bloom anyway

Here is an inspiring piece I found for those of us who started late, for those of us wondering how J.K. Rowling or Stephen King does it, for those of us scrambling and crawling back to our favourite book in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep obsessing and begging for our characters to tell us their secrets, for those of us late bloomers who weren’t child prodigies in churning out beautiful moving words on a page: late is merely an adjective, bloom anyway.

The power of someone believing in you is precious. Hold them close. They believe in your story; they believe in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself.

This is the final lesson of the late bloomer: his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others. In biographies of Cézanne, Louis-Auguste invariably comes across as a kind of grumpy philistine, who didn’t appreciate his son’s genius. But Louis-Auguste didn’t have to support Cézanne all those years. He would have been within his rights to make his son get a real job, just as Sharie might well have said no to her husband’s repeated trips to the chaos of Haiti. She could have argued that she had some right to the life style of her profession and status—that she deserved to drive a BMW, which is what power couples in North Dallas drive, instead of a Honda Accord, which is what she settled for.

But she believed in her husband’s art, or perhaps, more simply, she believed in her husband, the same way Zola and Pissarro and Vollard and—in his own, querulous way—Louis-Auguste must have believed in Cézanne. Late bloomers’ stories are invariably love stories, and this may be why we have such difficulty with them. We’d like to think that mundane matters like loyalty, steadfastness, and the willingness to keep writing checks to support what looks like failure have nothing to do with something as rarefied as genius. But sometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.

“Sharie never once brought up money, not once—never,” Fountain said. She was sitting next to him, and he looked at her in a way that made it plain that he understood how much of the credit for “Brief Encounters” belonged to his wife. His eyes welled up with tears. “I never felt any pressure from her,” he said. “Not even covert, not even implied.”

xcrpt

she held on to his hand. it was the first time someone held her. lovingly so. was this how it feels like to be touched? it was a strange feeling: being wanted, someone wanting to be close, someone this close. she became aware, all of a sudden, of the last three years he’d been at a distance, and wondered about that space. the space we put between ourselves and others. slowly and with every step up the stairs, one by one his fingers laced and intertwined hers. the space in between them becoming smaller and smaller. a breath with every inch of space they were closing in. he squeezed her hand. a reassuring, comforting, gentle force of skin on skin. human on human. breath on breath. he wanted to be close her, and she didn’t stop him. for the first time, maybe and only this time ever, she wanted someone who wanted her.

– an excerpt from the book i’m writing, a.m.

001. z & g

z
Three things: There was something I wanted to tell her, there was something I didn’t want to tell her, and there was something I couldn’t tell her.
I wanted to tell her that she was the most beautiful girl to me. Her smile, the sweetest. Her hugs, the warmest.
I didn’t want to tell her about the rose I am desperately trying to keep alive in my locker. I carried all my textbooks and whatever trash I used to store in there for the whole day just so the rose can have its space to breathe. So that it can stay alive a little bit longer until I can tell her the things I wanted to say.
I couldn’t tell her I was afraid. I wanted to promise her the world, that I’d guarantee her happiness, that no one will hurt her. I wanted to promise her my life, but I only have one rose and some made-up words.
I wanted to promise her one special night.
She was just with her friends. She walked over to say hi and asked me what’s up.
What’s up was my heart about to burst because of the things I wanted and couldn’t say. But I kept my cool. I’m a cool guy, sure.
I nodded at the right times, said some words, and paused. I try my best to get it together, but there are moments when she makes me feel like I could be better, that I would want to be better.
I wish I could promise her everything. But best I can do at the moment was a secret promise: to keep that rose alive in my locker until 2 PM.
g.
I saw him and walked over. It was always like that, like there’s a magnet that kept me wanting to be close to him.
I asked him what was his plans for the pep rally. He said he wasn’t sure whether to go or not. I shrugged it off.
There are moments when I want to tell him everything, every single feeling I have for him, but something always holds me back. Fear, or something. I’m also not good with words.
So I have two defence mechanisms: the shrug and funny gibberish sounds that guaranteed a smile on his face at least.
It was difficult, but I walked away. I had to. Or else, I would have hugged him in front of everyone. Sometimes I just know when he is trying to hide his heart.
I went to the pep rally with my friends. My feelings confused me a lot, it’s frustrating. Given the choice, I’d be with him. But I also know that most of the time, that’s not on me.
And I learned the hard way that sometimes you don’t always get what you want.
So I try my best not to want so much.
z.
I knew it. I couldn’t even promise her one night, so how can I promise my entire life? Her happiness?
The words I’ve prepared, words I’ve saved only for her, were useless at this point.
I was trying my best to hide, but she saw me.
Game over.
g.
What was he doing here?
And why does it look like someone broke his heart?
I have it, don’t I?
And I promised not to break it.
z.
hey.
g.
hey.
z.
I’m sorry for everything I couldn’t do. But here’s… a rose. For you.
g.
What’s it for?
z.
It’s for the dream of a dance I would like to dance with you.
Just with you.
Only with you.
g.
Come here.
z.
How is your hug so warm?
g.
I don’t know.
But, hey listen, your dream is enough.

yesterday

Yesterday was my birthday.

On my seventh birthday, my mother rented a McDonald’s branch to hold my party with hosts, games, Grimace and Ronald McDonald mascots. I wore a special yellow flowered dress and a white flower headband. I had light pink lipstick on my lips that made eating spaghetti hard. But I thought, hey, I’m a young woman now. I’m seven. I have a bit of make-up on. This must be how grown-ups are: eating carefully, nice dresses, protecting face, smiles on cue.

I watched my friends and cousins play games that the party host led. And as the birthday girl, I had my special seat in front where I got to watch all of them run around, play, laugh, have fun.

Parents and other grown-ups sat around the play area and watched. And I felt a bit better thinking I was doing the right thing: sitting and watching and clapping along when a winner won and the party host would ask me to hand a wrapped prize.

***

On my 18th birthday, my house was almost empty except for a few furniture left. I counted my friends who visited on my hand. My clothes and some books that my mother approved I could bring along with me were already packed. My bed was naked with no sheets nor pillows.

I watched my life slowly changing, getting replaced with a new one on the other side of the world.

My 18th birthday was a goodbye, not just to childhood but to my first home.

I didn’t want to grow up this way. But I must.

***

Yesterday was my birthday.

It was quiet, peaceful, calm. No big balloons, no mascots, no games. Our furniture was complete, and my family wasn’t going anywhere. Not anymore.

The man I love was beside me and gave me a birthday card with grammar jokes and a special edition of a book that has defined my life. My parents got me my favourite red velvet cake and my favourite chicken. The people who matter remembered and left me the warmest messages.

Yesterday, I felt loved. Just as I have everyday before yesterday and everyday after yesterday. Yesterday, I realized being a grown-up doesn’t mean accumulating more things, more people, more parties. Growing up is celebrating the people who have come and stayed, the life left behind, the life being lived, and the life waiting.

Yesterday, I wasn’t a grown-up.

I was just loved.

And today, I am loved.

Tomorrow, I know I will be.

And growing up is remembering this, holding on to this, in my highest and lowest and limbo days.

just a little braver

To create is to change, and to that extent making art is a heroic act, an act of character. Every day with every word, chiseled from the wall of silence within, you rise up and stagger on, hoping to become just a little braver, wiser, more loving. You change. Before the demeaning  blankness of the page, perched on the edge of the inscrutable future, you are the hero.

– David Corbett