Arielle: Part 2

Ugh, right, making a memory, she remembered now. Caps, gowns, white chairs that weren’t built for sitting (is this where people’s picket fences went? she wondered), astroturf, bleachers. Bleh.

This wasn’t a memory. It was a stock photo. Not how this works. She knew at least that by now. She had to find some specific thing that made this now and could contain it later. Some flyaway moment that could be slowed into sand.

Was someone laughing? That had done it before. The way the cashier’s neck had folded into her laugh, like it had balled the joke into something her chin could hold for keeps. People won apple-bobbing contests with that neck clench. For whatever reason, she could return to that moment. Walk around in it. Watch herself in it. Rewind herself, switch herself to slo-mo, move around, grab a Slim Jim from the next checkstand, bark that she was snapping into it as she did — and nothing, the scene played on. Even better, she could step into herself and change how things play out. Except for the laugh. She couldn’t change the laugh. Anytime she did, she got kicked out of the memory, back to wherever she was when she entered it. Memories were strict with their rules.

She hadn’t learned many of memory’s rules yet. She had no idea how many there would be to obey or try to bend. She never would. Not that it mattered, especially not now. Now she just needed to figure out what made a memory. If she had learned it before, she had forgotten. She didn’t think she had, anyway.

Then it happened. Principal Wheeler was introducing Kayla Saunders for her speech, when the wind whipped across the stage. It yanked the programs from some teachers’ hands and laps, landing one against Ms. Geider’s cheek before heading off to wherever miracles return. Finally she saw it. Principal Wheeler’s tie was being pulled up and to the side, its knot pressing against his ear, the rest reaching to the sky.

It only lasted for maybe two seconds. Long enough for people to see, but too short for them to remember exactly what they saw. Later most said it looked like a noose around his neck, only to be substantiated later that summer when Wheeler left town.

Morbid bastards, Arielle thought. She didn’t see a noose at all. Okay, she did. How could you not? (Ha, knot.) But that wasn’t all she saw. The energy wasn’t going in that direction, like a noose. Mr. Wheeler wasn’t weighing down his tie. The tie looked like it was lifting him up. Trying to, anyway. He seemed to recognize it too. His normally red fingers were white against the edges of the podium. She could see him clinging. Then it was over.

When the yearbook team posted a video of it to the school’s Facebook the next day and their parents showed it to them, everyone felt fooled. The whole thing lasted less than three seconds, and Wheeler’s tie for maybe half a second (734 milliseconds, as Arielle would later time it). Yet no one would remember much else of the two-hour ceremony. Not Arielle’s sweat smile. Jimmy Vero’s attempted streaking that was spoiled by stage fright. Mrs. Gaylen’s speech and the laughs it elicited. Mr. Gaylen’s singing and the laughs it elicited. If it weren’t for all the scenes in movies and on TV of the newly matriculated tossing their caps, no one would remember much of that mess either. Not Arielle, though. She could relive it all, so long as she didn’t stop the wind.

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Arielle: Part 1

A story

Take a mental picture of this moment, Arielle told herself. She tried. Thinking of the heat and the stage, backlit by the sun, beaming in their faces.

Whoever had organized the graduation ceremony must have been trolling, she decided. Why else schedule it for 5:30 pm on a Saturday and arrange for the stage to be on the west end zone, and not even flush with the end zone but angled so that the sun stared them straight down as it set? Who the hell tracked the trajectory of the sun like that? How big of a compass and/or protractor would you need for that?

Whatever. She would never need those again. She would miss proofs, though. She didn’t know it now, but a month into her freshman year, she and her dormmates would begin writing proofs of “Law & Order: SVU” episodes. They would even create an Instagram account to post them to, and that account would become the subject of a BuzzFeed article that would alter the trajectory of her life.

But at the moment, she was concerned with the trajectory of the sun, which was bowing to flash its light straight in her face, like an asshole. The moon would never do this.

She reminded herself that it wasn’t the sun’s fault. The sun didn’t know it’d be pitted into a staring contest with the North South High class of 2018. Even if the sun had known, it couldn’t do anything about it. Couldn’t angle itself to look at something just beyond and to the side, like someone trying to be polite while the Subway worker makes them a sandwich. The sun couldn’t pull up a book to bury its head in. Nope, the sun was here, and so was the sweat.

Oh fuck, the sweat. What if it pooled under her boobs? It’d be like that time she stood outside for hours get a selfie with Demi Lovato and felt Demi’s hand squish against her soggy shoulder and instantly peel off, sounding like a wet fart. A sound that Arielle may have imagined but that made her face bulge in an all too real way. Like she had accidentally swallowed a bug and was being told it would lay eggs inside her.

Obviously this would be worse, though. With Demi, no one there knew her, and no one who knew her needed to know about the picture. But if she got up on that stage with two dark stains on her maroon robe looking like oversized, oblong nipples — wait, they didn’t have to be nipples. They could be eyes! Yes, and she could tuck her robe into her belly and bend over, pressing her sweat into it, into a smile, a happy face. It’d be weird, sure, but at least it’d be on purpose then. And it’d make for a good picture, a picture she’d remember. All their faces. Then she could forget the rest of this, this…culmination? Coronation? Culmination.

Why do life’s milestones always have to involve walks down aisles? What was momentous about grocery shopping? Oh oh, getting to pick whatever cereal you want when you’re an adult on your own, that’ll be momentous. She’ll remember that for sure.

Colada morada

a sketch

The water was a purple kind of brown, as if it knew the word gloom. Still it looked inviting under the dust-burnt clouds. The water’s color belied its warmth. But not to him. He saw colada morada. He saw his grandma, stirring her royal blue pot of berries cooked past a pudding, standing in an oversized shirt and pajama pants, avocado mashed into her hair. She explained to him once why she did it, but he couldn’t remember what she said. He didn’t remember much of what she said other than the things she would always say. Those sounds would never leave him. They were too of their own, like a faraway star so close in the sky.

What say me

I have things to say. I want this place to be where I figure out what they are.

There’s this old documentary about Jack Kerouac. In it John Clellon Holmes talks about how jazz musicians would size up a young player by asking one question:

“Does he have something to say?”

I saw this documentary back in high school, and that line has never left me. It’s become my north star. Whether I’m writing an article, making a video or scribbling some little nothing: Do I have something to say?

Yes. But I’m not sure what.

I have plenty of somethings to say about what tech companies are up to. I get paid to say something about those things, though more accurately I get paid to say what those things are and repeat what other people say about them. Lately I’ve been sneaking in more of my own thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are ironed-out opinions. Sometimes they’re questions or a juxtaposition of facts. Mainly they’re from me.

But I have more to say. Or at least I used to and want to again. So that’s what this space is for: For me to say things and put them somewhere.

Sometimes those things will be job-related. Sometimes they won’t be. Sometimes they’ll be worked-out. Sometimes they’ll be me working something out. Sometimes words, sometimes video, sometimes an image, sometimes a mix. Each time, hopefully, they’ll have something to say. If not in the beginning, then by the end.