Sunday, September 16, 2012
Sunday, December 25, 2011
3 more days before the grand Finale, Christmas, rolls in and then 2011 will grind to the halt. Soon after, even before, the ball drops, Christmas decorations would be back in the attic, trees packed away or on the curbs, and the stores start their ceremonial after-Christmas sale. This year, we managed to get into the spirit in time – the nearly 20-year-old, one-limb-short Christmas tree was standing next to Mr. and Mrs. Snowman a little after Thanksgiving. She was wearing a new set of after-Christmas sale bargain LED lights, looking oddly unusual or foreign. I couldn’t quite pin point why, but something was definitely amiss – and I am quite sure it wasn’t the 1 small box of ornaments that we decided not to bother.
Not just the tree, other things continued to contribute to the odd factors. My walk pal, iPod, went missing after 1.5 year of faithful service. I left it on my desk that day before heading home as I had done many times, but this time it was gone for good. My Christmas pin, a simple and cheap Christmas tree, was the next defector. It fell off my sweater 2 days ago on one of my shopping trips. I have to wonder, was my Christmas cursed, jinxed? Did it happen when my musical globe broke on the day when we put up the tree? I was then struggling painstakingly to drape that uncooperative garland on the mental when it fell off and its bottom smashed into pieces right in front of my eyes. It was an inexpensive, wind-up globe – all white and silver, with reindeer and a Christmas tree inside. When you turned it upside down, the glistening flakes would dance and flutter like a fairy land where dreams and hopes come true. I had loved that silly thing dearly and left it on the mental all year round. And now it was just a globe lying limb-less in the mass of destruction. The whole room went deadly quiet then and there except my hot tears and muffled sobs buried in the soulless Christmas carols from the radio.
I think my Christmas was taken away since then. Two Christmas parties and all that holiday goodie baking have not helped to pull me out of the gloom. All that is left is a world of craze with Wal-mart’s crowd, collapsed traffic and obligated burden of baking and cooking. Tuesday was one of those. It has been a long week. At 5pm, I was exhausted, but there was still more baking that I had sworn done with and the cooking for the next day’s lunch at work. The kitchen was a mess. I was scrambling to get everything done so I could take Luke to that pizza dinner I had promised him. I was feeling grumpy from not being able to exercise because there was simply no time. Then Luke’s piano teacher stopped by to give me a dinner box and dessert plate, but that short visit took away some precious time that I desperately needed. There was yet another stop I had planned to make after the pizza. Finally I realized I couldn’t accomplish all – not without sacrificing the pizza dinner. I called Luke and told him we’d go on Thursday. No complaints or sadness from him. He ate the salmon dinner from Helen gladly.
Kitchen nightmare done, we went back to Custom Car care to get the cell phone I had left it in the other car and headed straight to Miheila’s apartment. Luke played Silent Night for Maria – she was having trouble learning that piece. After that, those two (9 and 24) looked at Maria's summer vacation pictures from Romania while I had a drink wtih Miheila. From behind, they appeared to be of the same age. That was the only sane moment of the whole week – only because of Luke and his Silent Night.
Last night was the Christmas Service at church. I had fought all day with my downcast. We did make it – a short and simple 1-hour service with music and Christmas message. It was nicely done, and yet I struggled to keep my ears attuned to the words of the true Christmas essence so that my eyes would not stray to the empty spot where Luke usually stands with his violin. Several times I had to touch the body besides me to remind myself that he was not gone; he was right next to me. Off and on his baritone singing would sneak in my troubled thoughts and shame me to tears. We drove home quietly and right after we got out of the car, I saw the violin on the back seat. He had packed it, assuming he would be playing it in the service as he had done for the past 3 years. The pang hit me when he looked alarmed at my inquiring eyes, thinking he had done something wrong. I wondered in that untouchable world beyond those dark brown eyes if he was ever hurt for having been slighted. Even so, it ended as soon as he tuned to walk into the house with that violin case that had never been opened. Whatever injustice it might have been, it was forgiven and forgotten just like that. I wished mine could have too.
I know I don’t deserve Luke – I just need him. His innocence and simplicity is the only hope for me in this life so trifling and trying. And yet he is the shadow so easily overlooked – even by me who needs him most. How can I blame others for doing the same thing? I just wish time could go back when he was still young and I hopeful for a future still beautiful and possible. For this Christmas, the spell or curse of loss stubbornly drags on. I blame the Grinch -- the broken musical globe, the missing iPod, the lost Christmas pin and the empty spot on the podium. He may have spoiled it all, but never my Christmas gift: the 5’ 5” angel without wings.
Friday, December 23, 2011
3 weeks have passed since the young and beautiful defected to the greener pasture. Across the grey partition sits an empty desk. Gone is the once lively, gay pod, where people would drop by; gone are the daily phone calls or the IMs popping from her to commiserate about life in general. To be exact, she has tried to stop by a couple of times to say hi only to be received by me lightly and politely. Our relationship, or almost-friendship, for the past 3 years seems to have dwindled to the halt – by my choice apparently. As shrewd as she is, by now she has most definitely picked up the signals and moved on already.
Undoubtedly, my “rejection” could easily be interpreted as jealousy – as in jealous of her successful defection. After all, why would I write her off like that when the so-called big escape is merely at the other side of the same floor? Shouldn’t a true friend weep and rejoice with the others? Most of all, are we, or were we, ever been friends?
I thought of another defector, DS, whose escape led him to the new pasture not only greener but also farther – nearly 40 minutes away across the water. It has been over a year since he left. Comparing to Y&B and me, we shared way less in our conversation or outside of work extra curriculum activities. And yet we have managed to keep our communication, light but steadily, as of today. “Less (then) is more (now)” seems to be the right description of this relationship.
But wait, there is more (or less)! Another coworker after 25 years of service here left too just this past week to pursue happiness elsewhere. He happened to be among the very few here I have had some interaction with –respectful though mild. We have indeed shared both light jokes and heavy discussions. His empty desk across the other wall actually left a void here in this pod. Incidentally, just today I came across another team member all dressed up, getting ready for his interview for another position. Another soon-to-be-gone, another vacant pod?
In merely 3 and half years, 4 have come and gone. Some of them I have missed and some not. More will follow suit to jump ship as it is only natural in any work place. In a world so inconsistent, the only constant seems to be this left-behind, the occupant of cube 20. Ironically, the most trapped is also the forever restless with an absurd fear for changes. This jail with barely 6-foot partitions and no door to shut might as well be the Alcatraz, impossible to escape. How does a confusing contradiction like me serve her life sentence here with no chance of parole? Would I ever survive being the last one left behind with the rest of them chosen and taken to the better place and future? The biggest question, though, is: wherever they are going, is it really better?
Thursday, December 22, 2011
3:30pm Friday, all was packed and the 3 of us drove to the meeting spot to taxi together. The sky was overcastted with a hint of summer rain, threatening us to thwart our all anticipated dream of stars watching under the mountain sky. Sure enough, a few miles down the Interstate, the rain did come. Thankfully it tapered off as we drove on. The hope was high, so was our excitement and conversation. Over 22 years of friendship, this marked the first trip ever in the same car – our children are grown, except for the forever-child Luke, who was sitting at the back of the van with a quiet smile. Once we passed Richmond, I64 was lined with layers of blue mountains and green valleys. Like little kids, we could hardly suppress our excitement – the stars are calling, and we are coming!
We stopped by our favorite small pizza place in Fishersville for dinner. After the pit stop, we continued on for yet another one and half hour through the small towns and the winding mountains. By then nightfall had arrived and the visibility was reduced to the minimum. Our skilled driver, Dave, exhibited little anxiety over the seemingly treacherous roads. The 2 men in the front, one driving and another navigating, miraculously mastered the direction from the owner of the Bed and Breakfast – “Drive through 3 mountains, over the river and through the woods” and took us finally to the front of the inn at the top of the mountain.
Our lodging is owned by a gracious couple, Jim and Loraine. It sat alone at the top of the mountains and blinked with porch lights to welcome these 5 tired yet all excited tourists from afar. We walked in to a cozy cottage, furnished with antiques and simple, tasteful décor. From the wood burning fireplace, pine flooring to the country kitchen, all charmed us with her homey comfort. But, our affair was with the stars! Without a second of wait, we went outside to the deck – and there they were, our dates, twinkling bright and high at us on that August sky, welcoming us with equal excitement. At 9:30, the night was pouring in fully at this other end of Virginia. On the pitch dark canvas, all was lost but the vague outlines of the mountains from afar and a few lights down below the valley. Life inside was getting ready to rest, but not outside; it was just about to commence: The wind was picking up and whispering in our ears, critters chanting everywhere and yes, those stars - the guests of honor, the crown jewels and the leading roles of the night. 5 of us sat there, our heads leaning back and eyes devouring the beauty and supremacy of those stars chattering silently in their ancient old mystery. We were awe struck at how and what each one was named and placed by that invisible, majestic hand behind the endless night curtain. Our conversation was light, random yet warm and genuine; from the stars to life we communed as friends and brothers and sisters. Two times we spot the shooting star – like little children, we gasped with delight.
It was right under that stary, stary sky that these travelers, weary not from the trip but from the burden of life, rested, replenished and revived with new vision, clearer and brighter, just like the stars.