This is the Life of a Redhead

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Failed Submission

I submitted to Longshot Magazine, a magazine that is produced in 48 hours. It's nice because you don't have to wait too long to find out if you got in or not. I knew ahead of time that my style isn't what they go for, but I'm still proud that I submitted. Let's pretend I stood a chance, okay? The theme was Debt. My submission below:

A Deficit of Memories; A Debt.

I imagine my memories as these tiny creatures with rapid flapping wings. They flutter right in front of my eyes, so close that my lashes brush against their spastic bodies. My breathing matches the rate of their beating wings and while I am on the verge of an anxiety attack I reach out and try to grasp a little personified memory, aiming to hold it so close that I crush its wings and its moth-like powder stains my hand. When I try to grab it, my reflexes are too slow and the little beast outsmarts me and vanishes, not a trace left in my brain.
            The realization that I had terrible memory began when I found it difficult to describe movie plots, even those of films I had just seen. The credits would roll and already I would be scrambling to think of a character’s name or the opening sequence, and by the time I exited the theater all I could remember were slivers of scenes, like the strange facial reactions by supporting characters or an especially well designed costume on a glamorous leading lady. If asked about storyline I would automatically rattle off a narrative and wonder how the words mechanically escaped my lips without a visualized companion inside my mind. All information began to feel like pieces of data, unreadable code that would transcribe itself verbally but could not be internally computed.
            I could deal with film being erased, as I could always find a way to watch it again and take notes if I felt so inclined to remember every detail. It was when unrepeatable actions began to fade that I started to worry. There was a brave instance when I tried to explain the experience I had with an emotionally abusive partner, and I found myself getting tongue-tied, trying to restring conversations and picture the way his jaw tightened when he spoke or how his eyes lost contact with mine and focused instead on the cars speeding ahead. We were driving. Or we were in his bedroom. I think, once, we were at dinner, and he played with a straw wrapper as I shared my anxieties about leaving for college. The visuals morphed, but the basic information, the raw data, stayed consistent. If I wanted to use specifics details I would feel like a liar because the memory was incorrect and the images in my head were ragged and dissolving.
            Painful memories, I thought, were the ones that would disappear. I was uncomfortable but able to come to terms with that idea. I could cope with a subconscious defense mechanism that distorted the nuances of bad situations and for some reason decided that most films were not worth being recalled.
            Then it spread to pleasant memories. Of my childhood, before five years old, the only solid memory I have is the Dalmatian print on my bed sheets. My tiny hands jumped from dog to dog, spot to spot, pronouncing the dogs’ names from the Disney movie I had loved. Nothing more. I close my eyes and contract my facial muscles until my brain tingles and there is not a single image that comes to mind apart form the dogs. It was not a painful childhood, nor traumatic or scarring. It is simply my memories flying out my of my head, perhaps leaving through my ear canals or nasal passages, trying to force me to live moment by moment even though I believe that I am designed to think in the past.
            I am young, painfully inexperienced. I wonder what will stick with me when I reach old age. I fear that soon the only images I will have are actually visualizations of anxieties about future. They are large monsters that have nothing but empty words.
So I keep reaching out and clutching my fingers tight, praying that I have caught a memory. I hold my fist steady and pretend that it starts to suffocate and twitch and then begs for mercy, seeking refuge inside my brain.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Scenes on Tenth

The large dog longs for exercise. It whines outside CrossFit, obedient enough not to jump on the glass and flash its genitals at the early birds who train inside. The glass is slightly tinted and the work out remains a mystery. From my post at the bus stop across the street, I see the dog stand on all fours and cry and then sit on its rump and cry louder. It’s a Great Dane, but not really, not quite. It black spots cover its snout and I cannot see its eyes. There’s only the high squeals that beg for attention and capture mine, which is all the way across the four lane two-way street.
            A nice black car with the front windows roll down slows to a stop and the dog is no longer visible. The sounds shift to the radio playing at high volume inside the car, a female pop-star’s top 40 lyrics fleeing into the open air. Inside a large black man with a grey beard and a bald head shifts his body to the music. He looks like he is stuffed in his seat, and I see that he does not have enough room to wiggle, unlike me who can get down and dirty in a car but only when the windows are rolled and a vaguely Baltic-sounding track emits from my iPod. Because of his restriction, he moves his hands to trace the octaves of the singer. They start low and climb up an invisible mountain, lingering in mid-air for split seconds, moving higher and higher until they reach the peak. His hand splays and his whole body rumbles as he cries the words out of tune. This giant man’s pitch matches the dog that is still whining behind him, and as the music drops and the man catches the tonal shift a second too late, the dog and the man sing in harmony.
            The light turns green and the black car cruises down the street. The large dog is now jumps to its feet and dances about excitedly. There’s a man in a dark gray shirt, darker on his chest and under his pits, petting the dog on its black snout, but also sort of slapping it, a mix of affection and discipline. Promptly, the dog sits back down, and he is quiet and attentive. For a moment the man hesitates, goes for the collar and then to the leash, but then abandons his actions all together and goes back inside CrossFit to continue his morning regime.
            I am thinking of crossing the street to play with the dog when I hear the bus breaking. It stops a few feet behind the MARTA sign and makes me long for the dog as I take the five or six steps to reach the open doors. As I swipe my breeze pass and it starts whining again, the sound suffocated by the bus’s motor and the murmuring of a homeless man asking around for change.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Family Musings

A rough draft of a short, personal essay. Currently untitled.

The family is enjoying this Pixar thing too much.
It’s my favorite studio, the home of my dream job: animation coordinator, or production supervisor, or assistant director. Really, the logistics are not as important as the prospect of working at that studio. So far, in my college days, I’ve submitted five internship applications in four years. Every summer of my studies and one spring. There are countless possibilities for Google searches from potential bosses, so I constantly look myself up on the internet, wincing at embarrassing information and urging people to click what is important. Never once have I gotten an interview, not even a halfhearted phone call from a recruiter.
I’ve been convinced that Pixar has ignored me. My existence to them could be no more important than the presence of a mosquito in the bedroom; a nuisance, if anything. Because I had written my life off to the minds of the Pixar creative team, I was shocked when they unveiled the new lead character for their 2012 release, Brave. Princess Merida's head is full of frizzy red curls. It’s my hair circa Birth – 2010.  I’m astonished by the hair choice not because of the likeness—no, her head is too round. She doesn’t have my cheekbones—but because of the difficulties a 3D animator has to go through to animate hair. Fiber effects, dynamics, ray tracing. All this at a level beyond my slightly-above-basic understanding of computer graphics.
            Uncle Randy starts an email sent to all the Reizmans. “OH – MY – GOD. It’s Renee!” He does not accent my name. My father jumps on board. My other uncle does, too. All three Reizman brothers send me different emails, all encouraging me to send headshots to Disney-Pixar. My theatre experience and distinct looks could land me the role of Princess Merida in Disney Land parades. I’m moving to Los Angeles anyways. I shake my head and file away the emails in my “important stuff” folder, which is more intended for amusing exchanges and not pressing conversations. I’m not beautiful in the Disney Princess way. I don’t send any headshots.
            The frenzy continues to phone calls. My father is discussing logistics of my stolen car. We talk about buying a new one. He suggests a PT Cruiser. I say that I only want on in purple. He, my father, suggests blue. I say purple again. We find one in South Carolina, surprisingly affordable, and only two hours away form Atlanta. My dog growls and interrupts my father’s train of thought. He drops the subject and talks about Pixar.
            He tells me to send in my headshots.
            I scoff.
            My mother starts screaming in the background.
            “They stole your likeness!”
            She talks about me applying to Pixar three times. She doesn’t know it was five. She says that they have found me on Google and they stole my appearance to make this character. I try to point out the rounded face, the lack of defined cheekbones. There are thousands—millions?—of redheaded, curly haired women in this world. I’m not the blueprint.
            “Call Steven Spielberg!”
            The obsession with Spielberg started in 2006. In that year, my mother left a greeting card on my desk chair. His phone number was inside. She claims that she found his phone number and address on Google. She hadn’t been taking her medicine. I never called the number. It is now 2011 and she still asks me to call Spielberg and request a job. I don’t think she recovered.
            My father is sitting calmly in his recliner chair with the dog on his lap. He is trying to cover the phone with one hand as he mouths to my mother to shut up. I cannot see this, but this is the scene witnessed from home with my brother in the position that I’m in now. The family is stuck in a recursive loop. I think about the endless fights I try to start with potential and previous significant others and I feel sad. I try not to think about ending up like my parents.
            Spielberg. Lawsuit. They stole your likeness!
            My father wrestles for the phone. The call ends abruptly.
            The dream of working at Pixar, which has floated in my brain since I was 17, is slowly diminishing. It wanes while my phone remains silent after an application is sent. It circulates slowly, dully, after days of eagerly checking my email, searching for a follow up to the automated “thank you for applying to Pixar,” and the blood flow stops when I get the cold feeling in my chest when the equally lifeless rejection appears in my inbox, months later, like clockwork.
My mother’s hysterical voice distorts the fantasy and makes me dread the possibility of working at the studio. I imagine myself coming into work every morning with my mother’s words imprinted in the back of my mind, threatening the artists, urging me to call Spielberg and call for justice. I would not be able to face my coworkers, knowing that my dream job has been associated with my mother’s mental illness. The fantasy becomes tarnished, just as so many other things I have strived for, by my mother’s paranoia and criticism.
So I grimly search for a new direction, half-heartedly, with passion unequaled by that I felt for the dream job at Pixar. I awaken other passions. They come slowly, and I have to nudge them out of my heart, but I raise them with determination and shelter them from the consciousness of my family.