gray
Yet I'll always wonder
Whatever would you say?

Would you even dare
To let a few tears fall?
Would you think about us
And wish you'd thought to call?

Would you gaze upon me
And feel some remorse?
Or would you be cold inside?
I'll forgive you, of course

When I am dead, my dearest
Will it even make a dent?
Sometimes things just happen
Perhaps we just weren't meant.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Into The Spotlight

A dimly lit bakstage
Illuminated by
two small, dull, blue lightbulbs
And the bright stage light that
sneaks behind the curtain

A young girl anxiously
shifts her weight from
One foot to another
The butterflies rise up
Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat.

Without warning, Scene one ends
Black shadows transform
The daunting, wooden structure
The roar of applause falls on numb ears
Adrenaline surges

"I Am" Poem

I am a blank canvas
I wonder about the future
I hear the clock ticking
I see a vast openness ahead
I want to succeed
I am a blank canvas

I pretend to have it all together
I feel anxious
I touch the pages of my life
I worry that I will never find love
I cry late at night
I am a blank canvas

I understand that I am young
I say I have potential
I dream of what's yet to come
I try to do the right thing
I hope I don't screw up
I am a blank canvas

Monday, March 31, 2014


            Something bad is going to happen today.  I awake to that singular thought, clear and loud in my head.  There’s a knot in my stomach, the kind you get when your intuition tells you something just isn’t right.  Before I can address this feeling, I hear an engine staring up outside. Fuck.  Becky is taking the car and leaving without me.  Sometimes I swear she pulls shit like this just to spite me.  I groggily open my eyes and drag myself out of my warm bed to the window.  The morning air is cool on my face and the breeze blows my satin curtains into the room.  Through the light, misty rain I see my younger sister blow a kiss in my direction as she backs out with the Honda - the Honda that we agreed to share.  I sigh and rush to get dressed.  It’ll be a hell of a walk if I want to make it to school on time.
            School sucks, as usual, another day of monotonous classes and bitchy students.  At least I have my best friend, Erin around to keep me sane.  On this particular day, she suggests we hit the library after school.  “There’s this lecture on international relations,” she said with a grin.  Erin knows me too well; how I love to throw myself into intellectual endeavors to avoid dealing with my feelings.
            When the final, piercing bell rings, I all but jump out of my seat, grab my bag and book it out the door.  As I cross the parking lot, I notice a familiar, blonde ponytail a dozen feet ahead of me.  “Hey!” I shout.  Becky stops and turns on her heel. 
“Hey yourself”. 
“What the heck was that this morning?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 
I roll my eyes. 
“Really we’re going to play this game?”
 My sister stares at me blankly.  So I reluctantly elaborate. 
“I’m referring to the fact that we are supposed to be sharing the car and you took off before I was even awake.”
 “Sorry, I had places to be.” 
“Right… and you just assume your places to be are more important than mine?  I was late for government because I had to walk three miles in the rain!” 
“Awww, three whole miles?” 
Becky makes a sarcastic pout.  “Suck it up,” she says.  “The exercise is good for you”.  I try to calm down.  I’m not in the mood for another sisterly fight.  “Look Becky, I’m having a crappy day and I am really, really not in the mood to put up with your sarcasm.”  “Fine, whatever,” she says without a trace of sincerity.  “I’m sorry for not giving you a ride to school.  Can you get over it now?”  God, sixteen-year-olds can be infuriating.  “No!” I snap.  “I’m not just going to get over it.  I got over it the first five times you pulled something like this!”  “Yeah sure, whatever, it won’t happen again.  Promise”.  I glance at my watch.  Shoot!  Already 3:15?  “You know what? I don’t need this.  Erin and I are going to a lecture at the library and if I don’t leave now, I’m going to miss it.  “Then I guess you won’t make it.  I need to go talk to coach McGuire about tennis practice tomorrow.”  As she turns to walk away, a wave of anger overtakes me.  I snatch the keys out of Becky’s hand and storm towards my car.   Behind me, I hear shouting.  “Seriously? How am I supposed to get home?”  I can’t resist throwing my sister’s own sass back at her.  “Exercise is good for you!”  “I hate you!” Becky screams.  These words hurt me, but I brush them off with a nonchalant “Whatever!” and drive away, leaving her standing alone in the parking lot.
            After the lecture, I get into the Honda, and turn on the radio.  The traffic report says there was some sort of accident on Almond Street, but the backup is starting to disperse by now.  Just to be safe, I avoid that side of town altogether and take the back roads.  As I turn onto my street, I see the glow of red flashing lights up ahead.  Huh.  Some sort of excitement must be going on.  When I get closer, I see several police cars in front of my house.  There is a cluster of our neighbors standing across the street, watching.  My stomach tightens a little, but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions.  I pull into the driveway and get out of the car.  The neighbors all start whispering to each other.  I wish they’d just mind their own business.  A tall, policeman with broad shoulders and a serious expression comes out of the house, slowly.  “Are you Jennifer Johnson?” he asks.  “Yes” I reply cautiously.  “Am I in trouble?”  “I’m very sorry, miss.  A car hit your sister, Rebecca, this afternoon while she walking along Almond Street.  The driver called an ambulance, but she was killed on impact.  There was nothing they could do.”  NO!  “No.”  I wait for him to tell me there was a mistake, that this is the wrong house and apologize for the confusion.  He just stands there looking official.  “No!”  This time I don’t recognize my own voice.  It sounds higher, strangled.  “That’s not possible!  I just saw Becky three hours ago, she can’t be…” I trail off.  To say the word would make it too final, too real.  “I’m very sorry for your loss ma’am.”  The straight-faced man says.  “No! I don’t believe you!” Of course I do.  “You’re lying to me!”  Why would he lie about this, idiot? 
“I understand this is a difficult time-“ 
“Difficult? Difficult?  No, this isn’t difficult at all because I know it didn’t happen!” 
I will not accept this.  “Becky put you up to this, didn’t she?”  I force a laugh.  “I’m going to kill her!”  I look back at the tall man’s stone expression.  In a last, desperate attempt, I beg, “Please tell me you’re kidding?”  “I wish I could.”  And with that, he turns and goes back into the house.  Through the open door, I see several other officers.  I catch sigh of my father’s arm around my mother’s heaving shoulders.  Her sobs make everything real for me and it starts to sink in.  I feel my entire body go numb; the tightness in my stomach now feels like a bag of rocks; the lump in my throat is so large, I don’t know how I’m still breathing.  Oh, God.  I feel the prick of tears in the corners of my eyes.  Oh my God!  I want nothing more than to collapse right then and there on my front lawn, but I still have my pride.  I see the huddle of our neighbors watching me intensely, waiting to see what I’ll do next.  I’m not a museum exhibit.  My pain will not be their entertainment.  Somehow I make it to the front door.  My feet move as if I were sleepwalking.  The moment I walk in the door, my mother tries to comfort me.  I’ve never seen her like this.  Her flawless curls are now disheveled and mascara has formed a dark smudge down each of her cheeks.  The sight of my strong, confident mom in this state scares me.  I feel like a bitch, but I brush off her attempted hug and go straight upstairs to my room.  The satin curtains remind of this morning.  When I had stood at that window with nothing but contempt for my younger sister.  The younger sister I would, now, never see again.  With that thought, I crumple onto my bed and cry until my body can’t take it anymore and sleep drags me under.
            Days pass.  I don’t leave my room.  I try my usual coping method of throwing myself into my pile of books, but even that can’t hold my attention.  I feel bad for my parents.  When I turn down the reheated casseroles they try to bring me I can see the anxiety written all over their faces.  I just can’t bring myself to eat anything, read anything, do anything.  I try sleep.  You can’t feel anything when you sleep.  But every time I close my eyes, I see flashbacks of that day: Becky blowing me a kiss a she drives away, her blonde ponytail dancing in front of me, yelling at her in the parking lot, leaving her standing there all alone.  What haunt me most are the last words we ever exchanged.  “I hate you.”  “Whatever.”  A wave of anger rises from my gut.  Why the fuck did I blow her off like that?  Was my stupid lecture really more important than my sister’s life?  Did she die thinking I didn’t give a shit about her?  The more I think, the more I hate myself.  After a few days, I finally concede, and choke down some tuna casserole from Mrs. Miller down the street.  I remember her standing across the road staring at our house that night.  But, then again, who wasn’t?  The casserole is salty, but I know I need to eat something.  Not that I deserve it.  Why am I sitting here eating tuna while my little sister is laying in a morgue somewhere waiting for her burial?  The injustice of it all disgusts me and I can’t force down much food before I want to be sick.  I retreat back to the relative safety of my blankets and pillows and pray for sleep that isn’t filled with Becky’s smile.
            Days turn into weeks.  My phone rings several times a day.  I know its Erin.  I know she’s worried about me.  I don’t pick up.
            Finally, my parents tell me they want me to go see a therapist.  A shrink?  They expect me to tell some stranger about my problems when I won’t even talk to my best friend?  I try to resist the idea, but they are insistent.  Finally I agree and, two days later, am dropped off outside a cement, clinical-looking office building.  “We’ll be back to pick you up in an hour, Hon,” my mom says as she gives me a quick hug good-bye.
I walk through the heavy glass door and sign in with the receptionist, a young man probably still in grad school.  “Just take a seat,” he tells me.  “Dr. Collins will be right with you.”  His voice is soft but sounds somewhat rehearsed, like he’s trying a little too hard to be comforting.  I sit on a plushy, brown couch and take in my surroundings.  The lights are covered in blue scarves, making the space dimmer; the walls are painted pastel green; the waiting room smells distinctly like lavender incense.  The glass coffee table in front of me is home to a neatly trimmed bonsai tree, a stack of magazines, and a little Zen garden.  I absent-mindedly pick up the rake and drag it back and forth through the fine, white sand.  “Jennifer Johnson?”  I look up at a professional- looking woman in her mid to late thirties.  Her make up is minimal, but infallible; her dark red hair is tied up in a tight bun.  “That’s me.”  “Wonderful.  Right this way,” Dr. Collins gestures me forward with a smile.
Her office has minimal decorations.  It’s the same shade of green as the waiting room and there are a few candles burning around the room.  My shrink sits on an office chair behind a wooden desk.  I take my place in the leather armchair in front of her.  “So, Jennifer.  How are things?”  As if I’m going to just start spilling all my deep emotional crap to this total stranger.  “Fine.”  I answer shortly.  “Are you sure there’s nothing you want to talk about?  You’ve been going through an extremely devastating time.  Whatever you’re feeling is completely normal.  Trust me, I’ve seen it all.”  Please stop talking to me.  “Yeah, no, I’m fine.  I don’t want to talk.”  Not to you, anyway.  “Look Jennifer, I understand how you’re feeling.  After the loss of a loved one it’s typical to feel grief, anger, even guilt-“ My stomach lurches.  How does she know?  I didn’t tell anyone about Becky and my last exchange.  I couldn’t stand the thought of the subtle accusations on my parents’ faces.  They’d try to hide it, of course.  But it would be there.   They would blame me, as they should. “Guilt?” 
“Yes, survivor’s guilt.  Some people find themselves questioning why they were the one to live while another was not.  They might even feel personal responsibility for the situation.  The important thing for you to understand, Jennifer, is that this is not your fault.” 
“The hell it isn’t.” 
“What do you mean by that?” 
“Just forget it.” 
Dr. Collins leans forward in her chair and looks at me with such an open and patient expression that I almost tell her everything right then and there.  “Look, Jennifer, I really am here to help you.  Please help me do that by telling me what’s on your mind.  I promise, I won’t judge.”
            I start to open my mouth, to confide in this woman I’ve only just met, to bare my soul, but something stops me.  My words stick in my throat.  “I’m fine” is what comes out instead.  “It’s okay not be okay, Jennifer,” Dr. Collins says reassuringly.  It’s too late.  My walls and defenses are already up.  That moment of vulnerability has passed.  “Okay.  I’m fine,” I say shortly.  “Can I go now?”  Dr. Collins sighs.  “Jennifer, I can’t help you if you aren’t willing to let me.  I really wish you would discuss this with me, but if you refuse to, there’s nothing I can do.  But, here, at least take my card and call me if you ever need anything,” she hands me her purple business card with DR. COLLINS in bold white letters across the top.  I quickly take it, give her a tight smile and hurry out of the office.
            I sit on the curb and look at my watch.  I still have half an hour to wait for my mom to come pick me up.  What am I going to tell her when she asks how my session went?  Oh yeah, mom, everything was great.  I talked about my feelings; we held hands, cried; now everything’s just peachy!  Bullshit.
Screw it.  I can’t just sit here waiting for my ride.  One of the only perks of living in a small town: everything’s within walking distance if you have the time.  I pick myself up off the sidewalk and walk home.  There are dark, purple thunderclouds gathering on the horizon, but I’m certain I have a few hours before they reach us.  It’s almost refreshing to be alone with my thoughts; I let all the sorrow, guilt, and rage that have been bottled up inside me run free within my head.  This may have been a mistake.  Every negative thought, every accusation, they’ve all been laying dormant in my subconscious.  Now that I acknowledge them, it seems as if they are fighting each other for my attention.  This whole thing is your fault.  What would your parents say if they knew the truth?  Would they even still love you?  Everything is your fault.  You selfish bitch.   My mind races; my own thoughts start to overtake me and I feel like I’m drowning.
When I see the black shingles of my roof, I have a brief, moment of relief; finally a safe haven.  But a second later I realize that these thoughts haunting me are not just going to go away.  Now that I’ve opened the floodgates, they’re never going to go away.  Your fault.  All your fault.  Everything is your fault.  I stand in the driveway of my childhood home, confronted by the nightmare of my own mind. I can’t do this anymore.  I will not live like this. 
The Honda lies, untouched, in our garage; I haven’t had the stomach to look at it since that day.  I can’t do this anymore.  Some mix of determination and desperation clutches me.  I grab the keys from on top of the front left tire and start up the engine.  The sound brings back a flashback; me groggily opening my eyes, looking out my window, Becky blowing me a kiss as she drives away.  All your fault.  I try to shove the thought out of my mind but others just replace it.  Without realizing what I’m doing, I throw the car into reverse and take off.  I know I’m in no state to drive.  I don’t care.  I can’t see any thing except the road in front of me.  I can’t hear anything except the roaring in my head and the ringing in my ears.  I feel like I’m possessed.  A part of my brain, which I do not fully understand, has taken control.  I have no idea where I’m going; I just drive. 
Finally I stop the car, and turn off the engine.  Of course.  I’m parked on the old bridge, steel bridge on the edge of town.  Nobody uses it anymore since they built the main road back in the 80s.  The vegetation has started to take over; ivy wraps around the steel support bars, the cement on the bridge and the road leading to it is now ridden with potholes nobody saw the use in fixing.  Just through the trees is my old elementary school.  Becky and I used to sneak away at recess and eat our lunches on this bridge.  We’d play fairies and princesses, fight dragons and capture thieves.  We were best friends back then- inseparable.  What changed?
My hand brushes my cheek to wipe away tears I hadn’t realized I was crying.  I find myself standing on the edge on the bridge gripping the rust-covered beams.  The cool wind from the oncoming storm cuts the warm air and blows my hair back; it smells like rain.  I hear the familiar boom of thunder not too far in the distance.  The sky has been gradually darkening, making the world a strange color.  I stare at the gushing river, maybe thirty feet below.  The water turns white as it dances over the rocks.  It looks so peaceful, so serene, so beautiful.  I do this anymore.  My hands tighten around the metal.  The rust is cool and solid, the first firm thing I’ve been able to hold for what seems like years, the first piece of stability in my life since I lost Becky.  All your fault.  You did this.  Your fault.  You selfish bitch.  You killed her.  You killed her.  You killed her.  I don’t bother to wipe the tears from my cheeks this time.  I just let them fall.  I keep my eyes fixed on the rocks below.  Every muscle in my body tenses as I prepare to lift my body weight over the rusty bars. 
Is this really what Becky would want?  A voice rings clear in my ears, rising about all other thoughts.  Are you honestly going to leave your parents to grieve the loss of two children?  I come out of my trance-like state and my situation starts to sink in.  This isn’t the solution to my problem.  This won’t solve anything.  This will only cause more pain.  My muscles relax and I let my arms fall to my sides.  I hadn’t realized how tightly my hands were clenched around the metal bar.  I stand there, in the middle of the bridge alone for a few minutes.  I take in the humid air, the stillness, the occasional thunder.
Finally, I realize there is only one place to go.  I drive to the John Wilson cemetery.  Becky’s grave still looks fresh.  There is only a thin layer of grass growing over it.  I had never found the strength to come visit until today.  The stone is nice; shiny black granite.  Big white letter proclaim:
Rebecca Johnson
Beloved Daughter, Sister, and Friend
Beneath the words is a little engraved picture of Becky.  Mom and dad chose one of her tennis pictures.  She looks so happy, so carefree.  She had the world at her fingertips.
            “Hey there, Becky.”  I feel a little awkward talking to a stone, but continue anyway.  “Gosh, I don’t know what to say.  It’s weird, you know.  Talking to you without getting some sassy comment back.”  I laugh uncomfortably.  “I wish you did have something snarky to say right now.  Believe it or not, I miss our fights.  I miss the challenges you gave me.  I miss my partner in crime.  God Becky, I just miss you so much.”  A sob heaves through my chest and escapes my lips.  “I can’t get that day out of my head.  Everything I see reminds me of you.  Every time I close my eyes I see your face…” I pause for a moment, taking a few deep breaths.  “There are no words to describe how sorry I am, Becky.  This whole thing is my fault.  .  I don’t know how I can ever forgive myself for what I did.  I certainly don’t except you to, wherever you are…” I trail off.  “I just want you to know that even though we used to fight all the time, I couldn’t imagine my childhood without you.  Becky, you were my best friend, I just wish I had been able to tell you that sooner.”  I sit in silence in front of the stone for a few moments.  “Okay, well, I guess that’s all I have to say.  I suppose it’s too little too late, huh?”
Suddenly I smell what I swear is Becky’s perfume.  She never left home without copious amounts of the stuff; I’d recognize it anywhere.  I look around the cemetery.  Someone must have the same brand.  But the place is empty; no one wants to get caught in the rain.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, maybe it’s a strange sisterly connection, but I feel like Becky is nearby.  Suddenly an impossibly light breeze rustles my hair and I distinctly hear Becky’s voice whisper, “I forgive you.”  It can’t possibly be her.  Becky’s gone.  She isn’t coming back.  I try to convince myself I’m just imagining things, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m not alone in this cemetery.  The first drops of rain start to fall.  I feel the warmth of relief that I can’t describe deep in my chest.  It might take awhile, and I may never be okay, but I’m going to get through this.  I can be strong, for Becky if nothing else.  “I love you so much baby sister,” I say as I stand up and make my way back to the car.
I know my parents are going to be worried about me by now.  I need to get home.  I can’t believe how selfish I’ve been acting.  I shut everyone else out to deal with my own pain without even considering they’re feelings.  My parents must’ve spent so much energy worrying about me through all this.  Not anymore.  I’m going to pull myself together and be there for my family.  I know I can do that.
Before I start the car, I pull out my cell phone and a little, purple business card.  I dial the number and listen to the ringing on the other line.  “Dr. Collins’ office.”  “Hi Dr. Collins. I think I’m ready to talk now.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

POV Exercise

The first paragraph of a short story I'm working on...

1st Person (Original):

I awake to the sound of an engine starting up in the driveway.  Fuck.  Becky took the car and left without me.  Sometimes I swear she pull shit like this just to spite me.  I groggily open my eyes and drag myself out of my warm bed to the window.  The morning air is cool on my face and the breeze blows my satin curtains into the room.  Through the light, misty rain, I see my younger sister blow a kiss in my direction as she backs out with the Honda- the Honda that we agreed to share.  I sigh and rush to get dressed.  It’s going to be a hell of a walk to make it to school on time.

3rd Person:

Jen awoke to the sound of an engine starting up in the driveway.  Fuck, she thought.  Her younger sister, Becky took their car and was leaving without her.   Jen groggily opened her eyes and drug herself out of her warm bed to the window.  The morning air was cool on her face and the breeze blew her satin curtains into the room.  Through the light, misty rain, Jen could see her younger sister blow a kiss in her direction as she backed out with the Honda- the Honda that they had agreed to share.  She sighed and rushed to get dressed.  She had a hell of a walk ahead of her if she intended to make it to school on time, which she did