*Check out my post on writing novels and riding unicorns on Burlesque Press!*
Let me start out by saying that I am not an aggressive or confrontational person. I’m the type who looks for compromise instead of conflict. I am somewhat frail, physically, I bend over backwards to be nice to people, and I’ve been known to say “crud” and “oh geez-um,” instead of cussing.
But sometimes, I surprise myself.
Yesterday I recalled an incident that happened a few years ago when I was living in DC. My friend Corey was meeting up with his work friends near my house and called to invite me. So I put on a cuter outfit and walked down to H Street.
When I got there, Corey texted to say they were running late. With an inward sigh, I went into the nearest bar, the H Street Country Club, to wait. I sat down, ordered a drink, and tried not to feel awkward. I examined the bottles along the back of the bar, looked up at the ceiling, stared down at the ice cubes melting in my drink. I wondered if anyone would try to hit on me, and then I felt slightly offended when no one did. Time crept by. I observed the couples and groups of friends around me, hoping I didn’t seem like a creepy loser. I summoned all of my confidence and held my head high, trying to look and feel as if I had chosen to sit on that bar stool all alone with no one to talk to and nothing to do for the better part of an hour.
A while later Corey texted to say that he and his friends were at Smith’s. I paid for my drink and left the bar.
Back on the street, I realized I didn’t know where Smith’s was. I assumed it was on H Street, but I didn’t know which direction. A group of hipster kids stood in front of the Rock and Roll Hotel, so I walked up to them and asked.
“Yeah, I know where it is,” a skinny boy with an ironic mustache said. “You take a right, and then take another right, and you’ll see it on the right.”
“Are you sure? I thought it was on H Street.” A few of his friends were snickering behind their cigarettes, and I wasn’t sure if I should trust any of them.
“I’m sure.” The boy adjusted the bandanna around his neck. “I live in this neighborhood. I know what I’m talking about.” He repeated the directions.
“OK,” I said. And maybe it was the drink I’d had at the H Street Country Club, or the confidence I’d had to harness in order to sit alone drinking it, but I took a step forward, looked the kid in the eye, and said, “if I follow your directions and they don’t get me to Smith’s, I’m going to come back here and smack you in the face.”
“You’ll get there. Don’t worry about it, doll.”
* * *
So I followed his directions. But it soon became clear that I was walking into a dark and sketchy neighborhood where there were no bars of any kind, only feral cats and boarded-up houses. I headed back to the bright lights of H Street, where I asked a pair of girls about Smith’s, and they pointed me in the right direction. As I walked, I started to get annoyed. How dare that little hipster twit give me the wrong directions so he could laugh behind my back with his friends? What kind of a joke was that anyway? Sending a frail girl in a mini-skirt into the seedy dark streets of Northeast DC?
I reached Smith’s and marched inside. I saw Corey sitting at a table with his friends, and I breezed up to them. “Hi everybody, I’m Eva,” I said loudly. “I have to go back on the street for a minute so I can smack somebody in the face. Anybody want to come?”
“OK!” Corey said happily. His friends stared at me. I’d certainly made an impression.
Corey and I walked back towards the Rock and Roll hotel. “There he is!” I pointed at the skinny hipster. He saw me coming and took off running down the street.
“Come back here so I can smack you!” I shouted. I started running after him, my white flats slapping on the sidewalk.
I caught up with him at the corner. He was wheezing heavily. “Don’t smack me!” he whined.
“You gave me the wrong directions.”
“I’m sorry.” He put his hands in front of his face and inched away from me. “Don’t hit me, please.”
“I said I was going to smack you, so stop being such a baby and let me do it.” At this point I didn’t really want to go through with it myself, but I felt like I needed to make a point.
He took his hands away from his face, and I smacked his cheek as hard I could manage, which wasn’t very hard at all, but it made a satisfying sound.
We walked back to his friends, who were all laughing and cheering me on. “That was amazing,” they told me. “He totally deserved it.”
Corey and I headed back to Smith’s and sat down with his bewildered friends, where I proceeded to tell the story of how I had just smacked a hipster. I have to say, it was a pretty good story.
To be clear, ninety-nine percent of the time, I am not a smack-happy person. But there’s that one percent of the time, when I’m a little tipsy, and in a certain mood, when it just happens. (Out of all the times I could have and should have smacked a boy, I’ve only actually done it three times, so I’d say that shows amazing restraint.)
The other day, my writing mentor mentioned to me that I could increase the stakes in one of my novels by bringing a murder into the mix. My initial reaction was oh, no, I can’t write about Kelsey murdering Aaron– Kelsey would never do that. But I was intrigued by the idea. After all, I like reading books that contain dark elements of murder or mystery.
But I always shy away from such plots in my own writing because I’m afraid of being “unrealistic.” My character would never do that, I think. And sure, ninety-nine percent of the time she wouldn’t. But maybe there’s that one percent of the time when she would…
Because isn’t that what stories are? They aren’t (or probably shouldn’t be) about the normal, everyday things that people do. Story happens when a normal person does or experiences something out of the ordinary. Story happens when a mild-mannered girl chases a hipster down the street and smacks him as hard as she can. That’s the sort of thing people like to read about.