I’m at a fundraiser, which is another way of saying I’ve had a glass of wine. I’m not slurring words, but my tongue is loose. You know.
So I come clean. Sometimes, I just cannot get a name right. Even though I have swam in her lane for a year and change beside her twice a week, and people have corrected me seventy times. My brain has decided her name should be Dawn, and not Sean, and there is nothing that can be done to alter its hellbent Dawn course.
Here is a two-paragraph crash course of our shared history:
Deanna, this is Sean. (I hear Dawn, and think, oh, she even looks like a Dawn, she is bright like the sunrise. I love it when this happens. She is so not an Elizabeth.)
Thereafter, I congratulate Dawn (Sean) at the end of each practice. Refer to Dawn (Sean) frequently as my friend. Introduce myself at the said fundraiser to her husband as, Hi, I’m Deanna, I swim with Dawn.
He looks at me oddly, which is not the first time I’ve been looked at oddly on this night.
Your wife? I prompt.
Oh, you mean Sean. I thought I had another wife for a second.
Fed up with my brain, I take my flawed self and my glass of wine and make a beeline for SEAN. Sean Sean Sean Sean. Banning Dawn forever from my memory.
I interrupt her bid on a silent auction item to blurt out I have a confession. I have called you Dawn for a year and a half. For some reason, I can’t get your name right. It’s not that I don’t value you as a person, but rather a lobe of my brain has ADD where your name is concerned.
She looks at me, laughter pushing up the corners of her mouth. I have a confession for you, she says. You mentioned your partner was Kim, so for the past year and a half I thought you were gay.
We both laugh heartily at our Three’s Company moment, and I wonder if she’s as secretly pleased that I likened her to a sunrise, as I am pleased that she mistook me for gay.
I’m sitting in a classroom, trying to slink underneath my desk so that the teacher won’t call on me. I sit amongst my clique, my fiction group. The poets are in the front of the room, young adult genre and non-fiction groups occupy the left side of the room. Three weeks into our year-long course and alliances have formed, we gravitate quickly to our own kind. A familiar feeling from twenty-five years hence. It’s high school all over again.
Actually, it’s the Writer’s Studio at a downtown university, my year to study creative writing. The crucial word here is creative, also known as my personal nemesis. By throwing tuition into this course, I’m banking on acquiring some. Or at least chiseling away cliched layers of assumption and habit to reveal whatever lies at my core. I’m hoping to find a garden planted with seedlings of inspiration, but fear a black hole.
The people that surround me are so brimming with creativity that I’m terrified into submission. A girl, wearing a hand-knitted toque, reads her reaction to a homeless woman she encountered during our break with such emotion in her voice that we fall over her words, and into stunned respect for her gifted prose. Sweet Caroline, I think, don’t make me read my vacant observation next.
We are each handed a blank piece of paper and asked to create a three dimensional sculpture to illustrate our currently writing. My heart sinks because in a pinch, I can pull an unusual adjective out of my pocket, but this requires imagination and craft. I fold and rip my piece of paper so that it opens inwards, like my protagonist, while other students produce works of origami, sculptures of mountains, vessels with twirling rudders attached, and a chess board. With dread and reluctance, I stand to show the room my crude structure.
This course not only inspires me, it terrifies me. And it’s the terror that tells me it’s the right thing.