Excerpts, Flash Fiction

The Island of Disappointment

My flash fiction piece, The Island of Disappointment, has been accepted into the next (and last!) issue of Diverse Voices Quarterly. You can find the issue here. The story follows a young boy as he struggles with his sexuality and crumbling relationship with his father. He views his living room couch as his “island of disappointment”- the site of all his worst memories and experiences.

This is a grim one. Below is a short excerpt.

He called me names behind my back and mom cried in retaliation. I heard the words; I felt them cut. Faggot. Fairy. Pussy. Some of the names sent shocks through the walls and electrocuted me so I’d jump out before I got burned and went off to the couch. Island of Disappointment. Command central. Welcome back, kid. I’d lay down and try to sleep. Their voices weren’t so close anymore. We had a heavy quilt that hung over the back of the couch and I pulled it down and wrapped myself inside tightly. I put it over my head. That was good. Almost silent. Doug the Dog would jump up and sleep on top of my legs. I’d wake when the sun came up and streamed through the window. My tears were dried to my cheeks. My nose stuffy. Doug the Dog was still there with his raspy breathing.

Other times, dad would take the couch. The fight got too bad. He hit mom’s head a little too hard. She got headaches a lot and wore an ice pack for the swelling and clogged her pores with make-up to hide the dark circle under her eye. Dad called her a raccoon.

Dad was too big for the couch. He slept with his eyes shut in this hard, pained way. The wrinkles on his forehead were always present, always distorting his face and twisting it up. A sleeping animal. His feet and hands hung over the edges of our island and plopped onto the carpet. In the water. I wanted a shark to bite his fingers. Doug the Dog never crawled up on dad’s legs. Dad’s island wasn’t big enough. Besides, he’d probably hunt Doug the Dog on the island. Kill him. Skin him. Cook him over the fire. He’d chant as Doug the Dog’s flesh burned. He’d drink out of a cut open coconut or pineapple. Then he’d rip off a leg or tail or tongue and eat it. He wouldn’t worry about sharing because nobody came near him on his island.

Articles and Essays

The Danger of ‘Getting Over It’

It’s over. He won. Move on. Get over it.

They are just words, just simple phrases, but in a time like this, these statements not only disturb me, they worry and scare me.

Let’s talk about a command like “get over it.” I’ve heard it said many times before, in response to big and small things, all throughout my life—and I’ve never liked it. To me, it feels almost derogatory. It means, Rise above it. Hurry. Feel happy again. Now. Even after something bad has happened to you. It ignores the time one might need to recover, recuperate, mourn. It urges against the individual, the specific needs of a particular person. A phrase like “get over it” requires us all to react simultaneously and in the same way, no matter our differences, no matter our personal experience.

There was an outcry after Donald Trump became the president-elect. People were, and still are, legitimately afraid of what his presidency means. Some have called such a reaction immature. Some have criticized liberalism, painting us all as crybabies or “delicate snowflakes” (thanks Tomi Lahren!). Insults and ignorance aside, this is an inane outlook. If you cannot recognize such a vocalization as more than politics-as-usual or a basic partisan issue, then I urge you to think a little harder. Look very carefully at our nation’s present situation. This isn’t about winners and losers or Democrats versus Republicans.

As a man who has insulted basically every group of people, Trump is not a guy worth rooting for. Muslim-Americans, Mexicans, immigrants, minorities, and women are fearful of his plans—and so far, all Mr. Trump has done is validate those concerns by causing further division in this country and appointing his millionaire buddies to high positions of power.

Remember how he vowed to be “anti-elite” and “anti-establishment”? His supporters should consider themselves duped.

Trump has promised deportations, a wall (I mean, come on… is there a better metaphor for his disharmonious campaign?), a pull-back on reproductive rights for women, limitations concerning religious freedom and opportunity, and many other restrictive plans for the “bright” future of our country.

And still I hear people say, “Give the guy a chance. Get over it.”

This is not liberalism. This is not gross sensitivity. This is not being babyish and this, largely, is not pouting because Democrats “didn’t win.” This should be recognized as much, much more than that. I’ll even level with you: there may be some people who are upset about the loss and loss alone, but I’d wager that percentage is low. Instead of labeling Trump’s critics broadly as “sore losers”, perhaps take a moment and ask yourself why. Why are so many people upset and angry and horrified? Why is the public seemingly obsessed with this man and with his incoming presidency? Why the questions, the negativity? To me, the answer is clear. The bulk of our population rightly feels attacked and threatened. If you disagree, is it possible you might not know how it feels to be personally defamed and berated? If you are a white male, can you empathize with a female Muslim citizen? Or might you lack perspective? I hope you consider that for a moment. Is this simple bitterness and fit-throwing, or is there something else at play here?

I believe such an outburst is warranted. A Trump presidency puts what should be our basic human freedoms at risk.

Why, when people reacted with legitimate sadness and fear after Trump was elected, were they criticized so harshly? Why were they expected, immediately, to toughen up? Aren’t there occasions that call for emotion—in all its piercing pain and, yes, even in its heated anger?

To me, there is very real danger in telling people to “get over it”especially concerning Trump’s White House win. In fact, I’d urge you not to get over it. In my heart of hearts, I think the worst thing we can do as a country is treat this—and him—as normal. This is not normal.

Trump is a man who bragged about sexually abusing women. Trump is a man who insulted the family of a fallen soldier who gave his life for the very same country he claims to love and respect so much. Trump is a man who has, time and again, belittled the working class, our immigrant workers, and even our current president. Trump is a man who comfortably and boldly lies, all the while expertly twisting headlines and inspiring fake news stories. Trump is a man who has so much to hide he won’t even share his tax records, which, up to this point, has been a requirement. Trump is a man who wants to “strengthen and expand” nuclear capabilities and doesn’t understand the purpose of nukes unless “we use them”. Trump is a man who takes no responsibility for the mistakes he has made or for the people he has hurt. Trump is a man who is unwilling to apologize. Trump is a man who has bullied countless people, without batting an eye, for some sick need of retaliation. Trump is a man who would rather sever ties with our foreign friends than nurture them. Trump is a man who has warned the UN that “things will be different” soon. Trump is a man who has exhibited on numerous occasions that he has little to no respect for anyone. Trump is a man who suggested a Muslim registry.

The idea of vilifying an entire religion under the guise of “keeping track” should sound familiar to all of us. It’s written in our history books. Movies have been made about it. Trump, unquestionably, reminds us of a different time—a darker time—and it has echoes from the 1930s.

Trump promised to change America, to shake things up and “drain the swamp” (a phrase he has since all but revoked, basically telling his supporters they were tricked), but we should ask ourselves: what kind of change does this mean, not just for you or me, but for all Americans? We have to decide what kind of country we are and what country we want to be. Should we allow a bully, who is now the leader of the so-called free world, to objectify, disparage, abuse, divide, and insult? Should we accept the fact that our president-elect wants an exclusive America? Should we buy into his insanely flawed slogan, Make America Great Again? Don’t we all know that Trump’s vision of America does not, in any version of reality, include us all? A statement urging us to make our country great…again, sends a very strong, sad, and scary message regarding Trump’s thoughts on the United States as it currently stands.

I don’t think we should accept or support any of this. Donald Trump will be our next president and we can’t change that, but that does not mean we have to allow or credit his hatred. It does not mean we have to normalize and validate bad behavior. If enough of us make some noise, we won’t be silenced.

As a nation that prides itself on being the best, we should start acting like it and acknowledge our flaws. We shouldn’t automatically earn such a title just for being big, advanced, and loud, should we? I certainly don’t think so. To be considered powerful, to be considered the best nation in the world, I think that requires more than a perpetuated view screeched at us by our parents and grandparents. If America is truly to be the best nation in the world, then we need to welcome everyone. We need to demand that everyone— regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, or race—is deserving of a good, happy, and equal life. We need to stand up for what is right. We need to fight back. We need to challenge and stop our bullies—no matter how towering they may be. We need to love each other. We need to recognize hatred, bigotry, and ignorance as unacceptable. We need to put our tired, preconceived notions and prejudices to bed… and we need to do it now.

If we are the best nation in the world, then we have a serious responsibility.

To do all of this, it starts by admitting some less-than-stellar truths about this country; these are truths we all know exist, regardless of how well they are buried.

So speak up. Start a dialogue. Complain. Criticize. Use your anger and sadness to inspire change. This is not a time to sit back, do nothing, and expect some sort of helpful result. We will not have perfect unity and harmony—the election proved that. Work hard anyway. Fight back anyway. Protect each other anyway.

Because if we don’t, if we “move on” and “get over it”, then the worst will happen. That is the danger. If our bullies are not met with opposition, they win. We cannot sit by, twiddle our thumbs, and condemn those who are in pain and in fear. It’s time to listen to them.

The next time someone tells you to get over it and move on, say no. Say that you can’t get over this. Tell them that Donald Trump, this presidency, and the way some Americans view this country is not only not normal, but it is not right—and we won’t accept it.