Fresh scent of grass, car fumes, sticky ice cream hands in the late evening, air tasting like heat and humidity. Surrounded by the soft thud thud of many pairs of stubby legs running around on concrete. Following odd chirping sounds with cupped hands and eyebrows damp with anticipation. I can see it – a big grasshopper perched in the grass, chirping, hopping great lengths, beady eyes twitching at predatory toddlers. A brief moment of triumphant joy and then I hear a child crying… It’s me when I was a kid – the first time I caught a grasshopper on my own, and the first time I felt how strong its legs were against the palm of my soft tot hands.
The first time I tasted the bittersweet flavor of independence.
I remember the dented black mosquito screens over the windows of my grandmother’s apartment in China on the 7th floor and the unkempt grey cement stairs I struggled up with my stubby four-year-old legs everyday. I remember when I colored a horse purple on my first day of school in America, how everyone laughed at me because I couldn’t read “BROWN” and laughed more when I asked why the letters were all BIG. I remember trying to lose a wiggly tooth by biting into an apple because that’s how it was done in the cartoons.
Remember… the verb that captures the noun experience. And yet, it is that very curious act of remembering that reminds me just how much I have forgotten. Things I used to consider relevant have become fuzzy, like lens with short focal lengths, and it makes me wonder just how many experiences I have lost to time.
The only time I think of apples and oranges is when I am choosing between them for my afternoon snack. What comparing apples and oranges is for me boils down to a decision – a decision to choose one over the other, to reach a trembling hand over to snatch one, to label each as something I designate a meaning to.
Some decisions we make are very easy: we get up when it’s time to go to school or work, brush our teeth to prevent cavities, and eat because we need to live. Other decisions are not so intuitive.
For me, recently, the prompt wasn’t “How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?” but apples or oranges, pick one. I raised one hand tentatively to pick fruit from my figurative apple tree, but my other hand said, “Stop!” and procured a whole list of reasons why I shouldn’t. I stood at a standstill, feeling like the de-glorified heroine of a fairytale, or perhaps a discombobulated dog trying to pee on a green fire hydrant. A normal dog wouldn’t have enough cone cells to tell the difference, but such is my handicap. Oh, you lucky mutt – just think about all that free parking!
I rack my brain for an appropriate anecdote, but it’s complicated because it’s not a lesson or fable about how an easy choice is less fulfilling than some difficult “right” decision. It’s a situation where the options are equal, and there are no “right” answers, but the decision itself is pivotal.
Between apples and oranges, I thought over my choices again and again. It came to the point where they developed into mantras, circling around in my head like a pair of predatory hawks going in for a single kill:
“Wash the apple, eat the apple, you don’t even need to peel the apple.”
“Peel the orange, eat the orange, you don’t even need to wash the orange.”
The process became almost a ritual everyday, where I would try to convince myself of either option so I could finally rest.
Eventually it became too taxing; acute decision-making comes with a biological price of mental fatigue. I let it go, but I did manage to learn something from the experience. Some questions cannot be answered immediately, and perhaps need a more mature perspective from higher ground – like looking down on a maze from atop a grassy hill and realizing all the dead ends you could have avoided. It’s an internal conflict full of confusion and frustration, but you need conflict for the plots of most books, and you need conflict in your life. Beyond the realm of apples and oranges, the friction from conflict is reassuring. It is proof that though some hurdles are hard to get over, I am still learning, and I am still trying my best.
In the search for independence and happiness, have I forgotten about others? Have I made the right decision? Why do I feel an overwhelming sense of IDGAF (oh, the irony…)? Hah. The irony of writing about IDGAF. I wonder if I made the right choice, but in my gut I know I have, because I am happy and confident with myself. I believe this is a positive sign — I know it is, like my prefrontal cortex is nodding its head in approval: “YES. LET’S GO!!”
I can’t say for sure whether this is a good thing, but I am tired of being defined by adjectives like “Good” and “Bad.” I am tired of being told what I “should-have-done” or where I went wrong. I perform an action and receive judgment, but actions are merely actions — they cannot be “good” or “bad.” And thus follows the logic that my person is good/bad, on the basis of a single action… what a fickle state of being! And so, honestly, IDGAF. I have no need for excessive external validation.
I am not good. I am not bad.
I am Michelle.
What if I had been honest about how scared I was?
not that it makes any difference now but
I’m still terrified
lately I’ve been using minor keys
I swear, on accident, like I awake
above page after page and it’s
upsetting to be doused in relinquish
for what I write
it’s a tragedy
to be writing
what ought to be happy
but is released in frustration
and it warps you and makes you
spurt a lie and you lie
it feels so confusing
to be confused of what you’re feeling
Just give me a clear night and a jacket (or two).
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I wanted to go star gazing. Today, I’m promising myself that wish will come true before I have to turn it into a New Year’s Resolution (because those are only ever made to be broken).
When you’re young, realizations often come too late. Then again, perhaps that has little to do with youth.
I’m finally being honest with myself, and there’s one thing that has finally become so clear I don’t know how I ever questioned it.
It’s the ultimate anti-climatic, epiphanic "oh."
"oh" there are few things I know for certain, but of this I am sure.
No doubts, no second guesses, just a messy closet stuffed full of regrets and the strength, come whatever may, to keep moving.
“Hey. Do you love me?”
Why is it so silent? It’s a Sunday morning and my skin doesn’t fit right. Like clothes that dangle off at odd angles or sweaters with too many loose threads… the very subtlety of the defect was disquieting.
What was this feeling? It felt like a tentative dream, a promise, a dead end or a wish on a stray comet, with gas emission trails reminiscent of vagabonds looking for some cryptic virtue they’ve lost. Or perhaps they never had that virtue in the first place, but even so, the feeling of loss is real. A kaleidoscope view of discombobulating abstractions… what was it these things had in common?
It was the complete absence of sound, the uncertainty in never knowing what a dead end, or a dream, or a comet, or a promise should sound like.
No, it wasn’t the silence, really. Really it was the gap, the great chasm we find in the seemingly one-dimensional moment caught between two points in time, when silence takes on an almost tangible form. Silence seeps though all cracks, all loopholes, gets inside you like a cancer and never leaves. The cancer of silence spread, its individual spindles burgeoning, latching onto unsuspecting victims like an aerosol poison. It became a part of me, as real as the heart pumping so loudly in my chest I could imagine the organ contracting wildly. This isn’t tranquility, no, this clever fabrication of peace and quiet – this is suffocation.
I felt so excruciatingly aware - like a guilty suspect to an unspeakable crime. I was almost there. I often thought about what I would do in a situation like this, but honest to god all I was getting was the impulse to curl up and hide, caught like a nail between a hammer and the wood in the nanosecond before impact. It was an interesting sensation at best. Hah. Interesting is an understatement. I couldn’t move fast enough against the silence.
White houses, green shutters, shrinking potions, rabbits on the run, quantum jumping, praying underwater, salt meets skin, greets vulnerable tear ducts. Save words, save actions, save thoughts – thoughts that cascade down in shatterings and waves with off the scale measures on the Moment Magnitude Scale. Wait –
He smiled. Time slowed. I reached a precipice, that beautiful point of departure like a sudden intake of breath, a moment of expectation, a dramatic pause to signal a point of inflection in the plot. He smiled and in that moment, we came into the nucleus of the silence, the eye of the storm. Safe, I thought. I’m safe.
This wasn’t so bad.
It’s simple, really. Really that smile symbolizes something without us having to say anything. Something from nothing. Is it true? Together we understood something in the silence. Together was the string that pulled me through the keyhole so that I no longer needed to cup my ears against the cracks between the door and the wall, straining to hear anything in the silence. Beautiful isn’t it, the word.
In togetherness, silence mutates, becoming the poster-child of all things fragile, beautiful, and ephemeral. Within the silence, I had discovered the seventh noble gas, filling a specialty store heart-shaped balloon to uncomfortable pressures until–
He said yes.
The silence dissolved.
Just. Like. That.
Simple, isn’t it?
But, wait. Silence is a fickle creature – it never really goes away. Something fickle about it – something fickle about love, something fickle because this was never really about the silence. This was about hope, about uncertainty, about loss, about the perfection in ephemeral things – about him.
Two years later, sometimes I wonder if I could still hear him. I wonder if I could hear everyone’s heartbeats with a secret hearing aid imbedded in my tympanic membranes, would I recognize his?
I wait – wait for it, for the moment of expectation that, when fulfilled, makes all of this meaningful.
I wait, but I don’t hear him. The moment goes unfulfilled, and my hearing aids are still only imaginary.
I stop waiting.
Hey. It’s silent again.