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Creative Writing Assignment

I'm at Bus Boys and Poets in downtown DC having breakfast. Today's assignment is from Natalie Goldberg's excellent "Writing Down the Bones":
Write about ‘leaving’. Approach it any way you want. Write about your divorce, leaving the house this morning, or a friend dying.
There is power in leaving.

There is power in being the one packing up and shipping out; the power of purpose, the power of I DON’T NEED THIS…even if I have no clue what it is that I actually need. There is power in decision, and momentum, and finality.
“You’re really doing this?”
Hell yes I am.

Leaving the mall I forgot where my car is parked.

Leaving the party I never say goodbye…it's like having a calling card, only in reverse.

Leaving my orbit, I come back down to earth.
Leaving the parking garage, I always look both ways.
Leaving the city, I watch the skyline from my rearview.

Very important to have pre-selected leaving songs for the initial drive AWAY FROM. Mournful, hopeful, broken, road-flashing-under-car songs to set the appropriate tone for the leaving.
It’s time to move on…time to get going…what lies ahead I have no way of knowing…but under my feet baby, the grass is growing…yeah it’s time to move on…time to get going. (Tom Petty.)
Leaving Tacoma at 6 in the morning in the early spring, driving out and over the mountains in the blue-dark, trying to get my head and heart to wrap around and own that moment: I AM LEAVING THIS PLACE BEHIND. I am not this place anymore. The me that was part-me and part-this place is dying right now. A new me is being born. There is space between this old me and this new me and I’m living in this space right now. This space is dirt-prairie before a sunrise, wind blowing across. This space is dry riverbed with clattering stones at the bottom. This space is now in this car with me with my breath and my things piled high in the back.

Imagining what it will be like when I get ____...already creating a place-sense of it in my mind, what I will be like. Knowing that I will be the same and abandoning my body to that feeling, sinking into it with sorrow and relief and a certain sense of déjà-vous.

“I will take my leave of you”. I like that a lot – like your ‘leave’ is something the other person has possession of when you are with them, and you need to ask for it back.

Leaving a job.
Leaving a friendship.
Leaving a relationship.
Leaving a note. Although sometimes putting it on paper is just too far; is the equivalent of coming out and saying the thing you’ve secretly thought for years and realizing how stupid it sounds…some things are better left in the pink fleshy, underwater secret corners of your body.

Being left is standing still.
Leaving is running full-tilt.
Being left is quiet inside. Nothing to say. The person you’d say it to is five miles down the road already, eyes full of future. You only have eyes for the past streaming out behind them like the frothy, rolling wake from a speedboat.

I’ve been joined by a couple at this table and now it’s hard to abandon myself to this leaving again. This girl is singing and the other girl is scooting closer to her and shaking this table and I’m thinking of leaving this restaurant.

Creative Writing Assignment

I walk into the club and pay the lady at the door...while she takes my $20 and turns it into a $10, I look around: there aren’t a lot of people out here, so I can’t tell yet. It’s a pretty non-descript hallway, and I feel kind of embarrassed as I realize that I expected techno-bass-thump, flashing lights, cages hanging from the ceiling, maybe a smoke machine? coming out from the main room. Instead it’s just a lobby. No posters or anything.

Into the main room, and I can see that this is typically a dance floor…relieved to see rows of folding chairs covering the once-open space. This means there’s no way there’ll be dancing tonight, at least not until after, and it’d probably take so long to clear those chairs off the floor that I’d be long gone.

I order a beer – make my way to a chair in the corner and lay my things down on the chairs next to me. Lean back and look around: pretty empty so far. A few people milling around…still too hard to judge.

Then a girl asks if I’m taking all the seats, and I say no, please, sit!, and I know I’m trying too hard because it’s so obvious that she’s a (lesbian) and I don’t want her to know that I know she’s a (lesbian) and oh God can I move to another seat without it being too obvious? but that would be so rude so I sit further into the back of my chair and concentrate on the program.
But she doesn’t take the hint and wants to know why I’m here and have I been here before and I’m really short with my answers so she can’t mistake my interest for interest. Her name is Harriet and she’s been coming for a year, she likes coming alone, she just got back from hanging out with the kid she mentors in Anacostia, she works for a non-profit. I warm up to her against my will because she’s really nice and calm but I’m careful to keep my left hand with the ring on it visible in case she gets the wrong idea.

Get up to go to the bathroom and this place is filling up and now I am starting to see it. There is a “couple” two rows behind me, similar button-up plaid shirt, his hand on his knee, having a casual conversation and I try not to stare but oh God where am I and how did I let myself get here?? I am grossed-out and I am embarrassed and I have to pee…

…into the bathroom. There are other people in here but I can only see shoes and I relax for a second in the stainless steel quiet only to realize there’s no toilet paper! I see brown sneakers in the stall next to me: “Excuse me: I’m so sorry, but do you have any toilet paper over there?” I giggle in nervousness.
THE VOICE: Yeah, of course I’ve got plenty, hold on…
It’s a nice voice, a warm voice with a smile and acknowledgment at my mortification and then a hand pops into the light of my stall, a wad of toilet paper.
“Thank you!” I say.
THE VOICE: Of course!

Back into the club and I am waiting by the bar because I want to say thank you to THE VOICE in person. I’m standing next to a waiter and I’m sure he’s one of them and I study the side of his face, the smile lines at the eyes, the narrow hips, and I pray for him. I pray for God to heal his brokenness. Movement out of the corner of my eye and a woman walks out of the bathroom but it’s all wrong because she has short hair and cargo pants and she can’t be THE VOICE but I recognize her brown sneakers and the thank you lodges in my throat and I turn away from the smile she's softly issued in my direction.

After, I am driving home and I am alone in my car. I feel like I have survived a battle, like I have performed covert ops in enemy territory and I laugh at this ridiculous thought. I talk to God out loud (something I do a lot in the car and the shower), thanking Him for this evening: for my friends, for my safety, for my life which I hope is pleasing to Him. I fiddle with my wedding ring, so thankful that my marriage is the right kind of marriage. I ask Him to forgive all the people in that place; to forgive and heal them: because I'm sure they're perfectly nice and it's just too bad that they're all going to hell.


This weekend, I flew from Seattle to DC - with a layover in Kansas. I wrote this at the airport bar.

People who live in Kansas are brave.
How do they do it?
How do they conduct their business at a measured pace –
do their jobs and drive their trucks and watch their televisions –
Like everything’s normal?

Like this is okay?

Me: I’m barely holding it together.
In fact, it’s all I can do to sit on this airport bar stool and order my Bud Light in a normal voice because what I really want to do is scream!
run! in terror from the reality of this great and terrible space.
Instead I’ll sit here and eat my french fries and talk to the woman on her way to Denver like nothing’s going on.

I know I should be taken by the beauty of the sunset through these narrow windows:
all those colors in all that sky.
But with no lumpy mountains,
no pitchy wet-green forests,
no sandy curve of rocky shore,
no distant skyline to fixate on –
I can’t get away from it.
I’m a spider trapped in the corner of a bathtub.
I’ve just said the wrong thing at a party.
I’m naked at the school dance.

I am exposed. i am alone. (i am so, so small)

This is why people live in cities: so we can mistake these doubtless buildings for ourselves. So we can forget.
People who live in Kansas are brave.
How do they do it?