Writing Practice – 10/12/2018

AFAR, September / October 2018, p. 85

Remember the rules? There are no wasted nights on this trip.

Remember? I wrote the fucking things. And I know that rules are stupid and meant to be bent, to be broken. I can do any goddam thing I want, and still “follow” or “obey” the rule, if all I have have to do is to define “wasted” appropriately. Word games, the crime of passion of the intellectual class. What fun. What great distraction from real life. What great waste fo time, what great signal that we have excess resources and need not worry about our subsistence, our existence. So there we were, hanging in a dive bar on Mercadero De Panteleon, with six or so of our new friends, drinking whatever vile-tasting but amazingly euphoric concoction these locals love to put down. Two of us, gringos, fat and stupid Americanos, and all the time we’re laughing and talking and slapping shoulders with them, and they listened to us patiently for about three minutes when we first [illegible], and then they just started in with, “hey, padre, no worry, ok? We talk English now, okay? You no understand our espanol, and we don’t get yours neither!”

That brought out the big laughs, the first of many, and this could have easily been a scene from virtually any other Hollywood “coming of age” move in which the two friend bond again over their new companions, and wonder just why it was they had to travel 5,000 miles just to put their differences aside.

But it wasn’t that. Somehow, something changed. An hour in, guffaws resounding through the bar, twenty or more empty glasses scattered across this their table, with at least a dozen propositions to the table of senoritas across the way having flowed from us, and at least twice as many derogatory insults about the miniaturization of our new friends’ members coming right back, something in me switched off. I would say snapped, but that implies a break. A disappearance, or a situation which could be repaired. But that wasn’t it. It’s not like there was a rope holding me in there which suddenly split; it’s like there was a current, flowing through my body, a goodness feeling of pleasure, and power, and contact, that, all of a sudden, in a moment shorter than it took for my friend Rashawn to stand up to go get the next round, something simply dropped off. Dropped out. Just – quit. As if my body itself had suffered some kind of disconnect. I sat, on the stool, with my new friends all around, partying, laughing feeling good, and all of a sudden I just wasn’t. My laughter stopped. My drunk stopped – evaporated in a moment. I was sober, and I was tired, and I was gonna get out of there.

I stood up then, and said a total of zero words to every else there. I turned and walked out the door. Behind me I could hear the confused questions from around from my table, and table of senoritas too, about what the fuck was happening? Was I ok? Where was I going? Hey, come back! The party’s just getting going! Man, I’m missing all the fun!

But it didn’t matter. Somehow I just knew I needed to be out of there. To leave. To just go, so I did. Fuck the rules that say everyone parties till we all pass out. Fuck rules about “wasted nights.” Fuck rules about going off by yourself, or prohibiting that exact thing. Fuck all the rules, because I, at that very moment, had just one rule, that I was going to follow.

“No.”

Not even a rule. Just a feeling. No, not that. Find something else. Anything. Nothing. Just “No.”

So. I left. And I hav never seen Rashawn, or those padres, or the senoritas, again

Writing Practice – 9/8/2018 – a Letter

Write a letter to someone you haven’t seen in a long time…

Dear ________,

I’m sorry that I haven’t written in, gosh, probably 25 years, almost. The last time was when we were back in high school. And I do apologize – I’ve forgotten your name. Somehow. But I haven’t forgotten that you lived in Ames, Iowa. I thought it was cute, back then, like I thought you were cute.

Do you remember, we met on separate Choir trips to the same place? Must have been Chicago – that’s the only trip my choir ever went on. I was Treasurer of the club that year, so I spent more time counting checks than I did counting eighth notes. But that was okay – I learned quickly and sang well, so I could afford to miss rehearsals.

I would ask you how you have been, but I realize that’s a very bland, very “standard” question. I want to ask what has made you happy? What made you cry? Have you ever seen a sunset, all by yourself, standing or sitting at the top of a mountain you just climbed? What makes you laugh?

I would tell you about my life, but there’s too much. Facts aren’t that interesting, really. I know you want the stories – I want to tell them. Like how I ended up on the floor in my underwear at 2 am, crying and praying and dripping snot down my cheeks onto my chest. Or how I put half a dozen holes in the walls. Or how I almost passed out when I fell, once, and that shook me up enough to make some more drastic changes. You want to know my successes and failures. You want to know what I’m proud of and what I regret.

You know what? I’m proud of the fact that I can park 2 cars in my 2-car garage. It may seem like something people don’t often brag about, but I’m really happy I can do that.

You know what I regret? Not keeping in touch with people. Not just you – Andy, Andrew, Nathan, my brother for a while. I want to be a better friend. I want to support my friends in their journeys. I want them to support me. I don’t want to blow away like an ash from a campfire, tossed up into the wind, tumbled along without intention, without purpose, without goals that, when I achieve them, will bring a measure of satisfaction for a job well done.

I want to be happy. And I want others to be happy, too There is enough in this world for us all to achieve what we want. Why hoard? Why restrict? Give. Even if it is not returned to you, that happiness, that love, that community, give anyway. Because it is the right thing to do. If it comes back, then give again. And if it does not, well, then, you will have done the right thing, and that is most important.

Please, do write back. Maybe then I will remember your name. 🙂

Sincerely,

SJ