The Catalyst

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

Love is the Price You Pay March 31, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 5:14 pm

It’s definitely spring. I know this because the word love seems to keep popping up in all of my prompts and most of my writing. The prompts that I offered this time were:

Screwing bi-weekly

Words and Wars

I can’t save you

Love is the price you pay

That last one produced the following piece.


If you interpret the lyrics in about half of Madonna’s new album, you’ll come to the conclusion that she’s really pissed off. The woman is mad. And who wouldn’t be? No pre-nup and a seven million dollar divorce settlement for her ex? Well, no one really knows what happened between them, but when she sings, I want you to take me like you took your money/Take me in your arms until your last breath/I want you to hold me like you hold your money/Hold me in your arms until there’s nothing left, I feel the pain and abandonment.

Not that he sued me for anything, but I’m walking around in his black Prada pants I recently had hemmed, and that periwinkle cashmere sweater that still smells like him—though I’ve had it dry cleaned twice—and I’m remembering what it felt like to hope for a home together, not a tiny apartment, or a fire escape with violas in window boxes and a terracotta pot of jonquils, but a real garden.

“Plant your own garden,” the little asshole in my head says, sipping slimming Sencha green tea, and exuding the kind of Madonna confidence I never can seem to hold onto. And okay, sure. I pay my own bills and make my own lunch; I grocery shop and mop my own floors; I take my dependable car in for $500 tune-ups and wash my own undies. That’s all good.

And I’m okay riding in Coach, as long as I have an aisle seat, as long as I’m not too close to the lavatory, or the chatty flight attendants’ station, but it would have been nice to have been upgraded with all of those fucking miles he’s accumulated traveling the world with all of his other rich friends. We never traveled together. I couldn’t even get him to meet me in Rome for a weekend when he was in Paris. “I’ll pay for your ticket,” I offered, though he had a million dollars in the bank. It’s the gesture that counts, right? Well, he never was one to show up, so why am I spending so much time thinking about him in the moments when I should be harmonizing with the Queen of Pop? Love spent/Feeling love spent/Yeah, I’m love spent/Wondering where the love went.

I guess it’s because I came across a little plastic key chain from the vet today. It’s got a scan code on it for the chip implanted in his little bulldog’s wrinkly neck. He wanted me to have one in case she ever got lost. It’s a way to help her find her way back home, to us, although now I think I should give it back because there’s no us anymore. And I can’t stand the thought of her being lost.


Love Doesn’t Come March 26, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 6:07 am

I wrote the following piece after offering the list prompt 5 Kinds of Love (for an explanation of that prompt, click on that highlighted title).

One result of this exercise is a list describing love as an annoying person. It turns out my love has always been late; what I wrote is in direct response to that realization.

Before my written piece, I’ve embedded a brand new Madonna video. Although this may seem strange, once you read my post, you may see the significance. You may want to read my post first, then watch the video. And love her or hate her, the video might function as a writing prompt too.



Love is late, he thinks, chewing with his mouth open, standing at the cutting board. The drafty old apartment, the stinking compost, the spider webs at the window’s edge.

Love is late, a high maintenance drama queen who refuses to tremble, even when he calls him out as a fake, a false promise. But is it Love’s fault they’ve still not settled down together, or was he too busy eating prosciutto pie and a decadent chocolate dessert to even notice Love was knocking at the back door, or scrubbing dishes at Cafe Flore, or walking four dogs on two leashes down Castro Street?

The truth is, Love scares him. He’s never lived with Love before, except once, and it was mostly disastrous, though sometimes sweet. Sometimes Love made dinner, or unloaded the dishwasher, or planned a date. But mostly, Love left a ring of mildew in the toilet, or insulted him in public, or came in three minutes. Back then, Love was mostly a disappointment, a premature unpleasant surprise.

But now it seems, Love is late. The nighttime wrinkle creams and poisonous sunblocks are already packed in the toiletry case, his spine is compressing, and that mid-life crisis is in full swing.

Love is so late, the puppy they were supposed to raise together—the cold, wet, black nose, the tiny paws on his shin begging for more—that puppy has already grown old and had to be put to sleep because of hip dysplasia.

He can’t wait any longer. He’s tired of these years of gardening and long, hot baths, night after night of TV shows, or reading in bed. So he goes out, tries not to judge the aging pop music divas who still wear skimpy clothes and make black and white videos with dancers half their age, who date too young men and wear too much makeup. He decides to align himself with them instead. To step out onto the dance floor, press himself up against the sweaty shirtless bodies, and simply dance.

He even allows himself to be somebody’s fantasy: Little Daddy, Boy Toy, or the plaything for a bored couple, their abdomens showing the dimples and folds of age. At least he feels alive, he thinks, at least Love, if it ever does arrive, will find him dancing to the High Hat, the 808 drums, vocalizing with Kylie or Madonna. Alive in the ways he never was sitting at home with a ham sandwich, and reruns of Glee episodes, and that stupid Smart phone that never rings.


Unsolicited Advice March 4, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:16 am

The prompt that generated the writing below was another list prompt. For a detailed explanation of how a list prompt works, see Golden, a post from March 2011.

These prompts are always in three parts. First, writers divide their page in half, and they generate two lists. I encourage everyone to generate as many words, images, or phrases as they can for each list (in about five minutes): a quick free write. Then I ask everyone to choose three from each list they feel comfortable reading out loud, so we can let the images or words of the other writers sink in. Then we choose at least one phrase or image and write for 20 minutes.

This time around, they titled the two lists, “Things that are fragile, or break easily,” and “Things that are strong or durable.”

These are the words and phrases I wrote from the read around: rivers, suspension bridges, big dogs, sunflowers, staplers, airplanes, old bones, toes, hips, china cups, promises, vows

Here’s what I wrote:


Here’s my advice on the days you feel fragile, when you’re certain that the whole world is going to implode: think of cast iron pans and suspension bridges, the thick, swinging tails of labradors, their heavy tongues, the bark signaling an intruder.

Don’t think of your favorite cup that shattered in the sink this morning, think of the sink itself: porcelain-clad iron, and that dependable drain. Think of titanium rods and steel cables, clunky old staplers, tugboats, and fire engines. Think of the ladders on fire engines, opening higher and higher. Think of firefighters climbing those ladders with strong legs and thick biceps, covered in fireproof suits.

Don’t imagine broken bones—toes, clavicles, hips—or the way coffee beans crack and whirl in the grinder. Think of coffee—black—those thick white cafe mugs, the espresso machine, heavy on the counter. Think of granite and sandstone and the concrete foundation of towers. Think of towers, holding 1000’s of people, or the heavy metal desks your teachers sat behind in junior high school. Think of wading boots and bomber jackets, and the roll bars on Jeeps, crossing rivers on big tires. Think of rivers.

On the days you feel haunted by what has been broken: promises, dreams, hopes, that little muscle you call your heart—oh! think of your heart!—never resting, always working, circulating the blood miles and miles through your body every day. Think of the tireless heart, and the hands that hold children or chop wood, or pull great nets of fish from the sea. Don’t think of the fish in the light, gasping for oxygen—don’t be the fish—be the twine of those nets, be the forearms pulling those nets up from the water, tan and ashy with salt.

You may fall, you may crack, you may split open like a wound, but you are not those shards of glass from the fallen champagne flute, or the airplane when it hits the ground without landing gear. Some days you may feel like every movement is a crash landing, but think of the planes that land safely every day. Hundreds and hundreds of them all over the planet, tons of steel hitting the tarmac on great rubber wheels. Think of the wheels, holding the plane. Think of the wheels, rolling the plane safely to the gate. The gate, that accordion walkway of metal and vinyl, stretching open, elongating, welcoming you home.