postcard stories

Le_Saut_Dans_le_Vide.jpg
We did postcard stories in class, yesterday. The instructor handed out a whole stack of postcards, and asked us to choose one that struck us, immediately, that told a story that we thought we could tell, in turn. The catch is, the story had to fit on the back of the postcard.

I chose a black and white photo of a small, unassuming street, running down to a fenced enclosure. Powerlines, someone peddling away from the viewer on a bike. A brick building, and from the top window of the building, a man in a suit flinging himself out into the air. The photo captured him mid-flight, and I loved it immediately.



I think it is supposed to be a photo of despair. He is falling from a
window, and as gravity has not been suspended, it is likely he will
make heavy, inevitable contact with the street below and that will be
the end of his story. But I wrote: Everyone in this tiny town can fly.
When you moved here, you would not have guessed it of a place like
this, where the cobblestones are cemented over and the sky is so close.
But sometimes, when you are walking down the center of the street,
toward cold wine and a warm room but still too aware of the gravity
that sucks at the soles of your shoes, your short reach, your bunions,
you will look up and catch them, suspended, stretching, silhouetted
against the sky.

We had ten minutes. Cut me a little slack.

I like it. It is very imperfect, a little too obvious, as Nina Garcia
might say, and I like it so much. It makes me think that I am not all
wound up into a tiny ball of doom, that inside my heart is not black and
not sluggishly beating slushy despair through all my veins and arteries. That
if you ask me to look at a photo of a glass filled with water, I will
not choke out “half empty!” and run sobbing from the room. I can
look at a photo of someone falling, and think that maybe they could
also be flying.

We’re supposed to mail these out to someone, and I love that. I love
the idea of sending a tiny story in the mail. I am going to send mine
to a friend to whom I have not spoken in a long time. Someone I love
very much, but lost touch with. One of the things I love about her is that she would love to get a story in the mail. It is one of the things I miss about her, and it is entirely my fault, every single moment
we have not spoken. It’s very possible she hates me, now. But I am
buoyed with hope and possibility and maybe I am not actually falling
out a window towards certain doom. At the very least, I want to tell
her, I am sorry. I think of you often, and I was lucky to have you, and I am sorry I was not the
friend I should have been.

(And hey! Do you want a tiny story in the mail? Send me your address.)

  7 comments for “postcard stories

  1. August 14, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    That’s an awesome writing exercise! I will have to try that myself! Love your story, too. The positive spin on it cheered me up!

  2. August 14, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I love that. Both the idea and your story. I don’t think it’s obvious at all — I’d have looked at it and tried to explain why the guy was jumping. I don’t think I’m a half-empty kind of gal, but I do have a morbid bent.

    I might rip off this idea to exercise my own writing muscles.

  3. Billie
    August 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    The photo from the French Artist Yves Klein,
    Leap into the Void, 1960

    One of my favorites, I have a copy at my desk at work.

  4. Sarah
    August 14, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    This is what has finally made me delurk after what… a year of reading EW?

    Anne, I’m just about to email you my address. This is thrilling.

  5. August 15, 2008 at 6:12 am

    My freshman (high school writing class) came home with a similar exercise yesterday – only they had to do it in 6 words. Talk about economy. She is a child that will tell you about a book – by repeating the whole book. for years we have been saying – can you do it in a dozen words – she has gotten very creative with her dozen words – so she had fun with the 6 word story thing.

  6. August 15, 2008 at 6:13 am

    My freshman (high school writing class) came home with a similar exercise yesterday – only they had to do it in 6 words. Talk about economy. She is a child that will tell you about a book – by repeating the whole book. for years we have been saying – can you do it in a dozen words – she has gotten very creative with her dozen words – so she had fun with the 6 word story thing.

  7. August 15, 2008 at 6:14 am

    sorry about the double – it paused so long – I thought it had eaten it.

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