# of pages written: 1
# of days left to write 1st draft: 121
This weekend I went to Yellow Springs, Ohio for the commitment ceremony of Bobby and Lela. On Saturday, I had brunch with my friends, Cory and Melissa, and a man we’d just met named Jamie, whose romantic partner was helping Lela potato stamp napkins for the dinner. I say romantic partner because I heard Jamie refer to her as both his “female companion” and his “romantic life-mate.” (We were hanging with a very progressive crowd.)
We spent most of the brunch making fun of my business cards, which say, “Eva Langston: writer, among other things.”
“Other things? I think I’ve seen these cards in Vegas,” Cory said.
“What other things?” Jamie asked.
“Well, SAT tutoring, for example” I said primly.
They all laughed. “Do you have an hourly rate?” Cory asked. “Half hour rate?”
When they were finally done teasing me for being a call girl, Jamie asked us how we knew Bobby.
“We went to high school with him,” I said. But I couldn’t remember exactly how we had become friends with him.
“I don’t know really how we started hanging out with him,” Melissa said. “He wasn’t really friends with any of our friends.”
“I did go to prom with him my Senior year,” I said.
“Were you guys dating?” Jamie asked.
“No. I don’t really remember why we went together. I don’t remember if I asked him, or if he asked me.”
“You guys don’t remember much, do you?” Jamie joked.
After brunch, Jamie went to find his female companion, and Cory, Melissa, and I went hiking on the trails in Glen Helen. It was a muggy day, but the glen was sun dappled and lush under the sweeping arms of ancient oaks. The forest floor was covered in a tangle of tiny yellow and blue wildflowers. “It’s beautiful,” I said. “Magically beautiful. If there were leprechauns, they would probably live here.”
“That’s why the spring is yellow,” Cory said. “Because of the leprechaun gold.”
We walked down a steep slope and over a rickety bridge that crossed the spring water.
“Do you think a troll lives under this bridge?” Melissa asked.
“You bet,” Cory said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
“You should go under there and look for him. YOLO.” Melissa looked at me. “Do you know about YOLO? You can get Cory to do anything if you say YOLO.”
“YOLO? What’s that?”
“You Only Live Once.”
“That’s hilarious,” I said. How many times have I done something ridiculous for that very reason? YOLO.
We reached the lower spring, where the water tumbled down over a cluster of rocks and trickled into the the stream below. We each took turns perching on a slick rock and reaching our cupped hands in to get a drink from the spring – just in case the water had healing properties. Cory was convinced that now we would all live forever. We continued hiking to the upper springs, where the water bubbled up from the ground and tumbled over bright, yellow rocks. Cory took another drink. “Tastes like iron,” he said. “YOLF! You only live forever!”
Later, we went back to the motel room to rinse off and get ready for the wedding. Everyone from the motel boarded a nostalgic 1940’s bus, and we drove to Antioch College, where the ceremony was being held.
Bobby and Lela already live together and have a child together, but they had decided to make a public commitment to each other. Cory, Melissa, Jamie, and I sat sweating in plastic chairs, fanning ourselves vigorously and swatting away bugs. In front of us loomed the main hall of the college. The close friends and family processed through the grass, followed by Bobby and Lela, who walked with their two-year-old son toddling between them. Lela wore a long, royal blue dress, and Bobby’s cheeks were flushed pink. They stood on the steps of the hall while their friends and family took turns making speeches.
“Bobby remembers well the very first time he saw Lela,” Bobby’s mother said. “It was his Freshman year at Antioch, and she stood up to make an announcement about a protest she was leading. He remembers she was wearing a long, blue skirt and that she was incredibly beautiful, and incredibly passionate. And he thought, oh yeah. She’s the one.”
“For Lela, the ah-ha moment came a little bit later,” one of Lela’s friends said. “It was when Bobby was arrested during a protest in Philadelphia and spent ten days in jail because he refused to give the police his name. She said that changed the entire way she saw Bobby. She realized how strong and passionate he was.”
Later, as I stood around making small talk with people I’d probably never see again, I thought about how funny memory is. I’m sure Bobby saw other beautiful, passionate girls in his life. Does he remember Lela in her blue skirt so vividly because the moment really was an immediate ah-ha? What if he’d never ended up going to that protest and Lela had never ended up falling in love with him? Would the memory of her in that blue skirt fade away? Did he maybe add that ah-ha back into his memory later, after he and Lela became involved – after he realized that she really was the one?
Sometimes I think fiction writing is all about creating a moments that are heavy with meaning, only because of what happens later in the story. The characters don’t know at the time that this person or this event will change everything.
Melissa came up to tease me about “among other things.” It was becoming the running joke of the night. “I’m going to eat some asparagus,” I’d said at one point. “Among other things.”
We started talking about Cape Cod and my writing. “Sometimes I worry that I’m just not creative enough to write fiction,” I told her.
“Why would you need to write fiction?” she asked me. “You’re real life stories are hilarious. Like that time you told us you were making out with some dude in his FEMA trailer on Christmas Eve. That cracked me up.”
“That’s true,” I said. “I do have a lot of good stories.”
“I mean, I like your fiction,” Melissa said. “But I think when you write about your real life stories they are so funny and awesome.”
“Aww, thanks, Melis.” I gave her a hug.
“I don’t see why you don’t just write about those.”
For years, it wasn’t exactly “YOLO” that made me do ridiculous things. Instead it was the idea that my ill-advised adventures would make for great stories one day. I pointed my beer bottle at Melissa. “I’m starting to think you’re right. Why did I do all these crazy things if I’m not going to write about them?”
“Exactly. You have plenty of good material. You don’t need to make anything up.”
So maybe I need to stop stressing about creative ideas. All I need is a good memory. I don’t remember everything, obviously, but maybe I do remember the important events – the life-changing ones.
I need to mine my memory for the ah-ha moments. I didn’t know they were meaningful at the time, but in retrospect, I can add in the ah-ha. I can say, “and that was the moment when everything changed.” It’s fascinating and frightening and amazing when you think about how one person, one event, one moment in time can change the course of your life. Among other things. You only live once, and I’m going to write about it.