Footprints in the Hallway

The Website of C.L. Mannarino

Tag: reading

Describing Frightened

It’s worrying your fingers while you wait for the dentist to come back and give you Novocaine for a wisdom tooth withdrawal.

It’s being the last group to perform in a series of short plays, and realizing you can’t remember your first line the second you get on stage.

It’s walking down the hall to find your basement door open, and then it hits you: where did you last see the cat? Did it get out?!

It’s the ticking clock in the back of your mind, counting down the days to when you move out for good. It’s wondering if it’ll really be alright, or if you’re just opening the door for something waiting in the wings.

#ROW80:

I’m this close to finishing the prequel short story draft for my news friends, which I avoided all weekend because sad things are tough to write, and I wanted to get it right the first time. (I’ll be talking more about this, and some other changes I’m making, in the next news issue.)

Oh, and there’s also been progress with book edits. Somehow, they’re making it through all my efforts at procrastination.

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Describing Sarcasm, #ROW80

It’s the biting comment you make after someone in a position of power over you says something mind-bendingly stupid, and yet those in the room fall for it.

When you roll your eyes and plaster a fake smile on your face, just so you can get through the conversation without screaming.

It’s the laugh you emit when people try to convince you they’re interested in what you have to say, even though you’ve been bought this way before, and it didn’t end well for you.

When you play nice and agree to work with something that clearly isn’t right, so you make every act elaborate and unnecessary to make sure everyone knows what position you’ve taken.

#ROW80:

Forgot this part until about half an hour ago. 🙁

Handwriting the book 2 prequel short story. It’s either going to be longer than expected, or just the right length, with some changes I had no idea I’d have to make because what plays out in my head is different than how I planned it at the end of 2015. Go figure! Now, to choose which version to go with: the longer, or the more pre-planned…

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Describing Judgment, and #ROW80 Progress

It’s making fun of my mom and Sister 2 for watching the Bachelor a couple years ago, and then stopping every so often, mesmerized and yet self-loathing for allowing myself to become so captivated.

It’s falling in line with the two of them, but in the “okay” sort of fashion: the one where you sit with popcorn in your lap, sneering at the lines of women who sign up for this show. But not just the fact that they signed up: the fact that they’re dressed in gaudy clothes, and three layers of makeup. The fact that they all look the same, sound the same, act the same, treat each other the same, but in different shades of cruelty.

It’s asking each other “but why would any self-respecting woman even begin to think she can actually find love on a TV show?

It’s feeling like a bigger, better, smarter person for not falling for it, not signing up, not being one of those clone girls who says the same thing every other clone girl does when she gets interviewed in their one-on-one back rooms: I’m just so in love. I think I’m falling for him. He’s so hot. This is the most incredible experience.

It’s watching them get googly-eyed over a guy they’ve never met, and know nothing about, and rolling my own eyes. It’s listening to them get jealous and petty when other girls express the same interest, and scoffing at them for not remembering that all the girls who are on the show are on it for the same reason. It’s watching them cry and sob when they start interpreting the guy’s actions, or get booted off the show, and laughing to myself because “you didn’t really know him” and “you went on one date, how can you say you’re in love?”

It’s yelling, “This is what you signed up for!” at the screen when they all, inevitably, tear up about how they didn’t expect it to be like this, they didn’t expect it to be this hard, they didn’t expect to have to fight for someone’s attention.

It’s listening to them talk about all the reasons why they’re doing this as a “last resort,” and hearing the same fears I had about being lovable and finding someone, and realizing they’re just like me, at the core.

What right do I have to judge? Hell, I thought of online dating as a last resort to finding anyone. Sure, the show is designed to be fake, with set-up drama, but the people involved, and their emotions, are very, very real.

#ROW80:

I’m making progress! I think I’m almost at 30,000 typed words, but there’s a notebook on my desk with at least 5,000 in it. The notebook is probably the least rambling part of the whole story. On the computer, Swans 2 reads like my college diary: lots of speculative thoughts from a young woman who believes she’s in the throes of a real relationship, but has plenty of doubts and is still, at the core, dramatic.

Which is unlike the shero of Swans 2, who is still a teen, and is actually in a real relationship. Otherwise, the story and my diary are similar. I have a ton of revision to do, and a two tons of pacing to increase to actually, you know, get to the end by the end of this ROW80 session. We’ll see. The side plots are definitely pushed to the side in favor of the romance between the hero and shero, and I keep thinking “if you bring in those plots, you can both weave them into the story, and you can have them written up, all before you revise, so that you don’t have to go back and actually write the parts you’re avoiding.”

Except my brain is having too much fun throwing things at me when I’m not looking. It’s making this particular car very hard to steer in the direction I was aiming for. But all writing is rewriting, and just because this draft isn’t doing what I like, doesn’t mean I can’t rearrange it later.

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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

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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.

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Describing Remorseful

When you get angry at someone for disagreeing with you, and you snap at them without thinking, it’s the feeling you’re left with after realizing you were wrong.

It’s the feeling you get while you’re pacing the room, running your hands through your hair, and over your face, trying to figure out what they think of you now, what they’d say if you admitted you were wrong, how long you should wait to say something, and how to make things right again.

When you ask your friends, it’s the heavy feeling that sinks your gut when they point out how out-of-line you were, and the pressure of knowing that you’re going to have to work twice as hard to make up for it.

It’s the terrifying blankness that comes over your mind when you’re coming up with apologies, and nothing seems to ring right. You just can’t get it to fit the situation without making things worse.

When you finally try to just apologize already, it’s the dodgy look they give you, and you realize that they’re no longer sure they can give you feedback when you ask for it.

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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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Describing Embarrassed

When you’re making a presentation, it’s forgetting all your lines, and your materials, and becoming hot, and sweaty, and panicked while a group of bored, impatient, sympathetic, and tired faces wait for you to either begin, or walk away.

It’s seeing someone wave to you from across the room, and waving back, only for them to bypass you completely, having been looking for someone else.

When you follow someone with the vague notion that you’ve been walking with them the whole time, only to really look at them and realize that you lost the person you were with, and the person you’re following is wondering what the hell you’re doing.

It’s doing your best to impress a member of your family, and then one thing after another goes wrong in rapid succession.

When TSA pulls you out of line at the airport, it’s the tense, heated feeling of feeling like everyone is watching you, both from other waiting areas, and from the very line you were pulled out of.

It’s taking off with your bike, only for a stranger to come running over screaming at you, and the chilly realization that your bike was actually on the other end of the rack.

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Short Story: You’d Like to Know

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

“I feel so dirty.” Clare hid her face in her hands, closing her eyes as another wave of nausea passed through her. A hand rubbed her back and the couch creaked as her friend, Shay, leaned closer. Clare could feel her friend laughing a little. There was uncertainty in the sound.

“It’s just being pregnant,” Shay said in a low voice. “It’s not the end of the world—“

“I don’t even like him that way!” Clare said, lifting her head. She watched as Shay’s wide eyes and tense smile froze under her scrutiny. Another wave a nausea rolled through her stomach and Clare rested her chest on her thighs, staring at her chipped pink toenail polish. “And it’s not just being pregnant. It’s never just being pregnant. There’s so much more involved than that. You can’t just be pregnant.”

Silence fell between them. Then, “Does he know?”

Clare felt something trigger in the back of her head and then the tip of her nose began to sting. She dropped her arms to hang beside her legs. As she traced the edges of her feet with her fingertips, she snuck a glance into the next room. Her roommate Jason’s dark head hovered above the top of his chair, profiled in the light of the computer. Beside her, she could feel Shay sit back.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“What the hell am I supposed to tell him?” Clare hissed in a low voice, sitting up in her seat. Shay’s honey-colored hair seemed to glow in the mid morning light, haloing her head, and for some reason, this angered Clare even more. Her face, already pinched with frustration, darkened even more as she mimicked the conversation. “‘Oh, hey, Jason, guess what? I missed my friggin’ period for the second time in two months, so I took a pregnancy test and guess what? It came out positive. How could this happen? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it was that one time we both got smashed talking about our exes and wound up fucking in the bathroom!’”

Clare felt the prickle in her nose travel to her eyes and she pressed the heels of her palms to her forehead, breathing through her mouth. Her hands shook. “We were old enough to know better. We were old enough to know not to mess around like this…”

“You wouldn’t know that if you were drunk—“

“When you’re twenty-seven you do,” Clare said too loudly. She froze, lowering her hands from her head, and both girls looked towards the other room. The only movement he made was to tap his foot against the leg of his desk.

Shay took her hand from Clare’s back and folded both of them in her lap. For a moment, the only sounds they could hear were the clicking of a computer mouse and the low rumbles of Jason’s giggling. They grated on Clare’s nerves and she curled her fingers, digging her nails into the soft skin of her palms and stretching her arms out in front of her. She took a deep breath and then relaxed her whole body with a sigh.

“You think I should tell him,” she whispered.

“Yes,” Shay said. Clare could feel her friend staring at her shoulder, something they did so that the other didn’t feel pressured to meet someone’s gaze.

“I don’t even know if I’m keeping it.”

She saw Shay shaking her head from the corner of her eye. “I still think he deserves to know. He’s not a bad guy, and he’s as much a part of this as you are. And I think that if you were in his place, you’d want to know, too.”

Clare stared at the floor for a moment before it hit her that Shay’s right, I really would like to know, if I were him. She nodded and took another deep breath. On her exhale, she pushed herself up from the couch with both hands and walked into the next room. Her fists were clenched at her sides. “Jason?” she said.

Shay saw Clare’s roommate glance up from his computer, swiveling around in his chair. “What’s up?” she heard him ask as Clare closed the door behind her.


Prompt: I feel so dirty.

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

From writeworld.

Photo credit: Jackie Sullivan