3 February 2017: Meditation Session

Clear the mind.

Breathe in and out.

Focus.

…Without being bothered by Haley’s piercing meows to leave the room. To head to the litter perhaps?

…Without thinking about how loud my mother’s voice is while she speaks to another cat like a baby. Her voice really is loud. A consequence of getting old and deaf?

…Without being seduced by the aroma of cooking. Longaniza. Hopefully garlic rice. I haven’t had a proper breakfast today. Popcorn and coffee with whey isn’t enough.

…Without feeling impatient to immerse myself back in Skyrim. I have a lot to do, such as securing the road between Helgen and Falkreath and clearing out some caves along the way.

…Without feeling anxious to call work back. They have the nerve to call me now that they need me. It’s not the fault of the person who’s calling. It’s the nature of the business.

…Without feeling anxious about an oddity in my Degree Works that states I have 43 credits, when I actually have 46. 45 credits is needed to graduate. And I will graduate.

…Without remembering that reading has to be done for Professor Weir’s class.

…Without discomfort building in my neck. Moving it up gives relief.

…Without losing patience that I might be wasting my time. I’m not. This is for anxiety. Hopefully, for my IQ as well.

Eyes open.

It’s been under two minutes. This session is over.

There’s a need for improvement.

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Time Travel: “Out for a Walk”

The following short story was born in my Aspects of Fiction class, taught by a Professor John Weir of Queens College. The man is brilliant. I very much enjoyed his assignments, even if he usually didn’t go over them. Nothing groundbreaking. Nothing over-complicated. Assignments that were plain simple, engaging, and got me going.

Give me simplicity and freedom, and I, and my classmates, will do the rest.

Time travel was a theme throughout the semester. Kindred by Octavia Butler was the novel we read prior to this assignment.

I had never really placed myself in another time. Here goes…

“Out for a Walk”

I was in my bedroom, writing at my desk, when I was hit with dizziness. The world spun all around me, faster and faster, until it was all a white, bright light. And then, I wasn’t home anymore. I was in the middle of a green forest. In place of silence, birds chirped and leaves above rustled in the wind. Darkness that was outside my window was now day. The chilliness that signaled the coming of winter was now warmth that made me sweat.

Where was I? At first, I thought it was a dream, until I stood up and walked around. A baffling and worrying sight. How was I transported from my bedroom to here? Was I at the park? Did I blackout last night? Was I on drugs? The worst part was that I was still in my underwear.

After walking about five minutes following the sun, I began to feel deathly terrified of my situation.

A gunshot echoed in the distance. It startled me and I turned in its direction. The landscape of the forest didn’t have eccentricities and there were no bushes to hide in, and so I began to walk in the opposite direction of the gunfire. But immediately, a dark man, yards in that direction, could be seen now, coming towards me. The closer he got, the more I was able to discern his appearance. His clothes looked as though he were a miner or a prisoner, and he was ragged and dirty. His overall shine and breathless countenance made it clear that he was running for quite some time now, and he was exhausted. Behind him, I could now make out a white man with a long beard, carrying a shotgun.

I didn’t move, as if I were some celestial object doomed for a collision with another object. And, of course, it did. The black man finally reached me and mumbled aloud. His words couldn’t be understood, but I could tell by his body language that he was begging for my help. His frantic fear no doubt ate away at my composure and I didn’t know what to do.
He hid behind me. The white man, overweight and out of shape, finally reached us, his gun pointed down. I wished the black man kept on running so that I wouldn’t have to exchange with this intimidating human being.

“Who are ya?” The white man inquired.

“I’m Edward.”

I didn’t know what was happening. I had to contemplate whether or not this was a dream. Then I had to contemplate whether or not these people were acting and f*cking with me. Let me guess: a slave and a slave owner? F*ck it. I’d best go along with it.

“I was out for a walk when… when your prisoner caught my attention,” I finished, unsure whether or not my words were chosen well.

“You went out for a walk without your clothes?” He asked, smirking, as if I was stupid. At this moment, I believed he wasn’t acting, and I also wanted to punch him in his face, most especially if he was, indeed, a slave owner.

“I was at a camp and I wandered off.”

The black man shivering behind me was pissing himself now. He wasn’t acting neither. I wanted to do the same.

“Yea? Lemme have him and I be out your way.”

I didn’t know what to do. With hesitance and reluctance, I stepped to the side and exposed the poor man to his master. All of a sudden, a psychotic rage revealed itself in the white man’s face. It was inhuman. Evil.

“I told you not to run, you son of a bitch!”

A deafening blast. Blood sprayed along the entire front side of my body. The poor man dropped to the ground, his face smacking the ground. As he laid on the earth, bleeding profusely and gasping, I turned to the white man in shock. His eyes were set on the dying man and he had this most irritating smirk on his face.

And then, he turned to me.

That was when I returned home, almost instantaneous, without the dizzying transition, as if I had just woken up. My feelings returned to believing that it was all a dream. The lights in my bedroom were off and it was dark outside. My heart was pounding and I was fearful that I was having a heart attack.

I turned on the light and was horrified to find the blood still on me.

Short Story: “Missing”

Sometimes time doesn’t abide. My friends back in New York City had their Spring Break a week later than my school did. After a grueling start to the spring semester of 2011, I felt like I was missing out. I envied them all when they went to Cancun without me. The famous white and blue beaches… Screw them, man! Instead, I was dragged to Miyako, Japan by my friend, Yoshi, who wanted to visit his parents. It was absolutely not the ideal place for a vacation. I met this introverted yet hysterical guy in art class, and he ended up being my closest friend in college. My parents were relieved because Japan was better than Mexico with all the people who go missing down there.

Our trip to Miyako was from Monday to Friday. As we flew over the Pacific Ocean, I saw the black water. I couldn’t shake off the images of white and blue beaches. We arrived in Miyako on Monday morning. The cold was something I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t prepared for anything really, and if I wasn’t careful, I’d get lost in this world. I didn’t know how to speak Japanese. I could understand a little, but I couldn’t hold a conversation. Yoshi was the only person I could talk to. His apartment, which was a block away from the beach, was cramped with miniature-looking furniture. His parents weren’t really accommodating people, always giving me a suspicious look. Maybe it’s because I’m Lebanese.

We didn’t do anything on Monday because the jet lag knocked us both out. I was interrogated by Yoshi’s parents about who I was: an only child, an art student, a retail worker at Macy’s. Yoshi interpreted and I don’t think they were impressed with who I was. They had stern looks on their faces. Maybe they thought Yoshi would invite over an accomplished Japanese scientist.

On Tuesday, Yoshi and I walked around. That’s all we did, and sometimes, I felt like my life was wasting away if it wasn’t on a warm beach. I’ve seen all that Manhattan had to offer. Why would ten-story concrete buildings impress me? It all looked so dull and gray, and the weather was dull with all its cloudiness, like it was always going to snow, but the snow never fell. That would’ve been something, because at the very least, I like snow.

By Wednesday, I was becoming depressed by the loneliness and uninspiring sights. I grind my teeth whenever Yoshi pointed up at a building, smiling, as if it were a landmark. The food was delicious however; the sushi being the most authentic Japanese I’ve ever eaten. We had gone to a mall on that day, and I lost Yoshi in the crowd. I was missing for a good 15 minutes, but Yoshi found me. It was a nerving experience because we were on the other side of town and I didn’t know how to get back to the apartment. This was when the tension started to build between us. I couldn’t stop moping around like a child after that. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I needed someone to vent to.

On Thursday, Yoshi decided to meet up with two of his childhood friends, and he ended up dragging me along with him. It was an alienating experience at the buffet where we eat. All night, they spoke Japanese, and Yoshi didn’t even try to involve me in their conversation. I just sat there silent for an hour, even after we had finished eating. Fed up, I retreated to a bar next door. The alcohol comforted me enough to talk gibberish to Japanese students next to me. And then Yoshi walked in with his friends, finally caring. “You always go missing,” he yelled, upset, embarrassing me in front of his friends.

It was Friday afternoon and I couldn’t wait to leave for home. My bags had been already packed the night before departure. I woke up all alone in Yoshi’s empty apartment. He probably didn’t wake me up because of the fight we had last night. His parents were out at work. The emptiness of his apartment triggered something in my brain, and I remembered being empty-handed in bringing something back to my parents. Where we were wasn’t a tourist spot, and I hadn’t been successful in finding anything to bring back home. I decided to go out and do a little last minute shopping by myself. I was hesitant at first because I was afraid I’d go missing again. I left a note.

Then I thought against it and crumpled it up. Maybe I wanted Yoshi to wonder where I’d gone missing to get back at him.

The first thing I noticed upon exiting Yoshi’s building was the fishy smell of the ocean nearby. The ocean wasn’t an impressive sight, but any ocean nearby excites me. I walked away from the beach, a few blocks to the commercial avenue. There were a crowd of people and the traffic was noisy, but it all looked tame compared to city life back home. I went in and out different shops that reminded me of Canal Street in Manhattan. Among the unimpressive souvenirs I came across, I picked up two small Japanese dolls that looked like me. They were short, fat ninjas. Cliché, but my parents will like these. I kept them in a plastic bag which I hung around my wrist.

After an hour, I checked my inaccurate watch and was excited at how close it was to departure. I decided to return to Yoshi’s apartment. He’s probably there now, wondering where I have gone. “Missing again,” he’d say. I traced my steps back, as if on automatic, but I didn’t end up at his building. I ended up at a school. I thought I saw the same Japanese girls I saw at the bar last night. Probably not. They all look alike. Adrenaline came from my kidneys and I began to panic. What if I wasn’t going to make it back in time for the flight? I’d have to stay here forever. My parents would think I’m missing.

Then I thought to just follow the street north parallel to the shore. I was walking south before, and Yoshi’s building was only a block away from the beach.

When I was close to the water, I stopped and looked around at the world before me. Something felt wrong. The world trembled, slightly at first, then violently. People screamed and cried in tongues I didn’t recognize. The ground shook up and down, left and right. The building in front of me appeared as though it was going to collapse on top of me. Cracks appeared on the ground and ripped open, small at first, then large enough to devour a white sedan with someone in it. That someone will probably be missing forever. Windows all around shattered to the ground and I ended up falling and cutting both my hands. The souvenirs I had spilled out of the bag. Before they were gone, I rescued them.

A boom and a roar nearby. Probably an explosion. Followed by a crashing sound.

The earthquake lasted for a few minutes, but it felt like an hour. And then, the world stood still. So did I, shocked. I still heard low rumbling. I didn’t know what that sound was; probably the Earth shaking in the distance. It wasn’t as loud as the panic that ensued.

I slowly got to my feet, slightly disorientated, and surveyed the damage around me. It became another world in just a matter of minutes. The damage made this place appear apocalyptic. Rubble gathered all around the streets and sidewalks. The entire face of a building was torn down, revealing the insides. One street looked like a disfigured corpse after a car crash, wounds wide open revealing what’s underneath the surface. A building dangerously nearby collapsed. The rush of air that had been pushed by all that matter was strong enough to blow its own dust from down the street all the way to my face. People all around me seemed to be getting somewhere. I wasn’t.

Finding Yoshi’s building was my priority, but I passed by a shop where the lights had died and there was a woman trapped under a bookcase. Empathy made me rush to her aid. I pushed the glass door open, walked over fallen books, and, with all my might, tried to lift the bookcase to no avail. She was crying; blood gushing out of her mouth. She was gasping for air, unable to breath. Just when I was about to give up and leave her, two other men appeared from the back and did a better job at helping her. I felt stupid. I left. I didn’t know what came over me, but then I had this desire to loot. So many items spilled out from the windows onto the streets. I could bring these back home to my parents. But then, I thought, the plastic around my wrist had all that I needed.

The sight of the shore was within range and I witnessed something strange. It was as if the earthquake shifted Japan’s elevation upward, because the water along the beach had disappeared. I had no idea what was going on, but the view I had gotten used to for the past five days had changed. There were others looking out towards the ocean. The water receded about a half mile in. You could’ve almost seen the steep descent of the shoreline, but from where I stood, I couldn’t see the bottom. This was an awesome, yet bone-chilling sight to behold.

A loud siren pierced through my ears like one of those air raid sirens that everyone is scared of because it means that something is coming… something dangerous. A foreign voice spoke in a calm, robotic voice, with absolutely no sense of urgency. I didn’t understand it at first. People started retreating in a panic. In the distance, I saw the ocean stir violently. It didn’t look like much. The distance made those waves look like nothing. I listened to the voice again, this time carefully, and among those words was one I knew: “tsunami.”

As context was given to me, I could now make out the height and speed of the waves in the distance. They were coming.

So I ran.

As I sprinted away from the water, towards the street, the rumbling got louder and louder. As I finally reached the street, I turned around, and saw a wall of water that was about 100 feet high, rolling through the spot where I had been. I had no choice but to enter the building closest to me. If I didn’t, I was going to get swept into the streets and killed by all the eventual debris that would cut and slice through my entire body. It was around this time when the souvenirs that were meant for my parents back home went missing. I didn’t stop and look back for them. My only priority was bringing back home the only thing that mattered: myself.

The building I impulsively entered was a four-story building made of wood. A very heavy sense of dread burdened me as if this was it; this entire building was going to be my coffin. I was all alone again; the occupants had left. It was a nice house with mahogany wood, antique-looking furniture, and plants that gave the house life. It was also a scene that was going to disappear as quick as I glanced at it. As the rumbling got louder and louder, I found a staircase and ran all the way to the top floor. There was a dark hallway with a window facing east, and I could see the wall of the black water almost rising over the house. I picked out a room on the west which was a game room with a round table and a gaming system. I hid pathetically in the southwest corner as if I was hiding from Death.

A loud crash knocked the house off its foundation. Everything in the room was thrown about, including myself. I heard water swirl all around the house, which felt like it was floating and spinning around. My sense of direction was lost. There was this deafening noise of destruction, including the loud crunching of wood and glass shattering below me. It was here where I knew I was going to die.

The house crashed hard into something, an impact that fractured the entire structure and broke my tranquility. I screamed. I sobbed. A few seconds later, the wall that was supposed to be to my north started to disintegrate into a thousand pieces. The culprit: a concrete structure, probably a bridge or another building. As it eventually became my turn to crash into the concrete, I remember thinking about the state of my body once this was all over.

“There will be nothing to send back home to my parents,” I thought. “They’ll probably never find my body… I’ll always be missing.”

Poem: “This Is What He Probably Felt”

Poem: “This Is What He Probably Felt”

There was this one particular stray cat who wandered around my street a few years ago. I saw him alive for about two years. My family called him “Johnny”. He wasn’t a cat you’d want to touch because his fur was always dirty and he looked diseased. Drool would drip down from his mouth. But I’d always call and beckon with the desire to touch and pet him. I wanted him to know that he shouldn’t have been afraid of me. I was his friend. But whenever I got too near, he’d always run away. Food wouldn’t make him stay. That was the nature of a creature who didn’t know love. Perhaps he drooled at the sight of me because he equated me with food.

Johnny mated with my cat, Paco, who gave birth to two unforgettable kittens. The male kitten looked like his dad with a bad eye that wandered. He looked sickly as a baby, but he grew up to be playful. He was given away to one of my mother’s friends. Last I heard of him, he had grown up to be huge. The female kitten was black with brown spots, and looked like a mix of her grandmother, Tipper, and her great-uncle, Bernard. My family kept her and named her Marsha. Unfortunately, Marsha died on 19 April 2015 after getting spayed. She was only about 3 or 4-years-old. I won’t ever get over her death because I saw her suffer in pain. It was fluid buildup that made it painful to breath, and so we had to put her down. I could still hear her cries. The vet also diagnosed her as being depressed. I suspect Marsha was pregnant when she was spayed, and maybe, just maybe, she was depressed over her loss.

The winter of 2014 / 2015 was a bone-chilling one. There were consecutive days when temperatures were around zero. On one of those days, I had opened the front door of my house and out of nowhere, Johnny came running towards me. He had never moved towards me before. I didn’t think of it, but if I knew then, I would’ve allowed him inside. But he was a stray cat who looked dirty and diseased, and I had five other cats in my house. So I didn’t let him in.

He ran towards me because he wanted warmth. He probably knew he was going to die if he didn’t find it. And that is what happened.

Johnny died sometime between 19 February and 22 February of 2015. My mother said the neighbor found him frozen in his garage. I was mournful. A few days later on the 24th, I wrote this poem dedicated to him. Poetry was and still isn’t a skill of mine, but I thought of Johnny while writing this. I think of Marsha now too. She’s buried in the garden that’s in front of my house. Father and daughter didn’t live fulfilling lives, and I can only wish them peace in death.

I love you both.

“This Is What He Probably Felt”

This is what he probably felt
The cards given to him poorly dealt
Body in pain by a thousandfold
All because of this f*cking cold

Past winters were warmer than this
But this one’s been such a b*tch
He’d sit outside our window for food
Giving him three years felt so good

He was a creature I felt sorry for
A creature that was unloved and unadored
He’d beg for food with a voiceless cry
Then run away when I only wanted to say hi

The last I saw him, he cried aloud
I called his name when it was cold out
It was the only time he ever came to me
Giving warmth to him is now but a dream

This winter has worn me out
I’m getting p*ssed, I wanna shout
But a rush of cold air is not as painful
As missing the chance to save someone so pitiful

Epistolary: “The Great Aunt Helen”

In the summer of 2016, I took a class at Queens College called Introduction to Writing Nonfiction. It was that class where I received my first A after four semesters in that institution. Yes – SAD – but I look at it as a testament of how much I enjoyed that particular class. It lasted only three or four weeks and was instructed by a Professor Kaplan who was about the same age as I was at the time (25). That was awesome and it gave me inspiration and a model to look up to. That was what I was supposed to be doing at that age!

Every day in those few weeks, the class followed the same routine. First: an in-class writing assignment that could be shared; second: a discussion about the previous night’s reading assignment; third: group work; fourth: a separate in-class writing assignment; fifth: I forget; but that was how the format was. I enjoyed Professor Kaplan’s teaching style. And he taught us how to use semicolons! His specialty may have been theater because some of his group work involved us writing dialogue and plays.

Anyway, “The Great Aunt Helen” came about in that class and was one of three drafts that was to be revised and submitted at the end of the term. It’s an epistolary where I, in the future, am writing a letter to my hypothetical son, warning him of an unexpected visit from his great-great-aunt Helen. The real-life Helen is, in relation to me, my great-aunt, and she is, indeed, a great person despite all her faults. And that’s where the title comes from! This epistolary paints an image of a maddening woman, but is intended to be humorous. Despite all the terrible things said, I do love her dearly.

As part of my revision, I wrote a second part which was a response from my hypothetical son to future me about the details of her arrival. However, I’m not going to include that here because I only wanted to speak from my own point of view. (A response to the first letter was the only expansion I could think of for the revision.)

By the way, this is my third post on WordPress! Success! I love WordPress! But I feel like I’m missing some of my lightheartedness that was present in my first two posts. Anxiety and fatigue are getting to me. Hopefully, they will not diminish my writing.

“The Great Aunt Helen”

Dear Edward,

My son! How is everything? Enjoying your classes? Hope you’re not getting bullied. There’s something I’ve got to tell you. Please…. forgive me.

Your great-great-aunt Helen – or your grandma’s aunt – I forget what you call it – is going to visit you in Washington D.C. this weekend. Seeing you is what’s most important of course, but she also has been planning to go there for quite some time now. However, she’s been complaining that you haven’t returned her phone calls. She called the house ten times already and all I have are her messages on the answering machine. Your mother is pissed off. This might be hard for you to deal with since you’re busy with school, work, and a girlfriend who I hope is nice, but you have to do it, son. Do it for me! You haven’t spent time with her since you were a kid anyway. She’s only going to be there for two days and needs a place to stay. She didn’t want to pay for a hotel and you know why (she’s cheap). She was over at the house last week and she forced me to go online for her to find the cheapest hotel. I went through Expedia, Travelocity, etc., for two hours, but nothing was cheap enough for her. So I told her you were in D.C. with room to spare. I’m sorry. I thought she’d forget about it. Call her back.

I should give you a heads up of what to expect. When she arrives at your apartment – a time that would be most inconvenient – you have to park her car for her because she hasn’t been able to parallel park for years. You have to inspect her luggage upon entering your apartment because you may remember a story about a roach infestation that happened at the house a few years ago. We suspect she was responsible because her apartment has roaches crawling all over. Extermination took us a year before they finally disappeared. Also, hide the toilet paper. If the toilet clogs, don’t be surprised.

While she’s staying with you, be careful with what she cooks. I know you’re trying to watch your weight, but she will sabotage that. If you don’t want to eat, you don’t have to. Sometimes she’ll force you to eat her food. Try not to let her cook because she can cost you a fortune with the gas bill, using all four flames on a stove all the same time… and no one even eats her food! Throw out old food right away because she’ll cycle it between the fridge and the microwave until it has been eaten. Also, don’t ever leave her alone in the kitchen while you’re cooking something because she adds a load of salt and MSG behind your back. Eat enough of her food and you’ll begin to look like her. You’ll always catch her rummaging through the fridge, but never when she takes your prized utensils home.

Keep your place clean, especially the kitchen where she spends most of her time, either eating or cooking. She’ll lecture you about how to live your life and you might get offended. It’s alright. Be adamant about how you live your life. I gave you that freedom. That’s why you’re in D.C. instead of here with your old man. Don’t listen when all she talks about is your uncle who became an engineer, and never about me, and what I have done – like teaching Health, or publishing a novel, or winning an award for best horror screenplay. That wouldn’t impress her, but we all live different lives. It’s none of her business.

I know this will be a major disruption for you. I’m sorry. However, I raised you to be a family guy. So make time for your aunt – or whatever she is in relation to you. Introduce her to your girlfriend. A great man once said, “a man who never spends time with his family can never be a real man.” Of all the things my parents pushed onto me, the only thing I ended up believing in was family. That’s something I hope you still hold on to. If your aunt doesn’t tell you how much she’s proud of you, then I’ll say it here in writing – I’m proud of you and what you’ve done so far with your life. I’m also proud that you’re going to accommodate your aunt for the weekend.

Now call her back.

Love,
Your Sorry Father

Dialogue: “Jimmy and Johnny” (“No ‘he said, she said'”)

My “brilliant” English professor, Professor John Weir of Queens College, author of two books, etc., etc., gave us, his creative writing class, an assignment earlier this semester. He instructed each of his students to write down dialogue between two people we don’t identify with, and to not include “he said, she said”. I forgot the purpose of the assignment, but going through it again, I thought it was sweet. Professor Weir always had great ideas for assignments, but it’s a shame he never remembered to go over them!

Writing the dialogue was difficult at first. As a matter of fact, writing dialogue is my weakness. I think I do come up with some great ideas for stories, but my dialogue always suck! It’s probably because my introversion / shyness / social anxiety has limited my social relationships all my life. (Damn you, psychology. I can’t live in denial about my problems anymore.) I don’t know people. I don’t know what people say to each other or why they say it.

Originally, I wrote a dialogue between a man and a woman, but somewhere along the way, I got confused as to who was speaking. It’s easy for me to get confused in other aspects of life as well. Like math! I hate math!

“Jimmy” and “Johnny” may or may not be based on real people. I’m not saying any more… Okay, they were these two geeks in elementary school who seem to have grown up to be really cool people. And they’re more successful than I am. So there you go: two people who I don’t identify with. The dialogue is completely fictional by the way.

I copied and pasted the dialogue from my previous blog, Blogger, that’s now out of commission because I’m a traitor to Google.

“Jimmy and Johnny”

“Jimmy? Hey!”

“… Hello. I’m sorry. Who are you?”

“It’s me! Johnny! We were best friends in high school!”

“Johnny?”

“Did you go to Saint Francis Prep?”

“Yeah. I went to Saint Francis but… I don’t remember. Sorry. I’m in a hurry.”

“Wait! Class of 2008, man! We used to talk about wrestling all the time. We played war during recess like almost every day. I had a crush on Dana. Do you remember?”

“I remember Dana. But Johnny? … Yeah. I don’t remember.”

“Jimmy, right? James Nino. You have the same mole on your face. You talked about removing it some day.”

“Excuse me? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I love everything about myself.”

“How come you don’t remember me? We were best friends in high school. John Mauro? In our yearbook it says, ‘Why does Johnny follow Jimmy around all the time?'”

“… Yeah… Why did he?”

“So you do remember!”

“Yeah... I remember my girlfriend, Dana, cheating on me for some prick named Johnny!”

“…”

“Prick!”

“How come I don’t remember that?”