Cleo's Dating Blog

Posts Tagged ‘experiments

In case you did not know, I was the third prize winner of the Summer 2011 Elephant Prize for Short Fiction held by In The Snake Magazine (except I used my other name, for those of you that know it!). Anywhoo, here is my newest short fiction story to be entered in this Winter’s contest… enjoy!

xx,

Cleo

A Holiday Cheer Experiment

Depending on your stage in life, the holiday season can yield largely varying experiences. Follow this young woman as she experiments with new ideas, tests herself, and attempts to figure out what happiness means.

————

Every once in a while, the pain was too much. She would take deep breaths, running her fingers through her hair, but that only helped for a brief moment. She tried hanging upside down off her bed. She tried running around the block. She tried screaming in her car. Nothing worked.

She was in dire need of a cure although, as far as she knew, none existed. Her symptoms were vast and her injuries were substantial, however, only those who came close enough were able to see them. As with many illusions, she could pass for normal in a photograph or even pass as happy if viewed from a distance.

Despite her lack of a medical education, she tried to diagnose herself. The reoccurring pain had been elevating over the past year. There were some large changes in her life- new job, new ex-boyfriend- but nothing that should have triggered a pain like this. She ate healthy, mostly got enough sleep, and loved to exercise. As a matter of fact, she was a bit of an endorphin junkie. Her tongue was the normal pink color, none of her glands seemed swollen, and her tear ducts were definitely functional.

However, if she was really honest with herself, she knew that the beginnings of the pain had always been with her, even when she was just a little girl. An aspect of her being had always felt misplaced, as if her insides were teeter-tottering.

She did not like the idea of drugs, despite giving in every now and again. She could not tell you the exact time but, at some point in her life, she decided that grinding your teeth and getting through the pain was much more meaningful than choosing to be numb. She often wondered if she was right.

If you ever saw her walking down the street, shopping at the supermarket, or driving in her car, it would be quite ordinary for you stare. She had a softly exotic look to her and a way of carrying herself that was comfortingly untouchable.

On this particular winter Tuesday, she decided a day of Christmas shopping would be a good distraction from her pain. “A little holiday cheer could go a long way,” she thought to herself. Today she would have no agenda. Today she would take life exactly as it came.

When traffic was the first thing to show up in her day, she accepted it. Looking straight ahead, she drove with a silent, submissive purpose. “I choose to be living in the moment,” she said out loud. She always heard people say that this was the secret to happiness.

She glanced around at the cars beside hers and could not help but feeling like no one was happy, as if no one knew how. She wondered where, if anywhere in the world, did most every person feel happy. She refused to believe that Disneyland was truly the happiest place on Earth.

A few weeks prior, a friend had told her, “When you isolate yourself from everything and everyone, this is when you will finally realize that you are indeed connected to everything and everyone.” She thought about this as she drove, trying to convince herself that she felt connected to something.

Arriving at her destination, it was clear that holiday spirit had barfed all over the trees and buildings. In her Newsboy hat, blue scarf, and black peacoat, she blended in with the crowd while also standing out.

Outdoor shopping centers are interesting. Where else can you walk without any destination yet not look lost? This is exactly what she did. Floating from store window to store window, she really did feel like a sugarplum fairy.

The air was too cold for frozen yogurt. Instead, she got some spiced apple cider to keep with the day’s holiday theme. She smiled. It was not exactly her most genuine smile, but she was trying very hard to enjoy the simple things in life. She had also heard people say that this was another secret to happiness.

She continued to walk without a destination. Although she found this concept comforting, she hoped that this theme would not leak into the rest of her life. Purpose was very important to her.

The walkway began to get crowded as she approached the pedestrian and automobile intersection. She was starting to feel the beginnings of a pain attack so she decked into a nearby café instead of joining the congestion. Her senses were hit by a rush of freshly baked gingerbread and warm peppermint. Warmth was truly something to be thankful for.

She grabbed a seat and sipped her cider, scanning the crowd around her. Voluminous laughter filled the corner of the café where a mother, father, and two small children sat sharing a slice of pecan pie. The father’s arm was gently wrapped around his wife who was intently telling a story to their two youngsters. She was very animated, using her hands and props and wild facial expressions. The kids were mesmerized. The father looked lovingly at his wife.

The elder daughter ran her fingers through her little brother’s hair and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. He wiped it off, acting disgusted, but all the while having the largest grin plastered on his face.

Maybe that was the cure she needed. She could not remember seeing anything this pure since, well, she was not sure when. This really was one of those movie screen moments. She found herself hoping that the father was not a drunk, the mother not a controlling bitch, and that they children would not grow up with self-esteem or depression issues. Regardless, right now their happiness filled the entire room and she could not help feeling like this coalition of people was what life was all about.

She left the café thinking only of the little girl’s wide smile and the father’s loving eyes. Holiday cheer really did bring out the best in people.

Parking her car and climbing the steps to her apartment, she finished the last of the cider and put her Newsboy hat on her bed. Silence filled the room. She could no longer hear the echoing vibrations from the laughter of the family at the café. The warmth she felt from before was no longer there.

Sitting down, she grabbed a blanket to create the sensation that someone was giving her a holiday hug. For some reason she felt paralyzed, as if turning on the television, texting a friend, or reading a book would be too much effort. There she sat. Then, like clockwork, the pain swept in.

She laid down, realizing that seeing the happy family did nothing to cure her pain. She closed her eyes, longing only to feel numbness around her.