writing exercise #45: three prompts

Tall things that vibrate with life

Krista emerged from the subway exit into the sunlight. Noon in New York. Sunlight battered her into a crevice between doorways, just enough shadow falling across her phone so she could read the map. Two blocks that way. But which way was that way?

She stepped out, squinting in the glare. Why did she not have sunglasses? She did not have sunglasses because she was visiting from a land of fog, where one didn’t need shades unless driving inland from the coast and why would she do that except to visit the river and if she were visiting the river, she’d have her wide-brimmed sunhat on, the one her girlfriend had bought her at that cute boutique on the Plaza, one of those stores she never went into because she knew she couldn’t afford anything inside. But her friend was wealthy and kind and able to give expensive gifts without making her feel small.

Sometimes they hiked together, marveling at the mushrooms sprouting through the forest floor and even more at the birds fluttering the upper branches of the redwoods. “I wish we could climb them,” Lisa said. “I’ve read stories about all the life up there in the canopy, what a whole nother world it is. Seeing it would be amazing.”

The skyscrapers towering above Krista would have dwarfed those redwoods, she thought. The life that teemed within intrigrued her in a different way than the birds, the salamanders. She imagined thin women in black pencil skirts, high heels and perfect hair. The sort of women that would look her up and down, note she was no threat and then take her under their collective wing, teach her how to handle the boss, how to demand equal pay, maybe set her up with their pathetically artsy friend. She inhaled, the scent of Lisa and the forest faint. Her brain abuzz with honking horns, screeching brakes and the scent of fresh bagels wafting from the storefront nearby, Krista set off, watching as the blue dot on her smartphone map app launched its way toward her new life.

Habitual things that create triggers for lifelong happiness

“Eight things super successful people do before 8 a.m.”

Krista squinted over her coffee cup, shifted it to her left hand so her right could scroll down.

1. Exercise. Krista set her mug down on the desk, stood up, stretched. Sighed her way into lunges, four on each side, which didn’t seem like a lot, so she did 10 squats and 10, no 8, no seven pushups, then stayed in plank position for what very well could have been 30 seconds. Settled back into her desk with her coffee.

2. Map out your day. Easy enough. She looked at the time. Noon. Shit. Each lunch. Look for job. Go to library. The New York Public Library was amazing! Go to Grand Central Station. Wonder if the people trying the whispering wall were whispering something romantic. Shrug it off. Meet her roommate for happy hour. Spend more than she had. Go home. Pass out.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast. Krista looked at the sad banana on the counter. Brown spots. Pass.

4. Visualization. Wasn’t that the same as mapping out the day? Krista reached for the banana. Peeled it. Took a bite. Too soft, ugh, she thought as she chewed, swallowed, scrolled.

5. Make your day top heavy. What the fuck? she thought. Oh, do what you least enjoy first to get it out of the way. Okay, she thought, here goes. She picked up the phone, started to text, deleted it. Dialed. “Hello?” the voice on the other end hesitated. “Hi,” Krista confirmed.

Painful things that aren’t as devastating as the horrifying things with which others contend

They’d agreed to meet for lunch. Cliché, Krista thought, having to meet on neutral ground, but for the best. “I don’t want to see your apartment,” Lisa had said. “I’ll only find things to hate about it.” Krista had nodded, the thickness in her throat impeding speech. “So,” Lisa had said, “can we just meet somewhere easy for lunch?” Krista had murmured assent. Easy turned out to be a block from Grand Central, a bagel joint, because New York and bagels, Lisa had to try them, Krista insisted. There she was, Lisa, wool beanie and battered peacoat standing strong against the spring wind.

“Hi,” Krista said. One look at Lisa’s face and she kept her arms at her sides.

“Hey,” Lisa said. “So, should we order?” She glanced inside. “It seems kind of intense.”

“You just have to be commanding,” Krista said. “And you want an onion bagel with lox and cream cheese, toasted.”

“Oh, I do?” Lisa raised an eyebrow.

Krista started to say, Yes, I know you, but Lisa had already turned, marched inside. The line moved quickly. “French toast bagel, walnut cream cheese, not toasted,” Lisa asserted.

Krista sighed, ordered the onion with lox and cream cheese. They squeezed into seats at the counter. Lisa unfolded her napkin, then folded it. Then unfolded it.

“Are you okay?” Krista asked.

Lisa turned to lock eyes with Krista. “Seriously?”

Krista looked away. “I’m sorry.  I know it’s been hard.”

“Hard?” Lisa said. “No. Being a Syrian refugee is hard. Losing your job and your home is hard. Finding out you have cancer is hard. Your best friend moving away without warning, well, that’s just an inconvenience.” She glared at Krista.

“Here,” Krista dug an envelope out of her purse and thrust it at Lisa. “My half of the rent I owe you. Sorry for sticking you with the lease. I just,” she paused. “I just had to leave.”

Lisa took the envelope, looked away. “Thanks,” she said. “I miss you.” She stood up. “I can’t eat this bagel,” she said. “I hate all the sweetness.”

“I know,” Krista said. She pushed her untouched bagel at Lisa. “Take mine.”

They regarded each other.

“I got it for you,” Krista pleaded.

Krista watched as Lisa glanced around absorbing the move-move-move of the bagel shop, the sunlight beating the air outside into submission, the newspapers trumpeting death tolls and political betrayals, then gathered the bagel, fat with lox and cream cheese, into a napkin.

Lisa left without looking back.

Only fair, Krista thought.

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