Things He Missed in Eight Years

IMG_20141106_084227Losing my virginity.

Falling in love with his best friend’s son.
Graduating high school.
Getting a big girl job.
Anorexia.
His son’s graduation.
Going to college.
Anorexia again.

Getting my heart broken,
though not for the first time.
Going to college
(for real this time).
College, college, acting, writing,
friends.
Coming out as bi.
My second girlfriend.
Oxford.
First publication. Second.
Literary award (shared).

His son’s ambitions,
to PhD and beyond.
His love, his happiness,
his cats.
His engagement.

Moving to New York.
Looking for work.
Writing. Writing.
Falling in love.
More cats.

His wife’s decision to move.

His retirement.

Ready… Set… Write!

Okay, so this post might just have the single most corny title I’ve ever written. I hope you’ll all forgive me for it, because it’s actually reflecting what my feeling has been since this morning.

NaNoWriMo is starting tomorrow – so one minute after midnight, I am going to start writing, and hopefully get to my entire word count before going to bed. This is the second year I’m participating in NaNoWriMo,while last year I was living at home, someone else was doing my laundry, and I had very little that I needed to do besides write, this year I have so much to do that the 1667 words I need to write a day seem extremely daunting and threatening.

Unlike last year, I haven’t created an outline for my novel. I have a cast of characters, and I know, in general, what I want them to deal with. I know some of their motives, some of their histories, some of their attitudes and voices, and that’s helpful, but I don’t know where I want them all to end up, so I’m very unclear about where they’re going exactly. But that’s exciting – writing is, for me, a lot like reading in that I discover things along the way.

I’m writing literary fiction this year rather than steampunk/fantasy, so that’s going to be very different as well, since I feel that I write the genres quite differently.

It also happens to be Halloween today. I didn’t dress up as anything, and I probably won’t, since I feel like I’m storing up all my creativity for 00:01AM tonight when I start writing. I really feel like I’ve spent the past couple weeks crouching low, ready for the gunshot that will announce that the race is on. It’s strange.

Finally, let me end this extremely disorganized and badly composed post by saying that I will probably be posting to my blog less in the coming month because of NaNoWriMo. However, I succeeded in posting every single day of October! Huzzah!

Bright Side?

My dorm room has three windows; four, if you count the one that’s in the emergency exit door, which I don’t, because I keep the blind down on it at all times. The reason for that is that I’m on the first floor of my building, directly overlooking, from two windows, the main entrance used by students to come and go from main campus. The window in the exit door overlooks a little hill on which people sometimes sit and smoke when the weather permits. The last window overlooks an ugly tarred roof and from it I could see, if I wished, the windows of the apartments in what I can only call the second wing of the building. I keep that blind closed most of the time as well. So really, I have very little light coming into the room during the day, and at night all my blinds are closed except one, and that window is blocked by a screen so that the people walking below won’t be able to see me changing.

I’m a pretty private person, which is why I’m still ecstatic to have this single room, even if the windows aren’t quite as useful as I’d hoped. There are other downsides to the room, though. Since it’s right by the entrance, I get to hear all the drunk partiers who go out to smoke at one, two and three in the morning. At first, it really irked me. But lately I’ve grown used to it and have even come to see it as a plus. I can’t recognize people’s voices because of the echoing quality, but I can sometimes pick out some words and I try to remember them, to weave stories from them, to put images and faces to them.

I’m back at school after a lovely mini-break with my brother and his girlfriend in Washington D.C. I’m halfway through the semester. There are bright sides, too.

Armchair

An old woman sits before the fireplace. She clutches in her hand a photograph of the way she used to look. With the clarity of vision that comes only with old age and disappointment, she realizes that she was beautiful once. At least, she was beautiful outside. She can almost see the writhing black snakes that used to fill up her midriff and her heart, hissing and twining around one another, gloatingly, reveling in their hold on her.

A log crackles inside the fireplace and the old woman away from the photograph. There’s a cat by her feet, one of the several that she keeps around her, to remind herself that she still knows how to love. Not many people will let a gnarled old woman touch them, but cats don’t care how wrinkly she is, as long as she pets them.

She tries to get up, and falls back into her chair. She tries again, and falls again. She begins to weep. The cat by her feet sits up, stretches, and jumps into her lap, giving her an excuse to stay where she is. She wonders if another excuse is what she needs. The tears stop flowing as she gathers her resolve. She nudges the cat gently off of her lap and grips the arms of the chair firmly. She takes a deep breath.

She gets up.

Drip Drop

Drip. There is a computer screen in front of me. Drip. There is a glass window behind it. Drip. There are drops coming down from the roof of the library behind the window. Drip. There is a gravel yard beyond the water. Drip. There is a brick wall beyond the yard. Drip. There is a tree behind the wall.
Drip.
Drop.
Drip.
Drop.
The sky is one long unbroken shade of gray, which seems to be fitting for the kind of day it is. My mind is not at peace. My soul is not at peace. My heart is not at peace. Peace is close to the word piece, which makes sense, since they’re all in pieces right now.
Drip. There goes a tear. Drop. There goes another. Drip. The smell of wooden paneling makes me cry. Drop. The thought of thousands of miles makes me cry. Drip. I feel far away. Drop. Everything is pressing too close.
Drip.
Drop.
Drip.

Empty Days

There were days when she simply wasn’t there. Entire days during which she worked on autopilot, keeping her head down and moving from one place to the next: from bed to the breakfast table and from there to the bus which took her to work and on and on until she was back in bed. She knew what was happening during those days – she was in there, somewhere, behind the dead eyes that looked out at the world – but she was stuck in some sort of conscious torpor, unable to speak a sincere word or process a complex thought.
She could never predict when this sort of day might occur. It could be a bright, sunny day in early June – then she’d miss the beauty of the hummingbirds surrounding the trees in the garden and the sweet smell of night-blooming flowers that wafted in through the windows during dinner. Sometimes it would be a blustery, rainy day in November, and she’d be immune to the blue mood that engulfed everyone else.
Whenever these days happened, she’d mark them down in her calendar when she woke up the next morning. She monitored the empty days, hoping and praying that they wouldn’t increase, but trying to find a pattern in them. Were they part of her menstrual cycle? Did they have something to do with her diet or the amount of exercise she took? She kept meticulous notes on all of her activities
She refused to believe that the empty days were absolutely random. If there were no triggers, she had no way to prevent them. If she couldn’t prevent them, then it was only a matter of time before she would walk off a bridge or in front of a speeding truck. She didn’t want to die, but the emptiness didn’t care about living.

Ursula Awake [Flash Fiction]

The hammering, clanging, clanking – the sheer metallic cacophony of sound was driving Ursula slowly, but surely, crazy. It wasn’t very late – only eleven-thirty or so – but there were rules about this kind of thing, even laws. No noise of this kind after eleven o’clock. Or even ten. She wasn’t sure which, but either way, by now the work should have ceased, the workers gone home for the night.

Turning over again, she lay a hand on her ear, shoving the other one deep into the pillow. Her own skin and bones weren’t nearly enough to shut out the racket, so she pulled over her husband’s pillow – he was still in the living room, watching something stupid on TV – and held it over her ear, making her head look like a strange, Ursula-faced sandwich. She began to laugh, a little at first, then harder, finally rocking with hysterical giggles, stifled behind her mouth. She tossed the second pillow away again. It wouldn’t do to be woken in the middle of the night by the sound of her husband’s ridiculing snort.

Still the noise went on. Ursula sat up and shook a couple more pills out of the plastic, orange bottle that was as familiar by now as a teddy-bear. Reaching for her glass of water, she hesitated, wondering if her habit was escalating. She decided she would think about it in the morning. Right now she needed the deep sleep that she hadn’t gotten since her daughters were born some thirty years previously. Maybe tonight would be the night, even with the pathetic stage being built in the park outside.

And that was another thing: why on earth were they building the stage at this hour? The park was controlled by the neighborhood, and they’d all signed to have the lampposts turned off there during the night. How were the workmen seeing what they were doing? Ursula mentally upbraided herself for assuming that the workmen were men. She supposed perpetual fatigue was as good an excuse as any for being a bad feminist.