Relation

Walking around campus, I live. I breathe, the cold air entering my lungs and exiting through my parted lips. I can’t exhale through my nostrils because the low temperature and the freezing wind causes an uncomfortable running of the nose, and so I can only breathe out into a tissue.

But the air that once hurt my very bones and caused every patch of meager flesh to vibrate with fear and chill, is now refreshing and delicious. There’s always a hint of woodsmoke in it, and snow piled up amongst the branches of bare trees. Not only are the smells now accessible to my senses, but also the sounds – the laughter, the murmurs, the ringtones and shouts, the starting up of cars and the shutting of windows – these don’t make me wince as they once did.

It is all life, surrounding me, astonishing me, comforting me and convincing me day after day that I am here, I am alive, I am well. Time passes bit by bit, but the watches and clocks hold no terror for me anymore. Where once I needed the seconds to fly and the minutes to race, I now accept their slow or fast movements as their own and trust to them. Where once my heartstrings pinched and my throat filled with that hard, unmistakable lump of emotion, now my pulse is quiet and normal and my throat is clear and dry.

Has the world changed? Surely not. It is only my relation to it that has.

Boys Are Mean

Here are three things you need to know about me in order to understand why the following incident means something to me:

1. I have piercings. Eleven, to be exact. Five in my right ear, three in my left ear, one in my nose and two in my bottom lip. Why? Because it’s a personal fashion choice as far as I’m concerned. I used to be a sort of tomboy goth in high-school, wearing band t-shirts and black cargo pants all the time. Then I went a little emo in my fashion sense – tight sweatshirts with skulls on them and skinny jeans. Then I went indie, trying to find witty t-shits to go with my jeans and Vans sneakers. Now I’m sort of in between things, I guess. When I go out to a club, I try to look as goth as I can, because I go to music-clubs that have metal or dark electronic music. Day to day, though? I wear tank tops and regular jeans.

2. My weekly exercise is four extremely brisk walks a week. My speed is almost at five miles-per-hour. What do I wear when I exercise? Just a tank top and short-shorts, because it’s already very hot here. Also, and this is the weird part, I read while I walk. I physically take whatever novel I’m reading at the time, and bury my nose in it. I have good peripheral vision, and I’ve never walked into a tree or a person or a lamp-post or what-have-you. I DO know it’s weird, and even though I HATE the comments I get (“Woah, reading and walking, impressive!”  “What’s more attractive, your book or me?” “Hey, what chapter are you on?” “Look at her, she’ll kill someone like that!” – these are all quotes translated into English, and all are said with extremely mocking tones.) I’ve learned to live with them.

3. I’m seriously oversensitive.

I realize that I just wrote a lot more than three things about myself, but I’ll let them stand as it is. Three is a powerful number, after all. Now, to the matter of the title of this post.

Yesterday I took a walk in the afternoon. Towards the end of my regular route, I walk through this pathway that I love – it’s got houses tucked away behind walls on one side of it, and tall, thick trees in the other side. You can’t hear the traffic on that path, even though there’s a main road just over the wall of trees. It’s a place where lots of people run or walk, because it really is so pleasant, hearing the birds chirp away in the trees and seeing cats loll around in the sun. When I walked yesterday, though, I was alone. Or so I thought.

Towards the end of the path, three or four boys were sitting on a bench. They were probably eleven or twelve, but they all had that Israeli male attitude that lots of boys get here – it’s an attitude of over-confidence, of egos the size of the moon. It’s the sort of attitude that allows them to feel like kings of the world, and making fun of people doesn’t cause one twinge of guilt. But again, let me stress that these were kids.

As I walked by, huffing, puffing, sweating and reading, they started to laugh. As I got nearer one of them said “Yo, she’s a freak, be careful!” in a mocking, laughing tone [“freak” in Israel means anyone who has band t-shirts or piercings, basically]. I ignored them, although my face was burning with both anger and shame. When I’d walked past, one yelled that he could see my… erm, my behind. Maybe the shorts had ridden up a bit or maybe he was just making fun. Either way, I walked really quickly away from them. I read on, let the book and the motion soothe me, and got over it.

Today, I took another walk. Guess what? As I was walking up the last hilly part of my route, just five minutes from home, I saw a group of boys in the periphery of my vision. For a moment, I was thinking to myself “Oh no! Wait, it can’t be them again, these boys are quiet, they don’t sound raucous like that other group was.” Walking on blithely, I found out my mistake. As soon as I’d overtaken them, I heard “Yo! Look, she’s the same one from yesterday!” and “[Laughter] Reading again.” and “But she’s a freak, right?” and “But she doesn’t look like it!” and “Yeah, that’s what I said!” and finally, as I was ignoring them again and thinking that I must look like a right twerp, sweaty and red and reading, the last one said “[Laughter] She can’t here us again, see?”

I don’t know why this bothers me so much. For one, I feel hurt whenever anyone comments on my weird habits, but something about these boys’ pure malice as they talked about me loudly really got to me. Second, I guess I hate it that I never put any effort into what I wear anymore and prefer being comfortable to looking goth [which is still how I’d look if I had the money to go out and buy tons of new black items. But goth clothing is expensive, and wearing it every day takes effort]. Of course I know that it’s a silly thing to think and that if I’m comfortable, then I should stop looking for an “image”. Third – well, I guess I just am really oversensitive, and I let a few boys’ cruel remarks make me want to cry.

I do hope that I haven’t estranged anyone with this long, rambling post. You all know that I don’t tend to do this a lot and that I lean more towards trying to practice my creative writing here. But this incident was weighing me down, and now I feel all the lighter for having put it in words.

Guest Post: J.W. Nicklaus

When I first came to WordPress I did what I suspect most people do pre-blogging—I did some ‘reading around.’ If you’ve never ‘read around’ then you’re missing out; it’s much less complicated than other ‘around’ activities and the worst thing you can contract is a screaming case of lost time.

Anyhow, I came across a blog titled SlightlyIgnorant. The name alone was enough to intrigue me. I couldn’t tell you what the first post was that I read but to this day I frequent her blog, and I am genuinely thrilled to have been asked to guest-post here. Anyone who has read my comments to some of her posts knows of my appreciation for her talents—yes, I’m something of a fan :^)

This is the first of two guest posts I’ll be doing for Ms. Slightly. Beginning April 1st I’ll be doing a blog tour in support of my debut book The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. Appropriately she has asked me to relate how the book went from nebulous thoughts to bound printed word.

It was a stormy night, filled with the kind of thunder that makes the stars shake . . .

Okay, not really, but I’ve always wanted to lead off a story with something like that. Truth is I hadn’t the slightest inkling I’d ever attempt to have my stories published. Each time I’d write one I’d stow it away and re-visit it some time later, for revising or perhaps just out of simple nostalgia. What I discovered, though, was that when I shared this story or that, reader response wasn’t so much positive as it much as it was mostly emotion-based. This was a pleasant, if not unplanned, outcome; an ego-stroke, assuredly, but you didn’t need to spray me with India ink to make me realize the upside to such a gift. If I can make only one person smile, or another warm from the inside out, then how could I not want to repeat it?

I suppose the deeper question is Where does the inspiration come from? The easy answer would be “from experience.” The more esoteric answer, and more revealing, is that I draw from my personal well of hopeless romanticism. Where that comes from I can’t honestly pin down. Some stories are indeed based on actual experience: Blind and In the Name Of Love are two such examples. I could regale you with summaries of each one but then it wouldn’t be as fun to read them, would it! I will tell you that Blind stems from an incident that occurred one night as I left work. I happened upon a blind man who lived nearby but who wasn’t sure where his house was. Turned out we were standing right next to it. The oddness of the encounter prompted me to work it into a short story, mostly because I had the distinct impression I was meant to run into this gentleman.

Other stories, like Emissary and Winter Rose had their genesis in stories of utterly disparate narratives. I had entirely different ideas about each of them when I started writing each one,  and both evolved into something much more meaningful as I worked through them. Emissary, a story about a man who loses his beloved wife at sea, began as a story about a man who scales a suspension bridge at night only to sit atop one of the towers and question his life’s purpose—the original title was to be Bridge and Emissary. While I may return to the initial concept someday I am very pleased that Emissary is the first story in the book. Without a doubt it showcases my ‘voice’ and reveals a sliver of the romantic in me.

Winter Rose began as a tale about a man who’s capacity for hope had gone fallow, until he finds a solitary rose growing from under a blanket of snow. Suffice to say you’ll find no such imagery in the final story of the book, but I think the end result is far more emotionally gratifying.

Eventually I came to realize, after looking at a good number of short stories I’d written, that there existed a common thread of Hope that ran through most all of them. Some were just fun, some clearly uplifting, and a couple slightly darker. As the idea of querying possible publishers began to fester I lit upon the title and stuck doggedly to it: The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. It is nothing less than fitting. While the idea of putting my words out for all to see can indeed be frightening, I have come to the calm acceptance of two key facts:
(1) Not everyone will like my style, much less the stories themselves
(2) Conversely, there will be some who do . . .on both counts

I hope that many of you will tag along this month as I make my way through this virtual tour. I can’t possibly dream of having the kind of readership that Ms. Slightly, <a href=”http://joyerickson.wordpress.com>Joy Erikson</a> (you’ve <i><b>got</b></i> to see the one-way glass toilet!), <a href=”http://goodbadandugly2.wordpress.com”>The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly</a> (she’s <b>not</b> a morning person, but she’s got a wicked sense of humor),  or <a href=”http://uglyassopinion.com”>Ugly Ass Opinions</a> (a veritable Zion of Common Sense) have. But I hope, in my own way, to entertain those of you who choose to follow along or even read the book. I’ve vowed to be as punctual as possible about posting tour stops on <a href=”http://avomnia.wordpress.com”>my own blog</a>, so I certainly hope to see some of you along the way! :^)

My thanks again to Ms. Slightly for the opportunity to prattle on about my book.

Lucy’s Diary, May 16th

For those who don’t know, Alex and I are slowly playing a little game with these entries. His most recent entry, which this entry follows quite immediately, is here: http://crystalgeek.wordpress.com/2009/02/03/journal-part-ii/

May 16th, 2008, Morning, “Larry’s Diner”

Dear Diary,

I cannot believe that I haven’t had time to write in you until now. As a confidante, you haven’t been much use yet, but don’t fret, dear, you will get to know more than enough now.

Life at P&S is… let us say, fast paced. My mind has been taxed in every area possible, and I believe that instead of getting fuller, it is rather emptying out a bit of its intelligence as the days go by and I learn to conform myself to the strict policy of “no opinions allowed,” the general policy of the teachers here. There are a couple who seem willing to hear us speak with a tone of voice other than a flat, learned-by-heart drone, but those two – the literature teacher and, surprisingly, the biology teacher – are the only ones. Every other subject seems to be taught by rote and meant to be learned in no other way.

This, of course, is frustrating enough. What is even worse than my studies is, unsurprisingly, the general company that I am forced to keep. Peggy, Sophie and Maria – the infamous roommates from HELL – are all so concerned about sneaking razors into the bathrooms to shave their legs that they never realize that they have more than three brain cells at their disposal if they’d want them. I’m sure that with time my brain will melt as well and I will only worry about how to sneak cheap lip-gloss from the pharmacy past the teachers and into the school on our afternoons off – but for now, forgive me, Diary, if I still try to find some use for my poor brain.

The library here is fantastic, which is my only comfort. Oh, that is not to say that I don’t play along with the other girls – I do, because there is no choice – but whenever I’m doing my homework I tend to dawdle for a while after the others have given up, so as to sit in one of the comfy armchairs and read a bit.

You are now wondering, dearest and only friend, what I am doing in a diner on a morning such as this? Well, the truth is that I really shouldn’t be here. But you already guessed that, didn’t you? It’s not as bad as you think though, dearest. We’re allowed out Sunday mornings into the small, dreary town. Sophie and Maria were off to the arcade to look for James Dean types and Peggy and her friend Sue went to the pharmacy to score some more makeup. I decided to give them all the slip, and I came here to treat myself to some pancakes and maple syrup. I must say that the diner is a cozy place, and I’m enjoying the silence immensely. It is hard to be surrounded by incessant chatter all day long without a moment’s reprieve.

Diary, I have just noticed something rather odd. How very strange! There is a young man, very thin, with dark hair and dark clothing, who is sitting at another table – I believe he was on the flight with me! What a strange coincidence, to see him here. Who could want to come to a miserable little place like this? Diary, he is eating pancakes as well, and he looks tired to the bone, as if he were up half the night. He keeps forgetting to take bites though, because he’s on his cell phone, trying to understand someone’s directions to a place called “Gaitec’s Reach.” Silly man, he seems quite distraught – in a good looking sort of way.

Ah, well, I suppose I should order the bill and head back to the girls now… I’ll ask them what Gaitec’s Reach is, though, because it is such a rare, romantic sort of name that I’m quite curious!

I hope to be more diligent about our sessions from now on. I cannot promise a thing though, because I’m still trying to catch up on my studies.

Much love to you, Diary!

As ever,

Lucy

P.S. I talked to my wicked cousin, She-Who-Sent-Me-Here, and I conclude that she’s enjoying the silence of her big, empty house just fine. She says she’s glad of getting me away from all the “bad influences that those little friends of yours were” and that she’s “pleased at your progress in your studies – your teachers send me weekly reports, you see.” Thank goodness I managed to hide my belly-button ring from her, or I’d have lost the only thing I like about my appearance now!