A couple of weeks ago I was taking a quick shower before my son got home from school. Underneath the sounds of the bathroom fan and the water gushing out of the shower-head and tapping every surface of the wall and tub, I heard a yelp or a sob.
My first thought was that something was wrong with my boyfriend downstairs. Maybe someone broke into the house and was holding him hostage. Maybe he got bad news over a text message. Someone died maybe. Or he was having some kind of medical emergency. I should go down there and check on him.
I peeled back the shower curtain. All I had was a teeny, tiny towel that wasn’t going to cover me. I’d go down there soaking and dripping, while constantly re-adjusting my little towel.
The image had me captured.
When I put my head back in the shower, I was writing a scene. I was working it out. What would the girl with the tiny towel encounter down the stairs? Would she walk into drawn guns? How would the bad guys react to her state of dress? Would they make her take the towel off. Would they ogle or even rape her in front of her boyfriend? Or would they be embarrassed and tell her to go get dressed, “but please don’t call the cops.” And what if she did call the cops while she was getting dressed, would that mean that the bad guys should have just hurt her? What kind of message would that send out to the bad guys of the world?
What if, instead, the girl walked down and saw her boyfriend flat on the floor. Would she preform CPR? As the towel fell would she struggle to voice dial 911, naked? When the EMT’s showed up what would they think? What would they say? Would one of them grab her a bigger towel?
Maybe the boyfriend got a phone call that his father died. What then? Would he be too stricken to notice his girlfriend’s state? Or would he tug the towel off? Maybe he’d want her body to take his mind off of grief, or maybe he would stare at her nakedness, her vulnerability, her soft-skinned mortality.
So…I did not actually, in reality, check on my boyfriend and that is how I know I’m a writer.
Whenever I’m crossing a street and oncoming cars roll up and stop at the crosswalk, I imagine them not stopping. How would that feel, bone by bone? What would my crumpling look like? What would the reaction of the driver be? The reaction of the bystanders?
Standing outside of my house at night, a dark car streams its headlights, turning into the street way too fast. What if they squealed to a stop in front of my house? What if four men cascaded out of the car, guns drawn? What if they shot me down, leaped back in the car, and drove off?
This is not paranoia. It’s imagination. I rarely consider these scenarios with fear. I think of myself in third person. It’s a dispassionate curiosity about what would or could happen, the sensory details, as well as the implications and consequences of the event, scenario, scene.
And that’s the thing, in the life of a writer…everything that happens to us or someone we know has the potential to be a scene or story. Nothing’s really sacred, you know, because everything is.