Good Narrative Principles

Shakira’s Stories: Wild Woman


IMG_7809On the way to Uncle Pete’s, the self-storage place, Shakira sits in the U-Haul up front with her best friend since forever Trey and says not a word. Trey assumes she will vent, rant, maybe cry a bit like when they were younger. But Shakira doesn’t want to cry, instead she wants to hide. As the events of the past few hours sink in, as she switches from survival/action mode to one of reflection, she wonders what’s the point of knowing that something is coming if you don’t act on that insight?

Her cheeks grow hot.

When that feeling subsides, she pauses, remembers to force gratitude into her emotional landscape. It’s a willful thought, the deliberate habit of a recovering alcoholic. Gratitude? Hmm…there is the fact that her friends came through. That everyone responded. Big time.

There’s that. What else? That she didn’t have to deal with her Father’s hyperbolic response to this emergency. Had she stayed in Maine, had this happened in her hometown, she could easily imagine her Father insisting that she and Ben, her soon to be ex-lover join him in his overcrowded study to talk it out. They would have stood there waiting, like she had with previous soon to be ex’s, as he carved out two canyons among his piles of important reading material covering the couch. Despite Dad’s vague awareness of his daughter’s embarrassment and her ex-lovers increasing discomfort, he’d spend too long deciding where to temporarily place for instance his dusty poetry journals from 1978. Irritated at his own indecision, he’d lash out at Ben and Shakira for putting him in this bind.

Then he’d launch into the interview, which had a way of making things worse. While his questions might start off with the notable aim of brokering a truce, inevitably, his greed for new material colored the tenor of his questions, turning the meeting confrontational. Ben would have surely stormed out.

If it were summer, Shakira would then retreat to the screened in porch to join her Mom as she taught herself to play another obscure instrument like the zither. From her vantage point on the porch, she’d watch Ben, like all her previous ex-lovers, exit the house distracted and a bit unhinged. Her father had that effect on most people. She would have watched with a mixture of dread and delight, Ben backing down the long, narrow driveway. Too eager to leave, it was anyone’s guess as to whether or not he’d notice the oncoming cars barreling straight towards him.

Shakira feels both the burden and the freedom of being on her own now. It’s different than the freedom of say freshman year. Saying goodbye to her parents who looked both proud and confused as they drove away. Different than moving to her first apartment in downtown Augusta and the delight in cooking her meals on a hot plate, thinking all the while, so this is what it’s like to be on my own. But now, that initial rush of freedom has given way to a dawning realization that she’s playing for keeps. And the weight she feels assuming responsibility for herself without the sweet cushion of a drink or a pill pulls her down.

There’s that wildness inside her that grows more pointed, more agitated as she attempts to cope with the latest curve ball that life has thrown at her. When she quiets long enough to realize that she’s been spinning among rage, fear and nausea, she generally calls her Dad. Listening to him blather on about the problems he’s having with his publisher or his indolent agent, Shakira is finally able to take a breath. One of them mentions the last agitated lover backing out of their driveway and being rear-ended. They share a chuckle and say goodbye.

At the traffic light, Trey notices a smile spread across Shakira’s face. They’ve known each other long enough so that when Shakira says “what he needed was a long ride down my parent’s driveway” Trey gets it. Relieved that his friend seems to be taking this latest break up in stride, Trey rubs Shakira’s nest of unruly hair as he turns into Uncle Pete’s parking lot.

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