Before you read another word I need to warn you that I Am A Storyteller. We’ll get back to that, I promise. Probably on the last page. That’s my way. If you’ve read any of my fictional works, you already know that. I like to leave out the first two pages and then hand them to you at the end. Perhaps I’ll get around to explaining why I do that before this project is done. Project… Assignment.
I must also warn you that I dearly love every single colorful character who plays a role in the novel called, My Life. I do not share these Love letters with an intention that you feel anything less than absolute adoration for the people who have shaped and molded me into the person I am today. If you do, I am afraid you have missed the point entirely. We’ll get back to that too, I promise. Again probably on the last page. My way, after all. My book. My letters. Sorry.
Several of the names of the characters in this collection of letters have been slightly modified for their protection. I will tell you when I do that by saying things like… Let’s call her Karen…and then giving her a nickname. Anyway, the story remains the same even if the names are changed
So here goes. Welcome to My Life. My story. My letters to my grey-haired Beloved, the Mirror of my soul.
As you turn the next page, Isla would probably say to you, ”My Fault” and then stare into the space of yours, so deep and wide. Devyn would probably call you Livie and forgive you for the most terrible thing you have ever done. Elise would most certainly start singing a sappy love song. Billy, my sweet, sweet Billy, would just smile at you and then look down at those boots of his. And Nanny Rose would offer up her latest and lamest joke. And Blackwater would tempt you with his undeniable smile.
And me, what would I do?
I would probably take your hand and offer you a seat next to me. After all, I am a Story Teller, like Forest Gump on that bench of his. Feel free to come and go. Get on and off the bus. Bring a friend. Laugh, cry, cheer, dance, and scream. The only thing that I will not tolerate is you pretending for a second that you are less than I already know you are. You, the ocean in one drop. You, magnificence in human form. You, my friend. You, myself.
Shall we dance while we read this? I hear a tune playing. You know the one. You have heard it before. In fact, I think you wrote it just for the occasion.
I will be the Answer,
At the end of the line.
I will be there for you,
While you take the time.
–Answer by Sarah McLachlan
Trailer Park Girls Don’t Play Croquet:
Love Letters from a Story Teller
A Nicky Hjort
For Maya Angelou,
Who gave me the courage to listen to her song
You, my Beloved
Who listened quietly while I learned my own lyrics…finally.
Love Letter One: I am a fake.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Twelve years ago, almost exactly.
It was a glorious day. An Indian summer September afternoon in Carmel Valley. The kind of California gorgeous that I long to fill every afternoon from March to October. Only I didn’t know it at the time because it was one of my first trips to the West Coast. You had been there. You would have known. You knew about wine country. You had tried so hard to tell me… back before I knew how to listen.
Now I know better. Now I get it. Now I pay the highest state taxes in the US just hoping for another year filled with more of those types of days. The day I realized I was a fake.
My son Jake would say, “Faker Schmaker.”
The sun, dripped like nectar off a honeysuckle onto the curious tip of my tongue as I glanced about. Just a hint of moisture blessed the air. A cool breeze wafted in every time I even thought about feeling hot. The trees oozed life, luxury, and symmetrically surrounded the perfectly manicured lawn. The green, a color so deep, that a human word couldn’t possibly be worthy to describe it. Could only fall short. Could only fail it. You, of all people, would have loved the color of it.
I wore my little striped blue dress. The one that looked like it cost so much more than $9.99 at Target at the end of last season’s sale. My shoes, one of my few good pairs, matched perfectly. My hair flowed softly back in a band, the mostly dead perm mimicking a light natural wave. I looked like I fit in. Like I was one of the cool–kids. I was not. But, I had been playing cool-kid for a while now. I thought I could pull it off.
Somehow …up to this point, I had managed to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. They saw me as equal.
After all, I was a veritable master of disguise. I had graduated from college with a 4.0, somehow been accepted into one of the top ten medical schools in the country, managed to earn the letters MD at the end of name despite working two jobs that no one knew about, and managed to acquire a position as an Intern in one of the best community Residency Ob/GYN programs in the country. I was a success story. I was headed for the cover of Forbes Magazine. I was a cool-kid. A doctor. Surely not poor white trash.
By this point I knew about and had actually tasted bagels, Indian food, Ethiopian food, and even Sushi. I had a credit card with a five-hundred-dollar limit. I knew which fork to use. Which way to hold my wine glass. How to break bread and even keep that little butter knife from falling off the side of my plate. I was cultured. I was going to escape the sentence handed to me at birth. Trailer Park Girl.
Her image popped in my mind. TPG.
She smacks gum, for sure. Her hair, at least four different colors from four different boxes of hair dye hangs to her shoulders. A pair of scissors other than her mother’s hasn’t trimmed the ends, split…in years. That assumes that she speaks to her mother. Even knows her mother. Well, she probably knows her mother, but not her father. He drove away in his eighteen-wheeler with a bottle of whiskey in search of his Cheyenne Rodeo dreams. He had big aspirations, the kind that babies seem to ruin.
She lives with her mom, grandmother, and her three rag-a-muffin kids, all under the age of four, all from different fathers. None of the creeps have ever paid her a penny in child support. She smokes generic cigarettes on her breaks between shifts at the local diner. On the weekends she picks up an extra shift at the snack bar at the local Thrifty Mart. They have a great lay-a-way benefit for their employees, part, or full time, so she couldn’t pass it up. Last week she found an almost new TV set on the side of the road. After a trip to the library, a little bit of duct tape, and some foil she has managed to get the thing running. Next week, the cable man comes and she really hopes that if she smiles pretty enough, he might sneak in a free month of HBO.
Wow. HBO, the real deal.
I shook my head to clear the image and then lit my real Camel cigarette. I couldn’t afford them, but they looked good and tasted even better. I was a cool-kid after all. Cool-kids smoke Camels.
I looked at my friends. Three of the best people I had ever met. To this day, I feel that way about them, actually. They didn’t think I was a trailer park girl. They called me Nicky. When they said my name they were talking to me, not the Calico kid who couldn’t remember to take her birth control pills after a rowdy night at the pool hall. Nicky. They were talking to me. Their friend. Their equal. Trailer Park Girl was a term they never once labeled me with
Only problem was… that I had.
I swallowed, trying to purge the death sentence. Trying to clear the stench of it. Trailer Park Girl.
I could do this. I could fool them, again.
I flicked my cigarette to gather strength.
Then… let’s call him George, The Lightening Rod, walked out beaming. He had a great idea. He had a great plan. Like magic, it had all come together.
Today we were going to play Croquet.
He passed out the mallets and I shuddered.
Didn’t he know that Trailer Park Girls don’t play Croquet? Don’t even know how to spell the word. Don’t know the rules. Don’t know which direction to hit the little ball. What those stupid metal square pegs mean. Ah!
Of course he didn’t. George didn’t know anything about Trailer Park Girls. He didn’t know that his girlfriend was one.
But I did.
I was a fake. I was a Trailer Park Girl.
All my illusion came shattering down around me. I would never get out from behind the counter at the Thrifty Mart. I would never escape the clanging of the balls at the pool hall. I would never play Croquet, because I had condemned myself to a life of TV dinners, minus HBO, and cheap wine.
I tried to play the game. Smiled the whole time. No one had a clue how hard it was for me not to cry. I was pathetic, but I tried. The whole time a scene from Alice in Wonderland contaminated the background. The evil queen coming for my head, too. The cards, like my fakeness, falling all around me.
They were going to find out that I knew nothing about games meant only for the rich and famous. I was a fake. TPG.
Now if you ask my friends, they have no significant memory of this day. One too many glasses of Bernardus Meritage at sixty dollars a bottle have washed it from their minds. But not mine.
Practically perfect…Trailer Park Girls don’t muddle memories by drinking fifteen-dollar bottles of wine, more-less glasses. Heck they drink Strawberry Hill or Mad Dog 20/20 on holidays if they are lucky enough to have the day off. They don’t play Croquet and they never will. The mallet weighs too much. The rules are just too complicated.
Guess what. To this day, I loathe Croquet, and I most certainly don’t drink sixty dollar a bottle wine, no matter the balance in my savings account. If I can be bothered to drink, I prefer to consume fifteen-dollar wine and giggle. Why? Because, I am the child of an alcoholic. I’m going to say that again…I am the child of an alcoholic, not some Rodeo star, and the cheaper stuff tastes the same to me. If I buy the less expensive bottle, which I never finish anyway, then I can still spend the rest of the money on something much more fun than booze. Like three new books. Or a movie night with my gorgeous babies. The same babies who probably will play Croquet and will probably never step foot in a Trailer Park.
But if you don’t tell them, then I won’t…their mother is a Trailer Park Girl.
Now I say it and smile. TPG. I imagine four colors in my hair and laugh. It sounds lovely. Sounds expensive at the local salon. The one where they use real scissors to cut my hair and I give them a hundred bucks and wonder why. The conversation is fabulous at four dollars a minute. The hairdo, basically the same.
I’m getting somewhere with this letter, I promise. Hold on. Take a breath and just sit in it. Hear that song of yours playing in the background. The one that takes my breath away, because it is you. Let the surreal melody rock you, side to side. Let her hold you that way that I would, if things had turned out differently. If I had known then what I know now.
Why I am doing this? So I will stop writing you in real life. Stop tormenting you with bits and pieces of the fragile disaster that is me, hoping you will somehow save me from myself in this lifetime, too. As if that’s possible.
Why you? Because when I write to you, the overwhelming sarcasm in my voice softens a little. I write, damn it, a lot less. But mostly because my soul trusts you like it trusts no one else. I can get real with you. Crazy, lovely, but real.
Real is the only way I can possibly be brave enough to tell this story. So… I will tell it to you. My Beloved. The one whose Love I could never lose, despite all appearances to the contrary.
I want you to know. No, need you understand, who I am and why.
I want you to look at my coat of many colors and grasp that I wear each square of my tattered and torn quilted jacket with pride. With honor. With Love. With the awareness that somehow this planet is better because I had the courage to wear it. The strength to don it and carry it with me into and through so many lives. Yours included.
I want you to understand why I catch my breath and melt like warm butter on a flaky biscuit, when I look at Emma and Jake. Why I place my two fingers in the air after I kiss them softly as a prayer offered up to the little one that only I know about. The same precious little one who blows the kiss back to me in loving forgiveness. Why sometimes I drop to my knees and bawl like a baby. Why sometimes I go deep inside, like a child playing hide-n-seek, where no one can find me. Why I get so angry that fire shoots out my backside. Why a bastard hunts me in the night and I wake up screaming, trying to find you, clawing my way back to you.
You…the one who has always saved me. The one whose arms hold me, even when they don’t. The one who I can never imagine a life without. The other half of me. The half I was so blind to until everything changed. Till this story played out. Till I finally realized who and what I am. Why I came here. That like true Love, I am as undefinable as a Multiverse of awesomeness.
Go ahead. Shake your head. You knew it along, I know you did. I see that now.
But back then, I didn’t.
TPGs don’t know much about much, especially unconditional Love. They know about smacking gum and hair dye.
They know about broken hearts, stolen innocence. They know about suffering. They know about condemnation. They know about limits. They know about loss, can’t haves, and never wills. Don’t deserves and never coulds.
It took me about twenty years and whole lot of self-inflicted misery to write that lovely sentence earlier. Let me write it again. I am as undefinable as a Multiverse of awesomeness.
It only took ten more years to figure out what it means: that the only person big enough to define me is me. That I get to choose who I am. And if I screw up, then I can still choose again tomorrow… when I’m wiser, when I’m ready.
When I have regained my self-worth.
By the way, that’s the point of this collection of letters that I am writing to you…but also to me. Not the little me. The big Me.
That’s the point of my life this time.
I had to figure out that I was the one backing me in a corner. Actually, there’s not even a corner, I had invented that too.
Me, the fool. Hero. Crazy chick. Who knows?
So now, on the other side of My Life, I choose to be all kinds of things. All kinds of people. All kinds of characters. Even Trailer Park Girls.
But mostly I choose to have self-worth. Now that is, that I get that I’m the only one who can give it to me. I was also the only one who could take it away. I was the only one who could hand people the rope to hang me with. The words to label me with. The gun to shoot me with. The ladder to drag me down, straight to hell.
Fake. TPG. Victim. Murderer.
To this day, I love smacking gum. Did you know that? In fact, I hope this book comes with a pack of gum. One piece for every letter. Every confession. Every heartbreak. Every breakthrough. There is something priceless about gum. I think everyone should try popping it. Everyone but Jake and Emma, of course, that is.
Smack, smack, smack. Lovely, I hear you chewing. Chewing on me.
You know me so well, know the flavor of my thoughts. But are you willing to know Me better? How I went from me to Me.
Like Hermione, my heroine, I tempt you, “Let’s see then.”
These days I am Writer: A Nicky Hjort posting on Twitter and replying to blog posts. I am Author. I am Mother. I am Woman. I am Beloved. I am forgiveness.
I am Lola Littleton, personally taking down the Holy Dark and all six portals of Darkness. Other days I am Devyn Mitchell speaking to my unborn baby. I am Jake giving away his magical hugs. I am Mr.Maya sharing his excellent advice. I am the Boo-Boo saying Goodbye. I am an evil monster twirling my keys, six times forward, six times back. I am Isla kicking ass in the Sphere. I am Elise Phillips fucking my gorgeous Blackwater from sun up to down. Delicious…
I am the real-deal. I am not a fake. I am a character playing a role. Always have been. Problem was… I was so goddamn good at it that sometimes I forgot and fooled myself. Fooled you too, I suppose.
Awesome. I should be on stage in one of my future movies. Perhaps even direct it.
These days I try to remember that life is like a video game on acid and laugh, trying to figure out who I will play tomorrow, what hallucinations I will pick next. Tonight I’m the Mommy Monster and I’ve come to brush Emma’s teeth and wash Jake’s toes. Who knows about tomorrow? Only time will tell.
I am the real deal. Say it again, please.
That’s my name, by the way…Nicky. And if you want, you can call me Nick. If you love me dearly, you can call me Little Nick. Say it softly. Say it lightly. Say it sweetly. Or please, don’t say it at all.
My name is Nicky and I am the real deal.