Writers’ Trigger: My head is full of remembering. I’ve got my heart set on seeing Michael Gambon in Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett. The play opens on the 15th. Tonight. I’ll get tickets tonight. I’ve seen the play before, but I could see it again and again because the play so accurately shows how we remember what we want to remember and when we come to something we don’t want to remember, we hit the fast-forward button and leap forward to something more attractive.
Yesterday, Cheryl Moskowitz (check out her bio and lesson plans at www.poetrysociety.org) led Word for Word, the writers’ group that I belong to in London. She is brilliant. What an ear she has! Her lesson was on remembering, and it was a fruitful trigger. All ten attendees did interesting work. The trigger was to start each sentence with the words “I remember…”
Without a lot of thought I wrote:
I remember Cindy Howard. I remember her from Girl Scouts. I remember that she was not one of my friends. I remember that she had no friends within the group. I remember that she had breasts and I didn’t. I remember that at that age, the boys would come up behind the girls and attempt to snap their bras. I remember that they could snap Cindy Howard’s bra. I remember the boys laughing. Did they laugh because Cindy wore a bra or did they laugh because I did not? I don’t remember.
I remember my fear. I remember circle skirts and bobby socks and Peter Pan collars and pearls. I remember seeing Cindy Howard at a Scout meeting on Saturday. I remember learning that Cindy Howard had been diagnosed with polio on Monday. I remember my Mother’s grim-faced fear.
I remember driving to the doctor’s. I remember the woozy smell of rubbing alcohol – strong at the entry door and stronger with every step up to the doctor’s office on the second floor. I remember the cold, steel examining table. I remember feeling faint. I remember talk of the new Salk vaccine. I remember the needle – the longest needle ever with the largest bore-hole.
I remember later, the Scout leader telling us that we had to be Cindy’s friend. I remember being afraid to visit her. I remember being forced. I remember hoping that Cindy Howard still had her legs. I remember my fear. I remember fearing her legs, her breasts and her bra. I remember her cluttered bedroom. I remember all the movie posters papering her bedroom walls. I remember movie magazines littering the floor. I remember that Elvis was everywhere.
I remember that his predatory eyes seemed to follow me around the room. I remember his snake hips, thick lips and greasy hair. I remember being truly afraid. I remember that my fear of Elvis was greater than my fear of polio.
So this is what I wrote. I was surprised at the path my remembering took. Prior to giving the assignment Cheryl Moskowitz had mentioned the word “polio.” I don’t remember the context, but apparently the word stuck with me. Although polio played a part, the crux of the remembering was an adolescent’s fascination/fear of emerging sexuality. I don’t know where this rough draft is going. I offer it up only as an example of what can come of a remembering exercise.
So now it is your turn. Don’t forget that every sentence should start with “I remember.” And don’t think. Just write. Go with the flow and see what happens.