Second Person

This is kind of a continuation of Set Up, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s do this again: find something about this one you don’t like and tell me in the comments. Come on! It’s fun!

* * * * *

You’re at that Chinese food place again–the one with the streamers on the ceiling fans and the battery-operated candles trying to illuminate Buddha in the sunlit front window. You’ve paid the skinny Korean boy at the cash register and you’ve just sat down with your Moo Goo Gai Pan when you notice them. They’re eating in an innocent, almost weary silence. A break from their daily routine. A reprieve. You know it too well.

You consider switching to the chair across from you but decide against it. You don’t want your back to them. You slide your baseball cap around so the brim is in the front and tug it low on your forehead. You turn your spoon upside down on the table so you can see their movement in the reflection if they get up. Then you bow over your plate and eat. You don’t want to finish before them. You want to chew each individual piece of rice so you can remain a fixture blending into the restaurant and not the person they’ve been looking for for seven years. If you still recognize them after that long, they’ll still recognize you.

Two of them finish, take turns using the restroom, and leave. You hear their car start up and speed away. One remains at the table, engrossed in his phone. You like these odds better. You’ve been back in the city for two years, and he’s the first person you’ll have to confront. Not bad, you think.

He pockets his phone and looks at you. You turn your baseball cap backward again. You’re no coward. In here, or out there? you think at him. You don’t know he’s only there to stall you.

You don’t know it’s the second person, the one coming down the street toward that Chinese food place right now, who should really worry you.

19 thoughts on “Second Person

  1. I like this, it’s really very good, and the whole idea that you wrote it in second person and everything is great. It kinda bothered be how many sentences you started with ‘you’. Even if its second person, I think that can get a bit sloppy. I suppose that’s my bone to pick with it.
    How about doing the same for me on ‘World Folding’? I’d love some critique. (:

    • Ugh, you are so right! You you you!! Good catch. I’m disappointed with myself on that one.
      And absolutely. World Folding has been sitting in my inbox all day, I just haven’t had a chance to read it. Headed there now…

  2. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t even notice all the sentences starting with “you” until the first comment. I’ve since gone back and read it with an eye for fixing that. Easy. A few commas, a few simple statements. There’s a “for for” which is kind of awkward (looking for for seven years). But it still works, held my attention, and didn’t confuse me. Your writing just keeps getting better.

    • Thank god for editors. Another good catch on the “for for”. At first I thought I duplicated a word but then I saw they both need to be there – but yes, it is still awkward.
      Engrossed? Wow. I love that. Thank you.

      • You could try synonyms for “looking for” to get rid of the first “for.” Depends on level of “looking for.” Have they been tracking you for seven years? Or pursuing you for seven years? If they’re just an old friend you don’t want to see and you want to keep “looking for,” you could say “looking for these past seven years.” Or something…

        I see “had had” sometimes in books—I know it’s unavoidable at times but it still jumps out as awkward…

        • “Tracking” would work perfectly. But I’m not going to change it. The poor thing will have to sit there with its awkward “for for” for all eternity. Look a that, there’s 3 of them in a row. This is a good exercise for my obsessive inner critic. Seeing something imperfect and NOT fixing it.

          Now excuse me while I go line up every cup in my cupboard.

  3. The “you” thing isn’t that bad really, in a longer piece it would have jarred. It’s the same principle as telling a story in 1st person perspective, you have to find ways of not repeating “I said, I did” etc. I think my main gripe is the “engrossed in his phone” line, I would have worded it: “engrossed with his phone” but otherwise is was quite an enjoyable read. I’d like to know who the person is who should worry you!

    • I think it gets pretty excessive in the second paragraph – if I reworked that a bit it would help a lot. Second person is hard. Readers ignore the I this, I that in first person because we’re so used to seeing it, but with second person it’s hard to read all those repetitive yous.
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad it wasn’t so harsh to everyone. We’re our own worst critics, right?
      As for the person, it might be this guy:

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  5. How did I miss this? Wow! I didn’t want this one to stop. The little twists and turns just as I thought it was becoming predictable are fabulous.
    The repetitive ‘you’ usage didn’t bother me, but I’d agree with Dave about his cellphone comment.
    Now, off to read the next part immediately…

    • If I was going to edit this, I’d probably take out “engrossed” altogether, and replace with something else… “fixated” maybe. It’s bothered me since Dave pointed it out, and not just because of the “in” vs “with”…
      I’m so glad you didn’t find it predictable. Thank you. Your mention of seeing this as noir has me thinking…

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  7. Second person–um, I don’t know. Very difficult to maintain second person. Personally, I’ve never had the guts. Even in this short piece the YOU is like a disruptive drum. But it is distinctive.

    • Well I only have the guts for something experimental like this, slapped onto my blog with no fear. Yes, very difficult to maintain. But also a challenge. And fun. I kind of like that–disruptive drum. Thanks, I just might have to take that and run with it.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this piece, and I just wanted to get back to you: Readers will make assumptions!!! Even from a quick glance at the cover or the author’s name.
    When a female writer writes in the First Person or the Second Person, almost all readers will assume that the POV is also female. (Vise versa is true for the male writer trying to write about a female POV) To avoid a character-shock several chapters in–the gender of the POV–if it happens to be different from the writer–should be stated near the top of the work. Does that make sense????

    At first I assumed the POV in this story was female, but now I’m thinking male–not sure why. Anyhow, this kind of limbo needs to be fixed.

    Sorry, if I offend. When I’m between projects, I talk too much.

    • Don’t apologize. You can’t offend me, and I welcome constructive criticism on anything.

      You’re right. It’s something I’d definitely address if this was a novel or something I wanted to try to get published. But for this, it’s not that I’m lazy, but in the short, quick, what-the-heck-I’m-just-going-to-hit-publish-and-call-it-a-day format of flash fiction, well… I like to experiment and learn new things, so I might break a rule now and then and not care. Feel free to yell at me. Reminders are good. But I probably won’t fix major stuff like that. My novels and querying get all my major brain power right now. Flash fiction is just for fun. :)

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