Open Mic Friday!

Welcome, welcome, welcome everyone to the very first Open Mic Friday on this blog! The format is simple. Every week there will be a featured “reading” in the body of this post: either something from me, a guest post, or a selected contribution from the previous week’s Open Mic (that might be you!). In the comments, you’re warmly invited to share some work of your own: a prose excerpt, flash fiction, a poem, or even non-textual art (images, music, video, you name it!). To keep conversation and creative spirit flowing, please applaud and cheer for others’ offerings just as loudly as you would at a physical reading — by commenting on their work and giving props to everyone.

Tips:

  • If your work is short, feel free to paste it into the comment box. Otherwise, I recommend posting your work elsewhere and including the link in the comments (with a sentence of description so we know what we’re clicking for!). You are totally welcome to record a video of yourself reading/performing, in lieu of the text.
  • Comments are threaded, which means you can reply directly to each reader by hitting the “reply” button within that comment box. Let’s get some conversations going!
  • Be polite and supportive, or you will be booed from the room. This Open Mic is happening every week, and discourteous attendees will be barred.
  • I may contact you asking to share your contribution, or requesting a guest post, for future Open Mics!

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This week I was going to share a little something about the summer when I was thirteen, but I spent yesterday evening with some members of my VONA family, and their incredible stories made me want to be braver and dig deeper. I wrote this last night after I got home.

My life is a blessed one. Every good thing there is, has come to me. I want for nothing: not love, not money, not skills or talent or recognition. As I write this I’m terrified that I’m jinxing myself, that by declaring this so boldly I will attract the attention of the gods of misfortune — the disembodied forces of doom I know are out there — and they will swoop upon me with fatal accuracy.

I have so long feared their attentions. I don’t remember when it first dawned on me that other people’s lives weren’t as easy as mine. Maybe it was in high school, maybe it was earlier. But whenever and however it happened, I remember thinking it over and being gradually overwhelmed by utter dread. Life is suffering, the Buddha said. So far mine has not been. And so, when it comes, it’s sure to be bad. One day my luck will run out.

I see it constantly, this fate. I’ve been given so much, surely it will be taken away. Some days I am absolutely certain I will not live to see 30. I can taste the cancer in my flesh, the sickness in my bones, the sudden death in the night. Some days I know I’ll live longer, but be struck blind, unable ever to draw again. I think blindness would be better than early death. I think.

I see my husband dead before my eyes, his life erased in a speeding collision the way his best friend’s ended so many years ago. I see my life without him, the long years of loneliness, the emptiness. I will have my art, I think, or I can join the Peace Corps. But even then, I wonder if I could live without him.

I see my younger sisters dead before me, the two people in the world I would give my all to protect. I see them suffering, in agony, myself powerless to save them from harm. I see the despair in their eyes turn to terror, I see them knowing what’s coming and looking to me for help I cannot give.

I see my parents, hurt by innumerable betrayals by their children, afraid, alone. I see them growing old without the daughters they sacrificed everything to raise in comfort: their own lives squandered for nothing. Afraid, aged, frail, alone, alone.

These are the visions that haunt me underneath my conscious. I see them lurking with every new day of delight and every new blessing I receive, from the loving new friends to the prizes won in contests. With every new triumph I await my payback time. I see it a thousand different ways. I see it in every misfortune I’ve ever heard of or witnessed. My loved ones: the victims in the burning car. The innocent bystanders caught in gunfire. The ones ailing from horrible diseases, the ones killed by freak accidents, car crashes, plane crashes, bombings, fires, earthquakes, murder, drowning. Them, or me.

I tell myself I’m being silly, I should enjoy my beautiful life in peace. But I don’t know anyone else who’s had a life like mine, so untouched by loss or trouble. Just statistically speaking, it doesn’t seem like it can hold out. Even my sisters, who were raised alongside me, have not been blessed as ostentatiously, in so many ways large and small. They’re not the charmed ones, I am. The question is always lurking: when will it fall apart?

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Thank you with all my heart for reading! On Monday I’ll return with more art talk, so have a lovely weekend and I’ll see you then! In the meantime — comment away!!! And tell everyone you know! The stage is open… it’s your turn.

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