Category Archives: Writing

Excerpts from The Cardinal and the Monarch (modified)

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Modified excerpts from my short story, The Cardinal and the Monarch

You’re sitting in the library of an old, log cottage that has faint, woodsy scents of oak and pine. You glimpse the pile of splintery wood that sits and waits for its turn to feed the fire, letting off a delicate, yet dirty aroma. The fire itself, which is surrounded by an array of granite stones, crackles and pops, whispers and sizzles. The flames dance and devour the wood, and embers descend like vivid raindrops. You’ve been sitting here for a while now, taking in the earthy, rich steam from your cup of French Roast. But its boldness is slowly overpowered by the fire’s thick, primitive aromas of ash and smoke. Suddenly you’re whisked away to your sixth grade camping trip, something which you would rather not remember. You decide to distract yourself from the memory, so you stand up from the comfort of the sofa and wander over to the bookshelf. You pick up the old books and flip through their worn, stained pages. You note the hints of vanilla and almonds and dust. Then you start to wonder if any of the pages have absorbed the distinct scents of its readers, because you’ve forgotten that sometimes a smell can not only take you back to a certain place, but also a certain person. Because then you would know exactly who blissfully flipped through the pages and absorbed the story the way the pages absorbed them. Maybe it was your grandmother, so you start searching for the scent of her perfume, with its floral notes, soapy, pure. You fail, but you have a better idea. You make your way from the library to the winding, creaking staircase, up to the room where she used to sleep. Bottles of perfume still line the dresser, Chanel No. 5, Norell, some with unknown names. You pick up the classic and timeless Chanel No. 5 and gracefully inhale a complex, woodsy mixture of citrus and linen. You don’t remember Grandma ever having worn this one, so you continue your search. And you find it, that comfort, that familiarity. It’s the Norell, with its golden bottle and floral, cedar-like scent. You inhale and it’s like hugging her all over again. It’s like being at her house again, with frozen snicker bars and greasy Luigi’s pizza. You linger by the dresser for a few more minutes, contemplating whether you should spritz the Norell, one time on each of your wrists. But you decide not to, because it was sacred, something that didn’t belong to you, and so you make your way back downstairs to the library. The fire is dying down; what was once a kaleidoscope of proud and blazing flames is now a subtle, fading crackling of lightly-glowing ashes. You glance in its direction before heading to the cottage kitchen, where you pour yourself a small glass of Chardonnay. Meandering back to the library, you sit by the dying fire, wine in hand. You try to smell the harmonious aroma of rich, buttery vanilla and citrus fruits that you know so well. But for some reason, all you can smell is that floral, cedar-like scent. It lingers just like a memory, like a past that won’t let you go…

The Red Bow

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The house is less like a castle now and more like a feeling. A little bit of emptiness. I’m sitting in the living room with my grandma and my mom orders me to stand next to her so she could take a photo of us. I go over to stand next to my grandma, and she has this smile on her face that radiates the sparkles in her cocoa brown eyes, her round childlike cheeks seem rosier than normal, mimicking the vibrant, bright, radiant red of that bow I saw on her dresser so many years ago. A color can be a feeling, of course. But the thing is, I stand right next to her and notice that she is wearing that very same bow in her hair (which probably began as a simple ribbon, classified as silk, and I start to picture it as it’s being wound and spun for the first time), and I instinctively reach out my hand to fix it because it was a little lopsided. But the contrast, oh the contrast. My grandma’s beautiful, long, snow-white hair wrapped in that bright red bow creates the most beautiful image. And I channel the sneakiness I had as a child and take my own photo of that bow in her hair. Because I thought it was so pretty sitting on her dresser so many years ago, but it became even prettier sitting against her hair now.

I have no idea where she first bought or received that bow. She had her own story for it, I’m sure, or maybe it meant nothing to her, it was just a pretty bow to wear. But it means something to me, and I often scroll through the photos in my phone, and when I come across that one, I always stop and stare at it for a little while, the way I stared at it on the dresser when I was little. Today, both my grandparents are gone and so is the house. The house that I used to get lost in, the house I used to explore, and the house where I couldn’t find that very same bow after my grandma died. It was lost just like the house. And just like her.

I always admired my grandmother. She would tell me stories of when she was younger about her volunteer ventures. There was a room at the Flint Institute of Arts for called Art Rentals, where community members could rent lovely pieces of art for their homes. It’s not there anymore, it’s lost just like the house, just like the bow, just like her, but yet I can still picture her sitting there, volunteering her time so that others could borrow a beautiful painting or drawing to hang in their home. Maybe she wore that red bow as she carefully read a novel, waiting for someone to visit and explore. And maybe that red bow matched some of the watercolors surrounding her, and I’m sure my grandmother was as gorgeous and rare as those pieces of artwork.

 

I remember when my sisters and I were younger; we would visit my grandparents’ house. It was such a big house, and it looked like a castle. It was easy to get lost in. It’s so strange now thinking back. We were curious, a little mischievous. We’d sneak into my grandparents’ bedroom and rummage through their closets. My grandpa’s many hats and jackets and my grandma’s makeup, purses, shoes, faux fur coats, jewels. I remember specifically finding that red bow with a clip on the back of it. It was the most radiant, striking bright red I had ever seen, and I remember that I really wanted to take it. But as mischievous as I was, I was not a thief, so I just held it in my hand and admired it.

My dad used to tell me so many stories about my grandparents, and somehow I would always picture my grandma wearing that bow while she saved the world. (Because why not look fabulous at the same time?) And now I like to picture how she came across it. (I never did ask her, though I wish I would have.) Maybe she found the bow at some flea market years and years and years ago, when she was young and road-tripping through the states. I can see it now, the flea market a vast array of colors with smiling, jovial people all around. Booths scattered across a long stretches of grass, selling everything you could think of. Maybe there was furniture, jewelry, vintage clothes, shoes, bags, handmade soaps, dream-catchers, flowers, paintings, coffee, and of course, bows.

Maybe this was the year my grandma started her collection, before she embarked on her many adventures. Maybe it started with that very red bow…

Sounds of Sunday Morning

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I am far away from home, yet I am there. My eyes are closed, and I can see and hear everything. It is Sunday morning and I hear the muffled static of the stereo being turned on, a distinct white noise that transforms into a thumping beat of classic rock. It’s a signal, a signal that it’s time to wake up. Groggy and restless, I finally lift myself from the bed, its ancient mattress coils emitting a resounding, shrill squeak. I make my way downstairs to our piano room, and from there, the kitchen is half visible. I can see the back of my dad’s head as he carefully leans over the morning paper, flipping and folding, fluttering and flapping, building a crescendo of rustles. He obnoxiously slurps from his cup of coffee, and it makes me think of a large crashing wave. I’m now sitting on our couch next to the window, and another pot of coffee is brewing, bubbling; it sings a song of drip, drop, drip, drop, interrupted by rough coughs of steam every so often. I can already smell it from the piano room, and its scent conditions my mouth to water and my stomach to rumble like a distant thunderstorm. But I stay where I am–my favorite room in the house–and I try to block out the sounds of the coffee–it’s a torture to wait. So I focus on the sweet melody of a bird’s song outside, intertwining with the tinkling and plinking of our wind chime as it catches a gentle breeze; the harmony contrasts with the sounds of our stereo, which has become louder and louder, vivacious booms of the music which shake the entire room and thud within my chest. I’m lost for a moment, until my dog lets out a ferocious bark from outside the window, less of a bow- wow, more of a ruff, and this makes me think of how people say that dogs bark in different languages, just like humans speak in different languages, but these thoughts are soon interrupted by the cheerful tone of my dad’s voice: “Coffee’s ready!” And I start thinking, that sentence may be the most beautiful sound in the world.