- Books, Literature, and Writing
Two Writing Exercises Using The Line “These Are The Areas Of My Proficiency.”
My accumulated notes include lines which I’d like to eventually use in timed writings, writing exercises, and beyond. From the term “accidental storyteller” to the phrase “chance encounters led to magic,” far too often I neglect to do anything consequential with these items on my to-do lists. Thankfully, I’m about to use the following phrase in two writing exercises: “These are the areas of my proficiency.” In this instance, I’m using only prose instead of a mixture of prose and verse. If I ever use this phrase again, however, I’ll likely include it in a poem.
Status Quo Unacceptable
Chelsea looked at the stage where Jim, her boyfriend of two months, was singing “Paradise City” by Guns N’ Roses. They’d met at Mulligans, their current location, on a blustery and cold night in early March. She first noticed him because he was tall and classically handsome. In addition, his ability to sing karaoke while holding a large, almost full mug of beer impressed her more than it likely should have. There are, after all, more lucrative and socially-accepted skills to possess. Three days later, they’d had their first official date at a local sandwich shop in Rochester, Minnesota. They hadn’t returned to Mulligans since they’d met, and, on a whim, she’d asked him if they should spend their Wednesday night singing karaoke instead of watching reruns of “Seinfeld”
Pushing a strand of dark blonde hair out of her pale blue eyes, she wondered what to sing next. Earlier she’d masterfully performed “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” a tune she belted out with enough ease it appeared as if she could perform it while half-asleep or under the influence of questionable (and potentially illegal) substances. However, she wanted to bust out of her well-worn habits and try a new song. Maybe it was time to attempt “Material Girl” by Madonna. Or even go for something slow and soulful like “Rolling In The Deep” or a 90s tune from Toni Braxton.
Jim, who was wearing his favorite Vikings jersey and dark blue jeans, paused to sip his mug of Bud Light during an instrumental break. Not every singer ventured up with drink in hand, though many did. More than once Chelsea had wondered how the microphones they used weren’t shorted out after beer or mixed drinks were spilled on them. Then again, they often, to paraphrase “The Piano Man,” smelled like a beer, so perhaps more beer had been dribbled on them than she realized.
Which of these lines would you want to use in a writing exercise?
With his song wrapped up and the lukewarm applause from the audience fading into the background, Jim sauntered over to the wooden booth where she sat. Almost 6’5” with the lean, muscular body of a long-distance runner, he squeezed in next to her. Smiling warmly, she whispered “Good job” in his ear before returning to the question of what she should sing next.
“You think so?” He asked. “I wasn’t feeling it.”
“You sounded great.” She assured him. “By the way, what should I sing next?”
“Oh, I don’t know. What about one of your signature songs?”
“I really want to try something new. It’s too easy to consider ‘Blaze of Glory’ and ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ in terms of, ‘These are the areas of my proficiency.’ I’ve been there and done that. I need new territory.”
His thick brown eyebrows furrowed in concentration, Jim was momentarily silent. He continued to sip his beer while a short, stocky man wearing a baseball cap sang an uninspired version of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon.” Chelsea didn’t recognize him, and this made her wonder if he was in from out-of-town. Most of the regulars she recognized by face, if not by name, though this crowd kept changing.
Impatient with Jim’s silence, she flipped through the booklet listing songs she could sing. At this point she was willing to try almost anything aside from rap and show tunes. With a hard thump, Jim set his empty beer glass on the wooded table and announced he was going to get another. Glancing at her half-empty glass of Coors Light, he wondered if she wanted anything. Assuring him she didn’t, she watched as he eased his way through the crowd.
With a sigh of relief, Chelsea found the song listings by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Eureka! This was the answer she’d been hoping for. Glancing through the list, she decided it was time to give “Last Dance With Mary Jane” a try. After writing this song selection on the provided slip of paper, she stood up to deliver this song selection to Edmund, the middle-aged emcee originally from England. With a nod and a smile, he thanked her and turned around to add her song to the list of those already waiting to sing.
Satisfied with this hint of boldness on an otherwise unremarkable May evening, Chelsea sat down again and awaited her chance to sing.
Pausing to wipe her clean hands on a dark purple towel in the master bathroom of the home she shared with Daniel, her husband of five years, Paula wondered if they should dine out tonight. They’d been working overtime lately, and this had inspired numerous disagreements about who would cook after they returned home exhausted from their time in corporate America. Moreover, the idea of dining out sounded welcome. Their relationship had been feeling stale, and she dimly wondered how to best remedy this.
Wearing khakis, a white button-up shirt, and a tie with golf balls on it, Daniel was sitting at the kitchen counter playing with his Smartphone. At 34, he was no longer the dashingly handsome man she’d met at a football party when they were both 26. The recent stress at work had caused worry lines to erupt across his face; in addition, poor eating habits had caused him to gain weight. I’m not looking as fresh as I once did either, she reminded herself, before sitting next to him.
He didn’t bother looking up. She waited for a long minute, and then spoke. “Hey, sweetie, would you like to eat out tonight? We’ve both been working so hard, it might be nice to not bother with cooking.”
Turning to face her, she noticed the apathy in his dark brown eyes. “I don’t care what we do.”
“Why don’t you care? I don’t want to be the only one making decisions around here.”
“That’s funny. You didn’t seem to mind being bossy while we were dating.”
Affronted, she didn’t respond immediately. “Forgive me for trying to plan once in a while. We can’t all ‘live in the moment’ like you.”
He stood up and started to walk away. “I’m not hungry. Let’s skip dinner.”
“But we never spend any time together. Would you rather watch a movie?”
“I told you: I don’t care what we do. It doesn’t matter.”
“What’s going on? I want to spend time with you, and you’re blowing me off.”
He started to walk out of the kitchen. “You’re such an expert at claiming to spend time with me only when it’s convenient for you. What about me? What if I want a night away from you? Is that okay?”
Standing up, Paula could feel her face flush with anger. She was ready to immaturely stomp her feet in frustration. “You and your alone time and excuses: what’s that all about?”
Proof that not only human couples bicker
“Heaven help me if these are the areas of my proficiency. We can’t all be social butterflies like you.” He spurted before exiting the kitchen.
Unwilling to follow him, Paula stood huffing with little in the way of rational thought marching across her brain. All she’d wanted to know was if he had any interest in eating out. Why, she wondered, did so many of their conversations turn into pointless arguments?
No longer hungry, she filled an empty Gatorade bottle with water and walked outside. It was a cool, crisp September evening. Hoping the fresh air would help her clear her head, she began, with no clear destination in mind, to walk down their street.