Category Archives: creative writing

Foreign thoughts

In response to Photo-Fiction #83

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“Chineyyy!!! Gimme a small fried chicken fried rice!!” The man shouted over the counter despite the shop being empty except him.

I had grown accustomed to the racist slurs and the aggression of “hangry” people shouting at the child behind the counter. I had grown accustomed to the smell of garlic and grease as I toiled over the school books from which I was constantly interrupted.

“One small fried chicken fried rice,” I shouted in mandarin over my shoulder. My mother shouted back from the kitchen. “I’m fine, just trying to finish my homework before the dinner rush.” All in mandarin.

The man eyed me suspiciously, and I ignored him. It was him or someone like him, every day, gawking through the white painted iron bars. I thought nothing of it. Nothing at all until a red glow seeped into my peripheral vision. Nothing until a low growl registered in my hearing. Until the world went crazy as a flurry of fur, claws, and teeth raged against the iron bars. The bars moaning as they bent towards me. The heat of his breath and spittle, on my cheeks as the give in the bars let him get within swiping distance.

It felt like nausea, as I stood there frozen, in fear or terror. It felt like bile rising in my throat. It burned and then it exploded from my lips, blue-white flames that engulfed the thing that used to be the man that ordered a small fried chicken fried rice.

It cried and ran, a streak of burning fur, disappearing into the darkness. Before my mind could panic, the melody of my mother’s stories came back, stories of a proud people, a land of dwindling magic, of an exodus, fleeing progress. I heard fairytales. I heard my truth.

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A thief’s comfort

In response to photo-fiction #3

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If you were sitting on a beach or overlooking a cove the sound I was hearing would be peaceful. It would be a great therapy to hear what sounds like waves breaking on a rocky shore. To think of the permanence of land against the formless brutality of the sea is a great comfort. That the sea must subside when faced with the rugged surface of the land. Or if you are a bit of an anarchist you would think of how ironic that something so soft and soothing could erode such a mighty medium.

In any case, one would be at peace. One would be comforted by the ebb and flow of the sound. Of the crest and fall of octave after octave of raw energy. You would be comforted, so would I, but for the fact that I am breathless and sweaty. That my legs burn and my chest is tight all while threatening to explode.

It would be a comfort except for the fact that when I slow and the sound begins to vibrate my bones, I know that it is because my executioners are at my heal. It would be a comfort except that I know that the ebb of the roar is only short-lived until the next obstacle slows me down. Only as short-lived as the tiny reserve of energy I have left.

I would be comforted if I wasn’t a poor man who had bested a whole lot of rich ones, making a fortune no one ever intended to be mine. If I wasn’t a more cunning thing that the ones who rob the poor and call it taxes. It will be comfort if I can make it to the port, and the real sea embraces my good fortune.

An unoriginal tale

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My story is not a new one, it’s not original. It is the story of many women, through time, in this small place. From my grandmother’s bare floored wattle house, to my mother’s’ modest wooden two bedroom nestled between the coconut trees of Old road and then in my house, modern and picturesque still among the coconut trees, still touched by sweet sea breezes. It’s not a unique story.

I saw my mother give her life to a man, my father. A man who managed to be absent even in his presence. Stoic, unapproachable and rough.

I watched my mother wilt, from vibrancy to defeat. Her eyes grew sunken and sullen, the light of youthful exuberance gone even before she was properly forty. I saw her smile become a rare thing sometimes sliding off her face to be replaced by a look of miserable resignation when she heard heavy construction boots on the gallery in the afternoon, or the pitter patter and laughter of the little feet of his other children. The ones he had charged her with raising. I saw her skin take on a pallid waxy tone as if life itself was sucked from her bones by this ogre, who only spoke to command or criticize.

I never saw softness pass between them. In fact, what little of them in private I gleaned, was heavy breathing, grunting and then sobs punctuated by snoring heard through the thin wooden walls when I was supposed to be asleep. It was the way of things, and so I tried to accept that this was the way for me.

Until that day. The day I heard a stranger’s impassioned moans from my bedroom. Standing in the hallway, gazing into the mirror, looking at skin beginning to turn that pallid cast, and eyes and lip that had forgotten how to smile. I touched that face with hands ten years older than the rest of me. I was looking at my mother, as her cries echoed with the rhythm of loving that I could never remember being so inflamed by. A testament to pure pleasure I’m not sure I knew how to relate to. On my sheets. My scent was still on those sheets, his scent was still on me!

She cried and his voice joined hers in release. On my sheets! In my Bed! In this house meant to be our home!

“I love you.” His spent murmur. Word I had forgotten he could say.

While my mind played a myriad of memories. That used condom under the sofa, the lipstick on his collar, the smell of cheap perfume and smoke. The indifferent looks. The pregnant silences. The hunger for him to just touch my skin. The feel of my cold bed at 2 am, hoping and dreading that this would be the night he wouldn’t come home. I had not known, as I watched my mother that anyone could be so humiliated with an audience of only herself.

No, my story is not unique in it’s beginning, and in it’s end I traded one type of incarceration for another. This one is a choice and not a legacy, and perhaps the best cautionary tale I could give my daughter.

Resolutions

 

Everybody talks about a new world in the morning

The bartender leaves another bottle of beer, this is my 12th one I think. I lost count, but my head is buzzing and as long as I keep my thoughts away from the bad things, a smile tugs easily at my lips.

It’s easy to smile at the happy groups of festive people, out and about. Chatting and drinking, watching the John-bull frolic in the heritage square. How they squeal as the dancers approach them, laughing in their faked fight. I remember…no, I don’t want to remember.

“New world in the morning so they saaaaaaaaaaayyyy”

The DJ announces that it’s almost that time and everyone huddles in the cramped space of the bar. A man fights to the stool beside me, but not for himself, he props a woman up on it. She places her hand on her distended belly and beams up at him. Why does that ache so much?

Maybe something stronger. I raise my hand to the summon the bar man and a huge warm weight settles on my shoulder. It’s a friend, smiling brightly if a little lop sided, wishing me a happy new year and a blessed night. It will after all be better tomorrow, a new year, new possibilities, new us. I smile back and nod. Make that stronger thing a double.

“I myself don’t talk about a new world in the morning.”

…9,8…everybody makes resolutions, that make them feel all hopeful. Useless, I take a swig…7,6…it’s all going to be same tomorrow. The same sun will rise and the same breeze will blow. The same crooks will be in office and the same old walls will greet us…5,4…the same old limitations, the same endless scramble to survive, the same enemies dressed in masks we love. The same old shit that sends us out on Old Years night to drink alone and try not to remember the…3,2…the things that made us this bitter. 1!!!!!!!!!!!

New world in the morning that’s today.

Nobody noticed my cackling in their celebration. I was bitter. I had known it before I sat at this bar, but it mingled with the memories and stung worse than the cheap cane rum. No amount of pretty wishes made at midnight would make the morning glare any less painful.

Another warn hand, this one smaller. Joined by another the circle my shoulders and someone almost half my size makes my whole body feel warm. I can’t look at her, I failed her, yet another year. Another new years, another set of wishes I wouldn’t be able to fulfill. the stool swiveled. Seated I was eye to eye with her five foot nothing.

And warm brown eye melted away something I wasn’t sure I wanted to let go. Something that said I didn’t deserve the shelter of her arms, the warmth of her smile, to be accepted by her. Everybody else knows it. Why didn’t she?

“Let’s go home.”

I wasn’t going to be a new world in the morning. But I had a new determination to earn her.

 

Home again

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I can see people bustling inside as I approach the house. I know that mommy is making bakes, and that the whole house smells delicious. Life, just up that walk, something that isn’t there in a cold stark dorm, abandoned by it’s residents for places like this. With lights on a tree, clearly visible through windows that glow invitingly.

Maybe it was that thought that had me back here, wrapped in nostalgia. Everyone else had a family, or a friend with one. I was a fringe dweller even among my closest, not close enough to be family. So why not go home, to my home and family.

I take a step and as I do I hear the clash of angry voices, then the wailing. My Mother, my aunt. I see my father’s slumped shoulders pass in front of the window. My sister bolts out and slams the door. Her eye is black. It all comes back. The contempt, the venom, the discomfort and the seething hate. The pall over everyone, the fear. This isn’t home.

I turn tail, back to the train station, and buy a ticked anywhere the next train is heading. Maybe there will feel like home.