Addicts

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On Boston.

Published September 30, 2013 by mandileighbean

One of the facets of my personality of which I am most proud is my predilection to travel, to throw caution to the wind and simply drive.  Last weekend, I traveled to Boston with Raina.  Originally, I was attending an author event for Stephen King and then Raina and I were going to meet up with Liz.  Unfortunately, traffic and random construction prevented me from spending the evening with Stephen King, my literary idol.  Fortunately, I was with amazing friends and we had a wonderful time.  I was captivated by our conversation, by the scenery and the understated beauty of Boston.  Our hotel room overlooked the harbor and I knew it was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  If only I felt so certain more often in life.

WEEKLY PROMPT #2: “A young mother is told that her children have been killed in a drive-by shooting.”

 driveby1COLD

“Alright, you lazy piece of shit, have it your way!” Brenda screamed out into the absolutely frigid night air.  Her breath hung before her as puffy vapor, and she hoped her words hung there just the same, regardless of their vulgarity or of the volume at which they had been shouted.  As a matter of fact, Brenda was damn near ready to pray that her degradations echoed in the still winter air, bouncing back to her nightmare of an ex-boyfriend from any number of surfaces, all coated in snow and ice.  She muttered more slurs and curses as she worked to shut her window against the cold, revolving the crank as fast and as hard as she could to see the glass barely inch along.  Much like her ex-boyfriend, her car was total piece of shit and she focused on the lack of power windows to black out the frustrated and terrified wailings of the children only barely buckled in the backseat.  They were her daughters, ages two and five and both had been fathered by the piece of shit who wanted nothing to do with any of them, and who had just stormed back inside his trailer, evidenced by the screen door in extreme disrepair banging against an already battered frame.  “Fucking asshole,” Brenda screamed to release the fury, but with the window finally rolled up, the space seemed cramped and lethal and the words seemed especially cruel as they settled heavily onto the girls like ash from some great disaster, eruption, or explosion.  If Brenda really stopped to think about it, she would realize her daughters were constantly covered in such debris, but she didn’t want to do that because guilt was an ugly and messy thing.  Thinking was half the problem, anyway; Brenda spent most of her time pondering and contemplating, and what had it gotten her?  Where had it brought her?  Here, to this absolute train wreck of a life?  Well, fuck you very much; Brenda did not want to be here any longer, so she slammed the shifter into reverse and peeled out of the tiny drive, letting the gravel fly.  She was going to speed towards relief, towards her apartment and her couch and a large tumbler filled with vodka.

But what about the girls?  Easy; she’d drop them off at her mom’s place.  She never said no and besides, didn’t Ma owe Brenda a great deal for essentially dismantling her formative years by providing no central male figure, and being a hot mess of a role model?  Brenda thought so, or at least she thought she read something like that somewhere important.  With a plan in mind, Brenda felt calm and steady.  She took a deep breath in and let a deep breath out, not surprised by the accompanying smoke because it was freezing in the vehicle.  The heater only rattled to prove it was on but not necessarily that it was working, offering only superficial and minimal relief from the extreme temperatures.  Brenda shivered, but gave no thought whatsoever to the two darling girls in the back, clad only in thin, stained nightgowns with matching backpacks – soiled and practically empty – strewn across the floor of the vehicle.  The crying had slightly subsided, perhaps because the girls had realized, at even so young an age, that their parents were radically unstable and simply could not care for them.  Maybe they were finally becoming accustomed to shuttling between filthy, cheap apartments littered with bottles, syringes, pipes, and burns in the ugly, itchy carpets.  It was possible the girls quieted their sobs because the preternaturally knew it would all be over soon, either because one of their two sets of grandparents would finally adopt – rescue – them, or they would die.  Having no sort of concept whatsoever about the latter, the girls may have been consoling themselves with thoughts of their grandparents, but it is far more likely and certainly plausible that the girls were too physically exhausted – hungry, malnourished, and in desperate need of a bath – and mentally drained to even cry.

Brenda, on the other hand, was still simply pissed.  Not only did that douche bag not keep the kids like he was fucking supposed to – like he had agreed to – but she was out of cigarettes, too.  There was sincerely no way in hell she could survive the remainder of the ride to her mother’s home, let alone the lecture she’d certainly receive upon arrival, without some menthols.  Brenda also firmly believed that vodka is best served from embarrassingly cheap glassware, that is truly only thick plastic, alongside a nice, long drag of a cigarette.  And therein lay her plan for the evening, sitting her tired and frankly unappreciated ass on the couch, and drinking and smoking until both her vision and hearing were drastically impaired.  She owned the sofa and ignored its repulsive condition; she had plenty of vodka because she always made damn sure she would never run out.  All she needed were the smokes.

For the first time on the drive, Brenda seriously considered her surroundings (it was nothing short of a miracle that there hadn’t been an accident).  They were in an awfully shady and decidedly dangerous part of town.  She had only been this far east once, and that had been because the douche bag extraordinaire had needed a fix.  Brenda figured she now needed a fix herself, but her craving was not illegal nor did it incite theft or murder.  She certainly had her misgivings, but pulled into the essentially deserted parking lot of the Cumberland Farms on the corner.  It was well lit and practically empty, so Brenda assumed the chances of danger were lowered.  Or had her need for self-medication risen to an alarming new level?  Fuck it – she was tired of thinking.  She put the car in park and made to kill the engine and remove the key from the ignition, but she stopped.  She whipped her head back to the girls, who simply sat and stared stupidly back at their wrecked, crumbling mother.  Their eyes were red and swollen, as were their thin, tiny lips and the whole of their faces glistened from tears and spit and sweat.  They had finally gone quiet.  Brenda cleared her throat.  “Mama’s just got to run inside the store, okay?  Mama will leave the car running so you don’t freeze, alright?”

There was no response, not that Brenda thought there would be, and so she hurried from the car.  Her slipper-covered soles fell softly onto the sidewalk and scurried closer to the light and warmth of the interior of the convenience store.  Just to the left of the entrance were two formidable-looking men, hooded and avoiding any unnecessary and undue attention.  They were certainly suspicious and inexplicably made Brenda slow her pace, feeling the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand at attention.  Shrugging it off, Brenda slipped inside and strolled to the counter, doing her best to display a winning smile.  The clerk behind the counter was a male and attractive, so Brenda made a concerted effort to bat her eyelashes and laugh breathlessly for no apparent reason.  “Hey there,” she crooned.  “Do you have Pall Malls?”

There was the sound of screeching tires, but no one seemed to notice; not the two men dressed and ready for danger outside, or the two inside the store.

“Uh,” the clerk turned to face the massive wall of nicotine behind him.  His eyes roamed over the rows and rows of packs, all different colors.  He turned around after a moment.  “Yes, yes we do.”

“Do you have 100s in the orange pack?” Brenda asked, leaning over the counter so that her small breasts squished together to look bigger.  They were nearly falling out of her tank top, but her shame had departed with her pride and her figure some time ago.

Shots rang out; many, many shots, too many shots to count, just one pop after another.  The glass windows shattered and instinctively, Brenda dropped to her knees.  She couldn’t see anything, clapped her palms across her eyes and screamed.  She tried to curl up as small as she could to try and stay safe and alive.  The clerk had done much the same on the other side of the counter, and both stayed hidden until they heard tires peel away and could smell rubber burning against pavement.  They rose to face one another.  An odd, eerie silence followed immediately after the shots, where Brenda and the clerk were both frozen – rooted to the spot – and it had nothing to do with the weather.  Brenda locked eyes with the clerk, as if doing so made everything else go dark and become nonexistent.  She had a feeling, a horrible and inexplicable feeling that something terrible had happened, that the shots had been pointed pebbles carelessly launched at her fragile life and now it was shattering and splintering and cracking.  The clerk was the first to break the eye contact, turning away and leaning low and to the right to use the telephone.  He was calling 911.  Brenda didn’t know how she knew that, only that she did, because her ears were fuzzy, like they had been plugged with cotton.  She felt nauseous and overwhelmed and alone, so very alone.  She turned and thought she might stumble to the door, but to her surprise, she was running.  She burst through the door and found the two men dead at her feet, blood splashed and spattered this way and that.  Her eyes darted between them to her car.  The vehicle could only have been a few feet away, but Brenda believed the distance to be the greatest she had ever crossed in all her life.  She was screaming, trying to scream their names but she knew it was unintelligible and more guttural than anything else.  She collapsed against the rear passenger door and worked for a moment before she wrenched it open.

Both the girls were slumped over, bleeding steadily.

driveby

On chance encounters.

Published June 22, 2012 by mandileighbean

I love how I write an empassioned entry about my new and strong resolve to update regularly, and then miss a day.  That’s me in a nutshell: weak, but full of rationalizations for said weakness.  I must be incredibly difficult to love.

Wednesday was a great day, though.  I went to Barnes and Noble and though I spent more than I would have liked, it was well worth it.  I purchased a trendy bookbag that perfectly fits the Bohemian – and let’s be honest, sometimes pretentious – style I am currently going for.  I also purchased the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe, a set of sketching graphite pencils and a sketchbook.  One of my summer resolutions is to take up painting.  That is a somewhat daunting feat, so I’ve broken the goal into baby steps: I’ll start with sketching.  My good friend and college roomie is an artist in every sense of the word, and on Tuesday, she’s going to take me sketching with her.  Hopefully she’ll be able to show me the ropes so I can create something decent.  Purchases in hand, I went to the cafe to have an iced coffee because it was hot as hell and to get some reading and writing done.  I did read “The Offshore Pirate” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and wrote a little bit, but nothing I’m immensely proud of.  I’m still working through a dry patch and feeling decidedly uninspired.  I have ideas that have potential, but currently, I am failing exceptionally at executing them.

What I remember most about my time spent at Barnes and Noble was a beautiful man who seemed to sketching out designs on graph paper.  He was using one of those multi-colored pens that changes color when you click it – either red, green, blue or black.  When he sneezed, I said, “God bless you.”  He thanked me and offered me a warm smile, and I gushed as I tried to focus on sweetening my iced coffee (which I completely blotched.  It was disgusting and I threw it out before I was halfway finished. I don’t blame the barista, though. I don’t think I was drinking it fast enough because the ice melted and made it watery).  I stirred in the sugar and made note of his shaved, dirty blonde hair and dark green eyes.  He was of a thin yet athletic build and his skin was tanned from being in the sun.  He was dressed in earth tones and wore a thick, leather bracelet on his right wrist.  He had a trendy knapsack with what looked like a sleeping mat rolled up and stuck underneath the top flap.  I wondered if he had taken a bus to the shopping center.  I doubted he had a car; he would never condescend to such consumerism, or be so ignorant of the adverse effects of automobiles on the environment.  Then again, if he were taking a bus, that’d make him a hypocrite and wonderfully complex.  I had fallen in love with him in the 27 seconds it took me to prepare my coffee with half-and-half and sugar, but turned away from him to find a seat at the bar against the full-length windows.  I could have engaged him in charming conversation prehaps, or at least asked his name.  I wanted him to ask me what I was reading or what I was writing, but I did nothing.  When I saw him exit the store and cross before the windows once or twice, I smiled but remained still, flicking my eyes back to my book or the screen of my iPad.

I’m a chickenshit, is what it is.

Later, an old friend of mine from childhood invited me out for drinks for happy hour and a great hole in the wall in Seaside Heights.  I accepted but with a strong sense of caution because this friend only reaches out when something heavy is going on.  She, regretably, is kind of a hot mess and things have not changed.  I had fun and it was nice to escape from the mundane quality my life is so reluctant to relinquish, but I could not do that every night like she can.  I came home so drunk that I ate rancid spaghetti sauce that had been left out on the counter since before lunchtime.  I awoke with a dry mouth, a pounding headache and a palpable sense of shame.  It was a gross feeling.

Today was better.  I had lunch with my artist friend – she’s also a spectacular musician – and also ran into a very good friend who’s been missing in action as of late.  She’s married, domesticated and wonderfully mature.  She wears elegant dresses and goes out for cocktails with her husband and their friends like a real adult.

This weekend should be just as entertaining.  Hopefully I’ll remember to update as it happens.

The writing prompt I’ve been working on has been giving me real problems.  I don’t particularly think the prompt is all that great, so I am continually and readily disengaging in the creative process.  That ends tonight, though.  I will finish the damned thing if it’s the last thing I do.

PROMPT: Unusual Phobia.
  Create a character with an unusual phobia.  Write a scene in which the character faces the phobia.

The most common fear among human beings is death, followed closely by public speaking.  Then again, it might be the other way around but regardless of the accuracy of the aforementioned statistic, Melissa Grander feared neither death nor public speaking.  The activity which caused her body to seize, her palms to sweat and her mind to waver between insanity and unconsciousness was dinner conversation.  It was not a common fear by any means, and Melissa made peace with the fact with the rationalization that she was not a common young woman.  Exactly what made her so uncommon eluded Melissa and at night, when she lay awake watching the dusty ceiling fan in her bedroom slowly rotate around and around, she worried that she wasn’t uncommon or unique and that she was just weird; simply bizarre.  After all, who can’t hold a simple conversation over a meal?  Who can’t engage in a dialogue over dinner?

The answer is Melissa Grander.  She could not be charming, witty or even responsive while eating.  It was effort enough to make sure nothing spilled and stained her blouse, that her teeth were clear of debris.  To add the societal pressure of being interesting was more than she could comprehend.  Her need for silence at mealtimes left her lonely and alone.  Other than her family who were supportive and understanding, Melissa did not have many friends.  Having to decline every single dinner and lunch invitation led to a notable drop in those invitations, to the point where Melissa was left off the list because everyone knew she wouldn’t come out anyway.  Melissa also knew she could never join in the group brunches, lunches and dinners and could never do so with a romantic prospect, so she stopped dating altogether.  When the occasional male interest made his intentions known, Melissa panicked and aborted the whole thing, assuming that once the young man found out how abnormal she was, he’d be completely turned off.  Who wanted to be a lover and a savior and a doctor and a therapist?  Wasn’t that too much pressure?

All of Melissa’s social interactions stemmed from her weekly trips to the mall.  She didn’t necessarily make purchases, but she flitted around like a regular social butterfly from kiosk to kiosk and department to department, making small talk with various employees who all found her to be pleasant, compassionate and most importantly, normal.  She could eat alone at the food court without anyone thinking twice, and satisfy her need for human interaction in the small, superficial doses she could handle.  It was kind of ideal, albeit sad and temporary.  Would these workers come to her funeral?  Would they send her cards if she was sick in the hospital?  Melissa knew that they wouldn’t, but the fear did not outweigh her fear of conversation during meals.

Melissa was solitary, and as a result, she enjoyed solitary activities.  During her social visits to the mall, she would bring along a book to read near the fountain in the center.  The bubbling and tumbling of the water into the stone basin provided the perfect white noise to drown out the buzz of consumerism around her, so she could afford to become lost in a literary world where she could live vicariously.  She, Melissa Grander, was the young female protagonist with the painted nails and nasty habit of chain smoking, who moved from bed to bed every night and searched for the solution to her looming but not named existential crisis in seedy bars in a big city.  Melissa could be hunting ghosts in an old, Victorian manor, foiling an assassination attempt against some world leader, or falling in love barefoot and breathless while caught in the middle of a surprise summer storm.  Anything was possible for Melissa while she was reading.

Her favorite author was James Prince, a master of the paranormal thriller.  His characters were so authentic and painfully human, despite their supernatural abilities and/or origins.  While the setting and circumstances of the plot were extreme, the themes were perfectly applicable to her humdrum life and Prince’s writing became universal.  She had a large intellectual crush on him and filled idle time with daydreams about chance encounters and resulting romances with Prince.  It was childish and juvenile and at the back of her mind, Melissa realized she was stunted emotionally.  Sighing, she’d close the book and head toward the exit.

One random Tuesday, Melissa was heading out the automatic doors near the salon.  She paused to warily observe the gray, swirling skies and the thick raindrops beginning to pound the pavement.  Her umbrella was shoved beneath her backseat and she hesitated, not wanting to become drenched and uncomfortable.  Her feet shifted in thought, as did her dark, expressive eyes, which widened when they fell upon a cardboard cutout to her right.  It was James Prince, in the most scholarly of poses with his strong, calloused right hand curled about his strong, impressive chin.  His eyes were kind but a million miles away, and a deep shade of brown.  A small smile hung about his lips without actually landing.  It was a beautiful picture and she took a step or two towards it, like she was physically compelled to do so and could not resist.  Underneath the torso of the author was a slit, and beneath that was an entrance form.  There was a contest being held; one lucky winner would be chosen to have dinner with the author, and win a signed copy of his newest book, yet to be released.

Melissa’s breath caught in her throat.  This was incredible; this was serendipitous!  If she entered and if she won, she would have to face her fear!  She could be normal with his assistance; she’d have to shape up for James Prince.
Melissa hurried over and filled out about thirty cards, shoving them mercilessly into the slot, crumpling corners in her haste to get as many forms as she could into the cardboard cutout.  The winner would be announced in one month.

Melissa went to the mall every day and entered again and again.  She stopped making her social visits, completely forgot about her uncommon phobia and was graced with that proverbial eye of the tiger.  She was focused only on winning and the opportunity of being healthy.  The irony that her behavior to do so was unhealthy was lost on her.

A month later, the winner was announced.  Melissa Grander would indeed be having dinner with James Prince.

The big night came and she sat upon a bench on her front porch.  Her hands twitched in her lap and she was barely breathing.  Every pair of headlights that washed over her made her nauseous; the limousine would be arriving to pick her up at any minute.  She had index cards in her tiny bag, each with vague responses to typical questions one might ask over dinner.  Melissa hoped she’d be able to keep it together.  She’d honestly rather die than mortify herself before James Prince, the love of her sad, delusional life.  Sighing sadly, Melissa automatically rose as headlights flooded the drive.  Her moment had come at last.  She gathered her wits and her bag and trotted over to the rear door of the limousine when it was opened from the inside.  There sat James Prince.

“Oh my God,” Melissa breathed.

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