Write about a place that is important to you. That was the writing prompt for last week’s writing groups session.
Is the past a place? How about my inner world? Are those settings? I spend an awful lot of time in both of those places, especially when they intersect.
Have you ever seen the fountain of Diana at Ephesus? The one of a woman with many breasts, each one gushing forth with water?
That’s what my inner world feels like when it mixes with my memory. I have so many stories inside of me. I am always overflowing.
I need to stop. Nothing ever gets finished this way.
So I have made myself a promise and I have set myself a goal – one that even feels doable.
I am going to write a draft of a screenplay for one of these geysers.
And, I am going to finish it before I am sixty.
Which is only two months away.
I need to plug up all of the other openings, gather any and all of the discipline I have ever mustered in my life and focus on telling this one story from this one place in my past of this one inexorable memory from when I was sixteen years old in July of 1969, down the shore in Atlantic City staying with my girlfriends at the La Concha, ( or was it The Dunes?) when our room somehow became the destination for all lost Jewish boys of the boardwalk who, in a contagious frenzy of hedonistic self destructive ecstasy, placed lighters under silver spoons, sucked warm substances into glass syringes, wrapped wide leather belts with thick brass buckles around the skinny, still trackless arms, plunged needles into their delicate blue veins and let their young blood splatter onto the whitewashed walls of the cheap motel.
While we girls watched.
This is the place where my past intersects with my inner world and it all confounds me.
The Summer of Love.
I can never know what the post-Bar Mitzvah boys were thinking as they congregated in this motel room and performed this unholy rite. I can’t ask them. Most of them are dead. The ones that didn’t die as teenagers from overdoses haven’t lived much past fifty, their bodies unable to withstand the ravages of addiction or too many encounters with dirty needles. The ones who survived are silent about this. I imagine that they are superstitious. If they speak of it, their words might somehow pull them back.
Fate is lying in wait with some unfinished business.
There is a debt that must be paid.
So I will never know what brought these boys to this place during the summer of 69 – sons of Holocaust survivors, D-Day veterans, GI Bill doctors and lawyers, secretaries and Donna Reed housewives.
But maybe through some kind of excavation, an archeological dig into my own soul, I can find what these girls were thinking – what THIS girl was thinking and feeling as she stood paralyzed and silent witnessing this hell.
Small Steps is what I am tentatively calling it – like the process of writing a screenplay; like the eventual movement of the girls away from these self destructive boys; like the journey from the joint to the needle.
Small steps towards writing another sequence in the screenplay, when one week later, in a dark basement in a semi-detached brick ranch house in Northeast Philadelphia, these same girls once again bore witness to the boys shooting themselves up while watching Neil Armstrong take his small step on the moon.
Another place I cannot look at anymore without seeing tracks.