Birthdays

I don’t remember my birthdays. This is only to be expected, for I never had a birthday party, save for the time when the ratio of adults to children was eight to ten. But I realize it was just a ploy for my parents to announce my sister’s conception, amidst balloons, strawberry ice cream, cake, and my telling the camera, “I already have this!” as I held an Asian Barbie doll that slightly looked like me. The last party, and the last helium menagerie of short-necked giraffes bobbing along the sidewalk, sighing for air.

Exactly two months from my birthday, two years ago, I sat with a friend to catch up. She rolled her eyes, scolding lazy construction workers she almost ran over on her way to see me. The line across her lips was just as deliberate, her brows pigmented diagonally as I talked about ending my relationship. The only thing she had to say was “Think of your future.” I ran through the list as I always did, treating each item as if it was happening for the first time. Of course, only to me. His parents inquired about my finances more so than my own, the mother suggested I didn’t take care of him as we divided our cooking duties, and the father predicted I’d dance with Congressmen, share their suites, deny my clothes. This is what happens when girls with boyfriends continue their schooling out of state.

I showed her the text messages. And him too. Not the boy who gave me grief a good sixteen months after the breakup. Just a person with whom I developed a silly fascination with, someone who made me believe movies like A Beautiful Mind are historically accurate, that I could do anything in the wake of my twenties, that love motivates us to do what we never thought ourselves capable of. The lady whom friends jokingly referred to as my “big sister” could only shake her head as I insisted, “But it’s love!”

“You’re giving this unnecessary attention.”

Eyebrows rose as conversations stretched. Twenty minutes, sixty minutes. Three hours and fifteen minutes. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” a staff member barked, dropping a pile of copies on his desk with a scolding thud. She’d interject again to hiss, “Stop harassing her!”

“She’s not my student, so I suppose she’s fair game.”

His wordings and mannerisms were muddied enough for me to unearth, given my already existing difficulties in discerning attitudes and reactions in general. When he stamped his foot on the ground with a shudder, biting his tongue, blinking hard, I had a good idea. No one receives a pull on the trigger with a smile, and once that trigger’s pulled, no one lingers to provide a monologue with all the facts and details you need to write your review by the deadline.

I couldn’t comprehend the granola bars, coffee, the cute bacon sandwich. Offering rides as I walked to a bus stop five minutes away. You wonder, “Why would he waste his time?”

Additionally, the insistence on keeping in touch. “Let me know what you decide to do.” “Thank you for telling me how things are on your end.” “Hopefully we’ll catch up one day.”

When I came to visit many months back, my phone shook in my purse. One of my former instructors giggled. “And what does _____ say?” “_____ doesn’t text. In fact, he doesn’t really care for phones.”

“And you know this how?” The embers which singed my ears without a thought for private discipline revealed as much.

The last time we saw each other, it was over trays of sushi. He professed a fear of shallots as my tongue rested on slabs of avocado. A sliver of seaweed settled between my teeth and he only stared, hands clasped to mouth. I thought to bring up my friend, who wasn’t dancing with a Congressman, but someone kind of comparable.

He tapped the pinewood with a black chopstick. “We shouldn’t talk about this. But did I ever tell you our conversations remind me of the ones I have with my sister?”

I crunched on a sharpened ice cube, my forehead meeting his glance more so than my kohl-glazed eyes.

“No, no. I mean, it’s not like they’re the same. But they’re similar. And that’s a good thing. You remind me of her!” The clasp remained tight against a budding grin.

“I text people at 2 a.m., only for them to text me to go to sleep. I’m rather inconsiderate.” Similarly, my tone grew brusque, my back no longer cushioned against my chair in what was a state of calm.

“And she calls me at 3 a.m., which means it’s really 5 a.m. where she’s at, and it’s always about something work-related.”

“I always say it’s a good story.”

“Yes! She does that too!”

“But at this point in life, we can do that. Do whatever we need to do the next day, forget about the party three hours before, you know?”

“Yes, I remember that time. Maybe you two should exchange emails. You’re really a lot alike.”

My forehead glistened, while the cherry blossomed lamp swung back and forth, threatening to fall and oust the mango ice cream in its porcelain bowl.

“No. Well, you’re different, but you do remind me of her. She turns twenty-seven ten days before New Year’s but we never did anything because, you know, Christmas and the stuff that comes with it. I’m buying her something today.”

Thankfully, he didn’t have to drive me this time. Home was a ten minutes’ walk, headphones blaring annoyances only Fiona Apple could sing about.

Two weeks later, as the office packed their bags to embark on winter’s vacation, my colleague handed me a yellow envelope.

Hurriedly, I tore the paper, and opened a high gloss card with a koala’s head concealed in a bucket.

“Your birthday is never a secret!” He scrawled niceties below.

I remembered my birthday that year, and the sear of misunderstanding.

Review of Scraped Knees by Kristine Brown – Michael Rush

Michael Rush has written quite a thorough review of my collection of poems and flash stories. I give Mr. Rush and Forage Poetry great thanks for their time in receiving my work and sharing the goodness others create. Forage just released their last issue. Please give them a visit and peruse the entire archive. The showcase is truly something.

Additionally, if you’re interested in purchasing a signed copy of Scraped Knees, feel free to let me know. Again, thanks for your support. Happy Monday.

++++It would be easy to label Scraped Knees as a collection on growing up. It would be easy to see its poetry and prose about someone finding their voice, then connect it to your own upbringing and drift back into personal moments of discovering the world. Yet for me Scraped Knees is much more; it is a book of contrasts. A collection of poetry and prose which can speak from the perspective of the young, but do it with a more mature voice. Wonder is mixed with rationality and realism. Expectation mingles with disappointment. We experience some lighter moments, but there is a weight to carry with us both before and after that lightness.

++++Anemic Disappointment would be an example of that weight as the speaker’s uncoordinated efforts are further highlighted by her Mother’s reminder of her own athletic exploits. Yet it’s not the rebukes or even the…

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Scraped Knees by Kristine Brown

Hermione Flavia at CravenWild has written a lovely review for my collection, Scraped Knees. She hosts a blog ample with feedback on books, cosmetics, and more. Stop by at CravenWild on your next coffee break, and feel inspired!

CravenWild

Poetry is a funny thing. It’s kind of forced on us in school, and becomes something we love or hate, something that bores us to tears or moves us deeply. It’s also something that, well, a lot of modern hipsters like to think they’re poets, right? Poems are a lot like man-buns, lumberbeards, Mac laptops in Starbucks and toting copies of Nietzsche that you’ve never read.

But poetry can also be Wordsworth, Byron or Maya Angelou. Or Eminem for that matter.

Kristine Brown, to get to the subject at hand, sent me an email asking me to review her little chapbook of poems, Scraped Knees, published by Ugly Sapling. I got the good vibes from her, so I said yes, though I don’t normally deal with poetry in this blog. I do happen to quite like poetry.

The book itself you can see in the picture above, it’s a neat…

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Back-To-School Shopping

I threw my shoes in a rusted trashcan. The one that accepted empty water bottles unconditionally, though the can for recycling stood less than a foot away. Two years old, with holes at the heels. Indeed, the passing of time suggested that like most women at crowded bus stops (the ones loudly pleading for their children to be quiet as they finished their back-to-school shopping), I would never pay my debts as a foot model. My hammertoe, bumpier still, would never traumatize those poor men waiting for hours at the urgent care clinic. Nor would my ingrown toenails command a second look as teenagers bitched in packs, walking home from the magnet school.

I always insisted that flats didn’t hurt. But Lori, with her Sharpie, had points to make as she traced around my calluses. I just returned home, in front of the Travel Channel, which reminded me that if I cared enough, I could seize a promotion and finally, buy gray plaid shoes with memory foam so I wouldn’t ache so much. Lori just wanted to remind me of ways in which I was cruel. Mainly, to my bones, and the scarred fishtails on which I stood.

Teenagers, again, walked before my indifference. Commercial after commercial, best friends smiling with those huge retro headphones blaring in some department store. I argued with Lori that it didn’t matter, that my toes were less than ordinary and life could be lived barefooted. She laughed, mentioning downtown potholes.

I conceded, seeking heels.

“Take the day off.”

Thank you, for not gushing about your backbreaking benevolence today.

I didn’t particularly want to go, but went after watching caramel stick to the sides of a plastic cup. I usually end up tearing them apart. The cups, like I do with boxes of Kleenex when summer hits.

No one talks, which I don’t mind. The silence is especially tolerable as this is one of a few locations where the Disney Channel doesn’t giggle all day from a battered JVC from 1995. A wall separates the staff from the seen and I’m able to feed words into the mouths of people I don’t know who walk four stories below.

I didn’t have a story today. Neither did you. Nothing changed, aside from a session cut to a full ten minutes. Usually, there’s a girl who listens to nursery rhymes on a cassette player bandaged with Lisa Frank dolphins. I didn’t see her.

The receptionist liked my sweater. I always wear sweaters. Unlikely to change, like August’s angry sidewalks. I passed a house for rent on my way back, wondering which hurts more. A nail through softened soles, or crossing the street barefoot? This I ponder from time to time as I’m fine with a few cheap shoes.

The pulse remained in spite of the coffee. I told the nurse I stopped running. She asked me why, and I told her I found it boring. And, I’m lazy.

I wrote the renter’s number on a card in my pocket. Haven’t called.