“We write to taste life twice.”
“We write to taste life twice.”
When I looked out the kitchen window, there was an ambulance parked outside. Unsure of whether or not they had the right address, my emotions went from panic to relief as I saw Jeff hopping out of the back. He was in his 2nd year of EMT training and had a break. He and his team were in the neighbourhood and he convinced them to stop by my house for a coffee break. He let me hop in the back of the ambulance and he read my blood-pressure. “Too much caffeine in her blood-stream and a lack of real spice in her life”, the playful report read.
That is how it was with us. From the day he started his training, Jeff, my friend and neighbour, stopped by at 6am every morning before his day began and we had coffee in my kitchen. I set my alarm early to have it ready before he got there. At 6am, he knocked on the back door and we sipped coffee and talked about the day ahead. I was in my 2nd year of university, he was training to save lives.
Fast forward 4th of July 1994, I sat in my kitchen reading a book. The phone rang and it was Kevin, Jeff’s best friend. Jeff had finished his training a month before and was working for the local EMT service. The faux medical report Jeff had made for me hung in my bedroom, just above my desk.
“Hi Kev, what’s up?” I said.
He was brief and to the point, as though it took all his will to spit the words out. “Jeff’s dead.”
I dropped to the floor. “No, God no.” This was the measure of ability to process the information. He spoke of a climbing accident, a 70-foot fall, a mistake of judgement on Jeff’s part, attempts to revive him. I can only barely remember what he said. The repetition of my own words over and over again drowning his.
In the months that followed, I cursed fate. How was it, that someone whose only desire was to help people had been taken and others, far less admirable remained. It was my first lesson in death and injustice. Each year, I think back on those days and remember my friend. I try to visit and say hi when I’m at home, give him an update of what I’ve been up to, as in the days before he died.
On my last visit, three years ago, now, I noticed something. A grave beside Jeff’s with his younger brother’s name on it. Attempts to find out what happened to him have been unsuccessful, but I’m haunted by the thought of what his family must have gone through and what they probably still go through.
I’m not sure what this prompt is suppose to be about. Maybe it’s about remembering people who have left us, maybe it’s about the cruel irony of life. Maybe it’s as simple as a reminder that anyone can go at any time, regardless of the date. People are born and die on Chrsitmas Day, Easter, New Years, their own birthday. Maybe this is just rambling, but July is around the corner and an ambulance has driven past my window.
Writing Prompt: Absent Friends
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
There is a challenge for writers that sooner or later we all have to face. How much of yourself do you reveal in your work? How much is truth and to what degree do you edit, amend and omit to protect the individuals that have been active participants in your inspiration? Since many of us write from life, there is always an underlying fear that someone you don’t want to read your work will and that some form of damage will be done. Do you then dilute the facts so that they are unrecognisable or do you press forward regardless?
As I write lately, there is so much left unsaid, stories repressed for fear of insulting someone or revealing too much about myself or others, even though the telling of the story is important. It is fear and frustration I feel most when these moments occur. It is as though there is a great weight pressing against me, pinning me to the floor and that only by screaming out truths, sometimes unpleasant truths that the pain will be lifted.
There is another, similar issue that creeps up as well. When you write purely from your imagination, is there fear that people will think it is true of you personally? This question has come up on more than one occasion in creative writing classes the world over.
So, what is the answer? I feel that you have to brave when you’re writing. You have to lift the veil and tell a story that relieves the weight. Otherwise, what is writing for if not for your views and feelings, your thoughts and emotions to find expression and connect with others? This is no easy task, believe me. I have been a coward and I need to find the courage to write as my heart and my conscience dictate. Wish me luck.
Write something true, something honest. There is something scary about seeing something stark and revealing committed to paper. Have a go. How does it make you feel?
Writing Prompt: Quiet Desperation
Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow…
~ Lawrence Clark Powell
By the time I got to bed, it was nearly 4am. We had started talking at around 10pm in the bar. Just one drink, is what I had promised myself. He was by all accounts a stranger, yet in that 6 hours I had revealed more about myself than I had to anyone in such a short space of time before. We talked about life, our jobs, our families, history, interests, hobbies, vices, and anecdotes.
When we said goodbye, I was exhausted from the emotional weight of our discourse along with too much wine. This person has inspired a sort of frank unveiling of myself that in my heart I knew would never be repeated. It was for that realisation that I was sorry. It was as though a stranger had unlocked a treasure chest of memories and experiences that I had taken for granted and I didn’t want the night to end. It was only the knowledge that I had to be at work and coherent for a meeting that made me draw the night to a close.
When I got up the next morning, I stretched, made myself some coffee and replayed the conversation over and over in my head. I’ve mourned for that lost night. I felt like someone had given me a wonderful surprise gift and just as quickly took it away.
In the end, I’m glad to have had the encounter. I know we’ll never meet again, but at least I know that connection to a person in such an impromptu and intimate way is possible. After so much time has passed, I still think back to that incident.
Have you ever connected to someone you knew you’d never see again? How did the experience change or influence you?
Writing Prompt: Perfect Strangers
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
~ Lord Byron
As I draw my gaze across the top of the mantle piece, there are items there that say something about me and my home. At the far left, there is a small wooden box. In it, I keep my passport, an expired gym card and a floppy disk whose contents are a long forgotten. Behind it, there is a miniature frame with a drawing of cats having a tea party in a garden. The picture was a gift from my mother in law, purchased when we wandered into an auction in Kent on a warm Spring day, many years ago. There is a bottle of vanilla perfume from The Body Shop. It came as part of a buy-two-get-one-free deal, proof that I’m a sucker for marketing ploys. Candleholders housing scented candles of orange blossom, jasmine and lavender, fragrances that calm me.
Look at your mantle or pick a shelf in your house. What’s on it? What do the items there say about you? Does anything trigger a memory?
What’s on your mantle piece?
Writing Prompt: The Mantle-piece
Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn’t matter. I’m not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for.
~ Alice Walker