Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nowhere to go

Ok, this is a short story I wrote using a prompt from The Writer magazine. I actually took 5 verbs (they only recommended 3) to weave into my story:


I very quickly realized that I had written myself into a corner and decided to self-consciously go along that route. You will see what I mean.

Nowhere to go

Her voice quivered as she spoke into the phone. It took all of the confidence she could muster. A deep voice bellowed on the other end. She quickly hung up, hoping there was no way to trace the call, but of course there was. Everyone had a way to retrace calls these days. As the young woman in the café had said to her horrified café confidante, there is no such thing as privacy anymore. She knew that. So why did she do something so stupid. Why would she think that she could trust something so private in such a public venue? She should have just gone to the internet. But she needed to hear the soothing sounds of someone’s voice in her ear, a voice as soothing as a hand stroking her hair or rubbing her back.

She decided to go out. She buttoned up her jeans and pulled on a t-shirt, slipped on her boots, and went out the door. It was a warm night and she decided to walk the 10 blocks or so down to the bar that she had been meaning to go to. As she got closer, the cell phone in her pocket began to ring, a ring that said the caller was unfamiliar, but when she looked at the number, it was not an unfamiliar number at all. She put in back in her pocket and continued walking.

Being new to town, she didn’t know anyone yet. She had moved here less than a month ago after she had quit her job and decided to reinvent her life. She had taped a note to her boss’s door, using a bit more tape than was required for the job, and gave her 5-minute notice and a forwarding address for her check, her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s address. She left town two days later, go a PO Box and arranged to have her mail forwarded. In three days time, she had changed her whole life, including her cell phone number. There was only place that knew her number. She looked around instinctively, knowing that she was being silly and paranoid. No one was paying her any attention, but was that a good or a bad thing? Could someone snatch her off the street without being noticed?

She walked up to the bar and put her hand out to pull open the door. Something stopped her.

It was the realization that this scenario had been played out with every possible ending. If she met someone and had a one-night stand, it would either be the pornographic version, or the post-modern “wasn’t that meaningless” version. If she went in and no one noticed her, it would be the sad and lonely Lifetime women’s movie or it would be the self-help realization that she didn’t need anyone but herself all along. Come to think of it, that was also a potential Lifetime movie, made for lonely women that didn’t want to admit it and tried to seem empowered. Perhaps she would have the crime novel ending, in which the mysterious stranger from the phone sex line would have tracked down her neighborhood from the incoming phone line and had started hanging out, in hopes that she would start to take chances with her lonely, empty, sexually unfulfilled life and he would be there to snatch her. (This was also a potential porn plot line, although much darker and one that she was loathe to admit that maybe she had come across once or twice in her internet viewing.) Perhaps it would be the action movie ending with all of the same plot lines as the crime novel/porn story ending, except that she would get away and potentially kill her captor. If she went in and nothing either happened or failed to happen, if people talked to her and she felt good but left alone and didn’t call any of them, that would just be a modern slice-of-life film or novel, or maybe a short story. She started to feel a sense of panic rise in her as she stood at the door, delayed, unable to stay or go.

OMG, she thought. Maybe she was stuck in some kind of hipster stream-of-consciousness writing!

Guy Debord was right. Living in an overmediated culture, there was nowhere to go, nothing original to be done. Our life is prescribed, stolen from us in a media feedback loop so intense that there was nothing to be done that hadn’t already been mapped out in some way, easily recognizable as an Oprah book or a movie of the week. She had created a situation in which an original response to whatever would happen to her was impossible.

She stood at the door with her hand out. The world as she knew it was now stopped, although people were clearly moving, asking if she were going in, edging around her, and eventually asking if she was ok.

She nodded absent-mindedly but remained frozen.


Mike and sometimes Rachel said...

I have recently learned that people do not always appreciate detailed comments, so I will just say that this is well-written, and gets interestingly at the issues and mindset of the character. The fact that "nothing happens," but the whole world is contemplated, is interesting. I felt sympathetic and caught up in the woman's lost, anxious quality. On the other hand, I thought it went a little long for the feeling it delivered, more like a "Let's see if I can pull this off" (an exercise basically), than a gift to the reader/listener ("Listen to this"). My own tastes run more to the idea of a piece unlocking something, or completing a puzzle -- an aha! for the other party. Good writing throughout -- I don;t get the 5 verbs thing at all -- that seems like ego on the part of the suggester. I would not have accepted this for LIEF, cuz it ain't what we're looking for -- things that are bright and have a strong inner child bubbling through -- and it's a bit long for us -- but I would have written a note saying, "Hey, cool. -- good luck finding a home for this." And maybe you would file a cease and desist motion against me as a recent submitter did!

Fluffy Singler said...

Thanks for your comment! I like comments, even (constructive) criticism. I literally started writing this from the prompt and then found I had written myself into a corner. So I set it aside for a day and then I decided to use the writing myself into a corner as a way out of the story. I was surprised at how long it was, too.

That's funny that someone filed a cease and desist order. Did you just keep writing him back and telling him "you suck?"