One of my favorite prompts from my T.A. in my Personal Essay class last semester, featuring my response. Parts of this are featured in another essay of mine.
"Write a short paragraph that puts you in a place and time: a single scene that stands out in memory, a 'snapshot.'"
Time feels like air in the summer. We wade into the pool with our arms jutted out like wings, as if the cool water will sting if we dip our elbows in. The sun is boiling the stone patio. I coat my shoulders and face in sunblock, again in 20 minutes when I take a drink of water, and 15 after that when we’re sitting in the shade.
We howl in mischievous nonsense, and we crack open soda cans. We rub our fingers together over the chips bowl. We drink wine and roast raw potatoes and lukewarm hot dogs and dirty mushrooms around a campfire until the flames charrs them into something edible. Wine in the summer tastes like the hangover I have the next morning.
Waking up at 5:30 a.m. becomes the norm. Practice starts at 6:30 a.m., and we’re running back and forth between two white lines like nothing can tell us otherwise. We feel like old women, our legs crack so many times while we walk, but for nearly eight hours a day we’re running and sprinting and bending our legs. Campus is empty in early August, but under the unforgiving gaze of the sun and my coach, campus doesn’t exist. Campus is on the field.
I imagine piss probably tastes similar to the Starbucks coffees I get in the mornings. Watered down urine with coconut milk in a glass jar. It never seems to stop raining. Everything is gray, including the sparse foliage. The leaves have jumped from green to death. The crunch of the fallen brown ones mingles with the impermeable, wet silence of my morning walk to class. I can’t stop writing. I can’t seem to read.
But I find time to play the piano. I hear a song on a Spotify playlist, and all I can think about is playing it tomorrow. I press my fingers into the keys until something good comes out of them. I navigate the practice rooms for hours until I find the right piano.
Winter is an icicle waiting to slip loose from the edge of a roof. Seconds will go by before, soundlessly, the water statue will crash into the pavement below. Snap, crash. The Icicle Cometh. Death is all around. I start wearing my winter jacket.