Whisper 1.15

Dante invites me to a house party at his place, and the first two people I see there are Jin and Chauncey, and it looks like they’re flirting.

Maybe this is why they were suddenly in such a hurry to move out to their own place!

whisbi1901

I look around for Dante, but he’s busy acting as the party host. I don’t feel like being third wheel with my former room-mates, and I don’t really feel like socializing with the others there who I don’t know. None of my friends are here.

So I decide to spend the party drawing. It worked when I was a kid during lunch hours when I couldn’t find anyone to play with, and it worked great at the party, too.

whisbi1902

Dante comes over after the party. I invite him to spend the night. We share a few whispers and caresses, and then he says he’s beat and heads to bed. “Join me soon,” he says.

I’m painting in the other room when I hear a choking sound from the bedroom. I race in to find Dante grabbing his throat.

“Starving…” he whispers.

“Do you need blood?” I ask, rolling up my sleeve to expose a vein.

whisbi1903

Then there’s the smell of sulfuric smoke, and I feel coldness behind me.

whisbi1904

Dante is glowing red, like Countess Snypes on that fateful night.

“Dante!” I cry. I try to reach the reaper to plead with him, but I’m unable to approach.

whisbi1905

Dante acts like he already knows him.

“I’m ready to return,” he says.

whisbi1906

And he’s gone! Like that. Our love that was to withstand the passing of earth and all of history, and Dante is gone! I would have given him my blood.

whisbi1907

Dante’s gone, and I’m not. I’m still here. I water the garden the next morning. Winter is over. It feels almost warm. And Dante is gone. I found a few ashes near the bed and I swept them up and buried them in the back garden, with a small tombstone marking the spot.

Dante’s gone.

whisbi1908

But I’m not.

I take my guitar to the park. I’ve heard music helps you feel better. It doesn’t. It doesn’t change a thing.

whisbi1909

But it’s something to do. It’s something besides standing there, looking out and questioning. It quiets the mind.

whisbi1910

Maybe it does do something, even if it doesn’t change what happened. It doesn’t change that yesterday, the guy I loved was there, and now, he’s not.

whisbi1911

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Whisper 1.11

whisbi1401

When I get home from college, I find some random guy sleeping in my bed, and Jin is passed out on the living room floor, so I crawl into the empty sleeping back next to Chauncey and try to remember how safe I felt in the dorm on my first days there, even though the whole dorm was full of nearly strangers. But of course, one of those strangers in the dorm was to become my best friend, and I know I sensed Shea’s friendliness from the beginning.

Sleep well. Things will feel brighter in the morning, and you’ll find a solution.

In the morning, I scrounge through the fridge to see what kind of breakfast I might make. Looks like I can make pancakes, if I substitute yogurt for eggs.

whisbi1402

As I’m washing the dishes, the random guy comes in.

“Morning! There’s a plate of pancakes on the counter,” I tell him. “They’re still hot.”

He’s complaining about always starving in this crazy house.

whisbi1403

I introduce myself. He puts down his plate of pancakes and says he’s happy to finally meet me.

Turns out, Jack’s our new room mate.

“So, you know,” I say, “the house is pretty full with three. I mean, it was only supposed to have two, then somehow, Jin moved in. And now you’re here, and I’m just not sure this house can handle four.”

whisbi1405

“That’s ok,” he says. “I like it here. I’m pretty sweet on Jin, to tell the truth. But this was just a temporary thing, just while my place was getting painted. It should be done by now. I can move back to my place this afternoon.”

Whew!

See? I knew there’d be a solution in the morning!

That night, I get to sleep in my own bed. I must have been really tired from sleeping on the floor the night before, for I have the strangest dream.

I dream that I hear noises outside the window–a loud bass from a rap song and weird groaning and munching sounds. In my dream, I look out the window, and there in the garden, in the midst of a snow storm, a teen girl leads a horde of zombies in the smustle.

whisbi1406

The next day, I discover that several of my plants have died. I can revive the pear, the mandrake, and a few of the Midnight Bean plants, but some of them die.

I spend the day building a fence around the garden and yard, with lockable gates, just to be safe.

Such a pity about those Midnight Bean plants I lost.

whisbi1407

To get my mind off feeling sad about dead plants, I head to Winter Fest.

It’s so fun to ride my bike in the snow. The snowflakes get caught in my eyelashes, and if I ride really fast with my mouth open, I wind up with a mouth of snow.

It feels magical.

whisbi1408

I’m starving when I arrive at the park, so I buy a veggie shepherd’s pie. It’s sweet from carrots, butternut squash, and onions, and savory from garlic, basil, and marjoram!

whisbi1409

On the table stands a jar with pickles in it or something. But when I look closer, I noticed the pickles are preserved specimens, and the specimens are Freezer Bunnies! Who would stick a bunch of Freezer Bunnies in formaldehyde?

I was hoping that my time in college, when I really worked at stripping away as many cultural biases as I could, would help me feel more open-minded towards Moonlight Falls. But my first few days back seem to just confirm my original impressions: this place is weird.

Weird can sometimes be interesting.

whisbi1411

But maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world, to live in a town that’s not run-of the-mill.

“Are you new here?” asks a friendly seeming woman.

“Not exactly,” I reply.

We talk for a while, and I learn that she’s not exactly new here, either, having moved to town with her husband and daughter about the same time I did.

“But I feel new,” she says. “Everyone I met, besides you, seems so established here. Like they go back generations. And they’re all so–I don’t mean to sound prejudiced. But OK. I know it is prejudiced. They’re all so different.”

“As in weird?” I ask.

“Exactly!” she replies.

I’ve got a feeling that Annie Nix and I are going to become fast friends.

whisbi1412

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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.

whisbi1305

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.

whisbi1301

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.

whisbi1302

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

whisbi1304

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!

whisbi1303

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.

whisbi1306

Finishing college means leaving behind best friends.

whisbi1311

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.

whisbi1307

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.

whisbi1308

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!

whisbi1310

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

whisbi1312

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

whisbi1309

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

whisbi1314

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

whisbi1313

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.

whisbi1316

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.

whisbi1317

I head back to the dorm to pack.

eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh has found a new friend.

whisbi1318

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

whisbi1319

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.

whisbi1320

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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.”

whisbi902

“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.”

whisbi903

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.

whisbi904

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.

whisbi905

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.”

whisbi906

“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.”

whisbi907

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.

whisbi908

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.

whisbi911

“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.”

whisbi912

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.

whisbi914

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.

whisbi913

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.

whisbi915

“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.

whisbi916

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?

whisbi917

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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.

whisbi802

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

whisbi803

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.

whisbi804

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.

whisbi805

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

whisbi806

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.

whisbi807

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!”

whisbi808

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.”

whisbi809

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.

whisbi810

Everything sparkles, lit up from the energy within.

whisbi811

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.

whisbi812

“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?”

whisbi813

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.”

whisbi814

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

That’s for sure.

whisbi815

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.

whisbi816

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.

whisbi817

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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.

whisbi702

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.

whisbi703

His face is cute from the front, too.

“I like your eyebrows,” I say.

whisbi704

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.

whisbi706

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.

whisbi708

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

Cid is sitting across from me.

whisbi709

“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.

whisbi710

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.”

whisbi711

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.

whisbi712

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.

whisbi713

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

whisbi714

“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.

whisbi715

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.

whisbi716

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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!

whisbi603

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!”

whisbi604

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

whisbi605

Inside, Jin cooks mac and cheese and Chauncey reads.

“Hi, guys. How’ve you been?”

They don’t say much.

whisbi606

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.

whisbi607

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.

whisbi608

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

whisbi609

“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.

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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.

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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 1.4

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College. I arrive. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long. When I get here, everybody’s heading into the dorm.

“Get a room quick,” says a student in knee socks. I guess she’s one of my new dormies. She looks nice–kinda rebel spirit, like me.

But as I paint a ground mural on the front walk, I hear her talking about me to the other dormies. I can’t hear what she says, just my name, a sarcastic tone of voice, and their snickers.

Don’t worry. It always takes a while to make new friends. Don’t let first impressions get in the way. Yours–or theirs.

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In the evening, after orientation, I head over to the quad. A student with a shaved head and tattoos comes up to me.

“I’m worried about snails. Like, they don’t have any rights. And they totally should,” she says, “because they exist, too, right?”

I agree. I like snails. “Their shells are like works of art.”

“I’m thinking of some kind of protest at the groundskeepers’ building. Or maybe I’ll just like blow up all the snail poison. What do you think?”

“Well, that sounds like it might spread toxins into the environment. Maybe we can just start a public awareness campaign.”

“I’ll get back to you,” Shannon says.

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In my first class, I halfway check out all the other students. There’s this guy in a dog collar who makes really intelligent comments during the discussions.

After class, he happens to come out of the hall at the same time I do.

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He’s already dashing off to his class, but I call after him.

“Um? Excuse me? Do you know of a good place to get a cup of coffee?”

“Did you say a cup of Cathy?” he asks, and I blush.

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What do I say?

“My last name is Tea.”

“Oh! Indian or Chinese?” And we launch into a conversation about how Indian tea might actually be a different variety than Chinese.

“They’re both camellia sinensis,” I say, “but the Indian is varietal assamica and the Chinese is varietal sinensis.”

“Oooh! Camellia sinensis var. sinensis! Because, you know. Sinensis means Chinese!”

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I like him, this guy in the dog collar. Derek Khan. I’m glad we’ve got classes together. That means I’ll see him again.

In the afternoons, I paint.

Before I’ve realized what I’ve done, I’ve painted the center of the canvas red. It’s the same color as Countess Snypes’ glowing heart. That image is burned so deep in me.

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My dorm mate with the knee socks is also a fine arts major. She plays the guitar with expression and skill. Since we have classes and interests in common, I begin to hope that we’ll be friends.

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In the evening, I paint murals on the side of the dorm. The bricks make a nice texture for bolder designs.

I invite Derek to come hang out. He arrives right away, but then, while we’re talking–and, OK, I guess I’m flirting a little bit–he starts insulting me, and walks away. I don’t even want to think about what he said. And it’s that whole cycle like with Chauncey again. What am I doing to bring this on?

It’s not you.

I just want to meet somebody nice, considerate, gentle, and strong. Who likes tea and likes to talk about it. Is that asking too much?

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After class on Thursday, this guy with blue hair stops me.

“You’re Cathy,” he says.

There’s something about him. I’m seeing hearts and feeling as high as party balloons.

“Hi, Cid,” I say. “I was kinda hoping to meet you when I saw you in class.”

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“Really?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply. “I mean, how can my education in art history be complete, if I don’t get to know one of the greatest modern masterpieces?”

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To my surprise, he doesn’t mind my corny brand of flirting!

In fact, he says, “Life is like a pallet. It’s not complete until we fill it with all the colors.”

I nod like I know what he’s talking about.

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He comes back to the dorm with me, and I fix us veggie wraps.

“Look how the plates reflect the light,” he says. “Trippy.”

I like him, this guy with the blue hair. Cid Serverus. I’m glad we’ve got classes together.

Easy does it.

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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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