“What author or book has affected you?
Borrow the style of your favorite novelist or create an alter ego version of your own voice. Get creative, and have fun.
Take all kinds of liberties and explore what it’s like to walk – ahem, WRITE – in the shoes of another person.
And when you’re done, see if there’s anything about this new voice that might be worth keeping.”
On the far corner of the plaza was a string quartet. The ensemble were yet to begin, and the patience of those involved was growing thin. One of the violinists, a tall, thin man in tailored dress pants and a button-down dress shirt, pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. He took a cigarette from the pack and put it to his lips. He lit the cigarette and inhaled. The nicotine settled his fraying nerves, though his fingers still quivered alive. The other violinist pushed a stray hair behind her ear and rifled through her sheet music. The cellist sipped from a Styrofoam cup, steam tilting toward his round face. None of them noticed the woman with the silk Hermes scarf tied at her throat. She paused a few feet from them, her eyebrows knitted in concentration. The quartet began to play, and her eyes fluttered to a close. She drew out her invisible bow and tucked her imaginary violin underneath her chin, and eyes closed, she played. Every note she followed, and with eyes still closed, her purse toppled from her grip, and loose change scattered to the floor. She continued to perform her silent symphony.
Her fingers clutched an imaginary bow as, mesmerized, she continued to follow the violinist. Each note she played had an aching, haunting, lonely beauty, and she ignored the sound of coins spilling on the cool concrete of the plaza. It wasn’t until the melody ended that her eyes flickered open, and she observed the gaping maw of her purse on its side and then, her gaze fell upon the coins. As she bent to collect the contents of her purse, a man in a three piece suit bent and on bent knee, he helped her collect the loose change as well as other items that had fallen from her purse. A rose quartz rosary; a datebook with worn, leather binding; a wallet; a silver tube of lipstick; various business cards. The miscellaneous contents of one’s inner-most self were splayed out on the floor of the plaza.
Both the man and woman crouched on the floor directed their gaze at the lattice-style ceiling. It appeared as a checkerboard of sky and empty space, but they watched as a flutter of pigeons flew into the plaza. Some landed on signs, others flew to the awning of kiosks. There were less than a dozen, yet the effect was staggering. The man’s eyes followed the birds, and he did not notice his hand edging nearer to the woman’s until he felt the smoothness of her skin in his own hand. When he glanced back down, they had collected everything, but still on knees, they sat in the plaza, fingers interlaced. He gazed at her, and she glanced back at him. Finally, he broke the silence. “Rachel, how have you been?” He said, his low voice rumbling.
Her gray eyes grew larger, appearing as though they were magnified. He could see threads of blue in her gray eyes intertwined with the silver. “Nicholas?” Her voice was soft, barely rising above a whisper. Their eyes locked in that instant. Time stopped. The cogs and the gears of the giant clock in the center of the plaza froze. Calendars lost meaning. It could have been weeks or months. Years may have passed for all the two on the concrete knew because all that crossed their thoughts was the other. “It’s been years since I’ve seen you last.” She murmured, her voice nearly being swallowed by the large space.
“Years.” Nicholas echoed. He felt her fingertips slowly untangling from his, pulling free. His eyes took her in, absorbing the details, her rose-colored lips, her soft eyes, the dimples that appeared when she smiled. It was hard to feel alone in a world where a face like that existed.
Rachel rose, wiping dust from her knee caps, and her short black dress spilled around her as though she were a dancer or a performer on ice. She smoothed the soft fabric as Nicholas struggled to his feet. How could he stand when it felt like the world was swimming by him? He felt he had fallen into an aquarium. Every sound felt muffled, and he felt as though he were falling under water. Is this what love felt like? This slow, sinking, beautiful feeling?
“We should go grab a coffee sometime.” She said, the words biting at him, taunting him into believing. He had bled for Rachel for so many years. One blind date had shattered his world. It was as though he had been living in a snow globe, and she had finally freed him from his oppression. The entire world was his, but he felt he couldn’t breathe when she was away, and now that she was near, he merely wanted to inhale her presence, take away all her loneliness, keep her as his. Was all love this suffocating, this demanding?
“I’m free right now!” Nicholas blurted out, running a hand through his hair. He stared at her and wanted to feel her fingers again against his own, wanted to hold her beautiful body to his, to whisper secrets into her hair, to teach her everything he had learned in her absence. He gazed at her and absolutely adored the lightness of her skin, the way everything vanished when she was near. The quartet were playing a melody, but it was background noise, the faint buzzing reminded him of flies and not orchestral works. It seemed so distant, so far-removed from the moment he was in. The moment he was in was her eyes, lost in her gaze, the different colors her silver eyes became when looking at him. The glow of her eyes mirrored the moon on a night it was full.
She brought a hand to her lips, a nervous habit he recalled as uniquely her own from the blind date they went on all those many years ago. She didn’t speak for a moment. Rachel was such a conscientious woman, her habits studied and rarely impulsive. A wrinkle appeared between her eyes as though she were concentrating, and in that instant, Nicholas could see his future with her. He pictured that exact expression, the wrinkle between her eyes, forming when she read, eyeglasses sloping down the bridge of her nose. He imagined loosening the Hermes scarf and massaging her shoulders, kissing her shoulder blade, running his lips along her clavicle. He imagined carrying her to bed, lying her on silk sheets, and murmuring his adoration for her as she fell asleep in his arms every night. Her voice, soft and tremulous, came, and Nicholas found he was yearning for her words. “I…I can’t.” She stammered. “I mean, some time, Nicholas. In the future.” Her eyes again widened, but she looked around her as though panic-stricken.
All the beauty of the moment had fled, and Nicholas had realized it was all a fantasy he had spun for himself in his mind. He and Rachel would never have an opportunity to experience falling under water together in this beautiful whirlwind called love. Instead, he bowed slightly, a slight burn of blush rising to his cheeks, and turned, walking in the opposite direction of where he found her.
This scene was inspired by two prompts. One of the prompts was the one I listed above. I attempted to style this scene after one of my favorite authors, Simon van Booy and his beautiful, heart-breaking novel Everything Beautiful Began After. I am also in a writing prompt group on Facebook, and I was provided the prompt, “If you run into someone you know and they say, ‘We should hang out sometime.’ Just say, ‘I’m ready to hang out right now’ and watch them panic.”
As always, let me know what you think in the comments!