Monday, January 11, 2010

A Bald Story

The other day, I was close to making a scene in a department store. Mom and I entered a home store; and as we were checking out the merchandise, I couldn’t help but notice the male merchandisers beginning to gather in a corner. Smiling and jostling, they kept staring at me. At once, I knew that I was their topic of conversation. No, I am not being bigheaded. Well, I have to admit, at first I was. In my round head I was reveling in the fantasy that I was some curious novelty: a good-looking, well-dressed city boy visiting the province. Right. There were dirty thoughts too, but that’s another story. As their stares and smiles drew on, I realized that I was being made fun at.

Beneath their hushed conversations, I could hear the word “DJ” followed by mocking beat effects, actions aping my shaved head, their eyes bright and wide with ridicule. One of them even tried inconspicuously closing in from behind me to get a closer look at my shining glory, the others prodding him on.

Their chiding continued as my mom and I made our way through the plastic ware aisle. While my mom was busy prodding, I stood straighter and kept my chin up a little higher. As much as I tried to relax, I couldn’t help but sweat. Stealing glances, I tried to make sure that maybe it were all just in my head. It wasn’t.

Anxiety rose from my gut and I felt terribly naked. Trying my best to ignore them, I imagined scenes in my head instead. I wanted to approach them with a tepid smile, and ask them to call the manager. So their superior could witness what I had to say, I’d ask the group if they would like to take a picture. If not, to stare at my face and take a real good, long look. I’d ask them to have their fill with my bald head; to remember and get used to the idea that, yes, young, bald men do exist. Yes, one day you will be lucky enough to be bald yourselves.

The other movie was more violent. Still in front of their manager, I imagined grabbing some by their collars, asking them what the fuck their problem was; letting go with a aggressive push. I would modulate my voice to a boom, flare up like a temperamental thespian, and make the entire home store stop and bear witness to the wrath of a bald man scorned.

My heart beat quickly, my temples began to hurt, and the tips of my ears felt sickly warm. I had the devil and angel on each shoulder; one telling me to make my imagined movie a reality, the other to simply back away. Riddled in thought, my aching back still feeling the weight of their gawking, I decided to give up my rage.

While my mom decided to do some grocery, I asked permission to step out and smoke. Exhausted, I sent out messages to several friends sharing my ordeal. Some felt similarly irked and pitied that such asininity still existed, and tried to raise my spirits. Kind words and two cigarettes after, I felt much better.

What really got me was what a dear friend said: “Choose your battles.” Indeed. As satisfying as the movie was in my head, I was glad that I did not charge like a Neanderthal with a club. Or else, that would have made me just like them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Atonement: A Tale for the New Year

Your emeralds are green, glowing with envy. Your rubies, red, seethe with all your anger. You have diamonds and sapphires too, cutting and cold like your arrogance and pretenses. And those gleaming pearls, your bitterness and self-doubts, strung tightly like a litany of curses.

Through time, you have decorated your armor with many and the brightest of gems, wearing them proudly. You have done so that you may shine and have the right to shun. You have worn them as proof of all your past hurts, traumas, and despairs. They tell of the vengeance coursing through your veins, your heart yelling retribution for all the pain and suffering the world has given you.

Each night, you madly ride through the land on your white horse, glaring at passersby, shaking your fist at the moon. Yet on this night, this particular night, your steed pants in exhaustion. The cadence of your journey grows familiar, and loneliness begins to invade and gnaw at you. Your body then begins to ache under the weight of your rage, your resentment, and your heavy, heavy armor.

Unbearably weary, you decide to stop. You wince at the pain that shoots through your arms, legs, and spine as you get off your stallion. After tying the beast to some craggy tree, you limp your way to the edge of a lake. As heavy as stone, you drop to your knees. Eyes closed, you bend your head back, and the deepest of sighs escape your mouth. A faint breeze begins touching you. You hear the leaves of nearby trees rustle and the rhythmic lapping of the water. You open your eyes.

A multitude of stars is flung across the dark sky. The ominous moon, round and full, paints the lake silver. Calm begins to envelope you. In your stillness, you realize how worn down you have become, your battle with the world having led you nowhere. You become aware that you have adored your own woundedness far too long. It has brought you even more heartache and suffering. Your enemies are but figments of your imagination, tales you concocted to justify your ways; to affirm your hurts and pains. You begin to weep and comprehend the reason behind your solitude.

You cup your hands and try to reach for the lake’s soothing waters, but in doing so, your armor gets in the way. Piece by piece, you dismantle it, flinging its parts around you. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and pearls are strewn across the shore tainting it with a sparkle. You are now naked as the day you were born.

You knead the flesh of your arms and shoulders, surprised at the novelty and power of your real body, of your true self: vulnerable, humble, human.

As you reach the glistening shore, tears fill your eyes anew. An unbridled feeling surges inside you. It is unfamiliar, yet it stirs you so you welcome it anyway. As you take each step, the cool waters begin to touch your toes, your knees, your belly, your shoulders, neck. You walk on till you are swallowed completely.

A moment passes and you find yourself afloat in the middle of the lake. You savor the million tongues that buoy you. Above, the sky is awash in streaks of deep purple, blue, and orange. Only a handful of stars remain, unblinking.

You marvel at the firmament before you, astonished to witness the birth of a new day. Then, faint signs of the sun emerge; its rays shrouding the world in the gentlest of glows. Softy, you chant: “I forgive you… I forgive myself.”