Thursday, August 30, 2018

Week in Seven Words #421

Most of the rooms are in shadow on a rainy day, but the kitchen remains bright and welcoming.

We try building a tall, convoluted slide for marbles, and we finish about a third of it before I leave. The instructions aren't straightforward, and similar pieces have been painted the same color. But I'm surprised to find myself enjoying the project.

When conducting Beethoven, he looks like he's listening to heavy metal. Head banging, gritted teeth.

A catastrophic argument is looming like an iceberg on the horizon of our evening. We avoid it by a hand span, and watch it from the corner of our eyes as it looms up beside us before falling away into the night.

A man sits quietly by the bandshell caressing his guitar.

On the train during rush hour, people dive into pockets of solitude. They fix their eyes on the kneecaps of the person sitting opposite. They play repetitive games on their phone or hunch behind a newspaper. A young woman with a soft face and thin hair stares out the window and croons to the music from her headphones.

His bottle is tucked into a brown paper bag. As the bus rolls on past big-box stores and ranch-style homes, he sips from the bottle and talks about his court date tomorrow for a drinking-related offense.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Week in Seven Words #420

One of the boys loses control of his skateboard, which rockets into a woman's chair.

Is what they're saying true? They don't care if it isn't. What matters is that equally ignorant people agree with them.

There's no telling when he'll arrive. Over a stretch of 40 minutes, he repeatedly claims to be 10 minutes away. Meantime, I read on a bench outside the cafe he chose. I get up, stretch my legs, look around the corner. The cafe has decent potatoes and strange chickpea fries. Our conversation, when he arrives, is propped up by friendly, distant remarks. He buys a heap of desserts. I feel at peace, knowing that I have no plans to meet with him again.

The pizza parlor is a little red cube with a window and a crowded counter at lunchtime. There's enough space for three stamp-sized tables. I wait at one while eating a slice of excellent margarita pizza, as my phone flickers with text messages about subway delays.

Two young girls on scooters, pursued by the fretful whine of their mother's voice.

A cloud of glossy rectangles spangled with lights and colors: the children's section of the bookstore.

When his voice spikes, he covers his mouth with trembling hands. He had been striving for an impression of generous ease and calm. Now he looks child-like, afraid to be punished for displaying strong emotion.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Two Short Stories Involving Girls Suppressing a Memory of Betrayal

Title: The Girl Who Loved Graveyards
Author: P.D. James (Phyllis Dorothy James)
Where I Read It: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales

It was to be another warm day, and over the serried rows of headstones lay a thin haze pierced by the occasional obelisk and by the wing tips of marble angels whose disembodied heads seemed to be floating on particles of shimmering light. And as she watched, motionless in an absorbed enchantment, the mist began to rise and the whole cemetery was revealed to her, a miracle of stone and marble, bright grass and summer-laden trees, flower-bedecked graves and intersecting paths as far as the eye could see.
This is a quiet, brutal story. It ends with the main character going on a journey to uncover her past, only to find a great gaping nothing. What awaits her is the recognition of a guilt and loss that have already hollowed out her life.

The story begins when she moves in with her aunt and uncle around her 10th birthday. She has been told that her father and grandmother both died of the flu. Until she becomes an adult, her main pleasure in life is to take refuge in a local graveyard. She feels most at home among the dead.

Her aunt and uncle aren't affectionate, and she doesn't have friends. The one relic from her life before her aunt and uncle's house is a cat, and she doesn't even like it. Although she has stifled her memories of her earlier childhood, the events she doesn't remember have left their stamp on her and her relationship with everyone and everything around her.
Those first ten years were a void, unsubstantial as a dream that had faded but that had left on her mind a scar of unarticulated childish anxiety and fear.
The part of the story when she rediscovers these events is horrifying. Memories spring to life, bringing clarity but no hope.
It seemed to her that she had passed through a barrier of fear as a tortured victim might pass through a pain barrier into a kind of peace.

Title: Lavender Lady
Author: Barbara Callahan
Where I Read It: Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives

A folk singer has written a song about a nanny who watched over her as a child. The song speaks of love, devotion, and sudden loss. But when she sings it, she becomes overwhelmed with sadness and fatigue, as if the song demands an extraordinary amount of energy to complete.

The story is a good example of the mind's denials betrayed by the body's truth. The singer doesn't want to examine the beautiful lies she's spun around her former nanny. Her conscious mind can't accept the truth. Her body, however, betrays the presence of a dark memory.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Week in Seven Words #419

Sleeplessness chases me throughout the week, catching and dragging at each day and leaving the nights unsettled.

She's shuffle-dancing with sparkling sneakers on a dark street.

The book club meets in a mildewy room that's washed of color by fluorescent lights.

A large, shimmering, melting moon glimpsed in the early morning at the end of the street, over the slate gray river.

When he suffers anxiety over a trivial issue, he needs to remind himself to consider the true source of his fears. It isn't the triviality. That's only a mask for the larger, deeper thing that gnaws at him.

Her story is a dead horse flogged with angst. Tens of thousands of words of angst: fire, deaths, abuse, amnesia, comas. She's dragging her characters by the heels through hot coals across a continent.

Each time she plucks a string on her guitar, there's a sensation of a raindrop landing in my mind.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Week in Seven Words #418

An aquarium has been installed at the ferry terminal, and its fish, which are frontosa, wear the most melancholy expression.

During the walk, I find many stories on the ground. Next to a pothole in a parking lot are a pair of sparkling sneakers and a small backpack. By the curb several blocks away, there's a guest book from a first birthday party, fallen from a purse or bag or out of a car. On another street, an upright piano lies on its back with a can of beer cradled against its chest.

One of the dentist's instruments sounds like R2-D2, so even though I'm getting a cavity filled, I'm trying hard not to laugh.

The elevated sidewalk, narrow as a wick, bears us down a block of 19th and early 20th century houses with conical towers, decorative trim, wraparound porches, and other features that delight the eye and tickle the imagination.

A quiet beach, the sea in gentle argument with the sand. A gull is seated on the water, as on a blanket of blue tourmaline.

A broad blue cloth of sky and water with an uneven row of buildings stitched to the horizon.

She's lean, spare, and self-contained, sufficient unto herself.