My awesome coworker Cecelia and I have just finished the latest writing class at our court. We facilitate an eight-week group for court-involved juveniles during which they write about their choices, their goals, their supports, their obstacles, and so on. We have seen some amazing writing and some amazing juveniles come through our class. Sometimes our juveniles write straight from the heart, and the words are so pure that there is often a silence when one of them finishes reading because everyone is so blown away we cannot even formulate a "WOW!" (Trust me, though, it and other compliments do get said.)
Cecelia and I write alongside them during class and, like the juveniles, share our writing. Having both the youth and the staff write sometimes opens up some interesting dialogues.
Writers are often given the choice of writing based upon the class topic or using a prompt (related to the topic) as a jumping off point. We sometimes dictate the form: write a letter, write a haiku, write stream of consciousness. We sometimes tell them to write in whatever form they feel like.
For the last class, the form was short story. My chosen prompt was "With that, she walked into the rain and did't look back. That was the last time anyone saw her."
When she walked out that night, a few of us had waved or nodded. The party was pretty low key—just a study group that'd gone as far as we could before opening the wine and eating the cookies someone had brought.
She—christ, I can't even remember her name now—had been pretty quiet all night. Oh, she'd commented here and there as we studied, citing some arcane law or opinion that changed the outcome—but not much more than that, really. I seem to remember her pouring a glass of wine, then drinking it in one smooth, long gulp. That stuck with me all these years.
It was raining when she left. Of course it was—it always was in Portland. She gathered her notebooks and her books, pulled on her hoodie, and paused at the door.
"See you around," she said. And with that, she walked out into the rain.
Only we never saw her again. Never. She didn't show up for class the next day or the day after that. One of us, closer to her perhaps, drove to the little house she rented in Multnomah. No one answered the doorbell. Looking in the windows, the place was scoured clean.
And nothing ever came of it—no leads, no crime tips, no note, nothing. She'd disappeared entirely.
Decades have gone by. Whenever my class gets together, we talk about ourselves—who's a judge, who just retired, who's argued before the Supreme Court. We drink the wine and eat the hors d'oeuvres and talk about days gone by. "Remember Lansing's Golden Spare?" "Remember the IRA kegger for St. Patrick's Day?"
And invariably, someone, usually a woman, will say "I wonder what ever became of..." and then pause, because, damn it, no one remembers her name.
Just that she's not there.
No, it's not a true story. Yes, I was surprised to find myself drawing on a topic and era—my law school years—I rarely think about, let alone write about. I'm not even sure where that came from, but clearly it was waiting to get out. Other than two tweaks (we all write longhand), this is what came out Monday.
The next class starts in two weeks. I can't wait.