Otherness

The words came slowly. So slowly that they got stuck in his throat multiple times. It shouldn’t be so hard to say it, he kept thinking. It didn’t make sense. The body doesn’t work that way. There’s no mechanism for keeping words inside because they’re painful. The vocal chords work on command and don’t go on strike because of what they’re forced to say. The difficulty lay in the mind, in the heart, in whatever otherness lay deep in his chest and swelled painfully.
He couldn’t say it. He could. He couldn’t. He had to. He wouldn’t. It was too hard.
“I…”
But one word wasn’t enough.
“I think… I think I-”
Three words in the first sentence of a long paragraph that he’d practiced in his mind over and over again. Maybe it was all wrong, really. Maybe, in the end, when it came right down to it, he’d been kidding himself. He could never do this sort of thing. He didn’t know how. Other people did it every day, sure, but they must have something that he didn’t, something sick and unhealthy, or maybe he was the unhealthy one.
“I…”
He tried again, but it wasn’t working. It wasn’t happening. He was going to give up. He had to give up. There weren’t many choices left, if any. A part of him sighed in relief, admitting defeat. He’d known all along he couldn’t do it. Why had he tried at all? There was absolutely no point.
At the moment of giving up the otherness that weighed him down panicked, suffocating. In a gush of air and a burst of passion, it shoved the words out of his mouth.
“I think I don’t love you anymore.”
He stared at the face across from him, watched as it crumpled slowly, and could almost see the otherness that lay in the chest that belonged to that face. That otherness, which moments before had been cushioned comfortably in the knowledge of safety, was crying out in pain, its shrieks not heard but felt. Even as he felt every conscious part of his mind collapse in on itself in the shock and horror of what he’d said, the otherness in him breathed two words into him, words that only years later he’d be able to appreciate and agree with: “About time.”

All is Fair in Love

“I don’t want to.”

“But we have to.”

“I know…”

“I don’t want to either. I love you.”

“Do you?”

“Of course I do! Don’t you believe me by now?”

“I do… It’s just me and my issues, you know.”

“I know. Believe me, I don’t want to either.”

“But we have to.”

“Yes.”

“At least for a while.”

“Exactly. I think it’s important.”

“I do too.”

“You really do, though, right?”

“Yes, I swear! And we’re not closing any doors, right?”

“Of course not. No closing doors.”

“And we’ll always be there for each other.”

“Always.”

Mandy Meets the Goblins (Part 2)

” A goblin, of course,” said Rocky. “As a young lady like yourself should know already.” This puzzled Mandy. A lady? She, a lady? And how would she know what goblins looked like, anyway? The look on her face must have mirrored her thoughts, since Rocky spoke up again. “Well, maybe in this, this country you’re in, they don’t teach young ladies how to recognize goblins.”

“No, they don’t,” Mandy confirmed. “I’ve only ever heard about goblins in the picture books that Miss Turner has up at the school, and in those, goblins are big and really mean. You’re not mean, are you?” She’d already realized he wasn’t big.

“No, no, not at all!” Rocky looked shocked at the very thought. “We’re like… like… What is the word for someone who makes wishes come true?”

“A genie?”

“No, that isn’t it. A longer word. I cannot remember it.”

“A fairy godmother?”

“Yes!” Rocky beamed at her. “Goblins are like fairy-godmothers!”

Mandy took another good look at him. He really was quite green, and apart from the horns on his head, his skin seemed kind of strangely prickly looking too. He definitely didn’t look a thing like any fairy-godmother from the picture books.

“So,” she began slowly, thinking hard. “You’re here to make my wishes come true?”

“Well, it’s like this,” Rocky began. He tried to stand up again and fell over, so Mandy lifted him off the pillow and onto her bedside table where he could stand. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s like this,” he began again. “Goblins can’t exactly do that. Not exactly. No, what we can do is help you make a wish – only one wish, mind – come true.”

“But how does that help?” Mandy was disappointed.

“If you make a wish come true, it’s much more special than just having it come true all on its own, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” now she was getting angry. “I don’t care if it’s special, I just want my sister to stop being sick!”

Rocky jumped, with surprising speed, onto Mandy’s face and, feet on her chin, he held to pieces of her hair in his hands and leaned back so she could see his face properly. “Shush! Do you want your parents to wake up?”

Mandy shook her head, and Rocky along with it. She was a bit afraid of him now. He was very fast, and even though he hadn’t been mean, exactly, he’d been quite strict for a creature that was as tall as her hand. Once he’d jumped off her back onto the table, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” he said briskly. “We’ve just got to get started. You’ve told me your wish already, right? You want your sister to get better.”

Mandy nodded vigorously.

“Let’s get started then!” He rubbed his hands together, and started bouncing around the room at incredible speed, dropping things into Mandy’s lap. By the time he’d finished, Mandy had in her hands a get-well card her sister had written for her when she was small and had gotten chicken-pox; a scarf that Mandy was trying to knit for her sister; a shoe that had been a hand-me-down to Mandy from her; and finally, a bouncy ball that they’d played with together.

“Um, what do I do with all of this?” Mandy asked.

“Look here – your sister gave you a card when you were sick, a shoe when you needed one, and a ball when you needed a friend to play with. You started to knit this scarf almost a year ago, but I can tell,” here he nodded wisely, “I can tell that you haven’t touched it for months.”

“I know, it was just too hard,” Mandy started to explain. And then she stopped. And then she thought. Her sister had stuck by her when she was growing up. But Mandy hadn’t visited her for weeks now, scared of what she’d find. She and her twin had used the neglected chores as excuses to stay away, but maybe their parents would have left the invalid’s room if she’d had someone else to sit with her for a while. But they couldn’t, since Mandy and her brother were so scared of seeing their big, strong, beautiful sister just lying there, listlessly.

“But,” Mandy began, as if she’d thought aloud. “But even if I finish the scarf, even if I sit with her, how will that make it better?”

“Maybe it won’t. But maybe it will. Maybe she misses you, eh?” Rocky stretched both hands over his had and held onto his horns. He swayed back and forth, smiling, and then, with a sudden, rushing noise, he was gone. A whisper remained in the air after him – it told Mandy that if she needed a little help, she could call on the goblins.

Mandy was never quite sure if she’d dreamed that night or not. She did, however, start going to her sister’s sickbed. She insisted on opening the windows and letting in sunlight and air. She forced her parents to leave and do some chores themselves. She knitted her scarf, sitting on the edge of her sister’s bed and getting tips from her on what she was doing wrong.  She got her twin brother to make up jokes and tell them to their sister and make her laugh.

She spent time with her. And neither Mandy, nor her sister, ever forgot that.

On Command

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Lyle was practicing in front of the mirror again. He had on the army uniform costume that he’d worn on Halloween, and he’d stolen the medal out of his mom’s sock drawer. It was draped around his skinny neck, the gold-colored part resting somewhere around the level of his belt. He marched up and down in his room, trying to make his limbs as stiff as possible, and then turned back to the mirror.

“Sir-yes-sir!”

Under different circumstances, the sight of an eight-year old boy wearing a Halloween costume and walking like a robot would have been amusing. But as it was, it made Robby, Lyle’s older brother, throw his backpack violently across the room. It hit Lyle, who went down right in the middle of another salute.

“Shut up, you idiot, mom’ll be home soon!” Robby gave his brother an extra shove and went to the bathroom to shave. He’d been with his girlfriend after school, and she’d told him she didn’t like his itchy stubble. Trying to calm himself, Robby took out the old razor and placed it on the sink. He lathered his face with lotion, and began, with hands still trembling with anger, to scrape the old, thin blade across his cheek. He managed not to nick his right cheek, his upper lip and his chin, and moved on to the left cheek.

A scream seemed to tear the house into pieces. In the bathroom, Robby cursed as the razor blade cut into his cheek and blood started to seep out of the thin slice. It mixed with the shaving lotion until the lower half of his cheek looked like a marshmallow. Rinsing himself off, Robby got a wad of toilet-paper and held it to his cut as he opened the bathroom door with a crash. A horrible scene met his eyes.

Lyle was face down on the floor, his mother leaning over him. She had the ribbon the medal hung on in one thin, wasted hand, and she was pulling at it, hard. It was still around Lyle’s neck.

“Mom!” Robby dashed forwards, and forced his mother’s hand to let go. He heaved her backwards, away from Lyle, pushing her until she was leaning against the far wall. Her eyes looked dead, and she made no move to go back to strangling her son, so Robby left her and bent over Lyle, turning him over. He was breathing – crying, choking on his mucus and tears, but breathing nonetheless. He huddled in Robby’s embrace, hiding from their mother. Flashing a look of scorn towards her, Robby picked him up and carried him to their tiny, shared room. He took the medal off of him, got him out of the costume and put him in bed. He drew the covers over him and tucked them snug. Lyle was already asleep when he left the room, curled up into a ball.

“How could you, Mom?” Robby faced his mother, who still hadn’t moved from where he’d pushed her. He held the medal forth. “This is what you want? This stupid piece of tin and some gold paint? Take it! Here, take it!” He threw the medal at her feet. Her eyes moved towards it, and she finally moved, kneeling down to pick it up. She looked at it lying in her hand, caressed it, and then held it closely to her breast. Raising her eyes, she gave Robby a withering glare. He didn’t budge, didn’t say a word.

“You never – do you hear me, son? You never talk about your father’s memory that way again.”

She rushed into her bedroom, closing and locking the door, before Robby could scream at her that his father was dead, that he died in a stupid war, that the medal didn’t really mean anything, that his father’s memory lay nowhere near the stupid thing. He slumped against the wall. It was too much, suddenly. It was all too much. His mother had never gone this far before. And Lyle – Lyle was just like her! Why did her need to steal that thing out of her drawer every other day?

Trembling, forgetting about the tissue that was still stuck to his face, Robby went down the hall to where the phone rested on a small table – his father had managed to get a great bargain on it at the flea market, Robby remembered that day… Without dwelling too long, though, he picked up the phone and dialed.

“Aunt Jenny? It’s Rob. Robby. My mom – she – Lyle – I just… We need help.”

A Schedule

Ancient Greece, course number 10110, exam at the New High-School at 4PM. Tomorrow.

That sounds like I’m taking an exam IN ancient Greece. But no, I haven’t learned the secrets to time travel… yet.

The day after tomorrow, Friday, is the day before my birthday. I’ll be going with my friends to a cafe in Jaffa to listen to some jazz and then walk around the flea market.

Saturday, June 26, is my birthday. I’m turning twenty. Last year, I was extremely depressed before my nineteenth birthday, but this year, I don’t feel much of anything. Does it scare me that I won’t be an official “teen” anymore? Yes. Does it scare me that “twenty” sounds so grown up? Yes. Is there a little part inside of me that’s screaming at me to get down on the ground, play with dolls, make faces at boys I don’t like, and stay a child forever? Yes. But then, there are good things that come with age. I can’t think of anything that I didn’t have last year or the year before, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be. Anyway, I have more important things to figure out at the moment – like getting back to health so I can get back to college.

Yes, I’m going back to college – I hope, I think, I want – but not yet. It’s going to be spring-semester. So meanwhile I’m here, until October when I need to send my letters in and proclaim that on all fronts, I’m better.

But how am I going to spend my time? What am I going to do? Well, I have a few objectives, none of which are easy:

1. I’m going to relax. I swear, hand on heart, hand on my favorite teddy, hand on my favorite book, I swear that I don’t know how to relax. Not really, not for stretches of time. There’s always something I should be doing. Something I’m supposed to be doing. Something productive, that looks good on a resume, that will make me busy so that no one will be able to tell me that I’m wasting my time. So, once and for all, I’m going to say NO to that overachiever inside me – I’m going to tell her that I’m taking a break, whether she likes it or not. This may be the one and only time in my life that I’ll be absolutely, 100% free to rest and relax and catch up on my gaming, my reading, my fun. I don’t know if I’ll manage, but I’m going to try. You may think – this is the easiest damn thing in the world, how can this be a hard thing to do? Well, let me tell you, you don’t live in my head. This is going to be a real challenge, and it’s probably going to be the one thing I won’t manage to do.

2. Having said all that, I don’t want to loll around in bed all day, every day. I just want to do something that I want to be doing. So, my next objective, is to finish the four games I have that I’ve not yet finished, that were expensive, and that I REALLY want to play. You may say what you want about video/computer games, since I know there are many people who are against them. But you know what? To me, they’re stories. They’re stories I get to be in, get to participate in and get to anticipate and wait for what comes next and to be responsible for it. It’s like an extremely interactive Choose Your Own Adventure Book for me.

3. Take drawing lessons and maybe voice lessons. I’ve always wanted to know how to draw, and as for my voice… well, I’ve always been one of those people who sing along to everything – including making weird noises when the horns/piano/guitar are playing. But it’s scary, putting myself, my voice, a deep part of who I am, out there to be scrutinized and looked at and played around with. So this idea is still going around my brain and I’m thinking about it.

….and, the most important of them all:

4. I’m going to write. I’m going to make a schedule. I’m going to put aside two hours a day, every day, starting next week, and during those two hours I’m going to be dead to the world. I’ll take no calls, I’ll see no friends, I’ll make no excuses. Can I get up to make coffee? Sure. If I go on holiday, will I take a break? Possibly. But I’m treating this as a job. Not in a bad way – not at all. This is exciting me almost more than the rest of them. Because if I dedicate, say, half an hour to writing in my blog on an average day, then the other hour and a half will be going towards one of my bigger projects. There are three serious ones at the moment, and I’m going to have to play around with all of them and choose which one I want to be serious about right now. But I’m going to do this. I have to do this. I have to see that I’m able to do this and enjoy it. Because, as every writer I’ve ever heard has said, part of writing is just learning to sit your butt down and write. And write. And write.

**

So there it is. My summer schedule. All wrapped up in four nice points. Now I just have to stick with it.

In Conclusion

Book week has ended. Officially. Completely. Done.

The fair was held every day, except Fridays, between June 2 and June 12. Every evening, the booths opened at six o’clock sharp, which meant that they actually opened around a quarter to, because if someone managed to get into the square where the fair was held and wanted to buy a book… well, far be it from us to refuse to take his money. In essence, working at the fair was about making money. It’s a huge opportunity for publishers to sell their books in one place, rather than distribute them to bookstores, and to invite writers in to sign their books. So every evening, starting around six and ending between eleven and midnight, I think I repeated the following lines dozens and dozens of times:

“You have a frequent-flier card? Great! So this is how it works – you choose one book that costs up to 88 NIS, and you get that book free – wait, wait, then you’re eligible for three more books, each for only 35 NIS!”

“Let me see that coupon – oh, yes, fabulous, so look, you can get this book for 40 NIS, and you can get three more for only 35 NIS each! Forget the other coupons, this is cheaper, I swear.”

“Our deals? Well, everything is 20% off, of course, plus if you buy two books, you get the third for free!”

I was a good little worker-bee, and I repeated my mantras again and again. I repeated them to the same people more than once, because I’d forgotten that they’d spoken to me five minutes before. I repeated them, unintentionally, in my head before I went to bed. I repeated them with irony to my friends, to show them how good I was at reeling off the lines.

But that wasn’t what it was about for me – not really. Sure, the paycheck I’ll be getting is a pretty nice thing, and sure, of course I enjoyed being praised as a good worker. But I also enjoyed the fact that I was selling books. By the end of last night, I could tell with a glance what books to offer to whom, and who was there to buy as opposed to complain about the deals. I could recognize the people I was going to have a long chat with, and the people who would be rude to me. I learned how to convince people that despite what it said on the back of the book, Orlando is NOT a transvestite, but simply changes gender halfway through the book. I managed to convey that even though I haven’t read Hemingway yet, I knew which books were good to start with. I established a rapport with some customers and remembered them when they came back a day or two later.

And then, last night, it all ended… The lights above our booths were cut off at midnight, but we kept selling books until almost one o’clock, while simultaneously starting to pack up. After the last of the customers left, all us drones worked together and taped up cardboard boxes, packed books into them, salvaged more boxes when we ran out, talked and laughed and sweat in the hot night air. There were seeds from a nearby cluster of trees that had somehow opened up in the night to form these white puffballs that got into our clothes and mouths and eyes and stuck to our bare skin. It was hard work, and it took more than an hour.

But then that ended, too. The action wound down, although everyone was still pretty full of adrenaline. Big trucks with big men on them came and took away the boxes we’d packed, one by one, and dismantled our booths, one by one, and then it was time for us to leave, one by one.

I’ve never had a better job. Three of my superiors told me it was a pleasure to work with me. I was on good terms with every single one of my fellow workers. I made at least one friend, and another two potential friends with whom I’d really like to keep in touch. I was surrounded by books, touching books, selling books and looking at books for over sixty hours – and I was paid to do it.

I was so scared going into this job – dealing with people, giving the hard sell, lots of lifting and carrying, and the worst… needing to get along with workers without being painfully shy. I succeeded and did well and on top of it all enjoyed every moment of it.

In conclusion, as my title says, it was good, and I’m both sad and relieved it’s over. I now have an exam to study for and friends to catch up with as well as friends to keep in touch with. I also have, finally, time to write again. Hopefully, that’ll mean less rambling, personal, crazy and misty-eyed posts like this, and more stories, characters and writing exercises. But because this is my blog, and has been so for over a year and a half, I’ll still lapse into sessions of confession and personal babble once in a while. And that’s okay.

Fun House Mirror

It grows, grows, grows,

The time stops, then flows,

The truth that nobody knows,

Is how it grows, grows, grows.

**

It hurts, hurts, hurts,

Danger no longer flirts,

They’re filled out now – her shirts,

And that hurts, hurts, hurts.

**

It numbs, numbs, numbs,

Endless pages she thumbs,

Only they make the heart drum,

‘Cause it’s numb, numb, numb.

**

It gets better, worse, the same,

While the wild impulses are tamed,

Moods shift as if in a game,

So it gets better, worse, the same.