for the purpose of saving memories...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tink! Tonk! and the Land of Gaming

Perched on the edge of my bed cradling my MacBook on my lap, I back spaced for the tenth time. I was trying to remember the name of a computer game I had played as a four year old. Last week someone had asked me what my all-time favorite video game was. I readily responded with Final Fantasy III for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Their next question, what was the first game I had ever played, had me stumped. I barely recalled an image of a little blue alien and his red friend in a digital world I helped them traverse. Short of an answer to what they were called I said, “Those little guys, you know from the eighties.” I motioned with my fingers to emphasize how small. 

These little guys, however forgotten, had been my first submersion into the gaming world. They served as an epoch which lead to the joys of exploring the land of Zelda with a fairy at my shoulder, tailoring a light saber to my personal specifications as a Jedi Knight, and gaining over 9,999 hit points in a band of misfits set to a score composed by Nobuo Uematsu. Back on my bed, my dad walked out of the room across the hall; reluctantly, I called out to him.

“Hey, Dad, do you remember that old computer game I use to play with the little guys in it?”

“Tink! Tonk!” my dad said with a shrug of his shoulders.

Mystified that my sixty year old father could remember the name but I could not, I quickly typed it into the Google search bar. Instantly images of these little men, now known as Tink! and Tonk!, were displayed on my screen. This educational game series, originally released in 1984, was produced by Sprout with artwork by the noted children’s author Mercer Mayer. On my laptop, I pulled up image after image of these little guys with each acting as a portal to the past. 
It was not the computer game itself that had spurred my love of gaming, but rather who was playing it with me. My brother Dole, who is fourteen years older than me, would sit in my parents den and help my tiny hands navigate Tonk in the Land of Buddy-Bots to collect all of Buddy-Bots’ missing parts thereby saving the world. For me, gaming has never been about leveling up or discovering a secret room, however cool those prospects might be. Gaming has always been about togetherness and family. Perhaps that is why some of my favorite games can be easily played in groups. 

Tink! Tonk! was the extent of my gaming until the Christmas of 1992 when my parents bought our first Nintendo System. I remember waking up late at night on Christmas Eve only to see my mother and oldest sister laughing and playing a weird grey and purple contraption hooked up to the television. The screen displayed a little man dress in green brandishing a sword who my sister was directing towards some guards. Link was just that, a link between the game console world and myself. He opened up the door to other wonderful and awful games alike such as: Earthworm Jim, Mario Brothers, Mario Paint, Where’s Mario, Mario Kart,Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and, the best game of all time, the United States release of Final Fantasy III

There was one particular aspect to Final Fantasy III that concreted my love of video games. Before this game, which released when I was eight, my siblings and I would trade off the controller after someone died or did not complete a level. This system was inherently flawed in major ways especially when my older brother, Luke, would declare while glaring at my brother Aaron, that it was still his turn because he would not have died had someone not walked in front of the television. Final Fantasy, however, had the capability for two people to play the game together. So, Luke and Aaron would play on one save slot while Mary, Katherine, and I would save our game on the other slot. Still to this day I can hum the tune from the opera scene and Katherine will laugh and sing the accompanying words.  

The first console system I ever purchased was the Nintendo Game Cube. There were two games in particular that my friends and sisters would always gravitate to on this system. In the first game, Mario Party, each player picked a legacy Mario character to move around a game board. At the end of every round all the players would compete in a mini game either as a team or against each other. The best mini game, by far, was Cony Island Dash where each player had to catch as many falling ice cream scoops as possible. The player with the most scoops on their ice cream cone won the game. The other title we would often play, Smash Bros., was also a legacy game, but this one encompassed all major Nintendo characters from Earthbound to Kirby.   This game was similar to Soul Caliber in that players battled against each other to be the last character standing. I cannot count how many Saturday afternoons my sisters, Katherine and Jessica, my best friend, Lindsey, and I would play these two games. 

There was just one last game that I readily recall as being an all-time favorite multiplayer game. Sometime around 2002 Lindsey rented a little known game called Balder’s Gate for her Playstation 2. This game while relatively insipid allowed for two players to slash through ten different dungeons together, in a game play not unlike Gauntlet Legends. The best feature of the game was that is allowed for friendly fire, or for your team mate to potentially slaughter you in the foray. This often happened but ultimately resulted in laughter as Lindsey, my sister Katherine, or I accused each other of causing someone’s untimely death. 

Each of these games, taken by themselves, has help polish my gaming skills and deepened my admiration of gaming. Together, however, they show where my affection for video games really stems. Each game I have ever played was with a family member or friend. So, it is not just the games I remember as I reminisce, but the surrounding people. This one reason is perhaps why I do not game as much as I once did for I no longer have a partner. I still tease Katherine, who has probably gamed with me the most, that she will always been the brawn while I am the brains behind each game conquered.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Chimera

Now I sit and contemplate 

The past as it were.
Raw emotions and feelings
Bubble up unbidden.
Out of the recess of my mind
Dark images take shape.
Fingers curl ‘round my neck,
Sharp little teeth.
Disjointed, ripped in two
I watch the scene unfold.
Blood drips from a torn lip
Cascading down my face.
One small word, uttered quietly
Unleashes horrors untold.
His pathetic rage only stoked 
By my little thought
In the almost apartment that we shared
He changed shape;
A hoped for Chimera 
But in the end a monster, a mistake.

Thrown against the wall once more
I took refuge in memories;
Laughing, crying, sighing
In a far off place.
From these images, these memories
A sort of strength arose. 
Soft hands, a remembered smell
People I once knew.

From it I built a wall of protection
To carry through the night.
This strength was not my own
But borrowed from a greater force
On that night he beat me for the last time
These choices I have made they are all mine,
But what saved me from this past

Juxtaposition (complete story)

Intermitting red flashing lights demanded my attention. It was the answering machine signaling a message. Rather than going to retrieve it, I walked the opposite direction into my apartment bathroom intent on taking a shower.  
“I’ll get it later,” I declared to no one in particular--I was alone and enjoying the stillness of singularity.
 As I was drying my hair from the shower, just beginning to feel refreshed, the telephone rang again. Completely unwilling to let anything disrupt my tranquility, I let the phone go to message. 
“Sydney,” it cried out. “Pick up the phone. You have to come to the hospital.” There was a pause and then, “It’s your sister Annalise.
The end of the message was blurred by barely restrained sobs. My mother had just called to inform me of my sister’s return to the hospital. I silently cursed Annalise for ruining my afternoon. It was probably more hospital treatment, in which case there was nothing I could do to help the situation. As much as I loved my sister, I also hated her. I hated her for always being more important than anything I could ever do or be.  
I walked to the kitchen, taking a quick survey of my surroundings-pristine white walls, accents in light blues and greens. These were all colors which reflected a lighthearted attitude I could never quite achieve. My new apartment still had unopened boxes stacked in the corners. I promised myself I would get to them later, maybe after a trip to the hospital. I had moved to this particular location because of its distance from Rush Memorial. I anticipated my parents staying the night on those occasions when Annalise was so sick they would have to remain in the city. Now, I regretted the proximity.
I hadn’t always felt so dissociated with my parents and Annalise. When we were younger, I had defended her with a vigor only an older sister could. I taught her how to bake in my play oven, how to find the square root of a number, and why you should never, ever cry over boys. I was the mother when our own was too wrapped in her own sorrows; a teacher on days Annalise was too sick to go anywhere; and a sister the rest of the time. I lived in this role until I was offered a sort of freedom, but it came with a price. College changed me; it made me bitter and cynical. Now I was too smart, too educated for my sister who had dropped out of high school my sophomore year of college. 
Annalise had claimed there was nothing school could ever teach her that she needed to know--she had bigger plans. She wanted the kind of knowledge you cannot get from books or teachers. So she learned to live on practically nothing, working at a small organic grocery store and refused to take money offered to her by my parents. We, who were so close at the start of our lives, grew apart bit by tiny bit. I couldn’t bridge the gap that had grown between us, couldn’t reach for my little sister’s soft hand with the assurance that she would grasp my own, couldn’t brush the hair from her face or the tears from her eyes.  
Beep, beep, beep. That sound, that dreaded sound of the heart monitor punctuated the room. Annalise couldn’t remember how she ended up here in this white gown with an IV taped to her arm. Barely able to move her head, she looked at the already purple bruise created by someone’s unskilled hands. Other parts of Annalise’s body were bandaged and bruised to the point she could no longer recognize herself. All these facts, individually horrific, added up to just one thought, Rush Memorial Hospital. Annalise was apparently making a return trip, but not for the usual reasons. The bruises, the bandages, the massive amount of pain did not equate to her reoccurring kidney failure. Something else, something entirely new had gone wrong. One quick survey of the room told Annalise she was alone with her parents, no Sydney in sight. 
“Oh, George. George,” her mother’s shrill voice stabbed through the air “I think she’s awake.” 
Annalise wasn’t ready to deal with her mother yet, wasn’t ready for the hospital trip to turn into something about her mother. 
“Annalise. Annalise, baby, Mommy’s here.”
She tried to move her mouth, tried to tell her mother to go away, but it took too much effort. Instead, Annalise closed her eyes and concentrated on sleep. 
Sometime later in the night, well after visiting hours, Annalise remembered what had happened. She was on her way out of the city to visit a friend when another car crossed the median and crashed into her. Years ago, her parents had tried to convince her that driving was too dangerous. Only Sydney, despite a reserved attitude, understood the need for freedom. She was the one who secretly taught Annalise how to drive.   
Like so many other things in life, Sydney gave Annalise her wings. Their parents would blame Sydney for the car crash and she would suffer silently, all the while wishing for their affection. Sydney would make a martyr out of herself on the alter of her parents need for persecution of Annalise’s unknown illness. Annalise closed her eyes one final time, unwilling to let Sydney suffer anymore.
I had intended on eating a bowl of cold cereal, but thoughts of my little sister in the hospital brought a curdled taste to my mouth even before I had poured the milk. With growing urgency, I changed out of the robe I donned after the shower and grabbed my wallet and keys. The distance from Rush didn’t really merit getting my car from the parking tower, but the surrounding area did. I guess you really couldn’t win. Great apartment. Bad neighborhood. 
I felt the purr of the engine as I started my car; it gave me a sense of power in an otherwise uncontrollable world. Usually, I would drive slowly, purposely angering my fellow drivers, but tonight I was on the offensive. No one could drive or change lanes fast enough to make me happy. I pressed on the horn and the gas pedal simultaneously, worried I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.   
The curtain and blinds of the window had been pulled aside to allow thin shafts of light into the room. Annalise watched as dust particles danced around, never quite landing, but frozen in time and space. That’s just how she felt at the moment--permanently suspended. 
To keep from dwelling on the nagging feeling of hopelessness, she traced her fingers across the pattern of the faded arm chair. Sun bleached green and red fleur-de-lis reminiscent of the French monarchy were prominent in the fabrics design. Perhaps the owner of the arm chair considered themselves a descendent of a royal blood line. 
Other people shuffle in around Annalise, briefly sitting, heads down, whispering quietly amongst themselves until they progressed into the adjoining room. No one approached her or asked why she was sitting in the arm chair. No one spoke her name or even looked at Annalise. She caught a familiar face out of the corner of her eye. Happy to see them she raised her hand in an inaudible hello, too afraid to break the silence; but they refused to look her way. Slightly hurt, Annalise reasoned they probably hadn’t noticed. 
Now that Annalise’s gaze had been broken from the window, she looked around the room. Everything was in varying shades of green, red, and gold--warm colors in an oddly cold environment. A piano stood in the corner opposite the front door and coat closet while a large wreath of flowers was positioned in the other. She began to notice a soft melody, but it wasn’t emanating from the piano. Rather, it drifted in from the other room and like a beacon or a siren it hooked her into its pull. With muscles stiff as if she hadn’t moved in years, Annalise pushed herself out of the chair and slowly walked forward. A sense of foreboding told Annalise she needed to remain inconspicuous, but upon entering the room obtrusiveness became the last of her worries. Annalise’s older sister, Sydney, stood at the head of the room tears sliding down her face as she silently moved her mouth. Sydney was in a desperate struggle to force words from her unwilling vocal cords, for next to her lay Annalise’s body. 
I stood at head of the room, vision blurred by tears. My mouth worked to force out the words of my speech, but no sound was audible. I looked up at the many faces hoping someone would save me from my anguish. Surely they can all see I am not fit to deliver Annalise’s eulogy. 

My eyes rested on a figure standing in the doorway. Who would come to a funeral late? Hands tensing, I crumpled the paper between them and tried to focus on the figure until my vision steadied. There she stood, Annalise, looking gorgeous and completely heathy. She had on the delicately silver beaded cocktail dress she had worn to our parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary only a few months ago. I remembered her laughing, vivacious with life yet vainly trying to conceal the dark spot in the crook of her arm and the circles under her eyes. These were the signs of an illness that traveled with her, but never consumed her.
In the short time since Annalise’s death, I had been to the doctor twice. Each time I returned home with a new drug for sleep, but nothing worked. I blamed myself everyday for teaching her to drive, for her death, and for not getting to the hospital in time. It wasn’t fair that Annalise died from a car crash and not her illness. In the past I had tried so much to help her, to protect her; but in the end, I had given up on her. I took Annalise for granted and now I was left with a bone deep ache. I missed the relationship I had willingly given up because I had lost sight of the importance of sisters. 
I looked from Annalise to the body shrouded in white silk laying next to me and back again. Nothing made sense, I really had gone crazy with hallucinations. She smiled at me and then did something only Annalise would--she stuck out her tongue. I laughed, the crowd must think I’m crazy now. Truthfully, I didn’t care what they thought; all that mattered was Annalise. She was here, even if only in spirit. She wasn’t angry with me for not getting to the hospital in time. Annalise, in her own non-conformative way, came to say good-bye. A smile crept to my face as I realized nothing would break my bond with Annalise. We would always be a part of each other. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Last Post?

On the first day of my creative writing class I found out that I would have to maintain a blog. This task may not seem daunting, but I have never been one to even keep a diary. In the past I would buy journals and diaries in hope that something would inspire me. I would write and write but only be left with pompous descriptions of boring events much like John Smith’s diaries. No one wants to read about what you eat, read, or do on a daily basis. Lets face it, these were not great literary feats. 
I briefly entertained the idea of keeping a product review blog because that was the only type I had ever read. My first review ended up a reflection on my childhood and memories in general. This is when I developed my blogs name, Salted-Away. I would devote my blog to memories and thoughts or feelings I wanted to remember. The words for my first two blogs flowed from my finger tips like water from a spout. It was as if someone were channeling my body to write--maybe this is what inspiration feels like. I am not the next Charles Dickens writing on social issues, but I truly had fun writing them. 
After these, followed a poem written when I should have been listening to a guest speaker in class. Certain words would pop into my head unannounced, demanding attention. My fingers itched to cement them on paper as my pen hastily scribbled in sloppy cursive. 
The same can be said for my recent post Juxtaposition. I started this blog in class which seems to be my muse; however, I eventually turned it into a short story about the relationship between sisters. This post will be my last for class which leaves me feeling a little empty. Over the last few months I had begun to look forward to writing each new entry for my blog. But what will I write about now? What will give me inspiration? 
The conclusion I have drawn is: what’s to stop me from writing and while I will miss the class it has given me tools. So, I will continue to write and class will continue to inspire me. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I should clarify that this is not a personal story, but a work of fiction. I wanted to write something from a different perspective and I came up with this story. I hope you enjoy!

The curtain and blinds of the window had been pulled aside to allow thin shafts of light into the room. I watched as dust particles danced around, never quite landing, but suspended in time and space. That’s just how I felt at the moment--permanently halted. To keep myself from dwelling on this nagging feeling of hopelessness, I traced my fingers across the pattern of the faded arm chair. Green and pale red fleur-de-lis reminiscent of the French monarchy were prominent in the fabrics design. Perhaps the owner of the arm chair considers themselves a descendant of a royal blood line. Other people shuffle in around me, briefly sitting, heads down, whispering quietly amongst themselves until they progressed into the adjoining room. No one approached me or asked why I was sitting in the arm chair. No one spoke my name or even looked at me. I caught a familiar face out of the corner of my eye. Happy to see them I raised my hand in an inaudible hello, too afraid to break the silence; but they refused to look my way. Slightly hurt, I reasoned that they probably hadn’t noticed me. 
Now that my gaze had been broken away from the window, I looked around the room. Everything was in varying shades of green, red, and gold--warm colors in an oddly cold environment. A piano stood in the corner opposite the front door and coat closet while a large wreath of flowers was positioned in the other. I began to notice a soft melody, but it wasn’t emitting from the piano. Rather, it drifted in from the other room and like a beacon or a siren it hooked me into its pull. Muscles stiff as if I hadn’t moved in years, I pushed myself out of the chair and slowly walked forward. I tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible for I would be the last person into the room. Upon entering obtrusiveness became the last of my worries. My eldest sister stood at the head of the room tears sliding down her face as she silently moved her mouth. She was in a desperate struggle to force words from her unwilling vocal cords, for next to her lay my body in a coffin. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Creative Writing

A few weeks ago we had a poetry reading in my creative writing class. A local poet read some of her personal poetry as well as a collection of her favorite poets. Although I do respect the poet, she did not use the style I am either accustom to or like. I generally pay attention when in class, but my pen had another intention. This is what it was: 
She stood at the podium 
Shifting, feet twitching.
The students gaze unnerving
In her hand a book.
Tattered and torn, worn
Beloved not forlorn.
A cough, she reads aloud 
T.S. Elliot, Magi--gave inspiration.
Her own poetry a duplication-
From teacher to student. 
Iambic pentameter not lent
She speaks of physics, science.
Illusions of birds 
Describe feelings in words.
They evoke sensibilities.
Religion her root 
An exploration, inspiration permute.
A course that lead to the future. 
New life allowed
The expansion from imitation.
This course a form of liberation. 
And now-
Now she stands before us.
An example-creation of poetry.