Every Heard

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A New Story

Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The Red Rose City.

I recognize you.  I've met you before.  But somehow, every other time, I mistook you for someone else.

I am the information girl.  I am asked many questions.  I suppose we all are... But do ya'll also have this problem, where it all happens out of order?  The end came first to explain-

My backwards, backwards story.

(This is when you walked up to me and began asking me to do paperwork- I looked up from my work and 

So, maybe the best way is to start when with I arrived- at a place called "Fruition". Fruition Collective.

It's like- I finished my story, changed my name to Rose- and met myself earlier in the timeline, as another person. 

She has all the things set up that I heard I was going to do with my life.

She has horns.  I have cat ears.

 

 

Yours

Lover,

Hello Sweetie.

I remember that conversation... The one that made me find silence again. I had been trying so hard to express myself, trying so hard to find someone who could hear what I was trying to say... You took me by surprise! I couldn't believe I was finally found- and sure enough, you left... just like everyone else.

But in that moment, you told me you understood I was the one.  You explained you didn't know how to reach me, how to keep me, but it was your intention.

To say I was relieved is an understatement... but also skeptical.  How could you say these things to me even as you were going to walk away again?  You couldn't understand why it hurt to tell you not to make love to me.  You couldn't put yourself in my shoes and realize how much pain I would be in -if I let you as close as two people can be- only to let you leave me afterwards.

You told me you wanted to develop a relationship based upon a mutual trust, a common language of more than words and social cues... At the moment, I knew you were absolutely the voice in my head- from long before I ever even hit puberty.  We have always been having this conversation.

I knew because every other fella who had come and gone- had never touched me so deep -and you could do it without touching me at all.

The moment I had found myself in every other relationship, I realized I felt alone.  You were different.  

Even now that it has been many months since we've spoken, my mind and heart are the same.  I have prayed and meditated.  I have griped and mourned.  I have opened myself to every possibility to move forward- in any direction that might pull me away from you... But like a compass dial, my resolve always returns to this moment- with you.

You sit me down on the bed.  You give me that look, directly in the eyes, and you tell me to close mine.  I obey, and you ask, "Can you see me?"

I say, "Yes," and open my eyes.

You ask me to close them again and keep them closed.

I do.

You ask again if I can see you... and I do. And I don't have to open my eyes because then you are kissing me.

...and it feels strange to tell you that we cannot make love- Because I am drawn back into the moment we made love the first time, when I wasn't ready but couldn't tell you. So we made love, and then I was cross- 

Of course, you chose a day when we had company and no time to quarrel... For once in my entire life, I am able to put aside my urges to argue and pent up spite all day- and at the end of the day, when we finally explain ourselves to one another; I am relieved there is no fight.  Instead, we happily understand one another's misunderstandings and go to bed together with trust.

You pause to tell me that if anything were to happen, we would have a family.

I tell you- It is just that... We have already admitted to one another that this it- Us.  For life.  Our first time- it was the last first time... and now it was over.

Then you take me in your arms and ask if you can make love to me.  I ask you to make love to me.  -and while in the back of my mind, throughout a voice is saying, "He hasn't said I love you yet." It doesn't matter... As soon as we are still again, you lean close to my ear and whisper warmly, "I love you, Ev."

These moments... They are with me, every day.

When you were away for weeks and months, I kept up my usual correspondence with myself- via the internet.  I didn't care whether anyone else was paying attention... I thought you'd unfollowed, unfriended me, blocked me... 

But then you came back- just a for one more moment.  Just long enough to say you saw every word, every picture, everything... You saw it, and you knew it was about US.

Then I found my silence again.  Then I hid.  Then I went away to work on the only song I care about writing... Yours- Ev <3

"A Brief Bio"

Every Heard is a Korean-American singer-songwriter.  

This very idea used to sound like an oxymoron to me.  I was raised almost entirely in the United States, and yet my maternal culture always kept a cage around my mind.  Singer-songwriter, writer... any sort of artist was not a role one could aim to achieve.  It was a status, attainable only through inherent blessing.  As I grew up, watching so many talents greater than my own go unnoticed, I became convinced; I wasn't special.  I wasn't an artist.

Convinced I was not creative, I made an effort to be practical.  I became a nail technician to put myself through school.  I earned an associate's degree in social sciences from Harrisburg Area Community College.  a bachelor's degree in communication sciences and psychology from Queens College (CUNY), and a master's degree in speech-language pathology from Temple University.  I worked at a large hospital to fulfill my training as a certified speech therapist.  There I diagnosed and treated patients from the acute to rehab to outpatient wings.  I spent my days with people suffering strokes, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injuries...

Years before I had even finished my bachelor's degree, I was working with people with disabilities.  I imagined somehow, magically, when I had a string of letters added to the end of my name, I would know how to help these people- more.  I kept believing that by the time I was making a living as a speech therapist, I would know how to fix people's problems.

After a year working in that hospital, under one of the best mentors in the business, I felt absolutely defeated.  I watched people change.  Some got better, others did not.  I taught them the techniques from the books and journals.  I helped them learn to practice... But at the end of the day, I could not help anyone who would not at least try to practice a little each day.   

I began to feel like I was not a therapist- but a cheerleader!  How could I motivate my patients?

...Then I fell through the mirror.

It may sound abrupt.  In retrospect, I probably should have realized the ground was shifting out from under my feet for months... Months of watching people make end of life decisions about their loved ones.  Months of watching people lose the ability to speak or string words together fluidly into sentences...  encouraging individuals whose faces were now partially paralyzed to grow accustomed to the sound of their new voices.  Yes, we were working on improving and recovering the quality and clarity with which they once spoke... But in the meanwhile, I had to constantly remind them the only way to take gradual steps in the right direction- was to practice every day.

The way I watched their movements and interactions, I became self-aware of my own.  I had to become a good mirror for them to reflect.  I had to acknowledge the incongruities between my thoughts, words, and actions; and change them to represent my best intentions.  When both I and a patient could do this, the words did not have to be very articulate or specific.  I had enough words for both of us.  They would paint enough of a picture with the words they had- for me to reiterate what illustration appeared in my mind.  I would to this with care to present opportunities for either agreement or the loss of mutual vision.

There is where music first introduced itself to me... 

By then, I had changed around a lot of details in my life.  By then, music had surely been knocking pretty hard on my door, but I was just too deep in thought to listen.

I switched from the intensity of the hospital to the calm of a skilled nursing facility.  My client had a trache tube in her throat after cancer treatment.  We would put a passy-muire valve; review the safety use information for the device and then chit-chat to practice for the rest of the hour I was obligated to stay "providing therapy".

(insert photo) one-way valve that allows enough pressure to build up in the throat to speak with brief puffs of air.

This tiny little grandmother was charming.  She constantly put together large, multi-thousand piece puzzles on poster-sized pieces of cardboard.  This task she allowed me to help doing while we talked over another sad episode of Jerry Springer or Maury Polvich.  Sometimes, I would arrive while she was still receiving a breathing treatment, which prevented her from using the speaking valve.  

I felt like a lazy asshole for taking this time to zone out.  I found myself timing our sessions to allow this respite.  Don't get me wrong, I could take breaks.  I did- in an empty TV lounge, in a stairwell, in my car... But this was different.  This was not a break.  This was technically happening during time I was counting towards her therapy.  Five minutes?  Ten minutes?  How much was I gaming the system?  

The truth was, I liked spending time with this patient.  She was someone for whom I would stay late to spend more time.  She always insisted I come in and get comfortable.  Usually there was a puzzle on her lap to share... Or sometimes I might steal a few minutes to write down my thoughts.  

During one of these moments- that is when my first song introduced itself.  Like music playing in another room, through the wall, you know its there.  Perhaps faintly, soft; it's there tickling that place in the back of your brain that feels seductively familiar.  You can't put your finger on it immediately.  You comb through your memories for its origin... Then you realize, "This is the song I am writing right now."

Maybe I took a little extra time that day.  I put my head to that mental wall and listened to every word announce itself onto the pages of my notebook.  I hummed it to myself between exchanges with my patients and coworkers for the remainder of the day.  By the time I got home, I was so excited to see a friend's guitar still there.  I pulled chord charts up from the internet and tried each one at a time until I had written down the sequence which matched the melody in my head.

That was it.  There was no going back.  As soon as I wrote one, I always wanted another.  

While singing felt natural, playing the guitar made me feel like a caveman with a cellphone.  The guitar forced me to learn the humility I was asking my patients to practice.  It reduced me to a child again, and made me thank it for every best moment of the last five years.  By pushing myself to by my own accompaniment, I learned more about the nature of music than I may have had I relied upon others to provide all the noise.  Performing in those early years was incredibly embarrassing.  I still often stand in awe of the endless quest ahead of me as a player.  

Hence- why the answer to everyone's question- How did I switch over from practical speech therapist with her feet on the ground... (Listening to: "Going Down" Jeff Beck) ...to a singer-songwriter philanthropist?  I did what everyone told me in the first place: Just do what you want to do.  Whatever you want.

I suppose it sounded to selfish -to do whatever I wanted.  So I tried a lot of other jobs that seemed like they would help people- more.  More than my music would.  More than my words could.  I tried... and kept trying to fill a responsible, hardworking role in this crazy world...

But at the end of the day, there were politics involved in speech therapy.  Insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid; billing, productivity quotas, paperwork... It turned out the time I spent with the patients was the best part of my job, and everything else was making me insane!

Again, I didn't feel like a therapist.  I felt like a paperwork machine with the right credentials behind her name to help a facility bill for their profit.

There was something unseemly about it.  I earned a nice paycheck, but at what cost?  More than half of the patients I saw were asking me why I was still coming to see them each day.  I could not simply give up cheerleading them on to try- at least not for the 2-4 weeks that my superiors would prescribe.  Occasionally I could say a patient refused therapy altogether, but it was rare without multiple documented attempts.

By then, I was being asked to perform in shows.  By then I knew nothing could ever make me quit singing.  I would be asked to host an open mic each month.  I would gather groups of women like myself together for private parties to share our crafts.  I would bear my bare mind to the world through a blog... and check myself into a hospital for a lifetime of suicidal ideation and dissociation.  But back then, I had no idea- when I relinquished some of my responsibilities, I would undergo a years long process of releasing everything that had ever held me back.

Just like the guitar, I accepted that thirty was a late age in life to start something new... But I wanted to change my story.  I understood some people have done it in their 60's, 70's, 80's.  They were my patients over those years.  They told me I would do it whenever I was ready-

Just like the guitar, I decided every day I wanted to work on being me.  How to express myself.  How to treat myself.  How to be the best custodian of this meat suit I am borrowing-

Every day, every day... Just touch the guitar every day.  Just let it become part of your body.  Do not rush your fingers.  They have to learn to crawl before they will learn to run.  And as for prodigies, admire them for what they are... They will never be you either.

Gradually I find contentment in the process and watching it take its natural course.  I make efforts to practice because I know it is good for me.  I see myself improving, and then I remember I could have another 60 years of life to live.  It gives me something to look forward to- 

I juggled different jobs with music for several years.  I dabbled in working with nonprofits.  After years of wondering how I was going to begin repaying my student loans. Now... that process is just going to have to take as long as everything else.

 

 

Lover

Hey Lover

Here I am... On another snow day, thinking about days we haven't shared yet... Thinking about how, when my mind is calm and I can hear my heart, I hear you talking.  

I hear the whisper of your breath beating behind my earlobe. I feel the tickle of your beard brushing my back. Your body warms to mine, mine to yours; and we move into each other, like one.

I sigh and come to the present... Where I lay alone. Where you are only there when my eyes are closed. I am not sad. I have learned to stop wasting my free time. I make an effort to remember the good stories to recount... When you are there again where I open my eyes.

Sincerely, 

Ev  

Dear Prometheus

This letter is one of a series I write to my future partner.  In my youth, I became so invested in every individual who showed me love that I pushed each one out of my life with my affection.  I had to learn to love with detachment, to believe that true love exists and does not require so much effort between us.  Instead that effort must be channeled into making ourselves the best possible partners for one another.

In retrospect, I can see patterns; traits which attracted me to men who remind me of the man I want to marry.  They have been like signposts, slowly helping me form the map in mind.  The friends and lovers not mentioned in this passage were detour signs, revealing I had wandered away from my path.  I have learned much from both, and this letter is a message of gratitude to all who have contributed to my journey.


Dear Prometheus,

I want to call you husband, but I do not even know your name.

I will call you Prometheus in this letter- for Ayn Rand's character in the book Anthem.  I chose this name because you are my beacon of light, guiding me from a distance, promising me you exist.

We have met many times... with many different faces and names.

The first time I recall, I could not have been older than 3 or 4.  We were climbing a tree together, and suddenly I felt something I'd never felt before- I wanted to kiss you.  No, I wanted you to kiss me.  I knew if I kissed you, you would have been shocked!  So, I sat longingly, trying to bid you telepathically to touch your lips to mine.

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

The next time I remember... I was about 7 or 8.  We were in your basement playing video games.  Actually, you were playing.  Each time I was given a turn, it lasted only a few anxious minutes before I died and the game reset.  Instead, I preferred to watch and cheer you on!  It was exciting, the way you dashed across the side-scrolling board with confidence.  You showed me secret shortcuts and treasures that I would have been unable to reach on my own.  It may have taken a few attempts, but you showed me how to kill the final bosses- and the congratulatory fireworks that followed the game's end.

These chance encounters happened again and again... 

When you did finally kiss me, you were a musician.  I was 16 and adored your creativity.  Although we lived far apart, you would call and play guitar for me for hours.  I lay on my bedroom floor with my eyes closed, the receiver resting on my face, and just listen...

At 20, we shared our love of writing.  We wrote deep emails to one another, using movies and books as devices to describe the emotions we dare not share just then.

By 27, we revealed we both struggled with depression and anxiety... And we were relieved to have each other with whom to commiserate.

Less than a year later, I picked up a guitar and began writing songs for you.

I was so shy, so lost in my head.  I couldn't see outside myself.  Perhaps it was a gift- Because it enabled me to perform on stage without shame.  I was having so much fun that my fears fell aside... and suddenly I was less concerned about whether you would keep this face or name- It was the feeling you inspired!  That magic that made me sing!

I told myself it was like the first time in the tree... I had to wait for you to find me, call me, kiss me.

I had to learn to avoid distractions and detours- to take care of myself so that we would be ready to care for one another...

I swear I feel your pain.  Prometheus, I know you suffer for knowing more than men are supposed to- For wielding power that was once only for the gods.  I know the burden you feel, the desire to help others less fortunate than yourself... You anguish for your attempts to share this fire in your soul.

Some days I wonder whether you can remain still in just one body, or if you are an eternally wandering target.  Are you lost too?  How can I shine my light on your path?  How can I show you the way home?

I love you. 

Yours,

-Gaia

Dear Thaddeus

Oh my darling baby... You have not been conceived yet- so maybe this is silly... But I believe strongly that parents should write to their children before their minds are altered by all the hormones and emotions that come with anticipating your arrival.

There are a lot of things I would probably prefer to avoid telling you in the future... But since I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be a published author by then, I must remember you may one day (if I'm lucky) read my books... and I don't want to embarrass you.

...When a published author, journalist, and composition professor advised me to write a memoir, she said, "Write like your parents are dead, even if you never let anyone read it."

Hearing this advice at a point in my life when I was severely suicidal, I rearranged the idea in my head to "Write like no one will read it until you're dead."  And with that, found a reason to live until there was a finished product.

Of course, a book isn't enough.  An album will have to be recorded... the soundtrack which truly accompanied the stories as they unfolded before me.

Oddly enough, now that the words are flowing and an outline has finally been drafted, I can tell you... The hardest part was the easiest part; I lived this story.  It will be your origin story, and I pray it is one that inspires people to LIVE, believe, and find one another.

Embedded within my book, you will also find the stories of your grandparents, your uncles, aunts, and cousins... You will find history lessons about our heritage to make you proud... as well as the lesson to be PROUD (something your mother didn't learn until she was nearly 30!) 

Hopefully your siblings won't mind- I don't know their names yet.  I am really looking forward to meeting you all!  So... here we go, time to write the book that will pay for your diapers!

Love,

Ma

 

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