A/N: Apologies for the lack of writing folks, I am currently obsessed with Saint’s Row IV and Andy Weir’s The Martian, and my writing is suffering because of it. But worry not, because I got a lot of things done today such as, cleaned up my apartment, finally put up curtains in my bedroom so people can’t watch me sleep from outside, and sketched a bit.
On the meantime, here’s an old short story I wrote for one of my classes eons ago.
By: Ellise Ramos
Loving Myra was a decision I set heavily in stone, with as much vehemence and relentlessness as an infatuated 10-year-old could. From the moment Mr. Rodney sat us together in class, she already looked me up and down with those judging eyes and offered no “hello” or nod – just a penetrating glare that I felt solidify in my skin, into my nerves.
“Hi, my name is Ellise,” I said, smiling.
She rolled her eyes in reply.
I craned my neck to see what she was working on and saw her full name written on the top-left corner of her notebook. “Hey, your name is Ellise too!”
“My name’s Myra. My second name’s Elysse. And it’s spelled differently from yours, so no, we don’t have the same name.
That didn’t matter. I was already in love.
or keep scrolling below to read it in its entirety on my blog.
When Math came around, she saw the red marks on my paper that spoke of incredible failure. She wasn’t impressed.
She used to lean over me so she could talk to Jeanne, her best friend. I was but an obstacle stuck perennially between the two. She used to say, without even a glance towards me: “I don’t understand why Mr. Rodney won’t sit us together. Instead, I’m sitting beside stupid.”
Quietly I’d listen to their conversations, and make mental notes of the shows they watched. When I got home from school I’d park myself in front of the TV and watch each episode they talked about. I’d make notes – questions about the show – “what do you think happens next?” – or observations – “Did you notice Emily winking at Todd this episode?” All tools I had hoped would help me jumpstart a conversation for them to accept me.
I’d try to join in their conversations during lunch, but Myra did not only excel in Math – she also excelled in the art of exclusion. So while Jeanne acquiesced my existence through small, polite glances, a response I starved for, Myra kept looking straight-ahead, determined to leave me out of the conversation.
So I spent most of my lunchtime alone, in the library, perusing the Bobbsey twins and the complete Goosebumps collection. The librarian used to watch me as I left the library, (in a manner I had hoped was surreptitious), my shirt and skirts filled with books I wanted to take home with me, making me limp as I walked past.
Eventually, Myra noticed the myriad of books on my desk. She pulled me aside and asked sternly, “Ellise. Are you stealing those?”
“No,” I said, horrified. “I just want to take them home to read. I’ll give them back – I promise!”
She sighed, her nostrils flaring with her eyes. “You know you can sign them out right?”
“Sign? Out?” This was foreign language to me.
Myra pulled my hand and led me back to the library. She showed me how I can sign each book out – (although I can only take three home at a time) and take them home with me for 2 weeks until I was done with them. The librarian smiled the entire time, a smile that wordlessly told me she was fully aware of my thieving antics, but that she had let it slide. After all, I was the library’s only eager customer.
Myra’s discontent with me didn’t stop there. She saw the books I was taking out: Goosebumps and Bobbsey twins were not her forte. She took those away from my hands and replaced it with Emily Bronte and Mark Twain, noting that I shouldn’t waste my time with garbage.
That night, I devoured Wuthering Heights. When my mother got home from the office at midnight, she was livid to see me still awake, huddled in the corner of my bed, reading. She turned off the lights in protest.
For the rest of the night I used the light from the moon streaming through my window so that I could live the love of Heathcliff and Catherine.
The next day, even though Myra continued to talk to Jeanne, I didn’t feel defeated. Instead, I felt victory in the most absolute sense – tangible and alive, scouring through me as passionately as I read the books Myra gave me. From Les Miserables to Don Quixote – every morning we exchanged two books, one read, the other yet to be explored.
The inevitable came and I started writing my own stories into notebooks. Thousands upon thousands of words were transcribed, until my hand would cramp from all the writing. Instead of that intense desire to join Myra and Jeanne in their conversations, I wrote on my own. I can only describe it as an overwhelming desire to create my own world, where I could control emotion, where at every moment I could achieve complete and utter bliss.
And then came a startling moment that paved the beginning of my relationship with Myra: she had opened one of my notebooks, and she read it in its entirety without stopping. I expected full condescension: a joke about an inner messiah complex I had manifested, thinking I could be at the same level of Hemingway and Ginsberg.
Instead, she quietly closed my notebook, handed it back to me, and with the slightest of all movements – gave me an approving nod.
My love for Myra then evolved furiously – it was etched permanently into my smile, into my body language, into the words I wrote down, all because of the single affirmation that I could, perhaps, one day – be able to write.
Of course it was Myra who first suggested I start selling my stories.
It all began when I came home from school and realized my mother had taken the day off. As a result, she found my secret stack – hundreds of notebooks piled under the cupboard, inside a garbage bag. My mother, who usually worked from 7 in the morning until midnight, would have never found my notebooks if it wasn’t for the fact that she had decided to take a day off.
I still remember the image: my mother holding each notebook to the sunlight one by one, and reading each page with wide, disbelieving eyes, as I stood there with clenched fists.
The next day I came to school without any lunch money, which the ever-omniscient Myra noticed. When she asked me why, I told her about my mother’s discovery, and how she cut my lunch money so that I couldn’t launder them towards my “notebook addiction”. My mother’s words: a waste of ink, paper, money and time.
Without missing a beat, Myra suggested I start selling the notebooks so that I could buy my own. If I sold them at an average of $2 each, I would be able to buy a notebook each notebook I sell.
“You mean two notebooks,” I corrected her, being bold now, noting that notebooks cost only a dollar each.
“I mean one, because for every notebook you sell, you’ll have to give me 50%.”
“50%! But why?”
“Because it was my idea.”
But of course. It only made sense.
It was pandemonium. With Myra’s help, I managed to sell all of my notebooks within 2 weeks. I earned a substantial amount of money – enough for a 10-year-old schoolgirl to treat all of Myra’s friends to a Slurpee each at the 7-11 across school.
It had come to the point where I was selling more than I could produce. Students from higher grades kept coming up to me, asking me for more. It was far too stressful for me to manage. As much as I yearned to see each student’s head buried in a notebook I filled with stories, it was becoming all too much for my tiny little hand.
Myra noticed the burden I had made for myself – and so, she offered yet another solution.
This time she called me to sit with her at lunch, along with five of her friends. Jeanne, Miguel, Elka, Samia and Alyssa. When I sat down, they were all staring at me, eyeing me from head to toe. It didn’t feel as penetrating as the fist stare Myra gave me, but it was obtrusive nonetheless.
“Ellise, we noticed you couldn’t keep up with the stories anymore,” Myra began.
“Do you like writing stories?”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
“Do you want to keep making money off your stories?”
“I guess that’s not the question I should be asking,” Myra said, her eyes unwavering. “There’s no denying your passion in writing. It’s obvious in each story you write – they’re quite good, aren’t they?”
Everyone nodded in assent.
“It’s a shame you can’t keep up. You have so many fans waiting for your next story, they won’t wait too long you know. Before you know it, they’ll be looking for someone else.”
“Then please!” I begged, horrified at what she was implying, “Tell me what I need to do!”
So here was Myra’s master plan: Jeanne was going to be my transcriber. She was to write down every word I say through the phone, where she would type each word to a computer. At the time, she was the only one of us who owned one.
Next step: Miguel and Elka were assigned to print and photocopy each story I write for distribution. Then, Alyssa was to go from class to class, handing out stories and accepting payment.
And Samia? Samia’s task was to draw on the back of each story, advertising the next story in progress. “COMING SOON” – it would say – “A man meets the love of his life – who turns out to be a vampire! You won’t want to miss this one!”
Now, the question of payment. Obviously, people involved in the process had to be compensated for their effort. Each story was going to cost each kid $2 – the price went significantly higher as the quality of the work I produced was obviously going to get better (at least in theory). For each story, the five were going to get $.20 each, while Myra and I both get $.50.
The popularity of my stories eventually reached outside the confines of our school – it spread like a plague to other districts, where students spent most of their days with their heads buried in mysterious paper, turning each page as they walked in the hallways. Slowly, instead of laughter ringing in the playground, all people could hear were the rustle of pages being turned, and that silent, invisible intake of breath as each story ended with a cliffhanger, and a picture at the back of the page that held the promise that more were coming.
Without fully realizing it, we had formed an underground society. Much to our teachers’ curiosity, students started disappearing from their usual hangouts in the cafeteria, in the school’s garden. We had started gathering in once-abandoned hallways, in groups during recess, during lunch, talking about the stories I wrote, talking about the characters I had created, with people constantly asking me what’s supposed to happen next, what I meant when I wrote certain ambiguities. Question upon question bombarded me from all directions only to be slain with my overflowing ambition, my uncompromising passion, while Myra and the others watched and grinned from the sidelines.
And though I didn’t feel the tightness of Myra’s grip immediately, I started feeling it in the next couple of weeks. The process had changed now that more money was on the line: each story I wrote had to be submitted to Myra for inspection. Myra allowed most of my stories to pass, but always with a slight suggestion: “Why don’t you write a sequel for Vengeance?”
“A sequel?” I asked, confused. “But all my characters died in the end.”
“Oh, I don’t know, people seem to enjoy Vengeance. They like the whole goriness of it all you know?” She smiled at me, the sweetest of smiles. “Why don’t you write about a new character this time? Who starts seeing the ghosts of your old characters?”
“But then it won’t be Vengeance,” I argued, “The new character doesn’t have a reason for vengeance at all. She’s just seeing ghosts.”
“So make a reason up!”
And so I wrote.
But with each word I dictated to Jeanne over the phone, I felt invisible threads of confidence and desire slowly slip away. I used to feel bliss while I wrote; now I felt loneliness. Though I was surrounded by people urging me to write, I longed for the days when I spent lunch reading in the library alone, separated from everybody else.
The world I used to create slowly disintegrated. Instead, it became full of the necessities and suggestions Myra dreamed of. It was no longer a place where I had control: I now only served others, not myself.
So when Mr. Rodney told Myra, the others and I, to stay after class, I welcomed it.
The others tried to connive a plan to weasel their way out of trouble, but I remained quiet, and withdrew into passivity.
Mr. Rodney asked why we were taking students’ money. He told us that students stopped paying attention, that a teacher grabbed one of my stories during class and saw our names written across it. He made it sound like it was all an elaborate ploy to take money from students.
Obviously, we weren’t allowed to do this anymore.
Myra tried to argue: it was their choice to give us money, not us. We encouraged other students to read, isn’t that what school is about?
In the end Mr. Rodney asked what I thought, and I said nothing. It was enough to sentence all of us in detention, and it was enough to stop the entire operation.
For the rest of the school year, Myra and I didn’t speak. She was angry with me for giving up. I was angry with her, but it was an emotion I couldn’t explain or describe. For the first time, words failed me, and I allowed it to limit me.
I was afraid that if I explored the reasons why I was angry, it would forever stain the love I had for Myra, one that I cherished to be pure and unconditional. One I knew I was capable of. So that despite my failures in Math, and my failure in being accepted as Myra’s friend, not because of my stories – but because of me – at least I knew I was capable of loving purely, of loving intensely – without reward, nor compensation.
And so, even in my adult life, I choose to believe that my love for Myra was intended, despite the struggle, and that her belief in my words were rooted in honour, not malice. She was the first person in my world that convinced me I was capable of something that could be shared and passed on.
Somewhere along the way, I forgot the original motivation behind my literary addiction – but Myra’s subtle nod of approval is what I remember when I am hesitant, when I am immobilized by insecurity.
Writing is important because it is an extension of our identity – of our souls. It is the process of creating something tangible and shareable so that we don’t have to internalize pain, so that we don’t have to be alone with our conflicts. It is the human mind solidified – and it can be a truly beautiful thing that evolves and manifests with each new reader gained, with each new meaning spun from the words we create, as long as we keep it selfless and genuine, and free from power and greed.
Later on in my life, a young writer from my university will tell me that writing is a solitary activity.
To this I disagree.
Because unbeknownst to anyone but me, every time I write, I take the idea of Myra with me.