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Friday, March 31, 2006

(Blank)

“So, these were my friends…” he said, his voice trailing to silence. His eyes blank.

Those who didn’t know him called that look he sometimes got, “dreamy”—as if he was gazing contentedly into the future. A veil fell over his face and his eyes, now slightly hidden as he stared off…His friends knew, they would try and snap him out of it, more afraid of the emptiness than he was. They knew what it meant, and where it could lead. The look covered the despair he felt within and the distrust he felt without. It was the look of escapism that others—those who didn’t know any better—registered. But the reality was capture.

His friends knew this, and they used it. Instinctively.

“I guess this is all there is now…but, I suppose it’s better this way,” he said, more to himself than to the stranger across from him. More honest this way, he said, and that’s better, he assured himself.

They were all gone now; the ones that mattered at least. Funny how those who mattered, really mattered very little. Perhaps it was merely time, but something told him there was more to it. What was it about him that turned people away? Or did he turn them out all on his own.

There was one thing he had never understood—unfettered cruelty—how some people were capable of inflicting so much harm on others, for no reason whatsoever. He preferred masochism infinitely more to sadism.

So, these were my friends, he thought. These, these, people, always many, many people. Many nothings, whose smiles and kindnesses spoke unspoken obligations of neediness. Random acquaintances, friends, faces, they were a dime a dozen. As if the counting of them all was some silent competition, some denotation of wealth and status. Throughout his life he had been surrounded by them, as if that brought satisfaction.

But, after all these years, when it came down to it, the truth was unavoidable: time does not a friendship make. Neither does friendship imply any sort of temporality. It is indefinable as something, except for the fact that it is easily definable as not nothing.

And what was he left with now? They were my friends.

Nothing.

He constantly tried to fight the feelings that sometimes came to him at night or when he let his mind drift. It always threatened to overtake him. Loneliness. Emptiness. It permeated every aspect, especially his. Others hid it better, he had always thought. Tonight, strangers his only comfort, his only friends, he let it take him too.

Perhaps that was the secret to happiness: befriending loneliness and emptiness, enjoying blankness and numbness, and savoring silence—oh, to change the world, to make it yours again. To recapture loneliness and give it company.

The world had been lost long ago, when the superficial hordes, the uncaring masses decided to copulate and populate the Earth with their societal poison. A new world was born when sincerity and ingenuousness were reduced to mere fads of occasion.

When things began to fall apart for him, he knew it was all over. There was not much to stand on when his own foundation began to crack, when he lost his surety in his world. He knew it was over when he felt closer to a stranger than to his closest friends. It was a natural progression, and that bothered him.

But, at least he did not live in a state of denial. These were my friends. I will not let them abuse me. I will not let them disrespect me. I will not let them control me. I will not fall prey to their stupid superficial idiocy. I will not cater to their whims. I will not compromise my morals or let them degrade my sensibilities. I will not.

Ah, fuck it. He picked up the phone.

Welcome to the 21st century: where friendship means nothing.

***

“So, these are my friends,” he gestured, half-smiling at them, half-mocking himself. Defeated, and they didn’t even know they’d fought a battle. It didn’t mean a thing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

gravel

I hated my job with a passion, but there were a few things about it that were really nice.  One was Brian, my boss, who was also my friend.  He was a native of Florida and a graduate of Duke University, which really made him stand out in Lewiston, Idaho, even more so than I did as a California native and graduate of a state college.  He was startlingly handsome.  I'd noticed that first thing during the interview and it made me even more nervous but after working with him for a few days it was clear that there was no troublesome chemistry between us.  I say troublesome because I was married.  But Brian was not at all my type; he was preppy-looking, with wire-rimmed glasses and expensive clothes.  He was a real city person.  So was I, but I was committed to becoming a true Idahoan and had thrown myself enthusiastically into this task.

One afternoon Brian and I had an errand to do.  We were to drive up to Moscow and meet with one of our suppliers, a crusty eccentric engineer named Bill G.  I'd always gotten along well enough with Bill G. when he brought the circuit boards we purchased from him, but he made me nervous.  He didn't seem to like most people.

Brian and I drove separately because I lived just ten miles up the highway from Bill G. and it made no sense to drive back the opposite way to Lewiston after our meeting.  Bill G. served us lunch, and then he took us on a tour of his house.  He led us up some narrow, creaky stairs and suddenly we were in a library.  There were bookshelves, countless tall bookshelves, and I roamed amongst them uninvited while sighing and exclaiming over the titles.  Bill G. grinned to see me this way, like a kid, and he seemed to thaw.  We walked around the shelves and compared notes on what we'd read.

It was memorable to me because I felt like such an oddball in Idaho at times.  In Moscow, the university town, I fit in all right but in some of the small logging towns (like the one my husband had grown up in) I was really out of place and while Lewiston was a good-sized town, it was predominantly blue-collar.  Yes, there was the transplant Brian who had graduated from Duke, but his atrocious writing skills betrayed the fact that his girlfriends had done most of his work for him.  He might have been more open-minded and worldly than most of the people we worked with, but he was no reader. This trip with its unexpected revelation that Bill G. was a fellow misfit oddball bookworm gave me hope that there were more people like me out there, even in northern Idaho.

Why did the word "gravel" make me remember all of this?  When Brian and I left Bill G's house, I convinced him to drive the extra ten miles out of his way (he lived back in Lewiston) to see where I lived.  He followed me down the highway and when we turned onto the gravel road where we lived I slowed down.  Brian had lagged quite a bit behind me and was closing the gap and as I looked in my rear view window I laughed to see him still driving highway speed on the gravel road.  He was engulfed in a cloud of dust.  I felt like I was of two worlds, or becoming so.  I had always felt too "city" and "stuck up" among the people who'd grown up in small rural towns, but I wasn't as pathetic as Brian.  I knew to slow down on a gravel road.

Write About a Dance

When I was in the sixth grade, I went to my first dance. My middle school had a '50s Day when students (read: mainly girls) dressed up in clothes from that era, and at the end of the day, we had a "sock hop" in the gym. The best part of the day was sixth period. My friends and I had P.E., but since the gym was being readied for the dance, we didn't have to dress out or do anything that would cause us to break out in a sweat. We were able to sit around and talk for an hour.

Of course, I didn't have a date for this dance, and had I known it would be one of many dances I would go to without a date, I probably would have just avoided it, gone home, and immersed myself in black for the next six years.

Yet somewhere in my mind — warped by the escapades of Bo and Hope on Days of Our Lives (and later, Patch and Kayla), I actually thought that a guy would be there who would think I was pretty and have the guts to ask me to dance.

Madonna's "Crazy for You" would start to play, and our eyes would meet from across the gym. He'd stroll over to me in his Converse high-tops — with his light brown feathered hair and Izod shirt with the collar turned up.

Oh yes, people, I was that pathetic.

Of course, the dance turned out like your stereotypical early adolescence mixer. Hardly anyone showed up. The girls outnumbered the guys 10 to 1, and the guys who did show up came with their girlfriends. Basically, I stood around with my friends, goofed off, drank soda, and ate popcorn — which we actually did during sixth period.

What I had almost forgotten about was how I got in trouble with my mom because I lied and said my friend's mother was picking us up when really my friend's older brother brought us home. My mother didn't want me riding with a barely experienced teenage driver (especially a boy), and telling her the mother was my method of getting home was key to gaining permission to go to the dance.

Yet, as boring as this dance was, the experience didn't stop me from going to a bunch of others — even if I didn't have a date.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shopping

I hate shopping! Man do I hate shopping! How the hell did she talk me into coming with her? If she stops at one more bargain table, I’m going to excuse myself, go to the ladies’ room and slit my wrists with a nail file. It couldn't be any more excrutiating than this.

For gawd’s sake, she’s looking at wool. She doesn’t even knit.

“Mmm, yes, nice colour. Who’s it for?”

She'll probably get it anyways and stash it in the basement with all her other 'bargains'.

“I guess it’s a good price, I haven’t knit or crochet in years.”

Oh good, she’s putting it down. Please, please, let’s go. No, no, no not the ribbons. Phew, okay I’m heading to the door. Is she following? Yes, she’s coming. Good. Hand on door . . . . Wait,

“What’s that? No, I really don’t need anything. Yes, I know they’re great prices. But I really don't want them. No, I don’t know anyone who does.”

Let's go. Oh crap! She's seen the marked down Halloween candy.

"No, not me. I can't afford the calories."

Yep, she's getting a few bags. She just cannot leave a store empty-handed. Well, now we can leave.

"No, I'm sure. Really. The boys don't need anymore candy, either."

Finally, out the door.

She calls it retail therapy. I call it retail hell.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gravel Drive

An old 'beater' of a car in a nice tan color, the seats as big and comfortable as couches.
My father had bought it for me when I got my license and even though it was horrible on gas, I could fit all my friends inside it and never had to worry about someone opening a door into the side.
I lived on a gravel road for the first 3 years of my driving career and could navigate them at amazing speeds, avoiding wildlife, large pot holes and other vehicles that crossed my path.
The car was indestructible. I ditched it one winter, had to climb out the window to get out, and shelled out the *cough* seventy five dollars *cough* to have it dragged out by the tow truck, no damage done at all.
The best time of year to drive through the countryside was summer.
After class we'd pile into my 'Big Bruised Banana Boat' and flip a coin, heading in the direction it corresponded to.

After a day of adventure through forest, restaurants and music we'd head home.
How we ever found our way back after so many twists and turns and so much pot is still beyond me.
Every time I left a boyfriend, went to a party, left for school, did anything, I traveled down that dirt road.
I got so used to hearing the 'ping' of the rocks off the bottom of my car that when I moved into town, onto pavement, driving was horribly quiet.
I used to enjoy driving.

Maybe because it was always an adventure, maybe it was that I never knew where I'd end up and now it's work -> home -> odd trip to store -> work -> home..
I miss the old girl, and although my new car has more lights and buttons and bells and whistles, the laughs we had as we sped across the countryside were a far better feature than any dealership can offer.

Pin

"Pull it! Go on, fucking pull it!" I screamed.

Sweat dripped down the bank robber's face. His eyes shifted nervously from me to the window.

"Are you going to pull that fucking pin and end this or are we going to talk some more?"

The robber's eyes shifted back to me. This was the make or break moment and we both knew it.

"I will, don't think I won't," he said, his voice quivering with fear and anger. A dangerous combination.

"Oh, I know you will. What I want to know is when. We don't have all day here."

I could feel the anger coming off him in waves but he was held in check by his fear. The guy didn't want to die and that was the only card I had to play.

"Look, I know you'll do it," I said. "But I also know you want out of here. Alive. Right?"

"You can do that?"

"Not right now. Not with you holding that in your hand. While you hold that I can do nothing for you. You'll be dead before you know it if you make the wrong move and you may or may not get the pin pulled in time. You want to risk that?"

"Don't you fucking threaten me!" he screamed.

"I'm not. I'm telling you how it is."

"I'll kill everyone in here!" he screamed again, his eyes sweeping over the terrified people huddled against the counter. They cowered back as if his gaze held weight.

I'd had enough.

"You want to die then get it over with. Pull the thing, blow us all up. You've got a 50/50 chance of succeeding. You like those odds or not?" I yelled back at him.

Straight away I noticed the change. It was in his eyes. As far as he was concerned he was already dead. All that mattered to him now was that he take me with him. I was to blame.

"Don't do it, Jimmy," I said quietly, already knowing it was too late.

With an agonised, angry wail he lifted the grenade, his finger through the loop and pulled. An instant later he was on the floor, blood pooling round his head, a bullet from one of the snipers on the roof opposite the bank entering his skull right between the eyes. I leapt forward, reaching for the hand that held the grenade before it could roll from his dead fingers.

I closed my hand around the cold metal, holding the firing mechanism in place. The hostages were crying and screaming. I pulled the hardware from Jimmy's hand.

"Shouldn't have pulled the fucking pin," I muttered.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Blanket

It was a quilt that I bought after he broke up with me. I got up one Saturday morning and stared at the bedding surrounding me in the bed where I lost my virginity months before. Soft cotton sheets and a thick blue comforter wrapped around us when he stayed over, and that morning I knew that I couldn't sleep in that bedding another night.

I went to Sears and wandered around the linens department. Luckily, the store was holding its annual "white sale," and I had a Sears credit card because God knows I didn't have the money in my bank account.

I didn't want another comforter. Comforters are too hot sometimes no matter what the season. I wanted something home-y, something comforting, and I found a quilt. It had a star pattern of light blues and pinks and peaches on a soft, creamy background. It was perfect.

I also bought a set of smooth, crisp cream-colored sheets, but that quilt was the ultimate purchase. I bought two other quilts after that one, but neither held up like "The Rock Hill Quilt" has. One quilt that I bought right after moving back to Greenville lasted less than six months. Another quilt I purchased when I moved back out on my own again has held up okay, but not as well as The Rock Hill Quilt.

It may be only bedding, but it seems as if the patches of material have been reinforced with my stubbornness to survive, to move on, to leave the past behind — where it belongs.

Perhaps this quilt will be the one that will last for decades. It will be the roof of the makeshift tent our future children will create in the dining room. It wil be what they drag out of the linen closet to curl up in on the couch on a cold Saturday morning to watch cartooons. Perhaps it will be what they fight over when the winter nights require extra bedding.

Perhaps I put too much emphasis on a thing made of scraps and thread and stuffing, but it was such an important purchase that spring morning. It became a sign that I would eventually be okay.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Pin

When I was a teenager, I loved wearing brooches. The bigger and more decorative (read: gaudy), the better. Of course it was the '80s, so everything was big and gaudy. I had this one heart-shaped brooch with all sorts of "flair" that seemed to be welded on it. It had a clockface with one moving hand, an eye mask, a couple of different buttons, and other little metal trinkets that I can't remember now but were equally likely to ask, "WTF?"

I wore the thing for at least three years — well into the early 90s, before everything went grunge and flannel and gaudy finally fell out of style (Can I get an amen?). Then the pin was retired to my jewelry box for ten years with a bunch of huge clip-on earrings (I let the holes in my earlobes grow over in the eighth grade because they kept getting infected. Gross, yes I know, but I didn't get them repierced until almost ten years ago.) and other brooches that were past their prime.

For Christmas 2004, Hubby got me a new jewelry box. My old one was overflowing with mostly junk jewelry, and I decided that at age 32, it was time for me to get begin a "grown-up" jewelry box. You know, one with fake stones and metals that I wouldn't mind being caught dead wearing.

But what to do with the old one? Enter my cousin's two daughters (then ages 4 and almost 6) who LOVE dressing up. One afternoon last spring, (y'all know I procrastinate, right?) I took the old jewelry box with all the old stuff to my aunt's house, and we sat on the back deck among the hummingbirds and yellow finches while my cousin's daughters rummaged through the new goods.

When the heart-shaped pin appeared, my cousin said, "Oh my God, I remember that pin."

"Of course," I said. "I wore the thing all the time."

"Where did you get all this stuff?"

"The 80s."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Blanket

What is a blanket? It signifies warmth, security, protection. It's not just a piece of cloth. One's blanket can be anything.

When my brother was young, just two years old, he had an accident that nearly took his life. It was touch and go for a while and he was in the hospital for some time. While there, one of the nurses gave him a Snoopy. It was a very basic representation. Quite possibly home made. Just white cotton stuffed with cotton wool and black eyes, nose and smile sewn on. My brother came to love it and would not let it leave his side.

While in the hospital the nurses bandaged the doll in the same places as my brother. It brought a smile to his face. A much needed smile, and was probably done for the benefit of my parents as much as him.

For years after, the trauma now past but the scars still evident (as they are to this day), he kept that Snoopy with him. I can only imagine it symbolised his survival in his immature mind. By now it was a dirty grey-brown, no longer the pristine white, but he wouldn't let our mother wash it. The bandages had long since disintegrated. The stitching was coming apart and if I remember rightly stuffing leaked very slightly from the leg join.

Eventually, of course, my brother grew out of it and poor Snoopy was left to his own devices at the back of a cupboard. Until a couple of years ago when, cleaning the cupboards out for my dad, I came across him. He was exactly as I remembered him. Grey-brown, dog-eared, tatty.

I sat on the floor cross legged with the doll in my hands. I was only four when the accident happened. But the doll brought it all back. I remembered the confusion of the time, not knowing what was going on, only that my parents' focus was almost completely off me and that I was worried for my brother but not sure why. I remembered him coming home and the relief and happiness on my mother's face. I remembered my dad going back to his routine, free from the worry. I remembered the selfish happiness I felt that I had my parents' focus back.

A tear escaped my eye as I sat with the doll in my hands. Crying for the lack of understanding I had back then and from the guilt at the selfish thoughts I had. But I was four and it did not last long. After a moment the doll just brought a sense of happiness that I still held those memories in my subconscious.

I put the doll to one side and continued throwing out the childhood memories that were no longer required.

When my brother came home from work I showed him Snoopy and asked if he wanted to keep it. He snorted with derision and told me to bin it. I was surprised and very slightly saddened. But I did as I was asked.

My brother's security blanket for so many years, discarded like so much junk. I hope, in years to come, he doesn't regret that decision. That, perhaps, it was another symbolic gesture - that he was now free of the mental trauma the accident left him with. I like to think so.

Friday, March 17, 2006

On the eve of the funeral

When I was twenty-four my grandma died.  She was turning 90 that year so we shouldn't have been surprised, except we were, a little bit, because she'd had many strokes in the preceding years and had always recovered from them.  So in spite of the fact that she was nearing 90 and, at 5'5" or 5'6" (she always seemed taller because of her ramrod-straight posture) she weighed less than 100 pounds, we still didn't see her as frail or sickly at all.  We thought she'd live forever.  Or, at least I did.

Still, when I got the news I took it in a detached way.  I told my boss and co-workers that I would be taking time off to fly to California for her funeral and I brushed off the expressions of sympathy and condolence.  She lived a long, full life, I assured everyone.  No tragedy here.  Her death means the end of her suffering, that's all.

I was living in Idaho.  It was January and the middle of only my second winter as I had grown up in Los Angeles, which is where the plane I am on right now is headed.  After an uneventful flight the plane descends upon LAX, which is only minutes away from my childhood home.  It's about 5:00 and the sun is setting and low in the sky.  I can see the ocean, the beach.  The palm trees.  The elaborate, complex patterns the freeways make from up above.  I had lived in L.A. my entire life before moving to Idaho with my husband but I had never realized how beautiful it was.  I lean my head against the glass of the window and my heart aches.  I had really lived here once?  I had sprung from such beauty?

Since I'd been married, all I'd ever heard about my city of origin was the disparaging remarks of my in-laws.  Bill's parents had been truckers for ten years and had nothing but horror stories about the traffic and smog and general un-Idahoness of L.A.  My husband also cited the traffic on the freeways and often said, "I hate L.A."  I had let these cliches and generalizations wash over me for years, and I had also come to love Idaho in the brief time I'd been living there.  Deep down I think I'd have sided with my in-laws and husband if I'd been forced to choose sides, but now, as I lean my forehead against the glass of the window and watch the sun fall into the Pacific Ocean my heart aches with pride and love.  This was my home once.  I'll probably never live here again but all of this, the sun, the ocean, the palm trees and the swimming pools in the back yards, the twisting cloverleafs of the freeways that are now beautifully lit up with the headlights and tail lights of hundreds and thousands of cars - all of this is in my blood and part of me.


On the Eve of the Funeral....

I went shopping for something to wear. I almost called you for fashion advice, forgetting that there would be no answer, never again would you answer.
What else should I have done? If I had stayed at the funeral parlor, I would have lost my mind. I would have made a spectacle of myself and there were already enough people taking on this role. I am not one to lose control, to lose logic, but that whole day, throughout the viewing, having to see you lay there, your body, and try to keep it together.. it was impossible inside.
I went numb.

On the eve of the funeral, people streamed passed me, passed your mother and father and brother and sister. They tried to be strong for them.
I sat in a pew most of the day, fearing that if I moved I’d fall to pieces.
I sat with Shane and smoked and was angry that there were people here who wanted attention, this attention for themselves.
We all but growled with the media showed up in their bright yellow vans, vulture-ing over us, looking for someone to interview.

On the eve of the funeral, I went home to quiet, to my bed, to try and process.
My new outfit in the closet. I thought about the last time we talked, the last time we spent the day together, the last time I asked you for advice, the last thing you had asked I impart my wisdom for.
I thought about the fact that you wouldn’t get to go to the school you wanted, have the wedding we had planned since we were little, that we wouldn’t ever go for long drives in my old car smoking joints and laughing until we cried.
I missed you, but still could not accept this as being reality.

On the eve of your funeral, I buried my feelings and fears and panic and devastation so that I would be able to be there when they buried you.
My best friend gone.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You have stayed too long

From lodgerlow, who has had numerous "issues" in trying to sign onto this blog:

I spend too much time inspecting my hands. In idle moments I look at my gnarled fingers. I turn my hand over and run the tip of my index finger down my Life Line, across my Heart Line. My Life Line is far too long for someone with such a faint Heart Line. "Fuck the God who creates a man to live without love." is what I've often said. Oh yes, I've said that often. Often indeed. Batesy used to tell me that my problem was that I didn't have a sense of humour. He's a fuckwit - there is no Humour Line. Anyway, there isn't much use for humour where I'm from.

"You gonna drink that?" The old boy across the aisle asks me, pointing to the bottle of water on my table. My reveree not fully pierced, I look at his pointing finger before I connect it with the words he'd just spoken. Impatient, he repeats his question adding "That bottle'll be getting warm and if it's not drunk it'll be nae use fae ye then." I say nothing. I'm still not with him. I'm still with the Humour Line thought. "How do we know that there isn't a Humour Line?" I wonder to myself. "My hands say I'm supposed to have had two children... boys. I don't have any kids. Perhaps they aren't children lines? Perhaps they are laughter lines? Perhaps I am to laugh twice? But twice? Twice what? Twice a day? A week? A lifetime?"

I must have asked the last few questions aloud because the old boy had interjected with "Some aff us ae built fae the laughin, and some aff us ae built fae the laughin AT." He was standing beside me now, struggling with the screw-top of the bottle. But there is no reveree so deep that my Anger is unable to awaken me. Seeing this old fossil helping himself to my water released the spring which extended my arm, snatched the bottle, and issued forth: "You fucking wrinkled fucker, I didn't buy that so that you could just piss it down your trouser leg." The old boy's bottom lip quivers, as he turns and shuffles to his seat.

I return to the inspection of my hands. Yeah, OK, Batesy was right. I don't have a sense of humour.

--lodgerlow

Strength

The tip of my cigarette was the only light in the room. It burned brighter as I took a drag, my lips quivering around the filter tip. I felt the smoke fill my lungs, a satisfying, calming effect. My eyes never left the window, I sat perfectly still.

Why do I do this? Because I'm good at it. One of the best.

People milled around on the wet pavement below, coming and going from whatever events the night had in store for them. Cars drove by, bringing with them the pleasing sound of tyres on wet road. I kept my eyes on the hotel lobby entrance opposite.

Who am I? Nobody. I like to keep it that way.

There was movement in the lobby. Shadows spilling onto the street as someone - or several people - approached the brass and glass revolving door. As it started to turn I tightened my grip and leaned closer. A man emerged, checked both ways down the street and turned back to the door, nodding.

How did I become this? Nature takes its course. This is my nature.

Two more figures emerged, again scanning the street in both directions. The one in the middle. Wearing the expensive overcoat and carrying the briefcase. That's him. I shifted position slightly, getting comfortable. I sharpened my focus. And squeezed. There was barely a kick.

What am I? If you knew, you wouldn't know anything much longer.

The man dropped silently. It was a full three seconds before his associates noticed. Then all hell broke loose as one covered the man with his own body, too late. The other pulled a hand gun and adopted a practiced crouched position, his eyes darting around the street, windows and alleyways. I squeezed twice more. The man with the gun fell first, into the gutter, his face in the running water. The second man didn't move. He remained shielding his already dead boss, joining him wherever souls go. It's not something I concern myself with.

Where do I find the strength to do this? Well, it's true what they say. The dollar truly is almighty. And I am one of the best.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A familiar sensation

She was in the next room. Idly chatting away. Exuding the newfound joy she felt in her life. Her disgust with me. Her distaste for our friendship--washed away like the tears that had poured down her face. And mine.

She saw me come in. Turned around in her chair. Face frozen in position, hands scattering over the keyboard, looking for the mouse, closing the windows, hiding the phone. I was an intruder. In her room. In her life. She saw me come in and closed all the windows.

I tried to speak about it to her. To open my heart and my soul--to explain it all. Deep friendship does not die easy. But the look was gone from her eyes. The investment elsewhere. Care worn.

I had stayed too long.

I Have Stayed Too Long

I've learned how dangerous feeling comfortable can be.

I found a niche, and I clicked myself into place. I belonged there; I knew it. I was doing what I have known all my life I was meant to do, and I settled in. I could handle this. I could thrive, and I did thrive. My writing got better. I buried myself into researching and composing and editing.

I had a brief period when I thought that maybe I should leave. Maybe I was ready to move on. No, I thought, This feels good. This feels safe.

Being comfortable and relaxed blinded me to what was going on. I didn't notice whispers, rumors, and groups gathering. I thought I couldn't be touched. I was wrong.

Becuase I stayed too long, they knew what else I could do. They knew I was capable of the monotonous tasks I'd done before. I could do repetitive, and I was good at that too. So the comfort was taken away from me.

Now I choke and smother on the trite. I scour for ways to release the creativity. I gag on New Age business dogma as they try to force it down my throat. I abhor the thought of making their bottom line soar. I make no difference anymore.

I have stayed too long.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Thaw

A little something to start my -hopefully- consistent experience with First Drafts:

Padding along the veranda, my bare feet reveling in the warmth of the wood beneath them, I settle onto the top step with a big blue mug of coffee.
The unusually warm day hits me, closing my eyes I tilt my cheek toward the sun, enjoying the rays as they dance along my skin.
I notice the birds, as if they came out of nowhere, their song sounding foreign at first, then familiar. I’ve missed their symphony, the sight of their flight from tree to tree, playing in the sky; I’ve missed the fresh air, the cool breeze, the feeling of everything being alive.
It lends me calm and it lends me peace.
If only for a few moments, the rest of the world is sleeping, but I am here sitting silently watching all of this take shape. I hear water running, snow and ice melting, the soft ground bubbling, my heart beating.
Behind the glass patio doors at my back is a noisy house.
It is filled with animals and housework and bills and a boyfriend that sleeps in the rays of sunlight filtering through the upstairs window.
There is comforting chaos in there, constant noise, carpets that need cleaning and something is always slightly out of place.
It is home though, it is my life, what I love, what I have helped accomplish and a space which always comforts me.
Sitting outside in this early spring tease is the brief change I need to revitalize, regroup and find new appreciation for everything behind those glass doors.
I am still a trespasser into this bright day, I am still watching although I was never officially granted access.
I take a final breath, my eyes closed, enjoying the smells and the sounds and the last sip of coffee.
For fear that I have stayed too long, that I’ll be noticed and somehow destroy the perfect day, I pad my way back through the sliding door and slip into my slightly altered perfection inside.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Chance Encounter

In college, I had a job as a telemarketer. I know, I was one of those evil people who called your house while you were eating supper to tell you about our $14.95 portrait special . I didn't know your name. I had to ask for "the lady of the house." But don't worry. I always took no for an answer. That was why I was a terrible salesperson.


I started working at this call center right before I left for my sophomore year of college. My boss was reluctant to hire me because I'd be leaving soon, but she was desperate — not exactly the most flattering way to get a job, but oh well.


I was lucky — or unlucky depending on how you view telemarketing — enough to go back there over Christmas break and that following summer break. I didn't mind the job because my boss was a great person to work for — probably one of the best bosses I've ever had. She was close to retiring, though, I knew when she retired, I wouldn't be back.


Winter break during my junior year turned out to be the last time I would work there, but those four weeks were monumental. On my first night back, I went in early so I could chat and catch up with my boss. As time came closer for the shift to begin, she mentioned that the only person missing was K, a guy. Of the other times I had worked in the call center, only one of those times had a guy also been working there. His name had been Dean, and he was a middle-aged guy working two jobs. For some reason, I had that image of another middle-aged guy when my boss mentioned K.


Mistaken was an understatement. When K arrived, I noticed he was about my age and two inches taller than me with curly brown hair and the most beautiful dark blue eyes I'd ever seen. I'd never really experienced the whole "my heart skipped a beat when I saw him" moment until that night, but it wasn't like seeing a cute stranger and thinking, "Wow he's/she's hot." The gaze felt deeper, more meaningful to me.


At first, I was scheduled to work in the call center for two weeks, filling in for a woman who was traveling for the holidays. During those two weeks K and I talked every chance we could when not calling. He was 22 and taking classes in the university transfer program at the local community college. At the time, he wanted to be a lawyer. He loved Pink Floyd and The Doors. He played guitar and wrote poetry.


He thought I looked like one of those porcelain dolls. "Someone should make a Carla Doll," he said one night. "Here, I'll draw you a picture." Drawing wasn't a strength of his. The "doll" was just a stick figure, but he asked me to keep the picture. So I tucked it away in my pocketbook. A couple of nights before my two weeks ended, he said, "It's too bad you're not going to be here the whole time. I'd bring in my guitar and play some Zepplin for you."

"I'm still in town for two more weeks," I told him.

He paused and I saw the wheels turning in his mind. He was dating someone. Should he ask for my number? "Well… give me your number," he said.


Then the woman I was filling in for quit (a frequent occurence in telemarketing), so I worked the other two weeks. During my last week at home, K called and so began the most complicated relationship I'd ever been in.


He kept me at a distance, telling me he was no good for me. He'd done drugs — was still doing drugs on occasion, I believe — and terrible things in his past. But then he'd tell me that I was the last person he wanted to talk to at night.


We'd talk on the phone for hours, reading our writing to each other. He played "Wish You Were Here" on his guitar. He was full of words and feelings for me, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. When I couldn't handle anymore, I'd cry it all out, and then call to talk some more.


Was he just feeding me lines? Possibly, but I think if he didn't feel something he could have just used me like he did so many other girls. I was willing to throw myself at him physically, but he always stepped back. It's an act that's kept him in my mind all these years and brought up questions such as "What did we really have together?" And I know if it had not been for that last stint in telemarketing, I would have never met him.

There's a song by the Indigo Girls, "Mystery," that I heard several years after he and I lost touch and it bowled me over.



Each time you’d pull down the driveway

I wasn’t sure when I would see you again

Yours was a twisted blindsided highway

No matter which road you took then

Oh you set up your place in my thoughts

Moved in and made my thinking crowded

Now we’re out in the back with the barking dogs

My heart the red sun

Your heart the moon clouded


I could go crazy on a night like tonight

When summer’s beginning to give up her fight

And every thought’s a possibility

And the voices are heard but nothing is seen

Why do you spend this time with me

Maybe an equal mystery


So what is love then is it dictated or chosen

Does it sing like the hymns of 1000 years

Or is it just pop emotion

And if it ever was there and it left

Does it mean it was never true

And to exist it must elude

Is that why I think these things of you


I could go crazy on a night like tonight

When summer’s beginning to give up her fight

And every thought’s a possibility

And the voices are heard but nothing is seen

Why do you spend this time with me

May be an equal mystery


But you like the taste of danger

It shines like sugar on your lips

And you like to stand in the line of fire

Just to show you can shoot straight from you hip

There must be a 1000 things you would die for

I can hardly think of two

But not everything is better spoken aloud

Not when I’m talking to you


Oh the pirate gets the ship and the girl tonight

Breaks a bottle to christen her

Basking in the exploits of her thief

She’s a very good listener

Maybe that’s all that we need

Is to meet in the middle of impossibility

We’re standing at opposite poles

Equal partners in a mystery


We’re standing at opposite poles

Equal partners in a mystery


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Unnatural Light

[I wrote this quite a while ago. Sentimental stuff, but I thought I'd share it.]

I waited patiently in the underground carpark. I’d been waiting – impatiently - for weeks for this moment and I wanted to make sure I remembered every last second of it. It’s moments such as these that define our lives, that provide the standards by which all other moments are measured. I’d waited so long for this. I wasn’t going to let it pass without savouring it, memorising it and, later, remembering it.

I watched as she drove down the ramp, looking around for a space. She smiled when she saw me and I couldn’t help but smile back. She reversed into a vacant space and I walked slowly over to the car from my own.

As I approached she was busying herself with sorting her things after a long drive. I stopped a few feet short of the car and again waited. She looked round and saw me standing there. As she did my heart soared, lifted by the love I have for her. Finally, eventually, she opened the door and stepped out.

I observed every movement, committing it to memory. Her denim clad leg stepping on to the concrete, her arm pushing the door open, her delicate fingers holding the handle, the briefest glimpse of cleavage as she leaned to get out, her slender neck as she looked up at me, her tender lips, curving again into a smile, her small yet perfectly formed nose crinkling slightly as she did, her dark eyes, sparkling, bright, deep and full, I was sure, of happiness. And her hair. Dark, so fine and soft, tossed back as she stood, at last out of the car.

I studied her a moment longer, hoping my smile and my eyes were conveying even a modicum of the overwhelming joy I felt at seeing her. We stepped toward each other as one and finally she was in my arms, where she belongs, where she should always dwell. We kissed, a soft, gentle kiss. Our lips met, the tenderest of kisses, her eyes closed, her arms around my waist pulling me tight against her, mine around her shoulders, my hands in her hair.

Reluctantly I pulled away to look at her. She looked up at me, expectantly, and there, in the unnatural light of an underground carpark, I gazed at a Goddess – my Goddess - and the image burned itself into my mind. No, I would never forget this moment.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to your new home.

I hope you feel comfortable and start to post more of your writing.

Follow Diana's prompts, but don't feel you can't post anything else you may wish to. Go ahead. The more the merrier.

There may be a few more aesthetic changes over the next few days and weeks. By all means tell me what you like or don't like.

Au revoir.