The Truck

Today’s post is an exercise in concrete words, where we practice writing the abstract by using a concrete word as our prompt. This is new for me, challenging too, and an excellent way to practice the craft of writing. I’m joining Nacole as she currently hosts concrete words, and Amber Haines, who dreamed it up in the first place.

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I sat two rows back and to the right. The classroom fit enough chairs for twenty, leaving a decent sized gap at the front of the room for the teacher to pace with a smeared blackboard as his backdrop. It smelled like chalk, and a thin film of white dust clung to the edges of the room. He came from Africa and his accent grew thicker when he discussed books, he spoke with such passion I often had to strain to understand him. We loved books in the same way, and where I grew quiet with my love, his boomed and echoed off the windows at the back of the room.

This morning, he didn’t discuss other people’s stories. Instead, he told us one of his own. I expected the rise and fall of his voice, the thickening vowels and misplaced accents, but instead, he told it in a near whisper. He spoke of a day, like any other day in his village. One of boyhood and innocence and friendship. He and a few friends piled into the back of a pick-up truck and they drove down dirt roads, kicking up dust and feet without regard for safety. They were boys, young ones, and I imagine they rough-housed and stood up in the truck bed and breathed deep the smell of African soil beneath its wheels. And the details remain hazy, either on my part or his, but I remember this–he watched his best friend die that day, thrown from the truck onto the hot, hard earth.

He cried when he told it. All I could see was the boy, grown inside the man, weeping at the loss. I felt tears prick my eyes too, but most of the class remained unmoved. They said, well, that was sad, and then they ate Doritos and ham sandwiches and begged each other for a quarter to buy a coke. In twenty years, I haven’t forgotten. I’ve held his story and loved it with a quiet desperation because a grown man still cared enough to cry. Some stories need to be told with passion and a voice that makes the windows shake, and some must be told in tears and near-whispers. Some stories need us to meet them in the dust and cry too.

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  • Great writing, Kimberly. I love the images you use to convey that teacher’s passion, how concretely you rooted the story in every way.

    • KimberlyCoyle

      I was surprised at how the details came back when I started writing. I guess passion has a way of making things stick:)

  • This is beautifully written. “All I could see was the boy, grown inside the man, weeping at the loss.” – I love that

    • KimberlyCoyle

      Thanks, Sarah:) So good to see you here!

  • Britney Baer

    Just linked-up after you and thought I’d come by. This is such a tender and well-told story. 🙂 I hope I can raise my girl up to connect with people in this way, to always be sensitive to the moments of vulnerability that we so often just miss completely.

    • KimberlyCoyle

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Britney:) I hope I’m teaching my children the same!

  • All of us have that young child in us that weeps at deep losses we have had and will continue to experience all our life through.

  • bluecottonmemory

    He told that story – and it went somewhere it needed to go. I think sometimes we need to tell our stories so others carry them in an impacting way. Maybe that’s what helps bear the heartache.

    • I love the idea of carrying one another’s stories. It’s an honor to share in them.

  • Kimberly, this: “Some stories need us to meet them in the dust and cry too.” Yes, friend. It’s so important to *listen* to others’ stories, to let ourselves be swept up in them, as if we’re living them ourselves. This is what Jesus meant when he said “blessed are those who mourn.” And anything Jesus said, I’m straining to hear. Thanks so much for linking up Kimberly. I hope you can join us next week on “the Moon”. {I’m sharing this}

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Nacole:) I love these prompts. They draw something out of me that I forgot was there.