I love coaching creatives writing their first memoirs. The journey is full of amazing memories, perspective & the celebration of the life you’ve created.
My client, actor/writer, Susan Heyward (The Boys, Delilah, OITNB) and I have been working together for the last year & I’m super excited to share some of her brilliant work:
By Susan Heyward
There was me and about
20 other kids.
Ages, 13 to 17.
Sitting on the floor of a drama class, all of us drunk on our own melanin and hormones.
I was one of the 14 year olds.
And the teacher, her headwrap tight and her statement earrings in the silhouette of Neferttiti dancing said,
“Okay. What I want you to do is look at this empty room.
And someone, imagine where it could be.
Can be anywhere.
And I don't want you to tell us, but I want you, one of you, to get up and start behaving.
In that place.
Anyone who's watching, when you figure out where they are, you get up and you add your behavior to it.”
She and a couple other teachers sat and waited, expectant and sphinx-like.
As the Nefertittis settled down, we teens all kind of sat there looking at each other thinking. Aight. Where ya'll want to go?
And one kid got up, a guy, one of the older kids.
He stood in the middle of the room and he squeezed his hands in two fists. He held them with his elbows bent at 90 degrees in front of himself, shoulder length apart, thumb to pinky, as if he were holding a police baton. He leaned back, swung his arms to one side as if the “stick” was heavy, then swung them towards the ceiling before bringing them down to the floor.
Then he did it again. Boom. Again. Boom. Again he arched up and then down to the floor. I realized there’s nothing there, he’s not holding anything. This is pretend. I don't actually hear a boom. I don’t actually hear a thud. But the rhythm he created landed on my body just the same. Boom.
I watched and tried to understand.
“ Ohhhh...it’s not a baton, they aren’t that heavy…he's, like, in a garden somewhere, like, working on...oh, the land!”
And so other people got up and started ‘working the land’ with him.
I thought, ‘Cool,they saw the same thing I saw.’
And then another kid got up and pretended to crack a whip.
And started to bark orders.
And suddenly we weren't just in a field.
We were on a plantation.
As soon as the whole class agreed that we were on a plantation, a bunch of my classmates rushed up to join and added to the world being built.
One of us pretended to be on a tractor.
One of us pretended to be feeding dogs, one of us pretended to be turning cotton into thread. Spinning. Spinning cotton into thread.
I was still on the side of the room, watching. I looked and I looked and I asked myself,
“Okay, how can I add to this world without repeating?”
I don't want to just do what everyone's doing.
Something inside me pushed me up. Before I really knew what I was doing. I was walking gingerly up to one classmate, my hands heavy at my side, my back bent over and in a voice unlike my own, drawled,
“Want some watah?”
And the way they looked at me. We'd stopped
Pretending. We were just living.
My classmates. A bunch of city kids at summer camp, they looked different to me. They looked at me with gratitude and surprise.
I gave water.
More water. A moment between each laborer and I.
Together, we slipped into this world.
(to be continued next week)
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