It is Time! Again?

By Hannah Lee.

I ironically cried in The Lion King 3D, three times. The first was during the ‘Circle of Life’ opening when I realized I’d actually paid to have my cherished childhood experience ruined. The second time was when Mufassa died, and finally, when the credits rolled and I was reminded that I’d just paid to have my cherished childhood experience ruined, I cried again.

It may sound a little overdramatic, but considering Walt Disney home videos taught me how to use the remote control from the tender age of four, watching an old favourite 17 years later in 3D did something to taint that nostalgia. I found the visual conversion distracting, the catchy musical numbers I knew all the words to suddenly looked and felt like cheap stunts and worst of all, it crushed any faith I had in modern movie magic meeting the standards of days gone by.

When I left the cinema I snapped my 3D glasses (fuck… that cost me a dollar) wondering how anyone could have let such a travesty take over our screens. Why was it necessary to convert a perfectly good 2D film into 3D? And who in their right mind, with any respect for the original film, would buy into this molestation of a classic?

Read the rest of the review here: http://thefilmkid.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/it-is-time-again/

Lost

By Hannah Lee.

I felt it with the slamming of the door. I was floating in that strange limbo between sleep and consciousness when my heart seized up at the sound. I felt this cruel, acidic bile crawl up from my heart to the base of my throat, this awful wash of panic flooding my lungs, and I thought,

“This is it. This is the end.”

 

All of those terrible life choices – smoking, fish-like drinking, and one too many miscellaneous meat skewers and roller coaster rides were finally taking their toll. Dear God, don’t let this be the end. I pictured my landlady screaming her fat jowls off upon finding my stiff cold body, naked as the day I was born, my face frozen in agony. I pictured a weak turnout for my funeral. And as the heartburn slowly, painfully spread across my chest, I prayed for my soul as an atheist. And then, I think I fell asleep again.

When I woke up the next morning, drugged by a restless sleep, I found her things gone. It sounds dramatic, but considering she only kept her toothbrush and a hair dryer at my place, it was a pretty minor change. And yet, I felt like she’d cleared the place. I felt really empty about it. It was as though someone had taken something vital from me but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Like, someone had stolen my kidney without leaving a scar.

To the people in my immediate surroundings, my breakup and its emotional aftermath were as obvious as me wearing a gigantic sombrero made of lead – heavy, pitiful, and awkward. No one really knew what to do about it, and most people simply avoided pointing it out. I sensed my coworkers being sensitive to my silences. My unfocused staring at nothing in particular became a regular occurrence, and I was generally treated like an emotional ticking time bomb. I know I even looked like a sack of self-pity because a). strangers stared at me with concern, and b). if you only eat half-warm soup and sleep two hours, days at a time, you just naturally look awful. But here’s the thing – even though Michelle had walked out on me, both literally and figuratively, that’s not what I was sad about. I wasn’t angry or bitter or self-conscious. I wasn’t craving attention or condolences. The truth is I felt nothing. It was almost like I couldn’t decide what I felt. And that’s what got me down.

This went on for a month or so. And then I lost it.

There was this ring Michelle had given me as a birthday present a year into our relationship, and it fit so well on my finger, most of the time I forgot I even had it on.

Now on one fucking fateful night, I took it off to write. I’m a failing novelist see, so you’ll find me chained to my computer most days burning time with a fool’s dance on the keyboard. My desk at the time was cluttered with notes, wispy sheets of paper held down by the ramblings of a madman desperate for a good idea. Throughout the night I freely scrunched up notes, threw piles of them into the waste basket, took out my garbage when I needed a stretch, and added more notes to the rubble when I was struck with temporary genius. Coffee, after coffee, bathroom breaks one, two, three – the nights are never ending for the poor writer, both penniless and nowhere near ‘satisfactory’.

At three in the morning, when I’d given up on my writing, I turned to put the ring back on, and what do you know – it’s not there. I lifted a few pieces of paper nonchalantly, expecting it to be underneath. Nothing. I lifted piles of paper at a time. Nothing. And that’s when the panic set in.

I picked up every object on my desk and then I turned on my room. I searched with the meticulousness of a forensic team at a murder scene. I bent into impressive yoga positions so that I could squint into the darkest nooks, even though I knew perfectly well it couldn’t be there. Then I would return to places I’d searched earlier with the frenzied energy of a coke addict and the absent-mindedness of an amnesia patient.

As I searched, I cursed the ring. I blamed it for running away, for getting away from me. I then grew frustrated at myself for being careless with my belongings until it formed into the ugly, latent self-hatred I’ve had since pre-Kindergarten. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t a big deal, calmed myself, and took deep breaths, before plunging headfirst into the garbage bin on my street, digging frantically through old food and papers.

Then a single question entered my mind and it put my sanity up for interrogation.

 

Did I even have the ring tonight?

 

I didn’t have a straight answer. I started doubting myself. Mental snapshots of me taking off my ring began to flood my mind and I couldn’t pinpoint the exact time or place when I had neglected it. In fact, I even started imagining scenarios where I’d taken off the ring, but I couldn’t be sure if they had actually happened or not. The shadow of doubt grew bigger and bigger, and more frightening in the walls of my mind.

At a time like this, everything else in the world feels secondary to what you’re feeling. So I cried. It was all so futile and stupid. I cried like a bitch.

I never did find that ring. It took me a few days to get over it, but once I gave up looking for the ring, I started looking for Michelle.

I revisited places we used to hang out together. I returned to arguments and the times we’d bury our verbal hatchets and forgive each other. Or at least, I thought we’d forgiven each other. I covered every inch of our relationship before it occurred to me that that strange elusive moment in time when I lost her had escaped me.

There had to be a time when something clicked in Michelle’s mind and convinced her we were no longer working. At least I wanted to believe that there was, because I thought, if I figured out when that moment was, I could retrace my steps and get her back. Just like the ring. For a long time, I thought it was when we had that argument about visiting her hometown, because she got so upset she cried. But maybe that wasn’t it. Maybe she had felt something amiss long before that, and I just never noticed. There were too many possibilities, too many moments, and nothing certain.

I was leaving my apartment one day, and the door automatically slammed behind me with the same theatrical finality that she had given me in her last goodbye. My chest flinched in its vague memory of the chest pain, the heart attack, or more accurately, the most unpleasant of all heart problems, heartbreak.

I’m sure you know what it feels like to lose something you’re emotionally attached to. You feel regret for being neglectful, you despise time and fate and chance and bad luck. You can try and make yourself feel better by getting a replacement, and for some people that works. Some people wallow in their sorrow, and some people never stop searching, but fools like me, we wait. We wait in the vain hope that what’s lost will reappear naturally – that it will come back to you when you least expect it, or hopefully, when you need it the most.

A Goodbye Letter

By Hannah Lee.

Dear Ava,

If you could see how many times I’d written and rewritten this same letter, I’m sure you’d call me a pathetic, indecisive “poohead” (as you’ve become accustomed to calling me).

I’m sure you’d also ask me why I don’t put the same sort of drafting and re-drafting skills to my essays, which – in my opinion – have always been unfairly judged by the whackjobs who teach at this proud institution we call “university”/waste of money. I can’t wait to graduate next year and never come back. Although, knowing my luck, I will probably end up resorting to a teaching degree and be cursed to teach here forever. The irony of it would make me hang myself.

You’re lucky you get to escape this place as a fancy transfer student. But don’t you start thinking for a second that I’m jealous. Who would want to go to Paris when you’ve got the dry, barren land of Australia stretching out before you? I for one wouldn’t dream of leaving.

As you know, I’m no good at goodbyes. I avoid them when I can, and if I have to do it, they come out as weird adolescent grunts or bashful kicks of dust. My parents used to give me all kinds of shit as a kid when I refused to say goodbye to people e.g. relatives, friends, even my super hot babysitter. They thought I was being rude, but I just felt super awkward because I didn’t know what to say. As in, I didn’t know how to say a “good” goodbye.

I bet you a million dollars you’re thinking about my exes right now. Jessica, crazy Anna, Laura, and Bonnie. You’ve seen me say goodbye to every one of them, and naturally, they’ve never stayed in contact with me because of the quality of my goodbyes. But you’ve seen it all, heard it all, and I’m sure you’re psychological profile of me as a commitment-phobe with narcissistic personality disorder sort of plays into that.

You have to admit, I’m great at hellos though. Remember when we first met at that dress up party? I was Sigmund Freud, and you were a lobster. I wish we had taken a photo of that.

When you find this letter, I really hope you’re in Paris, settling in. In fact, the later you find it the better. That’s kind of why I hid it deep in your luggage. When you were staying at my place, and you were doing last minute checks around the house for things you might have forgotten, I was sneakily shoving this letter deep into the layers of shirts, socks, and underthings (excuse me) that made up your fat bag. Ps. You left your toothbrush behind.

I’m hoping that if you read the letter a bit later on in your journey, you’ll think of me despite the distance, and it’ll remind you to fucking call or write once in a while. Please.

Goodbye, Ava. I don’t know when I will next see you, but if you decide Paris is the place to be, and you don’t return to the good land of Australia, I want you to know that I will miss you. And I want to hear from you. I love you.

Best,

Michael “Poohead” Fraser

Reemergence

By Hannah Lee.

“In the seconds, minutes before I died, I remember shutting my eyes. I didn’t have the courage. I squeezed them so tightly, I thought my face was going to fold in half. I remember the man pressing the gun cold against my feverish forehead. I sensed his sweaty fingers readjusting themselves in a tighter grip.

He pulled the trigger.

And instead of the tense, panic-stricken black behind my eyelids, I saw white – the light of death. It was as though someone had changed the slides in the projector of my eyes.

With the white came a high pitched wail. It was thin, piercing, like the agonizing scream of a damaged ear drum.

This went on for several moments, but I don’t remember anything after that.”

The man in the grey jots something down on his notepad. He writes in a language I don’t understand, so there’s no point trying to sneak a read. I’m sure he’s recording everything I’m saying. Not on the notepad, but with hidden ears.

“And… is that all you remember from your first life?”

I nod.

“I need you to answer yes or no.” For his hidden ears, no doubt.

“Yes.”

“What do you remember about your rebirth?” he asks, pen poised to write again.

“I remember a lot of water. The first thing I felt was … a tickling in my ear… as though a small agitated insect had mistaken my ear for its home. I then realized it was escaping my ear. Water was being drained around me. I could hear it once the water level lowered in the tube. I felt the cold on my bare body. I lay in the empty tube for a long time before anyone came to check up on me. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my waking hours in there.”

“And how long has it been since your rebirth?”

“Seven days.”

“Do you remember your name? Who are you? Where you come from?”

“I’m not sure this is my first rebirth.”

This isn’t the answer he wants. All of his features are suddenly harder, rigid, unmoving. In a fraction of a second, the smoothness of his face has frozen with severity. He looks like a different person.

“I think I’ve been recycled.” I say. A small voice inside me tells me to be cautious with my words, but I have lost all timidity, all fear. My soul will simply enter another body if they wish to exterminate this one. It’s a guess, a conjecture, a hope.

“What makes you say that?” the man asks.

“My dreams. I see the light of death in multiple shades. I see the moments before I die, and they’re different every time. I’ve become so… accustomed to dying. I’m not sure what living is like.”

I’ve offended him. The man picks up his notepad and rises from his chair. Desperation weeps in my voice.

“Please don’t leave!” I plead. “Please!”

That night I dream of a snake. It is emerald green, calm on the surface, but seething in its tangled body. I kill it. I bury it. But it returns. I kill it again. I burn it. And thought it shrieks in the flames, it comes back as though nothing has happened. Time restarts and restarts in an endless loop.

I wake in a sweat. I don’t know where I am. My heart drops to my stomach. I don’t even know who I am.

I push myself out of a bed, bathed in the cold light of morning and find a door left slightly ajar.

A man stands in the center of the room, dressed all in grey with a gun hanging heavily from his hand. I taste a mixture of bile and dejavu in the back of my throat. He walks toward me.

I shut my eyes.

I don’t have the courage.

Wanderlust

By Hannah Lee.

EXT. SOMEWHERE IN QUEENS, NY – EARLY MORNING

A plane flies overhead against a grey sky. We descend on a car parked along an empty street of closed restaurants and odd shops. ALVIN (29), in the car, is straining his neck to stare up at the plane through the windscreen.

INT. CAR – EARLY MORNING

Once the plane is gone, ALVIN returns to his breakfast – an unappetizing bagel that looks a few days too old, sitting in tin foil on his lap. ALVIN stares blankly ahead,mechanically raises the bagel to his mouth, takes a bite, and lowers it back into his lap. He sighs through his nose while chewing.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – EARLY MORNING

A door unlocks. Small, rusted bells tinkle as the door is opened. Overhead lights flicker on. We see a large world map on a bland white wall, pinned with several plastic planes.

ALVIN dumps his keys on his desk and slumps into his chair.

Freedom Travel Agency is now open for business.

EXT. STREET – AFTERNOON

The world outside Freedom Travel Agency has gotten livelier.

The stores surrounding the agency have opened and people are walking up and down the street.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – AFTERNOON

EDITH (73) sits on the office couch with an excited smile of anticipation, her handbag nested in her lap. A Chihuahua sticks it head out of her bag. ALVIN stands at the printer, drumming his fingers as it whirs to life.

He pulls up a chair to EDITH with the printed page.

ALVIN

This is your itinerary. Just take this to the airport on your departure date. It has all of the information regarding the times of your flights –

EDITH leans in and squints through her glasses.

ALVIN

how long your layovers are, and arrival times at your destinations.

EDITH

(Taking the itinerary from ALVIN)

Oooooh I’m so excited! Can you imagine me – at my old age – seeing France! Nunu is very excited too!

Aren’t you boy? We’re going to see the Eiffel Tower. Yes, we are!

ALVIN stares at the dog with sad envy. The dog is oblivious to ALVIN and its upcoming tour of France.

ALVIN

Well, give me a call if you have any questions. And… have a great trip.

ALVIN forces a smile as he walks EDITH and NUNU out of the office. As EDITH is leaving, CARRIE (24) walks up from the street to enter. ALVIN looks confused.

CARRIE

(Smiling widely)

Hi!

She steps inside, past ALVIN, who looks as though he has just seen a mirage. It takes him a moment to unfreeze and shut the door behind him.

With her hands behind her back, CARRIE leans forward to peruse the world map. Her bright floral dress and thick red hair stand out against the bland whites and greys of the office. Her bright eyes dart across the routes on the map and she traces one with her finger.

From a distance, ALVIN stares at CARRIE. He is still, quiet, nervous. The sounds of a tropical rainforest fill his ears: the strange calls of animals, birds, the wind rippling through trees. Big fronds of ferns, lush grass, and exotic trees begin to appear around CARRIE, framing her like a rare creature.

ALVIN stands behind the trunk of a tree, spying on her.

CARRIE turns to him. Their eyes meet and we hear the loud flapping of a bird’s wings when it takes flight.

ALVIN, suddenly self-conscious, clears his throat. The office snaps back into reality.

ALVIN

How can I help you today?

CARRIE

I’m thinking about traveling to South America.

ALVIN

Okay –

CARRIE

But then I thought… I also want to see India. Australia. Japan…

ALVIN

You want to see the world.

CARRIE

(pauses and smiles)

I do.

CUT TO:

INT. ALVIN’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

ALVIN sits up in bed, staring blankly ahead. He tips his head back and closes his eyes.

FADE TO:

FLASHBACK – FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – AFTERNOON

We hear crashing waves. We see ALVIN plotting CARRIE’S trip using bright red string and pins on the world map. CARRIE is looking on excitedly, laughing occasionally, and enthusiastically pointing to different destinations. ALVIN happily follows her lead with the red string.

CUT TO:

INT. ALVIN’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

ALVIN opens his eyes and jumps out of bed with purpose. He digs through a drawer and finds a coffee table book. It is filled with photos from all over the world. He flips through photos of gorgeous locations – natural, urban, rural. He focuses on a photo of an Italian beach. He hears Italian opera and the sounds of a crowded beach. CARRIE appears in the photo, wearing a bright colored swim suit and a wide brimmed hat. He flips to another photo of a Chinese marketplace. He hears a Chinese violin, the chatter of street vendors, and superimposes CARRIE into the photo. She snaps a photo of him and laughs. ALVIN smiles to himself and continues flipping through the book.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – EARLY MORNING

The door bells ring as ALVIN enters the agency briskly. The lights flicker on and ALVIN stands back to admire the world map, lined with CARRIE’S future travels. ALVIN has combed his hair today and is dressed in a red vest.

He works at his desk with deep concentration, booking flights, looking up hotels, and discounted tours. CARRIE sits to his left,

CARRIE

(delighted)

Oh, thank you so much! You’ve been so wonderful.

Carrie sits to his right,

CARRIE

You’ve been so helpful with everything. I’ll send you a postcard and let you know how the trip is going.

Carrie walks up to him from behind, wraps her arms around him, and kisses him on the side of the forehead.

The tinkling of door bells wakes ALVIN from his daydreams.

He stops typing and looks up to see the real CARRIE standing at the door.

CARRIE

Hi.

ALVIN

Hi.

CUT TO:

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – MORNING

CARRIE sits on the couch with her handbag in her lap. ALVIN stands at the printer, smiling. He snatches the printed document and brings a chair over to CARRIE.

ALVIN

(enthusiastically)

So this is your trusty itinerary. It’s got your entire flight plan laid out. It has the departure times –

CARRIE

(snatching the itinery from ALVIN)

Oh! This is awesome! Thank you!

ALVIN

You can just take this to the airport –

CARRIE

This is great! Maybe I can give you a call if I have any questions, but I think I’m all set.

ALVIN

(a little flustered)

Yeah, I mean, I hope the trip is everything you want it to be. Um… let me know how it goes…

CARRIE looks up at him, sensing his nervousness. This makes ALVIN even more nervous. His breathing quickens.

EXT. A CLIFF FACE – DAY

From ALVIN’S perspective, we see his bare feet. He looks up to an expansive blue sky and the edge of a cliff. We can only hear his beating heart and tense breathing.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – MORNING

ALVIN

I was thinking… maybe…

EXT. CLIFF EDGE – DAY

ALVIN begins to run towards the cliff edge.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – MORNING

ALVIN

You could tell me about the trip when you got back… over coffee or something…

EXT. CLIFF EDGE – DAY

ALVIN leaps from the cliff with a sharp intake of breath. He falls through the air in silence.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – MORNING

CARRIE

(feeling uncomfortable)

Yeah… well… maybe I can just email you something. Um. Is this for like… a survey you do?

It dawns on ALVIN that CARRIE is not interested in him at all.

ALVIN

Yeah – Yeah it’s for a survey. Customer service. That sort of thing.

EXT. RIVER – DAY

ALVIN plunges into dark water. He sinks.

INT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – NIGHT

ALVIN has not moved from his seat. CARRIE has left hours ago. He stares at the empty space she has left on the couch.

He turns slowly and looks up at the world map behind him, still lined with the red string.

ALVIN starts taking the red string down, slowly and sadly.

When he is finished, he takes a moment to stare at the world map, stretched out bare before him. The red string hangs limply in his hand.He takes a pin, and sticks it into New York. He takes another pin, takes a moment to decide, and then sticks it into LA. He strings the two cities together.

He pins Hanoi, Kathmandu, Paris, Madrid, Cairo, Madagascar… the string travels across the world.

ALVIN stands back and looks at his own trip. His eyes light

up.

EXT. FREEDOM TRAVEL AGENCY – NIGHT

We hear the sound of a plane’s engines warming up softly. ALVIN turns out the lights of the travel agency. The volume of the plane’s engines increase. He locks the door behind him and walks off screen to his car. On the inside of the glass door is taped a sign: CLOSED, ON VACATION. We hear a plane taking off.

FADE TO BLACK