poetry

#16 Rocket Woman

It’s lonely up here
in Lala Land,
forgotten what it’s like for touchdown to begin,
these stars burned and etched right into my skin.

I drink blood, I dance in Mars,
nothing in here fazes me,
I wouldn’t suggest raising your kids here,
Herein lives the loathing and the fear.

It’s my full-time job, Monday to Friday,
Surviving the hours, carving the minutes,
It’s going to be a long time before I come down,
There’s absolutely zero in the things I’ve found.

I miss everyone,
I just want to come home.
It’s about time.
Can someone give me a hand?

Because it’s lonely up here,
in Lala land.

Standard
Character Portraits

#10 Mary Sue

Here he sits, the sunlight reflecting off the blonde strands of his hair. He is sipping coffee (very black). He talk, talk, talk, sips, and then talks. He is sitting with a brunette: she is thin and proper. Her lips are red, her legs doesn’t end. He tells her about how a gram of cocaine in Panama will set you back 2 bucks. 2 measly fucking bucks. Can you believe it? About the war in Palestine, missiles in Russia. Hackers called Anonymous. Snowden.

She nods and she listens.

She has very clean fingernails, cut to the proper lengths, they are not chipped nor they are stained. Her legs are crossed, and she doesn’t wear heels. She’s wearing shorts and a white v-cut top: she is showing just enough skin to keep him at the edge of his seat–please note:

She isn’t me, but I imagine her quite well.

On her back is a tattoo of a swan, about to take flight, its wings stretched to the edges of her shoulder blades – if you look close enough, the black ink against her skin can be substituted for her wings.

This tattoo is complete. It’s elegant and well-thought out, not rushed, nor typical. Everyone who sees it stare in bewilderment, and doesn’t use it as an excuse to touch her body. It also goes well with the edelweiss tattoo on his shoulder. On lazy days, they like to lay together in bed and watch each other’s tattoo rise and fall with the rhythm of their breathing.

Her back is straight, her eyes strong: she is listening to every word he is saying, she completely understands, she doesn’t ask questions. She doesn’t know anything about heroin, or cocaine, but she knows a lot about marijuana. She probably likes hash. She probably only smokes purple cush. She can recite all the countries at war in alphabetical order. She has monitored every move Trump has made after winning the election. She participates in rallies and is the head of an anonymous anarchist group. Her favourite band, above all, is Portishead. But she can tolerate The Smashing Pumpkins on a really good day.

She drives. She’s lived in one place her whole life but she can dream about going to Cuba from time to time. Probably to volunteer. She replies to every text he sends, to emails within a day. SHE IS RELIABLE.

She has her own magazine. It’s online and independent but it’s a start. She is on the editorial team of two magazines, a financial journalist for some investor’s blog and an occasional contributor to the Toronto Star. He can call her and she knows the rights words to make him happy – because she believes in every word he says. That’s key, I think. She also tells lies: it keeps him entertained. It keeps them together for four years. It is what she tells him, what he tells her, on nights when they smoke joints on the roof of their university. It is what brings him to her after a shift at Second Cup, his heart boiling with unhappiness and distaste for his co-workers: it is what she sees on his face when he showed up at her door bruised and broken, having just spent a night in jail for sitting in Queen Street with a backpack full of European maps, protesting G20. It is what keeps him hard when he fucks her, it is what gets her to moan and clench a fistful of his skin from his thighs—

It is what’s in the letters, passed back and forth, from Berlin to Toronto: marked by dates and clumsily drawn hearts and I love you’s and I miss you’s and when are you coming back to me?

She isn’t me.

And she sits, her back straight, calm and serene. She sits, confident and aloof, hands on top of her lap.

She sits, and she is still, and she does not doubt.

She sits, and she smiles.

She sits, and does not weep.

Standard
Short Fiction

Dorothy Dances in the Land of Oz

Photography by Johnny Gordolon

Photography by Johnny Gordolon

A/N: Lovely spontaneous readers, my short fiction was published by Swept Magazine, a local mag in Toronto. Check it out here.

–and I’m holding her hand as tightly as I could, like capturing light in between clenched fists, like encapsulating a deluge in a teacup—hopeless, but I held on anyway.

In hindsight, this was the essence of our friendship—undying love and futile desperation; starvation only the half-dead could relate to, that addiction to life and omnipotence and everything in between.

At the crosswalk on the corner of Bloor and Spadina, I saw her: that slump of a walk and lucid shoulder movement couldn’t belong to anyone else. We glanced at each other—she was wearing a plaid shirt and blood-red pants, while hemp bracelets clung to her tiny wrist.

I was different. Blazer on top of a pencil skirt, eyes behind purple-rimmed glasses—could she recognize me? Despite my lack of bright colours, despite the absence of ripped jeans? I dressed carefully now; identity has now taken the backseat, while caution steered the wheel.

And yet she did. It was unmistakable. A look crossed her face like a death sentence: her lips were firm, unmoving. Dorothy, across the street, beside Second Cup, where we once entered, holding hands at three in the morning—four golden years ago—in between cars and the 510 Spadina streetcar zipping by—held back emotions so efficiently.

She recognized me, despite my un-dyed hair and clear fingernails.

The language she spoke through the stillness of her body was raw, un-edited, and Gonzo. She communicated to me unapologetically and relentlessly—as pertinacious as she was when she used to look at me with those eyes that stung of contradictions and lullabies. I quivered in response, so silently gripped by guilt and regret: I didn’t mean to leave you, but I did, and even if I knew why, the reason wouldn’t be enough to heal the scars I left permanently etched in your history.

So in the time it took for the pedestrian light to turn on, I backtracked:

We met at the twilight of our lives on our first year of university. I met her in a party made of mostly boys. I was drunk and just starting to feel unsafe, when she calmed my environment down by sitting next to me, smiling awkwardly, telling me about her sister, and how she was sick. Her next confession was whether or not we should go, but even then her vibrancy got the best of her—so we decided to stay. I learned then that I was going to live next to her for the rest of the year. Even then I knew she was the kind of girl I could fall in love with.

Our friendship grew through moments of “we have to’s”. We were seventeen when we first explored downtown Toronto, dressed up unapologetically, leather jackets and mini-skirts abound. Every bar turned us away: “If you don’t have ID’s girls, we can’t serve you beer.”

On one last act of desperation, she called her 19-year-old friend, currently frat-living. He met us, casual and cool, in his white shirt and flip flops. He led us to a dingy bar lit by candlelight, filled with other college students, and ordered a pitcher as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Heart-shaped Box filled the awkward silence in between sips of watered-down domestic beer.

Through dark streets, she led me; we danced to the light of her white sneakers—it showed us the way. She took me in her room and rolled a cigarette wrapped in tinfoil; I hugged her from behind and smelled her hair. Sweet Jane played forever.

And then a dull came into the chaos of our lives and shook everything into standstill: her sister’s funeral. I said, reassuringly, “Yes, I’ll come. Of course, I’ll come” knowing, even as I was saying it, that I wouldn’t. Was I that horrible?

When she called me the next day I didn’t pick up. Eventually, she stopped calling at all.

Two years passed before she saw me at a party again. I was drunk and was just starting to feel unsafe, when she calmed my environment down by sitting next to me, smiling awkwardly and yelling over the music, “I missed you!”

She took my hand and led me away from the bustling house, past the dancing bodies. We spilled outside, where she sat me down in the middle of the street and began a tirade of what happened to her in the years of our silence. Her confessions were heartfelt and saddening, and I tried to make the mood light by laughing. She looked at me weird for the first time. It was our first miscommunication.

We ended up inside her room, two girls on top of a bed, suddenly feeling very stretched out and exhausted. That night she told me more about her sister, and how she missed her, and asked me if it will ever be possible to get over this kind of thing. I couldn’t answer her with words so I held her in my arms in an attempt to join her. We shared each other’s tragedies.

She was driving. Her hair was in a ponytail and her fingers drummed on the steering wheel as I stared out my window and watched the blur of downtown lights. I remember her saying that after I graduate I was going to be insanely depressed, just like she was, after realizing that the world didn’t give instant feedback, like the ones we got when we turned in a good essay.  But that being insanely depressed was somehow okay, as long as we had each other. I remember feeling really good about that, and feeling confident about a future I was sure was going to happen.

A few hours later I got tired of sitting across from her in the bar so I sat beside her, and with a huge grin on her face she put her legs on top of mine and said, “I’m doing this because I love you” and it was the first time in a long time that I heard those words and actually believed them, without feeling scared, without feeling hesitant.

She looked at me, her eyes glazed over, barely open. The only thing someone could see in her face from a mile away was that giant, genuine smile.

Our lunacies and weekend benders on Queen Street became inseparable from her; she rented a tiny apartment on Stephanie Street for $1,100 a month so she could continue. This one-bedroom became the starting point of all our Friday nights: from her balcony we smoked and drank and watched the CN tower change colour. By midnight we were wandering into Sneaky Dee’s, Nocturne and Labyrinth. One night we tried to eat at Smoke’s Poutinerie and met two guys, where our conversation went from colourful nails to after-hours hangouts. Before we knew it we were descending stairs towards either heaven or infinite abyss: laser lights spewed from every corner, sticky streamers bled on the floor.

And then I went to her parent’s house and she left me inside her sister’s room while she slept . The room was green and strangely empty, despite all of the things her sister left behind. Nothing was moved or re-arranged. The only sign that told me she was gone were her ashes inside a silver cup placed on top of her desk—a vibrant green room that holds in its hands—the ashes of a girl forever twenty-one.

Despite my conscience, I sat in her sister’s chair and opened the single notebook laying there. On the first page, Dorothy had written: This year is the first year that I am older than my sister.

It hit me then—whatever it was—and a cold, sad desperation held me and wouldn’t let go. How does grief work? Does it go away as time pass? Or does losing someone just becomes more and more hauntingly familiar?

Eventually Dorothy’s calls became more frequent, at random times of the night, 3 AM, 4 AM, her panicked screams on the other line. The responsibility that came with loving Dorothy began to weigh me down. Other times it was good, like when we watched the sunlight stream through the curtains and listened to the birds sing—but they became fewer and fewer and too far in between.

The last conversation I allowed to have with her took place in the bathroom stall of another’s bar’s washroom; I was taking photos of the graffiti when she said, choked up and sniffling: “You’re my sister now, do you understand? That’s who you’ve become.”

And I said nothing.

Just stared at the wall that said in felt marker: But for now we are young. Let us lay in the sun and count every beautiful thing we can see.

Dorothy: I think you may have been the closest thing to love I ever felt. But when you’re young, something in that feels too fragile, too frightening.

I could explain to you why I left, and pepper you with apologies. I could write a long reply, to make up for the e-mails I ignored, in an attempt to jot down what I thought happened, in a cogent, logical form, with a clear beginning and an even smoother end.

Or I could insert answers to where there are none, and form conclusions to the things we never addressed. I could start by saying, “Loving you came with the commitment of healing you, something I couldn’t handle at the time, but I didn’t know it.” I could give reasoning to my actions, even though I know, deeply, that my actions lacked meaning, nor thought, that I had lost control over time, and words: all that existed during those days was space, filled to the brim with emptiness, overflowing with mindlessness.

Or I could tell you that I’m okay, that I have a job now, and that I moved to Toronto. And so, what are you up to now? Maybe we can meet up for coffee sometime—and end it nicely, neatly, as civil and cautious as it could possibly be.

Or I could do nothing, because she didn’t warrant a reply, and I wouldn’t want to overwrite.

And so, when the light turned green, all I did was whisper wordlessly—

Dorothy

And hoped the half-sound would turn her into the woman she always wanted to be, the one that danced in transcendental existentiality, the girl forever young and euphoric in the confines of my mind, as she stood in the afternoon sun that peeked through the buildings of downtown Toronto.

© – Ellise Ramos 2013

Standard
Epiphanies

Of Fiction, Preambles and Explorations of The Abyss

The Abyss, the deep-sea epic renowned for its pioneering digital water effects and sophisticated underwater photography and sound recording, will be screened at a special 20th anniversary event by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Tuesday, June 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.  This screening will premiere a newly struck 35mm print from the Academy Film Archive.Pictured: A scene from THE ABYSS, 1989.

Pictured: A scene from THE ABYSS, 1989.

The Abyss.

IMDb states that this movie is about, “a civilian team enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an aquatic species”.

Up until two weeks ago, I’ve never seen this film, which is strange considering I consider myself the rancor of all sci-fi: a collection of claws and fangs designed to devour every sci-fi material in existence.

My association with The Abyss, however, is unforgettable, and it goes back to my older sister.

My older sister was the absolute Queen of my childhood. Every word she spoke was sacred and holy. So much so that once, she convinced me worms were a delicacy in other countries, and only the rich and elite could eat them. In fact, eating them while they were still alive was considered a culinary experience in England.

“But won’t they get hurt?” I asked, panicking.

No. Worms are special in that they don’t have the skin that humans do. Therefore, they can’t feel.

Of course this led to an instant, uncontrollable urge to demolish as many worms as I could get my hands on. It wasn’t until my sister told me she was kidding, after seven sacrificial worms, did I even realize something was amiss.

With that preamble in hand, I can begin the story of The Abyss, which started when my sister went to our local Blockbuster by herself.

She returned with a smile on her face and The Abyss at the palm of her hand.

She claimed that an impossibly handsome guy (with glasses) came up to her to ask if she had seen the movie yet. A delightful, witty conversation then ensued. It was a short exchange, but enough to deliver the argument that my sister was beautiful and that somebody noticed.

For the rest of my life I would look at this anecdote with envy, making it the basis for every male encounter in the future. A charming, opening line—a delightful response emitted by I, ending with a common interest to jumpstart a relationship: a movie watched by both parties one cool evening, wrapped in blankets, legs curled on top of each other; dissecting and analyzing it to pieces, with characters they could relate to and plots that reflected each other’s lives.

As the years passed, the glory of my sister began to fade. We lived the rest of our lives as separate as two strangers who were once sisters, could live.

Until two weeks ago, when I decided to sit down in my apartment and watch The Abyss.

Halfway through the film, I realized my sister’s preamble for The Abyss was just that—a story: designed to awe and marvel—to delight an eight-year-old with spontaneous romance. And I, a willing audience member, succumbed to her fiction as gullibly as I devoured those worms.

Key point? Because I wanted to.

I guess the eight-year-old me knew it was better to adore someone unconditionally, than to lose faith in all your childhood heroes.

Standard
Epiphanies

The Shaman Queen

“One more line!” she proclaimed, her tie-dyed skirt flowing to her knees, held together against her chest by two, tightly clenched fists.

I grinned and said, “When shall we three meet again / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?”

She bit back a laugh and replied, “When the hurlyburly’s done / when the battle’s lost and won.”

The three of us cackled, the three witches of Macbeth, the Shaman Queen of Toronto, by the corner of Bloor and Spadina, where I met her, asking for change and cigarettes.

So I adopted her, the feline-inclined, the healer of all sorts of imaginary ailments, the dress that filled my couch for the longest days, browsing through Masterchef and Netflix.

I only ever tried once to ask her about her past, which spontaneously flowed into the question of, what she used to do, before home became out of the question.

She squared her shoulders, and spoke in rhyme, using alliteration and onomatopeia to sugarcoat her lies and lullabies;

Not in exact quotes, but the basic gist was this: lounged in an old man’s bed and sat around looking pretty.

She said, “I guess old, dumb rich men will never run out of young, dumb poor women.”

“You knew what you wanted,” I softened, reaching out for her hand, “so you took it.”

Taken in the form of powder-white crystals lined up in rows neatly against a reflective surface.

“One more line,” she says. This time, I don’t recite Shakespeare.

Standard