Remember that Time?

Today I decided to share a brief personal essay – “Remember that Time?” It isn’t particularly deep or meaningful, just an (hopefully) entertaining story about unexpected happiness.


 

 

In the grand scheme of things, an hour and a half is not a long time. A mantra that probably, strung end on end, over and over, actually made the bi-weekly trip to my co-op longer, rather than its intended effect. In the grandest scheme of things, I would tell myself, my existence is a dust speck in a limitless galaxy. An hour and a half is not a long time.

But the time drug on, nevertheless. Every Tuesday and Thursday my feet thudded onto the floor at five-thirty, and thudded onto the accelerator precisely an hour later. The trip into the city, with the sun at my back and the day ahead, was manageable. It was the return trip that seemed to chip years off my life, no matter how grand a scheme I considered. By the end of the day, all I wanted was to get home, and all that stood in my way was that pesky hour and a half.

I mentally ticked off an extensive list of landmarks as home grew closer. There is a particular intersection that marked the end of my mind numbing highway driving, and the start of the country roads I knew so well. The start of anticipation, and the gradual flooding back of those precious years.

No matter how tired I am, that intersection means I am halfway home and safely back on familiar ground. Once I pass through its glorious threshold – McDonald’s on one side and Wendy’s on the other – I can finally relax. On good days, I stretch my muscles and turn the radio up. On harder days, I rest my forehead on the wheel while the light lapses red. On the strangest day of them all, I combined the two. Arching my neck forward and pursing my lips like a malcontent tortoise, I rested my chin on the steering wheel. I slowly stretched my neck, looking first at my sleeping passenger and then at the chipper face of Wendy. I turned to the other side and saw a kindred reptile.

I overlooked her at first, the girl stretching her neck up from the driver’s seat to smell the air freshener dangling from her rear view mirror. But in the next second, I dropped the tortoise and became the hare, my head snapping back to her as our eyes met. She froze. I froze. Her sniffing face furrowed. My tight lips quivered. Another second passed. We burst out laughing.

My brother jumped awake at my sudden laughter and asked me what was so funny, but my response was drowned out as I continued to laugh. I put one hand on my stomach, already in stitches, and slapped the other frantically against my window. On the other side, the girl’s passenger looked back and forth between the two of us. The girl flailed about with gestures like mine, unable to explain why this stranger had her giggling in fits.

We laughed until tears streamed down my cheeks and the girl’s passenger finally understood. She gave me a thumbs up and shook her head with a smile. The light turned green, and I waved goodbye to this strange new friend, still laughing.

Miles down the road, I finally got my giggles under control and explained the meeting to my brother. Naturally, I started laughing again, but this time he was laughed with me, and the intersection went from a meager mile marker to a glorious do-you-remember-that-time monument. All of a sudden, thanks to a moment of shared weirdness through eye contact, I realized that my trip was not so bad. How could it be, if it allowed to me experience moments like that one? Sure, an hour and a half is not a very long time, but moments can last forever.

XX. Shelby Jo

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Dusk

Posting is back on, baby! I am once again pretending that I have my life together.

This week I have another poem for you. Enjoy!


Everyone writes poems about cigarettes.
About smoke, about crushed leaves, about the burn of whiskey in your throat.
About your lips.

Everyone writes poems with a neon glow,
But it’s a dying light.
And they know,
It won’t last long.
It’s a dying light, a dying song.

Because there’s nothing new under the sun,
So we wait for night to fall.
For the ex to call,
For it to all go to hell.

These liquor soaked memories
Will never be my happy golden days or glory years.
Those go back to a brighter light
Glinting off the lake.

To Pi and Gus Gus.
Just us
And the dogs and the wind
And nowhere to go but up.

Tangled curls and tanned backs,
Fists up and feet pounding
Out the melody to dreams we would never see.

Fears flood in
On the heels of these long lost kingdoms.
These days we’re only champions of debt and data plans,
And we only pirate online video.

We were creatures of life.
And now I’m a creature of the night.
And I write these damn poems, too.

XX. Shelby Jo

Jamming

I decided to post a short essay that I wrote for class recently. This is the first school related piece that I have enjoyed writing for a long time, so I hope you enjoy it too!


 

I encountered X Ambassadors in the later days of my transition from pop punk groupie to pretentious folk listener. I struggled to place their organic but still very rock sound, so I stood awkwardly cradling the Love Songs Drug Songs EP for several months, afraid to release the band to the void, but alternately unsure of where they belonged in my musical pantheon. X Ambassadors eventually slipped through the cracks as the number of artists in this middle ground grew, but “Love Songs Drug Songs,” the title song of the 2013 EP, stuck with me because no matter when or where I listened to it, I found myself within the song.

This connection has little to do with the song’s lyrics. They had nothing to do with me and, in fact, at the time I probably had no idea what half of them meant. But if the lyrics are the message, it was the packaging of “Love Songs Drug Songs” that enamored me. The pauses between the dominating drum beats and the raw sound of Sam Harris’s voice saying it is the last time he was going to “put you back together,” deliver a message no lyrics could. The brief, half seconds with no sound, no words or music, pause the moment and allow for reflection. Though the lyrics are angry and dismal, the pauses reveal the true tragedy of the song. The music stops, and the listener’s eyes flutter closed, wondering if this really is the last time. Then the drum pounds and your heart starts again and you are back in the music, away from yourself.

Such a moment of raw introspection allows every listener to connect with the song, regardless their current situation or past experiences. “Love Songs Drug Songs” becomes the universal truth all music promises to be. Because, in these silent moments, the listener puts his or herself into the song and the gritty narrative of the anthem becomes about him or her. In the quiet before the music transitions and Harris sings “I look you in the eyes” for the second time, the listener becomes immersed in his or her own story. We need the keyboard to come in with its quick trill, to pull us away from ourselves and on to whatever comes next in the song that has become the voice of our personal tragedies.

Rather than providing breaths of fresh air, the pauses in “Love Songs Drug Songs” yank the listener’s breath away. They force us to look at the tragedy. As with the split second before the car crash, you cannot turn away from the horror you know will occur. While the music plays we can dance or sing, “jamming,” to gloss over the true meaning, in the same way we live nonstop twenty-first century lives, always connected, always thinking about what comes next, but never focused on the present. But the pauses force us to stop and think, to fixate on what is currently around us. We may fear the tragedies that will come to light, but they illuminate glimpses of brilliant emotions. The silence of the music, in a twisted irony, forces us to open ourselves and feel what no tragedy can take away.


XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 3,000

Weekly Count: 138

Total Count: 12,992

LOOK I WROTE WORDS THIS WEEK WOO HOO

I Met You Before

Today’s post is a little bit o’ poetry, because it’s been a while since I posted any writing.

Enjoy!

I Met you Before

I wish I met you before.

Before, when I believed in love.

Before the disillusionment, before the anger, before the tears,

Before my fears,

Before the years were in our way.

 

I wish I met you when I believed in love,

So I could say I loved you

And you would know,

And you would understand.

 

But now that’s not enough.

Now no four letters and no words

can ever explain what you are to me.

 

You aren’t my life,

You can never be my life,

But please never leave my life.

 

I adore you.

 

Your presence electrifies every inch of my skin.

My heart squeezes and my breath stops and I think

This is it

And I’m glad the last thing I saw was you.

 

I cherish you.

 

And then you touch me and it starts again

And I am alive and real and good enough.

And I wish I met you before.

 

Have a great week! And, please, reflect on the significance of today’s holiday if you get the chance.

XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 5,000

Weekly Count: 4,321

Total Count: 10,960

Summer

All I want is summer.
But, I guess that’s a lie,
Because I want your hand in mine
and an endless blue sky.

I want freckles like sandy shores,
With the wind in my hair and hair in my face.
I want loud music and louder joy,
Packed car rides and silent moments.

I want nothing in my way
And I want you by my side.
I want to see the world and call it all home;
Learn its secrets and never stop to boast.

I want to run like the wind and catch fireflies.
I want beautiful stars and prettier dawns.
I want love in an instant and forever friends,
Souls and lives seeking the same ends.

I want peace in my heart and poetry on my mind.
I want another chance at it all,
But I want to move on.

All I want is summer, but more than the sun:
I want to feel infinite and awed in the same second,
I want hope and loss and understanding beyond it all.

I want to seek where I will find and never lose my wonder,
Revel in my youth and never be younger,
Laugh in the face of all dismay and cry on the shoulders of lovers.

I want to use all I’m given.
I want to reach the end, too weak to stand.
I want to fall with a smile on my face and a book in my hand.

I want everything.
And I want it for you, too.

*When you write something and miraculously don’t hate it a week later* This piece is probably the only thing in my portfolio that may stay a while 🙂

Have a great week, love.

Mas Poetry

More poetry for this weeks writerly post! (I’m going through a phase)

Oh

If I were to make a map of the human heart,
It would be full of holes.
Because, oh, I lost that part years ago.
I couldn’t say who took what,
Just that nothing new ever grows.

– – –

Slip Away

What will I lose if I let myself go?
Let myself go under?
Let my cares slip away?

Could you be happy for me?
Finally?
Could you sing my song with a smile?
Open your heart to another?

– – –

You Say

I know you say your scars run deeper than mine,
But our marks will be the same if we make it to the end.

I chose you without counting your flaws;
Without measuring your scars.
And I will hold your hand no matter how many fingers you have.

I don’t ask for perfection, because two halves make a whole.
I’m still by your side,
After all this time.
Without you, I have no where left to go.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned 😉

Renewed

*gasp* I’m not dead! I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, nor have I been living under a rock. I just fell off the posting bandwagon and was run over by the rest of the caravan. It’s been a slow road to recovery, but hopefully I’m back for a while.

This week’s writing post is a short story! (I’m kind of freaking out ahhh) I originally wrote it over a year ago for a school assignment. I really liked the idea in my head, but I ended up hating the final result. I’ve been trying to find a way to recover the idea ever since, and recently tried to re-do it in first person.

And, I’m so glad! It’s not my favorite work ever, but I managed to rediscover and preserve the characters and tone and it actually makes sense this time.

Here it is! I’m including both versions, if anyone is interested in following the editing process.

– – –

Looking down, what lay before me looked like a tangled and useless mass of wires, but I knew I could rig the circuits with my eyes closed. That was not what was making me hesitate.

Denver skidded into the room and tossed me her remote. It was the last one. The mission was completely in my hands now.

“Nathan…” Denver physically could not keep her mouth shut, so I hadn’t told her my plan, but now I could see that she had understood anyway.

“Keep to your post, Denver.” I did not even look up at her. I couldn’t. She nodded and returned to the team.

My hands flew over the electronics.

ENYO had always paid better, but Elaina insisted on working for the resistance. At least, she had since Mason had joined our team. They had rescued Mason during a mission to assassinate a prison warden for the resistance. No one could figure out what to do with him; Denver wanted to keep him for some kind of ransom, and Jackson, the human mountain, asked to shoot him then and there.
But when the prison guards burst in to the room, Mason fought as valiantly as any member of the team and led us out. The time came to decide his fate, and some scrap of honor from long ago bubbled up within me and spoke before I could catch up. “Let’s give him a chance,” it had said, and I imagine that my face was just as surprised as Jackson’s.

I will always wish I had left Mason standing there. No matter how much I need his strategic mind or how often Elaina says she loves him. I want things to be simple again. I want my sister to only be my sister, and I want to kill for money, not ideals. It’s pointless speculation because, with Mason, the team is complete. Jackson was six feet and four inches of solid muscle and, coincidentally, a pretty good cook. Unofficially, Jackson watched over Elaina for me. He owed me his life, which I’m sure he will repay when required. Mason was the strategist and liaison with the resistance. Denver was the quartermaster and self-proclaimed Weaponry Queen, and I was the technician. Then there was Elaina. I had never intended that Elaina live this life with me, I had hardly meant it for myself. But, after that day, I was not given a choice.

The Black Day, as the resistance calls it, is a lie. Yes, the events occurred as they retell them, but ENYO had had its claws deep into the government for years. That was just when the people finally realized who was really in control. And when they died.

I remember the events of that day so clearly; I relive them each and every night. I see the news reporter’s horrified face as she tried to explain the bombings. I hear my roommate’s breath sucked out of him. I rush to the “safe house” with the other students and I see us surrounded by uniformed guards. Not police officers, or the National Guard, as everyone had expected, but ENYO soldiers in their blaring red uniforms. They had taken over the land of the free without anyone raising a finger to stop them.

On a cracked phone screen in that room, I saw a news report showing the wreckage of my childhood house and ENYO troops patrolling the streets on which I learned to ride a bike. That footage began my fight. The fight I end today, six long years later. That day, I fought to find and save Elaina. Today, I fight to give her a new life. Free of ENYO and free of fighting and guns. Free of purchasable loyalties and free of the damned resistance. Free of me and my plans.
I had to die, to fake the deaths of my crew. My ridiculous, wonderful crew. My family. None of them knew, except Mason, because I needed his help to execute this final scheme. He had agreed and, unsurprisingly, had no qualms with the price.

I checked and double checked the wiring of the circuit boards and the connection of the remotes. Everything worked. I was as ready as I could be. The official mission was to wait until the resistance’s navy was visible on the horizon, and brought the ENYO sailors to the decks of their ships. Then, every tenth ship in the fleet would be detonated with perfect timing. The new plan would have the same result, with an added bonus. One ship, this ship, would blow up early, hopefully looking like a mistake in the crew’s mission. I would stay behind, to provide evidence for our deaths, while Mason, Denver, Jackson, and Elaina would sail away early, to be clear of the blast. The rest of the detonations would be timed and executed by Mason.

I opened my backpack and distributed its contents throughout the room. Miscellaneous clothes, weapons, and personal devices to convince any doubters of the demise of a volatile group of mercenaries.

Denver was the first to burst into the room, brandishing her Glock, but she did not notice the articles scattered across. Mason was the first to look at them, and he responded by nodding deftly and asking, “Are you ready?”

I opened my mouth, Yes. No! No. Please, no., but only nodded in reply.

Jackson was the next into the room. He saw items immediately and understood, “You’re sure?”

I nodded again, “I don’t know what else to do.”

Denver’s mouth was slowly falling open, but, for once, she was silent.

“Then we have to go right away,” said Mason, “The navy is approaching.”

“The plan was to wait until the navy was in full sight. We want as many ENYO sailors on deck as possible, right?” Elaina. Oh, Elaina.

I needed to be the one to tell her. “That’s only part of the plan. I’m detonating this ship early.” It’s time. “And I’m staying behind. To make it look like a mistake, and that the whole crew was here. That the whole crew is dead. So you can start over.” Elaina looked from me to Mason, then back again, her face shifting from shock to pain.

“Why?! Why can’t you come with us? We need you, Nathan!”

“It’s evidence,” Mason reminded her, “One person is all we need to convince them. After the battle, there will be too many bodies floating for anyone to notice.” He reached for her, but she pushed him aside and leapt toward me.

“Exactly! So why won’t you come with us? Please just come. If it doesn’t work, then who cares?
We’ll still be together,” she pleaded as she stumbled into me. I gripped her close and steadied myself against her.

“Because,” I whispered, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. You’re the only thing that matters to me, and if your future is safe, I have nothing left. I dragged you into this, and now I’m letting you go. Make your own life.”

“Why would I want to live without you?”

I kissed the top of her head, “You have so much. You lead them now.” I pulled back, “Go. Go, Elaina.”

“Please!” She gripped my arms.

“I’ve made up my mind. Go now, or it won’t be worth anything.” I pushed her towards Mason, and turned away. “All of you. Go.”

I heard them leave and, suddenly, the room felt cold and frozen. Terror seized me and I turned to the door. Maybe I could go with them. I saw Denver, her hand on the door latch, looking at me with her eyes full of thanks; thanks for taking in a hungry, and heavily armed, teenager. Thanks for the life I had given her; thanks for the life I was giving her now. A tear slid down her cheek and she shut the door.

The sun rose, filling the room with bold, yellow morning light, but all I could see were the shadows, and all I could feel was the cold. I wondered if this was the best way to die. Was there a good way to die? Was this a fitting sacrifice for the ruthless leader of a band of mercenaries? Or was it the martyrdom of a man for his family?

The minutes that passed were excruciating. Over and over I relived the years since ENYO’s takeover. The joyful moments with the people I loved. And the pain; so much pain.
I could no longer see the small boat holding my companions, and the resistance was in full view. I turned to the circuit board and, in an instant, I knew it was worth it. I could never have lived differently.

I flipped the switch.

– – –

Nathan looked down. What lay before him looked like a tangled mess of wires, but he could rig it with his eyes closed. He knew it, but he hesitated.
Denver raced in and tossed him her capsule. It was officially up to him now.
Nathan caught it without looking up.
“Nathan…” Ah, Denver. Her mouth was never shut. She was either talking, singing, or snoring. Even now, she nervously hummed “Fly Me to the Moon.”
“You know your position.” She nodded and returned to the team.
His hands flew over the electronics.
The government paid better, but fighting for the resistance was a new thing of Elaina’s. Dangerous as he knew it was, Nathan could never turn his sister down. Her wish to fight against ENYO had started with Mason. They rescued him during an assassination mission, Denver thought he might merit a ransom; Jackson wanted to shoot him on the spot. But, then the guards came, and he was the only reason the group survived. The enduring echo of honor within Nathan had to give him a chance.
In retrospect, Nathan always wished he left Mason. His sister would still be his, and they would kill for money, not ideals. But, clearly it was worthless. Elaina was different now, and she needed Mason. Nathan, of course, needed his strategy, because strategy was their weakness. Nathan was the tech, and he often allowed himself a smile, thinking of the two wasted years he had spent in college. Denver was the weapons queen, as she had so dubbed herself, and her experience always proved useful. Jackson was everything else, including chief omelet maker. Unofficially, he watched over Elaina. He owed Nathan his life, and that was something he would readily repay if required.
The ship rocked suddenly, and Nathan forced himself not to think about anything but his work. Everyone did their part, and this was his; nothing would go wrong if he stayed here. The mission itself made him nervous. His extra role, in addition to the water, drove him insane.
Water was the first mode of transportation seized the day ENYO took over. They bombed an active aircraft carrier, and by the time anyone realized what was happening, they were corralled into “safety.” Then they, too, were killed. It was not the kind of thing you saw coming. But, Nathan always presumed, every nation falls. You just hope it does not happen in your lifetime.
There were survivors. The still anonymous directors of ENYO thought out every detail. Why take over if there’s no one left to rule? He survived. He could remember every harsh detail of that day. He watched the bombing on the news that morning with his roommates. They rushed to the safe house with the others. Nathan remembered looking for Kerrigan. Then, when the ENYO troops marched, he heard her scream his name. He fought through the room and reached her with just enough time to watch her die. The grief, the pain, the rage, he remembered it all. He remembered killing the troops. He remembered enjoying it.
By that night, when it was too late, everyone finally understood what was happening. The entire country was subject under a new rule. It was on a cracked phone screen that he saw the wreckage of his neighborhood. He saw ENYO troops patrolling the streets. He saw his parent’s house smoldering. That screen began his fighting again. He fought and ran the many miles home. He tore his own house apart to find his sister, and he had kept them alive in the ten long years since.
But Nathan had never intended Elaina to live this life with him. This mission, he decided, was his opportunity to give her the chance to let it go. But, like everything, it would cost.
“They can’t find out.” He had told Mason. Mason understood and agreed. He was, after all, the strategist. He knew it was possible, and had no qualms with the price. And, though that unnerved Nathan, it didn’t surprise him.
He checked the circuit again. The others were setting numerous explosives throughout the ship. It was an ENYO vessel. Rather fitting, Nathan mused, that their last mission would be one for the resistance. Maybe they had chosen allegiances after all.
Nathan shouldered his pack, and was reassured when he felt its weight. They would be coming soon.
The ship rocked, and Nathan knew the group had met and was heading his way. He felt the panic running up his spine. For once, his enemy was something he could not fight. It was inside of him, a battle he was not capable of winning.
He looked outside the small, eastern window, and glimpsed the resistance navy approaching with the dawn. Their plan was a futile attempt to make up for a lack of numbers. But he knew their leaders, he knew their men. Every one would fight until their death. This was their final chance to reclaim the nation they had once been so proud of. This was the last chance before the land of opportunity was lost. And he was helping them. Was that ironic?
With shaking hands Nathan opened the backpack and sorted through the supplies. It would be enough. The rest was up to his team.
Denver was the first in and, as usual, she rudely barged through the door, brandishing her Glock. She sighed with relief and moved forward when she realized Nathan was still alone and everything was going as planned. The others followed her.
“Are you ready?” Mason asked. Nathan nodded his reply, and deftly tossed the backpack to Jackson. He caught it, and examined its contents with his massive hands.
He, too, had a question. “You’re sure?”
Nathan nodded again, “Yeah. It’s the only way.”
“Which means we’ll have to go right away,” Mason concluded, “The navy’s approaching.”
Elaina whipped around to face him, “The plan is to wait until ENYO sights the navy. We want the most possible men on deck, right?”
It was Nathan who answered her. “That’s was never the plan. The detonation will be early. So it looks like a mistake. Start over. That’s the plan. That was always the plan.”
Elaina looked from him to Mason, and the realization struck her, “It is a mistake! You don’t need to be here, Nathan! We need you with us! What is one body going to change?”
“It’s evidence.” Mason reminded her, “Anything counts. After the battle, there will be too many bodies floating for either ENYO or the resistance to notice.” He tried to pull Elaina back, but she fought against him, lunging forward to reach Nathan.
“Why would you do this? This isn’t the only way. It doesn’t matter if you’re gone!”
Nathan caught her, and gripped her close to him. “It is the only way. This is war now. There’s no room for a neutral party.”
“Please,” She began to plead before Nathan cut her off.
“Elaina, go now, or it won’t be worth anything in the end.” He shoved her toward Mason, and turned to the circuit board he had finished minutes, which now seemed like hours, ago.
He felt terror seize him, and turned to apologize, maybe he could go with them. He saw Denver closing the door, her eyes full of thanks. Thanks for saving her life, thanks for taking in a hungry, and heavily armed, teenager. Thanks for the life he gave her as part of his family. Thanks for the life he was giving her now. A tear fell down her cheek.
The door closed, and the room suddenly felt cold to Nathan. Shadows filled the sharp gray corners, though the sun was only rising. He realized this was never how he imagined dying, but at the moment, it seemed the best way possible. It seemed a fitting sacrifice for the ruthless leader of a volatile band of mercenaries.
He waited for more excruciating minutes. Reliving the years he had spent after ENYO’s take over. The joyful moments he had spent with his companions. The pain; so much pain, so many empty days.
He glimpsed out the window and watched the group fade out to a safe distance, and he decided it was worth it. He decided he would not have lived any other way. And he hit the button.

Thanks for reading!!