Saturday, September 04, 2010
I used to be a writer...or maybe I still am...
used to write a lot. Just as an outlet more than anything.
Recently, at my high school reunion this girl I grew up with who became an English major and teaches at a University came up to me and said "So Lezlee, I always picture you down there in Phoenix like Stephanie Myer, with some really great writing idea up your sleeve that's going to make you millions...are you still writing?" Honestly, the question kind of took me aback.
I hardly ever write any more. I haven't in years. Unless you count anything I say on this blog. I did once write a short story on First Friday which you can read here.
Then going through some files I found some old short stories I wrote and saved. I'm bummed that I didn't save more of what I wrote. There's one thing in particular I remember writing when we lived in Virginia that I really loved. I don't know why I wasn't more careful about things like that. I've just allowed a lot of those things to become lost in the detritus of life, slipping away gradually in a pile of stuff until I didn't know what it even was anymore and threw it out in one of my cleaning modes. But I apparently salvaged a few things. So I share one story with you here. Recently, I've started to write a little again. Nothing is finished. It's like I get a start and then I feel guilty - I should be doing something else. I don't have time for this.
And really, I don't. I have kids and a house and errands and cleaning and shopping and people need to be fed and I'm taking classes and I have goals and goals and goals and tasks and tasks and tasks. But you know, if you spent your whole life just doing the stuff you HAVE to do, what kind of life is that? That's no life at all. Without art, without writing and poetry and music...well...this is just my opinion, but that's God's way of reminding us who we really are. Divine but having a human experience.
I'm not saying my writing is divine. Far from it. But the process of creating...whatever it is that you create. That's when you get to feel Divine.
So for what's it's worth, here's something I created a while a go. The names have been changed to protect those involved, but it's roughly based on a real experience I had when I looked like this:
Mr. Frankman is standing up in front of the class. He is round and jolly with a kind face. His green eyes twinkle behind his glasses. Sometimes his gray hair sticks up a bit in the back like the cowlick of a little boy. His pants bag out in the butt. His weight is all concentrated in the middle requiring pants 3 sizes too big for his backside and legs. He is explaining the experiment we are working on today. I can't focus on anything he is saying.
He is saying something about frogs and their hearts. I have my books stacked in front of me on my desk. My cheek lays on the cool surface of my biology book. A little tear wells up in the eye nearest the book and splats onto it's glossy surface. I wipe it away with my finger and swallow back my tears welling up in my throat.
The room is full of horrible smells. There are no windows in this room. Our high school is a bad experiment in 1970s high school designs where all the classrooms are "pods" and there is no natural light. We pray for power outages because when they happen, with no natural light in the interior of the school, they have to send us home. 20 minutes is the magic number. If we have to sit in the dark more than twenty minutes they send the buses to start taking us home. But my friends and I never have to take the bus. We pile up in Lisa's white Thunderbird and go shopping or to McDonald's instead.
Mr. Frankman is showing us a box of tiny pins that are "L" shaped. I'm not sure what they are for because I have missed huge chunks of his lecture today. My eyes drift over to the tank full of crawdads. There's an acrid smell in my nose that seems to be a combination of the crawdads , the frogs piled up in white boxes at the back of the room and teenage boy scent mixed with the teenage girl scent of dime store perfume. I feel my stomach lurch momentarily threatening to relieve itself of it's contents. There's not much in my stomach to relieve itself of though. Just a diet coke.
Mr. Frankman is smiling broadly. Frog day is obviously one of his favorite days. He's assigning us little bunsen burner stations now according to our lab partner assignments. He is reading from his list. Students start to move in happy little pairs to their assigned burners. "Larsdatter and Peterson, station 13". I see Lisa make her way up to the front of the room. "Mr. Frankman can I talk to you for a second?" She talks to Mr. Frankman in low tones. I wait while my stomach lurches again. Some of the students in the front of the class stare back at me. I look away at the worm with the 5 hearts posted on the wall 5 inches from my face. I look at Mr. Frankman out of the corner of my eye. He rolls his eyes at the end of the conversation with Lisa and says "Gifford, your partner is out sick today so you're going to team up with Larsdatter here. Peterson, we're going to make you a threesome with Olaffsen and Constantine" I see a little smirk on Rab Constantine's face when he says the words "threesome", but it's gone before I can be sure. Rab can think of no better way he would like to spend his biology hour than getting his kicks making me uncomfortable. I walk slowly back to the station with Rab and Corbin. Rab suddenly grabs my elbow and squeezes it hard. He puts his face near my ear and says with his cinnamon breath very quietly, very softly "we're in a three-some". I look into his dark eyes. He raises his eyebrows and slowly pulls his fingers away from my elbow.
Mr. Frankman is droning on about something, directions, something about a shipment that didn't make it in time, more directions. I can't focus on anything he's saying. Lisa is in the row right in front of me with Gifford. Next to her is Beth. Beth turns and smirks at me. We're suppose to be getting our frogs. I've completely missed most of the directions. I'm just staring at Lisa wondering why its so easy for her to ignore me. I'm invisible to her. I've been invisible to her now for a few days. I was invisible during a lunchroom conversation where a ski trip was planned from which I was excluded. I was invisible in the PE room in front of the locker we share. I was invisible on the same basketball team as her in PE. And worst of all, I was invisible at the end of the day when everyone piled into her Thunderbird and got a ride home from school except for me. I hadn't taken the bus home in so long I didn't realize it's not bus 17 anymore, it's bus 24 and I almost missed it.
"What happened?" Corbin asks me. Everyone knows that Lisa and I have been best friends for like...ever. He looks at me with sincere concern in his soft brown eyes, a voice too deep for his 5 foot 5 frame. I shrug. I can't talk. If I do I might cry. Even if I could talk, there's no answer. The truth is I have no idea. One day everything was fine, and one day it wasn't and I still don't know what happened. I only know I've become a non-person. An invisible person. Rab puts his face next to mine and rubs his cheek against my cheek. I feel the harsh burn of his slight stubble, he says "poor baby". But he doesn't mean it. He's amused by my depressed mood. He wraps his arms around me from behind and gives me a hug with enough pressure to hurt my ribs. Mr Frankman speaks out "Constantine, do you think you could quit mauling Peterson long enough to actually start your assignment?" "I'm just consoling her sir" he says with mock sincerity. When Frankman looks away Rab grabs my wrist. "I'm sorry" he says. I can't ever tell in moments like this if he's being honest or not. I almost think he is.
The frogs are being passed out. We've already been using the frogs for a couple of days now. I named my Herman. Mr. Frankman hand me Herman. "You're in charge of paralysis and recording". Mr. Frankman moves on down the row with the other frogs to pass out. Rab is tying Herman to string on the frog's leg attaching it to our station so he can't hop away. Corbin is getting ready to weigh him. I'm confused. I look at Corbin "Did he just tell me I was in charge of paralysis?". I look into his kind brown eyes hoping for a "no", hoping I heard something wrong. He smells like chocolate candy when talks. "That's what he said". He looks sorry to tell me. Rab smiles at me. "Doesn't that sound like FUN?" I feel my stomach lurch again. I feel the hot sting of tears in the corners of my eye. I look into Rab's dark eyes. I look for sympathy there. I can't tell if it's there or not. If it's there it's hidden beneath layers of something else. Contempt for me? Something unspoken. Rab speaks up "I don't think Miss Peterson here was paying enough attention when you were explaining how to paralyze the frog Mr. Frankman." Mr. Frankman turns around and heads back to our station. "Which part don't you understand?"
Which part don't I understand? The part where my best friend suddenly stopped speaking to me. The part where everything I have to do every day seems completely meaningless. The part where getting up in the morning is really hard and going to sleep at night is even harder. I look up at Mr. Frankman and realize he is half way through another full blown explanation of the procedure to paralyze a frog. "Simple right?" he says. "Will he feel it?" I ask. "Well, if you do it right, he shouldn't really feel much, just the initial prick". "What if I do it wrong?" I need to know. "Well Peterson, if you do it wrong, then when Mr. Constantine here starts to cut him open, it's going to hurt like a bugger." Mr. Frankman is explaining this to me in a tired voice. His patience is wearing thin. Tears are now stinging my eyes and flowing down my cheeks. I can't stop them. I'm holding my skinny little frog in one hand and the needle in the other hand. I find the spot at the base of the spinal cord where I'm suppose to stick him with the needle. Mr. Frankman is staring at me. Corbin and Rab are staring at me. Lisa and Gifford and Beth are staring at me. Lisa looks away when she sees I'm crying. I look at the pathetic little frog. Herman. I place the needle next to his sticky skin. I'm still crying. I can't see. "Mr. Frankman what if I can't?" I see him roll his eyes. "Peterson...it's a FROG." Rab speaks up "What if she can't do it on moral grounds sir?" Mr. Frankman sighs. "Just SOMEBODY in this group paralyze this frog and move on." Rab takes the frog from my hands. He looks at me again with his almost black eyes. "Do you know when you cry your eyes are a really pretty green? You're almost prettier when you cry than when you don't". He smiles and stabs the frog in the spine. His face is next to my neck, his lips near my ear. I can smell his cinnamon breath again "better?".
I smell formaldehyde, chalk dust, cinnamon, chocolate, the Drakar Noir of some boy near me and I feel my stomach lurch again while Corbin starts cutting into the frog and tiny spurts of frog blood seep from Herman's insides. But he doesn't appear to feel a thing. He's still alive, but he can't feel it.