Monday, March 09, 2009


You're broken when your heart's not open
If I could melt your heart
We'd never be apart
       --Madonna, Frozen

She sipped the aromas of her coffee and stared through the cafè windows to the street.

She watched the shapes moving. The strangers with not-quite-strange faces. The ballets of the city.

Her stare sharpened when she caught a flash of him.

Walking fast, he danced around a couple talking. He nodded a quick apology to a man he bumped into. At the front of the bookstore, he held the door for a woman with a stroller.

Night moved outside, painted in car headlights.

Long coats hurried across crosswalks.

Quiet for a Friday night.

He unzipped his coat and fixed his hair. He hurried past magazine racks. His cold-bitten cheeks turned as he scanned for her. She watched a few more moments before he spotted her tucked off at a side table.

"Sorry I'm late," he said.

"Are you late?"

"Yeah. A little," he said.

He wiggled out of his coat. As he sat, he noticed the cup in her hands. "Is that good?"

She nodded.

"Maybe I'll have one in a minute. After I catch my breath."

She watched him settle in. Watched the thoughts in his movements. Watched his hands work.

"Better?" she said when he stopped.

"Yes. Much." He smiled.

She drank again.

"Are you alright?" he said, darkening a shade.


She let her mind taste it. Are you alright? She clothed it in the lights outside. And the crowds. And the lonely cafe. And the laugh across the store as she swished the half a cup of coffee.

"I'm alright," she said.

"Good," he said, smiling again. A bit uncomfortably. "Because I want to ask you something."

"Oh?" she said.

The red in his cheek dug deeper.

Her eyes narrowed.

She waited. Dissected his nervousness. Pinned each of his movements like a butterfly in a macabre display.

He straightened and clasped his hands to make them stop fiddling. "I want you to go somewhere with me."

Her eyebrows raised. Certainly unexpected.

The fiddling hands returned. "A trip," he said. "A vacation, I guess."

"Just us?"

"Yeah, I know, I know. We haven't been seeing each other very long, and all. And you may not even be that into me. But I want to. I really want to take you."

The coffee cup lowered down to the table. She leaned back in her chair. "Where?" she said.

He leaned closer. "Someplace warm. Someplace away from all this cold and crappy winter. Well, not someplace, exactly. A specific place. Kind of special to me. And I want to drive there. Down south. The back roads of Virginia and Georgia and the tobacco fields and the old, forgotten little cemeteries...."

The sharp angles in her mind couldn't grasp why, but her chin quivered. The hard focus of her thoughts washed into a melting sea.

"Me?" she whispered.

The night moved somewhere far away. People walked in the distance.

And the beginnings of tears welled in her eyes.


Jennifer said...

Jason, I am always struck by how tender and vulnerable your characters are, how you see through all the tough exteriors people erect, and get to their core humanity. Your world view writes itself across your characters beautifully.

Aine said...

These characters are interesting-- I want to know if he's aware of what he has accomplished. And why did a guy like him choose a frozen hearted woman? I'm also curious about her history, what has made her build such walls? And how will such a relationship play out? I wonder if she'll ever open up enough to be truly intimate, or if he'll grow tired of trying without getting the connection he seeks. This could really be expanded...


Catvibe said...

I love these people. I actually welled up at the end. She obviously is into him more than she has let on, and he is a long hoped for and welcome rose. Ahhhhh....

Catvibe said...

Oh Aine, she'll open up, give her a chance, she's had one or two bad experiences but she wants to open up more than you can ever know. ;-)

Aniket said...

This is so absolutely wonderful. But Aine is right, you have created great characters, and this could certainly be expanded.

@ Aine: What do us guys want, is a girl worth fighting for. And he certainly has got one... He'll win her over. :-D (Catherine will strangle Jason if he doesn't. :P )

Margaret said...

I'd say, with his quiet, don't-rush demeanor, he's cracked her frozen heart. It's started to melt.

And I'm sure it'll go on melting to become a gushing river when she goes to that warm place with him.

Mediterranean Views said...

I didn't do such analysis, I just was hooked and couldn't let it go. After several blog scans and blah stuff it was a welcome surprise. Well told! Amy

Sarah Hina said...

She's so guarded and clinically observant because it's safe to be distant. Her defenses are strong, but her ice can be thawed into a flowing river with the warmth of his words. It takes courage to give like that, and to be vulnerable enough to receive that trust.

I'd like to see their journey. :) Just beautiful, Jason. Truly. And perfectly paired to the music and video.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

OMG - I like these two! In just this little snippet, I think I see that they are good for one another. I want to squeeze her hand and say, "See? I told you it would take someone special."

Like others here, I would love to read about their "journey" together.

"She waited. Dissected his nervousness. Pinned each of his movements like a butterfly in a macabre display." - BRILLIANT

Karen said...

Jason - This is engaging from the first scent of the coffee to the welling of her tears. This feels like a beginning! Really, really nice.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, thank you. Truly. It's always such a treat to be recognized for what I'm trying to do.

Aine, wow, that's a lot of questions! Don't drag me off into another novel now! ;) Thanks for all of the wonderful encouragement. :)

Catvibe, she is very guarded. So guarded that her eyes were focus off in the distance when her own walls were breached.

Aniket, thanks! I was about halfway through drafting this when I realized that in a way, I was writing this for you.

Margaret, so very true. You've dug to the heart of it with your poetic words. :)

Amy, high praise. Thank you! The most I can hope is to hook someone with the first line and not let them go. Thanks so much for visiting!!

Sarah, very astutely described. She's like the first moment the ice breaks on a frozen river. Chaos at first. A deafening crash. Even a touch of fear at what might be at risk down river.

Kaye, I really like the opportunity these lyric vignettes provide. Sometimes when I see a picture or hear a song, a moment like this erupts in my head. I wasn't intending to write a vignette at the time, but when this scene jumped into my head, I stopped to capture it.

Karen, hooking the reader's attention is something I've devoted a lot of attention to. I'm glad that it worked here! Thanks. :)

Aniket said...

I am truly honored Jason, I truly am. :)

If you were a chick I would have given you a tight hug right now. lol

Anonymous said...

I loved the image of Ballets of the city. Great story weaving.

the walking man said...

Hell...if she won't go. I will.

Anonymous said...

heart-warming...there is always hope to look forward to.

thanks for the good read, Jason! :)

Scott said...

I'm reminded of the end of Ordinary People when Mary Tyler Moore, the ice queen, has her first true emotion since her oldest son drowned.

"The sharp angles of her mind..."

Anna Claire said...

"long coats hurried across crosswalks"
"The red in his cheek dug deeper."

I LOVE those phrases. I also love that we catch just a glimpse that she cares for him much more than she lets on.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. I know this girl, and I married that guy!

Jamie said...

Ohhh, there's something lovely about that.

Meme said...


I'm new to your this part of the novel you are writting? It's wonderful.


Anonymous said...

Aniket, thanks for providing the inspiration. :)

Aggie, much obliged. :) I really felt the world around me in this one.

Walking Man, I hear you. We could even go tropical. Next flight out!

Will Irons, welcome! And thank you for the kind words. I found it compeling to see this character's icy traumas collapse.

Scott, that was really poignant. I can imagine the Earth move in that moment. Thank you for that comparison!

Anna Claire, thank you! And yes, I love glimpses too. Things that peek into foundations. The purest of essenses.

Kat Campbell, that's so cool!! I'm happy to know that it worked out. :)

Jamie, I'm very moved when one of these moments I explore resonates with others. Thanks!

Melissa, thanks so much! It's such a treat to hear when someone new to my blog enjoys what I've written. This piece is a free-standing vignette. I often use this format to explore emotions or complexities in how people tick. I'd love to see you back!

SzélsőFa said...

A girl this lonely and so desparately clinging to her loneliness deserves a suggestion like this, and an interested man like this every once in a while. Just to thaw the ice and let her feel alive.
I took this piece in and its bitterness really struck me, Jason.

Paula and Skip said...

gave me goose bumps....

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I agree. She's lucky to have him and his persistence.

Paula and Skip, welcome! Glad you stopped by. It's always an honor to inspire a few goosebumps. :)

Vesper said...

I LOVE it, Jason! Oh, it gave me such a good feeling! Thank you!

Naxcz. said...

i actually smiled at the end.i love the way you showed how the girl's heart thawed at the guy's invitation.i almost want to nag her, "hey,you're going with him,right?right?" LOL.

anyway.i haven't visited for a long time.still,it seems you never fail to move me. :)