What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

26 September 2011

A Place to Forget

In my Fiction Writing class, we usually have 20ish minutes for in-class writing. Here's one I wrote last week, touched up a bit for your reading pleasure. The prompt was, "Describe your least favourite childhood place." (This is my first attempt-- ever-- at writing in the second person.)

This building still depresses you. It depressed you for years without you even knowing it, and now it looms over your consciousness like a dead redwood that should have been cut down long ago.
It's the smell that bothers you. The janitors have a different cleaner for every room, and they all clamor together in a cacophony of antiseptic that clings to your clothes long after you leave. You can taste the smell, even now, just thinking about it.
Or is it the light that you hate so much? The building is unevenly lit: too much florescent glare in one room, not enough in another. It gives you a headache. And the windows don't help. Even during the only three months of the year when the sun bothers to shine on Iowa, any light that might creep into this building is discouraged, turned away by the hideous blue stained-glass windows. You hate those windows, especially the ones with the unrepaired bullet holes that the wind whistles through in the winter. They keep the light out but let the cold in.
Then there are those ugly accordion doors that divide one big room into three small ones. The doors that were installed back when your mother was too young to drive. They're made of glorified paper, but for all that they are still heavy and bulky and they clack when anyone touches them. You wanted them taken down for your wedding, but it was universally announced to be 'too much trouble'. If you ever decide to burn this building down and be done with it, you're starting with those doors.
The attic makes your list of hate, too, with its lack of heat or air conditioning. Up there you trip over junky old speakers that are laying around because no one volunteered to haul them off to the dump. The squeaky cabinets hold the same scissors and crayons and jars of paste that you used when you were a kid here. Reams of musty paper, printed with Sunday School lessons older than you, are stacked on the shelves, still waiting for the children that never materialized to learn them.
But it's none of these that you truly hate, is it? It's the room that you despise. The Sanctuary. Except that you would never call it that, in your plain Protestant way-- 'sanctuary' is too holy a word for a mere man-made room in a man-made building. But the adults you knew treated it as holy, all the same. You and your friends played hide-and-seek here after church, and later used the old ladies' cushions as frisbees, until you got caught. You remember the puke-green carpet with matching curtains that used to be in here, until it was replaced 30 years ago with the depressed red that remains to this day. The hymnals you remember are long gone, now replaced with a version that was last popular when you were a teenager; every other church in town has gone to Powerpoint for their hymns, but in this building a hymnal was good enough for your grandfather and one day will be good enough for your grandchildren and by God, it's good enough for you, too.
When you're in this room can still hear the echo of every off-key note sung in here, bouncing around the rafters looking for some glass to shatter. You remember every heated argument, and every difference of opinion that led to someone leaving in a huff. You remember the friends you never saw again after their parents fell out with your parents.
In this room you were married. In this room you said good-bye to your grandfather and you're back to witness the same ceremony for your grandmother. Any happiness you may have had in this building was long ago washed away, baptized in a flood of tears.


Myne Whitman said...

Wow, this is good writing. Second person when well done, makes the story so much more personal.

Anonymous said...

Boy, you really DID hate that place didn't you? I'll bet you got great remarks for that story.

Su said...

@Myne: Thank you! That's really kind.

@Delores: I haven't turned this one in... still deciding between this one and another one! But thanks for your encouragement!

erica and christy said...

OMG, 2nd person present?? You are BRAVE!! Good luck with it!

JEFritz said...

I think it's excellent. The image of the place is very vivid in my mind and the use of second person worked. Great job :)

Su said...

@erica: Ha ha, thanks! Here's how *brave* I am: I hadn't even noticed that it was present tense until you said something.

@JE: Wow, thanks.

Jo Schaffer said...

Sounds adequately dismal. I like the dead redwood imagery. Being a Bay Area girl I really saw that. (=

....Petty Witter said...

Well done, I always find writing in the second person so very difficult.

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh gosh that's so sad! But written so evocatively!

Su said...

@Jo: Thank goodness for my California husband... he has opened up a whole new world of imagery for me. :)

@Petty: Thank you! I don't know how much I'll do it, but it was fun for this assignment.

@Deniz: Yay, sad is what I was going for! (It feels weird to be happy about sadness.) Thanks!

Jordan said...

I love this! Wonderfully execution with the second person.

Su said...

Thanks, Jordan!

Karen Peterson said...

There is some really fantastic description here. I really love the way you involve all the senses. It's always been tricky for me to do that to any decent effect.

Su said...

Oops, almost missed your comment. Thanks, Karen!