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On seeking salvation from loneliness.

Published June 30, 2015 by mandileighbean

I know I need to update this blog more than once a month. My writing is becoming stale; my literary muscle is in a state of atrophy due to lack of use. I have no excuse.

I wonder how many writers believed themselves to be prophetic. I don’t mean in the pretentious sense, but in a way that can be validated, where predictions are not obvious or bluntly stated, but hidden beneath authentic literary merit. I mean in the way where plot and reality align too much to be mere coincidence. This topic has piqued my interest as of late because the ending of my second novel Moody Blue – which has yet to find either a literary agent or publisher for representation – ends in nearly the exact same way the real life source of inspiration is ending. It knocked me on my ass, to be sure, and I’m sure this post, with its assertion that I’m some kind of prophet, that all of this is a way to make it romantically tragic instead of just melodramatic and sad. Rather than admit I was fooled and manipulated, it’s grander to say I knew someone so well that I saw what was coming and used it in my writing to heal the wounds. I suppose it was more like seeing the approach of headlights and stepping into the middle of the street anyway because a beautiful, brooding man is on the other side, smiling seductively. As I stepped into the road, I knew that I was never, ever going to reach my desired destination, that I’d end up alone and as so much carnage that others will drive over without much notice, but I did it anyway because that smile made me believe things were changing, and that I just might make it. That smile became an all-purpose excuse for all the stupid, selfish, asinine things I did.

“This is my least favorite life, the one where I am out of my mind. The one where you’re just out of reach. The one where I stay and you fly.” 

But I suppose I’ll be okay.  

“I’m never alone. I’m alone all the time.”

I lead a very lonely life. I used to be ashamed to admit it, but I once heard that some are meant to be happy, while others are mean to be great. Thus, my only means of survival, of staying both sane and optimistic, are believing that everything happens for a reason, and that this is my path, for better or for worse. I must entertain the possibility that where I am destined to end up may not be warm and bright with smiling faces. I might have to be cold and alone to be great, to fulfill my potential. Maybe all the tragedy I’ve spent romanticizing for so long is all mine to keep.

Hell, even Gatsby knew he could only climb alone.

Writing Prompt #23: The figure in a famous painting begins communicating with an art museum patron.

The museum was clearing out. The few presumably pretentious patrons were shuffling towards the exits in shiny, expensive shoes that reflected their pinched faces of their respective owners. They all looked so important, raising the collars of impressive and fashionable coats against the cold, sharp February winds raging outside. The ladies adjusted their gloves to better cover and protect their delicate wrists against the bitter cold, while the gentlemen held the doors open, allowing the ladies to pass through with strong and protective hands on the smalls of their backs. Once outside, facing the elements, these fine, cultured gentlemen enveloped their classy, educated ladies in their arms and together, the pairs scurried to remarkably expensive vehicles, a Lexus there, a Mercedes Benz here, and a few BMWs for good measure. It seemed that everyone at the art gallery was impossibly intelligent, filthy rich, and happily in love. They did not rage against the dying of the light as the sun’s last rays burned bright and fierce through the large picture windows that surrounded the art gallery. It seemed that all were perfectly content to go gentle into the good night because they were not alone. They loved and were loved, and that was all that mattered.

Or maybe that’s just how it seemed to Olivia because she was alone – single and bitter – on Valentine’s Day. After all, wasn’t there some saying about everything looking like a nail when one feels like a hammer?

It had been foolish to venture out into public on the absolute worst of manufactured holidays. Olivia knew her day would be one long and agonizing observation of all kinds of public displays of affection, ranging from sweet (the elderly man who did his best to straighten his fingers gnarled with arthritis only to entwine them with his wife’s as they rode the bus to the city) to obnoxious (the sweaty, nervous-looking man who coordinated a lame, disappointing flash mob as means of proposing to a doughy woman too stupid to know any better and readily accepted) to grotesque (the teenage couple mauling each other while waiting in line at the local coffee shop, covering themselves in each other’s DNA in the disgusting way that only adolescents can). Begrudgingly, Olivia would admit it was the masochist within her that encouraged and eventually convinced her to journey to the art gallery. Later, when the pain began to subside and she was safe in her home, in sweatpants with wine and Chinese food that had been delivered some time ago, she could realize that being surrounded by affection was a good thing, nearly tangible evidence of its existence, that it was real and could happen to anyone at any time; she only needed to be patient. But in all honesty, her reason for going to the art gallery was not so romantic or noble, but just desperate and obvious. She only went there because there was a chance – a good chance, a fighting chance – that Scott would be there.

He had taken her there on several occasions, holding doors open and bundling her against the cold.

That had ended some weeks ago, but Olivia was a fool, the worst kind of fool who believes chance encounters could be manufactured, who believes hope comes from an ever-replenished spring and who believes chances are unlimited. She had convinced herself that if Scott saw her again, he’d believe it was fate and he’d give her a few precious moments to make her case as to why they belonged together. Olivia flat-out refused to believe Scott could feel or think any way other than the way she wanted – needed? – him to and on her best days, she could claim a romantic optimism, but more often than not, she knew better. It was pathetic and desperate.

Olivia had arrived at the gallery upon opening. She made herself comfortable, draping her coat over her arms crossed casually over her chest and meandering through the aisles slowly, languidly, always thinking, thinking, thinking. She had purchased lunch in their adjoining cafe, unwilling to leave the premises because she knew with a supernatural certainty that the moment she did, Scott would arrive and her last chance would be blown. Olivia didn’t eat much, but thoroughly enjoyed the complimentary wine and cheese despite the glowering looks from the supervising employee who quickly realized Olivia was only loitering and taking more than her fair share. The employee was able to remain smug because he rightly assumed that Olivia was a fraud, a dopey woman who probably couldn’t name a single artists featured in the gallery’s collection, let alone the title of one of the masterpieces.

And that was all true; Olivia didn’t know anything about art. So there she was, alone in an art gallery five minutes before closing, standing before some oil painting with tears in her eyes. Scott had not appeared, had not wrapped her in his arms, had not made everything okay. “Oh my God,” she said to no one at all. “I am so, so stupid.” Her voice cracked, broke, and the tears began to fall freely. “He doesn’t miss me, does he?” she asked, but there was no one there to answer, especially not Scott.

The painting before Olivia was of a young man in riding clothes, posing in some wild-looking garden. He had dark features and a very serious expression. The painting was generic and unremarkable, and Olivia found it all so fitting. What better place for her to have an emotional breakdown than in front of a random painting? Only truly great women could sob before the Mona Lisa.

Olivia released a shuddering breath. “I loved him. I loved him very much, and I should have made sure he knew that.” She wiped at her nose. “I just tried so hard to be cool, to not cling to him, to finally be the one who wasn’t so obviously at the mercy of the other person in the relationship. I wanted power and control more than I wanted him.” She sobbed. “But that was wrong, and I was wrong. I guess he mistook all that for indifference, thought I didn’t care, and now he’s gone.” She rubbed her eyes, smearing mascara and eyeliner without so much as a passing thought to her appearance. “I just wanted things to work out this time, this one time. I wanted it to be different. But here I am!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands before her and allowing her coat to fall to the marble floor. Her tone was now cold, sarcastic. “I’m alone on Valentine’s Day and I’ll probably die this way.” Ashamed and suddenly overwhelmed by self-pity, Olivia covered her face with her hands. She cried against her palms, unintelligibly begging for some divine intervention, for salvation from loneliness. She cursed Scott and his new girlfriend (which Olivia assumed he must have – what else kept someone busy on Valentine’s Day?) and then cursed herself for cursing Scott, for being petty and stupid. She berated herself into some state of composure, then allowed her hands to fall to her sides. Once more, she faced the painting.

A guttural scream exploded from her lips and reverberated back to her from the empty aisles as a terrifying sound, so Olivia knew she had to make it stop lest she scared anyone else. She clasped her hands over her mouth and stared with wide, petrified eyes at the painting that had changed, that had most certainly changed, that had definitely changed. The young man featured front and center had turned, had somehow shifted to directly face Olivia. His expression had drastically softened, like he was sympathetic to her pathetic whimpering. In his right hand was a dark red rose. Olivia could easily and readily identify which bush it had come from.

Olivia looked about wildly, curious if her outburst had attracted any attention at all. No one appeared to be rushing over. There were no strangers nearby to validate the impossible event she had just witnessed. Should she call someone over? Would she be believed? Would anyone else see what she was seeing? She returned her gaze to the painting.

Olivia thought she was going to vomit and then pass out, simply keel over. The painting had changed again.

The young man was smiling kindly, very kindly, in a way that almost calmed Olivia, who was on the verge of becoming hysterical. His arms were spread wide, as if he were offering her something. Guided by an unfamiliar instinct, Olivia looked at the floor beneath the painting. There lay the dark red rose the young man had been holding.

Slowly, breathing deeply, Olivia bent to retrieve the rose. The stem was covered in thorns, real enough that Olivia pricked her pointer finger and it began to bleed. The petals were soft and the fragrance was strong. It made Olivia smile. In spite of the lunacy, the sheer insanity of it all, Olivia smiled. She looked to the young man in the painting to thank him, but the expression of gratitude died on her lips. The painting was as it was before, as it should be. Olivia gasped. It was so bizarre that she was transfixed, unable to look away. She reached out her free hands, the one not holding the rose, to touch the painting, to ascertain if it was real, or if there might be some technological trickery at work.

A throat cleared itself behind her.

Nearly screaming aloud again, Olivia wheeled around to find the employee who had been so stingy with the wine and cheese standing behind her. “Ma’am, don’t touch the paintings,” he instructed in a bored tone of voice. “Also, we’re closing now. You’re going to have to leave.”

“Oh, oh, okay,” Olivia mumbled, pale and confused. The employee, seemingly oblivious to Olivia’s distress, turned away. He trotted down the hall, and Olivia scooped up her coat, careful not to lay eyes on the painting in case it changed again, in which chase she would have a heart attack and die. She hurried to the exit, but not before she mumbled a hurried and terribly confused, “thank you.”

The young man in the painting smiled but there was no one there to see it.

hc single valentine's day

On being in love with every actor.

Published February 19, 2013 by mandileighbean

stupidcupid

“I never let what happened stay in the past.”

I was better than I usually am on Valentine’s Day this year – I remained cheery and optimistic until the next day.  I woke up, logged onto Facebook, and was immediately inundated with nauseatingly adorable gifts and status updates.  Without the students to exaggerate the negativity and thereby make it unattractive and absurd, a bitter taste filled my mouth and I instantly felt blue.  I am sure the Radiohead song playing softly in the background did not help.

On top of that, I did not lose a single pound for the second week in a row.  I only have myself to blame because I have not been counting my calories like I should.  I can try and blame it on my menstrual cycle or stress (teacher evaluation workshops, the backdrop for the play falling over), but the truth is that I have been weak.  I am disappointed in myself.  I am ashamed.

Saturday morning, I watched a good-sized portion of the movie “Mannequin” while eating breakfast.  When I was younger (and only slightly more impressionable than I am now), I was absolutely obsessed with the movie.  Reasons for my obsession seem obvious – such as Andrew McCarthy at his most vulnerable, quirkiest, and most appealing – but upon deeper reflection, it is so much more than that.  There is something dangerously intoxicating about what one creates loving its creator in a singular, unique, and romantic kind of way; like creative types can cure their own loneliness and save themselves.  That aspect of the “fairy tale” is reassuring but at the same time, it is worrisome because does it not suggest that those same quirky, odd, different, creative people cannot find romance organically?  Unless there is some kind of divine intervention or fantastical happenings, are weirdoes never to find love?  Maybe that’s why the first blog I created to promote my writing was titled “Letters to Eliot” and was comprised of nothing more than pathetic and embarrassing love letters to a fictional character of my own creation.  Is that really so different from falling in love with a mannequin?  At least the mannequin was tangible and at least it came to life and at least it loved its creator back and at least they lived happily ever after.

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Regardless of the deeper meta-fictional meanings of “Mannequin,” (or if they even exist) I am once again infatuated with Andrew McCarthy.  I keep playing the scene where we met over and over again – the way I made him turn to me and smile, the way I made him laugh, his inexhaustible charm, and the strength of his embrace when he hooked me around my waist and pulled my close.  It was like it was scripted, which is why I am so disappointed in its lack of an ending.  That same Saturday night, Hallmark Channel aired a new romantic comedy which was unbearably corny, but it starred Andrew McCarthy as a brooding cowboy and naturally, I was enthralled.

I also watched a 45-minute documentary about Elvis Presley called, “Elvis: Summer of ’56.”  It was all about this girl named June Juanico and her relationship with Elvis.  It was surreal to hear her describe how he pulled her aside after a show and kissed the back of her neck, of how he called and wrote, and how she felt comfortable enough with Elvis to adjust his belt.  It is incredible to think anyone could have genuine, intimate moments with the King of Rock and Roll.  June understood that sentiment; she called it quits after Elvis was rumored to be involved with Natalie Wood (and who could blame her?  There’s no competing with Natalie Wood!)  And believe it or not, it seems that even Elvis understood the sentiment because when speaking of the insane amount of screaming, crying girls, he said, “They don’t love me, they love the idea of me.”   I am going to include that in my second novel or die trying.

elviskissing

Sunday was a great day.  It was Dad’s 52nd birthday, so I am especially glad that it was beautiful and bright, albeit windy and cold.  We all went to Mass together.  Mikey faked (I think) a stomach ache and did not join us for the Olive Garden.  I had many glasses of wine, too much pasta, and I laughed heartily.  Most importantly, Dad enjoyed himself.  On the way home, he tried to freeze Sam and I out by rolling all the windows down and locking them in place because Sam and I had been good-naturedly tormenting Mom (flicking her ears and whatnot).  I tried to distract Dad by giving him a Wet Willy in his right ear so Sam could sneakily slide her arm between the left side of Dad’s seat and the door and unlock the windows.  My efforts failed, but Sam managed to reach the controls for Dad’s seat, so she moved him up and forward, shoving the steering wheel into his chest and the tops of his thighs.  He looked silly and absurd and wildly uncomfortable.  We all laughed until we couldn’t see straight.

Upon arriving home, we descended upon the furniture in the living room.  Dad lounged across the love seat, Mom claimed the chair and I was solo, sitting upon the sofa, until Sam came and lay down, stretching her legs over me.  We were all comfortable, we were all watching “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and we were all together.  It was a beautiful day.

paulnewman

elizabethtaylor

Paul Newman’s blue eyes and Elizabeth Taylor’s violet eyes were just as glorious as the sky I observed while walking and jogging that night.  The wind made me feel young and restless and wild, like it kicked up all the old, dry negativity within me and swirled it so that when it settled once again, it was something more like optimism and vitality.  The quickened pace of the blood in my veins and of the air in my lungs, with the moon nearly directly over my head so that I had to awkwardly crane my neck to see it, with the tiny, twinkling stars, and with the darkening, layered shades of blue of the evening sky, made me feel incredibly grateful to be alive.  That night, I fell in love with life, and with love, and with possibility.

I want to fall in love this summer.

I have been highly critical of the band Fall Out Boy in the past, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t have some fantastic lines.

“I thought I loved you, but it’s just how you looked in the light.”

“I could write it better than you’ve ever felt it.”

Sixth way to blast my blubber: write a list of reasons why I want to lose weight:

–          I want to be as beautiful on the outside as I am on the inside.

–          I want to be appealing to beautiful men.

–          I want to be noticed by beautiful men when I go out.

–          I want to feel sexy.

–          I want to look sexy.

–          I want to be healthy.

–          I want to have more energy.

–          I want to live longer.

–          I want to finally lose the weight and prove myself wrong.

–          I want to better myself and improve.

–          I want how I envision myself to be reality.

–          I don’t want to feel ugly around my beautiful friends.

–          I want to feel better about myself and feel confident.

–          I want to be the full package; funny, smart and pretty.

–          I want to change my life.

On wine and whine.

Published June 27, 2012 by mandileighbean

 

Having lunch with two beautiful, engaged young woman does not appear to be an arduous task.  It does, however, become difficult for the “third wheel,” the young woman not engaged or even dating, the young woman with no romantic prospects whatsoever.  It becomes increasingly difficult to keep the smile radiant and the eyes dry as the conversation continues and the loneliness creeps closer, like some kind of pickpocket on a packed, commuter train.

I suppose that’s all melodramatic, isn’t it?  Sorry – occupational hazard.  Then again, maybe it has nothing to do with my emotional state as a writer; maybe I’ve had too much wine, or maybe I’m so pensive and lonely because I’m currently experiencing “womanly issues” (don’t want to offend or alienate any male readers – you’re welcome).  Or maybe it’s because I was watching the recent film adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre.  I’m fairly certain I’ve sung the praises of this film in another blog entry, but I have no qualms about doing so again because it is fantastic.  I was sobbing as Mr. Rochester raised Jane in his strong arms at the foot of the stairs, spinning around and kissing her mouth in sheer joy as a result of their upcoming nuptials.  We should all be so lucky, no?  Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald wrote, “… youth does not need friends – it needs only crowds ….”  Is it more important to be loved, or to have people know that you’re loved, especially considering the digital age in which we are living?

Where’s the romance, the drama?  “Expectations are such a drag,” says Ida Maria in her song “We’re All Going to Hell.”  I couldn’t agree more; life is hard – way harder than I ever thought or expected it could be.  To quote Rob Thomas, “I barely started and now I’m falling apart.”  I’ll be twenty-four in September and that number scares the living hell out of me because I feel as if I have nothing to show for it.  We all feel that way at times, don’t we?  When does it get better?  Mumford and Sons seem to answer this quandry: “You’re not as brave as you were at the start.”

Maybe I should stop listening to sad songs.

On a sad note, R.I.P. Nora Ephron: thank you and damn you for providing me with unrealistic expectations and fantastical notions about romance. You will be missed.

PROMPT: “He’s the cutest little boy.  Makes it that much sadder, doesn’t it?”

PIECE:

“He’s the cutest little boy.  Makes it that much sadder, doesn’t it?”

Jane, standing beside her mother and studying the same flyer, nodded soundlessly in agreement.  The soft-looking brown hair that fell shamelessly across his brow was more likely than not lovingly tousled by a doting father, from whom the little boy had inherited his sharp chin.  The dimple in the center of it, though – Jane surmised that came from the mother who had given her son everything she had and then some, only to be repaid for a momentary lapse in supervision with an incredibly harsh and severe punishment.  With a horrifying kind of sadness that ached and pulsed, Jane could see the mother kneeling before her son, smiling sweetly.  The mother had just praised her son for good behavior – or maybe she had stooped to kiss and heal a boo-boo.  Regardless, the mother most certainly would have ended the encounter by planting a simple kiss upon her pointer finger and then transplanting it on the dimple of her son’s strong chin.  It would have been a gestured she performed thoughtlessly time and time again, and which she would have contributed no special significance to save for the fact that she may never be able to do it again.  The boy’s bright eyes made of paper though they currently were, twinkled with a contradictory air of innocent mischief.  His mouth was open and laughing in the picture scanned for the flyer and it was grainy, but did not diminish the vibrancy and the life of the adorable little boy.  Someone else had done that, whoever it was that stole him from the comfort and safety from his family.  That was Jane’s assumption, that someone had seen the little boy and snatched him up.  It happened all the time.  Monsters were real and they looked just like everyone else; it was getting harder and harder to stay safe and to stay human.  Luckily for Jane, the tears pricking at the backs of her eyes as she surveyed the poster of the missing boy reminded her of her empathy and humanness.  It made her sick that it came at the expense of a missing child.

“I hope they find him,” Jane’s mother said, turning away from the poster.  She pushed the rattling, rusted shopping cart through the automatic sliding doors on their left.

Jane did not follow.  She remained where she stood, transfixed by the misery calmly and plainly emanating from the flyer.  This poor boy was missing and his family was begging, sobbing and pleading for information, for assistance.  No one else stood beside Jane to wonder and grieve.  Her own mother had walked inside, resuming her life as if there had been no disruption, as if everything was going according to some greater plan.  Jane couldn’t stand it.  It made her want to scream and tear her hair out by the roots.  Where was the sense of community?  Where was the fabled brotherhood of man?  Wasn’t everyone all in this together?

She stood crying silently and alone.

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