Tea Break Read
A serialised short story
By Allan Hunter
I think I may as well just give in and make this journal only about the class. The other stuff in my life is important, of course it is, but I don’t want to write about that here. The stuff that we deal with in class, it feels as if we’ve got some sort of handle on it. At least we do by the time we walk out the door. Life goes way too fast and I don’t get enough time to stand back and see what’s happening before it takes off again at a speed I can’t catch up with. But in class we get to slow down a bit. Ask questions. Make connections. Make more sense of stuff we might not have a chance to understand otherwise. It’s like decompressing and reassessing. It’s like the difference between the froth and the beer. Froth takes up a lot of space but actually it gets in the way of knowing what the beer’s like. Something like that.
So today Malcolm had us do an exercise that was pretty strong. He took us on another guided visualization, where we imagine we’re in a place and then we see things, and we get to describe whatever it is that comes into our minds.
In this one we walk along some place we like, it doesn’t have to be real. And as we walk along we see someone up ahead we think we might recognize. So we get closer, and we’re still not sure. Then something comes between us and we lose sight of the person, then we turn a corner and there he is. It wasn’t who I thought it would be, I thought when we started that this would have to be my dad but when I turned the corner there was Rudi, my first real boyfriend. He was pleased to see me and I know I was pleased to see him. Then he reaches into a bag he has and hands me a six pack of Bud, a notebook, a pen, and a puppy. I hand back the six pack but keep the rest. Then he says, “See you soon kid. I love you.”
That’s when I felt the tears. I don’t think anyone noticed.
So we shared the responses and a couple of people got rather emotional. Jessica saw her grandmother and she was sobbing so hard I could barely understand what she was saying. Then I shared mine, and I just about got through it. I could feel the tears gathering in my eyes. Why? I haven’t thought about Rudi for a long time. But I just wanted to cry. I mean, it is sad. He died from leukemia. One day he was fine and the next he was in the hospital, and they were saying there was nothing they could do. Shook me to my core.
At least I wasn’t the only one who saw someone that made them cry.
It was very quiet in the room for a while. Then Malcolm started off by thanking everyone for their courage in sharing difficult material. I thought that was classy, actually. It took guts for people to say what they’d seen.
Then Malcolm starts to explain what we’ve just done. He says that we got to choose who we met on this walk, so this person is someone we perhaps want something from. And that made sense to me. I wanted so much more from Rudi than I got, because the time was so short.
Malcolm said that the thing that comes between us, before we turn the corner and see the person, is sometimes a barrier than stopped us getting what we wanted, seen in symbolic terms. And (once again) my mind went into overdrive. Because I saw a cloud of flames, and what I did was walk round it. And I was so passionate about Rudi. I wanted him with me night and day, but especially at night. And perhaps that passion got in our way, a bit. I think it did. And then when he saw me he said exactly what I wanted to hear from him. I always wanted to hear him say he loved me, always, but after he got ill he never would. I think he wanted to save me pain. He knew he was dying, so he wouldn’t say it. He wanted me to move on and have a happy life, not remain stuck mourning him. But I wanted to hear it!
Or perhaps the flames were to do with his cremation. Perhaps it’s both.
So he gives me the beers and I hand them back, and I know what that means. After he died I got into drinking. I wouldn’t have been at that party and nearly raped if I hadn’t been drinking. I wouldn’t have gone outside with those guys if I hadn’t been loaded. And yes, I wanted something, booze or sex or something to blot out what I felt. But I did NOT want to be raped! So this is all making some connections for me.
And then he gave me a notebook and a pen, like he was saying it was OK for me to write about this now. Because I never did. After I knew he was dying I stopped my journal. And I’d written a journal or short stories and poems for just about as long as I can remember. But then I stopped. And it’s like he came back to say it’s OK, you can write whatever you want now. It’s what you do best, it’s what makes you feel alive. And I can hear that, like it’s telepathy.
Malcolm said that whatever it is they give you is a symbolic message, and this surely is. But, he said, it’s not as though that person was really there, so the message is coming from your Unconscious. What is it you’re waiting to hear? What is it you’re waiting for permission for? If there’s something you’re waiting for, you just gave it to yourself.
Yep. He’s right. I wanted Rudi to say he loved me. I wanted those to be his last words. Because he did love me. He really did. But he never got to say it. And that’s what the puppy is about. Rudi gave me a puppy to love me and for me to love, and puppies are always so much fun. He wanted me to have fun, love again, and be loved. And not just a fling. He wanted the love and the devotion that only a dog has to give, something who will die for you.
I got back to my room and suddenly I had to write a poem. I haven’t felt that since Rudi died. Then another poem came. And I woke up the next day and another poem was there. I’ve written a poem a day for the last week. And they’re full of feeling, and the emotions are bit powerful.
I haven’t felt this good in a long time.
I don’t feel like hooking up on Thursday night (or any night) anymore. I used to feel that all the time. I don’t think I do now. In fact last Thursday and Friday I stayed home and wrote more things. I looked today and there’s pages of it. Some is quite good and I may go back and rework those. But I feel so much lighter.
You see Rudi was my first real boyfriend. I’d never felt like that with anyone else before. He asked me to the Senior Prom and that’s when I began to look to see if he felt the way I did. And yeah, I could see he did. And then we were an item. It felt solid. But he got ill that summer and by Fall he was dead.
How could I trust anyone after that? My Dad kind of disappears on a regular basis, my mom’s boyfriends had a habit of disappearing too, at least for a while, and then Rudi dies. What is it with men? Why are they always leaving? How can I trust them if they are so unreliable? How can I trust anything?
In class Malcolm said that the thing we have to do is trust ourselves. We can’t guarantee that anyone out there will be as trustworthy as we’d like – although some will be – so we have to learn to trust ourselves. And that’s what the exercise did, he said, if it worked. It allows us to get our Unconscious self to give us the reassurance that we are looking for in our Conscious life. Tha way we can learn to love ourselves.
And that’s true of Jessica, because she said she saw her Grandmother, who died when she was 12, and she always felt totally loved by her grandmother. And Malcolm said that this exercise may well have allowed Jessica feel that she is loveable, that she loves herself because she learned how to love and be loved from her grandmother. And that just made so much sense to me. And Jessica listened in class and at the end she went and shook Malcolm’s hand and thanked him. Yeah – she shook his hand. I’d have hugged the dude, but she looked all calm and teary at the same time, held out her hand, and kind of whispered her thank you. And he held her hand in both of his, and looked into her eyes, and I could see he was feeling it too, and he just said, “You’ve worked hard at this. This was a breakthrough. Well done.” Wanted to hug them both, but I didn’t. I hugged Jessica after class.
Today I feel like I have saints and angels protecting me, and Rudi. Not that I’m invincible or anything like that. It’s more like I’m free to be me, more.
He is a full professor of Literature at Curry College, a counselor, and his doctoral degree in literature is from Oxford University. British by birth, he traveled extensively in Europe, India, Africa, and India before settling in Boston, Massachusetts.
Three of his books seek to show readers how to use writing as a therapeutic and life-enhancing tool. They are all based in workshops he has taught for over thirty years (The Sanity Manual, Life Passages, and Write Your Memoir). In each case the emphasis is on using writing and story to reach a place a deeper understanding and peace. His other books have explored the way six specific archetypes recur in the 3000 years of the western world’s great literature; Stories We Need to Know, The Six Archetypes of Love, and Princes, Frogs and Ugly Sisters: The Grimm Brothers’ Healing Tales. He concludes that these archetypes are ways for us to contact the deep structures of the psyche.
His tenth book, The Path of Synchronicity, asks us to consider what it is the universe seems to nudge us to do, rather than what we think will make us famous or wealthy. As such times we move into the flow of synchronicity.
He followed this with Spiritual Hunger in which he asks us to consider how we can feed our inner need for relevance in a mass culture, and how we can choose healthy possibilities rather than those sold to us by large corporations.
His most recent work is Gratitude and Beyond – an exploration of how gratitude is just the beginning to the journey of self-discovery. Following a brush with death I describe how I learned, the hard way, lessons I needed to know so that I could live more harmoniously in the world.