The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Parallel Lifetimes May 2, 2011

Filed under: Craft,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:22 am

This prompt uses memory and free association to help the writer build a series of images. Ultimately, this writing exercise helps develop setting and plays with metaphor. Like the five word free write, I ask my participants to generate a quick list of 1) a few cities they are familiar with 2) their two favorite seasons and 3) a list of several colors they love. Then I tell them to begin with one of these words and use the other words to fill in the blank in this phrase: “Spring is just like________.” This can work many ways. For instance, “Spring is just like Paris,” or “Paris is just like summer,” or “Orange is just like spring.”

Once they have a few of these phrases, I have them cross out the words, “just like,” so they end up with a metaphor: “Spring is Paris,” or “Orange is summer.” We each choose one of these metaphors and take turns reading out loud. Then we choose one as a prompt (ours, or someone else’s we particularly liked) and we write for 15 minutes, whatever comes to mind.

My phrase was, “Paris is violet.” Here’s what I wrote.


Are you ready yet? I think, but don’t dare nag.

She comes out of the bathroom we’re sharing, smelling like rose oil.

“Je suis prêt,” she says. Then asks, “Shall we?” her voice rising upward, the sweet sing-song of French from her familiar lips.

“Oui,” I reply, giving her my arm, and we laugh, knowing our promise to speak French all day won’t make it far past the hotel lobby.

Still, there we are, both in our early 40’s, the place I’ve locked her in my memory before the illness, before the world we had together crumbled.

In the street we remain arm in arm, two tiny Italians with the same eyes. People assume we’re siblings, and I like that idea: my fantasy, my dream.

At the pâtisserie we share a violet mousse on puff pastry, sip tiny glasses of water with a single mint leaf floating on top. We drink cappucinos and luxuriate in a day unplanned.

“Do you want to see the Rodin museum again?” I ask as she sits back and drops her shoulders. I like watching her relax.

“Sure, ‘Hon,” she says. “Pourquoi pas?”

“All the pink roses,” I say.

“And the coconut gelato,” she adds.

“We should go shopping at some point,” I say.

“Oh, definitely,” she adds, and we laugh, knowing we sound like the two chipmunks on the old Warner Brothers cartoons, the ones with the English accents. So we ham it up and do our best Brit.

“Indubitably,” she says.

“Absolutely,” I reply.

And we cackle.

The day spreads out before us like a cat in the sun: lazy and warm.

“Let’s go back to Mariage Frères for lunch,” she says, “even though it’s over-priced.”

“Okay,” I say, “I want to stick my face into the mouth of one of those huge metal tea canisters.”

“Held by a handsome Frenchman,” she adds.

She’s a flirt.

So am I.

There’s a mirror in front of me: mother, sister, friend, spirit.

How she surprises me now, coming to visit unexpectedly, laughing with me, welcoming me back to a place I love.


One Response to “Parallel Lifetimes”

  1. kaye cleave Says:

    love, love love it, I can see the two of you, brother and sister.
    It made me smile

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