On Living in a Small Apartment with my Brother

When you’re a single woman at twenty-eight years old, the fact that you live in a small apartment with your younger brother adds to the general imposing curiosity of those around you. “Oh, I thought you were going to tell me you had a boyfriend,” one of my closest friends tells me after I expressed to her that I had a life update, which happened to be a raise and promotion. “How’s your love life?” even my boss at work questions me every now and again, craving for me to indulge her so she wouldn’t have to feel sorry for me, as if being single at this age were an unfortunate crisis, something she would try to help me “fix” by giving me relationship advice.

I’ve already strayed off topic, though. Late at night I lie in my bed, awakened by the sound of a high-pitched voice coming from the living room, which happened to be one door and a hallway away from my bedroom. The soothing rain sounds have turned themselves off by now on the Amazon Echo which is set to play for exactly one hour while I doze to sleep. I reach to my bedside table, hand grasping for a phone in the darkness. I pick it up, the back light illuminating the space around me, screaming into my brain that it is 1:12am and I have been woken by my brother’s girlfriend’s obnoxious voice. I listened closer, realizing they were playing some sort of video game, and she was just having a blast. The more her entertainment and joy rose, the more my bitterness and frustration leaped, a space shuttle erupting in flames and smoke as it ascended higher into the sky. How dare she wake me in the middle of the night from my precious rest.

One more screechy laugh set me off. I was being personally, deeply, directly disrespected, and I had to do something about it. I flopped out of my bed, still interwoven between the intricacies of my sheets. I stumbled to my door without the wonderful idea of turning on a light, feet crashing into various articles of furniture and shoes left on the floor. I was drunk with anger and disoriented with sleep.

 

I left my brother, Ryan, at home with my parents when I moved off to college after I graduated high school. He was fifteen. I didn’t realize at the time that maintaining closeness in relationships requires work and effort. I was used to the naturalness of being around Ryan every day, and our friendship was something glorious we shared but hadn’t really acknowledged because it was just there. I didn’t realize what it was until I didn’t have it anymore. And I was supposed to be the mature one, the leading example.

Ryan is what Inner Child therapists would label the “Lost Child” dynamic of the family system. His head was filled with Marvel superheroes, Star Wars quotes, and videogame characters. He was downstairs, lost in his own world, while the rest of us were upstairs, me usually attempting to solve the petty arguments my parents were getting in. I was the “Family Hero”- the one who got good grades at school, planning my future collegiate aspirations, making the family look good to outsiders. I couldn’t tell you when or how our roles switched temporarily, or how they switched back, but here I was, ten years later, fumbling for my doorknob, seeking vengeance for an interrupted sleep cycle.

I stormed across the ten-foot hallway, prepared for retribution and sturdy boundary-setting. “Would you please keep it down?” the bitter statement formed as a question burst out of my barely-awake lips. Two sets of eyes gazed back at me, one horrified and the other confused, a lost puppy stopped dead in the blinding headlights of a rampant vehicle. I was taken aback by the meek reaction and compliant nods of approval, but this didn’t stop me from dramatically stomping back to my dim bedroom for extra theatrics. I don’t know what I expected, but it was like I craved a rebuttal, an argument to allow me to release my critical anger, or at least to put me back in my place.

My heart raced into a puddle of tears as I lied back down, trying to cover myself up into a cocoon of blankets despite the heat beaming throughout my body, wanting to shed the parts of me that harbored the guilt of abandoning my brother during his most malleable years, and the parts of me that blamed him for not trying to stay connected with me either. But here we were, living together, trying together, learning together. Outsiders may not understand the intrinsic rationalities of why some people do the things they do, just like I didn’t realize my own purpose of living with my brother until I wrote this essay.

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Sleep with the Angels

I slumber at the wakening,

tasting the luscious licks of the unwrapped

lollipops, sparks of sun settle

through frost-wintered windows,

white toes chilled against red circulation.

Morning cat meows plead of attention,

circling the unchanged litterbox- recognizing

her own beloved stench. Upstairs

the flowers sing like honeydew- “Me

and Bobby McGee” as we drove

to the scorched heat of Pheonix.

Sitting under moonlit tents, sanctuaries

of bodies held together by blazing fires,

conversation blends as easily as baryonic

matter in the cosmos, sparking brilliant neurons.

The night cold wore us like a blanket

of damped packed sand, the piercing

coals of envy and beauty embered

asymmetrically into the stars like soft

epiphanies. I swallowed the wood-burnt

smoke and ingested the amber flames.

Duerme con los angeles, mi amor,

feathered pillows spoke softly in accord

until the honeydew flowers chanted

the confined lullaby.

 

j.f.

When I am Weary

I heard imaginary ailments-
whirling dervishes dancing
with one hand pointed at the sky
and the other at the ground.
Such dismal feelings however
do not often persist in the clear
light of morning, when
you are young.
Many are the thoughts that come
in lonely musing;
leaving no trace of existence.
I walk home to tranquility-
the trees are still bare, the buds
still hard, cocooned.
Appear- an impressionist scene
of a rainy night.
It accretes in layers under
my skin and knits my pores tight.
A hideous sense of pursuit
sometimes comes chillingly
when I am weary.

Upon the Boutique Sidewalk

Upon the boutique sidewalk, I

stumble upon a man- or

is it a woman? The dark and

defined makeup surrounds the black

pupils set in stone marble eyes.

The perfectly defined Adams apple sits tucked

under the creamy white face adorned

with chiseled cheekbones, contoured

and glowing. I wonder

what he sees sitting on his perch,

unable to move. We bustle and groan,

rush around like spawning salmon-

but you, your plastic skin still reeks

of chemicals produced in assembly

lines, people machines. Your

cheekbones deceive me, your slim,

lean legs lack the delicate fibers that

give legs meaning. You represent facades

and images endorsed, societal projections.

Who gets to decide

what ideal looks like?

 

j.f.

204

Upon opening the door
Lies dirt ridden shovels
amongst red-spined journals
in apartment two-oh-four.

Black lines appear
on white walls forming
mountains and valleys- a timeline
beginning to end, up and down, up and down.

Steam, the tea kettle screeches
an aroma of green tea and coffee,
familiarize the surroundings,
memories of bodies move through the rooms.

Upon the bedside table
lies the book of love, of fictitious
trickery, words written and uttered
left by the sink, forgotten
as the reflection in turn.

What is love? I ask
you point to the book, left
frivolously scratching your mark, locking
the key taken, I cannot enter.

 

j.f.

Spiderwebs

She sits

solemnly at the dining room

table, trying to find a metaphor

for her creative process, is

it the revealing of one’s

eyes, after removing

sunglasses? The dark

shades, black as dilated

pupils, outstretched when accustomed

to night, revealing the

hidden webs

forming dust-

a forgotten bond.

 

j.f.

Carving Stories from Trees- Our Home

The Highline Canal is a long trail sided next to a creek throughout Denver’s southside suburbs, 71 miles to be exact. It connects different cities together through the paved and unpaved walking trail, lining itself with cottonwood trees and bushes as tall as we were. Although the purpose of the highline canal was to provide irrigation through the man-made waterway, it was dry most of the time. For us, it didn’t provide irrigation; it provided recreation.

My brother and I walked through the winding roads of our quaint neighborhood, a brand-new development built on the borders of the sacred greenery of the Highline Canal. Scratch that- the yellowry of the Highline Canal. We walked up the dirt hill to reach the yellow sticks and the leafless trees that grew along the trail until we found a denseness that suited us.

Rewind one year. Mom and dad would drive my brother and I to the spot where our new house was being built. We got out of the car, onto the future street on which we would live, and looked at the giant, square hole in the ground. Dirt. Everywhere.

They told us, “This is where our house will be. It will be painted blue, and have a red door.” I tried to imagine what my new house would look like. I thought it was strange that our house would have a red door, this color yelled anger at me, which is how I felt about moving from the home I’d known my whole short life. My life, as I knew it, was being displaced. Into a neighborhood I didn’t know. Into a school I didn’t know. With the people that were forcing my displacement.

Fast forward. To the denseness. To the foliage. To the nature, which belonged to my brother and I, alone. Once we found the perfect spot, a little opening within the branches, within the sticks and the grass, we built our home. Our home was here, not in the blue house with the red door. Here, we could imagine our own spaces and create our own niches. Here, we made the rules and decided who we wanted to be. It might have been different day to day. I was usually a mother, cooking dinner for the family in the patch of small twigs near the center of our home. I had on my pretend oven and pretend oven mitts. Other days I was a teacher, ordering my brother to sit at his desk, a little spot in the corner amongst the grass. I put on my pretend glasses and taught out of my little blue notebook, telling my brother to take notes.

When we got bored of our home, we would go on an exploration journey on the trail to find another one. Sometimes we’d get distracted by the creatures we’d see. Once we came upon a turtle, which my brother named Speedy. He was our comrade for a day or two, until we lost him and found a new comrade to replace him, like our pretend pet that would follow us around. We found walking sticks one day and became original Settlers of the land. The Highline Canal was ours, and ours alone. Anyone we saw walking or running on the trail simply didn’t exist to us, for it was our world, and we made it fit what we needed it to be. Our home.

Random Thoughts

Do you ever wonder…

what you would

become

if you

did

not blog

did not ‘gram

did not facebook?

What if…

thoughts,

your stream

of conscious,

could be made

visible, online, for

all to see? Would you

be embarrassed? Or

embrace it? Do

our thoughts

really,

truly,

belong

to ourselves

anymore? What

is writing becoming?

What is writing?

What are

your

thoughts?

 

I originally wrote this in 2013, and it is just as prevalent as ever.

Food, Inc

For my Sociology class, we had to watch the documentary, Food Inc. This documentary discusses the many ways that food operates in our society- how it’s grown, produced, sold, and eaten. This movie goes deeper than surface level, though, focusing not just on food and eating, but on what we’re allowed to say and know about the food we eat. Through this film, we are able to use the Social Imagination to understand the relationship of food between the larger social forces and the individuals that purchase and eat it. Throughout the years, our relationship with food has changed drastically- the way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than the last 10,000 years (Kenner). The way we eat now has become a norm that we accept, because we don’t know anything different.

From this film, we can see how food can be related to on a Social Conflict Paradigm, which sees social life as a competition and focuses on the distribution of resources, power, and inequality. During “The Dollar Menu” section of the film, we see a poor family with a mother, father, and two young girls. They don’t have time to cook because they leave at 6am to go to work and don’t get home until 9 or 10. So, they use the small amount of money they have to buy hamburgers from the dollar menu. The mom says, “When you only have a dollar to spend, and two kids to feed, what would you do?” They can buy a hamburger for $1.00 or they can go to the grocery store and wouldn’t even be able to buy a head of lettuce for $1.00. The husband, who is almost forced to eat these horrible foods packed with sugar, salt, and fat now has diabetes due to his diet, and needs to spend hundreds of dollars on his medication. It is obvious that the large, rich, powerful food institutions are benefiting from how food works in our society, while those who don’t have a lot of money lose, big time. The way these hamburgers are made in the factories is a whole different story. Apparently when we eat a hamburger, we are eating the meat from a thousand different cows (Kenner). What?!?

I’m just going to go right out and ask the question- are we poisoning the lower class? The movie states that 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes- and in minorities the rate is 1 in 2 (Kenner). The biggest predictor of obesity is income level as well- those who are in the lower economic class are more prone to obesity- and as we can see from this movie, it is because the foods that are affordable are unhealthy, and even poisonous. Of course, the industry blames obesity on a crisis of “personal responsibility” (Kenner). As I sit at Whole Foods to do my homework, I think about how privileged I am to have the ability to choose to eat foods that are organic, range free, grass fed, and healthy. Even still, I have a hard time purchasing a seven dollar salad due to my bank account. After watching this film I feel like I have a moral obligation to help change the way we think about food, and advocate for more honesty in our society’s food practices.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen this documentary? How can we change the way society in America interacts with how food is grown, made, and eaten?

Kenner, Robert, et al. Food, Inc. [Los Angeles, CA] Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2009.

Dirty Laundry: A Short Short

Rachael grabbed a white sock off the floor and brought it to her nose, determining if she should put it in the laundry basket or back in the drawer. Revolted by the stench, she threw it towards the basket. It landed right in the center of a dirty dish her husband left on the ground from the night before.

“You can’t be serious,” Rachael blurted out, looking directly at her husband lying on the bed watching another survival show, “You’re going to lay there watching me pick up after your filth you leave all over the house.”

Carter averted his eyes from the screen and looked at Rachael, not even a little surprised at her little outburst. “I don’t remember you asking me to help you,” he said as a matter of fact.

“Do I really have to ask you to help me out a little bit? I shouldn’t have to ask you in the first place! Stop being such a pig!” She picked the sock off the greasy plate and shoved it into the crammed laundry basket.

“Oh, you’re going to start with this tonight,” Carter said, setting the remote on the pillow, starting to stand.

“Yeah, it’s going to be this night again. Maybe if you got off your lazy ass every once in a while, you’d be able to watch your tv in peace,” Rachael said as her cheeks scorched. Maybe she went too far this time. Carter kept walking toward the door as if he didn’t hear her.

“Now you’re just going to ignore me? Come on, Carter, what are we doing?” Rachael pleaded. He kept on walking, now out the door towards the stairs. “Oh, there you go, walk away, just like you always do.”

Carter turned around and faced her, eyes widening, voice still cool, “Yep, I’m walking away. Watch me walk away” he said, and calmly walked down the stairs.

“You can’t be serious!” Rachael yelled out, her eyes burning red. “Don’t you walk away from me! You know I can’t stand it when you do that!” She reached toward the laundry basket and grabbed whatever could fit in her hands and tossed it everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself, wailing, scorching tears welling up in her deep brown eyes. After all of the contents were dispersed, on the bed, on the floor, in the bathroom, on the nightstand, she flailed herself on the bed and finally allowed the tears to escape.