Saturday, April 26, 2014

Day 6 (A Series of Anonymous Stories-Part I)

I met her three years ago at a youth group outreach camp. We would exchange glances and turn away quickly over the next 3 days during lunch in the mess hall. She was the prettiest girl who had ever shown me any attention. I'm not really and attractive guy, so my options weren't exactly overwhelming. She sat down next to me...the exact action I was trying to muster the nerve to do myself. Of course she beat me to it. Everyone always beats me to it, but I'm not complaining. It does save a lot of work and nerve. She sits down and introduces herself as "Robert Mitchell," and shoves out her hand. What do I make of that? I laugh and asked her what her name really is. She says it really is Bobby. She was named after her grandfather who was a "hobo by choice," she said.

I was shy. I kept my head down and would occasionally peak up with just my eyes, not my head, and glance back down as fast as I could. Bobby talked so much that it made it easy to spend time with her over the next three days. She talked and talked about everything from the Muppets to Kimmy Gibbler's strange look. I would play with my hands and listen to at least half of what she had said. She never said anything serious. She loved to talk about trivial things and backed off of any questions about her family or life back home. She would always look away from me while at the same time changing the subject.

On the last day of our camp, I decided to make a move. I loved her like any other 16 year old loves the first girl to give them a moment of attention...except this was real. No one had ever really loved me. I guess that's what drew me to God in the first place. God promises love and nothing more. Except eternal life, but my fear of death puts that topic in the love category.

My mother was a welder at a steel mill and my father a "methamphetamine addicted homeless person living on the outskirts of Guantanamo Bay"...says my mother. Really, I had never heard my father's voice save for this one night he called and I answered the phone. He said, "Oh, hey kid. I mean Hey little buddy, tell me somethin funny." I said "Ficus."This was the funniest word I had ever learned so I said it. My father gave a long pause, then asked to speak to my mother. She shouted for a few minutes, then slammed the phone down. She told me immediately that my father would never call again. Three years later, my mother died in a steel mill explosion. All I could think about after she died was his voice. I didn't even know I was speaking to my father until he was gone forever. I went to live with my aunt Sue across the country in Montana. She introduced me to the youth group at her church and the kids were pretty nice, so I stuck around a while and got pretty involved in God stuff. I started reading a Bible and praying, I mean really praying. I had always kinda prayed, but mostly just said the most intelligent words I knew to express my reverent hope that my life would go really well for me. Now I was just talking to God. Something was happening inside of me and I loved every moment of the journey to know who God was, and even a little more insight into who I was.

We sat there on a tree stump on day 6. I looked her in her brown eyes and held my hands together to keep her from noticing that they were trembling. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and opened my mouth. It was then I became a man. I told her I loved her. I had never told anyone those words since my mother died. I hadn't felt it since my mother died. I told her I loved the terrible stomach ache I got when she was around and that she talked so much and that I didn't have to work very hard to be around her. She smiled at me like the sun smiles on the grass, melting the morning dew. She reached over and grabbed my face and pulled it to hers. She kissed me. She squeezed my hand and stood up in the middle of the woods before God and the rabbits and said, "We  felt safe and secure, watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate." She walked away from me and into a place where real people cannot go. This place where normal, average people can only watch from afar. She wasn't human, she was the idea of something divine. She kissed me, at last on our last day of camp. She would return to school 100 miles from mine, and I would write her letters that would go unanswered.

The next year I came back to camp as a counselor. I came back only for the chance that I may see her. She didn't show. I was broken because of it. I asked around and no one knew who I was talking about. The only really problem facing me was that I had never known her last name. She was just "Bobby," the girl.

Two years later, I was in high school. I hadn't changed much, except for my voice and my height. I had agreed to go to a party with one of my friends from my Bible study because he really liked this girl that was going. He was nervous like me, so I agreed to go with him. We stepped through the doors and my stomach dropped as my eyes met the eyes of this girl that already had my deepest sorrows buried inside of her. She was still so beautiful, but something was off about her eyes. I went right to her. I had dreamed of seeing her again everyday. I had always pretended she was secretly watching my life like I was in some movie or something. I had to be a man again. I went to her and thrust out my hand and said, "Hi, I'm Robert Mitchell." She looked at me with tears...literal tears and embraced me like the wife of a POW would upon reunion with her husband. She would not let go of my neck and said nothing. I felt her sobbing on my shoulder, so I awkwardly rubbed her back. When we let go, things were like they were on day six. We talked about trivial things and looked at each other as if the night would not die: The sun would never come up. She was drinking. I hadn't tasted much alcohol and hated what I had tasted. She kept giving me more and slamming down three to every one I finished. Soon we were both struggling to say complete sentences.

As badly as I wanted to keep this night alive, I could not. My body began to win and sent me into a deep sleep while she was talking and talking and talking.

I woke up and she was gone. There were people laying all over the house, but she was gone. I looked all over for a phone number, but found nothing. I asked everyone in the house if they knew her and no one did. Bobby was an enigma. She haunted every movement my body could muster for the next several months until I gave up. I could not reconcile her hurt to my God. So I turned from God. No loving God could leave me or her like this. No God would separate two people so in love, so I walked away from Him. I would never see her again. I would never forget her.

"We  felt safe and secure, watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate"- Rainier Maria Rilke

Photo by intao


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I have always had a thing for clowns. They are both idiotically happy and so awfully sad. My mother had a thing for them too, I think for the same reasons. She collected Emmett Kelly figurines that lined a large glass stand in the corner of the living room. I didn't understand why she liked them so much until I realized I had been in childhood ignorance until my late teens. One day I woke up and realized I was a clown. I learned how to hide everything.

A few years later I was in a bad place. I was profoundly lost and had given up. I started to paint things on the walls of my apartment. The largest of the paintings was an Emmett Kelly face. Clowns never smiled the way I saw them. Clowns were always hiding something traumatizing.

When Will died, my other mother (Will's mother), gave me this Emmett Kelly figurine that Will had always wanted from his grandmother's house. It nearly crushed me when I opened it because of what it had always meant to me. It meant things she didn't even know it would. I knew I was changed when Will died and I would never be without that traumatizing event that had happened. I had lost my brother and best friend.  This particular figurine was named Willy. Imagine that. She didn't even know until she looked it up before she gave it to me. He worked on a train yard with his hands, just like my brother.

This was the single most meaningful gift I have ever received.

So I see a clown today making balloons for kids at a restaurant. We were sat at the table right next to her station, so we saw countless bratty kids coming to her for balloon after balloon, then popping them and asking her to make more. She made them over and over as these kids, with their parents blessing, continued to bring broken balloons to her to make new ones and never giving her a penny for her time. She smiled the entire time.

We were cashless. We don't carry cash anymore. We were trying to avoid her making the kids anything because this time we didn't have a tip, so we were careful to mind our own business. She approached us when she had a spare minute and asked our kids if they wanted a ballon. The kids said "No thank you" and we explained we would get some next time. She frowned at us and asked the kids if they wanted a balloon again, which forced us to explain why we didn't. She shook her head at us as if we had no idea what a clown was for. She made Aevry this princess that she told her wasn't even on the list because it took so long. She made all of these kids wait in line until she was finished and handed the most glorious balloon image I had seen. Then she gave Caeden a Tiger's balloon baseball cap. This was a moment that I will remember when I forget that some people still bleed.

Some clowns just want to make people happy. It made me really sad to not have a hundred dollars to give this woman who just gives to others. When I have it, she will get it. I asked for her card in case she isn't there next week.

The story reminds me that people really need love. If a clown in a restaurant could cause me to pen these words, then maybe I could really try harder to be a compass in another's life. People are speading in all different directions and many of them are the wrong direction. Maybe a little love could point them forward.


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, April 3, 2014


"This is the start
This is your heart
This is the day you were born
This is the sun
These are your lungs
This is the day you were born

And I am always yours

These are the scars
Deep in your heart
This is the place you were born
This is the hole
Where most of your soul
Comes ripping out
From the places you've been torn" - Switchfoot

I work and I run. I work at a place that replaces one person's heart for another's. One person's lungs for another's. I wake up early and step out into the cold air and breathe in deeply because I have my whole day ahead of me. 

Then one foot in front of another, it doesn't matter the task. I may be running miles or going to work. Both can be equally exhausting. Life is lived one foot in front of another. If you look at it from too far away, the task looks too big, like standing in front of a mountain you have to get on the other side of. You have to choke down the fear and give it a few seconds, then go. Just let go and put out your first foot. Remember to breathe, then remember what keeps your heart pushing blood through your miles of vessels and back again. 

Blood travels through your body in about 1 minute. One cell after another, each carries oxygen to your organs so they won't fail...then to your lungs as you step out the door and breathe that deep first breath of the day air. Imagine being the size of a red blood cell. You could take 1,250 of them and lay them down in a line and they would equal 1 centimeter. Now imagine those same cells traveling your 60,000 miles vessels in one minute, allowing you to take a gasp of air when you are weary. Life goes that fast for us too.

Then you get hurt by something. 

Everything was working fine until you were crushed and scarred. You try to get up but you can't. You make so many mistakes and pray for help and nothing one comes. Breathing becomes labored and your anxiety makes your chest rise shallow. You sit and tap your fingers against things and bounce your knee when you sit. You bite your nails waiting for a verdict on what you've done, but nothing one comes. You just breathe, then remind yourself to breathe. 

Maybe you have travelled too fast. You turned off and hit the gas and now you are lost really far away. Somewhere you took off your cape and became normal. Somehow conformed to what insane people believe is normal. You follow the rules and eat out of duty. You breath incompletely. You stare blankly. You collect what you have earned and sleep lightly, waiting for something to come...someone. But no one ever does. So you try to remember to breathe until you can't anymore.

Life is not about breathing until you can't anymore. This is insanity. Life isn't supposed to be lived normally. Each person has something different inside of them. Let's call it a super power. The most imaginative and revered people this world has known are those that live life abnormally. They refused to give in to conformity or cultural mores. People like Rosa Parks. People like Albert Einstein. People like Neil Armstrong. Have you any idea how much abnormal courage it takes to sit on a bus with demons or move forward in science knowing something isn't right about you, or exiting the earth's atmosphere in a tin can? 

At some point greatness starts with taking a breath and then a step. God is in control of what comes next and you have to trust that. 

Eat because you're hungry.


Thanks for reading...Z