Driven

Soaked through, Nat tried to pretend that the pitch black of her surroundings didn’t unnerve her as much as they did. The schoolbooks she clutched were wilted and ruined.  Where Main Street had bombarded her with headlights as blinding as the dark clouds that covered the moon and stars, the residential streets were only occasionally lit by lightning.

That’s why she didn’t see.  She couldn’t be blamed for what she couldn’t see.

The sound of splashing and frantic movement froze Natalie’s feet to the pavement, her shoes submerged in a puddle.  She was cloaked by her own dark clothes, skin, and hair.  She watched a young woman her age with a halo of blonde hair and a torn white blouse crash down under the heavy weight of a bulky figure.  Pale hands scrambled against pavement as the girl tried to raise her body.  Her attacker forced her down again.  A fierce bolt of lightning glinted against a knife, and exposed the sharp features and the matted dark hair of the man above her.

When the sky lit up again, the girl’s green eyes met Natalie’s brown in a silent demand.

Do something!’

***

            It was the squelching of Natalie’s shoes against tile that told her she kept moving.  She shielded her eyes against the bright glare of florescent lights as she made her way inside the busy police station.

Uniformed men and women moved too quickly back and forth for her to watch when all she could do was stare numbly ahead.

“Miss?”

Natalie turned to see a balding man with a badge and a scowl.

“Do you need help?” he asked in what she was sure he thought was a gentle voice.  But even while trying to be soothing, he seemed demanding.

Pushing, forcing, hurting…

Could he hurt her if the police caught then freed him?  Could they protect her if they put her into the spotlight?

“No,” she answered as she crossed her arms over her chest, trying to hide the way her sodden clothes clung to her.  “No…sorry.”

The officer’s reply was drowned out by the squelching of Natalie’s shoes and the pounding of her heart in her ears as she turned and walked away.

***

“Nat?”

Her mother’s expression was weighed with worry and dim horror.  Even though she knew Natalie had entered the living room, she could not tear her gaze away from the glow of the television.

“Come and take a look at this.  Police just found a body!  I think she went to your school!”

Natalie drowned out her mother’s voice by slamming her bedroom door.

***

            Morning announced its arrival with stabbing pain streaming through worn lace curtains.  Natalie shifted further into her pillow, but the sound of clashing dishes and her mother shouting “you’re gonna be late!” from the kitchen was enough to drag her from bed.

Her clothes clung to her sticky skin, but she had no time to change.  She groped for the closet door, pulled it open and saw green eyes surrounded by clammy white skin.

Water pooled from the figure in front of her, dripping from lank blonde hair.  The girl’s gaze was vacant and her jaw slack.

“Nat!  You’re going to be late for class!”

Her mother’s voice sent shocks of terror up Natalie’s spine.  She stared into the green eyes as she reached around the drenched girl and grabbed her coat, before closing the door on the figure.

***

            It stormed again.  Dinner guests arrived drenched, the table became crowded, and complaints of traffic drifted idly through Natalie’s consciousness.  While they passed food around, well-meaning relatives nudged her with bright smiles and asked about school and life.

Despite the activity, it was the figure outside the window that held her attention.

Moon-white skin was wrinkled on a body bloated by water.  A hand pressed against the glass.  Her eyes were cloudy and unfocussed.  Her clothes clung to her as the rain poured down.

All conversation stopped as Natalie slammed her hands against the table and stood, facing defiantly towards the window.

“What do you want from me?” Her shout was shrill against the sudden quiet.

Her mother jerked her away from the table and into the hallway.  She shook Natalie back and forth, her eyes wide and her lips thin as she demanded “what is wrong with you?”

***

Nat stifled a yawn as she watched her instructor deliver more of a tirade than a lecture.

The professor raised her marker in the air, using it to emphasize her speech.  The writing on the whiteboard was as green as shower scum.

The older woman droned one minute, then scolded the next.  She was as unpredictable as the ocean, and the waves of her temper crashed against her students.

But she had never looked so pale before.

Natalie sat forward, before her body froze in familiar horror.  Water collected and spread on her instructor’s desk where her hand rested.  It pooled around her feet.  Wetness darkened her clothes, and her hair waved around suddenly clammy skin and clouded eyes.

The transformation took less time than the booming voice to reach her as she stumbled over other students to run toward the door.

Do something!”

***

The sound of squealing tires and blaring horns came from every direction as Natalie sped her Toyota Camry heedlessly through traffic.  Her foot never touched the brakes.  She swerved repeatedly across the lanes to avoid other cars.

“What do you want, what do you want, what do you…?”

Her chant was aimed at the soaked blonde sitting in the back seat that Natalie used the rearview mirror to glare at, but the woman looked past her.

When Natalie glanced in the same direction, she finally saw him, standing at a street corner, dressed in blue jeans and a torn t-shirt.  His hair was cut shorter than she remembered, but the profile was the same.  The cold, steely look in his eyes was the same.  The hands that had ruined two lives were crammed in his pockets.

She looked into the review mirror again at white eyes that bore into hers with a demand that rang between her own ears, drowning at her own thoughts. ‘Do something…’

Natalie pressed the gas pedal to the floor.  She plowed through traffic and ignored screams and horns.  The cold eyes that kept her up at night became wide and boyish in their panic.

*************************

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Respect: You’re Doing it Wrong

I want to say something about the “you have to earn my respect” and “lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect” memes and sayings I’ve been seeing. Yeah…here’s the thing:

Human decency and respect is not something others have to earn from you, it is the price you pay to live among others. And victims of mistreatment are NEVER to blame for the actions of others.

Victimizing and blaming victims for their victimization perpetuates a culture of entitlement, which in turn influences the next generation into knowing very little about their own human rights because it’s people who don’t respect others and who perpetuate the ideas that they have the right to determine who should or should not be respected who call the shots. It perpetuates a culture that doesn’t know anything about teaching the next generation boundaries or autonomy because they’re taught first that they have to earn self-worth from the validation of others, and then that self-worth can be negated if another person decides their actions, way of speaking, dressing, or way of living doesn’t qualify them for human decency and respect. .

Short of someone actually physically attacking you, If you cannot show every person you meet basic human decency and respect, the problem is not them, it is you. The problem is not lack of firm boundaries, the problem is the people who push people’s boundaries because they’re uneducated or ignorant of the concept of consent, the most basic of human rights. Yet those are the people allowed to dominate the conversation with catchy, contemptuous sayings with no real meaning beyond “correct my behavior for me, or don’t be surprised when I and my cohorts treat you poorly.”

Millennial War Cry

Let’s talk about Earth, and a generation built for self-destruction.

Kids grow up on speed prescribed by their governments, all socializing is over the internet, and the news praises tyrants (though that’s nothing new).

Society precariously balances on a web of mass-delusions.

Bought and ruled by money, we cower silently in fear and count the comforts of our conformity.

Knowing we will lose them to eventuality.

The world’s coming apart, and it’s old fashioned to know how to build anything.

I don’t know everything, but someone must say it: “This isn’t a society worth adjusting to, this isn’t sincerity or something we should cater to.  We are what we do, and we’ve done little except consume.”

We don’t know what we are or what we’re meant to be.  Millennials, a generation of souls lost to technology.  Lost to denial, indifference, and luxury.

Our denial won’t live much longer.  Our choice is Arab Spring of the mind, or 1980.

Yet indifference is our propriety.

We are the generation of dissociation.

Every Millennial I know who has experienced “intimacy” has PTSD

because of how little we were taught about consent, except how much it’s mocked on TV.

We can’t fix blind, but disabled is not broken.  It just needs to be spoken.

(But why speak when no one will listen?)

It’s time to unleash from our prison.

Unleash the unloved, unkempt, unheeded.  Now is the time we’re most needed.

So I will speak, and you will hate me for it, but you too will live a moment and know what it’s like to be abhorred for it, for your words and deeds and dreams and beliefs.

Belief is relative to the time you give to it, and the things you see.  Some laws you can’t escape, but the rest you create.

It’s time.

Your choice:

Unbind

From millennia of lies and become.

Do,

Or die having never done.

Write

 

Writing saved my life.

When I was young I had no one to talk to, because no one spoke my language.  One parent always worked, and another decided I was too inconvenient to remain in the state with.  I didn’t make friends easily, if at all.  I had too much to talk about that no one my age could relate to.

I was obsessed with reading, and had a higher verbal I.Q. than most of my peers and some of my instructors.  That’s not bragging, I was tested and measured at 132.

I had a habit of telling tall tales, and embellishing on reality until it became something more.  When students were given assignments to write stories, mine stood out for clarity and scope.

I’ve just found out I’ve had PTSD for most of my life, as a child and adult.  It had gone undocumented, untreated, and ignored for twenty years.  It’s no wonder I couldn’t make friends.  I couldn’t trust or relate.  I would extend too much of myself or none at all.  Little things could make me shut the door on friendships quickly and permanently.

I’ve had one lifelong friend: the English language.  I couldn’t call my mind a friend, despite all the stories it gave me.  I became a writer because I spent most of my life disassociating.  I was as far away from my life and body as a human being could get, which explains why real people could rarely reach me.

Writing was my healthiest method of disassociation, and I highly recommend it.  I found other ways that weren’t so healthy, but we’re not going to go into that.

Writing gave me a goal.

I loved seeing my work published for the first time when I was seventeen.  Throughout my early twenties, even when in the midst of making my worst decisions, experiencing publication and receiving reviews for the only work I took real pride in gave me something to look forward to when I was otherwise mentally absent.  I disassociated from my work and relationships, but when I was alone, I lived.  I lived on paper.  I lived online…

…even when living felt impossible.

For the last few years I’ve experienced suicidal ideation.  I reached a point where I could no longer function without help.  My illness became apparent to those around me, especially as I tried to engage in full time school and full time work.  I was weighted with exhaustion, my moods swung, and I forgot everything.  I could no longer take care of myself.  My mind drifted repeatedly to the idea of what it would be like to truly rest – to not worry, not rush, not endure.

In those times, writing classes helped.  It gave me gaps in time to focus on and explore my thoughts, feelings, imaginings, and connections.  For a few years I had lost the habit of writing every day because of all my work.  I had to squeeze it back in spaces I could fit it.  Part of what held me together this semester was a Writing for Media class, where I learned script format.  I could only write horror and tragedy at first, but my professor pushed me by assigning me a comedy.  It was a dark comedy, because that’s all I could do at the time, but it kept me engaged in my studies through the agonizingly slow process of the psychological evaluation my school’s Student Disability Service arranged.

I now have my official diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and people at my school and work suddenly treat me better than I remember.  It makes me wonder why kindness and consideration aren’t used as preventative measures.  Why is it only present as policy when someone is already ill?

I have accommodations from the school and a mediator for meetings to help reduce my stress and anxiety.  That doesn’t make me magically optimistic.  I’m not particularly trusting of sudden kindness.  I also don’t know if I can pay my rent, if I’ll graduate, or if I’ll find employment that offers a living wage.

I just know that even if I live under a bridge, I’ll write.  I write because it reminds me there’s something that fills the shell I live in.  It makes me grateful for my appendages and mind.  It taught me courage when I felt robbed of it, and redefines me daily when the world tries to write me into unfit roles.

If you ever feel alone, or feel like you have no one in the world to talk to, try writing.  I highly recommend it.

Laugh, Love

Write every day.

 

Live every day, so you have something to write.

 

Different story or the same with minor variation.

 

Life won’t let you decide all the time.

 

Write every day, if you can.

Laugh every day.

Love.

Be this being who lives for what it loves.

 

Write, sing, or play every day.

 

If there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Enjoy every day.

Tiny Submissions are Still Submissions

I’ve entered a ten word story into Gotham Writers’ A Very Short Story Contest.

Each participant may submit a ten word story.

Consider opportunities like this between novels.  They keep your skills sharp and diverse.  Only a few words submitted to a publisher is still work submitted to a publisher.

 

On the Precipice of March

On the edge and looking over.  There’s a new name for another of the same but slightly different.

Forward.

I’m reaching the crest where I start to mark time with gray hairs and lost teeth.

I forgot how to look forward, forgot how to be me.

I traded images and faces, names, morphed with color of hair and strategy of game.

Beware, Self is something much easier to lose than find again.