This short essay is an experiment in “The Rolling Now,” a structural technique I’m learning to use, taught by my mentor Ken McGoogan at the U-Kings MFA residency in August 2018. We were asked to shape an in-class free-write with three “now” moments and two flashbacks. “Like rocking back and forth, between past and present,” Ken said. Imagine a “W” with the present at the top and the past at the bottom points. The success of this technique depends on choosing the right moment for the “now”–a moment that represents a turning point, about which you have enough detail to write a vivid scene.
By Sarah White
It was late May 1991. I took a seat–near, finally not at–the head table in the banquet hall outside Campobasso, Italy. The Governator’s Cena was the capstone of the Rotary District Conference that was itself the capstone of our five-week tour as “Outstanding Young Professionals” in a Rotary International Group Study Exchange.
To my left sat my husband Jim, just arrived to join me. To my right sat Ron, bane of my existence for most of the last five weeks. Rockstar-handsome with his mane of golden hair, he was flirting with me outrageously. If only the past five weeks had been like that! I’d have had a lot more fun.
At first, he did flirt with me. Or was it flirting? He seemed so sincere that night at the end of the first week, when our team had just come together again at a hotel in Spoleto after being separated to lodge in various Rotarians’ homes in Terni and Todi.
After that night’s banquet concluded, Ron invited me to walk up to the aqueduct we’d toured as a group that morning. The moon was full. After I stumbled on a cobblestone, he held my elbow solicitously.
“I feel like we understand each other—more than the others,” I had said.
“Let me say this—I’m not out here with them. I asked you.”
After he whipped out his cock to pee off the aqueduct, piss arcing and glinting in the moonlight, what moved between us felt like intimacy.
Now, at the Governor’s Cena, it felt like that intimacy was back as he reached out to touch my hand, touch my hair–my husband just a seat away. It felt delicious, after the way he’d ignored me since that night on the bridge.
I’d been sucker-punched by his rejection. It wasn’t even an active verb, that rejection—he just steadfastly directed his attention away from me.
That day at the art museum in Urbino, a week or so after the Spoleto incident, I tested it as we followed a guide through the museum. Every time I moved near Ron, he edged away. I moved closer again. He moved away again.
Annoyed, I gave up thinking about him then. Even so, he managed to sabotage the next weeks—flirting with every translator, abducting her, leaving us with the old Rotarians while he rode in her daddy’s Lamborgini up the coast, or whatever.
Now I turned toward Jim on my left, giving him my attentive smiles, making in-jokes that cut out Ron to my right. Take that, you asshole, I thought. You’re all getting up at 3 a.m. to drive to the airport.
I’m taking my husband in our rented car to the Adriatic coast, where I know the best hotel, the best gelato, the best fish restaurant—all thanks to these Rotarians.
Take that, you damn rockstar asshole hunk.
(c) 2018 Sarah White
p.s. I know you want to see a photo of the rockstar hunk but I’m not including one because I purposely took none that included him after Urbino, and don’t feel inclined to seek his permission to post his image if I had one. Here’s a link to a photo of the rest of our team.
I like the way this strategy rocks the story back and forth between past and present