Friday, 13 January 2012
I Don't Know Why I Remember ~ A writing prompt
Here are the instructions:
Writing Exercise from The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing
Goal: To pinpoint some previously unexplored material that remains “hot” for you in some important emotional way.
What to do:
1. Scan back over your life and think of things that have stuck in your mind, but for no obvious reason. (No births or deaths, or other “important” moments, please. Go for the small ones.)
2. Render them precisely on the page using concrete details, beginning each one with the phrase, “I don’t know why I remember.”
3. Don’t try to explain why they stuck with you, or interpret the meaning of them. Just put your reader there.
I don’t know why I remember him so clearly. I remember the deep lines set firmly around brown eyes, the whites both blood shot and jaundiced, assuring me that, most likely, any money he acquired was spent on liquor. The leathery black skin of his face was framed by the M shape of his receding hariline and the peppered gray stubble along his jaw that centered chapped lips the color of bruised plums, all together making it seem as if the rows of perfect white teeth were somehow out of place.
Regardless of the season he wore navy blue coveralls blackened with the grime of the city streets and gooey with the stench of unwashed body and stale urine; the odor an independently tangible presence that clung to the air around him. They were of the insulated sort, the coveralls, like one might see on a mechanic. Only his face and hands were left exposed and the coveralls had zippered pockets here and there. Over his arms and legs, one on each of the upper and lower portions of his extremities, were t-shirts wrapped and tied like tourniquets with their frayed ends swaying to and fro as he moved. Their purpose was perplexing, at best, and yet one was left with the assurance that the various shirts were somehow as necessary to him as the unseasonable coveralls he insisted upon wearing.
A homeless Katrina evacuee who often sat quietly on the corner near the smoking area, watching with anticipation those who passed by in hopes they would leave the still smoldering remains of their cigarettes for him to pick up. Sometimes, from his position perched on the stoop, he would violently wave his arms in a style much like martial arts. Making those little sounds often heard from little boys playing, the expelling of air between the upper teeth and lower lip.
Pfft, pfft, pfft.
Some days, if he was lucid enough, he would gingerly approach, his jaundiced eyes averted, and mumble his desire for a whole cigarette. Again, if lucid enough, he might even tell you his name, or that he was a Katrina evacuee, or that he was the administrator of a space station and only waiting for them to retrieve him.
It's been so long since he last held court on our little corner of the street. Other faces of other shiftless sorts, who are unable, both by choice or uncontrollable circumstance, have since come and gone. Their faces are blurred by the passing of days and years.
But his face, I remember.