Man-Made Monsters

She cooked eggs when she couldn’t sleep because it reminded her of her father, and his memory comforted her. When she was young, he often prepared breakfast late at night. She would be slouched over homework, watching one of the four channels that worked on the family’s TV, or even bundled in bed reading, and he would call out from the kitchen, asking if she wanted eggs and coffee. She always refused the coffee due to her sensitivity to caffeine, but he asked every time regardless. They sat at the dining room table at 11 or midnight, sometimes even later, and ate their eggs with toast. Always sunny-side up, the toast for breaking into pieces and dipping into the yolks. “Dip-eggs,” he called them, as if that moniker was universally recognized. They usually had school in the morning; he taught a class at the community college and she was in high school, but the eggs and his coffee felt like a necessary bedtime precursor, like the Shelley and the Atwood he had read aloud to her when she was younger. She fell asleep listening to the stories of monsters and handmaids, the gloomy visions of women uneasy with the world, and he didn’t find that unusual. Just like midnight dip-eggs. Breakfast before bed was natural, even essential, and she held onto it, claimed it as her own long after she had bought her own Teflon pan and wrote essays about Frankenstein for her college English classes. The smell of fried eggs and buttered toast made her feel safe and contained, like she was not floating aimlessly but rooted to a constant whose presence was sometimes faint and unseen, but always felt, like electricity or thunder in the distance.


New Year, No Fear

Most of my memories from college are fleeting and blurred from intoxication or sleep-deprivation, but one of the few specific moments I can remember is from a 1 am fire drill in the dorms when I was a freshman living with my best friend. It was a school night, probably a Thursday, but Amanda and I had some friends in our dorm room drinking forties and watching Fantasia clips on YouTube. We hadn’t been the only people still awake in our rooms that night, but it was apparent that most people had been asleep prior to when the fire alarm went off. Some walked out into the November night wrapped in their comforters, which they obviously stripped off their twin-size mattresses along with their bodies, and other people were wearing only their boyfriend’s boxers and an old shirt, shivering in the cold-for-Tucson weather.

An image from that night that stays with me today is of a girl whom I made eye contact with on the stairwell as we descended out of the building into the street. She was shoeless, wearing a Christmas-themed fleece pajama set and glasses, with white spots of Clearasil scattered across her face like freckles. Looking at her, I was grateful to be in fully dressed with makeup and styled hair to counter my drunken demeanor. I was thankful that the fire alarm hadn’t woken me up because I knew that if I had already been in bed, I would’ve looked exactly the same as her. The glasses, the childish sleep clothes, the tired face free of makeup and riddled with anti-zit cream—these were all aspects of myself that, at the time, I considered to be extremely private and embarrassing. I know that no matter how urgent the fire alarm sounded, even if there actually was a fire, I would have slapped a bra on, changed into something presentable, wiped the crusty white dots off my face, and patted some powder and blush on my face before rushing out of my dorm room. I would have done these things because for as long as I could remember I truly believed that it would be shameful and humiliating for other people to see me in my most unprepared states. That’s why, prior to this point in my life, I never wore my hair in a lazy bun or left the house wearing anything but clean, well-fitting clothes. I wanted everyone to think that I never looked sloppy or careless or anything but perfect because that’s how girls are supposed to seem, right? At least, that’s what I thought other people expected of girls, including myself. Especially myself.

I remember this moment so distinctly because the sleepy smile the girl flashed my way struck me as so fearless and unapologetic. She might not have realized she had fallen asleep with white blotches on her face, or maybe she did; the point was that she didn’t give a shit. Her smile seemed to say to me, “I might not look put-together right now, but so what? I was sleeping. What do you expect?” The only word I choose to use to describe this girl as is brave. I hope that someday, someone else will secretly think of me as brave. At the turn of 2012, I originally opted to avoid resolutions, but I think bravery is something I would like to see in myself this year. I think that’s the only New Year’s resolution any of us should try to stick to. There are a lot of ways to define bravery and act as such, but for me it means being capable of smiling at a stranger with a dime-sized white splotch on the tip of your nose. Let's all strive for that, if anything at all, shall we?