“CHANGING MENTAL CHANNELS (So You Don’t End Up in Podunk When You Wanted Emerald City)”
by Glenn Younger
Creating a story from reader’s input—rough first draft.
Chapter 10: Lies, Lies, Those Sweet Little Lies
The uniformed doorman opens the front door to the building of Marc’s loft, and helps Tandy wheel a large red suitcase through to the pseudo lobby while she pulls the smaller one behind. Edwina follows, juggling two heavy shoulder bags and a box. His crisp uniform with long waistcoat and braided hat looks odd juxtaposed against the building’s scruffy interior. He looks vaguely familiar to Tandy, but she can’t quite recall from where.
“Have we met before?” She asks.
“You here to see Marc Garibaldi?” He presses the call button to an antiquated service elevator.
“Yes. How did you know?”
“He’s expecting you.” With practiced industry, he helps the women and their luggage get situated inside the elevator.
A deep sense of unease rustles through Tandy as rests her heavy double-duty camera and computer bag on top of the largest suitcase. She unzips the bag to make sure everything is in order.
“You’re looking in the wrong direction,” the doorman says. He inserts his key into the call button box, and presses P.
“When you look in the right direction, there are always options.” He reaches into his inner jacket pocket and extracts a fat envelope. “This is for you.” He gives a sharp salute, and steps out of the elevator just as the doors close.
As the elevator rises into the dark shaft, Tandy stares through the ancient cloudy window down into the empty lobby. Where did he go?
“What is it?” With an eager look, Edwina leans over the wall of suitcases between them.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, open it!”
Tandy runs a finger inside the sealed flap and gets a paper cut. “Ouch!” She sucks at the blood.
“Baby,” Edwina teases. “What is it?”
Tandy unfolds the papers, and jerks back against the wall in surprise. She scans it quickly with a small frown.
“It’s another one of those stupid advertisements.” She folds it back up and shoves it into her camera bag.
“For real?” Edwina raises her palms and looks upwards. “How do they do that?”
“Wooooo.” Edwina makes the sound of a ghost, and then laughs. “The Universal Bank of Being has eyes everywhere. Do they offer a free toaster if you use their bankcard?”
“Like I need more stuff.” Tandy makes a sweeping gesture like a gameshow hostess showing off prize winnings. “Where would I put it? I’m loaded down as it is.”
Sunshine lights their faces as the elevator door opens directly onto Marc’s open loft.
“Wow!” Edwina steps into the loft and looks around, her head nodding in open approval. “Didn’t see this coming.” She inhales deeply. Amongst all the open space she detects wafts of Pinesol, photography chemicals, men’s after shave, and women’s perfume all rolled into one. “Nice!”
Modern and traditional, eclectic and functional, come together with space and light to create a soothing oasis in the bustle of Soho. Light hardwood floors shine under high white ceilings and modern track lighting, giving warmth to pristine white walls. At the far end to her left, tall double-paned insulated glass windows let in bright sunshine and a give a bird’s eye view to the facing apartment building. They block out the sounds of the city and give leeway to a soundtrack that’s softly playing, “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes.
Photography lights and two different backdrops, one set up for some kind of late Christmas shoot with fake snow on styrofoam blocks painted to look like a brick wall, take up most of the open space. The other is presumably for a table top shoot for Yves St. Laurent judging by the dark painted table filled with pieces of bamboo shoots and boxes of Opium perfume.
The living area to their right is defined by a windowed platform, obviously a bedroom, that sits above a small kitchen with blonde wood cabinets and earth-toned marble counters. A breakfast bar with four short-backed acrylic stools tucked neatly underneath, separate it from a long wrought-iron glass-topped table. The six ivory upholstered high backed wing chairs with clean lines and dark wood trim say it was originally intended for formal dining, but the work paraphernalia on top—camera bodies, lenses, books, photos, a stack of black portfolio cases, and a laptop—show how it evolved into a different story altogether.
The only real splash of color comes from a seating arrangement next to the kitchen. An overstuffed burnt orange sofa and two oversized club chairs sitting on a purple and orange geometric patterned Navajo rug create a warm hug in all that open space. Blonde wood bookshelves holding a printer, books, and various pieces of art showcased under small spotlights create the perfect backdrop.
“Ladies! You’re here!” Marc drops the book he’s been reading onto the coffee table, and pads his way barefoot towards them with open arms outstretched. His smile beams from under a mop of salt and peppered hair and warm brown eyes. His jeans are loose, and so is the white oxford cotton shirt that covers the first hints of a spreading middle-aged waistline. “Tandy my girl!”
“Marc!” Tandy lets the two suitcases drop and runs towards him as fast as her heavy camera bag allows.
He grabs her in a bear hug and lifts her off the ground. “Let me look at you.” A small flicker of worry darkens the hazel highlights of his eyes when he sees her drawn features. “How long has it been?”
“Too long.” Tandy gives him another hug, and casually keeps her arm around his waist when she turns to make introductions. “This is my friend, Edwina.”
“So you’re the infamous Marc,” Edwina says as she extends her hand.
“Any friend of Tandy’s is a friend of mine.” Marc returns her handshake. “But, infamous?” He grins at Tandy. “What have you been telling her about me?”
The two women speak at once.
“That’s the point,” Edwina adds. “I probably should’ve said un-famous.”
They all laugh.
“Well, come on in,” Marc says. “Lets put your stuff over here in the corner, and catch up.” He takes Tandy’s two suitcases and rolls them behind the burnt orange sofa. “How about some wine to celebrate your visit?”
“I’m in,” Edwina agrees.
“How long do you need to stay?” Marc opens the fridge and pulls out a bottle of wine and a plate of cheese and goose liver pate. “Can’t remember when you said the fumigation on your place will be done. Let’s agree not to blame it old age, okay?”
Edwina jumps up to give Marc a hand. She walks backwards towards the kitchen, keeping her back to Marc as she makes an are-you-kidding-me? face at Tandy. She mouths the word, “Fumigation??”
“Not long.” Tandy gives Edwina a pleading look. “Just a couple of days, Wednesday at the most.”
“Wednesday?” Edwina mouths. “Are you nuts??”
“Karl should be back in town by the end of the week,” Tandy says calmly. “And I’ll be moving in with him.”
“WHAT???!” Edwina mouths and then shakes her head with pursed lips. She helps Marc put everything on a tray, and carry it to the seating area.
“Thanks Edwina. A guy could get used to this kind of service.” He pops open the wine bottle and pours it into wine glasses. “So you and Karl are going to go ahead with it.” He says it as a statement, but means it as a question. When Tandy doesn’t respond, he raises his glass. “A toast then. To happiness. May you honestly choose it fully, and not spend your life waiting for it to come to you.”
“To happiness.” Tandy touches glasses with Marc.
“To choosing it honestly,” Edwina punctuates when she touches her glass with the other two.
They settle in for a nice Sunday afternoon chat, Edwina with her legs curled up under her on one end of the sofa, Tandy on the other end, and Marc resting with legs crossed in the large club chair.
Tell me about you, how’d you two meet?… Yeah, I know Mimi Light. (Rueful laugh.) She can be a handful… Aromatherapy lotions?…I don’t know much about aromatherapy, what do they do?…Oh, inner scars, that’s interesting… It smells like cinnamon rolls Tandy’s mother used to leave in the oven too long… How do you market it?… Well, if you want it in boutique stores, you’ll either need to go on the road yourself, or even better get a sales rep who’s already hitting those stores with complementary products… Do you have a website?… I have a friend who might give you some advice… Sure, I’ll make the intro… (laughs) No I don’t know anybody who’ll donate to a good cause, don’t run in those circles…
“And you Tandy.” Mark asks after all the social niceties are out of the way, “How’s your photography going?”
“It’s been better,” she admits grudgingly.
“What are you working on?”
“Mostly what catches my eye.”
“Can I take a look?”
“It’s nothing much. But, sure.” Tandy shakes her head.
“Where’s your computer?”
“Oh! You want to see it now?”
“Sure, why not?” He looks at Edwina. “Do you mind?”
“Not at all. I’d be interested, too.” She takes a sip of wine and reaches for a piece of cheese.
While Tandy pulls her computer out of her bag, Marc gets up, and crosses in front of Edwina to sit between the two.
Edwina leans in, ostensibly to see the computer screen, but really to sneak in a chance to suss out his energy up close. Happy with her discovery, she leans back and watches the two with their heads close together scrolling through Tandy’s collection.
What are you trying to say with this one? I’m not sure, I just liked the colors… How about these? What are you saying? Ummm… These? Why’d you take them? They kind of caught my eye, and I needed to hear the sound of the shutter clicking… Hm, this series with the children on the swing sets reminds me of your mother’s earlier work. What motivated you when you were taking them? I liked their freedom. Anything else? No, not really… And these, why focus on this subject? It kind of called out to me. What did it say to you? I’m not sure.
“Okay.” Marc closes the laptop. “I see your problem.”
Marc takes his glass and crosses back to his club chair.
“What is it?” Tandy holds her wine glass to her lips, but doesn’t drink.
“You’re not telling your story.”
“What do you mean?”
“Each shot needs to tell one. You need to know what you want to say with it. Why does it catch your eye? What emotion do you want to transmit? What do you want the viewer to discover, or feel? Think of images as a language of feelings that replace the spoken word.”
“I never thought of it that way,” Tandy says.
“At the very least, you want catch their eye with the use of light and dark, and then hopefully change the viewer through the image in some way.”
“I’m such a rookie.” Tandy is a little rough with her computer as slides it back into its bag.
“No, not at all!” His smile is encouraging. “You’ve learned the basics. Now you just need to find your voice. Figure out what you want to say, and then say it.”
“What if I don’t know?” Tandy furrows her brow. “Then what?”
“The way I see it, you have two avenues to take.” He reaches over and spreads some pate on a cracker. “This is good. Try some. A friend of mine makes it.”
Tandy isn’t a lover of pate, but it’s Marc, so she obliges him.
“The first way,” he says, “is try to exaggerate everything you do until you recognize what you want to say. Scream it, rather than whisper. You’ll make a lot more mistakes that way, and burn a lot of memory in the memory card, but at least you’ll recognize the junk. And you just might trip across brilliance in the process.”
Is he saying my work is junk? Tandy sinks deeper into the corner of the sofa.
“He’s not calling it junk,” Edwina pipes in. “He’s saying you’ll start to recognize what does and doesn’t work. Right?” She looks to Marc for confirmation.
“Exactly. And in the process, there’s this creative mechanism in us that’s always pushing us to discover new realms, and to create. Exaggerating what you do gets you out of your box. Then, once you’re on the outside, you start to see the world around you in new ways. That’s when you can discover new stories, instead of repeating the old ones again and again.”
“That’s true for a lot of things,” Edwina muses.
Marc nods in agreement. “Even for something that can seem banal like table top shots that pay the bills. You always have to look for the story you want to tell, and the emotion you want it to evoke.”
“So… what exactly do I exaggerate?” Tandy asks.
“Everything. The lighting, the aperture, the angle, the surroundings. If something attracts your attention, exaggerate how you photograph it. Dig in and keep shooting until you discover why it attracts you. You’ve got to live to know it. Then, keep shooting in a way that can communicate what you’re feeling and experiencing to other people. That’s the human alchemy of a being a photographer.”
“It’s like a kind of therapy, isn’t it?” Edwina asks.
“Never thought of it like that,” Marc says, “but yeah. It is in a way.”
“That’s tight.” Edwina grins. “I like it, don’t you Tandy?”
“I think so.”
“Just try it,” Marc suggests. “It’s in the doing that we discover our truest voice.”
“Okay.” Tandy bites the corner of her inner lip. “What’s the second thing?”
“Well, where I often use photography to get out of my box, and discover new stories—.” He hesitates, and continues, “I use meditation to clean out and clarify my thoughts.”
“Sure.” Marc shrugs. “It just doesn’t come up in casual conversation much, but I do every day. If you want, I have a good one that I can share. It’s short, but it works.” Marc pulls out his phone, presses a few buttons, and says, “There. Check your phone to make sure you got it.”
“I don’t know.” Tandy studies her wine glass and mumbles, “Don’t think it’s really for me.”
A shadow falls on Marc’s face, and the conversation drops into an uneasy silence.
“I’d be interest—” Edwina doesn’t finish her sentence when Mark quietly shakes his head.
“It’s not the fault of meditation, you know,” he says quietly.
“Maybe.” Tandy puts her wine glass on the table and burrows back into the corner of the sofa with arms folded. “But what good did it do her?”
“Your mom would’ve learned to stand up on her own two feet anyway. She just got clearer sooner, instead of dragging out.” When Tandy doesn’t say anything, Marc adds, “And without meditation, how do you think she could have handled the aftermath?”
“You could’ve—.” Tandy cuts herself off. “Never mind.”
“No, go ahead.” He leans forward and props his elbows on his knees. “Say what’s on your mind.”
“Tandy bear, how can you expect to find your voice with a camera if you can’t use your own voice with someone who loves you?”
She shakes her head. Mute.
“Go ahead. Speak up.” He nods encouragement. “You can say anything with me, and it’ll be okay. I promise.”
“She wouldn’t—,” Tandy swallows down hard and takes a deep breath. “She wouldn’t have had to rely on meditation if you had been there for her afterwards. You could’ve stayed, but you didn’t.” Her body tenses against the inevitable aftermath of saying words that shouldn’t ever be said. When it doesn’t come, she slowly raises her eyes to look at Marc. Did I just blow our friendship?
His shoulders slump slightly, but his expression remains calm. Their eyes lock, both with different yet equal measures of sadness. In that moment, the afternoon sun drops behind the building tops, taking the light with it.
“I wanted to stay.” He leans back in his chair and rubs his forehead. “But I had to go.”
“But you didn’t have to. And you loved her!” Tandy’s voice teeters on the edge of sounding like a whining little girl. “Didn’t you?”
“Of course I did,” he says in a low voice.
“You talk about having a voice, why didn’t you ever speak up?” She emphasizes the word you. “The time was perfect. Dad was gone, and Mom needed you.”
“You don’t know, do you?” He gives her a long look.
His face softens with a tinge of wonder when the realization hits him. “She never told you.”
“Told me WHAT?”
He picks up his glass and swirls the wine in it as he thinks it through. “Okay. I guess you’re old enough to know now.” He puts the glass back down, and leans forward again with elbows on knees. “What I’m about to say, stays here. In this room. Agreed?”
Tandy holds the butterflies in her stomach and nods.
Marc looks at Edwina. “Agreed?
“Totally,” Edwina says.
Marc looks back at Tandy. “Honor your mother’s privacy with discretion. Jess went through so much and she deserves to be honored. And this doesn’t change anything between us.” He adds with a pointed look, “You hear?”
“Okay,” Tandy whispers with a mix of apprehension and hope. “Tell me.”
Marc speaks on the wings of a heavy sigh. “I did tell her. After the fire, and while she was still in a coma, I wrote my declaration of love in her journal. Do you remember the one?”
“The black moleskin.”
“That’s the one. Do you remember how we each wrote to her in that journal? It was your idea. You said it was a way that we could all talk to her because so much of her life force was between those covers.”
“Did I? Are you sure?”
“Hmm hmm. You had quite the outlook on life fifteen years ago. So when you said it was my turn, I knew I was the last one to write in it, so I let it rip. Put myself out there with no safety net. In my declaration, I also gave her the free choice to follow up or not. I even gave her a way out by saying that if she didn’t feel the same, she didn’t have to say anything, and I’d never bring it up again.” He lowers his head into his hands. “I waited. But she never said anything. So I couldn’t stay. Had to go.”
“Oh.” Tears well up. “I guess I was always hoping that you’d become my Dad, and I never understand why you left, too.”
On that, Marc’s head snaps up. “Tandy bear, I hoped you’d be my official daughter from the moment I heard your father had left town. Will that do?” When she nods, he crosses the room to give her a warm hug.
She springs up out of her corner to meet him with a fierce hug in return.
“Now you know,” Marc says. “Feel better?”
When soft automatic lighting turns on, timed against early evening darkness, they step apart.
“Damn!” Edwina wipes her cheeks dry of tears with the back of her hand. She quips, “It’s like watching a movie with a happy ending that makes you sad at the same time.”
Tandy’s relief that had been threatening to turn into a flood of tears channels into laughter, instead. “What would you call it? The people have a right to know?”
“Not all the people.” Edwina mimes zipping her mouth shut. “We made a promise.”
“Are you ladies hungry?” Marc asks.
“Actually, I could use some eats.” Edwina cuts off a piece of cheese. “I was afraid my stomach growling would break the spell.”
“I have the makings for a pasta carbonara.”
“You’re going to love it,” Tandy says. “His grandmother’s recipe.”
“Coming right up.” Marc heads towards the kitchen.
“What time is it?” Tandy picks up her phone to look. She sees the meditation that Marc sent earlier. “Maybe I will try your meditation after all.”
“I think you’ll like it. I do.”
Astonishment crosses Tandy’s face when she opens up the file. Her head snaps up to look at Marc. “Are you joking?”
“No. I like it.” He sees her the expression on her face. “What?”
“This meditation. Are you behind it?”
“Tandy bear, what are you talking about? Behind what?”
“The Basic Activation of Divine Light Vibrations Meditation,” she reads from her screen. “This is the meditation you do?”
“Yeah. Do you know it?”
“No,” she says with a pointed look at Edwina. “But I’ve been reading about it.” She pulls the papers out of her camera bag and marches to the kitchen. “You sure you aren’t behind this?”
Marc scans the first two pages and says, “No, but it’s good stuff. I know the website, and I use the techniques. Where’d you get it?”
“Your doorman gave it to me on the way up.”
“What are you talking about? This building doesn’t have a doorman.”
Tandy turns to look at Edwina. Shock waves run between them.
“The drama continues.” Edwina waits all of five seconds for Tandy to do something before she jumps up and goes to the kitchen. “Gimme’ that thing. I gotta’ know what it says. Don’t you?”
COMMENTS are open for business. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and ideas. Or just cheer me on in this NaNoWriMo challenge of getting a rough draft of a new novel finished by November 30.
**What are your thoughts? There’s a lot in this chapter. What’s your takeaway from it?
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