Back to America

Well, the European adventure has come to an end. I’m sitting, feverish out of my mind, in the Newark airport trying not to let myself remember the monstrosity they fed me on the plane under the ruse of lunch.

One adventure down. Back to the American Wanderjunk.

Dublin was fun (more so than I think I typically have). Stepped off to Galway yesterday and managed to hook my awkward British friend up with a sunburn (too British to handle… Who gets a sunburn in Ireland?). Goodbye Dublin! Goodbye Scotland! Goodbye friends and bedmates! Goodbye loud hostels!

So now I get to start my moving and starting school stress (ok, with a bit of roadtrip and DC fun thrown in for good measure). Oh god… I’m going to have to get a job again. And an apartment. And a commuting plan. And…

Sigh… Extended vacation can’t last forever. Are you sure? Why not?

Ok… This makes very little sense. I am sick. And back in America. You really must forgive me.

Day Forty-Nine: To A Louse

A young woman’s head itches.

She wakes up in the morning and scratches her head until it burns and flecks of blood dry on her fingertips. She spends an entire sleepless night rolling around in her own sweat, scratching until she goes mad with exhaustion.

Accustomed to working with children, her mind immediately jumps to the doomed conclusion. She spends another sleepless night scratching and scratching while she researches lice on her mobile phone until her eyes go dark.

She buys another bottle of prescription dandruff shampoo. Her denial is palpable. She just can’t bring herself to admit it and spend an entire day laundering her boyfriend’s apartment and scraping minuscule bugs off her scalp.

She just keeps itching.

Finally, she hits her breaking point. She calls her insurance teladoc repeatedly trying to get a prescription. Her insurance does not care. She walks eight blocks to her nearest Walgreens and tries to duck shamefully among the over-the-counter pesticides. She buys a lot because she has a lot of hair. Messy hairy. Knotted hair. Hair that sheds all over everything. Hair that will take days to comb with that tiny bug catcher.

She hides the box in the checkout line. It always takes 45 minutes to check out at this Walgreens. The man at the counter feels her shame and drops the box hastily into a bag as if her bugs are already crawling over it. She pays for $50 worth of extraction supplies. She’s back on her Ramen Noodle diet for another month, she thinks while scribbling her name on the checkout screen with her finger.

She showers in water so hot it makes her skin turn red and lumpy. Oh, god. How is she going to tell her boyfriend? Her friends? Everyone she’s had contact with in the past month?

It takes an entire bottle of the rancid cream to coat her hair. She has to fish her bras out of the sink and shoves every garment in her infected suitcase in the hall to await the wash. She mixes tea tree and olive oils into a spray bottle she’d fetched off the “Dog Training” aisle.

The ten minutes is up. She fishes up an expendable bowl… the kind she’ll never be able to eat out of again without flinching and fills it with scalding water in the bathroom sink. She rakes the comb through her hair for the first time. The second time. Then, frantically, a third, fourth, fifth, hundredth time.

She can hardly face the disastrous results. It’s worse than even she could have predicted. Impossible, even.

The comb is completely clean.

No bugs. No little terrors hanging on her scalp drinking from her blood like the parasitic vampires that they are. No South Park style saga to escape her violent pesticides.

With a violent wave of revulsion, she peers into the mirror. The realization is startling.

And still her head itches.

Day Sixteen: Progress and Prologue

Last night I did some edits on Chapter Six (which ended up being quite long once I finished creating Bean’s haven) and have decided to put it in the Rough Draft bin and move on to Seven. My outline has me at 29 chapters which means… I’m more than a fifth done! With my rough draft… I have so much editing to do after that, too… I feel like, as much as I say the word “moving” on a daily basis (not out loud though because then people would think I’m speaking only to myself due to lack of nearby friends), there is still so much.

I think it’s bit like chipping away at a block of marble and trying to shape it. Take it one word at a time…

I had wonderful breakthroughs while trying to go to sleep and woke up this morning so eager to get going, but now I have a headache and absolutely nothing on paper. It looks like a nice dark nap is in my future…

I think the two biggest breakthrough of my sleepless adventure last night was that I made up this really cool game that I love and everyone will play and will end up playing an integral role in the book. I’m excited to write it when I’m feeling a bit better. (I know… well enough to Blog but not to write? What, an excuse? I swear though, this requires far less mental capacity… It’s a bit more like doing a cool down after a really intense workout.)

I also keep coming back to a prologue. I’ve written a prologue at least four times, but then I kept butchering it and taking pieces for the first few chapters. So then I decided to scrap the entire prologue idea. But every now and then I think about how I need something to really hook someone in and I realize, by the end of this, I am actually going to need one. So instead of writing the whole thing out and then cutting most of it, from now on, whenever I get a “Totally perfect” idea for the prologue, I’m just going to jot it down on a list and by the end of this, run down the list and see what ideas are actually worth writing and trying. I think it’ll have to be the last thing written, but already I struggle just thinking about it. Anyone else have any better advice out there?

I think the opening to every book is the most important part. It’s not 100% make or break if the story is great (but it’s still at least 90%), but it sets the ENTIRE TONE of the book. Look at the Prologue of Twilight (lots of very dramatic, life/death soliloquy) and then the first chapter of Harry Potter (um… a giant on a motorcycle drops a baby off at a rude man’s house… of course everyone wanted to read this book!).

I think a first chapter/prologue has to really mean something. It’s got to be even better than the ending (by the ending, you’re already invested, even if the author cops-out on you, you’re going to read it), which is why I’m probably still so daunted by the task.

Day Twelve: There Are People I Remember

I must admit that I haven’t written much of anything yesterday and today. Yesterday was productive enough, edited my first four chapters and sent them off then spent the rest of the day with my face in a book and catching up with some friends. I am sorry to have skipped my blog, but felt that if you really wanted to hear about my reading of The Mysterious Benedict Society (which was a lovely read) then you could wait a day.

However, while trying to go to sleep last night, I had a rather odd thing happen and lost vision in one eye. I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen, but it’s pretty freaky so I was a bit concerned. Luckily, my vision cleared and I fell asleep without putting too much thought into it other than a bit of irony. Just the other day I’d been trying to write a scene in which one of my characters loses their vision, but found I couldn’t quite describe the feeling (I think I’d do much better at it now!).

Anyway, this morning I had big plans for starting chapter five. I set a nice early alarm. Slept through it twice and woke up at the normal time (which was 11… best part of being unemployed, by far). I called my father to ask him some general questions (I’m attending a wedding with him in a few weeks) and happened to slip into conversation that I’d lost vision briefly the night before.

“And did your ear start ringing and your face go numb?”

“Yes?” That was strange. I had been a bit freaked-out the night before and the thought had occurred to me that if something was going horribly wrong, then who would be here to notice. I have almost completely withdrawn from the world. My closest “friend” is my mother and she is still an hour and a half away.

“I think you may have had a seizure,” my father decides. He’s not panicking. He says it in the same voice he uses to tell me that it’s very warm today. “A small one though.”

We laughed a bit at this, I packed up my bag, text this to my best friend as if it were a bit of a joke and set out the door to walk two miles to the library (which was by far a bad decision because my feet hurt like crazy now). My best friend does not think my text is funny. She’s a bit worried. Half an hour later and my father calls me again.

“I think maybe you should go see a doctor today,” he says. This time he is not laughing. Somehow he convinces me to go to Planned Parenthood of all places. I call them when I finish my hike to the library and they ask if I’d like to talk about birth control. I don’t want to talk about birth control. I make an appointment anyway and go to the library to try and get some work done.

Perhaps it’s just me, but someone telling you that you may have had a seizure is not conducive to a good day’s work. Inevitably, I end up on WebMD. I normally avoid this because everything on WebMD seems to conclude that you are going to die. However, when you put in the symptom “loss of vision” on WebMD, it doesn’t even give you a diagnosis. It just flashes a warning screen and says “This is a very serious symptom. You should go to an Emergency Room or call an ambulance.”

Huh. Now I’m freaking out and my best friend is composing my eulogy over text. Ok, I look up every doctor in my area. I call a lot of them only to find that I can’t get appointments. I’m frustrated enough to decide to give the whole thing up. My father convinces me, however, to hike the two miles back home, get my car and drive to a emergency care walk-in clinic.

Don’t worry. I am fine. The doctors examined me, said I look fine. They think perhaps I’m having migraines. That’s all. I hate doctors because all they ever really do is tell you that you’re a bit crazy. (Maybe I’d like therapists? Because maybe they could tell me, I’m not crazy.)

Anyway, somewhere along today I started playing a game I haven’t played since a child. From about the age 11-18 I suffered from crippling depression. I hate talking about it, not because I’m ashamed, but because a part of me is quite saddened by the fact that this is probably the most “interesting” thing to ever happen to me. Yet, particularly when I write, I always end up back at it because, let’s be honest, it has been a huge influence on my writing; and my writing on it.

Anyway, when I was young and horribly depressed I used to have these funeral fantasies the way most young girls have wedding fantasies (which are something I’ve never personally experienced). I dreamed about my funeral at great length. I had the whole thing planned very nicely. Never mind the fact that in reality I would have almost no say in my funeral, I dreamed up the best, most horribly depressing funeral of all time. I say this because the funeral of my childhood dreams was entirely empty. No one came. Not even my own parents (who, clearly, in reality would have been there and very sad).

It was strange. Your brain does strange things when your panicking about your health. Mine, today, decided to have a funeral daydream. After all these years, for I haven’t had one in a long time, my funeral daydream has changed quite a bit. It’s definitely not empty. There are lots of people there that I love and who love me in return. I think, though, the major difference is that now I really want to be there too. I want to be at my own funeral so badly that it actually makes me sad to think about all my friends being there without me. It makes me sad to think about my inability to console them or that I would have hurt them by dying.

My 11-through-17-year-old-self would never have been able to fathom that so many people would become so important to me that my life would be worth living. Man, that’s the worst part of depression. People say focus on the good when you’re sad, but when you’re depressed there just is no good to focus on.

I guess, it was just nice to look at my life today and realize how far I’ve come. How much my life is worth, even if no one would find my body right away and I might be eaten by wild dogs, in true Bridget Jones fear. I’ve been reading a lot of this young adult literature and, clearly, I’ve been writing things directed at the age group I was when I was grappling with the inability to live. It’s been taking me back to that time in my life, a time which, when I closely examine it, seems really blank.

I made a really important decision today for my characters: If I could survive the emotion that takes so many people from this world–the emotion of nothingness–at age 11, then my characters are able to overcome anything. I will never underestimate my readership. My characters will be fighters.