I don’t know how to name these short story snippets
Published: June 20, 2015
Well, it’s been a few weeks since I published my last snippet. I got stuck. I’m still stuck, actually. Actually, stuck isn’t the right word. Slow. I’m slow. And I’ve been lazy as of late. I haven’t been putting in the hours.
I’m still terrified of the blank page. I’m still super self-conscious about my writing. I think fear and doubt have been keeping me away. I need to get over it. I need to reconcile with the fact that as a novice writer my first few (10? 50?) stories will probably be garbage. Garbage is good. It’s part of the process.
In other news, I found an aspiring writer at work to swap stories with and get critiques from and stuff. Our plan is to meet weekly. Hold each other accountable to write something new each week. I’m happy to have a little pressure applied.
I don’t have a full chapter to share, but here’s half of one. (Am I allowed to call them chapters?)
He has something on his eyelash.
Before she could register another thought, The Boy looked away.
Why is he being weird?
She stared at him for a second longer before turning her attention back to her food. Unlike him, she was having fun. She always had fun when she was with him, and she was with him a lot.
Their relationship started like most: slow and awkward.
They met through a mutual friend at a party filled with too many strangers. Far from her comfort zone, The Girl found an empty wall where she could disappear. The wall didn’t stay empty for long though because The Boy decided he wanted to disappear too. They stood together and bonded over their shared discomfort as much as two strangers could before The Girl abandoned the pretense of enjoying the party and went home.
Weeks passed before their mutual friend brought them together again. This time, The Girl brought her roommate along to share the discomfort. Pressured by established rules of social etiquette The Girl didn’t understand, the two of them toured the house and made awkward introductions to everyone they passed.
“This is Mike. That’s Jen. Oliver. Bree. Carl, Kevin, Liz, Tracy. That’s Aiden. Another Jen. And this is…”
Her heart skipped. Her breath stopped. Her insides knotted, and the back of her neck warmed.
She knew it. She was sure she knew it. Mostly sure, at least. She was certain she should know it. Certain she was expected to know it.
Her breath started again, but only because she needed it to stall.
“Oh! This is…uhm…it’s uh…your name is…”
The Girl hung on to her last word so long she started to make a hissing sound, which of course, only made her more embarrassed when she heard herself doing it. The back of her neck grew warmer. It was hot now, and that heat spread to fill the rest of her body. She could feel sweat forming on the small of her back and the back of her thighs.
She hoped if she stalled long enough, someone within earshot would throw out the name she was grasping for. Or maybe her roommate would introduce herself and remove The Girl from the interaction altogether. Or most likely, The Boy would see her struggling and just offer up his name himself. No one came to her rescue. Instead, The Boy started smiling.
She hated him for that. She really did.
When you see someone drowning, you throw them a life raft! You don’t stand on deck and smile, you asshole.
She hated herself a little bit too.
Why am I getting worked up over this?
She didn’t want to care–it was only a forgotten name after all–but she did care. She knew her brain would replay this moment over and over again in order to show her the many ways she could have avoided it.
Unable to stomach the silence any longer, The Girl admitted her forgetfulness, “I’m sorry. I know we’ve met, but I’m super bad with names. What’s yours again?”
A simple question filled with far more dread and doubt and shame than was healthy. Enough that The Girl was too distracted by petty self-loathing to hear his name when he said it.
Unwilling to ask for his name twice, The Girl made a concerted effort to avoid The Boy at all costs for the rest of the night. The Girl could play hide and seek with the best of them, but even she struggled to stay out of sight in the small house. It was a stressful game. After a few hours, tired of hiding but not ready for another dose of social discomfort, The Girl left the party and walked home with her roommate. It was still light outside.
A few more weeks passed before their mutual friend brought The Girl and The Boy together a third time. The Girl, knowing The Boy would be present, came prepared with name in hand. She was determined not to let such a simple syllable slip her mind again.
The room was another crowded one, and The Girl had an overwhelming desire to disappear again. She wanted to sidle next to an empty wall and observe the night from a distance. She resisted the urge though. Tonight, unlike most nights, she wanted to make an effort. Other people seemed to have fun at these things. Surely she could learn to do the same. She was staring at a small group of girls sitting on some couches, observing their fun, when she ran into The Boy. Actually ran into him. Hard. Well, hard enough to spill both their drinks.
Dammit! I should have just sidled.
Shaken but well composed considering her socks were now a puddle of cheap beer, The Girl forced a smile. She recognized The Boy. “I was told I might run into you tonight.”
Why isn’t he laughing? That pun is chuckle quality! It deserves a pity laugh at least!
The Boy smiled back.
Together again, again uncomfortable, both embarrassed, one more than the other, The Girl and The Boy started talking. Well, they started small talking. They spent minutes wading through too common and always awful topics like, “Can you believe this weather?” and “Was traffic bad for you too?” and The Girl’s personal favorite, “Life is just so busy right now.” It irritated The Girl how meaningless and shallow it all felt. It also irritated The Girl how complicit she was in it.
I don’t want to talk about the weather! I can see it through the window, and I walked through it like five minutes ago! I know it rained yesterday! Yeah, it was a bummer, but it’s also super not important!
“I heard it’s supposed to keep raining like this all week,” said The Girl, her insides cringing.
Hell isn’t fire. Hell is small talk. Hell is forever scratching the surface without ever reaching your hands in.
A few more minutes of aimless talk led them through “So, what do you do again?” and “How do you know so-and-so?” The Girl couldn’t stomach anymore.
“Flight or invisibility?”
“What?” said The Boy.
“Flight or invisibility?” The Girl repeated.
The Boy smiled again. Wide this time. “Flight, obviously,” he responded. No hesitation in his voice. “Flight is so much better.”
“Convince me.” challenged The Girl..
And like that, a dam broke.
–To be continued–
Chapter: A main division of a book, typically with a number or title.
I’m totally allowed to call them chapters.
Image credit: Daniela Cuevas