Feb. 4th, 2015 11:39 pm
fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)
[personal profile] fodschwazzle


She holds the blue bin for concessions like a shield, clutching the sides so tightly that the wash of fluorescent lighting almost shows the flush of color in her hands. The crowd is bedlam, and as she passes bags of chips amongst them, murmurs of madness creep underneath the howling din.

"If you shook that ass more, you'd make more money," a girl says.

Clutch the bin. Take the money. Give food. Sticks and stones, she knows, are nothing. Outside the noise, a flashing fire snaps from hand to hand and whacks the court floor. Buzzing alarms ring for things concession workers couldn't trouble themselves to comprehend. Whistles cut the air and pierce ears but do not block rumors.

"You're a cutie. Here, have a tip," an old man says, tucking a dollar bill into her back jeans pocket.

Clutch the bin. Deal with it. She says she's strong, but she feels their eyes. She knows she's strong--she knows she's strong. The fluorescent lights have a way of sapping her memory of successes. Handing over a Hershey's bar is now like forfeiting humanity. Alone, standing in a tide of people who either appear to be laughing at her or are laughing at her, she becomes frail. The stench of clustered, sweating bodies covered in perfume and deodorant gives her claustrophobia, even in the biggest room of the school.

One boy dares a friend to grab her.

Clutch the bin. Clutch the bin. The act of maintaining a visage of strength begins to lose clarity when she needs to do it everyday. When she sits on the concessions counter later and cries, claiming that she has little left to cling to, she means to end it. Everything can break your bones, she knows, especially words. The slap of a basketball and sneakers on wooden slats is a clock ticking.

She feels like a tomboy. She feels like Cinderella.

The story has a precedent, but it's irrelevant. How many times has she heard that someone else has it worse? How much self-harm has she heard about, committed by friends or family members who have "gotten better?" Pain is never going to be a pain-killer. She says she's strong, but she thinks of a friend who died and wonders if she could wander with him.

She's a tile set into a bathroom floor with no connection to the pattern. Eight white squares hug one black square, always one teal square apart from one and another in any direction. We are comfortable enough with the pattern to realize that one white square is adrift, disrupting the entire setup. We are not alert enough to realize how ghastly it all looks in the first place, especially as the white squares begin to acquire dirt from shoes and bodies. We are not alert enough to prevent mismatches from happening. We are not troubled enough by the sawed off squares at the border of the room. A system must have sacrifices in order to succeed.


On the weekend, she speaks against bullying. She stands against wave after wave of challengers, speaking a poem that galvanizes her spirit. She does not know the magic of her own soul, but she is starting to feel how her will can influence an audience, how her words are her own history's answer if she can hold it in her heart a bit longer. She is starting to win these competitions, but winnings will never fill a street's potholes.

She's one of a few odd tiles. A boy who cannot process thoughts is gathering his will under the glowering presence of his father. He will soon speak for ten minutes on the topic of his choice. It would take him three straight days to write such a speech under regular circumstances.

When he stands in front of a crowd, his words tumble out of his head like hail bouncing off a rooftop, well above his own sight. When the storm stops, he stands silently still for seven minutes, looking around for distant storm clouds.

He is a marvel. A fair number of people would wet their pants if forced to have even a small group of people witness the complete breakdown of a thought process--he endured their ceaseless scrutiny for seven minutes. When the next round of competition starts, he tries it again.

Another girl tirelessly refines her stance for a similar speech on feminism, even though she has not yet learned why such a thing might be necessary. She bawls and experiences a panic attack during her first round, reads from her script for the two competitions thereafter, and cries again when a round goes worse than she expects. Even so, she tries again every week, constantly revising her ideas. These students watch each other perform and make speaking out feel real.

A tile displaced in a sea of patterns will always look strange. We are building a mosaic. It's just three pieces right now, so it's hard to tell from these cracked, discolored, and misplaced stones how the final product will look. Even now, each piece sings. I know it will be beautiful.

It will be enough to change these lives.

Date: 2015-02-05 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That teal tile in the pic would drive my little OCD brain crazy! I liked this, it is more thought provoking every read through. A good thing. :)

Date: 2015-02-06 03:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For extra special fun, try quickly scrolling up and down past it. Watch as the tiles dance.

I've been watching a lot of slam poetry, and it snuck into the piece. Thank you for being thought provoked.

Date: 2015-02-06 12:08 am (UTC)
jexia: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jexia
Thank you for sharing this.

Date: 2015-02-06 07:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The slam poetry element definitely came through.

I don't usually think of myself as terribly OCD, but that off-kilter tile bugs me, independent of color!

Date: 2015-02-07 06:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is true. If this piece dooms me, then I at least have a starting ground for trying slam, something I have thought about doing for years. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2015-02-06 01:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
AACK! That picture is driving me around the twist! Your words are the perfect accompaniment!

Date: 2015-02-07 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Do you think it would have been better to start with the tile metaphor, or is that placing fine? The picture is almost worth more words than the text--in retrospect, I would not have included it.

Although this was the kind of thing I was thinking of when I started. Thanks for reading!

Date: 2015-02-10 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mmmmm....I can't unsee what I done saw. But....yes, it could have come at the end. Although captions always come below a picture. :) To not include it would have required a very visual paragraph at some point in the piece...Or perhaps a different title....I don't know. It worked for me with the picture.

Date: 2015-02-07 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What a beautiful take on a picture that can make most of us collectively cringe! I'm not even one for symmetry usually, but that--THAT. Anyway. Beautiful writing, as always.

Date: 2015-02-07 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you so much. Right now, the picture is starting to upstage the words. Really what I wanted was the criss-crossing diamond patterns of raised stones in Korean sidewalks, and how, often, one color too many would appear. Those were far more chaotic in pattern than anything we know in USA, as far as chance for rogue tiles go.

Date: 2015-02-08 10:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Whistles cut the air and pierce ears but do not block rumors.

The tension of the first this piece is a little painful; you really got us inside of her head and her suffering. And this is why the second part was so cathartic.

Date: 2015-02-09 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I hope it is cathartic. This girl goes from cheery to glum at the snap of a finger, but I can't discard those conversations where she tells me how close she is to cracking. Instead, I try and give her something she can sink her teeth into. The poem she is performing is "To This Day" by Shane Koyczan, which I highly recommend.

Date: 2015-02-08 03:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Beautiful. The pain and desperation in the beginning is conveyed so evocatively, and the portrayal of struggle and gaining strength through speaking out is brilliantly done.

Date: 2015-02-09 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I started thinking about making a speech team just because I liked doing it in high school. Once I met these kids, I started to realize that I was giving a voice to the voiceless. Rather, giving them a chance to forge their own voices. I only hope that it's a strong enough boon to make whole those that feel like they will never fit in. Thank you for reading me!

Date: 2015-02-09 06:22 pm (UTC)
ext_12410: (misc fic)
From: [identity profile]
am i the only one who actually likes the random offset tile? it breaks up the monotony of the floor. i really like the piece, too, the comparison of people to tiles, and that just because you might look or act out of pattern, that doesn't make you ugly.

Date: 2015-02-09 09:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Yeah, I wasn't bothered by the offset tile! I can recognize it's aesthetically irksome, but still.

Date: 2015-02-09 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I kind of like it in a disruptive way. Something that forces you to be alive for a moment. If life is made of patterns and repetition diminishes what they mean, a brief change of pace can alter everything.

But I also understand the viewpoints of those that wish to cut the tile out and replace it, as intense a reaction as that is.

Date: 2015-02-09 09:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I really liked the style of this.

"We are not troubled enough by the sawed off squares at the border of the room. A system must have sacrifices in order to succeed."

This part got to me, and so it's my favorite line. That feels like a perfect metaphor, because even without you going into further detail, it conjured really powerful images.

Date: 2015-02-09 10:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That's my favorite line too. It's the way that, even knowing that there is an issue and that it's fixable, we would prefer to overlook it for the sake of supposed group harmony. This student gets a lot of kickback from her mother about being upset over the loss of a friend, as if being tired was justification for denying sorrow. I hope that what we're doing is enough.

Thanks for commenting.

Date: 2015-02-09 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I actually saw that reddit thread just a couple of weeks ago! Good job here - way to take a joke about OCD and make it into something more meaninful.

Date: 2015-02-09 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's kind of agitating, isn't it? I think the picture is funny, especially the white out/permanent marker reaction from the original poster, but it's not OCD really. I'm sure plenty of real people with OCD would love to trade their tendencies with those who get a little flustered at an out of place floor tile. We do love us some patterns, though.

Thanks for commenting!

Date: 2015-02-10 12:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This was super solid — the literalism, the metaphor, the development into a positive message. I also have a soft spot for slam poetry — I immediately thought of Taylor Mali's What Teachers Make while reading this. Well done, sir.

Date: 2015-02-10 12:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Good call. That poem is where I come from. Back in high school, when I was on the speech team, that was the first poem I was successful with. It's funny, the way words shape us.

Thank you for your kind words.


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