Photo Oomph [Flash Fiction]

“Your voice makes me think of sex,” I told him right after he introduced himself as Thomas, the guy I was supposed to be meeting. It was the year that I’d decided being honest was the best thing to be under all circumstances.
“Oh no, I’m going to kill Vic’… I hate to break it to you, love, but I’m gay.”
“I know, don’t kill Vicky, she’s a sweetheart.”
“But you just-”
“I wasn’t coming onto you. You just have a good voice.”
That was how Thomas and I met. He still says that he’s never been so turned on by another woman as he was by me telling him that his voice made me think of sex. But it did, and it still does. It makes it difficult when he brings guys home and I’m in my room with the lights off and nothing but his dirty talk and my insomnia keeping me company. The walls are too thin in our apartment.
It’s a good thing that Vicky warned me before I met him to watch out for my heart. I would have fallen for him for sure. As it is, I’ve fallen for my boss round the pub, which isn’t a much better choice since he’s married and twenty years older than me. But he’s a flirt, and he’s told me more than once, when he’s had one too many with the lads – “It’s good for business, drinkin’ with the customers, but don’t you ever dare do it,” he always tells me – he’s told me that he’d fancy me in a second if he wasn’t wrapped around his wife’s little finger.
Just look at me. I sound like one of those sad cases on the telly, those girls who are all moaning about the men who don’t fancy them anymore. That’s not what I’m about. My life isn’t about the lads I fancy, nor about the ones I bring round from the pub when I’m feeling lonely and need someone to distract me from Thomas’s voice.
What’s my life about, then? I take pictures. That’s what I do when I’m not working or out having fun with Thomas and the rest of the gang. I photograph people around the city. Just people. Anyone, really. My mum thinks I’m crazy, and dad thinks that I’m wasting everything I learned in art school.
I used to paint, see. I still can do, I suppose, but it doesn’t give me that feeling, you know the one, that oomph down in the pit of your stomach where everything goes when you’re terrified or extra happy. Remember when you first went really high on the swings as a little kid? Your mum or dad or big brother were pushing you and you wanted them to stop, and maybe you even told them so, but they ignored you and kept pushing you higher and higher and your little hands were holding on so tight that later they stank of metal for hours. And then, when you were so high that you were getting dizzy just thinking about it, you came back down and your belly came right up into your heart. Even though you didn’t know anything about biology, you knew that shouldn’t be happening, your stomach shouldn’t be moving up to where it did, and it felt like it was being tugged with a bit of string, yanked really, and it was so weird but also felt good. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what taking pictures feels like.
Not always, obviously. But when I get one right, it feels just like that.
This morning I got one right, for instance. It was the best thing I photographed all month. It’s a woman feeding a bunch of squirrels in the park. She’s sitting there, not on a bench or anything, just on some of the grass that isn’t wet anymore now that the sun is finally making an appearance, and she’s got this vat of popcorn in her lap. There are squirrels all around her. It’s strange. I still don’t know if she was bonkers or homeless or both or neither because I stayed far away so that I wouldn’t scare the squirrels. They were around her in a circle and they kept running forward, right onto her lap sometimes, to take some popcorn. Then they’d run away and eat it with their back to her.
In the picture I took, though, she’s eating some of it herself. All these squirrels, some stealing the stuff right from that cardboard bucket she was holding, and she takes this fistful of white popcorn and stuffs it into her own mouth. Like she was starving or something. It made my stomach go oomph, all right.

Five Words

I’m currently reading Stephen Fry’s Moab is My Washpot, which is the first part of his autobiography. I have admired Mr. Fry for some years now as an actor and writer, and I fell more deeply in awe of him when I listened to the Harry Potter audiobooks that he narrates because of his incredible range of voices, accents and tones. His regular speaking voice is, in itself, impressive as well.

What strikes me most about him when reading his autobiography is his love of language. He loves words for the sheer look of them, the sound they make, the way the tongue feels as it moves to create a consonant in the mouth. Inspired by him, I spent an hour happily reading aloud the titles of books I was vacuuming dust off of – I especially enjoyed titles like The World According to Garp, Smiley’s People, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because of “Garp,” “People,” and “Vegas,” all words that are fun to say. Go ahead, try them out.

The second thing that Mr. Fry has inspired me to do is read the dictionary. I know, aren’t I exciting? But seriously, I look up words online more often than not, and I never get to see an odd word or two that way. So, in order to kick-start myself, I’ve decided to find five new (to me, that is) words in my big copy of the OED, and use them in sentences:

1. Stephen Fry didn’t suffer from dyslalia when he was young, because there was nothing wrong with his speech organs – he eventually learned to articulate his speech properly so that others could understand him.

2. There was a point in time when I thought my eating disorder was insuperable, but I’m doing much better now.

3. Many politicians are perfidious.

4. The gems in animated films are always so exaggeratedly rutilant. I doubt that real precious stones are every quite so twinkly and red.

5. On the road to Jerusalem, there’s one clough that always reminds me of the valleys by my grandparents’ house in Los Angeles.

___

And that, boys and girls, was probably enough of that for now.

Wake Up Man!

Okay, people – look at the title of this post. If you’re a stickler like me, you’ll see what’s wrong with it immediately. This sentence appeared in a Nescafé advertisement that was hung on numerous billboards around my area a few years ago. My mother, who taught me all I know about the proper use of English, and I sighed loudly each and every time we passed one of these advertisements. I know I make occasional grammatical mistakes. I know I make more than a few mistakes regarding the proper use of punctuation marks – but then again, I believe many people ignore the finer print of the rules of punctuation and that this is okay for most writers.

Then again, there is a limit. For those who haven’t realized it, the mistake in the title is the lack of a comma between the phrase “wake up” and the person it’s addressing: “man.” This mistake, to any English sticklers, or sticklers-in-training like me, is glaring.

Here’s another one. Remember that movie with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant? The title is this: Two Weeks Notice. This is another example where the mistake is glaringly obnoxious – two weeks notice doesn’t mean anything! It SHOULD be Two Weeks Notice – notice that little apostrophe there? Quite important, in terms of meaning.

I love language and I adore words – I’ve said as much before. I’m willing to accept proofreading slipups in books or mistakes caused by simply not knowing the language. I do NOT, however, have to accept mistakes made knowingly and purposefully in order to make a poster look less “cluttered” or “complicated.” How can we strive to educate the masses if we’re willing to drop punctuation marks to make things easier? How is this okay?!

O, Fortuitous Doves!

Language is an incredible thing. I love language. Not in the rules-and-regulations-of-language way, but rather in the O-such-awesome-uses-for-it way. I do understand that I’m not being clear in any manner or fashion, and so I’ll try to explain myself. Though before I move on, I would like to say that despite what I said before I am very much a stickler for the rules and regulations of language, insofar as I’m aware of them, and I definitely have my pet peeves about commonly misspelled words and missing apostrophes and such.

Now, to explain what I mean about my love of language. Specifically, the English language. Don’t get my wrong, Hebrew has its own very unique and incredible words, phrases and uses – both the everyday Hebrew and the biblical Hebrew. But right now, I’m talking about the English language. One of my favorite things about it is that it is extremely rich and diverse. There are seemingly endless adjectives to describe things – for example, all the following can mean good when used in the right way: cool, awesome, magnificent, great, nice, alright, fine, etc. Verbs are also extremely specific, and, of course, equally endless – an example for this is the distinction between running and jogging. In Hebrew, there is only running and something called “light running.”

Another thing I love about English – and here is what started this whole post – is how random words can sound so good when strung together, even if they don’t make much sense. For instance: O, fortuitous doves! How thee rustle with luminescent gems, a-sparkle with the glow of Cheddar and Lucky-Charms! Crowned as you are with the pearls of a hundred singing urchins, thou shalt not pass for galloping gargoyles in the harsh winter!

See? A string of words bearing almost no relation to each other – but somehow, you WANT them to make sense. I love language.

Tha Language Barrier

Every country on earth has minorities. In every country there are people who don’t know the language well, who are living where they are because of necessity or family connections or a job. People don’t appreciate just how hard it is to live somewhere and not know the language. Working at the credit card company, I’ve found just how easily affection springs up whenever someone hears someone speaking their own language. For one, there are a lot of Russian speakers at work, and they’re almost always to be found during their breaks to be speaking with each other in Russian, even though all of them speak perfect Hebrew. But it’s irresistible to speak your home language while around others who know it.

Another example of this is how English-speaking clients react when they find out I can speak English. My bosses recently realized that I’m American and have since been foisting every English speaking client they can upon me. I don’t really mind though, because the rush of gratitude I can hear in these clients voices at being addressed in soft English, rather than garish and barking Hebrew, is a reward unto itself.

This raises a common question though – if you’ve moved to a country and are living there permanently, isn’t it part of your responsibility to learn the language? Or should you be allowed to expect that you’ll always find someone who speaks your language to help translate things for you?