Foreclosure

Back to the writing prompts for Day 21. After writing this I realized it’s not so much about someone who has lost their home as it is about a fictional version of me.

21. Foreclosure: Write a poem or short story about someone who has lost or is about to lose their home.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I thought the state had put a stop on mortgage payments and foreclosures during the pandemic?”

“I thought so, too.”

We stood at the curb, looking at the house. It looked like any number of the houses in the surrounding neighborhood. Probably four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms. It was set into a hill, so like the nearby houses it had a walk-out basement. The front was brick, but we knew it to be decorative. All these houses are made of wood. A little portico covered the front step and a walkway led from the front door to a two-car garage, attached to the house. If I had to guess, I’d think it probably cost about $650,000. I’d seen other houses in the area for sale on Zillow.

Unlike the houses around it, a sign was sticking out of the front lawn. FOR SALE. Nothing unusual about that.

What was heartbreaking was the smaller sign dangling from the large one, with one very telling word: FORECLOSURE.

We often walked through this neighborhood. We would leave our development where we rented a townhouse and walk the leafy streets lined with single family homes.

This was the first time we’d seen a sign like that.

As we waited for our kids to catch up, we wondered about what was going on behind that front door, on the other side of those curtains. Just visible around the side of the house was a play set—slide, swing, seesaw. A glance at an upstairs window showed pink curtains, the back of a teddy bear’s head propped against the pane. One garage door was open, and we could see two children’s bikes inside. They were about the same size as the ones our children were riding on.

It was terrifying to see how very much like us this family was.

Maybe we’d passed them on one of our walks. Had we nodded politely, each family stepping off the path on either side to let the other pass? Had we intervened to stop the children from getting too close to each other?

I looked at that horrible word: FORECLOSURE. Are they legally obliged to put that on the sign? Why else would they hang it there like a badge of shame? Broadcasting your misery to all your neighbors. It seemed to me like adding insult to injury.

We walked on. I put my hand in my husband’s and gave it a squeeze. “There but for the grace of God go we,” I whispered.

He gave my hand what I thought was supposed to be a reassuring squeeze.

Hopelessly Addicted

16. Addict: Everyone’s addicted to something in some shape or form. What are things you can’t go without?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

Tea. I cannot go without tea.

Can this article be done?

What, you need further explanation? Fine.

Coffee vs Tea

Think of coffee. It has caffeine, it gives you that boost you need to kickstart your day. Its bitter flavor and strong smell combine to activate your get-up-and-get-going mode.

Now think of tea. (I am speaking, naturally, of the only tea worth drinking. That is Yorkshire Tea, produced by Taylor’s of Harrogate, Yorkshire. If you disagree, stop reading immediately and just go away.)

Sure, it doesn’t have as much caffeine as coffee. And it doesn’t have the energizing smell of coffee. And though it can be bitter if left to brew too long, it doesn’t have the same tangy bitterness as coffee.

So what is so wonderful about it?

Simply everything.

Tea Time is Me Time

My best friend once told me that life gets 10% better when you put the kettle on. Time and again, I have found this statement to be true.

In these times of social isolation and spending seemingly endless days at home, the one thing that lifts my spirits without fail is when I hear my beloved husband put the kettle on to make me a cup of tea.

(A quick side note to say that the saintly man does not even drink tea himself, but he brews a mean cup of tea. He’s got it down to a science, and now I almost prefer a cup of his brewing to my own. He also seems to have a sixth sense for knowing exactly when I need a cup of tea.)

Tea, since it’s made with boiling water, is much hotter than coffee and stays warm longer. When your tea is ready, you know that you have probably 10 to 15 minutes to enjoy it while it is still warm.

That’s 10 or 15 minutes for you to sip, close your eyes, and enjoy the warmth spreading through your mouth, down your throat and into your belly. The warmth then spreads from your core, slowly through your body, finally reaching your outer extremities. You curl your toes in response to it, and inevitably you take a deep breath and let out a sigh of contentment.

Characteristics of Tea

Just the act of wrapping your hands around a warm mug of tea is addictive. The calm that then descends on me in that moment is what I crave.

Coffee tastes like a swift kick in the butt saying, “Get up! Get to work!” But tea… Tea tastes like a best friend saying, “Come on over and sit a spell.” It’s inviting, it’s kind. It’s comforting and caring.

It also stains your teeth something fierce. Oh, well. I guess that’s the price of addiction.

What One Week of Writing Has Taught Me

I never thought I’d get to seven straight days of writing! Go me!

*Pauses to give herself a nice pat on the shoulder.*

I do hope to continue–I’ve already read today’s writing prompt and I’ll mull over it throughout the day until I can sit down this evening and write.

But I’ve already observed a few things thanks to this daily writing exercise, so I thought I’d hash them out.

You don’t have to feel creative

I can’t say I ever really feel creative. What does that mean? I mean I’m not a very artistic person, I’m not a creative type.

Even when I’m knitting, which is arguably a very creative pursuit (you are, after all, quite literally creating something), to me it just feels like I’m following directions from the pattern. I am giving form to someone else’s creativity.

And yet, I have been able to sit down and write on a daily basis. I still don’t feel like I’m being particularly creative, as I’m mostly basing what I write very loosely on my own experience (except for the rocket ship to the moon. I’ve never been on a rocket ship to the moon).

Takeaway: you don’t have to feel creative to be creative. You just have to do it.

I feel the limitations of my vocabulary

Though I read a lot and as an English teacher I have expanded my vocabulary quite a bit, I still feel limited when I sit down to write.

Maybe it’s that words fail me, or perhaps it’s that lack of creativity that I feel that has me sometimes searching for the right language.

(Anyone who has spent time with me knows all too well that words usually come to me with absolutely no difficulty.)

I have a feeling that practice will help this.

My comfort zone has become very clear

I’m definitely more comfortable writing from my own experience. Even if it’s a fictionalized version of my experience, I like to have something to base myself on.

That’s why I found the Day 7 prompt about a rocket-ship going to space to be quite challenging. I even felt a little silly and self-conscious writing it. It seemed so far beyond me.

But I suppose that’s the point of the exercise!

More to come!

As I (hopefully) continue this exercise, I’m sure I’ll learn more. I have a feeling, though, that while certain prompts may be a challenge, the practice of writing every day should make the process easier.

Just like regular exercise makes running easier, or speaking a language every day makes you more fluent, writing daily will make me a better writer.

Here’s hoping!

salsa-dancing-birthday-girl

The Salsa Dancing Birthday Girl

This is the fourth in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

4. Dancing: Who’s dancing and why are they tapping those toes?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“I’M SORRY I CAN’T SALSA DANCE!”

“COMO?”

“I SAID, I CANNOT DANCE SALSA!”

“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”


Why indeed?

I’d been asking myself the very same question since I’d paid ten euros to get in the door. I asked it as we pushed through the crowd. The music was deafening, the atmosphere hot and stuffy. It smelled like booze, sweat and body odor. It almost made you wish they hadn’t recently banned smoking in clubs.

The place was a maze. Open staircases going up and down, doors leading to smaller, more intimate rooms, the bar, the toilets (never, EVER go to the toilets). Our leader seemed to know where she was going, though, so we sharpened our elbows and pushed on, following as closely as we could through the mass of people.

We climbed a sticky staircase that lead up to what I can only assume was the holy of holies. Huge windows went from floor to ceiling, dimmed lightbulbs encased in class spheres hung suspended from the ceiling at artfully varied heights. The floor was wooden, polished with use in the middle. It was the top floor of the club, the huge dance hall, open only to people who actually knew what they were doing.

Why, oh why was I here?

Upon closer inspection, there seemed to be plenty of other people if not as clueless as me, at least as awkward. The onlookers gathered close to the walls and the bar, leaving a large oval open space in the middle of the room. That oval was where only true dancers dared to tread. And boy, did they dance.

All eyes were turned to them, and everyone watched in awe as couples twirled and spun, the men masterfully making the women look amazing, the women moving like goddesses. In spite of my Irish, Scottish and German blood, my hips started to sway.

That’s when I was accosted.


“THEN WHY ARE YOU IN A SALSA CLUB?!”

“WELL…”

…How could I explain? I was brought here by force? Peer pressure? I shrugged weakly, shook my head and gave what must have been a pathetic grimace.

It turns out the young man couldn’t dance much, either. In halting Spanglish, he told me he had taken a couple of salsa classes, and he would be happy to show me the basic steps. My companions were between us and the dance floor, craning their necks to see and be seen. They were close enough that I felt safe, and so in a corner of that temple to salsa, he shyly took my hands and we started to move.

Despite some treading on toes and awkward giggling, we had gotten into what could pass for a groove when suddenly the music changed. A salsa version of “Happy Birthday” began to play, and we all crowded closer to the dancefloor to see what was happening.

A plump young woman in tight black pants and a teal tank top was dancing alone in the middle of the floor. Her body seemed to move in line with her own curves, smoothly and confidently. She danced with her eyes closed, a smile on her face, totally unselfconscious. Then a young man stepped out of the crowd and took her hand. There was no interruption to her movement—he simply glided in and suddenly the two of them were dancing together in what looked to be a choreographed routine. But then another man stepped forward. Seeing him, the first man smoothly passed the birthday girl’s hand to the second man, and on went the dance, as seamlessly as the first.

One by one, men stepped up and took turns dancing with her. There was never a halt, a hesitation or a misstep. I thought it couldn’t possibly be improvised—nobody dances like that! But then one of my group, a young man fancied by a girl I was with, stepped forward. I knew for a fact he didn’t know the birthday girl. And yet he took her hand and spun her around the floor.

My new salsa teacher slipped his arm around my waist as we watched, and tried to whisper (but due to the volume of the music, ended up shouting) in my ear, “You could dance as well as she does.”

I said nothing. I just gazed at her. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe him.

Bompa’s Boat

This is the third in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

3. The Vessel: Write about a ship or other vehicle that can take you somewhere different from where you are now.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It wasn’t officially christened Bompa’s Boat until after he died. But it didn’t matter—we all knew whose boat it was. Even when he retired as captain, it was still his.

It wasn’t—still isn’t—a fancy boat. I couldn’t tell you the model or what kind of motor it had. It was about 4 meters long and had a raised space in the bow. Underneath he stored the anchors and life vests. Against harbor master’s rules, his grandkids used to sit at the bow with our legs dangling through the railings, over the edge.

Blinding sun, bright blue sky. The heat of summer stinging my skin. The smell of salt and sunscreen. My mother looked the picture of elegance, sitting with one of her long legs crossed over the other on the little seat right in front of the steering wheel. Behind her, shielded by the windscreen, stood my grandfather at the wheel with my dad by his side. The captain and his first mate smiled behind tinted glasses. My brothers and I vied for prime seats at the bow.

Once through the harbor Bompa would open up the throttle. Then all you could hear was the roar of the motor and the whipping of wind in your ears. Impossible to speak in anything less than a shout, so we didn’t bother. Each of us would silently take in what we enjoyed most about Bompa’s Boat. The speed, the feeling of floating, the salt spray. Shrieks of laughter as a larger boat’s wake splashed us.

Each generation of our family has been transported to a happy place on Bompa’s Boat. Everyone had their favorite destination. Some liked Ship Rock. Others preferred the sand bar that surfaced at low tide. Though it was a long trip—all the way around Gooseberry Island—my favorite spot was Barney’s Joy. As the tide ebbed, the current from one of the inland ponds flowed out between the dunes, through a narrow throat and into the bay. That throat was Barney’s Joy. We’d anchor offshore, dive in and swim with our life vests or innertubes to land. Then we’d trudge up the stream a ways, jump in and be whisked out to sea. It was heavenly to float on that current, surrendering myself to the tide. Better than any water park lazy river.

Now my dad captains Bompa’s Boat as my husband stands by as first mate. I cross my legs on the seat in front of the steering wheel. Our boys and their cousins shriek, stumble and laugh in the bow. Sometimes I feel my grandfather is there, too. Smiling his quiet smile, basking in the joy his family still gets from Bompa’s Boat.

https://www.pictorem.com/74827/Empty%20Diving%20Board%20And%20Water.html

On a Diving Board

This is the second in a series of essays based on a writing prompt.

2. The Unrequited love poem: How do you feel when you love someone who does not love you back?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

It felt like I was standing on a diving board.

Blindfolded.

I didn’t know if there was water in the pool or not.


I could jump.

The water could be cool, clear and welcoming.

Or I could hit rock bottom.

I could back away, back off the diving board.

And go back to not knowing you.


Sometimes it felt like you were next to me.

Other times it felt like you were somewhere else.

Maybe sitting in a deck chair, suntanning.

Sometimes you seemed to care.

Other times you were cold.


It turns out you were smarter than me.

You understood us both better than I understood myself.

We’d cling to each other in the water, dragging each other down.

We’d both drown in murky waters.


You wanted to control me.

I wanted to love you.


So I backed off the diving board.

I walked away.

I left you standing, eyes uncovered, clearly seeing what could have been.

Did you regret not talking me into jumping?

I decided I didn’t care.


Because in the end I loved myself.

I loved myself more than I wanted to love you.