For one day only.

My fourth time at the Writing Gym and we did a collective character exercise again, this time with two characters. I didn’t include every detail (ran out of time) and it’s pretty rough but below is what I came up with from the following: 

  1. Andrew, 55-year-old male currently in Sfat, confused about religious affiliation, single, violinist, self-employed, originally from London
  2. Linda or Leah, single, in her 20s, bartender/cellist, Conservative Jewish American

The sun was too strong. The light bouncing off the pale stones felt like lasers sharpshooting towards the centers of his eyes. Dazed, he wiped his stubbly face on his still-damp shirt, not sure how he got here, on – what is this street, anyway? He must’ve still been in Sfat because he couldn’t recall getting on a bus last night, but then again, how could he trust his own judgment at this point?

Andrew sat on a low stone wall on the side of the road and with his fingers, mentally ticked the facts he was certain of: I’m in Sfat – yes, definitely in Sfat since the stones shown like white ghosts and the northern hills created the panorama that was his point of view. It was a mid-June morning – the sun was strong and it must’ve been fairly early because he could spot the blur of a shepherd dog chasing goats over the side of the road in the yellow brush on the hillside below. And he was not yet sober – the waves violently crashing in his skull could attest to that fact.

Next to the spot where he had woken up, he saw his violin, as if it had been carelessly tossed to the ground. His eyes moved toward the nasty dent in the back panel. He searched his mind to uncover the truth behind that inharmonious circumstance, but his head gave up in angry discord.

He started to remember a woman with a young face – yes, it’s slowly coming back – a woman in her mid- 20s, offering him a drink sometime before things got intense. It must have been dusk, because the stars weren’t yet visible. He had thanked her and asked her name, but she had only smiled. He recalled her questions – honing in on his hometown of London, and why he had been in New York before he had wound up in Sfat. There was a barrage of questions, an outpouring of drinks, a meeting of a few other wandering lost souls, and after that he only remembered playing his violin, moving across vodka-soaked stones for a crowd of young revelers in a dimly-lit Sfat alley.

Coming-to, Andrew wondered exactly who she was. She was young – too young – and she was curious – too curious. What had she really wanted from him? Certainly not a free Saturday night concert in the streets of Sfat.

Andrew rose, steadied himself, and began walking toward the damaged violin. It looked sore, it looked tired, it looked defeated. As he bent to pick it up, a memory hit him. It was when his then-wife was in the hospital after their daughter had been born. He hated to remember it but the scene came flooding back with the sadness of the damaged instrument. He had come to visit her the day after the birth, still unsure of whether he’d stay or go. Sometimes, over the years, when he had (rarely) looked back at this period of his life, he could honestly claim she had known what would come next. Sometimes he justified it by saying she had just wanted a baby all along, so in the end, they both had gotten what they wanted.

His fingers ran over the strings and he lifted the violin to his chest. He looked up and then he saw her. The girl from the night before. She was carrying something big, but his vision was blurry.

“Oh,” he squinted into the sunlight and noticed she was carrying something.

“Hi,” she answered, and looked sadly at the violin. “Shame about that.”

He had so many questions, but he started with the obvious.

“What happened last night?”

She sat down on the low stone wall and looked across the hills.

“It’s possible we both owe each other apologies,” she said.

She paused and then began: “I’ve been looking for you for about 12 years. I didn’t really want to know as a kid, I just wanted to live happily and truthlessly. After all, how could I want someone who so clearly hadn’t wanted me?”

Andrew looked up suddenly. He noticed her green eyes then. He also noticed what she was carrying – a cello case.

“I’ve been living here, watching and waiting… unsure if I really wanted to know. But I was also angry. I wanted my due. How could someone be so carefree? Wander the world and never consider the chance at love they had so easily tossed aside?”

She ran her fingers along the hard case tucked in her arms.

“When I discovered you were a musician, it seemed like my only hope for feeling a connection. I had to hear you play. I had to know I have a future. After last night, well, I guess that’s the one part of this where I don’t feel disappointed. So… thank you. And… sorry about your violin.”

Andrew couldn’t wrap his head around the improbability of the situation. His long-lost daughter had hunted him down, followed him to Israel, sought him out in Sfat, lured him into a seemingly impromptu street party and gotten him disheveled and drunk so she could confront him at this moment.

He felt his ex-wife at his ear, an ominous note playing off her lips.

“Anyway… now I know. I’ll be returning to the States tomorrow. You’re free to find me when you like… if you can come with the words I need to hear.”

She stood, patted the cello case, and headed for the street. Then she turned around.

“By the way… happy Father’s Day.”

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated with Jerusalem.

Today’s Writing Gym was Jerusalem-themed for Yom Yerushalyim… Here’s my take on meeting up with an Old Flame…

Oh, hi… long time no see!

Yeah, I’m, uh, I’m doing ok. Actually, not living too far from here, just over the hills, 15 kilometers out… Oh, it’s lovely, yes. The weather is comparable, totally. I couldn’t live on the coast, you know that.

How have you been? Oh, sure, I’ve heard about the demographics, riding a tidal wave towards seas of black. I take it you’re still being undermined by the rest of the country? Uh huh. Right. Well, hey, you never know, the mayor may actually accomplish some kind of renaissance in the time he has left.

You look great, though. Oh? A lot of surgery, I see… Yes, I was kind of wondering what all the bandages were about.

Oh, no, I’m not judging. You do what you gotta do to look young. Sure. As long as it’s not affecting you internally, spiritually… Oh, I’m sure it’s complicated… Well… maybe there’s someone to see about that.

Am I happy? Yeah, I really am.

Look… I’m sorry I never call. I know I said I’d keep in touch but you know how it is… Marriage, work, kids… Lots going on.

I… I think about you sometimes though. I… I miss you at times. Your cool touch, your inner beauty, even the hardness of the walls you put up. I always saw through you. And I bet others do, too. You must have had so many lovers over the years. And we all know the truth about you… You’re never what you seem…

Well, it was good to catch up. Don’t let them do too much to your face, ya hear? Or I won’t recognize you next time I’m in town…

Oh, we’re nowhere near the end.

Not kidding about the handwriting. In honor of this ‘writing exercise’ turning 8-years-old this week, I’m posting a quickie writing workout (rapid-write) I did today at my newest adventure, a 6-session Writing Gym.

So I’ve been writing since I could write. Since writing was drawing. Since the drawings began accompanying the words. Since the words dropped the drawings and filled their own pages.

That’s mainly been manifested in ongoing journaling that hasn’t stopped to take a breath since I was thirteen.

Over the years I’ve written “on the side” – poetry, lots of poetry, what I learned later was called ‘prose,’ stories, chapters of non-existent novels, academic theses, newspaper articles, marketing materials, social media content.

It was only recently I finally came to terms with the idea that I don’t have to be a novelist to be a successful writer. To be successful. To be published. I realized somewhere in year seven or eight of my blogging habit that I’m – a writer. Successful. Published.

And it doesn’t much matter, anyway; something I subsequently learned. I just have to keep going, keep exercising, and maybe it’ll never stop. Maybe something amazing will happen. Maybe being a writer is never feeling 100% sure of yourself. Maybe it’s never being satisfied. Maybe it’s believing I will someday be satisfied, but that day will actually never come.

Maybe it’s about being able to express myself to you better this way than I ever would dare in spoken word.

So the pages and pages I’ve filled – in notebooks or blog posts – they’re doing something… I hope. For me as a writer. Proving me a writer. Being me, a writer.

Something else I’ve learned: my handwriting is a secret language you can only understand if you’re me at the time of writing.