Fight the Power

Writing Prompt: Tell us about a time when you fought authority and took a stand against “the man.” Did you win?

When I was 14 years old, our Middle-School implemented a new rule that said wearing skull graphics on clothing was no longer permissible, which did not go over well with the student body (this was circa 1989). While I was a fan of the skateboarding culture that was popular at that time, I did not wear the clothes that went along with it; I was more of a stone-washed jeans and LA Gear high-top kind of girl.

those shoe-strings were confusing!
those shoe-strings were confusing!

My older brother, who was heavily into metal music at the time, gave me a t-shirt of his that had a skateboard on the back. I wore it to school one day, not realizing it had a tiny skull displayed amongst the graffiti. The principal saw the skull and ordered me to turn the shirt inside out, I refused saying that I would wear my jean-jacket over it instead. The principal threatened to call my mother and make her bring me new clothes to change into if I didn’t comply. I shrugged my shoulders, followed the principal to her office, and warned her this action would be pointless. My mother was not a fan of censorship. I’m not sure what their conversation consisted of but I was told to go back to class with no further instructions.

I didn’t wear the t-shirt again, I didn’t like being a trouble-maker, but I wasn’t going to be bullied into something that didn’t have a solid explanation behind it (prohibiting the pentagrams and anarchy signs that also covered the shirt would have made more sense but to focus on that minuscule skull, did not) Later in the school year the students organized a walk-out as a form of protest against the dress code. I didn’t take part because I felt it was organized for disruption’s sake only; I was ruled by my principles, even then.



Writing Prompt:

Ever have an experience that felt surreal, as though you’d been suddenly transported into the twilight zone, where time seemed to warp, perhaps slowing down or speeding up? Tell us all about it.  show us SURREAL.

When I was 16 years old I wrecked my mother’s new car. I was in the midst of High School drama, angry that a friend was supposed to meet me at her house but was not home, making me late to where I wanted to be. It was getting on towards dusk and I was driving too fast for comfort on twisty country roads. I came around a bend too close and had to swerve in order to miss an oncoming car. My car tires hit loose gravel on the side of the road and I lost control, heading for an embankment. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to think, I just braced my hands on the steering wheel so that I wouldn’t hit my head in the crash, and closed my eyes (it probably would have been helpful to hit the brakes, but hindsight is 20/20… ).

The car jolted and I felt a sharp pain in my lower back, then I heard a revving sound as I suddenly felt like I was riding on a roller-coaster. When the spinning sensation stopped and everything became quiet, I slowly opened my eyes. Sight and sound seemed muffled as I focused on my surroundings. I could see a small green light on the windshield that I realized was the gearshift itself; I was upside down. That seemed to kick-start everything into real time again and I found myself panicking, the most important thing in that moment was getting out of the vehicle! I undid my seat-belt and scrambled over to the passenger side door; the car was in a ditch and the driver’s side door was blocked. I had to push the passenger door up into the air, which felt impossibly heavy. I frustratingly pleaded for help, out loud, and the next thing I knew I was outside of the car, starring down the deserted tree-lined road.

My back hurt, I was scared, I didn’t know if I should start walking or wait. Time sped up again when I flagged down a car of older boys who refused to help me, and then another car soon after that turned out to be my absent friend. Time kept moving fast through the short ride to her house where I called my parents and back to the scene of the accident, this time with her grandfather in tow as he berated me for all teenagers and our reckless behavior. My parents showed up soon after.

Now I could cry, now I could give in to the pain in my back, now I didn’t have to think for awhile because my father was doing it for me. Time stopped altogether when I looked, really looked, at the car. “Mom,” I said, “Look what I did to your car!” She turned me away from the hustle and bustle that was happening around the scene and told me that it was just a car, I was more important. Time balanced out then, and I leaned on her for the rest of the ordeal.

I let my mother reprimand the police officer for bullying me, I let her push her way into the Emergency Room so that I wouldn’t be forgotten in the waiting room, I let her distract me when I had to get a painful shot in my hip, I let her convince the specialist that I would take my chances and not be put in a lower body cast for a fractured vertebrae, and then I let her bully me a few days later when she forced me to drive the rental car alone so that I would get over my fear sooner rather than later.

But time still seemed to stutter now and then when I saw that little green light of the gearshift reflected in the window at night.



Weekly Prompt:

Is there something you left unsaid, but regret? Tell us about a time when you didn’t say what was on your mind, but wish you had.

I have a hard time knowing what to say or do in instances of ill-health or death. A few years ago when my brother and sister-in-law were preparing to have their third child, my sister-in-law started bleeding around her fourth month of pregnancy. She was put on bed-rest soon after, when she suddenly went into labor. My nephew was born four months early, an automatic death-sentence to some. The year that followed was a very trying time for them, and an anxious time for the rest of us as well. My brother and his wife disagreed over whether or not to take my nephew off of life support: my sister-in-law was trained as a neonatal nurse, she knew the statistics and didn’t want him to go through unneeded suffering; my brother didn’t want to give up hope so easily.

My brother and I have never been particularly close, in a brother and sister way. He was very rambunctious as a child and easily bored, so he often chose to focus his attentions on me; unfortunately it was often in a negative way. I was very quiet as a child, and suffered in silence with much anxiety. It was seen as an accomplishment to get a reaction out of me, I guess, and I gave all the right reactions: crying, yelling, hitting. I knew my brother wasn’t being purposely mean, I knew even at that young age that he was just bored, but it soon became his only way to interact with me. As we got older and he spent more time away from home, first as an ambitious and outgoing teenager with after-school jobs and various sports activities, then as a college student who came home to visit every few months, our relationship changed and grew. He showed more interest in me those first few years of college than he had my entire life, talking with me about the writing and art appreciation electives that he had chosen, knowing I had always had a great interest in them myself. As the years went by though, real life got in the way again. Our relationship went back to the distant way of our childhood, only “checking-in” with each other as a sense of responsibility. Our conversations settled around movies and music, until he joined me in parenthood himself.

I felt like my whole life I was just pulling on his shirt-tail, begging for attention, following him where ever he let me go. Once he married and started having children of his own, it was his wife who suggested we spend time together but it was me who often forced myself onto them, trying to fulfill those “we should get together” promises. It finally got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I understood why he was the way that he was, he wasn’t being purposely flippant, he wasn’t intentionally making empty promises; it just was what it was and I didn’t want to pin my hopes on having the kind of sibling relationship I saw others having. it wasn’t fair to either of us, we just weren’t that way with each other. I needed to stop with the expectations, it was time to let it go.

Unfortunately I made this soul-searching decision and had started implementing it, less than a year before my nephew’s birth. How was I now supposed to act amidst this family crisis? This crisis that our side of the family could only share in through phone conversations and prayers because of the physical distance between our homes. I live the closest to my brother and his family, 2 and a half hours driving time. I could have rushed to his home during those long months…but to do what? they spent every waking minute they could at the hospital while my sister-in-laws family (who lived in the same town) took over looking after my nieces. I tried calling a handful of times within the first few months but I would either get a member of her family or the answering machine. I sent flowers, I sent cards, I sent cookies to the kids, I stayed updated weekly from my parents who my brother called often. I felt helpless, I felt anxious, I felt mad; maybe it was just better if I stayed out of the way.

That was not the right decision, I’ve been told. I should have asked to visit my nephew in the hospital (I didn’t know that was an option. I thought only parents and grandparents were allowed) I should have visited shortly after they brought him home for the first time, even though my own kids were suffering from strep throat; I could have found a way. I should have continued to call and only get the answering machine, so they at least knew I was trying. I should have done so many things but I didn’t. I stayed out of the way.

I met my nephew for the first time when he was nine months old, I became smitten with him the second time I met him at his first birthday party. He’s four years old now, little miracle that he is, so very happy and the ham of every gathering; the sparkle of my brother’s eye. I’ve since apologized to my brother for not being there for him during that difficult time. Our relationship has gone back to the way it used to be: promises of getting together that never materialize, phone calls that he initiates for birthdays, visits for children’s parties, holiday dinners at our parents. I try to look past the resentments and celebrate the good in him, the good in us.  The silence between us is still there, apparently it’s just our way.




Daily Prompt:

Remember your first crush? Think about that very first object of your affection. Oh, the sweaty palms. The swoony feeling in your stomach. Tell us the story of your first crush. What was it about this person that made your heart pound? Was the love requited? Change the names to protect the guilty or innocent if you must! No judgement here. Happy Valentine’s Day!

show us SMITTEN.

I had many puppy-love crushes when I was young, but the first one that felt personal to me was [x]. He was one of my older brother’s friends and reminded me a bit of the Eddie Haskell character from the old black and white reruns of Leave it to Beaver. [x] was misunderstood, in my eyes. He got into trouble a lot but so did my brother, so that didn’t automatically equal bad to me.

What I liked about [x] was that he treated me like a person, instead of the “little sister” that he was forced to share space with. He talked to me instead of at me and he waited for my answers, instead of just biding time until something more interesting came along. I wasn’t delusional in my crush, I knew there were a variety of reasons why we wouldn’t get together, but that didn’t stop my 13 year old self from doodling his name on every available surface. And when it became known that I was smitten with him, it didn’t change his interactions with me. He didn’t suddenly treat me like I had the plague or laugh at me, like others would.

Smitten to me went beyond simple physical attraction for the first time at that age, it meant being treated fairly and reciprocating in kind. There is always more to someone’s story than what they show on the surface, lend a non-judgmental ear and you’ll find out who they really are underneath; and you’ll find who you are underneath too.