Drama

All posts tagged Drama

On collisions.

Published October 25, 2016 by mandileighbean

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #31: Ben Jackson, husband and father of three, is killed on a car accident. Write about this event and how it affects the lives of the following characters:

  • Ben’s wife
  • Ben’s business partner
  • a police officer who was at the scene of the accident
  • Ben’s youngest child

 

By all accounts, Ben Jackson was a good man. He loved his family very much, and he showed up to work with a smile everyday. Ben never complained; he had nothing to complain about, really, and he knew it was all wasted breath. Ben Jackson had never intended to waste any breath as he fully understood how precious such breaths were. So when Ben breathed his last, when his breaths were brutally cut short, it was certainly not of his own volition.

He never even saw the other car coming.

But why would he? No one ever really looks for the car speeding through a red light; the car just comes, as careless and reckless as any harbinger of death would be. That might be melodramatic – it was no sullen, hooded figure gliding just above the pavement  with a sickle clutched in a bony hand. It had been a kid; a simple, pimply kid who was too busy sending text messages in the group chat and making plans for a Friday night he was certain would come to look up. So confident in his immortality as only the young are, he assumed the car in front of him had disappeared from his stolen glances at the road because the traffic light had changed color from red to green. In reality, the car had made a legal right on red, but the teen driver wasn’t really paying attention. He accelerated forward the way young, inexperienced drivers are apt to do – in sudden, scary bursts – and in just a moment more, he slammed into the side of Ben Jackson’s car, right into the driver’s door.

Ben’s affordable Kia Rio folded like a cheap suit and a jagged piece of metal from the poorly constructed door (later, no one would mention the recall at the service because to do so would be impertinent) severed his femoral artery. He bled out in just four minutes, just before the paramedics arrived.

Officer Bobby Gillis, responding to the scene, was unnerved by the lack of carnage for a crash with a fatality. The teen’s car had managed to travel unscathed to the far side of the relatively busy intersection before he collided with the deceased, a Mr. Ben Jackson. Officer Bobby Gillis was slightly bent at the waist, looking in through an open window at Ben Jackson’s face. The face was peaceful, like the man could be sleeping instead of being dead. Office Bobby Gillis released a deep breath and straightened up, looking across the way for his partner. Once he showed up, the pair would travel to the deceased’s home and notify the next of kin. Officer Bobby Gillis swallowed hard and ran a trembling hand across the back of his neck a few times. He needed to get his mind right, to focus on the task at hand, which in essence was to break someone’s heart, some undeserving stranger who as of yet had no idea a loved one was gone, dead and gone. His face felt tingly and he knew he must be pale, and he shut his eyes tight against the vision of the peaceful dead man that would haunt him at night for months to come.

Imagine if Officer Bobby Gillis knew what a great guy Ben Jackson was. How harder would the tragedy have landed on the officer if he knew Ben Jackson was on the road during the workday to pick up lunch for his colleagues, his treat? No good deed goes unpunished, and for a generous lunch, Ben Jackson had paid with his life. What a sick joke.

But neither Officer Bobby Gillis nor his partner knew the intimate details of Ben Jackson’s life and as such, both were better composed as they climbed wooden, creaking steps to a front door of a home that looked like every other home in the neighborhood. There was nothing remarkable about it, nothing to alert anyone to the fact that someone inside had been marked for death. Officer Bobby Gillis continued to grapple with his existential crisis until he noticed the toys in the yard and the small bikes in the driveway. His stomach flipped over and for a moment, just a moment, he debated running back to the cruiser and locking the doors. He’d rather avoid the whole, ugly mess.

But his partner had already knocked.

When the door opened, a gorgeous blonde with legs for miles answered the door. She was smiling, but it didn’t quite meet her big, baby doll eyes. Officer Bobby Gillis chalked it up to being uncomfortable and confused, which was how most pedestrians felt when the law came knocking on their door. Officer Bobby Gillis’ partner asked if the children were home.

“Just my youngest,” said the beautiful woman. “Jimmy and Josie are at school.” Her face paled considerably but somehow remained radiant. Officer Bobby Gillis credited contoured makeup. “Is everything okay? Did something happen to my children?”

The partner answered that no, nothing happened to the children and that they were safe. Then he asked if they could come in. Though the woman gave no response, she opened the front door wider and stepped back, which was as good an invitation as any. The officers crossed the threshold, softly shutting the door behind them, and followed the beautiful woman into the kitchen. She shakily sat in a chair, watching with impossibly wide eyes as the officers seated themselves opposite her.

Officer Bobby Gillis let his partner do all the talking.

And as the partner explained the tragedy, the beautiful woman didn’t make a sound. She blinked those big, baby doll eyes a lot, blinked them until a few tears rolled down her cheeks. Officer Bobby Gillis credited shock for the muted reaction, and considered that quite possibly, this woman was doing her best to keep it together for the little one that was somewhere inside the home. Officer Bobby Gillis and his partner offered expected but genuine condolences and then excused themselves. Once outside, Officer Bobby Gillis said, “Well, that sucked.” His partner agreed and Officer Bobby Gillis said, “That’s the absolute worst part of this job, man.”

Inside, the beautiful woman was still sitting at the table. Her name was Lisa and she had been married to Ben Jackson for ten years. They had known each other in high school, but waited a few years after they graduated college to get serious. It was a safe bet for Lisa, a sure thing; he was making money as a financial adviser and Lisa had never been any good at anything, not skilled enough to have a career. She also was never any good with money, so she had been content to be taken care of (financially, at the very least). That is, she had been content.

Phil Evans, Ben’s business partner, came walking out of the bedroom from down the hallway, tucking his expensive button-down shirt into his equally expensive pants. “Who was that?” he asked.

“The police,” Lisa said. Her voice was flat. “Ben’s dead. There was a car accident.” She blinked. “He didn’t make it. He’s dead.” She blinked again. In a moment more, those big, baby doll eyes landed on Phil.

Phil collapsed into the chair recently vacated by Officer Bobby Gillis. His eyebrows were scrunched up, like he was confused and trying to solve some exceedingly frustrating problem. “What?” he asked, even though he had heard Lisa perfectly. He didn’t know what else to say – what was there to say? – and he was buying time, time to think and figure it out.

“Ben’s dead,” Lisa repeated. Her voice cracked and tears came easier now. “Ben’s dead.”

Phil covered his face with his hands. “Shit,” he breathed. His breath was tremulous, speeding up and slowing down in a jerky kind of pattern that typically signaled tears. He didn’t want to cry in front of Lisa, didn’t feel he had the right to mourn Ben’s passing in Ben’s house. Phil’s recent sense of decency was odd and ill-timed, as he had just slept with Ben’s wife and had been doing so for months. “Lisa, I-”

Down the hall, Jeremy was softly crying. He was just waking up from his afternoon nap and rather than sit across from Phil and face the physical manifestation of everything that was wrong with her, Lisa hurried down the hall.

In her absence, Phil found himself able to cry.

death_in_the_hood

On the point being to keep trying.

Published March 21, 2016 by mandileighbean

nevergiveup

“In the stories, though, it’s worth it. Always worth it to have tried, even if you fail, even if you fall like a meteor forever. Better to have flamed in the darkness, to have inspired others, to have lived, than to have sat in the darkness, cursing the people who borrowed, but did not return, your candle.”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a terrible adult. It seems that I never fold laundry, I owe everyone money, I always forgot to check the mail, and I’m constantly drinking spoiled milk. On good days, I am able to convince myself that these minor defeats give me character and make me interesting; they give me something to write about.

And I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

My author page on Facebook has been experiencing more activity than usual, and I want to capitalize by composing a riveting, engaging blog post, but I’ve been lacking inspiration. I’ve also been lacking motivation. I haven’t written anything. I haven’t graded anything.

Last week was rough.

My twin sister returned to rehab a week ago today. I try to remind myself that relapse, whether or not anyone likes it, is a part of recovery. I force myself to consider the alternative, about where else she’d be if she wasn’t trying to get help. Neither scenario does much to lessen the disappointment, the frustration, the anger, or the sadness. It’s a gross, turbulent mess of emotions that I’m trying to compartmentalize and shrink so that they can be better processed and dealt with appropriately. But it’s hard; it’s so hard.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

“Because, perhaps, if this works, they will remember him. All of them will remember him. His name will … become synonymous with … love. And my name will be forgotten. I am willing to pay that price ….”
– Neil Gaiman, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury

That wasn’t entirely true, what I said earlier, about not having written anything. I’ve written some things, but nothing I’ve been thrilled with or necessarily proud of. I worry my writing – the themes, the characters, the dialogue – is repetitive. I worry I’ve written all of this before, and that might be because the object of my affection is every character I’ve ever written, is the epitome of every romantic fantasy I’ve ever had, and so it all comes back to him in one way or another. What’s especially troubling, and simultaneously amazing about being a writer, is that I invented this man before he appeared before me in the flesh (talk about a god complex, huh?). In college, before I had ever met this man, I started a novel and wrote, “He couldn’t watch her fawn over another man, couldn’t tell her how he felt because it was too late and he’d ruin it for her.” Swap the genders of the pronouns and I am my own prophet. It’s crazy; I said everything I should have said to him years before I met him. How depressing.

I wrote a poem, too.

I put the kettle on for tea
and pulled my leggings from the dryer
I hope there’s time for breakfast
before I go about setting the world on fire

Burning devastation – turn it all to heat and ash
There’s something freeing about going mad
To face the world with wild, reckless abandon
To give in, to be selfish, to be ignorant and bad

Consequences will come swift and sure
Rolling quickly like so many rocks downhill
But it could absolutely all be worth it
For the liberation that accompanies the kill

What does being so reserved get you,
maybe a curtsy and a smile?
None of the mystery, intrigue and danger
that can go along with being vile

But I don’t think I’d really go so dark. It’s easy to not consider anyone or anything else other than my own wants and desires, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s difficult to do what is right, at least sometimes.

But I keep trying, because that’s the point, right? The point is to keep trying.

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 begging for help.

Published June 19, 2013 by mandileighbean

For a long time now, I have been trying to start a second novel.  I thought I was on my way with a story about an aging musician and his younger lover and their romantically tragic and addictively dramatic lives, but there seemed to be a real lack of interest from a few of my regular and trusted readers.  It has been driving me crazy.

DID2I added a poll to my author Facebook page and in accordance with my fears, few were interested in the romantic tale.  According to the results, more were intrigued by a brief description of a plot involving a young man and the mysterious death of his fiancée.  You have to give the people what they want, right?  Thus, I have started writing my second novel, which has a working title of Moody Blue.

I am going to post the beginning of what I have here, in hopes it will be read and feedback will be left.

As always, enjoy and please let me know what you think.  I’ll beg if I have to.

DID DID1

MOODY BLUE

by

Mandi Bean

Chapter One

Human beings respond to traumatic events in different ways. Some people will remove the entire episode from their memories and completely block it from their minds. It is like they passed out and completely lost conscious for the event – like at the moment of impact, when the glass shattered from the outside in and the metal frame of the car and crumpled and crunched impossibly loud, their eyes slipped shut and they missed everything.  When they next opened their eyes, there were bandages, gauze, and scars and a hazy kind of recollection that would be terrifying and incredibly detrimental were it to clarify.  Thus, every day is a struggle varying in difficulty to keep the terror, the heartache, and the pain at bay. The goal is to simply exist, to continue from day to day as if nothing ever happened. These poor souls operate under the near constant pressure of the past, of the truth, of reality crashing down upon them like a tsunami, and shattering the walls they have built around themselves. Others remember the traumatic event in remarkable detail, able to recall the sights, sounds, smells and sensations at a moment’s notice. Their eyes were open wide and observant, somehow impeccably braced for the crash.  As if time slowed to a crawl, these individuals looked all around and noticed a slight stain on the front of their passengers’ shirts – probably ketchup or dripping grease from a tasty hamburger – and the way said shirts folded upon themselves at the passengers’ thighs when seated.  When the police arrive on scene, these are the individuals who provide the makes, models, colors and license plates of the other vehicles, which slammed into their own cars.  These individuals have accepted what happened and freely live with it, and do so fairly quickly, almost immediately.  Rather than treating the past as some stranger, these people welcome it as an old friend, inviting it to walk beside them daily and help to define the rest of their lives. These people are strong in spirit, undoubtedly, and wake every day fully aware of whom they were, who they are and wonder at who they might be. Still others hold onto one single detail of a traumatic event, and let that one detail define the whole event. They focus in on something minute to keep from going mad, to keep from going numb, and to keep from drowning in their sorrow. Because one thing, one little thing, is easily broken down, analyzed and compartmentalized accordingly. This is the person who cannot determine from which direction the other car came from, or where he was going and why.  He can only stare at his bloodied, trembling hands and mouth soundlessly, doing his best to form unintelligible syllables which were intended to form words but fall short of the mark.  The focus becomes the stained appendages because to try and live with the whole trauma, with all its many aspects and nasty surprises would be suicide for this man, and for people like him. Focusing in and away from the big picture would make waking in the morning and taking that next inhale much easier for these kinds of victims and these kinds of witnesses.

Adam Peterson belonged to this latter group.

The only thing he honestly remembered about finding his fiancée dead in their bedroom was all the blood. As far as Adam could remember, and let accuracy be damned, the room was filled with orange, burning light – whether from the setting sun or the sun’s rays reflecting over the various pools of blood he could not be sure.  But amid the odd light, he could see Lily in the room, in the blood.   Lily was surrounded by it, transformed into a lonely island of flesh. Adam practically had to swim through it to get to his beloved, trudging through crimson puddles with the coppery smell of it filling his nostrils and forcing his stomach to rise to his throat. He was worried about vomiting, but the worry was not strong enough to keep the howls of pain within his throat, because they traveled with too much power from deep within his chest, beside his soul, adjacent to his very reason for being. It did not seem possible.  Indeed, it was only a few hours ago that Adam had risen, gone to work, and then returned home with every intention of proposing to Lily.  How had everything gone so horribly, tragically wrong so fast?

Adam could never, and believed he would never, be sure as to why he awoke when he did that fateful morning.  Maybe it was the absence of the anticipated obnoxious buzzing of the alarm clock that roused him, even though it also explained why he slept as late as he did.  His eyes inexplicably shot wide, preternaturally realizing something was askew and that his biological alarm clock was slow.   His hand reached out to pull the alarm clock close, desperate to read the time in blaring digits colored a neon green, and praying that it would be earlier rather than later, that there would be time, indeed.  This day, Adam’s luck was in (or so he had thought); he had only slept thirty minutes later than usual.  If he just sped through his shower and skipped breakfast, he’d be golden.  He set the alarm clock back on the bedside table, short and squat and made of some wood composite, gently, much gentler than when he had grabbed it because there was time; there was no need for anger or anxiety.  It would be okay.  He threw the covers and hurried into the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom, whipping the door shut behind him.  In just a few moments, Lily could hear the water traveling through the pipes to beat against the linoleum that made up the bottom of the shower.  She had been awake.  She had noticed that Adam’s alarm clock had failed to sound, had been the cause of the tardiness.  Gracefully, she had leaned over her beloved’s sleeping form to turn off the alarm.  She had done so around 3:22AM, when she had awoken and been unable to go back to sleep.  What was keeping Lily up was difficult to discern and understand, but she had stayed up for the two hours, staring up at the ceiling and breathing evenly.  She could hear Adam breathing peacefully beside her, and he seemed comfortable and untroubled, so she had done her best to match her rhythm to his.

DID3

On needing a break.

Published March 26, 2013 by mandileighbean

Hello there, Stranger Danger!  It has been quite some time since we last spoke.  Unfortunately, not too much has happened, nothing terribly exciting.  Well, aside from the past three days, which were a complete whirlwind.  But – I am jumping ahead.  Let me begin with a highlight of the past two weeks.

The play was a roaring success!  The students were so talented, and sweet, and appreciative.  They made me cry and they made all the time spent, all the bruises, and all the frustrations completely worth it.  I was given flowers and a signed poster and a t-shirt, and was truly touched.  I know I kind of decided that I wasn’t going to be stage director next school year, but if Lee asks, I will say yes.

Lee was amazing.  I miss spending hours and hours with her every day.  She is so sweet, and she is beautiful inside and out.  I wish she had won The Biggest Loser at work.  She came close, though; second place!  I rounded out the top five and was only one pound shy of my goal weight!  I want to lose another fifteen before the end of the academic year, and then I am going to tone.  I am more motivated than I have ever been before, and believe I have a shot at making it this time – a real, bonafide chance.  That will most likely happen after this vacation, though – which brings me to my (slightly) harrowing tale.

I have been looking forward to Spring Break more so than is healthy and probably humanly possible.  I had plans to begin my second novel, to continue dieting and exercising and to really relax.  I used the word “need” whenever I talked about it, and I talked about it constantly.  Everyone at work was echoing similar sentiments; we all agreed that between the mold in the middle school, the split sessions, the bomb threats, Hurricane Sandy, the offensive bathroom graffiti, the new Danielson model of evaluating teachers, and schedule changes, the school year has sucked (pardon my lack of eloquence).  Personally, I believed that I was cursed for having such a year be my first full year as a teacher, and those suspicions were doubly reinforced when I tried to leave, to finally catch a break.  The rare occasions where I am selfish always seem to occur on the worst possible days.  I have always had the worst timing; even Mom says so.

“And the sky opened up, and God looked down, and He said, ‘I hate you, Amanda Bean!'”  Nothing that I plan ever works out; it never goes as planned, even despite all of my desperate, frantic prayers that are intermittent with sobs.  Nothing goes right for me.  In the film “Stranger than Fiction” with Will Ferrell, the main character discovers that his life is being narrated, and thereby dictated, by a female author.  To find out how his story ends, he must first determine whether his story is a comedy or a tragedy.  He keeps score in a little notebook, and soon believes that he is living a tragedy.  I now firmly believe that I have this in common with Harold Crick, the character’s name that I have just remembered.  Better yet, I would argue, and do so successfully, I’m sure that my life more closely resembles a Shakespearean tragedy.  However, if that is the case, then where, oh where, is the sweet release of death?

I know that I am guilty of being melodramatic, particularly with that last line, but I earnestly believe that I cannot win for losing and that if it weren’t for bad luck, I would have no luck at all.  Every time I look forward to something, it inevitably and devastatingly crumbles.  My reality NEVER meets my expectations.  As a result, I recently marched myself into the fairly swanky convenience store beside the Shell gas station where I was temporarily stranded (Exit 118 off I-95 South in Thornburg, Virginia) and purchased a pack of Marlboro Red 100’s – cigarettes.  I planned on smoking as many as it took to keep from drowning myself in my “pity-pool-of-tears” party.  I only smoked one, though I did so down to the filter.  I was distracted by the healthier urge to write and the 24 ounces of coffee that I also purchased.

I was about an hour and a half away from Missy’s house when my car overheated.  The needle was BURIED in the red and steam was POURING from the engine.  I called my dad asking him if I should pull over, or what else I could do, and he began listing the WORST CASE SCENARIO; that my car would have to be left in Virginia and be towed, that I could not have the Spring Break vacation I had been salivating over.  Being a dramatic, young woman, I began to cry.  Dad said, “Jesus Christ!  This is why you can’t go anywhere!” and, essentially, blamed me for the whole incident.  Naturally, I cried harder.  I then called John, and he was SO cool, calm, and collected and totally talked me off the ledge.  Working together via cell phone, we were able to get the car a couple of more miles.  It overheated again, and I had to pull over and there, on the side of the interstate, in the cold and in the dark, I was going to have to wait nearly two hours for Missy to come and find me.  There my car would sit, abandoned.  I was back on the phone with Dad (I had over forty calls in total that night from Missy, John, Dad, and Mom) when flashing yellow lights suddenly appeared behind me.  I was kneeling on the passenger seat in the front, remarkably disheveled, searching for a flashlight to check the fans in the front of the engine.  My high heels were near the pedals, on the floor by the front seat.  My eyes went wide and I was worried that my life was about to turn into that scene from “Taken.”  I was waiting for Dad to say, “Mandi, these men are going to take you.”  Luckily, it was only Steve from the Virginia Department of Transportation.  He wanted to make sure everything was okay, and I am fairly certain he can read minds because he explained why it took him so long to leave his truck and to come to my car is because he had to call it in to the local police.  Could he have seen my wide eyes, wild hair and trembling lips?  Maybe.

But Steve was a godsend.  He looked under the hood, added anti-freeze and that may have fixed the problem, but a new problem emerged right there before our eyes, as unbelievable as it may seem: my battery was dead.  This was most likely because I had left my lights on while parked and waiting for the engine to cool down.  Steve explained that he had a soft bumper and would push me to the nearest exit, which was only about a mile away.  There was a Dairy Queen where I could park and wait for Missy.  He pushed me all the way there, gave me his card and left me with the knowledge that three hours ago, right where I had been stranded, a helicopter landed to fly an elderly woman to the hospital after her car and trailer flipped, with her, her husband, and their dog inside.  The woman did not make it.  The scene was chaotic and horrifying.  But I was okay – I suppose that was his message.  He was smiling when he walked away.

I made it to Missy’s after she came to rescue me with Jimmy.  She drove three hours to get me somewhere safe, even though she had two little ones at home and work the next day.  She sacrificed a lot for me, and John had been so calm and helpful and reassuring.  They were excellent.  I owe them SO much.

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The next day, Mom and Dad drove down to my car.  I did not see my father, but he assessed the problem (which was simple; the car needed antifreeze), fixed it, and went back home because he had to pick Mike up from his camping trip.  That’s seven hours in the car for me.  Mom spent the entire day in traffic to come down, only to drive me to my car the following day.  All that time, all that money (gas, tolls, etc.) for me.  Dad even filled my tank with gas (which was unbeknownst to me, and I purchased $2.51 of gas and spilled it all over me).  And after driving through the McDonald’s Drive Thru in first gear, it was smooth sailing.

I made it to Vero Beach, Florida.  I spent the day outside in the beautiful sun.  I had my phone interview – which was a live radio interview – on the beach.  The interview was conducted by an incredibly sweet, professional, and talented junior by the name of Jeida from Atlantic City High School.  I thought it went extremely well, and Jeida ended the conversation by letting me know she wanted to interview me AGAIN in the near future.  And while the interview was going on (and while my hot wings were getting cold, but I’m not complaining because they weren’t worth the trouble; I have braces now), I began to schedule another interview with Montclair State University’s Alumni Association.  I got some sun, some sand, some good food, to experience the local flavor, and most importantly, to relax.  Life is good.

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.

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On pop culture connections and voodoo.

Published June 30, 2012 by mandileighbean

I’ve decided that I get my best thinking done in the shower, especially when the water is searing hot.  If I open the bathroom door after such a shower and the fire alarm rings out loud from the steam, you can safely bet I’ve developed a real gem of an idea.  I took one such shower today because I was feeling particularly grimy; I went out with friends last night, drank way too much and awoke with the word “fancy” stamped twice upon my forearm.  Scattered across my bedroom floor were clothes, Hawaiian leis and Mardi Gras beads.  Clearly I enjoyed myself, but at a cost; my stomach was feeling funny and my head was pounding fit to split.  The intense heat didn’t help matters, either.  I had resolved myself to eating greasy food and watching sitcoms that cause me to feel bad about myself because I am broke, single, unemployed, still living at home and feeling particularly unfulfilled.  To be specific, I was watching “New Girl” with Zooey Deschanel.  I absolutely adore this show – the writing is humorous, clever and heartfelt, the characters are genuine and authentic, the plots are entertaining but not outlandish – and realized with not a small amount of trepidation that I am in love with Nick Miller, the lead male protagonist.  While all of my significant romantic relationships have been with fictional males, this one is the most promising because I’m learning a lot about myself and why I engage in such pathetic behavior.  For example, Nick and Jess taught me that “backsliding” is always a bad idea; if a relationship didn’t pan out, it is for a good reason and revisiting what is lost only serves to make things messy and disappointing.  Just last night, I was debating about reconnecting with Navy Guy – a guy I “dated” (I use that term loosely – we went out twice) briefly.  To do so would no doubt seem weird since it’s been months since we last talked.  I debated whether I wanted to initiate contact because I was lonely and bored, or if because I genuinely believe I missed an opportunity.  After watching “New Girl” and analyzing the episode’s thematic development, I realize that I did not miss an opportunity.  The Navy Guy was somewhat shady, only texted me randomly when he was lonely and bored and I deserve better.  Thank you, Nick Miller.

I was thinking about these episodes and how I felt compelled to have a romantic interest in a fictional character when an advertisement for the movie “Magic Mike” aired.  Like most women, I am eager to see this movie because it has gorgeous, half-naked men in it.  Does that mean I am objectifying males, behaving below my level of intelligence and participating in a double standard?  Maybe, but I honestly find my reaction to the movie interesting.  I want to see it, as I want to finally read Fifty Shades of Grey.  Women rave about both of these artistic endeavors and while some claim that the movie and the book are nothing more than pornography, others hail both as tools to which women can break down sexual barriers.  Whichever it may be, I find it fascinating that audiences are always interested in sex and sometimes by extension, romance.  What does that say about society, that we’re starved for sex or for affection?  Are we desperate for human contact or human connections?  Are the two invariably linked?

Look at the Twilight andTrue Blood phenomenons; in both series, inhuman creatures – monsters, quite literally – are romanticized.  What is the deeper meaning here, that being loved by a monster is better than being lonely?  Why is it better to be with a vampire or a werewolf or some supernatural being than to be with a normal human being?  Is it a love or interest in the melodramatic?  Is it just entertainment?  When you step back and study popular culture from a sociological perspective, it is quite fascinating.  I’m eager to apply such a lens to my own writing and reading habits.  I believe everything I write involves romance because I am starved for affection – we have already discussed this.  I make my male characters brooding or damaged because either they are a reflection of how I see myself, or because it adds suspense to a typically humdrum circumstance.  That being said, I would much rather have my writing been driven by character development rather than plot development.  I could craft the most exciting plot with explosions, intrigue and murder – but if there is not a single character to provide the emotional buy-in, then what is the point?

I think that’s why “Magic Mike” and Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight and True Blood are all so popular; they explore human relations in various ways.  Though their plots are different – significantly different in some ways – all involve men and women and what they mean to each other.  That will always fascinate audiences because we will never be able to figure such relationships out.  There is always some kind of mystery and that is both alluring and entertaining – even in this digital age where everything about everyone is made known.  Glued to the boob tube as I was today, I saw an advertisement for the new HBO show “Newsroom” and one of the lead actresses, I believe it was Olivia Munn, who said the definition of newsworthy has changed; it now encompasses whatever people want to know about and it seems that what people want to know about most is other people; i.e., celebrities and people of note.  That makes sense to me – you see it everyday when “Jersey Shore” has more viewers than a documentary on the environment.  Are our priorities skewed, or are we just being honest with ourselves and indulging what we truly are fascinated by?

This is what I was ruminating on in the long, hot shower I took this evening, cleansing myself of the grime from the night before.  I decided that I like mystery- I am thrilled by a handsome stranger on a train who doesn’t give me a second glance with his sunglasses and headphones on.  He is elusive and I have a myriad of imagined possibilities of who he is and why he’s listening to headphones and wearing sunglasses.  I spent Wednesday evening in New York City with my friend Dominick, and we watched beautiful men in Central Park.  Some ran, some playfully tackled their girlfriends, some lovingly held hands with their boyfriends and it really drove my point home; this life is all about the connections we make, and so is the best art.

That being said, tonight’s prompt is not romantic. Enjoy.

PROMPT: “During his third night out of town, a traveling business man discovers a voodoo doll in his hotel room.”

PIECE:

Bill had been enjoying his time out of town.  Even though it was for business and he had spent the majority of his time attending boring, long-winded conferences and being hunched over yellow legal pads, scrawling notes with a tired, cramping hand, Bill was happy to be away; it offered the opportunity of gaining some perspective.  The town was tiny and cramped – everyone knew everyone, and everyone liked to talk.  Indeed, it seemed that Mrs. Marshall, the cashier at the local convenient store that operated at all hours and sold cigarettes at the lowest price allowed by law, knew Carol was going to divorce Bill’s sorry ass long before he did.  She had, in fact, told her husband all about it.  Mr. Marshall just so happened to work in Bill’s office and walked into Bill’s cubicle to offer his condolences on the failed marriage.  Bill had met Mr. Marshall’s mumbled sentiments with genuine surprise; aside from a lack of communication and a lack of sex, he had assumed things were fine, rolling right along.  Couples had dry spells, no?  Every marriage hit a rough spot, right?  Bill arrived home that afternoon seeking both clarification and reassurance, but Carol had only sucked in air between her teeth and shook her head slowly.  Bill had lost his drive, she said.  Where was the passion and the aspiration?  Bill was old and tired, she had complained.  She was moving up and on and out – all in one fell swoop.

Bill supposed none of it mattered anymore, seeing as how the marriage was over, Carol was a bitch and he was coping in his own way.  He was thinking about all of this perched on the end of the bed in his motel room.  It was an oppressive dry heat in early July, so he had the door kept wide open.  The air conditioner was busted and besides, he liked watching the flickering streetlamps and the imitations of life that passed by, with intimate conversations – not a single passerby knew that he or she was being observed and therefore, exhibited genuine and authentic behavior which Bill found fascinating.  Carol had never been genuine with him, not until the end of everything and that kind of betrayal and disappointment kept Bill from being genuine with anyone.  Instead, he was a stranger – a kind, pleasant, smiling face at all the right places, but still a stranger.

He was taking a deep swig from the amber bottle in his right hand, allowing his eyes free range, when they fell upon an odd-looking doll behind the door which was propped open.  Bill hadn’t seen it before, though he had been in the same room for three nights, and that was decidedly strange.  It sent goosebumps along his arms and spine.  Bill set the bottle on the floor beside his feet and then carefully rose, employing slow and halting steps as he visually examined the doll.  The details were exquisite; it was a balding man in his late thirties, with worried eyes and a downturned mouth.  He was wearing a business suit and could have been anyone of the numerous men Bill called colleagues.  More fascinated than frightened, Bill stooped to pick the doll up when he had reached it and taking it into his hands, Bill realized what it was.

It was a voodoo doll, and it had a single pin in its back.

Bill should have gasped and dropped the doll to the floor.  Bill should have removed the pin delicately and called the police.  Bill should have placed the doll somewhere safe from abuse and misuse, and inquired about the proper way of destroying said voodoo doll.

Bill didn’t do what he should have; matter of fact, he rarely did.  It was something Carol constantly complained about.

Bill looked at the doll and thought about the year he had had.  He had been Carol’s doll, hadn’t he?  She had left him bruised and broken, lying about erectile dysfunction and telling anyone who would listen that Bill was no longer vibrant and had lost the will to live.  Old and tired?  Bill?  She was harsh and cruel.  Bill would have given her everything, and had given her all that she had asked for.  Not to say he was blameless in the dissolution of the marriage but hell, didn’t a man get points for trying?  He had never hit her, cheated on her or lied to her.  So what if he wanted to take it easy when he got home from work?  Was that a crime?

Bill was sick and tired of feeling the proverbial pins people stuck in him – Carol, his boss riding Bill all the time and sending Bill to the conferences he didn’t want to go to with no monetary compensation, growing older and being afraid of what it meant to do so.  Why couldn’t he be the one to stick it to someone, at least once?  Bill removed the pin from the back of the doll and stuck it in the doll’s leg, after a barely noticeable moment of hesitation.

Somewhere, a complete stranger howled in pain.

Bill breathed easier.

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