Unrequited

He, the boy, was already out of his seat, ready for his regular after supper program. She, the mother, was, an embodiment of habit through and through, sitting across from the boy, staring at, what seemed to her, an insurmountable amount of food that she had hardly touched.
“I am tired mother,” he said in his deliberately quiet voice.
She didn’t even look up and as usual the boy took her silence to be a response, yet one not specified to be approving or disapproving, but merely just a response. Not for one second did the boy believe that he fooled his mother into thinking that he went to sleep so early every night. But what did it matter to him? Once his bedroom door was closed and locked and he was comfortably sitting on the edge of his bed, leaning his eye onto the eyepiece of the telescope, no other world existed, none other than the one across the street.
The telescope that had become the boy’s vessel to a new obsession was a gift. His father left it for him, a man that he had never seen. No photo’s existed, and according to his mother, no memories either. Pointed downwards, toward the illuminated street, the telescope sat facing the bedroom’s only window. The bedroom itself was newly furnished; a space filled with a new used mattress and broken clock along with no objects of childish desire. The street was lit, with a warm light that breached the bedroom’s windows with a yellow embrace but the sky above was dark, for the streetlights that flooded the city, also erased the stars that dotted the sky, leaving only the black dome that had neither beginning nor end.
Looking through the telescope, the boy could see the bar that tonight seemed to host an appropriate level of boisterous activity. The bouncer stood guard as always, both hands in his pockets and just like every other night, the bouncer was wearing his black t-shirt and black jeans. Despite the fact that the night air had become chillier recently, not one night passed where the boy was not able to see the tattoo on the bouncers left bicep. In lieu of this tattoo, the boy had given the bouncer the name Isabelle. He couldn’t figure why there was a heart around it however, who could love someone named Isabelle?

Isabelle’s gaze shifted, eyes staring to his left at an odd man who was walking up the street. His face was young yet he barely had a headful of gray hair that frizzled and shot in directions with an electric disorder more congruous with his youthful face. As the odd man stopped in front of the bar, a puzzled eyebrow rose on Isabelle’s face.
“Sorry, sir. But I can’t let you in. We are full tonight.”
The odd man straightened his hunched back like an animal rearing up to intimidate and replied with both words and gestures of rabid and primal fervor that seemed to extend from further beneath his disheveled exterior, “It’s cause of how I look, isn’t it you fucker?”
“Alright, keep walking. I don’t have to deal with shit like you.” As Isabelle finished what he was saying, the odd man leaned in close to his face, breathing heavily, releasing the scent of alcohol; something that Isabelle had already figured was churning inside the odd mans stomach. Somehow he knew, although its effects were lost in the maddening mystery the man’s face.
Then, with a sudden explosiveness, the odd man jabbed away with a knife, irregularly hitting home with blows that were as sporadic as a cornered animals swipes and claws. Grabbing whatever he could of his punctured torso, Isabelle fell onto the ground, kissing the street. The odd man scurried away.

The boy knew that Isabelle was not dead, he couldn’t be. His eye left the eyepiece and his body carried him onto the streets outside. Naked feet slapping on the asphalt, he hurried over to the motionless Isabelle. A pool of blood was already collecting beside and beneath the body, of what seemed to the boy now, that of a different man, one that he didn’t know. The blood was not bright red like his own when he had a nosebleed, instead, it was deep and thick, and flowing onto the black asphalt, it became even darker. The boy shook him but the man made no sound.
“Wake up. Wake up…”
The man slowly came to his senses and turned his head just enough to see the boy. But the man nothing. He only stared at the boy with eyes that spoke a language the boy had never heard but knew. The boy ran into the bar and said that the man out front was bleeding and the bartender ran out along with a couple of regulars. Before long, the red and blue flashers, atop the silent ambulance and two patrol cars, flooded the warm yellow lights.

Long before the cops and medics arrived however, the boy had already gone back inside his house and was now sitting across from his mother, whose eyes were devoid of presence, glazed with a disgusting nonchalance.
“What the fuck did you do? Those lights better not be for you.” She was smoking, puffing away, and the thick gray smoke that suffocated the air in the room made the boy choke and cough.
“Nothing. A man died.”
“Who? Do you know this person?”
The boy looked angrily at his mother and replied that he was just a man who worked at the bar. He noticed that she had eaten half of what was on her plate ad like usual; the rest was going into the trash again, buried by all the stubs and ash from the cigarettes she devoured.
Her eyes had a glint of interest that became more apparent as she worked her way through her next wave of smothering questions, “The bar? Was it the bouncer?”
However, the boy did not see his mother’s lively expressions. All he saw was smoke. His gaze shifted towards the tacky patterned kitchen floor tiles where the smoke did not reach. But the tiles themselves, transfused a sickening mood. His head began to spin. Beneath the painful white light from the fluorescent bulbs, rays that seemed to infectiously penetrate the clouds of smoke, the boy spaced out into a dizzying mental void. So he got up and ran back to his room and as he ran, he could hear his mother, but his coughing that rang in his ears muffled her words.
He locked the door and sat again on the edge of his bed, facing the telescope. He had puked before, but this vertigo, it only made him feel like he had to, the vomit never came. Fearful and frantic, the boy looked around for something, anything. Then, glaring at the telescope, he realized that he didn’t want anything in his vision except nothing. He can’t be dizzy if he sees nothing. With a weak push, the boy shoved aside the telescope and kneeled on the floor and rested his head on the windowsill and stared upwards, towards the blank black dome. And it was in this moment that he was reminded of the entirety of what he had seen that night. Wrapping his arms around himself, the boy began to cry, his watery eyes still fixed on the dome above, trying to look past the blurry black liquid in his eyes.
Still sitting in the kitchen, the mother listened to the second knock on her front door. She was already on her eighth cigarette. Another knock. They can wait. Instead of smoking it, she let the cigarette burn until it reached her fingers. She hardly endured the pain and let go quickly, letting the bud drop into the ashtray that had, by now, collected a substantial pile. When she finally opened the door, some of the smoke escaped. An expected face was before her and all she could say was nothing, she stood in silence in preparation for what was to come.

Obligatory Year-End Reflection Time

So I’m going to be completely honest and say that I don’t really have a topic in mind for this blog post. It’s probably my last of the year and I should probably make it something important or special but finals are creeping in and my imminent departure 1000 miles away from Michigan and away from all my friends here is looming ever closer. So not only do I have to study for finals and get ready to pack up all of my belongings, but also spend as much time as possible with the friends I won’t get to see for another three months.

But even with that, I need to write this post. All I can think about right now is the fact that I’m writing this right now. That I got this job, that someone liked my writing enough to hire me to write once a week. And the fact that I’ve done it, that I’ve kept up all last semester and this is even more astounding. The deadline helped, but more than that, it’s pushed me to try and be a better writer. My friends and family read these, as well as people I don’t know. I’ve gotten comments from people from Illinois and Hong Kong who liked my post.

At the beginning of the year when I had “orientation” for this job, the people who had done it in years past said they felt like their writing had gotten stronger, that the weekly posts were challenging and made them think about their writing. I believed them, but I also didn’t think it would apply to me. I thought I would have plenty to write about, so much to say about art and how it affects my life.

But it was harder than I thought. My arrogance caught up with me, and some weeks I found myself grasping at straws to fulfill my weekly requirement.

Honestly though, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world. I’m so excited for arts, ink next year and for all the things I’m going to write about. This year, writing for this blog, has been such a payoff. I still remember when I saw that Michigan Pops shared my article on their Facebook page, that the members had read it and that the concertmaster whom I had acknowledged liked the status, signifying that he possibly read my writing. To me, that is insane. When I got 6 comments on my post about Khalil Fong, I about cried from happiness – it was the most comments I’ve gotten on a post.

And even beyond this blog I’ve learned so much about art and how it affects my life. Art has always been something that I’ve loved and recognized as a big part of my life, but seeing it while living on a college campus has been absolutely mind blowing. I grew up as the outcast, as the one who liked the weird things, but here I feel like there’s a community that’s made for people just for me. It may not be as popular as football, but when I found out Musket’s performance of Rent was almost completely sold out I was astounded. I barely had half of the audience filled at my performances at my small private high school, and there were only parents and teachers at my chorus concerts. No one seemed to care about arts at home except for a few of my friends, and yet here I could barely get a ticket to see a musical. The fact that the arts community here is so strong, and permeates so much of the campus makes me incredibly happy.

Art is everywhere. I’ve made connections to art in so many different ways that it seems impossible, but it’s such a vital part of our lives. And this blog has taught me how to find it, and how to express how it makes me feel and wanting to imprint that on others. It’s a feeling I can’t describe. It’s a feeling I want to keep forever.

Scales of Foolishness

A somber mesmerized delicate fool caught a glimpse of the delectable shades of gray that covered the walls of the building where he used to amuse those who waddled in with artificially smelling green that crumpled and ripped whilst being handled by unaffectionate hands. He could still see the spectrum, the array, of jewel like fragments of light, sparkling across the floor, along the walls, and deep within the recesses of his mind. If memory served him right, the old place used to be so overtly beautiful, filled to the brim with colorful people and objects, yet this supposedly prime level of extravagance did not sway the old fool to stay. Rather, he was much more attracted toward the scales that existed outside this world of bland happiness.
Two summers ago, yes, around that time, I the fool left the keyboard of this silly hall in order to travel beyond the world of color and factitious delight. I did not yearn for darkness, nay, but upon my dismissal, perhaps even far before then, I sought the intricacies of the ineffably expansive linearity of complex yet simplistic differences between the often forgotten distinctive tones of gray. The gray scale spoke to me in far grander overtones than the false kings of optical seduction. It’s elegance came forth from its ability to be beautiful without calling attention to itself. Color on the other hand, the muddled form it is, is a massive amalgam of cacophonous and rude little children of pigment that all vie for the attention of the motherly eyes that graze over the wall, canvas, or what have you. Yet little gray scale remains still, in the corner, watching his supposed siblings leap over one another. Upon closer inspection however, the eye sees the growth of poor little neglected gray scale, it sees him grow and grow and grow.
Yet this fool. Oh, this fool. He see’s not, the truth of the vibrant jewels that stand aside old gray scale. Indeed they are obnoxious and chaotic as they clamor over one another as they try to stay in the light. But together, they are a concoction that transmutes itself into an image of anarchic organization, and a beautiful opalescent one at that. The single, idle gray scale, he but remains silent for he sees the truth, but he remains independent in the eye of this old fool. A fool that has been out of the race since the race started, a negligible fool, he plays by himself, up and down the scales he goes, why would he need the other’s, when he himself can be all. Yet a question arises.

Waves, Avesw, Veswa, Eswav, Swave, Waves

“The birds sang their blank melody outside.”

“There is nothing staid, nothing
settled in this universe.
All is rippling, all is
dancing; all is quickness and triumph.”

“I would rather
be loved,
I would rather be famous
than follow perfection
through the sand.”

“I am this,
that
and the other.”

“Yes;
I will reduce you
to order.”

“I am rooted, but I flow.”

“I am not single and entire
as you are.
I have lived a thousand lives
already. Every day I unbury–
I dig up. I find relics
of myself in the sand that
women made thousands of years ago . . .”

“The weight of the world
is on our shoulders.
This is life.”

“I do not wish
to be a man who sits
for fifty years
on the same spot thinking
of his navel. I wish to be
harnessed to a cart, a vegetable cart
that rattles over the cobbles.”

“I have reached
the summit
of my desires.”

“I desired always
to stretch the night and
fill it fuller and fuller
with dreams.”

“There is no repetition for me.
Each day
is dangerous.”

“. . . we are extinct,
lost
in the abyss
of time,
in the
darkness.”

“We have destroyed
something by our
presence . . .
a world perhaps.”

“I, I, I.”

“But if there are no stories,
what end can there be,
or what beginning?”

“It is strange
how the dead leap out
on us at street corners,
or in dreams.”

“Life
is a dream
surely.”

“For this is
not one life;
nor do I always know
if I am man
or woman . . .
so strange is the contact
of one with another.”

“I said life had been imperfect,
an unfinished
phrase.”

“Life has destroyed me.”

“I begin now
to forget;
I begin to doubt the fixity
of tables, the reality of here
and now, to tap my knuckles smartly
upon the edges of apparently
solid objects and say, ‘Are you hard?’”

“It is strange
that we who are capable
of so much suffering,
should inflict
so much suffering.”

“It is death.
Death is the enemy.”

“The
waves
broke
on
the
shore.”

After I finished reading The Waves by Virginia Woolf, I realized that I needed to meditate more on passages, the construction of prose vs. poetry, and my visceral connection with the text. The above are some of my favorite passages that I thought could work by themselves and with more fragmentation (of lines, spacing, etc.). Also, it’s national poetry month . . .

May Virginia not roll over in her grave and topple my shore with waves of despair.

Writers on Rails

A series of 140 character messages sparked Amtrak to consider a new opportunity for writers. As individual wordsmiths began to collectively tweet about their love of writing on trains, the #AmtrakResidency idea developed. Months later, Amtrak is now offering a two to five day on-board residency program for writers. Moving across the American countryside as they draw ink across pages, these 24 individuals will be sponsored by the company to pursue their creative passions on rails. Amtrak is offering a sleeper car with a desk and amenities to each writer. If you are reading this post on this blog, it is likely that you have an interest in the written word–or at least believe in its ability to be a medium for art–so consider applying to the program here.

Amtrak Residency

Imagine sitting in motion. Your mind is moving while your body is still, with the exception of your hand scribbling words on a page. The train is moving, the country stationary. You are still within the train but are carried with it. No physical effort is required on your part. You are travelling, but there is no destination. The only goal is mental. A blinking cursor that your want to keep moving as words are left in its wake or a series of lines and letters being drawn upon a sheet of paper as your mind dances between the concrete and abstract, trying to form art in the wake of your fingertips. Constant inspiration outside the window above your desk–always moving, not pausing for a moment. Not predetermined, no plot, not rehearsed, no acting, and not fabricated, no screen. An authentic experience that stimulates your mind and forces you into thinking–moving over mental barriers, unobstructed by writer’s block, continuing to push forward, vomit more words, and make progress while moving nowhere. The train deposits you where it picked you up and you have a heap of words in your hands when the rails screech.

There is something about motion that is stimulating. It is romantic, exciting, filled with uncertainty and new experiences. This dynamic and nomadic lifestyle is foreign for many. Most of us live in stable homes with solid roofs and steady incomes and scheduled meals. Living in motion–like on a train–is not a lifestyle for most, but an activity with a beginning and an end. While the Amtrak Residency program is a wonderful opportunity to embrace the beauty of motion and stimulate the mind into creative productivity, it is not a lifestyle. It is a vacation, a dynamic oasis, that can produce desired written works, but it does not hold the bold romanticism of a nomadic lifestyle. To leave behind the stability of a normal life and take up the romanticized lifestyle of motion has many unknown futures. This continued motion and instability may offer even greater inspirations for an unsettled mind.

Hop on a train with no destination.

A Long Journey

My personal journey to University of Michigan has certainly been an interesting one. It creates great table talk, explaining how I’m a transfer student from Houston, Texas, and wow, isn’t it cold? But to me, it’s more than that. This journey here now defines me, and this entire life I have been living has been almost like a dream.

Since I was very little I’ve always been quite a definite person. Yes, I like cheese enchiladas. No, I don’t like the refried beans. My personality has always been quite honest, and even my friends now know when something’s up, even just by the way I text.

So when I started appearing on stage, I knew I was home. Being on stage, playing parts in thick costumes underneath heavy lights that blind me from the world, I let go. I dropped everything at the stage door and pretended to be someone else for a while. I invested in theatre. I breathed theatre, and while I had very little opportunities, I took every crumb I could get. I told myself I was passionate, and that would carry me through.

And then, one day, my mom drove me downtown. We went inside the building, and my legs were shaking. I was wearing leggings, shorts, and a T-Shirt, along with my favorite (and new) jazz shoes. I met so many different people, teens of all ages, shapes, and sizes. I clung to the forms as tight as I could, and I chanted you can do this. You can do this. You can do this.

I introduced myself more times than I could count. Everyone greeted me with a smile that hid the razors I could see in their eyes. This wasn’t a time to make friends; this was battle.

And battle I did. From the very first time I talked to the other kids, I knew I was hopelessly outmatched and outwitted.

I’ve been taking ballet for the past 10 years.

Oh. I mean, I took ballet when I was 6, but I never continued.

I’m in state choir. Really? You made state? I just sing for whoever shows up at our concerts – usually just parents.

But Jeannie isn’t the kind of person to give away her dream that easily.

The dance portion was the best. I could tell I was having fun, even with the sweat starting to form. I did my dance with a smile, and felt the music running through me. But try as hard as I do, and even with the natural disposition I have to music, fun cannot beat training. It took me longer to learn the steps, and even when I performed them from memory, I stumbled. But, like I said, I lacked training, and so I knew after I was finished performing that it was not star quality.

But I had more faith in my singing. While, again, I am untrained, I had more faith that I have a good singing voice, and the song I chose suited me, since it was upbeat, in a soprano range, and had sections dedicated to belting, which my choir told me I could do well with high notes.

So I was going to be okay. I could do it.

That afternoon, I walked into a room with three judges, and I left with four.

My accompaniment was perfect. The setting was right, I had the song and the notes completely memorized, and my nerves were assuaged after the brutal dance portion. But when I walked in, the judges didn’t look up at me. They didn’t acknowledge me, didn’t even know that I was there. And so, in one of the biggest regrets of my life, I started the song, dropped the middle, and ended, leaving the room with a self-esteem that sunk deep into my heart.

And that was the last straw. After that audition, I knew I couldn’t do it. I didn’t even compare to those who had been training their whole lives for their dream. I didn’t sacrifice anything, I didn’t deserve it.

Looking back, I realize it was a stupid mistake, and I shouldn’t blame myself for not having the courage to pursue acting as a profession. I thought that I knew who I was. Like when I was younger, I thought it was yes or no. Yes, I was going to be an actress and be fulfilled in my life, because it was the only thing that could fulfill me. Or no, I wasn’t, and I would lead an unhappy life trapped in a cubicle. My future looked gray.

But instead of coming to University of Michigan to pursue acting, I decided to pursue writing instead. And it seems like everything has fallen into place since then. I found this job, and I found so many friends and faculty whom I love and find happiness in. I’ve found clubs, and friends who share my passion, who look at writing not as a hobby on the side of something else, some other dream, but as their only dream, their only happiness. Through these people I’ve found my courage. I’ve been encouraged in my writing, and I absolutely love the time I get to spend writing these blogs. So no, I’m not pursuing acting. But yes, I am fulfilled. And maybe someday, I’ll get to see my name on the screen. But instead of being an actress, I’ll be credited with the beautiful script I wrote.

And that’s why University of Michigan isn’t just a far off dream school for a girl far from her Texas home. It isn’t just a college, where I study books and get grades and eat food. To me, this school has been where I’ve seen life happen, where I’ve seen bonds formed, and where I’ve seen a new dream that started from a tiny, unwanted seed grow into a beautiful flower that breathed new life into me.