Posts Tagged With: life

The Stairwell

The troops were called in to handle an “incident” late that night.  Gearing up in the locker room, I realized I hadn’t had time to grab an extra belt.  Oh well, in this kind of situation you can only be as prepared as you come, and hope that your skills are sufficient.

None of us knew why we were there – at least not at first.  We’d been told they’d fill us in on the way.  One more experienced officer did know however, and he wanted us mentally prepared for what we were about to face.

“There’s been an 11-45,” he said.  Attempted suicide.

“And it was successful.”

I nodded, keeping my face blank as my mind flew, not to the last suicide I had dealt with, but rather, the first.

A shining light of bubbly personality, my friend Adam was as sharp and as flamboyant as they come.   Always mischievous and always with such Presence – his loss left gaping holes in our lives where something good used to be.

Missing wasn’t unusual; he’d lost his phone so many times I never knew what his number was.  But then, they found him.

Seventy-five feet high.  Hanging from an electrical tower against Merced’s March sky.

Even in death he made his presence known.

And six months later, the ripples could still be felt as I stood halfway around the world.  In Morocco I wrote:

His smile

doesn’t echo here,

His laughter

never filled these rooms,

but his presence is

as strong as the


of my heart

against the walls

of loneliness.

A hole that only he could fill

my shrink but remain ever still

upon the tear-stained walls

of my heart.

The walls on this night were stained by something much more visceral.

Red-brown streaks on a closed grey door.

Caution tape and bookshelves serving as improvised barricades.

We weren’t meant to see the scene but not all doors were closed so tightly.

Eight stories of stairwell is a lot to keep contained and to the untrained eye I suppose that lump of pink on the step could have been a rather large wad of gum, but I knew better.

I could tell the Inferior Frontal Gyrus from the Occipital Lobe, and I know when both are staring me in the face – plastered to the wall or sliding down the steps.  Remnants left from a mind long gone.

The job had me standing there for hours.  Wind whipped up by the elevators wafting the subtle smell of raw meat into the hallway.

It was past midnight by the time we were able to leave, as the library closed, students slogging home bleary-eyed, completely unaware of the scene just on the other side of the wall from where they had sat studying for so many hours.

At the end of the night, the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing had other officers asking if there was anything we wanted to say.  But, what can you say in the face of death?

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A Different Home

To most people, home is a warm bed, a house on the hill, shade under a favorite tree, or a familiar street.   To me, home is all of these and more.  Most importantly, however, my home exists in my heart, no matter where I am.  My home is more than a specific location; it is a set of ideals that influences the way I live.

In winter, my home is a house in the rural town of West Point, the foothills of the grand Sierras.  But growing up, summertime meant home was the whole of California: the roads leading to every fairground and festival site in the state. This is where my life began. Not in the hospital where I was born or the small town where I went to school; for though my house rested on the dirt and pine needles of West Point, I grew up on the sun-baked asphalt of the fairgrounds.

As a young girl I had plenty of curiosity and creativity to spare.  These qualities thrived at the fairs.  As my parents and I moved from one venue to the next, the variety of people and constant change of surroundings thrilled me.  I met so many different people during those years: fairgoers, performers, exhibitors, and concessionaires.  People of all ages, backgrounds, races, and cultures went to the fairs.  Many of these people traveled extensively throughout the state, the country, and the world.  For instance, Tom (aka. “The Giant”), the airbrush artist spent winters painting for car shows in Japan.  Jimmy, the “Corn Dog King” wintered in Florida before retiring to a remote lake in Canada.  Dwayne, the ear-piercer/lawyer had studied all over the world, learning medicine in Croatia and gemology inThailand, while vacationing in Argentina and Cuba.  I listened avidly to these people’s stories, which sparked my curiosity and made me eager to learn more.  As my parents and I moved from one fair to the next, I looked forward to meeting new people and hearing new stories.

As I explored the world through others’ words, I also began to explore my own ingenuity. I was five years old when I started my first business.  I set my young entrepreneurial spirit and creativity to work, setting up a milk crate and a cardboard box next to my parent’s stand.  With twist-ties, Styrofoam cups, and a pen I created animals, rings, and decorations that I sold to anyone who gave me a second glance.  I greeted people’s surprise with a smile and asked everyone who passed if they would like to buy something. They could not say no.  The success of this business helped make me the confident, forward thinking person I am today.

The environment on the fairgrounds allowed my creativity and curiosity to flourish.  The nomadic life of working fairs meant I was never tied to one particular place.  I was at home wherever I could explore, learn, and engage in the world around me.  I knew life had no limits.  As I grew, my curiosity about other people and places evolved into an insatiable desire to travel.  I realized that as long as I could exercise my creativity and curiosity, as long as I could learn and stretch the parameters of my understanding, I would be home.

For me, home is not a certain place, but rather a state of being, doing, and learning.  As a child I roamed the fairgrounds: young, impressionable, and willing to learn; now I aspire to wander the world: still young, still impressionable, and yearning to discover more places to call my home.

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