Write of Passage

Willett's Baltimore Transitions / Expressions

Willett .

Willett .
Baltimore, Maryland,
June 15
Write of Passage, Inc.
Willett Thomas is the President of Write of Passage, Inc., a 501(C)(3) communications, training, and publishing organization formed in 2010 to assist underserved artists and writers. She is also a freelance writer, writing in and about Baltimore. She recently relocated to the neighborhood of Greenmount, where the exterior shots of the HBO series, The Wire were filmed. She's pleased to report any rumored resemblances to the television series are greatly exaggerated. *** Like us at Facebook ;-) http://www.facebook.com/WriteofPassage

Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 9, 2011 9:00AM

Menage a trois? I bet that means I’m the most!

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We met at an artist retreat.

I had never heard of artists’ retreats before. When I finished my program in creative writing, I was prepared to do what most graduates do: defer paying my student loan as long as possible, get a tolerable admin job that might, possibly, segue into a bonafide publications gig, then chill and pretty much figure things out.  So when I got an email from a former workshop instructors, saying that some of us really should consider applying to artists residencies programs, my first thought was I got on the wrong e-list, followed closely by: Free lakeside room and board for a month? Where do I apply?

Of course, I got accepted.  It’s that way when meteors hit.  Just when you think you haven’t got the remotest chance, the envelope arrives and it’s thick.  Crammed with instructions and portentions of the wonderful life affirming experience the month-long retreat was to have on my artist life, suggesting ever so slightly how these new affiliations and friendships would prove to be not only life altering, but truly transformative.  At least, this is what I read. And my life did change, only it had nothing to do with my artistic endeavors, and everything to do with love, professed and very much expressed.

Eighteen strangers in Upstate New York, ensconced in an Adirondack lakeside “camp” surrounded by nothing but clear water, wild geese and woodlands never-ending. Writers, painters, filmmakers, composers, this and more, made up our “group.”  It was like a way back trip to the 70s, but instead of doing what I had been doing in the seventies: trying with everything in me to be Marcia Brady, and being highly perplexed as to why blond hair dye when applied to my black hair left my Afro orange, looking like Ronald McDonald, and nothing like Marcia’s highly whip appeal tresses, I was now part of an extended EST weekend. Group dynamics gone amuck. Fueled by alcohol, we shed tears; we laughed, often at the same time, our expressions and professions of love never-ending –30 days and nights overflowing with “I love you, man/babe/girlfriend/kitchen staff. Yeah, I really do.” 

Yellow Tail and Jack Daniel's inducements aside, real attachments were formed. Never one to have many girlfriends, it came as a complete surprise when I found myself heads over Skechers in the middle (literally) of a grown up girl crush. My first and only girl crush before this was Alicia; I was seven. Our relationship would, no doubt, still be going strong today if Alicia hadn’t purposely and laughingly allowed me fall on my butt during a game of “trust” she insisted we play.  My crush on Heather was different.

Alicia at seven didn’t have a “life partner.” Heather did.  Her partner was a visual artist, which seems right, seeing how she took special pleasure in watching us.  She was there looking on approvingly as we giggled about anything at all, smiling over at us as we looked forward to our afternoon soirées, that “special” time we allowed ourselves after I put in sufficient time on my novel, and she on her poetry collection, those lazy afternoons we spent reclining on their bed just hanging out and drinking hard lemonade. The S.O. was there too, still smiling, even as I complimented (marveled at) all the twisty things Heather could do with her waist-length, ever so Marcia Brady-like hair. And while I was clearly smitten with Heather and she with me, it was also clear that we weren’t the only ones enjoying our time together.

Our afternoon soirees were followed closely by the group dinner everyone was obligated to attend unless given permission to opt out by a member of the staff.  Dinners provided us a chance to wind down and also gave us yet another excuse to down even more wine, which our group had no problem traveling the fifteen plus miles into town to keep well-stocked.

I admit to being a social drinker.  I can go for months without being particularly social, and, therefore, can go for months without having even popped a cork or for that matter pulled a tab on a single chilly one. But in this space, it was as if dinner around that huge communal dining table caused everyone around it to be transformed.  We were no longer fledgling artists, but were now Fitzgeralds, Capotes, Carvers, Faulkners, Hemingways, Poes, Cranes and Melvilles, with Heather sitting in as Edna St. Vincent Millay and me doing my best Dorothy Parker, all resurrected and ready to do whatever necessary to have one boozy last supper. I did more drinking in that 30 day span than I did in all my wayward teen years, when TJ Swann was for me the finest of fine wines.

After Heather and my soirees and the dinners, there was our group’s collective effort at continuing to bond like crazy. In order to drink well into the night, this meant meeting up at the field a quarter of a mile from the main house, beyond the eyes of staff. Buzzed, but still standing, we gathered random pieces of woodland, piling these bits and pieces on top of each other, prepared to set the tower of kindling aflame come nightfall. 

I could see no real purpose in setting this tower on fire considering the night time temperature was often in the sixties and that there was the humongous fireplace in the main house only yards away, along several comfy sofas. But the flickering flames drew us in, this along with the rush experienced when fermented spirits (Jack most bonfire nights) are coupled with stolen pats playfully applied to other artists’ bootys.  

At this wood burning, I had had two Mojitos flavored with the wild mint foraged by two writers of nonfiction.  The mint looked and smelled like freshly cut grass.  I assume it was my frustration at trying to drink around all the “mint” in my drink and the blazing heat from the fire that made the hike back up the hill to the main house seem like a good one. Heather was sitting on one of the sofas eyes focused on the fireplace, where curled up inside was an installation artist. She was being coaxed by the playwright, the one everyone knew wanted to bed her, to “please come out.”

Tired, I slumped next to Heather on the sofa. Her partner, who had also been involved in the coaxing, at seeing me, stopped her cajoling, to take a seat on the other side of me.

“You know I really love you,” Heather murmured. She was drunk. 

“I love you guys, too,” I replied.  And I did, sorta.  I love most people in general and specifically artists trying to fight the good fight and do their individual and collective artist things. Heather’s partner was glassy eyed, primed with one too many Vodka Tonics, staring at me in an all too concentrated fashion, a look letting me know that she too, if she didn’t already, could also really love me.

“No,” she says. “We really love you.” Both had a hold of me, each applying long strokes to my forearms, stroking back and forth, very soft, with Heather looking at me dreamily. This didn’t bother me. I admit to being tactile by nature. Once while in line at the 7-Eleven, I stood there stroking a loaf of bread coated with sesame seeds, I couldn't help running my fingers back and forth, over and over again. I did this absent mindlessly, so much so I was taken aback by the counter guy I caught staring at me, his mouth fashioned into a perfect little "what the fuck" “o” of fascination. There we were, the bread, the counter guy and me, all caught up in our own private/public surreal moment.

And here I was again, caught up in yet another episode of surrealness, but not because of the grassy Mojitos, or because it was nearing three o’clock in the morning, or even because of the person lounging in the fireplace. I was in the midst of one of those life changing moments, one of those Robert Frost (one writer not known for liberal hoisting) The Road Not Taken moments in life.

Well, I don’t know if not jumping into bed with my first adult girl crush and her girlfriend changed my life in any significant way. But I do know that those times in life when Marcia Brady asks you to join her in a threesome, and you have no regrets at having said no, then you probably have good reason to hoist one. I mean, who turns down Marcia, even when she’s soused? 

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Oh, those writers' conferences!! the day after...whose in my bed, the bottles strewn on the lawn, the pulitzer prize winner eating eggs, my manuscript smelling if whiskey...I am a writer, at last.

Hope you had fun; I sure did!
This was so great.. It flowed and I was there.
I also have said no and not ever regret it.
rated with hugs
@Elijah -- I had a blast. One of the best experiences of my life.
Thanks Miss Linda. You're the best!
Wow. You stay away for awhile then you come back BAM. Loved this one, as this was one thing I had wanted to do if I hadn't done everything else too early. This is to be done when young. Great read, funny and relatable, enjoyed.
@Rita -- I try to quit OS, but it keeps drawing me back in. Thanks for the kind words.
Day-um! Okay, first off, you have such a way of bringing the reader right along with you - exactly the right details to let us into the scene without ever bogging down the pace. Secondly . . . well . . . ::sigh:: . . . ::quiet wolf whistle:: . . . damn right about the Marcia thing, although they we obviously thinking the same thing about you!
Glad you do RW you raise the bar, glad also that the Editor sees it...always a pleasure to see your name there in the morning.
There is something about sesame seeds.

Loved reading this! You took me on the trip with you.
the best part of the way you describe it all is that there is a constant 'of course' going on in my mind while watching. of course you guys hit it off, of course you enjoyed your afternoon soirees, of course the SO enjoyed your enjoying them - of course, of course, of course.

you have a way of making things seem very real and it becomes easy to enjoy them with you.

very cool.
@jackson -- Right back at you!
Fun to read about as, evidently, the experience was fun to have.