Take A Pike

In the early 2000’s a yellow-paged book came into my possession. “The Last Vampire” by Christopher Pike slipped itself over the backseat of a traveling bus. I retrieved the soft cover novel and started reading about a five-thousand year old vampire, called Sita. In a matter of days the story came to an end. I passed the book back over the seat and waited for the next one to come through. 51WS2P2XR2L

Jackie, my dealer, supplied the novels to several people in class. A small group that used the books as inspiration for their own novels. We traded composition books full of vampires that lived in Egypt during a time before pharaohs, similar to Sita’s background. She lived in India where an evil spirit inhabited her dead friend and started the vampire lineage.

My version mirrored this heritage as the protagonist summons a spirit to revive her dead friend. This started the lineage of vampires to encroach the human world but without the promise of eternal life. A vampire would live the expected lifespan of a human but with superhuman powers, like telekinesis. I gave these stories to friends that gave them back with confused looks.

“If they don’t live forever then how are they still alive?” they asked, flipping to the front page of  my story. I saw that it began in modern day times with the same character that lived a thousand years ago. Somehow this plot-hole never occurred to me. I needed to revise the story.

I changed my vampires to infinite creatures of the night in exchange for their telekinesis. This allowed my protagonist to flourish with also a goal in mind. She needed to keep her life eternal while recovering her superpowers. I found something new and interesting about the story that kept me writing and reading stories.

Christopher Pike continued to inspire me as his characters often dealt with deadly matters. In the “Chain Letter” series, a group of friends submitted themselves to a mysterious contract that forced them to commit embarrassing acts in exchange for the send’s silence. This deal stretched over the length of three novels. I finished the last one in my dad’s car while on the way to high school.51YXS2N1PSL

At this point all my friends found different clicks of people to engage with. I ventured into the art department where I found the terror of commitment. Turning in a disfigured still-life embarrassed me more than an incomplete one. I turned in sketches of men with only half a face or two-legged elephants. Although earning a passing-grade they left me feeling ashamed of my inability to complete things, similar to Pike’s characters.

The unknown meant the unwillingness to find out the mysteries ahead. I needed to charge ahead through the gray between contoured lines and blank paper. I needed to stop fear with perseverance. This allotted my imagination to find a balance between the real and the unreal as projects completed themselves. Because the thing about art is that it only exists as it is made.

I still struggle with the ability to sometimes follow a professor’s instructions to finish a story. Sometimes my projects amount to nothing except fine detail and little character growth. These things matter little and a lot. Art needs time to grow , and I’m willing to make more deals with myself and others, in order to see that happen. After all, writers need readers as much as I want the next vampire installment from Christopher Pike.

 

Orlando Strong

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Dear Readers,

Something terrible happened in my town. 49 people died while 50 others were injured. I found this out one morning when my friend called. She wanted to know that I was safe. I was safe but not from the effect of the tragedy.

If you’ve read my blog then you know that some of the posts were about Pulse. Holiday happened around this time of the year. It’s hard to imagine that my story took place in the same place that this one did.

I think that’s how a lot of people in this community are affected by this event. We all went to Pulse at some time or another. We all danced there. We all made friends there. We know the layout of the club and that’s what haunts us at night. We imagine the sounds and things that happened that night and wonder if that could have been us. For some of us it might have been, if our mother’s hadn’t asked us to babysit or if we felt too tired to go out after working a twenty-hour shift.

Thinking about this affects us each day. And each day it’s hard to believe that Orlando now has this strange history behind it. I came to Orlando to go to college. My friend came to Orlando because he fell in love. Someone else came to Orlando because they wanted to escape the boredom of living in a small town. We all found ourselves here and now we are finding ourselves again.

Grief is something that happens differently to everyone. Some people are attending the vigils. My friend is handing out food to people at the hospital. I am trying to do everything but there’s only so much you can do in a day. I want to feel this pain so that I can grieve with my community. The hurt must be felt so that we can move on eventually. But right now is not the time to move on. We must remember, cry, and live with each other. Here is Orlando and this is what Orlando Strong means to me.

Grapefruits 

 

The boy that sits in the back of the class never says anything. I note his attendance by the flexing arms muscles. He came but never left the space within my head. I think about him sixteen hours later when I’m feeling lonely.

Would he climb into bed with me? No, probably not. Not even if he was single. His body and mine might inhabit the same room but not the same bed. Play dough can mold itself into a rock but it can never become an actual rock.3008888f770977e9ba0efe4bd7a4d634.jpg

I try to tell myself that this thought is unfair to my self-esteem. But the feeling of insecurity guides me to the bathroom mirror. I look in it and notice all the lumpy shadows. They gather beneath my chest and around my belly like an impenetrable ozone layer.

I sigh. They’ll never go away. Three months ago I began a new workout plan. Six days a week I’d push and pull weights in hope of transforming my body. The boulder-thick men at gay clubs garnered all the attention, and for once maybe that could be me.

Small grapefruits rolled down my arms whenever they bent down to pick up a pencil. I began to see changes but my dating life stayed the same. No one seemed to notice the grapefruit man.

This leads me to believe that no one cares about body image. The couple next door seems happy with one another. They hold hands despite his pregnant belly and her bloated hips. Love exists between humans and not within words.

I get up to look in the mirror. A different kind of man looks back. His gray skin glows beneath the bright lights. He wraps himself in a half-hearted smile. Tonight will be the best night ever.

I take myself out dancing. Twinkling lights spin around me like fairy dust. Hands pump up and down. A guy named Carlos dances two feet away. We close in the gap and feel happy.

My Voice

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Essay and Photo by BoyKitsch

I’m trying to find my voice in the bright green trees of Florida. It loves to swing off  one branch and onto another during the day. The woods sigh with delight because no one ever pays attention to them. At least not the neighborhood people.

They sit beside television sets inside of their apartments. I look up into open windows and find blue faces. A cold sensation spirals up my spine. The image reminds me of the curly-haired-boy who once watched Netflix for four hours in my apartment. He felt happy.

A blue light disappears from one of the windows, so I turn back to the trees. My voice rustles the leaves as it climbs higher. The ascension seems easy but that’s because I’m standing outside of the action. I know that when my voice returns it will tell me all about the trouble it got into.

It will tell me about the thug squirrels that hid inside a tree hole. They threatened to kill it if my voice wouldn’t give them a song. My voice shivered beneath sharp claws before  spitting out a rhyme that lifted up greedy paws and escaping to the branches below.

“Sometimes danger happens but that’s how we learn about the world around us,” I will tell it. It’ll stomp and pout around the trees because I never taught my voice patience. When it stops I’ll say, “But most people would rather live through the danger than watch someone else live through it.” It won’t understand and go back into the trees while I listen to the distant laugh of an informercial somewhere above.

 

 

A Completed Story

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I started calling myself a writer this year. It happened after completing a short story. The two paragraphs explained how an alcoholic journalist could reconcile his addiction with art. Instead of drinking to forget about the past he painted it. This led him to a community where people use art to make political statements. In the end, he uses them to become mayor of a small town in Orlando.

This story made me feel good, like it healed a wound or cooled a burn inside. My fingers stopped twitching throughout the day. A story laid behind them now. They could carry on with their daily tasks while I thought up new ideas. A planet called California that harbored an evil stepmother. Mermaids that ate pizza. These things I looked forwards to the same way a runner looks forward to their next marathon. I am a writer.

Junot Diaz on Writing (Well sort of)

Junot Diaz on writing (well sort of). Great pieces aren’t ready after one session of writing and if they are well praise be to you. One session means you haven’t enjoyed the adventure (I think.) Spending quality time with my characters and plots is truly a gift. I’ll try not to remember the imaginary awards of writing. Instead I’ll focus on the voice that comes from my papers.


You edit fiction for The Boston Review. What do you look for in a great short story? And what would make you want to immediately slip a story into the paper shredder?

Ha! Well, nothing calls for the paper shredder like a story that the writer clearly hasn’t sat on. A story that hasn’t been rewritten, or rewritten enough. So many writers that I encounter send their work in so soon. It shows, it really does. In the end all of us are subjective when it comes to what we’re reading for. As an editor you try to expand that, become a little bit wider, because you’re publishing for a readership larger than yourself. In the end what I’m looking for, which I think is what everyone looks for, is something that sings. More technically, something that is aesthetically beautiful and that challenges people’s sense of the form, and of the world that they live in. We all want to be arrested, to walk away turning over a good piece of fiction in our head. That’s my guide.

Ready, Set, Done

Today’s Daily Prompt was about anything I wanted to discuss. I chose a short-story by the looks of it. Please read, comment, and most of all enjoy. Oh, also subscribe!


She found me when no one else was looking. In the paper, three weeks back, the headline read DEATH BY POPULAR DEMAND. There were quizzical looks everywhere from the grocery store to the inside of college libraries. Neither man nor scholar could figure out what the title meant by first glance. So on they read.

The story told of a dead twenty-four year old boy and his ultimate demise. He wasn’t special by the looks of the newspaper photograph but the words on the outside spelled A-r-t-i-s-t. Five years of art school had instilled in him a kind of confidence not found in books. “He loved the world and so himself.” became a popular quote from the printed piece. The boy had said this to practically all the university professors.

It was a tragic story of how he was found on the fifteenth floor of the Heart Studio Apartments. Paint mixed with blood on a canvas that framed suicide. I think that’s when people decided to stop looking for me. Another artist gone too soon by his own doing.

“But I knew that you wouldn’t leave.” she said upon finding me. My consciousness was barely stable and so I thought her an angel. A real angel with fluffy wings when later I’d discover it was hair.

“They took you away because what you had to offer was something much bigger than a mural or scholarship. On your canvas was a theory of worlds. Universes hidden in bristles, disguised as brushes. I think you broke the laws of time. My dear sweet Amin.”

The Next Academy Award

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I can tell the day is still fresh even though I woke up late. The man in front of me, ordering a triple shot late, is without any wrinkles in his business suit. There’s something about him that’s different from the ones back home. The stripes on his back are bold thick black lines that glow with a grey outline. When he puts a hand in his pocket the pants hug a hard body.

He pays for the coffee. I pay and sit down to start my homework. Only two minutes later my eyes end up studying a couple in the corner of the cafe. I figure this is as good a time as any to daydream about my future.

I decided to enroll myself back into college but still am without a goal in mind. Like a trophy or Academy Award, maybe it’s easier to go through the motions of labor when there’s the possibility of a reward. Except, I’ve been in that frame of mind before and it got me nowhere. If anything I feel that this blog has reaped more possibilities out of my future than school ever has. I discovered newspapers that are looking for my point of view. I’ve opened up about myself for the good and bad, and I’ve learned more about myself.

So what do I want next? I want to finish school just to finish it. A bad grade can be a bad grade but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything. Don’t get me wrong I still care but it’s different than before. I don’t think school has all to offer. I have all to offer if I just keep trying. Maybe some people envision romance or a fancy suit for their futures but I want my writing.

“The Brief Life of BoyKitsch”

There’s something tough about writing a piece at home vs writing a piece not at home. Maybe it’s the condition of being alone. When there’s people around I find my thoughts navigating about the cafe, the park, people’s heads, and into the clouds where there’s a plethora of ideas. At home there’s just the roof. 


 

 

This week I’m reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz for a school discussion. Half way into the book and I find myself feeling for the character. I’m feeling pain, love, motivation, for the protagonist because I want him to live outside his state of mind. Depression is a condition that he has allowed himself to be put in. Then again there are so many variables in the story that allow to believe otherwise. 

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When I think of the “conditions” that have put myself here today there are feelings similar to that of which I feel for Oscar. It’s pains me to realize that maybe I give myself too much alone-time. Compared to my friends I would consider myself a hermit. Something I love about the story around me though is that I interact with imagination everyday. 

His hand crept up and down the bookshelf in search of the right inspiration. Cover after cover he heard the echoes of warriors, villains, and romantic beasts. However, after much consideration he allowed his attention to be directed to another story, the one on his computer waiting to be written. 

Writing is something I love to do. The motivation I have for writing though comes from all other outlets. For Oscar his inspiration comes from Sci-FI, games, amongst other nerdy things. Some of mine come from fashion, pop music, philosophy, and stories of pioneers. So while Oscar and I may be a little different or a little the same, reading the story has pushed me to take my life and read about it some more. So with that said I’ll be finishing my New York Story sometime next week. 

 

Charlie’s Confession

One day Charlie met his friend Parker at the downtown cafe, Petal. A once somebody’s-house turned business in the up and coming chic part of town, Petal promoted vegan meals with it’s overpriced coffee. Parker waited on the front porch dressed to the nines in a floral shirt from H&M matched with red slacks. Charlie considered his own outfit average besides the summer scarf that covered his shoulders.

“This place is amazing.” Parker exclaimed as soon as he walked into the cafe. “So chic, exactly the kind of place I want to own someday.” Charlie nodded although he disagreed. He knew his friend for two whole years and had never heard him express passion for a place like this: where people used recycled coffee cups, ate meatless lasagna, and were content with walking on fake wood floors.

The two walked up to the counter and ordered food from the cashier, whom gave them a table card and said it would be delivered when ready. Parker picked a table in a corner away from any of the other people. Above it hung portrait paintings by local artists.

“Isn’t this wild. Who would ever buy this crap?” Parker said, pointing to the art. Charlie thought he would but shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m surprised you ordered so quickly. Usually you’re so picky.” Charlie said, keeping his tone polite. “In fact, I’m surprised you chose this place at all.” Parker rolled his eyes.

“I trying to try new things.”  A server (the same cashier) came over and delivered their coffees. Parker took a sip that caused him to scrunch his nose. “And now I know that Green Tea is awful.” He pushed the cup away. “Anyways, how’ve you been Charlie. It’s been a while since we’ve actually talked. I remember the last time you were crying about some project, or something, that was overdue.”

Charlie bowed his head. He recalled the conversation three weeks back. He had come to Parker for consolation about missing the deadline on a writing project, a collection of five personally-written poems that were a week late. Parker had given no compassion but instead a calendar book.

“Did you ever finish those poems?”

“No,” Charlie said, his voice soft.  “I uh…dropped out…of college.” Parker’s lip pursed. Charlie held his breath. Parker opened his mouth when Charlie said,  “Now don’t be angry like you already are, just listen. I’m not the college type. Did you know that most graduates don’t get their dream job after college. The percentage is like high. Don’t speak yet. Let me finish, please? I also wasn’t happy. I wasn’t learning anything that made me feel fulfilled as a writer.”

“And what is that Charlie? A student doesn’t learn everything they need to know in one semester.”

“Three.” Charlie corrected. Parker let out a coughing noise before breaking eye contact. Charlie felt a pressure in the center of his stomach, like a trillion pebbles were blocking a hot geyser from shooting out his mouth.

“So what are you doing now with your time?” Parker said, eventually.

“I started a blog. It’s called Re-Crew and it’s about the multiple personalities I think I have. I tell different stories through the eyes of a dancer, a writer, a student, a father. It really allows me to be who I want to be.” Charlie took a sip of his coffee. “I already have fifty followers. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s enough to fill a small room.”

“That’s great, Charlie.” Parker said, so softly that his friend hadn’t heard anything.  “No, you know what that’s ridiculous.” Louder. “What kind of twenty-something-year-old gives up so soon on their future? You can’t just give up whenever you feel like it. You have to keep going and make no excuses for yourself. You have to plan for success. I bet you didn’t even use the calendar book.”

“I did try, Parker. I tried for three semesters and hated it. I didn’t like anything I was being taught so I decided to teach myself a lesson. Instead I started a blog where I can express myself and other people’s passions. That makes me happy. Why is it so inconceivable that I can learn something so important as that outside of college?”

Parker reached across the table and took his friend’s hand. “You sound like a crazy person.”

The food came.