I would like to begin this entry with an apology; this time, for my absence. My computer broke Wednesday night – something about the power switch being worn down to nothing – and I could not get it to turn back on. I had tried to update this blog from my iPad, but was unsuccessful. I was so stressed and just sat on my bed and cried, and cried, and cried. It was silly, and most certainly foolish, but I felt so helpless and frustrated.
I updated the blog with a pity party; a post that just ranted about how sad I was, and how woeful I am, and so on and so forth. But that is not why I started this blog, and that is not who I want to be. There was nothing creative or entertaining about the post; it was only self-indulgent and annoying, so I deleted it. I realized that I hadn’t lost as much weight as I should have, that I wasn’t being a creative writer, and that I was being weak again. I was letting myself down, and it was time to knock it off. It was time to start fresh.
So, it’s a new day, and I’m typing away on a new computer. I also discovered a new set of prompts by Writer’s Digest that are perfectly tailored to a writer suffering from a creative slump. Let’s give this another shot, shall we?
THE PROMPT: “The Song that Changed Everything”
You walked into the emergency room. This simply couldn’t be happening. Just a few hours ago you were playing cards with your friend, listening to your favorite song on the radio – the song that defined your friendship. But now, as you make your way to the nurses’ station, that song was playing again. Only this time, it felt different.
Amanda’s hair flew out behind her as she ran through the parking lot. Her flip flops slapped haphazardly against the pavement and she knew she was one bad step from a bad spill, but it didn’t really matter – nothing did, except for Allison. Amanda had been in the classroom, idly checking her work e-mail while the students worked on their expository essays, when her cell phone had lit up beside the mouse. She had done her best to discreetly place her phone so that she could see it, but no one else could. Teachers weren’t allowed to have them because the students weren’t allowed to have them, and it was all about solidarity or some nonsense, but she had hers close anyway, just in case there was an emergency or something.
And there was an emergency, wasn’t there? Amanda hadn’t answered her cell phone because one, it would be unprofessional and two, the call was coming from a number she didn’t recognize. She ignored the call and took a cursory glance at the students, all of whom were bent over their desks and writing furiously. Things were momentarily interrupted but were quickly on their way back to normal, until the phone in the classroom rang; the generic phone that hung beside the desk in every classroom. Twenty heads popped up, snapping their necks to the phone like an abnormally large pack of deer trying to cross a four-lane highway flooded by headlights. With a rueful smile, Amanda told them all to keep working and she answered the phone, never thinking that anything could be wrong. Or hell, if something was wrong, that didn’t mean it couldn’t be easily remedied. Amanda prided herself on being able to handle issues. Her classroom management was exemplary – the principle had even said so – and she did her best to never rattle. Other teachers came to her to vent because they knew Amanda would be blunt and put everything into perspective.
But Ms. Taylor, the secretary in the office with the short blond hair and lust for high heels, told Amanda that the hospital had called, and that the hospital said Amanda should hurry down there because something had happened to Allison; there had been an incident. Ms. Taylor mentioned something about a Hall Duty teacher reporting to the classroom, and about not worrying, about it being okay to leave, but Amanda was already gathering her purse with the keys – everything else could stay, could wait until the world righted itself. Some of the students called out to her, asked if everything was okay, but she barked at them to just keep working. What else could they do? What else could anyone do? What was she supposed to say? She was frazzled.
Using the crazy energy coursing through her, Amanda didn’t stop to talk to anyone, but just ran – ran through the front doors of the school to the parking lot, ran through the parking lot to her Ford Explorer. She fumbled with the key s at the door, simultaneously struggling to calm her shaking hands and to regulate her haggard breathing. When she sat in the driver’s seat and slid behind the wheel, she shut the door behind her and it was silent. For a moment, Amanda thought she might cry. It was a tempting idea, to just sit there and cry, and just be totally consumed by the fear and the helplessness of the situation. Why not? What else was there to do? Would driving like a madwoman to the emergency room and demanding entry to Allison’s room help things any? It wouldn’t and crying in her car alone wouldn’t help either, but so what? If neither was beneficial, why couldn’t she choose how to spend her moment of weakness?
Despite her cerebral struggle, Amanda’s body seemed to act accordingly; the keys were turned in the ignition, the gear was changed so she could back out of the parking space and before she could really understand what was happening, she was on the highway and speeding towards the hospital. She didn’t hit any red lights, and she gently touched the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror. It was like God knew that if Amanda stopped, even for just a minute or two, she would not be able to start again. When she parked in the crowded parking lot of the hospital, it was all she could do to keep one foot moving in front of the other. Her mind was racing, sprinting from worst case scenario to who she should call to who would probably already be there. She was taking in deep breaths, constantly smoothing her hair back away from her dampened eyes. Her movements had slowed, probably because her mind was using all her energy and she almost stumbled through the sliding doors and into the hospital.
Everything was white, bright and smelled like disinfectant. Amanda instantly wanted to be somewhere else. Her stomach turned over unpleasantly and she shut her eyes against it for a moment, not wanting to be sick or cause a scene, but how could she help it? Her best friend was in the hospital, in a coma from an apparent overdose, and how do these things happen? Just last night, they had been at Allison’s house, playing Drug Dealer with a battered pack of cards, laughing loud and hard. The case of beer had been nearly gone, and it was getting late, but then “Where Does the Good Go?” by Tegan and Sara came on the iPod. Both women had screeched in delight and slammed their palms upon the table, demanding the song be turned up as loud as it could go, and promptly be started over from the beginning. Mike, who was always there with them, got up to do just what they had asked, and Amanda seized the moment to be nostalgic. She leaned closer to Allison and whispered, “Do you remember how we used to listen to that song over and over?”
Smiling, Allison drank from the can of beer and wiped the corners of her pale lips before adding, “Absolutely! We did that one time, on the way to the wrestling match, because you were so obsessed with Billy!”
Blushing slightly, she covered her face with her hands and collapsed onto the top of the table. It had been years since she thought of Billy and senior year. She popped her head up to see Allison looking victorious and particularly smug. Amanda couldn’t have that, so she said, “Wait a second; you were obsessed with Nick, so that makes us even Steven!”
Allison burst out laughing, and both women doubled over in laughter. It wasn’t that hilarious – Billy and Nick had both been wrestlers, had both been attractive and had thereby been out of their league, so to speak. She supposed it was somewhat humorous that both girls had heard the song that night, on the way to the match, and had deemed it appropriate to relate to their unrequited love. Maybe the women laughed because they were embarrassed at how juvenile and foolish they had been just a few short years ago, and weren’t sure what else to do. It was silly, high school romance, and wasn’t meant to be picked apart and brutally scrutinized. But when the heart was running out of beats, and a friend was running out of time, everything was rehashed and analyzed, and relived.
When Amanda came back to the present, Mike was there. He was always there and he was helping her to a chair, talking fast and low. She wanted him to start over, to speak louder and more clearly, but she couldn’t speak – she had just seen Allison last night! They had reminisced about the boys that filled their notebooks and adolescent daydreams and everything had been fine. They had been drinking and having a good time, making plans for the weekend. How could Allison be dying? How could things not look good? When she had left Allison’s house last night, Amanda hadn’t kissed Allison or hugged Allison; they weren’t particularly affectionate friends. But as she followed Mike through the front door, Amanda had turned to see Allison. Her long hair was hanging in her face, and she was still sitting at the table, staring at the can of beer that had to be close to empty. She wasn’t looking at it so much as through it, and Amanda felt as if she had to break her concentration. “Are you going to go to sleep soon?”
Allison looked at her friend like she just remembered she was there. Allison shrugged, offered a half-smile and said, “I don’t know; maybe I’ll stay up and play some NHL.”
Amanda smiled and said, “Alright; just text me later.”
“Will do,” Allison promised with a tiny wave of her hand.
Allison had never sent that text message, and Amanda hadn’t bothered to text or call, and now where were they? They were in a waiting room, waiting for what? Were they waiting for news, for death, for absolution, for recovery? Did she really have that kind of time?
Mike was calling her name, getting loud, and so she turned to him. He was asking if she was okay, and if she had heard anything that he had said. She had every intention of answering Mike, of shaking her head slowly from side to side, but the song playing over the crappy, muted speakers was asking a question she had heard before, and desperately wanted answered now, before it was too late.
Where does the good go?
As always, please feel free to comment, to critique, and to share.