Student Feature: Dan Scott

Dan Scott is a long-time reader, writer, actor, and lover of academia. He is pursuing a dual degree in physics and mathematics, but always finds time for creative expression, whether through prose, poetry, performance, or craft. The Aletheia went on to ask Dan to enlighten readers on his views of the writing process and on the following piece “The Lost Dauphin”.

On the Writing Process:

“When we consider how to write, be it poetry or prose, we must ask ourselves what the motivation behind our writing is. This process extends beyond the realm of written language and into every creative endeavor. Two of the most conflicting motivations, in my experience, are whether we seek to create something totally unlike all that already exists or if we instead aim to emulate something or someone we consider to be awe-inspiring. The beauty of it all is that these two motivations are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.

Every work of art, every drawing, painting, sculpture, poem, novel, song, or script is a life form of its own and is unique to the very essence of its being. The same story could be told a thousand times by a thousand people and be different each and every time. This not-so-trivial element of creative works stems from the notion that art is a reflection of the artist. Every individual is, by the very nature of the word, individual, discrete, distinct. Our physiologies, structural biologies, and psychologies are not necessarily special (as we’ve been told since pre-school), but they are unique. It would follow, then, that no two creations would ever be quite the same. Sure, there may be a few or even many similarities between works, just as different individuals may share some common features. These similarities may be intentional – as when you choose to adopt somebody’s style of dress or choose to write in the style of a particular author – or unintentional – as in the physiological similarities we share with our parents or the mannerisms of our speech and writing. Like it or not, new art will always be similar in one way or another to art which already exists. But holistically, no two original works can or will ever be the same.

I would, however, modify my previous assertion that art is its own life form to say that art is its own universe. Artists create for their audience a unique vision, a distinct world that doesn’t exist, identically, anywhere else. It makes no difference whether your art explodes into a well-established world with dedicated fans as happened with, say, Harry Potter, or if your following tends to be more selective. The fact of the matter is that you can call a piece of art your own because it can never be created by another hand in exactly the same form.

When it comes to making art, then, to creating it, one should start from the two primary motivations: innovation or emulation. In the case of “The Lost Dauphin,” the latter motivation was clearly predominant. The short story came from a prompt Dr. Harvey gave to my Human Situation class: “Create something Borges.” What does that mean, “something Borges”? We had, in the course, been reading a number of short stories from Borges and discussed their meanings, significance, themes, etc. “Something Borges” meant exactly what it sounds like: something, anything, relating to Borges. This could take the form of an essay (what fun is that); a short story, Borgesian in nature; a dialogue between Borges and Plato; or anything else our hearts desired. I, as you’ll notice by looking at “The Lost Dauphin,” chose to write a short story in a style similar to that of Borges. For the curious inquirer, the selected writings of Borges that we had read up to that point were “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Circular Ruins,” “The Library of Babel,” “Three Versions of Judas,” and “Borges and I.”

I began, then, with a whole lot of motivation number two, emulation. I knew a number of ways I had wanted to make my writing similar to Borges’. The first and foremost idea that I latched onto was the blend of fact and fiction in Borges’ works. He so seamlessly transitions from fact into fiction to create something in between. His worlds contain fantasy, reality, and realistic fiction woven together so perfectly that one comes to question which is which, both within the story and without. I knew also that I wanted to toy with the idea of life and death and with the existence of a continuity between those two seemingly irreconcilable states. I wanted the end of my story to progress back into the beginning, to create, in a way, a cyclical series of events. I wanted dialogue to be sparse and narration to be animated. There was plenty that I wanted but so much that I didn’t have.

I didn’t have an idea.

Sometimes, emulation gives style, other times, it gives plot. Sometimes, innovation creates a story, other times, a technique. In the case of “The Lost Dauphin,” I had technique but not story, style but not plot. I knew how to write but not what to write about. I wish that I could explain some method of how I arrived at the plot, but the truth is that this is something every artist must arrive at for themselves. If there were some formula for how to create a good story, then we’d all be able to make it big as writers and the creative element of art would be removed. But it is precisely that creative element which gives art its life.

My best advice when choosing either style or plot is simply to think. Allow yourself the freedom of thought. Put aside every notion of the task at hand, namely thinking, and engage in pure, unrestricted and uncensored thought. No thought is too trivial to consider and no thought is worthy enough to contemplate in depth. Allow yourself to flow freely from thoughts of breakfast to thoughts of school and everywhere in between. Something will cross your mind that sparks within you an ember of innovation. Latch onto that thought like your life depends on it (the life of your work does depend on it), and hit the ground running. Put pen to paper, fingertips to keyboard, paintbrush to canvas, hands to clay.

Consider, if you will, that the spark I latched onto the night I wrote “The Lost Dauphin” was a vague memory from half a dozen years prior of a conversation I had with my brother about a street name: Lost Dauphin Road. Something went off in my mind, and I recalled sophomore year of high school reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a reference to the Lost Dauphin, and then again my freshman World History course. That was my spark. I had a piece of history, of fact, that I could use to create fiction.

I spent probably as much time that afternoon reading as I did writing. I had to research extensively a good number of things. The discerning eye could discover the facts within the fiction: that the story of the Dauphin is an actual part of history, that several events were accurate for the time period, that the description of the Dauphin’s insignia is an accurate one, that the military man in Burma could have had on his uniform a Maltese cross, that The Book of Family Crests, Mottoes, Etc. by Henry Washbourne does exist, and so much more.

The most important thing once you have your idea is to keep writing and to do so fluidly. Let the story develop naturally, not artificially. That is to say, do not allow preconceived notions of what the story should be to impede whatever the story becomes. I once was writing a play where I had anticipated that the main character would stalk and kill a girl he meets in a bar, but instead, he proposes to the girl, his best friend begins stalking him, and the best friend is the one who gets murdered. That’s what I mean when I say to write fluidly. If you truly are creating a new world, then events in that world, at least some of them, should come to happen spontaneously rather than pre-determinately.

But perhaps I’m stepping now out of the waters of creativity and into the realm of philosophy and theology. Who knows, maybe our whole world is merely a book whose plot was written in another universe. Food for thought, artists. Food for thought.”

-The Lost Dauphin-

I once encountered a man who claimed himself the Lost Dauphin of France. Even in the naïvety of my youth, I was not so witless as to accept him at his word. At the time, I was, if memory serves me correctly, no more than a mere sixteen years of age – this puts the date no earlier than 1915. My skepticism, then, should not come as surprising. I figured the man to be, generously, in his late twenties, over a century short of the necessary hundred and forty. Any reasonable onlooker would quickly determine that the man was far out of his wits, that his mind had gone where his body had not, that his brain had all but ceased to function. I doubt whether even a priest or a bishop would pause long to consider the man, or even take notice of his existence. His accoutrement, however, gave me pause, for he wore on his chest a symbol I was sure I remembered from my studies.

“Excuse me, sir, but where did you come across that insignia?”

“I’m the Lost Dauphin of France,” he said again for the third or fourth time since I first took notice of him.

I persisted, “Yes, but where did you get this?” I pointed to the symbol he wore on his breast, hoping that the physical gesture might help him better understand my inquiry.

The man looked at me, confusion evident in his eyes. “I’m the Lost Dauphin of France,” he said again, matter-of-factly. This time, he also added the phrase, “Duce et auspice.”

I did not understand what he was claiming to be “led and inspired” toward, so I disregarded the phrase. Perhaps my interrogation would be more effective if I were to humor him, I reasoned. “Louis-Charles…” His eyes lit up at the name, and for once in our encounter he looked as though he were aware of the world around him. “Louis, where did you get this?” I asked, punctuating the question with a jab at the piece. My curiosity had been piqued when I noticed four fleur-de-lis on the metal symbol.

The man looked down at his chest, and, upon seeing the insignia attached over his left breast, let out a cry of what I can only assume was a mixture of shock and excitement.

“Oh, I had forgotten that this was still with me,” he said. “I was given it as a Fils de France. I am the Lost Dauphin of France.”

I gave up on trying to reason with the man; my patience had worn quite thin. As I stalked away from the frustrating scene, I heard the man call out behind me, “Please, have you seen my heart? He won’t let me in without it. I can’t be with him if I don’t have it.”

By his words, I assumed the man must have been a homosexual – I say this not from a place of ignorance, but purely as an observation I made. I always counted myself as rather accepting – I gave one last look at the man, a small figure below the looming evening shadow of the Basilica of Saint Denis in early summer.

Nearly three decades passed without me once reconsidering my encounter with the Lost Dauphin. The year was 1941, and I had found myself in the unstable region of Burma due to a series of increasingly unfortunate events. On one rare occasion that I ventured outside (the Japs were heatedly warring over the region against India), a military man ran – or rather, stumbled – toward me in the streets. He fell upon me, into my arms, and I felt the hot blood on his sides. I dropped the soldier out of shock more than anything else; I’m a scholar, not a doctor. But as he fell, I noticed on his uniform a symbol remarkably like the one on the Dauphin. The soldier died before he hit the ground.

At length, I managed to extricate myself from the region, and I sought out a colleague regarding the symbol. I described it to him: an eight pointed cross made of four V-shaped arms. Of course, he told me, I must be referring to the Maltese cross. In retrospect, I realize I must have seen the cross at some point other than on the soldier, given its distinct propensity to be used in emblems in numerous nations. I suppose now that perhaps the solder reminded me of the Frenchman because of the identical glazed expression the Indian had in his death as the man at the Basilica wore.

I rapt myself in private studies, desperate to find the provenance of that man’s emblem. After days of searching, I nearly had given up my search when, as I poured through The Book of Family Crests, Mottoes, Etc. by Henry Washbourne, I stumbled across a clue where I hadn’t been looking for one. My search had been focused on the crests, but having failed entirely to find the symbol, I had idly begun to flip through the pages.

“Duce et auspice. Under guidance and auspices (of the Holy Ghost.) Order of the Holy Ghost, France.” There it was, the key to understanding the man’s insignia. I looked again through my texts, finally finding in Thomas Robson’s The British herald, or Cabinet of armorial bearings of the nobility & gentry of Great Britain & Ireland another mention to the Order of the Holy Ghost. At long last, under the crests of knighthood, I found it, the Maltese star with a fleur-de-lis between each arm and a dove imposed in the center. Knowing now that the crest was indeed that of the Ordre du Saint-Esprit, the Order of the Holy Ghost, I searched in the Catholic Encyclopedia for details:

“Members of the order had to be Roman Catholic and had to be able to demonstrate three degrees of nobility. The minimum age for members was 35, although there were some exceptions: children of the king were members from birth, but weren’t received into the order until they were 12; princes of the Blood could be admitted to the order from the age of 16.”

I still didn’t believe that the man I saw could have been the 140-year-old Lost Dauphin, but I considered the possibility that he was royalty by blood and inheritance. I had become obsessed with finding answers to this question. There arose in me some passion, some unquenchable ardor that I seemed unable to disobey. To this end, I immediately arranged a flight to Paris, date of departure: 14 March 1942.

I returned to the Saint Denis Basilica, somehow expecting the man to still be wandering around, asking about his heart and claiming to be the Lost Dauphin. When I saw no trace of the man with the crest, my heart stopped beating in my chest. My journey could not, would not end without conclusion. I resolved to stay until evening. Perhaps the man only appeared in the evenings.

I waited at the basilica through dinner. No Dauphin. I waited through sunset. Still no Dauphin. When there was no Dauphin by the time the sun rose, I finally relented the moment. But I would not relent my search entirely.

I asked fervently around the basilica square: did anyone know of the man who believed himself the Lost Dauphin? Of the passersby who even acknowledged me in my agitated state, none knew of him. I prepared myself to admit defeat, to give up my search. But when the hour hit noon and the bells of the Basilica of Saint Denis rang clearly through the air, there dawned upon me one last hope.

I rushed into the basilica, flying through the central west portal, past the rows of pews and up to the altar. My interrogation of the old priest in the holy building was not a long one. He told me with some apprehension of a man who comes but twice a year: once on the 27th of March and again on the 8th of June. The priest did not like to speak of the man. He never changed, the priest said, and he always came back.

The week leading up to the 27th passed quickly. I arrived at the basilica early that morning. There, in the light of the rising sun, was the man. He looked the same as he had three decades ago. I do not mean that time treated him well. I mean to say that his face had aged perhaps three years in the three decades that had passed since I saw him as a young man.

“I am the Lost Dauphin,” he said to me. “Have you seen my heart? He won’t let me in without it. I can’t be with Him if I don’t have it.”

It was then that I understood.

This man was the Lost Dauphin, Louis XVII, Louis-Charles, Fils de France, son of the House of Bourbon, son of Louis XVI of France, son of the Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, born 27 March 1785, died 8 June 1795, whose heart was stolen by the student of the autopsy doctor Pelletan, who was buried without his heart in a mass grave. The heart he spoke of was not the romantic heart which he needed for a man he loved. This man was the Lost Dauphin, barred from Heaven, denied the presence of God until he can return his heart to the body which was divinely made to age but one year for every decade.

Now, my children, my flesh and blood, you understand my dying wish. I ask that you bury me, whole and untarnished by the hands of an embalmer, that I might be among the few of this modern age allowed to pass through Heaven’s gates and not be sent back to find my heart.

-Edited by Diamante Reyes

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UH Student Feature: Angel Lartigue

Angel is a multimedia artist born in Texas who experiments in photography, video, sculpture and performance. While working on their BFA in photography/digital media at University of Houston, Angel has also participated in group shows at Blaffer Art Museum, Alabama Song, HCC Central Fine Art Gallery and has had work reviewed by glasstire.com. Angel is currently working on a body of work set to be presented for their student thesis group show April 9th, 2016 at Rudolf Blume Fine Art Gallery.

The following series is a large body of work encompassing digital imaging, video and sculpture. Inspired by the complexity of death and rebirth, the artist explored the “pre-defined” narratives that emerge from the two concepts. Several questions prompted the series forward, such as: How does it feel to be in a state of transformation? Does one experience death multiple times? In “Selfies as I Were Muertx/Asesinadx”, Angel created different scenarios in which they discovered their own body in a fresh state of decomposition. Angel states, “I point to a world of decay, nature and the search of identity. I use art as a tactic of not only navigating the undercurrent tension produced by dominant cultural shifts, but to re-imagine narratives of spiritual possibility.”

Angel has stated that they will expand the series as they continue the exploration of these intricate concepts.

“Selfies as I were Muertx/Asesinadx”

angelcaidx4

selfieasiweremuertx

selfieasiweremuertx2

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Image 1:
Title: Sci-vation
Medium: digital image / inkjet print
Image 2-5:
Title: Selfie as I were Muertx / Asesinadx
Medium: digital image / inkjet print
Note: The artist chooses to go by “They/Them/Their” when referred to.
Article by Diamante Reyes

Feature: Nicole Nguyen

Nicole Nguyen is currently a student in the University of Houston’s College of Pharmacy. Her piece, ‘Peak’, is published in Volume 7 of The Aletheia.

Interview conducted by Adrienne Meyers, Associate Editor of The Aletheia.

The Aletheia: In ‘Peak’, you speak a lot about genetics and where the study of genes will take us in the future. Do these ideas come from topics you study in the pharmacy school, or do they spring from a more general sci-fi interest?

Nicole Nguyen: I have taken a class in genetics before, but what really made me excited to write this piece was that I could put my own spin on a popular concept. Society has always toyed with the idea of living forever, but what if it’s simply not possible? With all the medical advances, surely there would be a compromise. So, what is it about immortality that appeals to people? What I gathered is that it is not necessarily about the time, but increasing the opportunities to make memories and have experiences. Along those lines, I thought of experiences that are generalized to certain periods in a life span; awkward adolescence, declining with old age, and of course the “Peak” of adulthood. What if everyone could experience those times, and as with everything, what would be the downfalls? So in a general answer to the question, I believe that constitutes a general sci-fi interest I didn’t realize I had.

TA: What is the relationship like between your class work and your creative writing? Does the writing provide you with a chance to explore different perspectives, or does it work closely within your primary field of study?

NN: I would definitely say that my creative writing allows me to explore the line of “what if” thoughts that occasional come to mind, and while my study of pharmacy doesn’t directly relate, I notice it affects how I approach a subject. Since I’m pursuing healthcare, I like to view the situation from the point of view of the patient, or the person being affected. Considering the scenario from both sides I can address the positives and negatives of all angles and flesh out more details to make the piece more plausible.

 TA: Your writing is written in a very conversational voice. Are you writing as yourself or creating a character voice to write through?

NN: My intention was to narrate from the perspective of a typical person who is living out the aftermath of some intangible person’s design. While I didn’t rely on the factual knowledge from my classes, I did base what little scientific information I offered on how I believe patients see the aspects of healthcare they don’t understand. Similarly, here the voice belongs to a generalized character that lacks insight on how the chemical works. The narrator also speaks curtly, not giving the reader a chance to ask questions to reflect their lack of control on the situation as well.

TA:  How did you begin writing? Is it something you’ve always been interested in, or did your writing begin more recently?

NN: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I have to be very inspired by an idea for something to actually be put down on paper. I don’t make time to write, rather if I happen to come across a concept I try and jot it down. Then when I feel like putting words together I try and decipher what my idea was and find the same inspiration. Usually the original focus of the piece is lost in side thoughts that branch out from my poking and prodding, but I like to write without restriction and see how the story molds in the end. All detours and deviations are welcome.

February Feature: Steven Asher

Steven Asher is a junior and an English/Creative Writing major at the University of Houston. He has been writing at about age ten and hasn’t stopped since, though this online feature with the Aletheia is his first publication. Steven always loved fiction in all forms, be it literature, film, theater or comic books and because of this, he is a strong supporter of local artists. Whether it be plays or musicals at a small theater, orchestra concerts, readings, local bands, he wants to support it. He thanks the Aletheia editors, for giving him this opportunity to be apart of it all.

________________________________________________________

Wordsworth to Wordsworth

by Steven Asher

            I don’t know what reading Wordsworth had to do with Mona keeping her hand over mine, as it cupped her breast in a hotel two years ago but that’s where it took me. I was taking the District Line down to Braidy’s place before we went to school and decided to pop the Crush on the ride over. He told me not to underestimate the little orange pill when he handed it to me in the small plastic bag.

“At it’s peak, it takes whatever it is you’re currently experiencing, a buried memory and connects the two in a series of emotions and images, sometimes making you relive entire memories themselves if the memory is a strong one,” he answered my question, but the look on my face must have colored me unconvinced because he capped the explanation with the phrase, “Shit works.”

I tried to recall the connections in my head the Crush connected together but it was hard at first. We had been on a trip in London our junior year led by the French teacher and Braidy had secretly invited one of his college friends, Mona. Braidy and I met her at the airport during our free hours instead of roaming the city. She was beautiful: green eyes, porcelain skin and ginger hair she insisted was “strawberry blonde.”  She was all these things and older than me.

Mona never got her own room but shared ours and ducked our French teacher when she came for the random “room checks.” One of us would coincidentally be in the shower when the teacher came looking and Mona would hide out in there. Mostly it was Braidy who in there with her but one night our teacher came for a second check after making her rounds and we panicked, Mona pulling me into the bathroom with her.

“Is this all you two do?” I asked, tapping my fingers against the sink.

“What did you think we were doing? Did Braidy tell you we were fucking?” Mona said, sitting next to me on the bathroom floor next to the running shower. Not a moments pause between the two questions.

“I don’t know what I thought.”

“Calm down dude, I was just fucking with you,” she said.

I didn’t really know what to say, mouth ready to spring with something to say but my brain was coming up completely empty. I ended up letting my eyes wander around, examining every inch like I’d never seen a bathroom. Braidy eventually opened the door to let us know we were in the clear.

I had just finished unpacking all of my clothes when the teacher came back one last time and Braidy pushed me into the bathroom again.

“You going to unpack your stuff?” I said after a minute of silence.

“Oh, so you do talk?” she said, smiling.

“I was just thinking, there’s enough room in the dressers and it’s not like Ms. Packer is going to check,” I tried smiling back.

“Sit next to me, I can barely hear you over the shower,” she sort of inched her body to the right and patted the floor next to her.

“I mean, if you’re going to be staying with us for the week, you might as well..”

“Thanks, but I usually live out of my suitcase during these kinds of things?”

It’s a phrase I would pass over at the time but would bring up later in the week.

The shower was low enough for me to hear the teacher asking Braidy why I was taking so long in the shower.

“He’s masturbating,” he blurted out.

Mona gave a snicker and I can only imagine what shade of red my face flushed. Braidy was always giving me shit for things, especially for me being straight edge for the first two years of high school.

“Being straight edge basically means no alcohol, drugs or sex,” I explained to Braidy outside the White Rabbit our freshman year. It was a local show for Ghost Town Electric and he wanted me to pop X so I could “fully experience” the light show that accompanied their sets.

“How’d you hear about Ghost Town Electric?” Mona asked.

“Oh,” I snapped, looking down at my vest to the GTE patch. “Well…”

Braidy knocks on the door this time and simply yells, “We’re good!”

“Go ahead and go, I’m going to actually take a shower now that I think about it,” she said, standing up.

“Sounds good,” I sit up but before I can even stand, she’s taking off her shirt. “Whoa!” I almost yell, “Wait until I get out of the bathroom first?”

I don’t look back on my way out but she makes a sort of “pfft” sound with her lips, which makes me look back to see her rolling her eyes with a smirk.

That GTE patch would end up draped over her chest later; she put the vest on after coming out of the shower in only a bra and shorts.

We watched TV together for the first time that night, some hour long drama on BBC that put Braidy to sleep and left Mona to put my arm around her as we sat propped up, at the end of the bed together. She held the cross at the end of her necklace in her mouth when she really focused in on something. I noticed the habit the first time her and I were in the bathroom together. I came back from the bathroom during a commercial break and put my arm around her again after she sat up from the bed headboard, expecting me to return.

“Sorry,” I said, my hand accidentally brushing her chest as it draped around her neck but instead of letting me pull away, she held it there and looked up at me. It was that look of opening a door and catching someone in the act of something but instead of being shocked with what she had found there, Mona had a stare like she had been expecting what she had found. If Braidy hadn’t been passed out due to bottles of cheap wine he smuggled in, we wouldn’t have… or at least, I wouldn’t have but we did. Braidy asked me how she was when we got home but I just told him the whole thing was a blur, which was the truth. The next day, when Braidy ordered two beers for Mona and him, I told him to make it three. We had found a place that didn’t card a few nights before and started frequenting it.

“Calm down, I’ll pay for it,” I tried putting Braidy at ease but it wasn’t until after he explained himself that I realized he was freaking out over me ordering alcohol for myself.

“And with such confidence,” Mona added in.

I later realized and told her that she was the result of that confidence.

“Not my usual pillow talk,” she said, “but I’ll take it.”

Mona had thick skin when I met her, so she never really talked about emotions. Which meant we never really talked about emotions but the night after we had sex, I told her that she made me happy. She told me I made her happy, right now. I didn’t have much time to question the afterthought because Braidy ended up making the cab driver pull over, so he could plant his hands to the pavement out the backseat and throw up, his lower half still in the cab. I got out without saying anything to Mona to make sure he was okay but he waved me off before I could touch him.

“Meter’s running,” the cabbie said.

“I’ve got the money, just hang tight. He’s throwing up, geeze.”

“Look at the balls on you, kid,” Mona said, looking over the top of the car at me.

“Don’t call me kid,” I threw back, a little more harsh than intended.

“Calm down, it’s just an expression.”

“Is that your solution for everything?”

“What?” she looked confused, not following my train of thought.

“You’re so laid back about everything.”

I let out a sigh and found myself leaning against the trunk of the car, Braidy still puking his guts out, insisting he was okay in between heaves. I look over to him and see Mona leaning against the trunk with me.

“Don’t take it as an insult, I’m impulsive,” she finally came out and said it for the first time that week. Problem was, she didn’t think that was an issue for me. Bigger problem was, I didn’t address that it was an issue for me. “I meant you make me happy right now and that’s enough for me,” she said, retracing our conversation back to where it derailed.

“I guess you’re right.”

“Are you guys fighting about me?” is what Braidy meant to say but it all comes out in one slurred phrase.

“No Braidy, you okay?” I ask.

“Mmmmyeah.” He says, throwing himself back in the cab.

“Let’s get you home buddy,” I say. “Come on,” I say and without thinking, I give Mona a kiss on the forehead through her bangs. She tugs me back, reaching into my coat pocket to pull me by my hand.

“What’s that?” I asked.

And without a moment’s hesitation she leaned in and said, “I really want to kiss you right now.”

“Right now?” I kind of chuckled but more out of confusion than humor before kissing her.

“What was that for?” I ask.

“You’re just a good person,” she says and kind of shrugs.

Not counting when we had sex, I kissed her twice in the week that I knew her. Once when Braidy was blowing chunks out the back of that cab and again the night we flew out from London, she was going to stay a few more days. Everyone was filing in at the airport and Braidy had just walked into the terminal after saying bye when she caught me by the arm and pulled me into her.

She didn’t even say bye after that, just kissed me, hopped in her cab and left.

Mona was my first, the ignition of sexual passion at the beginning of my high school years. In retrospect, that night was the start for all of what I had been putting off as someone who claimed “straight edge”. So, I guess I do agree with Wordsworth when he said that sexual passion is the strongest of them all when talking of the origin and creation of poetry.

“Huh…” the word was meant to be a thought but instead came out as an audible alarm to pull me out of my memories and the chain they created.

“Huh, what?” Braidy said, and it was only then that I realized I had made my way from the start of the District Line all the way to his side of town, to his apartment, up the stairs and to his front door.  I tried to suffice the explanation with Braidy’s phrase of “shit works” but he just said, “nah motherfucker, tell me about your trip.”

After throwing myself on his couch, I asked if he still knew Mona

“Well of course I still know her, you don’t stop knowing someone,” he retorted.

“No, I mean,” I stopped and hung my head.

He interrupts my frustration at his being a smart ass and tells me that he and Mona hadn’t spoken much in the past year. She had taken last summer to road-trip around the States, visited everywhere apparently. Braidy got halfway through describing her travels before retrieving a post card from his room. It was from the world’s largest catsup bottle in Illinois, attached was a picture. Mona stood next to it proudly with her hands on her hips, her hair blown wildly in her face by the wind. Apparently this was supposed to be the first of many but the rest were never sent out. Braidy said he got another one when she made her way to Singapore. I lament over the word Singapore for a second before Braidy decides to tell me she’s coming into town at the end of the week. He says he’ll get in touch with her then and see if she wants to hit up a bar or something.

“So Mona is where the Crush left you stranded?” he started to connect the dots.

I told him I don’t know why my mind went there but that’s the path my brain went down. Wordsworth to Mona? From poetry, to the poet, his perception of the world, man’s connection to nature, beauty, passion, strong passion, the strongest of passions, sexual desire, etymology of sexual desire, coming of age, high school, meeting Mona in this city, this city, revisiting now, admiring the skyline, not able to express my longing to return, much like a poet would, or the great “translators” for things we can’t properly articulate as Wordsworth would say, on the train reading this passage on poetry by Wordsworth.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“Yep.”

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say.

“From Wordsworth to Wordsworth,” I say, running the cycle over and over, each time the associations growing in complexity and number and…

Braidy snaps his fingers in my ear and I flinch, “Don’t relapse into the cycle, you still have to help me with this remember?”

I told him I’m sorry and rub my eyes before focusing in on the laptop in front of him.

“Wait, you haven’t signed up for next semester’s courses yet?” I ask.

He laughs and makes a smart remark about how not everyone does it the night the registration opens for them. I spent the rest of the week in my flat, sifting through possible plans for the summer. A few of us wanted to take a trip to the beach, so I started marking the possible weekends I could take off from work. I was reading through the end of a book for the third time when Braidy called me and said Mona wanted to go out with us that weekend. I had only ten pages left in that book but spent the rest of the night sifting through my closet to find something to wear.

“Calm down Rico Suave’” Braidy comments on my clothes as we walk towards the bar together.

“Piss off,” I tell him, half smirking.

We walk into the bar and Mona is sitting there with two other people, one guy and another girl. She stands up and gives Braidy a hug but pauses for a split second at me.

“Holy shit, London!” she finally says, so loud that half the bar looks over at us. We meander through a bit of small talk before I eventually ask how her trip went, but only after Braidy brings the subject up.

She saw everything, got arrested twice, spent a few weeks in Seattle after she ran out of money and lived in her car. Most of it was living in her car, when she passed through cities she knew nobody in, which wasn’t that often apparently. Braidy makes the comment that it’s a wonder she’s not dead.  She went everywhere, Seattle, Toronto, L.A., Houston, Miami, Amish country in Ohio, a concert at the Red Rocks in Colorado. The entire trip is explained in a single breath. The thought of who she saw at the Red Rocks crosses my mind in the middle of it all but Braidy interrupts me, ordering a round for the table and the conversation diverts to what he’s been doing since she left.

His anecdotes aren’t nearly as entertaining and take twice as long to get out.

“We actually just finished school,” he says, jabbing me in the shoulder.

“Really?” Mona’s eyes fix on me for the first time since she realized who I was.

“Yeah,” is all I manage.

“Maybe Braidy can stop slinging Crush and get a real job now,” Mona says.

“I’ve heard that stuff is nothing but terrible trips,” the guy next to her in a sloppy beanie chimes in.

“Not really, it just depends on the user and what’s being used as the current focus being paired with the memory,” I say.

“You’ve tried it?” Mona cocks her head slightly away from me.

“This morning actually!” Braidy proudly states, leaning over the table.

“What did it do to you?” the guy in the beanie asks.

“Nothing just…” I can feel Braidy’s eyes on me, “brought a sort of personal meaning and memory to some classic literature I was reading on the train.”

“Good memory or bad memory?” he asks and for some reason, even though I didn’t owe anything to this guy and Braidy was the only one who knew the truth of the situation, I had to be honest.

“I don’t know?” I say, looking at Mona. Her black shirt clinging tight to her chest. “Anyone got a cigarette?” I ask.

“Why don’t you ask the drug dealer?” sloppy beanie says.

“Why don’t you not point me out as a drug dealer in a public place,” Braidy says through his teeth. “Besides, I don’t smoke.”

“You don’t smoke?”

“No, I don’t smoke,” he says, leaning over the table to lower his tone, “because as much as I enjoy my pharmaceutical endeavors, I hate the idea of my breath constantly smelling like ash.”

“I’ve got one,” Mona says standing up, “I’ll join you.”

“I didn’t know you smoked,” Braidy calls after us.

“I don’t,” I say, unsure of who he was talking to.

“Just started,” she throws back.

“You got a light, love?” she says, motioning towards a guy leaning against the outside of the bar.

“You smoke but don’t have a lighter,” I remark.

“Sounds like me,” she says, lighting the cigarette in my mouth. She thanks the guy with another “love”, he winks at her and she flashes a smile.

“Yeah, I guess it does.” I say back.

“How do you figure?”

“I didn’t mean—”

“No, I know you didn’t. Remember, you’re a nice person,” she pushes me playfully.

“You remember that,” I chuckle.

“So now that it’s just you and me,” she says, “does your memory of me leave a good or bad taste in your mouth?”

“How did…”

“You looked straight at me when talking about your Crush trip and Braidy had that stupid grin on his face when looking at you he gets when he wants to say something so badly but he knows he shouldn’t.”

“Well…” I say and she looks dead at me, “it’s the whole going for a smoke without a lighter. I mean I didn’t think it was possible for someone to live ‘in the now’ anymore than you already were when I met you, but you found a way.”

“Works though doesn’t it?” she says, taking a long drag of the cigarette.

“For you, maybe. I could never be that whimsical.”

“You say that, but you’re nowhere near the boy I met back then and took his virginity.”

I almost choke to death, coughing out smoke, “You knew, huh?”

“You were seventeen, barely could look at me without blushing.”

“I guess you’re right,” I say.

The light at the other end of the street turns green and the flood of traffic is released.

“You’re more bold than I remember,” I say.

“That’s because I am more bold than I was when I met you,” she says, her dark red lipstick leaves stains on the filter each time she puffs.

“I think that’s why I’m not sure.”

“Of?” I can’t tell if she’s being coy or genuine.

“Of whether or not my memory of you is a good or bad one.”

“What does my boldness have to do with that?”

“Because… because there was always this gap between what you knew and what you could say or do and who I was as a person. Like you were a step ahead of me in life.”
“I am older, it’s kind of a package deal.”

“Yeah but then that makes me think that you didn’t enjoy yourself as much as I did all those years ago.”

“If that were true,” she drops the cigarette butt, “does that change anything for you?”

She snuffs the still lit cigarette with her heel and walks in the bar. I walk in just a few steps behind her, as I started my cigarette just a little bit after hers and have grown content my pace.

 

November Feature: Paris Jomadiao

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For November, we are featuring Paris Jomadiao: a visual artist and alumna of the University of Houston’s Fine Arts program.

Interview by editor Adrienne Meyers

The Aletheia: So, Paris, tell us a little bit about yourself (where you’re from, grew up, education).

Paris Jomadiao: Hello! I was born in the Philippines but grew up in Houston, TX . Although I wasn’t born in Houston, I definitely consider myself a native. I’ve been living here 21 years, and I just recently graduated with my BFA in Photography & Digital Media from the University of Houston.

TA: What brought you to Houston/ Center for Contemporary Craft residency?

PJ: During my senior year of undergrad, I began pursuing different opportunities that would allow me to continue my studio practice. I didn’t want to immediately pursue a graduate degree, especially after taking so long to complete my BFA.

By chance, I came across the residency program at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and I felt that a residency would be a great way for me to build up my portfolio & immerse myself in my practice for the time being.

TA: Certain imagery seems to be visible throughout much of your work (trees, skulls, animals, people). What is the significance of these images? Some of your works are quite fantastical- are they based out of personal experience or primarily imagination?

PJ: A lot of my work deals the impact & significance of personal experiences;

I explore the possible purposes of our experiences and how this relates to our existence. A lot of the imagery is representative of prominent figures or concepts that stem from my own memories and experiences. The trees, for example, are used a lot in my work that deals with familial relationships and is a direct allusion to the idea of the family tree.

Altogether, the imagery in my work so far, especially in my animations, is used to construct whimsical worlds which act as retreats I like to bring my viewers into; they’re also representations of my experiences overall. These worlds I create are places where one would escape, confront, and attempt to resolve personal conflicts.

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TA: How did the cut paper work come out of your degree in Photography and Digital Media? What if any is the correlation between your photographic works and your cut paper works?

PJ: For me, artwork is equal parts process and concept, so I enjoy processes that allow me to work with my hands and do things manually. I began my photography and digital media degree doing manual, darkroom processed photography, but as the program became more catered towards digital processes, I lost my footing for a while. It wasn’t until one of my instructors introduced me to the process of stop-motion animation that I was able return to a more manual approach to my art making. I was actually introduced to cut-paper illustration when I attempted to pursue graphic communications, and I absolutely fell in love with the process. In a way, stop-motion animation allowed me to “rediscover” cut-paper and incorporate it into my work on a more conceptual level. Afterwards, I began experimenting more by utilizing cut-paper illustration along with other mixed-media techniques, primarily collage.

As far as a correlation between my photographic works and my current work, I would say that I still explore a lot of the same concepts as I did back then. I just think that now my work is a lot more approachable for the viewer and can be interpreted more ways; I think my photographic work was a lot more direct and restricting in that sense.

TA: In general, what is your process of working? How do you treat the shapes and materials in relation to your final product?

PJ: I usually start out with an image or idea in my mind and then explore whatever processes are best for achieving the final product. Not a lot of planning actually goes into my work; it’s both a good and bad thing. It’s frustrating at times, because the work can be a bit unpredictable, and it becomes harder to prepare for whenever something goes wrong. However, I do like the spontaneity that comes with this approach. A lot of times the final product will look so much more different than what I’d visualized in the beginning, and it’s really interesting to see how the entire piece turns out in the end.

I like to think that the materials I use relate a lot to the ideas I’m trying to explore. Paper, for example, is really interesting, because it’s seen mostly as a material onto which you draw or write, but the paper itself can be used to do so much more than that. I also like that despite it being a fragile medium, when treated a certain way, it can be quite resilient. It’s little details & qualities like these that I like to take into consideration whenever I am I working with particular materials, sources, or imagery. I also apply the same thought process when searching for collage materials.

For more information on Paris and her work, visit her website: http://parisfjomadiao.com/

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