Tomorrow, I begin writing my second novel. Wish me luck. I’m actually more nervous this time.
Believe it or not, saying ‘hello’ to random strangers on the street can be seen as intimidating, threatening, terrifying. People walking to work, to meet friends, go home, usually aren’t looking to start up a meaningful relationship, or even a casual conversation. Men saying hello to random women on the sidewalk, in most cases, is not them “just being friendly.” It carries intent.
Places where it might be alright to casually flirt with new people-
Places where it is not alright to expect to meet that special someone-
The street or sidewalk
While someone is working (like the barista making you coffee or the person selling you books)
Places it is appropriate to act sexually aggressive towards strangers-
Also, if you use the internet to stalk, attack, threaten or intimidate people, you are a coward of the worst variety.
“I’m preparing myself,” he said, a trickle of orange juice still lingering, beaded into tiny dots in his beard, the cup loose in his right hand. “Because you never know when the moment will present itself. I’ve not been ready before. I can’t think of a worse feeling than missed opportunity.”
From the bottom of her beach bag, she took out a tube of sunscreen. She preferred the lotions to sprays, as the sensuality of application was lost in the pressing of a button. Besides, it was near impossible to be certain as to the thickness of a spray-on screen. The patchy sunburn she dealt with last June was all the evidence she needed. She held the tube in her hand, waiting for him to take it from her, to not miss this opportunity.
He suddenly shifted subjects.
“Fifty pushups each morning. Seventy five at lunch. Fifty more before bed.” He patted his bare chest with his left hand. “Amazing for the shoulders and back. The best all over core workout there is. Don’t fall for the gimmicks or the fads. Good, old-fashioned pushups.” He laughed, drank the rest of his juice in one giant, open gullet gulp, then used his forearm to wipe his lips.
He was the same. Always and forever the same.
For the first time, she wondered why she was here on this beach with him, staring out at her favorite ocean. It sounded blissful at first, a day away, the sun, the sound of the water, maybe a back-rub or a few soft kisses. Now, all she wanted was to walk out and into the waves, let the current take her.
It was quiet for twenty minutes before things shifted a third time. The sound of the water, the laughter and rustling of other beach-goers hung between them. He looked at her, sunglassed eye towards sunglassed eye.
“This morning when you called, I almost didn’t answer.” He waited for her to respond, when she didn’t he continued. “It’s because everything means too much, or never enough.”
He stood, the darkness of his shadow surprising and heavy across her face and neck.
“I’m going in. You can come if you like.” She winced. He turned and ran down to the waters edge.
I’ve been listening to more and more vinyl. I know its become trendy again and I am a sucker for certain sorts of trends. I cycled when it was trendy (both mountain and road). I’ve often worn trendy hairstyles, clothing and shoes. I like to pretend I pierced because I was expressing myself, but really, I was jumping on a trend.
There are always justifications.
This time, I’m telling myself this is a return, not a beginning. I’ve owned records since I was 6 years old. With the exception of a few completely worn out or broken items, I still have the entirety of my record collection. It was never huge, somewhere between 75 and 100 records, but it was mine. Recent additions have doubled the collection, and though I will still buy compact discs, I can feel my trend following heart wanting to buy nothing but vinyl.
I’d forgotten the sensation of holding the covers, the feel of the sleeves and the sound, that tiny pop, when the needle hits the record. I even adore the moments of hiss on older albums. In many ways, it feels like finding an old friend, one who is just as glad to see you, welcome you back, as you are to see them.
Here are a few examples-
At first, all Clara could smell was frying bacon. Slowly waking her, the tantalizing odor crept from the frying pan, under the closed bedroom door, across the floor, over the comforter and into her nose. Her smile was inevitable.
She rolled onto her back, gazing up through sleep coated eyes at the fan, motionless and covered with a thin layer of dust. She was warm, the memory of a dream slowly slipping away, replaced by the prospect of a hot breakfast, maybe some orange juice or coffee as well. A splinter of sunlight stretched across the ceiling and dug itself into the wall behind her. She stared at it, focusing on the strange angle at which the light bent down the wall, pointing directly at her head, as if highlighting her, marking her. She took one deep breath in, filling her lungs, preparing to expel the last moments of sleep from her body. The second smell sneaked in, light and low, slightly caustic.
And with that, she remembered the night before.
She’d only been defending herself. Too many college boys at too many bars who she’d easily tired of by eleven, and leaving her three friends behind she walked out of Sun and Moon, down the street towards the light rail station and home. It was her brothers suggestion that she carry the knife (four inch blade in a rubber sheath, the handle made of bone white plastic, connected to the steel with two copper screws), because he said, she lived “in a sketchy part of the city,” and you “never know” when something might go wrong.
Lydia hated the knife, but Lydia hated lots of things, and it was easy for Clara to ignore her. She’d never actually use the knife on anyone, could never see her self even pulling it out of her handbag. Lydia was the worrier, but her kisses were Christmas presents, and Clara loved Christmas.
But then that stupid boy had followed her from the bar. She heard him walking, talking, mumbling something at her in a drunken voice, slurring everything, ending each garbled sentence with the word “baby” in an upward lilt.
She heard him warble, “Stop.” She didn’t.
It had been effortless. She reached into her bag, unsheathed the knife and gripped the smooth handle. With rough fingers, he grabbed her near the elbow. She turned and plunged the blade into his shoulder, paused, then pulled it quickly out. Like photographs- The shock in his eyes. A recoil as he fell away from her. Hot blood on her fingers. Then she was running faster than she ever conceived she could run.
The knife she’d stuffed between the mattress and bed frame. Dried blood remained under her fingernails, though she’d washed her hands for what seemed like hours.
From the kitchen, she heard Lydia call to her.
Flying back from Cancun, I had 4 hours to contemplate all sorts of things- The older I get, the more claustrophobia plays a roll in my life. Earbuds are not made for people with small ears. Sometimes, the person next to me has zero interest in what I have to say, regardless of how interesting it might be. Just because someone is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean it’s all fine and good to press ones knees into the seat in front of you.
Also, when it is already obvious everyone on the plane is going to miss their connecting flights, constant insistence by the flight crew that we all “sit back and enjoy the flight” is going to rub some people the wrong way. Though, I do agree with the woman next to me, who after realizing that she would miss her flight back to California said, “Well, what can you do?” Yep, What can you do?
I have a love/hate relationship with flying. I love the convenience, the speed, the lack of effort it takes on my part to get places. I hate the cramped quarters, especially if I have the window seat. I also hate never being able to sleep (which has more to do with my own psychological issues than anything on the airplane), never being cool enough, getting motion sick, getting headaches, getting…well yeah.
The hour delay meant we got to spend one more night away from home. Lucky enough, we were in Phoenix, which isn’t a horrible place to spend a night. Still, my heart had decided it wanted to be home, and once disappointed, my heart rarely cares about the luck in the situation.
But I am dancing around what I want to talk about today. Mostly because I am still sorting it out in my head. I should let it simmer another day, but I’m unsure one more day will matter. It seems trivial, silly, trite, all those things. Perhaps it had something to do with my frustration at being delayed, and I worry that what is bothering me is more about me than the people on my flight, but the obliviousness, the entitlement, the constant ignoring of flight personnel was frustrating. I have already mentioned the knee in the back of my seat (and maybe I should have said something to the person. They may not have been aware), which was annoying enough, but the refusal of people to comply with simple instructions was infuriating. More than they should have needed, the flight attendants had to instruct people to remain in their seats as the air was quite rough. One woman got up five times in one hour, twice to go talk to a woman in business class, three times to pee. Several people ignored direct instructions from crew members, and wandered from lavatories to overhead compartments, or friends in various places about the cabin. After the plane landed, we were stopped on the tarmac, just off the landing runway waiting for another aircraft to pass, when half the plane’s passengers decided it was all fine and good to stand up and gather their luggage. Imagine the outrage when they were told we were not at the gate yet.
I am unsure if all of this comes out of some sense of entitlement or just ignorance.
What I do know- I need to be more aware of my own moments where I feel the rules don’t apply to me, or when I think I might know better than those around me who have more experience. I need to pay attention, listen, understand, do better.
“I’ve never been much for watching scary movies.”
Her voice, a whisper in the quiet of the dining room, where soft clinking of silver and glassware can sound like gunshots to the unprepared. I look around, searching for villains.
“But, I adore books filled with suspenseful moments.”
She paused. I took a second bite of fresh flounder (caught that afternoon by a man named Lars), seared in butter and seasoned with a dash of pepper. For a second, I wonder if she is slowly poisoning me.
“I can control the pace with a book, move my eyes to the next words, flip the page when I am ready, tease myself with wonder, revel in the anticipation. You can’t do that easily with film. Film does everything for you.”
She twists her pasta with a salad fork, and I am suddenly aware how hot the room has become. My lips sweat. Everything instantly an exercise in self control. The wine breathes in a decanter to my right. I would drink it all if she’d let me.