I have always loved writing. I started keeping a diary when I was about 11 years old. I stopped in college. When I was a junior in college, I caught a dear friend snooping in my room and reading my journal; another time my mother confessed to reading some of it immediately following the nervous breakdown I had in college. Her reasons were totally valid and I don’t blame her for it. Yet somehow it changes things when your private thoughts are no longer your own and you’re scared.
I have never really resumed that kind of writing, but it’s always gnawed at me. Especially lately– I’ve been obsessed with writing. I want to do it all the time. But there’s not enough time. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. If I’m not thinking about writing, I’m dreaming about writing. And this blog was also born out of this desire, but only lately have I been trying to evolve a bit. I don’t know where The Mother Load was going before, but now…it’s going into my head, my memories, my life. It’s a little piece of me, straight from my heart out into cyberspace.
High school was the first time I began to really feel like I was onto something with this writing gig. That was primarily because of a teacher I had. It started on my first day of my Junior year. We were seated alphabetically, and since my last name began with a “B,” I was the last person in the first row, which was conveniently along a wall. So I got to hide in the corner. And hide I did, until Mr. B called me out after catching me giggling about something. He focused on me, grabbed his roll call sheet and figured out who I was.
“Erin B., stand up!” He boomed.
I blushed furiously and pretended like I hadn’t heard.
“Stand up!” he yelled again.
I slowly rose out of my seat and I felt the sudden dampness under my arms. I looked at the floor and tried in vain to disappear.
“Well aren’t you tall and willowy,” he said, this time in a slightly softer voice. The class tittered.
I quickly sat back down and busied myself with some doodling.
I didn’t even know what willowy meant, so I had to go home and look it up later. It meant, “tall, slender, moving gracefully.”
Mr. B gave us lots of writing assignments. Creative writing. We had a certain amount of freedom when choosing topics. For example, I vividly recall writing a paper about my first kiss, which you can also read about here in case you missed it. He begged me to read it aloud to the class. I refused. He begged me to let him read it aloud to the class. I declined again, insistent that he not embarrass me. There were one or two other papers later on that I did allow him to read to the class but only because he said it would be anonymous. He told me my writing was wonderful and he wanted to share it with the class to demonstrate what good writing was. I figured either I must be dreaming or he must be having hot dates with heavy narcotics after school hours.
I didn’t have a lot of friends back then, and there was a clear division between the popular kids and the not-so-popular kids. Being bookish and shy with lots of family drama, I fell into the latter group. I dreaded lunch hour because it meant having to find someone to sit with. I loathed all the cliques. I was ridiculously self conscious. Consequently, I often ended up hanging out in one of two places during lunch: the library or Mr. B’s homeroom.
He became my friend. I’m not sure who is to blame for this, and to this day I don’t think it was totally inappropriate. I was going through a rough time with my parents’ divorce, my dad’s homosexuality, and the general angst most teenagers experience. He was there for me. He listened. He read. He was someone I could trust with my most intimate thoughts and feelings.
I confided in Mr. B about stuff at home, fights with friends, break-ups with boyfriends, etc. He filled a void for me. There weren’t a lot of mature, intelligent people in 11th grade who wanted to be my friend, or who were capable of understanding the complexity that was me. Besides, he encouraged me. He thought my writing was special. I’d never felt special before, or that I was capable of doing anything extraordinary. I began to gain confidence in myself for the very first time.
But it wasn’t meant to last.
Other things started happening. One day during class as we were writing our final drafts of a paper, he walked by my desk casually and tossed a folded piece of paper onto it. I don’t know if he thought he was being discreet, but several people saw. I stuffed it into my backpack and didn’t open it right away, as I felt everyone’s eyes all over me, like bugs.
Later I unfolded it slowly in the privacy of the locker room. It read, “Beauty pauses, then whimpers at the sight of you…from jealousy.”
Another one a few weeks later included this:
“I had something pretty heavy go down recently, and the warmth of your glow lately, has—that big, bright-eyed smile—-has melted that heaviness into a cottony bliss each lunch time you tumble into my room.”
While I felt special getting these notes, I was pretty convinced it was inappropriate. I didn’t know how to interpret it. It could have been wholly innocent, or simply his flaunting his own writing skills to someone he knew would appreciate them. Maybe he was preying on my naivete. I don’t know.
Not long after this, we were sitting in math class one day, waiting on our teacher to come in. I don’t remember how it happened or started, but a girl I thought was my friend essentially accused me (in front of everyone) of sleeping with Mr. B to get my A’s in writing. Instead of defending myself, I began to cry and I flew out of the room. I went to the front desk and told the secretary I wasn’t feeling well. She called my mom, who came to pick me up.
I was shaken to the core. Here I had this teacher who was encouraging me, complimenting me, telling me I was a great writer. And I’d also found a close friend in him. But at the same time, another so-called friend couldn’t stand the fact that finally I was good at something. Finally I was the one being praised on a pedestal. For once in my life, I shined. But she made me question whether or not I truly deserved those grades. She implied that he was interested in me and therefore giving me good grades.
One day Mr. B didn’t come to class. We had a substitute for a few days. The sub even graded the last batch of papers we’d handed in to Mr. B. I got a 99. He said my writing was phenomenal. A second opinion. I felt relieved and confirmed.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. B was replaced and we learned he wouldn’t be coming back to school. Rumors were flying. I’d had no idea, but apparently he’d been flirting with another female student in my grade. He’d even gone so far as to send flowers to her home. The dumbass got caught. I was devastated and angry.
A few years later, I reconnected with Mr. B. I had to know the truth. While he refused to delve into the reasons he was fired, he assured me I honestly earned every A I’d received in his class. He promised me that he thought my writing was exceptional.
To this day, I’m still not sure what I believe. I would like to think I’m a writer (a good one, at that), but I think all of this plays into it for me. I think I was sort of sabotaged. These things will always color my perception of myself as a writer.
It’s a damn shame.