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My Narrative Sample - Chapter 1

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Chapter 1

I like it when it is dark and rainy.


I don’t know.

I like the night.


I don’t know.


December, Present Day, The Newseum


NOTHINGNESS. She is one heartbreak away from death.

Before she realizes it, Francesca’s dangling finger listlessly traces the edges of the image before her. It traces the circle of his face, gliding up and around his body as if she were touching him one more time. But it is not Adiv. It is the picture that remains the cover photo on her phone. She traveled long distance on Southwest Airlines for three years. Lived with him for two years. Five years and nothingness. The smug look is mocking. Francesca’s face grimaces, and she opens the photo app with a gallery of pictures. Seeing the orange tulips by a local DC artist, she replaces the painful memory with the blossom of the flower. The next chapter begins.

In the distance, Mel sees Francesca observing a relic from the past, and he pauses and observes her comely presence. The way she stirs the surrounding air mesmerizes him, even in her motionless silence. Her fulgent yellow dress with kitten heals veils her melancholy. Onlookers passing by presumably see a flawless beauty in a peaceful place, and yet he knows she is swirling with exasperation by the turn of events in her life. For a fleeting moment, he thinks she has better social equity if she were a lesbian after forty-years-old than a hetero-never-married one.

            “Francesca,” she turns to see Mel walking towards her.  Mel is Francesca’s Jane Bennet of sorts in her life.  His boisterous masculinity strolls ahead of him, and so she can always sense his presence before his embrace.  She loves him, and spending time with him is an investment that only suits to increase her ego portfolio.  

As he bear-hugs his sweet friend, he breathes in a subtle fragrance of honeysuckle from the silky strands of her golden locks.

“Hi, you are on time?”  Francesca feigns a surprise expression. Mel is late for everything. 

“Yes, I had an early wake-up call.”  Francesca knew that his wake-up call translated into his torrid love affair with his gorgeous Italian man.  So, she smiled and winked in delight at his good fortune.   Francesca longed to find her perfect match. She wanted to be regarded as a toothsome couple. 

“How are you doing? I cannot believe it has been so long.  I have been so busy with work!”  Mel’s demanding job in real estate finance gave him the perfect alibi to be unavailable when he was most often needed by Francesca. His masculinity, punctuated with his impeccable taste, made him easy to forgive.

“Well, something sweet consumes your time.”    He matches his mischievous smile with hers.  He understood her disdain for failing to be more attentive to her needs. “Francesca, please forgive me?”  

She smiled and with two pithy words, “Of course.”  In their first introduction, she fell in love with him, and then she felt deeply disappointed to learn that he was a gay man. Carter, a mutual friend, introduced them during a game of poker at Mel’s house. He lives in a beautiful four-story redbrick in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. She fondly remembers sitting in the bay window, waiting for the cards to be dealt. While families were picnicking, she gazed at the summer sail boats. She imagined the women donned in style with gargantuan hats. She mused that such a picturesque scene conjured images of Renoir’s Boating Party.

Carter called over to Francesca. “Francesca, this is my best buddy, Mel!”

Mel’s first hello produced a current so strong that convinced her he was her soulmate. Within a few moments of their conversation, she felt a connection. He had the perfect life: looks, financial security, and a fabulous career.    He was Jewish, handsome, and brilliant.  Above all, his heart swelled with kindness. Later, she learned Mel was gay. She bemoaned silently, Why did he have to be gay?  She determined he would be another kind of soulmate and embarked on a plan to cultivate a friendship. Unlike the poor decisions she has made regarding the straight men in her life, fifteen years later, she secured this one.

Mel and Francesca wander the basement of the Newseum. It is the only arc of truth living on Pennsylvania Avenue, and now it too was ending.

Francesca clears her throat as she turns towards Mel. “This closing of this space is all too familiar to me.”

With an inquisitive look, Mel responds, “How so?”

“Every time I enter splitzville with a lover, some place we visited closed or go out of business.”


“Yes, when I was in college, the Bean Street Coffee shop went out of business. Shortly afterwards, Chuck and I split up.”

“Pimply Pot-smoking Chuck?”

“Yep. Now, it is this place is closing too. Adiv and I would visit it often.”

Francesca turns towards Mel with hands on hip. She winks, cocking her hip to the right. “Six floors, a museum replete with the current and past events, told through the news cycle. Life’s pièce de résistance captured in words and images sans paintings. Life imitates art! AND NOW it is CLOSING!”   Mel bursts into laughter.

She is embarrassed and sighs. “Oh, I just think it is exciting, don’t you? To just be alive and here in this building. Well, I guess, only for this moment. I cannot believe it is going to close. Why does everything have to have an end?”

“Francesca, it is just a building. Anyway, with every ending, there is always a beginning! Listen, here or anywhere else with you is always exciting.”

“Awe, my beating heart swoons. Too bad you are gay!”

Continuing with the museum walk, both meander the path leading towards the Berlin Wall exhibit. The graffiti mesmerizes Francesca.

“Berlin Exhibit? Why do you prefer to begin here?”  Mel prefers to meet on the outside of the museum. He likes to read the front pages of newspapers from around the world that are enclosed in a glass case leading to the entrance of the museum.

“Because….”   Her voice fades, and she cannot give a complete answer. She turns to the exhibit in front of her. It is a piece of the Wall. Examining the distinctively defined borders of East and West, between Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union, Francesca considers the divide between her heart and head.  Her fingers run along the edges of the piece of wall: one side graffiti and the other smooth, paradoxically unadulterated.

“Mel, it is an entire country, and within it, a division on its vision of how the government should act. Liberty or sanction?” 

She thinks about how she should govern her own reaction to the current plight that envelops her. A war had raged, and now it was over, a fait accompli.  

“Well, liberty, of course. Why do you ask?”

“If the human body is an organization functioning with automaticity, how is it we have choices? Do we have liberty?”  

He glances downward and then up towards her. “Are we going to have a fate versus freewill conversation today?”

Her grandiloquence today is uncommon, but nothing feels common to her anymore. 

She ignores his question. Her eyes gaze at the stone. She is pensive. Democracy. Choices.  What choices did she really have, and what did fate decide?  Her head shifts downward to notice the ring finger. It is empty. She fades from the present moment and remembers Adiv.

“Francesca, Francesca?”   Before Mel could speak, “Mel, how do you meet such amazing men?” 

Smiling with intrigue and relieved for the change of subject, his cocksure is on full display as he teases her, “Oh, don’t you want to know?” 

She returns his sass with a smirk.

“Well, it is the same as everyone else. I do it online. There are hundreds of men available. I like to joke that they are online available.”  Mel motions his hand with the air quote, “Get it?”  He laughs his silly laugh.

“Ah, like online available, but not emotionally available? Good one! Which are you?”

“Oh, definitely online, but not emotionally. Although Raffa has quite a hold on me.  Trying to figure out if what I am experiencing is emotion or lust.”

Francesca is quietly parsing each word he says. “What do you mean?”

“Well, I have to distinguish whether these are authentic emotions or a temporary that I experience because of the way we touch each other.”

She is pensive. His words captivate her imagination. “So, all this explosion erupts with only an app. Swipe left, but swipe right, and good god, who knows what might deploy?


“How do you use this app thing? Is it better than the computer thing?”

“Easier access, easier dismissal. No emails. Little depth involved, and yet, it can move into a full-blown relationship.  Also, it obviates the need for a meeting at the bar or a social event.” 

“But, is that not part of the fun? To dress up?”

“Francesca, it is a brave new world out there!”

Francesca had been with Adiv for five years.  This dating world is alien to the rudimentary she formally embraced with sanguinity.  All the new conventions and etiquette in the last several years intrigues and overwhelms.   

“Should I do it?”

“When you are ready, yes. I think you are ready. It is time to heal and move forward.”

She breathes deeply and scratches the back of her neck. “Oh, I don’t know. Isn’t there another way? It seems too odd to swipe.”

“Yes, but you will adapt. Adapt or die! Is that not what you teach your middle school students?” He winks in her direction.

“Ugh. No, their parents would have me on the chopping block! Off with her head!”  She laughs, and he laughs with her.

They continue to the next section of the basement.  They discover films on the news media reporting of the Jews being sent to their deaths.  As they walk together in silence, they both pause for a moment and hold hands in an impromptu remembrance of the lives lost. Never Forget.

Invariably, in moments of reflection of the Holocaust, Francesca mourns the untold story of her family of a different century, a story full of intrigue and mystery.  Catholics by day, but Jews in secret.


The Walk - Chapter 1.pdf

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