Justin Lo (7291-92).


hyperlinked toc.


Discussion 1.  Exila is a Girl.

Dialogue 1.  Dealing with the Beach.

Discussion 2.  Why People Should Not Abuse Pineapples.

Dialogue 2.  Choosing Between a Pineapple and a Girl.

Dialogue 3.  Why I Will Stay Here.

Discussion 3.  How to Choose the Future, or, Why Pineapples Are Sweet.

Discussion 4.  Upon Vascularizing Wings.

Dialogue 4.  Buying a Burrito.

Discussion 5.  Savoring a Burrito.

Discussion 6.  A Few Days in Hell.

Dialogue 5.  Being Happy, Status Quo (Special Heaven Mix).

Dialogue 6.  How to Use a Cell Phone.

Dialogue 7.  And Call a Loved One.

Dialogue 8. Love Rival!

Discussion 7. Being a Traitor.

Dialogue 9. First Date / Last Date.

Discussion 8. Neverending.

Dialogue 10. A Boxer-Cat.

Dialogue 11. Dealing with Winter Break.

Dialogue 12. Floral Victory!  Exila Is Still a Girl!





Discussion 1.  Exila Is a Girl.  [«]


I regret having to begin this tale with the end – isn’t it just so cliché?  So, here I am, announcing the wondrous denouement of a life that I have overwhelmingly enjoyed, a life full of meaning, work, and dedication.


Look, world!  I am happy!  For sixteen years I have chiseled away at the rock from every direction to find the exact form of the pristine gem inside; I have pleased my teachers, my parents, and myself with my schoolwork, I have nourished my passions for music and for science and for writing and reading, I have cultivated the epitome of the low-key but blisteringly persistent and passionate love with the boy of my dreams.


So, you wonder, why the hell this girl is bothering to write anything at all, since, of course, every good tale needs a plot, a conflict, a problem, a tension for the ages, right?


But, even though I’m starting here at the end, the “happily ever after,” I’m not going to go back and recapitulate how I got here; that would be redundant.  Instead, I’m going to mark this as the beginning of something different, something beyond the storybooks.


I will admit right now I’ve absorbed a fair share of romances, and one thing I’ve always noticed is that the story ends after the couple of interest mutually confesses, goes on a first date, or gets hitched.  But what happens after that?  Is it just not interesting enough to write about – is the dating series a descent into ritual and monotony? – is marriage not as great as the wedding day?  Or, what if … what if life after that perfect moment will never match it again?  What if, after the first date, the couple falls out of love?


People always hope to find closure – the final chords in the symphony, the closing voiceover of a movie, the final speech of a dying soldier.  But life isn’t a symphony.  It has no grandiose chords that tell you that it’s time to go out with a bang.  You gotta keep singing and singing without ever stopping, keep on voicing over without drinking any water, keep on speaking out – keep on doing, keep on going.  And in the end you’re exhausted, you’re exhausted, gasping for breaths, and the whole thing blanks out.


If you stop, you’ll be left behind, you’ll be exiled, you’ll be ever-forgotten.  Like a pop singer without a new hit every year, like a basketball player who breaks his or her leg, like a little girl who stops to smell the roses or kiss her boyfriend one too many times.


Ah, Ryan, what would you say to me now?  Would you tell me to keep on going?  Would you tell me to kiss you again?  Love makes all else seem so worthless, and the loss of love will make that semblance a reality.  How can I make sure that the rest of our lives together cannot be simply summarized as “and they lived happily ever after?”  How can I make sure that the rest of our lives together will not turn into mutual exile?  How can I make sure that I will never lose you?


And you will tell me that I should find some new setting in which to contemplate, for it is my life.  You will not know how my wishes could come true.  You can only answer by saying “I love you,” the only promise you can make.  Promises can be broken, Ryan.  Keep it, keep it, keep it, keep it; keep on going, keep on going, keep on going ….

Dialogue 1.  Dealing with the Beach. [«]


Everyone tells me that the beach is a great place to rejuvenate when home seems too dull.  That’s why I’m here on the coastline, wandering on the McLaughlott sands in a bikini.  I must say that I had never thought of myself wearing such a revealing swimsuit before, but my friend, whose eye for color is impeccable, bought me the blue set, and I couldn’t help but fall victim to how serenely the shades of aquamarine and Copenhagen blue blended together in the mesmerizing patterns of the fabric.


That’s why I feel disappointed when, upon sitting in the water, the blues begin to camouflage and I feel like I’ve been dissected in three.  But I love sitting in the water as much as I love swimming, and the saline air was just right for inhaling from a sitting position.  I notice after a few minutes that I’m in fact sitting on a sand dollar.  It’s an ordinary sand dollar, one of those empty echinoderm shells that was chipped just so that it would not be very valuable and one would be reluctant to display among the polished conches of the seashell-trophy-case.


I pick it up and hold it for a short while, but a sudden belch of air from the ocean in front of me catches my attention.  A mop of hair rises out of the surface and suddenly there is a man standing there.  He shakes about to spray the salt water all over me, which I defiantly lick off my lips.


I immediately know that he is a deceased poet because he has a cap on that is embroidered with a dolphin.


In a low, booming voice, he begins,


“Ah, beauteous figure before me,

How my mind cannot help but see

The way this singular drop of water

Reflects the innocent purity contained in thee?


“The shimmering, the natural clarity,

The essential perfect molarity

Of salt! Oh, how to taste the water

And thus your moist fibrous hairs with alacrity!”


“Ah, I’m flattered by your admiration,” I comment, “But how can you see any beauty in me when you do not even love me?”


The wise dead poet answers, “Because beauty is everywhere; it is the unifying force of the world.”


“Even a soot-covered smokestack is beautiful?” I ask.


He clears his throat and proceeds:




“The soot is deep, violently so,

Clinging to the

Bricks that are so impregnable and yet

Delicate to the touch;

The feel of the crumbling dust in my fingers

Recalls ages

The rise and the

Fall; the coming of change, the sweeping of the clouds,

And then it is complete;

I blow on the dainty particles staining my fingers,

Smeared like blood, the blood of change,

The beauty of the ebony nostalgia.”


I give him some applause for successfully communicating the punctuation and line breaks to me, though I cannot help but feel the pulsating irony in all of this.


“Mr. Poet –”


“It’s Lawn.  Richard Lawn, like Law but with an “n” at the end.”


“- Mr. Lawn, can you honestly tell me that soot on a smokestack is beautiful?  Or is what you see not really beauty, but simply soot, an object that you force, with a sleight of words, into a memory?  Has soot ever made you happy?” I inquire.


“Ah, ma cherie, you question not just my own art but the very essence of the world.  Can you say that soot is really anything at all?  Let us quit our kidding; I know you are far too piercing and observant to fall victim to words.  Soot does not move anyone.  No one cares about soot except that it is dirty.  Likewise, the sky isn’t really anything, either.  It’s a big empty thing, but could you imagine living without it?  It does not even exist, and you cannot imagine living without it!  Isn’t its beauty meaningless, just like soot?” the poet contends.


I smile because, for once, the poet is honest.  “I suppose we are all poets after all, then.  The blue of the sky is nothing but a perception, an illusion, but indeed, I do love it and I could not live without it.”


“And so its beauty is simply an object of inspiration, just like soot or your body or that marvelous swimsuit that you have on whose name I do not know, for I died before it was invented.”


“You’re a pervert,” I declare.


The deceased poet gives a hearty laugh, which is contagious enough that I laugh along with him; suddenly, he seems stricken by an idea: “Dear girl, are the poor still around?”


“Poor people?” I ask.


“Yes, the type that suffers a lot,” he clarifies.


I give a nod, “There are, unfortunately, still many people living in poverty in this world.”


The poet protests, “Oh, no, no, I did not ask in hopes that it was abolished.  I am actually pleased that there are still poor people in the world.  They offer quite a nice subject for writing, don’t you think?  In school, the teachers ask middle school students to write about a problem in society, and they immediately embark on a touching tale of the suffering that the impoverished endure and how it is the greatest pitfall of modern civilization.


“When I was young and fresh out of the university, I eagerly wanted to effect change in this world.  I thus looked about the city and found a poor family.  I wrote a poem about them and their plight, and I presented it to an audience that gave it wonderful applause.  And poverty was still there.  I wrote and wrote and wrote until one day I had an epiphany: the poor ceased to be a real problem; the poems began to exist for themselves and as an allegory for something that I honestly no longer comprehend.”


I look down into the water and see my face and his.  “You bastard,” I say softly, “You think that with all your ‘experiences’ and ‘wisdom’ that your cynicism will be appreciated as wit and your words as some transcendental message on the state of the world!  Just die again.”  And I throw the sand dollar in his face, killing him.


I sit back down into the water, noticing that I am once again upon a sand dollar, and I pick it up.  It has a small fortune inside, such as one would find in a fortune cookie.


“Save the trees,” the paper reads.

























Discussion 2.  Why People Should Not Abuse Pineapples. [«]


Rather unsatisfied with the effect of beach air on my status, I return home to realize that my mother has bought five pineapples.  They are sitting next to each other on the counter so that it’s very easy to tell which one is the tallest.


A pineapple is a compound fruit, composed of the fruits of many individual flowers clumped together.  How many flowers am I?  My long black hair ought to count for one all by itself, and I suppose the rest of my body excepting my brain could count for another.  But is a brain really a flower, too, or is it just a leaf?


I am two flowers and a leaf, and the pineapples are a thousand flowers apiece.  In jealousy, I move the pineapples to the back of the counter when I hear the doorbell ring.


Nervously, I open the door.


































Dialogue 2.  Choosing Between a Pineapple and a Girl. [«]


Ryan is standing there, a bouquet of flowers in his hand.


“I love you, Exilie,” he says affectionately.  I lunge forward out the doorframe and kiss his lips, a sudden movement that knocks Ryan off-balance and makes the bouquet fall to the ground.


He hastily retrieves the flowers without letting his eyes leave me, and I wonder if I had ever seen a smile so beautiful in my life before – a smile so beautiful because it was on my love’s lips, because I knew I was the cause of it.


“It’s a wonderful day.  Would you like to stay out here on the porch?” I invite.


There are no chairs on the porch, so we just sit down on the bricks.  The soft fabric of my skirt feels fluid, draped over my knees and rustling so gently.


“Exilie, our life now cannot last forever in the same way, you know?”


I laugh.  “Don’t treat me like an idiot!” I cry playfully, wrapping my arm around his shoulder.


“Sometimes, life is like this:” he begins.  “You begin by wandering about, exploring what sorts of things you might want to do, and you meet all sorts of new ideas, new places, new people.  At a certain point, you find a goal, something that you really want to do, and you feel like destiny drives you towards that goal.  You naturally run forward, learning, swallowing, until finally you can wake up, an adult, at the very climax of your life, when you’ve finally realized the very meaning of your life: and then you radiate – happiness practically pours forth – and then you can settle down with the very special person of your life.  I feel like this is a time when I have to begin moving towards my goal … .”


He trails off and my heart is beating very quickly.  Did he think that I could not see through his naughty plan?


“Ryan, I’m sorry but I’m not ready to have sex with you.  Couldn’t you wait just a bit longer?”


Ryan looks flabbergasted.  “Wha-?  I’m not talking about sex!  Whatever gave you that i-de…”


He pauses, and then continues: “Exilie, you perverted girl!  I’m talking about where my life is taking me.  I promised you I would be with you forever, but for a time – that is, college – I need to leave your side for a bit.  But when I’ve climbed my way through, then I will find you again.  Do you understand?”


“You damn idiot, of course it’s not okay!  I’m not going to stop you from reaching your dreams, but you make it seem like you can run forward by yourself!  Let me rewrite your little account so that it’s for real, if you catch my drift: You begin by wandering about with someone who you can trust, and eventually you two agree on a common goal.  Together, you run forward, learning, discovering – I’m going to leave out swallowing because it’s a bit too much for my innocent mind to handle – until finally you wake up as an adult with her, finding that you have accomplished something – that you have home, jobs, security, and the love is sealed because you know that you could not have done any of it without her.  And with that, you can slow down and enjoy the fresh air and raise a family.   You know what, Ryan?”




“I’m feeling really uncomfortable right now.  I really don’t think we should compare life to sex anymore.”


“Exilie!  You’re the one who started it!”


“Ah, fuck it … so you’re going to leave me?  So I take it you’ve decided where you want to go?  I’m really happy for you, Ryan, I really am.  I’m just … selfish I guess … I want you to be around me forever … .  But … I have my own goals, too.  I can’t change them to find you … what if we never meet again?  What if we miss each other?  Oh, God, that was quite terrible, wasn’t it …”


“Yeah, it was very bad,” Ryan agrees.  “But sweetie, I’ll always remember you!”


“Ryan!  You know there are pineapples out there.  I’m only two freaking flowers and a brain; how do you expect me to believe you when I know you want lots of pineapples to eat?!”


“Exila, Exila, Exila.  What do you want me to do, then?”


I bend my elbow out of stress, and I practically have Ryan in a headlock.  I can feel the tears burning in my eyes, and every word is almost unintelligible because of my whimpering.


“I don’t know what I want you to do!!  Am I supposed to know?!  I love you so much that I would be happy no matter where you end up!  But I’m human, too, and I want to be with you.  Oh I don’t know … I’m only sixteen … I don’t want to break up with you, but I don’t want to hold you back here when you should be moving forward.”


Ryan struggles a bit to remind me that I have him in a headlock.  “Oh, sorry dear,” I apologize.


“Damn it, I knew coming here wouldn’t help at all.  You’re just so perfect that you will even let me go … and because of that now I cannot convince myself that it is better to stay!” he cries, exasperated.


“We could always test out a long-distance relationship,” I offer.


Ryan looks crestfallen, so I lift him into an embrace and we kiss again as the sun beats down on the fresh spring sprouts.








Dialogue 3.  Why I Will Stay Here. [«]


Reminisce, for a moment.  I can always choose, can’t I?


Ryan is standing there, a bouquet of flowers in his hand.


“I love you, Exilie,” he says affectionately.  I lunge forward out the doorframe and kiss his lips, a sudden movement that knocks Ryan off-balance and makes the bouquet fall to the ground.


He hastily retrieves the flowers without letting his eyes leave me, and I wonder if I had ever seen a smile so beautiful in my life before – a smile so beautiful because it was on my love’s lips, because I knew I was the cause of it.


“It’s a wonderful day.  Would you like to stay out here on the porch?” I invite.


There are no chairs on the porch, so we just sit down on the bricks.  The soft fabric of my skirt feels fluid, draped over my knees and rustling so gently.


“Exilie, our life now cannot last forever in the same way, you know?”


I laugh.  “Don’t treat me like an idiot!” I cry playfully, wrapping my arm around his shoulder.


“Sometimes, life is like this:” he begins.  “You begin by wandering about, exploring what sorts of things you might want to do, and you meet all sorts of new ideas, new places, new people.  At a certain point, you find a goal, something that you really want to do, and you feel like destiny drives you towards that goal.  You naturally run forward, learning, swallowing, until finally you can wake up, an adult, at the very climax of your life, when you’ve finally realized the very meaning of your life: and then you radiate – happiness practically pours forth – and then you can settle down with the very special person of your life.  I feel like this is a time when I have to begin moving towards my goal … .”


He trails off and my heart is beating very quickly.  Did he think that I could not see through his naughty plan?


“Ryan, I’m sorry but I’m not ready to have sex with you.  Couldn’t you wait just a bit longer?”


Ryan looks flabbergasted.  “Wha-?  I’m not talking about sex!  Whatever gave you that i-de…”


He pauses, and then continues: “Exilie, you perverted girl!  I’m talking about where my life is taking me.  I promised you I would be with you forever, but for a time – that is, college – I need to leave your side for a bit.  But when I’ve climbed my way through, then I will find you again.  Do you understand?”


“You damn idiot, of course it’s not okay!  How could you ever choose a crappy pineapple over me!  I’ve given so much to you, and you think that it’s alright to betray me?”  I’m so driven by the childhood fears that I cannot even think about what I’m saying before I say it – no matter  how hurtful and selfish the words may sound.


“You’re right,” Ryan says.  “You’re right.  You can’t reach the goal with only one person.”


“Well,” I correct, “You can’t reach the goal and truly be happy with only one person, because afterwards you’ll realize how alone you are and how your feelings are not really reaching anyone at all.  And I know I would not be able to live with that.”


“Oh, Exilie … I will find a way.  I know there are many great colleges around here that I could go to … just please, please, promise you will always be here.”


“I will, Ryan, I will.”


I lift him into an embrace and we kiss again as the sun beats down on the fresh spring sprouts.





































Discussion 3.  How to Select the Future, or, Why Pineapples Are Sweet.


Ryan, my love, I can choose the future, can’t I?  And I already know what I will choose, I’ve always known.  I know what I would regret, I know what I would not regret.  I am the girl who has devoted her life to learning, to finding the ways in which I can affect the world outside of the domestic realm.  And I know that you are so much like me, it’s almost scary.


So of course I will let you go on.  I love you too much to coerce you into staying here – who would that please, anyway?  But I’m still going to say this anyway, because I can’t hold it in any longer: “You fucking bastard, why are you abusing my emotions like this and making me choose?  I’m not God!  I don’t want to be in charge of Fate.  I want to be away from it, I want to be able to stay in this Eden, this Eden where I can have everything - even knowledge, for I ate the fruit and God wasn’t angry - everything everything except – except change, everything except the one thing that drives love, a dynamic quality.  I’ll love you as well as I can.  I will.”


I mouth the word “shit” as I lay my head down into my arms, the water trickling down my skin onto the table and I don’t even care.  I made a decision and I do not regret it.
































Discussion 4.  Upon Vascularizing Wings. [«]


Upon growing blood vessels in the wings, it is possible to take flight.  However, cold wings fall like marbles on a dusty cellar floor.  I want to touch the sky.


So, tell me, where should I go today?  I want to visit the moon; I want to visit the moon around the moon and the moon around that moon around the moon; Heaven.  Where is an angel mentor when I need one?


Around the corner, there is a young boy with wings, and I wonder if he is an angel.  He walks and his wings flap at the same time, but they do not flap like angels’ wings.  Therefore, he is an angel, for angels would not look like angels, or else they would be humans’ creations, and thus would not be angels at all.


The boy turns to face me, his large gray irises fidgeting ever so slightly.  Several leaves ripple near his feet, and I wonder where I am.


Before I go to Heaven, I must buy a farewell present for Ryan, but I do not know what to get him.  They always say that presents need only to come from the heart, like a pleasant song, like the sweetness of a lingering kiss under the blossoms of poisonous trees.  They say that presents do not need to cost a lot.


To him, to him, to There.  Where am I headed when I have forfeited half my heart?  I want to be alone and feel the searing isolation.  I want to forget before I realize that my ventricles are missing.  I want to go There right now, but I want to go to him.  I want to miss him and I don’t want to miss him at all.  I want to care and I don’t want to care.


Angel boy! tell me your secret.  How do you keep flapping your wings, if not for love?  And if you have a love, where is she now?


Angel boy! guide me to the present.  How do you keep smiling blissfully, if not for love?  And if you have a love, let me cry into her shoulders.


Angel boy, I want to be alone but it’s just too tiring.















Dialogue 4.  Buying a Burrito. [«]


I’m at the local arts and crafts store, hands plunged fiercely into the pockets of my coat, hood pelted by the rain.  I feel hyperconscious of every passing raindrop and the muffled scrapes that diffuse by as the legs of my indigo jeans rub past each other.


I pull on the rectangular gray handle and move back with the door, letting an excited child rush in, followed by her exhausted father.  The father wears corduroy pants, a sweatshirt, and the most wonderful smile.  He is tired, like me, but he is happy because his daughter is there with him.


“Thank you,” he says, quickly entering the store to follow his daughter’s excited shouts.  She gravitates towards the fake flowers with little dried-glue dew drops attached to their leaves.


“Daddy!” she cries with concern.  “The little drops of water on here won’t come off!  If they don’t come off, the flower can never use the water to grow bigger!”


I slip into the store, letting the door close behind me, and I stop to look at the daughter, who is jumping up and down.  She has already forgotten her previous concern: she is playing with the soft, translucent petals of the fake tiger lily.


“Spots!  Like a jaguar!” she shouts, stretching to lift the flower out of its plastic resting place and bringing it near her nose, close enough that, had the lily been real, she would have noticed its aromatic odor.


Dad gives a chuckle and corrects, “It’s not a jaguar lily, honey, it’s a tiger lily.”


The daughter protests: “Tigers have stripes.  Stripes are long!  These are spots.  Like on a jaguar.”  She pouts cutely and begins to chew on the petals.


“Don’t chew on the tiger lily!” cries the father in horror because the lily might get hurt in the process. 


I smile and move on, passing by many aisles – Aisle #1, paper and origami products.  Aisle #2, dolls.  Aisle #3, paints.  Every passing shelf reminds me of just how many fascinating things are out there that I’ve never tried, and something underneath it all cries to me that I had been mistaken.  Should it matter how many things I’ve tried, or just how many things I can say I continue to find fulfilling?  Can I ever be done if so many things are out there I haven’t tried, but that I have little interest in trying?


Confused, I find the aisle I am looking for.  The clay sits in little bundles, sorted by color in row after row, the plastic wrappings the only barriers preventing all the clay from swirling together into a giant brown-black ball, the pigments seeming so runny, not static.  I can imagine the colors jumping away from the clay, leaving the hollow white remains like skulls and carpals, colors jumping towards me and into me, into my eyes, into my mouth, and the invigorating hues seizing my mind until I kneel down and catch the ground.


Slowly, I rise and carefully select a package of clay, looking only at one color at a time.  With a certain reluctance, I move towards the front counter to pay and exit back into the rain.


The man with his daughter now stands in front of me in line, the vivacious girl clamoring to go see the marbles again.  So many ideas, so much brilliance contained in her dainty mouth, and so quickly the wind blowing them about, and no one to listen to her.  People hear her but they do not listen.  Even I have a hard time understanding her interpretations of the small glass beads that roll about and make screeching noises as they are rubbed together.


Sadly, the two check out and leave, and I am alone at the register with the cashier.  I quietly hand her the clay and the money.  I don’t think that she understands that I already know how much it will cost ($1.99 + 7%(2.00) – 0.07 x 0.01, $2.13) because she tells me I should wait until she’s rung it in to pay, but I can wait.  I am in no hurry, no hurry to meet the end, to say goodbye.  I don’t want to!


“It will be two thirteen, miss,” the cashier says.


I hand her the money I had in my hand and she gives me the receipt and the clay in a bag.


“Thank you,” I say, taking the bag into my right hand.


“Daddy!” I hear the girl’s voice outside as the two stand under the overhang, waiting for the rain to stop pouring.  “Daddy, look!”


The wind rips a large branch from one of the thin, wavering maple trees in the parking lot.























Discussion 5.  Savoring a Burrito. ]


What should I wear?  I will be saying goodbye; he will move out and live with his relatives over there.  Should I dress more formally?  More brightly?  Should I wear what I normally wear?  Or dress in deeper colors?


Should I look like I am mourning, or look like I am going to get married?  Should I look like a tomboy or like a princess?  Should I look sexy or innocent?


It will be one moment forever seared into my memory, more powerful than any photograph because I will remember every little detail and every gesture and every meaning – the subtle ripples in a shirt or the position of the pinky relative to the ring finger.  I wonder if it would be more dramatic to silently hand him the wrapped package and then run away, or to fall into his arms, or grab him passionately and savor the last kiss, or dance with him.  I shake my head ‘no.’  I don’t want this to be something dramatic.  I just want to say goodbye to him and wish him well.  It doesn’t need to be worthy of a John Williams score or a slow-mo recap.  It just needs to be what it is.


Suddenly, I realize I have been sitting in this closet full of clothes for so long and had not bothered to check the time, and it is already nearly time to meet him.  Unable to think, I simply grab an old necklace out of a drawer under my desk and toss it over my head – in all those hours it was the sole article I knew I wanted to wear when I saw him one last time.


I race out of my house with the present in hand and climb on to my bike.  Putting on the helmet in a hurry makes the present slip out of my hands and I have to reach down to secure it again within my grasp.  With it between my left thumb and index finger, I pedal rapidly to make it to the park where Ryan is probably waiting.


Every second elongates like a rubber band being pulled to its full length; the slower each pulse becomes, the more tension rises in me; my muscles are almost twitching.  The perfect life is about to end and I feel like I am not emotional enough about it.  I care like people care about soap operas – I care because I ought to care, but I do not know if I truly care or not.  If I can accept what Ryan will do, if I can accept that what is being done is right, why must I feel regret?  Why must it hurt, if I have already determined that it will yield the best possible outcome?


But if I do not feel hurt, I feel guilty.  Guilty like those who cannot cry when they see a photograph of a train wreck and the mutilated bodies.  Guilty like those soldiers, with wretched, tormented eyes: “I did what I had to do.”  Guilty of


And I nearly flop off my bike when I see him.  And I quickly pull the small present out of my pocket.  I thrust it at him with an emotional violence, with a certain gasp.


What is this piece of clay? he asks with his hands that grope about the clay as if trying to grasp at something around it that isn’t there.  He’s searching and wandering, and I’m here with tears in my eyes.  Will he understand?


This clay, it’s for tomorrow, and every day after that.  The first day, take out the clay, knead it a bit.  It’s not really that high-maintenance.


Mold it with your fingers and make an image to reflect the day.  It could be the bird outside, the laptop you bought, the car you want to buy.  It could be a giant snake without a head, just a long noodle.


Set it on the dresser, and the next day, when you wake up, knead it back down into a ball and start again, and make a new sculpture.  Only take a moment to reflect on what was there; take many moments to make something new.  Every day, just change it.


It will be sad to see the old model go, because maybe it seems like it was the best you’d ever make, and that everything you sculpted afterwards would be nothing in comparison.  But it’s not true at all.  You’ll always, in your next three hundred days, make something even better.  You will, you will.



































Discussion 6.  A Few Days in Hell. [«]


I feel like shit.  It’s the first freaking day of school and I have sore eyes because I was up all night studying for the first-day tests in my AP classes.


To wander through these halls, the swarms of people so foreign rushing forward like snowballs down a bitter hill, cascading forward as if the world wrapped around them (tight-fitting like their jeans).  It is a force of nature; I cannot feel its emotions – so distant.  Everyone hiding his terrible secrets, pretending to be sincere, flouting shirts that are either hypocritical or corny or both.


What are they doing?  I can’t say, but just move ahead, weaving between them and hoping to catch a scent of something I can recognize within their labyrinth souls.


I feel hollow, then full – full of saline water that pours into my lungs.  I am drowning in the hall.  I can feel the mind slipping away as I drift off into a stasis, an exhaustion.  I look into their red eyes.   Were they drinking or studying?  How could I tell?


And would there be anyone to trust?  The people here are all so accepting, so warm.  They permit the word “beauty” and “love” and they ponder integrity and honor.  So open, so generous.  So how come I cannot fall into their arms?


They are the snowballs.  They don’t radiate warmth; when they talk idly, they do not stop to think.  But I can see through their act.  When they toss their cans over onto the dirt, when they wear anti-tobacco shirts and ask for cigarettes, when they write essays about loving diversity and then shun those who do not wear the right clothes: that is when I know I can’t find solace in their arms.


Would I ever find someone else who could understand?


Ryan Ryan Ryan Ryan Ryan Ryan you have to come back you have to come back here and hold me again God! Ryan how come you had to leave me here like this?  I feel like some stupid kid lost in the mall.  The little potted plants are falling down, like London bridge.


Drown, drown, drown in the mountainside (slip side) and icy Earth (slip slide) … without you, my dear.












Dialogue 5.  Being Happy, Status Quo.  (Special Heaven Mix). [«]


“You’re not over him at all, huh,” says Nick softly.


“Gee, I wonder …,” I reply, resting my head on my right arm.


“Here,” he says, pulling out his metallic blue CD player with matching earphones.  “Just let yourself drift away for awhile.”


The music is soothing, hardly what I normally listen to – it’s more or less only a single mood stretched out over weaving melodies of the saxophone.  Immersed in the dreamy ambience, I can remember back to ages ago, ages before love had ever set up shop next to my heart and began giving me the sweetest of confectioneries – on the house.


Was I happy then, when boys were just my friends, just like the girls?  Could recess and basketball bring as much joy as dating?  I could not say – I could not say.  (And I turn back to the music.)


The soothing harmonies – ninths gliding over sevenths over suspensions spanning miles across the silver waves.  The cool waterfall spray inadvertently reminds me of the fire; this secular pleasure reminds me of the fervor from the charismatic preacher.  Oh!  My heart yearns.


Is this an addiction? – I see boys and girls who faithfully and excitedly go out on dates every day (with their cigarette packs and lighters).  They steal away into the seclusion and privacy of the woods to be alone and feel the gentle caresses of their arousing lover wet on their lips and fondling their fingers.  They would defy their parents to not be parted – and oh I begged.  So do I just want to smoke Ryan?


Well - yes, I want the pleasures again, the pleasures of his hands dancing in my hair; and our moist mouths, a canal of happiness.  But I don’t just want a drug.  This pain is more than the fits of withdrawal.  This pain is hurt.


I don’t want to slip into the woods and light him up.  I want to find him in front of everyone else and shout and waltz with him.  There is no law against love!


            Every time I talk to you it’s different, holding on; those poor kids (their lovers are the same every time (they have the same taste, too); and oh to see the passion burn out after only scant minutes.  No no, the passion’s fire is of a sun’s sort.  The plasma churning, changing – practically transmuting; that is more like the love.


“What do you hear?” asks Nick, who’s now attentively tying his shoe.  His sneakers used to be a very bright white but now they are worn and old, covered in various shades of brown (dirt), red (clay), yellow (grass), and pink (gum).


“It’s only the same thing,” I lament.  “It’s always the same thing.”


“Even now is the same thing?” he asks, gesturing at the CD.  “I think you aren’t listening closely enough.  There’s something more to it.”


The song is just a song, but it is supposed to be Heaven.


Heaven is a giant expanse.  But it’s cold here – it’s like there’s a giant fan blowing from far away.  I can hear the icicles twinkling while I watch my reflection wriggle about in the shards that point up at the overcast sky.


I am freezing.  I can’t tuck my calves under my skirt.  If I don’t keep walking, I will be trapped in this barren land forever.


Every step I take, I realize how beautiful the crystals around me are.  They are amorphous yet easily recognizable.  This arctic garden is alone but the memory of camaraderie slowly diffuses through the air.  I search out its source and find a small opening in the ground between two towering crystals.  Out of it spurts a slow, gentle mist; it is warmer than the surrounding air, but when it condenses onto my skin, it takes away my heat and then parts.


I brush my hair out of my face as I lean down to gulp down a little bit of the mist.  It tastes refreshingly clear, with a hint of sugar, but watered down like unboiled maple syrup.  Even though I am the only one in this part of Heaven, I can forget my loneliness for awhile.


I reach down to touch the small opening.  When my finger touches the nostril-sized hole, it clogs the opening and I feel like I am inflating.  I slowly swirl my finger around the edges of the hole and it begins to grow larger as the dirt crumbles down.  I keep trying to make it round, but each successive encirclement makes the hole  more like an ellipse.  With the goal of creating a circular opening, I keep on breaking off the dirt until I have created a hole as large as myself, and I fall through into a giant cloud of the mist.


I hold out my hand, cool and dripping.  Some of the droplets of condensed mist glide up my skin as I tumble down in the infinite expanse of clouds.  The lights dim away until it is pitch black, but I can still feel the moisture all around me.  I can breathe, but the air is heavy.


And down, back to Earth – the lights blare out and scream, nibbling at the clouds around me.  And in the cool, clear night above the city, I can see the wires that connect people.  They span thousands and thousands of miles each; the ones that have two secured ends glow a bright purple, yet the ones with only one end secured glow a faint red.  There is one red wire jutting out from the other end of the continent, its endpoint nondescript but floating in the middle of the air, waiting for someone to snatch it up.


It’s mine.









Dialogue 6.  How to Use a Cell Phone. [«]


“How do you use this?” I ask.


“You open it, dial your number, and press the little green phone button that says ‘talk,’” Nick says.


I poke the number in, then I poke the little green button.


The phone starts to ring.


“Hey, it works,” I say, giddy.


Nick wants to call me a dumbass.


































Dialogue 7.  And Call a Loved One. [«]


“Ryan, are you there?” I ask as soon as I hear the receiving phone picked up.


“Exila?  Is that you?”


“YAAAH!!” I scream with excitement.  I feel like my mouth is going to rupture, I’m so happy.  “Ryan, Ryan, Ryan guess what.”


“What?” he asks.


“Chicken butt!” I shout.  “Actually, I got Mr. Noughton for English!”


“For real?  I thought he was retiring.”


“Yeah, we all did!  But he climbed in through the window and relieved the sub of duty.  It was really cool!”


Ryan gives a hearty laugh.  “Sounds just like ‘im,” he confirms.  I can imagine Ryan nodding his head while he laughs out his mouth and nose.


“Yes, so how is your year going?  Are you having fun?” I ask.


“Yeah, yeah, it’s all going quite well,” he says.  “It’s been kinda hard adjusting, though.”  I can almost hear something in his voice – something that tells me that he’s thinking about me, perhaps.


“Uh-huh,” I say blankly, not really knowing how to respond.  “I’m sure it’ll be fine.  You’re ready for anything, right?”


“Mm, I guesso.”  He sounds a little crestfallen, but suddenly the bell rings and lunch is over.


Nick doesn’t say anything but the look in his eyes that he’s trying to hide demands that I return the phone.


“Oh, Ryan Ryan I gotta get to class.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow okay?”


“Sounds good,” he replies.


“I love you!” I shout.


After a short pause, I hear him say “byebye” before the phone hangs up.  Is something the matter?






Dialogue 8.  Love Rival! [«]


The next day, I decide to call Ryan again.  I’m all ready to start discussing plans to get together sometime during winter break.  I resolve to finish all my college applications early so that I don’t have to worry about them during my last winter break as a high school girl.


I dial Ryan’s dorm number, hoping that he’s there.


“Hello?” comes a pleasant, cheerful, and it’s definitely a girl!


“Holy shit,” I say, trying to figure out what to do.


“Uh … yeah …,” she says.


“I must have the wrong number.  Sorry to trouble you,” I apologize.


“No prob.  Wait, do you want to talk to Ryan?” she asks.


“Yeah, is he there?”


“Actually,” she says, “Well he just went to the bathroom.  Try calling back later.  What’s your name?”


“Exila,” I answer.


“How would you spell that?” she inquires.  “A-Y-S-H-E-I-L-A?”


“Uh, not quite.  It’s ‘E-X-I-L-A.’ ”


“Ah, duly noted.  That’s a spiffy name you got there – oh wait a second!  I’ve heard about you!”


“Oh?” I say.


“Yes, yes,” she says, and I can imagine her nodding her head while furiously trying to recall exactly where she heard the name before.  “Ryan was talking to me about you the other day.  Actually, he was talking for hours on end.  Oh yes, he said –”


The girl abruptly halted her speech and began to murmur incoherently.


“Yes?” I demand.  I am feeling very much like an ex-girlfriend and it isn’t very pleasant having to speak to my ‘replacement.’


“Sorry, it was a secret.  I forgot,” she answers.


“Ah, forget it then.  I’ll call back later,” I say, wanting to let her have it, but I realize that I anger is part of the cause and not the effect, so I let myself calm down.


“See ya,” she says happily.




The phone makes a funny noise when I lay it down on its hook.  I guess, after all, I’m glad that I have such a friendly love rival.













































Discussion 7.  Being a Traitor. [«]


This is absolutely terrible!  I can tell from her tone of voice she loves him. 


That night, I binge on tasty bao-dze, trying to erase her from my mind.  Trying to erase him, too, I guess.  I really don’t want to deal with all this right now, not when college applications are marching over the horizon like computer-generated armies.


How come this had to turn up just as things were starting to get better?  I had thought that the mist from Heaven would bless us, but it was a presumptuous thought.  No, but I have enough to go on for now.  I have my friends – Nick and Lacey and Sheryl and all the others.  Ha!  Like I can fool myself … I plunge my mouth straight into the pork bun, not caring where all the juice squirts.


Am I desecrating the shirt I had worn to my first date with Ryan?  I don’t really care – the taste of the moment is all that is keeping me alive.  Alive, savoring … barely clinging on (like the bread hanging off my lips).  I lap up the food quickly.


How many have I eaten?  Six?  Seven?  I want more!  How could you?  How could you leave me?  I almost feel angry, wronged.  Jealous (sinful).


For the whole week, I can only be comforted by my friends.  I hardly treat them nicely, but still they listen and try to help.  And then at the end of the week something happens that I could hardly see coming: Nick gives me a call at midnight and asks me out.


What am I supposed to do?  That’s what I should ask myself, but instead I am overtaken by a sinister sentiment that demands that I get even with Ryan, the two-timing bastard that he has turned out to be.  It’s not fair to him!  Why should I even care about him, though?


Out of desperation or out of spite or both, I accept Nick’s offer.  I barely get any sleep that evening – Guilt decides to read me a bedtime story, and I keep telling him to stop but his words echo through my mind the entire night ….

















Dialogue 9.  First Date / Last Date. [«]


It’s autumn.  I don’t know if I like the season or not, I muse as I stare out the window at the leaves falling in the hoarse wind.  I pick out a cute skirt and match it with a blouse.  The clothes remind me of swiss cheese and buttermilk pancakes.


Outside, the wind is moderately blustery, and my hair is tossed about – perhaps it had not been a good idea to leave it down for today.  It’s always nice out according to somebody, and to me it’s nice enough out today.


But I feel constrained.  Something is wrapped around me, but it isn’t tugging just yet.  That little loop of rope has a pre-knot in it, and I can feel its strange metaphysical presence.  I can’t reach out and touch the leaves, and I can’t even feel my own feet as they move forward down the sidewalk.


Downtown is nearby.  Cars force their way down the street with the solid confidence of a football player.  I think football players crash a lot.  I put my hand over my eyes to see ahead more clearly, but I can’t make out whether there’s a crash out there or not.  It’s all very blurry, and it strains my eyes to see.


As I move towards the blur, the noodle-like translucent globule ahead, the rope tightens a bit more, tightens like a clamp’s jaws; the whirling bar of metal moves so quickly, but the jaw moves painfully slowly.  It enjoys the teasing, the torture: the prey is helpless.


Downtown is here.  There is no crash, just a restaurant.  I step inside; Nick isn’t there yet.


“Hello, how many is it?” asks the host.


“Oh, for two, please,” I say absentmindedly.  Him and me.


“Come this way, then,” he says with warmth, guiding me to a square wooden table.  A small flower bed tops off the right-hand wall, and it is filled with many small plants that have grown haphazardly.  Some of them have little yellow-brown streaks on them while others are green enough.


“Thanks,” I say.  “I’ll wait for him to come before I start ordering.”


The host smiles and leaves the table.  I begin to daydream, staring out at the front windows like that.  The windows are so bright, so intense.  The glass is so bright it’s practically opaque.  The only shapes behind it now are the ones I am imagining. 


I imagine a policeman from the station down the street, walking by.  But he wants to buy stamps.  I imagine an obese child passing behind the glass window, unsure of what to think of himself in the context of the world, and outright rejecting the restaurant as a joke on his mass.  I imagine a boy walking by, hoping to find the girl he loves inside.


And I start to think about his face, how I want his face to look.  I’m expecting someone today.  It’s someone kind and gentle, someone who I could wake up next to every single day and never get tired of.  It’s someone intriguingly intelligent, delightfully unrestrained, wholesomely original.


I can almost see the face, the details coming into focus.  And I know who it is.


Everyone around me starts to stare.  Their eyes burn my skin, but their minds burn my heart.  An incriminating tsunami, death with guilt.


I run away.



I collide with a body, which jolts in confusion.  Looking up, I see a pair of startled eyes: Nick’s.


“Oh, crap,” I think to myself, wondering not how this conversation would end up, but to what degree of ‘bad’ it would turn out to be.


“Ni-N-Nick,” I stutter, partially out of the periodic sobs and partially out of fear.  “Nick, Nick…”


“Are you okay?” he asks, his large eyes reflecting a mixture of confusion, concern, and hurt.  The pity in his eyes – and the pitiful state of them as well – together creates a perfect moment of sadness, of sorrow that traces his outline in deep blue ink.  The sorrow flows as if it were air, sucked in and expelled again and again in an eternal rhythm of desperation.


“W-What do you think?” I asked, only semi-sarcastically.


“Exila, what’s wrong?”  Nick holds me in his arms and I bury my face in his chest.


“I-I can’t do this.  I can’t do this, Nick.  I care about you a lot, too, but … but I can’t.  It’s Ryan,” I attempt to explain.


I know I’m hurting Nick, but I can’t stop myself.  This is a confessional: I am compelled to tell the truth by the truth’s own momentum.


“Ryan – I love him so much, I still do.  I … I w-w … w-want him to be here.  I wanna hold his hand.”


But instead it is Nick holding my hand, tenderly and affectionately, as a father would.


“Exila,” he says finally.  “It’s okay, I understand.  It was wrong of me to try to steal you from him.  I just couldn’t bear to see you suffering because of him … no, no that’s not it.  I couldn’t bear .. I couldn’t bear to .. no, not when I had loved you for so long.  I guess I could never beat him, that lucky bastard,” he said, smiling weakly.  “He was just too good.”


“Until he just left me!” I shouted angrily.


“Exila, he went to college.”


“He’s w-with her!” I choke.


“What?  With whom?” he asks.  When I look up at him now, I can see his reddened eyes painted with tears.


“He found someone else to be with,” I said plainly.


“Are you sure?” Nick asks as seriously and convincingly as he can while his eyes begin their own conversation with me: “Then will you accept me?”


“Oh, I don’t know.  No, no, I do know.  There’s no point in b-being s-s-stubborn or-or s-s-s-s-…,” I break off.


“Hmm?” asks Nick.


“Let me finish!” I shout.  “S-s-s-s-”


Nick starts laughing even though tears continue to roll down his cheeks.  “Oh, Exila,” he sighs.  “Come, I have all the time in the world.  Why don’t you start from the beginning.”





























Discussion 8.  Neverending. [«]


To collapse onto the floor, sobbing at nothing.  An immense pain, sprawled on the ground, trembling, the world around so dark.  And to want to destroy with bare hands, just rip apart the carpet and reveal the bubbling faces below, bereft of love and balance.


One single thing, robbing all others of a reason.  Anything could be trivial.  This could be trivial.  But something that carries the reason has more weight.  That is because the reason is the source of life, and without any reason at all, to wither away.  A purpose, always wanting one, as if it were an award, and then it would stay there and grow dusty.


It is the reason, and then to replace the reason, would that not contradict the original reason itself and make the reason a non-reason?  Always always I wanted this answer, and I had it.  Now could it really be so useless after all?  Could I just replace Ryan and not have another worry about it?  Was it only love I wanted, and not Ryan?


People are always moving on from the past and formulating new reasons.  I can move on, too, but then love would be for nought if it could not even last beyond anything.  A reason must last forever, or else it is hardly a reason.


The absolute solitude, both something to desire and something to shun.  And around me, millions of buildings sprout up.  I can climb them with ease and stare out at the expanse.  I can add the birds and the bird chirps and little birds and big kites and little children and strings.  Strings and giant lampposts, the type with the grooves in the pole.  And the pole has those columnar ornaments at the bottom – Corinthian?  Ionic?  Dorian?  And below that, some beautiful concrete with tufts of grass popping up in between.  Dogs stepping on the grass, depressing it for a moment.


Children sucking on lollipops, mothers chatting amiably, boys and girls finding each other at the movie theater – it’s not very big but it plays some interesting movies that you’ve never heard of – daring boys and girls, but not making up the movies so not quite that daring.  Around, those posters with little light bulbs blinking as the main attraction, and the movie advertised inside with those names they hope you know.


I can walk about here, I can walk about in this solitude and not feel a thing.  Where am I?  This is my imagination – a world created because there was no reason to be found.  Now I am back here.  What reasons can I find here?  Plenty of reasons, of course – every reason, in fact.  Every value here, it has a purpose and an explanation.  Give this, receive that.  Plant this, harvest that.


The lamppost shines brightly on the happy people of all varieties.  There are business leaders, university students, janitors, office workers, waiters and waitresses.  At any moment, I could turn them all into frogs or buildings.


So now I want to find my reason.  But it isn’t here at all.  It isn’t here, it isn’t here, it isn’t here.  Like a child scrambling about, lost in the mall, I race down the streets, crashing into the people who I placed in my way, not taking time to read the signs that I placed there.


And a gigantic sign appears overhead: “Welcome to My World,” and I knock it down with an enormous inflatable hammer from the amusement park I decided I had visited a week ago.  Airplanes spin about in convoluted spirals and make a raucous noise that slits my eardrums.


A perfect happiness cannot be fragile.  Of all things, it cannot be fragile.  It is passionate, it is intelligent, it is compassionate, it is balanced.  It is not fragile.  I am fragile.


Another car flies out of its parking space diagonally into the roof of the building.  A large green slug climbs out of an uncovered manhole and begins to approach me.  A crowd of janitors from the movie theater is chasing me, shouting with voices as if they were at a demonstration – full of enthusiasm and indignity.


I look down at myself and I see that I am naked, and I am ashamed.  How could I be naked here, of all places, in the downtown of my created world, in the very place where I should be at home?


































Dialogue 10.  A Boxer-Cat. [«]


“Exila!” the janitors cry.  “We are people who have to live without any reason but to live.  We clean the floor every day and it becomes dirty again by the next!  We see couples come in every single week for a  year and then suddenly we see them with other people.  We see, oh yes, we see.  And we know other people think nothing of us.  They thank us and leave.


“Some of us have lost our families – sometimes they’ve left, sometimes they’ve died.  What is our reason then?  Our job is no reason; “We Sweep Together a World of Change!” read our badges, but those badges’ embroideries are coming loose and unraveling.  No no.  Look at Luke over there.  His wife died of pneumonia.  It wasn’t supposed to happen.  And she was his reason.


“Exila, you are naked and you cannot stand looking at yourself.  Are you ashamed that was see you?  No, you are ashamed that you see yourself.  You have two ample breasts.  What will you use them for?  You have two precise, delicate hands.  What will you use them for?  You have two piercing eyes that can see a city from a blueprint of a room.  How will you treat them?


“Cry now, and your vision will be blurred for life!  Bury your hands in donut goo now, and your fingers will forever be trapped as in a mitten!  Hide away your breasts under your arms now, and you will never have a child suckle them!


“Do you want a reason?  You can only find it in yourself, on yourself, your naked, bare, human self!  Find what reason?  Find exactly that, and more, everything.  You can know everything.  This is no existentialist trapping here.  This is your world.  Welcome yourself, and you will know everything. 


“Our time is over.  We will go back to sweeping the floors, but we will be sure to dump the cleansing fluid all over the concrete entrance and make it slick for you when you enter.  Then you will begin to use your mind and hands again.  We will change our jobs and move on.  Blindly?  No, we will have every reason to do so, and we will not even have to speak a word of it.


“My son is going to be a teacher, a good one.  He already is a teacher.  It is a dream, a power.  He has his friends thinking now.  A ‘reason’ is elementary; cause and effect is meaningless.  We take our leave.”


And the janitors leave.  I am only with the slug.


“Slurp,” says the slug.


“ ‘Sup,” I reply.


“Do you know what associative learning is?” asks the giant green slug.


“Yeah,” I answer.  “It’s where an animal learns to associate one event or behavior with another.  Like a dog with the bell and dinner thing.”


“That’s correct,” commends the slug.  “A is associated with B.  But how is A associated with B?  Take slugs for example.  Slugs are yucky.  A is B.  But are slugs only yucky?  No, slugs are also spotted sometimes.  They also have an internal mantle.  You learn all this; you learn to associate slugs with the image of a slug and the sound of a slug and the connotations of a slug.   But is this all cause and effect?  Because a slug makes a sound, it is brown.  No, no, no!  The principle behind reasoning is that a reason should be able to explain an observation.  A slug makes a sound because of its mucus covering and the manner in which it moves.  It eats for energy for aerobic respiration.


“But how can you say that life can be explained by reason alone?  Saying that the reason for living is to see the sunshine is like saying that a slug is brown because it makes a sound.  The relationship is infinitely more subtle.  You want happiness, right?”


“Yes,” I answer, fingering my hair, which is no longer tied into two bunches at the bottom of my head.


“Then don’t try to find a reason to be happy.  Things don’t necessarily make you happy.  Happiness is not only an end result, but a cause in and of itself.  It is a living creature, forged from the elements around it, breathing the elements around it, nesting in the elements around it.  If you trap it and leave it only one reason – one nostril – with which to respire, you suffocate it.  But if you befriend it and let it roam about, it will return to you many times the joyous encounters, many more times the simple pleasures of life like the small flowers it will bring you from time to time.”


“Flowers,” I whisper.  “I have a few of those myself.”
























Dialogue 11.  Dealing with Winter Break. [«]


I feel so listless.  I can’t believe I somehow ended up not finishing my college applications before the start of break! 


And despite it all, I don’t really feel so bad after all.  I find that things are always tolerable and actually quite pleasant.  Maybe freeing myself from the linear cause-and-effect thought processes has allowed me to better enjoy the world.  If you didn’t catch the irony of that last statement, it’s alright.  I myself still occasionally think about how one thing leads to another.  In a way, there is no value in completely rejecting that concept, because so many things are roughly linear.  But though the horizon looks linear, if it were not truly so gently curved, the world would be an infinite plane and not a slightly flattened sphere, and how sad such a world be!


Truly, enjoying the world is not just about sitting in the shade in the middle of some meadow and breathing nice country air or working in a laboratory all day or eating a thousand Calories’ worth of doughnuts.  Following your heart is only step one of the recipe, and I might add, that recipe is self-referring, like those circular references that spreadsheets hate with all their might.


Not every waking moment will be pleasant; not every dream will be good.  And there is no value in insisting on being happy when the body is sad, or in faking a smile when the photographer points your way and you feel as if the flash would paralyze you in your melancholy.


I’m just here, more or less ambivalent, reading a book on the ground with my left arm propping up my head and my right hand holding the page.  It’s cold out but I feel so cozy on the rug, and my cream-colored turtle-neck sweater and old, out-of-fashion blue jeans seem like inseparable friends.


It’s a fantasy book, one of those written-down dreams that was such a great idea in the author’s mind but more or less just another everyday grand adventure on paper.  It’s far from boring, so I can still enjoy it – the pumped-up mythology, the extraordinary characters, the rhetoric-spouting villains, the ultimate hero-baddie showdown (swords on the ground – this is a battle of fists, because the most vicious, most personal, most noble emotion is communicated through the clashing of flesh).


It’s just another story, another life.  And then the phone rings, innocently at first, then climbing in volume until it is an incessant siren, screaming at me, asking, pleading, coercing me to leap over the railing, over and down, down into the vast wires.  I see the wires crossing (meaning) and the very essence of happiness and suffering – a million wires extending out from it.


And, still ringing, the phone is a lottery.  What number will I pick out?  What will the wire lead to?  And I want to know, I want to take that chance, jump once over the railing as the sirens say, if I could sprout my wings as they.


Slowly, I reach out, hands tingling with fear, the energy leaping out from the small plastic handle.  It is in my hands, next to my ear, in my open mouth.


“Yes?” I ask.


“Exila, is that you?”  It’s an old, dusty voice.




So used to reading his e-mails, I nearly forgot his voice, but now that I can bathe in it once again, I feel as if I’d been blessed by its presence throughout the whole semester.


“Exila!  I’m so glad you’re there,” he says.


“Why wouldn’t I be here?” I ask, puzzled.


“You haven’t called me for two months now!” he exclaims.


I can feel the wires honing in.  “Well, I’m not too keen on calling up your little pineapple, Ryan.”


“What little pineapple?”


“Ryan!” I shout, exasperated.


“Whatever the matter is, I bet it’d be much easier to resolve in person.”


“Where are you?  Oh, let me guess.  You’re being a punk and you’re right outside my front door.”




I grab a baseball bat (just in case ..) and flick on the porch lights.


“Oh,” I comment in relief and open the door, laying down the bat.  “Ryan, Ryan …,” I gasp before leaping onto him.  “Ryan, I know you love her but I can’t stop thinking about you.”


“Love who?” Ryan asks.


“The pineapple … I bet she’s smarter, more clever, funnier, more caring, and sexier than me … how many flowers is she?”


“Who in the Yeti’s name are you talking about?!”  Ryan has separated himself from my clasp and looks offended.


“I did it, Ryan!  I did it!”  I blurt out.  “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.  I was so lonely and he liked me and we went out … .”


“Oh, that’s not a big deal … I did the same thing, but on our first date, I couldn’t stop talking about you, Exila, and she told me right then and there that there was only one thing for me to do – to come back to the girl I truly loved.  But I guess I’m too late … .”


“No!” I cry.  “Once I got to the restaurant, I suddenly realized that I was imagining you entering the room.  It was so scary for that moment, as I was immersed in the most terrible, most incriminating glare from all directions and yet none at all but from above perhaps.  I just couldn’t – I couldn’t stay there and do it, I just couldn’t – so I ran out, out until I crashed into Nick (poor guy), who had just arrived.  I told him I couldn’t and he was about to cry but I beat him to it.  He carried me over to a bench and listened as I babbled about you for hours on end, and each word was another dagger to his heart, yet he stayed there.  I love you, Ryan.  You’ll never be too late.”


“Oh, Exila!” Ryan exclaims in one of those exaggerated soap opera voices.  Except when he glomps me, I can tell he isn’t just acting.


We sit there on the ground for ten minutes, the bursts of laughter punctuated by little kisses.  We move over to the couch and sit down, relaxing, sinking into the cushions beside each other, the depression in the seat resembling a model of gravitational distortion that I had read in a book some time before.


Ryan initiates, “So, what’re you up to?”


“Oh, I’m writing my college essays,” I say, looking down as I blush in embarrassment.


“You didn’t finish them already?!” he remarks, predictably I might add.


“Oh, shut up,” I say, playfully pouting and staring at my hands folded in my lap.


Ryan laughs.  “Need any help?”


I insist, “I can do them myself!”


“Aw, I didn’t mean that you couldn’t.  I just wanted to give some moral support.  Like, ‘Go Exila!  You can do it!’ ”


I let a giggle seep out and say, “I was just kidding.  I’d love for you to help me.  I’ve had writer’s block lately, anyway.”


“That’s cuz you were being jealous of a girl who I don’t love!”


“Stop teasing me!! Anyway let’s get started.  This one’s prompt –”


“Oh, no, no, Exila,” interrupts Ryan.


“Huh?” I ask.


“I didn’t say you get free help!  You’ll have to help me in return … you see there’s this project I have.”


“Oh, I see how it is,” I say, grinning.  “What do you need now?”


“Well, it’s actually this recitation of sorts.  For English, you know?  I’ve been practicing it for a few months now, and I wanted you to tell me if I’ve finally gotten it right.”


“Okay, let’s hear it then.  Wait, you never gave me a copy of the text.”  Ryan smiles, then swallows hard and seems almost nervous.  I notice that he neglects to give me a copy.


He stands up from the sofa, the cushion slowly re-inflating as I watch Ryan’s cheeks redden.  He then adopts a rather formal pose and pulls out a most curious prop.


“Exila, when the sun sets behind the great dome on campus, I always sit down in the yard and just watch as the infinite sky changes its masks, and I wish you were there to see it, too.  And not only for you to be with me for that moment, but to be in class together, to do research together, to go dine together, to hang out together, to find the future together.  Together, we could run forward – learning, discovering – until finally we wake up one day and tell the dawn we’re happy.


“So, Exila, my love,” Ryan whispers, “Will you marry me?”


“Wow, that was really well-rehearsed!” I manage after a very long pause.  “I’d give it an A+ for the dramatic element right off the bat if I were your professor.  Oh, and Ryan?”


“Yes?” he asks eagerly.


“I’d also leave this comment on the side of my scoring rubric sheet.  I think it would read, ‘Hell  yeah!’ ”


Ryan smiles radiantly, but I am convinced that my smile came first.  The ring feels so arousing when it slips onto my ring finger.


“Ryan,” I say after a few moments of mutual reverie.  “I’m kinda … uh  … only seventeen.”


“It’s only a promise, not a constraint.  And if you feel like it isn’t right – if you’re uncomfortable at all, tell me to practice some more and I’ll bring the project back at s–”


I cut him off with a gentle “shhh.”  “Ryan,” I say sternly, lifting his chin so that our eyes lock, “As your happy fiancée, I beg of you, please shush for a moment.”


And, hand-in-hand, we go outside to dance as the shimmering moon bathes the naked autumn seedlings in the most glittering of lunar midnights.




Dialogue 12.  Floral Victory!  Exila Is Still a Girl! [«]


“Ry~an,” I call.  He’s half-asleep on the couch.  “Does this last sentence sound okay?”


“Yeah,” he moans.

“Ryan!!” I shout.  “I haven’t even read you the sentence yet!”


“Sorry, sorry,” he says, yawning, getting up from the Bahamas and stepping into the Arctic Ocean. “Which one is that again?”


“ ‘Describe one talent or passion you have that reflects who you are as an individual.’  I concluded with, ‘Pressing the keys of the piano in rapid succession, the absolute black and white hues run together like a melting yin-yang until finally all I can see and hear is the blended, harmonious reflection of the diverse world around me and the projection of my soul in the cascading melodies


you’re there with me; tonight, we’ll play that video game I could never beat back in middle school; together, it’ll be different this time through


and then a few months from now, we’ll go and visit your uncle and play with your adorable cousins; I’ve always wanted to let a little kid beat me at a board game


and in the fall, guess what, I might be there to bug you every single day! and then we can spend the evenings talking about bacteria and / or bridal dresses; I honestly don’t have a preference, dear,


and so on and so forth goes this world that transcends cause and effect, art and beauty, you and me


ah, Ryan, what would you say now?


I think your little Exila is all grown up!