Thursday, December 10, 2015

Better Descriptors

"Hand me that book," Vivian says. She takes the hardbound green volume, with gold lettering and a line drawing of a girl with abundant red hair in a chignon on the front, and opens it. "Ah, yes, I remember," she says. "I was almost exactly the heroine's age when I read this for the first time. A teacher gave it to me -- my favorite teacher. You know, Miss Larsen." She leafs through the book slowly, stopping at a page here and there. "Anne talks so much, doesn't she? I was much shyer than that." She looks up. "What about you?"

"Sorry, I haven't read it," Molly says.

"No, no. I mean, were you shy as a girl? What am I saying, you're still a girl. But I mean when you were young?"

"Not exactly shy. I was -- quiet."

"Circumspect," Vivian says. "Watchful."

Molly turns these words over in her mind. Circumspect? Watchful? Is she? There was a time after her father died and after she was taken away, or her mother was taken away -- it's hard to know which came first, or if they happened at the same time -- that she stopped talking altogether. Everyone was talking at and about her, but nobody asked her opinion, or listened when she gave it. So she stopped trying. It was during this period that she would wake in the night and get out of bed to go to her parents' room, only to realize, standing in the hall, that she had no parents.

"Well, you're not exactly effervescent now, are you?" Vivian says. "But I saw you outside earlier when Jack dropped you off, and your face was" -- Vivian lifts her knobby hands, splaying her fingers -- "all lit up. You were talking up a storm."

"Were you spying on me?"

"Of course! How else am I going to find out anything about you?"

Excerpt from Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline

What I like about this passage, among other things, is that the word "shy" is replaced with two others: "circumspect" and "watchful" -- two words that are immeasurably more appropriate for introverts than "shy". One of these days, I'm going to compile a list of words that are more accurate in their descriptiveness. Maybe none of them alone will fit perfectly, but perhaps a combination would do nicely.



Mark R said...

As an introvert myself, I do like the findings you bring here. Other ways to say shy, funny how one can just accept that only.

Zeri Kyd said...

Mark, agreed, it's too easy to accept words that don't fit. Thanks for stopping by.