Check out our 2015 writing classes with Ariel Gore right here. Many classes fill up fast, so please register early.
The cute FedEx guy just brought me so many boxes of this beautiful new issue of Hip Mama. Subscribe and I’ll send you one right away.
This issue features an inspiring interview with the super-pregnant Michelle Tea, personal essays on parenting young adults, getting knocked up DIY style, talking to our kids about racism, and so much more. There are yummy potato recipes, etiquette from Punk Rock Miss Manners, and a genderqueer paper doll no family should be without.
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Wendy C. Ortiz’s searing new memoir of growing up in Southern California in the ’80s and ’90s, Excavation, unearths the complicated legacy her five-year relationship with her charming and flawed teacher 15 years her senior. Her teacher — now a registered sex offender — encouraged her passion for writing while making her promise not to leave any written account of their dangerous sexual relationship. Excavation is just out from Future Tense.
You could make multiple twitter accounts from the different voices you use in your writing. In the business world, lacking a singular voice makes one less marketable. What drives you to write in your multiple voices when writing in a more singular voice may promote more traditional success?
If I stuck to one voice when in reality I contain a multiplicity of voices I wouldn’t feel like I’ve maintained the integrity of my work (and possibly my identities). Writing memoir specifically, it feels essential to me to unleash as many of the voices as possible (the ones I have access to, anyway). I also prefer a world where our multiple identities are given free range—which flies in the face of a singular voice and making one’s self “more” or “less” marketable. (The 28 year old in me is reading this going, Just how “marketable” have you ever been, and has being marketable ever really motivated you? for example.)
Excavation: a Memoir was just released this summer by Future Tense Books. Your next book, Hollywood Notebook, will be published by Writ Large Press in fall/winter. Will you offer readers of Hollywood Notebook a voice similar to Excavation? What should we expect next?
Hollywood Notebook takes place in Los Angeles after I’d spent eight years in Olympia, Washington in two separate serial monogamist relationships. I landed in my studio apartment in Hollywood, single, living alone for the first time in years. The voice spans the ages of twenty-eight to thirty-three and is very much influenced by the books, people, music, and experiences of that time. I call it a prose poem-ish memoir, as it contains eighty-some short chapters in the form of paragraphs, lists, and stream-of-consciousness passages.
After Hollywood Notebook I’m interested in returning to other works-in-progress: a book of music-themed essays, poetry centered on my mother and grandmother and our entwined relationships, a memoir based on my Modern Love column, and a memoir about the period in Olympia between the ages of 20-28 which I think of as a long gestation, and some other secret things.
If you could blend two of your voices together from any of your works (On the Trail of Mary Jane, Excavation, your essays at The Nervous Breakdown or Specter, etc.) which two voices would complement each other the most? Do you have a masterplan to eventually merge all your voices? Or you do enjoy the compartmentalization?
I’m fond of the voices that find themselves in my fiction (like “Black Car Land” in Specter, and some other fiction I’m working on)—there’s a starkness to the voices I feel both comfortable and very uncomfortable with. In some ways I blend the voices together when I put two stories next to one another, as I’m doing now with some fiction. The themes start to emerge from placing the work together and paying attention to whether the voices are complementary or not. The only master plan I have to is to see where the voices go, any of them, all of them.
No matter the voice, your writing is always very corporeal and visceral. You are very generous when it comes to material and emotional details, and it balances out very well. What are the physical drives that take you to the corporeal and visceral in your writing? What about the body and the emotions it manifests inspires you to write in such a way?
As someone who has struggled, then learned, then forgot, then remembered to stay in her body most of her life, focusing in on the corporeal and visceral feels necessary. It’s also what I enjoy about some of my favorite writers, how they bring me back to my body with their texts.
What would you say is the over-arching theme of your writing, the heart of your work?
I hesitate to say there’s one over-arching theme. If we think of a heart, the human heart with its four chambers, I might say abandonment (from others, of others, and of self); embodiment (of identities that help one to survive, however ‘survive’ is identified); exploration and troubling of the idea that there are only two sides to every story (which I don’t believe—I think there are many); and transformation. (It’s important to note that this is what I think today; if you asked me this yesterday or ask me tomorrow, the answer might differ. It’s not always static.)
Ariel has a new article at Psychology Today
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR FALL & WINTER CLASSES
I was at a loss after finishing my MFA program… But after eight years of infrequent publishing and no time to write, I found an alternative that works for me. Three years ago, I hooked up with Ariel Gore’s online Literary Kitchen workshops and finally found a group that was the right fit for me: writers not full of privilege (and themselves) who offer honest criticism and support at the same time, and whose work I truly enjoy reading. And that infrequent publishing? It’s not so infrequent anymore.
—Margaret Garcia, Poets & Writers
Lit Star Training
The Original Literary Kitchen Online Writing Workshop
Taught by Ariel Gore
September 6 – Early November This class is full. Email arielgoremedia at gmail dot com to get on the waiting list.
A new session of Lit Star Training — the 8-week+ writing course taught by Ariel Gore — starts September 6. Writers in Lit Star Training spend at least a few hours each week on their writing and online critiques. You can log in any time of the day or night. Writers in the group are new and seasoned, wanting to work on memoir or fiction. The class works as well for those writing to weekly assignments (with no big projects in mind) and for people who are starting or working on existing book projects.
The class is $295 — a $90 deposit will hold your spot. You can pay the deposit right here:
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SPECIAL 4-WEEK SESSION OF LIT STAR TRAINING – THIS CLASS IS FULL
A $55 deposit saves your spot.
December 19 – January 1
You’ll get 12 assignments in 14 days and lots of great feedback (an-assignment-a-day & take 2 days of your choosing off.)
Ariel Gore is a fabulous workshop facilitator; I’ve been taking classes from her since 2001. In each of the workshops, she brings together a diverse group of writers with varying degrees of competency; and, whether the writer is seasoned or a beginner, she understands exactly where each person is coming from and she meets them there. Not only did I find my unique voice, I learned how to be a thoughtful listener and how to provide insightful critique. I would recommend her workshops to anyone interested in memoir and the art of a good story.
—Lani Jo Leigh
Ariel’s workshops jump-started my psyche. I’m back into looking at the world as a writer instead of as a would-be writer. I have her to thank for that. Workshops are almost at your own pace. Always encouraging. She has a knack for assembling a great group of writers together every time.
—Margaret Elysia Garcia
Ariel Gore’s writing workshop pushed me past the borders of my creativity and into an exciting unknown place of writing within myself. If you’ve ever put to pen to paper and wondered what you were really capable of Ariel’s workshop will take you there.
I thoroughly enjoy Ariel’s workshops. Writers from a variety of backgrounds gather together, bringing in work with all kinds of themes, and as each piece is workshopped, Ariel’s ear for the crucial aspects of great storytelling kicks right in. Her feedback is thoughtful, insightful, precise, and multilayered.
When I started writing with Ariel, I had zero idea how to write for audience. In work shopping with her, I have found my voice and with practice have found different ways to formulate story. I have learned how to incorporate dialogue and am so much more confident with my work. I recommend this workshop to all aspiring, practicing, and practiced writers.
Why, it’s a mythical place, a philosophy of life, a new book you’ll love.
It’s a collection of stories about vampires and superheroes, gypsy curses, giant killer robots, psychics, love potions, bar fights over stolen angel wings, and imaginary monsters.
It’s also a novel about overcoming depression, handling loss, and trying to find meaning in a world where the supernatural isn’t the hardest part of life to accept.
It’s the most fabulous book behind the most understated cover. And it will make you happy to be alive.
The print edition of The Greatest Most Traveling Circus is all yours from Sweet Candy Press: http://www.sweetcandypress.com. And there’s a Kindle edition, too.
Ariel: I fell in love with The Greatest Most Traveling Circus almost immediately when I cracked the cover. I could just feel the joy emanating from the pages. Is writing for you as joyous a process as it seems from the reading point of few—or more an arduous art?
Jonas: It was definitely a joy. I loved telling these stories. I would get immersed in them for long stretches of time. I’d write at work, at home, during my commute to work, in the bathroom; practically everywhere. When I wasn’t writing, I was still thinking about the characters and story lines. It was really exhilarating. On the train home from work, I’d write something that would have me literally laughing out loud, and I’d get a little worried that people around me thought that I was a crazy person. Then some parts actually had me in tears right after I wrote them. I can think of a few parts in particular that hit me pretty hard.
I mean, it was draining at the same time. There’s quite a lot of really personal stuff embedded in there. But writing it never felt like a chore.
Ariel: Can we talk about genre? Your book had been called an anthology but also a novel. What more can you tell me about the genre? I usually think of an anthology as multi-author, and all these stories are written by you. And I think of a novel as single-author and single-protagonist…
Jonas: I was really torn on whether to call it an anthology or a novel. Technically, it’s an anthology. But at one point during the writing, I started thinking of each story more as a chapter. There are recurring themes, a lot of characters reappear or are mentioned in several stories, and often details in one story resolve or unfold certain situations from previous stories. I wanted it to feel like an anthology at first, then unfold slowly in a way that feels like one story with a large cast of characters. I think, for me at least, the character Ramona is the protagonist, and the whole book is building up to her story.
Ariel: A theme of the book—right from the start—seems to be a certain randomness of existence. I was recommending it to someone and I called it “kind of a beach read that is also meditation on existential philosophy.” Do you think that’s a fair characterization? Or am I just maybe feeling very random and reading into it?
Jonas: That’s a perfect way to put it! I was reading an awful lot of philosophy while I was writing the book. Right from the beginning, what I tired to do was tackle a lot of very complicated philosophical ideas within the context of very simple stories. The layers are there, but you don’t have to dig for them to enjoy the book. I didn’t want it to be stuffy. Then, yes, many of the characters each seem to be in the middle of an existential crisis, you know, looking for a deeper personal meaning to life—which they realize, for better or worse, through the friendships they build.
Ariel: How long did it take to write The Greatest Most Traveling Circus? What do you like about the final product?
Jonas: I wrote the first stories around 2006 or so. I’d write large batches of them, compile them and give them to my wife as small gifts. I started writing the Amazing Man stories just after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. The inspiration was pretty clear at the time, you know, contrasting the renewed excitement over superheroes in movies with a tragic mass murder; you know, the fascination with superheroes in a country that keeps showing us very real, dangerous villains. It’s mind-boggling that, since then, superhero movies have become even more popular, and there have been many more mass murders like the Virginia Tech shooting. I mean, there was that Colorado shooting in 2012, where the shooter actually referred to himself as The Joker, and went on his rampage at the premier of a superhero flick.
But yeah, around 2007 is when I started to look at the work as a cohesive book and not just a set of stories that occasionally intersected. I finished it around the spring of 2011, but then there were edits here and there right up until it was published.
I’m really happy with how it all comes together, but I still think it works if you just flip through it and read the individual stories at random.
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN FOR FALL, 2014
I was at a loss after finishing my MFA program… But after eight years of infrequent publishing and no time to write, I found an alternative that works for me. Three years ago I hooked up with Ariel Gore’s online Literary Kitchen workshops and finally found a group that was the right fit for me: writers not full of privilege (and themselves) who offer honest criticism and support at the same time, and whose work I truly enjoy reading. And that infrequent publishing? It’s not so infrequent anymore.
—Margaret Garcia, Poets & Writers
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Lit Star Training
The Original Literary Kitchen Online Writing Workshop
Taught by Ariel Gore
September 6 – Early November
A new session of Lit Star Training — the 8-week+ writing course taught by Ariel Gore — starts September 6th. Writers in Lit Star Training spend at least a few hours each week on their writing and online critiques. You can log in any time of the day or night. Writers in the group are new and seasoned, wanting to work on memoir or fiction. The class works as well for those writing to weekly assignments (with no big projects in mind) and for people who are starting or working on existing book projects.
The class is $295 — a $90 deposit will hold your spot. You can pay the deposit right here:
* * *
Portland Writing Intensive with Ariel Gore
Ariel is teaching her first in-person workshop in ages… and it’s in Portland, Oregon…
May 18 – 20
May 18: 4 to 8 pm
May 19: 4 to 8 pm
May 20: 4 to 7 pm
By Megan JenniferYou could’ve made a safer bet, but what you break is what you get.
You wake up in the bed you make. I think you made a big mistake.
You own me. There’s nothing you can do. You own me.—Mark Berninger of The National, Lucky You
I wasn’t supposed to fall in love.
I want to read a book that he hasn’t written yet. The one that explicates the poem of us–that explains why he finds me irresistible, how I got under his skin in ways he doesn’t usually allow. I want to read his clever prose that pretends disdain for my verbose devotion, but that belies the truth that he loves every syllable. I want details of his compelling desire to walk away from this connection because he craves simplicity, but how he knows he would miss me. I want to read his descriptions of our interactions, hear his internal dialogue about the emails I send him that he refers to as novellas. I want to read all the responses he crafts in his mind while reading through my wordy, overly-analytical messages. I want his reflections on the scenes we did together, scenes he crafted every bit of, delivering them upon me with exquisite creativity.
I want to read the book we would write together, exploring the intersections of our words and bodies, of power and attunement, of submission and silence.
I’m waiting for patience, for inspiration, for the words that convey the convergence of emotions gurgling within me. Sadness, slippery and solemn, sings a lonely song in my soul. Anger is acutely aware of his absence. Curiosity crackles within my consciousness. What keeps him from clearly communicating when he claims to still want connection with me? Amusement always has an angle and something clever to say. Like, “Hey! How’s that good reply coming? I’ve known people to write their thesis in a month – all I’m waiting on from you is an email…” Waiting to hear from him has been excruciating on so many occasions I have lost count. Minutes bleed into hours, hemorrhage into days, flood into weeks.
I’m waiting, waiting, waiting to allow myself to stop waiting, to close the chapter myself, to let what we had be just that – a collection of memories in the past tense. I am waiting to see how long I can wait. I am waiting, still, again, always.
The weight of waiting wears on me.
He is withholding and guarded. Distant. It wasn’t always this way. In the beginning were the words, oceans of words spilling from two directions. There was intrigue, interest, inspiration, and intention. There were rules of engagement. But my heart doesn’t follow rules.
The wrong part of me is owned by him. I am ready to buy it back. It will cost every ounce of courage I can produce. I will pay for it with every pore of worthiness I embody. I will need to remember that a broken heart is not the end of anything, it is a beginning.
Megan Jennifer writes to connect with herself and to understand the world around her. Her writing has been published in two different anthologies and she is working on a collection of memoir pieces she plans to self-publish. Meg holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a licensed professional counselor in private practice, working primarily within LGBT communities.
The assignment: Set your timer for 8 minutes. You have just realized that you’re a star being. Write. Stop when the time’s up. Submit.
The day I realized I might not have bones, I sat and scratched and rubbed and picked at the skin on my hands until they were raw and needed to be bandaged. Still, I found no bones. For that matter, there was no blood.
To find the blood I had to cut deeper. There’s a difference between picking and scratching—and cutting. Cutting can cut to the bone. It will find blood below the surface.
The cat was telepathically communicating with me about the football on the TV. I don’t like football, I was concerned about finding my bones.
I knew we weren’t all the same.
I don’t have bones. I have to cut deep to find blood. I’m telepathic.
When I close my eyes I can feel all my molecules. My molecules are stardust.
All molecules are simply stardust, but most people can’t feel that.
Most people don’t know, or they don’t want to know. I know.
Stardust is the matter of the universe. It’s in everything. It is everything.
I might not have bones, but at least I know that I’m stardust.
I know it, I live it. I am.
Lucien is confused, “Yes, you have bones. Yes, you have blood. You’re alive.”
I’m only as alive as millions of years of stardust made from dinosaurs and sea creatures.
Returning to the universe and becoming something again, re-comprised, reconstituted, recycled stardust.
How do I come together like this, and fall apart at the same time?
Is there a moment between this and stardust becomes me, even fleetingly?
The Star Tattoos
Sarah Maria Medina
I was seventeen. Joey and I had just gotten star tattoos. I had dropped out of the ninth grade and never went back, but I still loved to read. I had read something about all the stars being made of the same atoms as me. Joey and I tripped on that. He was my love then. Even though it was an impossible love. He was in love with me too, as much as he could be. He was such a prince of a drag queen. He had been raised by his Mexican grandmother. He believed in spells she taught him, things like raw eggs below the bed to break a fever. Yes, Joey and I were made of star dust.
He came home one night, saying “Stars, stars, I see them everywhere now.” After our tattoos, they had begun appearing randomly. Messages from the universe that we were truly stardust. But the rough hands that touched our skin were different. The men who would seek him out in the bars, and the men who paid the five dollar cover fee to get into the Italian mafia run cheap dirty clubs out North were not made of stardust. They were something else entirely. They wanted to touch our stardust. To see our shine and glimmer, this much I knew. But Joey and me, we were stardust. And Leif and Gemma. They were stardust too.
Leif was another drag queen and Gemma was more than just a fag hag. We were not fag hags. No, we didn’t believe in that. She was beautiful and glamorous and a Libra like me. She and Leif would throw magical energetic balls across the dance floor. They believed in that shit. And at sixteen, I did too. I could see those magical balls of light sliding through the air between the two of them. Back when I went to the Weathered Wall with the fake ID that someone had given me.
Then Gemma was murdered. We grieved. It had been a knife. Whoever had held that knife was not made of stardust. They were not from our world of magic that we had created in response to all of the broken glass and dust and pain that surrounded our lives.
Afterwards, she came to me in a dream. She came to others too. At her memorial, one man said that she had told him she was free. And he had heard her laughter, that tinkling bell.
Gemma had been a few years older than me. She was a clothing designer. Her and Leif. Gemma would dress me up in her fantastic creations and put my full round body on her run way. One day I asked her when she had known she would quit the clubs, and she told me when the time was right. That meant I would too. One day. And she was right.
We were stardust.
The First Clue
Rhea St. Julien
The first clue was the stardust. It started seeping out of everywhere—my ears, my eyes, my armpits, my neck. In retrospect, I think it was the hormones of puberty that started this process, but it was, like most of the changes of adolescence, an unwelcome and surprising development. I scrubbed my whole body clean every time I saw a little of it, that shimmery substance that smelled vaguely of space.
Until one day, when I woke up and it was all around me in the bed, enveloping me like a cape. The viscosity of it was the best thing I had ever felt – like velvet, like coming home. I sunk into it like a warm bath. I let it swirl around me, seeping in and out of skin from every orifice. I had never felt so sated, so pure, so free.
And so utterly in-human.
Who the fuck was this family I was living with? No one had ever mentioned anything like this happening to them, and they’d treated me like an alien since the morning I was born.
Maybe they were right.
The morning I woke up with the stardust sea in my bed, it was still dark outside. I reveled in the dust, then walked outside in the cool air, the shimmer leaving a trail behind me.
I sat out on the deck and watched the stars until they disappeared from view.
Colors I Had No Name For
Kristi Wallace Knight
Star being. I look across the campfire at my companions. Greta is dozing with her chin in her chest, turned slightly away from the fire. Brenda and Bronwyn have their heads close together, murmuring a story to each other. It probably looks to them like I am dozing, too. I probably did doze, as far as they knew. But I traveled, up there, into the stars. They sang to me, no one else seemed to notice or hear, and as I looked up and listened their song turned to light, a thousand times deeper than starlight, with colors I had no name for. Their notes became words with sounds no one had ever spoken before, but I understood, and they said, we are you, you are us, and I was at home in no way I ever had been before.
And now I am back with them, my traveling companions, these creatures of earth, and I see their natures, too. Greta is of earth, she is stone, she is stillness, she stores the day for the night and night for the day, she is slow but constant. Brenda and Bronwyn, the twins, are water, they go places smaller than anyone else sees. Daniel is air, he is within and between and through us all, carrying things from there to here, he is what moves us. David is fire, he warms us on our journey, but he may consume us, too. We keep him at a distance.
I was 24, he was 37.
What we lacked in common we made up in drugs.
I met him in a bar I’d never been to. I’d been living in Olympia for two years and never went that far down 4th street. The bar was at the north end of town, where the hippies hung out. I was more of a club girl.
I walked in the glass front door. 10:30 pm and the place was essentially empty. I looked over at the long bar on the right and my eyes followed it down as it melted off into the distant expanse of a great deep hall of a pub.
I ordered a Guinness, sipped it, ordered another. I stewed and prayed to all the gods for someone to come and bring me some weed.
“Hi” I replied
“What’s your name?”
“Kelly Luna, yours?”
“Wait, do I know you? I know I’ve seen your name.”
“Not sure how, but your name sounds familiar too” he said.
We determined he DJ’d at the radio station where I was DJ and music director, I knew his name from the playlists and reports, he knew mine from the announcements and the giant whiteboard outside the studio where I wrote all the new music that had come in.
“Want to get stoned?”
“Yes, I really, really do.”
We walked down 4th street, further North, to an apartment he was house-sitting. We made our way into the studio, typical Oly-hippie; Beads hanging from the bathroom doorway, throw pillows, milk carton crates holding the record player up and the records in. I sat on the tapestry-covered futon and he put on a record, then sat down next to me to pack a bowl.
An hour later:
“Wanna make out?”
“OK,” he said and lit a fresh bowl and handed it to me, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
Three months later I’d be living with him and doing more than make out and we’d start a year of trying everything we could get our hands.
He told me about his journeys in Guatemala, of taking peyote, of eating fresh mangoes off the trees with salt.
I told him about my days on the streets, how I at 16 I’d heard about Evergreen State College and knew I’d go there someday, and how I made my way to Olympia.
One night, after three days of fresh cyanescens tea, we decided to do something a little different. We’d gotten it from a friend, something synthetic with lots of numbers and letters and no real name. By the end of the night the curtains were melting, I’d become a porch swing with toes, communed with the house spirits and Jess and I had determined that he was made of Godstuff, and I was made of Starstuff. To this day, he still calls me that and reminds me who I really am: a girl made of Stars.
You Told Me You Were a Witch
“Darling, remember how I used to climb the wall and sit in the corner of the room on Full Moon nights and I told you it was a witch thing?”
“Yes…” his voice goes up in the end. He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“Well,” I say, releasing my long fluffy tail, “that wasn’t exactly true. I’m from another planet.”
“You told me you were a witch.”
“I know. I didn’t want to scare you. The truth is I am from another planet and my people are coming to pick up me up tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I just found out, otherwise, I would have given you more notice.”
“They won’t hurt you.”
“What about the baby?”
“You can have the baby, all I want is the dog. He’s one of us.”
“From my planet.” I point to the Northwestern sky.
“I’m calling Dr. Larkin,” he says. “And booking the first available appointment.”
“I’ll be gone by then.”
The next day at sunrise I hug my baby good-bye, look at my garden, and smell the pine tree for the last time. My husband is snoring softly. I blow him a kiss. The space ship is invisible and parked at the end of the cul-de-sac. I clip the dog’s leash on and walk out the door.
I will miss this little planet.
Dr. Larkin will console my husband. He’ll say it was probably postpartum depression. I just ran away.
My husband will wonder, look up at the Northwest sky after midnight, and cry.
Joseph and I can’t miss a chance to dance. I have this dancing energy that transforms me, beyond inhibitions and social barriers. My hips move to the beat of drums as if driven by a mind of their own.
With Joseph, I’m the star of the show.
With his shy manners, he lets me lead while he enjoys the swaying of my hips and our legs interlocked in rhythmic synchronization.
People stop dancing and look at us; sometimes they clap and encourage us.
We dance along at the center of the party, feeling the magic of the moment transpire through our glowing skins. We look into each other eyes, let the music invade us and carry us to a place that’s both intimate and public.
Transfixed, my body sways to one side and I feel his follow in perfect unison, moving in the same direction, encircling mine with a sexual energy that barely needs contact to burn in desire. I pass under his open arm as he grabs me by the waist and turns me around. Again we face each other, and continue the game of hips chasing feet commanding arms into a rhythmic frenzy until we just shimmer in the light and all eyes are on us.
We don’t do this stiff ballroom-dancing thing Americans do. I learned to dance in “el barrio,” with my teenaged neighbors when we were growing up, dancing Salsa with the Fania All Stars: Hector Lavoe, Ismael Rivera, Ruben Blades, Willie Colon, Celia Cruz. No wonder I am a dancing star.
We dance like this, in our own dimension, until we remember we are the hosts of the party and go back to our duties.
The tingling started in the middle of my palms but nothing had happened to them, safe in my pockets. Still, I couldn’t ignore the feeling so I pulled out the right one, which was feeling slightly warmer than the left. I splayed my fingers and turned the hand face up and there it was, the universe mapped out in stars with a red dot flashing.
I jumped back from the hand but it, of course, followed me. I skipped the stretching exercise and dashed out my left hand, noticing that it was not a star pattern but a hologram with a familiar yet unknown face, searching.
Searching for me?
I shook both hands, thinking I could erase the sensation and then decided to jump up and down to clear my head but I only felt worse.
And my left hand felt like it did if I was holding the Blackberry and someone called in except…
“Commander?” came a voice from my hand that I did not recognize.
No, I knew the voice but not from here, not from this place and…
“So, honey,” I heard Jasmine’s voice behind me. “I want to make this casserole for dinner tonight. ‘Cept I know you don’t like kale, which is the big ingredient, so I wanted to check with you. I mean, I don’t want you to go hungry or anything.” She paused.
I looked back, saw her now staring at me.
“Your color! What did you do?” She nearly shrieked.
It was then that I realized the other change was that my skin had taken on an aqua hue. No, not had taken on; that’s what it had always been before I tried to blend in to this place. This time. These people. To look like her, the human from earth with the bland pale skin and the rusty freckles and the need to eat things that grew from the ground.
“Commander? Are you okay?” the voice in my hand asked. I unclenched my palm. I stared at the pewter face and the lavender hair. “Are you ready?”
I looked at the face and remembered. I looked at Jasmine and remembered: She wasn’t coming with me. I’d been here too long and I had—feelings. Human earth feelings and I needed to go back to my own planet but it wasn’t going to be easy.
But I knew my metamorphosis had only begun and soon I wouldn’t be able to hide it from her, anyway.
These Are Not My People
Why did it take this long for me to realize?
It should have been obvious all along.
These are not my people.
This is not my land.
The discomfort I felt at what I was taught. Why is war even an option–I wondered all throughout childhood.
Where I am from there is no war—no rush for time or control.
The message came clearly to me—as I was painting, of all things. My daughter handed me a paintbrush dripping thick red paint onto the beige carpet. As I took it from her, I smiled. There was a new voice in my head:
“The tests you have passed… they are many. The difficult times you have endured… they are enough. You have proven your loyalty to your people, without even knowing we exist.”
I let the brush fall to the floor, red paint making a small splash.
I stood up, ran out on to the deck.
“Mommy, I’m sorry about the paint mess.”
“It’s okay!” My thoughts were louder than I’d ever heard them before. Why now? Who are you? Who am I?
“Just know,” came that deep voice again, “know that there is a purpose in this mayhem. We will not pull you away until you know you are ready in every aspect, until you can let go of those you’ve come to love, until you have influenced those you were sent to influence and change what you’ve been sent to change. We just decided that you deserve to be aware now. No more questioning your existence. No more feeling alone in the universe. No more tears.”
Not In Front of Jesus
My brother and I are sitting in the clouds. He just arrived.
“This can’t be heaven,” he says.
“No, it isn’t,” I say and he looks at my T-shirt because it says “Born Femi-Nazi.” We both laugh because of course that’s what I was wearing when I died. I have draped the chains that I used to lock myself to the gate at the local Nuclear power plant across my shoulders, adjusting them like they’re a fashion accessory.
We’re soon joined by our mom.
“You’re older than I am,” she says to us.
“You were younger when you died,” we say. “You look good, mama.”
She smiles, “I know.”
Jesus is a ways off, standing around digging his toes into the sand looking cool, but nervous. Our mama’s still got it.
“So,” my brother says, “It IS heaven?”
“Can’t be, brother, you’re a Republican and you’re here.”
“Please, you two,” Mom says, “Not in front of Jesus.”
Jesus has made his way over to us.
“Heaven,” he says, “Is anywhere your mother is.”
We all nod. The sky has turned to darkness and stars the way it used to be in the sky of the small town where mom raised us.
Carl Sagan floats by on an open-air spaceship, admirers surrounding him. “We are all made of star stuff,” he says.
Jesus and my brother roll their eyes.