Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Oxymoron

Use a dozen of these lovely phrases (like "she was gaily grieving" or "he had many pleasing pains") to describe a large oxymoron--a person, place, or event. The thing you're looking for in a good oxymoron is the surprise of the connections.
(from prompt #41 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

door number 1
"door number 1" by tanjatiziana

Before the interview I prayed like the devil for God knows what: luck, confidence, something that could instigate a permanent change of life for me. Everyone tried encouraging me, telling me to act natural, to just be myself. Whatever that means, because if I were to act natural I’m not sure it would be myself, and lately what felt natural is more ostrich than human. Inside I just wanted to hide from the outside world, filled as it is with voices telling me what I ought and ought not to want, but I’d been stuck inside so long that what I wanted most was fresh air. Handing a stranger a single sheet of paper declaring my value made me hyperventilate, which is a generous exchange when it comes to being able to breathe.

When they asked me why I’d had such an extended experience with temporary employment, as I figured they would, I had some prepared answer about personal business that could demonstrate maturity and responsibility. Something I could say that sounded more dignified than the truth, that it had been a pretty ugly year, spent hiding my head in the sands of time and debt piling up on me.

I know better than to admit some things, I know that leaving things unsaid saves others the trouble of pretending things are gonna be okay. We’d gone out to the cliffs the week before I left and looked out at the edge, silent and alone together on a clear summer day. The only words I remember were asking whats wrong with me, but I’m not sure who asked, it’s the same difference whichever of us did. The answer both of us knew without saying was, nothing you can fix. At a close distance the surf beat against the wall we were standing on, over and over, in big swells of water and in small laps, but from where we were we couldn’t see anything but the wide stretch of water resting fitfully around us, as far as we could see and farther. Just the deep Pacific, dark blue and torrid against a calm cloudless sky, and neither of us could appreciate the dueling expanses because we were just trying not to talk about much we couldn’t say. When we left the cliffs something had changed in an instant but we didn’t realize it for months.

It surprised me one day, about a year ago, to comprehend my ignorance, to understand that things always change. That day, a Tuesday, I woke up with dreams and went to bed without them. I felt numb. And the shock stuck to me and gathered and grew, like all things electric it made the natural appear unnatural and my thoughts were conducted accordingly. Mostly misdirected, searching for something to connect with, my thoughts circled round themselves straight to nowhere. Thinking so much about my meaningless life was the most destructive action, it nearly killed me trying to figure out how to live.

After I got the job, my boss mentioned in passing what I’d done that had stayed with her, that had gotten me hired. She said that, luckily, it was the confident manner in which I spoke, thanks to my habit of taking two deep breaths before speaking or even reacting. She said I was living proof that sometimes you just need to remember to breathe, but of course its just the opposite. Remembering to breathe being proof of living.

1 comment:

  1. "Handing a stranger a single sheet of paper declaring my value..."

    credit reports, dmv records, resumes, rental history, gpa- i have the same reaction. america loves these little tracking systems.

    also, its hard publishing the more personal peices, like this story. good job with the oxymorons. well done.


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