WE define ourselves by benchmark moments in our lives. We like to pinpoint shifts in behavior and localize significance in order to say, definitively, that we became adults on our eighteenth birthdays or that we learned the meaning of love during our first break-ups. But these moments limit us to think only in drastic measures. Times that seem insignificant, so far from catastrophic, are often the ones that shape us the most. Those stories remain untold merely for the fact that they don’t come with excessive baggage or fantastical headlines. But I would like to uncover them – to reveal them as the stories that create the characters that play roles in feature films such as “My Sweet Sixteen” or “My First Job”. Here, the stories have come together to form a union of truths.

Photograph by Sarah Eiseman 

Photograph by Sarah Eiseman 

Notes from the Congregation of Unpublished Stories

Truths from the Back Room

 

I

I make poems out of people,

I make stories out of things.

I strip what it is down to its core,

I strip what it is until it isn’t anymore.

I throw away its substance

and fill it with myself.

 

I reinvent fact.

I replace reality with perception,

my own perception,

and I like to believe that it’s better this way.

 

II

If you’re wondering,

when you meet me,

why I stare so intently,

it’s because I am intent

(on you) –

I want to figure you out

before you figure me out

so that I can show you the me that you would like to see

so that you would always like to see

(me).

 

III

I find myself falling,

falling forward,

continuously;

walking is a lot like falling.

One foot dangles in the air,

reaching forward,

hoping to meet again with solid ground,

and gravity ensures that it does.

You’re falling continuously

but the fall is always broken before you truly fall

so you trust enough to let yourself risk falling again,

and you continue walking.

 

IV

I avoid the cracks in the pavement

because I don’t want to break my mother’s back,

because I’m scared that they will open up to a bottomless pit,

because when I’m falling I don’t want to fall through them.

 

V

I’m hurtling down the road,

50 miles too fast in my shiny red box.

It weighs nothing for its size,

it bounces unnecessarily on its thick tires.

It sings to me through the tinny voice of its blown out speakers

and I respond with an echo.

Together we go,

my jeep and I.

 

VI

Grade school meant sticky fingers and sharing candy.

It meant listing my friends in order from best to worst,

and changing that list whenever someone got a new toy.

It meant naptime on uncomfortable blue mattress pads that got hot and smelled like rubber in the summer months.

It meant cops and robbers in recess.

It meant Gladys always getting sick at recess because her mom packed her two boxes of Lunchables again.

 

VII

I watch the colors spin.

Loud whirring and grinding fills the room as the pulp begins to thicken.

Each piece is beaten repeatedly,

I can see the insides turning to the outside as they’re pressed up against the edge of the glass.

I stop for a second,

let it settle,

and then hit the button one more time for good measure.

Summer is a berry banana smoothie.

 

VIII

The dog was large, furry and golden.

His nose was always damp

so it felt like he was kissing you each time he would nuzzle his head behind the crook of your elbow when he wanted you to pet him.

He would lie out in the grass,

tanning his blond hairs.

He would pretend to play with a tennis ball for a little while,

but then lie back down because he really preferred sleeping.

He would follow you around at meal times,

and you accepted this as affection when really,

it was greed.

 

But the dog did love you,

even when you stole his seat on the couch,

even when you kicked him out of your room at night,

and especially when you left him each morning and didn’t turn around to say bye because the best part of his day was when you

came

back

home.

 

IX

You think about what will happen when you become famous –

how the people you knew and the people you know will all look at a newspaper with your face on it and wish they knew you more.

You thrive on the idea of regret –

that the people who didn’t know you wish they knew you,

and that the people who did know you wish they’d been better to you.

You wonder about yourself –

will you be kind and forgiving to the people who want to know you now,

or will you forget them because you wished all of this just so that they would know you,

but you don’t really need to know them at all?

 

X

Needlessness is needless in and of itself because everyone needs something.

I know a man who sits in the park every day and he needs a home.

I know a little girl who waits by the bench on the corner afterschool because her mom needs a new watch.

I know a woman who shops more than she eats and she needs restraint.

Think of all the things you don’t think you need,

and in this you will find far more things that you do think you need.

 

XI

I’m having a funeral for the books on my shelf.

My dictionary was the first to die –

it became much faster to look things up online.

Next were the stories,

the things that people read and wrote summaries about so that no one else would have to read them later.

Then there are the books I did in fact read,

but once they were read,

were they dead?

 

XII

Grey scarf, pink scarf, silk scarf, mink scarf.

Scarves are almost the only good things about winter –

they come second to the smell of cinnamon and are followed closely by hot chocolate.

I lost my favorite scarf once;

I left it in a restaurant because I was in such a hurry to leave.

It’s not my favorite scarf anymore, though,

because it reminds me of that time in the restaurant when I had that fight with you and I left before we could say anything worse.

 

XIII

No matter how many times my parents tried to teach me about patience,

it never really set in.

But baking taught me patience –

I learned to be patient while the batter turned from yellow to golden to golden-brown,

and I waited even though I wanted to eat when it was only yellow.

Grocery stores on Monday evenings taught me patience –

everyone else accidentally slept in all weekend and needed to buy dinner, too.

Pedicures in the winter taught me patience –

as much as I wanted to slip on my shoes and run home the moment the lady was done,

I waited under the dryer for each little toe to be perfectly smooth because it’s much worse to put your shoes on only to take them off again for a touch up.

 

 

XIV

The nights are the hardest because I think about things I shouldn’t be thinking about;

about things like love and unlove and I sleep,

not as much as I should,

not as much as I possibly could,

if I didn’t have to think at all.

 

XV

I wish for you to know what I know;

to know that time escapes us faster than you think it will,

to know that you will not always have tomorrow,

to know that you do not always have today.

 

XVI

My friend had a boat and one summer we lived on it.

We swam out in the open water and got lost.

In the ocean,

I floated.

Below me,

a world far greater than the one I knew.

Each creature was stranger than the next.

They adapted,

they changed their appearance;

they were made so perfectly to match their surroundings.

I want to blend in, too,

I thought.

I sink,

and I sink,

until I do.

 

XVII

The sky is purple with flecks of pink and orange scattered across.

There are tiny white spots visible just beyond the surface –

stars waiting to come out.

It seems large and far but really,

it is only as far my reach,

because it is everywhere.

 


Tanvi is a writer, designer and artist based in New York City, raised in Dubai, and of Indian origin. She constructs narratives, garments, and yoga sequences. Through her work she explores what it means to live outside the confines of a designated identity. 

Comment