Bringing about Beauty to the universe

In Wright state’s drawing I class, I had a small group of colleagues my age flock to my easel, dragging theirs close to mine while gazing at the talent I left in charcoal and sometimes H2 graphite pencils on my multi-media sketchbook. I’ve always had a knack for drawing, and I never knew it would be a gateway for forming friendships with those who admired my work.

There was one girl on particular that I hung around then- it was a refreshing sunny 2011 springtime, when Valerie took to my side during class, usually 5, 10 minutes late with long, pitch black hair tied back in a loose bun and the coffee drink that held her up.

One day, our class was going out to this very shady grassy spot in the woods near the university to practice drawing landscapes. After about an hour of creation, Valerie made a click-click whistle to get my attention. “Ey,”

I looked up from my drawing board and met her playful, cerulean eyes. “Yeah?”

“Let’s blow this pop stand… wanna go to the sculpture house?”

With squinted eyes, I smiled and nodded quietly, careful not to break the others concentration around me.

Valerie raised her hand, waving it around and asked the professor if she could go to the bathroom at the sculpture house and bring me for safety. I don’t remember much about our professor, but she did something of a huff and gave us permission. She then turned and called out in a monotone voice: “Now, next time guys, make sure you go to the bathroom BEFORE you come out to the woods”

We hurried on the path to the sculpture house, dodging tree roots, fallen lumber, and puddles. I wasn’t wearing the best shoes for a walk through the woods like this, and I remember ruining the pair I was wearing.

The rest of that memory with her is a little fuzzy. We made it to the sculpture house, but couldn’t go inside because classes were going on.

This other time, I bought me and Valerie ice cream drumsticks from the little store by my dorm with my Wright state food money. The sun was just setting, and she was blasting Justin Bieber drivers side in her black bullet of a car, with me finishing my cone passenger side.

We were on our way to her house some couple cities away, out in the middle of practically nowhere. Valerie was also a fan of my writing, and I had agreed to help her write an English paper because she had writers block.

Valerie was a very creative, open-minded and free-spirited creature, whom often doubted her abilities to bring about beauty in the universe, when the girl herself WAS beauty in itself. It wasn’t the bluest of the blue eyes, nor petite bulb of a button nose above fuller plump lips outlining seraph’s image of an angel’s face, nor thick feminine curve of her hips as she hustled, coffee splashing slightly out the crease of her cup lid, late yet again for our drawing class. Those features skimmed the surface of ‘the true beauty she brought about to the universe’.

We pulled up to her parents house- a mansion, bigger than my wildest dreams. She was so nonchalant about her living situation-a deck surrounding the house, a crazy ass staircase leading to her bedroom with a king size bed and MacBook plugged in nearby.

She pulled out a deck of Rider-Waite Tarot cards she just bought at the bookstore. She was a little clumsy but gave me my first ever Tarot reading: you’re too mature at times and sometimes you’re too immature. Try to create a balance of your maturity level.

Some point, after we did some art together, we got around to her English paper. I recall her getting a good grade on it too.

I remember she was feeling a lot of pressure from her parents to succeed and make money, which clashed her artistic, free-spirited demeanor. Valerie envied my artistic and writing talents, and I envied Valerie… in general. Her spirit, her size, her femininity. While she held shadows, and struggled with her self-worth like any other young adult her age, she was ‘goals’ to me in many different ways. I expressed that to her on occasion and she’s say the same thing every time : “ooooh no no no, you wouldn’t want to be me”

Years have passed between us as our paths went separate ways. I dropped out of college for personal reasons and learned how to live on my own. I believe she did something similar, but I know she’s a bar tender at a happening place in the Oregon District, bringing about her own sense of beauty to the universe. And while our friendship could best be described as ‘Valerie’ by Amy Winehouse, I applaud and admire her and the impact she’s left on me from afar. She deserves all the goodness she manifests with her gift she spreads everyday.

His gift

While serving at Waffle House, I distinctly remember this larger man with a big, brown bushy beard coming in maybe once or twice a year. He’d always sit at the low two seater in section 1 during more spontaneous bursts of business in the evening.

This guy was extra jolly, somewhat immature and itching to tell jokes to whatever waitress crossed his path, which was mostly me.

Yes, jokes: these corny ass one-liners that you’d instinctively bring your left palm over your face quickly after. Knee slappers. Dad jokes.

“Hey, hey you” he chuckled to himself, both nostrils flared from bulbous tip of his nose that poked out of all his facial hair. “Knock knock!”

Now the other waitresses and the cook seemed a bit annoyed with the man. Like I said, busy times was his favorite time to cut up, and everyone was trying to concentrate. However, I welcomed that type of energy so close to my tables: his laugh was quite infectious.

“Who’s there?” I called out, balancing 3 plates on one hand and one more that rested on my arm.

“Buddha…” he curled his bottom lip with his teeth to keep from laughing in a childish manner.

After my visit to the larger family I was serving, I whipped around the counter. “Buddha who?”

“Who’s Buddha’ren my toast over there??” He exclaimed, squinted, teary eyes and barely keeping it together. He then proceeded to breathe out in between laughs:”I want extra Buddha!”

I let out a couple loud “aaah aaah aaah”’s, a laugh I definitely adopted from my cute mother. He lit up as I walked around his table and proceeded to clear off a counter in my section that just left.

“Hey, heyhey, where do waffles go on vacation?”

I was organizing my dirty plate stack on the tabletop, and smiled at the game. “I dunno man, where?”

He raised one pointer finger, as he very matter-a-factly answered in a fecisious tone: “Sandy Eggo”

He kept on doing this even after business died down, drinking cups of black coffee that clung to the bottom tips of his mustache, thinking of the next golden joke to take the restaurants stage, or at least my attention, spitting one out after another.

That old man knew what he was doing. His gift was overlooked by most staff stressing a busy shift, but it didn’t surpass the emotional radar of this trained empath. I actually felt good after he strutted out: my diaphragm was exercised from laughing and I distinctly remember taking a deep breath and feeling the endorphins and positive energy he left with me. I wonder if any other waitresses at other restaurants noticed too, because I guarantee you this isn’t the first time he’s attempted to share his gift with various waitstaff.

Sister friend

Today when I was next in line in the waiting room to see my psychiatrist Dr. Singh, this woman with a Harley Davidson jacket, a neck tattoo that said ‘little shooter’, and a face mask that said ‘fuck off’ stormed in the waiting room, burst out in tears. Everyone sitting around acted awkward from her bellowing and waterworks, I mean, they were really flowing. She put her folder in the tray and sat a few seats away from me.

I turned to her without hesitation: “what’s wrong there, sister friend?”

“Oh honey, I got a phone call on my way in and…” she cringed out a few hot tears out of scrunched-up wrinkled eyes out of grief, interrupting herself.

“My brother died”

“Oh no,” I started, heading to the front counter for a box of tissues. “Were you close to your brother?”

I stood above her while she nodded and sobbed, taking about five from the box. The door opened and a nurse called my name to be seen then.

“Be strong sister friend”

After my talk with Singh, I came back out to find her still in distress, eyes flowing like leaky faucets. I really felt for her- while I didn’t have the same reaction when I found out about my own brothers death, there isn’t anybody out there immune to the initial shock and pain of grief. And I knew it so well.

I came back out and hovered over her, kind eyes with heavy cat-eye eyeliner and held out my magical healing left hand for her right. I had the energy, the currency, the mana, and what did she do? She grabbed it. And held onto it tight. I didn’t let go while she closed her eyes and breathed in my life through my palm. I was impressed by how she calmed down after that 20 second moment.

“I lost my brother too- he was 27. It seems like the universe has a plan for everyone. Time makes the grief ache less” my advice reverberated throughout the silence of the waiting room.

“Thank you, sister friend”

And I walked out.

True love with ‘such a man’

I got home from breakfast and a trip to the dispensary with mom this morning around noon or one, around the time Ricky starts to wake his sleepy self up.

When I opened the bedroom door, he was not stirring yet and very much fast asleep on his belly, strands of dark hair going every which way.

I greeted him, chirping “hib!” until he smiled and chirped a lower-pitched hib back, eyes still closed.

“I got fo-od!” I sang. He lifted himself, exposing a nipple and responded in a falsetto “hmmm??” with one eye opened. Because there was distance between us, I presented the box to him far away; he very lazily reached out for it with his whole arm, unsuccessfully. I snorted and mocked him immediately, making an “ehhhhhh” noise, and he started laughing, mocking himself too, joining in the fun.

Ricky Edward Humerick. Educated in things he’s really interested in. Close to 600 records in his collection, but cannot pick an all-time favorite. Smells like green peppers, sweat and pheromone after a night of chopping up cheesesteak beef on the grill at work. Quiet, and gentle, but not a pushover and an alpha-male. Kindness is his demeanor and humor is his sharpest tool when meeting new people, despite his small bouts of social anxiety before we arrive at the scene.

A quick cigarette sparked in between his pretty boy lips to calm his nerves.

“You’re such a man!” I declared sternly while stretched out on the bed, sweatpants drawn to my upper waist meeting a messed up black lace tank top above.

“What’d I do??” Ricky playfully huffed back while unraveling a questionably clean t-shirt to wear until he had to get ready for his Subhouse shift. After a sniff or two, he proceeded to cover himself with the garment.

“Nothing, you just are! You’re so masculine, you think like a man. You’re just such a man!”

“Yeah!?” He chirped back in falsetto, “you really think so Hib??”

“Oh yes. Now come over here. Pettins?” I rolled over on my belly, head in pillow, melting into the memory foam of the mattress. I rolled up my tank top, exposing a larger part of my back.

Ricky smiled and made his way past the dirty clothes on the floor, standing tall before my bare back and started lightly running his lissome fingertips across my skin, from my blades to my spine, and back again. I looked up, and he was scrolling on his phone with his left hand- very talented.

He continued pettins until I started snoring in a promising slumber. And I guess that’s just the way things are and how they go.

Raisin Aioli McGoo

Pure happiness to me is a tiny Raisin Aioli interrupting my phone scrolling with a plethora of heavenly, needy and rather pathetic sounding mews, throwing her weight around on my open bust until she lands tippy toes first with her hind side tallest in the air- smelling like a light whisp of salmon oil and salty McDonalds French fries. And she’ll continue to cry when your fingertips caress the rigid wrinkles that contracted across her back, just at her thought of being touched at that exact spot. Her hip bones dancing side to side.

There’s no other love quite like love from Miss McGoo

A promising day in summer of 2020- cooler yet humid morning, buku bucks in my pocket from carona virus pua payments, and a plethora of garage sales to hit on my GPS, mainly in Forest Ridge.

I hit my dab pen going 37 down Valley, slowing down approaching Floral Home to get to Aaron’s house. I called him before I left, walking him up- he was always a slowpoke in the mornings on garage sale day.

When I pulled up, the time read 7:25 on the dash, which meant it was actually a minute till the half. I was bumping “Nice ride, whip glide, hips swish, left right, hit curbs, lick curves, bitch swerve, smoke herb” on the radio in front of his tiny house in his quiet neighborhood. After a text and a few consecutive honks, he showed up passenger side, tired and lanky with a huge container of superfood smoothie and a long crazy curly mane of dark hair. “Sorry I’m late, I just woke up and stared at the ceiling for like ten minutes for some reason”

He buckled his seatbelt and we headed out to a neighborhood sale in Forest Ridge near Riverside and Huber Heights.

That garage sale trip was very successful. I found a plethora of stuff: a box of bath and body works stuff, a GameCube with lots of games, a grandmother clock from Germany for $25, a stylish podium stand for Theodore, my Greek “marble” bust, a pillow and blanket for Raisin, a shelf for some of my Knick knacks, Knick knacks for some of my shelf.

Aaron was searching for and found in excess for one thing: mirrors.

“I dunno, I just want to get as many mirrors as possible and hang them all in my house. You think guests will feel comfortable?”

We both kinda chuckled.

I mean he hit the freaking jackpot. We found small mirrors, circular mirrors, one mirror with newspaper border and a matching trash can, a big mirror we had to play Tetris with the grandmother clock to fit in my mini van for the drive home.

There’s nothing like hitting up garage sales, one after another, leaving my belt unbuckled and purse under the seat while we go to the next one. That was an excellent neighborhood sale that sunny summer day.

What he loves

He loves my face
The shape of Cupid’s bow,
The curve of hazel,
Spotted scars sparse,
Extol my artistry, he does.

He loves my curves,
My thick mass,
The pulse beneath bust
My weight, my base
The sway of shark bite dress.

He loves my language
aberration of normal pillow talk,
Nibbles on his skin, sure,
Quick heavy breaths and sniffing,
Silly, immature play.

He loves my bad habits-
Leaving behind messes, yes,
Slacking on chores, yes,
But he always feels appreciated
Because I always let him know.

He loves my scatterbrain-
My emotional, empathetic organ
Although I have a mood disorder
He brings me Starbucks coffee
And a fistful of pills at noon out of love.

He loves my curse-
By that I mean he loves my Tourette’s
A quaint high-pitched “ Eeeee!”
An agile effeminate reminder
Tilted brows and drawn out “awe”

He loves my entity,
How I wield a knife to cut kale,
Or hold a brush to blend blue and pink-
Exactly how I come, my spirit,
My platinum bleach bangs.

Most of all, he loves our love
Our rock solid foundation of monogamous promise,
We both made up our hearts and minds-
He is mine; I am his
We are Soulmates💕

‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’

Mom often reminds me of ‘how far I’ve come’ from my rock bottom, my mental breakdown in 2013. Back then, I recessed into some other universe than the one Everyone else actually lived in, and was there for an impressive amount of time.

Nasty ass dirt compiled under my uncut nails as I was climbing my way out of my insanity, with my mom coaching up top and my family and friends cheering from the surface.

The first day I got out of inpatient on my 24th birthday, I remember a very exhausted mother making the two of us scrambled eggs with Swiss cheese melted on top and sliced tomatoes grown in the garden, and mind you, my mentality was still very fragile. We took our plates out to a very sunny secret garden in the back yard and sat down at the patio table with the pond babbling it’s fountain to the koi fish below.

I tried taking a bite of scrambled egg, but I was so shaken up, The egg wouldn’t stay on my fork. Again, I scooped, but the damn protein went flying down my shirt and into Natalie’s hungry salivating mouth on my side. I got embarrassingly angry, and shot daggers at my mother sitting at the table across from me, an action driven by the illness. She calmly continued to look down at her plate chewing, the stoic sage she was. “Would you like a spoon?”

God bless my mother. I remember thinking back then when I was lashing out at her in pure mental illness in excess, she was never going to love me when we both get older because I was such a burden to bare. I knew for a fact that this whole lashing out thing was temporary-I just knew I’d acclimate and things would go back to normal, because I don’t have the personality of a bipolar bitch. I am just bipolar.

And, back then, was freshly released back into society after being stowed away in the loony bin for a month.

“But look how far you’ve come” mom rang in my ear the other day on the phone. We went back and forth in counting my blessings, accomplishments, and over-comings since those extremely dark times. Moving out. Working. Finding Ricky. Taking care of my animal children. Sharpening my painting and drawing skills. Taking care of business. Making doctor appointments. Being financially responsible… for the most part.

I am overall very happy nowadays- I have my own little family and my best man a girl could ask for. However, I still struggle with my bipolar mania and depression from time to time.

You might be asking yourself “why is Steph being so open about this? Why should I care?”

Because FUCK A STIGMA. Mental illness affects a lot more people than you’d think and those more people are scared to tell their own stories out of fear of being judged. But I’m not- my name is Stephanie Staup and I was so ill I couldn’t eat scrambled eggs at age 24. If you’re not afraid of being judged, comment a hardship you’ve overcome in your life and how you did it. I’d like some encouraging inspiration after spilling my guts.

And I never listen to Drake, but the song ‘Started from the bottom now we’re here’ has been on repeat while I’ve been writing this. Might sound a little clichè but fuck it.

One of the reasons why I enjoy drawing portraits so much is the pseudo social bond you develop with the subject. Its all about portraying their deepest and most intimate personality traits trough their facial features, shapes, and shadows.

Self portrait, 2012.

When I was learning how to draw portraiture, I used to have arguments all the time in my head with each feature, it’s proportion, it’s irregular shape. An out-of-practiced hand made pictures that were close but no cigar, which was frustrating for an overachiever like myself back then.

Close but no cigar portrait of mine, 2009.

I had a breakthrough with the “Steven Todd Wyrick Experience, 2010.” Where I drew my AP English teachers half body length portrait, and it looked very accurate. I used graphite and hella eraser, but he was flattered except “Excuse me Miss Staup, but I’ve been losing more weight than what you’ve drawn , I look too fay-at”. His accent was the most educated southern language you’d ever hear.

The Steven Todd Experience, 2010.

My favorite people to draw have been those boys (and girls) I’ve been in love with. I’m free to obsess over the faintest angle of their Cupid’s bow, or the sparkle I beset in their eye when I make it gazing into mine. That’s why I have so many portraits of Ricky- I love creating his look and I love looking at the man.

Raisin and Daddy-man Progress, 2020.

Now when I draw there are no arguments- just using a trained eye and the pencil as a straight line to measure. Most the time, I come out very satisfied with the portrayal of a person, and the secrets I hold with it. If I won’t tell, hopefully the portrait subject will keep it’s big mouth shut too, jeezus.

The War

I was on my blue and green huffy 20 speed, on my way home from my friends house- it was already so late, 4 in the morning, when the sun barely kisses the brink of the horizon while the night still sparkles stars over the Ohio sky.

For some reason, I decided not to go home, but to swerve into the curvy parking lot of Aldersgate church, except the building wasn’t a church at all. Not one bit.

As I entered the double doors, I saw flashes of dark blue and gray on the walls and down the hallways. The smell of antiseptic, fresh padded socks, and soy burgers cooking in the cafeteria.

This was a mental hospital, and an awful one, at that.

I snuck around the halls, until I found a room with a hopeless Brenda sitting on a couch and wheel of fortune playing in the background. I decided to sit and chat with her, like I was just a volunteer there, raising her spirits a bit.

After a while, a large, bald man came through the door and started yelling, herding the psyche patients like cattle. He held up a hitting hand to Brendas wheelchaired body as a threat for not moving quick enough, which set off an alarm in my head.

“Hey, who did you think you are, you son of a bitch!” I immediately grabbed the man’s wrist with my left fist and threw a punch to his face with my right, but his flesh was slippery and bouncy, like rubber. It didn’t faze him at all.

There was consequence to the bout of courage I displayed- the next thing I knew an alarm started going off, and I was surrounded by hospital personnel, holding me down and injecting a needle of god knows what into my hip. Soon after, everything got dark.

A few hours after, I woke up on the floor in scrubs and padded socks in front of the entrance, but the door was locked. Now I was part of the war- I was a psyche ward patient again.

I looked around and gasped at another familiar face: my Waffle House boss Chaney was standing there on the phone. He is a famous actor, always busy making movies, talking to people. He could be my ticket out.

“Chaney, man, hey,” I waved while walking over, trying to get his attention. “Chaney, can you help me get out of here?

Okay, so I was interrupting his phone call, but I didn’t care at this point. He saw me, but started walking away as if he didn’t and I panicked.

My one ticket out. I followed and continued to call after him. “Hey, Chaney, you have to get me out of here!” He kept a steady pace down the dark blue and gray hallways, and I followed as I passed doorways, lockers, couches. My heart was steady flitting, as if my one chance was getting away while his pace hurried down the polished tiles. He moved faster and faster. His voice on the phone reverberated down the halls and taunted my ears while they beat with my hurried heartbeat of the chase.

Chaney turned the corner and went into the men’s bathroom, to which I didn’t give a damn and followed in as well. And as the anxiety built up about being part of the war, having to relive the abuse, going through strange sensations of foreign psyche meds, I cornered him all the way into the bathroom stall.

“Ok, I’ll send you that script. See ya” Chaney flipped his phone shut. “Okay Steph, let’s get you out of here”

And then I woke up.

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