Doorway Man

Yesterday, because we had an all-day outing to Lucca, we didn’t have time for our usual sit-down writing class, so I gave my students a travel assignment:

“While you’re in Lucca, look for a story. Find a moment in your day that you can write about. It can be something you experienced, an interaction you had, something you saw, something you learned, something you did, something that surprised you, delighted you, moved you. Identify something. Take field notes and in your free time or on the bus, start writing your story. If you don’t have time to write it, let it take shape in your mind. I’ll give you some time at the start of our next class to write it.”

This morning, I asked for volunteers to read their travel stories. Then I gave a brand-new prompt:

“The older I get the more I notice…”

It was a repeating line prompt and we all wrote for 20 minutes. Then we all took turns reading our pieces out loud. They elicited both cheers, recognition, and laughter.

When I heard the response from Joy Imboden Overstreet, I realized she had used this prompt to tell her travel story from the day before.

Pretty soon, we were all in stitches and when I saw that she taken photos that illustrated her story perfectly, I had to ask her if I could post it here on my virtual vacation Tuscany blog.

She said yes and typed it up for me.

Here’s Joy’s Lucca story:

“The older I get the more I notice that my attention is drawn in surprising directions. On a walk I’m like a young dog, distracted by every squirrel, real or imagined. I brake for sparkly objects on the ground, novel patterns in tree bark, an outfit on a passerby that doesn’t live up to my aesthetic standards. “Well, that’s a look!” I remark under my breath to my companion.

This week in Italy I’ve been immersed in religious frescoes, Christian symbolism, and astonishing expressions of human ingenuity in the ancient architecture. And yet, when I stopped to digest all I’d seen on our excursion to Lucca, what held my attention longest was a guy I’ll call “Doorway Man.”

Our group was huddled in the middle of the tourist-filled Piazza San Michele, waiting for our tour guide when I spotted him standing in the arched doorway of a commercial building facing us. He was leaning ever-so-casually against a waist-high gate, talking to someone via the Bluetooth device in his ear. Fitted pale blue linen shirt, unbuttoned at the neck and untucked over black chino pants, white sneakers. Sleeves rolled up just enough to show off his muscular forearms. Expensive watch on one wrist, a blocky bracelet on the other. Perfect Gallic profile, perfectly coiffed gray-streaked hair, lined cheeks above an expertly trimmed dark beard.

“Well, that’s a look!” I said approvingly to no one in particular. I dubbed him Monsieur Hermès, Dandy Dior, Bearded Burberry Boy. At any moment I expected a camera crew to emerge and ask him to turn more to the right, to move his hand off the gate to his pocket, to lift his chin better to catch the light.

Since no crew appeared, I lifted my iPhone and zoomed in closer. The ends of his belt—tassels of small wooden beads— peeked out from under his shirt-tails and I could see a hint of a necklace of wooden beads behind his shirt. Overkill on the cool there, but at least it wasn’t a gold chain.

Doorway Man continued to converse photogenically on the phone. Who knows if there was anyone on the other end of the line. For that matter who cared? He reminded me of the white peacock who strutted on our villa’s lawn. The ladies took notice and perhaps that’s all he wanted.”

—Joy Imboden Overstreet

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top