Sunday, June 5, 2011

You-Me-I-You in the Cafeteria

I did another writing exercise this week, to get the creative juices following. This exercise was suggested by Clyde Edgerton, in my 'Now Write!' book. The exercise is designed to get me thinking from a point of view that is not as easy for me. It's very easy to write from a point of view that is similar to your own - or is your own. In this exercise, Clyde suggests to think of someone you dislike, then imagine that you walk into a cafeteria for lunch and that persons is there. After writing from your own point of view, then turn it around and write from the other person's point of view - get into their head. Here's what I came up with:

My point of view:
   I stretched out my stride as I made my way up the hill. My heels clicked on the concrete footpath and my skirt swished around my knees. It was lunch time, and I was looking forward to a large plate of pesto fettucini at Bella's cafe.
   Reaching the antique green door, I pressed my shoulder against the wood to open the heavy weight. As usual, Bella's was toasty warm, with a wood fire blazing in the heater.
   As I uncoiled my scarf from my neck, I glanced around at the other customers. A couple of middle-aged women sat to the left of the doorway, their elbows on the table as they leaned towards each other. An older man sat at the bench set in the front window, a magazine spread out beside his bowl of soup. A young couple sat far down the back of the dining area. They were quietly smiling at each other, holding hands on the table as they waited for their meals. The final person sat his his back against the double brick wall, nestled behind a small table beside the heater. He had a newspaper spread out in front of him, and his toasted sandwich on a chair beside him, to make space for the broadsheet. It was Simon Wagstaff. 
   My breath caught in my chest, and I nearly groaned and rolled my eyes. Now I wouldn't be able to just relax and enjoy my lunch. I was already tense, just from seeing him, and I practically tiptoed to the counter to order my pesto fettucini, in the hope that Simon wouldn't notice me.
   He was the most arrogant, misogynistic, asshole that I had ever met.
   After I ordered, I chose a table near the young couple, so the direct line of sight to Simon was partially obstructed by the barista's coffee machine.
   When my meal came, I forgot for a while that Simon was in the room, I was enjoying the pasta that much. Then Simon approached the register to pay, just as I was slowing down from shovelling the food into my mouth to savouring each mouthful. He briefly smiled and nodded in my direction, acknowledging me.
   Don't come over, don't come over, don't come over, I prayed as he received his change from the waitress. He turned and walked out of the cafe, the bell jingling happily behind him.

Simon's point of view:
   I really didn't want to go back to work, so I was taking a long lunch break at Bella's, reading The Age and eating my toastie slowly. The place was practically empty, and so warm that I was soon drowsy. 
   The bell on the door jingled, and I briefly glanced up to see Jacqui standing in the doorway, unwinding her scarf. The wife of one of my colleagues, I had come across this confident professional young woman a few times before. She was younger than me, but she made me feel like a child. She was unlike most of the women that I usually dealt with, and she didn't react to my charm like other woman did. In fact, I thought she was attracted to me, and hated it.
   I pretended to keep reading my paper, ignoring her. I sensed her go rigid when she noticed me, and then listened to her clipped walk across the tiles to the counter.
   I almost grinned to myself at her discomfort. I knew she wasn't up-herself, because I had seen her interact with all sorts of people. She fascinated me, and I watched her surreptitiously whenever I had the chance.
   She chose a table where she wouldn't have to look at me, and I was extremely conscious that she hadn't at least said 'hello'. If she had said 'hello', I might have decided immediately to leave her alone. But as it was, for the rest of my lunch I thought about going over and sitting with her, just to annoy her. I knew she would already be sitting and hoping that I wouldn't say or do anything.
   In the end, I decided to leave her in peace. I paid and left with barely a nod in her direction. She gave me a faint smile, and I couldn't wait to see and torment her again.

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