Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Know-It-All Radio


I ate my breakfast while thinking about that damn radio again. Silence filled the room. The only noise was me chewing on my eggs. I stared at my reflection in the glossy silver shine of my aunt’s radio. Its black speakers reminded me of nets; nets that caught my attention.

Inside the nets, a silver ball in each. Eyes.

A cassette player in the middle of the radio. A nose.

It spoke not even English, but Farsi, a language foreign to me.

What I saw was a robotic face staring at me with mirror-like eyes. I saw myself stare back and it gave me chills. The chill felt like a cold finger that ran down my spine.

Clara washed the dishes, but then took notice at me not eating my eggs anymore, because I was full. “Vatche?!”

“What?” I took a sip of my orange juice in a mug that said Saturday Evening Post.

“Eat your eggs,” she dropped the dish she was washing back into the dirty sink.

“I’m full, Clara.” I lifted myself out of my chair.

“I don’t care, Vatche, if you’re hungry or full. You have to eat a lot of eggs, because it provides a lot of protein that you can’t get in vitamin pills. It’ll make your brain stronger and help you think better at school.”

“And who told you all of this?” I dumped the eggs in a trashcan.

“The radio,” she pointed.

“Well, I don’t believe it’s the radio telling me,” I said to her as I exited the room, “it’s you.”

I went upstairs to my room to do work like I do every Saturday. My aunt invaded my room to put some clothes away, “You know the radio says that if you do well in school, get a high SAT score, and a high GPA, you can get into UCLA. They said UCLA is a great school.”

“Who are they?”

“The radio show hosts,” she folded and dropped the socks into my drawer like an airplane would drop a bomb on a city.

“The radio seems to be talking a lot about teenagers like me nowadays, eh? How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t want to go to UCLA, anyway? I want to enter UC Irvine because of their creative writing program.”

“Pfft, writing? You think that’ll get you money.”

“Money? I’m not worrying about money, because I know if I follow my passion that the money will come.”

“The radio told me that—”

“The radio told you this, the radio told you that. I’m sick and tired of that creepy radio, anyway. Since you got it last week, I’ve been getting the chills.”

She dropped the last bomb into my sock drawer and retreated to the kitchen.

I tapped away at the keys until my cousin rang the doorbell. He had just come from Iran as a refugee. He lived alone, so it wasn’t unusual for him to drop by now and again.

I gave him a big bear hug. “Saimon, how are you?”

“Good, good,” he slapped a smile on his face after seeing me.

We both walked into the kitchen, where our ears were collided with noise. The radio was blasted and spoke a language I have yet to understand, Farsi. The radio and this program was the source of all of Clara’s “information.” I looked at Saimon and knew he understood Farsi, as well. So, I decided to put Clara’s radio information to the test.

Saimon and I sat down. I grabbed a napkin and a pen that was already on the table and started scribbling down fast. We both listened to the muffled, static-filled voices of the announcers on the radio show. I translated whatever I could understand in the fast jumble of incoherent words, but in English. A rough translation.

“Saimon, what does this say?”

“Well this word, khaza, means food,” he pointed.

“Just read them all,” I handed him the napkin.

Bahoosh is smart. Madrase is school. Sabet cardam means proven. And pzeshg is a doctor.”

“Food. Smart. School. Proven. Doctor.”

I sat there amazed that Clara was telling the truth about the radio show. She came to the room. “Hi, Saimon! How are you?”

“Fine, fine,” he went up to hug her.

I sat there frozen in thought with the napkin in my hand.

“Vatche, do you want anything to eat?”

I sat there in silence for a moment. I crumpled the translated words in my hand. I felt the ink rub against my fingertips like blood. I felt the bitter taste in my mouth. Defeat.

“Yes, please.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Mental Snack (1)


Share your thoughts...

“Thoughts in the mind are like the cells in a body. They spread. They multiply.”~Vatche Yousefian

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sparknotes: The Corruption


“Hey, did you read the book for English class?” I asked Dennis as we walked down the hallways together.

“Does reading the Sparknotes for it count?” Dennis gave a wicked smile as he put both hands in his pockets.

“No, it doesn’t.” I looked down the hallway to notice that there still was no one at school. The hallways were empty, most of the rooms were locked, the sun just started to awaken students from their beds, and we were obviously early to school again.

“Well, then I guess I didn’t read the book,” he stared down at me and looked for my reaction. He could read me like an open book at times, but there’s a problem with that. The problem was that he never knew what was going to be on the next page.

“Well, it’s your loss,” I raised my hands into the air as if I had just thrown something behind me.

“Wait, wait, wait,” he put his hand up against my chest and stopped our daily rounds around the school.

I stood there and looked up at him. “Why do we have to stop? We can continue walking, you know?”

“Why did you say it was my loss? I still read the Sparknotes version. It’s like a paraphrased version of the book.” Dennis took his hand off my chest. We stood in front of two rooms, one happened to belong to our English teacher. Was this a coincidence?

I took hold of the railing that was for the staircase that would lead us downstairs, but we never budged. We stood there like statues staring at each other for answers. We waited for movement, not from the body but from our minds.

“You’re right. You did read basically the paraphrased version of the book, but did it satisfy you?”

“Satisfy me?” Dennis raised one eyebrow.

“Well, did you feel the character as if he were you? Did you go through the adventure like he did?”

“What adventure? Who cares how the character felt?” Dennis began walking again, but this time I was the one who stopped him.

“It’s not as boring as it may seem. It’s like a movie projector inside your head. You are the character. It doesn’t matter what book you’re reading, you will always be with the character through thick and thin. The character becomes you just as much as you become the character. You mold yourself into him; he molds himself into you. Do you know why?” I asked him.

He remained silent and waited for my answer to the question.

“It’s because that’s the way our mind works. We mold ourselves into each other. We make a character not someone on a page, but someone we know in real life. We make him into something like our friend or us. You then go on the same adventure he does, whether it’s through England in some dystopian society, a discovery of life, or an expedition to get rid of innocence and gain experience. Do you see what I mean?”

“Yeah,” he shook his head in agreement, “I guess you got a point.” He started moving towards the calculus room, where our bags were located.

“Where are you going? We’re supposed to go downstairs now! You know? Our route and all?” I called out to him as he stopped at the threshold of the room.

“Yeah, you can go on ahead without me if you want. I’m going on my own adventure.” Dennis gave a smile and walked passed the threshold.

“Wait up! Wait up!” I ran into the room to see Dennis sitting in his seat with a book in his hand. The book that was assigned to be read for today. The book he already knows the story to, but only the paraphrased version. He hasn’t experienced the adventure yet.

Dennis became one with the book.

Dennis became one with the character.

Dennis was the character.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Candlelit Thoughts


My room. Darkness.

The candlelight colored the room in an orange glow. It painted shadows and dark reflections on the walls. A storm now ruled California and took its throne in the skies. It decided to knock out all the electricity in my house with a single lightning bolt. Raindrops made my window seem like it was funhouse mirror.

I sat here, thinking. Just thinking.

I basked in the candlelight that now lit my room.

My brother sat on top of my bed in the darkness. His image was much like my own. He only had a paler complexion, blonde hair, and daring green eyes. He read and did his homework, in the dark, but he had a reading light. The reading light was actually mine. A friend gave it to me. I never thought it would’ve come to any use, but today it obviously did.

A blackout took over the entire street of Bradford.

“You know, I wish this blackout lasted a while.” I told my brother, Varen. He just continued with his work.

“Why?” He put down his pencil to flip a page in his textbook.

“Well, not having electricity for these few hours has made me realize that I never really appreciated it until it was lost.”

“Pfft,” Varen flipped the page and went back to work.

“You know it’s true. You never really appreciate anything until it’s lost, whether it’s something small like good food, hot water, or electricity.” We had lost all of those at the moment. I looked out at our dark neighborhood and thought of all the neighbors, who ran away when the darkness came. They ran away to relatives and friends with electricity. They wouldn’t find out how to appreciate the small things. They wouldn’t learn. They would never know.

I was actually thankful. I was thankful that the darkness stayed as long as it did.

Lightning struck.

Thunder roared.

Rain fell.

“The darkness took away the electricity. With the electricity, it took all the distractions. Facebook. Internet. Computers. TV. Radio. Light. Heat. It brought something, with all those things that it took away though. Do you know what the darkness brought with it?”

My brother laughed. “The cold? Boredom? Worry?”

“No. It brought something that you would cherish. Something that would help us deal with the coldness, the boredom, and the worries.”

“What? What could the blackout possibly bring?” His green eyes darted toward my direction.

“It brought us together and showed us we can live without electricity. It showed us that in the dark, we will always find and have each other.”

“Pfft,” Varen still didn’t understand though, but he will in time. He flipped another page in his textbook.

I opened another page in the chapter of my life. The chapter’s title: Appreciation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In Mind, Out of Sight

A little girl sat on the cold, tile floors of her mother’s hospital room. The girl drew frantically with her pen. She colored the grass an ordinary green. Her figures in the drawing did not look professional, but beautiful in their own way. The unique picture was composed of stick figures of her mother and her, holding hands, as they watched the sunset from the top of a hill.

The dim light of a rainy day was the only light in the room. Raindrops covered the window like stardust. They sparkled and showed small, transparent views of the world outside.

Angela’s mother, Kendra, focused her eyes on the drawing, instead of her pain. “It’s beautiful, Angela.” Kendra, dressed in a pale blue hospital gown, smiled. “We’re going to see the sunset and the sunrise everyday.” Kendra grabbed the sheets of her hospital bed and crushed it in her hands. “Together. How does that sound?”

Angela went back to coloring with a bunch of different pens scattered around her. Purple. Orange. Blue. Red. Black. Green. Yellow. Every color of the rainbow was at her fingertips. Angela thought of something new to draw. Her hand took hold of a pen.

Angela thought.

Angela started.

Angela created.

“Angela? Why don’t you come up here and sit with Mommy, huh?” Kendra looked deeply worried. Her hands clenched the sheets of her white, sterile bed tighter.

The room smelled like every cleaning product in the world was used to keep germs away. Flowers sat on a vase and they were dying, but slowly. Cards that said, “Hope you feel better!” and balloons decorated the room. Kendra was reminded of her own mortality.

“Angie, I love you. You know that, right?” Kendra was a beautiful woman. Now, she was a skeletal figure. Her arms had no meat on them. Her green eyes popped out of her head and stared at Angela’s drawings. The drawings were all of her and Angela. Her green eyes formed a river that flowed down her cheeks. One tear dropped onto her bed, contaminating it with thoughts of pain.

Angela stopped drawing for a moment and threw the pen across the room.

“Angie!” Kendra shouted as she wiped away her tears, but the bed remained stained. “Why did you do that?”

Angela turned around and knew she was in trouble. “Sorry, Momma. It ran out of ink.”

“Come here, I’ll show you that there’s still ink inside.” Kendra patted the bedside, where Angela could sit. “Come here and sit by me.”

Angela snatched the pen from the ground. “Show me.” She sat down next to her mother.

“Get me some paper, first.” Kendra pointed to the paper on the ground.

Angela quickly grabbed the paper and brought it to her mother. Angela watched with excited eyes. Was her mother about to do magic?

Kendra wrote on the piece of paper, but no ink came out of the pen. She continued to write though. Carving out letters onto the sheet of white.

“Momma, there’s no ink!” Angela yelled out.

“There is ink, Angie. Get me another pen.” Kendra pointed to one of the pens closest to the bed.

Angela picked it up and handed it to her mother. Angela waited for the magic. She waited in silence.

Kendra began to scribble on to the page much like Angela was coloring the grass. She moved her hand up and down and created a bunch of zigzags with the pen filled with ink.

“It’s invisible ink.” Kendra smiled as she colored the message into reality. The carved white words stood out in the color.

The message: I LOVE YOU, ANGIE. NEVER FORGET THAT.

Angela sat there in silence and awe. Angela took the paper from her mother’s hands and read the message over and over again. “Invisible.”.

“One day, I’ll be invisible, too. I’ll be like that pen. Will you throw me away like this pen?” Kendra grabbed the pen with invisible ink. “Will you?”

“No, I’ll never throw you away, Momma.” Angela shook her head.

Kendra gave a small smile. “I’ll be always here with you, Angela. Though you can’t see me,” she pointed to the message, “I’m there, like this message.”

Angela shook her head in agreement. She snatched the pen from her mother’s hand and continued to draw pictures. But instead of using every color of the rainbow, Angela drew in invisible ink.

Kendra now watched in happiness that someday Angela might understand.

I watched the whole scene unfold before me, yet couldn’t believe it. Was this reality?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tick. Tock. Ba-Bump.


“How was your winter break?” He asked me as he turned a right on a small street. Dennis was driving me to the park. He checked his rearview mirror and saw piercing eyes stare back. He looked at the stubble on his chin and moved his long hair out of his face.

“A lot has happened.” I glanced at him and expected an exchange, but there wasn’t. Dennis continued looking holding the wheel of the car with only his right hand. His left hand sat idly on his lap.

Whispers of a familiar song came on the radio. The beat was louder than the words. The wind also whispered familiar lyrics outside. Trees bumped branches against each other. Leaves shuffled on the floor of cemented sidewalks. People took brisk walks with one another and gossiped about neighbors and friends.

“So, are you going to tell me or not?” Dennis spoke, but his voice was muffled by my thoughts and the noises outside my open window.

“See this,” I tapped on the face of my watch. It was made out of stainless steel with a black face. White and silver gears decorated the face. The silver hands gleamed like gold with the dim light shining on it. Dennis stared at it with amusement, almost hypnotized for a moment. He looked at his own reflection. Deeper and deeper. He lost himself within the watch.

“What about it?” He snapped back into reality and put both hands on the wheel.

“It’s what started it all.” I gave him a ghostly smile.

“Started what?” Dennis flipped on the headlights because it was getting dark outside. The stars gleamed and reminded me of lighthouses. The streets were crowded with cars, but we didn’t really care. We just sat there waiting for traffic to budge and talked.

“This watch was the beginning of my change. A girl named Amy gave it to me. She’s like my long lost sister.”

“How did it change you? It looks pretty cheap to me.” Dennis chuckled as he examined his own expensive watch in comparison to my own.

“This watch is worth way more to me than your watch. I can feel the heartbeat of a friend inside it, instead of ticking. I hear the love that was given to me. Every time it ticked with a beat, I remembered the importance of my friendship with her. And that friendship is what made me realize that I had to change.” I started to close my window as the chilly air blew noises into the car. I didn’t want distractions at this moment; I wanted to get my thoughts clearly into Dennis’s mind.

“What change?”

“I decided, after receiving this watch, to start more meaningful friendships with people. My New Years’ resolution this year was to make a positive impression on my friends. I planned out this year that I wouldn’t stay home and be cooped up in my room; I was going to spend it creating memories.”

“So what did you do with your friends?”

“Anything they wanted: Chill at the mall, ice skating, paintball, and road trips with no destinations in mind. Whatever they wanted to do, I was down for the experience.”

“Is that why you’re going to the park with me?” Dennis watched me for my reaction.

“Well, you did invite me.” I smiled as I looked out at the dark world that was lit up by streetlights and the colors of urban life. My life became meaningful not with a tick, but with the beat of a heart. I put my right hand over my chest and felt how it coincided with Amy’s heart inside the watch.

Dennis focused on his driving.

I closed my eyes and listened.

Tick. Tock. Ba-bump.

Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reading Backwards



“Vatche, why are you holding a book that way?” Adrian put his back against the wall, slid down to the floor, and sat next to me.

“Well, that’s the way the Japanese read it.” I smiled as I closed the book.

“But you’re not Japanese, the book is written in English, and the book is just all reversed.” He snatched the book from my hands and flipped through the Japanese comic book.

“It’s called a manga,” I took the book back from him.

“What is a manga?” He leaned against the wall instead of hunching his back and stared at the green lockers in front of us. We were in school early in the morning.

A ghost town.

Lights beamed on the top of our heads, cold tiles touched our warm bodies, and the school made strange humming sounds throughout the halls much like a UFO.

“This is manga!” I pushed it up against his face. The book lightly touched his red nose.

“Ok, ok. I know that!” He pushed it aside. “You know what I mean,” he smirked.

“Well, manga is like a Japanese comic book. You read it from right-to-left, like the Japanese. If the publisher flipped it around, everything would be on the wrong side.”

“Like?” Adrian was curious. He kidnapped the comic book from my hands and flipped through it.

I stole it from him. “Will you stop doing that? You’ll damage it.”

“Yeah, yeah, sorry, I forgot how you were with books. They’re like sacred objects to you.”

“Yeah, believe it.” I put the book gently to the floor. “Anyway, imagine a camera-shot of two people in a car.”

“Ok,” Adrian nodded his head.

“Now, imagine who’ll be sitting on the left and who’ll be on the right.”

“Left is driver. Right is passenger.”

“Good, but if it’s switched.”

Adrian thought, “I get it.”

“Yeah, now imagine a person wearing a shirt with letters on it—”

“It would be reversed if the publisher decided to make it like an American comic book.” Adrian interrupted.

“Exactly. Some publishers do this with their manga, but most of them keep their manga in the original format.” I smiled knowing that Adrian was getting interested; he eyed the book like a rat to cheese.

“Here,” I took the book from the floor and handed it to him.

“Thanks,” he opened it to the first page and began to read.

I’ve known Adrian for a long time now. A big guy, six foot tall, husky, spiked hair, always smiling, and not as scary as some people believe. He was a gentle giant, I guess.

Seeing him reading this tiny book in his huge hands, just made me smile. His long fingers on the manga reminded me of roots in soil. He was home.

I don’t know why I was smiling. Maybe, because Adrian didn’t read a lot and the fact that a book interested him made me happy? Or, was it because I got another thing in common with Adrian now?

I sat there with a dumb smile on my face and didn’t even know why. Someone walked by and sat down next to Adrian. It was Antonio. He was six foot tall, wore glasses, and had a bowl-like haircut. “What’s up you guys?”

“Nothing,” I whispered not wanting to disturb Adrian.

Adrian didn’t answer; he continued reading.

“Why are you whispering?” Antonio asked.

I merely pointed at Adrian reading.

“Adrian, what’s up?” Antonio readjusted his glasses to his face.

Adrian didn’t answer. He was in a trance, in another world.

Antonio punched Adrian in the shoulder.

Adrian came back to our world. “Yeah. Huh? I’m good.” He dove back into manga, back into a world besides our own.

“Vatche, what in the hell is he reading?” He didn’t whisper, but said it aloud, because he hoped that Adrian would answer.

“A book,” I told him as I got up from my seat on the cold floor.

“I know that, but what type of book?”

“Ask Adrian,” I walked away, “See yah, you guys, I got to head to Calculus.”

Antonio looked at the book in Adrian’s hand. “See yah, Vatche.”

“Bye, Vatche,” Adrian looked out at me as I walked down the hallway. My footsteps echoed and the sound filled my ears. Another sound accompanied the echo, the closing of a book.

Then, I heard Adrian’s voice talking to Antonio. “It’s called manga.”

I knew why I was smiling now: I made an impact in Adrian’s life. He would later go into reading manga everyday. Read it before he went to sleep, read it while he ate, and try to convert others into manga-lovers.

I turned around and saw Antonio grab the book from Adrian’s hands. “Hey, don’t do that,” Adrian put it back and gently put it on the floor.

“Why not?” Antonio asked as he punched Adrian in the shoulder again.

They began an argument of words with one another. The words were lost to my ears. I already knew what Adrian was going to say.

I laughed as my ghostly footsteps followed me and left the conversation behind me. I looked behind me, one last time, to see what I created behind me: a new Adrian.