This is a writing prompt my class was given in Jill McCorkle’s writing workshop. Jill is a master of description, and was always telling us not to overlook narration in a story. For this writing prompt, describe a setting that you have an emotional connection to in some way. It doesn’t have to turn into a story, but might become a good opening for one. Mine, which is a description of my boyfriend’s mother’s house, turned into a poem. As always, if you follow the prompt and want to share, add a link in the comments so I can read yours!
Being alone, just the two of us, in his mom’s house is unsettling. It’s one of those with a brass plaque by the front door, set into a huge sagging porch draped with clematis vines that have probably been there since the house was built: 1902. Inside, it echoes. His mom’s stuff is everywhere, junk mail piled on the table in the foyer, clothes thrown over the backs of chairs in the living room, boxes of health food on the counter.
In the kitchen, I remember the first time he took me here, letting himself in the front door with his key, tip-toeing through the enormous dark rooms, muffled giggles, the taste of the wine from the refrigerator, sitting on the counter to kiss him.
His bedroom is papered in blue and yellow stars. There are too many memories here to feel comfortable, the fresh memories of his childhood layered on top of decades and decades more. Descending the wide wooden stairway, sock feet slippery on the hardwood, I imagine that I am his older sister in her rustling prom dress, dark hair piled on top of her head, or the lady of the house, whalebone corset jabbing my spine, calling for the maid to open the front door.
What I cannot imagine is him in this house. The toddler who was forever looking at the stars would fall down those stairs. Those silent rooms would swallow him up. There is nowhere to hide in a house like this, nowhere the sharp echoing voices of two people for whom the house was not big enough to make things work could not find you. For the toddler in the portrait on the landing, there are only the ghosts, filling the corners, whispering stories of a different time, another world.