I haven’t posted in ages. But, earlier this week I was at a writing workshop and figured I’d throw the results up here. The instructor had us write about a half-a-page about an insignificant event that happened within the past 24 hours. The sort of event we’d forget about:
Insignificant Event #1
I’m hungry. This isn’t odd, it’s lunchtime. I pull into the parking lot, worrying about how little money is in my pocket.
I climb out of my car and don’t hit the “lock” button, because I just don’t give a crap. The Subway is advertising their current $5 special in the window—Spicy Italian, perfect. The wait inside isn’t long and I tell the first employee, “Spicy Italian, on Italian.” She starts to make it.
“Toasted?” she asks.
And I get shuttled to the next employee. “Lettuce, black olives, pickles,” I say. And she does it. After she puts the pickles on I say, “Could you double the pickles? I like pickles.” She gives me a look and does it. And says, “Pickles are too bitter for me.”
I had no response to that.
We had about five minutes to write our half-page. So it’s no great work of literature or anything. But it’s something on paper. The instructor then had us read a short blurb from a novel. After we discussed some of the techniques that author used, the instructor told us to re-write the insignificant event, using those techniques. He told us to not look at our prior write-up of the event.
Insignificant event #2
Car door, closed. Feed move forward. one. Another. Hop on the curb. Window—try not to gawk. Sign in window, cheap subs. In the door, go to the first employee.
“Spicy Italian, on Italian.”
“Her hands pull out a bun. Knife flashes, cuts, and disappears. Meat. Cheese.
“Would you like it toasted?”
She turns her attention to the next guy. Employee #2, hair behind ear.
“Lettuce, black olives, and pickles, please.”
Her hands put the ingredients on the bun, here, there, everywhere, except:
“Could you double the pickles?”
She glares—and does it. Double helping on the sub and she says, “Pickles are too bitter for me.”
The cycle repeats itself—the instructor gave us a new piece to read, and told us to once again mimic that style and retell our story without referencing back to either of the other narrations of our event.
Insignificant event #3
The path is simple: out the car door, over the pavement, up a curb, past the wnidowed facade, in through metal doors that require being pulled, up to a counter and down, all while considering questions like; “What kind of sub can I get you?”, and “Would you like that toasted?”, and “What do you want on that?”.
And I watch as they respond to my answers, hands moving across the ingredients, peeling lunch meat and cheese apart, placing them delicately on the bun. I watch pickles being applied, and olives scattered, and lettuce fluffed.
Her hands gloved, her eyes focused, her lips frowning—though I don’t think she was sad.
The final style we had to put our even through was a form of poetry. This time we were told to look back at our prior efforts and salvage lines/ideas/whatever from them.
Insignificant event #4
She was sad
Pickles are too bitter
Peeling lunch meat
She gives me a look
Not impressive writing, I know, but as an exercise it is interesting to see how different styles filter out some information while highlighting other bits of information. It’s something to consider while muddling around with writer’s block.
The Waltz of Everyday
This is a short sketch I wrote after reading John Green and David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which has one of the better fictional portrayals of depression that I’ve read.
Ricky stand in front of the mirror. The strange image stares back. Feelings of self-loathing and a desperate mind-clogging sense of hate floods his mind, causing his inner-dialogue to spazz out, delivering a bevy of indictments:
“You’re a Failure.”
“How could Anyone love you?”
“You’re such a Waste of oxygen.”
He sits down on the edge of the bathtub and squeezes his eyes shut. There is a prescription out there that would help temper the voices, help him to feel normal. But he can’t afford the pills. He won’t even be able to buy food for the next few days and will be living on Icy-Pops and canned fruit salad. No, pills are out of the question.
Inhaling deep he recites the words his counselor taught him: “I am good. People like me. I get good grades. People value me.”
“Yeah right,” says his cynical inner voice.
He kind of agrees, but he’s got to admit that consciously talking himself up—even just a bit—allows the self-loathing to subside just enough that he can stuff it back into the realm of subconscious. With a deep breath he stands.
This is Ricky’s morning. It’s also sometimes his lunch. It’s often his evening. His pre-bed ritual.
It keeps him looking normal on the outside. Sometimes he can even fool himself into thinking he is normal. It has kept him from considering suicide for at least three weeks. It has kept him from searching for the least painful methods of dying on the internet for at least two months.
It’s allowed him to think he can ask a girl out. Maybe he can meet a girl and then ask her out. But Ricky don’t meet girls anymore. Every female he works with is at least twice his age. Everyone at church either married really young, or is thrice his age, or is in the middle of thinking that God wants them to focus on Him, or they frown a lot. He is not attracted to frowning.
How do the poor saps like Ricky who make it out of college single find people their age to meet? He guesses the internet, but he don’t have internet at his apartment. Food is more important, and even then the bank account is dry.
His ten-year high school reunion is coming up. This will probably be his chance to interact with females all summer. Maybe Ricky will encounter an old crush. They’ll have a couple of drinks and go off to a dark corner to catch up on the last ten years. And she will give him her phone number and he will have a debate when he gets home on how long he should wait to call her, because everyone says to wait three days so you don’t look desperate—and you don’t want to wait too long or you’ll seem uninterested—but what he’ll do is say, “Fuck games” and just call her the next day, damn it.
At least that’s how he hopes it happens, because who knows if there will be a fifteen year reunion to re-meet girls. He’ll find himself up shit-creek without an outhouse to piss in.
They make it sound so easy in the books and movies. It can’t be that simple. Girls just don’t press up against guys so they can gaze into their eyes and they’ll realize he’s in love and she’s in love and they’ll just fall in love forever, happily ever after—! That’s pretty much how it happens in the books and movies. Ricky has studied how it happens in fiction and it’s pretty much impossible in real life.
Which has him wondering how on earth normal people fall in love in real life and there must be something innate within them that knows what to do and what to say when. Ricky lacks this. Somewhere along the line he knows he fucked up and God said, “Your punishment is foreveralone.”
And then He forgot about him.
And now he’s doomed to foreveralone in a society which celebrates love and sex and people walking down the street holding foreverhands while he sits on the bus with his leg propped on the seat in front of him listening to whatevermusic on his headphones and wonder whatthefuck happened to his life.
When did he break? And when did that break result in making every waking moment feel like he is living in shitstorm?
Something, somewhere went seriously wrong. So wrong that even friends have him pegged as foreveralone and never say things like, “I met this girl I think would be perfect for you,” or “I have this cousin who wants me to set her up on a blind date and I thought of you.”
And he refuses to ask. It’s not entirely pride which holds him back from reminding his friends that he’s on the market—though there is a touch of that. But it’s more that he hate the idea of making them feel obligated.
Oh God! Ricky caresses his temples as pain shoots through his eyes. “I am a good person. People like me. My parents still love me.”
“My family loves me. I get along with most people. I am funny. I play guitar. Jesus loves me, this I know.”
Crossing his fingers.
And hoping to die.
-By Jacob Gehman