So, this just happened. Some days it’s better to keep your mouth shut, and the snarky remarks to yourself. Who knows where I’ll be seven months from now? Who can say what’s in store? Not me, no not at all. I would not presume. I am lucky, wishing away my lucky stars. I must remember to ration some, as luck fades to black; grey drizzle, freezing temperatures, crushing storms. The sun shines white-bright, autumn light beautiful. My most favorite September time of year. I could bottle it up, the 70 degree haven, store it deep in the recesses of the brain. Seems so cold, cruel to take away my aqua blue in motion. Lupe and I are depressed. Already. Who I am kidding, she hates the water and I barely went in all summer. Muscle memory. It’s the relentless muscle memory that ceases to forget. Won’t, can’t, refuses to give up on the joy. The uninhibited laughter that flowed so freely as a child. Freedom intertwined dancing between molecules, limbs and cells. Meditating, I sit cross-legged on the bottom of the pool, while ten million gallons of water hover all around. I feel light, lighter than I ever have before. A cool comfort to the soul. Seven months come and go. Luck be a lady, I’ll be here. Waiting out the storm.
Welcome to my Writer’s page. Author sounds a bit pretentious. Many of you have supported, commented and visited my beauty blog over the years, Makeup To Model CitiZen. Beauty is fun and frivolous, I could never completely give it up. The world of Beauty and Fashion gave me wings. To travel the globe, be the observer, the chameleon and most importantly, to grow. Growth means moving through the fear onto the next Chapter. Time to get serious, take myself and the words seriously. Actually, it’s a return to the purest, most natural place I know. An endearing, bittersweet weIcome home. I have completed my first novel, THE VAST LANDSCAPE. OK, in rough edits, even so. After a decade of shape shifting the words, the story has come full circle. THE VAST LANDSCAPE exists and I’m proud. I can’t wait to share Harrison. There are many to thank, I was not alone on this journey. From the bottom of my heart, I hope you enjoy the trip.
An excerpt to wet the palette before the main course.
THE VAST LANDSCAPE
Let There Be
Colored, shiny, New Orleans beads sway in the trees. Mason jars, filled with tea candles flicker, making magic, plastic stars illuminate the night. Solar powered dragonfly and butterfly globes change color at random, scattered about the yard. Round, color bulbs decorate the screen porch. Wetsuits hang on hooks. Orange and yellow boards stand at attention, propped against the house, in formation with a baby blue, wave decaled, pint size version. The beautiful chaos makes Harrison chuckle. Chimes dance on the wind, in perfect pitch. Harrison sits at the picnic table drinking a Shandy, stupid grin permanently plastered on her face. The grill fired up, table set, mismatched dollar store plates, tacky sunflower paper cups dress the table. She can barely see Zack, knows he’s in the kitchen. Prepping BBQ chicken, steaming corn, and tossing a salad. Harry doesn’t cook. Dr. Pretty tells her it’s for the best, having tasted her God-awful attempts. This meal, her baby’s favorite. It’s a special night, first day before pre-school. Harrison cries, desperate to stop the clock. She begged to keep her home, Zack insists. Music plays from the kitchen. There’s almost always music playing at the beach house. Harry can’t quite make out the song, some familiar, catchy pop tune, her daughter loves. Plays over and over, loud. The girl is bossy, fearless, like her mother and sticky sweet, Southern mannered, like Daddy. Let there be. Life by the beach lived at sunrise, sunset in Technicolor. Harry watches Pretty, dancing, laughing and bending down. She can’t see her golden ringlet, hell on wheels angel from the window. She knows she’s there, the reason behind her father’s good mood. Addie does that, her zest for life contagious. She’s an easy kid, chill for the most part. Braver than her mama, she swims, surfs, twirls and skips in her ocean. Harrison doesn’t regret walking away, fame, ugliness, the soul snatchers. Not for a second. She has more money than any human being should. Zack’s happy she’s at home. He’s Head of the ER, big shot Doc., means more responsibility and more hours, away. Harry teases him, no cracked out celebrity patients. Secretly, she’s grateful for that night. He saved her. Stitched her feet, it was so much more. Lord knows he’s a patient man, did her best to push him away. Wasn’t budging. He saved her more times than she can count, and their baby. She shudders to think they almost didn’t make it. If Zack hadn’t reacted, Harry wouldn’t have a life. With the caring, smart, sexy partner she adores, and her spitfire, intuitive daughter. Who jumps into strangers’ laps? Harrison scolds her, shaking her head. “Adelaide, why did you do that?” With big, beautiful, curious hazel-eyes, all serious, she replies, “He was sad, mama. Like you get sometimes, I wanted to cheer him up.” Off she goes, not before planting a fat, wet kiss on her mother’s cheek. Harrison heads into the kitchen, “Do you guys need help?” Zack grabs her, before she can react. “We do. We need. You. Dancing, Queen.” Laughing, he turns up the volume, pulling Harrison close, scruff skimming her face. Goosebumps. Addie tugs at Harry’s dress. Strong, supple Zack scoops her up in one arm, swinging her around. She squeals with glee, “Daddy.” Harrison looks at her loves, and knows, instinctively. This, this is it. She’d searched the vast landscape, without a map, the rough, scary terrain swallowing her whole. Harrison’s dusty, torn backpack pushed aside, on a shelf in the attic. Twenty years, ache and itch all gone. No running. Destination arrived. Despite the pit stops, fires, sinkholes, pimps, mistakes, lone railways and scars. It was worth it. The backyard lit up like a redneck Christmas, Harry didn’t mind. “I’m hungry, let’s get this show on the road. Addie, bring the radio. “You can play your song, baby. As loud as you like.” Let There Be. Light. Let There Be. Family. Let There Be. Love.
Let’s face it; there’s no fooling. The sagging skin, the wrinkled face, the ridiculous forty something woman in short skirts and bottled-up Botox. The gravitational pull and the eventual flight back home were booked in advance. You already hold the winning ticket. I recognize the faces in the street, the fear, the familiar grimace and disgust at the sideways glance in the shop’s windowpane. I see the doubt, the two-second pause, the roll of the eyes in the rear view mirror. I’m going to rise above it, be the lady lit from within. I’m going to honor this body that works, that walks me from place to place. I’m going to love this heart that beats and eyes that see the sun and feel the heat, and arms that sway to the rhythm and ears that hear the beat. I’m going to resist the tug; I’m going to dig the features and the sum. I’m going to take the very best care. Every so often, I’m going to eat eggs with buttered toast and pancakes dripping in maple syrup. I’m going to drink beer without the guilt. I’m going to love a man head on without flipping the light. Sooner or later, I’m going to want to play the parts. I’ll be mother, daughter, sister, lover, and feminist right on time. I’ll want to write the appropriate words that answer the meaningful questions. I’ll get the joke. I’ll laugh out loud without bringing my hands up to cover my face. I am timeless, ageless and the perfect temperature. I will not grimace at the sight of a beautiful young woman. I will nod and offer her a secret, knowing smile and familiar glance. I will put away the minis, the boots, and the crazy forms of self-expression and store them deep in the back of my closet. I’ll hold onto them for a younger version of myself. I no longer have any use. I’ll walk the walk with conviction. I’ll talk the talk and hear the discussion. I will listen, with a mind that is open. I will wait ten seconds to answer. I’ll have a well-thought out appropriate response. I’ll take an interest in the world around me. I’ll be empowered, insightful, bright and impulsive in an instant. I will mellow out and leave fear, jealousy and rage behind. I’ll do all the things that a grown up does. I will act like a curvy, sophisticated, well groomed woman. I will see the face and body; I will embrace and endorse the beautiful. I will tuck away my first class ticket in the back pocket of my favorite pair of ripped, familiar blue jeans for a later date. I will remember where I put it. I’ll keep my head on straight, high upon my strong, beautiful shoulders. I will put one determined foot in front of the other. For now, I’m just going to walk. And face the window without the pain.
I wrote EMBERS AND ASH some years ago, or so. I don’t remember the precise day, I remember the unhappy circumstance. I needed to come home. I was unwell. Truth, I was out of my fucking mind and the only person I wanted, needed and trusted was the one who birthed me. Her ferocious, constant, capable mother-love was the only thing that was not spinning out of control. The one I counted on, shared every milestone, pain, triumph, the prettiest and ugliest parts of myself. All the minutia that comes with living and choosing the risk of loving. I never wanted to come back home, no, no, no. Not in a million years. That for me meant failure, big time. What would the peanut gallery say? It still stings when I think about it too long, when I’m beating myself up which is more often than not. I’m not well, get over it, fight and it is what it is. That’s what she’d say, her voice drilled in my head that keeps me alive, grounded to the earth.
Here I am, years later. Home, in her rock solid house. I’m so fucking grateful to wake up knowing she is downstairs waiting. I hear the familiar sounds, the heavy gait puttering around the kitchen. I don’t have to hear her at all I know instinctively from the air I breathe easier. Her mind is sharp her body willing yet less able, the terrifying reminder she is mortal after-all. God gave me a horrible burden to bear, but gifted me one superhuman willing to stick it out, fight with me and for me when I can’t. Love is the risk worth taking no matter the hurt, fear, what lies ahead. I remind myself, over and over. I am not a mother, I only understand the depths, beauty and bitter-sweetness from her side.
It’s what I know. The one truth I’ve learned that matters.
Then, and now.
EMBERS AND ASH
by Jacqueline Cioffa
Oh dear, have you seen her? She was right here a minute ago. I swear. I can still smell her cheap $5.00 perfume and tobacco trail. I didn’t know. I was ill prepared, unfit for this thing called a lifespan. How to navigate the hillbilly, redneck back roads without a compass of one’s own? Abandoned, side tracked, lost in the strange moments rolled into one. Bone crushing, blood pulsing, cotton candy sticky, all-consuming love. I have not been on the other side; I do not know how she feels. I did not experience the pain of giving birth, the miracle of a helpless creature cradled in her arms, heart to heart beating. To feel precisely how she feels, thinks. I cannot know. I am out of my depth, in foreign waters. The grown up child still needs her, close. The mere presence calms the rattled, shaky, knee scraped bones. I could never be that good. Selfless, compassionate, proud to mop floors, cook dinners, wash clothes and carry heavy loads without fuss. A lifetime of that kind of fierce love wears you down. Even the strongest, most stubborn, willful adoration wilts. Overtime. It happens. The love is not lost, it simply turns down the volume. Nature and time see things differently. The well-oiled machine in sync with the needs of her child eventually breaks down. I can’t compete with evolution. I can’t will it to stop, slow down. It does not hear. I cannot bear to lose the anchor, safe ground. I sob and sob until exhaustion sets in. I can’t help myself. Wrought with emotion. I overthink it. I think again, tricking the brain bad won’t happen. I can’t even come close. In this life I have loved many but only one burned constant, embers and ash. No matter, roles were bartered long ago. Overbearing, enveloping, tough, crazy mother love does not judge. It remains solid, no matter how deep the disappointment. She watches quietly, observing the ebb and flow. Waiting patiently to gather shattered, fallen pieces, dustbin in hand. What a sour burden to own something so precious, forced only to have to let it go. Her greatest gift, knowing precisely when to push and when to pull. That I understand. That, I know well. The incomparable fear of love and loss, one’s heart ripped straight through the middle. Embers and ash. The unbearable, unbreakable mother daughter bond so simple, so complicated.
THE RED BENCH
I want to dance alone in the dark. I want to hear the underlying music through the deafening mundane silence that is everyday life. I want to make snow angels in a Speedo. I want to smile again without feeling forced. I am going to free myself from the limitations wrapped tightly around my neck. I’m going to discard the heavy and not give it a second thought. I’m going to dance on paper and move mountains with thoughts clear in black and white.
The limbo of my life will become a discarded thing of the past. There will be happy, chocolate chip minutes and inviting, familiar scents wafting through stale air.
It will be comfortable.
My love of prose runs deep, and flows freely. I never try to push or guide her, I simply wait. She comes to me in thought, letting words steer the course. 100,000 keystrokes, always grateful for the ride. Slippery, sliced, bruised and banged up, the rocks show me the how. Pointing towards the unsettling, eery calm waters, and guaranteed ease of crystal blue, crisp, sun storm light beautiful. A new day. Possibility runs amok, wild like the raging currents I am bound to.