(A futile, halfhearted attempt at developing Miri’s character.)
1. Few things tether her to this place. There are only meaningless familial obligations and the thought of leaving an empty room behind. Maybe somebody will ask her family where she is one day, a brief and uninvested attempt at small talk. She knows her mother will simply laugh and make a charming excuse, inwardly relieved that her daughter is gone.
2. She is not afraid of death. On the contrary, she has always been comforted by the inevitability of it. Whether people form close ties with others or not, they will all meet the same end, the same final separation. As vague as the concept is, it has always made her feel better for being alone.
Now there are too many bodies around her. Twitching in the middle of sleep, scratching their legs, chewing too loudly, laughing uproariously. She doesn’t speak much to the others, but there seems to exist an unspoken agreement: Where we go, you follow. Where you go, we go too.
A part of her is afraid of their absence. When she prays over the dead after each battle, she has to suppress the part of her that succumbs to relief. For now, the corpses are all unfamiliar, nameless. At night, when the campfire has died to a dull glow and the others lie prone and unmoving under the stars, she finds herself wondering if she can welcome separation after all.
3. They move from place to place, and soon the names of people they meet and the towns they pass through all begin to blend together and lose meaning. This is the kind of life she signed up for. Up until now, she has always viewed herself as a perpetual visitor, tied to nothing but the motley little band she follows into haphazard bloodshed. She tells herself she hasn’t minded any of it yet: detachment is a habit of hers, and it is a difficult one to break.
Yet they have stayed at this place for a month, an unprecedented attempt at stability. Now her sheets are crumpled, soft, and familiar. She eats the same meal for breakfast each morning—substandard fare for a castle, but reassuringly consistent all the same. She has memorized the hallways so that she can wander them at night, quietly disentangling bad dreams from reality. And she has learned how to separate one voice in particular from all the others, learned how beautiful her own name can sound when coming from the mouth of someone incendiary.
But this is her last night here. The other side of the bed is still sweet with the warmth of a body that is not hers, a body now gone to rest elsewhere in the castle. Their separation is more than simply physical—this she knows, this she already knew, and yet she allows herself to feel loss. It is an emotion far too imbued with life to ignore.
She still cannot bring herself to fathom this particular goodbye completely. But in the morning, as she always does, she leaves without looking back.
1. They say that you can identify a true friendship by its comfortable silences, and so after we pass the post office for the second time, I take pride in the way we stop speaking. When my self-imposed responsibility of memorizing New York is thwarted by nightfall, I find you slumped asleep, your knees drawn up onto the seat in front of you. This is the way artists find their muses: they are lucky enough to see a girl like you lay crumpled upon herself on a dark bus, black-stockinged, blue plaid splayed over trembling knees. I have never been so fond of you as I am now, even after a week of your warmth on my shoulder, a tangle of your greasy hair beneath my fingernails. I wish I could immortalize you the way that you immortalize others, with a few scribbles and a flippant, triumphant smudge of ink on paper. But all I can do is think to myself, over and over, wishing your head would draw closer to my body—I want to write poetry for this girl. I want to write poetry for this girl. And so I try over and over, and though I always imagine your disparaging laughter and your unironic disgust, the desire never truly fades.
2. You slipped your writing to me like it was dirty cash. It was a fleeting transaction in the hallway, and I still pride myself on how I met your gaze with a sideways smile, my eyebrows arched in a look of mock conspiracy. And so it was that we became confidants, turning our daily heartbreaks into war flags and storm-tossed vessels. We spun unabashed songs about the girls we longed for and the heroes we wished we were, writing love poems for anybody but each other. So it was, then, that I admired you—the way you could think of nothing but yourself (thereby making our friendship exceptional), the way you could revive dead languages in the tradition of the greats, the way you turned the air golden on a winter afternoon. I learned to love your voice in the early mornings, learned to love your songs as they peaked past my room and ebbed behind the closing door of yours. I told you that you were among the only writers I could ever be friends with. (I was wrong, because my gut still feels black with envy whenever I read your words—but all the same, I like you well enough.)
3. The fastest way to break a friendship: to confess that I dreamed of you last night and the night before that, your lips insistent and heavy against the corner of my mouth, your limbs unwilling to let go. My mind manipulates my skin into feeling the afterglow of your body even now, when wakefulness has turned the world sterile and turned the scant stairwells between us into mountain ranges. There is a certain doomed hilarity to the way I love you, knowing full well you can never want me (in the same incontrovertible, biological way she explained how she could never want me either), and so I smile at news of your newest fixations with supportive detachment, miles away, lying stomach-down on a moldy lower bunk in New Orleans. Sometimes I fantasize about changing your mind in some crucial, exceptional way—I remember, desperately, the way you slipped your arms around my waist without a moment’s hesitation last night, as if I were the most immediate source of comfort in the room. I wish I had known where to place my arms so that you knew. I wish I could know to trust you: to trust the way you don’t love me, can never love me, and the fact that it is nothing that you nor I can ever help.
complexitea-deactivated20140414 said: Out of curiosity, what are your favorite (or at least favored) forms of writing, and what do you enjoy about each one?
This is a really fun question—thanks so much for asking! (I’m not exactly sure if “forms of writing” refers to style, genre, or something else, but I’ll try my best to offer a decent answer. These will probably all pertain to creative writing anyways; academic/essay/journalistic writing is definitely not my cup of tea.)
It’s easier for me to identify what I don’t prefer, which probably involves scriptwriting and drama. I’m not as comfortable with this medium as I am with others, and I’m always tempted to bog my dialogue down with unnecessary stage cues and really annoying notes. Point being, I’m not very good at playwriting or screenwriting—I don’t have much experience with either, but even then, I can’t seem to write anything without saturating it with sensory detail. My style is ultimately not kind to actors and directors, who’d have to slosh through my purple prose in order to put on a show. It’s something to work on.
I really love short stories (especially flash fiction) and poetry. It makes me happy to string together unconventional images and experiment with unexpected turns of phrase, which only seem to be effective in isolated, brief works (there is a limit to how much pretension people can stomach, after all). I find myself gravitating towards novels, but story structure is an utter beast, and I can’t work on a longer piece without feeling like it’s becoming progressively less interesting to readers as I go along. At some point early in the game, I inevitably throw in the towel under the assumption that nobody will care about the things I’m describing long enough to keep reading.
And I don’t know if this counts, but I love worldbuilding! I especially enjoy creating characters and their bios, probably even more than I like writing for/about them in a narrative. I wish I were artistically gifted so I could bring characters to life in a way that won’t make me sick of them, but alas. I’ll just stick with my words for now.
(Side note: I hate meta fiction, with very few exceptions. I can’t get over how gimmicky and pretentious it is after a while. bakdflakfjd;lj. Heaven help me if I ever start becoming overly self-referential.)
A spoken-word poem posted by request of the darling meidesu.
My name is Ariel.
I’m a tiny, fragile thing. My skin reeks of the color
of anemic, washed-out sunshine. My roots are in LA,
but still they ask me, “You’re from China?” So I turn to them and say
that I am, and always will be, an American invention.
I spent most of my childhood adhering to convention:
when they value you for perfect grades and give you vast attention
just for being nice and quiet and a paragon of silence
then you learn to shut your mouth and give up all creative license
so they like you.
Yes, my mom said “people like you
don’t get work published in bookstores; no, your last name is abrasive
and the media erases
all the people with our faces
there are never special cases when it comes to people like you.”
And I wondered if she’s right, too
since I’ve always had to fight to
justify my need to write to
almost everyone I meet.
But I’m no precious fortune cookie:
yellow and brittle, harmless and little
break open the middle and read what you like
protract all my sweat while you retract my rights.
And I’m not a dead white man
and I am not your Amy Tan
and I am not the robot chemist mathematician people think I am:
My name is Ariel.
My claim to creativity is no point of contention.
That is, and always will be, an American invention.
I dare not compete with the strains of your heart,
all its syllables seething with rich incandescence:
my sonnets lie landlocked in preadolescence;
I bear little passion to augment my art.
I write not of love, but of you nonetheless:
of the libraries anchoring roots in your chest
to weave sea-weathered songs into stanzas you’ve strung
out of dialects breathing last words on your tongue,
and I write of your verses. Your words smell of sighs
and the streams of tidewater that leak from her eyes,
pooling deep in your gut, scalding salt in your blood:
when you touch pen to paper, the ink tastes of love.
So I marvel, dear poet; you’ve lived so unsung
though you breathe as a muse and musician in one.
You have said that my verse gives you air to fly true,
but you’ve given me color. My words are for you.
earth contaminates your blood; sentiment rakes its claws
across your brow, wrestles your eyes tender.
i marvel at how little your heart sleeps,
its wingbeats stirring soft, hot revolutions in your dreams
(while mine quivers, laughing darkly, like a dying coal).
i want nothing more than to swallow your exhalations,
your warm sweat, your voice in the late morning,
the twitch of your knuckles, your throbbing mouth
until they fissure my ribcage, an artificial pulse.
but my ears are not built for bellsongs.
my skin is too frail to bear the roar of tempests,
tectonic yawns, silver armies, sun-flecked tides.
i am at a disadvantage, my salt-drunk friend:
i am landlocked, and my sky holds no technicolor.
the birth of you, the death of Me—
you quelled my singularity
tenfold my heat (or so i thought)
a brighter star. you cast your lot
with luck; in our young binary
you were my system’s Primary.
my body swerved to serve, alone,
a white queen on a cosmic throne
(while others, lenses pointed high
condemned the motions of the sky:
small central mass. we would not last.)
Love truly is a parallax.
—We clung to shadows; eschewed fact:
No fleeting, fragmentary bliss
Could conquer my impassiveness.
The grandeur of celestial dance
Collapsed under our fraught romance
(And while your body craved my kiss
My hold on you became stasis.)
And now your absence leaves a throne
For me, the queen of the alone.
The salve to my dependency:
The death of you.
The birth of Me.
For Sera, who wanted some Elijah/Mouse.
Well, they apparently didn’t let world-class hackers use their laptops in prison. Mouse hadn’t really gotten her hopes up, but she had also failed to prepare in advance for the grueling hours of inactivity that lay ahead for the next lifetime or so. Her twelve-year-old self would’ve lobbied tirelessly for her sole link to the world; would’ve (depending on the tendency of the guards towards violence) screamed bloody murder until her laptop found its way in her hands again. But ironically enough, eighteen-year-old Kate Fletcher - despite being bored out of her newly-adult wits - was starting to find the situation oddly liberating.
The first person and I sat on the concrete for some time, watching passerby stroll past blithely as we swung our legs over the brick floor. We examined Barnes and Noble window advertisements with unnecessary scrutiny, a cup of frozen, syrupy strawberry lemonade melting in the block of sunlight between my thigh and hers.
"I’m trying to be tolerant," she repeated over and over again. The statement hadn’t been borne from any provocation - other than, of course, the possibility of one of us being a lesbian - and so it didn’t dispel fears so much as elevate them, seeing as trying to be tolerant seemed to be taking up a greater deal of effort than anticipated.
The frozen lemonade was lukewarm and achingly sweet, leaving my throat raw. “But seriously, if you have any problems with-“
"-No, no. I find it interesting," she replied with mild (though rather obligatory) pleasantness, though it didn’t seem as forced as I had expected. She had been suspecting for some time, or so she claimed, though to have it confirmed (in public, no less, and without any sort of prelude whatsoever) was certain to be a shock. I could excuse her that, and from prior experience, I knew any sort of discomfort was borne not from blatant intolerance but from what I hoped to be momentary disbelief. And I felt the dizzying aftereffects of the revelation, too, clouding my judgment and forcing my surroundings to take on something of a dreamlike quality - never had I consciously admitted anything of this nature to anyone, much less in an area where my blasphemy could be heard by the general public.
But whatever awkwardness had been stirred by the revelation quickly dissipated into mutual amusement. The enduring benefit of being her friend, I realized with quiet relief, lay in her tendency not to take things too seriously. Both of us seemed to recognize my fleeting fancies for the whims that they were; eventually laughed openly at the sheer incredulity that would be wrought on our peers’ faces if they were to know. And between the hyperbolic fantasizing we lapsed into after a brief goading on her part, the all-too-universal kinship we felt after she admitted to hopeless longing on her part as well, it became all-too-evident that I could tell her anything without judgment.
For all the second person’s trademark tact, she found it difficult to be anything but blunt. “I’ve known for a while,” she remarked matter-of-factly, responding to my dumb stammering with something like wry amusement. Thank God for nonverbal cues. Thank God for a situation that didn’t necessitate overwrought explanations. Thank God for her.
"I’m so sorry for not hanging out with you guys more," I offered rather pathetically, to which she laughed and shrugged dismissively.
"No, it’s fine. I understood."
Thank God for her.
And there was no elaboration to be had, no justifications to be offered. She seemed to hold an infinite reservoir of experience and wisdom; as far as I was concerned, speaking about my situation would offer her nothing more than she already knew. “I lied about going for it, you know.” She offered plainly, hunched over the computer desk as I sat, a warm lump of gratefulness, on the couch across from her. “You have to be careful about this one.”
"But I don’t even - I don’t know, I don’t know - it’s just this person. It’s confusing. I don’t know what to call it.”
"I don’t believe in labels," she concluded firmly. And as much as I loathed that cliche, as much as I longed to tell her that it was much more complicated than that, it really wasn’t. "You like what you like. You don’t have to put a name to it."
And all latent romantic interests aside, all confusion and emotional idiocy, there was a wonderful security to be found in someone who knew the right things to say. I wondered how much time I had lost to chasing fantasies; pursuing illusory passions instead of delegating my time to people who had always constituted a silent base of support in the back of my mind. I walked past you guys a lot without you noticing, but I understood. How many times? Where? When?
I resolved to answer the questions myself. Or change the situation; make it so that they wouldn’t even have to be asked. Two people had always been there for me. It was my job, my obligation, my privilege, to be there for them.
A graduation present for Lauren. Congratulations!
He finds her behind the desk of the library’s front counter, methodically checking in the last of the school year’s returns. There’s a sense of unfettered industry to her - she’s dressed in starched formal clothes, her brow furrowed in intense concentration - but he knows that she senses his presence, even if she doesn’t make any effort to acknowledge it.
Unfazed, he slings himself onto the counter, feet just barely swinging over the ground. “Miss Black.”