Isabella took the Grind Writers Free-write Challenge at our home base, the Grind Gallery Cafe.
The Lady in the Second Attic
(c)2008 Isabella Mori
Holy camoley, I didn’t know that there was another attic. Nice up here, lots of sun. Like a little den. I wonder if someone lives here? Looks like it … or not. The flowers in the vase are totally dry. But no dust. Very strange. Oh, and there are all those photographs on the wall. Old, old, old, how old? I bet at least a hundred years old. From the same family? Here, I like this one. A portrait of a woman in a garden … She is beautiful, her skin very dark. She wears a white dress. There is a plantation home in the background. A big garden. Is she sad? She looks a little sad … maybe just thoughtful.
I wonder what her name is. Jackie? Why Jackie? Her black skin looks so beautiful against the white. Her long hair is combed back, some sort of fancy hairdo – my, women back then, they spent so much time on their hair. A ribbon in her hair, even longer than her thick do, curling down all the way into her lap. A book and a quill, and a little inkwell beside her on a high stool. Back to her face. Does she really look sad? There are worlds in her eyes. Is she writing a book? Is that what those worlds are? She looks like she’s quite tall. Her legs are crossed, a tip of a shoe – white again – peeks out from under her frilly skirt. Frilled skirt is better maybe, there’s nothing frilly about her appearance, she is almost stern. She reminds me of Mary Shadd up here in Canada. Maybe they knew each other? Maybe she, our mysterious“she," this “Jackie," was writing a letter to her.
I wonder whether Jackie ever spent time up here…? I can see her in some of the other photographs, too. Maybe she came up here to write – I would like that, I would like that thought. She draws me to her, and I like the idea of being in the same room that she was in. Sitting on the rattan loveseat over there, looking out the window across to old the oak tree, thinking about her book, thinking about the book she was writing, and that Mary Shadd had encouraged her to start. So difficult to be a woman writer back then, and a black woman writer to boot. Especially difficult when a woman is as quiet as our Jackie here, quiet, inside herself, always thinking and imagining, not struggling, not striving, just writing, thinking …
The dried-up rose here. What words would she have found for it? Would it have mattered to her? What things did she write about? She doesn’t look like someone who would write romance novels, not even of the Jane Eyre kind. Was she a philosopher? Or more like Emily Dickinson? No, not that, either. More, perhaps, a forerunner of Toni Morrison, but heavier still, and darker, sparkling in different ways.
What did her handwriting look like? I imagine it large and imposing, like a man’s, serious, with as few frills as possible. Legible. Every word like an exclamation mark. So different from her demeanour. Everything goes into her words. The rest does not matter. That she is tall and beautiful and her eyes large and inviting doesn’t matter. That she loves dogs and horses doesn't matter. That she loves women not men doesn't matter. It all goes into her arm, into her fingers, flows into the quill and out with the ink on paper, paper, paper, wherever she can find it. Sometimes she writes with handmade ink, when she is too impatient to wait for a fresh supply to arrive from the city.