As part of an assignment for my Urban Literatures class, I had to make a short creative piece. I’m not one to finish a creative anything–not even a short poem. This assignment, I found, harder to brainstorm than the 1500-word essays I had to do on the regular.
The instructions were simple: find a location in the novel In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje and integrate it in the piece. The novel is set in Toronto, and some landmarks like the Waterworks, the Bloor Viaduct, and Union Station are in it. I would have loved to see the Bloor Viaduct and read a passage from the novel inscripted (is that a word?) on a part of the bridge, but it’s winter and out of my way. I pass through Union during my daily commute, so obviously I choose the convenient location.
I assume half of my class would use Union, so I had to figure some way to be kind of different. At least try. Hell, I need that 10% to boost my mark.
So I walked around Union Station, for the first time actually observing, and not just passing through. Inspired by The XX’s “Tides” and “Sunset,” I had an idea. I wrote random notes on my trusty black notebook and headed home. And as soon as I got home, like the dysfunctional writer that I am, I downed a bottle of beer, and wrote something.
Another long day passes, and you head for the last train. It’s the same scene over again, but something is different. A figure standing in the middle of corridor like a rock in a flowing river. The rapids bump into him, but he stands there, unmoved. Realizing this figure is no stranger, you freeze like hot water spilled in a cold, winter day. You haven’t seen him in five years. He still looked the same, only a bit skinnier. He still wears the same glasses, and parts his hair at the same spot. He doesn’t notice you, but you look away anyhow. There’s something about staring at someone too long that sets off a quiet alarm. You don’t want him to know you’re there.
My professor read that passage in class today. Bless her soul for not calling my name out, because I was filled with anxiety. I remember my ears feeling warm towards the end. I was terrified she’d ask me to read the entire thing after. I wouldn’t mind talking about it, but I still have a fear of speaking in public. Even at 25.
Read the full thing here, as well as other pieces from my class in that same home site.