This blog is a different style than my usual, a result of a writing challenge I did a year ago. I had to reflect upon it a bit before I published it for the world to see. A year later, and now three years flat in bed with my illness, this is more relevant than ever. Hope you enjoy :)
Sofia Wren Sacred Writing Challenge Day 11
Prompt: What makes you uniquely you? How did that come to be?
My hair, my name, my voice.
My hair, something I was born with, to stand out. I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, however, being unique, standing out, is definitely in my lineage.
My dad, is the crustiest sailor you ever did meet. He’s got fish stories so big, each time he tells them they are a little bit more unrecognizable, but they still smell fishy. His hair is white and wiry, and when he doesn’t get it cut like he should, he looks undeniably nuts. When looked at in profile, his eyes bulge out of his head slightly from astigmatism, or hypothyroidism – who knows really cause he would never go to the doctor. And his glasses are thick. The kind that leave indents in your nose, and slide down when you perspire. Sometimes his eyes are green and sometimes they go blue like the sea, whatever is most advantageous to him that day of course.
Being a guy, he’s not one for hair gel, or straightening, or any extra fancy grooming habits, so his hair sticks straight out the back like a wedge. He tries to brush it down, but our hair just like us, never gives in. In protest, it sticks out in one unified wave of ‘Yea right man.’ Clinging close to his scalp on top as if it’s saying, ‘Oh yes, I’m totally listening,’ and the second the head slopes, it poofs straight back at a 45 degree angle. ‘I do what I want,’ the hair says. The only way to control it, is to cut it off, half an inch from the root. So when he steps off his semi truck, in baggy clothes with a week’s worth of wrinkles, and some random sneakers that are all black, with his hair ‘wave’ in full effect – you really aren’t sure if he’s going to start speaking in tongues and ask for spare change, or if he’s headed for a beer. It’s the latter.
There, shrouded in the type of darkness that only a smoky bar in the South has during mid day, he spins his tales of triumph and stupidity. Undeniably bold, unapologetically ridiculous, before the evening is over, he’ll have everyone hanging on his next word and laughing at his jokes. In the bar, nothing is real – and that is his reality.
My hair is wiry and dry. It’s slightly red, and has a distinct ‘squiggle’ curl pattern, but over all it is currently a mousy brown color. It was once a lovely dishwater blonde, a mixture of Sun-In from the 90s and highlights from the sweltering Central California sun. It was so hot there we were optimistically named the Raisin Capital of the World, but we just called it California’s armpit growing up. We all dreamed of the day that we’d make it to a ‘REAL’ town.
These days, my hair a mighty boring brown. You would think I most definitely had no personality at all, except it’s size gives me away. My hair is so very large, that even when straightened, my hair is undeniably giving you the bird. It’s always been this way, with hair brushes chucked across the room in frustration, and teenage tears that I’d never have straight bangs. My hair had other plans for me, this is true.
Turns out, when I go to the bar, I’m the type that will have the whole room going along with some asinine plot. I just thought it was funny until someone pointed out – that they’ve never met anyone else who lights sparklers on flaming cakes that set alarms off with foul language laced icing. Who knew? I’m exactly like my father.
I even took to sailing before it was pointed out, that he drove the same car at my age and was also was a sailor.
And when I drive up in my Dodge Ram 1500, with the muffler broken off so it surely sounds like gravel, or my pet name for it – The Beast. The hood closed and cocked slightly to one side, it’s been repaired with duct tape and more than one person has frantically waved me down at stoplights fearing it might come roaring open and devour my life, surely on the freeway.
Nope, I assure them. That is the gaping face of The Beast, and that’s just how she rolls. Despite all appearances, The Beast is mechanically sound and has hauled trailers coast to coast, and felled trees with it’s massive rusty hook.
When I pull into the parking lot, with my hair flying wildly in the air, squiggle curls down to my butt gone mad, and swinging from the ‘oh shit’ handle down to the steaming desert blacktop below, lesbians for miles squee. No one can quite figure out which box I go into. So they stare quizzically at this skinny woman with wild hair, packing and tying down her own load of steel and knashing wood and ropes to the roof rack. They watch as I step into the lifted truck bed by climbing the tire in my blue jeans, and wonder, will she be speaking in tongues or does she just want a beer? It’s the latter.
My name. I was born Emily Kyleen ------n. Named after Emily Dickinson I’m told, named after Miss America 1979 I’m told. Named Emily in a show boating of power from one infertile sister to another, the fertile holy one. I was a sacred cow of glowing white bald head til the age of 2 - no one wanted me. But they were too stubborn to admit it, so they had two more kids and the rouse went on.
My head was so large I am told, that everytime they dropped me, I landed head first. Told in a joking, jaunting manner, as if it weren’t demented in it’s content, my mother laughingly told me, she had too much stuff in her arms one day as she was going in the door. And wouldn’t she be damned if I didn’t fall on my head again. The time before that, it was out the back of my dad’s doorless Jeep on the driveway. Straight on my giant ‘egg’ head. Or the time I went down the wooden flight of stairs in Crescent City, a town of professional pot farmers who hid their trade amongst the tallest trees on earth, the Sequoias of Northern California.
Trees as old as dinosaurs hid my parents lie, as purple lobsters floated in the icy black bay. Who knows how I was really named. Or how I didn’t die from all the damage to my head. But they never called me Emily. Or even Kyleen, after my Irish lineage, (my grandma’s wish).
They called me Kylie. So I corrected my teachers from the age of 5: ‘No I know it says Emily but – I go by Kylie. K-Y-L-I-E. Like ‘Kyle’ with an I.’ Ok they said, surely not grasping the confusion that was my life, so enveloping, that no one could get their shit together long enough to even name me.
So it went. My life. I’m still not sure what to call myself. After all, they called me Ky, too.
Also, not my legal name. But I cannot say Ky, spelled K-Y, without thinking of KY Jelly, so I renamed myself Kai, K-A-I. But I mustn’t put that on my business card, because people don’t know how to pronounce it. They still look at me in that same quizzical way, totally befuddled that my name should be so difficult for them.
I fuckin don’t know anymore. At this point, the confusion defines me. The lack of identity, coursing through my bones, a dingy left to sea. Fuck it.
So I name myself – after my grandma. I talked to my grandfather about this. ‘What do you think about me using grandma’s name as my business name grandpa?’ I was met with silence. Getting the distinct impression he did NOT want me taking her name as my own.
Fuck it. I did it anyway. My grandma is the only person who ever had my back. She was a badass in her own right.
The most pulled together, lipsticked lady, who ever did cuss like a sailor and throw people out of her bar on Key West.
Kai Elliot it is.
My voice is not super great. I made ‘B’ choir in school, the one where you can technically hit the note, but the tone of your voice is lacking strength, projection, clarity, or any other of a number of faults. I wasn’t surprised.
I stood on the riser to the right, with my big ass hair in a high ponytail that always tickled the nose of the girl on the next riser up. Her name was Racquel. She’d push my floofy ponytail down again and again, but it always boldly bounced back into place high on my head and with the curls brushed out so that it resembled a lions mane. My sister called me Medusa. I was shy as hell in elementary school, so this constantly embarrassed me, because she’d told the whole school of my Medusa-ness.
I stood out for all the wrong reasons in those years. I didn’t use my voice to speak up either, I observed people, silently taking notes in my head. One day I realized that my step dad was a mother fucker, and that there was no honor in my household. No one was ‘doing the right thing.’ Depravity was rewarded in fact.
So I found my voice. It mostly said, ‘fuck that.’ And ‘fuck you’ and ‘fuck it’ during those years. Til I was able to finally and completely leave at age 22, off to college on my own a few hundred miles away. A REAL town. Los Angeles. Finally – Fuck them for real. I could do what I wanted. No contact.
I still hid my voice though, I was obsessed with being ‘normal.’ I most assuredly wanted to achieve my ultimate dream of ‘blending in.’ To my frustration, my hair most definitely was one of my many ‘tells.’ Also of note, were my lack of hostess-ing and cooking skills. I was on a track that I knew nothing about. The tract of ‘normal people.’ Thankfully, after 4 years, my hair, my lack of money and family name, and my lack of family support, got me booted from high society.
I’ve been compared to ‘a cat amongst the pigeons.’ People are never sure what hit them. It’s time that I’ve embraced that.
It took a serious disease and being bedridden for two years, for me to truly grasp how wonderful an opportunity we as humans are given – to be ABLE to have a voice and express what we see, think, and feel about the world. There are many aspects of my body that were sorely unappreciated by me in the past, but not using my unique voice, is surely the one that I fucked up the most by not appreciating.
People can say what they want, people can do what they want, they can declare that what they are doing is the best, or the only way, or the right way, or any other of many things.
But the voice, our integrity – cannot be bought, cannot be sold, cannot be traded away, cannot be silenced. Our voice, our will, our TRUTH, has got to be the most God danged holy thing in this world. For each of us, has a jewel inside that’s waiting to be spiffed up and treated with regard by ourselves. Once we realize this, that we are a GIFT to the world, each one of us – that is when the amazing happens. That is when we become. I will never fit in, but I most assuredly will always stand out.
Big big love, Kai