writing exercises #54 (list of things that please you greatly), #55 (she was easily distracted by shiny things)

It’s been a while. Remember: It’s fiction. Playtime.

***

PROMPT: List of things that please you greatly.

She loved a good cheese plate. The sharpness of the blue, the creaminess of the chevre, even the cliché of a sharp cheddar. Maybe especially the cliché of  sharp cheddar. Because at some point, wasn’t sex also a cliché? Only so many positions brought satisfaction and, she thought, despite the claims of the magazine covers yelling at her when all she really wanted was to check out with a bottle of Chardonnay – cliché – and a wedge of cheese, maybe with crackers, maybe not – you didn’t really need “101 of the HOTTEST Positions Known To Man (and Woman)kind.” Maybe you just needed a glass of wine and eight minutes and then some food after. Few things annoyed her as much as a man who couldn’t finish in a timely manner. That’s why she saved the snacks for after. He could stay or not, but at least she could imbibe at her leisure, enjoy the satisfaction an assortment of quality cheeses – and maybe some honey and dried fruit, maybe some tiny crackers – provided.

He loved a woman with a little more flesh on her bones than magazines would suggest was appropriate. Once he dated a yoga instructor who also did Crossfit. The tautness of her body looked great on the dance floor, but sex was like fucking a piece of jerky, tendons stretched taut. He would instigate the most acrobatic positions he could think of, simple missionary being a potential embarrassment. But after enough positions, enough women, enough fucking, what worked and what didn’t was obvious enough – and the ease of effort shone through in the post-coital cuddling. A statistics geek by nature and an odds-setter by profession, he’d noted a direct correlation between how quickly orgasms were achieved and the fondness after. The longer it took, the more desperate one or the other of the coupling couple became, the more likely the post-payoff would look something like this: “So… it’s cool if you leave now.”

I love a good story. I long for my life to be a good story. Enough of it is that putting it together in photos, in videos, in drunken retellings to friends, that I’m confident good stories will be shared at my memorial. Whenever that may be. I want to say the thought of checking out pleases me greatly – but how fucked is that? So fucked. And not in the good way. I’m embarrassed, being the recipient of so much good fortune, that I would ever complain about anything, much less being tired of life, of this great life, this beautiful life, this sex-filled life. I have been made to feel beautiful. So let me start again.

What pleases me greatly is a good story. One in which the characters are flawed, but noble at heart. One in which no one comes by success too easily. One in which the characters I’m rooting for make stupid mistakes and then compensate and then – and this is key – despite their stupidity, somehow find redemption. Redemption pleases me greatly. To invest in characters who are flawed and not redeemed pains me – that is too much like life. I want my stories to offer hope, forgiveness.

She wanted a good story. I wanted to give her one. Which is why I pressed my leg against hers as we both inhabited bar stools, both waited for our drinks. I didn’t press hard, enough that if she liked it, she could respond, but lightly, so if she didn’t, it would seem like a mistake. Like I hadn’t realized. But I did realize. And from there, from that gentle pressure, leg against leg, so many mistakes would be made. But I revel in mistakes, at least when they involve my body and a woman’s body, and her body was so nice, soft in all the right places. She probably thought she was fat, but she wasn’t. Just soft. Which pleased me greatly.

I confess, it didn’t end well. He pressed his leg against mine and I was stupid. Redemption failed to arrive.

This drink, it pleases me greatly.

***

PROMPT: She was so easily distracted by shiny things.

The fire blazed. The man kept speaking to her. “Are you all right?” he asked. He tucked a blanket around her. She looked at him. Blue eyes like water. Yellow helmet tilted back. Black soot across his cheekbones. She wished her makeup looked as good.

“What?” she asked, pulling the blanket across her chest. It was silver, the blanket, some sort of high tech thing.

“Are you feeling okay?” he asked. “You can get in the ambulance.” He gestured. Lights whirred against the smoke-filled sky.

She turned her attention back to the flames. Mostly they burned low now, just on the ground floor. The firefighters had doused the roof, the second story, were now hacking into the bottom of the building with axes, hoses, cheekbones of steel.

She’d been surprised, imagining that since fire burnt upward, they’d extinguish from the lower level up. The meditation app she’d been using instructed visualization like this: a glowing orb, the size of a grapefruit, perhaps, starting between the ankles, shifting to the belly, the solar plexus (she’d had to Google that to remember where it was), the chest, the throat, the brows, then slipping out of the body to hover above her head. She’d expected they’d fight fires the same way, only with a stop at the crotch, from where all fire truly stemmed, amirite?, she thought, a laugh escaping her.

“Is that a yes?” the firefighter said. Oh, right. Was she okay?

“I’m okay.”

“Close call,” he said. And then some words about fire preparedness, how few people think ahead. Extinguishers. Candles. Blankets.

She shrugged the blanket off her shoulders, handed it back. The night wrapped itself around her, crisp.

“Do I need to stay?” she asked. The firefighter, who hadn’t actually fought the fire, she thought to herself, looked her up and down.

“Not if you feel okay. Do you have somewhere to go?”

She did. And she went there.

“Thank you,” she said to her cousin. Jackie continued to tuck the sheets in around her, so tightly she feared she wouldn’t be able to roll from back to side. “This is great. You’re so sweet.”

“I can’t imagine losing everything,” Jackie said. “I’m so sorry.”

She shrugged. Or would have if she wasn’t pinned to the bed by cowboy sheets. Ten-gallon hats and spur-laden boots had trapped her body. Remnants of Jackie’s son, her, what would he be, first cousin once removed? What a strange turn of phrase. In any case, he was fine, off at college, his mother kept busy with the needs of her husband, her other children. A sense of claustrophobia enveloped her.

She breathed, like the app told her. Between the ankles, a shiny glow. Navel. Diaphragm. Chest. Throat. The glow always slipped from a pulsating orb to a hand here, thumb on one side, four fingers on the other, her breathing grew shallow and then, remembering, temple. And then, released from the confines of her body, the shiny thing, a tiny sun, but contained, that was important now, a tiny ball of light, shimmering above her head.

So shiny.

Here she was.

Now.

 

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