Last week, I embarked on my 27th spin around that great ol’ ball of fire. The day went by like a gentle whisper, starting with a brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe with K and then strolling around Laguna Gloria before popping in a free lettering workshop and heading home for a movie on the couch with our pups. While I have nothing against big birthday celebrations and in fact enjoy them occasionally, I generally have a preference of welcoming a new age by reminiscing on the previous one. I’ve spent the last few birthdays clacking away at my keyboard and reliving the most memorable moments of the year past. This time, it took me a little more than a week to get through age 26.
Hyperion transcends time and genre. This book is a tale of tales. Seven pilgrims on a journey towards the same destination, but each with their own agenda and motives. The only way to learn more about the futuristic universe of the Hegemony is to take a trip through each person’s past. With each tale shared, the mystery shrouding the Shrike and the Time Tombs is revealed–little by little–yet leaves you with more questions. A fleshed-out, alluring piece of literature that any reader with a love for Science Fiction must experience.
Parting is such a sweet sorrow
You are all my days, my tomorrow
I never want you to leave for
The sunlight is not as warm nor
The breeze as sweet as when you
Are not there; nothing else is true
I wake before dawn. It’s an old pattern that has recently returned, stirring awake in a dark bedroom with the clock reading somewhere in between 4 and 5 AM. Instinctively, I reach for my phone, turn the backlight setting all the way to the left, which is still too bright, and then I change the screen to inverted colors. Skimming through my text messages quickly, I go straight to Zen Habits on Reddit. Its soothing articles rarely fail to lull me back to sleep.
Sure enough, halfway through my second article, my eyes involuntarily drift shut. I put my phone away and nestle within K’s nooks. But moments later, I find myself resurfacing. I lie awake, asking myself what I want. An image of me sitting at my desk, writing, comes to me. I hadn’t done this for months, not since I found out I was pregnant. I am now in my second trimester and the nausea that welcomed me every morning and was a constant visitor throughout the day had disappeared. In its place is the energy I lost by week six; I greeted it like an old friend.
Okay then. I’m doing it. I get up and refill my water and make myself hot cocoa. Carrying a cup and a mug, a banana, and my laptop bag, I settle in my desk. Perhaps this is just what I need, I think. Since announcing my pregnancy, I’ve been met with questions of how I feel–excited? Nervous? Ready? But the truth is, in the past three months, I’ve yet to feel a surge of strong emotion of any kind. Yes, I do feel all of the above, but only somewhat. Maybe because it’s such a life-altering indication, I haven’t been able to process it fully. And ready? Who ever is truly ready for a thing like this? Maybe some people. But I never feel quite ready for a big change until I go through it. Maybe writing about it is what I need today.
Announcing that K and I were with child was overwhelming, but wonderful. It was one of those times I felt grateful for social media. I sat with my laptop for a while after revealing our announcement photo and every time we received a reaction or a comment, I felt that person’s surprise or excitement along with them. I know how it feels to be on the other end so well–baby announcements are popping up among people I know by the dozen, and each time, I’d feel a pang of surprise and excitement for the expecting ones. To be on the receiving end of a community’s love and support is an experience I feel truly fortunate to have. There was also a sense of relief to not have to carry around a huge secret anymore. Now I could just carry a baby!
One thing I never thought to consider was how I’d feel seeing another woman’s baby announcement while being pregnant myself. The excitement is twofold. I not only feel excited for that person, I feel excited for me, too. I can’t help but feel a sense of comradeship with the pregnant woman. You’ve been secretly pregnant these last weeks, too? How has it been for you? I want to ask. This is another woman that’s in the same boat as me. Her baby is a potential friend for the little one growing inside me and the woman herself is a potential friend for me!
When making my own announcement, it occurred to me that there would be other pregnant women who might feel the same way about me. The thought made me giddy. It made me want to reach out and connect with the ones that are going through this journey–however different our experiences may be–at this time in our lives on this earth. We’re in this together, I want to say.
It’s funny, because the Zen Habits article I was reading a couple of hours ago was about tribes and how Americans have lost this sense of collectivist belonging. As I am forming my own little tribe with K, I find myself longing for a larger tribe that is filled with women with swollen bellies who will listen to each other’s dreams and fears, who will massage each other’s backs and comfort one another through difficult moments, who will simply get it without saying a word.
Maybe these women will help me feel more pregnant. My belly is still small and my symptoms have dwindled. I was beginning to feel afraid that something was wrong until I saw my doctor last Friday and she put my hand on the doppler monitor and I could feel my baby’s heartbeat. She reassured me that ze was growing and healthy and reminded me that some women don’t start showing until later. Some women actually carry small throughout the full term. And that’s okay.
Rubbing my belly, I realize that today is Wednesday. I am now 15 weeks pregnant. I go to the bathroom and examine my belly to see if I have grown a little more. I have. I take a picture. This is me today, 15 weeks pregnant. May it be documented.
If a younger me could look at the woman I am today, I think she would want to ask, “When did you get so serious?”
I was funny as a child. I was known for reenacting movies to my friends, often exaggerating dramatic poses to the point of absurdity. Teasing, being silly, playfulness–my days were filled with those. As I got older, my elaborate stories and performances turned into wisecracks made in class and riddles I invented to challenge my peers. I laughed a lot growing up.
Somewhere along the way, I dropped my sense of humor like a thing that slipped from my hand as I was wading deeper into the ocean while bracing myself for the impact of the wave. It floated for a while, still in view. I could have picked it up and clung to it, reprimanding myself for ever losing a thing so valuable. Even when it sunk underneath the surface, slowly, slowly, I could have dived in and suffered the salty sting to my eyes as my hands reached for it. But I never did, choosing instead to set my sights on the horizon, always waiting for that next wave.
One day, after many suns faded into the end of Earth, did I begin to search for that thing that invoked much laughter in me. Alas, the sea is a majestic being; it takes back all things lost to where it once was born. And so, I looked at my reflection in the water and no longer saw a person that created laughter. Only then did I truly realize the value of good humor.
I miss it these days.
Freya noticed the barista right away, just as she strolled up to get in line at the local Starbucks. They locked eyes: he a dark-haired young devil. A little smile from both ends. He was a certified bad boy, no doubt. The quickening of her pulse rose the closer she got to the front and she felt the barista watching her as she gave her order to the cashier. As Freya leaned down to sign the receipt, she stole a quick glance— the barista moved with impressive speed. Freya swallowed and handed the receipt back to the cashier, who smiled at Freya’s trembling hand. Then she stood back and watched the barista make her drink. His arms, decorated with black ink, flexed as he poured Freya’s venti cappuccino. They made eye contact again as she stepped forward to receive her hot beverage. The barista gave her a sparkling grin and she began her slow smile when he turned to resume his work. Perhaps expecting a tad bit more, Freya left with an air of disappointment. It was only when she set her drink on top of her car to fumble with the keys in her bag that she saw it: the barista’s phone number written on the coffee sleeve. She sat down in the driver’s seat and suddenly felt as if all was possible in the world.
If it were up to Freya, she’d either suck the men dry or leave them to bleed out. She only wanted to experience a certain wildness that she expertly brought out in her suitors and then she’d be content to move on with her life.
It came as a second nature to her. Within the first moment of meeting a man Freya would instinctively know whether the soft curl that brushed against her eyebrow, the almond shape of her deep eyes, and the delicate curve of her back were pleasing to his eye. If the verdict was not yet made clear, she would only need to say something— an observation of the evening’s mood, a spontaneous craving for a specific delicacy, or just quite about anything— to provoke a reaction so to decode the message behind his smile. And then she would know whether she held any power in how their night could potentially unfold. She loved the chase, and it loved her right back.
There was a time when hedonism took the highest priority for her. Where the road ended was never of more importance than the present scenery; all that mattered was here and now. With a sting of remorse, she remembered that the time had passed for her. There are always consequences to our actions, she reminded herself.
There was a man Freya had enjoyed for a brief period. She had loved his body, but he had loved all of her. After he—in a post-coitus madness—proposed marriage, she said he was crazy. Wounded, he went crawling back to his on-and-off girlfriend, who later became his wife. Freya always wondered if they were happy. Another man who had resided in Freya’s bedroom for one blissful month continued to send her notes many months afterwards. As they all went unanswered, the notes came further and further apart until a full year had passed without a word. She wondered if he was dead. Two more years later, she received yet another note. One man, the worst of them all, had sparked such an intense chemical reaction in her that the contextual details blurred into the distant background as she flirted with him shamelessly at a party. It wasn’t until after they had come out of the bathroom that the guilt came flooding in; he had just started dating one of her closest friends. That guilt formed into a rock, which still resided at the pit of her stomach, no gastric acid strong enough to dissolve. Were any of these experiences worth the repercussions? She watched as the men of her past floated by.
How can one thing feel utterly wonderful in one moment could turn into shame and despair the next? The words of Father Basil came to her now: Purity and pleasure are mutually exclusive, my child! He had caught her hand inside the pocket of the choir lead in the back pew. She swore on her grandmother’s grave that she would never do that again. A week later, that same hand made contact with flesh in the confessionals box. She had never felt more alive, but afterwards she mentally apologized to her grandmother over and over again, unable to bring herself to ask for forgiveness in a prayer. Eventually, she abandoned religion in lieu of her own personal moral compass. The problem was Society—it didn’t align with Freya’s moral compass.
Anyway, her time had passed, like she said. Society wasn’t ever going to be ready for Freya in her lifetime and if she wanted to be a functioning member of her Society, she had better abide by its glorious rules and such. A rumbling in the sound of “Fuck Society” rose from Freya’s guts and she felt ready to spit it out as if it tasted of bile. But then, she looked at the beautiful specimen at her right and pushed the utterance back down her throat. Here was the most important purpose of Freya’s existence, her small daughter with shiny, little almond eyes looking back at her mother. “Ready to get to school, baby?” Freya asked.
The little girl nodded and went back to her book, which was sprawled open at her lap. Freya turned the key in the ignition and roared the car to life. Glancing at the seven digits as she sipped her cappuccino, Freya thought: Perhaps in another life.
Writing prompt 15 of 30: Develop an intriguing character.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty. There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”
If a book cannot be immoral, is it the fault of the man that is corruptly influenced by it? This is one of the many questions that Lord Henry– an unlikeable but fascinating character that Oscar Wilde dreamed up– provokes in The Picture of Dorian Gray. As he succeeds in influencing the thinking of Dorian Gray– who is beautiful and pure when we first meet him– I sense my own thinking altered by Lord Henry, the incorrigible intellectual.
I very much enjoyed Wilde’s prose, which was decorated by pleasant fragrances and hyperbolic utterances. The ideas this book proposed were fun to think about, even if I ultimately did not agree with them. This is not the type of book that gets on with all kinds of people and I won’t fault it for that, but I will admit that it got pretentious and dry towards the end, when years pass for Dorian Gray and he becomes more corrupt. The first half and the ending to the book had a lovely mix of philosophical waxing and an interesting plot to keep the characters going. It’s the 3/4 section of the book that read like a Philosophy thesis and dragged on too long for my taste.
Wilde did one other thing beautifully: he created imagery that is sure to stay in my head for a long time.
“What of Art?
-It is a malady.
-The fashionable substitute for Belief.
–You are a sceptic.
-Never! Scepticism is the beginning of Faith.
–What are you?
-To define is to limit.”