Monday, September 24, 2007

Sunday Scribbling: Hello, My Name Is...(a sketch)

From here.

Ed note: This is a very rough draft of...something. A mood piece, really. I'm rusty.:)

____________________________

She sat up, so suddenly that she left her body's impression in the tangled quilt we'd been laying on. It looked like a discarded, lesser twin. We were in her parents' attic. It was summer, a long time ago.

“Don't you wish that feelings came with name tags...like those 'hello, my name is...' things? 'Hello, my name is sadness. Hello, my name is anger'?”

She was always saying stuff like that, asking questions out of the blue. I think she got them from the books she was always reading. I don't know. I rolled over on the floor, staring at the summer rain trailing down the skylight.

“How about 'hello, my name is happiness'?”

She curled her lips into a smirk. “Optimist.”

If you'd asked me when it started, when we started, I wouldn't have been able to answer you. We'd always lived near each other, spending time together at odd times. We never gave what we had a name.

I looked at her, sitting in a loose black t-shirt with her knees tucked in. In this light, you could really see her almost-prettiness. Her frizzy black hair tamed into a knot at the nape of her neck-her eyes big and jet black. She was like the first week of March, ugly Spring. My mother always said, “She's gonna be gorgeous...someday.” So I always looked at her twice-once for now and once for someday.

“Besides,” she continued. “You never see those feelings long enough for a 'hello.' It's always 'goodbye.' You can only feel sadness all the way.”

I laughed. I couldn't help it. She was being so dramatic, and I was just a boy. Oh, I wouldn't have referred to myself like that back then. I was a kid, or ideally a guy or a dude. But, I was just a boy. Gladys wasn't just a girl, though. Not even then.

I took her face in my hands and kissed her on the edge of her lips. She tasted like strawberry jam and witch hazel. “Hello, my name is joy.” That was the thing with Gladys. You always wanted to keep the argument going once it started, even if it hadn't been your idea. You ended up getting swept up in it.

I kissed her again. “Hello, my name is fun.” I kissed her more deeply. “Hello, my name is sexy.” She gave a smothered laugh against my lips then. And then we stopped talking.

Summer ended, as it always does, and we went back to our worlds. Gladys to her parochial girls' school, and me back to the tumble dryer of public school. One day, I was standing in my usual spot, talking to my usual friends. I don't remember about what. Nothing, probably. I was trying to be cool, but ordinary. Normal, as normal as a gangly seventeen year old guy could be. And then Gladys walked up to us. Not in uniform. I wish she had been. She was wearing some stupid hot pink dress and lime green tights underneath and big black boots. I couldn't even see early March, or 'someday.' There was only now, and now was a disaster.
(more)


I was trying really hard not to look at her, but she kept coming closer. Like she expected something. Meanwhile my friends watched the way you do when you are taking notes, getting ready to spread shit.

“Paul?”

I made my face go blank. “Uh...yeah. That's me.”

She was waiting for me to say something else, but I wouldn't acknowledge anything. Not even my name. And I was way better at waiting her out than she was at just standing there.

“Hello?” She gave it one last shot. Her voice sort of broke on the end.

“Yeah, bye.” My friends laughed now, nasty. I felt flushed with something dark and mean and happy. I'd finally managed to surprise her. I felt like I'd named myself.

She turned on her heel and left after that.

School, and school, and school. We didn't speak after that, and we never went back to that attic room. She was happy, though. I knew that much. She finally hit her “someday”—confident, had lots of friends, a boyfriend who held her hand through the halls. Probably he could answer all of her stupid questions with deep philosophy, or with quotes from the books she loved.

Sometimes, I walked up to her house, wondering what would happen if I rang her bell, wearing one of those stupid “hello, my name is...” stickers. Letting her fill in the blank, call me whatever she wanted. Starting again. But I never had the guts.

I was in my second year of college when I got the call. My mother, a sea of words like the static on the radio. Just a few words in perfect, clear focus. “Pills. Gladys. Funeral Monday.”

She was happy. I saw it whenever I took the time to look.

I wish I had shown her how to name it.

__________________________
To learn more names, go here.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous gautami tripathy said...

Very sad. Very intense. You do write very well. Not bad for a rough draft.

4:12 AM, September 24, 2007  
Anonymous Frida said...

I really like your use of this prompt to explore the challenge of recognising and naming our feelings - the struggle to see what we are experiencing when we are in it - and the price we can pay if we don't learn to do it.

Thanks for telling this story.

4:20 AM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Jo said...

Oh this is so very good. Well done. It's the kind of piece I love to read.

5:54 AM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Becca said...

Once again you've created characters and a situation that immediately grabbed my attention and put me right in the picture. I love the way every sentence of yours is important, and moves the story forward, and the way every detail and gesture tells something important about the character. Yet it all flows naturally. (Sorry, I've been reading too many "how to write books" and you do everything they keep talking about!)

I'm sorry this story ended sadly - but I've known some "Gladys'" in my day, and I think it was probably inevitable.

Well done :)

7:22 AM, September 24, 2007  
Anonymous tinker said...

I like the idea of naming feelings, like the hundred names for snow...

You capture moments so vividly, I feel I can almost see them.

10:34 AM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Amber said...

Oh, wow.

"I looked at her, sitting in a loose black t-shirt with her knees tucked in. In this light, you could really see her almost-prettiness..." THIS paragraph was BRILLIANT!

:)

11:18 AM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger moonrat said...

hey there--thanks for stopping by, and awesome blog!

12:30 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Yummyteece said...

so tragic and so captivating.

I really do love the way you write.

2:35 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Ah, the teenage angst! You are so good at portraying intense feelings in a few words. And I know what it's like to see someone you admire out of their usual setting and dressed rather bizarrely or behaving out of turn - causing you to look at them in a new light.

3:05 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Patti said...

here from lisa...lovely site.

4:34 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Jessie said...

moody, for sure. this piece is so sad. i have friends (2) that have committed suicide...and it makes me wonder if somehow i could have noticed it coming if i would have been paying closer attention, or more willing to listen, or...

i realize that this is a fiction but, still, it makes me feel a sadness. your ability to do that is what makes you a good writer.

i missed having you with me today. maybe one of these days soon we can go out on a real bona fide artist's date together.

love you!
j.

4:53 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

I keep stopping back, reading your piece and neglecting to leave a comment because I don't want to sound lame! All of the adjectives I'm thinking of are so abstract and insubstantial. Your writing evokes such a mood, such emotion and it is so vivid. I love the way you write -- not a very original compliment, but it is sincere.

11:23 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Herb Urban said...

Very intense piece. You instantly capture the mood and pulled me right in.

1:03 AM, September 25, 2007  
Blogger Alex aka Gypsy Girl said...

You sure know how to tell a story! My eyes were glued to it from beginning to end! :)

1:24 PM, September 25, 2007  
Blogger Mardougrrl said...

Thanks, everyone. For some reason I do find it easier to slip into that teen angst place...let's not think about what that says about my mental health. ;)

Gautami: Thank you! :)

Frida: I'm still working on that whole "naming feelings" thing myself. I tend to get all snowball-y.

Jo: Thanks so much!

Becca: You' ve just given me an idea for a post. Thank you (and thanks for that comment...the books are sinking in).

Tinker: There is something so poetic about the 100 names for snow. Thanks for that. :)

Amber: Thank you--I could really *see* them, so I am glad it came across.

Moonrat: Thanks for coming by...I'll definitely be back to your blog to re-live my publishing life!

Teece: Right back at ya and thanks. :)

Tara: Thank you...I do keep going back to teens...it's such an intense period of life. I think I miss that drama. And yes, especially at that age seeing people out of place is so disconcerting.

Patti: Welcome and come on by again!

Jessie: I so wish we could have gone on the date together...maybe soon! And thanks...always incisive, my friend.

Lisa: Considering how much I admire your blog (and your writing), I am so glad you are here, reading mine! Thank you.

Herb: See: Lisa's comment. :)

Alex: Thanks so much--I love those glued eyeballs.

4:26 PM, September 25, 2007  
Blogger deirdre said...

Oh, this was so heartbreaking. You've captured the sweet and sad of teenage life. And the hard consequences that follow unkindness.

10:11 PM, October 10, 2007  

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