Posts tagged ‘Life’

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Alex's Tree 2     May 11, 2009May 11, 1986 was the most significant Mother’s Day our parents will ever celebrate. I don’t remember you coming home from the hospital, but I do recall sneaking up to see you in your crib. We fought like wild animals until I went off to college, but unconditional forgiveness followed each of our clashes.

In my absence, we started to grow closer, and I wish we had more time to continue on that meaningful trajectory. Our visit to New York was a blast as you bargained in Chinatown and navigated the subway. People started to ask if we were fraternal twins. I took this as a compliment because everyone I know thinks you’re incredibly handsome. We laugh and sometimes even talk the same. The high-pitched hoot distinguished us in theaters, hallways, and classrooms. I’ve hardly laughed like that, though, since you left. I wish I could, if only just to hear your voice.

Yesterday, I saw the live oak tree planted in your memory. Dad can see it from his office, and there’s plenty of space for its roots and branches to flourish. It will outlive me and my children and my grandchildren, and I like the thought of that. I wish you could have lived to see old age. Maybe I will be fortunate enough to do so.

Your birthday always coincided with my return from college for the summer. When I visited home this weekend, I almost expected you to drive up in your red Civic and talk smack with me. Pluto’s not fat anymore, and we have a brand new toilet upstairs. That’s about all that’s changed since January. Seems strange. It still baffles me that time has the audacity to progress as usual in your absence.

There’s a hole in my heart, but I can’t seem to bleed to death. I feel at once devastated and honored to live the rest of my life in your memory. The dichotomies that often govern our existence are overwhelming. Perhaps, over time, you can help me reconcile the contradictions, loose ends, shades of gray, and injustices within this life.

It’s so difficult to articulate my love for you, and I never had the chance to tell you just how proud I was. Am. I guess that’s because all of those feelings of compassion, fondness, and respect we shared went without saying. I know you knew how much I cared. And for that, above all things, I am endlessly grateful.

Happy Birthday, Alex. The intense sorrow following your death can never compare to the endless joy your life created. Today marks your twenty-third year. And in death, as in life, your gifts continue to arrive.

May 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm 9 comments

Excerpt from “Those Bright College Years”

My gregarious Californian roommate, Evelyn*, decided to throw a Jilted Lovers’ Party the weekend after Valentine’s Day.  Not yet into the party scene, I took a backseat role in planning the festivities.  I did, however, suggest we write enticing messages (think alternative conversation hearts) on the heart-shaped helium balloons lining the walls and staircase.  “Fuck Me” and “69” seemed to go over pretty well.

Still high from dancing the night away with Johnny* at the Sadie Hawkins dance, I emailed him an invite to the party.  He responded that he would likely arrive a bit late since his improv comedy group had an after party that same night.  I kept my heavily-lined eyes peeled for him as I danced listlessly in my black faux-leather mini and tiger skin top.  The girls across the hall volunteered their suite for serving mixed drinks, and our common room doubled as the dance floor and hook-up room.

Apparently, word of the party spread like an STD at a brothel because hoards of people arrived to take advantage of the free alcohol.  People impatiently filled the 5-floor entryway, even half an hour after the drinks ran out.  Swarms of disappointed partygoers ended up on the dance floor by default in their failed escape attempt.  I frantically scanned the room for signs of Johnny, but I felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the crowds of students eagerly awaiting inebriation and/or orgasm.

The campus police must have arrived around 12:30 to bust up the party.  They couldn’t care less about the serving of alcohol by minors to other under-aged drinkers.  Someone had supposedly called and complained about the noise level, so the music and, therefore, fun, had to end.  And still no Johnny.  I felt like the girl who bought a new dress and make-up set in eager anticipation of the middle school dance, just to watch her recent purchases gather dust as she assumed the wallflower position throughout the 180 minute session of swaying, giggling, and back-of-the-gym exploration.

My whole body seemed to droop as I dejectedly helped clean up the spilled liquor and red plastic cups. A few of the guests from my residential college announced that they were heading over to a frat house. Having only been to one fraternity party, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to expand my social horizons. Later that night, out of desperation and a low sense of self-worth, I made the first in a series of life-altering mistakes.

*For privacy purposes, some names and minor details have been changed.

March 27, 2009 at 7:22 pm 3 comments

Book of the Month: “East of Eden”

“It is probable that if [Charles] had found [Adam] that night he would have killed him, or tried to. The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts to the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path or a breath caught at the sight of a pretty girl or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil.”

-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The Simpsons Halloween Special from several years ago explores the repercussions of time travel when Homer serendipitously discovers that his broken toaster can take him back into the Paleolithic era. During his first visit, he slaps and kills a mosquito as it lands on the back of his neck. When he returns home, his family and Earth as he knows it has dramatically changed. After a series of trips to the period of the dinosaurs, he finds that the modern world around him alarmingly alters in very different ways whether he slays a pterodactyl and tyrannosaurus rex or if he merely steps on a twig and breaks it. Knowing that his presence and seemingly insignificant interactions during time travel will inevitably affect the future, he settles for a life that most closely resembles his pre-toaster adventures, save for his family members’ use of amphibious tongues at the dinner table.

This pop cultural example demonstrates the irreversible impact events of the past have on the present and future. Whether major or insignificant, incidents prompt a domino effect without particular rhyme, reason, consistency, or predictability. In East of Eden, Steinbeck reflects upon mundane events as much as he does on formative moments in a character’s life. That the reader is rarely bored by Steinbeck’s expository passages is evidence of his talent as a writer.

March 4, 2009 at 10:57 pm 2 comments

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

When bad things happen

To bad people, I exult.

When good things happen…

 

February 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm Leave a comment

Self-Psychoanalysis

laurenalex

Me: I mean, just because I’ve been “okay” for a week or so, I don’t want you to get to thinkin’ I’m fine or anything like that.

Former psychiatrist: Don’t worry, Lauren: I would never think that about you.

————————————————-

Lately, I’ve been following guys around who resemble Alex from certain angles or who share his name. I stop staring and/or following only until I am 100% certain the person I am seeing is not my brother. With this in mind, I had a dream the other night about shopping alone at the Book Stop by the Olive Garden in Humble (now Barnes and Noble and within Deerbrook Mall). One of the book store employees had “Alex’ written in green lablemaker across his name badge. After keeping an eye on him for a bit, I lost interest because he looked and acted like a bit of a schmuck – sufficient evidence that he was not my Alex reincarnated.

I continued through the shelves of text, half-heartedly looking for a few items to add to my John Updike or African American literature collections. I passed the children’s section and noticed a display with Where the Wild Things Are and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and a few other books Alex and I read as kids. Suddenly, a spell of nausea ran over me, and I steadied myself against a row of travel guides. The room began to spin as I screamed out, “Someone help me!” before falling onto the floor and curling up into a ball of panic. No one came to my assistance. And then I woke up.

The problem is that, even while awake, I feel alone and helpless in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad situation. No one comes to my assistance. No one can. The most I can hope for is the ability to move forward, if even an inch at a time.

Throughout troubled times, I sporadically become childish in my use of body and spoken language. In the dream, I symbolically curled up into the fetal position. I think the desire to return to one’s childhood or infancy reflects a need to be taken care of beyond what is available or even possible. Of course, if I could somehow return to my childhood, Alex wouldn’t be gone anymore, thus further fueling my sense of desperation.

Maybe someday I will grow up and effectively function as a responsible, productive adult. Until then, I prefer to live in a world of crossword puzzles, films, and literature where I stay distracted from the “unbearable lightness of being.”

February 2, 2009 at 10:30 pm 6 comments

John Updike

John Updike is dead:

No more Rabbits or Becks to

somehow relate to.

January 28, 2009 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

In Memory of Alex Davis: May 11, 1986 – December 9, 2008

My mother’s friend recently described Alex as a troubled genius. The tragedy behind his sincere compassion and overwhelming intellect was that it existed in direct proportion to a thorough comprehension of all the sadness in the world well beyond his years. Along with his depth and an incredible capacity for kindness and empathy, Alex carried with him a heavy heart. The one relief death brought was the unloading of this incredible burden from his mind and soul.

Carson McCullers, another brilliant yet disturbed soul, wrote The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in her early twenties. In one of the novel’s pivotal passages, Reverend Blount reflects:

There are those who know and those who don’t know. And for every ten thousand who don’t know there’s only one who knows. That’s the miracle of all time – the fact that these millions know so much but don’t know this. It’s like in the fifteenth century when everybody believed the world was flat and only Columbus and a few other fellows knew the truth. But it’s different in that it took talent to figure that the earth is round. While this truth is so obvious it’s a miracle of all history that people don’t know.”

“Know what?” We might ask. Alex “knew,” and the burden of truth exists in the answer therein.

Alex always wanted to start a family of his own. In fact, my parents thought he would give them grandkids before I ever did. For two summers, Alex worked as an aide for Humble ISD’s Extended Year Special Education Program. After spending a delightful Fourth of July with the students, Alex recounted the experience to his grandmother, Tita: “We had a blast as we celebrated the holiday with a parade!” “A parade?” Tita asked, “How did you have a parade on a school day?” “Well, we marched through the hallways of the school, banging on classroom objects as if they were musical instruments. The pure and simple joy these kids showed on their faces, Tita, it was incredible.” From that point forward, Alex considered a career in special education.

Alex sometimes displayed intellectual and emotional depth in mysterious ways. In high school, Alex had to research the artwork of a famous person who wasn’t known for being an artist. He came home that day and showed me various online images of Hitler’s paintings. “Did you have any idea that Hitler could paint?” he asked me. “No,” I replied, “but that doesn’t change the fact that he was responsible for the Holocaust.” “I know that,” he retorted, “but just imagine what might have been if he had applied his creative energy toward art instead of hatred.” Alex then threw himself completely into the project and produced a brilliant paper on Hitler’s hidden talent. He always reflected upon alternative possibilities instead of tragic realities.

We are on the brink of a revolution, and, at first, I felt immensely regretful that Alex would not get to experience the events in their entirety. But now I think about the huge role he has already played: by voting this November, by graduating at the top of his class from the University of North Texas with a sociology degree, by adamantly expressing his desire for world peace and a more equitable distribution of wealth, by touching so many people with such a limited time frame. Alex loudly and unequivocally demanded so much from those he loved. And it puts me at peace to say that somehow, someway, we gave it to him.

alexchill1

Alex’s online memorial

December 16, 2008 at 5:22 am 6 comments

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