Wednesday, May 27, 2015



Hi. I’m still alive, although it’s been three weeks since my grandma died.

It was the week the rain started—the week that began the huge downpour that has flooded my basement and also my life. I knew better than to walk home in the rain (although that’s another story), so I borrowed a phone to call home.

Dad picked up. Dad has a nine to five job—it was two. I think that’s when I knew, but he didn’t say anything. Mom didn’t say anything when she picked me up, either. Maybe I’m wrong, I thought.

I put my stuff down, and that’s when Dad told me. “I’m home early, because Grandma Twila died this morning.”

“When?” I asked.

“Around ten this morning.”

I nodded, and kept putting my things away. “Okay.” Maybe it seems heartless, not to burst into tears, or to start crying, or anything—but for me, it felt like I had lost my grandma a long time ago, and this was just the end of a long time coming.

“Are you making grilled cheese sandwiches?” I asked, noticing the griddle.

“Yes. Do you want one?”

My mom does most of the cooking at my house, but you don’t say no to a grilled cheese sandwich from my dad. You just don’t. The bread was the crispy butter brown that Dad has seemed to master, complete with pepperoni, ham, and the gooey white goat cheese that knows my heart so well.

So we sat together, and ate grilled cheese sandwiches—I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably things to do (there are a lot of things to do when someone dies) or telling my sisters, but I remember that my friend Emma came up as I told my parents her story.

Last night, she was in her room and saw an enormous spider—and then she lost track of it. Like any sane person, she ran up to her parents’ room and said, “We need to burn my room down, there’s a spider!” (My parents laughed here.) Her mom, half-asleep and hardly paying attention, put her head up and said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Even funnier to my parents was that she couldn’t remember the episode the next morning.

Today the sun came out again. I live in a place proclaiming 300 days of sun a year, and I was starting to worry—rain used to be beautiful because it was so rare, but after twenty days of stifling wet weather, early mornings vacuuming up water in the basement, and legs frozen by the weather, it’s become more of a nuisance.

But today the sun came out. Life goes on. You sometimes have to do the things you don’t want to do, and sometimes that means writing this blog post, or preparing to get back to editing a novel I’ve lost track of again.

And sometimes it means laughing over grilled cheese sandwiches with my parents, and knowing that a woman who was with us isn’t here anymore. And that it’s okay. And that there are still chances to smile in the rain.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Somewhere Only I Know

It's a Saturday night, and I sit on a sofa with a laptop and two books. Music is playing, and I am trying to listen and hum along to songs in vain.

It's a problem I have increasingly encountered. I want to read, but the temptation of the laptop is overbearing. And I idly visit websites - Quora, my email, Reddit. Ultimately, I get bored and move to Spotify, that great bastion of music. It's the greatest thing since the Internet, I do believe. Being able to stream nearly every song you want in mere seconds - I do not take this for granted.

So I sit, and listen to Keane's "Bend and Break," and almost immediately, want to listen to a certain song lyric by The Kinks. So I listen to "A Well-Respected Man," which invariably reminds me of Collective Soul's "A Smashing Young Man," so I start listening to that. Then after, the awesome epic guitar riffs remind me of Nirvana and Bush, and off I go looking for my grunge playlist...

This is ADD made manifest. Something has happened to me. It has crept up on me, slowly, quite carefully. Consider. Once upon a time I would carry a book around with me everywhere, looking for every opportunity to read. I recall the beginning of seventh grade, when I discovered Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I borrowed the book from my teacher's library, and took it home and began to read. My uncle came, and took my grandmother and I out to lunch, and I brought the book with me. Afterwards, I went with my dad to the Home Depot, and guess what I brought with me?

This was five years ago, I recall. Today, in this year of grace, 2015, I sit with And Then There Were None mere inches away from this keyboard which I use to type this message. I have picked it up occasionally this evening, glancing through a few pages, remembering the great mystery surrounding Indian Island, the shocking murders, the unbelievable ending which to this day never fails to fill me with amazement and awe at Agatha Christie and her clever mind.

I cannot fully read the novel, though. This is not such a surprise, however. I have only ever reread one book without jumping around and skipping parts. And that's okay. The pleasure of rereading is to enjoy a book without all the introns and parts one may consider dull. One can go to a beloved chapter and reread it, word for word, and ignore the rest.

The discerning reader of this piece can't have failed to note that I mentioned there are two books on the sofa next to me. The second is a curious work that goes by the name of Titus Groan, by the most interesting of authors: Mervyn Peake. Peake's a most interesting person: a painter by trade, he wrote his most famous works, the Gormenghast trilogy, over a period of ten years. Peake was born in China to missionary parents before the Great War, and the memories and reminiscences of Chinese culture would stay with him. During the Second World War, Peake worked on propaganda posters for the British government to earn his bread and butter. Sadly, Peake died of Parkinson's (or Lewy Body dementia? the details are unclear) and suffered a great deal in his last years. His writing and artistic abilities largely disappeared, as he underwent electroconvulsive therapy. He died in 1968 at the age of 57.

I bring Peake up as the perfect metaphor. An artist, especially one such as Peake, is cautious, delicate. He creates a world so vast, so carefully and methodically, that it sneaks up on one. It is much like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, or else Susanna Collins' amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, or the vertiginous, hilarious The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. However, what they all have in common is that they require time. They require patience and many hours spent in a room, preferably with rosewood chairs and a pot of warm jasmine tea. Nothing less will suffice. I have not gotten past the first 10 pages of Titus Groan, because I understand this. I need time. The dilemma? I actually do have time.

I have a busy schedule, now more so than ever: an issue of the school newspaper I work on came out yesterday. AP exams begin Monday, and I am taking four this year. Several teachers have given nothing but tests in preparation, and I have been dutifully studying. (This, by the way, is my rather pathetic excuse for abandoning this blog for the past few months. Heather has been the very picture of grace, maintaining this blog and continuing the spirit of the Blur.) But for every night that I have spent up working on academics, extracurriculars and life in general, I have had an hour or so to myself, which I have largely frittered away on listening to Spotify and rechecking my email. School is the same way: during lunchtime, I could easily spend time reading. My lifestyle has created a false sense in me, the false idea that I do not have time to read.

But I will change. Two weeks hence, I will be done with all exams. I will still have work to do, but it will not be as much. And seven weeks hence, I will be done with school. And I will read. I must. You see, despite my aversion to reading that has started of late, I still want to read. There is this excitement, the idea of reading my way through a large stack of novels. Mervyn Peake may have devolved into a tragic insanity, but I will recover from my own tragic insanity.

Reader, you may have experienced this yourself. I encourage you to follow my lead, and disconnect yourself. Nothing is as important as time spent thinking and improving yourself. I have always been a fan of self-improvement and self-education, and reading is nothing less than that. A stack of novels, sitting on my desk and elsewhere, await. I will read my way through them.

I must.