Happy Birthday to You

Her birthday’s today. A special bouquet, custom made for you.
“Space is what I need.” is what she said…

Cold, & firm – didn’t even let me in to get my stuff…
Slams the door is all she did…

As I turn around and head back to the car, my grip loosens & I can’t hold onto the disappointment. That special bouquet of pink, yellow & red roses, slips from my fingers and falls into the reflective puddle. It’s stark, cold reflection, is broken by the slow ripples of sadness spreading thru the surface.

“A dreadful, stormy night ahead and the music on the radio is lame!” I say to myself as if expecting a bit of sympathy. Nothing, will be able to soften the mood today – maybe not even music.

OK PowerMix cassette! “Lets see if you can lift my spirits, once again!”

Sure enough a mellow, sad song comes up mid stride…

“I’ve been waiting for you…

Signed with a home tattoo
Happy birthday to you
was created for you.” ♫

“how ironic… I would have done anything for her.”

Sitting back into the bucket seat, I just try to dwell in the sounds of irony…

Pulling up to a red light, I get a pause to contemplate the moment. I put my head back on the head rest & close my eyes for a second. A sudden sensation that someone is watching me, smacked me in the face! I open my eyes and look to the car to my left. Two guys sitting in the front. The passenger with long, stringy blond hair and the scruffy driver with short messy black hair – thinning on the sides and balding on the forehead. Being caught, they quickly look away.

“Hmm that’s odd…” that driver seems very familiar. “I’ve seen his face before…” When I look back the car drives off.

Words, playing me deja vu
Like a radio tune
I swear I’ve heard before…

I drive on as if this smack didn’t hit me. Really, it didn’t mean anything anyway… My attention goes back to the comfortable moment with Duran Duran on my stereo – just trying to dismiss the worst day of my life.

“It doesn’t matter anyway… I didn’t need her. It was all just a fun game of Cat-n-Mouse…” I say out loud knowing its a white lie but trying to convince myself that its better this way.

“I got entangled in her sharp claws but instead of running, I stayed…”

I pull into the Hess gas station and decided to call a few friend to reconnect – you know – see where they’re hanging out. “Ring, ring, ring…” is all the receiver would volunteer. They have all moved on to their own cat-and-mouse games.

“I might as well go home & put these pieces back together again.” I tell myself in a tone of surrender & with the strong desire for this day to be over!

Heading down Military Trail, the traffic is flowing slowly & below the speed limit. I just get lost in the tune of the music & the soothing rumble of my Camaro…

“Lost, in a snow filled sky
We’ll make it alright to come undone”

Trying to obliterate the last few moments, my mind returns to the trip home. It seemed shorter, but glad that it’s coming to an end. As I put my blinkers on to make the right turn onto Purdy Lane, I notice something weird in my rear view mirror.

“Hey! it’s those two guys who were starring at the red light!” What are they doing here? “Have they been following me?” In a split second my mind shuffles thru what seems like a flash of a hundred faces…

Shit! that’s her X!!” I knew I’ve seen that face before – a picture of a weary guy hidden in a drawer…

He’s a tall, lanky guy. Wearing a white t-shirt, beaten & transparent from obsessive over-use. Just a blue-collar guy, with scruffy hair. He seems weary from trying to put his life together again with her. No wonder he wants to get out his frustrations on me!

As I make the turn, he speeds up & tries to ram my rear bumper. I hit the gas to get him to miss & he spins out onto the oncoming lane. My tires, startled by all this sudden excitement, squeal & leaves black trails in the asphalt. He accelerates, trying to catch up, but is at least a few hundred yards behind. Barreling down the road, trying to get away from him, we’re doing 50 on a 25 and Bonnie Drive is coming up.

“Do I turn & pull into the driveway – or – keep going?” I ask myself as if I would answer back – I don’t know what to do… “turning in & stopping, would be two against one – and it will be revealing my sanctuary.”

My heart pounding, I see him gaining distance on me. All I can thing to do is floor it and speed away from him.

I pass a slower car & he gets stuck as oncoming traffic blocks him. A good gap grows between us as he tries to pass the slower car. Finally I reach Jog Road and luck will have it! The light just turned yellow.

My tires squeal around that turn & he, like his future with her – is stuck at the light. As for me, I’m long gone – not sure of what’s next…

“Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone

Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone”

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E-v-i-l Woman…

The sun shining brightly warms my soul. The cool breeze across my cheeks feels really nice today. I feel this air of confidence & the happy-ness showing in my stroll down Salem Avenue. The trees in the park rustling almost in tune with my stride.

Everything seems so clear & brightly beautiful for some reason.

Nothing is going to bother me today!

I reach my street & turn the corner when Rosie comes running up to me with her group of little seven year old friends. Nope, these pain-in-the-butt teenies are not going to annoy me today!

“Pablo has a
g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” shouts Rosie in a sing-song tone.

“Buzz off, Rosie” I reply, trying to get rid of her, because she is – annoying! She is a short girl with a fast stride, bouncing long blond hair that is always pulled up into single ponytail. She is usually leading a group of little girls that do whatever she wants them to do. When they are not around, you can see her yanking her little brother – Peter – around by the arm.

She’s OK though, always happy and cheery. Hopping and skipping and just being a little girl.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!” again she shouts.

This time her friends chime in & they all do their sing-song thing in unison.

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

“Pablo has a g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d!”

Intent on having nothing annoy me today, I chase them all away. But Rosie keeps coming back.

As I walk towards the house, Rosie follows me.

“What do you want Rosie?” I ask her, getting annoyed.

“Are you gonna kiss her?” She replies with a dumb giggle & instantly coyly cover her mouth as if she said something she knows she shouldn’t have.

“I don’t know who you are talking about.”
“you really don’t know?” she asks surprised.
“No I don’t, Rosie & stop being such a spaz. Just tell me!”

She laughs & start her sing-song again. “Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-w! Pablo doesn’t kno-o-o-o-o-o-w!”
“You are starting to piss me off Rosie, Just tell me already!”

“Well, Kim said that Diana heard Marie say that she overheard Karen & her best friend talking…”
“R-o-o-o-o-o-o-s-i-e! get to the point!”

“She said that she wishes Pablo would ask her out.” Rosie yells!

“What? Karen who? when?” Now she’s got my attention! I’ve never had a girl interested in me – well besides Lourdes on the bus – but she was really aggravating!

“Karen, the Karen? The one that lives on this street? That Karen?”
“Yeah, that Karen! She is so pretty…”

At that point I didn’t hear another word that Rosie was saying. I have never had a girlfriend, let alone kissed a girl! I walk into the house, run right upstairs to my room & slam the door shut in excitement.

“Me and Karen?” wow that would be groovy, man. Karen has got to be the most hip girl I know. She is tall, long slender legs & always wearing those nice-fittin’ flares. She is so fine! with that Brick House figure. Her hair is dark brown worn long and straight. She keeps her bangs clearly off her eyebrows so you can see her blue eyes. She always sits outside, leaning on her dad’s car painting or file-ling her nails.

There are no other girls her age in our group so she usually sits there on her dad’s car or hangs out with the guys. I usually see her waiting in her skin tight softball outfit waiting for her dad to take her to the school grounds. She is younger than me, but she is more developed than any girl in school and she carries herself like a high-school girl! She is so far-out!

All the guys just stops & stare at her. Their eyes are fixated on Karen as she strolls down the street or in the halls at school.

I can just hear it now…

“Hi boys, what’s the matter cat’s got your tongue?” She has that kind of flirtatious way that gets all the boys tongue-tied when she is around.

“Wow, Karen & me – together! I can just see the guys in school high-fiving me.”

The rest of the day goes by with my head in the clouds. I can’t hold it back, who can I share this with?

Danny? no, he will only make fun of me & beat me up for hesitating for so long. So I can’t tell him.

My sisters? Well they are silly girls & will get all gushy & giggly. They will just have a million questions & I just don’t know how to answer.

“Pablo! Girls! Come down & set the table…” Mom’s calling for us breaks my train of thought. My sisters head down immediately, but I come down a few minutes behind.

“Pablo, set the spoons & forks… Nancy has the plates on the table already.”

“Patty get the napkins…”

Mom continues with instructions, but her voice fades away in the background. It starts to sound like “Blah, Blah, Blah!” as my head starts wandering off again and back onto the idea of dating Karen.

Could this be real? Karen is too pretty… This can’t be true! How will I know for sure? I can’t ask her out & take the chance that she may says no! How will I know for sure?

“I know! I’ll tell Leo!” I shouted — out loud apparently.
“Tell Leo what?” Nancy replies.
“Nothing! never mind!”

I put the spoons & forks down quickly & run out the front door. Leo is usually out after all of us go home for dinner, so he has to be here!

I run to the corner and sure enough, Leo is riding his bike in the park across the street.

“Leo! Leo!” I shout out to him “Come here I need to talk with you!”

I share with Leo what Rosie told me & it puts a smile on his face.
“Karen? The Karen? She is so hot!”

I can see him starting to daydream – maybe wishing it was him, so I cut him off. “Leo, you gotta find out for me. You’re friends with her best friend – go ask her.”

He rides off, standing up off the seat & trying to pop wheelies in that crazy way that Leo likes to do. Never really getting the front wheel more than a few inches off the ground, but nonetheless never stopping….

After dinner we all head outside again. Leo is riding his bike in a circle and all the other kids are playing kickball.

“Leo, what did you find out?” I ask him
“It’s true. She is waiting for you to ask her out!”
“What!?!? She’s gotta be wrong! Did she say those words?”
“Well, she was not home but her older sister confirmed it.”
“It’s true! Her older sister is in my class – she wouldn’t lie to me”

So it is true! At that moment the world seemed to come to a stop. The kids playing kickball drop the ball & it just rolls down the street – in what felt like slow motion – towards Karen’s house. My eyes follow the ball and then to my surprise… Karen comes outside.

Her eyes start scanning everyone outside, as if she is looking for someone specifically. My eyes caught hers & she waves to me.

“Go ask her out” Leo elbows me & urges me on.

But a chill runs down my spine. She is so beautiful! This moment can’t be happening. what if…

“This is your only chance! go ask her out!” This time Leo insisted.

I walk across the street with the pretense of getting the ball for the kids, but really with the ulterior motive of getting closer to Karen. I didn’t notice anything or anyone else on the street except Karen. I’m staring at her lean onto her father’s car & she looks at me like asking “what are you doing over there with that ball?”

I toss the ball over my shoulder, hoping it goes in the direction of the kids. I walk up to her & lean on the other car opposite to her.

“Hey Karen. You look nice today.”
“You think so?” she asks – knowing she does, but egging an acknowledgement.
So I take the hint & reply, “Of course you do! You’re the prettiest girl on the block!”

She giggles and smiles coyly. She puts her head down, as she blushes a little and shifts her body along the door of the car.

Again the hint is received & I feel comfortable to continue. We continue talking & I reach out to hold her hands. The moment is magical!

We chatted for what felt like an eternity. Me standing in front of her holding her warm hands. The only interruption came from the kids who kicked the ball in our direction several times. Then they start with a sing-song rhyme:

“Pablo & Karen sitting in a tree, K-i-s-s-i-n-g”

I blush & Karen drops her gaze shyly. “Karen, I like you & I know you want me to ask you out. Would you like to go out with me?”

Holy shit!

I can’t believe I really asked her! “What if she says no – how can I walk away?” My mind just keeps rattling out all these questions of doubt & I put my head down as I already knew what her answer was going to be.

I even let go of her hands & stand up straight. My mind keeps talking “Alright just give it to me! Let me have it in front of all my friends! Come on – you evil woman – just do it!! Turn me down!”

“Sure, I’ll go out with you.” Karen replies softly!
“You will?” I question in shock!
“Sure! I like you too.”

Woo-hoo!! The fireworks are blasting in space! And the marching band is so loud in my head.

“Good, so we’re boyfriend & girlfriend?” I ask – just to confirm it.
“Sure you silly..” she answers as she shyly puts down her head & runs back into her house. “Goodnight! see you tomorrow….”

Boo-yah! I have my first girlfriend! I turn to look at Leo & he signals as if to ask what happened. I run over there and tell him “She said yes!”

Again the marching band is playing loudly in my head! Drums, symbols, trumpets blaring a triumphal march… I catch the fact that I floated away in a daydream & notice Leo riding circles around me in excitement. He is doing his crazy wheel-popping routine. Yanking the handlebars up in excitement & plopping back down. One of these days he will get it – but for now lets just enjoy the moment…

The rest of the night we played while the sky glistened with an amazingly bright moon. Karen sat in her parent’s bedroom window pretending to be reading a book – but looking out at us playing. She would wave & I would wave back to my Rapunzel in her perch.

Our shadow dance only interrupted when I see her put a phone on her ear. “Ahh. she must be sharing this news with her friends” I pretend.

Leo & I continue playing in between my glances up at her window. Finally I glance over & this time she is dancing of joy! The lights go out so I guess its time for bed.

“Goodnight my princess..” I whisper in her direction to where she would wave at me.

That night I slept & dreamt of my princess on the balcony. I, her prince will come and ask her to marry me as I ride in from the mist on a white horse. It was a beautiful & dreamy night.

Next day I woke up filled with joy. Can’t wait to see Karen & hear what she told her friends about us. I go downstairs after doing my chores & after lunch, I head out. Only Leo is out there – riding his bike in continuous long loops as if he is waiting for something. He sees me & goes into his crazy wheel-popping circles.

“Tell me! How do you feel now that you have a girlfriend?”
I thought about it and didn’t really know what to answer. We talk for a long while though.

A guy I’ve never seen steps up towards us.

“Hey, what It Is, man!” He nods his head at Leo in a form of greeting. Leo nods back. This dude does a visual scan of the area as if he’s looking for something.
“What’s up?” Leo asks this guy. Noticing that he is distracted.
Leo asks him “What are you doing in this neighborhood?”
“Nothing. Just came to see my aunt who lives around the corner.”
“4-sho!” Leo replied & thought nothing of it.

This interchange felt weird to me. Something seemed off about this chump. He seems much older than Leo to be in the same grade. I bet you he must have failed the 9th grade several times. He is very tall with a well-built frame. Almost 6 feet tall with a big black bushy, curly hair. He seems to be dressed too nicely. I even smell cologne and he even has a mustache! What’s up with that?

He hangs around for a bit, not saying much just looking here & there.

Leo tries to engage him in a conversation, but the guy seems lost in his scan of the area. At that moment I see Karen come outside.

He notices her too….

“Catch you later, Leo…” The chump says goodbye without answering Leo’s question. Something is weird here.

He then walks away towards the park and sits on a park bench. I walk over to meet up with Karen & try to forget this chump.

Karen & I both lean onto the same cars as last night. She reaches out, holds my hand & gives me a kiss on the cheek. Her hands are soft but cold as if she was holding ice. Her eyes glistening steely blue in the sunlight & looking back at me – but with a glance I’ve never seen on anyone’s eyes before. She smell so nice & her hair looks shinier & brighter than usual – as if she was going out somewhere. We talk for a bit but something feels off in the conversation. She pauses & then she, like in a scene from a B-movie, drops a line from a cheesy script:

“I think we need to see other people…” she said.

Damn! what a downer. This came out of nowhere.

If she said anything else, I couldn’t hear it. I immediately retracted my hands & my eyes glazed over. I didn’t see the same beauty in her eyes anymore. I looked down & walked away. I can hear her call my name, but I do not turn back.

I head over to my safe place. Leo doesn’t say a word. He just sat on his bike with one foot resting on the peddle & the other on the ground – as if he is trying to get a footing. No excitement & no crazy wheel-popping circles. No words. Just sitting there as if he knew something was whacked.

Karen finally gets up off the car & walks towards the park, not looking in our direction at all. She heads right towards the table where Leo’s friend is sitting. Odd she walks right up to him as if she knew him.

All I could do was stare at them. They seem to talk for a bit. Then he reaches for her hand. She reaches out & they hold hands as they continue to speak face-to-face. The soft light from the sun moves & now they are sitting in the shade of the Maple tree. Their bodies, as distant shadow figures, move closer together. She sits next to him on the table. He puts his arm around her & they both tilt their heads in a kiss.

All in plain-sight of what was, just recently my happiest hours.

Leo & I just stand there dumbstruck. Not knowing what to say. Not knowing how to react.

“Leo, what did you say your friend’s name was?” I ask unwittingly but knowing what the answer might be…

Leo thought for a moment & then realized a connection : “Oh shit! His name is Pablo, too.”

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Not Your Usual Kind of Christmas

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

My mother is a strong, focused lady and nothing will stop her in reaching her goals. In her younger days she worked her fingers-to-the-bone to be successful. She got her degree and even had her own business. She was so focused and so motivated.

She had this dream to get the whole family to the United States and people in her town did not understand why she wanted to leave. They would make fun of her and even call her names.

When we got here, she remained focused. Still worked her fingers-to-the-bone so time to make friends was not a top priority. Looking back, I can see that her tough character & her focus were a way to protect herself from people’s opinions.

But now that we are settling into our new house, it looks like she is ready to try again. She has made friends with a few ladies at church. But again, her tough coat has been misunderstood and there are a few ladies who do not get her level of focus or her motivation.

Yesterday she had an argument with the wife of a deacon. Mom had been asking around if any of the ladies needed a seamstress to make dresses for Christmas. My mother explained “I’m starting a new business…” and the deacon’s wife interrupted her.

“Why do you consider yourself to be better then the rest of us?” She complained to my mother.

“Isn’t a job at a factory good enough for you?” the lady stabbed deep into my mother’s ego.

But I know a ‘job’ is not enough for my mother. Needless to say mom butt heads with this lady and several other ladies from the church group.

But mom just lets this go…

A few weeks back, this lady was doing a collection of unwanted clothes for the poor & needy. My father committed himself to donate clothes. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had donated several bags of clothes, that we did not use anymore.

At the Wednesday service before Christmas, the ladies’ church group made one last request for more unwanted clothes. “There is a desperate need for these items…” was the last plea. Nobody raised their hands, and at the last minute my father raised his. Once again, he committed the whole family.

Now for Saturday service, we dragged a big bag of clothes with us on the train. Danny & I taking turns to carry the heavy bag. We carried it for the 1hr commute to the Adventist Church. There my father handed the bag over to this lady. Danny gave up a green hooded, parka. It’s only problem was that it was old & had holes in the pockets. I gave up my US Navy blue Pea coat. It had beautiful brass buttons & only a small tear in the elbow. Mom gave up a nice brown coat with a white fur collar. Even though the fur was fake & a little dirty, she liked it.

begrudgingly she too gave it up for those more needy…

All because my dad said “the poor do not have clothes to keep them warm this winter and you have plenty to spare!”

Saturday church service was beautiful and the Christmas theme left us feeling that giving up our items for the benefit of others was a good idea.

It is what a “good Christian” should do – right?

But now walking out of Saturday service, we see a difference in the floor mats the church is using. Stretched out on the floor were my mom’s fur-collar coat; my blue Pea coat & Danny’s green parka there on the floor for people to wipe their feet.

This cut deep, like a knife, straight thru my mother’s heart. She had allowed herself to be vulnerable and allowed people in. But now this lady had taken a direct hit at mom. I don’t know why… envy… anger… jealousy…

But again my mother lets this go and just moves on – like always. This time, I know the pain was a little deeper.

A neighbor saw us walking & offered us a ride home. Mom was quiet all the way home and nobody else dare break the silence. All we could do was listen to Delta Dawn playing on the radio. I guess mom being vulnerable is now like a faded rose from days gone by…

When we got home, mom went straight up to her room. I hope we can find a way to cheer her up before Christmas.

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