642 Things to Write About #3 – Back to the Future

Write your own Back to the Future moment: Describe how your parents met and how those tiny details set the stage for their relationship and your existence.

She’d picked the curtains herself. They didn’t have many fabrics to choose from, and she’d have liked something classy, something in a colour with an exciting name. Ecru. Fallow. Metallic Sunburst. I simply adore your curtains, her girlfriends from the hospital would exclaim the moment they’d walk in and she’d reply, a hint of a smile on her lips: Oh, those old things? Just some Fallow velvet I had lying around.

There was no velvet on stock anywhere. Nothing Ecru either. So she settled for four meters of light pink, white heart patterned cotton. More fit for a doll’s house, she thought, checking and rechecking the fabric parcel in her carrier bag after she’d left the shop, testing its softness with the tip of her index finger as she was waiting for the lights to turn green, picturing the folds she’d meticulously arrange every morning as she’d draw the curtains open, unwilling to settle for anything less than the perfect amount of sunlight, perfectly falling on her perfectly dusted new shelves.

She sew them and hung them up the same day. Hours later, nestled in her only armchair, a dusty flowered tapestry affair she’d inherited from her parents, she was sipping her afternoon coffee, a bullet sized orange crayon scratching away at the Microbiology course book in her lap. Every so often, her eyes would slip away from the page, only to rest on the pink curtains again. This was it. This was her home. She’d finally fled the nest and was really alone now, absolutely alone, but the world was brand new and shiny and she wasn’t afraid.

They met that very evening, the thump of his fist on her door frightening her to the bone. The world was a dangerous place really, and even more so for a young woman like herself hardly prepared for a life on her own, she thought, silently making her way down the corridor to spy through the peep-hole. A young man, his eyebrows plunged into a dreadful frown. Treacherous creatures, she reflected, determined to pretend she wasn’t in and get back to her reading.

For a moment there, it seemed like her life would go on along its safe, pink curtained path. She could almost see herself doing just fine, growing old there in her hand me down armchair, filtered rosy light digging wrinkles into the skin around her eyes.

Open up, I know you’re in there!

Now she was scared. He meant business, this man. He’d kick the door down and burst into her home, grab her by her shoulders and shake her. Her mind flashed back to course book anatomy prints. Everything meant to protect her seemed so uselessly fragile when up against this man’s fists and nails. What difference could a couple of ribs and layers of bloody tissue make in the face of a man’s wrath? He’d just reach inside her chest cavity and pull her heart out, there was nothing to it really.

I’ve got water pouring down my walls, do you hear? Open the hell up!

Water? What on earth was he talking about, this savage, violent killer of women, who’d picked her of all people to rip apart. And then she remembered. She’d planned a long, cinnamon scented bath in celebration of her new curtains. She’d even poured the salts in the tub, a pinch more than she normally allowed herself, but it was a special day, it really was. She’d turned the tap on and it was probably still running, a couple of hours later, dripping cinnamon scented bubbles down the walls of this dangerous man.

She opened the door, her heart thumping like a bird in a cage. The sudden draft made the curtains flutter, messing up their perfect folds. Steaming water was slowly flowing from under the bathroom door, spreading down the hall like a badly kept secret. Years later, I’d be cutting up the heart patterned fabric into a million Barbie doll summer dresses.


642 Things to Write About is a book of writing prompts lovely V got me a couple of years back.

642 Things to Write About #2 – How You Feel About Love These Days

I’ve never cooked a piece of meat for a man.

I’ve never done anything that would mess up my nails, really. Hole digging, car pushing, hand sewing. It’s meant to say things about me, this. That I’ve got growing up to do and men are very much entitled to stop by, pick me up and weigh me in the cup of their hand, pinch my skin, then place me back on the shelf to ripen some more.

I’m not distressed by it. Sometimes though, when I look them in the face, the women in my family, I well know I’ve let them down. They’ve tried their very best with me, I’m sure, these nice pie baking – shirt collar ironing – grocery shopping ladies. They worked and worked my gooey insides and outsides to fit the right molds, until their knuckles went numb and and their fingernails filthy with bits of my skin. But I was hopeless, really I was. It wasn’t their fault. And it would have been terribly unfair, focusing so much of their efforts and energy on me when there were so many beautiful, docile, wife-material girls in our family who would have killed for a chance at their magic touch. So they put me out of their minds, these outstanding women, out of their minds and onto this shelf, for men to walk by.

*

In her free time, Mary was a witch.

You wouldn’t have known. Not in the morning, when nobody would be buying stockings for their girlfriends for a couple more hours and she’d be dozing, head in hands, elbows on counter, her eyes deceitfully wide open and her thoughts numb. Nor later in the day, when she’d be showing pricey undergarments to suit clad customers, lifting the silks up to her collarbones so that their uneducated eyes could see how well the colors complimented the skin. Nor at night, when she’d turn the pink window lights on, lock the door twice and walk down Uxbridge road towards her pink curtained one bedroom flat. But in her free time, Mary was a witch.

She could tell if you’d marry out of love by slowly moving her index finger along the lines in the palm of your hand. There was a life line and a heart line and they only intersected on the skins of a lucky few, everybody knew that. But she knew a million things more. Where you’d meet and what he’d love about you most, how to spice his stew and how to wriggle your body in bed, what your children’s names would be and whether they’d be good at arts or science.

Mary walked the streets piercing people’s skins with her witch eye rays. In her free time. She could tell who was growing liver tumors and who kept dirty magazine stashes under their beds, she could point them out, the screamers, the believers, the patiently waiting for life to pass them a winning hand. There were no such things as winning hands, she said. Not without assistance from a magical someone willing to read each and every tea leaf your lifetime of sipping would leave behind. I’d pass her my teacup and wait. Countless possibilities was not something I ever wanted for myself. I would rather know what was coming. I’d have a chance to prepare myself.

And if anything… A ring of salt around it, she said. To keep the evil out. I’d pour it around my bed, to fight bad dreams. Around the mailbox, against bad news. Around the doormat, against bad people. I’d walk around the flat, grains of salt crumbling under my feet, and feel safe.

Hi there. This is weird for me too. But here, have a bite. Or is it tea you want? A cigarette? A charger for your phone? I’ll bring them all and many more, just don’t you move. I’ll pour the salt around you and we’re done. Sure, you’ll grow old encircled like this, your palms will wrinkle even more, the life and heart lines drifting further and further apart. I’d bring you sandwiches and drinks and tell you beautiful things, like how your jeans make your bum look cute and a bit of grey on the temples has never made a man sexier. I’ll show you my new tattoos, sparrows and flowers and Latin quotes and never again another man’s name. You’ll smile that smile of yours and ask me in, it’s nice and cozy inside the circle, you’d say, there’s food and a smartphone we can play music on, come. And I’d just laugh.


642 Things to Write About is a book of writing prompts lovely V got me a couple of years back.

642 Things to Write About #1- Start a story with the line “My mother broke every plate in the house that day.”

My mother broke every plate in the house that day. In her country, she’d told me when I was little, broken plates and glasses brought good luck. We’d be winning the lottery soon enough, I thought, as she was dragging her feet through sharp shards of porcelain, talking to herself in a low voice. “Peasant!” she cried, and smashed a flowered soup bowl against the counter. It took three or four tries and it only broke in two, almost identical pieces, one could still probably eat out of if they tried. I remembered it, it’d been a wedding or baptism gift we only got out when we had people over for dinner. Tough soup bowls were now a thing of the past.

They had all been like blessings to me. The slammed door and the echo I’d felt shaking the windows for half a second, the broken dinner plates cutting the floor and the soles of her feet. The two of them, they’d become dry skins of the people they used to be. Two random pieces of molten plastic, mistakenly glued together after a fire mishap. It was a blessing to see it turn to dust. “Liar! Lying peasant!” and then some sort of boiling silence, as there were no more porcelains left to break.

I was counting the scratches on the table top. Scars left behind by nana, auntie Jean and mother, the three of them endlessly chopping the same vegetables every day for decades on end. The juices of meats and tomatoes had filled the lines with the color of earth. I would not keep it, I decided. I knew I’d have to wait for them all to die before I could throw it out without breaking their hearts and having myself removed from their wills. It was going to take twenty years, maybe more, but I’d be patient. I was determined. My children would not rest their elbows on that table top. They would not see the map of our unhapiness scratched in rotten wood. My children would have good lives. No porcelain either, plastic would be the new thing by then. Who’s ever heard of a smashed plastic plate?

My father was gone for six days. On the seventh he came back and couldn’t find a glass for his drink. He slammed his fist on the table top, his fingernails dirty with damp earth. Mother was sorry, crying over the broken porcelains. I tore a sheet from my history schoolbook and made a paper cup. The ink was slowly fading, mixing with the wine. Father was drinking the story of the Roman Republic, his lips turning darker with every sip. My fingertips were tracing the lines on the table top. The next day, they said, we would drive to the market. We needed plates.


642 Things to Write About is a book of writing prompts lovely V. got me a couple of years back.