My Christmas Spy

Christmas is tough, it changed out from under me. My parents always went above and beyond, not only the call of duty but their means for Christmas. I remember asking my father when I was quite small, how Santa could get up the chimney when there was this avalanche of presents that engulfed not only the fire place but most of the large tree in our living room. He just smiled and ruffled my hair. It was always jaw dropping, because it had to be, my parents loved seeing the looks we, my siblings and I, had when we first were allowed up the stairs on Christmas morning. While they loved the looks on our faces and my brother loved the seemingly endless stacks of pancakes my mother made and my sister loved all of it (she’s excitable, in general). I loved the hunt for my Christmas Spy.

Every Christmas Eve, we’d gather up carrots and cookies to put out for Santa and the biggest glass of milk, he always brought us the best things so we had to treat him and his crew right. Once the little table was all set and we put our  notes to Santa up, I’d ask my Christmas Spy, Blue Bear, where the best spot would be. I don’t know what started this or how I came up with it but it was the ONE time I’d let him out of my sight. Blue Bear was my teddy bear, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had no memory of him being blue. I took him everywhere and did everything with him, he was faded and dirty and he probably stank but he smelled and looked like Blue Bear to me. My best pals were him and my other main stuffed animal, Paws, who was a little brown pup. I had matching little bracelets for them and me, they were our communicators so if we ever got separated we could still be in contact, like when I’d leave for school I’d tell them they could reach me anytime. And so once a year Blue Bear would go on his special mission, and with his wrist band he was going to communicate back to us if anything happened.

Every year I’d find a new place in the living room for him to sit and see what Santa was up to. I needed to know. I needed to know why he didn’t ever finish the cookies. I needed to catch just a glimpse of him through my friend’s eyes. Most of all, I needed to know how he went back up the chimney after blocking it with presents. I never learned any of those things. I got something better.

While my brother would pester mom about pancakes and my sister would be loud about whatever she was being loud about, I’d be looking for Blue Bear because he was never where I left him. Santa always hid him.

One year we got this huge set of cardboard blocks and they were built into a castle-like structure in front of the TV, I think Luke, our golden retriever, knocked into it by accident and BLUE BEAR!! Are you okay, buddy? He was and I was, too.

Every year it went the same way, we’d go upstairs, coax mom and dad out of their bed so we could be granted access to see the Christmas sights. We’d all open our stockings, I’d go back to hunting for Blue Bear if I couldn’t find him, alternating between looking and talking to my wrist where the bracelet communicator was. They were cloth bracelets that fastened with a buckle, colored a light green with orange embroidered patterns . I thought it was the coolest fucking accessory and I couldn’t believe I found three of them at a yard sale, just the right amount! How could anyone want to get rid of something so cool?

After the stockings, everyone would go off doing their own thing for a little as we waited for grandma to arrive. I’d stand at the front window, waiting, counting every second because Christmas didn’t start until grandma pulled into the driveway. Then it was real, then it was true– she was everything.

I know she heard me before she came up the steps and she would always try to top my excitement. Once she was settled, she’d sit down and ask me about Blue Bear because she was invested too. He was also her Christmas Spy. There was one year that I couldn’t find him and I was worried that Santa finally had enough of the game and took him prisoner. While my parents pushed it off with “he’ll turn up,” grandma took it a step further and told me that I’m getting older so Santa’s gotta take it up a level every time or else it’s no fun.

Hours later as we dug through that year’s avalanche of gifts, Blue Bear was found wrapped up under the tree just like any other present, with a little rip in the paper over his eye so he could still see what was going on. Santa respected the mission. Nothing else that year compared to finding him and seeing that smile on grandma’s face as she watched me hug my friend.

I don’t remember if he spied for me year the grandma passed away. I don’t really remember much of that Christmas besides it wasn’t Christmas without her. Nothing made sense after she left, that’s how it was described to me: “Grandma left to be with Jesus.” Which made no sense because if she left to be with Jesus she would have said so. She didn’t say anything. She was gone and we all had to go clean out her house. But that house wasn’t the same either. It was frightening. It didn’t have any of the magic that I had felt every time I’d be there previously. It was shocking for me to realize how much I depended on that magic.

When my father sat me down to inform me that all the holiday mascots (that’s what they are, right?) were untrue, I don’t remember feeling much of anything. The magic was already dead. The magic of Jesus took the magic of Santa and everyone when he took my grandma away from me to live in the fairy-tale land.

Christmas still isn’t Christmas.

 

It’s like a whirlwind in my head

I’ve wanted to write a book since I read Jurassic Park in the fourth grade. It was the thing that replaced the teddy bear (His name was Blue Bear) I took everywhere. I took that ratty little book everywhere I went. Read it four or five times that summer, I remember imaging my name on a book cover and how that made me feel. On my own creative journey, there was something larger that happened to me about five years later.

I know it wasn’t release day but it was a few weeks later. My sister had ballet class and the only way to get my mom to bring me to Strawberries (the precursor to the current FYE) was to tag along. I can vividly remember sitting in the back of my mom’s minivan fighting with that fucking plastic wrap, discman in my lap. I can call back that memory and I often do. I remember being hit by that smell, the new CD smell of:

Linkin Park’s debut Hybrid Theory released October 24th 2000

My sister had ballet class at this ladies house, across the street was this little pond. I am still there, still right in that car looking out at the pond, seeing the moon glisten from above onto the murky water, hearing the first notes of Papercut. (Important records have important memorable opening notes, see Taproot’s Gift)

It’s like a whirlwind in my head.

I didn’t understand what I was feeling for the duration of that album or what it was I was feeling whenever I’d listen to it from that point onward but I learned what it was a few years ago.

It’s a call. Deep inside of me I could feel it but couldn’t put it into words until I was really creating things. Even from that young age of 13 I wanted to make things and make people feel how I felt when I listened to that album. Part of it is about being heard but it’s more than that. For most of my life I’ve felt alone, completely alone and I’ve never really known how to express that. LP showed me I wasn’t alone and I didn’t need to worry about finding the words. In a way, it was like they were saying they have my back. And that’s the other side of it, I don’t just want to make things so people don’t feel alone. I want to make things and make people feel things because I fucking owe it to everyone that has helped me. I owe LP. I owe it to my fourth grade teacher. I owe it to friends and family I’ve lost. Even if it’s just one person. If I can make something that helps just one person then that’s it. I’ve done it. Debt paid.

I remember sitting there listening and feeling weightless. Everything I held onto and didn’t know what to do with was gone. It all lifted away. I was clean. I was real. I wasn’t what was wrong. I was okay.

I had a fairly troubled youth. Some of it was definitely my own doing, my own creation but I know at least early on it was in response to the things I kept inside. Because you learn by example and that was my example. But everything changed for the better, internally, when I found music. I couldn’t say the things that troubled my mind. The music said it for me.

In my teens, I started writing poetry and rap lyrics. Without Linkin Park I don’t think I’d be writing. At least not the way I do. Any time I hear Mike’s voice I get chills. I’m fairly certain there’s an alternate timeline where I’m rapping. Though I know I wouldn’t last long in that life. I’d be like…

This was incredibly hard to write. But not because it’s a sad memory, it’s a memory that stays. I call upon it a lot. When I have a bad writing day or I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. You know, when the doubt really creeps in. I put Linkin Park on. I may be writing prose but I’ve learned from music. I learned about passion and pacing from music.  It will always inspire me.

I remember I had a poster of Chester in my bedroom, it was a pin-up from Hit Parader magazine. And it just so happens, I had one of Chris Cornell next to him. I suppose reunions are usually tear-filled.

 

 

 

“We’re holding onto something that’s invisible there.”

Envisioning Eyes of A Soldier Part 2: Salutations

Another sleepless night, why do I even bother
To try to sleep? The ceiling haunts me
WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING AT ME?
I miss the sight of distant muzzle flashes
I need that night light
Home is where the heart is and I left…
I lost pieces of my heart in that distant land
Every bullet that missed my flesh stole a little of me
Stop, please stop calling me a hero
I am not, the red you see is not a cape
It’s the blood of my brothers
The rotten red hurt that stains my hands
and covers my eyes
They didn’t make it home, I didn’t come back the same
I am not the same
I will never be the same again
I don’t remember what it was like before

Should I be thankful?
I know what real friendship is
Those men, my brothers, were the only ones
Who ever truly had my back
Home is about safety, I don’t feel safe
They gave their lives
Their blood stained and dried upon my hands
Though my hands are clean now, I still see the red
All I can see is red
Did they die so I could make it back alive?
but I don’t want to live without them
They had families, they had rings on their fingers
and all I have is emptiness
My father says he is proud
but it doesn’t feel good
I’m sorry father but it just doesn’t feel right
I’m sorry mother I just don’t feel right
This barrel is cold against my burning skin
and it fits snugly against my temple
My finger slides in the guard and graces the trigger
Just one deep breath and then squeeze
Ready… inhale
Before I can exhale the phone rings
and I can’t ignore the sound

I can feel the tears that are flowing down her face
Like an ocean wave passing through sonically
My ears seem far away as they’re drowned by
The sound of a mother’s sorrow
Her only son, my last brother,
One of the strongest men I’ve ever known…
Oh my brothers, war brought us together
and war destroyed us all

Within the sound of the three-volley
I can’t hold back the tears
and I realize what you have done for me
Even though you’re gone, you still have my back
You’ve always had my back
It wasn’t the phone call that saved me
No it was you
and I wish I could explain it all to your mother
You didn’t take your own life because you’re weak
You’ve always been strong
Not many would be able to understand what it’s like
to feel betrayed by your own mind
Brother, you did the only thing you could
You saved my life again
My brothers I know you’re still looking out for me
and I see now that I am meant to live
There’s no blood on my hands
It’s not my fault that you died
It’s because of you, all of you, that I am alive
and the safety I was longing to have still exists
Your strength and courage and love keeps my heart beating
Brotherhood means everything
and nothing can take it away from me
Nothing and no one can take you away from me
The rifle salute concludes
and I see that honoring all of you doesn’t end
Every breath I take, every step I make can be used to honor you
My life is a tribute to you, my brothers
I am a tribute and I will stand tall

Bean

And I believe we can grow
Even if we can’t let go
Some are hidden and some show
Our own rigid scars to bear
No torment doesn’t play fair
It all seems too much to wear

Tell me, how can this be?
The windshield is dirty
All I want is to see
But it’s unclean always
The sight lost, gone for days
Wish it was just a phase

I see the sky empty
Lingering above me
Could I pay you a fee?
Is there an entity
With the power desired?
Just melt that gun with fire
and prove that you exist
Until then, I’ll resist

I can’t wash it away
You’re scattered every day
Trembling hands made the choice
Life is lacking your voice
Lost in an explosion
Can’t reverse the chosen
I knelt before the calling
and found what was falling

and though the windshield’s dirty
I found what was left for me
My own living memory
Overlooked and out of sight
A place bathed in shining light
Where growth keeps on through the night

A Bug and A Bother

I will never understand
and that’s fine
We are all created so strangely
That’s what makes it all
So very interesting

How can someone approach
Something so beautiful with
The intention to destroy?

She was as pretty as a picture
The paint; bright and vivid
The canvas; sweet and pure

He was charismatic
A tall brooding tower
but inside…
He was far from noble;
Focused on one thing

I can’t blame her
When you’re young
You are trusting
There’s no reason not to be
Until there is a reason

Like always,
I sat back
I watched from afar
Believing in her strength
I would learn later
The heart is a powerful muscle
Sometimes it is misguiding

I saw her light magnify
The smile that could blind
He was playing her
She thought it was love
He had his mind set
On that one thing

She was following her heart
He was following his flesh

I watched from afar
What could I do?
None of my business really
and I could barely help myself
My own troubles were consuming
Watching as a beautiful person
Was destroyed didn’t help my mind
but if I couldn’t save myself
How could I save her?
She was following her heart
No one can argue with that

He got what he wanted
and left her in the cold
I couldn’t stand up to him
I was already on thin ice
Had to fly under the radar
Wouldn’t of worked out well for me anyways
but I would of been able to say:
I was bloodied and bruised
From standing up for what is right

I saw the pain
The heartache in her eyes
My precious friend
Sometimes I saw something more
I wish I was stronger back then
but I was just a troubled kid
Who barely survived my own mistakes
Through fear, I choked
I made the choice to embrace my fear

I hope and pray
All these years later
That she is perfectly happy
That she found her prince charming
She’s one of the few people
That I actually wish
Would cross my path, once again