How did we get here? She was sitting beside the window when the words slipped out of her mouth, as if they have always been right at the tip of her tongue. I wanted to understand, to take the pain from her and shove it deep inside a basket, a basket with no bottom, hollow, it needed to be big enough to encapsulate her pain. Her cheeks were tear-stained, her eyes thick and full, but still empty. She looked like an outline, a remnant of the girl I’d met three years ago. She was light then. She was the brightest spot inside a dark room. I’d search her voice inside a crowded space, and even though it was petite, somehow I’d always find it. Her voice was a whisper amongst chaos.
How did we get here? The words dance around the room as if they were searching for an answer. They bounce off the walls where I’ve made love to her. Each surface, a memory. The pink loveseat from Ikea, the first place I fucked her. She wore a red dress, with knee high boots. I buried my face in her afro and told her she smelled like ginger and honey.
“I want to tell you but I can’t. I want the words to appear in our face so I can slap an answer into your chest. How did we get here?”
She said, “You were different then. When you held me I felt infinite. Your words were scripture and I was your humble servant.”
“When did my touch stop feeling that way?”
She looked away. Her breath was heavy. “I wish I could tell you.”
“How did we get here?”
“How did we?”
I remember the moment when I knew I loved her. We were at a college party. I spotted her searching for me as I lit my cigarette at the door. She seemed lost, but when our eyes met, her smile grew wide as the lawn outside her window. I watched her. I liked watching her without her knowing. I could move the way she moved. Touch the way she touched.
“Do we stay here?”
These challenges are designed to change the circumstances that occur before or around your writing. Humans are habitual creatures. When I was in college and I wanted to write, I went to my special spot on the upper level of the library. If I wanted to be elsewhere, I went to Starbucks, ordered a drink, and sat in front of my laptop. Now, I write at my desk at home. We all have comfort zones. We even have writing comfort zones. But what if a change in behavior, scenery, or mindstate can yield fresh and new artistic expression? This list of writing challenges is designed to change, challenge, or make anew the conditions surrounding your writing. Ready for an adventure? Get your journal ready.
Go to your closet and choose an outfit or accessory that you rarely wear. It can be something beautiful that you can never find the right occasion for, or it can be a horrible piece of clothing that someone gave you as a gift. Put it on. Leave the house without looking in the mirror and go for a ten minute walk. Keep your head up. When ten minutes are up, find the nearest place you can sit and write a poem.
Sit somewhere where you can see people passing by. Look at the first person you see and give them a name. Look at the second person you see and decide where they are going. Choose a third person and imagine a conflict they might have in their life. Combine these three people into one and write out a dialogue between them and the last person you talked to.
Take a shower and stay naked. Think about the word naked. Sit down. Think about the word sit. Count down from one hundred until you are tired of it. Write something.
Find some paint. Dip your fingers in it. Try to finger paint a poem.
She lies beside him, burrowing herself into the roughness of his face,
studying his veins, his cracks, his infinite lines.
He is coated in an amalgam of mud, and dried elephant tears. And as he bleeds
she tries to hold him together with the curve of her trunk.
In heavy silence, blood seeps out like the milk in a broken coconut.
With the tip of her trunk, she paints a sanctuary
just for the two of them. Red.
It is here, in the stillness, that they exist. That they are finally allowed to be.
Ragged breaths feel like first breaths. A sharp inhale, and she can remember
falling out of her mother’s womb.
Back when he didn’t exist to her.
Back when there were more of them.
With a bigger body, comes a bigger heart for holding love
And with a larger mind, unbelievable intricacies of memory.
They belonged to each other. They belong to each other.
The hunting and slaying is evident in the red,
but they remain.
He leans into her. He was her strength. Her wanderer.
She will be his strength now, easing fears of the poachers,
of the ivory hungry, of the man that made him bleed.
It’s wicked that he has to fear men.
That they have to fear men,
despite being gargantuan.