The man, handsome as he is, pheromone as he is, is ignoring her. The party around them, a tinkle of talk and other people. He is lured away and doesn’t even say he’ll be back. She sits there pie on her face, clown shoes. She’s never been ghosted in person.
She thinks about walking over and joining him. Will he think I’m too needy? Will he think, will he think? Well here’s what I think, she tells herself. I think he’s a jerk and I’ll walk away right back. Breeze right by as I walk out the door.
I should have been this way in my teens, my twenties and so on. But I will be like this from now on. I will always be the girl who walks away. She saw that on a YouTube vid. How to keep a guy, or how to get a guy, or how to walk out of a party on a guy.
She sees the man on her way out. Standing by the punch bowl, talking to other people. The ones more interesting than her. He is the life of the party, and didn’t he warn her about that. I am a stallion, he had said, I like to roam free.
And rather than taking this as a warning, she found it exciting. Her father would sometimes work until 10 PM. Dinner would be an empty space at the table. He would give her a lollipop the next morning when he kissed her off to school. It was the best thing she ever ate.
When she gets home that night, she looks in the mirror. Look how pretty I am, she tells herself. Don’t you feel better, she says. Yes, her reflection says back to her, I will tell you this every damn day if you want. She wants to answer how hard it was, how much unlike her it was, how she wasn’t even sure it was her.
Later, getting into bed, she sees a text from him. She doesn’t open it. Just the words, I’m sorry. She breathes in the night air free of him, but not. She looks again at the text. In the dim light, if looks just like a lollipop.
I think the writer is doing well showing us the dynamics of a dating relationship where both people are so unprepared to find a way to be involved with someone in a significant, sustainable way. This deepens when the female character shows insight into her attraction for the self-described “stallion”. However, her insight is not matched by an understanding of how to continue to disengage, at the end, she is still lured back in and possibly soothed by the reward of the text (lollipop). One suggestion I would offer is to start the story with the sentence that ends the first paragraph. “She’s never been ghosted in person.” may be a stronger beginning?
This type of story is a challenge to write and avoid psychobabble language. Well done.
I’m very grateful the narrator decided to share her interior world with the rest of us. I’m grateful she named the moments that I think have universality wherein we find ourselves in a social setting without the right resources…or the right response from the right person. Social gatherings can be the loneliest places. The narrator wants to feel pretty. Needs to know they are enough. At least, that’s how I heard that voice. It resonated of course. We all are seeking that. And what’s so brave and beautiful about the narrator is that they seem to have this reckoning in the mirror. The promise of affirmation and loyalty that we can offer ourselves is just…such a great thing to give your speaker. And your readers too. Thank you.
First of all, the alliteration and choice of words are fantastic: ‘a tinkle of talk’ is outstanding! suggestion: LOVE pheromone, but ‘handsome’ might be something more your stamp on what that adjective would be. “I will always be the girl who walks away.’ That would be a kickass first sentence.
And too many ‘she’. Maybe give it a shot in 1st or 2nd person and see how that works with the piece. I see it so much clearer honed away from the ‘ she tells herself’ to ‘look how pretty I am’ she thinks. ‘yes, her reflection says (delete ‘back to her’) I love the concept and the beauty of her empowering herself, but I know Francine pieces, and know that she is great at honing in to the core. Great first draft! xoxo
Hi Francine, I love the delicacy in which the narrator’s interior life is lit. Seems to be such a relatable piece, gender aside (although you have gracefully demonstrated the female/ male POV here). There is a universality in seeking validation, and those insecurities that arise in social events. With just tiny edits this piece will sing! Great first draft.
You’ve poured so much into this piece. Rollercoaster is a cliche, but this felt like one, nonetheless. You deftly jerk us here, then there. The power of this–It was the best thing she ever ate.–and returning to it at the close. The uncertain confidence of the narrator really makes this sing, along with all of the specific and quirky details.
So much to love in this, Francine. The clown details, the lollipop repetition. The she/I POV shift was a bit disconcerting. Maybe just staying in first person and speaking the words would help anchor the scene. I like how you related father/daughter dynamics to adult ones in such a short space, but I also think the piece could work as a compressed vignette without Dad. I think the details are the strong points and more detail and less conjecture/processing will finish off this wonderful little piece.
The interiority of the piece, the back and forth of her thoughts with herself and the mirror, the imprint of the lollipop as a soothe from absence, absorbed me. Powerful elements I hope remain if revised.
Francine, I really liked the movement of the piece, the kinetics of the party, and also the way it seems to question and subvert itself. It reminded me of Lydia Davis’s work. Wonderful.
I love the emotional back and forth of this piece! It just feels so honest in that respect…so realistic. The way the “she” affirms herself in the mirror yet still risks undercutting her self for the the lackluster consolation prize offered by the neglectful partner. The developed interior voice offers such an interesting and nuanced contrast to the one-dimensional “stallion.” I do agree about the POV suggestions and would be especially curious to see what this looks like in second person. Also one other small suggestion would be to change the line “She sits there pie on her face, clown shoes.” I’m curious what it would look like here if she were described not through comical metaphor / familiar expression but in an manner that is realistically awkward. Eg, “she sits there in mismatched socks” or “wearing jeans ones size too small” or something similar…basically a description that conveys the awkwardness but also contributes to the description of the scene at had at the same time.