By night, Love, tie your heart to mine, and the two together in their sleep will defeat the darkness.

– Pablo Neruda

Writing Prompt: Sibling Rivalry

My brother is the benchmark. I’ve been fortunate enough throughout my life to know what it is to love someone unconditionally and have a tiny green demon in my heart at the same time.

He’s one of those rare people who has always known what he wanted to do. Every step pulled him closer and closer to the film-making career that would become his profession.

He was 11 years old, and ready to lead the neighbourhood play. It was “Alice and Wonderland”.  He assigned the cast, gave me a bit part, persuaded the neighbourhood to get people in, contribute baked goods, to get the kids kitted out and ready to play.  That was, that is his gift.

Last week I nearly lost him to an arsehole driver who ran a red light and could have killed him. I would not have been there. I’ve been here. In the UK, away from my childhood protector and source of so much influence.

It’s funny how people can have such a powerful influence over your life and never even know it. Since we were kids, if he did something, I had to do it too, and tried to do it better. When we were in High School, there was one year where we overlapped. He was a Senior, I, a Freshman. In that time, he was a photographer for the High School Annual (that’s Yearbook to some folks) and the School paper. So, the minute he graduated, I had to become the Editor, I did it for three years. When he was going off to film school and partying in LA, not wishing to be left out, I would sneak over to Melrose to tag along. We kept some of my excursions from our parents.

Along with being proud of him and his accomplishments, there was always something in me I felt I had to live up to. Throughout the years, with every success or failure, I wondered, what would big brother make of this? The funny thing is, I doubt he ever knew how much his good opinion meant to me.

When I think back, it goes beyond High School, beyond having teachers telling me that they “expected great things” from me. I was, after all, his sister. No, it’s way past the neighbourhood play, beyond curling up on the edge of his bed in the hospital when he had meningitis as an eight-year-old. It started on the kitchen step.

My earliest memory of him was a cool autumn day when he was heading off to school. I sat on the step, tears running down my dirty cheeks. I was being left behind. My playmate was going away to make new friends, to learn things I couldn’t know, to see new things. I sat there, flower-print dress around my knees with his arm around me. His wisdom at that age astounds me now, even though I was too young to appreciate it.

“When you’re my age, you’ll wish you could stay at home and watch TV and play. You’ll see.” He was seven.

I rubbed my eyes, wiped the grimy tears from my face and made him promise me to teach me everything. Bless him, he tried. As the years passed, he brought home everything from Algebra homework to the latest John Hughes film I was too young for. He brought me presents in form of knowledge every day.

It wasn’t until much, much later in my adult life that I realised that I didn’t need to compete. I wasn’t the four year old on the step anymore. I wasn’t being left behind and the choices I made were no less valuable for being my own. Poor guy, he never knew how much he’s had to answer for.

When Mom told me about the accident – my heart began to pound, I could hear light ringing in my ears and I felt sick, the way you feel when you realise you forgot to do something critical. I wanted to drop the phone and catch the first plane home, but I waited, listening for a moment to her voice telling me he was fine. Some bruised ribs and a totalled Audi, but fine. I felt relieved, but it wasn’t going to be enough until I heard from him myself, so I called him and shouted down the phone at his voicemail. How dare he not tell me about it, not tell me he was ok. From his point of view, he probably figured that since everything was fine and I was so far away, there was no need to worry me. Worry me, I thought.

Upon receiving my rant, he sent me an email, gave me the details. He was broadsided on the driver’s side – the car did its job and sacrificed itself, crumbling into a protective cocoon of torn leather and metal.

I sent back a simple reply. “For my next car I’m buying an Audi.” After all, it was good enough for him….

Writing Prompt: Write about a brother, sister or just someone you admire. How has their presence in your life made an impact. Do they know how they’ve made a difference?

NOTE: Originally posted in 2009, but thought it would be nice to repost. 🙂

Writing Prompt: Love Story

This is one of the hardest things to write. There are thousands of stories and very few themes in the world, but I think that to write love convincingly is enough to twist you in two, make you doubt yourself and make you feel like grabbing  your laptop, closing it and using it as a really big coaster.

Love comes in many shapes and sizes. Romantic, unrequited, love between strangers, family, friends…

Trying to communicate it in either words or actions is complicated. Especially if you’re writing for an audience. It’s hard to write emotion and not feel like a bit of a tool. You wonder if you sound corny, or if it rings true. And of course, the hardest thing about writing love is that you feel totally exposed, as though by writing that feeling, you’re allowing for the possibility that people who read your work will think it’s you.

So, try to write about love. It can be a memoir, a love story, either happy or sad. The important thing is to try to write honestly and inject some of your own experience into the work. Tricky, but try it. You might surprise yourself.

Quote for the day

Love letters and poems aren’t the least bit difficult to write, if you write directly from your heart into the ink and don’t channel through your brain first.  ~Graycie Harmon

Pablo Neruda – XVII: One of my favourite poems

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

that this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Writing Prompt: Chocolate, Love and other addictions…

purple gerbers

I wondered what would happen if I combined all of my addictions at once.  I went home, put on my flannel pyjamas and began my preparations. In the kitchen, I put the coffee on and went to the wine rack to make a selection. After skimming the bottles, I chose a Montana Pinot Noir and poured it into a decorative wine glass. From the pantry, I rummaged through my stash of treats and chose a dark chocolate bar.

Once these things were prepared on a tray, I placed a purple gerbera in a short vase and settled it on the coffee table in the living room. I opened the bay windows and let a light breeze float past the burgundy curtains.

The remote was nowhere to be seen, so I pulled apart the sofa cushions until it materialised.  I hit play and a moment later,  the Star Trek Enterprise was being attacked. I hit the pause button, remembering a few missing items. My journal,  the one with the green cover and leather  closure, along with my favourite pen would make the evening more complete.

I sat on a cushion on the floor with my legs stretched out before me, hit “play” and began to write. (I like having a film on in the background while I work). As I flipped through the pages of my much loved journal, I recalled the events I had recorded within its  pages and the people whose names feature so prominently there.

I wrote about the people I love. Things about their character make me love them (even the bad traits). I  nibbled on dark chocolate, sipped coffee and once finished, started in on the wine.

There was something luxurious about not worrying about calories, or self editing as I wrote. My cat, eager to be a part of my little party, came in and settled herself against me.  I buckled, and pouring more wine into my glass succumbed to the temptation to have a sneaky cigarette. The over-indulgence night was complete.

So, what was it like to have so many of my weaknesses gathered in one place? It was like having a mini holiday  in my home. A favourite film, chocolate, wine, coffee, writing and my mind filled with love. (and of course, the cat as my companion).

Of all these things, I think what I enjoy most is thinking about the wonderful times I have with people and I made up my mind that this little ritual must be made a habit. However, next time, I think I’ll have some company…

Write about your own little addictions…

Poem: Sonnet 17, Pablo Neruda (my favourite)

Sonnet 17

I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

-Pablo Neruda

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