I thought I’d give the Indie Ink Writing Challenge another go this week, because hey, I like writing things I wouldn’t normally come up with on my own, and it turns out it really is a challenge. This week, my prompt is from Runaway Sentence:
the mad hatter’s tea party
My challenge for the week went to Nikki. Here we go.
m just going to warn you now that this is probably a cop-out, but I haven’t been able to get to this before today. I was supposed to get out of work at 4:30 this afternoon, which would’ve left me lots of time to write, but then there was this complete clusterfuck right at the end of the day, so it didn’t work out according to plan (as soon as there was a quiet-ish moment I ran for it, only to have to call back five minutes later to ask, “Hey, did I even log out of my computer or did I just run away?”) (Answer: I did log out of my computer.) So I came home and had a beer and thought: the mad hatter’s tea party. And then I drew a pie chart depicting days of the year (by birthdays and unbirthdays):
I think we can all agree that image is a bit blurry.
And then I had a memory. I must’ve been 15, and I was sitting in a diner late at night with three other people. We are having coffee, because that’s what you do when you’re a teenager in a diner late at night. We also have a giant bag of jelly beans. A girl ashes her cigarette into her coffee, looks at it, takes a sip, shrugs and says “Fiber.”
Years later, I was with the same girl (she had since quit smoking) and several other people I hadn’t seen since high school, in a bar. A guy sitting across from me orders vodka on the rocks. I get a text message and look at my phone. “My boyfriend is being an asshole,” I say, sipping my drink. “We’re going to break up.” He looks at the table, says nothing.
Several years before that, I was sitting on the large front porch of a large Victorian house with the guy, the one who would, years later, sit across from me and order vodka and say nothing. There’s a party happening in the house, people are laughing. Outside where we are, there is a thunderstorm, a violent, Michigan-in-the-summer storm, and we are watching it in silence. I can’t see his face, but I can see smoke from his cigarette swirling lazily through the heavy wet air. He makes me nervous, though I don’t know why. Silently, to myself, I mouth his name. It feels like a beautiful poem on my tongue. I am drunk.
Vodka in the summertime makes sense to me, but vodka when it is cold outside seems wrong for reasons I can’t decipher. It’s an arbitrary rule I made up sometime, one of those rules I have that other people break all the time because they don’t abide by my sense of order. My at-the-time boyfriend drinks vodka although it’s freezing outside and I try not to be bothered. Moments before, a woman says to him, “You’re from England,” and he replies “I am, yeah.” She hears me say something in my accent — mostly Midwestern, tinged with Arkansas around the edges — and realizes that I am in a long-distance relationship. “Be together,” she says. She is impressively drunk. “Be together.” I say something I think is clever, she counters with “I am 45 and alone. You two: be together.” Weeks later when it all falls apart, I can’t stop thinking about her.
Tonight I try to write. I have a lot on my mind, and none of it translates into what I want to say. I don’t have time to be bothered by this. I sit outside in the June night that’s starting to turn dark — it’ll be there fast, because it always goes fast once it starts to go — and smile. A firefly flickers next to the giant oak in the neighbor’s front yard. It’s the first firefly I’ve seen all summer; they’ve been more rare the past few years. An ant crawls up my leg.
So, that pretty much had nothing to do with the prompt, but even though I ended up somewhere else entirely, I did start there. And I have the pie chart to prove it.