(photo taken in front of Huntington library)
Richard Damon S. Blacksher
Hometown/Location: San Bernardino, CA/Currently in Los Angeles
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I began my love for writing, like many young black kids, with poetry and spoken word.
Why do you write?
I write to exercise and process things that I couldn’t quite express in reality.
What is your favorite genre or style to write in?:
Outside of songwriting, I love writing short stories and screenplays.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It’s a tie between Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor. They both have a way of breaking down humanity to the simple elements of depravity without romanticizing it. Without getting too deep, they show the rawness of evil in a way that’s fun lol.
What books have most influenced your life most?
A Man Without A Country and Cat’s Cradle both by Vonnegut. Flannery O’Connor’s Complete Works as well as Mystery & Manners. And every novel by Octavia E. Butler.
Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice that you would like to share with us?
Yeah, from my girl Flannery and the wisdom for writers that is Mystery and Manners, she says “The writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live,” (pg 33) Do you have any advice for other writers? Flannery, (I swear I was her in a past life) warns us not to write for the sake of being a writer, or seeing our name on something printed. She says that there is no such thing as a writer. I’ll take it further and say that they are creators and should create for the sake building a world not making a profit.
Can you tell us a little background or anything special on the piece you composed?
As I struggle with my own multicultural make-up this piece was inspired by the time I had lived in Tokyo. Albeit, three weeks, the time I spent there had changed me. 2 years later I wonder who I am and where my home really is. But don’t let that influence how you read the story ;)
The Land of the Rising Sun
Victor Pruitt abruptly stopped cutting onions and ran his fingers along the edge of the linoleum counter. His eyes fixed upon the porcelain chopsticks in the sink. Heirlooms from his grandfather’s service in World War II. The stove clock blinked 4:30. He decided he had time to take a break from preparing dinner. He walked through the kitchen, scanning other objects from the old country. The ceremonial tea set. The pounds of rice packed within his pantry. The square bowls. The lotus decorated plates. He made his way into the living room. A solitary table with floor pillows for him and his wife. The only chair they owned sat in front of a desktop computer. He turned on the television to what appeared to be game show. A Japanese woman giggling hysterically in front of a glass of milk. The camera pans out and reveals her protruding Adams apple. A reality show perhaps? A talk show? “You can never tell these days,” Victor says aloud and unplugs the entire entertainment system. It had been a year since he and Hikari moved to Tokyo. A fantasy the two had always talked about but quickly became brooding reality when she moved to Kyoto to finish her Masters in Foreign Marketing. The couple married after her first semester abroad, dating for a total of seven months before the engagement. A new life with a beautiful city, with a beautiful girl. What could be better? Victor had some family here and his Japanese had grown exponentially since he began dating Hikari. Yet he often felt a sense of displacement. As if the land of the rising sun would shine a light on his suspicions that he would never truly fit in. Victor made his way to the balcony, staring out of the large sliding glass doors. The view is spectacular. Sunset over the Shibuya prefecture is the perfect marriage of light and color. Where the clouds do not beg for permission to beam as brightly as the neon signs. The orange colored sky with steaks of blue reaches for the tips of the skyscrapers with the blazing boldness. The kind of visual passion that long distance couples have after months of communication through Skype. Victor watches the colors blink and swirl and flirt. And he thinks, “Amalgamation” until the night shyly approaches the city. There is only darkness. If he were on the street, Victor would see the neon signs and the bright fashion of the locals. Every glance bursting with color atop pale skin, color upon gray stones. Corner and asphalt. Shop and street lamp. Everything sporadically screaming, yelling—all in a jig-jagged shout loud enough for your eyes to see, “I SWEAR TO GOD! I AM UNIQUE!” But from the top floor of the Golden Time apartments, all Victor can see is the blackness. Tokyo’s light ignores the stars. All but a handful have become invisible, erased by the massive city’s glow. “That damned glow. What are we so afraid of?” The glow pushes the night away. How can people be so afraid of the darkness? Vibrancy is as vivid in the night sky as it is a blinking yellow sign. Isn’t it? Or is it a cold marriage? The love of those long distance couples who realize that the idea of life together is harder than the issues that come with physical communication. The idea that city and night could share a life together works so well during the sunset but when he arrives, the night feels more lost than ever. A cold routine allows Tokyo to barricade herself from the night through an extra layer of linen. Her back towards his dark face. Maybe she has always hated the dark. Victor steps away from the balcony and heads back towards the kitchen until he catches his reflection in the black TV screen. His grandfather’s nose from Savannah, Georgia. Obaa-chan’s cheeks from Kyoshu. Kaza’s lips from Irvine and Daddy’s hair from Watts. He never noticed how separate his features were until now. How his face has warred with itself and divided what would be Black and what would be Japanese. Yet this skin, Victor sliding a finger down his face.” This skin is so dark. 99 Problems by Jay-Z interrupts his thoughts, Victor’s ringtone, notifying him of a text from his wife. Working late again. Please leave dinner in fridge. ^_^ Dinner? Victor goes back to the kitchen and realizes he’s left the onions untouched for two hours. Deciding, it might be best to go for take-out.
He wonders around Shibuya for blocks on end, passing restaurant after restaurant, all with bold bright signs. NOODLES AND RICE. STARBUCKS. SUSHI AND RICE. BECK’S COFFEE. CHICKEN AND RICE. COFFEE BEAN. PIZZA AND RICE. STARBUCKS. He finds himself at an intersection with a KFC and two McDonalds’ to either direction. With reluctance he walks into the KFC. The Big Mac’s here never seem to taste right. The restaurant is packed, yet Victor can’t get over how quiet it is. He had yet to understand how the Japanese could manage to be so quiet in public places yet Hikari was louder than any woman he’d met in LA. A man in spiked leather jacket bumps into him, jabbing Victor’s hand. The man bows immediately, whispering apologies as Victor turns around. “Shitsure onegaishi-masu. Sumimasen. Sumisamen.” “It’s alright.” Victor replies in American accented Japanese. Yet the man continues his apology. He seems to be in his late forties. Victor notices the brown rimmed glasses in his jacket pocket and streak of blue in the man’s hair. “Really, it’s alright.” Victor continues to the counter, leaving the man to wallow in his apology. He didn’t understand that either. What’s the point of dressing tough like that? Who does that fool? Victor orders and makes his way out of the restaurant carrying the food order for two in what looks like shopping bags. Convenience, he assesses. The lights are warm. Along with the hot food that swings past his legs with each step, Victor begins to sweat. Locals begin to stare at him but he assures himself that it is just his height. Standing at 6 feet 2 inches, he’s practically a giant in this country. He’d stare too if he saw an NBA player walking down the street. Maybe that’s what it is? Or maybe. . . Victor’s thought is interrupted by what appears to be his wife. He begins to shout her name but stops the breath suddenly, remembering that to make noise like that is considered rude. He couldn’t embarrass her. He follows behind, trying to make up for distance but is weighed down by the warm of the neon lights and the heat of the chicken across his legs. Crowds begin to swarm the sidewalks as he manages to get closer, but accessories of people poke and prod him accompanied by whispers of sumimasen. He maintains his eye on Hikari, over the heads of the crowd, still trying to make his way through the system of locals. They move like a school of fish all in one direction over the obstruction that is Victor. He finds himself at the busiest intersection, an eye still on Hikari. Each step with warmth and heat and sweat. Lights reflect his dark face, pokes and prods from locals. He loses sight of her. The billboards and neon begin to blur in his vision and all he can see is orange. Where is she? Where is Hikari? He turns ever more violently as he searches through the crowds, on the giant TV monitors overlooking the city that seems louder than ever. The woman laughing hysterically in front of the glass of milk. The neon signs buzz like a dozen hives on a farm. The people moving in systems through and around him, poking and prodding. A lull of sumimasen. Sumimasen. It’s too hot. Victor drops the chicken to the ground and runs to where he saw her last. Still panicked and sweating he tears off his shirt. He wants to scream but does not want to embarrass her. “Hikari,” he whispers. He manages to catch a glimpse of her smiling face. “Hikari.” He drops to his knees at the sight of the woman he loves. Yet a man, with a black studded jacket makes his way towards her, with a blue streak in his hair he kisses her in a way only long distances lovers could understand. In a way that light flirts with the sky, celebrating an escape from the darkness in the land of the rising sun.
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