Steel, Cinnamon and Petrichor

Date: 5th March, 2019
Edited: 6th March, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe meetup
Prompt: N/A <Did not use the prompt>

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The icy sound of water echoed throughout the space. Beneath the metronomic rhythm of the drip-drip-dripping, were two sets of breaths-

One, I knew by heart, regulated by the medulla, in and out, loud yet pathetic, through the mouth and not the nose, in and out, the hot air straining to move past diseased narrowed windpipes.

And the other- quite, slow, methodical, controlled. Deceptively so. The calm and careful excision of emotion speaking greater volumes for him.

In this murky darkness, I could still see.

Past the water, past the surface of clouded glass jar he kept himself in, I could see anger.

And I feared it.

Not because it was directed at me. Because it was directed at himself.

It was anger stemming from helplessness. From being able to do nothing. By having no control of his own life, by being unable to escape the glass prison so unfairly built around him by forces out of his control, he hated himself. He hated his very existence. It was like fire, but not hot, not burning, but cold, exuding no light, and quietly, painfully, privately, consuming him from the inside out.

The logical thing to do was to put the fire out. As human beings, we are masters of fire and nature. It should have been easy.

In this seemingly unending darkness, from outside the glass jar prison, I regaled to him the tale of an overcast gray sky, the blessed rain gently drizzling down to the earth and blessing all living things with respite from the harsh glare of the sun and leaving behind gifts of petrichor and muddy puddles. It is his favorite story, imbued with the soft minty taste of nostalgia and the almost effervescent scent of baking apple pies wafting about in between each and every raindrop.

CRACK!

The man behind the glass had slammed a fist against the prison wall. He hissed at me.

I was taken aback. Shocked.

The fire was then directed at me, a weapon with the purpose to hurt me.

He leapt and grabbed the words streaming from my mouth, his long fingernails ripping the story of the sky and rain into shreds. And then, he threw them at me. The shredded remains of words turned into tiny yet razor sharp shards of steel, giving me a million paper cuts upon contact with my fragile skin. The open wounds silently oozed with pain. The stinging sensation was shallow compared to the silence that followed.

And suddenly, it was just me in that space.

Me, the dripping of water and the heady metallic scent of steel.

But there was something else under that, the now overwhelmingly putrid smell of cinnamon and petrichor.

The cocktail of assaulting odors permeated past my nostrils, past mortal flesh and settled like a wound up poisonous serpent at the pit of my belly. One wrong move, one wrong thought, one wrong word, and that damned creature will strike at my insides. And then, my heart would stop, stilled by the venom created from that man.

And finally, I would be dead.

I looked around. And I looked harder, squinting my eyes into the darkness. Nothing. Nothing past the water. Nothing more. And then, listened. I listened hard, straining my ears into the silence. Just dripping water. My breathing. Nothing more.

I reached out into the gloom, a move of desperation, of wanting to confirm that this was my reality now. And my palm rested on something icy cold. The cloudy surface shone, absolutely brand new.

A glass jar prison just for me.

And that’s that.

It’s just me now.

Just me,

Steel, petrichor and cinnamon flavored tears drip-drip-dripping,

And the mess of what remains of us.

6th March, 2016
Writer’s Notes

It’s been a hard week. It’s been a hard week keeping myself together and trying to be positive and normal. In short, I am a right mess and am not okay. I understand the world doesn’t revolve around me. And I understand people will see this as something…edgy. A cry for attention maybe. Something worse maybe. And I understand that this isn’t a good piece of writing. Far from it really. I’m not happy with it at all.

But, it’s something. I’m trying. And that’s something. I’m not going to go into details about my sob story but part of my low patch in life is due to me feeling absolutely worthless, helpless and useless. It’s hard to fight against the voices that put you down in your head. I understand all of us struggle with that. But it’s so much more difficult when people you care about confirm that. And so, so difficult to know whatever you do, isn’t helping anyone.

So I write. It’s something I can do at least. Something that the voices in my head, as hard as they try, can’t take away from me fully.

I’m sorry about this piece. And I’m sorry for being weak and breaking down. Hopefully, this horrible darkness will pass soon and blue skies might be on the horizon.

Until next time,
The Writing Borb

PS: A lot of this was inspired by a friend telling me about Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar and stuff I’ve written before (but I don’t think I’ll be putting here because that’s still processing and being edited).

She Wrote in Red Pen

Date: 12th February, 2019
Edited: 14th February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe meetup
Prompt: She wrote with red pen

WARNING: Mentions of suicide

“Dear Bro, Mum and Dad,
Emma, Rose and Chad.
It’s me, the magnificent Jen,”
Jennifer wrote in bold red pen.

“I’m writing today
‘Cuz I want to say
Something that is really quite grand,”
Continued Jen in bright red pen.

“I do understand-
Might not be a fan,
Might totally mess up your zen,”
Jen scribbled in vivid red pen.

“But I must come clean,
No lies in between.
I’m gay- I’ve known since I was ten,”
She wrote shakily in stark red pen.

“It’s because of that
I deeply regret
I’m not madly in love with Sven,”
Jen scrawled messily in red pen.

“I’m sorry I lied
But I really tried
To pray away the gay, amen,”
She cried guiltily in red pen.

“Disappointment and,
Disapproval and…
You all will turn on me even,”
She wept, grieving deeply in red pen.

“I cannot face this.
I’d rather give into bliss,
Run into Death, arms wide open,”
She committed in sharp red pen.

“So goodbye to you.
Fam and friends, adieu.
Signing off, for the last time, Jen.”
Here, blood from her own red ink pen.

I clutch in my hand
The last of my friend.
Jen, I hope you will be the last
To write tragedy in red pen.

14th February, 2019
Writer’s Notes:

The night prior to writing this poem, I read a suicide letter written by a trans girl- she was 17 when she took her life. If you would like to read it (although, I must warn you, dear readers, it is a heavy and tragic read) you may click here. It put me in a somber mood, the kind that makes the world look gray and dark, where light could do little but illuminate the depravity of humanity just enough so that people could see just how horrible we as a species could be. It’s even more hard hitting when I have loved ones who are transgender and/or part of the LGBT community. (Not saying that trans issues are the same as those of the gay or other gender/ sexuality spectrum)

I carried those feelings through the night and into the day and into the writers cafe meetup. I’ve always used poetry as a method to deal with these thoughts and emotions, the words acting like an anchor, the rhymes and constraints acting like walls of a psych office and the act of writing, spilling feeling into reality where I can look at it and make peace with my insides. I was quite scared to share this piece to the others but I’m humbled and happy that those in attendance were respectful and appreciative of my work, the message I wished to send and my feelings embedded in the words.

I call out to those reading this far to please, stand by your loved ones and keep them close. Keep them safe. Let them know that you love them. No matter what identity they have, whether it be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, pansexual… or from other various minority groups… or hell, even if they’re different from others in whatever way. If you love them, accept them. Love them. And maybe, things will get better. The world will get better. I hope that people, in the future, don’t have to feel so alone, so trapped, so hopeless, that they end their own lives.

Until next time,
The Writing Borb

PS: Thanks to Snitchcat who said my poetry reminded them of Dr. Seuss and Edgar Allan Poe. I love those two writers to pieces so being compared to them was an absolute honor.

Afternoon Tea with Time and Death

Date: 5th February, 2019
Edited: 6th February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe meetup
Prompt: Purpose

Time met Death one starry afternoon. Just two old friends coming together to chat over tea and biscuits.

“You made the biscuits too dry again,” Death complained, the crumbs falling from his long spidery dead fingers. “Did you put sand in them again?”

“The recipe called for it,” Time groused, “They’re sablé cookies.”

Sand cookies,” Death countered, throwing away the crummy cookie into the void below them, “ I don’t want your sand in my insides. Disgusting.”

“I’ll tell your mother,” Time lifted his teacup and with his pinky outstretched he jabbed it in Death’s direction threateningly.

“Mother Nature isn’t my mother. I was adopted and you know it,” Death scowled at Time, or at least if he had a face, he would be scowling.

“Semantics. We’re still your parents,” Father Time waved Death off dismissively, more sand falling from his skin and onto the mountain of cookies on the table.

No chance Death would be eating anymore of those cookies.

“Colleagues,” Death deadpanned, sipping his tea aggressively.

“Nonsense, we’re family.”

“We’re unfortunately gifted individuals stuck in the same space.”

“Now you’re just saying things,” Time picked up another biscuit delicately between two sandy fingers and held it out for Death to take. “We’ve known each other for ah… a few hundred millennia?”

Death pushed away the hand that offered the unappetising cookie, his blackened fingertips hissing upon contact and sputtering out steam up into the aether and past the stars. “We’ve known each other for forever, Time.”

“Well, there you have it!” Time was unrelenting, pushing the cookie forward into Death’s angrily hissing hand.

“No, Time.” More crumbs joined their previously fallen brethren into the unending dark abyss below.

“Just take the damned cookie, Greg.” It was Time’s turn to hiss, the sound of pissed-off snakes rising from underneath his sandy flesh.

“We don’t use that name anymore, Time!”

And there was a resounding smack! The sound echoed throughout space and beyond, reaching past the cosmos into somewhere unknown where someone somewhere out there might hear it. And as for the cookie- it fell. It fell from Time’s hand like a falling star, warm, bright and yellow, falling starkly into the darkness… becoming a smaller speck each passing nanosecond…smaller…and smaller…until it was gone.

Time withdrew.

The hissing stopped on both sides.

Death sat up straighter, assumed a more poised position, and very delicately picked up his porcelain teacup. “I have no idea why I still come to these meetings.” Death tipped back the teacup and the tea was icy cold. Just like him.

“Love needs no purpose, Greg.”

Death groaned, a pitiful exasperated sound. “Death.”

“Greg…”

Death.” His teacup hit the saucer forcefully, the sound like ice breaking under the blade of a chisel.

“De…Death,” Time continued, “We come together because of love.”

“Bull,” Death gritted out, “I’d love to set his cherubic arse on fire if I ever see him again.” Death turned away.

“No I will not allow you to do that to Love, Gre- Death,” Time sternly wagged his finger at Death.

“The humans have softened you,” Death suddenly said, still refusing to face Time, “Time has no meaning to them anymore.”

“Until you come in, Death. I have meaning as long as we’re together.”

“Moocher,” Death said accusingly, huffing cold air into the aether.

“A friend,” Time persisted, sipping the last of his cold-as-Death tea.

Death grunted and then, there was a pause. Silence between them. It didn’t last for very long.

“So…”

“So…?”

“Same time next week?” Death dusted the biscuit crumbs off his robe.

“Of course,” Time replied, “No more dry biscuits.”

“You say that every time.”

6th February, 2019
Writer’s Notes:

I wanted to try writing something fun this week. Fun and somewhat nonsensical. When I got the rather serious prompt of “purpose” I was a little bit discouraged at first but I decided to stick with it. My mind during brainstorming went up and beyond past reality and into the metaphysical and abstract and I somehow had the idea to have Time and Death’s personifications chat over tea and biscuits. Because why not? I also viewed this as an exercise of writing mostly dialogue and developing different characters on the fly. It was difficult but still, rather fun.

Sergei’s People

Date: 28th January, 2019
Edited: 1st February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe
Prompt: Take a news article and spin a story from it. I chose this.

A cozy living room. Warm yellow lights. Old, worn, yet comfortable armchairs. This was the scene that greeted me when Sergei welcomed me into his humble 1-bedroom apartment. To be honest, I was expecting his choice of home decor to be a lot more…eccentric given his art.

I initially emailed Sergei back in March when i first saw his works. I thought getting his er…unique…thoughts would make a good story to cover on my blog. He hasn’t replied until a week ago. It was then I found out that he had just moved into the city where I currently live in. He not only agreed to answer my questions, but he also agreed to be interviewed. In person.

“So, Mr Sergei-”

“Bah. Just Sergei.” His accent was strong. European. Not French. Not Spanish. Something vaguely Eastern. “You make me sound old with…ah…mister.”

“Sergei then,” I relented easily with my best people-pleaser smile, “ What brings you to XXXXX?”

“The mannequins,” the certainly old and balding man replied.

Of course. It had to be the mannequins. His entire Facebook gallery could be summarized and labeled with the word “MANNEQUINS”- filled with thousands of pictures of pale plastic skinned people with lifeless expressions in various states of dress and undress. They weren’t even crappy photos. They were taken methodically, from different angles, using different lenses and filters and settings to bring out different effects in the images. Everything around the mannequins looked fantastic, sharpened to extreme detail or brushed over with the blur or gaussian tool to create washes of color that resembled that of watercolor paintings.

But then, there were the mannequins in the photos.

Cold. Frozen. Lifeless.

Greyed out like statues fading from existence but somehow, commanding the attention of the onlooker. To notice them. To look at them. Look them straight in the eye…or where they’re supposed to have eyes and finally acknowledge their existence.

I found the entire thing unnerving. And I wasn’t the only one with these feelings online.

“Why the mannequins, Sergei?” I asked the old artist, my smile unchanging.

“Because they are lonely,” he answered, lacing old spotty sinewy fingers together.

I was not expecting the sentimental angle from him.

“Why do you say so?”

“Because…I…I was lonely,” he smiled back at me, “I understand mannequins. They speak to Sergei. I help them be noticed. They help me. No more lonely.”

It was then I looked around the living room again. The walls were devoid of picture frames. There were no shelves bearing knickknacks collected over the years. Just these two comfy armchairs, some cushions and a coffee table. And on that coffee table, was a single photo in a beat up wooden frame. A colored photograph with a slightly younger looking Sergei posing for the picture with an old woman wearing a striking purple dress.

Oh.

“Come,” he suddenly said, standing up, “I help you understand. Then, you let people understand. Yes?”

I stood up and followed in his tottering footsteps into a side room. Sergei turned on the lights. All the mannequins, in various states of dress and undress, and one wearing a striking purple dress, stared back.

6th February, 2019
Writer’s Notes:

Writing this piece was both incredibly fun for me but also very conflicting. The news article (linked above in the prompt) put me through a sequence of feelings. First I was creeped out, then I became even more unnerved, and then, it suddenly made me feel bad about being creeped out. The artist in the article was really passionate and earnest about the message he’s trying to send to whoever looks at his art pieces. I can totally relate to that. I write a bunch of weird things and have a lot of weird ideas and I’m scared about people judging them (even though I really shouldn’t be!). So yes, I felt bad.

I respect the artist and his passion but the bottom line is- I still am creeped out by mannequins. I can’t help it!

So this is what this story became, the twists and turns of my feelings translated into fiction and personified in the journalist character. As for that ending… I still love meself some supernatural horror. 🙂

I might continue this in the future so look out for more from this Journalist fellow!

Until next time,
The Writing Borb

Born Thrice, Died Twice

Date: 22nd January, 2019
Edited: 1st February, 2019

Written at the Writers Cafe meetup
Prompt: I am a zombie but I can still think.

The girl was born on Christmas Eve. It was decidedly not a “Very Merry Christmas” for her parents that year. Her mother spent 8 agonizing hours in labor while her father, late as always, spent 2 of those hours having the bones in his left hand ground to dust doing his job holding the mama-to-be’s hand.

People say the girl is a Christmas miracle but really, the real miracle was being able to pay the rent and bills on top of the expenses that come with having a newborn baby.

Faith’s life has always been defined by the mighty dollar. Mama and Papa made sure of that, dressing her in modest and neat skirts and blouses to always look presentable and putting books into her hands instead of toys.

“Be presentable and study hard. You’ll be a doctor one day and earn lots of money.”

The clothes, the books and the schooling seemed to be only luxuries this small family could afford. Everything else was minimal, cramped and frugal- fitting three generations of this family into a tiny apartment. Faith could see that and had been told so over and over again. She was an investment. It was clear and she understood. This was why as a child, Faith had no choice but to bury her hopes, her dreams, herself…and she died an obedient premature death.

Middle school.

A time for changes to happen.

The grave Faith had dug and so neatly covered up years ago had been disturbed by the unquestionable and inevitable force that was “puberty”.

She rose from that grave- awake for the first time in years.

Her rising wasn’t pretty.
She didn’t feel pretty.
And it hurt.
Being alive hurt.
Being awake hurt.
Knowing hurt.

She was something grotesque, inside and out. Spending multiple years in a grave would do that to a person. The rot had spread everywhere. It was inescapable. Not one inch of her skin was spared. It had spread past her skin, seeped into her innards, coating tendons and muscles and nerves and her brain in this sickness only she could see and feel. (Or was it even a secret? Who else knew?)

She was in a manner of speaking, a social zombie- this outsider, outlier, this mistake of a human being, staggering through life at a snail’s pace in pursuit of the mighty dollar because that’s all she can do.

But this zombie could still think- “Please, please, end me.”

Faith was spending the night alone in her college dorm like she always does. She didn’t have much of a reason to go out and party. Much less, spend time with friends. She was here to fulfil her role after all. Even as a social zombie, she had successfully fooled the system, pretending to be the right kind of human, the human she was born to be- a put together elegant woman, quiet, reserved, but not so much to not be a doormat and to be pleasing to others on a surface level. She had years of practice after all with nothing else to take her attention.

But Faith had peeked past the veil during her travels to adulthood. She had seen what lies on the other side- or at least, a possibility of it. So Faith, very quietly, so as not to disturb or alert anyone- not her parents, not her siblings, not her acquaintances- and walked willingly back into the empty grave once more. And this time, Faith knew it would be the last time- she had faith in what comes after.

Today, he has a garden.

A magnificent one. In the middle of April, tulips of every color from the spectrum of the rainbow would bloom and spill out from behind the white picket fence and into his neighbors’ yards (they certainly don’t mind). The garden is the envy of the neighborhood. He deserves it. They deserve it. He never worked alone on his beloved plants. He was always with a friend, his partner, his children.

And together, they are happy.

6th February, 2019
Writer’s notes:

Honestly, writing stories like this makes me nervous. I just have no confidence writing using the voices of other people- especially those from minority groups that I definitely do not belong to. Mainly because I don’t feel like I’m giving these voices justice. But I think, stories like this, especially those with happy endings, need to be told. I decided to write this piece because I personally have friends who are trans and from the LGBT community in general and quite a few of them can’t see themselves having happy futures.

In terms of writing… I’m not particularly happy with this piece. I think I can add more to it and describe the journey Faith has to being his true self in more detail but I ran out of time. Actually taking that leap of faith (ha, see what I did there) to making a change in your identity and in turn, your life, is a HUGE undertaking. It’s rife with perils and pitfalls and people WILL go against you, even people that you care about and have cared about you. It is the unfortunate truth. I wish to write more of this topic in the future AND give hope for a happy ending… but that would mean more confidence from me and a loooot more research and talking with people. Perhaps I’ll try again once I’ve done so.

Cheers to all you guys at the Writers’ Cafe that week. It had been a while since I last attended but I felt at ease and slid right back into the routine. Thank you all of you and it was really educational and amazing to hear your stories as well.

Until next time,
The Writing Borb