My creative writing students turned in their final memoir pieces after we shared them out loud with each other while enjoying some brownies and cookies in a writer’s celebration. They absolutely blew me away with their writing, and their ability to write so deeply. I wasn’t going to share mine, but in the end, I did.
I had written alongside them, and used my own piece to model revision for them. I was not at all prepared for how I would feel when I read my piece out loud to them.
Nor was I prepared for their reaction. They listened intently as I blustered my way through this reading. When I finished, every one of them thanked me for sharing something so difficult. These moments of grace in the classroom are a blessing. I’ll share some of what they wrote in another post. Here is the beginning of what I wrote, dragged unwillingly from my heart:
My phone rang.
“Is this Sally?”
“This is detective…”
“I’m sorry, who is this?” Rising from the table, I walked out the door of the restaurant, “I can’t hear you very well.”
“…your sister, Cathy.”
“Look, whatever you want, my sister can’t pay, so just stop sending her credit cards.”
“No Ma’am. I’m a detective and I’m calling from Beaumont. Your sister…”
My heart had sunk into my chest and it seemed to be dragging me down to the curb. The hard metal of the street sign dug into my palm where I gripped it as I slunk to sit on the cold cement. His words fogged my brain, and as he repeated them I yelled, “Who is this? Why are you telling me this? This isn’t funny. Put Cathy on the phone.”
“Ma’am your sister is dead. She was murdered yesterday afternoon. The only number we could find was your son’s. He gave me your number.”
Morgue. But morgues are for TV cop shows where they take bodies found in rivers or back alleys. Not my sister. They pull sheets back from their faces so someone can say, “Yes, that’s her. That’s my sister.” Not Cathy. She’s living near the ocean which she loves. She’s warm there and can wear shorts all year and feel the healing sun on her broken body and wounded spirit.
I pulled myself up and walked back to the window, staring in and willing my brother to look over. He saw my hand plastered to the window, shifted his head sideways in question, got to his feet saying something to the people at the table and walked outside to meet me.
I couldn’t speak, but clung to him there on the street. My head hurt. My eyes were dry, blocking the backed up tears behind a wall I don’t remember building.”