I’ve been called quiet most of my life. I’ve been called an introvert for half of my life. I’ve been called shy more than I’d like to have been called shy. I don’t feel that I’m any of those things. I can talk forever if you listen, I can be friendly to almost anyone, and I can sing karaoke or deliver a piece of writing on stage for hours on end if you let me. Really, the closest I come to any of those is quiet, but this hasn’t always been my choice. Most people don’t think how I think. They don’t feel how I feel about things. They never felt the uncomfortable feelings I felt when I was near or around high school cliques or anything like that, and I’m sure most people don’t think about the nature of existence as frequently as I do. They want to talk about sports, cars, and other people, and I just could never do that. I chose to listen rather than speak over others. I chose to try to understand rather than wait to talk. I’ve heard many stories from people and behind those stories are emotions that I would have never come in contact with otherwise. These experiences have helped me. The stories have accumulated so much that it’s created a good foundation of wisdom to draw upon. I saved myself the grief and let others do dumb things before I could. And that’s all I got for you this Thursday. Shut up and listen sometimes. It’ll do you some good, and you’re not as interesting as you think. #amwriting #writing
It’s Always in the Corners by Marc Alexander Valle
More and more I tell myself that it started in Algebra class, that I was Tourette’s-and-facial-tic-free until I sat in front of Axel Sidezski that sophomore year. That’s the connection I’ve made. I don’t remember having or feeling the tics before the age of 14. And I’m sure the syndrome is largely genetic, but something inside me believes that Axel lit the spark.
I googled searched Axel the other day, haunted by two questions: Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am? I searched for 10 minutes and I only found whitepage profiles and I couldn’t verify that any of them were him. I remember he had reddish-blondish hair and like most of my high school, touch-and-go bullies, they always wore a sports team jacket or a sports team t-shirt but they never really played any sports. Would he have that same smirk in his new picture? I looked on twitter and instagram and facebook and even youtube and after 10 more minutes of turning up nothing, a voice in my head said to stop cyberstalking. I closed the laptop and went to bed.
I let him hit me. Not punch me and not “I let him” as in “Sure! Go ahead and hit me” but I let him all the same. He’d push my head with an open hand. I think I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He’d hit me more than I’d like to admit and sometimes I even told myself we were really friends like I was Fredo in The Godfather and he was Moe Green and I don’t know why I’m telling you people this because I have so much shame for not hitting back that I blocked out exactly what happened and how it occured, but one thing for sure is that I believe there is a connection between the tics and his harassment. Like it kicked in right then and there in the middle of balancing an algebraic equation. And I’m not 100 % sure that there’s a connection but I’m 100% sure that I tell myself everyday that there is a connection.
Are we really who we think we’ve become? Can we ever let go of the weight?
I told myself that I would write things that no one else could write and express ideas that most people can’t verbalize or even process, and I’ve gotten to a point where I at least feel that I don’t have much competition, all to stand up and tell myself that if the Axel’s of the world ever came back and I once again stood down, at least I could do one thing better than they can.
It started in a math class that I eventually failed, and it all tied in with dreams and ambitions and talent and ego and suffering and neurodevelopmental disorders, all to make me who I am today, at least in my imagination. Axel Sidezski wins the battle nearly everyday.
Is he still the same and is he doing better than I am?
I don’t even think he’d remember my name.
Please, I welcome FEEDBACK. Feel free to comment.
First published in Potato Soup Journal on October 20, 2019
Daybreak on the Banshee
by Marc Alexander Valle
The women cried and wailed and prayed behind us, and my 7-year-old mind thought the dead body would look like something from the movies. I never saw a dead body before, and I was certain that it would look like a skeleton from a cartoon or at least Freddy Kruger. It would definitely be something that comes out only at night.
I stepped forward with my father and older brother towards the casket. All the conversation and noise in the room became silent inside of my head. I could only hear my thoughts, and all I could think was that I had to let dad step forward first and to be careful.
The toy soldier in my pocket poked into my thigh, and I readjusted it.
“What’s wrong?” my father said.
I looked up at him. “Nothing.”
I peered into the casket, and took in a deep breath.
It was my adult cousin, the one who lived down the street. No skeleton or wounds or blood or winkled skin. Just my cousin. It reminded me of a wax figure. My cousin. Then the silence fell to the back, and I could hear the wailing and the prayers of the woman once more.
“That’s it?” I said to my dad.
“Yeah,” he said. “Quiet.”
I felt compelled to go into my pocket and leave my cousin the toy soldier amongst all the flowers. I didn’t dare.
Death had only been a concept to me. Outside of television and movies, I only had urban legends. There was the time they found a dead body down at the end of the street in tall weeds. My older friend, Vic, said that it was done by a serial killer, who broke free from the Allentown State Hospital. He said that the escapee planned on killing all of the adults and torturing the children to exact some form of revenge. Despite my father’s assurance against this claim, I feared a man was roaming the streets with a gun that night. I couldn’t sleep. They ruled it suicide the next day, and I was relieved.
There was the story of the boy, who drowned in the Lehigh River next to Bucky Boyle Park. They said he swam too close to the whirlpool that swirled in the center, and he couldn’t swim back. For that reason, they told us kids to not even so much as step into the water.
Then there was the story of the boy, who fell out of a window in our former Brooklyn apartment complex. They said his ghost haunted the court yard. I had nightmares about him until we moved.
The wailing and the prayers grew even louder, and it began to make me sick to my stomach. I had enough of looking and standing still.
I looked back up to my father.
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I said.
“Quiet,” he said, then took my hand and we walked away.
Back in the car and on our way home, my father reminded me and my brother that although our cousin was dead in the physical form, he was still alive in spirit. And that spirit is everlasting and although we cannot see him, he’s still with us. The moment he described my cousin, I imagined the translucent ghost of Christmas past from a TV version of Christmas Carol.
“Do you think Freddy Kruger could beat a ghost?” I said to my older brother.
“I don’t know,” my brother said.
“Cause Freddy’s got claws,” I said.
“You’re dumb,” he said. “Nothing can beat a ghost.”
I looked back out the window and noticed that it was a beautiful day. When I got home, I would go outside and play with Mitch. Mitch was fun, and he would let me lead. We’d race and play with our toys, and I’d give him the soldier that was scarping my thigh, and I’d tell him that I don’t think I like funerals.
It was a beautiful day. No clouds were in sight, and I could see a faint moon above, immersed in blue sky. A couple of sparrow streaked across it. A gust of air from my father’s window blew into my face. The sun touched everything. And there was plenty of time before dark.
by Marc Alexander Valle ©2019
There’s a time in my life that I cannot write about. There’s no story there that would be of interest to my audience. I even get bored, thinking about it. From my teens to my very early 30s, I neither acted upon nor reacted to the world.
I did my thing. I wrote in various mediums, I went to karaoke twice a week, I read my work at open mics, I had my artwork in a gallery, I went back to school and earned my degree, I experimented in photography, and I worked various low-paying jobs with colorful people. But for the most part it was my lost years. I took no risks and barely ventured out of my comfort zone. I hardly dared to ask out females, fearing what they might have thought of me.
Is time ever really lost? Does the brain collect and process data and turn it into wisdom no matter the circumstance? And do movies, books, and music count as life experience?
I got into a shoving match in second grade, and it’s one of my sweetest moments. Some kid bullied my best friend on the playground. He was high up on himself, because all the girls followed him around during recess. I cursed at him and pushed him to the ground. All the girls came after me and yelled at me. The bully stood back up and cried. It felt good.
The world acted, I reacted, and in turn I existed. Beginning, middle and end.
We grade our lives on curves and our view of ourselves is rich with self-talk rebuttals.
I see no good in those years except that it makes my story different.
To excavate our lives for a happy ending can be a brutal endeavor, but a necessary one if the left foot is to move in front of the right and the right foot is to move in front of the left. I still can’t write a lick about that era.