The Way Things Are

Ugh.

I am just going to say it.

 

It sucks that this is the way it is.

It sucks something fierce that this is where we are.

It really does.

 

It is like when you realize there is no magic in the world

      like when you realize that your heroes have failed you

      like when you see someone’s true colors and those colors disappoint

 

Rough, huh?

Home

I have been here my entire life,

but,

I don’t feel at home here anymore.

 

I see things differently now,

as if the picture has been finally and fully revealed,

but,

I don’t feel at home here anymore.

 

Yet, I think the thing that hurts the most,

that strikes at the very core of who I am

is that you don’t seem to see

that

I don’t feel at home here anymore.

 

Or,

if you do see,

it doesn’t seem to matter.   

The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain, Part 2: Here’s Looking at You, Apple Maps

Perhaps, I can blame my GPS.

I am looking at you, Apple Maps.

But, something felt off as I made my way to Pike’s Peak.

The exit Siri led me down was all kinds of, well, residential roads. I kept waiting to see the sign that screamed “Pike’s Peak This Way” with a large white arrow pointing the way. Alas, no such sign existed.

After meandering through neighborhoods, I eventually found a highway that looked liked it could lead to a famous mountain.

I began passing signs for The Garden of the Gods, a cave of winds, cliff dwellings, and other possible Coloradoan tourist traps. Unfortunately, when I approached the road to turn and begin heading up in elevation, the lane used to turn was blocked off with caution cones and a police car.

That should have been my first read flag.

Yet, I only came to the conclusion of, “huh, this is odd” and continued down the highway, as Siri demanded I make a u-turn and headed back to the base of the mountain road.

With so much traffic around every touristy spot in Colorado, from the Denver Aquarium to Rocky Mountain National Park, I should have noted a second red flag when the road up to the Pike’s Peak park entrance was completely empty. Even the odd 1950s-esque North Pole mountainside amusement park seemed vacant. Yet, I was too concerned with my phone not wanting to charge (I was beginning to fear it was not a problem with the charger) and filled with excitement to head up the mountain that I put little stock in these observations.

As I approached the entrance to the park on this particular early Sunday afternoon, there was only one car in front of me. But more alarming was that above the three lanes into the park, a red neon X shown brightly.

Blerg.

I drove up to the park ranger and listened as he informed me that I unfortunately had chosen the one day out of the year that the mountain was closed.

Some kinds of well-known mountain scramble event, which was unknown to me, clearly.

I tried to hide my disappointment, as he thanked me for understanding, and I turned around to drive away from the closed entrance.

I don’t know why it meant so much to me to drive to the top of the mountain. I just felt like I needed to. I felt a drive to do this thing that I had done as a child, and since so much has happened since then, I wanted a redo. I wanted a redo of that drive. That drive with my ten-ish year old self sitting in the back of a white van, surrounded by swirls of clouds as we climbed. A ten-ish year old self who could not possibly understand the journey ahead. A journey filled with heartache and loneliness and acceptance and denial and disappointment.

Look, I know I was putting too much importance into this summiting, but I couldn’t help it. It’s not like I am going to redo all of those meaningful life experiences I had before coming to terms with my identity. For starters, I can no longer fit into some of my amazing hide and seek spots.

But, this one, this one felt necessary.

Perhaps, because it was in Colorado Springs, where I was born.

Perhaps, because parts of the trip stands out so vividly. Like, waiting to get the all clear before we head up. Like, my brother slamming back cups of coffee like there was no tomorrow. Like, seeing the edge of the road while surrounded by clouds, feeling like we would roll off at any minute.

Perhaps, because every chance I have to enjoy nature feels like a middle finger to the 45th president’s administration.

Perhaps, I don’t need a reason. I just felt a drive to do it.

Yet, this would not be happening.

As I headed back into Colorado Springs, I saw a sign for The Garden of the Gods and took the exit. This wasn’t what I had planned to do, but it would suffice.

The Vagina Rocket Attempts to Summit a Mountain, Part 1: Nomenclature Backstory

I have only ever named two of my four cars.

Although, that is not entirely true because I believe my first car was named by its previous owner. So, my ‘99 silver Saturn 3-door coupe maintained the name, the Silver Fox.

I loved that car.

And, it is not just because it was the first car I ever made out in, although that definitely doesn’t hurt. And, contrary to the belief of one, I also paid for a third of it when I turned 16, which equated to a lot of lawn mowing and stacks and stacks of dishes washed at my grandparents’ diner.

So, there was a bit of blood, sweat, and tears with that car. Although those three attributes could all be applied to lawn mowing or waiting tables, alas, they do not.

It was fun to drive.

It was a stick shift, low to the ground, with a CD player to blare all the cool hits from bands like Blue October, Green Day, and, of course, The Barenaked Ladies. Emphasis on the cool hipness of The Barenaked Ladies, those Canadians really know how to jam.

Aside from my current vehicle, my previous vehicles consisted of a ‘05 silver Ford Escape, another family legacy vehicle, and a ‘15 slate gray Honda CR-V, which I have written about its ghosts before. Yet, neither these cars earned a name, for various reasons. Still, it wasn’t until I stuck my ichthys/rocket decal onto the back on my Honda Fit that she became known as the Vagina Rocket.

Now, unlike the nomenclature, the Silver Fox, who I assumed earned her name because she was low to the ground and sleek, like a fox. Also, silver. But, hey, I cannot say for sure of the why behind the nickname, because I am 99.9, er, at least 77.7% sure my stepmom dubbed the sportscar the Silver Fox.

Yet, with a name like the Vagina Rocket, I feel that some explanation is required.

Ever since I first saw a chrome-looking ichthys on the back of someone’s car sprouting two legs with the name “Darwin” in the center, I knew I had to have one. Yet, before I ordered my own, I felt the need to do a bit of research. I wanted my decal to truly be a parody of the so-called Jesus fish. I wanted to make sure that the symbol had no other hidden or obscure meaning. Also, I had to make sure the “Darwin” look was right for me. There were all kinds of various parodies on Amazon, from a rocket to a Flying Spaghetti Monster to Lovecraftian inspirations.

In various Christian publications, there were vague hints to an ungodly pagan origin to the ichthys, but if you will pardon the pun, these publications always seemed to beat around the bush. Yet with further browsing into articles, I was happy to discover that the symbol has ties to a sea goddess, Aphrodite, and Egyptian mythology.

As far back as 6000 BCE, the symbol is found, and it has specific links to fertility, female sexuality, and the natural force of women. Learning this, there was only one decal option and one name option for me. Hence, the Vagina Rocket, because, duh. A name like that uses its tiny hands to trump all other names.

One last, quick, tangent before we get to the mountain summiting.

A person can only learn so much history before realizing that Christian mythology plagiarizes worse than one of my former 8th grade students who turned in his essay that began with “As a young mother of two . . .” The ichthys is only a small blip in the plagiarism allegations.

Don’t get me started me on Jesus or Noah’s ark or Christmas or Easter . . . Let’s just say if Christian Mythology had been one of my students, there would have been many a phone call home to discuss blatant plagiarism, not to mention bullying, sexual assault, misogyny, and that is just the icing on the plagiarism cake . . . yikes, there is some dark and depraved shenanigans in the so called, “good book”.

So, alas, we arrive at the Vagina Rocket’s first attempt to summit Pike’s Peak.

Spoilers: it wasn’t a success.

Not a disaster by any means, just not a success.

 

P.S. – It brings me a small nugget of joy, when I do go back to Oklahoma, to see so many drivers unknowingly showing their support for “the natural force of women”, especially considering this state tried to legislate the dehumanization of women by legally recognizing them as “host” for the unborn.

To Survive

We all do things.

 

Things we have to

in order to survive

in the moment.

 

Sometimes,

it ain’t pretty,

but

we do them

in order to survive.

 

Things that may be forgiven,

Or things forever etched in memory.

Memory Isn’t Dead, Chapter 5: Traffic

On the road, you can be moving along at a quick pace, say seventy-five miles per hour only to suddenly come to a slow standstill.

A standstill of five minutes that becomes ten that becomes fifteen that suddenly picks up again. It’s as if nothing happened. A path becomes clear. A dispersal of vehicles suddenly projecting forward to their destinations.

Only to come to a slow standstill five minutes later or an hour later or several hours. The pattern repeats endless until the destination is reached.

*          *          *          *          *

Another standstill.

In Pueblo, Colorado, the line of cars stretches endlessly before and behind me. At a snail’s pace, I creep forward in the line of cars.

Construction zone.

Time creeps forward as boredom sets in and exponentially grows.

Eventually, I approach the overpass, concrete barriers on either side create two stagnant lines of traffic. One northbound. One southbound.

And, northbound, there is no movement. My car sits unmoving as the southbound cars sporadically pass by, heading to their destinations.

Nothing moves northbound.

Time creeps forward.

Ahead of me, people begin to exit their cars and walk along the road between the cement barriers and the stopped vehicles.

Enough is enough.

I pull over to the shoulder of the road and maneuver around the caution cones. Approaching the exit ramp from the highway, I finally see the cause of my northward delay. An RV has stalled on the under-construction-bridge. Because of the concrete barriers, no one can move.

After exiting and returning to the highway beyond the stopped RV, I continue north, on a nearly empty highway, with miles of stopped cars behind me.

*          *          *          *          *

This is the second Jesus sign I’ve noticed. I don’t remember the words of the last one, but for some reason this sign sticks with me. It reads in large black and bold letters, “Truth, Jesus is the only way”.  

My first thought is not about how ridiculous the sign is. Truth, I muse. Is a story still true if it pulls from the mythologies of the countless religions that come before it?

Unlikely is an understatement. 

Rather, what’s true is that the story of the sign’s messiah is a piecemealed history of countless gods and demigods.

Ah, the power of basic research.

No, my first thought was of the number below the bolded message. Below the message is a number to call for more information.

Yet, that number contains more than ten numbers for a curious person to call.

How’s that supposed to work?  

*          *          *          *          *

Climbing inclines and coasting down valleys, a line of tan army vehicles passes me by, only to be passed by me as I climb the next hill in Colorado Springs.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe. A black cloud drifting into the clear, crisp air.

These are machines of death, machines of war.

I don’t know what they are called, nor do I necessarily want to know. But, I can tell where it’s weapon will sit, on the top of the cab, overlooking the terrain. I have seen enough of these vehicles in movies and shows to know how they operate, to know what they do.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe. A black cloud drifting into the clear, crisp air.

These are machines of death, machines of war.

How many people see these and feel pride?

Why?

I simply feel disgusted.

Jet black smoke plumes from the exhaust tailpipe.

*          *          *          *          *

Through mountain towns filled with ghosts of another life, I drive through Estes Park to arrive at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Settling in at the campsite with friends, the self-proclaimed Women of the Wild, the flames of the campfire rise up to the star-filled sky. Sounds of nature echo through the mountains, meshing with our statements of feminism, hope, change, and the rise of deceits and fears that led to the Brexits and Trumps of the world.

Memory Isn’t Dead, Chapter 4: Mountains

The farther I pull away from Albuquerque, the more the terrain becomes mountainous. In the distance, mountain peaks appear as hazy blue mounds.

They seem so small, these blue mounds. Yet, with their white snow-capped peaks, they must be of an incredible size.

Towering and imposing the closer you are, but for now, they seem almost painted in the background of the New Mexican landscape.

The road continues north, and the tales of New Crobuzon ramble from my car’s speakers. The road continues.

*          *          *          *          *

Coming to the border of Colorado, the hazy blue mounds sharpen into focus. The blues of the mountains reveal dark green forests hugging the sides of the mountains. From the dark green sides, grey peaks erupt above the tree line.

Within the grey rocky peaks, veins of snow trickle down to the tree line. Like white blood vessels or snowy capillaries, it seems almost impossible that in the ninety-five degree heat, water remains frozen, so near and, yet, so far away.

*          *          *          *          *

I’ve taken this route before, nearly a year ago. But, this time the road, a four lane highway shifts. Two northbound lanes of traffic become one. The one shifts onto the southbound highway.

It wasn’t like this before. It was an easy six hour drive the last time I drove to Denver. Yet, now, the road slows, crawls forward.

The views are simply breathtaking and beautiful, and at a slower pace, I can revel in the natural beauty of the mountainous terrain.

The crawl of traffic begins to pick up, and I finally see the reason for the crawl. Covering the northbound lanes of the highway are large white and tan boulders covering the road. Chunks of rocks with jagged edges block any passage through the northbound lanes.

After another mile or so, the flow of traffic returns to normal. Two northbound lanes flow at a rapid pace.

The road continues.

*          *          *          *          *

A lone windmill stands in a seemingly endless field. And, I remember the windmill on my grandparents’ old homestead. Near their lung-shaped pond, their silver windmill stood pumping well water into a stock tank, which would allow the grazing cattle to drink and when filled, would overflow into the catfish pond.

My brother and I spent weekends and summer days at the fishing hole. Casting out hope for a large bass or a catfish dinner.

As I watch the windmill to the east turn, I remember when, upon walking out to the pond one day, finding the metal basin riddled with bullet holes. While problematic for the cattle, our immediate concern was for the critters that we had plopped into the tank the day before.

We had spent our previous afternoon catching small bluegills, tadpoles, and infant turtles to watch them swim in the clear well water, freshly pumped into the basin. Fearing for the lives of our captives, we managed to grab all the small aquatic creatures and throw them back into the flooded pond before the stock tank drained.

I try, as my car continues northward, to remember what my grandfather was doing as my brother and I saved the young aquatic lives. I try to remember why the stock tank had been shot with holes. I feel like there was a story to it, but it seems like ages ago. I simply can’t remember.

*          *          *          *          *

A black Dodge Ram passes me, and I notice its decor and affiliations. A Kansas City Chiefs decal decorates the rear of the driver side and passenger side windows. And where a trailer hitch should be, a Confederate flag gleams.

I imagine the driver of this pickup proudly voted for the 45th president.

And, I am sure the individual driving would greatly disapprove of the vagina rocket attached to my vehicle, if they understood the symbolism behind it.

I am sure the driver finds no issues with exploiting Native American culture with the Chiefs decals. Yet, at least, they aren’t Redskins stickers, a mascot term that even Oklahoma has banned at its higher institutions of learning.

The Confederate flag scream white supremacist at me. As cities and towns across the south finally remove statues of Confederate leaders, this Dodge Ram owner celebrates an attempt at a country whose goal was to maintain the enslavement of an entire race of people. As the rest of the world began to denounce slavery and move beyond it, the Confederacy held firm, justifying their morally righteous views with their faith and the Bible.

Echoes from the past, haunt today.

Mountains slowly begin to come into a hazy blue focus again.

And, the road continues.

Disappointment

Look, I need a break.

And, I could go with the whole,

“It’s not me. It’s you” routine, but

I won’t.

Really.

Because, well, the truth is,

It is you.

 

It is you because I am tired of pretending that everything is okay,

Like everything is normal.

It’s not normal, and

Things aren’t okay.

 

I am okay,

No, really.

I am.

 

But, what I mean is,

I am not okay with

Us,

Specifically, you.

 

I am tired of being disappointed in you,

In you as a person.

And, I am continually reminded of this disappointment

Every time we talk,

Every time we see each other,

Without fail.

 

It is exhausting.

 

And just for clarification,

In case you are a bit lost,

I am disappointed because of this,

You and your actions have shown

That you are not with me, and

You don’t really have my back.

And, of all people, you were supposed to be there,

To catch me if I fall.

But, you aren’t there,

And now,

 

See,

Now,

I am beginning to wonder,

If you were ever really there at all.

 

Hence, the disappointment.

Flashback to Sunshine School

Although it happened years ago, I still remember the sheer panic I felt as preschoolers darted through the manmade cave at the zoo near where I grew up. In my memory, the tunnels were black as pitch as the younglings darted through like pro spelunkers as I tried to keep up with them. I remember nothing else from the field trip. I don’t remember driving there. I don’t remember other exhibits. I only remember the panicked feeling that swelled through me, knowing that these preschoolers would be lost forever, never to be found.

I was in second grade.

And, of course, all of the preschoolers made it safely back home, but I still cannot help but remember this trip I made with my mom’s Sunshine School class.

Everything else about that trip and why I was there is hazy. Second grade feels like an almost alien time for me at this point in my life.

But, if I remember correctly, I believe I had some kind of strange skin rash that prevented me from attending 2nd grade for a few days. The rash wasn’t a big deal except that my 2nd grade teacher was pregnant, and it could be contagious for the unborn baby . . . wait . . . that doesn’t sound right. Perhaps, it was my first grade year that this field trip occurred, and I . . .

This is why I should have taken my tiny elementary hands and journaled all of these details then. Over two decades later, it is hard to remember the finer details.

Now, years later and in another state, I consider all of this as I step onto a bus full of sixty kindergarteners, eager for their own zoo trip.

The bus rumbles to life, the last to leave the school. The kinders shift from chanting the nearby college mantra to singing “We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo”.

I smile. I will miss working with elementary students next year.

With shifts to my assignments at work, I will only be working with secondary classrooms, which is definitely where I prefer working, but I will miss the tiny humans.

I will miss trying to coax a child out from under a computer table. I will miss trying to decipher the random letters a student writes, as they beam with pride over their well-plotted story. I will miss their eagerness to learn and their thirst for knowledge.

I will miss stories of crayon protest and sleepy pigeons and greedy mice. But most of all, I will miss their wonder for knowledge and imagination.

As the bus pulls up to the zoo, I know I am being overdramatic. My office will be in the same spot next year, and I can always pop into an elementary classroom at anytime. And, chances are, I will continue to have lunch duty with the elementary students.

Yet, it will still be different.

Things always change.

What matters most is how we respond and continue making our way through the world.