Abby Versus Abby
In books, people often say that their soul is a bird. And I'm so jealous of them, I wish so much that I, too, could be just one bird, have just one path to fly. I have two. Two birds. Both flying, flying through the sky, both going somewhere. But such different somewheres, and such different birds. One black, not pretty at all. Wise. It sings its song, and keeps singing even when no one listens. Still sings with a voice which is its own even when no one calls it beautiful. The black cloak of feathers surrounding its soul is authentic black, a black with all the true colors smiling inside it. I grin as I think of this bird, I give a huge grin even as I stand alone in an empty, dark room. Then the clumsy, crooked smile turns to something else, something bright and cheery, with lip gloss on. The other bird has made its entrance, has come home to its immaculate nest in my mind. It applies make up, takes off the plaid with claws covered in nail polish. It makes me glad, and this bird is so beautiful, so colorful. But it's colors aren't true, are not made of real light They bury the darkness, my raven is slowly being pushed under the layers of fake cartoon colors. With a knowing, sad smile, the raven is gone. The murderess, my other bird, celebrates the raven's death with a flirty smile. And now I'm not me, not me at all. This isn't the worst of the consequences brought by my colorful beauty, not the part which convinces me to resurrect the raven, don wrinkled pants. What terrifies me most is the realization that without this good, kind bird, I don't know who I am. I can only become my true self with its help. Even with this knowledge, there is indecision, turmoil in my soul. The birds clash, they fight, they do painful things to each other; to me. If there was a someone, a someone who understood, they might ask why I can't just bury the cute, corrupt little bird which isn't me. And I am a bit glad that there is no one. No one to whom I'd have to reply with the awful words, because I can't. Because I don't want to.
The Colors Underneath
Do they hate me because of who I am. Or do they hate me because of who I pretend to be. Do they mock my grey mask, or the colors of my soul, the colors underneath. And do they realize that their bright, flashy cruelty is what created my ugly, drab mask. These questions, they aren't questions, I inform my cat. It's too painful to ask a question when no one can answer. Too painful to ask such small, golden questions. Questions like little, beautiful knives. Sharp knives which dig underneath all the lies, all the masks. All this, to my cat. My wonderful cat who always listens, and, I'm sure, absolutely sure she must understand. For someone must understand. Our mudroom hugs me, its dirty, brown walls croon comforting tunes to their little wounded girl who is crouching in a corner, school backpack flung to the opposite side. A bird sings outside, my cat licks my cheek, and sunlight returns to my heart. Its ok now, everything's ok. But not ok at school. So not ok. It's like the dreaded gym games; there is no winning. Either they don't notice me, which makes me feel so lonely, so insignificant, so small. An ugly, idiot girl. Or they notice me. Notice me, and punish me for my vulnerability. Hurt me, tease me. See if they can make me cry. They can. Who's they? My friends. Yes, friends, and enemies too. My enemies who are my friends. I needed someone to run around the playground with, someone who would be proof that I was not alone. This I got, in exchange for my bitter tears. Who became the friend of the little weed, the weed that was me? Why, of course people who had as little of an ego as I did. Girls who also were alone. We were alone together. But in such different ways. They gained confidence, ugly, fake confidence, through hurting me. Through making sure I, and others, perfectly understood how un-athletic, stupid, and ugly I was in comparison to them. We both had masks, but they were different. Mine was a small circle of gray, a thin, translucent fabric which covered my soul. And their masks were bright, beautiful, cheery. So phony. And they were sadder than me, for their masks were thick. Too thick for anyone to have even a glimmer of their souls. And made of something hard, impenetrable, so that it would take strength to get out. Strength which they lacked. But all this, all these sad facts only come to me now. They would have been medicine to the gray little girl, medicine which might let her understand. Understand them, and maybe understand herself. As it was, she believed their masks. Thought that they truly were strong, smart, wonderful people. She didn't make the connection, didn't realize that wonderful people don't make others cry.
I won't stoop to their level, she thought so many times. And then another thought, like an ugly rat, ran into her head. That makes no sense, for I'm definitely not on a higher level than them. Unless everyone lies. But then, what does truth matter, if in school, people mock you regardless of who you truly are. A mouse, a small, sweet little mouse thought comes in after the rat. Think of it this way, you can make yourself a little heaven, a little heaven of truth. It doesn't matter what happens in school, for in this little haven of justice, you can be you, and just let the people in school stay in their phony hell. Who cares about them? Then another bitter rat thought comes into her head, pushes the other rodents out with the words, yeah, who cares about them. You'll be in your heaven of thoughts. Alone.
The Beggars in the Shadows
Oooh, Italia! The gardens, the ice creams, the people, too. Everything, so marvelous, and not a hint of sadness, of blue. Colors, and sunlight, sweet marzipan. And, I blush a bit as I remember – how could I possibly forget – the vendor man! The timeless man who might've been 29, or 52. The man with the roses and the first rose of my life. For a beautiful girl, he says with a bow. Doesn't ask for money, just smiles. So widely! Like a happy cat without a care in the world. I smile, grazie! Oh, grazie, grazie! I still don't understand why he chose me, why he gave little me that wild, lovely, red flower. Oh, and not just once! Twice he found me, and with a bow, cast an enchantment. A spell which turned a weed, me, into a rose. Two roses in a vase, a proud vase at the center of a table, a table which sat in a divine little house, all in charming Italy! The magic of Italy even creeps into the iron, locked hearts of my uncle and aunt. It heals them, turns up the corners of their mouths. Smile, smile, we're in Italia! And all so happy, dancing through the golden, sunny streets. Tipsy off beauty, mixed with some wine. And now he is laughing, my uncle who fights with the world, and never is truly happy, now he is laughing and singing. Singing in the company of two lovely ladies adorned in funny, flowery hats. One of them, the smaller one, wearing a light yellow dress. Is this Abby? Abby in a dress? Abby who never dares to look nice? Here she dares. Dares to fly, dares to sing and let Italy hear her voice. Of course they are happy! How could they be sad, with such bright golden sunlight lighting up their smiles. And such a different sun than back in mundane America!
The sadness comes so suddenly. The adults who are children don't know what has come over their bright little dancing girl. She is so sad. She wants no gelato. In fact, gelato fills her eyes with tears. Everything does. The aunt and uncle try to cheer her up, but every loving gesture seems to make her sigh all the more. What is it? Please tell us, darling girl. She says nothing, their sad wilted flower girl. The shadow fell over her dancing soul because of one person. One person who meant nothing to no one. A sad, small little beggar. Dressed in ragged, ancient clothes. Old, old as the history of darkness. He did nothing but reach out his small, dirty hand. Methodically, stiffly, raise his helpless arm towards the world. He said nothing. Just a small, lost figure in a laughing, crowded world of ice cream and smiles. A tiny, lonely, sad figure who stood in the shadows of a sunlit world. The girl's eyes close once, in pain. Eyes which still hold remnants of light. Then they open, dark, open in a new world. Open, filled with tears which wash away the colors, the light. These eyes see, suddenly, many many beggars. Not just the one's begging for money. The girl sees the people who beg for a kind word, for a bonjourno, for a smile created specially for them. This wise, naïve little girl had a reason for trying to keep the cause of her sadness secret. She knew that once her kind, but realistic relatives understood, no, not understood. I mean, once they knew, then they would help her feel better. Would explain it all logically, tell her that it was the old man's own fault, and anyway there were so many – blah blah blah. The little girl realized that this answer to the question she tried so hard not to ask might succeed, and make her smile again. Might make her forget. She wants to feel this hurt, wants to have inside her something pure, compassionate, and painful. Now, wherever I go, the sad little girl peeks out at the world. She searches for sadness. It is funny, in a painful sort of way, but the saddest places of all are the most beautiful ones. Have you noticed that the most chaotic, laughing, sunlit, cultural, chaotically happy places are the one's in which the most beggars reside? No, of course you haven't. Who looks at those miserable, filthy people anyway? Those sad, sad souls who nobody loves. The beggars in the shadows.
Like a Spartan Soldier
Whenever I feel as if my shirt is too pretty, my pants too tight, the next day I try to be a bit ugly. No, not try to be ugly, but stop myself from trying to look pretty. From caring. Because I'm scared, scared of being vulnerable. For if I care what people think, then I will be hurt by their thoughts. Like a Spartan soldier, I once attempted to train myself not to care. It hurt. I sat alone at lunch, didn't seek people to sit with. Sat there, and instantly felt as if I were a beacon. A beacon of ugliness, a disgusting, dirty little magnet which attracted all eyes. As if I had a deep wound, a hole in my heart, which had been covered, and hidden, but still hadn't healed. And now had suddenly gotten infected, infected with vulnerability. More self-conscious than ever before. Of course, no one really cared, or looked at me. Reality didn't matter just then, it was all imagination, I was living a nightmare that I, myself, had created. And then, then I got mad. Angry at myself, angry at the whole blasted world. Though I felt sick, nauseous, I determinedly took a bite of my sandwich. Then another. I picked up my book, and sat there. Alone. But no longer so lonely. I had turned my nightmare into a bearable situation, unlike my usual technique of just running away from the darkness. I was ok. The hole in my heart was healing. And afterwards, I felt so proud. So strong. I laughed at myself, laughed at the world. And slowly, I taught myself how to be alone without being lonely. Not only that, but I learned to be happy alone. Before, I stood in a lonely field where others ran around laughing together. When I felt alone, I filled it with fake friends and fake smiles. And now, standing alone in the big lonely field, I reach a hand out, and pluck a flower. Smell it, and don't care if people think, she's crazy. I find true friends, people who I can share the flower with, and now I'm not alone. And when there are no real friends around, I am happy alone.
Nothing can make him happy. Even happiness itself fails to bring a real smile to his harsh lips. Lips which mock. Cruel lips. When I was a small child, he seemed like a god to me. A big, wonderful god who's strong grip was something you could trust. I never saw the repressed anger, anger which leaks into his words. Adds something sad to them as they leave his mouth. Before, I was his beautiful little princess. Before, I could make him smile. Smile a smile that somehow came from a different place in his soul than usual. Before. Now, that place in him is gone. Buried deeply under his pain. My uncle Boris. Such a name, such a firm name. A name which can go either way; Boris, a sweet big bearish warm uncle, or Boris, cruel warrior of an uncle. He was both, before. For me, he could be the kindest soul, a gentle Labrador. He frustrated the rest of the world, to them he was an arrogant, socially inept, cruel person. My uncle Boris. One day last summer, he gave my cousin and me a tour of Boston. For the first time in weeks, he was a pleasure to be around. Charming, kind, benevolent yet firm, showing us the way. Mira, my cousin, she thought he was fabulous. She had a wonderful day, and saw the good in my uncle. And me? Every word he said, every loving gesture spoke to me a hidden meaning. A double, backstabbing meaning. I saw his loneliness in the way he was so eager to please. Saw a hint of his cocky nature in the way he decided which movie to watch. Was suspicious of an insult to my father in the way my uncle joked about him. Everything he did made me so sad, while I should have been glad. Yes, there is darkness in my uncle. But there is light too, as there is in everyone. That night, I felt so guilty as I thought of my suspicions, guilty for not appreciating the good. My uncle Boris. He locked his heart up, so that no tears would escape. But his grip is firm. There is light in my uncle.
A Beautiful Popcorn Kernel in Our Souls
It was perfect; just like a story. A story of friends, of a girl and boy. Walking through windy paths through the woods, with stalks of something tall and golden along my path. Oh, and not just my path. Our paths. Together. For a sunlit moment, I wasn't self conscious. Not conscious at all; it wasn't even me there, walking beside him, holding his hand. It was a small part of me, a tiny golden popcorn kernel that held the purest, most beautiful part of me. It wasn't like in the movies, it had nothing to do with anything at all, anything but that little kernel. That little kernel in my soul. No, not my soul. No, not his soul. Just one small teardrop of a phoenix that was ours. Our families walked behind us, softly chatting. Our little siblings laughed and played, dancing in the light of a falling sun. A beautiful, wild sun which was, as we walked, dropping into the horizon. Leaving behind a rosy piece of sky which looked so raw, so very real. For, the scorching, powerful sun peeled off the excess layers of sky, leaving something poignant, something a bit painful. So raw. It was funny, us experiencing all that together, for in real life, life that had all the normal colors but gold, we weren't even that close. I didn't like him all that much, not as a person. What I did like was that golden kernel, that moment which was somehow possible with him. That was the start. The start of a search. Again, I was on two completely different paths. Two different treasure hunts. One, started early in life, a search for sadness. The little girl looking through my glasses to find the beggars of life's shadows. And another. A search which heals my sadness. A search for that kernel, that golden, beautiful kernel which must, simply must reside in every person's soul.