I keep seeing this woman. She’s sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She doesn’t speak, doesn’t interact with anyone. She just sits there, watching the world go by. This, my readers is how a story is born in my head. Most often, I get an image of someone in a scene doing what they do and it won’t go away. It repeats like that annoying song you can’t stop hearing (pick anything sung by Bieber that’s ever been played on the radio), and it won’t stop until I’ve written it down.
When the image first appeared to me about a week ago, I thought she was me – I’ve been really struggling with some world issues and have found myself wanting to just opt out of the struggle. Not die, but step outside the flow of society and just be. Me, personally, I would never choose Washington DC as my place of Zen observance. For one, WINTER. I don’t do cold, snow, icy rain when I can help it. So that right there told me, in no uncertain terms that the woman I was looking at wasn’t me, but she was representing my need to not care anymore.
From there, I started paying closer attention to the white noise surrounding the image. These visions always come with story, I just have to tune in to hear what it is. I don’t know if this will turn into anything longer than the snippets I have collected so far. I mean, I can’t tell as of yet, if this is a short story / novella / or novel I’ve got brewing. Might end up being just a bunch of snap shots I keep on the hard drive for later development. I’ve got several of those now as I’m sure most writers do. I have to admit, there are several writer friends I’d love to turn this premise over to. I imagine they’d do great and wonderful things with the idea – better things than I have going on now, that’s for sure. Hmmmm. There’s a thought.
In the meantime, here’s what I have so far. What do you think?
She showed up around ten AM. Clean, reasonably dressed in jeans, a grey tee-shirt and regular looking sneakers. She fit in with everyone else you see milling around the Lincoln Memorial this time of year. When she sat down on the steps, obviously making sure to not be in the high traffic area, you would have thought she was just, you know, taking a break from whatever activity she was involved in. No one seemed to take any notice of her. Well, except me. I have an eye for characters and instinctively I knew there was something different about her. I marked her arrival, made note of her dress, then continued with my own daily activity, begging for change whilst seated on my dirty blanket.
My hours are nine to six in the summer. It was late August so the days were shrinking; the temperatures already starting to chill a bit sooner in the evenings. I wrapped up my operation at six on the dot. As I collected my things, I noticed she too was leaving her perch. She hadn’t begged, spoken, or otherwise made any noticeable movement all day. Occasionally, she’d stood, stretched. Jiggled the stiffness from her legs before resuming her seat on the concrete step. She hadn’t even gotten up to get lunch. She wasn’t carrying a pack of any kind so I assumed she’d sat there all day. No bathroom break, no food, no water. Even I hobbled over to the coffee shop at one o’clock, where I could get a cheap coffee and small snack cake or, if the passers-by had been generous, a small sandwich. But not her. Well, unless she’d gone while I was at the coffee shop. Who knows? Not my business really, but still. As I settled into my cubby that night – I have a great place in an alley between these two apartment buildings. Well protected, gets some decent heat from the dryers in the laundry rooms in the winter. Anyway, that night, I couldn’t help but think of her. A lone, Black woman, reasonably dressed, just sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Yeah, there was something different about her for sure.
It’s been two months now. She’s been there every day. Even on the weekends. She’s still being ignored. Doubt that that will last much longer. Once tourist season slows down, she’ll be noticed. So will I for that matter. Hopefully Charlie is still on patrol. We have a rapport, him and I. He lets me alone for the most part. Long as I’m polite and all. Don’t stick out too much.
So much for fall, eh? So cold today. She’s dressed for it though. Wonder where she gets her stuff from? That’s obviously not a new coat, but it looks in good condition.
I knew she’d start to get noticed. The cops have made her move every day this week. Each time with a little more force it seems. She’s not breaking any laws but for some reason, her sitting there seems to make them angry.
I hate teenagers. Hoodlums, all of ‘em. No respect. They seem to enjoy picking on me, calling me names, trying to scare me. They leave me alone pretty quick when I flash my blade though. At least for now. I’m sure when just yelling threats gets to be too boring, one ‘em will get his hands on a gun and I’ll be on the news. Just some homeless dude shot dead for sport. Eh. Probably won’t even make the news. I feel bad though, I should have said something, tried to distract them. But I didn’t. I kept quiet while they taunted her, called her all kinds of ugly names. One of ‘em even spit on her. She did a good job hiding her face in her coat but she didn’t move otherwise. Didn’t respond, didn’t do anything. There’ll be violence soon. I’m afraid.
A group of kids, I’m guessing they all go to Howard seeing as how they were wearing jackets, sweatshirts and stuff with Howard printed all over ‘em – they came and sat with her every day this week around lunch time. I bet they were protesting something. Wonder how they knew her, how they knew she was there? Maybe that’s what she’s been doing all this time. Sitting in silent protest. There’s a lot going on in the world to protest for sure. But really? What difference does she think she can make? She never says anything, never does anything. She’s gotten attention but it’s all been bad. The cops have gotten really rough with her. They don’t even pay attention to me anymore. Not even Charlie. I overheard one of ‘em as they walked by, what he said was no better than the white kids who messed with her last month. They lead her away in hand cuffs, roughly I might add, just a couple days ago. I thought she was gone for good, but nope, she’s there today. Same spot, same sort of blank expression as she watches the world pass by. Wonder what will happen when it snows?
I know what happens. I’ve got that image in my head too. It’s the middle part that’s still a bit fuzzy. Oh well, perhaps now that I’ve gotten this much of it down, the image will go away and I’ll be able to spend my waking moments focused on some other things. I still have Aphrodite’s Twin in desperate need of edits and rewrites. The Other Woman is fairly well set up in preparation for this year’s NaNoWriMo but there too, I have this recurring vision of how I want the chapters to be formatted that I need to put down on virtual paper. But I keep coming back to the woman on the steps….