The Package

Those years when I lived one floor above Haight Street, my bed in a bay window over the intersection and a payphone, 2am screaming 3am crying 4am police sirens, housemate and I throwing beer bottles and shot glasses down at slumming interlopers from tonier neighborhoods, I prayed for a silent room in which to sleep. Now I have that room and a bed as big as an ocean and the silence, pocked only by the occasional chatty owl or pack of coyotes, swallows me. I descend into the maw of a moonless night and visit quietly with all the sins I’ve ever committed, one by one by one, like demon versions of the fence-jumping sheep that allegedly will lead me into the arms of Morpheus.

The thunk of the icemaker pulling water through the house’s pipes compels me up from the expensive sheets (courtesy of a homegirl who works in a bedding shop and is good at finding things that have fallen off trucks – we may carry good purses we paid full price for now, but scratch the surface and we’re still little street hustlers) and in front the white behemoth’s open door. The cold light spills out across the floor as I wince in the fluorescent glare and confirm that nothing has changed – inside is still cranberry cocktail, wine I never drink, chocolates I don’t eat, mineral water. Leafy vegetables bought with optimism and the best of intentions.

I open the freezer, for the sake of finishing the job, and on the fourth shelf down sits a butcher-wrapped package of Cajun red-hots I brought home a year and half ago, bought with hope and visions of a pleasant Sunday afternoon barbecue, smoke from the grill and lemonade and maybe a movie, all phantom projections of an afternoon that never happened. Hot tears sting at the corner of my eyes, I let the freezer door close itself and I sink to the floor, fist to the back of my lashes, wondering why it had to be this way, and think of the other package, more tightly wrapped, more cleverly hidden in the back, behind the frozen cubes of fresh-squeezed lemon juice I made in ice trays before I moved from the last house.

Trio No. 3 (daily prompt)

A Lot of People Say A Lot of Things

“A lot of people say a lot of things,” someone once said to me, under particularly harsh fluorescent lighting, in a particularly unpleasant place, when I had professed my loyalty.

“That’s okay,” I responded, “In time, you’ll see that I’m one of the people who mean what they say,” and I was, at least in the context I meant at the time, though whether he would agree with that may be up for debate.  That said, his words haunt me. As the years have passed, that simple phrase has reared its head time and again and proven itself a fundamental life truth. A lot of people say a lot of things.

That’s true – yet not a lot of people do the things they say they will, are the people they say they are. It seems so simplistic, so ‘walk the talk,’ so very obvious, but again and again, we are all fooled by the words that fall from the lips of people we want to believe.

In our culture, we place so much value – overmuch, perhaps – on the value of the word. When we discuss communication, most of the time we’re talking about the way we speak to each other, even though science has generally proven that most communication is nonverbal. What I’m thinking of, though, has little to do with tone, body language, or words – it boils down to deeds. Action. Real acts in real time that are the living proof of all those words.

In this era of Facebook likes and ‘single-serving friends,’ the ubiquity of the word ‘love’ and sentiments like ‘ride or die’ and ‘BFF (best friends forever)’ can obscure the real struggle to connect with flesh-and-bone individuals who actually show up when it’s, like, possibly inconvenient, messy, or requires work.

So now, I don’t pay so much attention to words – the potential invites, the professions of love, the vows of fealty, the ‘maybe someday we’ or ‘hey we should’ scripts. I shut my mouth and I take note of how people show up, or don’t. Those who will drive over the bridge to visit – or not. Those who buy the plane ticket – or not. Those who take care of their children, their animals, their friends, themselves, the way they say they will. Those who stick to the plans, who make the call, who show up for the day – you get the picture.

I’m not such a harsh taskmistress as I may be making myself out to be. Life happens. I’m as overwhelmed, stressed out, and busy as anyone. I get it. I don’t always feel like Doing The Thing, and I’ve been known to back out and engage in self-care when absolutely necessary – but I’ll tell you this: when the chips are down, when the shit hits the fan, when it well and truly matters, I am there. No matter how far I have to drive, money I have to spend, hours of sleep I have to lose – I show the fuck up, and I mean what I say, because that shit is important. I don’t want to be the person who says a lot of things – I want to be the person who doesn’t say a lot (<–probably not doing so well at that)  but when she does, means it and delivers. And most of the time, I am.

The tricky part is not being in love with all those words people say. Words are so seductive, and I believe that for some people, speaking is the same as doing, when it isn’t really at all. It feels good to say that you’ll do or this or that, it feels good to profess this or that sentiment, but without the act behind the words one becomes just another person who says a lot of things. Just another talker. Another vehicle for pretty, empty sounds.