Deep Observation Assignment: Eleven Examples

The Battle

Emma Suleski

She smacked together cherry red lips and turned her head towards the window. Boston’s underground tunnels reflected fleetingly in her polished sunglasses before she put her head back down to her phone. She lifted her sunglasses to push back ashy-blonde curls. She stared at the screen of her phone then shut her eyes momentarily. Her posture was unflinching, shoulders remained poised, neck taut, chin up, yet her lip quavered and her eyes weren’t simply shut, they were squeezed tight. After a sharp inhale, she looked back down at her phone and typed a reply. A short, “okay” or maybe, “on my way.”

The T jolted back and forth on uneasy tracks and her eyes darted from person to person, scanning unfamiliar faces, seemingly wanting to get lost in their stories and away from her own. Her heavy lids fell back down and she imagined better days. She dreamed of spring break in Mexico three years ago where she acquired the small bird tattoo on her left forearm. She could’ve sworn she was breaking free that year. She let memories of her childhood flurry around her crowded mind. A smile crept across her face thinking of her dad, much younger back then, tossing her up and down in the living room, making her believe she could fly. Her mom, listening to music as she cooked in the kitchen until Dad interrupted her by asking for a dance. Her younger brother walking in the door triumphantly parading his basketball and a smile on his face, “I beat Dad this time! By a whole six points!”

The train jolted her out of her dreams and the mechanical voice indicated, “Longwood.” She gathered her belongings, a black backpack and small duffel, and stepped out of the train car. Walking quickly she dialed a number on her phone.

She spoke quickly and clearly, “Hey, Kathy? I just got off the T. Yeah I’ll be there soon. What room number?” Her Aunt Kathy was always in charge of any family emergency. She had an incredible levelheadedness about her that nobody else seemed to possess. It would be a comfort to see her and hear another of her timely updates.

Blond curls tangling in the city wind, she turned left into Massachusetts General Hospital’s driveway. Ironically, at this point she pulled out a cigarette and stopped to smoke. She had planned to quit the habit but then all of this happened with her dad and she needed a simple comfort, no matter how unhealthy. She tossed the cigarette to the ground and used the tip of her nude flats to extinguish it. She couldn’t put this off any longer. She walked up to the big revolving door and entered the hospital.

The elevator took exactly twenty-four seconds to arrive. When it did, she traveled up eight floors and down a long hallway. It was the typical hospital scene; nurses power walking this way and that, doctors in lab coats updating patients. She finally entered room 815 and looked at her sickly father on the bed in front of her. He looked just as he always did, yet totally different. The peaceful rise and fall of his chest indicated a sleep she hadn’t had in days. Kathy greeted her with a sympathetic smile that spoke for itself; there was no news.

She let her bags drop to the floor and took over the seat closest to her dad. She smiled briefly, then picked up his hand and rested her head on his shoulder. This battle had only just begun.

Discussion Questions

  • 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?


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