Numb

The cello hums a warm melody through the laptop speakers.  I am no stranger to this sound.  My lungs move with the instrument’s faint swell-drop, characteristic of its hollow, wooden body.

The ocean undulates ferociously.  Waves crashing against the rock-hard barriers that keep water away from the shore.

Meanwhile, on land, all is dry.  The villagers have no embellished tales of fish, extravagant beasts washed to shore in the night’s storm.  They know the legends of mermaids and sharks as large as ocean liners, fictitious feathers of hope that something interesting might happen, if they pray hard enough.  They gaze at the black clouds above them: perhaps tonight is the night.

The floods come hard and fast, spilling jellyfish and bottles and unanchored ships onto the sand.  They bury themselves beneath the dust, sculpting homes of the wet, grainy clay.  The salty ocean swallows them before dawn.

***

            Bluish laser lights cannot penetrate the thick, graphite brick that rests somewhere inside my skull.  They can blind me all they want, but they will never disrupt the safe, neutral mass of minerals I have allowed to accumulate between my ears.

…or so I think.

The artificial sun is hot enough to form crevices where there was once a flat expanse of gray.  Heated rays spread lonely particles across the wasteland to where they, too, will transform this uniform object into something unsightly.

All the earth’s work, falling to waste.  This brick took years to form, fitting the mold just so.  At this rate it will never form a house; it will see the sad day where it is mechanically separated into slender cylinders and divided equally among the wood.

***

            The percussion of pots and pans affects me more than the steepest high note, the loudest shout to leave my lungs.  My vessel-lined alveoli shrivel into their pink mothers, asking why this chaotic noise has to happen to them.

Iron lungs are no longer iron, for iron rusts too fast.  They are bricks laid around a wooden frame, massive twelve-by-twelve squares too heavy to be mobile.  The patient must lie inside, wrapped in the safety of the oxygenated cocoon.

“What a sad way to live,” the villagers say. “What a lonely way to go.”

There comes a time when the patient must choose how or if he or she wishes to communicate, to know the humans outside without choking on their pollution.  To leave the lung would spell danger.

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Haikus, I

20/12/2014

The airport is glass

And children are specimens.

Cameras watch, above.

21/12/2014

Relatives gather

Around an exotic center.

It scares them, they leave.

22/12/2014

Pills make her vomit

Or almost, in the steel sink.

Is this sadness’ cure?

23/12/2014

Scissors near the face

And is that light really green?

The world is panic.

24/12/2014

The bread has been burnt.

A blackened external crust.

Butter saves this loaf.

25/12/2014

Gathering again

In a claustrophobic room.

Of course, politics.

26/12/2014

 Nearly eleven

Things are lonely already.

“Kids need both parents.”

The Anxiety ABCs

A is for Anxiety, the subject of this list.

B is for the Blanket that gets wadded in my fist.  Crap, crap.  I’m regressing one-thirteenth of the way in.

C is for the Counselors, who could not tell what was wrong.  She said it was all in my head, and another one really thought I was faking it to “look cool.”

D is for Doctor, and her circled nurses’ throng.  Her hands are really cold and firm.  Ouch.

E is my Elementary school, where I dazed in reverie.  I never knew the content of the lessons.  I never did my homework.  What was I doing?  What was I thinking?  It’s also Escitalopram.

F is for the Father who never forgave me.

G is the Grace, who did the best she could.  Thank you for ignoring me, sometimes.  I mean it.  No sarcasm, here.

H is for the Hate I have for ruined childhoods.  I’m so sorry, Grace, for making a mess of what could have been some awesome years.

I is for the “I” of me, do I speak of that too much?

J is my Jolting heart, whenever I am touched.  What if I get raped?  What if I get raped?  What if I have a baby?  I don’t want it to hate itself.  What if he rapes me?

K is Kindergarten, where I learned I didn’t fit in.  What was playing?  Why did all the girls wear pants?  How is getting dirty okay?

L is Love, which may never pass my thickened skin.  It’s basically rape.

M is all my Memories, blown up and torn to shreds.  What happened at that party?  But you were – me?  No.  That can’t be right.  Who was watching?

N is Nothing – might I be, when I’m dead?

O is for Ophelia; I don’t know why it must be she.  I don’t know why she has become the symbol for the distressed female.  I respect her character, but I don’t identify with her.

P is for a French phrase: Vous me faîtes Peur, mon ami.

Q is for the Questions.  Do I ask too many?  Am I being weird?  How does my hair look?  Did I say too much again?

R is Regression into my mind, body, and soul.  I’ve never been older than twelve, in some aspects.

S is all my Stress, digging the six-foot hole. Also, Sertraline

T is all my Time constraints: Up at five, breakfast at eight, lunch at one, dinner at six, and bed at ten.

U is Underdressed (slut?), Underslept (irresponsible?), and Underweight (anorexic?)

V is Vaniloquence, which is basically all this is.

W is for Woman, which I am, according to my birth certificate.  Can someone burn it?  Can I have surgery now?  What if they hate me?

X is for Xanthippe.  Do you think I am one?  I really try not to be.  I’m sorry.

Y is the Yelling, which to some people is like talking.  What if I’m talking too loud?  Could you be a little quieter?  I need to concentrate.

Z is for Zero, the amount of ideas I have left for this letter.

(Note — Anxiety is a serious mental illness that has the potential to negatively effect the lives of the sufferer and his or her loved ones.  If you or someone you know suffers from anxiety, there are several resources available here and here.  — Sami)

La rhume

I always look forward to October 16th.  It’s almost always a beautiful day, the sun beaming weakly on the cool ground.  It is that time of year where the earth has released itself to winter, the atmosphere still clinging desperately to the warmer climate of early autumn.  Confusion erupts, a clash between what was and what will be.

It is in this confusion I make my appearance.  I am known to man by several names, depending on where you go.  In France, I am la rhume.  In Spain, el resfriado.  In Japan, 鼻風邪.  Either way, I am the same.  In all languages, I am hated.

My search is always ruthless.  Of course, I am only given twenty-four hours to leave my annual mark on mankind.  I search for weakness, and there I strike.  With a small twist of my hand, I wring the life from my victim’s pink lungs, filling them with the soggy gel of a half-frozen sewer.  I then take my hands to his expansive back and narrow shoulders, crushing his bones and rendering his muscles incapable.  He shouts for mercy as I rip open his straining trachea and steal for myself what voice he can muster.

When I finish, it is only his ears and his nose that are emanating his hot-blooded warmth.  I lean close to his face, inhaling the putrid smell of my damage, and I tell him: “three days.”  That is all the time he has to find his missing parts, until my work takes him over for good.

The first day, I know he will be entirely disabled.  Most humans are, anyway.  They hide themselves from their comrades, trying to keep them safe from me.  Little do these people know I have brothers, who have no need for assistance when it comes to making their attacks.  They come out in the summer, the winter, and the spring; they do nearly the same thing as me.  Our variations are often so subtle, they go undetected.

On day two, he will have cleaned the liquids from his lungs enough to stand.  Humans are about sixty-five percent water.  Any more, and they might drown.  He walks, my victim, gathering his shattered bones and limp muscle to reconstruct himself from the waist up.  His legs wobble.  He is a fawn in stag’s costume: his body, tall and powerful, is betrayed by the shadowed stare of his lifeless eyes.

By day three, he is able to wander about.  Perhaps not run, perhaps not climb, but he can wander.  His silence is disturbing.  For three days now, he has said not a word.  His voice is still missing; he cannot make contact with any who might serve as help.  His efforts are strained, he is losing hope.  Perhaps I will earn my victory?  From the pocket of his worn jeans, there is a buzzing.

Hello?

Damn, foiled once more.

 

Collection, I

            The hulking metropolis of Kozoc had its share of millionaires, that was for sure.  Swimming alone in their outsized penthouses, they relied on prositutes, partygoers, and their own progeny to keep them company.  The passer-by would only feel the whisper of such a life, lifting his head in a ninety-degree arch to squint at the windows that blocked all but the power of the sun.

            Semíh Dovoric was one of those millionaires.  He was a billionaire, in fact, after having procured the inheritance from his recently-deceased father.  Needless to say, his money was not self-made and, by the time he was thirty, he had had his fill of prostitutes and partygoers, and had yet to find anyone who could create the semblance of progeny.  Alone among the echoes of his penthouse, he waited and watched the ever-setting sun, longing for night to envelope Kozoc into its bed like the unruly, flashlight-toting child it was.

            This child, though, was poring over charts instead of stores, and was tallying names instead of places.  Tomorrow was the Collection, and no person was going to slip through the cracks of his chubby, tiny fingers.

            The Collection was something about which Semíh only hoped to read, or to be discussed as a sick, dystopian theory around the smokeless bar table.  The act had taken effect, however, through efforts initiated by his own, elite kind.  He had seen it before with money; the twisted tequila talking its way into congress and pushing its way into grim realization.  His own father, Irving Dovoric, was responsible for its precursor.  Called the Review, it had assigned each and every citizen of Kozoc with a number.  “Too many crimes have been evaded,” Semíh remembered the booming voice of his kin, “and too many dues have gone unpaid.”

            The Collection took the numbers a step further, attaching them to every deposit, every transfer, every due, and every debt until one crumbled to his knees under its watchful eye.  Its silent calculator added and subtracted the days and the weeks, until the fiscal month came to its close and deposited the names to agents who would move, door to door, until all was settled.

            Semíh heard a sliding coming from across the hall.  It was midnight.  Gazing at the numbers, he swallowed as a grave lump of fear, hard and burning, swelled in his throat.  He tossed and turned in bed.  Today was Collection day.

***

The metallic clock ticked in mockery,

You live, you live, you live, they don’t, they won’t, make it.

            Semíh restrained his tensed arm and growing fist.  He had no choice.  There were people above him, believe it or not, whose words were more powerful than the millions that protested against them.  The paper in his hand held more weight than the thousands of petitions, the pounds of protest signs, that flooded the streets as the moon flooded the sky: once a month, and all at once, until they tapered with the rotation of the planet beneath them.

            The city of Kozoc rose beneath him, and knocked him to the cushioned comfort of his bed.  Lifting the phone from his bedside table, he dialed.

            “Hey Leo, it’s Sem.  Yes, it’s because I’m sick.  I haven’t been able to get out of bed.  I know, since about two this morning.  You could?  Thank you.”

            Semíh, with a touch of his hand, passed his list to the Leo in question.  The clock called out, once more;

You live, you live, you live, they don’t, they won’t, make it.

Semíh stood and gave the mechanism a sidelong glare, and left the room.

The real Collection was about to begin.       

 

 

 

On Laziness

Laziness; its exact meaning is a cloudy, curious thing.

I remember when I was young, probably in middle school, being called “lazy” by my teachers, left and right.  I cannot argue I wasn’t, but the definition of “laziness,” according to their standards, was as follows:

Lazy [ley-zee] adj. :  A student who, in her honors courses, holds marks of no higher than a B+ at any time.

            Again, I shall not disclose whether or not I met the actual, set-in-stone description as recorded in the dictionary, as I believe my view on the matter would be far less than objective.  Speaking of the dictionary, here is what it has to say about my situation:

Lazy [lā-zē] adj. : Not liking to work hard or to be active.

Admittedly, I was not the hardest worker when this “adj.” was bestowed on me.  There were many times I would come home, throw down my bags, get on the computer and, as the expression says, “that’s all she wrote.”  I might not have been the most committed to my schoolwork when I was a youngster, but there were other, less academic facets of my life in which I would have earned straight-A’s: family, fraternity, and reverie.

My kin, would balk upon the lecture of the above phrase.  As much as I gave the appearance of “shock” and “rebellion,” my most intimate desire was to please them.  Sadly, their minds were not like the grade books and holistic scales of modern education: they were unpredictable and, young as I was, I could not forecast what mark in them my work would hold.  To the twelve-year-old me, I was shooting an arrow through a field of corn, hoping to catch a tiny sparrow that was perched on the stringy tip of a skinny stalk; their approval, in reach, was impossible to attain without a precise, yet flexible, tactic in persona.  I was apathetic, I was happy, I was sad, and I cried when it seemed appropriate because, as we all know, emotional slips lead to failure and isolation.

Friends of mine were few and far between and, when I think of it now, I wonder how many were actually my friends.  Ever-fluctuating, they molded my interests, like non-toxic clay, from vampires to werewolves to BDSM.  They asked me the questions and I had to answer, and how else could I answer without executing the proper studies?  I couldn’t disagree, and I couldn’t reason – that would have gotten me called “pretentious” quicker than quick – so I opened my mouth and vomited out the web page I had read the night before, in lieu of the chapters I ignored and the equations I had failed to memorize.

I was deemed a “potential dropout risk” when I was fourteen, but I didn’t let that get in the way of my one, solitary dream.  At that point, I was dead-set on becoming a tattoo artist.  I could spend hours with pads of paper, lining out designs for people who never paid and “big fans” who barely knew my name.  Bathed in the swirling patterns of my colored pencils, they were my only hope for a future.  I had to get out, I had to be something, I had to go out to the city to be invisibly there.  Art school was the only place my grades wouldn’t have mattered; and those far-off institutions, to me, were the only places I might end up. Of course, my dreams wouldn’t come true, my counselor said: I was “lazy.”  My work was barely passing.  I needed to put down the pencils and the pens and the paintbrush, and do something with my life.

Today I sit at my computer, and think about how “lazy” I was.  Sure, improvements were made after junior high.  During my four years of high school, I never had anything below an “A-.”  I wasn’t lazy, I thought, and I was going to make damn sure everyone knew it.  I spent my evenings in study, my books and my pens and my pencils and my friends eventually restricted from my iron box of academic tenacity.  I locked it tight, with enough room for myself and my formulas.

Could I tell anyone, then, what I really wanted?

Could I suppress my emotions to the point I flowed with the aura of the crowd?

To the latter, maybe, but I never got the chance to know what I wanted, or the time to know how I felt.  Want was laziness, need was a myth, feeling was the result of boredom.  The opposite of sloth is activity and, as I had been reminded, the active mind has no need.  It does.  It doesn’t ask other occupied minds to do for it.  I was active, I was the mind, I had escaped that dictionary page and had leapt onto, what?

Where had I landed?  I’m still not sure, but I can tell it’s somewhere behind the rest.

They walk ahead of me, shouting backward to ask me if I’ve overslept.

Tomatoes

I had never really given it much thought, when I decided to pull all of the little tomato plants from my garden.

It was a dreary day in August, as the burning haze of late summer simmered into a cool, damp, gray September.  The tomatoes, lined in rows behind my house, were less plants than they were corpses, hanging useless and inviting the pluck of winter’s sinister hand.  Their stems, withered and yellow, shrunk from the sun; hopeless limbs despairing to cling to that final breath of life.  I gazed at them, my face as bleak as the sky.  This year, winter would come early.

It was not strenuous, the work of deracinating each malnourished creature.  As I pulled, I reminisced about the lives they had given me, and their potential in the ground.  Six in all, the tomato vines had produced for my family but thirteen tomatoes, gobbled up in one Sunday evening feast.  Covered in the sweet essences of raspberry, onion, and cream, their acidic flesh slid down our throats with a velocity that more than doubled that of their harvest, their wash, and their preparation.  They were more effort than they were worth, the little things.  The phrase, short and guileless, was what I surmised I would later tell my daughters, who would come home from school surprised and, I thought with regret, sad.

These plants were their ideas, their work, and I was responsible for their untimely demises.

Still in the skinny, withered trunks, I speculated, could be some stubborn, healthy genes that only a few months in the earth could pull to fruition.  That is what I would tell the girls when they held me hostage in the dining room; in the foyer, even, as they were removing their shoes.  That is what I would tell them, when they asked me about their precious plants.  I was their mother, of course, and mothers always have top authority when it comes to yards, gardens, and the little plants that sprout within them.

That is what I would tell them, that is what I would tell them.  I found myself lost in a cycle of thought, tossing the strawlike figures into the yard.  I might say this, I might say that.

The creak of brakes signaled my young ladies who, heads turned from the sun, marched inflexibly up the straight, hard driveway.  Hastily, I removed my gloves and scurried into the home, through the back door so as to not be detected by the hyper-sensitive percipacities of their youthful ears.  The door clicked and, with the cautiousness of a cat, I assumed my role:

“Hello, girls!” I greeted them in my usual fashion.  Perky without worry, but not so energetic as to arise suspiscion.

“Hey, hi,” My oldest and youngest, only two years apart, responded in tandem.

They walked to their rooms, and I was left to wonder at their lack of interest.  Did they despise me?  Were they planning my own demise?  What slimy assumption had slithered into their heads?

At dinner, as we dug into the lackluster salad, I theorized at their lack of alacrity to paint the meal red.  Their eyes dull, they drenched it with the same gray oiliness as any other day, letting it pass their lips and sink into their stomachs without so much as a,

“This dinner looks so nice.  I love stroganoff.”