For an explanation of the 30 Stories in 30 Days, start at Day 1.

Today I thought I’d go back to the beginning. The VERY beginning. It’s the story of the day I was born, which I love, because it seems like it was a difficult and ridiculous day for everyone involved. I obviously have no memory of it, but I’ve been told it went something like this:

Origin of the Me-cies

Sacramento, CA, 1972: My parents have recently moved across town to a new house. As far as I know, they don’t really know many people in Sacramento—they moved there when my Dad got some sort of construction job at the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant (home of “the third most serious safety-related occurrence in the United States!”).

My brother, Todd, is almost five and our cousin Bridgette (also five) is visiting, along with her mother and grandmother. Between my dad’s job and his as-yet-unchecked alcoholism, he’s keeping pretty busy, so his mother and sister have flown in from Texas to help take care of things whenever my mom goes into labor.

That was the plan, anyway. I am more than a week overdue (“Never too early to start being late for stuff!” –me) and my grandmother and aunt are getting impatient. They spend each day asking my mom “When is that kid gonna come?!” and entertaining two five-year-olds with trips to local attractions. My cousin tells me that she and my brother were promised a trip to Disneyland the day before I arrived, and that my being born ruined it. (“Never too early to start ruining stuff!” –also me)

Losing patience, my grandmother makes my mom drink a glass of Castor oil to induce labor (the seventies!). Late that same evening, her contractions begin. It’s after midnight. My dad is out drinking beer and playing poker somewhere and has our (only) car.  Wherever he is, he can’t be reached by phone. And he doesn’t have one of those “Daddy Beepers” because beepers don’t exist because they haven’t been invented yet because it isn’t the future. (Help us, TIME CAT!)

My mom knows that calling an ambulance will be too expensive, and apparently taxicabs won’t pick up a woman in labor, for insurance reasons. So, out of desperation, my mom calls her former neighbors from across town—a couple in their 50s that she barely knows. She wakes them up, explains her predicament and they rush over to take her and my aunt to the hospital. My grandmother stays home with the kids and waits for my Dad (her son), with whom she (and everyone) is now furious. I mean, have you ever had to call a casual acquaintance in the middle of the night to ask for a hugely inconvenient favor because you are out of options? I can imagine my mom spent every non-contraction moment feeling either mortified or livid or both.

WHAT A JOYOUS DAY TO BE BORN!

Hours later, my Dad arrives home. My grandmother hears him come in, and doesn’t confront him right away. She is waiting for him to realize that my mom is missing (in the middle of the night), panic, and come to her, looking for answers.

Instead, he passes out in the bed, completely unaware that anything is out of the ordinary. My grandmother waits a few minutes, then bursts into his bedroom and yells, “JUST WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOUR WIFE IS?” To which my dad replies, “Guh?” and then slowly gets it together and leaves for the hospital.

For the next 30-some-odd hours, my mom is in labor, and after a day and a half she is craving sleep, food and cigarettes (the seventies!), which she is not allowed to have. When my dad, grandmother and aunt are not busy eating and smoking in front of her, they complain about how long this birth is taking. If my mother hadn’t been exhausted, in constant pain and living on nothing but ice chips, she might have punched all of them in their smoking, eating faces. Instead, she kept quiet and carried on forcing a human being out of her vagina.

THE MOST SPECIAL DAY, AM I RIGHT?

Finally, I am born, and I am pretty awesome (so I’m told). I am named after the daughter of one of my Dad’s Navy buddies. My Dad just liked the name Darci, and he won the coin toss that determined which of my parents got to choose the name. A quarter landing on “heads” instead of “tails” is the only reason you aren’t currently reading the story of the day Chrissy Ratliff was born.

Almost four decades later, my cousin and my brother have still never been to Disneyland. You know who has been to Disneyland? Me. (YA BURNT!)

Dear Dust

Lately I have developed such an incredible attraction for Katy Perry. Even though I hate her voice and her songs are uniformly awful, I still buy her cds and watch her on the net endlessly. If it were twenty years ago, I’d have a lunchbox with her picture on it and a poster on the wall. Is this wrong? Am I a bad person? I used to make fun of people like me, and now I am one.

help!

Fanboy

December 7
night time
dark as dark can be

37,000 feet up in the sky
565 miles per hour

past Amsterdam
past Dresden
Ankara
Bucharest

Dinner clatters
in the carts
on tiny trays

Victor sleeps
with a blanket over his head

Kirkuk
Basra

Minus 68 degrees
570 miles per hour

No lights
along the border
between
Iran and
Iraq

At the bathroom
I give four Tums
to a woman looking frail
who has a stomach ache

turn at Amman

December 8

Victor sleeps

Kuwait
Bandar Abas

Minus 70.6 degrees

Bahrain
Tabriz

A young girl
on the plane
is remarkably
beautiful

I wish I could
paint her

Teheran

Cabin attendants pass out
water and juice

Victor sleeps

Baghdad
Isfahan
Mosul
Kirkuk

Woman in white silk burqa
prays in the back of the plane
by the bathroom,
shoes at her side
up and down
up and down
up and down

Minus 70.6 degrees Fahrenheit
559 miles per hour

Dubai

My birthday in the sky


40

By Peter Schwartz

Letters



There’s no greater monster than the amnesia we feed into from our nightly perches.   I’ve forgotten more in forty years than you’ll remember in your whole life.   Apologies won’t help so I’ll just give you one quick piece of advice then be done.  You’re your own children and have the choice to stay young or grow up which will effectively kill them.  Be whatever you can live with then never look back.  That’s all.

Sorry, as usual, there’s more.  Numbness must be the most common state in the world, and yet, if you show people this, if you make no effort to hide your lack of feelings, I can almost guarantee you will have problems.  If 99 people out of a 100 pretend something, that 1 person who doesn’t ruins the whole charade. That person will be attacked until he or she pretends, or worse.  So go ahead, live on Mars, but make sure you make regular Earthly appearances.  And smile, but only a little bit, and never, under any circumstances, show them all of your teeth.

Don’t try to be clean in this life.  You’ll only disappoint and frustrate yourself and those around you.   I hardly know anything about happiness but if I imagine the happiest person on earth, it’s a woman with period blood smeared on her face, shooting hollow points at the police.  Or a young boy who has no idea it is not normal to eat egg noodles with margarine 5 times a week.   I tried to hide everything from you and I believe you hate me for that but I also believe that it is easier to hate a single person than the whole world, so, that is my gift to you.  Either way, happy birthday.

As you grow older, you may become shocked at how expensive everything is.  Fresh fruits and vegetables cost what meat once did.  And if you want either without pesticides or growth hormones, forget about it. Yeah, poisons are so common they don’t even call them poisons anymore.  And sorry, but this is just the beginning.  Emotionally, things can really get expensive.  If I smile at a toddler in the supermarket, more often than not his or her parents will give me a dirty look like I’m going to molest him or her right there near the canned beats.  Ridiculous, but if trust were sold by the pound it would cost somewhere in the thousands or even millions.  And the price for trying to love someone?  Well, you see what happened with us.

Okay, I just read these last two parts over again and realize they totally contradict each other which might confuse you.  I’d mention something about my intentions being good but I think we’re way beyond that.   So, I’ll use this to illustrate my last point.  Never be afraid to contradict yourself.  If you say one thing and then another, it doesn’t necessarily make you a liar because that’s just the nature of language.  It plays tricks.  It’s better to be big, to be a billion zillion things that nobody can piece together or make sense of than to be small and probably still misunderstood in the end.  That’s exactly where I went wrong with you.   I tried to shrink myself into something you could understand because I didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed like I always have, both as a child and as an adult.   I wanted your world to be something that could sit on your dresser, that you could stare at like a simple pet as you brushed your hair, or turn away from as you read a book.  It can’t be though.  Sorry, but the price of that kind of calm is dying inside.  Happiness is a giant monster that must be hunted.  There is no escaping the wilderness.


Love,

You-know-who.


I’ve given up dating.

Well, kind of. I’ve stopped dating. Not forever…I think. Just for a short while, just until the most recent gaping wound heals over and I can finally figure out what I want.

It’s a question of long term vs. short term. Should be easy, right?

Wrong.

So far, it’s the hardest thing I’ve done in recent years, this introspective cave I’ve entered. It’s a self-imposed retreat from the dating world for the next six months. I’m supposed to sit down and occasionally drink a beer (or something harder) and figure out what I want from the next relationship I find myself in (or not in, as the case might be).

I suppose that if it was easy, everyone would do it. We’d all take a six month break between relationships and re-evaluate the states of our lives. If it was really and truly easy, the people who have it all figured out already would be there, waiting for us, ready to dole out great pieces of advice and cupcakes so it would all seem a little less painful.

There have been no great pieces of advice as of yet.

Nor have there been cupcakes.

(I’m far more upset about the cupcakes, which may speak to the level of committment I’ve made to this self-improvement project.)

The lack of cupcakes and advice aside, it’s the questions that I’m struggling with right now, the questions about what I want for my future self.

Do I want marriage and children and a white picket fence?

Do I want the comfort and stability of a marriage without the hassle of a wedding?

Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone, drifting from one man to the next in pursuit of some happiness I’m not even sure I understand?

These are the questions I hope to answer in six months, these and others. The goal is to be a little more put together by Thanksgiving, to have a better understanding of my place in this world and what it means to be a single woman approaching 30.

(The first person to make an old maid crack, gets it.)

I have a feeling there’s a storm of epic proportions waiting for me down the road, sitting idle in the weeks approaching my birthday in August. Hurricane Deal-With-Your-Shit-And-Move-On could be a category 4 if 29 doesn’t go as well as I hope.

My father has this way of saying something without actually saying it. It’s about facial expressions, the way his glasses will slip down his nose. When either my brother or I would complain about the difficulty of a situation, the expression on his face would change.

His jaw would set and his chin would jut out.

His glasses – big glasses that cover his eyes and the top halves of his cheeks – would slip down ever so slightly.

And his mouth would quirk in this strange half smile that was too soft to be a smirk but too sarcastic to be loving.

It was an expression that said volumes. It said that if it was supposed to be easy, it wouldn’t be hard (there was always an implied ‘dumbass’ in that expression, typically reserved for our particularly whiny moments).

Sometimes you have to work hard for the easy answers. I’ll guess we’ll just have to see if he’s right.

I was a block of ore until I was poured
into the mold of my mother. I am iron cast and cold.
I inhale and the oxygen makes me rust.

I am seventeen years old.  I tell unimportant lies
about myself because it makes me feel guilty,
and guilt makes the days last longer.
I am afraid of dying.  I am seventeen and my girlfriend used to be
a prostitute, but I am seventeen and I don’t care,
I love her and how she is a cup that holds me.
She has hair that fills my hands like a fountain
of root beer and laughs
when I tell her I love her.

I am eighteen and the surface of my mother cracks.
The flood of beer that pours from her shattered mouth washes me
into the street, and it makes me rust more.
I am homeless and a prostitute wears me around her neck
like a knife on a chain;  I shelter between her breasts.
It is all i know of warmth.

Nineteen and she has eyes made of honey.
They stick to me.  Our apartment is an anthill.
I am nineteen and my muscles march under my skin.
I pour kerosene into my hollow guts.
I tell myself that I will be a candle,
or a lamp, but I keep starting fires
when my cup overflows.

I am twenty years old.
I am only full of rust and when the flood in me moves
it is not breathing, it is my sewerpipe bones
telling lies to make the day longer.  I am twenty years old.
I love her and we carry the same secret home at night.
I know she still fucks for money.
I am leaving her because she looks at me
with my mother’s eyes.  The guilt sticks to my pipes.
I wash it down with gasoline, I am slick with gasoline,
I am burning down our house with my mouth.

BOULDER, CO-

The priest who guided me through catechism, old wotshisname with kebab skewer eyes, liked to remind me that since I was born immediately after all the saints had scoured the earth of Satan’s minions, I had a special duty to be a vessel of purity for the sake of All Souls my every birthday.  Right.  If you shake young Catholics they tumble into two bins.  One for those who ask questions, and one for those who don’t.  I was definitely in the former category, which ensured a pretty short expiry date on the grace of my soul.  I remember wondering “whose crazy idea was it to put me in charge of the whitewash kingdom on my birthday?”  As long as I can remember, what I’ve wanted most for my birthday has been serenity.  Serenity and purity sure as hell don’t go together.  At least not in the Catholic conception of purity.

Mum

By Zoe Brock

Memoir

The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was the gift of knowing I was loved.
In a cruel and often scary world this one fact gives me peace.

Perhaps I am biased, but I think my mama is beautiful, even in a plastic garbage bag.

Bb_old_enough_to_kn13747b

My family was not dysfunctional in the most literal sense of the word, but we were never “normal” either. Instead we were an artistic, eccentric lot. My mother was glamorous and beautiful, and my father was… an interesting and rebellious cat. I used to dream of a mother who stayed home and baked scones instead of being in the pages of magazines, and a father who did just about anything rather than wear pigtails and glitter nail polish.

Zb_wb_7_yrs

But they are what I got, and I am grateful for them.

Parents.

Such funny creatures.

There was a time when they must have been happy, for they were together seven years before I was born.

Brigidwarwick

In those early days they looked wonderful together.

But times change, and so do we.

By the time I came along things were different.

There was divorce, physical separation, financial worries and solutions, arguments between adults, forced smiles, dashed dreams, survival and the ever present over-imaginative childish fears of sinister Bogeymen such as “The Goat Man”, a skull headed, cloven-footed half-man who roamed the hills behind my house eating the heads of little children who stayed out after dark; a ghoul known only to me as “Ronald Reagan” and his nuclear-face-melting-button-of-destruction;”The Terrible Terrifying Toilet Monster“, a creature so sinister and stealthy that I was forced to come up with something I refer to as “the flush and run” (I suppose it was less a “run” than a sprint for dear life, but that’s just nitpicking).

Oh the horrors.

In my fantastical and often fearsome world there was one absolute constant, the love of my mum.

There was never a morning before I turned five and went off to school that I didn’t wake up to a special note left beside my bed, in cryptic code or abstract silliness, a poem, a song, a scribble. Small expressions of love and humor and creativity that doubled as a bribe to keep myself occupied and allow her an extra hour or two of precious sleep.

There was never a birthday party thrown that wasn’t ludicrous, over the top, mad and explosive.

Miss_patriotic

Yet somehow, sometimes, I doubted being loved.

When I was very little I frequently ran away to the cherry tree at the bottom of the driveway. I packed a tiny suitcase and filled it with essentials.

1zb_21_months

Inside the case went Owlie, some clean undies and a book, which I would march down the pathway with curious focus and hoist up into the gnarled, misshapen tree, where I would perch my strange, stubborn self and eat it’s cherries, pouting, acting all the while like a miniature diva in purple overalls and red rubber boots. After a few hours I would stomp back to the house and demand to know if the reason why my mum hadn’t called the police was because she didn’t love me. My mother would suppress a smile and very seriously tell me that she was about to call the police but that she had seen me in the tree and figured I was just playing.

Ah, the wicked, weird and wily ways of an only child.

And still, there was never a time when my mama traveled, and she traveled often,
that I did not receive a postcard, letter or parcel on every day that
she was gone, including the day she left and those shortly thereafter.

For years I thought postboxes were magical things for which rational scientific theories did not apply – if a human put a postcard in a mailbox in Tokyo it simply popped out five minutes later in Christchurch, New Zealand. Easy. Did my mother know how to circumvent time and space? Was her mailbox the Tardis? Of course not. She simply mailed her missives before she left so that I would never imagine that I wasn’t being thought of or missed.

When I think of the care and love that went into that sort of planning I cry.

I cry because I am lucky. I cry because I wish that every child could feel so special. I cry because I took it for granted. I cry because for many years I showed my mother a sub-par love. I cry because I think I have made her unhappy and pushed her away. I cry because my mother deserves the world. I cry because today is her birthday and I cannot wrap my arms around her. I cry because I inherited her damn emo gene and it makes me fucking cry at everything. Even this, although perhaps in this case the tears are a bit different. I cry because I wish I was little again and that we could do it all over and I could really appreciate how beautiful my childhood was, while it was happening, and how very much I was loved.

Zb_7_mths

I cry because I’m not sure if my mother knows how grateful I am for all the ways she has saved me, adored me and inspired me, in my childhood and as a woman.

Perhaps this little blog will help her understand.

Thank you mama. I love you.

Bb_18_yrs

Happy Birthday.