Posts from the ‘Realistic’ Category

Return Adulthood

Sometimes I don’t feel like I am making a difference. Don’t get me wrong, I bet all Americans would be lost without Target and the trusty return line, where you can return crap you shouldn’t have bought in the first place or a gift your daughter-in-law did not appreciate during that recent family gathering. But when I help people take care of their retail therapy regrets, I do not feel as if I’m making much of a difference.

I tell myself that maybe today will be different, as I stand behind the counter and notice three people moving toward my line. Yuck.

The first one is an old lady returning the shower curtain because it didn’t match the beige of her bathroom walls. She complains for about 30 seconds on our lack of color selection before seemingly taking the cue of my lack of response and heading out the door.

The next is a man, returning an embarrassing pair of boxers with women kiss lips on them. Apparently the wife didn’t know him well.. Or the mistress. Who really knows at this point?

The next customer is just a…nothingness. Then there is a whip of hair appearing over the side of the counter. She hands me a sheet of paper. It was a bit crusty looking, maybe a cereal spill. She had to reach to the end of her arm’s length to get it on the counter. She looked to be under ten. Maybe. I could never tell about ages.

“What can I help you with?” I asked, wondering what this was as I looked it over. It was a piece of notebook paper with a list called “Things that have caused me pain” in the upper right hand side of the paper it said the date and “RETURN” in huge block letters.

“Mom is returning stuff later. But I wanted to help sissy. Mom gave me slushy money but I found this in sissy’s room and wanted to return it.” The girl told me.

“Well, what were you hoping to return it for?” I asked, knowing this was not going to be something I could give her money back for. Well, maybe…. I looked over the list. It started with “My parents’ divorce = cost me a normal dating relationship because I always worry I’m becoming too much like my Mom and that then I will not be able to move forward with the relationship.” Also listed was “My brother’s drug problem = cost me trust in family.” Then, a few lines later, “My brother’s funeral = cost me emotional balance.” At the end, it said, “RETURN so that I can be a healthy child again. I do not want to be an adult anymore.”

I frowned at this list and then looked at the girl. She had her wallet open and looked ready to transfer money back to her sister.

“I can help you with this. Hold on.” I told my co-worker I was taking a break and walked over to the girl, “Let’s go get that slushy.” I ordered slushies for us and didn’t let her use her mom’s money. She might need it to buy a ticket to anywhere that wasn’t her crazy family. We mixed the blue and red in our slushies because she had never done that before.

“It was in your sister’s journal?” I asked the girl, wondering absently what kind of mom sends their kid off to get a slushy by themselves. We sat down at one of the mostly clean tables in the Target sit down area.

“Yeah, I heard her crying and I snuck in her room when she went to hang out with Lily.” The little girl leaned closer and said sincerely, “I don’t think she knows how to return things. I don’t know what those are but I know the word return from my Mom. She likes to shop for wrong things.”

I looked at the little girl. I grabbed a book from my purse, called “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown. It was the self-help book I was reading and I figured the sister needed it more. I started to write a note and the girl babbled on about her slushy. “Your sister really loves you and wanted to return the list that was making you cry. I gave her this book because I can’t return life experiences. I know it sucks. My little sister is gone, too. – Target return girl.”

I handed the book to the little girl and said, “When you return a journal page (which I had stashed back in the book), you get a book from me.”

I started to stand but the girl asked, “Most people don’t return pages, do they?”

I sat back down and looked at her eyes, which were so much deeper already than they “should” be. But who decided on what “should” be, when every day something happened that “shouldn’t.”

“No, most people do not. But I am glad you did.” I stood up and walked back to the line.

Sure enough, the mom showed up in my line with a few things to return, including the new Nicholas Sparks bestseller, a clearance cup with little balloons printed all over it and three newborn outfits. I wondered if it was from a family dispute or if another child had been lost.

Right as the mom was about to leave with the girl, I said. “You have a very well-behaved girl. If you ever need a babysitter,” I jotted my number on the receipt, “Let me know.”

She thanked me and absently looked at her daughter. Maybe she will call. Maybe she won’t. But today I hope I made a difference.

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L O V E/E V O L

By Christian Sopkowiak

“I love you. That’s all I said. Three words. I am telling you this because, well, you seem to listen. It was a bright day, and we had just walked out of the restaurant. It was our third date; even though she insists it was our second. Sitting together, just us two, doing nothing, counts as a date right? I mean, I like to think dating is that easy. It should be. But it isn’t. It has to be the most painful process of relationships. Stupid gestures, stupid clichés, and even worse: stupid people. I can’t say I have seen it all. Hell, at that moment, I was still pretty inexperienced. But hearing the stories told from others, it always makes me think the best part of love is that it’s just a little different with that person.

See, I could go on a date with a girl, enjoy myself, and call her up again. We could go out for a while, eventually begin to distance, and then go our separate ways. That’s most of the stories I’ve heard and stories I’ve lived. But I have also heard stories of true love. Of the way you meet and something clicks. You immediately enjoy each other. You smile when they are around. You wish you could see them everyday, and sometimes you do. But most of all, you want them to be happy. And that something that clicks, why I cant explain it. The spark in love cannot be defined, only felt. And I have felt that only once in my life, and I told her I loved her a week after I met her. Anyways, back to that story. So she stared at me, pursing her lips, and trying to get the hell out of there. But I stood up for my feelings; I didn’t let her think too much. I told her that I have never seen someone so beautiful, someone so smart, someone so thoughtful, and someone so driven in my life. I told her why I loved her, how she laughs when I make bad jokes. Or how she smiles at me while I talk to my friends. Or how she couldn’t stop from twisting her hair when we sat across from each other that night. Or how she always giggles when she smiles. I loved her. She smiled at me after I was done. She kissed me on the cheek and left.

It was the worst night of my life. I guess, that might be a lie, but you don’t know that. You haven’t had too many bad nights, have you? But, she contacted me the next morning, saying how much fun she had. She wanted to do it again. Love is not easy, nor is it hard. It’s somewhere in the middle. When that spark, that something is felt, nothing can stop you from getting together. Love can be really dumb. But, I like to think no matter how bad love can make you feel, it can always brighten your entire day in a moment’s notice. That’s what happened that morning. And I married that beautiful woman. And I guess, after all of this cliché stupid romantic stuff, I just want you to understand love is natural. Just go for it. And I’m telling you this, I guess, because it worked for me. And because, I want you to be the best person you can be, son.” My three-week-old son then smiled at me and giggled, just like his mom.

The Pastures and the Fields

By Christian Sopkowiak

Using the prompt for this week: “Our writing prompt for this week is to write a story using the following five words: bottle, balcony, strawberry, conversation, values.”

Inspired by the biblical story of Cain and Abel

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His mind drifted away from the fields, the stalks, and the sun. He thought of his brother standing in the pasture, the pepper-grey sheep surrounding him. His brother would always herd those sheep. They would always listen to his brother but the one time Carl tried it, the sheep scattered. He thought of the balcony on which he stood, a wooden thing high above the ground. He had his arms on the rails and his eyes on his fields. He thought of his brother once again, this time Abe was standing with him on this balcony, with a bottle in his left hand. It was always his left; he said it helped the alcohol flow down his throat when he drank with his left.

Carl and Abe were brothers by blood but not in truth. For when the two brothers ventured to visit their grandfather’s, Grandpa Gabe never once asked Carl about his fields. Only Abe’s sheep piqued his interest. The conversation droned on with the talk of the sharp, soft wool and tender meat. Carl left that day, knowing he seemed lost to his only other family besides his brother. The balcony began to creak a bit as Carl again tried to spot a flaw in his fields. He had corn, beanstalks, potatoes, apples, and so much more. Yet, Gabe chose Abe’s sheep. Carl saw his brother before him, a smaller man with dark hair and a clean face. There was never any hardness there. He had tried his best to forget that.

The day after their visit with Gabe, Carl approached his brother. He blamed Abe for Gabe’s neglect. Gabe had told Carl that if he kept trying, he may be able to change. But Carl knew Gabe was trying to soften the hurt. The brothers screamed at each other, neither stopping to hear the other. Carl and Abe fought about food, family, culture, values, and finally, life. Carl had brought a knife, no longer than his index finger. It was curved and smeared in oil and dirt. He had used it in his fields. That day, he used it to kill his brother. During their talk, Abe turned to look at his pasture and heavily sighed. Carl drove the blade through him. It went through his heart in one swift motion and Abe began bleeding. The blood reminded Carl of a strawberry: foolishly crimson but eloquently beautiful. So much, like the sun.

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Superior

By Christian Sopkowiak

Mosquitos, each one of them wanting a taste of blood, surrounded me. I swatted them away as they came but their numbers always seem endless when a body of water is nearby. I eventually killed one on my forearm; the mosquito was now only a red bloody spot on my body. The icy air sent shivers through me as I wondered why the mosquitos were out at this time of day. It was a beautiful but unfriendly Minnesota morning. I was standing on the shore of the enormous Lake Superior in the confines of a cold but welcoming Minnesota. The sand crunched beneath my feet and the cool air breathed continuously across the shore. My eyes were adjusting to the rising sun; its crimson rays were inviting as well as striking.

I exhaled heavily to see my breath take form in front of me. The air was an oddly calming tinge of frigid. It was spring and the lake was just getting used to being free from the rigid ice. I had begun to feel the shivering tingle of lake water drift in between my toes. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. I was too close to the shore but the water is exactly what I needed to wake me. I decided to sit down in the sand with my knees high and my arms wrapped around my legs.

I stared out into the lake, the water shone bright as an occasional wave lapped up the air. Some moments there would be a fish flopping in and out of the water, others there would be a loon cooing, and others there would be a bird of prey swooping in for its breakfast. The lake’s greenish blue tinge entranced me for a few moments; the lack of movement on the surface calmed my nerves for a bit.

That is when I stretched my mouth to smile at the lake. The water again brushed against my toes and the restful wind hit my cheek. As the sun rose that morning, I decided to stand up from the brittle sand. I looked at my hands after I stood; sand and blood caked my palms and fingers. The blood spread to my white shoes and jeans, the stains would take forever to get out.

“It would be so much simpler if we were free,” I said aloud. That is when I heard the police sirens behind me. My eyes drifted to the lake again. An eagle clenched a trout in its talons and flew off into the distance, into the clouds.Image

Rapid

By Christian Sopkowiak.

It was too late. The river had begun to fill my lungs and I swear I saw the darkness they talk about when you are dying. The unfathomable weight of my drenched clothes began to contribute to my drowning. The lack of oxygen in this prison was becoming unbearable. What sucked most of all, I could not even see the sun.

My entire body was submerged under the tortuous blue of the water. The rapids were destructive that day and of course, I decided to try the canoe today. It was stupid, in hindsight. But, I was drowning, dying, losing, and trying to…

My scalp felt the rays of the sun for a moment and I knew I would have a moment of air. That liberating moment occurred seconds after the sun graced my head. My head bobbed out of the water for about ten seconds.

The heat radiated across my face and I gulped all the air I could. I used all of my strength, my muscle, and my will power for those ten seconds. The rapids tore me back down and I tried to remember the taste of the air.

Immediately, my body jerked towards one side then it ripped towards the other. My head snapped to the left when my body went to the right. The water tore me without thought or reason. One moment I would be towards the shore and the next, I would be drowning in the brunt of the rapids. My head snapped to the left, this time. I knew I would be jerked somewhere next so I put my hands out to try to stop the water from pushing me but that was only my instinct, not my logic. I was under for, well, a few more minutes I suppose before the rapids gave me another moment of air.

I raised my hand out of the water and the rapids decided that meant I got my chance. They ripped me out of the water, for a moment, and I swallowed the air. I gasped, opened my eyes to see boulders everywhere. But, I heavily inhaled that unseen remedy as my head once again enjoyed the sun’s warming rays. I swear, air tastes so damn good when you need it.

Then, I went back. The rapids once again grabbed me and did not let go. This time, I opened my eyes under water to see the damage. The water was moving sideways then upside down then towards me. I also saw my feet, they were dangling, lifeless it seemed. The water had taken them too. The water began rushing towards my pupils so I closed my eyes. That was when I slammed into the boulder.

The rock was sitting the midst of the rapids and my body crashed into it. I grabbed onto the boulder, my ribs felt broken, my legs mangled. I struggled to gasp for air, let alone breath. The water wanted me for itself, it kept trying to tear me from the boulder. I needed air, somewhere, somehow. I swear, the boulder had crunched some of my ribs to bits and my feet were numb. Every breath began to feel like my last as my ribs attacked my skin and my lungs began to give up. So, I climbed up or at least I tried to. The rapids kept coming, trying to pull me down for more. My adrenaline must have been pumping because I did it. I was able to get my eyes above the water and I saw the sun again. In that moment, I wanted to wait there, forever, and look at the pale yellow light above me.

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Adventure Awaits

“You know you want to come along.”

I rolled over in my bed and glared at the window. I saw the Tim’s lean frame through the window and was pretty sure I could make out a grin on his face. I also knew that if he was here, I was going to leave with him. The thing to know about Tim is that he always wears the most beautiful jeans from Buckle and that he is quite manipulative.

“I’m sleeping, go away,” I said in a mock-sleepy voice. I had hardly slept the last few nights. If anything besides manipulative, Tim was predictable. I could see his restless heart probably better than he could and knew he was about done with this place.

See this here is how it happened. We got recruited right out of high school. They bring in kids from all over the U.S. They train us and then send us out into the world to do quests or some crap. They didn’t really give us much detail but we are trained in most of the same stuff that the army is trained in along with professional business-speak and such. I could work in an office or be an assassin. The missions vary but this is a private company owned by some crazy old man who seems to want to control the world. It is all a little odd but we get paid really well and right out of high school, I wasn’t ready for the ramen college life and so I took up their offer.

“Don’t make me come in there,” Tim said, starting to hoist himself up through the window.

I went the two steps it took to cross my cabin and opened the door in a resigned manner. Tim often came to visit me. He was my closest friend here and we were probably the closest friends out of the group. But we didn’t really hang out with the same people when we did group activities, didn’t quite attract the same person, I guess. My friends were lamer and I knew it.

He walked in and sat down at my reading chair. I hated when people sat in my reading chair but his jeans were pretty damn nice today and I could see that even through the darkness. I decided to let the chair thing slide, like I usually did with him.

“Why don’t you want to go?” He asked me, putting his “I’m all ears” face on.

I climbed back into my bed. No sense in wasting the warmth of my comforter.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. I always used that line when I really did want to talk about something but was being a pest about it.

“I’m waiting.” He told me, getting comfortable in his chair. I put the pillow over my head. He and a few of his friends had decided they wanted to go out and see the world and find a quest of their own because we had been here longer than any of the other training groups and we still hadn’t been assigned a place to go. We wondered why they hadn’t sent us out but all they would tell us was to be patient. It was odd that we hadn’t been sent away to a job and we were getting impatient.

He gave it about thirty seconds and then got up and I assumed started walking to the door. I heard his hand grab the knob and I peeked out from under the pillow.

“Wait.” I told him.

He came back and this time sat down on the bed next to me and looked down at me.

“So? Care to enlighten me?”

“Ugh. I’ve already close to killed my parents by going here versus being the good kid and going to college. If this falls through they’ll do that annoying parent thing where they are all disappointed.”

“That’s not the real issue though, is it?” He said, scrunching up his eyebrows.

“I mean…” I braced myself for this explanation. I was glad he wasn’t the type to laugh. “I think your friends are cool and whatnot. However, I just don’t think this will be a good fit. Like they think I’m cool ‘cause I’m friends with you but I’ll be the odd one out. I know this sounds lame but I feel like it’ll be uncomfortable.”

As usual he didn’t laugh. He pondered the room for a moment. I waited in my somewhat patient manner and tried not to move around too much. I was restless.

He looked back at me, “I see what you mean. But let me tell you, you don’t give yourself enough credit. People like you a lot more than you know.”

I couldn’t look at him. I had always been awful with compliments.

“Okay, lets go,” I said and then didn’t move. “Its just kinda warm here and out there, not so much.” I gestured to the outdoors.

Tim looked peered down at me and I felt like he was trying to decide something. I looked away for a moment and next thing I knew his face was inches from mine and he kissed me.

“I’m pretty warm, too. Grab your stuff.”

“Okay.” I smiled because I knew this would be my greatest adventure yet. He started to get up and I said, “Hold on.” I sat up and grabbed his shirt and kissed him again.

He pulled back and looked at me with a smile, “Quit distracting me and get your stuff. I’ve gotta wake the others.”

He walked out, his Buckle jeans still as nice as ever, and I started packing.

It was time to move.

 

 

 

Hair dye, who am I?

It mattered, I had tried telling myself that it didn’t and I could move on. But the the truth was, I couldn’t hide from the way I felt about my hair.

The blond dye just wasn’t working for me. I used to have a dark brown hair and I had decided to try out this new color one day. I studied myself in the mirror and then went to apply my mascara, thinking that if my makeup looked good maybe no one would notice my weird hair color.

Who was I kidding? I loved the attention I got for a new hair color. I absolutely soaked them up with cutsie little “thank you’s” and a giddy smile.

Of course, it wasn’t really the hair that I was concerned about. I was worried about who I was and who I wanted to be. I was concerned about my appearance and how I wanted to come across. Maybe I was too focused on what other people thought but I didn’t know how to evaluate myself a different way.

I supposed I did know. I knew that my self-approval needed to come from the inside. It needed to come from the fact that Jesus made me in his image and he loved me more than any person on earth could ever love me. Some days this seemed like an easy task. Jesus loved me and that was all I needed.

But other days I just wanted someone to approve of who I was. I wanted someone on earth to show me their love. I wanted to be successful and famous and yet humble and kind.

I wanted it all.

Yet all I had was a new “do” and some fresh shampoo and conditioner for dyed hair. I finished with my makeup and fluffed my hair.

I looked in the mirror and told myself “Jesus loves you” and then left the room. Maybe this dye would help out after all.

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