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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 maybe choosing what is worst and doing it on purpose.

Published October 25, 2014 by mandileighbean

I haven’t written in over a month.

I sincerely apologize.  There is no excuse.  I have allowed myself to become overwhelmed by work, which in turn has certainly muted the passion and inspiration within.  When I leave work, I mostly eat and then sleep.  I have not been prioritizing as I should and as a result, I seem to be drowning in paperwork, in responsibilities, and other things that do nothing for my soul.  I know I sound like a defeatist, but let me assure you that is not the case.  I’m just in somewhat of a slump, but it’ll all turn around.

I’m crediting Gerard Way’s concert on Thursday, October 23rd as the reason for me to begin anticipating the end of my slump.  Maybe it was the fact that Melanie and I both decided to wear loose, knit hats and flannel, or maybe it was how amazing Gerard Way was performing, and how he spoke to my very fears and hopes and dreams, or maybe it was just being in New York City, but something about that night changed me, I am sure of it.

meandmelandgerard gerard

 

WEEKLY WRITING PROMPT #18: “I … love you?”

“I … love you?” she croaked.  She had never intended the statement to sound like a question, but she was caught terribly off guard by all of the wide, gawking eyes.  She had never intended for this conversation to take place via a microphone in a crowded, dimly lit bar, and surrounded by unsuspecting and incredibly judgmental coworkers.  Alcohol was a funny thing, she supposed.  It really could make you do and say things you knew would be incredibly mortifying or wildly inappropriate.  She didn’t think she had imbibed so much, and had assumed she had been perfectly capable of conducting a rational conversation with the man she had fallen desperately in love with.

It had been doomed from the start, and she would have realized that had she ever stopped to think about it, but she never did because it made her sad, and it made her feel stupid.  She didn’t like not knowing things.  For example, she’d punch herself in the face – repeatedly, and as hard as she could – if it meant she’d know with absolute certainty whether or not he wanted her in the same way that she wanted him.  She would cause bodily harm to both anyone and everyone if it meant she’d find out if he had singled her out for a genuine purpose, or if he had only been lonely and she had been desperate and voila; a friendship had been born out of necessity, rather than authentic affection.  On some level, she knew she was probably thinking too much, but the alcohol had cured that, and now it was apparent that she was not thinking at all.

For if she had been thinking, she would never have cajoled the microphone from the karaoke singer, with a smile as greased and manufactured as his hair.  Certainly, she would not have cleared her throat to command the attention of the packed room, patrons turning in her direction, sweating drinks in hand.  Their faces were patient, polite and interested; they were actually eager to hear her.  It was a bold, empowering feeling and she rode that wave of energy like an idiot.  Smiling big, like a beautiful, little fool, like an innocent idiot, she stood underneath the hot light, twirling in the dress that was much too fancy for the bar.  She was inebriated enough to think she looked gorgeous, which was enough to help her believe that she was also suddenly inexhaustibly charming.  She beamed and said, “Hello, hello everyone!  If I could just have your attention for just a second, that’d be awesome.”  Patiently, she waited until the crowd quieted and heads turned because she thought she could be something cinematic and perfectly romantic, that this drunken moment would be the beginning of everything good.  Things like that don’t happen in real life to mousey girls who convince themselves in quiet desperation in a cold bed that they are special and that they’ve been saving themselves for someone truly remarkable.  The alcohol had made her forget and so she kept right on talking.  “I just wanted to say thank you for coming to the end of the year party, and I hope everyone’s having a great time!”  Cheers and catcalls rose from the crowd and she smiled wider.  “I would also like to say something to Noah.”  She paused to accommodate for the crowd joining her in her search, craning necks this way and that, and turning to one another to audibly whisper and wonder why this stupid fool was looking for someone so strong and handsome and cool.  “Noah, are you out there?” she called.

The crowd parted and there he was, Noah.  He was embarrassed, never one for the spotlight, so as he walked forward, he kept his face lowered and eyes locked on his feet.  She knew his eyes were light and bright, the way the water looks near the shore in the middle of the day, a translucent kind of blue that invites you to run and splash and ruin its tranquility as best you can, but she only knew that because she had stared at them for what seemed like hours on end.  He was beautiful and brilliant and brooding and guarded, but he had let her in.  That made her somebody.  That made her special.  She couldn’t lose that feeling no matter what, no matter the cost, the way a drug addict steals from her own mother’s purse to achieve the next fix.  She was breathless, watching him walk towards her.  He stole a glance as he neared her, his smile fading with uncertainty and it was the way his mouth thinned that made her realize she had been wrong.

This was all a mistake, a terrible mistake.  One such as he could never condescend to grace one such as she with love and attention and affection.  She had miscalculated, woefully so.  And now here they were, in a crowd of friends and strangers alike, with everyone waiting for her to say something.  She laughed nervously and croaked, “I…love you?”

Bursts of laughter came from the crowd, with their open mouths and merry faces all blending into one atrocity.  Her eyes couldn’t – her eyes wouldn’t focus on the mass of apathetic people before her, but she couldn’t look at him.  If she did, she would throw up and that was probably the only thing that could make everything worse.  She dropped the microphone and took off, slamming against Noah’s shoulder but not mumbling an apology, only running and running until she get to a far enough corner where she could hail a cab in anonymity, tail between her legs.

bridget

On getting back up.

Published April 19, 2012 by mandileighbean

Okay – I know I promised myself that I would run while on vacation, and watch what I ate, and write every day. I also know that I did nothing of the sort. I am angry with myself, and I readily acknowledge that I am weak. But I simultaneously acknowledge that being weak is acceptable as long as I am not defined by my weakness. So here I am, trying again and for that, I am allowing myself a proverbial pat on the back.

Vacation was wonderful. I love my family and the time we spend together. I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my younger brother and was enamored with the theme park. My younger brother was a trooper, taking pictures and following me around as I flitted from attraction to attraction. He allowed me to be a nerdy, immature young woman and I love him for it. Clearly, the day we spent together was my favorite part of the entire vacation.

I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert at Madison Square Garden on Monday, April 9th. It was exhilarating, and most likely the closest I’ll ever come to having a religious experience. It inspired me to start work on a story involving an older musician coming to terms with his mortality despite the protests of his young lover and indifference of his numbed wife. What do you think? The inspiration is obvious, but I’m still working with the characters and themes, trying to twist them into something new, original and thrilling.

I was the candidate chosen for the maternity leave at the high school. I’m teaching senior English, and one section of creative writing. It is amazing, and I am incredibly excited. It hasn’t truly sunk in yet, and I need to be more disciplined in my lesson planning and classroom management. I’ve been so busy and tired that I’ve been letting things slide; for example, my first day in the classroom was yesterday, and immediately after school I had a final interview with the superintendent at the Board of Education office, then home instruction and then Confirmation practice with my younger brother. I did not get home until 8:00PM. Today, I taught, attended the faculty meeting, home instructed and now here I am, ready to write.

🙂

I hope you enjoy it.

PROMPT: “Inspiring Books.”
As writers, we all love to read good books for inspiration. What book inspired you as a writer and why?

PIECE:
I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the tenth grade, when I was fifteen-years-old. I had never experienced love that was reciprocated, but it was the only thing I wanted and something that I still yearn for. I would do anything, be anyone and commit any crime to have a hand reach for mine out of desire. I thought I had that my sophomore year, but it all came crashing down around me the way things seem to do in high school. The boy didn’t like me; he just liked the attention that I freely gave. When I read Fitzgerald’s classic, I totally empathized with Jay Gatsby and intrinsically believed that novel was written specifically for me. It was that universality – though it is a dangerous term to use – that helped me to realize that I was not crazy or melodramatic, but human and that is a story worth telling. I gained so much confidence and comfort in Gatsby’s desperation and heartbreak and demise, and fell in love with the craft because of its possibilities as presented in The Great Gatsby. It truly is the great American novel.

On stopping and starting, stopping and starting.

Published April 8, 2012 by mandileighbean

It’s been a few days since the last time I wrote, which is in direct violation of the goal I set, and the promise that I made not only to anyone reading this, but to myself. I am so sick of stopping and starting, of stopping and starting; I’ve never been all that successful at capitalizing on momentum, and I believe that is because I am lazy, selfish and weak. That may seem a harsh criticism, but it’s true. I’m not admitting these flaws to incite a pity party, but putting them in print does help to make them more manageable in an odd way. I am beginning anew, but with a renewed sense of determination that must be enough to help me see everything through; the writing, the weight loss, the employment search. While it is difficult to sincerely have faith in myself when I have continually fallen short of the mark, if I can cease the pessimistic thoughts and not accept contrived compromises – not become complacent and settle for a plan B – I can do it; totally.

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, a wonderfully symbolic day for rebirth and renewal. I went to the Easter Vigil mass tonight, and it was definitely beautiful and moving. Usually I go to mass early on Sunday, but my family is in Florida currently. Also, my oldest sister and her family are going to the boardwalk tomorrow to celebrate the holiday and I am going to tag along.

On Monday, I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden with a couple of friends. Despite my love of writing, I know I would never be able to adequately express how excited I am.

On Tuesday, I am flying to Florida to visit with family until Monday.

But I promise that I will exercise, write, read, pray and be a better person every single one of those days.

Hope you’re excited for my prompt tomorrow 🙂

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