The Ex-Chronicles: Part Five, Moving Day (His)

He moved out today. Completely. There are a few clothes still hanging in the closet, and he forgot his dartboard that we never used.

Every time I think it’s over. Every time I think I am beginning to heal. He manages to prove me wrong. His things were already absent when I got home from work. He helped me unroll my new mattress, fresh from the box. The frame won’t be in until next week. I bought some sheets on clearance at work. They’re hot pink.

The room actually doesn’t look that much different. Most of the stuff in it is mine anyway. And yet, I feel empty. I stand across the room from him, and every fiber within me aches to hold him close. To feel his heartbeat against my ear, his beard grazing the top of my head. I want to scream at him; beg him not to go; demand to know why he doesn’t love me anymore. My throat closes on the words. So many words of longing, sorrow, loss. Love. Why do I still love him? How can I after all this? Is this what they mean by unconditional?

“Do you mind if I keep my key so I can still come over to take care of the dog?” He asks. The key. It is as if this simple phrase unlocks the dam of words jammed in my throat.

“Yes. You have to take her with you,” I say.

“I don’t know if Noel will be ok with that,” he says slowly.

“Well, she’ll have to be. The dog can’t stay here.” I am suddenly insistent. If the dog stays, this move will mean nothing. He will still be here in a sense. I know I will be moving out soon, but if he is truly going, everything must be gone. I love that dog to pieces, but she isn’t mine. She has always been his. He has to take everything or I will fall apart.

“Ok, fine.” I can see that he doesn’t understand. I can’t explain it to him. Not without telling him how much this is killing me. The thought brings tears, and I try to blink them away. I can’t cry in front of him. Not now. Not again. And now, my cheeks are wet.

“Are you ok?” He asks.

“Of course I’m not ok,” I sniffle. “This sucks. Some small part of me has been wishing and hoping that you would realize what a terrible mistake you’re making. That you would come home. Not back to our relationship. We can’t do that. But that you wouldn’t leave me so completely alone. And now, I can’t pretend anymore. All I want is to tell you not to go, but I know you won’t listen. You don’t even care. This doesn’t bother you at all!”

Now I am really crying. I can’t look at him.

“After everything you have done to me, I still love you,” I say. It is like the words are forcing their way through my trembling lips. I don’t want to tell him any of this, but I can’t stop. “I miss you. I still have so much: my friends, my job, school. I have a lot going for me. But there’s this giant hole where you used to be, and for you, it’s barely a blip. Why is it so hard to say that you miss me, too?”

“I do miss it,” he says. Not that he misses me. He misses it. “I miss the times we had together and the life we shared. But I’m moving on. I can’t sit around and mope. It isn’t healthy for me right now.”

“Your whole life isn’t healthy right now,” I whisper.

“Ok, Jess,” he says and he opens the door to leave.

“Wait, Brad, please wait.” He pauses. I can’t let him leave on a note like that. I can’t have the last time he walks out of our bedroom be with angry thoughts.

“Please don’t be mad at me,” I say. “I’m not used to wanting something I can’t have.”

“I’m not mad at you,” he says, closing the door again. “I haven’t been mad at you at any time during this whole thing. You haven’t done anything wrong. I want us to be friends again someday.”

“I would like that, too,” I say. Then, my weakness really shows itself. “Can I have a hug?”

He crosses the few feet to me. This whole time, the room has felt like a chasm stretched between us. An uncrossable barrier. But as I collapse into his arms, his thumb rubbing small circles on my lower back, a tightness loosens in my chest. For that brief moment, it’s like I can finally breathe again.

With my face still pressed against his chest, I say, “After I move, I can’t see you again. Not until I don’t love you anymore.”

“Fair enough,” he murmurs. I am the first to draw away.

I stand there in the middle of my bedroom, hugging myself as I listen to him going in and out, moving the dog’s things across the walkway. Each slam of the door is a reminder that soon, very soon, it will be the last time he will come in here. The sounds finally stop. I am alone. I sink down onto my new memory foam mattress. It feels so close to the ground, but it is extremely comfortable. I look around my room. My space. I have to find a new apartment soon. Even without him, the memories remain.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part Four, The Perils of Dating a Drama Queen

If only endings were as neat as I tried to make it in the last two posts. But my ex continues to surprise me with his high-dive leap into insanity. There were things that I wanted to leave out of this narrative. Minutiae that I did not want to believe could possibly be true and thus was not worth putting into the world. I still have no intention of bad-mouthing anyone in this situation. However, the increased level of drama demands to be recorded for my three readers (But really for myself).

I have listened to Sean telling me about Noel and Brad before. I have ignored it as his jealousy over his friend remaining friends with his former fiancé despite the obvious seeming impropriety of that action (not to mention sleeping on her couch every other night). I did not believe that there could really be a relationship going on between them. Brad has reassured me that he knows she is unsuitable for a relationship and that he has no interest in her in that way. He is just friends with her and can I please stop acting like a jealous ex and let him have his friends?

So, I backed off. But now…

“Yeah, Brad still hasn’t said anything about actually finding a place. I don’t think he actually wants to leave,” my roommate says. We are watching Netflix in the living room with Sean. This is an almost nightly occurrence now. We seem to be huddling together for comfort around the warm fire of whatever show can play in the background without being distracting but still holding our attention during conversation lulls. It helps that when we can manage to get off the subject of Brad (for me) and Noel (for Sean) we have wonderfully verbose conversations ranging from sex to prisms to Chicago. Unfortunately, at the moment we are stuck on Brad.

“No, that would require actual change,” I say. “It’s too much work. He can’t commit to anything.” There is a pause before Sean, looking uncomfortable now, begins to speak.

“I don’t want to be the one to break this to you two, but I feel like you deserve to know so you can prepare for it, and Brad definitely won’t tell you. But my friend Cassie works with Noel, and she told me that Noel has been telling everyone in her office that Brad is moving in with her soon.”

The cat chooses this moment to nearly knock over my wine glass.

“Would he really be that stupid?” My roommate finally says.

“Yes, I think he would,” I mumble. “After all, no one else wants to live with him. All that talk about wanting something new is really just bullshit. He wants something new in the sense that he needs to surround himself with people who he feels superior to. She fits the bill because she’s a nutcase. Sorry, Sean.”

“You don’t have to apologize to me. I know that bitch is crazy,” he says. “I wasted five years of my life on her. But I don’t think you guys should let this get to you. He’s trying to destroy his life, and so is she, so let them be miserable together.”

“What happened to knocking his teeth in if you ever found out they were screwing?” I ask with an arched brow. I still find the image amusing, though impractical and pointless.

“I would love to, but it would only give me momentary satisfaction and it’s not like it would make him rethink anything.” Oh good, we think alike now.

“What are we going to do?” I ask my roommate. I feel tears forming in my lashes. I haven’t cried in a few days, so I have finally decided to wear makeup again. My mascara is going to be everywhere. This sucks. “I can’t keep living here if he moves in with her. It’s just across the walkway. I can’t do it.”

“I don’t expect you to,” my roommate says soothingly. He gives me a hug and adds, “I guess we’ll just have to start looking for a new place and make sure Brad keeps his word about paying for the lease break.”

We somehow work our way back to mundane topics, but my evening is shattered. I have to work at 7 in the morning. I can’t stay up all night staring at my computer like a zombie. I have things. I have stuff.

Now, I have truly lost.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part Three, The End. (For Real)

This is the story of what actually happened when my ex and I talked. He is really leaving this time. I’m sorry cohabiting couldn’t work out, and I will miss him. But I have been missing him for two weeks, and it will be easier to forget how in love with him I used to be if he is not constantly around. He needs to work on himself, and so do I. It was a pretty dream; kind of like our relationship.

My heart throbs in my chest all day, and a ball of anxiety forms in my stomach. It is like having a continual flashback to the day Brad broke up with me two weeks ago. I can feel that something monumental is going to happen after I get home from work. He spent the previous night with his family in our hometown so he could think away from our apartment complex. The erratic beat of my heart tells me his decision, but my ever fanciful mind plays through hopeless scenarios of him telling me he loves me after all. I try to squish all thoughts, but it’s like playing whack-a-mole with a tinker toy mallet.

He texts me as I leave work: Will you be home tonight? I need to talk to you.

My heart shudders.

No one is at home when I arrive. I spend the next several hours doing homework, taking the dog for a walk, and reading Shakespeare. I decide to watch the second season of American Horror Story. I’m not sure where the idea comes from, but it turns out to be a terrible idea.

I have lived with PTSD for years now due to childhood abuse. I have mostly learned how to successfully handle it, but my emotions are compromised after two weeks of hopscotching wildly. I have the worst attack in over a year. And now, there is no one nearby to help me handle it. I end up on the balcony, rocking back and forth. That’s how my roommate and Sean find me. They both hug me, and then we all go out for sushi.

Brad comes home from work half an hour after we return. I have been sitting on the balcony again. It was something we always did together, and I am beginning to find a strange solace in doing it alone. He joins me after taking the dog out.

“Work sucked,” he says.

“I figured since it took you so long to get home,” I reply. The word ‘home’ just slips off my tongue though it really isn’t his home anymore. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“I think I’m going to get my own place soon,” he says.

“Yeah, we thought that was going to happen.”

“Really? I thought maybe you guys wouldn’t want to stay here, either. I’m willing to pay any fees for breaking the lease.”

“We both like it here. You’re the one who wants to leave. And I think it’s better for you if you do. You aren’t happy here.”

“You’re right. I’m going to give you guys plenty of notice before I actually leave.”

“Okay, I’ll have to find a new bed, so that’d be good.”

We sit in silence for a while, and then he asks, “Can I have a hug?”

“Of course.” It’s the best hug I’ve had this entire time. So many people have offered their arms or shoulder for me to hang on to, but there is still nothing to compare to the feeling of his body wrapped around mine. And yet, there’s something different. It isn’t the need-filling thing I expected after so long (okay, two weeks) without his warmth. Still, it is somehow more perfect because it is a hug from my best friend. It is a body I know very well, and it is the one hug I have needed for this whole ordeal.

He is still sleeping on couches for now. I don’t know how long it will take him to find a place. But this time, I actually believe we can be just friends. And I hope that he will find what he needs living alone. I still love him, but I don’t need him anymore.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part Three, The End?

I wrote this after receiving a text that my ex wanted to talk after a weird night where I truly worried for his sanity while he went to stay with his family to clear his head. This is how I imagined the situation happened. Tomorrow, I will post what actually happened.

My heart throbs in my chest all day, and a ball of anxiety forms in my stomach. It is like having a continual flashback to the day Brad broke up with me two weeks ago. I can feel that something monumental is going to happen after I get home from work. He spent the previous night with his family in our hometown so he could think away from our apartment complex. The erratic beat of my heart tells me his decision, but my ever fanciful mind plays through hopeless scenarios of him telling me he loves me after all. I try to squish all thoughts, but it’s like playing whack-a-mole with a tinker toy mallet.

He texts me as I leave work: Will you be home tonight? I need to talk to you.

My heart shudders.

When I arrive at the apartment, he is sitting on the bed looking like a lost puppy. Again.

“Let me guess,” I say, “you’re moving out soon?”

“How did you know?”

“Well, I’ve fallen into a bad habit of taking Sean’s advice as if it was sent from on high, so I figured you, who has been spending way more time with him, must be doing the same.”

“I’m not doing this because Sean thinks I should.”

“I know,” I say with a sigh. I sink down onto the bed next to him. I am moderately surprised that he does not move further away. “You’re doing what you need to do for you.”

“You’re ok with this?”

“Are you kidding? Of course I’m not ok with it. I’m devastated that I’m losing you completely, even as a friend.” He draws away slightly, and I take a deep breath before continuing. “But, I have talked about it with our roommate, and we both knew this was going to happen. We just didn’t know how soon.”

“I’m so sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry for everything.”

“Don’t be,” I start to say. He gives me a quizzical look. “Okay, do be sorry. But don’t dwell on it. We will be fine. I’m honestly more worried about you. I’ve been having some trouble realizing that this whole breakup really isn’t about me. I’ve been selfish. I wanted you to come back because it would be better for me, but I realize now that it wouldn’t be better for you.”

What comes after that is a blur. In the end, I am left sitting alone on the bed that will be leaving with him. I need to find a new mattress to put on the floor or something. This brief experiment has failed miserably. Maybe it really is impossible to live with your ex. I hoped to be an example of friendship overcoming love in cohabitation, but I have failed. I don’t cry this time. My heart feels like it has been annihilated for the third time in two weeks, but I don’t cry.

I have a sweater to finish. I have an essay due in three days. I have French homework. I have to work in the morning. I have things. I have me. I am so much luckier than my ex. But that last thought, doesn’t give me any comfort now. I still care for him too much, and I can only hope for the best for him. I hope he starts to like himself again. I hope he is able to make himself happy, because no one else can. I am sad that I couldn’t, but I hope eventually he can do that for himself. I guess I really do love him.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part Two, Worry About You

I sit on the balcony alone with my fourth glass of wine. I have three conversations going on Facebook messenger and two more via text. All five are with people that I have not spoken to in at least a year. Most are halfway across the country from me. I have let so many people slip out of my life. I am desperately trying to reclaim lost connections. I am so terribly lonely.

I am on glass five, and it is starting to get chilly out, when Sean comes home. He says hi and seems to be about to go inside, but I ask if he wants to sit with me instead.

“Only if we can go inside,” he says. He settles into the recliner, and I take the couch. “I was just going to head to bed, but you looked like you really need to talk.”

“I guess I do,” I say slowly. “I’ve just been thinking. Too much thinking.”

“Jess, stop.” He says. “You have got to quit worrying about him. Worry about you. Do what makes you happy. I’ve been getting a lot of advice from people lately, trying to help me get over the whole Noel thing, and that’s probably the best bit I’ve picked up so far. You three are all worrying about each other too much. You can’t move on if you don’t stop caring what he’s doing.”

“I’m not so sure that I want to move on,” I whisper. “But at the same time, I know I really can’t think like that. Not if this living situation is actually going to work out.”

“You actually think this is going to work anyway? He’s not going to stay. He’s going to end up letting both you and your roommate think that he will, and then he’s going to run away like a little bitch and leave you two stranded. You might as well beat him to it and tell him to move out.”

I sip my wine and stare into space while he continues like this for a bit. So many thoughts are running through my head. I have been so focused on making this work for everyone that I seem to have forgotten one of the awful traits of my ex. He is selfish to his very core. I wish some of that rubbed off on me from our time together. It would make things much easier now.

“Stop giving him so much,” Sean says, bringing me out of my musings. “You gave and gave. You don’t have to give him anything else. In fact, you shouldn’t. Just stop.”

“You know, Sean,” I say. “I wish that you weren’t friends with him. And I wish that I had met you at a different time.”

“You don’t have to worry about me telling him things if that’s the problem,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t tell him about the times we talk because he doesn’t need the ego boost of knowing how much you miss him. And as for meeting me at a different time, I believe things happen the way they do for a reason. But I really should get to bed now. Do you need a hug?”

After that response, of course I need a hug. I am uncertain if he is deliberately misinterpreting my statement to avoid embarrassing me or if he really doesn’t understand that if he weren’t friends with my ex I would be all over him. Either way, tipsy declarations are best ignored, so I appreciate it more than I can tell him. I go to bed alone; I am beginning to get used to this. The petty part of my heart hopes that Brad is detesting his crappy couch experience.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part Two, the Wicked Game of Hopscotch

For the next few days, I see little of Brad and I try to continue my life as normal. I talk incessantly to anyone who will listen about the amalgamation of discontent roaring around my brain. This includes co-workers I barely know, my stuck-in-the-middle roommate, and the friends I had more or less abandoned over the course of the relationship.

Most tell me I am handling things well, though I feel that I could shatter into peaces at any moment. One person tells me that I seem to be moving through the stages of grief in quick succession. It feels more like playing a wicked long game of hopscotch where the numbers keep repeating in random order.

The days pass slowly yet it is suddenly a week since he was mine. I don’t cry anymore, though it would probably only take a few drinks and the right setting to turn me into a sprinkler again. He sleeps on friends’ couches and I go to sleep alone in our queen-sized bed, tucked between a body pillow and a giant stuffed frog. I sleep under a mountain of blankets to make up for the loss of his body heat next to mine. I adjust.

We see each other infrequently compared to when he loved me, yet probably more than most exes do right after separating. I pretend my heart doesn’t race when he comes in unexpectedly. I hope that if I can pretend enough, it will become true that much sooner. I try not to cherish the moments when we can sit together companionably without discussing what went wrong or what the future will hold.

I know that the breakup was actually good for me because I now have my goals back. I know what I want again. Unfortunately, part of what I want is still him. I see his flaws now, where before I thought he was perfect. Yet I cannot shake the love I feel, or the strong desire to collapse in his arms. He is very careful not to touch me.

Life is moving on for both of us. I hope that things are beginning to settle into a mode that we can both live with. Can both be happy with. It just takes time, I suppose.

I am not a patient person.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part One, the Plan

The continuing (mildly) dramatic representation of my living situation. In real time, it has been a week since the split, but I want to present things as close to the way they happened as possible. Once the dust has settled, a day-by-day recount shouldn’t be necessary, but while things are still in upheaval, it seems somehow right to take it all down. Of course, some things have been omitted for the sake of others, but ultimately, this is what has happened and is happening.

I doze off for maybe two hours before I give up and head back to my own apartment. I expect Brad to be asleep, but instead he is getting ready for work. I crawl into bed and bury my head under the covers willing the throbbing pain in my chest to go away. I can hear him moving around the apartment, and then, he comes into the bedroom and asks if I am ok.

“What do you think?” I ask.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I just want to check on you.”

“I’ll be fine, Brad. I just need some time.”

He walks to the door, and I say, “Can we talk tonight?”

“Of course.” And he is gone. I wait until I hear the front door close behind him before I break down into sobs. Last night, I cried pretty. There were gentle, intermittent tears wetting my cheeks and turning my eyes slightly red. The only ugliness was the amount of tissues I used. I have heard that everyone is ugly when they cry; I actually get prettier if I do it right. But today, alone in our bedroom, as I will be night after night forever it seems, I cry ugly. My body heaves for air as I shudder and gasp, trying not to scream my anguish. Very few actual tears fall, but my nose becomes instantly congested and I do not have the strength of will to reach for the tissues.

By the time I have calmed down, I have missed my French class. I contemplate forgetting English Lit, too. However, I actually have one friend in that class, and I would like to have someone to talk to. I try my best to look presentable, and I remind myself constantly that crying in public is embarrassing, so I shouldn’t do it.

Of course, following the pattern of my luck lately, she isn’t there. I sit through a lecture on Shakespeare desperately trying to concentrate on that or anything other than my failed relationship. I somehow survive and make it back to the apartment, where Brad is waiting for me on the balcony. My heart races, and I want to punch it for being so sentimental. It wants me to throw myself into his arms and beg him to rethink this awful decision. There’s no way it can be right for either of us, can it?
I move past him silently to put my things in the apartment before joining him in the tall deck chairs. We have sat like this through so many days and nights, sometimes talking, more frequently in our own little worlds, buried in our cell phones. I thought it was comfortable, companionable silence. Now, I’m not so sure.

“What did you want to talk about?” He asks after a few moments.

“What are we going to do about the living situation?”

“Well, I mean, obviously you can stay as long as you need to.”

“You’re kidding right? Of course I can. My name is on the lease. You can’t kick me out anyway.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he says. His sulky look has returned. “I meant I’m not going to force you to leave, and I want you to feel comfortable staying. You didn’t have to leave last night, you know. I could’ve stayed over there.”

“I wanted you to sleep in our bed alone the way I have the last couple of nights.”

He does not reply to this. I hate my pettiness in this moment. I have the higher moral ground, so I should probably try to keep it.

“What are we going to do long-term? The lease is until June.”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, luckily, I came up with a plan last night. I think it’s the only really viable solution that doesn’t screw all three of us over.” It isn’t really until this moment that I remember we actually have an additional roommate. I am pulling my words out of thin air, but it is true that he would also suffer from a change in living order.

“I told him this could be an issue, so he could prepare for it.”

“Right, when you were telling everyone you knew about our problems instead of letting me know there even were problems.” I take a deep breath, trying to bite down on the anger. I don’t want him to know how angry and hurt I am. I want to appear calm, collected, a mature adult providing a mature game plan.

“Look,” I continue, “right now, we have super low bills, and we are all conveniently located for work or school. I cannot find this good of a deal anywhere else. I graduate in eight months. Our lease is up in nine. Can you deal with living with me for that long so I can do what I always wanted to do before you got in the way?”

“I think so,” he says slowly. “So you do still want to be friends? I thought you would hate me.”

“Of course, I don’t hate you. I love you.” Oh damnit. That wasn’t supposed to come out.

“And I still love you,” he says without skipping a beat. “I don’t know what about my feelings for you changed exactly. But I do still care for you as a friend. It’ll just take us a little time to find out how to be just friends again.”

“Yeah, time,” I mutter. I am not a patient person. However, I reached my immediate goal, establishing that we can most likely live together. I already lost my boyfriend, I shouldn’t have to lose my roommate and best friend, as well.

The Ex-Chronicles: Part One, Alpha and Omega

I would like to tell you a story of love, friendship, and roommates. Of course, the part of the story I actually care about right now is the end. Or the beginning. Break-ups are funny in that they are truly both. Start and finish all wrapped up together. But enough of the philosophical nonsense. Here I present to the two people who will ever see this the story of how I came to live with my ex, and hopefully, I’ll be able to write up how it all works out. Maybe the two people who read this can learn something from the mistakes I have made and certainly will make later. Here then is the only marginally dramatized version of events that I took down while sobbing onto my keyboard almost exactly one year to the day of moving in with my (now ex) boyfriend:

Buckets of ice water drown an imaginary future in front of my eyes. Words full of pin-pricking shards rain on my happy memories and hopeful plans. So why are my eyes dry while he is wracked with sobs? Wasn’t I the one wronged in this situation?

“I didn’t want to hurt you,” he gasps between tears, “I didn’t want you to be upset.”

“Well that was unavoidable,” I say as I rub small circles on his back. A reassuring habit I picked up over the past two years living together in seemingly perfect harmony. Mon âme soeur. My soul mate. What a load of crap.

“I know, and I’m so sorry,” he continues.

“It’s fine, really,” I mutter. I am starting to get annoyed. He is the one who sat on our bed looking like a lost puppy when I came home from work. The one who said he had been thinking for some time and, well, it just wasn’t there for him anymore. The love was gone.

I feel trapped in the sad beginning of what I can only hope will be a happily-ever-after rom-com. Unfortunately, I am only at the beginning of the story, and right now, my heart is confetti, which he keeps snipping into tinier pieces as he cries. He just wants a change. He needs something new.

“Is there someone else?” I mumbled the requisite cliché questions while trying not to choke on the ball of stress in my throat.

“No, nothing like that,” he says. And then, I kid you not, “It’s not you; it’s me.”

Can we please just end this scene now? I think I need to go back to my trailer and down a few martinis before we continue this script. But no, the drama continues.

“I need some air,” I announce. I grab my pack of e-cigs off the dresser and head for the door. My tattered heart hopes he follows me, but my aching brain begs a reprieve. Instead of staying outside, I cross the apartment walkway to our neighbor’s place. Sean is more my (now ex) boyfriend’s friend than mine, but we used to do lots of fun couple things together before his fiancée left him last week. Something in me screams that they are the cause of all this, but I know it’s really just because Brad is a selfish prick.

Thus far, Brad’s hysterics have helped me remain collected, but as soon as Sean opens the door, I feel the tears start to escape my lashes. He doesn’t even have to ask because, as Brad revealed somewhere in the cliché nonsense, he’s been talking to literally everyone we know about this issue for the past month rather than working things out with me. And not one of these bastards bothered to mention it.

“I figured you of all people would know what I’m going through right now,” I sputter as he settles me on the couch with a box of tissues and a pillow to cling to. His arm slides around me for a quick awkward side hug before rising to rest on the couch behind me. The engagement photos are still in the wall frame by the front door and his ex’s collection of Doctor Who memorabilia is scattered around the living and dining room areas. It’s been a week since she went to stay with a friend, but all her crap is still here.

“Oh, I do,” he replies, pulling out several tissues. “I should take out stock in these things the way relationships seem to be going downhill left and right these days.”

“Is it alright if I crash here tonight? Brad offered to let me have the bed to myself, but I’ve spent the last two nights alone there while he was in North Dakota, so I’d rather not do another night there after all this bullshit.”

“Of course, just let me check with Noel, since it’s technically her bed in the spare room. I don’t think she’ll care, but just to be respectful.”

“Thanks, I feel like he should have to go to our bed alone tonight. Maybe it’ll make him realize he’s being an idiot.” More tears follow this. I already know that nothing of the sort is going to happen.

“So what are you guys going to do about the living situation?”

“I have no idea. I tried to ask him that, but he just kept saying how he never wanted to hurt me.” I am beginning to collect a mountain of used tissues. “I think I’m mostly angry because he’s once again making it all about him. Selfish bastard.”

“Yeah, I mean, Brad’s a good guy, but he has some major faults. I told him this was a bad idea; you guys had such a good thing going.”

“I know!” I have a sob spasm as happy memories hit me. “I just don’t understand. It was so sudden. I mean, I’m sure as I look back on it, I’ll see the signs and feel really dumb, but right now…How did this happen? He couldn’t even give me a good answer for why he’s doing this.”

I prattle on in this vein with frequent interruptions from Sean comparing his situation to mine. They are embarrassingly similar. I become more and more convinced that his break up somehow caused mine. Eventually, I calm down enough that we can mindlessly watch Netflix while only sporadically discussing our relationship woes. Sean goes to bed, but I know I won’t be sleeping for a while. More Netflix it is then.

My eyes become so heavy that I think I might get some sleep after all, but instead the darkened ceiling becomes intriguing as I mull over the situation. If this is really happening. If he really has decided to give up on us. If I have to move on. So many ifs are swirling through my mushed mind, but one thought emerges before I succumb to fitful oblivion: I don’t have to sacrifice my dreams anymore. I can leave the state after graduation next May.

This is a peaceful thought; it is a tiny ray of light in this bullshit parade. But to do it, I need to save money as I have been for the past year with really low bills. And the only way to do that, is to live with my ex.

Spartacus Is Dead: A Short Play

Characters

Carmen: 22, tends towards obsession but it is never certain what she will obsess over or when the obsession will suddenly stop

Jasmine: 22, quintessential BFF type, has known Carmen for 6 years, she is the one who introduced Carmen and Nathan

Nathan: 25, man-child unable to finish anything he starts, has been in the Army Reserve for 6 years, but can’t hold down any other job for long because something always goes wrong though it is never really his fault

Setting

An outdoor café.

The Play

Jasmine and Carmen are eating lunch. Well, Jasmine is eating. Carmen has her head down on the table and is sobbing uncontrollably. Jasmine ignores it at first, but she finally reaches over and pats Carmen on the head. Like a puppy or a small child.

Jasmine: Carmen, honey, please stop crying. He’s really not worth this.

Carmen: (cries harder, head still down) Yes he is! Jasmine, you don’t understand what I’ve lost!

Jasmine: Oh, you’ll find someone else. Really, you will.

Carmen: There will never be another man like him!

Jasmine: Really, you’re being melodramatic. And I know you and Nathan had been together for a long time, but—

Carmen: (raises her head suddenly to interrupt) Nathan? Who said anything about Nathan?

Jasmine: Well, you guys just broke up, and you’re crying so… Wait, then who are you crying about?

(Carmen bursts into tears again and puts her head on her arms. She mutters indistinctly.)

Jasmine: What?

(Indistinct muttering)

Jasmine: For God’s sakes Carmen, lift your head up so I can hear you.

Carmen: (lifts her head and exclaims) Spartacus is dead!

(Long pause)

Jasmine: Excuse me?

Carmen: What part of dead do you not understand?

Jasmine: You’re upset that a gladiator from ancient Rome is dead?

Carmen: Yes! I mean, no… Sort of. You know how much I love that show, right?

Jasmine: Yea, it’s basically all you’ve been talking about for the last two months.

Carmen: Right, well the last episode aired last night.

Jasmine: Carmen, you already knew he was going to die. It’s a historical fact.

Carmen: No! The real Spartacus’s body was never found. The producers could have made it so he lived, but they killed him anyway (starts crying again) It was…the saddest…thing…I’ve ever…seen… And I watched it five times!

Jasmine: (muttering) Kill me now.

Carmen: I mean, I was devastated when Crixus died in the episode before that, but even that didn’t prepare me for losing Spartacus… I don’t know how I can go on after this. (She puts her head back down on the table.)

Jasmine stares at her silently. Nathan enters stage right. He stops when he sees Carmen sobbing on the table. It is clear he thinks he is the cause.

Nathan: Um, Carmen?

Her head pops up at his voice, and she instantly stops crying. She begins to eat as though she hadn’t been sobbing hysterically for the past ten minutes.

Carmen: Hi.

Jasmine: O, hello Nathan. How are you?

Nathan: Great. I was, uh, just on my way to get something to eat. How’s it going?

Jasmine: O just swell. You should join us.

Nathan: No, I think I…I’ll just keep going.

Carmen: No, stay. Please, I know how much you love this place.

Nathan: O, ok then.

He sits and the three regard each other awkwardly. Carmen begins making eye contact with Jasmine and trying to indicate that she should leave. This goes on for several moments as at first Jasmine really doesn’t understand what she wants and then just pretends she doesn’t get it to be a pain in the ass. Finally, Jasmine checks the time on her phone and stands.

Jasmine: I’ve gotta run.

Carmen: What’s the rush?

Jasmine: Well, if you really want me to stay— (she begins to sit)

Carmen: O wait, I forgot you told me you were meeting Jeremy for something. See you later, then.

Jasmine: Right. Nice to see you again, Nathan. (She exits left. Carmen and Nathan sit in silence for a few minutes.)

Carmen: Do you want the rest of this?

Nathan: No, I figured I’d order something when the waiter has a moment to come over here.

Carmen: Good luck with that.

(Beat)

Carmen: Seriously, I’m not going to finish it; just take it. It’s your favorite from here anyway.

Nathan: Well, if you insist.

Carmen: I do.

(Beat)

Nathan: Carmen, why were you crying just now?

Carmen: Crying? I wasn’t crying. I had one of those sudden massive headaches and it made my eyes tear up. Putting my head on the table helped a lot.

Nathan: Right.

(Beat)

Nathan: So, how have you been since… you know.

Carmen: Since you decided I wasn’t good enough for you?

Nathan: O come on, you know that’s not why—

Carmen: (interrupts) I’m kidding, Nathan. We both agreed it was better to split for a while; quit acting like I’m a suicide risk.

Nathan: (after a slight pause) Are you?

Carmen: No! Chill out. We’re just taking a break to work on ourselves; not saying goodbye forever.

Nathan: I think we’re doing it wrong.

Carmen: How so?

Nathan: Well, we’ve still talked every day since we broke up.

Carmen: It’s not like I’m kicking you out of my life or something.

Nathan: True, but, shouldn’t time apart mean, you know, time apart?

Carmen: (sighs) Then stop calling me.

Nathan: I don’t… O wait… Yea, I guess that is on me… Damn… (Pause) I miss you, though.

Carmen: I miss you, too, I guess.

Nathan: (sarcastically) Well that seemed heartfelt.

Carmen: What do you want me to say?

Nathan: If you don’t miss me, then why were you crying when I walked up? And don’t give me that bullshit about a sudden migraine.

Carmen: You don’t want an honest answer to that.

Nathan: Seriously?

Carmen: Fine! I was crying because I just watched the series finale of Spartacus, and he died. Happy? (She starts to tear up again.)

Nathan: What the fuck.

(Long pause as Carmen calms herself.)

Carmen: You know, I was thinking about you the other day. And I was missing you and being all sad. And I had this pain in my chest, and I thought “I miss him so much that my heart is literally hurting.” And then I thought about how terribly romantic and pathetic that sounded. But then, I realized that the heart is more like in the center of the chest, and it was the left side that was hurting.

Nathan: Aren’t you kind of young for a heart attack?

Carmen: (Ignores him) It was then that I realized, my left boob misses you.

(Beat)

Nathan: I can fix that.

(Beat)

Carmen: (chooses to ignore the innuendo) But you know what’s really helped me get over all the shit between us that would otherwise be smothering me in heartbreak?

Nathan: Boob massage?

Carmen: No. Spartacus. I get lost in that show. I care about the gladiators and the slaves they’ve freed. I care about whether or not Spartacus will end up sleeping with that Roman chick. I want Gannicus to be a good guy, and instead he gets fucking crucified (She starts crying again, but stops almost instantly) The point is, watching this show, I can cry over these characters instead of crying over you, and that makes me feel good.

Nathan: So, I don’t want to sound like a jealous asshole or anything, but I know when you used to watch that show with me it made you all frisky and shit, so… when you’re watching this show and you get like that… who are you turning to?

Carmen: Well, the last few episodes have had more blood than sex, so that hasn’t exactly been a problem.

Nathan: O, well, that’s good then. (Beat) But seriously, I can fix that boob issue for you.

Carmen: Damn it, Nathan! (Deep breath) So how’s the new job going?

Nathan: I don’t think it’ll last long. The managers are all dicks.

Carmen: Wasn’t that the problem at the last place, too?

Nathan: Good management is hard to find.

Carmen: For the love of… (Jasmine enters left.) O thank God.

Jasmine: You guys are still here?

Carmen: Yea, come back and join us.

Jasmine: But I’ve got that thing with Jeremy.

Carmen: He can wait. (Carmen stands and physically forces Jasmine to sit)

Jasmine: So, what’ve you guys been talking about?

Nathan: Spartacus and Carmen’s boobs.

Carmen: Can we drop the boob issue now? Please?

Jasmine: Yes, please, let’s drop that issue. Also the Spartacus issue, because seriously, I’m tired of her bursting into tears when she remembers he’s dead.

(Carmen starts crying again.)

Jasmine: Damn it.

Nathan: I still don’t get how you can cry over the death of a fictional character (Jasmine starts to interrupts but he quickly adds) yes, I know he was a real historical figure, but she’s crying over the fictional version. Anyway, I don’t get how you can cry over that, but not the death of our relationship.

Carmen: I already told you! (She puts her head on the table and sobs as Jasmine and Nathan talk)

Nathan: How long has this been going on?

Jasmine: All afternoon. I thought she wanted to grab lunch and talk about you, but she just keeps crying over Spartacus.

(A faint wail issues from Carmen’s bowed head)

Nathan: Did our relationship really mean that little to her?

Jasmine: I don’t think that’s the problem. I think she just can’t focus on more than one guy at a time, and since you removed yourself from the picture, that guy is now Spartacus.

Nathan: Well that sucks. (Beat) Does this mean she and I are really over?

Jasmine: Hell if I know. You guys will have to figure that out for yourselves.

Carmen suddenly sits up and takes a deep breath. She has stopped crying, and she looks extremely happy.

Carmen: Holy shit, I just remembered! There might be a Caesar spinoff!

The End

Poetry Written for a Creative Writing Class

What Dreams May Come

I never wept for the man
whose name I never knew;
Though I wept many times over the man
whose name I’d like to forget.
On nights like this, alone in the dark,
with a single blue light glowing
to keep the nightmares at bay,
while the heater hums harmony
to the highway-riders beyond my window.

You sleep with a lamp, and the tv blaring,
despite untroubled sleep and
a German Shepard to guard your floor.
I sleep, if at all, in a fitful fear
of waking to sweat and loneliness,
with a single blue light glowing,
And an adorable mutt as abandoned as I,
who shivers with troubled dreams.

Disney

cinderella’s castle peeks from a frame
you’re standing before it
and I’m at your side
faint flashes of recollection flit…
the ferry across the water—
rollercoaster yetis—
overpriced chicken fried rice—
the sun on the safari…the mushroom carousel…
your swollen form in the wheelchair

all is eclipsed now
it is stone surrounded by synthetic sunflowers
a stiff wind from the runway
repetitive and useless goodbyes
but it was disney magic
among the last times I saw you smile

Road Rage- A Short Play

Road Rage

By Jen Novotny

Characters

Paul: 30, accountant for a large local bank. Dressed in nice suit, though he wears it slightly off, as though he is not use to it. Close-cropped hair, good looking in an average way. Married to Katherine for 3 years.

Katherine: 28, event organizer and entrepreneur. Very focused on her business, sometimes wonders why she married Paul in the first place. Wears a nice dress, hitting at the knee or higher and four-inch heels. She is dressed up for a night out, and she is owning it, most of the time.

Setting

The couple’s SUV, driving down the road

………………………………………………………………………………………..

Two Chairs sit CS. Otherwise bare.

Paul (offstage right): I can’t believe you’re making me miss the television premiere of Inception for this.

Katherine (also OSR): You already own it.

Paul: Not the point.

Katherine: Well, maybe we’ll catch the second running after dinner.

(Pause.)

Paul: Honey, we’re going to be late. Could you walk a little quicker?

Katherine: How about we put you in four-inch heels and see how quick you walk?

Paul: (as he comes onstage) Then why are you wearing them?

Katherine: (trailing behind) This is our first date night in months. I want to look hot.

Paul: Honey, you know you don’t have to do that for me. (Pantomimes holding car door open for her.) I love you, no matter what you’re wearing.

Katherine: It’s not for you. (Gets in)

(Beat)

Paul: Then who is it for?

Katherine: The people at the restaurant. Why do you think I made you wear the good suit?

Paul: I don’t understand.

Katherine: Darling, forget it. Just get in the car.

Paul: But why don’t you–.

Katherine: We’re going to be late, remember?

(As Katherine primps in the visor mirror, Paul mimics strangling her before shrugging it off and walking around to the driver’s side seat. Several moments of silence as Paul mimes driving and Katherine stares out the window.)

Katherine: Did you call your mother?

Paul: I forgot. I’ll do it tomorrow. She won’t mind.

Katherine: (mutters) Yea, right.

Paul: I think I know my own mother well enough to know how she’ll feel about me calling one day later than I said I would.

Katherine: I know Meredith pretty well by now, and you should know that what she says to your face isn’t necessarily—

Paul: (suddenly lays on the horn—a tinny and all together ridiculous sound—and gesticulates wildly while shouting) Watch what you’re doing, asshole! You can’t just pull out at a four-way stop when it’s not your turn! God damn it. (Calms down instantly) I’m sorry, honey, what were you saying?

Katherine: Nevermind, just don’t forget to call her tomorrow or all I’ll be hearing the next time we go over is how her son doesn’t care about her at all.

Paul: What? Has my mother said that to you before?

Katherine: Darling you have no idea. Before we got married I thought she was trying to convince me not to stay with you the way she’d go on and on about all of your bad qualities. Now I just think she likes to complain about her family members. You should hear the way she talks about your father.

Paul: Are you serious? I thought my mother— (horn again, yelling out the window) Your lane! Stay in your lane! Your lane! Can you believe the way people drive these days? Do people even have to take a test anymore? Jesus.

Katherine (sighs): I wish you’d stop doing that.

Paul: What? What am I doing?

Katherine: Getting angry at every person that so much as twitches wrong at you. Half the time I’m pretty sure you’re imagining it.

Paul: I most certainly am not imagining it. Honey, we’ve almost been killed twice already. (Horn again) You bastard! Did you even look? And where the hell was your blinker?

Katherine: And I rest my case.

Paul: Now that was clearly the third time we’ve almost been killed, and we just left the house.

Katherine: But you don’t have to have a conniption fit every time something even remotely bad happens. Do you think maybe you’re part of the problem?

Paul: Do you want to drive? Because I can pull over so you can take the wheel, since you’re obviously so much better at driving than I am. Miss Calm and Collected in her four-inch freaking heels.

Katherine: No, I don’t want to drive, but if you’re going to pout you might as well turn around and take me home. And why are you attacking my shoes again? What did they ever do to you?

Paul: O hell, I don’t care what shoes you wear. I just want you to get off my case about the way I drive. (Horn again, also, both jerk forward slightly as Paul slams on the brakes) Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! When my light is green it means yours is definitely red! Yellow means slow down, not speed up, Genius! (Calm again) I’m sorry, where were we?

Katherine: O nevermind! Can you at least stop laying on the horn every time? Yell if you must, but holy crap, Paul. I get embarrassed riding in a car with you when every five seconds you’re blasting that damn thing. And what’s worse is that it sounds ridiculous.

Paul: It is a pretty pathetic horn for an SUV. (Beat) I’ll try to stop honking the horn so much.

Katherine: Thank you.

(Long pause)

Paul: Honey, can I ask you something without you getting mad at me?

Katherine: That you have to ask that means the answer is probably no.

Paul: O, ok.

(Beat)

Katherine: Well ask me anyway. I will attempt to keep an open mind.

Paul: Ok, so, you said you get embarrassed riding with me when I get angry at stupid drivers—like that asshole, there! O that turn signal was beautiful! I wish I’d taken a picture of it! O wait, there wasn’t one!—but it made me wonder, don’t you ever get angry and honk the horn at somebody who cuts you off or nearly hits you?

Katherine (thinks for a moment before replying): Nope, can’t say that I do.

Paul: O, ok. (Beat) Honey, you still haven’t told me where we’re going.

Katherine: I’m pretty sure that I did actually.

Paul: No, I think I would’ve remembered that.

Katherine: Then why didn’t you say something sooner?

Paul: Well, I kept thinking you would tell me eventually if I drove around long enough, but you’ve been too busy harping on my driving habits to give me directions.

Katherine: O for the love of… Pull over.

Paul: Where?

Katherine: Anywhere. It doesn’t matter. Just pull over and let me drive.

Paul: But what about your shoes?

Katherine: What about them?

(Paul puts the car in park and both unbuckle their seatbelts and get out as the dialogue continues.)

Paul: Will you be able to drive in them?

Katherine: I’ll take them off.

Paul: But, driving barefoot? Really?

(They stop and face each other at the front of the car.)

Katherine: Why not?

Paul: That’s just… Well, it’s weird.

Katherine: You’ve never driven barefoot before?

Paul: No, definitely not.

Katherine: O, well… I do sometimes.

Paul: I never knew that.

Katherine: Yea, well, you’re the one who drives whenever we go somewhere, so… yea…

(Awkward pause before they get back in the car, now with Katherine driving)

Katherine: Why do you get so bent out shape when other drivers do stupid things? I mean, I get angry, but I don’t turn into a big ball of jackass, yelling at people who can’t even hear me.

Paul: (testily) Well, that’s what the horn is for.

Katherine: But even that’s dumb. I mean, you can’t tell me that you’ve never done anything stupid while driving.

Paul: Yea, but I feel really bad about it when I do, and I apologize to them, even though they can’t hear me.

Katherine: Right. (Beat). But seriously why do you feel the need to freak out?

Paul: I don’t need to. I can quit doing it any time I want.

(Long pause)

Paul: Anyway, it makes me feel better. It de-stresses me.

Katherine: Like yoga?

Paul: Sure. Whatever. It makes me less likely to pick fights with people. Like you.

Katherine: So if you weren’t constantly yelling at other drivers you’d be yelling at me?

Paul: I plead the fifth. (Beat) Where are we going?

Katherine: You’ll find out when we get there. By the way, (She’s clearly nervous about the subject she’s going to bring up.) Marsha is having a baby shower next Tuesday.

Paul: I forgot she was pregnant. Well, have fun.

Katherine: It’s a couples’ shower.

Paul: No. No, honey, just no.

Katherine: Paul, be reasonable.

Paul: I am. No man in his right mind is going to go to a baby shower.

Katherine: What if it was for our baby?

Paul: But we aren’t having a baby. Not for a long time at least; and possibly not ever.

(Beat)

Katherine: Not ever?

Paul: Well, (growing uncomfortable) why should we? We’re both focused on our careers. I’m trying to work my way up at the bank, and your event planning business is really taking off. Neither of us has time for a child, and maybe we’ll decide that we never will. What’s wrong with that?

Katherine: You don’t possibly want to pass on your genes to the next generation?

Paul: I think you’ve been spending too much time with my mother.

(He realizes how terrible of a thing that was for him to say and cringes away as if he’s afraid she’s actually going to hit him. She grows very quiet for several moments before suddenly shouting and laying on the horn.)

Katherine: Watch what you’re doing, you asshole! Are you trying to cause a wreck? What the hell! Yield means wait until it’s clear, not go when you feel like it. (Pause, then another tirade while laying on the tinny horn; it should be clear this is another vehicle, not the same one.) Turn off your brights! You’re driving through town not a deer infested backroad. Are you trying to blind me?

Paul: Honey? (No response.) Honey? Are you ok?

Katherine: I’m fine.

Paul: You’re acting a little strange.

Katherine: I’m just trying to do what you suggested. Take my anger out on people who can’t hear me instead of you.

Paul: Why are you so upset?

Katherine: I’m not upset. If I were upset, I would be crying. (Starts to cry.) But I’m not am I?

Paul: What did I do now?

Katherine: You don’t want to have children with me! (Sound of a car horn—not theirs—is heard, and then another closely follows it.)

Paul: Honey, watch the road; you’re going to get us killed.

Katherine: Shut up! You know, all I wanted tonight was to get dressed up, go out to a nice restaurant, have some quality time together, and tell you I’m pregnant. But no, you had to do your usual shit with the road rage and, and keep complaining about my shoes!

(Long beat as Paul processes what just happened.)

Paul: I told you I don’t have a problem with your shoes.

(Katherine stares at him, and there are more car horns, very emphatic now. She turns back to the road, shaking her head over and over.)

Paul: I mean, ok, I’ll admit it, I don’t like it when you wear heels…Because it makes you taller than me…But if it makes you happy to wear them, then by all means, do it.

Katherine: Are you seriously talking about my shoes right now? I just told you I’m going to have your baby, a baby you apparently don’t want, and you’re talking about my shoes.

Paul: It’s an analogy.

(Beat.)

Katherine: You should stop talking now.

(Long pause.)

Paul: If it’s a boy can we name him Maximus?

Katherine: Seriously, just stop talking.

Paul: I mean it. I’ve always wanted to meet someone named Maximus, so how cool would it be if I actually had a kid named that?

Katherine: I might murder you.

Paul: Maximus Gaius. To stick with the Roman theme, you know?

Katherine: (She’s slowly starting to smile.) And if it’s a girl?

Paul: Ellen Paige. (Pause.) Why are you pulling over?

(She turns to him and throws her arms around him.)

Katherine: Let’s switch places so you can yell at other drivers.

Paul: Ok, but where are we going?

Katherine: Home.

Paul: So I got dressed up and missed Inception for nothing?

Katherine: I still might murder you.

Paul: But you wore heels.

Katherine: And they’d be the perfect weapon.

Paul: I don’t understand.

Katherine: Shut up and take us home, darling.

Fin

Déjà Vu

This is a little something a wrote tonight. Opinions and suggestions are muchly appreciated 🙂

Papers rustled as the therapist shifted from one leg crossed to the other. No, she was flicking through the pages looking for something, that’s why they were rustling. She found it and began to read aloud. No, she was going to read to herself and drag out the interminable silence.

“Gretchen?” Dr. Thompson said. Gretchen unconsciously tossed her head trying to focus. “Are you alright?”

“Yea, it just, it got bad there for a minute,” Gretchen said slowly and carefully.

“Can you describe it for me?”

“You already asked me that,” Gretchen said.

“No, not yet I haven’t.”

“Are you sure?” Gretchen looked puzzled. Dr. Thompson nodded. Gretchen took a deep breath. A fly buzzing in the corner caught her attention. When her gaze flicked back to the therapist, she felt as though she had lost a great deal of time.

“Can you describe it for me?”

“Are you sure you haven’t asked me that already?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“I don’t think I can,” Gretchen said. She knew if she kept thinking along the same lines she was going to repeat the same reality over and over.

“Think of it as a stream of consciousness exercise,” Dr. Thompson suggested. “Just spout any thoughts as they occur to you.”

Gretchen took a deep breath, and for just a moment, the world settled into one reality. Of course then it was back to the menagerie of possibilities and “already seen”s that characterized her life.

“I look at the clock on the wall, and I think, no, I know that I just did that. Ten times actually.  Wait, that’s not right. I only looked once, but now I’m looking again, and it’s making time feel like it’s passing slower. Or does it? I’m never sure. I’m not sure. I don’t know. Shit, I’ve seen this before. This is the part where the man with the ax bursts in. Wait, that was a movie. No, it wasn’t. Yes, that movie with…Damn, what’s his name? I forget. Anyway it was definitely a movie that I’m remembering. But no I’m not. It’s real, and it wasn’t an ax it was a machine gun. No, that’s later when I walk out of the room. But if I go the other way-.”

“Ok, Gretchen,” Dr. Thompson interrupted. “You can stop now.”

She nodded and sat back on the couch, taking deep breaths in and out. If she focused hard enough, the layers of present would recede slightly so she could feel a few moments of calm at a time. There was a cycle to it, but she only remembered this from time to time.

“Do you know how long you’ve been like this?” The therapist asked. Gretchen shook her head. She stared at her folded hands. The minute sounds of the room pressed in on her. They seemed ominous. It was like the ticks of the clock and the hum of the computer were counting down to some disastrous climax. Gretchen realized she was holding her breath waiting for it. She exhaled suddenly, and she was surprised when a man with a gun did not burst into the room and begin shooting wildly. But no, that wouldn’t happen because this was all a movie.

As these thoughts zipped through her head, Gretchen realized Dr. Thompson had been saying her name for some time.

“Yes?” Gretchen asked. She looked up at the woman sitting in the armchair across from her.

“I said I think we need to try a new type of medication,” Dr. Thompson said. “This clearly isn’t helping you much.”

Gretchen nodded, though she wasn’t really listening. Her mind was a jumble of I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this, I know I’ve seen this before.

“Can you describe it for me?” Dr. Thompson asked. Gretchen looked at her sharply.

“I know you’ve asked me that before,” Gretchen replied.

“Yes, but you still haven’t done it,” Dr. Thompson said.

“But I did.”

“Not yet. You keep sinking into silence.”

Several moments of silence passed.

“I need to leave,” Gretchen said. The silence was full of possibilities. Too many. Her head would explode if she stayed in a situation so charged with maybes.

“Your time isn’t up yet,” Dr. Thompson replied.

“But I have to go.” She stood. Dr. Thompson sighed and wrote something down quickly before handing it to Gretchen. It was a prescription.

“Please don’t forget to get this one filled, Gretchen,” she said. Gretchen nodded and hurried out of the door. At least, that’s how she remembered this scenario happening, but no, she was still standing in the office preparing to leave and Dr. Thompson was scribbling on a piece of paper. Was it a prescription? Dr. Thompson handed her the paper.

“Call me if you need anything. Anything at all,” she said. At least, that’s how she remembered this scenario happening, but no-.

Gretchen screamed and ran from the room. Josh stood as she entered the lobby and grabbed her before she could make a break for the street. Dr. Thompson had followed her, and she handed Josh the paper she had been writing on.

“Fill this for her,” Dr. Thompson said. “Once a day, with food.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Josh said. He turned Gretchen toward the door, still holding her tightly. “Come on, Sis. Let’s get you home.”

Two days later, Gretchen was extremely ill. She lay in bed staring at the ceiling, but even that did not stop the awful progression of consecutive realities, all of which she just knew she had seen before. Josh tried to keep her comfortable, but he couldn’t have a conversation with her. It had been like this for almost a year now; ever since the accident, she hadn’t been the same. The doctors said it was seizures in the frontal lobe. Whatever that meant. Her brother brought her soup and tried to get her to take the pills. But no matter how he tried to coerce her into swallowing the tiny medication, she insisted that they were a poison that would kill her if he forced the issue. Josh was somewhat relieved by this idea because unlike most of her nonsense, this was consistent. Normally she jumped from thought to thought, never remembering what she had said. Of course, she was always adamant that she remembered not only what had happened before, but also what was going to happen next.

Finally, on the third day after visiting the therapist, Josh called his sister’s doctor. They scheduled an appointment for that afternoon. So, Josh began the arduous process of loading Gretchen into the car and taking her to the hospital. He started four hours before the appointment time. Still, they were fifteen minutes late. Gretchen kept stopping and trying to return to the house. First, it was a serial killer hiding in the bushes. Then, it was their mother returning from the grave waiting in the house for her to come fix lunch. Later, while driving, she nearly jumped out of the car because they were about to have a head on collision with a semi truck. Once they reached the hospital, a strange man with a cane was going to give her a present. And he simply couldn’t stop her from talking to the homeless man waiting on the bench because he had vital information for her. He only asked for spare change.

Finally, Josh led Gretchen into the waiting room. The doctor was there waiting for them; he was very well acquainted with Gretchen’s case, so the delay didn’t surprise him. He led them straight to an MRI room instead of the usual examining room. He explained that he had an idea for scanning her brain. They had done this exam once before already, but the doctor was sure he actually knew what he was looking for this time. The anesthesiologist administered a drug while Gretchen screamed and thrashed about, yelling that someone was trying to kill her and she needed to go home. Josh stood far away from the gurney where Gretchen had been tied down. He wanted to hold his sister’s hand, but he was tired of sporting her nail marks on his arms. He decided to let someone else handle it. It took longer than for most patients, but Gretchen finally settled into a drug-induced coma, leaving the testing room eerily silent.

Gretchen dreamed that she was walking through a long corridor. But wait, it wasn’t a dream. And it wasn’t a corridor. It was the street. She was outside the hospital with her brother. No, her brother wasn’t with her. She was alone. Not quite alone. There was a homeless man sitting on a bench by the entrance. He was dirty and ragged. The quintessential hobo, she thought. But there was something special about him. She had the sudden urge to speak to him. The world seemed to settle to one reality as she approached. She expected a man with a knife to jump from behind the hydrangea bush behind the bench, but then she realized that was silly. She sat down. Silence.

“I believe you have something to tell me,” she said finally.

The man nodded, but he still didn’t say anything. Gretchen began to fidget as she waited for the déjà vu to return in its usual waves. But it didn’t. After a few moments, she sat back and enjoyed the view of one uninterrupted reality. She took a deep breath and sighed.

“It’s not déjà vu, you know,” the man said suddenly. Gretchen leaned in closer to him and waited for him to speak again. He didn’t, so she prompted him.

“Then what is it?”

“It’s reality,” he said. He looked at her for the first time. She noticed that his eyes were very green in his dirt-stained face. Without the grime, she thought he might almost be handsome, though she estimated he must be in his 50s at the very least. “You are seeing multiple possible realities all at once. And they are all real. It is a gift.”

“I don’t feel very gifted,” Gretchen whispered. She turned to gaze across the busy street. She couldn’t remember the last time she had stayed in one present for this long. Actually, she couldn’t remember much of anything long-term. She was normally in a time lapse of anywhere from 30 seconds on bad days to 5 minutes on good days. She turned back to the homeless man, and repeated, “I don’t feel very gifted.”

“You just haven’t learned to control it, yet,” he replied. His voice was soft. She had expected something coarser. “I learned. And so will you.”

“How?” She asked.

“You’ll figure it out,” he said. “Now, it’s time to wake up.”

“What?” She asked. She felt the edges of the world blurring. A man with a knife was going to jump from behind the hydrangea bush behind the bench. She remembered this. But no, that wasn’t it. Something about the homeless man. He had a gun. No, that wasn’t right either. She knew if she concentrated it would all right itself.

“I said, it’s time to wake up.”

Gretchen opened her eyes to find herself staring at a ceiling made of generic white tiles with florescent lighting. Josh was standing over her, but not too close. Gretchen blinked at him.

“The homeless man told me that I’m not crazy,” she said.

“Of course you aren’t,” Josh said soothingly. “Come on, sis. It’s time to go home.”

He helped her off the gurney. Her legs were a bit wobbly. The doctor held the door open for them. He and Josh exchanged a look over the top of Gretchen’s head. She felt it more than saw it. They were plotting to kill her. But it had to look like an accident. She told herself to stop being ridiculous. That wasn’t this reality. Then, which one was she in? Everything began to speed up as she walked through the lobby doors and into the sunlight. Déjà vu after déjà vu pounced on her as Josh led her to the car. She tried to escape his grasp several times, but he held on tightly until he had her in the car with the seat belt securely fastened. The trip home was much like the trip to the hospital.

Another two days passed. Gretchen had recovered from her “illness,” yet Josh took her to the hospital again anyway. She wondered at this for a moment, but then she remembered that she hadn’t been to the hospital, yet. Not since her last annual checkup. But yes she had. She’d gone just yesterday. But that wasn’t quite right, either. Gretchen put up less resistance on this trip because she was very preoccupied with figuring out when she had last been to the hospital.

“If I can only find the right reality,” she murmured. Buildings flashed by her window, though she thought it was the same buildings repeating over and over again. Perhaps it was. The homeless man was no longer on the bench. Gretchen was surprised at this, and she tried to think why she thought there would be a homeless man sitting there. Then, she recalled that it was because he was there last time. No, that he was supposed to be there this time. Last time he was gone, too, right? She started to tremble as the déjà vu sped up and then slowed down and then sped up again. It was a bad day.

The doctor was waiting for them in the waiting room.

“I’ve seen this before,” Gretchen said to herself. It’s possible that she didn’t say it aloud because no one responded to her. They led her into a room where the anesthesiologist administered a drug while Gretchen screamed and thrashed about, yelling that someone was trying to kill her and she needed to go home. But this time, Josh wasn’t even in the room. He was in the next room with the doctor while Gretchen was being put under.

“Before we begin, I want to be absolutely certain that you know we can’t make any guarantees as to the outcome,” the doctor said. “This is an entirely experimental surgery.”

Josh nodded mutely for several minutes. He was recalling his sister thrashing on the gurney as the anesthesiologist put the needle in her arm. He nodded once more surely and swallowed roughly before saying, “Do it.”

Three hours later, Gretchen awoke in a hospital bed with a slight pain in her right temple. She raised her hand to find a bandage plastered across her forehead. She had the strange urge to rip it off and probe whatever wound was there, but her brother’s voice stopped her.

“How are you feeling, sis?”

Gretchen stopped mid-motion and considered the question for several minutes. She opened and closed her mouth several times as she pondered it.

“I feel fuzzy,” she finally said.

“That’s the pain killers,” Josh replied. He stood from his seat in the corner and approached the bed. “What is your name?”

Gretchen considered this as seriously as the last question before she said, “I don’t know.”

Josh sighed and rubbed the five o’clock shadow beginning to coat his chin. That’s when the doctor came in. He looked surprised to see Gretchen already awake, and he motioned Josh out of the room. Josh squeezed his sister’s hand before leaving.

“We believe the seizures have been stopped,” the doctor said. “It will take several days of carefully watching her to be sure, but I think we’ve done it.”

“She doesn’t remember her name, doc,” Josh said with barely controlled rage. His chest was tight with suppressed emotion, and he had a strong desire to punch something.

“It may come back,” the doctor said soothingly. “It may just be a side effect of the drugs we’re giving her to dull the pain.

“But what if it’s not? What if it doesn’t?”

“You knew what you signed on for,” the doctor said coldly. “I warned you before she went under the knife. We didn’t know what to expect, and we still don’t. But I am optimistic that-.”

“Fine. Fine,” Josh said, throwing his hands in the air. “When can I take her home?”

“Perhaps tomorrow, but as I said, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Josh nodded and returned to his sister’s room. He stopped in the doorway and watched her for a few moments. Gretchen stared out the window at a couple of pigeons creating a nest in a hydrangea bush. Her curly hair was falling into her eyes, but she didn’t seem to notice. She was muttering something over and over.

“One reality. One reality. One reality.”

She suddenly turned and looked at Josh. Her eyes, identical to his own, seemed to accuse him for a split second before they went vague again.

“There’s only one reality now,” she said. She never spoke again.

Halfway

So I just hit 25,000 words last night, which sounds great right? Except it’s Nov. 20 and I only have ten days to write 25,000 more words. Geez. I had gotten so close to being caught up, and then school hit, and right after that Wal-Mart’s Thanksgiving rush hit. Being a cashier during Thanksgiving means working mucho hours. In fact, I have to be at work in an hour. So, I’ll probably attempt to work on my novel a bit before I go. After all, I did catch up on sleep last night finally. But all I really want to do right now is finish reading Wicked by Gregory Maguire.

It’s not that I’m out of ideas. I still have plenty of outline to go off of. Actually, I think that might be the problem; I already know what’s going to happen. I may not have all the details worked out, but I know how the story is progressing, so it feels boring to me. Whereas even though I’ve read Wicked before, it’s been a while so the story is like new for me again and I can’t wait to see what happens. I think I need to figure out how to get that magic back for my story. But how?

While I try to figure that out (please feel free to suggest some ideas as well) here’s another short excerpt to mark my halfway point, two-thirds of the way through the month:

The Scorpio guards led Belle out of the tunnel into a large round chamber. A hole in the ceiling showed stars, and Belle searched in vain for Orion before they pushed her into a small room off to the side. The walls were the same red brown stone, and wall sconces black with age produced a flickering luminescence. Andavar spoke from the door before it was shut.

“You’ll be staying here until it is time for your part in the ceremony. It should be a short wait.” With that, he closed and locked the door. After that ominous click, Belle turned to check out her latest surroundings and found that she wasn’t alone. Lord Regus was in the corner on a crude wooden bench. He was staring into space just as before.

“I don’t suppose you know what they have planned for me?” Belle asked. Surprisingly, he answered.

“You are the key,” he said without looking at her, “and you shall unlock the door to Orion’s prison.”

“But I thought these guys worshipped Orion’s arch nemesis,” Belle said. “Why would they want to let him out?”

“If you have a key to one door, and the key to the one you want to open is behind the first, how do you get it out?” Lord Regus asked.

“Orion is the key to Antares prison?” Belle asked incredulously. Lord Regus shook his head, but Belle could get no more out of him, no matter how much she pleaded and berated him.

Finally, Lord Andavar returned with the guards. Both Lord Regus and Belle were led into the circular chamber. Now Belle could clearly see Orion through the hole in the ceiling. They were both brought to the altar at the center of the room, and Belle’s uneasiness increased. These people were willing to kidnap and die for their beliefs. Did they believe in human sacrifice, too? For a few moments, Belle fought not to throw up.

“Greetings, my brethren,” Andavar said to the congregation. He stood square with the altar; Belle and Lord Regus had been placed to either side of him. “Tonight, we will finally obtain what we have sought for so long: the key to our Lord Antares’s prison. But first, we must undergo a task most regrettable. We must unleash the enemy of our Lord. The heathen hunter, that man upon whom the gods wasted such greatness, when it should have belonged to our lord. Orion.”

A sibilant hiss ran around the room amongst the cloaked figures. Lord Andavar nodded sympathetically.

“I know that it grieves us all to release him from his most just punishment, but it is a necessary evil. Without the sons of Antares, we are helpless to release him on our own. We need the secondary key; we need the belt of Orion.”

Belle instinctively looked up at the line of three stars, which were so discernible from the rest of the starry sky.

“And although we have lost our key somewhere in the sands of time, we have the key for Orion.” Lord Andavar gestured to Belle as he spoke. A few of the Scorpios hissed at her, too. “No, no, my brothers. Do not disdain the presence of Orion’s daughter. For through her, all of our toils will reach fruition. Through her, our centuries of waiting will be ended.” Andavar turned to Belle. “You will be praised in the annals of our brotherhood, Lady Bellatrix.”

She had a strange urge to spit on him, but with the guards standing so close and surrounded by fanatics, she didn’t want to risk the reaction. Andavar took her silence for acquiescence, or at least forced cooperation, which it was.

“And now, with Orion high in the sky, we shall begin the ceremony.” Andavar began to read in Greek from an ancient tome laid on the otherwise bare altar. The hair at the nape of Belle’s neck tingled as though someone breathed down her spine. She shivered as the words wrapped around her like a cold blanket. As Andavar continued reading, she felt a pressing weight on her.

The guard next to Belle grabbed her hand and made a small cut on her palm. Belle tried to cry out at the sudden pain, but her throat was blocked by the intense pressure, which continued to grow. It wasn’t until Andavar was grabbing her wrist and pulling it to touch Lord Regus’s palm that she realized he had also been cut. As their bloody hands touched so that the red mingled, the pressure became too intense and Belle cried out, “Open to me Betelgeuse!”

And just like that, the pressure vanished, as though sucked away by a vacuum. Belle was breathing heavily from the sudden change. Lord Regus’s hand slipped away from hers, and he fell to the floor. He was dead. Belle simply stared at his ashen face; it was like someone had fastforwarded the clock 20 or 30 years for his face was so much older. Belle turned to Andavar angrily.

“What have you done?” She shouted. The guards moved to grab her, but then a strong male voice spoke out.

“Do not dare lay one finger on my daughter.”

Belle whipped around, emerging from the shadows was the man from her dream: Orion. Her heart was in her throat and she had time to think, It’s all true, and then, all hell broke loose.

10,000 Words

Well, it’s week two of NaNoWriMo, and I just hit 10,000 words. Which, by the by, means that I am WAY behind. I should be much closer to 20,000 by this point. However, I refuse to be daunted because my novel is coming along swimmingly.

It’s about Orion, the constellation, and Orion, the mythological hunter. It’s about cults. It’s about sons and daughters of larger than life people from ancient times. It’s about a magic belt. It’s about the stars. It’s about kidnapping and danger. It’s about family. It’s about love.

I’m also slowly figuring out that there are two main character rather than one (and neither of them is Orion, who still hasn’t actually entered the story yet, but I’m getting there). It’s a mother and daughter. Donna and Belle Betel. I’m pretty crazy about both of them, so I sincerely hope that anyone who reads this will be, too.

Anyway, I need to get back to writing on my novel. Lots of catching up to do. But here’s a snippet of what I’ve written today. Words of encouragement greatly appreciated 🙂

“A man tried to take me from the accident,” she said.

“Like take you to safety?” He asked. Belle shook her head. Mr. Marcus sighed and rubbed his eyes. “You were nearly killed in a car accident, which looks deliberate, and then you were nearly kidnapped… You haven’t even been in town for a whole day, yet, kiddo.”

“Trust me; I know,” Belle said ruefully.

“Did you recognize the guy?” Mr. Marcus asked. Belle started to shake her head, but then she stopped mid-motion. Her eyes widened and her jaw dropped slightly. The cold ball of fear in her stomach returned.

“I think that’s the guy from my street.”

“What?”

“On the day that we left my house, there was a guy at the end of the street. I didn’t recognize him, but I thought he was watching me,” Belle said. She grew more agitated as she put the pieces together. “And the gas station! I wondered why that guy creeped me out so much; it was because it was the same guy. I recognized him! And at the wreck…” She started pacing, though she still stayed very close to Mr. Marcus. “I was really out of it because I’d hit my head, but that guy… It was the same guy. I know it was!”

“Belle, calm down,” Mr. Marcus said. He grabbed Belle’s arms and pulled her close to him. “Now listen to me. Tomorrow, you and I are going down to the police station, and you’re going to tell them what you just told me. In fact, maybe I should stay here with you tonight instead of going to a hotel.”

“No,” Belle said slowly. “No, you should go. If you stay, Geoff will realize that something is wrong.”

Geoff’s dad stepped back and studied her face for a moment before answering.

“Alright,” he said. “You’re right. As long as you feel safe enough to be here by yourself. You have my number. Call me if you get uncomfortable, even a little bit, and I’ll come straight back. I’ll get the nearest hotel I can.”

“Ok, that does make me feel better,” Belle said.

She hugged him, and then he left. Belle watched him walk out the door and out of sight before she slowly made her way back to Geoff’s room. When she reached the room, it was dark. Apparently Geoff had asked one of the nurses to turn off the lights. Only the tiny wall lamps that were constantly on gave any light to the hospital room. She went over to the bed and sat down by Geoff’s still form. He must have fallen back asleep while she was escorting his dad out. She watched his chest rise and fall with his breathing, and she felt peaceful.

A sudden noise behind her made her breath catch in her throat. Belle froze as she heard the gentle swoosh of the bathroom door opening, barely perceptible under the hum of the hospital instruments surrounding the bed. Belle turned slowly, and she felt like she was in a horror movie as she saw a black figure slowly emerge from the bathroom. She felt a scream building in her throat, but when she opened her mouth, no sound came out. The figure advanced on her steadily.

Something snapped in her head, and Belle leapt up to try to wake Geoff or call for help or run for the door or do anything, anything at all to keep the man away from her. But it was too late. Her moments of frozen terror had left her with not enough time and zero options. The man was suddenly on her, and the only thing she saw before she blacked out, was the face of the man who had been following. Except it can’t be him because he’s dead, she thought. And then there was inky silence.

Nanowrimo 2012

It’s that time of year again. National Novel Writing Month! It begins in just a few more hours, and I am pumped! Even though I had completely forgotten it was coming up, so I really don’t have much of a story idea going yet.

I’m using an idea from a while back that’s been sitting in a folder on my laptop labelled “Ideas.” Creative, aren’t I? Anyway, this idea is about the constellation Orion.

I’ve always been fascinated by that particular group of stars, probably because it’s one of the only ones I recognize. At any rate, I’ll give more details as it unfolds, but for now, just know that Orion was imprisoned in the stars by the Greek gods, not placed there as an homage as the myths say, and he has descendants walking among us to this day.

At least, those are the premises of my novel, which will begin to unfold at exactly 12:01am tonight. Yay! I’ll be posting updates and (if people are interested, excerpts) here throughout the month, so stay tuned and follow the blog 🙂