Anori: Draft Five

Given the scathing feedback from my (former) editor, it took me some time to get back at the first book of The Cx Trilogy, Anori. I’ve made it at last and begun the long toil. The current plan is to work on this concurrently with Fuck Pedagogy and see how their orbits might move the tides. Here are the opening pages at present. (Criticisms welcome!)

Dee held hard to the balcony railing as she looked down to Battery Park, all but empty now, neat rows of sandbags banked up against the grates alongside the Custom House, a single police car, its blue lights mute and slow, moving slowly away. They had stopped broadcasting the evacuation order hours ago. Zone A was closed.

The curtains lulled back as Dee slid the balcony door closed. There was a rocket ship on television. Great shards of curved ice calved off its sides, dissolving into a torrent of smoke and steam, as it slowly rose. The cameras cut to a distance perch across the valley, where the rocket could be seen rising from the barren landscape on a halo of brilliant white, a vibrating candle.

She went into the bathroom and turned off the faucet, Apollo lurching after her, his black-striped tail snaking over her shoulder, as he peered into the tub, now full of water. She grabbed at Apollo’s paw. “Want a bath?”

Apollo slid wildly on the tiles, slamming into the door frame as he bound into the living room. She didn’t know why she would even need the water. The storm had been too long hyped, like the one before, Irene. People had talked and tweeted, hoping for the disaster to get worse so they could make money pretending they cared. She watched the spectacle, the cameras now inside the capsule, giving a fish-eye view of the flight instruments, the oblong window to the pilot’s right and the blue-grey glow of her helmet at the bottom of the screen, the ubiquitous Infinity logo on everything. The vanishing rocket rose atop its teetering plume, transforming into a dot, the smoke, once thick, drifted into emptiness.

She changed the channel to the local news. This morning’s high tide was at 8:30 am. That tide surged over the walls into the city this morning, eleven hours ago. That tide has already been here. This tide is a full-moon high tide, just like Irene, only worse; it’s much worse. The weather guy was earnest, his sleeves rolled up, his square jaw pushed out for this soap opera apocalypse announcement. This is the one we have to watch. This one could be anywhere from 12 feet up to 14, 15, 16 feet. 16 feet! Think about that. In just 15 minutes. This is it. The surge is almost here.

“Hurry up.” She grabbed the cat’s leash and opened the door. “Before it’s too late.”

Apollo bolted ahead of her and turned tight circles until the elevator opened, and then pinned himself against Dee’s legs, his head against the silver wall until the doors opened and he could escape to the lobby.

“Apollo!” Hector, large against the glass doors at the front, bent down to Apollo. “My man.”

“Keeping the storm at bay?

“You shouldn’t have taken the elevator.” He scratched Apollo vigorously down his side. ““They’re going to shut off the power, Miss Sinclair.”

“It’s 28 floors, Hector.”

“The eye of the storm just hit Atlantic City. That just happened.”

She leashed Apollo. “They keep talking about the tide.”

“You see the market. You see that?” He pointed out to the green awning that had flipped around on its moorings, its rusted metal ribs exposed, swelling in and out with the wind, a dying animal against the corner of the building. “You sure you should be going out?”

She thought about telling him how she wanted to see the wall of water coming down the narrows, the boats curled up into its majestic belly, the Verrazano Bridge hidden from view, the Statue of Liberty dwarfed in the shadow of the blue-black water as it rose higher and higher, even if she knew it wouldn’t really be like that. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

He stretched his arm against the door, his jacket binding at his giant shoulders and pushed open the door. “Be careful, Miss Sinclair. Lady was killed by a tree today in Queens.”

Dee’s Back Story

When I look back on the jobs I’ve done, performance sex was the hardest. I don’t mean how I was judged, and even judged myself, because none of that means anything, or even the unpleasantness at times. Some people really do stink. It was more about making it real. It was rare when I could lose that control, not just have that half open mouth, and give what I knew was expected.

It was when I broke from that, that I got frantic, balancing at the tip, and felt like I might slide sideways, barely hanging on. I would push hard and then stop, do that again and again, all taut and stupid, clinging to this good side of the moment, and keep it like that.

And then I would right into like a mania, straight ahead, nothing else but plowing straight for that full-on orgasm, so much that it was almost I’m made me get mad and crazy, like I was a kid and wanted what I wanted, and would not let go, and skip ahead, my feet barely touching the ground, until I was in it and nothing else. It was really hard work, but there were those moments.

Impossible Character: Dee Sinclair

Sex sells. And Dee Sinclair is all about sex. Not just a sex worker, she is a sex performer, taking high-paying jobs to perform for exclusively perverted clients in remote locations such as French Polynesia, Greece and Qatar.

She is an orphan girl, her only sister dead, an alcoholic, drowned. But she won’t talk about that. She won’t talk about anything except her exotic cat, a serval, named Apollo.

Photo credit: Michael Nichols (National Geographic)

She doesn’t actually talk about Apollo either. She doesn’t talk about anything to anyone. She feels herself as distinctly separate, an adjunct, an afterthought, a second thing. She feels like she doesn’t belonged anywhere, except sitting alone on the fire escape. She knows that no one who really cares, that no one who would miss her. She just wants to be left alone.

Dee makes her first appearance in My Bad Side and then in Anori, the first book of The Cx Trilogy. She spends much of her time in the ice-choked emptiness of Greenland, a place she treasures because of its mind-numbing isolation.

And then she is suddenly being chased: Dee watched her hands flash up in front of her face, first one and then the other, fists clenched, just her pinkie out on her left hand. She had heard the helicopter come over the glacier, the rotors reverberating off the ice, sharp and then suddenly faded. She heard nothing now. She was mute. Not her footsteps on the hard ground, not her gasping for breath, not the truck door swinging wildly open, not the engine starting, nothing. Dust swirled up ahead, other trucks going to the launch tower. She couldn’t get the truck to go fast enough. The tunnel took forever. She heard something on the other side, helicopters again, as she headed to the tower. But she couldn’t see. There was only the dust and then Valerie on the edge of the first platform.

As the protagonist, Dee operates as the reader’s stubborn vehicle entering the impossible parameters of science fiction – the space ships, three dimensional internet, artificial skin, and most of all, the idea of leaving Earth for another planet. She doesn’t buy any of it. And neither does the reader. Until it is there and there is no denying it. As much as she (we) can’t accept it, it is there.

Dee works especially well for this book because of her personality. As hard as she tries to separate herself from everyone in the world, she becomes more drawn into a mission that aims to do just that – leave the planet altogether. The irony is that, in her efforts to be apart, she of course becomes deeply committed to the others on the journey into the emptiness.

Thematically, the book is a challenge, as it focuses on abandoning, and ultimately rejecting, our society for something else, and the impossibility of doing that. After all, wherever we go, we are still what we are. And so as impossible as Dee might be to access, it is because of that that she works as an excellent conduit for the book.

Aqaara: More Expunged

“I have no fortune for you today.” Liyuan gave Dee a cigarette.

She reached out with indifference.

“How is Icarus?”

She smoked passively, staring out.

“Sleeping poorly?”

“This is worse than a cruise ship. It’s like high school, always stuck in fucking high school.”“You had a bad time there?”

“Always seeing the same faces, doing the same things, going nowhere.”

“That’s not entirely true, Dee. We really are going somewhere.”

“Jesus, Liyuan, what’s wrong with you? Did you actually like high school?”

“Very much. I loved to learn. It was a very exciting place.”

“Figures.”

Writing Camp: Day Two at Kenyon College

Focus is everything. Despite a tepid reaction to my first assignment – and being told that my character (me?) is an unlikable jerk, perhaps racist – I found myself getting on track. The details are the thing. And today’s work at Kenyon College on a variety of ways to implement dialogue is a good way to move things forward:

Dee reached in for the last of the pups, already half out of the incubator, not wanting to be alone. “I was six months old. You don’t remember anything at that age.”

“You can remember some things,” Calli replied. “I can remember lots of smells, like that blue blanket. I turn back into a baby when I remember it.”

Ashe laughed. “No way.”

“I think about your aunt as a little girl – she was barely three – trying to get our mother to wake up and not understanding why she wouldn’t.” The images coursed through Dee, almost like Calli had described, the smells of the kitchen, the sun across the floor and then the dark, her own stink rising with her mother’s. “I was crying too. Don’t forget that. She had to feed me cereal and bread, handfuls and handfuls of it. And still I wouldn’t stop.”

Ashe had her face pressed close to the pup’s. “How long were you there with her?”

“Three days,” Calli answered. “She’s told us like a million times.”

Anori Outtake: Waiting

She looked from her tiny window to the wall, her back hunched against the cement wall, and closed her eyes, breathing only through her nose, slowly, feeling for her heart, waiting for it to stop and skip, finally lying on her side, keeping her hands around her legs, trying to fall asleep like that. But she couldn’t. She flipped from her side to her back and had her hand in her jeans, under her panties, tucking her finger in, not moving it, just keeping it there, cupping her hand over that, thinking she would never be free. IMAG4357She slept once the sun had left her window, nearing seven in the morning, and slept through the afternoon; she was happy to see her church iceberg as she had left it, its pyramid bright white and fluffy, its shirts every shade of electric blue. She was lonely and empty, sick with it; it was like a gas she couldn’t swallow. She didn’t want to be here. None of this had anything to do with her. There was nothing she could understand, just the rocks and ice and never-ending light. She needed something else, something to fight against. IMG_3185As much as she hated the hypocrisy and greed, the contradictions, the lies and hate, she needed them to work against. Without the avarice, she had nothing to despise, only the emptiness of space, endless and eternal and gut-wrenching, the same feeling she had looking into the water, into those depths.

Anori Outtake: Pop-Up Babar

Dee sat on the floor and went through the books on the bottom shelves, and opened an old Pop-Up book, Babar’s Moon Trip. il_570xN.330724227She opened and closed the center of the book, the space station rising up, falling down again. il_570xN.330724185She played with the bent point of the space tower, toying with the tip of it until it broke and rolled the dirty piece of cardboard between her thumb and forefinger.

Anori Outtake: In Custody

“Miss Sinclair.” Officer Duncan sat pert behind his desk and held out a blue index card.  “You fill in one of these?”

“No.”

“I need you to fill it in.”

“I’ll wait for my lawyer.”

He hunched over the desk, his black pointy hair sticking out from his small features and hands, and turned away from her to Officer Manzoni at the desk beside him. “Processing the 10-64?”

Officer Manzoni, intent on his screen, his goateed chin pushed forward, wire-frame glasses tight against the bridge of his nose, took a moment to respond. “Series two.”

“It’s not Series two.”

Officer Manzoni shrugged.

Officer Duncan glanced down at Dee again, almost surprised she was still there, waiting like a child. “1151, you can have a seat.”

Dee waited, looking through the newspapers again and considered the picture of her jumping again, peering at her half exposed breast again and then her arms awkwardly out, her right leg almost straight out, like she had been pushed. It made her stomach turn, looking at herself, thinking how she could have broken her ankle and then remembering the tunnel and the dark and thinking she might actually still be in there, comatose, leaking toward her last breath. She looked around and saw Officer Duncan over her, Officer Manzoni just behind.

“This way.”

Anori Outtake: Taking Pictures

She opened her eyes to see the intern with his phone up, flat, facing her; he was taking a picture.

“What are you doing?”

He lowered it as she stared back and looked down, opening a file. Dee waited for him to look back, but he wouldn’t, keeping his face stupidly low.

“Hello?” Dee knocked on the table; everyone looked up at that.

He hunched forward. “I’m sorry?”

“Fucking admit it.”

He made a ridiculous quizzical face and looked around at the others.

Dee stood and reached across the table.

“What is this?” The judge returned from the hall.

“This guy just took my picture.”

“Miss Sinclair, you will have to sit down.”

“He just took my fucking picture!”20150106_074058

“Your language!”

“Is it allowed, judge? Yes or no?”

“No.”

“Look at it then.” Dee waved at the lawyer to surrender his phone.

She glanced back at the lawyers. “Mr. Cates, did you take her picture?”

“I was scrolling through my messages, looking for a file-”

“Did you take her picture, Mr. Cates?”

“I was…It was a mistake.”

Anori Outtake: Bathroom Prayers

The door led into a hall back into another room like this, another door, another corridor, and then the bathroom. Dee sat in the stall. She had to shit but then couldn’t. It was trapped inside her like everything else. The door squeaked open and someone came in the stall beside her. The protracted silence became funny and she wanted to laugh, but she couldn’t get it out, and her face was getting red. She was scared of an aneurysm; she was pushing that hard. And then she was done. Malcolm’s assistant pulled out three paper towels in quick succession and balled them together. “I’m praying for you.”

“What?”

“I’m praying for you.”

“Why?”

“I’m praying for you to have the strength.”

“You’ll have to stop saying that.”

“I can’t stop praying for you.”

“Prayers have nothing to do with it. It’s the lawyers.”

“Prayers are in my heart.”

“Why would you…? I’ve never heard anything so stupid.”

“I’m praying for you through this difficult time.”

“Jesus Christ!” Dee’s hands cramped around the empty air. “You say that again and I’ll have to punch you!”

“Excuse me?”

“Say that one more time and I will punch you in the jaw. Got it?”

She peered back, her eyes pleading with Dee to find peace and love in everyone’s heart.