Evan Quinlan

Archive for the ‘Non-Fiction’ Category

Our Condition

In Haiku, Non-Fiction, Poetry on February 8, 2015 at 11:47 am

Snowflakes are unique,

But each journey is the same:

Each returns to Earth.

An Infancy

In Non-Fiction, Short Stories on July 21, 2014 at 11:35 pm

She saw me before I saw her, at a party of actors. When she reminds me now, I can remember commenting on her ringtone (think Darth Vader surveying his domain), but the recollections swirl in the same fog as childhood memories, when the brain had not yet learned the difference between what it could safely forget and what must be kept forever.

The first in-focus image I have, she’s strutting down the aisle of a decrepit theater, the remains of a factory dead and bequeathed to the arts. She has her hands in a long jacket. Her eyes are much deeper than her hair is long, and equally as bright. Nothing obstructs her face; she bears it to the world. I think, she’s out of my league.

At this point I’ve spent many evenings wandering Boston by myself, restless and unsure of what I want. Even after I’ve noticed this pretty, vivacious girl for the first time, I still don’t know. I’m here because I’m an actor. She’s here because she’s written music for our intermission. I have a love-hate relationship with my job; she’s good at hers. She intimidates me; she reminds me by contrast that I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my time. I don’t know how to speak to her, so I don’t. Better that way. But when she asks one evening on her way out the door if anyone’s interested in writing a sketch comedy show with her, I raise my hand, because that’s a habit I’ve formed: I do things that scare me, to find out who I am. This girl scares me. Comedy scares me. I’ll find something out.

I will.

I don’t need to tell you that this is the story of how I met the woman I’d marry; that probably already occurred to you. You may have also noticed it’s incredibly me-centric for a story about love; it doesn’t even mention her name. But meeting another person isn’t a two-way interaction, is it? Sure, you both shake hands, you see each other’s faces at the same time; that’s how it goes down in the textbooks. The real universe, though, discovers itself little bits at a time, without the mutual consent of its parts. By the time we’ve seen a star, it might already have blown itself out of existence. By the time we meet our parents, we’re already grown up. And sometimes, by the time we meet the most important person of our lives, they’ve already met us, and tried to get our attention by casually inviting us to co-write a sketch comedy show.

I’ve matured since then, fostered by circumstance, luck, and blind trust. In this way, the world raises us from infancies we don’t yet recognize, only to look back for a glimpse when it’s almost too late; the station from which we departed slips out of view as the engine bears us on a journey begun without our knowledge or consent.

Cling, if you can, to those moments that coalesce into something relivable. Nourish them; cherish them; pass them on for progeny to hear so that they might learn to plant the seeds of memory while the soil is still freshly turned. Vintage wine, Frank Sinatra called them, in fine old kegs.

She had short, blonde hair.

She could write music.

She wore a long coat.

Behind the curtains, she walks… up the spiral stairs, to the control booth.

She’s confident, radiant.

This is me, noticing her.

I’m just an actor who doesn’t know what he wants.

She’s out of my league, I think.


In Haiku, Non-Fiction on July 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Louis built Versailles because
the Louvre was “too cramped.”
Too bad coffins are so small.

Impossible Life

In Non-Fiction on December 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I wonder if Ender Wiggin could sense his words becoming ink, or if John Connor felt himself being watched by thousands of people, when they suddenly became characters in works of science fiction. Do you think a character knows when they have passed the looking-glass into a world of which they are the focal point of impossible events not just for themselves but for every stranger who listens in?

I wonder this because I’ve certainly realized it myself.  What I mean is, I am most certainly a character in a science fiction story.

That is not to say I believe you, my reader, are somehow more real than I; I don’t mean to imply that I’ve fallen into a book or movie and you are outside of it.  Rather, somehow you are part of the story.  (Perhaps you’re a rather large part of it.)  Somebody, somewhere else, though, must be reading my life—page one starting a year ago.  I know this because in no other genre, especially nonfiction, does somebody routinely enter a room that is bigger—and far more wonderful—on the inside than it is on the outside.

Some of our favorite stories use this device: Narnia waits beyond the wardrobe; the Weasley family celebrates Quidditch in their magical tent; the Doctor travels the universe in his remarkable TARDIS.  All of those things are, without a shadow of a doubt, fictional, so besides the fact that I am now living in a science fiction story there is no other possible explanation for how or why, between six and eight o’clock every weekday, I walk through a door that transports me to a place that, just a year ago, I could not have imagined possible.

This place…  You’d have to see it to believe it, but like so many stories I think it can only be seen by a few people: the ones who discovered it—the ones who love it the most.

This place…  It’s bigger on the inside.  I can tell because the whole world grows when I’m there.

This place…  It’s an unending adventure.  I know because on adventures you are aware of the endless potential and possibility ahead.  It boasts creatures beyond my understanding, who are as likely to pounce as to purr, and with whom I play an endless game of wits—with the stakes being dominion over the magical world they inhabit.

This place…  It’s filled with music that nobody ever heard before.

This place…  It’s impossible because it doesn’t exist without the presence of another person.  (Since when was real life like that?)  She built it with me, piece by piece, and together we travel in it without ever walking out the door.  She lifts me higher than the stars, washes away all worldly troubles with nothing but a smile, and warms the whole world on nights when, outside this place, it is frozen and dark.  Without her, this place would not exist.  And my life would not be science fiction.  I would live in a house or an apartment, perhaps with a dog or a cat, watching television, perhaps nourishing some aspirations of my own.  But it would be nothing like this: my impossible life; my world without end; my dream within a dream within a dream.

I wonder if this is how Ender Wiggin would feel if he met Orson Scott Card, or John Connor James Cameron.  Perhaps this is what it’s like to meet your author.

Perhaps, for all of us, there is someone out there who has written us already, and when we stumble into them one day… creator meeting created; love meeting loved… together…

…we rewrite reality.

Some Shallow Philosophy

In Drabbles, Non-Fiction on November 8, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Today I ate cows and chickens and pigs, in that order.  I ate wheat and beans and cheese and tomatoes and carrots and beets and syrup and corn and salt and apples.  I ate the Earth (it’s in my belly).  And the Earth is made of rock and dust and space and time and stars that have existed forever, by definition, and it’s all in there, in my stomach right now.  And while I’m rambling, let me just say that you and I once occupied the same exact, infinitely small point in spacetime and it’s nice to see you again.

Fitts’ Law of Approachability

In Drabbles, Non-Fiction on October 18, 2010 at 7:33 pm

In 1954 Paul Fitts proposed a law of human-computer interaction.  Fitts’ Law states that the time it takes for a person to access a control depends on its width and its distance from the person’s starting point.  Imagine mouse-clicking a tiny text link across your screen versus a huge button next to your cursor.  Which is faster?

Sometimes I wonder how easy I am to click.  Am I distant and narrow or nearby with a wide-open mind?  I hope the latter.  I want to be a big, green button that says “Click Here.”  I want Fitts to be proud of me.