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Julia & Neal

2 Oct

Julia stands outside of the restaurant door unable to catch her breath. She is late. And this is a first date. A blind date.

Inside, Neal sits at a corner table and worries the keys on his Blackberry. He is waiting for news. This is a first date. And he doesn’t even know the woman. He hardly even cares.

Julia can’t make herself go in. “Just one cigarette,” she tells herself, “To take the edge off.” Julia quit smoking three weeks ago, but bought a pack on the way to the date. And gum, guaranteeing to make her breath extra minty fresh. That’s one thing she always hated about smoking… the bad breath.

Neal checks his email for the fourth time in as many minutes. He promised himself that he’d leave his phone at home. But he is not only lonely. He is broke. Neal keeps getting bit parts that don’t pay his bills let alone his alimony. And the email he is expecting might bring him news of a job. A real part. A lead.

Julia stands to the side of the door and lights her cigarette. She inhales deeply. The taste is familiar, comforting. Her sister Mary told her that cigarettes would taste repulsive after one week. Mary lied. This cigarette is heavenly.

Neal looks up from his Blackberry and realizes his date is late. And he feels relieved. He’d be a crappy date today anyway.

Julia stubs out her cigarette on the pavement and realizes just how late she is. She feels OK about that. The last two dates were crappy anyway. But she’s got nothing to lose.

Neal and Julia pass each other as he leaves and she enters. They smile at one another and feel comforted.

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Old Maid

2 Oct

Julia stared into her own bloodshot eyes in the mirror as she re-applied her mascara, hoping nobody would come into the bathroom and see her on the verge of tears.

“Just breathe, girl,” she told herself while reaching in her purse for a Valium. She popped a pill in her mouth and reached her hand under the running water. As she put her lips to her hand, she rolled her eyes in disgust.

Once the pill was down her throat she began to pace. This wasn’t the first time she’d melted down in a restaurant bathroom because a date wasn’t going well. She felt stupid for resorting to a blind date set up by her much younger, married-with-two-kids niece. Her niece, for Christ’s sake; Julia knew she was at a low point in life when she agreed to take dating advice from the little girl she would babysit while Julia’s younger, married-with-four-kids brother would take his loving wife on vacation.

“Accept it,” Julia whispered to herself as she closed the clasp on her Prada clutch. “You’re the old maid of the family.”

She desperately stared at her 46-year-old self in the mirror, trying her hardest to see the young, hopeful, daydreamer girl she once was; instead, she saw the grey-rooted adult she was and could never accept. With an exasperated sigh, she turned her head and looked at the open window to the left of the sinks, tossing her purse onto the windowsill.

Measure Twice Cut Once

29 Sep

blueprint with handwritten note saying: simplify, client says design asks too muchWhat was nervousness anyway? It was tangled excitement with snarls of annoyance. Julia set the brush down on the bathroom counter and dabbed a little essential oil on her neck and chest. Nervousness was anticipation soaked in hope and doped with cynicism. She washed her hands and went to the wardrobe for her blouse and skirt. How many times had she gone someplace just to meet, possibly meet, ostensibly meet “him?”  Tucking her lips and ducking her head she pulled the perfect green chiffon blouse on. Far too many times, that’s how many times.

The structure of romance was built on a lot prone to liquefaction. Julia believed in soul mates, the magic thing that just happens when you meet the right man, but too much time had insisted she must be wrong; every chapter of her love life should have functioned to be a respite from the mental state she employed in her work, a counterbalance to her need for perfect measurements, CAD renderings, the day to day of the shape and reason of physical worlds. She wanted the flair of tossing back her hair and laughing without surmising, considering without assessing. Buildings house environments that foster effectiveness, increase comfort, and keep people dry when it rains. Love should tug toward freedom with a tantalizing tension but what it always did to Julia was skew her so drastically no aspect of life felt like home. Love was distracting because it was never  set quite right. Love maladjusted life because its corners were never true.

The speed dating was a crash course in humility, or was it humiliation? Internet dating only confirmed that while women online tended to seek lasting relationships, men, thrilled at the prospect of free hookers, prowled the profiles as study guides to become – become whoever you wanted them to be. The charming cast themselves as soul mates til a few months in, when they’d reveal they were only bit players, turning to declare her a taxing distraction from their real lives.

On her 45th birthday, Julia lifted her glass and told her friends that marriage was so obviously unlikely to happen it was now time for her to register at Macy’s and Target. “I want the silverware, I want the blender and I want the China I’ve held off buying for myself!” She said breaking out the good tequila. “Wedding presents for Christmas!  Wedding presents for Birthdays! Wedding presents so I can start to catch up with you Joneses!” She toasted, “Consider me a single woman family!” Hurrahs and cheers and laughter meant to uplift but Julia listened for a voice of dissent.  None came beyond a few tones of “awww,” at the fringes.  Whimsical, reflective, thoughtful gifts would be gone. Practicality was new the spice of life.

And here, just over a year later, Julia stood before the full length mirror, the black skirt fit nicely, thank you, the pedicure was lovely, the hair hung slightly swingy, and she smelled divine. She was ready to meet the man Mike and Candace had told her about a few weeks ago on her 46th birthday.  They’d given her a handmade fluted vase that went with nothing in her house, and she loved it.  “He’s a good guy,” Mike said.

“And who knows?  He might make a nice addition to this ‘single family home’ thing you got going here.” Candace said.

She wanted true love. She stepped into her sandals. She wanted someone to dance with in the living room spontaneously. She grabbed her purse and keys and went to the garage, pushed the button, opened the door. She wanted someone to laugh with and eat dinner, lay on the couch with and watch a movie, have sex with, make love with, feel magnetism and fire, know deeply for a lifetime. She started the car and pulled away from the house. Nervousness was a hopeful feeling, shifting into excitement. Checking the rear-view mirror she caught a glimpse of her shining eye.  “Yes but,” she told herself navigating a left, “I hereby only hold out hope for a decent conversation.”

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prompt: Julia

18 Sep

Use one or all the elements of the prompt. It’s completely up to you!

  • Name: Julia (46)
  • Profession: Architect
  • Wish: Good conversation
  • Location: Blind date

If you have any questions about Character Project, contact me.

See upcoming prompts here.

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