Monday, March 16, 2015

Writing Assignment Five: Where Were You Last Night?

It's 6AM and I'm just about ready to head out the door. I do the final pat down: keys, wallet, phone. I grab my pre-made lunch - quinoa, kale, apple. Shelley's on a health kick this month. Fingers crossed for Meat-Filled March.

As I double back for my Transit card, I pause at the creak of the screen door swinging open. Flapping shut.

Adrian's home.

And at such an unGodly hour. I check my watch and note that I have about fifteen minutes to spare before running into the Late Zone. I don't want to ask though. I don't want to know where he was.

The range of answers to this posit -- Where were you last night? -- fluctuate from the mundane to the laughable to the downright unbelievable. And I'm damn tired of wasting my time with them.

Last week, Uncle Addy (Shelley's grandfather's brother, if you wanted to get technical) had spent a wild Sunday night on Mars with a few of his Martian buddies from the War. Throwing back beers. Cracking dirty jokes. And reminiscing about the Good Ol' Days until they dropped him off on our front porch around 4:45 AM.

I hear him drop his keys on the front table and briefly contemplate bailing out the back door, when my phone tweets from my pocket. Curse you, tell-tale device! I silence it but it's already too late.

"Nessa! That you?" There's a jovial tone to his greeting. Last night was a good one it seems.

Lately, and more frequently in the past few months, he has come home grouchy and frustrated. The work he has been doing on his supposed "Doomsday Device" has been hitting a maddening number of speed bumps. He elaborates to Shelley on the specifics and - bless her heart - she takes it all in with patience and grace. She's exponentially more tolerant of his fantastical fabrications and maybe, to a degree, this empathy is one of the many reasons I love her.

"In here Addy!" I beckon, grudgingly. "But I've only got a few minutes," I warn. "Can't be late today."

One morning, I got ensnared in a forty-five minute recounting of a night with the Mole People. Introduced by a mutual friend, Uncle Addy and Grunther (of the Solum Clan, royalty among those who live below the surface) had evolved into great friends over the course of the years. Not often did Addy get to visit the Mole Underground, but this particular evening, he had been practically dragged under to help mitigate a heightening conflict. Considered an impartial judge, he was enlisted to settle what seemed to me a simple bar argument. I didn't retain the details of the whole mess but it culminated in exchanged blows, broken bones and a good deal of blood and dirt. My boss didn't care about the details either and I ended up shorted the hours and stuck with the grunt work for the day.

"Not a problem." He smiles as his form appeared in the doorway. "Nothing but good news today." He winks at me and I try my best to put on my cheeriest face.

I hope for one of the rare mornings when he tells me spent the night reading a novel and drinking coffee at the 24-Hour Diner around the corner. Maybe Poker Night with his College buddies. Or perhaps catching a double feature at the Drive In Theater. The normal evenings were less and less these days. Adrian seemed to spend more time on other planets, underwater, beneath the surface. Shying away from the rest of us. Retreating from us. Tiring of us.

"And no need to worry about time anymore." His face is serene. Almost eerily calm.

Maybe today will be another yarn about his Time Traveling buddy, Lana. My favorite will always be their trip to the witch trial era of Salem. A native island girl, Lana had mastered the art of fire spinning at a young age. With the magical flick of a lighter, Addy lit up her fire poi and Lana bewitched the whole village. Bright trails lit up the area around her. Mesmerizing intertwined circles and hoops danced in her orbit. Too stunned to even believe their eyes, the villagers stared in awe. Tales were born that day. Legends incepted. When the flames receded, Adrian clapped a long slow clap striking clear in the dead silence of Salem. Lana bowed low and long. And again, like magic, the two disappeared.

"It's finally done," he dreamily whispers.

"It?" I inquire. "The Doomsday Device?!" For once, I am struck kind of incredulous. Will this be the last we hear of this particular peculiarity?

He merely nods in response. His face still frozen moon-faced.

I'm deciding whether to delve further into this new mystery or bail as originally planned, when I feel the first tremor. It's short and sweet like an aftershock. Like someone shaking the chair you're sitting on, then letting go.

It's then when I decide to head towards the door. He's too dazed for conversation and now's my chance to escape. As I step toward the exit, a bigger quake hits. This one is longer than I've ever felt. Seeming to get worse with every passing second. I grab the counter to steady myself and as the minutes pass, start wondering, When will it ever end?

I glance over at Uncle Addy and he's still smiling. He's mouthing words at me. But I can't make them out.

A bright light appears from what seems like nowhere. Yet everywhere. It flashes long and intense. Everything is white. Everything is hot. Everything is bright bright BRIGHT.

My retinas burn and I can't make out anything anymore.

Except that smile. That eerily serene smile.
And his moving lips.

"It works."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Australia: Hiking The Falls

It's still early in the park. 

We pull into Canyon Overlook and there is a fog still nestled lazily in valley. The mist tickles our faces. We are standing in the low laying clouds of Springbrook National Park.

As we begin our walk, ours are the first footfalls on the trail today. The day yet to fully awaken, the trail still damp from the night's rain. Our shoes squish over the damp leaves, mud and twigs underneath us. It's the perfect time for a hike - the weather cool, the air crisp, the valley almost completely our own.

At the top of Twin Falls, the waters of the mirror rivers slide swiftly over slick mossy rocks. Clear and cold. Bursting with great speed as it topples over the edge and falls fast over the steep cliff. We twist down the switchbacks and take in the tall tall trees. The canopy sways as a breeze steals through. The forest is alive with the symphony of various fauna. A Kookaburra trill tricks me into thinking there are monkeys in the trees. The cicadas echo each other as they communicate across the rainforest. Surroundsound nature.

At the bottom of the falls, I ask Josh, "Is that the only way to go through there?" I pronounce the last word with almost a second syllable. "They-ah." The Australian accent is rubbing off and I can't help but emulate. 

He smiles and nods as we both take in the path that winds right underneath the falls. It's not directly flowing onto the footpath, but there is a good spray veiling it. 

We're going to get wet.

"Here we goooo!" he cries as he dives under. I catch that impish twinkle in his eyes as he goes. The first few drops catch me off guard and I pause, getting a bit wetter than if I had just gone full on. Then I run, careful to not slip as I traverse under the cascade. "I don't like this!" I yell as I run under, laughing as the words flow out of my mouth.

On the other side, we are moist and the breeze brings goosebumps to my arms. We trek onward.

The sun begins to peak through the clouds and small rays poke amongst the canopy of the forest. The colors brighten. The greens intensify. 

The hike begins to head back and, ironically, this incline includes stairs rather than switchbacks. My favorite. Even though it is beginning to get muggy, the day is still young and we are thankful that this uphill is so much more pleasant than yesterday's: The never-ending stairs, the scorching sun.

"What temperature do you think it is?" I ask Josh, who has just removed his shirt.

"It's hard to tell since we've been walking," he stops. "I'm always hot so I can't estimate correctly." We pause as I catch my breath. "Maybe 70...?" 

"That sounds about right." I take into account that I am so much less hot than him right now. "It feels on the edge of humid. But still cool." We continue on and upward for a relatively easy return to the car park.

The Canyon Overlook has cleared up significantly since we had first arrived. The sun over the valley emphasizes a plethora of shades of green that I didn't even know existed. 

Our car is still sitting solo when we return to it. We hop in and prepare to start the day, satisfied with an early morning trek. 

Good morning and good bye, Springbrook Park. It's been swell.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Writing Assignment Four: I Met Him on the Stairs

My day was already a clusterfuck.

I had slept through my first class. My rushed morning shower doused me with solely ice cold water. My cereal was stale. I was on the verge of running late for my Psych Mid-Term.

And, of course, the elevator was broken.

A cool October breeze snuck into the building as some random student stole out into the streets. My notebook blew open, scattering my already dishevelled notes from my hand to the ground. I rushed to grab them, stacking them haphazardly in a pile and back into the notebook.

The stairs. I'm not sure if a thought can be muttered, but that is how this one felt. Now where the hell are the stairs? My eyes frantically scanned the room, inquiring at each doorway and what lay behind them.

An earthen red door with a well-worn silver "Emergency Door"-style pushbar beckoned.

I pushed through rapidly.

Idiotically, I paused to look up. Did I expect to see all five floors of stairs at once? Was I expecting to view and assess the situation here, from the ground floor? The bottom of the first flight of stairs taunted me with its grey grim starkness.

I plundered onward and upward.

I vaguely remembered hearing another door somewhere farther up open and shut swiftly, but it gave me no pause. I was already in a tizzy. I was already almost late.

It was then that I met him on the stairs.

He was rushing too, but in the opposite direction. Our opposing forces collided with an audible thud and it reeled me backwards into the wall. My notebook dropped from my hands, once again scattering paper like the flyaway seeds of puffy white dandelion. We both reached to pick them up at once, bumping hands in the process.

I looked up to apologize but he was too engrossed in collecting all the notes. He was rushing in a way that felt as if he was trying to be helpful but, frankly, he didn't have the time for it. His frame looked frail and thin. His hair, black and slick. When he finally met my gaze, his light grey eyes were barely visible behind the thick lenses in this equally thick framed glasses.

"Here." He somewhat shoved his collected papers at me.

"Thanks," I offered, trying to convey how appreciative I was of his limited time. He straightened up to full height and I noticed how towering he was. He was like Roald Dahl's Lankiest Skinniest Giant. I paused to consider if he was tall enough to have to duck when going through doorways.

"It's nothing," he countered and briefly, almost awkwardly, touched his fingertips to the inside of the wrist that held my papers. He held my gaze in an arresting stare. The combination of this gesture and look caused all my movements and thoughts to cease for a brief moment of time. Why didn't I jerk my hand backwards? Why couldn't I respond? Wasn't I late for something?

I had no response so I merely closed my gaping mouth and nodded at him. I moved again to take the steps upward.

He nodded back and we parted ways. He disappeared like a swift wind -- the kind that precedes a warm summer storm. He was out of sight by the time I swivelled my head back to look.

As I entered the classroom, I was clearly late. The professor was already talking, the class was silent, and the slam of the door as I entered was a Scarlet Letter of tardiness. I kept my eyes down and slid into the seat closest to the exit. My heart slowed to its normal pace and I tried to transition my brain into Test Taking Mode.

I focused.

And I'm pretty sure I aced the Mid-Term.

As I gathered my things as the end of class, I spotted an out of place page in my notebook. The paper itself didn't match and, as I pulled it out, I realized the handwriting wasn't mine.

"Thanks for the time." The perfect cursive struck me as beautiful. You don't see penmanship like that anymore, I thought.

As I folded up the note, I noticed my bare wrist. The wrist his small slight hand had rested upon. The bastard has stolen my watch! The watch my grandmother gave me in her will. The one with the small simple clock face. The delicate hands. The engraving on the back to "Adela Romesca Gavin."

The bastard had stolen my watch.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Australia: Diary Entry One

We start the trip with a long flight. 14 hours in a plane to New Zealand. Movies and books. Sleep.

At 5 AM we land in Auckland. Two hour layover and noodles for breakfast.
Come 10 AM, we finally land in Aussie. Long lines for customs, long lines for baggage, long lines, long lines. Taxi ride through the outskirts and finally, our destination.

It is 12 PM in Melbourne. Lord knows what time at home.


Day One is for exploring.

We head out for lunch and it’s not as hot as we expected. We stroll through the European-style alley ways lined with tiny eateries. The cobbled-stoned alley itself full of intimate umbrella topped tables. Everyone chatting. Everyone nibbling. Everyone sipping on coffee. On water. On wine.

We gulp down cool glasses of water and dine on delightful focaccia sandwiches. The pesto chicken in mine pairs nicely with the added avocado. Green on green. Tasty.

We walk some more, wandering in and around the Central Business District. Watching the locals. Watching the tourists. We stop in a funny souvenir shop to look for a plug adapter. We find ourselves immersed in rows of Uggs, koala keychains, over-the-top Outback hats and even a boxing kangaroo novelty pen. I box at Josh’s arm as he pays for the adapter.

We grab groceries and toiletries at the local Cole’s. (Cole’s! Like us!) We traverse back to the homestead with bags of goodies.

After a shower and a refresh, we head out again. Bronnie and Neil, our kind AirBnB hosts, are relaxing in the living room as we don our shoes. We chat with them about this and that. What to do in Melbourne. What we both like in travel. What our various experiences are with AirBnB – both travel and hosting. I keep reaching for the door handle. I keep getting pulled back into conversation.

We walk the streets of the CBD again, this time veering East toward Fitzroy Gardens. Green grass. Tall ancient trees. Old buildings from the 1800’s. History mixed with greenery. Our wanderings lead us up to some strange sights – a miniature Tudor town replica, a Fairie tree, and random fountains.

By now, the sun is setting and our stomachs are rumbling. We jut back Westward toward the plethora of restaurants. As we find one, we also find ourselves underdressed amongst the just-out-of-work diners clad in pin-stripe button ups, slacks and fancy shoes. We eat anyway – splurging on burrata, fresh pasta and wine. Cheers to our first night in Australia.

The wine abets gravity and pulls our eyelids closed involuntarily. Between blinks and sips, we decide to meander our way back to the homestead and fall quickly and heavily into bed.