Escape

All posts tagged Escape

On fountains.

Published July 7, 2016 by mandileighbean

It’s sweltering in my house. I was dripping sweat earlier. I went outside earlier, to try and benefit from the meager breeze coming from the bay, and my outdoor furniture was wet from a storm that had passed by earlier but I didn’t even care. That’s how hot it is.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy. I think I’m building character.

My life is quiet and small and plain. Again, I’m not telling you this for sympathy or vague reassurance that my life is not the way I perceive it (that just makes someone feel crazy, doesn’t it?). I’m telling you this to illuminate my character, because this realization makes me restless. I always feel like I’m wasting my time and my youth, that I should be doing more, more, more. So I’m taking baby steps to do just that.

On Wednesday, I went to Princeton with one of my best friends. We strolled the campus like we belonged there, despite me being clad in clothes purchased from Old Navy and not J. Crew or Ann Taylor or anywhere else equally as impressive and expensive. Not only that, but an intrusive coffee stain that was too large to be ignored assaulted the lower-half of my shirt in a way that simply screamed I didn’t belong, that I was totally and completely faking it. But I didn’t let my general sloppiness ruin the trip – I’m not that dramatic.

I dragged my patient and impossibly too kind friend to the university to peruse the F. Scott Fitzgerald archives. I anticipated manuscripts and pictures kept under class in a far and quiet corner of the library. I assumed the public had free and easy access to the most personal belongings of a literary genius, but I was so wrong. We had to register, received photo identification cards to enter a restricted part of the library, wash our hands, lock away our belongings, and specifically select which aspects of Fitzgerald’s life we wanted to access. We did this without complaint (which is saying something considering the heat of the day was blistering and my dear, dear friend never intended to spend 150 minutes looking at the personal affects of some dead author), and were shown into a reading room. There, I made plans to visit Great Neck, Long Island for a long weekend (the setting that inspired The Great Gatsby) and to travel to Hackensack, New Jersey (specifically to see the Newman School, which Fitzgerald attended). My friend and I both flipped through a sort of combined scrapbook of Scott and Zelda, compiled by Matthew J. Bruccoli (the only Fitzgerald biographer that matters) and Scottie, Scott and Zelda’s daughter.

Scott’s drama teacher wrote, “Good God, save the soul of the man with the spark!” in reference to Fitzgerald. What a tragedy; what a shame.

We were presented with a facsimile of the manuscript of The Great Gatsby, complete with edits and revisions in Fitzgerald’s own handwriting, not to mention the entire manuscript was handwritten. I nearly cried.

We read letters from Zelda to Scott, which chronicled the beginnings of their relationship, as well as the more tumultuous aspects of the courtship and marriage. I compiled a list of Zelda’s best quotes.

  • … it’s so easy, and believing is much more intelligent
  • And still I’m so mighty happy — It’s just sort of a “thankful” feeling — that I’m alive and that people are glad I am
  • There’s nothing to say — you know everything about me, and that’s mostly what I think about. I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me …
  • … something always makes things the way they ought to be …
  • I love you sad tenderness — when I’ve hurt you — That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels — and they bothered you so — Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget
  • … It seems as if there’s no new wisdom — and surely people haven’t stopped thinking — I guess morality has relinquished its claim on the intellect — and the thinkers think dollars and wars and politics — I don’t know whether it’s evolution or degeneration
  • To be afraid, a person has either to be a coward or very great and big
  • … free to sit in the sun and choose the things I like about people and not have to take the whole person
  • It is odd that the heart is one of the organs that does repair itself

I loved the eccentric, charming and dangerous and alarming details I learned about their love, like how Zelda consulted a Ouija board, and how she blamed Scott for her mental illness but firmly believed he could cure her.

We read Scott’s letters with a painstaking clarity, as we knew of the end he didn’t see coming. It was heartbreaking, really.

I decided the goal is to  write the last chapter of my next book in the Nassau Inn, to truly channel the passion and vibrancy and tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I found some places I’d like to visit in France, places Fitzgerald went to and found some kind of inspiration, whether for writing or living large.

We wandered around campus for a while longer, sneaking into classrooms, disrupting tour groups, and feeling – even if for just a little while – that grand things were still possible for us.

We ventured into the cathedral on campus and a Starbucks and a book store to beat the heat.

We traveled to Asbury Park for some live music and great company. It was a great day, the kind summers are made of. I intend to have more like them.

I was inspired to write the following short story. Enjoy!

FOUNTAINS
by Mandi Bean

Carlos knew that the equator separated the globe into northern and southern hemispheres, and Carlos also knew that the farther south a person traveled, the hotter the weather became. However, Carlos could testify to the fact, and possibly even prove, that the farther west a person traveled, the same phenomenon occurred. He had lived on the eastern shore of New Jersey his entire life and could say without hesitation, could say with near absolute certainty, that the middle of the state was a burning, boiling wasteland in July – the most uncomfortable Summer month to begin with – and that it served no real purpose. Carlos had traveled west at the request of his fashionable, trendy girlfriend and now regretted it something fierce.

They were traipsing about the campus of Princeton University so that his girlfriend could admire the rich history and breathtaking architecture and blah, blah, blah. It was ninety-three degrees and Carlos was miserable. He felt damp and disgusting in places he didn’t even know could sweat. Still, he took it all in stride, trying to keep his girlfriend happy and blissfully unaware of his discomfort. He said nothing as they walked innumerable staircases to gawk at old buildings and open fields that meant something to someone somewhere, sure, but that person was not Carlos. His mood dangled precariously between “thoughtfully quiet” and “crankily homicidal,” and he offered his girlfriend only interested smiles as she prattled on and on about tradition and excellence and whatever.

Carlos only perked up as they neared the center of the sprawling campus. There was a pool, six inches deep at the most, with a fountain at its center, an impressive, enigmatic modern sort of structure spouting water. Carlos took his girlfriend’s hand and rushed towards it, the way someone might rush towards a miraculous pool while stranded in a desert. But this pool and fountain was no mirage; children splashed here and there, supervised by patient adults who smiled and nodded with a calculated, weary sort of encouragement. Carlos reached the pool’s edge, where wide, flat stone steps led down to the water. He was smiling wide, with a youthful exuberance, and he turned to his girlfriend. “I’m going in,” he stated and sat down to remove his shoes and socks.

His girlfriend offered a sweet smile, totally enchanted by Carlos’ juvenile need to cool and comfortable, by his childish ambitions. He was a beautiful young man with dark features that made him appear to be super intellectual, but in reality, he was nothing of the sort. But his girlfriend, equally as beautiful, was not disturbed by Carlos’ lack of desire for education and all things brainy. It kept her in check, kept a balance in the relationship. “Go right ahead,” she smiled. “I’ll wait here.”

Carlos paused and looked up at her. “You’re not coming in? This heat is brutal.”

She shook her head and seated herself beside Carlos. “It’s hot, but I’m okay. You go in, though. I can’t tell you’re dying to.” She leaned against him for a moment to kiss his cheek. That was all the permission Carlos needed, and he took off, splashing with reckless abandon to reach the fountain at the center. That spewing, falling water was the most efficient way to get cool. He passed the laughing, shrieking children and paused at the base of the fountain. The water fell on him in the most refreshing way and he was content to simply exist, it simply be in a world where water was free to fall where it may. What a time to be alive, what with fountains and pools to keep the intense summer heat at bay. He closed his eyes and attempted to wash away the sweat and sourness of the July sun.

After a few moments, he opened his eyes and leveled his gaze. He was surprised to find another adult, another wanderer about campus, engaging in the same activity. She was gorgeous, and Carlos also noted the way the woman had been equally as daring, had strode in the same way Carlos had, not caring for the onlookers or any kind of judgments. There was only the oppressive heat, and the refreshing relief of the water, roaring down from the fountain and tinkling as it reached the pool surface. They both appreciated the opportunity, had seized it, and now stood breathless, together in their choices and ideology, but separate in their strangeness to the other.

Carlos breathed a simple “hey.”

The woman nodded, and kicked water up at Carlos. That was her greeting; that was it. Aside from the playful smile, she had offered nothing, not even her name. But Carlos was game. He returned the splash. In a matter of moments, Carlos and the woman were doing their best to drown each other. Their raucous laughter and innocent challenges drowned out that of the children and even the most dutiful of supervising parent stole a glance at the two grown adults making complete asses of themselves in the fountain on the campus of Princeton University.

But, as do all things in life, the splashing lost its appeal and became old and tired. Carlos looked back to his girlfriend and found her reading (there was always a book in her over sized bag). He waved goodbye to the gorgeous, wild and free woman he had spent the last ten minutes with. Without really thinking about it, Carlos returned to the studious, safe and responsible woman waiting for him out of the water. He supposed that was the way it was supposed to be, that for every soul willing to get lost at sea, there had to be another anxiously waiting on shore.

As he came nearer, dripping wet and breathless and smiling, Carlos’ girlfriend looked up and barked a laugh. “Am I glad you drove,” she teased, “because you would never ever get into my car like that.”

Carlos bent to swiftly kiss her before she could protest or squirm away.

fountains

 

On longing to be trendy.

Published February 25, 2013 by mandileighbean

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story and writes another.”

– James Matthew Barrie

This week’s way to blast my blubber was to use time wisely; if there are only 30 minutes free in your daily schedule, use it to pack a nutritious lunch and to closely watch what you eat, rather than try to squeeze in a workout. I usually stick to that rule, but this week, I worked harder to make sure I did not go over my daily calorie limit. As a result, I lost three pounds this week. My confidence is bolstered and my determination has more than doubled. So please ignore the fact that I am currently contradictorily snacking on some Funyuns.

My colleague, Jill Ocone, is such an inspiration. She is truly following her passion, regardless of cost. She stopped living to work, stopped being consumed by work at home. There is no reason why I cannot do the same.

photocone

Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, I try very, very hard to find the moon in the sky. I make myself dizzy by searching in spinning circles, neck bent uncomfortably backwards, and though there are plenty of stars to go around, I cannot find the moon.

Sometimes, when I am running in the morning, it is so frigid that my iPod’s battery is completely drained after about 20 minutes. I do not usually get rattled on my morning walk and jog, but with no contemporary music to drown them out, I become aware of the creepiest sounds. The wind makes the branches of the trees creak and groan. A few American flags snap in wavelengths. A dry, crunchy leaf scuttles across the barren pavement – the perfect horror movie soundtrack and every now and again, I snap my neck this way and that in a futile attempt to determine the cause of some noisy disturbance in the blackness around me. Was the snapping of a twig merely evidence of movement by some furry, cuddly woodland creature, or something more sinister, if, in fact, it even existed at all?

I think I need to indulge in writing some fan fiction again; it can inspire something of literary merit. Many borrow characters and plot lines and images to create a foundation for something new. Currently, I am thinking of “True Blood;” I know vampires are passé, but I keep having this recurring image of a beautiful but battered young woman with a bruised and broken body and beaten face. She is sitting in the front pew of an old and tiny church, at the end. She has been crying, sitting and staring straight ahead with dead, vacant eyes for presumably hours. Then, a devastatingly handsome man – or monster? Or a creature? – suddenly appears, standing in the carpeted aisle beside her. He looks concerned and seems genuine, but her response is icy cold: “You don’t belong here.”
It’s not like her to be cruel, especially not to him, so he deflects her verbal barb with an easy smile and explains, as he has done many times before, that vampires not being able to enter churches in actually a myth, and he’s about to begin a long-winded explanation when she cuts him off.
Misunderstood, she nearly snarls to clarify that she knows damn well that he can be there, but she does not want him there. She has wounded him and it shows all over his face.
“I’m not the one who beat the shit out of you. Why are you so pissed at me?” Though her body language is coming through loud and clear that she wants to be left the fuck alone, he sits beside her. Begrudgingly, she moves for him.
And I want her to unravel – tell him EVERYTHING. Her boyfriend, a bartender who is slowly but surely developing a drinking problem, got loaded and hit her. It has never happened before and she believes her boyfriend is really and truly sorry, but everything is different now and that is sad and scary. She was trying to help him, to be loving and supportive and all the good things, but she still got rocked. In her moment of weakness, she is bitter and vengeful and hateful. It is unlike her, and it makes him nervous. He is not easily rattled and his change in demeanor is not lost on her, though her demeanor is changing as well. She asks him if he’s all right, seamlessly slipping back into old habits and tired behavior.
He laughs without much humor and says that he’s fine, that she shouldn’t give a damn if he’s fine or not, and that maybe she should be more vicious and guarded, like it might not be such a bad thing. She nods and wipes her eyes. Silence falls over them and he feels as if he needs to break it, so he asks her how long she’s been there.
She shrugs and says nothing.
He suggests they leave and go somewhere else.
“Why?”
“Because, honestly, you’re just sitting and stewing in your misery and that solves nothing- it only begets more misery.”
“What could we do?”
It’s an innocent question, but the answers that immediately spring to his mind are not. He takes a second to compose himself because he doesn’t want to scare her; she is good and pure and that is what he likes – loves? – about her. He has to protect it; he has to keep it safe. “Where have you always wanted to go, but have never been?” “France,” she answers without hesitation, like she’s simply been waiting to be asked that very question.

“… if you’d only asked me.”

“If I don’t ask you, would you ever think of asking me?”

truebloodbilleric

I am always surprised (whether it is pleasant or not has yet to be determined) by which blog posts garner the most attention and end up receiving the largest amount of views. The last entry I posted was personal and somewhat pessimistic, kind of made me seem shallow and pitiful, and has more views than the short story I wrote. A wonderfully caring colleague sent me a Facebook message absolutely dripping with sympathy and a classmate whom I have not seen nor spoken to in years, left an encouraging, empathetic and appreciated comment on my blog. These things surprise me.

I guess it’s like that part in the movie “The Breakfast Club,” where Basket Case Allison dumps all her baggage – literally and metaphorically – on the couch, thereby inviting everyone into her problems. So it’s unreasonable then for her to be angry when people comment, offer advice, and so on and so forth. It’s just that I honestly was not looking for pity, sympathy, or attention – I was just purging thoughts, just writing. It is a fine line between my private self and public self and balancing how I see myself against how others do. I know I shouldn’t care, but I do and that’s how I am, take it or leave it.

bcluballison

I have a deplorable habit of being interested in men whom I cannot have – the distance keeps me safe from rejection, and it keeps me romantically tragic.

I need to start reading Stephen King again.

When it’s rainy, I want to stay in my bed, curled beneath the covers.

The roses in my classroom are dying.

roses

Why am I always so negative?

A radio station contacted me back! It is run by a high school in Atlantic City. It will most likely have an incredibly small audience, but it will be more of an audience than I have now.

My second royalty check came for the month of December: $23. 22; one print book and nine Ebooks.

The Manchester Branch of the Ocean County Library forwarded my information to the larger – and frankly, better – Toms River branch. I am hopeful.

Yesterday, I ventured to Brooklyn with a friend to attend a bridal shower. It was wonderfully trendy and beautifully artsy. The music completed the atmosphere perfectly and I never wanted to leave. I made plans to travel to Paris, fell in love with love all over again, and yearned to be more creative and artsy in everything I do. It was an awesome shower.

signbrokenmirrorfoodtabledessertscakefavorsfavoritecornermeandlee

On the similarities in breaking through and breaking up.

Published July 25, 2012 by mandileighbean

I didn’t sleep last night.  In fact, my wearied head didn’t crash against the pillows until around 4:00AM.  Why such late hours?  What could have possibly been so enthralling, so engaging that it kept me up until dawn was but a few hours away?

I was writing.  I was writing the beginnings of a second novel, not just another prompt.  I haven’t done anything like that, or felt so excited by an idea, since I started writing Her Beautiful Monster, and that was years ago.

Whatever I decided to do professionally and no matter where I move – no matter where September finds me – I am ecstatic that I broke my dry spell and that I am truly back to doing what I love.

I hope what I wrote above doesn’t put too much pressure on tonight’s prompt.  Mainly, tonight’s piece was a hell of a lot of fun.  Enjoy!

PROMPT: A high-priced prostitute suspects that one of her best customers is falling in love with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PIECE: Candi had only just escaped to the ladies’ restroom in the upscale restaurant that Carl had brought her to for dinner.  The napkins were made of soft linen, as were the tablecloths, and it made her nervous as hell to wipe her mouth because they were clearly so expensive and the trashiest thing in the world – the absolute trashiest thing – would be for Candi to leave a smeared trail of bright red lipstick on the napkin.  That’s what Candi was though – she was trash.  She was a prostitute and no matter how many times she insisted that “high-end” come before the profession, it didn’t change anything.  Night after night, she would tart herself up and exchange pleasantries – social niceties, can you believe it? – only to end up on her back with a stranger inside her.  What kind of life was that?  What was she doing, really?  Candi suddenly discovered she was having difficulty breathing in a smooth, even pattern.  If there was one thing Candi prided herself on, it was her ability to stay strong – she didn’t rattle.  She rushed to the nearest sink, her high heels clicking against the beautifully tiled floor, and turned the faucet on.  She used trembling hands to cup water and throw it on her face, using a sparing amount so that the makeup that had been so expertly applied would not run or be washed away.  After all, a naked prostitute was more vulnerable than sexy.  Candi needed all her engines firing and she needed to have all of her tools in her arsenal ready to go.  That was the thing about Carl; he was constantly catching her off guard.  While the change of pace excited her in a way she thought she’d long be numb to, it was also dangerous.  In her line of work, there could be no surprises.

What could she do though?  How was she to know that Carl was going to take her out once she had been dropped at the hotel?  She shouldn’t have gone, but Candi wasn’t as strong as she liked to believe when Carl flashed his pearly whites and asked something of her.  He had charmed her, sure, but things were going farther than that.  He had brought her here for dinner when they could have easily ordered room service and remained hidden and discreet.  Carl kept clearing his throat like he was nervous, and he kept fiddling with the silverware folded in the fancy napkins.  Why was he nervous?  Candi had a sinking suspicion that he was going to ask something impossible.  She feared that Carl was in love with her, and had hatched some insane scheme that involved him saving her, carrying her away from her life of sin and regret in strong, toned arms before a stunned crowd of seedy onlookers who applauded the effort, but slowly – very slowly.  She splashed more water against her face.

Candi was an idiot; she had nothing to worry about.  She was certainly not Julia Roberts and Carl was absolutely no Richard Gere (but when she told the story later on to friends, she’d make the analogy innocently and swear it was accurate).  This was not a movie and she was not about to be whisked away to anywhere besides a high-priced hotel room.  Patting her face dry with a cloth towel, she smoothed her dress (in an attempt to make it look longer and elegant, rather than short and scandalous) and returned to the table.

Carl was not in love with her, no way, no how.

Right?

On stereotypes and skiing.

Published July 21, 2012 by mandileighbean

To be honest, I almost HATED this prompt.  It did not appeal to me by any sretch of the imagination.  I have never been skiing, have never left the continental United States, and therefore, I had no real basis for which to compose interesting, let alone entertaining, fiction.  Forgive me.  I have relied on stereotypes and have only laid a thin foundation of any character development.  There is not plot, either.  I’d advise you to enjoy the piece, but I’d feel like a sarcastic jerk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROMPT: Two skiers, one from America and one from France, get stuck together on a ski lift in the Swiss Alps.

PIECE: This was Bernadette’s first time leaving the United States.  She decided that after the messy divorce with Dan, but before what was to be a drawn out and ugly custody battle, she’d take a much deserved break.  Their only child, a beautiful boy named Nicholas, was with her mother and her father for the week, and would be with Dan the following week.  It was not an ideal situation – far from it, actually – but regardless of classification, Bernadette needed a break.  She was at the absolute limit of her mental and emotional abilities.  Nicholas needed someone stronger than that, so really, this vacation was a time to get her head straight and lace up her ass-kicking boots.  She would return home refreshed, renewed and ready for whatever was needed to be handled.

Bernadette closed her eyes and was quietly drifting in a manufactured kind of stillness, and did not notice the man seat himself beside her on the lift.  Jacques eyed the woman beside him from the sides of his dark eyes, from the intimate corners with an intrinsic and instinctual dislike and distaste.  Jacques had never seen the woman before, which meant she was new to the slopes and the surrounding area; she was a tourist. Therefore, she was an interloper, rudely infringing upon his much needed escape.  What with the global economy being what it was and having to watch his company – the one he created from the ground up – slowly but surely go under, he just needed a few days.  He knew he was going to have to leave his apartment in France as he could no longer afford the rent.  Things were going to be changing for Jacques in gross, major ways.  He just needed a few days of skiing to collect his breath and bearings.

Both Bernadette and Jacques just need a break.  They were not to get one.

The lift became stuck – technical error? Was it a man-made problem? – halfway up its trek to the top of the hill.  Voices rose and floated to Bernadette on a breeze, bubbling and gurgling with frustration and concern.  She opened her eyes, looked around, and asked the obvious question: “What’s wrong?  What’s happened?”

“The lift is stuck,” Jacques replied flatly.  Clearly, he was more annoyed than anything else.

“Does this happen from time to time?” Bernadette asked with timidity.  She was trying to rationalize her nerves away and put them far from her.  She was looking for compassion, for comfort from a more experienced skier with nerves of steel.

“What do you think?” was Jacques response.  He was not going to offer comfort.  He was too agitated to do anything other than sit and sulk.

“Are you French?” was Bernadette’s question.  The timid aspect to her tone of voice had dissipated and she had adjusted her seat so that she was facing Jacques head on.

“What do you think?” Jacques responded again.  Bernadette laughed humorlessly and turned to stare at the frozen tundra below.  Suddenly, she wished to be home and she thought how ironic of a sentiment that was, that she laughed again … once more, with feeling.

 

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