How Shall We Make The Next Exit Dramatic?

August 20th, around 8:00PM

I waited for Heather to pull up for a sudden Starbucks run and hurried to finish my make-up in the downstairs bathroom. My purse was filled to the brim with any extra small thing that couldn’t fit into my suitcase, so finding the tube of mascara I sought proved to be a challenge.

Heather had sent me a text minutes about five minutes prior and said she was in town at her parent’s house, and suggested we grab a cup of coffee.

I looked like a bit of a mess, I had been packing and cleaning all day and didn’t expect to be going out. I heard the truck pull up and tried without luck to get my purse to latch, there was simply too much in it, so I quickly pulled out a book, the stuffed animal squirrel Heather got me for my birthday and several large pieces of jewelry and finally managed to shut my bag as I made my way to the front door. I stepped out into the night to discover it was pleasantly cool for this time of year, and looked over to the truck to see Heather moving a few things into the back seat to make room in the front. I shut the front door and tried the knob to make sure it was locked before walking over and getting in the car.

“Hey.” I said, jumping in and closing the door.

“Hi.” She said. There was something different about her. She looked positively flawless.

I told her about meeting with Jon, she told me about life in the new house. Within ten minutes we were sitting by the window in Starbucks, sipping our drinks.

There was something different about the entire situation, though. For the first time since the day we met, our conversation was difficult, awkward, polite and slightly forced. There was an odd tension that I had never felt in Heather’s presence before. Suddenly she asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?” She was referring to leaving the next morning for West Virginia.

“Of course I am.”

“It’s just…you seem more scared than excited these days.”

“Well, I am-”

“Did you really think this through?” She interrupted me. I read her face and realized that she asked to get coffee for a specific reason, she was going to talk sense into me.

“No, I didn’t.” I answered honestly, “Things came up that I didn’t expect, there was no way to be fully prepared.” I was extremely curious, Heather had offered to help me in so many ways when it came to leaving  Texas, I didn’t understand this new side of her. I wasn’t angry or hurt,  just, curious.

“Okay, I know you’re probably not going to like this.” She said, pressing her hands together in a praying form, a signal used when someone is trying to explain a very specific point, “But you could live with us.” Whatever expression I had in reaction to that made her suddenly speak faster, “Just until January! With us you wouldn’t have to pay rent, you could get your license, I could drive you to work and you can save up money until you leave. It’s just four months.”

“I don’t know, Heather…I just can’t, I need to go.” I replied weakly. Several different emotions and a dozen different ideas were flying about my mind. The last thing I wanted was a new reality, especially a reality that involved staying in Texas.

“Why?”

“Because that’s somewhere new for me, and I just need to begin. I-it’s just- I don’t…I’m so behind already, Heather.” Out of nowhere I felt myself choke up, “Right now everyone I know is off at college and what am I right now? I’m a kid, with no job and who isn’t working on her education. I just don’t want to rely on anyone for anything anymore, especially since I have nothing right now, no life. I can finally start things if I go.”

“Hannah,” She took a breath, “I know it’s not the big, dramatic exit that you wanted, and I know Decatur isn’t really that great of a place. But you do realize, four months from now Shepherdstown is still going to be there, everything you want to start you can still start, but it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. And how long can you be financially stable before you’d run out of money need to come back anyway? The job options there are just as bad as California and you have no guarantee that it’s going to work out. Do you really think you can manage working just to make it by and work on your projects and eventually try to go to school, all at once?”

“I know it doesn’t make sense, I don’t make sense. But I just can’t stay here. I know it’s going to be difficult but I just-”

“Can’t wait for a few months?”

I thought of the train taking off without me, I thought of what the air at the station at the Martinsburg would be like when I’d arrive. What the weather might be like. My heart sank when I realized that I was starting to agree with Heather. I started shaking my head, it was too much change, too many new plans. I was angry with myself for being an emotional sissy, it just hurt, the change. Saying goodbye to one dream and plan, and then the next. I didn’t want any more change. I wanted to get on the train and deal with whatever happened when it happened.

She spoke again when I didn’t reply, “This is the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, and you know it. It may not be how you wanted to leave, but it’s the better way.”

We spoke for about two hours and eventually there came a moment when I interrupted her and said, “Okay, I’ll stay.”

She looked up at me with complete and utter shock, “What?”

“I’ll do it, I’ll stay until January.”

The brightest smile appeared on her face and she jumped up and hugged me and jumped around for a few seconds, knocking over her latte in the process. She acted like it was the best thing to happen since sliced bread, and her enthusiasm has always been infectious, but for once in my life I felt…numb. I tried to seem happier, but I could only smile. We cleaned up her spilled coffee and talked about what arrangements to make and exactly when I’d move in.

I stepped back into my home in a daze, wondering if I really just let go of my plan…and then wondering if the AmTrak site was serious about my ticket being non-refundable…I walked up to my loft and opened my partition to see the mess that my room has become due to my frantic packing and searching for favorite clothing items to stuff into my nearly bursting suitcase. Everything spoke of who I was before I left the house three hours ago. I walked back downstairs to my mom in the kitchen and told her the news before quietly walking back upstairs and crying for a bit. I decided I needed to tell someone and logged onto my e-mail to see that Madame Emily was online. We talked about it for a while until I started drifting off and decided to go to sleep at around midnight.

I don’t regret not getting on the train, but I will always wonder ‘what if?’.

I suppose a few months won’t make a difference in the long run, and I’m still planning on starting a vlog series based on my People Who Read People posts next month. 

Everything is going to turn out just fine, as things usually do. Though it is sort of a shame that I didn’t get my dramatic exit, the timing was rather perfect. I suppose this means I need ya’ll to help me find a way to leave dramatically, that shall be your homework for the week.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth

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Swayed By The Moment

We stepped inside the church and Austin headed for the youth room. I turned to meet Jon. From a distance Jon is the doppelgänger of Toby Flenderson from The Office, but up close one sees that he has larger eyes and a soul patch.

He led me to his office, which had a Canadian flag on the wall to my left with hockey jerseys covering the rest of the surface, the right wall was a similar case. The other two had photos of Canadian hockey players, signed. His desk chair was signed with silver ink and a sports logo directly above it.

“Oh! Canada.” I chuckled.

He seemed like he went on autopilot for just a moment as he explained why we were meeting, and I remembered that Jon, being a pastor, has probably played the part of counselor quite a few times.

After we sat down Jon spoke,

“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”

Hm. Let’s see. Might as well give any new readers, and my newest subscribers a quick description of the shindig they’ve signed up for. As well as the update I promised in May. I’ve been writing down a little bit of what has been going on every day since mid-June, so I’ll paste any relevant entries inside the following post.

Something you should be warned about if you’re a new reader – I write painfully long blog posts. So if you plan on reading the full story, I would recommend getting comfy, it’s going to take a while.

On a day in early June I was sitting in a booth at a nearby Chili’s with my best friend, Heather Madame.

“June 9th, 2012

We were talking about our fears and giving each other advice. Usually the goal of these dinners is to forget what is worrying us completely and just laugh and have fun, but more often than not (that is, every single time) we take turns being each other’s therapist and staring off into oblivion before going into complex monologues and self-deprecating jokes. Don’t get me wrong, we do laugh, a lot. But mostly laughing is just our way of cherishing what little time we have left being active parts of each other’s lives.

I sipped my coffee and Heather talked me through what I was thinking. Throwing in, ‘You are going to get there’s and ‘Everything is going to work out’s while managing to keep me sane as I came closer and closer to reality. Eventually I verbally faced a difficult truth, that the odds were miniscule that the stars would align and I would make it Shepherd University. I had a feeling that something like this would happen, that’s why I had tucked away a second plan, titled, creatively enough, Plan B.”

Plan B, in a nutshell, involved saving up as much money as possible, renting out a room nearby Shepherdstown (where the university is located) and going to the closest community college in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“June 26th.

When my decision to switch to Plan B was not completely settled, I consulted two of my greatest friends – Heather Madame and Madame Emily – to help me decide for certain. Since both of them have always told me how things really are without hesitation, I feared that my ideas would be shot down by logic and common sense. But I admire their unfailing honesty, and if I had to face a difficult truth I would prefer to hear it from them. So when they both responded with enthusiasm matching my own and encouragement greater than I could have ever anticipated, it was so overwhelming that as soon as I was alone I actually cried.

I had been nearing a sense of impending doom and failure, the stress mirroring the tension of piano wire, and to have them lift up the idea instead of explaining the impossibilities, especially when I hold their opinions in such high regard, was the thing that caused me to feel such relief.

When you want something so badly, and you think about it so much that the imagined images become as vivid as memories, and you start seeing pieces of it in your dreams in the night and your ears perk up at the slightest mention of it anywhere, and your chest tightens from anxiety because of the uncertainty, you can’t imagine life any other way than the way in which you’ve been hoping. Any other road just doesn’t exist, if it cannot be done, you’re left standing alone in a mist of nothingness.

But I have something.”

So, I made the arrangements. Originally I was going to find someone who needed a roommate and split rent, and there was one place in particular that I would have loved living in. It was an apartment right down the street from downtown Shepherdstown. The reason I chose Shepherd University was because of Shepherdstown (as for why I chose West Virginia, that’s another post altogether), the town is tiny, and the oldest in the state.

Something rather important that also happened in the past few months, I’ve decided that I’m not going to med school.

“June 22nd

Heather and I have gotten into the habit of text-messaging everyday, even if it’s just a short message every few hours. From the moment we wake up, to the minute we go to sleep. It keeps both of us sane and the friendship close since we don’t see each other very often these days.

I’ll save you the rundown of the complete conversation, as it spanned about four hours and hundreds of messages, but the message that was the domino that set this huge decision into motion was this one from Heather Madame right before our ‘G’nite’ texts:

You know you don’t have to be rich or famous or have a Ph. D or a Wikipedia page to be good enough or to prove yourself, right? You said you want to do what you love, so do! But not for attention or approval from the world, just do it for the love of it. After all, the world’s gone mad, my dear Sherlock.

Again the looming monster that is med school pricked at my thoughts. Fifteen years trying to cram my mind full of things I find so dull. Anything relating to the body below the atlas vertebrae I don’t care much for. I just want the brain and the face and the eyes. You can have your heart and pancreas and pectoralis and phalanges. They’re just responders to the signals thrown out from the master commander that is your brain. I started to entertain the thought of forgetting med school when I remembered a note that I had written in one of my little black books.

I don’t want to go to med school, but I’m afraid of my future self being angry at me.

Of all things, I then remembered a speech by Salman Khan (creator of Khan Academy) at Rice University this year. He mentioned a thought exercise that he uses sometimes. Put simply, the exercise goes like this:

Imagine you’re in your later years, seventy maybe eighty. And you’re thinking back on your life and the things that you did. You think about your career, about your children, about everything that you’ve done. And then you think about your regrets. (We all have an idea of what those might be, we didn’t tell someone often enough we loved them, we didn’t spend more time with people who mattered, we didn’t do something or say something or take a risk.) Now imagine that a genie appears, and he says ‘Well, I’ve been listening to you reflect and I’ve been listening to your regrets, and they seem valid to me. So what I’m going to do is give you another chance. I’m going to take you back to 2012, and you get to do it all over again.’

I remembered what my ‘regrets’ were, and I knew what I had to do.

Why am I going to fight for fifteen years for a sliver of happiness at the end of the road? I asked myself. I don’t want to. I thought. So don’t. I impulsively answered myself. That is the advice I would give to anyone. Not once did I ‘regret’ not being perceived as intelligent, or proving myself to people who probably can’t even remember my name. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done, so do I truly want to wait for fifteen years when most of the job will be paperwork anyway? What’s wrong with just being a forensic psychologist instead of psychiatrist? The word ‘psychologist’, if I’m being honest. But I’ve discovered the past few years that 90% of people have no idea what the difference is between a psychologist and a psychiatrist (to put it simply, the latter has to go to med school and has the ability to prescribe drugs…oh, and makes massive amounts of money.) And a bit of it is just being able to say that I went to med school.

It means so much to me that I don’t feel like a fool, I want it to be undeniable that I am intelligent, and sometimes I think I can’t prove that to myself unless I have it in writing. I’m afraid of not being above average, everyday I worry about not being enough. Not patient enough, not logical enough, not experienced enough…anyway, I’ll save you that rant and tell you that I let go of med school. A giant burden was lifted off of me and I suddenly felt extremely giddy to start classes. Good news is, I’ll still be getting a doctorate in the end, but in clinical psychology instead of medicine. I’ll get to spend ten years studying psychology nonstop, ten years!! Just the thought is heaven to me.”

Soon after Shepherd University confirmed that I was no longer enrolled, I received a scholarship in the mail.

“July 14th

I opened the front door to be met with a gust of hot wind. Summer in Texas is in full swing. I walked out to the mailbox, for once most of the mail was for yours truly. One letter was from the Keller library – it was about my $98.00 in late fees…and even from my periphery I recognized the Shepherd University logo on another letter. I winced.

I stepped back inside the house, tearing open the envelope from Shepherd out of curiosity.

Dear Hannah,

Congratulations! You are being offered the Executive’s Scholarship-

The blood rushed from my head. I read over the letter, and then I read it again, and again.

“My goodness.” I sat down at the formal dining room table.

“What?” Austin (my brother) called from the kitchen.

“I, ah…it’s a scholarship.” My mind started spinning. My plans! I had finally managed to get my wits about me and accept my new life going to a community college and paying rent for a room when this darn letter arrived. It was something added to the mix that I hadn’t expected, or wanted. I thought about how I was finally excited to start classes at HCC and that I was proud of myself for not calling it quits even when everything seemed impossible and I was scared out of my mind.

I folded the paper back up, walked into the kitchen and tossed the letter into the trash.

“Was that it?” Austin asked, turning towards me from the stove where he was cooking something in a large pot.

“Yes.”

“You’re literally throwing away a scholarship?”

I walked upstairs and into my loft, but my mind was pulling me back to the letter.

No. I thought. That is that.I sincerely wished that I hadn’t gotten it. I had accepted my new reality without Shepherd.

I stared off into space for a moment, then took a deep breath and cleared my head.

What do you want? I asked myself. Pushing aside what anyone else in the world would think.

Well, I thought, the community college is cheap-

No. I interrupted myself, what do you want to do?

I nearly stomped my foot in a pitiful temper tantrum against myself.

I walked downstairs, opened the trash can, and pulled out the letter.”

And so I accepted the scholarship, only to find out that there wouldn’t be enough time to get a student loan to cover the rest of the tuition bill. And so began the process of returning to acceptance of plan B.

Which would have been much easier, if I hadn’t discovered that it was too late to apply for Fall classes.

Well, phooey.

Accepting this new-new-new reality has been a bit of a challenge. I don’t like knowing that I won’t be in school, and for some reason this fact has made me think less of myself. At least this means that I will have a few months to work on some exciting projects that I’ve been planning over the Summer, and some that I’ve been waiting to start for some time. Including a vlog series based on my ‘People Who Read People’ blog post series and an experiment similar to the Rorschach that I conducted some time ago. I shall never be idle.

I used to be afraid of changing, even the thought of one part of my personality becoming something new and different seemed like a terrible thing. I suppose because mainly what I was afraid of was becoming a serious, unenthusiastic adult with no more daydreams and no more plans.

“June 27th,

It’s moments like these when I am happy that I shut down my blog for the Summer. Because my goal was to think through everything about myself – my intentions, my interactions with my family, my relationship with God – sincerely and honestly and try to process the next steps. I’m so scared of ruining everything. I am chaos. I wish for simplicity but I can never let things be simple. My nature, it seems, is to take a perfectly good square and try to make other shapes out of it, and add colors and dimensions. Until it’s just a mess. 100% of the time growing up I was the reason for the classic line being said by my mother, “This is why we can’t have anything nice.” I drew on walls and tore up the mail out of boredom and put soap in my mom’s mini fountain and carved shapes into her dresser and even tossed a lightbulb off of the counter just to see if it would bounce. Things that were plain and simple I couldn’t resist ruining. Sometimes I’ll hate something that I wrote sincerely, and I wonder, if I usually fix my behavior by thinking and speaking honestly, then what do I do when I’m already being honest?”

I saw Heather’s new home for the first time, the home she would be living in after her wedding,

“June 29th,

I woke up at 5AM and texted Heather. She arrived by 5:15, and off we went on our journey to Decatur.

On the way we picked up coffee and donuts. Several songs played on the radio that I knew I would forever associate with the drive to her new house. I knew when we pulled into the gas station, the sky still black and the radio still on a soft volume, that I would always remember that feeling. That half-awake state of consciousness as I stared off into the distance and popular tunes played to fill the silence, the completely comfortable silence.”

I went to Heather’s graduation from her surgical technician program in Fort Worth,

“June 30th,

Heather graduated from the surgical tech program today. I’m more proud of her than words can express. She fought so hard to get into that program, and she worked her way through while maintaining the highest grade while being the youngest one there and gaining the respect of those around her. She just graduated college at 18. You can be in awe now.”

I marked off something on my ‘Things I Want To Do Before I Leave Texas’ list,

“July 1st,

Today Heather and I went to the lake. Grapevine lake, to be precise. We brought along some dollar store inflatable rafts and filled my little picnic basket with food from the gas station. We got out of the water just in time, a storm hit suddenly, making for a rather doomsday-ish scene. A fog danced upon the surface of the water and winds whipped across the dust and created little tornadoes. We left the parking lot as the rain started crashing down in buckets.”

I thought about what I was afraid of,

“July 2nd,

I’m still afraid of the dark.

I’m afraid of hurting people.

I’m afraid of becoming arrogant.

I’m afraid of being unable to recognize good opportunities when they’re right in front of me.

I’m afraid of the people I care about being disappointed in me.

I’m afraid that the opinions of the people I care about will stop me from pursuing the things that I want to do.

I’m afraid of my emotions ruining everything that is good in my life.

I’m afraid of making someone miserable.

I’m afraid of being so hard on myself that I become selfish to the point of not acknowledging the needs of others.

I’m afraid of letting go.

I’m afraid of talking to my father.

I’m afraid of dying.

I’m afraid of telling you what I’m afraid of.

I’m afraid of not feeling loved.

I’m afraid that my need to feel loved will make me selfish.

I’m afraid of being alone.

I’m afraid of waking up one day and giving up on my career, and my wonderful plans.

I’m afraid of no one having faith in me.

I’m afraid of discovering no one has faith me, and in turn discovering that the only faith I had in myself was based upon their confidence in my abilities.

I’m afraid that I’m too weak. That I’ll come to edge of where I want to be and realize that my fears are greater than my determination.

‘Let me think about the people who I care about the most, and how when they fail or disappoint me, I still love them, I still give them chances and I still see the best in them. Let me extend that generosity to myself.’ –Ze Frank”

“July 4th,

We just threw a pool party.

Well, what I mean by that is, Heather couldn’t decide what we should do and after bouncing ideas off of each other Heather suddenly decided that we should buy a kiddie pool, some cheap pool party stuff and have our own personal par-tay in my backyard. So we did. Just the two of us…I brought out my radio and we listened to maddingly popular songs (odds are you already have ‘Call Me Maybe’ stuck in your head), singing along purposely off-key. It was fun and carefree, and lasted not nearly long enough. So far I’m proud of our last Summer, we’re making it count.”

On the 21st of July we had one of the best days of my life,

“While we scrubbed her kitchen the radio played in the livingroom…

I have a feeling I’m not giving you an accurate description here. Allow me to try again.

Heather’s new home is directly next to a freeway, and every few seconds massive trucks rush by at 70+ miles an hour. Upon stepping onto the grass in her front yard, one realizes that the earth is alive and hopping, hundreds of grasshoppers make themselves known with your every step by shooting into the air. A part of the corner of her front door is missing, be it from termites, a dog trying very, very hard to get in or some other cause, one can see her hard wood floors from the outside. The inside is a work in progress – the home was built in the 1950’s, and the previous renters had no mercy on the carpets, doors, walls ect., countless stains mark the ancient carpets and crayon and sharpie marks are on every door and threshold. Giant black widows and wolf spiders are near some doors and clinging to the outside of windows. Roaches scurry along the floor, the walls and the ceiling. And countless dead insects are inside the cabinets and drawers. The previous renters also had a horrific sense of style. The beautifully designed livingroom had navy blue carpets with dark blue walls. The carpet has thankfully been torn out to reveal some lovely wood floors, but the darkness of the walls dims its appeal a bit. One must first peer inside a doorway before hopping inside and checking oneself for killer spiders and flying cockroaches. Outside in the backyard there are snakes – venomous and harmless alike.

The home is beautiful, though. The way it’s designed suits Heather perfectly, and the laundry room, kitchen, dining area and spare room are all very well sized and it will no doubt be great fun to decorate. Madame knew it would be a great effort making the house into a home, and because of the bugs we both squeal like little girls at the sight of the smallest movement in our periphery or the tap of anything that is obviously not human.

So, there we were, scrubbing the cabinets and counters and oven while the radio played, when ‘Radio Love’ came on. It was the song our zumba instructor played the most during classes (the last class we took was about two years ago). Heather remembered a few moves, and so did I. The next thing we knew we were dancing in perfect unison in the middle of her roach-infested kitchen with bleach and dirty rags in our hands, singing along off-key to the song. We thought that was the end of it until ‘On The Floor’ came on, another favorite. Somehow we ended up in the middle of her livingroom jumping and clapping and dancing the good old routine (what we could remember of it, anyway.) By the second chorus we lost track of the order of the moves and ended up bent over laughing, joking about going to a club one day and breaking into a well-organized and perfectly timed zumba routine on the dance floor.

___________________________________________________________

“Hey, Heather.”

“Yep?”

“What did the frontal lobe say to the temporal lobe?”

“What?”

“‘I am superior.'”

“You’re a nerd.””

“July 14th, 10:32PM

There are many stories that I will tell people one day, stories about my life in the next decade. My life five years from now will eventually be nothing but a memory. My mind won’t hold on the majority of the moments I’m about to experience, because a healthy subconscious is one that knows what to toss out, as well as what to hold onto. To think that many details about this very moment, this moment when I’m pressing certain keys to form words, and this moments right now as you’re reading my very same words, this is a moment where you are completely unaware of what your other senses are experiencing. You aren’t paying attention to feel of your clothing or your posture, you aren’t taking note of the sound of the clock or, if you’re lucky, the sound of the rain hitting your window, you aren’t paying attention to how bright each light in the room is – or how bright the sun is beaming through your window in this moment. At least, not until I just helped you along. Not noticing these things all at once means that you have yourself a healthy mind (also – that you’re not currently on drugs…) and that you find my words interesting enough to lose focus of your surroundings for a moment. It’s just thinking that so many textures and sounds and sights will go unnoticed because I cannot absorb the next ten years completely. I cannot bottle time, I can’t mentally photograph every detail of every moment, I cannot in any way slow the passing of time or make myself cherish it more than I already intend to. And I’m going to meet people in the next ten years. I’m going to forget their names, and I’ll slowly forget their faces. I may reminisce of a moment I had with them, when their faces will twitch for a moment in an expression the world wasn’t meant to see, or when their voice took a turn for the skies or the tile that I had not expected. But their face will fade from my memory, and their name will lose relevance to my life.

If only we had the option to relive our most precious moments. If not to relive them, then to remember them in the most accurate clarity when precious moments are few.

But instead we have a beautiful thing called the human memory, and though the images become blurred and unsure of themselves, we remember how we felt. And what greater way to remember something, than to remember how we were swayed by the moment?”

Something happened that had never happened before,

“July 20th,

Tonight Brother Dearest and myself had our first heart-to-heart…we both cried. It was, frankly, weird. Beyond weird, actually, it was downright bizarre. And I cannot remember how it all began.

I was shocked that he actually listened – at least to a few things I said – and nearly begged me not to go. He asked me to do something for him – to talk to a friend of his at the church, one of the youth leaders who is currently stuck in Canada (long story) about, well, me.

I told him that if I’m still in Texas when Jon (his friend) gets back, then I’ll talk to him.

What an odd day.”

Three days before Heather’s wedding I completed yet another thing on my list of things I want to do before I leave Texas, stay in a Hilton hotel.

“August 5th,

I stayed at a Hilton hotel in Grapevine with Heather Madame, it was amazing.

I talked Heather into wearing something classy and moving the contents of her purse into something a bit more expensive-looking. We were at the DFW Lakes Conference Center and from every photo and video clip I had seen I knew that our usual outfits wouldn’t cut it…also, it was a golden opportunity – the sort of thing that only arises once or twice a year – to make Heather dress up, do her hair and wear more make-up. Heather is beautiful without a trace of foundation and mascara, but I’ve always loved dressing up and doing make-up, and it’s more fun when Heather goes along for the ride.

As soon as we walked into the lobby we were surrounded by the scent of some sort of perfume in dry, cold air. There was a wood staircase on the right and a help desk on the left. The rest of the lobby was comfortable seating and businessmen standing around confidently talking about something or other.

The executive suite we stayed in was on the seventh floor. The night consisted of cheesecake, random videos on YouTube, creating towers with the many fluffy feather pillows and running to the vending machine for a midnight Sprite. But, that’s ahead of the story. After we checked in and walked around our room, commenting on every single feature, Heather opened her gifts. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I bought Heather several gifts as late bridal shower gifts and a few ‘goodbye’ presents, little things that sort of represented our friendship…like a keychain whoopie cushion, and a metal sign for her kitchen that said “Fresh Coffee”, and a little coffee mug with a country design on it from our favorite antique store. Also, her Nook. When she found out I had sold mine, the chick tried to slip me hers as a birthday present, so I slipped it back to her as a going-away present.

Then we went to Downtown Grapevine. We walked to La Farina’s to discover it was filled to the brim, and live music was being played inside, which would have made conversation impossible. We found out the wait was thirty minutes, and stepped outside to think about it. I was disappointed. I had been daydreaming about coming back to La Farina’s one last time. Heather would’ve waited for a table if I asked her to, but I knew that if we went inside it wouldn’t be the same in the least. I didn’t want La Farina’s, I wanted a piece of that day back. The day we went and had that great waitress and the place pretty much to ourselves. When Heather wasn’t anxious because of the wedding and we had nothing pressing to discuss except how we wanted time to move quicker. And so we walked along main street until we came across a little Italian place. It ended up being perfect. I just kept thinking that those moments would hardly be memories, I thought about how we would blink and we would be walking out of the door and back to the hotel.

“I’m not going to remember those grapes.” Heather said, looking at the grapes and vines painted on the walls (Grapevine takes pride in its wine, there’s even Grapefest once a year.).

“That’s true.” I said, looking where she was staring, “But now that you’ve realized it, you’re going to remember them a little bit better.”

It was like I blinked, and we were walking out of the door, back to the hotel.

It was now nighttime in Grapevine. Warm breezes swept across the streets, the lights of the Palace Theatre were all lit up – it’s very old fashioned in style, and the place shows classic moves every Friday night for $5. As we were approaching a bench with a statue of a man sitting on it, I suddenly felt sad. The night was going by too fast, I wanted everything to freeze for a second.

“Hey,” I said, “Let’s take a seat for a minute.”

She sat down next to the statue and I took a seat at the end.

“It’s so lovely here at night.” I said, looking down the street at the lights and the people. It was rather quiet for this time of night, though on a Thursday not much was happening in Grapevine.

We sat in silence for a while, we were across the street from City Hall. It’s such a beautiful building. Pillars and a bell tower with a statue of a man at the very top holding a lamp to the darkness. We talked about little things here and there, for a while we talked about Heather getting married in a few days, and how odd it will be, when things will be so different.

“I just can’t believe you’re really going to West Virginia…”

I thought about it for a moment, and I looked back down the street. The lights and the people – it’s something nice to look at, its people being social. But what I loved the most were the buildings, the businesses, the feeling walking down the street. Everything was so interesting and slightly Victorian looking in some places. And that gorgeous City Hall with the bell ringing every fifteen minutes. I had been looking all over the country for places like this.

“You know something,” I said, “I love Bass Hall, I love Fort Worth, and right here, I love Grapevine. I was looking everywhere for places that had this feeling. The antique stores and restaurants and a theatre. I looked up what folks thought of Shepherdstown, I mean the people actually living in the place. And a lot of people hate it, they just hate it, and they want out. It’s little and unknown and everything there is to do in the entire town is down this little street. And I’m not even there and I adore it, I want to be there, I dream about being there.” I sighed, “If I had been born in West Virginia, if I were living in Shepherdstown right now, it’s possible that I would have found out about these places in Texas, and I would adore them, and I would daydream about being here. I would have my sights set on it and nothing could keep me from coming here.” I watched a group of people come out of a nearby restaurant, “I’ve recently realized that one man’s prison is another man’s freedom. Sometimes it’s not about the size of the town or even the location, it’s just that it’s somewhere new, and you know nothing about it. Even if it’s difficult, it’s worth it because it’s a fresh start.”

From Heather’s response I could tell she didn’t understand, but wanted to.

While we were talking a few folks used the crosswalk. Turns out when you press a button in Downtown Grapevine to cross the street, there are yellow lights that brightly flash in the road as you cross. It looked like a runway! And so, eventually when we got up and used the crosswalk, I couldn’t resist rasing my hands and skipping. I know, I could’ve picked a motion more glamorous, but there were a lot of cars waiting and that would have taken too long. And I could wave just used the peace sign and still felt like a rockstar for a second. Either way, I knew that the people in those cars were either amused or annoyed.”

And the next big thing to happen: Heather’s wedding.

“August 6th

12:30PM

Hannah-Elizabeth here, coming to you not-so-live from Heather’s fiance’s truck as we head to Kemah, Texas, the location of Madame’s wedding tomorrow night at 7:00PM.

There are a few hours left in the trip, so out of boredom I have decided to whip out my netbook and tell you how things are going so far.

Well, so far:

  • We have been pulled over because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
  • Stopped in a combination gas station/Wendy’s and have been perceived as tourists from another state.
  • Have nearly died because Madame’s fiance drives like a madman.
  • Have passed by the famous Houston statue.
  • Have had multiple near-death experiences because Madame’s fiance drives like madman.

Madame’s family and Carlisle’s (as he has been known on my blog) family are arriving in other vehicles…I shall keep you updated.

_______________________________________

11:20PM

Heather and Carlisle are on the pier fishing.

The rehearsal went smoothly, everything is ready and set for a wedding tomorrow.

August 7th

12:39AM

Heather is showering. She needs to wake up in a few hours to start the busy schedule of her wedding day.

How did it arrive so soon?

We sat out on the balcony (our room is on the top floor, overlooking the pier) and stared at the moon across the water. It sank in tonight, folks. Everything sank in. Heather is getting married tomorrow night, and I won’t see her again until the 21st, when she drops me off at the AmTrak station. Our life together is over – she’ll be in her new world, and I’ll be in mine.

What the heck am I doing? I’ve never taken such a flying leap before in my entire life. I’ve never even left town without someone with me. I’ve never been on a train before. What are we doing?

Even during the car ride here it didn’t sink in, not until the wedding rehearsal. Then it hit me full-blast. This is happening tomorrow. This is really, really happening.

__________________________________________

August 8th

10:05AM

The night before Heather’s wedding, we sat on the balcony and watched the moon reflect on Galveston Bay. The water seemed to go on forever, earlier that day we had seen cruise ships in the distance.

“You know,” Heather said, “Nothing could capture the depth of what I’m seeing right now.”

I agreed. I had never seen anything like it. Boats passed in the night and lights far off twinkled. The moon was framed with clouds and light breezes made the humidity bearable. We talked for a while. We could see her future husband on the pier with his friends and brothers fishing at midnight.

“Things are going to go wrong tomorrow.” Heather said, running a hand through her hair.

I nodded, “Yep.” She looked up with light surprise on her face. I continued, “With every wedding there must be at least three things that go wrong on the big day.”

Little did I know that I was precisely right. Three things went wrong.

One – we walked to three different nail places on the boardwalk and couldn’t find one that worked. One of them was having A/C troubles and was closing early, one was unexpectedly busy and the other one told Heather on the phone that they had four manicurists that weren’t busy, and we ended up waiting for half an hour before Madame decided to do her nails last-minute.

Two – four hours before her wedding the hair salon that Heather had made an appointment with a week ago suddenly decided that they wanted nothing to do with styling Heather’s hair for her wedding, Madame’s mother tried calling another place and discovered that they didn’t want to do it, either. I ended up styling her hair, and it looked perfect…ditto for the make-up, not to brag. Actually, I’m bragging. I made my best friend look drop-dead gorgeous on her wedding day.

Three – The cupcake tower (instead of a wedding cake, Madame had a tower of cupcakes) wasn’t tall enough for the cupcakes to fit properly. We found this out 40 minutes before the wedding.

Now, for something quite interesting that happened on her wedding day – a story that Heather says she will tell her children one day:

Finally we found a nail salon four hours before her wedding, it was right next to Ci Ci’s Pizza – where the wedding party was having lunch. We ran in so Heather could get french nails, and while the manicurist (a very friendly girl by the name of Megan) was working on her, a woman who was also get a manicure right next to her struck up a conversation about the wedding. She looked like she was in her late 50’s – grey hair, soft eyes, warm smile. She seemed like a very young woman in an older woman’s body.

We headed over to Ci Ci’s and mid-meal is when Heather’s mother got the call about the hair salon. Madame’s fiance was surprisingly angry, though he does have a bit of a temper on him that shows itself quite frequently, except when he’s with Heather. After we decided that I would do Heather’s hair, and after her mother had returned to her seat and things were back to semi-normal, the woman from the nail salon walked in and headed straight for their table.

“I knew you two were coming here, and you really are one of the special ones.” She said to Heather, then looked to both Madame and her future husband, “So this is my wedding gift, to you.”

She then took off her hat (did I mention she was wearing a tan bucket hat?), got on one knee and sang in an angelic, operatic voice, an a capella version of “True Love” by Elton John. After she finished she stood, spoke something softly and kindly to both of them while resting a hand on their shoulders, and made her exit. I was in awe at the entire situation, I knew awe-inspiring things would happen that day, but I never could have imagined that.

The wedding was on the boardwalk, the water directly behind us. Everything happened so perfectly, so smoothly that you could not blame anyone for believing firmly for a moment that it was all a dream. Despite my best efforts, I cried during the ceremony. Silently, thank goodness, but the tears were still there. I was standing two feet away from my greatest friend in the world as she became a new person. After they were presented as man and wife, one of Heather’s brother-in-laws played the exit song – “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”, Relient K’s cover. Garrett (formerly known on my blog as Carlisle) took Heather’s hand and they ran up the steps to the room where the reception would take place.

Photos were taken outside with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I became better acquainted with everyone in both families, and I felt like a part of it, a part of this giant family they now have. Garrett’s mother and I are both very emotional and love hugging and complimenting people, so quite a few times we ended up hugging each other with tears in our eyes and telling each other how beautiful we looked.

One of the songs Heather and Garrett danced to was one of Heather’s favorites.

Something I’ve never mentioned on my blog before – ever since Heather was a kid, she has loved 60’s and 70’s music. In her car and room she has uncountable CDs with nothing but disco songs on them. But her favorite of all of them, the one song that can completely bring out Heather’s true Heather-ness, is “Play That Funky Music”. There’s a video somewhere on YouTube of Heather doing karaoke in a gold suit and blonde afro wig, singing that catchy song.

And so, as soon as the song started playing, everyone made room as Heather in her elegant, flowing wedding gown and Garrett in his classy, perfectly fitted suit danced like they were wearing bell bottoms, peasant blouses and peace sign necklaces. I remembered what I adore so much about Heather. Even in that striking dress and her perfect make-up and carefully styled hair, her true self, her bubbly, energetic, silly, giggly, bust-a-move Heatherness seemed top contradict a dress that communicated stillness and fragility. And as for Garrett – Garrett was being the same person he has always been around Heather. He’s a bit of a tough guy with an ever-serious expression and contained emotions. But when he’s around Heather, his eyes light up and he looks at her the same way he always has, like she’s the most stunning, wonderful creature on the face of the planet. He can’t hold in the widest smile you’ve ever seen, and he can’t stop himself from catching her joy and energy.

To send them off, everyone lined up at the bottom of the steps outside (where the wedding took place) and instead of throwing rice, we blew bubbles. As they reached the end of the human path and bubble forest, I saw her pause and hug her parents goodbye. Panic rose in me when I realized this was it. I wouldn’t see Heather again until the 21st, when she’ll drive me to the AmTrak station and we won’t see each other again indefinitely. I ran up to her, hugged her and tried to freeze time, just for a moment, in the middle of the fabric of that second that consisted of laughter and clapping and cheers and bubbles and waves crashing and starts twinkling and ships crossing in the night. In the middle of the smiles and stares and tears and joy. And I feel that I succeeded. Such a significant moment, so certain, so final that it will forever stand out from uncountable other moments for the rest of my life. That moment marked the end, and the beginning, of everything.”

“I don’t know much about you, or anything about your current situation. So before I say anything I’d like a rundown of what’s been going on.”

I was at a loss for words. So much had changed so recently, I had changed so much recently.

I realized my chair was taller than his, so I pulled the lever until we were eye-level. He asked if I would be alright with us starting the meeting with prayer, I said yes.

And so began one of the strangest, most uncomfortable yet most profound conversations of my life.

I’m not certain what I should say, or if I should say anything. Predictably there were tears on my end, as soon as the first one fell I wiped it away and with a choked-up, frustrated voice said, mostly to myself, “Bother, this is starting already.” I hate how easily I cry sometimes. Seriously folks, I’m an emotional sissy.

The conversation lasted I believe about two and a half hours. He gave me his card and ended the meeting with a prayer, and off I went. I checked my make-up before I left the church and discovered with horror how bad it was. Every time I cry it ruins my eye make-up for the day, there is simply no helping it post-tears.

I suppose for now exactly what was said will remain a mystery.

I’m leaving in two days for West Virginia. Two. Days. And in case ya’ll are curious, I am going to copy and paste part of an e-mail I sent to Madame Emily with my schedule of those oh-so important three days.

August 21st, 8:00AM

Heather picks me up from my house in Keller and we go to Wal-Mart so I can get last-minute items – small umbrella, toothbrush and a miniature sewing kit.

12:45PM: Heather drops me off at the Fort Worth AmTrak station. I wait for the train

2:20PM: Texas Eagle Train 22 departs.

August 22nd, 1:52PM: Texas Eagle arrives at the Chicago Union Station.

4:00PM: I’m bored out of my mind waiting for the next train and wander out to find a Starbucks I looked up using Google Maps.

4:01PM: I walk out into the streets and realize I’ve stepped into a cold, cruel world alone struggling with one suitcase, one bookbag, one tote bag and a large purse filled to the brim and I imagine being murdered by mole people.

4:02PM: I run back inside the station and find that safe, comfy bench I was on before. Who needs food and coffee anyway?

6:10PM: Capitol Limited Train 1030 departs.

August 23rd, 10:30AM: Capitol Limited arrives at Martinsburg AmTrak station in West Virginia.”

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth

That Which I Do Not Know

Update:

Saturday we went to Missouri to see Tim Conway (think, 1960’s comedy sketch program The Carol Burnett Show) perform in the Mansion Theatre in Branson.

I had a conversation with Chase today.

Today was my first day of work at Kohl’s.

I woke up in the wee small hours like usual to get ready for anatomy and physiology, (it’s nearly 9:00 at night now – I want to sleeeeeeeeeep! But, sadly, I will lose hold of my sanity in the night if I don’t type up a post). I stepped inside of the cafe and saw Claire Madame behind the counter.

“Goodmorning!” I greeted her.

“Hey girl! What’s happening?”

“Not much, what about with you?” I walked up to the counter and grabbed a pack of my usual Tazo earl grey tea, she knew the routine and had already gotten a cup for the tea.

“Oh, you know, just life. It’s all good.” She smiled contentedly as she rang up the order.

Claire is one of the happiest, most positive, up-beat people I’ve ever met. As she poured steaming hot water into the cup when I remembered something.

“Oh!” I said, unlatching my purse, “I was in the downtown and I got you something.” I pulled out the orb pocketwatch (a smaller version of my own) and handed it to her. Claire Madame’s response consisted of the next ten minutes repeating ‘thank you’s and ‘Oh my gosh!’s. A part of me wishes that I were that way – giddy all of the time, thrilled beyond expectation at things like pocket watches. I’ve always been envious of Claire, she is a truly happy person, she always has been.

I stepped outside to be met with fantastically chilly air, I made my way to the building to see Teacher Madame leaving with Marshall and Toby.

“Look at the board for instructions.” She said as we passed. I hurried to the classroom and met Chase at the doorway, he stood back and I passed, saying a quick ‘thank you’ as I focused on not spilling my tea. After I placed my bookbag, doctor-bag (so it’s a purse… I just don’t like the word purse. Besides, my purse looks more like an old-fashioned doctor’s bag than a purse…) book and tea down and looked at the board:

1. Get laptops from front desk

I looked out the window and saw the entire class walking back over to the study hall by the cafe where I just was.

The next thing I knew, I was sprinting to meet up to them in my high-heel boots. Chase was closest, so I ran up to him as he reached the door.

“So,” I said, panting, “I’m taking a wild gander and saying the board means the front desk in there?”

He shrugged, “I’m just following the group.”

He stepped in and I followed. Toby was handing out the laptops from the office inside the study hall. On the walk back Chase was ahead of the group, I lingered behind them all.

After class I stepped inside the theatre to get my yearbook photo taken. Teacher Madame had let class out ten minutes early so this left twenty minutes instead of ten to talk to Chase. After the yearbook photo I stepped outside of the cozy theatre and back into the wonderful cool air (I’ve loathed Summer so much – I would give anything for 48 hours straight of snow) I saw movement from my peripheral and looked over to my left to see Chase walking towards the cafe. I turned and started walking to the location myself, attempting to (and utterly failing) read an expression from the reflection in the glass windows. I paused for a moment, purposely slowing so he would reach the building at the same time I did – you’ll simply have to take my word for it, I haven’t done something like that since I was 11 and had a crush on the pastor’s kid. I stepped inside and walked over to directly to the left of his usual spot, right next to the cafe where Claire now sat cleaning out the minifridge. He stopped for a moment, and then went to his usual place. I felt oddly amused when I noticed he seemed to be ever so slowly inching away from me, to the point where he was eventually directly behind a bookshelf, his eyes peering over mahogany whenever he glanced up. An animated conversation began to take place at the table in front of me, people were laughing and playfully pointing fingers. I realized how distant I was from something like that, and I felt happy. Content, really. I have found a stable group of human beings that are never so expressive, they are rather serious in class, and show off their minds more than their wit, they challenge me. I looked back over to the bookstore and Chase had suddenly appeared several feet closer, halfway behind a bookshelf. I considered if he was using the shelf as a subconscious barrier – it’s not uncommon for humans to use clipboards, books, pillows, even coffee mugs as ‘barriers’ to create a more comfortable space for themselves by putting up a ‘wall’ of sorts when they feel awkward or in general uncomfortable. I watched from my peripheral as it would appear that he was stepping towards me for a moment, before quickly changing his mind. I counted slowly to ten before deciding to speak myself.

“So,” I said, his eyebrows raised for a moment in surprise, “Did you finish the PowerPoint?”

“Not yet. I was only able to complete half of the slides.” He stepped out from behind the bookshelf finally, and then quickly casually leaned against the shelf. I wondered for a moment what it would be like to not be able to read people. I decided I like knowing these things.

“Oy,” I said, wincing, “I only completed five.”

“What disease did you pick?” He asked.

“Gorham’s Disease. I thought it would look awfully impressive if I picked a rare one but, since it is so rare there isn’t much information.”

“I’ve never heard of it.”

“Well, there is something to the tune of less than two-hundred cases recorded in medical literature, so, it’s a tad bit of a challenge.”

There was a moment of silence, I wondered if I should check to see if my mom had arrived with the car when I suddenly found myself (of all things) speaking again.

“Do you take any other classes here?”

He glanced over quickly, his expression communicating nothing notable. “Yeah, economics, which starts in about ten minutes. What about you?”

“I used to take American government but I dropped it. It just seemed like not even the teacher really wanted to be there.” I lowered my voice suddenly when I realized the owner of The Center stood fifteen feet away at the cash register. I watched her with weary eyes and hoped the crowd was loud enough that she hadn’t heard my comment.

“Which teacher did you have?” He asked. I looked back at him. Brown, deep-set eyes communicated genuine interest.

“Mrs. Lawrence.”

He nodded to himself, “I had a class with her last year, she was a good teacher.”

I thought for a moment. “All teachers here are incredible, really. It was just that class, it seemed a bit…empty? I felt that I wouldn’t learn much.”

He nodded again, “Ah,” he said.

Teacher Madame walked in then, holding a rather large computer monitor.

“Chase,” Said she, “Would you mind moving this to that desk for me?” He took the monitor from her and did her bidding. My phone beeped in my purse with a message from my mom, and I realized my time was up for this week. I glanced over to where he was and he was looking over at me. I put my hand up to wave goodbye when he started walking towards me, “Well,” he said, “I’ll see you next week.” I realized he was leaving the cafe as well and I chuckled before speaking, “We’re headed the same way, then.” I pushed open the door and he stepped out as well. “I’ll see you next week.” I echoed. He said something quietly that I couldn’t understand as he stepped off of the porch and onward, I made my way to the Fit. He didn’t look back, he just walked with purpose. I looked down at my watch and realized he was late to economics.

Alright, then, it’s five minutes to ten and I can’t possibly write about my first day of work, not accurately, anyway.

I hope dearly that one of you will let me know if I start becoming something I shouldn’t. I know it can seem odd of me to worry everyday about turning into a selfish, narcissistic brat. But, come now, I can be incredibly petty and selfish and naive. I suppose I just don’t want to stop trying. Sometimes it feels like people stop. They exist. They breathe in and out, wake up and go to sleep, and repeat until their heart or mind finally gives up. I suppose it’s all anyone ever does, it isn’t right to think of a human being as capable of doing anything more than existing. But in our lives, in our circles and in our reputations we manage to make miniature universes that can be bent and grown, affected by every choice we make that reveals something to ourselves and the world about who we are.

We have our ordinariness, routines, habits, people we anticipate meeting and dread to see. I feel that we are only using so much of our emotions, that, just like riding in the front seat of the car for the first time, we feel thrilled when a new development arises, but soon enough it becomes ordinary, or even downright dull. We begin to think that we know who we are, what we would do in situations entirely out of the ordinary. Only when a moment speeds upon our consciousness like a bullet train
to throw us for a loop and break emotions past the glass (perceived as steel)
barrier of our life’s ordinariness and make a presence of fear, excitement,
grief, rage or love completely known to such a vulnerable state of naiveté, do
we understand our own nature on a broader horizon and a deeper expanse. These are the things that make our foundations known to ourselves and the world. We
may sit and theorize and discuss and talk ourselves silly about how we could be
the grandest war hero, when it very well may be that, truthfully, we are
capable of becoming Hitler*.

And, I had better stop myself before I’m up all hours writing yet another 2-part blog post series. Odds are I’m going to read this tomorrow and think to myself “What on earth was I thinking?!” But I’ll leave it up, because it would bother me an awful lot to take it down, simply because this is yet another documentation of a day in my life. Another timestamp. Another cluster of moments in which I discover my goal is nearly the same as it was four years ago when The Last Classic first began, to reach a place in my life that, honestly, by now I’m not even certain what it is I’m looking for.

I suppose I’m looking for something that I will know when I see it.

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

*I believe this bit because of findings derived from men such as Phillip Zimbardo, who wrote The Lucifer Effect, as well as the obedience experiments done by Stanley Milgram.

On The Inside Looking Out

Looking out.

Image by Ashley Campbell Photography via Flickr

Goodnight.

I know the term is intended as a form of goodbye, of ‘I’ll see you when the sun wakes up’, but no other seems to be fitting at the moment. It is eleven ‘o clock at night, and I don’t care to contemplate something more appropriate.

I wonder quite often who reads my blog. Views are not typically motivation enough for a new post, but even the thought of someone secretly ‘checking in’ on how I am typically is motivation enough for a new post. Over the years, even on my very first blog on my MySpace page some 5 or so years ago, there have been top-secret readers of my blogs. Sometimes someone halfway across the state, country and world. Sometimes it was my mom.

I wonder about my words lingering here, on your screen, on my screen. What you’re thinking of them and what I’ll think when I skim through this post a few months after it’s published. Because this is everything that I sincerely believe and think and feel, it’s a deeper sort of judgement by others because I am not being judged by my type of dress or how well I can sport a faux grin at some social gathering. People who have been reading my blog for a while, have seen me grow up through my own eyes the past few years. I suppose I’ve never paused and thought about it.

This is where I say something semi-related if you care to figure out the logic on your own.

I know something for certain. That if I don’t get into the university that I want, if I don’t get married by 26, if my reputation and the positive perception of yours truly is left in a million shattered pieces (stomped on for good measure into glittering dust, as is the typical practice), if ultimately my dream of being an active part of the criminal justice system by being a forensic psychiatrist doesn’t pan out, I know with reasonable certainty (though it may be just a rumor) that the sun will come up, and then go down, and the world will keep spinning. I don’t know why this often feels like an epiphany.

I can’t help but think of a talk I had with my mother the last time we were in The Cheesecake Factory, sitting comfortably and chatting in a booth by the back wall and waiting for our iced teas and salad.

“You know something?” I said suddenly, looking around at the filled chairs and booths and the bustling waitstaff.

“Hm?”

“In this room, there are probably a dozen people having a conversation similar to ours. And extend that to the country, to the world.” My mind flicked to a paragraph from Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality, in which he suggested that, if infinite parallel universes exist, then odds are that millions of doppelgänger are having the exact same conversation, contemplating your existence just as you are thinking of theirs. “There really is a huge world outside of ourselves. How many people have had this conversation, right now, saying the exact same thing I have except perhaps hundreds of years ago, or maybe a moment ago.” I wondered what philosopher started the conversation I was having at that moment (from the bored look in mom’s eyes, the one that I was having with myself, so it seemed.)

Every now and again when I feel my inner teenage drama queen bubbling to the surface with dangerous speed I remind myself of this idea. Of how many people have felt what I have, and how many times. I suppose I just confuse myself until I simply forget what I was upset about. Though (as evidenced by my posts throughout the years) fighting illogical logic with philosophical logic doesn’t always pan out. The philosopher in me finds the illogical stupid, and the illogical takes offense and points out that the philosopher can’t possibly know anything. I am, after all, seventeen. I’ve yet to attain enough life experience to beat my naivette side into submission. And then I give up, because there is no getting past the feat and the joy of youth. I’ve been looking around so much for extraordinary people to hold onto in my everyday life, I sometimes end up meeting ordinary people and finding something extraordinary about them (and on rare occasions, vice versa).

I can feel the edge of change, of newness, of instability. I suppose I want to find a few people who can be their extraordinary and brilliantly abnormal selves consistently enough to be the sanity I can turn to… Oh, grand, that was just of those nail-on-the-head moments (something I’ve been trying to figure out on my own, but then figure out as soon as I write it.) I need predictability right now, not change, not him (long story short – I fell for a guy the second I saw him in December in Lowes, he showed immediate interest as well, and when I started my anatomy and physiology class, I discovered he is one of my classmates. And sure as anything he recognizes me. I’ve been avoiding him because I know what will happen even if I promise myself we’ll only be friends. I need to fix me right now, I’m not okay and I only recently admitted it to myself. I’m never considerate of Heather Madame, even when she has really needed me as of late. How on earth can I treat a human being I know I’ll end up really caring about as well with the correct amount of decency? I would take a bullet for Heather, but that hasn’t stopped me from being incredibly selfish. I need to focus on sticking to my treatment and working through my anxiety. I need my brilliantly abnormal, consistent humans to rally around and not change for a few months…You now see the waste of the phrase ‘long story short’ when it comes to my blog…) When I imagine life as I would want it one day, I would want predictability and repetition, loyal friends and a tight-knit group with similar but diverse thoughts and opinions.

I’m not even certain where my mind is trying to trail off to. It’s nearly midnight now, so I suppose I should get to sleep and look upward and onward and beyond. Who knows, perhaps my doppelgänger somewhere has already figured this out for me. Now, to find her blog…

Goodnight,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Fear of Being Afraid and Lack of Worry

It’s 5:14AM – I woke up around four with the usual suspicion that my days, hours and minutes of life were coming to an end. There comes a point where part of me understands what’s happening and is a tad annoyed, another part of me is just too tired to deal with it but has no choice, and then there is the part of me that is convinced I’ll die if I try to sleep in any other position except anatomical. Dare I say it? I’m tired.

I checked my pulse, finding some reason or other to be terrified, thinking about the rate being much too slow – and then much too fast, and then I was scared because I was starting to have a panic attack. I sat up, dissociated, read a chapter or two in my Bible, tried laying down, started to breathe normally. But then I felt a pain in my chest.

Oh, poo.

So now I really must be dying! Heaven help me I’m in my final moments! This is it! This is it! I’m going to die!

5 Minutes later

This is it! I’m going to die in horrid agony! Maybe it will be some rare form of atherosclerosis, or a teenage heart attack! Oh, goodness me! The chest pain! I must be having a heart attack! I’m going to die!

5 More minutes

Oh no! Early morning hunger pains! My systems must have gone cannibal by now – feeding off of my own adipose tissue for means of energy, destroying valuable insulation! I’m going to die from being eaten from the inside out!

If it sounds as though I’m making fun of my senses of impending doom – I am. I’m tired, I’m annoyed, I want this to stop. I am so completely worn out from being scared all the time, anxious about everything, cautious and worried and sensitive. I didn’t know it was even possible to be so logically aware of what is going on in my own head, and yet still fall victim to the absurd antics of my paranoid mind. But it is, and I do.

I considered calling or text-messaging Olga, I knew she wouldn’t mind at all, she would welcome it even. But I worried that as soon as I contacted her I wouldn’t be afraid anymore (ha – how do you like that, folks? I was afraid of not being afraid.) And then what? I knew I still would be concerned about my current state of, oh, say, living, but I still felt something hold me back. I can’t remember the last time I’ve reached out for someone in my fear. I often have dreams of having a protector of some sort. We’re often sitting in a train, looking out the window. It’s snowing and the sky is dark. The train and snow images are no doubt wish-fulfillment, my mom showed me a video she took from her train on the way to Paris and I longed to be there, it looked simply breathtaking. My protector is always wide awake, and I’m always lulling peacefully to sleep, not a care in the world because they will always be looking out for me, worrying for me. My head rests against the cold window and I watch the world pass by. And once I fall asleep I wake up to find myself very afraid. I worry sometimes of doing what my Aunt Carla did – she was lonely and had emotional issues, so she got married. So I wonder at times if I keep wishing for a real protector if I’ll end up rashly marrying the first guy that comes along with a ring and a bank account. Followed no doubt by an even more rash divorce. I don’t like the idea of having a large wedding. Honestly what I would love to do is grab several of my greatest friends and get hitched in a comfortable, simple dress with a bouquet of flowers picked out by my goddaughter (who has yet to be born – her name will be Chloe, and she will be Heather’s daughter.) And I’m doing that bit again where I just type up one thread of thought with another as they associate. But, I suppose, if you’re a new reader you should adapt – this happens frequently.

Alright, it’s nearing 6:00AM, and I do believe I am at last exhausted enough to hopefully get back to sleep before my panicked study binge in time for Anatomy and Physiology in a few days.

Goodnight/Goodmorning,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Free Association and Unwitting Mentors

It has been quite some time since I  posted for no reason. Since I’ve felt a prick on the mind – that feeling that I have something to say, but never figure it out until the close of the post. Who needs Freud to free associate when I have WordPress?

I most likely have hypothyroidism.

I pride myself (sometimes too much) on my perception. Longtime readers of my  blog will remember that I study people in all forms – neuroscience to facial expression, body language to psychoanalysis. I go so far as to jokingly call myself Sherlock at times. But the past month I’ve been forgetting things – and it’s worse than the typical trip-up of the brain like forgetting why I came into a room or losing my phone. My arms feel weak when I lift them to take something from a shelf. I often feel as though I’m always moving at half speed. I’ve started thinking slower and talking slower because the words don’t appear in my mind like they used to. And my hair has started thinning. (Wednesday we’ll find out if I do have hypothyroidism)

Did I mention I’m freshly 17?

My anxiety problems, panic attacks, psychosomatic symptoms – I can hide those. My mom told me when I was a child, “I don’t know how to be a parent.” and has shown me how difficult it can be for her to empathize with my emotional baggage. I don’t hold it against her- Grandma Charlie (yes, I just said that) was mentally ill, and, as you can imagine, was not the poster momma for compassion. I’ve come to accept this and learned to just keep a stiff upper lip until I can’t. But my speech, my weakness, my hair…How am I supposed to hide those?

I’ve been working on the first ‘key’ Olga mentioned (referenced *here*) but I’ve been dissociating a lot more. I feel like, even though I control what I say and do, I’m never really here anymore. I’m always a little far away, watching myself. Seeing the world through my eyes like a movie screen. What will she do next? I wonder.

So far, my entries look like this, barely legible scrawl right before I fall asleep at 3AM:

I feel like I have no right to be talking about this – because human beings have been through so much worse so much earlier in life, I feel guilty and foolish for flinging my troubles onto any unsuspecting blog browsers.

Sometimes after putting up a stiff upper lip for a month or so, I have an overwhelming longing to be somewhere safe and certain. With no one and with everyone – the people who matter and don’t pretend to understand when they don’t, what my mom doesn’t see, is that it has never been about knowing ‘the right words’ to say, it’s simply being here. Here. Not awkwardly or angrily or speaking eloquently or in a tone suggesting the essence of eternal wisdom. Because it feels as though trying to find the right words or do the right thing isn’t to make me feel better, mom – it’s always to make you feel better. I’ve protected you from me for this long, and with no choice I’ll keep protecting you from you while I’m at it. Always taking your side when you’re wrong and holding you when you cry when you never hold me. That’s our life, isn’t it? Hasn’t it been this way the past six years? Me raising you and advising you and teaching you while I curl up and scream and cry into my pillow in the still of the night while you sleep peacefully down the hall? So you don’t have to see me like that and feel a responsibility to do anything?

In those days, every month or so, I want to be the kid. I want to be the child who cries about everything and can run into your arms for comfort instead of stepping off to the side and demanding of myself to get a grip when my heart insists on scaring me and the world starts going dark and I think I’m going to die. Who holds me, mom? Who tells me I’m right when I’m wrong and lets me imagine a future of my own and dreams of my own without telling me why I shouldn’t do them and about the challenges, about the people already lining up to stone me into oblivion in the big-bad world whose mission it will be is to crush everything I believe in. And how I won’t have it in me to maintain my dignity.

I’m not bitter now – take my word for it. I’m angry, I’m scared and I’m tired. A voice in the back of my mind keeps snapping at me and saying I shouldn’t be talking about all of this. That I’m a wretch for talking about it. Me, me, me is all I talk about, and who would care anyway?

I know this is absurd. I know I don’t want a flood of ‘Hannah, you are soooooo pretty and sooooo smart! Just look at you, how you know the proper use of ‘You’re’ and ‘Your’!’ I justify my selfishness by the fact that this blog is my safe place. I don’t even talk to Heather Madame about 90% of what I say on this blog. I trust my blogging peeps with the naive raw material from this little brain of mine. Heather gets enough rants from me, don’t worry. And I think that’s why I don’t tell her much. I’ve written before about how Heather is like Watson to me; there’s only one, and I don’t want to lose it or take it for granted.

I’ve got a lot of thinking to do – and what with how slow my mind has been working, this is going to take a while. I might be zipping back around WordPress tomorrow, I might not be back for a month.

All I know right now, is life is a toss of the dice, and all we have is how we handle the cards we’ve been dealt.

I want to deal with this right, I want this to be more than just about me. There is a world outside of me – I’ve seen this through Alannah, Marlize, Mandii, Emily, Mark, and Thoughts (to name a few), they’ve faced crap head on and they handle the cards they’ve been dealt with dignity,  honorability, and a grin to bear it. And more than once when I didn’t know what to do, I’d think about a post from any one of them and I’d laugh out loud or pause and contemplate, always finding the answer I’ve been looking for. My unwitting mentors. I’ll always be profoundly grateful to have known them, and to have them know me as well.

tffn (ta-ta for now.)

Hannah

For Lack Of A Better Post Title

“You’re just like my mom; she doesn’t smile much, either.”

I blinked rapidly for a moment at the child in front of me. I thought I had become Smiley Sally for the past few hours, but apparently I wasn’t fooling Madison.

She continued, “And you don’t wear a lot of stuff on your eyelashes, too.” She studied me so carefully it was unnerving, the kid was too perceptive for her age. “You don’t dress like a teenager, too. And your hair isn’t super long.” She grabbed my hair clip and pulled it out of my wavy locks, studying first the clip, and then my hair again. I was still as a statue, intrigued, and she probably saw it. Watching her watching me watching her.”Yeah, you just need shorter hair, and you could be my mom.”

The mom mentioned above was currently at her chocolate shop for its last few weeks of business. Another victim of a stricken economy. Until the shop officially closes, I babysit her two children from 10-till-4.

I got this gig yesterday when me, Heather Madame, and my mom went to The Cafe after seeing the Cubist Experiment exhibit at Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth (thank heaven for AC). In the back of The Cafe sits a space about the size of a small livingroom, where a woman (I shall call her The Candywoman) sells chocolate, loose tea leaves and candy covered everything. She had been in business hardly a year when her and her husband had little choice but to shut down the manifestation of her dream.

“Thanks for stopping by again, I really appreciated your business.” She said from behind the register while we were checking out.

“You know, it’s too bad Hannah didn’t end up working here-” Mom started, I glanced over in a pleading look that said ‘please don’t do this right now’ but, so it would seem, she doesn’t read pleading glances, “She’s been applying for jobs and being interviewed left and right. She would have been such a hard worker.”

“Well, are you looking for a job for the next few weeks?” The Candywoman said half-jokingly. My mom chuckled, but then The Candywoman spoke again, in a suddenly serious voice, “Seriously, are you looking for a job for the next few weeks?”

“Yes.” My mom spoke before I did, “Yes she is.”

Before I knew it, though, a job in a chocolate store turned into a job as a babysitter four days a week as The Candywoman went on to explain her predicament. Training would take at least several days (she also sells every form of coffee and every flavor of hot chocolate known to Texan man) so it would be more logical to sit her two children while she attended to the shop in its final days.  I was grateful to be able to help her, something in her face gave me a soft spot for her and babysitting is as easy as breathing at this point (depending on the kid, it can be as easy as breathing in an open country meadow, or as easy as breathing as a murder victim.)

That night (well, last night) I had a job interview at a beautiful downtown bookstore called…Hm, I’ll call it The Book Wagon. About a week ago in one of my late night must. Get. Job. Need. Money. Moods I searched online for local bookstores and came across The Book Wagon, I saw the photographs of the interior and fell more in love with every click and scroll. Three words:

Dark wood everywhere.

Three more words:

Little bitty cafe.

Annnd for the bonus round:

On sale books.

Seeing the Wagon in person would have been a more exciting experience if I had insisted on leaving earlier and wasn’t 35 seconds late when we pulled up. I bounded up the steps, wrenched open the iron-framed door and looked for an employee. I glanced to my right and saw the coffee bar. A beautiful, tan, mid-20s chick was behind the counter next to a rounded, pale-skinned, eyeglass sporting young man.

“Can I help you?” He asked, looking half curious, half amused at my panting and frantic hair smoothing.

I swallowed, took a breath, walked up to the counter and explained, “I’m here for a job interview.”

“I see.” He reached under the register and pulled out a phone, “Who should I say is calling?”

“Hannah.” I was tempted to add on the ‘Elizabeth’ but held my tongue. I’ve been avoiding my full first name on applications lately. He looked over the numbers and repeated my name with an accent of no formal origin, pronouncing it as “Huh-nuh.” After a moment he put the phone to his ear and immediately spoke into it, “Hey, Angela? Hannah is here for you.”

He started to explain the way to the office, but stopped mid sentence and led me there himself. On The way up the steps I wanted to inquire about how busy the day was, how he was, ect., but I remained silent for some reason I’ve yet to name. I think maybe I was concerned about the time he would have to respond, or if I would be read wrong.

The interview was carried out by the usual small-business human being. Stern and sincere, honest and honorable. I could have squealed with joy when she told me that she needed a barista for the coffee bar, though when she asked how I felt about working as a barista and I explained that it was precisely the job I had been trying to get, her eyes narrowed for a split second in suspicion. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have believed me, either.

Altogether I felt it went well, though I won’t jinx it this time by saying I’m certain I’ve got the job. I’m just praying and hoping beyond hope I’ll get it. A job in a gorgeous bookstore with an adorable cafe on the inside… Certainly a step up from Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Well, I suppose that’s about it. I’ve got quite a bit of reading to do before my library books are due and (so I hear) they aren’t going to visually devour themselves.

Type to ya’ll later,

-Classic/Hannah-Elizabeth