Wednesday, February 21, 2018

constant panic

It was 1:06 this afternoon, I was napping off a headache, when my phone buzzed. I used to ignore all calls, but now that I've got a child in school, I answer every call in a panic. It wasn't the school, but rather the spa I have a massage scheduled at, calling to inform me my regular masseuse is no longer with them and would I mind having a different masseuse?

"No longer with them." Yeah, I knew that wasn't an obituary. As soon as I hung up, I googled my masseuse. I found what I suspected: a news story saying he was arrested earlier this week for two counts of sexual assault. How did I know I'd find that? Call it a woman's intuition.

Two weeks ago, a writer friend emailed me an essay contest centered on the #MeToo movement. "Have you or someone you know survived sexual harrassment, assault, rape or abuse? If so how did it change you?" it asked. My friend wrote a line above the forwarded content: "Thought you might have something that fits these parameters. I do." 

Of course I do, I thought. Don't we all? 

Every woman I know has survived sexual harassment. Those of us lucky enough to have dodged assault, rape, and abuse know how easily we could have been victims of it. 

Danger lurks in every one-on-one male interaction. 

Every time I've closed a restaurant with just one male around, every time I've been alone in a car with a man, every time I've had a massage, every time I've let a plumber into the house, every time I've been on a date, every time I've been at a house party with that drunk guy who wouldn't leave, in the back of my mind, I knew what could happen to me.

Sometimes (more often) it's in the front of my mind. I have played out scenarios that don't end well. I have run in the dark, having visions of being grabbed by someone (this happened to the other Holly who went to my school) and I have run until I was so exhausted I had to stop and catch my breath under a streetlight. 

I have been stranded in a man's house with no way to get home. 

I've said "yes" to sex because I was afraid to say no.

I was trying to put words to this the other day, the intimidation of a man. I don't know that I can do it correctly. What I can say is there is an anger that people harness and I am always aware of how quickly people can drop the reins, lose control. It is especially scary as a woman, alone with a man who physically towers over me, who will be believed over me by virtue of his gender alone. It makes me feel helpless. Like a sitting duck. 

The first man I slept with carried a gun on him at all times, even to the pool. I wonder if that's what made me scared first, what kept me scared. 

More likely, all of us women live in this constant state of panic, wondering how much longer we can survive before our massage appointment falls on the wrong day at the wrong time.  

Thursday, February 15, 2018


This morning was rough.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed.

I'm taking a class on campus which might seem stupid, but it's not, because yesterday, when I was stuck on a story, the required reading for my campus class got me unstuck, so it is worth it, but it adds to my stress, to my endless list of things to do. I am leaving for class in thirty minutes. Instead of finishing my homework, I'm writing this.

I'm writing this because it's important that I remember, on mornings like today which are chaotic and loud and irritating, beautiful, good moments still occur.

For context: I was crying, breaking down all the way. Holden came and sat in my lap, put his arms around my neck. Brandon came and hugged me from the other side. Then they looked through old pictures and Holden kept saying, "this was before you were born" to Brandon about pictures Brandon wasn't in. I smiled, wiped my tears, cleaned this place up, and put on my makeup.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Q417 Songs

I haven't kept up well on my blog. It is my final semester of grad school. I'm also taking a screenwriting class on campus.


I'm occupying my time in other ways, but sometimes, when I'm sitting at my computer any way, I think, I'll blog again. Blogging is my first draft, my unedited writing. It is my journal that I share.


Music was such a part of 2017 for me: so therapeutic, such an escape. I have never worn headphones like I did in 2017, which is to say all the time.


This girl at the high school I teach poetry at has been revising a poem for years: a poem about why she wears headphones. The four second pause between songs is when her mind screams at her, "Listen, listen!" and the negative self-speak revs back up, deafens her. It is only while her music is on that her mind quiets itself.


"That's really cool," I said, then I found myself saying it again, "that's really cool." I just repeated it again and again. She had found words for something I hadn't and that is what is so beautiful about art: there is room for all of us to contribute, to inspire one another, to discover ourselves through each other.

So for the final quarter of 2017, here are some of the songs I geeked out to. Some of the songs that drowned out my negative self-speak. My new tunes, if you will.

The Long Day is Over - Norah Jones
Cannonball - ZZ Ward
Her Life - Two Feet
Broken - Lund
Gooey - Glass Animals
I Can't Go On Without You - Kaleo
Monsters - Ruelle
Beggin For Thread - Banks
Like That - Bea Miller
Down - Marian Hill
The Blues Man - Hank Williams Jr.
Here We Go Again - Ray Charles ft. Norah Jones
Havana - Camila Cabello
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds, and Jack Johnson


Friday, February 9, 2018

Diners on Christmas

Something there is about diners open on Christmas. 

There have been two instances that I have eaten dinner at restaurants on December 25th.

The first was 2004.
I had just returned from spending Christmas with my family,
my conservative Christian family. 
I was pregnant, unbeknownst to them.
My secret was scratching me, clawing me from the inside.
I wanted to go back to my apartment, get shitfaced, be alone.
But I didn't get shitfaced. 
Instead, my best friend Karen and I drove back north to Kirkland where
we ate at Pegasus Pizza, the only place open in the town.
When I saw that red Open sign illuminated, I smiled, relieved
there was a place for people without families,
or people running from their families,
or people who didn't celebrate the holiday
or people who just wanted a hot meal without cooking.
It was a warm, safe haven.
A place to be.

The second was last year: 2017.
I spent the morning with my children and my ex-husband,
watching them open presents, cleaning up.
When they left for dinner at grandma's,
I picked up my friend and we drove in the snow to Denny's,
the only place I knew was open. She called first, to make sure,
not believing me. When a woman answered and said, "yes,"
my friend said, "bless you," because some of us needed
a warm safe haven, a place to be
where we weren't shitfaced or high
because we had no other place to be on Christmas. 

Something there is about friends, who hang out with you on Christmas. 

In 2004, my friend Karen,
my ex-roommate, the only person who knew me
in any sort of honest way, the only person
I'd told my secret
to, ate greasy pizza with me, fed me,
fed my baby, filled me, nourished me
when I was starving, ravenous
for someone to care about me, love
me without conditions.

Last year, my friend Colleen and I ate club
sandwiches and french fries, in a diner
off I-80, the florescent lights buzzing,
other patrons eating quietly, hushed,
like it was sacred, this day we wanted to end.
"We should tip exorbitantly, which is to say, tip
what servers should make: a living," she said.
It was all the human kindness in that diner--
how servers hurried to refill coffee mugs,
friends keeping company to those without families,
the smiling manager ringing out customers--
humans being humans to each other,
in the good way, the caring, considerate,
compassionate way that made it Christmas.
If I had a church, it would be Denny's on Christmas. 

Something there is about stomachs, about food, nourishing each other. 

It was Colleen who told me about our stomachs
being second brains, about the entire ecosystem
of bacteria and the vast neural network
that communicates to our head brains
"That's why I get butterflies in my stomach,"
I said, amazed, "why I have 'gut feelings.'"
That's why I feel the most loved when someone
is feeding me, filling me. That's why I say I'm
"satisfied" when I'm nourished.
I was satisfied, nourished, once
at a pizza joint, again at
an interstate diner on Christmas Day
when I was starving, ravenous.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Recognizing myself

It was midwest cold, January,
the day I was legally divorced.
I took a hot bath where
sunlight danced on the tiles
from the light of the window.
When I moved, the dancing
changed: faster, higher, calmer, smaller.

It was still January, cold,
when I got my name back.
The name I was always called by,
the name I knew myself as
forever, all my life, until the day
I was married and it was gone
as if my identity didn't matter
I was just someone's wife now.
But the day I got my name back,
I sat in the parking lot of the DMV,
staring at my picture, the one
with the shit-eating grin;
staring at my name,
recognizing myself.