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.

Going Soft and True

Leroy glanced down at his watch for what felt like the hundredth time. They were late. Very late. And he was out on a limb here, risking his ass for Mr. Tony Boss-man. As if the Boss-man ever did a day’s work in his life, sitting there on his throne of black leather on wheels, computer screen hiding half his face, playing at being all modern. Sure, he was modern. If modern was looking at dirty videos all day.

Patting his pockets, Leroy searched for his lighter. Realizing it was already in his hand, he drew his pack of Marlboro cigarettes from his jeans, shook one out, and lit it. He glanced at his watch again, breathing in the smoke as if it was much needed oxygen. They were so late, he thought again. He could feel the prickles on the nape of his neck; he was sweating so badly that his hair seemed to be leaking. There was no reason for them to be late. Not unless… But he wouldn’t go there. Not yet, not consciously.

Glancing at his watch yet again, he realized that this was the first time in a long damn while that he’d been up in the small hours of the night. He remembered the last time vividly now, as if it had been yesterday instead of eight years ago. He could almost smell the smoke from the barrel of the gun – but no, that’s the cig, he reminded himself – and could almost see the hole in that man’s chest. That was a long time ago now, and Leroy tried to forget it more often than not. Only right now, with them being late and all, it was getting hard to separate his quickened heartbeats from that other night when he’d felt them so strongly too.

He realized he was muttering under his breath and shut up quickly. It was a habit he’d picked up at the pen. Some banker who’d offed his business partner had told him that muttering made people stay away from you. Leroy’d started doing it one evening when one of the thugs seemed willing to come beat on him for some sport, and he’d found that the thug turned away pretty quick when Leroy didn’t respond to his taunting but just kept on muttering. The thug had made his dumb friends laugh by making fun of the crazy dude talking to himself, and that had been it. The habit of muttering had stuck. The Boss-man told him to cut it out, that it was freak-show quality stuff that would scare away his clients. Didn’t need the muttering, though, to scare them away. Since they were so late that Leroy just assumed that they weren’t coming.

Just as he took his last puff and was flicking the butt into the road, he caught sight of headlights coming towards him. That moment seemed to stretch into forever. Leroy saw the headlights, saw the flare of his cigarette hitting the ground, saw the man’s chest torn open eight years ago, saw the bars of his solitary confinement when he’d raged at first, saw the eight wasted years. He saw it all in that one instant, and instinctively turned and jumped over the railing of the highway into the adjacent field. He ran through it, the dew making the ground slippery and the plants moist. He slipped, fell, hands covered with mud where he caught himself in the wet earth. He stayed down, heart beating, and listened.

He heard the idling car. He heard voices, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. The blood was pumping so loudly in his ears that he felt that they must have turned into beacons of sound, broadcasting to all the crooks he’d ever known, telling them all that Leroy’d turned soft. That jail had reformed him. That Leroy wanted to clean up his act and never think of how another deal gone bad could turn into a gaping hole in a man’s chest.

He stayed down for a long time, long after the car had gone with the dealers in it. He lay in the damp earth until the sun rose, until the plants and ground around him seemed to start steaming. When the sun warmed the back of his still sweating neck, the warmth gave him goosebumps and shivered. The involuntary movement jarred him, and he finally managed to make his stiff limbs listen to his brain. He sat up, and stared around him. The field he was in looked nice, tended, except for the long path he’d made from the highway where all the plants were trampled, bent and broken. Like him, like Leroy the ex-crook, the ex-brave, the ex-badass.

There was a house a few hundreds yards away, at the end of the field. Leroy got to his feet, shaking, and took a good long look at it. He’d go there, ask about making amends for the ruined crops. Ask if he could work to pay for some food. Maybe if he’d prove he was strong and just as able as any man to work a long day in the sun, they’d let him stay for a while. Rent a room for his labor. That is, if there was anyone in there. With his luck, it’d be some old bag who hired illegals to work her fields, or some senile man with fifteen sons who did everything that needed to be done. But then again, maybe it’d be a husband and wife and a little boy who needed some extra hands to help get the harvest in proper. Leroy started towards the house, thinking that soon enough he’d find out.

Winter Break

I’m officially on winter break!

This makes me joyful. While the past few months have been eye-opening, difficult, wonderful, mind-expanding, glorious, interesting, intense and any other number of adjectives – while all this is true, it’s also true that I’m not sorry that my first semester in college is officially over. I’m through the first hump now, and I know more of what I can do, what’s expected of me and how well I can perform. I’m pleased with my studies – rather, I’m ecstatic about them. I never thought that I could truly enjoy intense studying as much as I did – that is, I always knew that I’d enjoy learning new things in college, but my satisfaction and pleasure in it in reality exceeded my wildest dreams.

Still, I’m happy that I have a break now. I have almost a month to air out my brain a little and go back to school feeling refreshed and eager again. I truly find it rather astonishing how much knowledge I feel I’ve gained over the past months, as well as how much work I’ve done. My mind still reels at the notion that I wrote somewhere around 150 pages throughout the past three-and-a-half months.

Now that I’m back, I’m going to be kicking myself back into my proper writing/blogging regime. I miss the creative side of my brain and intend to use it again during the break I have. This shouldn’t be too difficult a task, if only because my recently acquired insomnia causes me to lie in bed for hours thinking about characters and things I want to write about. Next post should finally be something more than a useless, silly ramble like this!

A College Essay

Months ago, around September and October, my days were spent at work, studying to become a customer service rep, and at home, slaving away over essay after essay for the colleges I was applying to. I’ve been looking over them lately, and many are extremely similar since they were built over the same mold. Here is one, however, that I like because of its genuine explanation about why I’m so looking forward to college.

Many people, myself included, have a very hard time enjoying elementary and high-school education in and of itself. This is especially true here in Israel, where many school years begin with a teachers’ strike because our schools don’t get the funding they need, and thus teachers aren’t getting paid what they should. This, in turn, leads to ever-fewer people choosing teaching as a profession, which means that the teachers we students get are often there because teaching was their last resort, or  because they once wanted to be teachers, but the years of working in a zero-respect job with hardly more than blank paychecks have made them bitter.
Another reason why many people don’t enjoy their high-school education is because we don’t really get to choose what to study. Certain things are forced upon us and then taught in such a way that leaves them joyless, the necessity of studying them rendering them dull.
I tried, as much as possible, to enjoy my studies to the fullest despite the way they were taught. I tried to make history come alive despite the droning quality of my teacher’s voice, tried to make literature exciting despite how it was hacked to pieces and dissected in class as if that was the only way to analyze it, tried to make the hours of grueling math homework on the weekends be cathartic and a source of pride rather than an unbearable chore. I succeeded, sometimes. But it’s hard to be enthusiastic about your studies when there’s little help or support from the school.
This is why I am so excited to be going to college in the United States, and also why I am reluctant to choose a major straight off. I’m so enthusiastic and willing to explore different subjects for a year or two before declaring my major, and I feel that this will rekindle my passion for learning new things. I do know that I might well end up majoring in English – but then again, perhaps I will major in Writing or Psychology or maybe even Drama. My interests are varied and as of now, I cannot choose which field I want to study exclusively.

A Thirst For Knowledge

I’d like to be able to say that I posses such a thirst. No, that’s not right. I do thirst for knowledge and I do love to learn new things – but I need to have good teachers in order to be passionate about a new subject or idea that I study. Good teachers are fiercely hard to come by in today’s education system, and so oftentimes in high-school I was either bored out of my mind, or else I was just utterly disinterested even though I knew that I could, theoretically, care about the subject.

I have a good friend who I can’t help but be jealous of – she is one who truly possesses a thirst for knowledge. There was a time when she just read Wikipedia articles every day and jumped from subject to subject, just out of pure curiosity. She teachers herself French, and doggedly studies it, not letting herself get lazy and forget about it. She even managed to memorize an insane amount of information during an army course and somehow find it interesting even though much of it was dull lists of former-generals and ranking systems.

Hopefully, though, once I resume my studies, I’ll have better teacher. Ones who are actually passionate about their subject and about imparting knowledge to their students.

Wind

Wind whispers through the small crack between the window and the wall and enters the warmly lit apartment. It skips all over the kitchen chairs, startling the cats, and cackles with merriment as it passes the whirring refrigerator. The wind plays up and down through the whole kitchen, brushing the coffee mugs, the kettle, the toaster. It moves on into the open living room, investigating the television and blowing dust into it and making the leaves of the plants sway slightly as it brushes them.

The wind keeps going and moving and flowing through the house, shying away from the hot heater and making odd noises as it rattles the doors in their frames. It soon reaches the cold bathrooms, and leaps up the walls to fill in the very corners with it’s cool cruelty. It brushes the cold taps and dances across the mirror.

Eventually the wind reaches the only room with any noise in the house, just a second or two after it began its investigation of the place. It cools the face of the teenage girl in her room, reminding her that she is alone in the house, alone apart from the kittens and the wind. The wind ruffles her hair and then escapes through the window behind her. It has learned a mood, a house, a person, a home, all in the space of a few moments, and it will keep darting across the many houses and apartments, and will keep gathering emotions, feelings, sights and sounds.

My Goal – To Have Voices In My Head

Writing descriptions is all very well, but no work of fiction is complete without dialogue. It doesn’t have to be incredible, it doesn’t have to be witty, it doesn’t have to be much – except that you have to be able to hear it. You have to able to have two characters, two characters that feel real, and you have to know that when you’re reading, or in my case writing, their conversation, you can actually hear two distinct voices in your head that make sense.

You wouldn’t think that would be such a hard thing to practice. It is though. I’ve realized lately that I love writing descriptions and indeed, I know I write them fairly well, at least well enough. But I don’t know, or rather haven’t attempted to know, how to write dialogue, and that’s bad. I need to learn how. The problem is that I can’t just practice dialogue for the sake of itself. I need to have a situation, characters, voices that I can clearly imagine.

I’m not managing to find a way to practice this. I might be obsessing over something silly, but I truly feel I need to learn to write believable conversations. And for that I’ll need people, stories. So that’s what I’m going to try to work on in the next few days.