Tag Archive for Conversations

I Slept in My Car on Madison Street

last night I slept in my car

and woke with the sun

like a farmer

but that the thin lines of rear-window defroster

were stenciled all over the view.

the world,

at least in this corner,

is still quiet when the sun rises,

quiet over the lawns and over the concrete sidewalks.

the few walkers-by

gave me sideways looks


they kept those for themselves).

“could he be homeless?”

“a vagrant? a hungover college-boy?”

they ask to each other,

hushed like death in their jogging clothes.



A blank sheet is placed in front of me. I stare at it.

Somewhere through the fog of exhaustion I hear a voice say over the sound system, “Here’s a blank sheet of paper. Write yourself a letter. Write about your summer: what you learned or maybe a favorite memory. Fold the letter and put it in an envelope addressed to you, but don’t seal it. We will put a group picture in the envelope with the letter and send it to you later in the year.”

There is a rustling all around me. The others sit hunched over the festively decorated tables and begin writing.

My hand reverently traces the edges of the blank sheet of paper.


Blank paper. Not photocopied pieces of paper filled with lists of names of campers, counselors, and cabins. Not crumpled pieces of paper covered with scrawl reminding me to order ice-cream for the snack shop. It’s a piece of paper as empty as my gaze, and as fresh as I was at the beginning of the summer. I tentatively pick up the pen emblazoned with the camp logo. It has been so long since I was allowed the time to fill a piece of paper with myself. I’ve forgotten how. If I had the energy, I would cry. Cry for myself. Cry for the words which used to come so easily and are now so elusive. Cry for the despair I feel because I have to be here when I don’t want to be. But I’m too tired to cry or feel sad, so I let the pen’s point rest at the top of the glaring white sheet.

There was the voice. Not the one over the sound system, but the one inside me. Hello? She says, Hello? Can you hear me?

“Time’s up, guys. Finish your letters and meanwhile, I’ll open the floor for any of you that would like to publicly thank another staff member.” So loud. The voice over the loudspeaker is so loud and the shadowy voice in my head disappears.

“I think Jessie deserves a big round of applause.” My name. Why was someone saying my name? Who is that behind the microphone now? I can’t remember her name. I’ve spent the last seven weeks with her, seeing her every day, but I am too tired to remember her name. “Whenever I turned around, Jessie was running somewhere; running to the office, to organize the campers’ activities, running to the snack shop to dip ice-cream, running to a counselor to encourage her. She made her job look so easy, didn’t she?” People clap. They clap for me, but actually, not for me. They applaud a person that is a façade; that gives them what they want to see. I smile mechanically and the person behind the microphone continues, “I’ve spent a few summers here and I’ve seen Jessie go from kitchen worker to program coordinator. She’s great at every job she does, and is such a support to all of us.” More clapping for someone they think I am.

If I had the energy, I would laugh. Laugh at the irony. Laugh at them because they think I enjoyed the summer. Laugh at the way everyone thinks I am just like them. But I am too tired to laugh, so I let my hand fall numbly onto the tabletop. The pen rolls from my fingers.

Hello? Hello, are you there? The tremulous voice again. Without thinking, I grab the pen as it rolls along the table.

Yeah, what do you want? I write.

The buried voice surfaces again and I transcribe the words she whispers. Nothing much. I guess I just want to know what you’ve been up to…

Like you care. Why should you care?

I care about how your summer went. I want to know what you learned. The kind of growth you had, the kind of discoveries you made…

None. It was a boring summer. I hated every moment of it and I wanted nothing more that to leave. I want to leave NOW, OK?!

No, wait, please don’t go. I know you must have learned something…


…All right then, what was one of your highlights?

I don’t have one. I don’t even remember anything.


No, I can’t remember anything. I remember a few things…

Like what?

…Like things I was involved in. But I don’t know why I was involved or what my motivation was.

So, what things do you remember?

It doesn’t matter.

It does.

No, it doesn’t.

Why not?

Because I don’t care. 

You don’t?


Are you angry?

Are you angry?

I… What’s it to you?

Are you angry?




Yes, it does. Why are you angry?

Because I am, OK?

Are you hurt?

Would you stop asking these questions?

Are you hurt?


Are you confused?


I don’t want to talk about his anymore.

I know you don’t.

Then why are you making me?

I’m not making you. You spoke of your own will. You know you need to talk.

I hate you.

No, you don’t. You hate yourself for not doing the right thing.

All the voices around me fade. I don’t hear them anymore. I can’t hear them babbling about their religion and talking to me as if I agree with them. I can’t hear my parents’ voices pressing me to fit in, to put my own preferences aside for the summer and build up the faith of others. I can’t hear my own voice saying amen to statements I know in my heart aren’t true. All I can hear is the voice inside, my true voice that I locked away so it wouldn’t say anything that would offend others. It says over and over: You hate yourself for not doing the right thing. You didn’t do the right thing.

I… Oh God, you’re right.

Stop fighting it.

I’m scared.

I’ll bet.

I’m gonna tell you something, OK?


I’ve never felt so dead in my whole life. I feel like my nerves are totally dead. I thought at first that I was just tired, but I think it’s more than that. I sacrificed myself for the sake of group conformity. Everyone thinks that I’m someone I’m not, and I haven’t resisted it. I’ve just drifted along. I have no idea who I am. No one really cares about who I really am. Actually, they don’t know. They haven’t had the chance because I’ve been too afraid to let them see. But, I guess it doesn’t matter.

It does.

I’m not going to whine about how I have to hide who I am so that it won’t challenge anyone else, or about how I have to live at camp whether I like it or not. I’m not a baby; I’m a big girl, I can take it. But it’s gone much deeper this summer. Before, I was one of them. But this past year, I’ve changed; I have a faith of my own. It’s not like their faith, but still I have to pretend that I hold their beliefs. I can’t just hide the truth I know, I have to suffocate it. I have to forget about it… otherwise it might slip out. Now I hardly know what truth is.

It won’t be hard to start fresh; it already feels like this summer never happened. It’s all a dream—a freaky, ghoulish nightmare that is over. I’m wide awake, and I’m moving on with my life.

“Jessie?” I blink and look up as she stands above me.


“You look like you’re ready to fall asleep. Tired?”

“No, I’m fine. Nice banquet, huh?”

“Yes, very nice. But I’m so sad that the summer’s over. I was just starting to enjoy it.” I laugh along with her. She thinks mine is a real laugh. “If I come back next year, will you be here?” she asks.

My hand covers the scribbling that fills the paper in front of me. “Oh, sure. I’ll be here. My dad is the camp director; I’m not going anywhere.”

Six months later, a letter peeks up at me from the mailbox. Tearing the seal, I find the piece of paper, covered with my angry writing. Tucked inside is a picture: there is the camp staff, and I’m seated in the front row, smiling my happiest smile. I’m just beginning to recover from the summer and the photo brings it all back. I’m not doing that again.

You lost too much.

I did, and I’ll never give it up again.

You have to be there again. Next summer…

Yes, but I will be there. I. I and no one else. No imposters. No pretenders. I will be there, and I will not lie.

I tuck the picture back into the envelope and bury it all in a deep drawer.

St. Francis’s Program for Gifted Children

Janie, what is love?

Love is a flower, sir.

Hmm. Quite. And, Randy, what is hate?

Hate, sir?

That’s what I said.

It’s, er, a fire, sir.

Excellent. Brandy, define fear.

Fear is a report card, sir.

Ah. Hah-ha-ahem. Certainly. And—oh, are we to Byron?

Yes, sir.

Mm. Of course. Very well, then. Byron, do keep it shorter this time, won’t you?

Yes, sir.

If you please, what is anger?

Sir, anger is a falling star that blazes white, yellow, then red and drops from the sky in brilliant despair. It falls into my house, where it quavers, flickers, and stands still, with mere ashes surrounding its deathly glare. Sir.



Good evening.

Why are you here?

I can’t say.

What do you hope to conquer?

I don’t know.

Who told you of this place?

I found it on my own.

How long do you intend to stay?

Until I remember.

Remember what?

I’m not sure.

How do you plan to remember?

Isn’t that what I’m here for?

Don’t ask questions.


Will you do something for me?

I’d go to the moon if you asked me to.

Then close your eyes and go.

I’m scared.

What do you see?

Pain. Love. You.

I know, I’ve been waiting.

Curiosity in Conversation

I wonder how many people wonder about holes in the ceiling and cracks on the floor. When they happened, or what caused them to happen. Or what about when you see a cigarette in the toilet and wonder who had the guts to smoke in the girl’s bathroom that day and why they chose that brand of cigarette, or why they even smoke at all. And even if people do think about these things, why? For what purpose? I guess I do it out of boredom. But is boredom really an excuse? I mean, really, how bored can a person get? I don’t guess it is boredom after all, probably curiosity, which can build to all sorts of lengths, and I believe it most certainly starts there. How else can you explain why I want to know what happened to a certain somebody when a certain somebody else punches her in the eye? I am almost positive it stems from curiosity and that is where and how I try to make sense of this story.

It begins on a nice hot July morning, with birds singing and flowers in full bloom; OK, not really. But how awesome would it be if it worked out that way. It really would put something beautiful into this mesh of words. Actually it really didn’t have a starting place, but rather starting people. A band. All the people in this band and all the people that surrounded this band were a part of my life for almost eight months. I don’t really understand why, but at first I did enjoy hanging out with these people. I guess maybe because they were ‘cool,’ but I mean we never really did anything cool. So basically we sat around pretending to be cool, because we were considered cool. Or maybe it was just the others that were considered cool. I really don’t know, but pretending to be cool was just not all that cool to me. I don’t understand how people can hang out with the same people day in and day out, just to belong. I did for so long, but I really can’t tell you why, It reminds me of a song. One of those songs you know all the words to but don’t know the name of it or who sings it, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah, anyway, back to why curiosity is the cause of all things, and why it kills all. So, my uncool cool friends and I would hang out all the time. They were all great when we were alone or everyone could get along, until slowly, one by one, all of us, including myself, were becoming big meanie-heads. It was sad how easily our moods would change from blaming one person and loving another for the same reasons. One would talk trash about someone to the other, the other would tell the whole group and be loved because they told other people.

I started noticing this pattern early on but never said anything about it because, basically, I was conforming. Becoming something that I completely hate. To belong. Especially to a group of people who were so spiteful. Like a closet full of scary black wool sweaters and one white cardigan. And I guess you know who the cardigan is. (I really like the cardigans, but at the time I liked scary black wool sweaters. I don’t even own a cardigan, or a scary black wool sweater. I should go shopping.) My meanie-head friends and I would usually hang out and go to shows and just gossip about anything and everything. It got to the point where you probably shouldn’t even trust your best friend; I know I didn’t.

One day while I was visiting my father in Maryland, I called one of my ‘best’ friends. My friend, my friend in the band, the night before had played with a really good band that everyone really liked, and he was giving me all the glorious details. He told me how well his band played and how nice the famous band was. Then he told me about some people from another local band, who had said some not so favorable things about my friends, and it really made him and another band member upset. He told me that they decided that they were never going to play with the other local again. (A very girly thing to do if you ask me. I mean OK, someone doesn’t like your music, so what, you can still be polite.) But you see, that is my point, they were being too polite, way too polite, so polite that they failed to mention to the other band that they weren’t going to play anymore. I told my friend that I was sure it was just a misunderstanding and that everything would work out.

That night, ironically, one of the members of the other local band was online, so of course I said hello and asked him how he was. He told me some things were going on, but that they would straighten themselves out soon. I was assuming he was talking about the unsavory news of the infamous show my friend had told me about on the phone. Wouldn’t you have assumed so by all that had been said before? What else was I possibly supposed to think.

Seriously, I had no clue that what I was about to say would have such an affect on my life now. Sad, huh? One conversation can change your life. I wonder how many conversations concerning you but not you actually speaking can change your life. Or how many have changed my life. Nevertheless, I said it. I asked him if he meant my friend’s band, (this is how I connect curiosity if you aren’t getting the gist of the story.) I was so eager to hear what he had to say about it too. He had no clue what I was talking about, and so considering what my friend said, I distinctly remember that he put no bearing on what he said to me or who I could say it to.

So I told him everything that my friend had told me a few hours before. Sadly, the infection, the disease had taken over me, too. I had officially become part of the crew, in fact during that one conversation everything I hated about myself and any foible anyone else bestowed upon me had been poured out, through words on my computer. The guy I told this to was very upset and apologized to my friend’s band for any misunderstanding, and everything between them was fine, in fact they are still friends and still play together. As for the other band, and I, well that never happened again. They pushed me away with harsh words and tainted regrets for having told me anything, ever. I went from the loved to the hated in a matter of a fifteen-minute conversation. And quite frankly I was so upset that I really didn’t care to speak to any of them again; the only problem: my boyfriend was in the band. I decided not to do anything mean (wow, I really had become a bad person if I had to decide not to be mean), and I left. I never said anything to the band or the surrounding ‘friends’ again.

So maybe my story was pointless and you don’t understand why I think curiosity is the cause of all things and why it kills all, but it killed my friendships, it killed my personality, it killed my life. If you don’t get it, or you don’t care, take this with you:

Jetlag – A group of mental and physical symptoms as in fatigue and irritability as in following rapid travel through several time zones.


he said

“Well, you never know, it might have been someone else’s whole world.”


when I said

“I don’t think it was anything important.”

Modern Astronomy

“I’m always especially tired after twelve hours of consciousness,” Ryan stated, “but today was different.”

“How’s that?” Ted asked.

“I actually had an idea for a poem. Actually I probably would’ve written it as a short story, but I didn’t end up writing it because I thought it probably would’ve been a stupid story”

Ted, surprised, replied, “Ryan, weren’t you just complaining the other day that your ‘well of inspiration had become a thimble of mediocrity’? Just tell me what your little poem was about, and I’ll let you know what I think about it. You oughtn’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Well, you won’t be impressed, and it would’ve been a short story, not a poem.”

“Get on with it, man!”

Ryan cleared his throat and collected his thoughts so he could clearly explain, “The story goes like this: There’s this astrologer… or astronomer, some guy who studies space; well, this guy is looking through his telescope one day and he sees a planet, or star, or something of that sort that’s so far away and blurry he can’t be sure what it is. What he can see of it, though, he finds to be the most beautiful object in space he’s ever seen. He knows maybe this is all in his head, you know, like he subconsciously knows that he’s overdoing it because one day the observatory he was working for upgraded to a more powerful telescope, but he never zoomed in on that beautiful body even though he could. He didn’t want to find out that the thing that inspired him and occupied his creative mind was just another ball of gas or chunk of rock.

“That’s basically it, except I would’ve written it with more detail and with a dramatic feel. I can see it on your face that you weren’t impressed. I told you you wouldn’t be impressed.”

“Well, first thing is your story wasn’t stupid. Seriously,” Ted said in an almost patronizing voice.

“Enough of that. What was it, do you think?”

“Honestly, it’s just starting to bother me that your story was just another of your typical whining-romantic themes. Its obvious that the star represents that Girl. I’m just trying to say that these types of stories, in excess of course, tend to warp your mind from a sensitively sentimental one into a morbidly depressed one.”

“How do you mean?”

“You still like Her, and you never stopped liking Her. It frustrates me to see you doing this to yourself. That wounded heart is self-inflicted.”

“I don’t like Her! You’re being very rude.”

“I thought you’d want me to be honest.”

“You’ve just got to feel like you’ve got everyone figured out, don’t you?”

The Breakup

Oh, hi, honey… No, no, I’m fine, I was just expecting to get your machine. Aren’t you usually at, like, hockey practice around now? Oh, right, you quit hockey to help with your dad’s business. I forgot. Heh.

No, I don’t remember what you and Todd were talking about at lunch. Yeah, I’m sorry I wasn’t paying much attention; my mind was thinking about something else. What? Oh, I don’t know, I was probably thinking about a conversation I had with Natasha today.

Sweetheart, I… What? Yeah, I totally hate Mr. Chatham, too. It is unfair that he only gave your essay eight-five percent, but come on, I worked my ass off on my essay, and I only got a seventy on it. And your topic wasn’t all that interesting, to be honest. I mean, “Romeo and Juliet: A Tragedy of Unawareness”? More like a tragedy of Leo; how many movies does that marvelous creature have to die in? Anyway, I think that my essay was much more thought out: “Homeless People Are People, Too.” I put a lot of work into it; I even made references to an article I read in People.

Oh, I can hardly wait to go to New York this summer. The Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, the Sears tower… What? Oh, that’s sweet… Oh, yes, of course I’ll miss you, too. I’m sorry, my mind must have drifted for a second. Yes, school is keeping me really busy.

Can we talk for a second? OK, I know we’re already talking, but I mean seriously. Not just small talk. I mean it. Please?

OK, thanks. Um, well… It’s that…


I said, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”

Because we’re just different people. I know it sounds lame, but— Don’t be upset, we are different. And I’ve tried to deal with it; I really have. But you seem to think that you can just live your life without any responsibility, disrupt my life, my schoolwork, and my relationships with other people and— No, I don’t mean other guys, I meant my friends and family, you idiot… I didn’t mean that. I didn’t, you’re just not letting me finish. Can I finish?

Thank you. It’s just that you don’t seem to think you need to put any work into this relationship. You think that I’ll do everything and we’ll be fine. It doesn’t work that way; you have to put work into it, too. No, you’re not putting work into it. Calling me doesn’t count. OK, take our three-week anniversary, for example. I got you a card from Hallmark and those cute boxers. What did you get me? You gave me a handmade card made out of construction paper, and you pasted a black and white photo of me on the front that you made during second period after I reminded you of the event in first… Oh, that was a drawing you did yourself? Well, it looked like a photo, and it still didn’t cost you any money. Yes, a three-week anniversary does count as a special event. Of course other couples celebrate it. Natasha and Bradley celebrate an anniversary every week. They do, too. I mean, to be a real couple, you have to be committed.

Yes, committed like Natasha and Bradley. What do you mean, that’s only half a couple? Natasha does too count as a person. She is not brain dead. She’s not— See? This is what I’m talking about. You don’t respect me, and you obviously don’t respect my friends. I respect your friends. Yes, I do. What are you talking about? Of course I respect Todd. Yes, I do. Oh, please, I did not break his nose. It was only bruised. And he stepped on my foot when I was wearing my brand new clogs. That’s totally mean; he deserved me punching him. Yes, he did. Yes, he did. Yes—

OK, let’s just drop it, OK? We’re through. Finished. Well, good, I’m glad you’re glad. We make a terrible couple anyway. Good, I’m glad you agree… Oh, that was low. I can’t believe you just insulted my hair. It does not look like Chelsea Clinton’s hair. My hair is beautiful and unique, thankyouverymuch.

Natasha was right; if I want to get anywhere in life, I can’t surround myself with lowlifes like you. You are a lowlife. How? Well… OK, how many pairs of Nikes do you own? Four? I mean, only four? That’s what I thought. And I bet you don’t even like Destiny’s Child. See? I knew it. I need to find someone who appreciates me and understands my popularity.

Oh, you can so bite me. I’m not going to regret this at all. In fact, I bet that by next week I’ll have another boyfriend. I think that Peter Goldman is going to ask me out. He is not gay. OK, if he was gay, then why was he totally flirting with me today in Fashion class?

You know what? I don’t want to talk to you anymore. No, I don’t. I think you’re being very immature for this situation. Yes, as a matter of fact I do. You’re being a total moron. In fact, I never want to speak to you for the rest of my life. Fine! Yeah, fine!




Why Am I Here?

“I’ve got something I have to tell you.”

I move my chair closer to him,

Then decide against it.

I move my chair slightly away.

“I really need to talk to you—”

He checks his watch.


I search for an understanding look

In his eyes.

There’s none.

“This is really difficult for me”

He sighs a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Try and understand”

He’s getting impatient.

I knew he wouldn’t be interested.

“If you’ll just listen to me—”

“Why am I here?” he asks.

Why did I even try? I think.

Dream #45

“That is a dangerous dream,”

the giant praying mantis told me

“It is a vile, vile thing for us to have

to walk this bloodstained earth—”

“—But we are doomed to it,” I finished

“It was bloodstained before us, and so it

will be so.”

“Yes, all of the blood has mingled together,

so we cannot tell which is which,”

said the praying mantis

“My love said to me that if the house

was full of water, would I swim deep

to rescue him.”

“Of course you told him yes,” said the

praying mantis

She paused

“But it is dangerous to dream like that”

“Who said it was a dream?”