Liz Nix

Category: Writing

Tenth Grade English Class

Tonight I cracked open a folder marked “High School Poetry (Mine & Cirriculum)”[sic] from the box of stuff I’ve carried for nearly 20 years that I’m now trying to pare down. Inside are dozens of explicated poems by real poets. There are also about a half-dozen of my attempts at flattering imitation, these all were evaluated and commented on by my tenth grade English teacher, Mr. S.

There are 2 poems of mine in the pile which Mr. S. encouraged me to type and submit to the school’s literary magazine, but I didn’t have the confidence then to even give it a second thought.

Now in this impromptu retrospective I’m ready to let go of everything in this folder except one of those two poems of mine. I am publishing it here for the whole world, but especially for Mr. S.


No Matter Where I Look

No matter where I look, I can’t find direction;
There is no destination for my future.
And whatever I do to find ambition
The search is a dead end;
There’s no shining light to guide,
Not so much as a flicker from the fire of inspiration
Within myself to brighten the way.
And whatever truths I seek
Turn to fleeting interests which leave me
Worse off than before I found them
And whatever holds any passion,
Is only a foolish child’s dream
And whatever happens through the day
Makes hope wish not to exist
And still I carry on.

Going Home with a Boy

In 2003 I took a creative writing course at the junior college. I came across this short story from that class while getting ready for the upcoming move. This is one of my best works to come out of that class and I think it’s still relevant so I’m going to repost it now. I had to re-typeset it so I made some very minor edits in the process. This is a work of fiction.


Going Home with a Boy

My date hands me another Irish Car Bomb, and I drink it quickly. It slides easily down my throat and the resulting explosion in my gut resonates back up in the form of a loud belch which I make no attempt to stifle, for I am enjoying the bliss of intoxication. I, and several others, stand in calculated contraposto, trying to look impressive as we are each simultaneously advertisement and consumer. This is the first time that I’ve met these people, but already we converse and laugh like old friends. At this moment the boy who I trusted to bring me here grabs my ass and whispers in my ear in the voice of every sexual predator from every corny cautionary after school special that I have ever seen:

“I can’t wait to fuck you later.”

I feel a colony of fire ants swarm up my spine and congregate in a deafening riot around the back of my skull and behind my ears. I am no longer having fun.

In disbelief I turn to face him. This is no lecherous vagrant verbally assaulting me from some street corner. This is the same young man who, when he had come to pick me up, had made small talk with my father about sports and with my mother about house plants. This is no chauvinistic creep who thinks of women as possessions. This is the guy who had sat in sociology speaking seldom, and when he did speak it was often of the importance of equal rights and the shameful injustice of the continued salary gap that still exists between women and men in our society. How could this be the guy who seems to think I’m going to sleep with him after only one date? Did I say something to make him think this? Perhaps it’s the skirt I’m wearing. Perhaps he feels that I owe him something for procuring the fake ID that bought me passage into this basement hothouse where young adults come to germinate in the musty, dimly lit social atmosphere.

“I’m not going to have sex with you,” I say. Now’s not a time for euphemisms. “I’m sorry if I gave you that impression. Maybe you’d better take me home.”

“Maybe,” he says, but then stops. The word is sharp with anger, or hurt, possibly embarrassment. He breathes deeply then smiles. With a light sweep of his fingertips he brushes sandy brown hair away from his green eyes and morphs back into the charming young man who had arrived at my doorstep earlier this evening. His hair falls obediently back into place across his brow, for it has been well trained.

He begins again, sweetly, “maybe we should stay for a couple more drinks, and that’s all. I’m sorry for being so forward,” he holds up two fingers as a signal to the bartender: two more car bombs. “I usually don’t say things like that. I just felt overwhelmed by the connection I feel between us,” he pauses, giving a nod of thanks to the bartender as she sets our drinks down in front of us, “that, and I’ve had quite a bit to drink. I shouldn’t drive anyway. I think we should take a cab when we’re through.”

I hadn’t thought of that. The fire ants subside, and I regain a semblance of ease. Falling back into conversation, we exchange witticisms and laugh as we had been before he’d groped me.

I excuse myself to go to the bathroom. He offers to order me another drink, but I think I’ll stick with water. Understanding, he nods. I walk to the bathroom with a stride that feels fluid and graceful but probably appears as a swaggering stagger to those watching. I’ve overreacted. Surely he meant no harm by his remark, it was just a momentary lapse in tact; social grace suppressed by alcohol.

When I return from the bathroom there is a glass of water for me on the bar. After thanking the boy for ordering it, I drink it quickly, eager to clear some of the fog of drunkenness from my brain. Realizing my thirst, I ask for more water. This I drink slowly as we continue our conversation.

I am in mid-sentence when my thoughts become incomprehensible. For a fraction of a second I am asleep. Startled, I try to tell the boy who I trusted to bring me here of this bizarre occurrence, but I am unable to form words. There is an intangible thought hovering at the edge of my consciousness. He looks at me expectantly waiting to see if I continue with what I’d been saying but consciousness is gone again, this time for what feels like the greater part of second. When it returns partially, I only notice the boy’s expression is warm, his smile reassuring. He is a carnivorous plant in full bloom and I am a hapless insect. The ghost of a thought is suddenly very much alive, blaring at me, a sounding alarm. Drugs. I’ve been drugged. The date rape drug? Rohypnol, or possibly GHB. I had a friend who used to take it for fun. The feeling I’m fighting now is the feeling she described, except that this is definitely not fun.

I need help. I can’t speak. I think I see the boy who I trusted to bring me here grin.

“Is she okay?” The bartender asks.

No, I’m not. He’s drugged me. Please don’t let him take me anywhere. Please, call me a cab.

Damn, I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that out loud. I’m scared. I need to think. I fight to stay awake, but this is not the sort of drowsiness that engulfs slowly while I’m sitting in class or falling asleep at night, this is an abrupt and complete lack of consciousness, and by some miraculous strength of will I am able to jar myself into moments of hazy awareness. This is stop motion animation with most of the frames missing. Blinks that extend for indecipherable amounts of time, between which I feel disorientation and fear pulsing more quickly as my own heartbeat slows.

“. . . too much to drink,” I hear the boy say, “I’m going to take her home.”

Now, I’m on my feet. I feel my head fall forward. I don’t want the headline in tomorrow’s paper to read ‘Local Girl Found Raped, Murdered.’ Instead, it should read ‘Local Girl Heroically Escapes Rapist, Death.’

This would be a good time for ingenuity and bravery, but it’s getting very hard to think. Heroics don’t come easily when you’re asleep. I cannot stay awake. I won’t even dream. Now, we are in the front door of the bar. Now, I’m in the passenger seat of his car.

I search my mind for a glimmer of hope. Sleeping beauty is the only unconscious heroine that comes to mind, but she is awakened only by the long awaited kiss of prince charming. This does me no good. In my story, the prince is the villain and the heroine will not wake up.

Dear City

Dear City Where I Was Born,

I haven’t been outside of you for more than weeks at a time

in the entire time I’ve been alive.

and in a matter of weeks that’s going to change.

So, let me just say: you have been AMAZE . . . ing

and I love you,

and I know, (I know!) that you love me too.

You are SO beautiful,

even in your dark parts

(maybe not the darkest,

because I’ve seen the struggle

and the people who have died there,

but still I can’t deny

a certain sense of pride

in the time I would reside there.)

I have to thank my parents

for choosing this place

for having me here

in you, dear city, which taught me

to love without fear.

We were all just there in you

from all walks of life

Race, color, creed, gender, orientation,

These taxonomies all came to mean certain things,

but never whether or not one could be trusted

with my life.

You maintained your sunny disposition

as often as you could.

And you would cry

whenever I would.

I’ll be back, I know.

But you’re going to change and so will I.

I just want to say, I hope that you thrive.

Your state is great,

and your Country’s okay.

As far as they go.

anyway

The Way Down

Jesus brought me down on the 333. It’s one of the older busses on the county’s fleet. It’s got faux wood paneling inside. Jesus is an excellent driver.

It was crowded when I got on, rows full of students and their companion backpacks. I walked all the way to the back and back up again. I sat near the middle next to an older woman who I didn’t recognize as a regular. Carl talked the whole way, like he always does. Too personal and too close to a girl who either goes to the high school or the junior college. He doesn’t seem to understand the boundaries of personal space, but we forgive him the way we would a child because he’s obviously that in some respects, but he’s got to be in his forties and someone really ought to talk to him about propriety. Closest I’ve ever come was telling him sharply not to disrespect me.

It was here that I pulled out my Heinlein and escaped as John Lyle.

Fortunate

The other day I was scouring the parking lot near work for unclaimed change in the parking meter coin return slots.

I found none.

What I did find was a discarded fortune cookie fortune. No cookie, just the fortune; it read:

One who waits to do a lot of good all at once never does anything.

It wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was exactly what I needed.

I Hate Bootstrap

The thing that bugs me about Bootstrap is that it puts so much of the layout and style information back into html, when the beauty of css was that it got most of the extra code out of HTML and left the content nice and clean. Now it’s all junked up again with extra nested divs for the grid to work. It starts to feel like way back when we were building site layouts with tables. It’s ridiculous. . .

. . . And this mentality kept me Bootstrap-resistant for a long, long time. I maintained fiercely that the framework or lack thereof for the start of a web build should be “developer’s choice.” Every developer has their own personal work flow and who am I to impede on that?

Well, who I am is the leader of a web production department, and as such my job requires me to set aside my ego and listen to the needs of my team and of the company. So when the need for a standard became too great to ignore, I had to freeze my personal bias and view the matter from as objective a perspective as possible.

The Break Point

Our build process became bogged down. If a developer needed to jump into a build in progress, they would often decide it was easier just to scrap the previous dev’s code and start over. Site maintenance became difficult too because a code change in one viewport size often meant something broke in another. We needed to get faster, and have more flexibility and more scalability.

Some of my developers had already adopted Bootstrap and their development time over the course of a handful of web builds was cut in half. Even I had to admit that once I stopped fighting the grid system, development became faster and easier. Maintenance on responsive sites is far more predictable as well. So Bootstrap became the natural choice for our department’s standard.

Light Bulb Moments

When just starting out with it, my opinion of Bootstrap is that it was bloated. Way too much extraneous code for most standard web applications. Learning that I could pull Bootstrap core css from their CDN significantly eased this concern. After that I found that I could develop I site on bootstrap with less than 300 lines of custom css code. The smaller css file is incredibly easy to manage. This greater ease of layout and styling has afforded me the opportunity to play more with fun things like JQuery, post-css, and modular-scale. So, at the end of the day, I have to say that I love Bootstrap now, at least as much as I hate it.

Pink Plastic Plate

Sometimes you step on a plastic plate. The last plastic plate featuring a picture of your child’s favorite commercial character. Now you must throw it away and plan to buy a new one. You must. You think of over flowing landfills and burning fossil fuels. You think of sweatshops and factory waste. You think of all the times you have to decide what will go back if you’re over budget in the check out line, because you didn’t have the time to pack a calculator and find the very best deal per ounce of toilet paper and square of peanut butter. You didn’t weigh the bananas. That plastic plate is in your future nonetheless. Unless your child says, “It’s okay. I know it was an accident I can use glass plates now, anyway.” Which she might, because sometimes, she is just that cool.

In any case, you probably shouldn’t sweat it too much, because sometimes, you use paper plates.