AWC Short Stories

Background

I am part of a writing group in Amman , where we meet once a month to share our writing. At the end of  each session, we agree on a writing prompt to work on throughout the month. This page is dedicated to the prompts that I had written pieces of fiction based on. I hope you enjoy reading through them. All posts here are written by me Dana Shalabi.

Prompt 1

Warm and Cold

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Original Text was published at the Amman Writing Club WordPress page to see it go to this link

He greeted her warmly with a firm handshake, a smile, and a look in his eyes that spoke of his joy to see her. He asked her about her work and her family. He even remembered that her brother had his comprehensive exam so he asked her how he did. He told their mutual friends that she was one of the closest people to him and these words secretly made her feel a wave of peace wash over her. She could never decipher what she was to him but this declaration made her believe that she did occupy some of his thoughts. He then looked at her and said” Yasmin, you look especially nice today. That new haircut really suits you,” and Yasmin, upon hearing these words, felt that her feelings for him were justified. “She meant something to him, and something special.” she told herself.

However she could never be sure, because on other days, he acted like he wasn’t glad to see her at all. On such days, he wouldn’t notice anything she said. He would never ask her how she was. There was that time, when she had just recovered from a flu that had thrown her in bed for two-weeks, yet to him that wasn’t even something worth asking about.  He had the tendency to be cold at times, cold as ice but there were other days like this one where his warm smile, warm words, and warm feelings made her glow with happiness.

She hated his ability to affect her mood so much, but he did. When he went cold, her whole world felt cold. She couldn’t help but wonder why he couldn’t see her the way she saw him. She would accept against her will to be just friends, but yet she couldn’t even guarantee a stable warm friendship from him.   She often wondered what was lacking in her. She asked herself why she was not able to capture his heart. Smart, she was and she also believed that as subjective as beauty was, she had beauty too.

When she asked him what she was to him, he replied that he wasn’t sure. When she asked him if they were just friends, he replied that he saw her as so much more. When she asked if they were in a relationship, he said he hated to define things. So, he left her completely lost, lost between cold words and specks of warm hope.

She did try moving as far away from him as possible, but her absence often caused  him to call her and demand that they meet. When he had her back in his life, he went cold again, and so was the story of their undefined relationship.

Then a third party came into their lives, a man who with his rush of warm feelings forced definitions to be made. This man knew exactly where he stood in terms of how he saw her. He was warm all the time. He was always happy to be with her, and he was always ready to discuss how he felt about her with no ambiguity. But, as happy as Yasmin was for her new found sense of stability with this new man, she still felt that part of her was hoping for a sense of stability elsewhere. She still needed to find that same sense of reassurance from the one soul who had shifted her moods between warm and cold for so many years.

Against her will, something about him allured her. She just needed him to choose her, accept her, and see her as the one. Desperate for answers she found herself at his door on a warm spring day, but her hands were cold with fear.

When he saw her standing there, he gave her an icy look. He asked her “What are you doing here?” She said, “I need to ask you something.” He looked down at his watch and then he asked her “Now?”

She replied “Yes, now.” He told her that he was in a hurry and to just go ahead and ask her question. Abruptly she said “Why was I never the one, why didn’t you think of me the way I thought of you?”

He looked down at his watch again and said, “Look, you are reliable, ok as a person, you even look ok, but I just never felt anything for you.”  She looked at him in shock as he continued to speak,” I’m sure you are a good person. I know you helped me so many times, but you are just not the one for me. ”

“But you used to say I was one of the most important people in your life.” she said. “Yes, as a sister, a friend even.” he replied. “You used to give me mixed messages.” she said. “No,” he said “You chose to be mixed up by that one message I gave. I was sure you were not the one. You were waiting for me to change my mind. It didn’t happen.”

Hearing these words, she knew that her time was up with this man. She started to walk away, and he followed her as he said ” I never did anything wrong.” She responded while still walking “Yes, you never did. I made a mistake. I have to go.”

As she walked further and further away from him, she felt her rage boiling deep within her soul. She wasn’t angry at him, she was angry at herself for weathering her hopes according to his words. She was angry for interpreting this warmth and his coldness as normal. She was angry for allowing him to be warm and cold towards her heart, and most of all, she was angry for hoping that he would someday feel what she needed him to feel.

As she walked further and further away from him, her phone rang abruptly interrupting her rage. She pulled it out of her purse only to see his name flash across the screen. However, for once in her life, she wasn’t compelled to answer. Instead she canceled his call, because she realized then and there that warm, cold, and warm again was not good enough for her.

She remembered that there was one man waiting for her. He was always warm, but she didn’t want to be warm and cold towards him. So, without a second through she picked up the phone and ended her relationship with him too.

Warm and cold was not good enough for her, so it won’t be good for anyone who loves her either.

Prompt 2

A Man Like Fluid 

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The original post is here

He was like a tranquil fluid flowing into the lives of those around him. He was willingly giving them calming advice. He never disagreed with anyone, instead he adopted the tides of any arguments, any decision, any point of view, and took on its flavor, shape, and color as if it were his own.

At first glance, he captured hearts. After all he did not offer any obstacles to hinder one’s words or thoughts. He was like clear waters. He was a “yes of course” sort of man. All his friends and acquaintances thought they knew everything about him, but of course still waters run deep. Beneath the sun kissed exterior of his being lay a murky pit of secrets that he only kept to himself. However, he like the ocean on a calm day, allowed his circle of friends, relatives, and loved ones to float freely into his world. But also like a sea storm, he held the capacity to close off his dreams. In such moments of darkness, he showed nothing but a monstrous rage that revealed itself to the chosen few who dared to get close enough.

In his depths lay the secret of one particular day when he allowed one girl to get too close. He thought that she understood him, and she thought the same.

Seeking closeness, she asked him about his life, his dreams, and his stories. At first he answered in his fluid nature, Taking on the shape he believed she wanted him to take. She thought that they were floating in harmony but one day that harmony was abruptly replaced by a few sharp notes. These sharp notes crept into their melodious lives when she once dared to ask him about their future together, a discussion he was obviously not prepared to dive into.

His response to the words “what about us” was a boiling anger that forced her to simmer down. After that incident, she enjoyed his fluidity for a few more months, but then her anguish got to her. On one night, she dared to ask him again “Where do you see our future.” This time his response was a waterfall of fury where he spat the words “I don’t want a future with you. I want us to go with the flow and enjoy sailing through life” straight at her.

Not prepared to swim aimlessly in a relationship for the days and months to follow, her needs for an anchor spot grew even stronger. She asked her question yet again, but this time she demanded a solid answer.

Unable to respond to her demands, the man, like a fluid exposed to white heat evaporated from her life completely, leaving her stranded in her seas of self doubt.

In the months that followed, she wondered if she did the right thing .She asked herself if it was her fault he evaporated from her life?

Almost a year passed by before she saw him by chance again. Incidentally, he was shaping himself like a tranquil fluid to fill the needs of another girl. She looked at him from afar, and smiled as she walked away. She knew then and there that she had sunk in the murky depths of his past. It was in the pits of his heart that she was buried side by side with all the other women who wanted something more solid.

Prompt 3

The Biggest Sin

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On a cold autumn night, Laila decided to think about her life.

The occasion was not completely unfitting, as she was about to celebrate her 50th birthday in ten days. Sitting alone in a nest that had recently been emptied, she wondered how she felt about the half-century mark dividing her life between past and future. Embracing the cold air outside, and the warm mug of coffee she had just made for herself,  Laila asked  the one question that most people dread . She asked herself “had I lived a good life?”

Like many women of her generation she married young. Her husband was a good man, a man her parents admired. When he came to their house with his family she remembered that she liked the way he looked. She liked his dark skin, his dimples, and his smile, and she was told by her family that marrying a doctor was a privilege that any 17 year old young girl should honor.

She spoke to him for one short evening, and then she instantly said yes to his marriage proposal. She didn’t say yes in the name of love, but she gave her verbal approval because she saw no reason to respond otherwise. Her parents were happy with her choice, his family was happy, and he was happy too. As a by-product of the celebrations that followed, Laila also felt happy with prospect of marriage herself.

By the age of 19, Laila had her first daughter, a life event that catapulted her into motherhood before she even knew what this new responsibility entailed. However, with help from her mother in law who lived close by and her mother, she learned everything she needed to know about childcare. Of course there was a significant amount of trial and error on her part, but fortunately she was not left alone long enough to make any fatal errors that would hinder her child’s safety.

By the time Laila turned 25, her little family grew to include herself, her husband who at that point was getting a degree in brain surgery, two daughters and one son. The son, sealed the deal for both her and her husband’s family, granting her the honorary title of Um Ahmad, a name that would replace the name “Laila” forever.

Ahmad, who was named after his grandfather, grew up to be a fine accountant. He recently married his college sweetheart, following in the footsteps of his two married sisters who also got degrees in Mathematics and computer Science. Her husband, Abu Ahmad, had passed away at a relatively young age in an unfortunate car accident. His sudden death left Laila in an empty house all by herself.

She once had a flare for writing but there was no time for her to write between the responsibilities of wifehood and motherhood. She dreamed of building on a hobby she had since childhood, and to change her love for paining into a profession. She even wanted to get a degree in art. However the expenses of her husband’s continued education overshadowed her dreams on the priority lists of their lives.

At the time, Laila had no regrets as she believed at an early age that a happy family, happy relatives, and happy in-laws would lead to a problem-free life. So, she willingly put all her energy into being a good wife and a good mother.

While her children were growing up, she was the first to arrive at school meetings. She even spent her youth handing each one of her children a notorious lunch to take to school every day. She even made her husband a meal to take with him to the hospital, and she was there for any of her or her relative’s weddings, baby showers, and even funerals.  She even taught herself to stay up at night, just to wake any of her children up when they needed to study for an exam. When any of her children got sick, she was the one who took care of them because her doctor husband had to work the next day.

She mastered cooking any dish anyone in her family liked, and whenever she felt overwhelmed with people’s expectations she taught herself to think that that was her duty as a wife and a mother.

Now, ten days before turning 50 she wondered if she had lived the right life for her. She didn’t regret for a second, having children or even getting married because over the year’s she even learned to genuinely care about the husband she sort of just agreed to share a life with. However, she wondered what was left for her now.

As her children had all started off lives of their own, she wondered if she missed her chance to persue her own dreams?  She tried to remember when was the last time she had done anything for herself, and she realized that it was at the ripe age of 17 two weeks before meeting her husband.  It wasn’t anything major but she did buy herself a paint brush, a canvas, and some paint.

Soon after her marriage, the paint dried and the canvas broke between the houses they moved to over the years, and her dreams evaporated under the pile of day to day life.

Laila realized on that evening that she committed the biggest sin she can commit against herself.  She lived a life seeking the approval of others without finding in it a space for her own dreams.

Prompt 4

The Others

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The minute I heard that Amal was coming to town, my heart was filled with anticipation. I was so excited to see her once again after the world had separated us for ten years. The news of her return caused my sense of nostalgia to get the better of me. I even found myself flipping through my college yearbook searching desperately for words to describe the mélange of my emotions.

Soon enough, her picture stared back at me from a white page , only to remind me just how beautiful she was. I was even transported back to a time where I affirmed that the concept of flawless looks did exist. In fact, I made that affirmation just when I saw her.
She was the smartest in our class, a fact that stirred within my younger and less objective self a fair amount of envy. I remember working hard throughout college just to get grades similar to hers. I wanted what she had because back then I thought that

popularity, beauty, and attention were the only attributes worth living for.
I even spent my college years believing that life had given her more than she had deserved. Of course, I harbored such thoughts secretly, because I knew that such dark sentiments were against the bounds of ethics, yet I was taught to be ethical.
I even faked my satisfaction as she won many contests in college, and I also nodded in fake agreement as I heard that she was nominated to head one committee after the other. In fact, I spent my college years watching her from afar as she took center stage.
To hide my true colors of discontent, I used to tell myself that popularity was only for the people with no substance, a thought I would console myself with while knowing fully well that she had substance too.

I was a different person back then. I was young, jealous, and unjustly judgmental, and I admit that until recently, I hadn’t really changed. The past facets of our personality do sometimes come back to haunt us, and I was shocked to realize that my old self visited me around the time of her return. In fact, I found myself taking too much interest in this particular event.

I even admit with reluctance that part of me wanted to let her know that I too am successful and that I too became part of the world of accomplished people that I thought belonged to the others.

I spent days rehearsing in my mind how I will respond to her comments about how I lost weight, and how I will mention my list of successful career accomplishments. I said to myself that I will attribute my single status to my busy life and the fact that I learned that no man should validate me. I believed that she will probably admire my thoughts because she was always the feminist while I was always the believer in true love. I even created the perfect setting for our reunion as I waited for her visit impatiently.
When the doorbell rang on the long awaited day I rushed to open it, expecting to see a well-dressed, flawless looking lady in her late twenties standing before me. Instead I saw a lady who was dressed in maternity clothes while missing her once youthful glow. In her hand she held baby, and in her belly she held another one on the way. Lingering behind her was a little girl who in her face had traces of who Amal once was.
Suddenly my whole rehearsed speech felt insignificant and my feelings of resentment were replaced with feelings of guilt and remorse.

We spoke about our lives and with each sentence she said I found myself suddenly feeling that who I was and what I had achieved didn’t matter. It was both a chilling and awakening moment as I just realized that we had nothing in common anymore, Amal now came from another world, a world where the people spoke a different language and had a different set of priorities. I learned that after we graduated, she fell in love. Yet, her love was for a man who didn’t love her back, and after a marriage of 5 years she finally freed herself with a divorce. In fact, she was back in town to start over, and her world was now dedicated to motherhood and challenges I wouldn’t even understand. While our pasts crossed our futures went in different directions, as our sense of self was altered.

At the end of that meeting, we said our goodbyes. We made promises to see each other again, but whether we honor this promise or not is yet to be seen. As Amal walked back towards her world I felt myself freed from all forms of resentment. After all, life takes us in different directions, and we might find ourselves part of another group of people that changes who we once were completely.

On that day, I finally grew up. I realized that what mattered to us in college may not matter to us in life. We continue to change, but we don’t transform ourselves by choice. In fact, life forces us to grow and to evolve past our image. It breaks us, picks us up, and then breaks us again, each time forcing us to see a different angle of existence. When I saw Amal that day I learned that the once familiar to us can very well transform itself into the other. Amal to me was that other. Now, she belonged to a world I yet had to understand.

Prompt 5

Empty

 

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With a heavy heart Amal listened to the creek of the big oak doors as she entered a home that now was a shell of its former soul. It was in that moment that she realized how the place she once called home was no longer familiar to her. Today, it only emitted a whiff of dust that announced its years of neglect. With rusty keys jingling in her hands, she walked over the painted old tiled floors of a large entrance hall. With every step she took, she felt the sadness in the pit of her stomach rise so that it now tagged at the strings of her heavy heart.

She dreaded making this trip. In fact, she wished to be on a plane destined to another one of the conferences she chaired, or another book signing tour. But, she knew that she could not turn away from this task any longer. It was on this day, the very last day her family had, that she had to empty her late mother’s home before its new home owners arrived. She asked her sister Mais to do it, but her sister refused, while apologetically citing her kids, husband, and her own home as an excuse.

This was the way life went for these two siblings. In this family, Mais was the married sister with kids. She was often exempted from certain chores. Amal, on the other hand, was the single carefree rebel. She was a successful and very busy lecturer and writer, but never the less, her late mother always assumed she had more time for mandarin tasks. Part of her had always resented her mother for this sense of discrimination, but on this day she decided to suppress her anger and instead wish that her late mother’s soul rests in peace.

From the large entrance hall, she walked into the high-ceilinged dining room . Back in its days of glory this room’s grandeur was only reserved for the lunch and dinner parties her mother hosted for important guests. Today, however, the room smelled of stale curtains and a sad eeriness. To Amal, it even looked a lot smaller than she had remembered it to be. She reached for the light switch, hoping that it still worked, and it did. In fact, its orange glow fell on a wall at the far end of the room filled with photos. These wete framed photos of her sister’s wedding day, her sister’s children, her niece’s fifth birthday party, and the family trip her mother went on with her sister’s family.

Amal walked over to that wall and she peered into each one of these photos, desperately searching in their shadows for one image of her, one mark that revealed that she too was part of this family. She didn’t find anything that spoke of her in these documented moments of her mother’s life, and it was then that she felt her melancholy tagging at her throat. Trying not to dwell on this fact, she remembered that she had a task to do, so she suppressed her tears and ensured that they lay in the back of her throat near the reservoir of tears she had insisted not to shed over the past twenty years.

After packing that dining room’s life into boxes, Amal went into the tiny kitchen and started packing what little plates and glasses her mother had. An hour later, the big glass cabinmate that once housed all the kitchen ware in her mother’s possession stood as a shell of its former self. She then took a deep breath, and looked out of the big window that sat above a now rusted marble sink.

The window peered out on the old alley ways that formed some of her best memories. Now, these alley ways stopped telling the story of her long conversations with the neighbor’s son. They stopped hosting those talks where they both exchanged books, poetry, and plays they had written. In fact, this once literature loving young boy submitted to the pressures of his parents and he moved on to become not only an engineer but also her brother in law . He told her that this wasn’t his choice but that it was his parents wanted him to marry Mais her younger sister. When she pleaded with him to fight, he told her that he couldn’t possibly lose his entire family for anyone and certainly not for her. So, on his wedding day he erased from his memory the long evenings in which he and Amal spoke so optimistically about the future.

He too like his family realized that she was two years older than him, and from that day forth, Amal moved on to make the stories they created live on in the pages of her novels. She even lived what could have been by making him star in her fictional worlds as an object of her unrequited love. With a heavy heart she left the kitchen, remembering how he now talks to her not even as his sister in law but as a stranger.

She packed the ornaments that garnished the house’s two tiny bedrooms, deliberately leaving her mother’s cupboard till the very end of her journey. She dreaded going through the items im the cupboard as she didn’t want to see more evidence of her mother’s favoritism. So, in her quest to buy time and gain strength, Amal took a detour to the living room, just to check if she had forgotten to pack anything from there. When she traced and re-traced every path, every shelf, every drawer, and every table top, she realized that she had nowhere else to turn.

She walked into her mother’s room, flicked on the light, and opened the dreaded oak cupboard doors.

Just as she had expected, the cupboard contained stacks of photo albums in which she was absent, certificates of achievement for children that were not hers, gifts exchanged from Mais to her mother, and greeting cards sent from Mais’s children to their grandma. The cupboard also contained clothes that will never be warn, shoes that will never tred new places, and bags that are now only home to a few forgotten wrappers. While reluctantly packing these items piece by piece, her eyes fell on a big box stashed at the back of a jungle of clothes. She dragged out the box and opened it, with the full inclination that she will find yet another set of memories she is not part of.

But, to her surprise she found on its surface a big spiral notebook, she opened it and was shocked to find in it page after page of newspaper cuttings, book reviews, and magazine articles. These were not just any articles or clippings, they were a documentation of every time Amal was ever mentioned in the news or recognized for her achievements. Under the spiral notebook were copies of every novel Amal had written, DVDs documenting every time she appeared for a live talk, and photos revealing every public appearance she made.
Between those photos Amal found a note, she opened it and instantly the tears filled her eyes. The note read.

In this box, I document everything my daughter Amal did in her life. I tried to call her so many times but she refused to pick up the phone. She had resented me for a choice we did not make, but rather a choice society made. I see her broken heart poured out in every story she writes and for that I am deeply sorry. I hope one day, she will be part of our family again, and I hope she knows that I had always loved and admired her for her bravery and strengths. If anyone sees this letter before she does, please give it to her.
With Love
A mother who misses her daughter.

It was then that Ama; felt the anger lift itself from out of her body into a space that wasn’t her world anymore. She realized then and there that her mother was gone and that she will always have words in her heart that will remain unsaid. She sat on the bed and cried until the room surrounding her was framed by the red glows of a sunset casting its long shadows from the narrow window above her. When she regained her strength, she picked herself up from the bed, called the movers and made arrangements with them to come and collect the stuff she packed.

Later that night, as Amal left her mother’s house once and for all, she wondered to herself how a place can be so full of belongings yet suddenly feel so empty. She slowly walked away, leaving this once proud home open for new lives to make it their own.

Prompt 6

Taste and Flavors 

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Bitter Sweet

Throughout a big part of my school life, I was an average student, my grades spanned all letters of the Alphabet. On my transcript you would find the A’s, as well as, the Bs, Cs, and the Ds. I usually earned my A’s in the arts and the humanities where as the Cs were given to me with some sympathy from my teachers for my work in the sciences and the Ds were exclusively for my less than average performance in mathematics.
If my transcript was a dish back then, one could say that it was quite bland with no flavor overpowering the others. Everything was on there, the taste of creativity, the taste of mediocrity, and the taste of failure. In fact, I was average in all aspects of my school life. Throughout grade school, I was neither too popular nor was I a loner, I was neither tall nor short, and I was neither pretty nor ugly. I was one of those people who just blended into crowd. In fact, I was like that pinch of salt you would sprinkle evenly on a dish.

However, it wasn’t until reaching the ninth grade, that I sampled a new taste. I tasted failiure like never before. That year, I didn’t pass my mathematics final, and therefore I was forced to take a make-up exam during the summer. That bitter taste hit my self-esteem, making me feel less than my colleagues, and unhappy with myself. As I studied for that make up exam, the sourness of failing festered in the pit of my stomach, with an after tinge hitting into my brain and tarring at my soul. Failure tasted so strong that it compelled me to wash down its sting with more studying.

I didn’t go out that summer, i didn’t see my friends, and I made sure that I studied every possible math problem there was. Like mixing two antagonizing ingredients into one bowl, the studying sprinkled the powerful tang of failure with hints of hope. As I poured time and effort into my days, I felt the syrupy spills of accomplishment overpower the acidic texture of my lack of achievement. Soon enough failure was but a diluted memory. I went into that exam with confidence, because I knew that I could pass. In fact, I felt the taste of success on my breath. I could even define success, touch it, shape it and feel it with all my senses, and a short hour later, I left that exam hall knowing fully well that I had earned it.

That day my taste in the flavors of life changed. The savor of average didn’t satisfy me anymore, simply because success tasted so much better. From that day onward, success was the only flavor of life I would aspire for; I guess success is an inquired yet addictive taste.

Prompt 7

Light

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I wake up before the crack of dawn, a time when the world is quiet, and the air is still. I tiptoe to the kitchen make some coffee, and then I hit the power button on my laptop. Soon enough the white glow from its screen hugs my face. I start typing without thinking, as I remind myself that I have a deadline.

This deadline has been a heavy weight on my heart for the last week, making me feel weary with worry every morning. If I miss this deadline, I lose my job. It is that simple. So, I type and type and type. The jabbering of my fingers on the keyboard make me feel a sense of progress, but yet this same sound reminds me that I need to type faster. Soon, the birds start singing at my window, with tweets signaling that I’m running out of time.

I type faster and faster, reading over the words I’m producing and changing things as I go along. Yet, I still feel heavy, as I realize that I have less than an hour to finish. Suddenly, all the words I’m typing don’t make sense. So I delete sentences and more sentences until I have deleted half a page. Staring at the half empty screen, my anxiety hits its loftiest state. So I pause, and I take in the stillness around me. I take in the soft morning glow that is now shining through my window, and I inhale the fresh air of a new day now unfolding. The world is lighting up around me, yet I still feel dark with anxiety. I realize that typing is the only way to get myself out of the hole I have dug for myself. So I type and type and type.

I drown out the waking world around me and I just type. I mute my opinion of what I’m typing. I silence my realizations of the stress in my neck, and I dismiss the very idea of not making this deadline and I just type. With every paragraph I create I start to feel lighter, lighter as I know I’m getting closer to finishing. Soon, I reach the end of my piece. I read over it, I like it enough. So, I send it before changing my mind.

The words “Your email was sent” suddenly make me feel light as a feather.

It’s a new day.

Prompt 8

I

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I’m nervous; it has been years since I made a public appearance. I don’t even understand how these youngsters think, let alone how they act. I believe they even call them millennials. They come from a different era from the one I came from. I think the people of my day and age are called the baby boomers, or are we the veterans? I’m really not sure.

But, I do know that they have a name for those of us born in the 1940s and who were young in the 1950s. They have names for everyone and everything these days. How anyone can keep up with all this vocabulary is beyond me.

I don’t even know why my son convinced me to give a talk to a bunch of college kids about the history of theater. He was asked to convince me by the dean of the acting school and he followed his demands. He said it would be good for me to get out of the house. I suppose it would be, but whatever would I have to say to those youngsters?

I suppose they want me to tell them about a more glamorous era. They want to hear about a time when people used to dress up to go the movies, a time when women wore red lipstick, full skirts, stockings, and high heels. Yes, these women were us. We wore diamonds and pearls even during the day, scarves, and gloves, for any occasion, and our hair was always perfectly styled. Women were really women and men were men.
I remember that I made my first singing performance when I was only 16, and my voice touched the soul of everyone in that theater. Back then, you either had a good voice or you didn’t, and no machines can change that.

From that performance on, I was a regular on Broadway, off Broadway, and in the pictures. I was on the covers of magazines. Women everywhere styled their hair like mine. Men always fancied me. They wanted their wives and even their mistresses to look like me. I was such a looker, and to be honest I really turned heads and I melted hearts.
I loved a lot and lost a lot in my life, but ageing was my biggest losing battle. As the years went by, I had to surrender to the fact that I turn less heads in a room than you used to. And, of course there was that whole shenanigan with Albert. I still smile to this day when I think of him, but many people feel that a woman my age shouldn’t smile about such things. They believe that it is no longer our turn to love or to be loved. It is not our place to feel, to lust, or to want. A widow is a widow and a divorcé is a divorcé. This is what most people think when they see a person like me.
Today, I’m a mother and a grandmother; I should be happy and I suppose I am. My publicist suggested that I only tend to that role, because any other role in the world of theater would not be appropriate for me. Maybe he saw too many of my gray hairs. You see, back in my day, no plastic surgeon could fix the lines on a woman’s face, and no product on the market could erase the tell tale signs of aging.

So, now I am now someone people refer to in history books. I’m only the black and white pictures of my past glory.

No one knows my true colors and no one sees who I am inside. I am somebody to a select few and nobody to most.

But going back to my talk today, I will put on a brave face and appear before these students. Maybe somewhere in my talks I will speak a language that someone somewhere will understand. I will feel the warmth of the stage lights for one last, and I will pretend that I am young again.

Prompt 9

Laughing in the Pain

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Amal laughed at his words. She knew they didn’t define her. After all, she read before that when people lash out it is more about them than the people they throw their negativity at. He lashed out at her a lot lately. In fact, she went to see him promising herself that she would not get upset by anything he says or does.

In that particular evening the lashing started the moment he saw her walk into the room, “This outfit makes you look fat,” he said. “Great, that means there is more of me to like,” she replied jokingly. “You keep making stupid jokes and comments when you speak” he told her. “Then, don’t listen” she replied.

“You should be more like the other girls” he said, as he took a sip of his coffee. ” I prefer to be unique,” she replied, while remembering that he didn’t even ask her what she would like to drink.

Feeling the dryness in her throat not to mention the lump in her heart expanding, she called the waiter and ordered a cup of tea for herself. “You are not even feminine,” he said. “You cant be a lady, you need to take charge of each situation. Why did you order? Why didn’t you ask me to order for you?” he shouted. “I’m not a lady, because I’m not with a gentleman at the moment. The so-called gentleman I am with didn’t even ask me what I would like to drink,” she replied without removing the smile on her face.

Trying with every nerve of her being to drown out his words, she realized that the mind is really a funny place. She could remember exactly what she ordered on their first outing yet she forgot to pinpoint the exact moment when they stopped speaking the same language. She could remember something as random as the day she woke up five minutes before her alarm clock and yet she could not remember the enact time when their relationship started spiraling downwards.

She stared at his face trying to see hints of the person she used to know, but instead she saw nothing more than his anger, his disgust, and his underlying cringe at everything that was her.”Let’s end this” he said. “This outing or us?” she asked. “All of it,” he said, “I don’t like you anymore. It has been a feeling I had for ages. ”

She smiled at him and said, “OK,” and with these words she even felt the weight of his anger floating out of her soul. Later that evening, she sat in her living room and laughed. She laughed loudly, as it was to her the laugh of liberation and freedom. But, also on that same evening she cried, she cried because she lost yet again in the game of love.