Anonymous Writing Prompt #2

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The anonymous prompt writer struck again earlier this week. As I suspected, she (or he, but I think it’s a woman), reads the blog. I’m interested to keep this going as long as she’d like to, since the prompts are so good. I have a few other things I want to write, as well, but I’ll try to respond to her prompts once a week. It’s hard to find the time to write between my job and responsibilities at home, but I’m making an effort.

On a personal note to the prompt writer: feel free to share your identity, but you certainly don’t have to. I rather enjoy the air of mystery. I hope someday, though, you’ll reveal who you are.

Until then, here’s the prompt and my response:

You are sitting in the gymnasium of your grandchild’s school. Today is a celebration of you and the rest of the old folks in the room. You’ve been told each class will take the stage to belt out classics from your generation. What theme would they have? What songs do they sing?

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Chris grumbles as we file into the gym. It’s unbelievably hot, and I immediately pull off my sweater. Chris planned better than I did; he’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

“Come on, it’ll be fun,” I say, looking around the crowd at the other grandparents. I know a few of them, but not well enough to make more than small talk. Ever since Hannah died, I’ve kept myself pretty socially isolated. Well, except for drinking myself into oblivion with Chris. He’s good for that.

Chris and I take our seats on the hard, plastic chairs, and Chris grimaces as he tries to get comfortable. His back’s been hurting him lately, and the only thing that seems to cure it is alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

“How much did you drink before I picked you up?” I whisper.

“Just a little. I’m not even drunk. You?”

“Four shots,” I say, and Chris nods. That’s about my usual for morning when I need to drive. Anything less and I wouldn’t get out the door, but any more, I’d drink the rest of the day away. It wasn’t as much of a problem before Hannah died. She’d be furious if she knew how much I put away these days.

“If it gets to be too much,” Chris says, “we can always duck out a little early and hit the bar.”

“No way,” I say. “I’m here for Seth and I’m staying until the end. You, on the other hand, can shove off anytime.”

“I can’t because you’re my ride.”

“So get a cab.”

“Fuck you.”

Chris says this a little too loud, and some of the grandmothers shuffle and murmur disapprovingly behind us. Chris shrugs and looks down at his program.

I dragged Chris along because hate attending things like this alone. When Hannah was alive, it wasn’t a problem. She was always the more social one, and she spoke for us when we went to parties and such. And now here’s poor Chris–unmarried, no children, let alone grand-children–sitting in a stuffy gym waiting for kids to sing songs from our generation.

“What the hell is our generation, anyway?” Chris growls. “The 1980’s? Dear God, that’s exactly what they’re doing.” He scans down the program and groans.

The kids will open with “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves, followed by “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles. Then it’s “The Flame” by Cheap Trick, and Seth and his classmates have the third song, Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science.”

“This is a crime against humanity,” Chris says.

“Oh, come on.”

“I’m serious, Brian. How can they call this music? It’s just shit Casey Kasem used to play.”

The grandmothers flutter and murmur again, and I lean over to Chris and say, “Ease up on your language, okay? We don’t need to get thrown out.”

Chris waves away my comment and continues complaining about the musical selections. I point out that its a bunch of middle-school kids signing and dancing; they couldn’t very well bust out Metallica or the Psychedelic Furs or Echo and the Bunnymen.

“Would it kill them to do one Rush song?” Chris asks.

I can’t help but laugh as I imagine Seth as his friends trying to interpret “Tom Sawyer.” I’m about to say something when the lights dim and the first group of kids fumble their way forward

As you might expect, the dancing and the singing are pretty awful. All the grandparents point their devices toward the center of the gym and take pictures, upload them and send them around the world in a matter of seconds. I do the same, tagging my son who couldn’t be here for Seth’s performance.

Hannah would have loved this. She was absolutely devoted to Seth. I see him off to the right, frettingnervously. I want to walk over and tell him he’ll do great and not to worry, because it’s just one moment in his large, long life, and it’ll be over in a flash. Before he knows it, he’ll be grown and have kids of his own, and the next instant, he’ll be in my position.

“What’s wrong with you?” Chris asks, and I realize I’m crying as the kids sing along with Robin Zander as he hits the first chorus of “The Flame.” It’s a cheesy song, but suddenly I’m thinking about my school days, and then college, meeting and falling in love with Hannah, and holding her hand as we said goodbye.

“It’s just…” I try to finish, but I can’t. A concerned grandmother leans over and passes me a tissue. Her eyes are gleaming with tears, too.

“It goes so fast, doesn’t it?” she says.

I can only nod. To my left, Chris snorts in derision, but I don’t care. I let the song carry me back in time, and man, do I want to stay a while.

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