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Tire Swing Girl
It’s hard to think about writing—rather much easier to spew thoughts onto paper, like I am now. It feels more natural. I’m writing this in an old abandoned house a few miles away from my neighborhood. It’s a bright August afternoon. Not a cloud sails across the clear blue sky; the temperature is notably colder. Autumn will soon have its turn over summer once again.
This deserted house is perhaps my favorite place in the entire world. I love its cracked windows and its creaky floorboards. I love the unkempt grass and the scraggly weeds that corrupt the lawn. There’s a huge shady oak tree with a rundown tire swing in the back; it reminds me of childhood and its deserters. That old swing must be so desolate, its former user probably all grown up now with a nine-to-five job at a clear air-conditioned office that smells like printer ink, warm paper, and that aroma of a freshly vacuumed carpet. Or maybe the once-swinger now pumps gas at Shell, sweating off their weight in water, under the blazing summer sun. Perhaps they’re really something special, like a concert pianist or an ER trauma surgeon in an advanced hospital in the big city.
I mean, those are basically the only kinds of people that you can be in this world, at the end of the day: a yuppie, a sufferer, or some kind of hero. Well, I want to be some kind of hero. That’s why this is possibly my last time in this old clunker of a house. The love of my life is about to take me away from this mundane New Jersey suburb, so that I can chase a dream of mine. A dream that was starting to get dusty before he came around. I had just about given up. A Cornell graduate with her mind set on pharmacy school, I had pretty much forgotten about writing. Science was my life, and my ultimate goal was to pay off my academic loans quickly before I could actually begin to feel the money flying out of my pocket. The two seem pretty incongruous, and they are. It’s because I was lying to myself, as every passionate person must do if they wish to get along in this world without any trouble.
Then came along this slightly short and gangly man with thick red lips and a Mick Jagger haircut—an actor from a theater group in a nearby city. I accidently spilled the contents of my melted water ice cup on his shirt, and he insisted that it was his favorite shirt (a gift from his grandmother), that he was devastated, and that nothing would compensate for it—unless I waited outside his apartment building while he changed his shirt, so that he could buy me another water ice. As we walked around the city together, I spotted a used-book store, and he suggested we go in. It wasn’t long after I had started praising my favorite authors and gibbering about my favorite books before he pegged me for a writer. Writer. The word summoned vague memories of successful coffeehouse readings, laminated literary magazine publicans, and the celebrated high school play original: Eleanor. These recollections were indistinct, nebulous. I had suppressed them, adopting the focus of a science major. Now they came flooding back with relentless pressure, and the more I talked, the more vivid the resolution of these memories became.
That evening, I went home and wrote a poem. It felt like I had never stopped. The words flowed—mind to brain to hand to ink to paper—like they had always been stored within some deep part of my head, impatiently squirming to be released. Now, all I want to do is to write. Sometimes it’s even frustrating because I’ll feel the urge to write about a fleeting feeling or an insignificant sight that I know is pointless to write about. But it’s a good kind of frustration—the best kind of frustration—because it comes from a wild and unoppressed love. For the first time in my life, I feel truly happy.
My parents don’t know about Gunnar—probably because they would hate him. A longhaired actor without a job, living on his father’s inheritance isn’t really what they’d consider a choice romantic candidate for their daughter. But I love him in the same boundless way that I love my writing; for me, that is enough. We occasionally have vehement arguments about my opinions of his acting and his of my writing. Sometimes, when we try to improve, we offend. But we always make up—and in a big and explosive way that equates to the intensity of our fights. For instance, when we fought about how I said that he didn’t perform as well in comedies as he did in drama productions, I made it up to him by writing a comedy play for his theater group (with him as the lead), which booked four full houses in a row. And when he said that my stories’ love scenes lacked tangibility, I refused to write for almost two weeks. Then, one day he waited for me to come to this ancient house—as he knew I often did—and then dragged me to its master’s bedroom, where a mattress covered with lush purple sheets and pillows waited for us. He made love to me there for the first time in that warm sunlit room, and continued to do so until the next morning.
I’ve abandoned everything of a bleak yesterday. Today was my last day with Krupnik Corp., the company whose science lab I’ve been interning for since college graduation. I know it wasn’t a mistake to quit because when I submitted my letter of resignation, my supervisor accepted it with indifferent ease, not even looking up from the document that he was reading. They won’t miss me at the lab; I was a nobody there. I tacitly performed my research, typed my reports, and went home to my apartment as soon as I was free to go. I showed no promise. I never volunteered to work after hours or proposed a new topic of research or an innovative lab method. I was a drone, making no mistakes, but never varying from my designated assignments. There was no inspiration, no feeling, that could be drawn from me in that chilly sterilized laboratory.
My bags are packed; they stand in the hall of this house. The last of my rent has been paid off, the keys returned to the obese tobacco-smoking landlord. Everything and everyone has been taken care of directly, and all loose ends have been tied—except for my parents. My overprotective ever-worrying parents who have always been convinced that there is no future in writing or in anything that can’t be automatically guaranteed in the form of a steady-coming paycheck. I wrote them a note and slipped it under the front door. It goes something along the lines of:
Mom and Dad,
I’m going away for a while. Don’t worry, I’ll be safe. Call you when I get there.
Obviously, several details were spared. I know they’d worry more if I told them everything about: Gunnar, my newly-replenished passion, California, the online ad Gunnar found for splitting apartment rent with two old hippies from Encino, the long road trip ahead of me. The less information they knew, the better. “Away” could mean thirty minutes from home. That’s what they’ll think for the time being. I’ll wait until I arrive before I tell them that I’m on the other side of the country. It’s not smooth or tactful in the least, but it was the best I could come up with.
I’m just sighing and smiling to myself. Won’t it be grand to go to Encino, California, just near Hollywood? Gunnar is going to hunt for acting jobs; I’m going to write. I’ve got a million ideas in my head, and not only ideas—but shadows of ideas that will form into ideas, once I write enough.
Gunnar’s just arrived. I heard the thundering rumble of his Ford pickup truck just a few seconds ago. We agreed to meet here where my parents have no chance of discovering me. Before he takes me away, there is something that I need to do…
We’re on the road. I love riding on the highway; it’s the closest that I’ve ever felt to flying. The windows are rolled halfway down, and the CD player is blasting Tommy by The Who. Gunnar is driving because I can’t pay attention to the road for very long. It feels strange, not knowing what my life will be like a week from now or a year from now—and knowing that it’ll be a long time before I retreat once again to the old abandoned house to find peace of mind. I wonder what will be my new haunt in Encino. Or if I’ll even need one. I probably will.
Before I left, I had to do something to say good-bye. Something to tell the house that I would never forget it—that someday I would be back. So, while Gunnar was loading the truck with my bags, I went to the backyard and approached the old tire swing under the tall oak tree. I am very petite and could easily fit my body through the tire. As I swung, I began to dream. I dreamt of childhood and innocence, the youthful splendor of being carefree and without responsibility. I swung until my surroundings became a psychedelic blur of blue, green, and white. I swung until I heard an abrupt snap! and tumbled onto the dirty ground.
What did it mean? Surely, it was a sign—a warning to stop chasing a fantasy and to check back into reality. Well, I wasn’t going to have any of that. I picked up that tire and stowed it in the back of the Ford pickup, despite Gunnar’s protests that there was no room for it. Now onward we travel, with the tire and its attached rope snuggled in between Gunnar’s and my luggage. That’s what pursuing a dream is all about after all. No matter how stealthily it tries to elude you, you have to hunt it to the ends of the Earth. Right? And who knows? Maybe I will be some kind of hero. Maybe they’ll call me Tire Swing Girl.