My Attempt at NaNoWriMo 2009, Part 2

I’ve got some really exciting ideas in mind for November, which I’ll be revealing soon. In the mean time, here’s the second chunk of my attempt at NaNoWriMo last year. If you missed the first bit, check it out first.

In this chunk we meet a few new primary characters, though truth be told I never ended up figuring out what to do with the first one. I was keeping him in my pocket, but I might remove him if I ever start trying to untangle this mess.

When Adam Lavoie read the ad, he felt he qualified under the ‘entrepreneur’ category. He did not, however, want to participate in any sort of creative expression. His interest was piqued by the confident air of newness, and he considered the possibility that this was some truly revolutionary discovery being managed by a small operation with little business experience. The ad was on an open forum, not a paid job listings website, and it certainly didn’t sound corporate. Adam wanted to know more, but a visit to directexpression.web yielded a nearly-blank page featuring the exact same text. Not wanting to make any sort of proposal without more information, he decided to play along and wrote a brief email requesting a questionnaire.

When Lana “Clementine” Simmons read the ad, she did so through tears. She was in a dusty, dimly lit internet lounge below a Korean computer store, and the bright screen was burning her eyes, plus the owner’s kid and his frends were smoking while they played games at the other end of the basement, and the smoke was already beginning to fill the room and would make it almost unbearable by the end of the night. Lana didn’t mind though – she liked the dim lights, and in the winter it was nice to be able to have a cigarette indoors, something that wasn’t technically legal in the city anymore.

Nobody called Lana “Lana”, except for government offices and, every now and then, her own mind. Her brothers had given her the name Clementine when she was a child, following an incident she orchestrated in an attempt to get attention. Having heard the song “Clementine” on a CD of children’s music, Lana had decided she too wanted to be the subject of such passionate mourning. One day soon after, her parents and brothers returned from an early morning hockey practice to find the house empty and the stereo turned to full volume, with the song ringing throughout the house: You are lost and gone forever, oh my darling Clementine…

All their children had “ran away from home” at some point growing up, so Lana’s parents knew to wait. Eventually, of course, Lana returned home, and was welcomed by her brothers in a mocking tone: Hi Clementine! Welcome back Clementine!

The name stuck, which Lana didn’t mind at all. In fact, she decided to seize it as an opportunity: where Lana had been quiet, Clementine would speak up. Where Lana had gone unnoticed, Clementine would demand attention. She realized that this, not leaving home, was what she really wanted all along.

This decision changed her life in ways she couldn’t anticipate. It turned out that both Lana and Clementine experienced the world through the refractory filter of particularly severe synesthesia, a condition that cross-wires senses and confuses perceptions. Lana had spoken too little for this to be noticed, but Clementine began making observations that were amusing at first, but became troubling when she insisted on their accuracy and was baffled by her family’s failure to understand. Food didn’t feel good, music was too bright, the new sofa sounded ugly. Her parents thought maybe she hadn’t learned to talk properly, but her pediatrician discovered that some music could in fact make her squint, and that she had difficulty telling if water was hot or cold while wearing earplugs.

Dr. Avery had become close friends with the Simmons family, having seen to the needs of their six sons and now Lana, their first daughter. He knew the storm of conflicting reccomendations, experimental treatments and alternative therapies that engulfs the parents of a mentally ill child, and he knew that even the well-meaning ones were all but powerless to navigate it. He did his best to explain that conditions like this were unique in ever patient and that there were no clear answers, that our understanding of the roots of synesthesia was rudimentary at best. He suggested that, before they make appointments with the appropriate working specialists, they bring Lana to dinner at his home to meet a colleague and personal friend from the university. He explained that his friend, a Professor James Cortland, would not recommend any treatments but would rather help them to understand the nature of what their daughter was experiencing, and teach them to communicate through these strange barriers. Lana’s parents agreed, and dinner was arranged for the following Saturday.

Clementine would never forget the first time she met Professor Cortland. In fact, though by then even her parents had begun to use the new name more often than not, she felt like she didn’t let go of “Lana” until that night at Dr. Avery’s uptown condo. Ever since deciding to speak up more often, she had been perturbed by the way people got terribly confused by things that made perfect sense to her. But she had forced herself to keep trying, and now, finally, here was someone who understood! “His presence was a poem,” she would write in a journal, years later. “A poem, and a present.”

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