This Is Not About You

She is a sixteen-year-old chain smoker with a sugar addiction. She takes a lot of walks. She likes getting up early in the morning, but only if it means that an adventure waits for her in the day ahead. She feigns aloofness, and has friends twice her age. The upperclassmen steer clear of her, intimidated by her clear blue eyes and unwillingness to keep her opinions to herself. She’s more mature than her peers, she can make fart jokes and discuss complex literary themes and understands the importance of both. She’s unquenchably creative, she cares more than she might like to admit. She enjoys spending time alone. She enjoys spending time with the voices inside of her head.

 

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Some time last year, I purchased 642 Things to Write About. I have yet to fill out a fraction of the prompts, but I am putting my favorites here.

There are two kinds of people: drunks and survivors of drunks. Which are you?

I’m a survivor of drunks. The perpetual designated driver. Mom. Alcohol is fire and it makes us stupid. Maybe I’m in the corner with a stout glass, filled halfway with whatever and Coke. But all I really do is stand and watch. Glasses clink and people stumble. I laugh to myself, feeling a little superior. I’m not, I know. Not really. I just have to be home by eleven.

The nape of her husband’s neck. 

It’s become her favorite part of him. Late at night, she stares at it. She’s spent so much time looking at it, she’s memorized the swirl of downy hair that she can only see when his curls haven’t grown too shaggy. He used to like to be kissed there. Sometimes, she tries, but he’ll get up, heading for the bathroom. Sometimes, she feels him staring at the nape of her neck. She turns to him, but he rolls too. Sometimes, there’s a lipstick stain there. It’s never hers. It hasn’t been for months. One night, she snaps a polaroid of him, sleeping, breathing. The nape of her husband’s neck. What she used to love. She climbs out of the window to sit on their sloped roof in checkered pants and nothing else. She’s laughing.

Describe a trip to an amusement park, focusing on the colors, sounds, smells and tastes of the day. 

Roller coasters smell like fear (puke, sweat, tears) and unbridled joy (cotton candy, corn dogs). They sound like rusty nails and wooden planks about to snap. The red paint on the side of the haunted house in June is chipping, peeling. The air carries the faint smell of shit over from the neighboring pasture, mixing with caramel corn and funnel cakes, so no one can quite put their finger on why the fair grounds smell so odd. A stream of sticky sweet soft serve slides shakily down the dimpled chin of a chubby child. Beneath the screaming and crying and laughing there’s a B-list band playing in the muddy outdoor venue. Beneath that, beneath it all, if someone listens closely enough, they could hear the voices of the people who once belonged here and are now dead.

Write a story using four L words: lipstick, lust, loss and locked. 

Carmen Manila dumps the contents of her large, black pocketbook onto the carpeted floor. Her life, essentially, lies before her. The things most needed and the things least important. A small silver pen, won from a Christmas cracker. A pair of large, cat-eye sunglasses, and a pair of square, pink ones. White headphones that only play out of one ear. A receipt with a heart drawn by the barista she lusts after, stuck halfway in a notebook embossed with her monogram. Stray peanut M&Ms, what a loss, fallen out of their yellow package to grow sticky in her bag for weeks on end. Makeup samples litter the floor, nicked and unused, from a recent trip to a Big Name department store. Three rings, one silver, two gold, a packet of matches and a lighter, a leather wallet. The handkerchief from her ex, a symbol of the secret she’s kept locked away for eight weeks. A bottle of ibuprofen, with two pills left, and a grimy coin purse from her vacation to Greece two years ago. A half-empty bottle of flat sparkling water. A stolen lipstick, red, and a purchased one, a nude she finds unflattering. Frustrated and defeated by the confrontation of her entire life lying lackluster on the carpet, Carmen returns everything to her purse. Even the lonely M&Ms.