My first piece of published writing that wasn't about killing someone was, predictably, in response to having my heart broken. No greater motivation, I suppose, to put words down on the page than not getting what you want. The poem was titled "Dreams of Russia and You" and did not make one whit of sense so I stuck with my explanation of "emotional truth trumping the literal." (You can get away with talking like that when you're nineteen.) I went on the old heartbreak diet, lost the requisite ten pounds to the forces of misery, moped a lot, told myself that this was all good for my writing, and moped some more. Weirdly, looking like a strung-out, half-dead, anxiety-ridden waif did not bring my ex back a running to me. But man, I had a poem published! Such are the compensations.
The only downside was that I was to read my poem at a party for the journal that had published it. Terrified of public speaking, I thought of all the back-out excuses I could use for not reading. But my pride got the better of me -- I'd go and read and show the ex that would be there that I had persevered over him and his evil leaving me for a smarter, more beautiful woman stunt hadn't broken me. The party, in the backyard of a professor's house, turned to the reading -- luckily drinks had been served already. November in Texas, still not cold, I shivered in my black skirt and white sweater that I had combined with a pair of plastic yin/yang earrings. I would dazzle the crowd, I thought, picking out the nicest clothes I had. When I got up with my one piece of paper, I tried to control the shaking while scanning the crowd for my ex. I didn't see him and wouldn't for four years. But I didn't know that then -- in front of my first audience, the night became endless. If I close my eyes, I'm still there, waiting to begin.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"If I set you on fire/ Will you keep me warm?" Sam Phillips
Drinking short story suggestion: "The Whore of Mensa" Woody Allen
Benedictions and Maledictions