Whisper 2.12

Dear Mom,

Do you remember Shannon Arkers? She says that you knew each other when you were at University.

She’s become someone to me.

The other night, we were sitting around, and I told her about you and Dante.

“It must have been something to have been a child in a home with such an epic love,” she said.

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I responded that it was just normal to me. We laughed, because everything that was “normal” to me–a werewolf best friend, a plant baby brother, an imaginary friend (plus her little sister) turned real, a vampire ghost for my mom’s boyfriend, moonlight tea parties with zombies, 325 days of precipitation a year–all that I took for granted as part of a “normal” childhood is, actually, now that I think about, it, really quite wonderful and strange!

But I don’t know any other way.

“So it’s no wonder that you would fall for a crazy old rebel crone like me,” Shannon said.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Gotta find my normalcy somewhere.”

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But it feels epic, Mom, what Shannon and I share. It’s become the focal point of my college experience.

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I watch her, and I feel like I understand what I want out of life, who I want to be. I mean, I don’t want to be Shannon, of course. I want to keep being me. But the thing is, Shannon shows me how to be through the whole course of my life. I don’t have to give up who I am when I “grow up.” In fact, Shannon says that she never says “grow up” or “grow old.” Always, just simply, grow.

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Do you know that Shannon’s never had a lover before? I was looking forward to hearing her stories of epic love, but she told me this was it.

She’s an aro-ace, Mom, but I bet they didn’t use that term back when you were in college. It just means that she’s aromantic and asexual, which means that she’s not into romantic gestures and she’s not sexually attracted to others, male, female, or trans.

I asked her, “Then what’s this you share with me? And why now?”

She said it’s love. Plus, she wanted to try everything in her life, and if she were going to fit in this type of relationship, she’d better do it now or never!

I think it’s pretty amazing that we are each other’s firsts.

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She’s so non-flirty it’s funny. Like the other evening, we went out to eat, and I was feeling romantic, so I was giving her lines. I mean, they were true, and they were how I felt, but they were also romantic lines, like what you might read in a Valentine’s card.

And she started laughing. “You can’t believe that people fall for the moonlight crap, can you?” she said. We both cracked up so hard. I mean it spoiled the mood, but it also created its own mood, which was pretty fun in its own way.

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Then the next night, she surprised me with red roses.

“Is this how it’s done?” she asked.

It meant more to me, coming from her when I know she’s not naturally thinking about roses unless they’re growing in a garden for snails and slugs to munch on.

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We have the most fun when we’re just hanging out together. She says the wildest things and she’s got the best stories.

She told me about a time when she occupied the quad for three weeks in protest of a rule banning women from trying out for the rugby team. She won, and everyone thought she’d try out. It was years before any women did try out, and more years before any of them made it. I asked her why she did it. “Stupid rules,” she said. “I can’t bear to belong to any organization that has stupid rules.”

She said you were the same way, and she told me about a time when you’d led a successful protest against harsh grading, all so that Shea, who didn’t have the cultural concept of possession, wouldn’t fail his papers for not using possessive apostrophes.

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Seeing you and Dante, Mom, I always knew I wanted to have a Big Love. I never used to dream about what it would look like, and whether I’d have a prince or princess in shining armor. I just focused on the feeling. You know what I mean: the feeling of home.

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I wish you’d been around to see me off to college, Mom. Wish you were still around to actually get these letters I write to you, instead of me tying them up with string and sticking them in the shoebox I keep under my bed.

I think–at least, I hope–it’d bring a smile to you to know that your daughter had been paying attention to your lessons in love.

Miss you, always. Love you, forever.

Marigold

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Whisper 1.10

whisbi1315

My last term at university flies by.

Some of my dorm mates complain that their papers are being graded too harshly: one misused semi-colon, one missing possessive apostrophe, and the essay receives a D. I can understand about the missing apostrophe until Shea explains to me that the entire notion of possession is culturally biased. “Plants don’t own things,” he says.

I see his point. So I stage a protest against the culturally biased, too harsh grading.

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I notice that the other students there are fellow Dean’s List members. I guess, since we’re coming from a place of academic strength, we feel like we’re in a position to speak up for those who aren’t.

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We shout and rant and rave for hours, until finally, the Dean’s secretary comes out of the administration building and says, “Enough. Go home. Everybody gets higher grades tomorrow, the Dean says.”

By then, we’re starving.

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I race back to the dorm to tell Shea that we won–now he can leave out all the possessive apostrophes he wants.

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Back at the dorm, Shea is lining up a battalion of snow people.

“We persuaded them, Shea.” I tell him.

“That’s great,” he says. “I’ve got more important things to do than study punctuation right now.”

“But punctuation is always important!”

“Not as important as snow people!”

He has a point there!

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On the last day of the term, Anoki invites me to a party at his dorm.

I realize this might be my last time to see him for while.

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Finishing college means leaving behind best friends.

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After talking with Anoki, I notice a guy hanging out in library.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet,” I say.

“Jeffrey Dean,” he says. We talk for a bit, and I feel like we’ve got a lot in common.

“Hey, what do you say we ditch this place and go on a date?” He asks.

I look around. Anoki has already gone to bed and the party seems to be wrapping up.

“Sure,” I reply.

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We head over to the student lounge, but we don’t even make it inside. We just stand out in the snow, talking for hours.

“College life has been good for me,” Jeffrey says. “Before college, I spent all my free time hanging out, racing cars, getting stoned. It was a sure way to noway. How about for you?”

I tell him about my life back in Moonlight Falls, with all those random-seeming things that kept happening.

“I think college has been good for me, too,” I say. “I’ve got focus at least. Or that’s what it feels like.”

It has been good.

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It’s late, and our date ends.

The next morning, I hear the sound of an envelope being slid under the door. Oh! The term grades!

Ugh! I can’t bear to look! What if they were as bad as last time?

Then you’ll be a proud B student who’s graduating from university!

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But when I look, I see all A’s staring back at me!

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Ooo! Yes! I did it! A perfect GPA! I guess my extra credit compensated for last term’s B’s!

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And then, it’s time for graduation. A snowman watches as I file in for the commencement ceremony.

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I can’t believe that all that hard work paid off!

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The ceremony lasts all afternoon, and I have plenty of time to reflect on all I’ve learned: a lot about art, that’s for sure. And art history. I learned how to stage a successful protest. I’ve learned that best friends come from all different cultures, even plant!

And I’ve learned a great new recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! The secret is in the spices.

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Jeffrey Dean invites me to one last party before the shuttle leaves for Moonlight Falls.

Shannon Arkers is there, but I don’t see Jeffrey anywhere.

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I head back to the dorm to pack.

eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh has found a new friend.

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Somehow, this makes me feel less sad about leaving my own best friend.

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The shuttle horn honks.

“Move it!” calls the driver.

I watch my friends file out the dorm to say goodbye.

“Bye, Shea! Thank you! Keep in touch! Take good care of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh and his new buddy!”

And like that, an adventure is over.

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Whisper 1.9

whisbi901

“How was your date?” Shea asks.

“Awful,” I say. I tell him about the rainbow, the geese, and feeling the hills receiving the universe’s kiss, and then about how Cid yelled at me when I told him about that.

“It sounds like a beautiful experience,” Shea says, “like transcendence and inspiration wrapped up in a lettuce leaf, just waiting to be devoured!”

“Cannibal,” I whisper, and Shea laughs.

“Look,” he says, gesturing towards the squirrel who plays by our feet. “There’s eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.”

“Is that his name?” I ask.

“His Plant name.”

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“Do you have a Plant name?” I ask, as we play hacky sack.

“Yes,” he says. “Do you want to hear it?  ooOoooshaaaaamayyyyiiiiiiiopapa.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” I say. “Do I have a Plant name?”

“Yes,” he says, “only it’s not audible.”

“Then what is it?” I ask.

“Chemical. Feel…” and he emits a phytohormone wash that makes me feel like I’ve just stepped into a home made of light.

“Is that my name?” I ask.

He nods.

“This is how I feel every time I walk in the forest or among the plants in my garden.”

“That’s because the trees and plants know your name,” Shea says. “They greet you when you walk among them.”

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Before bed, I play the guitar, making up a song. Plant talk is like music, vibrations through the air, available to all who might receive them. I wonder if maybe I’ve been listening to Plant all my life, and just didn’t realize it.

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In the morning, Shea tells me that he dreamed of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh.

“He’s our friendship totem,” Shea says.

After breakfast, as I’m heading upstairs to my room, I see Shea and one of our dorm mates in the front room. He’s blowing her an alkaloid kiss.

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She seems to like it and they lean in to each other. I tell myself, “Don’t get upset. It’s not like Shea’s your boyfriend. He’s just your best friend.”

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“Do plants marry?” I ask Shea when he and I play frisbee in the parking lot.

“No,” he says. “You know how plants mate, right?”

I think about it.

“The males just broadcast their pollen out for any open flower to receive,” he says. “That’s not exactly the type of thing that a marriage can be built on.”

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Later, when he blows me a kiss and I feel my alkaloid high starting up, I remind myself that it’s different for plants–it’s not like it means anything.

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After supper, when we’re heading out to play more frisbee, Shea says, “So, yeah. Plants just like to broadcast their love widely and freely,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have special relationships.”

“So if spousal relationships aren’t the special ones for plants, then what are?” I ask.

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“Friendships,” he says.

I think of mesquite trees that offer shelter to young saguaros, beans that climb up cornstalks, mugworts that thrive beside nettles.

“Especially best friends,” he continues. “Do you know who my best friend is?”

I shake my head.

“You.”

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When we head inside, I get a text from Anoki. He’s having a party and he wants me to come.

Riding over there, I think about friendship. So, I’ve got two best friends now, Shea and Anoki, and they both seem to actually like me. Now that I’ve got best friends, I don’t feel like anything’s missing in my life. Maybe I don’t need romance. Maybe I’m like a plant, and friendships are the special relationships for me.

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Anoki’s party is a swimsuit party. As usual, Anoki is surrounded by women, this time, by women in swimsuits, and I can’t even get close enough to say hi.

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As I’m leaving, I get a phone call.

“Hey. It’s Ray. Ray Wise.”

I’m trying to think who Ray Wise is.

“You know. I met you at one of Anoki’s parties?”

OK. I figure it out real quick. Little guy, glasses, kind of a nerd. Nice guy.

“Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to go out.”

“When? Like now?” I ask.

It’s late on Sunday night.

“Yeah,” he says.

My first class doesn’t start until noon.

“OK,” I say. I’ll never know how I feel about romance if I don’t give it a try, after all.

I meet Ray outside the comic book store.

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“It’s so beautiful, with the snow falling,” I say. “I could paint a landscape from this.”

“Ugh. I hate art,” he says. “I’d rather read.”

We end up talking for a few hours. I don’t know that there’s much romantic potential there–I can’t imagine myself with somebody who hates art. I mean, I’m an artist! But Ray is a nice guy to have as a friend. I can always enjoy somebody that I can talk about books with for hours on end.

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Then, just as I get ready to ride back home, Ray leans in and says, “I’m thinking of something. Fireplace, thick volume of Dickens, and you.”

Was that a flirt?

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Whisper 1.8

whisbi801

Shea and I always seem to talk about vegetarianism. I applaud him for it, but at the same time, I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

“Isn’t that like cannibalism?” I ask him.

“Not really,” he says. “Well, maybe a little bit. Well, OK. Yes. It is. But I never eat relatives, that is, unless I can help it.”

I realize he’s joking. But still. What kind of plant eats other plants? Would it be better if he were a flesh-eating plant, like a Venus fly-trap?

He is kind of a Venus-trap. Lately, at the end of every conversation, he blows me a kiss.  It feels amazing–like a rush of, I don’t know, phytohormones, or something. I buzz from head to toe and feel like I might be sprouting leaves.

He blows me a zinger of a smooch before my midterms, and when I’m riding off to take my first exam, all I can think is how I’m so zinged-up on phytohormones that I’m going to ace this test.

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I think phytohormones must make you smarter. At least they make me happier. And a happy student is a good student, right?

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I come out of the exam to find a woman in a witch hat, hot pants, and go-go boots doing a rain dance in the courtyard.

My plant-kiss high has worn off, but I feel like I did all right on the test. As I was leaving, the professor said to me, “You’re on the Dean’s List,” and she showed me my name.

Now that feels pretty good.

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Shea’s out raking leaves in the rain when I get back to the dorm.

“Wanna play hop-scotch?” I ask. Neither of us is very good, but we have a blast.

While we’re playing, Shea says, “You make a pretty cool friend!”

“Really?” I ask him.

And he says, “Yeah. You’re my best friend. Who else is crazy enough to play hopscotch with me on a cold foggy night?”

I notice that when Shea’s happy, the air feels thick with alkaloids, and it makes me feel happier, too.

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Other living things seem to notice this, too. A little squirrel comes to watch us play, and it isn’t at all timid.

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This term feels so much different than last term. I’ve got two best friends, and that makes me feel more comfortable around everybody.

When you can be yourself around people, that’s when you’ve got a chance to gain true friends.

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Shea stops to blow me another alkaloid-laden kiss.

“Shea!” I say. “I feel so goofy when you do that!”

“I know!” he says. “That’s why I do it!”

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My phone rings.

“Aren’t you going to get it?” he asks.

I answer. “It’s Cid,” I mouth to Shea. “And he’s asking me on a date.”

“You should go!” Shea says.

“Really?” I ask Cid to hold on for a sec and mute the phone. “For real?”

“Sure!” says Shea. “Cid’s a great guy! Go! Have a good time!”

So, really quickly, I figure that Shea’s just being a plant, sharing his good feelings with everyone around, and so those kisses, though they make me high, don’t really carry any significance more than Shea’s overflow of good feelings, and maybe, just a general fondness for me. It’s like a rose–it’ll bloom for anybody.

I unmute the phone. “Sure, Cid,” I say. “I’ll meet you at the quad in a few.”

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I guess I’m still high from Shea’s wonder-kisses when I ride to the quad. I see this rainbow arcing over the campus, and six geese fly towards its center, perfectly framed.

The heavens open just then, and the hills rush out to greet it, and I’m coursing below, riding along a string of destiny that will bring me to the secret of the Universe, if I just have the eyes to see and the spirit to decode.

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Everything sparkles, lit up from the energy within.

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I see Cid standing across the quad and race over to him to share this vision.

“It’s like everything is alive!” I tell him. “And that’s what’s art for, so that we can describe this shimmer of energy that animates it all!”

I tell him about the rainbow and the geese and the earth opening up and the heavens showering kisses.

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“Was your mother a llama?” he yells. “What kind of doped-up nonsense are you spouting? I guess next you’re going to be painting rainbows and V-shaped geese! What then? Happy kitties? Tragic clowns? Have you lost your edge?”

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He’s lost all respect for me.

“I can’t believe you said that,” I say.

“And you didn’t even dress up. This is a date. Put on some make-up, or something.”

“I don’t wear make-up,” I say.

“I’m thinking of leaving soon,” he says.

“Don’t bother,” I say. “I’m outta here.”

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I take off. I don’t need to be treated like that.

That’s for sure.

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As I ride home, I realize I actually feel sort of glad this happened, in a way. It helps me choose. Now I know not to choose Cid.

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When I get back to the dorm, there’s Shea, raking the maple leaves. Does he feel sad when leaves fall? I can’t wait to ask him and to hear what he has to say, about leaves and autumn and anything, really.

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Whisper 1.7

whisbi701

In autumn, the air at campus smells like maple leaves. It’s crisp enough to feel cold in the shade, but in the sun, I’m glad for short sleeves.

I get the mail, finding a few letters to me–from Cid, Derek, and some other guy I don’t even remember meeting–and a package. The package is from Shea Hollis, my broccoli-scented green friend.

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Heading back to the dorm, I see Shea in the dining hall, playing computer games on his laptop.

He’s got a cute profile. I think maybe he’s Irish–well, if plants can be Irish.

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His face is cute from the front, too.

“I like your eyebrows,” I say.

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He chuckles. “They’re not green!”

“Thanks for the present.” It’s a digital art frame, loaded with a red and blue splatched painting the he did. “Can I show you this new gizmo I got?”

“It’s a camera?” he asks.

“Well, it is a recording device. It’s a crescograph.”

“Oh!” he says, impressed. “So you can see if I’m growing!”

whisbi705

I decide to take my studies seriously this term. I really want to finish the term with an A.

Plus, my art history text is fascinating. We’re studying the development of street art, so I feel like it’s especially relevant to me, since I am an aspiring street artist, and all.

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The lecture class leaves something to be desired. Only Shannon, Derek, and I show up. I guess, with just the three of us, we could turn it into our own personal discussion session if we wanted, but Derek, though he’s sent me a few letters, isn’t talking to me. So instead, the three of us take turns sleeping, asking questions, and taking notes. It’s our own personal sphere of boredom.

There’s always something of interest, if you engage your curiosity.

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Wanting to feel intellectually stimulated, I head over to the library after the lecture.

Cid is sitting across from me.

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“How’s your text?” I ask him.

“Oh!” he says, acting surprised to see me. “Not bad. If you like reading about llama hooves and stuff.”

“You mean?”

“Boring,” he says.

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We talk a bit, about his painting and this new band he likes. It’s actually a fun conversation, and I start to remember what I enjoyed about being his friend.

“Maybe I’ll call you,” he says, as he leaves.

Then, Anoki Moon calls to invite me to a party at his dorm. I keep rereading the same page, then looking at the clock to see if it’s time to go, then finally, it’s almost time, so I rush home, change into some dress-up clothes, and dash over to Anoki’s dorm.

There’s Derek, first person I see when I come in.

“How’ve  you been?” he asks me, finally breaking his silence.

“You mean in the two hours since our lecture got out? Just peachy.”

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Anoki comes in. He’s dressed in a white suit, black shirt, and pink tie. Somehow, being dressed up like that makes his eyes look deeper.

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He comes into the bathroom while I’m washing my hands.

“Having a good time?” he asks.

“Well, your dorm is nice,” I reply. The party’s not much fun to me, but I’m having fun talking with Anoki at this moment. This is the first conversation I’ve had with him when there weren’t a bunch of women circling him.

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He invites me over the next day, after my late class, and we study together.

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“I usually listen to music when I study,” he says. “It helps me concentrate.”

“I’ll play something!” I grab a guitar that’s sitting in the corner and play. It’s fun to play study music for him.

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After a bit, he says, “I want some fresh air. Want to walk outside with me?”

It’s frosty, and the cold air makes me feel excited and happy.

We talk for a while about sports, movies, recipes for veggie stir-fries, the healing qualities of ginger and turmeric, whether Ceylon cinnamon is better than cassia. I say it is, by far. He says, maybe, for health benefits, but cassia’s got a kick you just can’t beat.

“You’re a cool person,” he says. “I’m really happy we’re friends. I think you might be one of my best friends here at campus.”

I’ve got a best friend. And it feels as good as it did in the dream. Maybe better. For now, I can see my best friend’s face.

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Whisper 1.6

whisbi601

In my dream, I have a best friend. I don’t see his face, I just feel the closeness between us. It reminds me of when Chauncey and I were best friends, before we became not-friends, and then just good friends. I miss having a best friend.

You’ll have a best friend again. Be patient.

I wish I knew what it took to keep friends. I seem to be able to make them OK; it’s just keeping them that’s been hard.

I’ve always heard the advice, “Just be yourself,” but when I’m myself, that’s when my friends decide they don’t like me, after all, and stop being my friends. Maybe I just need to keep looking so that I find people who really do like me, when I’m being myself. I don’t want to have to pretend, or to hide my rough spots, just to maintain friends. That’s not real friendship–that’s pretend friends.

While I’m lying in bed, thinking over all the things I might be doing that prevent me from keeping my friends, I hear something being slid under my door.

It’s a big manilla envelop.

In it are my term grades.

What’s this? I missed some questions on the exams? I thought I aced them!

I earned a B? What? I thought I was getting all A’s!

Relax. Earning a B your first semester of college is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

whisbi602

What am I saying! I got a B! B is for Better! Yay!

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Next term, I’ll earn an A.

The van arrives to take me back home for break, and, to my surprise, all my dorm mates come out to see me off.

“Bye! See you guys next term! Be safe!”

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It’s snowing when I arrive home. The valley is dark and beautiful.

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Inside, Jin cooks mac and cheese and Chauncey reads.

“Hi, guys. How’ve you been?”

They don’t say much.

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It feels awkward. Jin burns supper and goes to bed hungry. Chauncey hardly even looks up from his book. I can hardly wait for break to finish.

You could always head back to college early.

In fact, I decide to sign up for Inter-session, and the next day, I’m on my way back to university.

At the dorm, all the other Inter-session students are moving in.

I talk with this guy dressed like Sgt. Peppers.

“So, the theory is that once we identify our specific mental constructs, we can begin to,  you know, deconstruct them.”

“I’m into music,” he says.

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As I head up the stairs to my room, I catch the scent of fresh broccoli stalks, kale, and spinach. My vegetarian mouth begins to water.

There, using my easel, stands a very green man.

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“I hope you don’t mind,” he says, and his breath smells like snow peas. “This was the only free easel I could find.”

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“That’s OK,” I say. “You can use it any time I’m not.”

My stomach growls.

“What was that?” he asks.

“Oh,” I say. “Never mind. I just love leafy greens, that’s all.”

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Whisper 1.5

whisbi501

Drawing days are so much fun. We sit outside the building and sketch from life. It pours down rain, but aside from Ann (my knee-socked dorm mate), none of us care. We’re too into the drawing to mind the wet, even as our notepads get soaked and our pencils rip holes in the paper.

Derek sits as far away from me as possible, so I take that as a sign to pay attention to my work, and not to him.

You never know. Maybe he’s sitting behind you so he can draw you!

After class, I call Cid to see if he wants to catch a film with me. I hear there’s a neat independent film showing.

whisbi502

We’re talking, then I notice a guy performing magic tricks for tips. He’s making pigeons disappear and flames turn into roses. I head over to watch, but then Cid comes storming towards me, looking very angry, like he’s going to yell at me. Is he mad because I left our conversation to watch the magician?

I want to break that pattern that’s happened with Chauncey and Derek, so I deflect.

“Let’s head in to get good seats!”

Half-way through the movie, Cid mutters something about “worst time ever” and he leaves the theater.

I stay to watch the rest of the film. I’m so engrossed in it that I hardly even register that Cid left.

When I step out of theater after the movie’s over, though, it hits me. I’ve been ditched.

whisbi503

I feel like I lost a friend. This makes the third guy who became my friend quick, started to become something else, and then rejected me. Bummer. I think I’ll just forget about guys for a while.

It’s OK. Being alone is pretty neat.

While I ride home, I think about the film, “Corduroy Glasses.”

I’m not sure what the film signified. I think it has something to do with perceiving reality through a warped world view, so what one perceives isn’t really reality–whatever that is–but one’s culturally defined perceptions.

I think about taking off my corduroy glasses. Isn’t that what college is all about? To learn what is one’s culture, what others’ cultures are, how our cultures inform our world views, and then to begin to make conscious choices about what we might want to discard and what we might want to preserve of our own cultural heritage, precepts, and constructs?

God! I am so excited to be here! No wonder I always wanted to come to college! Who needs guys when we can take off our glasses and look at the world, as if for the first time?

Yay, independence!

There you go!

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When I get home, Derek calls and invites me to a party. What? I thought Derek hated me.

Cid lives in Derek’s dorm, so maybe I’ll see him there, and I’ll be able to talk with him, and we can re-establish our friendship. I bet he wouldn’t think “Corduroy Glasses” was such a dopey film if he knew what it meant.

What happened to “Yay, independence?”

Cid is streaking through the quad, yelling at the top of his lungs.

I realize that know may not be the best time to talk with him about culturally constructed world views.

Inside, I notice a cute guy with long dark hair. Oh. It’s Anoki Moon. I’ve heard of him. I feel an instant connection to him, like maybe I’ve known him in another life.

He’s surrounded by girls.

Are the corduroy glasses on or off right now?

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When the women head over to the keg, I approach.

“I feel sirens going off,” I tell him, “but I’m not heeding any warnings.”

“You’re Cathy!” he says. “I heard about you. Derek and Cid don’t stop talking about you.”

And I feel all kinds of awkward.

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Anoki and I begin bonding over our shared vegetarianism. He tells me he’ll get me a great recipe for veggie burgers that he has up in his room. Before he does, the two women come back from the keg. One of them looks really mad.

“Burgers!” She yells at Anoki. “Not bloody salad! You should be eating burgers, fool!”

“OK, so first of all,” Anoki says,”I would never eat bloody salad. And second of all, where do you get off deciding who can be vegetarian and who can’t? It’s my body.”

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It’s time for me to go, anyway.

Just once, I’d like to have a peaceful, friendly conversation with somebody, where nobody gets mad, nobody gets insulted, nobody gets offended, and we all find common ground and appreciate each other.

That’s a great goal. Don’t lose it!

So far, all I’ve encountered has been conflict. I’m kinda into peace. I’m hoping to create a peaceful world. And I thought that a lot of people my generation agreed with me. But how are we supposed to create peace when we fight with each other? We need new sets of corduroy glasses.

I get home and just as I’m getting ready for bed, I notice some strange lights outside.

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Holy uh-oh!

I feel my corduroy glasses being ripped off my head!

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Next thing I know, I’m standing out back of the dorm, with a weird feeling in my head and all these strange sensations in every orifice. Ugh. What happened?

Relax. Breathe. You’ll be OK. Once you truly succeed in escaping your culturally constructed world view, your memories of these events will return. Until then, just know that you are home now, and you are safe.

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In the distance, I see a figure riding away on a bicycle.

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I guess life still feels random to me.

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Whisper 1.3

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Life feels very random to me. Things happen, and I can’t link them together. I can’t find cause, only reel from the effects.

You might just watch, without analysis, and then, through time, patterns may emerge which point towards meaning. When that happens, you see that nothing is truly random.

This valley, even in all its beauty, hides in a mist of eeriness. Nothing is straightforward. Nothing is simple. I wonder what I’m doing here.

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Something terrifying happens: more of the randomness, and completely senseless.

I hear noise in front of the house. Jin Anjali, our new roommate, runs out with me to see a figure in a black hood rise from the earth.

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“Oh, not the Countess!” shrieks Jin. “Countess Snypes! Get up!”

A figure glowing with red embers curls in a fetal position.

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She rises. I hope for a moment that she’ll be OK, that I can save her.

Her eyes are two spots of light. I avert my gaze from the red glow where her heart should be.

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She shakes the hand of the hooded one.

“No,” whimpers Chauncey. I look away, afraid to be a witness.

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And now we have a grave in the front lawn.

“How can a vampire have a grave?” I ask Jin, who seems to know everything. “Aren’t vampires already undead?”

Jin shakes her head. “It’s not like undead means immortal.”

But that’s exactly what I thought it did mean.

Jin is our new roommate. I have no idea how that happened. Chauncey decided that he was too good to be a roommate and needed to have his name on the lease. He knows the landlord. But then, since he was no longer a roomie, he decided we needed a new one to take his place, and now we have Jin.

They fight all the time.

Right now, Jin is yelling at Chauncey because he’s a bookworm. He overlooks her insults. She’s a witch, and he told me that she is the coolest person in the valley.

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That still doesn’t give her the right to be rude.

We attend a costume party at Rainflower’s house.

I go all out and wear a dress, a choker, and face paint. It’s Spooky Day, and I want to look magical.

“That green stuff on your face looks like a bunch of ants marched through pea soup and then walked all over you while you were sleeping in a crypt,” Jin says.

“I think she looks nice,” says Chauncey.

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Snow falls. More randomness continues. My garden lies dormant. I can’t imagine spending the winter cooped up inside with Jin and Chauncey.

I’m heading to university, even if my skills aren’t that high and I’ve got hardly any money.

Take the aptitude test. See if you earn a scholarship.

I take the aptitude test, giving it my best shot.

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To my surprise, I earn a partial scholarship and enter with distinctions in the fine arts major.

I’m going to college.

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I’ve wanted this for so long.

I tell Chauncey to look after the place, pack up my few belongings, and head out to catch the van to the airport.

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Through the rear window, I look back at my little house, at the edge of town. Jin and Chauncey are out in front, waving goodbye.

I watch my home and all the confusion around it grow smaller and smaller. Life still feels really random.

Hang in there, dearheart. You have all of life ahead of you, plenty of time for the world and those in it to begin to make sense.

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Whisper 1.2

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I really want to go to university.

Take some time to develop skills and earn some money first. You’ll have a better time, and there’s really no rush.

I guess college is a goal I can work towards. Gives me a reason to save. Now I just need a way to earn some money.

I’ve always wanted to be a street artist. There’s money in that, right? I’ve been practicing a lot. I don’t want to get busted, so I just spray on the floors and the walls at home.

I’ve been seeing Chauncey, too. First, we just called each other. Then he started coming around. Now he’s here every day.

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I ask him to move in. Not as my boyfriend–we’re not there yet. Just as a roommate and a friend. My best friend, actually. I can’t really believe he says yes. I’ve got nothing–not even enough money to fully furnish the place. So he’s sleeping on the floor in the spare room. The entrance to the bathroom is in that room. I try not to stare when I walk past.

He’s so dreamy.

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He’s a great roommate, too. He’s been helping to keep the place clean. And he’s got a job as a weather man.

I still can’t believe my luck, meeting him on my first day here. It’s like it’s fate.

Don’t be so sure. Take some time to get to know him.

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I get a call from the city to paint some ground murals. I don’t know how they found out about me. Perhaps Chauncey has some contacts at city hall, and he told them about my work.

While I’m finishing up the mural, a wild horse approaches me. It’s majestic.

“Want something to eat?” I ask. Then it gets spooked and runs off. I hope I see it again.

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Chauncey wears the cutest bunny slippers. He’s got a furry chest, too. I don’t usually like a lot of body hair, but on Chauncey it looks good. What does it feel like? Soft? Or coarse.

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We have some nice times. Chauncey surprises me by having a painting delivered, because he was thinking about me, and he thought I’d like it. We talk all the time. He reads a lot, and works on his laptop. We don’t even have a proper table, but he doesn’t mind. He just sits with it on the floor.

He pays his rent on time. He cleans. He enjoys my cooking. Life is great.

Sure, he’s got quirks. I notice that he gets really upset whenever he takes a shower–he gets panicky. I wonder if he had a bad experience with water as a kid. He also never takes off his clothes. Even when he showers, he’s got swim trunks or his boxers on.

It’s little things like that that give us each our individual charm.

Then, with no warning, storms come. Chauncey rages into the bathroom while I’m washing my hands and slaps me.

This is out of nowhere. What did I do?

It’s not you.

I keep running through my mind what I might have done. Is it because I didn’t clean the shower stall? Is it because we don’t have furniture? Did I forget something? Am I just an awful person?

It’s not you.

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“What’s that for?” I ask.

“Like you don’t know.”

This is abuse. Now you know. It’s not too late.

I don’t know. I realize I did nothing wrong. And even if I had done something, this isn’t an acceptable way to handle it. He’s got issues.

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I think about asking him to leave. I feel like I lost a friend. In fact, I did. I lost my best friend. Maybe we can be friends again. But there’s no way I’m going to get romantically involved with him now. Soon as I earn enough money and finish with college prep, I’m leaving for university. When that happens, I’ll be glad to leave Chauncey Grimm behind.

I guess you never know somebody until you know them.

Better to discover now, before you’re more entangled.

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Whisper 1.1

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I love my phone. When I feel lost, overwhelmed, or generally mildly freaking out–like I’m doing quietly on the inside right now–I pull out my phone and get lost browsing the web. I move into a world where everything’s contained, and suddenly, my worries about landing here, in this tiny cabin at the edge of a cemetery at the edge of town, with little money, no marketable skills, and nobody I know, disappear. I’ve got the same Internet, the same websites, I did back home. Hey look! Trip updated her blog!

There’s a beautiful world all around you.

I think I have an Internet addiction.

Go explore.

Says here there’s an arboretum in town, with some of the sweetest smelling baby’s breath you can find. I love the smell of flowers.

Go on…

Maybe I’ll ride over there.

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It really is a beautiful town. Smells like pine and mist!

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I explore the arboretum where calendula, foxgloves, and forget-me-nots are blooming. And baby’s breath, too.

The park was empty when I arrived, but when I finish touring the arboretum, it’s packed.

“Hi, I’m Cathy.” I introduce myself to a skinny guy with a cute beard. In fact, the beard isn’t the only thing cute about him.

“Chauncey Grimm,” he says. “Enchanted to meet you, Cathy.”

He talks like he walked out of a book. I like him.

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“I know this is terribly corny,” I say. “But, can I ask? What’s your sign?” I cringe at the cliche of it.

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But he doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m a Cancer,” he says. He’s smiling and looking right into my eyes. Oh, man. I’m a Cancer, too.

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Gosh, he’s sweet.

“I knew you were a Cancer,” I say. Am I flirting? No. Ok, maybe. Yeah. A little bit.

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“Don’t go anywhere,” he says. “Promise?”

I promise. While he’s gone, I resist the urge to pull out my phone. Instead, I listen to the wind chimes playing in the arboretum.

Soon he’s back with a bouquet of flowers.

“For you!”

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I thank him for the flowers, feeling as sweet as a purple plum, and we start talking.

“Do you ever feel wild?” he asks. “Like more like a monster than human?”

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“I felt like a total zombie this morning,” I answer. “A cup of coffee and a little time browsing the web brought me back to humanity, though.”

He chuckles. I like his laugh.

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“What did you have for breakfast?” he asks. Somehow, I don’t mind small talk with him.

“I had my fav. PB and J. How about you?”

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“I love burgers,” he says. “I’d eat them every day if I could, but I hardly ever have them. I seem to be living on salad and green tea.”

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“Why don’t you eat what you like?”

“Oh, you know. Health food regime.”

I’m about to say that part of eating healthy can also be eating what you love when he tells me once again not to disappear.

He comes back with a bouquet of yellow flowers. It’s silly. But it’s also so sweet I can hardly stand it. And they smell so heavenly!

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It’s nearly dark by now. He has to go. I have to go. We exchange phone numbers.

“I really want to see you again,” he says. I want to see him, too.

Riding back, I pedal to the rhythm of his name: Chauncey Grimm. Chauncey Grimm.

Easy does it.

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The world around me looks beautiful and magical. My first day here, and I think I’m falling in love.

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