Tag Archives: personal stories

For my mother, upon your death, a spark of dust

Mom,

We are sitting here together in the peacefulness of your bedroom. A place you redesigned to include a beautiful bathroom, with a wide tub against a window, a warming towel rack – your dream respite. You did such a stunning job. I’ve always loved sitting in your bedroom, reading or talking to you. I am glad we are here now, together as you start your path to a different phase of life – that of death.

Mom, I hope that in your passing, I will be less afraid of death, as it, many times, colors my actions and anxieties. But this death, yours in this room, I want it to be a whispered song. I want you to listen  to the wind chimes outside of your window, the wind blowing through the trees in our backyard, and breathe in the solemnity of home you have created here.

For me, seeing you in our home brings me great comfort, knowing that you are safe and in the care of people who love you. Even though you have suffered through this terrible disease, we have helped determine how you will die. You will die in your own home, in your own bedroom, with your family and loved ones nearby. You will die without pain because of the medicines we give you. You will die having been able to say I love you to the ones you hold so dear, and hear them say it to you. We have been given a gift of that time – to say goodbye, to fill out hearts with each other.

I will miss you so desperately. I know my heart will break thinking about you not here. Even now, it grieves knowing the future.

I was talking to Dad a few days ago; he has been saying that cancer is the malady of all disease. I said that cancer reminded me of the Nothing. Do you remember that, from The NeverEnding Story? That is one of my favorite books. The Nothing eats away at everything around it. You put in a hand, and you lose it. A toe and it’s gone. The Nothing in the story is death. Everyone runs from it. Many are driven insane if they come too close. But the Nothing will be come for all of us, no matter what we do; disappearing our friends, our loved ones, our world. You have put in your uterus, your brain, your lungs, and your bones. The Nothing has touched each part to take it away from you, so that you may disappear entirely.

I have always loved stories, Mom. You helped me develop that. You let me read by the light of the bathroom when I was little. You gave me free reign of any book in the house or library. One of my most cherished memories of you is waking up and walking into your bedroom in the morning. I would find you propped up on several pillows, reading a book and drinking coffee. You particularly loved mysteries, and later, rather smutty vampire novels. You loved fantasy and science fiction, to be lost in another world.

About a month ago, you told me a story about how you had only gotten glasses when you were 8 years old. Until then, you were barely able to see. When you put on your glasses, you said you looked at grass with amazement. You were really able to see its lush green-ness for the first time, and marveled at how the blades were separated like little soldiers.

It flabbergasted me – to think that for the beginning part of your life, you had lived in a blinded state. This surprised me more because I knew how much you read as a child. I imagined you straining your eyes against weak lamplight to read your favorite books. It must have been such a comfort – to see another world so clearly when you could not see your own.

I don’t gravitate to the same genres you do. You know I love personal narrative and memoir – I love to read the stories of real people, and I love to write about my life and the people I experience. When I first started to write, and call myself a writer, I talked to you about it. I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure you’d understand. But you did, of course, because you are a lover of words like me. I told you I wanted to write a book, and you were so excited. I was surprised, but more by my own lack of foresight than anything. Of course you would love it if I wrote a book. My first real piece was published in a literary magazine – about you – and you kept it in your bedside table drawer. I knew you were moved and proud of my work.

I love these kinds of stories, Mom, because they help people come alive. I love that they help us with legacy, giving us the backbone of family gatherings; they help us remember each other and the bonds we share. They hold a way for us to look at our past reflectively. They help us carry on.

The NeverEnding Story is just that, Mom — it is a symbol of cyclical life. The Nothing is death, yes, but it is also a carrier of stories. Stories do not disappear into the Nothing – they are contained within it, and are recreated as something new yet familiar. Once the Nothing has swallowed all of Fantastica, Bastian is left with a single spark of dust. That is what you will become, Mom: a single spark of dust that is filled with possibilities. You’ll be fueled by our storytellings, our continued lives on this earth, our marriages to other loved ones, our births of new children, our dedication to the lives of those in pain or need. You will live on through those actions and words, helping shape our lives until we, too, are called into the Nothing, to be reborn into something more.

I love and miss you, with all my heart, with all my sparks of dust.

Mom_1

Upcoming reading: 2nd Story “No Fool: Stories of Risk and Strategy” April 1st

Hey all-

I’m fortunate to be reading again with the good folks of 2nd story on April 1st at City Winery. You can buy tickets here.

Even though it’s April Fool’s, our stories are anything but foolish. Here’s an excerpt from mine, “The Bear in the Cage”:

Melissa quickly walked over, but nobody hugged anyone. She immediately asked me, “Have they found her? What’s been going on?” questions I avoided as I grabbed her suitcase. The whites of her eyes shined like a person in a cage with a wild bear. I averted my eyes, so afraid I would say something and ruin the surprise. Like it was a birthday party or something instead of this awful news. My mom jumped in and put her arm around Melissa’s shoulders—No, honey, they haven’t found her yet. You just come with us. Everything will be ok. Don’t worry, everything will be ok. We walked out to the car. I carried the suitcase, trailing behind them.

I took the driver’s seat, grateful to have the distraction. Melissa sat in the front passenger seat while my mom sat in the back. I gripped the steering wheel and entered the ramp onto 90 going west. Our hometown of Bartlett was about 45 minutes away.

Melissa gestured to the sky through the windshield, “I don’t get it. I know she went missing before, but we found her, ” she said. There was this buzzing energy about her that made me nauseous, like there were landmines beneath her skin.

 “I just talked to her earlier in the week. She seemed fine.  We talked about how she was getting her hair done on Friday,” Melissa turned to me, “What do you think, Alyssa? Do you think she’s ok?”

 “I…” my shoulders weakly shrugged, my jaw tensed, my head locked straight ahead. “uh…” Don’t look at her. DO NOT FUCKING LOOK AT HER.  “I don’t know.” There was a vice grip on my throat that made the words sound strange and strangled. She knew me better than anyone. Had she started to put it together?

– alyssa xx

My 2nd Story Podcast is UP!

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Hooray! My 2nd Story story, “Go On Back to Your Boyfriend” that I wrote and performed in January at Webster’s Wine Bar, is now available in official podcast form!

 

 

I’m so ridiculously excited about this, and listened to it on my commute home on Friday with a big, ridiculous smile on my face.

You can click here to listen to the podcast! It’s about 10 minutes, and can be listened to directly on the site, or downloaded for free on iTunes and Sticher. So do it already! I promise you will laugh at least once, especially if you’ve ever made out with a lesbian from the British Navy.

More on the horizon….cheers! xx

Performance Reading at 2nd Story! January 13th and 14th

Hurray! Performance time is almost here, a time of love, a time of fear. Just kidding! No real fear, though I’m sure I will be nervous for my very first reading as an ensemble member of 2nd Story, a fabulous organization collecting and curating performances of personal stories in Chicago. If you are in Chicago, and have a few hours to spend listening to well-written, compellingly performed stories of Starting Over, please come to our show on Sunday, January 13th or Monday, January 14th at 7p. Click here for tickets and more information.

And now for an excerpt from my story GO ON BACK TO YOUR BOYFRIEND    (or GOBTYB):

Naomi could tell I was brushing her off. She followed me downstairs to the coat check where she badgered me enough to get my number, and then quickly started dancing into the crowd. Completely put-off, I left the club without bothering to find my friends. I boarded the first leg of my 30-minute commute home to Stoke Newington, London’s answer to Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The train was jammed with sloppy drunk English people, all shameless before midnight. The white doors slid shut and I was pressed against very loud, smelly bodies. I made myself as small as possible so no one would notice me…or my type.

A few days later I was sitting on my bed when my phone pinged with a text message from Naomi, “I really enjoyed meeting you. You’re so beautiful. I’d love to take you out this weekend.”

I looked at the text and Naomi’s taunting refrain repeated in my mind: Go on back to your boyfriend. I thought about my decision to leave the US. Had I been overdramatic? Was this living in London thing really going to work, or was Naomi right? In the end, was I just going to go on back to my boyfriend?

Hope to see you there!