Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pleasantly surprised

This is my third Indie Ink Writing Challenge. It's a welcome vacation from pharmaceutical copywriting! My prompt, this time listed at the end of the post, comes from Ixy. I challenged Joelyn with: "Overachiever."

The house rumbled with the bass of grind-worthy music. The floor was sticky with jungle juice and cheap beer. Half-naked co-eds drunkenly leaned up against equally drunk frat brothers, slurring their words, sucking back the liquid in red plastic cups.

Kenna peered around the corner and pulled down on her mini skirt, which was again, riding high. She tucked back her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears and looked around for a familiar face. Her roommate Beth had invited her out to an Honors party, but Kenna didn't want to be pegged as a nerd just weeks into her freshman year. No, she had decided to venture out to her first frat party, which a Spanish classmate told her about just before class let out.

A tall, thin, orange sorority sister walked by with a tray of Jello shots. Kenna grabbed one and then one more before the sister turned the corner. She quickly threw them back, shuddering from the cheap vodka aftertaste. Now the pre-game beers were starting to kick in.

Kenna loosened up and started dancing. Still no sign of her classmate or any familiar face. This would be a night of liquid courage. Just as she was getting into Lady GaGa's new song, she felt someone brush up behind her. She turned her head and smiled at the tall, dark handsome looking down at her as he started dancing, moving with her.

The second Jello shot kicked in. Tall, dark handsome turned Kenna toward him and kissed her mouth. She felt the alcohol rushing to her head as she followed him up the creaky, winding stairs. He pushed open the bedroom door and lowered Kenna onto the bed. She was excited but scared. Excited because this is what college was supposed to be, right? But scared because a frat boy is a frat boy. She heard the stories. But maybe this was her rite of passage.

They kissed sloppily as he fumbled to take off her tank top. Reality kicked in.

"No, please don't," she said quietly.

He stopped and looked at her. She couldn't read him. Did she upset him? Was he going to hurt her?

He rolled over and gently caressed her sun-kissed arm. He kissed her shoulder before he stood up.

"I'll sleep on the couch once the party dies down," he said, closing the door.

Kenna curled up under the scratchy sheets.

"I never expected you to be so kind," she whispered as she fell asleep.


Prompt: "I never expected you to be so kind"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Perfectionism, organization, to-the-minute planning: The perfect storm

For this week's Indie Ink Writing Challenge, Joelyn presented me with this one-word challenge: Illness. I challenged Bewildered Bug with a term very near and dear to me: long-distance running.


She rolls out of bed and carefully straightens the twisted bed sheets. Tucks the blanket ends under the mattress. Fluffs the pillows and puts her tank top and boxer shorts underneath her pillow.

She showers, dries her hair, gets dressed. The same routine every morning. She grabs granola from the cabinet and pours a glass of orange juice.

The dishes from last night's dinner, which ran late, linger in the sink, and it makes her cringe. She does a quick wash and lays them on the drying rack, checking the clock to make sure she's on time. She packed her bag last night - keys, this week's New Yorker, wallet - and throws in her phone - personal and work - house keys and a small bagged lunch. She checks her watch and heads out the door. Right on schedule.

As she approaches the subway station, she notices a sea of people. It can only mean one thing. The train isn't running to Manhattan. This isn't the first time she's had to deal with this during rush hour. Deep breaths. She glances at her watch. If you're late, you're late. Your boss will understand.

She heads back up the stairs and walks to the next stop for an alternate route. It's frustrating, but these things happen. Deep breaths. She doesn't freak out this time. The MTA's bullshit is "an uncontrollable," she calls it. There's nothing she can do except take a deep breath and make the best of it.

And she's getting better.

But there are still times when she can't help but let the uncontrollables get the best of her. Like last weekend. The damn MTA again. So she took a cab. And as fate would have it, the parkway was backed up for several miles. She was going to miss the boat. Literally. Usually he can keep her calm by telling her they'll make it. But this time even he knew they'd miss it.

She tried to remain calm. But the tears started coming. Anger, frustration, sadness spilled out. Yes, it looks like a 3-year-old child's temper tantrum. She knows that. But for someone with many traits of type a personality (sense of urgency, perfectionism, difficulty relaxing), it's hard to take these seemingly "end-of-the-world" events lightly. He tries to calm her. Rubs her back, tells her it's OK. But it doesn't help. She digs her nails into her legs. Immediately, a bruise forms. "Should have cut my nails," she thinks.

It's embarrassing - overreacting to something small, uncontrollable. Her New Year's resolution was to relax more, stay calm. And she's getting there. But often, disappointment and things not going according to plan seize control.

It's not quite OCD. Yes, she likes routine, organization, plans. But she isn't debilitated if the bed isn't made (he never makes the bed) or someone wants to play something by ear instead of planning it out days, weeks in advance. And it's not quite full-blown type a personality. But it's an illness. And every day, she tries to overcome and persevere.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Observing the unobserved

My Indie Ink Writing Challenge this week comes from Cab: While somewhere outside, close your eyes for 10 minutes and just listen. Then write about what caught your attention and how you felt about it.

At first, I wished I had had time to do this while at home in the Boston suburbs this past weekend. But having sat outside in Manhattan and really paid attention (I did more than listen; I watched, I listened, I smelled) to what was around me, I was glad to do it in the hustle and bustle of the city.


Streets filled with colors. Yellow, red, blue cars and trucks drive by. A sea of color on Sixth Avenue. The Concrete Jungle isn't all grey. Languages. English. Spanish. Chinese. It no longer phases me. Catches my attention, yes, but no longer surprises me. Smell of street meat. Middle Eastern cuisine. Taco truck. Mixing with the stink of exhaust and summer. I take a deep breath but I don't feel refreshed. My lungs feel polluted. How did I run a half marathon in this city? How will I run a marathon next year? Honking. Brakes. Engines. Subways running beneath the grate under my feet. Talking. Shouting. Cell phone conversations. Aside from a revving truck, these sounds become a quiet hum in the background. Will my hearing be compromised? I'm used to seeing young mothers without wedding bands or engagement rings. This time, I spot a married couple, but she is not wearing a ring. He is. My mind drifts. I'll be wearing a wedding ring. So will my husband. Why do men choose not to wear one? Even more rare, why do women? I pass a store I pass almost every day. It's closed. It's always closed. I don't think I've ever seen it open. Passport photos. Head shots. Why is it always closed? I turn the corner. I mind my own business. Cat calls. I ignore them. Why can men get away with that? I pick up my pace. Hear the thumping of my boots against the pavement. The ruffle of my shirt. I leave the sights, sounds of the city behind me. Enter the office building. Blast of air conditioning. Ding of the elevator. Back to work.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The final 10 minutes

So this is my first Indie Ink Challenge. I'm glad I finally remembered to sign up. And then I'm glad I remembered to write it. I was away for a few days, and even someone has organized as me has their slip-ups.

My challenge comes from Christy and while I think it's a pretty morbid one, I can't say I've never thought about it before: You die, but are given 10 minutes to talk with one person before 'passing on'. Describe that scene.

Having had to write my own obituary for a reporting class in college (and a few bumpy plane rides), I've done my fair share of thinking about this conversation. And it's never easy, and it usually leaves me choked up, trying to think of something more fun like ice cream or a cartoon.

But one person? It should go without saying that one person would be my fiancee (and husband come Oct. 1). But part of me cries out to my mom. But given that I've thought about this scene before, on a bumpy plane ride, that is where this scene will take place:

It was a bumpy takeoff, but I had Jeff next to me. I clutched his hand - my knuckles white - until we leveled off. I breathed a sigh of relief and Jeff squeezed my hand.

"It's OK," he said. "Planes are made to deal with turbulence."

But it was raining when we took off. Lots of air pockets. Lots of bumps. The seatbelt light went on, and the captain came on the loudspeaker.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are experiencing a bit of turbulence. Please take your seats and fasten your seatbelts," he said.

But something doesn't feel right. And all of a sudden we are falling. Fast. My stomach comes up to my throat and I grab Jeff's hand. But this time he doesn't seem calm. He squeezes back. We are still falling.

"Jeff," I start.

He forces a smile.

"It'll be OK, Heather. I'm here."

But I'm not as strong as he is and I start to cry. Not loudly like the woman behind me and the man behind her. But the tears slowly trickle down my face. Jeff's bright blue eyes are wet.

"At least we are together," he says.

I don't know how fast we are falling or how high up we were when we started. I can't do the math to figure out when it will all be over.

"I love you Jeff," I start. "I am so happy I found you."

He leans over and kisses my forehead.

"I love you too."

I read somewhere that time slows down when your body is in fight or flight stage. Hitting the ground or the water at our velocity couldn't have taken very long. But I'm filled with panic and dread. There are so many things I want to tell Jeff. Tell my mom.

But maybe I shouldn't wait until I have 10 minutes left to get it all out.