05 February, 2012

Inspiration observed

I was at my son's school yesterday, helping build a garden. Shovel in hand, I was waiting to dig a hole when I realized that the conversation I was hearing out of the corner of my ear was very one-sided. It was pitched in a way that made me think it was someone talking on the phone, and when I glanced over, sure enough, there I saw a dad with his cellphone at his ear.

I looked away from this unremarkable occurrence, and then a moment later noticed that something had just changed in the tenor of his speech. I instinctively felt sympathy, and then realized that it was because I knew he had just been rejected in some way. Maybe he had offered to meet up with someone, and they said no. I tuned in a little better and replayed the overheard words in my head: "Oh. Okay. Well, maybe another time, then."

It probably wasn't a big deal, whatever it was, but I instinctively felt sorry for him. We all know how it is to make a suggestion that we'd like to see accepted, only to have it shot down. It's invariably an awful feeling.

But it was also a moment that I filed away, something that could be used in writing a scene, that particular shift in tone and posture and expression that someone makes when they get rejected in some way. I don't know if it'll come up soon, or at all, but it was an interesting exercise in writerly observation of the human condition, squirrelling away fragments of life for later incorporation into a narrative.

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