Here Today

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“Our summers were filled with fires.  It would get so dry in the hills that the wildfires would show up every once in a while like a nosy neighbor. My mother was very skittish about fires for some reason, even though we were relatively used to them. Every time there was a wildfire, we would put our bathing suits on, pack our towels, stop by a drugstore to buy some Pringles and Goldfish, and head to my grandmother’s place to swim at her pool.” Aerie stops speaking and rubs the back of her neck and smiles down at the table.

I wait patiently for her to begin again, wishing that Aerie had a clock to tick or a sink to drip or anything that would make noise to fill in the space.

“Bridgette and I used to make up all kinds of games in the pool,” she says, trailing off again.

“Marco Polo?” I suggest. “Chicken? Racing? Diving for toys?”

“No, nothing like that. We’d make up games, pretend we were witches or other powerful, magical women.”

“Hideous beasts?” I ask.

“No, in our imaginations we were always beautiful. We pretended to be charming teenagers or gorgeous women, not awkward children.”

“Would your grandmother play with you?” I ask.

“Not really. She would sit in a recliner with our mother reading books or chatting. But she encouraged us. I would sometimes pretend to complain about how the chlorine would turn my hair green and the water would make my fingers wrinkled.”

“You would pretend to complain?”

“Yes. I said it deliberately so that my grandmother would tell me that it was because I was part mermaid. All mermaids had green hair and they all had fingertips like that to pick up shells and treasure at the bottom of the ocean.” She trails off again before realizing the silence.

“She told Bridgette and I that she was a mermaid too,” Aerie says. “She had long, silver, wavy hair. She used to put it in a swim cap and swim some laps while Bridgette and I played. She said she had to use a swim cap or the chlorine would turn her whole head green. She was the only elderly person I knew with long hair. I used to love how the sun would catch the silver strands and make them sparkle.”

“She sounds like a lovely woman,” I say.

“She was,” Aerie says. “She passed away when I was still a child.”

“Would you like to talk about it?” I ask.

“She got Alzheimer’s,” she says.

“That must have been very painful for you,” I say.

“Memories are interesting things,” she says. “They’re here today and gone tomorrow. People can be like that too.”

Where my Mother Left Me

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He turned and I quickly shifted my eyes to my glass and took a sip.

“We haven’t been formally introduced,” Cristian said, approaching the table and uncrossing his arms to hold his hand out to shake. Not many people I had known reach out to shake a kid’s hand. “I’m Cristian,” he said.

“I’m Lili,” I said, taking his hand in mine. Cristian squeezed it a little too hard, but I still liked it, this shaking hands business. “My mom says I can call you Uncle Cristian,”

Cristian laughed. “Well, you can if you want.”

“She says that your wife is like a sister to her.”

“Mel certainly thinks of your mother that way.”

“So if your wife is my aunt, then you’re my uncle.”

“It makes sense,” he said, turning back to the microwave that was beeping. He took the mug out and started putting spoonfulls of powders from different jars in it.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making it taste better,” he said.

“My mom just puts some honey in.”

“Well, I’ll be sure to put honey in it also, but I think she’s going to like this.” He put the mug on the table and sat down with me. His eyes shifted from the tabletop to me. “Do you drink tea?”

“No,” I said. “I don’t like it.”

“Try this,” he said.

“I won’t like it,” I said.

“Just try it.”

I dragged the mug across the table to me.

“Blow on it first,” Cristian said.

There was powder spread across the top of the surface, but it smelled good, like cinnamon spice. I blew on the surface, making tiny ripples and waves, the powders swirling around. I took a sip. It was scalding hot, but I found that I liked the flavor. It didn’t taste like any tea I had ever tried.

“Good, huh?” Cristian said.

I nodded, sliding the mug back to where my mother had been sitting.

A skinny white cat jumped onto Cristian’s lap. He ran his hand from its head all the way down its back. The cat arched its back up and turned around on his lap, mewing for more.

“Hola mi Fantasmacita,” Cristian said.

I straightened up at the Spanish. I had always wanted to be able to speak Spanish to be closer to my dad’s and my heritage. I had learned bits and pieces here and there, but it never stuck in my mind for long.

“What do you think they’re talking about in there?” Cristian asked.

I shrugged and looked at the table. I didn’t want to tell him, but I knew exactly what they were talking about. I was afraid of what was going to happen. I was afraid all day as we traveled to Melanie and Cristian’s house, afraid to stay with strangers without my mother. But now I was kind of hoping the Melanie would say yes. I would get to live in a house with a woman who showed me photographs of her past and a man who made tea and spoke Spanish. I looked up at Cristian.

“You knew my father,” I said to him.

“Yes I did,” Cristian said, crossing his arms across his chest again. “He was a good man.”

“Was he nice?” I asked.

“Very kind, yes.”

“Why didn’t my mother stay with him?” I asked.

“Uh, well, that’s a very complicated question. I don’t know if anyone can answer it.”

I nodded. “My mom says that you and Melanie don’t have kids. She says that you don’t want them.”

“You’re quite the interrogator, Lili,” Cristian said, smiling at me.

“What does that mean?”

“It means that you ask tough questions. Your mom is right though, Mel and I decided not to have kids.”

“Why?”

“We just had other goals.”

I nodded at the table.

“It’s not that we don’t like kids, though,” Cristian said. “Kids are great.”

I smiled at him.

“Cristian?” Melanie said from the entry. “Could you come out here for a second?”

“Sure,” Cristian said, putting his hands on his thighs before standing up.

I was left alone in the kitchen, awaiting my fate. My mother came in not long after and she hugged me. I was staying, she said. I asked her how long she would be gone. She said a couple of months, maybe. I never lived with my mother again.

Hideous Beast

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Aerie owns a shop where she sells nothing but knowledge. In the historic section of San Juan Capistrano, on a street with several hundred year old adobes and quaint houses turned coffee shops, restaurants, and shops with wild flower gardens and signs warning hipsters with their giant Nikon cameras that they are on private property, Aerie’s shop’s small yard is full of dead grass. The stairs up to the porch creak under my weight. The wood of the porch has gaping cracks in it. There are no decorations, no wind chimes, no open/closed sign, and no mat to welcome me here.

There is a printer paper sign in the window that says, “If the door is locked, we’re closed, if it’s unlocked, we’re open.” I try the handle and it turns. All the curtains are drawn. My eyes take a second to adjust from coming in from the bright sun. Once my eyes begin to focus again, I see that the room is empty. The only furniture in the room is a small table with two chairs across from each other. The table and chairs are both wooden and neither cloth adorns the table nor pillows adorn the chairs.

“Hello?” I call. “The sign said you were open.”

I wait and hear nothing. “Hello?” I call again.

The door on the other side of the room opens and Aerie comes out. She is wearing loose clothe pants and an equally loose blouse, both black. Her hair is tousled. She runs a hand through it as she walks to the table.

“Yes, we are open,” she says in a scratchy voice.

I am almost certain she had just woken-up from a nap. She pulls a chair out and sits down.

“Have a seat,” she says, gesturing to the chair across from her.

I sit like a well-trained dog.

“So you’d like to find your next lover?” she asks, beginning to roll the dice that I didn’t notice she was holding.

“No,” I say.

The truth is, I am already in love with Aerie, but I know she would point me in the direction of someone else, as she has done in the past.

“Well,” she says, “that’s all I do. If you want your fortune told there’s a New-Age store on Camino Capistrano Street. They might help you there.”

“Aerie,” I say, “do you remember me?”

“No,” she says so quick that I wasn’t sure if I’d even finished my question before she’d answered. “Why? Did we go to school together?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Don’t get so excited. The only people I’ve ever known were from school, and customers here, over course.”

“I’ve been your customer too,” I say.

“Sorry, pal,” she says. “Don’t remember you, don’t remember anybody.”

“I actually wanted to know if I could ask you a few questions. I’m a journalist and your story has always interested me.”

“Ha!” she says. “You must find the mundane interesting. I have no story.”

“Everyone has a story,” I say. “I want to know the truth about you.”

She narrows her eyes. “Do you have the questions prepared?”

“I do,” I say.

“You won’t get anything interesting out of me,” she says.

“Oh really,” I say, opening the notebook I’d brought with me and clicking my pen. “Which of the following, if any, are true? Are you: a. a witch, b. a fairy, or c. from another dimension?”

She laughs so loud that it makes my heart beat faster. “It’s been a while since I’ve told those stories,” she says.

“Are any of them the truth?” I ask.

“No, none of them are the truth,” she says.

“Then what is the truth?”

She looks me directly in the eyes for the first time ever.

“The truth is, I’m a hideous beast,” she says.

Announcement Time

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Hello there fellow bloggers!  I just wanted to tell you all that I have finished the first draft of my novel!  At this moment in time, it clocks in at 72,136 words! I still have a lot to do, from editing and rewriting to hopefully sending it to some beta readers, but I’m just so happy that I’ve reached this milestone and wanted to share it!  That is all.

Autumn Life Update

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Due to unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, my boyfriend, cats, and I had to move last week. Our space is tighter, but it’s rather cozy. We’ve created my own little reading and writing nook that I absolutely love. Luna and I are lounging there now.

In other news, it is now autumn! A few days ago I found several autumn themed tumblr blogs and I have spent several hours looking at them and sighing. I love everything about autumn, the colder weather, the cozier clothes, the warm drinks, and autumn colors. Unfortunately, we don’t get autumn leaves where I live, but hopefully I shall see some soon. My beloved sister is moving back to SoCal from Chicago and I’m going to help her drive back this weekend. Here is a sampler of the kind of thing she has been seeing in the Chicago area:

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Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about that.  I have also taken a bit of a break from writing my novel, but I’m planning on starting that up again as soon as tomorrow.  I am so far into it that I’m hoping to finish the first draft by the end of this month!  Here’s to hoping.

I wasn’t sure if this type of blog post would be interesting to anyone, so I thought I’d try it out and see how it went.  I have to admit, it feels a little weird to be writing about myself instead of writing fiction, but there has been a few changes in my life and I felt like sharing!

Farewell, fellow readers and writers.  I hope you are enjoying your autumn as much as I’m enjoying mine.

Haunted

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For many years I worked in a haunted hotel. I knew from the moment I saw it, when I was eighteen and on the bus back from seeing my college counselor for the first time with thoughts of my future swirling around in my head, that it was a strange building. It stands ten stories tall off the 55 freeway. When you first see it, the walls that jut out with balconies make the building look crooked. The closer you get, the straighter it becomes. It’s as if the building noticed you looking at it in its crookedness and corrected itself out of embarrassment. It sucks in its breath and stands tall. Then as you drive past it, it lets the air out of its stomach and slouches again.

Like many buildings in Southern California, it was built in a Spanish style, with sloping red-tiled roofs and white walls. It was originally a sugar beet factory and the architecture of the hotel mimics that of the factory it used to be. They say that some of the workers died while converting the building into a hotel. I know for a fact that there have been other deaths since. Sometimes the idea that the building is haunted amuses me. Other times, it follows me around and whispers in my ear things that I don’t want to hear, that I know and have known people who continue to be haunted by their own fears.

Everyday Thoughts

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I remember being in Little Tokyo with Sammy for her birthday one time and looking out the window of the ramen restaurant at a young white girl sitting and writing in a notebook.  She was wearing bright blue leggings and orange high heeled shoes and a black and white checkered jacket.  Her hair was similar to mine, perhaps a bit lighter.  I couldn’t possibly have seen her eyes from the distance, but I feel like they were blue.  And I fell a little bit in love with her because she was young and a girl and she was writing in a notebook and you just don’t see that everyday.  And she seemed so much like me, and yet so different at the same time.  I wonder if anyone sees me that way, writing in a notebook in the waiting room of a car dealership.  I’m not dressed eccentrically, in a long-sleeved navy button-down shirt and jean shorts because it’s wild fire hot outside, and flip flops I had spent maybe $5 to $10 on five years ago that have lasted me so long.  The only other white girl in here is a dyed blond girl with a bright blue hoodie and sneakers to match.  She’s talking on the phone giving her friend relationship advice and jiggling her foot.  And here I am, writing in a notebook on top of my Amy Tan novel on my lap, the people around me reading magazines or watching the tv or playing on their phones.  I wonder if anyone will look at me and think, huh, you don’t see that everyday.

In His Riptide

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Those days when he was around, it was heaven. I would often try to ignore him; try to show him how it feels. He would lie on my bed, watching as I sat at my desk, trying to type a paper, watch a film clip, or read an article or chapter. It took so much will power to keep my eyes glued to what I was doing. He was like a riptide to my eyes, forcing them into his pull. Without fail, I’d give in and see him with his arms crossed behind his head, staring at my ceiling, thinking those things he thinks that he never tells me. Then he’d look back at me and raise his eyebrows. Am I done yet? I’d get out of my chair in some kind of trance and approach him. He’d uncross his arms and hold them out for me, letting me into this small portion of his life that he reserved for me, just for me; and we’d lay and talk about his day and my day and what he’s working on and what I’m working on and what this person said that was funny and we’d laugh and drift off together until we fell asleep. Those were the best days. I was lucky to have so many of them.
There were those worst days too. We never fought, just failed to connect. I’d try to ask him questions, get him to talk to me, but it was forced. He didn’t want to talk. We ran out of steam. He pulled away from me until he told me he was leaving. And because I don’t want to live like that, I never forced him again. I let him come to me on his own terms, which means I never see him enough to be satisfied. Sometimes he gives me hope that we can be together. He’ll spend time with me and make me feel special again and make me think that maybe we could do it. Whether or not I can ever find that lovely balance again, I don’t know. Can we go back to those days when he’d meet me at the coffee shop across the street from the airport before my film class and come over random nights to lie on my bed while I did my homework and talk me to sleep? I don’t know, but for now I wait.

On My Inability to Multitask

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I will be the first to admit to you that I am not great at multitasking.  It’s just not natural for me.  If you try to talk to me while I am watching TV, or reading, or typing, or doing anything except maybe walking or eating, I just will not hear you.   It is one of those skills that I have always coveted and have put conscious effort into improving.  I have gotten better, but I am still probably below the average human when it comes multitasking.  What I am good at is concentrating.  Lately, I’ve been concentrating on writing, which is great, but I have noticed it taking a toll on one of my day jobs.

My gift at concentration coupled with being fairly detail-oriented means that I tend to get a reputation at my jobs of being very reliable.  I am the person that you can count on to get things done correctly.  But recently, I have been catching myself making mistakes.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things it’s not something to worry about.  Everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  But I’ve been making a lot of little ones.  Luckily, that has not been the case at my tutoring job.  I would hate to let a kid who wants to learn down.

The thing is, even if I do make some mistakes here or there at my day job, it’s worth it if I am concentrating on writing.  Writing is the thing that I want to be doing when I’m at work and it’s what I want to be doing when I’m not at work.  It’s what I want to be doing 20, 30, 60 years from now.  My day job may be for my bank account, but writing is for my soul.  So if I make a few minor mistakes, I won’t worry about it, because I have other things to concentrate on.

On Taking Breaks

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I recently took a short break from my writing, and subsequently, this blog.  It was meant to be a one week break, and it ended up being two weeks…heh heh…heh…*clears throat*.

Despite it being a longer break than I anticipated, it was a planned break.  You see, back near the end of December, when everyone on the internet was reviewing how their past year went and sharing their goals and resolutions for the new year, I decided that I would also make a goal for 2014.  I would create a writing schedule and stick with it!  Breaks were added into this schedule.

I think for writers, and probably other creative people, it is important to take breaks while making something.  Not only does it keep you sane and healthy, but it gives you a fresh perspective when you do come back to your work.

During my break, I had come up with one big new idea on how to flesh out my current novel manuscript and was looking through my work for places that I could add tidbits of it in, when I came across the last complete chapter I had worked on and…I didn’t remember it.  I read a few random sentences from it to remind myself of what was going on during that part and I couldn’t quite remember it, so I reread it.  Other than some rather obvious grammar mistakes that I didn’t catch while writing it, the chapter was rather good and added to the flow of the plot and development of the characters and helped me continue to plot the next scenes that are coming up.  I was expecting to be refreshed and motivated when I came back from my writing break, but I wasn’t expecting to get that boost of encouragement to find that what I had been working on last was working so well in the story.

What about you, fair reader?  Do you also enjoy taking breaks during your creative endeavors?