mister deludo

There once was a man named Mr. Deludo who kept a monster hidden in his basement.

No one really knows where the Monster came from.

But then again, no one had been able to get a good read on Mr. Deludo as of late. Mr. Deludo was a family man but even his closest friends and neighbors started to suspect that something was dangerously wrong at home.

Some of the townsfolk noticed him making frequent late-night strolls to the local graveyard.

Each time he came home, he would be startled to see his wife sitting in the living room, waiting for him.

“Oh hiya, honey.
Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

After a while, people suspected that the Monster must have followed him home after one of his cemetery visitations.

For some time, no one knew about the Monster, not even Mr. Deludo himself. But each and every night, he woke up while the world was sleeping to go downstairs and feed the Monster.

By morning, Mr. Deludo would remember none of it and resume his normal life. His eyes drooped from restless nights as he drove his two children to school on the way to work each day.

Weeks passed and the neighbors caught on. They could hear the Monster’s rumbling at night, when the air was still enough. But whenever they tried to bring it up, Mr. Deludo would simply deny it, because even he did not know the truth.

This went on for months and months and the Monster continued to grow and grow.

Eventually, the Monster grew so big that Mr. Deludo could not deny it any longer that something was lurking beneath the floorboards.

One day, his wife caught him in the act of his nightly clandestine activities.

“Oh hiya, honey. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

“We need to talk.”

Mrs. Deludo sobbed as she blubbered her way through the messy and tear-soaked intervention.

“How could you do this to us??
Think about the family… Think of our children.”

And Mr. Deludo sobbed with her, as he finally confronted the harrowing truth about himself.

“You have to get rid of the Monster.”
Mrs. Deludo managed to mumble through the tissues.

“And no more walks to the graveyard.”

The next day, Mr. Deludo bought a gun.

At this point, the Monster had already grown so big and so strong that Mr. Deludo wondered if a gun would get the job done. Not to mention that the Monster was cunning, perhaps more deceiving than its master.

None of that really mattered though because each night, Mr. Deludo still found himself helplessly opening the door to the basement and feeding the Monster.

He knew what he was doing and he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he simply could not help it. Because though he hated the awful beast, he had grown a strange affinity for it.

So he fed the Monster, night after night.
Like a slave to his own conscience.

A week had gone by, then two, and the Monster grew bigger still. Excuses were running out and so was his time.

“You need to kill the Monster.”
Mrs. Deludo demanded.

“If you kill me, I’ll kill your wife and kids.”
The Monster counterattacked.

Mr. Deludo’s heart was torn and any more of this agony, he felt his life would split into two.

Finally, Mrs. Deludo could take it no longer. Her patience had burned out and she issued her ultimatum, threatening to leave the house and take the kids with her.

“Kill the Monster!”
She screamed in crazed desperation.

“I.. I- I can’t.”

A look of horror spread across her tear-stained face.

“You what??”

“I just.. can’t.”

More blubbering.

“It’s either us”, she said, grasping their two kids in her trembling arms, “or the Monster.”

That night, Mr. Deludo loaded his gun and went downstairs into the basement.

The Monster died a long and stubborn death. Multiple gunshots pierced the night and echoed throughout all of town, and when the bullets ran out, Mr. Deludo resorted to makeshift means of murder. The townsfolk shuddered at the sounds of Mr. Deludo’s deranged screaming, the Monster’s wailing, and the thought that they couldn’t always differentiate between the two.

Until finally, the house was silent again.
The neighbors went to bed, knowing that the belated deed of riddance was done.

Mr. Deludo carried the Monster’s still-twitching body out of his empty house and walked over to the local graveyard.

He strolled through the rows and rows of gravestones he knew so well, until he reached the cemetery’s edge. His pace slowed as he walked down the final row, grasping the Monster in his trembling arms.

Finally, he stopped and stood in front of three tombstones with the names of his wife and two kids engraved in them.

The Monster breathed its last.

It was the longest walk home that night.

As he trudged back home, Mr. Deludo replayed the murder scene over and over in his mind. But it was not the piercing gunshots, nor the Monster’s howling, nor even his own screams that still rang in his ears, but the ensuing silence.

It was too quiet.

When he got back home, he closed the door behind him and was startled to hear the voice of his wife echoing from the living room.

“Oh hiya, honey.
Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”

 

help[less]

I always knew it would come to this.
From the start, our relationship was on a timer.

Last week, my therapist and I began asking the question –
“Do I need therapy anymore?”

So we dug into the soil of memory. We dug and dug, until we got lost in the labyrinth of tunnels. We found pieces of my childhood, fossilized stories of family.

I saw my dad’s face, though it was blurry like a faded polaroid.
I could never see too clearly in class and I didn’t get glasses until the 8th grade. But it mattered not. I had to pay attention, just in case I missed something. Just in case I messed up.

My dad was a sensei.
And, I, his apprentice. Being lectured and trained to survive the “real world”.

But I never learned much anyways.
I was always too slow.

I saw my mother’s face.
It was hazy from the sheer speed she traveled at, trying to take care of all of our family’s needs. All but her own.

She was everywhere and she was nowhere.

I’d catch a cold and her motherly instincts would kick into overdrive. There would never be a shortage of warm fluids and freshly-cut fruit. Her love language tasted like rice porridge and Korean pears.

My mom was a superhero.

Then I’d recover, but she kept cooking porridge and buying fruit. Taking care of needs that were not there.

She couldn’t switch off.

I never really figured out how to talk to them, or hold a friendship.
But they taught me a lot of things. And took care of me.

She sat across the room from me but we were always in the same group. She essentially saved me from flunking the first test, so naturally, I hung out with her.

Eventually, we developed a rhythm of meeting up after school every Monday by the blue lunch tables.
Then every Wednesday.
Then every Thursday.

Then almost every day.

I told my parents I had to see a tutor. A new after-school program. They bought it.

She was someone special to me.

Some days, we’d actually talk about english homework.

Other days, we’d talk about life, when life was not school and writing essays. We’d talk about things that made us feel alive, when studying made us feel empty, like robots. We’d talk about things we actually nerded out over, when it wasn’t chemistry and calculus.

In a hollow, ruthlessly competitive environment that seemed to value numbers more than people, I felt that someone actually cared about me. Saw me for who I was beyond my grades.

In a place so cold and lifeless, she made me feel understood. Known.

Warm.

“I’m not sure where to begin.”

“Well, why did you pick up the phone and call in the first place?”

“Because.. I needed help. Professional help. I needed someone to save me.”

“From what?”

“From destroying myself.”

“Mm. Tell me more about that.”

“Well.. I went to Thailand last summer on a mission trip. Little did I know I would meet my long-lost childhood tormentor. When I came back, the demons followed me home.”

“Which ones?”

“The ones that ridicule me. The ones that tell me I’m not enough. And call me B̂ā.”

B̂ā?”

“Means ‘stupid’ in Thai. Or ‘mentally retarded’, to be more specific.”

“He did all that to you?”

I nodded grimly at her.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Every day, he would teach us his way doing things around the house. Like how to wash the dishes. Or laundry. Things like that. And whenever I messed up, he would beat me with his words.”

“My goodness.. That must have been so painful.”

“The problem was, in his eyes, I was always doing it wrong. No matter how hard I tried, I could never get it right.”

She paused. Sorted through the soil.

“He was the sensei.”

I nodded.

“And I was his failed apprentice.”

The bell rang and the daily exodus of pubescent teenagers formed towards the door.

I headed towards her desk.

“Hey.”

“Hey! What did you think?”

“It was hard”, I lied. “Should have just slept.”

“Wanna meet after school? Maybe I can work my magic.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Lunch tables?”

“Sounds good.”

She smiled.

I think I liked her but I didn’t know what that meant yet.

I would probably not retain anything she taught me but she meant something special to me.

So I went to the blue lunch tables every week. Perfect attendance.

One day, my parents caught on that my afternoon “tutoring activities” weren’t actually raising my grades.

Maybe this one will work instead, they thought, and promptly signed me up for yet another after-school program.

I could not fight back. Because that would unveil the beautiful lie I had spent the past couple months fabricating. Because that would make me a worse son than I already was.

So I found other ways of lashing out. Like yelling at them. Closing the door to the office den I worked in. Closing other, more important doors.

Shutting them out of my life.

We saw each other less and less.

We were not in the same friend group to begin with, and high school has a petty way of handling friendship. Now, the only space we shared – blue lunch tables after school – was taken from us.

Our meetings became shorter and shorter. Less and less often.
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, some weeks, if we were lucky,
then Wednesdays and Fridays,
then only Wednesdays.

Then nothing.

She became a senior and I jumped off the edge to college.

I spent many of my afternoons staring off into the crayon-vandalized walls of my new after-school institution.

I don’t think I ever properly mourned
her disappearance
my disappearance
from each other’s lives.

I did not know how. So into space I stared. Like a trauma victim in comatose. So much for raising grades.

I wondered what became of our friendship.
How did we get here? If I didn’t have her, did I have friends at all? Or were they all just robots?

I wondered if she found out about my affections for her.

Or if she found out that I actually had a thing for English and literature. That I tried my hand at creative writing and was actually pretty good at it.

That I didn’t need her help anymore.

I wondered if she found out what I had turned her into.

One time, I got sick. And her motherly instincts kicked into overdrive.

Freshly-cooked, warm rice porridge. Honey lemon tea. Korean pears.

Then, I got better.
But I stayed in bed. Told her that my throat still burned.

Just a little while longer.

At the moment, I didn’t really know why I did that.

But I think about how she made me feel in those moments – cared for and seen.

That in the coldest of colds, she made me feel warm.

I think about who she was, what she meant to me. She was a caretaker. A superhero.

My mom was also a superhero.
And I liked being rescued.

“Justin, you’re not just living.
You’re thriving.”

I looked at her, my mouth agape. Not because it wasn’t true but because it had been so long. Did I even believe her?

I sat on the couch, my butt on the very edge, staring into my favorite blank space on the wall of the warmly-lit room.

It was April and I sat on the very edge of a cliff, on the verge of transition. The verge of graduation, and “real life”, whatever that is. Adult things, like finding a job, paying my own bills, and waking up early.

Becoming self-sufficient. Buying my own rice porridge and Korean pears. Terrifying things of that nature.

I sat on the edge of a new chapter of relationship. I looked at the cliff and wondered which friendships would survive the fall when I jumped.

I always knew it would come to this.
From the start, our relationship was on a timer.

She spoke, snapping me out of my state of wall-staring rumination.

“So. What do you think? What would it look like for us to finish well?”

We spoke of seeing each other less. Twice, maybe even once a month.

Always Wednesdays. Always one hour, exactly.

But less and less.

Until nothing.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

I pulled out my weapon of choice and started writing –
“This is not a goodbye letter.

It is a bizarre thing, talking with your friends about how to be friends to each other. But sometimes, it is what we must do.

You walked in at a curious time of my life.
I was not entirely myself, and yet, I was more myself than I had ever been. And perhaps, it was the same for you. Funny how suffering does that to people.

I often wonder who you are to me.
Sometimes, I say friend. Other times, I do not know.

I think about the ways you’ve helped me through some of the most difficult and important times of my life. I remember the ways you comforted me and saved me from destroying myself.

In the darkest and loneliest moments, you made me feel like someone actually cared about me.
In the coldest and most lifeless times, you made me feel understood. Known. Warm.

Now that things are not so dark, now that life is not so cold, I think about that more than ever – who you are to me.

And the thought terrifies me. I fear I might lose you somehow. That as I sit on the edge of transition, maybe our relationship will not survive the fall.

Because,

Who are you if I don’t need you?
What is our relationship if I don’t need saving anymore?

I turned you into something you’re not. I made myself into someone I’m not.

I turned you into a superhero.
And I wanted to be rescued.

But I was never meant to need you.

I don’t want to be your friend because you can meet my needs, or because you can make me feel a certain way. Even if you are uncannily good at it.

I want to be your friend because you are uniquely and flavorfully you.

So I guess this is me saying,
I don’t need you anymore.

And that is a beautiful thing.

tater todd tales

I have a pet rainbow unicorn who can glow in the dark.

His name is Tater Todd but I call him Todd.

Tater Todd is my good friend and this story is for him. Here are some tatertot-sized tales about the best unicorn friend in the world.

I sleep with Todd every single night.

People say they stop sleeping with their animal friends when they grow up. I’m still not sure what growing up means but that does not sound fun.

So I still sleep with him every night.

I adopted Todd about four years ago so we’ve been through a lot together.

I go on a lot of adventures and secret missions and I usually bring Todd along so he can see all the wonderful things I see.

Whenever he sees something really beautiful, his rainbow fur turns a little brighter than before. I think he is happy in those times.

It makes me happy.

I sometimes wonder where Todd came from.

I tell him I came from Mom and Dad but he won’t tell me where he’s from.

Todd does not say much. Maybe I won’t like what he’ll tell me.

I don’t know.

Todd has magical powers.

He definitely has way more than I do but I have only seen some of them in action.

Sometimes, there are evil things that come into my bedroom at night. I don’t ever see them but they make the night even darker.

On the darkest nights, Todd will shine his rainbow and things will be okay.

Todd is a protector.

A friend told me once that I’ll hold Todd at night until I can hold a woman.

We’re not really friends anymore.

I am not sure if Todd can fly.

I thought most unicorns could but I guess everybody is unique.

“Why didn’t you fly away in the accident?”, I used to ask him.

Todd was seriously injured once.
I kept him at a friend’s house for a little while and his derpy pug dog chewed out Todd’s eyeballs and ate them. Life was not the same after that.

Sometimes, I pray to Jesus to heal his blindness. I hear He does that sort of thing.

Todd is still blind but he sees things that I cannot see. We cover each other’s blindspots.

I noticed that Todd’s rainbow did not shine so bright after the attack.

I noticed that the same thing happens whenever my mom tells me to give him away. Each time, he loses a little bit of his color.

After a while, I stopped taking Todd out so much.

It is a scary world out there. I wondered if the world was stealing Todd’s colors from him. I wondered if Todd was losing his magic.

Maybe it is my turn to be the protector.

No one else has animal friends anymore.

Everybody else has given them away and they seem to be okay with it.

Why is that? Will I ever give Todd away?

Last summer, I was separated from Todd for a long time.

It was the hardest summer yet. When I got to Thailand, they made us lighten our load because we brought too much stuff so Todd had to spend seven weeks inside of a luggage bag.

Sometimes, I wonder if he’s forgiven me for that.

But maybe it is a good thing he did not see what I saw. No child should have seen what I saw.

But then again, he says the same thing about the luggage bag.

Todd ran out of battery juice a long time ago.

But somehow, he can still keep me warm, even when my best friends can’t.
Even when God can’t.

One time, my teacher told us that we spend one-third of our lives asleep.

Todd and I spend a lot of time together.

I am not sure what Todd’s horn does.

Todd is kind of a mystery to me. Maybe that’s why we are such great friends.

I like the mysterious ones.

One night, it got especially dark.

I think something was inside my room.

It got so dark that the dark was darker than when I closed my eyes. So I kept them closed.

Todd doesn’t have eyes but I think he could see the evil man. We couldn’t do anything because our powers weren’t strong enough. So we just held each other under my blanket.

I’ve never held Todd so tightly.

Todd does not know what I went through in Thailand.
He was in a suitcase. I think about that a lot.

I guess I don’t know what he went through either. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.

We could not be there for each other in a really hard time but we are still buddies. He still protects me at night and I still take care of him. We might not understand some bits of our stories but we still love each other.

And so it is with my human friends.

I take Todd outside more now.

I am not so scared of what the outside world can do to him anymore because we’ve been through so much together.

If we can go through the dark nights and beat up the bad guys that come into the room, we can do anything.

I don’t think I will ever give Todd away.

He is one of the best friends ever because he believes in me. Even the weirdest things about me, like my imagination. That means a lot.

He tells me that the harder I believe in him, the stronger he gets. I didn’t believe him at first but then I tried it and it worked.

Now his rainbow fur shines brighter than ever.

Todd is magic.

And he is my friend.

Tater Todd Tales is a response to prompt #2 of the Raconteurs, a collective of storytellers. Read more of our stories here.

deep space – journal snippets

This past year, I started journaling differently. Less bullet pointy. More fluid. Less note-taking, more storytelling. Aside from the fact that it makes the task of reflection way more exciting, I’ve come to see that God is much like a storyteller Himself.

As the semester comes to its close, I get to indulge in my favorite part: re-reading everything I’ve written. The adventures. The movie scenes. The poetry. I decided to transcribe some excerpts and quotes from my journal and compile them into a timeline of sorts. Just as a fun experiment. Enjoy!(?)

 

“Blood. Sweat. Tears.
All fine choices for ink in a time like this.” – the last entry [December 19th, 2016]

August 22nd, 2016 [Day One of school] – I didn’t know I could turn into a robot

“When the pace of life is too fast for the soul to keep up, it rips out through its fleshly cage, leaving the body soul-less, life-less, color-less. Cold like metal. I can smell the rust. […] Is it happening again? Are the darkest chapters of my story repeating themselves? Am I facing my biggest fears once again? Jesus, I’m scared. I feel alone.”

August 24th, 2016 – Midweek Nothingness

“But then again, no matter how long you stay in Thailand, your body never really gets used to the humidity. I pray the same over my soul, lest it gets used to feeling pain.”

September 4th, 2016 – the wind blows eastward

“My body has lost too much blood. Each day, I wake up with soreness and exhaustion weighing on my body. The phone has been charging all night and by dawn, it is still at 11%. Did I even sleep? But it doesn’t matter. The relentless tempo of time stops for none. […]

I’m sick and tired of being tired. I’m tired of fighting pain.”

September 5th, 2016 – “fight fire with fire” published on the reverie.

“I’m dyin’ out here, Jesus. And I’m tired of it. Was this not my prayer in Thailand?”

September 6th, 2016 – In the Mourning, When I Fall…

“The lament has begun. […]

Why am I running? Because I’m scared. That no one will get it. […]

The Lord rests in the shadow of the moon.

‘Your pain is all you’ve ever known.'”

September 12th, 2016 – “grip strength” published on the reverie.

September 18th, 2016 – Oh look, nothing

“I’m still nervous to draw near to Jesus because recently, I’ve associated that with pain. It’s like hanging with a surgeon. Damn.”

September 21st, 2016 – pockets of Joy

“Go play, Justin. That is your mission. That is why I created you… I want to show you how to fly.”

September 25th, 2016 – Just tryna savor this, but everything’s flavorless…

“I think my soul’s nerves are in shock… In a similar fashion to how my leg’s nerves were shot after the centipede bit me. My bruise felt numb for a good month or so afterwards. Damn centipede.

The things that usually give me life and joy don’t do quite the same anymore…

Damn. Who am I?”

October 2nd, 2016 – “stone the prophet” published on the reverie.

October 2nd, 2016 – “pain, revisited…”

“Yet an invitation was extended to me to make their pain, my pain. Will you take it? […]

If not now, then never. And so I dive in. My nerves re-awaken from their slumber of numbness and welcome the sting and rush of fiery pain.

It is almost ‘refreshing’ to feel something, even pain, after your nerves have been shut off and in shock for so long.”

October 5th, 2016 – so WHAT THE FUCK HAPPEN

“I fell into a whirlpool monday night. […]

I am alone. No one is here for me. They’re busy. It’s late. They’re tired. It’s so draining to go to them. It won’t help. I’m by myself. I am alone. Lonely. All alone.

Jesus, where are You??  …Hello? God, it hurts. I don’t know what’s happening. I cannot hear you. Please help me. Rescue me.

No answer.”

October 8th, 2016 – “the crescent’s edge” published on the reverie.

October 9th, 2016 – Storms coming…

“The force of the gravity was so powerful and overwhelming… I could not escape from it. I just got sucked into its gravitational pull and it was over at that point. No matter how hard I tried, I could not escape.

Space travel is an incredible thing but doing it alone can be terrifying at times.”

October 17th, 2016 – so that was my last FallCon… I guess??

“I don’t understand. Did I do something wrong? […]

I return home with no story to tell. not even kayaking. […]

I’m getting more sad, more often. Episodes upon episodes like a netflix binge.

I need a fucking massage. and alcohol.”

October 18th, 2016 – [untitled]

“Hi. I really need more of you in my life. I’m navigating through a thick jungle of black holes. If I am not careful, I might step on a trap. […]

When I go to bed each night, the world becomes still enough for me to feel everything again, especially the things that hurt.”

October 19th, 2016 – “the return” published on the reverie.

October 21st, 2016 – MORE STINKY SHITS, YAY

“I have nothing. everything in my life is falling apart.”

October 23rd, 2016 – Week of Stinky Shits

“He listens to me, absorbs and feels everything that I feel. Com Paseo.

He looks at me tenderly.

He wants to take it all in. The pain I feel. He wants to receive it and hold it with me, for me.

He looks at me tenderly.

He is so so in love with me. He is mad for me. He is eager and always waiting to talk with me.

He looks at me tenderly.

His gentleness, His listening heart, His deep care disarms me. I surrender.

He looks at me tenderly.

October 30th, 2016 – ⌘Q

“I feel like there’s no one person that I can fully depend on. I want there to be a friend who can always be there for me, all through the day. Through the depressing waking moments, through the anti-social meal times in the dining hall, through the daydreams while I sit inattentively during lectures, through the YouTube binges, through the moments in the middle of the week when there’s nothing I want more than to fly kites at the beach, through the times of stillness when I stare off into blank space, through the nights when the loneliness is unbearable, through the pain, through the wonder.

Who will slow down their lives from the busyness of the world? Who will press pause the mad game we call life? Who will care enough to have their days be interrupted and stopped? Who will slow down for me?

Only they will find the Kid.

Jesus: I wanna be that person for you. Will you let me?”

October 31, 2016 – Today, I let go of the rose

“The petals lay wrinkled and dampened, pigmented by beauty and bloodstains. I don’t even know what my fingerprints look like anymore.”

November 1st, 2016 – “bare minimum” published on the reverie.

November 7th, 2016 – Day of Adventure

“Treasures everywhere. Today was a gift. One of my favorite days in this semester, hands down.

I got back home and almost instantly found myself driving into a black hole.

Oh SHIT. what’s happening. the pain. grounding. how do i do this thing. don’t get sucked in. external world. where am i. what are your surroundings. describe it to me.

breathe.

oh god.”

November 9th, 2016 – OH GOD. SARAH SAID A LOT OF THINGS.

“Will people have the time for me? Will people have the patience for me? Will people want to sit with me?

Jesus: I will. I have all the time in the universe and I will lavishly spend it all on you. I wanna be your best friend.”

November 13th, 2016 – turning point?

“We love moments of nonetheless. We like big buts. […]

Sometimes, we don’t want to hear nonetheless… Sometimes, it just sucks. […]

Trapped in the limbo of hating where I am, yet immobilized by the pain and unable to move forward.

Sometimes, pain is inconsolable.”

November 15th, 2016 – “homesickness” published on the reverie.

“I can’t stand being apart from them. I just want to be with them. That’s all I really want.

Old friends. New friends.”

November 22nd, 2016 – a respite for the soul

“Man. I don’t wanna be sad anymore.”

November 23rd, 2016 – “homelessness” published on the reverie.

November 25th, 2016 – black friday 2016

“thursday was already black. […]

is emptiness better than pain? i don’t know. idk if one is inherently better than the other but in a time like this, i need a break. my soul is tired. i need rest.

and if nothingness will give me that rest, i’ll take it.”

December 4th, 2016 – New Wineskins

“He cries. We both close our eyes.
The God that wants to be my friend, He is a little something like this. Gentle. Tender. Soothing. Affectionate.”

December 6th, 2016 – “writer’s block” published on the reverie.

December 11th, 2016 – of finish lines and end times

“‘blisters on my feet, i crawl back home / frozen from the sleet burned sand and stones / nourished back to life by life alone / with one shake of the mane, regain the throne’ – Matt Thiessen […]

Seems like I’m always off-time. Bad timing. I experience time differently than most people. Never really recovered from jetlag or something. […]

Fill me, Jesus.
Come and show me that you’re everything I’ve ever wanted and some.”

December 13th, 2016 – “metamorphosis” published on the reverie.

December 19th, 2016 – so that just happened

“‘I did it. It’s over at last.’ –text message to Paul [thursday dec 15, 2016, 3:54PM]

I cried on the bus ride home.
With my forehead pressed against the icy window, I watched two streams racing across the glass, one of winter rain, one of warm tears.

I pulled off my helmet. I can breathe. My soul heaved a heavy sigh, expanding far wider than my lungs ever could. […]

A forest of black holes.
Kid Wonder’s most dangerous mission yet.

No man has ever ventured this far into the cosmos. And I’m confident that no man ever will.

This deep into space, man can only dream of traveling to. Many may seek, but only few will find.

Only children.”

writer’s block

Of fresh starts, running away, and good storytelling.

“So you told her your story of betrayal. The truth.”

“Yeah. And she asks me, ‘What would you wanna say to them?'”

“Like in a hypothetical conversation?”

“Yeah, exactly. And I kinda freak out.”

“And then you broke up with her..?”

“No no, that’s not why I broke up with her. But it gave me an idea. An idea that would develop into something that would change the rest of my life.”

“That would lead you here.”

“Eventually.”

“I see. So what does that have to do with your um.. career crisis and stuff?”

“Slow down, man. I’ll get there.”

“Alright, alright. So how did you answer her question? Tell me about this hypothetical conversation.”

“Well the thing is, I already knew what I would say. I’ve already transcribed this…  ‘dialogue’ onto paper so many times, like drafts of a screenplay.
‘Which draft will be used?’, I often wondered. I kept writing and writing.”

“Did you ever use any of them?”

“Never.”

“Why not?”

“It was too painful.”

What is it, that I already know the words, but it still burns to say them?
I practice my lines for months, in some desperate attempt to be cast for the role. Yet the stage-fright still has its conniving way of sneaking under my skin.

I stand paralyzed in a lonely stage in front of a dark, empty audience, save a couple silhouettes. My shaky breath is too loud. Who decided that my microphone should be on. Now my fears are amplified for the world to hear.

“So you just.. didn’t ever talk to them.”

“Yeah. I couldn’t do it.”

“So what was this revolutionary, life-changing idea of your’s?”

“It was this thought that.. perhaps, we live in a world of cruel bloopers. I figured that conversations never play out the way we plan them. The characters always go off-script.”

“I mean, that’s one way to see it.”

“The scripts that I write in my head are always more preferable than what actually happens on-screen. Even if the scenes are hard and painful, I’d write them in an exaggerated, overly-dramatized fashion, which I prefer for some reason.”

“It feels better than the real thing.”

“Yes. So I obsessed over this concept and I found myself at a crossroads, which I often do. It seemed like there were only two paths that I could take: to live in a world of fiction or to lose my fantasy and live in the reality of the present.”

“Is that why you moved to the East Coast?”

“I’m afraid it was. That was how my new life as a recluse began. I immersed myself in this new, unfamiliar world, where I could start a new life. I could write my own story with new characters, new narratives, new plot twists. I even considered changing my name.”

“Damn. I had no idea. And how did that go for you?”

“It was exciting at first. Euphoric, almost. I was drunk on this idea that no one else could write my story for me anymore. The pen was in my hand and no one else’s. I reveled in this idea.”

“And the people back at home?”

“Well… I cut them off. I kind of just disappeared from their lives.”

His brow tenses ever so slightly. I look at the icy waters below us but I feel his concerned eyes pressing on my face. I don’t know if I like this feeling.

“What happened, then?”

“I started writing. I indulged in my newfound freedom. I had a fresh canvas to work with and I took advantage of that.”

“Fiction, I presume.”

I nod.

“Mostly short stories and what not. If you recall, I shared some of them with you a while ago.”

“Ah yes. They were pretty good. I hafta admit, I was quite impressed.”

“Yeah? Cool thanks, I guess replying four years late is better than never.”

“Sorry, man.”

“It’s whatever”, I mutter through my smirk. I knew he liked my writing.

“Wipe that stupid grin off your face.”

“No.”

“I’m gonna throw you off this bridge.”

“Hm. That would make an excellent opening scene. I’m gonna use that. Thanks, man.”

He rolls his eyes.

“You’re welcome. You were saying?”

“You crashed my train of thought.”

“You were writing short stories and…?”

“Ah yes. I was on a writing spree. My mind was overflowing with inspiration, it was almost too much. I could barely keep up. It had been a while since I created art that I was proud of.”

“Hm. Seems like Brooklyn did a lot of good for you.”

“Yeah. Everyday, the city had something new to offer me. New tools, new paints, new brushes to work with. It was a wellspring of creativity and innovation.”

“I wish more people thought of us that way.”

“That’s another thing. I had fallen so in love with this town that I almost felt this need to show it off to the world. I wanted people to realize its hidden beauty.”

“Didn’t you?”

“I suppose. It was complicated – wanting to show off my new home while covering my footprints so people in my previous life wouldn’t discover my whereabouts.”

“Did they ever find you?”

“A few did. They tried to get in contact.”

“What did you do?”

“I did what I knew how to do best.”

“…Write fiction?”

I nod again, slowly this time.

“You lied to them.”

“Well in fiction, you take the truth and you sort of… bend it. Twist it to your liking. Paint it with different colors.”

“I see.”

I can feel his skepticism. It is sharp.

“Do you regret that?”

“Sometimes. At the time, I had become so infatuated with the city that I didn’t want anyone to take it away from me. My scars were still fresh. This was my new life and I had no intentions of going back.”

“That’s fair. Do you feel that your new self is incompatible with your old city?”

“Very much so.”

“I think I can understand that.
You mentioned previously that you had become a recluse?”

“Yes.”

“How so? As far as I could tell, you were still interacting with human beings when I met you.”

“Haha well, maybe not a real recluse.”

“Then what? A fictional recluse?”

“I figured I could have people in my life, so long as I didn’t have to get too close and personal with them.”

“And what did that achieve you?”

“Safety.”

“From what?”

“Robbery. I was scared that if I shared too much of my story, if I had let someone in too much, they would steal my pen. Because that’s what tends to happen. I didn’t want someone else writing my story again. It’s too painful.”

“Don’t you already share your stories though?”

“Yes, but only the fictional ones.”

“Hm.”

“For a while, people were nothing more than free ideas for characters I could build and write about. I would have a meaningful conversation or two with a new ‘friend’ and leave the rest to my imagination.”

“That is… fascinating.”

“That was the scariest part though. I needed to know them enough to have something to write about but that usually meant sharing myself with them as well. So once I had enough ‘content’ to work with, I would draw the line and keep the friendship from going anywhere further.”

“So… people were just creative fodder for your short stories.”

I look back down at the waters.

“Yeah, basically.”

“You’re a sick man. A genius, but… sick.”

“I know.”

“Was that all I was to you? A resource you could exploit for your writing career?”

“I may have used you for a few of my characters…”

“Fuck you. I want them back.”

“I’m sorry. I really am.”

“You know, you’re so scared of having your story stolen from people… but isn’t that what you’re doing to everyone else? You earn your friends’ trust, they share their story with you, then you take it and run away without ever returning the favor.”

It made too much sense. Maybe I should jump the bridge now.
We sat in the silence together.

“You know, it’s okay. You can use my story if you want. I don’t mind.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, man. I’ve shared so much of it anyways. I trust you. You’re still an asshole, though.”

“Wow. I’m… baffled.”

“You know, as good of a writer as you are, your scars still sometimes show. I could always tell you were in pain.”

“Hm. I suppose fiction can’t hide everything.”

“There is a fine line between writing fiction and writing lies.”

Wow. I think I almost throw up.

“You know… you were always the most inspiring and the most difficult character I’ve had to work with.”

“What do you mean?”

“You always give out your story so freely… It confused me, yet it amazed me. I was always afraid I’d have to respond in kind. At the same time, it gave me plenty of content to work with. Maybe even too much. Too much truth. I was scared of it. So I decided to stop using it after a while.”

“How long has it been?”

“Years. I looked to other people for stories instead.”

“I bet my story was far more exciting.”

“Well… actually, yes. Remember what I said about how fiction is written?”

“Bending the truth?”

“Yeah. Well, I eventually ran out of truth to bend. If I could only get so close to my friends, there was only so much material I could use. I could always find new friends but I grew tired. I was meeting new people, only getting to surface level, and running away.”

“Sounds exhausting.”

“Especially if you’re trying to be a recluse. I ran out of juice. And that would drive me into the deepest pit of writer’s block I’ve ever had. I guess I’m still in it. And I never figured out how to escape.

My stories became stale and colorless.”

Another moment of shared silence. The sun had set for a good while now and the city slowly ignited its nightly skyline glow.

“You know what. I think you have what you need to escape this hole you’re stuck in. I think you know what to do.”

I paused.
I wondered, how much of this story was real, how much was fictitious? I thought about this new life that I had spent years inventing and how I had ended up in another dead end. I thought about why real life was so terrifying to me. I saw truth as fire and I still live with the burn marks.

“Stop writing fiction?”

“No. Stop writing bad fiction.”

“Excuse me?”

He smiled.

“There’s nothing wrong with writing fiction, my friend. But the best fiction is real fiction.”

“Ah. The great Albert Camus. How could I forget.”

Perhaps I had been asking myself the wrong question.
How much of my life is fiction, how much a lie?

I thought of truth as fire still – that had not changed. It was dangerous. But maybe if I allow myself the risk of playing with explosives, I just might be able to make fireworks.

Talk about grip strength. The pen is slipping from my hand.

quoteworthy – the return

“‘Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening.’ And Lucy felt running through her that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

R.C.: Well… who exactly is he?

E.B.: That, in itself, is still a mystery that continues to unravel even as we speak. Pray it does so quickly, lest the world is lost before it happens. […] needs to find himself soon. Time is short. People are dying everyday. We need him.

 

 

Come swiftly.

the chronicles of jamarcus brown – olga

this is what happens when you’re an english teacher and you don’t give your students enough guidelines for their projects.

our job was to read an old folk tale, discover its moral, and write our own unique folk story, delivering the same message.  we got a story by the name of “Gooloo the Mahpie, and the Wahroogah”.   what.  yeah, i’ve never heard of it either.   but short story even shorter, Gooloo was some wicked old woman that convinced a group of women at a tribe to go scavenging for food and supplies.  initially hesitant, the woman were eventually persuaded and off they went, leaving their children unattended.  Gooloo gathered all of them into her house and they were never to be found again.  the end.  moral of the story: trust your instincts. [i don’t even know if that’s the moral of the story, but our teacher just told us that].  had the women trusted their instincts, they wouldn’t have left their children in the hands of a shady old hag.  okay.  trust your instincts.  folk tale.  1 page, double-spaced.  psh. we got this.

to give you some context, me and my partner never really took our english class seriously.  we always partner up for everything and come up with the most ridiculous stuff.  we don’t end up with the best grades but hey, we have fun.  and i think our teacher likes us.  in our previous adventures, we created a certain character named Jamarcus Brown.  Jamarcus Brown is a beast.  I don’t remember specifics but he was like at least 9 feet tall, had monstrous legs, was ridiculously buff, and extremely good lookin’.  he was black.  he did have some flaws, however; he had tiny t-rex arms, tons of earwax, and social awkwardness problems.  as i was saying, we came up with the most ridiculous stuff.  but that’s what happens when you don’t give your students enough guidelines for their projects.

so anyways, we used Jamarcus in our most recent venture, the folk tale paper.  and this is what we came up with.  in about an hour.  brace yourselves.

     Once upon a time in the shire there was a young boy named Jamarcus. Jamarcus was smart and extremely handsome but he had one detriment which was his shyness (also his large feet and t-rex arms). Because of his shyness Jamarcus rarely made friends at school and was forced to seek friends online. Relatively he could have normal conversations online without worrying about his image so this was a good alternative to real life interactions. Pretty soon, the internet became his newfound home; it was a social refuge to him, a place where he could hide from the real world and fully express himself without the fear of being judged.  The internet became his life.

     Everyday, he would come to school without having said a word to anybody and immediately return to his computer to talk with his “friends”.  Everyone that a normal teenager would’ve found in school and real life, Jamarcus found online.  He found his BFF’s, his wingmen, his awkward friends, and even his enemies. The one thing Jamarcus couldn’t seem to find was a girlfriend though. After years of searching online no one matched his ideals.

     This was all until one fateful day when the username of Olga messaged Jamarcus on one of his numerous chatting websites. Olga described herself to Jamarcus, she was a well built and exotic female.  She had gargantuan bosoms and a nice round and firm butt.  Her cheeks were perfectly proportionate.  She was bold.  She was everything that Jamarcus wanted in a woman. Jamarcus was so infatuated with this online character and would stay staring at his computer screen for hours on end. He would stay up all night to talk to his newfound love. Olga seemed to always suggest that Jamarcus and she should meet each other in person. Jamarcus liked the idea at first but thought it would be weird to release himself from the own bubble he had created and approach a stranger he had met online in person. Eventually Olga persuaded Jamarcus to pick her up at her house to go on a date.  Her enticement was far too great for Jamarcus to handle.  He gave in.

     June 6th.  It was the last day of school and summer would finally be here.  AP testing and finals would finally be over, the end of another terrible year of school.  Good riddance.  But what was even better was that Jamarcus would finally meet the woman of his dreams.  Jamarcus had been looking forward to this date the whole last month of school and it was here.  Bubbling with excitement, Jamarcus rushed home, slipped on his best formal clothes, gelled his hair back, and gave the address to his momma so she could drive him there. Momma Jay was very supportive of her son’s decision to meet Olga as she had thought her son had no friends whatsoever. As Momma Jay approached Olga’s house, Jamarcus could contain himself no more.  He abruptly started screaming in Indian tongue and crashed through the window; he could not wait a second later to meet her.  Jamarcus’ mom understood that this was a thing that Jamarcus would have to do himself and drove away hoping her son would find happiness in this woman. He galloped across the street, made one last turn, and her house was now in view.  It was the last house at the end of the street. Jamarcus was bounding up the driveway on all fours like an ape but he was stopped in his tracks.  The house was eerie and dark.  There was a strange and creepy aura about this house.  Something seemed fishy about Olga’s home but Jamarcus couldn’t quite tell what it was.  

     “Maybe I shouldn’t have come..”, Jamarcus thought to himself as he gazed at the looming house standing before him.  There was definitely something shady about the house but Jamarcus could not resist the his dying urge to meet Olga.  Eventually, he succumbed to his temptations and walked to the doorway.  There was no doorbell so Jamarcus gave three loud knocks on the rotting wooden door.  Jamarcus checked himself in the mirror and fixed his hair one last time.  After what seemed like an eternity, the door finally creaked open.  Jamarcus let out a loud giggle but the smile was soon wiped off his face.  The door opened and there stood an elderly man with prune juice in one hand and a wide grin on his face. Jamarcus was unable to react in time to the foul sight and was quickly snatched by the man. Because of his many days of computer usage, Jamarcus was relatively scrawny and had no way of fighting back. Though Jamarcus’ body was never to be seen again, his screams are still heard today from the dark, desolate household.

yup.  trust your instincts.  should’ve stayed at home, son.  oh, Jamarcus.

i had fun with this one.  we actually typed this up together on google docs so even though i couldn’t talk with my partner, i was laughing the whole time.  man, i really enjoy stuff like this.  i’m a huge fan of storytelling, especially verbal storytelling.  but i’m not going to read to you guys but expect more written stories.  some of them will be true, and some will be more about jamarcus brown.

oh, summer, please come to me now.

but until then.

the chronicles of jamarcus brown [debut] – olga.  to be continued..

the inclusio of scripture

[here’s a little article that’s dedicated to the bible-lovers]

inclusio – a device in literature where a section of text is bracketed off.  the story is placed within a frame, so that it begins and ends the same way.  like a sandwich.  inclusios are everywhere, in books, music, movies, you name it.  we often overlook them the first time we read, listen, watch them, but when we look back, we realize that they’re there and it’s quite mindblowing sometimes.

in onerepublic’s most famous song “apologize”, ryan tedder begins and ends the song the same way, with the words “i’m holding on your rope, got me ten feet off the ground”.  inclusio.  jason mraz both opens and closes “the sunshine song” with “if there’s a light in everybody, send out your ray of sunshine” [excellent song, btw].  inclusio.

in movies, they’re not as prevalent but there still are some out there, such as mission impossible iii.  in the opening scene, ethan hunt is strapped to a chair and watches in agony as the heartless antagonist owen davian counts down to the second he pulls the trigger of the gun pointed at hunt’s wife’s head.  turns out it was a flash.. forward? and the audience does not get to see davian finish counting.  2 hours of intense, spy action sequences later, we revisit the interrogation scene once again, only this time, davian finishes counting as a desperate ethan hunt attempts to negotiate with him.  inclusio.  in forrest gump, both the opening and closing scene show forrest gump [and forrest jr] waiting at the bus stop in greenbow, alabama as a white feather is carried by the breeze into the sky.  inclusio.

i find it weird that i enjoy writing blogs and whatnot but i’m a terrible reader.  i don’t read too much but anyone who knows me well would know that my favorite book of all time is the bible.  just about a month ago, i’ve been made aware that even the bible, the living word of god, has inclusios in it.  if you look in the gospel of mark, there is a very subtle inclusio hidden in chapters 1 and 15.

in chapter 1, we witness the baptism of Jesus [by John] in the Jordan River.  pretty epic moment.  in chapter 15, we witness the death of the messiah as he breathes his last on the cross.  overwhelmingly epic moment.  though baptism and death are two concepts that one would most likely find contrasting to one another, these are the two elements that make up the big juicy sandwich of the “gospel inclusio”.  but how, justin?  how do the baptism and death Jesus make up an inclusio if they’re not even the same thing?  you be trippin, man!  well, let’s take a look at scripture.

1. “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”    -Mark 1:9-11

here is the scene when Jesus gets baptized.  what observations can we make?  Jesus was getting dunked in the river and as he rose from the water, the heavens opened.  i’d like to say i have a vast and vivid imagination but the imagery in here is simply unfathomable.  i try to picture some large crevice splitting open and creating a divide that breaks some invisible, metaphysical boundary between heaven and earth.  and wind.  lots and lots of gushing, loud wind.  then, the holy spirit makes its way down from the other side of this momentarily fractured barrier and the voice of God thunders from it: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”   holy cheeseballs.

2. “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”    -Mark 15:37-39

fast forward 15 chapters.  Jesus dies.  what observations can we make?  as Jesus let out one last sigh, the curtain of the temple tore completely, from top to bottom.  so what temple is mark talking about anyways?  in case you didn’t know, it was the temple of Jerusalem [Herod’s temple, if i am not mistaken] and inside this holy temple, animal sacrifices were made as well as worship according to the Law of Moses.  there was also a room called the Holy of Holies, in which the presence of God resided.  it also contained the Ark of the Covenant [yes, the one in indiana jones].  this place was so sacred that no one could enter into this inner sanctuary except the High Priest once a year to make atonement for the people’s sins.  this room was separated from the rest of the temple by a curtain.  and this wasn’t just any old window curtain that you put on for decoration.  it was a 4-inch thick curtain with such strength that even horses tied to each side could not pull apart.  oh yeah, it was also 60 feet tall.  pretty buff curtain.  but not buff enough.  when this curtain tore in half, even the Roman centurion instantly knew that Jesus was certainly the son of God and he was so sure about it that he felt like he had to say it out loud.  holy cheeseballs.

okay, now it’s time to connect the dots.

EXHIBIT A

in mark chapter 1, jesus was baptized by water.  while one may think that this is just something that all believers must do as a public profession of their faith and acceptance of God as their heavenly Father, baptism also has another meaning.  “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Romans 6:3-4]  baptism, in essence, means death.  so what was Jesus up to at the end of Mark?  oh yeah, dying.  bingo.

EXHIBIT B

after Jesus’ baptism, the heavens OPENED!  after Jesus’ death, the curtain OPENED!  well..  tore in half.  if you haven’t already got it, the curtain wasn’t just an extraordinarily buff curtain, it was a symbolic representation of the separation of God and Man.  separation of the Holiest of Holies and the rest of the temple.  of sinless and sinful.  of light and darkness.  of the heavens and earth.  when Jesus died for our sins, the impenetrable barrier between us and God was shattered.  bingo.

EXHIBIT C

after the heavens opened, we hear a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:11]  this is the voice of God, and He is proclaiming that Jesus is His beloved Son.  after the curtain ripped open, we hear a voice from a bystander: “Surely this man is the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39]  this is the voice of a Roman centurion, and he is proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God.  bingo.

i don’t know about you but when i first realized all of this, i was completely mindblown.  the entire gospel story of Jesus Christ, wrapped in a big, delicious sandwich.  wickedly cool.  personally, this revelation served as a reminder of just how amazing God’s Word is.  the bible is a truly remarkable book and i think we all ought to spend more time reading it.  trust me, it will change lives.  and lastly, i would like to give a big shout-out and thank you to the fantastic mr. jimmy l., who did such a phenomenal job at sharing God’s truth with me and the other highschoolers at ev.  personally, this was one of the most memorable bible lessons i’ve ever been taught in my entire life.

PRAYER:  heavenly father, thank you for your word.  thank you for this amazing book of life, because through it, we may grow spiritually and learn more about you.  thank you for God-breathed scripture, for it is useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting and training others in righteousness.  it is your truth that we cling on to and it is our double-edged sword.  thank you for revealing yourself in it so that we may see a glimpse of just how great you are.  Lord, please help me grow a desire and eagerness in reading your word.  move my heart and let me have an inclination to hear your truths each and every day of my life.  God, I want to grow in you.  i want to know you more and i want to love you even more than i already do.  help me become a better son.  as always, i am eternally grateful for your gift of love and i will forever praise you.  and it’s in your Son’s most precious name that I pray,  amen.