Wavering (a 9/11 Story About Surviving and Feeling Lost)

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Image from BBC ONE : EARTH

The nights seemed to go on forever. The swell of my stomach seemed to grow larger beneath my hot fingers. I thought of our baby’s eyes, open in the dark. I dreamt of pyramids, desert storms, bridges over raging torrents, stars dropping into firmaments, the earth tilting, the baby elephant separated from the herd and wandering alone in a trackless desert.

You used to pride yourself on your constancy.

I lay next to you, listening to the hum of crickets and the sighing of the wind weaving through the walnut tree. Just before dawn, when the night became enormous and silent, I would fall into an exhausted sleep.

You, alerted by the stillness, would stir and mumble, What, what, what.

Nothing, I’d say. I’d wait until your breath slowed once again.

Six months and 9 days ago, I heard the roar of sirens. The day had hardly begun. We’d heard sirens before: the city was just across the sound, the twin buildings edging that narrow tongue of water. The sirens’ wail always seemed more acute as summer wore on. I would imagine hydrants spraying water into the blistering heat, pavements curling and buckling, scarcely able to bear the weight of millions of feet.

I thought: this is how it will always be. 4 a.m., your breath in my ear.

After that day I seemed capable of going without sleep, weeks at a time. The sky was murky; with each breath I inhaled dust from the towers. Her dust, I thought. In me. Her dust.

Papers still occasionally made it across the sound. A page from a desk calendar, once. “Mailed to Ron,” one said, dated August 16, 2011.

The sheets smelled dank. Heat seemed to cement our skin to bed. The garden smells were rank. My belly hurt, but just on one side. Child that was growing there, head curled under an arm. Child with eyes wide open in the dark, wondering what world is this?

I tried to push my thoughts one way. You know you don’t want it, you said one night, tears in your voice. This kind of world, you know you don’t want it.

I thought of the strawberries in the garden, the beagle’s toenails scrabbling against the hardwood floor, your skin.

You were the only one who was late to work that day. Ed, Simon, Niles, Will, David, Harriet, Holly, Sam, Steve, Lexy—even the young receptionist who two days before had announced she was pregnant with her first child—all were at their desks at 9 a.m. sharp.

She must have taken extra time with her make-up, because you had the reservation at the hotel for afterwards. You were always late. How many times did she look impatiently at her watch?

We’d had another argument. You grabbed your briefcase and almost ran to the car. I saved your life. Me and my big mouth. Me and my quarrelsome ways. You can’t bear to admit it, but it is so.

I knew when your thoughts started changing, I knew exactly when. July you became something dark and deep. My suspicions grew, fed by the silence of the hot nights.

In the train, on the way to work, you stayed angry with me. You thought: Why this? Why now? You checked messages on your phone. There were two from me, five from her. Where are you, she typed.

She was already at her desk. Afterwards, I could imagine your anguish, standing at the foot of Tower One. You imagined her, up there. Perhaps she looked down at you, like Rapunzel. Oh if only she could lower her hair! The sky that moments before had been cirrus blue was suddenly clouded, and each breath was like a stab.

You tell yourself she would never have jumped. But she took Steve’s hand and together they flew out the window. Steve was the Deputy Head of Investment Banking. He would have comforted her. He would have told her, You can do it. He must have been the one who took her hand.

You found out over six months later. There was only a shred of one of her fingers. A fireman had picked it up. After a year, there was something else. A ring. Plain gold. Of course, they gave it to Michael.

Did Michael know? I keep asking myself. Did he know?

Then, not even 10 years later, that fireman who rescued you, who gave you closure, was dead, too. Lung cancer. So many rescuers developed that, after.

Who knew wavering would be such a virtue?

You never forgave.

There are times you still say, “I want to die.”

There are those who say you will come back to me. There are those who tell me I must stay strong.

Ten years later, who would have thought? Together, we share bitterness.

————————————————————————————————————–

Saturday Reads: GOING HOME TO A LANDSCAPE

NO SLEEP

by Catalina Cariaga

Moonlight fills our bedroom
through slats of open blinds.
The brightness of ninety-nine horizontal candles
reveals your expectant smile.
Don’t touch my breasts
while I’m reading,
You knew I was a writer
when you married me.

GOINGHOMETOALANDSCAPE

Copies on sale, today only, at the Redwood City Public Library, 1044 Middlefield, Redwood City.

Stay tuned.

“Lamentation” by Veronica Montes: An Excerpt

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Cover of Benedicta Takes Wing by Monterey Artist Jean Vengua

The collection is called Benedicta Takes Wing, and you are crazes if you are anywhere near the Redwood City Main Library (1044 Middlefield at Jefferson) and you do not drive straight over on Saturday, 8 Sept, 2:30 p.m., the Fireplace Room, to hear Veronica Montes and fellow writer Lillian Howan read, from their respective books! Crazes!

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Veronica Montes, author of Benedicta Takes Wing: Stories (Philippine America Literary House, 2017)

Self will excerpt from Lillian’s book, The Charm Buyers, next.

“Lamentation” opens thus:

Her name was like a song: Maria Josefa Gabriela Cariño Silang. I wish I had given it to her.

*     *     *     *

In the province of Ilocos Sur, there is a barrio called Canlogan. It sits in the shadow of a mountain range that rises up like an enormous hand telling you to stop, telling you there is no way to pass. But the mountains are not as impenetrable as they seem; they are sliced through with rivers, each one running swift and strong. This is where my daughter, who I did not name, was born.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Lillian Howan and Veronica Montes: Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Redwood City Main Library

Two wonderful Asian American women writers are coming to Redwood City for reading and book-signings!

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By Lillian Howan, Published by University of Hawai’i Press, 2017

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A collection of short stories by the great Wakako Yamauchi who recently passed away. Edited by Lillian Howan, published by Hawai’i University Press.

Saturday, 8 September 2018
2:30 pm
FIRESIDE ROOM, REDWOOD CITY MAIN LIBRARY
1400 Middlefield (corner Jefferson Avenue)
Redwood City
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Historical Fiction: Novel-in-Progress

from p. 4:

  • Spain had already begun exhibiting the first signs of exhaustion, its sulky mind tossing and turning, preferring already the deep, fathomless sleep of history’s graveyard to the turbulence of exploration.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: TEAL

Love this prompt from Cee Neuner!

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A collection of short stories by the great Wakako Yamauchi who passed away recently. Her own art is on the cover. Edited by Lillian Howan, published by Hawai’i University Press.

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Bought from a Tibetan vendor in Dharamsala: “This will make you strong like _____!” said the vendor to me. Forget which Hindu god has the lightning bolt.

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College-age self and Dear Departed Dad

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Sunday: Luisa A. Igloria

Cascade

What I want is immediacy, the nub
of the moment processed without doubt
into my side, the tremor that comes
sometimes before sight, before taste
or touch. Whatever might be lost, don’t
take that away from me: stars pouring
out of the firmament, not ever holding
back the flood over my small ladle.

— included in the collection The Buddha Wonders If She Is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, 2018)

Luisa A. Igloria is a poet, a creative writing professor (Old Dominion University), a 2014 winner of the May Swenson Prize and, most recently, the 2018 winner of the Center for Book Arts’ Letterpress Chapbook Competition.

Cost of Paper, vol. 5 (published by 1888 Center, Orange, CA)

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Sadly, both the AWP2019 panel proposals self was included in were rejected. One was a mixed-genre panel, the brainchild of Philadelphia poet Anne-Adele Wight. The other was a Quarterly West panel on experimental fiction.

Nevertheless, self still has much to celebrate. Such as, her story This Is End being in The Cost of Paper, vol. 5 (It’s the last story in the anthology). The anthology’s editor was Julianne Berokoff.

Self just had another story picked up for the Winter 2018 issue of Prairie Schooner, due out this December. And the two stories couldn’t be more different: the one in The Cost of Paper is space fantasy, the Prairie Schooner story is straight-up realism.

This Is End is the third story in a cycle about a boy named Dragon, a missing girl named Her, a teacher named Fire Lizard, a bully named Big, the bully’s friend Drinker, and a new student named Knot.

Dragon saw Big knock Her out cold (in the middle of a class, why). Her never came back to class, but sometimes Dragon thinks he sees her waving to him from a window of an abandoned space station called the Kobayashi Maru. Ever since then, he’s been itching for revenge.

Big doesn’t show up to class one day, Knot asks Dragon:

“Is it true? Tumor he had?”

We spot-check each other for tumors. We’re so afraid of it.

“Ecchymosis?” Knot persists.

Here’s a link to 1888 Center’s Bookstore.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

amreading: Filipino short story writer Gilda Cordero-Fernando

from “Hothouse” :

Tia Dolor has been around the world several times, but towns and cities — Nikko and Capri and Copenhagen — all look alike to her: the same buildings, the same churches, the same automobiles. In fact, she is hard put to tell one country from another except from what they sell in the shops. And she has something to bring home for everybody — no one is ever forgotten — her suitcases are cleaned out of everything she has brought home including some that she went away with. And if you expect her somehow to look more chic (a new hairdo, a new suit) you are sorely disappointed: she minces down the ramp wearing the squirrel coat from Hong Kong and her black lizard skin wedgies.

Filipino (Prose) Literature in English, A Few Recommended Titles from the Golden Age:

  • The Distance to Andromeda and Other Stories, by Gregorio C. Brillantes
  • A Season of Grace, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • Children of the Ash-Covered Loam and Other Stories, by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • The Bamboo Dancers, a novel by N. V. M. Gonzalez
  • Now and At the Hour and Other Stories, by Aida L. Rivera
  • Brother, My Brother: Stories, by Bienvenido Santos
  • You Lovely People, by Bienvenido Santos

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#currentlyreading: MANDERLEY FOREVER: A BIOGRAPHY OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER, p. 17

Cannon Hall, Hampstead, London

November 2013

As I emerge from Hampstead tube station, in the north of London, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I have been here before: I came when I was a teenager, to visit the house of the poet John Keats, on Primrose Hill.


In self’s mind, memories of 2015 (or could it have been 2016?) when she met Emily in Chez Nous on Hanway Place off Tottenham, just before Emily moved from the Bloomsbury Hotel to Hampstead Heath, and offered to show self around, in a bid to get self to move from Russell Square to Hampstead, where Emily rented a room from a woman who lived in a big, old house not far from Benedict Cumberbatch’s.

Fun times.

In the end, self listened to her old Assumption Convent classmate who advised her to stay put. She’s lived in Russell Square every year now for five years, when she comes to London.

Stay tuned.

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