Archive for April, 2013

Absurd – 15 min.

Amelia felt the tears burn behind her eyes as she flipped the page in her old, brown diary. She remembered this ugly part of her life, some five years ago, with painful clarity.

Perhaps I should just break up with P now to save him from me.  I feel so unstable, so ugly, so unlovable.

“Run, girl,” she whispered to the pages.  “Run before he can—“           

I started seeing a therapist today.  I hate these medications I’m on.  One makes me so sluggish I can barely function, the other is to combat that, but it’s not working yet.  P says I should keep taking them.  I feel nothing inside anymore, I can’t connect, I can’t see out of the haze.   The stupid thing is, these meds are anti-seizure meds.  That’s how they treat the bi-polar.  This and therapy.  My brain isn’t moving fast enough to seize, so that’s good, I guess.

But ten pages later, it was too late.  P and I are broken up.

The black ink was striking and unnerving in the white space.  Amelia remembered writing that way on purpose, trying to capture how stark and stiff she felt when P had told her over dinner at her apartment that he thought it best if they parted ways.  He’d knelt beside her as she sobbed her non-understanding and pleas for another opportunity to try to set things right.  In trying to comfort her, he suddenly forged the connection they’d been missing for months with the kindness in his eyes that had been banished after conversations with his sister.

They made love that night.  Amelia felt the horror of the action wash over her again and again in cold waves.  It was completely absurd—“Go from me, I don’t love you” should not mean “Let’s get naked.”  Yet that was where they were.  Amelia remembered the slow motion because even as her body reacted to P’s , as he pulled her and she pushed him towards her bedroom, she knew it was absurd and wrong and that pain was coming.

Amelia could feel the space around her growing, like a cavernous vomitorium to the theatre of her mind, as she sank back into that fog that rose from the pages of the brown diary.   The ink itself reached for her, stained her fingers, and pulled her down so she could relive each moment as recorded all those years ago.

A gentle tap on the doorframe caused her to jump and look around to see her husband.  She sprang to her feet and ran into his arms.  “Hi!” he said, surprised.  “Cleaning up?”

Amelia nodded.

“Find anything interesting?”

She shook her head, burying her face into his warm, strong neck.  “Just some old memories.”  She looked at him.  “I love you.  How was your day?”

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Overcoming the Monster – 15 min.

           “It’s a growing threat, Your Grace.  Our correspondents in the East write that the Orient army is fortifying itself for what could be an invasion.”

            Aubra leaned back against the bone stays of her green corset, her eyes half-closed in thought.  The information being presented to her now was nothing new, thanks to Theresa’s vast spy network.  She still had to let her Council do its job.  “Are we to assume they are preparing to attack or is the Khan sending supplies to reinforce his men?”

            Sixteen pairs of eyes slid towards her.  “Your Grace,” a voice from the end of the table came to Aubra’s ears.  “With all due respect, the idea that the Khan could be doing anything other than preparing an invasion is naïve indeed.”  The silence that descended upon the room was deafening.  Aubra smiled icily.

            “He has not historically been a quiet neighbor. What exactly is he sending to these outposts?”

            “ Supplies, horses, likely munitions and extra weaponry,” another voice floated towards her.  “They are probably laying supply lines back to the capitol as well.”

            “What is the Council’s recommended course of action?  Should we not send someone to ensure these reports are true?”

            “ We should,” a voice at Aubra’s elbow.  “Your Grace.”  A dark young man bowed.  Aubra straightened immediately to hide how startled she was.  “Master Riley,” she acknowledged him.  “Was there something you had intended to share with the Council?”

            “Only that the Khan has been in power for over a quarter century, Your Grace, and he knows the business of running a far-flung kingdom better than we at this point.  He could be resupplying his outposts or he could very well be arming them for an invasion.  Were I in Your Grace’s position, I should send a trusted, informed person to discover the absolute truth beyond the observations of a few jumpy noblemen—”

            This brought murmurs of discontent from the group.

            “—to better inform us so that we could act appropriately.”

            “And if the Khan is preparing for invasion?”

            Riley’s face, already masked in partial shadow, grew darker.  “We would have no choice but to call upon our allies.”  Aubra’s brow furrowed.

            “Your Grace!” a messenger clad in royal standard approached Aubra hastily, knelt, and presented her with a sealed letter.  Aubra wondered if her Private Advisor, Tymon, had had time to read it.   As she lifted the wax seal and scanned the hastily written words, her face paled. 

            “Your plan comes too late, Master Riley,” she said in a less than satisfied tone.  “The Khan has already made his intentions clear.”

Wedding – 15 min.

We’d had to put off our wedding for weeks because of some stupidity on the part of my lenders.  I was in the middle of buying a house and the deal should have closed at the top of November.  Instead, it was the middle of the month, and the lender’s money “wasn’t there” despite my having been approved, the money promised, and the closing papers signed.  There was nothing I could do.   I was advised not to change anything about myself—i.e. my marital status—lest I have to go through the closing process again but this time take new information into account.  

After days of upset, everything settled out, the house was mine, and we rearranged our meeting with the Justice of the Peace for 8p, November 16, 2011.

I went to work that day, trying to keep my mind off the wonderful thing that was to happen that night.  I didn’t want to make the day slow down more than I knew it would!  I went home—to my very own house!—to meet my soon-to-be husband and get ready.  In non-traditional fashion, we dressed side-by-side in our good clothes.  I remember putting on my makeup as he buttoned his shirt.  We stepped out of the house as a non-married couple for the last time at 7.30p.

We made it to the justice’s office about 15 minutes later and stood outside for a few minutes, waiting for him to arrive.  He appeared and opened the locked door for us.  We went through a door, down a hallway, through another door, and into a small courtroom.  Presenting all necessary documents and fees, we couldn’t contain our delight.

I don’t remember the vows exactly, even though they were standard for the State, but I remember the look in my husband’s eyes.  I remember hoping he could see and feel the veracity in my eyes as I repeated the dusty words that bound us “in good times and in bad.”  I remember feeling the hope and excitement in his hands as we exchanged rings.  When the judge said, “You may kiss the bride” there was only silence and his shuffling as we did so.   There were no other witnesses, no honor attendants, and no parents present. 

It was a moment all our own.

Coming out of the small, square, brown building, we saw my car had been covered with white paint, crepe flowers, streamers, and tin cans had been strung on the back bumper.  My dad said in mock-astonishment, “Quick! Here they come!” as he ducked behind the car.  My mom laughed and said, “You’re not supposed to be done yet! Go away!”

My husband and I walked to the end of the parking lot where we had a private, quiet minute together.  When we heard my parent’s car rev up and saw it drive away, we put on our best ‘shocked’ faces.  I called my mom.  “Someone vandalized my car!” I told her.  “They wrote sweet notes all over it and decorated it!”

“It’s like you just got married or something,” she said.

I agreed.  We went to my mother-in-law’s after that for champagne and cake.

As I write, it seems I am merely listing the evening’s events without emotion, but that is only because I am finding it difficult to convey how surreal and yet how strikingly clear everything was to me that night.   I remember the strange tiny things—the crickets, the noise of the traffic, the driving, and the shine on the forks as we cut into our cake.  I wore a purple and white polka-dotted dress with a beaded belt.  He wore a white shirt, black pants.  He looked fantastic.

The moment was just for us, a quiet act of determination to be bound together forever, symbolized by our round golden rings, a quiet declaration of our love for each other in complete commitment.   We plan to renew our vows with a church wedding some time in the future, and even further down the road we’ll do it again on a black sand beach in Hawaii with a traditional conch shell ceremony.   Nothing will replace for me, though, the look in D’s eyes and the strength of his hands as they held onto mine that night. 

 I love you, dearest.  Eternally.

Eavesdropping on Characters – 15 min.

“I tell you, I’ve had the worse end of the deal,” Xaon laughed.  “Since she started writing with us as her protagonists, I’ve died, but then ‘no, he didn’t die,’ and then we were in a motorcycle wreck, I’ve been beaten, stabbed, lied to, had to off my mentor and friend because he killed my first mentor and friend, not to mention this whole thing about missing a significant part of my body.”

“I’ve been poisoned,” Elizabeth pointed out.  “Beaten, stabbed, in fights, placed in random perils, sent down a freezing waterfall—“

“Which I, too, went down.  That bitch was cold!”

 “—and I’ve had my share of near-death experiences.  We’ve both lost good friends to her pen.  The worst, though, was her making us fall in love and then taking what… twenty of our years… to bring us back together?”

“Something like that,” Xaon took her hand.

 “But do you know what I’m most afraid of?”  Elizabeth looked at him steadily.  “I’m afraid this mercurial author we live beneath will write a way that does not include us being together.  That pain, I think, would be worse than the rest.”

The pair of them looked up at me from the page.

 I promise, you guys, I won’t split you up.  First of all, I like your relationship.  I like how you complement each other.  Second, you’re the embodiment of the childhood into adulthood romance that everyone longs for—Xaon, you were originally created by a friend of mine, Jonathan, on whom I had a huge crush, and Elizabeth, you are based on the ideal Me.  Jonathan and I would have been kick-ass together.  You two are kick-ass together and I have no reason to change that.

“Well that’s a relief.”

Elizabeth nodded.

Also, this whole “long life of tragedy” thing you two are on about is only because you’ve both existed in my head for about 20 of my years.  Your stories are so jumbled and out of sequence that they long to be stretched out, rewritten, organized, and finalized.  I owe you both that much.  We can talk about your last adventure together some other time.

The pair nodded their assent, relief washing over their faces.  

Describe your ultimate escape plan (and tell us what you’re escaping from).

This was the moment when all that thinking should be paying off.  The guy knocked on the door.  I was home alone, and true to form, didn’t answer or give any indication I was inside.  In fact I froze, like a wild hare does when the hawk circles overhead.  I heard voices outside through the relatively thin decorative glass.  Loud voices.  Ethnic voices.  I swallowed to calm the escalated heartbeat in my ears.

Reaching for my phone, I noted the time and calculated these men had been standing on my porch for far longer than necessary.  They were still talking loudly, though I couldn’t hear what was being said.  The emergency number was entered, my thumb hovered over the the green “Send Call” button when I heard the sound of breaking glass.  Well shit!  I thought.

Determined to be as quiet as possible, I peeked over the edge of the stairs as an arm snaked through the glass to unlock the front door and two good-sized men shouldered their way into my parents’ house.  Glancing at the phone, I knew I had to get to safety and call the authorities.  In that order.

I remember being remarkably calm as I assessed their progress into the house. They were confident no-one was home and were clearly in search of valuables.  The only thing of value I possessed was a laptop, so I darted into my room to shove it under my mattress. Foolish, perhaps, but my pride wouldn’t permit me to just let them take my most beloved possession–my writings.  I shut the door behind me to drown out the sound of their animal noises as they rifled through our electronics downstairs.  It was only a matter of time before they came up here to my second floor.

I locked my door, then stepped into the adjacent bathroom to lock that door as well.  That should hold them for a bit. My next stop was the window.  It opened easily and I slithered out onto the roof, my phone still in hand.  Taking a few steps to the right, I was able to get out of the line of sight of my window (lest they come barging into my room) and perched comfortably in a shady nook.  I can remember how the roof shingles gnawed at my feet and how loud my clothing was as I took a seat.

I felt now was an acceptable time to phone for emergency assistance.  “Send Call.”  The emergency operator answered calmly.  I, for my part, kept my head as I explained my situation.  She asked me if I was in a safe location and I said that I was.  “Are you at a neighbor’s house?”

“Oh, I’m on the roof,” I answered, almost cheerily.  After assuring her I was safe, she asked if I could see the suspects’ car.  I could, and gave her as good a description as I knew how.   What seemed only moments later, several squad cars appeared and the officers sprang into action.  The men were promptly arrested.  The whole affair, from start to finish had taken mere minutes.  As the would-be burglars were led out the front of the house, I couldn’t resist wishing them ‘good luck’ with the famous Hawaiian hand gesture.

One of the officers spoke into his CB radio at his shoulder, then raised his eyes to where I sat.  He waved and I called down, “Thank you for your quick response!”

He invited me down and we discussed all I had seen and heard.   It wasn’t until about 45 minutes later, after all statements had been made, I had been checked for any injuries, the area had been scoured for evidence, glass cleaned up, makeshift patching put over the hole in the door, and the officers seen on their way that the adrenaline of that afternoon came in a sudden all-in rush.  I cried for an hour, curled into the couch.

I had escaped the immediate threat, but the intruders had still taken something from me: my peace of mind.  I didn’t know how I was to escape that, or how even to begin to try.

Describe an item you were incredibly attached to as a child. What became of it?

One of my favorite toys as a wee one was a white stuffed bear with shiny black eyes and a pink sewn nose.  My uncle gave him to me the day I was born, tucking him into the baby basket with me and saying “Here’s someone to be your bunky.”  Of course, the name stuck.  Now, 20+ years later Bunky is still around.  His fur has been loved off, his nose has become threadbare from a few too many Eskimo kisses, but his eyes hold onto their shine.  We had a million adventures together when I was small, including one with scissors and his tail.  I had him on my bed as decor all through high school and college (in my dorm, yes).   He was always the boss when I had to leave my room for the day, making sure the other toys didn’t step out of line or make too big a mess.  He is still a watchful eye over my young son, albeit from a distance, as K would probably tear him apart.

If you were to judge your favorite book by its cover, would you still read it?

My favorite book has what could be seen as lavender/purple sheets of a crisply made bed pulled to with a used teacup, spoon, and saucer sitting in the lower right.  The entire picture is a close-up of these items, hence my being unsure as to whether the lavender/purple part is in fact sheets.  There are tea grounds in the bottom of the cup, which hints that the book may be about or may concern itself with a place where they steep the stuff in loose-leaf format.

The paperback itself is moderately thick–a good read, it would seem, for a lengthy plane or car ride.  Even with the title intact, I’m not certain what possessed me to pick it up in the bookstore that day.  It was summer of 2005, and we were in a shop on some touristy street in Oxford, England.  I flipped through it, decided it looked “extremely British” and took it right over to the young man behind the counter. 

That book changed things for me.  My writing style became markedly more relaxed, more genial, and more Lewis-esque.  I am by no means close to being as talented, thoughtful, or insightful as this creator of Narnia, but his tone is one of telling a story to someone he is very fond of and it is something I strive to emulate, all because of a similar tone in my book with the teacup on the front.

The title ended up being “Notes from a Small Island” and it is a wonderful travel journal by Bill Bryson, who has published a number of other texts, all fantastic reads and all of which make you feel as though you accompanied him and you are now sitting together recounting the journeys you both took over a cup of cider next to a good fire.