Nanotechnology [Flash Fiction[

“Everything is nanotechnology,” Rae says, trundling down the stairs ahead of me. She is tall, a blond goddess of monumental proportions, fit to be swept into a sculptor’s studio and placed on a pedestal, dressed in a robe, and dunked into a pot of wet, white plaster. She’d emerge pure white and statuesque. Literally.

Of course, that would be an incredible waste of her brains and a shame for humanity and the future of science, probably, but sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly spiteful, I don’t care much about that. It seems unfair that someone as smart as she is gets to be gorgeous as well. Shouldn’t she be small, overweight, horrendously disfigured? At the very least, she should have a big nose.

These are the things I think about while she goes on about how the term “nano” is simply one of the hipper terms used in pop-science, a word that the masses can understand and revere because it evokes in them the idea of iPod Nanos and minuscule robots flying in the air like swarms of bees.

“It’s just pop culture, like everything,” Rae says, jumping down the last three stairs effortlessly.

She takes the stairs with me, because unlike her, my mind isn’t made up of purely logical parts and elevators make me claustrophobic.

“Mhm.” This is my most common form of participation in conversations with people. Rae is better than most, because I’ve known her since she was five and I was six, but when she starts talking to me as if I’m one of her college friends, I revert to my humming agreement.

We both blink in the sunlight outside, wishing we’d taken sunglasses. Upstairs, before we’d decided to leave, it looked overcast. The sun came out somewhere between Rae’s fifth floor apartment and where we stand now, on the squeaky clean street she lives on. I think the only reason this apartment complex exists, here behind the heavy gates that guard this pretty housing community, is so that people as rich as Rae’s parents can buy the penthouse floors and create their modernist fantasies in real wood and genuine chrome and titanium. I wonder why anybody would settle on living in apartments here otherwise, unless they’re relatively cheap for the postcode and the status people get from living behind bars of their own choosing.

Rae is oblivious to my derision, as far as I know, but I suppose this is because she’s in a world of particles and dark matter, stardust and what it can tell the world about the origins of the universe. She probably wouldn’t notice the difference in lifestyle if her parents suddenly lost everything and had to move down to the real city slums with me. The only time I visited her at her university, her dorm room was disgusting, full of takeout and pizza boxes and laundry beginning to mold in corners. She forgets to eat half the time anyway. If she ever got poor, she’d manage just fine.

“So what’s up with you?” Rae asks, jogging me with her elbow. It’s pointy, which she never realizes, and it hurts, because I’m a wimp with weak arms.

“I don’t know,” I say. This is always what I do. I need Rae to go farther, to bug me, to ask again, to prove that she really wants to know what’s up with me.

“No, come on, tell me things. The last email you sent me was before my exams and that was three weeks ago. I’m starved for some you-info. How’s work?”

She knows me well. She knows I answer specific questions much better than big, general ones. “Work is okay. This Friday we get to see our Christmas bonuses.”

“Ooh, exciting.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“No, it is! You’ve been working your ass off, you deserve a fat bonus!”

We walk in silence for a while. I don’t know where we’re heading, and I’m not sure that Rae does either, but we’ve had a long-standing habit of wandering. We’ll find a spot that we like and sit there, eventually. Or we’ll wander far enough to be lost and we’ll laugh at ourselves and figure out how to get home.

“How’s she doing?” Rae asks, stopping underneath a tree. I think she wants to be able to see my face when I answer. There’s only one “she” that is ever asked about in the tone she uses.

I try to smile, and I’m scared when I succeed. I guess I’m a heartless bitch, just like my mom told me I was the other day. It was after we’d gotten home from the hospital and I’d whined about how much I wished I could go to college already. I whined about how I was falling behind everyone else, getting older. When the slap came, I can’t say I was surprised. I was kind of hoping for it, I guess. My father, who’d been taking care of my little brother at home and hadn’t come with my mom and me to the hospital that day, heard the slap and came into the living room.

“She’s almost gone,” I say to Rae now. “It’ll be soon, the doctors say.”

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Camp NaNoWriMo!

So, as promised, here’s my new project – another novel. Sort of.

Last summer, I finished a novel that I’d worked on with Brian Morton, who is an incredible author who teaches at my school. It is extremely first-draft-y. June is going to be my month to write a second draft.
True, it’s not a completely new novel that I’m writing utterly from scratch, and perhaps the men and women at Camp NaNoWriMo would object that I’m not quite following the rules, but honestly? I don’t think they would. Because the point is to write, to work on your writing and commit yourself to it for a month. And gosh darn it, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m currently reading the novel that I wrote. It’s a strange experience. I’ve tried to do it a few times before, but I never could. It made me cringe, or it bored me. But now, now that I am actually in the process of preparing to edit it, I’m able to do it. Or maybe I just needed to wait for nine months to be able to deal with it. Writing a book in a month is possible – but rewriting it takes a bit of cool down time.

There is so much I’m going to change. So much that simply makes no sense to me. I have the characters so firmly set in my mind, and have had them there for the past year and a half, that I can’t understand how I wrote some of what I did. One character, for instance, is painfully shy in my head, but in the novel as it stands, she is an RA at her college. This is absolutely ridiculous – she would never sign up to such a job. True, she’s become less painfully shy than she once was and she has friends, but her retraction from others is still her default state. Why on earth did I make her a bubbly RA in some scenes? Strange, indeed.

I’m excited about this coming month’s project, even though I will also be working, once again, at Hebrew Book Week (third year in a row!) and as a result will be stressed between June 6 and 18 (yes, it’s much longer than a week, I am aware).

Just to be clear – I am still going to complete the 50,000 words in a month part of Camp NaNoWriMo. And I’m so excited about this whole editing business, that I’m going to actually ask you all to sponsor me! The Office of Letters and Light are a wonderful nonprofit that organize NaNoWriMo and thus help more people to overcome their fear of writing, and, even better, they organize writing programs for children in some 2700 schools around the Unites States.
Here’s the link where you can donate, if you’d like. No pressure! You can donate as little or as much as you like, or not at all. If you do, though, and would like to be kept abreast of my writing, let me know! Here’s the link to my fundraising page:

http://slightlyignorant.stayclassy.org

A (Slightly Ignorant) Update

Hello all.

I’ve been remiss in updating you on some of the recent happenings, including the reason for my very on-and-off blogging during the past few months. As some of you know, I was deeply involved in my sophomore year at college since September of 2011 – this past semester has been especially hectic and crazy, which is why I’ve been blogging less frequently. Here are some highlights of my semester:

-I assistant stage-managed for a production of Macbeth.
-I played the part of Cynthia in Tom Stoppard’s play “The Real Inspector Hound.”
-I read a few incredible books, including: “Cousin Bette” by Balzac, “Sons and Lovers” by D. H. Lawrence, “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, “The Brothers Karamzov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Snuff” by Terry Pratchett and “The Once and Future King” by T. H. White. Not all of these were for class.
-I spent time with amazing people who I love very, very much and who I currently miss with an ache.
-I discovered that I enjoy writing in screenplay format. (There’s so much white space!)
…and, last but not least:
-I got into a study abroad program and will be spending next year at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

See? Busy.

I’m currently back in Israel with my mother and my childhood friends. Home base is strange after spending such a good year in New York and school, but I’m slowly getting used to it again.

And, I have a new project. Which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.

BFFs

“I do mean it!”
“No, you don’t, you’re just saying it to be nice.”
“Would I do that?”
“Yes. You would.”
“Okay, yes, I would. But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean it now.”
Jane and Erin argued all the time. They had known each other since they were both in preschool and knew each other better than they knew anyone else. They knew their friendship was rare, and they appreciated it, but they couldn’t help bickering. It was precisely because they knew each other so well that they couldn’t help this. Jane knew that Erin always tried to soften her criticisms of any artwork that Jane showed her, just as Erin knew that Jane could never be unbiased when it came to her relationship issues, since she always thought that Erin must be right. It meant that, although they could discuss anything and everything, and although they did, there were some subjects that would always be problematic.
They walked down 42nd street toward Grand Central Terminal and continued to disagree, voices getting shriller until a man painting a cartoon portrait of a little girl in pigtails stared at them with such astonishment that they both burst out laughing and changed the subject.
“So did you and Mark go to that thing?”
“Oh, yeah, we did. It was so boring, you have no idea.”
“But then why do you always go to this stuff?”
“I don’t know, cause he wants to, and I’m like whatever.”
“But you don’t enjoy it so what’s the point?”
“I don’t know.”
Grand Central Terminal was teeming with people going home. It was peak time and Jane and Erin complained about the increased price of the train fare as they bought their tickets from the only two machines on the bottom concourse. They saw a pair of twins walking together and talking urgently to each other with violent hand gestures.
“The one on the right is cute.”
“What? They look exactly the same. They’re both cute.”
“No, the one on the right is better dressed.”
“You’re so full of it. That’s blatantly ridiculous.”
“That’s not how you use the word ‘blatantly.'”
“Oh, fine, English major, educate me, why don’t you.”
And they were off, unknowingly mimicking the twins as they talked with their hands on their way to track 106 to the train. They threw themselves down onto empty seats and continued to talk in loud voices as the train filled up with people in suits, leaving their fancy city jobs and going into the small towns on the Harlem line.
“Excuse me, could you be a little quieter?”
“Excuse me?”
“Excuse you, rather. This is a public place-”
“We’ll speak however we want.”
“Yeesh. Can you believe the nerve?”
“I know! I mean, dude, seriously, how can anyone ask anything like that? It’s a loud freaking train, you know?”
“What if one of us had ear problems?”
“Yeah, like, what if we were half deaf or something?”
“Yeah.”
But they both lowered their voices without meaning to, embarrassed that they’d been talking loudly enough to make anyone ask them to be quieter. They often felt like they were too rambunctious when they were together. They knew that their other friends couldn’t stand being around both of them at the same time, because they would end up talking only to each other, or, if they talked to the others, they would still have inside jokes and references that nobody else could understand and that they refused to explain even when asked about them.
The train began to move and they recited the stops with the electronic voice that came on over the PA system. They took the train into the city every weekend, religiously, and they always left and came back at exactly the same times, so they always knew what stops they were going to pass by and in what order.
“I’m concerned about you.”
“Oh, brother.”
“Who says that anymore?”
“What?”
“Oh, brother. No one says that. Have you been watching old movies again?”
“So what if I have?”
“Oh my god, never mind, that’s like so beside the point. How do you always manage to do this? I was saying that I’m worried about you.”
“And then you went on a rant about how no one says ‘oh, brother’ anymore.”
“It wasn’t a rant. It was an observation. Anyway. You need to go out on another date.”
“Ugh, but boys are icky and stupid.”
“If you like girls, just say so now so I can start finding those for you instead.”
“No! No, I don’t like anyone right now.”
“That’s exactly why I’m worried. You need to get out there again! One bad boyfriend doesn’t mean they’re all like that.”
Jane and Erin continued fighting until they got off the train at White Plains and walked home together, still disagreeing on the subject of dating.

Spring Break, 2012

In one hour and twenty five minutes, I will have zipped up my suitcase, locked my windows, showered, made sure that I have my passport and boarding pass, packed up my snacks for the airplane, eaten a yogurt to fortify me for the drive, dithered about whether or not to have a cookie right then or bring it with me and made a decision. I will also have finished writing my seven hundred and fifty words for the day, and completed the nineteenth consecutive day of writing a fresh batch of such words.
In four hours, I will be boarding a plane of a design that I’m unfamiliar with because I’ve never flown this airline before. I might already be sitting in my seat, in row sixty-something, seat C, which is an aisle seat on the left side of the plane and had, when I checked in a few hours ago, two empty seats beside it, thus giving me a slight chance of having the entire row to myself (although I’m not holding my breath for such good luck).
In a little over ten hours, I should be – knock on wood – landing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and disembarking from a – hopefully – pleasant flight and into an airport I’ve only been in once before and which I don’t remember at all even though it was only several months ago. I might be landing in a different terminal altogether because the United States, while it is a different country, may not be lumped along with the rest of the international flights.
Although Spring Break, 2012, officially started yesterday, some twenty-six hours ago, it won’t be until I arrive in a place far enough away from my daily routine that it will sink in that I am actually on vacation. Only then, upon seeing my aunts and curling up in a bed not my own, will I be able to understand that I can relax, and will I feel the ever-clenched muscles in my shoulders, neck and back begin to soften.
During the next two weeks – or three hundred and thirty-six hours – I will need to make a final decision of whether or not to attend Oxford next year. Yes, buried almost four hundred words deep in this post is this announcement. I got accepted to attend Sarah Lawrence College’s abroad program in Oxford University in England. Yes, that Oxford, the one that we all imagine as a collection of old castles, old English men smoking pipes, High Tea and scones. Of course, only some of the stereotypes are still relevant, but what hasn’t changed as far as I know is the quality of education in this centuries-old university.
The program is too good to pass up, and is part of my reason for attending Sarah Lawrence in the first place. I will be there for three terms, and in each term I will have two classes. Each of these will be almost tailor-made to fit my academic desires and wishes, and will probably be a one-on-one meeting with a professor. I will meet with each professor once a week, receive a reading list from them, and spend the next week completing it and writing a five-to-ten page paper about said reading. Then I will come in again, discuss my paper and the reading with the professor, receive a new reading list, and do it all again. Each term is eight weeks, in between which are four-to-five week breaks. During the terms I will be living in my own room within a five-person suite. There is a gym and a grocery store across the street, and London is only an hour’s train ride away.
What all this means, basically, is that I would spend a full academic year in England, at Oxford University, and more specifically, in libraries, doing my reading. I would read and read and read some more, and I would write paper after paper and hone my skills of writing academically while also writing fast. I would, if I get my way, take mostly literature courses, and thus would get to read novels and novels. The study is largely independent, which is perfect for me because I’m very good at organizing my time and knowing how much I need to study. I would also be significantly closer to Israel, my mom and my friends there.
The downside is leaving SLC, where I’ve had one of the best years of my life. I’m already feeling my heart breaking at missing out on a year’s worth of happenings here.

But Are We Friends? II

Diana woke up to the blast of a car horn. Her head ached with its usual weekend hangover. She half sat up in bed and looked out the small window. She flinched as another loud honk sounded from the orange car parked on the sidewalk next to the apartment building.

“Shut up! Some people are trying to sleep, you know!”

Diana pulled her head away from the window, worried that the old lady across the street who’d stuck her head out to yell at Jay would see her watching and associate her with the car. The neighbors were unfriendly enough; Diana didn’t need to give them another reason to shoot her distrustful looks. She pulled on a a big black sweatshirt and a pair of leggings and stuck her feet in mismatched Converse high-tops that had been worn so ragged that she used them like clogs.

“You seriously cannot do that. Ever. Got it?” Diana slammed the orange car door after her so hard that Jay looked past her nervously to see if she’d torn the handle off. She was breathing hard and leaning towards him, hair in a messy bun smack on top of her head. She looked ridiculous.

“What? Pick you up for pancakes on a Saturday morning?” Jay fluttered his unusually long eyelashes.

“Don’t play innocent.” Up came Diana’s finger and down came her voice. She was, Jay thought, the only woman in the world whose voice went low when she was angry rather than turning high-pitched and squeaky.

“I’m not – ow! Stop it!” But Diana didn’t. She kept poking his chest and stomach mercilessly while he began to laugh helplessly. He was incredibly ticklish.

“Now here’s what you can do to make it up to me.” Diana leaned back, tired. “First, change this depressing music.”

“It’s not depressing, it’s-”

“Dylan. I know. Poet, artist, musician extraordinaire, blah blah blah. I know. Put on something that doesn’t make me want to slit my wrists, will you?”

Jay rolled his eyes but took out the ancient Dylan cassette and pushed in an equally old Earth, Wind & Fire tape. He watched Diana’s stupid hair arrangement begin to fall down as she bobbed her head to the trumpets and drums. As he began to drive she let her hair down from its constraints. He kept watching the road purposefully. “What’s second?”

“Huh?”

“You said that changing the music was ‘first.’ So what’s second?”

“Oh, right. Second… second is you pay for breakfast!” Diana punched the roof of the car triumphantly.

“Can’t. No money. Spent it on gas to pick you up.”

“Oh. So I have to pay?”

“Yup.”

“Oh, fine, whatever. But you owe me.”

“Yeah, well, I owe you like a hundred dollars by now. At least.”

“No, I mean you owe me a second thing to make your rude awakening of my neighbors up to me.” There was a grin playing around the corners of Diana’s mouth that made Jay’s stomach turn. His knuckles on the steering wheel turned white. If Diana had looked over, she might have seen this and noted it, but she was busy looking out the window, giving attractiveness scores to the guys she saw passing.

But Are We Friends?

“How sad is it,” Diana said, smoke emerging from her mouth in a great, dragon-like puff, “that I slept with him because I wanted to be his friend?”

Jay, who was listening to music in one ear, was only half paying attention. Stevie Wonder was crooning at him on one side and Diana was whining from the other, and his eyes were looking at the twelve stars that he could see in the sky above him. “You know what’s really sad?” he said.

“Yeah, that I slept with someone so that they would acknowledge my existence and be friends with me.”

“No. Well, yeah, that too. Gimme a cig.” Jay waited till he had one in his mouth and, while lighting it, continued through a half-closed mouth. “No, what’s really sad is that we look up at the stars, and we can see a few tonight, and we’re like oh wow, look at all the stars! And there are like twenty, if that, and we think that’s a lot. Out in the desert – that’s where stars really happen.”

“Dude, are you stoned?” Diana looked at him, irritable, and noticed that he had one earbud still stuck in his ear. “You’re not even listening! Damn, I thought we were going to have some girl time.”

“I’m not a girl.”

“I know, but you have conversations that aren’t about monster trucks.”

“No one talks about monster trucks anymore.”

“Whatever.”

The two college dropouts lapsed into silence on top of the old orange car. Jay was still lying on the cold metal, one arm tucked behind his head. Diana was sitting cross-legged next to him, her knees close enough to brush the edge of his jacket. The sound of traffic from the highway kept them company, along with the chilly wind.

“So are you friends now?”

“Huh? What?” Diana had been gazing at the lights of the faraway cars and letting her eyes go out of focus, turning her vision into a strange image of blurred yellow lines on a backdrop of black stillness.

“You and this person you slept with. Are you friends now?” Jay heard the deep tones of Leonard Cohen describing to him the way love felt, and he allowed himself to glance at Diana. Sometimes it was dangerous for him to do that. It would make him feel too much. But Leonard’s voice fortified him enough to do that, at least.

“I have no freaking clue. That’s why I’m so upset.”

“Ask, then.”

“What? I should just ask if we’re friends?”

“Yeah, sure, why not? Just say – we slept together, yeah. But are we friends?”

“I guess. But, I mean, with you and me neither one of us had to ask that, right? We just knew we were still friends. Cause we’d been friends before.”

“Mhm. But we’re different.”

“Yeah, we are.” Diana smiled vaguely and nudged her hand against Jay’s shoulder in a comradely kind of way. He stopped himself from flinching against such a casual touch, and took another long draw on his cigarette.