Writing Group: My Friend the Fire Hydrant
You know how, when you come back from a really stressful trip, you look around your messy apartment or house and don’t even know where to start? How you’re just overwhelmed with the clutter and you’re so tired from your trip? How you ultimately surrender and just watch TV while eating junk food? That’s kind of how the past month has been for my writing. After finishing the latest draft of my novel at the start of December, I meant to take just a few days off. Then days turned into weeks. I got my second tattoo; then there was Christmas; then New Years’ Eve. Time crept by with a disturbingly stealthy speed. And every day I didn’t write, the pressure to start again grew greater and more painful.
I really wanted to start working on the outline to my novel’s sequel, but unfortunately, I didn’t start before I lost my writing momentum; and now I’d need to review the book again before starting that project. (I know, I know — it’s not daunting and overwhelming me; I’m just letting it daunt and overwhelm me.) Nonetheless, for now, I’m working on a story I started in the fall of 2010. It sucks, but I think there are some great salvageable bits in it.
Plus, I went to my writing group last night, which almost always leads to inspiration and confidence rebuilding. So, even though I’m still working on a different blog post, I wanted to get a new post up as soon as possible; and I thought this writing group entry was worth sharing. The prompt was, “When I was a child, I had big plans.” I morphed that into “When I was a child, I had a big imagination.” Here are the results.
When I was little, I spoke to fire hydrants. That’s not a metaphor. The neighbors would call my mother, telling her that her child was at the end of the street, attempting to converse with city equipment. I talked to fire hydrants. Or electric converter boxes. Or small, light green towers with the Southwestern Bell logo.
I remember being very sad when the backyard fence was built, because it meant I couldn’t visit my friend — the large green electric converter box behind our house — anymore. I cried. I even hugged the box good-bye. My mom was surprisingly sympathetic. Then, one day, she was not. She went from pretending to believe me to telling me, “Sarah, you need to stop it or people are going to think you’re weird.” Like flipping a light switch. Are all parents like that? Do some phase in the introduction of the real world more gradually? It started happening after she had gotten remarried and was pregnant; was she worried about having to handle both a new baby and a delusional small child?
Today, I am constantly vigilant about my transgressions — recent and ancient — because I know they could be used against me at any time. It’s exhausting, though, to have to remember all the stupid shit I’ve ever done and said. There’s only so much room in my memory; and lately, it’s been taking up all the available space.
“Tell me about something fun that happened to you during childhood,” my friend Stephannie asked recently. And I replied, honestly and somewhat aghast, “I can’t remember anything fun. I only remember the bad parts.”
I really want to shake off that yoke of guilt and remembering. I want to, but I don’t know how. I don’t know how to spin around and do cartwheels through a field, then come up with a snappy and charming retort for whoever runs up to me asking why I talk to fire hydrants.
Sometimes, I don’t think the Adam and Eve story involved fruit. I think what really happened was a little kid used to talk to a tree. And, one day, some snake slithered by and said, “Stop talking to trees! People are going to think you’re weird.” And the kid suddenly knew shame, a feeling so painful that he didn’t even stop to think, “Hey! That was a talking snake! Cool!”
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