Date a Girl Who Reads

Date a Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.  Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

short story (work in progress)

ROOSTER

A weekend ski retreat, and after a full first day on the slopes, our college group is back at our rented chalet, warming up by the fireplace and playing a strange version of a game show, replete with trick questions.  For example, I was just removed from the game because I guessed (like an idiot), “the north side” to the question, “If a rooster lays an egg on the roofline of a shed, which side will it roll down?”  The answer, of course, is that roosters don’t lay eggs, but now I’m standing in the back of the room, next to beautiful Ethan, my friend of just six months, who was convinced by his brother to come along at the last urgent minute even though he doesn’t go to our school.

Ethan teases me about my stupid answer, but somehow he manages to be very charming about it.  Ethan has gray eyes and messy curls and this persistent ghost of a grin that always makes me wonder.  He plays bass guitar in a local indie band called Flight Theory and started his own web design company with Miles, his (also talented) brother.  Ethan uses his words very wisely, and sometimes I think that I might end up loving him.

I’m the most experienced skier of the group, so this weekend Ethan asks me the questions, although it’s usually the other way around.  Although he’s met everyone in our group before, it’s me he’s chosen to cling to while Miles races around like his usual manic self.  And now, here we are, Ethan in dirty denim and a clinging gray thermal, standing beside me, his arms crossed, appearing a little nervous and out of place.

“Hey, Ethan?”

“Yeah?”

“Relax.”

He smiles.  Ahhhh, that’s good.  The hair on my arms stands up, and I feel cold on my neck behind my ears.  Crazy how beautiful boys can slow things down.  “Do I look that uptight?” he asks.  “I think I’m still keyed up from that Straight Shoot run.”

“How is it that you live in Minnesota and have never been skiing?” I ask, wandering across the open concept to pour myself some decaf from the pot beside the fridge.

“I don’t know,” he says, now leaning over the kitchen island, his back to the game show chaos.  “I guess I just never had the desire before.  It’s good to be here now.”  He looks at me, vague clouds of confusion resting in those gray eyes, his lips pursed in thought, probably pondering something profound, perhaps how fate kept him from the hills until just this weekend, for some experience that could happen only now.

“It’s like an eclipse,” I say.  What am I talking about?

“What is?”  His eyes are so warm.  Not like Miles’s.

I swallow.  “I don’t know, I guess.  Something about timing.  Waiting a long time for something.”

Ethan looks at me longer than normal without speaking.  It’s good.  Comfortable.  I offer him a drink of my coffee, but he shakes his head, and we both turn at the sudden burst of laughter coming from the seats around the fireplace.

The catalyst is Ethan’s brother.  He almost always is.

Yes, Miles, whom I fell in love with (or something I mistook for the thing) two years earlier, when we were silly college freshmen, once upon a different lifetime.  And now things are so different, so sad and strained, and it’s bizarre being back here with him but without him, this same chalet where he first made me blush in a very, very good way.  We stayed up talking all night in the loft and watched the sun rise through these floor-to-ceiling windows when morning peeked in on us.  It was probably all wrong, but his offering was exactly what I searched for during the year that tripped behind those days … then that year doubled, and the whole enterprise went crazy because in July his older brother was introduced into the unspoken mess.

And Ethan is clever and willing and always up for discussion about metaphysics and logic and God.  I desire to desire him more, but I’m so distracted by Miles, wondering what exactly happened those early months, if Miles was intoxicated with the weather, drunk on the cold.  Meanwhile, I confused a winter-induced kiss with love and a connection that I fooled myself about for the next year and a half.

Miles had rescued me from the overwhelming transition to college.  After a semester of dorm room insomnia, worrying about classes, grades, and my ex-boyfriend James, when Miles stormed onto the scene, it had been a welcome distraction—but more than a distraction, a delight.  Miles was wild and brilliant, resourceful and creative, full of ideas and passion—all of which he still is, only now his moods flash like lightning and roll like thunder, and his pride is a wall I can’t see over.  I remember the old Miles sometimes, like the special seconds when he actually raises both his eyebrows in a way that shows he’s learning.  So infrequent.  Today he stooped low to talk gently to the kindergarteners making their way to the bunny hill, and it punctured my heart with that old syringe of longing.

But those days are rare now.  He is as fascinating as ever—but insolent as hell.

Ethan is usually around then, and looking so alive and accessible.  Last summer, the whole college gang spent a week at the brothers’ family cabin on a lake up north, which is where I’d first met Ethan.  Miles had run around that week in red swim trunks, his mood as unreliable as our cell phone signals that far north.  One minute he was telling jokes and entertaining the crew, the next he was remote, letting us guess if he’d wandered off on one of his long walks alone around the lake.

So I ate lunch with Ethan that week and journalled about the way he looked so responsible as he steered the boat.  Ethan was older, brimming with respect and artistry and quiet words.  I wanted to be near him—it was something very different, much less humbling, than my desire to serve Miles, the boy whom I figured could command the stars and spill success anywhere.  Ethan felt more like someone you could sit with on a park bench and watch the clouds, the people, the birds.

“Everyone up there just loves Miles, you know,” I say to Ethan as we both lean against the island.

“I know.”  Admiration from him too.
I sigh.  “Oh that Miles.”  It’s loaded.

So the question becomes this:  if Miles returned to the 2-years-ago Miles, would I abandon this little untenable affair with his brother?  Maybe that exact Miles is an illusion, or maybe the illusion takes form in the person of Ethan.  Do I want Ethan to be more like Miles or Miles to be more like Ethan?

“How did you and Miles meet anyway?” some bad muse prompts Ethan to ask.

I offer a crippled smile.  “We met at school but really clicked on a trip here.  You wouldn’t know it now.”

“No, I guess you wouldn’t.”  Oh horrid honesty of the older guy.  “So,” Ethan continues, “what happened between then and now?”

Do I really want to discuss this with Ethan?  “I don’t know.”

“Miles needs to grow up, Claire.”

I just look at my woolen socks, gray like his shirt, like his eyes.  When I look back at Ethan, those eyes are sad with knowledge.  I breathe quickly, feel my chest rise and fall.  It’s a peculiar moment, plump to bursting with unprocessed truth, for both of us.  In our own ways, we’re facing a reality we can’t hold.  I want to force myself to feel things; he does too; neither of us can.  Maybe we need to hold Sorrow’s hand longer to learn other things.

If he said that he himself is grown up, it would be cliché.  I notice that it has begun to snow outside.  This room is thick with heat and I need to sit down.

“I know,” I say, and it suffices as an inclusive answer as I find a kitchen stool for myself.  I hand another to Ethan, and he perches on it, now listening closely to the next game show question that his brother is attempting to tackle.  Ethan’s focus is so attractive that in that moment I want to lead him out of the chalet and wrap myself around him under the witness of the pines.

Stupid.  Somehow, in this ridiculous triangle, the rooster conceived.  None of us know (and right now, Miles doesn’t care) which direction the egg is rolling off the roof, and all at once it feels fated and manipulable, and all I can do is breathe in, breathe out, wait.

Martha, Martha.

Productivity really matters to me.  A lot.  Maybe too much.

This was my prayer the other night:

I love You, God.  I really do.  Why don’t I spend more time with You?  I have this idea about productivity meaning that I churn out a product.  But it is productive to spend time with You.  I think of the Mary/Martha story– Martha was cleaning and serving and being productive, but You said that Mary made the better choice– to sit at Your feet and listen, adore.  Calm me down.  Help me to not feel like I always need to produce.  I know that part of it is just the creative spirit that You gave me that drives me to create– and in so doing, I believe I am mimicking You, hopefully to Your glory– but I never want my creative tendencies to get into the way of my relationship with You.  Holy Spirit, I need You to change this in me.  Help me to be satisfied just to be with You.  I do feel like we are together while I write– and I am writing for You– all I do is for You.  I want to be like Mary, to sit at Your feet and adore.  But it is not in my nature, Lord, so I will need You to engender that in me.  Martha, Martha, you are worried about so many things.  Jackie, Jackie.

9 years later

… I finally finished the poem that I starting writing right around college graduation in May 2003.  I hope it makes sense to you.  Some people have gotten confused by it.  Hint: there are 3 characters in it, not 2.

THE CALL

When the sky burst like a balloon, the rain soaked the hikers
for ten wild minutes that shivered like forever.
It was like a gift, he said, or like a holy baptism.
Or it was like a scene in a story you would write.
And when the call was dropped, she phoned to tell me,
who pictured this boy or that on a cell phone in the mountains,
smelling clean like Appalachian rain and wanting me to know.

Why I Love YA Lit

Young adult literature is my favorite to read, regardless of how old I am.  While I in no way eschew literature written specifically for adults, YA is at the top of my list for these reasons:

1) So much drama!
I think of myself when I was in high school and college, and it’s true that I was a Drama Queen.  While I am not proud of it, I do think that drama in literature keeps things exciting!  Love triangles, deaths, adventures, secrets, fights … and that’s just at Hogwarts!

2) Incredible characters.
Teenagers are fascinating, opinionated, and passionate.  When we write about them, we end up with characters who are full of energy and who often haven’t found a rhythm or routine to life yet.  Hence, Augustus Waters, Anne Shirley, Stargirl Carraway.

3) So much life ahead of them = so many options!
Not to mention, so many lessons to learn.  I love watching young characters take on the world and grow so much from the beginning to the end of a story.  Anything is possible when you’re seventeen!  Everything is shiny and new and full of wonder, which we see as we watch Liesel Meminger learn to read or Edmund Pevensie discover who he truly is.

4) Accessible.
Don’t get me wrong; I find literary fiction to be gorgeous.  But I side with C.S. Lewis who encouraged writers to always choose the shorter word.  YA lit is like the ESV version of the Bible– dead-on accuracy but also very readable, nothing sacrificed.

And believe me, I don’t think that YA writers need to (or should) sacrifice any of the beauty or imagery or depth.  John Green is a pioneer in this, and I love that he writes for very intelligent teenagers who love to think.  They are out there, he says, and we ought not insult them.  Agreed.

Do you like YA lit?  How come?

writing lately

I have been working on a couple different things lately, some short stories and poems, and I have loved every minute of it.  When I lay awake in bed at night thinking of how I cannot wait to get back to work on my projects, I just know that I was created to write.  I have issues with writer envy (major issues), but I am trying to just become the best writer that I can be.  I will not be C.S. Lewis.  I can only be Jackie Lea Sommers.  But the more I work at being the best writer Jackie Lea Sommers can be and the less time I spend being envious of Markus Zusak and John Green, the more my own writing will improve.

Here is what I’m currently working on.

MADAM, MEET ADAM

When he woke, his sleep hung about him, heavy as a fog, and his side had a strange sensation as if it had been touched by something very, very cold—so cold he gasped as his body registered the local chill amidst all the afternoon heat of the garden.  His right side, mid-torso.  It had a peculiar tingle, although it did not hurt, and when he stood, he had the queerest impression that his insides had shifted.  This is new, he thought.  But he conceded, It all is.

He stood in the garden—green, although he did not know the word for the color yet, and full of nameless flowers and anonymous vegetation of every kind.  He wondered if it would fall to him to label them, just as he had named the creatures, that parade of beasts, his subjects over whom he’d uttered a pronouncement.  The first taste of creativity, that initial spark of imagination, and the names had spilled out of him as if inspired.  Even now, he had to admire the words—dog, swan, lamb, elephant.  The last had made him proud, those syllables erupting from his mouth when he had not known they were in him.

Fascination: the fleece, the fur, the feathers, the scales.  And some could hang suspended in the sky, and some could breathe beneath the waters.  It was true there was none quite like him, with almost translucent skin and blue rivers climbing each wrist, and while he could not exactly feel lonesome—nor could he fathom such a word—he did wonder at the animals’ companionship.  Of course, he had the Maker, and as they walked the garden in the cool of the day, he was perfectly happy, filled with love just the way his chest was filled with air.  It was impossible to want in the face of the joy and affection that spiked from the Maker, planting fearsome and holy barbs in his deepest core.

His side still blazed with that same cold tickle.  Examining it, he found there was the faintest mark along his ribcage, as if there had been an opening which had since been closed up, not like a stitch, but more like the smoothing of wet clay over a crack in the riverbank.  He had the vague impression of being a patched vessel.  He ran his fingers over the spot—cool to the touch, flush and silky, the color of the sand on the beach.

Something stirred nearby.  Curious, he noticed a creature lying beneath a beech tree, looking odd where it rested unrecognizable.  A beast he had missed?  His intrigue sparked as he approached and stared in awe at the creature by his feet: a biped, like himself.  Two long legs, a waist as smooth and perfect as fresh foam on the shore.  He could see the outline of ribs, like the ripple made when he’d tossed a stone into the water.  Two perfect peaks of flesh and the strange and sweet valleys above the collarbones.   The ivory neck, the soft shadow on the inside of the bicep, the dark hair that lay in glossy waves beneath the head.  Somehow this creature was at once just like him and nothing like himIt had its own secret.  He needed to know.

Without realizing what he was doing, he reached out, his hand drawn to that shadow below the breast to see if it was as cold as his.  When his hand pressed gently on its side, the creature’s eyes blinked wide, its mouth making a small “Oh!”  The eyes.  They were the newest of all creations, and yet in a moment he could see that that they knew more than all the beasts he had named.  The eyes were wide and welcoming and intelligent but not yet wise, and the long lashes fluttered as gently as the wings of the butterfly when it has alighted.  The being swallowed, and that slightest movement of the throat’s hollow made him ache—it was not pain but compassion, which he felt must be rolling off him like a billowing fog.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, barely moving his mouth.

“I’m not,” it answered, the voice, valiant as an empress, sweet and certain as a schoolgirl.

“You can speak,” he said in surprise.

“Yes,” it agreed.  That voice!  Soft as the milkweed silk.  He had not known how desperately he had wanted to hear such a voice until he heard it stop.  That silence was the very first hole in paradise.

“What are you?” he asked.

“I am your partner,” it said, then touched his side.  The tiny hand warmed the spot.

“Flesh of my flesh,” he whispered, earth’s first poet.  “Bone of my bone.”

And then joy pressed hard against the man’s heart, for the Maker had joined them.  The man didn’t know the word, but he wanted to dance, to throw out his arms and spin in the garden’s sunlight.  It was too much—to have them both here.  His heart was full, too gloriously full; it was rupturing the way the apple buds had burst into blossoms.

“You may name her as well,” the Maker spoke to the man.

“Her?”

“Yes.  Her.  She.”

The secret.  It was brilliant and beautiful and profound.  He never knew if it was a minute or a month before the next came to him: “Woman.”

The woman smiled, the first smile in the history of the universe, and its splendor flabbergasted him—the curve of the lips, the flash of the strong, white teeth.  His world was unmade and reimagined in that brief but broad moment.

“This is your queen,” said the Maker, “and together you will make princes.”

He had to be near her, needed to touch her, had this strange desire to press his mouth against her body.  She was a gift made of bone, and he of clay.  They were naked and natural, organic in every way, the original man and wife making their way into the shade of the beech trees to celebrate God.

 

OCD resurgence

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  Interestingly, in the past week or two I have actually been experiencinglessfreedom from my OCD than I have in the last two years.

The curse words, the blasphemy are coming back … jumping to the front of my mind, just as they used to.  Not sure quite what set me off again.

No worries, I am not freaking out.  Much.  I am employing the lessons I learned from cognitive-behavioral therapy, using my self-learned narrative therapy, praying about it, and managing.  I have just felt so utterly free from it for so long that it is strange to have it all rushing back.  I hate it, but this time I know how to handle it.

An excerpt that is very similar to what life has been like:

I was distracted from thoughts of Matt by the responsibility of “managing” my OCD for two weeks on my own.  It felt as if Dr. Foster had noticed I had a garden hoe and then asked me to plow a ten-acre field with it.

I grabbed my iPod, threw on a sweatshirt, and walked around the neighborhood, treading the sidewalk with purpose as I re-exposed myself to the audio track and whatever muddy thought was slopping at the corners of my mind.  I felt like a new teenaged driver borrowing the keys for the evening, entrusted with my own mind and eager to show myself competent.  “Fuck,” I muttered under my breath when there were no other pedestrians near me.  “It’s just a word.” 

“My OCD wants me to think that thought,” I’d spell out in my head as I continued through the neighborhood, realizing that autumn’s chill had definitely hit Minnesota at full force.  “It’s not actually my thought.  I’m just the messenger.”

It was an awkward dance, one where I sidled up to the thought and tried to hold its hand.  One foot in front of the other, a stealthy warrior on a tiptoed journey toward freedom.

“Oh, you’re along?” I said to the black dot that was jogging to keep up with my longer strides.  “Well, keep up, won’t ya?”  I “dressed” it in a child’s train conductor costume and laughed under my breath as it seethed in humiliation.  “Chugga-chugga-choo-chooooo!” I said, pulling a fake train whistle above my head.  “Aren’t you a cute little conductor?”  It glared at me.

Another day, another walk, this time my little black dot in a Scottish kilt and a tiny tam beret.  The day after, a doll-sized sailor suit and white sailor hat.  It had toddled behind me, trying to keep a low profile, which was just fine by me.  By the end of the week I’d landed on an outfit for keeps—a pink tutu with tights and ballet slippers, which my OCD hated worse than all the rest.  I was bullying my bully, and it felt powerful.  Whenever my mind started to race, I said to my OCD in its ballerina getup, “You there!  Start twirling!”  And so it would, even as it boiled with rage.  “Keep on twirling!” I said with a smile.  “I’ll tell you when you can stop … little one.”

I felt an odd sense of control that I’d never had before, not completely free of OCD, but like someone separate from it.  I didn’t need to get my toes wet; I could stand on the dry bank, command my orders, and get back to work.

stunning realization

I have recently gone through (and am still enduring) a very humiliating experience.

While praying the other night, I believe the Holy Spirit opened up my eyes to see it in a whole new light:

Wow, Jesus, I just LOVE the way that You handled the Pharisees.  You are so smart and stunning and clever, and You just OWNED them!

It’s interesting to me that those moments– the ones when You seemed most powerful– would not end up being the cornerstone events of history.  Instead it was the CROSS that would– the moment you looked weakest, most defeated, completely ashamed, and beneath the feet of the Pharisees.

HELP ME TO REMEMBER THIS!  These days may end up being the days that define me.  That is startling a little.  God, give me grace, poise, maturity, integrity, favor as I undergo this humiliating experience.  God let me use this time to IDENTIFY with Your Son.

Jesus, my shame is nothing compared to what You went through, and yet You endured it sinlessly.  Give me the strength to do likewise.  Make me humble.  How could I forget that it is You who are the Humble Servant?  This whole experience may serve to make me LIKE YOU.

You understand my feelings even better and more deeply than I do.  Let me be worthy of this humiliation.

Harry Potter questions

I have been re-watching the movies (in reverse … strange, I know), and I have just a few questions.  Now, granted, some of these are probably addressed in the books and I’ve just forgotten.  I know that movies have to condense things so much that a lot is lost, but still …

* Do you really think that the Gryffindor commons room would be empty by 1am on a Saturday night?  It was in Goblet of Fire.  I think of my freshman year of college (all of college actually) and how my usual bedtime was 2am.  Would unsupervised teenagers really go to bed so early?  Were there lights-out rules in the books?

* How did Barty Crouch, Jr. (disguised as Moody) manage to finagle Harry out of the tournament arena after Cedric died?  Didn’t people have some pretty major questions to ask Harry at that time, being he was the only eye-witness to the death?

* Rowling herself has said there are about a thousand students at Hogwarts.  That doesn’t add up to me.  There are 5 Gryffindor boys in Harry’s year (Harry, Ron, Neville, Dean, Seamus) and five girls (Hermione, Lavendar, Parvati, and two unnamed Gryffindor girls).  That’s 10.  If there are 10 in each year, that’s 70 in the house.  That means 280 total in all four houses.  Is Harry’s year just an unusually small sampling?

* Where does Grawp live, even beyond OOTP?  Does he just stay in the forest?

* Why in the world did they have deatheaters burn the Burrow down in Half-Blood Prince?  How did they rebuild it in time for Bill and Fleur’s wedding?

* How much does it suck that they left out the Percy storyline and the Teddy Lupin storyline?

* I thought I saw George’s ear in both parts of Hallows, even though it was supposed to be cursed off.  Does that seem like an easy CGI move?

* In Hallows, when there are the seven Harry Potters, doesn’t it seem like a giant oversight of the Order to not have had them all (including the aurors) use polyjuice potion to transform into, say, some unknown muggles?  Seems far less dangerous.  And more confusing for the deatheaters.

* Why didn’t Voldemort kill Harry when he was standing over him at the Ministry in OOTP?  “Avada Kedava” doesn’t take that long to say.  Although Dumbledore was there, so …

* If it was THAT easy to kill someone (waving a wand and saying two words), isn’t it hard to imagine that there wouldn’t have been far more deaths in the wizarding community?  When you think of the stupid things that muggles fight over, it seems to me like the death toll would have been much higher.  And even in OOTP, the deatheaters are still shouting “stupify”– why wouldn’t they just go for the kill?

* Same thing as far as polyjuice potion: don’t you think it would have been much more common for people to sneak around as someone else?  Maybe it’s because it took so long to brew.

* They were going to shut down Hogwarts simply because the chamber of secrets was opened … but they didn’t shut it down after Cedric died or after Voldemort returned or after Snape and the Carrows took over?  Really?

I’m sure I have more questions.  I love that Jo Rowling made the wizarding world so real to us that we can even have these kinds of questions and discussions.  Would love to hear your thoughts, answers, or additional questions, friends!!