Becoming Grant Tilley

     A couple of months ago I began the process of becoming a man…and I must say it’s a quite interesting endeavor.  When I first got the idea for my latest novel, I knew it would have to happen.  The story needed a male narrator.  I’m not going to lie…it scared me a little.  Could I do this character justice?  Could I conquer all the little nuances that make up not only the male psyche in general, but a specific male?  I knew I had to try.  I would have to put my girly, Margaret Mitchell-inspired writing voice aside, rub a little dirt in the keyboard and start my journey towards becoming Grant Tilley.

     His face came first.  I could see him at about thirteen years old, liberally speckled with red freckles, standing out in the hot Charleston sun with green eyes too knowledgable for a child.  He was wearing greasy overalls and an expression on his face that gave away the fact he was surviving the Great Depression in the South.  He started the story as a boy, already with the stress of a man on his shoulders.  I could feel the nature of a male, how he works harder through stress, and grows up based on experiences instead of time starting to unfold, as my fingers started stretching.  I reached for the keys, waiting on his voice to show up, almost feeling the hesitant cadence to his tone forcing me to pause.  I could then see gestures and body language….he was making my mind fire off image after image….then there it was…the accent…and he started to speak.   The next thing I knew,the white screen was spitting up black letters, and I was spewing Grant Tilley out of my veins.  At this point, it wasn’t about trying…he had arrived.

     This was the greatest joy for me as a writer.  It was maybe the first time a character who was nothing like me came so purely out of me.  It is so real when I write from his prospective.  It doesn’t matter that I’m the girliest kind of girl.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve never experienced a life like his…the idea was born, then there he came, almost entrancing me, dancing out of my mind and all over the page…or maybe he clogged out of my mind… 

     I half expected to come back to consciousness mid-writing session to notice myself sweltering under either stress or real heat one, in a pair of overalls two sizes too small that had been washed in mud hole.  However, when I stop writing I’m just me, and Grant lives in my computer, staying quiet until he comes traipsing out, fishing pole in hand, through my mind once again.~

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Woven in Time

   Last week when I was still floundering in Wisdom Tooth Land, I was pleasantly surprised when one of my best friends, fresh off a plane from Denver dropped by to see me.  She, along with two other friends, and myself make up a foursome that not time, tragedy, nor triumph could tear apart.  We’ve been friends since we were just little knobby kneed girls with crushes on the members of Nsync, and have seen one another through weddings, births, deaths, shopping trips, life, shopping trips, broken hearts, family issues, coming of age rites of passage, and shopping trips.  I forgot to mention…shopping trips.

     This last time three out of four of us got together, after one too many glasses of some peach fru fru drink, we broke out the picture album to make fun of ourselves a little bit.  We laughed at our lack of ability to apply make-up properly, our poor choices in talent show costumes, and how our Abercrombie and Fitch baby t’s refused to hide our belly buttons.  However, the trip down memory lane didn’t entirely lead to an eye-rolling event.  It made us remember as well, just who those young girls taking goofy pictures in a laundromat for the hell of it were.  We were cheerleaders or basketball players, girls who thought student council was real-life politics, and professional sun-tanners.  We were carefree.   For a minute we weren’t grown married women, but a line of bronze bodies sprawled out on towels in Myrtle Beach.  I was the girl drunk for the very first time wearing a Santa Claus hat for an unknown reason.  We were the kids making funny faces behind the never-smile-for-anything guards in Great Britain.  We were the Friday night cheerleaders who got in trouble for stealing a road sign at camp, the girls that used cheap K-Mart flat irons, and the ones that had to be in the thick of everything insignificant to feel like celebrities…and it meant so much. 

     I can speak for all of us in saying we all love our adult lives.  We are all married, some of us mothers, some hoping to be mothers, grocery store shopping, suburban women.  At 25 we’ve started our vigilant moisturizing routines and have taken vows to never let ourselves go.  However, when we’re together, we become those other girls, with so much history that no new friends can quite compete with our pasts.  I’m a firm believer of “make new friends, but keep the old,” but the new friends just have a disadvantage.  They never drank cheap Mike’s Hard Lemonade with me.  They never jumped off tall rocks, rolled boys’ cars, travelled out of the country, or competed in front of crowds with me.  They didn’t ride in my old Ford Focus, come visit me at Chick Fila, or get ready at my house before games.  They don’t hold my past in their hands.  Only these old friends that I still love are in charge of my past.  No one can turn back time, which is why these women have a part of me, as I have a part of them.  We have no choice.  When we were growing up together, we grew together, unable to become separated. I could not feel more blessed than to be one of them, because I know real friendship that time itself created with threads so tightly woven that we can never be unraveled.  We know the place friendship is born, and what a fragile, sacred birth it is.

Torquemada’s Chair: The Conclusion

     So I did it…I now have two bleeding holes where those pesky wisdom teeth used to live.  It’s difficult to recognize my victory while I examine my cheeks through oxycodone goggles only to notice the resemblance to a chipmunk preparing for a brutal winter (take a moment to sketch this out…it’s amusing).  In the past 72 hours I’ve eaten soup, mashed potatoes, pudding, penicillin, and pain killers.  Why did I do this again??? Oh yes, because the oral surgeon, A.K.A Torquemada showed me death videos about how the bacteria beneath my wisdom teeth would surely come to kill me in my sleep, or maybe torture me through bone erosion or nerve damage.  In my mind the teeth became vicious psychopaths that lived in my mouth waiting until I least suspected to do something disfiguring to me, leaving me to look like the guy wearing the “Edgar Suit” from Men in Black.  No thank you, waiter….I’ll have the surgery with a side of bloody gauze ,please.

     I arrived at the office right on time, fully prepared with my big girl pants on.  I had already convinced myself I would not make a scene.  I left my white coat phobia in a closet at home not to disturb me…but he got out.  Once the nurse called me back and informed me my husband couldn’t come into the room with me, the level four meltdown commenced.  I gave footage of the space shuttle, Challenger, exploding a run for it’s money.  Everything in my stomach turned the wrong way, my breath frantically tried to push it’s way out of my lungs, and I found my head bobbing somewhere between my knees.  I almost passed out, and am pretty sure the nurses started forming a plan about how to take my shoe laces away.  It was BAD.  Torquemada even came in and tried to reassure me in the typical way doctors do, but I welcomed him with deaf ears.  I Helen Kellered his ass…went deaf, mute, and angry.  My poor husband looked like he would die of embarrassment before he could get away and would have been more than willing to cancel the appointment like the doctor eventually suggested after his coercive attempts failed.  However, my mother had none of it.  She gritted her teeth together and looked deeply into my eyes with a threatening stare.  Just like that, I was no longer 25, but 3 years old again, and about to be taken to the bathroom for beating after hiding in the clothes racks at the mall.    Somehow she convinced me I was being ridiculous and hysterical to the point I could probably be involuntarily committed.  There’s something to the persuasion of mothers, and we never stop needing them…needless to say, I agreed to at least get the gas and decide from there.

     So…nitrous oxide is my new favorite.  Once Torquemada started gassing me suddenly he wasn’t the infamous Spanish inquisitor at all, but Dr. Logan, my loving oral surgeon.  I told him and all the nurses I loved them before laughing as violently as I had cried.  I shared stories of my aspirations to be a writer, and complimented them all on their beautiful choices of scrubs.  They were my angels!  Even when Dr. Logan blew the vain in my hand on his second attempt at my I.V., I smiled and told him to poke me as many times as he liked.  I didn’t mind at all.  Once he did get th I.V. going, I asked if I was allowed to go to sleep, then I promise, immediately woke up in my car with a mouthful of bloody rags.  It was over.  I faced my fear!!!

     After everything, I’m glad I went through with it.  The teeth had to go, but it also made me face my primal fear.  I don’t think I’ll ever jump up and down over seeing the doctor, but maybe next time I can avoid an incident comparable to Hiroshima.  I did it…kicking and screaming…but I did it nevertheless! 

 

Dog Watching

I learn a lot by watching the behaviors of my two dogs, Scarlet O’Hara and Daisy Duke.  First of all, I must point out that who we really are as humans is very animalistic.   Everything they do, minus the canine “handshake” (for most of us), we are pretty much guilty of doing as well.  The only thing that separates us from them is that grey area inside us that scientists claim does not exist (divinity).  Anyway, I digress.  I’m simply fascinated by their individuality and how easily it is to compare them to the archetypes of man’s personalities.

I should have never chosen the name, Scarlet O’Hara, for my first-born pooch.  She’s dramatic, demanding, and fickle.  No matter how incessantly I call her, if she doesn’t want to come, she simply sticks her little black nose into the air and saunters off the other direction.  However if I fail to feed her or take her out according to her schedule she throws her silky onyx-colored head back in the most obnoxiously demonstrative manner before expelling that undeniable bark that beckons me every time.  I then respond by frantically running about the house after her elusive leash while I watch her prance in her most annoyed fashion back and forth in front of the door, praying I will make it before she has to call me down with another bark.  Forget letting her out leashless…I would then spend the rest of the afternoon chasing her in my car while she taunts me while running ahead of it. But, if I don’t catch her, instead of coming home, she will sit somewhere and cry until I find her.  Then she’s displeased with me…and again I get called down. It’s a similar feeling to getting my name on the board as a kindergartener.  I would hate to disappoint her.  She’s Scarlet O’Hara, and in her world I’m the freakin’ help.

Now that Daisy Duke….what to say about her….She’s vain, needy, and narcissistic.  No matter who comes to our house, she’s certain that they not only want to hold her, but that they want to cradle her like a baby and shower her with affectionate words.  She must sleep in between my husband and me with her head divided over our two pillows.  She uses her hound dog cry and long face to con us all into caring for her like a newborn.  If we do opt to put her in another room while company visits or accidentally take a trip to the toilet without letting her in, she will thank us by leaving us a homemade Daisy treat somewhere we are certain to find it.  Her favorite is when we step in it.  Oh…and she will only wear pretty collars with jewels and sparkles (I’m not making this up).  She takes the generic ones off and hides them under the bed.  She’s just so very high maintenance…

Despite their flaws, I couldn’t live without them.  Scarlet snuggles me every night, surrounding me with that comforting fur I cannot sleep without.  When she looks up over her slender face with those big black eyes, I melt.  She’s so smart, and I’m amazed by her everyday.  That’s probably why she can be defiant and mischievous.  She has the mental capacity to think on her own.  She’s the leader dog and she always sees to it that Daisy gets in safely from outside.  She loves us all and keeps watch.  She’s loyal and real…a best friend.

On top of being a whiny hound, Daisy is beyond loyal.  She loves as fiercely as she wants to be loved.  If I’m sick or upset she refuses to leave my side until the pain is gone.  She even licks Scarlet lovingly if she’s under the weather.  Daisy is everyone’s best friend.  I love her dearly.

People are so much this way.  Usually the flaws and strong suits are born from the same characteristics.  The bad is easier to see sometimes than the good, but if we try it’s almost always there.  We all have a little animal in there, but looking at nature…maybe that isn’t so bad.   We just have to laugh about what’s laughable, ignore what’s ignorable, like what’s likable, and only fix what’s fixable.  Like my crazy dogs, we just have to find our places, work what we naturally are to the uttermost, and be our true selves in all we do…but if we get out of line we can rest assured someone somewhere will be waiting close by with a newspaper.