Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bicycle Girl (A short story I wrote)

I saw my dream girl digging through the garbage inside the Laurelhurst Theater while I waited for my buddy Mike to come out of the bathroom. A rust-colored skirt draped around her lower body like a flimsy towel. I stood there, enchanted by her angelic grace. She had to stand on her tiptoes like a ballerina just to lean over the garbage can.

“Did you drop something recyclable in the garbage?”

She stood up straight and turned half her body, doing that twist that only girls can do. Her skin was like peaches and porcelain. She adjusted her glasses with her wrists. “I dropped my cell phone in the garbage.”

“Allow me.” I imagined I was diving into quick sand for her. I felt heroic. Then I felt glass bottles and pieces of tin foil. 

"For God's sake!" I yelled. “These signs clearly say ‘Compost,’ ‘Garbage,’ ‘Recycling,’ and people still throw everything in the garbage.”

“Oh. I’m not used to all the signs. That’s why I dropped my phone. I was trying to figure out what goes in what.”

Garbage spilled over the edges. “Found it!” I stood up and handed her the green phone, sort of doing a weird handshake.

Mike came out of the bathroom and interrupted our moment. “I hate urinals,” he said. “It’s impossible to take a piss without splashing pee on your legs.”

“Sorry. My friend is a bit crude.”

“Whoops,” Mike said. He scratched his stomach. “Hey, cool patch. Are you a vegetarian?” He pointed to the “Meat is Murder” patch on my dream girl's bag.

“Vegan,” she informed him. “I better get going. Thanks for rescuing my phone.”

She walked between me and Mike. “What’s your name?” I called after her. She didn’t answer.

“Bitch,” Mike belched.

I walked outside and saw her unlocking her bike chain. She climbed onto the banana seat and sped away.

I imagined her and me in a parallel universe, chaining up our bikes side by side, going into vegan restaurants. Drivers would envy our love, and want to be part of our beautiful world. They would have their cars impounded and join the bicycle revolution. No longer would bicyclists be imprisoned in narrow lanes. We would take over the roads. . . . and then the world.

I wanted to pass out for a couple of days. I thought back to the time I did shrooms in Forest Park and drank jars of my own urine to have the ultimate effect. When I came to, I could only speak Spanish and I was covered in mud. Maybe I could forget my dream girl, just like I forgot English that one time.

She never even told me her name.

Copyright 2011 by Meriwether Louise Falk

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

I selected "Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land" because of the observations of Josef Mengele. The fact that this sadistic titan of torture lived to an old age in Argentina and Paraguay makes my blood boil. He simply changed his name to Jose. Was it really that difficult to catch him? Maybe someone should have tipped off the FBI, "He's the big tall guy with the thick German accent." Maybe capturing war criminals is not as easy as I imagine. I am still confused as to why Osama bin Laden has not been captured yet, on the simple basis that he is very tall.

Putting my outrage at injustice and the overlooking of tall people aside, this is a beautiful book. Sara Nomberg-Przytyk wrote about surviving Auschwitz and the people who did not. She had friends in Auschwitz who helped her, but also, she never failed to see inner and outer beauty of people, and this, I believe, improved her chance of survival. She described the pretty faces of fellow prisoners, her admiration of others' bravery, and she never lost her humanity in the chaos of inhuman acts. She asked herself whether or not she should tell oblivious new arrivals that they were going to be gassed. Despite her own struggle for survival and helplessness, she still retained as much compassion as possible.

This book also answered some questions I had about victims at Auschwitz who were not Jews. Apparently, gypsies were imprisoned in a separate camp, about 25,000 of them, and were gassed in a single day.

I wish more people could see suffering as universal and not assign different levels of suffering to different groups. This book is a moving and powerful testament of the human spirit because the author focuses on individuals. The reader mourns the humiliating and torturous deaths of innocent civilians, because they were human beings and deserved rights.

I recently watched a wonderful documentary called "Hiding and Seeking," about Holocaust survivors who hid in a Polish family's barn. The survivors' grandchildren turned to religious extremism and, at their father's urging, had to overcome their distrust of gentiles to travel to Poland and thank the family. One of the grandsons made a speech at a ceremony to honor the Polish family, saying the Holocaust made some people into angels and some people into monsters. I don't think it's fair to categorize people so harshly. When the grandsons returned home and spoke to their ailing grandfather about the trip, one of them asked if he would risk his life for that family and he said no. I suppose he did not learn fully from his experience, but that does not make him a monster.

In a grotesque land, being angelic is a tall order.