Coffee. That’s how it starts. “Buy you a cup of coffee?” “Meet me for coffee?”
Plastic to-go cups of iced coffee on a hot summer evening, you wondering how it’s going to turn out. You know that if it goes badly, your second cup will be a decaf and you’ll go home. But, if it goes well, you’ll go home with him, so that second cup will be regular. Maybe espresso.
Coffee in steaming mugs, the two of you cocooned by shared blankets, watching the leaves fall and float from the trees in the cool autumn air.
Delicate cups of gourmet coffee in the bistro where you had your first real date; you gazing out the window as the snow piles up outside. He plunges the French press and pours. Taking a sip, he says, “I’m not feeling it.” You laugh. “Maxed out your caffeine tolerance?” you ask. “No, it’s not the coffee,” he says. “It’s you.” He pushes his chair back from the table and sets down his cup. “I thought I’d be feeling something by now, but I’m not. Sorry.” He leaves, and you stare at the widening stain on the tablecloth where his coffee sloshed out of the still-full cup.
It’s 1981, you’re 12 years old.
You wait for your parents to leave, you know they won’t approve of what you’re about to do. You watch until the taillights of the family Pinto disappear around the curve of your cul-de-sac, and then walk to the kitchen.
Leaning against the door of the pantry, you reach over and lift the receiver from the phone on the wall. You inhale deeply and exhale slowly as you dial his number, your index finger moving in seven separate, arduous arcs.
One ringy dingy. Two ringy dingy. Three. The butterflies in your stomach take flight and fill your throat with a sharp tickle of panicky giggles. Four rings. “Hello?” answers the voice of the cutest boy in school. You slam your hand on the hook, ending the call, and quickly hang up.
You can do this all night. He’ll never know it was you.
Filed under autobigraphy, communication, dating, essay, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, memoir, relationships, sarcasm, the 80's, women
A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face.
The turgid mass has grown so large that surely, at any moment, it will burst and spew forth dozens of arachnid progeny. I am certain of this.
The lump is definitely not a massive zit that I have manhandled to the point where the resultant purple and yellow bruise is scaring small children.
No. A spider has laid eggs in the side of my face. I am certain of this.
Leslie had never wanted to drive on the freeway. She never wanted to go that fast. She didn’t ski, she didn’t bike, she didn’t rollerblade for the same reason. Going fast wasn’t desirable. Going fast risked being out of control, at the whim of gravity and unpredictable factors like angry drivers, roads in poor condition and stray animals. No, freeways were laden with dangers, rife with the chance of pain and death.
Not that death was that scary. There were plenty of days that death seemed appealing. A way to stop all the hopelessness and anxiety. What if I’m in this job forever? How will I ever find another job if I lose this one? How can I have a PhD and be so unqualified for anything?
So, most days she was open to death. It was the pain that worried her. Dismembered, brain damaged, these were the real dangers of going fast. A rock on a bike path could throw her off balance and crack her skull. A mogul, coming up too soon, could incite a swerve into a gully and break her legs. A bear, wandering onto the freeway… and so on. So many scenarios that could bring pain and a longer, more miserable life than the one she had now.
Fairytales would have her meet a man or take up a hobby that filled her soul and brought her joy. She wasn’t keen on either of those.
What brought her a reluctant sense of relief was to stop going on about how depressed she felt, get up from her desk and fucking do something like, for example, get dressed and go to work.
Filed under autobigraphy, bodily harm, conflict, depression, driving, fiction, flash fiction, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing
Leah is in the breakroom, mournfully stirring Coffemate into her cup of decaf. Out the window she can see the rain falling on the morning mess of traffic on 23rd street. Across the street there is sodden mess of a construction site, all lumber and blue tarps and puddles of mud. As bright and perky Dan comes into the breakroom, Leah feels her grip tighten on the cup in her hand. There are small scratch marks where her nails press into the styrofoam.
“What did you say to me?” she asks Dan.
“TGIF!” Dan sings. “Thank God It’s Friday!”
“Really?” Leah says. She takes a deep breath and sets her cup down on the counter. She looks up at Dan and exhales, turning to face him head on. “Really? Did you know my husband is out of town so it will be just me with our twin 5th graders all weekend? Did you know it’s mid-June and summer vacation is almost here? My kids are crazy excited that they’re about to get out of school, they’re crazy angry that they still have a week left of school, they’re anxious and antsy, they’re belligerent and sullen, they’re hot and they’re cold and dammit Dan, did you know it’s going to rain all weekend? I’m stuck inside with them for the next two days! So no, Dan, TG I am Fucking not!
Dan takes a step away from Leah and fumbles in the pocket of his blazer. He extends his hand to her. “Here, you need this more than I do,” he says. “TGIC.”
Readers: What is the “C”?
I’m soaking wet, but I don’t mind. In fact, it feels good. I’m tired, my back aches, and I am utterly clueless as to where I am or what I’m doing. What day is it? I ask myself. That’s always a good place to start. Friday, okay. Friday. So what am I… oh. I close my eyes. It’s Friday morning. I’m in the shower. I open my eyes and look around. How long have I been here? Have I soaped yet? Shampooed? Is it time for the conditioner or should I reach for the face scrub? I have no idea. I have not a clue about what I’m doing, but it’s okay.
I’m barely conscious of what goes on after that. I find myself eating breakfast and drinking tea, so I presume I toasted Eggos and boiled water. The cat seems to be happy so I must have given her some kibble and cleaned out her litter box. My next awareness is that I’m at an office; I have to assume I dressed myself and drove the half hour it takes to get here. I cop a quick feel to make sure I’m wearing a bra. Yes. Good.
I’m sitting at a desk dominated by two monstrous monitors and covered with piles of papers. Budget projections, pricing proposals, requests for equitable adjustments. It washes over me that I work in accounting. For a government contractor. This is my job? Me, with a degree in ceramic arts? Me, an aspiring writer? I look at the papers and the jumble of Excel spreadsheets on the monitors. I don’t know what to do next, not even where to start. I have not a clue about what I’m doing, but it’s payday.
Let’s say you’re in a hotel conference room, attending your very first meeting of the Low Country Writers’ Group (Mount Pleasant Chapter). It’s a panel talk on “Getting Closer to Getting Published.” While you wait for the guest speakers to arrive, you look back through the notebook you’ve brought with you – the one you always bring to things like this – and, becoming aware of wetness under your arms and realizing how appallingly ineffective your new deodorant is, you see that the two-word notes you’ve been leaving for yourself, snippets of story ideas jotted down in your almost illegible shorthand, meant to inspire future writing, are utterly worthless. “Cherry Pie = Pizza Pie”, “Baby, not Piano”, “Aqua Velva and Farts.” Seriously? You can’t even be sure if those are references to personal experiences or things you saw on late night comedy shows. Who knows.
The moderator cheerfully kicks off the opening ice breaker: “Tell us your name and what you’re working on,” she says. You take a quick look around the room. In so doing, you identify a group of thirty-two people, of which you are in a minority, the minority comprised of three attendees under the age of 50. As the introductions go around the table you meet a woman with three books published, another woman who is trying to decide which agent she wants to go with, and a man – one of the men in your under-50 group – who has a PhD and teaches creative writing at the College of Charleston. You think of what you will tell these people when it is your turn to speak. You have about twenty-five short stories in various stages of completion. Your mother says they’re really good, always adding, “… and I’m not just saying that because you’re my daughter.” Head down, you smell a funk waft up from your armpits as evidence of your deodorant’s epic fail. You look up to tally the people who will talk before you have to, and this glance reveals you to be in another minority, a minority of one: those who are grossly overdressed. And, although your mother has always said that it is better to be overdressed than underdressed, you begin to formulate the rebuttal you will give to any of the shorts and flip-flop clad strangers when they ask why you are wearing a floral wrap dress and heels – you will tell them you are on your way to a baby shower, a wedding, a bris… something important, something adult, anything that might lend credibility to you – the most uncomfortable person in the room.
Filed under autobigraphy, body image, conflict, fiction, flash fiction, humor, irony, sarcasm, Uncategorized, women, writing