Things Only Get Weirder From Here (For Both of Us)

Double Digits. Oh boy. You’re ten years old and that means that you aren’t a baby, you aren’t a child, and you’re not even my little boy anymore. You are – *cringe* – a pre-teen. And that means one thing: puberty is coming.

Yes, Mom just said that word. No, I don’t like it either.

Things only get weirder from here, for both of us, I’m afraid. Here’s a list of all the things that we used to think were weird and uncomfortable that will become our new normal. Like I said, this bodes true for both of us.


  1. Yep, we have to talk about what you smell like because it’s not good, bud. I know what your dad smells like, and, honestly, that is also not my favorite thing either. Use that deodorant I put on your desk with the cologne you got for Christmas every day. (Nope, I’m not kidding, every single day. Sometimes twice. Maybe more because you play sports, kiddo).

 

  1. You think the hair on your elbow is annoying, wait until it’s growing in other places. I don’t want to say where but judging by the way you just glanced down and asked me “Not everywhere, right?” I have a feeling that we’re going to have to talk about it just a little. Yes, it does grow EVERYWHERE on EVERYONE. Let’s switch topics, yeah?

 

  1. Please don’t put your hands in your pants in front of other people. I don’t care the reason why you did it, please stop telling me, just don’t do it. Yeah? Yeah. Good. Moving on.

 

  1. If you hear a word and you think you know what it means, maybe ask your dad or me first? Because sometimes you use grown up words that you heard at school and you use them incorrectly (or just use them, some of those things you shouldn’t be saying AT ALL, just so you know). I promise that we’ll explain these things to you no matter how uncomfortable it is because we don’t want you to use those words somewhere else and get in trouble or be embarrassed because you understand.

 

  1. Let’s not move our hips that way at people. You don’t need to know why, okay, just don’t do it because you’re way too young to know what that means – but some of your friends probably do already, and let’s just avoid all of the awkward rumors and confrontations that will result from that continued movement. I promise this is for the best. No, I’m really not going to explain it right now, so drop it.

 

  1. Dad already ruined the gross surprise about where babies come from. Let’s just leave it at that for now. You’ll be getting that talk in about six months at school and they’re way more qualified to give you the medical information than we are – if you have questions afterwards, then we’ll sit down and have that chat as a family unit. Probably with some cake so we at least have something to distract us from how uncomfortable it is to be discussing all of that stuff.

 

  1. I know everyone used to joke about having boyfriends or girlfriends when you were little – but that’s not a joke anymore. You are not allowed to have boyfriends or girlfriends at this age now because of all of the new puberty stuff that’ll be happening. We definitely would prefer if you waited to date people until you’re fifteen, yeah? Dating has so many implications and, right now, we just need to get over the pre-teen hurdle. Yes, you – me – and dad. All three of us need to make it to thirteen first. We will revisit the topic then.

 

  1. Sometimes we will have to talk about private things and, trust me, nobody wants to do that except your doctor. We want to be on an ‘as-needed’ basis for information like that, but also – don’t be embarrassed to let us know if you’re worried about something. We will be too – and we will get you to the doctor so that he can have that weird conversation with you instead.

 

  1. Your emotions will make no sense. I mean, really, they have never made sense because children have weird emotional reactions to literally everything. But pre-teens and teenagers move through those emotions so quickly… We won’t be able to keep up. We’re trying. We know it’s just as bad for you. I know you don’t believe me now, but remember when you cried because we asked you to stop chewing on your eraser? Lots more of that kind of stuff to come, my dude.

 

  1. Everyone thinks that they are ugly, or fat, or gross during puberty – but it’s not your job to decide that for other people or yourself. You are a great person just the way you are, even as your body starts changing from a child’s body into a young adult’s body. You are wonderful, fantastic, beautiful, amazing! Your brain will try to make you think you’re less than because sometimes that’s just how the brain works during puberty (What a gross word, blech), but you’re not. Dad and I will always be here when you’re feeling down about something – even if it’s something none of us really want to talk about. We will listen because we love you.

Pre-teen years are going to be crazy, but not more than the upcoming teenager years – when you’ll be spending the night with friends all weekend, going to dances and parties for school, learning to drive, and getting a job. You’ve done all of your growing up and now it’s time for your maturing. The first adventure in our life is done.

Things only get weirder from here, for both of us, but someday – you’ll be glad for this list. I hope that being able to talk about the weird, gross, and awkward things will keep our relationship as mother, father, and son strong. We are always on your side.

No matter what that side smells like… 😉

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Not Much Longer

Author’s Note:   This short piece was meant to follow the ABDCE structure of plot development. (Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending). I don’t know that I totally aced the objective, but I touched up the original draft and wanted to share it today as a way to keep myself lamely active. May you read and enjoy.


 

Brianna’s husband had missed work again, so she made him yet another doctor’s appointment. His many ailments have meant constant visits to the office for years. Another wife might have announced her unhappiness, but she rarely complained of any inconvenience when shuffling him across town and back regularly.

Upon arrival, Brianna immediately departed from her husband, off to his favorite seat in the dusty corner with no windows. Silently, she’d considered how befitting his choice was and how it reflected how she felt about him most days. Focused on the front desk, Brianna found a beautiful nurse borrowing the reception computer. “Yes,” she said without looking up.

Brianna slid the check-in clipboard into her chest and whispered through a smirk; “We still on for tonight?” The nurse cocked a brow, sneering at the screen. After a deliberate pause she calmly declined.

“You need to take care him. He’s your husband.”

“Not for much longer,” the wife declared. When she pushed the clipboard back, there was a business card tucked beneath the clip. The nurse took the clipboard and said something about letting the receptionist know when she returned. Brianna carried herself to the corner where her husband sat with his chin in his chest. It was silly to complain about her sorrow to anyone could listen because only she has the power to make a change.

He’s your husband, she had said to Brianna. A laugh parted her lips. Not for much longer.

Disappearing

Author’s Note: The assignment for this story was originally intended for the writer’s to craft a piece in which the main character expected to die in twenty-four hours. This assignment was meant to build a character with wants, desires, and needs – things that might rise to the surface in a time of great stress. I challenged this idea by being mellow, and sort of showing the pain of depression pre-existing the diagnosis. While I do not feel the content needs a trigger warning, if you are sensitive to the topic of death or loss, I urge that you choose to not read any further.


It was forty years ago when I began to truly accept that my blindness was completely out of my control and turned that frustration into something productive. I didn’t just adapt to rely on my other sense but actually focused all of my energy them as my outlet. At a young age, I had realized I had a strong sense of smell, and started playing games with my friends to see how accurately I could guess something by its scent alone. As I got older and this became boring and childish, I started pairing the scents of my shampoo and lotion. After that, I started mixing perfumes, and soon I became passionate about fragrance as a whole.

Creating perfume is a delicate and tedious process, though everyone told me it was little more than a silly hobby to pass my time. My abuela harassed me for putting any of my time towards making original scents.

“Stop daydreaming, nieta!”

However, in spite of her harassment, I sold my first formula at seventeen for a relatively small fortune. It was the beginning of what I used to think was a good life.

My formula was run for a limited time, only five hundred or so bottles were sold, but I was never offered one to save as a keepsake. I suppose in the ignorance of my youth I hadn’t cared, thinking that because I had memorized the recipe it was basically the same as having a bottle of it. I could easily recreate it for myself at a much cheaper price, and it would be an unlimited quantity as well. As I understand it, however, two of the bottles are in a museum in Barcelona.

I can’t believe I am thinking of this after so many years.

My grandmother passed away shortly after I was hired to create fragrances overseas when I was my early twenties. I had dropped out of college and she was very angry with me, though she had said that she was more afraid that I would succeed than that I would fail. “It will take you away from me, nieta, and I may forget your face.” I had been fortunate that I was home visiting her when she fell so ill. But the pang of her loss drove me to work harder, work longer, and create a life that I thought I had wanted so badly when I was younger.

But since then, I have been utterly alone. Nothing belongs to me except for my perfume legacy, though I recently took a step away from the corporate life, hoping to work less and enjoy more. My days are often spent playing piano and listening to books written by famous acquaintances that hired my company to create their signature scents.

I’ve been asking myself: Is the piano not mine? Is the condo not mine? Is the legacy of my business not mine? It is true that I own these things but what I want to have is not something than can be seen. I want for something that I can feel. I do not want to feel so lonely. I do not want to die with nothing, with no one.

I know this is why I am waiting for a plane to Barcelona. I want to see if I can plead with the museum to let me purchase this one thing that I know belongs to me. It represents who I was in my youth; it represents where I have come from in my life. More than anything, however, it is my last connection to mi dulce abuela.

More times than I can count, I would sit in the garden while she preened her precious plants, unable to trust that I could be inside on my own. The recipe I had sold was fashioned to gain her approval – to embody her and show that the art of fragrance was not just a silly hobby that took my time away from something she thought was more important.

A sigh escapes my lips, tears trying to leave my eyes but freezing along my lids. Ice fills my veins and I’m left cold as I remember my fate. Last week, I met with a specialist who gave me a death sentence, more or less. In the days that have followed, I have begun reflect so intently upon my life.

People begin shifting around me, there’s something about the way the air moves that I can feel it on the back of my neck, and their shuffling almost distracts me form realizing the vibration is my phone. The pattern is unique and this is how I usually confirm that it is my phone ringing without feeling it. My assistant has gone to get coffee while we wait for the plane but she left my phone in a front pocket so that I could answer if the need arose. I’ll have to check what she gets paid and give her a raise for how good she is to me.

“I am looking to speak with Margarida de Luna. Is she available?” The gentleman seems out of breath, but I still recognize his voice. This is one of the other specialists from the hospital. After I affirm my identity comfortably, he rushes into his reason for calling. “The doctor made a mistake and asked me to call you.”

The doctor has made a mistake, I question him, but only because it feels as if this is the right thing to do. My instinct is to ask how he has made a mistake. Doctors train for a decade, if not more, in their chosen fields. How is it possible that he has made a mistake after doing this job for thirty years in addition to his study? I am offended that he is wrong but I listen to his explanation, because, no matter how frantic I feel, people do make mistakes.

A printing error – something that is fairly common in the machinery used for the type of scan ordered. The doctor had asked his co-workers for second opinions, noticing after my appointment when trying to prescribe a treatment plan, that various details seemed to conflict with one another. One of the other specialists was familiar with the error and pulled up old files where the same thing had occurred with his patients, essentially confirming that there was no illness to fear in my case.

I should be elated to hear that my life is not, in fact, waning as rapidly as I’d been told only days ago. A disappearing mass, and a disappearing stress, but one thing came with the diagnosis that remains: my bitter anticipation.

I guess, for now, I’ll live yet another lonely day.

My Late Best Friend

Trigger Warnings: References to suicide, references to rape


Standing off to the side of the stage, I can see the entirety of the class. There are opening remarks and awkward pauses as principals and board members get emotional over the graduation ceremony about to take place. Meanwhile, I’m stony and cold with a low rumbling rage. I know every single pretty faced teenager sitting in their shiny black chairs, caps and gowns hiding their fancy clothes. But they can’t hide the elephant in the room… They can’t hide the fact that one of their classmates is missing.

Jessica Langston. My best friend.

Jessica Langston.

My late best friend.

A month ago, I remember stepping out of my house in pajamas, the morning air nipping at the exposed skin on my arms. I was confused by the presence of officers in my driveway and had raced down to meet them. A solemn recognition burrowed into my heart the instant they welcomed me with condolences. Nightmares that had been plaguing me for weeks came to fruition via the single bullet Jessica put through her brain the night before, leaving me with a memory that still causes me to grind my teeth in irritation.

Jessica was supposed to be on a suicide watch. I had reported my concerns to teachers and school counselors. I begged her other friends to make reports of any unusual behavior. Without a doubt, she was a danger to her self. I regularly checked in on Jessica to ensure her safety, but the girls always joked that she was only in trouble if she was ‘with the boys.’ This, of course, was a cruel joke. They always made sure that they said it loudly enough for everyone in the hallway to hear. I often left those conversations physically ill, though violently upset as well.

Before Jessica killed herself, I was her only remaining friend. Nobody else wanted to be seen with her after she reported the rape. Gazes that had once been envious burned black with jealousy; though, if they new the pain she was in – none of them would want for her life. Each person condemned her to Hell for her ‘sins,’ many of her bullies genuinely impious themselves; all the while her rapist has since been hailed as a king. It was a ‘sexual feat’ for him to bed the valedictorian.

What a feat – raping someone.

Adam fucking Addison.

He’s sitting right in the front, and I have to try really hard not to spit at him when I’m invited to join the principal onstage. Jessica was supposed to make her speech today but instead its me. She had wanted me to have a copy on the off chance that I was invited to honor her memory. Little did I know back then that it would come to fruition. I really didn’t want to do this but I feel that nobody else deserves to do it, either.

I catch a glimpse of the Langstons standing side-by-side in the crowd as a moment of silence is called in Jessica’s name. There’s no mention of her suicide, which shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Anger has a way of eating through the reserves of common sense that we, as a sentient people, should have, and instead of redirecting it – I allow it fester. I’m going to need the adrenaline rush for the delivery of what, I believe, is going to be a very – memorable – speech.

While their heads are down, my chin is held high. I resist smirking at the false faith pandering through the crowd. If there truly is an afterlife, Jessica is scoffing at these scoundrels for their fake sympathy. Before her passing, she harbored immeasurable contempt for the hypocritical hatred borne from their religious regime. The devotees of her old faith betrayed her, essentially shepherding her to her grave. I scold each and every blasphemous fool before me.

And then Assistant Principal Masters denotes some of my lame accomplishments, though they are quite ordinary in comparison to Jessica’s incredible high school career. A few weak claps come as I slide up to the podium and prepare myself to become the voice of the voiceless. But I’m more than that…

Today, I am the voice of the dead.

“Good Evening, Barrington Heights, my name is Eli Chase – and I’m here because I was asked.” Faces are contorting at my verbal ambivalence, though I am sure that my own expression is quite the opposite. Dark amusement prickles along the back of my neck, anger seething beneath that in every layer of skin.

Murmurs are dying down, so it seems appropriate for me to continue. These people don’t know it, and they never will, but what I’m going to say is far less scathing that what Jessica could have been saying if she were here.

“I’m not going to say the words that she should’ve been here to share. I don’t stand here because I deserve it. I am here because I was the only person on Jessica’s side the day that she died.” Instantaneously, there are insults flying from the crowd. People who didn’t even know her now protest against me from the bleachers. The principal shuffles, I can see it in my peripheral vision, but he doesn’t come all the way to the podium yet. I point out at everyone, moving my arm around to gesture to every person who could be at fault for the events that have transpired.

“In the aftermath of Jessica’s suicide, we must all be reminded that terrible things do happen to people our age. We will be challenged in the years that come after high school, and we will come to live through the lowest lows of our entire lives,” I speak, hoping that my classmates with find clarity in what I’m saying. “How we choose to deal with those events will define out entire future. Remember exactly how great it feels to succeed today, because I can promise you that there is nothing more rewarding that proving what you are worth to the people who despise you, who judge you.”

The principal approaches me now, placing a hand against my shoulder blade, silently urging me to step away. I refuse to do this, though, because I’ve not said my piece. I will only leave once I’ve told everyone what I think they need to hear. “Finding your stride isn’t easy, and neither is keeping it.”

Despite how positive my message is, and the temporary calm amongst the crowd, I still hear the dissenting voices of Jessica’s bullies damning me for my audacity to speak out. They would have me stay silent and pretend that they’ve done nothing wrong. This is when the principal urges me to please step off the stage. Scoffing, I choose to disobey.

“Today when you stand up, throwing your hats in celebration of this milestone in your life, remember that Jessica isn’t here to share in your joy. She was raped and abused by people standing next to you right now. Not every smiling face smiles for you; not every ally is standing next to you; and not every friend means well by you. Sometimes – more often than we’d like to think – we must be our own heroes.” On that note, I shove past the principal, swearing at him for his willful ignorance, and strip my graduation garb to the ground. I don’t care if I leave it behind because the second I slip through the emergency exit, I’m climbing into my illegally parked car and running away.

All that’s left now is to drive as far away as possible, as fast as possible.

I Remember

Author’s Note: Before you begin reading this story, I want to let you know that this story does address some “hot button” issues. While I may not agree with the term, I feel that a warning is necessary. This piece discusses bisexuality, pre-marital sex, and abortion. It is a fiction piece, written originally for the Creative Writing Specialization course on plot. The assignment was to craft a story in which a character was faced with a terrible hardship and show how they overcame it. I urge you to only read this piece if you feel that it will not cause you emotional distress. Thank you. Please Read & Enjoy.


 

Nadine,

I remember how heavy that stick felt in my hands, painful awareness having washed over my entire body. Even now, ten years later, the broken pieces of that memory are hard to swallow. Those five minutes seemed to move so slowly that time almost went backwards. Misery dripped from every pore in my body as I sat hunched over and pressed against the side of the bathtub. My head ached from grinding my teeth. The wait was unbearable.

But I also remember how you were in the dorm room next to mine, and how you promised that you were only a text away if I needed you. I didn’t have to tell you I was taking a pregnancy test that afternoon because you knew. Our cycles overlapped and when I missed mine, it was obvious. All of it was made more stressful by the fact that I’d broken up with my boyfriend three weeks before then. You didn’t want to suffocate me because you knew I could do it all on my own.

I kept a picture of you on my phone. One of the first times you’d stayed overnight in my dorm when we watched that B-rate horror movie about the ghostly puffer fish haunting the aquarium. I took a picture of you furiously typing your review as you insulted the terrible acting and cheesy dialogue. You were so beautiful. Even though you hated the picture because the computer made you look so pale and sickly, I loved it because your eyes showed how passionate and focused you are – and, damn, you look good when you’re working.

I remember how, at least at the time, I thought you were just a temporary muse. I’d never dated a woman before and I’d just come out of a relationship with a guy who I’d only dated because of our physical attraction to each other. It wasn’t fair to you but things worked for us, I think, and it never came up about what we were or weren’t supposed to be. It was great. There was no pressure to identify myself as bisexual, but there was no restriction to how we’d spend our time together. I’m glad that that never changed.

The pregnancy test revealed a second line that night. I couldn’t even form a full message on my phone. I could only manage a letter or two but you understood what that meant. You had been waiting outside my dorm and burst in the second you got the message. I was already doubled over, crying into my nasty bathroom rug, which you never made a joke about even though it would’ve been so easy to do. As my body shook, you held me and told me that you’d be there no matter what I needed from you… which made me cry more because I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

When I calmed down, you reminded me that I could call Bradley about the pregnancy only if I wanted. He was the other biological half of the cells clustered in my womb. Careful not to use words like ‘mother’ and ‘father’ when addressing what I should do next, I was mostly glad you didn’t ever once call it a ‘baby.’

I never did call Bradley, either, because it wasn’t his body so it wasn’t his business. If he wanted a child, and I doubted he did with the way he partied, then he could figure that out with someone who wanted that kind of life. As for me, there’s no way that I was ready to be responsible for another person’s life.

I knew I wanted an abortion but I never got the courage to call a doctor for an appointment. I skipped class for a week. I skipped practically every meal every day. I skipped showers. Somewhere in my head I’d convinced myself that poor hygiene, diet, and sleep routines would force my body to reject the pregnancy. My thinking was that if that happened, then I could pretend that I didn’t make any decisions. Thankfully, you snapped me out of my stupor by making the appointment for me and dragging me down to the office very early on a Friday morning that you should’ve been in class taking a test.

I remember how we lied about you being my stepsister, just so that the staff didn’t have to feel racist if they questioned it. Your complexion is golden and crisp, and so light compared to your perfectly flat black hair that rested on your shoulders. You haven’t kept it that long since college, have you? And then there was me, skin as dark and rich as the soil from those potted plants you keep growing on the back porch. Stepsisters. It was the only way we could convince them to let you come back with me.

They insisted on an ultrasound, and you held my hand so tight as I flinched when the cold gel hit my pelvis. They estimated that I was probably about five or six weeks, and then I was told to clean up. Very quickly we were ushered into a different room where we were sat at a desk with an obstetrician. He rattled off various options for me: low-income family programs, day care options for teen mothers, and even housing options for single mothers going to school. My jaw hung from my mouth in shock.

You shook your head. I remember it so vividly because you laughed too. There was a silent questioning but nobody spoke. That was my cue to speak up. How else would the matter get resolved if I didn’t vocalize what I’d actually gone there for? I stared into my hands and, with my quietest voice, asked: what if I want an abortion?

I swore that you were going to jump the table and punch him. He rolled his eyes and literally tossed a pamphlet at us about the dangers of an abortion, spouting off some other lazy scare tactics to make me reconsider. You flipped him off as we stood up, telling him we’d be scheduling the visit at the front desk. Honestly, I doubt he’s forgotten about it.

You made the appointment for me, again, because I could barely speak. The receptionist seemed to understand and was far less judgmental than the doctor. She even said that there was a better doctor for the procedure and scheduled us at one of the other campuses in town. You expressed your thanks, I whispered mine, and we escaped to your car as quickly as we could.

I remember how I gawked at you the whole drive back to school. You sang to your favorite songs on the radio and complained about the opinions of callers. Sometimes you’d turn the volume way down to ask me what I wanted to eat and what I wanted to do – and I just wanted to eat pizza and watch B-rate horror movies – just like we’d always done. You were so happy to oblige.

You don’t know it, but I decided in the car that day that you were much more than a muse, my first ‘girl’ fling to ease me into the true nature of my sexuality. Nobody had been kinder to me than you had, and nobody had ever put me first the way that you did – not once. Even if you didn’t love me then, I loved you. I loved you so much that when you asked me what I was thinking when we parked the car that I had to lie about what was on my mind.

I said, “a ghostly puffer fish haunting an aquarium,” with a smile.

But what I was really thinking was this:

Will you marry me, Nadine?

You see, this letter was never supposed to be about digging up old, dark memories. This was never a story about the abortion I had when I was nineteen. That was just a small event that pushed us together so that we could become the successful women we are today. This letter was all about how I knew that you were the right woman for me – the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

So – what are you thinking?

 

Love always,

Violet

My (Brief) Opinion On: American Prisons

Click this link to watch the video related to this mini-rant. I highly recommend watching it in full prior to reading any further.

Disclaimer: I do have a finance background and a legal education. I am very aware that there’s more to the issue of prisons, federal budgeting, and politics. This is a mini-rant about what I feel would be a positive change for our nation and the communities in which we live.


 

Unfortunately, having known a great deal of people who have been to prison, I do find great issue with the way criminals are living in America. Many of the crimes committed by individuals are due to nurtured behaviors, or behavioral issues such as addiction and untreated mental health. Even violent crimes can be attested to the way an individual was raised – especially in slums all over America.

Where most people find fault with the luxuries some inmates receive – I find the foundation for greatness. Unless someone is truly a sociopath with no chance to recovery – something a variety of unbiased mental health professionals should have to swear to in court prior to this judgment – then these imprisoned individuals should be rehabilitated.

“Oi, but my taxes pay for their sitting ’round on their arses! I don’t want to pay for that!” Your taxes also pay for repeat offenders to keep going back to jail instead of making a living outside of a prison cell. Unfortunately, this partially because it is sometimes easier than working in the free community. It would be cheaper for our government in invest in the necessary resources to prepare individuals imprisoned to re-enter the work force and free community prepared for the tasks ahead – rather than just HOPING they don’t relapse.

It’s one of those situations, you know? Do it right or don’t do it all. Don’t put these people in prison and then fail to help them make their lives better wholly without guidance. Do parents leave their children to fend for themselves after they can walk and talk? No, partially because that’s illegal – but primarily because children need guidance. We are all children to someone – and we all need guidance until the day we die. Prisoners, while seemingly less human because of the crimes they committed, are no less deserving of that courtesy. (Side note, I do not find these people to be less human, this is just the common belief I have run into socially. As a parent, it is hard not to feel that way about child related crimes, but I do my best to remember that criminals are not born. Criminals are products of their environments).

Now, I will say that (personally) there are crimes that I feel should more thoroughly be examined than others. It is my belief that these offenses should be punished with life sentences and no parole opportunities. For me those crimes are: murder, rape, and child molestation – perhaps even treason, though highly circumstantial. Those are the most serious crimes that can be committed. The majority of individuals are in jail for significantly less than that … possessing marijuana (for example) – a LEGAL drug in various states!

America needs to seriously reconsider the quality of life associated with imprisonment of criminals. The money we save on repeat offenders spending their lives behind bars can be funneled elsewhere. Perhaps free college education? Perhaps a more helpful universal healthcare system?

People will whine that they don’t want their money to go to helping prisoners get their lives together – saying they don’t deserve the help – but they’d just as quickly turn down free college education too. Who is worthy of your tax money then?

Is anyone worthy?
Before you answer – consider this…

These criminals you don’t wish to rehabilitate – they live in the same communities you live in…

These impoverished people you call lazy and don’t feel deserve universal healthcare – they go to school with your children, they work with you, they live with your coworkers, and they share the same air you breathe…

And these students you feel have done nothing to deserve free college education – they are the doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, politicians, and teachers of the generation that will care for you and the future generations of your family.

Consider that and let me ask you again…

IS ANYONE WORTHY OF YOUR TAX DOLLARS?

A Risk Worth Taking

Dear Madam Governor,

I would like to open my letter today by thanking you for taking the time to review my correspondence. You are a busy woman with many events and formalities to oversee. As a fellow politician, allow me to extend my understanding at how demanding the job can be at times. Your work is done well and for that your constituents are thankful.

Alas, there is a matter that I must bring to your attention with the utmost urgency. Enclosed for your review are discipline records, proposals, and transcripts regarding an incident occurring within my school district. I have assured that the board members have taken action appropriately to fit the circumstances, though the concerned parents who demanded no punishment be distributed limited that action.

Thankfully, no media outlets have obtained this story yet. I cannot say confidently whether it will be brought to light publically. Our board members try very hard to resolve matters quickly and efficiently with as little attention from the masses as possible, but this is an issue that I do not foresee dissipating in a flattering manner.

It is my request that you address this matter forwardly. Reading the information available to me there is but one conclusion I can make: this principal must be terminated. The reputation of our schools will plummet both within my district and all those surrounding. Emphasis is heavily placed on the anti-bulling programs in effect and yet this has been allowed to escalate without any true reprimand exercised.

Dramatic action is required to remedy these events and it is one that will bring an unfavorable outcry if I make the announcement myself. My decision would be contested and dragged publically through the court system. Eventually this matter will command your attention.

Today I notify you for the benefit of all parties. This route will allow you more time to prepare statements, delicately call for termination, and start laying the groundwork for your inevitable re-election with your proactive stance. Thank you again for your time. I hope to hear back from you on this matter very soon.

Cordially,

 

Mayor Carlotta Santana

CS/rb 


 

Robert Barns was fully aware that tricking the mayor into signing this letter was fraudulent entirely by itself, and that actually sending it was even worse. For years he’d been Carlotta’s assistant. On some level they were friends; though not exactly best friends and not friendly without the comfort of friendship. Carlotta and Robert were as comfortable around one another as siblings, but as formal with one another as colleagues. Bringing someone from a political campaign advisor all the way to the governor’s office was a long road that didn’t exactly put distance between people. In some strange way, Robert knew Carlotta better than her own family.

 

That’s why he knew that she would not deny the claims he’s made in this letter. She is familiar enough with the information to feign the intrigue that Robert falsely detailed on her behalf. In all the years he’s worked with Carlotta there’s never been a time when she ignored a situation that desperately needed attention. Hot-button issues were as sweet as candy to her, and yet she shied away from this one almost deliberately. Robert knew that if he did not push her then she would not do what needed to be done.

 

The Governor, Elisa Ferguson, was someone who occasionally made positive comments about Carotta’s so called “antics.” They had many aligning points within their various campaigns and political track records. Carlotta aspired to someday take Elisa’s place as governor – convinced that nobody would ever take office until she retired, or opted for a higher position within the government.

 

Robert hoped that the few encounters justified the arguably casual tone of the serious letter. Worst-case scenario, nothing happens and the Governor overlooks the request. Best-case scenario, the Governor takes favorable and the right people are finally rewarded for their positive choices. However, in all scenarios Robert will likely be asked to resign.

 

Carlotta would never fire him, though his leaving would still be scandalous enough to get some attention. If nothing else, he would likely have a career awaiting him in journalism. Perhaps someone would invite him to be a political correspondent for a newscast, paper, or blog. Robert already conceded that he would be happy doing any of these potential jobs.

 

Work droned on as it usually does in the office. Several phone messages were received, and only about half of them were actually forwarded to the Mayor herself. The rest of them were divvied out to the respective department leads and program managers. Categorizing the daily calls was so second nature to Robert that he used this time to review more thoroughly his plan to get Carlotta’s signature.

 

Honestly, he had no idea if she truly looked at the letters. Sometimes she would just pick up the bottom corners of each page and throw a signature onto the pages. It is this truth that prompted Robert to put the letter in between some other letters to ensure minimal chances of her reviewing it in depth. He also made sure to put it into a stack of form letters to give him more peace of mind that she would not feel compelled to read the letters individually. Nothing he was doing here was moral but, like the board member who sent the original call for action, Robert could not simply let this incident go without further investigation.

 

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that his best friend in high school practiced Islam in private at home, for fear of these same repercussions. Perhaps it was the fact that being Jewish is a predominantly Catholic community left him feeling outcast. Perhaps it was simply due to the stupid remarks politicians were making these days about how some religions didn’t have a place in the country highly regarded for the number of freedoms extended to citizens. Robert couldn’t decide on just one motivator, so he silently cited them all as the cause of his insubordination.

 

Nervousness plagued Robert by the time Carlotta returned the signed letters. She asked him to brief her on what she’d just signed, to which Robert said, “The usual. Nothing you wouldn’t approve of I can assure you.” Together they chuckled briefly and then off she went for her scheduled outing with old college friends. Rarely did she take time to herself, which meant her watchful eye was trained on the press during her night on the town. Small-time politician or not, there was always reason to worry that one’s personal life would be used to tear apart a political career. For that, Robert was sure he deserved a pat on the back for the level of planning he put into this righteous scheme.

 

Once her car was officially out of the parking lot, Robert decided it would make the most sense to put his resignation letter into her mailbox tonight. Robert put together his letter quickly. Promptly afterwards he gathered all outgoing mail and took the box with him to his car. Nobody would question his kindness the following day when he arrived in the morning with the box. This was something that Robert did occasionally. Everything was working in Robert’s favor, partially due to his intimate knowledge and manipulation of that knowledge.

 

Regardless, in two weeks he would be packing his desk away and leaving this part of his life behind – hopefully with his lasting reputation as quiet defiance.

Loathing Simplified

Sketching on my danger days is very charming,

and it covers up that fact that I’m self-harming.

It personifies that Pain I feel in a way they can see.

Of course, the black and white doodles don’t help me.

Especially when there are secrets beneath my sleeves,

especially when there are lies between each heave –

of sorrow, of cheer, of exhaustion, and of fear –

hidden in those lost breaths are scars unhealed.

I do all I can to keep your stories straight,

so that you only see the self-love costuming my self-hate.

My Opinion On: George Takei & New Interpretations of Old Characters

Something that made big news this weekend was George Tekei’s comments regarding Star Trek’s character, Helsman Hiraku Sulu, being homosexual in the next film. As a fangirl, I am very quick to rally behind same-sex couples. I wish they occupied more leading roles and held an appropriate amount of existence in these fictional universes to which we so tightly cling. I was intrigued when I saw a slew of headlines on Facebook demonizing George Tekei’s lackluster support of the decision to take a character whose sexuality was not clearly stated in no uncertain terms at any point in time.

The article from that appears to have originally published these statements made by Tekei can be found here. The episode referenced in this article, Mirror Mirror (1967), supposedly portrays the exact opposite of the characters seen in the Star Trek series. A synopsis of the episode can be found on Wikipedia here. This doesn’t reference Sulu directly as far as the “aggressively heterosexual pass” he makes at Uhura during the episode but does establish that this is an alternative reality.

Here comes my first comment – which is that an alternate reality doesn’t necessary mean every tiny detail is in exact opposition of the reality from which is differs. “Aggressively Heterosexual” is one of a few interpretations. His aggressive pass at Uhura could be an opposite simply in his demeanor. After all, he is intensely passive. It could have nothing to do with his personality, per se, because “intense” can also mean “aggressive.” Perhaps it was only a statement on his sexuality. After all, many people proclaim that Star Trek is the most inclusive fandom from it’s era. George Takei, and even Simon Pegg (here), both agree that Star Trek has always been kind and welcoming towards the LGBT+ community. Regardless, this presentation is fairly ambiguous. It suggests a couple of strong things but doesn’t clearly state beyond that what Sulu’s sexuality is … perhaps suggestion that this “aggressive heterosexual” statement in Mirror Mirror was a statement of Sulu’s absence of aggressive sexuality? I think this is potentially a strong contender in the possibilities in this debate. However, there’s more to consider too.

I like to look at Wikias for different fandoms as a way to quickly reference key points about a character. I decided to look up Hiraku Sulu’s ‘profile’ to learn more about him in depth. In the panel mid-right of the screen it usually lists relationships and family members. Here is where I found out that Hiraku Sulu has a daughter, Demora Sulu. Since there was so much text I just did a quick search, but after reading the entire section about Demora – much is not truly known about her – it would seem that in the very least that Hiraku Sulu did have a relationship with a woman at some point in time. To my knowledge there is no “test tube baby” process in Star Trek – though I’m not nearly as well-versed in this particular fandom as the thousands of fans that would actual fight Star Wars fans. Regardless, it appears that sexual and asexual reproduction are the primary birthing processes in this universe – cloning also being utilized (though this is not exactly a birth).

Only interview excepts are used as reference, each of which reference George Takei and his knowledge about the character he portrayed. It would seem that there’s a confirmed wife with an unknown past and fate beyond the birth of Demora Sulu. At some point it was clear that Hiraku Sulu was at least sexually involved with women meaning that three sexualities existed for him: heterosexual, bisexual, and pansexual. People argue whether or not video games qualify as cannon, and sometimes the information is considered “fanfiction” in essence. That being said, there is a published book (The Captain’s Daughter) states that Demora was the result of a brief sexual encounter with a woman Hiraku barely knew – and hadn’t even known he was a father initially. Either way, regardless of the question of canonical relevance, it would seem that Sulu was sexually attracted to women.

As inclusive and welcoming as everyone says the Star Trek fandom is – I can’t help but ask why there was such evasiveness about such a cherished character. Simon Pegg – in the article I referenced earlier – states that Sulu was chosen because there would be less judgment towards an existing and beloved character (versus creating a brand new character to be judged solely on his sexuality). It is with this in mind that we must carry on with this conversation…

It is known that even still today there are hate crimes committed against homosexual people. This is evidenced in the Pulse Nightclub Shooting. If it is this bad in 2016, an era that is supposed to represent another age of progression. Unfortunately, that is not totally true. For me, it is ridiculous for introducing homosexual to “progressive,” “dramatic,” or “scandalous.” The number of non-heterosexual individuals in the world is unimaginably vast compared to the representation that they receive in the entertainment business. Generally speaking, we don’t see many lead characters that are homosexual and that is a huge problem for me. So, I think that Hiraku Sulu being homosexual is kind of a small win. He’s certainly more at the forefront than most homosexual characters but still is not a main character. JJ Abrahms is leading a new era of Star Wars material and has very actively and promoted the inclusivity of homosexual characters to be revealed/introduced in the next installment of the new Star Wars trilogy. You can read more about it here. While many consider there fandoms to be enemies of one another, I see so much in common between them – and I adore each of them for the differences they hold in opposite of the other. Between these two though, I feel that Star Wars is upping their game. Let me explain that, though.

Firstly, the most common theory is that Star Wars‘ main male leads, Poe and Finn, will be the homosexual couple that Abrahms has been discussing with the media. Even the actors have toyed and added fuel to the fire. You can read about the confirmation here and the teasing here (Oscar Isaac) and here (John Boyega). Of course, there are other articles that shoot down this possibility of the Finn-Poe relationship entirely – like this one (which is not nearly as reliable as other sources, and also dated prior to John Boyega’s most recent unofficial affirms that it is still a possibility). Regardless, this is a much bigger statement that Star Trek is making with Sulu’s newfound status a homosexual character.

You might be wondering why I even brought up Star Wars. Of all the comparisons to make, why this one? Why even compare them – I am basically asking for an all out war in the comment section! See, the thing is that it’s totally relevant.

I have a lot of strong opinions about this new era of Star Wars, mostly boiling down to that this new era made the publications under George Lucas essentially fanfiction. To me, having been immersed in those extended universe stories with and through my husband, Abrahms version of the Star Wars is fanfiction. All of the characters taking the forefront are original characters, productions of his own mind (with his team, of course). As such, making any of his characters – lead or not – means that there’s no canon dictating the sexuality of these characters. Something that was referenced by Takei – this article elaborates more on what he was hoping for instead of changing Sulu’s sexuality from what he understood was pretty clear as heterosexual.

Now, here’s my second comment on the matter…

I understand what Takei was suggesting, what he was asking of them, because for me this is important. My husband and I both found it a wee bit insulting to homosexual characters to just pick characters that exist – characters that were oftentimes portrayed as heterosexual in many instances – and suddenly tell the world that they are homosexual. A) Any heterosexual encounter automatically denunciates any status as a homosexual, thereby making the character BISEXUAL instead; B) It is essentially saying that the inclusion of homosexual individuals is an afterthought not important enough to justify the creation and incorporation of an original homosexual character; and C) Negates the existence of any other sexualities beyond hetero and homo. With that being said, I have decided that an even half of me totally agrees with Takei. It is disappointing that a brand new character wasn’t introduced – especially with Zachary Quinto saying that this is a brand new universe that differs from Raddenybury’s original creation. To me, that just affirms what Takei was asking of the products and writers. They intended to honor Takei but then completely ignored his wishes for such a character’s existence within the universe.

HOWEVER – HOWEVER – HOWEVER!!!

I do not disagree with the decision to make a character that already exists within the fandom homosexual. Now, as I just said, Sulu would technically be bisexual since the original cannon has more heterosexual evidence than homosexual evidence. That could be a sign of the times during which it was created, though. Still, the cannon is the word – and really not arguable. I am a writer of fanfiction, though, and I see the value in reading subtext. In fact, I live for reading subtext and making brand new stories about the details that mean so much to me – the ones that stand out and define how I read the subtext from every second that exists after it.

I rally behind the idea of characters who are presumed heterosexual, even portrayed as extremely heterosexual, and revealing that their sexuality is more complex or entirely different. Allow me to list just a few of them for your: Sherlock Holmes (BBC Sherlock), John Watson (BBC Sherlock), Arthur Pendragon (BBC Merlin), Merlin (BBC Merlin), Dean Winchester (CW Supernatural), Castiel (CW Supernatural), Riley Matthews (Disney Girl Meets World), Maya Hart (Disney  Girl Meets World), Marceline (Cartoon Network Adventure Time), Princess Bubblegum (Cartoon Network Adventure Time), The Doctor (BBC Doctor Who), and Clara Oswald (BBC Doctor Who). These are just to name a few. There are plenty of other characters that I feel would be greater with the depth of a complex sexuality, but these are the ones that I most frequently speak about within the respective fandoms. By no means am I wholly opposed to “changing” the sexuality of a character because sexuality is genuinely fluid. That is why the other half of me – as Simon Pegg put it – “respectfully disagree” – with George Takei on this matter.

George Takei is a huge influence in the LGBT+ community, something of which he is very aware. I do not believe he meant to speak ill about LGBT+ characters – and most certainly had no intentions of insulting anyone. As someone who works in the business and knows the intricate process of creating a piece of work from scratch, of course he’s going to see things from a different angle than some people. There are writers out there whom would never want to read the fanfiction written about there work because it isn’t the way they envisioned it – some that have actually deemed it illegal to even write fanfiction! George Takei knows Raddenbury on a personal level, more so than the majority of the cast and crew presently working on the new Star Trek movies. As such, I am at least glad to see everyone respecting him rather than belittling and attacking him for his opinion. It is a fair opinion to have, after all, and reflective of his experience with the creation and lifelong involvement with the existence of Star Trek.

What I want everyone to take from this is that the representation of homosexual characters is no laughing matter – nor a matter of choice. Homosexual people deserve to be on the screen. For as ignored as bisexuals are in the world today – often being lumped into the sexuality most fitting of their present relationship – there are so many characters that are technically being made canonically bisexual, even if they are not titled as such. I would like to see a mix of old characters given layers to their sexualities as well as new characters for us to love.

To me – it’s as simple as that – and one day (soon I hope) I won’t have to wrap my mind around the fact that to many others it is not.