“Moment of Inertia” by Debra Spencer

“Moment of Inertia” by Debra Spencer

Moment of Inertia

It’s what makes the pancake hold still

while you slip the spatula under it

so fast it doesn’t move, my father said

standing by the stove.

 

All motion stopped when he died.

With his last breath the earth

lurched to a halt and hung still on its axis,

the atoms in the air

coming to rest within their molecules,

and in that moment

something slid beneath me

so fast I couldn’t move.

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Inspiration

Oh Angelina Jolie. Your words are beyond inspirational. Thank you for being brave enough to live your life honestly and without reservations.

“Nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.”

Simple Life

I’ve seen circuses and dances. Happy movies and fireworks. Babies in strollers and dogs skipping along their way.

I know the heavens exist. I know the sun is fair. It shines on everyone on Earth whether you’re here or there.

I know you can try to trick time. Fly to LA for the weekend and reclaim a few hours. But at the end of your trip you still have to go back from where you came. And the sands of time, again, slip through your fingers.

I realize that anything can be broken whether you’re careful or not. Sometimes life comes barreling at you like an out of control bus. You can’t stop it. You can only say:

Give me what you have to offer, good or bad. Let me walk the path I was set on, though I may not finish intact. Come at me with seven horns and a grotesque face so I may be scared into motion. Sit still with me in feeble moments. Put me through failures if that’s what I need. Stroke my hair and let me cry. Wake me up to wily lies. Tell serendipity to look after me. And lead me to my dreams.

And if none of that comes true, then will you just let me be? Let me meander through the grasses alone. Admire the view from a distance. I used to care about being loved and I used to care about being somebody. I don’t ask for so much now.

I know you have every right to take me sooner. But if you just wait, you can have me after I am finished with my observations. After I have poked and prodded at human nature itself, and written pages and pages explaining what I have found. Maybe I’ll take up residence in Paris. Hold a warm body when I get too lonely. But expect nothing, because there is nothing to expect.

I will come to you myself when I am done with the earth. I will willingly give you me by walking into the sea. The sand will climb up my ankles and the waves will ravage my pink dress. I will give in when I take my last breath. Life, with your confusing twists and jealous ways. You’ve always had me, me without any say.

It’s the Weekend!

ImageEveryone on WordPress, please let me introduce you to my new best friend. She is the reason why I haven’t been posting as much. Let’s all take a moment to be mad at the GREs (and simultaneously hope that I do well on them in January!).

And here are some interesting links for the weekend!

A powerful story from a doctor about healing and growth.

Beautiful snowflakes.

I’m very much a meerkat! What are you?

If you want to take the Myers-Briggs test, here is a link.

Do you abide by the “Hell Yes” Rule? (I’m sorry I’m not comfortable enough with the F word to post it here. It is a learned discomfort…but one I’m ok with not changing.)

I’m moving back to NYC in January!!! Should I make this my new bucket list?

And this for a food bucket list?

Very intriguing ideas here: “If you can’t take advantage of someone, you shouldn’t interact with him or her” and “If someone can’t take advantage of you, you should stop interacting with him or her.” I very much agree. Do you?

God’s lessons during seasons of unemployment.

Paid friends. Interesting. Wonder if I will ever experience that kind of friendship. Probably only as the one who is getting paid.

Finally, another funny interaction between my mom and I.

“Mom, when I move back to New York, I think I want to take up volunteering.”

She paused. And hesitated. She spoke slowly.

“That’s great. But….maybe you should go to the gym.”

“Mom! I haven’t gained weight!”

She click-clicked her tongue. “Yes, but you don’t exercise too much. That’s not healthy. Go to yoga class or something. Look at Mommy. I am so so healthy now.”

“I did exercise today. I accidentally ordered lunch from a sushi place I thought was 2 blocks from my office, but it turned out that they moved to a place near Penn Station. And I walked 20+ blocks to get my lunch!”

“What did you get?”

“Thai Fried flounder and rice.”

“I see….”

“Fine, I’ll join a gym.”

“Good.”

Well, that’s all! Have a great weekend, guys =)

Writing

“Mom, I think I want to write.”

“That’s nice, dear.” And she reached across the table for more tofu.

“I think it’s my passion. I want to write all the time. And I can’t find satisfaction in anything else.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes. Today I stared at the VP of Finance while we were all in an early morning meeting. He scratched his balding head and asked what the standard percentage increase in the industry was for insurance. I thought, God, how I would hate that life.”

“Well, you’re terrible at math, dear.”

“I know. But even for the VP of Marketing and CEO and everybody. All their work will be so meaningless in 100 years. Who will remember it?”

“That’s everybody’s life. Look at me, I live a simple life. I have been a librarian for over 20 years and no one will remember me when I’m gone.”

“And I think that is the right decision for you. But I want something more. In 100 years, I want someone to read the words I’m writing now and feel exactly how I feel at this moment.”

“Mmhmmm”

“So I think I need to be a full-time writer.”

“No, no, no.”

“Yes.”

“Don’t rush into it.”

“Okay.”

Later on that evening I heard her talking on the phone with my aunt. “Sigh. Kids. You can’t tell them what to do anymore.”

Amusing Story

This story is just awesome. And so is Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, which I just discovered today.

Here is the story I just mentioned below. I hope I don’t get in too much trouble by posting it. The author is Peter Ward Brown and he is quickly becoming my favorite super-short story writer.

KIMBALL DRIVES HOME.

BY 

Kimball cruises up the left lane swift past the long line of cars waiting to turn onto the highway. At the light, he moves into the right lane and presses forth over the bridge. This is how to play the rush—key lane changes at the exact right moment and place. Left lane is fastest to the bridge, right lane is fastest over it. Kimball’s in a groove now, a model of efficiency and speed, informed movement and power. He is a man on the move, a man who knows how to play the rush. Barring some jackass cutting him off, he’s home in 20 minutes on heavy days, 15 on light. Kimball is a man who watches his minutes closely. He is an engineer. His life is one of precision.

Except at home, where the kids are involved. They take after their mother, meaning they’re all over the map and reveling in imprecision. They say things wrong. They remember things wrong. Good God, the other day the girl sang the “Inky Dinky Spider” instead of the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” This is one of Kimball’s children? Child of a man who can get across the bridge in 20 minutes in a heavy rush? How? How?

For the record, Kimball notes that he loves his kids and his wife too. He loves them and provides for them and takes care of them in clear, precise ways. He has accepted that his family is one of those challenging, never-ending projects, replete with shifting variables, scope creep, budget cuts, top-down directives. He loves the kids, sure, but sometimes, hell, you know, they just never let up. Just once, just once in his life Kimball wants to make a plan involving his wife and kids and see it to flawless execution. This is his waking dream.

His night dreams are less prosaic. He finds himself in prison often, or sometimes a waiting room. No one ever says anything right. They call him Kimbrell or Kimbo, but never Kimball. Moving his arms and legs is slow and difficult, as his mind is dull and tired. He’s been ass-fucked in his dreams, and it has left him speechless and imprecise. Kimball does not sleep well. Kimball just makes do.

Kimball’s wife wants him to go to therapy. There’s a laugher. She can’t say anything right, but he’s got to go to therapy? He’ll go as soon as she learns to say things right. Otherwise, the idea of it sets Kimball seething and silent. It’s like being ass-fucked, he thinks.

Kimball goes to therapy. The therapist is a well-meaning man with a curly brown beard and a club foot that he rests on a little stool as they talk. He tells Kimball there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to say things right (damn straight), but that sometimes, too, there’s a need for some slack in life. Kimball nods. He half-listens. He is looking at a painting behind the therapist’s curly, bearded head. It is abstract, yellow and blue and red and green blotches of color blending in, and exploding.

“A former client did it,” says the therapist. “He duct taped the canvas to a heavy bag—you know, for boxing—then he’d dip his boxing gloves in paint and smack away at it.”

Kimball nods and says “Neat.” He imagines himself throwing these punches at the imprecise world, battering it with yellow hooks and red jabs, blue uppercuts and green crosses. This buoys him, somehow, makes him feel like he is in a dream, a dream that he is torn from with alarm and fear when he hears his own voice speaking.

“In my dreams, I get ass-fucked,” his voice says.

The therapist nods.

Regret

The words, “What if” run through my mind constantly. What if I had said this? What if I had done that? What if I had held my tongue instead of shouting words back? What if I was a better kid? What if I loved more. What if I hadn’t messed up. Would things be any different than they are now?

Through the short time that I have been on this earth I have found that “What If” is a futile question. Nothing can bring us back to the moment that we wish we could do-over.

But, when I was younger, I didn’t know any better. One morning, my dad was doing math with me right before I was about to leave for a friend’s house. He insisted that I finish all the problems before I was allowed to go. I am terrible at math so I squirmed and squinted at the problems before I threw some numbers together and called it my answer. Slap! Went his hand across my face. Like it always did. Stupid girl, he muttered under his breath. Like he always said.

Then, I was at my friend’s house, and being the bossy girl I still am today, was giving orders on how to build a proper pillow fort. When I finished my part and looked over at my friend’s, I was deeply disappointed. Her pillows were placed all wrong! You’re stupid! I cried. Then she cried. And I cried. She called her mom and when her mom reached the living room she pointed at me and said that I said those words.

I ran into their bathroom and locked myself in. I stayed there for an hour and the mother came and sat by the door, but I would not allow myself to be comforted because I felt I didn’t deserve it.

I can’t say for sure that I regret that moment. I think the moment I truly regret the most was back in third grade when I celebrated my first birthday party at the new house my family had just moved to.

At first, the other third grade girls were mesmerized. I was one of the only Asian people in school and they were unabashedly curious.

“What’s your favorite color?”

“Oohhhh…she has that smooth, silky Asian hair like Stacy Liu.”

“Do you like to play checkers?”

But, after a few days, their interest waned.  I knew my social skills were supposed to pick up where interest left off, but I was shy, awkward, and very much lacking in any type of people skills. So I had a lot of trouble making friends.

The thing is, I was too proud to say I wanted any. I pretended like I was happy in my own world. Every day at recess, I carefully tip-toed on the curb running along the playground, like it was a tightrope suspended above a shark-riddled ocean. Some days, when I was in the middle of an intense novel, I would spend the whole thirty minutes with my nose between pages, sitting on the bench next to the playground attendant.

Maxine was the next new girl. She started school just a few months after I did. She walked right up to me while I was on one of my walks.

“Will you be my friend?” she asked.

I was startled. Who could want me as their friend? I was nobody. I was the weird girl that the other kids whispered about while on the swings. I was the stranger who walked on the curb next to the monkey bars. I was the one the playground attendant told my teachers about. I was the kid whose teachers called my mom about, and whose mom had to leave work early to sit in special Parent-Teacher conferences.

“No,” I replied.

My birthday is in May and a few weeks before my eighth birthday, my mom told me I was having a birthday party. She gave me a stack of cards and told me to invite all the girls in my class.

“Here’s one for Sarah with the pretty blonde hair.”

“And here’s one for Amanda, who is really good at art.”

“One for Jane, who can eat a whole slice of pizza.”

“Michelle, who all the boys want on their soccer team.”

And none for Maxine, who I did not want as a friend.

Of course, within a week, every girl had gotten their invitations  and they were excited about the theme party. I felt like a movie star with all the attention people were giving me. “Hey, Steph we’re so excited to go to your party! I love chocolate. Will we make chocolate lollipops?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed.

Maxine found me while I was getting a pair of scissors from the supply drawer in the back of the classroom. “Steph, I didn’t see an invitation in the mail. But my mom says it’s coming. It is coming, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said, haltingly.

“Oh good. I can’t wait to go to your party. I even have your present picked out.”

I felt kind of bad. Maybe I should invite her….No! I stick to what I say, always. And being stubborn me, I did not send her an invite.

The day of the party came. It was so fun. My babysitters led us through a game of Hide and Seek, and then we played freeze tag in my backyard. We made chocolate lollipops and ate cake. I was in the middle of opening a present when my mom called me. “Stephanie…your friend is on the phone.”

My heart sank. I knew it was Maxine. “Hi, Maxine.”

“Hi Steph. I never got the invitation to your party. My mom said it probably got lost in the mail. Can I still come over for the party?”

I paused for a long time. Then I said, “No, Maxine. You weren’t invited.”

I heard her break out into tears on the phone. “I knew I wasn’t invited. I just knew it. Why don’t you like me?”

I slowly hung up the phone.

Maxine never tried to speak to me again. Gone was the annoying pest who followed me during my walks on the curb. Empty, was the seat to the left, whenever I read a book on the bench. Missing, was the eager face who approached me whenever we picked partners for class. And lonely, was I, in my quiet reverie, during the brief periods of time between English and Math. Maxine had always been there, daydreaming beside me.

Remember the pillow fort incident? When I called my friend Stupid? I came out of the bathroom after awhile. Her mom asked me to apologize and I wholeheartedly did, between big, gasping gulps of tears. But, I never said anything to Maxine. I don’t even know her last name. If I could go back, I would say: I’m sorry, Maxine. I’m sorry for ignoring you. I’m sorry for not appreciating you. I’m sorry for leaving you out in the cold. I’m sorry because I should’ve said yes to being friends with you. I’m sorry, Maxine, I didn’t even know how to be friends with myself.