October 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
There comes a point where, even on a printed page, all of the letters, those solitary ink-beings, begin to leak into one. Reading becomes skimming, and skimming becomes unconscious page-turning, as you fade in and out of the story before you, and the story that is your own. Have you ever caught yourself lost, not in the book before you, but instead, in your own head, reminiscing about some past event, or anticipating a future one? Only to then refocus on the words on the page, to find that you’ve advanced three pages, but not read three pages, and so nothing you’re reading connects with that which you were reading, and you have no choice but to turn back and read it all over again?
I’ve read this page four times now, and I’ve given up hoping to elicit its secrets, and so refuse to read it a fifth. I selected this book purely because its cover compelled me to, and I know that it is more often than necessary said that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I can’t help but feel that if that were honestly supposed to be the case, then so much work wouldn’t be put into them. This one is jacketed in plain, white matte. Its title is etched gold lettering, and it bears the signature of a man whose home is currently 10 million of the world’s bookshelves. Or so they said the last time his sales were counted. It is in books like these that I find it the hardest to find a home, and I often think it’s because it’s a home shared with a great portion of the rest of the world. Perhaps it’s too crowded in there, perhaps that horde of people is the reason I find it so hard to get up close, close enough to enjoy the show. I know this, yet I continue to pry. At present, 39 novels like these line my books shelves. They seek refuge in-between lesser known works, and their elaborate spines stifle the voices of more modest ones. Works, who probably haven’t had that hip new addition to the team of graphic designers in that colourful little office, the one with ‘character’, up on the 6th floor of the publishing house. They are, instead, the ones who are all content, and admittedly have not bothered so much with the side-show. None of this stops my impulse-buys, and thoughts of these facts refrain from screaming out to me as I load my shopping basket with that shiny, new bestseller positioned so cleverly above the chewing-gum. And it’s for this reason that I continue to read them.
As I marked the page for a 5th consultation at a later date, I scanned a row of books for a more satisfying read, and my eyes stopped at one that I’d forgotten I’d had, and the pains I went through to obtain it. The Sequel, by Felix F. Ocean, promised to satiate my thirst for the story of the days, months years that followed the emancipation of a man, who, in the in book that precluded, had been falsely accused of killing his wife. I remembered with clarity the sound of Ocean’s prose, and how I would, once finishing a distinctive section, read back over each and every word, lingering on every comma and resting at every full-stop. I would curl my tongue up and over Ls, and fix my lips rigidly around Os. It was this man’s mind that I love, and I wanted to be lost inside every forest he created, and die an evanescent death in amongst the rubble of every single building he tore down. At the end of each chapter, I remember longing for the man who had left me this masterpiece, the man who is now nothing more than the smoke that lingers long after his own flame has been extinguished.
When I read something extraordinary, I want nothing more than to converse with the author, to tell them what it is that I love, and how it is they managed to give it to me. To thank them for giving it to me, above all. Tears began to well in my eyes at the thought of how I’d been born a little too late for that.
At the end of the first paragraph, eyes heavy, I marked my page and laid my book down on my chest, and began to daydream my way into a sleep, and then one deeper still.
Now tell me that you are aware of the feeling of a presence in a room you know, beyond reason, should be empty. Having been alone in the house for almost a week now, I of course had to journey through the motions of telling myself that it was all in my head, and also remind myself that I had locked everything shut. But the feeling was still there, the hairs on my body still raised, as if willed in the direction of some magnetic force. You know what that feels like, don’t you?
August 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
‘Write a story that begins with ‘The last time I saw my mother was 15 years ago’
The last time I saw my mother was 15 years ago. She helped to pack my bags, and she helped to load them, and me, onto the train. Although I resented her for it at the time, it was a resentment I later grew to realize, had been born from false reasoning.
In my home country, 15 years ago, to be a parent, was to protect your child from harm by forcing you and them apart. It was to know that wherever they were, they were in safer hands than they could ever have been with you, not through your own parental fault, but because of the destruction and the greed of others. I know now, what I could never have know then, and that is that my mother loved me before herself, and that it was harder for her to watch me leave, than it was for me to watch her disappear in a cloud of steam behind me. In the 15 years I have been without her, I have never lived through anything more painful than watching the woman who was the center of my life, dematerialize, and waft away, carried by a melancholic breeze to a damned eternity.
During that summer there was death. A lot of death. It didn’t discriminate between man, woman or child. It picked sides with neither the young, nor the old, the rich or the poor, or the just and the unjust. It never has, I guess, and it would have been naïve of anyone to expect otherwise, but that didn’t stem the bleeding of the shattered hearts it destroyed. People were desperately unhappy with living and working conditions, and had begun to grow hungry for change. It was impossible to keep a toll of those who sacrificed their lives for it, or died due to the necessity of it, but it was change and its elusiveness, that worked alongside death, in tearing my country apart.
In the hours before I boarded the train in the summer of ’21, my mother and I spoke very little. I look back and whilst studying the memories, learn that she had tried her best not to act out of the ordinary. She made no effort to dress up, or prepare a feast, and she gave me no grand speech, or divulged the wisdom and philosophy I would have needed to survive what I have since I watched her shrink to nothing that day. No fuss was made over our imminent separation, and the only snippet of sentiment I have left to cling to, is a cold goodbye. I think what made it harder for me, is that I had no one to compare notes with. The state of my world, back then, meant that I’d lost the few friends I had accumulated, to death by disease, death by starvation – or death by mankind. Of those who had been lucky enough to escape mortality, some had been shipped in a different direction, and some had stayed, with the hope that things would get better, and that they would come out the other end alive. I sat alone, by a window. In a cabin full of other abandoned souls, I was alone, and made no effort to find a friend in any of the children who were journeying with me to another life.
When I arrived at my destination, I couldn’t think through the hunger that clouded my thoughts. After being loaded into the back of wagon, pressed up against the children I’d travelled with, I day-dreamed and drifted in and out of consciousness, over what felt like one thousand miles, but was more like one hundred. The driver made no effort to converse with us, and bundled us in like we were sacks of grain, although I feel that he would have taken better care of his sacks of grain than he had of us. What is it about some adults that render them incapable of caring of offspring that isn’t theirs?
At last, as we neared the end of our journey, someone spoke, a small girl, who I later learned was named Jana, who seemed to have just regained orientation. She cried out for her mother, and all the other children could do was stare. Stares of disbelief, stares of pity, and stares of empathy, but no one rushed to console her was words. For the remainder of the journey and whilst we were being offloaded for the night, I don’t think anyone ever did. When I awoke the next morning, Jana was nowhere to be seen. As a matter of fact, I never did see her again.
15 years later, I have decided that if I could repack my suitcase, I would pack into it everything that was my mother. I don’t care if it isn’t what she is now. I would pack her yellow dress, the one sprinkled with daisies, which used to swing at her calves, just below her knees. I would pack a marmite sandwich, for when I go hungry, and nibble at it for the rest of my life. In it would go her favorite song, a copy I hadn’t scratched when I was younger, and didn’t care for the possessions my mother owned. I wouldn’t worry about who could open my case, and rummage through my scrapbook of joy, and I wouldn’t pack lightly, so as not to weigh myself down during the rest of my journey throughout life. I would take my case with my any, and everywhere I went, stop and open it up in on the darkest of nights, and extract from it comfort, for it would be my inventory of love.
Over the years, I have built up a resistance to the pain of being abandoned, and I have learnt not to shatter at the drop of a goodbye. Hope is not something I often cling to, and I stopped hoping to see my mother again, some time after I learned that the strength of your hope does not alter the likelihood of its deliverance. I am no slave to wonder, and am no longer consumed in thinking about where my mother is, and who my mother now loves. I owe this all, not to the men who destroyed my home, and not to the people who carried me away. I owe it to my mother, not for sending me away to survive, and not for failing to find me again, but for the way she said goodbye.
July 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
I decided to do something a little bit different this evening. I don’t know what I’ve been doing with my evenings these past few months, but it certainly hasn’t been this.
When I got home from work, I applied for a few junior copywriter jobs, and couple of magazine writer jobs, and stumbled when asked to submit an example of my work. Of course I had one to send, but while looking for something suitable, I realised that I don’t have anywhere near enough. I should have tons and tons and tons of files by now. It got me thinking about how much I’ve changed over the past few months, with regards to my writing thinking habits. I am scared to pick up a pen, because I don’t want to create anything that isn’t perfect. I didn’t feel like this before, I’m sure. I n fact I know that I had the attitude that as long as I had made the effort to think, and as long as I had made the effort to write, anything I wrote was beautiful. All of the mistakes, and all the unfinished pieces wonderful and valuable, maybe even for a large project later on.
I think having a blog makes me feel that everyone can see everything I write, even though I know that that’s stupid, and I know that people can only see what I let them. I guess my thinking that comes from the fact that I used to blog any and everything that I wrote, without worrying about whether it was good enough. It’s weird because I can’t do that anymore, and without being able to do so, trying to be a writer is pretty much pointless. But, I want to be a writer, so here’s what I did.
I got out my book of writing exercises and I made myself do one. I always plan on doing them, and then always sit down with the book to find that, actually, following writing ‘uncommon’ writing exercise instructions laid out by another is pretty restrictive, and pretty difficult. But I did it. Note, that the instructions of the exercise were to write a piece made up enrierly of imperative commands. Becuase I found it a pretty weird thing to do, I let this one write itself. Here’s the result.
Go to the window and look out of it. Peer out into the street, or stand and glare into the faces of those who pass by. Tap on the window pane and claw at the glass. Rummage around in your draw and take out a pen. Go over to your letters and withdraw one from its envelope. Turn it over and make it scrap, and once you have, write what I tell you to in big, black letters. Make them neat, don’t rush them, hold the paper out in front of you, and read what you have written back to yourself. When you are happy that your sign will be clearly visible from a considerably far distance, go back to your window. Now. Don’t take anything else with you, just take the sign you just crafted and stand there. Don’t run, just walk, you still have time. While you stand there, thing about everything she said to you before she walked over to that same window, and stared out into the world outside, whilst your words travelled through her. Ask yourself why you let her grow tired of your talk, and why you watched her come away from that same window, climb the stairs and load her things into a bag. Take your time and try to understand how you let her wipe clean her nose, with the back of her hand, and croak a farewell as she step through the door and silently drew it to a close. While you still clasp that thin sheet of paper, think about what you felt when you heard the door click back into its frame.
Make sure that you are ready for the instructions that follow. They matter. Take your sign and fix it to the window, making sure that what is written on it, is visible to every one outside. Now, come away from the window and go upstairs, making sure that you leave the light on when you leave the room. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and towel your hands dry. As you climb into bed, try and remember whether you switched the gas off after you finished your evening meal, and if you must, reflect on the day you’ve just had. As you drift off to sleep, shuffle and get confortable, turning and moving the pillows as you do so. Make sure that when you fall asleep, you are not facing the edge.
Wake up when you feel her warm breath against the tip of your nose, and focus your blurred vision. Look into her eyes and ask her how it can be. Wonder how she could have seen it, that sign, and now, tell her why you let her leave.
Apparently, the point of it was to allow me to regulate time. I was supposed to find it difficult, but to be honest with you, it wasnt very. I guess that makes me wonder whether or not I’ve done it properly.
I’m going to commit to completing at least one of these exercises every night. I might take my favourite one each week and blog it. No, as a matter of fact I will. I think that doing so will encourage me to keep it up.
My writing for the night is done. I’m going to ease myself back into this slowly, as I don’t want it to feel like a chore.
I recently started reading Robinson Crusoe, and am off to get stuck into it.
Love Kayla xxx
July 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
This is something I wrote at the end of last year, and it was supposed to be part of a novel, I’m not sure I’ll finish. I like her passion-filled it is, and hope that I can gear myself up to splatter my pages with ink-filled rage like this again. I really do.
March 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Ali grabbed hold of my hand, clamy and cold, and pulled me through the door and into the living room. Kerry scurried off towards the kitchen to fetch us some drinks and dragged her sister away with her, anxious to start a sisterly gossip session. I made my way, silently, over to a large 3-seater, on the far side of the room.
In the corner, in a monstrous armchair that seemed to easily engulf the pair of them, sat little Suzie, the eight year old and Tammy, the two year old. Tammy had these golden ringlets of sunshine that sat atop his head, oversized to say the least. He had still not grown into his own head. He stuck his fingers in his mouth, chewing at them as if they were rice crackers and dribbling, giggling sporadically, as Suzie read, aloud to him, what was ont the page. His cheeks were strikingly rosey, he was the spitting image of his mother. Suzie, bigger and, presumably, having shed a lot of her baby weight, was still small for her age, yet set up straight, beside him; his guardian, his protector.
Now, audience for a short while, it became apparent that Suzie was quizzing her baby brother, asking him questions from one of her hard-cover bumper activity books. Blissfully unaware of what was actually required of him for the exercise, he nodded and/or shook his head occasionally, in places where a lettered answer to a question of multiple choise was required, and a simple yes or no answer would not suffice. Unphased by this, Suzie advanced through the questions, now at question eleven,keen to calculate her little brother’s score. At times where his tiny attention span began to waver, unable to compete with that of a nine-year-olds, he slid down into the seat, chewing his fingers loudly and kicking his little legs in protest, sometimes pulling at his ringlets, crying to Suzie ‘ENOUGH!’.
Suzie, adamant for it all to work out the way she wanted it to, would not budge. She would stop, lay the book open and faced down, so as not to lose her page, and slide off the chair and onto the floor. She would carefully lift her brother by his underarms and tell him to ‘Shush! Just a few more, Tammy’.
Obediently, he would silence himself, sit completely still and comply.
‘What would you like your dream job to be when you grow up?’, read Suzie.
‘a) a builder
b) a synchromrised swimmer
c) a semi-profressional ice-skater or
d) a business man ?’
‘Mmm?’ hummed Tammy, and little Suzie repeated the question again, with the hope that he’d merely misunderstood, simply because he’d misheard.
March 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
Writing Exercise 1 (10/3/11): Write a first person story in which you use the first-person pronoun (I, me, or my) only twice. 600 words
(I managed it in 3)
I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s a step in the right direction, I guess.
“Is that your shoe?”
“Woman, is that your shoe?” a voice barked.
“Look at this dirty bitch, she must think that this is her house. Just look at her, would you. What a sight for sore eyes.”
I slowly opened my eyes, bright, white light scorching them as daylight flooded in. A few passers by had stopped to ask questions, to pry. This was their entertainment. People like me, we remind them that despite what was going on in their lives, there was always someone worse off. It made them feel good. Told them that however they may have fucked up, they had everything to be thankful for, because the world, these streets especially, would always be home to even bigger fuck-ups.
Burnt out fags, an un-hooked earing, a ripped ear-lobe. An alcohol drenched skirt, missing knickers and some bite marks. An unclipped bra. A stray shoe. Everything that was wrong with the morning after the night before. Everything that had come undone in this life, scattered, laid bare for all to see. Privacy is and has never been an option for a long time. When the streets are your home, your refuge, when the stars and the night sky are the only ones who wonder how you got home last night, whether you’re safe, secure, sound, you have little regard for anything personal. There is no such thing as personal space. Boundaries are blurred into non-existence.
What’s wrong with these people, the ones who stare and taunt, is that they think that they can harm you. They think that their words can spark and ignite a feeling of regret.
Last night was one of the better nights. It had all happened so quickly, that there really hadn’t been any time to consider consequences. The sheer dosage of drugs, and of alcohol meant that last night’s sleep was as comfortable as was possible, given the situation and given the environment. After stumbling through deserted streets, way into the early hours of the morning, he pulled up in a black Audi. He knew the drill. He checked all around for witnesses, for police, for any one at all and when he was certain that the coast was clear, he found an inconspicuous spot and flashed his lights. Four times he had flashed his lights. Stumbling and swaying, I made my way over to the car. He was always patient. He was always adamant that good things came to those who waited.
The window slid down and out came a brown bag.
“Take it,” he said, and tossed it down onto the ground.
Again, after giving the area the once over and self-confirming that all was clear, he disappeared behind the tinted glass and drove off into the night.
Despite knowing what the package held, I fumbled, recklessly, impatiently, tearing the crumpled brown paper, soggy in places.
First came a sandwich. Within minutes it was gone. Water, a piece of fruit, some clean underwear. Some love.
For different people, love has its different meanings. For the school-girl, it is the feeling she has bestowed upon the one boy who acknowledges her. The one who let’s her know that he knows that she is there. For the mother it is the transferring all of her energies into her creations. It is giving them life beyond her own.
For people like us, love is hope. It is not attributed to a single being or a single thing. It’s attributed to the unknown. It is attributed to that which keeps us going, at times when it feels like we have nothing.