|this is still me. |
just a different-seeming me.
It’s just me today because, well, because I don’t want you to forget me with all the awesomeness that has abounded here lately with the ol’ guest stars poppin' in (I have another one next Friday, so no worries).
So, here we are. You, and me, and our pieces o’ work. Let’s get to it.
At the request of some of my darling and devoted regulars, I’m going to give you a good chunk of the opening of In Sight of Stars, my Work In Progress (*a roar of cheers erupts in the crowd.*) Er. Okay. Maybe not a roar.
*fyi, this is an explicit language warning. This piece is geared toward upper YA, and especially in my first drafts I tend not to pull the language back. It might happen in a later revision, as I also *try* to be judicious. Please don’t read on if this is not appropriate for you.
Are you still reading? Okay, well then you know the RULES: (If you want more detail, go here, or, just follow along).
1. If it is the first few paragraphs of a novel – today it IS – tell me if it "hooks" you enough to make you want to keep reading, or not. If yes, why? If no, why not?
2. What works for you, draws you into the piece, and why?
3. What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?
If you’d like the same feedback, please post your brief excerpt at the end of your comment (and tell me what it is -- e.g. opening to a novel, short story, poem...). Please post no more than 3 -5 paragraphs. If there's more, I will only read the first 3 -5. If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such.
Dad and I are walking through Soho. The day is bright and brisk. As we talk, our breath puffs out in front of us like steam from the street vents.
We pass the familiar streets of the village – Broome, Spring, Prince – as we head quickly north on West Broadway. The sky turns dusky gray. Now, Sarah is there with me, snow falling; the Empire State building comes into view in all its wintery, pink-red glory. She twirls toward me and smiles. Snowflakes catch in her black hair, white stars that melt away.
Dad laughs at something, and Sarah takes my hand, and everything is perfect.
Except, no. That’s not right. We’re not in Soho or midtown.
There’s no Empire State Building.
And Dad’s not there at all.
No one is there.
I scratch my ear.
“Try not to do that,” she says.
I look up. The familiar woman watches me. Middle aged. Dark, frizzy hair. A little overweight.
No, that’s not right either.
Alvarez. Dr. Alvarez.
Shit. Why can’t I hold onto anything?
Art, I say, I met Sarah in art class. Is that what you asked me? I seriously can’t get my thoughts to stay put.
Dr. Alvarez nods and I stare at the print on her wall. It’s a Van Gogh. Daubigny’s Garden, 1890. I think that’s why I’m willing to talk. Because of that print on her wall. If it had been anything else – a Monet, a Renoir – forget it. But it’s not. It’s Van Gogh.
“Tell me more about that,” she says.
Van Gogh? I pull at my ear again. I try not to, but it itches. She looks at me strange.
My eyes go back to the print. The frame is wrong, too modern, and matted. You don’t really matte a Van Gogh. His paintings are expansive. The color should go right to the frame. I close my eyes and breathe. My throat feels too choked to swallow.
“No, Klee, tell me about Sarah. How things got started. How you ended up here. You started to tell me yesterday.”
Right. I was here yesterday.
She calls me Klee again, with the long e sound. I’m sure I corrected her already. I grip my fingers together so I leave my ear alone. She reaches across to the table next to her, opens a drawer, and tosses a small purple stress ball at me. It lands in my lap. Normally, I would have caught it. My reflexes feel off.
The ball is one of those freebie sales-giveaways. Or maybe she ordered it. It’s sand on the inside, purple rubber on the outside like a balloon, with white lettering that says, Imovane 5 (Zopiclone 5mg) and below that, Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. – Sigmund Freud.
I must laugh or something because she says, “If you like it, you can keep it. I have plenty more.” I nod. “So, you were telling me about Sarah.” When she says her name it feels like she kicks me inside which makes it hard to breathe.
I met her in art class, I say, but I think I’ve said that already.
Art is the one thing that matters to me. Art is the one thing I still have.
“So, will you? Will you tell me how you met her?” Dr. Alvarez taps her clipboard and watches me. I’m confused because I keep thinking I’ve said things aloud and then it seems like I haven’t. Her fingernails make a clicking sound on the metal clip at the top of the board. I didn’t know people used them anymore. I had one in elementary school that I covered in Wacky Packages stickers. I remember my favorite had a brown candy bar with stink coming out of it and was called Sneakers which I thought was hilarious back then.
Dr. Alvarez is watching me again. My train of thought keeps derailing. I need to straighten things out in my head. I’m supposed to talk in here to solve things and get better. Here is the North Haven Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Treatment Center. This is my second meeting with Dr. Alvarez. The afternoon before that, mom drove me here.
“Yes, that’s right,” she says. “You got here late Sunday. We met briefly yesterday. It’s Tuesday now. Are you having a hard time remembering?”
Fuck, wait. I didn’t mean to say that part aloud.
My mother drove me because I wasn’t allowed to drive myself. Because I’m a danger to self and others.
I nod my head to answer her question. My head feels blurry, my lips feel parched, my tongue heavy. Words come when I don’t want them to, and don’t come when I think I said them out loud. I’m having a hard time keeping things straight.
“It may be the medication. I’ll talk to Dr. Ram, see if things should be adjusted.” My eyes go to her. “In the meantime, there’s no rush. Just take your time, okay?”
I need to get a drink from the fountain, I say.
“Sure. Go ahead.”
The hallway is white and sterile except for the cartoonishly-bad fish mural that stretches across one wall. It looks like it was done by kindergarteners, except you know it was done by some untalented adult who was aiming to make it look cheerful. Or, maybe not. Maybe it really was done by kindergarteners. Either way, it hurts my eyes to look at it.
The fountain is at the end of the hall. My legs give me a hard time like someone has tethered them. When I reach it, I stand and drink for a long time. It seems like I will never stop drinking.