Deep Observation Assignment: Eleven Examples
The 1 Train rattles on in the depths of the infamous New York City subway system. I rest my hand on my girlfriend Maria’s knee as we sit down in the corner, my clean, well-cut, square-shaped fingernails trailing along the thin ochre squares that pattern her business slacks. I remember her hands shaking with nerves and she showed them to me, her crooked smile telling me in that soft-spoken voice in our trashy apartment of the time, “I have a job.” But that was three years ago, in the beginning. I rub my fingernails on her slacks, she fidgets as she leans on my shoulder, her body unsure whether she could rest all that weight upon me. Whether she should, I see this in her, that hesitation, it bothers me, consumes me. Ever since the beginning, I wanted her to crawl towards me like melting butter, like rain flowing down a clean drain. I kiss her, lightly, looking around the train smugly—this beautiful woman is mine, for as long as I live.
She flickers again and I look down at her curvaceous body. A red knitted zip-up she got for Christmas, with black designs of snowflakes and reindeer. I teased her when she left the house today wearing that so early on, it not even being close to winter. She raised her well plucked eyebrow at me, defiantly. It was my favorite look on her face, it compelled me to send her back into the bedroom, crashing against the mismatched furniture we have accumulated over the years, making sure she knew she was mine.
She whispers in my ear in Spanish teasing me about my wrinkles, the spiderweb thin lines etching themselves, claiming my skin as a canvas for their greater design, the artist of age. People said I look like my father, now sometimes when I pass mirrors I see him in there. But Papa would never come to such a big city like New York, he prefers the sweet quiet of his remote cabin in Texas. Looking in the mirror scares me sometimes.
I stare blankly at the wall behind those people I front of me, as I’ve been taught from ten years of living here—ignore all the people. Don’t ever smile—they may see your weakness. They will look at you and destroy you when they see the weakness in your eyes. I smirk. I look down at Maria, she looks pensively at the ground with her sad brown eyes, picking at her cuticles sub-consciously, her smooth ponytail grating against my skin. She looks upset, they cut her hours last week by over half, she thinks they’re going to fire her soon. Downsizing. Everyone wants more for less, she’s been scorning at random intervals for the past few days, tutting like her mother used to.
“Is it here?” she asked, out of focus with the rattling car, craning her neck.
“No, next one,” I sigh, “relax.” We hold hands, or we have been for awhile, that simple pleasure doesn’t send a parade of adrenaline down my arm every time the way it used to. The train stops. 168th, one more to go.
We shift from sitting to standing, not sure after all of these years what is the proper decorum for getting up for your stop. We smile, finally standing as the train begins to slow, Maria slips a bit.
“Wanna get up?” I tease her. She rolls her eyes. The doors open. I walk out, hoping that she has followed, I stick out my hand for her to take. I wait for her to take it.
- Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
- Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
- How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
- Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
- Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
- Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
- How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
- How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
- Did you learn anything new from reading this piece? If so, what?
- Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
- Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?