Unleashing the Writer: Doppelgänger Digits

Funny what we find while cleaning.

Seems as though I have let all my e-mail accounts fall into various levels of disarray. I finally have my work account relatively under control (I consider being able to see all my messages in one window without having to scroll as “under control”), so I’ve turned to trying to organize my primary personal account. While tackling my Drafts folder (a far easier task than either the Inbox or Sent folders), I found the following snippet of…I’m not really sure. I remember the inspiration for this piece: a waitress at a restaurant near my office. She honestly looked nothing like my mother minus her hands, which I couldn’t stop staring at as she cleared our dishes. The time stamp on the draft message this was saved in marks this as more than a year old. I’m not sure what I was going to do with this or even if I had planned to write more. It feels both finished and lacking.

Somehow, that seems…exactly right for this particular topic.

A stranger has my mother’s hands.

Rather, she has a convincing enough set of forgeries that they warranted two…four…six furtive glances as I watched her go about her tasks. They were almost flawless in their mimicry: wide, fleshy backs; short, thick digits that ended with a soft, rounded bluntness and tipped by impossibly short fingernails; cuticles worn ragged from nervous, obsessive picking. All that was missing was the galactic spray of color that always freckled my mother’s skin.

My mother’s touch was intense, heat almost constantly radiating off her skin in a corona of unseen shimmers. My mother was intense. Volcanic. Tempestuous. Emotive. Her colors were neither blush nor bashful, M’Lynn. Her life was a blend of bright, bold, vivid swirls.

Yellow was her favorite color.

Her hands were never part of my inheritance. My hands are perpetually cold—narrow, with long fingers tapering away from too-large knuckles and tendons and veins that undulate beneath my skin in serpentine patterns. My rings shift and spin in ways they never could on my mother’s fingers.

She always thought I wore too many rings.

Unleashing the Writer: Switchbacks, Starshine, and Sunrise

I still exist, denizens. I haven’t holed up in a shopping mall to hide from the zombie apocalypse or gone looking for the Blair Witch or spelunking and never returned.

Apparently, I have been watching a lot of horror movies lately. What? It is October.

Things are running at warp speed on many planes of my existence right now, and sadly, I have had to reduce my time here at the lair in response. Only temporarily, though, I promise. I think about you all often, and I have been working on things to post here. I just need to find the time (and energy) to finish them.

Case in point? I’ve been working on this particular piece for an embarrassingly long time. It’s about our trip to Haleakalā National Park in Maui to watch the sun rise. It was one of the most beautiful natural events I have ever experienced, for many reasons. I desperately wanted to capture some of that morning’s events. I hope that’s what I’ve done with this piece. Even if it’s not that great, you at least get some lovely photos at the end, for your effort 😉

Eyelids begrudgingly slip open, pupils swiftly dilating, as my brain registers but refuses to comprehend the startling electronic trill or the cool blue glow against the otherwise perfect blackness of the room. The digital numbers pulse gently as my eyes struggle to focus and my brain drags itself from the shallows of an uncertain sleep. Those numbers: 2:45. In the morning.

In the morning.

Several fuzzy, futile attempts at addition and I realize that in “our time,” it’s really 7:45 a.m. In another world, thousands of miles out of sight and blissfully out of mind, I’d be at the office, pouring my first coffee of the day and mixing blueberries and cinnamon into my oatmeal. Morning rituals designed to ease my descent into another workday.

Cool blue numbers flicker to 2:46. Morning rituals are temporarily on pause and there’s no way but up today.

Roll out of bed and dress: T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, jeans, baseball cap, and hiking shoes. Pack a sweatshirt and a hoodie. Try not to feel utterly ridiculous at the incongruity of such a wardrobe when it’s still a solid 75 degrees outside. Paradise should not require hoodies.

She’s already packed Kashi bars and fruit strips in her backpack, plus the water bottles the hotel staff so kindly left when they prepared the room for our arrival the previous day, and is standing next to the door, similarly sleep-deprived yet incongruously wide awake. “Don’t forget your cameras. We’ve got to go.”

Hustle across the softly lit lobby to the sound of waves cresting and crashing against the distant shoreline. We marvel at the fact that we’re not the only ones scurrying about. Families wait in irritable impatience for the valet to pull around their minivans. Other couples slouch toward their self-parked rentals. One young woman unrepentantly drapes one of the hotel’s bed spreads across her shoulders as she traipses off into the darkness. It’s surreal and slightly absurd, but the night-shift staff all smile knowingly at us as we pass, completely unsurprised. Nothing more predictable than the tides or tourists, I suppose.

Finally in our rental car, top definitely up for this excursion, and out on the main highway, I settle into a comfortable speed, roll down the windows and listen to the cadence of tires spinning us toward our destination. No other sounds but that. No other lights but our headlights, piercing the nothingness of night. We’ve left the other tourists behind as I roll through the blackness in this still-unfamiliar beast of a rental that growls obstinately at the slightest press of my foot against the accelerator. He’s seen rough roads, this one, even for a relatively new model. I can’t help but wonder where those roads might be.

I’m about to find out.

The GPS finally directs us off the main highway and onto a narrow road barely visible minus the crisp British voice entreating me to “Turn here.” I obey, and the ascent begins immediately.

The rental’s four speeds dwindle to one–a churlish, lumbering grumble as I force it upward along a seemingly endless parade of switchbacks that float out of early mists and bend onward into blinding blackness. Only the distant glimpse of headlights far behind and below shatter the surreal solipsism of this long night’s journey into day.

The world diminishes to the breadth and depth of our high beams as we wind upward, stopping once to pay our entrance fee into the park (even this early, the booth contains a pleasant-faced ranger, donned in forest green and topped by Smokey the Bear headgear) before continuing on to the parking lot at the very end of the line. We glide past a sign that marks our elevation—10,000 feet above sea level—and slip into the first open spot in what seems to be a nearly full lot. Check the temperature gauge: 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-five degrees colder than when we left the hotel more than an hour ago.

Twist of the key and the whisper of illumination inside the car falls silent against the indigo rush surrounding us. Already the cold presses in around us as well, and in only a few moments, the inside of the car matches the chill of the outside. In that instant, I make my choice: better to roam than sit and shiver. I am alone in this crazy bravery, and I slip out of the car into the shockingly cold night air.

Teeth chattering, I make my way slowly along the slice of sidewalk illuminated by my little LED flashlight. Several yards out and up, fingers so cold I can no longer feel the flashlight, I stop, fumble to click the light off, and look upward toward the night sky.

A misting of stars, like breath released from unseen gods in awe of dizzying heights and freezing winds atop a land forged by molten fire. Sharp, startled awakening within me as I stare upward, struggling to understand, greedily consuming every parsec that I can.

I have never seen stars before this moment.

I stand with head thrown back, no longer certain whether my shivering is from the cold or from the sheer delight of a night sky as I have never seen it…unsure whether my eyes water from the steady, sharp winds or from emotion awakened by this sight so inconceivable. Yes, Inigo, I finally understand what this word means, and my heart feels as though it will burst with the beating of jubilation at the beauty before…above…surrounding me.

Only at the realization that I have nearly lost feeling in all my extremities do I finally look away from the dazzling, dizzying night sky. I make my way back to the car. This beauty must be shared. I lead her back to the same spot, click off my light, and we synchronously stare upward. We came here for one light show and discovered that this morning was going to be a double feature.

Finally, we notice the faintest sliver of color along the eastern horizon, beginning to split the two sides of night right along the seams. We make our way along a lava-formed precipice, taking our place on a rock outcropping, snuggling together against the unrelenting winds, and wait. Let the main event begin…

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Unleashing the Writer: Velocirapture

“Let’s watch Jurassic Park.”

Eyelids narrow, dark lashes forming a latticework of suspicion around sable irises. “You hate that movie.”

There was no point in denying her response. I do, indeed, despise Jurassic Park. It’s a troubling truth to most, but to none more so than to me. I should love this movie. I would love this movie if it didn’t come covered in a sickening glaze of Spielbergian schmaltz. As much as I loathe remakes, this is one movie I would love to see redone. I ask only for two things: more dinosaur-induced terror and no kids.

Still, I have my reasons.

Shrugging one shoulder, I head to the DVD shelf and slip the disc into the player. The truth was that it had been fewer than two days since we’d returned from Hawaii and I was already feeling a strangling sense of homesickness…for the beauty, for the freedom, for the unadulterated aloha of it all.

Our time off was steadily slipping away, like sand and warm water sifting and shifting around our legs, between our toes as we stood on random beaches, too beautiful to pass, too bountiful to stop at each one.

I needed to put out of my mind that soon enough we would be back to that mind-numbing regimentation of workweek predictability, broken only by two days in which to dream of the paradise that not even Milton could have sufficiently described.

And so I hit play on the DVD and did the only thing I could think of at the moment: lost myself to the world of Jurassic Park, filmed almost entirely on location on the beautiful island of Kaua’i, so breathtaking as we flew above the volcanic spikes and valleys, nothing more than black bands and silver buckles keeping us from shifting forward into the unrelenting rush of wind and soaring, if only for a few moments of unearthly perfection, above its verdant desolation.

We immediately began pointing at portions of the scenery as the Jurassic helicopter swooped into sun-dappled chasms, alighting atop a landing pad in front of falls we viewed a few days prior, smiling from the memory, laughing at the ridiculous joy of recognition.

All too soon, night descended on the cinematic landscape and nothing more was left to see beyond an imperfect plot, replete with forced sentimentality that I found as tasteless and unappealing as my first scoop of pasty purple poi.

Daybreak ascends once more, clever girl, and we catch a few more fleeting glimpses of that beautiful landscape as the Jurassic helicopter sweeps our heroes once again to safety.

Credits scroll, the only light reflecting in her dark gaze, as she queries, “So, did you like it this time?”

Another one-shoulder shrug. “I liked the scenery. I’m still waiting for it to end differently.”

An eye roll, barely visible in the semidarkness. “No matter how many times you watch it, those kids are never going to be eaten by the velociraptors.”

“One can dream,” I sigh, as we flick off the television and begin toward the stairs, to dream again of soaring above cerulean tides and emerald cliffs spearing the azure of heaven.

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Unleashing the Writer: Concerto

Well, that was weird. Whilst listening to the most rockalicious podcast EVAR as they dissect Aerosmith’s Pump, I happened to come across a mystery file on my memory stick titled “Concerto.doc.”

I honestly don’t remember writing this. Did I go through a period in which I was binge writing? Vomiting out bits and bobs of randomocity onto my keyboard in the wee hours of morning and saving it, only to be abandoned once the sobriety of daylight set back in? I’ve no idea. All I can tell you is that I created this file in March of 2006. I wish I knew where I was going with this one, but I can’t remember a blessed thing about it. However, I was so amused by the serendipity of discovering an abandoned story featuring Aerosmith while listening to bad-ass Brits talking about one of my favorite Aerosmith albums that I decided it was share-worthy.

Yes, it’s quite all right to question my tastes in shareable topics.

Figures that the best concert seats he’s ever gotten us would be for an evening of classical music. He had us sitting in a different altitude when I wanted to see Aerosmith, but for Mozart, we have fifth row center. Maybe the pianist will break out in a rendition of “Dream On” and I’ll be able to whip out my lighter. Highly doubtful though.

What’s on the bill for tonight? Piano concerto number 80. Sounds nice. I’m sure I’ve heard it before.

Unleashing the Writer: Character Sketch

This has been bouncing around in my folder of unfinished writings for about 4 years. I know there was something in my life at that time that inspired me to write this character sketch, but I cannot remember it. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with someone exactly like this; he’s more a pastiche of personalities from several different people.

I had a brainstorm a few months ago regarding his “story.” There are still some missing pieces to the puzzle, though, which I have used as an excuse to not even try to write more. Seems that if I spent nearly as much time writing as I do coming up with excuses as to why I can’t write, I’d be well ahead of the game by now 😐

He had never been one given to fanciful thinking. Even as a child, teachers viewed him as highly unimaginative, noting that he found more satisfaction (but never pleasure) in facts than in what he would later refer to as artistic frivolity. Literature bored him. He had no time for make-believe stories designed to stimulate a part of his brain long ago choked by webs of disuse. Music only irritated him with its destruction of silence, and he could not stand the multicolored cacophony of what others considered art.

As an adult, his creative handicap never became an issue. His abundant knowledge of computer language—the only foreign language he deemed worthwhile—helped him easily secure work as a programmer, a position that required of him only straightforward left-brain rationalization. He quietly occupied a cubicle hardly larger in size than a veal pen, tapping away on his keyboard to a syncopated internal rhythm with an 8-hour beat. While he was never rude in his dealings with others, coworkers held the unanimous opinion that his social graces were on par with the machines he worked on so diligently every day. They never assumed he would be available for monthly happy hours, springtime softball teams, or even the occasional extended lunch down at the local diner.

Unleashing the Writer: Auto Eroticism

[Loba Note: That snarky little editor in my brain refuses to stay quiet. Makes it very difficult to write with such inane chatter going on at the same time. So I put myself to a challenge: In 30 minutes, write a complete story without stopping to self-edit along the way. This is what I came up with. Some people take lunch breaks during their workday. I take writing breaks 😉 I know it’s rough and really silly, but it felt good to finally finish something.]

Sunlight shatters, a billion shards refracting through my windshield, scorching my silver shell the instant we exit the parking garage. The heat consumed all day by the brick, concrete, and asphalt of the city swirls outward in dizzying shimmers as we pass along, stop-and-go, toward the Beltway. She’s already got all four of my windows down. She rarely uses the A/C, even in the prime time swelter of a triple-digit summer day. It’s the feeling of the wind she craves, especially on afternoons like this one.

I can tell she’s tense, filled with frustration from whatever took place while she was away from me all day. She sits forward in her seat, both hands clenched tightly around my steering wheel. She’s a one-handed driver most of the time, fingertips from her left hand guiding me with gentle precision, right hand caressing my gear shifter.

She’s not quite ready for that familiarity today.

The traffic reporter does nothing to brighten her mood with his nay-saying about snags and tangles running all the way up most the major roadways.

A finger jabs at the radio, switching off the yammering news reporters, and she picks up her iPod, thumb making distracted circles as she surfs through her playlists. I already know what she’s looking for: a syncopated rhythm and a throbbing beat—something with the speed to keep up with the Morse code of frenetic energy her left boot is tapping out against my dead pedal.

She makes her selection just as we reach the on-ramp and a familiar guitar riff screams her frustrations from my speakers. Bring in the drums, pounding so loudly that the cuffs of her corduroys sway in the percussive wake. There’s an opening to her left and she slips in, perfectly matching the pace of the cars around us. I feel her relax into the driver seat’s embrace as the day sloughs away and she finally shifts herself into drive.

Deep breath out and now we begin.

There’s a new tension apparent in her grip. Not of frustration, but of anticipation. Her movements now are predatory, preternatural. Eyes scan each of my mirrors as she watches for another break in the maelstrom. The needle of my tachometer flutters, runs hot from the escalating pressure from her boot. She knows I’m ready for whatever she needs of me.

Space appears to her left and she strikes, the growl of all four of my cylinders coursing through our frames. One, two, three—and we’re far left of center and finally cruising. “Double nickels” is the speed limit, but we’re already only a quarter shy of a dollar. The roar of the wind increases through my cabin. Her response? Turn up the tunes and crush deeper into the vibrations. Tachometer needle switches like a cat’s curious tail as she upshifts to pass, downshifts to slip in where only we two knew we could sneak through.

Now we bide our time. Slow down the dance, take a moment to feel the music. She smiles first, then laughs from the giddiness of how we move together. There’s a split ahead and we glide toward the right, flirt amicably with the speed limit as we pass the point where cops often idle. No red and blue to stifle the surge that she forces through my engine, vibrations shuddering up her thigh from my gas pedal as we zip, zip, zoom into the empty lane to the left.

My gauges rise in response—speedometer, tachometer. My temperature gauge, though, levels out just below the midway mark. She never pushes me hotter than my engine can handle, never revs my RPMs into the red. Never asks for more than she knows I can give her.

I give to her willingly.

In and out we weave through traffic, perfect synchronicity, perfect control. Some have accused her of recklessness borne of her addiction to speed, but I know that in this dance, she knows exactly where to lead me next. She shifts me into top gear and we are nothing more than silver streaks of steel and fiery hair whipping like unquenchable flames.

Too soon our open road ends, our need barely sated. Gears downshift, engine purrs as we settle into the range of suitable suburban speeds. Her fingers loosen windy tangles from her hair, tap out the beat of the music as she unconsciously mouths along with the lyrics.

She pulls into our regular spot and cuts my engine. The workday-weary version of herself is gone, outpaced miles back by sound and speed and sunlight glinting off her now-strong smile. As she gathers her belongings and starts to slide from the driver seat, she touches my steering wheel one more time, a wistful finger traced along the downward curve.

“Good boy, Sammy.”

My mistress is pleased.