Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Prompt 1.

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.
1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

"Well!" she said as she slumped onto her flowered couch cushion. Her brow furrowed as she realized this was going to be the last time she ever sat here. The last time she ever saw this couch. The last time she ever smelt that little puff of perfume that comes off, the smell of her grandparents, the smell of her childhood.

Someone else was going to get the couch. One of her cousins still in college who could schlep it from dorm room to beaten-up apartment and then eventually leave it on the side of the road as most couches tend to end up these days.

"Tell me a story."

This is how it always started. Grandpa sat in his recliner, while she huddled up on the flowered couch, a maroon shawl as a blanket wrapped around her. The time didn't matter. Their age didn't matter. The place mattered. The people mattered. The connection mattered. And grandpa took an interest in her that many other people did not.

"Well, we met when my mother made me go to high school..." he would start. This one never got old. The story of true, young love. The story of a family wanting more for their children. The story of my grandparents meeting solely because my great-grandparents believed in education, something that was then instilled in my parents, my siblings, and myself.

I told someone this once, that I never even considered not going to college. They said that no one else in their family had ever gone; that they were the first and they didn't know if they could hack it. I told them that it was never a topic of conversation. I always knew I was going to college; I just never knew where.

And I didn't. I started at a small, rural college with 5,000 people and corn fields surrounding it. I basically went from my small rural town to a larger, yet somehow still small rural town. That was not enough for me. I think a lot of people knew that, but no one ever said it out loud. I had to fight through it; crying most nights, calling my friend Kenny for guidance. Kenny was a big part of my life then.

It's one of life's great coincidences that my grandpa was named Kenny, too.

But I survived and I moved on. I somehow made it through in four years and am now facing today. A tired day that doesn't seem to quite ever end. I came home to my roommate having taken out the trash; something I don't think he's ever done before. I sat in my room and ate a taco. I kept thinking about how the other people, the older young professionals I had just been in a meeting with probably didn't do this. Didn't end up basically on the verge of tears because their roommate did something so nice. Didn't sit on the floor of their room eating while also pretending they'd vacuumed in the near future. (Never.) Didn't log in to their work computer and then just shut it down instead of nailing out some hard facts.

But maybe they didn't notice the sky today either. The ethereal blue and iridescent white that floated above on the ride home. Maybe they didn't have friends from far away places calling just to chat, just because they felt alone and thought you could understand. Maybe they don't have big wool boots sitting next to petite heels in their closet. Maybe they don't live a nomadic existence, flitting from place to place at least once a year. Maybe they have pictures on their walls and piles of clean laundry and organized bathrooms. Maybe they do have all that. But I do not.

I'm not quite sure where I'm going next. I'm not quite sure what time I'll get up tomorrow morning. But I am sure that I will figure it out on my own. I have an almost stifling independent streak about me. I need space. I need to breathe. I need to feel as if I'm in control of something.

I also need story time. Which brings me back to the couch.

Grandma is dusting around the living room, keeping busy in that way that grandma's do. She lifts her feather duster to the large photograph of my grandparents and all of the families they created. My aunts. My uncles. My cousins. Myself.

Grandpa breathes in deeply in his recliner. "Look what we started."

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