+7 More Days of Nanowrimo

It is so wild to think that I’ve completed 17 full days of Nanowrimo! Having good friends like Ouranose & Notnotnerdygirl be supportive and encouraging throughout this process, no matter where we are in this awesome writing challenge has made this year’s participation nothing shy of life-changing. As I’m hitting a good stride and making massive progress these past two days, I’m really excited about the second half of this month and all that it will bring.

And on that note – here’s my third week of Nanowrimo Recap post:


 

Week Two:  November 11th – November 17th

Nanowrimo Week One Projection:  28,339 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)

Word Goal:   35,000

Word Count Achieved:  38,302

One thing I learned:  Part of me wants to say that I didn’t learn anything, nothing that I didn’t already know. This week was one of re-learning and re-discovering the things that I’m capable of doing. When it comes right down to it – I know I work well under pressure. But I’ve also found that I work harder in the presence of good company. I am eternally grateful and humbled that Ouranose has chosen to participate this year with me, especially since I know that this is both harder and more necessary for her. What a wild journey this must be for her, and to take it with me – what was she thinking?

This week, it became wildly clear to me that having friends who are passionate about the things that you are passionate about makes a huge difference in how hard you work at something. But better even than that is having friends who are passionate about the things you are creating. Ouranose is my biggest fan and one of my biggest inspirations. And when I need a dose of clarity, Notnotnerdygirl is always willing to soundboard and help work through the muddied details of a confusing aspect of the story creating process.

Good friends that care as so necessary to one’s success.

One thing I want to improve on for Week 4:  There’s so much that I need to work on, realistically, that I could write an entire post for just this section. I get easily discouraged, and this week was no exception. Time management during Nanowrimo is essential to succeed and I swear that my brain goes to mush in this regard on November 1st. I can write more and accomplish more than I have in a shorter amount of time, but November comes and it’s like my brain forgets every logical thing about utilizing my time effectively.

It’s so silly, too, since I know that if I set my mind to it, I could write 3,000 words in an hour. It shouldn’t be difficult to get 8,000 words in one day, but there I was this week – losing my marbles because I didn’t manage 8,000 words in one day. I was only 132 words away, which I think made the matter worse, and I was angry. It mind head, I was convinced that I failed because it was such a small margin. I should’ve attained it.

Anyway, dear future self – just use your time more wisely. You’ll do amazing things, future self. I promise.

One thing I did really well:  This week I was way better about planning before writing. I’ve been taking the breaks I schedule in between sprints to jot down the next three or four sections of my story. It ends up working beautifully, too, because I come up with things to write in between those sections once I get going, so I’ve been able to maximize my word count without having to have a mental breakdown about where to take my story. It’s been a nice movement for my work and my brain. Unf, and a much-needed improvement!

Week Three Hopes, Recap: Last week I had declared that I was hoping to blow my word count goal out of the water. I wish I’d considered what the number would look like for that goal, but I guess we all have to make mistakes like this at some point. My goal had been for 35,000 and I hit 38,302 by 11:59 PM last night. To some people, a 3,302 increase to the goal is one sit-down of writing, and not really a blowout. To others, to the people who are struggling for the 1,667, or are only averaging 2,500 a day, this might be a TON of extra writing. I guess it can be up to you whether it was a blowout or not.

But for me, for now, I surpassed the goal Nanowrimo sets for the 17-day mark by almost 10,000 words, and then also my own goal by over 3,000. It’s a win no matter how you think of it, and I’m proud of that.

Week Four Hopes:  This coming week is going to be super interesting. I have a tone of time off of work for the American holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s more time off than we’ve had in the past, and I’m just in awe of the amount of time that I have ahead of me to do the writing that I want to do! And, really, it’s writing that I need to do if I want to hit my personal goal of 65,000 by November 30th.

This week, I’m planning to “win” Nanowrimo by the end of the week. It is my hope that I don’t lose sight of my goal and slow down. I can’t stop just because I’ve got a winner’s banner and an invitation to purchase my winner’s tee. No. I have to keep powering through because winning is fifteen thousand more words than this challenge is asking of me. I can’t lose my pace just because I’ve hit 50K.

We’ll see how I do, won’t we?

Week Two Goal:  16,698 (I want to hit 55,000 by the end of the week)

Nanowrimo Week Four Projection:  40,008 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)


 

As always, share your Nanowrimo experiences from this year! Comment about anything writing related, seriously! I don’t bite and I love to have a conversation with a writing enthusiast. Gimme them good, good quotes that keep you motivated, share the playlist that keeps your spirits high and be sure to drop a like or hit the share button to help show others that Nanowrimo – it’s not scary.

Thanks for reading all my brain space stuff, I know it’s probably weird for you. Maybe someday I can share in your brain space stuff too.

Much love.

–ab

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+7 Days Completed of Nanowrimo

My buddy Ouranose, who is participating in Nanowrimo with me this year, should be updating her blog soon about her first full week of writing in Nanowrimo. We are planning to do weekly updates on our progress to reflect on what it’s like to do this, and maybe help others who are hesitant to participate see that it’s really quite wonderful. Every writer should do Nanowrimo at least once. You learn a lot about your writing, and you’ll learn just as much about yourself too.

So – here goes nothing – my second week of Nanowrimo Recap:


 

Week Two:  November 4th – November 10th

Nanowrimo Week One Projection:  16,670 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)

Word Goal:   19,826

Word Count Achieved:  20,174

One thing I learned:  I just need to talk things out loud with someone I trust when I’m getting lost in my story. Since I’ve been throwing my original timeline of events out the window, I’ve found I am hitting walls hard when I need to switch character perspectives. Thankfully, Ouranose has been delightful in letting me soundboard off her constantly.

I also found that between last year and this year, I’m writing way more in a sitting that I was last year. I’m a fast typer and when I know what I’m writing, I can do a few thousand words in one hour. However, with the changing directions constantly nature of my writing this year, I’ve felt slowed down. This is in, in part, due to the fact that I’ve been trying to do one-hour sprints like I did last year – last year when I wrote everything exactly the way I planned it. This year, I’ve switched to half-hour sprints because I’m so tired and busy, and I’m finding that I can actually do better. So instead of doing one-hour sprints for this month, it’s going to be thirty-minute chunks with high word count goals.

One thing I want to improve on for Week 2:  Much like last week, I keep getting into this unhealthy mindset that because people are further along than me that they are better than me. I actively know this is not true. The confidence I have in my novel is kind of ridiculous, but I know that it is something that I want to read and that others will surely enjoy. At one point this week I had a massive meltdown due to personal issues at home and actually was going to quit and destroy whatever friendships with writers I had, which was a wildly childish thing to say I was going to do because, at the end of the day, I’m a writer.

I can’t be anything else. I just am this thing – writing is what I do.

One thing I did really well:  I think I did a fantastic job of hitting ‘AHA’ moment after ‘AHA’ moment in my writing this week. After I had my early week meltdown, it’s been one puzzle piece pushing together with another, making this story weave itself into this beautiful tapestry. Ideas swarm my mind constantly, and to squish my writing process into 30 days rather than 60 or 90-day chunks, it helps me see those cogs working again, and I’m always proud of the stuff I can do. I’m glad that I continued creating at the expectation I have for myself this week, and I look forward to the stuff I can put together next week.

Week Two Hopes, Recap:  Last week I declared that I wanted to write every day, even when it was hard to do so, and then to continue adjusting to the scenarios with which I would be faced throughout the week. It was really difficult to write every day because this was a week that I knew would be unforgiving. However, that said, I did end up writing every single day: 3,331 (Sun), 1,654 (Mon), 499 (Tues), 513 (Wed), 586 (Thur), 243 (Fri), and 6,332 (Sat).

I didn’t write a ton every day, especially when the target word count is 1,667 every day to finish on time. However, there are days where I can sit down and power through with high word counts. Saturday’s word count is the second highest word count I’ve hard between last year and this year, which proves that I need only have the time to write. Even if it is just 15 minutes, even just one or two words is better than zero. I was happy to get my “10 Day” update badge on the website, as I had lost it last year because I forgot to keep track of the time and didn’t get updated before midnight. None of that will be happening this year. None – of – it.

And I’ve already said that I did really well adapting throughout the week. It was one of the things that I did way better at than I expected. It was nice being able to, once over that massive depressive hump, just work on what I wanted to work on and write this story that I care about so much.

Week Three Hopes:  This week should be easier in terms of getting my writing done. I only have a couple of things going on in the week that will get in the way of what would usually be my standard writing times. If I have to hope for something this week, it’s just the ability to blow my target word count out of the water. In order to do that, however, I know that I’ll need to sit down and sketch out the amended timeline I’m working on so that I’m not going into each writing sprint blind. The goal for Nanowrimo is only 50,000 but I want to hit 65,000 myself. I did 61,000 last year, so the ideal is that I will improve this year. The circumstances are not the same, but I know I’m talented enough to make it happen. So, yea, it’s one of those challenges that sounds easy on paper but is far less so to apply. Looking forward to it 😉

Week Two Goal:  14,815 (I want to hit 35,000 by the end of the week)

Nanowrimo Week One Projection:  28,339 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)


 

Please, I urge you to share any Nanowrimo experiences you’ve had this year, or share your hesitations about participating. You can ask for advice, give advice, whatever have you! Quotes, thoughts, anything, I want you to feel engaged and like there is a community here. Though, if you just drop a like, I get it, cause I’m pretty shy too. You are loved, you are appreciated, and we are warrior together in this crazy story we call ‘life.’

Thanks for stopping by my silly blog.

–ab

3 Completed Days of Nanowrimo

I should’ve collaborated more with my buddy Ouranose, who is participating in Nanowrimo with me this year. We were going to do weekly updates with our progress through the month together in a similar format, but that’s kind of gone with the wind. She posted her first update, which can be found here, and so here I am, posting mine late.

Because I’m a true and proper mess.

So – here’s my week one update.


 

Week One:  November 1st – 3rd

Nanowrimo Week One Projection:  5,001 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)

Word Goal:   5,750

Word Count Achieved:  7,016

One thing I learned:  I was reminded that having a plan is nice, but writing what feels organic with the actual content that’s coming out of my mind is much better for the piece. I always get discouraged when my outline gets derailed early, but I always find a way to bring it all back together in a far more cohesive way than I originally thought. The battle was much shorter than usual, too, which means my confidence is continuing to grow!

One thing I want to improve on for Week 2:  Stop getting discouraged by the word counts of other people. Firstly, I am a huge believer in “quality” over “quantity” when it comes to writing. I would rather write the best piece I can rather than try to compete with the numbers of my friends and competitors. At the end of the day, when I have a clear mind, I know what I’m writing is good. And that’s all I need to worry about.

One thing I did really well:  Recognizing when something doesn’t work. When the music I was listening to didn’t work, I changed it. When the story wasn’t working as I designed it, I changed it. If I wasn’t able to sit still or focus, I changed my environment in some way so that I could be comfortable. I usually have a pretty good grasp of when I can do something and when I need to change something, and that worked out very well for me the first “week” of Nanowrimo.

Week Two Hopes:  We’re already well into the second week of Nanwrimo, the first full week, and I know it’s been rough. My hopes at the beginning of the week were to write every day. My life is overwhelmingly busy and I struggle to prove that I’m worth as much as my fellow writing buddies. This was going to be a rough week because of the obligations I had prior to November 1st coming into play, so being able to write when I am too tired to even get off the couch would be hard. That’s my first hope, is that I can just get that writing every day. I missed the update badges last year due to four missed days at key times, so I want to redeem myself on that front as well.

My second hope is just to continue learning how to adapt and adjust. I had so many ideas and plans and “reels” for how this sequel was supposed to go, and I keep changing it and adjusting it, and it’s nothing like what I originally thought it would be. But I love where it is and where it’s going. I want to continue relying on that part of my brain so that I don’t get stuck. I haven’t been super stuck yet, so avoiding that would be absolutely darling.

Week Two Goal:  12,750

Nanowrimo Week One Projection:  11,669 (Based on the daily 1,667 to finish in 30 days)


 

Feel free to share about your Nanowrimo experiences, what’s working for you and what’s not. Share your advice or ask for advice! I won last year early after missing the target word counts the first three weeks. I might have a good thing or two to share with you, probably. Post quotes. Whatever you want – so long as it is helpful, engouraging, and kind!

Yours,

–ab

A Nanowrimo Pep Talk

Yes, I am giving myself a pep talk.

Last year I wrote a novel and surpassed the 50,000-word goal of the month. I ended with approximately 61,000, well above the expectation. It was an amazing thing to prove to myself. I knew I could do it, I just didn’t carve out the time – I forgot to carve out the time – I justified being too tired to make time. There were a plethora of reasons, enough to convince anyone that I didn’t really care about writing.

When I started this venture last year, it had been at the recommendation of someone who I thought was my friend. Of course, our friendship was practically the opposite. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure we only talked to one another out of convenience – to have someone as a sounding board. That person had told me shortly beforehand that maybe I wasn’t meant to write as a career. No bigger mistake has ever been made, of course, by anyone than when they tell me I can’t do something.

I have a massive “fuck you” mentality that makes it practically impossible for me to ignore any insinuation of “you can’t” statements.

So last year I watched this person’s word count and told myself that no matter how busy I was, no matter how tired I was, no matter how much I hated what I had written, I would beat this person’s word count. We had a falling out on a few days into Nanowrimo last year, and it was for the best. Our dynamic was incredibly toxic and we brought out the worst in one another. I couldn’t be happier to have moved on from that, though I never deleted this person as a buddy on Nanowrimo’s website. I monitored my opposition’s word count closely. I was behind for days, as I had been struggling to get the minimum 1,667 words per day during the first week of the month.

But then this person stopped. I could’ve stopped when I surpassed the word count. I had told myself that I just wanted to beat this other person. That, of course, was false. This was more than being better than someone else, this was bigger than proving that I have the stamina and strength to finish something like this – no, this was about proving I was meant to do this.

To myself.

 

Nothing hurts worse than being told you’re not meant to do something. Nothing except hearing from someone who is supposed to be on your side. Even though I didn’t believe her, that was one less person standing with me in this pursuit.

Not all dreams are reasonable, not all dreams are easily attained. Not all dreams are simple, complicated, or shallow. Dreams are what we make of them.

This isn’t my dream, though, not anymore.

This is my expectation.

My path is longer, my pace is slower, but I can promise this: I will win Nanowrimo again because I am meant to do this – I am a writer.

And I’ll be published too.

Because I – am – good.

 

If you don’t believe in yourself first, then you’ll never succeed. Sometimes that means powering through something that you hate. Sometimes that means competing with a friend to prove you want it more. Sometimes…

Sometimes that means using the doubters as fuel to rise above.

Haters gonna hate, doubters gonna doubt.

But winners?

Winners gonna win.

I am Mom​ Because You are Dad

I AM MOM BECAUSE YOU ARE DAD
An open letter to one of the most important parts of my motherhood journey

 


Dear Dad,

 

Everything is hard. Life, relationships, parenting…

Raising a child is one wild adventure. First, they’re babies. They cry, and need to be fed, and bathed, and dressed, and this, and that, and then more things, and even more things. The tasks seem never-ending and sleep is a rare commodity. Parents grasp at sleep as if maybe they’d been hallucinating the concept all along!

But then they become toddlers, and they’re so full of life that it makes you question how exhausting they were when they were infants only months ago. Now you’re not sleeping, not because they need you for every little thing, but because you’re always running around now. Preschool! Zoo! Park! Playdates! There’s always some new aspect about the world to share with your walking, talking bundle of joy.

Those years don’t last, though, and before long they’re independent beings. Gone are the days when they want to be exactly like you, listening to the same music and playing the same games. Friends are influencing the kind of person they are now, and sometimes that is great! Other times, it’s downright frightening. There’s no way of knowing if you’re making the right choices, but you’re doing your best.

And the next step for them is being a teenager! Those years will be hard, but I expect they’ll be equally as enjoyable too. Having someone who can think and reason and problem solve and contribute! It’ll be like having a best friend living with us. I am terrified of those years. Though I must admit, I’m kind of excited for them too.

Our son will not be a teenager for long, though, and it will be no time at all before he is an adult. It all happens so fast. Parents will still want to be there for everything, do everything that they can with them, hoping to continue sharing these life experiences with their child.

I am so thankful that we get to do all of this together, side-by-side. I honestly can’t imagine doing it alone. There have been times where we’ve been working so many hours to survive, and running to so many different places, it feels like we’re more roommates than a married couple – more than two separate parents to a single child. It’s hard to show affection when we can’t even stay awake long enough to finish our sentences.

And it’s even harder, you know, because we face so many shrouds of darkness as we grow older. We’ve been through the worst of it – pretty much every bad thing you can think of – addiction, cheating, infertility, fostering, financial hardship, college, the death of a parent…

We both struggle with our respective histories of trauma, and we both know my battle is the more outwardly debilitating between us. That is a hard reality to ignore when I’m having an attack daily. I had a number of good years where I could keep myself together, where I carried our family on my back so that we could be the best parents that we could be – and, with time, everyone will eventually break.

Every reign must come to an end.

I pride myself in being a mom, and a damn good one at that, but I haven’t been able to do that without you. Not without the bad that we’ve been through, and certainly not without the good you’ve been doing either. I’ve been doing that whole ‘falling apart’ chapter this year. The burden of everything has been cracking the walls I’ve built to keep my depression and anxiety in order.

And, like a good husband, and a good father, you’ve been here to reinforce it. Where I can’t keep track when and where I’m supposed to go and be, you’ve been able to step up and help me get back on track. Where I can’t keep myself awake long enough to put my laundry in the dryer or pack my lunch, you’ve done it for me without complaining.

Where I’ve started crying because I can’t figure out what to wear today because I’ve forgotten to fold my laundry again – you’ve let me scream and meltdown to get my frustration out, and then dressed me because I am mentally unable to jump those hurdles in my head. Where I’ve started crying because dinner went wrong, or because I don’t have everything I need to clean the house, you’ve calmed me down and taken care of it immediately.

The list could go on and on. It shouldn’t, but this isn’t a fairytale, and we’re not living in this delusion that we’re perfect people living a perfect story with perfect happy endings.

We’re both doing our best, but I know that you’re doing a better job than I am right now. You keep telling me that it’s your turn to carry the weight while I heal from the corrosion of a difficult uphill battle in our parenting adventure. Still, there’s no amount of thanking that I can do for all that you’ve done, all that you keep doing.

I’m a damn good mom, but I only get to be that way because you’re a hell of a dad too. We are in this together, through thick and thin, and when you find yourself knocked down – I’ll carry the extra weight again.

Because no matter how hard life is, relationships are, or parenting is…

We’re in this together.

Thank you for being the best father to our son that I could ask for – because that lets me be the best mother that I can be to him too. This adventure wouldn’t be the same without you, and I am so very fortunate for the life we share with our son.

 

Yours truly,

 

 

Mom

Things Only Get Weirder From Here (For Both of Us)

Double Digits. Oh boy. You’re ten years old and that means that you aren’t a baby, you aren’t a child, and you’re not even my little boy anymore. You are – *cringe* – a pre-teen. And that means one thing: puberty is coming.

Yes, Mom just said that word. No, I don’t like it either.

Things only get weirder from here, for both of us, I’m afraid. Here’s a list of all the things that we used to think were weird and uncomfortable that will become our new normal. Like I said, this bodes true for both of us.


  1. Yep, we have to talk about what you smell like because it’s not good, bud. I know what your dad smells like, and, honestly, that is also not my favorite thing either. Use that deodorant I put on your desk with the cologne you got for Christmas every day. (Nope, I’m not kidding, every single day. Sometimes twice. Maybe more because you play sports, kiddo).

 

  1. You think the hair on your elbow is annoying, wait until it’s growing in other places. I don’t want to say where but judging by the way you just glanced down and asked me “Not everywhere, right?” I have a feeling that we’re going to have to talk about it just a little. Yes, it does grow EVERYWHERE on EVERYONE. Let’s switch topics, yeah?

 

  1. Please don’t put your hands in your pants in front of other people. I don’t care the reason why you did it, please stop telling me, just don’t do it. Yeah? Yeah. Good. Moving on.

 

  1. If you hear a word and you think you know what it means, maybe ask your dad or me first? Because sometimes you use grown up words that you heard at school and you use them incorrectly (or just use them, some of those things you shouldn’t be saying AT ALL, just so you know). I promise that we’ll explain these things to you no matter how uncomfortable it is because we don’t want you to use those words somewhere else and get in trouble or be embarrassed because you understand.

 

  1. Let’s not move our hips that way at people. You don’t need to know why, okay, just don’t do it because you’re way too young to know what that means – but some of your friends probably do already, and let’s just avoid all of the awkward rumors and confrontations that will result from that continued movement. I promise this is for the best. No, I’m really not going to explain it right now, so drop it.

 

  1. Dad already ruined the gross surprise about where babies come from. Let’s just leave it at that for now. You’ll be getting that talk in about six months at school and they’re way more qualified to give you the medical information than we are – if you have questions afterwards, then we’ll sit down and have that chat as a family unit. Probably with some cake so we at least have something to distract us from how uncomfortable it is to be discussing all of that stuff.

 

  1. I know everyone used to joke about having boyfriends or girlfriends when you were little – but that’s not a joke anymore. You are not allowed to have boyfriends or girlfriends at this age now because of all of the new puberty stuff that’ll be happening. We definitely would prefer if you waited to date people until you’re fifteen, yeah? Dating has so many implications and, right now, we just need to get over the pre-teen hurdle. Yes, you – me – and dad. All three of us need to make it to thirteen first. We will revisit the topic then.

 

  1. Sometimes we will have to talk about private things and, trust me, nobody wants to do that except your doctor. We want to be on an ‘as-needed’ basis for information like that, but also – don’t be embarrassed to let us know if you’re worried about something. We will be too – and we will get you to the doctor so that he can have that weird conversation with you instead.

 

  1. Your emotions will make no sense. I mean, really, they have never made sense because children have weird emotional reactions to literally everything. But pre-teens and teenagers move through those emotions so quickly… We won’t be able to keep up. We’re trying. We know it’s just as bad for you. I know you don’t believe me now, but remember when you cried because we asked you to stop chewing on your eraser? Lots more of that kind of stuff to come, my dude.

 

  1. Everyone thinks that they are ugly, or fat, or gross during puberty – but it’s not your job to decide that for other people or yourself. You are a great person just the way you are, even as your body starts changing from a child’s body into a young adult’s body. You are wonderful, fantastic, beautiful, amazing! Your brain will try to make you think you’re less than because sometimes that’s just how the brain works during puberty (What a gross word, blech), but you’re not. Dad and I will always be here when you’re feeling down about something – even if it’s something none of us really want to talk about. We will listen because we love you.

Pre-teen years are going to be crazy, but not more than the upcoming teenager years – when you’ll be spending the night with friends all weekend, going to dances and parties for school, learning to drive, and getting a job. You’ve done all of your growing up and now it’s time for your maturing. The first adventure in our life is done.

Things only get weirder from here, for both of us, but someday – you’ll be glad for this list. I hope that being able to talk about the weird, gross, and awkward things will keep our relationship as mother, father, and son strong. We are always on your side.

No matter what that side smells like… 😉

Not Much Longer

Author’s Note:   This short piece was meant to follow the ABDCE structure of plot development. (Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending). I don’t know that I totally aced the objective, but I touched up the original draft and wanted to share it today as a way to keep myself lamely active. May you read and enjoy.


 

Brianna’s husband had missed work again, so she made him yet another doctor’s appointment. His many ailments have meant constant visits to the office for years. Another wife might have announced her unhappiness, but she rarely complained of any inconvenience when shuffling him across town and back regularly.

Upon arrival, Brianna immediately departed from her husband, off to his favorite seat in the dusty corner with no windows. Silently, she’d considered how befitting his choice was and how it reflected how she felt about him most days. Focused on the front desk, Brianna found a beautiful nurse borrowing the reception computer. “Yes,” she said without looking up.

Brianna slid the check-in clipboard into her chest and whispered through a smirk; “We still on for tonight?” The nurse cocked a brow, sneering at the screen. After a deliberate pause she calmly declined.

“You need to take care him. He’s your husband.”

“Not for much longer,” the wife declared. When she pushed the clipboard back, there was a business card tucked beneath the clip. The nurse took the clipboard and said something about letting the receptionist know when she returned. Brianna carried herself to the corner where her husband sat with his chin in his chest. It was silly to complain about her sorrow to anyone could listen because only she has the power to make a change.

He’s your husband, she had said to Brianna. A laugh parted her lips. Not for much longer.

Disappearing

Author’s Note: The assignment for this story was originally intended for the writer’s to craft a piece in which the main character expected to die in twenty-four hours. This assignment was meant to build a character with wants, desires, and needs – things that might rise to the surface in a time of great stress. I challenged this idea by being mellow, and sort of showing the pain of depression pre-existing the diagnosis. While I do not feel the content needs a trigger warning, if you are sensitive to the topic of death or loss, I urge that you choose to not read any further.


It was forty years ago when I began to truly accept that my blindness was completely out of my control and turned that frustration into something productive. I didn’t just adapt to rely on my other sense but actually focused all of my energy them as my outlet. At a young age, I had realized I had a strong sense of smell, and started playing games with my friends to see how accurately I could guess something by its scent alone. As I got older and this became boring and childish, I started pairing the scents of my shampoo and lotion. After that, I started mixing perfumes, and soon I became passionate about fragrance as a whole.

Creating perfume is a delicate and tedious process, though everyone told me it was little more than a silly hobby to pass my time. My abuela harassed me for putting any of my time towards making original scents.

“Stop daydreaming, nieta!”

However, in spite of her harassment, I sold my first formula at seventeen for a relatively small fortune. It was the beginning of what I used to think was a good life.

My formula was run for a limited time, only five hundred or so bottles were sold, but I was never offered one to save as a keepsake. I suppose in the ignorance of my youth I hadn’t cared, thinking that because I had memorized the recipe it was basically the same as having a bottle of it. I could easily recreate it for myself at a much cheaper price, and it would be an unlimited quantity as well. As I understand it, however, two of the bottles are in a museum in Barcelona.

I can’t believe I am thinking of this after so many years.

My grandmother passed away shortly after I was hired to create fragrances overseas when I was my early twenties. I had dropped out of college and she was very angry with me, though she had said that she was more afraid that I would succeed than that I would fail. “It will take you away from me, nieta, and I may forget your face.” I had been fortunate that I was home visiting her when she fell so ill. But the pang of her loss drove me to work harder, work longer, and create a life that I thought I had wanted so badly when I was younger.

But since then, I have been utterly alone. Nothing belongs to me except for my perfume legacy, though I recently took a step away from the corporate life, hoping to work less and enjoy more. My days are often spent playing piano and listening to books written by famous acquaintances that hired my company to create their signature scents.

I’ve been asking myself: Is the piano not mine? Is the condo not mine? Is the legacy of my business not mine? It is true that I own these things but what I want to have is not something than can be seen. I want for something that I can feel. I do not want to feel so lonely. I do not want to die with nothing, with no one.

I know this is why I am waiting for a plane to Barcelona. I want to see if I can plead with the museum to let me purchase this one thing that I know belongs to me. It represents who I was in my youth; it represents where I have come from in my life. More than anything, however, it is my last connection to mi dulce abuela.

More times than I can count, I would sit in the garden while she preened her precious plants, unable to trust that I could be inside on my own. The recipe I had sold was fashioned to gain her approval – to embody her and show that the art of fragrance was not just a silly hobby that took my time away from something she thought was more important.

A sigh escapes my lips, tears trying to leave my eyes but freezing along my lids. Ice fills my veins and I’m left cold as I remember my fate. Last week, I met with a specialist who gave me a death sentence, more or less. In the days that have followed, I have begun reflect so intently upon my life.

People begin shifting around me, there’s something about the way the air moves that I can feel it on the back of my neck, and their shuffling almost distracts me form realizing the vibration is my phone. The pattern is unique and this is how I usually confirm that it is my phone ringing without feeling it. My assistant has gone to get coffee while we wait for the plane but she left my phone in a front pocket so that I could answer if the need arose. I’ll have to check what she gets paid and give her a raise for how good she is to me.

“I am looking to speak with Margarida de Luna. Is she available?” The gentleman seems out of breath, but I still recognize his voice. This is one of the other specialists from the hospital. After I affirm my identity comfortably, he rushes into his reason for calling. “The doctor made a mistake and asked me to call you.”

The doctor has made a mistake, I question him, but only because it feels as if this is the right thing to do. My instinct is to ask how he has made a mistake. Doctors train for a decade, if not more, in their chosen fields. How is it possible that he has made a mistake after doing this job for thirty years in addition to his study? I am offended that he is wrong but I listen to his explanation, because, no matter how frantic I feel, people do make mistakes.

A printing error – something that is fairly common in the machinery used for the type of scan ordered. The doctor had asked his co-workers for second opinions, noticing after my appointment when trying to prescribe a treatment plan, that various details seemed to conflict with one another. One of the other specialists was familiar with the error and pulled up old files where the same thing had occurred with his patients, essentially confirming that there was no illness to fear in my case.

I should be elated to hear that my life is not, in fact, waning as rapidly as I’d been told only days ago. A disappearing mass, and a disappearing stress, but one thing came with the diagnosis that remains: my bitter anticipation.

I guess, for now, I’ll live yet another lonely day.

My Late Best Friend

Trigger Warnings: References to suicide, references to rape


Standing off to the side of the stage, I can see the entirety of the class. There are opening remarks and awkward pauses as principals and board members get emotional over the graduation ceremony about to take place. Meanwhile, I’m stony and cold with a low rumbling rage. I know every single pretty faced teenager sitting in their shiny black chairs, caps and gowns hiding their fancy clothes. But they can’t hide the elephant in the room… They can’t hide the fact that one of their classmates is missing.

Jessica Langston. My best friend.

Jessica Langston.

My late best friend.

A month ago, I remember stepping out of my house in pajamas, the morning air nipping at the exposed skin on my arms. I was confused by the presence of officers in my driveway and had raced down to meet them. A solemn recognition burrowed into my heart the instant they welcomed me with condolences. Nightmares that had been plaguing me for weeks came to fruition via the single bullet Jessica put through her brain the night before, leaving me with a memory that still causes me to grind my teeth in irritation.

Jessica was supposed to be on a suicide watch. I had reported my concerns to teachers and school counselors. I begged her other friends to make reports of any unusual behavior. Without a doubt, she was a danger to her self. I regularly checked in on Jessica to ensure her safety, but the girls always joked that she was only in trouble if she was ‘with the boys.’ This, of course, was a cruel joke. They always made sure that they said it loudly enough for everyone in the hallway to hear. I often left those conversations physically ill, though violently upset as well.

Before Jessica killed herself, I was her only remaining friend. Nobody else wanted to be seen with her after she reported the rape. Gazes that had once been envious burned black with jealousy; though, if they new the pain she was in – none of them would want for her life. Each person condemned her to Hell for her ‘sins,’ many of her bullies genuinely impious themselves; all the while her rapist has since been hailed as a king. It was a ‘sexual feat’ for him to bed the valedictorian.

What a feat – raping someone.

Adam fucking Addison.

He’s sitting right in the front, and I have to try really hard not to spit at him when I’m invited to join the principal onstage. Jessica was supposed to make her speech today but instead its me. She had wanted me to have a copy on the off chance that I was invited to honor her memory. Little did I know back then that it would come to fruition. I really didn’t want to do this but I feel that nobody else deserves to do it, either.

I catch a glimpse of the Langstons standing side-by-side in the crowd as a moment of silence is called in Jessica’s name. There’s no mention of her suicide, which shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Anger has a way of eating through the reserves of common sense that we, as a sentient people, should have, and instead of redirecting it – I allow it fester. I’m going to need the adrenaline rush for the delivery of what, I believe, is going to be a very – memorable – speech.

While their heads are down, my chin is held high. I resist smirking at the false faith pandering through the crowd. If there truly is an afterlife, Jessica is scoffing at these scoundrels for their fake sympathy. Before her passing, she harbored immeasurable contempt for the hypocritical hatred borne from their religious regime. The devotees of her old faith betrayed her, essentially shepherding her to her grave. I scold each and every blasphemous fool before me.

And then Assistant Principal Masters denotes some of my lame accomplishments, though they are quite ordinary in comparison to Jessica’s incredible high school career. A few weak claps come as I slide up to the podium and prepare myself to become the voice of the voiceless. But I’m more than that…

Today, I am the voice of the dead.

“Good Evening, Barrington Heights, my name is Eli Chase – and I’m here because I was asked.” Faces are contorting at my verbal ambivalence, though I am sure that my own expression is quite the opposite. Dark amusement prickles along the back of my neck, anger seething beneath that in every layer of skin.

Murmurs are dying down, so it seems appropriate for me to continue. These people don’t know it, and they never will, but what I’m going to say is far less scathing that what Jessica could have been saying if she were here.

“I’m not going to say the words that she should’ve been here to share. I don’t stand here because I deserve it. I am here because I was the only person on Jessica’s side the day that she died.” Instantaneously, there are insults flying from the crowd. People who didn’t even know her now protest against me from the bleachers. The principal shuffles, I can see it in my peripheral vision, but he doesn’t come all the way to the podium yet. I point out at everyone, moving my arm around to gesture to every person who could be at fault for the events that have transpired.

“In the aftermath of Jessica’s suicide, we must all be reminded that terrible things do happen to people our age. We will be challenged in the years that come after high school, and we will come to live through the lowest lows of our entire lives,” I speak, hoping that my classmates with find clarity in what I’m saying. “How we choose to deal with those events will define out entire future. Remember exactly how great it feels to succeed today, because I can promise you that there is nothing more rewarding that proving what you are worth to the people who despise you, who judge you.”

The principal approaches me now, placing a hand against my shoulder blade, silently urging me to step away. I refuse to do this, though, because I’ve not said my piece. I will only leave once I’ve told everyone what I think they need to hear. “Finding your stride isn’t easy, and neither is keeping it.”

Despite how positive my message is, and the temporary calm amongst the crowd, I still hear the dissenting voices of Jessica’s bullies damning me for my audacity to speak out. They would have me stay silent and pretend that they’ve done nothing wrong. This is when the principal urges me to please step off the stage. Scoffing, I choose to disobey.

“Today when you stand up, throwing your hats in celebration of this milestone in your life, remember that Jessica isn’t here to share in your joy. She was raped and abused by people standing next to you right now. Not every smiling face smiles for you; not every ally is standing next to you; and not every friend means well by you. Sometimes – more often than we’d like to think – we must be our own heroes.” On that note, I shove past the principal, swearing at him for his willful ignorance, and strip my graduation garb to the ground. I don’t care if I leave it behind because the second I slip through the emergency exit, I’m climbing into my illegally parked car and running away.

All that’s left now is to drive as far away as possible, as fast as possible.

I Remember

Author’s Note: Before you begin reading this story, I want to let you know that this story does address some “hot button” issues. While I may not agree with the term, I feel that a warning is necessary. This piece discusses bisexuality, pre-marital sex, and abortion. It is a fiction piece, written originally for the Creative Writing Specialization course on plot. The assignment was to craft a story in which a character was faced with a terrible hardship and show how they overcame it. I urge you to only read this piece if you feel that it will not cause you emotional distress. Thank you. Please Read & Enjoy.


 

Nadine,

I remember how heavy that stick felt in my hands, painful awareness having washed over my entire body. Even now, ten years later, the broken pieces of that memory are hard to swallow. Those five minutes seemed to move so slowly that time almost went backwards. Misery dripped from every pore in my body as I sat hunched over and pressed against the side of the bathtub. My head ached from grinding my teeth. The wait was unbearable.

But I also remember how you were in the dorm room next to mine, and how you promised that you were only a text away if I needed you. I didn’t have to tell you I was taking a pregnancy test that afternoon because you knew. Our cycles overlapped and when I missed mine, it was obvious. All of it was made more stressful by the fact that I’d broken up with my boyfriend three weeks before then. You didn’t want to suffocate me because you knew I could do it all on my own.

I kept a picture of you on my phone. One of the first times you’d stayed overnight in my dorm when we watched that B-rate horror movie about the ghostly puffer fish haunting the aquarium. I took a picture of you furiously typing your review as you insulted the terrible acting and cheesy dialogue. You were so beautiful. Even though you hated the picture because the computer made you look so pale and sickly, I loved it because your eyes showed how passionate and focused you are – and, damn, you look good when you’re working.

I remember how, at least at the time, I thought you were just a temporary muse. I’d never dated a woman before and I’d just come out of a relationship with a guy who I’d only dated because of our physical attraction to each other. It wasn’t fair to you but things worked for us, I think, and it never came up about what we were or weren’t supposed to be. It was great. There was no pressure to identify myself as bisexual, but there was no restriction to how we’d spend our time together. I’m glad that that never changed.

The pregnancy test revealed a second line that night. I couldn’t even form a full message on my phone. I could only manage a letter or two but you understood what that meant. You had been waiting outside my dorm and burst in the second you got the message. I was already doubled over, crying into my nasty bathroom rug, which you never made a joke about even though it would’ve been so easy to do. As my body shook, you held me and told me that you’d be there no matter what I needed from you… which made me cry more because I didn’t feel like I deserved it.

When I calmed down, you reminded me that I could call Bradley about the pregnancy only if I wanted. He was the other biological half of the cells clustered in my womb. Careful not to use words like ‘mother’ and ‘father’ when addressing what I should do next, I was mostly glad you didn’t ever once call it a ‘baby.’

I never did call Bradley, either, because it wasn’t his body so it wasn’t his business. If he wanted a child, and I doubted he did with the way he partied, then he could figure that out with someone who wanted that kind of life. As for me, there’s no way that I was ready to be responsible for another person’s life.

I knew I wanted an abortion but I never got the courage to call a doctor for an appointment. I skipped class for a week. I skipped practically every meal every day. I skipped showers. Somewhere in my head I’d convinced myself that poor hygiene, diet, and sleep routines would force my body to reject the pregnancy. My thinking was that if that happened, then I could pretend that I didn’t make any decisions. Thankfully, you snapped me out of my stupor by making the appointment for me and dragging me down to the office very early on a Friday morning that you should’ve been in class taking a test.

I remember how we lied about you being my stepsister, just so that the staff didn’t have to feel racist if they questioned it. Your complexion is golden and crisp, and so light compared to your perfectly flat black hair that rested on your shoulders. You haven’t kept it that long since college, have you? And then there was me, skin as dark and rich as the soil from those potted plants you keep growing on the back porch. Stepsisters. It was the only way we could convince them to let you come back with me.

They insisted on an ultrasound, and you held my hand so tight as I flinched when the cold gel hit my pelvis. They estimated that I was probably about five or six weeks, and then I was told to clean up. Very quickly we were ushered into a different room where we were sat at a desk with an obstetrician. He rattled off various options for me: low-income family programs, day care options for teen mothers, and even housing options for single mothers going to school. My jaw hung from my mouth in shock.

You shook your head. I remember it so vividly because you laughed too. There was a silent questioning but nobody spoke. That was my cue to speak up. How else would the matter get resolved if I didn’t vocalize what I’d actually gone there for? I stared into my hands and, with my quietest voice, asked: what if I want an abortion?

I swore that you were going to jump the table and punch him. He rolled his eyes and literally tossed a pamphlet at us about the dangers of an abortion, spouting off some other lazy scare tactics to make me reconsider. You flipped him off as we stood up, telling him we’d be scheduling the visit at the front desk. Honestly, I doubt he’s forgotten about it.

You made the appointment for me, again, because I could barely speak. The receptionist seemed to understand and was far less judgmental than the doctor. She even said that there was a better doctor for the procedure and scheduled us at one of the other campuses in town. You expressed your thanks, I whispered mine, and we escaped to your car as quickly as we could.

I remember how I gawked at you the whole drive back to school. You sang to your favorite songs on the radio and complained about the opinions of callers. Sometimes you’d turn the volume way down to ask me what I wanted to eat and what I wanted to do – and I just wanted to eat pizza and watch B-rate horror movies – just like we’d always done. You were so happy to oblige.

You don’t know it, but I decided in the car that day that you were much more than a muse, my first ‘girl’ fling to ease me into the true nature of my sexuality. Nobody had been kinder to me than you had, and nobody had ever put me first the way that you did – not once. Even if you didn’t love me then, I loved you. I loved you so much that when you asked me what I was thinking when we parked the car that I had to lie about what was on my mind.

I said, “a ghostly puffer fish haunting an aquarium,” with a smile.

But what I was really thinking was this:

Will you marry me, Nadine?

You see, this letter was never supposed to be about digging up old, dark memories. This was never a story about the abortion I had when I was nineteen. That was just a small event that pushed us together so that we could become the successful women we are today. This letter was all about how I knew that you were the right woman for me – the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

So – what are you thinking?

 

Love always,

Violet