Death of a Table
by Adam Strong
They say it's up to survivors to tell the story. The people that move on to tell the story. But sometimes you need to tell a story to get through something. Sometimes you learn something about yourself from the process.
This isn’t a death death.
This is the dissolution of a writing group. And not just any writing group, this is Dangerous Writers, the group that’s been together for 20 years or more, the early 90s they say. How it happened, was Tom left. We hung around for awhile, it took a few months and we had a good run with it. It took a few months, but then it happened.
And the way I found out was a post on Facebook.
Tonight was our last table.
Our last class.
There are no plans to continue.
Ten years with one group. Gone. All of a sudden. And me I was on vacation with my family. I was working on pages. For the last ten years I’d worked on pages whenever I could. Weekends, vacations, lunch breaks, you name it. I did it. I clawed my time back hour after hour minute after minute. I was working on pages, on a chapter of my novel, for the group. I’d stayed up late and woken up early just to work on edits, I did what I’d done ever since the kids were born.
I was in the middle of editing a sentence when I checked facebook. I was working on pages for that, for the next class.
"Tonight was our last table.
Our last class.
There are no plans to continue."
Now there was no class. Now it was gone.
Ten years of deadlines and friends, of the different voices in my head when I edit. Matty and the extra words I used to paint a picture, Sage going on about keeping down the kid noir out of my voice, Kevin and his rules of dialog, Christy and how one paragraph leads into the next. Matty and getting my truth out there. How it's the duty of each of us to tell our story. Colin and Diane and Doug and Brad and Gigi. And Tom.
Tom had been gone for awhile, six months easy. We were a group without a leader. We knew it was the end, we were making plans for what to do next. But we’d made it through, at least that’s what I thought. Looking back on it, we were just treading water before the whole thing sank.
But there was something deeper. A man, a teacher, was gone too. Still alive but not teaching. Tom. I knew he wasn’t coming back. We all knew that. We thought if we just kept on meeting at different places, with different hosts. We thought if we worked hard and buckled down and kept the faith and kept the conversation rolling kept on bringing pages then we could carry on. But that didn’t happen.
There’s something else too, this wasn’t just a group. I mean it was, we sat in a basement every Thursday and we took apart our pages, we unpacked we argued we pressed, we fought like hell to keep our friends writing to keep them going to support them. And the support I got, this had become a big part of who I was.
I was a Dangerous Writer. I took it as the honor it was. I held it close, up to my chest. I wore it well. It was the way for me to live my life. I used Dangerous Writing with my students everyday. It made me a stronger person, a better person. It made me a man. Dangerous Writers write about the sore places - that’s the place where your heart meets your head - and story comes from there. But you’ve got to build that part up in yourself to let it out.
When you’ve got a whole lot of who you are wrapped up in something and it goes away, it changes you on a molecular level. I loved it so much I did crazy things for it. I woke up early. I typed with one hand while the other held my child. Two kids, I wrote through two kids.
I thought I could write through Tom not being there. I was wrong. Without him, the guy we were all influenced by, without him there we weren’t a thing anymore. We were dying a little bit everyday, I just thought if we could keep going we could turn this into something new.
One night after one of our first classes without Tom, we all went out like we normally did, to a bar, The Vern. They played punk rock, they played death metal. I was talking to Matty about what we were going to do. And I don’t know what came over me, but the next thing I knew I was crying like I never had. Right there in front of everyone, blubbering and openly sobbing.
"Now there was no class. Now it was gone."
I knew it then, sooner or later this thing I loved so much, that I counted on that made me me, was going to go away.
Adam Strong has worn glasses since he was four years old. His work has appeared in the anthologies City of Weird and Not My President. Adam is the founder of the quarterly reading series Songbook PDX: A Literary Mixtape. He's a High School Digital Arts teacher, and he loves and writes in Portland, OR.