Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big, Yellow Buses

-------------------------------------------------------------------


They used to frighten me, those big, yellow buses that parked in a ring around my school.

I rode them every morning and afternoon, my tiny hands clutching the straps of my bookbag. They frightened me from when I first became old enough to be aware of my surrounding to the very last day of middle school.

They frightened me because I knew what was in them. My stomach always clenched before I stepped onto those rubber steps and into the crowded bus, knowing that as soon as I did, my tan skin and stick-straight black hair would be a flashing red alarm for the kids that rode in the back of the bus, the "cool kids".
I stayed away from them.

"Whatcha lookin' at?" The two older, white boys sitting in the aisle across from the seat I had just sidled quietly into glared at me with their sharp, accusatory eyes.

I turned my head away from the aisle wordlessly, purposely looking towards the window on my side. I didn't really know how to respond, and I was always taught to ignore things like that. But it was a stuffy day, a rainy day, and the bus was packed tightly. I felt like I was going to suffocate, so I turned my head back to the aisle.

"Whatcha lookin' at?" The boy with the curly blond-haired boy said loudly again, glaring at me while his friend laughed beside him.

I turned my head away from the aisle again. I was too young then to feel anger or hatred, too young to understand or try to understand what was happening. I only saw a large, infinite world and those two boys across from me on that filthy school bus.

They stuck their heads out of the windows of those big, yellow buses as I got off and on everyday. Light-skinned kids with shiny blond and brown hair, dark-skinned kids too. "Hey, chinky!" they yelled out the windows. "Ching chong!" I didn't know what those words meant.
But I got used to those jeers soon enough. I got used to kids throwing things out the bus windows at me or trying to trip me or shove me out of the way.


I was in middle school when my social studies teacher asked, "Who in here has been subjected to prejudice?"
A girl beside me raised her hand and said, "Well, I've been prejudiced against because I'm a blonde, and people always think blondes are dumb." Everyone in the class laughed, even the teacher.
I couldn't laugh; it wasn't funny to me. They didn't know. They had no idea.


I grew out of that fear as I got older, just like we all grow out of being scared of the monsters under the bed. Those buses weren't frightening to me anymore like they used to be.
I was bolder, meaner. A question such as "Whatcha lookin' at?" was answered with "your ugly face."
It was how I had to adapt to survive as best I knew how.

Things changed in high school. Stabbing jeers turned into "Hey, girl, what's your number?" I'm not sure why. Maybe times changed, maybe people changed. I know I changed.
I know that anyone who looked at me today would have a hard time believing that once upon a time, this same tanned skin made me the leper of the town. I know they wouldn't be able to see that underneath a hardened and confident shell lies a little girl who used to avoid people in fear of being mocked.

But I've still got faint scars on my arm after all these years in the shape of the deep, oblique gashes from the time that black boy tore through my skin with his fingernails. I can still remember going home with my arm bleeding while my mother called the school.

But I learned how to fight, how to appreciate. I learned about being tough; I learned a little about how to push through a cruel world at a young age.

Those big, yellow buses will follow me around for the rest of my life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Insomniac

Be the frame for my tired bones to collapse on; let my sunken skin be yours to wear
for a little while.

Meet me under the purple sky- I'll be the girl with a thorny rose pinned on her jacket, and an icepick in her other hand;
We'll chisel the clouds of shale into a powdery rain; we'll wash our dirty hands beneath the silver setting sun.
We'll be strong again.

Strong like the yellow shoots that spring through mountain cracks, strong like acid rain that burns through the brick walls of an empty apartment,
where I'll stay and wait for spring to come and melt me back into the earth.

Maybe I'll be born again like a phoenix rising from its ashes,
gritty, small, and wrinkled,
but stronger.

Dread and impending doom. Faithless faith and hopeless hope.
A lost second chance I never had.

It's 3 am, and I'm waiting to burst into flame.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sun Poisoning

It was a big ball of fire in the sky, the sun.

I peeled away my winter clothing to let it douse my skin in its searing rays
as hot as the flames that burned my house down

seven years ago around this time of the year.

Has it been that long already? Has it been that long since the day I ran onto the lawn, pajama-clad, to see thirty-foot tall flames eat their way into the vinyl siding of the house, to smell ashes, to hear windows explode into the frosty midnight air of early spring?

I guess it has.

Is the sun in the sky today really the same sun as the one that shone this time of year two years ago?
Two years ago, when I felt successful in my naive endeavors, when the world was packed neatly in my fingertips to lay out on ivory keys, to scribble out on aced papers, to trace quietly down sweaty spines in dark houses..

I guess it is.

I wanted it to burn through me today just like it had burned our skin this time of last year, when we slept on sheets in forgotten dugouts under the raging sun. I wanted it to burn like your kiss goodbye,
burn like the love I can't feel anymore, burn like the excitement I can't remember,

burn my permafrost bones down into liquid puddles.

But it didn't.
It burned like the failure I know so well, like the stinging isolation that contrasted the blooming trees.
It burned like the shock of being left, burned like the feeling of having lost.


Well,
maybe the sun is different this year.



Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This, too, shall pass.

I gripped the sides of my chair with my hands.
I don't know why I did that or what exactly I was trying to achieve.

Perhaps it was to keep myself from hurling my computer to the opposite wall. Perhaps it was to steady myself because all of a sudden, I felt sick to my stomach. Perhaps it was just my way of telling myself to breathe

slowly.
In, out, in, out.

I had wrapped them up, all those memories, all those thoughts. I had wrapped them up so tightly into a tiny ball and duct-taped it over. I had taken that ball and shoved it into the deepest recesses of my body where nothing could touch it. Where I thought it would stay for a long time.

I should've known it was just a ticking time bomb in disguise, counting down seconds until its explosion.
Tick, tock, tick, tock...
Boom.

So I sat there, doubled over in my chair as it struck, knowing that there are some things I can't stop,
knowing that I just had to take the hit and silently wait for it to subside.

Because the more silently I sit, the more quickly it will leave.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

Collecting Stars

Here are my two cents of satire for today:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

All throughout her life, she was told to shoot into the sky at night to collect the glittering stars that shone above her head in the small village she lived in.
"The more stars you collect, the better your life will be," her father told her.

Everyone else did it. All the other girls and boys in her village and in all the villages in the country of Absurdia did it, jumping as high as they could night after night to shoot as many stars as they could reach.

But the more the stars were shot, the higher they all had to shoot to reach the ones that hadn't been collected yet.
The more stars the boys and girls in Absurdia put in their straw baskets every night, the harder they worked to collect them the next night, building new contraptions and devising new methods to help them shoot higher to collect the ones that the others couldn't reach.

The little girl did everything she could to collect the stars in the sky.
She built ladders to stand on, hoping they'd help her shoot highter. She practiced for hours every day on targets in her backyard. She polished her arrows and bought a new bow.

But no matter how hard she tried, no matter how hard she strained her mind to concentrate on the tiny stars in the highest corners of the sky, there were always those who had taller ladders, stronger arms, slicker bows. There were always those who could collect the stars faster than she could.

The next night when all the other girls and boys went outside to shoot stars, the little girl did not. She gathered twine. For the next few months, she spent night after night gathering twine, and for the few months after that, the spent night after night weaving the twine into rope.

When she finished, she had miles of rope.


The girl took the rope out one afternoon and shot one end into a tall tree. She climbed the rope slowly with a bucket of paint and a brush tied around her waist. When she got to the top, the opened the bucket and began painting stars in the empty part of the sky where the little boys and girls of Absurdia did not care to look. She painted for days, and when she finished, she took out her arrow.

She shot all of her own stars down and collected them.
The little girl had more stars than she could carry. She took all her baskets of stars, put them in a small boat, and rowed out to sea the next night while the moon shone at its brightest.


She turned back to watch all of Absurdia from the other side of the river jumping and flinging arrows into the sky in vain, and she laughed.


And as she laughed, she dumped all her stars into the blackness of the sea behind her as she rowed far, far away.



Saturday, March 20, 2010

Human Volition

It's so cruel, and it's so limited.
I think about it a lot.

It's no wonder why so many people are religious, believing that there truly is such thing as fate, or as they prefer to call it, something like a "divine will". Everyone wants to believe that "everything will be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end." Sounds wonderful.

The great thing about having faith in a divine entity is that there is always someone to trust when you don't know who else to trust. There is always someone you can throw all your troubles to when you no longer know what to do with them or how to handle them. Having faith is almost like having eternal optimism.

With me being one of the largest skeptics to exist on the face of the earth, the idea of "fate" or a "divine plan" is not an exception to my skepticism.

But today is one of those days when I feel like fate must exist.
I've always been one to believe that there is no such thing as blind luck or a scripted plan of your life, and that the only thing your life is built upon is what you do with it- the choices you make, the action you choose to take.

But today, I'm not so sure.

Today, I feel the meaning of that belief. I feel the stinging loneliness, the darkness of the despair entwined in those words, that kind of hopelessness that drops like a stone in your stomach. Today I feel that if I was alone to fend for myself, to suffer disappointment by myself, to sculpt every aspect of my life by myself, to leave what I can't get to to the random entropy of the universe,
it would be too much.
It would be too much for any human being who had any semblance of a heart and a mind.


I hate not being in control, and that characteristic about me has been something that has molded me as a person for the last four years, especially. I hate not having my life tethered to strings; I hate not holding the reins. I've always hated the idea of luck because it's something I can't control. I'm not a drinker and I don't do drugs, mainly because those things would compromise the control I have over myself, and that's the last thing I would ever want to do.

But more and more often these past few years, I've been shoved in situations that I no longer find I have any control over, and I don't know how to deal with them anymore. More and more often, I've found myself no longer knowing what to trust or who to trust with the parts of my life that I can't control.

I always viewed fate as a cop-out excuse, the thing people blame or accredit their circumstances to so they don't have to take responsibility for how their own lives are. I've always been told, "If you work hard enough, you will succeed." Or "you can do anything if you try hard enough." It's not true, because there are always positive things in undeserving people's lives, and there are plenty of people who carry burdens that they don't deserve. Perhaps my rigid confidence in pure human volition was just my way of denying what I didn't want to believe, my way of trying to convince myself that the world is more fair than it actually is.

If only I could find it within me to surrender myself to the idea of fate right now, to release my life into unknown hands, to bring myself to believe that things will work out just fine. But I'm not conditioned to believe that anymore. I've conditioned myself to fight, and now I'm just not strong enough to drop my sword.


Is there really such a wonderful thing as fate?
If only, if only.



Friday, March 19, 2010

Sleeper Cars

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

I spent a lot of time in one as a small child.
Packed into a small six-by-nine compartment with three giant suitcases, many tattered grocery bags of food, a hassled mother (and occasionally father), a little sister, and, later, a baby brother, we would spent a day and a night cruising through the countryside of China.

It's been a while since I've been back to China to visit my extended family; in fact, I had nearly forgotten about those train rides that I had been so fond of as a child.

I had almost forgotten how much I loved the sound of a train whistle as we approached a station, or how my sister and I loved to pull down the worn, metal frames of the fold up beds that were attached to the walls of the compartment and flop down giddily on the stiff sheets of the cheap mattresses,
or how we always made instant noodles with the water from the hot thermos sitting on the small table by the window.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's a wonder that they even call them sleeper cars when nearly everything about it would suggest otherwise.

The train would rattle and click over the rickety, uneven tracks laid over the fickle terrain. The worst part was the lavatories, if one could even give them the honor of being called that. "Going to the bathroom" consisted of squatting over a crack between two cars of the train. My worst fear as a ten year-old child was that the train cars would disconnect as I tumbled through the crack onto the fast-moving ground beneath me.

Outside the compartments was a very narrow hallway, essentially, the other side of the train. In front of each window was a small seat just large enough to fit the bottom of a ten year-old as she sat reading her Harry Potter book in the stillness of the night.

It's funny that the night was preferable to me, even at that age. Foreshadowing, I suppose. I liked listening to the train rattle while everyone else slept. It gave me a feeling of superiority as I stayed conscious while everyone else slipped into slumber.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I saw a lot from the window of the sleeper car.

I saw houses made of thatch and mud. I saw sweaty, dirty-aproned women sweeping the bare ground outside their scanty homes with homemade brooms. I saw small, naked children running on the dusty streets.

I didn't see picket fences or painted homes.
I didn't see paved roads or streetlights.

I saw ditches filled with trash. I saw villages blackened with depravity and factory-pollution. I saw poverty. I saw clotheslines hanging up ripped pieces of clothing that may just as well have been unwashed.

I saw reality from the window of a sleeper car.


But I also saw miles and miles of wide, open farmland. I saw fields of parallel rows of crops, and men with large hats rounding up the herds at the end of the day. I saw sunrises and sunsets and the way the obscure countryside looked at dusk.

I saw beauty from the window of a sleeper car.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I rode the train every day this past summer in Germany. Every morning and evening, I took a one-hour trip to travel between the city the house.

Sometimes when I got off of work early, I just jumped on the next train. I usually didn't know where I was going, but I knew I wouldn't get lost and could always find my way back.

The train was my place to think. It was my place to unwind and melt away a hard day in the lab and my time to ruminate on the thoughts that I didn't have time for during the day. It was my time to soak in the beautiful architecture and new sights. Sometimes I would get off and explore by myself.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On late nights like these when I’m trapped in my room and unable to get to sleep, I can’t help but wish terribly that I could just take a train to nowhere. I can't help but wish that I was once again in a rickety sleeper car, drifting into unconsciousness on a straw mattress while the wheels roll over foreign lands and obscure places.

I would do anything to get back on a train just for a little while so I can shake off these constant and gut-wrenching worries and fears that have been consuming my mind as of late.
Just so I can gather myself up again just enough so I know that this won’t last too much longer.

Just to remind myself once again that there really is still a bigger world out there.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Un bel jour

In celebration of my 50th post, I leave you with one of the best days of my life.





Paris- 2009
(ces images sont les miennes)

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Favorite Place (2)

If you didn't read this first one, you should.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Every store I've ever been in has had its defining smell and feel.

You know what I'm talking about- that general atmosphere of a place. Department stores have that crisp, clean, commercialized feel; a superstore like Wal-Mart has that mass-production, disconnected consumerist, fast-paced feel; a boutique has that delicate, subtley old-timey, expensive feel. I can usually tell if a store is worth spending time in within five seconds of stepping in the door.

But thrift stores are different. Each one has a distinct aura about it.

Thrift stores are like people. They have character, moods, dynamic. They're unpredictable, full of pleasant and unpleasant surprises, and most of all, they've got lots stories to tell.

I love browsing through thrift stores, and it's not just because I often find useful, cute, and even obsolete items for unbelievable prices. When I buy something from a thrift store, I feel like I'm spending my money to buy not only the item, but also the history it comes with and all the memories of the person who owned it before me, especially if the item is particularly out of the ordinary.


Did someone wear this jeweled necklace to a fancy dinner party in New York?
Was this dress hand-sewn by a mother for her child?

Did someone get a job while interviewing in this suit?

Have these shoes been walked in by a backpacker through foreign lands?



There are stories stitched into the threads of a thrift-store shirt, pressed into the pages of a tattered book, spun into the grooves of the old, vinyl records thrown haphazardly into the back of the store.

Thrift stores are a bridge between the old and the new age, a mess of miscellanously preserved treasures. A museum for intangible things, in a sense. An antique shop in disguise, one that doesn't care to flaunt the age of its contents.
And the best part about it is the fact that even though you know the stories are there, you'll never know what they are.





Sunday, March 7, 2010

Best Friend

You know what?

Maybe if you had ever asked "what's wrong?"
I wouldn't be sitting here for the sixtieth time, wondering if you really just don't give a crap.

Well, do you?

Remember that night you called me back to the room when it was around midnight,
and I came find to find you bawling on your bed?
I comforted you, cursed people out for you, sat there until you fell asleep
because that's what I do for people I love. That's what I want to do for people I love.
But did you know that just ten minutes before that, I was doing what you were doing

in the hall?

Did you have any idea?
Of course not.

Where were you when I needed you so badly this summer
probably more badly than I have ever needed anyone in my life?
You didn't even call, so instead I relayed to you a general gist of what was going on

through facebook chat.


We never talked about it after that brief internet conversation. Maybe if we had,

I wouldn't have spent so many nights sitting on our bathroom floor
in the dark with my face buried in towels
so I wouldn't wake you up

from your sleep.
That's what you do- wake up, plow through your days, and go to sleep early
unless people walk up to you, sit you down, and tell you what's going on in their lives and how they're doing,

because otherwise, your problems are much worse anyways,
right?

Are you aware in the slightest of how hard a year it's been for me?
I'm very aware of how hard of one it's been for you-

all your woes, all your worries, every doubt and frustration. I've asked you about all of them.
I've been patient; I've been understanding; I've done my best to help you and advise you as best I know how. I've been through a lot of what you're going through.

But maybe I'm underestimating you,
and in reality,
you can read my mind a lot better than I think you can, and you're just choosing to silently observe me with the sort of bemused half-interested-non-interest that everyone else observes me with.

Or maybe you're just assuming I don't want to talk to you, when all I want is for someone to, once in a while, say
"Tell me what's going on."



People call me reserved. Mysterious, secluded, completely not open with my personal life
Well,
I wonder why I am that way

when someone I'd consider my best friend without even thinking about it
doesn't act like
she cares.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bonjour, Mademoiselle Parfait

Tell me how you manage to keep your mind so sharp, how you still find a way to plow your way to the top of the stack, dazzling everyone with your stellar retention of knowledge
while you sit alone night after night, washing down with a glass of water the poisonous contents of a plastic bottle.

How do you do it, sly fiend of mine? Tell me how
you intrigue those officials of academia, how you reap in crisp checks and top marks
when every sentence that drips from your mouth is packed with the profanity of a drug lord and the bitter coldness of a Russian winter.

Tell me, how do the consequences of the deranged, hedonistic world seem to evade you while everyone else around you drops to their miserable demise?

How does your lust for darkness fall so perfectly in line with everyone else's desires for achievement?
How does success lands in the palms of your hands so easily
no matter how hard you unconsciously try to defy it

while the rest of us grovel on our hands and knees hopelessly day after day, praying that soon our hard work and enslaved bodies will be worth half a bronze penny?




Oh spiteful gods, wake me when the world is fair.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Too late for regrets

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I didn't stand up for myself like I was sure I always would.

I caved. Caved sloppily and carelessly into the calloused hands of a despair I can't seem to put a name to. Some vapor form of a shadow that has trapped me in its subtle ensnarement. So subtle I can barely recognize it's there. But something's different.
I'm conscientious enough to sense those changes, to realize what is caused by my fickle moods and what is not.


It didn't seem like a big deal. To most people, it wouldn't be a big deal at all because it really isn't.

So then why is my stomach ripping itself to shreds?
Why do I feel like I'm coated in a layer of filthy grime that I can't wash off?

Why has my brain been whispering repeatedly into my ears, reminding me in my every waking second that I was nothing but
stupid
stupid
stupid?