Tiny Story #22: The Jade Plant

Watering the plants was worse than any chore--save moving the lawn. Whenever my parents left town it was my job to water their plants. All 25 of them. Even though I had a black thumb. I've kept two cats and a dog alive for years but never a plant.

It surprised me when I agreed to take home an old, beautifully groomed jade plant that I admired at a friend's house. I kept that thing alive for the five years I lived in Colorado. It survived five moves and a kidnapping attempt. When I moved to New York I insisted on taking it with me. For two weeks. In the car. With the dog. And the boyfriend. And an overstuffed trunk. Having too much stuff to lug into whatever hotel we were staying in, I'd cover it with a blanket as it weathered near zero temperatures across South Dakota, Chicago and on into New York.

A week after we arrived the normally robust leaves withered. Six weeks later, I told my boyfriend I thought the plant was dead. His response? Pretty sure it's been dead for a while.

I knew it was dead. And yet.

I wasn't ready to believe it was over. My sister always told me I was an über resilient optimist. That when knocked down, I'd get up over and over again. Even when I probably shouldn't. I left the plant sitting on the window sill by desk. For weeks. One day I saw something green in dirt. A bright green shoot.

It's alive! See. I told you! I said to my boyfriend.

A year later it's not anywhere as lovely or as big as its former life but it's alive, growing and healthy. A reminder that sometimes, even after a long dormancy, life can emerge again.

Tiny Story #20: Green M&M's

A woman on the train carried an M&M's World bag. I wondered what kind of merchandise you can get M&M world. Was it edible? A giant stuffed m&m? Did she have an obsession with the candy? Was she reclaiming her childhood?

Peanut m&m's always remind me of my childhood. Happy memories. Like the time my younger sister, perhaps 7 or 8, cautioned my mom against eating the green ones because they "made you horny." I'm pretty sure my sister didn't know what horny meant but was parroting back what her older siblings told her. 

As I wondered about the contents of m&m bag and pondered my own childhood, the woman tucked her head on her mom's shoulder. Now she was a woman. Not a girl. But sometimes when we're with our mom we revert to childlike ways. Or maybe she just wanted to go back to a simpler time. A time in her life when she didn't care about boys or bosses. When she was playful. Her biggest care, plain or peanut.

 

 

Tiny Story #19: Who Was I in love?

Just out of a very brief marriage, so short it rivaled those of Hollywood, I wasn't quite ready for another relationship. But I was ready to start dating as a way to figure out what I really wanted from love. To figure out who I was in love -- and who I wanted to be. One day into a my three-day free trial on a dating site I got my first opportunity. 

*****

How are you? I like your profile. Especially this part:

Have a strong curiosity about people and just about any subject you can think of.

The laws of attraction are unwritten and pretty much a mystery to me. You just seem like someone I'd like to get to know. So, just an icebreaker. My name's D. Here's hoping you'll drop me a line and say hello.

******

After the first date, that mysterious attraction between us was obvious.

After the second date, I panicked because feelings were growing. And I wasn't ready.

After the third date, I knew there would be a fourth.

After the fifth, he told me he wanted to give us a shot. That if we were going to have a chance, we couldn't see other people.

I knew a sixth date was assured. When, rather than if.

I wondered if I would be strong enough to resist the lure to mesh; to fuse with another person before I knew who I was in love.

Tiny Story #16: The Upside of Wardrobe Malfunctions

The other night I went to an event in Manhattan. I'm a pretty big introvert these days so it takes a bit to get me dressed and out of the house. Taking a couple of trains and battling other pedestrians usually keeps me home. But I was interested in the topic, so even though I was nervous, I went. A few minutes after I sat down a woman appeared behind my shoulder, using a sweeping motion , quickly tucking something into the back of my shirt.

You have a tag sticking out. I hate it when no one tells me so...

Oh crap. I hate coming home to realize I looked like an asshole all night and no one told me. Thank you so much.

Instead of being embarrassed as I would have been in the past, I looked at it as an opportunity to meet someone new. So I asked her about herself. What she'd been up to in her life. These days she was a writer and cook. In her earlier career she used to be a stylist for a bunch of famous people, including Joan Osborne in the 90s.

Joan Osborne was my style icon. And the reason I got my nose pierced, I told my new friend.

We exchanged information and promised to chat about our common interests (fashion, writing and natural health). I was pleased I took a risk and meet someone who'd lived such an interesting life, concluding the event was a success. I even considered making another fashion faux pas in the future in the hopes of meeting someone just as interesting.

 

Tiny Story #15: The Standing Ovation Kiss

My job produced the kind of anxiety that led to nausea every morning as I dressed in a suit and heels. My fingers shook as I hit the elevator button at my office building every morning. At work, I leapt up every time someone stepped into my door. There were 9, 10 or 11 hours of surging anxiety all day. Every day. The only relief, my daily trip to the Starbucks across the street.

I enjoyed the brief reprieve from the stress, yes. But there was also a certain barista. His wiry hair stuck a half a foot into the air, greeting you before he did.  Soon he knew my order, especially the second part. A grande ice water with lots and lots of ice. He called me Ice. I called him the  Hair.

Many months into my horrible job I was laid off. I hadn't had time to get coffee yet that morning so, I went to Starbucks. The Hair was there. He took his "lunch" break with me. We sat talking, for an hour. I learned his actual name. We admitted a mutual attraction. 

That night we went on a date. After sushi and a couple of beers, we stood at a fence in front of a restaurant. He leaned and we kissed. When we parted, I saw the restaurant behind me full of people, standing and applauding. My first standing ovation for a kiss. 

The constant anxiety melted away. I felt human for the first time in a long time. I felt like someone who mattered rather than a cog in a machine. 

Tiny Story #14: The Town The 60s Forgot

There are no highway directions to the town. Only one small sign lets you know you've arrived. Bolinas: Socially acknowledged nature loving town. Before I headed over, the realtor remarked, Oh Bolinas. The town the 60s forgot.

It'd been nearly 20 years since I'd been here. I remember the town having just a few ramshackle buildings, a small store and plenty of surf gear. I remember men with long hair, wearing wet suits. I wondered, would I feel like I was time traveling back to a bygone era?

I walked through the town on my way to the water's edge. A man walked down the street, a foot-long beard, white as snow. Street art littered the boardwalk leading to the water: a man against a pink background wearing a suit, carrying a riding crop and a surfboard; Bo Bo, the town's nickname written everywhere.

A dozen surfers dotted the waves. Known as a good place to get your surfing legs about you, most  surfers wobbled and quickly fell. Finally one rode all the way in. Reaching the shore, he seemed uncertain about what to do next, falling at the last minute in several inches of water. I turned my eyes back to the other surfers.

I swear I saw a shark. Once I'd read an article that said the waters outside Bolinas were rife with Great Whites. Surely, that must be a shark I thought. My nerves on edge, ready to shout a warning. It must be a shark. But no. Just a seabird. It's wings tipped at just the right angle.

The next time I go to Bolinas I will remember the metamorphosis of the shark into a seabird and the way the town smelled: like dirt, eucalyptus and flowers; the stores, like handmade lavender soap and incense.

 

Tiny Story 13: The Hummingbird

I sat staring at the ocean, waiting for inspiration to come. A loud bang. A hummingbird had hit the glass. It lay there prone. Stunned by the immovable object. The tiny bird closed its eyes. Its red throat furiously puffing up and then down. Up and then down. It's right wing crumpled underneath it, the left one down at its side. As I moved to take a picture and ponder whether he needed help, the hummingbird quickly recovered and flew away.

I sat there for a few minutes longer. Wondering whether I could ever be like a hummingbird. When stunned by something, whether I could just get up, shake it off and move on.

Tiny Story #12: The Spider's Revenge

I'm staying in a cottage just a couple of blocks from the ocean in northern California. I'm spending four days alone. Writing. A five year dream finally realized. The day before I left. I had a major meltdown. I worried that my expectations would be too high. That I wouldn't be productive. Or that the place wouldn't be as beautiful or conducive to writing as I imagined. 

After a six hour plane ride, my nerves calmed. I picked up my rental car, three bags full of delicious groceries, headed across the Golden Gate bridge and into Marin County. The place was gorgeous. Just as advertised. Inspiring views. A stocked kitchen. A fireplace to warm me. A long table with plenty of space to work.

After settling in, I worked facing the ocean until my stomach rumbling could no longer be ignored. As I washed the dinner dishes a spider popped out of the drain. It crawled up the sink. It was heading for the counter where I stood. I blasted it with a quick stream of water, sending it back down the drain, crumpled. A little while later I went to get a cup of tea and saw the spider crawling back up again. This time, I smashed it. Then sent it back down the drain.

A couple of hours later I went to bed, waking up around 12:30 with dreams of spiders crawling all over me. Invading every orifice. Chasing me down a gloomy, desolated street. I woke up brushing them off my arms and hair. Startled. Wide awake. Vigilant. Though I may have won the battle, even in the afterlife, the spider won the war.

Tiny Story #11: The Mother Cat of NYC

I was standing on a busy street corner in Soho. Spring and Broadway. Yellow cabs whizzing by, the woman next to me oblivious. Talking passionately into her phone. She started across the street. An SUV sped towards her. The man next to her gently tugged her backpack. The little ones we found so fashionable in the 90s. He wordlessly plucked her out of traffic like a mother cat picks up her kitten. By the scruff of the neck.

She kept talking. Didn't even pause for a second.

I blinked, the light turned and  went on my way. Grateful for the action of a "mother cat." I didn't need to see human carnage today.

 

Tiny Story #10: Trying to Live in New York City

I stepped out my door yesterday, headed to the theatre. Usually, I am too immersed in my own thoughts, my own life to see all of the people around me. But today I happened to see a sign.

A man, lying crumpled in a doorway, a large sign in front of him. "Trying to live" it said in big bold letters.

Though certainly his situation was more dire than some, I thought of his statement. Trying to live. At the core, that's what all of us are trying to do. And in New York City,  a place where the bottom line, and your rent payment, are never far from your mind, this is sentiment resonates. This instinct binds us.

The twenty somethings sitting outside, sucking down cheap beer at Sunday Brunch, the table piled high with empties.

A woman with a blue rose, standing outside the theatre, presumably waiting for a first date. 

The line of older people waiting for the elevator to the second floor of the theatre. 

The older gentleman whose cane kept sinking in the sand (set decoration) as he hobbled to his front row seat. 

The middle-aged women with thick New Jersey accents sitting behind me, talking about their mutual friends' failing marriage and what it meant for them. 

The performer, a famous actress, waiting in the wings, preparing to perform in an intimate space. 

The man who called me sexy out his open window as he drove by.

Me, lost in thoughts of the books I'm writing and the products I'm creating.

We are all just trying to live. 

Tiny Story #9: The Race

Three little kids ran past.

They were having a race.

As the three tiny racers neared the corner, the little girl, wearing cuffed jeans and a black and white striped varsity-styled jacket, fell. She jumped up, brushed her hands off and stood still. And silent. The two boys beckoned her to go back and start the race again.

And so the race began again. She ran strong only hesitating near the corner, the finish line. When she reached it she put her hands up in the air like the victor and then out perpendicular to her sides like a crossing guard. The earlier fall transforming her into a guardian of safety. 

Tiny Story #8

The DivorcÉE

I'm trying to cauterize the wound so I don't bleed all over you.

It was our tenth date. He said it just after he played me the Jeff Buckley version of Hallelujah on the guitar. I was his date to his big art opening. He called me his girlfriend. But still, I felt him hold back. Not quite give in to the feelings. His ex-wife remarried, he was still trying to move on. Wounded. Inching forward slowly.

A few weeks later he was successful. His emotional bled all over our connection. Drowning it. The wound still gaping, we were over.

Tiny Story #6

The 12 Hour Engagement

Something awakened in me the moment we met. Was it a romantic life force or a phantom of the past?

Things moved fast. He made my heart beat fast. He was enamored. Wanted to do things for me. He pushed for a committed relationship.

He asked me to marry him.

I said yes.

Then we got into a big, ugly 12 hour fight.

We picked each other apart. Got defensive. Tried to work through the fear. The demons from relationships past. We scared our dogs and his cats. Scared ourselves.

We broke up 5 days later.

Tiny Story #5

Yesterday around 3 o’clock the dog started pacing. When this didn’t work she became my shadow, tracking my every step. Finally, she walked over to the leash and tapped it with her nose. It’s time to go out. Now that it’s warm outside, the afternoon walk is generally longer than just to the corner for quick relief. It often means a walk around the concrete park a few blocks away. 

Although the walk is close, it takes twice the amount of time to get there because of the sniffing. Oh, the sniffing. We must sniff and check out every. little. thing. Finally, we made it to the park. We strolled close to the fence for some potty action. Suddenly two tiny girls flew off the slide and came running toward the dog. 

Nice doggie. Nice doggie. One of them crooned while she petted the dog. The other one squatted down, looking at the dog’s underside. 

It’s a girl. 

Oh! Just like me! 

The other one pulled a rubber mouse from her pocket and said,

This one is a girl too!

And so, a little tribe of females convened on a spring day in New York City.

Tiny Story #4

It happened again. It happened as I tried to figure out what to write a tiny story about. I wasn't paying attention. I was focused on the task. Actually task(s). Multitasking. Experts say you shouldn't do it but still, I do. 

It happened just as I was reaching for an old notebook filled with memories from my past, a treasure trove for a tiny story. I set down my covered water glass on a coaster. I always drink from an adult sippy cup. Read: covered to the max. Because I was looking fondly at my journal I set the cup down on the edge of the coaster. The glass tumbled onto my laptop dropping several droplets of water. I immediately jumped up turn the laptop over and turned it off.

This is not the first time. Hence the again. I've lost three laptops to liquid. Two to water and one to a glass of wine. Don't ask. It's a silly drunken story involving a guitar, a breezy summer night and plenty of fermented liquid. My laptops have also survived chai spills amongst many close calls with water.  

Despite this history you think I'd be even more careful. That'd I'd put water 10 feet away from any laptop. Maybe it's just that I'm hopeful that even at this  stage in life I can still change. I can become a more mindful, graceful person. 

Tiny Story #3

A month before the senior class was set loose on the world, the results of our class vote were released. There were many predictable results: Sandi, our homecoming queen, and truly lovely, was voted most beautiful. But there were a few upsets. Always thinking of myself as uncool and unnoticed, it was shocking to see my name listed for three categories for the girls: Biggest Mooch, Sexiest Voice and Most Talented.

The first award, though a joke, would haunt me for many years, making me strive to prove myself and loathing to ask for help when I needed it. It also lodged a thought in the back of my head: if I were a mooch, and being an artist was financially speculative at best, perhaps I should consider something more stable.

I readily discounted the latter two awards, reasoning that the pool of creative girls was so small that I got it by default. I was embarrassed. I felt like a fraud. I was certain I was an impostor. I started college a few months later as a music major but quickly dropped the program and went into some more practical.

It was many years before I'd get back to my creative roots. High school. It leaves a mark.

Tiny Story #1

I’ve never done an April Fool’s Day prank. I made one joke on the holiday. And never again. 

When I was 8, my 10 year old brother and I joked that our older brother, born on April 1st, was an April Fools prank. At 12, he wasn’t offended. But he was street smart. So, he told my parents about the joke. We got in BIG trouble. And that’s why I’ve never done an April Fool’s Day Prank and don’t consider it a fun holiday. Even as an adult, it still feels like a day of punishment for me.

Childhood feelings. They can go on forever.