Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dragon Egg (and other updates)

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Pins and Needles

I don't even know what to say about this:

Level 22 human female for scale.
Silvia has been hyping up this present for the better part of the last two months. It's a double combo gift--Ren's Christmas and birthday present to me, and Silvia's Christmas and birthday present to me, all in one. For maximum suffering, I've known about it since a few days before my birthday, but they only gave it to me yesterday in our continuous Longest Breaking Bad Marathon Ever. (We started over three years ago and are only halfway through season 3).

Anyways, keeping true to my promise, it's hanging out with other presents I wrapped, under the watchful eye of my plush toys. (Including a newly arrived bunny I took from Red's house after his mother offered it to me. Bunny still needs a name).

This was the pile of presents before I handed a few out yesterday and minus Silvia's own combo Christmas present--as it hadn't arrived yet--and the three other mini-presents my mom sewed up for Berny, Ren, and Silvia:

Ominous bunny keeping watch

Your eyes do not deceive you: that is indeed a cardboard box at the side with a ribbon slapped on top of it.

It's Ren's present. It came in this super long rectangular box and I was too lazy to spend all my wrapping paper on it (or to unbox it and attempt to wrap the thing inside), so I retaped the Amazon box it came in, put a ribbon on it, and taped half a square of wrapping paper at the side wishing Ren a Merry Christmas. I warned her beforehand it would be trashiest gift-giving she'll ever experience but she seemed cool with it.

I gave it to her yesterday and while I tried to guess what my present contained (giant Ferrero Rocher chocolate? Uber expensive basketball? Dragon egg? Dragon robot egg?) they attempted to guess Ren's present (baseball bat? Sword? Selfie stick? Lightsaber? All you can know is that it's blue).

I'm excited to find out what mine is. Although it's a present of contradictions. It doesn't  make any noise when I shake it and Silvia told me to be careful with it, but while we were wrestling over her own birthday present yesterday, mine slipped from my hands and bounced once on marble tiles. I panicked and she said it's okay, it's got padding. But the thing inside is breakable and I shouldn't go at it with scissors Christmas day if I struggle to open it.

Buh?

I just wrapped it in blankets and left it at my desk in case the dragon decides to hatch in the next 24 hours.

2) I need names ASAP. I've acquired a few things since I last posted--a car named Briar Rose, the bunny from above, and a Kindle my parents gave for my birthday. The latter two need names but my creativity seems to have dwindled a bit. I haven't been revising Millennium Girl or writing Death Awakens lately either. I'm not pressuring myself to work on anything. Maybe I should seeing as I've got more free time now seeing as--

3) I switched jobs! Nothing too exciting but a change nonetheless. I'm a library page now. I've been on this application process since the end of September and the poor library I was assigned hasn't had a page since summer. There's months and months of books in need of shelving. Another girl and I are working on it--she got the children's section while I got the adult's section. I'm thinking at the end of this whole experience--be it a year or a decade from now--I'll have memorized the Dewey Decimal System in its entirety. Soon I'll be able to tell you with perfect accuracy which number holds books for your average, disillusioned, career-driven modern woman looking for love. (God there were so many of those books to shelf. Also a million Danielle Steele and James Patterson novels for fiction.)

It means I'm working Christmas Eve and other random days. It's not too bad, but the entire 700 section of the non-fiction aisles was crowded with worms.

Literal worms. Literal book worms?

I couldn't touch them. I was so freaked out.

I guess I shouldn't discriminate. Maybe they really like reading about impressionism and music theory.

4) I spent most of my birthday thinking about the nature of empathy and wondering if people inherently empathize more with sadness than with joy, because sadness is universal and joy feels more tailored to the individual.

And no, I wasn't even drunk. I reach dumb, pretentious existential questions while still stupidly sober, thankyouverymuch.

I had this whole post drafted in my head about Red and how, whenever I listen to stories about his difficult upbringing, I try my hardest to really see them as he might have seen them, long ago.

It's difficult. Not just for me who never had a traumatic childhood, but for him too. He's told me in multiple occasions he has trouble reconciling his childhood-self with his adult-self. He doesn't understand how his childhood-self thought, what he wanted, how he felt, how the world looked to him. I guess that's true for all people to an extent, but I don't find the actions of my childhood-self mystifying. It's all very expected and traceable. It's easy to see how She became Me and how I was once Her.

It's not the same for Red. He was someone entirely different and though he acknowledges there was a transition period ("Growing Up" in hard mode), it seems said period is a blur to him. Instantaneous. A giant brick wall that keeps him from fully accessing who he was in the past.

The post didn't happen because, if you haven't noticed, I've been too lazy to write. But also because I couldn't reach any sort of conclusion about it. Honestly, I was just feeling all kinds of sad on my birthday.

It wasn't anyone's fault, though. (Except maybe my last employer, as they once again refused to pay us and delayed the already delayed paycheck yet again). When I went to Red's house that afternoon, he surprised me with a chocolate cake and we had a mini-celebration. He was very tired, sadly. I'd woken him up at 6 am that day. So he fell asleep not long after, and I cuddled beside him and decided to watch Dear Zachary.

Bad idea.

He woke up to find me crying; it was that movie which made me think about pain and empathy and trauma.

Which I figured was a valid thing to think about on my 21st birthday, I guess.

5) Oddly, I think finishing Rise of the Tomb Raider on my birthday ended up ruining Rogue One.

I didn't like Rogue One all that much. Everyone has said that they like it a lot more than Force Awakens, and while I can argue that it definitely has a better plot than FA, I'm not a plot-driven person. Not as a writer or as an audience member. I'm all about character-driven narratives. And sadly, when Jyn was screaming "YOU KNOW WHO I AM!" mid-climax, my brain was going, "???? who? Who are you?!"

Her answer was my answer: random, important dude's daughter. And. . . that's it.

It gave me newfound appreciation for Force Awakens, because while that movie's a lame remake of New Hope, I knew Rey infinitely more three minutes into her introduction scene that I ever knew Jyn after two hours of her story.

That movie seems to have painfully suffered from creative constrains. Most of the characters feel chopped up. I can feel the scissor marks on backstories and arcs and even their interpersonal relationships. What survived was serviceable, but nothing spectacular.

Jyn suffers the most in the end, and ultimately her arc is tied to her father's accomplishments and sacrifices.

In both the Tomb Raider Legend series and the new reboot Tomb Raider games (can't speak for the older games, as I played some but was too young to follow the stories), there's an implication in the former and explicit discussion  in the latter how Lord Croft dies a failure, mocked by the scientific community and resented by his daughter. Lara has her own ambitions and her own drive, but it's clear that to an extent she feels like she owes it to her father to restore the family name or at least understand what he fought and died for.

The amazing thing about Rise of the Tomb Raider is the freedom that comes when Lara realizes that no. No, she doesn't have to be who her father wanted her to be. She doesn't have to do what he wanted to do, she doesn't have to make the choices he would have made. Her life doesn't have to be defined by who he was, what he wanted, or what he did. It's a part of her--an important part, her foundation even--but she can and will be someone else.

I think about Rogue One reaching that thematic conclusion, the way the rest of the movie could have been shaped because of it, and I can't help but dislike it a little bit more.

But hey. There's more Star Wars to come. There's more Tomb Raider to come too.

Oh! And a new Nine Inch Nails' EP was released and there's the Sense8 Christmas special on Netflix. There's stuff to look forward to.

I'm back to grey optimism. On a miniature scale.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I had this post in my head that started with, "I'm going to die in a car accident."

It's been one of those days.

One of those months.

One of those years. Panic. Sadness. Fear. Unfiltered anger.

I haven't been driving for long. I'm not the best at it but I like to think I'm not reckless. Just. Regular mediocrity with occasional dumb mistakes.

Being in a car makes me horribly aware of how little control I have. Not just on the road, but of my own mortality. I imagine some asshole kids drunk on rum or adrenaline fueled by youthful overconfidence just slashing through my car and snapping me in half.

Then I think maybe I won't die from a car accident. But someone I love will. And no one will know how to deal with the fact that pure stupidity slaughtered them.

Yeah.

It's been one of those years.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Girls has gotten so bad, I can't figure out if the writing is being shitty and nonsensical on accident, or if it's still trying to be uncomfortably . . . uh . . . "true to life". Or whatever its excuse use to be.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Calamity

Though I did find comfort in my mother's words yesterday, I realized it's not just the fault of an older generations. I know peers my age who barf out the most racist, sexist, homophobic sentiments. Who fancy themselves superior because they haven't been "sheltered" by safe spaces and yet simultaneously believe they're the truly oppressed and misunderstood. Lack of empathy is a transgenerational problem. So is ignorance.

The whole thing made me want to dissappear. Just straight up stop existing for the next four years so I don't have to get daily confirmation that half this fucking country is filled with shit.

But I realized one of the people who was hurt the most by this is the version of me that lives on throughout my ever changing life.

Eight-year old me would have probably cried as much as I have in the past few days. But she wouldn't want me to dissappear.

So I won't.

I guess it's as good a time as any to write about my marginalized death witches.

Lola (heroine) might end up as a manifestation of my anger and fear. It won't be pretty, but to write anything else would be a disservice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

They both tried to comfort me.

It's like I'm six years old again and just skinned my knee on the sidewalk. They hugged me and stroked my hair and reminded me things get better eventually.

Dad said it might take a while, but eventually the world comes to its senses and things align again.

Mom said it's an old generation gripped by absurd fear and hate that made him win. But they're fading, and when they're gone we'll be here, and we might be able to do better.

Who knows for sure.
I fell asleep at 9, when there was still a chance, because my chest was starting to ache. I didn't want to have to find out slowly.

But I woke up at midnight and checked the updates. Not good, but maybe there's a chance, maybe there's a chance.

Fell asleep and woke up again at 2 in the morning. By then it was official. It hurt more than I thought it would.

I was walking out of my room this morning, getting ready for work, trying to pretend I wasn't fucking terrified. Then I saw my dad in the hallway and I hugged him and he hugged me and I burst out crying.

I'm still crying. I don't know why I ever thought this country--a country I chose to be part of, a country I came to love--would do anything today except dissapoint me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Core

Now Playing: Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up

My parents and brother were watching Inside Out a little earlier today, and I got back to thinking to that whole art being either beautiful or useful. (And how ideally you want both but one side of the scale tilts, whether a lot or a little).

My whole last semester of creative writing made me certain I wanted my art to be beautiful. I considered often--but briefly--what it might have been like to write the kind of book that would be dissected in English classes of the future, and every time I thought, "I'd rather be shallow. I'd rather be good at being shallow."

I admire Inside Out for being one of those rare films that can be both beautiful (great animation, vivid colors, emotionally poignant, funny) and useful (thoughtful, layered, unique message). But maybe all this hostility towards art that is useful happens because I fear that it can't ever change people.

My education argues otherwise. I never went through a literature or film or history course not being reminded (subtly or blatantly) that art influences people's opinions and feelings, that entire wars can start because of books, that a film can humanize or dehumanize a living being.

And I love my parents a lot. But due to many external circumstances, they're the kind of people who have a very complicated relationship with "negative" emotions. Mainly sadness and anger. Sometimes we've argued about our arguments. It's the strangest thing to be angry and sad at them because they don't always let me be angry and sad. And to be fair, they don't do it out of malice: they try to push those feelings away from themselves on the belief that they're unproductive.

When they were watching Inside Out, on my brother's last day of his quick, mid-semester visit, I wondered if that hour and a half could really change them. Today or tomorrow or ten years from now, when they're reflecting on it.

I have doubts. I don't know how many people came out of that movie--came out liking that movie--and had newfound appreciation for emotional complexities and the merits of accepting and addressing sadness. Or if it only reached people who'd already had a disposition for embracing that message.

Closing questions: is there a book or movie or video game or even a song that changed me fundamentally?

How did it do it?

How long did it take?

What is it called?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Flakes

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Tapedeck

Early disclaimer: this post is kinda weird. I sound like a bitter fangirl. And maybe I am. But this is me writing as someone who hasn't even begun their literary career and panics at everything.

There's two versions of author Tahereh Mafi. There's the real version: New York Times best selling author, traveler, charismatic interviewer, recent contributor to the middle-grade market as well as the YA one, lover of fashion, currently working on a TV adaptation of her successful first series, an artist who's accumulated a hundred loyal fans, and married to another successful, deeply loved, equally good-looking author.*

(*I doubt the hyphen in this sentence so much).

Then there's the version of her I think about. The one I made up in my head.

The Tahereh Mafi in my head shares all the previously listed qualities as the real-life Tahereh Mafi. But the real-life Tahereh Mafi has a lot more struggles than the one in my head. I can't prove it but objectively I know she has bad days. Days when she's unsure, when she's sad, when someone or something tries to hurt her. I know that because she's human. Plus, her two heroines so far have been girls who are born special but are ostracized by society at large. I think she admitted in an interview with a BookTuber that the more she writes, the more she realizes what she's drawn to, and she's drawn to the judged and the forsaken because of her life and experiences. The Tahereh Mafi I made up is pretty much just her success, her work, her beauty, her fairy tale romance/marriage.

I have to be honest: I don't like her writing. I have many, many, many issues with her Shatter Me series, and I read the Amazon preview of Furthermore and realized that her prose still doesn't reach me. It feels like it tries too hard to be whimsical and lyrical but it ends up being nonsensical. Whenever I read Gillian Flynn, the images and phrasing are unique without being distracting, but it's the exact opposite with Mafi's writing, which is so overbearing it completely drowns all cohesion and keeps me from connecting emotionally.

I can list all the ways in which I think Shatter Me is a not a very good series--plot, character, and prose wise--but I also realized sometime in the last few years that I admired the series because of what it means for teenage girls everywhere. I can't admit that Juliette and, say, Throne of Glass's Celaena/Aelin are good characters, but they're better role models than, well, Bella Swan.

So. You know. Progress.

But accompanying that lukewarm but sincere admiration of the Shatter Me series were a few flakes of jealousy. Which I'm not all that ashamed to admit. I'm jealous of a lot of authors I like: Chuck Wendig, Marie Lu, Laurie Halse Anderson, N.K. Jemisin (especially after The Fifth Season. Wowza), Jay Kristoff, Naomi Novik, Ken Liu, George R.R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, Robin Hobb . . . .

At the same time, I'm not jealous of a lot of authors I don't like: Earnest Cline, Christopher Paolini, Stephanie Meyer, Pierce Brown, Veronica Roth, John Green.

There's also authors I adore whom I'm not remotely jealous of either: Octavia Butler, Neil Gaiman, William Gibson, Anne Bishop. I used to think I was jealous of J.K. Rowling, but truth is, I'm not. I find her life story fascinating and I'm happy for her success, but I can't say I want it for myself.

Tahereh Mafi is in a very rare tier: author I don't particularly like, author I find myself envying.

"Jealousy" has a lot of negative connotations. It's not one of the deadly sins for nothing. But my jealousy isn't destructive, I think. It doesn't inspire hate.

I'm jealous of Ms. Mafi for many reasons. Maybe because even if her writing doesn't work for me, it does work for a lot of people. She inspires readers and she makes them feel empowered and she creates all kinds of stomach butterflies with the way her romances and action scenes play out. And while I consider it nonsensical a good chunk of the time, it is imaginative, and it can flow and feel vivid and enthralling.

I dislike her series, yes, but there's a passage from Ignite Me that has always been a favorite of mine. For context, at this point in the story, Juliette has super strength and is invincible. Think Superman in a world where kryptonite don't real and nobody gives a shit about the rest of the Justice League.

Here's the scene, from the climax:

I slam my elbow into the door behind me, shattering the wood into splinters that fly everywhere. I turn around and punch my way through the rest of it, kicking the door down with a sudden burst of adrenaline, and as soon as I see that this room is just a small bunker and a dead end, I do the only thing I can think of. 
I jump. 
And land. 
And go right through the floor. 

It's the use of the line break. This is one of the more straightforward passages of her entire series--no flowery metaphors or crossed out sentences or overbearing repetition.  The climax doesn't get my heart racing, but I love those three sentences; they make the entire scene click perfectly.

Plus, while I don't admire her prose all that much, it is very clearly trying to be one thing: hauntingly beautiful. Mafi wants it to be lyrical. She wants the sentences to be carved forever in your memory.

A lot of authors use the words as a vessel for what they think matters, be it plot or character. Mafi's writing reads like it's beautiful for the sake of being beautiful--which can be both a blessing and a curse. And in a way, it's where some of that admiration/jealousy of mine comes from. The Tahereh Mafi in my head is one whose life and work and artistic merit revolve around beauty, from her written work to her visual pieces in fashion and photography:

A photo posted by tahereh mafi (@taherehmafi) on

A photo posted by tahereh mafi (@taherehmafi) on


[More from her Instagram].

But despite all the possible negative connotations, I don't write any of this with disdain or smug superiority. If art is supposed to be either useful or beautiful, I prefer it to be the latter with hints of the former rather than the other way around.

So what was the exact moment I envied Tahereh Mafi?

It wasn't when I read hundreds of Goodreads reviews from girls who adored Mafi's Juliette and her romances and struggles.

It wasn't when I saw pictures of her wedding ceremony to Ransom Riggs and got to find out not only what a ceremony at a bookstore looks like, but how much I want  a beautiful bouquet made of the pages of a book:

(From her Tumblr).

It wasn't when I stumbled on articles about her daily life as a full-time author and saw a picture of her and Riggs in their study, which in turn made me imagine briefly what it'd be like to have a place like that to call my own.

It wasn't even the pictures of her strolling through rainy picturesque London or sipping a latte with foam art of a kitty.

A photo posted by tahereh mafi (@taherehmafi) on

No, it was because of this tiny clip of her on YouTube during a book signing, right when she's retelling a few amusing anecdotes involving her family's reaction to her work. I don't know what it is about those stories. I don't have any burning need to have my family read my books, but hearing her talk about her mother and brothers reading (or attempting to read) her novels, and relating that to an audience of giggling readers, while also mentioning how her brothers' voices sneak into her writing--

It makes me happy. Happy for her and wishful for me (but not all that hopeful).

Which is an apt way to describe the jealousy I experience towards all creative types. It's a lot of happiness because I want them to continue to be successful and to entertain and capture the public. But it does, admittedly make me hone in on my insecurities and my wishes.

This whole post was partially inspired by my occasional browsing of Tahereh's twitter page, btw. (I follow Marie Lu and she retweets her fellow YA authors a lot).

 It was also inspired by this one line in X Ambassadors' Renegades:

All hail the underdogs 
All hail the new kids 
All hail the outlaws 
Spielberg's and Kubrick's

That's a brilliant line, in my opinion, since it manages to convey both their individual artistic accomplishments while also hinting a reminder of their friendship. But I thought about them a lot and--

Kubrick's an artist I like, but don't envy.

Spielberg's an artist I kinda dislike, but don't envy.

You know who I envy?

J.J. Abrams. I've envied him since he did Super 8, which was basically made in homage to Spielberg's E.T.

But to reiterate, I don't actually envy J.J. Abrams, as I don't envy Tahereh Mafi. I envy the J.J Abrams I made up in my head, who only exists as the man who took the reins of the two most important franchises of pop culture and the sci-fi genre.

I'm not trying to dehumanize Abrams and Mafi. I know that they don't lead perfect lives and that they'll have bad days and, hell, maybe literary criticisms like mine reach Mafi and pain her a little bit. But given the way social media and how public images are built, I inadvertently separate who they are as people and who they appear to be as artists. I try not to let it rule me, but I've heard writers are just always the jealous type. How can we be anything else when the arts are so competitive?

I wonder if it's inspiring me to be driven or if it's simply causing me to despair.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

In Absentia

Now Playing: Elliot Smith - Needle in the Hay

EDIT: This won't make sense unless you've already read the post but THAT'SSSS WHY IT SEEMED SO FAMILIAR.

Because of the Smashin Pumpkins album! Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

LOLWHOOPS.

Okay. Rest of the post remains. Now I have to call my dad out for it, but the sentiment shall stay.

Monday morning, I texted my dad to let him know Steam had betrayed us: no Labor Day sale.

We'd agreed to buy Rise of the Tomb Raider together, split the cost 50/50. It's possible now that we actually have a decent graphics card. After an entire summer of fighting giant jello blobs on Doom rather than the terrifying demons they were meant to be, the pixels are finally all prettied up and perfect. But we missed the summer sale and didn't particularly feel like buying an Xbox One to play Tomb Raider back on release day. So we had longed and wished and prayed for another, later sale that never came. Now we either bite the bullet and buy the game full price or wait for the Fall sale. (When the hell is that. November . . .?)

Twas tragic. So tragic, in fact, that when I texted him on Monday to let him know, he texted back, "melancholy and infinite sadness" along with a crying emoji. I found that wording way more amusing than I probably should have.

I wrote it down on a sticky note at work, folded it up, and walked around chanting it in my head. Repetition is my one main downfall as a writer. Next to sucking at endings.

I know those four words put together are hyperbolic emo-ness cranked to eleven, but I don't know. I like how it sounds. It's how I'd describe Elliot Smith's and half of The Neighbourhood's music. Or that hollowed uneasiness I felt when I read Gillian Flynn's Dark Places or whenever I got high.

I suppose the difference between the two--"melancholy" and "infinite sadness"--is a profound emptiness vs. a searing ache.

I'm not in pain. I'm not hollow either. I'm not directionless or confused. I don't need guidance or inspiration. I'm not stuck or stranded. Not numb but not hurting. I know who I am and what I want and what's likely and unlikely to happen.

But I am absent. I'm not here. I want to say I've been operating on auto-pilot for months now, but it isn't a feeling that's persistent for months. It's more like it comes and goes, ever since I was around eleven or so, all the way to the present day. I disappear for some indefinite amount of time and lose entire weeks or months without noticing. Not until I resurface and think, "oh, it's been six months since [random thing] happened."

Everyone lives for milestones and I don't expect to feel vibrant and fulfilled every single second of my life. But I need to ground myself. I fall into routines and start to disappear.

Whenever I'm gone or barely here, I obsessively think back on the mini-milestones. When I wrote this, when I did this thing, when I spoke about this and that, when I was with so-and-so, when I read or saw or played or heard X and Y.

My fixation with repetition lifts me from the ground and makes me disappear. I think the only thing that grounds me, temporarily, is songs stuck on repeat.

And cats.

And plushies.

And taking pictures of them.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Cats and Plushies and Rando!Inanimate Objects

Productive blog post incoming.

There's cats:
He has a name. But he's "Little Prince" to me.
One of Emzy's kitties
Tsundere Cat

and plushies:


and miscellaneous inanimate objects:

Bonus Background Emzy. Non-Inanimate.


Bonus narcissism: 

Red hair goes great with that Led Zeppelin shirt.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Possibilities

Now Playing: America - A Horse With No Name 

My coworker left on maternity leave a few Wednesdays ago. Meaning her baby was born on a Wednesday of August, as per the doctor's scheduling.

She worked until the very last minute and won't be gone for long. I realized recently I've been working at the company for roughly the same amount of time she's been pregnant. It feels lengthy to me. I wonder how the time felt to her.

The Thursday after she gave birth, she sent me a picture of the newborn baby after I texted her congratulations. He looked very squishy and confused. Very adorable.

My aunt Priscilla is pregnant as well, but I think she's not due until mid to late October. She has one son who I met once when I was all of sixteen and he was two.

(Picture my aunt sent my mom a year later;3 or 4 years old.)
The summer I went back to Ecuador, he was this tiny blonde creature who, within seconds of meeting me, was somewhat shy but immensely curious. He was utterly transfixed with the camera option on my phone. (He took a lot of selfies). I let him use my computer to write--by which I mean he slammed the keyboard senselessly and stared in awe at the words appearing on screen. And I played Call of Duty with him--which means he grabbed the PlayStation controller and made his character spin around in place while shooting at the sky.

In many ways, he was exactly like a toddler. Energetic, messy,  and entertained by the same nonsensical jokes and repetitive game, with a short attention span and a limited perception of reality. But until I interacted with him, I think I forgot toddlers--no matter how many universal traits they display due to their still developing minds--can be individuals.

I remember almost every second of our limited time together. Whenever we had a bag of chips on hand, he used to insist on feeding me. He'd pop a chip in his mouth and then hold another one to my lips. We watched a dozen parasailing videos but he got instantly bored at all the Disney movies and shorts I tried to start for him. We reacted the same way to the musicians that showed up at a restaurant and walked around playing music for tips: we were amazed and enthralled. We also had the same reaction to a lemon-based cake our grandmother bought: we scrunched up our faces and flailed in the chair. (The adults, however, loved it).

I particularly remember when we went to the bank, my aunt had to leave for five minutes while we (Mom and I) still needed to talk to a banker. My aunt left her son with us, and while we waited in line, I held him in my arms. He searched the crowd, worried, sad, repeating, "Mama Pris? Mama Pris?" I told him she'd be back soon, trying to talk to him in a soothing voice, but it was like he couldn't hear me. The near future didn't matter because it was a concept that his mind couldn't yet grasp. All he knew was the information presented to him in the moment: his mom was gone.

I was the first grandchild in that side of the family. My aunt and my grandmother adored the little girl who played with dolls and loved dresses and liked Barbie and Hello Kitty and the color pink. I'm sure she was sufficiently adorable for them. Sadly, she grew up, and though a slight obsession with dresses and playing pretend remains, she doesn't quite fit into her pink princess outfits anymore.

She didn't have little sisters, just a little brother. She was the last young girl in that side of the family, Uncles are too young for children as of this writing and my mom and dad decided two kids two years apart was all they really wanted/needed/could handle.

All hope lied on my aunt to bring another pretty princess to the world. I knew from the second I heard about her first pregnancy that most of us were hopeful for a girl--my aunt and grandmother especially. Then my baby cousin came along and as far as we know, he has been and always will be a "he" till the end of his days.

When I heard there was another baby coming, I remember telling my mom, "They want a girl, don't they?" She agreed, and I said, "It's going to be a boy. Because that's how the universe works."

Blind guessing and nonsensical predictions, but yeah, I like to think that's how the universe works most of the time: it fucks you over in the most inconsequential ways.

And I was right. She's having another boy. When the news reached me, I couldn't stop laughing. Evil Disney sorceress level laughter, all I needed was the thunderclap.

About a year ago, I discovered there are plenty of good, loving, thoughtful parents that react negatively to news of the biological sex of their children. We all say, "I don't care so long as they're healthy," but most of us secretly have a preference. I once found discussion forums of parents who were severely disappointed to find out they were having a boy when they wanted a girl and vice versa. And there's nothing to do in those situations except go, "well. Shit."

Now this topic gets kinda complicated. Because I know there are people who will try to terminate pregnancies if they hear disappointing news, and a lot of it also has to do with where they live, what their views are, etc. I know there's also a debate to be had about imposing weird gender norm expectations on newborn babies. "I want a boy so I can teach him to play football. I want a girl so I can go get our nails done together all the time." (What if your girl wants to learn to play football and the smell of nail polish make her nauseous? What if your boy thinks neon blue nails look amazing and hates sports that require being beneath the scorching summer sun?) Plus, you know, issues involving people who lie outside the gender binary.

But that's the thing. When I heard that my aunt was having another boy, I wasn't just cackling like an evil witch who cast a No Girls Ever curse on the entire maternal side of my family. I was really, really happy. And relieved.

If they'd been told there was a baby girl coming their way, all these expectations would have instantly manifested. And all these girly scenarios and futures would have been ingrained in the parents and grandparents (of both sides). And whoever that child became, she wouldn't have been able to live up to their wishes. She wouldn't have played the part they wanted her to play, even if she managed to stick to their script on occasion.

No child can ever live up to all the hopes and expectations of their parents. But I'm glad that my second baby cousin, whoever he might be or however he might change, is already set for a million possibilities no one can predict.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Two Thoughts

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Kissing Families

1) The Olympics are the only thing in the world that make me miss competitive swimming. The smell of chlorine awakens a very conflicted brand of childhood nostalgia, but only the Olympics ever make me wonder what it would have been like to continue with my training for a couple more years. Seeing the actual races make me miss being in the water.

I never would have made it anywhere, of course, because I don't believe I could have ever come to like--let alone love--the sport. But sticking with it might have fundamentally changed me.

2) If my life is divided into neat little sections with clearly marked ends and beginnings, then I met you in my Silversun Pickups chapter. And everything that happens in the now is defined by their songs.

(Nobody ask why the second person pronoun felt necessary.)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bare

Now Playing: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Dull Life

Today, I had zero barriers in place.

Most of my thoughts--relevant or irrelevant to the current situation--go through like eight or ten gates before they can turn audible and reach other people. That's why I abandon so many before I can speak them. Even when I'm writing, I'll often start a sentence and then rewrite it while I'm constructing it. I'll hit backspace midway, start writing another, then think of a third way to write it, begin deleting so I can write the new one, on and on. It's a good writing day when everything flows out at once, but that's very rare. I mostly work through micro-bursts of rewriting.

There wasn't any shields today. From anywhere between one to three hours, all the gates came down, all at once.

In the moment, I tried to write down what it more or less felt like:

"Halfway point to sleep. Surreal and like you're only seeing reality through snapshots and those snapshots are blurry. You remember blips as if they happened a hundred years ago, but right alongside them, the moments that follow are imminent. Half is imminent and the other half is history.*

It's all me. All my erratic, hyperbolic thoughts. But they're all going a million miles per hour and they're already too far away. So I speak them because I can't stop them."

*Not a perfect half. More like . . . a little of the present, a little of the past, a little of the present, but all lied out in one ongoing timeline.

If that makes any sense?? It's like trying to talk about a dream. Sooo nonsensical.

I found one thing the most surprising: it was still me. In that weird state of mind, it was all me and I understood it was me. Without a filter. I kept rambling on with the same pretentious bullshit and repeated phrases; it was basically all I forcefully rewrite a dozen times to mold to something worthwhile.

But for a few hours, there was no energy or need to mold anything. It just came out and I realized I wasn't discovering new things about myself or thinking about issues I could have never dreamed up at any other point in time. No. It was all me--all the thoughts I've always had, all my worries, all the stupid words I choose in trying to communicate thoroughly. Or to create something beautiful (and always failing at that task).

I think I'm supposed to be embarrassed to have been so mentally and emotionally exposed. I'm pretty sure I also cried a little, which is usually mortifying.

But I'm really not embarrassed. As easily annoyed as I can be with myself, I liked the confirmation that I'm not confused or conflicted or still trying to understand myself. I might silence myself on occasion, but it's not because I don't know what to say.

I just don't think I need to share everything yet, though I know that I will. Soon.

(Also, I just finished rewriting a short story that might actually be readable. Little accomplishments spark a little hope in my silly, sentimental heart).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Black Cats Are The Best Even When I Fail At Taking Pictures Of Them

Now Playing: Silversun Pickups - Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)

There's this black cat that lives in my neighborhood that is notoriously difficult to get close to. Most of the stray cats that I see in my neighborhood are standoffish. Far as I know, they really and truly don't have owners and feel immediately threatened by people who get too close. They don't like being touched and don't like being followed. Any sort of tiny footstep that alerts them of your presence has them breaking into a panic and fleeing.

They don't look malnourished to me so I'm under the assumption that someone's feeding them. Or they're total badasses who find their own food and are totally cool with chilling in the parking lot.

Anyways, I've been trying to befriend most of them but I'm a terrible Cat Person. I didn't know, until my brother told me, that cats--and dogs, and a ton of animals--don't like it when you hold eye contact because they perceive it as a threat. Which explains all the glaring I kept getting whenever I meowed really loudly at them. (I'm sure glaring is their way of saying, "you look like a fucking idiot, stop talking to me, YOU'RE NOT MAKING ANY SENSE.")

That black cat in particular has been the most standoffish, but I also try to approach him most often. As he's not mine and it doesn't feel right to name him, I shall refer to him as Tsundere Cat, because that's what Silvia nicknamed him when I told her about him.

Once, I waited by a car for like twenty minutes--sitting on the burning asphalt cooked by the afternoon sun--because he was hiding beneath said car in the shade. Following my brother's instructions, I learned to lower my eyes when I approach him and stretch my hand out slowly. As you would approach royalty, I'm assuming.

The thing is--I don't know that much about animals. As proven by my inappropriate levels of eye-contact. I don't really know how much they comprehend or how they store memories or whatever else. So I wasn't even sure Tsundere Cat would ever remember me long enough to warm up to me.

Then last Tuesday, when I was coming home from work, I saw him. 

I always get stupidly happy when I see him. I meowed to get his attention, and he turned and stared and meowed back. 

He's done that a few times recently. Usually he breaks into a run as soon as I make my way over to him, but this time he just sat there. So as I walked, eyes cast downward, outstretched hand, I meowed again. And he replied.

I got close. I was afraid to touch him at first, but I held my fingers by his nose to see how he reacted. To my complete surprise (because I really wasn't expecting it after months and months of not being able to get close) he licked the back of my fingers.

I wanted to just throw my arms around him and squeeze him really tightly; might have done so if I'd been sure it wouldn't scare the shit out of him and cause him to maul me. I was just deliriously happy at his reaction. He let me scratch his head too but mostly he seemed to be looking and meowing at me for food--he kept sniffing around my hand as if something edible would materialize. He kept circling around me, which made the subsequent pictures I attempted to take very blurry:


This was when he realized I didn't have any food and was starting to depart. I scratched his head one last time as he was leaving, and he jerked away. I let him go and haven't seen him for a few days now, but while we might not be friends yet, I think I'm getting there. Honestly, just thinking that he's starting to recognize me is enough to make me smile.

I'll have food for him next time.

Later that week, I tagged along with Red to visit his parent's house. Another black kitty awaited, friendlier in the sense that she allowed us to revere her by petting her:

She was also very stealthy. She was one of the last of his cats that I saw, and Red walked around the living room for a good ten minutes calling her name until she decided to show up.

There were other cats, but I only got this incredibly blurry picture of one other one:

And then got a ton of pictures of his dog, who was very easy to adore. She lied at my feet in the middle of the kitchen so I could scratch her belly and neck.Whenever I'd stop, she'd nudge me with her paw, or motion in the air to tell me to keep going. I told her, "You know I can't do this forever," but after she licked my leg and nuzzled me, I thought, nope, lies, I can do this forever.



The black cat extravaganza also reminded me of the rusted kitty Silvia and I once found in front of the library. Miraculously, decent pictures were obtained. Probably because two cameras were involved:

Kinda wish I had pets now.

Or familiars. Familiars would be great too.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Adagio

On Saturday, I was sitting shotgun in Red's car, waiting with him in the service line at the maintenance center.

Conflict had started to simmer throughout the morning. Not between us. Between him and someone else. When the first hint of an argument sparked--thanks to a single text message--I couldn't say much of anything. Not to ease his worries, not to alleviate the anger, not even to dismiss it all. I didn't know how to use my voice to silence the conflict and I didn't know how to try either. The whole time, I ran through a dozen unspoken phrases, hoping I could pick one to make him feel better. But nothing sounded right in my head. It would have sounded worse out of it.

We parked on the line of cars and went to speak with someone there. Might have been one of the mechanics or just the guy who checks appointments--no idea. But let's say he was the former. Red asked him something and the mechanic gave a slightly disappointing answer. On its own, that's what it was: slightly disappointing. In the context the mechanic could not have known nor needed to imagine, it sparked that anger again. Fed into the earlier conflict, twisted it up, made it worse.

So we get back in the car and that conflict goes from a simmer to a boil. Red says he's going to call the person from earlier and tell them what the mechanic told us. I'm tense all over, because it'll get ugly and I won't know how to be anything except a bystander with her lips sewed shut. But I can't put together a proper protest. So he calls.

First call goes on and on. Bluetooth is on, so I hear the ringing through the speakers. It reaches a voicemail. Second call gets immediately routed to a voicemail. Third call rings. Rings again. Rings a third time. 

Outside, the mechanic motions for us to start exiting just as someone picks up the phone. They get as far as "Hello?" before Red starts to talk, already angry, agitated, sick of this fight before it's even started. 

But it's like too many commands are registering at once--talk on the phone, pull out the service line, check behind the car, be angry, make the person on the phone listen and understand. So he tries to do it all at once, and because of it, we don't notice the blue car parked behind us until we back straight into it.

We hear the hit. It's loud. Loud enough to make you think--dents on a bumper, scratches everywhere, paint chipped off leaving behind bare grey metal. He curses and jumps out to check and leaves me there with the person on the phone. I already didn't want the call to happen--because I've had too many like it, where there was nothing to do except scream at each other until someone hung up mid-sentence in tears. And I think, it can't get any higher than this. Hitting a car is the final escalation of this conflict. Don't let it get any louder.

So I hang up. That's my instinct--hang up on the source of conflict. When Spotify doesn't realize it's not the best time to keep playing that Stone Temple Pilots song from an hour ago, I mute that too.

He comes back in, pulls the car forward an inch, goes back out, and three or four or five other people check the area. There's no damage, of course. Because we were going two miles an hour and were about five inches away from the blue car. 

I'm not sure then why our nudge sounded like a quarter of a collision. Maybe we were already tense, and it was unexpected, and our ears blew up the sound thanks to the stress.

But there's not a scratch or a bump or anything. So Red comes inside and sits down behind the wheel again. The guys who work for the maintenance center and were inspecting for possible damage with him start waving at us. At first I think they'll tell us to move again. But they're not doing that. They're giving solitary waves and small smiles. Bits of sympathy. 

The mechanic comes up to the window and taps it. Red rolls it down; he's buzzing in place with adrenaline. The mechanic leans in and grabs Red's shoulder, as if trying to steady him, and says, "you alright? You okay? Don't drive like this. It's all fine, but don't drive like this. Have some water--there's water inside. Relax. Don't drive like this." And then he points at me and tells him, "Remember you're with her. She's in the car with you. So don't drive like this."

He walks away after instructing me to grab Red's forearm and comfort him. I'm hesitant to do so, so I ask him, "are you the kind of person who doesn't like to be touched when they're angry?"

And he seems to think about it, still stressed and trying to keep his composure and probably deafened by a million other issues. Eventually he answers me. "No."

So I grab his arm, lean against his shoulder, and start tracing circles over his wrist. Together we sit there for a while, waiting for tranquility to find us again. 

It's sad that I'm someone who works with words ninety percent of my waking hour, who rebuilds sentences up and down, from the length of the sentence to the punctuation, trying to get everything perfect, and yet can only do so in the written form. Vocalizing a sentiment--even a simple, "It's okay. You're okay. Don't drive like this," is far beyond my capabilities.

But because I couldn't think of a way to provide words of comfort, I sought silence. I've always found solace in it, and I hoped he would too. 

It didn't fix anything, of course. Person on the phone was even angrier later (and in part because I hung up on them). The same problems that existed when we pulled into the service line existed when we left it. And there'll be that anger and stress again, building on each other, weighting heavily on him.

I didn't even get to give him real, complete silence. But while I couldn't mute the entire conflict, I think I managed to hush it down to a bearable whisper. No angry phone calls, no music, no extra unnecessary words.

I sat there, leaning against him, thinking about the mechanic and all the car maintenance people. I hoped they knew I was thankful for their kindness.

The mechanic didn't have any context; he just saw a boy in distress and a girl who couldn't speak, so he found just the right thing to say to make it all momentarily better.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ripples

Now Playing: X Ambassadors - Renegades

Water was always an important motif of Millennium Girl. 

It was accidental at first, then it kept resurfacing the more the story unfolded. As I wrote on, it came down to one image: crossing worlds as one would cross an ocean. In rewrites, I've managed to incorporate it more. Seeing as the story now officially takes place in Chicago, I figured it'd be rude to ignore Lake Michigan.

I have a scene where Lilith runs out to the Lakefront Trail after a somewhat frightening (if brief) encounter. It's after midnight and so quiet that all she hears is the lapping waves and her own strained breathing. The water is pitch black, somehow darker than the sky. She stares out to the specks of light on the horizon. Off to her left, far in the distance, the skyscrapers of Downtown Chicago are lit, their reflections on the lake trembling.

I added that scene a while ago. Haven't gone back to reread it yet, because rereading it means editing and I need to push forward for this round.

Then last night, Red--the boy of colors and rain--drove me to a spot in view of the Biscayne Bay, in one of those neighborhoods that force you to notice the beauty of perfectly constructed homes. At the end of the road--after a dozen or so houses that, as he pointed out, grew grander the farther we traveled--there was a secluded little beach crowded with rocks and algae.

It was after midnight, silent except for the black water crashing against the rocks on the shore. We tried to climb those rocks (swaying and unstable) under the blinking eye of a lighthouse or a boat--just another speck of light on the horizon. To our left were the skyscrapers of Downtown Miami, illuminated, their reflections somewhat faded by the great distance but trembling nonetheless.

As I stood there, trying to maintain my balance and separate the dark water from the night sky, I thought about the only book I'll ever write that will take place in Miami. And I imagined Ramin--of Death Awakens--bringing Lola there for the first time. It'd be on a school night, during the late hours that blur two days into one and somehow speed up time so you don't notice when Thursday ended and Friday begun. I'd give them a bottle of Jack Daniel's and a joint (just the one), and Ramin would open with a variation of the amusingly morbid line Red used when he was bringing me over the greenery and past the No Trespassing sign. "So if you ever need a place to murder someone . . . ."

Today, I was drafting Lola's scene based off my recollections from the night before. Halfway through that, I remembered Lilith's and the details I focused on.

It's a moment that connects us now, Lilith, Lola, and I. And it's very strange because two of us aren't real and the one who should have been leading ended up in the middle. I have never seen Lake Michigan, never been to Chicago, so every single description I incorporated in that scene was built off research and photographs shared on the internet by strangers. But if I'm very, very, very lucky, both Lilith and Lola will have their stories published, and if I'm infinitely luckier, someone will read both books, one after the other.

So I wonder if that hypothetical reader will notice a parallel, and I wonder if they'll think it was intentional.

It made me think of something else. It's a small, inconsequential example that doesn't mean much on its own, but I think it's still applicable.

There are a lot of narratives about the creative process. The way this plays out according to those narratives is as such: Red takes me to the secluded beach with the murmuring black water, and I write about it for two heroines in completely different situations, completely different cities, completely different worlds.

Those narratives and cliches about the creative process are often wrong. It's silly to think the only way one can write about something is to first experience that something. Writers draw from real life inspiration all the time, but the human mind is capable of a great deal of imagination. And through that imagination, a great deal of perspective.

I have a lot left to experience, and while I'm sure those experiences will influence my writing, it's also nice to know I haven't necessarily needed them yet. I haven't needed to live through a million different moments to ensure I could write. If anything, the writing came first, and life came second, and I appreciate it all the more in that order.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Wave

Now Playing: Low Roar - I'll Keep Coming

The other night, I fell asleep to the sound of the 45 minutes suicide cassette tape recorded by the Peoples Temple in Jonestown.

I didn't mean to fall asleep to it. But I couldn't sleep at all. I was starting to get sick--stuffy nose and constant coughing--and it kept me up. The white noise of my fan wasn't helping and I didn't want absolute silence, so I decided to put something on in the background.

Earlier Ren had linked me to the Museum of Death in Hollywood. She told me about it knowing I'd love to visit, and whilst reading the info page, I remember thinking it was very strange that they had the Heaven's Gate cult recruitment video up on display but there's no mention of the Jonestown death tape. Both of those are easily accessible, I think, but the latter is much more well-known. Why play one over the other?

As I started to think about Jonestown again, I realized I actually didn't know all that much about it--just some basic facts. I searched and bookmarked a documentary to check out later. Whilst I was having trouble falling asleep, I put it on. Because it was on YouTube, as soon as it was over, the death tape video started on the autoplay. I came in and out of sleep to it, listening to Jim Jones ramble on and on about "revolutionary suicide." Listening to the few who tried to speak up against him but were swiftly silenced. Listening to children crying and screaming as they were forced to drink the poison.

Not long before, my brother shared a secret with me, hesitantly, partially. He said so little--more alluded to the details than confirmed or denied anything--that I didn't have a way to respond. He didn't want to talk about it and it wasn't right to push him. In an effort to shut my mouth and leave him be, I left the room, huddled beneath my blankets, and watched Cannibal Holocaust. Because I'd never seen it in full. It didn't take my mind off what my brother had told me, but it helped keep me quiet.

I don't get when or where this obsession with the macabre bloomed. I'm tempted to say it's always been a part of who I am.

There's a version of me that lingers at the edges of my mind. In the sense that I think of her in blips, though she's always there--the girl I was at the age of eight. Afraid of the dark, prone to crying at ghost stories and scary moments in movies, raised on the paranoid belief that walking through the streets of Quito was inherently dangerous and that at any given point, someone, somewhere, could and would hurt her if given the chance. I remember that she was also the girl who begged to listen to those ghost stories. Who was fascinated that first time Dad spoke about El Monstruo de Los Andes. Who believed in demons and angels and spirits wholeheartedly, but who didn't understand death because--even some time after her grandmother passed away--it never felt like a real concept.

To be fair, it still doesn't. It's too far away. Hasn't touched me, hasn't even passed by me.

I have memories of my grandmother, including the last time I saw her. In her house, at the doorway, saying goodbye to her children and grandchildren before she left for the hospital. I have a memory of the aftermath of her death: the adults sitting on all sides of her dining room table. Hands clasped, shaking, silent cries, worry lines carved across their faces. And the children running around, asking for bread because we were hungry, uncaring and unconcerned for why we'd all come to meet there. I learned years later the reason for that meeting--my aunts, uncles, and parents needed to discuss my grandmother's passing and what it meant for the entire family--but in the moment, it didn't make any sense. I didn't know she died. If they told me, I think I brushed it aside, not even capable of understanding it in theory.

When my grandmother died, I was too young to comprehend it. It couldn't affect me. Since then, every death I've come across--classmates, family members, acquaintances--has felt very distant, two or three or five degrees removed from where I am.

It seems like a lot of people develop a healthy fascination with morbid subject matters because it helps them accept the reality of death and tragedy. Helps them embrace the fleeting nature of life and all its joys and pains. Can't say whether or not it's the same with me. If I'm trying to understand something that hasn't yet been able to reach me. Or if this is my way of preparing.

I don't think I've become desensitized to tragedy. You always hear from critics of our modern age that easy access to graphic violence--whether fictional or non--has made my entire generation apathetic and detached. I disagree. At least on a personal scale.

I don't read about Amy Lynn Bradley's disappearance or look at photographs of Jack the Ripper's victims and come out numb. It all frightens me more than you think and I'm not trying to get over that fear. I let it linger, feeding it again and again with more stories, and tapes, and documentations.

It's not apathy I'm trying to induce. Or caution as I previously thought. But I can't say it's acceptance either. I don't want to resign myself to these tragedies, to just accept that horror as an unavoidable part of humanity.

I gather these stories and these images--and lock them away in little memory boxes--and sometimes I wonder what they're leading up to. If they're leading up to anything at all.

(And if you want to go to the Museum of Death with me, go ahead and ask. I'll hold your hand through it. Or maybe I'll need you to hold mine. Start to finish).

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Ephemeral

Now Playing: The Mountains - The Valleys

A little over a month ago, this man boarded the bus with a box full of roses--four for five dollars--and for whatever crazy coincidence, I had cash on me.

I never have cash on me. I can't even remember why I had dollar bills--I think I withdrew twenty dollars so I could buy something from the hot dog stand by the bus stop and then I kept carrying the change around for future hot-dog-stand purchases.

I know cut flowers don't last at all and I didn't--and still don't--know how to take care of them or even how to dry them properly. But I bought a small bouquet from the man because I liked the idea that I was in a place of my life where I could give away money for something that'll wither away in weeks, if not days.



I don't have a vase at my house because my parents aren't Plants for Decoration People (not even with fake plastic plants. Only fake greenery we have is our Christmas tree). So I looked up a WikiHow article, trimmed the stems at an angle, grabbed a thermos,  filled it with water, and added a spoonful of brown sugar because I'd read the flowers would appreciate that.


I set them by my pile of library books, and a day later, a tiny spider appeared by my window.

I named him Hector because he kinda looked like a Hector and decided not to disturb him because it looked like he was admiring my flowers. Few days later I saw him hanging out above my shower curtain, and while I don't think badly of spiders, they do freak me out. Reading too much about them or seeing pictures of spiders gives me chills all over and my brain starts hallucinating that there are teeny, tiny spider legs crawling over my arms and legs.

But I didn't have time to freak out or find the polite way to get Hector out of there before taking a shower, so I kinda let him hang around while I got ready for work.

When I came back home that afternoon, he was by the balcony window, on the other side of the glass. I lied down by the window and watched him for a moment, noting how it looked like he was floating above the landscape. I'm certain it was Hector--same shape, same weird pattern on his body, same size. I remember thinking it was kind of amazing such a tiny creature had crossed the entire apartment, but when I commented that to my brother, he just said, unimpressed, "He had all morning to get there."

I've seen Hector a couple of times since. Him or his doppelganger. Usually by the balcony window, separated by the glass. The flowers are dead now--I think they lasted me something like two or three weeks--but Hector comes and goes. He hasn't gone back to my room, though, and I'm thinking it's because I don't have anything beautiful there for him.

It's kind of strange. Spiders are really off-putting and I can't get close to him because the way he moves and looks freak me out a bit. I can't even take a picture of him. But I wish I had more flowers for him.

I liked the idea of being in a position where I didn't have to double think spending five dollars for four dying roses. But I like the idea of befriending a spider and buying roses for him even more.

Too bad the man in the bus only sells mangos as of late.

I wonder if the roses weren't selling very well.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gossamer Rain

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - The Day The World Went Away (Still)

When we studied Shakespeare in ninth grade, I was one of those weirdly elitist kids who took pride in "knowing" what the real message of Romeo and Juliet was.

Maybe it wasn't unfounded. I watched Shakespeare in Love and I read New Moon and I heard the play be discussed by classmates; every time someone called it the most romantic story ever written, I did audible gags to ensure everyone knew how smart I was and how I "got" what it was trying to say.

In reality, I never reached any kind of conclusion about the play that I didn't already hear from someone else. It was also that, at fourteen, I understood what love was in theory. I understood that Love at First Sight was an impossibility, because love was this complicated, intense, powerful feeling you could only reach once you truly knew someone. You could never love someone you just met because you could never know who they truly were, what they wanted, how they behaved, their best, their worst. If you couldn't love a person's flaws, you couldn't love that person.

So I didn't know yet what "love" felt like, but I knew how to define it. Of course Romeo and Juliet wasn't about "real" love. They were too young, it was too quick. Infatuation isn't love and Shakespeare knew it and he's been widely misinterpreted, but I understood.

I knew better.

A few months into ninth grade, I started speaking with a guy who was four years my senior. He lived far away, but it didn't stop him from filling my head with sweet compliments and endless possibilities--about me, about us. He could be sweet and he had this air of superiority that ensured his infatuation with me became flattering; like only I was smart and intriguing enough to draw in his favor. Eventually, as things got more complicated between us, when he started on the insults and the aggression, I had this delusional sense of control. He could insult me, but it was okay, because I was strong enough to take it. He could trash my values and ideas, berate people who were like me or who shared my circumstances, and set me up to earn his affection--and it was okay, because I wouldn't let it get to me or I could take on the challenge. He would threaten suicide often and vacillate about the tragic circumstances surrounding his affection for me and how it was better to leave him but also how I saved him and believed in him, etc, etc, and it was like the difficulty of our relationship made it all the more real. I could truthfully, wholeheartedly, reassure him I would never leave him. Because I loved him.

I learned his flaws. His indecisiveness about us, his lack of empathy for others, his self-assurance to the point of delusion; I loved him with those imperfections. Which isn't to say I thought they didn't matter or that--as the cliche goes--they made him perfect. There was plenty about him that I hated. Mostly I hated how dismissive he was of my fears and my struggles. Because he wasn't apathetic towards them, he was more condescending, like it was all so silly compared to his own struggles.

But even with that, I did love him.  And he loved me too. This widely insecure, naive, directionless teenage girl. I figured we were perfect for each other because we were the right kind of fucked up for each other.

I was wrong, of course. It took me a while to see how destructive his words were. Took me even longer to realize a lot of his manipulative tactics and aggressive behavior could be labeled as abusive.

But the thing is, I've never questioned what we had together. I've never thought back on that relationship and concluded, "that wasn't love."

It probably wasn't given people's definition of what "real" love is. Love is respecting each other, caring for each other, wanting one another to be happy. Before I broke things off with him, there was a lot of hostility between us. More so than there had been in the beginning of our relationship. It's harder to manipulate a sixteen-year-old than it is to manipulate a fourteen-year-old, so when I truly did start fighting back, I managed to hurt him. Maybe not as much as he had hurt me, but enough that it made a difference.

Yet I'm sure a part of me still loved him through that, just as he loved me. Even at our worst, I know we loved each other. Even when I can label him as abusive, I can still say I loved him.

I was thinking about it on Wednesday.

Or no. Actually. I thought about it on Thursday. It was, after all, Thursday morning by the time I got back home and had time to consider it all.

Wednesday I dragged a boy I like--a boy who talked about cities and their colors with me, who gave me a Harley Quinn plushie--to the movie theater. Mostly to escape the horrifying Miami summer for a few hours. Near the end of that movie, he told me he wanted to say something but he was afraid it might scare me off. I thought this isn't going where I think it's going and encouraged him to just spit it out.

Then it went exactly where I thought it was going.

I heard his heart and I felt it too, hammering hard against his chest. He was trembling a little, and I realized this level of vulnerability--particularly so early on--was more than I could have ever expected. So I said very little. Thought very little too.

On the walk out, a bunch of words kept running through my head. The obvious ones were, no you don't no you don't no you don't no you don't.

The second set was really faint, way in the background, utter nonsense. Rain on the cobblestone. I don't remember where it came from, but it kept looping. As we were walking down the steps of Sunset mall. As we headed to an ice cream shop. As he explained floats to me--the horrifying, enticing, teeth destroying concept of combining soda with ice cream. Rain on the cobblestone, rain on the cobblestone, rain on the cobblestone.

It wasn't about the words, though. It was about the image. Rain calms me and saddens me. Makes me feel safe, makes me feel uneasy, makes me conflicted. I hate the rain and I love it. I've smiled and squealed and laughed in the rain, and I've wept in it because it hides the tears while its thunder masks the cries.

It should have scared me off--hearing him say that to me. Because it's so early and because I'm still so unsure and because I can't look at the future and be optimistic even though it's so early there are no visible, tangible flaws to tarnish any dreams or hopes or wishes. However unrealistic.

But it didn't scare me off. Because in the end, I have no idea what it really is. My only frame of reference for it was some fucked up, destructive relationship I managed to keep alive for two years despite all its efforts to implode. That relationship has time and the presence of imperfections on its side. I knew his flaws, he knew mine, and we tried to stay together, somehow, for as long as was possible. But is that love--because it was there for a while, because it developed slowly--more real than whatever infatuation I might have with another boy after just a few weeks?

I'm not trying to be naive. If anything, I can't help but think I over complicated things when I was younger. In the end, it's all chemicals and electrical impulses rattling us up inside, forcing words to run through our mind whether or not they make sense.

I'm not gonna tell this boy what he does or doesn't feel. I can't even tell him how I feel, and it might be a while before I figure that out.

But I'm not as frightened at this as I thought I would be. And maybe hindsight will bring me harsher thoughts and negative emotions, but it's okay now. I'm okay. Still cautious, still unsure, still a little frightened. But like I'm allowed to be those things for now. Because it's real for him and it's a possibility for me and we're allowed to be right about it now and wrong about it later.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.