Inside a Writer’s Mind

      18 Comments on Inside a Writer’s Mind
cafe

cafe

I see you standing on the sine wave of a San Francisco street, a tiny scale in that human serpent outside Philz Coffee. Interesting spelling, ‘Philz.’ It’s as if the Z mimics the trough and crest of the street it stands on.

I’m guessing you’re around 20. Your faded, hulking olive green jacket forms a cocoon around you as you dig your hands deeper into your pockets, as if defying the cold San Franciscan summer. Those bulky combat boots over your black ripped jeans make me wonder if your skinny legs can take their weight. Fuchsia pink hair bundled under a grey beanie, as if you’re deliberately hiding your light under a bushel. But a couple of errant strands are the pop of color this foggy day so desperately needs. Why are you hiding? And from whom?

There’s an anger, a restlessness about you. You’re carrying scars from your childhood, perhaps. I see you in pigtails laying flowers on your mother’s grave on a winter morning. You’re wondering to yourself why Dad is crying and where Mom went. Or did your dad leave you when you were a child? Mom cried every time you asked her when dad would be back and you didn’t know why.

Or maybe none of that happened. You had a normal childhood, but your parents’ expectations were like an ever-tightening noose around your neck. You hated those constant comparisons, their inability to accept you as you are. I bet you wanted to run away and join the circus.

Who are you texting? You haven’t looked up from your phone, not once in the last 15 minutes. That abusive boyfriend who you can yet cannot leave?

“Can I get you anything else, Sir?” the annoyance in that voice jabs me in the face unawares and derails my train of thought. It’s probably because I spend too much time here and not enough money.

“Another cappuccino, please.” I push two mugs that I’ve emptied towards him so he can clear the table. Gathering the loose sheets of paper strewn across the table, I look out again. Across the street, the line outside Philz Coffee has moved ahead.

Two places ahead from where you stand is you in about five years. Muted red hair tied in a sleek ponytail. You’re dressed in grey slacks and a white, full sleeved dress shirt to hide those tattoos. It looks like you’re getting your act together. A job at a bank, perhaps. You’re standing taller than past you.

I see that nervous tapping of your foot. You’re worried about that slave-driver you have for a manager who throws a fit if you’re away from your desk for five seconds. Or maybe it is the tightrope you have to walk everyday between work and life while juggling a million things and still get blamed for not doing enough. You are in a circus, all right.

“Your cappuccino, Sir.” He brings me back to my world with a jolt. The caffeine permeates through my body. The serpent on the other side of the road has slithered forward.

Three places ahead, on the crest of the road is also you, ten years from now. Auburn hair falls on your shoulders in loose waves. Your once lanky body is now rounded in all the right places. You’re not looking at your phone like everyone else is. You’re happy to be here, by yourself, like a mother would be after she has dropped her kids at school. In that floral blue dress and a yellow cardigan, you’re certainly not hiding anymore. There’s a glow on your face that comes with acceptance. Of your past and your present. What have you found? Meditation? True love? A good shrink? Or all of them?

Maybe the line outside Philz is a time machine and that sine wave street is your life. Maybe it’s just finally your turn. To happiness and peace. You enter the coffee shop as I turn back and put my pen to paper and write about you.

18 thoughts on “Inside a Writer’s Mind

  1. innatejames

    I really liked your opening image and the wrap-around at the end, Hema. I think the first sentence would be stronger if that second analogy were elsewhere. I hit the serpent scale and thought “but it was just a sine wave and I liked it being a sine wave.” I think your premise for this story is a winner. I wanted more action though. And I wanted to be shown (not told) how her life is the sine wave. Are the buildings or street vendors or street names certain times in her life? 🙂

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Nate, I was hoping you would comment with some pointers before the Super Challenge! So glad you did 🙂 Thank you! I understand that the sine wave and the serpent analogies in the same paragraph were a lot to take in. I’ll have to think about where else I can fit the serpent in. The buildings and the coffee shop mean nothing really, but the writer’s mind connects three strangers as one person and imagines the progress of the line outside the shop to be his muse’s progress in life.

      Reply
      1. innatejames

        I meant my questions at the end of my comment to be suggestions on how to show the significance of the sine wave. I understood that we were seeing the character at three different points in her life. It’s a clever premise.

        Reply
  2. oldendaysk

    My favorite thing is that you have perfectly captured the meanderings of a writers mind. We sit back and observe, making up stories about places, people, and objects. As far as structure, I do like how you tie things together, with aging and time references.

    Reply
  3. ellenbehm

    I love the theme of looking at strangers and imagining their story, and in particular this connecting of the strangers into one person in a kind of time travel in the mind.

    Reply
  4. rubybastille

    I love that sine wave analogy in the first line and the descriptions of the women. Also the callback to joining the circus – it helped tie together that writerly tendency to make assumptions about people and fill in their histories. The line with the time machine felt a little too tidy – the last paragraph could be only that final sentence and it would still wrap up the story well.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      I’ve been wanting to write about the crooked streets of San Francisco for so long. This week’s prompt gave me that opportunity! I see what you mean about the last paragraph. Thanks so much for that tip, Laura 🙂

      Reply
  5. Danielle

    I wrote a comment on this previously, but for some reason it didn’t stick. User error? Anyway, you never disappoint with setting up the scene. I was your writer in this. Good job!

    Reply
  6. saket kalikar

    Very imaginative of you to treat a queue as a timeline and weave a story around it.

    Not just this piece, but a couple of conversations you had with a reader / fellow writer tells me of the sincerity and passion you are putting in, to achieve excellence and perfection in your writing.As a reader, I must say you are not far away from it.

    Reply

Leave a Reply