Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Exercise in Memoir: To A Singular Beat

My online writing group is exploring different kinds of writing. This week, we tackle memoir. One of our leaders who always says such good stuff, said this:
It’s why I love memoir so much. It’s also why I believe memoir writing, at least for the purpose of finding  what your story is really saying, is well worth the time and energy it takes to dig it all up and get it down on paper.
For a writer, it is the practice of learning to see and capture in small bites the story of a life.
This is a small bite of my story. And to be honest, I was a little reluctant to share it here. It’s not related to my faith journey, it’s not related to anything Biblical, it’s not even related to what I generally write about. And then there’s dancing. Someone’s going to have an issue with that.

But here’s the thing. This is my story. And my life. And guess what? It includes dancing. So for better or for worse, I’m introducing a snapshot from the way-back; a glimpse of life before I was a mom; a peek into behind the curtain. The first glimpse of my memoir.

To A Singular Beat
The air is heavier tonight– even more so than usual. I still haven’t grown accustomed to this east-coast humidity; to the density of the summer air; the slick, still way sweat lies on your skin until you wash it off.

Sounds of the city drift in through the two open windows in our apartment– we hardly ever have them closed when we’re here. Too hot. Friday night traffic swells with the banging of construction that never seems to cease– someone’s on a mission; these guys never take a break. Chatter from the restaurants two-stories below drift up through the trees like unfiltered cigarette smoke. Heavy bass throbs through a thin wall as our neighbor cranks up the volume in anticipation of her night out. I imagine I can smell crisped hair around the curling iron and the fumes of hairspray– preparations I’ve glimpsed occasionally while walking past her half open door.

I glance over at Amy, curled on her sofa bed under the windows with a book – lost in the words and the tunes of Tracy Chapman. She looks relaxed. Unwound. Content. I think I may be on my own tonight. And I am restless.

It doesn’t take long to pull on my black, ankle-length Eileen Fisher dress. Full skirt. No sleeves. Black leather with dull, silver studs on my wrist flanked by thirty or forty Madonna-era rubber bracelets. A long filmy scarf from who-remembers-where–sheer black bursting with deep purple roses and peonies–wrapped around my throat and shoulders. A smudged, swipe of midnight around each eye and something blood red on my mouth and I’m ready to go.

I say goodnight to Amy and head down the back stairs. The ones we run ruthlessly when we’ve indulged in a box of sweet trifle from Claire’s– the vegetarian restaurant downstairs that mashes up its day-old cake with homemade whipped cream to make the most delectable pile of not-good-for-you goodness you’ve ever put in your mouth.

Out the back door into the recessed doorway and I pause before stepping out into the thick heat. The streets are crowded as usual, but I know where I’m headed. I don’t need to consider my options. I pass up Alchemy with its Top 40 beats and sun-kissed throngs. I move past Geronimo with the crowds spilling out onto the sidewalks and too many guys in tight shirts wanting to grab your ass. I turn round the corner onto Crown and into Bar.

The pizza is fantastic. But I’m here for the room in the back. The vast cavern of space they open up as a club on the weekends. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the two stories of darkness. No tables. No chairs. Just a huge empty room that pulses with some techno-European beat; a relentless metronome that, if I’m being honest, doesn’t seem to change much from song to song.

I hover for a moment on the edges; getting a feel for the crowd; letting the week drift off of me; letting everything drift off me. I slowly wander out onto the wood floor where a few people are dancing. I close my eyes and let the rhythm fill me. When my breath slows and my heartbeat counts time with the music, my boots start to move.

I love Bar for its insistent music, for the dark space that feels like a grotto in the side of a mountain, and for the fact that no one cares if you dance alone. No leering, half-drunk frat boy will try and pick you up here. No sweet-talking tourist from the city will slide an arm around and ask you what you’re drinking–even if you’re not. On more than one occasion, I’ve opened my eyes to find a tall, dark-haired, green-eyed boy with complicated tattoos moving in synch with me. He never says anything. He hardly smiles. The strobe lights glitter off his three piercings. I’m okay with that.

But mostly, I move in time to the beat and cadence all on my own.

Thank you for reading this snapshot with me. This memoir.
I remain,

I'd love to connect with you some more - stop on by the Three Bees Facebook Page or connect with me on Twitter @3BeesBlueBonnet. Let's continue the conversation!


  1. Such great detail! I felt like I was there with you. Your words took me back in time. (Back in time before I was a mom, too.) Thanks for sharing. (Visiting from the (in)couragers.)

    1. Thanks so much for reading Nikki - I'm glad this took you back! Love that friends from the (in)couragers group are stopping by.

  2. I loved all the detail and the fact that you started and stopped the story in a moment. You didn't feed us a ton of back story or fill in everything. You just brought us along. Great job, and I'm so glad you linked up with us. See, now don't you feel better? ;)

    1. I really am glad. I had so much fun with this. I've been wanting to do something with memoir since we started talking about it last session. Got some books. Did some reading. Thought a lot. Didn't write a thing. This was just the little bit of push I needed. I appreciate your feedback :)

  3. It's hard to believe that you don't often write memoir; this was fantastic.

    1. Thanks Kathi - I think I'm going to be dabbling a little more now! Had so much fun with this exercise!

  4. Made me wish that I had a moment like that to go back to. Thanks for writing. (visiting from (in)Couragers

    1. Hi Danielle - love that the (in)couraging writers are stopping by. Thanks for your words. I love having this memory :)

  5. I like the name of your page -- 3 Bees in a Blue Bonnet. Reading your writing piece, I could really picture your outfit. So 80s, right?

  6. I loved the rhythm and cadence of this snapshot of your life. I could visualize and feel every bit of it. Wonderful post! So fun reading and writing these memoirs.


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