Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Genesis of a Scene

This past Sunday morning I went for a bike ride on a local bike trail with my father and sister. Though the day was hot, the feeling of the wind whipping around me was soothing. We rode through miles of forest, occasionally passing through small towns full of quaint houses that looked too nice to be real. In all, the scenery was beautiful.

Halfway through our journey, we passed a high-end apartment complex tucked into the woods on our right. It even had a tennis court. "Nice place," I thought. Then, BAM. Out of nowhere, a vivid scene filled my mind:

There is a woman lying in a lounge chair on a wooden deck by a swimming pool. She is in her late fifties, slender, wears her wavy hair short and dyes it a shade of auburn to match the way it was in her youth. She is wearing sunglasses and a black, one-piece bathing suit and reads a paperback romance. Her skin is dark and like leather from so many long days lying in the sun. She is alone.

Around her rise the four-story buildings of the condominium complex she calls home this time of year. The sun beats down from a cloudless sky. The smell of chlorine fills the air. The woman can hear children laughing and playing in the distance, but she cannot see them. She never had any children. She doesn't understand why they are laughing.

Somehow, the sound of their voices fills her with regret. She has never worked in her life, not even for one day, because she has never needed to. Her husband is an executive at a large firm, and in fact he is away at a conference right now. He has provided her with everything she has ever desired--country club memberships, long stays at exotic resorts, dinners at upscale restaurants, jewelry.

She hears the laughter of the unseen children and wonders what it is all for. She thinks about leaving her husband. Something is missing from her life, and as much as she tries she cannot pinpoint what it is. Maybe leaving him will make things better; help her find her purpose. But how can leaving give her the sense of fulfillment she longs for? Her husband is the only person in her life, even if infrequently. If she leaves him--oh, and the idea is so tempting!--she will be left with nothing but the memory of a lifetime filled with empty pleasures. Nothing more.

The lonely woman sighs and turns the page of the novel she is reading. The sun beats down from a cloudless sky, and the sound of children laughing carries on the wind.

So yeah, this all came to me because I drove my aching, sweating self past an apartment complex on a bike I borrowed from my mother. Sometimes being a writer is just weird.

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