The Man in the Park

The duck waddled across the expanse of green grass until it reached the fountain. Its head was a dark and glossy green that shone in the sunlight. As it slid into the water gracefully, it knew itself to be beautiful.

A man dressed in two pairs of pants, three button-down shirts, a windbreaker and an overcoat stared at the duck hungrily. His hair, some might say, looked like a nest. But the man knew that no nest would be as messy, as greasy, as greasy and limp as his hair was. The man knew that nests were works of art.

Watching the duck ruffled its feathers, the man sank to his knees. He hadn’t eaten in two days, but there was a fair amount of cheap wine in his system and he felt dizzy. He wished he’d saved some of the money he’d gotten from begging at subway stops and bought some seeds or oats to feed the ducks with. He knew that bread wasn’t good for them.

He tried to remember the last time that he’d handled a bird, helped to fix its wing or given it its shots. He couldn’t remember quite how he came to be this way, dressed in everything he owned, with only a few keepsakes stuffed into his pockets from a life he didn’t know how to live anymore.

Lying down on the grass, he shut his eyes and tried to catch a nap before the inevitable policeman would tell him to get up and move on.

New Challenge, New Look

I haven’t changed the theme on my blog for the more than three years I’ve been posting on it. It’s time for a change. I like the warm colors and larger fonts of this theme; it seems homier, less cold than my previous one.

In addition to changing the looks, I’m trying out the WordPress Post-A-Day Challenge for the month of October – I’ll see if I keep it up afterwards. Mostly, I want to use it to get warmed up for NaNoWriMo, which, despite my being at school, I still want to try to complete.

Feedback? Questions? Comments? Anything particular you’d like to see me post?

Full of It [Flash Fiction]

The world outside my window seems to be covered in mist but I don’t know whether my vision is screwed up, my medication is affecting my eyesight, or there is simply a haze due to pollution and humidity. I find myself doubting my own perception a lot lately. Ever since I had that dream the other night, my reality has been compromised.

My boyfriend tells me I’m full of crap, of course. He’s tall, six-foot-something, and he has to bend down quite far to kiss me. Not that he does that a lot anymore. Usually he expects me to climb up on my tip-toes or stand on some higher ground and reach up to him. He still leans down to whisper in my ear, though. I used to love it, but not anymore, not since the dream. I made the mistake of telling him, yesterday, that his whispers were giving me the creeps. Maybe I could have been more tactful about it, but I was telling the truth, asking him to stop sneaking up on me like that. He blew a gasket. I’m not actually sure what ‘gasket’ is (according to Google, it’s “A shaped piece or ring of rubber or other material sealing the junction between two surfaces in an engine or other device.”) but I think that’s what he blew. He told me that I was losing it, and that if I wasn’t careful, he would force me into the loony-bin.

I’m not scared of psychiatric hospitals, though. I sort of, kind of, accidentally-on-purpose forgot to tell him that I spent a lot of time in them when I was a kid. Although I’m kind of still a kid. But you know what I mean; when I was prepubescent and innocent, I spent a lot of time in hospitals. They were quite helpful, actually. I wish I hadn’t agreed to quit therapy for my boyfriend. But he told me that we needed the money for a bigger place, and I caved in without really thinking about it. But I wonder what Sonia, my most recent psychiatrist, would have said about the dream.

A scream echoes outside, and I can’t tell whether it’s a cat or a baby. Sometimes they sound the same. Maybe my neighborhood is actually full of shape-shifting babies, turning from human to kitten and back again? There are old people in the park, with Filipino caretakers swarming around them, chattering in their local dialects, socializing with others who know the village where they grew up. The old people drool and blink at each other, silent. Actually, they’re not there now; but I know that they’ll be there soon, gathered around the benches, so I’m already prepared for the way they’ll all look and the conflicting emotions I’ll have when I see them.

I can’t really remember the dream from the other night. I think it involved old people. And Filipino caretakers. Maybe even babies morphing into felines. And maybe none of these things. The dream has passed beyond the veil of my coherent memories now, and all I know is that I feel, for the first time in years, bereft of something. It’s as if, when I woke up from the dream, I woke up into this life that I wasn’t really aware I was living. The thought has even occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t living in this body before I woke up the other day. Maybe I was an old person in a wheelchair, or a lonely Filipino sending money to my wife back home, or a baby watching in wonder as its fingers grow claws and its thumbs retract back into its skin.

My boyfriend says I’m full of crap, though, so maybe I’m just imagining things and foaming at the mouth, desperate for something different to come along and save me from the monotony.

Eavesdropping

The owl sat on its regular midnight perch, on the beam that hung between the garage door and the overhanging roof. It was quite roomy there, and she liked having its nest so close by, in the very corner, where there was space right inside the corner of the roof.

She was just about to hoot softly and then fly out to catch little rodents by the tail when she was interrupted mid-hoot by a pair of loud voices that erupted in the middle of the driveway in front of her.

“You did NOT just say that!”

“What? You think you’re the only one allowed to be mean? I know how to be mean too, you know.”

“I’m not mean, you jerk-wad! How can you even say that to me?”

“‘Cause it’s true! You’re stuck up and mean, and you know what? I can stand it when you do it to me, but not when you start ragging on my best friends, too. They don’t get to see you like I do, so they don’t get that it’s just how you are.”

“Oh, what, so because they don’t get to see me naked then they don’t know the real me? Are you suggesting they all come over and we have a big party together?”

“WHAT? When did I ever say that? Where the hell is your head, Angela?”

“And what’s all this about you being okay with me being mean to you, anyway? I’m not mean to you!”

The owl in the eaves of the house cocked her head. The voices changed tones. The whiny, female-smelling one sounded muffled, and the deep-voiced male-smelling one made cooing noises that reminded the owl of the noises she made over her eggs.

“I love you, but don’t you see that you’re going to isolate me from everyone else if you keep behaving like a stuck up bitch with them? I’m not saying you ARE one. I’m just saying you act like it, honey.”

“B-b-but your friends make me nervous, and ever since we moved to this stupid city it’s been all about your friends, and don’t you think I miss mine to bits? It’s not like you were super nice to them or anything…”

“I made an effort and you know it. It was hard when they kept sizing me up with their eyes, checking if I was hot enough for they angelic Angela.”

“Well, they were protective of me. What can I do? All your friends want to do is talk to you. It’s like I’m just a painting on the wall in the room. They stare at me sometimes and then go right back to talking to you about the Diamondbacks or the Razorbacks or whatever that team is called.”

“If you stopped acting like an ice princess, and if you stopped being so cold, maybe they’ll be nicer to you, hmm? They don’t always talk about sports, you know.”

The owl, getting bored with the human jabber and the ensuing wet noises as they did that strange thing humans do with their mouths, decided to get going. She spread her wings and leaped from the eaves, wings spreading out to her sides. She dove and then flew upwards, scanning the neighborhood for some delicious little critters to snap in her beak.

“Wow, did you see that?”

“An owl! I’ve never seen one before! Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!”

“What a beauty, hmm?”

“Yeah, so beautiful…”

Busy Busy Busy Bee

The last week has been crazy. I feel completely lost amongst the errands, orders, confirmations and packing that has to be done.

The next few days are going to be even worse. Tomorrow and Monday are going to be full-on packing days – going to college entails lots and lots [and lots] of packing. Tuesday early morning we fly to New York, arriving the same day in the afternoon. I’ve ordered my new mini laptop, I’ve ordered my new computer for the dorms, and more shopping will be done in New York. Saturday, August 29th is move-in day.

The next week or two are going to be crazy – chalk-full of outings, shopping, and once orientation week starts, lectures and registration processes. I’ll try to write as much as I can, but I can’t promise prompt or daily entries. This is too bad, because my stats are pretty pathetic as is, and I’ve been here a year. Still, hopefully once I get settles into a routine at Sarah Lawrence, I’ll be able to write properly, maybe even using my school-work and essays as entries or as ideas for what to write about.

For those who are interested, I already have my first course at SLC – this course is under the title of “First Year Studies” and the professor teaching me will be my Don, which is a kind of adviser. This class is for both semesters, and the one I got is this: Text and Theater. It’s a literature course that studies the texts of plays. The professor seems amazing so far [I received a very sweet email from him that he wrote everyone who will be in this class] and I’m excited.

I hope to be here as often as possible. I’ve been here almost a year, and I love my little blog.

Leaving

Exactly a week from now, I’ll be on an airplane somewhere over the ocean, just a couple hours away from the shores of New York, my new home-state. My orientation week will begin on August 29th, move-in day, and my classes begin on September 7th. The new experiences that are looming in front of me are overwhelming but exciting and enticing nonetheless. I’ll be able to study again – bury my nose in books, strain my brain and hopefully become passionate about the new things I’ll be learning.

But as the time to go draws nearer and the free moments I have grow few and far between, I realize just how much I’m going to miss about living here. First, of course, is the simple physical aspect of my home – the apartment my mother and I live in and have lived in for thirteen years; the bookcases lining our walls and the messy lived-in atmosphere that permeates each and every room; the cats perching on the counters or sprawling on the beds, tummies up to catch the nonexistent breezes of late August.

Next, the people – my mother, my boyfriend and my friends. These are people who I care about and who care about me, people for whom I have great respect and with whom I enjoy spending my time. I know, of course, that I’ll be meeting new people and forming new friendships, but they won’t be able to replace my friends here, most of whom I’ve known for at least three years, and the rest of whom I’ve known since I was a tiny tot.

Finally, and this is the thing that shocks me most, I’m going to miss Israel. Yes, this place I bitch and complain about constantly – the rude people, the bad drivers, the unbearable heat and humidity of Tel Aviv, the pathetic winters – all this, I’m going to miss. Most of all, I’m going to miss the Hebrew language. Last night, when I couldn’t sleep and my mind was racing with the thoughts and worries that are forever nagging at me at this stressful time, I began reading a book that I’d bought at the Israeli book fair last year. It’s wonderful, absolutely amazing, and I realized that the roots of my love of writing come from writing in Hebrew. The first creative writing piece I did was in a seventh grade literature class – I wrote, basically on my own, a thirty page story for a big end of year assignment. A few years after that, I began writing poetry in Hebrew. I still have a page on a well known Israeli creative writing site with my poetry and a few short stories on it – all in Hebrew. My father, who wrote a book in Hebrew and was a gifted writer both in Hebrew and in English and who, incidentally, was very Israeli in so many little ways, was the first who told me that I had a gift for writing.

So yes. Despite everything I can say about this place, this country full of drama and upheaval and stupid religious wars, I will miss it. I’m glad that I’ll be able to come back here for my vacations.

Adult Fun!

Before you become alarmed – this is strictly PG-rated stuff, nothing beyond, despite what the title may bring forth in your imaginations.

As many of you know, I’m nineteen years old. Young by any standards. I’ll never claim to have more life experience than I have, but I also know that I’m relatively mature and that I’ve changed greatly over the last few years of puberty, just as any teenager does. One of the things that constantly strikes me these days is the difference between what I consider “fun” today and what I considered “fun” years ago.

There are, of course, the obvious things: when I was little, I’d enjoy mundane things like riding the bus or going up and down an escalator. Today the things that thrill me are expensive [like snowboarding] or things that I know won’t thrill me forever but that do now because they’re new to me [like driving].

But the thing that really makes me pause in amazement is the way I spend time with friends. While once upon a time we’d all enjoy just sitting around on a grassy knoll and exchanging jokes, now we like to actually do things together. Now we enjoy doing things that I considered to be “grown-up stuff” when I was little: we go to cafes, go out to dinner, go see movies often, go to museums, attend festivals. It’s astounding to me how different a simple thing like talking with a friend can be when one does it with a cheery cafe in the background or around a dinner table. There’s no real reason I can see for the change in pattern – it all boils down to the same thing, spending time with friends – but it’s a welcome and enjoyable change, nevertheless.

Security, and Lack Thereof

As some of you may know, I’m flying to the United States in a week. I’m extremely eager for this trip, which, of course, makes the time move all the slower. I’ve been obsessing, planning and re-planning, mentally packing and making lists for days now – and with all that came the comparisons between here and NOT here. In musing about the differences between a country fraught with chaos, namely Israel, and a country fraught with a different sort of chaos, namely the US, I stumbled upon a very small but fundamental difference between the places. It’s something I almost never remember until I’m actually in the US.

When most of you walk into a grocery store, a theater, a mall, a cafe or any other public place – you just walk in. You open the door, and walk in. Here, it is not so. Here, there will be a guard. There is always a guard. There will forever be a guard. No matter what public place you enter here, you will have to surrender your bag, purse or back-pack to a guard’s cursory glance, their hands feeling inside it or weighing it to see how heavy it is. In places like the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, you’ll have to go so far as to pass your things through a metal detector. At the entrance to most malls, you yourself have to go through a metal-detector.

After being used to handing over your belongings everywhere you go, I’m always struck by how odd it feels in the US, or anywhere else for that matter, where you don’t have to do that. You can just… walk in. Incredible.

Vibes

One of the most magnificent and incredible things to me are how days can change from being unbearable to face to being calm, peaceful, enjoyable and rewarding. There are those mornings where you may wake up and just feel so tired, so sad, so completely unprepared to face a day of work and socializing and exercise and travel. And yet, when the day goes by, step by step, you realize that you’re going through the motions without a negative thought in your head.

What is it about human nature that makes us so utterly easy and open to change of moods? Not always, of course not – sometimes we’ll retain a bad mood for hours and refuse to let ourselves budge from it. And yet, sometimes the simple act of human kindness, of a smile or a voice, can help raise our spirits. Sometimes even nice weather and a light breeze can be enough to raise a smile on our lips.

It also always seems to happen most that when we don’t expect it, we suddenly experience the change. In the midst of a raging temper, one might be startled into a laugh. In between sobs, someone might be kind enough to make us smile. We are fickle creatures indeed, but one cannot help but be thankful for it if it helps us get rid of bad vibes.

An Exercise

I’ve been researching some writing exercises the past few days and trying to find the time to really work on one. I randomly picked one from a random website – I’ve lost which one it was, or I would post the link – and decided to work on it at work today. I always use the down time between phone calls from customers for scribbling, but more often than not I’m just nattering away about nothing in particular. Today, however, I had a goal.

The writing exercise was simple – there was a picture of a boy sliding down a water slide, and the instructions were to write about the boy: who he is, where he is, what he was doing before and after the picture, etc. I didn’t actually have the picture with me at work, but I could remember it pretty well. For some reason, this ended up being the result – I didn’t follow the instructions very well, but I got an idea and went with it.

A picture frame hangs on a wall, the only ornament in the whole dreary living room. The picture, whose colors are perfectly bright and cheerful in comparison to the gray walls, is a photograph of a boy. The boy is grinning widely, and is featured mid-slide on a wild looking water ride – he’s wearing a bright orange swim-suit and upon closer inspection, you could say that he is laughing more than grinning. In fact, you can almost hear the delightful peals of laughter as you look at the photo.

So the balding man that lived in this room felt – as if the boy in the photograph was constantly laughing at him. So many times the man had tried to take the photo off the wall, and yet, again and again, he could not bring himself to do it.

And so, the man lived out his life, jumping from one hated job to another, never happy with the person that he had become. All his days, the boy laughed in his wooden frame, reminding the man of the boy he had been: so full of hope and happiness. The future had seemed endless then, opportunities just waiting right around the bend. Sometimes, when the man lay in bed late at night, he could admit to himself that the reason he never took that old photograph off the wall was that he needed to remind himself how he had squandered his opportunities, how he had wasted his life. And yet, by day, he never changed a thing, and the laughing boy that he had been shined out of the picture frame forever more, while the man he was dwindled in body and in spirit as the days passed.

Even to himself, the man never managed to explain why he didn’t change a thing. Perhaps he lived in the boy in the picture on the wall rather than in his reality; perhaps he just didn’t know how to change; perhaps he didn’t want to change really; and perhaps, just perhaps, there was no one there who cared enough to help him change. Who knows?