Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seeing Them

I wrote this piece during one of my boring classes an university. It's inspired by the writer's festival I went to this week, but I want to clarify that this isn't what I thought about any of the people I saw there! This is pure fiction :)

____

I arrive at the venue 15 minutes before the event starts.

"One student," I say.

"$10 please," says the woman behind the table.

"Lots of quarters," I mumble as I drop my change on the table.

The woman laughs. "Quarters are still money." She passes me a ticket. She is a young widowed grandmother. She spoils her four year old grandson with cookies and chocolate milk.

I shuffle into the theatre and take a seat near the upper left. I sit alone in my row. The seats are red, a true vibrant red. Cushioned, with wooden trim and armrests. On the stage people (tall, short, skinny, obese, happy, sad) are milling about. To the left is a table run by a local bookstore selling books penned by the authors who are going to read tonight. People (girl, boy, loving, mourning, black, white) flip through the books. Some buy them, some place them back on the table. On the opposite side of the stage are more tables: festival merchandise, a silent auction, wine and cheese. And centre stage: a red couch, two oversized chairs, two end tables with dim but warm lights and a modern white rug beneath them all. Projected on the back wall of the stage is the festival's poster with the names of the evening's authors.

I watch the people.

***

An elderly couple arrived a few minutes before I did. The wife is sitting three rows down from me. She is waiting patiently for her husband to return to his seat. He is down by the book table, speaking happily to one of the authors. He gestures to his wife and the author smiles and nods. The two make their way over to where the wife sits. The women shake hands and make small talk. The husband beams, glad to see the ladies are getting along. They flip through the author's new book, a novel about a writer seeing a married man. It is almost autobiographical although the author did not seek out the man - the man pursued the author. She did not know he was married. She is only finding out now. He tells himself he enjoys the game, the danger, but really he just loves them both. He wishes there was an easier way.

***

A tiny Asian couple enters, holding hands. She is buried beneath a long parka, hat, scarf and mitts. He teases her, snatches her hat as they chatter away. Both carry heavy backpacks, well worn from use. Both bags have a Chinese flag sewn on them. The couple sits close to centre stage. They love English because it is the most important language in the world and they can hardly understand a word of it. For them, English represents a certain amount of freedom they are only experiencing now. It gives them small thrills to attend events like these. They've known each other since they were five. They started their travels as childhood friends and will finish their travels as an engaged couple.
***
A girl with hair the colour of the theatre seats walks in. She is gripping the hand of her boyfriend, nearly dragging him along behind her. She is talking loudly and quickly. Sometimes she feels like she needs to let all her thoughts out or her head will explode or she might cry. The boyfriend says nothing. He looks bored but I can't see him properly and this intrigues me. I watch as the girl marches up a few steps (the boy shuffles along) and then sits in an end chair. She never lets go of the boy's hand and she never stops talking. When the lights go down, she halts in mid-sentence, tells the boy she loves him and kisses him on the cheek. He smiles. Now I see: he loves her more than anything he's ever loved before and that's enough for him.   

***
A common sight at these things: a man and a woman, husband and wife enjoying a night out. These two entered the theatre at the same time I did and are sitting in the row to my right. They quietly discuss the noisy girl sitting in front of them but the woman holds her husband's hand in the same manner as the girl holds her boyfriend's hand. They stop speaking and the woman rests her head on her husband's shoulder. He strokes her hair. They look sad, but the woman is elated. They do not have any children. The woman is 39. She is going to tell her husband she is pregnant after the show. They will be good parents. 

***

A boy - 23 years - walks in seconds after the lights are dimmed and a woman begins to introduce the event (she would give anything to be published and famous and not running the stupid festival any more). He is tall and his shoulders are hunched, his clothes are wrinkled and his hair is a mess. He takes the seat in the upper right that is almost exactly opposite to me. He is the only person sitting up there. He was dumped last night, or early this morning. His boyfriend wanted 'a more committed man.' Only now does the boy - the man - realize he was so stupidly in love he was afraid of committing and the possibility of losing. They were going to come here together. He has both tickets: he had hoped his boyfriend - his ex - would show up and an emotional reunion would follow. The man was a hopeless romantic but he wouldn't be any more.

***

Nobody else will enter now. That's fine by me. I've seen enough for tonight. I hate it when every story is a love one. I pick up my bag and exit the theatre.
_____

I like the narrator character I've created here...I don't want to say anything about him/her for fear of destroying how you perceive him/her and he/she is doing when he/she 'sees' people (WHY IS THERE NO GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUN FOR AN INDIVIDUAL?), but I think I'd like to write more about him/her in the future.

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