Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Sylvia (Page 1 of 2)

week 9, journal sylvia c

I WISH YOU TOUCHED ME LESS LIKE A SPARROW AND MORE LIKE A CRIME SCENE. I WANT SPATTER ON THE WALLS AND CONFUSION OVER SHADOWS BECAUSE EVEN GHOSTS HAVE THINGS LEFT UNSAID. I BET YOU COULDN’T EVEN MAKE THE DOOR SLAM. I BET YOU’RE FINE TUCKED INTO A STERILE BED AS LONG AS THE MOONLIGHT SHINES. THE ILLUMINATED EMPTY MAKES NO DIFFERENCE ANYMORE. I SEE GIGANTIC ATOMS AND GOD SITTING IN THE PALM OF MY HAND, I HEAR EACH STIFLED LAUGH RESULTING INTO OUTCRIES. I CAN NO LONGER TELL PITY FROM PLEASURE. I CAN NO LONGER TELL MUSIC FROM NOISE. 

LOOKED INTO YOUR EYES AND I SAW A TIDAL WAVE FULL OF LIFE AND THE SAD REFLECTION OF SOMETHING SUSPENDED IN SPACE. I SAW CHANGING SEASONS AND EVERYTHING I COULD NOT DO. I TASTED THE THINGS I COULD NOT PUT INTO WORDS. THEY SPEARED MY TONGUE AND DISAPPEARED INTO QUICKSAND AND THE EARTH CLOSED BEFORE I COULD JUMP IN. I LOOKED AROUND AND I WAS IN PURGATORY. I STROKED THE CRATER AND THE WORLD BEGAN TO HEAL.

obits and orbits excerpt, sylvia c W8 journal

Three girls downed (every year, according to my mother, this was as common as a cold), every summer at Brighton Beach. They walked in with their full clothing and headscarves on and drowned, because most brown people don’t know how to swim, never learn, and the ones that know never teach.

 

Fernando’s brother took six tabs of acid and jumped from the seventh floor of a project in queens. The paper reported there had been a rooftop party, but he was just with his two, maybe three boys, and then he started to wreck shit, so they kicked him out and locked the doors.

Then he made it up fifteen flights of stairs, his friends lived in the basement, and out the door and off the ledge and into mid-air, where, for a few seconds, he flew, before hitting the ground.

 

My eleventh grade boyfriend’s high school Advisory teacher died during his tenth year. I was at the school but I didn’t have him and became obsessed with looking him up on the internet afterwards. Everything important got taken down within the year, so no one else knows he died fighting alcohol, left behind two children, wasn’t as strong as he had made it out to be when he called out sick that week from work.

 

Tommy never wore a shirt, not in the scorching heat or the blistering cold. The husky, Rocco, would sniff me out down the block first, and then Tommy would come out shirtless, whether it was winter or summer. He was tougher than any biker I knew, proved it with the gaps in his teeth and twisted braid falling down his back. He wore heavy rings and once confided how much I look like his wife. I didn’t know anyone I wasn’t related to, and even then, that I looked like. She wasn’t buried too far, and he died after I moved away. His death doesn’t hurt me to think about, but I am sorry, of course. I don’t know if I’d want to say goodbye so much as have another fond day, where it isn’t so clear to him how far I am moving on. I hope he is with his wife now, and I imagine they still love each other.

Ryan went to highschool with my sister and got run over separating from his brother. A car hit him, he went down, and the drunk driver ran over him three times. I wondered how he managed to check his voicemail from beyond the grave. Who keeps or deletes that shit? And when is it gone forever?

Sylvia C, Grace Paley close Reading (several stories)

 

In The Collected Stories, Grace Paley drops readers right into the middle of the story, without giving us an introduction or context, and rather, leaving us to make sense of it as the story progresses. Though it’s clear we are not starting at the beginning (and should not expect to get the absolute end), the stories are enjoyable and the characters witty, intense, and passionate. Character development, rather than plot, seems to drive most of her stories. Paley seems committed to revealing people as they are, finding truth in everyday nuisances and honest dialogue. Her characters are humorously typical, but still manage to surprise readers with their complexity and vividness.

In “A Conversation with My Father”, the narrator and her father are sitting in the hospital and he asks her to write him a simple story, just once more. He wants “recognizable people and… what happened to them next”, (232) and we get an interesting glimpse into Paley describing her own work. At the end of this story is where I found a crux in the novel. She writes the story of a woman who becomes an addict to get closer to her son, and eventually the son becomes disgusted with her lifestyle and moves beyond her. The woman dies amongst fools, and the narrator’s father comments, “what a tragedy. The end of person”. To this, the narrator replies, “It doesn’t have to be. She’s only about forty. She could be a hundred different things in this world as time goes on… She could change… It really could happen that way” (237). Is she talking about the woman in this simple story, or really, about herself?

I get my answer in the next sentence. Her father tells her she must look her own life in the face, and though she has been told to let him have the last word, she refuses to abandon this woman,  “there in that house crying. [And] neither would Life” she thinks,  “which unlike [her] has no pity” (237). Life doesn’t end as the story comes to a close, real people are not characters that cease to exist at the end of the page. Instead, authors rework it, exploring different imaginary outcomes for a history that’s already happened. In life, Paley cannot control what happens, but in the story, she can.

Paley uses Faith, a single-mother of two boys as an alter-ego in several of her stories. On the surface,“Living” is about a woman named Ellen who is going to die. It is however, intertwined with a different voice, Faith’s, who can’t help but remark on the lack of validation others feel for how she is suffering. She writes, “I really was dying. It seemed I was going to bleed forever.” And finally, when Ellen calls to say she is dying, Faith responds “Please! I’m dying too Ellen”. Ellen says she is frightened, worried about who will take care of her kids, and Faith admits she is selfish, “I didn’t worry about them. I worried about me” (166).

The three page story picks up pace rather quickly, and things turn around for Faith, who seems to go through menopause, and then gets so back into shape that she almost gets pregnant again. Her tall, handsome boys come home to her. In the next paragraph, after Christmas, Ellen dies. This story wonderfully portrays the adamant suffering of the storyteller, who needs and longs to be listened to, and finds this in her stories where she could not in real life.

Furthermore, she writes from the standpoint of a male flawlessly, and through that, is able to provide a reflection all women, and subsequently, reflect on herself. By using the perspective of a male, both the audience and the author gain some distance and are able to look through a less immediate perspective.

She, like the audience realizes the standards set for women, by men, and by other women. Faith “really is an American and was raised up to the true assumption of happiness” (148), so long as she fulfills the myths, legend and expectations set before her. She blames herself often, saying “a man can’t help it, but I could have behaved better” (55), and then later, she poses the question “what is man that woman lies down to adore him?” (94).

In “The Little Girl”, Paley writes “them little girls just flock, they do. A grown man got to use his sense.” He foreshadows the girl’s death by calling the bed she will later be raped in, her “coffin”. Later, and in the voice of the man Charlie, whose bed the girl was raped in, Paley writes “ We been in this world long enough. We seen lots of the little girls. They go home, then after a while they get to be grown women, integrating the swimming pool and pickerting the supermarket, they blink their eyes and shut their mouth and grin” (231).

All this time, the poor girl, a 14-year old runaway with no family chasing after her, mauled and beaten, then tossed out like trash, is a victim. But in the final paragraphs, as Paley sheds light on her from a different angle, her character develops and changes what could have been, but was not, history. The poor girl becomes a heroine, her murder becomes a choice. Finally she controls it, as the author writes the end as a suicide. And once again, Paley, a true feminist, gives the universal Plight of women everywhere, some Poise.

 

sylvia c. W7 Journal

I am eight years old the first time my sister gets caught stealing.

It is a white dress, almost prom-like, though I don’t know it at the time.

A white halter with a gaudy diamond broach at the center.

Years later I will find a photo of her andher first boyfriend, Miz  sitting together at a round table.

I remember my own time, in the big hall on 9th street.

Ingrid’s dad who died two early, who I wonder how she still thinks about, drove you in a porche and you sat in the front because you were ten months older.

You wanted one sentimental dance with the boy that dumped you three times in the span of two months, when the ground got cold and slushy.

He had left before the last song, the sad, overused song at the end of the Titanic, he broke out into a wreck of allergies and had to go to the emergency room.

He wrote to you later and asked if you enjoyed yourself, that was his type. Not you.

You answered while cat-sitting at an old music teacher’s house.

You can’t remember a single good conversation.

Is he surprised? Livid? God, is he even alive?

Trying hard to read every face and failing, time and trial again. 

You find the spots after having been here only a short while.

Goosebumps on the body, tea for one, not two.

That’s how it works, almost always.

Pretend you are comfortable before you really are and everyone is somewhat fooled into submission, however  uncomfortable.

It’s such fun to talk in twists.

Good conversation is your premise.

The sky is clear, my eyes are clear.

I get myself grounded, think of five things I can see, four things I can hear, 

three things I can smell, two things I can taste,

One thing I can touch.

I choose you, I choose you for the rest of my life and only wake up

with my palms full of you, or cold, empty, judgement filled sheets.

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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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