Monday, February 28, 2011

one hundred word story #17

Janie convinced Tammy to break into her own house while their babysitter was glued to Beverly Hills 90210. “Let’s try on your new tutu,” Janie said. But all the doors were locked. Then Janie noticed the apple tree leaning against the upstairs balcony. “You like to climb, right?” she winked.

Tammy hiked up her culottes and scaled the tree. The door on the balcony was also locked. “Now what?” Tammy asked. Janie froze. That afternoon, when Tammy’s mother got home, she found her daughter curled up on the balcony, surrounded by apple cores. Janie never did get her own tutu.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

one hundred word story #16

It's the impeccability of spring that wakes you up, shakes you from your knees to your fingertips. It's the green greenness of new lawn, the deep-throated ribbits of the pond frogs, the surprise frost on a shining morn. Before you thought the world was just one way or another. Now you see it as rainbow before the sun hits it: unrealized, crisp but not clear. That’s what makes you love: the imprecision, the halt stop halt between words. Without the unpredictability of spring there would be no stories, no characters, no conflict. Shed those layers, will you, and go outside.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

one hundred word story #15

First he lost his wife. Then he lost his girlfriend. Then his mother. He gave himself time. He gave the world permission to do its worst, thinking it already had. Then, recovering amidst a sea of sympathy cards, the news came: heart surgery. "In another world," he thought, "the skies would open. The rain would fall on me. In this one, I breed rain." He bought a Lotto ticket on his way in. He kept his headphones on. The next morning, the sun focused its rays on his loudly thumping chest. Something he’d never felt before. It felt so good.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

one hundred word story #14

"A day is just a day is just a day," she said over coffee. "Valentine's Day is for Hallmark and hypoglycemics." He made her pinky swear that it was true, that she was true, that she was his, and he was hers. "Oh, get off it," she said. "I hate pronouns,” dismissing him with the flick of a wrist.

That night over cocktails, he slipped her a card.

“To you and you,” the card read. “And to me and me. And if I’m lucky, to you and me.”

“Now we’re talking,” she said, lifting her pinky. “Bring on the candy.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spain Series #2: First grade

In 2007, Robbie Hart was a first-grader in a Spanish elementary school in southern Spain. A recent immigrant from England, Robbie's command of Spanish was -- on it's way, when he felt like speaking in it. Usually he felt like hiding under his desk or putting marbles in his ears. He was the straight man to his friend Connor's antics. One particular morning in Maria Angeles' class, she grew frustrated with Robbie's refusal to sit in his own desk and color in his own notebook, and so she sat down right in front of him and asked, quite seriously:

"Robbie, ¿por qué crees tú que ir al colegio es un derecho que todos los niños tienen?"

In other words, she wanted to know why he felt that it was every child's right to go to school. Robbie opened and closed his mouth like a guppy, letting his lips pop audibly. I turned to him and watered it down a bit: "Robbie, why should you go to school? What would happen if you didn't go?"

Robbie looked at Connor, who kept egging him on by "accidentally" falling out of his seat and squawking loudly. Robbie thought he was great and went on to extol the the various virtues of chickens. Maria Angeles was growing frustrated and so Connor sat up straight and leaned in to his friend's little face to stage-whisper: "If you don't go to school, you won't find work and YOU'LL BE DUMB."

Sometimes six-year-olds really know how to narrow it down. As Robbie and Connor hugged their sides with laughter, I wondered what Connor's parents said to him when they dropped him off at the Spanish public school to return to their work managing an English pub. It often surprised me how transparent the parents were with their children, or how much of their own parents' insecurities the children soaked up and regurgitated in class.

We learned soon after to hide Robbie's marbles.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

one hundred word story #13

He loved her, she loved him, and there was no conflict in the world. The weather was always warm, not hot, and when it did rain, the water hit only the thirstiest plants. They worked hard. Their children were healthy and strong. But they didn’t know that Earth had begun to spin off its axis, and every day, their lives were altered in small, significant ways. It started with a drop of rain on his head and ended with their youngest sprouting wings and jumping off the roof. At least they were happy to see that the plants were unharmed.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


There's this itchiness in the air that starts in February. It's a sneeze, it's a hiccup, it's that lull between holidays, it's that impatience for it to be spring already. But the itchiness I feel is different, it's a memory that grows faded with every passing year. It's that reminder that there was a time when my fingers were plump and perfect and my abdomen free of scars, that there were several years of my life that were different than they are now. It's a B.D. and an A.D. and my life is a perpetual switching of clocks. For years there was a solemnity that came with acknowledging the anniversary of my diagnosis as a diabetic. I've written about 2/10 every year since 2001, including twice on this blog.

There is something satisfying about saving up all of one's emotional brouhaha for one specific day of the year, and then having it out with the universe on an annual basis. What does that mean? Oh, in the early days it was a weird form of flashback, recalling days on the Sacramento River when rowing was much easier without three cans of pineapple juice rattling around beneath my seat, soaking up as much teenage ennui as I could and categorizing it all as a sort of post-traumatic stress. And then as the years went by there was an overwhelming nostalgia not for the before-diabetes days, but for the days when my blood sugar was still a relatively exciting and challenging new game. And now I've hit the first decade mark and I find myself feeling a whole lot of nothing. Maybe there comes a time when one has told the story enough times, fictionalized it and reproduced it on stage and repeated it to children and grandparents and in self-help books, that any semblance of what one's life could hypothetically be, or what might have happened or could have happened had things been different -- none of that is interesting anymore. Those are just the stories of other people's lives, and frankly those aren't the ones I tend to read.

This year February feels like a placeholder for a time when I should be feeling something different. There's a misdirection here. I'm happy. I'm in love. I'm in school. I'm working. I'm learning things I want to learn. Shit happens and sometimes it's not fun. The difference between the things I've actually learned as a diabetic, versus the things I've often said I've learned; that's the story that still needs writing. But this time I don't want it to be about me. Or even about diabetes. It's about a word or a place I don't know yet but I definitely want to go.

I won't lie, though: there is a small part of me that always secretly wished a little leprechaun would surprise me on my tenth anniversary with a pot of...insulin? No, that's not it. Maybe I just hoped that one day my pancreas would show up at my doorstep like a long-lost son, and we'd embrace.

Hey, it could happen.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Egypt Matters

image credit: Aljazeera

What is happening in Egypt this week matters, and more than we think. After more than 30 years in office, President Hosni Mubarak has finally agreed not to run again this fall, in response to a quarter million Egyptians demonstrating across Cairo. Last Friday, the government suspended the internet. Read that again, and realize that what you are doing now, no one in Egypt can currently do. Text-messaging was somehow disabled nationally, and the government tried yet again to become its own god.

The anthropologist I work for has a satellite office in Cairo. When I asked her what she thought of the demonstrations, her voice got very quiet and her eyes got wide. "You know, the people created a human chain to protect the Egyptian Museum," she said. "It is one of the most magnificent places in the world."

Perhaps what is so remarkable about the demonstrations in Cairo is that this is one of the first times in history that a national army has backed the citizen protesters. Somehow that changes everything, doesn't it? And yet, when I watched the news tonight, the broadcasters zoomed in on the tanks rolling past the presidential quad as people began to throw rocks. Egyptians have been camping out since last Friday, chanting and singing and speaking out and organizing, with no plans to leave until Mubarak does. These are the moments when you become cognizant of where you are in terms of where the world is, or might be.

Journalists forecast violence if a peaceful transference of power doesn't come by the end of the week, and so now we sit on this precious space of time where a new precedent can be set, where people as a collective unit can rewrite government. I wonder at what point human nature will win over, and something terrible might happen. Against my better judgment I am rooting for something new, something surprising, and something hopeful to happen - and I know I'm not the only one.