Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Possibilities

Now Playing: America - A Horse With No Name 

My coworker left on maternity leave a few Wednesdays ago. Meaning her baby was born on a Wednesday of August, as per the doctor's scheduling.

She worked until the very last minute and won't be gone for long. I realized recently I've been working at the company for roughly the same amount of time she's been pregnant. It feels lengthy to me. I wonder how the time felt to her.

The Thursday after she gave birth, she sent me a picture of the newborn baby after I texted her congratulations. He looked very squishy and confused. Very adorable.

My aunt Priscilla is pregnant as well, but I think she's not due until mid to late October. She has one son who I met once when I was all of sixteen and he was two.

(Picture my aunt sent my mom a year later;3 or 4 years old.)
The summer I went back to Ecuador, he was this tiny blonde creature who, within seconds of meeting me, was somewhat shy but immensely curious. He was utterly transfixed with the camera option on my phone. (He took a lot of selfies). I let him use my computer to write--by which I mean he slammed the keyboard senselessly and stared in awe at the words appearing on screen. And I played Call of Duty with him--which means he grabbed the PlayStation controller and made his character spin around in place while shooting at the sky.

In many ways, he was exactly like a toddler. Energetic, messy,  and entertained by the same nonsensical jokes and repetitive game, with a short attention span and a limited perception of reality. But until I interacted with him, I think I forgot toddlers--no matter how many universal traits they display due to their still developing minds--can be individuals.

I remember almost every second of our limited time together. Whenever we had a bag of chips on hand, he used to insist on feeding me. He'd pop a chip in his mouth and then hold another one to my lips. We watched a dozen parasailing videos but he got instantly bored at all the Disney movies and shorts I tried to start for him. We reacted the same way to the musicians that showed up at a restaurant and walked around playing music for tips: we were amazed and enthralled. We also had the same reaction to a lemon-based cake our grandmother bought: we scrunched up our faces and flailed in the chair. (The adults, however, loved it).

I particularly remember when we went to the bank, my aunt had to leave for five minutes while we (Mom and I) still needed to talk to a banker. My aunt left her son with us, and while we waited in line, I held him in my arms. He searched the crowd, worried, sad, repeating, "Mama Pris? Mama Pris?" I told him she'd be back soon, trying to talk to him in a soothing voice, but it was like he couldn't hear me. The near future didn't matter because it was a concept that his mind couldn't yet grasp. All he knew was the information presented to him in the moment: his mom was gone.

I was the first grandchild in that side of the family. My aunt and my grandmother adored the little girl who played with dolls and loved dresses and liked Barbie and Hello Kitty and the color pink. I'm sure she was sufficiently adorable for them. Sadly, she grew up, and though a slight obsession with dresses and playing pretend remains, she doesn't quite fit into her pink princess outfits anymore.

She didn't have little sisters, just a little brother. She was the last young girl in that side of the family, Uncles are too young for children as of this writing and my mom and dad decided two kids two years apart was all they really wanted/needed/could handle.

All hope lied on my aunt to bring another pretty princess to the world. I knew from the second I heard about her first pregnancy that most of us were hopeful for a girl--my aunt and grandmother especially. Then my baby cousin came along and as far as we know, he has been and always will be a "he" till the end of his days.

When I heard there was another baby coming, I remember telling my mom, "They want a girl, don't they?" She agreed, and I said, "It's going to be a boy. Because that's how the universe works."

Blind guessing and nonsensical predictions, but yeah, I like to think that's how the universe works most of the time: it fucks you over in the most inconsequential ways.

And I was right. She's having another boy. When the news reached me, I couldn't stop laughing. Evil Disney sorceress level laughter, all I needed was the thunderclap.

About a year ago, I discovered there are plenty of good, loving, thoughtful parents that react negatively to news of the biological sex of their children. We all say, "I don't care so long as they're healthy," but most of us secretly have a preference. I once found discussion forums of parents who were severely disappointed to find out they were having a boy when they wanted a girl and vice versa. And there's nothing to do in those situations except go, "well. Shit."

Now this topic gets kinda complicated. Because I know there are people who will try to terminate pregnancies if they hear disappointing news, and a lot of it also has to do with where they live, what their views are, etc. I know there's also a debate to be had about imposing weird gender norm expectations on newborn babies. "I want a boy so I can teach him to play football. I want a girl so I can go get our nails done together all the time." (What if your girl wants to learn to play football and the smell of nail polish make her nauseous? What if your boy thinks neon blue nails look amazing and hates sports that require being beneath the scorching summer sun?) Plus, you know, issues involving people who lie outside the gender binary.

But that's the thing. When I heard that my aunt was having another boy, I wasn't just cackling like an evil witch who cast a No Girls Ever curse on the entire maternal side of my family. I was really, really happy. And relieved.

If they'd been told there was a baby girl coming their way, all these expectations would have instantly manifested. And all these girly scenarios and futures would have been ingrained in the parents and grandparents (of both sides). And whoever that child became, she wouldn't have been able to live up to their wishes. She wouldn't have played the part they wanted her to play, even if she managed to stick to their script on occasion.

No child can ever live up to all the hopes and expectations of their parents. But I'm glad that my second baby cousin, whoever he might be or however he might change, is already set for a million possibilities no one can predict.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Two Thoughts

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Kissing Families

1) The Olympics are the only thing in the world that make me miss competitive swimming. The smell of chlorine awakens a very conflicted brand of childhood nostalgia, but only the Olympics ever make me wonder what it would have been like to continue with my training for a couple more years. Seeing the actual races make me miss being in the water.

I never would have made it anywhere, of course, because I don't believe I could have ever come to like--let alone love--the sport. But sticking with it might have fundamentally changed me.

2) If my life is divided into neat little sections with clearly marked ends and beginnings, then I met you in my Silversun Pickups chapter. And everything that happens in the now is defined by their songs.

(Nobody ask why the second person pronoun felt necessary.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bare

Now Playing: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Dull Life

Today, I had zero barriers in place.

Most of my thoughts--relevant or irrelevant to the current situation--go through like eight or ten gates before they can turn audible and reach other people. That's why I abandon so many before I can speak them. Even when I'm writing, I'll often start a sentence and then rewrite it while I'm constructing it. I'll hit backspace midway, start writing another, then think of a third way to write it, begin deleting so I can write the new one, on and on. It's a good writing day when everything flows out at once, but that's very rare. I mostly work through micro-bursts of rewriting.

There wasn't any shields today. From anywhere between one to three hours, all the gates came down, all at once.

In the moment, I tried to write down what it more or less felt like:

"Halfway point to sleep. Surreal and like you're only seeing reality through snapshots and those snapshots are blurry. You remember blips as if they happened a hundred years ago, but right alongside them, the moments that follow are imminent. Half is imminent and the other half is history.*

It's all me. All my erratic, hyperbolic thoughts. But they're all going a million miles per hour and they're already too far away. So I speak them because I can't stop them."

*Not a perfect half. More like . . . a little of the present, a little of the past, a little of the present, but all lied out in one ongoing timeline.

If that makes any sense?? It's like trying to talk about a dream. Sooo nonsensical.

I found one thing the most surprising: it was still me. In that weird state of mind, it was all me and I understood it was me. Without a filter. I kept rambling on with the same pretentious bullshit and repeated phrases; it was basically all I forcefully rewrite a dozen times to mold to something worthwhile.

But for a few hours, there was no energy or need to mold anything. It just came out and I realized I wasn't discovering new things about myself or thinking about issues I could have never dreamed up at any other point in time. No. It was all me--all the thoughts I've always had, all my worries, all the stupid words I choose in trying to communicate thoroughly. Or to create something beautiful (and always failing at that task).

I think I'm supposed to be embarrassed to have been so mentally and emotionally exposed. I'm pretty sure I also cried a little, which is usually mortifying.

But I'm really not embarrassed. As easily annoyed as I can be with myself, I liked the confirmation that I'm not confused or conflicted or still trying to understand myself. I might silence myself on occasion, but it's not because I don't know what to say.

I just don't think I need to share everything yet, though I know that I will. Soon.

(Also, I just finished rewriting a short story that might actually be readable. Little accomplishments spark a little hope in my silly, sentimental heart).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Black Cats Are The Best Even When I Fail At Taking Pictures Of Them

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)

There's this black cat that lives in my neighborhood that is notoriously difficult to get close to. Most of the stray cats that I see in my neighborhood are standoffish. Far as I know, they really and truly don't have owners and feel immediately threatened by people who get too close. They don't like being touched and don't like being followed. Any sort of tiny footstep that alerts them of your presence has them breaking into a panic and fleeing.

They don't look malnourished to me so I'm under the assumption that someone's feeding them. Or they're total badasses who find their own food and are totally cool with chilling in the parking lot.

Anyways, I've been trying to befriend most of them but I'm a terrible Cat Person. I didn't know, until my brother told me, that cats--and dogs, and a ton of animals--don't like it when you hold eye contact because they perceive it as a threat. Which explains all the glaring I kept getting whenever I meowed really loudly at them. (I'm sure glaring is their way of saying, "you look like a fucking idiot, stop talking to me, YOU'RE NOT MAKING ANY SENSE.")

That black cat in particular has been the most standoffish, but I also try to approach him most often. As he's not mine and it doesn't feel right to name him, I shall refer to him as Tsundere Cat, because that's what Silvia nicknamed him when I told her about him.

Once, I waited by a car for like twenty minutes--sitting on the burning asphalt cooked by the afternoon sun--because he was hiding beneath said car in the shade. Following my brother's instructions, I learned to lower my eyes when I approach him and stretch my hand out slowly. As you would approach royalty, I'm assuming.

The thing is--I don't know that much about animals. As proven by my inappropriate levels of eye-contact. I don't really know how much they comprehend or how they store memories or whatever else. So I wasn't even sure Tsundere Cat would ever remember me long enough to warm up to me.

Then last Tuesday, when I was coming home from work, I saw him. 

I always get stupidly happy when I see him. I meowed to get his attention, and he turned and stared and meowed back. 

He's done that a few times recently. Usually he breaks into a run as soon as I make my way over to him, but this time he just sat there. So as I walked, eyes cast downward, outstretched hand, I meowed again. And he replied.

I got close. I was afraid to touch him at first, but I held my fingers by his nose to see how he reacted. To my complete surprise (because I really wasn't expecting it after months and months of not being able to get close) he licked the back of my fingers.

I wanted to just throw my arms around him and squeeze him really tightly; might have done so if I'd been sure it wouldn't scare the shit out of him and cause him to maul me. I was just deliriously happy at his reaction. He let me scratch his head too but mostly he seemed to be looking and meowing at me for food--he kept sniffing around my hand as if something edible would materialize. He kept circling around me, which made the subsequent pictures I attempted to take very blurry:


This was when he realized I didn't have any food and was starting to depart. I scratched his head one last time as he was leaving, and he jerked away. I let him go and haven't seen him for a few days now, but while we might not be friends yet, I think I'm getting there. Honestly, just thinking that he's starting to recognize me is enough to make me smile.

I'll have food for him next time.

Later that week, I tagged along with Red to visit his parent's house. Another black kitty awaited, friendlier in the sense that she allowed us to revere her by petting her:

She was also very stealthy. She was one of the last of his cats that I saw, and Red walked around the living room for a good ten minutes calling her name until she decided to show up.

There were other cats, but I only got this incredibly blurry picture of one other one:

And then got a ton of pictures of his dog, who was very easy to adore. She lied at my feet in the middle of the kitchen so I could scratch her belly and neck.Whenever I'd stop, she'd nudge me with her paw, or motion in the air to tell me to keep going. I told her, "You know I can't do this forever," but after she licked my leg and nuzzled me, I thought, nope, lies, I can do this forever.



The black cat extravaganza also reminded me of the rusted kitty Silvia and I once found in front of the library. Miraculously, decent pictures were obtained. Probably because two cameras were involved:

Kinda wish I had pets now.

Or familiars. Familiars would be great too.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.