Redux: A Second Person POV Self-Challenge

In my previous post, I took up the challenge of writing in Second Person POV. That was based on THIS article.

The author of the article challenged me to write the story from the female point of view. I think he doubted my statement that I could have written either point of view.

I’ve been told I’m not bad at writing female characters.  I don’t know that for a fact because I don’t have a large number of readers, but I trust the readers I have. 

Still, every new adventure in writing from a female point of view is an adventure with risk. For one, I’m sure to eventually encounter a female reader who won’t be happy with my characterization of her gender. 

Still, I try to write characters as humans, regardless of gender. Then, I try to have them act based on what I know of human needs, fears, wants, hopes . . . I don’t think those differ significantly from one gender to another. Third, I try and blend in what little I know about gender-specific nuances. This is where I can get in trouble . . . I hardly know the peculiarities relating to my gender, let alone those of the so-called opposite sex. 

Still, I’m told I’m not bad. 

But this . . . this is getting much more into the head of the character. Yes, I write first person female characters, but more superficial than I’m about to attempt. Hopefully, I can pull it off. 

I’m not sure if the person at Mythcreants suggested I write the same story or a similar story. I liked the idea of writing the exact same story but from the woman’s perspective. 

Hope I did OK. This took two hours and a tad to write and it’s late, so I gave it only one editing pass. I wanted to post it tonight — I gots no patience — so excuse stupid errors. Hopefully, I’ll catch them in the morning. I won’t be changing the action or presentation, but I’m sure there are errors I missed.

Again, let me know what you think. 

And now, I give you . . . 

 

Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle

© 2015 – E. J. D’Alise (2,100 words)

It’s easy to miss when it happens, and you only recognize it in retrospect.

You think you are happy. No; you are happy. You’re engaged and looking forward to starting a new life with your fiancé.

People like him and tell you how lucky you are. Their constant congratulatory wishes dispel any fear, erase any doubts. Not that you had any doubts. Well . . . Some doubts. Nothing you could put your finger on, nothing you could shine a light on so as to take a better look. 

Everyone is happy for you both.

One day, you are at a party. It’s Phil’s party, a friend of Frank, your fiancé. You don’t like many of Frank’s friends, but Phil is alright. He doesn’t look at you like a potential prize, like something to be conquered and owned. He’s comfortable to talk to, and his wife is a self-assured woman you immediately like.  You don’t mind this party because you can relax and enjoy yourself.

And that, you do.

And then Brenda, Phil’s wife, introduces you to a man whose name you miss, but she’s already gone. You smile and offer your hand, and that’s when you notice the eyes. There’s a kindness there, yes, but more. You talk but don’t remember about what. You don’t even realize you’re still holding hands.

What you are aware of, is something new. Something you’ve never experienced. You are the center of this man’s attention. You. Not what you look like. Not the fact that you are engaged to Frank. You.

You don’t think he’s even noticed your figure. You are sure his eyes never left yours.

Then, a touch to your elbow and you turn. Frank is standing there smiling and looking at the man. You introduce Frank to the man, and only then do you notice the change. The man stands as if frozen. Does he know Frank? Does Frank know the man?

It’s too quick. Frank leads you away toward a small group of men. You take a quick look back, but the man is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, you once again are the center of attention. A different kind of attention. A prize? A source of pride? A source of envy? All those feelings wash over you as you smile and try to ignore the overt examination of your outer shell.

Brenda rescues you, and she takes you to the safety of the small kitchen.

Brenda looks as if she wants to say something, but you talk about the wedding instead.

Later that night, you look up at the ceiling as you lie in bed. Without meaning to, you remember the eyes. You remember the smile, the touch of the hand. You could not process it all until now, but it’s clear.

That feeling, that closeness, that rapport is what is missing from your relationship with Frank. You fell for the package that is sold to so many . . . Looks, money, prestige, confidence. You’re a good match to all of Frank’s attributes, or so you are told, but you now know it’s not really a match. You are not his equal. Not in your eyes, not in the eyes of others, and maybe not even in Frank’s eyes.

That man whose name you don’t remember, that unassuming man, made you feel that you matter. That your worth is based on who you are, not what you look like.  

He is gone now, and you don’t even know his name.

Are you foolish? Do you imagine these things out of doubt? Frank has done nothing wrong. You love him, don’t you?

You turn to your side and try to sleep. It comes, eventually, but it’s not restful.

#

A month before the wedding, you sit with Brenda in her kitchen, drinking coffee and eating finger food. She’s become a reliable friend and a godsend with the wedding preparations.

During a lull in the conversation, she blurts out a question.

“Are you happy?”

“Of course I am,” you answer automatically, “I’m getting married in a month.”

Saying it aloud gives it a greater impact than it does when thinking it.

You look down and stare at the half-empty cup in front of you for a while before you realize Brenda is not speaking. Looking up, you see the hesitation in her mannerism.

She wants to say something but is holding back. You press her.

When she finishes speaking, you don’t know if you feel hurt or glad. The betrayal hurts, and yet it’s strangely liberating.

You had planned on supporting Frank’s climb up the corporate ladder, but now you can follow your own plans. There is relief mixed with the hurt. Your best friend, whom you’ve known for more years than you can remember, your best friend is sleeping with Frank.

You feel betrayed, but even as you soak in the hurt, you realize you feel more hurt about your friend’s betrayal than your fiancé cheating on you. You realize the signs were there and had always been there; Frank is a player, and you were never more than another conquest to him. In retrospect, his betrayal was no betrayal at all. It’s what you knew all along, deep down where you did not want to look.

#

You move, of course. Friends, enemies, acquaintances, they all look at you differently. Some with pity, some hold you to blame, some think you a fool for passing up on such a great catch. You realize you have fewer friends than you thought.

Franks charismatic persona and success makes him a more attractive friend than you ever were.

You go back to school, Brenda helping you move to your small apartment near campus as you finish your Veterinary degree.  You’re not leaving the state, but Southern Illinois University is as far as one can get from Chicago and still be in the same state.

It takes months before you even consent to date again, and then only at the insistence of the friends you’ve made.

But now you know. You look at the eyes. You ignore everything else and just look at the eyes. You know what you are looking for, but you don’t find it.

Is it that rare, or was it something more, something specific to that one encounter? You don’t know and have no way of knowing. Well, there is one way of knowing.

Brenda makes inquiries but Phil has lost touch with his friend. The e-mails bounce and the phone number is answered by a different person.

By the time you graduate, you’ve given up trying to recapture that fleeting moment.

By the time you finish your internship, you believe that perhaps your standards are too high. But, like anything else, once you know what you could have, it’s difficult settling for less.

By the time you earn your specialty, Veterinary Practitioner, you realize that even if you found something like that feeling, it would not be that feeling. It would be a copy of the original.

Your brother Brad calls. He’s following in your footsteps and is currently interning at a clinic in Alaska. They have an opening. You accept their offer.

Before leaving, you sit on the edge of one of Giant City’s cliffs as you watch the sunset. Alaska is a big step. Are you running away? Are you hiding?

No. You are starting a new life. Your own life in a place where people ask few questions, where people understand others are there for private reasons. You’ve already heard some whispers. An unattached woman is not right. Might you be gay, they wonder? No, there are no women in your life. You are just strange, someone they do not understand.

But you know. You know you can’t settle for less than what you experienced, what you so foolishly ignored and let slip through your fingers while in pursuit of a false dream.

As the sun sets, you are reminded of Irina Dunn’s famous saying: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”

But it’s not a matter of need. It’s more nuanced than that. It’s finding your other half. It’s finding someone that makes you whole. It’s finding the proverbial soulmate. Sure, you can live as you are. That little empty space in your soul won’t keep you from living your life, but you’ll always be aware of it.

Some eventually give in and try making do with a poor substitute. Not you. It would be lying to yourself and to whomever you drag into your lie. More than that, it would not be fair to them. No one deserves to be a consolation prize.

The last rays of the sun touch the tops of the trees and you stand. Your mind is clear. Twilight guides your steps back to your tent and, metaphorically, to your new life.

#

The call wakes you. It’s Sunday, your day off.

Brad apologizes and asks if you could meet him at the clinic. A man is bringing in a hurt dog, traveling overnight to get here this morning.

You know how important dogs are out in the wilderness. Their value to their owners is incalculable. You have a few hours, but you’re awake now. No use trying getting back to sleep. You dress and head out as dawn’s glow lights the Eastern sky.

You hear a bark outside the clinic and open the door to find a man standing there holding an injured Husky.  The splint is not perfect, but good enough. You concentrate on supporting the injured leg as you help the man carry the dog to the examination table.

Scissors, gauze, plastic strips, quick-set plaster. You need to sedate the dog, and you turn to ask . . .

It’s him.

“You,” you say. Say something else, you scream in your mind, but you just stand there

You hear the door open but can’t look away from the man, old feelings you had neatly stored away flooding your mind, weakening your knees.

Brad gives you a peck on the cheek as he apologizes for being late.

The man’s face changes exactly as it did all those years ago and you see his lips move. It takes you a few seconds to realize what he said, but by that time he’s out the door.

“I can’t do this again.”

That’s what he said. What does that mean?

It takes a few more seconds before comprehension hits you.

“No,” you yell chasing after him, “he’s my brother.”

But the man is already outside.

By the time you rush outside, he’s already on the trail and moving fast.

“I need a bicycle!” you yell before realizing how stupid it sounds.

It sounds stupid even as you explain it to Brad while you both work on the Husky.

#

Your frustration mounts. You don’t know where he lives. No one knows where he lives. You visit the county recorder, but there are too many records.

After a week, your frustration peaks, and you break down, right there in the office, after hours. As you sink and sit on the floor with your back to the wall, your head buried in your arms, a soft tapping grabs your attention. The big Husky comes and lies down beside you, forcing his big head under your arms.

You dry your eyes and stroke his thick fur. You look down to meet his eyes, one blue, and one brown. He blinks, and you have an idea.

The waiting will be difficult, but there is no other choice. Six, maybe seven more weeks.

#

“Are you sure about this?”

Brad’s question interrupts your thoughts. There’s anticipation, but also dread. What if you are wrong? What if you misunderstood?

“I’m sure,” you answer.

Brad bends to unhook the leash from the Husky’s collar and after a brief hesitation, the big dog heads off at a trot. You mount the snowmobile and Brad sits behind you, and you follow the dog.

#

From inside the cabin, you recognize the bark. It’s the same dog you had heard nearly two months ago.

Brad stands and goes to the door, letting the Husky out as he speaks to someone. You’re paralyzed for a few moments. And then you hear the man’s voice.

“We?”

You don’t remember moving, but you are standing at the door. You don’t hear what Brad answers; your eyes are taking in your soulmate, the missing piece of you.

You smile.

The End

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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22 Responses to Redux: A Second Person POV Self-Challenge

  1. I think you did that well.

    Like

  2. AnnMarie says:

    Her inner dialogue is very believable and a natural consequence of her beliefs. I think you provided a good balance between her thoughts and feelings.

    Like

  3. Sally says:

    Inner dialogue reads like girlfriends rehashing bad boyfriends…some will wish they had a friend like Brenda to help them see the truth. Speaking from experience there. Good grasp of girl turmoil. Liked the guy story better tho.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thanks for reading and the comment.

      As for liking the first version better, two things . . . one, I am a guy. Two, I had to fit this story into the other one. That’s mildly constraining. I think I write better when I’m truly working by the seat of my pants.

      I also wonder if the “speaking from experience” has a role in how much you enjoy this story versus the other where you are much more of an observer.

      I ask because I wrote a story a few months back where the female character was the subject of attacks (which were thwarted before anything happened) and some of the feedback I got pointed out that even though nothing bad happened, the mere mention of it might bring out bad memories and cause anxiety in some readers.

      I’m still trying to figure out how I might keep the same plot and have different dangerous situations faced by the character, but sometimes there is no avoiding the realities that surround us.

      Anyway, as I said, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

      • Sally says:

        Everyone has some bad experience…that can’t be a constraint. Because the female version was more familiar, I didn’t find it as interesting. Guess I’m getting old cause angst doesn’t interest me much any more. Your “action” writing is great.

        Like

      • disperser says:

        Yeah, angst finds no fan in me, and I try and keep it to a minimum. The characters I write work at overcoming it and not falling into self-pity and inaction.

        As for the constraint . . . one can try being more sensitive (aware) of other people’s triggers but there is a limit . . . otherwise I’m writing literary pieces with no point of interest.

        Curious . . . you mean the action in these pieces or some of my other writing? These don’t have much action.

        Like

        • Sally says:

          The long one with the main character, Gin…can’t remember the title, sorry. You hint at a past but she doesn’t second guess herself; just gets it done. She sympathizes with Selma but it doesn’t hinder her. The story is “tight”. I like that.

          Like

        • disperser says:

          My apologies . . . I had not realized you were reading it. You’d think that with as few readers as I have I would do a better job of keeping track of who reads my stuff.

          Thanks for the encouraging words.

          Like

  4. OHMYGOSH! I love this “companion-piece” to your other (recent) POV story!!! YAY!!! What a cool idea to write both stories/sides! :-)
    I like “hearing” what’s going on in the characters minds and hearts…I like being pulled in and feeling their emotions with them.
    I think men are great “students” of women…they “study” women, and listen (or try to listen) to women, and they want (maybe?) to understand women at least a little bit, and they try to make their woman happy (as best they can)…etc…so I think a man CAN write from a female POV and do a good job! You did! :-)
    HUGS!!! :-)

    Like

  5. Nicki Ivey says:

    I enjoyed this quite a bit. There were only two words that jerked me out of the flow of the story, and that was “figure” (when she believes ‘he’ hadn’t looked/noticed it), and “player” (referring to Frank and his sleeping around). I think I would put a more specific word in place of the former, and I prefer the positive definition of the latter so much that it stings a bit to think of the negative. I think those fall solidly into “personal preference”, though, as your choices are appropriate both in the story and with the voice. Very nice!

    Like

    • disperser says:

      I hope you read the other one first (same story from the point of view of the man) as they were written sequentially. Although, some read them in reverse order. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

      I wrote figure to avoid specifics because it might hint at her considering one or more of her attributes of importance to both herself and how the world sees her. I thought the generic was better at showing she was not defining herself by any one physical attribute.

      I could say he had not “checked her out”.

      As for player . . . I don’t like that either, and that’s probably why I used it . . . some intone the label with a mixture of pride and satisfaction, whereas I wanted to bring more of the slime aspect into its meaning.

      Thanks for reading it and for the comment.

      Like

  6. badfish says:

    An interesting read!! I’ve thought about writing from a female perspective, but just never got around to it. You’ve done real well, I think! And if George Elliot can write from a man’s perspective….

    Like

  7. colonialist says:

    I cannot comment on the female perspective aspect. Although I wrote one of my fantasy novels completely from it, and parts of my latest also relate the female pov, I have no idea whether I brought it off or not on how a woman would judge it.
    All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed the story.
    In retrospect I might have liked it even more if she had dumped Frank before or without ever learning about his extracurricular activities, and if some link was brought in making it less of an incredible long shot that they reconnect in such a remote area.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Thank you. Like you, I don’t know for sure, but as long as women tell me I’m doing OK, I’ll go with it.

      As for the dumping, I was constrained (somewhat) from the first version of the story (the male perspective). It was a matter of timing and having a reason why, in retrospect, she could not find the man. Some distance and time had to pass for it to make sense, and being pressed for time I went with the obvious choice; she chose to ignore the warning signs and stay with the jerk. In my defense, I see this happening a lot, over, and over, and over again. It was not a big stretch of the imagination.

      As for the improbability of them reconnecting years later in Alaska . . . come on, don’t you believe in an intelligent universe/consciousness that to some degree affects human affairs? Cale it fate, if you will.

      On the other hand, writing about two people destined to be together but who never find each other would be both boring and tragic. I wrote about the low-percentage story because that’s the one that has people go “ahhh . . . that’s nice.”

      Like

      • colonialist says:

        I see your point on the time lapse.
        This sort of coincidence/synchronicity is seen a lot in real life, where it is believable because it has happened. Like bumping into friends in London who, to the best of one’s knowledge, were still in South Africa. In fiction, however, I find that people have a barrier which makes them happier having some sort of tie-in for such events – a common denominator which has brought both characters to the same region.
        I have a deep hatred, I must admit, of the sort of writing where the star-crossed lovers are about to bump into one another again after much angst and suffering, but one of them has a last-minute urge to visit the toilet or something, so their last opportunity for being reunited is lost. Everyone is miserable ever after. End of story.

        Like

        • disperser says:

          Well, there is a tie-in . . . a dog name Graywolf. Also, the veterinary field is fairly competitive. Perhaps Alaska has an easier entry point for new vets.

          Like

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