In an effort to connect with the part of me that aspires to write fiction, I’ve been meeting with a few writer friends each week and writing…well, fiction. Sort of anyway. We jump off from a writing prompt and write for a half hour or more. It’s kind of fun to see what sorts of characters and places come up.
I wrestle with a lot of resistance with this project. Invariably I feel like I have nothing to write, I’m pulling from a void. But I want this. I want to explore the various pathways my writing can take. And, it’s a lot of fun to hang out with these talented women.
In typical writerly self-deprecation, we all pooh pooh our efforts before reading them to the group. We are each utterly convinced that we have just written total crap.
But a sort of magic happens once we muster our courage and read our words out loud. Sometimes they don’t sound quite so much like crap even to our own ears, and definitely not to the group.
Sadly, I haven’t made the time to follow through on any of my fiction vignettes once I leave this lovely group of women each Wednesday night. One of those resolves that drops down to the bottom of the list once I am faced with day-to-day life again, and all those seemingly urgent activities that clamor for my attention.
I’m not always sure what to do with these characters who visit me on fiction night, but I’m glad they show up once I set pen to paper (or, more often, fingers to keyboard.)
Since I’m feeling a little empty this morning as far as my commitment to daily writing on this blog, I thought I’d share my exercise from last Wednesday. Our prompt was “Secrets.”
Amber hiked her purse higher on her shoulder as she hurried across 2nd Avenue. A freezing wind whipped her hair across her face and crumpled bits of paper blew down the gutters appearing to race for their own shelter. She stepped up on the grimy curb, careful to avoid jamming her heel into a grate and raised her hand to signal a taxi.
She sighed as she watched several unlit taxis sail past ignoring her motions. One stopped not two yards ahead and a young man strode toward it and disappeared inside. How could she have forgotten to turn on her alarm? Again. She craned her neck up the street, looking for an empty cab. Her freezing finger hanging in the air like an antenna. Ah. Finally.
Once in the warm elevator, she fumbled through her bag through her keys, while her fellow riders stared at the walls. Whew. She’d made it just in time. Mary was due in for her appointment in just six minutes. Flipping light switches while shucking her jacket, she threw some grounds into waiting coffee filter and turned it on. The satisfying gurgle greeted her ears , a familiar friend along with the rising aroma of Italian Roast.
Okay, desk cleared off. Check. Fresh tissues on the coffee table. Check. She pulled Mary’s file from the heavy drawer, setting it on neatly in the center of the desk just as she heard the jingle of the bell from the front door. Instinctively, Amber reached behind her and straightened the framed certificate hanging on the wall. As if the fact that it was slightly askew would alert an observer, compelling him or her to take a closer look, perhaps find something even more askew…
“Amber?” Mary’s voice was tentative, and Amber realized with a start that she hadn’t called out her customary greeting.
“Mary! How are you this morning?” She slipped easily into character as she reached for Mary’s hand in greeting. She gestured to the overstuffed chair opposite her desk. “Have a seat.”
Mary pulled off fur-trimmed gloves and shrugged off her sienna brown coat, folding it carefully before laying over the arm of the couch. Then she plopped into the chair, sinking into the cushions with a sigh.
“Oh, it always feels so good to be here,” she said. “Amber, do you know what a gift you are?” She leaned forward and stared earnestly into Amber’s eyes. “If I hadn’t found you I don’t know where I’d be. Maybe dead.”
Amber held her professional smile and willed herself to hold Mary’s gaze. “All I’ve done is facilitate,” she responded. “I’m just a catalyst, allowing you to discover everything you already know.”
“You’ve saved my life,” Mary insisted. “I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
“Well, thank you. I appreciate your gratitude, but my job will really be done when you recognize that you hold all the answers inside. Now. How are you feeling today?’
Mary sighed again, looked down at her hands, examining the blood-red ovals of her fingernails. “Ohhh, I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been slipping. I fell apart last night, I mean fell apart, when Brad told me he was taking off for Baltimore again.”
“What do you mean, fell apart?”
The frustration of her hectic morning slowly slipped away as Amber gently questioned her client, slipping in the clues to guide her toward self understanding. Once again in her element, she was born for this, she knew it. The hour flew by, as the tension in Mary’s face slowly softened.
“I love you Amber, I really do!” Mary’s voice trembled as she clasped her hand. “ I know that sounds weird to say that to a therapist, but you just always make everything so clear. Please don’t ever go anywhere.”
Amber smiled and changed the subject to small talk as she walked Mary to the door. “See you next week.”
As she turned back to pour a second cup of coffee, the flood of surety she’d felt during the hour began to drain away. She hoped she wasn’t going anywhere. But the fear always haunted her. What if she were ever caught?