Monday, April 23, 2012


Emily shredded a receipt absentmindedly.  Piece by piece she ripped her frustrations into smaller fragments until they became infinitesimal in size.  What had she done wrong?
A crooked, awkward smile crept to her lips – first tugging at the corners, but soon spreading wildly across.  In her mind, a quick image of a half-eaten apple flashed.
“I know,” she said aloud, finally scooping up the tiny shards of paper. “I’ll get to it.”
He was always bothering her – her father was, that is.  He was constantly showing her little reminders of things she had been forced to interpret from an early age.  Though he had died twelve years ago, he still had much to say.
Emily was by no means a normal child.  She began to quickly pick up on things that other children couldn’t – cold spots, indescribable lights, movements that were impossibly subtle.  Her dreams would include messages she never understood.  She had knowledge of things she couldn’t possibly have lived through.  And she soon learned she could talk for people who could no longer talk for themselves.
            They talked to her in pictures, or sounds – in otherwise unperceivable messages that illuminated in magazines, books, or television shows.  They communicated to her with whatever means was available, and she had to interpret.
            Now twenty years old, Emily was used to not being alone.  She became accustomed to the strange looks she received when telling a strangers that their dead Great Aunt Tilly had said “Hello.”
            Once, she stopped a tired-looking businesswoman at a Starbucks.  Emily didn’t like to interrupt the lives of strangers with her peculiar messages, but sometimes the spirit was too persisting, too intent on having itself be heard. Emily had quietly tapped the woman on the shoulder, and politely spoke, “I know this is going to sound weird, but your mom wants to tell you ‘happy birthday.’ She’s very proud of you.”
            The woman clear slapped Emily across the face, dropping her venti nonfat latte in the process.  After she recovered from her minor breakdown, the woman thanked Emily and began to cry.  This was not at all an unusual day.


The airport bustled around her as she waited.  From the uncomfortable vinyl seat at the terminal, she could see them all.
 There was the sleeping college student who sat approximately a meter to her left.  His hat had been pulled carelessly over his eyes so that his blond hair peeked out at the back and sides, and his hands lay clasped together in his lap.

There were businessmen and women who bustled about, hurriedly rushing to Starbucks for their hourly caffeine fix.  They all dressed similarly, and strode past with the same anxiousness. She could feel herself feeding off their restless behavior.

To her far right was a couple not quite newlyweds.  In contrast, the man had already grayed, not only in his beard but also in the sparse hairs that covered his shining scalp, which was crimson with sunburn.  Only a snug belt pulled two notches too tight contained his enormous bulging stomach.  His wife dressed similarly, though her face and arms had browned, not burned, from the sun.  She wore green Bermuda shorts and a pink t-shirt, stretched tight over her torso.  The two seemed happy, Ainslie thought quietly.

Every so often, a flight attendant or pilot would wander by, dressed impeccably.  Each wore identical leather shoes that gleamed in the dull fluorescent light, and suits designed for their gender.  The pilots wore ties and decorated caps, and when they stood within Ainslie’s field of view, she couldn’t help but feel as though they were important, watchful, protective.

Families passed by, children adorned in Disney memorabilia. There were people dressed in military uniform.  Young girls on their way home from Cancun.  A petite woman with wire-rimmed glasses, clutching a James Patterson novel. 

Ainslie didn’t fly much, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying the airport.  She still marveled at how many people passed through the gates each day.  Thousands of people with thousands of different lives were all around her all at once, and it sent her spiraling into a wild consciousness that she quickly became addicted to.

She pulled her mousy brown hair into a low ponytail and leaned back into her seat to close her eyes.  It never even occurred to her that something in the air was different.  So she never realized that her life was about to change.

It was quiet before the plane hit, but deafening after.  Men and women screamed, children sobbed – people ran on desperate legs, tears streaming down ash-ridden faces.  Flames danced across gift shops and kiosks, reflecting angry light from the tiny glass shards the shattered window had once been composed of. 

Ainslee rolled onto her side, pushing herself upright and examining the nose of the giant 747 blazing above her. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

mistakes (!)

Ah. Mistakes. We all make them. We all see others make them. We try to avoid them.. stop them.. regret them.. live our lives without them. We all feel the repercussions of them. We all live in the wake of them.

But it's how we handle them and, respectively, what we learn from them, that really matters. You can't undo what you've already done, but you can learn from your experiences. "Treat people better overall." -- "Don't mix too many types of alcohol; it makes you say mean things." -- "Apologize when you should." Wah wah wah.

There are days when you will revel in your mistakes, claim that you "regret nothing!" But let's be honest: you do. You're only human. So you spill your guts to a good friend, pour over the "what-ifs" and "how-could-this-happens" and try to find a way to right the wrongs you've made. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes this gives you enough closure to admit your mistake, accept your mistake, and move forward.

Other times, you're fucked.

You spend days, weeks, months, maybe even years, dwelling on something you'd said. Or that "unforgivable" thing you did. You let it consume you. It eats away at you. Every lull in your thought brings you careening back into the abyss that is "The Mistake." How do you break this? How do you finally come to the point where you just let it go?

A few months ago, I made a mistake of this magnitude. I was making a clean, sensible beeline for "forevermore," and I blew it. I jumped ship the second it got a little scary and I've let that eat away at me for some time. Since then, I've been grappling with the idea that I might be noncommittal.

In high school, I had a long term boyfriend who, when mentioning the Future, would reference marriage and kids. I shrugged, accepting his vision for "our" life and carried forward. When we broke up, I transferred that vision to my next big relationship as "my own." After some time alone, thinking, and soul-searching, I started to realize that these things might not be for me. Despite the urging and coercing from my family and friends, I started to accept that I might just be a little odd.. too inflexible to share my life with someone, and too selfish for a family of my own. It wasn't until I met my last "Big One" that it hit me: I have no idea who I am, and I'm terrified of finding out.

That's more the problem than anything else. This time last year, I started dating a great guy. He was smart, and though physically the antithesis of My Type, I fell absolutely in love with him. We dated for about seven months, but when it came time for him to move out of Baltimore, I panicked.. realizing I could never follow him where he was headed. I couldn't even commit to the idea of maybe following him after some time. It was all I needed to check 'OK' and catalyze a break up.

Looking back on my last relationship, I may not know my lesson yet.  I've changed in the past few years.. but I think I've made one really huge mistake that's stuck heavily with me through it all: I've let myself be defined by my previous mistakes.

Perhaps that's the real mistake here.. not learning my lessons well enough.  Letting myself be weighed down by the baggage of a former Love.  I suppose I never really let myself "live and learn" enough, and so I let the struggles of my past relationships affect my most recent one.

This is hardly okay.  But this time around, I'm taking my time, carefully trying to feel out my lesson.  So maybe I just need to keep making mistakes.. maybe I just need to keep trying to learn. Because, maybe, sometimes, in order to accept your last mistake.. all you have to do is make another. And make it count. Maybe.