A Letter to my Pen

To my pen, my writing utensil, my mediator between thought and paper:

Let me tell you a story.

Once, there was a home up North. Deadened ivy ran up its bricks. The bricks themselves were cracking. The ivy was old, withering, and the mortar between the bricks acted likewise. There were gray spots on the roof, areas of shingle that had been weather-beaten more harshly than others. It was not a special home. Not to an outsider, anyway. It was old, running alongside a country road and aging all by itself. Time was its only company.

An old man from the Midwest owned the home, but it pained him to visit. It was his parents’ home, and they had died a long while ago. He had never liked the ivy, even when it had been alive. He hadn’t noticed the cracking mortar, but it was only because he had not looked closely enough. Too close an observation and he would’ve felt too much hurt. The memory of good times may have left too sharp a prick.

He did not live in the home, but each year at the beginning of the small warm season of the North, he would visit quietly. It was always a long drive through the cities, the highways, the commotion. But the farther North he drove, the softer the noises became. The highways narrowed to country roads, the pavement to dirt. And when the air became still, he knew he was close to his parents’ home.

Each year when he arrived, he only stayed a single night. He slept on the sofa, the one he had napped in as a child. When the morning came, he unzipped his suitcase. His ancient hands rifled around inside until he found the small paper sack of seeds. Tulip seeds. His mother’s favorite flower.

He walked thoughtfully to the lawn, stooped down to one knee at a nice patch of soil, and with his own aching hands, dug a small hole. He filled the soil with a scattering of tulip seeds, watered his miniature garden with a cup of sink water, and then, without much hesitation, he left the property. He drove back to the Midwest, and whether he tried to limit his thought or not, the tulips stayed on his mind. And although he spent much of the year away from his childhood home, and the tulips, he never could quite erase the thought of them entirely. And that itching thought is what keeps him coming back year after year, despite his insecurity.

Now, my pen: Listen to me.

It is easy to know the story of the old man, but people often forget you, the life of the tulip seeds. Once a year, during the warm season of the North, the seeds are planted. And then they are quickly forgotten. They blossom, of course. They bloom into very pretty flowers in the few months they have. The cold of the North, though, is quick to swallow them. The old man is gone to the Midwest, pondering them, wondering if he’ll return to them, and most importantly, never planting them in a place that they can sprout to their potential.

I am disappointed in myself, and I have disappointed you. I have unknowingly, unwillingly, become the old man.

I promise that I will be him no more.

I will sell my house in the North. I will build its replica in the Midwest. And I will grow my garden of tulips year round, so that you might develop into something I desperately want you to be.

Do not mind the weather. In my mind, it’ll always be the warm season.


When Dreams are Reality

I had a dream recently.

Let me preface by saying that I have no opinion on dreams. If a certain person appears in my head at night, I do not think it a sign. Similarly, if I wake up with a particularly memorable one, I may sit on it for a moment. Just to think it through.

Dreams interest me, I guess.

A few nights ago, I was in a rowboat. There were no rows. The sea was before me in all respective directions, and I could see no land. The boat was an island, and the way it swayed, softly buoyant to the water, gave me a strange comfort.

I was neither scared nor excited to be in the boat. I felt as though I should feel something, being stranded alone as I was. But I felt nothing. For some obscure reason I remember that the rowboat’s white trim was tattered, and that its wear made me suspicious of the ocean, as though it had been through a storm – and more direly, that another storm might be on its way.

A storm never came. Instead, I began to live on the boat. I found an easel pad and a pen under its wooden bench that I much enjoyed. I wrote a bit about the ocean and the waves. Aimless things.

The sun never set while I lived on the rowboat, which interested me. I wrote and was happy. And it seemed when I did not give attention to the underside of the wooden bench, new objects would appear.

A bottle of wine came, and when I drank a glass, the bottle refilled. Books appeared, and each one I read was better than the last. Then, food – steaks and shrimp and green bean stalks, all seasoned and warmed over a skewer. And after the food came money. Loads of it, all bundled together by colored bands.

By whatever logic my dream allowed, I made additions to the rowboat with the money. In no time, it grew to a yacht, floating as still and simply as the rowboat once had. When I took time to observe all I had created, I had never felt such happiness.

The objects, though, while at the peak of my happiness, stopped appearing. I still had my yacht, my steak, my wine, my books, and my easel pad, but I grew angry. I began to hate the boat and the unsetting sun. I wanted more objects and did not know how to get them. My anger eventually simmered, and I laid quietly in order to think on the wooden bench, the cornerstone of the yacht.

My next thought was quick and stirring. I was greedy because I had no other person with me. No friends, no family. I craved material possessions because there was a void in me that was not filled by people.

I shot up from the wooden bench as though I had discovered something powerful.

Nothing, though, was changed. The yacht still floated silently. The ocean was still lonely. In the next moment, however, the sun slowly fell in the sky like it never had. Pallets of color melted above me, and I smiled. The ocean became dark, and for the first time, I slept on the wooden bench in peace.

That was a single day into Lent, and although I have no opinion of dreams, something tells me that the importance of fasting was itching to escape deep inside my head.

Happy Lent – and may having people always be greater than having things.

Kneeling Tall


To put it simply, I am discontent.

While searching for happiness, I looked in the wrong places; and now, unfortunately, I’m a recipient of the consequences. Forgiveness, I suppose, must be sought patiently, and that is the path I am ready to travel.

Lately, I’ve been in need of a breakthrough – I’ve prayed for a breakthrough – and in the smallest dosages, it is coming.

This Sunday, I was in church, sitting behind a father and his son. The son, no older than nine, had an innocent obedience to his father. As the man would pull out the hymnal, the son would look up to him, stretch his neck to find a page number, and quickly grab a hymnal of his own. When the man folded his hands, so did the son; when his head bowed, the son followed; and when silent prayer-time came, the son’s lips murmured quietly, almost identically to the man’s.

The son’s admiration of the man was touching. I kept quiet watch of their interaction, out of, if nothing else, the respect I was gaining for the man’s example.

Let me give a brief detail of this Catholic church – it had no kneelers.

For anyone who has spent time in a Catholic church, the lack of kneelers is, shamefully for us, a guilty pleasure.

Instead of kneeling in reverence to the bread and wine, the congregation at this particular service stood. Then, a peculiar thing happened.

The man, despite everyone, knelt. The floor creaked at the sound of his knees. This movement was seen and heard by many people, and he drew a fair amount of quiet attention. I breathed in sharply at that moment, moved by the man’s faith, and I nearly brought myself to kneel. Regretfully, I did not.

But in that same moment, I noticed the son begin to fidget. He peeked at his father, and his eyes lightened as they once had while he reached for the hymnal, folded his hands, and murmured his lips in prayer. Within his expression, though, was doubt. Uneasiness. Maybe even a bit of fear.

Look at the scene Dad’s made, he must’ve thought. It’s too late for me to kneel – but – he’s all alone. Kneeling by himself.

The boy’s face scowled and contemplated for a good minute. Suddenly, though, he did not fidget. His face did not scowl. He placed his hand on his father’s shoulder, and he knelt. His knees, too, made the floor creak. And he, too, caused parishioners to look his way.

The best, most tender thing about the act?

The boy did not care about embarrassment.

I will admit – I smiled in that moment, and nearly felt ashamed. How had I passed up on the opportunity to kneel, in fear of a scene, when a nine-year-old boy had stuck to his principles? Faith – and loyalty to his father.

That was my breakthrough.

I walked home that afternoon, and realized I mustn’t feed into the norms of college life. I cannot afford to be a standing parishioner. I must do, and actively seek, what is best for me – in relationships, friendships, and more.

Next time, inside and outside of church, I will kneel.

And I hope the floor creaks.

The Risk of Maybe


I am a self-diagnosed maybe person.

According to Webster, maybe is defined as “possibly but not certainly”; but within the dictionary, there is no definition of a maybe person.

Allow me.

A maybe person, I think, is one who teeters on decisions; one who enjoys the safety between yes and no; and one who, at times, lacks the confidence to choose, in fear of disappointing others.

I see better though writing, so let me explain the risk I present to myself through a story of my own.



Once, there was a home. A Victorian home, old and weathered, bargeboard and shutters misshapen. It stood in the forest of a small town, and although it was ancient, it had old-fashioned beauty.

After its years of vacancy, a young couple moved into the home, and together, they raised a family. As time went on, their children grew strong, and they grew older.

The Victorian house, though, had its secrets. After it was built, over a hundred years ago, strangeness began.

Each night, with the humans unaware, every object within the home came alive.

The tables and the chairs, the silverware and the drawers, the grandfather clock and the wallpaper, the books and the shelves, the lanterns and the matches.

The objects lived peacefully at night, and they did not disturb the humans.

When the young couple moved in, however, the objects became frightened. Their magic, they knew, would be destroyed if the family removed them, for the magic was in the house, and only meant for the original objects.

As the young couple renovated, year after year, objects began to disappear. First went the matches and the lanterns, then tables and the chairs, then the books and the shelves, then the silverware and the drawers. New objects replaced the old, and they were unable to come to life. Eventually, the grandfather clock and the wallpaper were the only living objects left, and during the nights they would speak.

“We should tell the people our secret,” whispered the grandfather clock one night in the dark.

“Maybe,” said the wallpaper, always less courageous than his friend. “But why?”

“They might keep us that way.”

“Maybe. You don’t know that.”

“It’s a chance we must take,” said the grandfather clock. “For our survival.”

“Even if the humans accepted, I’d still feel lonely without the others. Imagine it. Forever in the home – without them.”

At this, the grandfather clock became excited.

“Haven’t you listened to the humans?” he asked. “They didn’t throw away the others. Our friends are in storage, somewhere away from here. We could ask the humans to return them.”

“Yes, maybe,” said the wallpaper nervously. For a moment, he thought of the consequences. “What if they’re afraid of us?”

“The humans? Well, what choice do we have?” He then thought of the future. “They’re our last hope.”

“They might throw us away,” said the wallpaper, “if they were to know our truth.”

“You can’t base your decisions on fear.”

The wallpaper fell quiet. After a while, he whispered, “How do you propose we tell them?”

The grandfather clock allowed his hands to tick before answering. The soft echoes filled the halls, and the wallpaper became anxious.

You must do it,” said the grandfather clock.

“Me?” the wallpaper murmured. “I can’t.”

“You must.”

“Tell – tell me why.”

“We’re only alive at night,” said the grandfather clock, “and at night, the humans are upstairs sleeping. Your paper runs into the bedrooms. You’re the only one who can speak to them – and wake them.”

“I don’t know,” breathed the wallpaper. “It’s dangerous.”

“Please,” urged the grandfather clock.

The wallpaper thought. “Maybe,” he said. “Let me think.”

For days, for weeks, the conversation continued. The grandfather clock would plead, and the wallpaper could not decide because of his nerves.

One morning, the humans left for town, and they returned with large canvas sheets. The husband carried gallons of paint, and the wife held brushes and putty knives. They worked diligently as they peeled off the wallpaper, strip by strip, until the wall was bare. Then, that afternoon, they painted and repainted, and soon, the wall had a fresh shade of blue. That night, they went to bed and slept well, for the work had tired them.

When the sun had completely fallen, the grandfather clock awoke and looked to the wall, ready again to plead his case.

He stared at the paperless wall and could not speak. After the shock had passed, he began to weep. His last friend was gone, and his hope to tell the humans was destroyed. He cried deep into the night, and when his tears dried, he realized how lonesome he would forever be.

His hands ticked in the dark, and the humans, sleeping happily upstairs, were deaf to the sound.


As I begin college, I hope to wipe away the maybes inside of me.

Maybe, by doing so, I’ll save my future self.

A Cast of Crisis


I was no older than six when I found myself in an unfortunate position with nature.

I stood barefooted in a lake, and my small fishing pole extended over the water. A friend of mine, a six-year-old outdoorsman, fished with me. It was his lake, and his territory of comfort.

He was one hundred feet down the shoreline, and in his hand, a beautiful rod. Unquestionably an adult rod. It reminded me of my grandpa’s.

I kept stealing glances at my own – weak and plastic, line continuously jammed in the spool. I had to press a button to release the line, whereas my friend snapped open the bail and slung without effort. On a good cast, my line went fifteen feet – his, fifty.  Embarrassment was quick to bite.

I do not remember how I came to accept this playdate. Our mothers were fine friends, and if I were to guess, they had probably set it up. I tried to remain confident in my casts, and I tried to keep distance from my friend. Flaws were harder to spot that way.

He and I cast, and there were few words exchanged. Within minutes, a grunt came one hundred feet down, and I looked to my friend. He was fighting with a fish, and his line bowed toward the water. I watched with great excitement, and I may’ve yelled a time or two, for encouragement’s sake. He wrestled with the reel for a while longer, and eventually, a decently-sized bass emerged out the water. My friend smiled as he removed it from the hook. I wanted to applaud.

“I’m up on you,” he hollered. “Better not get too far behind.”

Until then, I was unaware we were in competition. I had not really been focused on catching the fish, but rather, casting smoothly so my friend would not see me as fraud. I accepted his challenge, nonetheless, because I saw no other alternative.

Suddenly, though, as I began to cast with new intent, I was taken by fear. Never once had I removed a fish from its hook.

I suppose, until that moment, I had always taken for granted a fish’s detachment from the hook. I wasn’t a stranger to fishing. My grandpa and my father had taken me often, but on the rare instance of me catching a fish, they had put their thumbs in the fish’s mouth; it was they who removed the hook and had blood on their hands to show for it. Never me. I would watch, in the same way I now watched my friend.

My realizations came quickly. It seemed I would inevitably lose the competition, and more embarrassingly, I’d be too afraid to grip a fish if I were to catch one.  I was wedged in the biggest pickle of my young life, and I hadn’t a way out.

I swallowed hard, and cast my line into the lake again.

Some time passed without a bite, but my friend, meanwhile, hauled in fish like an Apostle. He would call over, heckle some, and throw the bass back. It was an unfortunate scenario for me, wanting desperately to catch, and also avoid, the fish. My boyish pride, though, kept me going. I continued to cast, up to twenty feet if my sling was good.

The afternoon was slow until, in an instant, a sharp jolt tugged at my pole. A hot rush went to my forehead, and I shot a glance to the ripples in the water. Instinctively, I reeled. I thought neither competitively nor fearfully. I only reeled; I yanked; I grunted as my friend had. I might have hollered to him – I do not remember. I can, however, remember him stop to watch me. My line behaved and did not jam. The cast was the smoothest I had had the entire day, and as the line shortened, as the fish came nearer to the surface of the water, there was an awful noise. A brittle crack came from the middle of the rod, and a small vibration went into my hands.

The moment was over. I held half of a plastic fishing pole in my hand, and the other half was swimming underneath the surface with my prizewinner. I was stunned. I stared at the lake and wanted to cry.

I had forgotten about my friend until he gave a snort of held-back laughter. When I looked at him, he laughed some more, and within seconds the giggling had taken him to a point of no return. It was not spiteful or mean. He laughed from simple humor of the moment, and without thought, I joined him. Mine, perhaps, came from relief, since I no longer had to worry about competition and fear. I laughed until tears blurred my vision.

Until evening, I watched my friend cast with grace, and I saw fish gladly bite at his bait. I, again, had the urge to applaud; but instead, I quietly admired.

The next time I fish with Papa, I thought, I’ll make him show me how to do it all.

That time did eventually come, but that evening, I sat barefooted on the shore of a lake, and stared fondly at what I could not do.

An Elderly Arm

Some time ago, while sitting outside with my grandpa at his home, a great rustle stirred in the forest ahead of us. The evening had been still, without wind or bird calls, and perhaps the rustle had seemed so tremendous for this reason. My grandpa and I jumped slightly in our lawn chairs, and kept our sight to the noise in the forest. It was growing nearer, and from my little knowledge, the noise most resembled the leaps of a deer. My eyes became ready for a doe, or perhaps her lost fawn, to poke out the woodland and stare curiously at us, the way deer do.

It was a rather sore surprise when a dog busted into the lawn. Its chest heaved and its mouth panted, but the exhaustion was expressed in such a way that seemed enjoyable. The stray dog trotted near us, and politely, he dropped a tennis ball at our feet.

Now, despite the excessive breathing, or the drool, this Labrador had a sharp mind. He was not so easily fooled by a fake toss, and as the evening idled along, he proved to be wildly gifted at the game of fetch. The instinct of anticipation was wired well within him, and as I tossed, the throws became farther, higher, or with added velocity, as to best the dog at his own game. Eventually, it was not so much a matter of win or loss, but a matter of challenging the dog, who retrieved so effortlessly that it bordered upon hoax.

After one of the tosses, the Labrador did something strange. He disregarded me, as if my throws had brought boredom, and he laid the ball gently at the feet of my grandpa.

At this, I must give witness – my grandpa was once a very athletic man. My witnessing does not come from sight, but stories. I had heard from adults of his elbow once coming even with the rim in a basketball game; of his weightlifting days, where his muscles had been chiseled from stone; and, of course, his diving heroics in center field, so throughout my childhood, I had high regard for my grandpa’s past ability.

I must give one last witness – never in my life had I seen my grandpa perform an athletic feat. Mostly, I assumed, it was because of his age, so I respected him firmly, but never dared to ask him to rekindle that ability through H-O-R-S-E or a game of catch. It was best to let my mind run with the stories, and to see his athleticism in that respect.

The tennis ball, meanwhile, sat temptingly at his feet, and for a moment I watched his face and sensed his contemplation. His decision was suddenly made, and after picking up the ball, he stood with great effort from his lawn chair. I was silent and partially stunned, for something this unprecedented could not be appreciated in any other way.

My grandpa gave a determined eye to the distant forest, but as he wound his arm to throw, the movement was awkward, unable to bend the way it once had. The jerkiness would not have been so obvious if the ball would’ve sailed into the brush, but instead, he released too early, for he was much out of practice. The ball sailed perhaps ten feet high and long, and the Labrador, without excitement, walked to the bouncing tennis ball and easily snatched it from the air.

My thoughts had shot to my grandpa’s young athleticism, and surely his had, too. I suddenly had deep embarrassment for seeing the throw, and I wished to reiterate that I did not care about it, that I would forever see him as the diving center fielder, or the talented leaper, but my tongue was too hot from embarrassment, so I could not speak.

Our eyes connected, and within him, I, too, saw embarrassment. His mouth was slightly agape, his eyes wide, and without speaking himself, he slowly sat back in his lawn chair. The Labrador then compiled the issue, for when he chose his partner in the next round of fetch, he turned his nose up to my grandpa, who had not challenged him. Within a moment, the ball was placed at my feet.

What my grandpa said next was unexpected, and my only response was to obey his command.

“Try to throw it above the woods,” he said.

At the time, I was unsure whether he had said it to spite the dog, or to perhaps in an effort to lose the ball, so he could finally be away from the game. I, nonetheless, gave the ball a great heave. It was a good throw. My elbow slung like elastic, and the ball skied to upper quarter of the trees. The Labrador went happily to fetch.

I turned to my grandpa, and there was a satisfied look to him. I was very close to the man, and I knew immediately from where the satisfaction had come. He watched me, a product of himself, a young, strong arm, throw a ball far up into the trees, and it made him glad. In me, he saw himself – his youthful, athletic self. And in some strange way, both our embarrassment had been slightly chipped away.

The Labrador had faithfully returned, and after again dropping it at my feet, my grandpa said, “Try higher this time.”

I obeyed. My elbow slung once more, my shoulder rotated smoothly, and my body torqued as to give greater velocity to the ball. It had sailed higher than the last throw, and the Labrador set off to the woods.

This routine continued for a long while, and as the dog was off sniffing for his ball, neither me nor my grandpa said anything. We listened to the rustling of the paws, and did not look at one another – I think because we were afraid to do so.

I woke the next morning, and upon my first movement, my right arm was stiff. The little muscles around my elbow were tender, and the large ones running along my right ribcage quivered. I enjoyed every wince of pain, being very prideful of the soreness, knowing what it had given to my grandpa.

I went into the kitchen that morning, and my grandpa was at the table, sipping coffee. I sat beside him and did not let on to the pain in my arm. We said nothing for a moment, until he gave a weak smile.

“I wonder if the dog will be back today,” he said.

I contemplated it, and said, “Maybe.”

He took another sip of coffee, and his weak smile grew stronger.

“Well,” he said, “let’s hope so.”

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