I’m not going to lie, the past couple of days around here were pretty miserable. Joe was out of town for work and Thursday night I was up every hour from 2:30 a.m. on with a vomiting child or screaming baby. By the end of Friday, I was covered in the barf of three different people and my back ached from slipping down our steep staircase while holding Eileen.
Let’s just say, we were all asleep by 8:30 p.m. Friday night and this morning I was awakened feeling not quite refreshed, but alive enough to survive two hours without coffee (our machine broke last week) before hauling my kids into the van so I could get a latte and giant cinnamon roll. Things improved greatly from there.
I was even gifted a moment today when Eileen was napping and Emmett was playing quietly that I stopped going for the world record of laundry done in a 12-hr period and gave myself 20 solid minutes to read. Because reading>housework, every single time. I’m reading Homegoing by Ya Gyasi right now, and the voice in this book is wonderful.
It’s our book club book, and I got a late start because it took me awhile after our last meeting to get through The Argonauts (which is an important book, I can sense, but not a casual read. It’s very much a text that might be assigned in a feminist methodology/gender studies course). I’m reading it with extra pleasure because I’m simultaneously listening to lectures/working on assignments for the University of Iowa “How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women” MOOC. And that shit is hard! I haven’t written fiction since my creative writing course in college and although I can sense I’m not totally horrible at it, the writing is not effortless.
We were supposed to focus on voice and identity and write a short story or scene (suggested length 1-2,000 words, which I did not achieve) in which the main character is a female child. The instructors encouraged us to “think about how you can invent identity and voice without falling back on stereotype, on assumed knowledge, on predictability. Consider who you want your character to be, and how you want her to show your readers who she is, and how much you want her to consciously know about who she is. Consider how the people around her might speak to her or describe her; consider what she might understand or not understand about how they relate to her and how they relate to the world.”
If you want to read my piece (super rough, like typed at 2:30 a.m.) it’s after the jump. Posting it here because I don’t know what happens to our work once the class is over, and in case anyone wants to provide constructive feedback. It feels very YA and one of my workshoppers said the voice feels more like a teenage voice than child, which I kind of agree with. WIP!
One More Thing
by Brianne Sanchez
*for the MOOC “How Writers Write Fiction: Storied Women”*
“One more thing,” she said, pausing to casually tuck the tag of my oxford back inside its collar. “Your shoes are all wrong.”
I relaxed my grip on the sink and tried to catch her eyes in the mirror before she walked away, but she’d turned quickly and I couldn’t see her face at all – just her long, brown hair. The nonchalance of her tone had released the yarn ball in my stomach I hadn’t known was there. I could still hear the gurgle of the toilet by the time she’d disappeared beyond the doorway.
My brand new Mary Janes must have been the first thing she noticed from her vantage point within the stall. She was so still in there, I thought I was alone as I stood before the mirror, “collecting myself,” as my grandmother would say – as if emotions were as simple to rearrange as the figures in her curio cabinet.
I ran cool water over my hands, washing my anger down the drain. (I learned if I splashed it on my face, it would only make me blotchy. Then I’d have to confront my reflection in the mirror when I toweled my face dry.)
When she spoke, I quickly tightened the tap and made to leave, my breath caught in my throat. I was a mouse and she was a cat.
“What are you hiding from?” she asked from behind the wall.
I didn’t answer; the rushing sound of her pee spoke for me.
Bathroom talkers had always filled me with a mild embarrassment mixed with disgust. My grandmother was one – always left the door open so she didn’t have to disrupt the flow of a monologue when – as she put it – nature called. I, on the other hand, always turned on a fan to mask the sounds of my personal plumbing, even if I was the only one home.
“The bell is going to ring in about three minutes and this bathroom will fill right up,” she said over the rumble of the toilet paper roll. “Everyone at this school is an asshole. But it’s only Tuesday”
I was still staring at my hands when she emerged. I expected her to take the sink beside me, but she came up right behind and put her mouth close to my ear.
I stood there still for what must have been three minutes, before the sound of voices began to echo down the hall and a pack of plaid-clad girls burst through the door, not seeing me at all.
How do you search for a voice in a crowd of backpacks and slamming locker doors? I pinched the inside of my wrist – I hadn’t even looked to see what shoes she was wearing. It was true, no one in this school was wearing shoes like mine. The yarn began to wind itself again inside me as I scanned the hall. There had been venom in her voice, but I could tell the poison wasn’t for me.
Even from behind that stall door, she had seen me in a way I hadn’t been recognized before. The right girl in the wrong shoes. I had no school friends to speak of, had never been invited to the Saturday night sleepovers that began in second grade, whispers of which spilled into Monday’s math class.
I wasn’t openly disliked, it just seemed to me like the sum of my self never added up to a note-passing kind of share-my-lunch friendship.
When I went to live with my grandmother, I stopped riding the school bus. She drove me the fifteen miles in her Buick down the gravel road so “things could remain as normal for me as possible at this impressionable age,” or so I heard her tell her card ladies who came to the house one evening a month.
But after awhile, she decided St. Scholastica would be a better fit. We bought uniforms and new shoes. And here I was. With my mother’s freckles, my father’s chin and my grandma’s Mary Janes. I found my locker, pulled on my tennis shoes and slipped out the door.