Jacquie Bullard

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Character Sketches: Chloe

Now and then, I write some character sketches do tease out details about characters I want to develop. This helps me a lot when I write in third person, which often feels a little impersonal, so I write the character sketches in first person to give it more emotion and subjectivity. Here's a sketch of Chloe, a good friend of the protagonist (Blaise) from my WIP, Heads or Tails. The picture is here a very basic sketch I did of the sidewalk tiles in the Barcelona neighborhood called l'Eixample (which Chloe mentions below).

It’s good to be home. I love Barcelona, and it will always be a special place in my memories, but trying to stay was just too hard. It was like jogging on a conveyor belt of dollar bills, hopping from one to the next, spitting each bill out behind and knowing that each one is gone the moment you touch it.

Not that money is all I ever think about. But when you work under the table because you don’t have a visa and you ride the metro through the city with an envelope of cash each month to deposit it in your American bank account via ATM, it’s hard to feel that you can put any roots down. Barcelona was never meant to be that for me, anyway. I didn’t go there to put roots down, or to fly, but to ride each day like it was a wave carrying me onto the shore.

I love home, though. There is such security in knowing that I can make enough money to pay the bills and have some left over for my savings; such security in knowing the language without lingering doubt about the meanings of words; such comfort in knowing that I can show my ID to police or other authorities and I don’t have to worry about how long I’ve been in this country.

I know there are plenty of people here that don’t make enough money to get by, don’t know enough English to function in daily life, and live in fear of deportation. There are lots of people in that boat, and it makes me sad, but even though I had similar worries while I was in Barcelona, I can’t say that I felt exactly as they do about being in the United States.

It’s different. They are here because they are trying to improve their situation, or flee from it. I went to Barcelona not because I didn’t see promise in staying in the U.S.; I went because I had some image of Spain as this romantic, exotic place where I could be a whole new person. That land of opportunity that I was traveling to was not a place, it was me, a version of me that I so wanted to be. I’m not sure if I succeeded, and I lost sight of that version of me all the time. There were too many distractions: the festivals, the bars, the sights, even the little things like each new pintxo, tapa, and every detailed tile in the sidewalk in l’Eixample. The sidewalk tiles! It really was those little things! How often can I say that in the U.S., the sidewalk tiles were beautiful and added character? Here in San Francisco, you’re more preoccupied with stepping in shit on the sidewalk, and not from a dog, but from a person!

Then I met Blaise and together, we found out how to be another version of ourselves in a place where people didn’t already know us. A place where some people didn’t really know our culture, if you can say America has a culture. Ha! America.