Page 51 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 51

 newspaper clippings, plans. A New York Times op-ed piece by Anna Quindlen, dated November 8, 1992, titled “The (New) Hillary Problem” glued to the left side page and on the right side, in my handwrit-
to the page to feel herself fully by telling stories. I had been afraid that seeing her again would be a painful reminder of the choice I made to stop tell- ing those stories, the choice I made to take a detour around my heart.
ing in red ink, ten arrows pointing left and as many exclamation points and the words: “This! This is what I want to do! To write this!” Though the desire to write, the drive to write, maybe even the need to write, remained, what I wanted to write changed.
As I read each essay in the blue folder, taking in every word like I was gazing at a photograph, she came to me. I could see her, hear her, feel her. Through tears
I plead, “Forgive me for abandoning you.” With grace and mercy, she gave me a gift. The last essay, buried deep in a side pocket, dated September 15, 1989. Titled: “I Think I Got a Live One”:
I didn’t go to law school to be a lawyer. That hap- pened by accident. I went to law school to be around the law. I especially didn’t go to law school to learn
to write like a lawyer. But as it turns out, one can’t
go to law school without that happening. It’s re- quired. At least it is at New York University with its full year class, mandatory for all First Years, called: Lawyering. The purpose of which is to break us of the writing skills we so adeptly demonstrated to get into NYU. At the end of my first year, my Lawyering pro- fessor asked me to be his teaching assistant. I became complicit in the ruining of good writing.
“Do we have everything?”
It would take me 25 years to return to telling the stories in my heart. I had a 16-year-old son with a serious marijuana dependency which was consuming my life. I needed to find me. I needed to be resusci- tated. I needed a pen.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Crab traps? Fishing poles? Bait?”
“Yup, we got it.”
“Squid? Chicken?”
“Right here.”
“How about our food?”
“Pete, shut up already. It’s all in the cooler.”
That’s how I came to be on the couch with this box of folders and notebooks. Drafting a story to share with my writing group, five splendid and inspiring writers I had been gathering with weekly for the last year. Two published personal essays and two more on their way. It was art, it was a balm, it was medicine.
“Okay, then let’s go. Somebody get the bow line. I’ve got the stern.”
It must have been the first thing I wrote for this class. It was 18-year-old me writing about 10-year- old me, telling a love story in the form of the neigh- borhood gang I grew up with in Mantoloking Shores, New Jersey.
We could have been an ad for corduroy Ocean Pacific shorts and faded red Birdwell swim trunks. O’Neill tank tops and flip flops. The perfume of salty sunblocked skin, Bain de Soleil and Coppertone.
I turned the key with the floatable red and white buoy keychain. After some sputtering, the engine started up.
I had been afraid to come face to face with the young fearless writer I left behind. The one who had come
We—brothers Peter and John, Chris, Devin and me— were headed out for a day of crabbing and fishing
on my 14-foot army green ski boat with the Chrysler engine known as Goody II. As I put the boat in gear and pulled away from the dock on that August morning in 1981, we hoped the cloudy skies wouldn’t turn to rain.
I was struck by the lightness, the joy splayed out on the page. The story itself was legendary, though I had
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