Another packed out table at the Lowestoft Library Writing Group last night, which is always a good thing. Di, our commander-in-chief, has capped our numbers now so that the group doesn't get too large. She wants everyone to have time to speak, and the more people there, the less floor time we have.
We started off by reading out our homework on the theme of a local place. Here is my contribution. (I cheated a little bit; I adapted my homework from my teen writers, but only because I wrote a politically incorrect piece, and I didn't want the group to think I was a Daily Mail reader. Nor did I want to offend anyone so I thought it was best to stick with the safer option.)
You want to be alone. You walk. You walk a familiar path to a familiar place. You used to call it your place. You thought you were the only person who knew about it. You take a step onto the beach and stumble over the stones. You find your footing and direct yourself southwards. You locate your place. You feel like you’re sitting on top of the world, sitting on top of a collapsed World War II pillbox, sitting on top of a high sand dune, looking out across Kessingland beach, towards the sea, over the horizon. The roof balances precariously on a block of wall, with angry looking, tangled support cables and scrap metal protruding at all angles. You take off your shoes. Sand has crept in through the fibres of your socks to rest in between your toes. You empty a flow of golden grains in a pile next to you and run your finger through the sand making yellow swirled patterns on grey.
It’s not too cold, but you wouldn’t care if it was. You’re alone. You’re far enough away from the dog walkers and the kite flyers for them not to interfere with your place. You watch them. You watch them but they don’t see you. They’re busy and you don’t exist. You like it that way. A rush of wind wraps itself around you and dances into the field behind you. It takes the blades of grass by the hands and twirls them to a subtle tune. The waves add to the orchestra as they lap at the shore and crash against the sluice rocks. A seagull circles the sun, pulling its shadow past your eye line.
The concrete is cool under your thighs. It becomes more comfortable the longer you sit there. You drop slowly down to your back and lay your head on your elbow as you wrap your arm behind your neck. You close your eyes. You think about your life. You beat your stress to death with a piece of driftwood until your mind is prioritised. You relax.
The fresh air excites your senses. You breathe it deep into your body, into your soul. Only a few hundred yards away fresh air has no place, so it plays here. Only a few hundred yards away you are stifled by traffic fumes and sewage work stenches and greasy café chips. You bathe in the aroma that confirms that the world isn’t just cars and work and people. It’s something a lot more than that.
You don’t want to leave but you know you have to. You tie up your shoelaces as the sun drops over your shoulder. You push yourself up and off the piece of history beneath you. You walk away and wonder how long your place will be allowed to stay there. It must contravene a hundred health and safety laws. You hope it stays. You want more people to see it. You want your place to become their place.
We then had two short writing exercises.
As you are leaving somewhere alone, the light goes out. What happens next?
I hold my breath. I don't turn around. There's no-one there. Stop being so stupid. The lights are probably on a motion timer thing. I take a step forward.
"Where do you think you're going?"
I don't turn around. They're not talking to me.
"Oi, where do you think you're going?"
"Home," I say, with a squeak in my voice.
"You don't want to do that."
"I've got to get home. I'm ..." My mind goes blank. I can't think of an excuse. Why won't my feet move? Why don't I just run?
"Can't think of an excuse, eh?"
I hear footsteps; the clip clip of high heels on concrete. A hand touches my shoulder. I feel sick. I open my mouth to scream but only air escapes. What is wrong with me?
"Come back inside."
"I've got to get home."
"You already said that but you don't seem to be going anywhere."
"I've got to ..."
Someone grabs my ankles. I fall forward. Someone else lifts up my torso. It's dark. I can't see who it is. My voice has gone home but not taken me with it. I'm carried back inside and dropped. I curl up on the floor. This isn't happening. I'm at home. I'm not here. I close my eyes. Silence.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!" fills the air. The lights come on and my eyes open. The room is full of balloons and streamers and people I don't recognise smiling at me.
"But it's not my birthday though."
You're in a room full of people. You're the only blind person there. Describe the room.
It's warm. It's warm because of people, not because of warmth. People talking and moving and breathing. I hold my glass to my chest and walk around. I'm not nosy I just like listening in on other people's conversations. Aunt Maggie is telling Joy, our next door neighbour, about her piles and her bunions. Joy is trying to escape the conversation by saying she hasn't eaten since breakfast and wants to grab something from the buffet before her husband devours it all. I make my way to the buffet table. It smells like the only things left are beef and piccalilli sandwiches, prawn cocktail crisps, and a bowl of potato salad that has gone off. I pass on the snacks and sip my drink. It's wine. This is not my drink. Where's my lager? Mum brushes past me, leaving lavender lingering around me. I turn to talk to her but she's gone. She always has to be the best hostess, even at a wake. I plonk myself down on a chair by the window. The breeze is welcome. I shuffle around on the uncomfortable plastic base but it will always remind me of school assemblies. Darren and Sharon run past, playing 'it'. They screech, "You're it", "No, you're it", "You're it", "I'm telling Mum". Aunt Karen stomps across the floor and booms, "I'm it and you're going to get ready for bed." I click a button on the side of my watch and a robotic voice tells me that it's nine twenty six. I'm tired. It's been a long day.
Our homework is to write a 500 word story: A drunken man sits next to you on the bus, thinking he knows you. He starts to confess 'the truth'. What is 'the truth'?
Our next session is on Tuesday 13th November 2012.