here’s what i remember

Here’s what I remember. A writer was going to teach a special class about writing at my school. It wasn’t open to everyone. You had to submit something you’d written and be accepted. I was. I remember that the class was at the same time as driver’s education, and that’s why I never  took driver’s ed and really never learned to drive officially. But maybe that’s wrong and the class was earlier. Or later. Or over the summer.

If the class was at the same time as driver’s education, that probably meant it was during my junior year of high school and so in Oklahoma, but when I try to visualize the room, I see the high school I went to in California, which means it would have been my freshman or senior year. But wouldn’t I remember it better if it had been my senior year? So I think I’m just visualizing something else.

I came across a bunch of papers I’d written for a class at that high school in Oklahoma. I thought they were for regular English, but maybe they were for this special writing class. I don’t remember anything about the special writing class at all.

I remember one lesson on writing from what I think was a different, earlier writing class  – probably eighth grade. The teacher hated the construction “There is/are”. Hated it. Why write “there are birds flying across the sky” when you can write “birds are flying across the sky?” Or even better: “birds fly across the sky”, and so on. I never write “there is” or “there are” even now.

I don’t remember any other writing lessons, not really.

But I remember what I wrote to get in to this special writing class. I think I remember that we got a prompt. A first sentence. Maybe even a whole first paragraph. Or maybe it was just a prompt with no specific lead in at all.

I still have a copy of what I wrote. It’s about a door to nowhere that stands on a beach. It begins like this,

“On the beach, just above the high tide line, stood a door. Despite the fact that it had no logical business being there, it stood foursquare and solid, and anyone who cared to look could see that it was open several inches.”

That’s the part I don’t think I wrote, the part that was the prompt. Even though it includes “despite the fact”, which seems extraneous. But I don’t think I would have used “high tide line” or “foursquare and solid” at 15.

The entire thing is full of extra words, but it’s otherwise pretty good, I think. A little overwrought, maybe.  It speaks of hope and faith and despair and I can barely imagine the same person writing it who at the same time was staying up all night drinking cheap beer. But apparently she, I, did. I mean, maybe. Maybe I didn’t write it all. But I can’t seem to find it anyplace else so if it’s just something I happen to have with my name at the top, and a faded memory, blended from something else, it’s not published in a form that I can find any trace of online. I continue to be perplexed by memory’s lack of loyalty.

If I have the timing right, I would have gotten the prompting lines in 1988. Stephen King’s second Dark Tower book, The Drawing of the Three, which prominently features doors on beaches, came out in 1987, but I certainly hadn’t heard of it. Maybe the writer/teacher, who I assume came up with the prompt had; there’s no way to know now. I recently re-read The Drawing of the Three and looked for the lines in case she had lifted them entirely but she hadn’t. King’s descriptions of the doors are entirely different other than that they too stand alone above the tide.

Here’s the rest of the story, only extraneous words removed. I wonder about that girl, fresh into the world.

“The tide crashed against the rocks, spewing white-capped waves high into the air and sometimes spraying and smashing into the door. It was worn from years of daring the waves to reach higher for it again and yet it stood, solid and strong. No hint of collapse into the ocean that it had withstood for so long.

Many had passed those sandy shores and wondered the door’s purpose. Why was it there? Where did it come from? A man wandered by and questioned why it stood ajar. He grasped the knob with both hands and pulled. Nothing happened. The door wouldn’t budge an inch in either direction. It remained open just enough to peer through, but not enough to enter.

A young girl, fresh into the world and innocent of its ways had once pondered the door. She supposed it was an entrance to another world, where dreams came true and everyone lived happily ever after. Fortunately and surprisingly, no one came along to tell her any differently. At least for a brief time, she could hold a wish unshaken.

Lovers would walk hand in hand to where the door stood and sit in the sand and lean on the door while watching the waves, iridescent in the faint moonlight. The door never minded being leaned on. It was never moved or shaken, even though rooted in shifting sand.

A scientist came to study it once. He went away, unaffected, his only conclusion that it must extend deep into the ground and was made of oak. No one questioned him, but he didn’t really resolve anything.

No one thought about the door much. It was just always there. Until one day they tore it down. The government embarked on a beachfront clean up. The door had to go, they said. It was a safety hazard, they said. Children could get it hurt, they said. But they only said it to each other and never thought anyone would care.

Early one morning, the bulldozer came. The sleepy little beach town opened one eye and looked in the direction of the government trucks and took a moment to wonder before going back to sleep but it never dawned on anyone that the door could be in danger. Who would bother their door?

It took a lot more than the government people thought to tear it down.

“Sure is stout,” said the bulldozer driver, on his third, and finally successful try. The door broke with a deafening crack. By the time the town awoke, the dozer was leaving and on one realized until it was too late.

When the feeling of emptiness set in, nobody really could understand why. They only knew that a part of their lives was now gone. As the tides rose and fell, so did their lives. Through all of their hopes, their desires, their failures, the door never moved. Changes came: life and death, pain and joy. They could always count on the door. It was the one thing they could trust, even if there was nothing else. And now it was gone.

What were they to do now?”

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