I’ve been saying

I’ve been saying
“I don’t need more friends”
for years.
Funny how,
now that I want them,
they all seem to have
drifted away.

Copyright © 2017 C.L. Mannarino All rights reserved.

Describing Shame, and #ROW80

It’s telling your best friend something private and secret about yourself, and then listening to her reprimand you for even having those thoughts at all.

It’s the hot-cold flush you feel afterwards, like the room is too big and too small all at once.

It’s the way you hold your hands in your lap, averting your eyes, trying to shrink until she forgets what you said, forgives what you said, so maybe you can, too.

It’s the gulf you feel growing in the space between you as you finish whatever it was you were doing — why are we even here? you ask yourself, watching the TV flicker and the evening light grow dim. oh yeah, you remember, shaking your head a little bit and not enough to attract her attention, thank god. we were hanging out. — and wondering how fast you can make the day end without seeming rude.

It’s the way the blood drains from your cheeks whenever she talks to you for the rest of the night. It’s the way your words stick to your throat as you try not to ask, are you still mad, any time she asks you a question and you have to find a way to come back to center, bring yourself back to the room, warm up to her again, act like nothing’s wrong.

It’s the way she won’t look at you for more than two seconds. It’s the wondering if she’s embarrassed, too, and then the voice in the back of your head hissing, of course she’s not, you idiot. what does she have to be embarrassed about?

It’s the wooden feeling you get when she hugs you goodbye at the end of the night. It’s the regret you feel watching her leave, the sadness you feel that there’s so much between you that’s now locked up and closed in and can never be let out again. It’s the gladness that she’s gone, and the fear, to:

Will she take what you said to the grave? Will she let it out? Is it really as bad as I think it is? How long do I have to lock it up for?

#ROW80 update:

Right now, Swans is still going pretty strong, and I’m fairly confident that the real bones of the story are there. It’s going to need way more meat, though. Tons of reorganizing, too. But this is okay! Bare bones drafts are fine by me. I tend to need to add more later, anyway, because my ideas come too fast sometimes, so when characters start talking, all those surrounding nuances get lost.

I’m learning that I love first drafts for their sheer messiness. I love them for being the place where I can tell, not show, the story. And I love revision for being the slower, more methodical place where I can study what’s going on, make sense of it, and then recreate it so that you all can get the best of everything in the story.

Also, I’m working on a quick intro short story for my second book in the Almost Human series. Let me clarify: it’s a deleted scene that I deleted before I got to write it because it didn’t start close enough to book 2’s main story line to keep around. But now, I’m writing it up, and I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to do with it just yet, except that if you’re a news friend, you’ll be the first to read it when it’s done. <3

Like this? Then come get up close and personal with me and my projects on the first Monday of every month.

Describing Openness

It’s wanting to go out, until you actually get asked to do something, and then saying you’ll go anyway because didn’t you just want this?

When you’re out, it’s reminding yourself why you’re there, and not at home.

It’s reminding yourself that you wanted this, you whined about this, you longed for this.

It’s still not feeling fulfilled. It’s the voice in the back of your head whispering, “Let’s just get out, this was stupid, I hate doing this, and besides, this place is a dump.”

When you go to tell your friends you’re done, it’s the bright, excited smiles on their faces, and the bracing way they grab your arms to tell you how happy they are to see you, how much they missed you, and how it’s great to see you coming out with them.

It’s the soggy feeling of watching your plans to leave slip away, their foundations crumbling, no matter how hard your discomfort tries to hold them in place. It’s wondering what your words and fears would do to the happy smiles on your friends’ faces.

When you start to wonder, it’s the mean little voice in the back of your head whispering, “if they were really your friends, they wouldn’t have asked you to come out here in the first place. They’d know you better.”

As you start to look for your keys, it’s the heavy, leaden feeling you get when you realize you’re being a chump for walking away when you promised that young, sprightly part of yourself that you’d go out if you got asked. It’s the cotton-tongue feeling of knowing that sprightly version of yourself is probably ready to start crying in the bathroom, shutting the door behind itself and punishing you with silence for breaking its heart.

When you recognize this, it’s the slow way you put your keys back into your pocket. It’s the feeling you get where you know the sprightly version of yourself has lifted its head, daring to be hopeful. It’s the smile you plaster to your face as you join your group again, and focus on the conversation, instead of your own discomfort.

It’s the feeling you get when that plaster smile becomes real, and then grows into laughter, and then fades into tiredness. It’s the warmth you feel when, at the end of the day, you all get up, get your coats, and promise to do this again sometime.

When you walk out, it’s the resolve you feel that yes, you will do this again. This was fun.

Even when you know how much of a struggle it will be to motivate yourself out the door.

#ROW80 update: I’m back to writing 1,000 words a day. I was going to try for writing 2,000 words a day, to match my old NaNo schedule, but ouch. It’s been a while — a year and a half? — since I’ve done that.

A (big) part of this is the fact that I changed keyboards to reduce the pain in my wrists. Now, I’ve been working with this keyboard since last fall, and my hands don’t hurt nearly as much anymore, but I don’t use it at work. So whatever gains I make with practicing on it are tempered by 40 hours a day of not using it at all.

I’m getting way better, though. I can type about half my usual speed, which is improved from a quarter of my normal speed, and sometimes, if I’m not thinking about it, I can just get into the groove without slowing. I make plenty of mistakes, though. Slow and steady, and all that jazz.

The other part of not doing 2,000 words a day is that I’m more comfortable with the 1,000 words. If I have other ideas during the day, I’ll write more, but I’m not pushing it. Anything extra will get added in later. Those are my fun words. I think I can make some decent time on these stories at the pace I’m going.

Like this? Then come get up close and personal with me and my projects.

Describing Hesitant

When you enter a dirty bathroom, it’s the reluctance you have to touch the stall doors, or the sink knobs, or even use one of the toilets.

It’s the uncertain look you pass to your friends as you try to decide whether or not you need to use the bathroom that badly.

When you reconsider your plans, it’s the reminder that you won’t be at a bathroom again for another two hours while you drive back home.

It’s the way you cluster together, arms crossed, purses clenched to your side, as you rock on the balls of your feet and wait for someone to make a decision.

When your friend decides to brave it, it’s the hard click of her shoes across the grimy tiled floor. It’s the realization that her steps have to be loud, that they have to echo off these greenish walls, because otherwise, she won’t be brave enough to take care of what needs to be done.

It’s the slow peel of each friend from the cluster as you follow her lead, inching towards the other stalls, and poking the doors into place with the tips of your fingernails, all covered in toilet paper, so that you don’t catch whatever germs have been festering since the last time the place was cleaned — probably a year ago, at least. It’s the dance you do, laying toilet paper over the seat and trying not to sit even on that, while you try your best to hurry your bowels along.

When you’re done, it’s the mad scramble to leave the stall, regroup, and then shuffle out together, your hands reaching into purses for Wet Ones, and keys, and conversation about just how gross that was, and can you please never do that again? Can you just find another bathroom next time?

It’s not the relief that goes around your group on a single breath as you make your way back to the car, grateful to finally go home.

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We All Want

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

“My name is Shay and this is the assignment my fifth period psych teacher gave me: write about a desire.

We all want

Something.

Hard and glittering

Like a diamond,

Something we need to find.

But I’m not sure we’ll ever get to it.

See, the thing we need has to be separate from us, and unattainable. Otherwise we wouldn’t want it as badly as we do. Also, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble f having.

That thing I want? It’s trapped in the form of another friend I used to have. Yeah, we were close. The closest. She knew everything about me, and I knew everything about her, and things were really good.

Too good, I guess.

Because that’s what happens, doesn’t it? Things get too good to last. And suddenly, it’s too much. Suddenly, there’s pressure. Suddenly, you’re not the thing that person wanted anymore.

But what happens when the feeling isn’t mutual?

She fascinated me. I couldn’t stop talking about her, thinking about her. She was pretty and smart and well-loved and so far out of my reach that she might as well have been sitting amongst the stars.

That’s how it works, doesn’t it? They get too far away and suddenly you’ve lost them.

It’s turning around in the grocery store when you’re five and finding out that your mother’s gone, but you’re too small and too unaware to see through the people into the next aisle, so you panic.

That’s how her abandoning me was. One minute, she was there and everything was good. The next, she won’t answer and she’s been swallowed up by the crowd.

I tried to chase her. I tried to keep up, but the farther I went, the slower my limbs became and the harder it become to see her.

Then she was gone.

I still see her, on occasion. She’s a glimpse between the clouds as they pass overhead. She’s the flash of hair in between the people on the bus, the sidewalk, and she’s the voice I thought I heard calling out to me in the grocery store, the one I could hear in my ear even though there’s no one beside me.

It’s hard to not think about her, but I guess all you can do at that point is move on.

Otherwise, I’m pretty sure we’ll all end up like that Gatsby character we had to read about in English, chasing something you’ll never get back.

And it scares me to think how easily it would be to become him.”

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The Birthday Present

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

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Beyond the aperture, Clare could see the line of wooden dolls on her sister’s dresser.

“Oh my god,” she whispered, entering the room. A little bit of sunlight had trickled in through the curtains behind them, and it emphasized the wear and tear of their clothes, their faces. The dolls, each seated on the curved edge of the furniture, varied in size, where the tallest was a foot tall and the smallest was only two inches and barely propped up on her tiny butt.

With a small laugh, Clare lifted the first doll in the lineup. She recognized the painted eyes, the lightly carved hands and feet, as being hers from when she was a girl.

The door creaked. Holding her doll close, Clare turned and saw Harriet standing just inside the room, a small, uncertain smile growing across her face.

“I can’t believe you found them!” Clare said, turning back to the doll. She ran her hand over its dress.

“We found them in the attic,” Harriet said, looking at the second doll. She reached out as if to touch it, but then dropped her hand to her side again. “Mom said you put them there when you turned twelve because you said you didn’t need them anymore. She said you didn’t want to be seen playing with them.”

Clare watched her sister as she fingered the wooden arms of her old toy. Harriet wouldn’t meet her eyes, but there was still a ghost of a smile on her face. It occurred to her that her sister was looking for some kind of confirmation, or so it seemed.

Twelve can be such a difficult age, Clare remembered her mother saying that morning while she and Clare’s dad cooked Harriet’s birthday breakfast—streudel and fresh cream. She hadn’t thought much about it then, but now it made sense.

“I was wrong,” she told her sister.

Harriet blinked and glanced over her shoulder. It might’ve been her imagination, but Clare thought her sister was suddenly standing a little bit taller, which only spurred her on.

“And to prove it, I want to play dolls right now. C’mon,” she said, scooping the toys into her arms before Harriet could say anything, “I’ll teach you the games mom and I used to play.”

Clare led her sister out into the yard, tumbling onto the grass and letting the dolls drop to the ground between them. For the rest of the afternoon, they sat with their feet pressed together under the sun and filled their air with the silly accents they imagined for their toys. It was one of the best birthdays either girl had had to date.

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Prompt: Word of the day: Aperture. From writeworld

The story and characters belong to me, but the photos do not. Enjoy! 🙂

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The Canoe

Copyright © 2013 C.L. Mannarino
All rights reserved.

“Have you ever been on a boat?” Shay, twelve, asked Clare. She held the canoe still, submerged to the waist in the murky lake water, while the other girls in their Scout troop began jumping off of the dock.

Clare’s bright eyes watched the canoe bobbing in the water. Her fists were clenching the sides of her shirt, pulling it farther down over her neon pink one-piece. “Not really,” she said.

Shay smiled and shrugged, looking at the hollowed out floor and the short paddles that’d been secured under the seats. The smell of her suntan lotion wafted up to her where the sun was burning it off of her already-freckled shoulders. “It’s not that bad. A little rocky, but it’s okay.” She winked up at her friend. Clare had turned and was looking at the other girls where they’d tipped a canoe and started to holler at one another for splashing. “You don’t get motion sickness, do you?” she asked.

Clare turned back around, her short ponytail bobbing. She frowned at the canoe again, but shook her head.

“We don’t have to go anywhere,” Shay said, tugging at the rope securing it to the dock. “We can just sit. It’s kind of cool, just sitting in it. I’ll even hold it steady for you. See?” She grabbed the boat with both hands again.

After a moment of consideration, Clare sat down on the dock. Edging her way to the side, she swung her legs into the canoe until her feet touched down. When it rocked, Shay saw her friend’s legs stiffen and held fast. With wooden limbs, Clare climbed the rest of the way into the canoe until she was sitting on the seat, her hands clenching either side of the boat.

Shay smiled at her and Clare gave her a shaky grin back. “Okay?” she asked.

“Okay,” Clare muttered. When Shay let go and moved towards the dock, she swung around wildly. “Where are you going?!”

But Shay had already climbed onto the dock and was lowering herself onto the empty seat in front of Clare. “Getting in. I want to sit next to you.”

Clare relaxed and they bobbed on the lake for a minute. After a while of watching their friends playing only a few feet away, Clare tapped Shay’s shoulder.

“Could we try moving?” she asked in a small voice.

Shay nodded and removed the rope from the dock. Handing Clare an oar and a life jacket, she braced her legs against the sides of the canoe. “Let’s go,” she said and pushed them off from the dock with a light stroke.


Prompt from: writeworld