Exercises in Narrativity – Volume 1

Five in the morning. Always five in the morning.

It started during the first half of winter. Then, I could get to sleep well enough without too many layers of sheets, blankets or whatever for warmth, but by the very early morning it was freezing as all hell. The temperature always dropped significantly while I slept, and the sheer cold started forcing me to wake up every night at 5 AM, at which point I threw on as many layers of sheets, blankets or whatever as possible and went back to sleep. But by the time the nights started warming up again, waking up at that time had become part of my sleep schedule. Even when I stayed up for hours and resolved to sleep in until 12 PM or later to make up for lost sleep, I still woke up at 5 AM. Perhaps it was more psychological at that point; was I only waking up at that time because my body expected to be forced to?

Tangent gazed upon what had befallen his workbook, now adorned with scrawls of coloured pencils, pens and highlighters.

“It’s uh, beautiful,” he stammered. A stream of strained, hollow praise poured forth. “Very visually appealing. Quite a distinctive decor. Ten out of ten, would rate again.”

The girl eyed Tangent doubtfully and frowned. “You hate it!”

She was right of course, but Tangent was sincere enough to at least try to deny it.

“No, I don’t hate it!” he yelled, feigning incredulity.

A smile began to re-emerge on the girl’s face.

“I mean, I don’t love it -”

The girl’s smile vanished.

“-but understand that there is a space between love and hate on the grand scale of opinions. To not like something is not necessarily to dislike something. The opposite is true as well -” the girl winced at this and Tangent quickly added, “-though that isn’t relevant. The point is, it is on this level of half-feeling that my opinions on this,” he waved his hand at his workbook, “this work of art, falls under.” He laughed to himself. “It’s where most of my opinions lie, actually.”

Tangent expected the girl to comment on his un-opinionated nature; in fact, he intended for her to so she would stop asking him about her ‘decorations’. However, the girl realised what this really implied.

“So you just don’t care about it, then…” she sighed.

“A writer does not outright tell the reader the meaning and themes of their work. Instead, they hint at it with the various intricacies of word choice, phrasing and so on. It’s a beautiful art form, and it’s these sorts of subtleties that I’m trying to master, both on paper and in reality.”

Then, with certainty, Tangent stated: “You say I’m dishonest and confusing? I say to you, I am living proof of life imitating art.”

It was a statement that he demonstrated by pausing for effect, a dramatic technique he learned from that particular art form.

And then he demonstrated it once more as he leant in to kiss the girl. He had seen so many kiss scenes in dramas, he figured that was where the moment was going. Or at least, that was where it would be going if his life was a television show. But his life wasn’t a television show. The girl immediately drew back.

“Oh my god, what are you doing?” she yelled. “I have a boyfriend!”

Her shrill voice made Tangent flinch. He pulled back as well.

“Uh, sorry,” he stammered, “I, uh…have no words to explain myself.”

“Eugh! Is that what you were planning this whole time?”

“No! I came to your house solely to play that ancient game on your computer you were talking about that I’ve never heard of!” Tangent suddenly realised how sarcastic that sounded. The girl gave him a look of disgust. “That was not sarcasm!” he added. “Don’t look at me like that!”

“Yeah, right,” she said, and stormed off into another room.

Damn it! Tangent thought, my deceit finally screwed me over!

His reasons for hanging out with the girl were truthful, but his exaggerative word choice, ‘solely’, ‘ancient game…that I’ve never heard of’, must have made it sound otherwise. Granted, it didn’t help when most of the time he did intend on being sarcastic. And there were times when he was being truthful but intended to make it sound sarcastic. Why? Being dishonest entertained him.

But look at where it got me, Tangent sighed and rubbed his fingers through his hair. Perhaps I should just stick to telling jokes…

“Are you still there!? Get out of my house!” the girl cried out from the other room.

As Tangent demonstrated just prior, he was clueless with women, but he knew enough to obey her.

Now, what her past truly entailed did not matter; Tangent had already decided her story.

“You see children,” he began, “this girl began life as a celestial being,” — he was already getting weird looks from some of the children — “in fact, she was one of the many stars in the sky…she was a star child,” he smiled, as he settled on a title. “But it was just last year when the stars had to let her go…for her to fall upon the Earth, as one of us. Did you hear that article in the news last year, about the observatory spotting some object falling through the sky some ways from here?” he waved his hand towards a random direction. Tangent didn’t let the question hang in the air for long to prevent one of the children from actually answering. “Well there was one, and you know what?” he leaned in, “I was there in that observatory. Through that telescope, I saw the stars shed a tear…” he paused to think, then raised a finger, “for the one they held so dear.”

“Okay, nice rhyme there, but I’m gonna have to step in for a moment,” a voice rang out behind him. It was an older man with a coat draped over his shoulders. He knelt down to Tangent, rubbing his fingers through his slick, brown hair. “Are you seriously trying to tell these kids that this girl fell from the sky?” he asked, furrowing his brow. His voice sounded encouraging, which was ironic enough considering his question.

Tangent’s smile faltered and he lowered his finger, only realising then he still had it raised. “Uh, yeah…” he mumbled. “What’s it to you?”

The older man began to laugh, ignoring Tangent’s follow-up question. “Ha! Let me tell you something, kids,” he gazed at the children sitting around. “There are people in life,” he nodded at Tangent, “who will try to feed you all sort of nonsense. Don’t listen to ‘em. Got it?”

The children looked confused, which was completely justified; they had never seen this older man before, and here he was, interrupting story time.

Tangent had never seen him before, either. “Hey, who are you, anyway?”

“A wise man,” the older man chuckled with a wry grin. He began to stand up. “Stay sensible, kids,” he said, and then he walked away.

Tangent and the group of children watched in pure bewilderment as the random stranger disappeared.


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