Robin, Part 3

Robin and her dad both survived the hurricane, they survived the replacement services, they survived living with a distant relative in Biloxi while devising a plan, and they survived the enactment of the plan to move into dad’s mom’s place in the country.

 

It’ll be an opportunity for healing, they both thought for entirely different reasons.

 

Robin ended up healing. Dad never did.

Robin, Part 2

Not much happened in the twenty days between the diagnosis and the hurricane. Dad shuffled around the house, Robin tried to take care of him, friends and family members stopped by and were sent away, pills were sorted, meals were discarded, the television sat on and loud.

 

And the day of the storm was a blur. Is was the first day since the diagnosis that dad allowed himself to be helped and saved – a shocking moment for a man who had spent his entire life ready to die and finally facing two opportunities to do so – and Robin watched as pills bobbed violently through the storm waters. They were pink and green and blue and white and all different shapes and sizes, like the most macabre party confetti at the world’s worst party.

 

Robin sat on the highest stair of the house, looking down at the rising water, the bobbing pills, there was a baseball trophy bobbing up and down and up and down and up and down. Nobody living in this house had ever played baseball. Triumphantly, the golden statue of a batter bobbed, seemingly from a house on the block with players in it.

Robin, Part 1

Robin was born in Long Beach, “no not California” she would always add. She was from Long Beach, Mississippi and she would have been happy to grow up, find a partner, start a family, buy a little house, and spend her entire life there in Long Beach. Her whole family was from there as far back as any of them could remember and her dad worked hard in the forests (doing something he called “logging” that Robin always feared was more sinister than that) until his cancer diagnosis, one day before the town’s centennial, 20 days before Hurricane Katrina hit.

 

2005 was a hard year for everyone in Long Beach. Robin felt, though, that it was hardest for her.

 

Dad’s first oncology appointment at http://themedicaloncologygroup.com/ was stressful – he had spent his entire life thinking death was not the worst thing, thinking suffering was a part of the deal, thinking he was manly and alpha and strong and unwavering. Learning he had cancer, real terminal cancer, shook all of those firmly held beliefs so much that he revealed a man nobody had ever met before.  He was weak and wanted help and didn’t have any answers. This man had been defeated by his body.

 

He was about to be defeated by the world at large.

More Writing Prompts

You guys asking for the writing prompts are super encouraging, I’m excited there’s some excitement for writing. There’s a lot of pressure to be an earning, publishing writer if you dare call yourself a writer, but if you’re doing this every day, you’re a writer. And yes, this is kind of a plug for you to get that Prompt app, we all have to do marketing! So here are a couple to get you started:

Have you ever had an enemy?

Which famous author would you want to write your biography?

Char, Part 2

To Char, seeing the most important part of her entire life happy and thriving and doing better than she’d ever done was a miracle of peace. A whole life with so little peace, so few friends and family, such solitude: and here she sat in the kitchen of the monestary, in the window, looking down over the monk’s garden where John was lying face-up on a blanket, literally surrounded by friends and food and drinks and books and trees, grass, gardens.

She’d never spent a day of her life snoozing on her back, face up towards the sky, taking in life without contributing anything. The songs they were listening to down there were embarrassingly earnest: songs Freebird and Blowin’ in the Wind. Just hopeful, youthful, daring songs for people who still dare, unabashedly.

Char listened to lots of the late 90’s radio songs like Blind Melon and Matchbox 20 and Eve 6. The songs everyone knows the words to but nobody knows the titles of.

And here sat these kids screaming into the French blue sky: AND THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHA-E-A-E-A-E-ANGEEEEEEE. Ugh. If it hadn’t made her so happy, it would have been annoying.

She spent her entire journey home from the abbey, the cab to the train to the airport to the airport to the airport to the taxi to home, beaming. Filled with so much hope for her son, the trip felt therapeutic.

Ella, Part 2

The entire journey from the monastery to Atlanta took John twenty hours, he spent each minute of every one of them filled with dread. He had spent seven months in this place always in love with everyone and everything and every place and every meal. Every song literally sounded better. Food was richer. People, beautiful.

He started the day sitting on the bottom stair of the cement and tile foyer next to his suitcase and backpack. Still drunk at 7am, he had spent the entire night with his classmates in the “After Dark” cave under the abbey where a bar and pillow lounge seating had been set up. His right buttcheek was entirely purple from now many times he fell down the stairs coming back down from the bathroom.

They had a cute little hookah down there, a thousand carafes of wine, an acoustic guitar – if there were a text book about American study abroad students in the millennial era, this would have been photographed for the cover. One of the young men in the circle even had dreadlocks – white guy dreadlocks.

One trait specific to American study abroad students in the millennial era is their complete lack of respect for rules or order or planning and still managing to have everything work out. I state that as praise, fond memory, and hopeful expectation for the future.

Every minute of the return to Atlanta felt to John like one ominous note after the next in the death waltz into adulthood. Tick – get a job. Tock – get an apartment. Tick – contact friends. Tock – go see mom. Tick – buy groceries. Tock – pay bills.

And that voice behind even the tick tocking of monotony reminding him about that gay stuff like love, loving men, being in love with Buddy, waking up together and knocking on every door on their way down the hallway to wake up their friends so they’d come down and sit on the lawn. They’d drink wine, eat old baguette with cheese, smoke cigarettes, laugh about last night, pass a joint around, read passages from their books aloud to each other, and take naps. All day.

John spent eighteen years in Atlanta and seven months anywhere else and anywhere else was proving terrifying to leave.

Char, Part 1

When young John did return back to Atlanta, he moved in with his mom for a few months. Char was an understanding woman who knew her son to be different and had been protecting him from the world for decades.

She was from a small town outside of Atlanta called Jesup where her elementary schools had asbestos so bad that she had lost several classmates to lung cancer during elementary school. She suspected that some of these cases were due to both the asbestos and the thick cloud of Pall Mall smoke hovering over the town at all times.

Her dad worked for Amtrak servicing the Jesup stop of the line part of the time and for the police department the rest of the time. He worked hard, and a lot, and never ever left for wanting more than his family. His mom worked at her dad’s hardware store that pretty much kept everyone fed and happy.

For being from such an utterly shit town full of neglected broke white folks, Char was in a unique position of coming from a well-respected blue-collar family with enough money to get by comfortably but not so much that people felt a certain way about it – right in that sweet spot. They had friends in their neighbors and coworkers, they had a small but warm family, they never went hungry, and everything they wanted managed to be in reach.

When Char got pregnant in high school after some asshole on the wrestling team raped her in her parent’s backyard, everything stopped being so easy. Instead of accept her fate as a “victim” or “prude,” she just accepted the new commonly held notion that she was a slut who deserved to get pregnant. Billy the Wrestler bragged up to the fucking (but never the forcing) right up until the day she learned she was pregnant. Suddenly his story changed.

Char’s story is so cliché that I won’t recount it but she had to get out of Jesup, took a bus to Atlanta, six months pregnant, hustled for money and a place to sleep, odd jobs, cots, infections, blah blah blah. John joined her the literal day after she found herself a place to live and would continue to bring joy into her life always at the exact right moment.

Like when he was 18 years old and he moved to a monastery in the Loire Valley and he invited her to come visit. She flew to Paris, first time on a plane, she saw her son open and free high on acid in the monk’s garden, flirting with his friend Buddy, being happy all over the world. She saw the Mona Lisa and Penseur. She drank bottles of wine out of carafes in small, smokey rooms. She smoked Chesterfield Bleus, dozens of them, in the way classy women do. Not the way Jesup women did.

What do you do when the child you weren’t supposed to have is the most important thing in your entire life?

Ella, Part 1

John Pachis was a Greek-American young man, raised by his hyper-masculine dad and grandfather while his mother rarely left the kitchen. Everything about his upbringing was defined by masculinity and patriarchal values. He was star of the football team at his high school outside of Atlanta, he got all the girls, his defined jaw, cleft chin, and straight thick nose sat strongly beneath his blond hair that was always just-too-long.

Everything was always so easy for John – he never really had to try too hard at anything. He pursued the things that came easily and ignored those which didn’t. This applied to hobbies, jobs, school and women. The people around him who worked hard were mysterious to him. Why ever try hard, he thought, when you can just do the easy things instead.

At the age of 18, he went abroad for his first time to a small town in France to live in a monastery with twenty other college students. This was his chance to see the world, learn a language, discover himself, and pop over to Greece to explore the homeland of his dear grandfather.

While there, he skipped all his classes, smoked a pack of cigarettes and drank bottles of wine every day, learned no more than twelve words in French, missed his flight to Greece and skipped it, and fell deeply in love with a young man from Texas named Buddy. Suddenly nothing was easy, everything was new, the world was spinning around him in a truly frightening way, and he dreaded his trip home. Europe ruined everything that had been simple for his entire life.

He spent the entire third month of the semester playing house with Buddy, sharing a room, preparing breakfast together, sharing stories and memories and plans, dropping acid and sitting for hours and hours giggling in the monk’s garden, wandering through the grounds labyrinth every evening together with a doobie, and relishing his new friendships with the female students around him. This was literally the first time he’d maintained friendships with females that didn’t include sex.

Buddy had opened an entirely new chapter in his life, his mind was bigger, the world was bigger, happiness was bigger, his heart was bigger. He was terrified to go home and return to the smallness of real life.

During a discussion with a female classmate about the pros and cons of casual sex he delivered his dad’s favorite metaphor about why men can be promiscuous and women couldn’t: the same shovel can dig thousands of holes, never changing, while every hole changes. In his mind, this meant that women are changed by sex, men are not, and this is why it’s socially acceptable for men to have casual sex but it’s taboo behavior for women.

The female classmate gently reminded him that women are not dirt. This part of the metaphor had never dawned on him before and something started brewing within him – a kind of femininity that he had never realized could exist within a man.

The eight hour flight home was one of sheer internal terror for our young John.