Please Don’t Stop Writing (creative nonfiction)

It is hard not to get sentimental when talking about my teachers. I have so many well-worn anecdotes. I’ve gone through them all so many times verbally, it seems they would be a complete bore to talk about. There is one though that I think I only ever jotted notes down about once. It’s often too much.

At first, I hated my poetry professor at Vanderbilt, Professor Daniels. She was hard on me. She spanked my ego good and I didn’t like it. I thought I was some kind of hot shit going into her class, and man oh man, did I find out otherwise. She was cold and exacting and had no warm and squishies for me whatsoever. Even after I earned a modicum of her respect, I was still nervous around her. I would drop things and turn around in circles trying to find my chair. It was perpetually like being on a first date.

She was a tiny woman, apparently a lot older than I thought she was. I made a reference to an 80’s band once and she said she wouldn’t know anything about it when here I had assumed she was only maybe a decade older than I was. For all her hardness, there must have been a youth about her I perceived. My legally blind eyes could not see her wrinkles so my mind registered her as a bitter eighties Gen X St. Elmo’s Fire type instead of ex-hippie observer and poetry writer-abouter.

I was being abused at home. I met her at the grocery store, me wearing a full length houndstooth wool coat in 80 degree heat to cover the bruises and burns. She pulled her cart up next to mine. She took time to talk to me. I told her I had to leave Vanderbilt, which was very hard. She said to me, pleading, “Please don’t stop writing.” It stays with me, that she would plead with me this way. I keep it in my own head when I’m about to give up.

Maybe I don’t talk about it because I can never quite get the emotion of it. I always seem to need to invent a touch of hands or squeeze of the wrist to go with it. The truth is, she didn’t touch me at all. Or at least, I think that’s the truth. The memory is fuzzy. I think I have been lying to myself for so long in my memory about that touch, that I truly don’t know anymore. Knowing her character though, I don’t think there was one, which makes my soul burst with longing.

-M. Ashley

I am going to start including audio recordings of me reading my posts for my visually impaired friends, or really anyone who enjoys what I hope will be a good listen. Being visually impaired myself, I’m a little ashamed I’ve had this blog for a million years and am only thinking of this now. Hear it here:

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