Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Invisible Woman

Write a short scene in which a woman becomes invisible, briefly, for no explained reason. I leave it up to you what she will observe in her state of lucidity and transparency: her boyfriend's or husband's or male friend's life, a short scene of men without women, or a scene of another woman and her man (innocent or not). No one can see or hear her. She is not a ghost, and at the end of your narrative return her to her fully fleshed out self, again with no explanations. In other words, don't worry too much about the problems of imperceptibility. Just jump into the story and follow its political, rather than science fiction, consequences.
(from prompt #42 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

The gym
"The Gym" by combust

When she looked sideways at the mirror, she saw an empty seat where she should have seen herself sitting. The handle she held dropped and the weight swung down from the pivot point; in the middle of arm extensions, she glanced to her left to examine her tricep and saw nothing but suspended equipment. The gym remained the same, there were rows of women running in place above her, and men spotting each other in bench presses among the free weights. But in the mirror, the seat she occupied looked available. Testing this, she again extended herself, felt the dull strain in her upper arm, saw the weight lift and the handle rise and then drop with a clang that no one else seemed to hear.

She stood up, looked down, saw her own shoes tied tightly, felt up and confirmed a swinging ponytail on her head. The mirror reflected nothing. She walked up to a man laying on his back and lifted her shirt, jumped up and down, and waited. No reaction, just a grunt while he hefted up a bar stacked with more weight than she contained. She did a little shimmy and almost cried that he didn’t stop, gaping in wonderment at her naked breasts. He just kept lifting weight for the sake of it, completely ignoring her.

“I am invisible.” She didn’t say it out loud, she kept her thoughts in her head, and she sat, dazed, at the foot of the man in front of her.

She felt free and a little ecstatic; like someone had given her a superpower in the middle of the night and while part of her felt irritated at being disturbed, every other part of her delighted in the possibilities of what to do when no one can see.

She explored the idea of pranks; she considered mischief like a foreign language. She stepped on the scale behind a woman weighing herself, gave her a fright. She pulled the pin on a man bracing himself for a shoulder press and watched his face display surprise, then embarrassment, then cool recovery in a moment. The treadmills tempted her but she resisted ruining anyone’s stride, and instead she turned all the televisions to Spanish cartoons and laughed by herself at the few people this confused.

She wandered to the gym’s front desk and put herself up for free membership for the next year. Then thinking further she gave herself back credit for all the years she’d been a member, in addition to free membership going forward. It felt very bad and she surprised herself by doing it anyway.

In the locker room, she looked in the mirror out of habit. Realizing this habit sobered her up, she felt lonely without a reflection and lost, though she could still feel her hair pulled back and see her shoes laced. Things tied to her, around her, proved her existence but it scared her to not recognize herself among the images of women changing in the room. She watched women in the mirror, glancing at themselves or pausing and staring and pulling and prodding themselves, but her philosophizing was interrupted by her name.

Instead of herself she saw friend Emily balancing a cell phone on her shoulder while using both her hands to tie her shoes. With a thrill she realized she could hear Emily talk about her, she could hear what someone thought of her. But the words coming out of Emily sounded like they were describing someone else, someone awful. So she left Emily to frown at her reflection, she left the locker room and rushed towards the door of the gym, rushing towards somewhere without strangers or mirrors.

At the door she stopped, holding the handle, bracing herself for the rest of the world and the people in it who couldn’t see her. She gathered her strength and reached out and nearly fell forward through the open door, being held open for her by a man staring down at her chest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Oxymoron

Use a dozen of these lovely phrases (like "she was gaily grieving" or "he had many pleasing pains") to describe a large oxymoron--a person, place, or event. The thing you're looking for in a good oxymoron is the surprise of the connections.
(from prompt #41 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

door number 1
"door number 1" by tanjatiziana

Before the interview I prayed like the devil for God knows what: luck, confidence, something that could instigate a permanent change of life for me. Everyone tried encouraging me, telling me to act natural, to just be myself. Whatever that means, because if I were to act natural I’m not sure it would be myself, and lately what felt natural is more ostrich than human. Inside I just wanted to hide from the outside world, filled as it is with voices telling me what I ought and ought not to want, but I’d been stuck inside so long that what I wanted most was fresh air. Handing a stranger a single sheet of paper declaring my value made me hyperventilate, which is a generous exchange when it comes to being able to breathe.

When they asked me why I’d had such an extended experience with temporary employment, as I figured they would, I had some prepared answer about personal business that could demonstrate maturity and responsibility. Something I could say that sounded more dignified than the truth, that it had been a pretty ugly year, spent hiding my head in the sands of time and debt piling up on me.

I know better than to admit some things, I know that leaving things unsaid saves others the trouble of pretending things are gonna be okay. We’d gone out to the cliffs the week before I left and looked out at the edge, silent and alone together on a clear summer day. The only words I remember were asking whats wrong with me, but I’m not sure who asked, it’s the same difference whichever of us did. The answer both of us knew without saying was, nothing you can fix. At a close distance the surf beat against the wall we were standing on, over and over, in big swells of water and in small laps, but from where we were we couldn’t see anything but the wide stretch of water resting fitfully around us, as far as we could see and farther. Just the deep Pacific, dark blue and torrid against a calm cloudless sky, and neither of us could appreciate the dueling expanses because we were just trying not to talk about much we couldn’t say. When we left the cliffs something had changed in an instant but we didn’t realize it for months.

It surprised me one day, about a year ago, to comprehend my ignorance, to understand that things always change. That day, a Tuesday, I woke up with dreams and went to bed without them. I felt numb. And the shock stuck to me and gathered and grew, like all things electric it made the natural appear unnatural and my thoughts were conducted accordingly. Mostly misdirected, searching for something to connect with, my thoughts circled round themselves straight to nowhere. Thinking so much about my meaningless life was the most destructive action, it nearly killed me trying to figure out how to live.

After I got the job, my boss mentioned in passing what I’d done that had stayed with her, that had gotten me hired. She said that, luckily, it was the confident manner in which I spoke, thanks to my habit of taking two deep breaths before speaking or even reacting. She said I was living proof that sometimes you just need to remember to breathe, but of course its just the opposite. Remembering to breathe being proof of living.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Doubling Up

Write two paragraph-long character sketches of two people you know well. Wait a day, then write another long paragraph sketch that takes elements from the two people you know to create a third, fictional character. The key here is to use the two pieces of writing, not the two people you've written about. Fit together two paragraphs of prose into one character sketch, making sense of the combination somehow.
(from prompt #40 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

"Laugh" by sflovestory

She isn't the heroine of a novel written in first person. The novel she imagines for herself uses a lot of adverbs: she laughs flirtatiously, she gazes directly. She sits quietly and responds promptly; she is never too absorbed in a task, always just absorbed enough to keep from being bored.

With a polite and quiet base level, her political opinions are unexpected: she cares (passionately) about ideals, she is liberal, she is knowledgable. She reads the CNN website and follows certain stories: Nancy Grace stories about child abduction as well as political stories about bills up, scandals, injustices. She worries. She is afraid of men, of being alone, of change. She is not afraid of her own power. She wants to be a social care worker and her family amuses her, with their antics and Mexicanness, her nieces and nephews running around and nearly knocking over her abuelita. She dates but with a wary eye, she isn't seduced by a sweet talker. Sex doesn't alarm her, but she respects it, its place, and allows it. She always notices attractive men and points them out. She sleeps with stuffed animals. She likes shopping websites, shoes, and romantic comedies.

She has a certain neutralness, and could be called generic if you didnt look closer. She has a big smile and luxurious hair. She has broad shoulders and breasts that spill out, as if she is unaware of their existence. She smiles (widely) and giggles about dogs, about slips of the tongue, about innocent mistakes, about the behavior of animals and the characteristics of people working with animals. She is enthusiastic and expects this enthusiasm to be met by those around her. She gets confused by things outside her norm, and she doesn't like to be asked to adapt. She eats rich foods and warms her bread. She worries about her weight.

She knows she is a good friend. Her friends describe her as she sees herself: she laughs flirtatiously, she gazes directly. Anyone could write her story, but she doesn't know who would.

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