Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An effort in character development, 1000 words

Nivi Shickson was essentially a recluse.  She moved quietly and deliberately between two locations she considered home: her desk at the office, and the tiny studio apartment she rented.  At first glance, Nivi's work home was obsessively neat and tidy; each paper at proper angles to the angles of her desk.  But if one were to dig deeper, one would find the detritus of a more complex life.

For example, one might come to understand the staples of Nivi's diet, which primarily consisted of potato chips, cookies, red pears, tiny oranges, and room-temperature club soda.  If she ever ate anything more complicated, like a sandwich, no one could bear witness.  Broken pencils littered the inside of her desk drawers, along with bent paper clips, shredded pieces of paper, and flip-animation drawn on sticky note pads.  The pieces of Nivi the outside world never got to see, swept haphazardly into a drawer at the end of each day.  The broken pencils indicated stress from pushing too hard; trying to be someone she wasn't.  The shredded paper indicated a nervous personality.  The bent paperclips spoke to her need to be able to mold something other than herself.  No one, not even Nivi, truly understood these personality tells.

Meanwhile, Nivi's files were meticulously neat.  She could lay her hands on any piece of paper, any form, any proposal, in a matter of seconds.  All her i's were dotted and all her t's were crossed.  She obsessively self-edited, fact-checked, spell-checked, and grammar-checked every document so not only was the information contained therein accurate and concise, it was very nearly perfect.  Nivi's ability to do her job in such a way as to be a productive staff member and gain continual excellent ratings on her performance reviews without anyone really knowing she was there was a testament to her great and varied talents.  She figured, she got paid to do the work and therefore the work should be done to the very best of her ability, even if she secretly wished she could do her work and never have to talk to anyone else ever again.

Nivi's apartment, on the other hand, was a mess!  An outsider visiting (though they never would because they would never be invited) would assume Nivi was a slob, or possibly a hoarder.  She was neither.  It was simply her own personal space so she didn't feel pressured to sweep, mop, and pick up.  While her apartment was definitely messy, there were no science experiments growing in the dorm-sized refrigerator or in the scattered empty tea cups, or the crumb-laden plates on the table next to her bed.  No mold growing in her bathroom.  She had very little furniture; she didn't own a single bookshelf.  Her beloved books were carefully stacked in piles against the walls of the room.  Her closet was small so the clothing which didn't get hung up was folded and stored in neatly stacked containers in one corner of the room.  So no, she wasn't a hoarder, she was simply making do with what she had.

Her laptop spent most of its time on the lap desk on Nivi's bed.  She fired it up now, and was again grateful to Pop and Maria for letting her have access to their closed wireless network.  Pop and Maria owned the building which housed not only Nivi's small apartment, but two slightly larger ones on the same floor, as well as their own larger apartment on the third floor.  The ground floor was Pop's, the hole-in-the-wall pizza joint they started together thirty years ago.  The wireless stuff was Pop's idea and his way of keeping up with the times; Maria didn't understand it, nor did she want to.  He and Maria were in their late sixties and had been making noise about retiring, though Nivi doubted retirement for either of them would come any time soon.  Either way, Pop and Maria were about the only two other human beings Nivi ever spoke to and certainly the only ones she ever shared anything even remotely personal with.

Nivi checked in with her lackluster online life, seeing not one email, not one friend request, not one bit of interest from anyone.  After a pitiful few minutes, she finally sighed and turned off the machine.  She was desperately lonely but her intense dislike of most humans, and her intense desire to be left alone usually outweighed any need for companionship.  She didn't want a man.  She didn't want a woman, either, for that matter.  Pop and Maria were great, almost family, but family could only take you so far.  She'd considered getting a pet (probably a cat, since cats tended to be as aloof and detached as she usually was and were a low-risk animal) but decided against it when she eventually came to understand she didn't want to be responsible for another life; any other life.  Therefore, goldfish, hamsters and other small critters were immediately discounted, too.

What Nivi needed was a change.  She'd spent countless hours inside her own head imaging her life as anything other than what it was.  She knew who she'd be and where she'd live.  She knew how she'd make her money and what clothes she'd wear and how she'd choose the people she'd talk to when she finally forced herself into her new persona.  She could become someone else, have everything she always wanted, and be happy.  But was she brave enough?  Could she pick herself up from her home in Ohio and move?  Could she leave everything behind?

You bet your ass she could.

And, tugging her laptop toward her once more, she began to plan.

The next morning, after emailing her letter of resignation, clearing her desk of the five things she felt she needed to take with her, and walking out of her office for the last time, Nivi took one look at the skyline around her and said her silent goodbyes.  There wasn't one thing she would miss here.


(written by Jennifer Shell, December 22, 2015)

No comments: