09 June 2006

Playing Hemingway

I am watching cars on a one way street from a cafe window in Providence. I don't feel like a stranger. The girl who poured my tea is reading Aristotle's Nichomacian Ethics, the boy leaning on the bar is doing Physics, and the man next to me has articles from Jstor.

My window is right beside the stop sign and I am sitting with a tall cup of tea and my notebooks spread over the table watching the cars bump by, bouncing to a stop, circling the block, or disappearing from sight. And my thoughts are like the cars, stopping or yielding, but never staying still; I can't seem to hold any of them long enough.

People are walking with their umbrellas closed up, leaning on them or swinging them oddly. It was supposed to rain and still might and has been raining since last Thursday. When it rains everything at home turns green and everything in the city turns to grey, steam and smoke. I've been taking the bus up here in the afternoon - its a short walk from the plaza to college hill and there is more space here than I ever get at my house. But when I finally sit still I have such a flurry of thoughts that I hold the pen and swing my legs and paint on the table with drops from my tea. And I watch the cars, reflected in reverse on the bottom of the glass shelf above me. They drive, doubled, collide with their reflection at the stop sign and go on their way.

I write in snatches and fragments, in short-hand, in references, unable to catch the meaning of all the motion in my mind. I'm probing for truth, beneath all my confusion, trying to remember the truest things I know. I'm writing with a scalpel, trying to carve my way to meaning from memory. I'm making speculations about all the strangers around me.

"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Then you would hear someone say, "Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? What in a cafe?"

Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook.

-A Moveable Feast


Pauletta said...

this is wonderful hannah!

Sarah Sharp said...

Now I feel like I was with you In providence!!!

Andrew said...

I'm writing with a scalpel, trying to carve my way to meaning from memory. I'm making speculations about all the strangers around me.

You will write your novel.

jamie said...

you're amazing

Nathan Martin said...

i read this yesterday

and it is beautiful

(it also makes me eagerly wait for the time when i can finally pick up a moveable feast)

Brutes In The Halls said...

I like the bit about writing with a scalpel, and the circumspeculation.

Matt Zehnder said...

Hannah, honestly, if you hadn't put in the quotation marks I don't think I'd have known the difference between you and Hemmingway :-). Your prose is breathtaking, absolutely beatiful; gives me chills.