workshops

4

Of Art and Coffee 

I had a really great time during our Baybayin workshop last November at Cordillera coffee. Though I was new to this and I don’t know anyone from the group, I really had fun learning about our country’s language, heritage and culture. It was a fun night and one night like this is not enough to discuss such interesting subjects such as art and history. I’m looking forward to more events and workshops like this!

Read the story here: Of art and coffee: Baybayin Workshop

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he Rockefeller Foundation supports MoCADA for their great work in bringing artist programming to the public housing developments in Brooklyn. So many New Yorkers comes from a culture where the presentation of art is not a passive act. 

The chipmunk taxidermy workshop with @bloodyberrylicious has officially sold out but there are still a few spots in the butterfly & moth display workshop on Saturday January 31st. Tickets must be purchased in advance on our website! #entomology #butterfy #moth #taxidermy #bazaarbaltimore #divya #friendforevertaxidermy #oddities #baltimore #workshops #hampden (at Bazaar)

Happy Winter Solstice! Our only winter classes are now up for sale on our website! We are having @bloodyberrylicious back to teach butterfly display and chipmunk taxidermy! Also, space is still available in the Victorian hair art class. Tickets must be purchased in advance on our website: www.bazaarbaltimore.com #entomology #butterfy #moth #insects #taxidermy #taxidermyworkshop #divya #chipmunk #bazaarbaltimore #baltimore #hampden #victorian #mourning #mourninghair #naturalhistory #workshops
(at Bazaar)

“Allison”, by Alex Clark

Whelp, before I lose my courage, I’m going to stick this up here. I’m really proud of it, and my professor actually told me it was the best piece in the class for the semester. This is a first draft, but it’s pretty clean and I did a ton of editing and re-writing in the process, particularly when it came to the 2nd person and commanding the reader to feel certain things. I do plan on adding some duality with the parents in there. I’m just not far removed enough to do a second draft just yet. anyway, here it is. Constructive criticism is always welcome. I have a thick skin when it comes to my writing, and I appreciate the feedback. You can tell I like using a lot of words from this fucking prelude to a 3 page short story, so thanks for bearing with me. Here it is.


Allison

An October sun shines through the giant windows in the lobby of the High School. Classes got out twenty minutes ago and the halls are empty, quiet. 

There are just the three of you left here; Seth, dressed in his daily uniform, a light blue button down and khaki pants, his eyes focused intently; Valerie, long blonde hair, even longer legs, wearing a short black mini skirt that she designed and sewed herself, talking about an article she read a few weeks ago in the Chicago Tribune; And, of course, there’s you, sitting on the floor, criss-cross applesauce style, dressed in black cargo pants and a torn Nirvana t-shirt, long scraggly hair dyed black. Seth mentions an author that you have never heard of. Make a mental note to look it up later. Sometimes, you study just to keep up with their conversations, but you feel more at home with them than you do in your own skin. But remember, you are fifteen, so that’s not saying too much.

    Valerie climbs on top of a bench, balancing delicately on patent leather heels that you know she stole from her mother’s closet. Watch the way she moves; listen to the way she speaks. Try to understand the magic she possesses, that charisma. Seth holds out a hand for her and she takes it, smiles up at him. He glances at you, waiting for some kind of reaction.  Make no jealous move. You were supposed to catch the school bus home, but missed it on purpose. Seth’s cell phone has been silent, even though you used it to ask your dad for a ride back home at “his earliest convenience”. Dad works nights so he’s probably still asleep. His lack of response is not unusual, just a promise of more time.

           Someone suggests moving to the coffee shop a few blocks away. You nod in approval. Seth walks a little ahead of you and Valerie.      

“I thought you said you didn’t like boys.” The words come out before you really think about them. Remember an earlier conversation, a confession of sorts, remember her blatant refusal to believe that you are a boy; remember how she said she’d leave you.

           “I don’t.” She says plainly, clearly the end of the conversation. Her blue eyes scan you up and down and then up again. Quickly, you look over your shoulder. A few weeks ago, two girls got suspended for kissing in the hallway. The whole student body knows about you, but the faculty does not. You prefer to keep it that way. After a few seconds of staring, trying to see down the corners of hallways, listening for footsteps, you decide that it is safe. Her lips touch yours, and fear is forgotten.

           “Allie, it’s your dad.” Reach out, grab the cell phone from Seth, mutter a hello, explain the situation.

           “So just pick me up at Kaya whenever.” You say nonchalantly.

           “You stay right where you are. We are coming to get you.” He hangs up before you can respond. Seth and Valerie are now holding hands, waiting by the doors at the end of the lobby.

           “Go ahead,” you say. Seth takes back his phone, and they leave. Watch them fade into the sunshine. Sit, alone, in this overly-bright lobby, wondering what the fuck it was you did. Go over failed assignments, school days ditched, cigarettes smoked behind the shed when you thought no one was looking. Think about websites visited (even though you were always sure to delete the history). 

One other thing crosses your mind.

           They don’t know. Repeat it until it becomes a mantra, a lullaby. How could they possibly know? You are careful, obsessively so. Think about the love notes under your mattress, how you jump at every sound when she is with you in your bedroom, even when you aren’t doing anything that could be considered sinful or perverse.

           The school doors open harshly. Enter Mom and Dad, stone-faced. Your father’s hand faded purple, your mother’s hand locked in death grip around his.

           “Hey guys.” Your voice seemingly swallowed up in the awkwardness of the situation. No response from them. Silently, follow them to the red mini-van parked illegally outside the entrance, keys still dangling from the ignition.

           “Get in.” Dad says. He watches as your hands shake while trying to open the slider door. The bench seats are missing; you sit on the floor and inspect the strange residue of French fries ground into the stained grey carpeting. There is nothing to hold onto as mom takes the curves in the parking lot too fast. She screeches to a halt at the four way stop in front of the school, sits there for a moment. You watch them exchange glances in the rearview mirror.

           “Can you explain this letter to us, Allison?” Dad says.

All smart-aleck quips dissipate, no eye rolling, just numbness. He slides back a manila envelope. 

Don’t open it. Today marked four months secretly together, four months spent secretly holding hands in parks when it felt safe, four months of whispered phone conversations at night when her mother was working and yours was asleep, four months of exchanged emails always ending with  dangerous ‘I love you’s. She painted a picture of you on thick parchment and delivered it to you with a kiss on the cheek. You wrote her a letter. Actually, you typed it and you hated the first draft. 

So you crumpled it up and tossed it in the wastebasket. Stupid, you think now, stupid, stupid, stupid. And then you think, run. 

Adrenaline trumps fear as you pry open the door. Feet hit pavement already pounding, sprinting. Your gym teacher would be really proud of you right now as you make your way around the corner, back into the school. The van’s tires squeal as mom hits the gas, just barely behind you. Run upstairs, through the hallway, note the strangest small details about things. Scratches on the wall, dents in the lockers, still you run, lungs aching, legs cramping. Mom and Dad’s voices echo as they yell your name from the floor below. This would be funny if it was happening on a television show. You run into a dead end. They are not far behind now, but there is no other stairway you can take.

           “Allison Susann, you come with us right now.” Seething, that is the best way to describe Mom’s voice right now. You are stuck between a wall and what exactly? What happens next? Where will you go if they kick you out? Do they still love you, even now? Mom’s eyes don’t tell much, brows narrowed, lips pursed. Dad follows along, dumb look plastered on his face, one hand holding up his baggy jeans, the other at a fist by his side. If you could move, maybe you would. Instead, become dead. Become only weight, only a body. Disengage, limbs falling to your sides, refusing them any help as they struggle; mom’s fingers dig into the fleshy part of your upper arms as she picks you up like she did when you were small, before you became this thing, this creature that hides in hallways, always afraid. Float face up down the stairs, looking at those large windows, at the sun, remember pleasantness, remember warmth.  . Blank faces of students, maybe the Science Olympiad team, stare at you as you pass. You must look ridiculous, being held like this, mom carrying your top half and dad holding your legs. What do they think? Thoughts lead nowhere. Back in the car you go, this time thrown, the door locked. The drive begins. No one says a word. Silence is terrifying. The manila envelope sits next to you, still unopened. Mom pulls the van into the driveway of your home, turns off the car, opens the door.

           “Are you going to run away this time?” She asks. Shake your head but don’t feel it move, the key, at this point, is to not feel anything, remember. Megan, your little sister, has a bloody nose. She looks up at you, holding a tissue to her face, cheeks red and puffy from crying.

           “We told her that her sister was a lesbian.” Feel the way she says it. Your sister hides her face in her hands. She, too, ashamed. And then the question, the moment, a choice.

           “Are you a lesbian?” She says. You wish you could explain it to her, wish you could sit her down, draw a diagram, do something to help her understand. The answer is more complicated than you want to admit. It’s a ‘no’, really, but a yes, kind of. You wake up every day wishing you’d been born a boy. You are not a girl but you are in love with one, but you know no word for how this works or what this is, at least not yet. So you use the only language you do have.

           “I’m a dyke, Mom.” It’s a strange sensation saying these words out loud, in this room, to this woman. Her face falls like towers topple. Think debris whirling in the air, fogginess, uncertainty, think those left behind in the mess.

           There are words that follow, a slew of them, none of them said by you. A strange parable about a man who sent his drug-addicted son to Alaska, where he chopped wood and lived in a cabin and through hard work, kicked the habit. Hope she sends you somewhere far away from here. Feel your stomach drop with the thought of going back to school and seeing those few students who witnessed you getting carried out like some sort of mental patient.

“Come to Jesus. Allison, I can see you falling away. I can see you turning down a dark corner. Please, come back to me. Be my little girl.” She does not say these things, she begs them, her voice high pitched, eyes red, wide, fearful…fearful of you, her creation. Dad is nowhere to be seen, probably in front of the computer screen as always, clicking the mouse, flipping through pages.

           What do you do? Think of the way Valerie’s lips felt earlier that day, the last kiss you two may ever share. Think about goosebumps that form on your skin when she says your name like a prayer, the way her forehead wrinkles when she’s drawing. Then, look at your mother’s hands. Remember how they felt when you were a child, how they calmed you, how they held you when you cried and when you afraid, afraid like you are now, remember how they comforted you. Imagine never talking to Mom again, never laughing with her. And then, make a choice.

           Take it back, take it all back. All bold statements made in front of friends about how unashamed you are, all the times you’ve come out. Jump back in to yourself. Promise to be

           “I’m not gay.” Let these words fall from your lips like a noose, a straitjacket; you are crazy, sick even, 

 There is a cure, your mother’s promise rings in your ears, cuts through your ability to float above the situation. You fall into her because she loves you, because she wants what’s best for you, because she’s loved you from the day you were born, because she’s worked so hard to raise you in a way that she could be satisfied with.

Mom wraps you up in her arms, cradling you. The softness and familiarity of hands, her hands, returns to what it once was, long ago, before raging hormones, before crew cuts, before differences divided you up inside. Strange howls echo through your mouth, from your rib cage, not crying, but weeping, losing control.

           “I knew you’d see the light,” Mom says and, in an emotional stupor, nod, her acceptance, her approval becomes potent, Novocaine to your pain. Look up at the crucifix, feel the weight of Christ on your very bones and then let it all fall away. Stay frozen like this for a while, for hours, as the setting sun’s rays peek through the dusty curtains of the living room and as shadows creep over the walls.

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