Tag Archives: Perception

Rotten Luck (Prompt Challenge)

“EeeeeeeeYAAAAAIIIIIIII!”

The shriek jolted me awake. I hung, bobbing a little, trying to gather myself together. I had just mustered up enough courage to pop open an eye, when –

“EeeeeeeeYAAAAAIIIIIIII!”

There it was again! My eye shut faster than a pea could snap. I trembled, leaves shaking, quivering on the vine.

“Knock it off,” came my sister’s voice, sleepy and irritated.
“Princess,” I whispered, admiring her audacity in talking down the noise-maker, “Did you hear it, too?”
“Hear what?” she said, more sharply. “I was talking to you, Runt! Quit shaking so much. You woke me up, and you’re making my leaves itch.”
“Someone was screaming! It sounded like there was a murder!” I cried. “You really didn’t hear anything?”
“Nothing,” she snapped. “You were probably just dreaming. Like I should be!”
“It was real!” I insisted, but quietly, to myself. I didn’t want to upset Princess any more. Her temperament matched her complexion, and she was hard enough to deal with well-rested.

“It was real,” I worried to myself again.
“Of couurrrssssse it was reeealllllll,” came a shadowy whisper overhead. There was a rustling, scuttling sound, as the spider plant to the left of our pot leaned over and brushed the top of my stalk. “Sweeeet baaaaby,” it hissed to me as I shivered, “You’ve never heard the carrotsss ssscreeeam before?”
“The what?”
“The carrottssssss. They ssssccreeaam!”

I had only ever seen the carrots when they traveled. We were very different. My family rested on the window sill, a group hangout of individuals in the sun. They nestled together, bunched up in the fridge. Still, they had always looked calm and happy.

“Why do they do that?”
“Ssseeeee for yourrsssself!” With a click, the spider plant shot out a tendril, nudging me into opening my eyes. “Overrr on the kitchen tablllle.”

I had to swing on my vine to see, bumping into brothers and sisters who sleepily protested. Finally, I was arcing high enough to get a view of the table. There was a group of carrots, set out on a plate. On my next swing, I saw a person standing in front of them, holding up a long blade that glinted in the light from the overhead bulb. Then, they brought the blade down.

“EeeeeeeeYAAAAAIIIIIIII!” The carrots screamed as their heads were chopped off.

“What the fig!” I gasped, staring at the disconnected carrot heads lying on the plate. Their faces made perfect, horrified, dead-vegetable O’s as the rest of their bodies were chopped up. “What the huckleberry is happening?”
“Guesssss,” said the spider plant. “Or…watch some mooore.”
I couldn’t. I shut my eyes again, tight, until I had stopped swinging. The sound of crunching filled the room.
“Yum, yum, yum!” said the person in the kitchen. I heard them pick up the knife, and open the refrigerator door.
“They’re going to do this again?” I asked, disbelieving. “What kind of monster can murder screaming victims over and over again, and be so cheerful about it? Don’t the screams bother them?”
“They don’t heeeaaarr themmm,” rustled the spider plant. “Carrot screamsss are too hiiighhh for their eearsss. I’m ssurpriiissssed that yooouu can even hear them. Mosssst other vegetablesss do not!”

That explained why no one else in my family had woken up. The sound of crunching, meanwhile, was overwhelming.
“Wait,” I said, “Hang on. So you’re saying that this sort of thing happens a lot?” The spider leaves were still, studying. “Vegetables being murdered, and chopped up, and eaten. This is normal? And no one is aware? No one does anything?”
“Did you thiiiink you would staaaaayyy on that vine forreverrrr?” was the response I got.

I had never thought about that. No one had, that I knew of. Not even Princess. She talked a lot about the duties and prestige of being first Heir, of growing and ripening. She threatened all of us with being dropped from the Heirloom vine before our time, but she never talked about what would happen when it was our time. Did she know?

She couldn’t. She got redder and riper every day. Why would she brag about that if she knew where she would end up? She loved to condescend to me, and often led the others in calling me “Runt”. Up until this point, I had hated being such a late bloomer. Now, I was grateful for it.

“You look paaaale,” whispered the spider plant to me, “Altogetherrr unrrripe. Not that you were very briiiight to being withhh. Stiiiillllll, now you are more yelllloww than orrrange! Feeling feearrrr?”
I didn’t answer him. I couldn’t. With the next “EeeeeeeeYAAAAAIIIIIIII!” I passed out.

 

I woke up and almost screamed. In front of our pot was the human from the night before, hungrily eyeing the family vine. Their hand reached out for me, and I shut my eyes as the palm cupped me. The fingers explored my surface. They squeezed me gently, as their thumb rubbed slowly against my skin. This is it, I thought, terrified. This is the end. I’ll be plucked off the vine, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it!

“Hmmm,” the person murmured. The outer corners of their mouth turned down, and I started to hope. “Yellow! That’s no good. Not like this beauty!” They let go of me, and moved up the vine to squeeze Princess. “You, my love, are just what I need. The sauce I will make with you! Yum!” Whereas I had been rigid with fear, Princess was reveling in this person’s hand. She blushed with happiness at their touch, turning an even deeper red.

“Princess,” I whispered to her, concerned. “Are you even listening to what this person is saying? Why are you okay with them grabbing you?”
Princess looked at me distractedly, with disdain. “Saying? What are you talking about?”
“You don’t understand?” I asked her. “This is not a good person!”
“Oh, be quiet, Runt!” Princess said. “All these stories you keep making up; things you claim to hear. You wouldn’t let me sleep last night, and now you won’t let me enjoy my massage. Don’t be jealous that mine is lasting longer than yours did!”
“Son of a brussell sprout,” I muttered, and began to think.

Princess was a goner, that was unavoidable. But I didn’t have to be. I thought about the spider plant last night, commenting on how the fear turned me pale. Then about the human dropping yellow me for the deep red Princess. This latest interaction made me realize: the humans only wanted to eat good vegetables. If I was undesirable, maybe I wouldn’t have to leave the vine.  

I waited until the human was gone, before swinging over to Princess.
“Princess,” I asked, “How did you get to be such a beautiful color?” She looked at me with condescension.
“Why do you ask, Runt?” she asked. “Trying to speed up your bloom? Tired of lagging behind? It’s about time you took pride in your appearance. Actually,” she raised her voice now, swiveling to address the rest of the family. “You should all be taking some lessons from me. I didn’t see any of you get as nice massages as I did, today. This family needs to get its look together. We are Heirlooms!” Our brothers and sisters dutifully listened as Princess laid out the steps to improve our image.

“As Heirlooms,” she lectured, “We need plenty of sunlight. The sun, the sun, the sun! This is the key to our brightest color, because it gives us our food. Sun, and water! You can’t have one without the other. Look at radishes! Those silly things, they only drink, drink, drink, and never see the light of day until they get yanked out of the ground! How pale and disgusting. And carrots! They stay underground for so long, they can only ever become orange!”

She went on, but I had tuned out after she mentioned the carrots. Sun and water, I thought. You can’t have one without the other. Without the sun, you won’t turn red.

I looked around the kitchen, still thinking. The humans had put pictures up on the walls, and occasionally referred to them. One was of an older, balder human, smiling over the rim of spectacles. His whole body was wizened, and it made his head look a little like a lollipop.

“Think,” I told myself. “You’re close to finding a way out of this. Think!”

“Ah!” came a deep, sing-songy voice to my right. “You must be the young Heirloom Houdini!”
“Excuse me?” I asked, looking over. It was the bonzai tree.
“Our spider friend has been talking about you,” said the bonzai. “You are the vegetable that knows its fate, and wants nothing to do with it. You want to avoid the human cutting board!”
“I will avoid it,” I said, wrinkling my skin as I tried to think harder.
“Why stress, though? You are in such an incredible position.”
“What do you mean?” I demanded.
“We all have our time to go,” said the bonzai tree. “We all have something we were created to do. Look at your own case this way: you know what your purpose is. That is unique – some might even call you special!”
“So,” I said slowly, “With my knowledge, I have the ability to avoid what will happen to all the others!” The bonzai leaves shook, and the tree hesitated before answering.
“Perhaps you could make a different fate for yourself,” it intoned. “But I do not think that you should try to fight what is meant for you. What I am saying, is that you are lucky to know what is coming.”
“How does that make me lucky? I’m miserable!”
“Would you rather be like your eldest sister?”
“No,” I said.
“Why not?” Bonzai asked.
“Because. She thinks the world is one way, when it isn’t. She’s going to die, and right before that happens, her entire world will be shattered. You’re asking if it’s better to live in ignorance or truth.”
“It seems that is what you are asking,” the tree said. “But you don’t get to choose that now. You cannot become ignorant to your fate. You can only accept it, make peace with it, and make the most of your life until then.”

I disagreed. I didn’t want to accept that fate. Casting about the room, my eyes landed on the lollipop man once more. Looking at that smiling old human, I finally came up with my plan.

Hunger strike.

 

From that moment on, I avoided the sun. It was hard at first, and cold. My body ached, but I made myself take comfort in knowing that as long as I felt the ache, I had a better chance at staying alive. I stayed between my sisters, underneath my brothers, pretending to boost others up in an effort to make them more beautiful. They thought I was strange, and laughed at me. Princess laughed the most of all, before she was plucked off the vine and lost her head. Her red truly was magnificent. All the humans commented on how it made their salads so “festive”. The currants. I didn’t mourn her. I didn’t have the energy.

Time passed. I got used to the near-constant headache. I stayed alive, as more brothers and sisters reached ripeness and were murdered for it. Eventually, another pot was placed beside mine on the windowsill. Cousins! I was determined to teach them my ways of survival.

“Stay away from the sun!” I would call to them. “Do not let vanity cause your downfall! Learn to love yellow, or you will end up in a stew!”

No one listened to me. The whole family thought I had lost my mind. My few remaining siblings only looked at my in contempt when I spoke out, and my cousins looked at me with pity, from their safe distance away in the sun. It was so frustrating. I did not want to see any more family members die.

“You have to believe me!” I cried. “You must understand! The only way to survive is to make the humans forget they could want you!”

 

“The thing isss” hissed the spider plant, eventually. “You mayyy not want to be forgottennn ACtualllyyyy. Neglect does you morrrre harrrrm than goooood!”
“How can that be possible?” I asked, unbelieving.
“Obsssserve the gourrrrrd,” said the plant. “I believe shee wasss meannnt to be ssspaghettiiiii squasshhh.” Long tendrils indicated an oblong shape lying in a basket. Squash was accurate. The poor vegetable’s head looked like it was near caving in. I noticed that there were other gourds in the basket, but they were all huddled away from the spaghetti squash, looking at it in disdain.
“Dragonfruit! What is wrong with that thing?” I asked.
“She neeedss cooking!” Spider snapped. “Yet she laaayyys there, untouched. A leper! And thiiiis is not her choice! She is loooosing her sennnses the looonger she laaays.”
“But why?”
“Because,” said the gentle, yet heavy voice of the bonzai tree, “She is not meant to stay forever. Her body is shutting down, and she is rotting. It is the course of things. There are some elements of nature you cannot cheat, and remain true to yourself. Even you, my friend. You may have found a clever way to avoid ripening, but you are nevertheless spoiling yourself, and I can’t believe you are enjoying your existence.”

I looked at my reflection in the window. I was pale, utterly unappetizing – and gross!

“Do I have chin hair?” I asked, looking at a small growth under my mouth.
“That is mold,” said the bonzai tree. “In an effort not to be murdered, you are killing yourself.” I thought about it.
“That means you were wrong, then,” I said. “You told me I couldn’t fight my purpose.”
“I said that you should not.”
“Well, still. All of that business about not being able to fight your fate, and the inevitability of our lives. I didn’t have to end up in some human’s stomach. Fig your fate!”
“You are correct,” sighed the tree. “Technically. Although, I still think you might have been happier accepting it.”

Just then, a human walked into the kitchen and found the rotting gourd. The rest of the squashes sighed in happy relief as their sick relative was lifted out of the basket, and carried across the room.

“Wait a minute,” I heard the human say. For the first time since before Princess’s butchering, I felt fingers prodding at my skin. “Yuck!” said the voice, and the fingers gripped me harder. I felt a great tug and tear as I was suddenly yanked from the vine.

I went flying through the air. Free! The sensation was incredible. I felt the stalks of mold stripped away in the flight, and I tossed my head, catching the light. The sunlight! Sweet, glorious sunlight, coating my entire body, kissing my delicate skin. I had missed it. It was a good thing, I knew, that I had already escaped the human-created death, because there was no way I could starve myself again after this replenishment. I sighed contentedly as I landed in the trash can, still lit up by the sun’s rays.

“Goodbye,” called the bonzai tree.

“Faaaarewellll,” whispered the spider plant.

“Yum!” sang the trash can.

“OOOMPH” the gourd and I grunted together, as she landed directly onto me, splatting the pair of us out of existence.

The Idea of Perspective FREAKS Me OUT

Ever taken a step back from a situation in which you’re dealing with someone who is clearly irrational and realized that, to them, you are just as clearly irrational?

I have dealt with some twisted people. The people who know that they’re twisted and continue to act that way because they don’t care, I may actually prefer them. While they scare me as people, and make me think about corruption and question humanity, at least I can be assured that we’re somewhat within the same mindset. We both know they’re in the wrong. I just happen to be the only one out of the two of us who has a problem with it.

Then there are the people who truly scare me. These are the people behaving in such twisted and such hateful ways without recognizing anything wrong with what they’re doing. You know that saying, “If you’ve got haters, it’s because you’re doing something right?” I do not like that saying, for this reason. To them, I’m the hater, and they’re doing everything right. I’m the twisted person.

Don’t your parents and peers ever put you into check? Doesn’t anyone ever tell you how Not Okay you are? I always wonder, before realizing that the answer to that must be No. However we all are, we have been fostered to be that way. That means that at either some, or multiple points in our lives, people have been encouraging the way we think, and telling us that our actions are okay.

PPHHFEEEWW! That’s my mind going off in crazy directions as I start to question whether I’ve been raised correctly, and if I have proper judgment. I’d like to think that I do, but I can’t really know anything. It’s pretty arrogant to assume that your perception of the world is correct. Not only arrogant; it’s stupid. We don’t know everything, and a lot of what we’ve been taught has been warped for some other purpose. This is how countries get locked into atrocious wars: excluding their enemies from their moral spheres of concern, with each believing that they are good and just, while the other is bad. We’ve seen Pocahontas, right? Disney’s illustration of the mirror image perception phenomenon was the only thing I didn’t have a problem with in the movie! This is how you get schoolchildren thinking that other people in other countries are evil. You don’t pop out of the womb with your mindset and lifestyle; you learn it.

On a smaller scale, I’m running into more and more people these days who have problems with each other, mainly because each thinks the other is selfish, only caring about themselves, while believing that they themselves are putting in all this effort to care for the selfish one. Does that make sense? Here I am in the middle, seeing how both of them are simultaneously selfish and selfless. Do I tell them, or let them silently stew at each other? And now, are people out there thinking that I’m selfish, when I think that they’re too self-absorbed? I’ve already admitted to being wary of my self-absorption, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve caught all of it. Oh look, here I am making two other people’s problems about me. Hmmm.

It’s just scary knowing that people out there are seeing the world differently, going by different moral compasses, and the only thing I have to guide myself isn’t even entirely under my own control.

I Don’t Want to Be an Elf

Do you know the story of the elves and the shoemaker? If you don’t, I’ll explain:

There’s a shoemaker who isn’t doing well, mainly because he is terrible at his job and can’t come up with new designs. He has one final order, and if he can’t deliver he’ll lose his business. He stays up all night trying to make decent shoes, but everything comes up terrible. In despair, he throws down his work and goes to bed, knowing he’ll wake up a failure in the morning.
He doesn’t. When he wakes up, there is a pair of spectacular shoes waiting for him. He sells them, pretending they’re his work, and all of a sudden he gets fame and recognition. Recognition for nothing. He keeps leaving the material out, and somehow each night new shoes are made.
Eventually, the shoemaker decides he wants to know what’s going on, so he pretends to go to sleep, but actually spies on his materials. After a while, he sees two little elves come out of his chimney, and he watches them create the most beautiful shoes of all. The next day he sells them, of course, and waits for the process to repeat. Except this time, the elves don’t come. He’s forced to make the shoes himself after that, but with the knowledge he’s picked up from spying on the elves, it’s a lot easier. Also, he’s become so famous that no one even cares about the quality of his goods anymore.

The point of me telling that at all is that I relate very strongly to the elves. I feel like a lot of the work I do goes unrecognized, either because people don’t think to be appreciative of it, or because someone steamrolls me and takes credit for everything I’ve done. Even if they don’t mean to do it, the more dominant personalities stifle my voice, while stealing my already-spoken words.

It sucks. For reasons other than it just being annoying to have your work stolen.
It sucks because when things like this happen, I’m the only one being inconvenienced. If we’re working toward a common interest, putting a project together, or generally trying to help people, the end goal is to accomplish whatever we’re accomplishing for the sake of the accomplishment. Does that make sense? It shouldn’t be about praise for the people working, but about actually doing something and reaching a goal. I’m actually all for team effort without any “I”s. I prefer it. However, when someone from the rest of the team tries to step up and get “I”-Recognition, with my work, I have a problem.
The thing is, I’m usually the only one who recognizes that the person accepting praise doesn’t really deserve it. And what can I do about that? I can’t correct everybody, saying that the person who should really be praised is myself, because I don’t want praise. I want to help people. It would also make me look like an asshole. The only thing worse than a person accepting credit for what’s being done is the person who actually deserves the credit, saying that they deserve it. It’s like George Castanza with his Big Salad situation.


I feel for him, slightly. Correcting the mistake makes everything about you, instead of the people or things you’re trying to help.

I recognize this. It’s the reason I’ll stay silent while inwardly, simultaneously cursing the other person for their thievery, and being disgusted with myself for being insecure enough to be bothered by it in the first place. Oh, my beautiful, painful head!

I don’t want this to happen any more. I don’t want to be an elf that people can walk over. And yet, because I actually care about what I’m doing, I don’t know how not to be.

To the Old Man in Rite Aid who Told Me To Smile

Dear Man,

First of all, I’m sorry for calling you old, only because that makes it seem as if you were some dirty old man, which you weren’t. I’d like to think that you had the kindest intentions when you came up to me, but the fact remains that you were older than my father, and you really shouldn’t have walked up at all. This is the only apology you will receive from me.

It used to be that when I went out alone, I would put on the meanest face possible, just so people wouldn’t talk to me. Then I got sucked into the world of retail, where you have to look somewhat approachable at all times, and most of the meanness melted away out of habit. When you caught me on line at Rite Aid that day, I wasn’t thinking about my face at all, because I was caught up in trying to separate my thoughts. One thought floated out from the rest: it’s good that I’m around strangers, because I don’t care about these people, and I don’t have to worry about what they’ll think if I absentmindedly start acting unhappy.
It was at this moment that I noticed your slow approach. I figured you would pass by me, and then when you opened your mouth, I got ready to tell you that Yes, the line formed behind me.

“Smile,” you said. (What? I thought)
It was the first time this had happened to me. How do you like that, Man? You were my first. I’d heard about the Stop Telling Women to Smile campaign, and taken part in enough discussions about the liberties men take on the street to make me never want to walk outside again, but this was my first “smile”. It wasn’t until you actually told me to rearrange my face in a way that would be more pleasing to you, that it really hit me how outrageous that command is.
“You’re too beautiful to look unhappy,” you informed me. (What? I thought, and then a confusion of Who’s, How’s, and Why’s)
That was just, there was so much to go off of that one comment. First of all, I was aware of the fact that you believed you had complimented me. Of course! You called me beautiful. Unsolicited, in line at a Rite Aid, where I was minding my own business, you came over and let me know that you found me attractive, and this was obviously supposed to make my day. Never mind the fact that you just twisted your “compliment” into a way to completely invalidate my feelings.
Where do people get the idea that attractive people must be happy? Does no one realize how wrong that is, or are we all too shallow? I remember reading an article about a girl who was bullied so much that she jumped off of a bridge. The article showed a picture of a smiling, blonde, and yes, attractive, young woman. What did people comment about? Not about how awful bullying is, or how there need to be more supportive groups to prevent suicide, or anything that could have led in any way to some type of resolution. Almost all of the comments were along the lines of “She was so beautiful. Why did she have to die?” or, “This is so sad. She was so pretty.” Would it have been any less sad if she hadn’t been attractive? Her beauty didn’t keep the bullies away. I wonder if she tried to tell people about her problems, but was waved off because she was “too beautiful to be unhappy”?
I was also simultaneously aware that if I didn’t say thank you or appear pleased and gracious in some way, I would seem rude. That’s what society instills into girls. “Don’t ask for it, and don’t encourage anyone, but if you don’t take everything guys yell at you with a smile and a thank you, and if you don’t acquiesce to whatever they want, you’re a rude bitch!” There was no winning, and I didn’t feel like being particularly polite, so I smiled warmly into your eyes and simply said, “Ohhh..” Man, did you even recognize that as my pathetic attempt at shutting you down?
“It could be worse. You could be dating me.”
Apparently, you’d missed my rudeness. You were suggesting that I would ever be in a situation in which we were dating.
I don’t like absolutes, and I’m not judging girls who get involved with men five times their age, but that is not my style. This comment was so ridiculous, if I could have processed it entirely, I probably would have laughed. Or not.
I was already realizing that Not Only were you injecting unsolicited opinions into my life, Not Only were you de-legitimizing my feelings, but now you were Also making the assumption that any emotional turmoil in my life will have to do with whomever I date. It’s not like I could have complex issues going on that don’t involve my vagina. I was just a pretty face to you, and ornaments don’t have real feelings.

********************
I was crying in the hallway, a couple weeks after Edward had jumped in front of his train. My friend was comforting me. By all appearances, we were skipping class, and before long a security guard came up to us.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. I was fine ignoring him, but she seemed uncomfortable with the situation.
“Is it boy trouble?” he prodded.
That made me look up. He honestly thought that I would skip class to cry in the hallway about a boy? He genuinely believed that my life was so shallow, so predictably teenager-ish that that was the situation at hand? Offense made me almost forget the reason we were out in the first place.

No” I spat at him, with all the contempt I had the energy to muster. He looked extremely taken aback.

**********************

“My name’s ____” you said with a laugh, and I was grateful, because I really didn’t know how to respond to your previous comment.
“Nice to meet you,” I quietly lied, knowing that I would not give you any name in return.
“You have a nice day,” you said.
“Thanks, you too,” I responded, as the cashier was finally ready for me. Asshole.
The worst part is that I know you didn’t have malicious intentions. You genuinely thought that what you were saying to me was okay. I’m sure that there are people who will say that I overreacted to the situation, even though outwardly I simply let it happen. The thing is, I know that my feelings are valid. I find it so stupid that guys can do or say pretty much whatever they want to girls, and if the girls let their offense be known the guys turn around and say that the girls are wrong. How can you really stand there and believe that what you said wasn’t offensive, if multiple people are offended? Are you really so wrapped up in male privilege that self-reflection doesn’t exist in your world? I guess so. And is it really so wrong for females not to fall over in appreciation of your attention? Apparently, because now I feel guilty, and sorry for you, that I called you a name in my head.

Whatever, though. You may not be an bad person in real life, but that was a bad move.