38 comments

Feb 08, 2021

Fiction

We write our histories in permanent marker on the bathroom stalls of life.


She types it in and stares for a while into space, searching for the reason, as if her muse might appear out of thin air. There is nothing, no one there. She hits the little blue button anyway.


She enjoys the hopefulness of the moment—perhaps they will see merit in her poetry, perhaps they will ask, like she does, where it originates. She wonders if there is life here. Will something grow from these seeds she’s planted?


Setting her phone aside, she resumes dicing onions. She is not good at cutting onions, or cutting anything, really. The pieces come out uneven and there are always little bits of skin and peel to pick out of the sautéing pan.


Her writing is the same way, she thinks. Imperfect. She sees slivers of herself, her skin, left clinging to the margins. A comma in the wrong place like too much salt. Never just right.


Her dishes usually taste fine, so she hopes her writing is palatable at least. But she can never be sure. Words always taste different when they come from someone else.


That night after dinner, she sits and refreshes the app, watching as the comments are posted in real time. She doesn’t know why she cares. “Froglover34” probably isn’t a vital literary figure, but she replies to them anyway. It is the human thing to do, she thinks. 


And she is nothing if not human. 


***


The next morning, he sees the post and laughs. Not that he thinks it’s funny, because he doesn’t. He thinks it is essential. He whispers the words and breathes them in, lets them fill his lungs, and smiles as his being expands at their resonance. 


He wishes he could tell her that her words sustain him, but he knows that a like and a comment wouldn’t capture the way her words reverberate through him. It would feel insincere, sending shallow roots of friendship this way. 


He is afraid to watch things wither, so he says nothing and simply sends it to a friend who might enjoy it, too.


He grew up on a farm. He knows what real soil is, the kinds of things that thrive in it. What he does not know is how to sustain things that do not need the earth to grow. 


He steps away from the laptop, grabs his keys and a mask, and heads out on a whim, not knowing where he’s going. 


In the car, he finds himself wishing that her words were his. He knows he could make music from them, he can feel the song in his fingers, which are calloused from the fretboard of his old Jasmine guitar. He turns on the radio and loses the melody before it has completely formed in his mind.


He’s certain he wouldn’t have done the words justice, anyway.


He starts the engine and clutches the wheel, struck with a joyous epiphany. He knows where he is going, where her words are leading him.


***


We carve our dreams in the margins of memory, hoping the marks can preserve them.


She thrives on anonymity. It is a safe prison from which to write, hemmed in on all sides by unbidden words.


She watches her notifications climb and wonders if it is because her words are profound or pathetic. She is not sure what they are, or if they are even really hers. 


Regardless, the attention is undeserved, she thinks. She hovers over the button to delete her latest post, but sets the phone down instead and walks away to brood over the stale taste of her words on her tongue.


She sits at her desk and glances at her open journal. She hates the look of a blank page, the way it stares into her and sees her own blankness, her lack of depth. A stark white sheet of paper exposes her like nothing else can, reminds her that she is unfit for the task. She closes the journal to hide from that pale abyss.


The days are woven together tightly, indistinguishably. She rather enjoys this state of limbo, now that she is accustomed to it. A whole year, nearly, of lathered hands under too-hot water, of distance from normalcy. An entire era of solitude, fit into the span of eleven months.


She thinks she is on the verge of finding herself in the silence. As soon as she does, she knows she will change again, and she’ll have to fashion herself a new chrysalis from which to emerge. 


With a sigh, she straightens her back and lifts her arms over her head towards the ceiling. The little pots along the windowsill catch her eye, full of withering plants. She has never been able to keep a plant alive, not even the succulent her sister bought her once. It seems she never knows exactly what they need. More sun, or less? Another drink? She’s never sure.


She doesn’t really know why, but the dying plants sometimes make her wonder if she does not love enough.


Or perhaps she is simply too untethered to sustain much of anything that does not involve vowels or consonants. Even they sometimes demand too much of her.


*** 


He pulls into the parking lot and slips his mask on, welcoming the familiar hiding place. He isn’t sure why her words prompted him to come here, but they did. Feeling emboldened, he clambers out of the car and into the faded February sunlight.


The animal shelter is loud and smells of urine. He doesn’t mind, he grew up with all sorts of animals on the farm. There is a small woman at the desk, with thick black glasses and a pixie cut. Her mask has pineapples on it, which makes him smile.


She directs him to the room to his left, where small cages wait behind the glass doors. She reminds him not to touch any of the animals, and he simply nods.


He hasn’t owned an animal in several years. His ex had a schnauzer that hated him almost as much as she did. She dumped him last month. He decides he’s a bit put off of dogs at the moment, and heads towards the cats. 


The one he chooses is small, with plain grey fur and sad yellow eyes like dandelions. He isn’t sure why he’s drawn to her, but he thinks that he recognizes something in those dandelion eyes. The name on her cage says “Mrs. Whiskers,” but he plans to change it to something less matronly.


He signs the papers, pays the fee, and leaves with the unnamed feline in tow, headed to the pet store for supplies.


The cat mewls tentatively from the little crate in the backseat. He wishes he could let her out, but she seems to feel safer in her little prison, at least for now.


He thinks that he is finally doing something good, and not just for the cat.


He decides to call her Yeva. She will remind him of what he already knows, that life requires much to sustain it, that roots are woven together with the earth for a reason.


When he gets home, he posts a picture of Yeva exploring her new home. He thinks about finally commenting on that post, the one that inspired him to write his own history.


Ultimately he decides against it. Surely she knows the power her words hold.


He picks up his guitar instead and plays Yeva a song.


***


When all else fails, we write our initials on our wrists and let the ink linger on our skin. We hope it is enough.


She has over a million followers now. That’s more than two million eyes, watching. She realizes that her words are inconsequential compared to the poetry of just one of those lives.


And she realizes that she is capable of something of consequence. 


Phone set aside, she reaches for her journal. The blank page is terrifying and strips her bare. Capable as she may be, she worries that she won’t know when to water her words, when to leave them lying in the sun. She worries that they will taste bitter, unloved.


She picks up the pen anyway and begins laying down roots.



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38 comments

Claire Lewis
04:59 Feb 08, 2021

Maybe a bit too Shrek-y, but I can’t stop laughing so it has promise

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A.G. Scott
05:08 Feb 08, 2021

My comment got deleted but I like that this got posted without context

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Claire Lewis
05:25 Feb 08, 2021

I was wondering what happened hahaha... I’ll leave it up and let them all wonder 😂

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R. K.
23:05 Feb 08, 2021

Yeva, a unique name teeming with life, right? Your writing style is gripping and captivating, holding on with barbs. But it doesn't hurt, instead shaking deep questions into the voids of our minds. I love questions, I love this. This is the kind of writing I wish I could write. I especially like that last bit, watering words, leaving them out in the sun, but first and foremost, laying down those roots. I ADORE the the anonymous-poster-and-random-person-who-is-inspired-and-connects-more-than-they-should plotlines. One of my favourites!

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Claire Lewis
00:03 Feb 09, 2021

I had a burst of inspiration following our brief conversation the other night and this story is what came of it. One could say you blew the dandelion seeds my way ;) I’m humbled by this comment; I so admire your writing and I’m grateful for your encouraging words. I may come back to this one day, but for now I’m letting it germinate :) And yes- I don’t have any connection to the Russian language, but Yeva felt right in this context. Thank you for the comment, you made my day!!

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Christina Marie
20:17 Feb 08, 2021

Wow, Claire this is amazing. Everything about this was beautiful and SO relatable.

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Claire Lewis
21:34 Feb 08, 2021

Thank you Christina! <3

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Briana Spring
16:04 Feb 08, 2021

I really loved this story! It went in a different direction than I thought a story about this prompt would go, but it was refreshing to be surprised! I thought the descriptions about how daunting writing can be were perfect. It really conveyed the writer's insecurity and loneliness. I loved the last line and how it ties to the "making history" theme in a very different and creative way. Good job!

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Claire Lewis
00:04 Feb 09, 2021

Thank you Briana, I appreciate the read and the kind comment!!

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Heather Mc Quaid
11:38 Feb 08, 2021

Very interesting take on the prompt, reflecting on how individuals can affect the lives of people they've never met. Perhaps we're making history right now? ;) So many things I liked about it. The honesty of self-doubt, the perseverance of hope, the longing for connection and recognition. And few sentences/turns of phrase that I wish I could write: She sees slivers of herself, her skin, left clinging to the margins. A comma in the wrong place like too much salt. We carve our dreams in the margins of memory, hoping the marks can preserve...

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Claire Lewis
13:39 Feb 08, 2021

Thank you for the kind words and those edits!!l I think I’ve addressed them all. And I like that direction for the title, I’ll have to think on it a little more. Originally I was going to do “Laying Down Roots” but it felt a little overt.

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Heather Mc Quaid
15:02 Feb 08, 2021

I almost suggesting 'laying down roots,' but wondered whether it was too obvious. haha. With the revised ending, I think I now understand her concerns much better. It's not about fear of writing, or revealing too much about herself, but about being unable to tell a story that can be nurtured and nurture others, that is consequential, that has meaning. At least that's what I got out of out. Tho I did just have a wee bit of chocolate which makes me a bit giddy. :) some ideas for a title that may spark something: deep-rooted, dandelion roots,...

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Claire Lewis
21:56 Feb 08, 2021

Aww I'm so glad that came through! Your chocolate-fueled epiphany read right into the heart of the story! Hooray for figuring out each other's subtexts--and for chocolate :) Oh I love Dandelion Roots... I'm definitely overthinking it at this point, so we're going for it

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Thom Brodkin
20:59 Mar 12, 2021

"Words always taste different when they come from someone else." If you wrote nothing else in this story that would be enough to make it one of my favorites. It's like a list of deep thoughts. It's marvelous. Are all the italics you? They were all brilliant. Once again this is poetry. You have that quality to your writing. It's like my writing has meaningful sentences but yours has meaningful words. All the words. I wish I was smarter to understand your depth. For the time being I'm glad to just enjoy it. If you'd like to give ...

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Claire Lewis
23:42 Mar 12, 2021

The italics are me, yes. Glad you liked them! To be honest I don’t normally understand what I write either, not all the way. It’s fun to see what people read into stories that I maybe didn’t intend. I’ve tried to do that a couple times and I’ve not been successful haha, but I’m sure you knocked it out of the park much better than I would have! Heading over now :)

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23:04 Feb 24, 2021

I think my favorite little detail is that he grabs a mask. As soon as I read that I scrolled back up to see the date this was posted. Love this a lot! Thanks for sharing :)

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Claire Lewis
00:36 Feb 27, 2021

Thanks Stephanie :)

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Eddie Thawne
08:37 Feb 17, 2021

I love the way that you composed your story. Great Job!

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Claire Lewis
15:35 Feb 17, 2021

Thank you Eddie!

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Eddie Thawne
16:11 Feb 17, 2021

You're welcome.

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Angelina Jeong
05:07 Feb 13, 2021

How amazing! I can see you effort :)) Great job!

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Claire Lewis
06:03 Feb 14, 2021

Thank you :)

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Tom .
00:43 Feb 13, 2021

Your writing is more than palatable. I really enjoyed this. The slips his mask on line made me think of something so different. I was expecting a robbery. I don't know if you intended the ambiguity of it. It kind of works as it sparks your interest into the new section. I should now start reading a bank heist piece and expect a Covid story. Good Job.

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Claire Lewis
01:08 Feb 13, 2021

Haha yeah, I wondered if it was too ambiguous there. Might tweak it so it’s not off-putting. Thanks for the read and comment, I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

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Janey Finch
14:10 Feb 09, 2021

Ok, I don't know if it's just me but I love stories that are just "she" and "he", I find it really cool for some reason and you showed it really well. I love how you also showed both sides, a follower and the actual poet. And I love the ending, showing how all artists face that fear that their next post won't be as good, or eventually people are going to stop finding their words profound and the fact that she feels dispatched from her work because I think a lot of artists feel like that. Really well done capturing tons of emotion! Also wow! ...

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Claire Lewis
21:42 Feb 09, 2021

So glad you enjoyed it! I feel like using just pronouns opens the up to where it could be anybody and it feels more personal to me somehow. Thanks for the read, Janey :)

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Janey Finch
01:38 Feb 11, 2021

Yes!! You put it into words! It is totally more personal and gives more creative freedom to the reader! And of course! Your stories are awesome, I always love reading them! :)

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Rachel Smith
08:48 Feb 08, 2021

This was a lovely read. Loved the feeling of connectivity created between the characters. Also the writers self doubt contrasted with the readers belief that she must know how good she is so he doesn't tell her! Well done.

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Claire Lewis
12:31 Feb 08, 2021

Thank you, Rachel!

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A.G. Scott
04:24 Feb 08, 2021

I love this piece. First a story about stories, now a story about writing... what's next? A story about ink? (Don't take that, I want it.) One of your best, I think. Beautiful, lyrical prose. I will be reading this at least one more time.

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Claire Lewis
04:49 Feb 08, 2021

The ink is yours! I have no clue what I’d do with it Thank you A.g, that means a lot! Let me know if you catch any errors or awkward bits; it’s mostly unedited as of right now. Also, I’m iffy about the title, if you have other suggestions :)

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Litlover 📖
13:45 Feb 11, 2021

This is great!! I would definitely recommend some more human interaction or stream-of-consciousness because those are essential for us to grasp the character, but that was SO DARN GOOD!!! I think that other than that, everything was parfait!! Chef's kiss!!!

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Claire Lewis
14:14 Feb 11, 2021

Thank you!! Character work is definitely something I’m working to improve in my writing. I’m not all that comfortable with stream-of-consciousness; might need to force myself into it for practice. Thanks again :)

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Litlover 📖
14:16 Feb 11, 2021

Ah, SOC is one of my favorite literary tactics and its just so awesome if you use it rightttttt and yes I can totally relate... I'm not a good grammar person but you seem to be!!

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Claire Lewis
03:19 Feb 12, 2021

For sure! I need to read more SOC stuff, I haven’t really gotten into it much.

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Litlover 📖
14:53 Feb 12, 2021

ULYSSES MRS DALLOWAY THE WAVES

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Claire Lewis
18:29 Feb 12, 2021

I've read Mrs. Dalloway (a very long time ago...) and I've heard of but not read the others. Will look into them...

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