I do admit, I haven't done too much fiction writing lately, other than writeups for animations. I was sincerely tempted to sign up for the summer creative writing course offered to alumni at my undergraduate institute, just to make myself get back into it... but then the little bird called Pride whispered to me, hey, you should be able to do it yourself. So that's what I'm going to try this summer.
In the meantime, though, here's something I wrote a few years ago. In the tail end of undergrad. I'll warn you, it's strange and confusing. But then, I was a strange and confusing undergrad...
The Weight of It
There was the time, you see, with what we called “the apartment forest.” I use the phrase, but should add that translation does no justice to the scenery I recall. I mean, not that the scene is much on beauty; I’m not about to complain about lost attraction. There’s really no standard appeal to it at all. It’s just, well, associated with the wrong imagery. It’s not a forest. It’s a … it’s more, well, loosely laid. Airier?
And apartment is the wrong word too. Apartment in the language I’m writing in here is not a foreign word. It’s not history-shallow, it’s not strictly contemporary—at least not in the way it should be—and it’s certainly not, normative, as it should be. Nor as, liberating, as it should be. If that’s the word.
What I’m saying is, it’s all wrong, the way it is now.
And you shouldn’t ask me what it is, because then I’ll have to say something odd. Like, it’s all the wrong color.
Once my mind gets there I can’t really stop going at it, of course. It’s like a mind puzzle. And at first I think it’s just language. Because any reasonable command over a second language, or even the study of the native tongue, won’t fail to state that the fragility of dictionaries lies in that there is no explanation to any word aside from itself.
We think apple means 🍎︎, until you realize it’s not. It’s actually a pointer to the bible too. And mythology. And it’s 500+ granny-somethings and color-deliciouses. Go overseas and there’s one 🍎︎. There’s no religious allusion; instead, it’s a symbol of health and prettiness. Because it’s red. And sweet. The end.
But hey, that’s not apple.
So it’s what language does.
Or so I think, until I wonder, maybe, is language what it does, instead? It’s kind of the chicken-egg problem, except the actual chicken-egg is easy. Dinosaurs before chickens, so eggs came way earlier. A chicken had to be before it could reliably make more chickens. But a chicken could be made by chance. Right?
Maybe that’s the explanation. There was, by chance, a place that contained someone. And that someone had to find a way to refer to it, so another someone in the same place—or, arguably I guess, a similar space—could catch on. So language happened.
But language isn’t a chicken. Especially if it is an egg.
Or so I say.
It must be the lighting; it’s all lit the wrong way.
But what can I do? I’m not about to use 132 words to fail to describe something that can be said in three. (One, actually; it’s three when it’s translated, but we don’t use articles, and we like to merge words. So it’s like, apartmentforest. Hmmm. Does that help, I wonder?) For the social creatures that we are, actual sharing of anything significant is immeasurably challenging. It’s a paradox.
It rained, somewhat briefly, the day I walked to school. It’s a month ago. Though it feels like longer, and the man-made nature of the way we count time permits me to call it last year. The rain felt so right, as I was without an umbrella and it was exactly how it was supposed to be. It wasn’t raining hard, but it was raining; none of the fancy words, like drizzling, or spitting, or finely misty, would do. It was like gentle conversation, how it rains in British Columbia. It is what rain is, in B. C.
Except to those for whom it isn’t. Then it’s not.
But I was who I was, wearing something water-resistant that was slowly getting soggier and soggier, as I went down the hill, and it was thanks to the rain that things didn’t get frightening too quickly. I was still able to go through the metal fence that now surrounded the blue building—was it always blue? I couldn’t recall—and be detained at the office for not having made a visiting appointment, but to discover my teacher walking across the hall in salmon PJs. I re-noticed the white board; this particular Monday was a wear-pjs-to-school day. I managed to holler out to her and be sneaked into her classroom. She had class pictures up her corner. She had two per year; now she had fourteen. Seven rows.
Mrs. S retired, she said. You should send her an email.
I was busy enough for the rest of winter to postpone further returns.
I call myself a writer, and I call myself an artist, but cannot un-realize that everything that matters is just my thought of it, in the end. It’s just me, and it’s just for me. And it’s that terrible loneliness which catches me breathless in the mornings, and chases off weary slumber long after the lights go out. It’s humbling at times and devastating at others, and it’s the only thing that so potently stills the pen.
It’s at such times, that I turn to what I made—not so long ago that even the self can’t not have lost contact—and see if I can catch glimpses of it between the lines. Because sometimes I can: my words that describe the darkness of a quarter to three, in a town suburban enough to be well lit but mostly silent, and it was winter with a warm day after a bitter week, but it was night and so the slight layer of melted snow had frozen over, shallow puddles etched with hexagonal claws, the pavement sparkling, and heading from one place to another felt like running but walking.
And for a while I can know it: that it was brief, but it was completely, utterly, all-surrounding—that I was, it was, being reminisced.