Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Gravity of San Miguel: Excerpt + Writer's Conference

I made a rash decision on Monday, and now I am both thrilled, and scared to death. I signed away some of my life savings to attend the Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference from July 30th to August 1st. It was luck of the draw that I'm working the morning reporter shift that Thursday and Friday, so don't have to take any days off. I'll attend sessions, meet with an agent, interact with other writers and editors. I'll see authors speak at dinners and desserts. I hope to be inspired, and learn a little bit more about what it takes to both finish and publish a novel. I really think it will be an amazing experience, if I'm not too tired to soak it all in. I am deathly afraid though. What if they think my ideas suck? What if the world of publishing seems too daunting? I just have to suck it up, and get over it. In honor of my fear, I will post some more of my fiction on this blog for the world to see. Gotta start somewhere.


Earthy cobblestones massaged my feet as I walked down Piedras Chinas toward the center of town. The little road was only wide enough for the taxi that had dropped me off 30 minutes prior, and I sat gaping out the window as we bounced down side streets that overlapped and looped like a maze. The buildings were short and bright colored stucco; walls holding me in.

My apartment was exactly like the pictures, and the owners had left a little book with their favorite things in San Miguel, and tips of the trade. They told me about a woman several streets down who serves fresh juice every morning. They described how to get my water, take out the trash, and use the telephone. The rooftop terrace was stunning; with a wooden table and views of the town’s center far below. The spires of the parroquia dwarfed all the buildings, reaching to scrape the sky with their pink tips. I couldn’t wait to see it up close.

The air was balmy and warm for an October evening, and I wore jeans, a T-shirt and a light coat. I passed lots of foreigners on my way down, all of whom smiled and nodded. An elderly Mexican man with a sombrero flicked a stick at a trail of burros saddled with wares. He smiled at me, and I noticed gaps in his teeth.

Everywhere I looked, doors opened into courtyards with fountains, little shops, restaurants, and bars. Each building was a secret: you never knew what you might find behind each ornate door. At night I suspected they’d lock up tight, leaving no evidence of their daytime lives, leaving passerby to only guess.

I could hear the music before I even rounded the bend: salsa music played entirely with marimbas. The beat drew me closer as the sun threw my shadow onto stucco and wood. The men were playing in a gazebo in the center of a park with trees trimmed like squares. People spun and swayed on a makeshift dance floor and crowded the benches. Children ran freely and whites mingled with Mexicans. I’d never seen the two races look so equal, and I watched with wonder. In California, I always saw Mexican men with low slung jeans, women with heavy eyeliner, and trucks that skimmed the ground. Here Mexicans were well-dressed and smiling, entire families hanging out for a peaceful evening.

It was then I saw the parroquia. My eyes had been so focused on the music and people I didn’t even see it looming into view on my left. It was what Steve called “magic hour”, when the sun was low to the horizon, illuminating colors with its orange glow. Tears once again pricked my eyes in the face of so much beauty. The church was intricate, with carved columns and bell towers. I’m not a religious person, but the sight of the parroquia was enough to make me want to kneel with grace, and pray.

I wandered back to find a place to sit to enjoy the music. Spanish tumbled around me, punctuated with laughter. I saw a young Mexican couple holding hands on a bench, stealing kisses, and suddenly missed Steve. He’d been here before. He’d walked along these narrow cobblestone streets. He’d found love within the walls of this romantic city in the middle of Mexico. I wondered if he was different then, if clothes didn’t matter, if money didn’t matter. I wondered what had made him change, and if I’d ever see him again. Funny how I could miss a person so much, who had driven me totally nuts in Seattle. I guess the familiar can create illusions, lock people in. I tried to push him from my mind, and enjoy the sublime moment I was living. I wanted someone to miss and care for, someone to enjoy this with, but I knew it had to be the right person, not just the “right now” person.

Half an hour later, I walked back to my apartment, feeling a little sad and lonely. The cast iron streetlights glowed yellow, illuminating tiny cobblestone mountains. I felt like I could be wandering the streets of Paris, or Rome, both trips I had done many times before, with and without men. It was hard to believe I was in the middle if a third world country overtaken by drug lords, kidnappings, and be-headings. I breathed in the mountain air and felt at peace for several moments as I walked up the steep hill to my new apartment.


andrea said...

I'm so proud of you for doing this! You've been wanting to do it for some time now! Good for you!

Em said...

I'm so excited for you! And I love this exerpt...very descriptive...makes me feel like I'm there. GOOO KRISTIN!

Paula said...

Enjoyed it, of course, capturing an exquisite vibe of the place. It makes me look forward to what adventures might unfold. However, might want to define parroquia, I assume it is a church, but could put in a couple of descriptive sentences - is it one famous place? General word for church? I also liked how you revealed the human emotions of the person there, which makes it more real.

abigail said...

Kristin- you are a WONDERFUL writer. The conference will be amazing! You have to tell me all about it!

Anonymous said...

Invest in yourself and never look back. Nuture your talent and let the world or at least a few family members and friends with some appreciation for good writing benefit. I see the writer within you and feel priviledged as I witness your transformation from chrysalis (or pupa) to butterfly moments before you take flight.

...the idiot boyfriend