adulthood · change · commitment · sex

The Runner




I attended the new writer’s group on Sunday that my friend put together of East Bay folks. We
were circled in plastic chairs, old-fashioned arm chairs, and couches tucked inside
the spacious two-car garage that had been repurposed into a
library/workshop/extra living room. (Only in the East Bay!) I was one among 9
of us, the only girl, and though we spent copious amounts of time arguing
whether Stephen King was a writer or a storyteller, and if David Foster Wallace
was a genius or simply mentally masturbating onto the page, eventually, we did
actually write some.
We wrote from a prompt I’d invented that morning, “You walk
into a coffee shop and etched into the linoleum are the words:….”
In response, I came up with this story. No editing, no forethought, you
just write, and when the time’s up, it’s up, and we shared around the room. I
love that part of prompt writing in a group (not that I’ve done it much), but I
love the variety of ways people go with something. The disparate styles we had
became obvious, and also, we all visibly relaxed a little after the reading was
through, as if we’d marked one another with a nod of approval, Yes, you are a
writer, I feel comfortable having you in this group. It’s funny, but it’s also
important, I think, to have that kind of respect for one another in a group like
We’ll see how often I’m able to attend. But I’m very glad I
The thing that’s been occurring to me about this story I
came up with spontaneously is that I am the girl in it–the one we never meet. I am the girl who gets
up in the middle of the night and leaves her lover. And then unceremoniously
dumps him.
Fiction though that story may be, the seeds of myself are
there. I was curious to find who in the story I was, since, well, I have an
opinion that we are all or some of the characters we create. I am both the
runner, and the lover calling after myself to please stay.
I think I’ve reported this anecdote before, how in college I
was in a casual “relationship” with this guy, who was by all rights a decent
fellow. One evening after we’d been in flagrante, he was holding me in his
strong early-twenty’s arms and intoned that he’d like to take me out sometime, like, to
dinner. I gasped, Why?? And he replied, because he liked me, and wanted to get
to know me.
I never called him again.
I am the runner.
I have two songs in draft form, one that
Send me somebody that I can say Yes
Send me someone who I can come home
Just gimme somebody  somebody to make me say
Yes Yes Yes
and the other:
Married men make it so easy
To wanna misbehave
I never have to do their dishes
Just be their    sex slave
I wanna be the girl who spends the
And doesn’t sneak out around two
I wanna be the one who stays over
To wake up next   to you
I think my ambivalence about commitment is pretty clear! And
to clarify, “Married Men” is a song, not an autobiography. It’s an impulse, a
thought, a cop-out, a desire, a fantasy, an avoidance, a way to stay stuck and
alone, since ultimately, I won’t follow through on those impulses.
So, I’ll work it out in song, in fiction, in blog. I’ll tell
you how skittish I am, I’ll let myself be surprised at how I show up in my own
work and reflect myself back to me. I’ll warm up to the sword-wielding, 2-a.m.
sneaking, rabid runner. I’ll tell her that commitment to living in one place
has only brought me health and stability; I’ll tell her that, in owning a cat for
the first time, the love I have for her I’m happy and proud to give; I’ll tell her that in the many places I’ve used
“Stability First,” I am the better for it.
And then I’ll let her go on a run. But maybe this one will
be shorter. 

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