Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Etiquette Lesson [Writing Exercise]

Prompt: Describe a recently renewed friendship.

She could see him in the periphery. They had been circling the room all evening, delighting the guests at the cocktail party in their subtle but distinct ways yet never in the same place at the same time. First with one person, then another, she added sparkle with her pale presence. He made the rounds as well, sometimes preceding her, generally following while adding his own slightly sharper perspective. He was not appreciated by some whereas she was liked by almost all.

It was understood that they were a package deal, although there was always the occasional thoughtless person who forgot to keep them together in spite of all good manners to the contrary. They made a wonderful couple - everyone said so - albeit an unequal one. She was more popular, passing from person to person lightly, casually, freely. Often he was left behind, stoic in a corner, perhaps resting nearby a pile of dirty dishes or smudged wine glasses while she continued to make the rounds. It was just such an experience that had divided them this last time.

Yet in spite of their many separations, they always gravitated toward each other. They had too much in common, too many shared experiences. Both were global travelers with expensive tastes. They were of a similar age, amazingly ageless yet with old souls that made it seem like they had existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. They were occasionally misunderstood, villianized. Most amazingly, they had been blamed for causing ill-health by some and yet bringing good health to others. They had both been used, in their own ways. Occasionally they were threatened by outsiders who attempted to capture their popularity by traveling in the same circles, hopping on their coattails. Those outsiders never lasted though. He and she were a forever couple, at times near lookalikes, her stark paleness complemented by his subtle grey and black.

She rested on the edge of a buffet, surveying the room with detachment. A brush of warmth from someone's hand grazed her sculpted shoulder. It was just as quickly gone - yet she knew he was now there.

She sighed, softly glittering in the room's muted light.

He shuddered slightly, struggling to be level at seeing her once more.

She felt transparent, like he could see her half-emptiness - the feeling she always had near the end of an event like this. Yet with him nearby she knew she could be more than she'd been before. He was her complement, her perfect help-mate. She sidled closer, her smooth sides barely touching his sharp angles.

Warily, he looked at her from under his low-placed silver-tinted cap. Would she be taken away by yet another guest, abandoning him to his solitude again?

Her lip curled slightly in a semi-smile as she tilted closer to him, bobbing encouragingly, trying to show with her smooth chill body how she liked his black and grey prickliness.

A guest grabbed them both around their necks, using a single hand to do so. Both she and he felt the slight rise of panic as their insides shifted with fear they would be separated again, quite against their will. They were lifted, their bases leaving the ground, higher, higher, thrust into a shallow space together, the door closed behind them. A thin sliver of light remaining, no more.

They shook themselves slightly, becoming calm, then content, now happy. At peace. Salt and Pepper kept together.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What I Like about Running [Random Nothing]

This has the potential to be a very brief post. I don't love running. I've been known to mutter expletives under my breath at passing mile markers. I enjoy running about as much as I enjoy boiled Brussels sprouts and medical examinations: I tolerate it because I don't know of any other way to achieve the same healthy result.

But this isn't about the many reasons I don't care for running (however therapeutic such a post may be). This is my attempt to leverage cognitive dissonance: if I tell myself often enough that there are things I like about running, perhaps I will indeed like it. So what do I like about running?

1. Health: The obvious reason is still the best reason. Every time my sneakers come in contact with the ground and my body is jarred, I'm reminded that every run will hopefully stave off the onset of osteoporosis or some other condition. This doesn't make me like running really, but it does make me feel pretty virtuous for doing it.

2. You See Cool Things on the Ground. During one run (okay, it was today), there was a tube of uncapped lip gloss on the ground. In a last-minute change in navigation fitting of Magellan, I steered myself over such that my foot would come down on the bottom part of the tube, making hot pink glittery lip gloss squirt out on the springtime weeds poking through the concrete. The 5-yr-old in me that still finds gross things cool thought this whole episode was pretty darn awesome.

3. Old-Fashioned Pleasures. My current running route takes me by a chain-link and several wood slatted fences over creeks and wetlands. With a stick or key fob in hand, I enjoy striking it against the fences and hearing the rhythmic "slap slap slap" syncopated against my breathing and the pulse of my feet against the ground. What's good enough for Tom Sawyer is good enough for me, too.

4. You Never Know Who You'll Meet. Recently, a stray cat crossed my path (it wasn't black so it was okay) and ran next to me for most of a block, stretching its furry haunches and going at a good clip. Now, I don't enjoy much running with others but having that grey-and-cream tabby keep me company was good for a mile's worth of spiritual buoyancy. (Given my running pace, a mile's worth of smiles is a goodly amount of time.)

5. Imagined Endings. I don't often run when it's dark out but when I do, I like peering into the homes of others (from a safe distance on the sidewalk, running with a very non-stalker-like pace) and seeing what other families are doing. Most of the time, they're watching TV which makes me feel smug and self-righteous. Occasionally they're doing something interesting and I can make a story around it. The people who are painting, the woman who was throwing laundry on the floor, the child wielding a guitar like a light-saber, the man doing woodworking in his garage building a cradle or crib. They all have stories. I don't know what they are but I enjoy making up my own sub-titles.

6. School Zones. School zones are a drag. Being a "pedal to the metal" kind of person, I resent having my Adretti-like automotive groove interrupted by school zones. The great thing about running is that I run by the "you are going this speed" signs in school zones, in quasi Michael Scott fashion, never worrying that I'm exceeding the legal speed limit. That's partially because I tend to run on Saturdays when the speed limit doesn't apply. Perhaps on a weekday I'd be more concerned. (Likely not.)

7. Mind Games. I get bored when running - so very bored. Some have told me they run listening to audio-books (irritating), radio (super irritating), or their favorite tunes (fine until you hit a song with a beat that doesn't match the stride). I listen to bland synthpop (normally by FitPod) that at least gets me through but it doesn't quite cut it. So I create games to entertain my wandering mind: I repeat the alphabet or count to a hundred in German, French, or Spanish (about as much of those languages as I remember). I say my times-tables (normally in 4s, 6s, or 7s, my weakest numbers). Most recently, I've started trying to create anagrams from the letters in street signs (good practice for Scrabble). Never underestimate the bored mind's ability to find ridiculous ways to entertain itself.

8. Dryer Sheets. Well, not dryer sheets per se. But about one house per mile will be running its dryer when I jog by and the dryer vent will be facing the street. That puff of dryer sheet fragrance and brief burst of heat is an unexpected delight on a cold wet day with only dog excrement and grass clippings to smell for the rest of the run.

Eight things I like about running. That's more I thought I'd have when I started this, and we still haven't gotten to my favorite reason which is...

9. The Past Participle. My favorite thing about running? Being able to say "I already ran today."