Fiction, Personal, Writing

For Future Reference

Keisha-

Again: gorgeous. I hope you take yourself seriously as a writer because your work this semester has been stellar…I think I may have already told you that.

 

I swear I did not mean to abandon this blog for over two months. I have been really, really busy. I just finished up my writing class at the New School. Last night was our final class, and this was a part of the comment my professor wrote on my submission.  The last time she gave me such effusive praise, I posted a picture of it to my Instagram account. I’ve been thinking about her words all day: I hope you take yourself seriously as a writer because your work this semester has been stellar. I hope you take yourself seriously as a writer. Take yourself seriously. As a writer. Because your work this semester has been stellar. Your work this semester has been stellar. Stellar.

Pretty sure I’m going to enroll in the Advanced Fiction Workshop at the New School this summer.

Standard
Fiction, Writing

Excerpts (+ Housekeeping)

I love when I find these random, abandoned scraps of stories or failed writing exercises and I actually like them:

My first boyfriend had skin the color of parchment paper, with large reddish freckles painted across his nose and cheeks. His eyes were round and grey, his eyelashes brown and short and stubby.  He blinked slowly when he lied. My friends did not understand what I saw in him. We were sophomores in college, and he had already been arrested twice that year, once for drugs possession and the other, for public intoxication.  He’d left a party in Norfolk high on ecstasy and with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.  He took off his shirt and pissed on the sidewalk before he ever made it to his car.

He had another girlfriend at the university across the bay.  I saw her car parked across the street from my apartment complex for five nights in a row before she finally knocked on my door.  I knew it was her because the green and yellow plates were her school colors. When I opened the door, I expected her to throw acid on my face.  I shut my eyes and awaited the pain.  Instead, I heard her sob.  “You’re so pretty,” she said.

When I opened my eyes, she was just standing there, crying. She wore several heavy layers of mascara and the tears dripping over her nose led trails of soot down her face.  She wasn’t ugly.  We were about the same height, just over five feet.  Orville was only five six; he liked smaller girls.  She had rough coppery skin and wore a waist-length weave the same red-brown color as our boyfriend’s freckles.  Weaves weren’t as popular or as realistic back then, and I could see the lump of tracks around her crown. Her hands were tiny.  There was a slim gold band on her left ring finger.  She saw me look at it, and twisted it around and around.  Her hot pink nail polish was chipped.

“He promised,” she said.  “He promised we would get married after graduation.”

I said nothing.  She stopped crying at my silence.  It seemed to make her angry, that I had not reacted to this news.

“You’re wasting your time,” she said.

“Maybe,” I replied.  “Maybe we both are.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You think just because you live in this fancy apartment and go to this bougie school and your dad is a judge and your mom is an AKA—you think he’ll choose you?”

The fact that she knew these things about my parents made me flinch.  I knew nothing about her, except that my boyfriend was her boyfriend, too, and that she was standing outside my apartment yelling at me, with her makeup smeared all over her face and a fistful of tissues that she hadn’t used.

I held the door between us.  Maybe the acid was in her purse and she just hadn’t reached for it yet.

Continue reading

Standard
Fiction, Trinidad, Writing

Ode to Homemade Sorrel

You are sweeter than you know.  Special occasions and holidays only, so I waited for you all year.  Christmas was my favorite; Easter, a close second.

I clapped when your daughter tossed plastic packets of the dried crimson flowers into her basket at the West Indian food market.  It was always cold there, big drafty windows overlooking rows and rows of alien fruits: soursop, guava, chinet, pomerac. I played with the heart-shaped pomerac, felt its thin maroon skin give away under my probing fingers.  My mother yelled, but you laughed, like chimes in the wind.

The house was warm, though, as I watched you work.  Water, cinnamon, cloves. The only sound in the kitchen was the sound of bubbling liquid, pockets of air slipping and swirling in swift circles under the closed lid of the sauce pan.  I sat on my hands in anticipation.

“You must wait,” you told me.  I did not understand waiting. I wanted its spicy sweetness now.

“The flowers must steep overnight,” you said.  I sighed.

In the morning you were waiting for me, straining soggy bits of petals from the plum-colored liquid.  You made four bottles.  One for me, one for you, one for my mother, one for my sister.  A cup of sugar went into each bottle.  A dash of rum in yours and mine.  “Don’t tell your mother,” you whispered.  I crossed my heart and smiled.

I did not tell for years.  Easter came the week after your funeral.  I could not drink my mother’s sorrel because it didn’t taste the same.  I told her, “Grams put rum in hers.”  She replied, “You don’t need any rum!”  I only drink her sorrel now after I cut the sugar with an ounce of Old Oak.  She scowls when she sees me pouring rum into my cup, but she always asks for a splash of her own.  She knows it tastes better that way.

 

p.s.  I scheduled this post before I left for Spain. Today makes it eight years since my Grams passed.  I wrote this piece when I studied at the Writers Studio back in 2009. It’s one of my favorites.

Standard
Fiction, Writing

Notes on Writing

 

“I knew I was in trouble when I began dreaming of roses.

I’d see myself walking down Merrick Boulevard, past the Korean beauty supply, and the ninety-nine cent store,  the used bookstore, and the Chinese takeout joint, my arms full of sunset-colored roses. I smiled as people stared at the mound of vivid flowers I carried. A little boy with curly burnished brown hair scampered to me and threw his chubby arms around my knees. I leaned over to kiss his forehead, and the pile of roses tumbled from my arms. I saw all the roses fall, one by one, in a cascade of peach and pink and sweet yellow.  The boy helped me gather them again, and as he handed me the last one, I would awake, troubled and restless and unable to go back to sleep.”

 

Every once in a while, I find bits and scraps of old stories in my notebooks and journals, stashed away carelessly. I wrote the excerpt above on February 26, 2004 for my undergraduate creative writing workshop.  It was part of an assignment to write a story that began with the prompt:  “I knew I was in trouble when….”

I wrote a dozen pages about this girl, Grace, who has just graduated from college, and realizes that her high school boyfriend, with whom she had a powerful connection, is still in love with her.  Before she sees him for the first time, she gets all these signs from the Universe that she tries to dismiss– beginning with her dreams of roses. There’s some eye-twitching, his look-alike appears at her job, then his father calls to ask if she’s heard from him, when she hasn’t spoken to his parents or him in years.  It’s cute and silly and sad and I had a lot of fun writing it. Writing used to be what I did when I just wanted to have some fun.

For a while, writing became labor for me.  Getting just two pages was like carrying a 20-lb bag of charcoal two miles in dense July humidity.  (I have actually done this, and I thought I was going to die.  Or at least, I felt like my arms would be useless for a few weeks.)  I deleted more drafts and crumpled up more awkward paragraphs than I care to admit.

The words have been coming a bit more easily lately. I am not sure why this is, but I am grateful.  I started another section of the book I’ve been working on for years.  I like it. It’s different from what I’d written before, probably because am different.  I have more faith in myself as a writer.  Because of this, writing  is starting to become fun again!

I wish I had the vast blocks of free time that I had in college, when I could sit uninterrupted for twelve hours and do nothing at all except write. I would churn out a short story every week. Now I’m happy if I can write three pages during my lunch break at work.  These pages are small victories.

This book will be written through small victories.  Word by word.

It’s time.

Standard