Thursday, January 28, 2010

28. Touching

They paid her no heed, she melted into the greyscape, past her prime, an unremarkable figure swallowed by the horde of shoppers on pension day.

Alice eagerly anticipated her regular appointment with Antoine. Just a simple cut. Scissors, please, no razor. As always, the pleasure was in the process. Deep within her frail spine she came alive as he swathed her head with water, then shampoo, then conditioner. His were the only hands her body still knew. Raising his palms, his fingertips massaged insistently into her scalp, as he murmured the everyday in his fractured English. Then, with a brusque flick as the towel turbaned her head, it was complete, with just a hint of vanilla to waft with her through the afternoon.

Afterwards, a thing of beauty being a joy forever, she sunk deep within the velvet plushness of the cinema to experience the bittersweet loss of “Bright Star”.

Here follows the version I wrote before going to Melbourne. Originally, the title was "Past her prime", then followed "Across the divide" as I struggled to determine the subject of the Riff. However, as I reread the previous few Riffs, together with your comments, I knew the topic was isolation.

Across the divide

They did not acknowledge each other. There was no need. They were simply waiting for the lights to change before crossing Newland Street and being swallowed up in the Thursday shoppers in the mall.

Alice looked forward to her regular appointment with Antoine at Hair Tamers, just off the mall in the arcade that ran through to Spring Street. Just a simple cut. Scissors, please, no razor. She adored having him wash her hair and massage her head. Deep within her spine, she could feel herself relaxing. His hands were the only ones that ever touched her nowadays. He would raise his palms and rotate his fingertips deep into her scalp. Then all too soon, and brusquely, it was over. The smell of vanilla and coconut butter from the shampoo would waft around her head taking her to another space.

Afterwards, she would see “Bright Star” at the Greater Union.


myletterstoemily said...

some day, we will be there. it is a thing of beauty to
see an old face, that is never noticed, erupt into a
grateful smile, when acknowledged.

and...nothing is better than that shampoo!!!

Vicki said...

I’m really glad you included the two versions, Julie. In more ways than one, “Touching” really is touching. It comes alive, and where your discerning use of adverbs and adjectives comes into play. “Eagerly anticipated” says so much more than “looked forward to.” Ditto with “frail spine” and “spine.”

A beautiful story. Just as beautiful as Alice herself. 10/10

Joan Elizabeth said...

The comparison of the raw and worked copy is an interesting view into your creative process ... what I think I learn from it is the importance of working until a strong theme emerges then it is possible to really tighten the story ... the top one is so much better.

I hate going to the hair dressers and am not at all keen on the massage which other people love so much. Your story got me scared ... will there be a day when I welcome it as the only touch in my life!

much2ponder said...

Really enjoyed this one. Such contrast and word play. I love the elderly. There is much untapped wisdom and love. Sad her only touch was as she was getting a shampoo. Made me want to hug her.