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Devil # 3
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Helpless.” Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?
Okay, I was going to give this prompt a “miss” and went to the new prompt generator I’ve been using for the past few days. I hit the button and was served up the two-word prompt: “Ill Devil”. At first I read this as #3 Devil, and I must admit, I got a chill, because what I immediately thought about when I read the prompt was the third time I was in a near-death situation where I felt totally helpless. What are the chances, I thought, that these two prompts would line up? This must be something I’m meant to write about. But then reason stepped in and I realized this prompt always gave an adjective and a noun. What they probably meant by the prompt was ill Devil. (Changing the capital to a small “i” clarified the prompt.) But then I realized that ill devil described the occurrence I am trying not to talk about as much as #3 devil did, so I guess, prodded on twice by fate or coincidence or synchronicity, I will try.
I have written to a similar prompt twice in 2015, so probably most of you who read my blog have chanced upon one of those posts, but when I wrote to a similar prompt in June of 2014, I wrote a different piece and since I had few of my present-day readers then, I’ll mention that THIS is what I wrote. It may not be obvious that the topic given in today’s prompt was what I was really talking about then, however, because it was a poem where I actually stood to one side of what I was really remembering and wrote about the subject as an onlooker rather than a participant. I only alluded to the real subject, which is what I’m going to attempt to write about today. That real subject is Ted Bundy and how otherwise respectable women sometimes fall prey to such predators. Okay, deep breath. I’m going to tell to the world something I have actually told to very few people. Yes, this is a true story.
Devil # 3
Nineteen seventy-something. In the bar with friends.
When you are in your twenties, the partying never ends.
It was rodeo season and the big one was in town.
As one by one they ordered drinks, I couldn’t turn them down.
We were a rather rowdy bunch of teachers in our prime
Devoted in the classroom, but wild on our own time.
The bar was crowded hip to hip, the music barely heard
over the loud cacophony of laugh and shouted word.
It was my turn to buy a round. I struggled towards the bar.
My polite “Excuse me’s!” really hadn’t gotten me too far
when a guy appeared in front of me and moved the crowd aside
as though he had appointed himself to be my guide.
As I returned with eight full drinks, again he stemmed the tide
by walking close in front of me and spreading elbows wide.
He smiled and then departed, back to the teeming mass.
Impressive that he had not even tried to make a pass!
My friends all wondered who he was. I said I had no clue.
Tall and dark and ivy-league, he vanished from our view.
This story happened long ago. Some details I’ve forgotten,
and any memories he retains, you’ll learn were ill-begotten.
I think we danced a dance or two. I know we talked awhile.
I liked his fine intelligence, his low-key polite style.
At three o’clock the barman’s bell commenced it’s clanging chime
and I made off to find my friends, for it was closing time.
Two lines of men had split the bar, lined up back to back.
Their hands locked and their arms spread wide–they moved into the pack.
One line moved east, the other west, forcing one and all
Either out the front door or towards the back door hall.
I was forced out the back way–out into the alley.
My friends and I had made no plans of where we were to rally
and so I walked around the block, sure that was where they waited,
but there was no one there at all–the crowd had soon abated.
I went back to the alleyway to see if they were there.
but all was dark and still, and soon I began to fear
that both carloads of friends had thought I was with the other.
I had no recourse but to walk, though I prayed for another.
I combed my mind to try to think of anyone at all
living in this part of town where I could go to call
a friend to come and get me and furnish me a ride
for 3 a.m. was not a time to be alone outside.
There were no outside phone booths and I lived so far away
I simply had to rouse someone, but what was I to say?
But since I had no other choice I thought I’d check once more
if any single soul was waiting at the bar’s front door.
And as I left the alley to be off to see,
I saw a new familiar face looking back at me.
It was my dancing partner, his face split in a grin.
It seems that he was going to save me once again.
He had asked me earlier if needed a ride,
but I had told him wisely that I had friends inside
and so I thought he’d left, but I could see he was still there.
Yet, ride home with a stranger? Did I really dare?
And yet I had no other choice, abandoned as I was.
And so I said I guess that yes, I would, simply because
I knew there was just one of him and I was young and strong.
And he seemed kind, polite and gentle. What could go so wrong?
His car was just a block away. Our walk was short and brief.
And when he pointed out his car, I felt a great relief.
For it was a convertible–and easy to escape
If I detected the first signs of robbery or rape!
He opened up the door for me. I got in the front seat.
But as he started up the car, my heart skipped a beat.
For from the bushes, two more men emerged and jumped inside–
one man in the backseat, the other at my side!
He pulled out into the street, though I protested so.
I didn’t really want a ride, so please, just let me go!
(And here I have to beg off and say I’ll finish this story tomorrow. Right now my heart is pumping and my head throbbing as though I’m re-enacting this whole tale physically as well as mentally. I’m totally exhausted. Why I decided to write this in rhyme I don’t know. Perhaps I thought it would be easier, or more fun or more lighthearted, but there is simply no way to write this from any other frame of mind but the terror I felt that night. So, sorry, but I will resume tomorrow. You all know that I’m here telling the story, so be assured that the worst didn’t happen…but the story is by no means over, so join me tomorrow for the rest. I, for one, could really use a drink, but it is only 1:40 in the afternoon so I’ll find some other means of escape.)
To see the conclusion of this poem, go HERE.
If you’d like to try out Jennifer’s new prompt generator, go HERE.
Revisioning a Life
I don’t know if it helps much to revision the past. I think we make decisions according to our background and our chemical makeup and genes and “knowing” that different choices might have contributed to your life turning out differently doesn’t necessarily mean that you would make different decisions even if you knew how they would play out.
When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be around people. I think this was primarily because I didn’t have a clear enough idea about what to do when I was alone. If I’d had art classes or someone who encouraged me to write stories when I was small, I might have developed a need for lots of time alone earlier. As it was, I started reading to fill out my days and nights, but even then, I probably would have traded in those books for more activity.
By the time I got to college, I was accustomed to “wasting” large amounts of time by doing nothing or by playing games, watching TV and listening to music. I had never been anyplace where there had been clubs and activities to join other than the band, choir and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) of my junior high and high school years. I don’t know if it was lack of confidence or lack of interest that kept me from joining activities in college where I would have met more people, but I am quite sure that I had a small town inferiority complex that made me think people would probably not want to meet me.
Although in the dorm and around female friends I was outgoing and a leader of sorts, at mixers with fraternities, I was shy and held back. I didn’t go to the student union much–preferring the smoking room at our sorority house, playing bridge with the hashers and watching soap operas with the Lenzi twins–my partners in prevarication. Somehow I fell back on the lazy habits of my youth, even though I was now in an environment that provided more stimulating possibilities.
I see this tendency spreading like a stain throughout my life. Yes, I traveled all over the world, but once there, in an exotic or unfamiliar place, I didn’t necessarily make use of all the possibilities for socialization or discovery. Once again I fell back on nights spent alone, reading or puttering around the house. It wasn’t that I didn’t meet people and make friends. I gave dinner parties and big parties and went to the houses of friends. It was just that I also held back. Pulled out by friends, I would go, but if I had to make the decision myself, I would stay home.
Now that I am in my retirement years, I still feel this pull and push of life. If someone asks me to do anything, I do it. I have had a few big parties but in recent years I prefer dinner with one to four friends. The vast majority of my time, however, is spent alone, even though I know I could be busy every minute of the day with one or another social activity. I fill out my days with writing or, in month or two-month spurts, working in my art studio. I belong to three writing groups, two of which I go to regularly. The reading series I coordinated, I let die a natural death when the coffee house where we met closed. Others have urged me to resuscitate it, but i haven’t.
The reason I know I would probably not change my college habits even though I now know I should have been more active is because now that I am in possession of this knowledge, I still choose not to change. I am a social person who has an even bigger need for privacy and alone time, but now it is because I have two worthwhile activities with which to fill that alone time. Whether there is much value in what I produce is a moot point. I think we create in order to recreate our selves, in a way. It is a place where we have a power we grant to ourselves and perhaps in a way this is a success which, although unheralded by the world, creates a smaller world of our own where we can become whatever we want to be.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Revisionist History. Go back in time to an event you think could have played out differently for you. Let alternate history have its moment: tell us what could, would or should have happened?
Casting our nets wider,
we gather matching minds and hearts
like small silver fish–
just a tiny bite, each one,
trying to fill a big appetite.
No big fish
to struggle to land.
one after another,
taking the edge off our hungers.
The Prompt: Write a “loveless” love poem. Don’t use the word love! And avoid the flowers and rainbows. Try to write a poem that expresses the feeling of love or lovelorn-ness without the traditional trappings you associate with the subject matter.
This subject seemed to grow when it came time to do my Daily Post on WordPress. To see more of what I’ve said, at greater length, go HERE.
I lie in bed, flat on my back, head raised by pillows,
computer raised to eye level
by a wadded comforter over bent knees.
I listen to raised voices in the village down below,
the staccato of an inadequately mufflered car revving up,
a hammer falling on wood, birds in the coco palms.
A pianissimo chorus of dogs spread
over the surrounding hills swells to a frenzied crescendo,
then falls silent but will swell again.
I have dropped obligations
like clothes shed for a lover.
My Saturday morning pool aerobics and zumba,
I slipped out of years ago.
Group luncheons hang from doorknobs and chair backs.
Committee meetings lie sloppily abandoned in the hall.
I have retired from the running of the world
to run my own small universe on paper.
Saturday morning is my brainstorm session
with “Me,” “Myself” and “I.”
“I” suggested feeding the dogs,
but they are quiet now, so
“Me” suggested we let them lie.
“Myself” laid out some words to dry
in the heat of the fire of our communal
inspiration, laying them smoothly on the page,
rumpling up others in her fist to send them sailing
to join the crumpled singles event invitations in the corner.
This slow Saturday morning dressing of pages
and stripping them bare
is a sort of ceremony celebrating seizing time
and making it my own.
Pages fill up with passion, angst, anger,
irritation, joy, laughter, camaraderie.
There is more than one word for each.
Imagine such control over your world–
not having to live the world of any other.
If you could have any life you wish?
Imagine a Saturday morning building it.
The Prompt: Me Time–What do you like to do on Saturday morning? Are you doing it now?
He handed it to me without ceremony—a small leather bag, awl-punched and stitched together by hand. Its flap was held together by a clasp made from a two fishing line sinkers and a piece of woven wax linen. I unwound the wax linen and found inside a tiny wooden heart with his initials on one side, mine on the other. A small hole in the heart had a braided cord of wax linen strung through that was attached to the bag so that the heart could not be lost. He had woven more waxed linen into a neck cord. I was 39 years old when he gave me that incredible thing I never thought I would receive: his heart—as much of it as he could give. Continue reading
The Prompt: “Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” – Edna Ferber. Do you agree with this statement on excess?
Lately, I’ve taken to having panic attacks late at night as I’m trying to fall asleep. When I’m having one of these episodes, I suddenly feel as though I’m not going to be able to breathe. It’s not that I can’t breathe at the moment, but a feeling that I’m soon not going to be able to breathe. Sometimes it helps to use an inhaler, then to substitute one pillow for two and to lie on my back rather than my side, as I usually sleep; but more often than not, the only way I can stem the rising panic is to go outside in the fresh air and to sit for awhile, or walk.
This doesn’t happen every night, but it happens too often for comfort. I live alone, and although from time to time I miss company, these late night episodes are the only times when I fear being alone. Perhaps a vision of someday being old and vulnerable is what prompts them, but I know the reason why that fear is expressed as an inability to breathe is because of a TV show I watched over a year ago wherein a young boy was bound, blindfolded and buried alive as water slowly filled up the tank he was buried in, eventually drowning him after 24 hours of torture during which he was aware of his eventual fate. I can think of no more horrible death, and I would give a thousand dollars not to have seen that scene. I no longer watch the show but its damage has been done and it is that scene, along with an earlier scene where I was trapped underwater and came very close to drowning that fuel my conscious nightmares during this time.
In my daylight world, I have a similar fear of being buried under things. My main problems are tool, art supplies and papers—many of which are equally worthless to me. (Closets full of too-small or too-large clothes I just might shrink down to or grow into again, my husband’s stone-drilling tools that have resided in two large cupboards in my garage for 13 years and never used, my income tax returns and receipts that go back to 1964, a lifetime of letters and drawers and shelves of art supplies and collage items I’m fairly sure I’ll never use.) Yet, I have an irrational fear that the minute I rid myself of them, I will need them. I also have paintings stored in every closet as well as under a high rise bed I had made in my upstairs guest room—a bed with a drawer that holds 20 paintings—some by famous painters, some by myself. I would not hang my paintings, but also cannot throw them away or sell them. Nor can I throw away any of the probably 50,000 items that fill every shelf, drawer, bag, surface and hidden spot of my art studio. I make excuses for myself. I am a collage artist. I teach classes and I may need them to share. They have sentimental value.
My house is not messy (except for desktops and my studio) and there is generally a place for everything. It is clean, thanks to a three-times-a-week housecleaner. When company comes, I usually finally organize my desk, file the papers and cover those I don’t get filed with a beautiful scarf or sari, but I know there is a clutter hidden in a drawer or under a beautiful cover, and this disorganization chokes me as surely as my night panics.
My grandmother was a hoarder and so was my oldest sister. I tell myself I have this in control more than they did; but occasionally, when the piles on the built in desk that covers one wall in my bedroom spill over onto the chair, I start to fear that the family curse is taking me over. And in the dark, I can sense it growing nearer, its arms stretched out and its hands aching to encircle my neck and to choke me, shutting off my air slowly, over the years, leaving my middle sister (the uncluttered one) to finally do what I have not been able to do: to rid my house of too much, too many—the irony being that I will be the first object they will have to remove to enable her to do it!