Thursday, July 18, 2013

Welcome to the Friend Zone

I happened to be the one to go out and get the mail the day it arrived. I don’t normally get the mail, but for some reason, on that day, I decided to hop across the dew-covered grass on tip-toe, retrieve the contents from our stilted mailbox, and rifle through the envelopes before my parents got home. I figured I just needed a breath of fresh air after having been cooped up doing homework all morning. Looking back, I realize God may have compelled me to see it while alone, in order to give me time to swallow the news before facing the others in my home-not to soften the blow, but to enable me to absorb it without prying eyes upon me. It was a relief to not shroud my feelings. I was able to just cry openly, my dog the only onlooker.       
It was a beautiful invitation. The envelope and card both the color of pearls, the script flowing elegantly down the page, announcing the joining of Giovanni Balducci and Nina Perez in Holy Matrimony. The invitation was for me, plus one-an attribute that bit at me with irony. It stated that six weeks from then I would have to watch the only man I had loved in 21 years pledge himself, before God, to another woman. And I would have to act like it didn’t bother me. I would have to play the happy friend, laughing with the bride and congratulating the groom on the match made in Heaven.
He was always such a good friend to me that while I knew he was devoted to Nina, there remained a niggling sense of hope that one day he and I may end up together. Every joke, every look, and every insignificant moment we shared together crookedly spun my fantasies further away from reality while I thought it only gave them more credibility. I began to tear the expensive pearl paper, confronted with the cruel realization that I had been little more than a way for him to pass time, or a comfort while we both dealt with similar life circumstances. I was his friend-nothing else.
I thought about how he never did more than hug me and converse with me about on-the-surface matters, but I nursed the hope that he was mine, shirking the knowledge that he was invested in and committed to another woman. The fact that he is a good man, who loves God first, who has a delectable sense of humor and maturity, and who will do right by Nina, only made it worse. He embodies everything I have ever wanted in a man. I began to rip the papers more violently then, cursing as I watched the pieces float serenely to the ground.
I was lying on the floor in the kitchen, feeling absurd, but too shattered to care, when my family clambered through the front door. Jumping up, I whisked all the tattered pieces of invitation into my hands and poured them into the trash can. I did not fear that I looked like I had been crying, for it had been about an hour and a half since numbness had settled in.
“Hey.” I said in greeting to my mother, who set a number of shopping bags upon the counter.
“Hey.” She replied. “How was your day?”
“It was fine.” I said, deciding to tell her about the wedding some other time when I would not be asked to produce the invitation upon its mention.
“Well, I, for one, am exhausted.” She turned away and started walking to her bedroom, most likely to change out of her jeans and into something more comfortable.           
I let her go, walking to my own bedroom, where I let the apathy wash over me.
As I sit three rows back on the right side of the congregation, I almost take pleasure in the aching induced by the wooden pews I have been confined to for the past hour. Feeling anything other than anguish over the event I am attending is practically a blessing. I wonder idly how God could let me fall for such an unavailable man. I wonder what part in His plan my heartbreak plays. I almost laugh out loud as I think about how I have to get over someone I never even had. God said he would be here for us, but I suppose He never said it would be easy.
            Giovanni is announced man to his wife, and I stare straight ahead, more at the pink flowers that surround the pulpit than anything else. In my peripheral vision, I am aware of their kissing and the excitement that erupts from the pews around me. I stand up with the crowd, feigning indifference, and grin at him as he walks by with his shiny new bride.
            Everyone trails behind them, chattering about the ceremony and their modes of transportation to the reception. I already know that I will be driving myself to the venue, my chosen plus one having decided to show up with someone else. I take a deep breath as I prepare to endure the time for which my relationship with the happy couple obligates me to remain in their presence. Only then will I be permitted to move on and begin the life that will allow me to one day send out my own pearl-colored envelopes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tomorrow is a New Day

This week, Chuck Wendig, over at terribleminds, presented this flash fiction challenge: Another Roll of The Dice. My numbers were: 16-magical realism; 5-alternate history; 5-mythological bird; 8-broken heart.

Tomorrow is a New Day

            “I really liked the idea of it breathing fire, the whole dragon-esque bit.” Billy, our special effects guru says for the third time. “My team and I would do it justice.”

            “Sure, Billy, but we have to think about how the bird is going to play into the plot of the story.” Annette, one of our head writers pipes up in her thick New York accent. “I’m telling you all,” she waves her three hands in a gesture meant to encompass the room, “the siren’s song is the way to go.”

            “Honey, if we do that then we have to change the whole look of the beast. The images we have drafted at this point don’t match up with what you’re suggesting. When you think siren’s song you think sensuality and femininity, with an edge. The bird we have now is too robust for that type of character.” Mason, our visual arts manager/cowriter crosses his legs with an air of finality as he offers his opinion.

            “I still think we are all trying to dig too deep on this one.” Vinny, another writer on the show, is always trying to reign the others in. “The world we have thus far created is a perfected version of the one we live in. Everything in it is bigger and better in its own way. Is it not enough for this bird to simply be a new and improved version of any regular bird we would find on our own planet?”

            “Oh, please.” Annette scoffs at him. “That’s too simplistic.”

            “Annette, I am simply offering an unseen solution to-“

            Their voices fall to the back of mind as I look at the one other person in the room who is not engaged in conversation. My wife is staring at the tabletop pensively. After a moment she looks up at me, and I want to jump across the table and take her into my arms when I see the hurt in her purple eyes. It was only three hours ago when I let it be known to her that I am seeking divorce. I try to remember that she brought this upon us, that hers isn’t the only broken heart in the room.

            “I agree, Vinny, that we need to create the bird based off the realm it is being created within.” She says, breaking my gaze. I wonder how she can be concentrating on work in this moment. People weren’t joking when they said don’t date those you work with. I married one of the people I work with, and look at me now, having to produce a hit television show with the woman who betrayed me. “The bird is supposed to complement the setting of the show,” she continues.

            “So you’re saying we should make the beast more reminiscent of Annolyn?” Mason smooths back his heavily gelled hair, lost in thought. “I could tie in some more earthen aspects. Change the colors, perhaps.”

            I hear Billy sigh in acceptance, and Annette glances at him and leans forward in her chair. “I like where you’re going with that, but it still has to have some sort of magical property.” Billy perks up a bit, his head hitting the ceiling.

            “Mhm, mhm.” Mason is rifling through some papers. “What do we think about hunter green?”

            “I didn’t think bronze went against traditional Annolyn aesthetic.” Vinny said, still clinging to something simpler.

            “Steve, what do you think?” The group casts their eyes upon me. I look at my wife for a moment. “Annolyn is a dark place. What about black?”   
            “Black?” Masons asks slowly, frowning at the papers in his hand.

            Annette purses her lips and says nothing; my wife is silent as well.

            “Sure.” I say. “Black is powerful, it could be a dark creature.”

            She is looking at me now, thinking. 

            “Black. Okay.” Billy says. “But what does it do? What is its purpose?”

            “Well, if you all insist on it being dark, it will need to have some sort of negative impact upon the realm.” Vinny sits up. He has come to terms with not having his way on this one. “It would have to be something that brings havoc or heartache, something that causes pain.”

            Numerous lips are bitten as the whole creative team brainstorms. I still feel her gaze. I look everywhere else.

            “What if it doesn’t cause the pain?” Her voice is so beautiful. “What if it holds the pain of others? What if it isn’t dark of its own volition, but has been made that way through practice?”

            “What are you suggesting?” Vinny seems intrigued. “A bird that takes a person’s pain away and carries it within itself?”


            “So it’s not an evil bird.”


            “The bird of broken hearts.” Annette whispers. Mason starts scribbling furiously on his notepad.

            “How does it go about doing that? Does it wipe away memories?”

            I watch my wife as she frowns a bit, her eyebrows furrowing. I can see that that idea does not appeal to her.

            “No,” I say, “no, because what if there are happy memories, too?”

            “Maybe it could just take away the burden of feeling the pain that spawned from whatever event the bird is coming to help you cope with.” She says. “It shoulders your burdens.”

            “It numbs you.” I suggest.

            “Numbs you?” Annette asks. “So then it is an evil creature.”

            “No.” My wife says, looking up. “It allows the person to move on without losing the memories that helped them grow, that made them happy.”

            “It lets you have your cake and eat it, too.” Billy grunts.

            Vinny seems exasperated “I still think it should be a memory-erasing bird. Its concept would be much cleaner that way.”

            “But what if the person the bird visits isn’t ready to let go?” I ask.

            “Well,” Vinny looks between my wife and I, “then they don’t accept its services.”

            She and I are staring openly at each other now. The rest of the room falls silent. Everybody seems engrossed in assessing their individual duties on how to make this bird come to life within the show. Nobody seems appeased.

            I smile at her, suddenly unsure of what I want. “I say we scrap the bird, think of something new. We can start fresh tomorrow.” 

“I agree.” She responds.

There is collective relief around the room as the team prepares to leave. I don’t listen to their departing words.