Friday, September 30, 2005

Roses are Scarlet

I haven't really thought of what my favorite flower would be. But I know I'll know the answer to this question the day when my crush will suddenly ask to go out with me. Of course, this is just fantasy, and of course, it will never happen, but it is usual for girls to dream and wonder when they are in Science class and when your monotone-voiced teacher is telling you the fascinating story of physics. But then you are jerked awake when the owlish spectacles and twenty-five pairs of eyes are staring at you drooling on your notebook, your pencil accidentally directed to your nose. 

And then after my parents scream at my brother because he decided to become a musician instead of an engineer, I go to my room and I look out my window...It's a full moon tonight and sky's violet. I don't know anyone with violet eyes. How would he or she look? Do violet eyes look better on girls or on boys? I go to sleep thinking of more thoughts about colors. 
When I wake up, it's 7:30 A.M. and I'm late for school. I'll have to miss breakfast. I hate that. I walk briskly because it's cold outside. How did the song go again? "I have come here to be redeemed; but instead they laugh at me; and the wind shakes up the trees; and I am cold." Whom was it written by? Oh, of course, by me. It's funny that I forget my own songs and one year later they come in the mail with my admiring fans' scribbles on them. 
I arrive to my classes on time, which is a relief, and I open my notebook to take some notes on Shakespeare. He wrote a lot about flowers, didn't he> To tell myself the truth, I don't particularly like flowers. They're too colorful and after a few days, they wither and die. The only flowers that can somewhat protect themselves are roses. But we still eat them despite their thorns. What good are thorns if sheep eat them? Suddenly, I remember the little prince and his flower and I feel sad. 
"Beth, are you listening?"
I look up. Everyone's looking at me. I clear my mind of all thoughts and ask politely,
"Excuse me?"
"You had a blank look on your face. I was worried that something's wrong."
"Oh no, nothing's wrong."
"Well then, pay attention."
"Yes, ma'am."
I look behind me and see the Girly-Girl Club giggling and looking at me. I shake my head with disgust and turn the page. there's a painting of a rose and a hand holding it showed. What would happen if the thorns accidentally pricked the finger? It would bleed and bleed and the rose would become scarlet. Before my thoughts can go further, the bell rings. 
The teacher hadn't called on me. I swear under my breath. Why does my name have to end with the last possible letter? "Bethany Zelan?", the teacher asks at roll call. They say my name as though they couldn't care less if I was present or not. Now if my name started with an A, like Anden, then my name would sound bright and cheery because it's the first name on the roster and the teacher isn't tired of saying all those names. I begin to feel sad even when they say "Beth--". But if I told my psychologist that, she would just laugh. I have to sit on that couch one hour telling her my deepest secrets while she sits there cleaning her fake nails and saying, "Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. I see." Like she really does see. I think my brother would be a better therapist, if he stayed home long enough to try to be one. My parents were pretty angry when they found out that he was going to be a musician and not an engineer. But he would have made a very bad one. He's great at singing, writing lyrics, and playing either the drums or the guitar. Even though he could just become a rock star and not go to college, he insists on learning how to really play and sing. He taught himself how to play the guitar. 
I myself aspire to become a psychologist and a part-time writer. that's the reason why I'm going to that idiotic therapist. I need to have a mentor to observe what I should say and do. I wish I could have a better one. My parents, though, have other plans. they want me to be either a doctor or a dentist. I say, no way, I hate going to both of them. Who doesn't? My fans will be very disappointed in hearing that, but what can I do? I don't want to be a musician like my brother, even though everyone says I should "ditch high school and become punk". I want to be someone that I like. I want to be special. 
"Hey, Beth!"
It seems to me that I've been daydreaming quite a lot today. 
"Hey, Beth!"
I look around. The voice is coming from Allison Gonnle, a classmate.
"Hey, I need a favor. I need help with my English homework. Can I come to your place around 6:00 P.M.?"
"Yeah, sure."
"OK. Bye, see ya later!"
I thought about my plans for this afternoon that I had made last night. 
1) Go to sleep.
2) Wake up.
3) Go to sleep again.
Oh, well. I would have to resist one more day without sleeping. I could resist. 

I try to make myself comfortable. It's no use. I can't sleep. No counting sheep method or meditation can make me fall asleep. It's either I can or I can't. I sigh heavily and I put on the light. I look at the clock and notice it's 3:00 A.M. I groan. I take my drawing notebook off the shelf and think of what to draw. Suddenly, I remember the rose. I draw the stem, the leaves and the petals. I add the hand, finger by finger. After a little thought, I add a little color, too. But there's something missing. I draw a splotch on the hand and then drops, drops, drops...I color them scarlet and then I make the rose darker in color. I title my piece "Roses are Scarlet". 
In the morning, I'm still drawing. Roses cover my notebook. Blooming roses, roses and hands, bouquets of roses, petals of roses, withered roses; roses and roses and roses...never-ending roses. My eyes are dark and my hands ache from all the drawings that I have made. I stumble to school, light-headed and oddly awake. I fall into my seat and five seconds later, the bell rings. I take out my book and the class begins. Last time, we stopped at the rose picture. I feel a weird sensation. A shade falls before my eyes. The last thing I see is the hand covered in blood. i smile. My fantasy is complete. 

I remember this memory sixty-five years later as I'm sitting in a hospital bed looking at a vase with flowers. when I opened my eyes twelve hours after the faint, my parents were standing over me, worry spelled on their faces. I never explained my condition except with three words. "I was tired." Everyone left me alone after that, and the only person who spoke to me without thinking I was crazy was my brother. A couple years later, he died of an overdose. I suppose my parents were right. He should have become an engineer. 
I press the intercom button and a nurse enters the room.
"Could you please give me that vase of flowers?", I ask. 
The girl gives me the vase and exits the room muttering,
"That woman's so old, I don't think she'll ever die. It would be quite a surprise if she did."

The next day, a scream reverberated through the whole hospital. Almost the whole staff came to see what had happened. they were met by the white-faced nurse, who responded,
"She's dead."
The doctor entered the room and gasped. On the bed lay a perfect burial corpse. The only thing horrible was the scarlet rose and the blood on the woman's nightgown and hands.
Over the years, many people have said,
"What a horrible way to die."
But in between every breath taken by the speaker, there was a voice like the wind saying,
"She would have wanted to die that way."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

BEFORE: All the World's a Stage...And the People Only Actors* (or The Art of Lying)

She lived in two worlds.
The first one was the world of laughter, sadness, tears, love, and hate. The second world was full of imagination, secrets, thoughts, and dreams. And she loved the second world better.
This she realized as she was walking down the street towards school, quietly humming to herself a song that she had remembered from long ago. How did it go again? "If you can't recall the singer, can you still recall the tune?" * Who was the singer? She had forgotten.
The cars were speeding by her, trying to rush on the tiny street.
"Mildred, hey, Mildred!"
And the acting began.
Math class.
The teacher, the students, the clock. The laughter and words came from the humans rapidly, without the thoughts managing to be thought. And suddenly, she was filled with hate. Hate at the students, at humans, at the whole world. And the hate came in the form of laughter and words. this was their field; they were going to win this battle. "If you can't beat them, join them." * Who had said that? A Greek philosopher. What was his name? She had forgotten.
And suddenly, the day was done, night had come, and the man in the moon was smiling down on her. think. Cry. Laugh. Dream. This is your field, your battle. Time for you to win. And she did, in the cover of her pillow. And just as suddenly, the sun was out, and another day had come. "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow." * Shakespeare. she remembered him. She didn't want to go to school, to act, to hate. She wanted to stay in the warmth of her bed. And she was late.
The Principal's office.
"Is anything the matter?"
"Why would there be anything matter?"
"Your grades are very low. In Math, you have an F. In History, you have a D. The only subjects you're passing are Science and English."
Well, who could understand math? All those numbers...And it was hard to concentrate in the class. Too much laughter and talk. And History. Who could remember all those dates? History was all about wars and people, and what they did to each other.
"Is something wrong at home?"
"Oh, no. Nothing's wrong. I really don't know what's wrong."
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Wake up, go to school, and go to bed. That was her whole life. this would be her whole life through adolescence, adulthood, and age. Childhood had already passed her and the laughter she once knew was gone. How long ago had it been that she had actually laughed? She couldn't remember. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.
Doctor's office.
"So, what are we looking at?", the doctor asked the girl's parents.
The mother turned towards Mildred and said sweetly,
"Mildred dear, we're going to talk to the doctor in private. Please behave."
The door shut and whisperings of concern came inside the anteroom. the whitewashed walls looked like a prison to the girl. What was a prison? Her whole life. The real world. Yes, that was her prison. When her parents came out, they had a worried look on their faces.
"Where are we going?" Mildred asked.
"Somewhere fun."
The silence that proceeded was an awkward one, so the mother put on the radio.
"---- And hundreds of our men have died in Iraq, because of the bomb that was launched there. they fought bravely for what they believed in. We pray for them."
She remembered that song.
"Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?" * ...
What song was that? She had forgotten. Mildred could almost hear the jets flying above a barren country of nothingness, dropping bomb after bomb but the only things dying were the scarecrows. The pilot was smiling and his fellow countrymen were laughing at the cruel joke he had just made about something. Mildred couldn't come up with a good enough joke, so instead she said,
"but bombs kill people. Why would anyone do something like that?"
"Because of the war", her father answered.
What war? Oh, yes, that war. The war between reality and dream, animal and human, truth and lie. Who would win? Stay until the end of the show.
"Mother, do you think they'll like this song?"...
What song? The song of life. there was no other song.
"Mother, do you think I should build the wall?"
The wall, the wall...The wall of loneliness, of despair, of dreams. The wall, the was already built. The acting and the lying were proof of the wall.
But she was tired of it. She didn't want to go on with her life anymore. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The days dragging on, and the lies becoming less believable. and then, her cover would be blown. People would think she was crazy. And they already did. All the lying had been for nothing. And now, she was going somewhere fun. The asylum. She knew. he knew where they were taking her.
And then they were there. The white walls of the hospital glowed in the afternoon sunset. Mildred could see the bars on the windows. The moment she steeped into the reception room, she was escorted by a nurse into another, more simple room. Mildred hardly listened to the review of the rules.
A prison, a prison...
"Hello, my name is Clara. What's yours?"
A girl of 18 was looking towards Mildred. "To act or not to act; that is the question."* Shakespeare. Well, she was in the asylum...
"My name's Mildred. Why are you here?"
"why is anybody here? One time or another, someone does something wrong, and the authorities send them to the asylum. It's like a prison."
A prison, a prison...
"Do you see those cameras watching you?" Clara pointed to a video camera in the corner of the room. "They're watching you."
"The nurses."
How did it go again? "Big Brother is watching you." * Who had written that? George Orwell.
A voice came calling from another room.
"Oh, I have to go take my medicine," Clara said.
"What medicine?"
"the medicine that helps you sleep. Everyone gets it."
"Why do you need sleeping pills? Why can't you sleep?"
"Because of the second world. You know what I mean, don't you?"
"Oh, yes, I know what you mean. The dream world."
Clara smiled and skipped through the doorway.
The wall, the wall, the wall...was down.
* title is from "A Midsummer's Night Dream" by William Shakespeare
* song excerpt from "Dry Your Eyes" by Neil Diamond
* quote from Socrates
* quote from "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare
* song excerpt from "Mother" by Pink Floyd
* parody of "To be or not to be" from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
* quote from "1984" by George Orwell