While readying myself to pen this post, I couldn’t get Bernice’s voice out of my head. Bernice is my critic, my fear, my alter-ego and she likes to taunt me whenever I try to share some writing with the world.
Today, I actually heard these words come out of her nagging mouth, “You can’t call yourself a writer. You have not blogged for months, your book proposals have been rejected, your e-book ideas sit in your notebooks and seriously, you are just plain too afraid of me showing up in your writing. Give it up, Girly.”
I hadn’t heard these words in a while. A long while. When I do put my writing out there for the world on a regular basis, Bernice quiets down. If I have a severe lapse, she shows up, louder and louder. Funny that. I’ve given her space to balk.
So, to show her she’s wrong, I came to one of my blogs today (my other is theliteratemind – just as neglected) to actually get back on track to feel more writerly today. I’ve been here so many times, I could write a book on that. I’d call it Fear of the Keyboard. I also need to remind myself that I AM A WRITER because I do put my pen to paper every single day. Like breathing or brushing my teeth. My purpose for writing, however, on a daily basis is not to always share with the world, it’s to find my way in the world.
So, to inspire myself, I vowed to join along the writing journey of 800+ teachers in Kate Messenger’s Teachers Write Summer Camp. Today’s lesson was on character sketches by Melonie Crowder, author of several books, Parched, Audacity and A Nearer Moon. I’m anxious to read these books after hearing Melonie’s voice in her writing lesson.
I enjoy creating character sketches. My favorite ones are of my husband and children because I know them so well and they are interesting to observe and write about when they don’t know you are writing about them. But, I’ve written a few character sketches sitting in airports and on airplanes that bring me back to that moment in a second when I reread them. I decided to rummage through the notebooks. Here is one I found from a trip to Ohio a few years past.
When I travel alone, the one thing I’ve started to become apprehensive about is the unknowingness of who has purchased the airplane seat next to me. Before boarding the plane, I scan the waiting room for loners wondering which human it might be. Once on the plane, I sit with my eyes attentive to the entry, eyeing passengers as they look for their seats. I wait. On this particular flight, I sat in my window seat for quite some time, beginning to think I was going to be lucky enough to have both seats to myself. Just imagining it was bliss.
And then he appeared.
A large man, late 30ish, maybe 40’s, wearing a tattered and tight Harley jacket, carrying an Arby’s bag, began his stagger up the aisle. “Please. No,” I heard my insides quiver. I scolded myself, “Shari, that’s terrible. Be nice. He might be a very kind man who could be here to teach you something.” Ok. Breathe. Look out the window.
The closer he got to my row, the more anxiety I had. Sure enough, after looking at the seat row signs, he scrunched himself into the seat right next to me. I hugged the window a little tighter.
“Hi,” I greeted him.
“Hey,” he replied.
After settling in, he fumbled with his Arby’s bag and jumbo pop trying to adjust his seat bucket to accommodate him. Waves of smells came along with him – tractor grease, a faint smell of farts, (can’t think of a better word here – sorry). I began to wonder if maybe gas of this sort just leaks out of some people all day when you eat the kind of stuff that’s in that Arby’s bag.
Then, he opened the bag. Good Gloria Lord in Heaven.
This was not your average hamburger and fries kind of stench. I was gyro-like with strange sauces. That combined with the tractor grease and farts was enough to make my eyes water. I turned my head to window wishing I could open it for a whiff of fresh air or of hopes of a lady behind me with strong flowery perfume I could inhale. Sadly, behind me was another fairly large man with a bad breath issue. Yes, I could smell it.
I wished for a sedative.
Shut your eyes. Breathe, Shar, meditate. Imagine yourself laying in a field of wild flowers or fresh cut hay. Deep breaths, one – two in, one – two out. Relax.
The Arby’s bag began to rattle. He’s going in. My meditation cracks. I decide not to open my eyes.
Breathe.The stench increases three fold. Oh my heavens – WHAT is that?????? I’m suffocating. I should go to the biffy. No. He will have to move, too.
Stick it out. Breathe. Sleep. Breathe.I drift off. . .
I stopped writing after that. Too traumatic. But, I think this guy would be a wonderful character in a story about how we learn something from each person we meet. I could have had a conversation happen in real life. But, I slept. Wasted an opportunity. At least there is still an chance to make it happen in my story.
Thank you, Melonie, for having me revisit this character and memory.
But, more than that. . . for helping me safely put my writing out there today.