Category Archives: scribbling

coming to

The birds outside woke him up before he was ready. Annoyed, he came into consciousness, opening his eyes to the bright light in his room and a splitting headache. Oh drunk —-, what did you do last night? The sepia playback from the night before was interrupted sporadically by blanks in the story line and finally the story cut short right before the end. The film must’ve fallen off the reel. Or something like that.
He parted his sticky lips for the first time and licked them, checking the clock by his bed. 12:30 pm. He could have gone for another hour or two for sure if it weren’t for those stupid birds. He didn’t brush last night and his breath was rank from the nighttime. He could also taste remnants of the night’s drinks and cigarettes. Stretching out across the slightly yellowed sheets, he made a mental note to do laundry in the next week. His shirt from the night before was damp from sweat and the sheets could stand a wash.
Not wanting to move but too thirsty now that he was awake, —- swung his feet onto the cold floor. The cold November air managed to spread past the thin walls of his house and settle itself everywhere in his room but the small pocket of warmth in his bed. The floor was the most hostile of them all. Head still throbbing, he winced at the cold but grabbed a gray cotton sweatshirt from his dresser and pulled it over his head as he walked into the kitchen.
The lukewarm water ran straight from the leaky tap to his plastic cup – and also all over his hands. His roommate had tried to fix the leak in the faucet by tying a washcloth around it, but the cloth had since soaked and the water shot through again.
The cup filled and he drank it all in a few gulps, imagining each swallow could somehow undo the things he didn’t remember doing from the night before.
He dropped the empty cup in the sink. His heart was beating, and his lips were cold and moist.

She brushed her long, dark hair and dressed for the cold, putting her book in her bag and double-checking her reflection in the mirror on the way out the door. Jaw set and mind cool, she had made up her mind to get to the bottom of this, one way or another. She waited until she was certain he would be awake to call him. She figured 12:45 should be fine, even though she had been awake since 9:00 that morning. She dialed his number as she stepped into the cold, holding her breath from her nerves and from the temperature outside.
The shower was warming up and he was pulling off his shirt when he heard his phone faintly buzzing from his bed.
“Meet me in an hour,” her voice said nervously over the phone. She sounded so much younger than she was.
Curious, and now committed, he hung up the phone and stepped into the hot water. —- stared up at the steam curling toward the ceiling and the ruined paper on the walls while the water soothed his headache. He wanted to know why she called. Those few nights in the summer had been all right but he had never been particularly invested in the relationship.
He brushed his teeth hoping to freshen his breath as best as he could, but knowing that there wasn’t really much he could do.
Pants, shirt, sweater, socks, shoes. Wallet in pocket and keys in hand, he stepped out into the cold. The digital clock on his car’s dashboard said he had fifteen minutes to spare.

She sat there in the coffee shop hidden under a scarf and cradling her book like it would offer some kind of advice for what was to come. There was a couple at the table next to her having coffee and reading magazines. She had dark hair and thick bangs; he wore round glasses that reflected the light. There was an older woman poring over a thick textbook and taking notes in big, slanted cursive. There was a table of three teenage girls who hadn’t quite grown into their looks but who did their best to impersonate the models in Seventeen Magazine. One girl’s hair was haphazardly straightened and her split ends stuck out, making her hair look more like a straw broom from afar.
There was a low chatter in the room. The girls laughed at jokes amongst themselves and one in the couple would occasionally point an article or an advertisement out to the other.
She heard his footsteps before she saw him walking toward her. He looked the same, though his hair might have grown a little and he may have gained some weight. His blue eyes were as bright as ever, even inside the shop. He settled across from her and she sat in silence for a moment.
“Well, the ball’s in your court,” —- said.
The room went quiet. She could smell the alcohol on his skin.

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#1 — how harry potter defined the direction of my life.

This post is part of a big project I am starting, which I’m hoping to complete in the next year. I’m open to any stylistic criticisms for these. 

The first time I had ever heard of Harry Potter was in the third grade. There was a new girl in my class at St. Michael’s that year named Madeline Dahl. If I couldn’t tell from her white skin that she was a military child like me, then I realized when our moms started a carpool to and from school. Madeline was exceptionally good at imitating accents, and recently, her favorite thing to say was “Expelliarmus!’ Which, apparently, was from this Harry Potter book.

Mom took me to the PX one day after school and I made a beeline for the book section while she filled her basket with whatever she had come for. That day, a wire shelf held a display of the first four Harry Potter books. As I stood there in my St. Michael’s uniform, my life changed. I had never given Harry Potter much thought but that day, for some reason, I decided it might be worth a shot to pick up one of these books.

When I got home I held the book in my hand and wondered what the story could be about. Reading the first few lines, I felt as if I were being inducted into a secret club of those who know — those who understand, who have read, and who love.

The first chapter was slow, but gradually the story drew me in and I became infatuated with the skinny boy with glasses who didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I began to stay up late at night reading and wake up early with only one thing on my mind.  I felt smart when I pulled the hefty books out of my backpack at school when we had free reading time after lunch and recess. Every moment was delicious.

Since this was 2002, only the first four books in the series had been written. I devoured each one quickly and then had to wait patiently for the next one to be released. In that time, I pacified my anxious mind by learning to use the Internet.

Our house on Schofield Barracks had one computer in the very back room. The desktop sat on a big, official-looking wooden desk for which we had no better location. It had squeaky drawers with gold handles that I would keep my floppy disks in when I brought them home from computer class at school. I liked to spin around in the leather chair with its armrests, my feet dangling in the air. To my memory, the room was always dark and cool, so it became my new favorite hide out – and I liked hide outs. There, I would play with my dolls for hours, creating elaborate narratives for each character that would consume an entire afternoon.

But sometimes I would power up the ancient desktop and explore this new world inside that bright screen, which was often the room’s main source of light. I had learned to use Google in computer class at school, so I typed in the name of the woman who wrote Harry Potter, one letter at a time.

J. K. Rowling. There wasn’t much online at the time, but I did find the title of a biography on her, written by Marc Shapiro entitled “J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter.” I found the book at Borders and read it over and over again. I had never considered the woman behind the story before, but now it amazed me: she had created the world I had fallen in love with. The biography told of her lonely childhood when she had to switch schools and make all new friends. She came up with stories to tell the girls at her school and that was how she made friends. I felt connected to this little girl because I had had to move to a new school and I would likely have to do it again in the future, although I tried my best to put that thought out of my mind.

Before I finished the biography on J. K. Rowling, I resolved to become the creator of something equally as beautiful. I had a purple, hardcover Harry Potter notebook, the kind you could buy at the Scholastic book fairs that toured elementary schools around the country. The lined pages were blank, and that excited me.

I gathered up some pens and pencils from my pencil box and, inspired Harry Potter’s under-the-stairs living space, I made myself a little writing niche in the cupboard of my bathroom. I brought a pillow and a blanket from my bed and I shut the door of the cupboard, hiding out for hours. I must have brought a flashlight or something in with me; I don’t know how else I would have been able to see.

What resulted in those many hours of solitude, locking myself away from the greedy fingers of my little sister, was a 20-page long beginning of a novel – Harry Potter fan fiction, to be precise. It was a story about Harry’s long lost cousin, who attended another wizard school. I focused a lot on her appearance; I felt as if that was the only concrete description I could create of a person that would solidify their existence as a legitimate character in a piece of work.

After a particularly spirited writing frenzy, I sat on the couch in the living room completely spent from the passion I had just put my young mind through. My mom looked over my happy smile as I curled on the sofa cradling the purple notebook as if it were the most precious possession I owned — because at that time, it was. Although I never finished the story, I was proud of the work I had done. I fanned the worn pages over and over again, and I ran my fingers over the indentions on the backs of pages. This was the first time I realized that something material could come from the silly things that ran through my head and I got such satisfaction from the tangible evidence.

I always promised myself I would come back to that story because I saw some real promise in those twenty pages. But the words were written in pencil and the plot was based on a world someone else had imagined. I hadn’t yet realized — or maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself — that the story was never to go anywhere further than the first twenty pages of my purple Harry Potter notebook. The final three Harry Potter books and film versions of all seven would be released over the next nine years. Madeline would move away the next year and so would I. I would buy new notebooks and pens and I would grow another six inches, but the desire to create would remain inside me, causing my fingers to itch routinely for the pen or for a willing keyboard.

well, on the bright side-

A few weeks ago, my news editor for the paper sent out a story idea to the staff — it was about something the LA Times called “generation vexed,” which described my generation’s pessimistic attitude toward the future. Here’s the link to the story. I picked up the story, figuring my version would roughly follow the same outline as that one, just on a smaller scale. I mean, it can’t be hard to find someone who hates their major, right?

I searched in vain all over this campus. I asked everyone I could, but the closest I got was a boy who had hated his biology major but changed it a year ago to pursue a career in filmmaking. The art and music majors were all over the place though — and they were so confident and optimistic about their futures. One art major admitted that he didn’t have an exact plan for his future but he figured it would work out. But who really has an exact plan? It’s silly to plan out the little details specifically so far in advance anyway.

Here’s the best part. I interviewed a man who works at the University Career Center and he could not stress enough how important he thought it was for students to pick majors they are passionate about. His main point was that people will be more productive in society if they all follow their passions, because everyone is passionate about something. It reminded me of a Howard Thurman quote: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

At the end of my interview with him, this man blamed the media for spreading this general attitude of fear into college students that causes them to choose lives they aren’t in love with just for money. I was transcribing the interviews in bed on the morning my story was due, and I stopped for just a moment to really think about what he said.

By writing my story, I was becoming that powerful voice of the media that plants the seeds of thought into readers, that voice that can slowly but surely facilitate public opinion — or maybe I’m just flattering myself. As much as I had wanted to find a depressed artist trapped in the vacuous shell of a business major, they were nowhere to be found. And I realized that even trying to write that story was a depressing prospect — it would have been unhelpful and depressing to everyone who read it. So I decided to change the story to focus on the power young people have to define their own lives because I felt like I had the responsibility to show a more hopeful side to the story. Suffice it to say I’m obsessed with the final result.

How appropriate is it then, that during this same weekend, I made the decision to quit my  job at Larry’s Giant Subs? It began with a seed my mom planted in my head on Friday — she told me that if I am so stressed and busy, then I could quit my job to focus on more productive things, like writing more stories for the paper and studying for all of my classes. Over the weekend that idea grew so quickly, like a vine spreading to and infecting every productive corner of my mind. On Monday, I gave my manager my two weeks’ notice and I am now counting down the shifts I have left as a sandwich slave.

I struggled with my decision a little bit at first. I have a really hard time not being constantly busy, which can be at once a blessing and a curse. I just love feeling productive — there were weeks in high school when I would go and go and go and then on Friday night I would pass out at seven o’clock and sleep for 14 hours straight. I lived for that recuperation. But I talked with most of my friends and with my parents, and my dad said something that really stuck; he said, “Jobs don’t have to suck, Alex.” That’s it. And I guess that’s an idea that I’ve got to learn to accept. I could have a job that I’m obsessed with, and the best way to do that is to consciously take every step forward in the direction that brings me closer to my ultimate goal. And that goal, do I even need to go into that? No, I think not.

Anyway. I’ll post the link to my story once it’s published on Thursday. Counting down three more shifts at Larry’s and until total liberation. Yahtzee!

Facebook makes breaking up really, really difficult. Social media sites are meant to bring us all closer and I guess that’s what they’re doing. They draw us into the inner circles of our closest (and not so close) friends’ lives. We revel in the intersecting spheres of those we care the most about; our lives become each other and we don’t mind it one bit. Nevermind that there is a whole world of people and possibilities just outside our realm of acknowledgment. In these fleeting moments no one else matters at all.

Until you get a glimpse of what that outside atmosphere looks like. And suddenly, different doesn’t look so bad. It’s scary to take that first step out but it becomes easier. And you’re fine for days until the dreaded News Feed publishes one thing posted by that one person you least want to hear from. The one person who has the power to draw you back to the circle, the one person who makes you wish for the past again. When you look at it comparatively, the now is so much better than the then. If it’s so much better, why do you crave it? You crave comfort. You crave stability. You crave security. But you’ll never create new supports in a structure if you don’t first expose weak parts.

I really wish I could just hide in my bed for the rest of the summer. Pretend I don’t ever have to face reality and eat all the salt and vinegar chips I want. But this is the price you pay for sweet independence. There are consequences to freedom and I’d say that the benefits are definitely worth any bit of loneliness or helplessness or fear that I am feeling right now. We mope. We wallow. We take a breath. And we proceed.

coming home

So it’s summer, and I’m home. Or rather, “home.” I really don’t need to get into that whole concept of what home is, do I? No, no. Probably not. Needless to say, this doesn’t feel much like home. It is a little better than last summer though, because at least I have some memories of living here. I know where the dishes go (for the most part) and I know my way around the island a lot better now. After spending a few days running around with my mom and sister, I really needed to get away so this morning I drove by myself to the gym on Schofield Barracks. It wasn’t so much that I really needed to use the gym; I ran and then did a work out that could have been done at home. But I had been craving solitude and peace and autonomy that I have been taking for granted for the last nine months.

It’s strange because I feel so lonely here for so much of the time. It’s a familiar type of lonely. There are no assignments due, no tests to study for, practically no responsibility at all. In past summers I would spend this time reading a million books and writing pages and pages in my journal every day. I guess it was good, but it doesn’t seem like a healthy way to spend an extended period of time. I would start dreaming up the type of person I wanted to become, which was usually modeled after the summer’s blockbuster female heroine: quirky, intelligent, and rebellious. An outcast. But a beautiful one, one that was endearingly awkward. The one who had the male lead from the beginning but didn’t realize it until the end. All of the year’s conflict would come to a head right before school gets out but then it would resolve just in time to have a perfect, carefree summer. Everyone would sit with their toes dipped in a lake with a sunset reflected in it, basking in the magic of their youth.

But I never lived near a lake, and I never had that kind of summer. That’s just how it is.

I guess summer can be a lot like prom in that way. And New Years, I suppose. And Valentine’s Day. And Christmas. All these days have so much hype attached to them that you can’t help but imagine the absolute best version of yourself living out the day flawlessly. And so you’re inevitably disappointed. It’s no one’s fault.

I remember looking forward so much to prom each year. I would take so much time planning the little details. I would look back over old prom pictures to make sure I didn’t forget anything. But on the big night, I remember looking around and thinking “well. this is it. wait. this is it?” The memories were being made and I guess I was conscious of it but it didn’t feel quite as momentous as it was supposed to feel. Each moment was just a moment just like the one before it and the one that will come after.

How depressing.

laggy

Jet lag.

It’s a symptom of time travel and I’ve got it. It’s strange, I feel so transplanted right now. I spent all of yesterday (all 24 hours) travelling from Atlanta to Seattle to Honolulu, finally settling in my bed in Ewa Beach. But while my physical body is here, in Hawaii, I seem to have left another part of myself back in Georgia. That other part is continuing to live out daily routines on my old schedule in the Eastern time zone as if it is blissfully unaware of my apparent relocation. My body is in denial. That’s what it is. It’s midday here in Hawaii but I just want to go to sleep now because it’s almost ten o’clock at night in Georgia.

It’s strange because jet lag is so mental. When I moved back to Georgia last summer, I had one day to adjust to the time change before rush started and I can honestly say that on that trip I was a woman on a mission to keep my mind and body together in one package. I can’t remember feeling any effects from the time change on that trip.

But it’s summer. I just want to be lazy and have plenty to complain about.

I wish I had a hammock. I’ve always wanted one. One day I’ll have one.

I have so much free time right now. My sister is doing her homework and what am I doing with my free time? I worked out earlier this morning, so God forbid I work out a second time. I could read but to be honest, I’m a little bit afraid that I’ll fall asleep. So I’ll waste my life and day on the computer. What else is new?

happy verson 2.0

It would be so easy to get bogged down in negativity right now. I let myself wallow for a tiny bit, but it’s time for me to stop it now. There is no way I will be productive if I stayed down.

So, I present to you, my readers, The Second List of Cheerful Things: 

Tagliolini Pomodoro, North Shore, hummus, “oh my goodness, me too!”, waking up naturally before 10 am, feeling good on a long run, Burt’s Bees, the foam at the top of a latte, realizing that I can get cappuccinos with twice the foam, high heels, You’ve Got Mail, the sound of keys typing, old bricks walls with plants creeping up the gaps, running into sweet acquaintances, Tom Petty, endings are actually okay, closure, new adventures, accomplishment, realizing that there’s more to the world than your narrow view can presently offer, Dancer’s Pose (when I can actually do it), old pictures, reunions, iced green tea that’s gone in a second, hiding inside when it’s raining outside, new nail polish, dresses with pockets, tan lines tan lines tan lines, sunscreen, sandy toes, sandy food, sandy floors, sandy everything, pages and pages of paper filled with my handwriting, Sofia Coppola, humidity, lying in driveways on summer nights feeling like you’re about to fall off the Earth, panang curry mushed into rice, Thai iced coffee, crispy tofu that’s creamy on the inside, peanut sauce, kimbap, musubi, Pho. Can you tell that I’m hungry?

The Great Phone Catastrophe of 2011

What your eyes now gaze upon is the last remaining piece of my cell phone, the only evidence of what we will forever call The Great Phone Catastrophe of 2011.

Here’s how it happened:

Yesterday, I stood on the corner of Broad and Jackson streets and while I waited for the white man’s permission to cross, I saw my dear friend, Frances. As soon as I could cross, I ran across the street to greet her (I hadn’t seen her in a while). My phone flew out of my purse — flew, practically of its own accord — and landed on the street, which is at a slight incline. The battery separated from the body of the phone, which then slid slowly and fatefully across the street, right down the sewage drain. And that’s it. I stooped to grab the battery in shock while people in the cross walks and on the sidewalk watched, laughing at the misfortune of that girl. God, how embarrassing. I kept wanting to tweet and text my friends about this hilarious and horrible disaster. Oh, the irony.

I stayed up desperately trying to figure out a solution. Being 5,000 miles from home, with one parent deployed, it’s not really an option at all for me not to have a cell phone, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mom what had happened. Finally, I crawled into bed, feeling defeated. I sat in the dark in my room, alone, and suddenly realized that there were no working clocks in my room at all. There’s a clock by my TV, off; clock on my roommate’s desk, wrong time; clock on the microwave, constantly reset; watch on my desk, broken; phone, down the sewer.

I have to say, as isolated as I felt for those few hours, it was kind of nice to escape from the confines of time. I know, it sounds so ridiculous when I say it that way. But for reasons far too immature for me to divulge online for everyone to laugh at, I really hate to be awake alone at 3:00 in the morning. And I knew that it was getting close to three by the time I went to sleep, but because I had to clock to race against, I didn’t stress about my insomnia and in fact, I think I got to sleep so much faster than if I would have if I had had my phone with me.

I could have easily freaked out a lot more about this than I did. But I forced myself to remain calm and I’m surprised at how quickly I’m able to laugh at this now. I kept telling myself that maybe this is the Universe’s way of telling me not to get so attached to small things, whether it is my phone, a clock, Twitter, or connections to people who might not have my best interests at heart. Maybe it was a miniature reprimand. Either way, the next morning another friend of mine happened to have the exact same phone that I had before (enV3) just lying around. So I activated it and it’s like I never lost my phone. Except my pictures and contacts are gone. Not important. Another message from the Universe but this time, a reward for keeping my cool.

It all balances out.

Chill.

happy.

Being newly single has its perks, as I knew it would. I’ve become more acquainted with my beautiful Ikea duvet cover, spending more time lying in bed reading than I have in a long while. I am also forcing myself (through my diary writing freshman seminar) to examine the things in life that make me happy. The little things, I mean. The things that will cheer up even the worst of days and add a bit of texture to an otherwise bland life.

So without further ado,

The List of Cheery Everyday Occurrances

Crinkled paper, claddagh ring, Vision Video, curly hair, tan lines, cold sand between my toes, M. Ward Chinese Translation, worn old book spines, chalkboards, the Tree That Owns Itself, pizza, grapefruit at midnight, piggyback rides, iPods, soft, loose button downs, secret college societies, rainy nights, boricha, used book stores, berries and whipped cream, downward dog when I can get my heels on the mat, running through a forest, swing beats, brick roads, Christmas lights, reluctant smiles, sitting net to the bathtub hearing the running water, cherries from the tree, drizzle, farmers markets, A Prairie Home Companion, caramelized tomatoes on warm baguettes, coffee, not working, white teeth, waking up early, flowers, Nerds Rope, being right, J. Crew, tall trees, pockets, swimming, cold Coke from a can, hand written notes, feathers, Yann Tiersen, sun sun sun.

Yes, I realize it’s a lot of food. I wonder what that says about me? There are so many more; I’ve taken to making a list every night before bed. Maybe I’ll add to it online another time.

blindness.

The eggs are dry in the frying pan that was used the night before to fry rice that turned out equally dry. A sizzle and a hiss for each moment that the eggs came closer to being finished. The harsh sun streams through windows unforgiving. She sits on an un-matching chair at the kitchen table with the gessoed wooden board in front of her, the pleading eyes of the lonely woman looking up at her. She wanted to tell the woman to stop looking at her, to put some clothes on. No one can help you when you’re naked. No one wants to help you with such helpless looking features. He places the eggs in front of her on a flowered plastic plate. She sips her cranberry juice cocktail and picks up the fork. He marvels at her willingness to trust him with her safety. She thinks to herself that she trusts him more than anyone. But scrambled egg forces the words from her lips back down her throat.

Sounds from the night before flash through her head in snippets so quick and fleeting that she is surprised that this room was ever filled to begin with. But last night, the walls seemed to be breathing. There was a pulse and a constant movement through arteries and veins. She could actually see them last night. How old they all felt, sipping their grown-up drinks and cooking real grown-up foods together. But in the light of midmorning responsibility and rationality, they all looked more like children playing dress up in their parents clothes.

He picks up his pencils and starts back on the woman. He pays particular attention to the folds of the cloth that covers her body. She herself is complete; her eyes speak this sadness that no human hand can cure. Like Water for Chocolate. She is surrounded by candles but she cannot keep the fire going within her. He works with what is not there, blending smudges from his finger and drawing with his eraser. She wonders how someone can create from nothing. It seems magical. But then, here they were.

Her eyes were smothered with glitter, paint, and tangled Christmas lights from nights that could have been. She couldn’t see, even in the daytime. Nobody understood what clouded her vision, but it stayed like that for a very long time.