22 September 2013

The Art of Observation

I'm a writer. That's not just a fanciful moniker of wannabe-ness. I write. I'm not an "aspiring" writer. I've got the manuscripts to prove it. I do, however, take a humble stand now and then by saying I fancy myself a writer. But I do qualify: I'm closing in on 800,000 words (novels, novellas, and short stories). Or I could call myself an "author"; that just takes having what you write published. Today, anybody can do that, of course. Even so, they must be written before they can be published. Quality, value, worth are other blog posts, however.

A large part of what I do with writing is not writing. It's observation, consideration, reflection, and analysis. Why do people do what they do? So I do not mind waiting in waiting rooms. I can occupy my time and my mind by inventing scenarios for the people I see. Malls are also great for this sordid activity. I'm not saying that's where I get my story ideas, just that it's a good place to develop this useful skill. And I've been developing it over the course of my life. To some, that makes me creepy. To others, I'm a harmless dreamer. I prefer 'Observer of Life.' I was recently promoted to First-Class, by the way.

So suppose there's this guy who is a little bit like me. That is, he is older, lives alone, has a decent job but is not really satisfied, likes to indulge himself with writing stories, and is starting to calculate that there may not be too much time left to start his life over again--as he has done before. Then he meets somebody quite by accident, someone who is so completely wrong for him--or more accurately, perhaps, he is so completely wrong for her. Nevertheless there is a click, a connection. It's all online so far, so there are only the words passing back and forth.

At first, it's quite innocent. Lots of humor. Facebook. Twitter. Emails. Texting jokes. Kidding around. It's fun; something to break the monotony of the week. The next step is to meet--in a public place because you know what the odds are that this is going to involve a creepy person. Coffee in a bookstore. You know, the latte experience. Laughter ensues. It's even more fun in person. No risk, no pressure, it's just for laughs. It's good to crack that weekend open.

Let's say the two of them feel that looks do not matter, that age difference isn't an issue, that no future needs to concern them. It's just for now. If it's good, why ruin it by pushing for more? However, little by little, it happens. There are dates. Dinners, movies, walks, talks. He makes dinner for her. She makes her specialty dishes for him. The evenings run late, slip into sleepovers. Nothing inappropriate. Just friends hanging out, getting sleeping, and the couch is right there. And then a mysterious thing happens: affection.

The sense of humor is now accompanied by a hand on the shoulder, in the small of the back. A one-armed hug. A friendship hug of full arms. The peck of a cheek. Peck of a cheek and a full hug. A quick lips on lips kiss. Longer kisses. There's a sudden realization that it's no longer just having fun for now. Enjoyment for now becomes a desire to continue the enjoyment. What's the harm in making plans? thinking of a future together? If they like all of it, why panic and fear it will go away? Tie it down, make it fixed.

The weekend trip, simply a sightseeing adventure, becomes an open door. A shared room becomes a shared bed, and a relationship is born. Not the exchanging of texts. Not the occasional invitation to attend church together, grab a lunch, or hang out with a couple of DVDs. Now something is serious. Soon a routine develops, brief loving moments mixed between job duties and other obligations. Why worry about the future? Because someone wants to be sure everything will continue as it is. They might as well make it official, as much time as they spend together, as much contact as they engage in, as much affection as they share. It's all good.

That's always the next step, isn't it? First, simply like a message: I like what he says, writes. Second, like the person: I get along with him. Third, let that person into your life: We get along just fine. Four, time together increases: I really like being with him. Five, affection increases: We've started kissing and other things. Six, something more than like but less than love ties them together: I like having him always there for me. Then come obligations--meetings, connections, each other's friends, the families, the jobs, the keys to each other's places although more and more time is spent together at one or the other residence. Then the big, special weekend: a preview of life together. Intimacy. The serious talks--no longer jokes via text message--but the push for more, and the making permanent of the more.

And a stroll through the mall pauses at the jewelry shop and just having fun for now becomes are you serious? Playing along, pretending, wishful thinking, dreaming. You know the type. There's reality for the realist. There's a virtual reality for those who play around the edges of reality. And then there is pure fantasy: things that will not ever happen yet we like to imagine what if they did? Is it a game or is it a dream? So they play the game, believing in the dream. There is, indeed, one ring to rule them all. And that is magic in the first degree. Nothing can take back that moment, that feeling, when the future coalesces from the mist and becomes concrete.

But concrete is hard and inflexible and it's scary. Too many thoughts of falling and cracking a head open against the stone. Fear unfolds. Doubt forms. Everything adds up, overwhelms, disturbs day and night, and finally erupts in the classic medium of text: "Sorry. I just can't do it. Goodbye." And winter arrives early, blows cold, freezes reality into some kind of hoarfrost statue of Defeat personified. It's not just fun for now any more. It's now, but without the fun.

What to do with a ring that's been officially sized for one particular finger in the universe? Save it for a rainy day? Go Prince Charming-like in search of another finger to fit the ring, another Cinderella fairy tale? Or get on that phone and beg, beg, beg? No, that's not actually, umm, dignified, so don't. Wait. Could do that. Life goes up and down, everyone knows. This is down. Next comes up. The Earth still spins, the sun shines, the night comes and goes. But it's not fun at all, even just for now.

"If you wanna meet at church I can buy you lunch after" reads the text message early one Sunday morning after a sleepless night full of ogres and goblins speaking in iambic pentameter. Lightning is not so quick, comets too slow, sunshine a mere flicker as the future suddenly explodes. There is nothing quite like sitting on a hard pew next to the lady bearing the naked ring finger, listening to the words of instruction from one who has been there, chiding one to keep it fun, that life is not meant to be a drudge, not intended to be hard, though drudgery and hardship do come, will always come, to those who fear having fun for now.

She's in a flowery dress as fresh as springtime; he's in a suit, serious for once, as they walk around the lake. Warm sun, cool breeze, and somewhere along the shore, where the trees offer shade, there is a pause for explanation. If not now, when? If not just for fun, then what else? If not you and me, him and her, them, if not us then who? who else? who else is there for you and me, him and her, them? Hand in hand, an examination of fingers, perfect for bearing symbols of significance--symbols that mean more than what anyone can say, and less. There is no symbol required to just have fun for now, they seem to understand. Let "for now" go on forever. Let "having fun" be whatever touches them, ties them together, ensures their continued enjoyment. Or, as sometimes is done, let the enjoyment be simply joy.

Usually at this point, I'll get up and go on my way. We all have errands to do, places to be. A writer is no different. We always wonder how things got to be that way, who these people are, and what happens next. You can answer that yourself. Grab some paper, power up your word processor, or flick on a digital voice recorder, and let everything go....

(C) Copyright 2010-2013 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

No comments:

Post a Comment