What follows is a snippet I wrote in the past. Looking at it now, I can see many things I’d do differently, not the least of which is reducing the number of exclamation points and gerunds. It doesn’t make sense to me now that the narrator would leave someone else in her apartment when moving out. I’d fix the verb tense shifts–either I’d make everything the same verb tense or break the text out in sections and build it up so those shifts are less jarring. I’d cut the boring part about claiming luggage. I’d fix consistency issues, like where the narrator doesn’t feel jet lagged but then complains to her friend about it a moment later. I’d also go into more depth about the narrator’s motivations, and find some ways to show interiority instead of just having the narrator ask herself a bunch of questions. These are just the changes I’d make at first glance, seven years later.
“You can’t just up and leave! How can you just move your whole life over an ocean?”
I just wanted to leave the room for now. I could feel my eyes sting, that familiar sting of tears that I knew I couldn’t stop. Somehow, I felt as though I owed him some semblance of an explanation. “I cannot stay here and wait for you to make a decision you’ll never make! And even if you make it, it’ll always be just what you settled for!”
“How can you say that to me? Have I not already made my decision by coming here tonight?”
“Too late. You’re too late. My flight leaves in three hours…I’ve got to go. Come and visit in Scotland if you like but I’m not staying here another moment.”
I never thought I would remember any particular sound so well as I remember the brash slamming of the door as I left my apartment that night, as I left him there that night…someone I might have changed my life for. I thought I had learned, finally, how to do what I needed to do when I needed to do it.
How did I get into this mess? Was poor timing to blame or have I become so cynical and untrusting that I can’t even recognize true sacrifice anymore? Long flights during which thoughts can spin out of control are never good immediately following an argument. I’ve always been the sensible type. Never one to start trouble, always willing to just…keep my thoughts to myself. I was scared of how exhilarating it had been to shout the truth at someone I truly cared about.
Yes, cared about. Well, okay, still care about, but not in the way I once did. I had to stop…when I heard he’d never get over his ex, I knew that I could not allow myself to be hung up on caring for him anymore. I’ve always looked toward the happiness of others…and I looked toward my own needs. It felt dangerously good.
So why do I want to call him? I know that it’s only the time difference that’s stopping me. He’ll be asleep right now, I’m sure.
I hate waiting for luggage. Just standing there, watching the belt turn, and others rushing past to poke through suitcases and find their own. I always wait until the end…I see my luggage as soon as it passes but I always wait; I let everyone rush in for their own pieces first. I don’t like confrontation…I don’t like fighting to get there first; it reminds me of rock concerts when everyone is drunk and eagerly pushing closer to the stage just to be only six feet away from an average human that they’ve elevated to a state of celebrity.
I wait until there’s no one left waiting. I see my luggage come around the turn and I step forward. I lift it from the belt and turn; no one is waiting for me here, but I know my best friend is just past the next set of doors, where we arranged to meet. Only the push of a button is necessary to lift the handle that allows me to pull my suitcase behind me. A smirk crosses my lips as I wonder…why can’t all things be so flawlessly simple?
I don’t yet feel the inevitable jet lag, but can’t suppress the yawn as I start walking. I need fresh air, fresh, cold air. I know it will be cold outside and I haven’t even put on my coat. It’s resting, draped over my arm. The airplane’s cabin air was stale and dry. And I need to clear my head.
I haven’t seen my best friend in months. Not since she left the United States to start a new life in Europe. We planned for this, but I do wish I could have joined her sooner.
“How was your flight?”
“Long.” I let my luggage slide into the trunk of the taxi before walking around the bumper to climb into the backseat. “Tiring…I think I’ll need to sleep in tomorrow. Today…I hate jet-lag.” I click my seatbelt into place and smile. “Thanks for meeting me. I’m glad to be here but I don’t think…well, it’s easier having a friendly face to greet, isn’t it?” I am in transit once more as the car starts to roll into drive.
“Did you only bring one suitcase? I thought you were bringing two for now.”
“Yeah…I packed two, but left in a…hurry. I’ll buy some clothes in a day or so…hang on, I told my mom I’d send her an email when I arrived.” As I wait for my phone to turn on, I surrender to another yawn, even as my phone buzzed in my hand. “Oh no…”
“What is it?”
There, on the home screen of my phone, read, “I’ll be in Scotland tomorrow. Pick me up from the airport?” It was from him. And I doubted he was planning to bring me my left-behind suitcase.
The “From the Archives” series involves looking at old writing I did and examining how I would improve it with my current knowledge. This skill is worth honing for all writers.