Words came so effortlessly when I was a teenager. It seemed like everything then was the end of the world -- every heartbreak spawned a poem about death and pain and blood and tears. Life was rich with tragic breakups and rejections, and I loved so many boys, or I thought I loved them until they gave me the time of day -- mutual affection was like so totally lame. If Poison couldn't capture it in a rock ballad it wasn't love.
I stalked a lot of guys who in all likelihood would still -- to this very day -- run screaming if someone dropped my name in conversation. And they'd be right to. There was nothing too extreme in my teenage brain -- I'd walk for miles just to sit on a sidewalk in front of some landmark where I'd seen whichever boy I happened to be chasing on the off chance he'd pass by and see me. The scheme actually worked a couple of times, but instead of making conversation or even waving "hello" I ran away as fast I could with my heart seizing in my throat.
I had this daydream which I'm compelled to preface with the following facts. No. 1: I'm a writer -- a dramatic storyteller. No. 2: the principal told me I was too incompetent to flip burgers at McDonald's. No. 3: I watched a lot of soap operas. No. 4: I hate being naked.
I was a stripper in Houston, Texas. It wasn't my first choice, but -- having been fired from every fast food chain in America -- my options were limited. I tried so hard to get those burgers right, but they never turned out the way they were supposed to. The folks in Fargo paid me to leave -- they packed my suitcases too -- after I served raw meat to some 300 people who were hospitalized with e coli.
Stripping was my only option. It was a sad and lonely life made worse by a gang of irrational club owners who slapped me around for refusing to take off my leggings and turtleneck. I told them how uncomfortable I was with my body, but they didn't care. It seemed there was no way out. And then it happened just like a real-life fairy tale. A boy I recognized from my past kicked in the club entrance and yelled at my boss -- "Nobody puts Alexis on a pole."
I never wanted for writing material in those days -- the drama of falling in and out of love; fighting with my parents; the injustice of EVERYTHING in the whole entire world. It's little wonder I wrote through 10 spiral notebooks in a week. Life was scary and unpredictable, and I was a basket-case teenager -- that girl from the Breakfast Club, Allison Reynolds.
I'm glad I'm a grownup -- you couldn't pay me enough to go back and do high school all over again. But had I known then that my problems would not always feel like the end of the world -- that other stuff would matter more than me -- I might have bottled some of that teenage angst and saved it for a day like today when the words are more difficult to come by.
"I talk about the things people have always talked about in stories: pain, hate, truth, courage, destiny, friendship, responsibility, growing old, growing up, falling in love, all of these things. What I try to write about are the darkest things in the soul, the mortal dreads. I try to go into those places in me that contain the cauldrons. I want to dip up the fire, and I want to put it on paper. The closer I get to the burning core of my being, the things which are most painful to me, the better is my work."
-- HARLAN ELLISON