Autobiography as Haiku
Autobiography as Haiku-final drafts
Wednesday 6:30 to 8:00 PM means Bingo at a nearby nursing home. Less than ten residents sit around the table. By 7:00 a few of them snooze in their wheelchairs. The little wooden balls roll down, clinking against the metal tray. "B10," I say, "That's Bee one-zero. B10." I check the cards around me, putting chips on the tens. "I don't have that." "Speak lower." "Hurry up." When I hear "Bingo!", I let the person win, no matter what numbers she thinks I called. The saying goes You can't please everybody. But you should always try.
It is a dark and stormy night. Hurricane Isabel rages outside, claiming the power of thousands. Inside, life is less dramatic. I sit alone on the couch with a book I've already read. The feeble light from two candles turns the living room gray. My flashlight shifts around as I try to find an angle that does not produce glare on the pages. I sigh, give up, and look out the window. The trees spasmodically wave about. Now and again I see light in neighbors' windows, but most people have gone to bed. It is only 7:15.
Personal Essay Vignettes
Our beach house is just a block from the sand. Well, more like a block and a half. And it's not actually our beach house, but for one week each July it sure feels like it is. For those six days, we eat, sleep, and live for the sand. Anyway, the house is close enough that if I stand in the middle of the street outside and look east I can see the dunes; so it's close.
The trek to the beach is just as fun as the waves or the sandcastles or the seaweed. And it's what I remember best. In a hurry to begin the walk, I usually end up standing outside the shady screen porch, enduring the blazing, Rehoboth sun. That's what the sunscreen is for I suppose. Sooner or later, though, my brother joins me and leads the way down the scorching road running perpendicular to the coast. Ahead, the rising heat warps the world like a funhouse mirror; only my brother stays solid, provided I don't fall too far behind. My steps are shorter than his, though, so I have to hurry to keep up as my bare feet get hotter. See, he tells me, the sun heats up the blacktop because it's dark. It so hot he says you could cook an egg on it, and I believe him. He's always right, but I don't think anyone would eat it. Anyway, to keep from burning the bottoms of our feet we have to pull them up quickly after each step, and we end up running as our feet get hotter and hotter - like an upside-down game of hot potato. We could wear shoes my mom suggests, but that makes things complicated. No matter how hard you try, they'd get wet and get sandy. And sandals would be boring.
So, we walk barefoot. Or run. The sidewalks are littered with pinecones and rocks, which is why we use the street. For part of the way, we can walk along the cool yellow stripes of paint like a tightrope, but we can't avoid the blacktop for long. It burns. Eventually, we get to the beach running and laughing, and I act relieved as I cool my feet in the sand. Walking towards the surf, I can't wait to go back.
Late, late, late
Whoosh. The screen door swings open and I fly out at an angle over the lawn. The straight, brick walkway is not meant for times like this. My untied shoelaces whip my shins as they kick, and I try unsuccessfully to steady my backpack as it swings violently from side to side. I hold a sack-lunch in one hand, a saxophone case in the other. My feet pound too quickly to find a rhythm through the rattling of keys, and before I know it I round the only corner on my way to the bus stop. There it is. A block away the bus starts up again and leaves behind a quiet corner. I don't wait to see it.
Without a change in momentum, I run through the route in my head and find the nearest possible point of intersection. My legs spin. As the leaves above wave me on, I push back on the cement as it thrusts me forward. Weaving around bushes and sign posts, I smile and wave to a neighbor getting her paper. But, I don't stop. Faster and faster, my shoes tap and keys rattle. Pat, pat, pat, pat; like a symphony, my feet keep time while clinking metal chimes a melody from deep inside my pocket. Finally, they seem to come to peace with one another and find a rhythm. Just in time, too.
I slow to a jog, grinning as I catch sight of yellow through the trees. The bus rises around the corner like the sun, and turns towards me. As it approaches, I raise my arm and wave. I step towards the curb as the doors swing open and catch a glimpse of the bus driver smiling. Trying without luck to hold back a grin, I step on and find a seat next to a friend. With a deep breath I sit down and watch the trees outside gradually pick up speed.
Growing Up and Away
Lebryk-Chao Pd. 5
We ride the same bus. She's Jewish American, I'm Taiwanese American, she plays soccer every day, I practice piano every day, but we're third graders, so who even bothers with those trivialities. Timid "Will you be my friend?" approaches aren't necessary. Rachel and I just go together, like peanut butter and jelly go together, don't know why, just do.
In third grade, we're wandering pirates jumping between cardboard islands after school. In fourth, she has Mrs. Taylor and I have Mrs. Fertman, but we have plenty of things to talk about without adding classes to the list. In fifth, after painstaking deliberation for the all-significant act, I pick her for my running mate in my campaign for school treasurer. She stirs up a storm of slogans: "Vote for Elaine the brain!" "If you're sane vote for Elaine!"
We swear to stick together in middle school as walk-to-schoolers. Ms. Ferrara says I'm going to be in the GT center at Lake Braddock. She's happy-I can see a balloon of excitement swelling up behind her wide smile that threatens to swallow me whole. I guess I'm happy, too. Isn't this what I always wanted to do? Prove that I was as smart as those kids with "my IQ is higher than 140" written over their foreheads?
So I'm lumped into the Purple Piranhas team, with the "pre-algebra was a breeze, I'm ready for algebra" seventh graders. Rachel is on the Red Hot Chili Peppers team. We only have time for each other when we walk the poisonously cold mornings and chatter-filled afternoons. She does most of the talking. How she gets a boyfriend. How they break up. So she gets another one. They're like bubble gum to her. Get one, get tired of him, spit him out, pull another out. Me? I'm about as close to getting a boyfriend as I am to moving to Mauritania. So I do the best I can pretending to not act shocked every time she happily spills her soap opera life to me. It's all a TV show. The plot has no earthly logic, the melodrama is never dull, but I don't know the characters at all.
A School of Fish
There's nine of us. We stick together during break, baby spiders that don't know where to go yet. Sometimes we play freeze tag, or jump rope, or obstacle course on the monkey bars with peeling paint. We're the level below Amanda and Caren and the popular girl gang. Not as low as the kids in the slow class, but in the middle somewhere.
Erica is a new girl in fifth grade. She sits with us at lunch right away, her pink tray swallowed in the sea of school lunches. She falls into the rhythm of our undulating social waves, laughing when we laugh, leaping from parallel bars to blue plastic slides when we do, like she had always known what to do.
So I don't know why Amanda and Caren had to start talking to her. Can't they see we already claimed her?
It feels like Erica is being sucked into a black hole. We try to cling on, but she's gone.