The Woman Sitting Beside Me

She told the group that she wrote to work her way out of emotional bankruptcy. Listening intently, we all sat at the tables in the college classrooms then vacated for summer. It was writing conference time and confession was heavy in the air like morning fog. I was still young, too scared to write too honestly and too inexperienced to know how, even if I should have desired to try. But the woman beside me bared her soul, described desolation and decades of feelings shoved into dark caves and smashed under boulders. She made us laugh with hilarious tales of lawn equipment she found herself suddenly having to utilize. We reflected on years passing by in her birthday poem.

I discovered that she lived not an hour away and we met a few weeks later in a crowded shopping center. However, the intimacy that had bound our group together was gone. I missed it as we perused the shoes and makeup counters, chatting idly. We had a nice talk and caught up on the past few weeks that had elapsed since the end of the conference, but the way our team of writers flowed one into another was not to be recaptured. It was merely an afternoon at a mall.

I felt the bond resurface in a different way as we exchanged letters and I read her latest works. A busy college student, I rarely had the time to create anything of my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed soaking up her words and saving every letter in the file I kept from the conference. Every so often I would flip through the pages and remember all that had taken place there. This made me feel less alone, less torn from those I had grown to love in a hot week in July.

Now I am older and more open, whether it is a wise decision or not. I have grown incapable of glossing over everything which I may wish to conceal as I create. Sometimes this raw power scares me, but when I think of the woman who sat beside me all those years ago, I hope she would somehow be proud.


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