In the Green Room

This is what they were thinking about as the crowd streamed in through the double doors to the auditorium and created a ruckus that could only be drunk:

They were thinking first and foremost about their bodies. They were thinking of their protruding stomachs or the skin peeking out from under shorts. They were thinking about the comparison the roused audience would no doubt begin to make. They were thinking they should have gone on a diet. They were thinking they were hungry. They were thinking about the cookie in their bag that would find its way to their mouths in seconds.

They were thinking about the end of the night. Which would be morning. They were thinking about the star charts they would fail to fill out because the night would be keeping them indoors, entertaining dozens of people with their feet up on the chairs in front of them and the smell of cigarettes lingering on their clothes and hair.

They were thinking about the impossibility of this endeavor, its endlessness and incomprehensiveness. Why were they here? Who thought they could do this? Who did they think they were? They were thinking about the panic accumulating in their bowels and the crunching of air through their throat and into their lungs. They were certain it was made of glass and scratching every bit of the way down. They were almost sure they were bleeding internally.

They were thinking about the boys whose hearts had been broken and about their own hearts breaking. They were thinking about the text they hadn’t received, the little plus signs they were slowly adding to the ‘against’ column that was outweighing the ‘for’. They were thinking about their love for their friends and the comfort they could take in the vividness of their lives outside the realm of their cellphone screens.

They were thinking about their parents and how proud or disappointed they would be if they were here.

They were thinking about love, because they always think about it one way or another.

They were thinking about life and death because these are matters of great importance.

They were thinking they would be on stage soon.

They stopped thinking. They moved. They felt. They reacted.

A Writing Prompt and Response

slightlyignorant:

Alright, ladies and gents and gender-neutral folk, here we go, my first writing prompt.

Take the nearest book and turn to the 34th page. Look at the last full sentence on that page. That is the first sentence of your story. Write between 200-500 words. GO.

Alright. MY TURN. Let it not be said that I don’t respond to my own writing prompts (because that would be sad…)

The nearest book to me is More Pricks Than Kicks, by Samuel Beckett. The last full sentence on page 34 is: “We’ll pass him before we get to the main road.”

 

**

“We’ll pass him before we get to the main road,” you said. We were walking fast, basically jogging since you kept skipping ever third or fourth step and I had to run a bit to catch up. My pulse was so fast that I could feel it in my throat. When I answered you, I was panting.

“And? What’ll we do? Ignore him? Say hi? What?”

“Nothing, that’s the point. He’s an ass.”

“Yeah, but maybe he’s going through something.”

“That doesn’t make it okay.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.”

I wondered what you were hurrying towards, but I didn’t ask. You were all prickly, your porcupine spines were standing up, and I couldn’t get near enough to hug you, to tell you it would be okay, that you were allowed to be hurt.

When we finally saw his shape in front of us, you sped up even more. I caught your wrist and held onto my throat, trying to signal how out of breath I was. You slowed, but your cheeks swelled. You were pissed off. You wanted your prediction to come true, and the main road wasn’t that far ahead.

We didn’t catch up to him. He turned left and we were supposed to turn right. I didn’t even ask if you wanted to follow him. I knew that wasn’t the point. You weren’t going to go out of your way. That would be too much.

I pictured you leaving his bed and waiting, and waiting, and waiting for his phone call. Even though I knew that you’d been calling him nonstop and that it wasn’t in his bed, it was on the grass behind the party house, when you were both wasted. I wanted to tell you that you weren’t being fair, that he was probably embarrassed, maybe as confused as conflicted as you were. Freaked out, now, by how much you were calling. I wanted to tell you so many things, but you were too far away. You’d kept going as quickly as ever, and I was left behind, gasping for air.

The Owls

It wasn’t a long drive. We started out in Downtown, with plenty of tall buildings around us. We passed through suburbia, taking note of some of the more adorable houses around us – a memorable one had a thatched roof. Next there was a bridge. I’m almost certain it was over a river, but perhaps I am mistaken. There was a bridge, anyway, not long, but it was definitely a kind of suspension bridge, although it was a miniature of the kind that are to be seen in San Francisco or New York City.
After the bridge, the scenery began to change. There were some vestiges of suburbia, some strip malls and large gas stations, and then we passed into the countryside. It seemed incredible that there was farmland so close to the city – still, technically, IN the city – but there you go. Some places are like that.
The fields weren’t pure anymore, though. Subdivisions sprang up among them, and a few McMansions were either already built, a blight on the landscape, or in the process of being erected, their cement shells monstrously out of place amidst the huge and empty expanses of land.
We drove down a long dirt road until we saw the line of cars that were parked on the left, one after another, neatly and politely. We found an empty spot and donned our coats, gloves, scarves and hats; the sun was peeking from behind the heavy gray clouds, but it wasn’t warm by any means. We each dutifully took a pair of binoculars from the trunk, two large and expensive pairs and one small and still expensive pair, and set off towards the path that ran along the sea.
Somehow, we’d gone from city to suburbs to country to the seashore, all within a half hour.
“Look at the paparazzi,” my aunt whispered to me. Walking toward us from the seaside gravel path were a group of four adults in heavy raincoats, holding two large tripods and proportionately large cameras. None of them had the sleaze of actual paparazzo, which made sense – they weren’t there to spy on and photograph people’s personal and sordid lives, after all. They were there to photograph the owls.
That was why we were there, too. We’d come to witness the eruption of owls. Snowy owls live in the arctic tundra, but their food supply must have become scarce this past winter, because they showed up here sometime in March, and were chilling, in all their glory, on the stacks of driftwood washed in by the high tides.
It was easy enough to spot them without the binoculars. They were so white that they stood out among the rotting brown wood and the yellow and green weeds that filled the space between the path we were on and the sparkling water.
We got to see four of them that day. Three of them were older and mostly white, their feathers looking more like fur than anything. They were nervous, as any animal would be if there was a long row of people standing on a path barely fifty yards from them, murmuring and clicking away at cameras and peering at them through strange contraptions. There were also several bald eagles circling above, and the older owls glanced up every once in a while, their heads seeming to blend into their arched backs and their beaks hanging open, observing the other predators on their land.
There was one young snowy owl, who for some reason I felt was a female. She still had a lot of brown spots all along her back and head feathers, and she was the first one we saw who decided to move and give us a bit of a show. Of course, seeing snowy owls on a sunny day was already rather awe inspiring, but this young owl was fidgety and more nervous than her older counterparts, and she took a walk along the dead trunk she was perching on. We got to see her lifting her talons and witnessed the mass of feathers that cover both her legs and in between those long, sharp toes. She was ungainly as she shuffled along, her neck and head bobbing a little. If only we could have seen her flying, I’m convinced she would have proved to us just how graceful she could be.
Looking at the owls through the binoculars, I couldn’t help but think of poor Hedwig, Harry Potter’s owl. She was a snowy, and she died for her master. I doubt any real snowy owls would be willing to live in a cage – they looked much too wild for that, their powerful, big bodies spotted like snow leopards.
There is some beauty that should remain wild.

Giddy and Gone

I feel like forgetting

(In my fraught fear of freedom,)

That I cannot convey

My quite careless creation.

The words wear away

While I whisper “Why?”

And I decide to deduce

That the devil has danced

Along paths full of posies

And performed with precision.

I’m still so surprised

As I see the solution:

Guarding the gates

Gets me giddy and gone.

 

Birthday Wishes

I wish…
That I were thirty instead of twenty-one.
That my hair was naturally ginger instead of the weird shade of brown-blonde that it is.
That I was naturally skinny without ever feeling the urges of an eating disorder rule my life.
That I manage to support myself, at least partly, with writing.
That I find a comfortable niche for myself in life.
That I keep the friends I have and love.
That I never stop loving books.
That I become a crazy cat-lady.
That I have a good year.
That I sleep well.
That the people I love continue loving me back.
That Harry Potter was a real person.
That I could have more hours in each day specifically in order to read.
That Israel weren’t so hot.
That Johnny Depp, Davey Havok, and Darren Criss were close, personal friends.
That I could get through J. R. R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings.”

I could keep writing this list forever, adding random wishes for past, present and future. But the most important thing right now, on this relaxing, lovely birthday is that I recognize and appreciate every bit of what I do have. Cheesy? Corny? Yes. True? That too.

Combination Lock

Three turns to the right. Stop at “Guilt.”

Two turns to the left. Stop at “Self-loathing.”

One turn to the right. Stop at “Guilt for the narcissism of self-loathing.”

Open the safe. Inside, you will find another, small safe.

Three turns to the right. Stop at “Anger.”

Two turns to the left. Stop at “Impatience.”

One turn to the right. Stop at “Self loathing for feeling angry and impatient.”

Open the safe. This time, you’ll find a drawstring bag inside. Open it, and out will flow dozens of small, egg-sized capsules. Each is clear, with a folded up piece of paper inside of it. You can open the capsules look at the writing on the papers if you like. One will say “Happiness.” Another will say “Misery.” Another will say “Oddball.” Another will say “Unique.”

There’s something else in the cloth bag. If you reach right to the bottom of it, you’ll find a needle. The moment you try to pull it out, you’ll find the cloth bag unraveling. But if you leave the needle in place, you’ll be able to put all the capsules back inside. Then you can draw the strings shut tight, and even tie them. You can put the bag inside the first safe, and put that back inside the second. You know the combination now, so it’s no trouble going in and retrieving the bag whenever you like.

But what if you lock both those safes and throw them into an ecologically correct trash heap? Melt them down, use the metal to make… not bullets or guns, no… not spearheads either… and not jail-bars… how about wrought iron railings, delicate and beautiful, the kind you can train vines and flowers to grow around? Then you can still feel safe, but you don’t have to look at a cage or a weapon. You can’t use the railings against yourself, because you can step over them and make them beautiful. Forget the flowers – even without them, they’re beautiful. Just wait, see if other people admire them. I’ll bet you they will.

What about the bag, you ask? Well, that’s still with you, isn’t it? Tie it to your belt. Let people look into it sometimes. Let the people you love go in deeper, and sometimes maybe take a risk with a stranger. Don’t worry, they can’t steal anything. Even if they take one of those capsules in there, a new one will pop back instead of it. But more importantly, spend some time with that bag yourself. Look into it. Sort it out. See what belongs and what doesn’t. See, this is the magic about it – if anyone else tries to take something away, it’ll pop right back. But if you give it to them willingly or get rid of it yourself, it’s gone for good.

Careful, though. Don’t throw away “Compassion,” or “Love,” or even “Fear.” Don’t let yourself throw all of it away, both good and bad. Keep most of it. Just sort out things like “Pointless Guilt” and “Worthlessness” and you’ll have a good start going.

But remember the combination. If you don’t know how to open that first safe, you’ll never get anywhere. What if the combination changes, you ask? Ah, well, if it does, I trust you’ll be able to listen to that little click-click when the wheel hits the right place, so you’ll crack it in no time. Just make sure to try.

Blasts From the Past

Isn’t it strange how things seem to synchronize in life? Sometimes it’s craving something sweet and suddenly discovering a cake mix you’ve had for months and forgotten about. Sometimes it’s driving along, thinking about how you really need to replace your toaster, and then seeing an appliance store the next time you stop at a red light. Sometimes it’s reaching your hand out to call a friend you haven’t spoken to for ages, and having the phone ring just at that moment with that person on the line calling you. Life is sometimes funny that way. Coincidences probably, or so my rational mind deduces, but it doesn’t take away the sweet taste of mystery that comes with it.

This week, I’ve made some remarkable findings. First, I found my old poetry notebook in which I’d copied, by hand, all the poems I’d written on the computer. Reading through the poems, I was surprised at how much of what I’d written then still applies to me, but in a different way.

Second, I most likely found the reason I don’t sleep well is because of something in my past – I never put two and two together until getting the input from someone else, but once I did, it clicked. Not that it’s helped me sleep better, but at least I know a likely reason for it.

Third, I got an email from OpenDiary, a website I used to write in during high-school. I had two diaries there; one written when I was sixteen, the other when I was seventeen. I accessed both diaries and downloaded them to my computer and read through some entries. As with the poetry notebook, it was a surprise to read my words back then and think how they mean something different, but still relevant, to me now. The best part, though, is that there are a few entries about the beginning of my relationship with Sir B. F. and those made me smile a great deal.

Last, I found my daily-calendar from senior year in high school. It’s full of lyrics, big decelerations of boredom, private jokes my friends and I had then and lots of hearts dedicated to Sir. B. F. as well as the various bands I was seriously into at the time. I loved finding the doodles I had done while bored out of my mind during class – a big Christmas tree with presents beneath it drawn on December 24, random cat and bunny drawings, some manga attempts.

It was strange, finding all these things day after day, but I enjoyed it. I love those weird synchronizations in life. How about you?