Go Away

A chalky man walks around Dora’s brain. He’s hard to pin down, never stops long enough for her to get a good look. She knows he is a man, vaguely, or believes he is, because of the effect he has on her. He makes her squirm, not with pleasure, but with discomfort, as so many others have done before.

But the chalk man, unlike the others, doesn’t berate her. He doesn’t mutilate her. He doesn’t corrode her veins and swatches of her skin with verbal acid. His silence is far more terrifying. It is a waiting silence, a tense and pent-up silence, the kind of silence that you can pull like a piece of chewed up gum, pull and pull and pull until it snaps back and sticks to both fingers and is impossible to get off.

Dora walks through her life with this chalk man threatening her. His blurry outline haunts her when she works at the wood shop, overseeing the new people’s handling of saw and sander. He doesn’t distract her – Dora is not to be distracted – but she is as aware of him as of the cyst on her thigh that scrapes every time she walks. He is a physicality that she can put aside, that she can work with, but that she cannot erase with a hot compress.

One day, the chalk man walks through the doors of her workshop and looks around. Looks for her. Frozen, she stands next to a cabinet she has been decorating with delicate carvings, and sees him see her. She feels him come closer. She hears his voice inside her mind and ears both.

“Hi,” he says. “Long time no see.”

She wants to say I love you. She wants to say come back. She wants to say take me. She wants to say you hurt me. She wants to say, and touch, and forgive, and relive; she wants to drink beer in Munich and wine in Madrid; she wants to buy a house and decorate it with her furniture, and she wants him to carry her heavy things inside, to carry her inside too; she wants to erase his erasure of her.

“Go away,” she says. The live chalk man turns, a look of true disappointment blooming around his mouth and crow’s-feet eyes, but the chalk man in her head solidifies and keeps walking in circles.

It will take another year for the chalk man to blur again, to become unknown again, to restore Dora’s ability to keep her hands steady enough to work again. When the chalk man is blurry, he is safer. Not safe, never safe, but safer.

Quickie #5 – Stop

Think, for a minute, about the graduation ceremony you will never be a part of. And the seashell necklace strung together with seaweed crumbling dry on a neck fully formed and ready to be kissed across the Mason Dixon lines. Think about doors that won’t open and the secrets that aren’t behind them, that are actually right in front of you wearing Ronald McDonald red and yellow, jumping up and down to get noticed.
Think about the rest of it. The chairs you sit in and the people who think you’re worth telling stories to. And the Aw Shucks goodbyes of office doors and the hip caps on coal black heads.
Your life, yours, not mine, is made of stop and breathe moments and I am watching, and waiting, for you to come alive to them.

Exciting News!

I’ve been published in an anthology.

It’s titled After the Fall, and is a collection of a post-apocalyptic short stories.

I’ve known about this for quite a while, but it’s now been released on Amazon, and it looks lovely! So far, the anthology, published by Almond Press is only available as an e-book, but it will eventually be available as a paperback as well. If you’re interested in seeing it or purchasing it, click here.

 

Look forward to some more fiction posts during the coming days as well, as I’m queuing some up right now!

5 Years of This

This may be a bit of a sentimental post. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
It’s been five years. Five years since I opened this blog. In the past five years I’ve been diagnosed, medicated, enrolled, hired, accepted to, rejected, published – I’ve taken leave, applied, worked, written, studied, shared, departed, arrived at, met, said goodbye, recovered, relapsed, rerecovered, stuck to, made decisions, danced, drank, experimented, read, played, traveled, become. The actives outweigh the passives, all in all.

I don’t regret. It’s not easy, and it takes an active decision not to, but I don’t regret.

In the next week or two, I will be published in my first ever book – e-book first, then physical book. I will be linking here, of course. I will also continue posting fiction as often as I can. I won’t promise to be less sporadic than I’ve been recently, because, well, I know it’s pointless to make a promise I can’t keep. I can promise to try to post more – but I have also just received an acceptance to an internship position, and that and three intense courses at school may keep me pretty busy. Still, I’ve got some posts from this month of writing challenges that I will continue letting out slowly, and hopefully you will enjoy the mediocrity that comes of play as well as the more shining moments that come of experimenting with bizarre prompts.

Five years. Hard to believe.

30 Day Writing Challenge – 1

This month, I’ve been participating in a thirty day writing challenge with a friend of mine. The rules, for anyone who wants to take the challenge for any other time, are here. The first day’s challenge was: “Select a book at random in the room.  Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.” I had one of my housemates pick a book for me, believing I’d be biased if I picked on my own. She picked The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The yield is below. 

   And once more all the boys joined in his exclamation. They lifted him onto their narrow shoulders, their voices and bodies ragged from disuse. His fist signaled triumph to the waiting masses beyond the walls, where faces turned up in adoration to catch a glimpse of him, to call out his name. 
    “Patrick! Patrick!”
    And once more all the boys joined in his ridicule. They laughed at his slack-jawed disbelief, seeing the ruler hit his hand twice more. His skin, almost entirely covered by freckles, didn’t retain a red mark like many of the pasty children around him.
    “Patrick! Look at me when I speak to you.”
    He tilted his chin, straining. His neck was stiff on cold days. He met Teacher’s eyes, which darted away to stare at his forehead. Patrick hated this trick. It made him need to strain even more to try to meet Teacher’s eyes, but to everyone else it looked like it was he who was avoiding the man’s gaze. It made him look like a chicken. A little girl. Bad enough that he was a cripple. 
    “Now. I want you to please tell me what it was I was just saying.”
    Teacher had stopped asking Patrick direct questions – nine times five, Latin verses – because Patrick would answer them correctly. Now he played this game. There was only one right answer.
    “I don’t know, sir.”
    “Exactly. I would tell you to go stand in the corner, but, well. Sitting in a corner just isn’t the same thing, I think.” Teacher turned the ruler end over end between his short, stubby fingers, the flat wood seeming incongruous with his fleshy hands. The boys didn’t laugh outright, not with Teacher twirling his weapon lovingly like that – he could snap at any moment – but they exchanged looks and smiles, on the edges of their seats. “Instead, why don’t you just wheel yourself around the room while we continue the lesson?” 
    Two boys winked at one another. This was what they’d been hoping for.
    Patrick allowed his head to fall. The tension in his neck, the ache that went down his twisted back, ebbed. He slowly wheeled back from his desk, a large one that had to be made specially for him. He sometimes wondered whether it was this desk, this bigger, lower and definitely out of place desk, that made Teacher decide to make an enemy out of him. He was a good student, after all. His arithmetic and Bible recitation were both better than any other boy in the class. He remembered the historical dates that Teacher taught the class, banging his ruler on the desk for emphasis when the boys would begin to nod off during particularly hot and mosquito-ridden summer days. It didn’t matter. 
    His mother had told him that he was different, that God had made him different, and that men who were afraid would always remind him of it. Afraid of what, his mother hadn’t said. Certainly not of him, Patrick was certain.
    His wheelchair squeaked as he turned it, that was the thing. That’s why Teacher made him do this, this in particular. The desks were close enough to the walls that he couldn’t turn gradually, so each corner involved the execution of a slow turn with a few back and forths of the old wheels. It was a loud business, the second-hand wheelchair.
    Patrick’s mother had sewn a cover for the old padding, but he’d worn a hole in it with his finger so that he could see the old brown stain on the left side of it, which he was certain was blood. A soldier’s blood, from the Great War. A brave man, Patrick could feel it. 
    And once more all the boys in the back row wedged things into his seat as he turned around the room. They repressed their giggles and took whatever scolding Teacher gave them because he also coughed loudly at every squeak of Patrick’s wheels. His freckled face burned red with embarrassment but he touched the blood stain and tried to remember that he had nothing to fear. 
    And once more all the boys joined him in his exclamation. They stood in awe of the man with the clean-shaven face and close-cut hair who swept into the schoolroom and took Patrick up in his arms. His hand seemed larger than it had ever been before as he waved a farewell to the saluting, trembling, Teacher. 

Wendy’s Call [Flash Fiction]

Another call, another disappointment. Wendy put down the portable phone with the numbers that were all rubbed off from the rubber buttons and sighed. She was sixty-seven, almost, and it was time for a kitten. It wasn’t proving easy to find. A young voice had just informed her that the two males she’d been interested in had already been snatched up by someone else, someone with two daughters who wanted them to each have her own cat. They don’t work that way, cats, Wendy knew, but she didn’t try to explain this to the girl on the phone. She tried to hide her disappointment. She tried to tell herself it was going to be alright.

Doctor Kendall was a nice man. He’d been looking. He would keep looking. He knows I’ll take good care of a kitten, Wendy thought.

She got up from the kitchen table, where she’d been drinking a cup of tea. Her dressing gown was tied tightly around her waist, broader now than her hips. Her whole family was like that, holding weight around their middles, like barrels of rainwater. Her feet were bare on the brown carpeting, and she wriggled her toes in it for a moment. The cleaning gentleman had been over that morning, and the carpet was fluffed from the vacuuming, and it felt soft and wooly. The way she always imagined it would feel to stand in a cloud, even though she knew, of course, that standing in a cloud would mean falling right through it and getting soaked to boot. It was moments like these that made Wendy feel silly about being sixty-seven, almost.

Her eyes, handsome gray and the only vanity she still had, would have to be made up. It was time to go out. She did the dishes first, only the tea-cup and saucer and a small plate where she’d been nibbling some melon rinds, and thought about the rest of her day. She worried about not being home. What if she got another call about the kittens? She needed to give Doctor Kendall her cellphone number. She had one, though she rarely used it, but this was important.

The too-wide bed was where she spread out her clothes. A pair of sensible black pants. A bra, which was important, because she sometimes left the house without one and got stared at. She wanted to tell people that she’d been a flower-child and that bras were for conformists, but she really wasn’t up to long arguments, so she just wore bras when she went outside of her neighborhood. Around where she lived, people knew her. They knew she wasn’t as old as life had made her look.

Over her aching back and shoulders she pulled a light sweater, a big one, that had belonged to a long-ago man who had been bigger than her. A lot bigger, back then, but now the sleeves were long and the middle fit just right, hugging her tummy like maternity clothes.

She brushed her hair with her fingers. She didn’t look in the mirror. Why look, Wendy reasoned, when she was always surprised? Always disappointed? So she’d stopped.

Lifting the portable phone up she replaced it in its cradle, so it could charge. She checked her handbag for her keys, her wallet, her tissues, her Tums, her Advil, her lipstick – not that she often used it, but just in case – and her cellphone, which she had remembered, for once, to charge the night before. It was all there.

Wendy locked the door behind her and took the elevator down. She resisted the urge to go back up when she heard a ringing from one of the apartments. It wouldn’t be hers, she knew. She couldn’t hear her phone from outside anymore.

Found Poetry – Big Boggle

July 12, 2013 Big BoggleMy mother and I often play Big Boggle (5X5 tiles, not 4X4), which, for those who don’t know, is a word game in which you have a limited amount of time and you have to write down as many words as possible. Since we got to be too good at it, we decided a couple years ago to limit ourselves to four-letter words, eliminating the endless and obligatory three-letter words that show up way too often and make the game repetitive (tea, eat, ate, rat, art, tar, pat, tap, apt, etc.)

Tonight, for whatever reason, this list I made seemed to work very well as a slightly sinister, possibly political (class and gender commentary?) poem. It wasn’t on purpose, but as I was reading the words out, it just seemed to work out that way. So, as you see above: my first ever piece of found poetry. Read it however you want – with the crossed out words or without, across or top to bottom, it works out somehow. I’m quite proud of the bizarre and happy accident (less happy about sharing my atrocious handwriting, but, there you go.)

Introductions [in a post-ironic age]

I don’t quite know why, but I’ve apparently reached the point where I’m gaining new followers ever few days, whether or not I post. So – hi, everyone! I don’t now who you are, and you don’t know who I am, so let’s get some introductions out of the way. I’ll introduce myself, and my goals for how to keep you amused, and if you feel like saying hi and introducing yourselves in the comments, I’d be absolutely thrilled.

But instead of the usual introductions, which can be found at my About Me page, I’m going to list five things that are important to me, and why. Call it a journaling exercise. Maybe it’s just a late-night idea that feels good right now but will end up disastrous.

Important Thing number one: literacy. In the shape of books, in the shape of words on a screen, in the shape of the joy a child feels when she first realizes that the sign she’s seen across the street from her bedroom window since the morning she was brought home from the hospital reads “Abbas Hardware”. Literacy, the ability to read, the desire to read, and the access to life and knowledge that reading brings, is a relatively new priority in human history. More than any other technology, I’d argue that the printing press – invented in the 15th century – is the one that has had the longest-lasting consequences on humanity, and I am forever grateful for it. By being able to share and distribute ideas, we have developed into a people more humane in every possible way, which includes our direst deeds as well as our best.

Important Thing number 2: stories. Stories are everywhere. Did you tell your son about the coffee-machine breaking at work? Did your grandmother die yesterday, and did you run out of your town and into the forest and scream at the trees about how much you’re going to miss her? Did you see two brothers having a brawl in the street? Everything we experience, and the way we communicate it, is made up of stories. We tell stories about our lives, we tell stories about our histories, we tell stories about our opinions and why we hold them. Stories are the magical spark of life that brings two people closer together – what is pillow talk, if not mutual storytelling? – and can rip their relationship apart as well. There are two sides to every coin, but in my experience, people who are aware of the storyness of life, usually don’t exploit it. When they do, there is an element of the admirable fraud about them, a place inside them that seems to love the story for its own sake in addition to what the story can do for them.

Important Thing number 3: empathy. Since reading is my favorite thing to do in the world, and since my writing has been born of that love, I’ve found that empathy – as well as sympathy – are the most important tools for my trade. If that sounds cold… fair enough. You’ll have to trust me when I say it’s probably a defense mechanism and an attempt to not sound a) like a hippie or b) like a spiritual nutjob. Because I am neither. But empathy is important to me, and though I curse my emotionally roiling innards all too often, I wouldn’t exchange them for the world.

Important Thing number 4: comfort. A broad concept, yes, but it is important to me in the broadest sense. Comfort is something that I believe can be found and made for oneself. In a room that is messy, you can find the one spot that you can feel neat in, or, if you’re a messy person, you can find the one spot in a neat room in which you can feel sloppy and unhindered. Comfort doesn’t mean a certain kind of lifestyle; rather, it means making the life you live accommodating in the smallest, minutest of ways. Having a pair of pants that are soft and cozy and that you change into the moment you get home, for example. Or tucking the extra napkins you got at McDonald’s into your bag so that you’re never caught with a runny nose and nothing but long sleeves to handle it with. But comfort isn’t only physical. It’s also emotional, interpersonal. Comfort can be sitting with your friends, the people who you consider your alternate family, and being absolutely silent with them – without feeling awkward. Comfort is being able to tell a loved one that you’re sorry, but you have to cancel plans. Comfort is being able to be alone, with yourself, inside your head, and not want to scream and claw your way out of it.

Important Thing number 5: balance. Specifically, in this case, balancing introversion with the desire and need to lead a semi-extroverted life. Difficult, yes. Necessary, maybe. Possible, absolutely.

 

Well, there’s my ramble. New followers, if any of you are actually reading this and you aren’t spambots, either take up the challenge – what are five things that are dearly important to your life? Or, say hi in the comments, let’s be friends!

Joss Whedon – the man, the legend, the awesome

A couple weeks ago – actually, a week and a half ago, to be precise – I went to a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing at the Oxford Union. I was privileged and lucky enough to get to interview Mr. Whedon himself, along with his stars, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker, for almost half an hour. I then attended the general Q&A session at the Union, along with a whole lot of other fans who’d waited in anticipation for the event.

You can find the interview here and the article summarizing the amazing Q&A session here.

 

Two of my favorite people, talked to and interviewed in one year, in the span of not even three months. Not bad, for a loopy writer going into her senior year, if I do say so myself (but seriously, if you’d asked sixteen-year-old me if almost-23-year-old-me could do something like this, she’d laugh in your face and tell you to go pick on someone else and not make fun of her, please).

 

A Bridge of Hope and Spit

“I like to be in the dark sometimes.”

“Me too.”

We lay together, side by side, barely touching. Or is it lie? Do we lie together? Which is the correct conjugation of the verb? We care about language, this is a crucial issue. If we lie together, does the insinuation extend beyond the simple act of bodies naked limbs stretched side by side on a too narrow bed minds on different planes of consciousness which we have already agreed are impossible to bring together in any substantial way? If we lie together are we lying to ourselves and each to the other as well? There’s no need to raise this question aloud, of course, it will only spoil the thoughts racing in our minds which may be exactly the same and may on the other hand be entirely different, but are equally valid. The gap is unbridgeable or is it that the bridge is ungappable? We can’t remember, that conversation was too many pleasures ago.

“Is this okay?”

“Yes. Is this okay?”

“Yes.”

We talk about books and music and likes and dislikes and our heads are filled with mush and gray matter and our lips move around words which mean things or don’t and the hour grows later and light grows brighter and the birds chirp and our voices grow softer. Soft like what, is this important? Are they soft to the touch like a piece of felt that is smooth when you run your fingers along it both ways, or soft like velvet which is so smooth it may induce tears when touched one way and suddenly course and upsetting when touched against the grain, like a cat being pet to make its fur stand up? And on the subject of furs are the tree version used for Christmas celebrations absent from both our locales as they seem to be at first glance or is Christmas celebrated in a half of this darkness that is still unexplored?

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”