Jun 30, 2008

Another short story

Nine-thirty and I begin the ritual. I brush the tangles out of my thin, brown hair and braid it into a single ponytail. This takes four minutes. I brush, then floss, then rinse. This takes about eleven minutes.

The studio is too quiet. I can hear my heart beating. I turn on Frasier. I file the bottoms of my feet during commercials. There’s a reoccurring one for pregnancy tests. The music sounds like it was composed by that guy that did the Star Wars soundtrack. I am not feeling inclined to buy this particular brand of pregnancy test. Now if the commercial was more like an Herbal Essence ad then I might be, even if I didn’t need one. I’m very persuaded by advertising. But knowing this is not half the battle. Thank you,
G. I. Joe.

It’s now after ten and I can’t find anything else to watch until the Late Show. I detest CSI, Law and Order, and other seemingly identical shows. The shows are either too gory or too realistic. I need to watch something funny. Something that will allow me to relax. Especially since I know what’s going to happen later. Or maybe it won’t. I do have those pills. I just don’t want to have to take them all the time.

I try reading the collection of Bloom County comics that my brother gave me for Christmas, but my eyes won’t focus. I’ve been proofreading all day and now my eyes have gone on strike. I wish they would talk to my brain and convince it to go on strike also. No luck yet. Eleven o’clock.

I balance my checkbook during the Late Show. Then Conan O’Brien comes on. God, he’s funny. I almost laugh a couple of times. I’ve reached the point where I’m too tired to laugh. He's interviewing Janeane Garofalo. I wonder what she's like in bed.

I’m in trouble when I run out of programs to watch. Do I watch Friends reruns or start sorting my sock drawer? I open the drawer. It’s already organized by color. Holiday socks take up at least a third of the drawer. Maggie says I have the most organized dresser she’s ever seen.

I look at the clock. I wish I didn’t. It’s that time. The time when I turn everything off except the humidifier and try to sleep. My eyes hurt so I reluctantly crawl into bed and close them. The relief satisfies me for about five minutes.

They say that we need sleep so that our brains can process the day and file everything away. I like this idea. I like the process of organizating thoughts and memories into neat, little containers. But somehow I can’t let go and allow my brain to do it without me. I try processing the files consciously.

I slept two hours and nineteen minutes the night before. I awoke before the alarm went off. I stretched to my beginners’ yoga DVD. I felt centered. I took a long shower and jumped out just as the water switched to icy cold. It’s an old building, my landlord says when I complain. No one needs to take a shower that lasts longer than fifteen minutes. I disagree. I ate a bagel, rode my bike to work and still arrived half an hour early.

This all goes into File A: Hope. In the morning, I always hope that I’ll recover from the night before and actually feel alive during the day. I vaguely remembered a feeling like this before grad school.

I sort the following eight hours into File B: Everlasting Hell. The utter monotony of my work allows me plenty of time to glance at the clock. Sometimes I wonder if I can stop time by concentrating on the clock. I’m pretty sure I can, but I haven’t proven it yet.

File C: Try to Have a Life is my next category. Today’s wasn’t exciting. I stopped at Borders to check out their new releases, bought a singing card for my mom’s birthday and rode my bike back home. I thought about calling Maggie. Were we still together? I couldn’t remember the last time we had talked.

I was too exhausted to cook. I ate a bowl of high fiber cereal and washed it down with two glasses of Cabernet. This used to work. Wine used to make me fall asleep. Now it just makes me drowsier.

I checked my e-mail again before the nightly ritual began. No new messages. That’s what I get for having a spam blocker. I considered removing it.

I glance at the leering clock. It’s three-thirty. I have filed my entire day and I still haven’t fallen asleep. Dear God, please let me fall asleep. I think about doing the rosary. It helped one time. I had drifted to sleep from the silent repetition.

What was that? Damn. If I start hallucinating, I’m going to have to take one of those pills. Damn it.

Jun 26, 2008

A Snippet of a Story

Nina wanted you to believe that it was merely hormones. It was just her time of the month. It wasn’t. Nina wanted you to believe that she didn’t already know. She did.

She already knew when you first met in the break room, which always smelled of burnt coffee. She “accidently” bumped into you, splashing scalding coffee on your favorite Spiderman tie. This led you to apologize with that Irish guilt of yours, even though it wasn’t your fault.

Nina said, “Well, now you’ll have to take me out to Starbucks,” which would have been cute in her Oklahoma accent if she hadn’t been so congested due to seasonal allergies.

“Sure,” you said because you have never said no to anyone.

Nina wanted to believe that you fell madly in love with her at that moment like you said you did two months later, but she just couldn’t. Falling in love was inconsistent with her life so far.

Nina found your Myspace page almost a whole year before you met, back when you were still working in medical records and she was a part-time medical assistant. She knew then.

You had fallen on one knee in a spastic moment of adoration in her favorite, used bookstore. You were asking her to be you one and only. You didn’t have a ring so you put a twist-tie around her finger.

Nina said yes because she really didn’t think there would be anyone else since there had never been before. Her life was straight-forward like a shopping list. Plus she was almost sure that she loved you.

You had asked Nina to move in and she started doing your laundry right away. She liked to fold your warm briefs into triangles. She bought you colored and striped underwear. She hated tighty-whiteys.

That was how she found the pen, with its tell-tale inscription. You had forgotten to take it out of your pocket. It was a dull silver and black, but she picked it up gently as if it might burn her fingers. It had been lying under her slimming jeans, unannounced, all day. Nina held onto it for two weeks while you tore through the entire apartment, your stomach caught in whirling circles. You lost your appetite. You couldn’t imagine where you had misplaced it, but didn’t mention it to Nina. You didn’t know that she already knew.

Finally, Nina confessed but with a tone that made you feel like the guilty party. “Look what I found,” she said accusingly. And, immediately after, “when were you going to tell me?” As if you had hidden it from her on purpose, proving that you were a liar like all the others.

“It’s nothing,” you retorted, reaching out for it. Nina tightened her grip. “I’ve just had it forever. It’s like a lucky charm.”

Nina almost felt bad but then she remembered. “Really?” Nina asked because she already knew whose initials were etched next to yours. “It doesn’t mean anything? Then you won’t mind if I replace it with a nicer one?”

Then she threw the curve ball before you had a chance to respond: “Who gave it to you?”

You abruptly opened the refrigerator. “What do you want for dinner?” Nina knew all about this avoidance trick. She had used it before. Nina just wanted you to admit it out loud. This monster that she had known about for over a year. She just wanted it said so it wasn’t a secret anymore. “Please,” she pleaded.

“Don’t you trust me?” you asked. Nina thought it was such a cliché that she didn’t want to answer. But that wasn’t the only reason.

“I want you to get rid of it,” she finally admitted.

“No.” You snatched your corduroy jacket off the hook. “I need to get some air.” Nina could see that you were shaking. She wished she could make herself very small and crawl inside you and see what was really going on.

As soon as the door shut, Nina threw the pen on the hardwood floor that was impossible to keep clean. She started breathing again when it broke.

Nina knew that you were running along Lake Michigan. That’s what you always did when she wanted to talk about you. About your past.

Nina fixed the pen but didn’t bring it up again. Two years later and she still pulls out the marriage certificate with the names: Ben Holden and Kari Inson. She traces the names with her finger. She wonders if you even know that it’s missing.

Jun 23, 2008

just a quickie

I went on a Borders spree cause my brother Jason gave me some moolah for my birthday. I bought "No one belongs here more than you." I'd wanted to buy the book for awhile, but I can't remember why. I liked the orange cover and the author's name: Miranda July. Also, her pic on the back is super cute.

I've read the first two stories and they are exquisitely and simple beautiful. You need to read these stories. Seriously. If your library doesn't have a copy, buy one. You won't be disappointed.

P.S. I've started sending out query letters!

Jun 11, 2008

Awe...wait for it...some!

It is finished! (Well, mostly.)

I am in equal parts ridiculously giddy and marvelously terrified. Saturday, June 7th, at approximately 2pm, I typed the LAST sentence of CTFS. (That stands for Cast the First Stone, I’ve decided.)

Yes, you read that correctly.

I spent the rest of the day jumping up and down with my husband, huge grins plastered to our faces.

Then I realized that it was now time to dig in deep and get my hands really dirty. It’s time to get focused. It’s time to be professional.

So we went to a lit festival in downtown Chicago. The Printer’s Row festival was totally cool despite (and partially because of) the hour-long burst of torrential downpour. We got drenched, walked around in soggy shoes, and got the name of an agent. Not bad for one afternoon.

Phase two begins. Research publishers. Research self-publishing. Make contacts. Write that query letter. Reread CTFS and polish it up even more. Then, let it go.


Next time: I will talk more about the festivals that we visited and the one we’re participating in this August.