The Prop House

On the winding gravel roads, gothic iron fences surround a sick old building once full of life.  To the onlooker, the building is a simple church.  To the one that steps inside, the illusion melts away and the theater takes its place.  Renovations in the early 1900s had transformed the place.  Alter to stage, pews to auditorium seats.  The most curious part of its design is that other than the traits necessary to be called a theater, the building is obviously a place of worship.  Saint Michael still acts as a sentinel at the entrance, inviting theater patrons to enjoy the historic architecture.

The audience sees what they see on stage because of what happens behind the scenes.  They never question where the majestic melodies of the opera come from, or how the blank canvas of the backdrop became a stunning landscape of snow.  No, what is seen can’t compare with what exists out of view.

Though the theater is for the public to see, many rooms, unseen to common folk, only reveal themselves to the performer.  Golden stars mark the territory of greatness.  Labels mark the useful rooms.  The unmarked rooms rest undisturbed.

On every wall electric cords snake along like veins connecting every light, keeping the area alive-stage lights, lamps, the lighted makeup mirror-buzzing quietly.  Decrepit tables, chairs, and other miscellaneous pieces of furniture breathe in and out, covering everything with dust and perfume, exposed by the glow of the cheap overhanging fluorescents.  It never settles.  The constant hustle and bustle doesn’t allow it.  In every corner sits something to be touched, used, or dealt with.

The makeup mirror, large and menacing, frames magazine clippings and images, creating the perfect face.  Eyes by Allure, lips by Vogue.  Infinite kisses stamp the its surface.  A palette for colors like Blonde Venus, Russian Doll, and Manhurt.  Stage-face wet.  Lips caked.  Eyelashes fake.  Flawless.  Appearance means everything.  With the right mask an actor can pull off anything-from a simple minimalist to an outrageous extraterrestrial.

Hiding in the rows of racks costumes sleep, untouched for some time.  Wizard robes, shining armor, Victorian gowns, and tailcoats.  Shoved behind the togas lie twin Superman outfits, and everything else under the sun made from cotton, polyester, spandex.  The shoes come in obscene numbers.  Ballet toe shoes, one lace missing.  Lumberjack boots, sturdy and covered with mud.  Glinda’s magic red heels, forgotten in a corner.  There’s no place like home.

Behind the red velvet curtains, just beyond the gargantuan oak doors, stands a graveyard.  The sword Excalibur, still wedged in the stone, sleeps there forever.  Tiny Tim’s crutch leans against the far wall, having seen its last Christmas.  The wolf-man’s head keeps its eternal snarl, even in storage.  The ivy covering Juliet’s balcony has died long ago.  Rocky’s gloves were put down for the last time.  Smells of must and sorrow drift throughout the room and immerse anyone who enters.

The prop-house bears many scars and screams a thousand stories, an enigmatic raconteur of stone.

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“Nightmare”

She’s got a touch no softer than a brick I’d say/

but I don’t complain/

She’s got those red lips paired with red eyes/

every time/

She keeps me company on those boring days/

what can I say/

She keeps a diary full of secret notes and lies/

what a shame/

—chorus—

I can’t sleep/

Not with her next to me/

In my head, in my dreams/

Every time I turn off the lights/

I see a nightmare/

She’s a nightmare/

She’s a nightmare/

My nightmare/

She’s got me feeling like a puppet on strings/

who does those things/

She’s got a way of saying what she means/

a voice that stings/

—chorus—

I have a will and I have a lot to say/

I need a change/

It’s time I started walking on my own/

and rearrange/

So nightmare, good night..mare, you glossy snake/

I’m wide awake/

—chorus variation—

I can’t sleep/

Not with her next to me/

In my head, in my dreams/

Every time I turn off the lights/

I see a nightmare/

She’s a nightmare/

She’s a nightmare/

Good night..mare/

What is Gender?

Recently, I took my final exams for the semester.  Because of exams, I got to leave school earlier than usual.  I went home, ate lunch, and walked back to school for track practice.  I had rehearsal for a play afterward, so I brought along a bag for my shoes, water bottle, script, and other miscellaneous items. It wasn’t a sling bag or backpack, but a special “tote”-type bag some friends brought back for me from their trip to Boston.  Some kids I encountered on the way to school decided to laugh at the bag because it looked really feminine.  That got my gears turning…

Gender isn't an exact science.

I am male.  I was born male, and will always be male.  But what does being male really mean?  The first things that come to my mind are physical traits: longer limbs, broader shoulders, a deeper voice, and all that.  With some further thought I realized that besides physical traits, the only things people use to distinguish between male and female are materialistic.  Makeup is for girls.  Baseball caps are for boys.  Statements like those aren’t only false, they’re judgmental and limiting.  Some girls totally rock the baseball look, and many boys have discovered they like the way they look with a bit of makeup.  Society has drawn a borderline separating the sexes, a line that neither gender is “supposed” to cross.  Why not?  People are judged by society-generated stereotypes and are told how to be a man or how to be a lady.  It’s not natural.  Doctors don’t tell the sex of a baby based on whether it pops out of the womb wearing a skirt or a jockstrap.

I don’t see why it’s bad for someone to express bits of both masculinity and femininity.  I’m am definitely not transgendered; I am perfectly comfortable being male.  I do, however, have a feminine side that I am equally comfortable expressing.  I just cannot wrap my head around why that’s such a problem.  I’ve observed that people are even harder on boys (that might be because I am a boy…what do you think about this, girls?) when it comes to stepping over the gender line.  Boys seem to do it less, so when one does it’s seen as a huge deal.  It really shouldn’t be.  If you ask me, it’s worse when one chooses not to express oneself out of fear than when one does so in a “controversial” way.

In my eyes gender is a physical thing.  I don’t think stupid things like makeup, clothes, mannerisms, and tastes can force the soul into a gender mold.  People may try, but it’s wasted effort.  Expressing yourself in ways more commonly associated with the opposite sex doesn’t make you homosexual, transgendered, or weird, it makes you a multifaceted, true-to-yourself person.  Be yourself.

Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

This is a complicated question, spanning across the areas of philosophy and spirituality.  Do I believe in fate?  No.  I think every person has free will and the right to use it; I feel that fate is for people waiting for something to be handed to them.  I do, however, think that people “belong” in certain places or professions, or at least gravitate towards something naturally.  Some might call that destiny.  I don’t think so.  While people may feel they are destined to do/be something, it may not turn out that way.  Even if it does, a person blazes his or her own trail to get there.  It’s not destiny, it’s giving in to your true wants that you may not even be conscious of.  Deep down, I believe instinct, the id, eventually finds a way of leading us where we need to be.

So what about those trails we’re blazing?  Do the individual events that occur on our journey to our ultimate wants and dreams happen for reasons?  From a spiritual perspective, I say maybe.  I think it’s up to us to find meaning in our day to day experiences and interpret it.  It’s more about learning from mistakes and making the decision to move forward than decoding petty occurrences.

While on the subject of spirituality, I’d like to state that I do believe in some sort of higher power.  Whether you want to call it “God” or not, I believe it’s there.  I also believe that this higher power is innately good.  The question is, does this power completely dominate our lives?  As a believer in free will, I’m going to say no.  I think we’re free to live our lives the way we please, chase our dreams, and do what we want.  I believe this power is present in our lives, but not domineering.

I know from my personal experience that I have had moments that felt so right, that made me feel like I was supposed to be where I was doing what I was doing.  It’s not happiness; it’s bliss.  This feeling, at least for me, starts a chain reaction of appreciation for what I have, who I know, what I can do, etc.

Is it happening for a reason?  Perhaps.  We go through life freely, but occasionally someone might intercede.  Interpret life the way you want.  In the end, whatever makes you the most happy is the right choice.  Things might not happen for specific reasons, but I think people “happen” for reasons.  We are supposed to be here.

Why I Love Allegories

Allegory |ˈaləˌgôrē|
noun ( pl. -ries)
a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.

Out of all the forms of writing I’ve come to appreciate, my absolute favorite is the allegorical novel/novella. I particularly enjoy pessimistic ones, which might possibly be reason for concern, but I guess I’m one of those people that likes to get freaked out. I love it when everything finally “clicks.” I’ll have finished reading an amazing book, and I’ll suddenly realize, “Hey! The author is telling me that people are generally bad and not even society’s conditioning can change it!” or, “Remind me again why I trust politicians?” or even, “I need to reassess my life because I’ve obviously been living in the dark all this time.” Knowing that you figured out the author’s hidden message feels so awesome!
I actually believe that almost every story is an allegory in some way. It may not be obvious or even significant, but somehow it is. As human beings, even our wildest imaginings are inspired by real things or concepts, so it is impossible to write a fictitious work without any trace of real-world inspiration or personal meaning. That’s how I see it, anyway.
I think the main reason allegories appeal to me so much is that many of them act as prophecies or warnings of possible futures. As I once remarked in an English paper, “we are living in the sequel.” The author of the allegory is almost challenging us to do better than his/her characters did, to prove them wrong…
Cool, right?

Perfect 20

During my hiatus I wrote this piece, an account of an outing through the eyes of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder.  I had never written anything like it before; it was both fun and challenging.  Enjoy!

 

Perfect 20

“Carter!”

A collision of forces.  Fire against Water.  Day against Night.

“I think we should go home…you’ve had enough.”

She doesn’t understand!  Her wallet isn’t balanced anymore!

“Let me fix it!”

$7.14 including tax x2 for movie tickets + the cost of popcorn (also for 2) totals to $19.27.  NO.  It has to round to $20!

“Carter, this isn’t how 20-year-olds act!”

Adding a dollar would make it $20.27, which rounds down to $20.

“Let me give you a dollar!”

Maggie touches my shoulder, her face breaking through the swirling numbers.  Her eyes remind me of my name, the one she’s been yelling.  “Carter?”

Deep breaths.

“Carter?”

“Yeah.  Just…touch my other shoulder, too.  Do it.”

“Ca–”

“Could you not put on the therapist act on my birthday?  Please do it.  And take this.” I hand her the dollar.

Her eyes drift away, hands falling back to her sides.  “Please.  Don’t.  I don’t need your money.”

“But I need you to have my money.  Your wallet isn’t balanced.  You spent…”

Instead of taking the dollar from my outstretched hand Maggie goes for the keys dangling from my belt loop.  “I’m taking you home.”

Slapping her hand away, I reply, “You can’t.  Not with something unbalanced in the car.  Mag, you understand my needs.”

“Yeah.  And it’s my job to cater to them.” Unbuckling, she lunges.  I can’t react in time.  She’s got the keys.

“Uh–”

“I thought when you TURNED 20 this nonsense would stop.  Clearly all the time I spent trying to cure you was a waste.”

Not a therapist.  Maggie’s my friend.  She has to let me fix this!

My burning red face melts my cold stare.  The tears start streaming.  Six on the left, three on the right.  Torture!  “You won’t let me?”

“Nope.”

N-O-P-E.  Four letters.  If she wants an argument at least that will be balanced.  “Bitch.” Five letters.  Product of exchange, 20.

The word hits Maggie in the chest, knocking her breath away.  I don’t know what to do.  Comfort her?  Take the balance away?  Should I feel bad?

I pace.  I get out of the car and pace, two steps left, ten steps right.  Four steps left, five steps right.

——————–

The ride to my house stays silent, minus the sounds of breathing patterns returning to normal.  Though physically recovered, the mood isn’t any less tense when Maggie pulls into my driveway.  She must think I’m horrible for calling her a bitch, but we weren’t seeing eye to eye.  Something she sees as petty, such as a one dollar bill, can have astronomical importance to me.  Hurting someone you love stings.

Still, as I open the door Maggie kisses both my cheeks, my forehead, and my chin, and gives me a high-five.  She keeps her hand against mine.

“Maggie, I’m sorry.”

She sighs, shifting her attention to my face.  “It’s okay.  You had to do what you had to do.” She takes her hand away.  “I better start the trek home.  Happy birthday, Carter.”