Call of the city

Last Wednesday’s writing prompt was the city.

The city called her with its promises of sophistication. Come to me, it said, drink me in, walk my streets, and you will become one of my people.

She lengthened her stride and took to the sidewalks, briskly risking intersections so all would know I’ve got places to go. She flattened her smile into cool hardness, narrowed wide eyes to absorb the light, not reflect it. She wore all black and never looked to the sky, never caught anyone’s eye except with deliberation and purpose. The city is mine, she thought.

In dark underground stations her nostrils filled with moist grit; perspiration gathered at the back of her neck, the base of her spine, and under her arms. She kept one hand on the strap of her messenger bag and looked straight ahead, not flinching at shadows that scurried and scuttled through the century-old rails.

Inside the bright cold car she stood with her back to the doors, one arm raised to the shaft of silver metal, the other resting still atop her messenger bag. It won’t throw me off balance, she told herself, and allowed her body to sway its momentum toward the stops whose names she had savored in books and magazines. When the sweating, grimy-headed older men looked at her she looked away. When the young ones looked away she studied them, men and women both, the ones whose effortless belonging wrote itself over their garments and breathed from their pores like Calvin Klein. Someday, she thought.

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11 responses to “Call of the city

  1. Wow, so many things I want to know about this woman. I love how you are taking these excercises, and instead of simply doing an essay-type piece, you are creating something that could develop into so much more. I hope you are keeping these as the beginnings they are and not just as exercises.

    • Oh thank you, Lisa! So glad she intrigues you. I do hope to return to a lot of these freewrites… I have them all saved in a folder. Even if I never do anything with them, they have really been getting the creative juices flowing. Just spending 10-15 minutes every day in an act of verbal creation is so good for me!

  2. I like it – the city – that is! Took me right into New York’s subway system – its entrypoints, strap hangers, and seemingly indifferent stares – blank and penetrating, alike. I almost tasted the “moist grit”, and felt the clammy skin from my sweat that builds after waiting way too long atop the hot, crowded platforms. Thanks for the very vivid walk down NYC streets (though the descriptions can very well be found in many cities other than NY).

    • Ouf yes, SomerEmpress, I was thinking of NYC and an exhilarating-exhausting week I spent there years ago! You’ve captured it too in your comment. 🙂

  3. The City. A wonderful place to visit, to taste, to savor and enjoy, and then to leave, with no regret. Home. A small town where at five o’clock in the afternoon it takes ten minutes to drive through town, and we call it a traffic jam.

    • Sherry, I absolutely love the idea of a town where ten minutes is a traffic jam. I have never lived in such a place and I’m so curious what that would feel like. 🙂

      • Lisa, you’ll just have to come visit sometime! The very small town where we live has a population of about 2,000 — no traffic jams. We are 8 miles east of Salisbury, which is where I worked for many years — population 30,000. Salisbury has three colleges, not including the Community College. We have a symphony orchestra, an amazing community theater and childrern’s theater, an active arts community (we aspire to be another Ashville, NC), a flourishing historical preservation society (Ashville aspires to be Salilsbury), a thriving downtown area, and lots of good restaurants. Oh, and a first class library system. And, yeah, it takes about 10 minutes to drive through town at 5 o’clock as everyone heads home. We are about 40 miles north of Charlotte — population 700,000. I can’t think of anything we lack, other than some more democrats/independents and cooler, less humid summers:)

        • I would really love to visit sometime! My uncle lives in Chapel Hill, and he keeps encouraging me to make another trip out there sometime (I’ve been there three times, in 1999, 2003, and 2006). I did hate the humidity when I visited, but it’s a beautiful state and there is some seriously good food. 😉 If I’m headed that way anytime soon, I will see about getting to your town to see what the (non) fuss is all about! Salisbury sounds fascinating. I have a good mental idea of what a 30K population looks like because that’s about how big the UC Berkeley community is. Any town of that size with all the features you mentioned must be an interesting and flourishing place. 🙂

  4. Lisa, I would love to show you around Salisbury! You come to NC again and we will make it happen. BTW, my husband grew up near Raleigh and went to college at Chapel Hill. And our oldest son got his undergraduate degree there. It is also a lovely town. Chapel Hill is about two hours from where we live.

    • I will let you know next time I’m in the state. 🙂 It may not happen for a while, but you never know! I would love to make a return visit, and meet you!

  5. Pingback: Open Mic Friday! you talk: cities | the Satsumabug blog·

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