The Purple Light

13 01 2011

I know this woman, Tiffany, who used to work with my mother, who tells this story about a personal encounter she had with the television show, Americas Most Wanted. When she tells it her voice gets kind of deep and creepy and her eyes widen. She “swears to God” it’s true. She always says this at the end of the story as if we didn’t believe her. When she says this, she leans back a little bit and presses her chin to her chest. I don’t know why. When the story begins, it starts off light. Her voice is light.
She was taking a semester abroad in London with her friends. They had nothing figured out. So they first need to go apartment shopping. They found the perfect apartment. It was spacey and cheep. They were happy. They began living there immediately and their landowner, Eve, stayed below them. In the evenings Tiffany and her two friends would look outside their window and see a blue omniscient glow coming from the window below where Eve lived. They came to the conclusion that it was a tanning machine because Eve was always awkwardly tan. One evening Tiffany came home early from school to the low murmer of Eve’s voice in her kitchen. She was surprised to see Eve because she had been out of town for a month or so. “What did you do with the bodies?” asked Eve.
“Oh my gosh!” I would say, “Really?! What did you do?” Tiffany would look at me, widen her eyes, and open her mouth wide to respond, “I swear that’s what I heard.” Then she would press her chin to her chest and stare through me for a moment and then keeping going.
Eve had heard Tiffany and quickly said a hush-hush goodbye to whoever she was talking to. “Sorry,” she grumbled as she looked down at Tiffany’s feet, “I. Uh. My tele was out downstairs. Hope you don’t mind.” Then she left.
“And you didn’t do anything?” I would ask.
“No,” she said, “I just let it lie.”
Soon it was time for Tiffany to go home. She was only studying business in England for a semester while her two friends would stay the whole year but they all went back to The States for Christmas. Tiffany was readjusting to her life at home when she got a call from her friends. A ton of their belongings had been stolen over vacation. It had all just disappeared. Tiffany thought about Eve and that strange phone call she had walked in on. She thought about the nervous gestures.
“Do you think it was Eve?” I asked. Tiffany stared towards me. She gave me that empty look again and paused for a minute. “I don’t doubt it,” she said.
About a year later Tiffany sat in her Boston apartment watching America’s Most Wanted with her boyfriend. A story came on about a murder and robbery in California that had happened a little over a year earlier. John Walsh’s voice trailed in at out of Tiffany’s attention. Finally at the end of the story they showed a sketching of the “most wanted person.”
“… And I swear to God it was Eve,” Tiffany said. This time everything that she had been doing throughout the story was emphasized. Her chin was pressed so hard to neck that little rolls of fat formed. Her blue eyes were huge. And her voice was so low it could have been a man’s. You could tell Tiffany loved telling this story. She loved having the sort of power that it gave her. It was a good story. She knew it. We all knew it. And she also “swore to God” that it was true.



11 01 2011

When I was young I lived Chatawa, in a small, rich town in southern California. I always felt like if you looked at it from a plane it would be golden spot just sitting on the west coast of North America. I imagined that everything would be flat compared to it because the golden bubble was so tall that it made everything else look tiny. All the signs for the downtown area were in gold writing, even the Seven-Eleven sign. The central drive, Ojai Avenue, lined with palm trees. I can recall driving down that drive, passing the boutiques, the fancy restaurants, the golden Seven-Eleven.
I loved Chatawa up until the age of thirteen when I decided that I no longer wanted to live in a town that gave me everthything I wanted. I no longer wanted to live in constant safety. I wanted to experience something different, something crazy, something that no one in this town had ever heard of. And I would be the first! I decided that I would steal something from the golden Seven-Eleven. It’s kinda symbolic in a way. It’s probably the most innocent Seven-Eleven in the whole world and I was just about to take from it, i was going to plant to seed of evil into that Seven-Eleven. I hated it’s innocence. I hated my innocence. So I stole a pack of Big Red gum. I hate that flavor of gum. It’s spicy and runs out of taste in five minutes but the fact that i stole it made it the best pack of gum I had ever held.
I proudly walked down Ojai Avenue. I looked at all the people around me. They were all the same but I, I was different. I had something that they didn’t. It was as if I had this knowledge that no one even came close to understanding. I turned onto Carney Drive, my street. I had lived there my whole life but for some reason everything looked so different. I had this adrenaline that I had never experienced before. It pulsed through my veins. I could feel it, I really could. It felt like sand-sized balls were bursting everywhere in my body.
The soft rumble of a car grew loud as it approached me and then it slowed as it neared to my walking pace. I looked to my left. It wasn’t the type of car you would see in Chatawa. It was black and small and had dents and was rusty in some places. Inside the car were piles of junk: clothes, a baseball bat, boxes. And the man inside was like nothing I had ever seen before. His eyes were so red and he looked just so, so dirty. A limp cigarette hung from his lips.
“Hey, little girl,” his voice was dry and cracked.
My heart jumped. I was scared. He was something else. But then I felt those little pops again. They started to rush faster and faster. I loved it.
“Hey, I’m talking to you. Didn’t mommy and daddy teach you to not be rude?” The cigarette swung with every word that he pronounced.
“Yeah?” as I said this I realized how wimpy, how innocent it sounded so I added, “what do you want?”
“I want you to get in the car.”
I thought about this. My instincts were telling me to stop. They were telling me to run. I could see my mom and dad looking at me and waving their finger telling me not to talk to strangers and never to get into the car. I could feel the Big Red pack burning in my pocket.
“What’s it to you?” I asked
“I lost my dog. He’s a puppy. Real cute. Blonde and soft. Like you. I want help finding him is all.”
The popping was stronger and stronger. I could almost hear it.
“Yeah. I’ll help you find your dog.”
“Well you gotta get in the car.”
He stopped the car and reached over to swing the passenger seat door open. I never sat in the front. As i got in the car an uncontrollable instinct caused me to jolt back and recede a little but it was useless because he was already grabbing my wrist and pulling me in.

The Endless-Eyed Man

9 01 2011

In college I took an Italian Language course with a professor that I would never forget. His name was Mr. Ruthie. He had a thin patch of greasy, white hair. It didn’t look attached, it rested; like if you ever got close enough to touch it, it would fall off. He was an old man, maybe in his early to mid sixties and he ruthlessly wore a hawaiian button down shirt to class every day. You know, the type with palm trees and beaches and coconuts in really flamboyant colors. He smelled of dust and old leather and his eyes were foggy and blue but surrounded by an off-white. The skin below them sagged.
Mr. Ruthie was constantly angry. But that’s not even the right word. It’s so difficult for me to explain. It was as if there was a glass wall in front him and he could always hear you but the emotion, the tone, the facial expressions; they were all filtered out and so he responded with a filtered response. He was very disorganized and constantly late but I guess he had been teaching at the school for like fifty years so they couldn’t really fire him.
One morning I was standing outside of the classroom with the rest of the class waiting for him to arrive. I saw his notorious baby-blue car waffling down the road towards the parking lot. He was clearly going to be late and while he was rushing he had a minor collision with a bulky pepper tree as he rounded the corner. He stepped out of the car to examined the damage. “Fuck,” he said loud enough for us to hear him. He then returned to his car, slammed the door shut and drove 100 more meters to his parking spot.
So it turns out that Mr. Ruthie has a story behind that glass wall that I stared through everyday. His wife and daughter died in a car accident years earlier. His daughter was thirteen when she died.
It’s funny how when you know something so personal about someone, you think you can see it in everything that they do. It dwells in their foggy blue eyes, it’s coded in their italian speech, acted out by their body movements. I wondered if Mr. Ruthie ever had a day in which he didn’t think about his wife and daughter who are now immortal in memory.
Some days I would stop listening to Mr. Ruthie’s Italian and just wonder what lied beneath his words. I found that the silent truth was everywhere.

Second Blog Assignment:

9 01 2011

1. Person A steps onto bus.
2. He/she looks around and sees person B.
3. Person B smiles (at person A? not at person A?)
4. Person A trips and falls to the floor
5. Person A looks at person B and says, “…”

I looked at Cambelle. I thought about taking in a deep breath. Alicia, my yoga teacher once told me that breathing deeply is how we get through the tough parts of life. I don’t find that. Breathing breaks my concentration, my cold, hard concentration. Breathing is like the acceptance of all that bad shit going on around you. If I hold me breath, it has to pass. So I continued to hold my breath and stare at Cambelle. He just looked so sad. It broke me. I looked down and saw a wet drop fall to the ground. It was time to go.
“So. Uh. Yeah I better get going.”
“Yeah. You don’t want all those people waiting on us.” He chuckled and seemed almost out of breath when he said this.
The bus driver was staring at us.
“Well. See you around”
“Just across the pond.” His voice cracked and his eyes closed over.
I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t watch him cry over me. One sweet and quick kiss. As I got onto the bus i turned around to see Cambelle. He was surprised. Bye Cambelle.. I smiled.
There was an empty seat in the back of the bus. So perfect for this sort of cliche goodbye. Why was I falling? Into this trap of stupid romance that I thought I had planned to avoid. I was never going to sit in the back on the bus and watch the person I loved get smaller and smaller and then disappear. I promised I would never be that girl. I swore. But now there I was watching me become her. As the engine rumbled beneath me I couldn’t help but look at Cambelle one last time. He was running. He was running the wrong direction. If he wanted to catch us he had to turn around. we were back at the station, back in his small apartment watching horror movies. Doing cartwheels on the city street of London. I was in the bus.
He fell. Right on the street he fell and I could tell by the movement of his lips that he was screaming “i love you.”

Passages for TTTC Paper: Unconventional Story-Telling Techniques

2 01 2011

Subject: Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried, sometimes tells two stories at the same time, the past and present, or what happened and how a person explains what happened.

Example Passages:
1. Outside, a soft violet light was spreading out across the eastern hillsides. Two or three ARVN soldiers had built their breakfast fires, but the place was mostly quiet and unmoving. They tried the helipad first, the the mess hall and supply hootches, then they waked the entire six hundred meters of perimeter.
“Okay,” Rat finally said. “We got a problem.”
When he finished the story, Rat stopped there and looked at Mitchel Sanders for a time. [101. Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong]

2. Sanders made a sound in his throat, like a sigh, as if to say he didn’t care if I believed him or not. But he did care. He wanted me to feel the truth, to believe by the raw force of feeling. He seemed sad, in a way.
“These six guys,” he said, “they’re pretty fried out by now, and one night they start hearing voices. Like at a cocktail party. That’s what it sounds like, this big swank gook cocktail party somewhere out there in the fog. Music and chitchat and stuff. It’s crazy, I know, but they hear the champagne corks. They hear the actual martini glasses. Real hoiti-toity, all very civilized, except this isn’t civilization. This is Nam. [74. How to Tell a True War Story]

Focus for TTTC Assignment

20 12 2010

Focus: Tim O’brien lies about almost everything in his book, The Things They Carried. Tim O’brien is completely honest in his book, The Things They Carried. Both of these sentences are factual. In reality, Tim O’brien lied but he only did so to convey the emotional truth so that we, the readers, can feel what he felt. He extends the truth so it becomes a lie so we can all feel an honest emotion. This is represented in these passages:
1. Is it true?
The answer matters.
You’d feel cheated if it never happened. Without grounded reality, it’s just a trite bit of puffery, pure Hollywood, untrue in the way that all stories are untrue. Yet even if it did happen–and maybe it did, anything’s possible–even of then you know it can’t be true, because a true war story does not depend upon a kind of truth. Absolute occurence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth. For example: Four guys go down a trail. A grenade sails out. One guy jumps on it and takes the blast, but it’s a killer grenade and everybody dies anyway. Before they die, though, one of the dead guys says, “what the fuck did you do that for?” and the jumper says, “story of my life, man,” and the other guy starts to smile but then he’s dead.
That’s a true war story that never happened.

2. I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier.
Almost everything else is invented.
But ti’s not a game. It’s form. Right here, now, as I invent myself, I’m thinking of all I want to tell you about and why this book is written as it is. For instance, I want to tell you this: twenty years ago I watched a man die on a trail near My Khe. I did not kill him. But I was present, you see, and my presence was guilt enough [the previous chapter was “The Man I Killed]. I remember his face, which was not a pretty face because his jaw was in in throat, and I remember feeling the burden of responsibility and grief. I blamed myself. And rightly so, because I was present.
But listen. Even that story is made up.
I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
Here is the happening truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I’m left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.

Fishy Pancakes

14 12 2010

Ms. Ross slowly walked out onto her porch. She sat down and filled her lungs with the thick and rich various smells of spring. With quivering hands she opened her old poetry book. She spent late nights reading it. The book was frail, just like her, stained with tears and coffee and weathered and worn by ocean air. She read the first line of the poem, Death is a fisherman, the world we see . Her mind wandered.
At first she liked his forgetfulness. “He is so much nicer now” she would say.
His fish-pond is, and we the fishes be;
“Where am I,” he once asked.
“Home. You’re home”
His net some general sickness; howe’er he Is not so kind as other fishers be;
“Who the f—- are you?”
“Greta, Charles. Your wife”
She walked towards him.
“Don’t come near me!”
For if they take one of the smaller fry,
Scared, hopeless eyes.
“Stop touching me!”
They throw him in again, he shall not die:
Greta sat in the chair.
Her eyes dozed in and out of conciousness. Back and forth between the sight of his empty eyes and the opening of her own.
She knew this day would come.
But death is sure to kill all he can get, And all is fish with him that comes to net.

A tear fell and spread across the paper as Ms. Ross looked beyond the horizon of the words.