A warm-up I liked for the story I am writing as a 2nd Story ensemble member. I’ll be performing with them in January! Check them out: www.2ndstory.com
I have an upstairs neighbor who fights a ton with her boyfriend over the phone. It’s an annoyance, particularly now when I’m sitting in my bed trying to work on a story. I hear the clomping of her high heels and the tension rising in her voice like a teapot no one wants on the stove. She makes her way directly over my head into what I can only assume is her bedroom too. Since I can no longer ignore her rantings, I decide to write them down, in the manner of revenge sex. Which should serve as a lesson to everyone who lives in shared housing: beware the writer in the basement.
Your love is something that is done out of logic, my love is something that is done out of heart. That’s why I get a little crazy sometimes.
I really want you in my life.
I just don’t know how to get you to love me…more.
As I type, I laugh at her statements. She sounds like a badly written soap opera someone’s grandmother taped and now plays over and over on the VCR until it develops a screech.
You and I are different people.
Why do you say I want conflict?
Why do you say I want drama?
But while I’ve heard her fighting many times, I’ve never stopped to document anything. Now I have to really listen to catch what she’s saying. And about halfway through, I start to feel a stir, some empathy for her plaintive crying. Because even though everything she says has been said before, and in more eloquent ways, she’s still clearly in pain in the present moment. Her words come from a place of hurt, and that is a place I too know just as well.
It takes two people to tango.
Maybe that’s why there’s conflict.
It’s just not that hard to tell a girl she’s pretty!
It isn’t hard to tell a girl she’s pretty. How many times have I stood in the mirror only to avert my eyes? How many times have I wanted the same thing from a relationship only to then chastise myself for wanting something so seemingly shallow? How long did it take for me to realize that affirmation was something that started with me? That how I addressed my self-worth was dependent on whether or not I allowed people to determine it?
We both have our parts, we both have our flaws, we both have our differences!
When I have the same people saying the same thing to me over and over, I have to sit there and think, are they right?
When I left the country for a year, to go study and travel abroad in London, I was really running from the questions in my head. My doubts about my own emotions, my actions, and my choices all plagued me. I kept asking myself if I was doing the right thing with love in any of my relationships. In my gut I knew I wasn’t.
You know when you have a job that you don’t really love but you act like you love it? And you go to work every day pretending that you love it, and then you’re at your job and you go unnoticed? Unappreciated?
I mean, this is my life!
I remember thinking that if someone asked me where I wanted to be in five years, I wouldn’t have had an answer. For the past 8 years, all I had known was “Alyssa in a relationship”, never “Alyssa being alone.” I mean, it was my life, and yet I had no vision of myself except through someone else’s eyes. I had to change it. So I left.
It gives me anxiety when you…
Because I am action-oriented. Because when you tell me something–
I will change it!
My time in London, was it perfect? No. Was I alone, without relationship drama, the majority of the time there? Not even close. Mostly I took walks to learn how to be by myself. Or made myself sit in my bedroom without emailing the person I loved that day. Or remembered the times I was abused at 14, 15, 16—and how those experiences reverberated throughout my life and relationships, building a force that would propel me across the ocean years later. I struggled just like anyone else who doesn’t know how to love herself.
If you expect me to change, you need to change yourself too.
I want to give you more.
I sat on the plane from London that brought me home to Chicago a final time. Had I learned anything to prepare me for the next steps in my life? I didn’t know. I just knew I was coming home and I had gifts. The gift of my time in the mountains of Morocco, smoking hash with my friend Fadil on the rooftop of our hostel, and listening to the bells signal for prayer. The gift of crying alone in my bed when I could no longer feel the energy of the last true love I left across the ocean. The gift of walking down Green Lanes in North London, startling myself with a smile that was there for no particular reason. The gift of understanding myself just a little bit better. That was all I could ask for and all I could give.
But I have to get something back in return too.
I’m going to come over. You’re going to give me a hug. You’re going to give me a kiss.
(Hangs up. Water runs. Crying continues.)