Maplewood is a town full of stories.
I have a feeling there’s one behind the lady I often see wandering into the Maple Leaf wearing a crossing guard uniform and an impossibly blonde wig. Or is it real, Barbie-style hair? I have a feeling there’s a story happening every evening in the very overgrown, Grey-Gardens-like house in my neighborhood where — through the brambles — I can see a perfectly preserved Arts and Crafts light fixture casting a shadow of what could only be Snow White on the floral wallpaper.
I try to play it cool. I try NOT to wonder why a 90 something year-old man with a crispy tan is getting into a convertible on Wyoming Avenue. I try NOT to imagine why his trousers are 4 inches too short (did he grow? Whose pants is he wearing?). I tell myself that his weathered captain’s hat is NOT interesting. I make an effort to STOP thinking that he drove off the set of a long forgotten sitcom in 1973. Lost forever in the soundtrack of Muskrat Love. Wearing Old Spice.
But really, I can’t get my mind off of these stories. They lurk everywhere. The man with the scissors who wears brown socks and Bermuda shorts. Sometimes he’s trimming his dog with the scissors, sometimes he’s trimming his lawn. There are tiny, stone lions hidden in his garden. I say a little “thank you” under my breath when I see him. I take the details in slowly each time I pass. Let it build, I say. Let it build.
I am hopelessly nosey, and always have been. But not for gossip – I’m looking for something that I can’t explain. Inventing stories about the world around me gives me a chance to figure it out. I remember my mother saying, “Stop staring!” whenever we were in a restaurant. But I would peek very quietly over the back of the booth and try to understand what was going on between the couple with the straight black hair and the tan lips. Sharing a chocolate shake. Sitting on the same side of the booth. Oddly twin-like, yet kissing. It was really too much to expect me not to look.
I’ve learned that it helps to satisfy my gaper’s block of an imagination to hear other people tell their stories. It’s even better when the stories are local – just in case I can recognize something that’s been nagging at me too. Someone’s just got to tell a story about the woman with 63 water bottles around her waist. Does she ever stop jogging? Has she been cursed by an evil witch?
If you’re interested, you can share your 5-minute story at the STORY SLAM on Friday, June 22 at 8:00 pm (Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts). Or, you can just sit and listen, and let your mind create some stories of your own. That’s what I’ll be doing.
The Story Slam is open to anyone who's interested in a good story - not just Maplewoodians. To RSVP, send an email to email@example.com