View Full Version : As I Ebbed With the Ocean of Life
December 11th, 2003, 9:45 pm
Post feedback here. (http://cosforums.com/showthread.php?p=708647)
Other than one quick, short, and a little sloppy Snape POV, I've never written a fan-fic before. When I'm done with this, I may still never have written a fan-fic, because this story could be considerably different than most other pieces in the Library. There will be few, if any, surface allusions to HP; deeper down, anything from very little to a lot of HP allusions could be present. (Haven't completely decided yet.;)) HP will probably be an undercurrent, but nothing more, until the end.
I will claim artistic license on a few issues - like JKR, any day in the past can be any day of the week. If a certain date was a Tuesday, and I want it to be a Saturday, it's a Saturday. If Britain doesn't do lethal injections anymore, sorry - they do lethal injections in this story. That's all the possible "mistakes" I can think of now.
So, the disclaimer. HP characters, etc., are all the creation of Joanne Rowling, not me. I am indebted to Walt Whitman, as I stole the title of a poem of his for the title of this story. Other literary influences and allusions may be found, and I am not claiming them as mine.
PS - the first part of my story will be up tonight. It will most likely be very short; all parts afterwards will be longer. Enjoy.
December 11th, 2003, 11:45 pm
October 24th, 2003
Joshua Carpenter was led into the chamber. The lighting was eerily green; the door rounded at the top and bottom like a hatch on a submarine. The opposite wall of the cramped room had three large windows, looking into another bare room with two dozen cold-faced yet expectant men and women sitting down. In the center of the chamber lay a padded, x-shaped table, with black straps hanging ominously at the side. The room was sterile and strangely bland - like a hospital ward, almost.
The papers would describe Joshua Carpenter as "gaunt" and "terrifyingly thin." In truth, he was nearly emaciated from his self-afflicted hunger. His steps were labored, but every person in the adjoining room came away with the impression that he was running - at the pace of the stars. His facial lines forced his face into a nearly perpetual frown, but he smiled half-mockingly, half-sympathetically at the crowd through the glass. His hair was dark and tousled, his eyes a brilliant green. His clothes were fresh and out-of-place. His hands were tightly handcuffed.
The two officers at his side undid the shackles and placed him, unyielding, onto the center of the pad. The straps were wrapped and fastened around his ankles and wrists. The straps were flat, but Joshua Carpenter felt a sharp pricking into his skin when they were tightened. An IV was attatched to each arm, and Joshua Carpenter's thoughts flew past his mind in a jumble...
December 12th, 2003, 8:51 pm
August 21, 1996
I crept down the stairs, cringing as creaks emanated throughout the house. My parents were in their room, hopefully asleep. I slipped onto the landing and tip-toed past my parents' door, listening intently. They were talking heatedly and my breath became labored and my heart raced as I crept by. Eli had said he'd got ahold of 150 proof rum. I could just hear what they were saying.
"We have to tell him," said my mother. "It's the right thing to do."
"I'm telling you," my father replied, "it can't do any good. Think about it. What would he do if he found out? Probably go off drinking again, right? And then he'd yell at us for hours, right? And then he'd go off to try to find them, right? He wouldn't care if they - "
I stopped, intrigued.
"It's still not right," she answered. "It's not the right thing to do. He has a right to know."
"He doesn't have a right to anything, not after what he did. He's already practically a delinquent, and - "
"And who's fault is that?"
"Not mine! If he - "
"If he! If he! It's always what he has done, right? Maybe if you! Or if she! If she didn't leave him there, then we wouldn't have even had this problem!"
Who was she? And where was I left?
"I'm not telling him," my father insisted. "You can tell him if you want, and you have to face the consequences. If he runs away . . ."
"Well, you wouldn't mind if he did, right?"
"Maybe not. So?"
"What was that?" my mother hissed. My heart was hitting my lungs, over and over. I heard footsteps and my father flung open the door. I tried to leap out of sight, but it was too late.
"What do you think you're doing?" my father demanded, livid. "You heard, right? Okay, you're adopted, d*mmit. Face it."
December 12th, 2003, 9:43 pm
July 13, 1988
School had been out for over a month, and I was increasingly bored. I looked through the window in my room to the backyard of my neighbor, Magdalena. Magda and I were both seven, and we had a quasi-romantic relationship. Magda and her younger sister, Maria, were sitting by a small wooden table with a table cloth, plates, and a platter of food, drinking out of clear glasses. Tired of complaining to my parents about boredom, I went down the stairs and around the house to the fence separating our backyards.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Having a tea party, sir," Magda said, peering over her cup with an uplifted eyebrow and the air and graces of a duchess.
"Can I join?"
"Sure can, mister."
"Can I bring Eli?"
"Go ahead. Miss Maria and I have barely started."
Eli was my best friend, to an extent. He was less of a friend and more of an extension of myself - or maybe I was an extension of him. Sometimes he seemed gently patronizing, in a way, at other times he was down to earth. He had an aloofness about him, as if he didn't need to mingle with the rest of us, but cared about us enough that he did anyway. I went over to his house, down the street, and asked him to come.
We went back to my backyard and clambered over the fence, where the table was now set for four.
"We're running out of tea," Magda said. "I'll have to go inside and get some more."
"Yes," she said, standing up.
"Don't you think Maria should go with you?" I asked. "You might need help carrying."
"Good idea," Maria said, and got up as well.
When the girls were safely out of sight, I leaned over to Eli and whispered in his ear. He reluctantly assented. Eli took the remaining tea and poured it into each of our glasses. I picked up a salt shaker, unscrewed the top, and poured a large amount into each of the girls' cups.
When they returned, Magda asked where the tea came from. I replied that there was still enough left for the four of us, and made a proposition.
"How about we have a toast, and then drink all at the same time," I said.
"Good idea," Magda replied. "A toast to what?"
"To summer," I said.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Magda said. "Raise your glasses! Here's to summer!"
"To summer!" we replied, and drank at once.
It happened instantaneously. Magda and Maria spit out the drink - after a sizable portion had traveled down their throats - and dropped their cups to the ground. They looked at each of us.
"What was that?" Maria said.
Magda said nothing, but burst into tears, ran into the house with the yell, "I'm telling!"
That night, I received the worst spanking of my life. My father then prohibited me from leaving the house until school started, and my mother added an amendment.
"Except for synagogue," she said. "From now on, you're going to synagogue with me. Every week!"
I scowled at her. I hated synagoge, I hated Judaism, I hated Jews, I hated religion altogether, and I was already formulating my ideas about atheism. That day, cliched as it sounds, was the first day of the rest of my life. It began the instillation of passionate hatred for my mother. I already despised my father.
December 14th, 2003, 7:13 am
November 1, 1981
Joseph Carpenter skipped work to go to the orphanage. He and Miriam had given up on a baby of their own, but it was their duty to raise children as Jews. They wanted a child of about one or two years old - past the breastfeeding age, but early enough so that the child would never have memories of life outside of the family.
Most of the paperwork had already been filled out; the Carpenters had already chosen a dark-haired, quiet baby that they would name Joshua. Joshua had been placed in the orphanage at the age of one about three months previously; his parents were unknown, and always would be. The Carpenters wanted it that way.
When Joseph and Miriam Carpenter arrived at the orphanage, Joshua was shrieking, and had been doing since the previous night.
"All night long," the attendant said. "And he's usually so quiet. It must be all those owls that keep shooting past the window. Have you noticed them?"
At three o'clock, the Carpenters arrived home with their new baby. They had noticed the owls, but hadn't commented. After dinner, and putting Joshua to sleep. Miriam turned on the end of the eight o'clock news.
" - flying in every direction since sunrise. Experts are unable to explain why the owls have suddenly changed their sleeping pattern. Most mysterious. And now, over to Jim McGuffin with the weath - "
"Nothing on tonight, Joseph," Miriam said.
"There never is," he replied. "We should chuck that idiot box already. I don't want our son to spend all his time in front of that you-know-what. He'll become like the - the - "
"I agree," Miriam sighed.
December 14th, 2003, 10:10 pm
December 21, 1990
I looked down from my perch atop the hill. The snow had been about six to eight inches deep, but the sledds had packed it to half the half the height and twice the fun. My father was standing next to me. My sled was bright green and plastic, with handles on each side for steering. A building from the Seminary was on my immediate left; trees were on my right. The building extended for about thirty feet down the hill before ending; afterwards, it was free sledding. The bottom of the hill was hundreds of feet away - it was all the Seminary's property, but everyone used it - and the trip down seemed to last an eternity. A dozen yards down the hill I built a butte out of snow about three feet high and three feet wide.
I tensed my legs, held the sled out in front of me, crouched down, and leaped forward. The hill was nearly level for a second or two, then it quickly dove down to my artificial mound. I shut my mouth tightly so the air wouldn't enter and looked forward, lying on my stomach, at the approaching snow heap. I was straight in line for the jump...
Something was piercing the back of my head. I saw nothing except strange colors whipping across my line of sight. I couldn't tell whether my eyes were open or closed. My head felt like a pole was jammed into it. Tears were pouring down my face, stars popped in and out of sight, and I gradually became aware of the snow freezing my cheeks. I didn't remember anything since before I was about to jump.
Snow had gotten into my coat and I was getting wet. The pain in my head was from the corner of the sled pushing into my skull. I shoved the sled off and felt the base of my head; it was slightly warm and wet. I was still lying face down on the ground, and my breath was melting the snow in front of me. I was shivering to my very core, but the worst was over.
"Daddy, my - it hurts," I said, struggling off the ground. He was standing imperiously at the crest of the hill. "Can I have a band-aid?"
"It'll heal quicker in the air," he replied.
"But Daddy, it hurts," I insisted. "I'm cold, Daddy, Daddy, it hurts."
"Let's go home, then," he said.
"Daddy! Daddy! It hurts! I'm cold, Daddy! I'm cold! Daddy! It hurts!"
"Let's go home, then," he said.
"Help me! It hurts, Daddy. Pleeease. Daddy, I'm cold, my clothes are wet, I'm freezing, Daddy, Daddy, it hurts! I'm cold, Daddy. I'm cold!"
"Let's go home, then," he said.
December 15th, 2003, 3:13 am
March 28, 1996
It was three days before I had to give a report on Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his style in front of my English class that I realized I had no idea what to say. I didn't even know what Garcia Marquez's style was. I had read three of his best books, I knew them backwards and forwards - but there was a gaping hole in my memory. I had forgotten Garcia Marquez's style.
English class was the only class worth attending. Physics class - outside of a chapter or two in the back of the textbook about cosmology and the origin and history of the universe, that I knew we would never learn in class - was boring and impractible. Trigonometry was useless by itself, and since I had given up on Physics, useless altogether. History was a joke - full of biased teachers trying to mold their students' political ideas to match their own. Henry Ford said, "History is bunk," and I completely agreed. English class, however, was the only thought-provoking, the only interesting, the only worthwhile class I had ever had. The teachers in English were usually like the history teachers, of course, but the works assigned were always and will always be independent of those who teach them. I could pick and choose which works I agreed with and which I didn't. And every so often I came across something that just hit me, and I couldn't get enough of it.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the writers that hit me. From the terrifying and stupefying death in Chronicle of a Death Foretold, to the jaw-dropping ending of One Hundred Years of Solitude, he always threw a lasso around me and wouldn't let go.
Regardless, I couldn't even remember what his literary style was called.
I opened up a book of criticism on Garcia Marquez that I had checked out for my English presentation and glanced at the top of a random page. Magical Realism! That was what it was called! So how did I forget that? How could I have forgotten it? I searched through my mind for anything about magical realism, but even though I now knew the name, I found nothing. I couldn't remember anything about magical anything. It was as if a swath of my memory had died in the night - and not very surreptitiously, either.
So the next three days I spent re-reading the book of criticism - I didn't remember anything - and rereading the actual novels. I still knew the books backwards and forwards, but couldn't remember anything about Garcia Marquez's literary style. I crammed in two months of work into three days, but it didn't work very well. My presentation was one of the worst in the class. It was ironic - the one subject in my entire life that I cared about I completely screwed up. As always.
December 15th, 2003, 10:20 pm
November 21, 1990
It was Saturday again. The day when I couldn't write, go in cars, carry an object outside for three steps, work, cut paper, open most packages of food, or even turn on or off the electricity. (Any electricity - even the lightbulb inside the refridgerator that lit when the fridge door was opened had to be unscrewed.) I was stuck inside the radius that I could walk - excluding places with automatic doors. Why does refraining from playing football in the park or turning on a lamp when the room gets dark make you religious? What was the point of this religion, anyway? And why did my parents pick and choose what rules to follow, keeping kosher and keeping the Sabbath, but not praying during the week?
But there was nothing I could do about it. It was Saturday again.
The real reason why I hated Saturday - hated Judaism, for that matter - was because it alienated me. Because it was different. Because every week people would drive me walking to synagogue by honking their horns, and on Monday, ask what I was doing, why I had to walk 45 minutes, and why my religion was so . . . so . . . so strange.
I hated Judaism - hated the swaying, long-bearded, muttering daveners, hated the food, hated the holidays (no one else had those holidays), hated that I would miss ten days of school for a religion I no longer believed in, hated the wrinkly old rabbi that everyone loved, because everyone loved him, because he survived the Holocaust and torture by the KGB, because he loved me. I hated the chocolate he would give me. I hated the yellow smile on his face and how he grasped my cheek between his thumb and the side of index finger. And I hated my mother for making me be a part it.
But what I really hated was that it was different. I didn't want to be an individual, I didn't want to be the one kid in school without a television at home who never knew what the other kids were talking about, I didn't want to be the kid who missed school for holidays no one had ever heard of - Shavuot? Sukkot? - I didn't want to be the one kid who trudged two miles in the snow to synagogue while everyone was sledding. I didn't want to stand out. I wanted to conform. I wanted to be a part of everyone else. I wanted to seep into the core of society, and hide there. I wanted to eat pepperoni pizza and fast food. I didn't just want to be accepted - I wanted to blend into my surroundings, camouflage myself with what I gleaned from others. I wanted to take the excess of others, place it on my face, and never reveal my true self again.
So I lied. And lied to hide my lies. My mother told me once, "Tell the truth so you have less to remember." I had too much to remember. I lied about not having a television, and retreated to the outside of the group when others would talk about what was on the night before. I lied about not being able to do anywhere with anyone else on Saturdays - "Oh, actually, we're going out of town this weekend, sorry." I never brought a friend home so as to keep my secrets. (Except for Eli. But then again, Eli wasn't exactly a friend. He barely even seemed human.) I lied about my religion, lied about where I was walking each Saturday, lied about what was in my home, lied about my parents. I lied about my life. And I was ashamed.
December 17th, 2003, 12:26 am
May 2, 1997
Genius and madness go hand in hand, the saying goes. My father may or may not have been a genius, but he definitely was going mad. He was probably the most intelligent person I have ever known - he was part of an elite group of scientists that the government contracted to solve various problems, such as how to clear mine fields, build new bombs, and other such instances of science in practical application. But before my very eyes, he was going insane.
That's what I thought, anyway. He had always been eccentric - perhaps "strange" would be a better word. If something was "his" job, he had to do it, regardless of how inconvenient it might be for him or anyone else. If it was his turn to cook dinner, everyone had to wait for him to cook it; if they cooked their own, he would throw it away. Instances such as these went directly against his "no waste" mantra - he would personally pick off meat from the bones of chickens with his own hands, for example, before allowing our plates to be cleared. If it was my father's "job" to clean the table, and my mother did it instead because he was out, he would personally dirty the table and clean it again. He claimed a certain space on the counter as "his" - if anyone knocked his papers out of order, or even placed a cutting board too near his spot, there would be hell to pay. If someone was in the bathroom, ran out of toilet paper, and called for him to bring him a new roll, my father would refuse to let anyone else in the house bring the roll - even if they were right outside the door and he was two floors above.
My father didn't believe in psychology or psychiatry, so I refrained from saying he was obsessive compulsive. He may not have had OCD, and he wouldn't have admitted it if he did - to him, psychological disorders were just weakness to be overcome. He didn't show many of the symptoms that I once read about in an article - he didn't care about cleanliness, for example, and had about three pairs of pants. So if he refused to admit anything was wrong, I would take him at his word, and treat him as such.
So I gradually began to feel a possibly exorbitant amount of passionate hatred for my father. Coupled with my blaming him for alienating me from my peers and thereby destroying my social life (destroying might not be the right word, actually, as he put it down before it ever started), his oddities, self-righteousness, and obstinacy led to my placing culpability of all my faults on his shoulders. That was how I survived - every wrong I did, every failure of mine, I blamed on the foibles, eccentricity, and cruelty of my father. Even the weight of my despised religion I blamed on him, for not resisting my mother's false piety. The result was a de-personalizing of myself: by placing my rises and falls, my ups and downs, my very livelihood, all on the back of my father, I robbed myself of my very humanity. In other words, I was fast becoming a stripped-bare potential murderer.
December 17th, 2003, 10:58 pm
August 17, 1996
She was dressed in pink: all her clothes were made of the same light, jumpy fabric. They were strangely loose on her body, making her seem hauntingly skinny. She looked Chinese - maybe Korean? - and she held a tennis racket awkwardly in one hand and a tennis ball in the other. A stern, thicker, older woman stood ten feet away. The girl was standing with her hands dangling at her sides, surrounded by tall, imposing green-painted, wooden walls. A white horizontal stripe was painted on the wall opposite her, signifying the top of a tennis net.
But the girl barely could practice tennis. With the woman still watching, she raised her arms, dropped the ball and swung slowly upwards with the racket. The ball flew in a high but drooping arc, struck the bottom of the opposite wall, and dribbled pathetically back towards the girl. She held the racket below her waist, pointed it forward, and swung the racket up again. The tennis ball was bouncing so low that it struck only the outer edge of the racket, and it rolled back to the wall. The girl stepped forward slowly - everything she did was slow but intentful, pure but clumsy - and picked up the ball. The woman started to jog around behind, eventually going all the way around the fields where I was playing soccer with Eli, and, ten minutes later, back to the girl with the tennis racket.
The girl was of unidentifiable age: maybe 10, maybe 20. Her face was oddly shaped, as if it had been molded the day before and still hadn't set into place. The older woman appeared to be her mother. The Chinese girl continued with her practicing, with the same ineptitude and clumsiness. The mother stopped her exercise maybe 15 feet from the girl and silently watched. After no more than 20 seconds, she started jogging again. Like her daughter, she ran with a certain awkward air - but instead of the strange fluidity with which he daughter practiced, she had a stiffness, a woodenness about her. It was just as strange, but strangely different.
Around and around the mother went, stopping by her daughter for ten seconds or so each time, never saying a word. Around and around she went. Eli and I were nearly alone on the soccer fields - on the other end, six young children were playing - and I watched the oddities by the tennis courts as much as I could. Around and around the mother went. I was attracted to the Chinese girl and her mother in a weird way; it was as if they were someone - no, something - I knew. They had a kind of purity, an innocence, almost; but at the same time, I felt as if they were hiding a concern, a trouble, a conflict. For a brief instant, I had a feeling as if they were me, and then it went away.
December 18th, 2003, 11:13 pm
August 21, 1988
I have hated dressing up for my entire life. This feeling stems, I believe, from religion. Every Saturday I had to dress up, wear a white, collared, button-down shirt, nice pants, and later, a tie. I always felt self-conscious walking to synagogue wearing "nice" clothes - I always hated them - and I always wondered what others would think and how I could get away with a lie if they asked. But, like always, I kept my anger inside. I never mentioned my hate for formal dress - and all formalities, for that matter; instead, I resigned myself to my fate and let the anger boil inside of me.
I did the buttons from the top down and when I reached the bottom the sides did not match - I had been placing the buttons in the wrong holes. I undid what I had done and started again with a bitter feeling. (My life.) I put on the slacks and the nice shoes, stepped out of my room, walked downstairs, and opened the door, where my parents were waiting for me outside. Synagogue was over 30 minutes away and we started off. I looked down at the pavement in front of me, pretending that not seeing the cars that passed meant that the cars that passed could not see me. Finally, we arrived at the synagogue. The synagogue was situated on a main street, but just a block away from a residential area. Consequently, it had a homelike feel despite its imposing brick. The other families were dressed up like mine and we filed toward the doors.
All of a sudden, two boys appeared on the right, running and screaming. Three more appeared on the left, doing the same. The air was filled with their savage yells and the birdsong. They reached back and threw their weapons at all of us, over and over. I was hit on the shoulder, and my shirt became red. I looked terrified at the crimson liquid that spread over and seeped into my white shirt and those of people around me. They were not ordinary water balloons: the water inside was mixed with a bright red dye. My shirt was soaked and irredeemably stained and I sat through three hours of services.
December 21st, 2003, 2:51 am
February 23, 1997
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
I was lying on my stomach with a half-centimeter thick packet of poems. My English teacher had surgery, would be out of class for over a month, and the replacement teacher came in the first day and announced that for the entire time the regular teacher was gone, we would read poems. The class collectively groaned. None of us liked poetry, especially the modern poetry that would be given to us. Poetry was simply the ramblings of elitist, self-centered, arrogant, and aloof so-called people, devoid of significance. And the first poems that we studied were just that: if they had a significance, it was too deep for any of us to find it; I thought to myself that if a poet, or any artist, was so self-absorbed that he couldn't condescend to enlighten the rest of us to the meaning of his work, we might as well throw it in the trash.
Then Magda told me to read the third poem of the pack, "As I Ebb'd With The Ocean of Life," by Walt Whitman. Magda had taken years to forgive me for making her drink that tea. Now 17, she was simply stunning, but I was the weird kid in the corner and could only stare. Regardless, I was a recluse, and even if she felt anything for me, I would have turned away, shy. But we shared a love for English class - she first reccomended me to read Garcia Marquez - and when she asked me to read the Whitman poem, I did it that night. Completely absorbed, as I always was, I reread:
As I ebb'd with the ocean of life,
As I wended the shores I know,
Yes, my life was an ocean, stuck in perpetual ebb. But what shores did I know?
As I walk'd where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok,
Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant,
Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,
I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,
Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems,
Was seiz'd by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,
The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land of the globe.
Pride of which you utter poems? Pride? Pride?
Fascinated, my eyes reverting from the south, dropt, to follow those slender windrows,
Chaff, straw, splinters of wood, weeds, and the sea-gluten,
Scum, scales from shining rocks, leaves of salt-lettuce, left by the tide,
Ah - life: scum, sea gluten, chaff, scales.
Miles walking, the sound of breaking waves the other side of me,
Paumanok there and then as I thought the old thought of likenesses,
These you presented to me you fish-shaped island,
As I wended the shores I know,
As I walk'd with that electric self seeking types.
Electric self-seeking types? What other types do you have, but electric, static ones? What other types are there? Is anyone moving? Who cares if you're not?
As I wend to the shores I know not,
As I list to the dirge, the voices of men and women wreck'd,
As I inhale the impalpable breezes that set in upon me,
As the ocean so mysterious rolls toward me closer and closer,
I too but signify at the utmost a little wash'd-up drift,
A few sands and dead leaves to gather,
Gather, and merge myself as part of the sands and drift.
This is it, I thought, he knows it. This was the story of my life, the mysterious rolling toward me closer and closer; all I was is a washed-up drift, a few sands and dead leaves. When I first saw the ocean, I looked out at the infinite ocean, gazing, and glanced down at the shore, where dark, ugly weeds were strewn together in an line, the sand was dirty and muddy, the water was repulsive. All that infinite, beautiful, perplexing ocean could wash up was dirt and scum.
O baffled, balk'd, bent to the very earth,
Oppress'd with myself that I have dared to open my mouth,
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have not once had the least idea who or what I am,
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet untouch'd, untold, altogether unreach'd,
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows,
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written,
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
Oppressed with myself? Myself?
Yes, myself. I was baffled, I was balked, I was bent, I had no idea who I am, all my life was blab, recoiling on me like a million pythons, over and over and over... the real Me was still untouched, untold, unreached - but was there a real me? Or was I just a surreal, or unreal creation, a construct, a figment of -
I perceive I have not really understood any thing, not a single object, and that no man ever can,
Nature here in sight of the sea taking advantage of me to dart upon me and sting me,
Because I have dared to open my mouth to sing at all.
But did I sing at all? Nature may have taken advantage of me, but I hadn't sung, I shrunk inside my turtle-shell, and I lied and hid. O baffled, balked, bent to the very earth...
I skipped a few lines, the lines that I didn't agree with, the lines that I couldn't identify with, because I hadn't floated the measureless float, I hadn't...
I throw myself upon your breast my father,
I cling to you so that you cannot unloose me,
I hold you so firm till you answer me something.
My heart pounded, my breath stopped, I kept on reading...
Kiss me my father,
Touch me with your lips as I touch those I love,
Breathe to me while I hold you close the secret of the murmuring I envy.
From ages ago, my self gave way... I'm cold, Daddy. Daddy, I'm cold! Help me! It hurts, Daddy. I'm cold, Daddy! I'm cold! - Daddy!"
Ebb, ocean of life, (the flow will return,)
Will it return? Will it? I'm not so sure, I thought. I don't think so.
I skipped again, I was not reconciled, I was not healed - he may have been, I wasn't - I was not soothed, I was not...
Tufts of straw, sands, fragments, ...
Musing, pondering, a breath, a briny tear, a dab of liquid or soil, ...
A limp blossom or two, torn, just as much over waves floating, drifted at random, ...
You up there walking or sitting,
Whoever you are, we too lie in drifts at your feet.
Yes, I lie in drifts at your feet. I lay on my bed, sobbing, shaking, stirring, fighting, singing, weeping, hating, thinking, living, ... (?) ...
December 23rd, 2003, 1:50 am
March 29, 1996
I was sitting at a table in the school library, struggling with math homework I didn't care about. The room was quiet except for humming computers, turning pages, scribbling pencils, and murmuring voices. Magda was sitting two tables away talking with a friend. Eli was in class. A sinister-looking boy named Will Taylor was sitting with two others in the table between Magda and I. Everyone in the room was looking down at their table.
And then time seemed to crawl. Everyone's movements, already slow, trickled to nearly a stop. Will Taylor, dressed in black pants and a dark green shirt, brought his head up, slowly, as if a weight was forcing it down, but his expression unchanged, as if it wasn't. The scene in front of me occurred in the slowest of slow motion. I had a strange thought - present? future? - that my life was turning, changing, molding in front of my eyes.
Will Taylor's neck moved as if it was stuck in monstrous jar of thick syrup, smooth but difficult to move in. Back and forth his chin went, back in forth - one or two times in all, but seemed to take ages. I sat in my chair, and when he turned away, I stared at him. Magda had turned her back and was talking excitably with her friends. Her calculator was perched on the edge of the table. Will Taylor, still glancing around, moved his arm, stretched - the tables were just a few feet away, closed his fingers around the calculator, placed it in his bag. and looked down at the papers in front of him. I was watching the entire time.
Time, which had still been been creeping along while the calculator was stolen, jumped up in the air, moved its legs in a circular blur, and shot forward faster than they eye could track. Thoughts pervaded my mind, jumbling my self. I had no idea what to do, what to say. Colors flew past my eyes, people streaked in and out of my line of vision, and I was stuck in place.
A new graphing calculator cost nearly a hundred pounds. I never told Magda what had happened.
January 8th, 2004, 3:10 am
October 28, 1995
Supposedly, when you die, there is a light in the middle of darkness. People who have survived near-death experiences often report seeing such a light. I heard somewhere that psychology had explained it, that it probably has nothing to do with religion, but rather with brain chemistry . . .
"This is what I heard," said Eli. "When you're dying, don't go for the light. Don't go for the light! It's a trick. Go away from the light, to the darkness. The light is a trick - go to the dark!"
I didn't know what to say. Eli telling me this one thing overturned my outlook. It's a trick? A trick? Eli didn't say where he heard it from: he just knew, somehow. I had always been a skeptic about "paranormal" occurences; I obviously hated religion - I was the only anti-Semitic Jew I knew - and didn't believe in heaven or hell. Or at least not the flames below and clouds above version in Farside cartoons.
I didn't exactly believe in life after death. Running from Judaism forced me into believing in science; I came to think that after death there is nothing: no consciousness on any level. But what Eli said struck me deeply. Regardless of whether an afterlife existed, dark is bad and light is good. Regardless of whether going to the light means eternal bliss or eternal pain, dark is bad and light is good.
What worried me was not what would come because of my choice, but making the choice itself. Is light really dark? Is dark really light? Does the act of choosing doom me, even a doom of the five seconds I had left alive? Most of all, how could I choose? If I was lying on my deathbed, what would I do? How could I venture into that abyss? Could I truly pick the light that I thought it was dark? Could I truly pick the dark when the light was staring at me, penetrating the back of my head? What would I do? Was it a trick? Or not a trick? Or both?
January 18th, 2004, 6:09 am
February 2, 1993
Saturday again. Waking up early while everyone else sleeps. Walking half an hour, 45 minutes in the drizzling rain, chilly, on to synagogue. Mmmm.
Walking alone, different, I passed dozens of houses, all upper-middle class, all suburbia, all normal. The sidewalk was studded with pebbles to make it seem less artificial; the lawns were wet and wide. As I walked by one in particular - steeply sloping roof, three stories, faux-Tudor - I caught the unmistakable and irresistable smell of syrup and pancakes. The house's front door was closed, but the aroma of the forbidden Saturday breakfast reached my nose distinctly. It was pancakes and syrup - nothing fancy, nothing rich, decidedly normal. My winter coat was made for snow, not rain, and the steady if light drizzle had, through 30 minutes of opportunity, made it nearly sopping.
I wondered how the smell had reached me. The door was shut tight but the smell of breakfast was far clearer than the barbecues people sometimes had - outside - and much more plain, simple, and almost elegant. It was pancakes on a Saturday morning, and I was heading in the rain to synagogue.
January 27th, 2004, 3:30 am
August 7, 1981
A little over one year had passed since the babies first saw each other, and they had to be split. None of the parents told anyone they knew exactly why they were placing Joshua in the orphanage, and their apprehensive friends could not ask. The reason was that Joshua had been born on August 1, but only one other person knew it. Joshua's angelic face lit up as they left home for the last time; the wind blew lightly on his cheeks. It was an innocent night, though one old man followed them.
The orphanage, in an attempt to stop abortions, had a policy that it would accept without question all babies left at its doorstep. Abortion rate seemed to be just as high as in 1967, when it was legalized; the children left anonymously at the orphanage were sporadic.
The breeze on Joshua's face put him to sleep; his cheeks seemed to blow brighter than ever. Tears formed in his mother's eyes as she looked searchingly in his green eyes; his father was more stoic. The parents placed the child in his basket, looked at him for a few seconds, and whisked away, as silently as they had come.
January 29th, 2004, 11:39 pm
July 17, 1991
Magda was sitting in her yard, flat-chested but wearing a tight shirt, reclining on the grass, reading a glossy magazine. Magda's subscription had just started; the magazine had come in the mail that day, and Magda had been poring over it ever since. She was obviously engrossed, to a degree I had never seen.
I was bored, lying on the bed next to the window in my room, pondering. It was the height of summer, and I had nothing to do. Eli had left for the weekend with his family; I was free to do what I wanted, which was nothing. I looked around the bare walls of my room, to the sloping ceiling, to the hallway outside the door, and back to the window where the girl with whom I had been having a quasi-romantic/bully relationship for years rested and took in the sun. I went downstairs, outside, around to the back yard, past a bush to a hose's valve, and finally in front of the bush to the hose's nozzle.
I walked to the bushes on the side of the backyard holding the hose, hiding behind the prickly leaves, creeping to the fence that separated our yards. Magda was oblivious, absorbed in her new magazine - How to Know if He Likes You!; The Cool New Summer Wear! - and I glided up to the fence, rose slowly above the top, pointed the hose, and let go of the nozzle.
Magda was like a baby at the mercy of a murderer. Her clothes became drenched, her hair ruined, her magazine destroyed. I laughed. She got up as quick as she could and ran - barefoot - inside, crying. A prickly leaf was lying in wait for her on the ground, and her heel landed straight on it, the point digging in to her skin. I laughed harder, not caring about the consequences, and a red heel was stamped on the pavement in front of her back door.
February 13th, 2004, 3:44 am
May 29, 1998
It was about 5:00 pm and I was home alone when I made the ultimate mistake of my life. The mistake was of such large magnitude that it not just changed my life but flipped it upside down and shoved it in the gutter. My mother was out and my father never came home before 6:00. Because my mother was out, however, my father came home early to cook dinner. I forgot he would arrive early, which caused me to commit my blunder. I forgot to lock the bathroom door.
It seemed that every time my father came home from work, especially if only I was home, he would immediately complain. "Why is the light in the dining room on?" he would ask, seemingly whining. "And clean up that pigsty on the table!" I had gotten used to hurrying around, not commenting, not thinking about the fact that I hadn't been in the dining room since a night previously, I hadn't eaten on the table since that morning, and it was just as much his responsibility to clean up as mine. "Turn the faucet off when you're done with it! And why is the stove burner on?" Usually, the stove burner was on because something was cooking. This travesty was unspeakable, however, if it was his "turn" to cook dinner. He would turn off the stove, and the potatoes - or pasta, or stew - would sit cold until it was discovered, uncooked, at dinner time.
This time, however, he entered fairly quietly and didn't complain. Absorbed, I didn't hear him enter, didn't think about the unlocked door, and was focused - such as I was - on what I, not he, was doing.
It was over before I knew it started. The defining moment of my life blended together, meaningful and meaningless. My father entered the room, and from then on I could not recall what had happened and what had not. Shame, fear, anger, resentment boiled inside of me. A silver knife, taken up in hate - or . . . lust? is there any difference? - caught red-handed - in multiple ways, white teeth, white arms, red arms . . . memory blended into prediction, past into future, like those yellowed, coded parchments, and brightly colored beams raced before my eyes.
April 2nd, 2004, 6:52 am
May 29, 1998
Explosions, whistling bullet-like sounds, and chaos filled the air. Stunned, I stayed low. I didn't know where my father was, didn't know where anyone was - all I knew was that suddenly the room was crowded. Things came flying into my hideout - were they people? Humans? The beams continued flying above my head, dark shapes were moving rapidly, some falling, all around me. I was not frightened; I was stupefied. Gone from my mind were any of my original thoughts; instead, a terrifying blend of the images in front of me and strange, brutal pictures flashed in front of my eyes. I spotted my father down on the ground half a dozen feet away, not moving; the commotion created the effect of a strobe light on his face. Ricocheting light dazzled through the room when a stillness settled over the scene - the storm's eye.
I heard a panting sound from one side of the room, a cold, barely-perceptible wheezing from the other. My father was not alone - I, on the other hand, always would be. Suddenly, two voices rang out, nearly drowning each other out, and a green beam flew from my left and a silver one from my right. Brilliant gold sparks flew when they collided, and my mind was drawn back to watching fireworks, as a child, with...
My recollections where destroyed by a horrific sound piercing the air. I couldn't identify it - the only connection I made was to the call of a hawk I once heard, sharp, aimed, prepared. I had been almost numbed to my surroundings, but the pressure of the recent events, that sound, gold lines weaving across the mirror, the toilet, the bathtub overwhelmed me. The last thing I noticed was the ripping away of the golden threads and an anguished, cold, desperate, primeval squeal from my left hand side.
When I woke up, a man about my age was panting a few feet away from me. His face was indistinguishable from mine.
April 11th, 2004, 10:02 pm
May 29, 1998
"Who are you?" he said.
I looked up at him. "Who are you?"
"Your brother, apparently."
"Funnny," I said.
"I'm Josh Carpenter."
"I know. I'm Harry Potter."
"That's not any brother of mine."
"What happened, anyway?" I asked. The room was littered with debris, and my father's body was on the floor. I heard sirens faintly in the background.
"I don't kn-"
"What do you mean you don't know? You come here, you destroy everything, you almost kill me-"
"I didn't do anything to you," Harry Potter said.
"Ohhh, okay!" I sneered. "So then it all just happened by itself, did it?"
He didn't respond. A flickering light filled the room and he didn't look as much like me anymore. Harry Potter raised his right hand (with something in it) and waved it. The blasted walls, the smashed windows - all was fixed in a matter of seconds. I looked on, dumbfounded. Other bodies were visible in the room or near it; one was standing, some were lying down, twitching and moving, others were sprawled out motionless. Everything was crowded. The next thing I knew, everyone but my father had disappeared. I sensed some sort of discontinuity, but couldn't grasp it; soon the police arrived.
April 18th, 2004, 6:12 am
May 29, 1998
The police entered. My father was lying motionless on the floor; I had pushed myself up and was standing, dazed. A slowly-forming pool of blood emanating from my father's shoulder and neck surrounded a knife lying on the floor. I looked at my hands: they were stained with the blood from the ground.
"Stay there," a policeman said. I obeyed.
Another officer knelt by my father's body, put on a glove, and grasped his wrist. He looked up, frowning.
My mind slowly grasped what had occurred.
"I - I didn't - That wasn't -" The words stumbled out of my mouth.
The knife was placed in a bag. The bag was sealed. Outside, sirens continued to shrill.
"Come with me," the officer said. Two more policeman filed into the room as I lead the first officer outside.
"You have the right to remain silent..."
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