Cigarette Daydreams

A slice of life inspired by the song and music video by Cage the Elephant.

 

Wind sweeps into the car, blowing stray hairs out of her perfectly manicured bun, making her gold droopy earrings swing. Her focused eyes see more than the road ahead, framed by loose hair and dancing earrings. A windy strand of hair gets caught on her red lipstick, trapped by it’s opaque, daunting glow. She slowly peels one hand off the wheel to put it back in place. I roll up my window.

The air gets quieter and she glances over at me, eyes barely skimming before turning back to the road.

“You aren’t tellin mom, right?” I ask. She sighs, shaking her head.

“You’re lucky I got you out of there. They were going to process you.” She sounds so mature all of a sudden. She looks porcelain and forever young, but she sounds like mom. I roll my eyes.

“They weren’t gonna process me. They just wanted to give me a scare, I didn’t even do anything that bad.”

“Oh no? Then let’s tell mom.”

“Al,” I say, giving her a look. She tenses, gripping the wheel and then ungripping and then gripping again.

“Don’t call me again for shit like this. I’m serious.” She gives me another glare. I nod. She sees me nod and nods too, looking back ahead. The sun’s setting, glowing yellow on her royal blue dress.

“How was the wedding?”

“It was fine.”

“I thought you were bringin that boy with you,” I say. She opens her mouth ever so slightly, about to say something. It closes. “What happened?”

“Nothing happened.” She’s all monotone and sad.

“Do you want me to kick’em in the balls, or somethin?”

“Jesus, Sally, no,” She says. “You wouldn’t- it’s complicated.”

She takes a deep breath in. She starts blinking more than normal.

“You can… tell me,” I say quieter. She shakes her head a bit, wind still ever so slightly blowing her hair around her face, framing her sadness like a beautiful painting.

“He’s,” She starts, licking her red lips. “He’s just not a good person.” Her voice catches. Al’s voice only catches for certain things, and they’re always complicated and they always involve boys not being a good person.

“Oh,” I manage.

She thinks I don’t know what happened, so I just lean back in my seat and pick at the fraying hole in my jeans. But I remember when she used to cry at night, I remember when she wore turtlenecks to hide things, I remember the way guys used to hold onto her when they talked, like they owned her or something.

I just sit back in my seat and listen to the crack of wind blowing through the window.

Soon enough we get home, pull up into a dirt drive to the only house on the block with no garage door. Al gets out before me. I sit, for a minute, in the hot, silent car, watching her walk a few steps and stretch. The cicadas scream and the mosquitoes buzz, and the sun barely lights the blue air. Then she yells for me to get out too.

“Hi, mama!” Al calls, taking off her heels.

“Hey baby,” Mom calls from the kitchen. It’s a good night, I guess. Al knows too because she smiles and walks barefoot to go see her. I lock the door and check for Tim’s shoes. They’re gone.

I head into the kitchen, too, picking up the cat on the way.

Al and Mom part from their hug and Mom turns to me. I brush my face against the cat’s coat and look up to her. Her apron’s on, it smells like food. It’s a good night.

“Where’s Tim?” I ask. Her smile fades. Probably wasn’t the best first thing to say.

“Out,” She says harshly. “I don’t know. Where were you?”

“I picked up Sally from her friend’s place,” Al says, smiling, trying to change the subject away from Tim. The cat moves in my arms. I let her onto the floor.

“You never said you was goin to a friend’s,” Mom says. I shove my hands in my pockets.

“She’s safe, Mamma, it’s fine,” Al says. “What are you making?”

“Corn Casserole,” She says. “You’re favorite.”

Al and Mom eat dinner, but not a lot since Al had food at the wedding, and I go sit outside while the air cools down. It’s my favorite time of day, when it’s blue and cool and the insects start getting loud. Kids from the neighborhood ride their bikes and skateboards and some wave to me because a few years ago I used to ride my bike and skateboard before Tim sold my bike and Al’s boyfriend broke my skateboard. One of the kids come up to the stoop, though.

“Hey, Bobbie,” I say. Bobbie sits down next to me, pulls out a candy cigarette.

“Look, Sally, I got this at the fair last week. Looks like I smoke.”

“That’s pretty cool,” I say to humour him. He’s like ten, or something, and gets a kick out of it when people think he’s being cool. His mom used to pay me five bucks a day to babysit him.

“Is that you sister’s car?” He asks, taking a drag.

“Yeah. She went to some wedding and picked me up on her way back. I think she’s stayin with us for a while now.”

Bobbie nods, takes a bite out of the cigarette. He offers the other half to me. I take it, bite a piece of future cavities and fillings. A rattling metallic sound starts, getting louder and louder, and we look to the street. Some girl with short hair races by on a scooter and waves at us. We wave back.

“That’s Millie’s sister, Hannah. Do you still see Millie?”

“Yeah, sometimes,” I tell the kid. I start to think about Millie. I think about how Millie stopped talking to me when she started having sex with Lucas. How Millie had beautiful hair like Al and how Millie is fine with dropping friends like they’re nothing. I wish there were some way to warn ten year olds that relationships ruin more things than they create. But there isn’t, so I just tell Bobbie: “Don’t smoke regular cigarettes. Stick to the sugar ones, okay? The regular ones’ll kill you.”

“Yeah, peoples told me that before,” He says.

I nod, taking another bite of my cigarette, listening to the cicadas and mosquitoes and insects, feeling the heat drain out of the day. I wish someone told me things like that when I was a kid. I wish I had a lot more warnings when I was a kid. Maybe, then, things would be different. For me, and for Al.

 

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its ok to not

A narrative, play(ish), experimental (not really) kind of dialogue scene for you (but mostly me).

Enjoy.

“She’s resting.” Stan walks into the living room. I nod. “I’ll give you a list of things to say when she gets like that. She just needs someone to tell her everything is clean, or, well, it’s fine that it’s not. Some other stuff too. Lots of breathing.”

“I’m sorry I had to call y-”

“No,” He sits down in the chair across from me. “I’m glad you did.”

I nod, looking down at the carpet. It’s extremely beige. I don’t think I’ve seen a more plain shade of beige before in my entire

“You alright?” He asks. I look up. Staring at me. I force a smile.

Continue reading “its ok to not”

A Picture

A thousand word, experimental short story

I find myself out of the situation. Placed not in the brightly lit classroom, but in a pool of thought, watching one fade in as others fade out. Watching the red glint of attraction fade at my feet. It seeps into the earth, which is white and sandy. I wonder where it goes. Maybe it digs through the earth, finding a place where it belongs. Maybe it will hide for now, until I look back up and try to hold it down with the sole of my shoe, keeping it buried forever. I miss it already.

Continue reading “A Picture”

Unfolded

I was sitting in economics class. It was boring as fuck. My seat was right by the door, next to the trash can and recycling bin. I held my head up with a hand, staring at the blue tub. It was one of those moments when I felt like thinking of something super philosophical, real poetic and nuanced. I was just paper to be recycled. No. Everyone was just scraps of paper, waiting to be changed into something new. Cliche. I couldn’t really think of anything new. I couldn’t really think of anything. I mean, it was an old, faded recycling bin. I was staring into space, trying to find the meaning of my life within a paper metaphor. My thoughts were folded origami. I could unfold every crease, just without surety of being able to reform that paper bird.

I zoned out. Hunched over in my seat, I felt an empty feeling that accompanies unfolded paper. I felt beige and spacey. Sometimes, when I fall deep in thought, my mind gets loud and unfocused. I find it troublesome to think of one thing at a time, or have one philosophy or sense of purpose at a time. A rope is tied at each arm, pulling me apart. But that day, as I stared at the recycling bin, my teacher humming on in the distance, I thought of nothing in particular. My mind sat stark, a desert. And that paired feeling, that beige feeling, flooded in.

I can’t really describe the feeling other than nothingness. But it isn’t a lacking in feeling, it’s a feeling of nothingness. There’s no pain, there isn’t a sadness involved at all. It’s just a starchy stretch of non-being.

I went home and tried to forget being this way. I tried washing it out of my mind, cleaning up the beige waters. Maybe being away from school, from the boring as fuck classes and boring as fuck people would make me feel better. I distracted myself, tried folding my thoughts back into their previous shapes. It wasn’t purposeful distraction. I had no intentions of recognizing neither the feeling nor the repressions of the feeling; my empty mind just found the room to do so.

Re-creasing the edges is difficult, sometimes. Especially if the paper is folded the other way. Sometimes it can be easy to make a new crease by accident. Sometimes new thoughts emerge out of the coursing river, toes skimming the desert below in a struggle to swim. While I sat at home, knee bouncing up and down, I skipped the whole thinking process and came to a decision. It’s incredibly impulsive to do that, to have decisions as thoughts. To skip the careful folding, the refolding, the reevaluation, and just crumple the sheet entirely.

I went into my bedroom and sighed. I wasn’t acting impulsively; I was mindlessly doing some repetitive task, walking through sand, swimming through feeling. I got out a sheet of lined paper. I held the pen in my hand, tapping it against the desk. I was so submerged in the feelings of nothingness, I had nothing poetic to say. I had only the practicalities and simplicities of the moment. The pen had a Christmas ribbon tied round the cap. I looked at the red dots, shaped like hearts. And then wrote two sentences and signed my name.

The white water of feeling washed over me, cooling me, keeping me calm. I also felt dragged down, away from myself and from everything around me. I was just doing some task. There was no weight to anything, really. My legs floated in the waves and the crumpled paper got soft and clumpy. Everything I did from then on was through the constant nullity of thought.

//

Paper crane.jpg

Read longer stories on the short stories page. Since summer is finally here, hopefully I’ll be writing and posting more frequently. -Kylie Eileen

The first stage

It’s like this other element. To the talking. When you look at each other there is this other feeling. Not just the conversation feeling. It’s like this unspoken feeling, like a string is connecting you. Sometimes it’s easy to make the string up, but when the other person feels the connecting string, you just know. And all the words travel across that string because those words are for you both. It’s more than a conversation.

-An excerpt from a piece I’ve been working on, written in the voice of a young girl, detailing the first stages of connection with another person.

As I wrote I was reflecting back, trying to visualize the feeling that pairs with getting to know someone not in a polite or obligated way, but in such a form that there’s almost a literal string of connection.

red string
East Asian folklore actually depicts what I thought was an original idea. 

Sad Smiles

A year ago, I returned to New York from an amazing trip to Spain. A year ago also marks when I was hospitalized shortly after coming home due to contracting a bacterial infection overseas. It was a pretty traumatic experience, and one that I didn’t tell most people out of a fear that they’d think I was just seeking attention. However, there were also some parts which looking back, make me smile.

I talk about the worst of it first.

I went to a doctor’s office after being sick for a little while. Since I was out of the country a few days prior, and the Ebola fear was still in the air, I was sitting in the waiting room wearing a bright purple rain jacket and, under a secretary’s orders, a huge surgical mask that was way too big for my head. Everyone in the waiting room was staring at me. All eyes were my way as I left too, holding a tub to vomit in, running for the car. A very memorable time.

My resting heart rate was way too fast and my fingers were purple from dehydration, and no one in the emergency room could really figure out what was wrong with me, so I was admitted into the pediatric center, being 16 at the time.

My experience? Well, I don’t remember much but what I can recall is about a thousand different people saying “So you were in Spain? How was it?” and a thousand more saying “I can’t seem to find a vein” while pocking me with needles.

It took an ultrasound, something that made me feel extremely uncomfortable and awkward, a CT scan, something that forced me to drink this nasty dye liquid, and a line of 3rd year residents staring intently at me like I was an orangutan at a zoo, to figure out what was wrong with me. A bacterial infection.

The diagnosis wasn’t very promising either, since it seemed like every hour a different resident trying their best to mimic bedside manner told me that infections like mine seen in other cases have shut down kidneys, and that if I have renal failure right now, I’ll probably die.

IMG_4592
I became good friends with the IV pole. We did everything together.

Being in the pediatric center, I also had this woman who would come in and try and cheer me up, or something. She’d constantly try to get me to go into the playroom, like she was a cashier coaxing me into signing up for the discount card. “We have a Wii” she said. “I feel like shit” my eyes would reply. The only way I could seem to make her go away was agreeing to a stack of crossword puzzles and word searches.

These word searches would make me smile, however; just for a different reason.

I was given a pencil, obviously, and when I got bored of finding the profane words in the jumbles for hours, I started doodling and writing on the backs of the papers. I did some of my personal comic strip ‘The problematic situation’, and some of trees. I wrote some jargon extensively. All I had was time.

But I also wrote a poem. It was during this interesting time in my life, and not just because I was being forced by every technician to re-account all my time in Spain, or have dozens of needles stuck in me, but it was interesting for, you know, personal reasons. So I wrote this poem. And that’s all I was going to share on this blog post, but it needed context, and the actual context is nothing more than my shy, awkwardness at the time this was written.

Here it is:

Hospital poem.jpg
I can be a pretty nervous person, with real life interactions and witty text messages.

So, that’s my story of the time I was in a hospital, thought I was going to die, got slightly better, and wrote a poem. Things have definitely changed in a year, and looking back I feel sad and smiley at the same time. However, as great as 2015 was, I’m in a place where looking forward is in my best interests. Perhaps in a year this blog post will be nothing more than a sad, smiley piece of nostalgia as well.

 

Coffee Coffee (and cigarettes)

“Nothing is original…Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.”

-Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch is an independent filmmaker, creating things like Coffee and Cigarettes, a movie that I vaguely remember falling asleep to once. Though I particularly didn’t find myself absorbed into his creative efforts, I’d consider that movie pretty original. It captured things like subtleties in dialogue and made something as raw as conversation into this tangible (and boring) movie. Normally you see action and adventure or at least conflict, at least something to get the viewer’s attention in order to portray whatever complex thing you have to say on screen. Not Jim, though. He did something different, something unique, and people really took that on and grew a liking for it.

However, the quote above is a snippet from this larger excerpt about how Jim goes on to say that it’s okay to steal things from other artists. I know it sounds bad, but as you can read here, it’s actually pretty insightful.

It also helps back up this point that I am now going to make.

Nothing is original.

Since I’ve put myself on the foundation of being a “writer”, and in my spare time I make videos and whatnot, I guess I could call myself an artist, in a way. I’m really trying not to be that pretentious here. But, as an “artist”, the only cool thing about my passion would be making something new, something engaging, something people want to read or watch or, most likely, criticize.

And I obviously love writing. I love making stories and poems and expressing myself and my feelings to the world in a way that can end up being slightly unique. However, nothing is truly original. I’m inspired by things in my life. From watching a book’s pages move in the wind, to spending time with someone I adore, everything I write is inspired by something else. The style I choose to write in is inspired by recent things I’ve read or things I’ve been planning to try. My vocabulary is taught in school and is then pushed around and added to by books, people, places. Nothing I can compose on paper, or on screen, will ever be truly unique.

And I know the old saying: It’s unique because you wrote it.

But, really, it isn’t. I’m writing in a classic style here. It’s a blog/essay/rant/thing that millions of people have done before. That whole one sentence paragraph thing isn’t mine, the overused parallel structure isn’t something I’ve whisked out of thin air. Nothing besides a tiny bit of Kylie flair differentiates my 3 view blog post from the countless others across the internet just like it.

Now, looking at Jim’s quote at a different angle, it can be proved wrong (and then proved right again because no argument can be that simple).

There is something that stands out to me when I think of originality. About a year ago now I happened to stumble upon something that really changed my outlook on writing. It was a poem:

Lighght

Aram Saroyan, my favorite poet, created that poem above. He is known for being this revolutionary in concrete poetry, making one word poems that weren’t meant so much as to be read, but rather looked at. His sentences weren’t prose, but a picture on a page that held more than verbs and nouns, and signified something unique to his era. He actually, I believe, created something authentic, something original.

Aram is this representation for me of what is new, what is actually original. His poetry inspires me to strive to do something different, to try and create something idiosyncratic.

Withstanding, I don’t think I’ll ever be the revolutionary in anything. I don’t think I can convey everything I want to in something as simple as words. Even video and other forms of media can be limited and the effect I want to make just isn’t achievable. I admire what both Aram and Jim have done in their perspective fields of expression, however as groundbreaking as they were even they weren’t completely original.

It’s a paradox, maybe.

Originality is subjective. Henry David Thoreau, my favorite philosopher, didn’t create his ideas about society and values out of thin air. He actually mentions in his writings how fond he is of Homer and how everyone should be required to read the Iliad, or something of that nature. His beautiful prose is a combination of taught language, read literature, personal experience, and then, at the very end, sprinkled with that old Henry pizzazz. The length of time something has been around doesn’t directly show how original it is. And I think many people don’t really understand this concept, hence all pretentious people raving about classical music. Even Homer probably gathered his original thoughts from other people and experiences and

I’m guessing you get the point now.

Originality is subjective. And though it may not truly exist, and I may not become any sort of revolutionist in terms of writing or film media, at least I’m being an… “Artist”. I’m creating something new out of a bunch of other ideas and things that have happened in my life. I may not be completely content with that, with the fact that nothing I do will have any huge impact in the world of writing or otherwise, but at least I’m taking these ideas and adding the Kylie flair. It’s really all in the way you look at it.

Nothing is original.

And even when you see an original idea, it’s just another one taken, diluting the sea of authenticity.

coffeecoffeeandcigs
This image is something I uniquely made, but out of two ideas not my own. Its a paradoxical picture of symbolism.

 

 

 

Sohrab’s Suicide

It was a little past 9:30 pm. Small streaks of light fell into the hotel room through the half covered window, a few cascading on Amir Agha’s sleeping face. A few lining up with the door to the dastshooi. Bathroom.

I could still feel the tears on my face, dried up by then but still there, still reminding me of what he had said. He had tried to dress it up, calling it a home for kids. A home. A home is where my father and mother raised me. A home is where things are happy and clean and free of the Talibs, of men in suits, saying something disappointedly in English. A home is free of violence, of terror.

I wanted then, desperately, to go home.

I thought about how he was going to send me away, how he broke his promise, lacing it with lies to make it seem better. His voice so soft and sure of itself. Telling me that this orphanage would be different. That he would visit me, make sure there’d be no pain, no dard. I asked him, I begged him to promise not to. To find some other way, any other way, the whole time memories of the orphanage flashed in my mind. Dirty floors, hunger, hands all over me. I couldn’t live through it, even if what he had told me was true, even if he could visit me, even if it’d be for a short while. Because, in hell, a short while is an eternity.

I kept watching my half uncle sleep, trying to wipe away the tears dried on my face. I felt lonely in his company. His breathing, rough and uneven, might have once been a comfort. He was a guardian, giving me light, giving me a sense of peace in what he offered: little things about my father, assurance of a new life in America, a way to maybe move on and feel like I belonged in the world so forcibly unjust.

But each staggered breath filled the hotel room in an uneasy, lonely way. Amir was not my protector. I knew that then, sitting in the dark, watching him sleep. He was nothing more than a man in a procession, leading me back down into hell.

Though my eyes were now dry, I was filled with deep, dark sadness. I could feel the orphanage calling my name, I could feel Amir’s hands escorting me back into the pit of despair. We’ll go home together, he said. You’ll see. It’ll be alright. 

When my father looked out the window and saw the black car of the Taliban pull into the drive, he looked down at me with his kind, green eyes, and said “It’ll be alright, Sohrab. Just wait here.”

I noticed, again, the hint of light fallen over the hotel room. My eyes lingered on the strip of bright yellow, illuminating the door to the bathroom. It was a glowing, golden stream in midst of a dark abyss.

I stood up, tiredly, and walked over to it, stepping through pools of darkness, wading my way through the dismal reminders and memories, and made my way to the flaxen haven.

I closed the bathroom door, turned the light on. It clicked with a warm buzz, and soon I was immersed light, feeling like a moth when it approaches a street lamp.

I touched the cool end of the razor sitting on the sink. I noticed it yesterday after Amir had taken it out and used it. The blackness in my chest fluttered with a palpitation of hope mixed with uncertainty.

While I waited for the bath to fill with warm, liquid bliss, I took out the polaroid in my pocket, the one Amir gave me, the one of his half brother, of my father. I studied the picture, my hands starting to shake, the dark, lifeless feeling in my heart growing, expanding like a sponge in water.

Soon father. I whispered aloud. I will see you and mama soon.

I took the razor and got into the warm bath. My hands were shaking so violently, I wasn’t sure if I could do it right. One of the children at the orphanage had told me how. Warm water. A sharp blade. The vein under your thumb. Wait.

I can’t remember much. It hurt, not as much as I thought it would, but enough. I left the arm in the warm water, watched the red life escape into the pool of purgatory. With the life left all the badness, all the pain, all the hands on me, all my sins, all the gunfire, all the lies. It seeped into the water, clearing out everything that so consumed me, that made me so dirty and dark. I felt the life leave, cleansing itself as it mixed into the warm saturation.

Maybe, I thought, Amir Agha was correct. Maybe it would be, finally, alright.

As I let the blood seep from my body, I felt the dejecting feeling slightly dismiss, lifting me up out of this disgusting world of darkness.

That was when, finally, I felt clean, and not dark, but, noor.

Light.

 

This is my final project for a class I’m taking called “Eastern Studies”. We read contemporary literature in order to better understand the problems facing the Middle East. We have just finished The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. There were several project options; I chose the creative writing one. My task was to write a section of the book in another character’s point of view, keeping Hosseini’s style… so obviously I chose the suicide scene. If you haven’t read The Kite Runner, I suggest you give it a go. It’s pretty spectacular.

Wayward Wind

White listlessness upon the leather bound spine gathers up with the wind, creasing the air with every weathered page’s sound, life itself not sturdy enough as print to stop the incessant drain of words that have leaked out of the blank spaces of the mind. The mind, of course, being a representative for actual life. For actual words.

Wind as sweet as the trees which drive it carry the dead, thin passages through the dimensions. The wind’s howl, though soft, rustles the layers of death and leaves the carcass standing still, for it does not have the strength to ruin everything, to affect everything in it’s way. The structure is surely gone, as the black liquid has already vanished, a varnish not suitable for the droplets of purity, for the cleansing it rightly deserves. However the skeleton stands, upright in comparison to what structure actually is, deep and saturated in color, unlike it’s dead predecessor of winding, crinkling, white lies. Lies, if not true, can also be washed and forgotten. A secret, in a way, is an empty surface where the death used to stand.

When the wind seems to stop, and the hollow structure is indeed not hollow, but rather just empty, the print does not feel inclined to find it’s way back. The telling way in which the cream is left pure, or broken if the wind proves stronger than usual, directly showcases the life which has been forgotten. The air, though crisp, is deep and changing. It is symbolic in the sense that to allow such to occur, forgottenness would have already taken place, and the blank mind would have already been formed. (Of course in an extent all minds are deemed blank). And the structure would have been appealing still, have not the judgement been blank in its measures as well. Hollowness, fondly found in a tree, ironically, may not be as apparent as in the dead coffin. For there to be blankness, there must be something to be blank, even if words reappear, though unlikely.

Wayward wind picks up again, fluttering the life, manipulating the death, whiteness aghast at what insolvable misery has become of the darkness that once left. The spine, of course, stays, supporting nothing, supporting everything. The mind, lesser than the spine in a sense, has become aware of it’s fate. Knowledge not meant to jest, the wind does not hold the fate. For, eventually, each white, listless, blank, empty slice of life, will be overturned, will be evaluated for no purpose. Each will have it’s light, it’s darkness. But the mind will stay in place, the spine will not move. Fate is not determined by the wind, as soft and sweet as so. Even a harsh wind will not change the binding; not really.

Winding up in a pattern, an unforgiving combination of wind and misery, each white layer of life will still be blank. For the strongest wind cannot change the fact that all death has left. That the black lettering will not return, even if so replaced, will not give meaning to blankness. The wind carries the ideas around, not very far, for the binding still acts as a skeleton for the mind, still encompasses every blank thought. The wind, then, perhaps stands as a sweet relief, a realization that all of it would have been for nothing. Unless, of course, the absent print means something else entirely. However so, the pattern continues, the white listlessness upon the leather bound spine gathers up with the wind, creasing the air with every weathered page’s sound.

book