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Category: Fiction

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 1: Green

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 1: Green

“We were talking about heroes,” said Lynn. She was still standing in the water, small waves oscillating into her legs, making her sway every few seconds. Hakim didn’t look at her. He stared ahead, at the horizon, an imaginary line where sea met sky. The infinite, transparent above and the deep unknown below.

“I thought this would be the catalyst for me, I thought it’d be where I did my work and played with my friends. It doesn’t feel like a place for me, any more. Maybe it’s too big and I need something small to figure things out from. Maybe I can only figure out those answers away from here.”

She went on. “My favorite ones were all ordinary people who felt something. Maybe they’d always felt it. They didn’t necessarily want to answer the call, they just had to.”

“So, this makes you a hero?” He was smiling just a little as he said it.

She grinned, but then stood up straight in the water. “Yes,” she said. “You’re damn right it does.”

They laughed, and looked at each other, and walked back out of the water.

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 2: Yellow

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 2: Yellow

“And the bulk of it was pretty easy, even though it was basically no advance warning,” she said. She made her way down the sidewalk outside the park-and-ride lot, still on the phone, but listening now rather than talking. She felt out of breath, not just from having to move quickly, but also explaining herself in a tumble over the last several minutes.

It was the call she’d put off making—her mother, always supportive in principle, but worried and questioning in practice. She wasn’t ever sure how to convey the finality of her decisions once she’d made them. To Mom, every choice was just a possibility, no matter how crossed-tee, dotted-aye, copied and filed away for reference it was.

“I’m not doing this because it’s a sure thing, Mom,” she said, “I’m doing it because it isn’t . . . No, I’m not throwing anything away, I’m making something new. Opportunity isn’t always the way forward . . . No, I don’t think it’s cryptic.”

The sun was halfway to its zenith now. The asphalt beside her was ash-colored in the light, the sidewalk pale as sand. The airport she was walking into reflected dozens of fractured shards of glare from as many steel embellishments. Her plane was fueling, taking on food and pillows and in-flight magazines, soon to rise into the searing sky on its way to Albany and the house in the woods.

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 3: Red

Rejecting the Coast, Pt. 3: Red

She was still sitting on the porch of the house when the day ended. She wondered if it had been the best way, leaving everyone and just about everything she’d known for the last eleven years behind to follow a new path and make this work. Wondering—that was another method of avoiding things she had to do, in the end.

There was room for Hakim, room for his guitar. She missed him already. But she needed to claim the house for herself, first. Get some life worked into its corners before she could share it. She wanted to understand herself again so she could write in her most open way. This feeling of being lost, when her goal had been the opposite, was typical. Her fears were calmed first, as they always were, by questioning what she was doing, and only later by working.

Maybe there are always questions, she thought. Always us telling ourselves we’re doing it wrong, the timing isn’t good, we should hold on a bit longer. Wait, wait, wait.

The sunset, filtered through the trees, was turning everything a light crimson. For Lynn, it wasn’t ominous or anything. It felt like a signal, an alert. She left the quilt on the porch and went to find her laptop. It felt like the moment to finally get on with things. She did.

Thirty

Thirty

“You’re not old,” he said again. “You have a long time ahead.”

She took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh so long he thought  she might pass out. “I’m just starting out. Again. I mean, who’s going to pay attention to an old—” she caught his raised eyebrows and corrected herself. “Older woman’s stuff, or my opinions. Does it matter?”

“Dunno. Are you doing it because it matters?”

This was a much bigger question than hers. She didn’t want no one to acknowledge what she did, but she had to admit that wasn’t why she wanted to start again. She needed to. The work, her ideas, the raw stuff of creation inside her—it was a fire she simply had to bring forth into the world. If only just to see what it looked like herself. If only to learn how to be better at it.

She got up and let the quilt fall to the floor. “I gotta go. I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” she said.

Be Wrong

Be Wrong

They sat at the small table in the corner by the window and sipped their drinks in tandem. She looked out the window and watched the passersby flood across their view, lost in their own frustrations and pressures. It was the first day after she’d finished reading the novel she’d started three years before. She thought it would feel like a triumph, but she just felt drained, as if she’d been at work all day. She shook her head and smiled.

He said, “What? Something funny?”

“Kind of,” she said. She sipped again, still looking ahead. “I just had an idea how I’d feel today, and it’s not what happened.”

He chuckled. “That’s me every day. Maybe better not to anticipate feelings.”

“I guess,” she said. “It’s just, some thoughts are automatic, you know? And for sure some feelings are. It’s just what happens. I think what’s important is not to put any judgment on what we think, just let it happen. Let it be.”

“Speaking words of wisdom?” he said.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Nice, old man.”

“Old bands are always better.”

“That’s what the DJs want you to think. Nothing new under the sun, right? But—it’s better to make mistakes, to try things out. To believe you can find the new thing, or the different experience. Maybe that’s how we can move forward.”

“Like, your routine is you being stale? Moving back in on yourself instead of, you know, on?”

“Exactly. We get comfortable with the way things are, and that’s true of the way we think, too. We get stuck trying to be right all the time and defend our opinions like they’re scientific truth. We’re scared of getting something wrong. But really, we should be, I dunno, trying to be wrong, more. We get more chances to discover things that way.”

He considered this. “Interesting theory.”

“Could well be completely incorrect,” she said.

“Yep. Nice.”

Stuff on a Wall

Stuff on a Wall

“Yes, I know that, but what does it do?”

“Doesn’t do anything, really. It’s just there.”

“So it’s useless?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a deep expression of an internal impulse so strong it’s made manifest, interpreted in physical form.”

“Well, what’s the point of that?”

“It makes its own point. It births its own value in all our minds.”

“My appraisal is rather a low value for things that don’t have a practical function.”

“The beauty of the phenomenon is that everyone can give their own appraisal. It’s certainly true they have systems for generating income based around things like popularity, skill, and how long the one who made it has been making them, but that’s really a secondary attachment. What matters is that someone made it, out of that hidden drive, perhaps spending hours or days or years, and let it be seen by others.”

“I suppose I don’t understand. It all sounds very vague.”

“And so it is. Nothing is certain, in fact, the greatest financial gain most often comes after whoever made the things is dead.”

“Hm. So why bother at all if there’s no guarantee?”

“Whatever the reasons for that, and they say different things at different times, mind you, they’ve been doing it for thousands of years. There’s something inside them that not only fires the engine of creation, it sparks a flame in others. It’s both born of and a generator of that internal fire. If it does anything, that’s the thing. They consider it vital—even if they don’t always acknowledge its importance to their existence.”

On Containing Multitudes

On Containing Multitudes

The sun was just below the horizon and the evening began in earnest. He sat down beside her in the windswept long grass. For too long, he said nothing.

Then, “It’s getting dark.”

She looked toward him, but didn’t turn her head. She took a long, deep breath and let it out the same way, then closed her eyes.

“I’m going to put the house on the market,” she said.

“But you love that house!”

She didn’t answer right away, and opened her eyes to the magenta and peach fire at the horizon.

“Yeah. It’s all nostalgia and memories of good days. And good lives lived there. And I’m going to sell it.”

He chewed his lip. She turned her head finally and saw him frown.

“I love it and I’m still selling it. I’m sad and I’m excited, and I’m confused and I’ve never been so fucking sure about anything before.” She turned back to the darkening orange glow. “I want to see the stars,” she said.

“You want to wait till dark. How come?”

She shrugged. “They’re pretty. And I never do it.”

The breeze pushed their hair around. A car horn beeped faintly. The orange began to gray.

“They are pretty,” he said.

She smiled.