"So.." I had to kill this awkward silence. "What kind of music do you like?"
"Oh! Yeah, you know, Mo-Town, soul, but like the old style stuff, like Etta James or Stevie Wonder. And anything on the Dap-Tone label."
What's Dap-Tone? How does she know this? Why did I ask her about music? Why did I agree to this date? I'm gonna kill Drew next time I see him.
"What about you? What music do you like?"
"Uh... you know. Mostly like, whats on the radio. Pop... and all that..." Music has never been my thing, but I had kinda run out of things to ask her about that weren't super insensitive. Crap. Change the subject.
"Hey, I just wanted to let you know, that waiter made way too big a deal about your order."
"Oh, that, yeah, no I can see where he was coming from."
"Still, its your food, and I don't think there is anything in the health code about serving raw meat, especially if you're aware of the risks."
"It's fine, really, the sushi will be okay."
"Do you eat much fish? Like, at home?"
She shakes her head, "Not really, its mostly roots, berries, and whatever smallish mammal we can get our hands on."
"Cool. My grandma used to make killer rabbit stew. So, how do you know Drew?"
"He was on one of those Discovery Channel shows, looking for my dad. 'Chasing Bigfoot,' I think."
"Right on." Drew is such a douche for this.
My Uncle Sees Dragons
My uncle sees dragons. He visits me all the time. Sometimes more unexpectedly than most! Today he appears at the door, his beard long and wavy, curling down to the floor. He whips out a monocle and stares down at me.
Despite both us of having perfect hearing, he yells, “Guess what I’ve seen!”
“What!” I cry, not knowing if his beard is real, what a monocle is, and why there’s a miniature hot air balloon tied to his back.
My uncle lowers his monocle and stares at me, his smiling face shifting suddenly serious, “I’ve seen a dragon.”
I stare in amazement, for what else can I do but be amazed?
“Dragon?” I repeat.
My uncle stands, and scoops me up in his arms, “A most ferocious dragon,” he says! “Most vile and voluptuous indeed!”
My Uncle strides in my house, and it vanishes. The couches turn to mossy hillocks and the walls into vast horizons. He tells me a tale of winged scales and flapping wings. He sings of patchwork canvas and thrashing thickets. He says he survived – but just barely.
I tear off his fake beard and we laugh until my mom takes me away and tells me, “There are no such things as dragons!”
I am four years old.
“My uncle sees dragons,” I say to my best friend at lunch time. The cafeteria is packed, and usually the other kids leave us alone. Most days we eat as fast as we can before running outside to play, but today is different.
I tell my friend, “My uncle visited me yesterday.”
She looks at me with her mouth full of food and I shove my new necklace in her face. “It’s a dragon’s tooth. A REAL dragon’s tooth,” I say haughtily as I swing it in front of her eyes. “Uncle says it keeps whomever holds it safe from all harm!”
I watch her face billow with amazement as I begin to tell her my uncle’s most recent story. She believes in dragons. The kids next to us do not.
“That’s not a dragon’s tooth!” The boy next to me squeals, his friends beginning to laugh.
“Yes it is!” I shout, my voice curling with flames and my teeth slick with venom.
The boy laughs with his friends, and the three of them shout in unison before waddling off outside, “There are no such things as dragons!”
I am twelve years old.
My uncle sees dragons. He hasn’t though, not for a while now. He hasn’t come by with stories since I’ve been back from college. Something about an accident. Mom says we can’t see him, at least not yet. I rub the dragon tooth around my neck, and think back to all of his silly antics.
“Don’t worry,” my mom says over her shoulder as she washes dishes. “The doctors say it’s temporary.”
“Stupid tooth, stupid dragons,” I say as I toss the necklace on the floor, wishing my uncle had never given it away. Not that it matters now. I think old hated words as I stare at the broken tooth and twisted fiber. “There are no such things as dragons.”
I am twenty three years old.
My Uncle sees dragons. He used too anyway. We drive to his new home.
“Home,” I say out the window with resentment as the wind blows my hair over swollen eyes.
My family is silent as we drive to where my uncle stays. My family is silent as we walk to the building and go inside.
My father hears squeaking, rapid and quick, like two metal rails slamming and banging on the tile. We rush to my uncle’s room and toss his door wide. We see him lowering in his chair as he slowly comes back down to a gentle rock.
He looks over at me, and for a brief moment...
I see a match! A flash! An explosion! My heart jumps up and pauses. Our eyes rise to the occasion once more - one last time.
Not even fifteen, ten, or five seconds since he halted his rickety wagon, I know my uncle had just seen a dragon!
My family begins to fill my vision as my uncle turns to face the window. My eyes catch the fading ribbons of a wavy shadow that grace the glass before him. Vanishing as quickly as it had come, I know it will not return.
“Finally,” I say aloud, “There are no such things as dragons.”
I am four years old.
Best Decision Ever
I knew choosing a restaurant by the ocean had been the right choice when I saw her smile, her lips stretched wide as she flashed her pearly whites at me. Her scales had shimmered under the moonlight, the end of her tail grazing my jean clad leg. It was a sensation I had never felt before, but it left my heart pounding.
I had never been out on a date with a mermaid before, but I knew once I saw her that I was hooked. Conversation never ceased through the night, not even when our plates were empty and the restaurant was beginning to clear out. My hand gravitated towards hers, my fingers skimming her velvety soft skin.
And when I kissed her at the end of the night, I knew I would never be able to place my lips over someone else's. Hers were so soft, plump and addicting that I could kiss her forever. They were salty like the sea, and I found myself craving the taste more and more.
Did I ever think I would date a mermaid? Never.
Was I glad I did? Hell yeah.
I agreed to meet Ouroboros at a neutral location. When I arrived at the restaurant, he had already ordered, and was biting into his own tail. I tried to make small talk, but he didn't seem too interested. I left him sitting at the table, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't even notice I was gone. He was so full of himself!
The Monster Under the Bed
He was the one who shattered the dreams of kids. The hidden criminal who stole the gleeful smiles and the sparkling eyes of every single culprit. He took the unperturbed conscience of the innocent world, the luminescent light that roamed every corner, and twisted the faultless universe into an underworld of warfare and crime.
Or so that’s what they thought.
Looks are deceiving. Everyone is beautiful. We are not skin-deep, is all the inequitable world could say. But their trivial remarks would bend into a shining orb that mirrored their hypocrisy and prejudice. They would mend their unjust affairs and throw their remorseless lies on the gentle monster of the unseen world.
For all they had ever known, he was always there. The tender giant that slept under the beds of little children.
He was a lost shadow, only a whisper to what he beheld and truly was. A placid friend at heart, only to be ripped into the realms of a vicious monster. Candidly, he was an adrift beast of pure intention, searching for a friend with an open mind and a spiraling character.
And so he rested beneath the rickety mattresses of young kids, knowing that the newly born souls were genuine and true.
But he was wrong.
Around the world, society slowly tore the friendly beast into a devil of cruel works and wicked majesty. They would make kids of young and old inculcate their nefarious stories of the evil monster that cleverly hid under their beds. Movies, books, sayings… they were all present to dethrone the provision of a compassionate beast.
So youthful children began closing their closets and putting glistening lamps beneath their sleeping kingdoms. They started telling others of the savage giant and began believing the perverse deceits of the world.
And so the cycle commenced. Future generations were exposed to the darkening light and the devious acts of the murderous monster.
The world became worse and worse until not even people of the same blood could trust each other… they became more sadistic, more cold-blooded, more inhuman.
It was simple. A plan so astute, so clever, that no genius could stop the world-wide domination of the competent lies.
The world would persist in their wrongful discriminations -- mounding up accusations, falsehoods, and untruths -- until the count was so many that the kind beast was a demon, possessor of subtle assassination.
For now, he would stay as the monster underneath the bed.
It is thought that the more people the merrier, as to more minds build a stronger and more intelligent world. But unlike the floating phrases softly sewn into the wind, the world strained of this wisdom would transform their initial refined ideals into a dark and dastardly universe.
And it would stay like this for some time.
Even though the powerful remembrance of goodness was once alive, the world would never learn from their ignorant mistakes... Their lies once truths...
because they were too afraid to realize that the monsters were in them all along.
What to call this person? Was it he, she, they, it? Or maybe it was a combination of all of them. Some days, he felt more like a man, and he lusted for women, feeling the testosterone beating against his skull. Others she felt quite feminine, trying on fancy dresses in the back of failing costume shops and feeling stirrings of longing in her heart whenever anyone walked by pushing a stroller.
Alex was what non- medical specialists called a hermaphrodite, with both sets of parts underneath a deliberately androgynous exterior, short but stylish brown hair, multiple but artistic piercings, and beautiful and mysterious tattoos, each of which meant something, but only to Alex. Alex was perfectly fine remaining an unknown, a blank box, a non-binary person. Alex knew that society expected one to choose, but Alex didn't want to. Why should they? It was more fun to see where the day took you, to decide what you wanted to wear and who you wanted to be at any given moment.
Alex's job working the stockroom at a big box store gave Alex the freedom to choose, as no one ever needed to see them. Unfortunately, the boss wasn't too flexible about gender, so Alex had to tell people he was a man and stick to it most of the time. It was unfortunate, but if you wanted a job, this was the kind of compromise you had to make.
Alex was a free spirit, sexually, spiritually, emotionally, but felt stifled at work. The one thing Alex hated above all else was falsehood, whether it was false charm, false hair or outright lies, but right now, it seemed like every day was a lie, each one building on the next, the weight of it slowly crushing out all breath until it felt like Alex was going to die.
Sometimes she wanted to get long plastic fingernails or bright red lipstick, but that would be too much for her boss, so, she let a fun experience, a small but significant piece of expression, pass her by, and he remained the same.
Alex had seen what happened to people like them. Alex had heard nightmare stories of people being attacked on the streets, because a straight man had hit on them and they were biologically male, or they had just come out of a drag bar, or just because they wanted to use the bathroom they felt they had a right to use. That wasn't going to be Alex. They still had dreams. Alex wanted to be a musician, to sing and play guitar like an angel, to make tears stream down the faces of their audience because the song struck a place inside them and vibrated like a tuning fork.
How was that going to happen? Alex had no money and a broken guitar, but those were both excuses, really. Alex could have found a way, but the fact of the matter was, Alex was just too scared. A person can build something up so much in their head that they become as paralyzed as if a bullet had struck their spines. How Alex was going to get past it, Alex didn't know. It just seemed too hard.
A Black Person Dialogue.
"Hi, I was just looking out my window and I couldn't help but to notice a Yorkshire Terrier in the street outside my house. I believe that the same dog was chased by the local kids back here. Is he your dog?"
"Yea, he my dog."
"Oh, great. I'm glad he's safe, then. He was just so small and skiddish, I didn't want him to get hurt. You know how the people speed down here."
"Why you talkin' like dat?"
"I know what the hell it is. Why you speakin' it like that?"
"I'm a native speaker."
"Don't tell me what the fuck I already know. You sound white."
"I didn't realize that colors have sounds."
"I mean like white people, lil' gurl."
"So are you trying to say that my voice sounds akin to a white woman's usual dialect?"
"Stop gettin' smart with me, bitch."
"So now I'm an increasingly intelligent female dog? I feel as if I should see that as a compliment."
"Have a great day, ma'am."
The Other Side
I bleed like you bleed
But I do not feed like you feed
You take what's not given, you take what you need
You take without asking, you're a thief
I give without reason
You take without warning
I love without expectation
You feed off my mourning
My intention's pure
While you trap and lure
I fell victim to your embrace
Unknowing I was just another phase
Now I feel as though I bleed a different shade of red
My heart numb, thoughts spinning in my head
I reach for comfort in anything that doesn't remind me of you
A different bed, anyone's will do
I'd take a dose of anything if it promised I'd forget you
I'd let another occupy my body, my mind, anyone will do
I'd take my own life, I'd swallow my pride
As long as I didn't have to see you on the other side
You might have heard of her, probably not by this name. She's been known by a lot of names:
The Beautiful One
There is more to her than a name. Much, much more.
So, so, powerful. She never had a chance to be young. One moment, her parents guarded her, keeping the sorrow of the terrible revolution taking place in her homeland from reaching her. The next...they were dead. And she was forced to grow up to assume their position. She had a twin brother, Viceroy. But he dealt with his sorrow, and his responsibility, differently than she did, taking to the network of tunnels underneath the city, leaving her alone to care for their younger sister Firefly.
She has a beautiful face, with its dark brown skin and eyes that are the color of burning embers. Long, silky black hair falls down her back in a straight waterfall, four orange streaks contrasting strikingly. She holds herself with dignity, her face an impassive piece of stone. She has never had time to cry.
Beautiful viceroy wings fold at from her back when she wishes to feel elegant, or beautiful, or show just who she is...or maybe just to get away from everything around her. She once used to hate those wings...they reminded her of the monarch wings her twin brother possesses.
She comes from an ancient race, one that has had a powerful protector for all these many centuries, The Darkness. And since her father died, and Viceroy has left, this is her void to fill. As well as the position of the Supreme Judge of the Thirteen. She carries it well. You would never know the sorrow and the pain that is hidden under that blank face. The only emotion many see is the anger burning in those eyes...
There isn't anyone beside Firefly who is close to her. The powers she possesses, the positions she fills--it makes her alien to everyone else, even her own people.
When people think of Monarch, all they see is those burning eyes, the perfect face, and the silence. But Monarch knows there is so much more, and she is dying to show her true self to someone. Someone who understands.
She has waited a while for that person, one hundred years, almost, though she still looks like a teenager. She knows she'll have to wait a little longer, too, but she's patient.
She knows that it'll be worth it in the end.
Or so she hopes.
She's lonely. Even surrounded by people like she is, she is so alone. But it's not like she's made an effort. She just waits.
She's not completely unhappy. She enjoys taking place of her messenger, who delivers her court edicts in her place to prevent her assassination. She also enjoys serving justice as the mysterious Darkness who hides behind the hood of a cloak but has unheard of powers. It's like she can become someone else. But there's always a relief--and a dull pain--when she is just simply Monarch.
© Copyright 2017 Abigail Burchwell
My dad and I had been sitting in the same spot for the past hour. Him sitting forward on the couch, with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Me, spread out on the arm chair, staring up at the ceiling.
At the beginning of the night my mother had been here sitting down with us at the dinner table, laughing and talking excitedly. Then she left, seeking some better adventure, trying to find some more excitement for her life.
I don’t know how he puts up with it, I’m her daughter and I can barely stand it. He married her, and just… why would he do that?
Out of the corner of my eye, I see his head raise from his hands, and I assume he’s looking at me, “She’ll be back.”
I stop staring at the ceiling to meet his gaze, “How do you know?”
“She always comes back.”
I cough and look away from him, unwilling to look him straight in the eyes anymore to see what he was thinking. My dad is very easy to read, once you stare into his eyes long enough. After another moment of silence I ask him, “You do know that you deserve better, right?”
He chuckles and says, “Trust me, I don’t.” And with that, he gets up and walks away while I sit here trying to figure out what he means. Trying to figure out why she always leaves and comes back. Just trying to make sense of this strange relationship between my parents that for whatever reason, they’re both okay with.
Who knows, maybe it will make sense to me one day.
Actually, scratch that, I hope this never makes sense to me.