Life Notes

Life Notes

A Story by Angela Abate

A segmented essay.


“To each his own” is still scrawled across Rabbit Rock. The tall rock formation cascading from the flat land of Wisconsin with two rabbit ear-like structures rising from that, will always be a reminder to live what I love and love to live.

Nate always said that everyone should be free to live however they want. He spoke of tolerance as if it was a given and that the entirety of society had it all wrong by having expectations, then in the very next sentence he would tell me about the culture of zombies.

He had such beautiful a mind... and abs. He never looked like a Nate.

I waited outside of his door once, debating whether to text him or knock. I knew that if I knocked... anyone could answer the door, including his brother who sat next to me in Chemistry.

He answered the door in boxers and no shirt. He knew I was coming...

Turns out that Nate wasn't that profound after all. School-girl-crushes.

When you first meet a person, everything they say is interesting. They hold an entirely different world in their mind and all you want to do is be allowed into that world, if only for a short time. Much like when you first stumble upon a new place and all you want is to be another part of it like those who found it before you.

Voices and loud laughs from every direction. Dim light beaming down like heat lamps over the tables. The music filled every void in conversation, although there were very few. This bar reminds me of grandma's house during hunting season... minus the metallic smell of freshly killed deer and warm donuts.

Her house was always dimly lit, but the laughter and conversation would carry on all night. I'd usually curl up on a chair buried in coats after being dared by my brother and cousins to try one of grandma's homemade dill pickles.

I can no longer stomach a pickle spear.

I was once offered $50 to eat a raw baby octopus. It was twitching but I was told that it was only because it was fresh. Just nerves. I remember wondering what kind of nerves they were. I'd be nervous too if someone was going to eat me, I bet I'd twitch. Or was it's body simply unaware that the rest of it was dead and still trying to send messages to it's extremities? I ate it.

I wonder what happens to people when they die. I've heard of something called rigor mortis, apparently your body tightens up after you die, causing it to look like you moved on occasion. I read about one instance where a man's dead body literally sat straight up in his hospital bed a good twenty minutes after he died. His family was in the room saying goodbye when it happened and called the nurses thinking he was still alive by some miracle. I don't know who that would be more awkward for, the family or the man.

The thick smell of maple syrup still bothers me. That smell wafted down the hallway as I fell to my knees crying and repeating the word “no” as if I had a final say in the matter. My blurry eyes still burn in bright fluorescent lights. The normalcy of my surroundings that day made it impossible to believe... nobody dies on a regular day.

Just like willow trees don't grow in a regular park. They have deep dark colored bark with etched designs of slight swirls. I heard chiggers come from those trees. Little bugs that get under your skin. As beautiful as the trees are, I've never touched one.

Chicago doesn't really have any willow trees. Or trees that haven't been strategically placed. The whole city is a work of architectural art... which is beautiful in itself... I guess I just miss home. Wherever that is.

I was asked in class the other day to define the word 'home'. While my classmates all delved into descriptions of a house full of warmth and memories and love, I wrote about my family. Moving has always been my most hated chore, but at the end of the day, no matter where we lived, I felt at home.

The day I moved to Chicago, my nerves were non-existent. I didn't twitch before the city ate me alive.

I always hated unpacking. I asked my parents to leave. My roommates parents still ask about me as if I was just some poor girl who's family doesn't love her. I miss my parents, I wish I hadn't been so quick to send them away. After everyone I've lost in life, I wonder why I sent them away on purpose.

Why do I remember Jackie dying in kindergarten if I saw her again in first grade? She stuck a paper clip in a light socket and died of electrocution... it was on the news. Who did I play tag with?

Childhood memories are all very elusive. Children like to make up stories and adults tend to miss the important moments, leaving me to fill in the blanks and edit out the unbelievable parts like I'm editing a paper.

Back in sixth grade I was failing English class. I wanted to be an archeologist. I had never failed a class before but my teacher kept insisting that I had talent in writing. Finally we started the poetry unit and I found my passion. I have written every day since then. Poetry is what brought me to Chicago. Particularly the one poem and the realizations that followed it. No matter how angry Nate made me, he managed to always motivate me.

Forever Came So Quickly

I watched silently through the small square window,

The wind harassing the trees until each leaf fell gracefully to the ground.

Autumn's breeze carrying scents from fallen flower petals to my nose,

and throughout the empty house.

Alone has always worked best for me.

Memories of his hand holding mine and whispered promises that it would last forever, dance inside my mind.

Forever came so quickly for me.

Butterflies flutter by and suddenly I can only think one word...


Do they know I'm watching them,

so free, so fearless,

and me, so tear less.

Alone has always worked best for me.




Alone is just all I know how to be.

I'm still too afraid to do slam poetry. I've never been good in front of large groups. My voice cracks and I skip words... even I can't show the true meaning of my work to others. In my Cultural Studies course, we were discussing how authors and readers of texts are not the ones who give meaning on their own. The final say of meaning of anything really, comes from the negotiation of ideas from all sides. This has apparently scared writing majors away from the course in the past, since we all like to believe that we are the final say on our work, when this topic says we are not.

My favorite bands are almost all rock bands. I think that's because, as a “reader” of their songs, I go into active audience mode and interpret them much different that others who dislike the subject. Either that, or I just like me a good guitar solo.

I saw Lake Michigan tonight and got homesick.

When I was little my whole family would go to Michigan to visit our extended family. It was the one time that we would all pile into our tiny car with our dog and stay that close for twelve hours. Once we got into the upper Michigan area, there was a beautiful part of the lake that my dad would pull over to enjoy. Me and my two older brothers would jump out of the car and run straight for the water with my mother in the background yelling “Don't get wet!” Shortly after she said that, one of my brothers would fall in the wet sand or into a wave. The remainder of the car ride would be spent in uncomfortable, wet, silence.

We would go there for the fresh Michigan peaches.

We were there on the family farm when I skinned the right side of my face. The scars all went away, but the memories don't fade.

My brother had just gotten his license, sixteen years old, which makes me around thirteen at the time. My uncle had worked on his golf-kart for months, making it go up to sixty miles per hour. We were alone on one of the other properties down the road, he was driving fast on the side of a hill and suddenly jerked the wheel down the hill, causing the golf-Kart to tip. He saw it coming and jumped off, leaving me behind to flip and roll with it. I slid face-first down a gravelly hill. The concussion stopped me from responding to his calls right away. Once he got my attention I was completely unaware of what had happened, he wiped the blood and rocks off my face as I cried from the pain, then we got back on and he told me what to tell our family. When we got back I lied for my brother and went straight to bed. To this day everyone thinks that I was the one driving and that I hit a tree branch.

The first time I ever got drunk was on his twenty-first birthday.

His girlfriend at the time told him what to buy because he wasn't much of a drinker, he came straight home with booze in tote, and took me to the basement to drink with them. The three of us sat there for hours just talking. I don't remember much, but I do know that after that night, I was known for the tag-line “DRINK B***H!”

I haven't had a drink since.

I was once asked who I am. I told them that I am Angela and they laughed. Said they meant who I am as a person. I said my name again. They never asked me why I define myself by my name, but if they had, I would have had a great explanation for it.

Identity is a very theoretical ideology. Who we are as people changes with each day's events and the only thing that I can tell you about myself today that will be the same about me ten years from now is my first name. The rest you must be present in my life to know. That is why I find questions to be trivial. Favorite colors, movies, music, tv shows, although they can end up being common interests... they are not important in defining me. That is not to say, however, that they do not contribute to shaping my identity in some way.

I once wore a fake mustache for an entire day. A thick one. Like Tom Selleck and Mario combined. For that entire day, that was my identity. “Girl-with-the-mustache” and “hahaha.” were my names.

Who makes up what names are actually names and which ones are not? We all seem to have some idea of which letter groupings are things to name other human beings with, but I wonder where those came from and how some people's names match so perfectly with their faces. Do faces grow into their names? Or names grow on their faces?

© 2013 Angela Abate

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Added on January 18, 2013
Last Updated on January 18, 2013


Angela Abate
Angela Abate

Chicago, IL

Writing is my passion and my future. I am a student in Chicago, IL, majoring in Creative Non-Fiction Writing and minoring in Cultural Studies. I am known to be full of surprises. more..