Do This Exercise, or the Imperative

Several typewriters in a row on a long table.

In this exercise, we explore a tool Lorrie Moore used in Self-Help, the imperative.

Directions for the Exercise

From Brian Kitely’s The 3:00 am Epiphany.

Write a fragment of a story that is made up entirely of imperative commands, e.g. “Do this; do that; contemplate the rear end of the woman who is walking out of your life.” This exercise will be a sort of second-person narration.

Wordcount: 500 (+/- 10%)

Jay’s Attempt at the Exercise

Stare at the white woman, the one you think a moment ago you had a connection with. Hear jackass.” Wonder if she just said that. Wonder how this thing between you two went bad. Think What did I say?”

Watch her set her drink down on the table next to you, hard. See the drops of vodka (you got her drink after all), slosh over the sides and onto the table. Feel your face flush as conversations stop and people turn and stare.

Feel your cheeks burn as the other man who had been part of your threesome, which has, through no fault of your own you think, now become a twosome, stares down at his feet.  Look at the man lift his head up, blink and turn from you like a colonizing white woman in any colonized land.

Learn from your friend on the car ride home what you did to that woman to piss her off. Hear him say, You wagged her finger at her. And you cut her off.” Struggle to recall doing either of those things. Recall her lovely breasts, her beautiful cleavage, like pillows - a place for your head!

Laugh when your friend tells you you behaved like a sexist jerk.  Laugh so hard you miss your friend’s street and now must drive him the long way home.

Say you find it hilarious to be called sexist. Say you can’t be sexist. Say you don’t have male privilege. Tell him you are a committed feminist.

Eye your friend’s now laughing face. Feel your face get red, again.

Say that what ever privilege you have can be taken away when they discover you have a vagina. Use airquotes with the word privilege.

Listen to your friend’s snort. Resist telling him to shut up when asks you how people perceive you when they don’t know you have a vagina. Refuse to answer his stupid question.

Miss the next best place to turn. Curse yourself under your breath. Hear him say, At this point the freeway will be the fastest way home.” Shift into fifth gear to race up the onramp.

Continue to hear yucking coming from the passenger seat. Notice sweat on the steering wheel.

Mount a defense. Remind your friend of the countless transwomen who have been murdered because they were found out. Forget to remember they are mostly transwomen of color. Forget to remember you are not.

Remind him that it’s really scary to be trans. Remind him you can’t have male privilege because you’ve only recently become a man. Remind him you didn’t grow up being told you were the center of the universe. Remind him that your privilege can be taken away with EMTs, at the scene of accident. Raise your voice to emphasize your point.

Yell your are a feminist. State again - emphatically and righteously - that you can’t have been sexist. Spat through your clinched teeth, I still have a vagina, after all.”

Your Attempt at the Exercise

Do this exercise, please. Providing supporting details, bits of characterization and plot points using the imperative is a challenge, yes? This exercise really made me think, and hard, too. Good luck.