Quiet Space Spills

The sound of spilling in a quiet space is never a positive one. Either someone has peed their pants, or their drink has poured all over their computer, or else they’ve vomited up the vodka from last night onto the front of their expensive thrift store sweater.

The quiet space makes every nanosecond, every inch, every gram of noise carry across the ceiling and in between the cubicles like the measles virus. It is a bad place to be clumsy. It is a bad place to have a cold. It is a bad place to let rip a heroic fart or a miscalculated burp.

Our coats spill onto one another, hung over the sides of cubicles and backs of chairs. Boots tumble sideways from their tucked in nooks when the door opens and the entire place shakes. It is a bad place to be heavy. It is inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. It is discriminating.

Compassion and jealousy and hatred permeate one another. Who has an agent, who has a book deal, who has a publicist. It’s the loud voices that have the most, or maybe the least. How can we tell when we are all so full of hubris as to think we belong?

It’s a paradox, an anachronism, something like that. It’s impossible. A quiet space full of so much noise.

You are not so good

You begin to realize you’re not as good a person as you wish were. You’re not sure whether this is because of who you are, who you’re comparing yourself to on a daily basis, who you’re aspiring to be, or what you’re keeping in your belly and is emerging, in fits and bursts, and shocking people. You think it’s the last of these. Because, after all, if you would raise things that worried you at the right time, they wouldn’t bubble up like boiling water. As it is, you end up burning people, and they resent you for it. They begin to think you’re not as good a person as they thought you were before. They think you are hiding malice in your throat and in your lungs.
You wonder if they’re right. Everyone hides evil inside them, but there is evil and there is malice and there is innocent selfishness. You know your evil, your malice, is not original. You know that it is a product of your fear and your embarrassment. But you know that others don’t know this. It bothers you that the innocent selfish are seen as better people, because they, after all, are innocent. Selfish, yes, but innocent. Selfishness is being appreciated in your current surroundings, more and more so. You don’t understand this. It puzzles you. You’ve never experienced people who admire it so much. It makes you wonder, and it is one of the poisons leaking into your veins.
Your skin is peppered with invisible needles, the syringes of these poisons, most of which are connected to your own head. Others, just a few, come from other people. But really, even they, are probably linked to your own head in a way you don’t quite understand. You wish you could get it. You wish you understood better how to pluck these needles out, simply cut them out of your flesh.

You sit and listen to people talk everywhere and you wonder what happens in their heads. You love listening to them so much. They distract you from everything else you should be doing. Their heads – you know – must be just as loud as yours, but you wonder how different or similar they are. You know that each of you, each and every one, must be wrapped up to some extent or other in their own private world, and that is fascinating. You want their stories. You want to know their stories.

Icarus

Suppose you were told that you could fly. Would you believe it? Let’s say you even woke up one morning and found that you had wings. Big, glossy wings, with feathers of all the right kinds and shapes and colors that you could wish for. Let us even assume that as you walked around your bedroom, or maybe your kitchen, you could feel those wings and gained control over them. You could flex them, shift them, even open and spread them wide if you have enough room. Your wingspan, we can assume, would be wider than you are tall, so you may knock over your grandmother’s favorite flower vase and break it, but then you may discover how useful your wings are in sweeping glass up. No pesky little shards left on the floor with those powerful feathers getting into every nook and cranny between the tiles.
Are you convinced of your wings yet? Can you hold their image strongly in your mind? Can you feel the bones in your back adjusting to the new weight that is suddenly set on them? Good. Now, suppose you were told that you could fly. These new wings of yours aren’t only decorative, as you may have thought, but they can actually support your weight when you leap off the top floor of the tallest building you know of. Would you protest? Would you say – Surely not, for humankind has no wings and cannot fly, this is a well established fact! Or would you, without considering it too much, take a drive to the nearest high rise, or maybe go right up to your own roof, spread your wings, look into the sunlight, and leap?
What if you knew there was a safety net spread out beneath you, just in case it didn’t work? Of course, nothing is full proof, and you might say that even if you really can fly, the ability might disappear in a few seconds once you’re not even over the net anymore. Alright, I understand your concerns. They’re valid. After all, no one ever told you, and you certainly never expected it yourself, that you would one day sprout wings and be told that you could fly. Say I promise to have four cars drive around with a net stretched between them so that they could catch you no matter where you drift to? Would that be enough, do you think, to make you jump off that ledge?
I can see your concern. It’s true, there are many risks to flying. There are other birds in the air who know their business there much better than you do. They may laugh at your flapping efforts or they might squawk when they see how big and ungainly the rest of your body is. Then there is the danger of severe sunburn – although that’s easily fixable if you wear long sleeves and make sure to rub a lot of sunscreen on your face. Perhaps you don’t think you’ll be able to navigate. It’s true, bird’s eye view is very different than seeing things from the ground. Suddenly, things are spread out below you, and you may feel that things are getting metaphorical as you fly around, above and superior to all the pesky human who can’t do what you’re doing. You don’t want to turn into Icarus, after all.
Of course, you must remember that if you can fly, that means others may be able to as well. Ah, you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you? I’m sorry, I can see how disappointed you are. And just when you were getting excited too. It’s a shame, yes, but you must remember that you can’t possibly be the only one who’s suddenly sprouted wings. Think of how large Earth is! True, perhaps it’s not as big as some other planets, but it’s quite big enough in our terms, don’t you think? There are enough people on the face of it to make it statistically very unlikely that you’d be the only one who was able to fly.
I’ve gotten rather sidetracked, haven’t I? The first question still stands. What if you were told that you could fly? Would you do it? Or would you sever your wings off in fear and then forever hide the stubby feathers and protruding bones by wearing big sweatshirts and promising that you never really liked swimming anyway? It would be a sad thing to live with severed wings. Almost worse than trying to fly and plummeting to the ground. At least, if you try it, you’ll be buried with the splendor of those glossy wings, and I promise that no one will forget you.

Finished?

I think I might have finished the first draft of my current work-in-progress. I know that it could go on forever in some ways, but I feel like my characters are saying that this is it, it’s enough, it’s the slice of life they wanted told and they don’t need me anymore to keep on living their lives.

This is extremely scary, because I’m going to be embarking on my first second draft now. I don’t even know where to begin. If anyone has any tips for me, I’d be grateful.

I’m feeling overwhelmed. I finished yesterday, but today I’m beginning to really understand the meaning of having finished the first draft. I feel a little bereft, a little lonely, but also gratified and fulfilled. The human capacity for emotion is a strange thing indeed.

Full of It [Flash Fiction]

The world outside my window seems to be covered in mist but I don’t know whether my vision is screwed up, my medication is affecting my eyesight, or there is simply a haze due to pollution and humidity. I find myself doubting my own perception a lot lately. Ever since I had that dream the other night, my reality has been compromised.

My boyfriend tells me I’m full of crap, of course. He’s tall, six-foot-something, and he has to bend down quite far to kiss me. Not that he does that a lot anymore. Usually he expects me to climb up on my tip-toes or stand on some higher ground and reach up to him. He still leans down to whisper in my ear, though. I used to love it, but not anymore, not since the dream. I made the mistake of telling him, yesterday, that his whispers were giving me the creeps. Maybe I could have been more tactful about it, but I was telling the truth, asking him to stop sneaking up on me like that. He blew a gasket. I’m not actually sure what ‘gasket’ is (according to Google, it’s “A shaped piece or ring of rubber or other material sealing the junction between two surfaces in an engine or other device.”) but I think that’s what he blew. He told me that I was losing it, and that if I wasn’t careful, he would force me into the loony-bin.

I’m not scared of psychiatric hospitals, though. I sort of, kind of, accidentally-on-purpose forgot to tell him that I spent a lot of time in them when I was a kid. Although I’m kind of still a kid. But you know what I mean; when I was prepubescent and innocent, I spent a lot of time in hospitals. They were quite helpful, actually. I wish I hadn’t agreed to quit therapy for my boyfriend. But he told me that we needed the money for a bigger place, and I caved in without really thinking about it. But I wonder what Sonia, my most recent psychiatrist, would have said about the dream.

A scream echoes outside, and I can’t tell whether it’s a cat or a baby. Sometimes they sound the same. Maybe my neighborhood is actually full of shape-shifting babies, turning from human to kitten and back again? There are old people in the park, with Filipino caretakers swarming around them, chattering in their local dialects, socializing with others who know the village where they grew up. The old people drool and blink at each other, silent. Actually, they’re not there now; but I know that they’ll be there soon, gathered around the benches, so I’m already prepared for the way they’ll all look and the conflicting emotions I’ll have when I see them.

I can’t really remember the dream from the other night. I think it involved old people. And Filipino caretakers. Maybe even babies morphing into felines. And maybe none of these things. The dream has passed beyond the veil of my coherent memories now, and all I know is that I feel, for the first time in years, bereft of something. It’s as if, when I woke up from the dream, I woke up into this life that I wasn’t really aware I was living. The thought has even occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t living in this body before I woke up the other day. Maybe I was an old person in a wheelchair, or a lonely Filipino sending money to my wife back home, or a baby watching in wonder as its fingers grow claws and its thumbs retract back into its skin.

My boyfriend says I’m full of crap, though, so maybe I’m just imagining things and foaming at the mouth, desperate for something different to come along and save me from the monotony.

Friday, 9:37PM

My thoughts run together, too fast to articulate in exact form. When I try to pluck at one specific strand, the others clamor for attention and I lose my grip. My mother told me today about the time I accidentally let go of a helium-filled balloon at a birthday party. Even though I had no memory of the incident, I could picture it clearly: myself, platinum blonde hair cut in a sort of shoulder-length bob, long bangs hitting my eyebrows, howling my little lungs out as I stared up into the blue sky into which my balloon was disappearing. My parents offered to bring me another, but I didn’t want it. I wanted my balloon back. Even at a tender age, I was already aware of the difference between something that I claimed and bonded with and something that just looked similar.

It made me think of the way we put our own signature on our things, and the way those items gain a personality and significance to us. The best example, I think, is probably our beds. I know that even though I love hotel-room beds, I never sleep as well in them, even though they’re often way more comfortable than the narrow, childhood bed that I still sleep in every night when I’m at home. I managed to claim my bed at school as my own by putting sheets I chose on it and leaving my books littered in it, but even that was a temporary measure, and I sleep better now that I’m back in my old bed than I slept anytime during the past months.

This morning was one of the hardest I’ve experienced in a while. My eating-disorder loopiness reared its ugly head and I spent a half-hour sobbing because of a stupid number that means absolutely nothing. Even with the sobriety of hindsight, however, I don’t know if I’ll react any differently next week if that number won’t have changed. It’s frustrating, and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m doing everything right, and yet some things are taking so long to change.

Sometimes I want to lose all restraint, to allow myself the perfect freedom to be who I am, as silly or dumb as that may be. But the only way I know how to do that is by getting drunk, something which I don’t enjoy as much as I used to, since it now comes coupled with the awful thoughts and anxieties about caloric intake. I’ve tried getting high a couple of times, and haven’t enjoyed that in the least, either. There is one person with whom I used to be able to be entirely at ease, but things have changed and now there is no one like that, even though there is something close enough to it to be valuable and dear to me.

Maybe restraint is alright, though. Maybe there is a balance to be struck within myself, without the need for outside influence. I just don’t know. My thoughts are all jumbled tonight, and I wish I were like a girl in a young adult novel, struggling beautifully towards something fantastic in the near future.

The Servant

The Servant walked through the halls and knew himself to be invisible. Every effort he made to please went unnoticed and unremarked upon. Every action he took was taken for granted, never acknowledged. Every breath that he took seemed to be silent and he so rarely used his voice that he almost forgot what it sounded like. He must be invisible then, perhaps not even substantial enough to be considered a living human being.

And yet his hands felt substantial enough when he lifted the dinner things off the table. The muscles in his arms hurt when he took the heavy coal box from one room to the next in the winter. His legs ached and his feet blistered as he trudged through the snow to get the carriage or the horses or the ponies for the girls in the winter. In every physical aspect he felt real and alive – so he cherished his work and bore it, day after day, because he felt through it what it was like to be a person.

On the other hand, he very much doubted that the Master or the Mistress or the little girls often felt such aches and pains as him and they considered themselves to be extremely alive – more alive than him for certain. Perhaps, if so, the pain he bore wasn’t a sign of being a person? Perhaps it meant something else – that he was like an animal, bred only to do the work for others. Of course, unlike animals, he received a sum of money for his constant drudgery.

Every time he remember the fact that he earned wages, The Servant felt slightly better. It was then that he would think of his free day once every two weeks; it was then that he would remember what it was like to whirl a pretty girl around the dance floor at the best tavern in town; it was then that he would remember that he knew how to laugh and that he could make others laugh too. So long as he was stuck in the house with Master and Mistress and the little girls, though, he felt he was invisible, a ghost that came to life only once in two weeks but was dead as can be the rest of his days.