My first prompt:
Write a story in which the character is snooping around an ex-boyfriend’s (or girlfriend’s) apartment because he or she still has a key. The whole story takes place in a closet in the bedroom that the narrator retreats to when the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend comes home with the narrator’s best friend. The narrator must endure, inside the closet, maybe the sounds of this couple making love for the first time or perhaps simply a loving conversation unlike any the narrator has ever had with this former paramour. Describe only what the narrator can see and smell inside the c?loset and what she can hear and guess is going on outside the closet...you will show us your narrator’s deep sadness or anger or a combination of the two, without having to describe it.
This exercise forces you to blindfold your observer. Every image presented in a piece of prose is like the image this narrator will perceive—imagined, reconstructed, simplified.
(from prompt #23 in The 3 AM Epiphany)
He is there. That is why I am here, in this closet. I didn't expect anyone to be home. I can't see him. He must still be in the front of the apartment. My heart is thudding in my chest. Adrenaline? Fear? Excitement? The smell of him permeates my nose and no doubt when I get out of here, if I ever get out of here, my clothes will smell of his detergent. Why did he have to come home?
Wait. Footsteps. More than one pair. The bedroom door squeaks open but the light is left off. There are whispers. He's with someone. The clickity clack of heels indicates he's with a woman. Her breathy giggles float through the closet door and into my ears. I know that laugh. It is the laugh of the woman who I have known since we were in elementary school. The woman who, when we were girls, I shared my favorite clothes with. The woman who rode the bus with me, as teenagers, to summer camp. The woman who I confided my deepest secrets to. And she is here with him. He brought her here. To his apartment.
Questions reel through my mind. When did they start seeing each other? Why didn't I know? How long has this been going on? Why her?
There is a rustle of material. I can see nothing through the slats of the closet except for a very dim shadow cast on the far wall by the sliver of the moon shining in the window. The thudding of my heart quickens. I don't want to witness this. I close my eyes, inhale. Him. That is all I smell.
Wait. No, I smell her too. That familiar perfume. The one we shared. The one I have given her as a gift every year on her birthday since she was seventeen. My throat closes. I open my eyes. I don't want to see, but I must see what can be seen. The creak of the bedframe as weight is set upon it startles me. Can they hear me breathing? How can I make this stop? There is silence, more material rustling, the bedframe creaks again and there is soft whispering. No movement. No more creaking.
From the dim shadow on the wall it looks as though one or both of them are lying on the bed. But what are they doing? I still hear faint whispers but I see no movement. My heart still thuds a steady, almost painful beat in my chest. I close my eyes, brace myself on the wall of the closet. This isn't happening. And then, there is only the sound of deep inhales, staggered by the other's exhales. No other noise accompanies the breathing. They're asleep. Together. Lying on his bed, where we used to lay. Together. And I am stuck here in his closet, accompanied only by his smell. Alone.