The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Not So Bad Afterall September 20, 2011

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 9:34 pm

In this prompt, I gave everyone an Andes mint, and then read the following excerpt from John Kinsella’s  
Motels: City to Country:

the smell of heavily perfumed soap
& crisp linen — the towels are [stiff as] cowhide
A salesman who is sick to death
of room service & suitcases
thinks that maybe he’s not so bad off —
a couple fighting in the next room.
sunsets passion-pink

Tourist-info booklets on tables next to phones
the breakfast hole-in-the-wall , which

fascinates the children who think they’re

further from home than they actually are,
someone is having noisy sex — &
somebody switches on a television — LOUD.


Here’s what I wrote in response:

Is my neck stiff? Is my checking account flat-lining? Am I a single man in a double bed? Yes. But still, I’m not so bad off. And this is not a story comparing the less fortunate to those who live in expensive cities and wear Italian shoes. I will not compare myself to street children in Malawi or a beggar without legs in Mumbai, simply because it would be disrespectful to their suffering and would not acknowledge their dignity. But I won’t minimize my own suffering either; my story has tragedy in it too, and illness, and heartache. I’m the prince of broken dreams, and still, I have to say, it’s not so bad.

Had you asked me yesterday, I wouldn’t have been able to answer this way. I was stomach down on the bed bleeding out my sorrow into a big, soft, pillow (poor me and my 300 thread count pillow cases). This morning I left the house without eating—not because I didn’t have food—I have a freezer filled with food—but because I didn’t have time.

Later, I bought an $11 sandwich and visited a friend who sat in a wheelchair waiting for a medical miracle, and still, she shared a City Slicker with me (almond shortbread covered with caramel, marshmallow and chocolate). She enjoyed a cup of tea. She’s making plans for a new apartment that’s wheelchair accessible, and I’m kvetching about an emotional adolescence?

Don’t minimize it, the nurturing parent inside my head pipes up (Finally, I think. Where the hell were you yesterday?) And, okay, I won’t. But if I can place these two feet on the floor, right here, right now, I can tell you honestly, it’s not so bad. There are handsome go-go boys waiting for me in Mexico; there’s a garden designer sending me estimates over email. I have siblings coming to town for a sleepover, and a budding Psychoanalyst in Oakland who calls me her muse.

I have memories of safety, of road trips with loving parents, clean motel rooms in Chicago with mints on the pillows, and an air-conditioner humming through the night. I have dogs on this earth right now who love me; I have purple roses and pink hydrangea and the promise of violets. I have new babies scheduled for breakfast meetings; I even have a semi-blind date with a man whose name means compassion.

Am I frightened by the anniversary of September 11th? Do I think we’re in an economic depression? Do I consider Michele Bachmann the litmus test for idiocy and bigotry in the US? Yes. But even so, I have brunch on Sunday with a kindred spirit, an old friend in Hawaii asking, “When are you coming to visit?” I have a little green car hugging the tight curve and zipping ahead of traffic, Kylie Minogue singing, “Got rainbow colors and no more rain.” Okay, it’s not quite that simple, Kylie. But her high voice on six speakers, that blue, blue summer sky above me, the handsome man in the crosswalk with a soul patch and a sexy smile.

Right here. Right now.


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