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HELP (I Don't Have a Title Yet)

by mavisknightley


Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language.

I find myself in a weird place right now. For one, the lack of sleep seems to have caught up with me because I find myself at the tail end of a five month battle with pneumonia. There’s also the fact that I broke up with my boyfriend on a Wednesday and then woke up the following Tuesday in the arms of another man. And now said man is bringing me milkshakes in bed.

I’m not entirely sure what happened there but I’m kind of liking it.

Shall we delve into the story together, dear reader? I assure you, it is a doozy.

Original Boyfriend (we’ll call him Nelson) was like a dream in the beginning. He was over six feet of bearded, bespectacled (and toned!) dork, and I loved it. He was utterly unprecedented in my book; twenty six years old, with a masters degree in psychology, charm to match, and a well paying job at the college where I work. We had lunches on historic Main Streets. He was a theatre kid. When we cooked meals together in my kitchen, he would insist upon doing the dishes afterward. It was like dating Danny Tanner and Johnny Depp’s love child. I was enthralled.

It came to light rather rapidly how troubled he was beneath that carefully crafted facade. He had been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, had been out of therapy for a year, and had been off of his medications for months.

A couple months into the relationship, I was caring for him as a mother would for her child, and I don’t say that to sound like some great martyr. The infatuation had clearly died, but rather than run, I promised I would stay by his side as long as he needed support. While I was determined to stick to that promise, many nights went like this:

Nelson: “I’m so glad to have you in my life.” (8:00 pm)

Nelson: “I just don’t know if I can give you everything you need.” (8:03 pm)

Nelson: “We don’t spend enough time together.” (8:10 pm)

Nelson: “I don’t think I can give you more time.” (8:15 pm)

One week later: Repeat!

Exhausted, I found myself wrapping my arms around my body, trying to literally pull it together. I had a hard enough time keeping my own shit in order, with a full time school schedule and a job to balance. Trying to emotionally manage another person too was overwhelming.

Cue Guy #2.

Liam is a tall lanky IT geek with a passion for military mechanics, punk music, and technology. He builds literal computers with his bare hands, has a gorgeous curiosity for everything, and his wit is unparalleled. Liam is also employed at the college where I work.

I know what you’re thinking. Dear me! Another co-worker???

I must have missed that day in class when they covered the “Don’t Shit Where You Eat” concept.

Anywho.

Liam was one of the guys who regularly comes to chat with me at the reception desk where I work, and we got to be fast friends. There was an effortless banter to the way we talked, like a tennis match of facetious witticisms and old music. This was the ease of an old childhood friendship, minus the childhood part. I have distinct memories of laughing at Liam’s turned back as he walked away, returning to work having just uttered some ridiculous joke or other. These were the only instances of real laughter that I can remember from then. It was a dark time.

At this point, my boyfriend and I were rolling downhill with all the force of an armed tank. He was getting needier and needier, and while I was willing to work with him, I was getting the imminent sense that the amount of care that I was investing in our relationship was not being matched. It was like being on a rowing team in which only one person hold the oars.

Meanwhile, Liam and I were meeting (platonically!) for midnight Denny’s runs, and we went for aimless moonlit drives, during which we blared obnoxious music, took random turns, and drove onward into the night just to see where we’d end up. Once we found ourselves many, many miles from home on an old cracked road that wound and twisted through dark, hilled farmland. We turned off the headlights, got out of the car, and walked for what seemed like an eternity (still platonic!). Overhead, power lines hummed and the stars were our only source of light. We had nowhere to be, nothing to worry about, and an infinite world of conversation spread before us. I had never felt so free in my life. I can remember looking up at Liam’s starlit face as we walked, thinking that I had finally found that ever elusive wingman I had for so long dreamed of, and never thought I’d find. It was like having a best friend after a lifetime of being alone.

About a month into this, a friend of mine from work invited me to his beach house on the Eastern Shore for a weekend. It seemed a home renovation show was interested in filming his house, and he wanted me to be part of the process since I was an actress.

It was a fabulous work opportunity and I was always down for a road trip, but I did not feel comfortable sleeping in a grown man’s house by myself. I voiced this to my boyfriend, whom my friend had also cordially invited to stay. My boyfriend was not enthusiastic about accompanying me, claimed he had better things to do, and wished me luck on the journey.

Miffed, I voiced this same concern to Liam. He assured me that he was happy to come along, and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.

I returned to my boyfriend with Liam’s offer, and explained that I would be spending the night in a house with not one, but two grown men. If he was not completely okay with this, I would call off the whole thing right then and there.

“Nope. I don’t care,” he told me.

So I went.

Liam and I took my car, because I love to drive, and the first half of the trip was like flying. We were broadcasting the Beastie Boys, the Cramps, old jazz, and a myriad of ancient hip hop from the open windows. I was making good time on the highway too, cracking god awful jokes because I loved making him laugh, while also weaving in and out of traffic like a total ass wipe.

This explains why I was pulled over by state police for going 90 in a 55.

I was NOT given a warning. I was given a ticket, worth five points on my record and accompanied by a $390 fine. And then I was told to have a nice day.

I don’t recall much of the second leg of our journey beyond peeing a little and crying a lot, but upon arrival, my friend took us out for consolatory drinks.

It was a neon lights and sand floors type of bar, nestled upon the beach, and while sitting in a wooden booth by the water, sipping something that had quite a lot of rum in it, we started discussing tickets and speeding and the consequences of such a large amount of points on one’s record and what happens if you don’t pay the fine and shady things that others have done to avoid the ticket that resulted in arrest and all of a sudden the open-air bar got very small and very stuffy and the concept of breathing vanished from my mind like a tissue in the wind.

Then, Liam did something quite small, but very significant to me.

He simply cupped his hands over mine on the table. It was brief; he pulled them away, seeming to recognize what that small act signified only after he’d done it. I felt something stir inside of me, something new and strange, took a large swig of rum, and tried to forget about it.

Afterward, we hit another bar at my friend’s bequest, and also at my friend’s bequest, Liam got incredibly drunk. It didn’t take much; two Guiness and half of whatever rum drink we had at the beach bar, and he was tanked.

It had been my plan since this trip’s inception to spend the night walking on the beach, preferably until dawn. Around midnight, after Liam had downed a hard lemonade (much to my friend’s hilarity) he and I set off for the ocean on foot.

It was dark, and damp, and chilly, when we reached the sand. Something more than a breeze but not quite a wind whipped my hair into my face as we walked. Our menu of conversation consisted of existentialism and our whacky families and mechanics and our careers and things that still stung from our pasts, and before I knew it, we were miles away from our starting point. The four o’clock hour crept upon us.

Also on the menu that evening was the subject of skinny dipping.

“Well. Here’s a good spot,” announced Liam.

I stared agape at him, unsure of what to do. I’d given the idea a fervent “hell yeah” in discussion but actually exposing my thong-beclad ass to the beachfront hotel rooms behind us was something else entirely.

“I mean, you don’t have to,” he amended. “But I’m going to.”

A smile turned the corners of my mouth, I could feel it.

“You want to, don’t you?” he accused, smiling too.

I nodded.

“Well, you’re here. Why not now?”

I insisted upon mulling about for an extra 15 minutes to find an even darker, secluded-er spot, and then I went for it. There was a nervous sputter in the base of my stomach, but not for the reasons that might be expected. Ordinarily, I would have been incredibly intimidated by being so vulnerable, so, well, naked, in front of another human being. I was not so with Liam. Instead, having just committed my first offense with the law, I was concerned about public indecency charges. There were, after all, sleeping holidaymakers behind us in the distance.

There was also the ever prevalent notion that I was not a free woman. Liam and I were definitely nothing more than friends, I assured myself, but I was well aware of the anxiety riddled young man that I’d left at home.

Didn’t stop me though.

“You first,” I shooed him off. “I’ll close my eyes.”

Confession: I didn’t actually close my eyes.

Sneakily, I peeked just a smidge out of my left eye and caught a glimpse of Liam’s bare white ass glowing in the moonlight as he streaked across the sand to the sea. Part of me felt the urge to giggle like a little girl. Part of me wanted to heckle him for the way his cheeks jiggled entertainingly as he ran. And part of me was intrigued by the sight of his skin, and all at once I wanted very much to join him.

First the jacket came off. Then the pants, slowly, slowly, followed by my t shirt. I folded these items neatly in a small pile, placed on top of my shoes, and stood, ocean air moist against my body, feeling both liberated and intoxicated. I strode toward the water’s edge.

That water was cold as fuck, man. Holy hell.

I cowered up to mid calf in arctic frigidity as Liam threatened to drag me in deeper. I promised him a silent and witness free death if he did so, and he smartly opted to sit down in the water. We were quiet for a while. I noticed that there is something about those silent moments that drift by unsullied by conversation, in which two people can just be, that felt a lot like relief.

We watched the stone grey waves lap at the beach, leaving behind great froths of bubbly whiteness, and then one at a time, we returned to the sand to fetch our clothes.

Pro tip: do not attempt getting dressed immediately after climbing out of the Atlantic. There was a stickiness on our skin, like we had rolled some sort of salty sap on a forest floor, that bunched up our clothing uncomfortably. We ended up in the water again, but this time, fully dressed.

“Run with me.” Liam said suddenly.

My first thought, admittedly, was, “...why?”

“C’mon.” He extended one cold pruny palm toward me. “Take my hand.”

So I did.

We emerged even wetter and stickier than before, but god was it worth it. He picked me up and swung me around in the air, faking the swift movement in which he might toss me out to open sea many times. I was startled by how able he was, throwing my weight about like a small sack of potatoes. My arms interlocked around his neck for the first time, as though the movement had been rehearsed for performance, and I threw my head back, laughing gloriously

This was still totally platonic, by the way. Just to clarify.

After that, we made the long trek back. Showers were in order when we returned. Then, finally warm and clean, I discovered Liam sleeping in the overcast early morning light that filtered in through the dirty windows of the beach house, on the smallest available couch. He reminded me of a child, the way he was curled in on himself, half in the fetal position, entirely too big for that loveseat. He had a hand awkwardly tucked between his knees, and he burrowed his face into the pillow with little subconscious snuggly movements. I located a thick blanket, draped it over him lightly, and laid down myself on the larger couch opposite him. A moment or two passed.

All of a sudden, I was struck with something, something bigger and stronger than I had ever felt before. It was the sudden burst of understanding that I was a goddamn liar.

The unanticipated onslaught of protectiveness and warmth and familiarity and fascination and holy hell, attraction that I felt for this guy hit me like a bullet train. The past couple months that we’d spent together found me on a one way race track, continually passing the “We’re just friends! Honest!” mark about seven thousand times. But the truth was, I had fallen for Liam, unyieldingly, and irrevocably.

Ohhh, was I in trouble.

In time, exhaustion hit me as well, and I awoke a few hours later. We grabbed some greasy Denny’s food to combat his hangover, and drove home.

A week and a half later, in a dark and vacant parking lot, Nelson approached me with more emotional anxieties and we together decided it was better to part ways for good. He needed space to sort himself out, perhaps return to therapy. And just like that, I was free.

Days later, I awoke in Liam’s protective embrace, wrapped in my own blankets, in my own bed. We only slept together in the literal sense, but a week after that, it was revealed that Liam had feelings for me.

“We need to take it slow,” I told him. “I really love having you around and I don’t want you to become the rebound guy because that does exist and what happens if we break up? Could we really still be friends? Going back to what we were would be impossible and *anxiety* and *worry*, etc.”

Naturally after that conversation we found ourselves avidly making out on an afternoon train to New York City, approximately one week later. Now I find myself thinking about kids with him.

It’s weird.

Something about him makes me breathe easier. Pre-Liam, I analyzed my life with the biggest honking magnifying glass I could find, going over extraneous details and nothingnesses with superfluous intensity. I wrote essay after essay after essay trying to figure things out. But this boy makes me want to do more than just analyze. He makes me want to live.

I also feel more supported and loved than I ever have in my life. We have spent holidays together. Our families are happy with our choices in significant others. This story has one of those sappy happily ever after endings that used to make me vomit into my own lap.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. I would ordinarily say “don’t date the people you work with” but my second attempt at this concept has worked out beautifully, so…

Maybe my point is that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to try things, and experiment, and not look back. In the end, you might end up finding the best thing that has ever happened to you.


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Tue May 08, 2018 6:51 pm
elysian wrote a review...



Hello! Been wanting to review this for quite some time, so here I finally am!

**disclaimer: I will most likely focus on negative aspects more so than positive aspects when reviewing, and this is just to help you grow as a writer! It is totally okay not to agree with something I say! Also, If I repeat anything already said, it's probably because it needs to be changed!**

Let's get into it!

Grammar:

For one, the lack of sleep seems to have caught up with me because I find myself at the tail end of a five month battle with pneumonia.


*five-month

And now said man is bringing me milkshakes in bed.


*And now the said man is

He was utterly unprecedented in my book; twenty six years old, with a masters degree in psychology, charm to match, and a well paying job at the college where I work.


*twenty-six
*well-paying

I had a hard enough time keeping my own shit in order, with a full time school schedule and a job to balance.


*full-time

It was like being on a rowing team in which only one person hold the oars.


*holds

He assured me that he was happy to come along, and that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me.


*no comma after along

I returned to my boyfriend with Liam’s offer, and explained that I would be spending the night in a house with not one, but two grown men.


*no comma after offer

[quoteWe were broadcasting the Beastie Boys, the Cramps, old jazz, and a myriad of ancient hip hop from the open windows. I was making good time on the highway too, cracking god awful jokes because I loved making him laugh, while also weaving in and out of traffic like a total ass wipe.[/quote]

*hip-hop
*god-awful

I felt something stir inside of me, something new and strange, took a large swig of rum, and tried to forget about it.


*no comma after rum

Afterward, we hit another bar at my friend’s bequest, and also at my friend’s bequest, Liam got incredibly drunk. It didn’t take much; two Guiness and half of whatever rum drink we had at the beach bar, and he was tanked.


*request
*Guinness

It was dark, and damp, and chilly, when we reached the sand.


*It was dark, damp, and chilly when we reached the sand.

Liam and I were definitely nothing more than friends, I assured myself, but I was well aware of the anxiety riddled young man that I’d left at home.


*anxiety-riddled

First the jacket came off.


*First, the

Then the pants, slowly, slowly, followed by my t shirt.


*t-shirt

There was a stickiness on our skin, like we had rolled some sort of salty sap on a forest floor, that bunched up our clothing uncomfortably.


*no comma after skin

“Run with me.” Liam said suddenly.


*me,"

The unanticipated onslaught of protectiveness and warmth and familiarity and fascination and holy hell, attraction that I felt for this guy hit me like a bullet train.


*the attraction

The past couple months that we’d spent together found me on a one way race track, continually passing the “We’re just friends! Honest!” mark about seven thousand times.


*one-way

We grabbed some greasy Denny’s food to combat his hangover, and drove home.


*no comma after hangover

Naturally after that conversation we found ourselves avidly making out on an afternoon train to New York City, approximately one week later.


*Naturally,
*conversation,

The past couple months that we’d spent together found me on a one-way race track, continually passing the “We’re just friends! Honest!” mark about seven thousand times.


*racetrack

I cowered up to mid calf in arctic frigidity as Liam threatened to drag me in deeper.


*mid-calf

Story:

Okay, so I just finished and damn. That was amazing, and I loved every single part of it. I feel like the last two reviews did a great job critiquing this and I honestly can't think of anything to say, you gave me something I could just sit back, read, and enjoy! Thank you!

you could call this "Finding Liam" idk that's what comes to mind :p

- Delonie




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Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:06 pm
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alliyah wrote a review...



Wow, this story was quite the journey.

Genre
My first suggestion is to switch the genre from Article/Essay to Short Story or Other, because people looking for a good story will miss this one if it's under the Essay category.

In future works, I'd also suggest not putting author's notes in the title area like "I don't have a title yet" because this diminishes the reader's confidence in the author before they've even chosen to click the story - similarly you might do better with the title being "Help" rather than "HELP" because - all caps on the internet is seen as yelling and could intimidate potential readers.

Also, for me it was not 100% clear if this piece was autobiographical or if it was fiction - which made it pretty amusing to read, but also a bit confusing ultimately.


Overall Impressions
I love the voice of the narrator - so conversational and slightly sassy. It felt like a friend was narrating the events of there life to me, and this was kept throughout the entire piece.

It felt like the narrator didn't play a very big role in her own story. For instance the text messages we don't get her responses, and sometimes it felt like she was just describing everything around her without getting the internal description too. There were good internal dialogue points - but I think the balance of this could be worked on a bit.

Throughout the story I had a hard time pinpointing the tone. The language was crass throughout with plenty of swearing and drinking and also seemed to have a somewhat shallow view of both men. On the other hand the narrator seemed deeply nostalgic and romantic - so these two ideas were always competing. This little paragraph illustrates that pretty well:

It had been my plan since this trip’s inception to spend the night walking on the beach, preferably until dawn. Around midnight, after Liam had downed a hard lemonade (much to my friend’s hilarity) he and I set off for the ocean on foot.


I'm not sure if that was intended to be funny, but I found the juxtaposition hilarious and a bit unnatural. I would say if you are aiming for a humorous/overly dramatic tone, the two tones are fine. However if you want the piece to be a little more natural, maybe try to blend the tones a bit more and make the transitions between the two a bit less jolting. [It gives the effect of reading a swear word in the middle of a Shakespeare sonnet, it's just a bit disorienting however also very funny].

Suggestions
The section where you introduce Nelson feels like way too much information all at once, I had a hard time paying attention to which details were important and it took me right out of the story. Here's a straight-forward article on ways to avoid having an "info-dump" in a story. All YWSers Should KISS in Moderation

Once you get to the story about the narrator and Liam, the story is altogether pretty funny and entertaining, it just feels like a bit too much epilogue right at the beginning for me I guess.

Nice job -- this was an interesting piece to read, and certainly not what I expected in the "essay" category.

-alliyah




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Sat Feb 10, 2018 11:31 pm
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Sk1ppy wrote a review...



Awesome story, you did a good job. Feel free to ignore any of my suggestions. It's your work, you make the final decision.

The first thing I noticed was your run on sentences, such as your second and third sentences. When you're describing the bar after you got your ticket is also a run on sentence, even though it looks like a paragraph. You use the word "now" when Liam is bringing you a milkshake, which sounds like you're writing the story right as he's getting the milkshake. You also say you don't know how you got there, but that is what your story is about. I can see that you want to make a transition into the main story you use your "Shall we..." sentence, but I don't think you need it.

Introducing Original Boyfriend and then immediately using parentheses to give him a name made the sentence choppy. I would suggest writing a sentence like, "Let's call my previous boyfriend Nelson." then say "Nelson was like a dream". You don't really need to say he was over six feet, just use a good adjective (like wonderfully) and the word tall. This makes the reading smoother because the reader doesn't have to think about how tall six feet is. Something similar is saying Nelson is "twenty-six years old. The reader can't tell if twenty-six is young or old to you at this point because we don't know you work together yet. When you are telling the reader you work together is another run on sentence. I would personally make your "When we cooked meals together..." sentence be "he would insist on doing the dishes when we cooked meals together". Also, putting "(and toned!)" in parentheses doesn't make as much sense when you could just add it to the list of attributes with a comma, and add commas in between your Main Streets, theater kid, and dishes sentences When you're talking about "Nelson" later on, you sometimes use "my boyfriend" when using his name or "he" would work better.

Taking out the "rather" in "rather rapidly" will give the sentence more intensity. Your "had been out of therapy" and "off his medications" sentences could be one sentence and read more smoothly if you say "was out of therapy for a year and off his medications for months". Making the "a couple months into..." sentence a new paragraph doesn't seem necessary to me, nor does the "and I don't say that to sound like..." part of the sentence.

I like the timestamps. Right before them, you say "While I was..." and I think you should delete the "While" and make the "many nights went like this:" into "but many nights (describe how the nights made you feel)". Then to make the timestamps work instead of "Nelson:" say "At (time), (Quote)". Also, the "One week later" was confusing because the timestamps are talking about one night, not different nights of the week.

Something about your Liam introduction that I think should be modified is saying "Cue Guy #2 ". Usually, "#2 " would be weird to see in a story rather than "Number Two", and it isn't clear why Liam's name is being used but not Nelson's. If it's because you don't want people to know who Nelson is because of his mental problems then you might want to not use Liam's name because of the drunk skinny dipping. Liam may or may not have an issue with people knowing he did that. Something you could say instead of "...employed at the college where I work" is "another co-worker". I also don't think you need the "I know what you're thinking..." sentence. I don't think it's strange for people to start dating people they meet at work, so saying that might lead me to think so and make you seem more irresponsible. The next thing you talk about is the "Don't shit where you eat" thing, but it works out in the end so this makes no sense and, again, could make you look more irresponsible. If you do take that out you also don't need the "anywho".

The "the reception desk where I work." could be summed up with "my work". Taking out the "part" in "minus the childhood part" would be another recommendation of mine. I think "thinking of" some ridiculous joke sounds better than "having just uttered" some ridiculous joke. You could prevent another run on sentence by stopping the "needier" sentence after the second needier. The platonically's in parentheses could be avoided by putting "platonically" before "meeting" and getting rid of the "(still platonic!)". We will know that nothing happened romantically with the first platonically.

Knowing that you love to drive would usually be an indicator of who's driving, not necessarily whos car you take. The "also" before the "weaving in and out of traffic" doesn't seem needed, as does saying "this explains why..." rather than "this is why...". Since you tell us what happened, the reader doesn't need to know what didn't. The "And then I was told..." also would be better if you took out the "And".

"Signified" sounds weird for the sentence about the hand thing. I'm not sure what other words you could use, but if you go to www.wordhippo.com you'll find plenty of synonyms. People don't usually say "a wind" so just "wind" would work fine. People also don't really say "Our menu of conversation", "Our topics of conversation" works because you actually talked about those things. A menu is a group of choices you select from, but you talked about everything you list. If you make "Before I knew it..." a new sentence then it stops another run on sentence. Also, "that evening" isn't necessary for "on the menu that evening", because the reader knows dawn hasn't happened yet.

Calling Nelson a "young man" sounds weird. Like you were dating a teenager.

When your clothing is being bunched up you should take out the comma from between "a forest floor" and "that bunched up". You forgot a period after "threw my head back, laughing gloriously"

When you're clarifying that everything was still platonic, saying "totally platonic" doesn't sound as serious as I think you were intending. Just take out the "totally", and the "Just to clarify".

"In the overcast early morning... dirty windows of the beach house" should be before "I discovered Liam sleeping". Cutting out "A moment or two passed" will give more impact to your "all of a sudden".

Finally "biggest honking magnifying glass" sounds a little rediculous. "biggest magnifying glass" works.

Again, this is your work, you make all the calls. Have a good day!





"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."
— We Bought A Zoo