Pain

You know, I take for granted the luxury I have of rarely being pained. Sure, I’m  in emotional pain every other week, it seems. But it’s still so much better than those few instances I’ve been hurt. Like, hurt. Not some frickin splinter or a bruised arm, but horrible, teeth-grinding, fist-clenching agony. Even tonight, when I was asking God why I had a bitch of a uterus (ahem, menstrual cramps and water-retaining thighs), it still didn’t scrape the surface of the pain I will have to endure later. I want to have children. I also want to travel and explore and scuba dive and do all these awesome things with my life. Surely there will be some physical pain involved.

People often liken emotional turmoil to physical pain. And as I’ve never been a ‘happy’ person, I can understand. When my grandmother died, I cried for hours. 8 months later, I had a panic attack about her death—it took that long to realize she was gone. I know even now I would endure a lot of pain if it meant she had lived. That was almost 6 years ago. And the weirdest thing was that I didn’t even know her that well. I met her when I was 9. I visited her maybe twice a year, and talked to her on the phone. But that was it. She wasn’t even a great person—she was a scarred individual who got really messed up and became nicer in her old age.

Physical pain is a tricky thing. When you experience it, that’s all you think about. When it’s gone, it’s like it never happened. You’re fine. You always were. Not so with emotional agony. It stays with you forever. You can’t let go of it like a bad scrape or a car accident. This is a great quote by Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. — Maya Angelou 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you encounter pain. Maybe it’s emotional, maybe physical. Find your type of relief. Bless. 

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The Perils of Dragon Real Estate

An old short story of mine.

It has always amazedDovaline how senseless humans are about her kind. Yes, we all know that dragons are ferocious creatures that are a menace to everything,yadayada ya. Yes, they breathe fire. Yes, they can fly. Yes, they can eat people—but who cannot?Dovaline tried to explain this to a banker over the phone last Tuesday.

“So,” he said. “Do you…you know…?”

“Pardon?”

“Fire people?”

Dovaline paused. “I do not have that authority in my job—”

“No, I meant set people on fire. God.”

“Oh,” she harrumphed. “That’s quite personal. I don’t think that’s any of your business.”

“Ma’am, it is my business.”

“No, it’s not. But if you wait twenty minutes for me to fly over there, I can make it your business.”

The man hung up, fearing she’d roast him like a hog after that. Which she did. No one misses bankers.

Now, Dovaline sat at her ‘desk’ and reviewed her active listings. Nikau, Wiri Lava, Fox River, Maori Leap. New Zealand had some of the most beautiful caves in the world. Closing her eyes, the small vibria could see those damp corridors, and touch the stalactites as they hung from the dripping ceiling. Dovaline sighed contentedly in her own grotto by the North Island, where she had settled in some time ago.

Now which cave would the old hag like?

›

“I require a large cave, maybe by the sea. Nothing flashy, nothing ugly. Just…” the witch breathed, “a nice cave.”

The dragon tried not to roll her eyes. Again, humans had it easier when it came to ‘real estate’—they were paid on commission, had whole agencies, and were aided by the Internet, the most terrifying contraption since the phone.

Melinda the Hag fluttered about Dovaline’s cave like an indecisive moth around a light bulb.

“My consort wishes to have a smaller property, to better raise a child. But I think a spacious property would do.”

“Whatever you desire,” murmured Dovaline in her native tongue. The language of the dragon was simply a derivative of the snake and the Draco volans.

“Oh, but I desire so much!” said Melinda in turn. The hag could speak many tongues, thankfully, though her reptilian was not as good as her cat or her canine. “Mating season is coming soon. Maybe this time you will be lucky.”

Dovaline closed her tired eyes. Opened them, and outlined the ridges in the cave, and the edges in the old woman’s face.

“Well?” asked Melinda.

“Maybe I will.”

But Dovaline knew she would never be lucky again.

Her mate’s eyes had been steel blue, as blue as her soft scales, and just as tough. She can still feel his nose where he would nuzzle her belly after hunting all night for food. She could see that gape in his claws that always bothered her.

She could hear his gasp of joy when she laid her first egg and his grief when the hatchling did not seize breath.

But she could not say this to the old hag, so she let the fantasy hang in the air.

“Good,” said Melinda. “Good. Because Morin’s death was sad, but there is still time, dear. There is still time to be dutiful, to give the gift of life to your kind.”  She paused. “But perhaps it was not meant to be.”

No, it was not meant to be. If love was the sharing of affection, warmth, and food, then Dovaline loved her mate. And she did not believe that affection, that warmth, that food could be shared in quite the same way with any other animal.

›

Melinda rode on Dovaline’s back, with her arms around the little dragon’s neck. But Dovaline hardly felt her weight—it was a barnacle on her side. Instead, she focused on the takeoff from the edge, the swoop, the fall…dip, glide, soar, turn, and plunge down into the murky skies. Something akin to adrenaline filled her body, and she made a wolfish snarl.

Here was the tricky part, because the cave was partially in the sea. Dovaline was still a little afraid of the water, but her small form made a perfect fit to glide over the water. Her claws dipped into the chilly sea, and she shivered.

The water demons were down in that sea, with their bantam hands that glowed in the gloomy light and seduced the world around them. They were Death’s little traipses that coveted everything with a pulse, and then they wanted more, and more and more—

Melinda squeaked.

“Almost there,” Dovaline purred.

When they landed on the cave’s sandy sediments, Melinda jumped off like a flea.

“God, I miss my broom,” she puffed.

Dovaline wished to explore, but the witch said, “Those ocean water hussies scared the bajeezus out of me. Have to go relieve myself. ‘Scuse me.”

This was fine with the dragon. Better than fine. This way, she could trail the crevices of the cave with privacy.

It was when she was examining the stalagmites that Dovaline heard—the cry of an animal in immense pain. The cry of dying animal.

She heard that sound every time she slaughtered a cow.

But this was not an animal, Dovaline knew. The pitch was that of a human.

Dovaline waddled towards the wailing, her wings fluttering nervously. Every second she heard the desperation, the fear that enveloped her heart. Skidding on the cave floor, she stopped.

The woman’s eyes were shut so tight she might never open them again. She was on her side, naked from the waist down, in the fetal position. Dovaline could see scratches on her legs and feet, and her blood covered her thighs. Her belly was enormously swollen.

“Are you okay?” asked Dovaline.

In response, the woman on the floor let out a moan. Her neck fell back, and her forehead gleamed with sweat. How she had come into the cave was unknown, but Dovaline could spot a hopeless case. And sure enough, with her brow scrunched and her feverish mumblings slowing down, she died.

Dovaline sat in shock.

Blinked.

Frowned.

The resonance of weeping should be all too familiar to Dovaline. Yet she leapt back when her focused ears perceived a sniveling noise coming from underneath the woman’s shirt.

Quiet now, thought Dovaline. Quiet, or it’ll cry.

She lifted up the shirt delicately with her teeth—a hard thing to do if your body mass is that of two killer whales and your dentures look like yellow knives.

And there it lay, all autumn pink and slimy, its arms up in triumphant fists. Knees were tucked in to the stomach, and its thighs! They were as fat as a pig’s! The dragon could barely believe its proportion. The head too big, the eyes glassy brown, the ears the size and color of strawberries. Goodness, what a frightful looking creature.

Then it burped, and she fell in love.

She fell in love because it reminded her of her own little hatchling, the one that never made it through his first night.

When the azure egg first cracked, she remembered digging a hole for the little one’s sleeping habits. It was customary at the first crack, though the baby would not sleep alone the first month. But dragons are forever looking to the future. It is their greatest flaw.

Then she remembered staring at it with Morin, and waiting for the second crack. And waiting. Until she could not wait any longer, and went up to listen.

Silence from the egg.

Dovaline took her talon and sliced open the hard casing. The shell fell open. But the baby did not stir.

She nudged it. She pawed at it and sang to it and screeched until her mate gently took her away from the bundle of wet scales.

Five days later, they held the mourning ritual. Three days later, Morin was killed by water demons.

Now she stared at that human child, so unlike her own. It was expected that dragons have as many hatchlings as they could because of the dwindling population. But Dovaline’s hatchling days were almost all gone, with no male dragon south of Australia to serve as a second mate. Her elders had said so much about breeding, yet they never spoke about the anguish of losing a birth.

So she took the child, still mewling, and placed it in her mouth. She snatched the corpse and dumped it in the sea.

And flew away into sky.

A Wedding and No Funeral

Wednesday

The longest week of my life started Wednesday, March 19th at 2am, when I received a Facebook invite to my friend Jeremy’s wedding. It was on Monday, March 24th. A normal person would start panicking and immediately decline (“Grrrr. You didn’t give me enough time!”). But not me–I’m excited. My first wedding as an adult! The last wedding i went to was in 2005. I was in fifth grade. So I immediately said, “Hell yeah!” and started planning. I planned what I was going to bring, wear, and say. And in the midst of all this, my brother received some frightening news.

Backstory

A little over a month ago, my brother started dating this Olympic-level gymnast named Bri. Two weeks ago, she went to Arizona for the Olympic pre-trials, and suffered a bad fall. She broke two ribs, her wrist, cracked two vertebrae, and had a concussion. After doing back surgery, Bri eventually came back home to Indiana, seemingly fine albeit drugged from all the pain medication.

Thursday-Friday morning

On Thursday at noon, my mother called. She said that Bri suddenly had to go into surgery because she couldn’t feel her legs. They thought the doctors hadn’t fixed her back. The doctors also had to relieve pressure on her brain. When my brother heard the news from her cousin, he immediately freaked out, said Mom. There was a chance she wouldn’t survive the surgeries.

I remember telling myself I would pray. As an agnostic, I usually find praying to be hypocritical. I personally feel odd trying to ask for leniency or consideration from a being I tell myself I have no knowledge of. It was the only thing I felt I could do. But I soon forgot about it in view of the enormous amount of homework I had, and the personal statements I needed to write. I called my father. He told me her first surgery went well, and they were transferring her up north. So I went to Starbucks without my phone, and worked until 11pm. Arriving back at my dorm, I picked up my phone and felt sick.

Missed phone: Mom. Missed phone: Mom. Missed phone: Mom. Text: Mom Missed phone: Dad. Missed phone: Dad. Missed phone: Mom. Text: Mom. Missed phone: Mom.

I read the texts.

“I’ve been trying 2 get hold of u. Nate’s in bad shape. Bri’s passed away. He’s devastated.”

“Can u call us? He needs u. I don’t know if I can take care of this by myself.”

I called her, scared to know more but understanding it was my duty.

“Hey. I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” She was oddly calm.

“What…what happened?”

Bri had gone into shock during her second surgery. The brain surgery was fine, oddly enough. But her back surgery was the turning point. When my brother heard she died, he broke down. My mother was so upset, she started crying over the phone.

I talked to my brother for a little bit. But I could not think of anything comforting. What do you say when someone’s world sustains a crack that size?

After almost an hour, I ended the conversation, saying I would be coming home Friday afternoon.

That night, I could not get to sleep. I wrote One Fan is Different and went to bed at 5am.

Friday-Saturday

Everything was cloudy. Not just the weather, which was once again cold. Each building, each car and street sign had a shadow on I-69. I tried not to feel anything. My father, on the other hand, seemed so nonchalant it was insulting. Perhaps it was because he’d been a funeral director. Maybe after so many deaths, they stop becoming people and start becoming bodies. Things to pity and bury.

Nate was different. He was cloudy too, I could see. I did not expect him to be sunny, per say. I do not know what I expected, but it was not this anxious, unable-to-eat Nate. It was not this Nate who paced to hear funeral arrangements and guarded his phone.

On Saturday, my great aunt Mary had her 85th birthday party. My whole family decided to go, though my parents have been separated for 13 years. I was once again angry at my father, who told his family what happened. Why should they know? It would only produce unwanted pity.

But by the end of the day, I was glad they knew. It would have been difficult explaining my brother’s distance and sudden tears, and his obsessive texting. There was something wrong. Her mother, who on Thursday promised to have a funeral service for her in Indiana before cremating her in California, was not returning his messages or calls. I am glad they were there to support him.

Sunday

It was all explained the next day. Mom and I were fixing lobster–a rare treat for us, done for Nate. Mom sent him to the store for lemons, and when he came back, his face showed something. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“She isn’t bringing her body back. They cremated her.”

It was the saddest outcome we could expect. He couldn’t do anything but cry for awhile.

 

On the wedding front, I was prepared. I bought baby clothes as wedding presents, and bought hummus, pastry puffs and mushroom turnovers. I invited my father to the wedding in case there weren’t a lot of people.

Monday

We were very glad we decided to leave early, because the groom, Jeremy, changed the venue to the bride’s sister’s house thirty minutes before the wedding. I should explain that this was the weirdest wedding I’ve ever and will ever encounter. I call it a potluck wedding because the literally said, “Can you guys bring food? We are short on cash, thanks.”

Jeremy and Sylvia were 22 and just welcomed a baby boy to their family a month ago March 1st. I was more dressed up than either of them, which made me feel weird. And the “priest” was in a t-shirt and jeans. We waited for an hour so the last guest would arrive, but I’m glad we waited.

They did the ceremony in the living room, a room so small that 25 people could not fit–some had to stand in the kitchen walkway. But it was homey, and after awhile, I got used to everything. I also got to hold a 3-month old baby boy! He cried for most of it, but hey.

Now

I. Am. Exhausted. I am starting a new job in two days, I am rehearsing for Vag Mon all this week and next, and my life goal right now is to sleep 9 hours. But if my class on religion has taught me anything, it is that without suffering, you would not survive. Trials and pains are what drive us to seek shelter and food and companionship. So I will try to get through it all as best I can.

Thank you for listening,

Chloe