I had a writing task in Script For Performance today that asked us to look at a photo of a person, and then to write a description of this person, starting from a close-up physical description, then to pan out to a wide-shot which gives her some form of identity, and finally to put her into a “space”, a context.
I had a photo of a Japanese woman standing in water, while behind her there was only rubble. I don’t want to describe the photo too much because I wrote about it, and I hope you can get the sense of the photo from what I wrote.
Her hair sticks to her face and forehead, plastered in place by sweat. The lips are set, not pressed firmly, but with some determination. A towel is draped around her neck, acting not only as its original purpose, but more as insulation. Her body has morphed into a sphere, all features hidden underneath layers that try to keep her warm from the inside. In fact, apart from the parts of her face – and those determined lips – unobscured by her hair, not another inch of her kin can be seen.
Were her clothes only there to keep her physical body warm? Were her lips only tightened to keep any despair out? She stands ankle deep in water so clear that a distorted version of herself stares back. The ripples of the water smooth out, leaving a stillness that wasn’t just her, but seems to contaminate everything around her. She stares off into a personal thought, until the determination in her lips gives way to a sigh of the overwhelmed.
She looks down. A perfectly blue sky, straight out of the imagination of a child, reflects back at her. In front of it, her distorted twin looks at her, silent and strong.
She looks up. The sky gives way to the mess of a country in ruins. The shadow gives way to short and panicked breaths.
She recognizes the mangled red sedan behind her – she had driven her (still missing) son to school countless times in it. She looks down again, and for a moment all those short, packed breaths gathered at the top of her throat as she wondered how quickly the idyllic sky that lapped around her ankles had destroyed her car.
It was difficult to write this piece, not only for its technicality, but also because when you start emotionally putting yourself in her position, it hurts just that much more.