Cigarettes

All posts tagged Cigarettes

On physical impossibilities.

Published July 12, 2017 by mandileighbean

I’m going to save the apology for the lapse in posting and refrain from the typical slew of empty promises and resolutions. You know the drill; sometimes I post, sometimes I don’t, but please believe me when I say I always want to. Writing fulfills me in a way that nothing else really does (except maybe Popeye’s chicken), and it needs to be more of a priority. Also, they’re building a Popeye’s near me, so how’s that for a sign from the universe?

I’m proud of this week’s writing prompt for a couple of different reasons. First, it’s the beginning of a better writing schedule (last empty promise I make, I swear (well, other than that last one)). Second, I use first-person point of view, which is something I never do. Using first-person point of view feels like a confession or admission, like it’s too personal to build a character that isn’t just me with a different name. All my writing might be like that, now that I think about it. Third, it is personal and I think I tackle a very real fear for woman of a certain age without being melodramatic. This voice I use could be fleshed out into a very real and very endearing character were I to pursue and develop this idea further.

Hope you enjoy! Please comment and let me know what you think, and please share.

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #3.2017: The day before helping her best friend give birth, a woman of thirty learns that she will never have children of her own.

These days, you can’t fucking smoke anywhere.

I mean, the hospital I get; no one should be smoking there for obvious reasons I don’t have to enumerate to make my case. But walking across the street from the hospital – and then ten more yards for good measure – seems closer to ridiculous than anything else. And doing so in ninety-degree weather isn’t helping my mood. It’s incredibly hard to be rational when I’m sweaty and uncomfortable and in desperate, desperate need of a cigarette. I’m filling up with something awful as I halt at the end of the hospital property, teetering on the curb before the busy highway in cheap flip flops. I look left and then right and then right again, because my mom raised me right, and then dart across.

All things considered, getting mowed down by a truck doesn’t seem like the end of the world. I should have lingered just a few moments more, maybe. But that kind of thinking is irrational and morbid and goddamn, I just don’t want to think anymore. I just want a cigarette.

It’s easy to find the other smokers, huddled shamefully beneath a weak-looking tree at the far end of a parking lot for a quaint plaza. The weak-looking tree is the only source of shade and as I approach, I realize everyone beneath the tree is dressed in scrubs and smiling and laughing; they’re all hospital staff and they’re all friends. I think I’ll stand just a few feet away. I’m in no mood to make new friends or yuck it up, but I don’t want to be a bitch.

Scratch that; I don’t know what I want.

Wait, that’s wrong. I know what I want. I want a cigarette. And in this poor, poor excuse for Shangri La, I will have one.

As I light up, I consider the irony of doctors and nurses who smoke. Why anyone willingly inhales carcinogens, myself included, is beyond me, but it seems especially asinine for people who spend their lives saving lives to engage in a wildly unnecessary and risky behavior such as smoking. But fuck me, right? Here I am, puffing away. I might as well enjoy the irony, like an extra in a film who gets casts as an Oscar winner. That kind of irony is less dangerous and more humorous, kind of like how I always thought I’d never have kids because I’d never find a good man. But after thirty long and lonely years, I found a good man – the best man – and he’ll never be a father because my fallopian tubes are too narrow.

I’ll never be a mother. Thinking it aloud in my head forces me to acknowledge the idea with a fatal finality, and I take a seat on the grass beneath the three. I want to take up as little space as possible, curl all up around myself, and shrink into nonexistence; the ultimate Irish exit.

Taking a long drag, I know I’m bordering on morbidity and irrationality again, but there’s definitely something crushing about finding out you physically cannot have children. It wasn’t a choice I made, part of some chic, progressive lifestyle (I’m not being judgmental; to each his own, man. Live and let live, I say). I knew I was lucky to meet Frank; for a while there I thought I’d die alone, like really and truly alone, where the only people at my funeral are friends who have outlived me and cemetery staff. I wanted love and to be loved so badly I was on the verge of doing something reckless and desperate, like online dating (that’s a joke; I don’t judge). Enter Frank, the knight in shining armor; a decent-looking man with a great sense of humor, steady income, and a tolerance for feminine bullshit that is otherworldly. He’s been so patient and forgiving, and I don’t deserve him; I really don’t.

But he deserves children. He wants them; we’ve talked about it. And I can’t give that to him.

I know there’s adoption and fostering and surrogates and a seemingly endless list of possibilities. I know, somewhere deep down inside that this doesn’t have to be the end of the discussion, but it’s different and anyone who says different is selling something.

So maybe I should amend my earlier assertion: I’ll never be a mother on my own terms.

I suppose that sounds kind of selfish and twisted and grotesque, but hey; that’s me all over. Like right now, I’m smoking this cigarette in the July heat when I’m supposed to be at Kathleen’s side, holding her hand and feeding her ice chips, the whole delivery shebang. I snuck out because I needed a cigarette because those roles will never be reversed. I can’t have kids.

And it’s obviously jacking me up real bad, but I can never ever say anything to Kathleen about this, especially not today, which is ironic because it’s the one day it’s dismantling my psyche. Kathleen’s my best friend – another love I don’t really deserve – and she’d be the most supportive person in the world. Seriously, if I told her right now about all of this, she’d Google solutions on her phone from her hospital bed, shouting search results to me as they move her into the delivery room. But it’s her day and I just need to handle my shit.

If I had a daughter, that’s a lesson I’d teach her, that being a strong woman means that sometimes, you just have to handle it. You can break later but in the moment, step up.

I could teach my son that lesson too, because really, strength transcends gender.

Great; I’m crying. I’m sweaty, smell like smoke, and mascara’s running down my cheeks. I’m a mess, and everyone will know and everyone will ask, and we all know that only makes things worse.

Fuck. Shit. Balls.

I haven’t told Frank yet either. Think he’ll leave? He won’t, like I said he’s a good man, but he’ll think about it. And who could blame him?

I take one last drag and stub the cigarette out on the curb behind me. I have to stretch to the point of almost laying down, so fuck it. I lay down in the grass with my head uncomfortably on the curb to watch the sky through the leaves of the weak tree.

What a world.Generic-smoking

On choosing.

Published November 22, 2015 by mandileighbean

The night before last, before falling into bed at 2 am, I went to put my retainers in like a responsible girl. I actually left the cozy comfort of my warm bed to do so, and the bottom retainer fell into the toilet while it was flushing. My life is a seemingly endless string of moments of karmic retribution. The next day, I dropped a roll of garbage bags down the basement stairs and despite physically contorting myself to prevent it, the bags unrolled across the disgusting basement floor.

WRITING PROMPT #27: Unexpectedly, the U.S. government outlaws smoking, with very little resistance from the tobacco industry.

Will turned the long, smooth cigarette over in his fingers mindlessly, without thought. He could be fined heavily, possibly even jailed depending on how zealous the officer was, for merely possessing the cigarette. It did not matter that it was not lit. It did not matter that it was not missing from a pack; it was just one, one that he had found rolling about in the glove compartment of his car. He had been looking for the cheap pair of plastic sunglasses normally stowed there, as the setting sun had been burning brilliantly and he couldn’t see if the stoplight was red or yellow, or even green. He hadn’t been able to see much of anything against the powerful rays, so he pulled over. There he continued to sit, stupefied by the presence of the contraband.

Where had it come from? Will hadn’t smoked in years, had quit long before it was illegal to light up. Besides, the cigarette in question wasn’t even his brand – he had smoked the short ones. The cigarette was definitely a 100, probably from the pack that had once featured a fearless, hyper masculine cowboy on its front. But no one had borrowed his car recently, and he knew no one who smoked, so again – where had the cigarette come from? He seriously pondered in the question in his old convertible. It was going to stop starting any day now, and then he’d be shit out of luck. The top was down partly because the weather was gorgeous, but mostly because it was stuck and wouldn’t go up. If the car did continue to start, if the engine continued to turn over, then all it would take would be one rainy day to end his means of transportation. Such was life, Will supposed. Everyone was one rainy day from calling it quits.

Cars whizzed by him on the freeway, completely unperturbed his presence in the shoulder. There were no craned necks, no one slowing down to try and figure out why he had stopped, no kind passersby asking if they could be of any assistance. Will was alone. In a world filled with all kinds of people, Will was alone. Blurred faces passed him by at seventy miles per hour by the car load, and he was lonely. It seemed terribly unfair and it was with such a realization that Will decided he was going to smoke one of the last cigarettes in America, consequences be damned.

When cigarettes had first been outlawed, there was essentially no protests or backlash or anything. The search and seizures of the nicotine products went smoothly and without incident.  Everyone seemed to think outlawing cigarettes was rational, made sense, and had no consequences, really. As time passed, however, cigarettes became something nostalgic, which returned to them their air of sophistication and personality. Perhaps that was why the tobacco industry had done nothing to fight the proposed law. Maybe those executives knew it was just a matter of time before humans forgot and once again began to choose exactly what was worst for them. Will had always found cigarettes appealing because to inhale carcinogens and poisons was daring and fearless in a way. What kind of person would risk such serious illness for a few minutes of-of what? Of pleasure? Of coolness? What was it that cigarettes gave people? He wasn’t sure he could put it in words. He wasn’t sure he could adequately describe it, but Will knew he missed being able to choose. So what if the choice was nonsensical, irrational and potentially harmful? It was still his choice to make, wasn’t it? How could that kind of freedom be illegal?

Will dug in the glove box for a lighter and lit up.

smoking

 

On treating a blog like a confessional, for better or worse.

Published May 31, 2015 by mandileighbean

woman writer

Good news: A literary agency requested my full manuscript about a week ago.

Bad News: I haven’t written anything in a while, other than melodramatic diary entries that are more embarrassing and revealing than creative.

I had a revelation last night, one that shocked and dismayed me to the point of smoking a cigarette, something I haven’t done in years.  I was being wasteful of time and energy, binge-watching that show “Scandal” on Netflix, when the main character said something like, “Because if he doesn’t remember what happened, it’s like he doesn’t care. And if he doesn’t care enough to remember, it’s like he’s implying that it never happened.” My jaw dropped because those words express my fears and anxieties so exactly. For quite some time, I’ve been hiding from and rejecting the very possible reality that I have been forgotten, and that I am not missed. I need to genuinely understand and embrace the possibility that the entire experience was all my creation, that it is all in my head and it was only ever in my head.

But I fight with myself. I swing back and forth between being a scared, stupid and silly girl with a crush, to a woman who was in love but was denied. One option makes me interesting while the other makes me weak and foolish. Both options, however, are definitely unappealing. I think about the events that transpired constantly, and do my best to remember vividly how it all was because those memories are all I have, the only evidence that I crossed paths with someone amazing at all.

That truth depresses me, nearly knocks the wind from me.

But I’ve told all of this before. Maybe that truth is what really depresses me, that I have nothing new to say as I am stuck.

Heartache may make a woman more interesting, but I think I’d be content to be boring for a while, so long as it meant that I was happy.

Yesterday, I traveled to Adrenaline – the tattoo and piercing place – because I lost the horseshoe for my nose and wanted another one.  There was a young woman at the counter whom I would have sworn I had never seen before in my life.  But as I walked up, she asked, “Are you Bean?” I replied in the affirmative, and she asked me if I taught at the high school and again, I replied in the affirmative. I asked if she was a student, or the sibling of a student, and she surprised me by telling me she was a classmate. We rode the bus together when she was in first grade and I was in fifth, and I would tell her stories on the ride to and from school. I have no recollection of it, but the idea that I’ve been telling stories all my life makes me smile.

Until I consider that I’ve been telling them to myself. I think the fairy tale I’ve stored up in my heart may be nothing more than a story. I wish my writing could change that.  I suppose that’s why I do it.

lonelywoman

On permanent solutions to temporary problems.

Published March 18, 2014 by mandileighbean

It has been quite some time since I updated this blog, and it has been quite some time since I offered up any type of creative writing. I plan to rectify both errors in this entry, but be forewarned: this prompt is quite sad and lacks any optimism. Perhaps it’s because today is Monday.

Enjoy.

depressedman

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #13: “Lucky you, I’m free tonight. One show only, though, okay?”

“Don’t let it come apart. Don’t want to see you come apart.”
– “Caught by the River,” Doves

It was only about 90 minutes into a random and mundane Tuesday morning when Walter took his usual seat on a worn, overstuffed barstool. It was another 90 minutes before the lights would come on and then melancholy tones of “last call” replaced the colored lights, conversation, and pounding, thumping bass. For Walter, that’d be plenty of time to see his girl, tell her all the things he wanted – needed – her to know, and then blow his brains out in his dilapidated car in the parking lot. Walter had this all figured out and planned for the last month or so, ever since things went far south at work and management began to demand his head on a plate, and ever since his daughter slammed down her receiver in Houston, Texas and neither party had bothered to reclaim the connection. Audrey, his only daughter and only child, had been more than a little upset that Walter had canceled his visit. It had been just over a year since they had last seen each other and both had been eagerly anticipating the reunion until the new, ominous situation at work caused Walter to horde money, like squirrels do nuts. Rationally, calmly, he tried to explain to Audrey that he simply had to cut costs and expenses and logically, the expenditure of a road trip almost halfway across the country, which was certainly not necessary, would be the first to go.
Audrey quickly became furious and inconsolable. Feeling hurt and wanting only to wound others, she ruthlessly asked her father why he didn’t cut out the booze or the smokes or the porn. She vehemently exclaimed that she could not understand why her father was so determined to push away the only people who gave two shits about him, the only family he had. Walter ordered Audrey to shut up and calm down, implored her to listen the way only a father thinks he can when speaking with his daughter, and that had been enough for Audrey. She hung up and that was it, all she wrote. Walter had thrown the entire phone across the room before dumping himself into the battered recliner in the sparse living room. Nearly all the lights were off – extinguished to save money on the electricity bill – and only the mindless, bluish, electric glow of the television illuminated anything. In this dismal, depressing space, he thoughtlessly rubbed the back of his hand across his ragged, dry mouth and simply inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, and exhaled. Later, when his brain surmounted the blind fury that had so completely clouded and confounded it, Walter knew he would be better off dead. Walter knew with 100% certainty that many others would be better off with Walter dead as well. All that was left was to do the thing.
The next day, Walter had risen with the sun. He had walked the seven miles to the nearest convenience store and purchased a carton of cigarettes. He lit one and smoked it down to the filter. Walter repeated this several times before he made it to the liquor store and purchased a case of cheap beer. He lugged the case and the carton back home, loaded it into his car that was essentially held together with rubber bands and chewing gum, and drove to the nearest strip joint. There he sat, listening to the greatest hits of the 80s, 90s and today that were only barely audible above the static, until night came. He smoked and drank and drank and smoked until night gave away to the wee hours of the early morning, and then he stumbled inside the strip club.
He had been going to that particular establishment once a week since 2002, once his divorce was finalized and his bitch ex-wife took Audrey and her handsome, wealthy, and chivalrous new husband to Texas. Every Tuesday night for over a decade, he had sat upon a stool to wait until the place emptied and he could talk to his girl. She had some sort of awful, degrading stripper moniker, but he would never call her that. She listened to him, held him, stroked him, and smiled like he was the only guy she’d ever want to see ever in the history of guys. It was fleeting and he had to pay for it, but it was all he had and that was that. He owed her honest gratitude, and an explanation for his upcoming absence. So on a random Tuesday morning, he was ready when she came up behind him and carelessly slung her arms around his neck. “Lucky for you, I’m free tonight. One show only, though, okay?”
He smiled sadly. She said the same thing every time. He turned and nodded. She took his meaty hands and led him to the back, to a private room with heavy, velvet drapes. She pushed him down onto a cheap, red leather sofa and straddled him, and it was like it had always been, except Walter began to cry. It was the last night of his life, and the knowledge of that decision had changed nothing. The world did not stand still; he was just as insignificant as he had always feared. The tears poured down Walter’s wasted, gray face and his body shook with sobs, and he was a little boy. The girl moved to sit beside him and she asked him what was wrong and rubbed his back. Her concern seemed genuine, but Walter was ashamed. He had never intended to cry in front of a woman, especially some half-naked girl he could barely afford, and so he could not tell her that it was all he had. Suddenly, he stood up and marched from the room. He had rapidly decided ending one’s life should be like removing a band aid – quick and painless, best to get it over with and not drag it out.
But the girl’s genuine concern was intuitive as well. She hurried to the dressing room and threw on some sheer robe that didn’t really cover anything but did enough to give the impression of modesty. She hurried to the bar in the center of the establishment, where her burly manager was counting out the first of many tills, and asked him to call an ambulance. She had to take some precious time to explain that she was all right, and so were the other girls, and that nobody was actually injured, but she feared a regular might do something awful to himself and she wanted to stop him. As she was pushing open the doors to the parking lot, the shot rang out.
She was too late.

policetape

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 Hurricane Sandy and faulty internet connections.

Published November 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

Every time that I have tried to update this blog, I have been thwarted by an unreliable internet connection.  It is incredibly frustrating and I have been tempted to just give up and save the update for tomorrow, but I have already lost far too much time.  There are so many stories that I have neglected that need to be told.  There is no more time to waste.

Sometimes I think about purchasing a pack of cigarettes and lighting up a long, slender, cylindrical stick of tobacco encased in paper.  I would inhale smooth and deep, let the smoke and tar sufficiently coat my lungs, and then I would exhale all the anxiety, insecurity, stress, and worry – all the really ugly and cancerous toxins.  I have romanticized smoking as an inexplicably dangerous, freeing, and alluring activity.  I think there is something about both the blatant idiocy and sheer recklessness that is strangely appealing.  This notion is strange indeed, given the current socioeconomic climate which is exceptionally health-conscious, but I suppose I am strange.  That adjective used to embarrass me, but now I embrace it fully.  In fact, I think that it is wonderfully liberating.
“Where are you now?  Where are you now?  Do you ever think of me in the quiet?  In the crowd?”

 

It has been quite some time since I have posted a blog entry.  My negligence has not been a result of wanting for inspiration.  Rather, my blog has remained stagnant because of a base, weak aspect of human nature: simple laziness.  I am tired and lacking in motivation to do anything other than sit on my ever-growing ass, let alone create.  Monday through Friday I come home defeated because I am exhausted from work and having a hell of a time adjusting to the shortened schedule because there never seems to be a respite – the immersion in school and grading and paperwork is total and complete because “home” is forcibly transformed into a second office.  The high school instructional schedule runs from 7:00AM to 11:57AM, and then teachers are required to stay until 12:50PM, performing assorted and assigned duties.  We then are required to leave, unable to return to our classrooms and forced to contend with a swamped faculty room and crowded library.  I feel – and I know I am not alone – as if I am constantly moving from space to space without a moment to catch my breath and without a sense of validity or ownership.  It is incredibly draining and defeating.

And for me, when I come “home” in desperate search of sanctuary but am still laden with work and an endless list of obligations, I am still nomadic and without a space to call my own.  I have a bedroom, but it is increasingly cramped for a young woman.  It is literally the smallest room in the house but what is more heartbreaking for me is the lack of metaphorical space and of room to grow.  I am surrounded by reminders of my childhood and adolescence, and of all of the failings, regrets, and shortcomings.  I am faced with physical, tangible mementos and I have to contend with vague memories, cloudy reminisces.  I am engulfed in juvenile dramatics at work and at home, which makes it more difficult to progress and move forward.  I feel stuck and stunted, contrary to any and all reassurances that I am a nice person, doing the right things, and being responsible.  Many of these reassurances come from my parents but fall on deaf ears because the reassurances have an unpleasant ring of ingenuity to them.  If my parents really meant what they said and if they really felt proud, then it stands to reason that I would not have to fight for every single scrap of recognition and praise.  Instead, glowing admiration and heartfelt compliments would be showered upon me and rain down.  That is not the case; I beg and plead for acknowledgement and more often than not, I am sorely disappointed.

I abhor the fact that I constantly look outside of myself for approval and that I am so dependent on others for acceptance.

I am terrified that I demand too much attention from those around me.  I am terrified that my parents do give me enough praise but that it is not enough and will never be enough for me because I am selfish and awful, a bottomless pit of need that no one will ever be able to fill.  I am terrified that I am becoming an obnoxious martyr, that people are tired of me, and that really, I am nothing special or unique.

I had no intention of whining.  I promise that this impromptu pity party began with nobler intentions.  I wanted to write about my cousin Cory and how he is an inspiration.  I was going to captivate and enthrall my audience with humorous anecdotes from my trip to Salem, Massachusetts.  I was planning on most definitely announcing that my debut novel, Her Beautiful Monster, is available for purchase from the Martin Sisters Publishing website (http://www.martinsisterspublishing.com).  I had hoped to post an entry that was a close reading of a particularly spooky passage from Stephen King (or maybe just a love letter to Stephen King) in honor of Halloween, which is one of my favorite holidays.  On Halloween, I should have been watching horror movies and gorging myself on popcorn and candy, but Hurricane Sandy ruined Halloween, devastated the Jersey Shore, and has depressed many of the residents of the Garden State.

            I know that I am blessed and I am incredibly thankful that out greatest inconvenience was being without power for less than twenty-four hours.  My family members, those in Toms River, are worse off, but still have homes and their lives.  I am fully aware of how lucky we are and thank God that we are okay, and being able-bodied and possessing the means, that we can help others.  I know that I talk about getting out of Jersey.  I smile when comedians make fun of the way New Jersey smells – I even commiserate – and I smile when they make fun of the incapability of New Jersey’s citizens to pump gas.  I cringe when I think of the awful, putrid reality television shows filmed in New Jersey.  But New Jersey is my home and I am damn proud of that fact.  My heroes hail from Jersey.  I am damn proud of all those from Jersey, people who bond together through thick and thin, and are always mindful of the brotherhood of man and what that means in times like these.  Sure, I talk – and write – about getting out but Jersey is one hell of a place to come home to and I want that opportunity for me, my children, and my grandchildren.  Homes may be lost, towns may be destroyed, and businesses may be demolished, but all of that can be rebuilt.  Sandy may have knocked Jersey down, but it certainly has not and will not know Jersey out.  As a fellow Jersey native once said, “And that is why our fellow Americans in the other 49 states know when the announcer says, ‘And now in this corner, from New Jersey …’ they better keep their hands up and their heads down, because when that bell rings, we’re coming out swinging.”

           On November 1st, I planned to start anew and come out swinging.

 

I was supposed to start anew on November 1st, but there was an unforeseen complication: my dog, Bijou, was put down that day.  He was fourteen years old and the veterinarian suspected he was dying of kidney failure but without running some tests, he could not say for sure.  However, he could say with one hundred percent certainty that Bijou was dying and he more than subtly hinted that it was time to put him down.  I was okay, not sobbing, until the assistant placed a muzzle on him.  I understand it was a necessary precaution and there were legality issues to be considered, but the idea of Bijou biting anyone is laughable.  To see him so sick and obviously suffering and then muzzled like some dangerous monster was too much.  I started crying and then I could not stop.  He yelped when the painkiller was injected and I held him tighter when they brought us into the other room.  Dad and I sat with Bijou for some thirty minutes, petting him and saying goodbye and telling him he was a good boy and he was.  He did pee on Mom and he did poop in the middle of the kitchen table, but he was wicked smart and damn adorable.  I am really going to miss him.

           Dad whistled and Bijou tried to get up.  He tried to get up a couple of times and I wanted to just take him home.  I am really kind of pissed off that I was in the room when Bijou was euthanized because it was too damn sad.  It broke my silly heart to see his breath hitching and his eyes glossy and constantly slanted so that they were nearly shut.  I am furious that I saw Bijou so worn and so defeated.  It sucks, for lack of eloquence, to lose a pet.  I miss him.  I really do.

Mom cried – and she never cries.  She admits that it is weird without Bijou, but that is all it is for her – weird.  I want her to be right because I do not want to be so sad over a dog that was pain in the ass more often than not.  Every member of my family has hunted him down in the neighborhood when decided to let himself out for a walk.

But he was incredibly affectionate and very good with children.  He could do all sorts of tricks.

            I miss my dog.  I will start anew on Monday, when I do not feel so emotionally gross and when school reopens.  The return to some kind of normalcy will be good for me and for the state.

Tomorrow I am meeting a friend for a late lunch to discuss marketing possibilities for the book.  All of my dreams can be realized if this book does well; it is all I want.

On being clean.

Published July 16, 2012 by mandileighbean

I had a really wonderful time with loved ones yesterday at Cheryl’s surprise 50th birthday party.  Cheryl is the mother of my best friend, so I view her as my mother by extension.  She is extremely caring, loyal, honest and strong.  I am blessed to have her in my life and be counted as her loved one.  I am also blessed to have such a large extended family, blood relations notwithstanding.  At the party, I was one of the few people who were not related to Cheryl by either blood or marriage.  I viewed myself as a kind of ambassador, representing my family, and it got me thinking about why it becomes so difficult to mix different groups of friends; I believe it is because different people allow one to show different sides of him or herself.  We love myriads of people.  Hopefully, most of us are surrounded by people who bring out the best in us.  But now and again, we develop toxic relationships and love the people who hurt us and bring out the worst in us.  Some people see that as being weak, and as being taken advantage of.  I prefer to see it as being brave.  To give love unconditionally time and time again no matter how many bruises it inflicts is a beautiful and precious gift that is clearly deserving of being shared with everyone.

Never stop loving.

“Oh Jesus, I’ve fallen. I don’t mind the rain if I meet my Maker; I’ll meet my Maker clean. But Jesus, the truth is I struggle so hard to believe I’ll meet my Maker.  I need my Maker.”

– “Get Me Right,” Dashboard Confessional

“And can you kneel before the King and say, ‘I’m clean, I’m clean’?”

– “White Blank Page,” Mumford & Sons

PROMPT: “He was pretty religious once.”

PIECE: Marilyn was slowly walking from the church.  Her high heels were clicking against the concrete and the sound echoed out into the almost deserted parking lot.  She paused at the curb, fumbling with her tiny purse, looking for her pack of cigarettes and lighter.  Will didn’t like her smoking in the car, so she figured she’d feed the craving before climbing inside.  It was an act of consideration and wisely played, because Will would most likely be incredibly cantankerous – he had waited for Saturday evening mass to end in his car in the dry summer heat without air conditioning.  Marilyn had tried to use the lack of comfort and cool air as an incentive for Will to join her inside the church, aside from the fact that doing so could save his immortal soul and provide his life with some kind of moral center.  Her pleas had fallen on deaf ears; Will was not to be shaken from his lack of faith.  She lit up and took a long drag, exhaling the smoke towards the moving sky.  It looked like a severe, sudden summer storm was on its way.

“Will still sitting in the car, huh?” a familiar voice asked.  Marilyn turned to see her best friend, Hannah.  Hannah was smiling, sunglasses blocking her eyes.

“Yeah,” Marilyn answered.  “I’ve tried everything, dude.  Maybe it’s not that important.  Maybe I should stop pushing my values on him.”  She flicked the ashes from the end of the cigarette, and watched them flutter to the pavement.

“Maybe; you know your relationship better than anyone else, aside from Will, of course.”  Hannah paused.  “He’s lucky to have you, you know?”

Marilyn shrugged.  “He keeps saying that, and I keep trying to tell him that it works both ways.  Sometimes, I think he gets upset because he works down at the masonry center and he thinks it’s nothing glamorous and that I think the same.”  She turned to face Hannah fully.  “Do you think I’m pretentious?  Do I give off that vibe?”

Hannah shook her head.  “Not at all; and Will’s fears and doubts are Will’s fears and doubts.  It’s his baggage that he needs to work through.”

Again, Marilyn only shrugged.  “I know, but I just want to help.”  Hannah was silent beside her, out of clichéd things to say she’d learned from sitcoms with female target audiences.  Marilyn turned to face the parking lot, seeming to look out beyond it all and into the past.  “He was pretty religious once,” Marilyn said.

“Really; Will was religious?”

Nodding, Marilyn said, “Yeah.  He would go to mass every week, confession every two weeks.  Every night before bed, he’d hit his knees and pray.  He had a Bible beside his bed and he’d try to read a little bit of it every day.”

“What happened?” Hannah asked.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Marilyn admitted.  “It’s weird.  He won’t go to church, but he brings me every Sunday and he doesn’t go home.  He waits in the car.  What’s that about?”

“Maybe he’s waiting for a reason to go in,” Hannah offered.

%d bloggers like this: