(the transitory twin)

20150330_182731He’s a modern man, and he takes a seat outside while his family goes in without him. I’ve already been inside lots of times, he tells me. I nod and smile.

And when he asks me what my plans are — what’s a girl my age doing so far away from home? — I tell him about my college plans, and he leans back in his seat with this slow smile on his face (I should have seen this coming).

Engineering is too hard for a woman, he tells me, and the gleaming teeth of his smile are meant to be helpful, I know, fatherly (I want to spit in his face and shake him, tell him You Are Part Of The Problem, tell him about the countless girls I’ve met in life who aspire to nothing because of men like him. I don’t). So I raise an eyebrow and say excuse me and his explanation isn’t an excuse because his ignorance is tangible and I grit my teeth — this is my job and I can’t be insulting (and I feel violently sick, suddenly, because I’m unable to defend myself — I know too little; he’s an electrical engineer, I’m a student out of high school).

(How dare he turn his education into a weapon.)

He leaves.

I’m a nineteen year old girl, and I stand in the sun for hours after (his words are searing in my brain — the first out of many, I predict. I’ve heard what they say to women like me; women who dare aspire to more) trying to stay hydrated, checking my watch. Summer is asphyxiating.

They are a small Muslim family, Arabs from the village nearby. The mother nods amiably when I tell her the rules and proceeds to break them immediately — her daughters laugh (I want to smile. I don’t). I take a swig of water and watch the people file out, tourists with casual eyes, no longer easily impressed, people who reply to a hello with a hard stare that lasts just one second too long.

The women approach me soon after, just before they leave. The mother is laughing, and the eldest daughter asks me my name. I tell her — she laughs. She has large shining eyes and a smile that transforms her entire face; her hijab is tight around her head, her body shrouded — in my short-sleeved shirt, I burn and blister in the heat. She laughs. Her name rhymes with mine.

The mother asks me what my plans are — what’s a girl my age doing so far away from home? — and I tell them about my college plans. The mother smiles and turns expectant to her eldest daughter; her smile widens even more. I’m going to study civil engineering, she tells me.

(Over her shoulder, I glimpse a couple posing for their wedding photographs. The bride is my age, if not younger — the groom must be approaching fifty. Her smile is exquisitely painted violent red, like a painting more real than the canvas. Their eyes never meet.)

I look at the girl and smile. She takes a picture of us together, our arms around each other. We’re the same height, and she smiles with her eyes as well as her lips as they leave; her younger sister shouting my name as if we’ve been childhood friends.

(I forget her name soon after. I don’t forget her smile.)

(She was nineteen years old, too.)


The Malfoy Case has been updated, and new works have been added to the list!

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What do you eat?

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Carrot and plum khoresh

So, what do you eat at home? they ask. They always eat the same things – I know a family that has a meal assigned to every day (Saturdays is pasta). And I guess they get confused because both of my names come from Iran, but my mother is pure Ecuadorian blood and my father was born in Holland. And growing up in Paraguay had lots of people asking me if I would rather live in the United States like I did when I was a baby, but mostly they like to ask what do you eat at home?

And well, you see, we like to eat good food – some days we go have Japanese and we always order the same thing; and Papa cooks Iranian food because his Mama was American but learned to cook Khoresh in Iran, too, and Mama teaches her own hands to make empanadas the way Paraguayans make it, and it’s actually quite good – and in school I learned to make chipa, but I googled the recipe for a perfect guacamole and taught myself how to make spaetzle by hand. And some days, when I come from school, Mama made bistec and tells me the story about sopa de pata de gallo, and we ask our brazilian friends to make feijoada when they come over.

Last year, on my birthday, my friends made wicked burritos and I swear it might have been the best meal God ever gave me, so – you know – we eat a lot of things – and though I may not quite share the blood with the ones thar invented all these dishes, there is happiness somewhere inside the recipes, and happiness in universal.

So what do we eat at home? The same thing you eat, the same thing they eat – we eat the food that makes us happy no matter what their culture or geography.

Written as a challenge for myself, since I never really write things like this. And food makes me happy.

The Feeling – and a Short Story

It’s been a crazy month! But it’s been a month of new experiences.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was doing a lot of research about the writing world. Well, I now have something to show for myself. Red Line Magazine has graciously accepted and short listed my submission to their ‘Conflict’ issue, so

you can now read my new short story, Rules of the Altar!

I don’t want to give away the plot – it does, after all, rely very heavily on the reader not knowing what’s going on while they’re reading it – but they described it best as the bedroom of a couple in meltdown, so let’s leave it at that. I look forward to reading what you think of it! I’m incredibly proud of it, and I’m so happy that they thought it was good enough to be short listed. I’m currently reading the other amazing stories on the list – I just read Don’t go, darling boy and it’s so well written, I’m still a little heartbroken by its characters.

Thinking about short stories and what makes a good short story has had me thinking about stories in general. Hank Green, it seems, had the same thing in mind:

I have decided that the thing that sets us apart as people, that makes us capable of air conditioning and hot showers and lunar landings and nuclear war can be summed up in one word, and that word is ‘stories’. If this sounds a little froofy to you, let me remind you that there was a time before email, before phones, before newspapers, before the written word even. When humanity was first benefiting from the massive utility of passing tremendous amounts of information from generation to generation, the vehicle for the passing of that information was the story. Stories were, and I think that they still are, how we define ourselves and our culture and even our technology and science. Every human society that wants to behave differently first has to change the stories that they tell. Stories, in songs, in books, on the stage, on podcasts, around the campfire help us define who we are. We are made of stories.

(do I mention the vlogbrothers too much on this blog? Pff, of course not.)

There’s an amazing weight set on the line Every human society that wants to behave differently first has to change the stories that they tell, but I’ll save that for another post.

2014-10-10 17.32.26I generally write short stories all in one go, so before beginning my writing I go through a very long process –  lasting anywhere from a day to three months, in my experience (let’s include fanfiction when talking about short stories, since they’re basically the same thing) – , and it includes a lot of brainstorming, staring moodily out of windows, reciting dialogue at myself in the shower, researching obscure facts, going through a thesaurus to discover the word I’m thinking about, making a general outline for myself, finding pictures and poetry and songs that fit… but I wondered, at which point in all the writing that wasn’t actually writing, did I say “okay, now I’m ready to write this”?

Before I wrote Six, I spent about a month and a half trying to understand what I wanted to put into words. It all started with a friend from the Narnia Fic Exchange mentioning something in a review of another one of my stories that prompted me to think about a relationship between Bacchus and Calypso. I started out with an idea of some sort of romantic, witty conversation – and ended up with something that wasn’t quite different, but was extremely different at the same time. While doing research about the gods and trying to understand their mythology, I spoke to friends from islands in the Pacific about the legends in their own cultures. I discovered that many legends from opposite sides of the world seem to overlap – and I began a hunt through six different cultures to try and find similar characters. But even when I had a list of names, I still didn’t quite know what I wanted.

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Six – A Short Story

first

They are young, but not that young –and honestly, neither of them think in terms of time: it is a foreign, meaningless concept invented by the weak who must measure the distance between themselves and their deaths– and it is in this world, because it is always in this world; perhaps she does not wander further than the confinements of this strange, round sphere… or perhaps they simply never coincide.

It is a land of loud voices and deep, rumbling songs, and here they call her Chalchiuhtlicue, a word that rolls easily off his tongue as if he has spoken it since the beginning of his existence. It means She of the Jade Skirt; and indeed, she glitters as the rippling rivers that gave her that name among these creatures who build large structures of many steps, these people whom he loves fiercely for their fire and their passion, the dancing red of feathers in their hair and the violent stripes of the blood of the dead strewn across the altars. He meets her here, adorned in red and gold, lips curled into a perpetual smile, feet dancing and never truly stopping. They call him Xochipilli, and he is alive in the curling towers of smoke that rise around them, even as she is in the birthing screams of a mother and in the rising of the tide.

And he strays near her, perhaps closer than he ought to, for the babe is born and celebrations abound, and he is dancing, dancing, never stopping, to the rhythm of swishing feathers and heavy footfalls and they call him Flower Prince, and perhaps he is; perhaps he lives in the flowers that bring them ecstasy, even as he presses his lips to hers and tastes the sour taste of sweat and blood and sees the roaring, crashing waves of the ocean in her eyes.

And he smiles widely, teeth glinting in the moonlight, dancing, dancing, never stopping, and he forgets, in the bursts of celebratory fire and the dancing bodies that close in around him, if she smiles back.

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En-túmótó (The finding or acquiring of something)- A Short Story

En-túmótó (The finding or acquiring of something)- A Short Story

maasai

A-ɨcɨák – To meet by chance.

Swelali was born in the savanna, and there she will live until she dies. Enkai has watched from the sky with his bright and blinding face, and has watched over her family and their herd. He has seen the grasslands over which they crossed, the pain of her many lost children, the songs sung over the ground, the leaps of joy of the morads and the many inkajijiks she has built with her own bare hands. He has watched over her herd; he has kept the cows healthy and strong.

But she wonders, sometimes, if there is anything Enkai can do for him.

She met him a very long time ago, when she was only a small child. It was only an hour after sunset, just as the wedding celebrations were beginning. Her uncle was marrying his second wife, and the singing and drinking had only begun. She had crept away from the ol-túrén, the hearth, and had found herself nearly in the shadows.

When she first saw him, Swelali was seized with terror such as she could not remember ever feeling. She thought, for a brief moment, that perhaps this was an evil spirit such as those her father had warned them about. En-torrónī, he had said. They were bad.

But her child’s curiosity kept her in place. She would not be kurêt, a coward, and shame her family. And as she watched, she noticed that all those around them were aware of the strange creature who sat in the shadows, glancing at it now and then even as they sang; the en-kitóo, the elders, even passing him the ɛn-dʉ́kʉ́ny, which was full of honey beer. With wide eyes, she watched from afar as the creature took a sip and returned it to the hands of her father. He and the other en-kitóo continued singing.

The creature was shorter than any of the morads, with a heavy shoulder-long shadow of hair on its head. It seemed to wear clothes, yes, but they were dark, like the clothing of a young man after emorata. Its eyes were dark, its movements graceful, but above all what frightened her was its skin… pale and bright like ivory from an elephant’s tusk.

Swelali had never seen anyone like this, with skin and hair quite like this. Yes, she had seen a ɔltʉŋáni ɔ́ɨ́bɔ̄rr before, a water youth, a traveler from distant places away from the savanna, a white man… from afar. But that man had not been like this. That man had had skin reddened by the sun, and his clothes had had more color and had shown more skin. And he had been joyful, talkative, speaking tentatively in Swahili but with no knowledge at all of Maa, her own language.

This creature simply did not look human. Swelali could feel it, just like the cows outside could; she could see them unusually restless. And she did not doubt that her father and the other en-kitóo knew the difference. She could feel it in the soles of her feet, as if the ground itself was acknowledging with silent respect the presence of this creature.

And it was in that moment that it, him, turned and met her gaze.

His eyes were black. They glinted with a strange kind of light that reminded her of the stars and the moon and a leopard’s eyes in the dark. She was petrified, staring, and the world around her seemed to fade away into small pieces, dividing music and laughter and voices… and making them all disappear.

She was aware, suddenly, of how very small she was. Only a child before this… this… him. Small and impotent, and in his eyes she could see too much; his expression was too full of things she could not recognize. E-sopîa, she thought. Dark. Darker than any moonless winter night.

But then he smiled, and suddenly the world focused again, and it was all real: the laughter, the songs, the footsteps, the voices, the smell of the dirt, the honey beer and the cows, and the feeling of her own heart beating loudly in her chest.

She crept into bed much later, but she could feel his presence through the walls of her family’s inkajijik. She curled into a small ball, like a hyena cub in the cold, and fell into a strange sleep with dreams she could never remember properly. But when she woke up, she was sure they had not been nightmares.

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