4 months ago


Selected Writings & Artwork by Harriett Copeland Lillard

Observation Post She sat

Observation Post She sat at the table in the airport restaurant – waiting, always waiting for someone. Her legs were crossed then wrapped around each other. It probably looked miserable to anyone who happened to notice, but it created a feeling of positive tension that she enjoyed. There was also a kind of pride in being able to do that – the thinness and flexibility of her youth had not fled entirely. The table was a two-person one in the corner, partially screened by a planter, full of dusty plastic ivy. The sense of that ivy filled her with disgust, but she decided to accept and ignore it because she liked the security of having her back to the wall facing the front entrance, seeing but not being entirely seen – a perfect observation post. She was an observer. Very little escaped her attention and she could reconstruct mentally a picture long after an event, recalling in great detail the sensory aspects of an experience- the feelings, colors, smells, shapes and sounds. Her recollection extended backward in time to 18 months of age, to the floorplan of a house she had lived in at the time, to her reactions to an uncle just returned from the war, to being burned on the bathroom heater – the list was interminable. But she was often disturbed by the big lapses in memory – the years of vague or no recollections, punctuated by sharply outlined experiences recalled in technicolor clarity with no apparent relationship to what came before or after. How can we live so many days and remember so few? And why do some experiences become so indelibly ingrained in our minds that they are a part of every breath? The reverie was interrupted by the soft thud of a glass settling down on an airport napkin. Her gaze came to rest on the fat waitress who plodded on to the next table after the perfunctory “anything else?” The three business men there were giving her a hard time, trying to be “cute” in their executive sense of humor. Well, it was lost on her – middle aged, fat, grandmotherly, she continued on her appointed rounds. Did she like her job? Her life? Was she tired? Did her feet hurt? The first cigarette was worth the wait. She settled back relaxing, thinking of the twenty minutes that she had left before the plane was due. What to think about now in these precious few minutes alone with no immediate needs to be met? It always seemed a waste to do nothing. She opened her bag and took out her notebook. She would write, it was her habit – perhaps someday it would turn into something. Her notebooks were full of her thoughts and feelings, of half-finished letters, of impressions. There was something comforting about a fresh sheet of paper. It was like a new beginning. She needed that – it was a narcotic, easing away the staleness that hung about her, that sense of emptiness and sadness that she felt so often now. Her twenty minutes was up. She gathered herself to leave, feeling apprehensive as always when waiting for a plane. The businessmen’s conversation droned on and she wished that she had sat some other place – their self-importance was a distraction from the quiet self-seeking she needed. Opposite, floor plan of the house Harriett lived in as a young child drawn in the same notebook as "Observation Post." 69

Observation Post 70