from the collection of: d. heidel
Three writing prompts. Come every week. In the form of an email.
These were simple:
1) The cross-pollination of myths and real-life stories.
2) A character’s fixation upon his medical history.
3) Writing longhand into a notebook what could be more quickly (and maybe not as well-done) on a computer screen.
There is myth and truth. And truth never has myth at its heart but sometimes myth has more truth running through its veins than you would expect. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “We’re going to do some cognitive behavioral therapy,” he said. And when he said that, he actually said, “We’re going to do some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Except now, as I’m writing this, I’m realizing that he still said, “We’re going to do some cognitive behavioral therapy.” And the act of writing this all down is making my hand cramp, but it’s important that I linger for a while on differences and nuances and wait to see which roots actually take to their home in the crags of the dirt beneath my feet and which ones refuse to get themselves dirty in the well-watered soil.
I am dying, you see, and in that act of dying, I am realizing that death itself is an impatient schoolmaster. “It’s time to go,” he is saying. “Now.” And then, “I will not wait.” There is no time to linger and watch how my shadow unfolds itself from the bottom of my feet, mimicking me as I jump rope along the sidewalk and then mocking me as I run to catch lightning bugs later in the day and then expanding into the world all around as the warmth of the day is left to shimmer in beads along my arms as me and Joey and the others run into the laughter of the night.
There is no time to consider the growth of a shadow.
There is only time now for leaving.
And so longer sentences will be cut off.
They will be left unfinished, their tails flapping like torn flags, to forever be imagined by anyone who comes after. They will see these ragged things and they will say, “Here, someone was thinking—” and, before they can even put their own thought to the end of the phrase, something (like a shadow or a thrown ball or a hopscotch square) will catch their attention and they will drop the paper to the wind. And the wind will carry the tattered memory off to a leeward patch of dirt where thought will decompose and the dirt will rejoin with what was once dirt to begin with.
I am dying.
It’s time to go.
It will not wait.
And still, my pencil scratches at the paper. Sometimes words, sometimes drawings of what those words remind me of, sometimes just lines that are shaded in progressively darker strokes. This is an act that is a protest to the nearness of time. Time is wrapping its tendrils ever-tighter around my throat. Still, my pencil moves and wanders. I wonder – will anyone see this?
The man who smiles easily and tells me, “Don’t worry about it.” And then who says things about cognitive behavioral therapy as if it were Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would also tell me about the importance of putting pencil to paper or finger to keyboard. But does he know the importance of just moving letters and shapes and strokes without any intention of making sense of them?
For this is all as made-up as William Carlos Williams’ red wheelbarrow. And as made up as his Red Wheelbarrow.
I grow old. I grow old. I shall wear my pants on the bottom.
Oh, it is no matter. My pencil still scratches at a tatter of paper, building a city out of graphite – the angles constructed in a way that no city has ever before seen and, as I draw, the paper is shaded in a way that reminds me of shadow growing slowly at the end of a day. And it is all silliness. (And there is the myth.)