The Catalyst

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

Love Lost October 19, 2012

Filed under: Grief,Recipes,Videos,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 5:19 pm

For this prompt, I played everyone the song, “Guilty” by Julia Fordham (from her album That’s Life). I’ve embedded it here so you can write in response to this song. What I wrote is below.



Is love ever done with us? Do we have to replace the lover to stop the ache? I’m filled with questions like these. But don’t worry, dear reader: I’m not going to write about him anymore.; however, I am going to write about her, his bulldog. I’ll miss her always. And you might say it’s because they are fashionable and cute, (and high maintenance) but I love that little dog.

Lately it seems everywhere I look I see bulldog images: on billboards, on magazines, on greeting cards. Freud might say I’m seeing those now because my unconscious is trying to lead me toward some truth, some understanding. And she was a bad dog, mostly. She chewed table legs and cabinet handles; she never came when you called her; she pooped on the kitchen floor.

She’s connected, I know, to a greater desire: to return to what felt like the beginning of a family: a yard, a dog, a garden, dinner parties and dining room furniture. I’ve done my time on the couch, Dr. Freud; I know what that little bulldog represents. And my life isn’t empty or sad. I still have orchids and new tennis shoes and friends in other countries. Just last night I cooked steaks for two close friends. We had brown butter brownies for dessert: they jumped right off the cover of Bon Appetit and into our mouthes.

Still, it’s important to grieve what’s gone: her little smushed up face and snorty hellos before green tea every morning made me feel like I’d finally arrived somewhere. Somewhere safe. How can a dog do that?

“You need to get a dog of your own,” people tell me. But I’m not ready yet. Maybe I’ll never be. And then there’s the issue of which breed, and how much they shed; it’s just not a commitment I’m ready to make right now. Is this longing for her a loosely disguised longing for a family, a partner, a child? It probably is, but the joke’s on me, because seeing him again fills me with nothing but conflict. But seeing her again? Well, I imagine it’s a beautiful reunion, that we’ll both cry, that she’ll want to come home with me.



Surprisingly Durable October 15, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:44 am

The prompt this time was a list prompt (For a detailed explanation of how a list prompt works, see Golden, a post from March 2011.) The titles of the two lists were”                                                                                                   

“Things that are easily broken” and “Things that are durable.

I wrote about love, of course.

(No surprise to those of you who are regular readers.)

Here’ s what I wrote: __________________________________________________________

What lasts beyond love? Certainly not promises, easily broken, or beauty; a smooth young face will age into a web of broken blood vessels, eventually. There’s no stopping the breakdown of collagen and bone, the crumbling of cartilage. Even the will to live gives in eventually, like spring ice cracking, or an avalanche of heavy snow.

But love? Isn’t it always strong, like a leather leash, durable as an old Rubber Maid trashcan, or a heavy old push-button phone, squatting wide and beige on a desktop in 1982? Love is a marathon runner, or a prisoner, keeping up with the world outside, even in exile. Love decides that people ultimately don’t change what’s best about them, so it waits patiently.

I think of love when people die, how their voices come to visit in our heads, how our relationships with them continue. I’m talking to their young faces in a photograph. Everything else can shatter: trust, champagne flutes, icicles, eggs. Ceasefires and overcoats come apart at the seams; vases topple with one swish of the Labrador’s big, clumsy tail. Even windshields—though designed to safely crackle into a thousand uniformed pieces—break.

But somehow love endures. It’s the bedrock of all relationships, you say, waving it off like a fly, a tiny gnat, smoke from an extinguished candle, but it’s larger and more durable than that, and somewhere deep inside your cynical heart, you know it. Even when he ruined the dream you built together, even when his beautiful face appears out of the gray day, (swollen now, or lined) even though you never really forgave him, you still love him there, wordlessly, on aisle 5A at Walgreen’s, or inside the card you saved with his messy handwriting, the voice mail you never erased until it simply erased itself.

Like huge canvas sails stretched tight with the wind, like concrete freeways carrying 1,000,000 cars a day, like the pyramids in Tulum, love endures the worst humiliations, generations of loss, and histories of shame. There it is, just where you left it: at the bar with a gin martini, singing a Bessie Smith song , trying to harmonize with the piano player, an old durable thing himself. A toupee tilted slightly on his head, the two of them singing some show tune about love, how it never ends, but circles back around again and again, until it settles right down next to you. That faithful old companion.