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The Nurse

Pale light sifted through the shutters, never quite reaching the undersides of their fat, catching in the wrinkles. She step-tip-toed into the silent room, hearing her every breath catch with each footstep, as if her step was a small alarm that could wake the two sleepers, and even exhalations were suspect. Patients Patricia Wheaton Fletcher and James (Jim) Fletcher, wife and husband. They never usually got a pair in the same room. From her view under the doorjamb, their faces were obstructed by thin white cotton sheets stretched over two people-shaped mounds, like trick-or-treat ghosts.
They were both oddly naked, and she couldn’t help but glimpse at her body’s future. The woman’s skin was covered by a layer of dust; she dragged her fingertip lightly across the swollen belly. A little snaking trail was left where her finger had passed. She couldn’t see her fingerprint on the end of her index through the thick brown film. She lifted it to her nostril automatically; it held that indescribable scent of old people. The woman’s breasts sagged like over-filled water balloons — surely they would burst at that capacity? — but they reached lower by the year, longing to reach the final solicitude of the ground. The woman’s eyes opened languishly, and in them she could see her youth, these eyes she had carried around with her always, which had seen sixty-two more years than her. Pale irises just barely peeked out, obstructed by pages of hanging skin, paper-thin now, like the day she was born. The nurse could almost see the heaving difficulty of her pumping veins just underneath the skin’s surface, clear as milky bath water, pipelines obstructed by lime and rust and years of wear, but a thin trickle of blue blood still pushing through to her softly quaking heart.
The woman’s eyes questioned, silently, but closed without caring for the answer. She’d probably never be entirely cognizant again for the small remainder of her life. The nurse hoped that she had told the stories she had to tell to her family, that they had gotten their weeping good-byes. She was supposed to be impartial, get used to death gazing hungrily at her patients over her shoulder, but these trespassing thoughts always slipped through her mind nonetheless. She looked down to the woman’s raisined hand and saw the translucent spots where teardrops had fallen on the sheet. So they had got to say good-bye.
As her eyes had about had their fill and her brain had just completed mapping and cataloguing the woman, the sound of rustling sheets came from the next bed. The second mound was moving. The white sheets were wrapped around the man’s entire body, as if ready for the final labyrinthine passage through the hospital halls and down to the stainless steel gates of the morgue. But through the sheets, she could make out the shape of two arms wrapped around his chest. In his twitching sheet cocoon, stretched now up to the ceiling, he was preparing for his next reincarnation. She wondered what he would look like when he emerged.
Her eyes pulled away from the sight with difficulty, as if they were trying to swim through gallons of leaden water. The old woman was lying back still, her skin flaking off in translucent beige pieces. Soon there would be two people-skin shells littering the floor, and she would have to be the one to sweep them up. It seemed wrong to just clear away a piece of somebody, though. Maybe she would crawl inside the woman’s shell for a few hours, and see how much smaller she was than her. No, it would probably break the person-shape, and surely someone would be in here looking for her in a few minutes. She had other patients to attend to. Why had she been in this room for so long?

Some flash (& not-so-flash) fiction

I’m working on a long journal entry thing called Public vs. Private Self and it’s proving a bigger task than I thought. It needs a lot of revision (stay tuned), so for today I’m going to share two quick bits of fiction and nonfiction instead. These are some of the first things I recommend to people because they’re powerful, fast reads, and they really inspire me.

Kelly Link’s “Catskin” is a raw fantasy, fairy tale sort of deal.
And Lidia Yuknavitch’s “Blood Red Desk” is truer to life, but with that same edgy tone.
(Thanks to my old writing professor, Anna Joy Springer, for originally recommending them.)
Oh, and as I’m writing my post, I’m listening to the new Florence and the Machine.

Inspired by a post a few days ago…

It’s so hot in here. Oh god, there it is again. That overwhelming…I’m going to throw up, I’m going to throw up, I’m going to throw up. And arrroooooound it goes. I lean over and retch onto my toes. Every time I try to crawl to higher ground, I slide back down the slippery, droplet-speckled metal walls. There is no escape. We’re all going to suffocate in here. I try to hold onto her, but can’t keep her in my grasp. I realize she’s not trying to hold back onto me. No‑no!‑She…She’s giving up. I can still see her pained eyes as she falls away from me, sliding into a menagerie of different textures and colors. I make the gut-wrenching decision to let her go and make a run for it. That was the last time I ever saw her…my other half. My life-mate. I looked around feverishly and examined my options. The clear glass window lets me see the next room, but I’m not strong enough to break it. I tried that. The air must be coming from somewhere… Metal everywhere. No dice. Ah, up there! To the top left, a hole that must be connected to a hose. But I can’t reach all the way up there. Nix that. Sharp dents like divots in the grass stick out of the metal underneath me. I look down into one. Black. What if there really is a troll down there? I’ve heard others talk… Oh god, hurry, running out of options. No escape. It’ll turn back on any time now. Something clicks on above my head. Now! I roll myself up, as thin and as tight as I can, and squeeze one of my toes through the hole. I lose a few threads to its jaws, but I’m nowhere near small enough. What was I thinking? A paper clip couldn’t fit through that thing. I’ll just have to hide and endure it, waiting for the right time, like an attic Jew in the Holocaust. It’ll be over soon. I slide through the bustle of the crowd and crawl into the pocket of her tightest jeans, waiting for the inevitable opening of the door and the cold rush of air that fills the chamber like an unexpected blizzard. When will this horrific cycle end?I lie in wait, close, hibernating, and slightly claustrophobic, trying to control the quickness of my breath as I stare out the window, not flinching, not blinking. She’ll never expect me here. When she folds, I’ll slip out and hide somewhere else. I’ll wait for as long as I have to to escape this place. She’ll never suspect.
-Diary of a Misfit Sock, discovered sometime around January 2011

Surfing in Wyoming

So, you may have wondered what the title of the blog is all about. Well, to explain, we have to go back a long, long time ago, to a faraway, distant, foreign land…

Temecula, CA. 1999.

Apparently playing with lady bugs out on the field at recess and making people out of your erasers with markers and yarn makes you weird at school or something. These boys, who can remember their names, used to tease me by calling me “freak of nature” and “Surfing in Wyoming!” Wyoming, to ten-year-old bullies, sounds like Nye-oh-me, which is an incorrect pronunciation of my name. And I became obsessed with grammar and the English language, go figure. So, I’m taking back the name (like “bitches!” and “queers”) to mean something good for me, even if in real life it caused pain ‑ and some frustration with the stupidity of ten-year-old boys, but that is not quite as traumatizing as teasing for a prepubescent girl. And, actually, now I kind of like it. It’s an apt title for a blog with no real, concrete theme, something kind of surreal and fantastical (and occasionally nonsensical), like the written works I hope to share. So far removed and old enough to realize the amazing lack of intelligence and creativity that boy bullies of the fourth grade variety show with their ridicule, my blog’s a slap back at all those kids that made you feel weird, inferior, and/or out of place on the playground. I’m not a freak of nature, I’m creative, thankyouverymuch. …There isn’t even surfing in Wyoming.

 

EDIT: So I looked it up just to make sure, and there actually is surfing in Wyoming along the Snake River. (Wtf?)

Me v. Money

“I had no idea then how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality. So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive…” –JK Rowling
I’ve always heard about how you lose your hopes and dreams when you become an adult. You misplace them somewhere, like my old stereo remote and that matching sock. Aspirations of becoming an astronaut and an actress become feeding your family, feeding yourself, getting by. Everyone’s talking about these Occupy protests right now. The youth of America are channeling the 60s’ and 70s’ Vietnam War protests and protesting everything really – how we don’t have jobs, we don’t have money, and that limits our freedom. We 99% have the proverbial short stick, while the 1% smoke Cuban cigars in their velvet robes, sucking the caviar off their fat fingers. Just about to graduate college, I thought an unpaid internship was my only next step. Yeah, it doesn’t seem moral, yeah, it doesn’t seem legal, but what else could I do? I needed experience. Even those unpaid internships are competitive. Consequently, I experienced my first panic attack. My boyfriend James napped catlike and happy beside me as I lost control of my ability to breathe, the thing that is supposed to be natural, no thinking necessary. It was as if I had just finished a race, or tried to get the wind back into my lungs after being hit in the gut by a ball. But I hadn’t even started playing the game yet. I went out on the balcony, sat on the edge of it, legs dangling dangerously over the rim. I needed to breathe and there was no air out there either. I went back inside and we went through some blogs I follow together, pointing out nice furniture or nice houses. The things that calm me. Luckily, I got a job a few months out of college. (After three months of questioning my self-worth, restarting yoga, thinking about moving back to my college town, being stuck in a hot California summer house, watching my Dad’s graduation gift of $3,000 dwindling away and $20,000 of student loans gradually ballooning.) Unluckily, I don’t like it. Depression ensues. James keeps telling me, “Appreciate it.” He asked me the other day, as I cried into my bedspread, “What’s the difference between a job and a career?” “I don’t know, tell me,” I mutter dejectedly. He answers for me, “A career is something satisfying you want to be doing for the rest of your life. A job is just making money. Some people can’t get jobs right now.” He attempts to ground me as my head fills with helium and I start to float up into the cosmos. I’m trying to hold on to my desire to be a writer, I’m trying to hold onto my childhood fascination and not get stuck in the deflated downward spiral of adulthood-into-death. I’m trying to marry fantasy with reality. I want to travel, I want to live, I want to join the Peace Corps or become a river guide or something crazy! I don’t want to be in this cubicle! I don’t want to be a sleepy rat, sitting in my car two hours a day, red tail lights a foot in front, red tail lights a foot behind. So I escape it by creating little bits of text at a time (and changing application windows feverishly when my supervisor passes by). Hopefully one day these thoughts will turn into money‑oh, I mean, a novel. That’s my life goal.My friend just got bailed out of the 99% question – she received a multimillion dollar settlement from a crazy accident she was in a few years ago. James and I started fantasizing together, what would we do if that happened to us? What would I do with my life if money wasn’t a problem? I’d want to travel, and I’d want to write. So there again was my answer, as thoughts of becoming a salesperson or web developer floated through my head. That’s what I have to do with my life, the “dance as if nobody is watching” bit – I have to try my damnedest to “live as if money wasn’t a problem.” People don’t get it, most are trying to talk me out of my dream and into the reasonable thing, (even myself sometimes), but I have to retreat into myself and remember I have to do what’s me, not what’s money.

First post!

I get my best ideas late late at night. I got my idea for this blog at 5:13 in the morning on May 20, 2011. I grabbed my computer and immediately typed this up (yep, this). At around this time, I think of these really far-out-there, idealistic things, and by the time I wake up, the sentiment is gone. (Tell that crush you finally like him! Clean my mom’s whole house just so she’ll feel good!) I am most myself at 5 a.m., but self-interested, lazy, self-doubting, scared Naomi pops her way back in by the start of the day (11 a.m.-ish, usually). A lot of the time, I get ideas of what to write at this time. If I am lazy and just want to go back to sleep goddammit and I don’t get my computer out, I usually lose the idea. If I get my computer out, I write cool things. 6:58 a.m. UPDATE: Before I even fell back asleep, I thought of scrapping this whole idea. Who would want to read about me? Then I thought of this Ernest Hemingway quote I read yesterday:

“Before you talk, listen

Before you react, think

Before you spend, earn

Before you criticize, wait

Before you pray, forgive

Before you quit, try”

I love reading about other people and getting to know them through their words (and pictures!). Maybe you will too. Might as well give it a try.