Writing Fiction – Business Trips Aren’t a Loss

Business travel breeds ideas. My business trips involve some off days, waiting around at my destination, combined with really long stretches of being “on.” Combine that with jet lag, and ideas that I’ve stowed away in the corners of my gray matter seep out into my consciousness. They’re prodded by new experiences and strange juxtapositions. It seems to be the perfect environment for the underbelly dwellers of my brain to percolate to the top.

Recently, I was in Germany, and as I roamed the streets of Dusseldorf and Cologne and thought of a few acquaintances, I began to construct a story. I thought at first it would be a novel, as that first crash of thought nearly overwhelms. But as I wrote, and the pattern emerged, the tale became a short story.

It’s based around one hundred days of a woman passing a shut-in man’s window. They are unknown to each other. I wonder as I write if there will be a hundred days that she passes by. Perhaps there will only be seventy two, or fifty eight, though logically, to me now, there should be one hundred. Here are the first three days.

It was the breeze. A bird sailed down from the roof of my building, down toward the street, in pursuit of an insect, a delicious, necessary morsel. I heard the wing pushing through the air, the shadow interrupting the sunlight. Maybe the air sweetened just a little, sending dandelion fluff past my cheek.  For whatever reason, I looked up.

I saw her moving along the sidewalk, across the street from my building. She started at point A, at the left, and moved to point B, at the right, the white skirt of her dress the last thing to snap upward before the window frame erased her.

I had no intention of looking again. I sit here every morning. Sometimes I look at the street. There is little to see at this hour, the rolled down doors of the two small restaurants which attract yelling youth in heels and gelled hair after 10pm, the cleaners, and the bodega. People are walking to work, toward the subway. She is walking to work, toward the subway. A large bag is slung over her other shoulder, the one I do not see. Her hair blows back, revealing one glowing earring. I do not know if it is silver, or something else. She is too quickly gone.

Rain dims the morning. The people on the sidewalk are mushrooms, vividly colored. I tried some at one time, in a house in Germany. I doubt I will be able to distinguish her from other people this morning. Many women wear flowing skirts now. They are back. I think I know the roll of her hips, the extension of her fingers as they hang slack from her arm, swinging with her walk. And there she is. I have recognized her, and I will recognize her. 

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.

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