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Monthly Archives: September 2017

Counter-Bass and other Impressionists

Annabelle Schoenfeld was deaf. She had always been deaf. Her parents were both deaf and her father was third generation. They were very active in the community. But that didn’t mean that Annabelle didn’t have friends in the hearing community. She could lip-read and she could talk aloud if she had to, though she found most of her close friends liked learning and conversing in sign language because it made them think they had a secret. Some of Annabelle’s deaf friends were annoyed at the ableism inherent in this fetishization, but Annabelle didn’t care. It didn’t bother her. She just liked having friends with common interests.

One of those friends was Perrine Chagall. Annabelle liked her because they both had an appreciation for good art and a weakness for bad men. It was Perrine who had made Annabelle realize she needn’t stay with Etienne De Bakker just because she’d known him all her life after he started displaying abusive behavior, and now Annabelle was returning the favor by helping Perrine to realize that this guy Massimo was only using her for her art-world connections while he flirted and philandered his way through half of Elsene.

“He’s not a bad guy,” Perrine signed in his defense.

“Yes, he is,” Annabelle countered. “You know he’s a liar—you’ve caught him lying. It’s willful blindness on your part if you keep trusting him now.”

This led Perrine to make a crack about deaf people talking about blind people, whcih made Annabelle roll her eyes—but she was able to convince Perrine to do the right thing and dump him.

A few days later, they met up for coffee again after the fact. It was satisfying seeing Perrine finally talking some smack about that loser she’d been dating. But something was wrong.

“What’s going on?” Annabelle finally asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

If that had been a pun in Dutch like it is in English, Perrine would have snorted.

“You’ve been misunderstanding every other word I’ve said.” She was speaking out loud now, just to be sure the message was getting across. After all, Perrine wasn’t the one who was deaf. “Are you going blind?” Annabelle asked her friend.

“What? No!” That was what Perrine said initially, but after a little prying, Annabelle got a different story out of her. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “Things have just been a little fuzzy the last couple of days. Like when you unfocus your eyes—“

“You need glasses,” Annabelle explained to her.

“No!” Perrine insisted. “No, not yet. Please, just let me enjoy this for a while…”

Annabelle was confused, so Perrine went on to explain.

“Right now, everything’s fuzzy. It’s soft, without all the sharp edges of existence. Without glasses or contacts right now, it’s like the whole world is an impressionist painting.”

“That’s stupid,” Annabelle decreed. “You’re insane—you have to be able to see. You could have an accident—anything could happen.”

“You seem to do pretty well without your hearing.”

“I’ve been deaf my whole life,” Annabelle reminded her. “I’m used to it. You’re not and you could get yourself killed.”

But Perrine was immovable. She was seeing the world through the eyes of Van Gogh and loving every minute of it. She was passing by people on the street who she’d known for years and not recognizing them, which gave her the perfect excuse for not talking to them—unless, of course, they addressed her aloud; but then she just pretended not to hear.

Annabelle was concerned about this new development. At first, it was just Perrine she was concerned for, how she was fooling herself into thinking she was all right. But then something completely demented happened.

While she was coming home from work, she took a shortcut through a rather brightly-lit alley (as alleyways go) and noticed there was something wrong with the wall. It seemed… fuzzy. It immediately made her think of what Perrine had said about the world, about her new way of seeing it. It looked like a painting—a painting of a wall. She reached out and touched it—it didn’t feel like brick, like it should. Not that she’d ever felt that particular wall before, but she knew that brick walls aren’t supposed to feel like soft pillows. It made her fingers feel tingly, too. She looked at them and—no… She looked closer at her fingertips… Her fingerprints were gone! She looked away, panicked, looked at the other wall. The other wall was fine. She touched it with her other hand—brick. She touched it with the hand that no longer had fingerprints. A fuzzy patch stayed behind on the wall. She wondered if it would grow, it looked so much like moss.

“I’m fine,” Perrine insisted, though her apartment told a different story.

“Perrine, your sofa!”

“What?”

“I can’t sit on that, it’s practically moldy with fuzz!”

“But it’s soft!”

“But what is going on?”

“Who cares? The world is a beautiful place when it’s like this! It’s not all dark and sharp and definitive—“

“Perrine!” Annabelle shouted, angrily enough she could feel it in the floorboards even through her sensory haze. “What’s going on?” she demanded once she had her friend’s attention.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Annabelle knew it because of the way Perrine flinched, her eyes flitting to the exit.

“Who is it?” said Annabelle.

“Just a minute!” Perrine shouted for the visitor.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” Annabelle signed, following it up with the sign they’d agreed on for Massimo, with an obscene twist that made Perrine blush. “You didn’t break up with him, did you? That’s what this is about: he roped you into some fuzzy pseudo-relatioship without clearly defined boundaries!”

“No!” Perrine insisted, but then softened. “Yes?”

“You need to break up with him,” Annabelle put her foot down. “You need to do it now and you need to do it decisively. It looks to me like the fate of the whole world could literally depend on it.”

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Metaphors and Similes

I don’t like the way that people teach about Metaphors vs. Similes. I don’t like the way that the difference is defined.

“A simile,” they say, “Is where you say that the man was like a wolf as he approached the young woman. A metaphor is when you say that the man was a wolf.” As if the mere presence or absence of the word “like” made a difference in the sentence.

But the presence or absence of the word “like” is an accident of language. The real determination must be found in a semiotic distinction.

In semiotics, we define the difference between a “signifier” and what is “signified”, the symbol and what the symbol stands for. What the symbol stands for should be considered the “real” thing, which is signified in a symbol. In this case, the actant in the sentence is a man (“signified”), he is really a man, but he is represented by the symbol of a wolf (“signifier”).

You can leave out the word “like” in this sentence and it really isn’t going to make a damn bit of difference. Not when it comes to how the audience perceives it. Because in both cases, we are introduced to an actant who is a man, and then we are told he is a wolf. We know that no one can be both wolf and man at the same time, so regardless of the presence or absence of that magical word that’s supposed to turn gold into simile, we have to consider the actant as a man who is being compared (the actual meaning of “simile”) to a wolf.

“The man then lunged at her. He was a (like) wolf, tearing at her clothes to get at the flesh beneath.”

Whether or not we include the word, there is really only one way to read that.

So compare this sentence:

“The wolf stepped out of the bushes and spoke to the little girl.”

Let us be very clear about this: wolves, in our external reality, are not capable of speech. Therefore, we must assume while we’re doing a literal reading of this bit of text, that the wolf isn’t actually a wolf, that he is a stand-in for a man who will later devour her until she can be rescued by a woodsman.

However, this reading is not supported by the text, it is merely allowed. Only the signifier is present in the sentence, leaving any theoretical signified object to cast its shadow upon our imaginations. We can read the line as a metaphor, but the text does not compel us to.

That, to me, is the true difference between a metaphor and a simile. A simile tells us exactly what is going on and then provides an image we can compare it to. A metaphor just tells a story and leaves any hidden meaning to our collective imaginations.


“When the Levee Breaks”

Everyone in town would remember Hurricane Frances. It rained so much in those two days the first week of October that the dirty water at the reservoir overflowed and contaminated all of the clean water. At least that’s what they told us at school. As usual, my condition didn’t deliver the details on the parts of the story that were actually pertinent. all I got was a bit about the college kids.

Declan and Raven were both in their sophomore year and for them, once the news broke, that meant school had to shut down. They didn’t panic. They didn’t evacuate or anything like that. But the water didn’t run, so the school closed and they set up portapotties for people who didn’t want to go home for the week, or couldn’t.

“What you thinking, babe?” Declan asked. She sure as hell wasn’t going back to her parents’. Over the summer, she’d elected to stay with him. Awkward, considering his parents, but they were amenable, so they worked it through. Yet that didn’t hold her appeal as much as staying in the room that his roommate was evacuating.

Strange things were happening in town, though.

Having SchadowFreud come to play in the area back in the day, that was one thing, but SchadowFreud wasn’t where Anastasia Borgia had gotten her start. And her successor as the lead female vocalist of Acid Monsoon, Lucrezia Romanov… she wasn’t exactly living up to their dreams.

“Do you think we should go?” Declan asked.

“Where?”

Acid Monsoon. Didn’t you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“They’re playing in town.”

“No, I didn’t hear that. When did that happen?”

“Everyone’s been talking about it.”

But of course, Raven didn’t actually talk to anyone.

“It’s okay,” said Declan, “we don’t have to go.”

“No, it’s okay,” said his girlfriend. “I don’t really feel up to it, but you should go.”

I don’t know quite how to get into what happened next. I saw the whole thing in my vision—of course I saw it really only as it was going on. If I’d seen it the night before, maybe I could’ve convinced Declan to stay home and accompany his girlfriend out to the portapotty when she needed to go. As it was, all I could do was send him an ominous text he’d get four hours later telling him he needed to get in touch with Raven.

I saw the whole thing well enough to remember it afterwards, but Raven doesn’t remember it. Not well. At least that’s what she says. She claims all she remembers is going out to the portapotty and that something happened. And then her talon ended up covered in blood.

Have I talked about Raven’s talon? It was one of those cheap-yet-fancy Goth girl affectations: a three-inch claw that attached to her finger. It wasn’t designed for self-defense—wasn’t meant to be, anyway. When she did use it, it was usually in kinky games with Declan that I blush to even think about, but she happened to have it on her, so when “whoever it was” attacked her, it must have been some kind of instinct that kicked in.

She insists to this day that she doesn’t remember the guy’s face. But I have an excellent memory and I’ve gotten pretty good at drawing, to boot. I won’t say how, but I managed to get the young man in question found and properly punished.

Raven, meanwhile, was super-charged. Different people react to that kind of assault in different ways, I guess. Even through time: three years ago she’d have probably locked herself in her room, shut out Declan, shut out everyone, but something about having blood on that talon…

Once she stopped to think about it, that would scare her, what it said about her that she was so full of rage—but she’d won! She’d won and she needed to celebrate and her boyfriend was unreachable at a concert.

It was too late to get tickets herself. They had wanted to call the even a “Hurricane Concert”, playing on the irony of Acid Monsoon’s name, but after they figured out what was going on in the town, they renamed it their “Broken Levee” deal. But there were still a couple of bars that were open. And one of them never let a Thursday night go by without hosting karaoke.

I won’t say what song it was she was singing when the band walked in. Let’s just say you’ve never heard of it, but they had. The concert had been a success and the bar was their afterparty and they heard our girl Raven doing her thing and they just fell head-over-heels. Even “Lucrezia” agreed she sounded good before she realized what she was actually agreeing to.

Caspar June, the front-man, had a note sent to her inviting her over and she was deep into talking to them by the time Declan finally called her.

“Hey, how’d you like the concert?”

“Not bad, I’m at Weaver’s Pies, listen I got a weird text from Kassandra.”

“Jasper’s sister?”

“Yeah, she said I should call you—are you okay?”

“Why would Kassandra want you to call me?”

“Well, she is kinda psychic, so why don’t you tell me?”

“Oh! Actually, I do have something to tell you!”

The assault from earlier didn’t slip her mind, she just didn’t want to talk about it. But she did want Declan there. She was hoping he could share her glory. If only that had been the case.


The Death of Hurricane Frances

It had been raining for three days. That was what Vyxen O’Connell noticed. She didn’t watch the news—she preferred to get other people’s spin on it—and she really didn’t care about checking the weather. So she didn’t even really know there was a hurricane.

Of course, as hurricanes go, it was pretty unimpressive. I mean, obviously, if Vyxen didn’t even—not that she was the most observant person, but still. It didn’t rip up trees from their roots. It didn’t flood houses, that she could tell. It just rained. A lot. And she liked that.

But at the end of that one particular day, Vyxen O’Connell was walking home from class just as the reain was about to let up and she happened across an old woman on the ground by the side of the road, curled up in a ball in a coat—a coat made of leaves.

You don’t just see a coat that’s made of leaves and not stop to help somebody.

“Excuse me,” Vyxen said to the old woman, “do you need my help?”

“Bless you, child,” said the woman in the leaves.

Vyxen took the old woman by the hand and suddenly, there were fingers made of wind with a strong grip clutching at her hair and the woman, whose face was a cloud, pulled herself close in to Vyxen, peering at her face. “I know you mock me,” said Hurricane Frances. “You shouldn’t even be out of doors, even this far inland, but I have a little surprise for you.

The hand that Vyxen held was turning blue, and not from the grip.

The old woman whispered in the voice of the wind, “I promise you,” she said. “You will notice me here after I am gone!”

Then the hand in Vyxen’s burst like a water-balloon and the old woman in her coat of leaves fell back down to the ground, blending in with the rain.


Three Word Sentences. Ten Long Years.

Assignment for class. Principles of Performance. Several years ago. “Last ten years.” Three word sentences.

Decided to publish. (Second time around.) Hope you enjoy.

September the 11th. Moment of silence. Tim walks out. “It’s not fair. Terror is everywhere. Now the US. What’s the difference?”

Americans in Belgium. Wars are starting. Who’s to blame?

Drama at School. Play: No Exit. Crush is Estelle. Liked her once. (“Stop watching me!”) Sentenced to Hell. I’m the Devil. Revenge is sweet.

School Trip: Greece. In a mood. Like the scenery. Not my classmates. Friends not here. All in Tenerife. (Alternate school trip). First time drinking. Make-up, strip-tease, camera. Pictures at school. Teachers all smiling. “That’s not me! Don’t need alcohol!”

Prom after graduation. Then left Belgium. Scant hours later.

Got into University. Sarah Lawrence College. Co-ed since ’68. Still mostly girls. “We black-clad lesbians!” 40,000 a year. Need Financial Aid. Stupid Belgian Taxes! Too late applying. “My parents’ fault!”

Summer in Montreat. Family friends come. Bring their daughter. She likes me. Our parents approve. My first kiss. It’s wonderful, but… It’s all wrong. “She’s too young!” My mother: “And?” “She lives abroad. Paris is far. Won’t work out.” Her heart breaks. Mine does, too.

Minding the Gap-year. Getting a job. Cleaning hotel rooms. Then the Carmike. (A movie theatre.) Only till Christmas. My parents return. I’m for Houston.

Living with Vandi. My big sister. And her son. Craig is twelve. Also, her husband. (Not Craig’s dad.) I’m making bagels. Waking at four. Not having fun. Not saving money. Houston’s a bust. Left after March. Back to Brussels!

Via New York. Visiting Sarah Lawrence. “You’ll get money. You’re already in!”

Months in Brussels. Then back again. Summer in Montreat. No cleaning rooms. (Not Christian enough.) Back to Carmike. Waiting for money.

College won’t pay. Parents “too rich”. But… Belgian taxes?!? “Standard of living”. Fuck Sarah Lawrence! Bitches not worthy! Made Daddy-ji cry.

Went to UNCA. (Deferred acceptance there. Thank the heavens!)

Lauren likes me. John likes her. Sara likes girls. But also me? Orientation is bizarre.

Classes are easy. Also, Ballroom dancing. Dancing at Work. (The Waltzing Belgian!) Going to compete? Audition for theatre. “The Frankenstein Project”. Playing God “Eshu”. Need Thursdays off. For dancing, right? Doesn’t work out. Gave up dancing. Better on stage.

Working all summer. (Also taking classes.) Met Tadd working. I like fairies. Taught me astrology. Other stuff, too. Not saying more.

Car breaks down. I’m walking again. Five miles plus. Gotta make money.

Sophomore year starts. My siren appears. My delicate Ariel. She’s team Jacob. We were roommates. Sophomore slum hits. Then Hurricane Frances. Flood becomes drought. Water is infected. Classes are cancelled. Most students leave. Next week: Ivan. The Hurricane Hits. I’m still working. Trudging through rain. Still suffering terribly. Still punishing myself.

She’s so friendly. “Let’s be friends. Watch a play.” Jacob dumped her. Still doesn’t bite. Still sings, though. Wants me swimming. “Let’s be friends.” “I want you.” Not single now. “Still good friends?”

Vetoed this semester.

Montford Park Players. Conspiracy to recruit. (Ariel and Erinn.) Comedy of Errors. First Romantic Lead. Also, Henry V. Falling for someone… Nope, not interested. Then Sonia arrives.

She’s too young. “NC is weird. Laws are different.” (That’s a lie.) Her parents approved. Still awkward, though. High school girls. Not graduating, either.  Are you serious? Not going anywhere. Stopping this now.

No other prospects.

Play for KCACTF. Had a reading. Very last minute. During Exam Week. Reviews were mixed. Advisor hated it. (Didn’t read it? Could’ve prevented this!) Didn’t go anywhere.

Fragments of Sappho. Senior Project Play. An unparalleled disaster. “More girls,” they. But those girls? Not at auditions. Not finding them. People drop out. “April the 20th? Gotta get high. So terribly sorry!”

So what now? Got my degree. Couple of plays. Summer of Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Henry the Sixth. Cyrano de Bergerac. (That’s honorary Shakespeare) And Much Ado. All Bad Guys. Guess that’s me. Roped into “Romance”. (David Mamet play. 2nd favorite part!) Staying till Christmas. Then Brussels bound. “Need Christmas Carol! Know any Directors?” “Got a degree.” “You want it?” “I write, too.” Loved my proposal. Conflicted with “Romance”. “Not this year.”

Back to Brussels. And Ericka returned. Winter Solstice, Kaiserslautern. She’s a lesbian? I’m oddly proud. “Still want you.” “Not right now”. (Who said which?)

A year, writing. Vyxen in Faeryland. Siren and Banshee. Couple Short Stories. Learned Spanish, pequeno. And some plays.

Christmas Carol 2008? “You haven’t directed?” “I have, some.” “Nothing full-length, though?” “Not as such.” Nothing to show.

Returned October 2008. Looking for jobs. “Haven’t been working?” “Been in Brussels. Wrote all year.” “Don’t need slackers.” Hired at Target. Ringing up products.

Cast in shows. Oedipus for Kids. Into the Woods. Amateur Film Project. (Featured my ex. Much older Sonia.) And Titus Andronicus.

Only scheduled evenings. Schedule conflicts suck. Not leaving shows. Cut back working. Still too stressful. Made a mistake… Quit day job. Really bad idea.

Trained at Block. Did some taxes. Taxes oddly fun. Kind of mathy. But only part-time.

Jobless by mid-April. Assistant Directing Cymbeline. Argh! Not talking…

Back to Brussels. Belgian Master’s Program? Easy to register! Just walk in! (Except foreign diplomas. Those take months.) No one knew? Smacked around some. Kicked off campus. (Hair too long? Coat too long?) “No student card.” Fucking Belgians, anyway!

Another year wasted. Wrote some screenplays. Went to Conferences. Learned to Pitch. Had a job. Managing a database. Didn’t kill me.

Fuck it: LA! Gotta go sometime! Got some cash. Do some pitching. Write some more. Maybe make it? Still no jobs. Still no prospects. Getting awfully lonely.

Accepted for Masters! Catholic University, Leuven! (The Dutch one). Call it Q-Lovin. (Left my car. Bitch-face crashed it. Blamed me, though. Whole other story.)

Western Lit Masters. Yeah, I rock. Did a play. Lanoye’s Mamma Medea. Acting in Dutch. After nine years. Made some friends. Fell in love? Maybe a little. Tried not to. I can’t stay. Brussels is home. But I need… I need this. Applied for more. Got into SCAD. Flew to LA. Retrieved the car.  Crossed the Country. Listening to Audiobooks. Singing out loud. Always moving forward.


The Fall of Autumn

Autumn fell onto me out of nowhere.
She just tripped, I guess; she fell all over me.
It had been so hot out, I didn’t have a coat to give her.

I couldn’t give her my coat, so instead
I wrapped my arms around her.
There’s a comfort in being with Autumn.
She may not have the fire that I’ve had in the past,
But there’s a temperate beauty at work.
It gets dark when it’s supposed to
and she asks me to bed
and she doesn’t get upset when the roaster crows.

The earth outside is covered in a blanket of leaves.
The trees shed those clothes to feed the earth with mulch.
This is how the past gets buried.
Raking the leaves off the driveway every morning,
I peel back the layers of Autumn.
As she sheds her leaves, leaving herself naked before me,
I shiver.

I know what is coming.
One day, Autumn will leave me.
She knows that I won’t need her anymore.
I suppose, though, that this is only fair,
since she never really needed me.


“Wrong”

I actually think it’s kind of a miracle that it took until high school for Lucy to start dating. I don’t know whether it was a self-confidence thing or if she actually genuinely felt a close connection to every guy she ever met, but she could never stop talking about them.

Most embarrassingly, though, she just would not shut up about Jasper.

“He is so cool,” she told me once before leaning in and whispering, “Do you think he might have had sex already? I mean, he is in high school.” We were in eighth grade.

I knew that he had—I am who I am—but I still lied and said I didn’t.

Then of course Ellen Portnoy happened. And my niece. Lucy managed to be devastated and fascinated at the same time. So full of every emotion, as always. And then of course Ellen dropped out of the picture so suddenly and Lucy didn’t know what to do with herself.

“You think about sex sometimes, don’t you?”

Thought about it? I didn’t have to. I knew exactly what it was going to feel like, be like, how it was going to taste and smell and sound, I’d had visions of it for years. I didn’t knew for sure who it was going to be with. (I assumed Angus—at least I did back when I was certain that he was my mysterious redhead.) But I mean, I knew what it would be. “I guess,” I fudged to Lucy, but then realized my mistake.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I mean, I always have, but… it’s like more and more, it’s almost like it’s becoming real. You know?”

A few months after Jasper went off to work at the steel mill, I had a vision that made it a little too real for me, too. It was another one of my awkward my-family-are-having-sex visions, only this time, it wasn’t limited to family.

“Hey,” Lucy asked me not long after, “can I come over and study at your place this weekend?”

I knew what she was trying to do. She knew Jasper had weekends off, that he spent them around the house with his kid. She was triying to insinuate herself into—

“Would that be so bad?” Trevor asked. “I mean, I know he’s your brother and all, but like, why do you care so much?”

I cared because much as I liked hanging out with Lucy, the thought of her becoming my sister left me slightly queasy. Or, I don’t know, maybe I didn’t want my niece getting too attached only to—

“Come on! What is the problem?”

“I don’t want you dating my brother!” I finally blurted.

“Who said anything about dating your brother?”

“You have. For years. For years you’ve been talkign about letting him take your V-card—“

“Oh, honey, that ship has sailed.”

Some psychic I am. Assuming she was telling the truth.

“I just want things… separate,” I finally managed to confess. “It’s hard for me when it’s all… muddy.”

But there was no stopping them. I knew it. It had been in my visions.

“She’s sixteen,” I reasoned with Jasper.

“So? I’m nineteen, and in the state of North Carolina—“

“Don’t give me that bullshit! She is a child!”

“Maybe that’s what I need right now!”

“Are you listening to yourself?”

“Look… I don’t know what to tell you. She makes me happy. And I… I think I make her happy, too.”

Wouldn’t it be ironic, I found myself thinking, if Jasper and fucking Lucy McDermott were the ones to live happily ever after?

But I knew I was just being jealous.