What JRW Means to Me
In a deep hole I had been living 12 years. And I had climbed up out of that hole, and it was a long way upward, that climb. Looking back is scary: the depth of that hole. We’ll be nice and call it the “cave.”
By 2008, when brain damage had finally been diagnosed and treated, I regained my focus to finish the manuscript of a book begun many years before.
I learned to send an e-mail, and even an attachment, and this constituted my social contact with the world. Then Sarah and I heard about a writers’ group in Richmond called James River Writers. In July 2009, we decided to formally engage the public. The “Writers Wednesdays” group met the second week of every month, casually at an old pub downtown. Except to see doctors I never left the house. A vampire inhabited me in my secret depths (fangs gleaming in the dark) avoiding public exposure. Thus, from my cave I emerged blinking and looking around.
“Think the daylight will kill you?” asked Sarah Lee. “Nah” was my answer.
Social approval is of minor consequence to me, knowing as I do that my physical presence does not inspire confidence. Maybe it is a good thing for people not to like you too much, I thought, though you want them to love you for your work.
The gathering was crowded, friendly, interested and interesting: individuals were amazed that we had maneuvered my wheelchair inside, and many were astonished to learn that I had written a book. REALLY? Oh yes. A REAL BOOK? As real as can be.
“I liked that lady Anne Westrick,” said Sarah Lee driving home.
“She surprised me, how interested she seemed to be. The main one I was talking with was Cathy Hill.”
“She asked about some group. A writers’ group?”
“I don’t do groups. But I’d go anywhere with Cathy Hill.”
“I think we did all right.”
“It might just be simple kindness: the feel good thing; you know, make the cripple feel welcome.”
“Poh ole cripple,” said Sarah Lee entering an old bridge. That’s what we called me. The James River lay below, flat and scattered with boulders under the late afternoon sun. The river had been named for King James of England, as was Jamestown in 1607. The sun felt hot and many boulders littered the brown river lying below the bridge.
“The third lady was Denise, I can’t say her last name. I don’t think she took pity on me though.”
The river was wide here, with its many boulders, and the bridge was long.
“I was asking everyone for a phone number, if I could call some time, and she wouldn’t give me hers. Denise does not give out her number.”
“Hah!” said Sarah, slowing to turn off the bridge onto a tree-lined avenue, “I wouldn’t have either.”
“Old and eccentric,” I said, “and dangerously wicked, too. Makes me feel downright human.”
Sarah was trying to go around a car; momentarily irritated. My nonstop chatter always irritated her driving. On I talked anyway…
“We need the resources which that organization can provide. We need to know the market, to understand it thoroughly. Thoroughly and well.”
Flying by were green leaves, as she passed the car.
“I learned a lot this evening.”
“We were lucky to get in that building,” said Sarah slowing for a stoplight. “Cobblestone streets, no place to park.”
“We were lucky to have a place to go to. The people I mean.”
“The people were nice.”
Finally we came to our street. The sun was going down behind a wall of green trees, the driveway darkened.
“In a world of friends and colleagues I have none. No, I don’t need people to write. I need ‘em to live.”
She turned to look at me.
“I am not gifted in the social graces.”
CLEARLY her expression said. What an expression!
“There are a lot of things I am not. I do believe this: Anyone who loves the written word is a friend. And anyone one who does what I do to craft the written word is a colleague.”
“Time will tell,” said Sarah Lee.