A man. A plan. A glance in an easterly direction.
A brush. A shrub. A slick wind that reminds me of you.
A silence. A shout. An echo winding endlessly through the dark.
A stillness. A blur. A crash through all the beams supporting you.
A man. A plan. All the hours that never cease.
The wind blows so heavily sometimes it’s almost like you can see it.
The familiar ting, ting, ting of chimes,
the flap of a flag,
the secretive whisper of trees,
or the hush of a branch softly tapping.
The whole world is in action,
yet it’s never seemed so still.
In college I had four majors in four years. I always asked myself, if I had a million dollars, what would I do? And through the mental calculations of clearing debt, making sure my family was taken care of, and buying a PlayStation 2, I said I’d major in English. I discovered that I didn’t need a million dollars to do that last thing, so I changed majors.
My new advisor, and my eventual mentor, told me I should consider writing for the student newspaper. He also recommended I get in touch with a kid who wanted to start an independent student publication called “SPLAT” magazine. The kid was fed up with the conservative ideology advanced by the campus paper and wanted an edgier outlet. I told him I wanted to write movie reviews and he told me to write about the best and worst movie I’d seen in 2005. I chose “Batman Begins” as the best and “Domino” as the worst.
It was one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. I poured everything I had into that writing, which you should know is a big deal because I half-ass everything. After publication I ran into my advisor who told me that I, along with another girl, had written the best pieces in the magazine. I still carry that compliment around in my compliment because this guy would later tell me when my writing made him want to vomit (his words, not mine).
"SPLAT" wasn’t a huge success. We published a second issue in February and things fizzled out after that. I still look back with fondness on the experience, the excitement of a new enterprise akin to a start-up company, and wish I could feel that way again.
My older brother and I have a contentious relationship but one thing I’m incredibly grateful for is all the years he spent trying to interest me in sports. Basketball and baseball never stayed with me as much as football, but I can at least know the rules of each game so I’m not ribbed about my masculinity in front of other men. When we were kids the Charlotte Hornets were the major sports team in town and to favor any other basketball team was sacrilege. Carolina Panthers football had yet to be birthed, so we were content to cheer on local heroes like Dell Curry, Mugsy Bogues, and Alonzo Mourning.
Basketball just felt like a natural institution in Charlotte even though the team hadn’t even been around that long. I remember in 1991 the NBA All Star Game was held in Charlotte and the town went nuts. I was only about seven at the time so I didn’t experience the fever. My brother’s class went on a field trip to the Charlotte Coliseum and he came back with an adornment of swag that filled my gut with the deepest of envy.
In elementary school we had a program called the “Books and the Bugs Gang” which encouraged kids to read. We had a bookmark with our mascot Hugo on it and we’d record how much time we spent reading on it. I fudged the numbers a lot. I don’t really remember why. The school library would hold regular contests where they’d hang Hornets posters on the windows of an office and to win the poster all you had to do was write a description of the poster. I spent much time on loose leaf paper crafting the perfect tableau of how 5’3” Mugsy Bogues looked gliding through the air like a winged cherub and in return I won several posters (all trashed now courtesy of my mother, grr!).
Several years and an aggregate of bullshit later, the Hornets emigrated to New Orleans and as a consolation prize we received the Charlotte Bobcats. I hated the team immediately. I never kept up with them or bothered to learn the names of any of the players. The first game I ever went to was last year and only because my cousins collaborated on a makeshift reunion at the opening game through a Groupon deal. I’d been to a couple of Hornets games before and at my first Bobcats game I felt no real excitement or any interest in the stakes. The Bobcats won. I remember that. And Time Warner Cable Arena is a much better monument to the basketball gods than the Charlotte Coliseum ever was (sorry, CC, still love you!).
I’ve heard through the rumor mill that the New Orleans Hornets might be undergoing a name change and that Charlotte might revert back to the Hornets. Part of me thinks it won’t matter a lick to me. But some part of me, the part that’s still a kid and signing up to be a part of the Jr. Hornets so I could get a reversible jersey in the mail, thinks it’s not too late at all.
I went to high school. And then I graduated.
It’s been almost 10 years and I still have dreams about being in school. I’m late for a class I haven’t been to in weeks and when I finally sit down we’re having a test and I’m completely unprepared. I have this dream a lot and it terrifies me each time.
My friend Brett once told me how much he misses high school. Brett’s mother was our history teacher, so he had an inside route to a lot of the goings on in school, he played football for our team (which went undefeated all four years I was there), and he had two girlfriends.
I told him he had the high school experience you see in the movies. I had the quiet un-indexed life that’s never really expressed on film. You watch a movie like “The Breakfast Club” and everyone’s broken down in a type: nerd, jock, class clown, outcast, screw-up, etc. I embodied several shades but most often I was a shadow on the wall. Other times a gadfly pestering the goings-on of others.
I think about high school a lot for two reasons: the first is that I almost went to another school. My brother convinced me to go into a rather haughty academic program when all I wanted was to follow my middle school cronies to the school they were all going to. My brother convinced my parents and I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had gone on the path I wanted. Would I still achieve the same milestones in my life? Would I have achieved them faster, later or not at all? There’s an entire parallel universe out there of different twists and turns, a life lived and a life unlived. How much I’d love to see it.
The other reason I think about high school a lot is because I obsess about the ways I could have done it differently. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much time chasing the wrong girl or maybe I’d be someone else and chase her a little differently. Maybe I’d learn when to shut my mouth and when to actually open it. Maybe I’d take school much more seriously and get into a better college. Again, another life lived and another life unlived.
But would I really want to go back? I’d like to say no but who could resist.
I found this old ticket stub and it reminded me of an old family friend (let’s call him BP, shall we?). BP was my dad’s best friend. When my father came to India as a bachelor in the 70’s he and BP shared an apartment with several other fresh off the boat bros. I always imagined it as some Two Wild and Crazy Guys type deal but I’m sure in reality they just sat around reminiscing about the home country. BP had a giant mustache and an even bigger personality. Seriously, this guy was a personality vacuum. He dwarfed everyone in the room with his sonorous voice and sincere smile.
Years ago he and his family came to visit and we all saw a Bollywood movie called Paheli playing at a local theater. I’ll spare you the synopsis: the movie wasn’t very good. But what I remember is that afterward I wanted to completely bash the movie and say what I didn’t like about it. BP, however, waved off the usual criticisms and said what he liked about it: the color, the cinematography, the vibrancy.
BP passed away at the end of last year. Somehow finding this ticket reminded me of a man who always saw the bright side of things. It reminded me of a family missing a rather large, irrecoverable piece of itself.
About a month after his death I noticed I had a pile of friend requests on Facebook. One of them was from BP. In his profile photo he smiled wide wearing a white lab coat at his job as a pharmacist. I felt a tinge of pain, and guilt, thinking he was right here in this room with me. I accepted.
jessterprynne asked: If I mailed you the remnants of my eyebrow pluckings, would you Elmer's glue them to your own brows to feel closer to me?
No, but I’d glue all but two hairs to a pillow and sleep next to it. One of the remaining hairs I’d save in case I need to clone you and the other I’d send out for DNA testing to make sure we’re not related to each other.
Dirty beautiful pitiful thing.
Built ironclad in and out, constellations whirring above your head like a Ferris wheel on fire. Night reveals new shades, darker hues of black, shadows bathing in the absence of light.
I can see my life and it’s a twisted, gorgeous thing it is. Sinews of memories and hopes weaving in and out like the tracks of some mad rollercoaster that never ends. Flickering remnants of lost and kept things; some cold, some warm. And somewhere bright green and yellow a cacophony of the unknown – endless possibilities only a furlong away and if you only you could go greener and get there.
You’re ironclad now. No longer malleable. All of that soft density hardened into a permanent husk. Until you chip, chip away.
"Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living. Since the dawn of time, roughly a hundred billion human beings have walked the planet Earth.
Now this is an interesting number, for by a curious coincidence there are approximately a hundred billion stars in our local universe, the Milky Way. So for every man who has ever lived, in this Universe there shines a star.
But every one of those stars is a sun, often far more brilliant and glorious than the small, nearby star we call the Sun. And many—perhaps most—of those alien suns have planets circling them. So almost certainly there is enough land in the sky to give every member of the human species, back to the first ape-man, his own private, world-sized heaven—or hell.
How many of those potential heavens and hells are now inhabited, and by what manner of creatures, we have no way of guessing; the very nearest is a million times farther away than Mars or Venus, those still remote goals of the next generation. But the barriers of distance are crumbling; one day we shall meet our equals, or our masters, among the stars.
Men have been slow to face this prospect; some still hope that it may never become reality. Increasing numbers, however are asking; ‘Why have such meetings not occurred already, since we ourselves are about to venture into space?’”