Here, I'll show you:
Yeah, spiders. In any shape, size, color, variety. Although, obviously, the bigger the baddie, the louder my scream. And I'm not much of a screamer, just ask Ricky. I can sit quietly through the scariest horror flick (with my hands over my eyes, true), ride the tallest roller coaster without making a sound (although it is fun to yell, isn't it?), and I'm A-OK. No problem.
But the second you stick me and one of those eight-legged atrocities into the same enclosed space, I go ape.
True story - last night, Ricky and I were parking at the Toys R' Us near my house, and as I was getting ready to take off my seat-belt, I happened to look up and see something black on the roof of the car near Ricky's seat... something black and crawly... with eight legs.
Reader, I could not get out of that car fast enough. In my haste, I got tangled in the seat-belt, tangled in my purse, but I did not let these obstacles hinder me. No, sirree, I was going to get out of that car even if it meant losing a limb, such was my terror. In fact, the contents of my purse wound up scattered on the parking lot and had to be re-collected. All the residents of Hialeah, my hometown, no doubt think I am a crazy woman. No matter. At least I was safe from the spider.
I made Ricky take it out of the car, professing that no way in heck would I get back in said car if that creature remained within. Well, he wound up killing the spider, not because he wanted to, but because the thing was so damn fast he wound up crushing it. Yes, it made me a little sad, but I must confess - I felt relieved, too.
So that's my phobia. What's yours?
The Great Gatsby, one of my all-time favorite books. I just started a Book Club with my high school students and Benjamin Button is our first selection. You can read the short story here (it's really short, should take you only 15-20 min. to read).
So I decided to get a Christmas tree for my classroom. Yes, in the last week before Winter Break. You see, I had come up with this most awesome idea weeks ago. Procrastination and laziness being what they are (not to mention the rising cost of real Christmas trees), this did not happen in a timely manner. Clearly. So I was in my favoritest store, Target, with Ricky over the weekend bemoaning to him about how my students had been bringing in ornaments and looking pointedly in the (bare) corner where said tree was supposed to be, wondering aloud where they should hang their ornaments. After hearing my sob story, Ricky turned to me and said, "So why don't you just get a fake tree? It's probably cheaper."
... (<--- That was my reaction.)
Sure enough, an artificial Christmas tree of six feet would only cost me $19.99 at Target, whereas a real tree of the same height would cost me $4,533.99. That, plus my first-born child. You can see what a difficult decision I had to make.
Flash forward to Monday. I arrive to work with plastic tree tucked snugly into its packaging, waiting for my student aide to help me assemble it. Yes, apparently, fake plastic trees need to be assembled. At first, I was dubious about the tree. It was really skinny. Like fashion-model-living-on-crackers-and-air skinny. But we persevered, my student-aide and I, and we decorated it with ornaments and tinsel and all sorts of shiny, happy stuff. This is the end result:
Yes, I know. It does not look like it's 6 feet. But I assure you it is. I am 5-9 and it is taller than me. Skinnier, too, which is giving me a bit of a complex, but there you are. So long as the kids are happy.
"Wings Waiting to Color the Sky"
Your movements still cause unexpected tremors in my heart—
Rivers of feeling thrum the line of my pulse,
My breathy thready, like the hesitant wind among the trees.
These are the moments I hold in my thoughts,
Turning them over like stones.
There is meaning in these memories:
This body, my fickle flesh,
With its topography of scars and sentiments
Has seen more than its fair share of beauty
And dealt as much as received of cruelty.
There is weight within these words.
I carry them in my hands like an inopportune offering,
Waiting for the right moment to arrive
With my breath in my throat like a bird on the wire,
Wings waiting to color the sky.
They prepare you for the teenbrat students who don't want to do their work, don't want to read aloud in class, don't want to take their head off the desk, don't want to do anything but keep ignoring you, thankyouverymuch.
They even prepare you for the teenbrat students' parents who don't want to hear complaints about their kids, don't want to read any letters or e-mail from you, don't want to get a telephone call in the middle of dinner, don't want to do anything but keep ignoring you, thankyouverymuch.
What they don't prepare you for is the ex-student who dies suddenly on a Monday afternoon after being pulled off life support. What they don't prepare you for is hearing how your old student got into a car accident on the previous Saturday night and crashed into a tree on the way home from a party. What they don't prepare you for is learning why he got into that car accident in the first place - no, he wasn't drunk; he was texting and lost control of the car.
Kevin Garcia was a senior in high school. I taught him when he was just in 7th grade. I remember his goofy, ear-to-ear grin. His typical teenbrat moodswings. His sudden fits of laughter, like the sun unexpectedly bursting through a cloud on a rainy day. Next time you're driving, I want you to remember Kevin before you pick up that cell phone.
Carla takes a deep breath
Carla wriggles her toes, stretches her arms over her head, shakes out her hair. She is keenly aware of the audience watching below, can almost feel their eyes on her. She inhales sharply, thinking that the air feels denser up here, more compact.
She has a breathing exercise she likes to do whenever she needs to focus, one that her sister taught her. Her sister Maria had severe asthma, but she learned to lessen the severity of the attacks by concentrating on the simple act of breathing. She would imagine the slender molecules of air slipping into her lungs, expanding and joining together into an invisible sea. She would let the waves wash over her, calm her, and eventually she was able to breathe normally again.
Carla doesn’t have asthma, but she finds that this exercise helps her during her routines. Carla doesn’t have Maria any more, either – Maria died of respiratory failure five years ago – but she finds that this exercise helps bring her closer to the memory of her.
Carla takes a deep breath and dives.
Your words live inside echoes, like reverberations of truth.
I strain my ears to listen, but I catch only fragments,
these jagged half-shells of sentences
that cut up my hands and make me bleed.
Meanwhile my words are strangled by telephone wires,
warped by second thoughts and forget-me-not.
This dissonant language of longing,
made up of words that exist only in shadows and thought.
I know that your voice is nothing more
than the strumming of air, just vibrations
without rhythm or rhyme, no meaning.
But somehow your voice is like music I can't live without.