Character Sketch (Aka a Real Post is Coming Soon)

I did this one awhile ago…


First, she introduced us to the man on her porch. Resembling an Orthodox Jew with his black hat, and beard — also black — he shuffled away in knee-high sports socks and Adidas gym shoes. Next, she welcomed us into her faded apartment. Two fat cats scurried out of the way, their picking at the food on the floor interrupted. She told us they weren’t very affectionate, so don’t even attempt to pet them.


She still wore her housecoat and I guess it was morning, it being before (though just) noon. Dyed reddish-pink hair lay in tufts against her scalp, with one particularly stubborn portion remaining in the position it surely must have been when she arose from her pillow that morning. She spoke out of the right side of her mouth and her dentures needed a thorough cleaning; black stripes ribboned each tooth.


Her place looked muddled and juxtaposed, like her. She showed us a paper mache cheetah she kept in the corner, over which she’d draped her old rosary, carried when she’d been a nun. Laughing, she told us how the kids in her school used to know her approach by the sound of the rosary’s seeds bumping against her hip, for that’s how they wore them in those days.


Her paintings lined the walls. Abstract, and a little forceful — if one can describe art that way — it was impossible to put the woman with her work, though she stood right next to me.
Truly beautiful, the colors seemed thrown against the canvas with casual violence, and mirrored what I think her soul must look like.


She pulled out pictures from the old days, her head thrown back in laughter as she sat next to another nun, in full habit, hunched in a roller coaster.
Then, a picture of her sister, who two weeks before had killed herself. She grew indignant when she recounted how a grief counselor had told her to say “my sister took her life,” instead of “she committed suicide,” as if one is better than the other.


The woman herself had been in an accident not a year ago, and was “scrambled” as my friend put it. Indeed, the sharp barks that issued from her mouth after each comment sounded out of place. It was like all the air in her body gathered in the base of her throat and came forth at her bidding. But the effort it took to talk seemed great, and I wasn’t one to begrudge her that.


I needed to go, and as we left, my eye caught one of her paintings. A peacock feather to me, it was like a furious funnel of color and light, poised and ready to gather strength and magnitude.


A peacock to me. She might think it was a Phoenix.


9 Responses to “Character Sketch (Aka a Real Post is Coming Soon)”

  1. Da Goddess says:

    I’m opting for Phoenix because I’ve decided that’s what I am now.

    I really love this.

  2. we_be_toys says:

    What a character indeed! I’m dying to know more – who was she? Why did she become a nun? What happened to her and to her sister?
    (btw, all the questions mean I was sucked into that story in a big way!)

    Definitely a Phoenix – it sounded like she had reinvented herself at least a few times!

  3. Shelia says:

    Wow. I want to know who she was too? Great writing!

    Tell us more.

  4. Wow, the imagery was incredible. Makes me think I need to ask you for some help with a post I’m working on about songs that took me wayyyy back to my awkward 8th grade year. I’m having issues describing certain things.

    I’d love to know more about this woman.

  5. Thanks for stoppin’ by my blog! I love yours!

    About the crockpot cookin’ — here is a SUPER simple one that will taste like a million bucks! I fixed it with greenbeans (with onions and bacon) and stuffing. SOOOOO easy and way beyond delicious…you can’t mess it up either. ;)


  6. Green Girl says:

    I like how you used the art to describe her personality. I’ve never seen that before in a book.

  7. San Diego Momma says:

    Hi Girls!

    OK, the story behind the story is this:

    The woman above lived in the same retirement complex as my favorite 95-year-old Rebecca, who I visit often.

    Rebecca took me to visit Mary above, because she was from my hometown of Chicago, and taught as a nun in the schools there (and since I attended many Catholic schools in the area, Rebecca thought maybe I’d know her).

    Well, Mary had been hit by a car crossing the street some months back, and obviously had some head trauma. Either way, there was a fire burning deep inside of her, and you could tell she’d been (and sometimes still was) a sassypants.

    She’d left the nunhood many years ago and had that conflicted crisis of faith aura about her. As I wrote, her sister had just committed suicide and she was having a hard time with that.

    Her art also was amazing and you knew she was/had been a sort of creative genius.

    That said, her apartment was in a state of bad decline, cats ruled the place, and she gave all her food to her animals and her neighbors.

    This was many years ago, and Mary since moved out. Rebecca and I don’t know where she is now. :(

  8. Da Goddess says:

    Aww, man! I was hoping you still knew her and just taking the time to draw her story out of her a bit more.

    Oh well, now you get to make up whatever you want, don’t you? Which is sometimes almost as much fun.

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