Wednesday, January 2, 2008


It was too cold to sleep last night.

For a while I tried abandoning all frugality and cranking up the thermostat, but the drafts from my charmingly antique apartment blew out the warmth the way a kid might blow out a birthday candle.

So I turned the thermostat down again (no point in paying for heat one can't feel, not to mention the associated energy costs), and huddled in bed, layered like a baklava, wearing both slippers and earmuffs.

And, trying not to freeze, I suddenly thought of Coco.

I hadn't really thought about Coco DeLaurente since I posted on my "ten-year bookiversary;" but there she was, her grubby figure planted in my brain.

"Just imagine you're Coco. This is how Coco feels."

Coco was the fifteen-year-old heroine (and alter-ego) of my adolescent novel The Red Book of Cordia. She was, at the time, everything I wasn't, including impoverished, wily, mobile (she travels through three Cordian principalities -- Nelcordia, Wrylan Dos, and Eilcavert -- in the space of six months, while I paced the streets of my tiny hometown), and, of course, orphaned. These kind of protagonists generally are.

At the time, when my winter bedroom got even the slightest bit chilly, I would think to myself "this is how Coco feels, in her unheated room at the Waverly Home for Neglected Girls; remember it, so you can write it down effectively."

Now, in an apartment so cold that the air sliced through my face with every breath, the memory re-emerged and I had to laugh.

But it put me in mind of the other games I played, when I was young, starting with the ever popular "what would [name of character in The Red Book of Cordia] do in this situation?" I think I mentally ran every major decision in high school past the handful of primary characters in my novel, and usually decided to do whatever Tiva Shirala did, as she was the character that seemed to have the most sense. (Coco, in this case, was much too impulsive and emotional; plus she lacked life experience.)

Then my mind jumped me back five years and I remembered myself, following my parents through endless grocery stores and Home Depots, playing the game "if I had to use my ears only (a nicer way of saying "if I were blind," although that's exactly how I thought of it at the time), what would I be able to discover about where I was and what was around me?"

I also played math games, imagining I was given only $10 and had to purchase ingredients for a meal for X number of people (another situation that has become all too true in reality). One afternoon I trailed my parents through the grocery store and counted every occurrence of the word "real," as in "Real Cheese!" or "Real Fruit Flavor!"

Then an even older memory popped up, one so ludicrous that I could hardly believe I once imagined it. Little Blue, probably around fourth grade, in church and taking Communion... and imagining, the entire time, that she was a female version of Oliver Twist and the pastor was the cook, handing out tiny pieces of food.

So -- Team Readers -- own up. What kind of pretend games did you play when you were younger? Were they quite this bizarre, or is there a closet fraternity of secret imaginers out there?

Oh -- and what can I do to make my apartment less cold?


The Director said...

I dunno about pretend games, but to make your apartment less cold, you need better insulation. If you don't have that, then hang sheets across the doorways or something, to keep air from blowing through the cracks.

If you get one of those little heater thingies for $30 at Walmart, you can heat a small bedroom pretty quickly, and once it's hot, it'll stay hot for longer, if you can keep the cold air out and the warm air in.

ctrlalteredmind said...

i would recommend a space heater too - they sell for around 15-20 bucks on Amazon and at Target, are great for directional heating, and don't boost up the electricity bill by too much. Assuming an 800-watt space heater that runs for 4 hours a day (or night), for 30 days a month - works out to about a maximum of 15 dollars (assuming around 8 cents per kW-hour). The heaters usually have a lower setting for ~400 watts as well, which would cut the cost in half.

ctrlalteredmind said...

um, correction: that $15 calculation was for 8 hours a day and not 4 :)