I’m happy to announce my short story ‘Cicadas‘ is live on Coffee House Writers! I’m excited to bring my readers back to one of my past homes as I pay homage to a city I love. Richmond is a beautiful city filled with rich history and the kind of muggy summer heat you don’t easily forget.
Thank you for taking the time to read my short story today! Have you ever written or read anything set in a place you have lived? What did you think of it? What do you think of this piece? I’d love to hear in the comments!
If you’d like to see more flash fiction, please like, comment, and/or share this post. It helps me know what content my readers are most interested in seeing, so I can better know what to share here.
Content Warning: This story contains mention of suicide. Reader discretion is advised. This is a work of fiction.
In a little Italian neighborhood near the Coit Tower, a swath of green space invites families to sit on park benches with aesthetic spikes keeping them empty. Some stray travelers use their time to read actual books or eReaders; many play on their phones. The locked Washington Park public toilets hide behind green and gold painted metal – inaccessible monuments to the city ordinances against the homeless. On a light pole nearby hangs an Italian flag – acceptable ethnic pride in a city so focused on Pride.
Two large dogs – larger than their owners – try to distract each other by initiating play. The Bay’s blue water shimmers through the trees as Union Street heads downhill. Against a clear blue sky, the world maintains an invisible boundary: the city on one side, me on the other.
This boundary follows my neighbors when we enter stores, or avoids us on trains. It turns heads when I speak Spanish to those that speak it to me. It garners looks in even the Mission and Bernal Heights neighborhoods, depending on the street. Fuiste de mi vecina… Hablé el idioma de mi vecina. Planning outings, I hear people say they’re “just not comfortable taking public transit because of the people using it.” By “the people,” they mean anyone too poor to use Uber or Lyft – my neighbors, as they’re priced out of their homes. Anyone forced into homelessness by landlords taking advantage of the influx of affluent young people coming to the city, anyone hurt by those supporting and choosing to be part of the problem.
San Francisco culture obsesses over hustle and definitions of achievement, creating blinders for “focus.” I watch my coworkers and the people I thought I knew focus to the point of denying that anything bad ever happens here. They shun or punish those that dare try to draw their attention to something outside their minds. In our company’s Human Resources department, I watch as they “solve” problems by silencing employees that raise concerns rather than admitting any harassment incidents occur. The company wins workplace culture awards from a third party reviewer based on an employee survey none of us ever see.
My friends seek out cults of social acceptance on the weekends. Each event they attend promises their problems will go away and solve themselves with enough positivity (and denial). I hear them talk about the latest seminar over a group dinner. Mental illnesses are a mindset problem. Anxiety, depression, or anything else can only be solved by seeking out “your higher power” – the goals you wish to achieve rather than fall for this weakness. They discourage each other from seeking medical help.
One friend throws himself in front of the commuter train. I imagine him, so positive that the only escape from the pain he felt powerless against was to throw himself in front of that train he shut down for four hours. His mother sobs over thousands of crackling miles of static and telephone lines. His mother lives in Vietnam. I meet her at SFO and pay for the Lyft to her hotel. We sit in silence in the back seat, and she reaches for my hand. “Sean was a good boy,” she whispers to me. I squeeze her hand, feeling the lump in my throat grow and choke out tears. She flies out two days later after collecting his remains and making arrangements for his belongings. I never hear about a funeral.
But the mantras continue for the others: yoga and kale cure everything, including major depressive episodes. Your higher power is what you wish to achieve. That causes people to throw themselves in front of trains. They tell me I don’t understand. They tell me I’m not eating enough kale. I’m not doing enough yoga. In San Francisco, every conversation leads back to Yoga and Kale. No me gusta col rizada.
From the top of Twin Peaks, I gaze out at the sun reflecting off The Bay and compose my resignation letter. My brain can’t choose to ignore what I see. Closing my eyes, I imagine Sean with his mother—a pair I never saw in life. His beautiful mother, a refugee in America, now, a returned Việt Kiều, lives on without her son. Would my own parents return to the land that they fled? How far does this invisible boundary between water and sky extend? ¿Hasta dónde llegaría para echar agua en el mar?
If this story brought up any difficult feelings for you regarding suicide, please reach out to https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255 (USA). They are also available to chat 24/7/365
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story today. If you enjoyed this story, please like, comment, and/or share it. This helps me know which posts my readers enjoy the most and can help me cater content.
If there is anything you see in this story that needs correction, please let me know! I am happy to work on aspects of this story to improve it for my audience.
Content Warning: This story discusses human trafficking and pedophilia. Reader discretion is advised.
Post Street– Chinese New Year Parade – The traffic devours the patience of every San Francisco driver. A choir of horns blasts the pedestrians from the sidewalks as the barricades teeter in place.
An hour and a half after the cab ride began, fire crackers still echo off the buildings while drivers grapple for every opening in the sea of exhaust fumes, foot traffic, and non-motor vehicles. The Little Darling’s Peep Show’s lights blink in contrast to the gated and locked businesses wrapping themselves up against the cool Pacific air.
“I’ll get out here.” The suit commands, opening the door into screaming curses while his fare settles before the door slams shut. He smirks as he reaches the sidewalk – he found her.
She stands at the corner waiting; peahen struts in her heels, suit, and buttercream silk blouse. The man glances at a business card from his pocket, then returns it. He found Her.
Her face never fabricates a smile for him, but she leads him past the iron gate into what looks like an old hotel. She opens a door to an office with a black leather lounger where she motions for him to sit.
“Who gave you my card?” Her lips fall into a pout as she sits on the large oak desk, averting her eyes from his face; playing with her manicured nails.
“I’m looking for a young woman.” He states without answering. “Thin. No stretch marks. Underdeveloped. Small.” He smiles and leans back, crossing his hands over his stomach.
The woman nods, then picks up her phone from the desk, texting someone. A knock at the door reveals a tiny late-adolescent with deep umber hair and fawn skin of no more than five feet tall in heels and a shimmering club dress.
“She will do.” The man stands, then turning toward the desk pulls a wad of cash from a money clip. “Thank you.”
The door slams, leaving the woman alone in the room, vomiting into a trash can. A hidden door in the wall opens, revealing a man with a cloud of hair wafting from his scalp. “Not a fan of this one?”
“I hate his kind.” She snarls, wiping her mouth. “And I hate tiny women.”
The white haired man sprawls on the lounger and laughs. “Why? Men are attracted to small, delicate, vulnerable creatures. It’s instinctual.”
“They’re attracted to them because they’re pedophiles.” She spits.
“Then why hate the women?” The man sits up and cocks his head. “You’re jealous,” he mocks. Her eyebrows attempt to narrow in response; instead only her mouth frowns. “Men are allowed to like what they like. Besides, you’re just doing your job.” Standing, he walks over, wrapping his arms around her shoulders from behind, kissing her neck. “Try not to hate yourself because you’re not one of them anymore.”
Closing her eyes, she sees herself grab the letter opener from the pen cup and stab him in the neck. His eyes bulge out as red arterial blood pulses out onto the Persian rug adorning the floor, ruining her silk shirt he bought not long ago. He collapses onto the desk as she grabs his keys to the safe in the hidden room, grabbing enough of the cash to be free of him forever. Running down the old steps and out of the building into the chaos of San Francisco during Chinese New Year.
He cups her breasts from behind as she opens her eyes. “Where is the money he handed you?” He whispers in her ear.
She hands him the roll of hundreds over her shoulder, then stands, re-buttoning her blouse.
“Good work.” He oozes as she approaches the door.
The sounds in the hallway follow her; remind her; haunt her as she walks down the steps, wondering if now is the time to step outside.
If you found yourself moved, please consider liking, commenting, and/or sharing it with others. Truly, I am grateful for the time you spent reading my work. While you’re here, if you want to learn more about what you can do to help those impacted by human trafficking, or if you are impacted by human trafficking please check out http://humantraffickinghotline.org/.
If you are in need of immediate help and are located in the United States please call 1 (888) 373-7888 or text 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) 24/7/365
My first serial fiction reached its conclusion today with Part 8: Into The Light. This story pushed me to write my first happy ending with a triumphant heroine story arc.
My next step with this story is to assemble the parts, then expand and rewrite it for adaptation into a novella. This will let me expand on the tender flashbacks Deidre experiences as her memories of Madison return to her.
When I started writing this story, after reviewing the premise with a friend I love, I intended to target cis audiences to help them understand trans experiences. As the parts of this story came out, JK Rowling demonstrated her complete lack of understanding, making this story more valuable. There is an archetype of narcissism in some parts of our society that refuses to accept the identity of a child beyond how they are named and the assumption based on traits observed at birth.
I purposefully left many details ambiguous and do not plan to clarify these in the adaptation. This is to emphasize the unimportance of these details in regards to the characters’ identities.
The details I chose to emphasize are those that are most important when listening to the life stories of trans women, such as battles with body image, the complex relationships with cosmetics and clothing, and the difficult impacts coming out has had on their relationships with their parents. Additionally, what I hope to have conveyed is that Deidre, and all trans women, are not inherently victims. They are the heroines of their own stories by defying a world where almost all systems are set up against them.
Of the women I spoke with, all mentioned that the relationships with their mothers were among the most helpful and harmful depending on the responses. Thus, Katherine emerged as the antagonist, going so far as to physically act out the emotional and verbal abuses described by some of the women I am lucky enough to call my friends.
I do not pretend to tell my friends’ stories – this is a work of fiction and is intended to communicate realities to a reader through the eyes of a fictional character. Though heavily researched, this story has room for improvements I look forward to adding in the adaptation as I work with more resources and sensitivity readers to make sure I hit all the important details I may have missed this first time through.
In the meantime, I want to mention that “Waking Up” is dedicated to all transgender persons struggling for acceptance in a narcissistic world, denying them of the most basic human right: the autonomy to live and express your own identity in whatever way you see fit for yourself and your happiness.
Thank you for taking the time to read about “Waking Up” – each part is linked below:
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this today. I hope you enjoy “Waking Up” – please like, comment, and share this story. This will help me gain feedback as I move forward into its expansion and improvement into a novella.