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Friday, 11 June 2021

1989 - The Narratives - Out Of The Woods

With the fire roaring and the comforter wrapped around her, she thumbed through the polaroids. She remembered that this time last year she'd been in this position, on his couch, nestled into his chest and she felt she was home. 

There were doubters, of course. Those predicting, taking bets on their failure. They had been so determined to go against the grain that at times they forgot to see each other for who they really were. They couldn't see themselves for their images, the constructs that were not of their making. 

Not to say that there were not moments of perfect clarity. The paper airplanes. The ring dangling from a chain on her neck. The dancing without music. All the while, asking themselves, asking each other, could they do this? Were they in the clear?

They gave themselves every possible chance. But things bigger than themselves took control. 

The tree in the road. 

The slick, slippery road itself. 

The slightly worn brakes. 

She sat with him all night. As the sun rose, she looked at his sleeping face and wiped a tear, knowing she had never looked upon any face so beautiful and so full of pain. She put her face in her hands. Fate had done this. She would let it run its course. 

No more running. No more hiding. 

No more fighting. 

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

1989 - The Narratives - Welcome to New York

 The thrill of a new season hung in the air. The city was ready to be renewed - Christmas was a fond, distant memory and the gloominess of post-December winter was packing up to leave. Everyone could breathe a little easier. 

She felt it as she emerged from the subway. The sun was actually shining, and though it wasn't warm enough without a winter coat, people still smiled. The shock of such an occurrence put her in an even better mood, and she even ventured a greeting to a few passers-by.

The small-town girl in the Big Apple - she felt like the heroine of her own story. Luckily, she had already put roots down here, had formed a good community, so the romanticism of her move would be well-balanced by reality. 

Still, the apartment was generous for what she was paying, and she had windows to open. They looked over an alleyway, yes, but there was air to breathe. She dropped her bags and counted how many steps it took to walk the perimeter of her new place, pleased when it  was more than her estimation. 

She'd been invited to dinner that night but put it off until the weekend. She knew how important it was to establish herself on her own terms before starting her new life in relation to her friends, colleagues, and potential lovers.

She took a walk, as for as her legs could carry her, as long as he could take breath. She took only her keys and a few dollars to buy food from street vendors. She wanted to capture the city without anything else demanding her attention. She wanted to see it, smell it, taste it in a way that it could be hers. She wanted to find her own piece of it like the millions who walked around her. The bright lights dazzled her but they didn't deter her. She shuffled her way through a maze of streets and skyscrapers. She bought a hot dog and coffee from a guy on the street and breathed in the familiar smells that seemed altogether different, here.

She knew she could be anyone in this city. There was something more than she wanted, something new she wanted to find. She smiled at the lovers eating dinner, ambling down the street, waiting in line for the club. Men, women, friends, romantics, they were all a picture of a life that could be. A life that would be hers, once she knew herself again. 

Friday, 4 June 2021

1989 - The Narratives - Clean

 For the first time in ten months, the garden was fresh, green, vital. Yet, the memory of the dust remained. It lingered, dry in her throat, refusing to be parched by even the most violent and tumultuous of thunderstorms. 

Her gaze swept over the terracotta pots that were scattered across her handkerchief-sized garden. It rested on the biggest one, th brightest before the drought. It had housed the most sumptuous of roses, violently red like the passion of their love. She closed her eyes, remembering how the perfume had drifted lazily over their bodies as they lay under the watch of the dying sun. 

All those months, back and forth, until she had finally said, enough! One way or the other. 

And he had chosen the other. 

And that was it. The rain stopped falling. The butterflies died and littered her room, decaying awfully to dust. Dry, thirsty, like everything else in this cracked and dying land. 

She looked down at her dress, the one she'd worn on the night of his departure. She could still see the mascara stained teardrops, the smudge of his eyeliner. She had screamed when he left, but no one heard her pain, there was no hero on a white horse to sweep her out of this agony. 

Still looking at her dress, she knew she had to make a change. 

It was a warm day. Sweat already clung to the nape of her neck. She stripped and held the dress in her hand. Slowly, uncertainly, she tore it. After that, it was easy. The shredding was cathartic. She looked at the pieces in her hand and refused to let them represent her. She dropped them, picked up her hammer, and walked over to her foe. The terracotta pot stood defiantly, calling her bluff. She hesitated, felt the hammer slip an inch out of her grip. 

But then she remembered the rains had come. They had wanted her to be clean. She felt something on her scalp and reached up to touch the drops starting to cling to her hair. 

She smiled. She reached into the bottom of the pot for the roots of the thing, and lifted it out - once so majestic, the thing was dead and withered. She walked, carefully, deliberately, to the end of the garden and threw it over the fence.

Turning to the pot, her smile became a grimace. She picked up the hammer once more, and made the first blow. A tiny crack, almost inconsequential, but a crack to be sure. Soon enough, the pot - lie the dress - lay in pieces, wrecked, but she stood tall and glorious. 

This time, when she reached for her glass of water, the memory of the dust disappeared. 

Thursday, 3 June 2021

1989 - The Narratives - Wildest Dreams

She painted with the colours she felt, rather than those that had been. Red, matte lips instead of bubble gum pink gloss; doll-like, rosy cheeks in place of her awkward blush; a burnt orange and warm gold sunset to replace the breezy air, the cloud-covered sky. She daubed the beach with painstaking detail, as if one could pick out each individual grain of sand. 

She did it this way not because she was a liar, but because she was a romantic. The true memories would be her most precious, and she did not want to share them - they were the only things that could be truly hers. She replaced a few key details so that when she did pour out her heartache, her friends could sense just enough, but not enough to completely expose her. 

It was a thrill, she couldn't deny it. The fair had been the start of it all. Her friends had left early to go to a party, but as she still kicking back antibiotics from an infection two weeks past, she didn't think alcohol was the best idea. So, she stayed, an invisible stranger amongst the bright lights, squealing children, and candy floss. 

And then he showed up, the brooding, handsome hero. The fact that he was staring at her like Noah looking at Allie Hamilton did not help, but it was everything. One conversation was all it took for her to be swept away. He was honest, which she did not expect, that he was only here for the summer and couldn't make promises beyond that. His honesty was enough, almost worth more than his affection. And so, for five, dreamlike weeks, they were together, a careful distance by day, completely entangled at night. 

And when it came time for him to leave, she felt okay. Not great, and she was sure the heartache would kill later on, but she'd had a time of complete adoration and being made to feel like it was just her. 

When she gave him the painting, he accepted. It helped - she wasn't sure if he would. 

"I'll remember you," he said. "In my wildest dreams, I'll remember you."

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Review: Inner Alchemy - The Path of Mastery by Zulma Reyo

 This is an updated edition of the same book that was originally published in 1989. In this book, which crosses the line between a non-fiction and academic text, Zulma Reyo draws on her decades of experience and education in the field of inner alchemy. 

The book itself comprises many things: learning what inner alchemy is; best practices of meditation; connecting with the spiritual plane; and the human energetic anatomy (e.g. The Chakras). A lot of this was very new to me, having known very little to do with this field beforehand, but I was impressed by how rigorous and thoughtful the book is. 

It's not a self-help meditation book, although there are guided meditations in it. It's a comprehensive work about the intangible and energetic parts of the human body. Therefore, it's not a book that can be consumed quickly (although I tried!) It's a book to come back to time and again, and if you have an interest in that field and how it can help you, then it's a perfect fit. 

visit if you're interested to find out more. 

Friday, 7 May 2021

Review: The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi

 Note: I received a review copy of this book in exchange for a review as part of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize blog tour. 

"They burnt down the market the day Vivek Oji died."

This is probably the best and most haunting opening line and chapter of a book that I have ever read, and it does a perfect job of setting the tone for the whole book. Akwaeke Emezi creates an emotional world out of a community of several families that is expansive, deep, and gut-wrenching. 

The two main POVs in the book are Vivek and Osita. They are cousins, as close as brothers, yet their relationship is fractured as teenagers, for a time. Eventually they find each other as they are finding themselves; Osita, in his sexuality, and Vivek, in his sexuality and gender identity. 

It's a traditional world, though, and Vivek's parents (Chika and Kavita) are terrified of what is happening to their son, both because of their own values and for his security. Chika finds comfort in the arms of another woman while Kavita is pouring herself into her son. 

Vivek doesn't find security with his parents for much longer. He finds it in his female friends, who don't judge his expressions, and - at last - Osita, whose burgeoning relationship is as deep as it is fragile. 

What is one meant to do when one does not want to live according to gender expections? Although Vivek can't be entirely open, they try - eventually dressing in a non-conforming way and more (though I won't reveal that). Ultimately, though, the story ends in tragedy. And the of the book displays its brilliance even more once the story is finished. It tells us enough but not everything. 

I'm sad to say that this is probably the first book by a non-binary author I've ever read. The author and the story prove how worthwhile in their own right, and not just for the representation of the community. These authors and stories deserve more presence, both culturally and personally. 

Friday, 30 April 2021

Review: Good Data by Sam Gilbert

 There has been an awful lot in the news about so-called Surveillance Capitalism, particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the documentary of The Great Hack, and other social media based documentaries. 

However, in this book, Gilbert seeks to assuage the fears set out by the above titles. His argument essentially lays out how use of data from our social media activities can be used for good. 

I was sceptical at first; after all, Gilbert’s business relied on the data they were able to gather from social media users. However, as the book  went on, I found myself more and more persuaded by his arguments as research. He doesn’t set out to deny the harm done by Facebook users (eg in Myanmar, where the army used Facebook to perpetrate harm against the Rohingya) but he does also show how Facebook’s ad-based business model allows for, in some ways, democratisation of the internet and allowed popular protest and dissent to give power to citizens. 

Gilbert’s book is written very clearly, logically, and - most importantly for non-tech-minded readers - with a huge degree of accessibility. I still retain the opinion that tech giants should be more regulated and be forced to include greater fact checking on their sites but Gilbert has persuaded me that my data on the internet can end up being used for worthy causes. 

 Good Data: An Optimist's Guide to Our Digital Future by Sam Gilbert is published 1st April 2021, published by Welbeck, price £14.99 in hardback.