Whatever you dream to do, be sure to do it well.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Adolescence 2.0: The People Collector

The shortest distance between new friends is a smile. ~Unknown 

People fascinated Jean A. Noble, and downtown Boston served an endless buffet of characters, a few delectable, others rotten, and most just plain bland. She moved from busy streets to subway stations mostly on the Red and detestable Green line to catch a few characters. They had to be interesting because boring people made her want to snuggle in bed with a good book to forget about and bury some bad day.
           Always hungry to meet new people, she flashed teeth made straight from four years of gruesome braces that had lacerated the soft flesh underneath her lips and temporarily rearranged her face like she had work done on her cheeks. Those strings and bolts of metal that cursed her four years of high school were most likely the reason she had no high school sweet heart to name, but she knew that wasn’t entirely true.
But who wanted to think about their teenage years now? Not her, especially since her smile had become her strongest ally. With a flash of those straight white teeth, she picked away at defenses, melted the ice meant to keep others far and shivering, and unearthed the good that sat in the pit of each person’s soul. She turned on her mesmerizing glow, the essence that brought lowered eyes to her face and caught strangers unaware in its large, fluffy pillow for all, full of kindness, safety, and most important, acceptance.
She owned invisible radar that went off when an interesting person hovered close in the vicinity, and her favorite place to get a mark was the subway. While others detested public transportation, Jean abandoned and exchanged the loneliness of her ’99 Honda Civic for a monthly Charlie card and never blinked. The subway provided ample ground for people collecting, and with several new writing gigs in her hands, a new apartment, and a cheerful goodbye to her home of Harford, Connecticut, she wanted friends and maybe even a roommate if luck liked her enough.
She craved the kind of people who challenged her thoughts and ideas, maybe ruffled her feathers a bit, showed her a new world, or another way to live. Before moving back home to Hartford, she lived in Harlem for a few years and befriended people with stories, dreams, failures, triumphs, and suffering that painted her world in bold, refreshing colors that glowed both day and night, never dead, but with hearts always beating. She asked what she seldom voiced at loud: What’s your story? So, maybe it wasn’t people she collected after all, but their stories.
Jean sipped at her scalding, large cup of coffee poisoned with three packs of brown sugar, hazelnut Coffee-Mate cream, and three swirls of honey. The sweetness danced on her taste buds and kept her alert. She scanned Park Street station as she waited for the train headed for Copley. A friend she recently made at the office was over there, and Jean was twenty minutes late for their shopping date. She blamed it on the Green line. Three times already she tried to board a train she thought would stop but roared past her and blasted cold air at face, shaking her body. 

           Instances like these dragged the inner schizophrenic out of her as she mumbled out loud her disgust and paced back and forth with her head stretching to spot the next train. She made several eye contacts with like-minded individuals, all of them victims of the Green line’s love for wasting people’s time. And yet, it provided great opportunity for conversation. However, all Jean managed was the occasional “Can’t believe this,” and eye-rolls from middle-aged mothers and other everyday folk consumed in their own business.
People collecting came with its risks of course, and Jean found the worst to be rejection while meeting a psycho trailed at third place. The second was a desperate soul that clung closer than a hitchhiker seed on a sock. She received rejection like a blow to the face, but shrugged it off later because not everyone could be a friend or live a story. Her aura attracted the strange, unique, and the lone wolves that flirted with the fringe. She brushed away the duds in her casual, but cutthroat manner and continued to fish.
Her motives were solely friendship. Sure, love would be great but at twenty-four she was love’s greatest skeptic. Two relationships broken by exes claiming she cared too little led to the self-diagnosis that she was too selfish to devote the effort needed in loving someone. Romance exhausted Jean yet she still yearned for it. Loneliness slapped her across the face when those happy-go-lucky, PDA whoring couples rubbed their good fortune in her face. They flaunted the shiny medal of superiority their love awarded them and exposed her supposed deficiency. Give me an effing break! Jean would think. 
          But, no matter. Life taught her that friendship ranked far higher than romance. She credited herself for several attempts after the break-ups, but a process repeated itself too many times, so she stopped. Become friends, confess love, get rejected, get hurt, move on, and move on fast. Always in a hurry, she lived like today was her last day. Even her words spilled out her mouth and fell on top of each other in a mad dash to get out unless she checked herself and relaxed into the comfortable, slow pace of a space cadet. She put on that chill suit pretty nicely.  
There! Jean spotted an individual who sent the alarms in her head ringing and clamoring for her to make a move. Everyone had a story but not everyone knew it. The young Asian woman that stood at medium height and possessed a lean built knew her story. A crown of reddish brown hair cropped close above her ears sat on her head, showing off the six, no seven piercings on her right ear. The young woman glanced at her men’s size Omega style watch, and Jean caught the tattoo of a blue bird in the inside of her wrist. Her eyes went to the full lips in a faux nude against a pale face and eyes with boredom and tiredness floating inside them. The young woman exuded confidence, coolness, and a tad of sadness mixed with loneliness. Something had happened to her. She stood unapproachable. They were the most difficult, but often also the most interesting.  
The green train approached and stopped, so Jean made sure to get into the same car as the young woman. People crowded the train, unwilling to wait another minute for the next.  She casually stood beside Blue Bird and examined her oversized, black shirt of a woman’s face in white. A sky-blue blazer was slung over her arm. Jean counted. One. Two. Three.
“I like your shirt,” she said and smiled. “It’s pretty cool.” She turned on the light and hit the young woman with that aura of loveliness, flowers, and full-on acceptance and approval.
Blue Bird raised her eyes in surprise that anyone would talk to her, but after a few seconds she chuckled and smiled. “Oh uh, thanks. My ex got it for me when we were uh...in Italy.” Her voice and eyes betrayed the sadness she wanted to mask.
Perfect, Jean thought. Tell me your story.  

To be continued…

Adolescence 2.0 © 2013 C.S. Severe All Rights Reserved.  


Anonymous said...

I always try to smile at folks.

Loved how you worked in the old cliche' about misery. :-)

Enjoyed the read.

CS Severe said...

I try to smile as well. Thanks Elizabeth! Glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I hope Jean's story comes out as she pulls the stories from the people she collects. I've never lived in a city with a subway (or decent mass transit) so that aspect of it was interesting as well.

CS Severe said...

Thanks for reading, Janna! Yeah, her story will definitely come out as well. My transportation is half my car and half mass transit. Glad you found that aspect interesting!

Anonymous said...

Oh hai,

I has read ur story, Adolescence 2.0: The People Collector.

It start out ok, and I found I like it.

But the real hook is at paragraphs 5, 9, and the last paragraphs where the conversation begins.

Paragraphs 5 & 9 tell the real reason why she collects people. And the conversation shows the first piece of action when she actually tries to talk to someone.

Why wait so long to introduce her real desires and the first actual action?

Ur story is not my genre so feel free to disregard my opinion.

ok thx bai.


CS Severe said...

Hey there! This is a first draft and you've shown me where I can do some serious cutting! Thanks for your advice! I appreciate it!