The sun beat down at the back of his neck. He once asked for a hat, but his captor, who he was told to call “Boss”, simply roared with laughter. The markings he made at the back of the barn told him he’d been there forty days. Boss would check on him soon, and if he counted only sixteen buckets of grapes, there’d be no dinner.
He made his way down a stretch of vines, dragging a bucket with him. Every other day, a car would pass down the road that split up the fields. He thought about running to them many times. He could wave his arms and muster something in English. He knew “help” and “please”. Perhaps they would understand. Yet, his reflection in the pond made him believe they would not stop.
Suddenly, a bang. He looked up and saw a truck roll towards the side of the road, tire flapping against the ground. He continued snipping grapes off the vine in his hand as a man got out of the car, kicking the door shut. He could see the man making his way over at the corner of his eye.
He did not know what to do other than nod.
“Looks like I got myself a flat. You happen to have a spare?”
He gulped, searching for the right words. This was his chance. How could he explain?
Before he could attempt an answer, footsteps caused them both to turn. Boss approached them with a smile.
“Hello there. Something the matter?”
He had lost his chance.
The man tipped his cap. “No, sir. Just a flat is all. Wondering if ya’ll could help.”
He became aware of the thumping in his chest as Boss turned to him. “You heard him, boy. Run along and see if we gotta spare.”
“Well, actually,” the man remarked. “Was wondering if you could take me into town. I got an appointment I’m late for, so I’ll come for the truck later.”
Boss paused. “Sure thing. Just gotta grab my keys.”
The keys were always kept in a hidden place so he could not escape. Boss threatened him with a look before making his way to the house.
The man grabbed a leaf from a vine. “Such beautiful plants. Grapes any good?” He pulled out a pocket knife. “My wife and I sure love wine.” The man handed him the leaf and knife. “Drink it just about every night with dinner.”
He stared for a moment before realizing the man’s intentions. His hand shook as he put the knife to the leaf, trying hard to carve the letters: H… E…
“Now I prefer red myself,” the man continued. “But the missus loves white.”
He could hear Boss open the door.
The man grabbed them from his hand and stuck them in his pocket. Boss jingled the keys in the air. “Right this way, sir.”
He watched them get into the car. Its rumble echoed into the long, desolate highway, twisting like the grapevines around him.
At first, she was too distracted by the ornate furniture to sense she was being watched. Eventually, the ominous silence of a large house began swallowing her whole. There were too many rooms to count, yet she became determined to search them all. No doors were shut, but there were plenty of corners someone could hide.
Someone was there. Someone was watching.
She felt more positive about that than anything. She ran through the house, losing more of her breath with every step. Yet, room after room, she found no one.
She refused to question herself. She wanted so badly to deem it paranoia, then bury herself beneath a blanket to fall asleep. However, she could not shake the weight upon her spine, the hairs standing at the back of her neck, and her heart thumping within her chest.
Someone was watching.
She had checked all the rooms, so how? Was there one she had forgotten? Or…
She looked out, and saw only darkness against her own reflection. If someone was on the other side, she could not see them.
She closed the curtains. All of them. In every room and every corner, she shut them all. She stood still after the last of the windows, panting heavily as she absorbed the air around her.
It didn’t work. Someone was still watching.
If there was no one in the house, and all the curtains shut, how could someone be watching? She thought and thought, the wheels in her head spinning as fast as the thumping of her heart.
She began to panic, glancing at every corner of the ceiling. Where would they be? She threw books off shelves and paintings off walls. She checked for bulbs in every lamp and broke every figurine. With every chair turned and every rug lifted, she became more and more aware of her madness.
She collapsed in the center of the main room, where two large seats sat opposite a fireplace. The fireplace was cold with ashes and the chandelier that provided light was eerily still. The only sign of movement was the flickering of a candle on the mantel. For some reason, the light being on frightened her even more.
She switched it off.
For a moment, the darkness seemed to make it all go away. The silence was almost calming and the beat of her heart was quieter.
Then, she spotted something behind the candle’s flickering light. Could it be? Yes, it was. How did she not see it before?
She inched towards the candle, forcing her eyes to make out what her mind believed.
There it was. A face. A face etched in the wall, made of stone. The white, stone walls were divided into tiles, and here, one had been carved into a face.
No, two. Just a few tiles above the first, was another.
As she began to look deeper, more and more faces appeared upon the walls.
They were watching. Watching. With no sense of shame at all, they stared. She willed them to stop, but they refused to blink.
Their stillness was enough to make her victim to her frenzy.
She rushed towards the door, only to find it gone. The windows had disappeared. In their place were nothing but white, stone walls, and the many faces staring back.
She screamed. Her hand flipped the light switch, but it only made the walls grow towards the center.
Who was behind them? Who was watching?
She would break the walls. She grabbed a fire iron, but the metal turned to dust in her hands. Silence became a ringing in her ears, and as she stared back at the first face discovered, the flickering of the flame shrunk into darkness.
I know. It’s been a long time since I posted but I have a solid reason for it, I swear. I’m officially 25 pages into my second book! It’s not a whole lot but hey, it’s a start. (I’m also working on an 8.5x11 document so it’ll end up equating to 40 pages or so.) I completed rough image renderings of the characters today, and can’t wait to begin painting. Not only are they as abstract as the illustrations from Wounded Wisteria, they’re more intricate and revealing. I was extremely insecure during the illustration process of my first book, as I never considered myself an artist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to hire an illustrator, so I was forced to create them myself with a children’s watercolor set from Target. True story.
When the book was published, I received more comments about the illustrations than the text itself. The whole experience was basically me screaming “Hey, I just wrote an entire book in verse!” and everyone else going “Okay cool but we really like this bird with the monocle!” Funny how that works. And while I still criticize my own art sometimes, these results made me realize how silly it was that I was afraid to share it. Sure, I probably could have had better illustrations by hiring someone, but they wouldn’t have been mine.
I am so glad I was too broke to find an illustrator. I’m even more glad my already-too-generous mother didn’t offer me extra money to hire one. Most of all, I’m glad the obstacle pushed me to create the art myself instead of not doing it at all. I’ve learned my lesson, and when this second book gets published, I’ll be sure to not chicken out on including an “Illustrated By”. Not only am I no longer afraid to share my artwork, I’m excited to, because they’re part of a story that I want to tell.
And yes, I’m still using the same watercolor set.
i’m a little too dark for your taste
a bit too much snark for your ways
you assume i care what you preach
you pretend to be nice and
but heat rises,
and soon i’ll be out of reach
i’m too hot-headed, too brash
my callous words can cut glass
i don’t deserve freedom of speech
yet if i listened to your criticizes
how would i build my enterprises?
from what i recall, heat rises,
and soon i’ll be out of reach
for every point i get, you get ten
i must learn to raise my hand
for it’s rude when you’re trying to teach
oh i’m sorry, didn’t realize my crisis
could be solved by your wiseness
thank goodness heat rises,
and soon i’ll be out of reach
i walk too fast and talk too much
i should develop a softer touch
it makes me more likeable, you see
go on, deem my traits as vices
just don’t claim any surprises
when heat rises,
and i become out of reach
It’s kind of like this:
You hear a pounding, and you look over, and they’re setting up camp.
So you shout, “Excuse me! EXCUSE ME!”
They stop to look at you.
“You can’t pitch your tent here,” you say.
“Why not?” they ask.
“It’s my property and there’s no camping here."
They ignore you and continue pounding stakes into the soft ground.
“EXCUSE ME. I said there’s no camping here!”
“Look, it’ll only be a few days.”
They’re starting to get on your nerves now.
“It doesn’t matter. This isn’t your property. It’s mine. And I’m saying you can’t camp out here.”
They start to build a fire.
“Are you serious right now?”
Their nonchalance makes your blood boil. The way they act like what you want means nothing at all. You’re just another hurdle to jump over. They own everything in the world, according to them.
You begin knocking their tent down.
“I… said… no… CAMPING!”
“That’s fine,” they say. “It’s a nice night. I can sleep out here by the fire.”
You stomp on the flame they've managed to create.
“Why do you have such a problem with me?” they ask.
“Because you don’t belong here,” you reply. “You’re not supposed to be here. You’re never supposed to be here. So take your sticks and go build a fire somewhere else.”
“You have a lot of room here. Why can’t I stay here for a bit?”
“Somebody else might want to stay here and if they come and see you here, they’ll leave. And maybe I don’t want them to leave. Maybe I’d rather them be here than you.”
“Wow,” they say. “That’s harsh. Why does it matter who camps here and who doesn’t?”
“Because,” you say. “This is my mind. I say who’s allowed to be in it and who isn’t.”
“Well,” they say. “Doesn’t seem to work that way, does it?”
They stop for a moment, then suggest in a tone that is almost insulting, “Tell you what. I’ll rest back here. So whoever comes along can camp wherever they want over there.”
They move their tent back, and begin to build a new fire. You don’t know what to say anymore. You can’t argue with that. You’re too tired and just want to pitch your own tent and rest somewhere. So you let them stay. And it works out fine, you suppose. Nobody seems to mind them being there as they camp inside your head. You almost forget they’re there.
Except, every once in a while, you’ll peek over… and there they’ll be, roasting marshmallows.
A regular March day
going out to play
I walk towards
the playground games
But why is everyone
looking at me?
I’m just acting
normal as can be
With the red ribbon
in my hair
and the backpack
shaped like a bear
Shiny white shoes
with blue laces
I only wear them
for special cases
A cute pink dress
with bumble bees
So why is everyone
looking at me?
she is an elephant, she is a mouse
her heart plays with dolls when she’s wearing a blouse
she is a bird, she is a worm
the guilt is tremendous when she’s being firm
she is a wolf, she is a deer
she tramples through forests, living in fear
she is a shark, she is a seal
they doubt whether she’s the real deal
she is a peacock, she is a crow
she feels beautiful ‘til others say no
she is a hound, she is a fox
they think her friendly before hearing her mocks
she is a butterfly in its cocoon
hoping its wings will develop soon
she is a woman, she is a girl
her heart plays with dolls when she’s wearing pearls
she is a mouse, she is an elephant
she can do anything when she’s in her element
she is a worm, she is a bird
she is the one who gets the last word
she thinks like a deer and dreams like a wolf
despite her fears, she always finds hope
she swims like a seal, hunts like a shark
the power of her bite confirms her bark
she’s told she’s a crow, but she’s a peacock
she is beautiful no matter the talk
she plays like a fox and loves like a hound
she teases but she’s the most loyal around
she’s a cocoon, nearly butterfly
her intricate wings emerging with time
she may be a girl, but she is a woman
she wears heels to the fight ‘cause they keep her from running
They did not know each other at all.
Technically, they’ve known each other for half their lives. Yet truthfully, as we are aiming for truth, they were strangers. When two people know each other when they are young, then briefly separate in the time that they grow old, they become strangers.
That is what they told themselves every morning after having had a dream about the other.
The dreams meant nothing. At least, that is what they said.
One of them was better at denying it than the other, carrying only a sliver of curiosity while the other was often driven mad.
Until one day, a knock.
It seemed the one driven mad could be driven mad no more, for she was on the other’s doorstep.
When the door opened, she was proven right. They were strangers.
The man that stood there was not the boy she knew.
In fact, the man that stood there was so unfamiliar, she found him rather frightening.
Just as she was about to apologize and walk away, he went ahead and said, “You’ve been having them too.”
And there he was. There he was all along.
Her heart swelled so much she felt as though it would not fit through the doorway as he stood aside to let her in.
My week was full of magical happenings and I can't help but think this played some part. I also got SO MUCH DONE (which caused a lot of stress and frustration at times). However, by the end of the week I had that awesome moment where you just collapse onto your bed, proud of everything you've just accomplished.