Time Travel: “The Presidential Mansion”

This short piece was written in a class I had with the brilliant Professor John Weir @ Queens College. The theme of the semester was time travelling. Have I mentioned this one before? Well, there was a period last year where I was obsessed with the White House. It was because I was drawing up a floor plan for my ideal house, and I used the White House as a source of inspiration. I’m no architect, but I think what I drew up was decent. My research on the White House, its rooms and history, and knowing the floor plan led me to putting it in a short story as a setting. Is it obvious it’s also set in 1812? Not a detailed story, but I could update it more someday.

“The Presidential Mansion”

My stomach churned as I was frightened at the thought of the British soldiers marching over here. They were going to arrive soon, and that made me want to defecate all over the carpet somewhere in a corner. At the behest of the President who had already retreated, a few of us were tasked to remove as much valuables as we could out of the White House.

“This is the White House, right?” I asked the commander.

“What white house?!” The commander glared at me as if I wasn’t responsible.

The look he gave me made me not want to fight on his side any longer, so I waited for the perfect time to escape from his watch. I didn’t have a lot of time. We were in the middle of a fog of war and that was already an opportunity for me to escape. And so I did.

“My God! Where are you running off to?!” The commander yelled.

I didn’t say anything but I hoped to have given the impression that I was scrambling to retrieve items in another room. But I never returned to him. The layout of the mansion was different from what I’m used to, but this was the second floor. The different floor plan was an obstacle to my escape. I ran in the direction where the stairs were supposed to be only to find empty rooms. In one of them, distant gunfire drew me to the window. I could make out an orange glow and black smoke rising into the night sky in the distance. In the foreground, shadows were drawing nearer and nearer, some on horseback, many on foot.

I stepped away from the window, ran back out into the hallway, and managed to locate the oval-shaped room of the mansion. I broke through one of the south windows and jumped out. My foot landed and bent at an unnatural angle. It couldn’t take me far, but I found refuge somewhere in the back lawn. A bush resisted me trying to get in it and so I fell back into it, still in extraordinary pain. The shadows came in the night and stormed into the mansion.

After a few moments, fire blazed through the innards of the house. Glass shattering and loud booms could be heard as floors came crashing down. Every window of the mansion eventually spewed fire, and the black smoke rose up to the sky.

The great capital was in ruin.

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The Rage-Inducing Story

After months of moral anxiety and weeks of ambivalence, Samuel had finally found his man. He’d been preparing himself for this moment. This moment, and more. The images of a haunting story – “the rage-inducing story” – became more vivid as a face could now be applied to it. Samuel had never met him before, but because of “the rage-inducing story”, it was as if he had gotten to know him on a deeper level. The months of anxiety this man had caused him made it personal. The instant Samuel saw him, his heart began to pound and his bowels wanted to explode out of his ass. He hated how he wasn’t in a place of control – power even. These feelings overwhelmed him. But seeing this man intensified the one thing that brought him to Brooklyn tonight: his rage. Samuel stood outside the glowing red restaurant on a dark and desolate street, and peered in past the neon lights and through the window. The restaurant was closed for cleaning and his man was mopping the floors quickly and haphazardly, as if he were in a hurry to get somewhere. The apron he wore made him appear pathetic and harmless.

Samuel glared at his man, contemplating every thought in his head as if each were a different voice. One told him, “Give him Hell.” Another, the reason for his ambivalence, told him, “You are a good man, Samuel. A better man. Don’t do this.” There were other voices. One reminded him that he’d never been in a real fight before in his life. He’d get his ass kicked. Another was worried about the police. All this anxiety triggered Samuel’s “fight or flight response”. He made his choice.

He chose to walk away. “I’m better than you.”

Down at the corner, outside a bar, Samuel took a pack of Newport out from his thick winter coat. With deliberation, as if he were choosing a victim, he picked one stick out by random, and held it up for a second, admiring it. He lit it up and inhaled, almost desperately, the equivalent of having the first bite of food in days. The anxiety was just too much. The cigarette gave a bad taste in his mouth, but still, it felt good and it relieved him.

Just when Samuel decided to go home, someone bumped past his shoulder, hard, like a car crash. He was going to say something, but he was startled that the wrongdoer was his man. They exchanged glares and they didn’t say anything to each other. Samuel only made observations. What he saw was the face of a psychopath: emotionless, unapologetic, with the nerve to continue walking on by. The dark street caused full dilation of his pupils, making him appear even more intimidating, like a beady eyed demon. At the same time, Samuel was irritated by his man’s arrogance and smirk. But why should he care? His man was wearing a jacket that was too thin for winter and he had on worn, disgusting sneakers. It occurred to Samuel that his man didn’t recognize him. If he were just like Samuel – someone who had stalked the other, and had found him – he probably would have recognized him. Besides, the two do have a mutual connection.

As Samuel watched his man walk away from the encounter, the rage returned. This man had walked away before, and he was going to walk away again. It wouldn’t be the right place and the right time for this guy to come around. “Remember ‘the rage-inducing story.'” He crashes into you. He corrupts. And he’d walk away as if nothing were ever going to catch up to him.

Samuel flicked away his unfinished cigarette and began following him. Without being noticed, he casually crossed to the other side of the street without looking back for a car, like a predator’s gaze fixed on prey. Like a cat. He kept his distance, positioning himself diagonally from him. Somewhere along the short journey, a light turned green for vehicles, and the man disobeyed a Don’t Walk sign, almost getting run over. The person behind the wheel was probably enraged, evidenced by the horn blaring. What a shame. A crash would’ve given him a taste of his own medicine. It also would’ve saved Samuel the trouble.

The man stopped abruptly outside a café as something inside caught his attention. His wide eyes peered in through the windows and then he stepped away from the glass, looking tentative, as if he were fighting his own inner conflicts. What’s going on? Will he go in? Will he continue? He eventually made up his mind and entered the café. Samuel cautiously closed in, curious to see what was the hold up. He looked in through the windows.

There were no customers inside. A young lady was all alone behind the front counter, wiping down with a white rag. His man appeared to have disturbed her because her body language seemed to shoosh him away. Samuel saw this as an opportunity to further observe his behavior. But really, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He wasn’t sure if he’d do anything at all. Every second he didn’t act, he lost motivation. He was just waiting. He wanted more… What’s the right word? Incentive. He was compelled to stay for the moment because maybe his presence would benefit the girl. Not a soul had walked on by on this street in Brooklyn. She wouldn’t be safe if she were alone with him. Samuel knew this. The man talked, and second by second, got closer and closer to this young lady, who was, no doubt, young and attractive. She seemed to loosen up, becoming relaxed and jovial. But does she not see the psycho Samuel saw earlier? Was this another one of his masks? How infuriating! He’s not interested in coffee. How could she be alone with him? That fucking “rage-inducing story”! How could that ever happen? How could this ever happen? “What am I talking about?!” Is something going to even happen? Watching him keep on living without consequence gave Samuel all the incentive he needed.

His man finally emerged from the café and he looked back at the girl, smirking, and walked on. Samuel followed him for a few more blocks, each one looking more dilapidated than the last, to a battered apartment building. There, he became hypervigilant for potential witnesses. But it was the dead of night. His man entered the building through glass doors. Samuel had been slowly closing in and was now close enough to pounce on him. His gloves protected him and meant that he never touched that handle, and never invaded the lobby. No doorman. No front desk. No security guard. No camera on the ceiling. A door to a narrow stairwell slammed shut. He thought nothing was ever going to catch up to him. By now, Samuel was intent on crashing into his life.

The stalker entered the dim stairwell which was resonating with the sound of heavy footsteps. He ascended in pursuit and, soon after, a door creaked open above and slammed shut. The footsteps became muffled and faded away. He started sprinting up steps two at a time, worried he might have lost his man. He arrived at the third floor, and quietly opened the door, peeked his head out into the hallway, and saw no one. He slammed the door shut and proceeded up to the fourth floor. In the nick of time, he saw his man disappear into an apartment at the end of a hallway. Samuel emerged from the stairwell, allowing the door to slam behind him, as if there was no more turning back. He took his time walking to the door at the end. This was it. His heart was pounding.

Knock, knock.

Nothing.

A pound on the door.

“Yeah?” A baritone voice asked behind the door. Samuel sensed the man was right behind the door, peeking through the peephole. All he wanted to do right now was to enter. But he said nothing.

“What do you want?”

He had been waiting a long time to say this. Anything to attack the insecurities of a narcissist. Anything for him to take the bait and open the door.

“I’m better than you.”

The door unlocked. Samuel forced himself in.

 

It was around 4 AM when Samuel entered in the front door of his apartment. It was dark so he reached for the light, took off his shoes with his feet, and kicked them to the side. His hands were damaged. He grimaced closing his fist and he struggled to take off his bloodstained jacket, which he threw into the hamper.

Samuel tiptoed to the bathroom where, in the mirror, he realized the extent of the damage his face had taken. There was a deep gash on his left cheek where blood was still spilling over. He grimaced at the sight of it. But for a second afterward, he smirked, having been reminded of his position. He had won somehow.

But then, guilt took over. It wasn’t like he was worried about the police. It was because he thought he was a better man, but now, not necessarily a good man.

He stripped down to his bare ass, analyzing every particle he took off. In particular, he threw his boxers into the garbage. Hell, he even threw out his pants. They had foreign fluids that were not his. He emptied his pants of his wallet and protection before doing so. He’d take out the trash afterwards. Steam from the hot shower filled the bathroom for over 30 minutes, much longer than usual. Samuel spent most of his time thinking and scrubbing his entire body, mostly below the waist. But he ultimately didn’t have to be concerned with himself. He was careful.

After treating the wound on his face and taking out the trash, Samuel sneaked into the bedroom, and stealthily slipped under the covers. He did all this without waking her up. As she laid on her side, he placed his bad hand around her, and he hugged her. If his guilt wasn’t washed away in the shower, it disappeared after being with her again. Because, in his mind, this was the end of “the rage-inducing story”.

His man got what he deserved. And it was for her.

Poem: “Fussy”

21 May 2015. That was the day I bought my first ever musical instrument. Well, I bought drumsticks when I was a kid so I could air guitar, but I never became a real percussionist. I never became anything with music. Not until I bought a Fender acoustic, one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my entire life. Because learning an instrument raises one’s IQ by a few points, right? I don’t know. I think so.

Oasis – mostly Noel Gallagher – made me want to learn guitar and be a rock ‘n’ roll star. I’ll write something about Noel Gallagher and how much I worship him in a later post because he is probably my biggest hero. His songs have been with me since my darkest days.

The song I wanted to play on acoustic was “Talk Tonight” by Oasis. It’s a slow acoustic about the need to talk to a special someone who was there for you. I couldn’t really play it because the chorus incorporates some hammering down with the pinky and plucking individual strings. The first song I probably mastered was “Songbird” by Oasis. Three chords only. My most favorite song to play is “If I Had a Gun” by Noel Gallagher’s solo band, High Flying Birds. It’s my most favorite love song.

The earliest songs I practiced on acoustic guitar were mostly sad songs; songs that made me sound like I was emo, which is not cool. That is why I named my guitar “Fussy”. Because his melodies used to be about love and getting hurt. It don’t fuss nowadays since I’ve learned more chords that have made me a more versatile guitarist, but the name stuck.

I ended up writing a poem about this special instrument. Once again, I suck at poetry.

“Fussy”

My Fender has been fussing
The melodies are its whining
Dark clouds don’t hover above
But my ears have been in love
Sadness isn’t stalking
Anxiety’s the one haunting
Music cures all ruminating
Lulling me back to dreaming
Maybe I wanna be a rock star?
Maybe Fussy’s gonna get me far
But rock stars don’t play sad songs
The chords are hard to reach in singalongs

Poem: “Dad’s Cooking” (The Five Senses)

By the way, I suck at poetry.

“Dad’s Cooking”

The taste of his cooking was always impressive
His chicken adobo was sweet and seductive
The thigh moist and tender in my mouth
I chew deliberately so there’s no trouble going south
The food was appetizing and delicious
Dad can’t eat some since he’s on dialysis
Even if I was full, the smell pulled me in
Sticking to my diet was something I couldn’t win
So when he says, “Food is ready, get your plate”
I can’t help but always take the bait

A Quote about a Young Mind

“A young mind is out of control.”

Today, I had an engaging conversation with my manager who’s been someone like a mother to me. Despite our rough beginnings and her volatile personality, I’m happy to have her in my life and I enjoy her presence, most especially (don’t say anything), when she’s in a pleasant mood.

We were talking about people who could be mentally unstable. I’m not saying names. People who get angry easily, who have no control of their emotions, who gossip, who listen to stories and peoples’ problems and spew what was heard back around with their own spin. She’s been victimized in the past so I understand her.

She’s sometimes crazy herself.

Maybe not so much.

A few minutes earlier, a customer threw a tantrum and threatened to “knock [my] head off [my] shoulders” (which is impossible because I have a big head). The anger! The sheer rage he expressed! (I can’t go into details right now about what I do for a living, but I don’t sell crystal meth to children.)

I think I had control in a potentially dangerous situation. In the past, I’d experienced this thing where things would go blurry while in the moment. I’d be overwhelmed with emotions – fear, anger, confusion, fight, flight – and then, I wouldn’t be in the situation. Like brain fog. Like being in the fog of war. Then, my body would tense up, I’d grind my teeth and get so angry inside, and my day would be ruined after much rumination.

But this customer – not even a customer! –  tantrumed as if he were a child. A grown man. My manager interceded. “Okay, enough,” she repeated about half a dozen times.

“Don’t talk to me like you’re my mother!” The angry man yelled. Maybe he has mommy issues.

“Enough!” My manager yelled with sheer authority and a sense of finality that silenced the angry man with mommy issues. Hey! She’s my mommy! Get your own!

But I remembered being in the moment. There was no fog of war. My breathing was calm. So this is how clutch people… well… deliver in the clutch! The moment doesn’t get to them. And his scowling face, my customer’s indisposed and not-in-the-mood (what’s the word for it?) face, the entire moment… was crystal clear. No fear. No anger. I was in control.

He obviously wasn’t.

Since it’s unrelated to the incident, I forgot the context of the quote, but I said it to a co-worker who I’m training an hour afterwards and, for some reason, it sounded cool at the time. “That’s going on my blog!” I told her. She’s eight years younger than I am and ever since naming her my “protege”, her job performance has improved. Because you have to pass down wisdom to those younger like what my “mother” does with me. My trainee’s response?

“Tumblr.”

“Nope! WordPress!”

Now, that moment is gone and its true meaning is forgotten. Such a quote could mean anything in different situations.

What does it mean right now in time?

Maturity.

Attempt at Humor: “The Filipino Club”

I was walking around the basement of the student union at Queens College with my girlfriend. She moved from the Philippines about three years ago.

We peered into every room at the different clubs. We passed by the Sikh club, the Hakuna Matata Club, the Tech club, and then a room which looked like the Filipino club. Inside were Asian students talking to each other.

“Hey, look…the Filipino club,” I said to her.

“They’re not Filipino. They’re Chinese.”

“Oh,” I said. “Maybe they invaded.”