Category Archives: shape of the beast

Interim

I’ve forgotten many things: names, dates, pieces of historical lore—all things I expected to lose amongst the march of age and education. But the one thing I never counted on, never dreamed possible, was the ability to write—paint with words an experience so rich it only exists in the recesses of the mind; the mere shadow of memory, at once so vivid and fragile as to become priceless.

Or maybe it is not the mechanics of writing that have left—for these actually do remain, if I am to be honest—but the will to write, the desire to create something more beautiful and transcendent that I in this self can ever hope to be. When did that go, I wonder? Was it in my teens, when I, so disaffected and distraught, vowed to make of myself a kind of living doll, metal heart masked against all that could tarnish, all that could corrupt? Perhaps it was in my 20s, when I was so tired of myself, and my life. I lamented my life with all the gloom and vigor of a Roman widow. I cried, I seethed, I yearned to be anything but what I was, what I saw, what I imagined others saw when they looked at or thought of or even briefly examined the very idea of me.

Maybe, truly, it is only the magnification of self that is remembered.

When I was very young, I used to mourn the person I was. Then, when I got a little older, I mourned the person I was not. Then, for a time, I lost myself, and spent years in sorrow for the person that had gone past. And always there was regret. Always pain.

I am now just starting to recall the threads of my former self. The things I did and wanted . . . I remember those moments, but no longer is there pain. Nor a sense of absence where those drives used to be. I cannot describe exactly the nonchalance that now colors these once-painful memories. There is nothing—no goodness, or badness, nor even the hollow shape of past emotion, and this confuses me. Maybe it’s just old business, now.

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Hillside

Here’s another antiquated story from back in the day.  Looking back at old work is always bittersweet for me.  I’m always judging.  I see only my mistakes, but I’m also convinced my voice, technique, and drive were stronger back then.  *sigh*  That’s the problem with memories:  they’re  selective.  Anyway, in 2005, I got this story published in a small Canadian literary magazine called Deliverance. Recently, I tried getting it published again, but that didn’t really work out.  So here it is.  Enjoy.

Hillside

        A look, a flash, a wad of cash.  The apathy I felt just then was as dangerous as the drug she handed me.  My hand shot out and in it she placed a smallish sheet, neat, perforated squares looking for all the world like little tabs of gum: tiny, innocuous.

            What do I do with it?”

        She fixed me with a hard stare, trying to decide if I was as stupid as the question suggested.  “You eat them.  But not all at once,” she said rather quickly, having decided that I was, in fact, and idiot.  “You can save them, or share them.”  Here her voice turned up; perhaps my stupidity would lead her to some free drugs.  I stifled a sigh and shifted my gaze from her vague, eager face, once again caught by the flashing neon road sign atop the broken television. I was already bored.

            “What happens if I take them all at once?”

        Another stupid question.   Apparently I was only allowed one per transaction.

        I put away my purchase and again found myself studying her.  A definite mod goth: her stockings looked new and purposely ripped; her false lashes and black lipstick smacked of pretentiousness.  And her wig was on crooked.  So much for showmanship.

        Out in the frigid air, I felt some of my apathy recede, and I quickened my steps in anticipation.  But instead of relocating myself to some dance club or art house-turned-opium den, I trudged on home, to my little apartment, as far from the area as the city could take me.

            My rooms were dark and damp, redolent of champaka and weed.  I gobbled the sheet almost immediately and began to prepare.  Water, water, soda, pocky and bread, all dumped onto the floor, along with a thin blanket and a mottled sock monkey.  More preparations: clothing picked up, tables shoved away.  The television started to look rather curvy, so I left off the tidying and tried to begin.  Sitting in full lotus, I decided, facing the wall, would be best for this type of thing, but my legs had grown considerably since I had walked through the door, and I couldn’t cross them properly.  So I lay face-up on the floor, arms spread wide, like a child on a hillside, waiting.  There was music, but I didn’t remember having put any on.  My bookshelf had melted into a puddle of light.

            Still on the floor, I started to spin, lazy circles describing paths of consciousness to my shifting mind.  Orange melodies swirled beneath me as I felt myself stretch and lengthen.  Two, ten, eleven, and the cry of grackles filled the room as I blended and merged with the carpet.  Every once in a while I would snap back and ask myself questions I already knew the answers to.  Commodore Washington was the first charlatan of our nation, with long flowing hair, as beautiful as the unturned sky.  All was blue light and magic behind my eyes.  I pressed down on the floor and let the deeper truths come to me.  Black star, red sun, cold moon, and where was that music coming from?  Throbbing, pulsing, syzygial beat teeming with flesh and wonder worming closer, closer still . . . a sitar made of golden glass strummed silently, and I had found God.

            Several hours later, the boredom was back.  The water lay undrunk, the pocky uneaten.  I was cold, I realized, and greatly disappointed, for I had failed to bring back the one thing I had gone for.  Sighing, I set off once again for the house on the hill with the self-made queers and closeted squares.  Perhaps I would have better luck this time.


Ancient

I dug this scrap out of my notebook.  I was watching Kate Hudson’s OD scene in Almost Famous.  For some reason, I always imagined Penny Lane as in her mid-twenties.

"Oh, Penny . . . ."

The despair when it’s over. The boy, so achingly young, and your heart literally gives out. You  feel empty of all emotion. You drain, you fade. You think you are dead, both more and less than dead, a ghost of a shadow clinging to a pale, pale wall. And all the dreams before you–of fame, of happiness–only serve to leach the life out of your still frame, leave you limp upon the carpet. Make you non. When they leave. God, it huts so much.


The spinster’s rumination

I want iced tea with lemon.  I want Asian soups and rice.  I want fire in baskets and blue balustrades, music made of silk and memories without nostalgia.  I want effortless intoxication. I want the life of worlds unreal.

I wrote this last week.  I like this passage; it makes me feel good as a writer.  But maybe it’s this thinking here that has made me so unhappy.

"But in Monica . . ."

I recently read an article on cracked.com about happiness.  About how our definition of happiness was a relatively new invention, and how the emotion itself doesn’t really exist and is, therefore, impossible to achieve.  In the the olden days, before sliced bread and flush toilets, people thought happiness meant that they were lucky, or virtuous, or God-fearing (a dangerous term if there ever was one).  Now people think that “happiness” equates to “warm, fuzzy feeling of contentment and/or satisfaction”, and, what’s more, that you can do something to make yourself feel this way.  Hmm.

“There’s a hook in that bait,” said the Breen to the Monican, “and here you still expect me to swallow it.”  We do.  And we do.


Exercises, or Feel the burn

I’m stuck.  Horribly, painfully, terrifyingly stuck.  It’s the dreaded block, man. I’ve had this before, and I do notwant to get derailed by this again.  So, in an effort to jump start my gears, I’ve been writing little vignettes.  I don’t draft, I don’t think about what’s going to come next.  I just choose a first sentence and go from there.  Painful, but therapeutic, I think, I end.  Here’s one I think is sort of alright.

*          *          *          *          *

“I’m tired of this,” Cara whined.

Christian didn’t even bother to look up from his paper.  Cara was always tired of something.  “What is it this time?”

“Well, for starters, I’m tired of you not paying attention to me,” she said, pouting.

Christian turned a page, taking pains to remain as neutral and calm as possible.  “I am paying attention to you.  Case in point: if I were not paying attention, then we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

“You’re not even looking at me!”

Heavy silence from Christian.

Cara wasn’t stupid.  She had noticed, of course, that it took longer each time for her husband to respond to (diffuse, rather) her little outbursts.  She knew those few extra seconds he took were to calm his own temper.  That didn’t worry her.  It was perhaps a testament to her own self-absorption that she had never even considered the ramifications of such.  Christian had indulged these little fits of hers for the entire duration of their relationship and, she believed, would continue to do so without fail.

Christian, for his part, did love his wife.  She was the light of his soul, the still point of his world.  He would have done anything, gone anywhere, if only to make her happy.  But no matter how much love or devotion, twenty years of temper tantrums will wear anyone’s patience thin.

The human brain works amazingly fast.  He thought of all this and more in those three seconds of silence.

“Cara,” he rumbled, and Cara, so unused to such gravity in her husband’s voice, jumped in surprise.  Exasperation, yes.  Placation, of course.  But gravity?  She shivered involuntarily.

Christian set down his book and rose from his chair.  With even stride, he crossed to his wife, who suddenly felt as timid as a rabbit before this 300-pound giant.

“Cara,” he said, taking her small hands in his own bear-like fists.  His fists.  Strange she had never thought of them that way before.  She swallowed hard.

“Cara.  Stop.”


On the spot with J.U.L

Last month, the Just-Us League, a collection of local artists who create live art at live events, held a fundraiser for the earthquake/tsunami victims in Japan.  I wasn’t involved with the fundraiser at all.  I came in at the tail-end of the night, looking around at the art left (donations from locals, and a couple of famous people), carefully not bidding on anything because I didn’t have any money.  As usual, there was a large canvas for everyone to add their art, this time extended to all the event volunteers, as well as the attendees. In the spirit of the J.U.L.’s live art vibe, this, too was an on-the-spot creation.  I penned this at the last possible moment, Jerod patiently waiting for me to finish, as he was trying to pack up everything. It’s a little off–muddied, cluttered with repetition, in dire need of a good edit–but it’s there.  Also, please excuse the crappy-ness of the pic itself, as I only had my woefully inadequate 2.0 MP camera phone on me, and I absolutely suck at photo editing.

I also drew a few leaf/branch things right above it, but I didn’t think to get a picture of that.  This banner is currently in the possession of the Japan-America Society of DFW; maybe I’ll go by there one day and get one.


Twilight sucks

I wrote this a couple of years ago in response to the Twilight craze that had swept through my office (and my team).  Grown women–my age and older, some with children–were fawning over this stupid story, and I did not understand why.  The shit read like a bad fanfic.  The characters were poorly developed, the story was ridiculous, the particulars went well beyond the realm of believability, and Bella? Mary Sue to the extreme.  The new girl in town, plain and drab, who faints at the sight of blood, and every boy in school lusts over?  Give me a fucking break.  At least with Harry Potter, there was a good plot to make up for all the weak bits.  Not so with Twilight.  It is, in my opinion, utter crap.  The following is a parody of the unfinished Edward series. Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, I give you–

Forbidden Sun: Edward explains to Emmett what he likes about Bella

“What is it about her that you can’t get over?  Yeah, she’s human, but so are all the rest of them, and you’re not beating your head in trying to not tear out their throats.  Seriously, dude.  Can’t you just, like, find another one? Seven decade itch and all; I’m sure one would be just as good as another.”

“You don’t understand, Emmett.  They all smell good, but not as good as her.  It’s not just a passing thirst.  I don’t even think I can explain it.”

“Try.”

When I was alive, I had loved lamp chops.  My family had not shared my fascination with this food; my sister, in fact, thought it sad and barbaric.  Something about eating a cute animal; she thought it sickening . So my mother only made this dish rarely, and always at my request.  What I remember most about that particular obsession was the smell: sure, they tasted lovely, but the smell was what had really stuck with me.

“So . . . you want to feed off of Bella . . . because she smells like a lamp chop?”

Emmett, as usual, did not understand.

“No, you doof.  She doesn’t smell like a lamb chop.  But that’s what I think of when I see her. Smell her,” I amended. “The best food in the world, the most tempting.  Tender.  Juicy.  Bella.”

Emmett though about this for a moment.  A new thing for him; I gave him some time.  “You know, you could just take off a finger.  Humans are resilient; she’ll survive it.”

He was my brother, and I loved him, but he could be so dumb sometimes.


Stand BACK

Remember I said I would put in some of my own writings?  Well, here goes.

/poem ON

I want to create something beautiful
More than life, more than song.
Eternal.
I want to give you a flower that has no name.
One that glows with wet heat
Luminescent in its beauty.
The flower drank the water I in my misery had saved for you.
Will it grow in spite of me?
Only I can wonder.

/poem OFF

I’m not a poet any any means; I just had an idea one day.  I did manage to get this published, though.

http://archive.cynicmag.com/archive.asp?articleid=3452&cat=Cafe