Playful Writing 7: Something I can’t forgive

The latest in the Playful Writing series inspired by Chuck Sandy’s iTDi blog post here. Chuck Sandy created a list of suggestions for writing playfully. I have been using them with my students for free writing topics. The rules my students follow are: write continuously until the timer rings; don’t erase or cross out; don’t worry about spelling or words you don’t know; don’t talk to each other. I have been slowly increasing their writing time over the weeks and I have also been monitoring for repeated mistakes or errors. My students have been excited to compete against themselves for their word counts and I am quite happy to see that even the ones who don’t have a lot to say during class have plenty to write about.


This particular topic was quite broad. “Write about a song you can’t get out of your head, something you can’t forgive, a scar you have, a difficult student, something you can’t give up, somewhere you always wanted to go but didn’t.”


Today I chose to write about something I can’t forgive. It’s a serious topic and I confess before I even begin that I didn’t follow my own rules. I rearranged the order after my timer went off, and I removed names. The story is, sadly, true, and forgiveness has no part in it. Please skip to the bottom.


Something I can’t forgive.

I learned to move on with my life. I hope we never meet.

I learned to move on with my life. I hope we never meet.

This is going to be serious rather than playful. It may have been ten years ago, I got a phone call. It was from a friend of a friend. “Sit down.” he said. “Are you sitting down?” His voice had no hint of surprise, smile, laughter. Something was wrong. “Yes, I’m sitting down. What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked. “T– died today.” “No.” I said.

T– was a lover and a fighter. His spirit burned with a bright fire. He drove a bright red motorcycle and played as whole-heartedly with the little kids we taught as he did with the adult women he loved. He drew his own Christmas cards for the holidays and made his own jewelery. If someone tried to touch his motorcycle, even out of curiosity, he would rush outside and threaten them. He gave me a spare helmet once to keep in my place so he wouldn’t always have to pack it with him. We rode together all over town. Life was fun. He drank two pots of coffee a day and did 1,000 situps and pushups every morning. He was an exercise fiend, former body-builder (2nd place for Mr. Canada). He lived a fast-paced life and never backed down.

The details came out later. He had been at home with his girlfriend. He hadn’t been feeling well. He was diabetic. He took insulin shots. He should have seen a doctor. When his seisure started, his girlfriend laid him down in bed. She didn’t call anyone. She watched as his whole body tensed up and he finally died. Then she left. Then she called his friend.

You see, she was a married woman. She was committing adultery with him. And that’s illegal. She wasn’t looking for trouble. She was just looking for a bit on the side. So she sat there and watched him die. And never once called an ambulance. Never once tried to take him to the hospital. Not even after did she call the police.

T–‘s sister called me weeks later to find out why. She wanted to know how to get in touch with the girlfriend. She gave me the latest details. I directed her to someone I knew had the information she needed. I shared her pain. If I ever meet the woman who watched my friend die and did nothing, I will have strong words to say.


After I wrote this, my first thought was, “I can’t publish this.” But here it is and here you are reading it. Why? Because my students in class today asked me what I had written about. They were struggling with all the topic choices and needed ideas. I told them I had used the topic “Something I can’t forgive” and they asked what it is so I gave them the abridged version. If I can share with them, why not with you?

Some of the issues with this particular topic that came up in class today (and will probably come up with both groups tomorrow) are too many choices. The students needed a lot of time to think and choose what they would write about. Time was another issue. I gave them an extra minute and one of them ran out of words and got frustrated (and wrote about it!). I don’t think I’ll change the variety of topics for tomorrow’s groups, because students really did write on nearly all of them.  I will give them more time for thinking and asking questions instead. Tomorrow’s group are also older and less likely to run out of words, so I don’t think this issue will affect them. In the future, for the group who wrote today, I think I will keep the extra minute and let them know they can write their feelings and thoughts in the moment if they run out of words on the topic.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading.


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  • Chewie (Gangwon Dispatches)  On December 17, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Powerful story. I’m sorry to hear about your friend.
    I’m amazed at what can come up from such simple writing prompts.

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