For last night’s Writers Group meeting, we had a little assignment given to us. As a passenger on a crowded bus, we overhear the spirited and loud conversation of the elderly couple in front of us. In one page (300-400 words) write the action & dialogue. The point is to test flexibility in writing dialogue & ability to present two completely different characters.
I thought I would share my attempt with you…
Overheard on a Bus…
The only trouble with Paris in the summer is the tourists. I excluded myself from this category since I was in the city on business. It just so happened that I had a day off between meetings. That was how I ended up on the open-top bus.
I climbed the perilous staircase, the vehicle lurched forward and I clutched the handrail to steady myself, terrified at the thought of landing on the lower deck in a tangle of broken bones. Peering around from my precarious position, I spotted an empty seat near the front. When the driver regained a semblance of control I stumbled towards it, heaving a sigh of relief as I plonked my rear down in the plastic bucket-seat.
“I think my whatchamacallit is broken.” The yell came from the elderly man seated directly in front of me. The little old lady next to him patted his knee and leaned over to shout in his ear.
“No it’s not, Stanley. They’re just taking a break, is all.”
Stanley ceased fidgeting with the earphones that plugged into the side of the bus and looked at her.
“Really? Doggone Frenchies, always going on strike, eh Millie?” He roared with laughter at his own joke. I guessed he was from Texas.
Millie looked less than impressed. “Now don’t be rude about the locals, Stanley.”
“Aw, I was only kidding,” he protested. “Say, what’s our next stop?”
I silently awarded him ten points for his diversion technique.
They pored over the pamphlet in her hand. Stanley turned it upside down and Millie snatched it from him in annoyance.
“The Lowvree,” she announced after a studious moment. The woman was clearly well-educated.
“That big gallery we saw yesterday, the one with the glass pyramid out front.”
“Oh yeah, I remember.” He nodded slowly. “Geez, that was a waste of time, don’tcha think?”
“Yeah. The statues were OK but I don’t know what the big deal is with that Mona Lisa picture. I thought it’d be bigger. Oh, here we go. They’re back on,” she said pointing to the earphones he still held in his hands.
Stanley obediently shoved the earpieces in, almost knocking his glasses to the floor in his haste.
Tomorrow is my stepson’s 21st birthday.
We’ve known for a while this might happen. I suppose the previous 20 birthdays gave us a clue. Mind you, I only arrived on the scene in time for his sixth – perhaps that is why I don’t feel like it’s time for this yet. The thing is, I just don’t feel old enough to be the parent of a 21-year-old. Don’t get me wrong: I am not writing here to whine about age and growing older. If I had wanted to do that I would have done so a couple of weeks back when a rather startling flash of grey appeared above my right temple. (It’s OK, a pair of plastic gloves and a 35-minute waiting time took care of that. I am beginning to appreciate the advantages of being blonde.)
In fact it’s quite the opposite. I actually don’t feel old at all. I had thought this whole event of having a kid turn 21 would make me feel ancient but really I’m kind of having a private giggle because inside I don’t feel much older than that myself. It’s like I’m an impostor and I think it’s hilarious. I do the parental stuff and pretend to be a grown-up but inside I’m still wondering how I landed up as a parent-figure to two grown-up children.
Seriously: what the hell do I know? I still feel like I’m fumbling through my own life, how on earth do people expect me to be all guiding-light to these other young adults?
A friend – who also has a grown-up son – emailed me this week and something she said echoed an idea that had not yet fully formed in my own head. But now it has:
This is a new phase. It is time to stop taking care of them and let them go. This is when they get to step up and take responsibility for their lives. No more hand-holding, no more apron strings. They need to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
My own mother was brilliant. I honestly don’t recall her giving me a hard time about the decisions I made. I remember her offering an opinion and having her say, but it was kind of in a “This is what I think, but it is your life, you get to make the decisions” sort of way. Only now do I appreciate how hard that must have been.
So now we get to offer advice, but not tell them what to do. To match this, we have to stop doing things for them and leave them to learn to fend for themselves.
If my own experience is anything to go by, at some point they will realise that perhaps their parents do know one or two things and will come back with a new-found respect and appreciation. I look forward to that day.
Meanwhile, my most pressing thought is that I need to write something in his birthday card. I reckon “You’re an adult now, so act like one” doesn’t really send the right message. His dad has already stolen the ‘Proud’ sentiment.
Any suggestions are welcome.
As I drove away from my dance class last night I noticed something fluttering from my windscreen wiper. I figured it was probably a leaf that was caught but the next time I stopped at an intersection I peered through the glass was a little distraught to see a baby gecko hanging on for dear life, his little tail sticking up and flapping in the breeze. He was so small and so brave, clinging onto the car. I very seriously contemplated turning around and going back to where my car had been parked so he could hop off and go join his family again.
But seriously, it’s a gecko. I’m fairly sure being transplanted from one side of the city to the other is not going to do him any great harm. Or will it? What if geckos are really territorial? We have a veritable squadron of the things around our house. They make a valiant attempt at keeping the moth and mosquito populations down (although sadly, I think they’re losing that particular battle). What if my little hitch-hiker scuttled off my car last night after I got home and found himself the target of a gang-attack by the locals?
Of course it just struck me that it’s entirely possible he hitched a lift all the way into town from my house in the first place so it may not be an issue. Perhaps he just went along for the ride. Yes, I think I shall stick with that theory. That way I can imagine that when he got back here there was a big welcoming party for him from his older brothers and sisters and he spent the night telling stories of his big adventure. He will become known as Stowaway Stan and future generations will remember him as the Gecko that Saw The World.
Yes, I think I like that ending the best.
Sometimes I think the thoughts in my head will drive me crazy.
Sometimes I think the thoughts in my head are because I am crazy.
Hm, I think I have my brain back. Three cheers, everyone.
Confused? Well you see it’s like this. Last year some time (and it’s no accident I cannot remember precisely when) I started taking some medication that was intended to “cure” me of migraines. It had reached a stage where I just could not cope any longer. I was losing around a week a month to the blinding pain and exhaustion that accompanied it. Hence the tablets. After a few months I noticed the pain was less intense, when it came, and didn’t last as long. Aha! Progress! Take them for up to a year, I was told. After that, you should be migraine-free. What a promise!
They warned me there may be side-effects. The first one to take me by surprise was that beer suddenly tasted really crap. In fact this was true of all fizzy drinks. At my follow-up appointment I was told this happens sometimes. The drugs do their work in the brain, you see. Sometimes this alters the perception of taste. Weird, but okay – I could go without beer and cola for a while, right?
The second one was less fun. I forgot how to do maths. Simple things like adding items on a bill became virtually impossible, as if a cement door had slammed shut in my head. It was frustrating, to say the least, especially for someone who has always been good with numbers. Thank heavens for the calculator on my cellphone!
But there was another side-effect, one that was less obvious and happened so gradually I did not see it coming until it was too late: I lost the ability to think. I know I have mentioned here before the fogginess that I have, at times, experienced. This time it was taken to a whole new level. I battled at work to complete even the most routine tasks. It was part of the reason I decided to go with writing a novel when we moved here… I confess I was afraid to look for a job. Who’s going to hire someone who cannot string two sentences together? My short-term memory was all but obliterated. I just didn’t remember anything… including what I was saying, half the time. I felt stupid.
By the time January came around I decided I’d had enough. The migraines had not improved any more in the last four months so there was no reason for me to believe the medication would make any more difference than it already had. And I needed my brain back. I signed up at a website that offers brain-training games and gradually weaned myself off the tablets.
The Husband noticed the difference almost immediately. Apparently I became less inclined to trail off halfway through a sentence and forget that I was actually speaking. Up until that point, I hadn’t realised it was quite that obvious to other people.
I stopped taking them just over 2 weeks ago. Beer tastes like beer again (Oh Joy! I really hate wine!) and my scores in the arithmetic brain-training game have suddenly shot up.
Best of all though, I am able to think straight. I can follow a train of thought and remember what I wanted to say in an argument. I did not realise what a battering my self-esteem had taken. I felt lost and afraid; I was half-convinced I would never again be the intelligent person I once was. You cannot imagine how scary that is.
The down side, of course, is that now the fog has lifted my head is once again a hive of activity, thoughts darting in and out non-stop and chasing each other around until I think I might drive myself insane. Sometimes I just want to shout Stop! I wanna get off!
But then, remembering what it was like to not be able to think, perhaps I don’t.
I was speaking with a friend on Skype this morning. Well, it was “this morning” here. Over in Texas it was still yesterday evening for her. This massive time zone difference still freaks me out a little. But that’s beside the point. What freaked me out even more was when we started talking about people from our school days and we worked out that we have been friends for something like twenty-five years. I do not feel old enough to have been friends with someone for twenty-five years. But when we did the maths, that’s what it was. (Perhaps, then, I am entitled to the occasional groan when I get up after sitting too long.)
That is a long time to be friends with someone. Granted, in that time we lost contact for a few years. She moved to another city with her husband. I got up to a bunch of stuff, got married and moved to Ireland. When we made contact again it turned out she had moved with her family to London. One hop across the pond and we hooked up again, like we’d never even skipped a beat. And then she moved to Texas. And I moved to Australia.
The pond is a little larger than a mere hop, now. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology (now I really sound my age!) all I have to do is press a button and there she is on my computer screen and we can talk for ages without it costing a cent. Seriously, is that not amazing? Sometimes these clever little things still blow me away.
So I guess I’d like to say thank you to the people who figured out that we could talk to each other in real-time, with video, over a line buried under the ocean. Or do they use satellite these days? I’ve no idea. All I know is I can speak to my old friend again, like we’re having coffee together in the same room, and for the length of the call I get to feel like I’m not so very far away from the girl I once was and all that I knew.
‘Cos I gotta tell you, sometimes I feel like we’re perched on the very edge of the universe, down here in Oz.