Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Exercise No. 1

When I first started taking Eeyore to day care, I could never get the school’s little machine to validate my parking ticket. I would rub it on my pants leg and try again, but after 5 or 6 tries the director would have to come over and do it for me. Somehow, it always worked for her on the first try. But somewhere along the way the machine started working for me every time, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t have it repaired or anything. This morning as I validated the ticket again with no problem, it occurred to me that as I’ve gotten more comfortable as a mother, things like that have gone more smoothly.

How’s that for a silly indulgence of a thought?

Speaking of the whole drop-off experience, when I got back into the elevator today to return to my car, I rode with two men who had also dropped off their kids. One of them, whose face was oddly sweaty and who was dressed in shorts and sandals as though he didn’t have anywhere to be, kept looking over at the other as if hoping to catch his eye. He had a little smirk on his face that I interpreted to mean “hey, man, we’re both dads dropping off our kids – it’s kind of a pain in the ass and surely you think so, too, so look at me so we can exchange glances and confirm it. We’re men and we’ve got to stick together.” The other man didn’t look at him once, and when the sweaty guy got off the elevator, the other one gave me a little smile. Since I am all about the interpretations today, I chose to read his glance as a confirmation that he LIKED taking his kids to school and that the sweaty guy was a buffoon.

So I posted my first little writing assignment last night, only to wake up to a new one. I wonder if this class is going to get me writing anything beyond the assignments themselves? If nothing else, maybe the class will clue me in to a style that most fits my natural abilities. I can’t say I think my magical talent shines through the following:

The Window

The escalator propelled Helen upward and deposited her onto the pavement outside the Metro station. On sunny days, she would often detour into the Baskin Robbins just to her right, eager to remind herself she was American and living in Paris was just a circumstance like any other. On gray evenings like this one, however, when the sky was so heavy and damp it nestled clammily all the way down into the narrow streets, the ice cream store was no more than a warmly lit reminder that she would rather be inside.

Helen pulled her coat tighter around her, hunched her shoulders and tucked her chin against the chill, and hurried toward her bus stop. Ice cream cone in hand and book bag slung over her shoulder, the walk to her apartment would only have taken fifteen or twenty minutes, but at this time of year even the hothouse climate of the crowded bus was preferable to the cold.

As she approached the bus stop, Helen eyed the scene in front of her dubiously and weighed her options. She could wedge herself onto the bench between the lanky, stringy-haired teenager and the middle-aged woman in glasses too severe for the softening lines of her face, but today was Thursday. In her limited experience it seemed that French people only opted for a clean set of clothes on Mondays, so she chose instead to slope to the side of the shelter. Pressing her shoulder against the glass to support the full weight of her fourteen years, Helen looked up and across the square.

The window was a beacon in the gloomy evening, aglow and sparkling against the darkening stone walls around it. It was a picture window, a display for the jewelry store behind it, and it had been swathed entirely in silk taffeta as deep a pink as Helen’s favorite bubble gum ice cream. Diamonds glittered from every fold and curve of the silk, and Helen sighed under the window’s spell. She pictured herself framed behind the glass like a tableau vivant, an exotic creature oblivious to the cold, wet city streets outside as she basked glamorously in the warmth of the lights. Her only movement would be to run a languid finger across the jewels as if she were used to them, picking up just a few before letting them fall through her elegant fingers and tumble back onto their vibrant display. Passersby would stop short upon discovering the scene to exclaim with delight that the beauty luxuriating among the waves of silk was “a raven-haired Veronica Lake!” and she would return the compliment with the favor of a knowing smile.

Helen snapped out of her reverie as her view was abruptly replaced with the side of the bus, and she pushed off from the glass with her shoulder. As the bus pulled away from the stop, she lurched down the aisle to an empty seat near the back. She swung herself into the seat by the window, rubbed away a circle of fog with her fingertips and wiped it on her jeans. It was darker out now; so much so that the light inside the bus made it an effort to focus on the shops speeding by behind her reflection. Rather than make herself dizzy, she only pretended to watch Paris pass by and instead gazed at herself in the window all the way home.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Good stuff, Kate. I like that she sees herself in both windows, in one as she wants to be and in the other as she is.

I think you're right on about the men in the elevator, by the way.