This piece came out of a creative writing exercise. It’s been hanging around in my miscellaneous writing folder for a while, so I thought I’d give it an airing. The exercise called for the writer to place him or herself within the skin of a person they’re familiar with and produce a written ‘snapshot’ of a significant moment in that person’s life, using a song or a photograph as the focal point.
To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to find much gold in this particular seam – I was totally wrong; this piece of writing truly has become a snapshot, summoning up the moment it captured and holding it steady in my gaze. It’s an exercise I would recommend to anyone, especially if you’ve come to a halt with your WIP. It’s an excellent kickstarter.
It is when I search for significant moments, for snapshots, that I realise my life has become a flip book: a blurring of days like dog-eared pages, with its stick figure, repetitive and relentless. So I will tear a page from the book, hold it before me and let the colours come.
I am back in that moment. The night in May. I close my eyes and hear the snap and hiss of the bonfire, its woodsmoke scent mixing with the molten wax of the candles that hang in jars from the trees, feel the last warm honey touches of sunlight on my face and, most importantly, I hear the swirl of my friends around me: laughing, shouting, singing, talking. The sound seeps into my blood like a chemical, and they become one voice as the sun goes down. The night air is lavender and my heart is full of fireflies as the candles flicker in the apple blossom trees.
It is my 17th birthday and the sun has shone all day. We built a fire in the field just beyond the orchard and surrounded it with hay bales and blankets, with an old sofa and a sound system. And now this sacred space is filled with the people I love the most. The field looks out across a shallow valley, everything is newly green, and all we can see is a wide, rumpled landscape of trees and fields. This is home. There is nothing about this moment I would change, and then the song begins.
I hear the birds on the summer breeze.
I drive fast.
I put my arms around the boy beside me, my comrade, my backstop, and we sing. The cloak of the night unfurls around us; we are its beating fire-lit heart, its still centre.
Don’t leave me now, don’t say goodbye.
Don’t turn around, leave me high and dry.
Twelve months before this moment I was a different girl. Life was something I had to wade through day after day as the tide rose and the current dragged me out. The sun didn’t shine on my sixteenth birthday; nothing did. And I never expected a moment like this would happen to a girl like me.
Don’t break me down, I’ve been travelling too long.
I’ve been trying too hard, with one pretty song.
Ride by Lana del Rey is about travelling from one point in your life to the next. It’s about the journey you take and how it changes you. And standing with my arms around my friend as the sun goes down, on the edge of the day, the edge of seventeen and right at the centre of where I belonged, I can see how far I have come but, more importantly, I can see the road ahead.
I’m tired of feeling like I’m f***king crazy.
I’m tired of driving till I see stars in my eyes.
It’s all I’ve got to keep myself sane, baby.
So I just ride,
I just ride.