One Voice

So, what does an important writer look like?

Is the validity of your voice determined by the contour of your face? The content of your resume?

Does your mirror or camera really know if people can benefit from reading you?

Voices are all around us, but, isn’t it possible that we are one voice short? Or would be, without you?

Sundresses

Sundresses

I stood next to her desk at work, nervously introducing myself and telling her that I had seen her around and would like to get to know her better. She told me her name, and agreed to meet me for lunch down at the Harbor Docks on Saturday.

I had asked one of my married female co-workers “how does a guy ask a woman he doesn’t even know for a date?” and she had given me this approach, word-for-word. “Start with lunch; it’s less threatening,” she said.

I followed her instructions. It worked.

That Saturday, I was sitting outside on the deck of the restaurant (overlooking the Gulf and not the “Harbor”, in spite of the name) when she arrived. She was wearing a white sundress, and looked stunning.

I have (and had) a horrible weakness for the sight of a girl in a sundress.

Joan was her name; she was new in town. Both she and her twin sister, Angela, had started working where I worked (in different offices) the same week. They were not identical, but people sometimes thought they were. I asked her about where she had come from (Tallahassee); what she liked to do (run and work out); and so on. I spoke some about the same topics for me.

It wasn’t long before conversation sort of ground to a halt. The date wasn’t working; it just didn’t feel right. I was accustomed, on dates, to being able to get the women I dated to laugh; however, nothing I said seemed to be particularly funny to her, which was a bad sign for me.

Girls did not typically date me for my looks.

Forty-five minutes in, she honestly seemed bored out of her mind. Still, lunch was good, and it was a beautiful day; and, I mused, as attractive as she was, she certainly shouldn’t have any problem garnering male attention. Hopefully for her, next time she would be having lunch with someone she was more compatible with.

I walked with her out to her car to say goodbye; after she left, I decided to take a walk down the beach. It was early fall, but the weather was still warm and breezy.

Being, at that time of my life, a lonely single guy, I wondered if I shouldn’t have tried to pretend to be the kind of guy she liked in the hopes of finding out what was beneath that sundress. I dismissed the thought, however: I wasn’t that good of a liar and I wanted someone to like me for me; so, I told my pesky male sexuality to pipe the f*** down.

Besides, it’s hard to pretend you work out when you don’t.

I saw a few stray people out walking, including a woman or two wearing sundresses. I’ve never quite been sure what it is I like so much about that particular fashion on women. I guess it’s like taste in music: you hear something, and you know you like it, but you’d be hard pressed to say exactly why. I’ve just always loved the sort of casual naturalness of that look, for whatever reason.

I was feeling down; I had entertained high hopes for that date. Although in my mid-twenties, some of of my friends had stopped this business of merely dating and taken to getting married. I had some longer-lasting relationships when I was younger, but not in some time — and I was lonely.

It was a loneliness slated to last roughly five more years; but I couldn’t know that at the time.

I picture me now at that age, driving back to my apartment, talking on the phone to one of my buddies who wanted to know how my date went (“It was a dud, man”). I see myself making a pizza in that little apartment that evening, with a glass of wine and my tiny cat for company, listening to music as the sun set down the beach and the night lit up with partygoers at the bars and clubs all up and down the way. There I am, after some hours of television and and some minutes in the shower, settling down in that old bed with its broad striped comforter, the cat sleeping on the headboard, dreaming my dreams of girls in sundresses — and that one girl in particular, whose face I never could quite see clearly, who’d smile when she saw me, and laugh at my jokes, and who would actually want to lay down next to me every night.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

Self Serve

The way my mind actually works? First of all, it arguably doesn’t; but to the degree it does, it tends to jump back, forth, and around…


Self-service is fine, but being self-serving is not, so: help yourself to the buffet, but while doing so, don’t brag about your wonderful diet and look disapprovingly at other people’s plates. And if you so much as mention Crossfit, we’re all throwing Cobb Salad at you.


“Man, I mean… I try to do the right thing, but sometimes… the right thing is… not exactly… where I can reach it, so, I just do what I do.”

– from an actual conversation I was part of recently


Working teaches you subtle distinctions. For instance, having oversight is good, but having oversights can get you fired.


“… Dude, you can’t just cheat on your wife.”

“She doesn’t care, as long as I’m not bothering her.”

“Are you serious?”

“About her not caring? Umm — yeah. She’s elevated not caring to an art form.”

– from the same conversation


Since many of you, I’m sure, read this blog for its outstanding insights into human morality, I’ll lay out some basic principles.

  • It is arguably possible for a person to strike another person in self-defense.
  • It is also arguably possible for a person to kill another person in self-defense.
  • It is, however, impossible (arguably or otherwise) for a person to rape another person in self-defense.

Since, for the first two types of actions listed above, self-defense is thought to be the only reason justifying the actions, one can presumably conclude that there is no justification of any kind, ever, for the last action named. WHICH EVERY DECENT PERSON ALREADY KNOWS.

(Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell. Well, actually I did.)


Since writing is very taxing, I feel like, here in the US, we should only have to do it April 15th. Or quarterly, if we’re self-employed.


“… Why not just get divorced, then?”

“If I ask for a divorce, she’ll take me to the cleaners! She’ll say I was cheating on her –“

“But YOU ARE cheating on her.”

“That hasn’t been legally established yet.”

“Dude, you’re completely insane.”

“Look, your wife actually likes you, so, I’m not sure you’re qualified to speak on the matter.”

– more from the same conversation


As a prelude to any potential future run for public office, the author of this blog would like to disclaim any knowledge of his own actions.


Imagination is more important than most people realize, because empathy is impossible without it.


I was asked by a reader to describe what I look like. I look as though I ate the younger version of myself.


When the journey becomes the goal, rather than the destination, traveling gets a lot easier.

The downside is, you are unlikely to arrive anywhere in particular.


“… Besides, don’t tell me you aren’t attracted to other women.”

“I never said that.”

“You act like this couldn’t happen to you.”

“I — no, I know better. I’m only lucky so far. Look, my bad. You just live your life, I have no business judging stuff I’m sure that I don’t understand.”

“Have you ever cheated on your wife?”

“No. Well, no, not… no.”

“What kind of answer is that?”

“The only one you’re getting.”

“Okay, fine Mister Self-serving, have it your way.”

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.

 

{ tissues }

It was my fifth grade art class, and we were wrapped up in the mysteries of papier-mâché. I was hopelessly inept; my creation looked like half-chewed food. From a row back, a dark-haired girl stepped away from her perfect work to try to help me.

Her name was Velvet.

She had long-hair and freckles, and deep brown eyes, and as she took hold of one my hands to show me how to do what we were supposed to be doing, something changed inside me. It was a pre-adolescent something, but – something, nonetheless.

At that age, relationships are both very simple and very complicated. Simple, in that, you don’t actually have to talk to each other or interact much. Complicated, in that, you aren’t quite sure when someone qualifies as your girlfriend or boyfriend as opposed to your friend.

But I think she became my girlfriend.


She was in my class, yet we rarely spoke: maybe three times a week. She also sang in chorus, and we were preparing for the year-end concert. She sang in the special “select group” of the best singers, and I used to watch them practice in awe.

They sounded wonderful to my ten-year old ears.

We were preparing for the year-end concert because fifth grade was almost over. I had my first girlfriend, and I had maybe four weeks to enjoy it.

Then, out of the blue, one day, with maybe two weeks left, she told me her family was moving. We lived in an Air Force town, so almost everyone moved every three years. She was leaving right after the school year ended.

The last time I would see her would be the end of school program.


As part of our year end concert / program, I had a speaking part, dressed as an old-time politician stumping for presidential candidate Benjamin Harrison. I was to wear a fake beard and a stovepipe hat.

My mom helped me construct the stovepipe hat out of two pieces of black posterboard we cut, rolled, and stapled together. I did my bit in the program for Benjamin Harrison; I liked to think it was his first term and not his failed re-election bid.

Velvet sang “Kentucky Babe” with the select singers, and I still remember it to this day.

After the show, we stood there awkwardly, our four parents also standing right there. She was admiring my stovepipe hat; I wanted to give it to her as a going away present. My mom said no.

So, we said our clumsy goodbyes, and she left.

I was really angry at my mom in the car; I argued with her. She said I would want to keep that hat to remember this day by.


Four years later, I am in ninth grade, and one of my female friends brings me a letter in an unfamiliar girl’s handwriting.

It was from Velvet.

She sent a copy of her school photo. She looked beautiful; and, by this point, adolescence had indeed hit me.

She had just moved (again), they were now in Alabama, only about three hours away.

She might as well have been across country.

I went home, and sat down at the desk my father had built for my brother’s and my room. Behind me, high up on a shelf, lay that stovepipe hat. I tried to think of what I should say to her.

I wasn’t sure sending a photo of me would have the same effect on her that hers had on me. I looked like I’d had a twelve-round prize fight with puberty and lost.

I snuck into my sister’s room and borrowed (stole) her Polaroid camera. I took a picture of the hat, and then put the camera back where my sister had tried unsuccessfully to hide it.

I wrote a three paragraph note about school and friends we both knew who still lived in Florida. I also wrote “Remember this?” on back of the photo. I spent some time practicing my signature on a spare piece of paper before signing it.

I then “borrowed” an envelope and stamp from my mom, and rode my bicycle down to the post office to mail my response.


It was three months later before I heard from her. It came straight to the house.

This time, the photo she sent was her in her cheerleader uniform.

She mentioned that Debbie (our mutual friend) had said I had gotten really good on the piano since fifth grade. (In fact, I started lessons three days after the last time I had seen Velvet.) She asked if I still sang in chorus.

She also told me she had a boyfriend now, and his name was Ted. He was on the football team.


Many, many years later, I’m a grown man with a family (my first marriage) and my parents are leaving that old house to move to Arizona.

My mom brings out the stovepipe hat, which had been on that same shelf all these years.

“I remember us making this,” she says. “You were mad at me because I wouldn’t let you give it to a girl.”

“Velvet,” I said. “Velvet was her name.”

“You remember? Are you still mad?” my mom said, laughing.

“No,” I said. “I’m not sure that relationship was ever destined for great things.”

“I also found this under the hat,” she said, holding up an old piece of papier-mâché. “What is this?”

“That… is some old tissue paper. You know tissues: new ones grow, but the old ones are always there, under the surface.”

“What?” my mom said.

“Nothing,” I laughed, carrying more of my old junk out to the car.

 


 

For Nano Poblano this year, I’m trying a prose post a day instead of my usual work in poetry. Thanks for reading. – S.B.