Trying free writing again...
Posted by caribou_ on Sun, 19 Apr 2020
What better time to start?
A friend is running twice weekly 'free writing' sessions via Zoom during the Covid-19 lockdown. I joined today for the first time and thought I'd add my writing here (hadn't realised there was a blog function!) so I capture what I've done and can share it for fun or for feedback!
The prompts were: 'In hindsight' and 'I remember' told from two different perspectives. We had 10 mins for the first and 20 mins for the second:
In hindsight, it was probably always quite clear - or should have been at least to me - that I was a lesbian.
I even hesitate still to write the word 'lesbian' but that's an extra, lengthly story for another time!
I was a typical tomboy and the obsessions with girls and later, women, started aged about 7 or 8 with a girl called Ann at Brownies, who was the same age as my sister (looking back, I must have actually been about 9 or 10 when I had my Ann obsession, as she was about 15 or 16).
Anyway, on a pack holiday in some place which seemed a million miles away but was probably only over the county border in Essex, the need to be with or around Ann was overwhelming.
I was extremely homesick and one night, after dinner in the canteen, I said I felt sick and was taken up to the room where the Brown Owl, Tawny Owl and guiders were staying and told to get into one of the bunkbeds.
I don't think I slept - I was probably wondering if the bed I was in was Ann's - so when the door opened and Ann came in, I quickly pretended to be asleep.
Now, I know she said something along the lines of "She looks so pretty when she's asleep." because my tiny heart felt like it was about to burst and that feeling seared itself into my brain and body for weeks afterwards.
But as I write this I'm wondering who she would have said this to? Maybe the Tawny Owl Debbie, with the curly red hair and the electric blue eyeliner and mascara? Maybe the bookish Brown Owl, who was like a cartoon drawing of what you'd think a Brown Owl would look like?
And did Ann actually come and sit at the edge of the bed and lean over me, like I think I remember? Or did she just say it from the doorway?
I feel like I can even remember the smell of some cheap Bodyshop perfume being in the air.
I remember this one little girl at Brownies. Very shy, very quiet and always keen to help.
I know she was close to her family - her sister used to come and pick her up some weeks, so I don't know why she always seemed to want to be around me.
Some kids are looking for a surrogate brother or sister, you know? Or its clear that things at home aren't great. But she was always happy and full of shy smiles and ran to give her mum or sister big cuddles and kisses at home time.
I remember one pack holiday we went on. Oh she was so homesick! She tried to put on a brave face on the first day, although it was clear to me when we got on the coach that she was having a wobble.
We got them to make placemats for the dinner table on day one, using magazines and stickers, glitter glue and sticky-back plastic. She kept hers very simple - Mickey Mouse an Donald Duck in one corner, Thundercats in the other, a drawing of her family in the third and in the fourth, one big girl and one smaller girl, holding hands, labelled 'Me and Ann'.
On the second night, after dinner, she came and stood by me in the dining hall, looking pale and on the verge of tears. "I feel sick Ann." she said, and looked so miserable, I pulled her into a hug and said "That's OK sweetheart, why don't we take you up to our room and pop you into bed?".
I got her settled and then slipped back downstairs. An hour or so later when I went back up with the Tawny Owl Debbie, she was still sleeping soundly.
"Oh doesn't she look sweet asleep Debs?"
"Bless her!" Debs replied.
After she went on to the Guides, I never saw her again. I haven't thought about that time of my life for years. But now I'm thinking of her, I wonder if that little girl grew up to be gay?
We're always so quick to write off the things that children do or say or how they act, usually in the most mediocre, boring or innocent way.
I look back now and she wasn't quite old enough for it to have been called a 'crush' or recognisable as a crush but she was certainly differerent from the girls who wanted attention, or who were show-offs or who clearly had issues at home.
It's hard to describe now why it was different, it just was.
The prompts was: 'Have you ever? We had 20 minutes:
Have you ever swam through a cave and out into the sea?
We did it on an island called Gozo, off the coast of Malta and it was one of those moments where you know it's huge and beautiful and profound, so you want to connect with it as much as you possibly can, whilst knowing that no memory or description of it will ever really do it justice.
Despite this, I want to give it a go - in terms of recreating a scene so tangibly and so vividly that you can see and feel it in your brain like a memory, I always think 'Suicide off Egg Rock' by Sylvia Plath does that.
It was hot - 40 degrees - the hottest holiday I'd ever been on.
There wasn't much room to sit or lie down, bodies, towels, sun brollies, bags filled every scrap of the beach and high up into the rocks and slopes above the sea. It was making me irritable, all being piled up on top of each other like that.
Each time a section of my body peeped out from under the two umbrellas we'd taken with us, you could almost hear the skin sizzle and see it go instantly red.
Theresa had to go home - the heat wasn't good for her ME - in fact it made it 10 times worse - and I'd been worried about heat exhaustion and how she was doing for days.
She managed to get a taxi - I don't remember how - which left Lorna and I to decide what to do next.
I had spied this 'cave' some distance away, although it looked more like a crack in the rock, with a little bank of sandy beach and shallow waters nearby. Lots of people coming and going, in and out, in and out. From where we sat, they looked a bit like ants on an anthill, drones or slaves to some unseen force.
"Let's go down there." I said, pointing.
I can't remember what we did with our bags - left them on the beach and hoped for the best I suppose.
We had to climb and scrabble over some rocks to get to the entrance to the cave and into the water. I remember them as green and round and slippery rather than sharp and jagged edges. And there was lots of shimmying along on my bottom with my arms at odd angles behind me, scared to fall or slip. It felt like I held my breath the whole way, wondering if we had made a mistake.
We paused at the entrance to let a few groups make a head start. From our spot, frying like eggs on the rocks, the cave had looked so narrow but now we were here, it was wide, huge. Big enough that even though we weren't alone, it felt like we were.
And when you looked up, the arched ceiling of the rock was like some great cathedral, the blue sky at the end so bright - the simplest, most brilliant stained-glass window.
The water was deep and dark and at that point we hadn't quite known what was going to be on the other side. We took our time, gentle sploshes and kicks propelling us through the water, so still it was like a lake, to the backdrop of drips coming down the walls and the gentle roar of the sea at the other end.