Since I claim to be a writer, I should probably give you a story to read, shouldn’t I? Here is an excerpt from a book called Thirty that is in the final stages of editing so I can submit it. The story is about Ali, a writer who has become disenchanted with her life. At her 30th birthday party, she walks out on her family to find herself; or at least to try and find ‘one true sentence’. What she finds is a strange adventure and a cast of Homeric characters that propel her forward on her journey.
Before she leaves, however, she tries to visit old friends, but things just aren’t the same. Enjoy:
I pulled up to Dawn’s home and knew it had been too long for a reason.
Awkward butterflies attacked as my heels echoed on the sidewalk. I tugged at the hem of my short shirt as I caught my reflection in the minivan windows I passed. The perfectly happy manicured lawn scoffed at my thick makeup. And I tried to hide my bulging cleavage with my leather jacket as I read the tole painted sign that hung on the front door. “God Bless Our Home.”
Fuck. I glanced longingly at my piece of shit car then frowned at the door. She knew I was on my way but I wonder if I could sneak away and call in an excuse.
Dawn, my best friend from high school, had married six years ago the second we graduated from college. We had lost touch after the wedding. I knew she had two kids in that time, but I guess I just thought she wouldn’t change that much.
To say Dawn had been wild back then was an understatement. She was the one who taught most of us girls about sex, the really dirty and kinky kind, using books and photos from reputable magazines like Penthouse and Hustler. She taught us how to put on make-up the way strippers do, and she taught us how to get the attention of the boys we wanted.
If Dawn had been notable in high school; she was legendary in College. She proclaimed her womanhood by becoming a promoter of free love and birth control, condoms and drunken orgies, education and seducing professors.
We had been friends in High School, and because we both went to the same College, it just came to pass that she was my best friend.
I don’t know what I had expected now. I thought of the girl I had stood up for as she got married, the girl who drank her husband and the groomsmen under the table, the girl who had taken the microphone, toasted her new in-laws by outing her father-in-law and disclosing her mother-in-law’s various affairs, the girl who had spent the last half hour of her wedding reception gambling with the caterers for a lower bill, and the girl who had angrily ripped at her wedding dress for being too tight and was carried to the get away car in only her lingerie. Dawn.
That Dawn couldn’t possibly live in this two-story gingerbread house complete with minivan, window flower boxes, perfect lawns and God signs. Could she? It had only been six years. Maybe I had misread Dawn when she said, ‘come over, it will be just like old times.’
Old times never involved a minivan before.
Old times involved short skirts, slutty bars and laughter.
I was backing away from the front door, sneaking silently on my tip toes so as not to click click too loudly, when it flung open. “Ali!” Dawn screamed, well, a version of Dawn screamed.
She caught me in an embrace which gave me time to get past my original Holy Shit reaction. The Dawn who opened the door was not my old friend Dawn from high school and college. She had been replaced by her mother.
“Dawn.” I said, trying to act as excited as she acted. The acting surprised part was the part that was coming rather naturally, it was the horrified look I knew I had on my face I was trying desperately to get rid of.
She pulled away and looked at me, “I can’t believe it. You look…great!” She squeaked, which I took to mean that I looked cheap and she couldn’t believe she was about to let me into her blessed home.
“You look…” tired, heavy, strange, homely, old, like your mother!! “…wonderful.” I finally forced the unwanted adjective from my mouth.
“Well, come in, come in.” She stuttered as she waved a chubby hand to the entrance way.
This was a bad idea.
I smiled and grudgingly accepted her tritely offered hospitality. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to realize we were not who we had once been. Or at least, Dawn wasn’t who she had once been.
I walked into her manicured-Martha-Stewart-esque home that reminded me of her mother’s house. There were perfectly arranged vignettes of pictures, candles and fake flowers everywhere. Pictures, in matching frames, of her and her husband doing every day All-American husband and wife things with their two children adorned every other available shelf.
“Oh, are those your kids?”
“Yes,” she beamed proudly.
“Jane and…I’m sorry, it’s been so long, I forgot your son’s name.” Hell, I was impressed I could remember at least one name.
“Richard.” Dawn supplied.
I nodded politely, that’s right, I thought, Jane and Richard. I glanced away quickly and coughed on a strangled laugh. Did Dawn, my friend from way back who loved literature as much as she loved to screw, just tell me that she named her kids Dick and Jane? When I heard a dog bark I wondered if his name was Spot.
We adjourned to the living room where crackers and dip were arranged on a cute bunny shaped plate, which was angled perfectly on the freshly waxed coffee table.
“Can I get you something to drink? We have coke, diet coke…“
“Actually, Jack and Coke would be great.” I grinned as I gave the order for the drink we both used to love.
“Oh, we don’t have any liquor in the house.” She said. There was no apology in her voice. She actually was promoting a dry house. I had to bite down hard on the inside of my cheek to keep from asking the once alcoholic prom queen if she was serious.
“Oh. Then coke would be great. Thank you.” I smiled and tugged on my skirt as she left the room.
What happened? Weren’t we both the same age? When did this happen? Should I have stayed in touch with Dawn? Maybe she wouldn’t be as fucked up if I had stayed in touch with her and kept her wild. Maybe I would be in the same place as her. I shivered. What the hell were we going to talk about? Across the room a large mirror hung, I caught a glimpse of myself in this house and knew it was going to be a quick visit. I looked ten years younger than Dawn. Hell, I felt ten years younger than Dawn. She looked so…old. So old and responsible. We had nothing in common anymore.
“Jim took the kids to visit his mother tonight so that we could have some time…just the two of us.” She announced her arrival back into the living room.
“Oh, that’s so nice of him . How is he doing these days?” Strangely, that was all it took to open Pandora’s Box of uninteresting married couple with two kids braggart descriptions. She started from the very beginning. Did I remember when she met Jim, how wild they had been; how wild we had been; how they needed a change and they realized that on their own time. How they found a church they really liked, how they changed their evil ways. How they shed their skin of youth for the responsible suit and tie of adulthood. “I mean, we all have to grow up some time you know.” Was the comment she made as she gave me a sad smile and my knee a knowing pat.
Oh, no. She hadn’t become a down to earth cool mom type. She had become a shiny perfect Stepford person.
From there, she went on to explain how difficult it was to get pregnant. What it was like for Jim to move into his new career field, moving into the house, mortgages, breast-feeding, mommy and me classes, diaper rashes, family vacations, her dedicated volunteer work at the hospital, her mother-in-law’s ulcers.
The more Dawn talked, the smaller I felt. I wondered when she had become an adult and why I suddenly felt as if I were a perpetual teenager trying to take care of myself. Calling myself a writer. Living out of a suitcase. I continued to glance around at Dawn’s house, at her world, at what she and her husband had built for themselves and I felt ashamed that I hadn’t tried to build something similar for myself. Which was fucked up. On any other day, what Dawn had made for herself was the farthest thing from what I wanted, but now, that part of me that was so confused about my purpose in this world, felt I had missed the big picture all along.
My eyes were glazed over when she finally finished and asked me a question about myself. I blinked a few times before I realized the torture was dwindling to an end. I muttered something about being a writer, really giving it a go. I told her I’d been published here and there. She nodded her head sadly, as if I was trying to live a child’s dream. She nodded her head like my mother did when she couldn’t find the words she needed to tell me she thought I was throwing my life away.
I didn’t defend myself to Dawn, there was no need to. She wouldn’t hear me anyway. She saw what she wanted to see, heard what she wanted to hear. She was telling me to grow up and find a house and some kids to put in it and a family car to adorn the front yard with.
I, however, was in no hurry to become my mother. That thought launched me out of thinking I had lost something by not following the same path as Dawn. With an exaggerated flare I looked at my watch, announced my shock at the time.
“Oh, do you have to go?” Dawn whined, unconvincingly.
“Yeah, I told a few friends I would meet them downtown for a drink. You know how it is. Writer on the verge, I need that stimulation of artists and alcoholics.” I lied.
Our good-bye was awkward, I could see it in Dawn’s face, we were grateful to be rid of each other, saddened that there would be no more phone calls or Christmas cards in an effort to stay in touch. We would not regret that it had been too long. This moment was the end of an era. Still, I had just read in Cosmo, in a list of fifteen things a woman is supposed to do before she turns thirty is to get rid of toxic friends. Whether I thought Dawn a toxic friend, or she thought I was, it was probably best if we let our past lay, let it become simply a string of memories that we could look back on and declare that is what “made us who we were today.”
I climbed in my car and sighed with relief, pulled out a cigarette and gave one last look at the perfect home with the perfect chubby wife waving, encased in the light pouring out from the perfectly lit hallway behind her. I waved back and for the briefest moment thought of calling out for her to keep in touch.
Visions of little Dick and Jane running through a yard with Spot; Dawn and Jim smiling tolerantly at me while I explain my newest plan of action in this life; barbecues and perfect Tupperware parties flashed in my mind and I shook my head. No. We had nothing in common any more, nothing but who we had once been. It was better this way. I gave her one more look, snapping a mental picture. I silently wished her good in her life and drove away.
No looking back.
© 2010 writingmoose