“Coming of Age” and “Funeral Song” by Tatiana Ryckman

VHS and Why It's Hard to Live

The following stories are excerpted from VHS and Why It’s Hard to Live.

Coming of Age

Oma said, “Love and hate are not opposites. They are two sides of the same coin.” I didn’t truly understand this until much later, when an ex-boyfriend moved in with a woman he’d always complained about. I think this is also the explanation behind rape fantasies? Oma wasn’t brilliant she was just someone who got old and died. Even brilliant people will get old and die, though. At least, I’ve never heard of someone thinking herself out of death. Perhaps this is what monks meditate on. Though it seems more likely they are notthinking themselves into death. Into a state of acceptance of the death of every day. Like teenagers. In high school a boy who would sneak into my room at night but who would not date me said he envied the blissful fools around us. He said ignorance was the path to happiness, and that happiness was death to the self. It’s a little dramatic, but explains a lot about that time. That happiness is uninteresting has begun to depress me. But I enjoy sadness and wonder if that’s not just coming around the other side? And if maybe death is not the price of living but the prize at the bottom of a cereal box. Something cheap and plastic and infinitely alluring when viewed through the milky cellophane of our imaginations.

Funeral Song

Once, on my way to a friend’s house, I was in a bad car accident.

I’m friends with the kinds of people who want a party for a funeral.

When the car finally stopped in a corn field, the cassette was still playing an eerie melody of normalness.

My mother, for example, would like her corpse pushed out to sea on a raft, and lit on fire by archers.

I’m trying to remember what I cared about most that day.

My mother was herself was once an archer, and a cheerleader on ice, and honey queen, and a doctor.

I was probably thinking about a boy.

I don’t remember regrets, of even fear.

I was probably hoping I would not be injured, or that I would be injured only enough for that boy to hear about it and want to visit me. And maybe be nicer in general.

I had been thinking about dying for a long time.

Whatever long is when you’re a teenager.

He had joined the military and would eventually watch people die.

And maybe I have to admit that I enjoyed the loss of control. Which is what I got the ticket for, even though the truck had come around the corner already in my lane, and I had swerved to save us both.

Tatiana Ryckman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the author of the flash fiction chapbook Twenty-Something, and flash nonfiction chapbook, VHS and Why it’s Hard to Live. Tatiana is the Assistant Editor at sunnyoutside press and has attended residencies at Yaddo and Arthub.

Reprinted with permission from Zoo Cake Press. Copyright © 2016 Tatiana Ryckman.

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