The jaws of sharks, a vulture's wings,
The rabid bite of the dog's of war,
The voice of one who went before.
But most of all the mirror's gaze,
which counts us out our numbered days.” ~ Clive Barker
The quarter spun around in circles on the glass table much like a swan would dance on a lake. There was almost a silence in the room, except for the quarter spinning on the glass. It danced from his side of the table to mine until he slammed his hand on it. “Call it,” he covered the quarter with his right hand.
“Who cares?” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Well,” Dennis lifted one eyebrow, “it kills the time until our food gets here. I think that’s a good reason.”
“Fine,” I gave in, “heads.”
Dennis lifted his hand from the restaurant table. George Washington gave a smile from the silver coin. “Heads, you were right.”
I didn’t really care at that moment, but apparently, Dennis did. He flipped the coin into the air. “Call it,” he yelled out in the middle of the restaurant.
“Dennis, keep your voice down, man!”
“Ah, who cares,” he snatched the coin in midair as if he were catching a fly. “Are you going to call it or what?”
“I think you reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was a bad idea. You’ve been flipping that damn coin the whole time we’ve been in here,” I sipped some water from my cup.
“Pfft, you’re the one who recommended it to me,” he shook his fist with the coin still in it, “and what else am I going to do with a quarter anyway. What can you buy with a quarter nowadays? Huh?”
“A stick of gum?”
“Vatche, in all seriousness,” he looked at me with stern eyes as he put the coin on his arm, “who sells only a stick of gum?”
“I guess you’re right,” I admitted. “Tails, by the way.”
“Heads, again.” Dennis dropped the quarter onto the glass table and moved his long hair out of his eyes. “You know what?”
“What?” I asked as I stared into his dark, brown eyes. Eyes that had seen so much more than mine, but he was still naïve to the world. The darkness in his eyes was almost like coal, but there was not only darkness but also an outer ring of fire that surrounded the darkness.
“I’m going to miss this,” he lifted his hands as if he were prepared to embrace something.
“I know what you mean,” I let out a deep sigh.
“You going to
“I’m going to come back and visit every weekend,” I interjected almost robotically.
“But soon every weekend becomes every two weekends, then every month, and soon we won’t talk at all,” he looked down at the quarter again. “I wish life was as easy as flipping a coin and calling ‘heads’ or ‘tails’, but it isn’t. Life isn’t that simple, but it can also be compared to flipping a coin, because you never know what you’re going to get. Never.”
“I guess that has some truth, but you know me, Dennis. I’ll stay in touch because we have these connections that bind us. Whether they are made of strings with two tin cans at each end, a telephone wire, an internet line, or even a chain, that connection is still there. So, even if I live on one side of the world and you live on the other, I’ll still contact you. We will always hear each other’s voice.” I grabbed the coin and flipped it into the air. “Dennis, call it.”
“Tails never fails,” he said with a smile.
I tried to catch the coin but it landed on the tile floors of the restaurant. It had landed exactly in a crack, on its side. “Ah, Dennis, what do we call that one?”
“See,” he laughed while he held his gut, “you never know what to expect, even when flipping a damn coin.”
I joined his laughter at the restaurant and as people looked around to see what was so funny, I didn’t have a care in the world. I was there in a restaurant with one of my best friends, like any other Friday. And like any other day in my life, there was always something unexpected and something different. Always.
Cherry blossoms fly into the wind,
Her hair like waves on a rocky shore,
She has sinned,
And she shall sin no more.
Upon this grave she lies on her knees,
Pounding her fists away,
Underneath this damn cherry tree,
Again they lie together but it’s not the same.
He is somewhere else,
He cannot feel the breeze,
She blames herself,
For now he lies among the leaves.
She is cold,
He is dead,
She has no hand to hold,
“I wish you were here,” she said.
She cries on the dirt,
Her fists stopped their pounding,
Though she still feels hurt,
She understands how harsh she must’ve been sounding,
“But I miss him,” she whispered,
As she felt his warm hands on her cheeks,
It was he, but now he had wings.
She understood where he was,
No longer in the grounded Earth,
She took a deep breath and a pause,
She felt a sort of rebirth.
She saw his face again even though it was only for a moment,
Underneath the cherry blossom tree, the wind continued to blow,
No longer will he be absent,
She knew now he will always be there to watch her grow.
"Give me your hand," he gave her his palm,
Together they walked off into the evening calm.
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“The best way to waste you life…is by taking notes. The easiest way to avoid living is to just watch. Look for the details. Report. Don’t participate.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!
Time really does fly by. I know that I am only seventeen years old (eighteen in three days), but I just noticed. This week I’ve received a bunch of letters in my mailbox that only make this idea more concrete. Each printed word only brings me one-step closer to realizing how old I really am.
What happened to that little kid with the Power Rangers lunchbox going to preschool?
What happened to fifth grade graduation?
What happened last year?
What happened yesterday?
I could recall all of these memories as if they happened a minute ago, but in reality, they didn’t. The hourglass can’t flip over, time can’t stop, and the clock can’t go in reverse.
The college letters, whether acceptances or rejections, have also changed my way of thinking and the people around me. My parents warn me of the dangers of being an independent college student. My teachers tell me to be proud to go to college. I feel restless in class because I know my whole life is only just beginning. Everything is just happening way too fast.
I can’t handle it at times.
Letters from colleges turn out to be bittersweet moments. Telling my friends, my teachers, my family that I got accepted makes them twist their faces. They are happy that I got accepted, but they are also sad because they know that I’m going. I feel it in the way they hug me that they don’t want me to leave. I hear it in their cracking voices. There is a whole new aura around them when they know the knowledge, which is why I sometimes hold back on sharing the information.
Letters arrive everyday at my house, but one intimidating letter I received earlier this week was from the U.S. government saying that they registered me for the army, in case of an emergency draft. The thought overwhelms me because I never thought of going into the army, but here was this letter that said that I am registered. If the time should come, I don’t know what I would do. Would I take a gun in my hands for my country though it goes against what I believe in?
I’m turning eighteen in three days. Eighteen. There are over a hundred things I can do after those three days such as vote, get a tattoo, change my name, work more hours, adopt a child, get married, donate blood, enlist in the military, and make my own decisions.
These letters brought my thoughts together through their powerful words. They have made me realize how much I have changed and how much I don’t want to change. The clock is ticking, the pendulum swinging, birds are singing, people are dying, men are fighting, children are crying, but I am here standing. I am standing firmly on the ground as I take that one-step outside into the real world with those letters in my hand.
“What would happen, you know?” I looked at my hands.
“Vatche! Don’t say such things!” My aunt called back at me from across the table.
“Seriously, just think about it. I am nothing without these hands.”
“You are still you, Vatche.” Clara sipped some more of her tea and took a colossal bite out of her cookie. We sat around our dinning table drinking tea again. I stared at my hands and noticed how much less of a person I would be without them.
“No, I wouldn’t be still me. There would be no more writing, drawing, or playing the piano for me. There would be no waving ‘hi’ or ‘goodbye’. I would never be able to hold something, touch a familiar face, or put my hand on a friend’s shoulder. I would be lost.”
“Well, think about all those people who don’t have hands or legs. How do they live?” She made one eyebrow skyrocket up her forehead.
I thought in silence.
“Hmm?” She bit into another cookie and the crunching noises echoed in the kitchen, where our table was.
“Well, they have that whole mechanical arm thing nowadays. I could never live like that though. Those people are never the same again.”
“I guess you’re right. Something that traumatic would definitely change a person, not even physically but mentally.” She slammed her hand on the glass table and sent vibrations onto my side. “What made you start thinking this way, anyway?”
“Well,” I drank my green tea and calmed my nerves after a stressful day of school, “it all started in English class today. We were asked to write a journal about what is the most important thing in the world to us and what would happen to us if we lost it. I, at first, wrote my mind.”
“That’s an obvious,” my brother walked into the kitchen, “you lose your mind, you’re done for.”
“Yeah, I thought that at first, but then I snuck a peek at my friend’s paper. He wrote that if he lost any body part, he would never be the same again.” I stared at my brother, who searched for a water bottle inside the refrigerator.
“I guess that’s true, too.” He snatched the water bottle from the cold, white cave of the refrigerator and slammed the door, which turned off the lights inside.
“So, that’s why I started thinking about this and it’ also why I am now asking you,” I pointed to Clara, “about what you thought about losing a body part.”
Clara sat drinking her tea in silence and looked at the scenic view outside the windows of the kitchen. Outside was where she could see the endless mountains and trees, but also cars and cities. Outside there were white clouds that crossed over the baby blue sky and the dark smog of pollution from the factories. Flowers bloomed. Skyscrapers built. Things were lost; things were gained.
“There are,” she paused for a moment to collect her thoughts, “many atrocities that could happen. Losing a hand, a pet, or a loved one, would only be the beginning though. To answer your question, Vatche,” she squinted her eyes and examined me, “I would be greatly affected if I lost my hands, but anybody would.”
My brother left and went upstairs to his room. I watched Clara as she pointed her aged fingers at me. Her hands were wrinkled and old, but experienced. Cuts and calluses did not matter to her. They were hands and they were beautiful in their own way.
“Now, Vatche, let me ask you a question.”
“Sure,” I got out of my chair and threw my mug inside the sink.
“What do you think is the most important thing to me?” She smiled.
“Umm, I don’t know.” I turned on the water and began rinsing the cup.
“It’s an easy answer.”
“You and your brother,” she kissed me on the cheek.
“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Destruction is within every word she speaks,
So she says nothing.
Chaos is in everything she hears,
So she decides not to listen.
Hatred is in everything she sees,
So she closes her eyes and falls asleep.
In her dreams, can she only experience true bliss.
Creation is within every word he speaks,
So he never stops talking.
Music is always what he hears,
So he always listens,
Love is in everything he sees,
So he never wants to fall asleep.
In his nightmares, can he only experience true horror.
Dark mirrors in their dreams,
Girl and boy,
Look onto each other’s side,
And would rather live in the other’s mind.
The boy would wish to sleep,
The girl would wish to live.
Both would be in peaceful harmony if they were to switch.
However, the dark mirror that separated their worlds would not break,
No matter how hard they pounded their fists,
No matter how hard they kicked their feet,
No matter how much they screamed,
It would not shatter.
They were stuck in their own shoes,
They were stuck in their own worlds,
They were stuck with whatever they had,
But at least they had each other.
I was at work when the phone rang. “Hello, Shane Cleaners. How may I help you?”
“Hello,” the voice sounded familiar, “is this Vatche?”
“Umm, this is him.” I tried to remember where I’ve heard the voice before. I looked at the caller ID and noticed it was a blocked call. The only time a blocked call came through was whenever my father was calling.
“Who’s this?” I asked the nostalgic voice.
“Ed?” I called back and saw a slideshow of memories in front of my eyes.
Ed and his two brothers were playing basketball with me. Edward was telling jokes about school inside his father’s kitchen. I was watching Edward studying at one of the customer’s tables of his father’s restaurant.
Flash after flash.
Edward was showing his report card to his father. Edward was playing Playstation with his brothers and me on an old TV set. Edward was driving off to UC Riverside. The last flash was Edward’s graduation.
“Vatche? Are you there?” Ed’s voice called me back into reality.
“Umm, yeah, I’m here.” I looked at my boss, put up my hand, and mouthed the words, “Five minutes.”
She shook her head.
“So what’s up, Ed? How’s everything?” I tried to remember when the last time I saw Edward was, but kept drawing blanks.
“Nothing much, just chilling here at your dad’s store.” I remembered the caller ID of the number. “So how is school going? Got any college acceptances yet?”
“School is good. I just got accepted to UC Irvine, actually, and—”
“UC Irvine, is that where you want to go?”
“Yeah, it has a good writing program.”
“UC Irvine, eh? Have you ever thought of going to a community college?” A community college? My dad wanted me to go to a community college. Was this a setup?
“Well, yeah, but I kind of worked my butt off in AP classes and stuff, so I could get into the colleges I really wanted to go to.”
“You know, I went to UC Riverside, but I kind of regret it. I mean I went for screenwriting and realized it was too tough of a field with a lot of competition. I ended up changing my major to accounting, because I can make a living with that and money. I regret that I wasted my dad’s money going to
“I want to be a writer and—”
“I know you want to be a writer, Vatche.” I heard his voice only echo more memories in my mind.
I was showing him my stories when I was younger.
He was showing me what books to read.
He was always encouraging my writing.
Now, the world has swallowed my friend whole. The college world has chewed him up, spit him out, and left him as an empty shell. He was an empty shell, because he discarded his dreams and only went after the money. I knew that if I follow my passion that the money will come.
Edward didn’t follow his dreams of being a screenwriter and now I was talking to his remains. The remnant of my friend, who once wanted to be a screenwriter, was now only a voice.
“Yeah, I know that you know,” I sighed and looked at my boss, who pointed at her watch.
“Vatche, I’m just calling to remind you that it’s a tough world. If that’s your passion, follow it through. All that I am saying is that if you have any doubts go to community college. Go there and try to find your calling. Don’t be single-minded and stick to one road. I’m here to remind you of your options.”
“Ed?” I called out to his voice.
“I have no doubts and make sure to tell my dad that, as well.”
“Ok,” he laughed.
“Bye, Ed. It was nice talking to you.”
“See yah later, Vatche.”
The conversation between us ended, but our voices traveled in our minds and echoed. In my mind, it caused memories of spending time with Edward, writing, and going over storylines with him. Edward could’ve been a great screenwriter, I knew it without a doubt, but he gave up on his dream. My father, who also gave up on his dream, continued to test my passion and my patience.
This phone call has made me question myself, but I continued to walk on the same path. I will be a writer; I promised myself that five years ago.
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“God is cruel. Sometimes he makes you live.”~ Stephen King
Does God have a master plan for us? Is it all for nothing? Do you believe in God at all?
“When did you figure out you were going to die some day?” She looked at me as I sat by her side with my arms behind my head.
“I knew I was going to die—”
“Like at what age,” she interrupted to evaluate on her question, “did you know?”
“About six or seven, I guess,” I shrugged my shoulders.
“And what was the thing that made you realize your own mortality, Vatche?” She drew in her notebook some flying butterflies. Melody let her black hair roll down her face as she hunched her back and continued drawing.
“My grandma’s death, I guess.”
“You keep guessing. Did you know that?” She put her notebook down and stared at my eyes.
“I guess,” I smiled.
“I thought we were having a serious conversation for once,” she turned away, puffed her cheeks, and crossed her arms.
“Am I ever serious when talking to you?” I touched her lightly on the shoulder to get her attention.
“You’re either too serious or never serious at all,” Melody stuck out her tongue.
“Well, today, I’m a little bit of both,” I looked at the clouds in the sky, which reminded me of sailboats on the ocean. The park was a beautiful day to spend with a good friend.
“A little bit of both, hmm?” Melody put down her arms.
I noticed the trees brushed against each other and their shadows mimicked their movements. Children kicked soccer balls to their teammates only to be stolen by their enemies. Birds sang sweet melodies and people laughed as they told each other stories.
“Vatche,” Melody waved her hand in my face, “come back to Earth now.”
“Sorry,” I looked at her worried eyes, “I’m back. I’m back.”
“Good. I hate it when you go off to your own little world.”
“It happens occasionally,” I scribbled some of my thoughts in my own black notebook.
“Writing down some more ideas, eh?” She reached for the notebook, but I quickly put it behind my back. She tried to hug me and get her hands on the book. I raised the book in my hand high into the air.
“Let me see, let me see!” She jumped up and clawed for the book in my hands.
“Why should I?” I raised one eyebrow.
“Fine, never mind,” she turned away and crossed her hands again. “I don’t care about your stupid ideas anyway.”
I put the book down, “Good.”
“Oldest trick in the book,” she ran for my Idea Book on the table and snatched it.
“Damnit, Melody,” I gave a smile. She only stuck out her tongue at me; I actually enjoyed all her silliness. She always joked around and acted every age from five to fifty.
“This is some interesting stuff here,” she flipped through the book.
“Well, what else do you think of my random thoughts and scribbles?” I tried to grab the book from her, but she kept dodging my movements.
“Your movements are always so predictable, Vatche,” she continued to flip through the pages and laughed.
“Really?” I grabbed her and gave her a big bear hug. “How’s that for predictable?”
“Let me go! Let me go!”
“Give me the book,” I commanded as she continued to flail her arms.
“Only if you make a promise,” she stopped struggling and whispered into my ear.
“Why are you whispering?” I still had her in my hold.
“It’s a secret promise.”
“Well, what is it?” I let go of her and she put the book close to her chest.
“Let me be your muse,” she handed me the book.
“My muse?” I felt the hard binding of the leather-bound Idea Book in my hand again.
“Yes, your muse,” she shook her head, “let me write your ideas down in that book. I want to listen to what goes on in that big head of yours.” She lightly placed one finger on my forehead.
I grasped her finger with my right hand, “I don’t have that big of a head!”
“Well,” she took her finger out of my hand, “is it a promise?”
“Sure, but let me ask a question: why?”
“Because,” she turned around, “I want to be part of every world you live in. When you drift, I want to drift with you.”
“Melody,” I held out the book to her, “you don’t even have to ask.”
She grabbed the book and sat on the tabletop. “Where should we begin?”
I sat next to her and stared up at the skies, “We can start off with our talk about mortality.” She scribbled down some notes.
“How should we start it off?” She looked at me at her side.
“How about we start off with...Well, let me see what you have written so far,” I stole the notebook from Melody’s hands.
Mortality with Melody, was written down. I laughed.
“Why are you laughing?”
“I love that title.”
“Then, I’m doing a good job,” she took the notebook back and continued to scribble down notes. My voice guided her hand across the page and I drifted off into my world this time with someone by my side. Melody saw what I saw. She listened to my voice, her hand moved unconsciously, and her eyes dreamt. Another world existed beyond ours and I was her guide.
“Melody,” I looked at her as we drifted off to the new world, “thank you for being my muse.”
She smiled and wrote down the moment in her handwriting. Her writing will remain forever printed not only on those pages, but also in my memory. She will remain immortal now. No more will she question me about our mortality, because she wrote everything down.
We are now immortal within these pages.