Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Very Special Lady


So the author of this blog has a Mom, who is totally awesome and classy, and this weekend it's her birthday! She's the one I get the traveling gene from--she went to Africa for a year when she was in college and this picture is us together in Hong Kong. She's been a longtime supporter of this blog and always encourages me to write. Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leaving Again

I'm going to China in two weeks.

I'm trying to let that sink in.

I feel like I just got here.  I'm finally adjusted to being in this environment.  I've barely settled into this routine.  To being back in the time zone as my friends and family.

A part of me wants to ignore the inevitable, wants to pretend in two weeks I won't throw all my stuff back into a duffel bag and take a taxi at some ungodly hour to get on a thirteen (or more) hour flight.

At this point, I'm practically commuting back and forth to Asia.

I know I should feel excited, but that emotion is a bit slow coming.  I think I'm wishing for a little more of the mundane banalities that everyone else seems to complain about.

But les's be honest, being stuck in the same place for very long was never my style.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

She's Back

The writer is in the building.
Worked on the work in progress last night, and that intoxicating feeling of getting back inside my protagonist's head. It was like taking a drive with an old friend.
Can't wait to get back to it.

Friday, July 22, 2011

What do you do when it's 100 degrees outside?

Stay in an air conditioned room and write ficiton.  DUH.


            Taipei, Taiwan: Three years ago

Marjorie’s eyelids popped open to the sound of a blunt object pounding against the front door in a staccato rhythm: boom-boom-boom. Before she could move, Tomasz, the man who a moment ago was warming his hands against the small of her back, shoved his legs into a pair of pants and waddled to the door.

            “Coming!” he shouted in Mandarin.  A woman was shouting in the hallway.  Marjorie recognized who it was (Mrs. Liu from downstairs) and what language it was (Taiwanese), but understood almost none of what was said.  She was grateful that Tomasz was handling whoever it was at the door.  She and Tomasz had an agreement that he would take care of any calls or visitors before nine in the morning.  Marjorie pulled the covers over her head in a vain attempt to muffle the noise.

            In spite of the cloth barrier, Marjorie could hear the exchange between Tomasz and the unwanted parties with perfect clarity.  The men at the door were some kind of officials, though their Mandarin was slurred with a thick regional accent.  Their deep, chesty voices demanded to speak with Tomasz.  They uttered the syllables of his Chinese name—De Tang Mu--with the same peppered tempo to knock on the door.  Tomasz, ever the skilled diplomat, replied in hushed tones like a mother attempting to soothe a distraught child.  Only a trained ear could catch the underscore of repressed irritation.

The men demanded to see Tomasz’s passport.  Apparently they did not believe Tomasz was who he said he was.

In a moment, Tomasz was at the bedroom door again.  Marjorie noticed that in his haste Tomasz had put his T-shirt on backwards, and his coppery hair looked like the spines of an agitated porcupine.  She smiled and opened her mouth to greet him and to make fun of the men at the door with their strange accents, but Tomasz held up his hand like a crossing guard and shook his head as if to say, “Not now.”  He hovered for a moment over the dresser, and then picked up his American passport.  He led Marjorie by the elbow into the bathroom.  Marjorie swallowed her laughter when she saw that Tomasz’s eyes, the color of storm clouds, did not contain a trace of amusement.

            “I’m serious,” he whispered.  “Not a sound.”  He tugged the shower curtain so that it completely concealed her, and left.

            Like most Taiwanese apartments, Marjorie and Tomasz’s bathroom contained no bathtub.  Only a shower curtain and a drain were in the northern corner, placed inconveniently next to a sink and toilet.  The floor tiles felt clammy against the soles of Marjorie’s feet.  The voices at the door were louder, and a knot of worry twisted inside Marjorie’s stomach.  Things weren’t going well.  Tomasz wasn’t going to amble back into their bedroom and bury his hands in Marjorie’s hair, wrapping his fingers around her curls the way she liked.
            She heard the telltale sound of cartilage breaking and Tomasz howled.  She burst from the bathroom and ran through the bedroom, but it was too late.  Marjorie only caught a glimpse of the door slamming behind whoever it was wrestling Tomasz down the stairs, shouting at him in their ludicrous, broken Mandarin.  Mrs. Liu’s shrill yelling added to the din.  Above it all, Tomasz had resorted to his mother tongue of Polish to curse them, their mothers, and their country, in one long, unbroken stream.
            Marjorie pressed her forehead against the door.  Her throat closed tight and hot tears burned beneath her eyelids.   She saw a constellation of blood droplets on the floor and a few smears on the doorknob where Tomasz had struggled.  His cries were growing fainter.  Tomasz and his captors were probably just reaching the street.
            The apartment had no windows with a street view, so Marjorie bolted downstairs, right past the slack-jawed Mrs. Liu, her hair permed into a stiff helmet of silvery wires.  Outside the city air was hot and heavy with moisture, like a panting dog ‘s breath.  A military Jeep was rumbling down the narrow alley and into oncoming traffic.  It made a right turn at the end of the road and ducked out of sight.


Friday, July 8, 2011

The Illusion of "Being Settled"

Taken this morning by a campus photographer
I kept telling myself I would post again when I was settled, that I would write some point.  I've been back in the United States for three weeks, and I've spent two of them working in Connecticut, at my home university.  The company that hired me is running a camp designed for international students who want to get into top colleges.  They sit through hours of SAT classes, TOEFL classes, and sessions with admissions coaches.  With the little free time they have, they're playing ball with the counselors.  I'm a TOEFL instructor.  I enjoy it.  My schedule is flexible, and I have a lot of free time. 

The kids and counselors are off to New York City and won't be back until later tonight.  The halls are deliciously quiet (except for the infant daughter of the IT director, who has recently discovered her own voice). I checked out a book out of the library twenty-four hours ago and I'm already halfway through it.  I have time to read! (Madness, I tell you!)  I can talk to my friends and family on the phone!  Food is everywhere!  I have one roommate now, instead of three.  The bathrooms sparkle from cleanliness.  The Mac computer that my company gave me actually runs properly.  Taiwan seems very far away from me.   Every moment is electric or automated, and my body sighs from relief as I feed it carbs, carbs, and more carbs.  Cheerios are wonderful.

And yet there's a persistent strangeness.  Masking irritation at a comment about Chinese culture I don't agree with.  Acquaintances give me expressions of woeful incomprehension: you were abroad for a whole year?  Friends who are delighted to see me: are you in New York? (No, sadly.)  We've got to catch up! (Yes, as soon as I finish my nap and get through another to-do list).

But these adjustments are mere pebbles in comparison to the mountain shaking off a layer of dust and inching to the forefront of my head: when are you going to start writing again, missy?

There's tonight, and there's Sunday.  But I've got to buckle down and get back to this soon.  My characters are lunging toward me with such a fierce clarity I can't ignore them for much longer.

How is it already July?  It was April just a few months ago, and I was twelve hours ahead surrounded by green mountains and humidity as dense as lead.

How've you all been?