Picking Scabs

Have you ever been taken over by a mood out of nowhere? Like some magical little fairy came up behind you, blew across you, and WHAM, you find yourself in this strange funk? Oh stop shaking your heads. It happens to everyone, whether you admit it or not, excuse it, or ignore it (otherwise I’m crazy, and I really don’t think… um, never mind).

So there I was, a nice productive weekend followed by an overly creative Monday—yeah, I know, red flag. I should have known right there that something was up with the cosmos. The girl-child was out, the boy was upstairs doing something, and I was on the couch deciding how fried my brain was. Should I edit J’s thing? Work on my own stuff? Read a beach book and let my gray matter simmer on a nice low setting for a while? When suddenly, without any direction on my part, my legs pulled up close to my chest, I sighed, and reached behind me for an ancient photo album… a dusty old thing filled with forgotten memories two* decades old.

I flipped through it with trepidation. Laughing at scenes I instantly remembered, furrowing my brows at people whose picture I had taken but whose names I could not recall, and giggling when I realized some of the school pictures had faded names & years in gold embossing across the bottom… thank Frank! I spoke out loud as I flipped the hard cardboard pages with the yellowed cover-film and faded images.

“ahhh… Randy & Ricky. Terry! Who’s that? Brian? No, Brad, that was his name. Dan!! Wally… Mary and Joanie and Vicky and Marianne and—who’s that? Oh hey, Kerry—wonder if she’s still married to… hmmm what was his name? Jim and Tom and another Jimmy, and ChiChi and John—god we were so young! Oh dang, I forgot all about so-and-so, and oh wow, Greg’s starter mustache!!”  It went on and on, page after page… and then the pages were suddenly empty and something inside me made this strange little strangled sound. Like a child crying far away.

I closed the book and shook my head, wondering what had possessed me to pull it out in the first place. I’m still not sure was spurred it, I only know the little voice stopped making that noise and instead whispered, “There’s more…”

I promptly jumped up, grabbed my new string of dragonfly patio lights my mother gave me for my birthday, a few nails, and headed to the bedroom. I hung the lights, lit a candle and pulled out the blue box. The girl-child had come home and was working on her chores. She popped her head in as I was lighting the candle and asked what I was doing.

“Revisiting a life lived.”

She raised an eyebrow, backed out, and I heard her say to her brother, “Mom’s in one of those moods again.” He murmured something I couldn’t hear and she responded with, “She should call someone, that always helps.” She turned back toward my room and suggested I call one of three people… funny, I didn’t realize I was that much of an open book, but she listed the correct three for the moment. I declined and said I needed to do this for some reason. Even though I still didn’t know what I was doing, or why.

She left and I opened the blue box. I didn’t blow the dust off the top—it was thick and sticky, and I was a little afraid breathing on it would give it life and it would attack me to protect its secrets. Old yearbooks, old notebooks, old photos, old newspaper clippings, old love letters… its secrets run deep. I giggled through old Cathedral yearbooks as I read notes long forgotten. I had completely forgotten Dan had referred to me as Mattie for 2 years, and I cannot for the life of me remember why. I came across boys who were “my whole world” in seventh grade, only to be completely forgotten by eighth grade. I recalled things not in the pages and pictures. My stale creampuff, hockey games, playground meetings to help patch friends’ hearts, the first walls I built to protect myself from boys and the boy who caused it. Funny, I remember the good times from the seven months I dated him but didn’t remember the bad until I re-read it.

I dug deeper and found old school projects, including several personal notes from the teacher who first sharpened my muse’s pencils. Notes passed in class. Random pieces of paper I had scribbled on—doodles, stories, poems, handwriting mimicry. And then I hit the news clippings. This wasn’t an old memory. This is a memory I think of often. I didn’t need the box for this—so I only read the various headlines, closed my eyes for a moment, and closed the folder. One headline always stands out in my mind: A Train, A Car, A Second. It may have been a second for them, it’s been 20+ years for the rest of us.

Hmmm… wait a minute. Here’s a thought. Am I digging around these memories to say good-bye to old ghosts? I’ve been doing a lot of introspective thinking lately. Closing doors on parts of my life, finishing chapters I never planned for the middle but rather the end, maybe this was just more of that. I’m moving in a few months, far far away from here, maybe I needed closure to do that? I thought about it. I leaned back under the soft glow of the dragonfly lights, and ticked through the people I had just revisited. The times I had relived.

In the end, I realized I was wrong.

In the end, the muse crawled from the base of my spine—just a tickle that crept its way up to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. “No. It wasn’t a good-bye. I wasn’t ghosts.”

I looked at the muse over my shoulder. She was covered in band-aids and bruises. Her mascara had run like Tammy Fay Baker’s. I have been fighting with her a lot lately, and it showed (I’ve erased more than I’ve kept on the novel). But through bloodshot eyes she did something I wasn’t expecting… She smiled.

And I understood.

I wasn’t saying good-bye, I was digging. Digging very deep into places I had forgotten existed so I could remember a wide range of things, a variety of emotions—some good, some bad. She’s a sneaky one. She used memories with tangible reminders so I could recall how to tap those things when I need to.

There have been a lot of changes in my world lately, growth and onion layers and divorce and good-byes and all that, and through it all she sat and waited, while I tried to heal. Problem is, I’m a writer. We don’t heal. We don’t make scars. We pick our scabs and keep them fresh and let them bleed. I had been pushing everything down and letting the scabs heal. I needed to pick at them. She needed me to pick them. When I refused, she took over. Because I needed to tap the energy that comes with that blood. Because she’s got some things to say and I needed to be able to keep up, so I can write this damn novel!

I thought it was a funk. I thought it was some new level of acceptance or grief or whatever stage I’m at right now. Who knew it was the muse saying, “Enough already, we’ve got shit to do!”  Sometimes we bruise the muse… sometimes, she fights back.


*holy hell, it’s been 10 years since I wrote this! All still valid, and all those people from (now) 30 years ago? Back in my head again while working on the current wip: MitM.

~ note added 7/29/2020

One Response to Picking Scabs

  • Tim Baker says:

    Nice title… ;-)
    Writer’s are those weirdos that collect their scabs in a jar. And name them.
    Glad you’re sorting it all out.

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