It Was Warm and Cold and Round and Square

I found a mystery on the beach today, half-buried in the sand. There were plenty of people around. Sunbathing, building sand-castles, running in and out of the sea. When they ran in, they were usually dry. When they ran back out, they were always wet. The water was cold that day. No one stayed in for very long. I didn’t wear my bathing suit. I was just in shorts and a t-shirt with the name of the company I work for inscribed on it. They give me free things like that sometimes. Once I got a big duffle bag. I use it to carry my laundry down. Some people say that’s free advertising. I say it’s a free bag.

I stepped right on the mystery at first. I was barefoot. My shoes were with the blanket I’d spread out on the sand. I didn’t want to take my shoes off at first. But the blanket kept flapping up in the wind and I needed something to weight it down with. So I took my shoes off. They were the kind you can wear without socks. So I was both shoeless and sockless. Completely barefooted. Once, feet were considered erotic. I guess they still are for some people, if you can believe what you read in the tabloids.

My foot still has a mark on it. The mystery was sharp. I jumped away from it and yelled a little yell. It hurt. Nobody was watching, though. Everyone was too involved in what a nice day it was. That’s probably why no one found the mystery before I did. Even though my foot was stinging, I got down on my knees to look closer at the thing that hurt me.

It was round and square and triangular. I pulled it out of the sand. It was pretty small. It was heavy and light. It was clear and opaque. It sang a little tune when I shook it. It rattled. It was the most ordinary and mysterious thing I’d ever seen. I guess that’s why they call it a mystery.

I took it home. I wrapped it in the blanket first. My neighbors would never let it stay on this street if they saw it. We’re a no-pets zone. Nobody wants dog poop on their lawn. I don’t have a lawn. I have a rock garden. It’s very relaxing. I use a rake and make shapes in the sand. Then I walk on all the zigzags and see my shoe-prints. I wear different shoes every day so that I won’t get bored. I have almost thirty pairs. That’s just enough.

Dish & Tin [Flash Fiction]

I woke up in the evening, oversleeping my alarm clock by two hours, as usual, and stumbled out of bed to look something to put in my mouth. My stomach was like a gaping black hole that was consuming all my other organs into it, excruciatingly slowly. I wasn’t sure when I had eaten last, but it had probably been sometime during that day, although the light outside made me think it was dawn rather than dusk. I always feel effed up like that after a nap, but hey, what else am I supposed to do when I work nights and still have to get up in the morning for classes? Naps are the only way I can keep my eyes open and my wits about me. Last week someone on the same block I work on got some serious booze stolen from her because she wasn’t paying attention to the monitors. Working at a convenience store during the night shift is no joke. If anything is missing from the register it comes right out of my paycheck.

My disgusting roommates left the sink full of dishes, like they always do. I hate them. I really do. I sometimes have violent dreams about what I do to them – I think I’ve killed them in several different ways, all painful and quite bloody. I’ve been watching too many gory tv shows lately, I guess. Or maybe I’ve always had a sick imagination. It’s kind of hard to know, because when I was a kid, sandwiched right between three older and three younger siblings, I kind of lost track of whose ideas were whose. When you share a room all your life, even in college, you sometimes end up losing track of when you come up with things and when other people give you ideas. I know from psych classes that everyone influences everyone, whether we want to or not. That’s just how it is, I guess. Makes sense. I don’t think I’ve really influenced anyone, though. I’m pretty boring.

Here’s an example. I always eat the same thing after I nap. Like now. I scraped out one of the pots that one of the bitch roommates left in the sink – I don’t even know what was in there, it smelled so foul, I think she might have marinated something in Bud Light – and then I washed it a few more times and then I made myself spaghetti with tomato sauce. Best dinner in the world. When everything sucks, you end up kind of taking pleasure in the little things, like how pasta always tastes the same, reliable like the old rag doll I brought from home and keep hidden under my pillow so no one will see it and laugh at me.

After I ate, I threw my plate into the sink. It broke. I think I threw it a bit too hard. I stood there for a while, with my hands on the counter, and tried to convince myself not to pick up the pieces of the plate. To just leave them there and let the others deal with it. But I ended up picking them up. And, like I always do, I also ended up doing all the dishes in the sink. I don’t know why I do it. It’s not like they ever say thank you, or even acknowledge that the dishes have been magically washed while they’ve been away, doing whatever it is that they do. For all I know they actually think that we have a magical house-elf that cleans everything for us. But I just can’t leave dishes in the sink before going to work. It’s too depressing to know that when I come back home I’ll have all those dishes sitting there, just looking at me, the stains on them like growths from a bad skin condition. That happens sometimes anyway, even after I wash them, because the roommates sometimes have parties when I’m not there to make a noise complaint to the security company on campus. And then I end up doing those dishes at five in the morning, before I take a shower.

I pick up my coat and my book-bag, and my tin with the weed in it and I leave the room. So okay, so I smoke weed. I promised Mom that I’d quit, but I deserve one luxury, don’t I? It’s all my money, after all. And I need something to take the edge off. Something to keep me going.

Forgotten Ground

There is nowhere in the city where people don’t put their feet inside of their shoes, their sticky, stinking shoes, with gum and grime and dog waste and spit of a thousand disgusting young men on the bottoms of their souls. No, that is not a mistake, in case you were wondering. I never make mistakes. I am deliberate a fault, each and every one of my fault lines is purposeful and is there to make you trip and fall and break your necks, the same necks you take such pains to make smooth with operations and suctions of various sorts and different kinds of nips and tucks and pulls and lifts, as if you can climb into an elevator and make time go back if you take it from the seventieth floor to the twentieth floor fast enough but what you forget is that the hand that you use to press the buttons will always look the same no matter what happens to the rest of you on the way.
The only places that are forgotten are misnamed thus because things that are forgotten are done so by accident, but these, these places are as purposeful and deliberate as each of the cracks I put in the sidewalks for you to slip and trip and pool your blood and life and your lifeblood in. The forgotten grounds are always remembered by those who live in them and wish they could forget about them and return to the places they came from, the places they used to live and that they fled from because they thought that they could come here, where everything is oh so much better because that’s what you tell them on your black boxes with people smiling so brightly with little white pearls replacing their teeth.
There are no forgotten grounds. There are only those neglected by the shoes of those who think that their souls are so much cleaner and that their behinds never let out a single spray of brown waste and that there is nothing but smooth plastic between their legs and that the pits between their arms smell of the sweetest perfume at all times. Those people don’t even really think that this is the truth but they wish it was so deeply that they try to make everyone else in the world believe that it is and it is there, in their minds and hearts, that the real forgotten wastelands of kindness and feeling and truth lie.

Feeling the Years

Ever since coming home from school, I’ve returned to taking voice lessons. My teacher wanted me to be in the music-school’s end-of-year concert, which is how I found myself roped into singing the lead in Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as doing backing vocals for half a dozen other songs.

The other girls singing with me are of various ages between eleven and eighteen. I’m the oldest by three years, having recently turned twenty-one. Let me tell you, nothing makes a twenty-one year old feel her years like spending hours with girls six years her junior and realizing that they’re actually not as interesting to her as the eleven-year old. What is it about the middle teenage years that seems to erase half their brain-cells? One of the other singers, an incredibly talented girl who’s also very sweet, polite and bubbly, actually takes Justin Bieber seriously and thinks that he’s the bee’s knees.

Then there’s the issue of the guy who used to be my guitar teacher when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen him for ages, until tonight when I found out that he was leading the rehearsal we were having. Since seeing each other he’s become more clean-cut and I’ve had time to go wild and come back down a little again. It was strange seeing him and realizing that six years had passed since spending weekly hours together with our guitars. Knowing that I’m now at an age where he looks at me like an equal, an adult, is frightening in some ways, exhilarating in others.

Growing older is strange, but so far it’s not actually displeasing.

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.

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.

Blllrraghl

In acting classes, there are always those extremely odd sessions where the teacher tells everyone to start speaking gibberish. I have to say that apart from being one of the sillier exercises a person can endure, it is also extremely interesting. I know that it might sound strange to say that a bunch of people standing around and making noises that are reminiscent of two-year olds’ babble is interesting, but it is.

Let me try to explain my point. People communicate by tone of voice and facial expression as well as by speech. For instance, a person can say the word “sure” and mean a few different things. They might mean “sure, yeah, right” in a sarcastic way, they might mean “sure” as in “okay,” or they might mean “sure” as in “oh, alright…” The only way we can distinguish between the possibilities is by the tone of voice and the expression used, as well as the body language the person uses while he or she is speaking.

The exercise of speaking gibberish is fascinating, because people can actually enact whole scens of love, friendship, anger or betrayal by not using any real words at all, but rather by using body language, facial expressions and tone of voice to make their meaning come across. It’s a terriffic exercise, and even though it’s hard to let yourself go and make pointless sounds for an hour, there’s a catharsis in being able to throw away all dignity whatsoever in such a performance.