All Posts By

Jay E. Tria

Writing Now

Daily Grind #7: Crying in Public

There is a light somewhere that flickers before it bursts into flame. Wildfire. It consumes and it hurts worse than darkness. You walk half a mile seeking escape, but the voices follow. Nagging. Relentless. You lay down and breathe in and out. In and out. ‘Listen to the sound of your breathing,’ she says. ‘Throw everything else away. Focus on mindfulness.’ ‘Isn’t that redundant?’ you think. But that’s a thought about words again, isn’t it? And you need to throw that away. At least right now, in this slow, short hour. In this quiet room full of strangers each carrying their own burden. Breathe in. Breathe out. Your body is a tight ball, your mind unraveling. Everything is a fight and you figure, this time, winning is in losing.  Breathe in, twist this way. Stretch out. Ease. Ease. Ease. You feel the warm floor beneath you, the sharpness of your elbows against your ribs, the feel of your tongue against the roof of your mouth. It’s salty. How strange. Twist this way, grow long like so. Close your eyes. Reach out, expand. You will win only if you keep up the fight. Open your eyes. The darkness will not hurt this time.

 

 

 

 

Stress Free Gentle Flow, 10/8/17 for the prompt.

Writing Now

Daily Grind #6: Yes

“Your shower isn’t working.”

“It is! Let me–”

“No! I mean I can figure this out.”

“Are you sure?” The sound of knuckles light against the door. “You pull and twist to the left for warm water–”

“Got it. I’m fine!”

If he had said anything else you didn’t hear it, not with the rush of water from the shower. His shower. His bathroom. His house and last night his bed. Why? You asked yourself again, flattening your forehead against the wall as warm water fell and wrapped around you like an overwhelming hug. “Why?” This time out loud and with a little groan trapped in your throat.

You made a grab for the shampoo–his shampoo–and started slathering it through your hair. It smelled of mint and something else, something sharp yet sweet. It smelled like him, and his pillows and his sheets. You laughed, you couldn’t help it. This was so absurd. He was your friend, had been for a quite some time. Friends don’t sleep together. You didn’t do that. Not this. Whatever this was.

You weren’t even drunk last night. Neither was he, though that was a rule he’d always had. To not drink beyond a bottle or two when he’s with you, because he was always insisting on driving you home.

Last night didn’t feel any different from all the other times you spent together. It was a movie night this time. You dragged him to watch this hyped up indie romcom, then you had dinner and drinks after. The two of you talked, you more so than him at first. He liked asking questions better, he’s always said, and hearing your answers. Well last night you wanted answers too, so you started asking, teasing. Why aren’t you dating these days? Or are you? Who is she? What are you not telling me? And then he kissed you, so slowly, so deeply, and when his fingers clasped your jaw and you kissed him back you knew the answers were right there.

His soap had the same scent as his shampoo. You were sure to smell like him once you stepped out of his bathroom. You were sure to bring the scent of him home. You turned off the shower–no trouble this time–and reached for the towel, fluffy and white, freshly-laundered from the feel of it. Brought out just for you, you knew.

This wasn’t just panic you were feeling. You realized this as you put last night’s clothes back on. It was the weight of a bigger question, one neither of you had asked before. He must have never asked because he knew you weren’t ready. And you never asked because he was the warmest person you knew, the kindest, the most sincere, the most willing to watch your romcoms with you and bring you pizza and take you to the doctor when you wouldn’t go by yourself and just always be there, you didn’t even need to ask. And you yourself knew you weren’t ready, because you feared you weren’t worthy.

You’re just going to go, you decided, staring yourself down in the mirror. There was no time to even dry your hair. You better leave now. He might have more things to ask and you just didn’t have any of the answers.

You shuffled out of the bathroom, meaning to grab your bag from his room and call out your goodbye from the door. The smell wafting from the kitchen stopped you mid-step. What is that? Is it–? No. He wouldn’t. It’s too perfect.

Your body had turned of its own accord to the direction of the kitchen. He was walking toward you, apron tied around his trim waist, spatula in one hand. One eyebrow lifted, one corner of his mouth pulled up, like he knew exactly what you were thinking. Like he was saying you getting away with it.

“Hey.” He bent over and his lips brushed against yours. It felt familiar, and right, even more so than it did last night. It felt like the promise of so much more.

“Thanks, um, I–” You were stammering, dear god. Get it together, self. This wasn’t a stranger. This was a man you knew.

What was the question again?

His hand found your elbow, then his arm slid around your waist. “We’re having pancakes, okay? You like pancakes, don’t you?”

He was leading you onward, away from escape, but in small, slow steps. No rush. He was always like this, wasn’t he? Always asking, gently prodding. Never impatient for the answer.

“I’m making coffee,” you burst out. “Because we both know you suck at it.”

“Yes, please.” He laughed and put the hand with the spatula up in mock surrender. His other hand stayed secure on your waist. “You know I need you.”

In a spark of comprehension, you did. You were the one he dragged into his football games, until after watching just once you proclaimed yourself his number one fan and he couldn’t get rid of you if he tried. You brought him coffee and loved his dog and indulged his irrational book hoarding behavior. You were there for him too, always. He never needed to ask.

Maybe this was the right question after all. Maybe the answer had always been there.

“Okay, coffee. I got you,” you said. You wrapped one arm around his waist, and another. This hug, his embrace felt overwhelming, but also perfect and yours. “Yes to pancakes.”

 

 

 

 

***

White Night and the slumber party that followed for the prompt.

 

Writing Now

Daily Grind #5: Blind

You love him. You love him.

“I know. I heard you the first bajillion times,” your best friend scoffed beside you. You were saying it out loud, apparently. It was dark and you didn’t turn to see his face, but you knew his eye roll followed. He’d done it a bajillion times before too.

“Sorry,” you said, grinning, though you weren’t really. “I mean look at him.”

That was what you were here for, precisely. In this dark, smoky bar on a school night, two hours of traffic away from where you and your friend both lived. Standing at the back behind rows of other patrons and other fans, all faces turned to the front of the room and all gazes locked to the boy singing, swaying, sparkling onstage. You were here for him and his beautiful face and beautiful sound and not much else.

You’ve loved this artist for as long as you’d loved his genre–synth pop funk R&B swag–and you’ve seen him perform live (yes) a bajillion times. But your love was enduring, escalating, even. To the unending gripe of your constant companion.

“Why do we keep staying at the back? If you love him so much.” Your friend leaned down, all the better to knock his shoulder with yours as he said it.

“I can’t stand his light,” you said. Pink and yellow strobes of light, bright and neon scanned the floor as a new beat began, as if on cue. “I can’t look at him too close, for too long. It blinds me.”

You’ve had this conversation before. You didn’t know if your friend just liked asking the question, or if he was hoping you’d give a different answer. Maybe you should really stop dragging him into these shows. He was all about the punk rock after all, none of these dropping beats and boom boom bass. You’d even told him a few times before that he was off the hook and you’d be fine going to these shows on your own. He had seem relieved, and he’d rolled his eyes. But in the end he would come. He always did.

The song was swelling, the bass drops pounding, deafening. The boy you loved was deep into his verse, words spinning out of his lovely mouth. Head, shoulders, hips, knees, arms moving to the jagged rhythm. The crowd was going wild. You were jumping and hollering words back yourself.

Your friend bumped your shoulder again, and you saw his mouth move. He liked to do this a lot too. Talk when you weren’t in any place for a conversation. You shook your head, taking his wrist and mouthing ‘later.’ You turned your gaze back to the stage just as the beat and the neon lights died. The silence stayed for another moment, it couldn’t have been more than two seconds, when you heard it.

“How about looking at me?” The wrist you were holding had broken free, and it was his fingers meeting yours. “Can it be me?”

 

 

 

 

***

Choi Seunghyun and Park Bongsoo for the prompt.

Writing Now

Daily Grind #4: Hello

“Hello.”

You weren’t crying. You weren’t. Maybe you were sniffling a little bit, but no one around here should notice that. You’re in a train station so early on a weekday morning, rush hour, it looked like. People in these parts were polite, even to strange foreigners like you. But it was rush hour–the whole lot of them were milling, streaming in different directions, with no reason to pay attention to you, the lost, starving, little thing burdened by luggage and standing all alone in a corner.

“Hello?”

You heard it this time. It came from much closer.

You turned your head and saw his eyes first. Small but wide, then he backed up and you saw his face, high cheekbones, sharp nose, lips parted with the questioning end of that hello.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

Somebody who spoke English, thank dear lord in heaven. Your heart pounded against your rib cage in joy. Saved! But then it was yanked back by something stronger, tougher. The same force that had kept you standing there for half an hour now. You made it across oceans, didn’t you? You got on that plane and you got off, no incidents. You made it from the airport to this station, didn’t you? No getting lost. And the map and your host’s directions promised a leisurely walk from here to your destination. But still it was crippling you, that infinite hole of familiar anxieties. Why did you even think you could survive this trip on your own? Why did you even want to take it?

The boy had sidled closer. You felt a soft fingertip poke the very top of your shoulder.

You breathed in and out. In and out. Focused on the feeling of that unknown touch light on your sweater. Poke. Poke. Then, absence.

You opened your eyes, realizing only now that you had closed them. People and luggage were still moving in a dizzying speed around you, spinning like tornadoes. The clock up the wall was still ticking. Your breathing had slowed.

A waft of something tangy and sweet filled your nose. Your empty stomach responded first, then you turned your gaze back beside you.

He was holding up a small paper bag, pried open, and smiling. Small. Tentative.

“Curry pan?” he said.

Your stomach was rumbling now, and you knew there was no such luck he didn’t hear it. He was standing close enough. Not to mug you, or take you. Not to hurt you like you’d been fearing all strangers, all people would. Maybe because he was polite, because they did say people were polite in these parts, didn’t they? Maybe because he was kind, and he had time.

You reached out for the bread, your fingertips tapping lightly on his open palms. He was nodding, slow, deliberate dips of his chin, eyes on you, but his gaze was careful, not intense, like he was trying to pet a stray cat who could run away any moment.

“Thank you,” you said. You held his gaze for a few seconds more, ensuring permission, then you bit into the warm, gooey, spicy goodness of the bread.

He laughed, a shrill giggle you didn’t expect from a face like his. Then he stopped himself short, delicate fingers pressed against his mouth, eyes wide and watching.

You laughed too, finally. The first one since you’d taken that plane. Since it had sunk in that you were really doing this, taking this trip on your own, knowing that you could do it and you wanted to, damn it. But the fears and the voices were coming along too, and there was only so much you could do about that. But what you could do, you would.

You took another bite, and another. The bread was so good. Your stomach, your skin felt so warm. You wiped a crumb from your lip with the side of your hand, the better to smile at him. At this kind, lovely stranger.

“Hello,” you said.

 

 

 

 

***

Kwon Jiyong and MOTTE reminiscing for the prompt.

 

Writing Now

Daily Grind #3: Bae Bae

He’s like that hot guy who’s your friend. Your hot guy friend. It’s a weird thought to have right now, after watching the guy rip off his shirt and show off his hard, slick abs while swinging his hips and crooning 22 songs in all the ways it’s possible to melt your bones. His concert was two hours of his smooth voice and cool hip hop swagger, ending with you as a puddle of satisfied fangirl on the floor. His voice belonged with the stars. His songs were earworms that lived with you for days on end. Price of admission was worth it, definitely. You might have even underpaid. But yeah, you thought he was beautiful and sexy but in that let’s-be-friends kind of way. Like if this was a marry-bang-kill game he’d be the kill shot by sad default, a shiny boy but maybe not shiny enough to get to you.

You felt proud of these thoughts, of your ability to fall in love with the love song but not with the lovely boy who sings it, not necessarily. A mature, logical fandom. Compartmentalization. Maybe it came with age. You were still basking in the glow of that realization as you walked down the hotel corridor to this room you’ve booked for the night, banging your shoulder against the wall as your tired limbs wobbled. You jumped and danced and pumped your arms and screamed a lot tonight, so tiring. You rounded the corner and found yourself face to face with the lovely boy in question.

Oh. My hot guy friend, was your stupid thought. But what you blurted out was ‘Annyeonghaseyo. Saranghaeyo.’ While staring right into his eyes too, because he was polite like that, apparently, keeping eye contact long enough to greet a total stranger. So when your face crumpled and your cheeks raged fire he was witness to the whole phenomenon. You fell back and took a deep bow, bursting with apologies. But he laughed and bowed right back and of course the top of your head knocked against his head and you were tripping over your own feet, and he had you by the shoulders—lightly, because you’re strangers—and then he was setting you right.

“I’m sorry,” you murmured again, properly upright now, your back against the wall. He’d dropped his hands but he was still there, still looking at you.

It’s really him isn’t it? This is real, isn’t it? You’d seen his face enough times in music videos and posters and album jackets to know this for sure. You’d pinch yourself if only it wasn’t more tempting to pinch his smooth cheek instead, and get a touch of those sharp cheekbones and that stubble on his chin while you’re at it. You’d pinch yourself only if you didn’t want this to be real. Thank you, universe, I love you.

It’s been about an hour since his concert ended, you realized. You’ve spent the time lining up at a coffee shop and getting your midnight caffeine dose. And that was enough time for him to shower apparently. To get rid of the sweat that he was drenched in during the show, visible even in the monitors, from your far-flung seat. You’d watched those beads glisten on his biceps and along his neck and down the trench between his chest down his stomach as he sang and danced. He’s cleaned up now, wearing a fresh white shirt and tight jeans, his cap on backwards, looking like a normal person, just like you. You would have missed him if you hadn’t been the klutz walking around banging up against walls in a distracted haze.

He bowed, a small one this time, friendlier, and gave a small smile. If you were blushing before you’re pretty sure you’ve degraded into a white sheet now.

“I’m a fan,” you burst out because you couldn’t stop yourself, who were you kidding. So much for being a mature, compartmentalization-able fangirl. “I’ve just been to your concert. You were amazing.”

“Thank you,” he said, as if surprised. As if he hadn’t been expecting a run-in with a fan in the hallway.

You had an idle moment of wondering if you’d taken a wrong turn to your room. If there was a security detail you’d somehow slipped through. You looked up at the same second he’d chosen to look back and swipe a scanning glance around him. You noticed his hand grip his phone and his feet shuffle, and realized he had his own reason for walking so close to walls and corners.

“Can I get a picture before you go?” you dared ask. Because really, when ever would something like this happen to you again? And also you knew he had to go, to wherever it was he was sneaking out to.

“Sure,” he said, flashing another small smile, breaking a little bit more of your heart as he did. He stood still as you fumbled with your phone, with your own clammy fingers. When you finally made the thing work he took your phone from your hand and took over the task. Coming up beside you, one hand light on your shoulder, phone up at an angle and the screen filled up by both your faces. You smiled when he did. It was easy. He took about a million pictures. There was bound to be at least one good shot in there.

“Thank you,” you said together.

You backed up now, because there’s only so much of his heat and light that a mere mortal like you could take. His mouth opened and you stopped moving, and waited, and just watched his beautiful lips move. Hot guy. Your thoughts swam.

“I’m hungry.” He shook his head and tried again. “I’m tired out and I need ramen. Do you know where to find a decent bowl of ramen around here?”

Ramen is life. Of course you knew where to find ramen. You nodded.

“Take me there?”

Yes. No. Okay. Take me, take everything. He’s a stranger. You’re alone. You don’t know him. What if he’s not as nice and fluffy as he is in the interviews and all the reality shows? That moment you found out just how many thoughts your brain could shuffle through in a span of a few flutters of this man’s long eyelashes.

You took a deep breath, praying for calm.

Why don’t you find out?

“Okay.” It was your voice and it came from your mouth, you were certain. The word came out shaky but it was you, and you were game and you were sure. It was your city anyway, your country, your hood. And he was friendly. Your hot guy friend.

“Okay,” he repeated. He laughed a bit then, which was good because you’d snorted out a giggle. He’d spread out one arm, allowing you the first step, then leading the way as you exchanged names. “I don’t really do this often,” he said, scratching the back of his head and you thought sure you don’t, letting loose a shameless scoff. The bravest sound you’ve made in all of these past few minutes.

It’s okay, you decided. He’s a shiny boy, even more so up close, but maybe just the kind of shine you needed to get to you.

 

 

 

 

***

Big Bang, Dong Youngbae and Dawn for the prompt.

 

Writing Now

Daily Grind #2: Late

It was the howling wind. You’ve heard it said that way before, how the wind howls during a storm. But you didn’t understand it until last night, or was it already morning, when the sound, angry and cold and demanding, hurled through the gap in your window and pulled you out of slumber. Did it save me from a bad dream? Was it a chase or a free fall into an abyss or a scuffle with zombies this time? You think about crawling out of bed to shut the windows, secure the bolt in the door, because of course the wind wants in from there too. You finally make the decision and do it. Untangle yourself from your sheets. Peel yourself off your warm mattress. Lock the windows, bar the door. You settle back into your bed, back under the blanket, legs bent, arms around your knees, gripping and rocking. Eyes shut, brain whirring. Listening to the howling of the wind as you wait for sleep to reclaim you.

 

 

 

 

****

Typhoon Maring for the prompt