fiction. sorta.

Fiction is not often shared on blogs. The format does not always lend itself easily to extensive characterization, and many people look to blogs to answer their questions quickly, rather than to be presented with more.

Photo by Charlie

What blogging does offer to the fiction writer is an opportunity to try out characters and plot lines on a willing audience. The people who read my fiction posts are not the largest section of my audience, but they are some of my most loyal supporters. I created the "fiction. sorta." category for those posts of mine that are purely fictional as well as ones that concern real people and real events, but have been changed in certain ways to allow for more freedom with the details of plot.

Some of my favorite posts from this category are listed below:

The full archives for "fiction. sorta." are listed below. Have fun looking around. And if anything bothers you, just remember--it's only fiction. Sorta.

Best Of The Best

by anna on December 21, 2010

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When she was a child, her parents would dress her up in branded clothing from the university where they had met. They would take her along to football games, on pilgrimages back to the campus that she began to think of as a holy land of sorts, littered as it was with beer cups and demonstration flyers, and filled with erudite View definition in a new window people carrying large books and highlighters in colors they did not carry in the stationers back home.

Here is the Kappa house, they would say, there is the student union. This is the lecture hall that had hosted the zoology course for which he would always need to borrow her mother’s notes. Her mother had always taken excellent notes. At some point, her brother came along and another set of branded clothing was procured, and they became a family wandering the hallowed halls of lives long past.

She was a child, and she did not understand how the world worked. But she had determined that whatever college was, it must be very important. And she thought that, when the time came, whatever college she chose, would have to be the best. So much depended on it. One day she heard about Harvard, and she announced to them her intention to go there because she had heard on good authority that it was the best of the best.

Her mother told her how expensive it would be to attend a school like Harvard. Her father laughed. He told her that people did not just decide to go to Harvard — it was difficult to go to Harvard. Everybody wanted to go to Harvard. He told her that for her whole life, everywhere she went, there would always be somebody better than she was, smarter than she was, and that if she only wanted the best of the best, she would only always be disappointed, and she would never get what she wanted.

She thought long and hard about what her father had told her, not wanting to believe what he said, but feeling she had no choice. He was her father. As far as her experience had taught her, he was the smartest person in the world. She looked around for somebody to tell her that, in this case, her perception was right, and his perception was wrong. But that person was not there.

In moments of uncertainty, she would continue to look for that person, in one form or another, for the rest of her life.

She looked at the branded university clothing piled up in her closets, collected years before she understood the promise she was implicitly giving by agreeing to wear it on the annual trips to the university where her parents had met. She thought about what she could do, if she couldn’t go to Harvard — if she wasn’t going to be good enough for Harvard, what could she do, she wondered? And she started ripping up all of the clothes she could find, shredding them into tiny pieces, vowing then and there, that if she did nothing else, she would never go to that school, even if it meant that she would end up being the worst of the worst.

After they divorced, she found out that her parents had never even dated while at the university. As it turns out, they had only been distantly acquainted while in school; to her mother, her father had only been the kind of person you know well enough to lend your zoology notes to, and then when you meet again it is like you are meeting for the first time. They married after graduation. The campus trips had been constructions, but if there had been any castles built, it had been the little girl as the architect, for the two of them did have fond memories of college life that they wanted desperately to share with their children, even if history dictated that it could never be one in which they spent that college life together.

As for the little girl, she never did go to Harvard. Instead, she went to the school across the bay from the school where her parents had (not) met. And though she never became the best of the best, she never could quite get herself to stop trying. The effort was long and frustrating, with many pitfalls. Along the way, she learned to parcel herself out in pieces, only giving parts of herself to people whom she felt deserved them, withholding herself from people when she could not bear to give any more. There were those times when she felt like she wanted to take things away from people, when she wanted to rip up the metaphorical sweatshirts and stuff them in people’s faces. But even on those hard days she would try to remind herself that this was not the worst she had seen, not by far.

Real Stuff

by anna on January 29, 2010

Anna Edie Mini

Last Friday I wrote a guest post about being an alcoholic for Stefanie’s blog, and some of you guys went over and read it. One of you, in particular, who has been reading me for a long time, liked the post because you said it felt “real.” This made me think a little bit. Because I like to think that what I write here is always real, but sometimes I take a particular slant to things or emphasize one thing or the other, but it’s all genuine, so that’s real, or a version of reality, right? But then I was thinking, there’s definitely a difference between what I ordinarily write and a post like this one from BHJ View definition in a new window, which I could have written, maybe, if I were a little bit more gifted, and also a little less self-conscious about form. I don’t have a close friend who killed himself, but I did have Tanya, which is pretty much the same thing, she was cast in the same role, more or less, as Skip was for BHJ View definition in a new window. But instead of just writing about that, I have to change everything around into some different form, I’m going to “fictionalize” a part of my past, and put it in the second person, and that way you will all know that I’m writing about myself but I can still feel detached from it a little bit, just enough to write about it.

Surcey, your comment made me think about the topics I haven’t really talked about here, and why. Some of them are for practical reasons, but others are . . . I don’t know why. I guess sometimes I feel worried that I’ll sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself, or that I’ll hurt people’s feelings. But the thing is, who am I writing this for, anyway? Are these people I’m worried about actually reading this blog? And if I sound self-indulgent and like I’m feeling sorry for myself, well isn’t that what most bloggers do, anyway?

Just give me a couple ideas to riff on and I will go on and on about genre for like fifty years and bore you all to death.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: I’ve been thinking about what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a kid like I was. I don’t want to make him into a kid like I was, mind you, I’m just wondering what it would take to do it. Because when you’re a parent, you start living your childhood over again a little bit through your kid. And the other day, Mini had just gotten this toy robot from a store, just a little black robot that kind of wiggles and walks, and he was so excited about it, and proud of it, the way two year olds can get about things that are new (which is pretty much everything, when you’re two). And one of his grandparents was there — I won’t tell you which one — and that grandparent looked at the robot and said, “I’m not impressed,” and then two things happened in quick succession: 1) I seriously considered the consequences of punching said grandparent in the face with a closed fist; and 2) I saw the air deflate from Mini’s chest — just a little bit, since it was someone he barely knows anyway — but still enough to almost bring me to tears.

A few years ago I ran into an acquaintance of my parents’ who had not seen me since I was in high school. I spoke to her for a few moments and thought nothing of it until I later heard that this woman had been shocked to see me so happy and functioning so well. She had said that, as I child, I had always struck her as “morose.” I cannot argue with that assessment, and certainly the addition of anti-depressants to my life has something to do with that change. But still, I go back to wondering what I would have to do to Mini to make him into a morose child. Is it some kind of switch that gets thrown at some point, and parenting has no real effect on it? Or is it even more banal than that — too much time left in a crib or a play pen, not enough Mommy and Me time, not enough declarations of love and value? I don’t know. I think about it, but not because I’m worried about it. I already know that Mini’s experience is totally different from mine, and I never worry about him the way that it pains me to think of myself as a child.

This morning I was getting Mini ready for school and, as has been the case of late, he was not pleased about it. So I told him, “Mini, you know that even when Mommy’s not there, she’s with you, in your heart. Just like I always carry you with me, in my heart,” and I pointed to my heart. I think he understood me. I never decided to become a good parent. It’s not like I set about studying how to do it, or what I should do when, or had a checklist of the stuff that I should do to make him happy. I just had a baby and that imperative was there, to protect him and hold him close to me, and over time that grew into something more like a special bond. I don’t think to myself, “I should go snuggle Mini,” or “Have I told Mini that I love him today?” or “Maybe I should tell Mini his new robot is cool.” I don’t think about any of that stuff with Mini. I just do it. I don’t really see why it’s so hard.

The First Other Anna

by anna on January 15, 2010

People, if when you finish this, you decide you haven’t had enough myopic navel-gazing for a Friday morning, please go check out my guest post today at Stefanie Wilder-Taylor’s blog, Baby On Bored. We’ll be talking about not drinking, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes.

The first time you met somebody who shared your same name, it was the summer following seventh grade, at soccer camp in Montecito. For the Jennifers and Heathers and Tiffanys of the world, this kind of thing happens early on, before anyone knows that it is strange. But as it was — though there had been plenty of Anns, Annes, and Annies in your past — there were few, if any, Annas wandering about your section of Southern California. To meet another one was eventful, if for no other reason than because it suggested that there might exist a place somewhere in which you would not always be just slightly different, always just a little bit off.

You were at soccer camp with Cindy Corsakov, the girl from Clearpoint who had befriended you on an AYSO soccer team the year before. You had never met somebody like Cindy Corsakov: effortlessly social, bubbly, and so generous with her compliments that you guessed she must be under the mistaken impression that they were something that grew freely on trees, rather than being a resource so rare and precious that they required a specially trained pig to sniff them out. Cindy’s world was intoxicating, if suspicious: everything was fun, everything was exciting, and each new person represented a new opportunity, instead of the need for devising a new defense mechanism.

And when she flattered you, there was such a mastery in her light hand that sometimes you caught yourself believing that the things she said about you were sincere. You began to think of her compliments not as flattery, but rather the natural response that came from dealing with someone so wonderful as you must clearly be. This was how she became one of your best friends, and it was how she remained one of your best friends for precisely two years. After that, there was to be a dramatic falling out, the specifics of which you would misplace among other lost artifacts of tweenage years, packed away where they could never again be found, along with your faith in the nice things she said, of which you would claim to have been suspicious all along.

You were at soccer camp with Cindy, but this was not the first time you had been there. This time was to be so different from the first year — last year — which was the year that you were told you would be rooming with Megan Fairfield, only to discover on arrival day that Megan had already made plans to room with Courtney Valentine, because they were best friends, after all. And really, you only knew Megan a little bit, it was your parents who were friends, and besides, everybody felt bad about the mixup, and that’s why one of the adults came up with the idea to bring in a third bed into that tiny room that housed just one pious seminary student during the academic year. They had all agreed that this would be the best plan — three girls in a dorm room — that it was the only way to be certain that nobody would be left out. The adults, of course, had been careful to wipe away from their language any indication of who might hypothetically do the leaving and who my hypothetically be left, and you went along with the plan, superficially, agreeing to it as if it were not the worst idea you had ever heard in your life. You allowed them the luxury of feeling better about things, holding out just long enough so that your parents could get back into their yellow Volvo sedan and drive away. And then you gathered your things from Courtney’s and Megan’s room and went next door, and silently went about unpacking your things and making up your bed, again, and the business of applying yourself to soccer: the love of it, and the getting-better-at-it of it.

But this year was different.

You were still only there for one week, but this was a different world. There were kids who became girlfriend and boyfriend for the week, making out in the tiny dorm rooms in between soccer practices and cafeteria lunches. As it happened, the room you shared with Cindy was uniquely situated so as to facilitate late night discussions out the window with the boys two floors below. This was how you first heard the eponymous Violent Femmes album, shocking as it was, and why when you went home you would go into Licorice Pizza and ask for the cassette version of it with a muted voice, requesting that the counter clerk give you the one with the picture of the little girl looking through a window on its cover. This year, instead of studiously ignoring the social element of soccer camp, you were in the center of it, and it was a relief, for once, to not have to worry about what people thought.

The Other Anna was a year younger than you and she was from Encino. You were not totally sure where Encino was, but you did know that the wealthy girl in The Karate Kid had been from there. Based on this, you figured that Encino — wherever it was — must be a pretty exclusive place, if the object of Ralph Macchio’s affections had hailed from it, and so The Other Anna must be a child of privilege. Naturally, there had been other demarcations of class, though you would not have recognized them as such at the time: her hair was long but boasted perfectly feathered sides the likes of which you had never been able to accomplish with your own hair, and her clothing covered the requisite brand trifecta of tweens of the early-to-mid-eighties (Guess, JAG, Esprit). But most significantly of all, while the rest of the soccer campers used regular Chapstick during long days on the soccer field, the Other Anna had Bain de Soleil lip balm, which came in a delicate case with a longer, more elegant cap.

The Bain de Soleil lip balm was of particular note to you because it was the very brand you had begged your own mother to buy for you for soccer camp before leaving home. She had refused, and the decision had been logical: Bain de Soleil lip balm was twice as expensive as PreSun15, which clearly worked just as well. That your family could have afforded the Bain de Soleil lip balm was besides the point: it was a needless expenditure of extra money based on superficial preference for packaging. Had you been older, or better trained in pitching the intangible differences and market value of things like beauty in presentation and subtle social language expressed by commodity choices, perhaps you might have negotiated better for yourself. Perhaps then you might have been able to convince her of how essential it was to have the Bain de Soleil brand, but instead you were stuck with the PreSun. But to be fair, though there was no way that the fact the Other Anna had the Bain de Soleil lip balm could escape your notice, it only bothered you slightly. Because this year, you were with Cindy, and you were having a great time at soccer camp, and the subtleties of lip balm envy are nothing when you have already survived a week long camp with no roommate and come back for more.

It had been hot that week, and you had taken to putting the PreSun around your eyes to keep them from getting sunburned while you were on the soccer field. It was a stop gap solution to stopping the sunburn damage, and you had made it in the moment, and thought nothing of it, at least until the Other Anna came up to you and asked to see the lip balm that you had been putting around your eyes. You agreed, though you were unsure as to why she cared, and the Other Anna looked at the lip balm, examined its lackluster brown and orange packaging, and then looked at you with something like unkindness and disdain. She demanded to know why you had been putting it around your eyes and you explained that you had been sunburned, that you just wanted something there to protect that skin from the glare. The Other Anna continued to look at you with annoyance, until she ceremoniously dropped the tube PreSun into grass in front of you, like something not worthy of her time or touch, and walked away.

Surprised, you picked up the PreSun and put it back in the pocket of your soccer shorts. You did not know what to make of The Other Anna, much less of the subtleties of tweenage caste systems and the semiotics of lip balm in Southern California. And besides, before you could blink, the ball had been thrown in again, and . But before you could figure things out, the ball was thrown in again, and the Other Anna was off towards the other goal, and you headed back to defend yours, before the rest of the week blurred past you with the kind of speed that only the last breaths of childhood can carry.