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Friday, March 4, 2011

Ojai Retreat Scholarship Prompt and Rules: Escape To Ojai

By Marilyn Friedman

We raised enough money for the Writing Pad Ojai Scholarship Fund! Thank you SO much to everyone who donated and volunteered! We will grant a full scholarship ($715 value) to our luxurious retreat on Mar. 25-27 through a writing contest! All rules are below.

Are you a broke writer who wants a mini-vacation, a weekend of fantastic classes, delicious food, and focused writing in a beautiful Ojai ecosanctuary? Please don't be intimidated--apply for the scholarship. You can do it! Good luck! :)

Rules
These are the rules you must follow to apply for the scholarship spot. Note: Anyone can respond to the prompt and be entered into the Mar./Apr. contest for a free writing class!

1. Post your writing sample in the comments of this blog AND email a copy to marilyn@writingpad.com NO LATER than Thursday, March 10 at 9 a.m. It should be a maximum of 5 paragraphs (the shorter, the better).

2. Also email proof of current or long-term economic hardship to marilyn@writingpad.com NO LATER than Thursday,March 10 at 9 a.m. Ex. Bank statements, letter demonstrating that you have been laid off from your job, etc. Feel free to summarize your situation in the email. This will be kept completely confidential.

3. Writing submissions can be in any form (poetry, short story, dialogue, fiction, non-fiction, a rant, etc.) but must apply to the prompt about escaping below.

4. The contest will be judged by the following esteemed writers (see the next blog entry for their bios): Joe Donnelly, Michelle Wildgen, James Brown, Adrienne Sharp, Dan Dunn. The contest winner will be announced by Tuesday, March 15.

Writing Prompt: Write about a time when you (or your character) escaped. Pick one and write for 10 minutes about it. Then post your 10 minute write in the comments of this blog. For a chance at the scholarship spot, also email your writing sample and proof of current or long-term economic hardship to marilyn@writingpad.com, following the instructions above.

Comment on this blog! Write about a time when you escaped. Even if you are not applying for the scholarship, comment! You could win a free class at Writing Pad!

15 comments:

lisachun said...

Why Trust is So Hard

”I put a note to God in a box, asking for direction. I told God I was taking my sticky fingers off the steering wheel, that God could be the driver and I would be just another bozo on the bus.” Plan B, Anne Lamott


I’ve always had trouble trusting. Even though I’m uber spiritual, had built for a long while a stylish Spiritual Lifestyle while living in Santa Fe – read all the books, got all the appropriate forms of bodywork, frequented the parlors of mystic healers, spoke the language of the subculture, took appropriate herbs, etc. – still, when you got down to it I could not all the way trust God.

When I was still married, but towards the end, when I could feel it slipping out of my grasping and terrified hands, husband and I were driving from Santa Fe back to our home just on the outskirts of it. We were talking about the prospect of not living there, because this was like a hobby we had, just like moving to Santa Fe had once been a preoccupation, but lately I was on to us, on to this theme of always looking for something that I was beginning to suspect wasn’t out there, not in any city anyway. We were driving in the dark. The highway is not lit so it’s typically just you, your high beams, and you. And alright, sometimes maybe ten other cars, maybe two, depending on the time. We were driving in the dark and then I saw something weird, some lights, like they were coming towards us and I was thinking: Wow, what’s that? And then it made sense, it was a CAR driving on the wrong side of the road and towards us. Then it was past us. Then there was debris from something it must have hit, another car maybe, and this debris was grazing the top of our car as it passed over us, also missing us as we swerved hard to the right to avoid the crunch of glass and metal. And later we found out those lights I saw, they were indeed the headlights of a drunk driver, who drove straight into a mini van who was only a little way behind us, and killed all but one of its passengers, leaving only a young girl to stare unblinking and dazed at her life without her family as she had known it.

It’s hard, in the aftermath of such a tragedy, which was also a close call, to all who were near it, not to ponder the potentialities of such a message, and the potentialities of what it means to have your life spared, by inches, by seconds. And perhaps because the message came in the form of such a close call I was cracked open enough to listen. What I got from it, looking at it on the symbolic level, was this question: “Who am I allowing to DRIVE my life?” My neurotic self and my angry husband, both of us, as a unit, like an out of control drunk driver hell-bent on self-destruction and wanting to take others with us to an untimely end? Oh it hurt so much to realize the truth in this. Because what I got with certainty was that if I continued in this way, that it would only end the way it did on the highway that night, only it wouldn’t whoosh by us in a dark blur, it would BE us. And so, the second question came: “Are you willing to take your feet off the gas pedal of your self destruction, are you willing to surrender and let God drive?”

In my mind and my heart I said Yes, but it was not easy. It hurt a lot. I began to let God in to change my life, to straighten out all my crooked paths. I was often not happy as everything that I’d built or clung to out of false/egoic pretenses was brought down or whisked away. Where it was hard was in the trusting, not controlling, not forcing, not having my hand in everything, not pre-empting every bit of guidance with a “but what if I just did this, what if I just helped it along…a little?” Just plain trusting was so hard. I do not know exactly how it got to be this way. And so I start out with a heading that says ‘Why Trust is So Hard,’ like I’m about to explain it, but in the end I cannot begin to answer this, not even in the slightest.

Not to take the easy way out, but this must be what it means to be human.

Jim Gillett said...

The best thing about family gatherings was seeing my cousins Cheryl and Kelly. Cheryl was one year older and Kelly almost an exact year younger and both resembled women who most likely would be picked to sing Wagner’s Flight of the Valkeries. Our main display of love came in the form of intricate well thought out pranks that we would play on one another. The two girls came up to me with such excitement; they had found a praying mantis in my grandfather’s old tool shed outside. Their wide eyes and frantic bouncing must have sold it because it bought it hook line and sinker without the usual hesitation I would have had considering the source. As I opened the shed the two girls used their collective strength to push me in. By the time I had gained my balance from the four handed shove I quickly turned making a lunge toward the door clinging to the hope that in all the excitement they were probably still fumbling with the latch, giving me a chance to free myself and then quickly report them to the proper parental authorities, but as my hands hit the door I was only granted an inch of hope before I realized that it was too late. I was trapped.
I could see them through the separation in the wood from the planks not being straight and flush when finally nailed in.
“God damn it you guys, it’s my birthday for Chris sake.”
I surveyed my five by five foot cube and that’s when I caught sight of its shadow. It had stuck its tiny head out first and then its two black spidery front legs poked out. The hole it came out of was illuminated by a crack in the wall. It crawled out a little further and in the spotlight of the sun I could see its long thin black and yellow abdomen.
“There’s a yellow jacket in here!” I screamed banging at the door with the side of my fist, but all I could here was their giggling.
“Please let me out, I’m fucking serious!” Then I heard them whispering to each other again.
“Happy birthday little Jimmy.” They taunted in perfect unison. And with that they started to head back to the house. Just then a second hornet poked his head out of the hole. I knew what was then awaiting me behind that hole, that those two wasp were just the first in a whole army that were in line to silence the intruder that had disturbed their nest. I peered through the lighted sliver to see my cousins enter the back door taking with them a chance of escaping.
What are you waiting for!” screamed in my head. Were they just waiting for the right amount of their brothers to launch an attack? I would be King Kong swatting at these buzzing biplanes, the shed being my Empire State Building. I had to use all my strength to break the lock. I lined myself up to the latch and started kicking it with all the force and weight my little twelve-year-old body could muster. I could hear the gentle hum starting to come from inside the wall, like a thousand war drums calling the warriors to arms. I decided to backup and run and lunge at the door with the side of my body using my shoulder as a battering ram. I ran and hit the door and felt something give. The nails holding the latch had pulled out of the wood. I quickly turned to the hornets and started stomping them with my foot. Every strike found its mark leaving two gooey stains on the wall. I tried a second run at the door and felt the nails pull even farther. The door moved just enough for me to slide my hand through and try to lift the hook. The buzzing at this point was getting louder, word must have gotten back to nest as to the fate of their scouts, and they’ll no doubt be out for blood. It squeezed my fingers through and flipped the latch. As I glanced over two hornets had made it out and were flipping their wings, this was it, it was now or never. I could see the hook flip over. I burst through door running straight for the backdoor of the house all the while thinking that there must be a hundred vengeful hornets on my tail, each holding a stinger with my name on it.

Julie said...

Escape:

The corset was laced tightly. It gave her the tiny waist and hourglass silhouette so favored by the gentlemen onlookers. However ungentlemanly they behaved towards her later, alone in the small bedroom she was assigned, they entered the brothel with ties perfectly knotted around their necks and fashionable top hats in place. Decorous with the Madame, lest they offend her and risk disbarment from her property – for that is what they were, that is what she was – property. The men paid handsomely for her services and there were even a few regular visitors towards whom she had developed something akin to affection. For these few she remained in the room while they fumbled with her skirts and panted in her ear. With the others, she chose escape. She would set loose her imagination, let it run out of the room, let it fly out the window, let it stand on the rooftop with arms outstretched. Often it was a simple story she told herself – she would sit beneath tall trees and paint pictures of swans – those fierce, beautiful birds that mate for life and know nothing of earning one’s keep on one’s back.

Alana said...

After darting across the street, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a speeding car and a businessman on a bicycle, I turned the corner and found myself in a completely different place. I had stumbled upon a side street in the busy city of Kyoto where no cars were allowed to enter. I began moving down the beautiful cobblestone pathway, walking alongside a shallow stream with little bridges hanging across the water leading into restaurant doorways on the other side.

No one had believed me when I told them that I would be going to Japan by myself. I wasn’t exactly the adventurous type, and anyone who knew me well knew how much I hated to be alone. But I wanted to see what it would feel like. I wanted to get out of the anxiety filled day-to-day, away from the people in my life and all of their expectations, and escape into another world. I had to fly across the globe to be alone for the very first time.

Further down the path, I noticed something in the stream. As I got closer, I saw that it was a crane. It stood absolutely still, its regal neck held high and its feathers glossed with droplets of water. The crane was like no bird I had seen before. It had gray feathers on its wings and black highlights streaked across its forehead like a warrior. The crane stretched its neck at an impossible angle to scratch its back with its sharp, thin beak. I knelt down onto the worn cobblestone and watched the bird for a long time. I could hear the distant street noise and the gentle movement of the stream, but I was alone on the path, and alone in this incredible city.

The quiet was soon interrupted by a tour group led by a loud woman speaking German. The German tourists chatted and took pictures, walked up to the stream and peered into the water. I pushed myself off the ground and continued down the street. I realized that I was glad not to be on in a big group like they were, surrounded by other people. I was happy to explore this place without anyone else there with me. This whole experience would be mine, and mine alone.

Dina said...

Escape:

Maggie knew she wasn’t perfect. That she had her things. She knew she probably
pressured Floyd about marriage too much but… she loved him. And he loved her. But in
the winter of the seventh year, the love goggles Maggie had walked around wearing for
so long started to slip off. She always knew Floyd had faults, just as she did, and she
loved him anyway, unconditionally. But this was different. They grew distant, for the
first time. She sensed the almost imperceptible shift, like the first miniscule crack in a
glacier; unseen, underwater, hidden away yet felt in every particle, in every atom.
Inevitable.

Maggie held on as long as she could, but that New Years Eve as she sat across from
Floyd in a tiny Cuban restaurant with streamers and balloons competing for ceiling space,
she couldn’t hold on any longer. He had forgotten to get her a birthday gift the month
before, for the first time ever. Or a Christmas gift. And when she handed him the box
with the beautiful wool sweater she had saved up for months to get him, the sweater she
had hidden away in her drawer until she could give it to him on Christmas, Floyd’s
response was simply, “Thanks. You mind if I exchange it though? The buttons are kind
of weird.” He said this as he carelessly stuffed the sweater back into the box.

So with all of this floating around in her mind – the sweater, the slamming doors, the
newspaper Kleenex, the missed birthday - when the bill came and Floyd looked across
the table at her and said, “You cool if we split this?” Maggie just burst into tears. It’s not
that she needed lavish dinners and furs and J. Lo size rings on her hand. If anything she
was too low maintenance and could probably use a lesson or two from J. Lo and Liz Taylor in that department. But this moment finally told her everything she needed to
know.

Maggie stood up and headed into the tiny bathroom. She took a few deep breaths, put
some water on her face and looked into the mirror. Could she do what she knew deep
inside was right? Could she walk away from the man she loved for so long, the man she
was so certain would be there next to her when they were both old and sitting in rocking
chairs on a porch somewhere, cliché as that sounds, still making each other laugh? As
much as there was between Maggie and Floyd, there wasn’t enough anymore, and as she
stared into the little mirror in the little Cuban restaurant, the thought passed through her
mind that the children she would have wouldn’t share Floyd’s features, he wouldn’t be
the one by her side years down the road, and that it would be just her from this moment
forward. There was no changing things, no couples counseling, no turning back. The
course of her life had shifted, and she was terrified.
She left Floyd the next day.

Engel said...

She had a good feeling about him. There was no logical reason to prefer this man over the others, but then love never adheres to an established order. Neither does infatuation. She liked the look of him. The way he grabbed her hand in public. The way he drove for miles to see her for minutes. She wanted to know him well, to know which foods he would allocate to her on a dinner plate, to travel on an airplane together. She came from a long line of commitment-phobes and wasn’t looking too far ahead. She just knew she didn’t want to leave him behind. And so when he rejected her without explanation, she receded from her outwardly durable self to a wondering wisp, dripping misery and dwelling on why’s.

There is no escaping unrequited love once it afflicts you like there is no evading death. You can mitigate the pain with chemo drugs or bide your time with numbing distractions. But when the meds wear off or the diversion ends, the prognosis remains. No one is ever prepared to handle terminal grief. At least not the first time bad news finds them. She had to learn to mourn.

Europe seemed as good a place as any. She flew to Spain where she could not spend too many hours lamenting aloud for she had no one to speak to in their language. She fully believed in her capacity to be sad on the beach in Barcelona, but she figured that preferable to feeling despair in a place where he might run into her with bloodshot eyes.

She met other men and enjoyed their company for the time it took to swallow some wine. But thoughts of him infiltrated her blood. She could never seem to sleep them off. No tonic would dull them. She spent a week surfing with one man in Tarifa, but still thought of him every hour. A mild improvement, in fact. By the end of her trip, she could lose herself in a Picasso exhibit for a whole afternoon.

If she found herself alone, however, still, with an unoccupied moment, there he would be. She wanted to not feel longing. She wanted to trust her intellectual side and believe that these mental invasions would wane into nothing. But she knew her heart too well. He had stirred her, and she would never again feel fully settled.

louis said...

For a young, black man growing up in the Midwest, church on Sundays is an absolute requirement -- no if, ands or buts. I hated going to church. White church can be long, maybe an hour at the most but that’s nothing compared to black church. Black church is so long that there is an intermission, lunch and sometimes dinner and when you are a kid, it seems even longer. The black church experience is an adventure. I was raised in a household where we were required to go to church every Sunday and choir practice on Wednesday. I spent so much time in church when I was a kid that for the longest time I considered myself an honorary pastor and even tried to baptize some neighborhood children once. I vowed that when I grew up, I’d never go to church again but eventually I went back to church – a non-denominational, mixed congregation, one hour service.

One day a friend of my cousin’s invited us to her tiny church over in Inglewood, CA. This is what happened.

9 AM- Praise and worship

I few minutes into our ride I knew that we were headed to a black church somewhere in the hood. Block by block the neighborhood began to change as we drove. Check cashing places started popping up. Liquor stores and donut shops sat on the opposite ends of every strip mall we passed. Every billboard we saw was either advertising liquor or cigarettes. My cousin and I made eye contact in the car. Did she know? Was I being set up? A look of cold dread ran down her face. She had grown up in the same church I did. She knew what was coming. We both closed our eyes and said a prayer to the God we knew we’d be stuck with for the rest of the day.I like gospel music. My favorite singer of all time, Sam Cooke started in gospel. But some people take it too far. Notes are dragged out for affect. Tears are shed. I knew the moment the large, dark-skinned woman in the tiny white hat and shiny blue dress stepped to the microphone and the choir behind her didn’t stand to sing, that this was going to be a long song.

10AM- Tithes and offerings

The music continued. A silver plate with purple velvety lining was being passed around. The thud of coins being dropped in it could be heard above the rhythmic humming of the choir. Every now and then the lady in the dress would sing out “praise him” or hallelujah”. This continued on for a long time. My cousin and I could no longer look at one another. I was mad that she had dragged me here, she was mad at her friend for the same reason.

11:30 AM- The Announcements

We found out when children’s choir practiced and prayed for a woman in the hospital and a family in need. We also found out how much more money was needed for the building fund.


12:30 AM- Service starts

By this time my cousin and I had patched things up and devised a way out. She’d go to the bathroom and I’d pretend like I needed a cigarette and head outside- I didn’t smoke. Her friend drove so we’d have to catch a bus home even though we had no idea where we were. It was worth it to get out. She broke for it. A few minutes later, I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw her sneaking out the side door. It was my turn. I asked her friend if she had a cigarette, she said no as I expected she would and I motioned to her that I needed one and got up. I was three steps outside the door. I could see my cousin already walking down the street when the woman in blue grabbed me by the arm. “Your blessings are on the way, child" she said. My cousin continued to walk further and further away. I spent the next half hour listening to what God had planned for my life. I could hear the pastor’s voice rising and falling with tempo of the story his was reading- the story of Jonah.

I told the woman that I’d be right in after my cigarette. “We’ve got intermission coming up, we can talk some more then,” she said as she headed back inside.

I ran down the street as quick as I could. My cousin’s friend never invited us to church again.

RL Harvey said...

The Sky

Some people would decorate their cages but I never wanted to. It made me depressed to think I would be there long enough to appreciate anything other than the short grey padded wall in front of me. But I already was—there too long. Some had pictures of smiling kids that only saw their parents between the hours of 7 and 9 pm the difference between when the parents got home and the kids went to bed; candy jars that helped them and a few other cube mates maintain that last 10 pounds they wanted to loose and ,magazine clippings from European travel magazines of vacations that would cost them a months salary and change to pay for and take and take a year of “dedicated service” just get the time off which includes the hassle of catching up when they came back.

My cube was bare-- a few of the multi-colored post it notes, reminder lists from things I was prone to forget and would forget even still.

Every day at 2 pm when my boss was safely tucked away in his daily management update with the big boss I’d have my own daily “what am I doing with my life” breakdown. It was a walking meditation through the florescent lighted office to the building courtyard where I could see the sky.

One day for no particular reason I decided I needed to see the sky much more than I needed to see the short grey walls of my cube cage. That day, I took one of my yellow posted notes and wrote—I’m gone. Then I was.

Michael Kass said...

I’m standing at the open door of an airplane 10,000 feet in the air tethered to a crazy Russian. He’s yelling something at me. “Do you like Gs?”

“What?” I scream back.

“Gs. Gravity. Do you like?” He pats me on the back. “Because Gs like you!”

With that, he scoots forward and we fall from the plane, tumbling through the air. A scream rips from my throat as the plane recedes at an alarming rate. In the next two minutes I will either fall to my death, making an impressive splat in a Canadian cow-field or I will at long last escape the dire predictions of a sweaty, malicious psychic that have haunted me for the past 11 years.

When I was 15, a friend and I visited a psychic in Dewey Beach, Delaware. We’d gone to the beach to celebrate the end of the school year and had just completed a twelve mile bike ride. I’m still not entirely sure why we decided to visit a psychic. Nor am I sure why, out of all the psychic shacks in Dewey Beach, and there are quite a few, we chose the most ragtaggle, decrepit one we could find. The sign promising “acurate” readings for just five dollars hung crooked on the door. The place reeked of patchouli and Ben Gay. The combination made me want to hop on my rented bike and pedal away with the quickness. But my friend, let’s call her Olivia, put her hand on my arm. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

I should probably mention that I was in love with Olivia and that I would happily jump off a cliff if she put her hand on my arm and asked nicely. So I stayed.

We stood in the entry way for a few moments before The Psychic emerged. I’d envisioned an old gypsy lady with a few missing teeth. Maybe she’d be wearing flowing robes and have a glass eye. I had not envisioned a squat, heavily muscled man with a three day beard, greasy hair and a sweaty muscle shirt. He had two twenty pound dumbells and was pumping them slowly as he greeted us.

“Whatcha want? Special readings or what?”
....the rest is an email. I type too much. . .

Z said...

Looking out over the vast expanse of desert dust in the moonlight I felt as if I was on another planet. Turning in the other direction and taking stock of the millions of spinning twinkling neon lights and vehicle criss-crossing the playa I realized I was on another planet. Thank fucking God! Finally the mother ship had gotten me off that miserable little planet and brought me "home", even if I was only going to be here for e week.
Burning Man is many things for many people. For some it is a drug fuelled frenzy of sleeplessness and music and sex. For others it is the worlds biggest art gallery. For others yet it it a place of deep human connectivity and service, a place and time to open up to others, share, be cared for, evolve. For some people it is all of those things in varying quantities.
Burning Man, for me, is perfection. The elements, the struggle, the madness, the creativity, the kindness, the unexpectedness and the magic provide me with the space to truly be myself, to really open my eyes and feel love for all my brothers and sisters, even (or especially) that naked guy over there with the unicorn horn strapped to his head…

I've been to Tokyo many times and, until I went to The Playa, I thought Japan was the closest thing in the world to venturing to being a completely different one. Burning Man changed that. Leaning back on a bed of cushions that happened to be motorized as it lumbered casually through the night, taking me from The Temple to some unknown destination, passing moving Pirate ships on wheels against a backdrop of thundering insanity and beauty that was Black Rock City… I felt like an alien queen being carried across her newly-acquired terrain after winning an apocalyptic battle.

"My subjects!" I cried. "You are free!"

And indeed they were free. Free to be themselves, free to experience greatness. And so was I. Freedom doesn't need to come at any great price, it can be had for the cost of a ticket. I lay back and smiled.

Amalia said...

I escaped from high school. Yup. That’s right. Want to know how I did it? I became an exchange student. To Mexico. Not very exciting considering it’s the next country over. But it suited it’s purpose in getting me the fuck away from everything. Which was exactly what I wanted when I was an unhappy, angst ridden fifteen year old. I wanted something that made me special, made me exotic, that helped me stand out from the crowd and make me attractive to boys. One day in French class I saw a flyer that said the Vancouver Rotary club was interviewing students to become exchange students. I started fantasizing about moving to Australia and picking up a sexy accent and how unbelievably popular that would make me.

I was accepted and received a letter assigning me not to Australia or Belgium my top two choices but to...Mexico? Mexico! What the fuck?! Definitely not a sexy country. Definitely full of parasites and diarrhea, two very unsexy things. I had apparently not kissed enough Rotary ass which made sense cause I was not good at kissing ass. It was not a life skill I had learned or would ever learn for that matter. I resigned to my fate. I moved to Morelia, Michoacan in August of 1998. I flew into Mexico City and immediately became horribly homesick.

The problem was that high school is actually the same in every country; it sucks. I couldn’t escape high school just by going to high school in a different country. Being an exchange student didn’t necessarily make me glamorous, it made me a novelty that wore off quickly when they realized how dorky I was. They could smell it on me. On my oversized clothes, bright plastic barrettes, and glow in the dark beaded necklaces. Dorkiness is universal, it transcends all cultural and language barriers. What’s dorky in one country is pretty much still dorky in another. If you are totally awkward and a considered a weirdo in America, you are a weirdo in Mexico. Needless to say I did not become Prom Queen of Morelia High.

I needed an escape from my escape. I quickly realized that my teachers in Mexico didn’t really give a shit if I was there or not, and my host family didn’t care what I did, so I just stopped going to school and started traveling. I would take the bus by myself everywhere. I went to the Yucatan Peninsula for a month, climbing around ruins and lying on beaches in Cancun, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen. I went mountain biking in Oaxaca, and para-sailing in Puerto Vallarta. I saw some beautiful places and met some wonderful people. On top of that some higher power was definitely looking out for me, because when I was fifteen I looked like I was maybe ten years old. So it’s pretty amazing I made it through the whole year without being kidnapped and held for ransom.

Kyle said...

Some people in the workplace have it easy. They put in their workday like they would put in their time in the joint, using their tasks to put away the hours like eating a TV dinner one paperform partition at a time. Me, I know that prison food sucks, but if I'm going to get nothing else I'm going straight for that little square of dessert at the top of the tray, and fucks to your Salisbury "steak," Elmer's Glue potatoes, and green beans fresh from the matchstick factory. Not that the apples n' ooze concoction in the dessert depression is all that good, but the cloying corn syrup and the laboratory tang at least distract you from the hard truth that you're eating off cardboard. Anyway, in my flash-frozen microwave dinner of a shift at the desk, the dessert I run to is Tetris.

I have no idea how the cog who had this computer before me got a game installed under the watch of that Gestapo IT department, but god bless his junior hacker heart, because where in a previous age I would sit here reinventing existentialism or conjuring increasingly vivid fantasies about firearms in the workplace, I now flip and place virtual colored blocks in a compulsive contest against my previous best efforts and against permanently crossed eyes.

Of course, I can't do this for a full eight hours every day. There are random terror-filled stretches when Larry the Director sneaks up to look over my shoulder or have a rap sesh. Some meeker Tetrons might see this as a giant brake on the Flip-and-Place Express, but I just hung a rearview mirror beside the monitor and skimmed the game's instructions for where to find the BOSS KEY. Which little lifesaver is, appropriately enough, the Escape key, always handy for a quick flick of the left pinkie. Mashing that bad boy brings up a screenshot of a spreadsheet that was made on my Grandma's version of Excel, but it looks a lot like work is being accomplished and I trust that key with--well, not my life, but I trust it with my crappy job, which consumes my life.

Alina said...

I sat on the wet porch and watched the rain when The Head appeared. It watched me with two glowing embers and told me things I never wanted to know. It talked about pasts and futures. It did not talk about now. I wanted to know about now because now hurt. It hurt since I found out she wasn’t mine anymore.

Finally, it stopped and said, “I can eat you, you know? You don’t seem to like now.” Its voice was low and raspy, and I thought of it as a man.

I wanted the pain to stop. So I said to it, ”Fuck it, eat me.” Its mouth opened and became a big black hole through which the rain didn’t go. The hole swallowed my head, then my body. And then, the pain was gone. I opened my eyes and felt free. I could do anything I wanted. But I wanted nothing. I just had needs. I needed to fuck or be fucked. I didn’t care. A man was standing in front of me, his face familiar.

“I’m going to fuck,” he said. “Good luck and thanks!” Then he turned and walked up the wet stairs to the porch and into the house. I realized it was The Head. Except now it had a body. I looked down at myself and saw nothing but dirty sidewalk.

That’s how I started soul-searching. I knew one day I will find another hurt idiot and I will eat his soul for a fuck.

BL said...

Finding Freedom

It was time
to find myself
in the dirt of a pea field
through the torn screen of a bunkhouse
bouncing on the sea's frothy foam
knocking with rocks
as the tide rolled in and out
under golden trees
leaves twisting in a hurricane.

When it was time
I ran
into the arms of another
together we left
navigating maps
of a life neither of us planned.

When it was time
we ran
to blue fish and palm trees
skinny dipping and hammocks
sandy sunny days
that never wanted to end.

To trails and tall pines
cars and careers
books and bills
and fog clogged days
making it hard to see.

When it was time
he ran
to himself
rain drenched and cold
alone
where he's always wanted to be.

And so it's time
ripping at the seams
showing holes
opening space
baring souls
making room
to go
back to myself.

Jackie said...

The sound of the tires humming under her car is a constant reminder of the distance being put between her and her past, of the life being left behind, of the days being erased. With every minute she is getting further and further from the life she knew, and closer to an uncertain future.

Flashes from earlier in the night keep popping into her head as she stares at the road. His red face, his fists punching her car as she drove away, sitting in a cold parking lot, alone at night, crying and wishing she had somewhere else to go. It wasn’t anything new, but it was now happening with a regularity that she couldn’t dismiss. How had this become her life? Five years ago when she had moved across the country with him everything had seemed so promising, how had it deteriorated into this?

She see’s a sign for gas at the next exit and decides to get off. She needs to get a map. And a cup of coffee. The adrenaline she had felt as she took the freeway entrance heading west instead of going back home had faded, and the emotionally draining evening she’d just had was catching up with her. As she stands next to her car waiting for the tank to fill, surrounded by the pitch black of some unpopulated town, watching the bugs swirling above her head, she feels a little dizzy at the vastness of this world and her uncertainty in it. She begins to doubt herself. What is she going to do now? She doesn’t even have a change of clothes. Nobody even knows where she is. Where is she going? She’s 25 years old and going back to live with her parents? What is she going to do now?

Her confidence is shaken as she gets back in the car and continues driving west. The car is slower now as her mind works against her. Her lone body in the car suddenly makes her feel exposed. Her bones feel shaky and uncertain, but when she looks down at her arm it is still and unmoving. Tan and firm and holding the wheel. She is surprised that she can still sit, appearing so calm and unwavering, when her skin feels like it is about to abandon her body, causing her insides to fizzle into the seat and out through the floorboards and onto the road. Scattered through the fields and bushes, shining in the moonlight. She tries to snap herself out of it, she knows she needs to hold it together. She wonders if this is what people mean when they say they are falling apart? That their body actually feels like it is about to come to pieces? Maybe this is why people turn to drugs and Jesus and sex, to fill this shaky void inside. It’s hard to cope when the one truth you have, of who you are and what your place is in the world, becomes uncertain.

She breathes deeply and tries to think about something else. It won’t do her any good to think of this now, she just needs to drive, get back to stable land, and then try to work all these thoughts out. Her mind wanders to a documentary she recently watched about the “mole people” who lived beneath the subway system in New York City. These people had set up an entire community underground, with makeshift houses and marked off yards for their dogs. They lived completely in the dark, using flashlights and occasionally light bulbs if they could find an energy source. They shaved into buckets of water, showered by poking holes into the water pipes running over heads, and used hotplates to heat up meals.

When the city came to kick them out, they protested. This was their home and they kicked and screamed and refused to leave. The city offered to move them into an apartment building, rent free, and they still uniformly fought to stay in the dark. But once they had been forced to move into their own single bedroom apartments they were interviewed again. One by one they revealed that they were so much happier now. That living underground had been the lowest point in their lives, they couldn’t believe they had actually lived like that. And, they all agreed, that they could never go back there again.