Write whatever comes to mind after you read each prompt. Write in any style, for as long you please.
Prompt #1: I was born…
Prompt #2: When I was five…
Prompt #3: My mother’s father…
Prompt #4: My dad…
photo credit: Self-portrait writing in my diary, Boston, Massachuetts by Nan Goldin, 1989
I’m going to start posting prompts & answers to writing exercises I’m currently working on. Feel free to take the prompts & write your own words!
I’m not looking for another
As I wander in my time
Walk me to the corner
Our steps will always rhyme
– Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye by Leonard Cohen
I was once roofied at a club. The usual roofie happenings didn’t occur. I’m not even sure why someone slipped me a mickey since usually a drugged drink is accompanied by something sinister. I was at a gay bar I often visited, on my second drink, and suddenly I was stoned out of my mind and stumbling out of the bar with a friend, who had also been drugged, to his car. Of course we didn’t know at the time that we had been drugged; we just thought we felt awesome. He decided that we should drive to his rich friend’s house out in the country and play video games. “Great idea,” I replied, before abandoning my sober companions in their boring sober vehicles and willingly jumping into the passenger seat of my stoned friend’s car.
To put this scenario into perspective I’ll share two facts about me: I have a strong constitution and I do not drive drunk, or ride in cars with drunken people: ever. When I was 15 I was a passenger in a car that was struck by a drunk driver and I was seriously injured, so I strictly abided the No Drunk Driving laws, even during the most inebriated years of my misspent youth. I did, however, love liquor, and it loved me, and 2 drinks had never caused me to misplace my judgement so severely. But judgment-free, I was, so off I went into the car, and off we went on a terrible adventure.
First, I think we sideswiped a truck. I’m not sure, we also could have thought we sideswiped a truck, but it happened fairly early in our trip and all I recall is giggling manically while either fleeing the scene of a crime or driving away from an imagined crime. Next, I blacked out. Then I woke up feeling as though I was flying. I was not. Instead the car was zooming down the highway at some magical speed and I thought to myself, “So this is how I’m going to die.” A peaceful feeling overcame me as I succumbed to what I imagined was my inevitable end. I remember this with perfect clarity. It is the only moment of the evening that I perfectly recall: smiling, leaning back in my seat and succumbing. Soon after this moment of horrifying Zen, I blacked out and didn’t awake until the car stopped suddenly, in a ditch, and my friend sleepily told me he couldn’t drive anymore and that he was just going to rest for awhile. I peered out the car window and noticed that it wasn’t just sleepiness that was deterring his desire to drive, but also that the front-end of his car was pressed against a street sign. It must have been the most gentle car crash of all time though, because I didn’t feel a thing, and he seemed to welcome the excuse to have a little nap.
A sluggish panic overwhelmed me and, instead of getting some shut-eye alongside my friend, I muttered something about needing to get out of there, stumbled out of the car, and began walking down the deserted highway. Again, my macabre Zen overwhelmed me and I imagined I was moments away from suffering a horror movie death, and I was fine with that conclusion. As I walked down the road, with no plan, no destination, I calmly considered who would murder me: a masked mad man; an escaped mental patient; a rabid wolf? I was cool with all these scenarios and I just kept walking, marvelling at how light I felt, how lovely it is to give in to whatever the future had in store. Either I was going to somehow sense my way home (which was about 100 miles away) or I was going to die. I was a willing pawn in fate’s Choose Your Own Adventure game.
Instead of welcoming the harm or help of a stranger, I grew weary. A sudden sleepiness overcame me, and like my friend resting peacefully in his gently crashed car a half-mile back, I decided now was a good time for sleep. So I lowered myself to the ground, curled up in my usual sleeping position, on my tummy, one leg cocked up, the other straight, head rested atop one forearm, and promptly fell fast asleep.
I was awoken some time later by a police officer. I have a vague fear of authority figures, even though it’s accompanied by an almost obsessive obedience. The police officer was kind. He asked me if I had any identification. I replied, “No, but I know my name.” He chuckled, led me to his vehicle and drove me to the police station. I don’t know what town I was in or remember much about this portion of my trip. All I recall is telling him about my sleeping friend (who I believe was arrested), and waiting a very long time for another friend to pick me up and drive me home. I can’t remember what I did while I waited; only that I had no outside stimulation for hours, and though my high was wearing off, I was content to crawl inside myself and live within that odd calm that only exists inside a drug trip. When I finally arrived home I devoured a ham and cheese Hot Pocket, climbed into bed, cried, and slept a dozen hours.
This happened 11 or 12 years ago. I remember it from time-to-time, usually when I’m exchanging anecdotes about odd youthful drug experiences with friends. When I retell it, it’s always comically with a shake-of-the-head sigh accompanying the tale that says, “Boy was I ever crazy.” Because, even though in that instance I did not mean to take whatever drug I took, I willingly swallowed, snorted and smoked plenty of substances when I was young, if only to have the experience, to give in to wherever the drug was going to take me. I sought this thrill in other aspects of my life as well. I suffered from terrible wanderlust, moving from location-to-location on a whim. I kissed many sets of unworthy lips and ignored the few that offered stability; kindness; comfort. I constantly sought ways to give in and lose control.
I am not that person anymore, and what I realized in my most recent recalling of this anecdote, is that I don’t know that person either. I feel as if her memories were implanted in my brain; they’re fuzzy, like an episode of television that you could once recite verbatim and now you only recall in pieces, and maybe those bits are mixed with other episodes, or episodes from other shows, or details that were imagined. She is me though. I am attached to her, always, everything that happened to her imprinted itself on me, and I would not be where I am today if not for the choices I made in my past. I can distance myself as much as I like, compartmentalize by decade, or relationship, but I cannot escape who I used to be. Attempting to hide from your past is like playing hide-and-seek in a big empty room with only folding chairs to crouch behind. You’re hiding in plain sight. This does not, however, mean that change isn’t possible. It is, in fact, necessary. You must change. You must accept who you were in order to love who you currently are.
If we’re lucky, we get to be a lot of people in our life; we live long enough and experience life enough to slide into many skins, walk inside them for a spell, and shed them when they no longer fit. The difference between who I was then and who I am now is that I currently love the skin I’m in, and I fight whenever some part of me tries to loosen it. I want to be where I am, head clear, feet firmly planted on the ground. What I fear though, is losing that part of me that accepts change, that lets life flow through me and lives in whatever moment I’m given. I have decided that, though I no longer want to be that confused dancing leaf fluttering in the wind, unable to keep a grasp on anything solid or permanent, I also have no interest in being the tree that holds the leaf, unable to do much more than stand strong, but still, unmoved by anything but tragedy, stalwart and unchanged, watching everything happen around me. No. I am a branch on the tree. I am still when the air is still, I move with the changing seasons, I allow the elements to sometimes pass through me, sometimes land atop me, and I gracefully accept these changing conditions while holding tight to something deeply rooted and strong. I reach out and hold onto the delicate, but pretty foliage; I watch it bloom, reminisce about its beauty when it leaves me, and embrace it when it visits.
words written: August 9th, 2012
photo taken: July 5th, 2013