Welcome to Piscataway, NJ – where winter lasts far too long, and the summer heat hits you with about as much subtlety as a runaway train.
I’ve been getting a lot of assignments from this Fiction writing course I’m taking right now that involve coming up with short 1-2 page snippets that follow certain criteria like “use only ten word sentences, and no adverbs” or “tap into every sensory detail except sight to illustrate the beginning of an exchange”. Personally, I love coming up with isolated scenes, and I feel like doing this more and more will definitely help me maximize the impact of any sort of longer creative writing I plan to work on in the future (Did I mention I’m working on a novel? I’m working on a novel.).
I normally don’t like putting classwork up online, but I really liked this scene in particular. Here, we were supposed to write a scene without using any quoted dialogue at all – just body language, facial expressions, etc.
The sun is just setting as the clicking cadence of the approaching train echoes off on concrete bones. His hand is in hers, his shoulders stiff as he keeps up his end of their steady swing. Back and forth, back and forth, almost in tune with the heavy footfalls – one set from a pair of dragging brown boots that resist the grind of the subway platform. The other from a set of well-worn black Converses, their stride just as hesitant. Two figures walking with their fingers linked, the day’s final moments staining them orange.
Their pace slows and halts just as the metal beast sets into station. Their backs are turned to the tracks – they deny them. His hand is still lingering, his grip slack, but unyielding. There are words teasing at the down-turned corners of his lips, hiding somewhere in the hard set of his jaw. She sees them, but he doesn’t. Her hand glides up, letting him know where they are. The resolute touch made by the fingerless gloves remains where it is. He shuts his eyes for a little while.
She starts to say something as the station seems to wake up around them. The passing forms cradle the two bodies as she speaks, and he nods. The regretful hand eventually leaves his tensed cheek, sliding down and resting on a leather-sleeved elbow. His eyes open, swimming. They meet hers, cold forest green diving into the arms of milky coffee hazel. The colors mingle and sigh in the fiery glow. It’s his arms that move now. They pull her close, hanging on – desperate.
His arms settle down on a rough denim back. Her cheek presses against the trusty riding jacket. The red-glossed lips are still speaking, his head is still nodding, and now both bodies are shivering against a cold that Autumn has nothing to do with. His lips silence hers, losing the words somewhere in the exchange. They stand there, locked. And the sun sinks lower, still.
The crowd finishes pouring itself through sets of sliding doors. There is no more time to linger, no matter the plea of the quivering forms. The link breaks as lips release lips, as arms release arms. She takes the first step backwards, and the distance screams between them. The hand that had so gently found words reaches up to push auburn strands behind an ear. It hovers in the air, all five digits raised in a sober little goodbye. His lips, made strong, try for a smile. They form one last word before his own hand rises to mirror hers, to urge her on before he can stop her.
The metal beast swallows her up, leaving him standing there with his hand poised over his head. The crowd is gone. The station is quiet. And he remains like a statue while the miles yawn wide.