Palo Alto Weekly 19th Annual Short Story
by Michael Jiaravanont
I had experienced an epiphany of sorts through an incident of
singing in torrential rainfall, it was a badly planned and unglorifying
rite of passage. I suppose that every sentient being with hopes
of grasping a little something called romance must at some point
at least attempt this ridiculous feat. Having no idea of its origins
but well aware of how deeply rooted and pervasive this single act
is in culture and lore, there is no easier way to catch unwanted
sickness. However, the fact that I had even tried this was a sure
sign of insanity, as most people would assume that this was purely
a movie spectacle. I hesitate to place blame solely on the shoulders
of love, as they are already tremendously overburdened. In some
ways it was perfectly apt; we had both placed burdens of insurmountable
emotion and inner soul-cluttering turmoil upon each other. I had
the terrible curse and blessed luck to be in love, while love had
to reap the fallout of its terrible mark on me.
The irony cuts deeper as the unfolding continues; the girl of my dreams is named
Angel. Angel. As in heavenly divine woman with wings and the grace of eons of
reckless hope. And like most angels, she rarely frequents mortals. Not to say
she neglects or ignores, but her ambience of mental aloe always seems to be just
out of reach. When I was younger I was closer to Angel. We had spent time together,
back when the boundaries of unspoken and unmarked adolescence were still low
enough to be leapt over by our lack of shyness and self consciousness. It was
the beginning of trust, and while a false trust because we were too young to
know the depths of our seemingly placid minds, it built what would eventually
be our capability to attempt to hold together relationships. Before our generation
would try, and most likely extraordinarily flame out over, the beginnings of
spending the lost darkness of night with another. The end of fifteen years of
solitude would be brought about with sweet whispers of sweet nothings under the
covers of woven hopes. Multicolored strands of excitement hinting forbidden discovery,
lust, and adventure, just like space explorers peeking around galaxies hoping
to catch a glimpse of the beyond around the corner.
My time of comfortable interaction with Angel had dissipated before I even realized
it; my anger moved to shatter my window. Why had I not seized an opportunity?
Why had I done nothing? The window stared out toward streetlights which hovered
over pools of dirty white. It seemed doomed to rain in shards on the uncaring
asphalt, but I caught myself. If executed, I would no longer have a window, but
only masking tape to stare at. As much as frustration and regret filled the corners
of my vision, I could not bring myself to destroy my sole ocular portal to the
This longing to change the past while wishing to improve the present left me
undoubtedly unhappy. There is no joy in wishing all things to be different and
I was certainly not accepting what I was given. It is a subtle pain in living,
one that is nearly undetectable. From all other perspectives, I was filled with
the spirit of living and heartily enjoyed, as best I could while being at a chemically
unbalanced age, the entire human experience. Love had somehow sabotaged this
peerless plateau, and like a parasite, began to devour my life from within. But
at the same time my mind burst with the creativity and ecstatic genius of ages,
thoughts rolling faster than could be addressed and the world filtering in kaleidoscopically
at a breakneck speed. The brilliant zeal brought by my infatuation, I thought,
would allow for my transcendence and passage above a commonplace life to a bloodless
Valhalla where each day I could be reborn to experience the wonders of dawn over
the glittering heavens.
There is a park nearby, compliments of a well planned track-house neighborhood.
Being on a hillside, however, makes it an interesting playground. This park was
the epicenter of much of my younger days when school did not occupy as much time.
Nowadays it seems awkward, as if growing up had slowly cut a rift that got progressively
harder to cross. Walking down the rows of bleak swings and monkey bars, I realize
I've reached the age where these simple amusements cease to be thrilling enough
to capture and captivate. I would have to seek roller coasters and tumultuous
relationships with parents and friends to get a stomach-turning effect. The park
is a memoir, a nostalgic frame of the past, a reminder of what once was. I wander
here occasionally, to try to flush away crowd of angry demons, their voices resonating
and deafening my rational capabilities. I stand at the epicenter, spinning around
to garner and grasp the full crowd surrounding me. Though their faces and features
are blurred to grey outlines, I still vibrate with their resounding noise. The
beautiful cacophony that makes my ears bleed in ecstasy, that I may fall to the
ground in pain weeping in gratitude, at least knows that I am alive.
The park slowly fades away under my footsteps, but with me I carry
sand in my shoes, the irritating grains like obstinate memories
still resisting eradication.
The sidewalk winds on its own and the wanderlust takes me to dazzling
heights of normalcy: past the school, the local grocery, and finally
to the forest's
edge. From an aerial view the trees look like a razor's wound dividing
green and the grey of suburbia. Up close, it sneaks up upon those
who venture in, and
if walking unaware, the forest can envelop and swallow unwitting people.
The path winds itself like the sidewalk, and the trees and track
homes provide no
recognizable landmarks. Gentle winds and bowing trees fill the air
with formality and decorum which leads to an unsettling uneasiness.
The quiet stillness is isolating, causing whatever emotions are
harbored to swell and fill the vacuum.
I fight myself towards ordinary, as crying, even while alone, pours
shame over unhealed cuts. There is no time to think as I suddenly
stumble across a glade
polluted with bottles and humans. Without knowing it, I have donned
my presentable self and am ready for interaction. What I am not
ready for is Angel, sitting
cross-legged on the trampled grass lolling on a friend's shoulder with
one hand holding a bottle and the other flailing. They see me,
and quiet instantly with
a sharp intake of breath. For a moment, all that can be heard is the
silence and speaking of trees, the same harmony that the glade
enjoys most other days.
I am normal. I sit, pass the bottle with the others, and laugh.
And how I laugh! Blind and ignorant, there is no difference if
racist stab or
indescribably bad pun, the laughter comes out all the same. Laughter
knows no hurt, no feelings,
and that is perhaps why it causes as much pain as it absolves. Angel
laughs with me, and I smile with the thought that perhaps the situation
it may seem, that this glade might enjoy our company and the merriment
we fill it with. Maybe the satellites can see an aperture in the
deep green, and maybe
scientists can see our circle of flushed faces and saturated smiles.
Maybe they can scan us, and plot the waves emanating outwards, concentric
unclassifiable energy. We lie down on makeshift pillows of sweaters,
facing heaven and shaping passing clouds with our minds. Our feet
lie strewn and
the center of a loose circle from which our bodies radiate. Looking
cannot see any other faces and I constantly turn my head to make
sure I am not alone.
The occasional glancing blow, accompanied by laughter, qualifies
me and with each touch I can feel myself cement into their existence.
is no reassurance
like physical contact, and the brief moments I can feel a foot under
mine or the brush of an arm are sweet and euphoric. A still life
nectar of comfort and compassion dripping down our countenances,
frozen like our faces that have stretched into impossibly contorted
Angel holds her head softly, her laughter starting like the first
of spring. It is born softly, slowly sprinkling before turning into
the torrential deluge that washes over me, infusing that unnamable
that warms the soul on colder days. Her face still angelic despite
lips part to let loose an invitation to a party, offering a chance
to glimpse the hidden corners and curves in her face that I have
seeking. After the novelty of ever deep woods wears itself thin,
they leave to find other amusement. Angel smiles intoxicated and
the bottle into my hands and reminds me of her party. I smile, say
my goodbyes, and lie in the now-silent glade, nursing the bottle
The sun sinks into shallow waters of a far-off sea, deceitfully darkening the
cracks in the pavement and throwing the shadows of the grass impossibly long.
Ambling home never had such purpose to it. The anticipation of the eager waiting
of another presses upon the body a most fulfilling sense. To be given a reason,
a purpose, albeit a small and perhaps inconsequential one, is both pinnacle and
goal. With the sun gone, the night is eternally long, shadows melting into darkness,
feasting on the everlasting youth of a night dripping opportunity.
Angel's door is large and looks to be oaken, heavily stained with a morbid varnish
streaking the wood with sharp and dripping darkness. A solitary light above the
entrance floods away any shadows, but when the door is opened, Angel's face appears
with her countenance murky. The shadows cast by her eyes and nose are thrown
down violently, ripping the edges of a smile apart. I am welcomed in, and through
the doorway push into pulsing waves of music. I recognize people, those I have
encountered before. Here, in this unfamiliar landscape, I realize they are not
astronauts like I am, but aliens in their own home. I move slowly, bouncing off
conversations and wild stunts, weaving through dancing bodies. Angel's house
is a vast storehouse of teenage normalcy. So why is this so unrecognizable? The
dim lights and loud music, the soda and chips strewn about like shrapnel; I trace
my fingers along the dark cherry-wood walls that coat the family room. They run
down veins of sorrow, bounce through throes of ecstasy, meander through history
as easily as walking backwards.
I cannot find Angel. Wandering in vapid exploration, she has disappeared. I ask
around for direction, most mislead me. The kitchen, the bathroom, this room,
that room. All wrong, and I feel more lost than ever. Swallowed by the monstrosity
that is her house, I come across stairs I should have seen earlier. I go from
bedroom to bedroom, most locked by either her parents or by inhabitants wishing
to go undisturbed. As I reach my hand towards the last shiny intricate doorknob,
the door violently swings open, and there is Angel. Someone is behind her, one
hand resting on her hip and the other against the wall next to the door. He smiles,
nonchalant, amused at the how close I came to colliding with Angel. The moment
of surprise settles, and she asks what I am looking for. I want to say hope or
love or eternity, but I stupidly mutter a question to which I already know the
answer, and she points needlessly to a bathroom I have already found. I watch
them stagger down the hall, laughing with his hands in her hair and her fingers
tickling his side.
Later, I face her to say goodbye. People have begun to filter out, slowly emptying
the rooms and leaving a vacuum of silence and stillness behind. She is still
on his arm, I had seen him bragging of his exploits to his friends and Angel
furiously whispering details of secrets to her friends. Friends, lovers, soul
mates, there is no difference. Before I leave, I stand in front of her, tall
and sad. I reach up above her head, my fingers wrapping around the glowing halo,
the golden circle of light that hovers above her. Her face is marred by its harsh
lighting, and I begin to gently pull. It gives ever so slightly, and I begin
the use of force, my grip turning my fingers pasty white and causing both hands
to tremble. The halo gives and releases into my hands; a circlet of glowing gold
slowly cooling and turning dimmer into black onyx, reflective of only the brightest
Abandoned momentarily, she stands alone smiling and draws me close. She whispers
something, he's just a friend, come again, your smile is gorgeous did I ever
tell you that? She beckons and I lean down, all our unspoken words tangling on
our lips. They only linger a moment, and we draw up slightly abashed, trying
to decipher the messages sent. Angel's face gradually begins to return to ordinary,
as if she were crumbling away to reveal a hidden soul.
What a great relief, to see her disintegrating before my very eyes. When she notices the tear squeeze out, there is no way to hide. Are there any words to tell whom you set free? Whom you kill? Whom you love? Is there such thing as relief? A feeling that washes though the soul to reassure and reaffirm existence surely cannot be worth less than everything. Maybe in a kiss can lie all the answers. The cool night air greets me like a friend not seen for some time, and walks with me as the house lights disappear in the background. In the corner of my eye, it becomes a lonely star in the endless sky, and the tears of joy and relief and sorrow mix while falling down my face, leaving a trail of absolution.
While the prose in 'Untitled #4' works way too hard, the story of love and human connection it often masks reveals a writer of genuine ability. The narrator's epiphany is at once well-prepared for, touching and quite believable.