In the End: How Their Story Became my Story

I just started working on the third draft of this novel about a month ago. I’m really enjoying the process actually. I feel like I didn’t know what I was doing at all when I started writing this book, and that’s probably because it’s true. So, chopping it up and adding new bits to it for the most recent draft has been really satisfying.

I have some reservations about doing this, because I hate to appear incompetent, but I thought it might be interesting to do a series of posts showing the progress this book made over the various drafts.

Maybe seeing that I kept going despite the awkward beginning will inspire someone else to keep plugging along on their own book, or just make them feel better about their own work. Ha.

I wrote the first draft of my novel in present tense. That worked at the time because my motivation for writing was completely different than what it became for later drafts. I was dating the guy who was the inspiration for the main character of this book, and I set out to write a story that would show guys like him the contradictions in their behavior. So, I also wrote it To the main guy. I rather liked that, it is rare to see stories written that way, but the novelty of the idea wasn’t enough to convince me it would be useful in the next draft.

It has been a long time since I looked at this draft of the book, for good reason. It’s a bit painful for me. But I was surprised to see a few lines in it that I like which never made it to later drafts. Still, I think they’ll stay there in the first draft without moving forward, a reminder to myself that the story had good bones.

This scene from my first draft was the first scene that I re-wrote for the second draft. It therefore became the first chapter of later drafts, I felt it was an intriguing place to drop the reader into before going back and showing them earlier information about the characters. So, here it is, the earliest version of the first draft of this book.

February 2009 Meeting Laura

“Questioning her good intention, Jealousy’s a bad invention, when you push on glass it’s bound to break. … Accept this confession! I’m walking on pins and needles. You’re not my possession.” –From Billy Talent’s “Pins and Needles”

I’m taking down the hot food bar at work, talking to a co-worker, when I see you at the salad bar with her. You start gesturing wildly, seemingly excited to see me. By the time you make it over to me, my co-worker has disappeared.

“Is it that time of day already?” you ask, watching me streamline pans. I guess it is earlier than when you worked here.

“Yeah, the deli closes at eight now,” I remind you.

“Lemme see it!” you exclaim, referring to the tattoo you know I got the day before. I painstakingly roll up my sleeve. Ink is still flaking off of it, and my heavy polo sleeves really disagree with the placement.

“It’s all grody,” you say, looking taken aback.

“It’s less than twenty-four hours old,” I tell you. You, who already have five tattoos, should understand my predicament.

It’s about then that she wanders up to us with her salad in hand. You have not mentioned this broad to me in nine months, easy. I certainly don’t know why she is with you now, since you told me you could not hang out today because your Mom is in town and you’re having a family weekend. My knee jerk reaction is to mentally distance myself. You turn to her, and say her name slowly, softly, as though it might break on it’s way out of your mouth, warning her with your eyes, apologizing to her in advance.

“Laura,” and her eyes flinch, she pulls into herself, and I’m not quite sure why she is the one upset. “This is the one I was telling you about.” And God only knows what you told her, but it bet it doesn’t include the fact that we fucked last Wednesday.

“Hi,” I say, my face registering the fact that I don’t understand why this is happening.

“She was just showing me her new tattoo. It’s from a poem,” you explain. “I don’t remember what it says exactly, it’s like…” and then you look to me for help.

“Did you want me to tell her?” I ask.

“Well, yeah.”

“I didn’t know where you were going with that,” I inform you, before making sure no customers are nearby and leaning close to Laura. She responds automatically to my gesture, leaning in too, until our faces are only separated by the marble top of the hot food case.

“It says ‘When God created you, lying in bed, he came all over his blessed universe’” I tell her per your request. Her eyes widen, and she leans back without responding.

“It’s interesting because it looks all girly, then you find out what it says. Pretty badass. And it’s her first ink.” You talk fast, seemingly wanting her to accept me, though I’m still not sure why. She wanders off to look at sushi, still not saying anything. I don’t think she liked the showing me off quality our interaction had.

“She’s the one I’ve been helping move. We had to finish up today.”

“Ah. That’s my favorite one of your shirts, by the way.”

You look down at your black button down with velvet designs, and I wonder if you are thinking what I’ve already realized…that you would not have worn that shirt to help someone move. She wanders back up, and I tell you both goodbye.

“I’m out like a fat kid at dodgeball,” you respond, and I watch you both disappear around a corner, wondering how much ‘splaining you have to do.