Stories of Oakland

I write perfect stories. The problem is, they are all in my head. I can talk to myself for hours, weaving stories and creating what feel to me like gleaming sentences and hearty paragraphs loaded with meaning, laughs, tears, emotion, sanctity, universal experience, a sympathetic and humorous voice that will make people giggle despite an inner sadness and tartness….

Then I walk to my computer, and it vanishes. Even now, as I write this, my perfect story about Oakland is gone.

I recently moved to Oakland. I work in a warehouse in a cruddy, trash-ridden (and I mean literal pieces of trash) area of town. I stick to Berkeley. I stick to the Berkeley Hills. I have been to downtown Oakland three times, and for one of them, I didn’t get out of my car. I wasn’t scared to, but there was no need. I was just passing by to pick someone up. The second time, I walked straight into the rock gym after debating what hour the parking meter stopped needing to be fed, and walked straight out afterward and drove home to my comfy bed to rest sore arm muscles.

The third time, I ventured. I went to MUA, had a vodka-grapefruit, and it was beautiful. I watched people play drums, spray-paint artwork in the street, taste pastries and South American sandwiches, and a soft chilly breeze swept through under the sun and I knew I had landed in a special place.

Less than 24 hours later I stood in downtown San Francisco, working a trade show on a Saturday, listening to a story. A peculiar story. “When I was younger,” this woman, this stranger, told me, “I lived in downtown Oakland. My brother and I were 4 and 6. My aunt lived two miles away, and one day she called my mother and said, ‘do you know where your kids are?’

‘Yes,’ my mother told her. They’re playing in the backyard.’

‘No,’ my aunt countered, ‘Go and look.’

Sure enough, we weren’t there. We were at my aunt’s, in her backyard. When I was 4, and my brother was 6, he took my hand, and we walked down the street in Oakland in the late afternoon, for two miles, and we made it. Can you believe that? Kids would never be able to do that today.”

I had been terrified this woman was going to tell me a horror story. I had been terrified she would be teaching us a lesson about walking down the streets of Oakland, even as adults.

She didn’t produce the blatant horror I had been inspecting. But, she did tell a horror story. One about cities deteriorating, becoming crime-ridden and drug-ridden, a place that isn’t safe for children to play and wander. I was struck. It seemed different than the city I saw last night, different than the one I had seen the second time and the first time. What kind of place is this, I asked myself. Where have I arrived? It seemed so close to home – to Trenton, where I worked just a few short months ago, and yet so far from what this other city on the Bay is supposed to be.

I felt the emotional shock of a story involving two kids walking around Oakland by themselves, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t create a written story of it, not even in my head. That sympathetic humor – my favorite part – was missing. I’m still searching for it.

Resurrection

After a few changes myself, I am excited resurrect A Story Every Day. I’m looking forward to sharing my new stories, which you’ll also be able to see at meganyarnall.com, but mostly, I want to hear yours!

 

I can’t wait to see your story submissions and post them for everyone to read. For guidelines, please check the above tabs. Submit your stories to astoryproject (at) gmail (dot) com and you’ll hear back from me, Megan!

 

Talk to you soon!

A Story Every Day would like your help…

You’ve probably noticed that we haven’t been posting a story EVERY day.

While this is a hard feat, and I have to recognize that (humbly, since we haven’t met the goal!), we’ve done a pretty good job. But recently, it’s been hard to keep up.

This is for a few reasons, some lame and some more legitimate:

1. I’ve been traveling.

2. It’s the holidays.

3. And here we go… submissions are low. I originally started spreading the word by posting on Craigslist – there are always hungry people on there! But, Craigslist often takes ads down when they look like other ads, and so if I posted in two cities within about 90 days of each other, this tactic didn’t really work.

And thus, A Story Every Day readers, we’re asking for your help. Can you assist us in spreading the word about A Story Every Day, and encouraging people to submit their stories, poems, photos, anecdotes, whatever they please? The submission email is: astoryproject@gmail.com

I want this relationship to be reciprocal – it’s not just for A Story Every Day. We can feature your blog, or your stories specially, or something along those lines. If you help us out, we want to help you out too.

What do you guys think? You in?

Kay T Jewels: The Who am I essay, Part One

This is part of a personal story that will be shared in segments.

 

“Who am I? “Is a complicated question for anyone to answer isn’t it?

The very first time I wrote something about who I was, this is what I wrote.

Growing up there were many hurdles I had to overcome. Often times my life with filled with hardship and strife. I remember more than one time when money was tight. I knew right away that I could be bright because I knew immediately that things weren’t right.

My house was always a pit and this did not get any better after my dad split. My mom always worked harder than one woman should. She gave us everything she possibly could. I learned early in life to be rough, that you had to be tough and made of the most solid stuff.

At school I never got along, I always felt as if I didn’t belong. This was place I never fit in and was made to believe that I would never win. Soon the boredom began to kick in and they labeled me dumb and defect instead of comfortable numb. Soon after this I was then further condemned as crazy and misunderstood. I called them ignorant, after all it is them who can’t understand me isn’t it?

I am the type of person to say it how it is even if it means a little bit of pain. Yet I will go that extra mile just to see a care free smile. So what if I live my life in denial. When your world moves as fast as mine mind revolves you would be confused to. Confusion mounting, my anger building my fire explodes.

Looking up to all the right people I saw all the wrong things. I learned to be hard and cutthroat as well as sweet and nice while I do you in. My father taught me young to use my silence as my punishment and my words as my weapon. He warned only draw your sword if you ready to kill.

Of course on the outside everything looked swell but, on the outside it was a living hell.

That was when I was 14, when I first fell prey to the question of Who am I? Why it was so confusing was because my real question was more like “Am I her?  Or am I her?” I never gave thought to the fact that if I wasn’t either there had to be three of us to start with.

Daddies little girl Kristen wanted to get married, have kids the white picket fence. Sweet, shy, quiet and thoughtful Kristen was. She was smart and studious, she read books and watched animal planet. She liked to stay at home cook and clean. It was in her nature to be this way.

She wrote at 16 on a pad of white lined paper with black pen

Dear someone who cares,

This morning when I woke up I looked right into my mirror. The reflection that stared back at me was the face of a perfect stranger. The eyes I had seen only days ago that were filled with happiness and anticipation of my fiancés return had vanished.

Looking back on it this birthday was almost perfect, I was with the one I love and together we spread the news of our wedding in the following spring. Each moment we spent loving each other; even doing nothing at all we had the best of time doing it together.

In my mind nothing could have gotten in my way of this marriage. However as I had learned on his last trip home our time was limited and would soon come to end. The clock seemed to tick louder and faster than ever before pushing us closer into the next day. Days before he left I began to crack inside my heart could no longer hold in my pain.

On our last night we drove to look out point, a place I had shown him long ago. Never before was there so much silence to fill, the radio played songs we had long forgotten about. As I looked out at the night sky, the stars seemed to cry for the injustice of it all. Planes departed from miles away their lights seemingly fade into the darkness. As we watched them leave from miles away our hearts beat faster knowing that on the morrow one of those very planes would be taken him away.

On the way home to pack I would swear that we drove slower than ever before. Just so we could just hold onto the night for a moment longer. Pulling into my driveway, parking the car I invited him into my empty home. I collected my stuff into a pile and set it aside for a while. The lights were low; curtains drawn and the dark seem to fit me just right.

As I walked into the kitchen the thought came to my mind that this was the last time for a long time we would stand together in the only house that I called home. My heart just burst, I sobbed out words he could not understand. He held me tight in his loving arms. The only safety I had ever known since my dad left years ago. When I could no longer stand he carried me to the couch, as the tears swelled over my eyes running like waterfalls down my face.

As I cried, I tried to say everything I could but could only sputter words of pain and sorrow. In those moments I cried because he had to leave, I cried about how unfair it all was, I was angry that I had no choice the matter. I grieved for all I had lost, all the lonely nights I was about to endure, I resented that he had done this to me knowing how much I needed him. I screamed out all my pain and cried a million tears one after another.

He held me and made a thousand promises; he said we would be together soon. He kissed me and told me of the days when we would be man and wife. He told me of the years of happiness we would share if only we could part this one more time.

My tears slowed to a drizzle and I gasped for the air that would give me the strength.

That night he and I made promises to each other that nothing would get in the way. We left my house full of sadness yet we had hope. We left my home and went to his house to pack has stuff. When I got there I could not watch him pack so I got in the shower and cried. Hot shower water washing away my salty tears as I sat in the tub and attempted to regain my strength.

I got into bed that night; I crawled under the sheets and just watched him silently. When it was all packed away he crawled into bed. He held me thru the rest of the night as I cried out in silent tears…

As dawn made its approach we wake from our trance. As he got ready I studied everything about him. The sun approached the horizon and we said our goodbyes. Our last kiss seemed to go on forever, each of us holding on to the moment as long as we possibly could.

It isn’t long until she writes again maybe three months at most. Her hand shook as she wrote, this letter was barely legible and in an envelope. The envelope was addressed to her fiancé in Okinawa, Japan. However it was never mailed.

Imprisoned in this lonely love, lie alone in my bed crying softly to Jesus.

Jesus, why is what I do not know, does my heart ache me so?

I can only say that I knew from the start that this would rip us apart, this I know is all wrong. For how could we love for so long, grow to be so strong only to have it all be gone. The loneliness I bear has become so unfair. Since the day that we did part the pain has not left my heart. How can the love that we shared so easily have disappeared?

Though the pain is great it is only the distance I have come to hate. You are all I know, I cannot believe I let you go. However I know that if I had said “no” your resentment would only grow.

Time has passed as it is known to do, it’s only fail is failing to bring me closer to you. With miles between us and oceans apart for one night of play you throw it all away.

Lying just beyond your reach is the faith that you made me preach. When confessing your sins, you only showed me where my pain begins. Burning in my eyes is the painful vision of our demise. Though I’m tempted to hide for you see, what you stole was my pride. My honor demands, I do the right thing so to you it is forgiveness I bring.

This hurt me bad, it made me mad but, I will not destroy the love that we had. I refuse to loose what I love so much. There are nights I turn and toss over the lessons learned and all the loss.

Looking past my pain and sorrow, I never fail to see a brighter tomorrow. I hope and pray each and every day, with forgiveness in my heart and remorse in your eyes, that we never do part, that our love never dies.

So I will tell you now that I love you no less than I did before. I may even love you a little bit more. I rest assured knowing for all the pain and suffering I have endured, there at the end will be a beautiful reward.

She wasn’t aware that there was another who looked just like her, Krissy.

She was mischievous at times silly; she would even say and do inappropriate things. She liked to hang with boys twice her age, party all night and get wasted. For fun she would play pranks on unsuspecting people and help others get revenge.  She was a fast talker and an even faster mover, could lie, steal and cheat with the best of them. She could steal you blind and when she was done all that you would notice was missing was her beautiful face. She was what we like to call a fire starter…

She was very aware of her counterpart Kristen, and was totally against her plans. Her idea was to get the hell out of town as soon as she could, any way she had to. She had a plan B, and she liked it better. Kristen’s plan was already failing anyhow so she took it upon herself to act on the 1st of January 2001.

Krissy writes in her very own black leather journal.  She kept it in a removable floor board at her my mother’s house, back then. In april that year she writes with nice big happy lettering and in blue pen at age 18…

Dear Secret Keeper,
All though he told me not to eat the forbidden fruit, from the forsaken tree of knowledge when your lips hit my skin, I throw caution to the wind. As the waves of pleasure rise from within, I look deep into your eyes and I can see the face of my demise. Lying just beyond my reach is the faith that we so often preach. Nevertheless with one kiss from your lips of sin, I seal my fate and eat the forbidden fruit. I sigh with relief as I say to myself, that only your lips of sin could taste as sweet as the forbidden fruit.

This is a secret that nobody knows you make me feel so good inside that my heart literally glows. I can’t help but sigh when you touch my thigh. For it feels so good to have you near, it’s a feeling I can hardly bear. As I run my fingers thru your hair, I say I silent prayer that you will always be here and always care. You’re so kind to me all of the time, sweet are your kisses soft are your cresses, this is how I know you really do care. Do I deserve this happiness I feel when you are near? I hope you can see how much you mean to me, I know I don’t say it often enough as this is hard for me. When I know you won’t stay longer than a day, how can I just let you take my heart away?

These are the secrets I can no longer hide, for it hurts too much to keep them inside

Krissy

Then there was K, and she was constantly being forced into one of their lives.  She tried to fit as best as she could but neither would do. Quite like Cinderella’s shoe, in fact. Day after day she tried to fit but it never felt right, it was always too tight. She always felt so hollow and empty, she never could imagine…. Why?

Krissy was also aware of K and often played referee when needed to keep everyone peaceful and unknowing of the truth. K was aware of Krissy and Kristen’s radically different lives but didn’t have a clue which way to go. She really did not know what to do. She certainly liked the idea of getting out of here. However just didn’t know how to go about it. When Krissy told K about plan B and enlisted her aid K had no idea what she was getting into. She soon fell in love with a man and it wasn’t long before the war began.

K writes in a leather bound journal by her bed in a slightly messy print,

Dear someone who cares,

Just as a kaleidoscope turns my mind spins, I try to listen to the many conversations within. Debating inside which feelings to hide, most times even I can’t decide where my heart will reside.  There is mass confusion between the reality and the illusion, a self-created delusion that there is order in confusion.

Careful emotions can be deceiving; they can have your heart and mind misbelieving. Try to look past all the colors and see the black and white. Go on go into the light, make and attempt to make everything all right.

I can’t sleep at night, all I hear is an endless fight between wrong and right. Battles are won and lost here every day; I never know which way I will sway or where my heart will stay.

How can I live this way? How I feel changing from day to day in so many conflicting ways. Looking thru the daze into the hate haze, I can still see an endless maze.

My trust in life has been shattered, tossed and kicked about like it never even mattered. Torn to shreds and burned to ash, too many forgotten, to many I haven’t forgotten. I think all you people are rotten.

It will never be the same; it will always be a game. Look at all the games we must play, look at all the hateful things I must say. I can see that underneath your skin you’re just a snake. You must lie in wait just to spread your viscous hate.

A beautiful yet tortured soul, restless and disconnected from all the rest. I tried so hard I gave it my best no matter how hard I tried I could not pass God’s tests. Sleepless nights and endless fights, it seemed as though I could never get it just right. The point of life makes no sense to me since it is only filled with pain sorrow hardships and strives.

I hope that on the morrow that this will end. I do not fear death I welcome it with open arms. If this isn’t hell I don’t know what is, for that is what it feels like to me. Anything would be better than the life god created for me.

I pray that someday my feelings will change but, as for right now I think this life is all fucked up and deranged.

As that year continued the mind grew sicker and sicker and I grew more desperate than ever to escape home, I was so confused.

Krissy didn’t dare tell a soul what had happened. Soon Krissy began making hurried mistakes to cover her tracks, not even looking at the stakes; she fell into a trap that nearly killed us all.

I remember that day long ago about 2002 I was then 19. Terrible things began to happen, one after the other. Soon the wall started to fall; soon it would all come tumbling in on me. In the moment I realized what was happening, I suddenly could remember it all. What I saw was so terrible, I saw not only the present I saw the past.

However now I can barely remember what it actually was. So I will just tell you the things I can remember, which is this.

Trying to find the words to describe how I felt then realizing that there were none. The pain so deep, the sadness so great, I went deep into myself, into my soul. I heard the words and saw the actions, but I just couldn’t comprehend. Where did the love go, why was it all gone, will it ever be okay again? It grieved me, it pained me, almost broke me.

Was it all an illusion, did you only feed my delusions; my mind was spinning in revolutions’. In that moment I was humbled, I had been broken, my spirit was crumpled. My legs felt weak beneath me, my feet felt like lead on the ground, but the girl inside my head said,

‘Run child, run fast, don’t stop until you are free, do not look back run, run, run with me.’

So I set my feet on the floor, I looked around to set my path. Without another thought, I ran as fast as I could. One foot in front of the other and suddenly I felt like was flying. Feet pounding on the ground, slamming the cement, heart racing, and adrenaline pumping I went on.

The pain in my heart eased a little with each step, the rain hitting my face felt like ice. I felt little of it, as I ran the whole night thru. Tears streaked my face the wind burned my cheeks but, it did not stop me. I just kept running until the breath ran right out of me. I did not look back, I just ran blindly, wet with rain and tears, filled with pain and fears.

When the sun came up, I fell asleep in the park. my eyes closed from fatigue the world grew dark.

He came to me, and said

“Everything seems so dark right now, times seem so gray. Do not lose your way, do not let the pain and sadness block out the light. Don’t give up the fight.  Look around for signs that I am near, for I am with you every breath you draw, you are never without me, I am always here, always near. Do not have fear. You may feel alone and sad but, I promise this won’t always be. Some day you will be with me. You will think of these terrible times you had and won’t remember the pains you have had. “

I cried out in my sleep, I moaned and begged him to come for me. He did not take me.

When I woke, the sun had fallen behind the horizon and the sky was filled with pink and yellow streaks. Calm had come over me, nevertheless my heart was heavy, yet it seemed possible to go on. The pain almost felt gone, I was numbed in some way that I could not explain.

I didn’t realize that day when I woke, with those first words I spoke, that it had all but gone away. It felt like they were all in place, but really what I had done was locked them in that special space. I was a clean slate, and I was no longer was filled with only hate. I had managed to forget the pain but the facts still remained.

What an odd feeling it was to wake up one day, and not have a memory of your own personal history. To not really notice that I didn’t remember why I was so sad for so long like I did that day. To just know that you are who you are, because you know it. Not because you remember what made you what you are.

Ten years came and past before anyone but me knew anything about the mirror and me. Even the therapist I began seeing that next day in July of 2002 didn’t quite know what to do. The mirror suddenly spoke very clearly to me that day as I passed it by and for every day after that. I didn’t tell a soul what was really going on in the mirror I did not dare. My biggest fear is they would try to lock me up again. I still don’t why but I never touched a black pen again after that day.

Every day I encountered the girl in the mirror with skepticism but, her smile was so inviting and her conversation so stimulating. She spoke as if she knew my intimate thoughts and desires. Her face was not of mine, it was slightly different in an alluring kind of way. She had a way of calming my anxiety and soothing my fears with her wooing ways.

It wasn’t long before I went looking for her when I was worried or scared. She was so comforting and she seemed to have all my answers. How could it be that the mirror knew me? How could the mirror have the answers to my heart? It was tearing me apart and making me mad. To look at the mirror and not recognize the girl who stared back. To not feel the feelings she was telling me I had.

Who was that girl in the mirror, and where did she go? Who are you, and why are you here? You’re not so nice and hardly pretty at all. Why did she leave, and where have you come from? I hadn’t a clue that there were more of you…

“Well of course you can’t forget about me. There is you and her, and then of course there is me. That is what makes us three.”  The older woman in the mirror said to me.

“What do you mean us and three I thought it was only her and me?” I replied to her in my head

“Well of course can’t you see? You can’t live without me. I inspire you to go on when you are about to expire, I stay awake when you tire, I scream out when you are angry, and I protect you from all hazards and dangers. I help you make tough choices and hard decisions. I take all your pain and make you feel none. I hide all those terrible secrets while you know none. Can’t you see you need me as well as her and twice as much as far as I can see?”

“Ha, Ha she only says that cause she can. Why don’t you shut her up for good? She has always been a rotten little goodie too shoes. Kissing ass and being all prim and proper, making everyone think she’s sooo good. Well.. She might be smart and cold as ice but she isn’t nice or sexy like me. She’s a prude, as well as a tight ass, never has any fun. Doing things the right way doesn’t always pay. In fact the odds are against the nice guy. I mean if she was in charge we still be virgins, with no friends at all” Said the beautiful woman staring back

“Well…” I said suddenly aware it was my turn to comment “I think you both are great but, will you get the fuck out of my head?”

I stayed in weekly therapy from that day on for 6 years or more. I went weekly sometimes by weekly appointments. Even on the days I had to walk six miles, or I had slept on the streets, nothing stopped me. The medications helped a little but not much. Therapy helped me heal a lot of the pain I felt about first 19 years of my life

I didn’t know I talked in the mirror at first, but I always have. For as long as I remember I have looked in the mirror and heard a voice. It’s not like a voice but rather more like their own trains of thought in the form of dialogue inside my head. So always there are two trains of thoughts in my head, that are not my own.  I was always aware of Krissy or Kristen lives. I just wasn’t aware that they were different people. Especially for the first years of my life, I thought everyone was like me.

As for what I can remember I know some of facts of my life, but not all of them. So many parts of my life are unknown to me, how many are even unknown.

I didn’t realize at first that I had amnesia; I just knew something wasn’t right. When I knew I should feel something and I didn’t, or people I trusted told me I did things that I had no idea I had done. I didn’t recognize people, sometimes significant people, or was recognized by someone I did not know. Or suddenly I had no feelings about something that was really important yesterday. The scariest is waking up in your lovers arm and being pretty sure you fell asleep at home the night before. I was oblivious to the fact that I was having time gaps and memory losses. However the more these things happened the more frightened I got.

Since my life was often fraught with confusion I always chalked it up to this or that. It wasn’t until my life slowed down, that I was able to see what my own writings were telling me. It was clear that I had feelings that were there, and sometimes memories would resurface at odd times. A smell or an object would resurface a memory I had long forgotten about.

Since I felt like I knew the significant facts, I never questioned my memory. In fact I relied upon my memory, as it is reportedly photographic in nature. How would someone with photographic memory, also have huge memory losses?  I can recant a book years after reading, and see the objects in a room years after leaving. How could I be missing memory?  It sounded so contrary I never would have believed it. However I picked it apart and I almost have no memories of my life at all, just feelings that I have had them.

When I look back at my life, I have pictures in my mind but, only a few. The ones I do have are very precious to me. I see faces and places, times and spaces of my life, all picture form.  More often than not I can I bring to memory someone telling me what I have done, the expression on their face. My mind can build a moving picture of a story you have told and plant it as my memory. However these memories play in their perspective though, not in my own. If you ask me to find memories that are mine and mine alone.  All I can recall is memory of the facts, absent of the feelings associated with them.

 

National Author’s Day

Today is National Author’s Day. I think this calls for a celebration here at A Story Every Day, since this IS a site that celebrates us all as authors and writers. Let’s share our favorite authors and give them some attention and recognition!

Who is your favorite author/writer and why?

Personally, I love Joan Didion because she writes in a straightforward manner yet there’s so much packed in that you may not even realize at first read. The “straightforwardness” is there, and true, but can also be deceptive.

I also adore John Irving – I just started reading his works, and so far I’ve read “A Widow for One Year” and now I’m reading “The World According to Garp.” His characters (and writing) appeal to me because they are humorous in a completely non-comical way. There is something so honest, so bare about them (I think this is really because of the way in which he writes) that makes me fall in love with them.

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
Joan Didion

College.

I was talking with a friend at work yesterday when I realized that my college education wasn’t exactly necessary for my job. While there were certainly benefits (for example, I can write coherently), I feel as if much of my college education and the learning that went into my diploma and development is being wasted on mindless emails and mindless tasks.

I started wondering – how much of my college education is withering away at the back of my brain? Why doesn’t my job (which would only consider people with a BA or BS) use more of the critical thinking and skills I learned back on campus? How… necessary… is a college education for many jobs out there? Even upper level jobs – if you’ve been at a job long enough, surely you’re learning the skills to keep moving up, just as you graduate to the next level each year in high school and even college and begin taking higher level classes.

What do you guys think? Are college educations going to waste sometimes? How often? If we don’t use the critical thinking and skill sets we learn all the time, how necessary is college in the first place?

Don’t get me wrong – I am a full supporter of higher education and I think everyone should have the opportunity to go to college/university. Instead of thinking that just because most jobs don’t use that education, people shouldn’t bother with it, I actually think the reverse. Our jobs should use it somehow. How do we work through this catch that they don’t? Is the bachelor degree becoming less valuable as more and more people have it? Should it be cheaper because of that?

I want to hear your thoughts. I want to hear your college and “after graduation” stories. Sometime I’ll share mine as well – but for now, let me hear it!

Interview with Maria McDonald, Part 1

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
injustice).
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
inspiration.
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
recent/current writing?
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
Indonesians grew/intensified.
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
glory.

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.

We’ll do it for Spite

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.

Handwriting

I don’t know about you, but I still prefer to write some things by hand. Thank you notes, for example. Poems, as well.

But when I sit down to write a story, I like to sit at my computer.

In thinking about that writing process, I came across a CNN iReport article about handwriting:

http://www.cnn.com/2011/IREPORT/08/12/handwriting.analysis.irpt/index.html.

I’ve heard that even adult handwriting isn’t as neat anymore, thanks to keyboard and word processors. What do you guys think? How important is our handwriting (and its neatness) these days?

I’d like to say that it’s still pretty important. I see it is one of the physical representations of ourselves, and of our stories. Typing a poem or a story is one thing; handwriting is another. Some of the questions that spring into my mind, then, are how are they different, and why are these differences important? What roles do those differences play in telling our stories?

Stories as Belief, and Belief as Stories

I left you yesterday with the thought that maybe our beliefs are structured from our stories, and I’ll stretch it now to perhaps our stories are also structured from our beliefs.

As a college student years ago, I studied Jorge Luis Borges, and I was completely fascinated by his narratives of the “I” and of our identities. As I read his short stories, I became convinced that our identities are structured entirely by every second of our life experience – those that we remember clearly, those that we don’t, those that we’d like to forget, those that we deem significant, those that don’t appear so significant – the list could go on. It includes every second of our lives. This is why we can’t ever truly, completely know ourselves. It’s impossible to remember every single tiny second of our lives.

These seconds, and the memories (remembered or forgotten) are our stories. They are also what form our beliefs. It follows that our beliefs and stories and irreversibly intertwined, and our beliefs are most certainly structured from our stories.

Does that make our stories structured from our beliefs?

Considering that our personal histories, whether it be our parent’s heritage or a singular experience that made us think one way or another, form these specific beliefs, you can also say that our stories inform our beliefs, that they are the lens through which our beliefs develop. Our beliefs then become the lens through which we explore the world, through which we interpret others’ behaviors, and through which we interpret everything that happens to us.

Our beliefs and our stories are inextricably intertwined, and are often one and the same.

Thoughts?