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On the persistence of the Universe

Published April 3, 2016 by mandileighbean

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Some situations in life are unavoidably awkward. Indeed, some moments are socially awkward by definition. For women, I believe this includes any and all visits to beauty salons. Just the other day, I had an appointment for a manicure and pedicure and right off the bat, I was uncomfortable. There’s something inherently unsettling about the setup, about the implied hierarchy. Who am I to show up and demand some other woman (more often than not) try and make me beautiful or more appealing? I’m much too lazy and impatient to paint my own nails so I’m willing to pay someone else to do it, so I’m not passing any sort of judgement. I’m just saying it’s a little weird; feels a little medieval in our modern, wildly progressive world. No? Am I thinking too much about it?

Anyway, I immediately apologized to the manicurist for my gnarly feet. While it is true that my feet resemble men’s feet from the prehistoric era (think “Flintstones”), I’m not actually sorry about it. I’m totally okay with my feet, but I apologized and made a joke about my physical appearance because it’s my comfort zone. Self-deprecating humor helps me to break the ice, chip away at some of the awkwardness of having a stranger rub your gross feet, and lets the other person know I’m not some high-maintenance chick; I’m a commoner, one of the people, I swear! I’m just too lazy to maintain a beauty regimen is all.

For dealing with a self-righteous, pseudo-intellectual, the manicurist couldn’t have been nicer and she did a wonderful job. I love my nails and my toes; perfect shade, elegantly done. I have no complaints and will absolutely go back without hesitation (shout out to Lee Nails in Bayville). You would think such a positive experience would ease my social anxiety about going to beauty salons, but you would be wrong. My neuroses know no bounds, apparently. Upon getting my nails done, I called a hair salon I was familiar with (I’d only been there once, to be fair, and it was months ago) to schedule an appointment to retouch my highlights in an effort to transition to becoming a blonde (which is something else I’m stupidly struggling with, but I’ll save that for another hilarious, highly entertaining, self-indulgent post; I know those are your favorite). I was excited, eager for the appointment, but the receptionist on the other end couldn’t have cared less. Her responses were short and repetitive, like she was offended by making this appointment, as if it were a personal insult or something. I persevered though (because I’m a masochist?) and she asked which stylist I’d prefer. When I mentioned the woman who styled my hair the last time, when I asked if that person was available, the receptionist only tersely replied, “No.” I guess some uncomfortable, tense situation had gone down and everyone was still feeling a type of way about it, but how was I supposed to know? I felt guilty and quickly replied that it was fine, that anyone would do, but the receptionist kept telling me they had nothing opened, that they were straight booked … but offered me three different appointment slots. I picked an outrageously early time on Sunday and hung up. I had a bad feeling and based on my last blog post, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t some kind of sign from the universe, telling me to abort, to abandon ship. So when my mom kindly cut my hair later that day, I called another salon and made another appointment.

From the get go, I felt much better about the whole thing. The woman unknowingly eased all of my social anxiety simply by being nice. She said she was excited I was coming in and offered me all sorts of time slots and asked questions about what I wanted done. Even if such personal interest was inauthentic and all in the name of consumerism, at least it was there. I mean, it worked and I made the appointment.

When I showed up, I was a little uneasy. Obvious and aforementioned social anxieties aside, I always feel like a fraud walking into salons. I always think of that scene from “Pretty Woman” where prostitute Julia Roberts walks into that high-end clothing store and gets treated horribly. And to think she was beautiful! I’ve had bad acne lately, have gained weight and have just been really down on myself lately about my physical appearance (hence all the salon appointments) and I suddenly didn’t want to go. I forced myself inside though, and was immediately charmed. What ambiance! And the friendly receptionist from over the phone was behind the desk and just as friendly as ever. She offered me coffee and water, and the water I requested came in a trendy, fashionable mason jar with an adorable paper straw, decorated with illustrations of branches from dogwoods. I was charmed and felt better … until I had to sit and allowed myself to get trapped inside my own head.

Though my appointment was at 11:30, I didn’t get into a chair until around noon, which I’m not even mad about. I understand that sometimes styling takes longer than anticipated, and I don’t understand complaining about having to be patient in salons when it’s all luxury, a luxury to have time and money to spend on something as superficial and fleeting as appearance. I’m not judging; here I am on a personal appearance improvement tour. I’m just saying I wasn’t annoyed and that would never be something to annoy me. I know that’s just me, so I’ll move on.

What did annoy me was that when my stylist went to pull my hair back from my face, she poked me in the eye. She didn’t apologize, and we both acted like it didn’t happen even though my left eye was fluttering and watering. Both her and I kept right on talking like my one eye wasn’t shut and like I wasn’t in obvious discomfort. In her defense, she probably didn’t know she had done it. I could have said something, but I didn’t, and so I was still incredibly awkward and anxious, and now I was in pain (that’s dramatic, I know). Suddenly, the whole experience seemed like a punishment for my vanity, for my sudden focus on not only my appearance but on myself. I thought, this is where being selfish gets you, with a poke in the eye. All my earlier misgivings seemed to be confirmed and I was on the verge of misery. It didn’t help that my stylist resembled an antagonist from one of those “Hostel” movies, all decked out in a black apron with black latex gloves. I gulped; would she be coming for my eye again?

But then I actually started talking to my stylist. Her name is Dana and she’s from Asbury Park. Not only is she a remarkably talented stylist, she is also full of sage advice. As we spoke, I began to consider the possibility that maybe her poking my eye was a symbolic gesture of how my mind’s eye needed to be poked. The conversation we had was one of the most eye-opening (are you sensing a theme yet?), self-affirming conversations I’ve ever had. We skipped over the small talk, the shallow pleasantries, and went right for the intellectual and philosophical concerns of life. She flat out asked me about my stance on the whole “nature versus nurture” debate. She believed it was nurture all the way, that humans are irrevocably shaped by experience and that explains everything. I agreed to a point, but also revealed that I believe it’s more nature that determines who we are as human beings. I offered up the example of my twin sister and me. Both came from the same nurturing environment and have arrived at completely different results. Dana countered, explaining that my twin sister had life experiences without me that shaped her and molded her differently, encouraging me to be empathetic, sympathetic and open-minded. I’ve refused to do so as of late when it comes to my sister. Rage is simple; it’s so much easier to be angry and infantile, but is it fair? Is it right? Why should the focus switch to me the second time around? Shouldn’t I still be concerned with Sammy’s well-being and recovery? Isn’t there a happy medium, some sort of balance between caring for my other half and myself?

During this discussion, a charity for recovering addicts came into the salon, handing out flyers and asking for donations. Dana asked for a flyer and donated a dollar. I was touched. Rather than ignore and dismiss these men who intruded upon her place of business, she was encouraging and kind. She never dismissed anyone. She was so kind, a truly remarkable woman. And she was so humble, paying as many compliments as she received and then some. This woman restored my faith in humanity in the most unlikely of places.

As our conversation continued (I was in the chair for like three hours; I have a lot of hair), I learned that she also has aspirations to be writer, that she has plans for a memoir and a children’s book. I told her all about my struggles and successes, and we discussed talent and how we both believe that if someone – anyone – is blessed with talent, that it becomes necessary to pay it forward, to use whatever blessings (specifically monetary) come from that gift to better the world. A lot of big ideas fell into place and connected with one another as she spoke so that I began to understand and believe that I was given this writing talent – or ability, depending on how you feel about my writing – for a reason, and that because I am not distracted by a love interest or a family, now is the time for me to hone my talent, to focus on becoming published and getting my work out there. What a positive outlook, to give my loneliness a purpose, a reason, a meaning. She confided with me she’d been with her boyfriend for seven years and while she’s in love and it’s all wonderful, it is still limiting. She can’t just do whatever whenever because she has someone else to consider, from the small sacrifices (like eating at Chipotle because she’s gluten free when they’d rather eat elsewhere) to the major ones (time, money, energy, etc.). I’m not a lonely loser unless I choose to be; this time alone is an opportunity to fulfill a destiny and should not be wasted wallowing in some self-created despair.

Dana told me I was an amazing person, and told me she could figure that out after only an hour of conversation.

At one point, she said, “You can’t control your heart, but you can – and you have to – control your mind.” She encouraged me to choose to be happy. What else can we do?

Needless to say, it was the best experience I’ve ever had at a hair salon. Ever. My sincerest gratitude to Dana at Shear Glamour.

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On making it big (in relative terms).

Published February 23, 2014 by mandileighbean

Hello all! I hope your weekend is passing enjoyably.

My author event on Tuesday was a definite success. I’d like to thank everyone who registered, attended, shared links, and patiently tolerated my shameless self-promotion. Walking into the beautiful Toms River Library to where the event was set up – with a podium, posters, a table with a tablecloth – I forgot who I was for a second. In that glorious moment, it didn’t seem possible that such blessings and wonderful opportunities could come to me and yet, there they were.

It was a wonderful evening and again, I’d like to thank every single person who helped to make it happen in whatever way he or she chose.

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On paranoia and vindication.

Published February 3, 2014 by mandileighbean

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! I was rooting for Denver because I adore the Manning family, but alas; it seems neither brother can finish the job this season.

If you’re in the Toms River area on Tuesday, February 18th, please stop by the Toms River Library for a discussion and book signing with me!  It’s begins at 7:00PM and will last until 8:00PM!

I also just want to add that I believe the most romantic notion(? idea? not entirely sure which word I want to use) is two people thinking about one another without the other knowing.  It’s nice to think another is thinking of you in that unique way.  It’s beautiful when it’s organic and not manufactured or fished for, but the kicker is the object of attention may never know.  It is within that beautiful frustration the romance lies, in my humble opinion.  Just throwing that out there, I guess.  Forgive me, but it had been some time since I was random.

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #12: “A man sneezes painfully.  He looks in his handkerchief and finds something that looks like a microchip.”

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ACHOO!  The sneeze rocked Baxter’s body, sending him backwards before he aggressively shot forward, trying to right himself.  It was a vicious and unrelenting sneeze.  He kept his eyes closed for a moment or two, as if it would help steady his breathing and help his bodily functions return to normal.  “Wow,” he said, and opened his eyes wide to ensure the world had neither stopped nor drastically changed while he had been rendered incapacitated by the sneeze.  He shook his head to clear it.  He pulled the handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and blew his nose.  “Damn,” Baxter said.  “That really hurt.”

 

“The sneeze?  Man up,” Alex smiled.  The smile wasn’t entirely genuine.  It was more queasy and nervous than anything else.  In fact, Alex’s normally bright and expressive eyes were clouded over and shifty.  Baxter had just been about to comment on the physical change which also seemed to alter Alex’s winning personality.  He was sweaty and trying to look everywhere all at once.  Baxter was just about to comment on the paranoid behavior when the sneeze had interrupted and completely knocked him flat.  He couldn’t remember what he had been thinking, or what he had been discussing with Alex.  He finished blowing his nose with a flourish, but did not return the handkerchief to the breast pocket.  He leaned closer to Alex and lifted his chin so his friend would be able to peer deep within Baxter’s nasal cavities.  “Is it bleeding?”

 

Alex pretended to look for about a second.  “No, dude, you’re fine; hey, do you know how long that van’s been there?”

 

“What van?”

 

“The dark blue one without windows; behind me and to the left, on the corner.”

 

Baxter shrugged.  He was more concerned with his aching nose.  He crossed his eyes to see the blurred bridge of it, and was rubbing it tenderly with the tips of his fingers.  “I didn’t see anything.  Did you see anything fly out of my nose?  I feel all cut up inside; I’ve never sneezed like that before.”

 

Alex stole a glance behind him.  “I’m sorry.  I guess … Baxter, I think that van is following me.”

 

Baxter nodded, but was intently focused on the handkerchief gripped in his hand.  Would Alex care if he opened it up and inspected whatever had been so readily rejected by his body?  It was a less than savory habit, admittedly, but Baxter really swore something had come shooting out.  How else could he explain the pain?  He was completely convinced that the sneeze had not been normal and had half a mind to march himself to the emergency room for a professional opinion.  “What makes you think you’re being followed?”  Baxter continued the odd conversation to be polite to one of his oldest friends, and to distract him so he could inspect the handkerchief.

 

“I’ve been seeing it everywhere, Baxter.  When I go to work, it’s always a car or two behind me.  When I go to the gym, it’s always parked on the opposite side of the lot.  When I’m in my apartment, I catch a glimpse of it from the window, down in the street.  It’s been going on for weeks.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Baxter asked, encouraging his friend to continue.  He had discreetly placed the handkerchief on the table and was slowly peeling back the corner that was folded over.

 

“And,” Alex licked his lips and found that his mouth had gone dry, “I think my phone’s been tapped.  There’s all this weird clicking and buzzing when I’m on the phone.  Sometimes the phone rings and there’s no one there, just silence, but they won’t hang up until I do.”

 

“They don’t hang up?” Alex repeated lamely, to prove he was listening despite the fact that he was not paying attention.  With the one corner unfolded, he only had to stretch it out to get a good look at the specimen, which was probably only snot, but why had it been so painful?

 

Alex sighed and covered his face with tremulous, pale hands.  “I haven’t been sleeping well,” he admitted, feeling stupid and weak.  “It’s really starting to get to me, man.  I don’t know what to do or who to talk to.”

 

“What is that?” Baxter breathed.  He had indeed pulled the handkerchief taught and found an undeniable but incredibly small metallic-looking square.  He grimaced as he reached out to pinch it between his fingers because it was slimy.  He held it up to the afternoon sunlight and examined it more closely with squinted eyes.  Along the one edge were spaces in the hard, plastic covering, like it was missing piece from some kind of motherboard.

 

“What?  What do you see?”  Alex was turning every which way in his seat but always returning to lock his gaze upon the van.

 

“I think it’s a microchip.”  Baxter placed the item back on the handkerchief.  “Doesn’t that look like a microchip?  How the hell did that get up my nose?”

 

Alex stood up suddenly.  “They’ve gotten to you.”

 

Baxter had leaned down over what had come flying from his nose.  “Who?  Microsoft?  Apple?” he laughed.

 

Alex took two halting steps backwards.  “Oh God, it’s happening.  I knew it would.  I told them I wouldn’t say anything but they didn’t believe me.”

 

Baxter looked up, finally alerted by his friend’s panicked tone and nonsensical rambling.  “Alex, sit down, man.  You’re making me nervous.”

 

“We need to go,” Alex insisted, shaking his head.  “We need to leave.”

 

“Are you high?” Baxter asked, making light of what was rapidly becoming a bizarre and terrifying situation.  “Why don’t –“

 

At that moment, the van came speeding towards them only to skid to a halt beside them along the curb.  The world then seemed to slow down to an impossible lack of speed; Alex turned to Baxter and braced himself, like he was about to sprint and make a mad dash for freedom.  As the tails of his jacket fanned out, the van door slid open and two masked men, dressed all in black, scrambled out.  If Baxter had been able to move, he would have had time to get a decent lead, would most likely have been able to escape, but he was nothing more than a laughable cartoon character; his lower half moved frantically but no real progress was made.  The men descended upon him, knocking over the table the men had been seated at and sending Baxter to the floor, the chair coming with him.  In the time it took Baxter to fling the chair from him and sit up, there was only squealing tires and nothing more.

 

Alex was gone.  Baxter looked around and only saw wide-eyed, open-mouthed and deep breathing witnesses.

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On personally defining success and nostalgia.

Published November 17, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was exciting as far as my blossoming writing career goes.  I had an author event on Thursday, November 14th at Ocean County College in Toms River, New Jersey.  The event was sponsored and essentially put together by the Literature Club, specifically because of Sara Pease, who is a former student of mine and a simply wonderful human being.  There were about twenty people in attendance, most of whom were attentive and asked the best questions I have had the privilege of answering.  I was able to sell seven books and talk to some truly interesting and supportive young adults.  It was a wonderful experience and it made returning to work on Friday SO HARD.

Last night, which was Saturday, November 16th, I was able to occupy a vendor table at Ladies’ Night Out at the Manchester Firehouse in Manchester, New Jersey.  I sold five books and was able to engage in highly entertaining conversations with fellow vendors.  I shared my table with D.O.V.E., which is an organization that helps to empower female victims of violence.  It was a serendipitous pairing, considering the content of Her Beautiful Monster.  It was a great evening, and I was truly humbled by my friends Heather, Ali, Kasey, Melanie, Marie and Jenna who showed up and have done so at every available opportunity.  Though I only sold a total of twelve books and minimally increased my audience, everyone has to start somewhere and these experiences helped to confirm for me that I need to be a writer.  It is a goal I need to work harder towards, because it helps to me to feel fulfilled, complete, and just plain happy.  In the following months, my goal is to be interviewed by a newspaper that serves a large population (like the Asbury Park Press) and send queries to agents, who would also help in marketing.  Speaking of marketing, my friend Kalie invited me to attend an event with her on Wednesday that provides ideas for marketing in viral markets and on social media sites (I believe).  She brought up the important point that networking is key.

Wish me luck, and enjoy this week’s writing prompt.  🙂

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #6: “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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I am a sad, silly and lonely girl.  I imagine a woman would be wiser and stronger, and refrain from indulging in simple fantasies she plans on forcing to be recurrent.  The latest is this: graduation night will be a beautiful night near the latter part of June.  The moon will be full and bright and hanging high in the sky.  Its beauty will be lost on me, unfortunately, because I’ll be inside the high school, dutifully stationed at my classroom door.  I’ll be stuck handing out official, important-looking, white, large envelopes to the robed miscreants, academics, athletes, everyone in between.  The envelopes will contain various certificates and documents that become so much useless paper in lieu of graduation itself, and of all the accompanying promises and freedom and optimism intangibly included therein.  As such, students will not be rushing to obtain the envelopes and will have to be reminded and redirected several times by the faculty members in attendance.  Blue and gold robes will whip and ripple around sneakers and outrageous heels, slapping and clicking respectively through the hallways as sloppy hugs, final goodbyes, and well-wishes are doled out.  As it grows late, the number of students whirling about in flurries of excitement lessens considerably and the building borders on being empty and desolate and lonely.

 

I will sigh and fall back against the classroom door, keeping the door open while lazily allowing the door made of composite wood to support my weight rather than my understandably aching feet.  I pray I will have lost the weight and that my skin will be clear, or at the very least, clearer than it is now.  I’ll be observing the few remaining students and faculty members milling about, a mere observer whose mind is one million miles away, on to the next silly fantasy as the last thousand never ever came to fruition.  Someone will approach from behind, out of my view, to unintentionally capitalize upon the element of surprise.  He will gently clear his throat and simultaneously become unexpectedly and wildly unsure of himself.  To release the building nervous energy, he will shove his hands deep into the front pockets of his worn jeans, covered in orange-colored dust from fascinating roads less traveled in America, so that his calloused fingertips (worked to the bone, strumming guitars and banjos, gripping the wheel too tightly) bend against the fabric of the lining.  He’ll gently clear his throat, embellishing the strong and solid muscles of his masculine neck and jaw, and say, “Hey Andrea.”

 

Startled from my reverie, my closest and most constant companion, I’ll turn quickly but it’ll feel like slow motion, like trying to move fast in a dream, once my eyes take in his image and my brain comprehends who is standing there.  I am certain I will feel fifteen.  Breathless and deliciously confused, I’ll smile and lamely offer, “Hey.”  In a moment or so, I’ll (hopefully) come back to myself and break out with a radiant (well, as radiant as a smile can be when it’s caged by braces) smile and ask how he’s been.  I’ll already have some idea courtesy of creeping on Facebook and the gossip of mutual acquaintances.  I’ll know he’s been living a bohemian life I’ve always dreamed of, that he’s braver and more wonderful than my adolescent self had ever even dreamed of, even though he had been my schoolgirl obsession for years.  He won’t go into all of that, though.  He’ll keep it politely simple and appropriately simple and only say that he’s been good and doing well.  He’ll ask me how I’ve been and I’ll answer in an extremely similar fashion, lifting my upturned palms as a sort of half-hearted shrug and to indicate how absolutely bizarre it can be to work in the same high school we graduated from.  He’ll smile and let his gaze fall to the floor beneath us, seemingly perfectly content to stew in the impending awkward silence.

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I, on the other hand, have never been so suave or comfortable in my own skin, nor will I ever be.  I’ll need to smash it, to break it, so I’ll do what I never wanted to and bring up the past in all its embarrassing nostalgia.  How could I not, given the present company, our history, and current setting?  I believe he’ll only laugh and shrug it off.  His cheeks will color slightly, resulting from excessive, juvenile flattery and perhaps guilt stemming from the playground torture and adolescent cruelty he inflicted upon me.  Indeed, his grin will ultimately fade and his eyes will rise to meet mine.  His face, so uniquely handsome and so simultaneously beautiful in its stoic sorrow from many troubles and burdens I only ever guessed at among whispering girlfriends, will be set.  He’ll ask, “Do you remember what I wrote in your yearbook?”

 

Shock and nausea will be my immediate response.  My mouth will go dry and I’ll choke and sputter when I ask, “Do you?”

 

He’ll smile, but it will be so muted that I will doubt its authenticity.  “Of course I do!  I didn’t write it lightly.”  There will be a gut-wrenching pause to allow the tears to gather and prick at my eyes.  “I’m sorry,” he’ll say.  “And I didn’t ignore the e-mail you sent me, either.  I’ve just been busy and then I thought –“

 

“Stop,” I’ll command and demand.  “You don’t have to, you really don’t have to.  It’s whatever; I mean, it is what it is, and I don’t know why I sent that message.  Did it completely creep you out?  I’m sorry.”

 

Kindly, he will smile and say, “No, it didn’t creep me out, not at all.”  Another awkward silence will descend and though I will positively squirm, screaming inner, secret prayers for it to end or for me to just die, he will be graceful and effortless in his charm when he says, “You look good.”

 

My face will flush and I will find a spot on the floor incredibly interesting suddenly, and concentrate my gaze there.  It will be in an attempt at being coy and feminine and flirty, but I will be too chicken shit to meet his gaze, so I will be unable to determine its effectiveness.  The lack of eye contact will by no means be a lack of attention.  He will undoubtedly captivate me and rob me of my breath, the way he always did and, most likely, always will.  Grinning, I’ll thank him for the compliment and eagerly return it in a fashion more embarrassing than charming or even sincere.  He’ll nod his head in a charming, gentleman’s way.  “Thank you,” he will say with a slight Southern drawl he never had before that I will suspect him of faking for the moment.  After all, I won’t feel so guilty or so lame if him and I are nothing more than a couple of liars.

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The inability to know what to say next will become unbearable for the both of us.  He’ll hurriedly mumble that it was good seeing me, that it was good to catch up, and he’ll hope to see me around, and then he’ll be gone.  Nothing ever really changes, not even within my precious illusions and foolish fantasies.  But, I’ll shut my eyes tight and envision him somewhere down the line, embellishing the encounter more so than I’ve done in creating it.  He’ll tell of an imagined conversation which lasts and lasts until we’re actually asked to leave by the custodial staff.  He’ll say I suggested moving the conversation to a local, popular restaurant where we stay until we are again asked to leave.  We’ll say our goodbyes beneath unforgiving fluorescent lights in an empty parking lot.  I smile when I think of how he’ll lie and tell his attentive listener that he reached out to touch my face and I yielded completely to the touch, a victim of parting and sweet sorrow and all that ancient, literary jazz.  He’ll say, “I rubbed my thumb across her cheek and, buddy, I thought I was going to cry.”

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On trusting … and letting go.

Published October 13, 2013 by mandileighbean

This weekend, I slept and slept and slept.  I feel guilty for being so wildly unproductive, but I rationalize the guilt away by consoling myself with the fact that I’ll be supremely busy next weekend.  Still, I feel sheepish because I should be writing.  That being said, I did finish this week’s writing prompt, so that is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00PM at Manchester Branch of Ocean County Library is my first author event.  I am nervous and honestly terrified no one will show up and I’ll be laughed at.  That may not be a rational fear, exactly, but I’m sure it’s common for young authors.  Wish me luck.

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #4: “Let go.  You can trust me.”

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Were Jayme ever asked how she came to be in the current position she was in, she did not believe that she would ever have an answer.  Jayme was fully convinced that life has an increasingly bizarre way of leaving one stranded, that the cosmos would arrange themselves to simply screw with unsuspecting human beings.  At this very moment, she was just such a victim as she was unable to pinpoint or adequately describe what had led her to the rooftop of an impressive building in the heart of Manhattan, cold concrete scratching at the back of her bare calves as she was backed up against the ultimate age.  The wind whipped viciously, strands of hair stinging the sensitive skin it lashed, and she was bent at an outrageously uncomfortable angle, nearly a perfect ninety degrees backwards, so that her back was not guarded by anything and would meet the sidewalk with a sickening sort of splat if (when?) she fell.  The only reason she had not met her demise via the concrete and asphalt and impact was because she was clinging in a clichéd, desperate manner to the rough and calloused hands of a man.

 

The man was not someone she knew or had even seen before.  All Jayme remembered was that she had been returning from lunch, from some trendy restaurant just a few blocks away, and had been doing her utmost to return to the office on time.  She had her elbows discreetly perpendicular to her sides, creating space among the masses to walk a clearer path and thereby proceed faster.  She had been only a door or two away from the impressive building which housed the publishing firm she worked tirelessly for when the man had stopped her.  He had a winning, charming smile and no pamphlet to hand over, which Jayme thought confirmed his credibility of being sane, normal, and rational.  Upon reflection, however, Jayme did note that his hair had been messy and askew, which should have been a sign that something was off.  And, the more she thought about it, the intense lines should have been a sign as well because although the features of his face were clearly defined with bold lines, everything inside was something sort of fuzzy because it was ever changing.  It was possibly indicative of his inability to complete a thought, or to be anything other than clinically insane.  But Jayme had not had these misgivings when it mattered, so when the man asked her why she was in such a rush, she had stopped long enough to smile and explain her lunch hour was rapidly drawing to a close and she did not want to be late.

 

His eyebrows shifted slightly to display his confusion.  “You’re rushing to get back to work?”

 

Jayme had laughed to display her own confusing at his confusion.  “It’s not that uncommon; conscientious workers often do their best not to be late.”  No longer intrigued or entertained, she made to step around him and continue on, chalking up the encounter to nothing more than a crazy New York story that happened so often, really, that crazy became a misnomer; it was normal.

 

He had stopped her with a strong and steadying hand on her arm.  It had not been a threatening gesture, but it certainly was not what she had been expecting.  She looked up at him with squinted eyes and parted lips, anxious to ask many questions.  He said, “Don’t you think you should be rushing towards something else, something worthwhile and everlasting?”

 

Jayme knew she should resist any desire whatsoever to engage him in conversation because she knew he was only spouting so much existential hoopla.  She could not help herself, though.  Maybe it was something is his eyes, dark and wild and free, or maybe it truly was what he was talking about, the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary which could be incredibly meaningful and life-altering.  So Jayme asked, “Like what?”

 

“Come with me and I’ll show you,” he said.  He took her hand in his and began to lead her.  Jayme could have planted her feet, could have resisted and been dragged, could have screamed for help.  But she was helpless against the romanticism of it all; a handsome stranger urging her to make her day count.  What if there was some invaluable lesson to be learned, something beautifully optimistic that she could then pass on?  What if this truly was one of those moments that mark the end of the mundane and the beginning of fulfillment?  So Jayme willingly followed him into the building they had stopped in front of.  She went with him onto the elevator and had been slightly disappointed when they rode it all the way to the stop.  There was something predictable and cheesy about it.  Was this some kind of lame, extended metaphor?  Because if it was, she truly did not have time for such anti-climactic antics.  When the soft ding sounded their arrival, and the metallic doors slid open, the strange man led her out into the hallway and to their immediate left.  Her curiosity was turning to impatience, and that quickly transformed into apprehension when she realized they were about to burst through the door clearly labeled roof access.  Her steps started to stutter and she began to verbally express her doubt and her fear.

 

“Hey now, wait a minute; where are we going?”  He did not answer and Jayme was not surprised but she was not deterred, either.  She continued her chain of questions, her self-soothing rambling.  “I do not want to go up on the roof.  Let me go now, seriously.  I’ll start screaming if you don’t stop and then you’ll be in a world of trouble.  The cops will be here so fast, your head will spin, I promise.”

 

Jayme’s questions were unheeded and the progress was not impeded.  When he met the door, he kicked it in.  Was he terribly strong, or was the door terribly old, with rusted hinges and weak joints and whatnot?  She hoped the latter proved to be true.  They stepped through the doorway into the dazzling, blinding sunlight and he abruptly turned to face her.  He took her by the shoulders, firm but not threatening, and pushed her backwards.  Jayme was now terrified and she was screaming, twisting her head left and right to try and see where he wanted her final destination to be.  She tried to resist, tried to move against him, but he was so strong and she was so scared that coordinating her weak and trembling muscles with any kind of directive thought proved exceedingly difficult.  He pushed her until he had backed her up against the edge, until there was literally nowhere else to go but over, and then hurtle towards death.

 

He grabbed her hands in his in a painful grip and pushed against her until she had no other option but to lean back.  Jayme was leaning back over the busy, city street below, freely screaming and crying and waiting for the inevitable end.  The wind whipped and the traffic sounded farther than it actually was.  Her ears felt as if they were filled with cotton and her mouth had gone dry, despite the streaming tears and snot slowly beginning to leak out of her nose.  There was nothing pretty or glamorous about facing death.  She was snotty and sweaty and pleading just like anyone else would be.  Jayme closed her eyes and shut her mouth, realizing that reasoning was futile because one could not talk to a lunatic like a normal human being.  Moments that stretched forever passed.

 

Then Jayme felt hot breath against her ear.  “Let go.  You can trust me.”

 

Jayme’s eyes shot open.  The shock had sobered her up and brought her back into the actual moment rather than the fear of the future.  He was smiling so kindly, but clearly his intentions were not good.  If she let go, she would die, plummet to her death and become nothing more than smashed and splattered guts and bones and blood on the sidewalk.  How could he ask this of her with so gentle a smile?  What was this madness?

 

But seeing no other alternative, Jayme let go.

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