On Writing · Time

Splitting Time

Time splits — then and now

Sweet, forgotten mystery

Emerges and blinks.

This is how writers work. We meander, ponder, wonder, listen to other writers talk, eavesdrop in coffee shops, and think some more.

Well, that is, I mean to say that the truly interesting writers don’t sit down and pound out a story or an article or even a blog post without some serious wandering happening first, either consciously or unconsciously when you find yourself jotting down guesses as to what those young girls really think when they are alone and there’s no one to witness the perfect hair flip, to admire the genius cat’s eye slicked on eyelids, to be trusted with the ever growing suspicion of every necessary truth. Then there’s the matter of the bored bartender, flashing a smile as he pulls a draft and I decide that he’s frustrated because he’s filling in for the new guy who never shows up on time and it’s already an hour and he has a blog post that he’s gotta get done that night. Endless fun — and who cares if the made-up stories are true? The truth is just another story, after all.

At the office for TSA Precheck processing, a young woman stomped into the waiting room in thick-soled, combat boot sandals, angry tattoos covering her thighs and the back of her legs, delicate silver nose ring poised beneath bright turquoise eyes. A faded suburban mother trailed in after her, skinny little girl clutching the back of her pants. The newcomers settled into chairs rammed up against immaculate white walls.

In the twenty minutes that we shared that small, bright, fanatically ordered room, the young girl and her mother read aloud a story on the woman’s phone. The little girl leaned on her mother, to read her sections of the story, flip flops whapping chair legs. A few chairs down, raging angel stared at the wall. I scribbled in my notebook, glad that I’d packed provisions for the hours of waiting that the frowsy-haired woman assured me was the way that things worked here.

When the brisk clerk called “Deanne?” from the doorway, tattoed rebel bolted to a stand, professionally pedicured toenails a bright red against heavy black leather straps stitched with hard brown strands.

“We’ll be here, sweetie,” said the pale, tired mother. The pig-tailed blond little girl blinked at her big sister, face unreadable.

“Okay, then,” said Deanne and followed the clerk out the door. Before she left, she handed her mother a battered tote and smiled.

So many mysteries! Who are they to one another? I guessed mother and daughter, but who knows? Young woman and baffled stepmother?

Why is the young woman the only one getting a passport — and being fingerprinted? Is she being sent away — or is she heading out on her own now that she’s 18 or 20 or 22? Or is she studying abroad, ancient civilization or French or ceramics — or riding on a Eurail pass on whim and rumor?

While I wait my turn, I scribble ideas and the haiku emerges about the same time that the young woman returns and the clerk calls my name. I glance at my watch. I’ve been there ten minutes.


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