Memory Is The Liar That Whispers Fantastic Pasts In Our Ears

Calvin-and-Hobbes-esque-Tiny-litle-snowman-army

“I’m not a liar. I just have a good memory for things that never happened.” ― J.T. Bock

 

There’s a story I’m fond of telling, about a girl I met in a park during a blizzard. Sad fact of the matter is I don’t remember what she looked like. Not exactly. In my fading memory’s defense, I only saw the bit of her frosty red face that was nestled within the fur ring of her hooded parka. And I’ll admit that my recollection of events might be slightly dramatized and infused with more schmaltzy innocence and devil may care fun, as we built a snow fort to defend ourselves from the invading snow army, but it happened, the girl was real and not some imaginary snow playmate—I’ve had plenty of those, so I know the difference—and a good time was had by all, or at least by me.

The memory gets more Michael Bay-ish with each retelling. It takes on mass and bulks up and challenges me to become a better liar in order to bear its additional weight. But am I actually a liar? If the current version records over the initial memory on the VHS tape in my mind and all I have left is the most recent telling, then I am relaying events as I recall them, no? And why shouldn’t I drape this memory with grace so that it might straighten its back and hold its head higher as it strolls amongst my other remembrances? I am one of only two people who possess this memory and since I cannot verify that the other party is holding up their end, it’s my sworn duty to keep it alive, embellishments and all.

It started out as one of my favorite kind of schooldays, you know, where you wake up and the world outside is completely white and Alice Cooper’s voice is on a continuous loop in your head as you do your victory dance in front of the window, “School’s out forever…

What was that? Just me, then? All right. Good to know.

Anyhoo, after lying about leaving my books at school–thereby avoiding studying to get ahead of the class (perish the thought)–and breezing through my chores, I ventured forth into snowmageddon and discovered… no one else was outside. Oh, sure, people were attempting to dig their cars out, but none of my friends, hell, no one my age was visible in the dense thundersnow.

Cowards, the lot of them!

Undaunted–I wasn’t going back inside, not on a day like this–I trekked to the local park and that was when I saw The Girl. Out on her lonesome, rolling the lower portion of a snowman-to-be with all the intensity of a Winterland Victoria Frankenstein.

When she eventually caught sight of me, she stopped and glared, trying to suss me out. Was I friend or foe? We stood there for ages, still as statues, locked in a silent Mexican Stare Off. She was determined, this one, to wait me out. She had staked claim to this park and I was the trespasser. If we were ever going to come to an accord, I’d have to make the first move. So, I did the only thing I could do in that situation…

I began rolling the middle portion for her snowman. That seemed to be good enough for her.

You ask me what her name was? Well, there are only two words that come to mind when I think about her: amber and hazel. So, either her name was Amber and she had hazel eyes, or she was an amber-eyed Hazel. Perhaps even something in between like Hazamberel or Amhazelber? I can’t rule any options out at this point.

The park was ours and ours alone, we two intrepid children of The Bronx. We laughed in the face of the snowpocalypse and frolicked–as much as our starfish overlayering would allow–and built an ominous snow army that we waged snow war against, plowed through the snow soldiers and beat them down to the ground, before turning on each other in the snowball fight to end all snowball fights, tried to sled downhill on a ratty piece of cardboard, discovered how truly fast squirrels are when we tried to catch one, marveled at how far trees could bend under the weight of snow and made a pact to be friends forever.

I learned that day that pacts are not unbreakable–I never saw Hazamberel again–and just how like a snowflake a memory is.

Not a terribly exciting story to hear, I realize, but I’m not telling it for your enjoyment. I tell it so that I don’t lose it, so that it doesn’t fade any more than it already has from the weathers of time, or become trapped and freezes to death in the hedge maze like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

That’s part of the duty we owe to our past, to not only remember it but become the architects and build up the bits of the foundation that have crumbled away due to neglect.

So, please stop me if I’ve told you this one before, but once, when I was younger, I met a girl in a blizzard, at least I think it was snowing, maybe it was rain, and her name was some sort of color, Vermillion or Fuchsia, maybe…

Merry Christmas everybody (or Happy Holidays if Christmas isn’t your thing)! Be as safe as you can be while still managing to have a bit of fun, be kind to yourself and to others, and make someone’s holiday season a time to remember even if it’s an absolute stranger’s.

Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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A Meal And A Hot Shower

Meal shower

Four years ago, when I was volunteering to man telephones for a listener-sponsored radio station during one of their pledge drives, I met a man who, in the course of the conversation, admitted that he was a homesteader.

I wasn’t familiar with the modern usage of the term, so he explained that he would break into abandoned buildings, run extension cords to the street lamps for electricity and arrange to receive mail at the address for at least a month to prove residency.

He claimed that he faced ongoing battles with the owners of the abandoned properties—throwing his possessions out on the street, re-padlocking the property, sending “muscle” to physically evict him, etc.—but this is not the true issue of the post.

This homesteader had no income and he couldn’t rig the pipes in the abandoned buildings to run water, so he cased houses and when he was sure that the owners were either away at work or on vacation, he broke into their houses (curiosity, always my master, I asked him how but he wouldn’t say) took showers and made a meal for himself before he left. He claimed he never took anything besides food.

I told this story to a group of online friends (screen names changed to protect the innocent, naturally) and asked, “Besides the obvious breaking and entering charges, how severe a crime did they think the use of a shower and the fixing of a meal was?”

This was the conversation that resulted:

Its_Me_Mario: The obvious charges are the only ones that matter.

No_Drama_Mama: He is taking a person’s sense of security in their own home away. That is not easily replaced. As a society, we have chosen to not address the marginal citizens, so this is what happens. “There is nothing more dangerous than someone who has nothing to lose.”

ComicGrrl: Still a crime, yes, but not a severe one. Drama, the sense of security is a rather tenuous one. We’ve all seen how fragile glass is, yet we make much of the borders of our secure area out of it. That should be symbolic enough in itself.

CatLover: Considering the unfortunate homeowners would probably realize their home had been invaded, it’s a very serious crime. i believe the residents would be seriously emotionally affected; feeling that they were no longer safe and protected in their own homes. Also, what would a “homesteader” do if there indeed was someone in the home? How quickly that could become a violent situation.

FromTheHip: The presumptions of this kind of situation are that the person in the home is a violent felon and has asked to be exterminated, for posing potentially lethal risks to the homeowner and other residents. It’s pretty much impossible to act that way without sending the message of being a severe threat and causing distress and other damages far beyond the value of a meal.

This points to a need for society to have more workable means of survival for people living outside the presumptions of economic system participation. In urban areas, that’s very difficult, due to land and infrastructure costs, and an inability for people to live self-sufficiently without relying on many money-driven pieces of urban systems. In rural areas, it’s difficult because of transportation and access to things not usually practical to make or farm oneself.

There are large numbers of people living in Intentional Communities on far lower budgets than most people realize is possible, often with better quality of life than others with 10-20 times the personal cash flow, but those communities try to screen for compatible goals and adequate mental health as to be a functional community member. At present the only real place our society has for people outside all those options is prison, a very costly and dehumanizing approach to situations like this one.

Deedelit: Madd_Fictional noted that these initial selections were abandoned buildings, where security is less of an issue and therefore to me, the “punishment” should be somewhat limited to something along the lines of what was taken and how much it cost.

But that seems to have changed as this person likes the finer things that the rest of us work for. And while there are many unfortunates in our society, there is no reason to automatically assume this is one of them. Further, we don’t need to assume the person is a violent felon, the bottom line is that he is in someone’s home. Generally speaking, home is the place of retreat for us, the last place to go. If someone were to break into my home with me in it, I would feel justified in killing him. It is not my job to decipher his motives. It is my job to protect myself.

ComicGrrl: CatLover, what if the homeowners never suspected burglary? They might have all thought the food disappeared because someone else in the family ate it. No harm, no foul?

DudeBro: It’s burglary.

PlatinumCard: What part of abandoned did you people not get?

DudeBro: It’s not a crime of extreme malice, but certainly extreme stupidity. That’s the kind of situation where someone comes homes, walks in on a guy, freaks out, and someone, invader or homeowner, ends up dead as a result.

PlatinumCard: Homesteading would help recover both subprime and Alt-A housing markets in relatively little time. By ensuring that there are people tending to the walk-aways, they are less likely to be stripped for scrap metal. This would in turn help prevent banks from going under by restoring some value to the homes (which were overvalued, to begin with) instead of “totaling” them. This prevents more federal market intervention: fewer FDIC bailouts of depositors, fewer FDIC takeovers of financials, lesser federal spending pressure on debt. These (gasp) victimized “owners” of abandoned buildings are banks, towns, cities. they don’t go “on vacation” and “come home” to an intruder

Career_Driven: The homesteader is breaking into regular houses owned by people who live there to bathe/eat, then returning to his abandoned home to live. Breaking into someone’s home is a serious crime and I would want him to do serious jail time if caught and convicted.

Silicious: It’s wrong because burglary has become his occupation. The same effort he put into squatting in abandoned buildings and breaking into homes, he can apply toward getting his life in order and being a part of society rather than leeching off of it.

Jack_the_lad: In Britain, we call this squatting. Squatting is a valid response to the lack of affordable housing and homes left deliberately vacant by absentee landlords, frequently foreign financiers, whereby they can make more money by waiting for a property’s value to rise than by taking the risk and having the hassle of renting it out. Propaganda frequently suggests that squatters move into peoples homes while they are on holiday. This is rarely the case. Normally squatters move into abandoned buildings. Sometimes the squatters repair and save buildings which are of historic and architectural value which property developers would prefer to rot so that they can sell the land. Repairing historic buildings costs money. In the UK there is a law under which if someone occupies continuously a property or piece of land for 12 years, it becomes theirs legally.

About A Meal And A Hot Shower: I know, this post is not a short story that delves into the genres of science or speculative fiction but it is a true story and the responses are genuine and aside for the names have not been altered. I find it fascinating to open these types of topics up for debate as it clearly illustrates that no subject matter is as black and white an issue as we’d like to believe.

Next week, hopefully, I’ll have a story to throw up here, but no promises, though. I’m still wrestling with the novel that I did not finish for Nanowrimo 2018 (stop snickering, I gave it my best shot!)

Skinship: That Which Binds Us (Part 1)

Mickie

And thus came the point in Cutter’s life where the number of people he knows—-them what breathes—-were equally balanced with the people he knew—-them what don’t. At the moment he was ruminating on one such them what don’t, an odd and utterly frustrating yet absolutely captivating and charming woman whom he only knew as Mickie.

There were icebreaker questions and fill-in-the-blank statements designed for people who found making small talk with absolute strangers in order to attract a mate or at the very least make a new friend. One of the more popular among these was the incomplete statement, “The first thing people usually notice about me is…”. With Mickie, it was her voice. Spoken, it was smooth enough to polish silver. In song? It was cool and blue and crystalline and bright enough to transport even the dourest of souls to better times, despite whatever kind of mood they were in.

Her hope was to pursue a singing career and every summer she would trudge down to Washington Square Park, guitar in tow, and sing to anyone who would listen to her. Even though she was an atheist, she hoped the god of dumb luck would smile down upon her and help her get discovered. And even though that never happened, it didn’t stop her from trying.

Cutter possessed no pictures of Mickie and only the vaguest of images lingered in his mind of the petite woman, barely bigger than her guitar, who belted out folk tunes that resonated from Greenwich Village all the way up to Carnegie Hall.

But, singing aside, she wasn’t a well woman. She had her first psychotic break when she was eleven. Moody and tearful one moment and positively beaming the next. Then she began disappearing for days at a stretch, only to reappear battered with what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds and no memory of what happened or where she had been.

When Mickie was in her positive state, she was big on physical contact. Always so overly affectionate and the type of person that simply had to touch whomever she was talking to. Cutter couldn’t lie, it used to annoy the hell out of him. He loved her like he loved bacon, but he wasn’t raised by affectionate parents which ultimately shaped him into an elbow room kind of guy. He even brought it up in conversation one day when she was super touchy-feely.

It’s skinship,” Mickie smiled in reply. “I share it with you; you share it me, shit, we all share it with everybody we come in contact with. It’s an important part of communication. The kind we forget about because we’re all so wrapped up in words, which is stupid because I can touch you right now and convey more meaning than if I spoke to you for four days straight. My hand on yours binds us in a way that nothing else on this earth can.

At the time Cutter debated this for perhaps an hour or so and he walked away unconvinced that she has any special insight regarding the communication of touch.

Now Cutter realized what an idiot he was for not spending the time to try to understand what she was trying to tell him. And she was right, of course, because now he was sitting on a park bench near her favorite performing spot, wishing he could touch her. Bound to her. There were so many things he wanted to communicate to her, so many things he wanted to ask, primary among them, “Who murdered you?”

He was hellbent on finding out.

To be continued…

– Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

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Breadcrumbing

breadcrumbing

Clive was a dyed in the wool true believer that online dating–the websites (both free and paid) and the process—stunk to high heaven. Not because a great deal of the time was spent sifting through miles of unimaginative profiles that featured photos of celebrities that in no way resembled the actual embittered people who recited a Don’t List of all the things they simply would not stand for in a partner or relationship—well, not mainly for that reason—but merely because he was forced to write a self-summary, also know as his personal kryptonite.

His experiment nearly ended right there.

Primary among the things he hated, in addition to being questioned about any personal information that he would never voluntarily offer up in conversation, was attaching descriptors to himself and/or writing a self-summary. The notion of having to explain the equation of his essence, his being, in order for a stranger to do a quick assessment and chuck him into a labeled box, was enough to make him retch. Not to mention the fact he considered himself boring as hell and had nothing interesting to fill a questionnaire out with if he were keeping it 100, as the young-uns said.

But needs must when the devil drives, so he picked himself up by the bootstraps and scratched his puzzler on the best way to go about creating a self-summary without laying out all his information upfront—like he was actually going to tell a bunch of judgmental strangers anything important about himself, please. Clive was determined to try and reintroduce the notion of courtship back into the dating world and planned to use the interweb to hone his slightly rusty—okay, severely rusty—wooing abilities. One wouldn’t need to be Ellery Queen to suss out the inherent flaws in that plan.

The workaround came fairly quickly and was a no-brainer. Clive was going to summarize himself in short story form, as a sort of coming attraction to ward off them what cain’t be bothered with a bit of good old-fashioned storytelling. This was the result:

One day an old woman stepped directly into my path on the street, stopping me cold, and asked, “Who are you?”

“Pardon?” I was taken aback by the suddenness of the question.

“If you had to describe yourself to me, an absolute stranger, what would you say?” she thwarted my attempt to sidestep her.

“Most likely…nothing,” I admitted. “Since I’m not too fond of the question.”

“Well, what if Nazis held guns to your parents’ heads? What would you tell me then?” she smiled.

Damn. The Nazi ploy.

I hated being manipulated like this, but I couldn’t have anyone, not even this old woman, think that I’m some heartless brute that would allow Nazis to murder my parents in an effort to avoid providing a self-summary.

“And don’t hand me any of that work in progress nonsense, because we’re all works in progress until we give up living.”

“Fair enough.” I nodded in agreement, for it was one of those overused expressions that I can’t stand, just like thinking outside the box.

“Who I am is a born-again optimist. What I believe is that love should not be denied to anyone, even to those born with icy hearts. What I know is that I’m wise enough accept love as it finds me and not reject it because it doesn’t come wrapped in a pretty package. What I hope is that someday every lonely person will reach out to another lonely person and befriend them so that the word lonely fades from our lexicon.”

“Corny and clumsily poetic…” she eyed me for a long moment. “…but an artful dodge, so I’ll let you get away with it… this time.”

This time? Just who did this woman think she was?

“If you had to write a summary about yourself, would anyone read it?”

 I shook my head. “Probably not.”

The old woman cocked her head to the side, “Why not?”

“Because I’m old-fashioned.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” she asked.

“Simply that I wouldn’t reveal too much. Instead of handing someone Cliff Notes about me, I’d prefer to let that information come out naturally during the course of a one-on-one conversation with the person I was interested in. I don’t think that my life and personality can be compressed into a resume.”

“Is that a fact?” she said more to herself than anything else. “So, what are you doing with your life? Living it…is not an acceptable answer.” She tapped her foot impatiently.

What a surprise. Another question I hated, for how do you sum up passion, goals and interest in a sentence? A paragraph? It needs to be discussed in casual give and take conversation, which I knew would not happen here, so I answered:

“I’m in a creation stage of my life, at the moment. The need to create things is strong in me and I do that utilizing art, writing, sculpture and filmmaking. Some of my work has been published, which has brought me some attention but not anything close to notoriety.”

“Very good…” the old woman said, pleasantly surprised. “I didn’t have to pull teeth that time.”

“And my final question for you today is… what are you good at? I mean, really good at?” the annoyance seemed to melt away from her face, which put me at ease a bit.

“Hmmm…” I scratched my puzzler at that one. “If I had to give you one thing, I suppose it would be my ability to suss out how things work. Not machines and the like, but other things, intangible things… and people, as well. Except for you, that is. You’re a complete mystery to me.”

The corners of the old woman’s mouth curved up into a slight smile, as she nodded “Thank you.” and left as suddenly as she appeared, leaving me perplexed as to what just transpired here.

And with the self-summary written, all that was left was to join a bunch of free online dating sites—who’d pay, I mean, really—and cast his line into the water. But Clive hadn’t wanted to be aggressive about it, so the only two restrictions he imposed on himself were:

  1. He wouldn’t be the first person to initiate contact.
  2. He wouldn’t submit himself to a dating questionnaire when a woman was trying to gather more intel on him. Why make it easy for her to dismiss him based on whether or not he looked good to her on paper without even the courtesy of a flesh meet?

He also had to ask himself an honest question, Was he doing this to find an actual companion, an activity partner—young’uns would only understand this when they were older—or was he just out to get laid?

To anyone reading this, the initial obvious answer was to get laid, Clive just knew it, and he couldn’t blame anyone. When one cleaved through all the bullshit that men did and subjected themselves to, 9.75 times out of 10 sex was the reason, the answer, and the end goal. And okay, maybe that factored in a little bit, but mainly it was to find a companion.

But how could Clive attract the attention of women without contacting them or putting his statistics on display? Naturally, he knew the answer was to blog, but keeping a running online journal of his daily life—wake up, work, watch movies, procrastinate, troll the internet, sleep, repeat—would’ve bored anyone to tears.

No, he’d be forced to resort to the only thing he’d ever been good at in his entire life…

Inventing shit.

To be continued…