www.facebook.com/kaytitaniumjewels Life came and by chance I had a kid at age 21, a Family of my own. How it happened was sheer luck and a bitter twist of fate at the age of 20. Out seeking revenge I fell into the hands of someone who was as equally angry as me. He was even angry with some of the same person as I. After the initial fear of telling the farther to be I was pregnant had passed and he did not reject me. Instead he promised to love and protect me. I was then so relieved I could stop running I said to him “Then I shall love you too” For the next nine months I lived in his mother’s basement. Which was awful because I hate the basement, I hate the dark and bugs too. However I did not complain. I worked every day for 8 and half months at a coffee shop while I was pregnant. I slept on an old fashioned military bed and woke every morning with morning sickness. While I got ready at 4 a.m. to go to work the 11 The Who I am Essay 2011 smell of the low tide from the sea seeped in my window. The forty min ride to work I puked the whole way, and still I was grateful. When I grew fat with pregnancy I loved it. I was so happy she was such a miracle to me. When I delivered my baby on May 11, 2004, I was moved into an apartment. I signed the lease from my hospital bed. Soon after I was home I sat in bed I grabbed my journal and pen. I then write in the journal I kept by my bed. I was in my new apartment on the sixth floor of a tall towering brick building. It was 2004 I had just had my daughter and nine months of safety within thy future enemies’ hands. I can’t believe I have found a place where I don’t ever want to leave. Spring has come and a new life has begun. I finally have the family I craved since I was young. I now consider my old life good and deceased for I have found some love and a place to live in peace. I have found a place where I feel safe and loved, a place where I belong. A place where silence is a welcoming song, this is place where no one wants me gone, a place where I am not always wrong. This is something I have always wanted and something I never had to call my own. It is called a home. To me a home is where people love me and I have people to love. It’s simple, it is plain but since it has come I’ve started to feel sane and not so much pain Thanks you so much Love me I left my journal open that night, on the bed side table under the light, for my daughters father to 12 The Who I am Essay 2011 read that night. It was the only way I had to express my gratitude to this man. This same man, whom had fathered my baby, yet was practically a stranger to me. He did not even know my name was K. To my daughter I write…. My little angel sent from above, Changed my whole life, she has filled it with love. She flew in like a dove so beautiful and white; she has created a bond that is secure and tight. Gone is the darkness for she is my light. So innocent and pure, she is the reason I am here, this I know for sure. She made me strong and gave me the will to go on. For her I will fight against all that is wrong. She depends on me to make everything right, to cherish, love and protect her thru life. Laughter is the only song I wish her to sing; to her it is unconditional love I bring. The sound of her happiness is music to my ears; it has a way of easing all my fears. Only for her would I acknowledge defeat, accept that I had been beat. I would lay my soul down at the devil's feet. To him I would say "This is the price I would pay, if you would let my daughter be, if you would only set her free, to you I will give me I will pay my toll and sell the devil my soul In return all I would ask of him is this, everlasting happiness and 13 The Who I am Essay 2011 safe passage thru your evil world for my precious baby girl. For this I would gladly give him my soul to burn. Gone are the days when I only think of myself here are the days when I think only of her I do not miss yesterday for it is gone, today is here and tomorrow is near, Yesterday I lived only for me, today, tomorrow and forever more… I live only to care for her! Things changed about three months after she was born. She was perfect; she and I were always great. However her dad and I suddenly began to fight. I’m not sure what started the first one but it was brutal and scaring to say the least. It never really ended after that. Always made to feel as though it wasn’t enough, always accused of things I wasn’t doing, I could never make him happy. However I held my ground and in year two of motherhood I write to my daughter. Though the last two years have been filled with many fears and a lot of tears, I wouldn't change one second of them. For I have been giving the blessing of watching my baby grow and learn. Each and every day I have been blessed with the gift of watching you play, rediscover an old toy, listening to you laugh with joy for each new word you learn to say. Every step of the way, I have been able to love and teach you in my own crazy way. Somewhere along the line I was enlightened to the fact that you have been not only listening and learning, but you have been 14 The Who I am Essay 2011 doing some teaching of your own. You have taught me the true meaning of love without before saying your first word. You are my angel of love and mercy, you are my miracle, you bring me endless amounts of inspiration, and you deliver me from my darkest days in the most unique ways. When I hold you, I can see all the wrongs and pains in life, all the hurdles in our way, but my confidence does not waver, for I can also see in your eyes that you believe that, I can do anything. You are amazing and most defiantly the greatest thing I have done or will ever do in my life. I know every choice I have ever made or sad day I have had to face brought me to you and you to me. There are no accidents or mistakes each moment in time was meant to be. You were created by me and born to me for a reason you have a purpose and meaning are my one true love and only child. I have sworn to love and protect you on your journey thru this world. This oath is the only oath that I have ever taken, but it is one that I would die trying to keep. To my father I write, Dear Dad, As a child there were many times when you had to go far away. Sometimes you could take me with you other times I had to stay. Whether we went together or you went on your in our hearts we were never alone. You always 15 The Who I am Essay 2011 remembered me, when you couldn’t take me with; you always brought me a surprise. A locket from France, some chocolate from Germany, and really so much more On the trips we took together sometimes you had to work but, most times you blew it off and took me out to play. On those very special times when you could steal me away I saw The Magic Kingdom, took pictures of shadows of people we didn’t even know, rode rides and saw places I only dreamed of. How it made my young heart glow. As a young adult in need of some space to learn and grow I saw the coast of California, a place I always wish I could go. I had the breakfast at the Sugar Shack, ate lunch at Huntington Beach and at night we ate at the nicest restaurants I had ever seen. As a young mother struggling to my best, knowing you are just a phone call away put my minds at rest For whether I am in need of words of wisdom, encouragement, love or just answers to questions only a parent would know. If my car is broken down, or my heart is sinking, when the storms are wild and my ship is rocking to and fro, when my ship is lost at sea and it is to foggy for me to see You always find a way to lead me safely back to bay. You always stay with me until the raging storms have passed my way. You comfort me in my darkest hours; you came for me when no one else would. Like no other has before or probably ever will again you see past my mask of deception. You know what my real smile looks like. You can thru my eyes to the very bottom of my soul. When I finally saw that it did not matter what face I put on, that you always knew how I was feeling on the inside. Happy, sad, angry or blue was when I knew I need not hide from you. I knew then that all I had to do when I was with you was just be me. I know now that I am a parent that parents always question if they know just what to do. We will always wonder the “what ifs of life” and if we did the right thing. In case you ever wondering if you did right, I just wanted to tell you tonight That you did the very best you could as a parent, you still do amazing things for me even now that I am an adult. I could not have a better farther than you even if I could have picked him 16 The Who I am Essay 2011 myself. I love you Daddy and I Always will love you truly Kristen To my mother I write, Dear mother, I know you don’t believe me when I say that you’re the best. You are better than all the rest, you have passed all the tests. Now is your time to rest Growing up you and I did not always agree, there really wasn’t much time for you and me. Even this you managed somehow to get to know a part of me. Time has passed and I have grown, now I make important decisions all on my own I have determined that, Some things have to change others don’t. We will probably never agree and that’s Okay with me. There will never be enough time but you will always make some time for me. Now that I am older I can clearly see the two things 17 The Who I am Essay 2011 that will never change are, How much I Love you and how much you mean to me. Love Krissy Years passed and brought us to 2009. When my home and life had grown to be a place I could no longer exist, I went back to the meadow again. I was safe sitting by my brook with my mirror and candles that I always took. The baby was safe with Kristen and Krissy and they could protect her better than I as I was just a child myself. I watched them from my mirror just to be sure. Though it pained me to hear her words, I knew she was right. There wasn’t all that much I could I do about it, after all. So I gazed on threw the mirror at the hour glass in her hand and smiled as she told me told how she felt. ‘I’m bored and restless, waiting for ever. You always say “No, not today!” I can’t take it anymore the silence is unbearable, it is worse to not know. I’m waiting for the phone to ring, the door to open, someone to come in. How can you stand to sit and wait?’ ‘Well it happened to be your great folly, my friend. Your errors cost me dearly, once before and never again will it fall that way. I’ll send a message when its time, until then she will be fine. Just sit tight and don’t cause any needless fights ‘ She walked over and flipped the hour glass one more time, sat down and stared out the window past her reflection. ‘Was today the day? Would I ever escape? Was I destined to feel this way forever?’ Like the sand in this glass am I never to be free? Flipping from side to side, always pouring my way to half empty. One grain of sand, for every tear my eyes have seen. How could life be so mean? So tempting and alluring, yet leave me so much pain and morning‘ The door opened and in he came… “Hello, glad your home. I just was thinking of you.” 18 The Who I am Essay 2011 “You were? Good thoughts I hope.” He said walking past her headed for the bedroom “Of course ….. Did I mention that house I saw the other day? It was so nice can’t wait to move into it, so cute, quiet, a nice fence and big yard. “Yea, yea, Kristen three times already, I know about the house, Geesh! I swear sometimes woman, I think you’re smart and other times you just say the same things over and over. “ he yelled down the stairs “Oh and I’m going to the gym ” I called up to him looking at the clock. Gathering my gym bag, and putting on my sneakers I walk right past the mirror without even looking in it. However I look over my shoulder to ease my sense that someone is watching me. No one is, that I can see so I walk out and lock the door. “That asshole its ten am and he’s just getting in. Your gunner let her be all nice to him. I would have wrung his neck, and then called his mom and told her to buy a plot because her low life son was on his way home in a body bag. Then I would have..” “I know a hundred dirty tricks as well; I have spent so much time watching I know em’ all as well as you. This time is the last time though, we can’t afford a mistake. This time when I go out, it is for good. To blow it now is to throw years of your work hiding me away in the trash. I have plan we just have to be at the new house for it to work!” “God you sound like an alcoholic, changing the geography isn’t going to change anything. Your problems are your own, no matter where you are. Think!! It will be half the weight if we drop that baggage now. “ “Krissy, I have plan but we have to wait. This stuff only happens once in a life time. The stars have to be right, please, please, please don’t rush this one. You are going to love what I have planned. Don’t worry everyone will be happy in the end.” Kristen gets in the car, and starts the engine and pulls off heading to the highway and Krissy takes over. Looking in the rear view, I put my left blinker on and zip into the fast lane. Turn the radio up, switch the radio onto my favorite cd and started singing..” He treats me fine….But I could be better. You bring the wine and I’ll bring the letter…” Looking in the mirror, I smile and can’t help but notice my hat dangling of it. Never did understand my connection to that dingy thing but there it dangled anyway. Turning brown from the baking in the sun, the label still read KRISSY and that was all that really mattered. 19 The Who I am Essay 2011 ‘You’re so bad; you know it and like it, that’s what makes you especially awful. You take pleasure in watching others dismay, you really should watch what you say. People have feelings, even if you like to pretend you don’t. Kay may forgive you but the rest of the world won’t. When you’re done admiring yourselves would you mind watching the road, another car is merging this way ’ ‘I’m delightful; I don’t know what you’re talking about. My honesty is refreshing and most welcome people know not so ask me if they don’t want to know. People need to hear the truth, even when it hurts. The world isn’t going to sugar coat it why should I’ I lay my right hand on the horn, “BEEEEEP BEEEEEP “ and a flip of the middle finger takes care of that guy.. ‘Well…. to be on the side of fairness.. I enjoy you’re honesty and I do find it refreshing, however I wish you would have a bit more discretion about it. Like that old man you just flipped off was that REALLLy needed? I just can’t help, being reserved and guarded. It’s my way, to think of others feelings first. I don’t like thinking bad about anyone.’ “More like you can’t, that’s my miserable job and you only have yourselves to thank for that. I think you should be grateful, I mean that just my opinion.” I pull off the highway and turn into the gym parking lot. Rolling up my window and checking my makeup I am off to make my incredibly sexy body, even sexier. I stop at the mirror in the locker room, throw my hair up in a ponytail and plug in my ear buds. ‘You really are going to do this to me again. My back is killing me and my knees too. I can’t stand this. How did you and K get control and I get stuck up here?’ ‘Shut the hell, up about your pain. That is exactly why you’re in there and we are out here. That and you can’t hear us when you’re out, which impairs our plan. ’ I jump on the elliptical and start the settings to uphill. I turn the TV on so it looks like im watching it and stare at the girl in the mirror. ‘We’re almost there K, it won’t be long now. What are you going to do with this body, once it’s complete? Feel like cluing the rest of us in? I can’t believe you haven’t told us yet, and yet here I am running on this silly machine anyway.’ ‘No I don’t plan on telling you. In fact this is a lesson in trust; you need to have some, in me and in others. This is my life and you guys have hi jacked it, and no offence, fucked it all up. I know you guys were trying to help me so, I won’t hold it against you. 20
The scent of sulfur is consuming me
As I open my mouth and try to breathe
Matches lie all over the floor
As I’m watching blue flames engulf the door.
A trail of red gasoline lines all of our things
We are finally victorious in this smoke
Silhouettes dancing along the walls
Soon to become ash
Bursts of orange highlight our past.
I wrap myself in blankets to remember the heat
As beams fall and everyone stares from the street
I close my eyes and can feel your heartbeat.
Shadows walk the ceilings
Take it slow, what are we afraid of feeling?
Yellow outlines the paint that’s peeling
Skin from bone
Take my hand darling, let’s go home.
Life After Love: Part Two
Each raindrop could hold a galaxy for all I know, she thought to herself. Considering things such as time, space and perspective always cheered her up. It reminded her how insignificant she really was in the large scheme of things. That was comforting. Grounding. It reminded her that out of all the things she knew the most important thing to remember was that she really didn’t know anything. The universe was too complex a place to understand, so there was no use pretending. It was human nature to wonder why the world was so and it was a curse of the human condition to never know the answer. She liked to think death provided clarity, but didn’t get her hopes up.
Time was a continuous, unstoppable force. Or was it? Was it possible to manipulate time through space? Was now all there really was? It couldn’t be. That would be so disappointing. So anti-climactic. She liked to think that time existed on different planes and in different dimensions. She hadn’t quite figured out how yet, but she liked to think each moment in time had its own special place in the universe. It’s own little niche. Each moment was occurring simultaneously at all times and so there really was no such thing as time or death or beginnings or ends. There were just different stops along an infinite timeline. Right now was just where her consciousness happened to be.
She liked to think that when she slept she traveled light years away, around the universe and back. Maybe she traveled to different lifetimes, different forms of existence. The possibilities were endless, which was exactly why she liked considering them. There was no right or wrong, just infinite possibilities. Just like there were infinite raindrops.
So maybe, somewhere in time and space, she was with him. Somewhere in the universe they were together, happy and in love. Maybe that’s where she went when she slept. Those moments in time when they were together. The moments had been brief, but they were the happiest she had ever known. If she could choose anywhere in time and space to be, it would be with him. It didn’t matter where or when. As long as she was with him. And as long as he loved her again. She wasn’t so naive to think he loved her still.
They were done for this lifetime. He had moved on, moved past her. He was happy with someone else. She didn’t understand how it was possible to love someone so much that didn’t love you back. It seemed so very illogical and self-depreciating. It went against all biological instincts. That was because love was selfless. Evolution, on the other hand, was selfish.
Those that loved too deeply would be weeded out by natural selection she figured. At least those whose love was unrequited. It hurt too much not to be fatal.
by Cheri Bermudez
I’ll be an author. I’ll simply publish a book, she thought to herself, rationally. Then she laughed. For someone who was (obviously) having delusions of grandeur, she certainly wasn’t having illusions of grandeur, her surroundings the same, as they always were. An apartment, a bedroom. Nothing permanent. She paid rent month to month. Every time she took the rent check to the main office she imagined $650 being flushed down the toilet. It might as well be. Where she was wasn’t home. Nothing was home right now.
She hadn’t always been so lost. At one point in her life she had felt very much at home; she had even imagined one in her head (a home, that is). Now she couldn’t picture home in her head. She had no idea where it was. Well. She had an inkling. But it was pointless to focus on that inkling, that feeling. Because the home she had once imagined in her head was now an impossibility, due to stupidity and circumstance. Better not to focus on that now.
That was how she handled things. Well, things that provoked any emotion. Not right now. It should be her motto. She always told herself she’d deal with it later. Whenever that was. It wasn’t her fault that she was so fucked up (she told that to herself too). It was a psychological reaction to anything that made her feel. Feelings are too powerful. They can take over who you are, make you do things that shouldn’t be done. It’s much better to be rational. Neutral. A lesson learned the hard way, but, she thought, at least she had learned it early in her life. Perk up, sourpuss! It wasn’t so bad. It really wasn’t. She thought it akin to what being haunted by a ghost may feel like. A moment, a feeling. It reminded her too much of a distant past that she barely remembered and of a more recent past that she remembered all too well. A paradox. A conundrum. Call it what you will. It was her life.
She became lost early in life, due to circumstance. At one point she had found home. But due to stupidity, she became lost again. Sheer stupidity. She could attribute it to being young, but nineteen isn’t so young. She really should have been more honest. Honesty, such a simple thing, may have saved her home. But because she had lied, the home was lost. Simple and plain. Why had she lied?She asked herself that every day, and that alone would bring her close to tears. So, not right now. Best not to think of that right now. Blink the tears away and keep on chugging. Or drifting. She wasn’t sure which she was doing. Probably drifting. Maybe paddling just a little, she thought to herself, trying to be positive. But really, she was drifting.
Failure, failure, failure. The words repeated in her head in a taunting rhythm. Her other motto. Or maybe it should be a nickname. Failure. She wasn’t really a failure though- as previously mentioned, she was simply drifting. She hadn’t found her spot in the world yet, and at 26 felt like she had somehow missed out on her entire life. The days would just pass. One after another. One the same as the other. She needed to find her place, her niche. Until then, the days that passed were nothing but failures to her.
Now back to this problem of feeling. In order to find her niche, she knew, she would have to feel. Something she did not at all want to do. Despite her distain for feelings, she wasn’t a sociopath. Not even close. She did feel things, but feelings are not logical, so she tried not to give them much merit. She had feelings every day, and some she didn’t mind so much. Like the feeling conjured when seeing a puppy or a kitten. That feeling was okay. But there were specific feelings she tried to dodge or elude. Every day was a fight, a match. Her vs. Shitty Feelings. That’s how she thought of them- they almost had their own persona. Shitty Feelings. Sometimes she won, and she managed to dodge Shitty Feelings for a day, but usually she lost. Sometimes she would dodge Shitty for half of the day, but he would take over the other half. Shitty Feelings was a man, in her mind, since most of her shitty feelings had something to do with men. Two men, specifically. Maybe it should be a woman though, because she also had a lot of shitty feelings about herself.
She thought about him specifically though. A lot. Every day. At least one million times a day. Or at least that’s what it felt like. Her heart, her home was with him. And he was gone. Gone forever. How does one cope with that?
There is no coping. Only survival. And survive she would. Scratching and clawing to get through each day did get a bit old at times, but it was what she was use to. It was what was comfortable, albeit not very healthy. That’s ok, she told herself. It’s how life is suppose to be. Life isn’t the fairy tale she had once believed it to be. Being young and naïve had its perks, but she had been disillusioned long ago. Besides, everyone has to grow up at some point.
I’d watched this man for a few months without any intention of documenting that fact. If anything, it would be only to note his anachronistic clothing and curious gate. This changed early one morning, when my voyeurism paid off, so to say. Meaning that I saw something worth seeing, saw the man in a desperate moment.
I was staying in a midtown hotel, been put up there by an acquaintance who had my best interest at heart, although also in her brain, body, and soul. More accurately, her intentions where selfish, but in any regard, at that time I wasn’t above selling my soul if it got a roof over my head.
My life was monotonous. I hadn’t taken the subway in months; I existed in midtown, something I could never have imagined before, nor here after the fact. The most exercise I received was a shallow expedition into the park, and then only to sit on a particular bench, one who was dedicated to Emily M. Grangerford. Watching this old man was the basis for my existence, in a way. If ever I missed him, the day felt oblique, and I was not right again until I saw him.
As anyone can imagine, it was not the most invigorating spying. Each morning from my fifth story window, I saw the man emerge from the subway, walk half a block, and sit down in between sculptures of Atlas and Prometheus. There he stayed for the next hour, occasionally contorting his face in what must have been screams. People seemed to avoid him, in some cases even crossing the street, wiggling through stuck traffic. Once I saw a young tourist woman come up to him and push him backward. He didn’t get up from immediately, but stayed flat on his back so long I became bored. I turned my attention to something else, but saw eventually from peripheral I saw crowds milling away from him again, and I knew the screaming had resumed.
This location was only the first stop on the old man’s itinerary. From there he crossed the avenue and walked up two more blocks. There he always entered a deli, but came out empty handed. Once he did have a king cone, an anomaly, but he gave it away to a child. I was surprised to see that sort of humanity, didn’t really like it, as it made me think of him more as a person and less as entertainment. After the deli he crossed back over the avenue and sat down on the steps of a theater. The police hardly bothered him, a fact unimaginable presently, but it could have been because it was so early in the morning and huge crowds had not yet amassed.
This was his mainstay for the next couple hours, and I never knew his next move because I always went out, and obviously at street level I lost sight of him. I never sought him out either, and by the time I returned to my rooms there was no sign of him. It was always easy watching him from up high, I should described this in more detail earlier, because he dragged his left foot, and besides that, his getup was unique, clad strictly in a black double breasted suit with wide lapels, and very bright, even florescent, sneakers. Also, this is so out of sequence I should give up, after he left Prometheus and Atlas there sometimes appeared a priest with whom he seemed to speak in a normal sort of way. Once I saw them embrace and found that to be extremely singular. What happened on one particular day really mixed things up for him, one could say.
I had never seen him beg or solicit people, and so perceived he was in no want of money, plus the sneakers he wore changed for a new pair quite often. Stranger it was, then, when I saw him sprinting for, and finally catching up to a five dollar bill. Bending down to pick it up, the bill abruptly blew away from him. It occurred twice more, and I didn’t realize until then what exactly was happening. I remember laughing at the ridiculousness of it, couldn’t in fact believe that the trick was happening, nor that my old man was falling for it. Yet there he was, dragging his foot behind him, eager to catch the five dollars. The bill must have been weighted because once it flew up, right away it fluttered down, spinning like a helicopter propeller. Such a precise action looked very comical, with the man jumping up to catch the bill, clapping his hands together and then jumping again, all quite uncoordinated.
I searched building after building, window after window, and finally spotted the culprits of the unmerciful act. It was two young boys, brothers ostensibly, who held a fishing pole out a window, almost level with mine, and laughed and laughed as they teased this poor fellow. What had possessed them to pull off a prank that, frankly, I had never seen outside of television, I don’t know. Despite myself, I enjoyed the whole scene, glad for a change to the daily monotony.
My diversion soon ended. The bill leapt up before the old man snagged it and fluttered down again, landing in the avenue. The man followed, and in what proved to be his last attempt to catch it, was struck by a bus. The bus was not moving slowly, readying for a stop, but must have been cruising through at least three lights. It was immediately obvious that the old man would not move again. Traffic around him stopped and a crowd gathered, followed by five or six police officers.
Drawing up my gaze I saw that the boys had disappeared but had flung the fishing pole out a window where it became caught upon a gargoyle a floor below. I could have easily identified exactly which building, and even floor on which they’d been. I can’t rule out the possibility I was the only witness to the full scene, but it seemed unlikely. As it happens I had been watching for longer than usual and was late for my appointment. Anyway, I didn’t have much desire to see him covered with a sheet and loaded into the back of an ambulance. The last image I have in my mind is of those bright green sneakers lying about fifty yards from the accident scene. No doubt they’d been knocked off from the force of the bus striking his body. As I left my rooms I could not help wondering if it would have happened if I were not such a voyeur.
I decided a little while ago to start featuring reader and writer interviews on here, to highlight people’s stories in another way! Our first reader/writer is Maria McDonald, who has her own blog over here.
Why am I featuring Maria? She has an interesting story (as I believe that everyone does) and she’s willing to share openly, honestly, and candidly!
The first part of this interview will be published now, and the second part will be published later in the week. Please free to leave questions and comments on either post!
Let’s get started. Maria was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in May 1980 of Chinese heritage. Fifteen years later, amongst political turbulence in Indonesia, Maria’s parents decided to move the family to Australia. The political unrest was fueled by differences in agreement between native Indonesians and Chinese Indonesians. She started writing at a young age during primary school, and then started writing a novel in 2006 based on a recurring dream she had. Now she has 5 unpublished novels. Why unpublished? What are they about? Let’s find out.
First, some basics:
A Story Every Day: What type of writing do you do?
Maria McDonald: At the very core of all my writing is a love story and the main characters’ relationships with other
people. I also write about subjects that are close and dear to my heart, like social justice (or
ASED: What is your favorite piece of work (by someone else)?
MMD: I’m obsessed with ‘Outlander’ series by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve followed the series for years, and am
eagerly awaiting ‘Written In My Heart’s Own Blood’ to come out. It is the one series I keep coming
back to, both for a great piece of writing, keep-you-at-the-edge-of-your-seat storylines, and for
ASED: Who is your favorite author & why?
MMD: This is a toughie because there are quite a few. I guess, in addition to Diana Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult
will be right up there – she has such a unique way of writing. Who doesn’t get hooked with
phrases such as ‘her cackles stream out like ribbons’?
ASED: You said you kept a journal since primary schools. Many children’s journals recount surface
thoughts and events of the day, as you’d expect from a young mind. What did yours look like?
MMD: Like what you’ve just described, though I did have a philosophical mind from such a young age,
so whilst I did write about events of the day, I also delved deeper. For example, when I attended
a wedding with my parents, in addition to detailing about the happy event, the bride’s dress,
and the food, I would also write about my then perception of love, of my hopes and dreams of
finding the right man, and what he might look like/ what kind of personalities he might have and
rationalise why those traits were important to me.
ASED: Do you still have them? Do you ever look back at them, and are they fodder for any of your
MMD: I guess if I look really hard, I’d find some of them – I did go through a few. I haven’t looked back on
it for years, because some of the entries were too painful – they opened up old wounds. But yes,
some of the events I’ve written in my private journal had become the basis of my writing.
ASED: What do you remember of the political unrest as you grew up? Can you give us background
and any specific events you remember?
MMD: Background – ok I will try not to make this as a long-winded history lesson. The Chinese came to
Indonesian soil as wealthy merchants. For as long as I could remember, the case had been that
the Chinese had control over the country’s economy whilst the native Indonesian controlled the
overall government. It was fair to say that most Chinese Indonesians were Catholic and wealthy
– they live in brick houses and even mansion-like houses. Most native Indonesians, most of them
Muslim, live below poverty line – the term cardboard houses wasn’t an exaggeration to describe
the conditions in which some of these people live in.
Most Chinese Indonesians would go to a Catholic school, and most native Indonesians would go to
state school. It’s also fair to say that if you, as a Chinese Indonesian, went to certain state schools
with questionable reputation, you might not come out of there in one piece.
What I remember – quite a lot, actually. From a very early age, I noticed quite a bit of animosity
towards me as a Chinese Indonesian from the natives. I couldn’t escape the discrimination –
walking down the street, I would get kids younger than I was to mid-fifty otopet/tricycle driver
shouting out “you bloody Chinese!” and even “go back to your own country!”
As a minority, you learnt to keep your mouth shut – it was, in most cases, the most effective
survival method. I remember going to the cinema and this girl cut in the line front of us. My eldest
sister, as you would, tapped this girl on the shoulder and said “we were here first.” What should
have become an argument over right and wrong quickly turned to an argument about races,
about how we as Chinese Indonesian had ‘trampled’ all over the native Indonesians’ rights for
long enough we should give her this one privilege of cutting the line.
I remember every year, on 30 September, a movie about ‘The Thirtieth September Movement’
would always be televised; it depicted a re-enactment of a self-proclaimed organisation
of Indonesian National Armed Forces members who, in the early hours of 1 October 1965,
assassinated six Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d’état, trying to overthrow
the Sukarno reign. An Indonesian Communist Party was blamed for this attack, and because
Communism originated from China, the ‘hatred’ towards Chinese Indonesian by native
Every year, during September-October, this tension erupted; most native Indonesian high school
students would target the Catholic schools (where most Chinese Indonesians went to school),
with after-school biff-ups being the most common.
When I was in Year 7, my Dad purposely finished work early and picked me up from school. He
had brought spare clothes with him and told me to change out of my school uniform. Both my
parents also didn’t send me to school the next day. It wasn’t until the night I was kept at home
that I found out that my parents had received word through the grapevine that there would be a
major attack on all Catholic schools native Indonesians could target. There were reports that they
had thrown rocks at both the school building and any passers-by, hoping that some of these were
Chinese. This particular year, a group of native Indonesians actually stabbed a Catholic student
with a knife in the back, a student of a neighbouring schools a few of my friends actually went to.
He died three days later.
In May 1998, a riot erupted in several capital cities in Indonesia, where the long-oppressed
native Indonesians ransacked most of the upper-class, Chinese-built and lived in apartments and
mansion-like houses. They killed the Chinese men and mass-raped the women, in the hope that
some would get impregnated with the native Indonesian blood in their wombs, therefore giving
the next generation of native Indonesians more of a chance to get their hands on the Chinese
wealth. I was very fortunate that in 1998, I was already living in Australia, away from this horror.
But all the same, I heard the many horror stories that came out from this incident from friends
who were still living there. I’ve been told that some of the Chinese Indonesians who used to live in
Glodok, Indonesian’s Chinatown, fled from their homes to neighbouring countries and too fearful
to return even though the current government has made significant reconciliation gestures. I’ve
been back to my hometown three times and witnessed this; what I remembered of Glodok – a
bustling place with an equally glittering nightlife, was a ghost town refusing to be revived to its old
ASED: Has that background influenced your writing?
MMD: Of course. As I mentioned previously, social justice is a subject close and dear to my heart, having
been ‘denied’ it, for lack of a better term. What has driven me throughout the years of living in
Indonesia was to be seen as equals and to see other people as equals as well. It’s a long-term
struggle, because you’re proving not only to yourself, but also to others, that you are prepared
to look past the colour of your skin and the origin and get to know the personality underneath. A
lot of people didn’t, and perhaps still don’t think that this is the right approach. In doing so, I’ve
somehow created more angst and unease to my family and friends.
‘Peeling Layers’ and its subsequent 3 sequels detail a girl who is a product of mixed marriage –
her Father is Caucasian and her Father is Asian. She is bullied in high school, she struggles with
her self-identity, she wishes at one stage or another that her Father has married a woman of ‘his
kind’. She refuses to become intimate with a pure-bred Caucasian son-of-billionaire, despite him
being her best friend throughout high school, because she doesn’t want to pull him down from
the high pedestal his wealthy status has put him in and be discriminated along with her.
A Saturday in spring. We had just gotten home and because it was light out he was saved. He’d never have made it through the night. The tiny little furry sparrow who laid in the grass under the large apple tree in the backyard of my parents’ house.
The memory isn’t a sharp one but it stays with me for some reason. Seeing the neighbor’s cat, Jinx, in our backyard wasn’t unusual. He and our cat, Septtoe, were friendly when they wanted to be. Septtoe, an indoor cat, would sit at the back door staring at Jinx through the screen door. Sometimes we’d let them play together but Septtoe became king of the jungle if out for too long. He was a devilish thing.
There was something about the way Jinx was sitting that made us nervous. Something about his intense stare and the way he had his paw up, as if he was waiting for a fly to land so that he could kill it in one swift move. It made Maria and I investigate, our bare feet quiet on the cool grass. We looked down and saw him, that baby bird just softly tweeting as if he’d tweeted himself hoarse calling for his mom to come get him. We remembered quickly that you weren’t supposed to touch baby animals because of the likelihood their parents would reject them. To this day I don’t know if that’s myth.
It was impossible to diagnose what was wrong. Whether he had a broken wing or was simply too young to fly. Either way, we couldn’t leave him there for Jinx to get.
Septtoe stood on high alert at the door as we shooed away Jinx and started making a plan.
There was an old, small aquarium in the basement, Maria pointed out.
We could use a rag or gardening gloves to pick him up, I suggested.
We carefully created a hospital room for the sparrow. Looking back, I’m proud at Maria and I – we never even thought about keeping him. We just wanted him to be safe. We wanted to help him and hopefully get him back to his mom. We put things in the aquarium that we thought would make him comfortable. We discussed, at length, how we were going to convince our parents to let us carry out the plan (they thought we were just playing in the yard). Finally, we gently scooped up the little guy (sadly, I can’t remember what we called him) and placed him in the aquarium. We had decided not to cover it – we didn’t want to restrict him. As soon as he could fly, we would let him go.
Into the house we went, Septtoe trailing behind us trying to see what we were doing. Maybe he could smell prey. My sister put off my dad, whispered to my mother who followed us downstairs. She was in awe. As much as she never admitted it when we were children, my mother has as much of a bleeding heart for a needy animal as I do.
It felt like we had him a whole summer but memory does that. Tricks you into thinking you did something countless times when really it was only once or twice. It makes you believe that events were larger than they were. It’s a nice construction, I’ll take it. I remember the excitement of the bird surviving the first night. I remember him slowing trusting us, doing his little hoppy flitter of wings to come to the bottom of the stairs when we clicked on the light at the bottom of the stairs before going down to the basement. He quickly started domesticating – something we knew we should avoid but couldn’t help.
There was an old freezer in the basement, one of those trunk type things that is about four feet high and five or six feet long. We placed him up there, placed cushions and pillows and blankets that were no longer used, but kept in the basement just in case around the whole area and we encouraged him to jump. He didn’t get it, but we kept trying. We would coax him to the edge, cheer him on, toss some food onto the soft ground below. He’d just throw himself over and eat his reward.
And then one day we noticed he wasn’t really fluffy anymore. One day we noticed he had wings instead of fuzz. And when we went to the basement steps that morning he moved toward us with a flap that looked like the start of flight. No longer the hoppy flitter of wings. More the flapping walk of a bird ready to face the world.
It was a tough time, that morning. Taking him gently in our hands (he still let us hold him) we went upstairs, through the living room praying that the King hadn’t figured out that all he had to do was get above us and do a surprise attack. Through the living room, around the corner to the dining room, my sister opened the back door for me once we made our way through the porch. We put him on the ground and he tweeted like mad.
And then it happened so quickly it was over before we knew it. A larger sparrow appeared in the apple tree, made a huge fuss and then flew down next to him. She checked him out, he checked her out. She took flight and right behind her he did the same. They flew up to a branch in the apple tree and that was it. Reunited. Healed. Our little guy left us for the life he was supposed to live.
We'll Do It For Spite A Story by Jeremy Glass I had been living with my recently estranged girlfriend for the past two months. We had broken up because of “irreconcilable differences.” Really, I was moving a few hours away for work and she couldn't stand the thought of not seeing me everyday. So we cut it off. Our status had gone from lovers to roommates. We were obsessed, completely infatuated with each other; not a day went by without a passionate, detrimental fuck that would leave our bed in ruins. We have tremendous fights, awful things would be said, and by the end our hearts (and any physical object unfortunate enough to be in our path) would be in shambles. With her I felt love, and along with that, blood boiling jealousy. Our relationship ended in tears. She left our apartment and spent days hiding away anywhere she could be. I took the low path and stayed in our home, refusing to accept she was gone. I grew a beard, smoked cigarettes, drowned myself in liquor, and wrote angry poetry. We would see each other every few days; sometimes we would ignore each other and slam the door on the way back out, sometimes our ugly, stupid sides would take hold and we'd kiss. It was obvious, with both parties, that we were seeing other people. Neither one of us truly wanted to be without each other, but the thought of being alone without a body to hold was worse. Combined, we probably slept with the entire city of Boston; standards were lowered and bad decisions were made. One day I'm perusing the Internet and I end up on the website designed to infuriate the disenchanted lover: Facebook. Under her status, “in a relationship” I calmly stood up from my chair, walked outside, smoked a few cigarettes, shattered the glass door of my lobby, and went back inside. Days passed without either one of us talking; I went to parties, talked to my friends about how awful she was, soaked my bones in beer, and grew my beard out further. One night I came home to find her on our bed, fiddling around on her computer. It was the first time we were alone together in a week, so I sat next to her. I was dozing when she put away her computer and turned the light off. This was the first time in a month we had slept next to each other. Every ounce of pain we felt was shared through our silence, she held my hand and I held it back. I felt the anger course through my body, but it getting beaten mercilessly by love. I turned to her and grabbed her. There was no hesitation, no “we can't”, nothing. We kissed. Deep slow kisses and quick angry kisses. Our hands touched every inch of each other's bodies, every part that had been off-limits for all this time. She grabbed me and pushed me on my back and got on top of me. We were rough, on the edge of physical assault, and we were cautious, holding each other as if it was the last time we ever could. When kissing wasn't enough, I took her face in my hands and said, “Right now, you and I are going to fuck. You in?”Her hesitation was short, and nothing more than a pleasantry. She pulled my shirt off and began grinding against me. This was to be the angriest fuck in the history of human relationships. We spent the entire night with each other. Literally ripping off each other's clothes, finding every possible sexual position, and covering our bodies in bite marks. Between every moment of true love and care, were true spite fucks. The kind of fuck where I'd push her little body down into my bed and treat her like she was a sex doll – an absolutely useless receptacle for my cum. I'll always remember the moans from the session, she told me I was doing things she had never had done to her before. I smiled, and asked her if I was the best she ever had. No hesitation, she said I was. I was a champion – the best lover she'd ever have, surpassing her rebound boyfriend whom she was currently cheating on. I was Casanova and Darth Vader, the world's greatest lover and a criminal mastermind, capable of destroying an entire planet filled with millions of innocent people – and every single one of those people were her boyfriend. At one point, we passed out, our bodies completely tapped. The next morning was how was it was: silent, sweet, and sad. She went into the bathroom and prettied herself out, no doubt getting ready to see her boyfriend. After a bit, she came out and walked towards our door. “I'll see you later, alright?” She said, avoiding my eyes. “Ok.” She unlocked the door. “Hey Daisy.” “Yeah?” She looked up at me with those big blue eyes. “Tell Tom I say Hi.” I gave the biggest smirk my lips would allow. She smirked back, shook her head, and left. Sure, it was an awful thing of us to do, but don't give me any hell about it, send all further inquiries to my satisfied penis.
I have to encourage you all to read this.
It’s incredible, and I don’t say that in a light way. We become miserable in our daily lives because we curse the repetition that keeps us stable and sane, and we take this out on others instead of recognizing the high points. We fail to remember, as we are caught in our own repetition and mind, that others have a point of view, and we fail to remember that we should be screaming “it’s not about me!” Even if we don’t live by those words every second, it’s important that we say them constantly to keep our selves and our lives in perspective.
Read David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” here: http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/david-foster-wallace-in-his-own-words
It was a commencement speech years ago for graduates of Kenyon College in Ohio, but there’s no reason that every single soul shouldn’t consider these words.