[Editor’s note: Sometimes we need not look far to find an undiscovered gem. New to us, but clearly not new to the writing community, Desiree O’Clair wowed not only us, but a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd when she read her piece, When the Wind Blows, at this year’s Story Slam, a part of the annual Woodstock Writers Festival, of which Best Self was a proud sponsor. In under three and a half minutes, with a timer ticking, a panel of judges and a gong just waiting to be rung, Desiree O’Clair captivated the room with her dynamic reading, for which she took the coveted first-place prize. We celebrate her work here. Better yet, you can watch her reading at the end of her piece – enjoy! ~ Kristen Noel]
When the Wind Blows
On January 28, 2015, my high school boyfriend died. I’ve been walking around crying for weeks. He was the first boy I ever loved.
John was passionate about music. He was a Beatles freak. He named his son Dylan. John knew he was going to die. He left a playlist 12 pages long for his memorial service – over 400 songs.
A few nights ago, John’s wife messaged me. She asked me if I would spread John’s ashes at Big Pink, and some at Bethel Woods – the site of the original Woodstock Festival. She just can’t bring herself to do it. She is putting him in the mail to me. This summer when my best friend Kathleen gets here from Alaska, we will spread John’s ashes. Kathleen loved him, too.
I remember making out in the back seat of his car one night, and he took my shirt off. It was a tee shirt, the blue one with the Pegasus on it that I got at Spencer’s. I was pretty nervous, and while kissing my neck he exclaimed breathlessly into my ear, “God, I love skin!”
Then he started to unhook my bra, and I freaked out because my breasts were so small that I was embarrassed. I was only an A cup, and I didn’t want him to know I was wearing a padded bra, and that’s why we never went all the way.
Kathleen remembers that night, too. She wasn’t there, and I didn’t tell her about it, but we’ve been best friends our whole lives. Everything I remember, she remembers. So when Kathleen gets here, I am going to gather the women of my tribe, and we are going to spread John’s ashes. I don’t know the people who live at Big Pink, so we may just do a drive by and sprinkle a little bit of John out the window on our way to Bethel Woods. But when we get to Bethel Woods, I don’t want to simply spread John’s ashes.
Don’t tell anyone, but Kathleen and I are going to take off our shirts and rub some of his ashes into to our skin – because John loved skin – and the women of my tribe, my daughter and my Woodstock girlfriends, will bang on drums and shake tambourines and make a joyful noise, and Kathleen and I will whip off our skirts and run naked releasing what’s left of him, and when the wind blows, he’ll be blowing in the wind – and we will dive into the grass and roll our fat, naked middle-aged bodies down that hill, grinding his molecules into the earth, and when we reach the bottom of that hill, dizzy and drunk with emotion – the sky will open up and it will pour rain – because this is my story so I can control the weather. It will rain, and we will cry, and laugh, and dance until the ashes and dirt and grass and everything on and in us washes straight into the cosmic hippie universe that is Woodstock. That’s how we will celebrate him. That’s how we will tell him goodbye.
Watch Desiree read her story at the Story Slam: