But That’s Life, Part 2

Jeff and Dayne and I have been hanging out for the last couple of hours here. We came here to talk about the camping trip the gang’s going to take this weekend, but as usual, Jeff talks about his newest girlfriend, Tamika, and Dayne’s plotting the next big party we’ll be having, and I’m thinking about college. It’s not like we normally come over to the café to meet up, but when I suggested it, they came. I guess it’s because we’re always being rowdy, and coming to this quaint little vintage spot is a nice change. The various knickknacks, the heavy wooden tables—they inspire me. It sounds silly, but with the smell of brewing coffee and toasting bagels heavy in the air, I have this sudden odd feeling to write something, anything. But it doesn’t make sense, and I don’t know what to do with it.
Now Chloe, she’d be able to make sense of it. I think she’s inspired, too. She’s sitting a couple tables down, drawing in a sketchpad of hers. I see her glancing around the room occasionally, her eyes flitting in my direction once or twice. Maybe it’s my imagination. Yeah. It’s got to be that. Chloe’s really smart and really pretty in that casual, natural way. We were in English class junior year, and then AP Government this year. Whenever Mr. Sanders would give us an assignment or essay on some poem or story we’d read, Chloe would pass with flying colors. She’d be able to make sense of Wordsworth or Elliot or whoever, while I stared at the words that might as well have been Sanskrit for all I knew.
There was this one time we had to write a poem after going through the 20th century poets, and Chloe wrote some contradictory thing that was . . . really captivating. I mean, it had something to do with loud silences and serene chaos. You know, paradoxes. But she made sense. She made me feel.
But I’m me, and she’s her. She could definitely make a good literary snob, without the coffee part. My type . . . my type’s the loud, rambunctious sort, the one that parties on the weekend and goes through girls faster than underwear. Except I’m not always like that, nor is it exactly my aspiration to live up to that stereotype. I just sort of go along with my friends. But that’s an excuse.
I sneak occasional glances at Chloe, who’s still sketching. She’s not like a lot of the other girls, with lots of makeup and tank tops and miniskirts. She’s wearing a T-shirt that says “You caught me at a bad time: I’m awake” with jeans, and her frizzy red hair’s been hastily pulled back into a sloppy ponytail, like she doesn’t care what people think. I think that’s good.
She closes up her sketchpad and stores it away, then stares into empty space. I avert my gaze and focus on Jeff and Dayne. They’re now talking about the music concert we’re going to tonight. I join in again, also excited to see my favorite band live.
Then Chloe passes by. I don’t look at her. I’m calm and cool, but she makes me flustered. It’s like that One Direction song, where the singer says that the girl he likes is his kryptonite. That would be her. But knowing her, she thinks of me as the superficial all-American jock, and to be honest, she’s not completely wrong. I guess it’s just too bad that someone like her wouldn’t even dream of giving someone like me the time of day.
But that’s life.

Less than three,
Josh

But That’s Life, Part 1

From two tables down, I am able to get a optimal view of Scott Avery as he talks with Jeffrey Tompkins and Dayne Elliot in muted tones. I never would have thought of Scott as the sort of person to frequent the vintage coffee shop on an early Tuesday morning. I can picture him at the pizza barn, talking loudly with friends about the football game they have just seen, or possibly getting drunk with the community college kids in Goldsville. But this . . . this is not the Scott Avery that I have been discreetly watching.
Oddly enough, I am making it sound as though this is a bad thing. But you must understand that it is not. Yes, it is unexpected, but it is the most wonderful kind of unexpectedness, like a deliciously cool sunshower on a hot July day, or a phone call from an old friend. I have had a fairly limited view of Scott, a focused, narrowed-in idea that is not quite real. He is more complex than I have given him credit for, and that is utterly my fault.
I have finished my café latte—I’m not a real coffee drinker—and I now pull out my handy notebook/sketchpad from my tote. I keep it handy at all times, as I jot down observations and quickly sketch certain moments that must be preserved. Though I must not make it look obvious, I am carefully sketching Scott.
It cannot be a normal drawing, I quickly realize. A sharp, fairly detailed sketch of him cannot do him justice, because that is not the real, complex Scott. Just as I have realized that my perspective of him was skewed, I cannot merely put the pencil to the paper and transfer Scott to it. And so instead, I keep everything blurry and light. It is not distinct, it is not focused. One cannot tell just how dark his eyes are, or whether or not his jaw is square, or what kind of nose he has. It must be as unfocused as the idea and character of Scott Avery is.
And so I spend the next half hour sketching and thinking about Scott. It is obvious that I am enamored of him. Though it sounds shallow, it is indeed in part because of his looks. There is a certain manliness to him, but it is balanced out with a subtle undertone of . . . tenderness. I have seen it before during our junior year of high school together, when he stopped to help Marissa Ritz when all her books fell out of her locker, or when he comforted a little boy who’d fallen off the swing at the park. It’s somewhat strange, I realize, because he is the quintessential all-American teenager: he is athletic, drives his own car, and could very easily have whatever girl he wants hanging on his arm. He could be so one-dimensional, but he chooses not to be. And I’ve committed the egregious error of thinking of him almost in that light.
Eventually, I put my sketchpad away, content for the moment. I spend a minute or two staring at the crazy wallpaper and mismatching pieces of furniture and light fixtures that are somewhat reminiscent of the 40’s, then get up to leave. As I pass by Scott, I do not look at him. He keeps on talking. While I would like to think that I’d have it no other way, I know that that is not true. I am awkward and ugly, not pretty like the other girls. It would only incur humiliation if I tried to talk to Scott. It’s too bad, though, that someone like him wouldn’t even dream of giving someone like me the time of day.
But that’s life.
To be continued.

Less than three,
Josh

The Great Captains

Apathy.
That was the first emotion that surged through his body when he woke up. He felt indifferent to it all as he lay in his bed at 6:30 a.m. that Saturday morning. Of course, if apathy was the lack of emotion, was his lackadaisical attitude towards everything a not-emotion?
Laziness.
He didn’t care to sort through the potential paradoxical implications behind his feelings of apathy. He wasn’t the kind of person who obeyed his emotions, he believed. He did what he did, moved by little. The emotions that followed were merely a . . . hmm. Aftermath? Result? What was it?
Never mind that. It wasn’t important.
He padded to his kitchen, reached into his cupboard, and pulled out a box of Raisin Bran. Then he took a bowl and spoon, found the milk, and proceeded to eat. After that, he brushed his teeth, shaved, and took a shower.
Comfort.
The whole routine was perfunctory, rote. Every morning was the same thing, and he took comfort in it. It gave him a sense of security. Of course, he didn’t do it for the feelings that followed. He did it because it was a pattern. Emotions were not something he actively pursued.
Boredom.
He got out his tablet and did a crossword puzzle. He hated crossword puzzles. But the ennui that he so frequently found himself in caused him to do that which he would not have thought he would ever have done. And so he did a crossword puzzle, and then he watched the news. So-and-so had blown up such-and-such, and this product said that it would do that for you.
Disgust.
A push of the button and the TV went off. He put the remote on the floor, yawning. It was always the same thing on the news. Nothing new, nothing good. Ten minutes was more than enough. Who needed the news? Really?
He took a deep breath in, then exhaled. And repeated. There was no need to get worked up. He was not one who followed his emotions. Emotions were fickle and unsteady, not something to rely on.
Loneliness.
Moaning, he got up and paced in his apartment. He walked into the small kitchen and pulled open the blinds, peering out to the park nearby. Men and women were walking together, some hand-in-hand, others laughing. Nobody was alone. They were all happy, together. Enjoying each other’s company. Nothing was wrong. Everything was right for them. Everything.
He stalked back into the living room and fell onto the couch, again moaning. They didn’t have the right to be happy. If they did, so could he. Couldn’t he?
Pity.
Wait, wait, wait. He wasn’t feeling sorry for himself. It was only natural. Just . . . just a common occurrence. Completely and utterly natural. Exactly. Because it wasn’t right, wasn’t fair. It wasn’t . . . just. Yes, just. Justice needed to be executed. This was a righteous . . . righteous . . .
Anger.
Yes, a righteous anger.
Self-pity.
Loneliness.
Emptiness.
Hurt.
Emotions.
Captains.
The great captains of our lives.

Less than three,
Josh

“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” –Vincent van Gogh

The following is the prologue from my NaNoWriMo novel (currently untitled). It’s the third book The Chronicles of Imaginus, in a series I’ve been working on for the past three years. And for those who wish to know, I reached 50,000 words on November 27. Enjoy.

Maybe it was the sound of a rat scampering across the stone floor. Perhaps it was the eerie cry of an unknown animal. She didn’t know. Whatever it was, it jerked her into the land of consciousness abruptly.
Groaning, the girl squinted and tried to see where she was. That was easier said than done, though, because she was surrounded by darkness on all sides. The only light that filtered in came from a small window up above her, to her right. But even that was hardly light; it was just a hardly perceptible lightening in a dim, foreboding room.
Somewhere in the room was a steady drip of water. Drip, drip, drip. Each drop plodded heavily, followed by a slight splashing sound. She couldn’t see the leak, and she wasn’t sure she was strong enough to get up yet. Every part of her was stiff and sore, and she was shivering. It was cold. Very cold.
Wait. Wait a second. Who was she? Where was she? The girl suddenly realized that she had no idea of who she was—her name, where she was from, what she liked, none of that. It was a strange feeling, like something had been ripped out of her, leaving her defected. Panic began to work its way through her system, but she forced herself to remain calm. A panic attack was the last thing she needed.
Drip, drip, drip. For a few moments, she focused on the constant sound of water splashing, willing her heartbeat to slow down. It was working. She could feel herself calming down.
“Hello?” she said. It was a hoarse, almost unintelligible sound. The girl coughed, then tried again. “Hello?” There. That was better.
Random words floated through her mind. Snowmobiles. Computers. Golf. She had a vague idea of what they were, but nothing concrete. Trying to mentally grasp at each image just caused it to flee, leaving her as helpless as ever. She decided she could work on that later.
A harsh, grating sound caused her to jump. In front of her, a door opened, casting a stream of muddy light into the room. Quickly glancing around, the girl took in her surroundings. In the corners of the room was old, moldy hay that stank, along with a ratty blanket and bucket in the far corner. The square cell itself was maybe twenty or twenty-five feet all around, and nearly ten feet tall. She was sitting almost against the back wall, which was covered in a darkish substance that looked slimy. She shivered.
Standing in the doorway was an alien creature that caused her to gasp. She didn’t know what she was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t . . . that. It was a grossly hunchbacked creature that formed an almost perfect upside down U, like a horseshoe. It had eight appendages in total—it walked on four of them, two in the front, two in the back, and the other four looked as though they had been sporadically placed on its body, none of them symmetrical to the other. With a body of spiky black hair, a pair of glittering eyes, and a chilling leer, the unearthly creature sent a shivers racing up and down her spine.
“Wh-what are you?” she said, still taking in the strange sight in front of her.
It spat out what the girl could only assume was a laugh, though it didn’t sound friendly. “I do not answer your questions, inferior human. I am here only to bring you your meal.” The creature slid a half-full bowl in her direction.
“Where am I?” she asked, not ready to have him leave without having any answers.
“Now would you not like to know?” it said, still leering. “You shall know everything that you need to know in the due time. Do not get too comfortable, though. Our lord will have need of you soon.”
“Lord?”
It nodded once. “Yes. The Adversary. As I said, you will know what you must know when the time is right. Now, be quiet.”
“Wait!” she called out. But the hunchbacked creature had slammed and locked the door shut, plunging her into near-darkness again.
Feeling around as she waited for her eyes to get accustomed to the light, the girl grabbed the bowl and spoon and took a tentative bite. It was a thick, gritty porridge that had little taste. She grimaced, but swallowed a few more spoons.
“Water,” she said out loud. “I need water.” She glanced around the room. Behind her was another bucket that had a small wooden cup floating on top. She grabbed the cup, sniffed the water, and then gulped some down.
Her hunger and thirst gotten out of the way, she leaned against the wall, ignoring the slimy substance. With her eyes closed, she began to try to understand what was going on. Why was she here? Better yet, where was here? What was that creature? And who was the…The Adversary?
But there was one thing she knew: whatever was going on, it wasn’t going to be good.
Drip, drip, drip.