On Monday, I read Wordsmith.org’s introduction to this week’s theme. The first line begins, “The German language’s affinity for sesquipedalians….” Ouch.
Tuesday, the word realpolitik popped up in my inbox. I started to sweat.
These exercises are difficult for a variety of reasons. One, the words that come across the Wordsmith radar are rarely used in colloquial speech (the bright side of that being I have a little more flexibility to play with Wordsmith’s choices). Two, I’m always on a time crunch on Wednesdays. The longer it takes me to get a post out, the closer I get to publishing the piece before its time. And, three, I fight my inner editor all day long, pushing away quick-fire insults that usually end with “You’re not up to this. Why don’t you just skip it this week?”
I always have to remind myself: writing is about taking risks.
This morning, I woke up to:
zeitgeist. noun. The defining spirit of a particular period: the general culture, political, intellectual, and moral climate of an era.
Anytime I see or hear politics, culture, and morality in one sentence, the mood in the air shifts. Zeitgeist is a mouthful of a word to take and mold into a quick write, especially on a light, warm, and sunny Wednesday morning.
So, today, after I stared at the word and thought…absolutely nothing, I resorted to free association and wrote out a list:
zeitgeist: “spirit of a particular period”
- High School
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- The Shawshank Redemption
- A closed community
One line came to mind three times while I brainstormed, so I scratched it into my journal before it slipped away: I had only been gone for three weeks.
I let that be the first line of my story.
I had only been gone for three weeks. When I left, Amelia drove me to the airport. She made me swear to send her a postcard from every stop I made in Europe, and she promised to pick me up when I got home.
She did pick me up, but she wasn’t alone. She was flanked by two women who mirrored each other and resembled a not-so-kid-friendly version of Thing One and Thing Two. Both women wore their dark curly hair just above their shoulders. The woman on Amelia’s right parted her hair on the left side, so that it hung down over the right side of her face. The woman on Amelia’s left wore hers just the opposite. Each woman’s hair-do revealed only half a face.
I approached Amelia slowly. As I got closer, the two women’s faces merged behind Amelia and, together, became a whole. From my perspective, the combination of their hair and one eye each gave the impression of a giant monster bearing down on Amelia in a watchful glare.
“Hey,” I said, making a point to ignore the giant’s eyes.
Amelia lurched forward to give me a hug, but two hands went up simultaneously and touched both her shoulders in a signal to stop. Amelia fell back into position.
“Hello!” she said in a voice I hardly recognized. “I’ve missed you so much. How was your trip?”
I put my arms around her and held her tight. She raised her hands to my lower back and patted.
“Great!” I hid my confusion. “God, it was beautiful. I have so much to tell you.” I took her and pushed her back a bit. “Did you get my postcards? I sent one from every city, just like I promised.”
“Postcards?” Her eyes shifted to her left and right. “They must have gotten lost in the mail. I never saw them.” She emphasized the word never, and the giant behind her relaxed into two halves again.
We stood in silence: me, Amelia, Thing One, Thing Two. I didn’t like this scene one bit.
“Hey. I need a bathroom. Do you mind?” I asked all three of them, unsure about who was in charge.
“No! Of course not!” Amelia spoke up. “I see one right over there.” She pulled me towards the right. “I’ll hold your bag for you.” Thing One and Thing Two hovered close.
At the door of the restroom, I hesitated handing over my bag. There was a tension in the air that made me question Amelia, another thing I didn’t like. But, I gave her my bag anyway and went into the restroom.
When I stepped out of the stall, Amelia stood at the sink. She dropped my bag, jumped on me, and enveloped me in a huge hug.
“I’ve missed you so much!” There was the voice I remembered.
“Man, Amelia, you made me nervous out there. What the hell? And, how did you make it in here without those Siamese twins?”
She smiled. “I told them your cell phone was vibrating.”
“Who are they anyway?”
“Friends. Sort of. They’re my sponsors.”
“Sponsors!” I said, incredulous.
“I joined this social networking club while you were away.”
“I was only gone for three weeks,” I rolled my eyes.
“I got lonely. Plus, Lauren sent me an email invitation. You remember Lauren, right?” Amelia put her hands on my face. “You look exactly the same.”
Someone knocked on the bathroom door.
“Oh, I gotta get back outside. Wait for a minute so they don’t think we’ve been too chatty. They hate when I talk to someone else outside of earshot.”
“They don’t seem too social for a club.” I said, as she opened the door. She put her finger to her lips, and my stomach turned a little. I looked in the mirror at my disheveled hair and worried eyebrows. Then, I went back out into the airport.
On our walk to the baggage claim area, I asked Amelia to tell me more about Lauren’s email. She lit up as she gave a well-rehearsed introduction to the BFF Social Networking Club. Membership is by invitation only, she said.
“Camaraderie for Life!” She grinned.
Her hands flew in animation when she described the video that played after you clicked the link. She said that she joined, and then made 300 friends in less than twenty-four hours.
“But have you met these friends?”
“Sure! I’ve memorized everyone’s avatar and talked to them online. What’s really cool is that when you receive a message, their avatars move as if they’re really talking. I mean, it’s so much more personal than all the other sites. And, you can create your own image; I gave mine jet black hair.”
“But you’re a redhead,” I said. I looked over my shoulder at Thing One and Thing Two and their jet black hair.
“I know, but for fun! You know, just for fun!”
I put my arm around her and glanced behind me. “So how did you get hooked up with…I’m sorry, what are your names?”
Amelia stiffened. “My sponsors! Oh, they’re so great.” She turned around and smiled. They each responded with a half grin. Amelia went on and on about the sponsor meet and greet, a person to person party, “tons of fun.” Again, she lit up, and I wondered whether or not the discomfort I sensed was from her or just me. She searched her pocket for a card and handed it to me.
BFF Social Networking Club: Next Meet and Greet, Saturday, 7pm. “Camaraderie for Life!” it said.
A shadow fell across the two of us as Thing One moved into position at my left now. My heart raced and my hand tightened around Amelia’s arm. I noted three red Exit signs coming up: two on my right and one straight ahead.
I waited until we reached the baggage claim conveyor. I smiled at the twins and slid the card in my pocket.
“I can’t wait!” I said, doing my best to sound excited.
“Boy, I’m going to need some help with my suitcase. It weighs a ton.” I smiled and led Amelia around to the back side of the baggage area. As soon as Thing One and Thing Two took their eye off of us and turned to each other, I pulled Amelia into the shadows and out through the exit.