By Ernie McCray
I was sitting around, cooling it, when I thought I should write. With no topics in mind I went to creative writing prompts dot com and, without looking, I randomly moved the browsing arrow to a number on the web page and clicked.
I kind of flinched, too, because when I do this I feel compelled to honor the prompt no matter what because one could easily not want to do what’s asked and look for something they like and, as it turned out, I wasn’t particularly interested with my assignment which was “Write a mini-story (100 to 250 words) that begins with ‘They had nothing to say to each other.'”
I was hoping for something more, more, well, I don’t know what I was hoping for but this assignment wasn’t it. So I thought a bit, creating scenarios in my mind of people in situations where they might not have anything to say to each other, like, I thought of a wide-out walking into the huddle after missing an easy pass for a touchdown, his third such miss of the day. He probably wouldn’t have anything to say from the sheer shame he would feel for his dismal play and the quarterback might be biting his tongue to fight back urges to kill. So that idea stopped right there.
Then I visualized a husband, walking into a chic cafe far away from his usual haunts with his mistress feeling quite comfortable on his arm, just as his wife saunters in attached to a man, looking into his eyes as though he is a friend who is reeking with “benefits.” What could they possibly say?
Then I remembered an evening I spent recently at the Art Produce Gallery in North Park, listening to women artists from Tijuana and San Diego who spoke soulfully about “The Fence/La Barda,” an art exhibition that they see as a step towards embracing the rich cultures in place on our border, and finding ways to transcend the barriers that, too often, stand in the way of our getting along as neighbors.
With fresh memories of these women, these words came to the fore of my mind:
They had nothing to say to each other, only agreeing to be sat at the same table because they were in a hurry.
One of the women hummed quietly. Later she would sing to a conference of “Chicanas for an Open Border.” The other woman had a conference to attend also, “We are the Real Americans.”
The humming soon transcended into singing that was crisp and beautiful and overflowing with a gentle power: “I look through fences, and I feel your love in my heart and soul… But I can’t have the love the way I need it, when you are not here, but apart from me beyond the fences…What kind of world is this, where unnecessary barriers exist?… Come back to me and mend this heart broken by the fences…”
The other woman, moved by the nuances and sheer loveliness in the tones of the music, asked “What are you singing in that song?”
The answer gave her pause, as she didn’t know what she would do if she were separated from the love of her life, a hardworking family man who loved her dearly.
“How can I help?” she asked, surprised at her own question. “You can come with me to a border conference ” was the reply. After a bigger pause, considering who she was and what she stood for, she said “I don’t know if I can do that. I have some serious thinking to do. But maybe I could just write a check for now?”
Well, that’s the dreamer in me, but I felt strongly, after the discussion at the Art Produce Gallery the other night, that barriers can be broken. There’s magic in small steps.
“The Fence/La Barda” is down now but this venue is all about community, about building a better world. Check them out at artproduce.org