Give It Away

“Tomorrow is promised to no one.”
― Clint Eastwood

My 24″ X 30″ custom Clint Eastwood painting found a new home today. Into the hands of a new father, his second child having arrived in the last couple of days.

Previously, he commented on it. I don’t remember whether he loved it, or thought that his dad might. I get my stories mixed up because I worked as an intermediary to get another version of this done for the dad of a friend of mine.

“They say all marriages are made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning.”
― Clint Eastwood

It is a thing I do. I give away my favorite paintings. Sometimes I replace them. Sometimes, I take a stab at reinterpreting it with a replacement I make myself. The latter is the course I chose after gifting my sixth or seventh Doc Holliday painting. The version I created gave a new wrinkle to my story about the painting. The orange-toned one in the picture of this post is no longer mine, either.

Here’s one of my favorite Eastwood lines, one which probably should be emblazoned across people’s arms:
“Let’s not go and ruin it by thinking too much.”
― Clint Eastwood

Also, other times, I give them away without regard to how much I love the item. Everything is impermanent. Finding a new appreciative eye to enjoy something, even something I’ve not tired of, is a sublime pleasure. I have my memory of it, my story. And that story, once remembered, grows lengthier by my ability to relinquish it to someone else.

So often, I find myself wanting the story more than the thing itself. Stories can be repeated, shared, and recalled without risk of loss. Those items? Fire, flood, famine, theft, and dust can render them useless. My biography, especially the portion regarding my youth, is particularly suited to remind people that calamity is always on speed dial.

The didactic takeaway is that all of us are impermanent, too.

“If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”
― Clint Eastwood

With horror, life made me remember this fundamental lesson anew. It was one I swore I would never again forget. (Which proves our minds are hard-wired toward the easier path of pushing such relentless truths to the background.)

“Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.” – Clint Eastwood

https://xteri.me/2016/04/01/clint-eastwood-painting-by-sky-lite-art/

March OF Yesteryear

The Springdale diner once stood proudly along Highway 71. Its gravel parking lot was a declaration of authenticity for those who frequented it. Though the town was growing, most residents chose the diner as their default. The waitresses were all grouchy, except for Macy, who loved everyone. The owner’s wife Mildred hated Macy for that very reason. It didn’t help matters that Macy was pretty and outgoing; Mildred looked an anvil with legs. Her singing voice in the church caused several devout Methodists to defect to the Baptist camp. If Mildred handled the register, tips usually went up due to many people choosing to pay the bill by dropping money on the table and bypassing Mildred.

Coffee flowed through the diner and the people inside it like a caffeine river. Had self-serve carafes existed then, the residents of Springdale would not have been pleased. Half the reason to have a go-out, sit-down meal was to interact and verbally jostle with those you’d encounter doing the same. Many of the wives claimed that such things didn’t matter, but most had carefully applied lipstick and checked their hairdo at least ten times that morning. Quite a few used Saturday morning to see their hairdressers.

On that March day, the wind blew and howled across the two-lane streets, taking dust and chicken feathers to every crevice. Not that townsfolk were uppity enough to drive convertibles, but if they had, their smiles would have been feather-filled and their lungs coated with the detritus of poultry.

By noon, all but one seat in the diner was filled. The exception was the chair always reserved for the diner’s unofficial number one eater. Earl only visited once or twice a week because his nephew Lou needed to drive him there. Earl saved the diner owner’s life in WWII. He would never pay for a meal for the rest of his life. Many people were unaware that Macy, the pretty waitress, was Earl’s daughter.

Macy and the other three waitresses ran from the kitchen window to tables, their fingers doing triple-duty as they placed plates, refilled drinks, and cleared tables. Wives secretly watched their husbands as their eyes followed Macy as she did her work. Most tolerated it as harmless fun. It was easy to see which wives were easygoing and which could rain hellfire down on their spouses’ heads. You could witness moms hitting the husbands with the same frequency they swatted at their kid’s perceived misbehavior.

Most of the diners chose the Saturday special. Today’s was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and a slice of one of seven pie varieties.

As the families ate, you’d occasionally see different folks stand up to give a quick “Hello” to someone. Such courtesies were a requirement of Saturday eating. If someone needed a longer word, they could step outside and have a cigarette and watch the traffic pass by. The ladies opted for the coat rack. Gossip was expected there, even though they disguised it with half-whispers and cautious glances around before divulging the latest news.

As the wind howled, the front door of the diner came open. Dozens of feathers eddied and blew inside. None of the people inside looked up or noticed.

The diner welcomed all visitors: even feathers, both the curse and the fuel for this town.

168 To 230+

Had I to do it over again, I might choose to NEVER look at a scale. Part of that is because muscle sits differently than fat. And so many of us have distinct ways we carry weight. Much in the same way it would be interesting without ‘knowing’ how old you are, I think the same might be true regarding weight. The same weight carries distinctly on different people. This is also true regarding weight’s impact on one’s health.

Before jumping into it, I’d also question everyone about their motive to lose weight; health, body image, etc. If you’re looking to feel more attractive, I hope each of you has someone who adores you. Love addresses a lot of issues and desire eradicates even more. Honest admiration lends a great deal of motivation.

I want people to enjoy their time. Spending too much time on exercise, eating, or concern about body image is time that can’t be regained. All of us are differently occupied with the mix of things that consume of our time. Time spent with other people or in pursuit of active interests is more fulfilling.

Well, without any fanfare, I made it to 168 lbs. 168 was originally the number in my head I imagined to be the ultimate goal I might be able to obtain, eventually. I finally said it out loud after a couple of months into eating healthy. (Remember, the ONLY thing I changed was the food I eat.) Once I hit 200, I felt like I were flying. That was 30+ pounds ago. That makes me laugh. Had I stalled at 200, I still felt significantly different.

If you’re interested, you can use my tag “Weight Loss” to search and scroll back.

My weight fluctuates and I’m also not one to jump on the scale with frequency. It’s madness to scrutinize so closely.

For the first time, I put on my smallest pants to wear to work. Seeing my reflection in the front door glass yesterday gave me a moment to feel out of body and out of place. Just like that, I decided to test my weight. 168. As tired as I was, I laughed. The road from October to the beginning of March was both long and passed in an instant. In some ways, I lived an extra year in this period.

Depending on when I identify as my starting point, I weighed about 230 lbs in October. I know I lost the weight too fast, all things considered. 60ish pounds in 17-18 weeks is excessive. Again, though, I couldn’t do it the other way. Despite my rationalizations, this hasn’t been a show of willpower for me; whatever vision struck me in October, it’s given me a completely unfair advantage compared to others attempting to do something similar.

Because I’ve suffered through several cycles of moderate loss and regaining, I would not have believed that my drop from around 230 to this point would have been so precipitous and inevitable. The people around me everyday watched me in surprise. I’ve always told them that losing weight is relatively easy. Can I maintain healthy eating? Of course. Will I? I’d say yes. But we love rationalizing and stupidly forgetting that life has a lot of cards to throw on the table. I’m going to need honest, authentic people to remind me of the massive change this weight loss brought to my life – and that losing the lesson would be a monumental slap to my own face. Going forward, it will still be a long series of good choices. I have an addiction, remember: food.

A week after writing the “168” post, someone challenged me to meet them at 160. That someone was the same woman who stuck, “Nothing tastes as good as this feels” in my head. (This is not a “That’s what she said” moment, although it sounds that way.)

It was entirely theoretical, though. There’s do doubt I can drop to 160. It’s idiocy to believe otherwise as I’ve dropped so much already. I’m not sure it is maintainable, though. For anyone who hasn’t done a journey like this one, it is bizarre how many tricks one’s body has to distract you.

IF I get to 160, I feel like there’s going to be some surprise as I reach it. I already feel incredibly different. Everything I do feels different. Everything. I hope that people at normal weights have experienced this sensation of ‘newness’ as a reward for doing the right thing all along, unlike me. If my energy is up, I catch myself walking incredibly fast for me, my feet, knees, and hips fluidly moving. Loud, vibrant noises resonate inside me as they’ve never have, not since I stopped running when I was very young. I feel the muscles in my upper legs stretch and bounce. My thighs have long since stopped rubbing or touching. If I sit a certain way, I can drape my leg and take pressure off my back.

I don’t know what I would look and feel like if I were still above 230. I finally succeeded this round, after MANY failures. During a pandemic. And under a lot of stress.

Whoever that person was, he is gone. I imagine forever.

I hope some of the other people who heard me be enthusiastic and hopeful for myself (and themselves) succeed, too. I hope they all do.

It can be done. It’s harder for some than others, especially given our health conditions, income, and circumstances.

Everything is incremental, though. Success feeds success.

I succeeded this time, for my own reasons. I could fail again. But I can no longer get away with saying I can’t do it. The only question that remains for me is not “Can I” but “Will I” do it. That about sums up everything, now that I think about it.

dON’T fORGET yOUR sTAPLEFORTIS!

Thanks to my friend Marilyn, I had to add the word ‘staplefortis’ to my editors and dictionaries.

Y’all better hope my dictionary isn’t the only one that survives as a repository for the English language after the next catastrophe. Since I disrespect the alleged sanctity and correctness of language, my dictionaries aren’t standard. I laugh when I scan through some of my nonsense: today, ‘dicktionary’ made me laugh. I also recall laughing when the popup, “Dicktionary added to Dictionary” occurred.

Marilyn’s mirthful dad often implied that a ‘staplefortis’ was a difficult-to-find part of the car under the hood (because imaginary is indeed hard to get your hands on), but I’ve managed to sneak it into several work-related things – and to also use it to connote, “Comedy through mundane goofiness.” When Marilyn first told me about her dad telling people to check the staplefortis under the hood, it evokes some of the madness my own dad enjoyed. His brand wasn’t safe, though. I’ve taken that sense of humor myself, except in my case I would undoubtedly send someone an invoice and bill them for a new staplefortis. If you can get people to buy milk and drink it, anything is possible. (Except buying an actual extended car warranty. If you don’t believe me, call someone and ask if you can buy one. 50-50% change your call will end if you do.)

It was Marilyn’s dad who also popularized ‘keg of buttholes,’ so I’m still waiting to see if the Dept. of The Interior might construct a statue of him to commemorate this fine phrase. I’m impressed how often ‘keg of buttholes’ can dispense both levity and clarity to a description. Especially in official work documents. Did it produce an odor? Yes, like a keg of buttholes might. No one leaves that sentence without a striking mental image.

I hope you keep your staplefortis maintained.

Mundane goofiness can be the most sublime because we can experience it in incremental bits throughout the day. Most of our lives are lived in the in-between moments anyway.

A Lessonless Moment

The fiftyish man stood at the postal kiosk, talking to everyone and no one. His bright orange shirt clung tightly to him. Though he lacked apparent red flags, his monologue with the anonymous interlopers in the queue signaled that something was amiss. He lifted his orange shirt to reveal his exposed stomach, punching himself repeatedly and with force. He told the onlookers that he did several hundred exercises a day to keep himself in shape. Taken ‘as is,’ his boast was comedic.

Because I constantly have a voice in my head, my voice noted the presence of a couple of attractive soccer moms who were ill at ease with his behavior. I observed their reciprocal and careful acknowledgment of what they were witnessing. I nicknamed him “Milftrap” as a nod to his self-confessed physique. As the line continued to move, Milftrap continued his tenuous conversation. The materials in front of him, purportedly the reason for his visit, remained in front of him, untouched.

I left him there, hoping he’d make a connection with someone to satisfy him.

I knew in my deepest heart that someone was terribly wrong, though I could not attach a diagnosis.

Though my nickname for him amused me, the life behind his story left me a bit untethered.

Had I seen only the briefest glimpse of him as he bragged about his physique, I would have departed filled with a bit of comedy and a new catchphrase; as it is, I left with a bit of cloud in my head.

Wonder

For all the things in life for which I am grateful, none of them are things.

All are invisible, intangible, and irreplaceable.

A wise man once said that as one’s head aligns with one’s life, happiness is inevitable.

I sit, looking out the window, as the afternoon rain falls on February’s last day.

I sit, I wonder.

I sit in wonder.

Untitled Day

The first link is NSFW: if you don’t like cursing, do NOT open the link. If you’ve never seen the website or read the material elsewhere, congratulations! https://markmanson.net/not-giving-a-fuck

I said the words as a joke. But I felt the reverb in my head and knew that I inadvertently shared a truth: “In October, I realized I was in an abusive relationship. With food.” Someone who hadn’t seen me in a year was shocked that he didn’t recognize me. Yes, I had a mask on. And lemon-colored glasses. He asked me my secret: “Short answer. Keep mouth closed. Second. I found a vision of my future life in my head that I had no choice but to pursue. And I am.” He congratulated me and of course asked me the usual questions.

In my head, I think about my previous food-driven life and consider it an addiction. Old thinking won’t keep me on track. My treatment will be life-long. And if not, me living a life that doesn’t contain what it should will be a certainty. Though it may sound unintentionally new-agey to say it, the vision of my life that flashed in my head in October when I started all this didn’t contain a deviation. Old habits will continue to be replaced by new pleasures.

Someone who didn’t interact with me before now periodically takes a moment to ask about my transformation. Today, he surprised me by saying, “I knew when you told me this was going to stick. Months have passed, and it’s like a switch did break in your head. I hope you take that momentum and expand it to other things.” He was sharing truth and an observation. “I am, yes,” I told him. “Losing all this weight was just a piece of the puzzle. Somewhere in all, this is an ‘after’ that might surprise everyone.”

A few minutes later, I was loudly playing verbal volleyball with a co-worker in Spanish. Another employee from another department turned and looked at me a couple of times, unsure. Still hammering away in Spanish, I neared the third employee, and his eyes widened. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, X?” I laughed. “I hope so. I forgot myself for a while.” The words exited my lips, and I recognized the essential truth I had blurted out. Anticipating his next question, I told him that I am not Latino. And then added that what I do for a living in no way touches the perimeter of who I am or what the world inside my head resembles. He laughed. “Yes, I knew that the first time you said something to me.” He shook his head, still laughing. I told him a brief synopsis of my Spanish journey. “I couldn’t learn Spanish, X,” he said. “Do you think I possess superpowers? Can you learn one word a day?” He looked confused. “Superpowers? You might! But yes, I could learn one word a day, I think.” I laughed. “Well, there you go. Don’t look at the idea of learning Spanish as unwinnable. Take a shovel and take one lump at a time. In a year, at one word a day, you will learn about three times that many due to association. AND, the average speaker only uses about 800 different words a day, regardless of language.” He looked at me in surprise. “I never thought about it like that, X. For a second, you convinced me that I could do it.” At that point, I told him, “That idea you had for a second? The one where you thought you could do it? That is the secret. You can do it. You don’t have to promise to do the whole thing. Just take one word and step at a time.”

Later, I had a couple of lemon moments that surprised even me.

Though I was working, the morning held its embrace out for me, in unexpected ways. I’m grateful to the universe.

I wore my shirt inside out the entire day. People looked, but no one commented. People noticed, especially the clerk who sold me a lottery ticket. She laughed but said nothing, even as I pirouetted away from the register with a dancing flourish.

Unrelated to anything:

https://www.litographs.com/

https://offensivecrayons.com/collections/frontpage/products/original-offensive-crayons

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/03/about-85-of-people-only-breathe-out-of-one-nostril-at-a-time/

https://theoatmeal.com/comics/believe_clean?fbclid=IwAR14pSw_6pHAKCW7L9hBrIDyUgnZn4XVIoA3w06eNfI7PYFFvmW92yN5JX8

Still Here

“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.” – Orson Welles

*

This is me at 170 lbs.

I didn’t take this picture to post it. I don’t hate my own picture as many people do. I’m an average man. Anyone with any knowledge of the human body can imagine what I look like dressed, in a swimsuit, or naked. Don’t think too long on that image. Or, think long on it. We are humans, each one of us. We guard our appearance as if keen eyes don’t already know. It’s part of what allows us to feel guilty about our weight. Even for those we love, we tend to suffer for being unable to openly discuss our weight.

Even people who preach “No secrets!” to others and to their partners will fight to the death to keep their weight a secret. The problem with that is by doing so, those people are openly acknowledging that they can’t control their eating. (There are exceptions, so don’t scream at me. Generalities aren’t written to cover the fringes, so chill out and have a beer.)

As for me, I’m not one to be guarded about my weight. Since this change, I will completely abandon the notion that keeping one’s weight secret helps anyone. It doesn’t. It shields us from acknowledging we have a problem. Having said that, this attitude doesn’t cover everyone, nor would I want it to. And I wouldn’t think it to be kind to be insensitive or hurtful to anyone who isn’t at the same stage as I am. Likewise, we have to stop pretending that people don’t know our weight or what we look like.

Another lifepro hint: a lot of amazing-looking people suffer from the delusion that they aren’t attractive, sexy, or normal. At risk of repetition, if you have someone in your life you says you are good-looking at your weight, believe them, especially if their words align with their reaction to you,. Also, congratulations. That kind of appreciation is worth much more than many other things that we think give our lives value. If you find someone who looks at you with hungry eyes, you’re lucky; if they love you too, you’ve won the lottery, one that will help you overcome a mountain of stresses in life.

*

“One of the secrets of weight loss is that being the right weight allows the enthusiasm you bring to your love life to double the pleasure. We are biological machines designed for pleasure. Give up all the needless food and find that pleasure elsewhere. You’ll thank yourself. “

*

I don’t weigh myself often because that is a distraction for me. Also, the plateau I hit still affects me. I’m not eating enough calories for my body to ‘relax’ about this process, I’m sure. I don’t think I’ve had a day since sometime in October where I wasn’t running an energy deficit for the day. My weight fluctuates by several pounds sometimes. Some days, I drink enough fluids to drown a zebra. (Note: I don’t advocate the drowning of zebras.)

It wasn’t my plan to do it this way; I gave myself permission to go crazy if unavoidable. Random cravings do strike. But I would still rather have chips than desserts. Since I have ‘healthy’ chips to satisfy my cravings without guilt, I have yet to eat sugar. (Even disguised as a cupcake, ice cream, or a candy bar.) Since everything I write seems to draw polarity, I am NOT saying that sugar is the devil like others do.

It is possible that further losses might not be sustainable without losing a lot of muscle mass or by playing dirty tricks on my body. Muscle burns more energy, of course. I suspect I have lost a bit of muscle mass, but certainly not from a lack of physical activity. Food reduction almost inevitably results in muscle loss if you don’t incorporate exertion into your day.

As for whether I am capable of simply eating almost nothing, the answer is completely ‘yes.’ It’s laughable how easy (for me) it is to just not eat at times. That such a comment would be possible for me is still a surprise. My fingers are crossed that old habits and thinking don’t creep back into my head. Were my job not so physical, I would likely incorporate strenuous exercise into the mix a few times a week to experiment with how my body reacts. I haven’t done anything except change my diet during this entire process. People are still surprised that it was so simple for me: eat a lot less, and eat healthily as much as possible.

People do laugh at me for audibly appreciating the taste of what I eat. Early yesterday, I had canned tomatoes with an additional mix of tomato-chicken broth. I added a specific hot sauce and seasonings. It was delicious, as evidenced by me saying “Yum!” and/or groaning in appreciation. My supervisor laughed. “That’s your secret!” Of course it is. I eat things that I love, ones which are simple. That’s as big as a secret as losing weight by keeping one’s mouth shut. (I laughed as I typed that last part.)

I got on the scale yesterday morning because I felt like I could run and jump my car, even though I was up and outside around 3:30 a.m. I felt a little outside of my own body. As I wrote about before (thanks to a friend of mine who did the same), nothing tastes as good as the way I feel. This morning, for a brief instant, that feeling overwhelmed me. If the rest of my life were on track and aligned with this feeling, I would probably be insufferably happy all the time – and you’d want to hit me with a shovel.

Running at a deficit also presents the possibility of lower energy and the risk of depressive thinking and feelings. I’m on guard about this. I have obstacles in my life, like everyone else. For me, being thinner saved me from certain negative consequences of the stress and diminished mood. Drastic reductions in food intake creates a greater propensity to suffer from reduced mood. Absent other changes and circumstances in my life that are also at play, I think this process could have hurt me had I not had an unbelievable focus of goals and a profound reason to live (and live a happier life) in the last few months. I’ve filed it away in case I’m around people trying to do the same thing in the future. They’ll listen to me if I’ve experienced it.

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Sam’s Club has a 16oz bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning for less than $9. That’s quite the steal, even compared to Walmart at more than twice the price.

For reasons which escape me, I used to dislike iceberg lettuce in a bag. Maybe due to the extraneous added ingredients. Who knows? Recently, I tried it again. This time, I followed a tip online and skipped the salad dressing, instead opting to use only dry seasonings on the lettuce. I also tore the lettuce thoroughly by hand. It reduces the odd texture but also increases the ‘stick’ factor for the iceberg lettuce. I doubt normal people take ‘stick factor’ into consideration when discussing salad.

While not my intention, I’ve always resented the tendency to over pile a simple salad with a junkyard of ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, they can be divine. But are they necessary? By what alchemy do we decide what ‘enough’ is? And at what point do the additions add nothing of value? Since reducing and eating less, I am amazed by how much less is enough.

Today, I tried the lettuce with the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning.

Lord, was it good.

In the past, people have said, “But the seasoning has SO much sodium.” After looking at several bottles of ranch dressing, it turns that Ranch salad dressing has a LOT more sodium than the seasoning. While I don’t worry much about sodium content, the seasoning tricks your tongue into thinking it is a lot more salt. And there’s nothing to mask the intended ranch flavoring, as is the case with dressing.

Also, using a typical 36oz bottle of ranch dressing, it contains 35 servings at 130 calories each, equaling 4,680 for the entire bottle. The bottle of seasoning has 568 servings at 0 calories per serving…

You can waste your time learning to make a mess and make your own healthier ranch dressing. OR, you can try using dry seasoning first. Chances are? You won’t like it. But you might.

And even if you don’t, you’ll discover a million ways to use this ranch seasoning on all manner of food. I have. I’ve always loved using seasonings and flavorings this way.

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If everything were as easy as becoming overweight, effort would be pointless. “Choose your hard” still resonates in my head. All of us love food. Some of us love exercise. We have to find a balance.

For most of us, the recipe is still there for us: eat less and you’ll see results. Eat a lot less, and you’ll see more results.

“I don’t eat desserts. I can. I just don’t. I don’t eat fried. I don’t eat dairy.
What do I eat cardboard? Ha.” – X

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The next images highlight a lot of my thinking. As eye-catching as the second picture is, the woman in the first picture, to me, is much more attractive. She’s smiling and using the things some erroneously to be ‘less than’ in her favor. Her hair is beautiful, her glasses fit her personality, and no matter her weight, it is obvious that she loves life.

As with these… The second picture might be more likely to be in a sleep fantasy with the lights dimmed.

If you have doubts, google each sex at different weights. We come in all shapes and sizes.

Love is one size fits all.

Whatever weight you may be, if it isn’t what you want, change it. If it is difficult, it will feel that much better if you can use your intelligence to get there.

And if you are at the weight you want to be, join me in preaching the gospel of helping people appreciate themselves.

Love, X

Rainbow girl

Rainbow Girl walked across the expanse of the cemetery, turning about halfway. The dozens of prisms she’d placed carefully in the oak tree branches shimmered like floating diamonds. The rear perimeter of the property held a dozen large oak trees, each with outreaching and drooping limbs. March had not yet relinquished winter, leaving the trees unencumbered by the approaching greenery of budding leaves.

I watched her from several rows away. A year had passed since my brother died. Without a plan in mind, I came to visit the grave he insisted on having, even after being cremated. To my surprise, some of the pain of his loss and his wasted last few years weighed heavily on my heart.

Even if she had detected my presence, I would not have affected her. It was the first time I had witnessed her. Stories about her floated around time from time to time. Most were fantastical and exaggerated. It was apparent she was no more than a young woman.

I looked away for a moment to glance at my cellphone. When my eyes found Rainbow Girl again, she ran toward the oak trees in the back and then began a pirouette, one anchored by her outflung arms. She spun faster and faster. Her black hair swung freely across her face and shoulders. When she stopped, several rainbow patterns from the prisms around her painted her face, arms, and torso. I felt as if I were witnessing a ritual. I was mesmerized.

With her arms still out, she turned toward me and waved her right hand, beckoning me to join her. Without hesitation, I quickly walked toward her. She waited, even as the prisms slowly moved with the breeze in the branches holding them. Her lips were painted bright red.

She spun her index finger around. I realized she wanted me to spin as she had. I looked down to see no rainbows across my torso or legs.

I expected to feel foolish. I didn’t. I inexpertly began to spin. After five turns, I knew I might be unsteady on my feet, so I stopped.

Rainbow Girl smiled, revealing white teeth. The smile reached her eyes, and a rainbow from one of the prisms above rested across the bridge of her nose. I smiled back at her.

She pointed at my chest.

Looking down, I saw several rainbows coloring my shirt and arms. Rainbow Girl motioned with her hand to tell me that she could see several across my face.

I laughed. Rainbow Girl spun several more times and stopped. By no means I could detect, the number of rainbows across her body had doubled. I repeated my slower spins. To my surprise, I, too, had twice as many rainbows across my body. Rainbow Girl tilted her head and smiled as wide as any smile I had ever witnessed.

She put her right hand over her heart and pointed up to the trees and March sky above. I did likewise. I felt a thousand points of multi-colored lights assail my eyes. When I looked back toward Rainbow Girl, she was covered in dozens of prism splotches, each faintly distinguished by incredibly vivid colors.

She motioned for me to cover my eyes. I reluctantly did so, blocking the beautiful mix of colors. I waited.

After a few seconds, I opened my eyes. Rainbow Girl was gone. A single prism rainbow painted the leaves on the cemetery grass. I smiled, a smile that grew across my face like the green of spring spreading over a field.

Minutes passed as I stood in the grass, wondering about Rainbow Girl and thinking about my life and that of my brother. As I walked past my brother’s grave, I noted a single rainbow across his name. I laughed.

Message received.

If you have the pleasure of seeing someone you love bathed in rainbows, take a moment to experience the magic of light rendered as color. And if you see Rainbow Girl, let her take the heaviness from your heart.

Love, X
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Spam Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

“Where were you a year ago, Wilson?” Amy half-jokingly asked her laptop.

On a random Thursday morning, Amy woke up to discover that her boyfriend of four years had left her. Eleven months of ensuing loneliness had hardened her a bit.

She had a message notification, alerting her that a non-friend wanted to send her a message. On a lark, she hit ‘accept.’

Below the picture of an attractive man, Amy saw the words, “Hello, beautiful.” Next to the message, his name: Wilson.

She snickered.

There were worse alternatives, she knew. She’d accidentally read dozens of them over the years. Few were noteworthy except for the depth of the lengths they would plummet to in an attempt to get her attention. Any reply at all immediately brought an onslaught of emboldened clichés, anatomically correct pictures, and strange requests.

Like so many women in today’s world, Amy learned to stop being curious. She marked all of them as spam and blocked them if she had the option. When even that option grew tiresome, she ignored the folder where such messages automatically went, thinking that any legitimate follow-ups would happen anyway.

Deciding that “Hello, Beautiful” wasn’t beyond the line, she went to her folder of hidden messages. To her surprise, there were thirteen. The first eight were horrendous and undoubtedly crafted by the King of Creeps. A few more were just unimaginative. Because she had started the process, she would finish.

She clicked open the thirteenth.

To her surprise, she saw a thumbnail of an average-looking man staring back at her. He was smiling. In his message, a single link. Though Amy knew not to click it, she did. Expecting the worst, she found herself looking at an online journal from a man named Evan Croft. It sounded like a Hollywood name or internet troll. Amy didn’t mind the idea of being famous – just not for being the star player in a true-crime documentary on Lifetime.

As she began reading his latest entry, Amy leaned in to read more closely. Thirty posts later, and Amy was a bit embarrassed to find herself fascinated by his life. It wasn’t that he lived an adventurous life; he appreciated people and moments that clarified more significant moments.

Before she could talk herself out of it, Amy answered Evan’s original message: “Hi, Evan. Let’s talk.” She watched the message go through. Unread.

“Well, I’m not doing anything else, so…” Amy continued reading. She took time to make a light supper for herself but forged ahead. Divorced, two children, creative job, and interested in everything. There had to be a catch, and not just because he wrote her as a stranger.

At six, Amy jumped a little when her notification ping sounded. Evan read and replied to her message: “I would love to talk. Over webcam, text, call, or shall we meet in person, like two savages? I leave the decision at your feet.” Suddenly, Amy felt a pang of buyer’s remorse and uncertainty.

Swallowing her fear again, she wrote, “My phone number is: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

Ten seconds later, her cellphone lit up.

Without regard to waiting for a reasonable interval, Amy scrambled and grabbed the phone, sliding the ‘answer’ option as quickly as her fingers could manage.

“Hey, this is Amy!” She blurted out, smiling through her voice.

“I hope so, Amy, unless you’re accustomed to strangers answering your cell!” Evan laughed deeply at his own joke.

“Duh, yes I am. I do my best work at random bus stations and park benches.” Amy found that she, too, was laughing.

An hour later, both Amy and Evan were still animatedly trading comments and barbs back and forth.

“I’ll call you later, Amy, if that’s okay?” Evan’s voice sounded uncertain.

“Yes, please do!” Amy told him, unable to conceal the enthusiasm.

“Okay, have a good evening,” he replied.

Amy hit ‘end’ on the call. She sat at her computer desk, looking at the phone.

She was startled when it lit up and began to vibrate. Excitedly, she answered the phone.

“Hello? This is Amy!” For once, she was glad to answer her phone.

“Hi, Amy. This is Evan. It’s later, so I decided to give you a call back.” Though he didn’t laugh, Amy heard the impending laugh waiting in the back of his throat.

“Dork!” she said. To her, “impending laugh” sounded like an ideal recipe for a new life.

“Guilty as charged.” He laughed.

Amy couldn’t remember why she had doubted she would find interesting people in the world. Maybe even in the spam folder.

Evan and Amy still laugh about their first conversation, being lucky thirteen in the spam folder, and their two years together.

Spam is in the eye and heart of the beholder.