Scrubs

Imagine you’re six years old. You’re slightly shorter than average, you have fussy hair, and your favorite color is blue, but you think you wear the most red. In reality what you enjoy most is black, but you never write that on the sheets they give you in class. Instead you say black is not really a color. You write your favorite color is blue. Your favorite animal is cats. You live with your mom, dad, and older brother. Your teacher has curly brown hair and likes to wear long floral skirts. She also like to ask people about what they want to be when they grow up and if they want to be like their parents. Lots of grownups like to ask about your parents, but you think your teacher does it the most. You tell her your dad works for Google. He gave a name to his job but it’s long and you don’t remember (you don’t tell her this, though). Your mom is a doctor. Or a surgeon. On the worksheets you usually write doctor because you can’t spell surgeon. Your teacher always nods with a smile and says that’s nice. She doesn’t understand, though, you think. You think, my mommy saves lives.

What do you want to do when you grow up? You don’t know. For now you write down artist.

When you get older your grandmother starts to spend all her time sitting in the room with the piano watching Chinese dramas or cutting coupons. She also likes to ask you about your future. She’ll carefully remove her reading glasses and set down the coupons and call you over. You never sit down next to her, you just stand over her somehow still feeling lower. She nags you about not practicing piano more. She tells you your mom was already in a professional orchestra at your age. She tells you she practiced many hours every day. Then she asks you what you want to be when you grow up. Do you want to be a surgeon like your mom? You laugh and shake you head no. She chuckles too. She pokes at it being because of the blood. You smile. It’s not true, but you don’t want to argue with her, so instead you shrug and head to your room.

Imagine you’re thirteen. It really sinks in now how much time your mom spends at work. Your aupair makes you dinner and you eat with your younger brother. When your dad comes home you hide behind a laptop. You’re happy to see him. He’s large and strong and all smiles and badly timed jokes, but you’re not good at talking. Some nights your mom comes home with him. Some nights she doesn’t. In you free time you poke around her closet. You poke through dark wooden drawers of bras and socks and scarfs. You dig through plastic laundry baskets of blue scrubs and your father’s giant socks (he seems to wear at least three pairs a day). On some days while you lounge on the couch with your math homework your little brother tip toes over, his shoulders hunched over and his ‘shirt’, your mom’s old sweatshirt, clutched in his hands. He curls up under your arm and mumbles that he misses his mommy. She didn’t come home last night, he whimpers. And I didn’t get to see her this morning. You hug him a little tighter. As insulting as it is that he doesn’t seem to realize that she’s your mom too, you need to help him, but you can’t. So you just hug him until he finally unfolds himself and meanders away, not looking any better. Moments like these come and go, though, and they’re easy to forget.

Another thing you notice at this age is how people react when you tell them your mom is a transplant surgeon. What do your parents to? It’s always one of the first five questions you’re asked by a stranger, followed by asking if you want to be one, too. You always give a lighthearted no. They always note how time consuming that job must be and how much money she must make. Then you nod, because everything they say is true, but no one ever asks you if you’re proud of her. No one ever tells you it’s an admirable job or asks how many people she’s saved or how it feels to not know if she’s coming home that night or when in the morning she’ll leave. You find it strange, but not strange enough to really care.

Imagine now that you’re fifteen. In the shower you have to shout for your voice to be heard over the sound of the water and through the bathroom door. On the other side your older brother shouts back, asking if you should get takeout or go out to eat. You pause for a moment, then yell back that he should ask dad. You hear your brother’s heavy footsteps leave down the hallway. You close your eyes and let the water pour over your hair and flow in sheets over your face. Then you wipe your eyes and stare out at the bathroom. The glass of the shower door is just starting to get foggy, but you can still see the distinct color of a set of you mom’s blue scrubs lying in a crumpled heap on the countertop next to the sink. You think of yelling to you brother asking if your mom is coming home. If she’s coming home you should probably get takeout so she doesn’t come home to an empty apartment. You freeze. Then you take a deep breath, relax, and lean over for the shampoo. What a sad way of phrasing it, you think. Is mom coming home.

You don’t ask.

She doesn’t.

Maybe this is why you don’t want to be a doctor.

You feel selfish.

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Yellow Moon

Tonight the moon is too close. Instead of being the size of a penny it looks bigger than a quarter and it glows a murky yellow-brown. As you look at it through the windshield of the car, right above the trees and right next to the driver’s seat headrest, you comment that it’s so yellow tonight. No one answers. So you lean your left side against the car door and watch moon.

Tonight is humid. The tiny car, jam-packed with as many people as it can fit, is slowly warming up. Your little brother’s head falls onto your arm with a soft thump. The spot on your arm starts to feel sticky under your sweatshirt. Then his head lolls forward. You twist around and gently lift his head. It’s heavier than you expected. You turn, then rest his head on top of your shoulder, then lean back on the car door and look out at the moon.

Tonight the highway is only scattered with cars but it’s noisy. The illuminated stretch of pavement in front of you is empty and on the other side of the concrete barrier is a crooked line of headlights that stretches out and over the hill. The engine is grumbling and when you cross over to older pavement it switches to a low airy murmur and the car starts to vibrate sending tingles through your hip. Every time a car passes there’s a muffled zip and after a while it becomes almost rhythmic. Whir…zip…whir…zip…whir… zip…whir…zip.

Suddenly the car gives a little jerk and your dad slaps his forehead and groans, “Oh! I forgot something in the house.” Suddenly there’s conversation about what was forgotten and what should be done ripping through the sticky silence and suddenly there’s turning onto exits that makes you unsure whether you’re going to go back or go on. You can hear your breathing. Your head’s faintly aching. Then you realize you can no longer see the moon.

Red String

When you were five your older sister screamed a lot. She was – is – five years older than you, and at exactly twice your age her door slammed and her hands pushed your forehead and her voice screeched down the hallway calling for your mom because you just wouldn’t leave her alone. One day, playing with tiny metal cars the size of your fist, you hear mommy say that she’s just upset. I don’t know what to do, she says. She won’t talk to me. Your cars pause for a moment and the quiet vroom vroom stops. You lift your head. At this age your eyes are always wide and your little mouth likes to hang just barely open. They told you at school that upset people like hugs. So you push yourself up, a car in each hand, and clamber up the stairs and down the hall to your sister’s room.

When you get to the door it’s already cracked open, so you just let yourself in. Your sister’s room has more clothes in it than you remember. Her favorite shirt is hanging on the back of her chair and there’s jeans and skirts all around the doorway. Your sister is curled in the middle of her bed with her knees to her chest and her phone clutched in both hands. There’s tears gathering in the corners of her eyes and her mouth is set in a wide line and her forehead has gone all wrinkly. You plod over then climb up on the bed and drop the cars in her lap. Cars are good. She wipes her eyes and tells you to go away. Just leave her alone. She doesn’t want to play right now. But you don’t leave her alone. Because she’s upset. And upset people need hugs.

When you wrap your arms around her she just starts to cry more, so you squeeze tighter. Her tears land on your head and roll down your hair onto your shirt sleeves. She keeps wailing so you squeeze tighter and tighter and tighter; you hug her as much as your chubby five year old arm allow. Then, eventually, she stops. The wails become sniffles and she lifts her face out of your hair. You look up. Her eyes are red and she has wet streaks on the sides of her face, but at least her forehead isn’t wrinkly anymore. You still hold onto her, though. Her body’s gotten all warm, and you don’t know if she’s done being upset or not. She leans forward and extracts and arm from your hug. You squirm when she digs through your hair. Her fingers grab onto a few strand by accident, gently tugging on them. She pulls out a long piece of bright red string. It dangles in front of your face. “Isn’t this part of my friendship bracelet kit?” she asks, then she laughs. You giggle, then let go and take back your cars. Laughing means the upset is gone.

You’re about to hop of the bed and leave before she can yell at you to get out when she pushes the string at your chest telling you you can have it. You take it by the middle with three fingers and stare at it for a while. Then you hold it out. “For you,” you say with your five year old wide eyes. “For hugs. When you need them.” She gives you a smile and rubs your head and says thanks. It reminds you of something she used to do before being ten. This time, though, her eyes maybe looked a little sad. You almost give her another hug, but instead you bounce yourself off the edge of the bed and plod out the door.

The bed was really squishy.

Part 2

Why ‘You’? (A Mandatory Vacation)

Hello beautiful human beings and any other non humans who happen to read this. I’m about to embark on a mandatory vacation and therefore there will be a week long hiatus. So, instead of a week of the random stories that pop into my head I’m offering you something a little different:

Why do I write from the point of view of ‘you’?

The answer is honestly not all that complicated. It started with me practicing in my head how I would explain to others my extremely bizarre state of mental health. Then it turned into something that seemed to me more empathetic and interactive but also just sort of bizarre.

As you can tell, I’m not very good at this whole not using the same word twice thing.

I don’t know if you could tell, but I’m a massive consumer of fan fiction of many types. Imagine fan fiction was actually the thing that made me think, why can’t you do this with other types of writing? I’m just going to come out and say it, even though I think it’s fun, I actually don’t understand imagines. Possibly it’s because I haven’t read any that’s particularly good (if you have any non-explicit suggestions please let me know) but it was also because I kept being flooded by and drowning in the simultaneous shoving me into personalities that were really far from mine and weren’t personalities I ever felt comfortable imagining another version of myself with* and pages full of “y/n” (your name), which end I always ended up replacing with ‘Yana’.** The thing is, there was also something so fascinating about this genre (subgenre?) and I loved the concept of it. I fell in love with stories at a very young age. Some stories are an escape, some are to make you think. For me, though, the one thing all stories have in common is that they’re supposed to make you feel, whether it be happiness, jealousy, uncertainty, anxiety, or wonder. See where I’m coming from? All that’s left is to figure out how to make it not awkward.***

There’s also another more selfish I do this: on average it makes writing easier. For some reason I’ve found that sometimes the right words come easier this way. Maybe it’s because it feels more like a conversation and, even though I don’t talk a lot, I love the idea of talking. True, every now and then there are stories that do not come out right this way, for example I originally wrote A Purple Phone Case in the third person then switched it, and there’re a few limitations to what you can do, but it’s been an amazing experience so far.

And that’s a wrap!

 

*Please not I have nothing against people with these personalities. I actually like and admire them very much. I just like myself the way I am, which in short is kind of moody and broody.

**The worst was when there were things like “y/hc” (your hair color) or “y/ec” (your eye color) or some variation of one of those.

***This is a work in progress, as is the quality of my writing.

Clouds

You reach up into bottom of the cloud, wrap you hands around a piece of ice, and pull it out. Grinning, you smooth frost off the outside of the sphere with your shirt sleeve, then, holding it close to your chest, you zip away.

Zooming across the sky in unstable spirals, you laugh and gaze down at your sphere of ice. Soon a wispy white cloud comes into view and you call out, “Mother!” On top of the cloud she lazily lifts her head, squinting at you as you race towards her. Then her eyes widen and she ducks into the cloud right before you go flying through where her head used to be. You screech to a halt, back up, then lower yourself onto the cloud as your mom slowly lifts herself back up. Her wispy hair is pointing in every possible direction and her eyes are still half closed. She pulls her shawls back up on her shoulder.

“Mother, look!” You shove the sphere of ice in her face with a huge grin. “Isn’t it great! I finally found on that’s the perfect shape!”

She yawns. Her eyelids flutter. “I don’t understand where you came from,” she says, then starts to lie down again.

Suddenly your stomach tightens and you desperately throw the ice up into the air and grab her arm. “Mother! Come on mother, stay awake.”

She hangs limply and glares up at you. “Why?”

“I found a piece of ice to make the navigation instrument I read about. I need you permission to leave now.”

Finally, she sits up. She readjusts her shawl with a sharp flick, then flicks your forehead. “I don’t know how my child ended up like this,” she says angrily. “Always zipping around like some maniac. You don’t need to leave. Just go back to your cloud and sleep.”

“But-”

“No.”

You stare down at the cloud. Your mother lies back down and curls up under her shawl. “But mother,” you say, voice hardly above a whisper. “There’s so many things to see. I want to see the ocean up close. I want to visit the mountains and see humans and cities. I want to try food.”

“You don’t have to,” you mom mumbles from under her hair. “Just sleep. Dream. If you dream you can do all those things and so much more. And you never have to put yourself in danger or worry or get lost.” She waves her hand limply.

“But it’s different. If you would just try-” You look down at the steady rise and fall of your mother’s chest. Her hair blows up with every exhale until there’s a little opening around her nose. You give her arm a light poke. When she doesn’t react you slowly back up. When you bump into the sphere of ice you freeze. You gently pick it up. You look at your sleeping mother, then at the piece of ice, then down at the ground below you. Then you quietly fly away cradling the ice close to you chest.

Perhaps your mother will dream of you.

A Bottle of Champagne

Your neighbors’ house burned down yesterday. Four dead, even the dog. Nothing left. You heard it from your mom through tears and hugs and then on tv and then in harsh whispers from the lunch table next to yours. You just sat there. You didn’t cry. You didn’t know why.

The house is on the wrong side, so when you walk to school you don’t have to pass it. You just see, out of the corner of your eye, a gray frame in the shape of a house and a pile of ash that spills into the lawn, dirtying what grass is still green. You get a clearer view of it on the way home. Every day it changes, people picking through the remains for memories and parts and eventually the rain wipes away the ash until the place looks like a pile of sticks, like the model house you built in third grade. One week you join the entire town as they crowd around the house with flowers and candles and stories and tears to mourn the family. You just stand with your hands in your pockets, cheeks pink from the wind, and it feels like your body is sinking. It gets difficult to keep your eyes open and the murmurs and sobs are being replaced by a faint buzz of white noise, so you gently push your way out of the crowd and slip into your house hoping no one saw. Later, in your bed, with wet hair and a mouth that tastes like mint you curl up and press your clasped hands against your chest and wonder why you still haven’t cried. Your stomach sinks deeper.

The day of the fire your mom has herded you out of the house. Even though your houses were far away she could see the smoke and you were leaving, just in case. Bundled in a blanket and wrapped in her arms you’d watched from across the street as the flames lit up the sky a beautiful scarlet that faded to black. The night of your high school graduation when you watch the sunset from the playground with your friends it reminds you of the fire. Beside you they laugh and cheer and send off that last day by raising a stolen bottle of champagne. Then they pass it around with some plastic cups as the stars come out, bumping each other’s shoulders and reminiscing about how Alex drew crude pictures in sharpie on the whiteboard that one time. As you sip champagne under night sky your friends poke fun about your apathetic face until someone tells them off with a ‘they’ve always been this way’. You lie down and inform them that honestly, really, you’re gonna miss them so much. You’re gonna miss this place. They laugh and pile on hugs and the corners of your eyes crinkle just a little.

Later, when you volunteer to dispose of the empty cups the slight sinking feeling in your stomach that’s become so normal it’s like it’s not there spreads to your chest. It feels like someone’s attached a rope to your insides and is struggling to climb up. You toss the cups in the trash. When you return you return to tear stained faces and more hugging, this time sorrowful. You sit down on the side and smooth out your white graduation clothes and wait for someone to come to you. And when one by one they do you still haven’t cried.

Stars (cont.)

Part 1 here

Kara breaks the silence with “Space is a funny thing, isn’t it?”

You lift your head, not bothering to wipe the streaks of wet off your face. Through the tears that collected in the corners of your eyes she looks distorted. Her face and hands are blurry and her normally black hair looks almost green. Chest too heavy to really say anything at all, you blink away the tears and wait for her to continue.

“Everyone’s so convinced it’s magical,” she says, looking out through the dome. “I mean, it made sense as something untouchable, but it’s so easy to get up here now. And space is cold and dark and it’s kind of really easy to die up here. And like, no one ever uses the bottom of the sea the same way you talk about space. It’s just weird.”

Your stomach is starting to feel like it’s folding in on itself. You’re not sure what she’s trying to do, but it’s not helping. Now your head hurts. You didn’t need to be reminded that you might die, that it would be so easy to never see your family again.

Kara doesn’t stop, though. “I’ve definitely spent way too much time thinking about this.” She pauses for a moment, then closes her eyes and rests her head on your shoulder. “But for some reason I still wanted to go to space. You know, I’ve lost family to this place but I still think it’s beautiful. I don’t know, maybe I’m bad, but space is still out there. It’s amazing. And so are you. Cutie.” She headbutts you in the chin, sending you dramatically toppling over moaning about betrayal. Then she laughs and lays down on your stomach. The floor cold, even through the blanket, but you’re warm and so is Kara. The two of you look up through the dome out at the planets and moons and stars and space junk you know you’ll have to identify. It’s a different view from when you first sat down. You feel Kara’s head shift before she says, “We got this, okay? This ship is temporary family and we’ll definitely get you home to your real one.”

You imagine she’s looking at you when she says this. You don’t reply, though. You just keep staring out at the stars and you wonder if, now that’s you’ve moved, Earth really is just on the other side of them.