Tag: behind the vignette (Page 1 of 3)

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: CLICHÉD GOODBYE

The idea for this vignette is based on two things: 1) emotions I experienced moving away from my hometown nearly ten years ago and 2) a desire to write something inclusive, from a perspective other than my own.

I remember the days and weeks leading up to my leaving. It really felt like the end of something, and I wasn’t sure at the time if I was ready for it to end. My roommate moved out of our apartment and I stood in his room and cried. I had a pow-wow with my closest friends at my going-away party where we reminisced and ignored the other people celebrating. But what stayed with me was how quickly it felt like things moved on without me. I remember giving one of my best friends a hug goodbye as I packed up my truck to go and it felt like there was an attitude of, “Welp, bye.” That’s not to say he didn’t care or wasn’t feeling emotional, it’s just to say that sometimes in life there are goodbyes that feel underwhelming.

The second thing I wanted to attempt with this vignette was to write about romantic love from a perspective that isn’t well-represented. Love is love, and I want to write characters from all different walks of life that shows that. As a straight, middle-class white guy, my feelings on my place in portraying minority characters are complicated, but I also believe that people are people, and should be written as such. Yes, we all have nuances to our personalities, cultural differences that are difficult to capture without being fully immersed, but there are elements of the human experience that are universal. Like friends leaving to pursue the next chapter of their lives. And young, tentative love.

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.

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