As I mentioned in my last post, I am working through Alice LaPlante’s book The Making of a Story. The first exercise she has you do is to finish the sentence ‘I don’t know why I remember…” You are not supposed to pick obvious events, like births and deaths, but truly let your right brain take over a seemingly insignificant event. Again, don’t plan, just write. And if you’re like me, limit yourself to 10-15 minutes to prevent procrastination.
If you decide to do this exercise yourself, feel free to share in the comments section.
I don’t know why I remember the little girl from one aisle over on a bus trip from Houston to Alpine. I was traveling on a Greyhound line, going to summer camp in the Davis Mountains. The bus had shiny velvet-like seats that were bouncy and made my stomach feel upside down over big bumps. I noticed the girl when she had her head in her mother’s lap. She sat up and looked across the aisle at me. She was about my age, six or seven, yet she wore bright red lipstick. Her black hair was short and curly, with a headband tucked in it and she had black, round eyes with long, curling eyelashes. She was wearing a black dress with large red roses imprinted on it; cheap, thin material dressed up by a small edging of lace and tiny red buttons. Her socks were white with cuffed ruffles – polyester socks, the kind that get sucked down into your shoes and make you irritable – and her black patent leather shoes were too big. She would flop one shoe off and catch it on the same foot.
Somehow in the nine hour bus ride, we ended up sitting next to each other. I asked her where she was going. She said she and her mom were moving to California. I asked her where she had been living. Florida. That’s a long trip, I said. Yeah, she said, mom said it will take 3 days. I pictured their entire belongings packed up under the bus. I wondered how the bus could hold so much, then I realized they couldn’t possibly have had much more than I did. I had a huge trunk full of clothes for just two weeks. Why was she wearing dressy clothes for such a dreadfully long trip? Would she change or wear the same thing for 3 days? I hated polyester socks. Maybe they were her only clothes, I wondered.
She had a hard time sitting still when she talked. She twisted in her seat. Her mom would occasionally look over at us, but mostly she slept. She, too, had black hair, but hers was dull, frizzy and full. She wore it long and unrestrained. Her eyes were black and on her lips was the same red lipstick. She looked tired and there were circles under her eyes. I remember thinking that I was glad that she was not my mother.
My mother had packed me a bag for the bus. I had juice and books, a few toys and snacks. I pulled out a coloring books and crayons, which I shared with the girl. She also ate a package of peanut butter crackers. I can’t remember if she told me she was a gypsy, but I distinctly remember thinking, as I stepped off of the bus, that gypsies were real.