My Storytelling Workshop

My first class was tonight. It exceeded my expectations.

My classmates are all women younger than me (except for one older lady). I recognized two of them from yoga.

Some of us may be friends for a long time.

The workshop runs for ten weeks and it will climax with a public performance.

The teacher started us out with an assignment to draw a picture from our life. She gave us crayons and brown paper bags.

I used one blue crayon and sketched the hovel. In the middle, I pictured me lying down.

The teacher asked us to give our work a title. I called mine "Sick."

Then she asked us to locate what grabbed our attention about our drawing and then to write about it.

I wrote: "Sick. Sick. Sick. I’ve spent half of my life sick. I’m sick of being sick. I’ve been mildly sick for the past two-and-a-half weeks. If I’m going to be sick, why can’t I be spectacularly sick? I want to be strong and manly. I want to be a rock that women dash themselves against. I want to be a rock of moral strength. I want to carry the realizations I’ve gained through illness into my healthy life and make a difference. I want to save up money to tide myself over through bad times. I want to be warm and safe."

The teacher said this was a prose poem. She encouraged me to explicate on my primal male archetype. She wanted to hear more about my being a rock that women dash themselves against.

Then she had us each of spontaneously tell a story.

I said: It was July 9th. Let’s say the year was 2005. My girlfriend Dana* called from New York where she was visiting family.

"Luke," she said, "there’s something I want to tell you. On Friday night, Vicki* came over and we fooled around. How do you feel about that? I was her late night booty call. How does that make you feel?"

I felt a dagger ripping into my chest. "Wow," I said.

I wanted to be real to the moment. I did not want to be vulnerable. I did not want to appear angry. I did not want to inquire further. I did not want to ask, "Did she *** your ***** better than I did? Did she make you ****** better than I did? Did you talk about me after you ******?"

I felt so hurt. My woman having sex with someone else is the most painful thing she can do to me.

"Wow," I said.

"Yes," she said.

"Wow," I said.

I paused and then said: "So how are things with your family?"

Then her call waiting beeped.

"I have to take this," she said. "It’s my father. Hang on."

I hung on for about 40 seconds. Then I hung up. When Dana called back, I did not take her call. Instead I returned to the book I was reading by Katie Roiphe, "Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary Circles 1910-1939".

The teacher says I remind her of Harold Pinter with his Pinteresque pauses.

Cathy Seipp had said that about my writing.

The teacher asked me what I did after I got off the phone.

"I walked around in a circle," I said. "And then I walked down the road."

She asked what I felt.

"At first stabbing pain," I said. "And then relief."

Why relief?

"That there wasn’t anything I needed to do. I didn’t need to try anymore. I didn’t need to attempt to square the circle. She hated Orthodox Judaism. I was dedicated to it. We were finished."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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