He pressed himself into me gasping and grunting. His parents garage was hot and smelled of fertilizer. He smelled of Tide and teenage sweat. I was 12 – my first kiss. My first head. My first bleeding. First feeding. I searched out his eyes in the frenzy of those final moments of childhood — they were cold and quite empty. “Thank you,” he said, as he turned and walked back out into the sun.
My father played guitar and most of my happy memories of him are entangled in song. His voice had this effortless joy when he played and I think I loved the look on his face as much as the sound. He and my Mother divorced when I was 2 and he was never what you would call a happy man. But when he played – I saw the clouds part. One year — Christmas eve — family gathering -- he had been drinking one can of beer after another and my Uncle asked him to play a few songs — in part, I think, to slow down the drinking. He picked up the guitar and muttered and sputtered through his old standards, forgetting words and chords. I looked around at my relatives hoping someone would stop the carnage — no dice. He looked down at me afterward and I know I wore disappointment as plainly as the stockings hung over the fire place and as real as the beer sweating into his hand. He never played for me again.
Friends since we were 5 years old, we boasted to the world at my best friends’ wedding. I was maid of honor. Two sisters who couldn’t be more different in appearance and presentation. The bride wore white as she marched down the aisle of that sunlit church, crying and smiling and trying desperately not to stumble on the emotion welling up in her. I cried too. Why not? It was a beautiful moment. One that she had dreamed of since we were kids. And it was picture perfect. I gave a toast that bore tears and laughter from all in attendance. My friend hugged me and smiled — “Thank you.” I am not sure when our conversations went stale but somehow — over the years that followed that inspirational moment — she became someone I could no longer relate to. We were always different — she came from a traditional Filipino family and she followed suit. I came from chaos and worked to make sense of that world through my writing. Our calls became less and less frequent and eventually stopped completely. Then, a few years ago, I got a call. It was my friend and her Mother was dying. Cancer. I tried to find a flight as soon as I could get to her but I was too late ... her mother died on a Monday. Commuters were beginning their work week as my friend sat with her husband in the hospital waiting room receiving the worst news of her life. I held her hand at the funeral. She looked up at me through a tear streaked face: “Thank you.”
4. Hope Nevaeh is 5 years old and possibly the best friend I have ever had. When she stampedes toward me I have no doubt that I will receive hugs and kisses and giggles and warmth beyond reason. I recently released a CD with my original music and Nevaeh — I am told by her parents — knows all the words and sings along regularly. A group of friends congregated on some Sunday evening at their home and I came out begrudgingly. I had been feeling extremely sorry for myself because of low CD sales and other career oriented disappointments. And there was my girl, sweet and wonderful as ever and did not let go of me all evening. My mind drifted away to my troubles as she lay in my lap slowly winding down as five year olds do. And it was the that I heard the most beautiful words I had ever heard “Is it really so hard to fly—cause I seem to forget to try—get tangled up in my mind” They were lyrics from one of my songs and it coming from Nevaeh, I heard them as if for the first time. She fell into a deep sleep and I never felt more hopeful.
This here was Holly Riggs' contribution to the "carte blanche" deal from Saulius, one of our repeat customers from last year, and one of the most memorable. He came back again to look for some inspiration out of us in the form of his poetry assignments: give me a poem involving death, pain, loss and hope. Don't even have to use the words necessarily, no title needed. This year, he presented Paul Heibing with a teriffic glasswork painting that incorporated some of the lines from his poem. Needless to say, we tried to up the ante for him this time around. I like Saulius - he's serious about reading these, and isn't afraid to offer criticism.
I remember a twinge of skepticism when Holly showed me her take. It's more of a prose piece teetering on journal-entry territory, but wow. Raw. Can't imagine this going out any other way. Keep on, Holly.