Romantic Fiction–Space Between Us

DSCN0800_01Vata (The Space between Us)

By Patricia Herlevi

As Anetti ambled on the cobblestone alleyway, she heard the comforting sound of church bells in the distance and a set of chimes hanging on a storefront singing in the wind.  The bells and chimes soothed her nerves and she hadn’t felt so relaxed in days due to the windy weather that swept through Seattle and caused her bones to tremble.  Her eyes roamed the alleyway in search of a warm lit cafe and the fragrance of roasted coffee beans to bring her back to herself.

Work had not gone well and Anetti felt crunched with deadlines and little breathing space to maneuver.  As it turned out, autumn weather only exasperated her nervous tension, and she stayed awake at night chasing away worries about money.  Her relationship with her partner, (who spent more time traveling for business than he did with her), also kept her awake. Rumbles occurring all around her, she heard change in the wind whispering to her.  Holiday brochures grabbed her attention too.  If only.

Meanwhile the wind picked up and threw its weight against Anetti’s thin body and her thick black hair came out of its pony tail hitting her in the face.  One of her high heel boots caught on the cobblestone and nearly sent her into a brick wall.  Tumbling forward, she bumped into an attractive Indian man, dressed in khaki and an REI fleece.  She guessed that he worked for the software company hidden in the loft near the nightclubs.

Funny she had never seen him before, not that she would or should have noticed. After all, her partner Neil had proposed to her.  A discussion of wedding plans was scheduled for the next month after the fiancé returned from France where he promoted his life coaching DVD. But Anetti decided to postpone the wedding until spring.

Not able to dredge up prenuptial bliss, Anetti reflected on the lack of spark she felt with Neil, not that she desired one of those unpredictable magical relationships between soul mates.  But then maybe she did. She never bought into all that new age stuff, that there’s one partner in the world for her and she’d know when she encountered him.

She met Neil at Green Drinks and found that he could hold an intelligent conversation even after downing three glasses of organic red wine.  Her own mind buzzed on all the dark chocolate she had consumed. And everything after that moment fell into the groove of predictable, grounding, and comforting.  An astrologer once told Anetti that her triple Gemini threat needed grounding energies.  So she hooked up with a double Taurus and at least he satisfied her in bed, even if his thought process seemed stuck in molasses some of the time.

The Indian man held onto Anetti for a few moments longer.  His dark eyes gazed into her green ones causing an erotic stirring in her body that she brushed aside.

A slow grin widened across his face as if he was pleased by the woman who materialized in front of him.  “Are you okay now?”

Stepping back and away from the man, Anetti nodded.  “Thank you for saving me from hitting my head on that wall.  That’s all I need.”

“This weather makes walking difficult.” He pointed to a café, “I was just going to grab a cup of tea, would you like something?”

The man’s English accent captivated her and she enjoyed the way he wrapped his tongue around the word “tea,” but she now felt an urgency to return to the office. “I’ll take you up on your offer next time we bump into each other.”

Weeks past by and Anetti and Neil chose the wedding gown, the cake, and invitations. They decided to hold the ceremony at Deception Pass State Park, weather permitting and set the wedding date for the end of May.  While Anetti enjoyed scheduling gown viewings and meeting with wedding planners, something felt off.  Did she want to spend her life with Neil? It’s what her mother would prescribe for her restless soul, but the bigger picture sent chills through her.

After a day of sneaking in time to browse caterers’ websites, Anetti slipped out of the office to grab a coffee.  When she approached the long line of business people and tattooed hipsters, she noticed the Indian man ordering his chai tea. She decided to ignore him unless he noticed her first.  So she scrunched down and hid behind her wool coat, hoping he wouldn’t see her and at the same time wishing he would.

As the man turned away from the cashier, his eyes darted over to and locked on Anetti.  He approached her.  “Remember when I saved you from the wind.  I’m Sanjay.”

Anetti blushed, not because she felt virginal but she wondered if Sanjay’s penetrating brown eyes could read her erotic thoughts.  “I’m Anetti.”

Sanjay pointed at a corner table that had just cleared.  “Join me?”

Anetti’s fought with her usual indecision and thoughts of consequences as she projected herself far into the future.  Sanjay’s request was simple and innocent enough.  He wasn’t sending out sexual vibes.  For all she knew, he was probably already married or had an arranged marriage pending in India.  You never could tell with foreigners, especially those that worked for software companies.  Here today and gone tomorrow.

Glancing at her watch, she noticed she had a few minutes of lunch break left and sat in a chair across from Sanjay.  He eyed her while he sipped his chai.

“So do you work at an office nearby?”

Anetti looked for a ring on Sanjay’s finger, but noticed his fingers were empty of any jewelry. “I work at Rialto Graphic Design.”  She pointed to an orange canopy just outside the window.

“Do you enjoy your job?”

“Lately it’s been one deadline after another and I wonder if the headaches are worth it.”

Sanjay smiled gently.  “I know of a cure for headaches.  Do you have one now?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact.  I thought that a cup of black coffee would remedy the problem.”

“Do you mind?”  Sanjay walked behind Anetti and massaged the base of her neck.  His gentle hands wove in and out of her thick hair. The massage did the trick and a little more.

As the weeks flowed into each other, Anetti found herself having lunch with Sanjay.  She knew that she felt more than friendship, but refrained from going further by reminding herself about her upcoming wedding.  Then one rainy afternoon everything changed.

Anetti rode a bus to work and as she waited for it, a torrential downpour soaked her through to the bone. As she stood shivering, Sanjay approached her.  “First the wind storm and now this rain, weather doesn’t agree with you.”  He chuckled. “I have an apartment near here.  Do you want to go there and dry off? Then afterward I can give you a ride home.”

Water rolled into Anetti’s eyes blurring her vision.  Hunger rumbled in her stomach and passion stirred in her groin.  Against her best judgment she found herself not only in Sanjay’s apartment, but also his bed.  Rationalizing that she hadn’t betrayed Neil, she felt that she fulfilled her own needs. Sanjay felt grounding and exciting, a combination she’d never experience with Neil.  Come to think of it, she hadn’t experienced any real passion with her fiancé either.

But what would she choose in the end, a passionate love affair with an unknowable future or the predictability of a life with Neil? Destiny had spun her around in a different direction then she previously sought, but it wasn’t as if she never saw the warning signs. Perhaps she wasn’t free to choose her own fate. In that moment as she stretched her bare legs under silk sheets and felt Sanjay’s warm kisses on her neck, she felt at home for the first time in her thirty years.  The wind stopped hounding her brain and she found the center of a storm.  Nobody thought that was where it was supposed to go.

##

The title “Vata” refers to a personality-body type or dosha from Ayurvedic medicine of India.  This story originally appeared in a triptych representing each of the three doshas.  I wrote the story as a healing tool for women with the Vata dosha (for balancing emotions and physical symptoms associated with this dosha).

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Poetry–Timeless (Does Time Really Exist?)

DSCN3909Clocks & Calendars

By Patricia Herlevi

When you live by a clock

And a calendar, time

Flies by like geese with a mission,

Organized V-shape claiming victory

Across an open sky—leadership and will.

 

When you don’t live by a clock

Or calendar, your footing feels

Less secure, wobbly, all your days

Blur into one, you lose the map

You lose the plot.

 

Is it Monday or Saturday?

You lie languid between days,

Turning back pages of stale

Memories, retiring the old feet,

Resting the mind between bookends

And book endings, hoping

For a happy stay.

 

The time that remains ticks by,

One gorgeous second at time,

Grateful sighs and words of repose,

Lines across the skin like interstates

On a map snaking their way across

The desert and seeking a gentle oasis.

 

Come and drink every drop of this life…

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Poetry–Said Like a Holy Roller Preacher

2700px-Space_Needle_360_PanoramaMy sister once brought the house down when she performed this poem. I produced a spoken word multimedia performance that included around 20 of my poems. We called the production “Urbanite” and the performance took place at the Charlotte Martin Children’s Theater (Seattle) as part of the ArtsEdge Festival (1998). My sister read this poem as a rabid Baptist minister. She got a standing ovation.

The character in this poem came from an idea I had for a novel. She’s a former African-American prostitute from the southern US who relocates to LA and discovers Jesus. And she awaits the big earthquake.

Earthquake Blue

She has got the earthquake blues,

Preparedness down to a “T”

She has lined up her fancy shoes

Underneath her bed, just in case

The big event takes place.

 

She has got the earthquake blues,

She wants her shoes and clothes

To match when catastrophe arrives;

Wearing her best lingerie

When she meets her maker.

 

She has got the earthquake blues,

Down on her knees, shaking like a

Good Baptist and repenting

Like a Roman Catholic.

When the earth begins to shake,

She’ll be ready and waiting.

 

She has got the earthquake blues,

She cooks up a big breakfast and

Sets it out for the Lord,

All her best china set out among debris

That the fallen city left behind.

 

She has got the earthquake blues,

Tonight she dines with angels,

Wearing her red shoes and best lingerie

On this fine day.

 

 

By Patricia L. Herlevi

 

(Previously published in “Synapse” which went out of publication in the late 1990s). All Rights Reserved

Write it–Productivity through Retreat

DSCN3175
photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved

Often times writers push themselves to the limit then wonder why they suffer from anxiety and doubts. When we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion, the well runs dry. We end up plowing our way through metaphorical bramble. Or we trudge across a creative desert thirsting for that first inspired sentence to a best-selling novel or a Pulitzer Prize winning news article.

When I mention retreat I’m not talking about indulging in procrastination. I’m not even talking about attending a writer’s retreat since that often involves workshops and master writing sessions. I’m talking about taking the phone off the hook, disengaging from the world and not thinking about writing at all. Often inspiration comes when we’re washing the dishes, walking the dog, or hiking in nature.

For writers who have been putting in their time everyday, take a vacation for even as long as a week (if there isn’t a deadline to meet). Spend time with family members or friends. Go camping. Go to the beach or travel to place that could even inspire your current novel or your next one. I know that when I wrote Agnes and Yves, I longed to visit Paris and San Francisco. I even believe that I would have written a better novel if I could have grounded my body in those locations to pick up the sensory of my characters.

For those of you who crave structure in your life, do the Artist’s Way program or the parts that don’t feel like drudgery. That would include the artist’s date and the daily walks as well as, the morning pages. But if you want to completely free yourself from the task of writing for a week, skip the morning pages. Although if you use those pages to delve into any subconscious blocks, they prove fruitful, thus releasing you from an emotional desert.

For anyone who feels miserable with the writing process in general, reassess whether or not you truly want to write. Often times people go into writing because a teacher or parent encouraged them to write, but they don’t actually enjoy writing. Some times people think that writing is the easiest art form or the most accessible and they indulge their creative spirit with writing. But we can engage in a myriad of creative endeavors that are more fulfilling, especially for gregarious social types. Face it, writing is a lonely process that isn’t suited for some personality types.

However, if you find yourself feeling refreshed and ready to jump into a writing project after a retreat, then stick to writing. I have been writing professionally since the age of 22 and I have trudged through many proverbial deserts in regard to writing. Yet, I stick with writing because I get more benefits from it than not. I love expressing myself through written words and I especially enjoy fleshing out characters that appear in my novels.

If you can ask yourself on a bad day what you would do with your life even if you didn’t earn money at it, and writing comes up, then this is your calling. However, if you don’t enjoy sitting your butt in a writer’s chair and staring at a computer screen for hours at a time, then perhaps a career in performing arts would appeal to you instead. I don’t believe in self-torture or high drama in which writers trot out their neurosis du jour. During this age of energy shifts and transformation, it’s important that each of us lives out our true destiny and not try to live up to some ideal projected on a movie screen (or to please our parents).

In the meantime, retreat from writing, and when the inspiration begins pouring through you, launch your next project with renewed energy.

I am an astrologer and intuitive coach that specializes in working with entrepreneurs and artists. Sign up at Whole Astrology for a session. I’ll start coaching sessions by Skype in late August. If you are an agent or editor interested in pursuing my short fiction or novels, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail com

 

Write It–Getting Started & Typing the First Word

Shakespeare_and_Company_store_in_Paris

Whether you’re planning on writing a short story or a novel or even a screenplay, you start with the first word. Perhaps it’s not the best word, but it’s a launching point. Many writers freak while staring at the blank computer screen blinking at them or the blank page in a typewriter. But just like a journey begins with a single step, a story begins with the first word.

And don’t worry if the word is good enough. Don’t worry if you start with a pronoun or a name of a person. Don’t fret that your sentence won’t end up in the most beautiful literary sentences of the modern era. Don’t compare yourself to Charles Dickens or Jane Austen or William Shakespeare who I bet also suffered anxiety while staring at a blank page.

The difference between an aspiring writer and an accomplished writer revolves around getting the words on a page. So what if you toss out several sheets of paper or hit delete so often you end up with sore fingers. But instead of tossing or deleting, just keep going. Treat it like an automatic writing session. Time yourself and just write. Then after you complete one to three pages, look for the gems. Only edit after the conclusion of your timed session.

Now, some writers think that they can start out writing poetry. They reason that poetry is short and takes less effort. Wrong! Poetry is a highly skilled form where poets carefully choose words that have the most impact. Don’t confuse condensed with short and therefore, less work. Poets are efficient writers and they too toss out reams of paper as they search for the perfect words to express emotions and inner thoughts. They also have an excellent sense of rhythm which is why some poets also perform music.

If you believe then that short fiction is the way to go because it also involves less words and wordplay than a novel, think again. Many authors find that writing short stories poses more challenges than novel writing. Again, we’re dealing with getting the most bang for the buck. Short fiction writers have less space to make an impact on their readers while still fitting in a call-to-action, the character’s journey, climax and resolution. The introduction must grab a reader’s attention and hold that reader captive for the duration of three to ten to twenty pages. Some short stories run 100 pages. Did you know that Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a short story?

So if you want to go from aspiring writer to accomplished author, start with a single word. Then type the first sentence, leading to the first paragraph. On the first day, you complete a single page, double typed. Then after that, you commit to writing at least three pages a day. Intuitive Coach Sonia Choquette once advised me (during a writing block) to complete three pages a day. Once I committed to this routine (every morning), I completed my first non-fiction book within six months. And this did include a lengthy bibliography.

I also used that approach to write my first novel, Super-Nature Heroes. And it took me six months to complete the rough draft. Then I returned to that novel several times since its completion in the spring of 2005 (same time I completed my first short video project) to do rewrites. As I grew as an author, I took those new skills back to the drawing board. Writing is hard work that should also feel enjoyable. Just like an athlete works out every day and feels those endorphin rushing through the brain, writers also experience an endorphin high at the end of each rigorous writing session.

Now, it’s time to open your word processing program and type that first word. And if your first sentence sounds moronic to you, know that’s just your ego talking. Keep going. You can also get inspired by reading the first sentences in several novels. I’ve tried this trick too. Just don’t plagiarize the sentences. You can copy the form though. Look for authors who write beautiful sentences and learn from them too. Whatever you do, launch your first or next story today.

I am an author, intuitive-creativity coach and astrologer. Contact me through Whole Astrology for a session. In the future, I will offer Skype sessions, but for now, the session are either in-person or through e-mail. If you’re an agent or editor interested in my projects, please contact me at patriciacrowherlevi at gmail

 

Fiction–The Bats

Mayan bats

I originally wrote this story for a performance with the Latino literary group Los Nortenos based out of Seattle. So this story goes back to around 2003. I rewrote it as the longer version you see here.

Los Murciélagos

(The Bats)

By Patricia Herlevi

Hispanic Voice Series

Margaret saw it coming as the rift in her marriage to her taciturn husband Peter Olsen widened.  Their son, Peter, Jr. died in a war which itself seemed hard to believe.  Then the government added further insult, by refusing to send the soldier’s remains for a proper burial, stating something about the progressive media distorting facts.

Staring at her husband across the expanse of a large polished maple dinner table, she noticed Peter’s dry eyes after receiving the rejection for their son’s burial.

Unlike him, tears flowed from Margaret’s eyes and softened her skin dried by the harsh Minnesota weather and the stress she endured losing her only son.  She glared at her husband of twenty-five years.

“He died an honorable death so why won’t the government we pay taxes to allow us to find closure?”

Peter looked away from his wife.  “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the one who supported our son’s cause to fight in Iraq.  I was against it, but you gave him that patriotic speech and now…”

Peter shrugged, “That’s the chance we take when we go to war with another country.  Parents lose their children…”

“How can you act so detached when that someone was your son?”

Peter rose from the table and he ambled from the dining room.  As he walked through the hallway he gazed at the family photographs—vacations in Wyoming, a trip to Hawaii when Peter Jr. was in his toddler stage, and a photograph of the birth of his premature son.  The pain crushed his soul and ripped at his heart, but the tears refused to surface.  He knew also that his marriage lain in shambles.  Later that night when Margaret slept, Peter packed his suitcase, climbed in his BMW sedan and drove off into the night.  He thought of leaving a note, but considered that he already said everything he could on the topic.

The next morning when Margaret awoke she sensed that Peter had left her for good.  All the years of spending quality time with each other, building a family and a life together crumbled like Humpty-Dumpty’s wall.  She went through the motions of frying an egg for breakfast, but everything she ate tasted like cardboard and after crying for days, her eyes were left in a bone dry state.  She lived in denial.

Perhaps the news would sink in after the ink dried on the divorce papers or upon her son’s birthday that loomed in the future.  A velvety darkness descended pushing Margaret further into an endless tunnel.

The same family photographs housed in their gilded frames that destroyed her husband only reminded Margaret of bittersweet memories frozen in time.  They reminded her of everything that she lost.  Once the neighborhood wives envied her, but now Margaret became a target for their pity.  She learned to avoid their constant stares and found comfort in her nightly dreams.

One reoccurring dream featured thousands of bats.  In the dream, she didn’t run away in horror and her fascination for the bats grew.  They’d never harm her and instead of sucking her lifeblood they lead her through a transformation.  She believed that they promised her a new life.  When she felt that she lost her sanity, the bats’ whispers seemed logical and comforting.  They guided her as she descended further into the tunnel.  Margaret groped and stumbled searching for the proverbial light that would eventually appear.  Even if the light failed to materialize she grew accustom to the darkness, void of any dreams, hopes or desires, but also of suffering.

Although Peter died, she felt as if she was the one being lowered into the damp and wormy soil.  She felt the crushing weight and her bones disintegrating into ashes.  Decades from now, she thought, archeologist would dig up her bones while searching for stones and artifacts in the blurred future.  They’d say that she was a solid-built woman with upright posture with a dark complexion, or so she thought.  They’d search for a husband and next of kin, but come up empty handed then the experts would extrapolate on an Isis-Osiris theory of the 21st century on NPR.

However, a real death didn’t await Margaret, but a symbolic one followed by her rebirth.  At some point she’d sell the house and leave her memories behind.  She’d journey across the desert and across the sea, forgetting her son who never showed her courtesy and a husband who buried himself in his work.  And only then, she finally cried tears and shed the weight of her regrets.  Those tears only came to free her from the burden of someone else’s dream.

In time, Margaret emerged as a powerful woman who knew great sadness.  When she looked in the mirror she finally saw someone staring back at her.  And the fleeting glimpses of the future recalling a fox hiding in the foliage, gave Margaret the courage to keep moving towards a better life, a different life.  She reasoned, just because she couldn’t see it didn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Her salvation came in an intangible form when she relocated to Southern France and started a new life as a gardener.

Meanwhile, Peter quit his job, bought a sailing boat and settled his grief out at sea. He drowned out his memories of family life listening to Bach’s preludes on his portable CD player which sounded tiny and insubstantial in comparison to the waves that hit the side of the boat and the wind that whistled in the sails.  The smell of salt often misted his eyes and his sleep brought memories that would forever haunt him.  He felt dismembered by the loss of his marriage and the death of his son. But he had faith that the grief would subside in the way that tempest subside in the morning light leaving the sun sparkling on the renewed ocean, earth, and sky.

But one memory, the evening when his marriage to Margaret disintegrated played out like one of the Mexican soaps his wife so dearly loved and he despised.  Why all that drama?

That evening, Margaret set out Peter’s favorite meal of roast beef with baby potatoes drenched in rosemary butter, and an expensive bottle of wine.  She finally cleaned house after weeks of neglect and pulled herself together to shop for groceries and prepare that meal.

When she sat the platter with roast on the table, Peter could barely drum up appetite. He avoided eye contact with his distraught wife, but not because he didn’t feel love for her.  Sensing that she had more strength than he’d ever acquire in a lifetime, he stared at the newly polished silverware and his glass of wine. He envied her.

Margaret sighed.

Peter finally gazed at his wife’s haggard face.  “I’m sorry.”

Tears slipped from Margaret’s eyes.  “Why won’t they allow us to see our son one last time?”

Peter placed his hand on Margaret’s hand which she yanked away defiantly.

“You heard the news that none of the parents will get the chance to see their children. Why should it be any different for us?”

Margaret raised her voice in a passionate plea. “There was a time when we would have organized and pulled out our picket signs.”

“What good would that do now? We’re not even permitted to discuss our son’s death with the reporters.”

“Not that I want to and I’m sick and tired of those reporters sniffing around here and their attachment to other people’s grief.  But that might bring closure if we could talk to someone.”

“No, we’re on our own this time.”

Margaret stared defiantly at her husband and headed back to the kitchen.

Peter covered his face with his hands attempting to erase the tragedy that visited him.  He once thought he had all the answers, but those days had passed.

As the sun rose over a distant island, Peter drank a cup of black coffee and stared out at the sea, the smell of salt and roasted beans mingled in his nostrils.  He thought about Margaret and wondered where she was at that time.  He regretted walking away from his marriage. Now that the dust finally settled he obsessed about second chances.

# All Rights Reserved (Not available for publication)