Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: A Quiet Lot

A wordless conversation in my current project. Unlike my previous few attempts, this one itself isn’t at all likely to make it into the final version (for one thing, the perspective is off), but there’s a part in the final version that is going to look better because I wrote this one first. This is, however, the last time I have a silent conversation between three unnamed people who are all the same gender. Referents get really ugly that way.

At first, there is only one of them in the abandoned parking lot: an older woman, the lamplight catching her white hairs and making it look like her tight bun is sparkling, making crisp notations in a pocket-size booklet. Then there are three—two college girls, now, both in street clothing, one moving to speak to the lot’s first occupant, the other watching them out of the corner of her eye and otherwise making every effort to pretend that she is not, in fact, there. Clearly the older woman has not received the memo, as she watches the second girl closely.

The first one reaches her with a smile and a wave, both of which appear to break halfway. The older woman folds her arms over her chest and taps her foot, her head tilted ever so slightly. The first student talks. And talks. There’s a conciliatory edge to her voice and the set of her head, and her words stop and start and stop again, never quite able to gain the momentum they need to get to the point. The older woman’s steady gaze is not helping matters.

Eventually the first student reaches the end of the narrative, and beckons the second over. Her friend steps tentatively to join them, face turned toward the second student but eyes on the older woman. The first girl takes the second’s hand reassuringly, draws her in to the conversational space, and gives the gestures of introduction—second student, this is older woman, older woman, this is second student. She goes through two phrases to introduce the student; the older woman’s eyes twitch at the second, and she asks a short question.

The second girl takes a step backward, eyes on the ground, recovering her hand and clasping it to her other. The first steps in front of her, gesticulating here, there, the sky, her words quick and sharp. Gestures to the second girl. Gestures to herself. Lets her just-dropped hand flick out to indicate the whole of everywhere.

They continue like this for a while, the two trading heated language, verbal and visual, while the second girl watches and inches more and more directly behind the first. The first girl is slowly working her way from upset to conciliatory, sprinkling a few shrugs into the discussion, when the older woman sighs and waves for her to stop. A few more words rush out of the first girl, and then she stops abruptly short. Asks a question.

The older woman nods.

She asks another question, her eyes widening and a smile beginning to slip in.

The older woman nods again.

A grin, a firm nod, and she says a few words to the second girl and gives her a friendly hug. Both disappear.

The parking lot again belongs to the older woman, whose face comes to rest in one of her hands.

1 comment

  1. UZ says:

    Ha, pronouns are always good fun in this case.

    ***

    She placed her hand on her shoulder, telling her that her problems were also her problems.

    She answered her negatively, saying that she couldn’t understand what she was really talking about. Her eyebrows furrowed as she asked her why. It seemed simple enough to her, but somehow she couldn’t grasp it. Was it because she didn’t understand what she’d already explained, that she hadn’t had to do what she did?

    She explained that that had been her decision, not hers. There was no way that she could explain what she’d been through to her, because she hadn’t been with her then. When she was far away, she had been alone, and now that she was here she was alone again. She was alone with her. She was alone… with her.

    Suddenly she seized her in her arms. Tears ran down her face as she said that she was sorry, sorry that she hadn’t been there where she had had to go, been with her when she’d had to do what she did. Now, she was with her. She would never leave her again.

    ***

    Heart-wrenching! But… which one was…?

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