“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 14: You Can Lie, But You Cannot Hide
The flashing red lights of bumper to bumper traffic as drivers push and stop, push and stop in their effort to get home after a long day of work are like tiny warning signs. If Tandy were paying attention, she’d know something is in the air. But, she isn’t and so she’s oblivious.
She’s talking on the phone with her mother and weaving her way through the throngs of people, all rushing to be somewhere other than on that particular piece of Soho sidewalk. Someone bumps into her, and she almost loses her balance.
“Sorry,” he says reaching out towards her with raised palm and a smile. “My bad.”
Black hair and sea foam green eyes remind Tandy of her Caribbean holiday with Karl when the romance was in its early days. She catches her breath and averts her eyes.
“That’s okay.” Tandy speeds up her pace. He walks beside her, just a little too close for comfort.
“Thanks for not getting mad,” he says.
“Sure.” She jiggles the phone at her ear. “I’m on the phone. Can’t talk.”
“You. Are a good person.” Something about the intensity of his voice gets her attention. “It’s not the size of a dog in a fight that counts. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.” He adds with a knowing nod, “There’s a time to fight, and a time to let go. Remember that.”
“Remember wha—?” Tandy blinks. Where did he go? With a small confused head shake, she goes back to the phone conversation.
“No, Mom, just some guy in a hurry… Yeah, I know. New York… It is what it is…” Tandy shrugs. “It’s just a rough patch, that’s all. Mimi will come around… Yeah, I know it’s not an option. I already told her that, but she doesn’t listen… Good one. He who has ears to hear, let them hear. Except hers are plugged up with bikini wax… It’s just a joke, Mom… Karl? Well.” Tandy hesitates. “We’re going through a bit of a rough patch. When it rains, it pours… Yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it. A lover’s spat.” Tandy cranes her neck at someone up ahead who catches her eye. He looks familiar. Is that Karl? It can’t be. He’s out of town. “What? I’m not sure when the move is taking place… I know. Marc is letting me stay with him for a couple of days until we work things out… Mom? Are you there?… That’s good advice. On paper.” Her voice catches in her throat. “How can I follow my heart when it’s broken? Which piece do I follow?…Is that what you did? Follow the shiniest one?… Okay, I’ll try… I’m just now getting to Marc’s, want to say hello?… Sure, I’ll say hello for you. Love you. Bye.”
Tandy looks for the absent doorman. He wasn’t there this morning, and he isn’t there now. Who was that guy?
In the elevator, Tandy reaches into her purse to get her keys. Another thick envelope is there. Huh? She opens it. It’s another one of those Universal Bank of Being things. How do they do that? She flashes onto the guy who bumped into her. Was it him?
The elevator door opens onto Marc’s loft. Lyrics from Montell Jordan’s song “Questions,” are filling the air. “Got so many questions. Everyone wants to know. Where you been, what you doing…”
Marc is moving a rack of women’s clothing to one side of the backdrop that held the perfume display yesterday. When he turns, his expression tells her that he’s the one with questions, not Montell Jorden.
“Hey,” she greets him. “What’s up?” Tandy walks over to the burnt orange sofa and drops her bag.
“I could ask the same to you,” Marc says quietly.
“Too much.” She kicks off her shoes and pads her way to his side of the loft. “What are you working on?”
“A shoot for bridesmaid dresses.”
“Need a hand?”
“Again, I could ask the same to you.”
“What are you talking about?” She pulls up a tall director’s chair and plops down.
“Tandy, what’s going on with you? Really?”
A feeling of dread washes over her.
“No more lies,” Marc says firmly.
“I haven’t lied—” she starts to protest.
“Stop it!” He interrupts sharply. “I said no more lies.” With a sigh, he goes to the glass table and brings back his laptop. Sitting next to her on a matching director’s chair, he opens his computer. “I was researching bridal trends in the New York Times today. And I found this.” He turns the computer around for Tandy to see. “At first, I thought it was you.”
Tandy’s heart sinks, and pounds in her chest so hard, it feels like it’s going to explode. Her breathing is shallow. Hyperventilation gives the sensation of little prickles all over that gobble away at her insides, and the smiling face of Karl Cramer and Rebecca Morley proudly announcing their engagement fades from view.
When she comes to, she’s laying on the sofa. Marc’s concerned face hovers over hers. He’s pressing a cold compress to her forehead.
“What happened?” She starts to sit up, but Marc gently keeps pressure on the compress.
“You fainted. Just relax.”
“Oh, that’s right.” She stops struggling and sinks back down into the soft cushions. Red splotches break out on her neck as raw emotions burn through her.
“Breathe,” he says. “From deep in your stomach, not your chest or you’ll pass out again.”
Breathing helps to inject some space into the storm of tears roiling in her gut. She flashes on her meditation of just that morning—it seemed so long ago—and she tries to send Light to the pain.
When she’s calm enough to speak, she sits up and tells him about the whole ugly scene in the park. How she found out. The flowers. The hope. And now this. What is she going to do?
“You’re going to pick up the pieces, and move on. That’s what you’re going to do,” he says firmly. “No looking back.”
“Mom says I need to follow the piece that’s shiniest.”
Marc’s body goes rigid. “You talked to Jess—” He interrupts himself, and continues with a tight voice. “Your mother? When?”
“On the way in.”
“Does she know?”
“No.” Tandy lowers her eyes. “She thinks Karl and I are just going through a rough patch.”
“Tandy,” he says softly. “Why did you lie? What’s the point? It’ll always come back to bite you in some way.”
“I-I-just didn’t want to let you down,” she mumbles.
“Let me down? How could Karl being an a—” Marc cuts his words short, and starts again. “How could that let me down?”
“I don’t know…” Her words trail off and she looks up with her signature expression of innocence that begs forgiveness for unknown crimes. Except in this case, the crime is right before her.
“I’m not your father, so that’s not going to work,” he reminds her with a small smile when he sees her expression. “Tandy bear, the only way you could disappoint me is by not being true to yourself. So in that, yes, you have disappointed me.” At her crestfallen look, he adds, “But it’s not the end of the world. Promise me you’ll never lie to me again, and we’ll try to start with a clean slate. Deal?”
“Deal.” When she breathes a sigh of relief, she’s surprised. She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath.
“Let’s get some food in you, and we’ll talk.” He stands up and moves to the kitchen. “How does chicken cacciatore sound? I made it this afternoon.”
“That sounds wonderful!”
It’s over dinner that Tandy reopens the conversation.
“Don’t you hate those voices in your head,” she says, “that come from people in your past? Do this. You can’t do that. Oh, here’s the worst one: Follow your dream. What if I don’t HAVE a dream? Then what?”
“Everybody has dreams.” Marc refills Tandy’s water glass. “They’re hidden underneath all those voices, but you have them. Dig down, right now. What’s yours?”
“I don’t know! Why does everybody keep asking me that? I want Karl. And I can’t have him.” She pushes a piece of green pepper around on her plate before looking at Marc with naked emotion of raw betrayal . “I really believed with all my heart that Karl was my soul mate.”
The pain radiating from her is heart wrenching. Marc looks lost for a minute, too. Candlelight on the breakfast bar gives them both a little emotional coverage in its flickery shadows on their faces.
“I do know this.” He swirls the wine in his glass. “The love we seek from that soul mate, we can only find in ourselves. Still,” he adds with a haunted look, “it is nice to have someone to share it with.”
“You do still love her,” Tandy says.
“What does a soul mate look like to you?” He deviates from the answer with a question.
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do. You’re the only one who does. Show me a mental snapshot.”
“I guess he’d be someone who thought I counted. Who listened to me.”
“What do you want him to hear?”
Tandy is quiet. She shakes her head ‘no’ and rubs the knot in her chest.
“Looks like we’re back to you needing to find your own voice,” he says. “Then stand up and speak it out loud and clear.”
“Is it really that important?” Her tone implores him to say, “No.”
“If you don’t find your true voice, you won’t find anything of real value in your life because everything will ring false at its core—work, relationships, everything—because you’ll ring false with yourself.”
Tandy sighs. “Yeah.”
“I have an idea. Are you done?” When she nods, he picks up the plates and takes them to the sink. “Let’s get your process on film.”
“Come.” He walks over to the backdrop set up for tomorrow’s shoot with the bridesmaid’s dresses. He puts one of the director’s chairs in the middle, and turns on the lights. “Sit.”
“Me?” She squeaks.
“Yes, you.” He laughs. “I know you gave up acting because you didn’t want to be in the spotlight, but it’s time you let yourself be there.” He nods to the chair. “Go on. Sit down.”
Tandy gives a nervous laugh and does as he asks.
With efficiency that only comes from experience, Marc sets the camera on the tripod, inserts a new memory card, and attaches an extension to a shutter cable release.
“I think so.” Tandy fixes her hair and bites her lip. Marc snaps a photo. Click. “Hey, that’s not fair! I wasn’t ready!”
Marc chuckles. “Then quite lying.” At Tandy’s startled expression, he snaps another one. Click.
“I wasn’t lyin—”
“Wait a min—”
She starts to get up.
Sits back down with a growl.
Smiles to the camera.
It feels fake.
Tries to pose sexy.
It feels fake.
“I’m not doing this right, am I?” Tandy asks.
Click. “There’s no right or wrong,” Marc says. Click. “Just being-ness. Whoever you are… (click)… however you are… (click)… get it?” Click.
Tandy purses her lips in thought.
She tilts her head in question.
“No right or wrong?”
“No right or wrong,” Mark says. Click. “Just try not to lie to yourself.” Click. “What do you want a Soul Mate to hear?” Click.
A look of yearning crosses her face.
Takes a deep breath to find her courage.
A small beeping sound startles them both. Click.
“Ah, dammit,” says Marc. “I’ve got to go. I set the alarm on my watch in case I lost sight of time. Here, take this.” He hands Tandy the shutter release and makes sure the cord is extended without loops.
“Where are you going? On a date?” She teases.
“Yeah. I am, actually.” He gets his jacket from the closet behind the backdrop.
“Just sit there and say what you want to say to all those voices in your head. To Karl, me, your mother, Mimi, whoever. Just talk, and keep taking pictures. You’ll get it out of your system, and it’ll help you discover what you really want to say. Let the camera listen, and be your witness.”
“How do you know about this?”
“I’ve done it myself,” he says over his shoulder. At the door, he turns. “Listen up. Taking pictures of yourself as you say what you want to say is key. The photos will give you insights to yourself later that you can’t imagine. Unless you’re a sociopath,” he adds, “and I don’t think you are, your body can’t lie.”
“Is that what you did (click) to process Mom?” Click.
“Yes,” he replies with a sharp nod.
“Did it work?” Click.
“It helps.” His last words as he closes the door are, “Don’t wait up.”
I wonder, Tandy thinks as she stares at the door and then clicks absentmindedly. Click. Are any of us really happy? Click. Or is happiness just an illusive dream. Click. What’s it really going to take to move forward? Click.
A sense of restlessness washes through her. She flashes on the paper she found in her purse. Click. I need to tell Marc about how they keep showing up. Click. She feels the urge to go read it.
Settled back in the directors chair, her thumb absentmindedly clicks the shutter release as she reads.
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? What do you think Tandy wants a soul mate to hear?
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