Worry (My 5 Card Flickr Story)

Inspired by these five images:

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Worry, I scrawl on the chalkboard.  Awash in the scent of stale coffee and stale sentiments, I stand before the group, vulnerable as the Vitruvian man.  What if you ran that stop sign on Main Street?  What if you hit a pedestrian and forgot? I wait on the dog-handler praise of our therapist.  I count the scuffs on the linoleum tile.

“Worry…” the therapist muses, tapping her pen against her lips, denying me even a nod of approval. “Speak on that a little, George.  Why do you say ‘worry’ is your biggest issue?”

My fellow group members stare trout-eyed, No, I’d remember if I hit someone.  I’d have felt it.  I’d have stopped and called an ambulance no doubt too blanketed in worries of their own to care what I have to say.  But what if I didn’t?  What if I was too distracted to even register the fact that I hit them?  I do that sometimes; I even forget where I’m driving.

“I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder last Fall.  I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.”

“But let’s say it wasn’t.  Let’s say I know nothing about you, and nothing about what it means to worry.”

I sigh, letting my shoulders rise and fall in defeat.  Okay, let’s just play back the drive.  First I was leaving the apartment building, and then I passed the farmer’s market where that lady was selling carved masks and beads.  There was nobody walking in the crosswalk.

“George?”

“Oh, right.  Yeah.  Um…” Shit.  I lost my train of thought.  Let’s start over.  Okay, so I left the apartments, then I drove by the farmer’s market.  I saw the mask lady, and there was no one in the crosswalk.  I stopped at the stop sign.  Right?  I remember putting my foot on the brakes, but did I really stop?  What if it was one of those rolling stops?  No, there was a cop on the corner; he’d have pulled me over for a rolling stop.  Wait.  Fuck.  How did I forget the cop?  I should play it back again, to make sure I really have all the details.  If I forgot the cop, I could have forgotten hitting someone. Okay, so I drove out of the apartment parking lot…

“Worry is like one of those ugly gargoyles you see on the sides of churches.  You’re always told as a kid that they have a purpose, but no one ever really agrees on it.  One person says they’re water spouts; another person says they chase away evil spirits…  All you know is that they’re ugly and you can’t look away from them.”

I look around the room again and see one of my group members answering a text message.  What if that’s someone warning her about the hit-and-run on Main Street, about the caution tape, and the police investigating?  Another group member bites into a cherry Danish that oozes like the entrails of a crushed pedestrian.

“What do you think the purpose of worry is, George?”

“Well, like, in caveman times, it kept us from getting killed by sabretooth tigers and shit.  Like, if you worried about the tigers, then you’d probably be prepared if they showed up, and you’d have your spear or something to take it out before it got you.”

The therapist frowns and presses her lips together as if she’s trying to make them disappear.  Let’s play back the drive again.  Just one more time to make sure. 

“George, you’re looking anxious.  You’re speaking more quickly than usual.  Are you uncomfortable talking about this in front of the group?”

“No.”

Fuck damn!  Now I have to start all over again.  This is ridiculous.  I know I didn’t hit anyone.  I’d have seen blood on the front of my truck when I got out.  Unless the pedestrian only had internal bleeding.  No.  I’d have felt the bump.  Although, my truck has good enough shocks that I might not have, especially if it was a little kid.  Little kids run into the road all the time…

“Would you like to change the subject?”

“I don’t care.  I’d really just like to sit down.”

“What are you worrying about right now, George?”

I can’t tell her.  If I tell her and I really did hit someone, it’d be a confession of guilt.  She’d have to turn me in.  Then they’d try me for vehicular manslaughter, and put me in jail, and then I’d lose my wife and kids.  No more playing in the leaves with Tina and Brody.  They’d have to send me photos of the autumn leaves because all I’d see is the prison yard, and that doesn’t even change color in the Fall.

“I’m worrying about a lot of things.”

What if the person I hit got a head injury, but they’re not dead?  Maybe the guy is irreparably brain-damaged now, and his wife has to feed him with some kind of medical grade spork?

“Would you like to share?”  No.  I’m sure I didn’t hit anyone.  I’d have stopped; I’m a good person.  That’s a big thing.  I couldn’t just zone out and forget hitting someone.

“No.  I’d like to sit down.”

Let’s play back the drive one more time, just one more time, and then I can stop thinking about it…

Thorn Eaters (My Story Based on Someone Else’s 5 Cards)

Inspired by these five images:

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My ancestors ate thorns.  They chewed on the sunrise and shat out the evening stars.  They scaled mountains without ever touching them.  They gored wolves with their horns and watched the toothy bastards bleed.  Every day was an adventure, a struggle, and a bleating song to the Earth’s beating heart.

When first they saw man, my ancestors must have looked upon his cloth-wrapped feet and snorted.  How soft when compared to our mighty hooves!  How clumsy were his steps when compared to our cliff-face dances!

But man had something we did not.  Man had fences.  Man had food and shelter and convenience.  We followed him to his farms.  Our does gave him their milk, nursing his kids from a distance.  We gave man the strength to build more fences, and we did not try to jump them.

Now, we have forgotten how to jump.  We can hop, yes, thrust our horns at each other in half-hearted motions that kill the time, but we can no longer jump.  We chew our cud and watch our kids sniff helplessly at lower, barer fences than ever before.

The only thorns we eat are the ones on man’s roses.

Reflection

Of these two stories, I actually like my second one more.  Somehow it was easier to get into the head of a goat than it was to get into the head of someone else with OCD.  I don’t mean easier in terms of completing the task, but easier in terms of mental load.  The goat’s head was more comfortable to be in.  Writing my first story was exhausting because it’s very similar to what I live with everyday.  So it was like double half-caf OCD latte with soy milk, please!  The type of obsessions the character in the story has are a real thing, called Hit-and-Run OCD, but they’re not the same obsessions that I deal with.  Another big inspiration for my first story is something that was said in the Studio Visit today with Mark Marino and Rob Wittig: as wonderful as language is, it’s still impossible to fully communicate our emotions.  I wanted to highlight that in my story.  There’s like three layers to it.  The first layer is George’s obsessions, the second layer is what George is saying to the therapist, and the third layer is me, an OCD-sufferer, trying my damnedest to communicate what it’s like to have OCD through the character of George.

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