For whatever reason, Week Two of NaNoWriMo is often uphill. Whether it’s because every movie you ever wanted to see is released in November or because after writing so much stuff, you get that sinking feeling that it’s really not very good, Week Two is not the best week of NaNo.
I hit a little bit of that lovely Week Two writing A.D.D. over the second weekend because I was working and then again on Day 12, also due to work and finding shiny things to distract myself with. I’m a compulsive word count updater and it irks me when I update and see that the paragraph I just wrote was only 400 words long and not, like, a thousand.
I’m still excited about the story. I’m at a good part of it, actually (they’re finally going out together!) Then somebody told me that I’m ahead by a lot, so “calm down and enjoy the process.”
Ugh. Just because I’m ahead doesn’t mean I’m not feeling Week Two. And it doesn’t mean that I’m NOT enjoying the process. The good thing is, if I have Colin and Emma in the same scene, their conversations go on for ages.
Also, I had an epiphany earlier. I thought Emma was turning into me, a recurring problem that I have with modern day female characters. But actually, though we share some of the same traits, views and problems, I am not Emma and she is not me. We only have similarities because a) she came out of my brain and b) we’re both modern day young women.
So that’s the rant. Here’s the excerpt. As always, part of the AW NaNo Blog Chain:
Jay-Z. “Empire State of Mind.” It never gets old. Colin walks the considerable distance toward Astoria Park, warming up. It’s about ten blocks from his apartment, due east, but he likes the view and at this time of day, it’s never crowded.
From his very first New York job, an off-Broadway musical at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Colin has lived in Astoria. He’s moved apartments a couple of times, but always within the same part of northwestern Queens. It’s the most convenient, transit-wise, for Manhattan.
He enters the park, stretches, and then starts at a light jog. Astoria Park lays on the water, the East River. Above him, not too far away, is the span of the Triborough Bridge, which connects Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx. It was a suspension bridge. They changed the name of the bridge in the past few years, but in typical New York City fashion, the new name separated the natives and long-timers from the newbies. And so it remained, in Colin’s mind, the Triborough.
He jogs further into the park, closer to the water. Manhattan is perfectly visible from the park, the buildings gleaming under the cold March sun. Wards Island, in between Queens and Manhattan, is a mass of leafless trees and the cement block of a psychiatric hospital.
Colin stops, breathing heavily. He turns the iPod back to “Empire State of Mind.” He sings quietly under his breath with Alicia Keys. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of…
His dreams had come true in New York. And walking along the East River, seeing the city in front of him, Colin feels like the luckiest bastard in the world.
* * *
It’s about two in the afternoon when Emma spies Colin walk across the café floor to settle at her counter. Rosita is off today. Andrea works the floor. Augustus sits at his accustomed table.One of the waitresses from the Thai place on the same block sits and eats a salad for her lunch. Lunch time was busy today. Emma is counting the cash in the tip jar when she hears someone sit on a stool. She looks over her shoulder and sees Colin.
“Do you have rehearsal today?” She asks after handing over a menu.
“Nope,” he smiles. “We opened on Sunday. We’re just going to have a chat about opening night and reviews, but I’m starving. I ran like four miles this morning.”
Of course he ran four miles. Of course he did. He’s obviously physically fit. Emma’s philosophy is diametrically opposed to running anywhere for four miles. She ain’t running unless someone’s chasing her. Or unless she feels an extreme urge to get out of a situation.
“Do you want tea while you’re deciding?” Emma asks.
“Yes, please,” he says, eyes scanning the menu. “Thank you, Emma.”
When she settles the tea cup down on the counter, Colin hands her the menu and orders. “Yeah, it’s going to have to be a burger. With Italian seasoning fries.”
She smiles, puts in the order, and grabs a cloth to start wiping down the back counter.
“Hey, how long have you worked here?” Colin asks.
“About two years,” Emma replies. Why is he asking? “So, how was opening night?”
“Yeah, it went really well. Opening nights are crazy. The party was fun,” Colin says. “Best part is no rehearsal the next day. The major papers release their reviews a midnight after opening night. Today, we’re going to hear about the other reviews and see what kind of press oppportunities might come up.”
Henry rings the bell. Emma grabs the plate and places it down on the counter. She looks out at the café. Andrea is seating a couple.
“Do you read the reviews?”
“Nah,” Colin says. “I read the ones that come out on opening night. Hard to avoid those. The critics come in during the last couple of previews and sit on their reviews until midnight after opening.”
“That makes sense,” Emma replies. It would be hard to think, write and then publish a full review of a musical in a couple of hours, she thinks. She busies herself with wiping down the back counter while Colin consumes his food. A to-go order occupies her further, but when that customer has been served and leaves, Emma checks on Colin.
He nods. Half of the burger is gone. He picks up a couple of fries.
“Need anything else?”
“Maybe another tea.”
“Sure.” She gets the hot water ready and the appropriate tea bag, sliding them over to him.
“Are you from New York originally?” Colin asks.
Emma blinks, then nods. She’s been told by others that she doesn’t exude New Yorker, whatever that means. Maybe they mean that she’s quieter than a normal New Yorker?
“Born in Manhattan, raised in Queens,” Emma elaborates.
“Oh. I live in Queens,” Colin replies. He takes a sip of tea. “Do you still live there?”
“Not with my parents anymore, but yeah,” Emma answers. “Ailey and I live in Jackson Heights.” Neither talk for a few seconds. He drinks, but his eyes stay on her. Emma glances downward for a second. What now? Let the conversation hang? Go pretend to do some work?
Why is she so horrid at reading social cues? Particularly male social cues. Maybe in the past, girls like her became nuns because they were too socially awkward to become wives. Emma wanted to be a nun, when she was about four years old. Um. What was a logical question after…
“Where in Queens do you live?” Emma spits out.
He swallows. “Astoria.” She nods. She figured. It wasn’t referred to as “Actoria” among the theater community for nothing. For easy access to the city, Astoria and Long Island City were the closest, right on the water, though Jackson Heights wasn’t that far of a commute either, compared to other areas of Queens.
“And where are you from, originally?” Emma asks. He doesn’t strike her as a typical New Yorker either, if there ever could be such a thing in this city.
“Upstate,” Colin says, working on his fries again. He talks around his food, chewing on one side of his mouth. “Close upstate. I’m not talking, like, Rochester.”
Andrea comes around to the counter for some menus, which Emma hands her.
“I went running in Astoria Park this morning,” Colin goes on, after he’s swallowed. “I can’t wait for the pool to open when the weather gets warmer. It’s awesome.”
Emma can’t help but smile. She didn’t have expectations, exactly, of what Colin Shelton, actor, Broadway star, would be like. But she hadn’t expected this—this chatty, polite, pleasant guy who seemed enthusiastic about different things.
Well, she could be enthusiastic, too.