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ooc: it needs work, but I got an A on it, so yeah. hi.


Waking Up

“I have no furniture.”

Breathless from the sprint up four flights of stairs, one hand pressed against my chest, I leaned against the doorframe of my new apartment, staring blankly. The open door revealed a barren wasteland: grey walls, stained carpet, and nothing else. I shifted the backpack on my shoulder and briefly entertained the thought of turning around and running back outside, trying to catch the St. Catherine’s Rehab van before it vanished into the distance, taking all my forward progress with it.

“Did you expect something different?”

Turning around, I discovered a glistening mop of black hair peeking out from the door across the hall. “What?”

“I said, did you expect something—”

“I’m sorry.” Lifting a hand, I told the woman, “I can’t pay attention to anything you say when you don’t have a face.”

On a huff of breath, she hoisted the hair from her face, took a few more steps out into the hallway. “Sorry about that; I was in the middle of dyeing when I heard you outside.”

Dying?

She held out a hand spotted with a dark purplish color, like the pictures I’d seen of the black plague, and said, “I’m Mona.”

Oh, dyeing. “Hi, Mona.” Still wary, and not quite ready to catch my death, I waved a hand at her, edging my way back toward my own place; desolate though it might have been, at least it didn’t try to hold a conversation with me. “I’m Trevor.”

“Are you from St. Catty’s?” she asked, inching closer.

“Um, yeah.”

This encouraged a long, hard study from the top of my head to my toes, during which it dawned upon me exactly why it was that women always complained about being given once-overs. “You’re not twitchy enough to be a cokehead, definitely not as stupid as the stoners, and too skinny to be a boozer. So, what was your deal?”

“That’s really none of your—”

“I was a boozer, but during rehab, I stopped eating for a week and lost the fat. Your turn.”

She stared me down, like I’d seen the pseudo-detectives on Law and Order do to suspects. It didn’t take long before I confessed, “Meth.”

“Oh, the hard stuff.” Like an Arthurian wise woman, she nodded her head slowly. “I’ve heard it fucks you over real good.”

Flashing through my head: wild hallucinations, days without sleep, sobbing into some stranger’s toilet, screaming into the middle of the night at a fata morgana. “You could say that.”

Without warning, she let the long, wet, ropes of hair fall around her face, lifting both spotty hands to the heavens. “Have you been made new by the light of Jesus?”

What do you say to that? “Well, not exactly.”

“Thank the friggin’ Lord. I’m not about to spend the next who-knows-how-long across from some raging rehabilitated Jesus Freak who’s going to come over every goddamn Sunday, pound on my door, and then invite me to church. Like I wouldn’t rather be sleeping at nine o’clock in the morning.” She tossed her head so that a piece of hair nearly hit me in the face, and muttered a few choice words under her breath.

“Wow. Personal experience?”

“For future reference, nine o’clock in the morning on a Sunday, I’m asleep. I do not rise before twelve. You need something, we have other neighbors, we have the Resident Counselor, and they have talklines or something that you can call. If it’s a dire emergency, then you have no choice but to wake me. Clear?”

“As crystal.”

“Fabulous. I’m gonna go rinse now. It was nice to meet you, Trev.” Walking back into her apartment, she stopped and glanced over her shoulder. “You’re too damn cute to be addicted to anything. There’s your rehab strategy.”

“Thanks, Mona.”

“Sure thing, kid.” Before she slammed the door, I caught a glimpse of her twirling her hips to some strange Indian chant playing in the background. Three cheers to St. Cat’s; they couldn’t find me a nice place on the first floor, so they set me up across from a lunatic instead. I dumped the suitcase and backpack in the middle of my apartment floor, then lit a cigarette and leaned out the window, letting the smoke drift out with the wind.

I caught a nap on the carpet—one of the more comfortable places I’d slept—and woke a relatively short time later to the sound of slow, heavy pounding on my door. Groggily, I stumbled across the floor and yanked it open, noticing the smell of liquor before I even noticed the face. “Mona?”

“Trev,” she exclaimed, smiling brightly. “Hiya, cutie.” Like I’d done only hours ago, she slumped against the doorjamb, blinking up at me through glassy eyes.

“Hi there, Mona.” I reached out just as she straightened, then caught her as she stumbled forward, laughing.

“Sorry, balance isn’t so great. Could I maybe sit down somewhere?” Her words were slurred together: perky, but barely comprehensible.

“I don’t have any furniture,” I reminded her. She considered this statement, nodded at me thoughtfully, then bent over and vomited on my feet. “Oh, okay. All right. That’s pleasant.” And here I’d thought that moving into a St. Catherine’s-owned apartment building would prevent this kind of situation. Out of other options, I hoisted her up into my arms, glanced from her open door to my place, and carried her across the hall.

Her apartment was decorated in what I considered Typical Mona, judging from the brief encounter we’d shared earlier. Typical Mona-style consisted of mismatched furniture, décor whose artistic periods ranged from the Victorian to Art Deco, and framed watercolors that bore no resemblance to anything I’d seen, whether I’d been sober or not. I set her down on a pink and purple couch that looked like something from my parents’ photo albums, and she gave me another smile. “Thanks, Trev.”

“Sure thing.” I picked up a wire wastebasket; set it down next to her head. “Next time you need to puke, this is here, okay?”

“Fabulous.”

“I’m going to go wash my feet. Try to stay awake, or I’m going to have to dump water on your head, and you really won’t like me for that.” Managing a smile despite the fact that I could feel her dinner between my toes, I shuffled to two different doors before finding the bathroom. I heard her retch once or twice more while I scrubbed my feet, but when I got back into the living room, she was lying on her back, singing to the ceiling like a modern-day Ophelia.

“Which one is the kitchen?” I asked, and she flung an arm toward a painted door on my left, not bothering to halt her song. Inside, I moved the half-full liquor bottles out of the sink—Jesus, when they fall, they fall hard—and filled a tall glass with water. She was still singing when I emerged, carrying the water and a loaf of bread. I’d seen people need half a slice and others take half a loaf to sober up.

Halfway through the second verse of some song about “my crazy baby,” she stopped singing and shoved her face in the trashcan. I handed her the glass of water when she rolled back onto her side. “Thanks. Again,” she added, sipping at it.

“No problem.”

“I never used to be a puker. I used to laugh at the girls who ran to the bathroom after three or four shots, call them names and stuff. On my twenty-first birthday—”

“You’re twenty-one?”

“I’m twenty-three. On my twenty-first birthday, I did twenty-seven shots before I did a faceplant into my boyfriend’s table, and even after that, I was barely ill. When the fuck did I become a puker?” she muttered, reaching for a piece of bread.

“Sometimes you’re more prone to it after being so long without.”

“Astute,” she noted. “Very astute.”

“I try.”

Two hours, fifty-three minutes, seventeen slices of bread, and three glasses of water later, Mona peered at me from underneath the blanket she’d requested and drooping eyelids. “You’re not gonna leave yet, right, Trev?” The words were still slurred, but I knew the liquor was out of her system.

“Nope, I’m not.” I figured I’d sleep on her carpet—at this rate, I’d save myself the money and just forget about buying a bed—and make sure she didn’t die during the night. When it came to vomiting, the line between ‘hangover’ and ‘alcohol poisoning’ was thin, and I knew it. I’d seen friends carried off in ambulances for less.

“Okay,” she murmured, the words little more than a whisper. She closed her eyes, curling her knees up to her chest, and started on her way to Morpheus’s realm.

I waited until she started snoring softly before sneaking out the door; my sister had brought me the book Choke while I was in St. Cat’s, and now seemed as good a time as ever to finish reading it. When I was halfway across the hall, a blonde woman in a gray bathrobe came jogging up to me, her brow knit with concern.

“Were you just with Mona?” Her voice was clipped, and ever so slightly tinted with the flavor of the South.

“Yeah, she— she wasn’t feeling too well,” I amended, shoving both hands deep in my back pockets. “She’s resting right now, but I thought I’d grab a book before going back to keep an eye on her.”

The woman nodded, studying me with a greater intensity than Mona had. “Don’t worry about staying up with her; you look pretty worn. I’ll spend the night there.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I’ve got things pretty much handled over there. I just wanted something to read.”

“I’m positive. Mona and I go way back; she’ll probably feel better if I’m there when she wakes up. Go get some sleep; it’s almost midnight, for heaven’s sake.” As amiable as a mother, she rested a hand on my arm. “Look, I promise I’ll take care of her. If there are any problems, you’re where? Right across the hall here? If anything goes wrong, you have my word, I’ll come right across and get you.”

“Okay.” I watched her lean through the door, and her expression softened when she saw the other woman sleeping on the couch.

“Oh, Mona,” she murmured, with a slight shake of her head, before stepping inside and closing the door. I returned to my place and caught my beauty sleep on the carpet again.

The glowing green numbers on my watch read 12:15 PM when I awoke. Hearing a sort of thumping, scuffling sound across the hall, I made my way to the door and pulled it open, squinting into the bright hallway. Mona’s door was propped open, but instead of her eclectic décor, I saw only an empty room. Twelve hours from when I’d left her dozing on her couch, the painted doors were the only remaining testament to her existence.

The blonde woman, now dressed in a smart business suit, her hair pulled back rather severely, stood in the center of the room, surveying as a group of burly men carried a rolled carpet out from another area. She turned around and immediately noticed me standing with jaw agape in my own doorway.

“Mona had a relapse,” she explained. “That’s not permissible in St. Catherine’s-provided housing. You were told the same thing, or something to that effect, when you moved in, I’m sure. I loved her dearly, but my job doesn’t mean that I get to bend the rules for anyone. They came to take her back to St. Catherine’s about an hour or two ago.” Mona had mentioned the Resident Counselor who lived on our floor, but we never had been properly introduced.

“Just like that?” I dragged a hand through the morning snarls of my hair, blinking a few times to clear the sleep, and disbelief, from my eyes.

“Just like that.”

Just like that. I retreated back into my apartment, where my backpack and suitcase lay untouched on the carpet. Rummaging through the former, I found the folder of job applications to various little places around town: grocery stores, mini-marts, a Wal-Mart. It didn’t take nearly as long as I would have expected to fill all of them out. I wasn’t required to write an essay, like the college applications I’d given up on during my senior year of high school. The places were all situated close enough that I would be able to walk them all to their respective locations in a reasonable amount of time.

After all, if I planned on staying until Mona came back, I was going to need some furniture.
The second piece for my fiction portfolio; both pieces received A's.

Rated mature cos I still really like the word "fuck."

Disclaimer!: I am not a recovering meth addict, and I only know one person who is, so if you are a recovering meth addict and you feel like I didn't do justice to the character, I apologise. the piece still needs work.
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:iconlactose-psychosis:
lactose-psychosis Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2006   Traditional Artist
I like this a lot...as always, your prose is beautiful and sounds very natural. It's almost never awkward or forced-sounding. I loved the "dying/dyeing" part and the purple on Mona's hands as a plague reference.

The only line I didn't like was the where the narrator said Mona was on her way to "Morpheus's realm." That line didn't really fit the rest of the story and it was inconsistent with the narrator's voice.

I thought it was kind of funny that he was reading Choke, a book about a sex addict....but I don't know, it almost seemed too much of a "hip/pop culture" reference....I'm not sure, though. It might be OK...did you consider having him reading any different books?

Also, you seem to have the same trouble I do with ending a short story. I remember that with your car crash story at writing camp...that one had a pretty corny ending. This ending is pretty corny too. I understand completely, though; whenever I write short stories I always feel like the only way I can end them is with a corny ending. It's always a bit of a disappointment....you have this beautifully written story, with great dialogue and characters, but a corny, almost didactic ending.

If I were you, I would be inclined to rewrite the last paragraph with a non-happy ending, maybe even a poetic, abstract one. Seriously. You should try that.
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:iconorion-mk3:
orion-mk3 Featured By Owner Jun 27, 2006
I really enjoy the way you use things other than narrative to describe the characters. I know that's one of the hallmarks of more advanced writing, but it can be tough to pull off, especially when a character has baggage.

There's also a nice contrast in the physical surroundings; Mona's apartment is filled with life and her personality is assertive, yet she's desolate inside. The protagonist, on the other hand, is all but devoid of material posessions but on much firmer ground upstairs, so to speak.

I'd give you an A for this too :)
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:icontragiccomedy:
tragiccomedy Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2006
I do my best to avoid commentary in my writing; it seems suddenly trite and boring when I have to explain to my readers things that should be pronounced. However, the contrast in living situations versus personalities was unintentional. I meant for the apartments to contrast in the way that Mona and Trevor contrasted, but didn't realise till you pointed it out that they seemed to live opposite to their way of being. :)

Thank you again!! :D
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:iconrushy:
Rushy Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2006
"You need something, we have other neighbors" Love it :D
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:icontragiccomedy:
tragiccomedy Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2006
I enjoyed writing Mona a whole lot. :)
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