A Cool Change

Glove box with owner's manual.

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This writing thing is fun…and a bit scary. It is scary to put your thoughts out there for all the world to see, to be scrutinized and critiqued, but you know what…I am 45, so screw it! It’s time to live dangerously. (I am such a rebel.)

“Forty is the old age of youth.  Fifty is the youth of old age.” French Proverb.

My Readers Digest Contest is still going, the contest goes until November 15 so please vote a few more times! Or…enter yourself.  You might get hooked like me. (If you vote for me, I’ll vote for you…)

http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/

(If you highlight this address, right-click, go to the site and go to Editor’s Picks, you should see my entry (Sunday Car Ride, Anne Sawan)

I actually just entered another competition put out by Writers Digest. This one is a story of 750 or less, and the topic is, “You are pulled over for speeding and when you open your glove compartment to get out your registration, something important falls out.”

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/promptly/your-story-prompts/your-story-3

Pretty interesting, right? Could be a lot of things: a hotel receipt, a can of forgotten Spaghettios, a photo of someone, a report card, an overdue library book, that lost check you and your spouse fought over, your child’s pet hamster…anything…

Funny where writing takes you if you let it. Sometimes you start off thinking one thing and end up with a completely different story.  I sometimes feel like it controls me more than I control it.

This story is a bit different for me as I usually write children’s books, so we will see how it goes. I think it is good to challenge yourself once in a while. Change things up. Why not try your hand at it, let those creative juices flow, see where it leads you…

The Letter

The blue and white lights flashing in my eyes made me dizzy, and the starched grey pants pressed against my car door made me sick.

I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t be able to smell the scent of alcohol. It had only been two, three, maybe three and a half or four glasses of wine.

“Registration please.”

I leaned over and opened the glove compartment,

Papers spilled out: old car registrations I had never thrown away, a few parking passes from the university, some gum wrappers.

I bent down, hoping to find a piece of forgotten gum to cover up the smell of the wine, and I saw it.

White with just a tinge of blue.

Bile began bubbling up in my throat.

The evidence of my cowardice.

The note I wrote to Jimmy.

We had met freshmen year in college. He sat behind me in chemistry class. I noticed him right away because he had this terribly annoying way of slurping his coffee, and because his big brown eyes made it all okay.

Fridays we went to Copperfields. The cigarette smoke was always thick and the place smelled like spilled beer and old sweat.  It was fall in Boston, if there was a Red Sox’s game the television would be on. I watched, I cheered. Jimmy grabbed me, sliding his hand behind my neck, and pulled me close.

Everything was changed in that one drunken moment in that small, smelly bar. After college we moved into a cramped basement apartment. Jimmy sailed through law school; I struggled to complete my doctorate.  Jimmy sat up with me as I typed away. He listened to me complain about my Goddamn professors and my useless research.  He wouldn’t let me quit, even when I cried. He would just shake his head, and quietly put the cups in the dishwater.

When my dissertation was completed, my cap and gown were on; he popped a bottle of champagne, got down on one knee, and asked me to be with him forever. I said yes.

We had sugar spun autumn leaves on our cream cheese frosted carrot cake and traveled to Africa for our honeymoon. We loved each other, we breathed in each other, we were each other.

I started my new position teaching at the university after we returned, becoming one of the hated professors I had complained about so bitterly. We bought a small house in the suburbs, Jimmy cut the grass, I painted the bathroom Seashell Blue, then Sienna Red, then back to Seashell Blue.  Jimmy wrapped his legs around mine one night and whispered, “Let’s have a baby.”

He pressed his knee into mine under the conference table.  I didn’t move.  His fingers touched mine in the elevator. I didn’t resist.  He held an umbrella over my head as we walked across campus. Then he asked me out for drink, after work. I knew what he meant; I saw it in his eyes. That’s how it began. Then came the stolen kisses in the hallway, afternoons in hidden places.  He urged me to say goodbye, to end it quickly, for Jimmy’s sake.

I stopped at the mall on the way home. There were cards for everything: cards for births, for deaths, for marriages, and anniversaries, holiday cards, leaving work cards, broken legs cards…but no, “I am going to break your heart” cards.  No cards to say, “Goodbye, I am a cheater. I am a coward. I need to go…”

I bought a card with a teal and gold peacock spread across the front, wordless inside.

I filled it with the empty language of “I am sorry,” “I don’t know what happened,” “You deserve better.”  I slipped it into the white with a blue tinge envelope.  I would put the card on the table for him to see.

I pulled up to the house. There was a police car parked outside and an officer standing on the newly painted front porch.

I slipped the card into my glove compartment.

“Mrs. Cummings?” he said, stepping carelessly onto the lawn my husband had fertilized and watered so lovingly the day before.

“I am sorry Ma’am. There has been an accident. Your husband… his car… off the road…So sorry.”

The policeman came back to the car, handed me my registration.

“I am letting you go with a warning.  Watch the speed please.”

I sat there trembling, the taste of cheap wine rising in my throat and I began to vomit.

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