Of all the voices in my head I like the one that turns my everyday occurrences into brilliant novels.
I used to think everyone had a running novel in their head, but it turns out I was wrong. And I don’t do it all the time, just when I’m alone. I was recently alone for two whole hours in an interesting setting which led my inner voice to start the novel dialog. I’m not sure why I do it. It just starts and I can’t stop it. Then I catch myself and stop – usually. But a few nights ago I didn’t. So this is how the Thursday Night Novella would read….
She carefully parallel parks her aging Chevy Trailblazer between a Honda Civic and a Toyota Prius, her giant suburban icon dwarfing the two cars on either side. It looks ridiculously out-of-place as she assumes she does in her blue jeans, sweatshirt and tennis shoes. Women rush by her wearing fabulous skirts with tall boots and impeccably matched scarves. Although she spends nearly every Thursday evening downtown waiting for her daughters acting class to end she always feels like she stands out to the people who live in the city. Everything about her screams suburban soccer mom. She blushes slightly as she glimpses her rear window, the green and white crested sticker proclaiming she is part of the elite soccer mom cult and confirming the first impression she is making to the hipster couple walking their recused mess of a mutt. She resists the urge to point out her side window, the one that boasts the decal with a hot pink skull wearing a fire helmet that in her mind makes her cooler than your average soccer mom. She’s not just a soccer mom she’s a firefighter’s wife soccer mom. She laughs to herself because she is being ridiculous as she pays the parking meter.
Slinging her Old Navy bag over her shoulder she decides to walk the half a block to the Starbucks before going inside the theater to spend quality time with her Nook. There is an event going on nearby as the normally sparse parking lots are filling up with cars as men wearing oversize coats and reflecting parking vests are waving them in. Other suburbanites are looming around too – suburbanites just stand out in the city they can’t help it. She checks her phone to see what is going on. The Sing Off is having a performance nearby. The Sing Off sounds like a reality TV show which would explain the influx of other blue jean, sweat shirt wearers. She sighs as she remembers a time she dreamed of being one of the sophisticated women with a high-priced stylish haircut and urbane attire living a city lifestyle. Like Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail or her best friend from 7th grade who is living her imagined life in San Francisco. She giggles at the thought as she orders her coffee, after all this is Indianapolis and it’s not like living downtown Indy can compare to Sex in the City and she loves that someone she knows is living the city life.
Obeying the pedestrian signals on her way back to the theater is one more tell-tale sign she doesn’t reside close by. People who actually live in the city cross streets haphazardly and at any given time and they don’t restrict themselves to cross walks. She likes the city though. The unique gift shops, bakeries and tiny restaurants intrigue her. As she sips her coffee she silently wishes that there was a mom and pop coffee shop on this block instead of Starbucks. At her last cross walk she stops and looks around and hopes maybe someday her daughter might live the life she dreamed of but wasn’t daring enough to try. This thought also makes her chuckle as she tries to imagine her 11-year-old daughter ten years from now dressed like Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat up in the air. Instinctively the theme song starts playing in her head, “you’re gonna make it after all!”
Still humming the theme song she enters the “newer” part of the Athenaeum building – newer meaning 115 years old as opposed to the other portion which was built in 1893. The historical building that her daughter’s quirky acting company resides in makes waiting for rehearsal to end much more interesting. The building is a living history museum with the brick, limestone and gabled exterior giving way to a grand lobby with high ceilings and dark wood accents. It was built by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s grandfather in the middle of the German-American community and the building and the foundation that manages it holds true to its German roots. She knows this and many other facts as she has read nearly all of the historical placards placed throughout the building. She claims an overstuffed chair in the corner and carefully sets her coffee on a chunky dark wood table decorated with a vase of silk flowers. She frowns as her coffee sits in the middle of a water ring stain from someone who wasn’t as careful as she is.
Attempting to concentrate on her novel becomes more complicated as the evening wears on. She reasoned she must look trustworthy to the overly cheerful college student who asks no less than 20 questions about the youth acting groups and which ones were rehearsing tonight. As it turns out one of the teen-age groups was having a dress rehearsal and that’s what she was looking for. She is within earshot of the desk where the security guard sits and is quickly distracted by his louder than a whisper sing-a-long to his Ipod, his presence must be more for looks than safety. Oddly there is a steady stream of people asking him for assistance and directions and he cheerfully, between Bruno Mars outbursts, answers their questions.
She hears cadences and cheering and knows that signals the end of rehearsal. She tosses her coffee cup in the trash bin and collects her things as her daughter emerges among friends reciting lines they learned. She smiles to herself because she likes seeing her daughter happy. As they are driving home she conjures up her earlier Mary Tyler Moore image of her future daughter and wonders what thoughts and dreams swim in her daughters head. People tell her how much alike they are so maybe it’s not as far-fetched as she thinks. Suddenly in front of her she notices the brilliant pink-orange sunset fading into an inky blue sky. As she is admiring its beauty and wishing she could stop on the interstate to snap a photo there is a click and a flash from the back seat. The flash startles her as she thinks its headlights and that in her dreamy mood she’s somehow drifted into another lane. She recognizes quickly that her daughter was using her camera phone.
She is harsh with her reprimand about not distracting her while she’s driving. Her daughters smile turns to that hurt pouty look that only a pre-teen can use to make a parent feel guilty. She sighs heavily and asks what was so important she needed to take a picture at that moment, silently cursing the “selfie” generation. The answer melts her heart. She was trying to take a picture of the sunset because the pink-orange sky was so beautiful. Choking back tears or giddy laughter or both she finds the answer to the question she was wondering all evening. Yes, there is someone else out there who is exactly like her. Someone who is usually more creative and much funnier than her, someone who bears more than just a striking resemblance to her. The younger, better version of herself sitting behind her in the car is her answer. Flash back to Mary Tyler Moore tossing that hat in the air, “you’re gonna make it after all.”