Opening Line Prompt #3

He hadn’t been known as Neal for years. He hadn’t been known as anything. He’d been wandering around the Afterlife – for how long? An eternity? Two? And he hadn’t seen anyone else. He’d felt the time pass. He’d felt his loved ones die, but he hadn’t been reunited with any of them. He’d felt wars and famines and genocides. He’d felt babies being born, and innocent laughter and the depths of human generosity.

But he hadn’t seen anybody. Or heard anybody. Until now. At first, he thought he was dreaming, but the last time he’d slept was when he was alive. Still, there they were, six people – humans, all of them – he could feel their humanity – sitting around a table, playing poker.

“What’s your name?” asked a pretty lady with red hair and red lipstick who didn’t know and didn’t care that those colors were supposed to clash. And she was right. He liked the clash. It looked like the sounds his favorite band made when he’d been alive. Her husky voice was jarring in its normalcy, with Neal having existed in silence for so long.

Neal had to think about it. “Neal,” he said. “I think.”

“Good to meet ya, Neal.” This came from a boisterous Texan with a cowboy hat and everything.

“Have a seat.” The invitation came from a petite blonde with sharp eyes and short, clean fingernails.

And it felt like an invitation. It was like climbing into a buddy’s warm truck on a cold night, that mix of familiarity and anticipation in the air.

Neal sat in the empty chair and realized that his hand had already been dealt. “I don’t have anything to gamble with,” he said.

“We deal in souls,” a black man with a sweet smile and sad eyes said, breaking it to Neal gently. “You only have one, but that’s enough to get you in the game.”

In the middle of the table was a pile of chips. The chips were formed of a luminescent violet fog. The players had similar chips in front of them. The sharp-eyed lady had the most. The Texan had none left in front of him. He’d gone all in before Neal had sat down.

Neal hesitated. He’d walked into a trap but what was the trap, exactly? The empty chair must have belonged to someone else at some point. Somebody who had run out of chips. Somebody who had started out with only one? Perhaps. Many times, in fact, he could feel the truth of that vibrating through his body.

And everybody at the table had chips in front of them, which meant that they were comfortable taking other peoples’ souls. It also meant that they’d all taken the chance that they were now asking Neal to take. They’d all come to the same realizations he just had.

Neal wanted to rise, to walk away from the table. But the aeons came crashing down on him, paralyzing him. Who knew how much longer he’d be alone, if he got up and walked away now? What if another several eternities from now, he just came across another table – or the same one, with different players? How many tables could a man walk away from before he gave in and stayed, just out of sheer loneliness?

He looked around the table, and forgave them all.

Opening Line Prompt taken from here:

Opening Line Prompt #2

“The key to a healthy lifestyle is making people think you are dull.”

“Huh?” I look up from my half-empty, lukewarm glass of wine. I only drink red in front of work colleagues to make myself seem more classy but I am a Moscato girl at heart. With each reluctant sip, this stuff tastes more and more like the feet that stomped it.

“See? It’s working.” Clark raises up his glass of water, indicating that he wants to toast. I clink my glass against his. “You already think I’m dull as hell,” he says with a grin.

He’s right. I don’t even know his last name because I’ve called him ‘Clark Kent’ in my mind for the past two years. He’s good looking enough; he bears more than a passing resemblance to Christopher Reeve, but he is supernaturally boring. I don’t even know what he does at the company because every time he opens his mouth at a meeting, his words flow past me, over me, through me, but they don’t connect to any of the synapses in my brain.

“That’s not true, Clark,” I lie.

“My name is Clint,” he says.

“Shit.” My answer is muffled by my glass as I take another sip.

He’s not offended. He just grins. He holds his glass up again. It’s about three-quarters full. He even drinks water at boring rate. He leans toward me. “This is vodka,” he whispers.

“Bullshit.” This is my second glass of foot juice, and judging by the loosening of my potty-mouth filter, it should be my last. “Prove it,” I say, a tinge belligerence to my voice.

Clint and I are standing near a window, at the edge of the room, both avoiding human interaction like the plague – at least, we were. Clint shifts so that his back is briefly to the room so that he can pour some of his water into my wine. He shifts back, and I take a sip. Hngggghhkh…so the red feet are on fire – yep, that’s vodka, alright.

“Who are you?” I ask. “I’ve known you for two years –”

“Three,” Clint corrects with a laugh. “Do you need me to prove that, too?” he asks in response to the involuntary shake of my head.

I cough. “I’m so sor—”

He holds up a hand. “It’s fine.” He shrugs. “I want people to think I’m boring. To tune me out at meetings…” he grins at my flush of embarrassment.


He shrugs. “Like I was saying earlier, it helps me avoid CrossFit and kale and whatever stupid crap people are overdoing at any given moment in time.” A grimace mars his suddenly much more interesting face. “These people don’t get to know me.”

“But I do?”

His gaze sears into mine, making me wonder how I’ve gone two – three – years, blind to his intensity. Heat blooms throughout my entire body. My grasp on my glass loosens, and he reaches out, his hand firm across the back of mine as he presses my fingers closed around the stem of the glass. He steps closer. “Do you want to?”

Opening Line Prompt from :

Opening Line Prompt #1

There are only three things in life that truly matter: Harry Hamerton, sugar and chocolate.  So that’s what I wished for, from the genie.

She looked at me with an eyebrow tweaked, and then shrugged. “Okay. Here you go.” She made a graceful flourish with her hands and in a poof of smoke, she was holding three small drawstring bags.

She handed me the white one first. It was gauzy and its surface shimmered with tiny crystals. It was surprisingly heavy. She handed me the brown one second. It was smooth and satiny, and almost slipped through my fingers. The third bag was bubblegum pink, with a heart-shaped ruby rhinestone bead drawing the bag closed.

She hesitated, dangling the bag before my dazzled eyes. “Are you sure you want this one – in this manner – as a wish?”

I nodded. Why would she even ask?

“Alright.” I heard her shrug, this time, still unable to tear my gaze away from the bag.

The first two bags filled my palms, so she hung the third on my pinkie finger. The ruby winked at me, the sweetest promise of all.

I managed bring my attention – barely – back to the genie. “Thank you,” I said, gratitude spilling out of my pores and infusing my words.

She shook her head, her general air of mischief dimming a bit. “You seem like a nice kid,” she said, regret deepening her flute-ish voice. “I apologize in advance.” Then she disappeared in a puff of smoke that smelled like honeysuckle and tasted like cotton candy.

“I didn’t even get to wish her free,” I murmured, my attention already recaptured by the bags in my hands.

I’d watched enough movies to know that she’d handed me three curses disguised as blessings, but I couldn’t imagine how anything I’d wished for could bring me anything but the deepest joy.

I don’t know how I got home but I distinctly remember placing the bags on the coffee table that I’d had since I was a child and begged off of my parents when I finally got my own place.

I opened the white bag. Sugar spilled out, tiny diamonds glimmering against the dark wood and scratched glass inlays. The chocolate flowed up in chunks and nuggets – dark, milk, white. Some with nuts, with raisins, with pretzels, some just smoothest and creamiest dreams the angels ever breathed into existence. I had to close the bags again, to halt the conjuration, but I reveled in the luxury of having as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted.

With some trepidation, I turned to the final bag. Harry Hamerton was my boyfriend in kindergarten; my first and purest love. The genies with their tricky wishes – would multiple Harry clones spill out until I closed the bag again? Would it be just one Harry, but the version of him that I fell in love with in the first place; me in my early twenties, him still tying his shoes with the bunny-ear method? I hadn’t seen Harry in almost twenty years, what if he’d died young; his dead body was in the bag, half-decomposed, with teams of maggots crawling out of his orifices?

Was that the curse? To spend the rest of my life imagining worst-case scenarios, and never opening the bag? To hell with that! With trembling fingers, I slid the ruby heart bead down the lace ribbon holding the bag shut. I stood back and held my breath.

The bag dissolved and morphed into a cloud of musky smoke. And then Harry was there, holding my hands. And he was smiling and a grown-up and handsome and alive. I looked into his eyes and my heart stopped, and then sank, and then shattered into a million pieces when I realized the magnitude of my mistake.

Harry’s loving gaze took on a quizzical cast. “Are you okay, my darling?” he asked.

I nodded numbly, wishing I couldn’t see that red, heart-shaped sparkle in the middle of his left pupil. I’d wished for Harry, and I’d gotten him. But Harry hadn’t wished for me.

This post generated by Opening Line prompt from:

Blog: On Being a Good Person

People constantly mistake me for a good person. The reason that’s frustrating is because I’m more complex than that. When people dismiss me as a good person, I know that I’m never allowed to have a bad day in front of them, never allowed to be petty and stupid and mean without losing my status in their eyes.

Blog: The Rapist is Inside the Car

My mom used to be in counselling for her various mental illnesses and she would bring back bits of wisdom that I still use today. One of these was about taking control over the direction of your thoughts. The shrink said my mom should visualize herself in a taxi (this was before Lyft and Uber) and acknowledge that the driver could only take her to where my mom requested the driver to take her. And if the driver ended up driving my mom somewhere she didn’t want to go, she could have the driver change direction and take her somewhere else. This, to me, is a perfect example of how mentally stable people misunderstand mentally ill people.

I agree that we have a certain level of control over our thoughts. There was a time in my life when I purposely dwelled on the bad that that had happened to me in my life, constantly listing off reasons why I shouldn’t trust people or even get attached. After my mom died, these thoughts were like sunlight on a bad sunburn, and in order to not go completely insane, I had to learn to change the direction of my thoughts. I had to learn how to be in the moment, to focus on things that were pretty or nice or just not completely horrible.

On the other hand, someone told me a story today about an Uber driver who raped a passenger. And that’s the thing — we don’t have complete control over anything. A driver is SUPPOSED to get us to our destination safe and sound, but that’s not what always happens.

And living with a mental illness is like having a psychotic Uber driver in your head all the time, constantly driving you to remember the worst things people have ever said or done to you, the worst things you’ve ever done. And it doesn’t matter how many times you re-set the destination, you just end up in one bad memory after another. When you’re mentally ill, life is often one giant nightmare that never ends.


Blog: On Rose Gardens

I got fired from being Robin’s mom’s book cover artist. On one hand, it’s a relief, and on the other hand, it’s a rejection. Robin was on vacation, so I haven’t seen her since, and I bailed on meeting on Thursday and then we were supposed to meet tonight and I bailed again. I’m not mad at Robin, but it does make me wish I hadn’t gone up and met her parents and shared a part of myself with them. And it makes it super weird to think about going up there again, with that hanging over our heads.

And I want to finish the piece I started, but every time I think about it, I just get mad and then I think , what’s the point? She doesn’t want it anyway. She didn’t even say anything about it, just that it didn’t looked like I wasn’t going to meet her deadline. What the fuck is that? She’s been working on the book for years, but can’t wait a few more weeks for custom artwork?

And yeah, I could have started on it earlier, but then I found out that Deidra’s mom has cancer and I made something for her instead. Plus, I hate working on commission. Agreeing to this and to doing the cover art to Lee’s book (which I was also fired from), just reminded me of when I used to do custom art for my website and how wracked with anxiety I was — and that part hasn’t gotten any better. Every time I think about quitting Flappers, I know the one thing I CAN’T do for money, is draw.

Plus, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that human interaction is fleeting and that friendship is an illusion. I feel like I give so much of myself and then at some point, I stop and i think, how important am I to these people? How important are they to me? And I think, I could walk away from all of them. I could start life in a new town and never see or hear from any of them ever again, and only feel relief.

And right now, I think , even if they died, I wouldn’t feel anything. And I know that I’m just going through one of those emotional numbnesses right now, because Cheri didn’t show up to a meeting we had planned once and I was hysterically crying, thinking she was dead. I had called a Lyft and was on my way to her house when she texted me and said she overslept. And then I cried even harder because I was relieved but also because I couldn’t stop picturing my life without her and feeling my life stretch out before me, empty of her, like I felt after my mom died.

So I know that this is the depression talking and that this distance I feel from everyone and everything is chemical but I also feel like I can’t afford to care so much. This numbness is like a blister, because right underneath is the hurt part.

There are these movies, Lawnmower Man, Lucy, where these characters are injected with superintelligence and then their bodies can’t handle it and they basically explode. It’s like that for me, except instead of being smart, I just feel. Everything. All the time. I can’t stop and I want to so bad.

I was talking to Jessica on Friday and she said to me that suicide is the most selfish thing a person can do, and I said, I think it’s more selfish to ask someone who is constantly in pain to keep living.  It doesn’t mean I won’t ask it. If I have to be here, don’t leave me here without you. That’s all I ask.

Be stupid, be selfish, be caught up in shit that doesn’t matter, but whatever you do, just be. And that’s the one thing I can’t guarantee. I could lose another one any minute — it’s been a long enough interval, that I’m about due, and looking around, trying to figure out who it’s going to be. And it might be me.

I can’t control it anymore. I don’t know if I ever could. It’s like there are two of me — one me barrages me with reminders of the times I’ve been hurt or I’ve hurt other people and then the other me is trying to fight back with three years’ worth of happiness and feelings of belonging — and the second one is losing.

The first one is so much stronger, she has so much more ammunition, and what can the second one say? Yes, you get to feel special and finally have a place in the world, but you’re still going to feel like you don’t, sometimes.  No matter how good your life gets, this crushing doubt and fear will never leave you for longer than moments at time. This is your curse, and the only way out is death. So, what’s for lunch?

This would make a good suicide note, I think, except I’m not going to kill myself. Today. Tomorrow, I’m going to wake up early and go to the DMV and get my ID replaced and then Renz is going to come over after dialysis and he’ll tell me what foods he’s not allowed to eat that he ate over the past week, and we’ll probably watch TV and one or both of us will fall asleep. And then I’ll call Madlen if I can overcome the anxiety that stops me every fucking week. (It’s so much easier to overcome the guilt of not calling.)

And then on Tuesday, I’ll go back to work and start waiting for the weekend again, the three days in a row in which I don’t have to pretend to be anything other than what I am, or to live up to any expectations, some of which I cultivate and others that are thrust upon me. The good thing about interacting with Renz is that I was a total asshole to him until I was in my late 20s, so any time I’m even polite is an improvement over what he’s used to. Everyone else has such a different experience of me. He’s like a vacation.

Blog: Shut Up!

I was told as a child that I was ugly, and it was said so forcefully, so frequently, and with such conviction that I still believe it. I was told that I was ugly in conjunction with being fat, so every time I feel ugly, I’m aware of how fat I am. But I have fat friends who have a lot more sexual experience. They get to feel beautiful. But I grew up, not so much unconcerned with my appearance, but thinking that if I wasn’t going to be beautiful, I could at least be unremarkable. So I hate it when people comment on my appearance.

I hate compliments. I think it’s because I can’t internalize them, but it’s also because I care so little about what I look like. I compliment other people on what they look like because i know that stuff is important to them, but I don’t actually care what anyone looks like. What someone looks like has never affected how much I like them for longer than a 20-minute conversation. That’s how long it takes for them to either become a person I like, or a person to avoid.

Someone commented on my shirt tonight. So now I can never wear it again. Because someone noticed it.