Wednesdays with Writers: Dr. Melissa Deuter Tackles ‘Emerging Adulthood,’ Mental Health Crisis & More

By Leslie Lindsay 

What Happens When your Emerging Adult Needs to Come Home? Dr. Melissa Deuter Talks about this and so much more in her book, STUCK IN THE SICK ROLE

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In her psychiatric urgent care practice, Dr. Melissa Deuter has been an expert in assisting families with ‘failure to launch’ young adults who seem to be stuck—whether that’s in a sick role (broadly defined as struggling with mild-to moderate depression or anxiety but may include more severe psychiatric diagnoses), but also those who are unready emotionally and socially to move into the next stage.

Through a series of vignettes, Dr. Deuter takes us on a journey in which we ‘meet’ these young,  emerging adults. Her style is down-to-earth and conversational; in such a way it feels as if one is eavesdropping on friends at a coffee shop. You may recognize familiar stories as if they were your neighbors, your best friend’s son, or your brother’s daughter. Don’t worry, everyone mentioned in STUCK IN THE SICK ROLE has a pseudonym.  The point is, the phenomenon of ‘failure to launch,’ is so widespread, so common, that we’re beginning to see a trend.

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STUCK IN THE SICK ROLE is not exactly science, though science absolutely supports that the brain is not fully developed until 25 years of age. Here, Dr. Deuter gives parents—and perhaps some ambitious emerging adults—the tools they need to go from emerging to actualized.

‘Failure to launch’ is such an important—and often neglected—topic in parenting. Parents of children of just about any age ought to tune in because kids, they grow.

I’m honored to welcome Dr. Deuter back to the blog couch. Please join us in conversation.

Leslie Lindsay: Wow. I finished this book last night and turned to my husband and said: “I see a lot of so-and-so in this and also…” He nodded slowly. Neither of us had been ‘stuck’ as young adults, we did what we had to do. Yet, expectations have changed. Why this book, why now?

Dr Deuter: This book came to life because I found myself having the same conversations with parents of late teens and twenty-somethings again and again. Most of the patients had been in mental health care treatment, and they just weren’t getting anywhere. The patients looked remarkably un-sick on clinical examination and they always showed up with parents who were baffled by their complete inability to function.

I would point out that their child was lost and flailing, and that it appeared to be a stage of life problem more than “mental illness.” Many of the parents would say, “Wow! I never thought about it like that before. Why didn’t our previous doctor our therapist tell us that?” I realized I was saying something useful and unusual. I thought maybe more people needed to read what I was saying in the office, so I started writing.

L.L. Can you talk a little about what it means to be an ‘emerging adult’ versus a ‘full-fledged’ adult? What skills and responsibilities should we possess at each stage? Is it that clear-cut?

Dr. Deuter: Emerging adulthood is basically just a term to describe young adults who aren’t in the roles of adults yet. The term was coined by a college professor and researcher (Arnett) who noticed that college students were more like teenagers as long as they were dependent on their parents and not yet self-reliant.

A full-fledged adult solves her own problems and pays her own way. An emerging adult looks to parents for guidance, emotional support, and often financial support.pexels-photo-1047958.jpeg

I think understanding that adulthood is a series of roles rather than an age can help a lot of people understand why kids these days seem so different than past generations. Society is different than it once was, so kids are affected in ways no one anticipated.

L.L.: When I was in college, a couple of peers had a ‘breakdown,’ that is, they became very anxious and perhaps depressed. School work was too much. They fretted over grades. They missed the comforts of home. They had difficulty living with roommates and structuring their time. For one, a female, this sent her packing and heading home where she lived with her parents but attended a (well-respected) local college. The other, a male, had me take him to the student health clinic for a script of anti-anxiety drugs We spent long hours talking about his issues. Do you see any gender differences in how these things are handled?

Dr. Deuter: Actually, I don’t see gender differences as much as family culture differences. I have seen young men and young women alike follow both courses. If a family has a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy, staying at school might be expected. If a different family is worried that little Tommy or Suzie can’t tolerate being so far from home, that student is probably moving back home with parents.

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L.L.:  Just as there are as many different responses as individuals, how might parents best handle these situations?

Dr. Deuter: In cases where young adults get “stuck” before becoming full-fledged adults, their parents are an important part of the recovery equation. I urge parents to observe how life skills play a role in getting stuck, and how they (the parents) may be enabling unhealthy coping if they step in and allow their child to return to teenager roles after a crisis.

L.L.: What can parents do—before there’s a ‘problem’—that might prevent college students coming back home to the comforts of their childhood home?

Dr. Deuter: There are two major things I wish all parents could do in advance of a mental health crisis in their child: 1. Parent with the end goal of adult independence in the front of your mind. Don’t just teach your children to be obedient students, make sure they have the confidence and experience to persevere and solve problems. 2. Resist the urge to rescue your child, and know that at times, it will be really hard to step back and let him figure it out. That doesn’t mean you won’t help, but as a parent, you have to address your own hang-ups and fears before a crisis hits so you’ll behave in a healthy way after.

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L.L.: Much of what we’ve been talking about has to do with college-bound individuals. It might be implied that they are relatively intelligent, middle-class, and perhaps, Caucasian, with at least one involved parent. Are you seeing this trend in other populations and across SES?

Dr. Deuter: Yes. Across socioeconomic groups, parents are sheltering kids more and helping their kids longer- well into their twenties. That said, emerging adult students are more vulnerable to the lack of skills problems than other groups. Students can be going along, meeting their goals and still not be taking on adulthood. Those who are employed acquire more adult skills than those who only attend school.

L.L.: And what happens when the person of concern has a legitimate mental illness (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, MDD) or major mental health crisis, such as rape, alcoholism/addiction, and they must come home to cope, recover? What then?

Dr. Deuter: This is a really important question. Young people can become very stuck after a crisis. Supportive families need to understand that loving involvement is a really essential part of recovery, but support should stop short of rescuing or enabling. No matter what crisis our kids have endured, we want to teach them that they can recover. They are strong and they can find the answers to healing. We don’t want to send the message that only we, the parents, can be strong and competent.

L.L.: What do you hope others take away from STUCK IN THE SICK ROLE?

Dr. Deuter: More than anything, I want people to understand that medications don’t sufficiently get people back to normal healthy lives after a crisis. Our kids are not just bags of neurotransmitters that we can “fix” with pills; they are growing up in a psychosocial and spiritual context that cannot be ignored. To address the health and functioning of our young people, we have to look at the whole picture.

L.L.: What question should I have asked but may have forgotten?

Dr. Deuter: I guess I might want you to ask: “Is your advice to parents and patients working, and how do you know?”

I will answer with a story:

One parent who has been coming to me for years to figure out how to handle tough situations with her kids (ranging in age from elementary school to mid twenties) came in with a copy of the book. She had dozens of page markers flagging different points throughout the text and she said, “Oh my gosh! I finally get it! Everything we have been talking about regarding how to make sure my kids are healthy—it’s all right here! Thank you for this and for helping us find our way all these years.”

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L.L.: Melissa, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Dr. Deuter: Thank you.

For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of STUCK IN THE SICK ROLE, please visit: 

Order Links:

DeuterpicABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Melissa Deuter is and expert and trendsetter in the world of mental health care. She founded Sigma Mental Health Urgent Care and in doing so is on the forefront, redefining how psychiatric services are delivered. Dr. Deuter is a board certified psychiatrist in San Antonio, Texas. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas and attended medical school at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She completed psychiatry residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio and served as Chief Resident. Dr. Deuter currently holds an appointment as Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UTHSCSA and is the course director for the resident training seminars on Eating Disorders and Sexuality and Sexual Development. She is a former President of the Bexar County Psychiatric Society, a current member of the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians Ethics Council, and a current member of the South Texas Psychiatric Physicians Research Network’s Executive Committee. She has been recognized as a San Antonio’s “Top Doctor” and a “Best of” Doctor, a Texas Super Doctor’s “Rising Star,” and has received the American Registry “Patient’s Choice Award.” Dr. Deuter has a special interest in early stage psychiatric care, differentiating serious illness from normal brain development, and the unique mental health needs of emerging adults.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites: 

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#KeepTalkingMH #psychiatry #MH #MentalHealth #Parenting #College 

 

[Cover and author image courtesy of PRbytheBook and used with permission] 

WeekEND Reading: Leah DeCesare uses the Utensil Classification System (UCS) to find “Mr. Right,” plus how nostalgia bolsters health, college years, first jobs, and so much more in FORKS, KNIVES & SPOONS

By Leslie Lindsay 

Nostalgic, witty tale of college girlfriends and their search for Mr. Right in this debut from Leah DeCesare. 

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I tore through FORKS, KNIVES, and SPOONS mostly because DeCesare has such an easy, relatable writing style. It’s about love and growth, friendship, the murky place between childhood and adulthood, and ultimately: discovery.

Plus, the timing’s right for a pre-Valentine’s Day read.

Amy York is a freshman at Syracuse University. She’s been raised by a single dad who dishes out some timely advice the evening before taking her to college for the first time: there are three types of guys–forks, knives, and spoons. The ultimate goal is a steak knife. He calls this the Utensil Classification System (UCS). It’s lighthearted, but Amy takes it very seriously educating her roommate and other college friends about the UCS.

I was immediately thrust back in time to the last 1980s and early 1990s (when the story is set) and waxed nostalgic at the mention of Benetton sweaters, Swatch watches, Tretorns, George Michael, Aqua Net, Van Halen and so much more. DeCesare completely pegged the time period with complete accuracy.

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There were girls (and guys) of all kinds–those I remember well from my own college days–and her characterizations were spot-on. I wanted to know what happened to these folks and how it all tied up in the end (my predictions were right–and then I breathed a sigh of relief). I also really enjoyed the big, boisterous Italian family described in the second-half of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS.

So whip up a chocolate mousse, or call for some take out Chinese and settle in with me and Leah as we chat about FORKS, KNIVES, and SPOONS.

Leslie Lindsay: Leah, the Utensil Classification System (UCS) is so original, so different and I really appreciated it. What was your inspiration for it? Was it really your dad, or something else that triggered the idea? And can you give us a brief run-down of what each category represents?

Leah DeCesare: Thanks for reading and having me, Leslie. The inspiration for FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS does come from a real talk my father gave me before sending me off to college in 1988. I wrote the scene of Tom York telling his daughter, Amy, based on how I remember my dad telling me, one difference is my mom was with us too.

In brief, the forks are the arrogant, jerky guys (we all know the forks), the spoons are geeks (remember this was the 80s way before a “geek” was cool, think Revenge of the Nerds), and the knife category is the biggest, he told me, in the knives I could find a good guy, someone who may not be as confident yet around girls, but where I’d find a guy who cared about me.

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L.L.: I was completely smitten with the time period. I was in college in the mid-late 1990s, so by then we had email (but no social media) and pagers (!) but there were still so many universals with the college experience: the painted cinder block walls in dorms, the formals, rush, all of that. How did you make the decision to set the novel in this time period and say, not today, in 2018?

Leah DeCesare: My oldest daughter started college this fall – an unintended life parallel as the story starts with young college freshmen women released – and during our college tour phase, the campuses and dorms and dining halls are all so much nicer and higher end than when we were in school. But, I decided to set the story in the same years I went to college, first, because I thought it would be easier for reference since I’d lived it, that turned out not to be true. It took a ton of research to get things right and accurate – how much did a CD player cost in 1990 anyway? Truthfully, I couldn’t write the same authentic college experience set today without hanging out and planting myself on college campuses, it was more genuine since it was what I had lived.

However, beyond those more technical reasons, I also love that setting the story in a different era highlights the messages of the book. The story is ultimately about friendship and believing in yourself – something that women of all ages need to hear, and hear loudly. The fact that this takes place in the late 80s/early 90s underscores similarities of the times and themes. There is still sexual assault (don’t we know it! #metoo) and excessive drinking; there is still the need to trust others and really connect with people (not behind screens), and there is still a fervent need for women to genuinely believe we can achieve anything, that we must value ourselves, that were are worth being loved, respected and so much more.

Leah DeCesare captured me on the very first line, ‘There are three types of guys: forks, knives and spoons.’ With imagination, highly relatable characters, and witty dialogue we are taken back to our youths – reevaluating and categorizing all of our crushes. A lovely story of friendship, love, and the amazing time between childhood and adulthood.
Dawn Lerman, bestselling author of My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family with Recipes, New York Times Well Blog columnist

L.L.: Speaking of nostalgia, I just read about there’s a restorative power of nostalgia; it contributes to feelings of optimism, which is linked to improved mood, less pain, and other wellness outcomes like lowering blood pressure and improving GI function. Who knew? Can you expand on that? What did writing about this time period do for you?

Leah DeCesare: Wow! That’s great to hear and it makes sense to me. Books take us to other places and times and allow our minds and hearts to experience new things, to walk in another’s footsteps, to empathize, consider life from another point of view, and to stir self reflection.

Writing FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS definitely let me retrieve and relive old, happy memories. Writing pulled me deeply into thoughts and feelings of my college years, that playful time of youth, and life as a new adult in New York City. Tidbits and kernels of scenes were gleaned from real life memories and still make me smile. I love that time period, as well as that time of my life — though I’m happy where I am now and I’d never want to return.

I like that there’s science behind what we already sense, and I like that reading my book can help contribute to a reader’s wellbeing.

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L.L.:  Along those lines, I was thinking, ‘oh, this would be a great book for a younger girl as she navigates the complexities of late high school/college.’ And then I thought, ‘maybe not’ (due to some more mature themes). The time period made me think the story was for women in their late 30s-early 40s with the 1980s references. Who do you see as your ideal reader? And what genre would  you identify FORKS, KNIVES, and SPOONS?

Leah DeCesare: So, initially I was thinking the target reader would be women finishing college and entering their first post-college jobs, starting to settle into a career path and finding a partner to love. I also figured there would be interest from “women of a certain age” who had lived this pre-Internet world, so very different from life today. I had beta readers of both age groups and found that the younger women enjoyed the time period even without the nostalgia that older women experienced.

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In traveling and talking with readers about the book, I’ve found some wonderful things happening: mothers and daughters are bonding over the story, younger women tend to gravitate and to use UCS while older women savor the throw-back to earlier times, and there is a big population of women who are in their 40s/50s who appreciate both the nostalgia AND the UCS as they return to the dating world after divorce or loss of a spouse. It was unexpected, but there’s also been a high school readership. I had a woman get in touch with me last spring because she was buying a dozen books for her daughter and her daughter’s friends as a high school graduation gift.

As for genre, I don’t love the term chick-lit because it seems to devalue both the story/writing and the reader – as if it’s simple or fluff. I think of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS as book club fiction, women’s fiction. I like smart stories about women who grow, learn about themselves and change through the course of the story and that’s what I tried to deliver in FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS which is ultimately about women believing in themselves without tying their value to a man. I believe there are a lot of angles and substance, though the book is not heavy, that readers can ponder, evaluate, discuss, and apply to their own lives.

L.L.: I can remember feeling a bit like Amy in college…wondering if I’d ever get a ring. At the tail-end of college, I attended the first wedding of one of my friends and was such a dud at the reception. I didn’t even have a boyfriend and she was getting married! Is college the time to meet one’s spouse? Why do you think we feel that pressure?

Leah DeCesare: You ask the best questions! I’ve pondered this a lot. My parents met at the freshman welcome picnic in college and so on some level, I think I expected to meet my husband in college — I didn’t. I think the opportunity to meet a lot of options for spouses in college makes it a time ripe for meeting “the one.” I definitely wonder if younger women still feel any sense pressure or desire to find a spouse while in school. I wrote an article about this very topic if you’re interested:
Husband-Hunting on Campus.

L.L.:  I adored the big, boisterous Italian family. In that sense, it reminded me of some of Lisa Scottoline’s work. And made me super-hungry for a bowl of pasta. [Good thing we’re going to the Italian Village in downtown Chicago tonight.] And then I read your acknowledgements section and see that it’s peppered with plenty of Italian names. Something tells me you know this Italian family quite intimately?

Leah DeCesare: Ha – yes! My steak knife, I mean, my husband, is 100% Italian and I’m about half+ Italian. I absolutely modeled those scenes of Joey’s family after his family, perhaps amped up a little bit, then again, perhaps not! Those were some of my favorite scenes to write and are still some of my favorites in the book. Anyone who’s got some Italian in their family will relate to those loud, loving moments. They still make me laugh when I read them. p-300x336

L.L.: What do you still pine for from  your college days, even a little bit? What are you glad is over?

Leah DeCesare: It’s hard to believe how far removed I am from my college days. I guess if there’s something I miss, it’s the fun of constantly having people all around, of meeting new people and the spontaneity and the social spirit of school. I also love traveling and my semester abroad was one of the best times of my life.

I love learning and classes and reading, but I had three majors in college and always had a very full course load. I recall the stress of always, always, always, having something I should be doing except on Christmas and summer breaks, so I can say I don’t miss that! Though I guess I always have something I should be doing now, too, but it feels different.

L.L.: Leah, it’s been a pleasure. What question should I have asked, but may have forgotten?

Leah DeCesare: I’d love to just mention to your readers that if they like a book, please review it. Those little stars really, really matter to authors. So, on behalf of authors everywhere – THANK YOU!

L.L.: Thanks again and hope your steak knife treats you well this Valentine’s Day!

Leah DeCesare:  It has been such fun – your questions were thoughtful and fantastic!

For more information, to connect with with author via social media, or to purchase a copy of FORKS, KNIVES, SPOONS, please see:

Order Links:

leah decesare croppedABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Leah DeCesare’s childhood dream was to become an author though she never expected her first book to be about parenting. The Naked Parentingseries stemmed from her main gig as mother of three and she writes between car pools and laundry.

Forks, Knives, and Spoons is her debut novel. (SparkPress, April 2017).  Leah has also written articles for publication in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, The Key, and other online outlets and local publications.

Married for over 22 years, Leah’s current parenting adventures revolve around kids, tween and teenagers, creating the basis for her Mother’s Circle parenting blog, where she shares perspectives on parenting from pregnancy through teens.

Her pre-baby professional experience was in public relations and event planning and for the past fifteen years, her career has focused on birth, babies, and early parenting as a certified childbirth educator, a birth and postpartum doula.

She parents, writes and volunteers in Rhode Island.

You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:

LOVE IT? SHARE IT! 

[Cover and author image courtesy of L. DeCesare and used with permission. All images retrieved 2.1.18. I ‘heart’ 1908s neon sign from, dining hall rendering from, mothers and daughters reading from, campus image from L. DeCesare’s article book cover with hearts from, ]

Write On, Wednesday: What Drives YOU

Write on, Wednesday:  Decontrusting a NovelBy Leslie Lindsay

You know those slightly annoying, yet crazy fun time-waster quizzes that pop up on Facebook, ones like “what color is your aura” and “what animal were you in a past life?” Of course you do–you’ve guiltily clicked on them while looking over your shoulder to make sure no one was watching, completed the quiz and learned that, lo and behold you were a fun-loving optimistic dolphin in a previous lifetime and your aura is yellow, because you’re so freaking optimistic how could it be any other color but that of the blazing sun.

Have you come across the quiz entitled, “What Emotion Drives YOU?” I write this with a slight distaste and shrug only because shouldn’t we inherently know what drives us? Ah, the conumdrum.

So, I completed the 10 questions and the result: curiosity. Yep, I am driven by intrigue. I knew that. What writer isn’t? What psychologist isn’t? I write because I am curious. I study human behavior because I find it fascinating. And when one combines the two—human behavior and curiosity—an amazing thing happens in literature: your characters come alive. Writing is a means to explore all of those questions, moments of intrigue, and things you want to reach further into your psyche for.

Many folks will say that to be a writer, one must know a lot of things. That might be true to a certain extent. Being a writer doesn’t mean I have all of the inner workings of the human mind tightly locked into my brain or that I am particularly astute at human behavior, it just means that I observe it like nobody’s business. And it also means that if there is something I don’t understand 100%, I will look it up. In today’s standards, it is so much easier to be a curious writer than in days past. We have this lovely thing called the Internet.

I don’t know much about Victorian-era brothels. So, I turn to my good friend, Google for some answers. I really don’t know squat about college fraternities, either. But my trusted cohort of Facebook friends know a few things….or they can point me in the right direction for a little more. And how about single-occupant freak car accidents and the Mob in St.Louis? Was there a mob in St. Louis? Well, I am going to find out. And yeah…what about that older-than-dirt building that sits on the corner of Cherry and 9th Streets in Columbia, Missouri? (I do know it’s the oldest standing building in the college town, built in 1837 and once scheduled for demolishment in 2012—alas it has been saved).

And then there is weaving all of these little brain curiosities into a novel. Easy-peasy, right?

Le sigh.

I am a whopping 14,000 words into this novel and that’s pretty darn good considering I just finished the “other one” on Labor Day. But now, I feel a little stuck. La-di-da…I’m sort of sitting her twiddling my thumbs and thinking of a post-Thanksgiving retreat to my old college town in my home state of Missouri. You know, a little research.

The Tiger Hotel is supposedly haunted. And historic. Maybe I should book a room? Of course, there’s got to be a trip to the State Historical Society located at Ellis Library where I can look at old plat maps of Columbia in the late 1800s. I’ll do a few frat house drive-by, too. And while I am out that way, I just may swing into the rolling bluffs of Rocheport for a little winery action. Nah—scratch the Tiger Hotel, I’ll stay at the welcoming Yates House B&B where the food is mighty delicious. I’ll roll up my sleeves and do a little writing…and ghost hunting…and reminiscing with my hubby, who also knows a thing or two about MU

And in the meantime, I will continue to poke around on various websites and read some books, and look at old Savitar images on-line and re-read my Mizzou Alumni Magazine hoping for a little shove in the right (write) direction…because, you know…inquiring minds want to know.

[image of niedermeyer builing retrieved from  law.missouri.edu on 10.22.14]

Fiction Friday: Better Late than Never

By Leslie Lindsay1028567918_rd7wi-ti-1.jpg

It’s Friday about one more hour here in the central part of the US and I best get my promised Fiction Friday post out.  If you’re on the West Coast, then I guess I am not so tardy…

This one is something I’ve been working on lately to add a little dark edge to my novel-in-progress.  Let me know your thoughts when you get a second…a star, a comment, a like, a re-post to Twitter or Facebook is always a good way to let me know if you liked it. Enjoy…

 

“I used to imagine it sometimes, what would happen if I just didn’t come home.  The thought always came to me when I was feeling particularly unworthy, lacking confidence, seeking attention.  God, I hated how that sounded; like I was an attention-seeking borderline threatening to run off or take my own life.  I could never do that, not really anyway.  The thought was always more about sharing my pain with others, letting them know just how miserable I felt deep down.  My desire to disappear came forth in the form of generosity.  Let me show you how I feel; Welcome to my personal hell; you should feel lucky.

 

          They were anything but lucky.  My desperation and irritability put a shield around me, making me lonely in busy world. 

          “I wish I could just drive my car off a cliff,” I’d say.  Or, perhaps I met my demise in some other way; the 18-wheeler would come barreling into my tiny Toyota crushing it like a tin can, with me in the driver’s seat.  My short life would flash before my eyes, summer camps and dance recitals, class photos, and crushes. Steve.

          Whatever it was, something terrible would happen and my friends and family—would have to return to my apartment to find all of the daily pieces of my interrupted life.  My dad would see the microbiology text left open on my desk, those tiny colored tabs ruffling the edges of the book.  Remember this.  Memorize that.  My mother would pick up my thong underwear in the corner of the room with her manicured nails and wonder why I spent money on a piece of clothing that covered so little. My roommate would thumb through the mail and set aside the Psychology Today magazine.  There would be to-do notes and lists throughout my bedroom, a brush with hair still entwined in it, Tom Petty stuck in the CD player, framed photos of me and friends, a smattering of greeting cards propped up like dummies. 

          This is how it would look.  A snapshot of my life.  Don’t touch it.  It’s my life.  I would try with all of my might to communicate the message but I would be gone.  Dead, probably.   Because running off wouldn’t be enough.

          Hiding out can only last so long.  Eventually one has to come back, reclaim their old life, or find a new one.  And really, who can reinvent themselves?  We think we can, but when it comes down to it, our personalities are so ingrained, it would be impossible. 

          So being dead would be better. 

          Friends and family—and people I don’t even know would come to my funeral.  They’d wear black and bow their heads and mutter things like she was such a nice person, always smiling…I had no idea…such a tragedy…she held so much promise.  They’d lay flowers on my casket and hug and shed some tears.

          And Steve would be there, too.  His eyes would be glassy and bloodshot, a dark suit, three-days worth of scruff.  He’d lean in and whisper to my parents, “I really loved her, you know?”  They’d nod and pull Steve into a three-way embrace, tears streaming down momma’s face.  Dad would reach up and touch the corner of his eye, but no tears would flow.  After the hug, they’d hold Steve with outstretched arms, resting their hands on his broad shoulders, “You were good for her, son,” they’d say and this time, they’d mean it.  They’d be sorry it was over.  Sorry they never accepted him like I had. 

          Steve would press his lips into a tight line and nod solemnly, his gaze gliding to the open doorway where Beth Donovan sits on a divan in a gray dress and black heels.  She’d twist her face into the doorway of the funeral parlor and there may be tears because she’s my age and she knows that it could have easily have been her who was side-smacked in an accident. How fleeting—and precious life can be.  Perhaps the tears were because she knew she caused my death.”

Fiction Friday: Even the Losers…

By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

A backstory chapter I’ve been toiling over working on this past week.  Guy wants girl back.  Girl is busy.  This picks up in the middle of the chapter, told from a guy’s POV. 

          We sat for a minute more, Annie with her eagle-eyes looking over her handiwork on the furniture and me feeling like an ass for having dropped by like I had. I wiped a splatter of white paint from her cheek.  She turned slightly away from me, a pale shade of pink creeping up her neck.

            “Uh, Steve,” half question, half statement,” I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m kind of busy.” 

           “I know.”  I looked around the room again.  The CD had skipped songs to another Petty favorite. 

           If you’re making me wait, if you’re leading me on. 

          I cleared my voice.  God, I really shouldn’t have come by.  Why did I?  But I knew the answer.  “I am wondering when you might want to get back together.”  It all came out without any thought.  Diarrhea of the mouth. 

        Annie choked on her iced tea, a little inside joke we called her “drinking problem.”  It happened when she felt flustered or needed to say something quickly.   I knew she wasn’t really choking, but I leaned forward and patted her back, anyway.  Anything to touch her again. Warm electric jolts ran through my body. 

         Finally, the coughing settled, she wiped the tears from her eyes and regained composure. “Well, goodness!  My ICP is increased and my lacrimal ducts are working just fine.” 

        I rolled my eyes, “Is that a good thing?” 

        She shrugged, “Depends on what you’re looking for.  If you are assessing a TBI—

        “You.  I’m looking for you.” 

        She smiled at that, albeit, a little one. “Steve…please.”  She shook her head, her voice soft. 

        I need to know. 

        I tilted my head trying to find her eyes, her bandana flopped forward.

       “I don’t know,” she whispered.

        I was confused.  “What don’t you know?” 

       “If we’ll get back together.  You’ve asked me this before.”

        I nodded.  My lips itched to kiss hers.

       “Well, maybe someday.  I don’t know,” her voice trailed off.  She pulled her knees to her chest, a bit of cleavage I couldn’t help noticing. 

       “When?” I pressed, hopeful it would be sooner rather than later.  Sooner than the five years she had quoted me earlier. 

       She sighed, averted her eyes to the right, “Maybe in 5 years or so.” Her look tells me all I need to know; she’s annoyed. 

       I need to know.

       “You told me that before.” 

       “Well, I guess you could say I’m consistent?” She shrugged, proud of herself. 

        “But that was a year ago.  Would it be safe to say, T-1 year equals four years?”

        I need someone more mature, Steve. 

        I’m a whole year older. 

        But, Steve….you need to act more immature. 

        I will. I can change. 

        But, Steve…I don’t want to make you change.

      She just wanted a perfect person the first time around.  She didn’t say that, I just assumed that was what she was thinking.

        She rolled her eyes, and gave me a little shove, “Whatever.  Why do you have to be such a nerd?”

        I smiled in spite of myself.  It was a nerdy way of asking.  I surveyed the room and wished her ‘good luck’ with her decorating project.  I placed my emptied glass on the counter between the two rooms.  The kitchen was filled with lemons and Greek isle prints. 

       She said she wanted to explore the world, go to Europe or something.  I told her I liked French-kissingMy joke didn’t amuse her.

        The kitchen represented part of her dream.  Bright blue and white and yellow.  Like Greece.  The girl could decorate.  The place sure looked better than most college dives I’d been to. 

        I never even asked if she was seeing anyone else.  It’d kill me if she was.

        Even the losers keep a little pride.   Even the losers get lucky sometimes.