ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer, [personal profile] balsamandash, and [personal profile] librarygeek. It has been sponsored by EdorFaus. This poem belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series, connecting with Danso & Family as Groundhog and Cassandra work through their challenges.

Warning: This poem contains some challenging topics. Highlight to read more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. Cassandra is still dealing with fallout from her overbearing parents, the suppression therapy, and the clipping. This time she latches onto alcohol as another symbol of adulthood, gets staggering drunk. and has a miserable time of it. Fortunately the people around her respond in helpful ways, but this is still likely to be a touchy read for people with substance issues. Consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"The World Keeps Spinning"


Cassandra has survived the worst
that life could throw at her,
and she's still kicking.

She has survived growing up
with parents who think sex is dirty
and superpowers are evil.

She has survived suppression therapy,
and that's a real accomplishment --
she knows it messed her up something awful
but Groundhog has shown her pamphlets
about the increased suicide risk,
which is even scarier.

She has even survived clipping,
and the loss of her superpower
will remain an ugly memory even if
the ability itself regenerates the way
Aidan says it should with proper care.

At least it no longer hurts all the time,
thanks to his gentle attention, and that is
an improvement for which she's deeply grateful.

Cassandra slinks through the days,
trying to make her new life fit,
but it bunches and pulls at her
like a thrift-store shirt.

She can't shake the desperation
of her tween years when she realized
that leaving childhood behind got her
a lot more pressure and not much privilege.

Even now, just over the magical threshold,
she can't help but notice that turning eighteen
has not solved everything after all.

Her parents can't drag her back to captivity now,
but she still has trouble feeling really free,
feeling like the adult she needs to be.

She feels stuck, but the world keeps spinning,
and she has to run to keep up.

So Cassandra fixates on the symbols of adulthood,
seeks them out like touchstones to stroke
whenever she feels insecure or inexperienced,
which is to say, most of the time.

After her disastrous attempt to seduce Groundhog,
she gives up on getting laid and sticks with
the terrific sex toys and steamy books
(because wow, really, wow has she
been missing out until now.)

She studies coffee, since
grownups drink coffee and
she is a grownup now, so this
is something she needs to learn.

Cassandra is still experimenting
with things to put in it in hopes of
making it more drinkable than it is black.

One night when Groundhog is out
working dispatch at the SPOON base,
Cassandra goes out to the Watering Hole
and gets drunk because now she can.

Beer is gross.
Really, really gross.

She tries wine,
but it just tastes like
grape juice with vinegar.

Then she discovers scotch,
and all right, that's not too bad,
satin-smooth with a rough edge
burning at the back of her throat.

Liquor is supposed to be
some kind of social lubricant,
and it does ease the way a little,
making it easier for Cassandra
to break the ice and talk to people.

When her words start to slur, though,
the bartender cuts off the supply,
politely but firmly, and takes some cash
from the skippy jar to send her home in a cab.

The drive makes her woozy, and
she's starting to wish she hadn't drunk so much.

The cabbie parks the car and walks her up
to the entrance, where Cassandra tries
and fails to stagger in without anyone noticing.

Instead she finds herself corralled by Nurse Banigan,
the volunteer on duty at the building's first aid station,
who parks Cassandra on a hard plastic chair and says,
"I want to make sure you're okay before you go upstairs."

"Fine," Cassandra grumbles, because it's easier
to put up with a little poking and prodding than
argue her way out of Nurse Banigan's clutches.

"I think you're just drunk, not in any danger,"
the older woman declares. "Do you feel queasy?"

Cassandra's stomach hasn't settled
after the car ride. "Yeah," she admits.

The nurse hands her a bottle of water.
"Try drinking this in small sips.
You need to rehydrate."

The water clears some of the fuzz
from Cassandra's mouth. "Thanks."

Then Groundhog taps on the door
of the first aid station. "Heard I had
a package to pick up," he says casually.

Cassandra wonders how it got that late,
for him to be off work already.

Groundhog drapes her arm over his shoulders and
steadies her steps as they head toward his apartment.
"I think we'd better take the elevator this time," he says.
There's only one, so they usually walk up, but now
Cassandra can hardly keep her balance, so she agrees.

By the time they get into the living room,
her stomach is lurching, so Groundhog
reroutes them into the bathroom.

Cassandra retches into the toilet,
her whole body tense and miserable.
She discovers that alcohol tastes
a lot worse on the return trip.

Gentle hands gather her long hair and
hold it away from her face while she heaves.

"I'll get you a scrunchie," Groundhog says
between bouts, and uses that to tie her hair
so that it will stay out of the way. "Do you
want me to stay with you, or leave you alone?"

It's humiliating to have him here, but even so,
the thought of being abandoned is unbearable.
Her fingers clench over his knee.

"Okay," he says softly. "I'll stay."

After the vomiting finally dies down,
Groundhog helps her to the sink
so that Cassandra can brush her teeth.

He settles her on the couch and says,
"Change into your sleep clothes
while I get you some ginger ale."

They're neatly folded on the cushions,
a melon-colored sleep shirt that reads,
See the world! and the matching cream pants
sprinkled with landmarks in melon and yellow and blue.

Cassandra puts them on and wonders whether
she'll get to see much of the world, or if
life will drag her down after all.

Groundhog comes back with the bottle
in one hand and a carton in the other.
"I've got some geltabs for nausea,
but they make some people sleepy --
darn stuff always knocks me out for hours."

"I'll take it," she says, and lets him
press one of the sticky dots behind her ear.
The ginger ale tastes mild and familiar,
plastic bottle cool against her skin.

Cassandra wraps herself in the afghan,
running her fingers over the ripples,
wide bands of brown and green
mixed with narrower lines of cream,
here and there incongruous colors like
pumpkin and purple, all muted tones.

"Do you mind sharing the couch
for a while?" Groundhog asks.
She pats the cushion, and
he settles beside her.

"I feel like the world keeps spinning,
and I want to get off, but I don't know how,"
Cassandra says, playing with the yarn fringe.

"Life is like that sometimes," Groundhog says,
and it's nice to have him agree that she
has a pointing, instead of blowing her off.
"It can really throw you for a loop."

"I thought that a few drinks would make
the world seem like a nicer place, you know?"
Cassandra muses. "Like it does in those ads
on television, or how people talk about partying
on the town. I hoped that it would make me
funnier, smarter, and a better dancer…"
She sighs. "It just made me sick."

"That can happen when people drink
a lot of alcohol, especially at first
when they don't know their limits,"
Groundhog says. "I'm sorry that
it didn't work out how you wanted."

"I guess I was being dumb."

"You're not dumb, just inexperienced,"
he says, patting her shoulder.

Cassandra lets herself lean against him.
"Every time I try to get experience,
I fuck it up," she says.

"You don't tend to make the same mistake
twice, though," he points out.

"Maybe I'll stick with ginger ale for now,"
she says, sipping the bottle and
hoping it would stay down.

At least the nausea is starting to fade.

It's so hard to let go of the desperation
and the instincts that grew out of it, but
now she has people who care about her
and it's tempting to take advantage
of that, just a little bit.

She's glad that Groundhog is so relaxed
about the whole coming-home-drunk thing.
Her parents would have pitched a fit.

"I feel like watching a movie,"
he announces. "Any requests?"

"I don't know," Cassandra says.
The gel seeping into her skin
is making her sleepy.

"Then I'm playing one of my own
feel-good favorites," he says, and
press a few buttons on the remote.

Cassandra finishes her ginger ale,
and Groundhog lifts the bottle away,
setting it on the end table.

When the title comes up,
it startles Cassandra into a laugh.
"Didn't see that coming."

"What?" he asks.

"Fly Away Home?" she says.
"That's one of your comfort movies?"

"Ever since my tween years," he confides.
"Aidan got me hooked on it when we were
exploring ways to make the sky seem like
an okay place instead of a horror show.
He used to make kettle corn with
real maple syrup to go with it."

"Mmm," Cassandra says.
The movie fills the living room
with soft, flickering light.
She can't seem to
stay upright.

Groundhog eases her down
into his lap, settling her head
on his thighs and coaxing her to
stretch out her legs on the couch.

Cassandra gives a sigh of relief
as the world finally slows
and winds down like

a top coming

to a rest.

* * *

Notes:

Rachael Banigan -- She has pinkish-fair skin, blue eyes, and shoulder-length blonde hair. She is married with two young sons. She and her family are Jewish. They live in the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Rachael often volunteers at the building's first aid station.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nurse, Good (+2) Citizen Responder, Good (+2) Confidence, Good (+2) Pianist

* * *

"Liquor, beer, and vodka make the world a nicer place. People can’t stop laughing, all the fat ugly girls get laid, and the world keeps spinning round. And round and round."
-- submitted by Lee on "Cool-N-Smart: Alcohol Sayings"

Terramagne suppression therapy for soups is substantially inspired by gay conversion therapy. It has significant dangers, as thought suppression is counterproductive. Healing the damage from it can also be difficult. However, banning it may do more harm than good.

Developmental psychology maps a path from childhood to adulthood. Terramagne understands that raising responsible children and teens requires a sensible progression of increasing responsibilities, as the privileges of youth are exchanged for those of maturity. Thus many families have a tradition of giving a new privilege and responsibility on birthdays. Parents and friends can help young people make good choices. Society has to manage legal and social issues about the age of responsibility. T-America places almost everything at the thresholds of 13 and 18, thus making the teen years an opportunity for "adults in training" to learn age-appropriate lessons about responsibility before the stakes get too high. Cassandra is a tragic example of what happens when someone hits 18 without that ramp-up.

The symbols of adulthood include sex, coffee, and alcohol. This creates challenges for emerging adults. Some of them grow up too fast, while others resist growing up at all.

"Dear alcohol, We had a deal where you would make me funnier, smarter, and a better dancer… I saw the video… we need to talk."
-- Anonymous

Adolescence is ideally a time of learning and growth. This makes the legal drinking age a complicated issue. L-America sprawls legal rights across a multitude of ages, creating not just confusion, but often situations where someone gains new obligations before they gain appropriately matching privileges. A common complaint is being old enough to die for your country, but not to drink alcohol. It is crucial to balance rights and responsibilities. So in T-America, the legal drinking age is prevailingly 18. People are taught how to drink responsibly.

Impaired driving is often part of a larger problem, not just individually but socially. T-America focuses on prevention. Bars often have a "skippy jar" for donations to cover cab fare for people who get too drunk to get home by themselves. It is short for "skip the ticket." Designated drivers customarily get discounted or even free drinks from the menu of nonalcoholic celebratory beverages. Towing and other services are readily available. There are tips on how to avoid drunk driving and prevent someone else from driving drunk. Much the same applies to other activities that may be impaired by intoxication; the T-American focus falls on getting people home safely, not just preventing one specific problem.

Bartenders in T-America are not liable for damage caused by a drunk person, but are liable for serving enough to cause alcohol poisoning or for failing to provide appropriate support to a drunk person on the premises. They often have training in how to prevent sexual assault, prevent impaired driving, and generally take care of drinkers.

Understand the stages of alcohol intoxication, and know how to tell if you or your friends have had too much to drink. There are ways to take care of a drunk person and prevent a hangover. Although the amount of alcohol consumed is the primary determination of hangover severity, many people find that mixing different types of alcohol makes them feel worse.

Elevators are a popular but expensive amenity in apartments. Walk-up apartments are cheaper but hard on people with a disability, children, or temporary challenges. Skylark compromises by having one elevator, and expecting able-bodied people to take the stairs. There are tips for managing with a walk-up.

Here is Cassandra's new "See the World" sleepwear.

See Groundhog's afghan and get the ripple pattern.

There is a crucial difference between inexperience and stupidity. Learning to navigate this boundary is an important part of gaining experience as a young adult.

"Fly Away Home" is a family movie about teaching a goose to migrate.

Maple Kettle Corn is delicious stuff.

OOH

Date: 2015-04-29 01:43 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Love this.

I think that sums it up for today.

OH, and THANK YOU.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-05-01 03:39 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
I do grok Cassandra's desire to grasp for the symbols of adulthood, but at the same time I wish she didn't feel like she has to DO ALL THE THINGS! For me, both booze and coffee struck me as acquired tastes that I had no interest in acquiring -- and that is also an adult level of thinking. Forcing yourself to do something because your parents would have forbidden it is... not exactly a way of demonstrating your independence from their control. But Cassandra is still too new to this whole "freedom" thing to have thought that one all the way through yet. I think she'll figure it out eventually.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-29 04:39 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
You and endings... :)

And I hope she finds someone as good as Groundhog... Holding her hair and she's *not* his SO? BFF!

And, yeah. That's something we will formally promise our kids in ... yeep... four days' time... if they call for help, they'll get it, and the lecture will wait. Which will probably be less of a lecture and more of a discussion on "you didn't like that, didja? Now, how can we avoid having it happen again?"

Honestly, we'd much rather have them f*** up under sommat controlled conditions, get home safe, and LEARN, than sit on them until they're 21 and then gods help us all...

Love the shirt. I think I've seen it before. On whom, I can't recall, but it may have been one of ours...

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-29 04:50 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
typo:

and it's nice to have him agree that she
has a
pointing, instead of blowing her off.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-29 05:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clockworklady.livejournal.com

I'm glad you're pointing out that Cassandra is not stupid- at least no more so than anyone else who has been her age and raised in such a way. You can't turn to a parent who criticises and screams at the drop of a hat.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-10 12:36 pm (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
Been there, done that, don't want the t-shirt.

Re: Alas!

Date: 2017-05-10 07:57 pm (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
Looking back after many years, I realize that for the most part, she meant well. There were things that were definitely wrong.

But a lot of the more persistent stuff was a matter of her methods being a major mismatch with the way my mind/personality worked.

Someday, I hope I can manage to write something that'd show folks how that kind of parent/child mismatch can go so wrong.

Re: Alas!

Date: 2017-05-14 04:51 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
>>> But a lot of the more persistent stuff was a matter of her methods being a major mismatch with the way my mind/personality worked. <<

Yeah, that's a problem.

>> Someday, I hope I can manage to write something that'd show folks how that kind of parent/child mismatch can go so wrong. <<

I have at least one example of that in my writing: Janie Newcastle is an extrovert, raised by introverts. Her relatives aren't bad people, they just don't have much in common with her.<<<

Well, one of the big things was that I was "gifted" and she expecting rather more than I was up to at times.

So instead of praise for doing my best, I got "you can do better than that". Also got a lot of "you aren't trying hard enough" when I *was* trying.

So gee, wonder why I didn't put any more effort than I *had* to into anything that didn't actually interest me?

That's *way* too common thing, too. People who think that praising kids for what they do right is a bad thing.

I also got called stupid and lazy a lot. Took me *year* to train out the stupid/idiot/etc tape. You know, the one where you've internalized it and call *yourself* stupid or an idiot?

Bleah.

So that and bullying at school are how I wound up with PTSD, Social Phobia and Social Anxiety Disorder.

Re: Alas!

Date: 2017-05-15 01:19 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
>>The really scary thing? I tested out in math around 66% nationally. This means that, somehow, about two-thirds of people do worse than me. I'm lucky to get the same answer twice using a calculator. Well, at least I had the sense to go into a field that doesn't require much math, and I get someone else to do any crucial math. Apparently this is smarter than national economists who cannot seem to figure out basic concepts like "what goes up, must come down" or what a predator-prey sine wave looks like. 0_o
<<

I was *not* good at math. Mom *did* do a good job of drilling me on it (even if it was unpleasant). What got me going was that in 6th grade (1966) along came the "New Math".

Having them *explain* why things were the way they were helped enormously. So did getting exposed to bases other than base 10. I actually drew up addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables for bases 2 thru 12 *out of curiousity*. I noticed a few interest patterns too.

You know have the times 9 numbers have that pattern?
09 18 27 36 45 54 63 72 81 90
(the second half of the list is the mirror of the first half)

Turns out that you get that sort of pattern in *all* bases for the number just one less than the base.

Isaac Asimov's Realm of Numbers helped enormously too. And later his Realm of Algebra helped me figure *that* out.

I wound up doing some math tutoring about 20 years back. And a couple things from Asimov and New Math *always* got a shocked look followed by a "why didn't they *tell* me that?".

What were they?

Subtraction is the opposite (inverse if you want to get technical) of addition. So 5+3=8 and 8-5=3. Most got that before but having it stated as "rule" helped.

Now the biggies. Multiplication is just repeated addition. so 5*3 means "add five 3s together". That came as a surprise to a lot of people I tutored. all they'd gotten was rote memorization of the times tables.

The biggest on was that since division is the "opposite" of multiplication, division is just repeated subtraction. So 43/5 is "how many times can you subtract 5 from 43?"

The *looks* on some people's faces when I explained that...

>>> I also got called stupid and lazy a lot. Took me *year* to train out the stupid/idiot/etc tape. You know, the one where you've internalized it and call *yourself* stupid or an idiot? <<

I've seen that a lot. Several of my characters have bad tape in their heads, really terrible stuff in some cases. Shiv, Turq, Nebuly, Cassandra -- the backgrounds are different but the results overlap. So I try to show alternatives to that also, the way healthy people talk through a problem. It's a lot better to say, "Well, now I know not to make that mistake again" than "I'm stupid."<<<

Oh I was "worse". I *called* myself "stupid" or "idiot" when I goofed.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-30 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
I just ... adore Groundhog! He is doing so well with her.

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