The Fall

Although this one is a little different, it’s one of several stories in my memoir in the making. If you’d like to read the full collection, click here.


The first time I went ice skating I had only one thought in my mind: don’t fall.

I repeated this thought in my head like a mantra, thinking that doing so would somehow prevent the inevitable. I was bound to fall–it had been my signature move for as long as I  can remember. Little me would be doing something I had no business doing, then there’d be a thud followed immediately by an “I’m okay!”

I tried so desperately to avoid falling, not only to avoid pain but also because I’d created graphic scenarios in my head of what would happen if I did fall. I’d already injured my left wrist twice, once while skating, and my mind concocted a scenario where I did so again, this time because someone ran into and sent me hurtling toward the ground, causing my bones to fracture into a million pieces.

I thought of scenarios like these (including a pretty gruesome one involving someone’s skate blades and my face) as I approached the skate rental counter. My nervousness and fear combined to create a roiling mass of liquids in my stomach. Uh ohI’m going to throw up. I quickly muttered my shoe size to the man behind the counter then ran to a bench as soon as he handed me my skates so that I could sit and calm myself down. I did, but it only lasted a moment. As soon as the skates were on, the fear set in again. “Who let me do this,” I asked my four companions in a panic. “Who thought this was a good idea?” If I was already losing balance on carpeted ground, I would definitely fall and break something within three seconds of being on the ice. But Ally, the only skilled skater in the group, chuckled at my concern and said, “you’ll be fine, trust me. It’ll be fun.”

It was not fun.

At least not the first fifteen minutes anyway. I clung to the wall for dear life and slowly dragged myself along the rink, stopping at certain intervals to allow my friend Ashley to catch up. I watched with awe as people around me skated with ease; even children who looked no more than six danced around the rink with skill and grace. Ally was one of those graceful skaters, circling the rink and coming back to us before we even made it three feet ahead. She offered to help me but I refused. I could only imagine the chaos that would ensue once I stepped away from the wall. Instead, I stayed with my friend Cris, who was more my speed.

After the first hour, I finally felt confident enough to let go of the wall, if only for a few seconds at a time. Around me teens and adults were doing twists and tricks, shredding ice as they glided. Most of the children skated expertly as well, but there were still some who fell to the ground in dramatic fashion. There was something intriguing to me about the kids who had fallen. There were no tears, no cries of pain: they simply got back up and went again. I thought to myself that I wished it were so simple–to be able to just fall and get up again with no complaints, to go out onto the ice without regard for safety and just try and try until you succeed. But I am not a young child. I don’t just run into a situation without assessing the possible consequences. I can’t just throw myself into the middle of the ice without care. I’m older. I do not see the ice as a playground; I see it as an arena of possible catastrophes. When I look at it, I am reminded of the “skate at your own risk” signs I saw upon arrival. I’ve assessed the risks–I know the fall will cause pain, and since I’ve felt pain before, I avoid it at every cost.

I did not fall that first time ice skating, but looking back on it, I wish I had. Because the hardest part is not the fall, it’s getting back up when you’re on the ground. And once you’ve learned to get back up, the rest is easy.

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Motive

This single-scene, two-character play that only came about because my English teacher assigned it to me will soon be a major motion picture (in an alternate reality of course.) Enjoy.


The sunlight streams through the living room window and reflects off of the photos on the mantel; family trips, pee-wee soccer games, and a wedding kiss are seen inside the frames. It’s a beautiful day and the children should be outside, but they’re not. If not outside, they’d be in the living room watching TV, but today only their father sits on the couch. Another man is sitting in the recliner across from him. Between them is the coffee table and on it rests an untouched plate of cookies, still cooling, and a gun.

Man in recliner (Butch): [gesturing toward gun] I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it seems you need some motivation.

Father (Mr. Fisher): [making worried gestures with his bound hands]: P-please don’t s-s-shoot me! My f-family!

Butch: Yes, little Sarah and Samuel. And who could forget your lovely wife, Jess? So kind of her to put out a snack for us.

Fisher: [losing the stutter as his concern for his family makes him try to seem more forceful in an attempt to intimidate Butch, though fear is still evident] Where are they? What do you want?

Butch: The Boss made it very clear what she wants.

Fisher: I already told her that I couldn’t do what she asked. I tried to gain access at the precinct but the case has gone federal. Everything was packed up and sent to an FBI evidence locker. There’s no way I can get anywhere near it.

Butch: [leaning forward]: Well Mr. Fisher, the Boss believes in you. See, she thinks that you’d be more than capable of getting your hands on those files if you just applied yourself. That’s why she decided to help you out by giving you a little push.

Fisher: [With the same conviction, though this time the fear is more subtle]: Where is my family?

Butch: [Reclining in the chair] Relax Mr. Fisher, they’re perfectly fine. The Boss is having me keep an eye on them to give you more incentive.

Father: [attempting to rise despite his bound feet.] If anything happens to them I swear I’ll⸺

Butch: Now now Mr. Fisher, no need to get all riled up; we’re just having a friendly conversation. In fact, since we’re friends and all, I even brought you a present. [He pulls out a small ring box with a carefully tied bow around it from his coat pocket and hands it to Fisher. Fisher struggles to open the box due to his bound hands. When it finally opens, he gasps in horror and drops the box on the floor. The audience finally sees that inside the box is a woman’s severed finger with a wedding ring on it.]

Fisher [voice breaking in anger and panic]: You said they were fine!

Butch: And I meant it. Missing a finger don’t mean dead. Now, if you don’t like my gift I won’t bring you another, as long as you give the Boss what you owe. [He rises and grabs his gun and a cookie off the table.] I’ll be back to check in on you soon. Same time next Tuesday? [Fisher gives a worried look as Butch begins to work toward the door. He opens it, takes a bite of the cookie, makes a sound of satisfaction, then turns to Fisher.]

Butch: [Almost mockingly emphasized] These are incredible. Jess is definitely a keeper.

[Cut as the door slams shut after Butch.]

The Revelation

This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.

 

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Me: at the top looking disapprovingly at Cassy’s ridiculousness. Cassy: at the bottom, being ridiculous.

 

Under the fluorescent lights of Publix, everything’s aglow, especially the lovely pregnant woman ringing up our groceries. Her belly is out two feet in front of her and she wears a ring on her left hand with the tiniest diamond you’ve ever seen. Her green vest has a name tag that reads “Marcy” and her smile is as radiant as her flaming red her as she greets us: “Did you find everything okay today?”

“Yes, thank you,” we say. We stocked up on the essentials–Cape Cod chips, Nutella, sushi, and two slices of cake.“Mmmmm chocolate, my favorite,” says Marcy as she eyes the cake. “I’ve been craving it all throughout my second trimester, with a few modifications of course– applewood smoked bacon and jelly beans–I can’t really explain it,” she laughs.

We laugh too. There’s something so refreshing about her kindness and energy. I ask her the name and gender; she’s expecting a girl, Annalise. Cassy (the eldest Joseph sister) and I both agree it’s a lovely name. She hands us our receipt and wishes us well, we do the same.

We step out of the frigid air and artificial light of the store into the parking lot where afternoon is turning to evening, painting the sky sapphire and dotting it with shining stars, as we walk the tree and lamppost lined sidewalks on the familiar path back home.

I scan the sidewalk intently, looking for leaves that would be the most satisfying to step on, pebbles to kick all the way back home, and lizards to avoid accidentally squashing. Cassy is walking alongside me, listening to music so loud that I can hear it from the earbud dangling at her chest. She’s playing “Walk Out” by Preedy; she’s always playing that song. Her current obsession with Soca music annoys me to no end. It’s not the songs– they’re pleasing to the ear and the hips– it’s that the stream of Soca music is nonstop. It flows through the house constantly, and even though I only hear it in the brief intervals when I’m not wearing noise-canceling headphones trying to drown out her music with my own, it’s still too much.

Despite the music blasting in her ear, she is passionately telling me of her plights as a college student and how Mom is trying to ruin her life. I’m almost a little surprised at this: Mom is out of the house and so are we, so we’re under no obligation to play nice.  But we do.  I listen and nod my head, still looking down at the path in front of me and the little pebble I’m kicking with each step, trying to think of the right words to say. I can’t relate to her problems– I’m what is known as the “perfect,” “favorite,” or “golden” child, so I’ve never had such issues. Nevertheless, in terms of sisterly wisdom, I am a master who can resolve any issue with a few smart words, so I dole out a simple truth that completely blows Cassy’s mind:

“You’re just like Dad and I’m just like Mom,” I say. “That’s why you two don’t get along.” Cassy considers this fact and I can see in her facial expression the moment this revelation dawns on her.

“You’re right,” she says, almost surprised. Her unwarranted surprise is the only unexpected thing in this situation. Of course I’m right; I’m always right. But I elect not to remind her of this fact for fear it will be too much for her to handle. Instead, I tackle one astonishing truth at a time and elaborate on the I just told her.

“You have Dad’s people skills and some of Mom’s smarts,” I say, half expecting her to hit me for that “some of” remark. She doesn’t, so I continue. “I have Dad’s ability to sleep everywhere and Mom’s . . . well, everything.”

She nods in agreement, probably coming to the conclusion that I’m always right on her own, saving me the trouble of having to break it to her.

“Unfortunately,” I add, “we both have Dad’s looks.”

“Unfortunately for you maybe. I’m cute,” she quips back.

I trip her slightly for that and she shoves me back. Our laughs are drowned out by the sound of cars zipping by, but we both know without looking that a smile has spread across the other’s face.

The Sisters

This is one of several stories in my memoir in the making. For the full collection click here.

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Top: the youngest sister, Sabine. Bottom: the eldest sister, Cassandre.

 

Between every set of sisters is a dynamic as unique to them as their DNA, and each has a moment in their lives that can perfectly sum it up. The Joseph sisters have a habit of getting on each other’s nerves and laughing at the other’s pain, so naturally, this is how their defining sister story goes:

Two sisters–one young enough to still wet the bed yet old enough to form full sentences, the other a temperamental dancer very proud of and vocal about her various abilities–sit together on the eldest’s bed on a fine Sunday afternoon. This is a rarity in the Joseph sisters’ room: “You stay on your side and I stay on mine,” was the general rule, but today is a different day. Today they sit in peace for the first time in a long time, finally following their mother’s instruction to “play nice.”

They do for a while. Everything is gumdrops and lollipops until an argument starts out of the blue. There is no logic behind the spat–there rarely is when children are involved–but these two intensely emotional and stubborn sisters take it to the next level.

“Stop it or I’m gonna pee on your bed,” says the youngest.

“You wouldn’t,” her sister replies.

She’s right. Ordinarily, her sister wouldn’t dare making such a move; it could get them both in trouble and ruin a mostly perfect Sunday, not to mention doing so would be the classic rookie mistake of pulling out the big guns on the first play. But she wasn’t backing down.

“Oh yes I would. 1 . . . 2 . . .3 . . .”

And the stream begins flowing as she stretches out the final number for dramatic effect. It slowly creeps toward the eldest sister, gradually shrinking her dry mattress island. The eldest gives a horror-movie-worthy shriek of the simultaneously most comforting and terrifying word a child (especially a mischievous one) can hear: “Mom!”

So Mom came running. She first begins fretting over whether or not her babies are okay, then she takes in the scene. Her face shifts to slight annoyance upon realizing that her quiet time (the first she’s gotten in a long time) has been interrupted by what is not a life or death emergency.

“Bibine peed on my bed” the eldest complains.

The accused looks as innocent as can be despite the pool of evidence she’s sitting in, so her dutiful mother gathers her in her arms, ready to carry her to the bathroom for cleaning.

“Clean it up,” her mother says; you can almost hear the cartoon sound effect of the eldest’s jaw-dropping. She looks at her mother incredulously and her mother stares back with a look that says “Well? That wasn’t a request, so get going.”

As her mother cradles her, the culprit turns and smiles at the eldest like Michael Jackson at the end of “Thriller.” It is a memory that brings a smile to the youngest’s face and a cringe to the eldest’s to this day.

In Miami

By Sabine Joseph

In Miami,

Music courses through the streets like blood runs through veins.

It flows through its people, fueling them to create

Art that decorates every wall and amazes every passerby.

My own eyes can barely believe what they see before me.

I stand in the midst of such a beautiful city and thank God for what He created.

The Greatest Story I’ve Never Read

By Sabine Joseph

Miami:

For so long I’ve claimed

That it’s where I was born and raised,

But only recently did I realize

That’s a lie.

 

Well, not a lie really,

A half truth.

I was born there,

But raised almost everywhere else.

Some cities had “Miami” in the name,

Others didn’t,

But none could truly be called

Miami.

 

Yet, somehow I still feel that

Miami is home.

No matter where I go,

I will never have left.

I have yet to see the world,

Yet I’m sure there’s nowhere else like it.

 

Miami is like my favorite book

That I’ve never opened.

Written in its history and people is

A beautiful story

That I’ve never fully experienced.

It was a birthday gift from years ago,

But to this day I’ve only read the jacket.

 

From the cover alone,

I’ve fallen in love with the novel.

I long to crack it open

And lose myself in its pages.

Dive. (Part 2)

This poem is based on a quote from my last post.

Dive.

I’m standing on the edge of a new life,

My feet buried in the smooth sand below me:

It’s soft, comfortable, familiar to the touch

In front of me is the sea⏤

Vast, cold, and unforgiving

 

The sky above is blue,

Calm in the midst of chaos

I inch closer to the edge,

My breath hitches at the sudden touch of cold water;

I inch back

Fear is caught in my throat

Like a menacing manifestation of the sand below

Scratching, burning, making it hard to breathe

 

The tide subsides, the sand dissolves,

I breathe

A deep, shaking breath

I have only moments before the tide comes again,

I must make a choice

 

Do I stay on the shore:

Safe, secure, and stuck in the same life

Or do I leap into the water:

The dark, deep unknown

To transform into a new version of myself

 

The water is rushing back to shore,

I’ve made my choice.

I do not inch in either direction

For it is useless

I’ve chosen the water

And I cannot come to it slowly

The only thing to do is

Dive.

Women’s March on Washington Spreads Around the World

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

The day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, scores of marchers gathered in the capital, around the country, and around the world to make a statement for women’s rights in the Women’s March on Washington.

Alarming comments about women made by the President  throughout his campaign sparked the marches. These comments struck fear in the heart’s of women and ignited a fire that filled them with strength to fight for their rights.

According to the movement’s official site, the goal of the marches was for the groups targeted during the election— women, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, Muslims, those with disabilities, and those who’ve faced sexual assault— to stand up and “send a bold message to our new government on their first…

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Streep’s Golden Globes Speech Gets Political; President-elect Trump Reacts

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

The 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards took place on Sunday, Jan. 8, and prompted days of discussion in the media. Actress Meryl Streep was presented with the Cecile B. DeMille Award for her contributions to the entertainment industry. She turned her acceptance speech into a platform in which she expressed her feelings on Trump.

Streep used her influence as a revered actress to deliver a message about what the victory of President-elect Donald Trump means for American society. Trump’s actions during his presidential campaign impacted Streep, specifically the instance in which Trump mocked a disabled reporter.

“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out my head,” she said about Trump’s behavior.

His impression of disabled New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski at a rally in South Carolina is an instance often cited by his opponents. Trump has…

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Superior

The following is a true short story that I was asked to write for my English class. I may be updating it soon with any suggestions my teacher has for it. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

“You okay?” my friend Yvette asked. “You don’t look so great.”

“I’m fine,” I replied, “just a little nervous.”

That was a lie. I was more than a little nervous, I was so anxious that I felt physically ill. My nerves had progressed throughout the day and by 5th period when I saw Yvette my stomach was knotted so severely that I thought I might throw up. It made no sense, the competition was so many hours away and yet still I was already a nervous wreck.

That day, Friday, February 20, 2015, was the Solos and Ensembles evaluation for band students in all of Florida. It was my 8th-grade year and I’d already been to the event once before, but I didn’t do as well as I hoped and I was so sure the same would happen that night. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed because of the songs I was playing and how important they were to me. The first song I would play was Habañera from the opera Carmen, and I wanted so badly to play the piece well because years before my sister and her friends played it, as per the tradition at Miami Lakes Middle. I had planned to play the song in the previous year’s competition, but the other two flutists in the trio didn’t come through, so I had to wait another year to play it with new teammates. That year, I’d be playing with two 7th graders—  something unheard of at Miami Lakes because it was always the 8th graders who played the song—  but I had faith in Yvette and Nayeli, the only person I worried about was myself.

“Guys, would you mind running it again?” I asked my teammates.

“Yeah, no problem,” Nayeli replied. “Just let me finish setting up.”

Yvette, who had already assembled her flute agreed to play with us and went to get herself a stand.

We moved into the hall to get away from the noisy band room so that we could hear ourselves better, and when we were all settled— with tuned flutes, properly adjusted stands, and annotated sheet music— I led the group in playing one of my favorite pieces. We ran through it perfectly. And then again. And again after that. We’d played through the number perfectly a million times before, and we did it a million more times in that hour we took to practice. After the two millionth perfect run, when I was slightly more confident in myself, I broke apart from my group to practice my solo.

As nervous as I was for my ensemble, I was 10 times more nervous for my solo. My solo, called Air Gracile, was a lyrical piece— a challenge because of its high notes and slow pace. It would be the true test of my talent as a musician. Not only was I on my own— meaning there would be no one else to carry the melody and cover me up if I made a mistake, and there would be no one else to blame for a bad score— I was also playing the piccolo. While technically I played flute for three years (but if I’m being honest with myself it was only two) I had even less experience on the piccolo. I had begun playing in 7th grade, but since I had to share it with two other players it was difficult to really develop the talent for it. When I picked it back up in 8th grade I didn’t have to share anymore, but I still had a rocky start. Transitioning from flute to the tiny piccolo was strange, and it was all the more difficult when you factored in all of the piccolo’s mechanical issues that I had to work around. All of that combined contributed to the queasiness I felt when I contemplated playing my solo.

I practiced and practiced until the bell rang, signaling the end of the school day, and then for several hours after that until my mother picked me up to go home. Because of the fact that I lived so far from the venue, almost as soon as I got home I had to leave. I just barely had enough time to get dressed, sporting my formal band uniform— a tuxedo shirt with matching tuxedo pants and bow tie, accented with a maroon and gold vest that showed off my school’s colors and mascot— before running out the door to avoid being late. My mom told me to sit down and eat something but I couldn’t, there were too many butterflies in my stomach for me to have an appetite.

On the ride over I ran through my pieces a few more times. My sister who was in the car was delighted to hear me play her old piece.

“I’m so proud of you,” my sister squealed. “Hold on, I have to send a video of you to the old squad.”

I was all prepared to play for my sister’s old flute friends, but when I tried playing the first note, there was no sound.

“OH. MY. GOD,” I screamed. “The flute’s not working.”

I panicked. It could not be happening, not then, not less than two hours before the competition. I would definitely fail. Even if I could borrow a flute, I didn’t have enough time to get to know it, and there was no guarantee that it worked as well as I needed it to. I kept trying and after endless excruciating seconds, I got it to work again. I hadn’t realized that my heart had stopped beating until that moment when it started up again, beating so hard that I thought it would leap out of my chest.

The rest of the ride went fairly smoothly. I packed away my flute after the scare and I managed to get my heart rate to a pace that was only slightly abnormal. When I arrived at the venue, on time for the first time in my life, I spotted a sea of maroon in the middle of the courtyard and headed for it. I met up with the rest of my band and we walked in together carrying burdens much heavier than our instruments. My group and I got together and rehearsed the song one last time, and then it was showtime.

“Relax girls, you’ll do fine,” my band director said. “You’re capable players and if you play like you do in practice, you’re sure to take the superior title.”

With those words of encouragement, as well as some from our families followed by hugs and kisses, we stepped into the room where our judge awaited. I expected a dragon lady, but she was quite nice. She greeted us with a smile and a warm hello and waited patiently as we set up. When we were finally ready, we all took big breaths and started on the count of three. We played flawlessly and received compliments from the judge when we finished. Finally,  it was over. Or most of it anyway.

My solo was next, but the judge asked me to go get Yvette who had left the room because she’d be playing after me. I had to play in 5 minutes and it took way longer to find her, so when I did I rushed back to the room. Except the venue was a large and unfamiliar college campus, so I got lost on the way which stressed me out beyond belief. When I finally did get to my room, I was out of breath from running so far and my chest rattled with each intake of air.

“Are you ready?” the judge asked. I nodded in reply. “Alright, take a deep breath.” And I did, or at least, I tried to. I tried to suck in as much air as I could but my lungs couldn’t take in enough. I began my solo with a shaky breath and every other breath after was shallow and gave me just enough air to hit each note. Once again I received compliments from the judge when I finished, but this time I didn’t run off to find Yvette. Instead, I stayed to hear her play her solo, a difficult piece that my sister had played in the past, and she did so well that she made my sister and I extremely proud.

After that, to pass time before the results came out, I watched some of my other friend’s performances. I listened and applauded to several wonderful performances until it was time to see our ranks. All of my fellow bandmates gathered around the double doors where the scores were posted and waited patiently, for the most part anyway. I was so anxious that I paced and squirmed and stayed in constant motion just to give myself something to do.

“I’m starving,” I announced suddenly, realizing that my stomach had been begging for food as it had been eight hours since my last meal. I got a slice of pizza and a can of coke, the go-to band performance dinner, and continued pacing. What was taking them so long? I thought, and as soon as I did, the question was answered. A man stepped out from behind the double doors and said “Sorry, we’re having trouble with the printers. The results will be out soon.” They were not out soon. I waited forever before I finally heard the door cracked open again and the same man emerged with a group of helpers. We backed away from the door and allowed them to post the ranks, and as soon as they stepped back inside to safety, we pounced.

It was a like some kind of jungle fight. There were people biting and scratching and elbowing all trying to wiggle their way to the front to see how they’d done. When I finally got to the front I scanned the sheets quickly for my name.

It was a blur of names until I made out Yvette’s and saw superior next to it.  How great for her I thought, she deserved it. Then I glanced back at the same spot and realized something else; next to Yvette’s name was Nayeli’s, and then right after was mine. It couldn’t be. The score I saw wasn’t for Yvette’s solo, it was for our trio, and we got superior. I was so excited. I had lived up to my sister’s legacy and proven to myself that I could do it. Now, all that was left was to find my solo score. I knew it wouldn’t be superior, my mom and sister told me I that I played well, but also softly because I was short of breath, so I knew that would cost me major points. I went further down the list until I saw my name, but I couldn’t bear to look.

My sister took the burden upon herself and stepped up to the double doors. She looked at the spot that had my name and remained expressionless. I got more worried, if it was even possible at that point. Was I that bad? Did I get below an Excellent? Spit it out woman!

Finally, she turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said just one word: “Superior.”

Photo credit: Google Images