2015, real talk.

In the copshop, in RC– Fire Camp Training at the California Institute for Women.

Mr. Darr leaned in on his chair, his body lazily relaxed, his eyes tense and alert.   He had called me into the office, staring in silence before speaking.  “We don’t listen to rumors, usually, but this one has some meat on its bones.  Did you get punched on the yard last night?”

It was more of a slap.

In my family, we say how you spend the start of the new year is how you spend the year.  It won’t be the first time they were unfortunately right.


Outside RC.  Fire Camp Training at the California Institute for Women.

Mr. Miran was slow to warm to anyone, but the Sinatra smile fooled most.  I told him how to find my blog in order to bridge the gap, and I knew he’d been thinking on the words he found here ever since.

“I figured you out, Ra. You want everyone to feel important.”

“Everyone is important,” I tell him, having to lift my chin to stare him in the eyes.  “Even here, even me.”

He doesn’t argue.


California Institute for Women, Medical Center

The doctor finishes signing the form, explaining to me that she doesn’t see anything wrong enough to warrant a break from the firefighting training program.  I am shocked.  She reads my facial expression and says, “You seem upset.”

I watch the bruise on my hip spread upwards.  I am internally bleeding in front of her, and I think about how even a broken clock is right twice a day.  The doc finally nailed it.

I am very upset.


Outside RC.  Fire Camp Training at the California Institute for Women.

“Ra, sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not to believe you.  It’s hard to know if these people you talk about are real.”  His tone was reasonable, even when he was being completely insane.  It was why he was my favorite.

I smile calmly.  “One day, Mr. Irube, I’m going to write about all this.  I’m going to tell people I went to prison and worked for a bald man with aviator glasses who would shine a flashlight on the floor to make sure I mopped evenly. And they’re going to wonder how much they should believe me, and if this character I talk about is even real.”

His laughter booms through the tiny room, but I’m not joking.


California Institute for Women, RC Kitchen

It’s 4am in the morning and I’ve been stewing on life.  We’re preparing the kitchen for breakfast and I finally just have to ask, “Imagine you have a puzzle, and it’s all put together perfectly.  Then you remove one piece, and the shape of that piece changes, and the picture of it changes.   What is the smartest thing to do?  Find a new puzzle, change the old puzzle, or the change the piece?”

The girls stop washing dishes to look at me.  Mr. G wipes his hands on a towel, concern filling his eyes.   I suppose it was too late to add the famous addendum — asking for a friend.


Coach’s Office, California Institute for Women

She pushes the papers to the side, her manicured fingernails and crisp makeup a sharp contrast to her work out clothing.  We call her Coach, though I’d never seen her do any such thing.  “No matter what I see with my eyes, you have to understand that I have to go by reports.   I’m removing you from the FireCamp program and not recommending you for recycling.”

My bones grind as I walk out of the office, but I refuse to limp– or show any fragility– in front of a woman who could be so careless with the body and future of another woman.

I trust hyenas more.


Committee Meeting, outside of RC.

The Captain is tall and tired, always.  He seems exasperated by the tears falling down my face.  “Why are you crying?  You’re acting like you lived there. No one lives in RC.”

I did.  It’s not the first place I’ve lived that other people only visit.


Firehouse 531

This was the Fire Captain who said he wouldn’t even bother to learn my name, because I’d be in and out of the program too quickly to notice.  He was talking to our lead, spitting bricks because she wanted to know what to write in an incident report.

“What do you mean, “What do I write on this report?”  You tell the truth — whole, even when it damns you– ugly, even when you want it to be foofylala– because that’s what integrity is.  You tell the fucking truth, even though we all know nobody around this place would ever recognize it.”

I fell in love with firefighting right then and there.
… it was an unrequited love.


Corona, California – Funeral Home

I suddenly remembered the first time I met them, and how Dave said they’d love me because I was part of him.  I don’t know what to say to people who just said goodbye to the little boy who ate all their wedding favors.  The one they loved the same, even when he grew up.  Apologies fell from my mouth.

“Stop it.  You loved him, what else could we have asked of you?”

In his death, they weren’t regretting or judging what he did or didn’t do.   They weren’t labeling him with words he never was or wanted to be.  They were just loving me, because I was part of Dave, even now.  Even though he is in a maroon box and I am in prison blues.


Chino Hills, California – California Institute for Women

The Fire Chief walks by the site and we scream our hellos over the racket of the running apparatus.  He jokes, “Remember when you didn’t want to go home two weeks early because you didn’t feel like you earned those firefighter credits?”

It was muddy now, and my boots were sunk, my hip jutted to the side with a firehose perched on it.  Hundreds of pounds of water coursed through and splashed against the flames as they lick the ground.  Steph is covered in soot, and we’d been standing for hours.

We look at each other and laugh like maniacs.


Long Beach, California – In the city

Another new friend, I think as I walk down the stairs, wondering if we would have been friends before this year, grateful that he was able to travel so we could be friends now, nervous about how badly all these new friendships might end as I reshape myself.   My emotions spark wildly, and I pause to calm.  I watch a moth flutter around the warm outdoor lamp

“They think it’s the moon,” he explains, his voice soothing and wise.   “They find their direction by it.  It’s an heirloom skill, but the world is a different place now.”

“They still think it’s the moon,” I repeat, filled with the terrifying wonderment of instinct, and the sadness of sticky memories.  The cold carries the thought straight to my bones.

The world is a different place now.
I shiver.


Long Beach, California – In my blanket fort

“Does it make you feel strong? Brave? Protected? When people tell you that you are?”

“No,” I laugh. “Often, just the opposite.”

The unasked question lingers in the air.  The heat spreads the smell of it through the air, weighing it down.  It tastes like fire, funerals, forgiveness, and truth.  It tastes like burnt moths, and false moons, and prison yard slaps.

Why do I share?

Because I wouldn’t write if there was no one reading.   It is a manifestation of my extroversion, and a salve to my loneliness.   Maybe it’s wrong, maybe it’s unhealthy, maybe it’s narcissistic, maybe it’s selfish–

But it definitely is what it is.


Over the Internet, California to California

I’m chatting with him when my family calls.  Another new friend who never knew me before– not when I was Radhika, or Radha, or Rara.   A new friend who only knows the Ra that survived, and doesn’t seem to mind her.

I give him the highlights of the conversation, and even I know they don’t sound real.  My family is almost harder to explain than prison.  He calls me Princess Caraboo and I ask why.  I hardly need more names.

“I never watched the movie, but it was about a girl who used to live in a magical kingdom that may or may not have ever existed.”

Mine existed.

I smile because my only job is to tell the truth, even if no one recognizes it.  I follow that light, even when it’s not the moon.  The world is different now, and I am broken, but I am important and I am loved.

Even now.

And this new kingdom I am building?
I plan to make it pretty magical, too.



Happy 2016.

81 thoughts on “2015, real talk.

    1. Thank you, Solveig– these were just some of the edges, and even they came with many moments of laughter, friendship, and connections with humans in odd circumstances. It wasn’t all tough, and for that I am grateful.

      Still, I wouldn’t say no to a nice, boring 2016. 😀 Happy New Year!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. and you clearly have many gifts, even with as many challenges as you’ve had to overcome and rise from again, like a phoenix. please keep writing, and we’ll keep reading, and keep on rising – beth

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Beth. You know what they say– sharing joys, doubles them, sharing troubles, halfs them. I’m blessed to be able to share with a great community– thank you for being so much a part of my ability to unflatten myself from the floor that I fell to. 😀 I will try to rise! 🙂 Happy 2016!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In a few hours, 2015 will be over for me, and another 10 it will close for you too (probably less when you’re reading this). So my wish and prayer for you is that the new year will bring you an abundance of love, joy, peace and contentment. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have about another 11 hours to go, but I’m hoping the same as you. And with hope as big as ours, we can’t go terribly wrong, right? 😀 Happy 2016, Lyn– Thank you for the beautiful gift and words. May your year be filled with wonder and joy. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed puzzling over the puzzle piece although at 4 in the morning, my gaze would probably have glazed. I think it depends on what is most important. If the puzzle is important, then make a new piece to fill what’s missing. If the piece is the most important, it can stand on its own or form a puzzle around it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved those types of conversations among women with sharp minds and sharpened lives. Their insights kept me on my toes, and their love was exactly the sort that should be had from woman to woman. Though, yes, at 4am with nothing but chickory in your system, it’s even more of a challenge. 😀

      I like your answer. Change nothing, make something. Powerful. Thank you. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Remember what it felt like before we were in our physical bodies? I fought to feel comfortable, so confined, when I was very small, trapped in this body. You’re writing reminds me of the expansiveness of the “before” – the eternal. New puzzles, new pieces ever changing, eternally the same. Thud
    Love you eternally -Lisa

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Beautiful answer, Lisa. It reminds me of the thich nhat hanh quote about how– when we walk on the earth under our feet, we’re walking on the same earth that someone on the otherside of the world is walking on. Not just the ground, but the ocean, and the sky. Ever changing landscape, but eternal in its sameness. Yes.

      I love you, Lisa. Happy 2016.


    1. Happy New Year! That’s the greatest thing about magic. It creates options. 😀 And if I choose to incorporate glitter and confetti into those options, that’s not a bad thing, right? 😀 Love to you and the whole fam. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You’re right, Ra, people are important. Every single one. The only problem is getting those who think they’re super important to recognise that the ones they thing are unimportant are actually just as worthy as they are.

    Love you, and all the best for 2016. Xxxx ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You know what I love most about you Ra? Your deep honesty. Your raw honesty. Mostly about yourself. Sure you see others in this magical light. But with that light you see the imperfections that makes us…us. And you love us anyway. In fact, I would say that’s WHY you love us. It’s those imperfections that really makes us who and what we are. It’s what makes you, Rara. It’s what makes us all unique in our own way. I love your imperfections my friend. Your uniqueness. Just as you love ours. Your 2016 will be more than you ever could imagine. Yes, more than YOU could imagine. Because it will be yours. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. May this coming year be good to and for you, that it’ll be the first of many good, wonderful years to come.
    Good luck with your building, though I trust that you do not need it, as you shall do fine without luck^^

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If you’re ever running low on magic you can always ask me. Also it never even occurred to me that you would lie. Some people seem sort of self evidently truthful. You take one look at them and you feel the light of their soul and you know they’d make terrible liars. That’s you a dino shaped ball of sunshine. New ra old rara, no matter how much you change at your core you’re still that honest dino trying to better the cold dark world with her own sunshine.


    Liked by 2 people

  9. Such a hard year Ra with such losses, but yet you have managed to find the gems in the muck. I truly hope the next year will be the best ever for you. Much love and good wishes for you in 2016. Happy New Year. You have magic and your kingdom is magical and you allow all of us a view every time you write.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have missed you, just refound you, and am deliriously happy to read that you are home with loved ones to hold you whenever you need it. ❤

    I hope you find many blessings in 2016.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In your kingdom, my dear, you make me laugh and cry. You say the word, “Dave” and I shudder with you ~ filled with love. It’s a unique experience, truly. 😀 it’s full of thud. and yet so much more.

    Then you say, in an entirely different context, “He calls me Princess Caraboo and I ask why. I hardly need more names.” I laugh, yes, I laugh my A _ S off. Me, too. hardly. need. more. names.

    Happy NEW YEAR, 2016!! WHOOOO HOOO! Let’s make it magical; as for sure it couldn’t be more real.

    I celebrate you, Ra- Rara- Radhika…. etc. If you add the name “et cetera,” we got everything covered. Empress.

    Grateful for this wonderful read.
    Bisous, Ka


  12. I’ve been putting off going to bed, browsing through stuff that I missed while I was focusing on other things at the turn of the year. And now … this.

    Sometimes the beauty of what you write – both words and meaning – takes my breath away. I hope 2016 is being good to you so far.



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