This is the first exercise in the Winter Writing Workshop, hosted by Do What You Love. You can join in by clicking on the image in the sidebar, or here.
It all began when…
she found the cheaply printed, black and white magazine at the record store. The record shop was already a place of magic for her – a place to find the obscure, moody tunes that were often completely unknown to her before she bought the tapes or CDs, cases chosen purely on the strength of their cover’s imagery. Was it dark, was it creepy, was it ethereal, was it spooky? Off to the listening booth it went, if possible. Often she would just take them home anyway, because her ability to guess if she would love it just from the cover was acute.
The magazine was filled with articles and pictures about the bands she loved or didn’t know she loved yet, and the followers of those bands. And there was poetry and short stories, all eldritch and horrific or somber and brooding.
Of course she paid the money for the magazine. It went into a crisp paper bag with several CDs and a thin package of incense – nag champa – and all of that went into the candlelit recesses of her bedroom to be poured over in private, in great detail. The CDs were all exactly what she’d wanted – one was atmospheric tones and scratches, reminiscent of mice trying to break into a haunted house. One was the latest droning masterpiece from SWANS. And one was deep male voices, droning acoustic guitar, pounding kettle drums, and swagger. She loved them all.
The magazine… she devoured every page. Every band she’d never heard of was written down in her journal for future investigation. Every model’s outfit was inspected closely, notes taken about what she might incorporate into her own style. And then she found it, in the back pages.
The penpal section.
You see, she lived in a small town. She used to live in a big city, and she’d had lots of friends who shared her taste in music and lifestyle, but escaping the bad parts of that city had left her in a safer and quite lovely place – but one where she had no soulmates, no true friends to whom she could really relate. Here was a list of people who all were, quite probably, in her very same situation – and they even had lists of the things they liked! The Cure, The Smiths, Sisters of Mercy, Percy Shelley, black lace, drinking tea at midnight – a list of esoteric pursuits that spoke to her soul in the most essential of ways.
She scribbled out a dozen letters to people, on plain paper that she decorated with her own drawings and doodles. She mailed them off, and days, weeks, months later, she found responses in her mailbox that thrilled her to her core.
Letters traded, and mixtapes, photos cut from magazines and copied from books. Little pamphlets with the names of other potential pen friends. Lace scraps and beads and sticks of incense and antique buttons and dried leaves. All the frustration and dreams and poetry scraps and secret wishes, all scribbled out on paper with colored inks and glitter and hope. So much hope.
Twenty plus years later, and she still has some of these friends in her circle. The methods of communication changed over time – from letters to email to Livejournal and MySpace to, now, Facebook – yet they didn’t lose each other. And they all grew up and some grew into other lives, but that connection of shared dreams and hopes never broke. It is still strong and I suspect that it always will be that way.