Poster Girls and Mugshot Men

my Bulgarian students at The Ball
my Bulgarian students at The Ball

My friend took me to the police station. The first thing I noticed were the posters of half-dressed women. A year and a half in the country and I couldn’t get used to these posters that hung everywhere–police stations, doctors’ offices, buses, and plastic bags to carry your vegetables home in.

The officer told to help me took me downstairs to look at mug shots. Not all the lights worked, grime coated the corners, and rust edged desks and doors, but the computer was amazing. I had no idea what a mug shot could be–this was, after all, long before CSI.

What was this town doing with this technology? The stunningly clear photos of criminals that could be compared to others, flipped over, and zoomed into. Each man looked like my thief.

The idea of choosing the wrong man tore at me. I squinted when I picked someone out. “This man?” the officer asked.

I nodded, wondering if I were condemning an innocent man to the hands of the police. The police didn’t appreciate that a fellow Bulgarian might make them look bad, like now I could go and tell my friends, “A Bulgarian robbed me.” At first, the officers didn’t even believe me. “Maybe he was gypsy,” they said. “Maybe Turk. You not know difference.”

my students on graduation day
my students on graduation day

I had to write a list of the items in my taken backpack. I left things off not wanting to look too American, too spoiled, too whiney. They were replaceable things. Cheap by American standards.

What I hated were the dreams of being dragged down a dark alley. The thief knew where I lived. He was going through my dirty laundry and my Christmas presents. I didn’t expect they would catch him or that they would tell me if they did.

Never think you know the ending of a story.

I like a surprise at the end, but not to feel tricked. Does that make sense?

Maybe I’ve asked this before, but this blog has no end–apparently–instead it has repetitions. What is your favorite ending in a book or movie?

5 thoughts on “Poster Girls and Mugshot Men

  1. Some of the saddest endings are those where nothing has changed. Lately the books I’ve read end with a promise of more – the story continuing. That’s frustrating to me, a non-story.

    I can’t think of any favourite endings at the moment.

  2. I think my favorite endings are the ones that haunt you–whether in a good or bad way emotionally–with the question of What If. What if the MC had made a different choice? What if events had unfolded differently? Et cetera. It means I was hooked by the world, the story, that I bought into it.

    I love that almost as much as when I finish a novel and positively yearn to become part of that world.

    That latter experience is what makes me want to write. I want to create that experience for others.

  3. I’ve been thinking about Our Town a lot for the last couple weeks, so right now I’d probably ask if I could cite a play instead of a book or movie — in which case it would be The Stage Manager sort of nodding at the audience and saying, simply, “You get a good rest, too. Good night.”

    In general, I’m suspicious of (and don’t really like) the so-called “pat” endings, in which everything gets tied up with a nice neat bow — at which point it’s like the author or filmmaker sat back, contented, and waits for the congratulations to flow.

    (Likewise trick or “O. Henry-style” stories.)

    One of the things I like about your blog is the open-endedness of the stories. It requires us as readers to fill in the blanks, if we want to know how it came out. But in general it’s like sitting in a subway car, watching some drama play out in a seat across the aisle — and having one’s own stop come up too soon.

    But, well, I don’t know. I’m probably also one of those annoying readers/viewers who will silently jot down a list of all unresolved loose ends, subconsciously hoping to catch the writer napping (as though *I* never nap). 🙂

  4. christy jean

    The Alchemist….A boy, his dream, the search for treasure, and the surprising place he finds it. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it!

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