The man was a spitfire, and had, quite successfully, led the small group at the cocktail party in to laughter quite a few times. He was leaning on the wall, in a gray suit and blue tie. He had a cocktail that had been refreshed, and a strong, commanding voice.
Someone had brought up the west coast and he spoke of it with an authority that assumed familiarity.
“That particular area has been known to have Italian roots, and its beautiful,” he said.
“So you’ve been?” a woman asked.
“Yes, I’m actually moving out there, in a few weeks,” he said. The group all now expressed the same emotion -- a light bulb -- the story he had been leading up to now made sense.
“I actually really like it; I found an apartment and transferred my work there which is easy because I work from home two days a week. I just—"
He sighed big and opened his hands.
“Got to a point where I couldn’t stand it here. New York is asinine. Everything is so backwards. You wake up and go to work on the train and it’s disgusting and crowded, and then you live in a shoebox. When you get groceries you can’t drive them home, then you go up two flights of stairs and drink $12 cocktails. Rent is crazy, the houses out where I’m looking are like a steal – you realize in other cities that things are just so silly in New York. It’s fun for awhile, but a true grown up knows when to leave,” he said.
She was now in their circle of conversation. The others were nodding, agreeing with him, swapping subway stories to each other, and she narrowed her eyes.
“I disagree,” she said. She normally did not have the confidence to disagree with strangers, but felt that she had been on a precipice for quite some time. The man took one step back, so he could see her face. Only a regional beauty with puffs for arms in a sleeveless dress.
“So,” she said, “what you’re saying is that for you the key, the main priority in life, is to live somewhere that you can drive your groceries home? You’re saying that of all things that make a life full and whole, it is more important to you to have conveniences? Ease…and what was that other thing you said? Cheap cocktails? I like to think that life is about much more than living somewhere that is easy. For me, it is important to live somewhere that never stops surprising you and challenging you, and that tells you that a possibility is around every corner. The rhetoric surrounding these conversations worries me. All the complaints that get warped into priorities. All these people who have devoted their lives to living somewhere that lets them pay low rent and drive a car. For me where I live and my life are so much more than that.”
“No, that’s not what I meant at all,” he said, his face now a pale shade of pink.
She could only nod and conservatively sip her cocktail.
[Ed note: In recent years I was introduced to the “character study”. Unlike the more defined questionnaires and writing prompts and exercises, my characters come to me in instances, meetings, discussions. I think mostly on the situations and the things I want them to convey. The message, essentially.
I’m in the middle of a tiresome novel that stresses me on a daily basis. But, I am so pleased and excited by my lead female. The below sketch is not in the book, but it helped me shape her. We are unlike in everything except our ardent, nonsensical, love of a single place.]