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This girl is not sophisticated enough.

That is NOT cocaine. He’s my friend. He wouldn’t do that. No, no, no. This is what I thought as I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and checked that I wasn’t going over the speed limit.

dad always said Santa didn't have time to wrap presents

dad always said Santa didn't have time to wrap presents


It was 4 in the morning and we were driving back from Champagne/Urbana, where the clubs had better dance music than the ones in Terre Haute. P.M. poured white powder onto the mirror that had come unglued from the visor. He rolled up a dollar bill.

There must be an explanation, I thought. Right? I looked in my rearview mirror and see K.C. and J. asleep. Now, P.M. and K.C. were not really my friends. They were fun people I knew and who I could hang out with when I ran into them at a party. The night had been fun and I, completely sober mind you, had ended up dancing on a speaker.

P.M. snorted the powder. The second time I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw J. open eye, take a look, and close her eye again.I will be arrested. I will have to call my dad. My dad will die. With luck P.M. would take all of the white powder so that there wouldn’t be any in my car.

That is not what I think it is. A friend told me about a boyfriend who snorted Fruit Loops. Fruit Loops are not white. I stared straight ahead and watched the double-yellow line in the headlights. We had an hour drive left to go.

At the beginning of the evening, before anyone got in my car, I’d told them, “No smoking in my car.” Well, he isn’t smoking. I will be arrested and lose my RA job. What if I leave him on the side of the road? This was the midwest. The highway cut through fields. There were no lights. I pretended he wasn’t there.

In my real life, I am clueless. A fellow teacher will say to me, “You know that student comes to class high.” “Does she?” I ask.

“Can’t you tell?”

“No.” I can never tell. But in fiction, I’ve got to know what my characters are up to. I have my characters do things I find shocking. Wow. Did I write that? I’m scandalized. But then in this world of SAW III–what am I worried about? Why do I think I’ve written something that will upset my in-laws when thousands upon thousands of crazier stories are out there.

I can think I’ve really taken a risk, and then watch HBO… Someone is surely going to give me a shove and say, “Go play with the kiddies.”

11 thoughts on “This girl is not sophisticated enough.

  1. Ha ha, that’s a conversation I’d love to have with my family:

    “John, why did you say THAT about me/us?!?”

    “Well, at least I didn’t put you in Saw III — but don’t think it didn’t enter my mind!”

    I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be stubbornly ignorant — ignorant by choice — of what people were saying “between the lines.” I don’t take hints, I’d say, smugly. If you want me to know something about what’s going on in your head, then just tell me. But I wasn’t really honestly clueless; I was just lazy.

    When characters surprise me I feel like you seem to have felt sitting there at the steering wheel, looking at them out of the corner of my eye. Shock is okay — simple surprise is too. But if I’m feeling plain-old confused by their behavior I know I have some spadework to do.

  2. The drug thing often surprises me, too. Sometimes I knew when the kids were high, sometimes it goes right over my head.

    I wonder if I get my characters into enough jams, if I give them enough trouble and cause them to make them enough stupid decisions.

    Am I too careful with making my characters perfect? It’s my recovering perfectionism.

    It’s a balancing act, I guess, giving your characters enough imperfections to make them lovable and sympathetic without making them jerks. Or giving them enough positive qualities, without making them too perfect and boring.

  3. Shelly, of course dancing.

    Kate, sometimes.

    JES, when I read between the lines, I’d then think I’d misread. In the end I’d be confused and have no clue.

    rowen, I can’t decide if I get my characters into enough jams or if the jams are overdone. But here’s to the balance.

  4. Leave it to KC to find that loophole!

    I wouldn’t be so concerned with the inlaws. You’ll be picking their nursing home some day so they can’t get too upset about anything you write.

    Perhaps writing is the outlet to express part of yourself you keep hidden from people around you. I mean can any of us really be ourselves around the judging eyes of family?

  5. I wouldn’t have had a problem telling him to get out of my car or put that stuff away until he got out of my car. But that’s me.

    You have a lot of thought provoking entires on your blog!

  6. Pingback: Drunk or Hysterical Driving « writing in the water

  7. Pingback: Experienced Enough for This « writing in the water

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