Tag: behind the story (Page 1 of 2)

Behind the Vignette: METTLE

I’ve alluded to this a couple of times before on this blog, but my senior year of high school I spent a night in jail. A friend of mine found the key to a room that held old, unused laptops that were ostensibly meant for the teachers but never given out for some reason. He took one, and then another, and then slowly started to hand them out. I went into the room, but never physically took one. No, as the only one of my friends with a car (and the person who drove them to school), my role was the transporter.

Word got around school and people started to ask for them. As far as I know, money only exchanged hands on one occasion, but that was enough that someone outside of our friend group (I honestly don’t remember his name at this point) decided to blackmail us. He threatened that if we didn’t give him one he would blow us in. Which was dumb because we weren’t selling them. If he just asked nicely he probably could have gotten one for free.

Regardless, we balked at the idea and so he ratted us out. I was in the television studio (I went to an arts school) when school security came to get me and searched my SUV, where they found a single bookbag with one laptop in it. From there I was interrogated, where they tried to pit me against my friends (“They’ve already told us about you, so you should just spill everything on them,”) and then called the actual police.

The cops were nice about it. They didn’t handcuff us until we were away from the school and did their best to minimize our embarrassment. I think they understood how ridiculous the situation was.

The rest of it played out similarly to the story. We were processed and spent the entire day in the holding pen, until we were each moved to our own individual cells. It was cold, and we weren’t allowed blankets because you can hang yourself with them. Which is dumb, because there are plenty of ways to kill yourself in a cell without a blanket.

We were all released the next day. I was suspended from school for a long while and had to attend night classes at a different school to do busy work. The principal of our school wanted to pursue grand larceny charges–I guess as a deterrent to other students?–but no one seemed to take that seriously. The computers weren’t even worth that much, and I think there was recognition that saddling us with such serious charges was unfair at our ages. We were sentenced to community service that we did together over the summer. After a few years our records were expunged.

The repercussions we faced were ultimately minor, so the lessons I took from the experience were more personal. I realized how much inner strength I actually had when I needed it. And I saw how unfair our education and justice systems could be. I felt the disappointment of some of my teachers and learned which ones actually deeply cared about me.

In that sense, I have no regrets. In fact, I think everyone should go through something like that. Something that tests you, pushes you to an extreme, shows you a different side of the world and the people in it. Those situations are the ones that we learn the most from, and the ones that stick with us the longest.

Behind the Vignette: A NIGHT NOT TO END

Click on the photo above to be taken to the story before reading this post.

When I was in my early twenties there were parties to go to every weekend. And if there wasn’t a party, there were bars on every other corner (usually the ones not already occupied by a church) in Buffalo. Some of my favorite memories of that time in my life, insofar as I have memories of those nights, was the unplanned and unexpected conversations with strangers. I loved sitting at a filthy, beer-stained and ash-littered table in some small apartment getting to know someone.

I remember often feeling like I never wanted the night to end, especially if a cute girl was involved.

I think that feeling of wishing a night could go on forever is a pretty universal feeling. But, like anything we might wish, what are the actual consequences of that wish coming true?

In this story I tried to explore that. The elation, confusion, horror, and resignation that realizing a night will continue as long as you want it. I hope it captured some of those feelings for you.

Behind the Vignette: Real Monsters

If you need to read the story, click the image above.

My childhood bedroom was in the front of our house, which meant that the streetlight on the curb threw a lot of light into my windows. At night everything created shadows that, to my overactive imagination, belonged to monsters. I distinctly remember something in my room creating a shadow I was convinced was a dinosaur. Luckily, it was a type of dinosaur I knew to be a herbivore.

Not all of the shadows felt as safe. Many forced me under the covers, convinced that I wouldn’t last the night.

Those memories were the genesis of this story, originally written years ago. But, I also wondered, what would a child do when faced with a real threat? Would they be able to conquer their fears of an imaginary one?

It’s a simple story, told simply. I wanted to layer in a few twists and turns and end on a hopeful note that not all things we’re afraid of are bad. Not too bad for just over 800 words.

Behind the Vignette: Followed

Before reading the explanation, check out the story.

Driving at night, especially when it’s raining, terrifies me. My eyesight isn’t great to begin with, and usually by the time night rolls around my contacts have started to dry out. But the thing that bothers me the most about nighttime driving is other people’s headlights. I’m convinced that everyone but me drives with their brights on constantly.

What irritates me most is the light reflected in my rear-view mirror. If the car behind me is close enough, I have a hard time gauging just how far behind me they are. It spikes my anxiety, especially if we’re on a single-lane road and I can’t somehow get them to pass me. Often, I start to feel as if I’m being followed.

What should one do if they’re being followed by a strange vehicle? Try to let them pass? Outrun them? Outmaneuver them? You can’t go home, as that’s completely giving up your safe space. You might get stuck, perpetually followed, until you decide on how it should end.

This story was borne from those feelings. Back when I played hockey at a certain rink I had to drive down Route 476 all the time, often after dark. The lanes on that road between Springfield and Norristown vacillate between two and three, before settling on two as you pass the tolls toward the Lehigh Valley. It struck me how terrifying it would be to look in my rear-view mirror to see nothing but headlights. To be followed, with no recourse, and no hope.

I hope the story makes raises your blood pressure a bit the next time you see headlights in your rear-view.

Behind the Vignette: Her Tea

Check out the story before continuing.

We all have a tendency to imagine the worst, especially if the anxiety in our lives is heightened. I do this often, usually around how I’d feel if my wife exited my life for whatever reason.

What strikes me about these worries are the things around our house that would most remind me of her. We leave such strong impacts on the world just by interacting with it, and our relationships are no different. Aside from the obvious–the pictures from our wedding that hang out our walls, the clothes in her closet, the pages I’ve written about her–there are more subtle ways we leave breadcrumbs of ourselves in each others lives.

That’s the genesis of this piece. I wanted to capture the routines that break when something changes or ends within a relationship. A favorite book that might lay out on a coffee table. A forgotten dirty glass. The small things that remind us that, holy shit, we’re inextricably tied to someone else.

If my wife were to suddenly disappear from my life, I think those are the things I’d have the hardest time with. The things she does every day that impact me in almost imperceptible ways. And it’s because those nuances of her personality are the reason I love her to begin with. Their absence would be a devastating reminder of what I lost.

« Older posts

© 2021 Craig Gusmann

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑