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.

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.

Embrace Your Muse

“You will know that you have found your muse when you encounter a force that makes you feel courageous enough to broaden the range of your creativity. The presence of this force will erase your self-doubt and motivate you to give your thoughts and feelings form.”

“If you surround yourself with people who support you, keep a pen and paper handy, immerse yourself in culture, and brainstorm frequently, you will soon reconnect with your muse.”

-Madisyn Taylor

Every day I get emailed an inspirational little tid-bit from a site called Daily Om. I don’t always get around to reading them, but yesterday I read the email and the subject was about Embracing your Muse. As an aspiring writer, and a human in general, I am very curious about inspiration- how inspiration works, how to be inspired, how to express myself in what inspires me. I’m so glad I read this article because it inspired me to think about what my muses are- what motivates me to have that creative spark.

I’d definitely have to say one of my greatest muses is God. I am inspired and awed by God’s work in my life on a daily basis, and what he has gotten me through in the last 10 years of my life. I have experienced pain, hurt, loss, death, grief, addiction, depression… you name it. I believe these struggles that I went through helped me become a stronger person, and that God got me through them and brought me to where I am today. This last year has been a spiritual journey for me, and I feel like I am closer to God now than I have ever been, and I feel truly blessed.

But let’s go back to those painful experiences for a moment. The times that I wrote the most and seemed to have the most inspiration was when I was going through the hardest times of my life- especially the death of my grandmother and heart break. At those times I didn’t know what else to do with myself- I was brimming with sadness and pain, and the only thing I knew what to do with these emotions was to write it down on paper. Some of my most meaningful poetry and creative expressions were written during these times. And now, I embrace these difficult times and feel grateful for them, because I have experiences that will help me be a better person and writer.

In my opinion, being a writer is all about experiences and story telling. I’m inspired all the time by books- I think about how the writer came up with the ideas they wrote about, and what they experienced in their actual lives to be inspired to write those stories. My new goal is to remain aware for when things come up that inspire me or strike my curiosity. I try to always have a notebook with me so I can write down ideas or thoughts I want to explore. From now on, I will embrace my muse(s), remain curious, and explore environments that support my creativity.

My Journey…

So, I don’t really know who reads this… I don’t advertise this site/blog to barely any of my friends, it seems to intimate for that. But I feel comfortable with the blogging community, maybe because they don’t know me on a personal level. Sometimes it’s easier to share with strangers and fellow writers. And there’s just some things I need to get out/explain. I have not posted anything here for literally 18 months. Why, you ask? I was in an 18 month structured therapeutic community for addiction and alcohol dependency. I went without social media literally for a year and a half. It wasn’t allowed- no facebook, no email, no nothing online.

Now I’m back, and getting online now is almost overwhelming. I want to get back into reading and writing… It’s my passion, it’s who I am… While I was gone it seemed like a lot of my passion and motivation for this creativity dissipated. I did a lot of work on myself, though. Picking back up on this has been a little more difficult than I foresaw. A lot of what I used to write was inspired by fear, hurt, shame, loss…. I feel that when I tap back into that, my creativity flows easier and smoother; it’s more profound. But I also want to be inspired to write when I’m happy, feeling blessed and excited.

I’m still on a journey of finding myself… What do I want? Who am I? Who do I want to be? Right now I’m just going through the motions… making sure I stay sober, making sure my maladaptive thoughts don’t get in my way, making sure I have my priorities right… What a crazy, unexpected, long, and amazing journey this has been and will continue to be.