Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When you were three

Recently, I signed up with a website that sends out weekly writing prompts. Because you can post what you write on their site, they suggest keeping your response to 500 words or less. Mine comes in at 479. I'm posting it here because I'm curious to know what you guys think- is it interesting? Hokey? Badly written or what? This kind of writing is way out of my realm! Thanks, Lisa

Here is the prompt I worked on last night:

You wake up one morning to find that you are your three year old self, with your parents again, with all of the memories and experiences of your current life. Write this scene and express the emotion and frustration your character undergoes as you internally try to sort this out. 

My response:

You were three when the owl box was hung. The tree stood about a hundred feet from the living room window. It would be good for owl watching, your father had said. Later that night when you and your sister still believed an owl would come to the box and were checking it every few minutes, she said that it had been there for 100 years and it was very, very old. You asked her what was very old. “The tree, silly,” she said nudging you playfully with her elbow. “If Daddy cut it down, we would be able to count the circles inside to know how old it really is. Maybe it’s more than a hundred. Maybe it’s two hundred!”

You recall that conversation as you look at yourself in the bathroom mirror. As you attempt to conceal another sleepless night, you realize: circles don’t tell shit about age. Circles tell pain. Pain that goes around and around like the amusement park ride that spins so fast it doesn’t even matter when the floor drops out from under you because you’re stuck to the wall. You can’t move. You haven’t been able to move for thirteen years. Now you realize you have run out of concealer and you have to be at school in 15 minutes. You leave with one eye uncovered. Unprotected. This lack of protection is just enough of an opening for the hand of time to slip through and return you to your third year of life.

You understand you are not really three again. You vaguely wonder if you've slipped into some other dimension, one that includes time travel and rabbit holes. You don’t much care; those aren’t the answers you seek. Six months have gone by since the owl box was hung. Like an unfulfilled promise, it hangs in the air crooked and empty. Your sister has all but forgotten it, but you occasionally still look. You are only three, yet you have a patience about you, one that is grounded in hope. 

 This time when you’re three and you see your father crying at his desk or in the kitchen when he believes he is alone, you don’t get scared and run to your room. This time you go to him and crawl into his lap. You ask him what’s wrong. You put your head on his chest and your arms around his neck. You feel his stubbly beard poke through your hair as he rests his chin on your head. His soft lips, the ones he would very soon wrap around the barrel of a gun, kiss your forehead. You wait for him to answer.

Thirteen years later, you are still waiting. Waiting for the owl, and for something to fill the empty space. You have a patience about you. You are beginning to understand: it is this patience, this ability to wait, that will keep you moving.

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