Expectations of the Morning
Sunday Morning. Home. Thoughts. (4:30. Kitchen floor. Mind.)
I will never be able to live up to the expectations, the standards that I set for myself as a small child. I wrote my first book, produced and directed the film of it, and completed fourteen further installments to establish the series.
Then I grew up. And I learned about life, all its rules. Turns out, people love you until you ask them to pay you. An uneducated child is impressive, sure she is. But all adults are underwhelming. The world had moved past manuscripts handwritten on legal pads and the raw footage of a wobbling tripod. Not that I hadn’t moved on too.
But there was all of nowhere that I could really go.
I was the mold of a starving artist, smart enough to quit smoking but messy enough to still have empty cartons resting on every table and windowsill. The armory of puns prepared to address this fact, all going to waste. I would have clothes all over the place, but I couldn’t afford to own enough. I couldn’t afford anything, technically. But creativity is worth starving for, right?
Well, at least it comes with its own therapy.
Now, about the rest of this job I chose so many years ago now. Never in my life will I live up to my own expectations. And therein lies the issue: I can never quite force myself to stop trying.
Monday Morning. Hotel. (9:30, Suite 391).
“How are you, sweet pea?” My dad was staying there for a business conference. I had nothing to do with it, but he and his wife- Arm Candy With Some Personality never ventured from my father- wanted me to “pop by for a minute”. She was currently draped across the couch, frantically motioning for me to join her.
“Hey, Stella, how have you been?” Something I’ve noticed about creatives: they respond to that question by casually firing it back; the answer is to be gaged by levels of tiredness and levels of coffee.
“I’m doing quite well.” Stella looked the part too. She was vivacious practically all the time, at least whenever I saw her. She was ten years younger than my father, seven years younger than my mom would be had she lived. But Stella was only part of our family because my mom hadn’t survived. Anyway, she sat me down in her hotel room to shoot the breeze.
“How’s your writing going?” she eventually inquired. It was almost funny because her attempt to casually toss her probe into our conversation about my ex-boyfriend was punctuated with body language as if she was dying to know the answer.
“It’s decent,” I told her. “How’s life at your law firm?”
“Lovely, but then again, they are laying off so many of the secretaries these days. There’s only a few of us left, you know.”
“Really?” I latched onto her reply immediately, hoping against all judgments that she’d let me shift the subject over to her.
“Yeah, but come on now. Emily, you have to talk to me.”
“It’s weird to talk to you like a friend or a sister or something because you’re so much older than I am. You know?”
“That must make me easier to talk to than your dad, right? Or your mom… ” Stella’s voice trailed off so much she was nearly whispering as if she figured any mention of her husband’s first wife was hot water.
“No,” I told her. “She was my mom, and she was such a good listener. You’re more of a conversationalist. I can talk with you about a lot of things, but there’s just some that I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“We can wait for your dad if you’d like.” I nearly laughed at that statement, Stella’s gentle method of comforting me or at least diffusing the situation before it got to that point.
“I can’t talk to Dad about anything; his brain is analytical and mine is creative. We don’t vibe in conversations, not since I was a kid anyway.”
“But he worships the ground you walk on,” she replied.
“That’s you,” I reminded her. “Much more you than me. Or my brother even.”
“Would you tell me about him?”
“Steven? What do you want to know?”
“Please, Emily. Just tell me anything that comes to mind when you think of him, what I should know in order to understand him. I haven’t seen him since the wedding.”
“Since my cousin Brian’s wedding last month? I don’t remember seeing him there,” I thought aloud.
“No,” she said softly, my heart aching for her with the words. “Since my wedding, Emily.”
“I’m sorry. You’ve got to understand, it’s not you. It’s him and dad.”
“Your brother loathes me,” she declared.
“He doesn’t know you; he’s just furious with Dad for getting married again. Steven was Mom’s whole world; he never got over losing her.”
“Steven resents me and everything I stand for.”
“Happiness. What you stand for is happiness; Dad laughing even though it’s not Mom’s jokes anymore, me cooking family dinners with someone who’s not Mom, the fact that we’re still a family even though we lost a mom and gained one.”
“You think of me as your mom?”
“Of course not. But I do think of you as a mom, kind of like a teacher and a friend combined. You’re the mom of my favorite dog on Earth,” I explained.
We were both crying and laughing when Dad came in.
“I take it from the simultaneous emotional breakdowns you discussed Emily’s writing?”
“Dad,” I sighed. “I’m working on my next novel, and I promise I will release this one.”
“That’s productive, sweetheart. I’ve read your recent freelance work, and it’s good stuff.”
“I’d love to read your novel, Emily,” Stella told me, her voice soft and gentle like a teddy bear. She laid her manicure on my shoulder.
“Thank you, Stella.”
Thank you very much for reading this short story; I hope you could relate to it for one reason or another. If you understand that literature derives its meaning from how it resonates with its audience, I think you’ll like more of my writing.