For life's little obsessions

Category Archives: Writing

Read week 1 and week 2.

Dear Elyen,
I’m sorry my reply is late! I was waiting to see if something interesting would FINALLY happen, but the truth is Philly is boring without you. Nothing happens.
So, not to be snarky or anything, but you didn’t tell me anything before you left. Are you not going back to school? You’re just going to be working for your Aunt Beth? I guess it’s lucky you at least have family out there. And you never know – maybe you ended up exactly where you needed to be and you’ll meet the love of your life all the way out there in the boonies. Of course I love you no matter what happens, and you know if I could afford to help you I would.
I honestly don’t know what to tell you from here. I think Tia and Michael are finally seriously broken up. She and her new boyfriend are constantly walking around the campus holding hands and I know it’s only a matter of time until someone walks in on them in the locker rooms or they hang a sock on the door and someone will talk. Oh, and get this – he was here visiting his cousins and working as a lifeguard over the summer – that’s how they met, right? Well, anyways, he decided to stay, just because he wanted to stay with her. Tia broke up with Michael for a guy that thinks it’s serious enough that it’s worth moving across the country (he’s from Virginia) just to be near her during the year. I’d say Michael and Tia are finally officially “officially over.”
I guess the biggest news is the new kid. Everyone’s talking about him. I was apparently the first to meet him so I’ve been under fire almost constantly since. Everyone wants to know everything about him – and the worst bit? He’s not talking. So guess who gets to talk Yeah. Me.
It was middle of the day a few days after school started. I got an email from Mrs. Kindan (my advisor, remember?) asking me to visit her office. I was worried that I was in trouble and spent the entire day trying to think of what I might have done. I was coming up with zero. I’d been to all my classes and they were all ones that I needed – I wasn’t waitlisted for anything either. By the time I got there, I was extremely worried.
I walked in and the first thing I noticed was a boy that I didn’t know. He was kinda tall with shaggy dark brown hair. He stood slouching sullenly against the desk. He gave off the air of a teenage boy that always has headphones and a sweatshirt on. Instead he was wearing a nice button-down-the-front shirt, untucked from his faux-designer jeans. Mrs. Kindan was standing with her back to me as I entered, but turned when the door shut heavily behind me.
“Ah, Rachel. So glad you could join us.” I just smiled, a little wary. I’d never seen this guy before, which meant he had to be new. Our class is just too tiny for him to have been there without me noticing. Mrs. Kindan must have sensed my reticence because her phony smile slipped a little before she could stop it.
“Rachel, this is Drew Rothe. He’s just moved here from NYC. He’s a junior, like you,” she told me in that over-friendly tone she reserves for when she’s trying to be nice.
“Hi,” I said, glancing at him. There was an awkward pause. Mrs. Kindan took a deep breath.
“He’s deaf.” Oh. Suddenly my special introduction made much more sense. “He’s been trained in ASL. I know that’s not what you use with your cousing, but I’ve been told it’s close enough. I’d like you to help him transition here. Lisa” at this she gestured to a petite bottle blonde I hadn’t noticed sitting in the corner of the room, “Will be his official interpreter, but I think it will be easier on him if he has someone his own age to talk to.” I very carefully kept myself from rolling my eyes. Like he really wants me to babysit him while he’s trying to make friends. On the other hand, Lisa looked like she was about 60, and probably wouldn’t be much fun to drag around to whatever frat parties he wanted to attend (not that I would either, but Kindan doesn’t know that).
“Now, I’ll just leave you two to get acquainted.” And Mrs. Kindan left. We stood awkwardly for a few minutes, carefully avoiding looking at each other. Finally I signed an introduction.
[I’m Rachel.] He looked genuinely surprised that I knew sign.
[I guess she already told you who I am,] he signed back. I grinned.
[Yeah. Sorry about her. She doesn’t quite get it.]
[I noticed.] He almost smiled then, and I could tell that if he would actually smile, he would be much more handsome. We were still for another few minutes.
[So what made you move from the big city all the way out here?] I asked. I saw his face immediately shut down into a stiff mask.
[I’ve got to go find my classes,] he signed. He brushed past me, letting the door slam shut behind him.
“What did I say?” I wondered aloud.
That afternoon, waiting for the shuttle that would take me back to the apartment, I was bombarded by questions. Everyone seemed to know about my encounter. Half the girls were begging me to teach them basic sign, just so that they could talk to him. There were even several giggling cheerleaders that spent more time gushing over how hot he is than actually asking how to introduce themselves. I ended up ditching them without ever saying anything. Finally the bus arrived and I escaped to a seat in the back. A few minutes later Drew swung into the seat across the way.
I couldn’t help it. I watched him the whole way home. The cheerleaders were right: he was pretty hot. He sat there slouched over the entire way, watching out the window. Several times, I sat up and thought about trying to start a conversation, but I never actually did. I still didn’t know why what I said earlier offended him so much and I was almost afraid to find out. Why is moving such a touchy subject?
We both got off at the Docks (don’t ask me why they decided an apartment complex in the middle of a concrete jungle was called the Docks. I have no clue.). He walked ahead of me out to the end of the row, and then climbed all the way to the top – the penthouse. I couldn’t believe it. This kid was rich! What is he doing out here? I mean, we’re not the poorest community around, but still – he came from NYC! There are so many more opportunities there. For all I can tell, he might as well be related to the Rockefellers. He’s certainly got enough money.
I watched him unlock the door, before climbing the two flights to my own apartment. From the direction he was headed, I’d say he’s living in the Dalish room, which is odd, because no-one’s lived there in fifteen years – no-one can afford it!
Anyways, I haven’t really talked to him since that first day. I know, Mrs. Kindan wanted me to be very friendly, but he doesn’t seem to want to have friends. He keeps away from everyone – though some of this may be that he doesn’t want to speak, and despite having you around for however-many years, most of our classmates don’t sign. I just don’t know, Ellie. He’s odd.
So that’s it for news from here. Good luck with the new job, and I’ll cross my fingers that you can come home soon!

Rachel

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I have so many unfinished works languishing on my hard drive! While I may never finish them, there are certain pieces of each one that stick with me, no matter what else I write. This is an excerpt from an urban romantic fantasy I started my freshman year in college. It introduces one of my favorite characters to date – I really hope I can either finish his story someday or find him a home in another story. A short background: the main character is a school teacher from Chicago (hence the El: Elevated metro). She is in her mid-thirties and is fairly cynical, especially when it comes to men.

By the end of the day, I was tired but quite happy. I love sitting in a silent classroom watching my students work. It’s unusual and sounds a little sadistic, I know, but there’s something about a silent classroom, filled only with the whisper of pens on paper that gets to me. And, of course there’s the anticipation of a quiet evening at home with a stack of papers in my lap, a cup of hot tea in one hand, and a green marking pen in the other.

I packed all the papers into my satchel, slung it over my shoulder and started home. I bought a paper from the stand just outside the school and read as I walked to the El. Typically, there wasn’t much of anything good. I was paying so little attention to where I was going that I actually ran into the man in front of me when he slowed down. He was carrying a guitar case and a sheaf of sheet music, the latter of which he dropped. The papers started flying everywhere.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I apologized, “I wasn’t watching where I was going.” I bent to help him pick up the loose papers. Standing to hand him my stack, I looked up into his face. He looked fairly young, maybe in his early twenties. He had extremely messy brown hair that curled strangely around his ears, like it was an extension of them. His eyes were a brilliant, startling green that reminded me of grass after a summer shower. Once I looked past his face, though, I could see that he was poor. Probably, he was one of the few buskers that could get away with it. He was wearing a threadbare jacket, that might once have been green, but was now an indiscriminate gray, and a red scarf that was unraveling at both ends. There were dark shadows under his eyes and he was extremely thin – almost worse than the pictures of anorexic models that are plastered all over the tabloids.

“Thank you,” he said to me. Despite his looks, his voice was soft around the edges and soothing, sounding exactly like silk would, if silk were a sound.

“Of course,” I replied, more than a little flustered in his intense gaze and voice.

What do you think? Should I rescue him from my hard-drive and try again?


Kristilyn and I are a little bit crazy. We shout ideas at each other, each crazier than the last, and then, sometimes, we actually do some of them. But this? This is crazy even for us.

Over the foreseeable future, we will be writing a story together. The idea started with something I’ve done with a few other friends privately, called letter gaming. Based on the book Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, each player (usually only two – more than that and it just gets really complicated, though it can work) creates a character and then those characters write letters to each other. Those letters create the story. The twist is that none of the players may ever, under any circumstances, discuss the plot. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it fails miserably, but the fun is in trying.

And since we can’t do anything by halves, we’re going to let you watch as we do this. Kristilyn will be playing Elyen, who has moved to Alaska for college. She and her friend, Rachel (that’s me!) have decided to exchange blogs to keep in touch. To start with, we’ll be updating every two weeks, starting on 3/15. I will be posting the first “letter” that Friday, and Kristilyn will respond on her blog Friday the 29th, and we’ll go from there!

We really hope you’ll join us on this journey. Win or lose, it’s going to be a fun ride! (And when I say win or lose, I mean that figuratively – there’s no real way to lose at letter gaming!)


This is a short-short I wrote for a class a few years ago. I’ve always felt it’s one of my best pieces. This is the first time I’ve made it available to the public.

We stand in the protective arch of stone. She looks out on the wet, green landscape, twisting a piece of hair between her fingers. It’s so beautiful, she tells me. I nod in agreement. The splash and drip of the rain invades our silence. She’s right: the rain makes the colors brighter, almost like the land is glowing. The sharp contrast to the overcast sky makes it seem more unreal.

Come with me, she says. She steps out of our shelter and extends a hand. I shake my head and she asks again. I don’t answer. After a time she shrugs and dances away. I will never forget her like this; bare feet dancing in the rain and white dress bright against the vibrant green hills.

Today I look down on her, dressed in white, barefooted and hooked up to a million little wires, keeping her alive. She’s slept for almost a week. The doctors say it’s time to let go, but I don’t believe them. I sit and hold her hand, soft and warm, just like I remember. It’s easier to remember that than to remember the other things, like the night that this happened to her. The night I asked her to marry me, standing in the rain outside her door. The way she danced over to her bright red convertible, insisting we go celebrate, and driving through the night with the top down, getting soaked but forgetting to care. The drunk driver she couldn’t avoid coming towards the car. The sirens mixed with the heavy silence from where I knew she ought to be.

I shook myself out of it. Don’t remember the end. Remember the way the day began.

Remember the rain, I tell her. Remember dancing.

For the first time in far too long she opens her eyes. I do, she whispers.