The rope bridge was hardly steady, but we crossed it anyway. I remember the planks were too far apart and the ropes looked frayed and worn. Michelle was afraid, so I went ahead of her. The winds from the channel shook us back and forth and she clung on to the sides so that I could hear the rope chafing against her hands as she stepped across. I don’t know if I heard the plank crack or her scream first. It cut off into a yelp and I dove after her. I grabbed at her hair and she whipped to the side like she was on a bungee cord. The other half of her hair tore out when she bounced. Her hands were stretched above her but too far for me to grasp. I called out her name. Michelle. Her eyes, I remember, were wide with panic. A moment turned into an eternity as our eyes met and she slipped away into the fog below. We knew at that moment that she was going to die, but neither of us could ever have known how quickly we would have to part ways. If it weren’t for my own fear of dying, I would have stayed there an hour longer. I slowly unclenched my hand and let the hairs float away in the wind.
Category Archives: Session XVII
My doctor says I should get rid of my dreams. He says they’re not real, and they’re probably a result of stress or a tumor.
Maybe I should explain. I keep my dreams in jars. When the dreams are leaking out of my head each morning (as they do with every person), I syphon them into a jar. They glow with lights of infinitely varying colors and textures. Some are bright as the sun and others dim as the moon reflected on a bog. The walls in my house have been taken over by shelves I’ve made to support my dreams.
In spite of the beauty I’ve surrounded myself with, my doctor says to get rid of them.
“Would you get rid of your closest friends and family?”
“Of course not, Bryan, but these are just jars. What you’re telling me is you’ve become co-dependent on them, to the point that they are closer than family.”
“They are. These jars are me.”
“Bryan, for the sake of yourself and your family, you need to open these jars. Let these illusions go.”
“He’s beyond my help.” The chair scrapes across the ground. My sister cries.
“I can’t stand what you’ve become, Bryan!” she wails.
“I’m still the same. I just know where I’ve been now. And where I’m going.” I smile but she shrinks away. She grabs a jar and opens it. An effervescent glow, pink like the inside of a watermelon, bubbles out and dissipates. “D-d-d-don’t!” I stutter. “Don’t d-do that, Janet!”
She opens another. My doctor says something about not provoking me. I lunge at her. “Stop it! Sstop it, you b-b-buh!” I tackle her and we knock a shelf over onto the ground. Glass and dreams shatter as they hit the ground. “You’re going to k-k-kill me!”
She took a piece of glass and dug it into my cheek. Then, as I screamed on the floor, she tore apart my walls and my dreams. My doctor couldn’t do anything to stop here. Or wouldn’t. I don’t know. I fell asleep for 72 hours after that and woke up in what everyone said was a deep depression. For a year, I would let my dreams leak out of my head and evaporate. My sister went through a bit of depression of her own, triggered by guilt, my doctor said.
He encouraged me to garden to express my nurturing side to fill the void my dream collection had left. It didn’t exactly work, but then finally I started growing fruit from my trees. There were too many pears, so I learned how to preserve them in mason jars. After eating a jar full of pears, I looked at the bottom of the empty jar and I smiled that night as I dreamed bright aquamarine waves.
clackity clacka clack clacka
Huuummmmmmm. The typewriter’s electric voice reverberated through the cold whitewashed room.
Clackity clacka clacka clackity clack clack
The two fingers kept an even pace, one leaving just as the other marked the page. They only paused momentarily and never aimed to go any faster, lest they tangle themselves against one another.
Clacka clacka clack clacka clack clack clacka
The white ink wrote poorly over the black. Leaving a shade of each letter peeking out of the whiteness. The black ghost of each mistake.
Clack. Clack. Clackity clacka clacka. Clack.
Crink crunk crunk! The page is torn from its sheath. It has served its brief life and brief purpose and makes way for a younger, brighter page.
Out in space, there was a boy who lived on the green moon and an old man who lived on the blue moon. The boy ran around his moon, plucked cheese out of the craters, and had a grand time of it. The man looked at the boy and sighed, then looked back out into the depths and the blackness. Before the boy went to sleep, he would look at the man on the blue moon and talk to him. Though the man could not hear him, he would sit intently and smile. Then, he would roll over to the dark side of the moon and fall asleep.
In truth, the man had wished to be closer to God. He had wished for freedom and detachment from everything. He’d learned that being closer to God was a lonely prospect. He would spend the day kicking rocks around, hands in his pockets, eyes wandering toward that playful child. He was free, too, and also alone. Maybe the child didn’t even know sadness. Maybe he could see something in the black sky the man couldn’t. But strain his eyes, all he could see was the blue ground, the green moon, and the small child who asked him questions every night that he could not hear or answer.
My guide was a British man, fascinated with flowers and Orientalism. Basil had the amazing talent of rambling over a pint about the effects of Chinese philosophy and trade on the Western world. “I see,” I would tell him, smiling and nodding as he continued his rants.
“We’re going to one of the most amazing festivals in this part of Asia: the parade of a thousand orchids. It’s a flower festival celebrating the beauty and prosperity of the village and its women. Seamstresses work almost the entire year to make these dresses. Of course, these are all made of passion rather than the daily affairs of sewing and hemming!” He laughed. I laughed, too, not wanting to seem impolite. I wasn’t particularly interested in flowers or seamstresses, but I did enjoy a good parade and women.
We arrived an hour early and it was still crowded in the streets with men. In fact, I couldn’t see a single woman or even a little girl in their midst. Basil rambled in my ear the entire hour and I wished I had a pint. As the time came closer, the men got progressively louder. Basil said that they are calling the women out, though the women are not allowed to start until at least 16 minutes after the shouting begins.
The first to emerge into the town center are the youngest wives and women of marrying age. They have red aprons over their white dresses. For some reason, even in their shy demeanor, their dress and actions seemed a little suggestive. “Dendrobium Frosty Dawn,” Basil whispered. I scratched my head.
Behind them, chipper as can be, was a group of little yellow dresses. “Macradenia multiflora,” Basil whispered again, as if he were at a theatrical performance. They were all the girls of the village, three-year-olds holding hands with fourteen-year-olds. Some of them looked like they’d sewn them together themselves. The older girls stared firmly at the backs of the Frosty Dawn women or at the ground. The little girls looked up at their older counterparts or proudly out at the men, who applauded violently in their presence.
The next group was much smaller: it was the pregnant women. Some of them looked like they could have belonged with the Frosty Dawn girls, with whom I was comparing everyone else. Others were clearly about to pop. Their maternity clothes were a golden bronze at the sleeves, white shawls at the shoulders, and the brightest yellow at their stomachs. “Paphiopedilum villosum. Beautiful,” Basil whispered in excitement. I wanted to brush him off like a gnat. I was thankful that he was trying to educate me, but I would have preferred to enjoy the parade by myself.
“Oh!” he cried, then covered his mouth, even though the men around him were shouting loud as firecrackers. “These are the matrons of the village. Cattleya violacea.” Basil spoke the name with such reverence. To me, they were just middle-aged broads. Still, the dresses seemed to ripple like water as they walked. They were all purple, dressed in the finest of silk. Each fold of their clothing suggested a deeper shade of purple layered within. As the women strode forward, the deeper layers presented themselves more clearly.
Finally, a slow procession of elderly women began to march through the village center. They wore light wool coats which were white, their thick dresses were purple and they sported large yellow hats to protect them from the sun. “Haraella retrocalla,” Basil told me, then tugged on my shirt. “Get ready to join in.” Sure enough, the men began gathering to the sides and behind the group of old women, offering them their arms and cheering them on in the back. Some of the women truly looked exhausted. Others were at a more spritely age and they smiled or cried or waved. The men celebrated these women until they reached the end of the line, where all the others were waiting. The women all hugged each other and bowed to the men. The men bowed back.
“And that is the parade,” Basil smiled and exhaled with some sense of finality. “Now, we drink and dance.”
I liked the sound of that.
Sadie was sitting in the front seat again, only this time they were headed home. Her mother called Dizzie’s phone and yelled Sadie’s ear off. Dizzie vouched for her. “I’m sorry we kidnapped your daughter, Mrs. Nozek. It was my fault.”
“Your mom’s pissed,” Dizzie laughed as soon as she hung up the phone.
And that’s how their day at the beach was cut a little short. The girls rode home with the sun in their eyes, Dizzie driving and Kira in the back, pretending to sleep.
Kira and Sadie had talked on the beach while Dizzie went swimming.
“You fancy her,” Kira had said. It wasn’t a question.
“I, um… I what?”
“Don’t play dumb, Sadie. You’re the smartest damn girl I know. Give yourself some credit.”
“I… I don’t know how I feel about Dizzie.”
Kira sucked in some air through her teeth. “Well, whatever you’re feeling, it’s not going to end well. Unless you can get her drunk…”
“It’s not like that!” Sadie clutched her knees to her chest. “Kira,” she started, “have you ever been in love?”
“Can’t say I have. Figure I’d know if it happened.” She drew a finger through the sand.
“I don’t know, either,” Sadie said, watching Sadie dive through the swells. She was swimming too far out. The swell crested and crashed on the beach. “Don’t tell Dizzie about it.”
“She won’t know from my mouth, and she’s so wrapped up in her own world anyway, she probably will never notice if you don’t want her to.”
“Good,” Sadie said. “So, what’s it like being a graduate?”
Kira laughed. “And she counters with a left hook. You know, it’s pretty much the same as high school, except now my parents have practically disowned me.”
“About Penn State, right?”
“Yeah,” she ran a hand through her hair and sighed. Sadie couldn’t help but stare at one of her more audacious tattoos: the head of the goddess Kali on her inner thigh, her tongue curled out and her necklace of skulls draped around her neck with their jaws hanging open.
“I have to go to Berklee, Sade. My guitar is my life. There’s nothing else for me, even if I did get a volleyball scholarship to Penn State.”
Sadie hugged her knees. She wished she could be brave like Kira and make a hard choice like that. She wasn’t sure she could do the same in her place.
As the next wave crashed, Kira and Sadie had heard a song bloom from the shoreline, at first faint but growing more powerful with each breath.
“At twenty one you’re on top of the scrapheap. At sixteen you were top of the class. All they taught you at school was how to be a good worker. The system has failed you, don’t fail yourself,” Dizzie stepped up to the two girls laying out on their towels with a shit-eating grin. Kira smirked back and joined along.
“Just because you’re better than me, doesn’t mean I’m-a lazy. Just because you’re going forwards, doesn’t mean I’m going backwards.”
Kira nudged Sadie in the ribs and they sang the chorus again. Sadie joined in halfway through. They sang it again, maybe ten times, then fell back on their towels, laughing and spitting sand. It was then that Sadie’s mother had called them.
Now, in the car, Sadie felt even more awkward knowing that Kira was giving them “alone time.”
“Did you have fun, Sadie lady?”
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m sorry about my mom.”
“Don’t sweat it. You said you had fun, right?”
“Then that’s what’s important.”
Sadie just wanted to lean over and hang on to one of Dizzie’s freckled arms. “Did you have fun, Dizzie?”
“Sure did! Not so often that I get to go out with my two favorite gals!”
“You and Kira have been friends for a long time, right?”
“Since we were five! Why?”
Sadie bit down on her thumb. “I feel like I’m intruding.”
Sadie was surprised to hear Dizzie explode with laughter, even to the point that she lost control of the car for a moment. “Oh, God, Sadie! Intruding! Didn’t you just hear what I said? Since we were five! I don’t even know how I stand the bitch!” A middle finger levitated in the back seat. “Seriously, Sadie,” she said, suddenly sobering up. “You are every bit a part of the Bayside Sex Deviants. You’re just as much a part of the gang as Dakota, or Chev, or even ‘Miss Indian reincarnation of Jimi in the back seat.’ That’s about as sappy as I get, though. She turned her ipod to Billy Bragg and let the music speak the words she herself can never articulate.
There is power in a union.
Once upon a time, there was a writer in a dark room sitting at his computer. The computer said, “What are you DOOOing?” Its voice cracked a little.
Frustrated, the writer snapped at the computer. “I’m trying to write!” he said.
The computer whinnied like a horse. “Writing:” it said, “you’re doing it wrong.”
The writer got up, went to the bathroom, and shaved all his hair off of his face and half of his head. “There! You happy now?” cried the writer. The writer slumped down and watched Youtube videos.
“You’re still not writing,” the computer giggled like a cartoon squirrel.
“I’m too tired. I have a stomach ache. No, a headache. It turns out I don’t like writing after all.”
The computer put on his top hat and monocle and challenged the writer to a duel. The writer accepted.
They drew pistols at sundown, but the writer was piss-poor at drawing and his pistol looked like a picture of a penis.
“You’re terrible!” cried the computer.
“This pistol looks like a dong!”
“What are you even good at.”
“I can write… sometimes.”
The computer shuffled up to the writer and slapped him in the face. The writer decided to quit being a bitch. But first, he logged on to Deviantart, uploaded his picture and titled it “Pistols at Dong.” He laughed for 20 minutes then wrote a story about a superhero giraffe that eats people’s souls to fuel his lust for freedom and Democracy.