9/13/14

A Paintings Poem (Picasso)

(inspired by “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso)

Untitled
by Sheri Grutz


The jaw open and saying Ah
I think I have it now the most
uncontained feeling you wanted
from me like a gift and I would
give it if it meant distorting the
body this way and that untwisted
every knot you tied up this impossible
truth that only the dying can be freed
from, arms and legs out-stretched
with lies and myths, heads rocked
apart with blasts of anger and pain,
don't color my world again without
naming the price for how to wear
it all out with shows of mercy, dear
Lord, bodies break apart so clearly
in mass delivery from a life spent
building suspense and bridges,
coming down now without rope,
hope or wish we might get lost
one day in the detail, fallen in
dust, once I took an angle from
here and it was almost a pyramid,
but nothing fit so neatly to be
promised or finished, nothing
fit in a grand scheme of things,
unmade whole, unmade holy.

9/12/14

Review of Alex Lemon's Poetry Book: The Wish Book

In celebration of the great REM song, "This one goes out to the one I love: Fire!" It is the explanation of the poet, poem after poem, of knowing that he'd walk through flames, endure the suffering, in a kind of ecstatic burst of love that comes in so many ways as the driver against illness and routine culture that doesn't add up, with its drinking from skulls, blood, body parts and performance as some kind of artist, this poet invites you to see if this is a controlled burn or not.

9/10/14

Next Paintings Poem (Vermeer)

(inspired by “Girl with the Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer)

What is Beauty?

By Sheri Grutz

When the eyes that barely see you,
are filled with what the world is lacking,
they can't understand the connection
your way, but hang there a moment
too long and face you like a question,
that earring hanging there like an answer
and you, that mean nothing, are given
a chance at something being said
worth hearing, barely giving you
the chance, she is made to steal.

9/5/14

First Paintings Poem ("The Scream")

(inspired by “The Scream” by Edvard Munch)

The Poet
by sheri grutz


The sky waves in layers like a flag
that claims every emotion across
generations, across palettes and
sensations, see the whirling water
that is contained in ways that
sound cannot, and even a fence there
cannot hold back the knowledge
of one man's self alone and dark
on a nearly vacant bridge that says
“Are we just passing through?”
and see his mouth gaping like
a wound, and see his eyes hollow
like death has been with him
for too long, he cannot stand to hear
his innermost thoughts and waits
for those men approaching to
clear this path of his existence,
of his folly, of his locked in
language that never opens
a larger meaning for now
and for those to come.

See You in Heaven (Revision)

See You In Heaven

by Sheri Grutz


The coffee house was filled with tables and chairs so heavy, so permanent, that it seemed nothing could be moved, even from a position of passive to active, as I watched some teenage girls run by outside, catching a glimpse of their pulled back hair as if nothing would get in their way, and so too, I thought, I would be sitting there with nothing to do, nothing to get to, nothing to say to anyone, and I sat drinking the only decaf tea they had, ginger peach, which tasted more like a smell after someone had been baking for company, easing my mind a bit that sitting here alone wasn't really what I was doing, I was actually just relaxing my mind, relaxing my tongue, the tea even making home seem untouchable. I looked over toward the middle of the room, and there sat a woman with an identical big white mug as me, looking up at me in a sideways view that meant she was trying to be unaware of what was going on inside this place, maybe too much going on inside of her, maybe too much to do, as she glanced back down at her laptop screen. When I saw her, I was instantly overwhelmed by the fact that she looked so much like me, same full face with sharp cheek bones under clear blue eyes, same light brown hair pulled up in a clip on top, falling against her shoulders as if growing it took very little concern like a plant would, or a collection of shoes, or even a love of lima beans, growing slowly and unsure, as if the style about her was too natural to try to change, this naturalness was part of myself as well, this ease with which to face the world, in the eyes, in the shoulders, in the breath, and I watched her breathe in and out glancing up at me a few times, as if checking for a connection on her computer the same with me. I went back to staring out the window, two guys were sitting outside just down from me with their big German Shepherd, and it was panting in the shade while the young men laughed about something, neither one of them drinking or eating, neither of them caring about the heat, or the possible oppressiveness of poverty that held them like a stack of books that say all's you got is time. When I was busy imagining, that is when this woman across the way got up and came over and sat across from me. She didn't even ask to sit there, I just suddenly felt her there like a wall that you might run into on the sidewalk while people are working on the insides of things.

“I know you inside and out,” she said to me lightly, and I barely heard her. “You don't know me, but I go ahead of you, I go before you, you have actually been following me.”

“Ha, that's funny, I don't feel like a stalker.” I was testing the feel of this conversation, and decided that it was best to not accept her proposals at claiming my life, I was after all, 21-years-old, fresh out of college and my own person.

“You do so without incident, in fact, I would say it's all coincidental,” she said to me. I looked at her as if in a mirror, and thought, this is too unreal that I might have met my twin, but I did learn that all people are made of nearly identical DNA, it's just these small percentages of makeup that keep us all different. “When you went home with that law school guy, and he was all worried about not being able to do it anymore, I was with him 3 days before you. When you bought art supplies at Dick's, I picked out the same colors and brushes and size of canvas 3 days earlier. When you bought that parka at Ragstock, I got the same one-”

“3 days earlier. So, you are always ahead of me, and you say, I'm following you, right?”

“Right, well, actually, I'm paving the way for you. I'm just going ahead of you, we've nearly led identical lives, Rachel. I'm Holly. We have a connection that is very rare. There is no science for it, there is no explanation, it's just how things are happening.”

“Well, I know what it is, it's God. You are my spiritual sister who is taking on my life, or some kind of guardian angel that is testing out the waters before I actually live it.” I felt I was talking too loud, and that anyone in there would be as shocked as it sounded to hear myself say this, but on a day when nothing could happen, it seemed like a perfect time to share my life with someone who already was owning it, already was connected to it, already was experiencing the way things are.

“I have gone to the same movies as you, read the same books, worn the same clothes, taken the same classes, all 3 days ahead of you. We have this worldly connection that others don't, and I just wanted you to be aware that you are following me.”

“But I'm not aware of it.”

“No, you really should never be aware of it, but I had to tell you today, had to meet up with you, because there is a problem. I am not Catholic. We don't have that connection. I will be everything about you, Rachel, everything, all of your encounters, all of your pain and joy and sorrow. I will even be the one to tell you when you are going to die, because I will die 3 days earlier. But there is just this one problem, I won't go to heaven if I'm not Catholic. I won't pave that way for you. You must help me convert. Your soul is dependent upon it.”

“So, I won't go to heaven, if you don't.” I took a small sip of tea that had gone very cold and sort of tasted like yogurt, and I wanted instantly to spring up and go over and get some cream, to enjoy this new yogurt-style tea, my mind wanted escape, my body though was glued to the seat.

“I want to go through the Newman Center, convert with Father Ed, and you will have to follow 3 days later with your presence and your prayers, you must come after me, you must follow me and my progress. Can you do that?”

I was overwhelmed by a feeling of not knowing my life and yet so certain that someday I would need this, I would need this paving into heaven, I would need this twin to test out the waters for me, to go before me, to live like a shadow that springs ahead instead of behind, and that my soul was only going to be saved if hers was saved. I must help her. I must! “Yes, of course. My life and death depend upon this, and so do yours.”

“Ok, I will be studying and learning on Wednesdays, and you come 3 days later, so you must show up on Saturdays, that would keep our connection the way it has always been. Can you do that?” She looked desperate, and even more tired than I was, though I knew the next couple of days would be hard ones coming up, and in 3 days I would be just as tired, just as open, just as longing for peace of mind.

“Yes, definitely, Holly.”

“This will be our meeting place. I'm not sure when. But I will be back. We can't see each other, except by accident. I will make sure everything is alright Rachel. I am living it first. I won't let anything harm you, ok?”

“Ok, ok. Thank you. I will pray for you.”

“Yes, it's the only way.” She got up and packed up her things. It was the same laptop as mine, with the same black carrying case. She was wearing my green canvas shoes, but something had happened to them, something that hadn't happened to me yet, they had a small rip on the side. She turned and walked away.

3 days later I was carrying groceries into my apartment and I kicked the door open trying to keep it from shutting me and a nail brushed the side of my green canvas shoes, puncturing it and ripping it slightly. When it happened, I nearly dropped my groceries, this is what happened to Holly. I felt a new sort of presence in my life ever since meeting her, that she was working me into her life, that I had no choice but to accept her as my example. But she said it would only work when I was completely unaware of it, so there was no forcing it, there was no thinking about it, it was to be done naturally.
And that was the thing about converting to Catholicism, I almost felt we were trying too hard, we were trying to create a sameness where there wasn't one, and I wasn't sure what that would do to us. But I continued to go to the Newman Center on Saturdays, all through the fall and winter, even when the ice had frozen over old snow on walks that weren't shoveled and made each step seem like an impossible move toward heaven, all the way there, I was nearly cursing, certainly this wasn't next to God. But I knew that she would be done in spring, and a newly held member of the faith. I knew this was going to make us not only bonded to this life, but to the afterlife as well.

“I'm sick, Rachel,” Holly said to me weakly from our table at the coffee house. She was breathing with difficulty and appeared to have some kind of stomach bug because her face was just as clear and inviting as mine felt when I was reading a book, only reading her face was like making myself a character that comes so close to me it can't be fiction anymore.

“I see that,” I told her, the springtime air damp and cool as a secret basement where our secret could hide and dwell with ease. “Holly, I need to touch you. I need to make this real.”

“Now is not a good time, Rachel, you'll get my sickness.”

“I don't care, and besides, I'm going to get it anyway,” I told her. “Please.”

She looked at me with the look I give my sister sometimes when I'm running out of ways to convince her to listen to me, with an imploring look that said, “You can only really get to me because I have to allow you to.” And so, she allowed me to.

First I held her hand, and it felt like I was praying, my own hand, my own temperature. Then I felt her shoulder. It was the same one that felt bony and wider than I imagined mine to be. She never looked at me, but looked down at the table, her own hands in her lap, and why didn't she feel the need to touch me? This sensation was finally real, and I wasn't dreaming this. I wasn't the only one, and I wasn't alone, and I wasn't singular anymore. She even had the same small scar above her eyebrow from when the headboard came down on her when she was 2. She had the one larger chicken pox scar on her forehead, and freckle that almost looked like a mole near her mouth.

“We are randomly made, Rachel.”

“No. No we're not.”

“Yes, it's a total fluke. There is no reason for it. I was told at a party about you. I had way too much to drink, and I thought they were kidding me. I had to find you. I've been living here for over a year, but even though we have lived alike, we grew up in different areas of the country. You grew up in Iowa, and I grew up in Massachusetts. You have influenced my love of classic rock, and I believe I have influenced your love of poetry.”

“Who was this at the party? Who knows about us?”

“I don't know. It was like a government thing, there was a long digression on what appeared to be the manchurian candidate sort of thing, and it came down to a diplomat that lived in my neighborhood growing up. He moved. He also lived in your neighborhood when you were growing up. He was from Saudi Arabia.”

“Holly, I don't think we can push this religion thing, it seems to contrived, maybe you should join your own church and I should follow you.”

“No, I do believe our spiritual connection comes from you. I must lead you out of this life, though, and now you lead me. Don't you see? I can only come before you if it is for you.”

“Alright, alright. I've been praying on Saturday, lighting the candle that you lit, and there is such a wonderful joy in knowing that you make all of it possible.”

“Jesus does. First I follow him, then you follow me.”

“This neighbor, I think I remember his son David. Are you sure we're not messed up in some kind of holy war?”

“I doubt it, I just remember this guy's souvenirs, a globe that opened with liquor inside, a looking glass, rugs and wind up toys. Did David tell you he would marry you someday?”

“Oh my God, yes! Yes he did! We were walking down the street, going past house after house and he said he would buy me one. We lived in apartments, but he lived in a beautiful house.”

“Yeah, he promised me the moon too. I wonder what ever happened to him.”

“And you think this got us into the lifelong connection with each other?”

“I'm not sure, but I think that his family planted some kind of seed in both of us.”

“Which ever one of us meets up with him again must try to figure out what this means. I mean, do we have a connection that save people? Should we use it? Should we try to gain from it?”

“I bet we never see him again.”

“But we can look into it.”

“Not me.”

I felt such bewilderment right then. I looked into her bloodshot eyes as mine teared up and I saw hers tear up, and then I said a quick goodbye and walked away.

“You're limping,” I said to her when she came into the coffee house on a Monday afternoon.

“You will be too. I fell down the stairs. I think it was the Holy Spirit.”

“Oh, Holly, I really don't want to feel this pain.”

“But you must.”

“Ok, but would it be alright if I took extra precaution on Thursday?”

“You can try, but if it's the Holy Spirit, it will happen to you as well. The rites of passages are nearly done, and I will be baptized on Easter. Then it will be done. We can move on from here. It is best to never see you again, don't you think?”

“We both are working with children, and we both are single, I want to know what you plan to do next. I want to know what will happen to me.”

“No, no, no. That's not the way it goes. Let's just make it through the conversion to Catholicism. I will be in seventh heaven to secure this lasting togetherness with you, Rachel. You really are making me whole, and further making things seem on the same page. I don't feel so alone.” She seemed a lot better in health, and she also looked determined, like she had a foundation now. I knew that she had changed through the religion studies. And I had stopped being single-minded. I was totally looking out for both of us here.

Easter came and the ceremony was breathtaking with an altar filled with peace lilies, a day filled with sun and a smile on every face there. I couldn't help but think of God leading me and me alone these years through my faith, and now what would it be like? If Holly sinned, I would sin. If Holly prayed in earnest, I would pray in earnest. If Holly died, I would die. I suddenly felt how important it was to keep her alive, and I wanted so much to take her under my wing, like a mother to myself, like a best friend to myself. But I knew that all I could do was pray.

“You know when you sprained your ankle falling down the steps?” I asked her a Monday two weeks after Easter, sitting in the coffee house with a folk singer on the stage, and a door propped open, and the smell of honey biscuits in the air mixed with exhaust from the city bus.

“Yeah, it's healed up nicely.”

“But don't you see, Holly. I didn't sprain mine. I never fell.”

She looked at me with a look that suggested she was too tired to think it through but too concerned to let it go, as if she was studying me for her own response. “I'm not sure what to think of that.”

“Yeah, I see you are riding a bike now. When did you get that?”

“I got it a couple of weeks ago.” She now looked like she was blaming me, like it was my fault somehow for not following her. “And you didn't?”

“And I didn't.”

“Did you see the new Grant Wood exhibit?”

“Nope.”

“Did you go see Pinnoccio with your class?”

“Nope.”

“What are you trying to say, Rachel?”

“It's gone. We have lost our connection. I can't believe this!” I looked around alarmed by how vibrant the place looked in yellow like a trap in heaven. The folk singer was loud, and the coffee makers were loud, and it seemed to mask my silent disbelief at what I had just found.

“It can't be true, Rachel. But wait, do you think it has something to do with my conversion to Catholicism?”

“That must be it.” I said a little too quickly, thinking that this grand thing that she did was too much for our balance, too much for our togetherness, it needed to be subtle, it needed to be not outward. “I think that God wants us to have our own path.” I knew I would cry then. And I let it happen. I cried for a life that would be unpredicted now, and always. A life that would be unknown and without follow-through. Holly just stared at me as if she just found out she had cancer and the thought was too shocking to be effected by it, too final to try to make headway, too hard to take to talk freely.

“Well,” she finally said, nodding her head. “I guess we can't take fate into our own hands. We should have known better, Rachel. Now we are only alike through being Catholic. But, now we go our separate ways.”

“Can't we be friends?” I was breathing hard, sobbing, trying to make sense of this.

“I don't think so. Now is the time to break free, for both of us. You have a free spirit, and I have a free spirit. We have been set free.”

She stood in front of me and smiled lightly like she would miss me and tried memorizing my face, funny, I thought, you don't have to look too far. I watched her walk out, unlock her bike, and slowly get on it, and ride away without looking back. This was a magical town, for sure. This was where everything happened. I knew that we still had the same faith, and I could still pray for her, but my life was my own now. Would I try to find David? Doubtful. I heard the barista laugh real loud when the folk singer had stopped suddenly and the place went quiet. I waited until he started again, until I got up and walked out.

A Play (Amazing Body)

The Amazing Body

by Sheri Grutz

The Amazing Body (A One Act Play)

Characters

CAROLINE (your best friend, any age, wearing pink)
MASON (a first time date, any age)

Lights up on a riverfront park area where Mason is sitting on a bench, and Caroline is pacing around, looking out, taking big deep breaths.

CAROLINE
I have a sunny disposition, you know why? the sun is in my bones, red and yellow, red blood cells, yellow blood cells.

MASON
and where's the orange?

CAROLINE
orange means construction, my body is constantly in repair.

MASON
sunny huh? Is that the only time you're doing work then?

CAROLINE
I work with my body, my mind is in overdrive, you know, constantly laying it on thick.

MASON
sure, sure, so, I should really slow down with you then.

CAROLINE
you better, you'll get a fine if you don't.

MASON
But you already said I was fine.

CAROLINE
Funny, you might have to stop too, and take time out of your busy schedule for me.

MASON
So you really cause a traffic jam then.

CAROLINE
Only when, my knee goes out, that's a real jam there.

MASON
Right right, a big waste of gas too.

CAROLINE
Just think of it as storing up energy, you know, making things better in the process, where everything travels through the body easier.

MASON
You're making it easier to digest, by wearing pink, that's for sure, but for a backup, good thing I brought Readers Digest while I'm waiting.

CAROLINE
We take our time, you know, don't want an injury.

MASON
No no, I don't want to cramp your style, you know, doubled over or anything.

CAROLINE
Good thing it might happen with running but never running the mouth.

MASON
I don't know about that, lots of time I need a break.

CAROLINE
A break is easy, throw in an arm and a leg, it just grows back, to the very marrow of the day.

MASON
excellent, when they say the body is older than you think, it's just a way of saying that it outgrew you a long time from you taking all of those hiatuses you know skipping this, skipping that.

CAROLINE
yeah but now I'm larger than life, baby.

MASON
no no not really your life just shrinks down to fit in a small bowl.

CAROLINE
Is that where I eat my words?

MASON
You might. They’re small too.

CAROLINE
I bet, and my t.v. Is small, and my purse, very small.

MASON
yes your body has definitely outgrown you, think big, think beyond the nose on your face.

CAROLINE
you know I can't face anything big.

MASON
You can though, big bones, big feet, its no big deal really.
hey, I recognize where you came from. yeah, you came from Ireland right? You said red and yellow in your bones, sunny disposition, that would be red-haired, yellow-haired, on a blue blue day, right?

CAROLINE
and don't forget green.

MASON
sure, green hills that bring you luck.

CAROLINE
it's no good, my DNA has changed like a channel, it now broadcasts news, only bad news like can-cer.

MASON
I will be with you every step of the way, happy, sunny disposition.

CAROLINE
every step, huh? What if I step in doodoo?

MASON
Even then.

CAROLINE
What if I step out on the town?

MASON
Even then.

CAROLINE
What if I step back?

MASON
I'll catch you.

CAROLINE
You are amazing.

MASON
You are amazing too.

CAROLINE
It's the body.

MASON
The body?

CAROLINE
The body. I'm going to use it for the span in my mind lets every ship sail, full throttle, it's how I get out of here.

MASON
come sail away, right?

CAROLINE
Bone white sails, the drinking nearly shot holes through them, now they wave like a hi-why-my.

MASON
even when they try to pick a bone with you?

CAROLINE
even then.

MASON
even when the bones are buried?

CAROLINE
even then, this is the body of the play anyway, where all the action happens, every body of water where everything sinks in, all of the body in your hair, even the wine has body, it makes you high.

MASON
like the sunny disposition, huh?

CAROLINE
Sure, sun high in the sky, the body creates so many cells, but they never lock you up, isn't that amaz-ing?

MASON
Amazing.

CAROLINE
that's why I love it, never kept, never banished, never dying, always getting new.

MASON
amazing, bone white sails, this is where I start to catch your drift, you know, it floats my boat, going with the flow.

CAROLINE
sure, the coast is clear, alls I had to do was man the ship, you know there is no real way to test the wa-ters, but I go out to meet the horizon.

MASON
the sunny disposition again?

CAROLINE
Yep the sun sets on every working day, and I’m only getting started.

MASON
a long ways to go, huh?

CAROLINE
Sure it could take all season and into the next, you know we definitely go the distance, the body is the high-way, it’s the only way to keep things moving, always working out, always humming the mo-tor and drilling beyond the surface.

MASON
How many layers to the body?

CAROLINE
Too many to count, and the coils in this road are the DNA spread out, unbreakable like the spirit.

MASON
Excellent, the amazing body.

CAROLINE
And now if you’ll excuse me I am taking my sunny disposition and I’m going to split like a cell does in harnessing the energy, it seeps from the bones the way the sun leaks from the sky.

MASON
Keep that high way going, Caroline.

CAROLINE
always, always Mason, and that’s the low down too.

MASON
Sure.

CAROLINE
We just keep the ship on even keel, always trying to reach homeostasis.

MASON
The amazing body.

CAROLINE
Burning all the time like the sun, just set your course and pull your weight and make a splash.

MASON
Sure sure, but don’t go overboard.

CAROLINE
Oh no, we never capsize what’s decked out, it’s a trip, right?

MASON
Right, the amazing body. You going my way? (he stands to leave)

CAROLINE
I’m going to wait until I’m in tune with my spirit, you know, sky’s the limit (throws arms and legs up as sitting down on bench)

MASON
Sure, your sunny disposition will keep you well.
well, so long.

CAROLINE
So long, the current is pulling me along like from a hand of God.

MASON
Don’t tip the scales.

CAROLINE
No no, when the gang is all here, it’s nice to work things out.

MASON
from inside out, right?

CAROLINE
Right, the amazing body. Take care.

MASON
Bye.


9/2/14

Suggestions

I called the U of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics adult psychiatry clinic today to try to get in tomorrow, and first of all, their automated message said, "If this is a medical emergency, hang up and dial 9-11." What does that say to a person who is in distress? It says they want to pass it off onto someone else, they are too busy to talk a distress call because they are doing routine work that comes first. This is also the worst advice to give anyone who is experiencing mental health crisis or near crisis, because what will happen is, you call a dispatcher who in turn sends an EMT or a cop, and all 3 of these people are going to belittle you, try to talk to you like you need to make sense (when in fact, you can't) or worse, they will manhandle you, threaten you, or even harm you and cause your crisis to get even worse. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics should be doing a whole lot better for their patients, than telling them to call 9-11. I was thinking something like this: "if this is a mental health crisis, hang up and call our emergency hotline." At this hotline, the first line of people to take the call are all volunteers hopefully that come from U of Iowa, students, or teachers, and they are compassionate and caring enough to relate, let's please not make this nurses, because nurses will go over the top in trying to be calm and professional, and they will act like you are a real problem, and of course they will never cry with you. I left it today that I have an appt. on next Wednesday, the 10th, and they won't fill an anti-depressant until they see me, so I suffer until then, and try to make it. I am also seeing a lecture that evening on trying to end violence against women.

9/1/14

Fidel Castro

Human potential comes from God and should never be put in a straight-jacket or kept from achieving every reward of the spirit, self and moment to achieve greatness, always through opportunity, hard work and merit, and this is what makes capitalism the best government for all people. If you have a problem with me, bring it, because I am willing to die for my country and my God and no sorry sapsucker like you is going to make my sacrifice seem trivial.

8/31/14

This Week on the Blog

My followers are disappointed in my first draft of "See You in Heaven," and I think they are right, it could be a lot better, so I will be writing a 2nd draft of this story this week. Also look for a new 3-part chapter in the young adult book I'm writing. If I can make time I will start my new poetry series on famous paintings. thanks for being here.

See You In Heaven (fiction)

See You In Heaven

by Sheri Grutz


The coffee house was filled with tables and chairs so heavy, so permanent, that it seemed nothing could be moved, even from a position of passive to active, as I watched some teenage girls run by outside, catching a glimpse of their pulled back hair as if nothing would get in their way, and so too, I thought, I would be sitting there with nothing to do, nothing to get to, nothing to say to anyone, and I sat drinking the only decaf tea they had, ginger peach, which tasted more like a smell after someone had been baking for company, easing my mind a bit that sitting here alone wasn't really what I was doing, I was actually just relaxing my mind, relaxing my tongue, the tea even making home seem untouchable. I looked over toward the middle of the room, and there sat a woman with an identical big white mug as me, looking up at me in a sideways view that meant she was trying to be unaware of what was going on inside this place, maybe too much going on inside of her, maybe too much to do, as she glanced back down at her laptop screen. When I saw her, I was instantly overwhelmed by the fact that she looked so much like me, same full face with sharp cheek bones under clear blue eyes, same light brown hair pulled up in a clip on top, falling against her shoulders as if growing it took very little concern like a plant would, or a collection of shoes, or even a love of lima beans, growing slowly and unsure, as if the style about her was too natural to try to change, this naturalness was part of myself as well, this ease with which to face the world, in the eyes, in the shoulders, in the breath, and I watched her breathe in and out glancing up at me a few times, as if checking for a connection on her computer the same with me. I went back to staring out the window, two guys were sitting outside just down from me with their big German Shepherd, and it was panting in the shade while the young men laughed about something, neither one of them drinking or eating, neither of them caring about the heat, or the possible oppressiveness of poverty that held them like a stack of books that say all's you got is time. When I was busy imagining, that is when this woman across the way got up and came over and sat across from me. She didn't even ask to sit there, I just suddenly felt her there like a wall that you might run into on the sidewalk while people are working on the insides of things.

“I know you inside and out,” she said to me lightly, and I barely heard her. “You don't know me, but I go ahead of you, I go before you, you have actually been following me.”

“Ha, that's funny, I don't feel like a stalker.” I was testing the feel of this conversation, and decided that it was best to not accept her proposals at claiming my life, I was after all, 21-years-old, fresh out of college and my own person.

“You do so without incident, in fact, I would say it's all coincidental,” she said to me. I looked at her as if in a mirror, and thought, this is too unreal that I might have met my twin, but I did learn that all people are made of nearly identical DNA, it's just these small percentages of makeup that keep us all different. “When you went home with that law school guy, and he was all worried about not being able to do it anymore, I was with him 3 days before you. When you bought art supplies at Dick's, I picked out the same colors and brushes and size of canvas 3 days earlier. When you bought that parka at Ragstock, I got the same one-”

“3 days earlier. So, you are always ahead of me, and you say, I'm following you, right?”

“Right, well, actually, I'm paving the way for you. I'm just going ahead of you, we've nearly led identical lives, Rachel. I'm Holly. We have a connection that is very rare. There is no science for it, there is no explanation, it's just how things are happening.”

“Well, I know what it is, it's God. You are my spiritual sister who is taking on my life, or some kind of guardian angel that is testing out the waters before I actually live it.” I felt I was talking too loud, and that anyone in there would be as shocked as it sounded to hear myself say this, but on a day when nothing could happen, it seemed like a perfect time to share my life with someone who already was owning it, already was connected to it, already was experiencing the way things are.

“I have gone to the same movies as you, read the same books, worn the same clothes, taken the same classes, all 3 days ahead of you. We have this worldly connection that others don't, and I just wanted you to be aware that you are following me.”

“But I'm not aware of it.”

“No, you really should never be aware of it, but I had to tell you today, had to meet up with you, because there is a problem. I am not Catholic. We don't have that connection. I will be everything about you, Rachel, everything, all of your encounters, all of your pain and joy and sorrow. I will even be the one to tell you when you are going to die, because I will die 3 days earlier. But there is just this one problem, I won't go to heaven if I'm not Catholic. I won't pave that way for you. You must help me convert. Your soul is dependent upon it.”

“So, I won't go to heaven, if you don't.” I took a small sip of tea that had gone very cold and sort of tasted like yogurt, and I wanted instantly to spring up and go over and get some cream, to enjoy this new yogurt-style tea, my mind wanted escape, my body though was glued to the seat.

“I want to go through the Newman Center, convert with Father Ed, and you will have to follow 3 days later with your presence and your prayers, you must come after me, you must follow me and my progress. Can you do that?”

I was overwhelmed by a feeling of not knowing my life and yet so certain that someday I would need this, I would need this paving into heaven, I would need this twin to test out the waters for me, to go before me, to live like a shadow that springs ahead instead of behind, and that my soul was only going to be saved if hers was saved. I must help her. I must! “Yes, of course. My life and death depend upon this, and so do yours.”

“Ok, I will be studying and learning on Wednesdays, and you come 3 days later, so you must show up on Saturdays, that would keep our connection the way it has always been. Can you do that?” She looked desperate, and even more tired than I was, though I knew the next couple of days would be hard ones coming up, and in 3 days I would be just as tired, just as open, just as longing for peace of mind.

“Yes, definitely, Holly.”

“This will be our meeting place. I'm not sure when. But I will be back. We can't see each other, except by accident. I will make sure everything is alright Rachel. I am living it first. I won't let anything harm you, ok?”

“Ok, ok. Thank you. I will pray for you.”

“Yes, it's the only way.” She got up and packed up her things. It was the same laptop as mine, with the same black carrying case. She was wearing my green canvas shoes, but something had happened to them, something that hadn't happened to me yet, they had a small rip on the side. She turned and walked away.

3 days later I was carrying groceries into my apartment and I kicked the door open trying to keep it from shutting me and a nail brushed the side of my green canvas shoes, puncturing it and ripping it slightly. When it happened, I nearly dropped my groceries, this is what happened to Holly. I felt a new sort of presence in my life ever since meeting her, that she was working me into her life, that I had no choice but to accept her as my example. But she said it would only work when I was completely unaware of it, so there was no forcing it, there was no thinking about it, it was to be done naturally.
And that was the thing about converting to Catholicism, I almost felt we were trying too hard, we were trying to create a sameness where there wasn't one, and I wasn't sure what that would do to us. But I continued to go to the Newman Center on Saturdays, all through the fall and winter, even when the ice had frozen over old snow on walks that weren't shoveled and made each step seem like an impossible move toward heaven, all the way there, I was nearly cursing, certainly this wasn't next to God. But I knew that she would be done in spring, and a newly held member of the faith. I knew this was going to make us not only bonded to this life, but to the afterlife as well.

“You're limping,” I said to her when she came into the coffee house on a Monday afternoon.

“You will be too. I fell down the stairs. I think it was the Holy Spirit.”

“Oh, Holly, I really don't want to feel this pain.”

“But you must.”

“Ok, but would it be alright if I took extra precaution on Thursday?”

“You can try, but if it's the Holy Spirit, it will happen to you as well. The rites of passages are nearly done, and I will be baptized on Easter. Then it will be done. We can move on from here. It is best to never see you again, don't you think?”

“We both are working with children, and we both are single, I want to know what you plan to do next. I want to know what will happen to me.”

“No, no, no. That's not the way it goes. Let's just make it through the conversion to Catholicism. I will be in seventh heaven to secure this lasting togetherness with you, Rachel. You really are making me whole, and further making things seem on the same page. I don't feel so alone.” She had tears in her eyes. I knew that she had changed through the religion studies. And I had stopped being single-minded. I was totally looking out for both of us here.

Easter came and the ceremony was breathtaking with an altar filled with peace lilies, a day filled with sun and a smile on every face there. I couldn't help but think of God leading me and me alone these years through my faith, and now what would it be like? If Holly sinned, I would sin. If Holly prayed in earnest, I would pray in earnest. If Holly died, I would die. I suddenly felt how important it was to keep her alive, and I wanted so much to take her under my wing, like a mother to myself, like a best friend to myself. But I knew that all I could do was pray.

“You know when you sprained your ankle falling down the steps?” I asked her the Monday after Easter, sitting in the coffee house with a folk singer on the stage, and a door propped open, and the smell of honey biscuits in the air.

“Yeah, it's healed up nicely.”

“But don't you see, Holly. I didn't sprain mine. I never fell.”

She looked at me with a look that suggested she was too tired to think it through but too concerned to let it go, as if she was studying me for her own response. “I'm not sure what to think of that.”

“Yeah, I see you are riding a bike now. When did you get that?”

“I got it a couple of weeks ago.” She now looked like she was blaming me, like it was my fault somehow for not following her. “And you didn't?”

“And I didn't.”

“Did you see the new Grant Wood exhibit?”

“Nope.”

“Did you go see Pinnoccio with your class?”

“Nope.”

“What are you trying to say, Rachel?”

“It's gone. We have lost our connection. I can't believe this!” I looked around alarmed by how vibrant the place looked in yellow like a trap in heaven.

“It can't be true, Rachel. But wait, do you think it has something to do with my conversion to Catholicism?”

“That must be it.” I said a little too quickly, thinking that this grand thing that she did was too much for our balance, too much for our togetherness, it needed to be subtle, it needed to be not outward. “I think that God wants us to have our own path.” I knew I would cry then. And I let it happen. I cried for a life that would be unpredicted now, and always. A life that would be unknown and without follow-through. Holly just stared at me as if she just found out she had cancer and the thought was too shocking to be effected by it, too final to try to make headway, too hard to take to talk freely.

“Well,” she finally said, nodding her head. “I guess we can't take fate into our own hands. We should have known better, Rachel. But, now we go our separate ways.”

“Can't we be friends?” I was breathing hard, sobbing, trying to make sense of this.

“I don't think so. Now is the time to break free, for both of us. You have a free spirit, and I have a free spirit. We have been set free.”

She stood in front of me and smiled lightly like she would miss me. I watched her walk out, unlock her bike, and slowly get on it, and ride away without looking back. This was a magical town, for sure. This was where everything happened. I knew that we still had the same faith, and I could still pray for her, but my life was my own now. I heard the barista laugh real loud when the folk singer had stopped suddenly and the place went quiet. I waited until he started again, until I got up and walked out.

8/30/14

My Class

I'm learning in my human anatomy class that the mutation in the chromosome for Down syndrome comes from the mother, so that is kind of making me a little teary, and I wonder how affected my genes have been through targeting, if I've been a target all my life, or just how it plays into my kids disabilities. It also mentioned that carriers of the CF recessive trait are usually resistant to certain bacterial infections, but the doctors have told us that carriers typically are prone to sinus infections, so not sure, and my kids dad has all kinds of allergies, and asthma. The doctors were able to tell through Beth's blood work that her rare gene keeping her healthy comes from Canada, so no telling how far and how long that has passed down, though very little is known of her dad's DNA lineage. Also, it seems like boys and their fathers are so closely tied through the Y chromosome, something the girls don't have, but the boys have both X and Y, so does that make them both feminine and masculine?