Friday, October 30, 2015

A short story, trying to capture hopelessness.

For the hundredth time, just like the first time, I feel the smooth ash banister on my palm as I mount the porch steps. It is light, and I am dark. One, two, three, then the porch. I can’t feel my feet on the wood, sanded so finely that it feels like silk to the touch, sealed but not varnished, expensive. God, so expensive.

A tiny dark circle suddenly appears, near my right foot. The porch roof is new, it’s not raining, what…? Oh. I reach up and carefully wipe away the tears that have leaked onto my cheeks without my knowledge or permission. Wouldn’t do to get it wet. Not after I paid so much for it.

I open the front door for the thousandth time, and it’s like the first time. With wonder, I cast my eyes over the spacious foyer. I feel momentarily elated: this is my home, I made it. I had taken the outdated fixtures and shag carpet and tiny rooms and I had fixed them with hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, and fewer obstructing walls. I’d had it done, and I’d handed over my credit card.

In a fog, I float up the curved staircase (mine) to the nursery. Robin’s-egg blue, fluffy clouds painted near the ceiling. This room is really mine. I’d painted this room myself, and with every stroke of the roller I’d covered the growing dread.

“Honey, I don’t think this is working,” he had said.

“We just need a change,” I had said. “We can work through it. I know—what if we bought a house?”

We bought the house. It was an investment. Yeah, the mortgage payment was high, but he had a good job and it was only going to get better; if we needed help, we could ask his parents. Mine… well, I don’t want to talk about mine.

“Jaleesa, can we talk?” he’d asked me.

“I’m pregnant,” I’d answered.

“What? H-how?”

“I…” stopped taking my birth control, we need more, we need glue to keep us together, “I don’t know. It’s only ninety-nine percent effective you know. With those odds…”

But his eyes, blue with light lashes, his eyes said he knew the odds. With our problems, we weren’t often intimate. We weren’t going to beat them.

I place my hand on my belly, for the millionth time, and every time is the first time. I am swollen with child. I’m due in eight weeks, but I don’t know how to get through the next eight days. Love like a river, for the baby who isn’t here yet but whose existence is felt in every bank statement and bowel movement, flows through me, but it’s laced throughout with fear—desperate, desperate fear.

“Jaleesa, I met someone else,” he had told me.

“I’m pregnant,” I had wailed.

“I know. You can have it all. I know how much you love this house.”

“Wait… can’t we… don’t we…” I’d grabbed at his arm, held it tightly with the strength of a desperate woman.

He looked down at me and I could see that his eyes had tears standing in them. Not heartless, then. “Hon—Jaleesa, I tried to talk to you. So many times. You never talked back.” And then he was gone, bag in hand, to the taxi. And I stood on my porch, and to the left and right I saw my white neighbors on their beautiful porches, staring at us—at me. I could hear their thoughts: things were going back to how they should be.

The mortgage payment is due. It’s been due for a couple of months now. He owes me no alimony, because the house is worth so much. And because our judge was white, just like he is white. It’s too late to sell this house (MY house): the bank will foreclose before anything could be finalized. I don’t want to sell, anyway. I don’t want to be chased out of my dream house, my dream neighborhood, my dream life. What will I do? How will I care for my child? He had the health insurance, and he gave me no forwarding address.

For the first time—yes, the first time—in the hostile air of the exposed front yard, I walk out and sit down on the porch steps. I can hear their thoughts again (what does she think this is the ghetto), but I don’t care. I will sit here until someone takes me away. Maybe that person will know where I can go.

Friday, October 9, 2015

I'm losing it.

I’ve written dribs and drabs. I’ve constructed sentences that I’m proud of. For the most part, I’ve made a thing that I’m happy with. The third try at Cassidy is the closest yet to what I started out envisioning. I’m not bored, or tired, or distracted.

What am I, then? Why is it that as I get nearer to being good I get farther from wanting to continue it?

I have a long reading list. Several books checked out from the library, and they’re ebooks, so when they expire they just... go away. I want to read them, but I’m currently reading a much longer, much heavier sci-fi book that is also commanding all of my love and interest.

After I finished Becky’s feedback letter, I had a strong feeling of liberation. Finally, I could work on my own writing! Something changed during the long break wherein I didn’t think much about Cassidy, so that when I came back to it, it wasn’t at all onorous. I had somehow managed to recapture the feeling of writing for myself, the way you do when you’re a kid and being creative is just a thing you do, no matter how anyone reacts. I wrote 2,542 words, in quick succession. Everything felt like an increase in freedom, rather than a decrease. But then, it sorta... petered out.

I’ve had a lot of things happen in my personal life: pets adjacent to me dying, foster kittens aging out, and my own personal pets having medical problems. I’ve had a lot on my plate, and a severe deficit of energy to devote to anything that isn’t self-care. The remembered feeling of goodness hasn’t been enough to bring back my desire to write. But what’s worse: I also haven’t really felt bad about that fact.

The downside to dry spells is that gnawing feeling of guilt of a job left unfinished. It brings me back, again and again, because my characters get antsy and don’t want to be ignored. But this time... I’ve felt nothing. I want that nasty guilt. I want to feel compelled to go back. And right now, I don’t.

So I’m fishing in my pool of readers. What can I do to get reinvigorated? How can I make Cassidy matter again? I want to want to. Gimme your magic writing sparkles.

Word count: 5,820 (ᚼ)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Flash (non-)fiction project via Terrible Minds

March 2010: I was out in the complex putting fliers on doors when I got a call from my neurologist telling me I had to go to the emergency room.

I had to be dreaming. You don’t get a call from someone to tell you that you have to go to the ER, right? You go to the ER because you’re bleeding, vomiting, or otherwise leaking bodily fluids. You generally know you need to go to the ER. You don’t get told by other people, on the phone, unsolicited, that you’re having a medical emergency.

I didn’t know what to say. Branden (and everyone else I knew, including me) was at work. I felt uncomfortable driving myself 30–40 minutes to the hospital, in part because I was shaken up by being told I had to go to the emergency room and also because I’d been having an MS exacerbation that was drastically affecting my balance, vision, and sensory perception.

I don’t remember a lot of what happened. I know I called Branden, and he figured out a ride for me; I know I got back to the office and told Jessica that I had to go to the hospital and could she please tell Shelly for me?

It was not the first time that I’d felt that the expression of my disease was judged inadequate by people who, for some reason, were absolutely sure I was trying to cheat them somehow. After all… who is told that they need to go to the emergency room? I seemed like I was doing just fine, which is what happens when you try to not look like you’re drunk at work; when you try not to complain about the tingling in your hands and feet; when you try to hide the way you sometimes make fists that go all the way up to your shoulder and you can’t release them.

My friend Fletcher drove me to the hospital. I remember hugging Christina before getting in the car to go, but I don’t remember the drive. I remember going to check in to the ER and they asked me what was wrong—there is little that is more awkward than having to say, “I don’t know, my neurologist told me to come.” I remember the quagmire of human misery that surrounded me. The rest is flashes.

I know that I sat there, with Branden and Fletcher, for hours before the neurologist on call came out to talk to me. To this day, I don’t remember what the problem was. Something about the results of my recent MRI. They wanted to check me in overnight, so I told Branden and Fletch to go home. A bare few minutes later, she told me that, in fact, they weren’t going to check me in and I could go. My phone was out of batteries. The neurologist loaned me her phone, and I luckily had Branden’s phone number memorized; if he hadn’t had his phone on him I’d have been SOL, because I’d never bothered to memorize Fletch’s California number. I managed to catch them before they were out of the parking lot. We went and had pizza. I’ve never experienced anything quite so unreal.

Source: Terrible Minds by Chuck Wendig