People always ask me how I got into writing. But the thing is, I’ve always been a writer. Or maybe just someone who has always been around words – a storyteller at the very least. I started writing and singing songs on the guitar when I was fifteen.
But I think it started before that. I remember spending free time in elementary school reading through books, but not as fast as my sister. No one read faster than she did. So I thought I wasn’t a very good reader or maybe I wasn’t that interested in reading. Because if I was I would read faster, right?
There were two things I could always control in my life; what I read and what I listened to. For the most part anyway–I started reading Harry Potter in the fifth or sixth grade but then my parents read them and told me I wouldn’t be reading books with witchcraft in them.
Joke’s on them – I never did end up finishing the series, but I mean.
Now I’m doing “witchcraft” or whatever.
In the fifth grade I was a “journalist” for our school newspaper and thought I wanted to be a reporter when I grew up. Then I grew up and realized, no thank you. The truth gets too twisted and you can’t say what you want to anyway.
But around that same time I was writing for the school paper I got a job delivering newspapers around our town in the afternoon. Yes, actual newspapers–and not just the ones with ads, but an actual newspaper with articles and columns and people paid actual money to have them delivered to their homes by a small, dark-haired eleven-year-old on a bike who was terrified of dogs because they always chased her.
Can you imagine? You’re all of four-feet tall and this Saint Bernard comes hurtling towards you in a tacit attempt to make friends, but you are absolutely sure that dog is going to try and bite your head off because you saw him try to decapitate the lab next door just yesterday.
I didn’t deliver the paper that day. I remember crying because my dad sent me back to do it because those people paid for that newspaper and expected it – so I rode my bike three blocks to the west towards the railroad tracks. But he was sending me to my death, I was sure of it.
However, I did not die, that dog was nowhere in sight, and I delivered that paper. No, I did not feel as though I accomplished anything heroic, I just got the hell out of there with the echo of a small white dog yapping at me through the window.
I delivered actual newspapers to actual people all the way up until I was seventeen years old. I only stopped because they started doing morning paper deliveries and that just didn’t work out with my high school schedule.
I can’t count the number of dogs I was chased by.
In high school I took a bunch of English/literary/creative writing classes because, well, let’s be honest, they were easy for me. I didn’t ever think, “I want to be an author when I grow up!” because truthfully, I didn’t even think I’d be alive at this point. Not for any reason in particular, I just assumed I would stop existing at thirty.
Spoiler alert: I’m still here.
There was this one creative writing class I took my senior year. It was taught by a small, eccentric woman who reminded me of a turtle, but in a wise, motherly way. Short and slightly hunched, she shuffled rather than walked. Sometimes she’d ramble on about how “exotic” I looked with my waist-long hair and big brown eyes and brown skin – embarrassing for me and literally everyone in class, but she meant well and told me I could come to her whenever I was sad.
I was always sad, but I never did.
The only time I have ever performed poetry was in her class. She chose a work of poetry and started assigning poems to each of us by way of volunteers–unfortunately, I don’t remember the book, but I do remember her coming down to one of the last poems.
She said something like, it’s more of a sensual poem, so I need someone who would be comfortable performing it.
High school is awkward enough, but growing up in an excessively religious and conservative area (including myself in this), the class was dead silent. No one was going to volunteer for this.
Finally, I was like, I’ll do it, mostly because she looked directly at me when she asked for a volunteer.
I don’t even remember what the poem was. But the way I performed it will be burned into my brain forever.
One of my best guy friends at the time told me, “You know what, Alisha, you’re pretty enough to be a model, but not like, a catwalk model–you’re not graceful enough.” And that about sums up me in high school; pretty, I guess, if you could look past the red face and sweaty t-shirts from riding my bike three miles to school.
Pretty I guess, but definitely not sexy.
So I had to raid my big sister’s closet for “sexy” clothes. But her idea of sexy at the time was “business woman” because she was a nineteen-year-old in law school at the local university. Then there was me–with absolutely no concept of what sexy was.
(let’s be fair, I still don’t. My idea of sexy is taking my pants off and hanging out in a baggy t-shirt)
but I chose a knee-length black skirt, black tights, a red button-down blouse, and red high heels.
Red is sexy, right?
I had to put all of this in my backpack the day of the performance, bike to school, then change in the bathroom before class.
So the whole class is in the cafeteria in front of this small stage and it’s finally my turn to perform my poem. Again, I don’t remember which one it was, but I remember that I was supposed to be sensual–so there I am, dressed in red, and I start reciting this thing and sauntering around the room, all while remembering that I am not graceful, so I probably look more like a scared rabbit.
There was this one guy I had a crush on. He cut his hair into a mullet the last day of school and rode in on a scooter. He had a twin brother, but they didn’t look alike, and they were both in this class sitting next to each other. Anyway, I was too afraid to ever talk to him.
Maybe it was the poem, I don’t know, but all of a sudden I was standing in front of these two brothers, and I reached my hand out like I’m about to touch this guy, but instead, I turned to the brother and omg…
I caressed his face.
Then I just walked back to the stage and finished the last line, of which I can only remember,
“…that you will never find”
I am still mortified about it.
I wish I could remember that damn poem.
PS. you can get my poetry books here.