A Japanese Tanka
Left and right, left right,
The tall grass brushes my knees,
Left and right, left right,
It tickles my skin softly,
As I skip ever slowly.
In this piece, I had to relate my life to a song, so I picked Grace Kelly, by Mika.
It was bound to happen: the moment I snapped. Like a bull tired of being teased by the matador in a ring surrounded by crowds against it: my vision went from colour to red alone. I remember it so clearly, the day the last straw was added to the camel’s back. When I arrived in America six years ago, I was sure I had the right mindset to make friends and keep them: a feat I’d never been able to sustain before. I joined a choir, believing that people that sang in a choir would be kind and easier to get along with.
Two notes: Filtering is bad, and choir people are mouthy for a reason. “Aww! She sounds so cute!” came a chorus of reactions whenever I asked our instructor to repeat a few notes on the piano (pun intended). That was the first lance in this bull’s hide. “So like, I guess you’re a big Beatles fan?” was the second lance; I only know the songs ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘Twist and Shout’. The third and final was when three sopranos asked me to join them for lunch, which simply turned into a show-and-tell. “She says things really weird, it’s so cute.” “Say that thing again.” I humoured them, but after that lunch, they never invited me again.
I became ‘British’ instead of ‘Gabby’. Nobody wanted to know more about me as a person. I hated being asked questions about England, I’ve never even lived there! I grew up in the Middle East and consider myself Arabic more than anything else… something nobody ever learned about me. Forget the Beatles, I like to listen to belly-dancing music, Mosque singing and Arabic instrumentals.
When the third lance was driven into this once, passive beast, I knew then I would never go back. “Do I look like a doll with a damn string to pull at the back?!” I remember telling anyone that asked me to say ‘funny British words’. “No, -YOU- sound funny!” “Pay me first, then I’ll think about being your little side-show act!” Oh, the sass! Oh, the freedom! This bull was on a rampage, sparing nobody in its path!
“I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky, I could be hurtful, I could be purple, I could be anything you like. Gotta’ be green, gotta’ be mean, gotta’ be everything more. Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you like me? Why don’t you walk out the door!” These are lyrics from Grace Kelly, by Mika. It portrays the excessive change someone can go through to make them appeal to others. But when you mold yourself to try and make other people like you, and it still isn’t good enough, that’s when you cast your middle-most fingers to the sky and kiss them goodbye!
Nobody I’ve met so far in America has ever guessed that I am actually Half American. My accent is still so strongly British that it’s almost crazy to imagine my father is from North Carolina. In my younger days, I didn’t really know what an American was. To me, my dad just had a really, really funny British accent. Overseas, when we think about the land of freedom and soaring eagles, we think of either Texas or Hollywood (exclusively those two).
Americans were either jolly, plump-bellied, gun-slinging cowboys, or dolled-up Kens and Barbies. Their depictions were solely found on the television screen, so I didn’t realize America actually existed. All the stories that came from the country itself sounded far too magical to ever be true.
“In America, everyone has a pony.” “In America, everyone is really rich.” “In America, everyone is happy and kind to eachother.” I think everyone, back then, was still in the belief that America was the wild west, but that might have just been what the kids were interested in learning about when I was younger. I was awe-struck when I came to realize that this country was real, and believed I would never, ever, get to see such a wonderland (as it had been described to me).
It turns out, not everyone received the same mental-image when it came to America. Most of the popular children were patriotic Brits to the very core. Our History teacher, Mister Bannister, was a babbling buffoon; he once made a side-remark related to American Idiocy and World Wars: I think that’s where the fad started.
I was quickly singled out. My name was changed (by them) from Gabby to ‘Yank’. What’s a Yank? I thought to myself. I had a very thick, Yorkshirian accent and knew nothing about America, but I was still treated like an alien. No longer did people want to sit with me; I lost many people I once thought of as friends… all because of a silly trend.
A few of the most memorable moments of being picked on by the ‘cool kids’ was having hamburgers thrown at me. “Eat Yank, Eat! That’s what Americans like to do!” Similarly, and perhaps alarmingly, my South African biology teacher got involved, “I bet Gabby eats five times more for breakfast than all of us, because she has American blood in her.” He said. Imagine hearing that as a self-conscious eleven-year-old girl?
I had to be taken out of the British School and put into an American School. It wasn’t much different though. “Can you say wah-tur?” “Why do you say tah-co? It’s Toh-co!” “You sound so funny!” I remember my American co-students saying. I couldn’t escape it, no matter where I went.
Being different taught me patience: it taught me how to feel numb to whatever negativity is thrown my way. Someone is -always- going through something; people are always judging, even if silently in their heads. When I look back, I think I should have just embraced who I was and went on my merry way instead of dwelling over it and running from bullies. If I had then, the knowledge that I have now, I would have simply stood my ground.
Because of my experiences, however: I am immune to that sad feeling that people often associate with criticism. I’ve heard it all and I can happily digest any critique (hopefully constructive) that is made upon me or my work; instead of getting upset or putting myself down, I’d sooner take a deep breath and figure out my next steps to improvement. This is a motto I live by for now and forever.
“Will it just be the six pack and the dark chocolate?” The store owner asks, moving the scanner toward the two items.
“Mmhm, movie night for one.” She replies.
“Beats workin’ ‘till 3am.” He refrains the scanner from the six pack, then looks at the woman. She stares back. “ID?”
She laughs, “You trying to get cheeky with me, young man?” Whilst asking, her hands move to sit on her hips.
“You don’t look a day past eighteen.” He responds, yet still refuses to scan her alcohol. Silence falls between them, the woman taps her long nails on the desk.
“You’re joking right?” Her laughing stops. “You can’t see the wrinkles?”
“Wrinkles? What wrinkles?” He says, setting his scanner back down on its holster.
“Heh, alright… Joke’s over. I’ve got lasagna in the oven at home waiting for me.” She waves her hand, dismissive to the façade.
“I can’t sell you this alcohol without an ID, store rules.”
“I understand that you’re trying to flatter me, but for goodness sakes, I was born in the seventies!” With her raised voice, the store owner backs away by a step and reaches for the phone on the wall. “Are you serious!? I’m graying and I’ve got whiskers in places a young lady shouldn’t have whiskers!”
“It is my right to refuse service; your yelling is threatening to me, I am beginning to feel unsafe.” He slowly removes the phone from the wall. “This can all be solved if you show me your ID.”
“I left it at home, can’t you see I’m wearing my comfies? This is absolutely bizarre, I haven’t had to show my ID since I was in my early thirties!” The woman throws the chocolate bar onto the table and turns to exit.
“Well, that didn’t go accordingly to plan.” Murmurs the shop owner.
“You’re not supposed to wait until she gives you the ID, idiot. You have to make her feel young, and then give her the alcohol anyway.” Comes the voice of a janitor in a nearby aisle.
Of all the words that could have started my day out, today it was the word ‘shit’. In my groggy state, I couldn’t comprehend much, but that all came to an end when my body thrusts forward, only to be restrained by a damp seat-belt. The whiplash lasted but few moments; once I was out of my daze, I gradually took in my surroundings and pieced my thoughts together.
“Am-ber?” I call out, though apparently at a low decibel. My ears felt warm, tingly, and itchy all at the same time. With a clammy hand, I go to scratch my right lobe, only to find a cotton wad sticking out of my hearing canal. Once both were removed, I focused less on myself and more on what the heck was going on.
I sat in the passenger seat of a disheveled little car, a car which I don’t remember ever getting into. A shirt three times too large for me adorns my small, feminine torso. Some kind of baseball team uniform. I must have ruined my own clothes at the party; I could only hope I was being driven home by some kind gent.
“Ain’t worth it, go!” Whispers a frantic voice in the backseat. Before I even had the chance to look around to see who was driving, two car doors swing open and a black leather toiletry bag is thrown down in my lap. They didn’t even bother to close the doors behind them, as they were already away and into the twisted mess of bushes that lines the dense woodlands.
My world flashes blue and read, gradually becoming more and more refined in hue as the source approaches. The familiar cry of a police siren caused a sense of safety to cradle my anxious and confused heart. Despite the odd circumstances, I refused to move even an inch until the police came to my window. I didn’t know what was in this bag on my lap, and I didn’t want to find out, either.
A tall, dark skinned copper strolled up to my window: one hand holding up a flashlight, whilst the other lingered about his firearm’s holster. When our eyes met, he flashed the torch in my eyes, forcing me to shut them tight.
“We got ‘er!” He calls back to his car, “Missy, you don’t even know how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.” The cop growls, menacingly.
I could only defyingly stare into the light he shone in my eyes, expressing a doe-like fear.
What had I done?
Tick… tick… tick… Oh, will that clock ever shut up? No matter how loudly people chewed their company spearmint gum, it only ever added more ticks to the tick. It seemed to bother one person in the office more than others, though. Ted Burt, a boring name for a seemingly boring man. He’s always nursing a headache, no doubt from boring himself half-to-death. Ted didn’t care about anything or anyone, and anyone didn’t care about anything to do with Ted. Once he left those rotating, spinny-doors, who gave a rat’s ass where the rest of his story went?
One time, Martha from the secretary desk saw him buying a meatball sub from Subway. “Shut up Martha, who cares.” Promptly came the response of Rebecca, the other secretary. He was just another clock-in; just another name and number on the roster.
Tappa-tappa-tappa… goes the racing fingers of all within the office. If you weren’t tapping, you weren’t working. Sometimes Ted clicked his fingers on the top of his keyboard, but doesn’t write anything down. Sometimes his headache made it too hard for him to focus. While everyone else turned in their reports on time, Ted pulled out his never-ending excuse book to try buy a later deadline.
One time, Andy from the security office saw him coming out of a Party City store. “What did he buy?” Martha asked. Andy claims to have seen a packet of glow sticks fall out of one of Ted’s bags.
“Shut up Andy.” Rebecca chimes in. Nobody would believe such a stupid story, certainly not about boring Mister Burt.
Tsst… tsst… tsst… comes the sweeping noise of the janitor. Everyone had gone home, all except for Ted. There was far too much work to be done. A stack had accumulated in front of him which consisted of late work from the past two weeks or so. With the headache pounding away in his noggin like bottled thunder, the light at the end of the tunnel was but a fleck of dust upon a blackboard. “That’s one full bin.” Murmurs the janitor, as he empties Ted’s trash-can into his much larger one. An avalanche of empty plastic water bottles and tiny triangular paper cups spill out. The man was more hydrated than the ocean floor itself.
One time, Bill, Rebecca’s husband from accounting, saw him sleeping at a bus stop early one morning. “Shut up Bill.” His wife groans, tired of hearing the blasphemous rumours of Mister Boring. It couldn’t have possibly been Ted: not in a million years.
Click… Click… Click… Heels upon marble.
“Thought I’d find you here, wild boy.”
A sultry voice.
Ted looks up and casts a grin.
So, I’ve been absent quite a lot, which I apologize for. But I JUST found out how to schedule blog posts, so I have things lined up for the entirety of April.
Anywho, this is what I’ve been up to since I’ve focused on art!
Feel free to take a look there and on my Twitter:
Summer of the year 4589, New York Version 8.3.4-
“I remember it like it was yesterday (shameless cliché). Blissful nothing; all that could be heard was the gentle hum of the hover lounges before it happened. Everything came to a screeching halt; one moment we were all in the cyber-grid, then suddenly, offline. Usually we would rely on the back-up magnets which would gently lower us all back to the ground, but it was as if everything had stopped working all together. Every single one of us was thrown to the ground in a most unflattering way. People scrambled to try and boot up their vehicles again, treating it like the end of the world. Even though the vitamins we took every day made our bodies healthy, we all stumbled about like early-development robotic prototypes with faulty motor mechanics. Without our gadgets telling us what day of the week it was, time just seemed to spill on and on. I’ve never had so much fun in my life; met a great girl that liked to listen to books about dancing. After we’d gotten the walking-thing figured out, I told her we should try it some time. History class was never a strong subject of mine back in school, but I’ve seen a movie or two about how the Mid-Humans used to sway. We never got around to it though; it’s hard to find a shoe-maker in this modern age, and I don’t have a fortune to spend. When the power came back on, although we all made promises to each other that we wouldn’t get back on the hover lounges, we all lied. The convenience and comfort was just too good to resist.”
-As spoken by a Human awaiting maintenance on his hover lounge; of course, nobody was listening to respond, however.
I had to write this for a University assignment. I had a good ol’ chuckle.
That changes everything…
Coming home from a long day, I usually expected the rhinoceros-charge of Biggles at my knees, but not anymore. He was a good cat, lived a little longer than he was supposed to. His favourite fish was salmon; his favourite toy was a squeaky mouse with a little copper bell on the end.
Time goes by slower when you’re alone. The ticking of the clock feels like it sometimes pauses a second longer than it should. My food tastes blander; the birds chirp duller; I sleep longer. For the first time in my life, I realize I’m getting older and there’s nothing I can do about it.
About a month after the passing, something strange happened, something that would rearrange all the pieces on the chess board for sure. As I made my daily commute home from the offices, there came an odd noise from a bush. It was helpless; it was pathetic. After locating the source, all it took was pulling apart a few bushel branches to reveal it.
Bundled in a heap was a ball of wet white fur. I’d have thought it was a dead bird if I didn’t notice its jaw moving to produce a squeak from time to time. I hesitated; could I possibly go down the same road as Biggles? Should I put myself through the same distress when it all must come to an end?
Perhaps I’m too kind, or perhaps I’m a sadist. I promptly called this new pet in my life: Hope. That wasn’t the only thing ironic about her… but I’ll get to that later. She filled the void in my soul that had been clawed out by the first cat in my life. She walked so funny; hoppity hop, scuttling across the floor like some sort of rabbit-crab hybrid. Oh, the chuckles she forced out of me.
The clocks ticked normally; food tasted better when eating it with a smile; birds sang songs I’d never heard before, or ever cared to listen for; sleep came in naps, cat naps, with my new favourite friend.
One time I took her to a park and a hawk swooped down and took Hope away.
I learned my lesson.