Saturday, November 30, 2013

Freedom

Today I stepped out of the office and felt like garbage. I've been feeling steadily like garbage for the rest of the afternoon except for a couple of lulls when I was thinking of something else.

I felt like everything I have ever touched has turned to shit. I went today to repay a kindness and found myself confronted with my own image in my mother's face. I don't want to feel angry or resentful or small anymore. I don't want to look at my future and find discontent and unsatisfied hopes.

This year has been so hard that I can't recall another period of my life when I was this tired. During the last year I've woken up tired almost every day. I'm so exhausted I've officially given up, at least temporarily. No wonder it's been getting so hard to write anything lately.

Today, I heard tears in the night and remembered my chains.

At times they feel very unreal, distorted like trick mirrors. And then I am left to wonder if things are as I've come to understand them. I get to wonder if maybe I haven't been horribly unfair to my mother, if maybe it really is all me. I have avoided her so conscientously since I left that I never stopped to think of what that would do to her now, given the circumstances. I feel like I should have known this time it was different. This time it was for real.

I cry. I feel the need to atone, feel the overwhelming impossibility of it and feel defeated in a way that is so familiar...

I remember Rosetti's poem, I have been here before, and instead of delicious anticipation all I feel is the dread of guilt, of crushing responsibility. I never thought to feel this way again. My head hurts and I am trying to cry very, very quietly. Is it a vestigial reaction to a completely new situation? Has my ability to empathize with my mother been forever tainted by survival mechanisms? Am I truly that monstrous?

I am tired and wretched and empty. And all I can think is, write, just keep writing, just get down to work, forget where you came from and fix your eyes on the future.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Happy Funeral Post

Today, after work, after the rain, after my cold, I had to attend a funeral. It occurred to me that this makes 3 years in a row in which I've been to a funeral. Other than being incredibly creeped out by this new occurrence, it made me realize that unlike the other two, this was a very happy funeral.

There are probably a lot of factors that influenced my perception of it as such, especially the fact that this wasn't exactly my family and therefore a bit of an unknown quantity for me, especially the fact that one of the previous two funerals was a gut-wrenching and untimely tragedy. But the thing was, it got me thinking, it got me thinking of what my family is like and the horrible secrets and resentments we keep. Everyone was telling such a happy stories about the deceased, such a hearty way of taking on disaster. It made me try to imagine what we'll say when my grandmother dies. I don't think any of us could ever manage much good cheer at such a time. And also, kind of embarrassingly, it made me think of what I'm going to say when my mother dies.

I think about her death a lot, and I don't like it. It makes me feel cold and uncaring.

It makes me remember that House episode where he attempts to give an eulogy for his abusive father. He tries to be civil and diplomatic, but also as brutally honest as he can be, because of course he is House after all.

So here goes my attempt at a not-yet-necessary eulogy:

She was a remarkable woman, who, in her life, accomplished more than many of us will ever dream of. She lived for her work, though she wasn't always happy about that and understood the wish for more in life. She lived for me too, and at times, that was too heavy a burden to bear.

However, she has left behind a number of people, other than me, who will mourn her and who will be much better off for her presence in this world; maybe more than she could have imagined. She made life-long friends in colleagues and students alike and few of them will ever understand the incredible blessing that they received, when being the focus only of her love, attention and generosity, and never of all the other, darker things, that she reserved for herself.

Once she was all I desired to be, my personal hero. Once.

Her best qualities were often her worst too, and that is the inheritance she has left me. For better or worse she made me in her image: perfectionist, neurotic, self-critical, arrogant and hard-working. I thank her for my schooling, for my intellectual curiosity, for my artistic vision, for my professional ethics and the ample rewards all of these have brought me. But I do not thank her for the fear.

She was my mother, and will never cease being it, not even in death.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Entirely Misplaced Sense of Grandeur

So I recently got incredible news in the form of my first, ever review. I am ecstatic. I am DELIRIOUSLY happy. I am also intensely embarrassed and foolishly proud and have shown this thing to everyone because I love it so.

The review came from the Argentinan blog called El Tintero de Nicotina and it concerned the whole of Gutter Glitter's new Psychopomp anthology, Bunny Love, in which I have a short story. You can take a look at the whole review at the aforementioned blog. It is, like the anthology, unfortunately, in Spanish. But I'd like to quote the bit that talks about my own short story, just as a personal form of sickening ego stroking:

La bruja y el lobo: Irene Adela Flores Vazquez nos cuenta na historia casi musical que respeta una estructura narrativa de antiquísimo orígen; la repetición de la fórmula da un carácter casi ritual a esta clase de cuentos que todos sabemos cómo han de terminar, pero queremos oír de todos modos. Los personajes cumplen su papel con fuerza de autómata, pero los versos casi míticos podrían haber sido recitados por Homero o Quevedo ante un público nutrido, y hubiesen sido aplaudidos sin duda. Muy bello.
Or in English:

The Witch and the Wolf: Irene Adela Flores Vazquez tells us an almost musical story which respects a narrative structure of ancient origin. The repetition of this formula gives an almost ritual character to this sort of story, one for which we all know the ending, yet still want to hear. The characters fulfill their roles with the force of an automaton, but the almost mythical verses could have been recited by Homer or Quevedo before a large audience and would have, without a doubt, been applauded. Very beautiful.
I was just called Homer... and Quevedo... I think I shall die of glee.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sea Monsters

I had a strange dream some days ago. I had been discussing fiction about child molestation and the sort of monstrous father who would keep his own daughter a prisoner and a slave for years, to keep her for himself.

I dreamed of a little girl with pigtails who lived with her parents in the woods. They were poor and had no other children. Once in a while the father would take his little girl out into the woods and rape her til she dropped and leave her there. Her mother knew but said nothing. I believe she did not particularly care for the child.

So one day, as she lay down on the forest, beaten and bloodied and torn, the little girl made a decision. She picked her self from the ground and walked, and walked, and walked, until she arrived at a grey and cold beach. There were large rocks upon that beach and the stars were shining. The little girl would not return home.

She found a tide pool and laid herself in it. Strange, viscous creatures emerged from it and began to consume her. They ate her in a way that was very like her father's rape. They took her in. When they were done, a monster emerged from the tide pool.


I've had a weird image of her all week. Not in any way as clear as my other dream's images but real enough. So I had a go at drawing her.

This is the first drawing I make entirely with my tablet. It needs work.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Untitled

This Sunday I took a late nap after a long day. It was a really short thing, about half an hour all in all, but it seemed to last forever. I was dreaming; dreaming one of those dreams.

There were these children, I remember only a few of them specifically, but I remember there were a bunch of them, all different ages and sizes. They were staying "at court". They seemed to be from important families and they were staying at some sort of palace. As is often the case, the palace looked, unfailingly, like my grandparents' house. It had the same trees, the same garden, the same wall and the same little bungalow my uncle inhabited where I so often walked in uninvited.

The children were at play and it was hard to tell whether they were getting along or not. Their families certainly weren't and there was a strong implication in the air that the reason they were all hanging around at court was to remedy this state of affairs. Someone had suggested they go hunting, or so it seemed to me, and they left the garden by my grandparents' old door, down the brick road, the one with the iron bell, the wall with the ivy over it.

There was a girl, still a girl but evidently fancying herself a woman already. She had the sort of headdress sixteenth century noble ladies wore, a bit ridiculous for a tiny slip of a girl with a little round face and a snubbed nose. She was wearing one of those gowns with a high waist and a low cleavage which hardly made her look womanly in spite of itself; there was very little bosom to work with. She was dressed all in green and gold. Her hair was a honey brown.

There was a lad, maybe a bit older than the girl, but not by much. He had that ridiculous page bob all little princes seem to have, and he was dressed in the way Henry VIII would have dressed if he had been a skinny boy, scarce able to carry so much cloth on his thin shoulders. There was the fur and the rich linen and the gloves. I think the boy was a hunter. Green and gold for him too and the same honey-brown hair. Or ashen brown, I can't seem to recall.

There was a mad dog outside, not much really, a little feist running up and down the street with foam flying of his mouth. Not a danger really, except all mad dogs are sooner or later. I think the lad in green shot him down. Or it might have been his older brother, for there was an older brother, someone who was too much of an adult to run with the children but still slender and young and fair. He did not have the ridiculous page cut, his hair was long and lose. But his coloring was exactly the same as his younger sibling's.

When she saw him, the girl in the womanly gown beamed and preened and flirted, for he was beautiful. I do not believe the young lad was pleased for they seemed to have struck a friendship of sorts. They went back into the gardens and into my uncle's bungalow, which by the magic of dreams, was transformed into handsome quarters, fit for these nobly born youngsters. She laughed at the lad in green and teased him and then asked if she could go into his quarters to refresh herself. He acceded, a bit shy but gentlemanly.

In those private quarters, those appointed to his family, she couldn't help but nose around. She prodded and spied until she came face to face with his father, who had the same unfortunate page bob and the same blonde hair as his sons. But he had a kind face, big nose, big jaw, big smile. He had the furs too and the big Henry VII shoulders. They talked easily and he was evidently charmed. I don't think he had meant to be quite so charmed. As I have said their families seemed to be at odds. All of them.

When they came back into the garden, the young lad was quite as surprised as his father. The young lady was all smiles and graces and he couldn't help feel a bit jealous, that she so easily charmed everyone, as she had charmed him. But again the children were left to their own devices and again the lad and the girl were alone. He was sulking and resentful and she sat by his side and shyly asked him, "So when you are older, will you let your hair grow long like your brother?"

He smiled and said yes and things were mended between them.

The youngsters retired to their parents' quarters and the girl and her lad parted amicably. She went up a flight of stairs that had the railing and my grandparents' red carpet. But as she climbed and climbed the house grew (of course, it was a palace in my dream after all). Her apartments were on a top floor in one of those rectangular courtyards that have a balcony all along its inner walls. There was another girl who had come up to this part of the palace. She had been among the group, quiet and inconspicuous. Dark and mysterious. I think she was the oldest among them. About the same age as this not-quite-a-woman and her lad, but standing just the littlest bit taller. She gazed curiously at our girl in green.

Our little lady was taking down some Halloween decorations, or at least that is what they seemed. Little bats and boogies and other creepy crawlies made of paper. Evidently the celebration was not far behind. And evidently, the lonesome task of taking these apart was entirely hers. She seemed well-content with it and therefore used to this solitary state of affairs. The older girl stared at her strange decorations. I think some of them resembled our Día de los Muertos papers. They were lovely, dainty things, very much in the taste of this mysterious young lady. When the girl in green became aware of her scrutiny she smiled, such a friendly thing. They talked about the decorations, about the loneliness and the disinterest or busy schedule of their parents. Out mysterious lady seemed surprised, but she had made a friend. When she continued on to her quarters she did so with the gift of a paper decoration. She was lodged right in front of her new friend.

Her father was there, busy, I think, reading a paper. Her father was dressed exactly like a grandfatherly version of Bela Lugosi. You see, these two were vampires, what a strange thing. They said their hellos, asked about each others day and settled in the sort of comfortable co-habitation of two people who have had only each other for a long time. And then he warned her, of course.

He said to her, "I saw you talking to the Luther child" (so our little lady's family were the Luthers, I had come to find out). "You must be careful with her," he said to his beloved daughter. She seemed unimpressed. She knew the Luthers were church and would not look warmly upon their kind, but, I suppose, wasn't this the whole point of living at court? To know one another.

"No," her father said. "Come with me and I will show you."

Together they looked out their window, beyond their balcony and into the long descent towards what should have been an inner courtyard. But this wasn't a courtyard, rather a beautifully furnished sitting room. It had books and dark colors, heavy furniture with warmly glowing wood. There was an enormous fireplace with a mantlepiece full of nicknacks and such. There was, I think, a little statue, or a toy, something in the vague shape of a man.

"Look," her father said. "Look closely."

And so the little vampire was able to see the glamor, the magical deception cast upon it.

"It's one of us," she said to her father with a hint of fear.

"And he has his eyes fixed upon your little friend."

The Luther girl came back, of course, for when have young girls ever listened to their fathers? She came back and met her father. There was an old phonograph which she exclaimed over much to his pleasure, and she danced with this grandfatherly Bela Lugosi and charmed him as easily as she had charmed everyone else. Somehow or other she knew they were what they were. So this strange vampire condition must not have been so strange in this palace, this country. Strange enough to hide it from court, but not so strange as to keep a clever, little girl who saw them often from guessing. And the pair of monsters were delighted! For our little lady did not turn away or grew scared but commended them on their fierceness and admired their mysterious qualities. It wasn't long before they had invited her to stay, to sleep over with her new friend, to better keep an eye on her safety.

And this little lady with the luxurious headdress and the womanly gown and the absent parents, what did she do first but inquire as to how two such great monsters could have but a pair of rooms for their use when she and her parents were occupying half this floor and one below? Oh, it was no problem really, they had little servitude and their coffins could well fit in a single room. Oh but the Luther girl was distraught. Should not her friend, a young lady in her own right, have a room of her own? A place to lay her coffin in private and entertain and carry her own affairs?

So it was, and the two girls settled into a disheveled bed, more rooms having been cleared for the use of our two vampires. With such a charming guest the need for a coffin was forgotten. But not the need for alertness. The young vampire girl looked out her new window, trying to ascertain if this simple change in location had somehow dissuaded her friend's admirer.

But he was there still. The face of an almost feline statuette firmly facing towards this very window. She glared at it while her friend complained behind her, told her to come into bed and hear about what those fools at court had done now. But her friend would not move from her vigil; and as often happens, when you stare hard enough, something stares right back.

The Luther girl gave a little cry of protest when she saw her friend climb out her window, but whatever else followed was drowned when the girl let herself fall. And of course, because this is a vampire and this is a dream, our young undead turned into a bat and flew, intent upon having words with whatever intruder would dare menace her friend. She landed upon the beautifully furnished sitting room and looked to the mantlepiece to confront her enemy but there was nothing there. When she turned, there he was, huge, magnificent and full of dark ferocity.


I woke up then and turned to my boyfriend. I said, "I just had the best dream, let me tell you before I forget..."


The girl in the green and gold dress came ready made with a family name, a family name that suggests a history of sorts, but I think I've decided on everyone else. The last week I've been wishing to try and tackle a fantasy project, not the big ambitious one which I've had forever, but a smaller, less intimidating one. I wanted something that would let me stretch my muscles and be a little silly. I wanted to do as GRRM does and name my main family Stark after Iron Man just because that sounds so cool.

I think this is the sort of project I needed. My vampire girl and her father will probably have the family name of Polidori. Her name will be Lucille. Our little family of Henry VIIIs shall all be named after different versions of Lanval... Landeval, Launfal, so on and so forth. This is the dream of the people with L names. I've got such a clear visuals, and it's like discovering a story that's already written. So there are vampires in this country, and some are hidden, but people know. What else is there? I think there shall be fairies. I think my Lanvals have such a very uniform coloring because they might have fairy blood.

Who knows what else will come up?


(There was also something else I think I was dreaming before this big dream story. I think it's connected or so I would like it to be. I was dreaming of something kind of like Hellsing's Alucard. I think that's where I got my perverted scary vampire stalker. I was dreaming there was this young man and he was very sweet and gentle and he was in love. He was courting this young lady. So after getting her consent I think, to something or other, maybe marriage, maybe something else, he comes to his room, all ecstatic. And in that room he finds our vampire, hungry, jealous, but infinitely seductive. I think they must have been old lovers, there was that sort of tension. I think there must have been a heated exchange. I think this man is Luther girl's father. I was worried that her colors, her dress and hair were to similar to those of her Lanval lad. But I think it must be because her mother was of that family. That must have been the lady this young man was courting. Pieces, bits at a time. A young man from a church family with a vampire (ex?)lover who courted and wed a fey-blooded lady. Who knows indeed.)

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Little Things

Recently I posted about writing for the wonderful indie publisher Gutter Glitter. I don't own a camera and my computer's webcam is pretty shoddy, so that post did not have the panaché I wanted it too. A friend of mine just did me the favor of taking a couple of pictures I really want to share with the world.

I want this bit here to have a bit of coherence, a bit of consistency, a bit of shape. But really, it is just an excuse for me to feel good and to show off the things that make me feel good. Lately, (in the last two years or so) I've begun to change my life... not all of it, but bits and pieces at a time. Slowly, tentatively, I stretch and touch and reach out and try to see whether the long, dark years are truly over. It may sound a bit trivial, certainly, it may not seem all that important. But these two pictures I have here represent for me all those little things that make life bearable.

This is like an alien sighting. Look, I exist! And so does the book! For realz!

About mid-semester I received a wonderful surprise via snail mail. I received my author's copy of Gutter Glitter's Psychopomp. I've been sending to and considering various web-based magazines, and they all sound great really... yet, yet... There has never been anything quite like receiving and holding a copy of your book, the book where your words are written. There is nothing like looking at the paper, flipping through the illustrations, seeing your work alongside that of others.



Look! It's my name! With Derre's! I swoon! I faint!

And let me tell you, I don't think that I shall ever feel like this again, not even if I get a big commercial publisher deal... because Psychopomp is an intimate, infinite labour of love. When I touched the cover it had a beautiful feel, I could immediately tell that Derrewyn had carefully selected the material. When I looked at the cover, I could feel a fierce, completely misplaced pride in the gorgeous quality of the illustration. For years I have admired and felt inspired by D. I consider her a superb artist, a rising star, a creator of quality up to par with any of my other more famous inspirations. I dreamed of getting her to make me an illustration. I kept trying to write something so good, so moving that she would feel compelled to draw me something for it.

Giddily, I can now say that it gets even better. This year I will be haunting my mailbox for a SECOND copy of my dream come true. A second volume of Psychopomp has just come out and the copies are printed. Soon Bunny Love will join its tamer, fantasy sibling and together they will haunt my bookshelves and whisper evilly to each other, no doubt planning my end.

Cruella de Ville or Aerenys Targaryen? You be the judge.

If you look at the upper right hand corner of your screen, (and at that conspicuous portrait in this very post) you will see that my dark haired self has been hijacked by an unknown blonde. That blonde is me. I repeat: THAT. BLONDE. IS. ME. If you take a look above, you will see the progression, from half a blonde to poodle-puffy blonde, with the occasional misstep such as the roots at the back of my head. This is important. No, really, I'm not kidding. My hair is very, very important.

I've wanted to dye my hair since I was a stupid teenager. When I am on the bus and I see a beautiful girl with beautiful blue/purple/green/anything hair, I make a point of stopping and telling her I love her (okay, maybe not that creepily, but you get the picture). I have longed for an extravagant color and dark roots in my ponytail since always. But I have also thought it impossible. Until now. I had the strange idea that dyed hair is for pretty girls only. Since I don't fulfill the group requirements the idea was out. I also lived at my mother's up until recently. She had a bird when she saw me with the above pictured stripe, had another one when she saw me with a full-head bleach and finally grudgingly accepted there was nothing she could do about it. So I guess it's easy to see why I waited until I had my own place to experiment.

It's been fun. I've done all of it myself. I am still doing it in fact, because the sought after result is white enough hair to allow me to put on as light a pastel as I can. I feel weirdly feminine, weirdly pretentious all the time now. I'm learning how to carry it, how to look less inconspicuous, how to do this without yet identifying as a "pretty girl".

Even kitties love Psychopomp!

What better way to end a post than a picture of kittens? After all, everyone loves kittens.

Currently, there are nine cats living with me. I am the proud owner of about 2.5 of them (I share co-ownership of one of them with my roommate). I've loved cats all my life, but due to different circumstances I was unable to have one of my own for any significant period of time. For the last two years, I've been bringing more and more of these loveable fuzzballs into my life. These three are going to go up for adoption soon. Their mother (Polly) is one of my two cats and she will be spayed after this litter.

Living with them, taking care of them, having to consider them as factors in my life has been wonderful. Having the ability, at last, to make the choice of having them here, is invaluable. I don't know what the future will bring. I may move. I may study abroad. But they've been with me through the last rough changes and I hope I can keep them with me for a long time after.