By Lorrie Hartshorn
I find you in Paris—you’re sick yellow and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. The métro spits me out at the top of the street that is home for now, and you’re there waiting, heavy, deafening and exhilarating. I pretend to shelter from you in the doorway of the Monoprix, laughing with the others standing there, gurgling like a child with my belly pushed out as you soak through my shoes and make my toes squeak in the cheap rubber. The air is thick with electricity that combs my hair like fingers, the sky ochre and low above our heads. I feel like you see me.
I tread the trail of backpackers and find you on a beach in Vietnam. You smell different, feel different in my nostrils—the sting of cheap coconut sunscreen and the clean twist of just-caught fish, grilled whole on coals for tourists. I know it’s you, the roll and twist of you, a fingerprint in my memory. You’re dangerous now, a deluge on palm roofs, whipping against bare legs as we watch you from the bar. I want to step out into you, to open my arms to you and cry my cleverness, my recognition into the sudden dark, but I am afraid of something, I don’t know what.
I move to London and let the rhythm of the underground and the late night traffic seep into me, not bone-deep but deep enough. I wait years; I think I forget you. Men come and never stay, sometimes women too; work is a cycle, and the heartbeat of the city keeps me alive, not living. I think I see you sometimes, but it’s never you; you stay above or to one side—left for remembered, right for imagined; I forget somewhere.
You come back, back to me, when I least expect it, laden with flimsy plastic shopping bags while my rough-weave canvas bag stays hooked on the kitchen cupboard door. I kick my shoes, one, two, and move head-down to the dark hall, bare feet sticking on lino. A finger on the hairs at the back of my neck, a heavy rumble like a métro car approaching a station long, long ago, and I look up and you are there. Weighty indigo clouds that buffet against the ceiling rose in a tattoo that is yours alone. I reach up my fingers to you, and you’re softer, more giving, than I ever thought you would be. Your heavens open to me, only me, only me, and I let the waters rise.
This story strikes me as poetry in motion. Wonderful language and a lyricism all its own. Quite lovely.
What a lovely comment, Gina – thanks so much.
My Gran had a saying “….too clever by far…” She would gave used it here.
I have nothing against clever or complex writing, rather enjoy it as a matter of fact.
But what I’m not keen on is when writers aiming for uniqueness ( although there isn’t anything new according to Shakespeare) leaves the reader trying to gain entry to their tale.
What is it that my university professor banged on about…….
“Honour your reader”. Makes sense doesn’t it.
An evocative piece.
Good art is mystery and by default open to interpretation. I don’t always want everything laid before me sans my thought participation- thanks for allowing me into your imagination. Great piece.
Thanks so much, Randal – glad you enjoyed the piece 🙂
Rather a sweeping statement that: “Good art is mystery”. and by that can it be assumed that the “Art” in question here is literature and not Mona Lisa’s smile.
Certainly the characters, the theme, the plot, the landscape can be as bold and mysterious as the writers wish them to be; it is after all their story to tell. The good writer, however, leaves the door open, albeit but a crack.
And, no, there is no need nor was it suggested that everything be laid out.
Sometimes I like to read a piece, like this one, simply for its beauty and cadence.
Thank you, Dontassone! x
What a beautiful, intelligent and absorbing story. I admire your writing skill and your verdant imagination, Lorrie. More please!
Speaking as an Eng Lit professor, I’m well aware that creative writing can be a very subjective matter. It’s just a pity that those who cannot access or relate to a particular piece feel the need to try and denigrate it, rather like a tantrum-throwing toddle smashing up a toy too advanced for them to enjoy. And, as I occasionally find it necessary to mention to my students, when critiquing the work of others, it’s imperative to ensure that one’s own writing is not riddled with grammatical errors.
So glad you enjoyed the story, Dr Daisy – thanks for your constructive comments.
Oops! *Toddler* – no glasses on!
Oh, this is wonderful! The narrator speaks to the rain, the air, the sights, sounds, senses of the entire world (or her particular part of it!), and in the end gives herself wholehearted to the Love of Life, which IS her lover. Or at least that’s how I saw it. Great job!
Thanks so much, Bobby – I love your interpretation of the story. So glad you enjoyed.
In order to debate a subject it is imperative that you hear and understand your opponent’s argument….throwing insults is, at best, the lowest form of defence.
As for grammatical errors, not everyone has a Ph.D. In English and for some English is not their first language.
Some readers liked the story, some did not – does that make the latter then “tantrum-throwing toddlers..?” Freedom of speech? Not in your class obviously.
On the contrary, Carrick. My students are encouraged to debate ideas and opinions and express themselves in my class. It’s a vital part of learning how to study, discuss and analyse literature. However, their comments must be sensible, mature and constructive. Quoting their Granny or sniping “Too clever by half” would result in an F.
You claim you find insults the lowest form of defence. I’m guffawing at the irony. Your comments on this marvellous short story have been entirely puerile and insulting. (I’m assuming you just ignored the instruction to “Leave a kind or CONSTRUCTIVE comment”??)
I find your comments to the author arrogant and pretentious. (Your use of ‘the reader’ instead of ‘I’ made me laugh out loud! Even TLS critics don’t assume to speak for anyone but themselves.) And I notice that you can’t accept other people have enjoyed this piece, but had to jump all over the opinion of other commentators. You personally didn’t enjoy the story, fine. You’re entitled to your opinion. You’re not entitled to deliberately try and belittle and insulting the author or other people giving positive feedback.
t’s time to move on, Daisy