I totally failed at trying to write more of the Ennaxor story from last week’s creative writing class. But I did write this new story (or, the beginnings of one) based off of our next assignment, which was to write about a place you’ve spent some time in your life. There was a list of words to try and include, but I’m pretty sure I failed to include any of them. Which is fine. This is a very laid back class. Which I love.
So here it is…
I took an acting class in the city on Wednesdays when I was thirteen. Mom would pick me up after school and she’d drive us to the BART station. During the BART ride, I would work on homework. That was part of the deal. If my schoolwork fell behind, I would have to quit the classes. So I made use of that hour from Fremont to San Francisco. Mom would sit across from me and do crossword puzzles, read the latest Mary Higgins Clark mystery, or if I had a test coming up she would quiz me.
Every time we arrived at the Embarcadero station, it was like being introduced to the city for the first time. We would ride the escalator up to the city streets, and the brightness of the sun was welcome to my eyes, which had become acclimated to the darkness of the train. I would quickly grab Mom’s hand, my fear of the seemingly enormous city overriding my desire for independence on the brink of my adolescent years. She would take my hand into her warm one and gently lead me past the towering buildings, past the crowds of people rushing towards their commute home, past the only fast food restaurant I ever seemed to see in the city. McDonald’s. There was something comforting in those golden arches.
Mom sat in on all of my classes, always scribbling notes that I never did end up seeing. When I had to stand in front of the class to deliver a monologue I’d written, I was so nervous I felt bile rising in my throat. That was the moment I thought: What the hell am I doing taking acting classes? I can’t handle speaking in front of people. But seeing her proud smiling face was the focal point I needed to get through it.
After each class, we would head to the familiar for dinner. But as familiar as McDonald’s was on the surface, the people inside always seemed threatening and alien. Mom would always encourage me to go sit down while she ordered, but I would refuse. Strangers were completing terrifying to me. I would stand firm, next to her, still holding her hand as if I were five.
It had only been a few years earlier when Polly Klaas was abducted from her home in Petaluma, just across the Bay from my hometown. Her face had been everywhere. There came a point during the search for Polly that I began to to feel as if I had known her personally. When my mom showed me the story in the paper of how the police had caught her killer and sentenced him to death, I felt only a small weight lift. The terror and paranoia that I could be literally stolen from my parent’s home, a place where children were supposed to believe they were safe, consumed me.
So when the dirty men with over-sized clothing would pass by our table on their way out, their stench violating my nose, I would scooch my chair just a little bit closer to her side. She would set her hand gently on my knee, reminding me that she would do her best to keep me safe.
After we ate, and I had survived another meal of chicken nuggets without being kidnapped, we would always take a walk around the area. It was late enough by that time, the darkness casting a shadow of gloom over the city in my eyes. But Mom was fearless on those streets.
She always pointed out things that would make me smile, make me feel slightly less fearful of the “big city.” She would stop to watch the street performers, always joyful people you could tell really just loved their music. Sometimes she would take my hands in hers and she’d force me to dance with her. Right there on the sidewalk! I was embarrassed, but more by my own two left feet than her dancing.
Mom loved San Francisco. There were many Saturdays where we would pack our bikes onto the BART train with us, and we would bike up and down the steep hills. We would coast down Lombardi Street, pedal slowly around Fisherman’s Wharf, the smell of fresh fish assaulting my nose and making me gag.
And that’s where I stopped. Suggestions? Comments? Critiques?