Midnight Moon – “The Middle” Part I

“The Middle”

Do you believe in miracles? I do.

I entered the world small and barely breathing during an early September afternoon. And with a companion, too: my twin sister, triumphant and vibrant with life.

So happy my parents were with their bounty: a set of twins! However, Fortune frowned upon them and rendered me deformed. No, not in a way that made people stare shamelessly. No—this dysfunction was steeped in subtlety. It existed inside of me.

I nearly died numerous times before my first birthday. The left ventricle of my heart never formed correctly—a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome; infants endure procedure after procedure before they can lift their heads, aided by the oracle of technology. Back then, such boons were not available, and the news descended from doctors’ mouths like an atom bomb.

When I flash back to the moment the stalwart Dr. Gregory Armstrong stood wearily before my shaken parents, surgical cap in his hands, my parents’ solidarity jumps out at me. Hands are linked, bodies are close. You would never know that two years later, my father would have resumed the affair that spawned three children with another woman. Thinking of that makes me wistful.

“If she doesn’t have surgery,” Dr. Armstrong informed them, “she will die. Her heart is severely malformed, and it will be a miracle if she lives past a month of age without swift action.”

My mother attempted to swallow her tears but could not. She broke down into heart-aching sobs. The thought of her precious daughter dying…inconceivable. My father nodded resolutely and told Dr. Armstrong to do everything in his power to save me.

* * *

I stand in the gallery of Audbone Heights Medical Center while a long-haired (in a surgical cap, mind you) and focused Gregory Armstrong amends my inauspicious heart with the Norwood procedure, which, at the time was fairly new. My father, versed in the discipline but sobered by the sight of his own child under the knife, observes. My little body appears blue and pitiful under the illumination. I cannot watch for long.

Later on, I hover a moment over myself in recovery. I brush a finger over my newborn fist, wishing I could feel my own skin. As a rule, I never get to touch my past, just to observe.

* * *

The plate flies over my head and shatters against a wall. Luckily I am a mere shade in this scene so the possibility of getting maimed remains low.

It is 1988. My mother carries my little sister Gretchen on her hip to her seat while the rest of us cower at the dinner table, listening to my parents argue. I didn’t know then what the pictures in my head meant, only that they scared me. My mind foretold my hospitalization, but how could I verbalize this? Outside of the family, others believed I was odd, despite Jessica and Claudia-Michelle’s fervent defense.

“I know you’ve been with her, Robert!” my mother exclaimed, banging a pot of pasta. “I can smell her on your breath.”

“How dare you accuse me of being unfaithful without any proof, Irene?” my father demanded. “It’s not my fault if you’re feeling insecure.”

At the sound of metal hitting metal, six-year-old Gretchen jumped. Danie frowned into her spaghetti. Jessica tried to calm her, bolstering the rest of us. Eric sat red-faced, inwardly cursing his parents for not being nice to one another.

But Claudia-Michelle. She’s staring at me.

With the dubious pleasure of hindsight, I now understand not only the development of myself but also that of my sisters and brother. Jessica formed into the tough tomboy because she had a great deal to protect and Eric felt, being the only boy, he had to be as tough as she was; Claudia-Michelle, gentle and sophisticated (and fierce when circumstance allowed), learned to appreciate the brief beauty of things in life and the care and respect they required. Danie refused to be lumped with her sickly twin and flourished with her vitality. Gretchen struggled with the awkwardness the inattention brought. My life impacted all of theirs; many a night there were with them bouncing around in a waiting room for me.

My seven-year-old face hurts to take in; inside of me, my heart fought to pump as infection started to overtake it. My glassy eyes fluttered with the effort to stay conscious.

Claudia-Michelle rose to her feet. “Mama!” she yelled, voice hoarse with fear and urgency.

The scene blurs; Mama rushed into the room just as my seven-year-old self collapsed into Claudia-Michelle’s arms. I can barely see past the tears before I close my eyes and move on.

* * *

Later on, Dr. Armstrong faced my parents (less than united) about my newest problem. I had an infection of my heart, and the shunt was becoming ineffective. There existed two options: transplant or death.

My father threw his hands up in frustration. I press my lips together, trying not to be angry when he suggested that the transplant is too much of a long shot. He worked in the profession, watching as hope failed for transplant patients and they died without a new organ. His assertion is steeped in reason, in logic.

“No,” Mama disagreed, eyes damp but voice firm. “We will manage. Get m’ija a new heart, Greg. She hasn’t come this far to fail now.”

Dr. Armstrong, that bullish giant with the gentle hands, nodded. He wasn’t merely interested in the positive stats and the good press; he genuinely wanted me to pull through. I believe if my parents had disagreed with the transplant option he would’ve placed me on the list himself.

“I am glad we both agree,” Dr. Armstrong said quietly. However, there resonated a bit of reproach for my father. A little amusing from this end.

* * *

Oh yes. I can’t leave out the heart. It has a story of its own.

The donor had been a vibrant ten-year-old girl who had died in a tragic car accident while visiting family in New York. Her name was Ella, and she lived in a suburb in Pittsburgh with her two sisters, mother and father. She played softball and loved Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Her health was exquisite, and her blood type matched mine. And the heart? The atria and ventricles were perfect, like they had been carved by gods while the embryo flourished inside of her mother.

I’ve visited Ella several times. She was lovely, a precocious redhead that reminds me of Jessica. She had freckles that she hated and blue eyes inherited from her mother. I am not so egotistical that I believe I deserved her heart. Every time, whether she’s sighing over Zack Morris’s smile on the TV screen, catching her breath after clearing home plate, or fighting for her life in an ambulance going at light speed, I thank her for the gift. She will not be disappointed.

Poetry Corner – “Nine”

My baby brother is autistic.

It’s not something I readily admit to people.  He’s a wonderful little boy despite it–aren’t they all, and the little girls, too–and I try not to let that color my perception of him. I remember the day, the moment he came into his world. This month, four days before my mama’s birthday, he turns nine. My world would not be the same without him, and for that, even with its hardships I am thankful.

I want to watch him grow and be taller than me.

“Nine”

For the Midget

The air displaced–it knew, right before the vibration–
The little one is coming, and you should come, too–
And bear witness to Life entering the room,
As deja vu comes over you; yes, we sisters three
Traveled the same path to light and sound
Where shrouded in Mother we could not partake;
And now he enters, an early gift, this child of ours.

And that poor little face, marred by skin sucked dry
Still handsome in our eyes, our precious boy;
Cognizant were we to the milestones of being,
Tiny fingers grasping tight, edentulous smiles
Accompanied by sweet giggles, cooing like music;
From roving hands to sturdy legs we watched him move
Mirth sparkling from his dark eyes
But his words, incomprehensible.

Wait–we said, hope in our hearts
Until the consensus was made: Something is not right;
Objects of play lined up with startling efficiency
And garbled language incited alarm–
Fear took over, and I would be remiss if I denied it;
Knowing presents a remarkable weapon
And to deny this special child–a heinous crime.

But his heart, that little thumping organ
Bigger seemingly in figurative terms;
Taking up the spoon, making sure the smaller one ate
Ruthlessly, forgetting himself and his own appetite
Until presented with a notebook, a blank canvas;
He colored till his fingers stained
Only to pause to ask us, How was your day?

Out in the world is he now, with others his own size,
Lining up to have a work of art fashioned in his hand
With depth and splashes of color that belie his age;
He meets me at the door with tiny arms outstretched
And reads a short tale from a hand-made book;
How far he’s come, I muse, our little man
And further he’ll go, us propelling his burgeoning wings.

Poetry Corner – “Lonely Girl”

“Lonely Girl”

Materialize they do, the stars
On your ceiling tonight
Live vicariously, no harm
Through them to shine so bright
Whatever the whiteness becomes
Taking form as your heart thrums

This is how lonely girls take their fun

Out the window paradise looms
Hues more vivid than ever met the eye
Imagination is a cherished boon!
Never in reality would this have been right
Ill-met in translation of this land

Making the others understand
Leads the outsiders to disband

And rueful this may seem
A solitary adventure of one
One girl’s hell is another’s dream
Depending on how the tale is spun
So when she weaves a tale for your mind
Take the time–realize!
What you perceive may be most entwined.

Poetry Corner – “Dictionary”

“Dictionary”

You scratch your head
As if you’ve never seen
The likes of me
I’m something
Worthy of study
In classrooms
Across the country

I’ve got a strange swagger
That men and toads
Have all
But when I speak
My diction seems
Like fiction
A tongue that you
Have never heard
Before

I transcend meaning
Beyond your understanding
Is where I reside
There are so many words
That have fallen
From your vocabulary
Your concept of me
Is out in space

I am incomparable
There is
No precedent for me
In imitation
No one has tried
To flatter me
And don’t try
You’ll come up short

I am undefined
And if you try
You cannot find
Me in your dictionary
You cannot pin
A name on me
I’m a moving target
With no visage
Unknown assailant
Here without warning
I am unrestricted
You cannot find
Me in your dictionary

Poetry Corner – “Story of My Life”

“Story of My Life”

I’ve got no fairy godmother to light my way
No glass slipper to fit upon my foot
To find me some prince charming
That is not as charming as he seems
I’ve got no gilded forest with chirping birds
No theme song filled with pretty imagery
That gets stuck in my head when I’m unhappy

I wake up and close the book
Can’t be the princess sleeping her life away
Once upon a time I bid adieu
Because the story of my life is through
The story that’s full of pretenses
Oh no, I can’t continue this story anymore

I’ve no need for a wicked witch to mess with me
I’m having too much trouble with reality
I can’t spend my time to wonder where
Have all those charming princes fled
I can’t waste time looking for a crowned head
Because through my life I have learned
Royal or common, men are bred the same

I wake up and close the book
Can’t be the princess sleeping her life away
Once upon a time I bid adieu
Because the story of my life is through
The story that’s full of pretenses
Oh no, I can’t continue this story anymore

I’m through with thinking that
The magic is worth something
I’m going to get my own ride
And not wait around for a magic pumpkin
To whisk me away to paradise
Where the story of my life begins

Oh no, I’ve no need for happily ever after
My life begins wherever I set my feet
You don’t need to fade out on me
Waving goodbye on a majestic steed
Because I’d rather have that open ending

Poetry Corner – “First Winter”

“First Winter”

Beautiful snowflakes from the sky
Covering everything in untainted white
The cold was so clean
The white was so infinite
Oh tell me, did you know that was my first time?

Huddled together, you and me
Trying to trap the escaping heat
The wind hastily swirling
As if telling us we had to depart
Oh tell me, do we have to leave our paradise?

We can’t make the Sun stand still
But we can make time run
We can make time run
And be together again

The sun peeks over the skyline
Letting the golden light into our lives
And I could see
The tears in your eyes
Oh tell me, did you know I couldn’t bear to say goodbye?

Watching you go from my window
I can’t quite shake the cold
Wishing I had your hand to hold
Oh tell me, did you know I wanted to be a snowflake?
(Swirling on the wind, able to be free)
Till I found you again

We can’t make the Sun stand still
But we can make time run
We can make time run
And be together again

Poetry Corner – “Are We in Love?”

 

“Are We in Love?”

Saturdays, summer days spent in seclusion
Wasting away our lives in this delusion
Saving face, amazing grace, where will this lead?
Tell me, but maybe, you don’t know the seed
Of this life-plaguing eventuality
Where do we go when faced with reality?

So now I’m forced to make the inquiry
Are we in love?
It seems our wedded bliss just a fantasy
Are we in love?

Untrue, who knew our love was unreal
The thing that grew was hunger’s zeal
Wasted time on lies, what do we do?
Thru my eyes I only find choices a few
I gotta save my life; death won’t suffice
Leaving you’s the only thing right

So now I’m forced to make the inquiry
Are we in love?
It seems our wedded bliss just a fantasy
Are we in love?

Floating, we are here on a vast sea
Until we cast out love to memory
So say goodbye to pretending to love me

Saturdays, summer days being on my own
Spending time, just getting by all alone
Saving face, amazing grace, where will I go?
To myself true everything I do till my life is done
Cast out love to memory
So say goodbye to pretending to love me

You were not in love

Poetry Corner – “You and Me”

“You and Me”

Let’s blow out the candles
Sweep away the flower petals
I’d rather take up arms
With our backs merged
Take on a firing squad
Knowing we’re a good duo

Don’t call me beautiful, darling
Save the sentiment for the margins
I’d rather battle with my mind
Even though you’ll win everytime
Superseding me in my view
But I am here to learn

Forget those shiny distracting things
Save them for a material spirit
I’d rather receive things without a tag
Indulge me in the mundane
Spoil me with the unknown
There exists space to grow

When all the clamor reaches its end
In the quiet of the night
Cityscape twinkling like stars behind
If it appeases to hold me close
I will not argue for Long
The most important thing of all

Poetry Corner – “Unbreakable”

“Unbreakable”

You walk with that stride
That says you won’t take too kind
To someone jerking you around
But then she comes along
With the one thing that shakes you from the inside

Don’t try to be so hard
You’re not unbreakable
You shouldn’t be so scared
The truth is all we have to bear
Don’t think I’m so fragile
But sometimes I’m breakable, too

You’ve got your armor
Like you’ve played one’s shining knight
More times than the sky’s seen light
And she comes along
With that one thing that makes you want to fight
Once more, just for her

I’ve stood the polite distance to give you privacy
Working on the logic that keeps me from lunacy
You’ve got ghosts and I’ve my own, no lie
But why does she have to matter so much this time?

Don’t try to linger too long
You’re not unbreakable
You should be more wary
She will use you with no caring
Don’t think I’m so fragile
But sometimes I’m breakable, too

Don’t be so hard, don’t linger
Don’t be so scared, be wary
Don’t think I’m so fragile

I can be strong
But not for very long

Poetry Corner – “Janus”

“Janus”

A man stands on the edge of yesterday and tomorrow
To his eye these ruins are grossly incomplete;
From his mind, this is quite not what he divined;
A god of his own world professed he to be–
Greatness was not built in an instant, mon ami!
What gift we better given than time?
Nothing comes until Fate summons it forth
And fits snugly into the tapestry of our existence;
Bitterness sours the supple mind
That takes us through those open doors

So battle that sentiment! Axe it if you will.
Living never comes without obstacle,
Nothing wondrous was won with wondering.