I have just completed module 1 of my creative writing course. Essentially, module 1 is all about…well…writing. The importance of writing regularly, how to go out and be inspired, and how to draw on your own experiences for ideas and themes for your stories. One of the exercises was to write a timeline of my life, with significant events marked out on it and identify recurring themes within those events. This could be anything. Births, deaths, breakups, moving to a new place, travelling etc.
At the end of the module there are a few self assessment tasks to make sure you have taken in what you have been taught so far. One of those tasks is to pick a theme from your timeline and write the opening scene of a story, a poem, or an essay supporting this theme.
I chose death and loss as my theme. (Cheerful, I know, but I wanted to pick something challenging.) this is what I wrote. Please leave comments below with what think of it, and what themes you can think of that would feature in your timeline.
I ran across the hospital car park towards the entrance to A&E with my heart in my throat. The fear and panic was bubbling up inside me and escaping in small terrified whimpers. The ambulance containing my father had already pulled up outside the doors as I scrambled out of my friend Gary’s fiesta. By the time I reach the ambulance, my dad has been whisked away through the doors. Gary catches up with me at the reception desk inside. I am a mess; tears are streaming down my face, my long wavy brown hair has been blown into knots by the wind and I am wearing Gary’s huge hooded jumper over my t-shirt and jeans. “My dad was just brought in by ambulance. His name is Andrew Parker. Can I see him?” The last on reception checks her computer and for my father and pauses, before looking up at me kindly. “The paramedics and doctors are with him at the moment. If you would like to go and sit in the family room, someone will be along as soon as they can to talk to you about your dad.” “Family room…” I mumble to myself as my head starts to spin. The family can’t mean good news. They don’t separate you from the rest of the waiting room to hear good news. I pay no more attention to the woman on reception, leaving Gary to answer any questions and find out where the family room is. He leads me off through a door to the left of the main waiting area. I walk into a plain white rectangular room with the door in the wall at one narrow end, and a plain frosted glass window opposite. It smells strongly of disinfectant in a way only a hospital can. Plastic chairs like I remember from school are lined up along the two longer walls. In the far corner there is a small square table. On it sits a pale blue plastic vase full of silk flowers in blue and white. There are a couple of watercolours on the wall, tranquil scenes of a meadow and the sea. I pay little attention to them and sit on the chair furthest from the door, staring silently at the floor between my feet. Gary sits next to me and takes my hand. It’s comfortingly warm and I look up to flash him a brief attempt at a half smile before resting my head on his shoulder and staring at the floor once more. As I sit waiting, my thoughts turn to my mum.
My mum passed away when I was 5. My parents told me that Mummy was sick and she would have to go away because she wasn’t getting better. When my mum went into hospital I didn’t understand that I would never see her again. I remember feeling confused that she was crying because she had to go to hospital. Hospitals make people better. That is what she told me the year before when I had fallen and my parents had thought I had broken my wrist. On the day of my mum’s funeral I went to my schoolfriend’s house. I remember it was a warm sunny day in early June and Katie’s parents took us to the park. We played on the swings and had a picnic on a big tartan blanket. When I was dropped off home, it was full of my aunts and uncles and lots of strangers my dad told me were mum’s friends. Everyone was sad, my dad was crying and I didn’t understand why. He told me that mum had gone away and that that was a goodbye party. I cried, then, too but I still thought mum would come back. As time passed my dad refused to talk about her. I don’t really know how I came to realise the truth of what had happened to my mum. I just know that when I was 10 a girl joined my class at school and started taunting me, saying things like “you dad picks you up from school late every day because your mum is so fat her belly wobbles like jelly when she walks.” When I could ignore the jibes no longer I glared at her, looked straight into her eyes and told her “My mum is dead.” It was the first time I had ever said it out loud.
20 years after my mum dies, here I sit in a hospital, waiting for a doctor to walk through the door and tell me whether or not my dad is okay. It’s a strange feeling; you are impatient for news because not knowing what is going on is torture. Your mind running through all kinds of possibilities and ‘what if’s. At the same time you dread the moment that doctor walks through the door in case they are there to confirm your greatest fear. I don’t even realise I am crying again until Gary puts his arms around me and pulls me close murmuring “You’ll get through this Becca. I’ll help you through this no matter what.” I turn my face into his chest and sob into his navy blue jacket. He smells comfortingly of Armani Code; my Christmas present to him. After a few minutes my tears slow again and I pull slightly away to settle my head back on his shoulder after wiping my tears away with my sleeve. He leans his head against mine and we stay that way for what feels like hours, but is probably only about 25 minutes, when the door opens and a doctor walks in. He is about 6 foot talk with black hair, going grey at the temples. “Miss Parker?” He enquires. “That’s m-me” I stutter, my voice trembling with fear. I try to stand but my legs feel weak and I fall back onto my chair. Gary stops me from attempting again and, removing his arm from around me, takes my hand again. I look up at the doctor and take a deep breath in, holding it in as I wait for him to continue. “Miss Parker, I am Dr Collins. I’m afraid your father suffered a severe myocardial infarction. A heart attack. We did everything we could but the damage to his heart was too great. I’m afraid he didn’t make it. I am very sorry for your loss.” I stared blankly into the doctor’s face, unable to comprehend. My dad, the only real family I had left, was gone. “If you would like to see him I can take you to him.” I barely registered Gary whispering “I’m so sorry Becca” as my whole world fell to pieces around me. I felt like a hole had been punched through my chest. It ached painfully. Fresh reared courses down my cheeks. I couldn’t breathe. As my mind floundered, trying to come to terms with what I had just heard, I started hyperventilating. I tried to stand once again and instantly felt dizzy and disorientated. The last thing I remember before the world went dark is the feel of Gary’s arms as he reached out to catch me.