By Your Side Part 8: “5:59 AM”

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is part 8 for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

5:59 AM
            It was as if twilight by the Pacific had never left in that moment. The sky was dull but growing lighter, and the clouds were clearing out, the waves shaking the land to slowly wake up. Endless sand mixed with the salt and paved around the world of the Starlight Palms, this world being in that movement a dimming neon sign with the blue and orange flickering, between shaggy palms—and a boy and girl close together in a waterbed. June’s waterbed.
            She hadn’t slept that entire night. It wasn’t like the Mission District. They were facing now the imminent truth they were well aware of, but hadn’t seemed to notice those nights by the ocean. June said nothing. They were quiet for most of the time enfolded in the soft coral sheets. They seemed to never be in a place of their own, detached from anything holding them back. Everything was ready to tear them at the seams. Any new sort of intimacy would have to pass out of thoughts for them—the future took hold of everything now.
            She rose out of their embrace; her bare back was turning to look at the clock. Her hair was down, draped over the shoulder closer to where he lay, gently running his fingers through the thick tresses. She looked sweet, beautifully naked and pure, even as she was still hung on those words he’d said just a moment before six. “Before noon?” she asked softly, in a whisper.
            He nodded. “Have to make check out, don’t I,” Noah replied rather light-heartedly but uneasily. Her face made no change.
            She got up to the record player she had near her window. Pulling the curtains back a little with her small skinny hand, she reached for a record that was piled on others by the window sill. She put it on, a scratchy single of Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” playing softly as she lowered the volume. She looked back to him, returning to the sheets and smiling a little.
            “Better?” he asked her, smiling back.
            “Yeah.”
            The mood was simple and slow as she looked away, swaying to the low music. Simple. Life wasn’t simple. He couldn’t have it all just like June knew she could—her world was already made for her, in that little room of that oceanfront rusting motel that desired people only like June to keep them alive. Noah wanted to stay alive, not keep another thing going.
            “It’s one of the most beautiful sounds in this world,” she thought out loud. She wasn’t talking about the world. She somehow excluded Noah in those words. Her world was the Starlight, the place he would be leaving shortly. The process had begun.
            “You’ll always be beautiful,” he said to her, sitting up and taking her in his arms. She moved a little to loosen the grip. “I’ll grow old,” she simply replied.
            “No. I don’t think you will. As long as you have the Starlight you won’t. Has the Starlight gotten any older?”
            She shook her head. “But it’s sure stayed behind. Maybe I’ll go out with you.”
            “I wouldn’t dream of that. You love it too much out here.”
            She was silent for a moment. “At that you’re right.” She laughed a little. Face to face now, they both stared down. “Denver’s awfully cold.”
            “I don’t look forward to it.”
            “You’re going to miss the sun, the coast. Can’t deny it.”
            She was right. There wasn’t one soul who didn’t miss those precious things about the West Coast. She was still looking down, but as he pulled her again back into his arms he could see through her disheveled hair that the corners of her mouth started turning upward, returning to that smile he’d miss more than ever now that the sun was rising, illuminating the distant waters just visible in the window with the dusty blinds half-drawn.
            There was everywhere to be in this world, but only one that wanted you. California, she sure liked to flirt, but this golden girl stayed true to your heart—
            He’d heard those words somewhere, remembering them now as the spinning record came to a halt. Only Noah forgot who had said them.
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Before Bed

Doesn’t it feel nice to have the light still out now that Daylight Savings has occurred? Yeah, makes up for the lost hour of sleep. Well, in part of the time switch it doesn’t feel like it’ll be nearing 11 at all. My routine is usually to read a bit before bed, wash my face, and drink a hot cup of green tea for health’s sake. Bed is the only split-second I feel good about those days when I don’t make my bed.

I try not to write right before I sleep; getting all worked up with my ideas won’t rest my mind and there goes the night. Reading is good, you lose yourself to someone else’s words and it sends you off peacefully into a snooze– especially if you already know the ending so there’s no need to get hung up on the book.

And yet here I am, writing a quick post about not writing.

What’s your sleep habit? More so, when is your cut-off time for your writing? Does writing before bed actually benefit your work? Do you dream about your writing, or do dreams affect your writing?

On a funny note, I’ll recall the one dream I’ve remembered to this day, eight years ago since it was dreamt:

I am inside a Barnes and Noble somewhere on the first floor. There are café tables and chairs laid out near the check-out, and I’m sitting across from a man. We were likely discussing business of some sort when out of nowhere a man in a dark trench coat emerges from the bookshelves and shoots/kills the man I’m talking to.
I’m next.

He starts shooting at me, but misses as I duck between the table and chair and then scurry into the book aisles. I manage to run up the escalators and into an elevator at the top that takes me down to the street level. I realize that I am actually somewhere in Paris, France.

And the assassin is still chasing me. He’s blonde and looks like an actor I’ve seen on a BBC spy show. He’s decidedly a hot assassin. I slow myself down because I remember trying to look back at him.

He sort of catches up but not before I lose him again going into a Victoria’s Secret store that is actually selling bedding. I jump into one of the beds on display and bury myself under the pillows. He looks into the store window, doesn’t see me.

I wake up.

Product Story: Paris K Studio on Etsy Now!

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Great news! Paris K Studio, my online shop for my watercolored stationery and altered notebooks, is open for business! Have a look, I have some amazing and beautifully detailed notecards ready for purchase and writing! Each card is written on 3 1/2″ by 4 7/8′ Luxe Cream paper with a lovely textured surface, and its matching envelopes are brilliantly lined with Antique Gold paper. The idea is for small but spacious notes, enough for the words you’ll write, the words that need to be said.

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I’m a very romantic person, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve gladly embraced this side of me and proudly incorporate it into my life’s work. I know I’m a delicate person with oddities and delusions– but they keep me going. I get inspired; isn’t that fantastic? Or at least good enough? Warm pastels, lace, and pretty vintage trinkets are what I turn to now for creative spark. I love things like that so much, why shouldn’t I be able to reflect my own take and feelings on them through my own hand?

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Compilation of vintage postcards I collected from my road trip down the coast last summer.

 

For the beautiful things I see in the world, I contain what I can in my work, pass on the muses that make me de-stress, feel good, and stop thinking about stupid irrelevant things. It’s also why I really turn to California for inspiration– just the idea and concept of the West Coast being the place to be, always being that cielo for America where dreams come true or a place and time to relax and let go. That symbolism holds true for me, especially being here my whole life. Good memories, ones of sunny road trips along the 101 with my family and crisp fog ratting my hair as I first walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, or winning my own stuffed animal at the boardwalk games in Santa Cruz. And that’s what I try to relive in my painting, small and soft illustrations that just bring out warmth, nostalgia to better times of the past. For now, all I can really give you are stories, essays, and now these notecards.

Cottage Row in San Francisco, a great example of vintage California I love so much
Cottage Row in San Francisco, a great example of vintage California I love so much

Here are some photos from the collection now up for sale on the shop!

Poppy Perk notecard
Poppy Perk notecard
Golden Gate notecard
Golden Gate notecard
Rosegold Dots notecard
Rosegold Dots notecard
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Cielo Citrus notecard
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Just Beachy notecard

 

Whatever You Read, Remember its Author

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Inspired by the eclectic craftsman-style bungalows throughout Berkeley, early sketches of the house where my main character, Cameron Carlson, would live.

Something sparks us to write, something ignites that first BIG creation and excitement– no matter how good of a writer you are or want to be, that first initial BIG work you made is an achievement, your child. And as you do improve your skills, how can you forget them?

By child, I speak of my novel and very first proud achievement in writing, The Muse Land. Of course, it used to be set and available for purchase via Blurb, but having undergone so many courses on writing and insight into my own terrible writing flaws, I feel it is best to take it off the shelf and give a piece of literature that is highly developed and meaningful to my readers, as well as the author itself. How can a writer hate their own work? They wrote it, they must accept it for what it is, otherwise make what necessary revisions you feel apply. The modernist view of “the death of the writer” makes sense, in that readers do not get a sense of the author once the work has been published because readers will only read from their relativsim and perspectives. To an extent this is true, because we certainly do not know the reader, and because we cannot expect what is coming from their writing. The only way to get into it and become interested in the writing is by holding our reading to our own standards and experiences.

But about the author, they are the creator, after all. Regardless on how one contextualizes the themes and setting etc. in the work, the writer’s wanting to produce such a work tells you about them that this is stuff they actually and ardently care about. Readers may not fully understand the work but by the ending they will see what sort of person the author is (in this case, authoress) and by the time my novel is back on the shelves (maybe available for Kindle), I sincerely do want to give readers, new and familiar with strange me, the most genuine and best impression of myself.

In the end, I believe that to each work there are two versions that makeup the story: the first draft that came from the heart and purely expresses the author, the second draft that, done by the author’s own expense without any external peer reviews and such, portrays these ideas and passions in how the author can relate the story to its best abilities to the readers.

By Your Side Part 7: “Jay”

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is part 7 for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

JAY
            It was hot and the air began to stiffen. Jay was just about ready for the road, home.
            With that attitude Noah stiffened himself and brushed off his brother for the gas. Jay took up his brother’s challenge to go out and get situated for the long-awaited drive home. Pearl Gas-for-Less took the longest to get to. It was also the cheapest. Jay smiled at the irony.
            A pretty Latina pulled up in an ancient BMW convertible and got out. She had cut off white shorts and a weird orange and purple tribal-print top. It was lace-backed as she turned around to grab her purse in the passenger seat. Jay was intrigued, having not even grabbed the nozzle to his own spot. He didn’t say anything, just stared. And she drove off in a matter of minutes without giving him a thought. It was enough for him to rethink his rush.
            After Pearl Gas he decided instead of going back to drive out towards the pier. He parked the car along Cypress Street in front of a big concrete lot cheaply fenced off. He didn’t know what he wanted to do, but he was there. He walked quickly across the street to some brickwork that gated around a spot of really green grass. He sat on a bench that was barely in the shade. Some sort of Spanish style brick layering—he was drawn to it.
            The sky was bright, and it seemed whiter than blue, and if it was blue it surely was pale. The buildings were low, spread out and worn out. It made Jay think of those framed postcards in Grandma’s kitchen of old surfing towns along the coast, except those had been taken in Huntington, Oceanside, all much further down the highway towards SoCal. Pismo Beach was strange, awkward in its location. You never really talked about the Central Coast, even in California.
            He did want to surf. It was why he came down with Noah in the first place, but he should have known when he didn’t see any boards or suits packed in with the luggage. There were palm trees oddly spaced out on the sidewalk, close to the long black streetlamps. One of the tallest buildings he saw in the town was right behind him, a white windowless block with BILLIARDS printed near the roof over a strip of red paint.
            He had a few dollars in his wallet. He went through the fence and cut across the cool grass towards the billiards. The grass led to a vacant back parking lot, vacant except for an old BMW convertible off to the side.
            He thought of her. He crossed the lot, but doing so he sat on the hot ground and waited, whistling. He didn’t know what he was singing, just that it came from June’s stumpy short brother who was sure piss-poor entertainment except for his whistling. Jay didn’t whistle until he met Alexander.
            Someone walked towards the car. Someone he’d never seen before, where the white cut-offs and lace back shirt should have been. Just a false alarm he laughed at, and the old man in the white wife-beater and green swim trunks stared suspiciously at the nineteen-year-old as he drove his car out of the lot. After his laugh Jay sighed, ardently missing the dark Latina he’d seen for just that moment in the gas station. He’d never see her again.
            Still it made him want to stick around, just a bit longer. He couldn’t help but hope something.

“The Stories of Strangers” (From WiseLit)

Read the original article here:

Robert’s regular is a large coffee and a chocolate muffin– no bagels ever. He’s 78 years old and walks nearly a mile from his studio near Union Square up to the waterfront where I see him about every morning at this Noah’s Bagels shop. His “good morning” gesture is so lively in his scruffled voice that you’re excited to greet him back, and in doing so, he’ll gladly tell you about his awesomely rent-controlled apartment, lack of health issues besides the occasional Advil for arthritis. That Old Southern Pacific Company brick building across the street? He had worked there for nearly 40 years.

Johnny has a cup of coffee too and asks about my morning. He tells me it’s a great day because he’s finally gotten enough money to take back his repossessed boat out in Half Moon Bay– he wants to sail to Mexico and start a new life. He enlightens me about the good days as a teenager in Santa Cruz when he and his gang went through the supermarket spraying whipped cream into their mouths before readjusting their canisters back onto the shelves.

Another day, on a warm afternoon, I meet Brian, all smiles and handshakes, who seems excited about taking the afternoon BART train out into the East Bay to reunite with his wife and son after backpacking through San Francisco. Before his drug experimentations and a run-in with the law for not having a permit for a gun that was used to protect himself from a drug dealer, Brian was a computer programmer out in San Ramon. I caught his attention because I was penning an actual letter to a friend on stationery, and he admired that. I still wonder if he ever caught that train.

I tell these stories because the storytellers let me in. I got a glimpse into each of their lives, which they so willingly shared. It’s startling at first, when I see this nonchalant interaction occur often in an urban landscape, especially in a place of undeniable confinement. Here in a city like San Francisco, looking down into the screens of our phones or tablets is your best defense at a private haven. But taking a step back and with the outsider looking in, you now look stupid. The world is right in front of you– actual people and life itself passing in seconds, uncontained in various forms. Ironically, this is also the dawn of social media. We want to “get out there” through our Instagram photos and the cute things we pin on Pinterest for the acknowledgement from strangers. So what is it about actual strangers that we’re not ready to accept?

Perhaps it’s all about stigma, the fear and stereotypes behind strangers who might be beggars or ready to victimize you in some robbery or assault. We’re being guarded, not intentionally rude. Still, we accept that outsiders see our virtual lives, while it comes off as unsettling to have a physical being approach you and simply just wanting to socialize. The difference? The answer is simple: distance. Distance between strangers online is fine; you’re good to go so long as those who do take interest in you remain distant and nonthreatening.

In this case, there’s something curious about the three individuals I’ve met, and also with the others I’ve met through my time spent in a big city. The sad truth about a plain as day encounter with a random person is that, frankly, – it’s not about me, or us. Let’s  think about us for a second– us within our own circles of friends and family and people we do know and interact with everyday. People we know and support and who support us  in return. For us, our immediate social ties are concrete. And maybe that’s not the case for a random person who sits down next to you and starts spilling their life to you. That brief talk aloud to you with your nods and replies can make the rest of their day and change their attitudes after long days or cold nights on a pavement. In a landscape sprawling with life and socialization, they can get by without really talking to anyone.

The next time someone is friendly to you, and they’re not a friend… Well, make them a friend. Talking with a stranger may seem inconsequential to you, but be aware of the person’s mood and voice. We’ve only come so far with coexistence; humans are naturally social entities that relate so well in common wants and desires, and the need for support and comfort is undeniable, even if for a brief five minutes of your day. Of course I get alarmed, startled at first– but who am I to turn away from a voice that wants to be heard?

First DIY: Not Your High School Paper Bag Book Cover

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HAPPY NATIONAL CRAFT MONTH!

In observance of this feisty and fantastic month dedicated to the arts and crafts pursuits, I’ve decided that I really shall talk more about my crafting endeavors alongside my writing. It’s a hand-in-hand topic, especially since these are two things I’m really passionate about. Writing was the main pursuit; crafting just happened incidentally in part to a bored summer and change of scenery. I’m indebted to paper because it’s given me that boost and determination to do things in life that matter– that make me happy and benefit me in experience.

So I pass on one of my pioneering tricks of simple paper crafting for this month, and further on I hope to bring into the spotlight more featured DIYs for my readers. For now, I’ll start with what started it all: book covering. Remember your high school days? Using the paper bags mom nabbed at the grocery store just to wrap your math or history textbook in. Well, these paper bag covers aren’t meant to rip in a few weeks, and they’re not meant for protection, either. They really give a twist to your favorite book, especially if it’s a paperback edition and could tear easily (but more so because the paperback cover is ugly, admit it!). I had a handful of paperback books whose book covers did not do them any justice at all! And from my determination, you can see those books here at this post.

Today I finally got around to covering another one of my treasures, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. It took me awhile to find the right embellishments for this book because the story isn’t exactly bells and whistles sort of expressions. In the end, I found some unique ways to make this paper bag look inspiring and still not over the top.

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This was a relatively tame look to create, but just for 101 reasons I documented how I made this little bad boy from the start:

– paper bag/ roll of craft paper (though paper bags are more sturdy if that’s what’s your aiming for)

– sheet of printed paper, in this case a sheet of polka dots on teal and also an extra sheet of off-white paper

– double-sided sticky tape, or foam square

– glue, and/or tape

-scissors

– about 2 yards of ribbon of your choice

– sheet of alphabet stickers

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1. Cover the book. It’s pretty self-explanatory how to go about covering the paperback. Take a paper bag or general roll of craft paper and just cut and adhere it to snugly fit around the book. The insides should have excess paper to fold inside the cover and tape down (or glue down).

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2. Once you’ve covered the book, go forth! Take your  next essential, ribbon or string, to make the strip on the spine that gives off that old-world binding.

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You can see where I’ve taken the scissors to snip off the rest of the ribbon. Only have the length long enough so on both ends they can be taped/glued on the inside of the book cover.

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3. Then go ahead and glue the ribbon to the inside.

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4. Now we’ll get fancy with embellishments! For the Grapes of Wrath, rosettes, silk bows, and fancy letters need not apply to this cover creation. I wanted to capture something more vintage and rugged, but nice enough for the front cover. I came up with pennants, generic but better than the pretty bowties. Plus, something about pennants portray a sense of boundary and territory; a belonging that the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath strive for as they make their way into a Depression-era California.

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Draw a pennant from the sheet of paper, in my case the polka dot teal sheet, on the underside. These craft sheets that are usually 6″x6″  will have a blank white backside that’s easier for following traces once you’re ready to cut. I cut towards the edge because I want to be able to use the rest of the paper for some other crafting time without compromising any scraps of paper left over. Do the same for the cream sheet as well. In this case, I free-handed drawing the pennants but for bigger proportions you’re welcome to measure and trace with a ruler!

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Once you’ve traced, go ahead and apply to the back of the pennants the double-sided tape. I wanted to give a 3D feel to the pennants as if blowing in a wind, so I used 3D foam squares. The squares are too big for the sizes I cut, so I trimmed then down to fit on the back.

How awesome are they?? Once you’ve got them on go ahead and give the book life and meaning, using the alphabet letter stickers to spell out your book and author on the front. I even had extra ribbon left to strap over the outer corners on the front for more of that old-world book-bound effect!

And there’s your newly-covered paperback! Makes reading more enjoyable now since the book can be uniquely judged by its cover. Let me know what you think! I shall definitely keep on posting more of my paper craft works and musings and techniques from now on.

Monday Obsessions: Past Obsessions

RAC’s “Hollywood” has been pretty much on repeat for weeks.

It’s been one of the happiest weeks since Matt came back from England. It’s been almost four months since we’ve been apart, second time around. The first time was a bit off, taking some getting used to, in terms of Skyping loads and Facebook all the time. And the excitement of seeing them again after so long… last year was one of the best surprises I’ve ever gotten, when Matt showed up unexpected on my door at 8 at night with a bouquet of roses. UNBELIEVABLE. I’ve put up with it now, being in a long distance relationship, and this second time he went back home to England we were fine. The only thing I can really say about the difficulties with LDRs is just that trust goes a long way, and keeping in the loop with your someone. It sucks when they I don’t get back to your text within twenty minutes, let alone 5,000 miles apart and 8 hours ahead. I really need to work my replying to my texts ASAP, I’ve always been terrible at that.

MATT AND ME PHOTO BOOTH

One regret? I should take better care of the money I have and save, because I would have loved to go to England. I was sure obsessed with England, even before I met Matt. It started with stories, I guess. Yes, Harry Potter, but there was Jane Austen’s Southern England and the dark and gothic moors of Bronte Yorkshire. Then the quirks of London according to Dickens. As a reader, it was natural to get so engrossed with these settings; England seemed like a fairy land, literally to me. Then I got older books turned into music and films that turned towards total Britishdom. Notting Hill, About a Boy, Dear Frankie (the last a Scottish film, respectively) drove me into my teenage years as a young Anglophile who wanted nothing more than to move to England. Or maybe it all just came down to my mega crush of all time as a young girl to Tom Felton– okay, maybe Harry Potter had dug its claws into me that good and started everything else after all.

Photo: favim.com
I mean, sorry Matt, but yeah?? Photo: favim.com

Even as I write this out, I never could over the years explain why I wanted to move to England so badly. All I know is that it reached a tipping point, that being when I was old enough to know my own music tastes– rather than jump on board with Rihanna and Lil Wayne or even the fucking Jonas Brothers, I was consumed with British Indie. The Fratellis, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, MUSE…I do know that if their cities and people influenced their music, then that’s where I wanted to be. College seemed like an ACTUAL achievement for me to study abroad.

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But then reality kicked in and it got me to see how awesome home actually was. Especially in going to San Francisco for college, you could say that was my England for awhile. The fog, old Victorian buildings and the cold ocean by the Cliff House felt like I was having my own holiday away to the UK, and in my own backyard. I finally understood that as young as I was, why was I going to leave the Bay Area when so many people were dying to come visit out here?

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California…or England?

And obviously besides Matt, whom I met by chance through my sister’s boyfriend when they worked together two summers ago, there are hidden gems coming to surface out in the Bay Area that make me have British withdrawals. I go to pubs like Pig and Whistle and Elephant and Castle in the city sometimes, and then I’ll go out dancing to British indie at my favorite club ever, Popscene, and sometimes I’ll continue that dancing into the rain. And then there’s my music. And then there’s Matt. Maybe it’s not a past obsession after all.

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Another new obsession: ICED COFFEE. Like, all the time.

By Your Side Part 6: “Happy Birthday, Alexander”

Every week I’ll install parts of this California short story I wrote three years ago for a fiction class. It’s since been rediscovered and reread and revised and unrevised for what I ultimately wanted to accomplish in this small story of a summer in between college and the growth of a youth in love. Here is part 6 for this story, and I hope you enjoy!

*If you would like to read the next part of the short story, stay tuned, or simply click above the BY YOUR SIDE page for the full story. P.K.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALEXANDER
            The way that he looked on the date—Alexander seemed tired. Noah mused that a man’s 26 birthdays in a row in the same place trying to excite he who found little excitement in his small life was getting redundant to him. June and her parents never thought so.
            The window-walled narrow dining hall reflected the teal paper lanterns dangling from the low popcorn ceiling, keeping the brightness to the room as the sun was going down. The long ply-wood table and chairs were dressed and wrapped in long white and yellow crepe paper, and only in the last minutes before the cake was set on the table did June, and with Jay, start tossing about beautiful glitter everywhere, at everyone. The guests seemed to be outshining the birthday candles.
            Alexander looked nice, neatly combed chestnut hair and an ash gray Abercrombie polo with the collar popped. The cake, chocolate, was brought forward, and his expression changed to more pleased. The song sung, the candles blown, the cake sliced—everything was as if it should have been, except it wasn’t. The Wyaths made the moments more memorable and remarkable by the over-the-top execution. With the Starlight Palms, it was so small a space for the effect to really shine.
            “Get the player out!” June pushed Jay’s iPhone back into his hand, favoring the record player being rolled in by Mr. Wyath and her Uncle Loc. From the cabinet underneath it she pulled some records out and the ones she didn’t feel for she flung freely to Noah for catching. He looked through the rejected vinyl, down at Smoky Robinson and The Byrds. June paused on Dusty Springfield but she too was tossed to Noah. The records probably weren’t hers, only delectable relics just as old as the Starlight Palms where they’d been abandoned.
            The party was now livened up by a surprising tune from Echo and the Bunnymen. Now that had been June’s. It wasn’t long after they’d been close together dancing with interlaced fingers that she dragged Noah to the side of the building. It was cold out, as the spray of the ocean brushed past them, and the twilight lingered only enough for her to look up to his shadowed face.
            She came close to his face to kiss it, but pulled away a few inches just before their lips touched to playfully hum to the song that was quite special to him, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” The Smiths. He couldn’t stand it, older stuff. But that’s the song she played on his speakers that gorgeous day in April when the weather finally turned to blue skies over Berkeley. Warm winds gently blew while the two of them had sat lazily across the lawn right below the tall Campanile Tower, listening closely to the tune.
            The sound of gravel crackling startled them—Alexander turned the corner and jumped back, dropping the pork bun he’d been munching down. “Fucking Christ!” he shouted, flicking sauce from the spilled bun off of his stubby legs. “May I remind you Mom and Dad rent out twenty perfectly good private rooms—”
            “Don’t get dramatic there, birthday boy,” June piped, more excited than embarrassed. “I’d hope to get you out here anyways.”
            “Alone?” He was doubtful.
            “Mmmhm.” She let go of Noah’s hand and knelt down to her brother. From behind her she pulled from out of her blue sash two unlit, long sparklers.
            “Oh,” her brother said.
            “For you and me!” June explained, “Or both, if you really want them. Noah’s gonna take a picture for me.”
            Jay found them. He ran out and handing Noah’s phone to him, said, “Someone from Sawyer Builds or whatever wanting you.”
            Sawyer! Noah got away and went back inside to where family members of the Wyaths had snuck the old records into play and moved obscurely about with each other. In a dim corner where a red lantern had blown out, he finally took the call.
            “Mr. Baker?”
            “Yes! Hello there.”
            “Oh, good. This is Stan Farley calling back about your application from April.”
            “Yes, of course.”
            “Well, we’ve just reviewed your portfolio and application only this morning, and it looks like we have open an amazing opportunity here for you at Sawyer Builds and Graphics. We called earlier, and since the office is just about closing I’d thought about taking the liberty to try you once more.”
            “Oh yes! No one likes to wait on good news.”
            “No indeed! I am glad to have reached you now, even if so late. Will you be able to be in Denver for a proper orientation with my colleagues next week?”
            Noah became stiff. “I applied for a position at the San Jose branch.”
            “Unfortunately our San Jose locations are well off and overloaded, in fact. Denver’s fresh and new, not even settled five years here. I’m calling from Denver, and Denver’s in need of young blood fresh from college, fresh from California with all those bright sunshine ideas of yours you surely must have.”
            “I actually do.”
            “Then would next week be any problem?”
            He said it wouldn’t. Next week, next week on his mind even as he snapped the red button on June’s Instamatic and when Jay stuck his bony fingers too close to the sparks of Alexander’s sparkler. It was still on his mind when June suggested they all go sit on the hoods of their cars—on top of her orange old Beetle the glass was creaking and she was nestled in his arms. “Sure hope he’s satisfied with this year,” she was telling him, looking out to the ocean in the distance.
            “I think so,” Noah replied mindlessly.
            “We threw glitter. We never did that before,” she went on, releasing one arm from his embrace to start playing with her long hair, “and we made the cake chocolate. He likes cheesecake.”
            “Thought chocolate was his thing.”
            “Nuh uh, I only suggested chocolate last minute to Mom right before she was buying the cake in town. So we baked chocolate, just to make this year stand out for him.”
            He looked over to Alexander, leaning his full little body against the top of Jay’s windshield. Jay had brought out some of his weed and the both of them were taking a hit on a single joint. Even stoned, Alexander could not loosen up in the face. “Don’t think he’d like that.”
            “Of course not. He makes it known that he doesn’t like much.”
            “Can’t blame him.”
            “It’s not his dwarfism, if that’s what you’re goin’ at. It’s cause he’s here—we’re always arguing about it. You know how well I like it here, but with Alex there’s just something about the Starlight that really gets on his nerves.”
            “What?”
            “Just that it’s grounding him, or something. Didn’t mean that as a joke, either!”
            All of a sudden Alexander let out a short laugh, low-pitched but full of heart. 26 birthdays in a row in the same place and trying to excite one’s self when there really was nothing there. There was bitterness in Alexander, Noah could see why.
            Denver. Next week. Next week was still on his mind as he gathered a shivering June back into his arms, atop a windshield and looking out to the dark waters dimly-lit by stars just coming out.