Friday, January 12, 2007

Chapter One: Her Own Private Hiroshima

Compass Jones -- Part the First

It was that very special hour, very early in the morning, when the first light of dawn can only be described as rosy, and the air is as fresh and clean as city air will ever be. It’s the hour when Compass is at her strongest, her smartest, her most energetic and creative. It’s the hour reserved for the most dedicated, the most disciplined: lone runners making contrails of warm breath in the cold air, next-year’s best-selling author tapping quietly in the silence of a 21st Century condo-turret.

Compass Jones is, as every day at this time, fast asleep.

There are two cats, one curled in the curve of her stomach, the other on her pillow, between her head and the wall, its chin perched on her ear. This cat purrs quietly and will continue to purr until the alarm goes off. Because of the purr and the fact that the cat is fat and has several sound-muffling chins, Compass won’t hear her alarm. She will wake up 28 minutes late, and the Frantic Morning Circles will commence. It’s Thursday. This always happens on Thursdays.

Just once, she thinks to herself as she sprays panicked toothpaste on her mirror and her less-fat cat, just once I’d like an easy Thursday. This will not be that Thursday. Nor will any Thursday in the near future. Things are about to get a great deal . . . worse is too strong a word. Different. Things are about to get different.

Compass doesn’t know that yet as she scratches at a rapidly drying toothpaste slick down the front of her brown turtleneck sweater, and her mind is not on the small, localized, thermo-nuclear explosion that is about to become her life. It is instead focused on regretting the three hours of City of Heroes that replaced lesson planning last night. She has responsibilities, a City to save, after all; those Sky Raiders aren’t going to kill themselves. And besides, she’d just assembled a really kick-ass costume with cape and glowy effects. Still, there are those students and those 3 hours to fill. She stops circling for a moment and leans her head against the cool of the be-speckled bathroom mirror.

“Tomorrow’s Friday,” she whispers to her reflection, her face so close to itself that she’s all eyes. “Survive today, and tomorrow’s cake.” She makes some variation of this promise to herself nearly every working day, the permutations as consistent as day-of-the-week underpants. “Today’s insert day of week here; in some number of days, it’ll be Friday.” In this manner she both survives her life and wishes most of it away.

Compass fires up her computer, though she doesn’t really have time to sit at it. Still, she can squeeze out a few extra minutes to see if she’s gotten a response to her posting on She’s had a few responses since putting together her profile some three months ago, but she’s starting to feel like “Super” Dates might be something of a misnomer if not an outright lie. The first guy she met after exchanging a series of luke-warm emails brought a portfolio of cat pictures. Compass likes cats, has a chubby pair of her own, but she found herself bolting her cider and wishing she’d ordered a schooner instead of an overly optimistic pint.

The second guy had written a play and was having some fairly significant success. Professional jealousy about the writing she hadn’t been doing allowed her to dismiss him as having pretentious hair. Several weeks later she'd heard him talking about his play on NPR and had narrowly avoided driving her car off the Jose Rizal bridge.

Guy three was pointless but had fun friends. She would spend several weeks not quite becoming close pals with a woman she met at his party. Neither had the time or energy to commit to a friendship that would obviously be both fulfilling and exhausting, and they admitted as much to each other with equal parts relief and regret. The guy’s name she forgot as early as during his party, if in fact she’d ever known it at all.

There had been no guy four. Lots of email exchanges, some fabulous and fun, most stupid. In the manner of all things e-whatever, the dating service allowed people to send “packaged” messages instead of having to go to the trouble of crafting one of their own, so she generally had to wade through a few “Call the fire department, you’re smokin’!” messages to get to the rich vein of no-hopers who crowded her inbox. Her profile was chatty and humorous, her picture . . . . non-threatening, so she tended to get hits from the guys who were scared of rejection and had every good reason to expect it. If you are the company you keep, Compass Jones is uneducated, unemployed, unambitious, physically . . . irregular and facially . . . asymmetrical. Her social skills are limited to not throwing up when addressed, and her calendar is littered with big, empty squares.

Today is Thursday. It will not get any better. She goes through her inbox and e-shreds them all. She feels vaguely offended that these guys think that they are the best she could do, then tries to swallow that feeling as unworthy and unkind.

Then her fairy godmother swoops in and everything is different.

1 comment:

Ash said...

Great chapter! I can't wait to read the rest!