Break Up

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On being the Duckie.

Published February 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

prettyinpink

I love 80’s culture; movies, music, fashion – all of it. I’m something like a girl anachronism, born 18 years too late. I should have come of age in that decade of magic, of decadence. It was the last era of wholesomeness (even despite the extravagance). Things really seemed possible then.

One of the greatest artistic – and yes, I used the word “artistic” – endeavors from that decade is the movie “Pretty in Pink.” I wrote a blog post two years ago about when I met Andrew McCarthy and was irrevocably charmed. He was intelligent, charismatic, and incredibly talented. Because of my undying affection for the actor, I can honestly say I’ve seen that film close to twenty times. One such time was Wednesday night, when a good friend and I traveled close to an hour to watch the movie on the big screen. The film was released for a brief second time to commemorate its 30th anniversary.

We knew the lines, we knew the plot, and we knew the music. What sense did it make to pay to see the film? One could argue it did not make any sense at all, but then again, I was shocked to see how many others had traveled to see a movie they’d already seen. I have always had a decidedly human problem of thinking my inclinations and hobbies are unique and singular and special. I’m proven wrong time and time again, but in frustratingly human fashion, I’m still always surprised when I realize my passions are shared.

At any rate, the film as was entertaining as ever, and there was something thrilling about seeing it on the big screen. I could imagine I hadn’t missed my favorite decade, that it was opening weekend and I was enjoying it all in real time for the first time. In danger of overdosing on nostalgia that was never really mine to begin with, my good friend leaned over and asked me if I ever had a “Duckie” while attending high school.

For those of you who may not know, Duckie is a character from the film. He’s hopelessly, shamelessly, desperately, and even embarrassingly devoted to his best friend, madly in love and utterly heartbroken over the unrequited nature of the relationship. He admits he would die for her, stands by and patiently suffers as she chases after another guy, and even lets her go so she can fulfill her wildest, romantic dreams while his remain unfulfilled. It may not be as traumatic and dramatic as all that, but forgive me; I have never had a Duckie.

I’ve always been Duckie.

I’ve always been the friend in the background, lingering and pining secretly – sometimes creepily – for a friend I never really had a chance with. I remember at one high school dance, I was asked by a mutual friend to break up with her boyfriend for her; a boy who was my close friend and whom I had been crushing on fairly seriously. Why I agreed to be the harbinger of such devastation I’ll never know. Maybe it was because I was eager for any excuse to talk to the boy, and maybe because such an episode could escalate and strengthen the friendship. I hope it was because I wanted him to hear it from me, a real friend, because I could soften the blow and handle the whole thing delicately, properly. Whatever the reason, I took a deep breath to steady myself, to prepare myself, and left the gymnasium. I stepped out of the double doors and into the bright hallway, blinking against the harsh fluorescent lights. I looked for my friend, and he wasn’t hard to find.

He had tried to hide himself on the far side of a short but wide trophy case, but his long legs stuck out. He was sitting on the gross floor with his back against the uncomfortable and random brick wall. He was opposite the refreshment table, but despite the flurry of activity, he was looking down at the dirty floor with a can of soda clutched in his hand. He was out there all alone and looking especially despondent, like he already knew what was coming. I breathed a small sigh of relief; my job would be easier. I walked over and sat beside him.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

I figured it’d be best to just come out with it, do it fast like ripping off a band-aid. “Hannah wanted me to-”

“Yeah, I know,” he said. He cut me off, but didn’t say anything else. He took a swig from his can.

“Oh,” I said. I was slightly dismayed by the building, awkward silence. I looked down at my hands and tried to think of what else to say.

“You don’t have to sit out here with me,” he mumbled. He hadn’t made eye contact with me.

“I know I don’t have to. I want to,” I smiled. He looked up and returned the smile.

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I remember we had a good time. So while being Duckie can be limiting and heartbreaking, it’s also pretty awesome because being a friend is awesome. Sometimes a friend is all a person needs.

Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself as of late.

 

 

On not knowing.

Published July 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

In retrospect, today seems totally indescribable.  It wasn’t exactly busy, it wasn’t exactly boring, I cried really hard, I laughed really loud and I ate some good food.  Today just … was, I guess.  As a writer, one of the hazards of the job is that you look for deeper meaning and symbolism in EVERYTHING, absolutely everything.  When the meaning and/or symbolism is not easily found or discerned, I go into panic mode.  I feel restless, unsure about life, and suddenly quite overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe and existence.  I so desperately want for every single, solitary moment of my life to be filled with meaning – with excitement, drama, romance, mystery, intrigue, etc. that when it’s not, I feel empty and wasted.  Sometimes, I worry about whether or not I have bipolar disorder because my changes in mood and manic fits seem to fit the description.  Or is it just that I’m passionate, and should that be viewed as a negative thing?  I believe the stronger one reacts to a situation, the more that person is emotionally invested in the situation and has therefore developed a deep connection.  I want deep connections with others more than anything else, more than stable employment, riches and all material possessions.

Does that make me crazy?

To be honest, I had some difficulty composing tonight’s piece.  Maybe it’s because I’m not ready to look back on college with a sense of nostalgia because I’m anxious about moving forward.  Maybe it’s because I’m lazy.  Maybe it’s because I’m unmotivated, uninspired and selfish.

Maybe I just think too much.

 

PROMPT: “Four college bandmates who haven’t seen each other in years travel back to their former campus for a reunion.”

PIECE: Eric stood outside the ornate-looking double doors that served as the entrance to the so-called “ballroom” on campus.  He was rocking back and forth on his heels, in expensive shoes that pinched his toes and that had been purchased for this very occasion.  He had been so excited to see Tom, Ted and Joe; as he was driving up the coast of the Garden State, he had been reminiscing about old times and glory days.  He remembered the way his thin chest had swelled with pride when the four of them, cleverly named Quatrain of Pain, had played at Homecoming and the student body had embraced them and really liked their sound.  That night, beneath the lights in the Student Center that hung over the stage, Eric believed for the first time that his dream was attainable.  He could be rich and famous and followed by adoring fans.  Hell, after all, he had the girl.  He remembered looking down and into the crowd for that wide smile, and remembered wanting to vomit right then and there in front of everyone when he realized that smile was not meant for him.  In reality, Kelly had been smiling at Tom.  To make matters worse, Tom had been smiling right back; smiling and winking and shamelessly flirting with the one woman Eric had ever really and truly connected with.  The last time Eric and Tom had a conversation had been that night, and it had been brutal, just short of flying fists.  It had been the end of a friendship, the end of the band and the end of a dream.  Eric had watched Tom leave with Kelly, scowling even as he slipped an arm around her tiny waist.  He had been animatedly saying something and when Kelly looked back over her shoulder at Eric, Eric had wanted to die.  Taking a deep breath, Eric returned to the present and eyed the double doors with a real sense of trepidation.

On the other side of the door stood Tom and he was looking out at the crowd.  People with beaming, genuine smiles moved from table to table, mingling and catching up.  Tom shoved his hands in the front pockets of his khakis and remained where he was.  He had wanted to join in the frivolity, but something was holding him back, nastily whispering in his ear that he had no right to show up, not after what he had done to Eric and Ted and Joe.  He had ruined the band, ruined a shared dream and then systematically and swiftly cut them from his life.  When he walked in and had spotted Ted and Joe across the room, serving as the center of attention for a small crowd who were all laughing with their heads thrown back, he had started to walk over, smiling in spite of himself.  He had halted suddenly when he saw Kelly walking over.  The break-up had been apocalyptic; Kelly had undergone a procedure which ended a life Tom had helped her create, but never said anything to Tom about it until it was over.  Tom had shoved her hard, bruised her and said some harsh things he could never take back.  He stayed where he was, lonely and self-pitying.

Ted and Joe had made it out of college unscathed.  Sure, they had been upset when the band disbanded, but they had each other and so they survived.  After college, they had moved in together.  Ted worked at an engineering firm in the city and had just started dating a coworker.  Joe was playing music in local bars with different bands at night after doing custodial work at the local baseball stadium during the day.  He was planning to move out with his longtime girlfriend, but was waiting for the right moment to tell Ted.  For now, they would reminisce and have a good time and save all the complicated, messy bullshit for the morning.

On feeling like you’re about to cry.

Published July 14, 2012 by mandileighbean

Mimi and Jimmy left this morning, with Teddy, to take Jimmy back to Virginia.  I find the gray skies to be fitting.

PROMPT: “You accidentally overhear a conversation between two people you’ve never met. The topic of the conversation shocks and dismays you. Write about these conversations and describe how you respond to the content:

 ■1. A conversation between two stockbrokers

 ■2. A conversation between a priest and a member of his parish

 ■3. A conversation between a woman and the man with whom she’s been cheating on her husband

 

PIECE (#3):  I was taking the train home from the city after visiting with a friend.  We had strolled along Manhattan’s Upper East Side like we actually lived there, dreaming and scheming about ways to fabulously grow up without losing our juvenile tendencies to laugh loudly in a crowded room, to be unashamed about pretty much anything and to dream big even when the results had the potential of being disastrous.  I was staring out the window in the darkness of the night, squinting and trying to discern solid figures and shapes among the shadows.  It was difficult and as a result, I was becoming bored.  A voice in the seat behind me grabbed my attention.

“It’s not that I don’t love you, Joe – you know that I do.”  It was clearly a woman’s voice and she sounded tired, as if this conversation had been going on for months without a foreseeable end.  “It’s just that Sean offers me security and he provides for me.  Besides, he’s never been anything but sweet to me and I gave him my hand in marriage.  This has to stop.”

My mouth dropped.  Adultery?  Scandal?  I sat up a little straighter, like the change in posture would help me to hear better.  “But do you love him?  Do you love him the way you love me?” Joe asked.  There was a strain in his voice, as if Joe knew this could be the end of everything and he was running out of ingenious ways to prevent it.

The woman sighed.  “It’s different with Sean.  I’ve been trying to explain –“

“You don’t love him the way you love me, and there’s no way he can love you like the way I do!” Joe exploded.  “I could keep you safe, I could provide for you!  I could also make you happier than you’ve ever been.  Haven’t you been deliriously happy these past few months?  I know I have.”

“I have been happy, Joe.  But it’s not practical.”

“Since when does practicality have anything to do with love?”

The woman’s voice softened, as if she were gently smiling.  “That’s the artist in you, Joe.  Not everyone can live as carelessly you as do.  There have to be some responsible people in the world.”

“I’m not talking about responsibility!” Joe roared.  “Don’t treat me like a child!  I am talking about love and how if you want to be with me, then you should be with me.  Leave Sean; you haven’t really been with him since we met.”

There was a pregnant pause.  I was breathless waiting for her response, but not as tortured by it as Joe.

“It’s just not practical,” was all she said.

On regrets and struggles.

Published July 7, 2012 by mandileighbean

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my sister and her husband and their children are visiting. I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything in the world, but I was disappointed that I had to decline an invitation to the bar with friends. I’m worried about why I’m disappointed – I want it to be because my one friend is only visiting for a short time and I really would like to see him again before he returns home, but I’m afraid that I’m really disappointed because I actually believe I could go out and meet someone, and every time I deny myself such an opportunity, I’m signing my own death sentence of sorts. I know that’s melodramatic, but it’s eye-opening, none the less. I need to cut ties with juvenile notions and silly daydreams and become an adult. I am not going to meet the love of my life out at a bar because that is not the kind of girl that I am.

To be fair, bars are different from clubs. I’d probably fare better at a bar because no one’s grinding to a manufactured beat. Usually, everyone is just drinking and playing pool. That kind of crowd is definitely more my speed.

But what’s more important; spending time with family visiting from out-of-state, or tracking down a potential future husband? It is these kind of mundane struggles that life is filled with, and they create regrets. Anyway, that’s my belief. I am totally open to other explanations, and freely admit that I could be over-thinking things, as I am known to do.

I also do not want to be obsessed with romance. I want there to be more to me than stolen glances and cheap caresses.

Don’t we all?

PROMPT: A dentist is stabbed while he waits in line at the movies.

PIECE: Dr. Ellis was a dentist and a mediocre one at that.  He wasn’t terrible but he didn’t have as many repeat patients as he would like.  He wasn’t excellent and sometimes, he did forget to numb patients.  He was competent, but not worthy of any particular praise.  He was average and some nights, that fact bothered him.  Some nights, the fact did not.  Tonight belonged to the latter category; he was much too intoxicated to give a damn about anything, let alone his professional reputation.

Janice had left him.  Dr. Ellis had come home and found that everything seemed somewhat off.  The little hairs that were typically useless were standing at attention, so he decided to investigate.  Setting his briefcase on the floor just inside the front door, his expensive shoes with the clicking soles traversed up the wooden staircase and kept left.  He entered the master bedroom and went to the closet.  Throwing the curtain doors aside, Dr. Ellis realized that it was as he feared; Janice’s things were gone.  He moved to the dresser on the other side of the room and pulled out the top drawer on the right side – her side – only to find it empty.  Stomach flipping end over end, he made a detour to the bathroom to deposit the contents of his churning intestines into the porcelain bowl.  Wiping his mouth with his forearm, Dr. Ellis took shaking steps into the kitchen.  He poured himself a glass of water, spilling it slightly here and there, before sitting at the table.  The top was marble and Janice had picked it out.  He had admired her taste until now.  Now, he wanted to smash the table to bits and chuck said bits at Janice’s face, marring her beauty with tiny nicks and cuts that drew blood.  It was violent and animal-like and he should know better, but so fucking what?  She had left him out of the blue – he was entitled to be bitter.

The tears and the trembling came and in this completely emasculated state, Dr. Ellis discovered the letter in the middle of the table. She started off with the typical bullshit: she didn’t know when they started to become strangers, only that it happened.  She thought he was always far from home, even when he was beside her because his mind was always somewhere else, always moving a million miles a minute when she desperately needed him there, in the present, with her.

She took a paragraph to explain that she did not leave him because of problems between the sheets.  She used five to seven sentences to be absolutely clear that she did not care that he had trouble getting it up more often than not.  Janice wanted it to be known that she wasn’t that kind of shallow woman, and that Dr. Ellis should not feel like any less of a man.

But him not really providing for her, neglecting her and not proposing marriage – all of that  should make him feel like a complete and total douche bag and less of a man, she wrote.  Janice was devastated that she had wasted years on the dentist and didn’t intend to waste another second.

So she was gone.

Dr. Ellis got good and liquor-ed up and went to the movies.  He hadn’t paid the cable bill, but needed some kind of mindless, visual stimuli to keep the pain at bay for at least another 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Dr. Ellis needed such relief on a rainy Friday night – everybody and their fucking brother was the local cineplex.  He swayed in the never-ending line, blinking slowly and licking at his dry lips.  He wondered if the woman in the ticket booth would notice that he was three sheets to the wind.  If she did, would she say anything?  It was hard to tell.  If she was good-looking, should Dr. Ellis say something?  Was that too soon

Dr. Ellis was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he did not hear the guttural screams from behind him.  He did not catch the winking metal as it was caught in the overhead lights.  It was not until he felt a searing pain in his side that he realized he had been stabbed.  Clutching his side, he fell to the ground and looked up.  A wild-looking woman with sweat-slicked hair and wide eyes stood above him and she was shrieking.  Most of it was unintelligible.  He was able to catch the words “no” and “Novocaine” and “numb” and “dick.”

Heh.  So numb was Dr. Ellis to everything around him that he had lost his girlfriend and his professional reputation, and maybe even his life. Still, he couldn’t care.

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