When my sister died, I was twenty. For the first few days after the funeral, I would forget while I was asleep. Then I’d wake like it was any other day. Something, the feel of the shag rug on my feet or the sight of my wool coat slung over the back of a chair, would spark the memory and the story would come crashing back. The icy roads, visiting her crumpled Fiesta at the tow yard, smashed but still full of her crazy shit: shoes and books, a butane-powered curling iron, packages of pantyhose. Half the car was crushed but the plastic containers holding her L'eggs were fully intact. They should make cars out of those plastic pantyhose eggs.
I promised myself after the accident that I would stop letting my car get messy like hers, but I never stuck to that vow. Once, in college, a roast rolled under the seat but there was so much junk on the floor I didn’t notice. It was like a scene from Grumpy Old Men a few days later when I had to fish that thing from the Value Meal graveyard in the back of my Mercury Marquis.
When Jenny died, I thought I’d wake up forever feeling that same aftershock of sadness. Around year seven, I noticed the panicky feeling starting to fade. I was still hyperly aware that death could be lurking around any corner—anvils waiting to fall from the sky, killer bees swarming near the lilac bush—but I also noticed, in addition to my many developing neuroses, I also laughed once in a while.
I had my first taste of AWA in a writing class with Jan Haag. No matter what the prompt, almost all my writing would wind its way back to loss: my parents, my sister and niece, my lame ex-boyfriends, the girl in college with the great hair who died of a seizure in her dorm room. Jan just told me to keep writing. Write what needed to be written. She told me what was strong, what stayed with her. I wrote and, once again, something shifted.
Walter Mosley said, “Some days will be rough, unbearable; some will be sublime. Pay no attention to those feelings. All you have to do is write . . . Happy or sad, the story has to come out.”
Even without life’s weird tragedies, some days are going to feel like shit. Bad hair, static cling, fender benders, eyebrow overgrowth. Others will be sublime. I guess the days will pass whether I write or not, but I might miss the boat ride, setting and resetting the course of my life. If the journey is my narrative, I want to be there to help chart that course. If you have that same longing, join us for a class and we can sail the seas together. If we keep to it, there will be a tale told.
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