Memoir Relationships Sexuality

An Old Flame, Doused

I have often reveled in the wrongness of things.

Growing up, I cut Barbie’s hair and pushed straight pins through her ears.

I told people I was making earrings, but mostly I wanted to make holes in Barbie’s face.

As a teen, I gravitated toward recklessness. Once, on vacation with friends, I disappeared on the beach to kiss a boy whose name I didn’t know. My friends were mad, but I chose the taste of cigarettes and beer on a stranger’s lips over my own safety.

For a while, I was in an unhealthy relationship.

We had an understanding.

Kind of.

I mean, he created the rules.

And he meant well, I’m sure, with his flattery and charm.

When he touched me, I swooned with gratitude.

Because he knew how to make me feel.

Not too long ago, I ran into this person.

Though he had aged, I remembered his dimple, how easily he could undo me with a word or a look. And I was surprised at how, after all these years, my body still responded to his touch.

I watched his mouth move and remembered the place where confidence collided with arrogance.

I saw how little he had changed.

I know he believes he is a good person.

But I know him to be a juggler who thrives off secrets and lies.

A person who craves power and uses people as playthings.

For a time, I allowed myself to be part of his secret life.

Allowed myself twice to be used and discarded.

In an odd way, seeing this person again helped reaffirm the treasures that I have at home.

Things that should not be trivialized.

It’s funny. I don’t crave recklessness the way I used to.

And secrets taste like vinegar on my lips.

So while I enjoy more than my fair share of double-entendres and flirtations, there are places where I draw the line.

Danger paired with exhilaration can feel something close to love.

But it isn’t.

Ever run into an old flame? Someone who was not good for you? What was that like? Do you revel in wrongness? How far are you willing to go?

This week, writers were asked to use this photograph to inspire our post. My piece is a hybrid between fiction & non-fiction. We had 450 words. I got it done in 386.

tweet me @rasjacobson

57 thoughts on “An Old Flame, Doused

    1. I toyed with writing this in third person, but it didn’t have the same impact. I think that is why I like memoir so much. Don’t worry about me, Shirtsleeves. I’m just trying to write regularly again. And have faith that even if my computer dies, my stuff is safe in the Cloud (via Dropbox) this time.
      And on an external hard drive.
      And a flash drive.

  1. I like the idea of the challenge, but I’m with Leanne, the parts that aren’t fiction frighten me. You are so much better than him.

    And I HATE running into ex’s. A few years ago, one of mine came into town and wanted to meet up for breakfast at a local diner. He made the comment, “when we were dating” and I almost spit my drink out. As I recalled the situation, he didn’t want to date, or admit we hung out, that is until after I went out with another guy… Hmm, so were we dating? You failed to acknowledge that when it counted! He’s so lucky I didn’t stab him with my fork right then and there.

    1. I can imagine you getting pretty stabby in that situation, Jess! Funny how men & women remember things differently.

      On a more serious note, I’ve been a little locked up with my writing lately so I gave myself 20 minutes to write something based on this picture. I find that I can always write to a visual prompt.

      Perhaps I should have used 3rd person, so no-one freaks out. But it felt more intimate like this. Don’t you think it would have been really different if I had said :

      “She had always reveled in the wrongness of things.”

      I don’t know. First person always appeals to me.

        1. Thanks. I tried it both ways. Sometimes I think it was a blessing that my computer crashed because my second book was written in the third person. And truth be told, I think it needed to be in first person. So maybe, at some point, when I’m ready, I can rebuild that. Or not. 😉

    1. Hi Deb! It’s weird, right? How we kind of grow out of certain things. Like my hickey post earlier? I used to think those were so cool. But if my husband DARED to give me a hickey tonight, I think I’d clobber him.

      I won’t ask you how the wedding planning is going.

      And yet I so want to. 😉

  2. There’s a time for recklessness, and in it’s time, it is freeing to flirt a little with danger. Sowing the wild oats, they used to call it. But we all grow out of it, and that’s not a bad thing! On to bigger and better, I always told myself.

    I think that first person was the only way to go with this.

    1. That is exactly it. But we all have to arc and grow, right? And we can’r sow those oats forever. There has to be a calmer place.

      Thanks for the affirmation that first person POV was the right way to go. I really struggle, sometimes, with these challenges. People must think I’m on the fast train to Crazytown. 😉

  3. Well written. I love you last line, “Danger paired with exhilaration can feel something close to love.” So true! I also like how you bring it back to your present day and how you have changed.

    1. Hi Bumble Bumble! How are you? I am trying to get better at developing scenes that are quick and have an arc. This is a hybrid of fiction & reality. (I won’t tell you which parts are real and which parts are fantasy.) I’ll just say that sometimes a good writing prompt can really help me write faster. Because I am so painfully slow. Thanks for “buzzing” by! (Did you see what I did there? I got a little punny.)

  4. ‘Though he had aged, I remembered his dimple, how easily he could undo me with a word or a look. And I was surprised at how, after all these years, my body still responded to his touch.’

    She still looked appealing; still had that ‘look’ in her eye when he gazed deeply, trying to find her soul. He found it odd she was still here in this place after all these years. He inquired through mutual friends on how to contact her. He was stopping in town briefly and he wondered; has she changed or would she still react as she had whenever he chose to play?

    She reluctantly agreed to meet him for breakfast during a quick email exchange. When his eyes met hers, he could see that reaction he always knew he could get all those years ago. She was sizing him up just as he was her; a dance of the eyes across, up, and around each others physique. Finally, her eyes met his and she seemed locked, flustered into remembrance of dalliances so long ago. She had that wanting look, that hungry look in her eyes.

    He was almost drawn in, almost tempted as the years had shown their effects, but she still was very attractive to him. He regained his composure to come across as disinterested and as satisfied in life as he could. He could see a change come across as he spoke to her, bringing up the past briefly. She had been hurt by him and he knew it. It seemed his only way out at this point.

    They exchanged pleasantries on the way out of the diner. She looked confident as she turned and he watched as she walked away. The passion had been there if only for a moment; a memory of days long gone. Theirs was an attraction on the physical level yet had been nothing really beyond that.

    It had been good seeing her one last time in this life, but he smiled as he turned the ignition to leave this place once again. An old chapter was closed at last and his life was what he wanted it to be. She was once again just a memory.

    1. Oh David. You have to let it go. Our love was years ago. It was so long ago, it is almost as if it never happened. Probably because it never happened.

      But dude, this is good. Is yours fiction? Or non-fiction? Is it someone I know?

      I know. You’ll never tell. But still…really good. Thanks for stopping by, my dear old friend. 😉

  5. Ha! (I know) Sounded like a challenge, a fun challenge after reading the post and comments. So I clicked in the comment box and maybe 7-8 minutes later, there it is. Night! 😉

  6. I almost always prefer to read first person and my strongest writing is first person as well. Maybe it’s something to work on, maybe not. I really enjoyed this. “…secrets taste like vinegar…” – nice!

    1. Hi Azara. Funny, I think my strongest writing is in first person, too. But I do like to play around with POV to try and mix things up. Thanks for coming over to say hi and for your kind words. 😉

      And vinegar does taste yucky all alone, no?

  7. There’s power in the first person punch. You proved that in these 386 words.

    I had to rewrite a MG novel (which awaits yet another rewrite) because my third person voice was too stilted for my 11 YO character. Put me in first person with an 11 YO? I can rock-n-roll with that.

    On to your questions: Yes, I recently connected with my HS Sweetheart. Yes, the initial response was a naughty nostalgic stroll down memory lane. Homecoming dances, prom, hayrides (aka necking sessions under blankets), steaming windows in the back seat on back country roads. Yes, I did a reality check. He kicked me to the curb twice.

    It’s warm-and-fuzzy to have those fond memories, but why dwell on the past when there’s so much to explore today and beyond?

    L-O-V-E-D this, Renee. (Someday, I hope you teach me how to get that accent over the middle “e.”)

  8. I love this piece. Aside from sticking straight pins into Barbie’s ears (yikes) I can relate a lot. Sometimes I wish for a return of that youthful danger and exhileration, but quickly realize a solid life without drama is so much better for my physical and mental well-being. You have a gift for writing about things secret and dark. My favorite kind of reading!

  9. Yeah, I have run into an old flame, it was weird. I wasn’t married at the time but the relationship had been several years before and I was with my future wife, just weird But, that is behind me now. I don’t think it’ll happen again, but you never know. Scary, how when we are younger, much younger, we do things that are for all of the wrong reasons. Sometimes, when I look back I am thankful that something did not happen to me, like what happens to other kids who make similar mistakes. Really thankful.

    1. Hi Clay.

      I know exactly what you mean. I’ve only had a few true lives in my life, but I had a bunch of boyfriends. The boyfriends are no big whoop: but running into those great loves. Wow. Sometimes that can take your breath away. Unless they have gained 50 pounds and lost all their hair. 😉

  10. Love it! And we’ve got some twinning going on! I also stuck pins in my Barbies and had some crazy relationships. Recently I was behind an old boyfriend in the check out line at Whole Foods. Hadn’t seen him in 15 years and barely recognized him. Thankfully, our brief interaction didn’t stir up any longing – at least for me ;-). I’m blown away you wrote this in 20 minutes. You rock. Will you write my next post and save me a couple hours?

    1. We do have a lot of twinning going on! Wow! I think I need to get you over here to do a guest post! Seriously! I love everything you write. And while I popped this one out quickly, I have to tell you, that is not my norm. Writing a single post normally takes me over an hour – not counting the quest for the perfect image.

      This one just spoke to me somehow.

      I’m glad it hit you in the right place, too. 😉

  11. Hey Renée!
    I agree with Gloria. First person is powerful. It makes the emotions more visceral and meaningful.

    Earlier this year I bumped into an old flame. We had split up because I had to move away, she couldn’t leave where she was, and it was rough. We were both good for each other (which made for a bitter parting).

    When we bumped in to each other, she looked as good as ever, and she thought I looked better than before. I had put on about 30 pounds of muscle. Well, she was in a relationship, they had talked about marriage, but they weren’t happy. Temptation galore. We both ached with desire and craved years of passion that had built up.

    We did the right thing. It was hard, but we couldn’t even allow ourselves to touch/hug the other for fear of where it would lead. We talked emailed and texted a week later, to see how the other was doing. The sexual frustration was still through the roof.

    I’m no saint. But I am a little naughty. I sent a gift to her at her office; a few personal toys. IYKWIM

    Like I said. I’m not saint. I don’t revel in wrongness, but sometimes I dabble in naughty.

    1. Wawawoowa! That is steamy. And I get it. Completely. There was a time when I longed to reconnect with someone from my past. Some if that chemistry is undeniable. And yet. It doesn’t necessarily make for great life partners, you know.

      Sounds like these feelings will live with you for a long while. It was a timing thing; nothing was dysfunctional or busted. That can be the hardest thing of all: knowing someone wonderful is out there.

      What do you mean “naughty toys”? *she asked innocently* IYKWIM. 🙂

      1. Thanks for liking my image of the juggler. That seemed right: a person who can simultaneously manipulate many people.

        Oh and thanks also for thinking those were my legs.

        I think.

        I may be naughty, but I’m not posting pictures of myself in garters! 😉 Yet.

  12. I really liked this passage. I think it tied in nicely with this week’s prompt and I found it very easy to relate it to the picture as I read through. It was a very unique, but tangible, take. What was especially cool was that it was one of those ‘lesson learned’ stories and it had a nice ending. I think the opening sentence describes me to a ‘t’ and that was really cool. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Denise! Thank you for coming over and offering feedback. So you were a reckless girl, too, eh? I think that is part of the beauty of being young: the not worrying about consequences.

      And yet.

      These days, I am grateful to be tethered to some less dangerous things.

  13. You captured so much in 386 words, Renzzz! But that’s one of the reasons I love your writing; you say more with less.

    I think most of us can relate, too (to the attraction to someone who isn’t good for us). So many of our instincts are there to protect us, and yet…

    1. Jules: You know your concrit means so much to me. Especially when you say you like my style.

      I’ve been doubting it lately.

      So thank you for telling me that I struck something universal. That is what I was going for.

    1. *wipes brow* I think people have convinced me of that. And yet, did you see what my friend Dave whipped off in 8 minutes in response to this post? It’s in 3rd person, and I still think it feels very intimate. I am struggling with what POV to write my next manuscript. And nice I’m starting from scratch, knowing where I going, I could really change things. I just don’t want people to assume my character is me. I think that is what has been holding me back from committing to writing in 1st person, which is the POV which I feel most comfortable writing in. Do you ever worry about that?

  14. You did this wonderfully well. Was the Barbie part true? I have to ask. I hated Barbies when I was young and always mutilated them.

    I have run into old loves, two intentionally. Once to say I win you could beat me with your fists but you could not win. The other to say I will love you forever but our dreams have taken different paths, he set me free so I could soar. I actually wrote about him recently.

    I am 55, over the years I have run into several old loves. I always find it interesting. Sometimes I think, wow really him. Other times I think I am so glad we had time together, that was great.

    1. The Barbies are real. My parents would vouch for the pins. And the savage haircuts I gave.

      And like you, I am grateful for some of those early boyfriends who taught me not all boys wanted to use me and abuse me. They weren’t all interested in mind games. Some were sweet and showed me boys could love. I cherish those memories. 😉

  15. The bit about secrets tasting like vinegar…just perfect. I love how you did this, blurring the lines between memoir and fiction. I’m always afraid to use first person in this intimate type of fiction, because people assume it’s me. Perhaps I should let go of that.

    1. Angie: I swear, that’s what I get hung up on sometimes. I have to put out big qualifiers — THIS IS FICTION — so people don’t freak out. Other times, I blend several real stories into one and then I feel like I’m lying. Why isn’t there a genre for non-fiction with jazz hands? Nice to meet you! 😉

  16. I can’t believe I missed this post on the first go around and am just reading it now. This is excellent writing Renée, both this and Dave’s response stirred up a chunk of emotion in me. That is something I love to happen when I read (like we all do I think!).

    In answer to your final question, I haven’t. Although I have fantasized about it and that hasn’t been healthy. There has only been that one and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I would REALLY react if I saw her again. The funny thing is, she still lives in my city. Not too far away either. In a moment of weakness, I made the mistake of Googling her and tracking her down via Facebook. Already I’ve said too much, but you make it ok to talk about this sort of thing.

    Dude, we have to Skype soon. When are you free? 🙂

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